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.
Sometimes it pays not to stick to the script
In my first year as a pro staffer with Rapala, I was down at Lake Amistad for the Walmart FLW Series East-West Fish-Off. Rapala wanted to get photos of its pro staffers with some new lures after the tournament was over. I had finished third in the tournament, and I knew that the school I had been fishing would still be there, so that’s where we started.
Less action will get you more jig bites
In the prime fishing months when bass are in a chasing mood, all sorts of lures, patterns and presentations might produce. When the water temperature gets below 50 degrees, though, it’s time to slow down and simplify. In most lakes the fish get lethargic and don’t move around much.
Three patterns for winter bass in highland lakes
Bass aren’t as aggressive in the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t eat and that you can’t catch them. For me, it’s a matter of settling on a few lures and following a pretty basic game plan.
The finer points of winter spoon fishing
Fishing with jigging spoons is one of the most productive winter patterns, especially when bass are holding in deep brush and on ledges.
Washing a jig in a winter river
I grew up fishing the Coosa River of Alabama for big spotted bass and my favorite time to fish there is from late October through March.
Take care of your tackle
If you live in an area of the country where your fishing pretty much shuts down in late fall, it’s a good idea to give your rods and reels a maintenance going-over now so they’ll be ready to fish next spring.
Focus, but keep fishing fun
How many times have you practiced for a tournament and did well, but then, in the tournament, you bombed or didn’t catch nearly as many fish as you figured you would?
Docks are great fall bass hangouts
Now that the weather is transitioning into fall, shad are moving out of the open water and into coves – especially coves with creeks. I like to fish docks this time of year because bass will gang up under them and pick off bigger shad and other prey fish.
The buzz on fall swimbaits
Now that we’ve started getting more rain in areas where we had drought last summer, lakes are coming up again and bass are moving back to the banks – or at least toward the shorelines. They’re scattered out and looking for shad, which makes this a great time of year to fish soft-plastic buzzbaits and cover some water.
Leader length - not too short, not too long
One thing I’ve noticed when I use braid with a fluorocarbon leader on my spinning outfit is that the braid tends to wrap around the first guide on the cast if the leader is too long. I’ve found that the best way to keep the braid from wrapping the guide is to make sure that the leader connector knot is never on the reel spool.
Know when to fold ’em
Say you’re on a really good spot and the fish are biting everything you’re throwing at them. You’ve got a limit of 3-pounders and you’re hoping for a good kicker or two to give you a boost at weigh-in. But if you don’t get a big fish within the first few you catch, chances are you’re not going to.
Baitfish schools ring dinner bell for fall bass
As soon as the weather and the water temperature begin to cool off, the fish really start keying on schools of baitfish rather than bream or crawfish.
Think pink in the fall
I’ve heard a lot of pros say that lure color doesn’t really matter, but after 30 years of experimentation with different colors, I’ve proved to myself that it makes a big difference.