Bag up next year’s tournament season
Once I find out where the next season of Walmart FLW Tour events are going to be held, I start loading tackle that I’m going to need for each of those tournaments. These are things I know I’ll use on a particular lake at a certain time of the year.
A drop-shot rig that’s trouble-free
The best new things for drop-shotting now are the special rigs that keep the line from twisting and make it easier to get tangles out of the line when you catch a fish. The Gamakatsu Swivel Shot with octopus hook is one of these.
Sight fishing isn’t just a spring fling
The dog days of summer from mid-August to mid-October are tough to fish because it’s hard to find a consistent pattern. Grass and other heavy shoreline cover can be good, but some older lakes don’t have any. Ledge fishing can be hit or miss because a lot of bass will roam all over the place trying to keep up with schools of shad. But a third pattern, and one of my favorites, is to ease down a bank fishing for wolfpack bass when they’re in the shallows hunting for bedding bream.
Offshore bass are on the move, but not in any rush
Don’t overestimate how far fish go when they move from where they were yesterday to where they are today. And don’t be surprised if tomorrow they might be back where they started from.
Ledges aren’t the only places to find big summer bass
Summer and ledge fishing go together, but you can get burned on an offshore bite where the fish are averaging about 3 pounds when you need them to be averaging 4 pounds or so to do any good in a tournament setting.
A one-two punch for grass bass
When fishing heavy grass in midsummer, it’s a good idea to keep both a frog and punching rig handy on your deck. If you have a bass blow up on a frog in a mat of milfoil or other grass, but it fails to connect, a lot of times a punching rig will catch it. My favorite punching rig is a 1- or 1½-ounce Reins tungsten weight with a 4/0 Cobra straight-shank flipping hook and either a Gambler Ugly Otter or a BB Cricket.
Lighten up on line size for more bites
There was a time when just about all fishermen used heavy line to fish worms or soft plastics because they believed they had to really rear back to set a hook or get a fish out of heavy cover fast. In some instances that’s still the case, but considering today’s fishing line and the sharpness of modern hooks, most of us don’t need to be fishing heavy line.
How to keep deep divers from rooting bottom
In the summer, there’s nothing that bass love to eat better than gizzard shad, which is probably why larger-profile crankbaits work so well on ledges during that time of year. The problem with most of the big crankbaits is that they’re deep divers, which means they dig too much when you’re fishing a ledge or hump in, say, 10 feet of water.
When the pressure is on
It’s not uncommon for several fishermen to find a bunch of fish in practice and then wind up beating them up during a tournament. After a couple of days, the fish that aren’t already caught are feeling the pressure and not as eager to bite. If you’re fairly confident there are still a few fish to be caught, go after them.
Two ways to fish a worm down deep
Shaky heads and Texas rigs catch a lot of bass off ledges in the summer and even though they have some of the same components, they provide two totally different looks when they get in the water.
Are you ready for the tournament?
I’m very serious about preparing for a tournament. I probably spend four hours or more the day and evening before a tournament getting everything ready. I make sure any mechanical issues with my equipment are settled. I put fresh line on the reels that I used in practice, and maybe change lines because of something I’ve noticed about the water clarity.
A rod for every fishing job
Cast right, reel left
I’m right-handed and I cast with my right arm. But the first baitcasting reel I ever bought was a lefthander, and I taught myself to reel with my left hand. It made sense to me that it saved time and was a more efficient way to fish, rather than having to cast and then swap hands to work a bait.
Fishing knots for all occasions
There are three knots that I use most of the time because they’re simple, quick to tie and dependable. When I’m fishing with monofilament and tying on a topwater lure, buzzbait, soft jerkbait, floating worm or frog, I’ll use the Palomar knot. If I’m fishing braid with a single hook for soft plastics, I’ll snell the hook. I’ll also tie a Palomar with braid or fluorocarbon.
A good starting point when fishing for bass
When you go to a lake you’ve never been to before, and don’t know anything about it, chances are you’re going to be baffled at first as far as knowing where to start.
What do you know about bass?
In more and more lakes now there are good populations of smallmouths and largemouths, or spots and largemouths. In some lakes like Beaver, there’s a pretty fair population of all three. That being the case, a fisherman needs to develop an understanding of the feeding preferences and likely hangouts of the different sorts of bass.
Dig bottom with a crankbait
Always use a crankbait that will dive deeper than the depth you’re fishing. You always want to be rooting up the bottom. A lot of times that will stir up the fish and get reaction strikes, even when they’re just down there with their bellies on the bottom and not wanting to eat.
What to do when bass are just bumping swimbaits
When I’m not getting good hookups, there are a couple of things I try. For one, I might add a small treble to a belly-weighted hook, or even to the hook where it comes out the top. If the fish are just grabbing at the tail, I might make a short leader of monofilament or braid and connect one end to the main hook and the other to a small treble.
Switch gears and baits for muddy-water bass
It happens to just about everybody in the spring – you’re fishing a fairly shallow run of bank and catching bass on soft-plastics or topwaters. Then a storm front comes through and really muddies up the water you’ve been fishing. The next day, you can’t buy a bite. Most of the time, the fish haven’t left or haven’t stopped eating; they’ve just had to switch gears.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Whenever you’re sight-fishing in shallow water and moving around, you never want to take your eyes off of a potential target if you can help it. The reason is simple: You might lose track of it.
Sunshine is the fisherman’s best friend now
Staying in front of the fish is critical in the early spring. I believe that the first wave of spawning bass is the largest in the lake, and a fisherman needs to be there when they move up.
Keying on spring transition banks
It seems that the weather has been more up and down this year than usual, which makes it even harder to get dialed in to where the bass are and what they’re doing. Despite the dramatic weather swings this spring, though, the fish in general are gradually moving up toward their spawning areas.
Match buzzbait to the cover you’re fishing
Buzzbaits don’t all run in a straight line. A lot has to do with how the blade is cupped. When fish are taking buzzbaits, it’s important to have one that veers to the right and another that goes in the opposite direction, as well as one that tracks straight.
Rig up with a screw-lock jighead
Pretty much all umbrella rigs are the same, as far as I’m concerned, but the jigheads and swimbaits you use with them aren’t. In my experience I’ve found that screw-lock heads are the best to use rather than the kind where you just worm the swimbait onto it.
Treat hooks like the specialized tools they are
No matter what type of fishing you like, choosing the best hooks for the technique and keeping the hooks in good shape is very important.