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.
The smell of fishing success
The main purpose of scented baits is to attract more strikes, and to varying degrees they do their job. I’ve found that sometimes a scented bait will close the deal with bass when they’re not really in the mood to feed.
Almost time to head for the mats
Going against the grain for late-summer bass
Hot summer, fish deep – that’s the standard game plan for most bass fishermen, but every once in a while somebody proves that it doesn’t always work that way. Jacob Wheeler won the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier by fishing in 2 feet of water or so. In any lake, there’s always a large population of bass that live super-shallow all year.
Electrician’s tape for emergency repairs
Make sure you carry some electrician’s tape with you when you go fishing and keep it handy. If you knock the transducer off the bottom of your trolling motor on a stump or rock, you can always tape it back on with the tape and go back to fishing.
Working the flats with a flutter spoon
When fish are really spread out, maybe because it’s a cloudy day or it’s in the fall and they’re really feeding and roaming around a lot following the bait, I like to fish a Strike King Sexy Spoon. With its vibration and flash, and the fact that you can cast it a mile, it’s a good lure for covering a lot of water.
A subtle approach for summer bass
Bass generally aren’t as aggressive and don’t tend to move around as much in the hottest part of summer. They’re often suspended or holding in brush near the bottom, but a subtle approach with a drop-shot rig can be effective. Keep it simple. For the leader, I always use fluorocarbon in 6- to 10-pound-test. The size and length of the leader depend on the clarity of the water and where the fish are likely to be holding.
Keep a marker buoy handy
Marine electronics are so good now that it seems like they’ll do almost everything but catch fish for you. Still, I never go fishing without one or two of those orange plastic marker buoys somewhere in my Ranger. When I mark a place I want to fish, I’ll toss out a marker buoy right on top of it.
Catching schooling fish early
Pickwick Lake is one of my favorites for schooling bass in the summer and it’s pretty typical as far as how the fishing is likely to line up on any given day. Usually I’ll begin fishing on a break from 5- to 10-feet deep over a hump or river ledge.
The basics of fishing summer ledges
I really enjoy fishing deep ledges in the summer. If you get on the right spot, you can catch a limit in a hurry. Not to oversimplify, but I have a couple of approaches that usually work for me. If there’s current, I’ll go with a jig or a crankbait. Usually, that’s all it takes and the current makes the fish active.
Wiggling or wobbling crankbaits?
I don’t know why it is exactly, but I’ve proved to my satisfaction that fish will very definitely change preferences as far as the action of a crankbait goes. For some reason, it seems that the colder the water, the tighter the wobble of the crankbait needs to be to draw strikes.
When braid is best
I don’t use braided line a whole lot because most of the time fluorocarbon fits my fishing style and approach. Still, there are times when braid works better than anything, such as when you’re fishing grass – milfoil, hydrilla, coontail or whatever.
Keep those high-dollar rods under wraps
The new high-modulus specialty rods available now are very sensitive and really great, but there is a tradeoff.