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.
Getting the most out of a spool of braided line
Braided line will last a lot longer if you take it off your reel spools and store it indoors when you’re not going to be using it much. I have my own system for storing braided line.
When to lighten up on umbrella rig hooks
Umbrella rigs are really effective in the Ozark mountain lakes I routinely fish, especially in late fall through early spring. These lakes typically have standing timber in them and when you snag an umbrella rig you’re often faced with one of two possibilities – either you’re going to lose the whole rig or you’re going to waste a lot of fishing time trying to free it.
Use electronics to figure out bass
Fishing electronics have really come a long way. There was a time when you couldn’t be sure what kind of fish were under your boat. But with the electronics we’ve got now, you can just about see their scales.
Keep time on your side during a tournament
It’s always best to keep up with running times from one place to the next. By the end of the day, no matter where you wind up, you should be able to estimate how long it’s going to take to get back from where you are at quitting time.
Choosing the best spinnerbait blade
I live around deep, clear lakes and I love to slow-roll a spinnerbait in deep cover. That’s how I won the Forrest Wood Cup in 2007. A spinnerbait can be used to catch bass at any depth, in any season, though. Most of the time I use a ¾- or 1-ounce spinnerbait for slow-rolling and it’ll have a No. 5 willow leaf and a small Colorado blade with it as a kicker.
Early-spring jig tactics
To me, the jig is the most versatile big-fish lure for late winter and early spring. In highland lakes, the bigger bass – largemouths, spots and smallmouths – are moving toward the shore and holding in groups in the places where the last deep water meets shallower water.
Yo-yoing a lipless crankbait for prespawners
A lot of fishermen think that using a lipless crankbait in late winter or during the early prespawn is all about chunking and winding, but I’ve had better success yo-yoing one off the bottom.
Giving fish a second chance with an umbrella rig
A lot of people don’t use an umbrella rig in the prespawn, but maybe they should. To me it’s a great follow-up lure to a lipless crankbait or square-bill when you’re fishing shallow flats or gravel banks.
House cleaning for next spring
If you fish all winter like I do, you don’t have to worry about winterizing your boat. Maybe a little maintenance is in order, taking stock of your rods and reels to see how they’re faring. However, getting the lure boxes ready for the next tournament season is a different matter.
Breaking the confidence barrier
Mastering a new technique or pattern isn’t an easy thing, but boy, it sure makes a world of difference in your confidence level. In 2012 I finally made the big move on fishing deep, finesse-style techniques.
Tournament scouting with lake maps
I’ve been enjoying crappie fishing and deer hunting lately, but in the back of my mind I’m also starting to think about the next tournament season. Every tournament is different, but there are things you can expect to happen on a lake at a certain time of the year. So I like to get out my lake maps now and try to figure out what the fish are likely to be doing when the tournament gets going and anticipate where I need to look for them.
Store hooks where the air can’t reach them
Over the years I’ve settled on my favorite hooks. I use a round-bend Gamakatsu worm hook in various sizes for soft-plastics. For hard baits I like the Daiichi Death Trap round-bend trebles. The only other hooks I use on occasion are Roboworm rebarb hooks.