Find a flat with isolated cover
At the end of the year, I like to reflect back on my tournament season and consider what worked for me. One thing I’ve noticed is that fishing flats produced some good catches for me in 2011.
Snell knot improves soft-plastic hookups
Nowadays when I’m flipping soft-plastics in heavy grass, I use a little trick that Peter Thliveros showed me. I tie the hook to my braided line with a snell knot. It doesn’t slip at all, and it changes the way your hook behaves when you set the hook on a fish. Because the line passes through the eye the way it does, the point goes up into the roof of a fish’s mouth for a more solid set. Guys like JT Kenney and Terry Scroggins are also doing this when they fish heavy cover. It’s improved my catch rate from about 50 percent to 90 percent.
Tease ’em into biting
If you’re using a suspending jerkbait, which is a great lure this time of year, you’ll notice that a lot of bass will just follow your bait without hitting it. Sometimes I’ll get 30 follows to every five bass I catch.
Lighten up on the Alabama rig
Whenever bass are feeding on schooling shad, the Alabama rig is going to be a killer – if you can get all that weight out there.
Go prepared for any problem
I carry a tool kit with me when I travel to different tournament locations, and it’s come in handy more than once.
A daily planner for fall bass
Right now, a fisherman needs to be out on the water early and plan to stay late because bass are getting in their last big feed before winter.
Recycling old jigs
I’ve started using worn-out jigs as swimbait heads. They have wide-gap hooks and come in all sizes.
Awareness is everything
The first fish of the day is the most important. It’s where you start to map out the rest of the day, and how well you interpret what’s going on then will also help determine how your fishing will go.
Matching up with forage
More often than not, you’re better off trying to match up your lure to the main forage that bass are feeding on at a particular time and place in a lake. By that I mean matching the size, color and general shape of the forage. That’s especially true wherever you have some clarity to the water.
Target points and channel swings
In most big lakes, shad are making their way toward the back ends of the big bays, coves and feeder creeks, and the bass are following them. This is a transition period with the bass not really settled down yet, and fishing can be pretty tough.
Snarl-proofing your spinning line
When you’re fishing with spinning tackle, there are few things worse than being on fish and then having a big tangle of monofilament come off your reel when you cast to them. The best way I’ve found to avoid snarls is to stretch the monofilament once I’ve put new line on my reel and before I go fishing.
Scouting with electronics
Using electronics to locate fish is a lot easier now with the modern technology that’s available. I like the Lowrance HDS-10, and the DownScan and StructureScan features are equally useful.
What’s your hurry?
Patience is a virtue to a fisherman. A lot of people lose patience when they’re fishing and leave a good spot even if they’re fairly sure that there are fish around. “The bass just aren’t biting,” or “the fish have left,” they say to themselves, and go on to the next place.
Time to think shallow again
In most Southern lakes, there’s still a lot of bass on the drops and humps out in deeper water, but the bigger fish have been moving toward the banks, no matter how hot it’s been.
When not to catch bass
When you’re practicing for a tournament on a lake or river not known for its quality fishing, sometimes making sure you don’t stick any fish is a good thing. The idea is to locate bass and try different baits to see what they want without sore-mouthing them any more than you have to.
Add some pizazz to your retrieve
When the weather and water are hot, sometimes putting a lot more action in a bait will draw more strikes. It seems like the more erratic you make it, the more it triggers reaction bites.
Keep long-cast rig ready for busting bass
Typically, schooling bass come up all of a sudden and require long casts. You need a lure that’s heavy enough to get out there and a rod and reel that will let you make long casts.
Get the bass fired up
You hear guys talk about “firing up” or “turning on” a school of ledge fish in the summer, and that’s about as good a description as it gets. Until you can get one or two bass to bite, the school will generally ignore you and whatever you’re throwing. It’s like the commotion of fighting that first fish or two that turns them on.
Salvage discarded soft plastics to catch more bass
Mend-It is a glue that can be used to repair soft plastics or even make custom designs. For instance, I’ve taken 10-inch Zoom Ol’ Monster worms and turned them into 16-inch worms by gluing on a section from another worm. Sometimes when you’re ledge fishing, using a big plastic worm can make all the difference in getting bites or getting skunked.
Current doesn’t start everywhere all at once
In river lakes or tidal water, current rules. It activates the food chain and gets bass stirred up. Especially during the summer, you’ll struggle to catch fish when the water isn’t moving.
Going deep? Give fluorocarbon a try
Fiberglass cranking rods have a big following, but I’ve gone to an 8-foot graphite model instead. It’s got the “give” I need to keep fish on the hook. Also, I don’t like to kneel-and-reel, and the longer rod allows me to get the lure down a little deeper without having to bend over. More importantly, I like the sensitivity of a graphite rod, especially when I’m fishing deep ledges.
Beat the heat with topwaters
I swear we’ve had the hottest summer in Oklahoma that I can remember. It got to 111 the other day where I live. If you’re going to fish in that kind of weather, better fish early and late and stay indoors the rest of the time.
Chase bass back to cover
About 25 years ago I was fishing with Mickey Bruce in a tournament on Lake Lanier, where the water was so clear you could see a brush pile in 25 feet of water. As soon as we got to that first deep brush pile, Mickey started marking fish – one here, one there. Then, all of a sudden, he started cutting figure eights over the brush pile with the big motor – back and forth.
Don’t sell flashers short
A lot of younger fishermen shy away from flasher units, but I still have a $200 Vexilar flasher unit in my boat and I use it all the time.
Boil up a batch of swimbaits
Shad are the predominant forage now in many lakes and swimbaits really mimic them well, but it’s critical that a swimbait runs exactly the way it was designed to do. Sometimes, a swimbait gets kinked in the package or jammed up so that the tail develops a set in it. That’s no good; it will cause the swimbait to spin or run off-center.