“How to catch larger bass,” is probably the most common topics of discussion whenever I meet fisherman. Well, this is a question that can’t be answered in one sentence, but I will do my best to provide an answer that can get you on your way to catching larger bass.
The first thing you have to do is commit some time on the water. This is by far the most important thing you must do in order to catch larger bass. If you’re not there on the water you don’t have a chance to catch any bass at all. So trying to get out on the water early and staying till dark is a must. This has been the one major factor that has helped me catch some giant bass. There have been days when I started to recognize patterns that the bass were in and this helped me because then I knew the next day what to expect and how to prepare to catch these giants. Sometimes it was just as simple as bringing a new lure to try to see if I could catch a few more bass or some larger ones.
Another very important element in locating and catching larger bass is learning about and studying the ecosystem of the lake or stream you’re fishing. There is an old saying: “match the hatch”. Well, this is exactly what you want to do and by understanding your lake’s ecosystem you’ll understand where the bass are and what they prefer to feed on.
Understanding and finding an ecosystem in your lake or stream takes a little time invested, but the payoff can be huge. Where I live, here in Southern California, we have small, deep resevoirs that are built to hold drinking water so the water is very clear and clean and not as full of nutrients as many other dirtier, darker-colored lakes. These clear waters are full of phytoplankton, which rely on minerals found in the waters they live in, such as iron, nitrate, silicic acid, and phosphate. They then absorb energy from sunlight through the process of photosynthesis. The sun’s energy allows the phytoplankton to convert the minerals in the water to a source of food they can use to survive. These plankton are the foundation of food chains in the lakes I fish with minnows, shad, small bass, and small panfish eating the plankton and larger bass eating the smaller fish and so on. There are also other parts of the food chain that drive the ecosystem where I fish and they include the crayfish, sculpin, and aquatic insects that live both in and on the water. By understanding what’s in the food chain where you fish, you’ll slowly start to put the pieces together of how the ecosystem is driven in the waters you fish. Once this is done, you’ll spend more time in the right areas at the right times and you’ll start catching larger bass due to matching the hatch.
In the lakes where I live the favorite food bass hunt throughout the year is crawdads. These crawdads, which are high in calcium content, give the bass a healthy bone structure and the calcium is also key for a female bass in the development of eggs. Crawdads are something that are easy for bass to hunt and catch while exerting very little energy.
So when you want to really catch some of the bigger bass in the lake you need to match the hatch with a jig or any other crawdad imitation. Even using live crawdads caught from the same lake you plan to fish is an awesome game plan to catch a bass of a lifetime. Two words you need to remember when fishing a crawdad, or a crawdad imitation lure, are slow and deep. These two words are key in catching large bass. As a bass ages, it becomes weary when hunting and begins to hunt at a slower pace, much more of a sit and wait ambush mode. The bigger bass understand to not to move to0 quickly around potential prey, to just sit, or move at a snail’s pace to avoid threatening the prey. So by fishing slower and deeper where these giant bass feel much more comfortable is key in catching these keystone predators of the food chain and the king of the ecosystem of the lake or stream.
Another huge factor in catching large bass is knowing where the prime ambush areas are and understanding the timing of these areas. I’ve found where I live, with water clarity being 15′-20′ on average, I need to fish during the low-light periods for ultimate success in getting some of the monster bass to eat. Once I’ve found a few structure-oriented ambush areas that I feel are key spots, I try to figure out the right direction to set up on these key spots to present a bait correctly through the key structure area while paying close attention to the speed of the retrieve. Then it’s all about the timing of these key spots which is driven by the sunrise-sunset and moonrise-moonset. I have found in my years of keeping data that the hour before and after both the sunrise and the moonset are beneficial times to be on a key spot. My records show that well over 75% of the bass I’ve caught over 10 pounds were caught around these time frames.
Sometimes catching a bigger bass is as simple as just fishing the biggest lure you can that matches the hatch and in some cases is even larger than the prey. In the world of swimbaits here on the West coast we have been matching the hatch with Rainbow Trout swimbaits with an average size of 8″-12″ and the occasional 13″-16″ monster swimbaits. Our mantra is go big or go home. When chucking these monster lures it takes the right tackle along with some fitness and endurance to chuck and wind these big lures all day. But keep in mind to fish slow and deep even though this is hard to do when you’re all pumped up to toss these big lures. It’s hard to slow down. So remember next time your out on the water and wanting to hook some larger bass try paying close attention to what’s going on above the water as well as under the water and slow down and fish deeper. Good Luck!
Every now and then you find a bait you like and that’s exactly what I found with Pro Swimbaits line of custom swimbaits. I field tested two sizes the 5″ and 7″ inline Pro Wake swimbaits. The first thing I noticed right away about the swimbaits was the incredible paint schemes the baits had they looked fantastic out of the package.
Company: Pro Swimbaits
Lure: Pro Wake
R.O.F.: (5″-5′) (7″-10′)
Style: Soft Plastic Inline Swimmer, Boot Tail
Custom Paint: Yes
Weight: (5″- 1 oz) ( 7″-1.9 oz)
Colors Tested: Baby Bass, Ghost Trout, Sexy Ghost Shad
MSRP: See Website For Current Pricing
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
I have been tossing swimbaits for a long time and I have seen how hard it is for swimbait makers to create a new lure that is not like any other swimbait that has come before it. I truly believe as a bass fisherman we benefit from this drive the swimbait makers have to make the lures better than ever and just when I think I’ve seen a particular style of swimbait top-out , out comes a new twist to it and that is exactly what Pro Swimbaits has done with there Pro Wake inline swimbait series.
I got a box from Pro Swimbaits with some different sizes and colors in it like Lavender Shad, Sexy Ghost Shad, and Baby Bass and the field test lake was crystal clear so the colors of the baits really stood out. I was very impressed with the brightness of the colors on the Pro Wake swimbaits they really looked good in the water and the texture of the baits was top notch very flexible bait which shows while they swim in the water.
As you can see by these pictures of the Sexy Ghost Shad and Baby Bass the bar has been lifted. These colors just looked incredible in the water. What I liked was after tossing the swimbaits all day and catching fish on them the colors looked just as good as they did when I first tied them on.
One of my favorite types of swimbaits is the ones that separate from the hook, the “inline” style swimbait. This style swimbait helps keep the hook in the bass’ mouth by not having the weight of the bait shaking the hook free.
As you can see from the video the Pro Wake swimbait looks great in the water. You can also jerk the bait during the retrieve which I was shocked how well it looked walking the dog underwater.
Pros: Great colors to choose from, the Pro Wake Swimmer casted far in the wind and swam very straight. And after catching bass all day on the swimbait it still looked really good.
Cons: It was hard during low light hours of the morning to find the hole at the nose of the swimbait to run the line through.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Doing a review on Lunker City’s 10″ Fin-S-Fish was real easy for me since I have years and years of experience with this bait. It was one of the first swimbaits I used to catch lunker bass with when I was younger and is still to this day a go to bait for me for large bass.
Color: Rainbow Trout
Weight: 1.8 oz. (w/hook)
Lure Type: Jerk Bait
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The 10″ Lunker City Fin-S-Fish comes three to a package with one custom 8-0 long shank hook that works perfect with this large bait and for the price of $6.59 this is by far one of the best deals out there to catch giant bass. This is one of the oldest and largest jerk baits on the market and once you tie one on and start to rip and jerk it you’ll quickly understand why some of us in the big bass world have kept this lure a secret.
The Fin-S-Fish is 10″ from the nose of the bait to the tip of the tail and is 1/2″ wide. The narrow design of this giant jerk bait really helps give this bait life in the water. Lunker City uses a good plastic that is very flexible as well as durable. I have caught numerous toothy bass on one bait.
The 8-0 hook that comes with the Lunker City Fin-S-Fish is 3 3/4″ long and perfect for this 10″ monster jerk bait.
Once you Texas Rig the hook through the nose of the bait you bring the hook back up through the bottom and inside of the bait where the slit is and then out the back where there is a small channel that helps keep the Fin-S-Fish weedless.
As you can see by the picture above the hook width matches the Fin-S-Fish height perfectly so your hook-up ratios will be very good. Once you’ve rigged the Fin-S-Fish your ready to fish it, I like to use a medium action rod, with 15-18lb flour-carbon line. The retrieve on the lure is where the fun begins, you can let the bait sink to the bottom and slow pop the bait off the bottom, or my favorite retrieve is to work the rod tip with continuous downword strokes towards the water making the Fin-S-Fish walk the dog and pop out of the water. This lure can be rigged so many different ways, you can use a nail weight to help the bait sink faster and deeper and then rip and jerk it. You can also side-rig the bait which really gives this bait a wild effect in the water and if you want to work it in deep water fast try rigging it with a heavy Carolina rig and working the 10″ Fin-S-Fish in the deep water channels where I have had some monster over ten have jumped all over it.
Pros: Great price for such a large versatile jerk bait, easy to rig and fish. Really good plastic very durable.
Cons: Only one custom large hook comes with the three baits in one package, so don’t lose it!
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Growing up and living here in Southern California one of the best jobs you can have, in my opinion, is being a weather forecaster mainly because it’s almost the same weather here all year long with an average air temperature of around 72 degrees. What an ideal job! But all kidding aside, we do get some good, cold winter storms roll in from northwest from time to time and we have some years where we get what is called an “El Nino” season where it will rain hard every two to three days from January until April due to unusually warm ocean water around the equator pushing to the north. These storms are normally warm and loaded with moisture and, when they mix with cold air loaded with ice from the northwest, the warmer air will melt the ice high in clouds and pull a large percentage of the water out of the clouds making fishing very interesting.
So, first let’s begin by looking at the true definition of weather: The atmospheric conditions that comprise the state of the atmosphere in terms of temperature and wind and clouds and precipitation. In the world of fishing weather it’s one biggest driving forces that make fish move in the water columns from deep to shallow water and vice versa. Fish always look for stable conditions. One of the reasons for this is the way they mentally map out an area where they’re going to hunt, feed, or spawn and when the water level drops, or rises quickly, or weather changes drastically, most fish will back off and suspend and wait till these situations stabilize before they will begin to remap a hunting, feeding, or spawning area. So when you have a really cold-air winter storm start to move in, you’ll notice a change in how the fish start to act and feed. There are two factors at play here: barometric pressure and low-light conditions.
Barometric pressure is an atmospheric pressure as indicated by a barometer and the atmosphere is basically just air surrounding the earth. When you have water in the atmosphere you have low pressure which will be measured by a barometer. The more water that’s in the air, the lower the barometer reading will be and so on. So whenever you look up and see a blue sky, this is a high pressure light-air condition and when you look up and see clouds in the sky this is a low-pressure condition with lots of water and ice floating in the sky. But, due to Earth’s gravity, these clouds have weight and want to fall towards the earth. And what determines the weight of the clouds are their size of the clouds and elevation. The higher in elevation the cloud is in the sky, the more the water molecules in the top of the clouds freeze and sink down towards the earth. This frozen water really weighs the cloud down. So when we get a cold storm from the north-west, with hundreds of miles of clouds packed together that are high in elevation, it’s like a freight train in the sky that has carts loaded with water and ice and as it moves closer to land you start to see the barometer readings drop. This is how it all begins in our world of fishing in relation to cold air and atmospheric pressure on the water.
So now we have this huge mass of cold and wet air that we call a storm moving towards the lake. The atmosphere is being pushed which creates heavy atmospheric pressure in front of the storm which is shown by a drop on the barometer. As a result, the fish, which use an internal swim bladder system that gives them the ability to control buoyancy and stay at different water depths, begin to feel the affect of this pressure that is in front of this cold air storm rolling in. The swim bladders are internal and filled with an oxygen gas mixture. The less gas that’s in the bladder will allow the fish to sink and with more gas in the bladder the fish will rise. The swim bladder is much like our lungs except most fish cannot expel the gas out as quickly as we can let air out of our lungs. This means that the fish needs time to slowly absorb the gas from the swim bladder to the outer glands. And as a fast moving cold storm approaches, the fish feel the pressure on their bladder first due to the added water pressure resulting from the increase in atmospheric pressure on the water. This increase in pressure starts to compromise the fish’s buoyancy in the water and starts to make the frustrated fish move to shallower areas to help relieve some of the added water pressure on their swim bladder.
To better understand this situation, if a fish is suspended in a lake is sitting at around 20 feet using it’s swim bladder for buoyancy, it has adjusted and is comfortable sitting at 20 feet with 20 foot of water weight pressure above it. But ,when you quickly add atmospheric pressure like a storm moving in and putting added pressure on top of the water, this adds to the water weight above the fish which makes the fish very uncomfortable. The fish will then start moving around and trying to find relief from this new added water pressure. In a few hours or more, the fish can start to adjust and absorb some of the bladder gas and find some relief from the new pressure rolling in overhead by the approaching storm. So, as you can see in this huge game of adjustments, which is change in a fish’s environment and will put the fish on the move until it can find some stability which may take some time for the fish to adjust to.
Now with lots of suspended fish getting frustrated and moving toward the shallows to find some relief from the pre-frontal conditions the bigger the fish the more affected it is. I have seen some monster fish move up shallow swimming around in just a couple of feet of water and most of the time these fish are very aggressive and easy to catch. I have found the pre-frontal dropping barometer window that will push fish shallow to be very small and length depends on how cold the approaching storm is along with the storm size and speed. But typically where I live the pre-frontal fishing window is around 3-6 hours and then the fish seem to adapt and adjust to the new atmospheric pressure overhead.
The other factor of having clouds overhead is the low-light condition. Fish love to hunt and feed under low-light conditions. Hunting out of a shadow is much easier than on a bright sunny day condition where small fish tend to hide until there are low-light conditions. The one factor you need to pay attention to after a storm has arrived is to look for stable conditions. If a storm rolls in and you get 2-3 days of steady clouds and rain, the fish will adapt after about 48 hours. But as soon as anything changes drastically, all bets are off and the fish will go back to a holding pattern till conditions stabilize. This is by far a very frustrating time as a fisherman because every atmospheric disturbance is a mixture of things and tend to always be just a bit different than any other before it. So finding tiny windows like in a pre-frontal falling barometer, or when the storm stalls over your area for a few days and conditions stabilize where you can find small productive fish catching windows where the fish are willing to bite is all part of the challenge of paying attention to change. Knowing how to read a barometer and understanding what kind of storm is in the atmosphere is all part of the homework you need to do to understand when and where you need to be.
But here in Southern California, we get the majority of our storms throughout the year from the West or Southwest and these storm are built off warmer waters so the clouds are thinner and warmer with no ice at the top of them. These storms tend to stretch for hundreds of miles and since the density of lower, warmer, thinner clouds is less they won’t push the barometer readings as low and these storms tend to be slower moving also so the fish have plenty of time pre-frontal to adjust to a slower change in the atmosphere. What I normally look for with type of weather is the shallow low-light condition. Typically the weather is very steady and the fish have had plenty of time to adjust and are in the shallows hunting and feeding. This has historically for me been a great time for a swimbait mid-depth (5′-10′) or on the surface. I have had some great times under theses conditions and landed some giant bass.
Some storms are packed with winds from all different directions and, once again, the rule of stable conditions in the fishing world applies. The fish will ride out the winds and wait for conditions to stabilize offshore suspended and as soon as the conditions stabilize the fish will start to move shallow and explore the inshore areas once again and begin their hunting and feeding ritual.
I have found that even on clear blue sky during a high-pressure weather pattern that the fish will look for stable conditions and once again if the weather stays in a stable pattern for more than 48 hours you can start to pattern the fish and find them to be much more predictable in their daily migration routes from deep to shallow water and vice versa and now it’s more about the timing of their movements with low-light conditions along with the moon, and sun phases.
So next time you watch the news and see that the weather is changing you’ll know how to change with it and catch more fish.
MattLures is at it again and this time he has created one of his best hard resin bass swimbaits to date. The new MattLures 7″ WakeBait bass weighs in at 2.5 ounces and was built to trick and catch the big ones!
Bait: 7″ Bass WakeBait
Swim Style: S-Motion/Surface Wakebait
Composite: Hard Resin
Weight: 2.5 oz.
Custom Paint: Yes
Hinge Style: Drop Pin/Screw Eye
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Test driving new lures is always a blast for me and this new MattLures wakebait bass was awesome. Believe me these pictures don’t do this paint job justice, it is just incredible how life-like the paint job looks on this swimbait.
This is by far one of the best bass wakebaits on the market. I found at a slow to medium retrieve this swimbait had an incredible surface waking action, the top of the tail just slightly stuck out of the water while the first section of the bait ran just under the surface and stays very straight.
This three piece bait has plenty of flexibility to help it wake and having the first section being half of the baits body length gives the Mattlures Wakebait Bass great stability in the water so the last two sections can go to work and wake the surface.
MattLures worked really hard to make a new joint system for his wakebait bass that has concave sections where the following sections will fit inside and what I really like is how he painted the sections all the way around giving the wakebait a life-like look as the sections move.
I still can’t believe how real the paint job looked, its detail is awesome especially the pelvic fins and the head and body markings, he even added a splash of gold in the paint to highlight the green. MattLures has really been paying attention to detail over the years. When you run your finger along the sides of the bait you can feel the scales as well as the lateral line I was very impressed with this.
I have always been a huge fan of eye sockets that tilt downward and that is exactly what MattLures has done by tilting the eyes down and using a signature real-life MattLures eye.
MattLures used a super strong material for the tail that you can stretch all you want and not rip it, he also made it with a two wood pin system that you can remove if you needed to replace the tail.
As you can see by the picture above the MattLures Wakebait floater just sits under the surface, it is a very buoyant lure.
The WakeBait will come in four colors; light bass, dark bass, striper, and smallmouth and will be officially released later in the year, but if you pre-sign up at http://www.mattlures.com you can get on a waiting list to be one of the first to drive this new Mattlures 7″ Bass WakeBait.
Pros: Very well built durable bait from the internal rigging harness to the tail, MattLures has designed a new almost unbreakable resin that should give these swimbaits years of life. Also I like how all the fins were built to take plenty of abuse, there not built to thin very thick and durable and the paint job looks incredible!
Cons: The bait was built to be a wakebait with basically one speed, I found I wanted to rip and jerk the bait sometimes but it did not respond very well to that technique, but with a slow-medium retrieve it swam exactly how it was designed.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Eliminating water can be very simple, as long as you follow some basic rules to start off with. Finding points, humps, and flats with deepwater access is a very important start in finding fish. Once you have done this, you’ll find that you have eliminated quite a bit of water and now can concentrate your searches on much smaller areas of the lake and can now really focus on what I call the “key spots on the spot”. These are areas of the points, humps, and flats where fish tend to frequent more often in their migration from deep to shallow water and vice versa. They are areas that are typically not much larger than a bathtub in size, but can bas large as truck. And if you can find these unique spots you may be able to pinpoint exactly where the fish should be within the key spot area. How many times have you been on a body of water and seen someone sit in one general area and catch fish all day long? Well, I would bet that person has found one of the “key spots on the spot”, a key area which will hold fish much longer than most other areas of the lake and most of the time where some of the larger fish of the lake will also be hanging out.
In trying to find the timing of these key spot areas this will depend on many factors such as time of year, time of day, moon phase, sunrise, and sunset, moonrise, and moon set, weather (low pressure, high pressure) wind direction, water currents, and, most important, water level. If the water level gets too low around key spot areas this will push the fish deeper to the next key spot area and in some cases if water level drops too fast it will push the fish offshore to open water where they will suspend till the water level stabilizes and remains at a consistent level for at least 48 hours before they will slowly venture towards the shallow water and re-map it.
In the picture above of a main lake point, the water level is down well over 60′ exposing multiple rock piles all over the lake point. I used this picture because it is a classic example of different rock piles that will hold fish on a lake point. Using one of the first rules in eliminating water, which is looking for deepwater access and finding the rock piles that are closest to deep water or the deep creek channel, will help you in finding your most consistent rock piles on this point throughout the year. But this is only part of the elimination process, after finding structure with deep water access you will still need to dissect it to find where the key spot is on it and try to figure out exactly where and how fish will use it to ambush other fish. So, as you can see in this picture above, finding a few key areas that will hold fish more often than others areas is not so hard. But what areas on these spots will hold fish and why?
In the picture above I used one of my trophy bass replicas to help show how a large fish might sit in a key spot between some large rocks to ambush fish. The picture shows a key spot within a large pile of rocks on a main lake point and if you can find an area like this you’ll load the boat with fish and possibly a fish of a lifetime, especially if you can set up on it correctly. A Global Position System (GPS) can be one of your best tools to use to be able to locate and save waypoints to where these key spots are and to return to them at a later date and set up on them correctly. I always have two GPS settings per key spot; one is where the actual key spot is and the other is where I want to sit my boat in relation to the key spot to be able to cast towards and effectively work my bait through the key spot area.
The above picture is another example of a classic rock ambush area along a lake point where a large fish can sit in ambush waiting for prey to swim by. The large rock in the picture where the replica bass is sitting under provides an area of shade and darkness when in deep water, where a fish can tuck up tight almost underneath it and ambush from the shadow of the rock, almost like a ninja-style stealth attack. Understanding an area like this is very important, one thing that helps is to try to envision in your head which direction fish will use in a key area like the rock in the above picture. This will really help in understanding which direction you’ll need to present your bait on in a key spot and why this is so important to execute this bait presentation properly so your catch ratio on a key spot will be as high as possible.
These key spot ambush areas that a big fish might use more often are not always easy to find. If the water drops low enough once in awhile, you’ll have a chance to walk around and look for these key spots on a point, hump, or flat with deepwater access and save the waypoints with GPS. But, if the water never drops low enough, then an Aqua View underwater style camera is a great tool. If the water is too dirty for an underwater camera, then your underwater electronics are going to be very important in finding these key spot areas. With the new downscan technology it has made it easier than ever to get a more accurate, underwater snapshot image of what structure is on the bottom with a very detailed image that will really help you to dissect a spot to find the “key spots on a spot”. Remember, what you’re looking for is a key spot area. It may be a rock, stump, a steep ledge, etc., but it has to be one of the best spots in the area where a fish can hide and ambush its prey.
In the picture above is one of my favorite types of “key spots on a spot” with just a few large rocks on this lake point and one nice piece of wood where a large fish can get up underneath it in the ambush position. I cannot tell you how many large bass I have caught in this type of of structure situation. It is by far a high-percentage area as long as there is adequate deep water access available nearby.
The picture above shows a very overlooked area. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overlooked a hard bottom area of a lake. These hard bottom spots in a lake that have deep water access can be very productive, especially if you have a lake with little to no rock structure at all.
Above picture is another example a hard bottom point or reef which can have hundreds, if not thousands, of holes where crawdads and other small bait fish can live. These hard bottom areas that have lots of holes can have an amazing ecosystem that can thrive in a lake as long as the water level is adequate above it.
The picture above shows another angle of the hard bottom point where you can see more of the hiding holes and the ledge area on the spot where the 18 pound bass replica can easily tuck up too and wait in ambush for smaller fish to swim by.
The picture above is another great example of a key spot along a ledge. There are so many overlooked areas in a lake, but once you start to understand what to look for and why, you’ll start finding these areas in a lake and heading right to them and spending more time catching fish and having a great time. Keep in mind, once you have some key spots to fish, you’re now spending more of your time on them instead of spending time fishing unproductive water.
If you look at creek channels as highways and lake points as off ramps to the shallow water and the spots on the spots as rest and feeding areas, you’ll start to really create a vision of mechanics of what’s happening under the surface of the water.
The above picture shows a three-level rock spot on a point that most large fish will use at different times of the day and when the water color, or depth changes. When finding and fishing a spot like this, it is very important to understand how fish will use the different levels throughout the night and day and when the water gets stained and dirty. I have found that if the water was on average ten feet above the large rock, as seen in the picture above, during the heat of the day the fish will be on the lower ledge levels waiting up tight in ambush mode for any prey to swim by. And in low-light conditions the fish seem to be up towards the top of the rock pile moving and hunting for small fish and crawdads.
These two “Stump Spot” pictures are classic examples of very small key structure spots that often get missed and can be very hard to find at times. Once again, this is a 29″ bass replica that demonstrates how a live bass could hide much of its body underwater near one of the stump targets. What I have found is that these type of lone stump areas seem to only hold only one or two fish for brief periods of time. Also, the time of day and sun angle are giveaways of which side of a stump target a fish may be hiding in ambush. And from my personal experience it can be one violent bite if it’s lined up correctly.
In the above picture is an isolated bush that throughout the day can hold numerous fish of all sizes. These bush spots can be hard to fish without hanging up your bait once in awhile, but once you find a good weedless lure you’ll have a chance at hooking fish after fish without hanging up your bait in the bush and shaking it and spooking the fish out of it. Underwater brush can be one of the most productive ecosystem spots you’ll find in a lake. The tall branches will get moss attached to them during warmer water months creating areas where aquatic bugs and insects will live and hunt within the moss and branches. And as for some of the fallen branches laying on the lake bottom can make great hiding areas for crawdads, sculpin, and other small fish. I have found that if these bush spots are at a correct depth per the right time of year they will hold fish all day long. The shadows, once again, play a key role in determining where a large fish might sit within the branches to wait in ambush.
Hopefully next time you go fishing you will be able see things a little bit differently and understand why key areas of a lake are so important and how taking good notes, many pictures, and using your GPS to better mark key spots along with understanding how to use your electronics will help you to better understand how to eliminate water and find that productive water and learn to use the key spots on the spot and catch more fish.
As a fan of natural looking swimbaits and receiving a a package of Jackall Swimming Ninja G-90’s in baby bass, and bluegill colors I was excited to get a rod and hit the water to try them out.
Lure: Swimming Ninja G90
Lure Type: Soft Plastic
Colors: Baby Bass, Bluegill
Length: 3 3/4″
R.O.F.: Slow Sinking 6′-8′ on steady retrieve
Bait Swim Style: Kick Tail
MLO Rating: 4 out of 5
Jackall has made some really nice lures over the years and once again with their Swimming Ninja G90 series of small small life-like swimbaits they paid attention to detail with natural fish imitation colors, which for someone who is fishing clear waters with small bluegills, crappie, or baby bass this is a must have bait.
Jackall’s packaging has a clear plastic clamshell system that is handy if you want to store your bait after use to help keep the tail straight and the paint from getting scratched.
For my Swimming Ninja G90 field test review I fished the Baby Bass, and Bluegill colors which really looked natural when I took them out of the package. Jackall offers six colors in the Swimming Ninja G90; baby bass, black crappie, baby bass, spawn gill, bluegill, and thread fin shad, something for everyone.
Here is a underwater picture where you can really see the colors stand out, in my opinion Jackall did a very good job with the real-life imaging on the swimbaits, they looked very life-like in the water with the Baby Bass looking very realistic.
The rod used for this review was a Dobyns DX 744, and a Shimano Calais reel loaded with 12lb. Maxima Flouro-Carbon line. The lake was Lake Jennings Ca. the structure fished was rock ledge drops, small submerged trees, and weed edges.
A top view of the Swimming Ninja G90 shows lots of scale pattern detail along with the eyes, gills, and pectoral fins protruding off the bait giving it a real-life look from the top and bottom view angles.
The tail of the Swimming Ninja G90 is very interesting, it is an upside down boot tail that swam nice in the water. It did not kick hard where you can feel it thump through the rod, it is a very subtle kick tail that is all about the flash. In the clear water the Swimming Ninja G90’s tail looked very natural.
I was very impressed with how the Swimming Ninja G90 sat up on the bottom. it is a very well balanced swimbait that looked very natural in the water like a feeding fish on the bottom. I was surprised that there was an eyelet on the bottom of the bait for a added hook I did not feel that this bottom eyelet was needed at all in such a small swimbait.
On my very first cast of the Swimming Ninja G90 Baby Bass color I got hammered, I had followers on almost every cast, the real-life color really tricked the bass, and I liked the size, and shape of the swimbait and so did the bass.
Towards the end of my six hour field test review the bass were still showing how much they loved the bait. I found that as soon as I starting fishing some new structure that the fish were all over the swimbait especially around rocks, or weeds. The Swimming Ninja G90’s that I used were all 3/4oz. and using them with 12lb. flour-carbon line I found the swimbait to run at a depth of around 6-8 feet on a slow steady retrieve which is exactly how I used them around the weed edges. And with the hard bottom areas of the lake I was letting the swimbait fall to the bottom with a lift and fall back to the bottom type retrieve to get some bass to bite.
Pros: Very realistic looking swimbait, worked great in clear water, had a good size, and shape. After hooking a dozen fish the hook point, and barb still looked sharp and the hook body was not bent out of it’s original shape.
Cons: The imaging on the outside of the soft plastic swimbait really took a beating and started tearing after a few bass and seemed to lose it’s effectiveness. I did not feel there was a need for the added eyelet on the bottom of the Swimming Ninja G90.
MLO Rating 4 out of 5
I have caught lots of really big bass in my 40 years of bass fishing and been blessed to live in an area of the world where the lakes produce some true giants. In early March of 1999 my largest bass at that time was a 17lb. 1oz. out of Lake Poway in San Diego, California. I had missed some really large bass over the years, having them breach the surface while shaking their heads and tossing my jigs out. True heartbreakers! So I knew to always stay positive and learn from my past mistakes and push forward with a postive attitude knowing one day I would land one of those monsters 18 pounds or larger.
One of my favorite lures by far is the jig; I have caught more large bass on a jig than any other lure I’ve used. I believe that as a bass ages its metabolism slows and chasing after bluegills, trout, and other baitfish just takes far too much energy. From what I’ve seen over the years, as a bass ages and gets near the end of its life, it becomes more of a home-guard bass. It remains in one area of a lake and hunts in that area at a much slower pace with prey like crawdads being number one on the list since the crawfish colonies can be very structure-oriented and don’t move that fast, or very far so an older bass has a chance at a meal that is one of the slowest on the menu. I’ve seen some monster bass nose down on a rock, or hole for hours waiting for a crawdad to crawl out of its hiding area. So when I think about what lure best matches the crawdad that some of the older giant bass are hunting regularly, a jig is number one on my list.
Well, in late March, 1999, it was a good time to use a jig. We had a very wet winter and the water at most of our lakes was stained and colder than it should have been for late March in Southern California. Most of the lakes were averaging around 62 degree water temperatures so the bass were still loading up on deep water areas close to the spawning flats. They wanted a stable water temperature of around 66-68 degrees before they would move up and spawn and as long as the storms kept coming in every two to three days, the water was going to stay cooler than usual.
One of the hot lakes in March of 1999 in San Diego was Lake Murray. It is a small lake that measures only 171 surface acres and sits at an elevation of 298′ and at the time was only open three days per week. It was stocked with rainbow trout as small 6 inches and as large as 14 to 18 inches during the winter and spring months and at a maximum depth of 95′ this lake had become a big bass factory. The water normally had a visibility of around 10′-15′, but due to all the storm activity, it was 0-5′ depending on what area of the lake you were in. So these conditions were perfect for working a jig around deep structure near spawning flats.
In early March of 1999 I had been fishing a main lake point at Lake Murray between Padre Bay and San Carlos Bay. It had deep water access and was very close to the main channel of the lake and around 50 yards away from some prime spawning flats. The point was loaded with some awesome structure and some old water pipes that were placed all around the point, some of which were stacked two to three feet high, while others were lying alone. And there were plenty of softball to basketball size rocks everywhere for crawdads to hide between or underneath.
One of my favorite jigs to use in stained or dirty water is a black 3/8th ounce football-head jig with a black red/flake twintail trailer. And that is exactly what I had tied on Saturday, March 20th of 1999. I got out on the Lake Murray early at around 6:00 a.m. I was the first boat out on the water which meant I had first choice of where I wanted to go and I headed right for the main point between Padre Bay and San Carlos Bay. There I double anchored my tracker boat in about 10′ of water right in the middle of the point. It was a very wet morning, with the wind blowing right in my face as I looked towards deep water. I could not wait to get a cast out towards deep water and start working my jig up to the pipe structures. On my first cast my jig never hit the bottom before it was bit; the bass were stacked and suspended off the point. I made six casts and hooked six bass in a row each weighing up to 5 lbs. Then I hit a dry spell for a few casts.
It was about 8:30 a.m. when I started scratching my jig on one of the large stacked pipes and I got hammered! I was using a 6’6″ Graphite USA rod with a Shimano Curado 200 reel, spooled with 15 lb. Maxima monofilament line. I knew I had hooked a good bass. It was taking drag and digging for the bottom trying its hardest to take me through the pipe structures. The bass took a few good runs towards the deep water and then started to head for the surface where she was going to try to get her head out of the water and toss my jig free, but I burried the rod in the water down to the reel and just cranked it as hard as as could. This worked and kept the bass from breaking surface and as I got her closer to the boat I got the net ready. Since the water was stained, and it was raining, I had not yet seen the bass. Then, as I slowly cranked her in and could see the line straight down right next to the boat, she made a hard rush towards the surface and shook her head. I know I froze for a second seeing how big she was, but I quickly burried the rod back in the water to keep her from coming up again. She then made another run towards the bottom and once again I was only able to slowly work the giant bass back towards the boat. But, now I had seen her and knew she was big and was a little nervous about making a wrong move. Trying to fight and land a giant bass really is like a chess match. To win you really need to anticipate the bass’ next move and adjust quickly to not lose the battle. That is what I did. As I could see the line get closer to the boat again and she rose up to the surface, I stuck the net between my legs and as she came up towards the surface to jump, I grabbed the net and scooped her up. She had come up and tried to jump in the same direction so I was ready.
I knew when I had her in the boat I had finally landed that true giant! I cannot tell you how happy I was to look at and weigh this giant bass on my Berkley hand-held scale. When I saw the 18-1 flash on the scale I knew for sure I had done it. Finally, I had not lost a battle with a giant and I was now officially on the giant bass board.
I put her in the live well and fished for a couple hours more landing a nine-pounder and losing a good one over 12 pounds at the surface. It was one of those nasty rainy days with just two boats on the lake that I was glad I was one of them. At around noon after the epic morning bite had slowed, I decided it was time to take her to the dock and get an official weight. Larry Botroff, our Fish and Game biologist at the time, was called to come to the lake and weigh her. Once he arrived, we put her on the lake scale where she weighed 17.96 -just a water drop off 18 pounds and measured 28″ long with a 25″ girth. After a few more pictures, it was time to realease her. I have to admit I just wanted to keep staring at this giant bass before letting go of her lip in the water, it’s an image in my mind i’ll never forge, a true giant!
Larry took some scales samples and later gauged the giant bass at around 12 years old. As I look back and recall this story I realize that this catch was a huge turning point in my giant bass fishing career. I believe you learn every time you get on the water and I had learned how to finally land a giant bass.
When Koppers Live Target sent me the Blueback Herring three piece swimbait from their salt water series I knew right away that I could catch fish on it, not just in the salt water but in the fresh water as well.
Company: Koppers Live Target
Lure Type: Hard Plastic Lipless Swimbait
Lure Color: Silver/Blue
Lure Weight: 1 3/4 oz
Lure Length: 5 1/2″
Bait Swim Style: S-Motion Swimbait
Lure Hinges: Yes
Number of Hinges: Two
Hinge Style: Screw Eye Drop Pin
Hook Style: Exposed Treble Hooks
Lure Speed: Medium to Fast
Custom Imaging: Yes
Model# BBH140FS201 Fast Sinking
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
At first glance of the Live Target Blueback Herring I was once again very impressed with the imaging on this three piece swimbait. It is a fairly heavy bait at 1 3/4 ounce due to multiple steel balls added in the head section for weight and balance, which also help the Blueback Herring make long cast even in the wind. The steel balls also gave the swimbait a very nice low tone sound in the water to call up the big fish.
At 5 1/2 ” and a weight of 1 3/4 oz I knew I needed to fish this swimbait at medium to fast retrieve, and thats exactly what I found the Blueback Herring wanted. The model I tested had a sink rate of one second per foot and I found that retrieving it at a medium speed it ran at about 15′-20′. The body sections also hit against each other making more noise in the water which make it great bait for low-light fishing, or dirty water.
Rod I used for this field test review was a Dobyns 784, paired with a Shimano Curado 300 reel, spooled with 18 pound Maxima line. It is a fairly heavy swimbait that you will need a medium-heavy rod of at least 7′-0″ in length to help you cast this heavy bait.
I was impressed with the flexibility of the Blueback Herring, it had a really nice side to side S-swimming motion in the water and on a hard rip of the rod you could speed up this motion to try to create more strikes, a great lure for ripping and jerking through a bait ball.
Live Target put a pair of realistic taxidermy style eyes on the Blueback Herring which really gave this swimbait life.
I was very impressed with the scale patterns on the Blueback Herring they cut into the body of the swimbait to give the bait added detail and flash, especially when light hits the side of the swimbait you can really see the grooves between the scales. The head also has some great detail cut into it to make it look as real-life as possible, even the added pelvic fins have fine grooved detailing.
The Blueback Herring comes in three sizes 4 1/2″, 5 1/2″, and 6 1/2″ also two sink rates, 0.5’/second and 1-0’/second and three colors silver/bronze, silver/green, and silver/blue.
Pro: The Blueback Herring is a very realistic looking swimbait from the realistic eyes, scales, and fins to the color patterns, it also is a very user friendly bait right out of the package very easy to cast and retrieve. The hinges are made out of a heavy gauge wire so you can catch some monsters in the salt water and not worry about breaking any hinges. The split rings are also heavy duty 1o0lb. rings should hold up just fine. The hooks on my test bait were size 2 hooks for freshwater, if your going to use this swimbait in the salt water I would suggest you change the hooks out to salt water hooks.
Cons: I found only one issue with the Blueback Herring, after catching a few toothy salt water fish the paint did scratch off especially around the face area. Would love to see this swimbait in some more colors especially Rainbow Trout.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Jerry Rago, of Rago Baits is at it again with his latest creation, the Weedless Mini a 5 1/2″ swimbait. I have had this bait for about a month now and have tested it at three different lakes where I abused it as much as possible.
Company: Rago Baits
Lure Type: Hand-Poured Weedless Swimbait
Length: 5 1/2″
Weight: 1.2 oz (with no hook)
R.O.F.: Depends on weight added with hook
Colors: Six standard Colors
Hook: Not Suplied
Tail Design: Boot Tail
Lure Speed: Slow-Med. Retrieve
Custom Paint: No
MLO Rating: 4 out 5
I have been personally using Rago Baits for well over 10 years and in that time have seen Jerry Rago create some really awesome hand-poured swimbaits. He has a knack for being able to pour colors that are consistent and very clean. If you take a close look at some of Rago’s clear baits you will not see lots of bubbles in the plastic or other imperfections Rago Baits hand-poured swimbaits.
The rod used for this review was a Dobyns 795, reel was a Shimano Anteres loaded with 15lb Maxima flouro carbon line. Lake Poway, Lake Otay, and Lake Dixon in San Diego California were the field test review lakes.
This small 5 1/2″ weedless swimbait fits right into my game plan I love to use weedless swimbaits that I can fish where some of the big bass are hiding. I testesd this Rago weedless Mini design in tules, light brush and some sunken trees, where I had very little issue with the hook coming out of the bait and sticking into any structure. I did have some light grass get stuck on the nose of the bait from time to time but nothing a good rip of the bait couldn’t remove. Rago Baits is not supplying a hook with the Weedless Mini to try to help keep the price down. So I used an Owner 5-0 1/4 ounce weight hook, it fit perfect in the Weedless Mini and got the swimbait down to about 7′ of water on a slow retrieve.
There is a small pocket at the bottom of the bait just under the head section where my weighted hook fit perfect inside of. The pocket did a great job of hiding and holding the weighted hook in place while casting and also on the retrieve back to the boat.
A top view of the Rago Weedless Mini shows lots of real-life detail like the pectoral, and pelvic fins sticking out.
The side view of the bait shows another life-like view of all the fins. With some small swimbaits when full fins are added it interferes with the swimming action, but I did not find that to happen at all with the Rago Weedless Mini, it was a very smooth swimming bait that swam very straight in the water, very life-like.
Pros: I caught quite a few fish with the mini on a slow to medium retrieve where the bait ran at around 5′-8′ feet with the weighted hook that I used . And if I gently pulled the swimbait through any structure I got my bait back 90% of the time. It also casted really good for such a small full fined bait, even when the wind picked up it flew straight in the air, no tumbling.
Cons: I did have some issues with the the hook staying weedless after catching around a half dozen bass, a little swimbait glue fixed that issue quickly. I also had a few issues with the hook staying in the mouth area, once again a little glue solved this issue.
MLO Rating: 4 out of 5
The truth is no matter who you are, you have the same chance of catching a record fish as anyone else. I am a firm believer in this and have seen it happen many times. But will the average person be prepared for a record catch and know how to deal with the process? Most likely not, and I’ve learned from experience with lake record catches that sometimes the lake will not be ready either.
So what are a few items that you should have in case you happen to catch a record fish? Well, by far the most important item you should have is a portable scale that will weigh at least up to 25 pounds. It’s 2012 and we have some incredible portable digital scales on the market today that are very small, packable, waterproof, and very durable. I have a Berkley digital scale that has to be well over 13 years old and I have never replaced its batteries and it still works great. So I would imagine that the newer scales out these days are the same, if not better.
Once you have a reliable scale the next thing you want to do is to find a scale company in your area that can certify your scale for you. It is a nominal fee but well worth the small investment if you happen to catch the next world-record bass and need to weigh it immediately. I have learned from experience that the longer you leave a very large bass in a live-well or on a stringer that the stress it’s going through will tightens its body and it will lose valuable weight. My experiences have taught me that it is very important to weigh your record catch immediately. Just read my story on my 20 lb. catch. I quite possibly had the world record bass, but not having an accurate, certified scale readily available meant that I lost valuable time and quite possibly weight.
Even if you haven’t had your scale certified ahead of time, it can still work out, but the process might take a little longer. You can submit your scale with your record catch paper work to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), but I guarantee you that you’re just not gonna sleep soundly until you get the scale certification results back from the (IGFA). I should have submitted my Berkley scale to the (IGFA) And by far the most important thing about the weighing of a record, is to weigh it one time quickly after it was caught with a witness, pictures, and video if possible and that is the official weight. A fish can lose valuable ounces if under captive stress, so you don’t want to keep pulling it out of the water for continued weighings.
If possible you want to get your bass in a large cooler, or some kind of covered container that will hold water and use a portable aerator system and a small amount of Ice if you plan on waiting to weigh your record bass. By trying to keep the fish in a dark, cool, aerated container it will help the bass with some of the stress it’s going through. This is by far the best way to hold your record catch for an extended period time if your waiting for a witness, or a scale.
Most of my monster bass catches have been caught out of a rental boat or from the shore, so a stringer is another very important item to have ready if no live-well, or holding container is available. Over the years, I have refined my stringer system down to a 10′ rope with a small welded metal hoop on one end and a metal poker on the other end (Pic.#2). This style of stringer is available at almost all tackle stores. With a monster bass I never trust the hoop end; I’m always nervous that it will pull open after I place a big bass on it.
So I tie an overhand knot at the hoop end of the stringer very close to the hoop (Pic.#3). Then I place the metal poker end through the bass’ soft tissue in its lower jaw and then
through the the knot loop (Pic# 4). This method gives me a bullet-proof system that prevents a big bass from making an escape if it were to make a hard charge while tied up. I have also found that by using a longer stringer it also allows the bass a chance to get to the bottom where it can sit and relax and hopefully not lose any weight by swimming all around under stress. If you’re in deeper water you should work your way slowly toward the shallow water where the bass can reach the bottom.
By letting the bass rest on the bottom and even get its body into some weeds where it will feel like it is hiding, are great for the bass. I believe this gives the bass a false sense of security so it will relax and not try to swim around and stress itself. The goal is if you’re in a boat with no live-well, or you’re fishing from the shore is to avoid towing the bass around the lake, this can really stress out a bass quickly and kill it. Ideally, you should try to have a ranger come to you or maybe a nearby boat with a live-well can assist you to get your catch to the dock.
A measuring tape is by far the cheapest item to have in the documentation process but a very important item to properly measure and document the length and girth of a record catch.
The tape I prefer to use is a tailor’s tape. I like it because it can be rolled up into a very tiny ball and stored in your camera case, pocket, or tackle box. The tailor’s tape is nice to use due to its flexibility which makes it very easy to use when measuring the bass’ girth and is not too reflective when taking a picture of it wrapped around a big ole bass’ belly. I have had the flash of a camera distort the picture off of some other shiny metal tapes I’ve used, so for the cheap price you can quite a few tailors tapes.
Having a good camera is also a very important part of the documentation process. These days, almost everyone’s cell phone has a good camera or has the capability of shooting video, which is even better. However, it might be a good idea to just have a cheap back-up camera. While your record catch is being officially weighed is when the camera and witnesses are so important. If you decide to keep your record catch, just remember it may lose some weight as time moves on and that’s where the pictures and video are your proof of that earlier weight. We could be talking about one ounce or less, but remember you need to beat the world record for largemouth bass by more than two ounces to call it the world record.
Knowing the lake rules and your states Fish and Game rules and regulations in your area and following them is critical; It would be a shame to miss out on the chance of a lifetime because you didn’t follow a simple rule or regulation. This is why I recommend getting an I.G.F.A. rules book and taking some time to read it and understand what steps you need to take before and after landing a record catch. You want the I.G.F.A. to recognize your catch as a new record when you submit it for review.
So a little homework and preparation are part of a good game plan and the first few steps you need to take before going out and chasing your dream of a new record catch.
Wow, once again I got to field test a lure for a product review that was just incredible. Here in San Diego during the hot summer months almost all of the lakes have weeds in the shallows where you can toss a hollow-body frog on them. We also have lots of tules in our lakes which we normally just flip a jig or a senko at. But today when I field tested this new lure, Flip in The Bird, I had to retrain myself to just toss the bait at the tules and let it sit. Holy cow! I was very impressed that it got blasted on the first half dozen flips. Even in open water, just letting it sit, it got blasted. From only three hours of field testing I ended up with over 20 bass and only lost a few. It was an incredible experience with a new bait and technique for using it.
Product Color: Red Wing Black Bird
Style Lure: Topwater
Hook Brand: Unknown
Length: (3″ Body)(Tail 1″)(Wings 1′-2″)
Weight: 5/8 oz
Colors Available: 9
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
When I first got my Flip in The Bird in the mail and opened it, I was not sure what to think. I have thrown many frog imitations and it’s mid-Summer when the bass are in full gear, hiding and ambushing around the weeds, trees, and tules.
There is some good information on the package to take note of. It has a reminder to visit the Flip in The Birds website for instructions on how to trim your bird’s wings as well as some tips on where and how to work this lure.
At first glance of the bait out of the package, I could see it was different from any other hollow-body topwater lure I had used before. The main difference is the body shape and where the wings and tail tassels are placed that give this bait a whole new profile for hollow body imitations.
The body has an imitation feather look to it that really stands out when you first look at the bait.
Even the belly of the bait had bird feet imaging on it which looked very life-like.
The rod used for this field test review was a Dobyns 764 and the reel was a Shimano Core filled with 50lb. Power Pro Braid w/10′ Flouro Carbon leader. The lake was Dos Picos in Ramona, California and conditions were perfect for field testing a weedless hollow-body bait.
After tossing the Bird on the weeds in the shallows and getting a few bass, it was time to start fishing the bait in the places it was designed for like right next to the tules and around the trees.
Flip in The Bird looks awesome in the water; it’s exactly what a small bird looks like when it’s stuck on the water. I did not trim the wings of the lure before my field test review and this needs to be done to give the wings a more natural look.
There are two grooves where the hooks ride in to help keep the Bird weedless.
From the front of the Bird you can once again see the real-life detail with the yellow eyes.
The Flip in The Bird has an exclusive lever-action hook system, which I found to work just fine with the hollow-body lure system.
I did find that the eyelet of the Bird pulled out about 1/8″ after a cast and pointed downward a bit making the bait walk on the surface of the water during a slow retrieve.
Flip in The Bird has some very realistic bird imitations to try which is awesome if you’re fishing a lake that has baby birds nesting close to the water and you’re looking to match the hatch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bass jumping out of the water trying to catch a bird close to the surface.
Pros: It is a very realistic looking lure with a great weedless hook system that did great for my field test review. I found the Bird to be very durable after catching over 20 bass. The tail and wings were still intact and the hooks did not bury into the sides of the bait. Also, I was very impressed with how well the bait flew in the air on each cast.
Cons: After a one day field test review I could not find anything wrong with the Bird. This was a first for me.
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
How does it feel to catch a 20 lb. largemouth bass? It’s something that has only happened twelve times in our bass fishing history. When I was a young kid, I used to dream about catching, or just seeing, a bass over 20 lbs. Every time I went into a tackle shop and saw one of the giant bass mounts that were hanging on the wall, some of them pushing the 17lb mark, I got all excited and could not wait to get back to the lake to begin my quest for a giant bass. I would always read the articles in Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines about the monster bass catches and all the stories about the big ones that were over 20 pounds, but not weighed properly.
Where I grew up and still live, here in San Diego, we have some very small lakes compared to the rest of the United States; they can be as small as 60 surface acres or as large as 2,000 surface acres. Lake Miramar, which was the first San Diego lake to kick out a 20lb. bass in 1973, is only 162 surface acres sitting at an elevation of 714 feet and stocks Rainbow Trout during the winter months. Lake Hodges, which also kicked out a 20lb. bass in 1985, has 1,234 surface acres and sits at an elevation of 330 feet and still to this day has never received any Rainbow Trout.
None of the lakes in San Diego are natural lakes; they are all man-made reservoirs for storing drinking water and in 2001 only a handful of these lakes in San Diego planted Rainbow Trout. Lake Dixon (76 surface acres), Lake Poway (60 surface acres), Lake Wohlford (146 surface acres), Lake Murray (171 surface acres), and San Vicente Reservoir (1100 surface acres) are all lakes that had very large bass for lake records most well over 17 lbs. However, the smaller two lakes, Dixon and Poway, were stocking so much trout into these little lakes that it was basically like force feeding these bass to grow into the giants they would soon become, as long as the genetics of the bass in the lakes allowed this.
I spent many years fishing all the lakes in San Diego, but hit Lake Poway and Lake Dixon especially hard since they were so close to where I grew up and lived. So I got a front row seat at these two lakes watching the monster bass grow while they hid under boat docks, hung out in the shaded areas of the lake, or chased trout. Keep in mind that these are drinking water reservoirs and a section of the lake per water district codes are sanctioned off for no fishing or boating. So in the smaller lakes like Dixon and Poway these sanctioned-off areas are almost a third of the surface acreage of the entire lake. And in both lakes the boat docks are very close to the sanctioned areas creating a perfect environment to grow giant bass. This is a very important part of both lakes’ ecosystems.
I believe in all my years of chasing these giant bass and keeping data and reviewing it that three things seem to always stand out for growing a giant bass over 20 pounds. One is the genetics of the bass must be there; if the bass’ body frame is not large enough then it cannot support the weight. Second, is the availability of pure protein rainbow trout that are stocked all Winter and are easy to catch and very quick and easy to digest and turn into stored energy and body mass. Third, is the sanctioned-off areas of the lake that gives these giant bass a deep water sanctuary area to go to and recover without the stress of boats or fisherman overhead. I believe this is key in helping these bass grow to their massive size quickly.
Well, on April 27th, 2001, it was my turn to add a chapter to bass fishing history. It had been ten years since a 20lb. plus bass had been caught and at that time only nine over 20lbs. had ever been caught and documented. Two of those were caught in San Diego: Dave Zimmerlee’s Lake Miramar 20.93 lb. bass and Gene Dupras’ Lake Hodges 20.25 lb. bass. So the odds of actually catching a bass over 20 lbs. wasn’t looking very good.
TOP LARGEMOUTH BASS Over 20 lbs.
Perry, George W.
Crupi, Robert J.
Easley, Raymond D.
Crupi, Robert J.
Big Fish Lake
I had been working with two freelance photographers, Dusan Smentana and Mike Barlow, for about four years every Spring and had just finished a photo shoot with Dusan on April 22nd at Lake Poway. There we took some photos of a beautiful 14 lb. bass for Field and Stream magazine. It was late Spring and bass were at the tail-end of their spawn throughout the county. At Lake Dixon the water temperature was 77 degrees and you had lots of post-spawn bass with some bass chasing shad in open water. The weeds were growing a few feet off the bottom and there was bass fry everywhere along with bluegills coming up into the shallows to start their spawning. There are four docks or piers at Lake Dixon and there were always some really large bass holding under one of them if not all of them.
On April 23rd, I noticed a very large bass holding under the South side fishing pier, but she was in a negative mood and not moving at all. I tossed numerous swimbaits beside the dock and she never moved once towards them. This is how things were at times; you would see these monsters and you just had to keep going out to the lake and try to get one of them to bite when they were ready, but the key was to try to figure out what they were doing; were they in feeding mode, recover mode, or spawn mode?
I had put in about 4-6 hours every chance I got at Lake Dixon. I worked just a few miles away so it was easy to fish the lake before and after work. I would always take at least one loop around the lake in a rental boat just looking to see if any giant bass were up in the shallows spawning or in any their ambush spots waiting for a trout to swim by. When I got back to the South side handicapped pier and looked under it, I was a little bummed out when I didn’t see that huge bass hanging out underneath it any longer. As I worked my way to the west side of the dock, there was a large, 50-yard flat with deep water access and few very small males were still up spawning in this area. It was about 20 feet deep on average and the water was very clear with weeds growing everywhere. As I moved down the flat to middle of it, staying close to the deep water edge, that is when I saw a giant hanging out. She was big and very black in color and super spooked of the rental boat I was in. I had to get the boat out to deeper water about 10 yards away and just kept still,watching to see what the big bass was up to. She did not seem to be spawning but was staying very close to a bathtub sized opening in the weeds where a very small bass was also hanging out.
After about ten minutes of watching, I tied on a pearl-blue jig to my spinning rod and made a cast to towards the area where she was hanging out. And to my surprise, she immediately showed interest in the jig. I knew she was big; I figured she was at least an 18-pounder. So my plan was to hook her and take her towards deep water and land her. I kept tossing the jig in her area where she would charge up to the jig, tilt forward, and then slowly back away. She did this about a half-dozen times until this one cast that I can still see in my mind. The jig hit the water and was sinking and was about a foot from hitting the bottom when she charged at it and with gills flaring inhaled it.
Well, the next few seconds seemed like minutes. After she hit the jig, she made one violent headshaking run through the weeds and made this turn towards me and shook the jig free. I was devastated! I had just lost a giant and I felt sick to my stomach. As I sat back down in the boat, I could not stop replaying in my mind what had just happened. I eventually got back up looked around the flat and under the dock and did not see her anywhere. I made a phone to a close friend and told him what had just happened and he told me that he too had lost a large bass recently a 13 pounder. But he came back later to see her back in the same area again, where he got a second chance and landed her. This gave me some peace of mind and hope that just maybe that giant I lost would come back.
I did a loop around the lake tossing a small 4″ swimbait and catching a few small bass along the way here and there. I was coming back up to the south side handicap dock and as I approached it really thought I would see the giant bass under it. But I saw nothing. I started to lose faith that this giant bass would be back, but as I approached the area where I had hooked and lost her, there she was again. She was really spooked now and swimming away from my boat about 20 yards away. I had played this game so many times before in the past with these large bass and knew what I needed to do. I had to get my boat as far away as possible so she would relax and stay in the general area. So I put my rental boat on the shore and stood up in the back of it where I could just see her and the target area where I had hooked her earlier.
I tossed out the same pearl-blue jig that I had earlier hooked and lost her on. After about ten minutes, she slowly came towards the jig , but stopped and stayed back about ten feet. After about 20 minutes of watching her sit and not move, I re-cast and she spooked again. We played the same game again; I knew it was time to change lures, but I was limited since I was in a rental boat with a small backpack of lures. I looked at what was in my pack that had a good strong hook and the 6″ Castaic swimbait looked to be the best choice. I tied it on and made a cast just past where I could see the giant bass and did my best to swim the lure just in front of her face. I could see she had some interest in it, so I continued to cast it out and swim it by her. Eventually, I let the swimbait fall in the area where she had hit my jig earlier in the day and I noticed her start to move towards it. This chess match was on again.
After about ten minutes of keeping the swimbait out in the open area, close to where she hit my jig earlier and just slightly shaking the swimbait, she finally flew in and hit it. Once again, it was game on. I did a double hook set because I wanted to make sure this time that I got the barb of the hook to set good in her mouth. The next couple of minutes seemed like forever. She fought hard staying on the bottom shaking her head violently while taking me towards the pier and the cable which secured it to the bottom. My plan was to take her towards deep water keeping the line tight and the lure in her mouth and to not let her get her head out of the water where she could possibly shake the swimbait free. My plan had worked and after a few minutes of a hard fought battle she gave up a bit and was in the net.
Once this monster bass was resting on the net in the bottom of the rental boat, I was in shock to see how big she really was. I had never in my life seen a bass this size out of the water. It was impressive seeing the girth she had, how big her eyeballs were, the giant scales on her belly, and the big thick fins and tail. It was just incredible!
I had a Berkley hand-held scale which I got out of my backpack and hung the behemoth on it. It read 22-4. Seeing that I was really in shock now and thought to myself, “My God, I just caught the world record bass!” I had a ten-foot rope stringer which I took out of my pack. I tied one end up to the bass and tied the other end of the stringer around my leg. I was not taking any chances! I then headed toward the boat dock. It was a two-minute boat ride that seemed like an eternity. I had one hand on the trolling motor and the other hand grasping the big bass’ bottom jaw while keeping her body underwater. Once I arrived at the boat dock I yelled at the dock hand to get the head ranger, tell him that I had just caught the world record bass, and to get the scale ready.
There was a young bass fisherman who witnessed me catch and land the giant bass that had made his way to the boat dock. I got out of the boat and asked if he would take a few pictures for me. I showed him how to use my camera and then proceeded back to the rental boat where I pulled on the stringer and once again lifted this mammoth bass out of the water. This young kid was in shock just like me and as he took a few pictures I stopped and went back to the boat to get my Berkley scale to weigh her again. I wanted to get a picture of the giant bass on the scale. What it read over and over again was 22-5 which I even got a picture of. I had the stringer still attached which I weighed later to be exactly one ounce.
The day was perfect so far until the head ranger and lake manager got to the boat dock and told me that their digital lake scale was broken. I immediately started making phone calls. The first was to our local Fish and Game biologist Larry Botroff, who was out of town and then to Fish and Game which had no one available at the time to make it to the lake. Next, I called the local newspaper outdoor editor who was up in Northern California 10 hours away on assignment. I finally got in touch with Bill Rice, bass editor for Western Outdoor News which was a state fishing newsletter, but still found no one who could bring a good scale. The Lake Dixon manager made a call to a the manager at Lake Wohlford, which was about 30 minutes away, and they had a scale they would drive over.
Two hours after I had tied the rental boat to the boat dock, a scale had finally arrived. It was an old, meat market spring scale but it would have to do. It had been certified recently so I got the monster bass with Bill Rice, a few of my close friends, lake staff, and a small crowd watching and placed her on the scale which read 20 pounds 12 ounces. I was in shock because I was sure she was larger, but what could I do? So she went in the record books as 20lbs-12oz, 27″ long x 27″ girth. Despite the difference of weight between the two scales, I was just elated at the moment that I had caught a 20 lb. plus bass.
After the weighing of the monster bass, we took some more pictures and it was time to let her go. I had one friend look at me say I was crazy to let her go, but I never even had the thought of keeping her and killing her. She was still alive and looked very healthy and I was very grateful to have caught her so it was time to let her go. That was by far the most peaceful moment of the day. It was very quiet while I released her and as she swam away some people started clapping.
I have to say, looking back on the whole experience 11 years later, I still feel very grateful to have been able to hook and land such a monster bass, a true giant over 20 pounds. I do wish that the lake’s digital scale was working so I could have weighed her immediately to see if maybe if my hand-held scale was correct and she was the world record. But it was all a lesson for me and believe me I’m way more prepared now than I was then.
Every now and then I use a bait and get a smile on my face, and that is how I felt when I was field testing the Koppers Live Target 3 3/4″ Bluegill Wakebait.
Company: Koppers Live Target
Lure Type: Wakebait
Length: 3 3/4″
Weight: 1 3/8 oz
Colors: Metallic/Gloss and Natural Matte
Bait Swim Style: Side to Side
Hook Style: Exposed Treble Hooks
Hook Size: #8
Custom Paint No
Lure Hinge: Yes
Number of Hinges: One
Hinge Style: Screw Eye
Lure Speed: Slow to Medium-Fast/ Rip & Jerk
Depth Range: 0′-1′
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The lake I chose for this field test review was Lake Jennings Ca. it was mid-summer and there were bluegill in the shallows everywhere, so I knew this was going to be a fun field test for a shallow running bluegill imitation lure.
Equipment used for this field test review was a Dobyns ML795 rod, a Shimano Scorpion Anteres reel, and 20 lb. Maxima flouro carbon line. I went a little heavy with the equipment on this trip due to all the weeds that were in the shallow water, and after hooking and landing over 30 bass up to 6 lbs it was the right choice. I really pulled hard on a few of the larger bass that took me in the weeds, but afterward upon close inspection of the Bluegill Wakebait the hooks, split rings, and eyelets all looked as good as new.
The color I tested was a Metallic/ Gloss which is a great color in slightly stained to stained water which was exactly what I was fishing in at Lake Jennings. Once again I felt Live Target hit a home run on the bluegill imaging it looked great in the water and the fish seem to like it too. As the sun set and water got a little darker the bass were still finding a killing the Bluegill Wakebait, I could see the flash of the bait in the mud-lined edges of the lake and that is where some of the bigger bass bit for me. So all in all the gold color I felt was really a good idea for this style lure. There is also some steel balls inside the bait to give it some added noise to call up the big ones.
The Live Target Bluegill Wakebait is a two piece bait which I found did two things, one gave the lure a tight S-swimming motion during the retrieve, and two a little sound in the water and thump you can feel with your rod tip. When the wind died I could hear the two body sections hitting together on slow surface waking retrieve.
There is a bill on the Bluegill Wakebait so if retrieved at a medium to fast speed it will get down to around one foot of water, which was perfect for the shallow Summer conditions I was fishing. The Bluegill Wakebait looks really good at a very slow retrieve with the lure body staying around 85% under the surface and creating a subtle V-wake, but I found on the field test that I could rip the bait then pause, and let it rise for a few seconds and start the rip and jerk process all over again. This technique is what I caught almost all my bass on during the field test.
The eyes on the Live Target Bluegill look real from all angles and really finishes off the life-like appearance to this bluegill imitation.
Every angle you look on the Bluegill Wakebait you’ll see life-like imaging even on the belly it has pelvic fins added.
Pros: A great lure right out of the package, very life-like, having a joint really gives this lure more action and noise in the water whether fishing it slow, fast, or ripping and jerking. The imaging looks really good the just enough gold but not too much for stained, or dirty water. Very durable finish, i hit the shore a few times and hooked lots of toothy bass and the bait still looked good as new. An old school touch the package comes with some instructions on how to use the Bluegill Wakebait. The Live Target Bluegill Wakebait just flat out got the job done for me on test day.
Cons: The eyes needed to come out just a little it has a bit of a dying sunken look. After a ten hour day of abuse and catching lots of bass, I found two piece joint to have opened up slightly, it had more rotation than when I first started using it. The package says the bait weighs 1 3/8 oz., but when I weighed the bait I found it to be only 1-0 oz.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Boze Sumo Frog is a lure that I’ve been using for well over ten years so doing a review on this topwater frog is easy to do with all the time on the water with this lure. The one thing that has always been consistent with the Sumo Frog is the material it is made with, it is a fairly thick soft pliable rubber that really stands up well to years of fishing and tossing it up on the bank continually to get that silent entry onto the weed cover. It also stands up well to all those real toothy home-guard bass that attack it violently over and over on almost every trip.
Product: Sumo Frog
Style Lure: Topwater
Hook Brand: Owner
Length: (2.75″ Body)( Legs 3″)
Weight: 5/8 oz
The Sumo Frog was designed in a way to give you one of the best hook ratios of any weedless frog on the market today this is in part due to how the back of the body curves just in front the points and barbs of the Owner hooks and with light pressure from the bass’ mouth will expose these hooks for a good hookset. I had very little problem with weeds getting hung on the hooks.
The weight on the bait is lead and over time will wear down, especially if your in a boat and casting and hitting the shore quite often. I have plenty of frogs that over time will lose around 1/8oz from the lead weight wearing down, one remedy I’ve for this is adding a little liquid vinyl before each trip, or some JB Weld from your local hardware store, both will help keep the Sumo’s weight as good as new.
Sumo frogs are one of the few frogs that come with extra long legs 3″, this is nice and makes bigger profile on the thick weed matts, and if you want more of an open water swimming frog you can trim the legs down to help give the Sumo Frog more side-side swimming movement.
The rod I used for the Sumo Frog review was a Dobyns 764 Champion Extreme, reel was a Shimano 100MG, and line was 50lb. Power Pro Braid. Lake Jennings Ca.was the review lake there was just enough weeds to test the Sumo Frog effectively.
I was very impressed with how the Sumo Frog sat in the water with the rear of the frog submerged and the distinct eyes up and out of the water. This is a very natural look, almost exactly how a real frog sits on top of the water.
The Sumo Frog is one of the flatter frogs on the market today and this helps to create some drag on the surface of the weeds, and nice swooshing sound to call up the big bass.
As you can see by the picture above the flat low profile diamond shape of the Sumo frogs body really gives the lure a very natural look on the water, as well as out of the water.
Pros: The Sumo Frog was an easy bait to use right out of the package, nothing fell off or broke, no adjustments were needed just tie it on and start casting, and with its weight of 5/8oz it was very easy to make long cast. The Owner hooks are very sharpe and really compliment the Sumo Frog. The legs are 3″ long and are very easy to replace. After days and days of use the Sumo Frogs body kept its shape, and that was a pleasant surprise.
Cons: The Sumo Frogs lead weight did scratch when it hit the shore and over time will cause the lead weight to lose its original weight and losing weight made the bait hard to cast in the wind. The hole where the hook goes into the bait on the bottom of the frog, after multiple bass catches started to open up and let more water into the bait making the bait sink. The paint job never seems to last more than one trip before it starts to literally disappear right before your eyes, part of this is due to touching the bait with your fingers repeatedly to squeeze the water out of the body cavity.
Overall Rating on the Sumo Frog 4 out of 5
What is a swimbait and why does it work so well? Well, as fisherman, we want nothing more than to always catch fish each trip to our favorite lake or stream and have a chance at hooking and landing that trophy fish of a lifetime. I have been on this quest for over 40 years and it never changes. I want to catch more bass with the goal of finding and landing that one true elusive giant bass, that for most of the year is just a myth, that giant fish you dream about day and night. And there is no better way to accomplish this task and finding that mystic bass than by using a swimbait. It is that one lure that most represents the larger food that the monsters of our lakes and streams feed on. It is by far one of the most productive lures for covering water throughly to find where that trophy size bass lives and hunts and when it comes to trying to match the hatch, or in some cases, matching the prey in which these giants are feeding upon, the swimbait is the perfect tool for the job. In this article I’m going to focus on the soft plastic swimbait.
With a swimbait I look for three things: the shape of the bait, the internal and external rigging system, and the paint job or colors added to the plastic. These three things are basically what gives the swimbait the ability to imitate life and trick the fish into biting. If one of these features is incorrect or missing, your swimbait will not be as effective thus your hook up ratios may be very low.
Soft plastic swimbaits are made out of plastisol, which is the main material for making soft plastic swimbaits. Once the plastisol is heated up to around 325 degrees, colors, glitter, and salt may be added to the mixture to give a bait a desired look, and texture. Then it can be hand poured ,or injected into the swimbait molds and allowed to cool. Every swimbait manufacturer may use a different brand of plastisol, or a different recipe of softeners or hardeners that will give the baits a different feel and swimming action in the water. Their procedures for heating up and pouring the plastisols can vary as well and even the machines they use can make a difference in how the swimbaits are poured, or injected. These are a few of the reasons why one swimbait may look, feel, and swim differently from all other brands of swimbaits on the market.
The tail design of the swimbait is something to pay very close attention to since with most swimbaits this is the motion engine of the swimbait and where vibration from the bait is started. And that vibration of the tail needs to be as life-like as possible to fool the fish and its lateral line system into thinking that this is a real fish. If the bait does not swim right, the fish may not bite. There are two basic designs of swimbait tails on the market today: the “wedge” style tail and the “boot” tail. The wedge-style tail, which is more of a balanced tail design, will give the lure an S-motion swimming action and, depending on its size, will determine how much S-motion. The smaller the wedge tail the less S-motion out of the swimbait and the larger the wedge tail the more S-motion out of the swimbait (see pic.5). With the larger tails the swimbait head and body will shake so much that you can see and feel the vibration through the rod tip. The girth of the swimbait will also determine how much side to side movement will be allowed. Keep in mind in low-light conditions, stained and dirty water the swimbait vibration is a huge key to a swimbaits success since it is displacing water which a fish will feel through its lateral line system and give it the ability to hunt that swimbait.
The “boot” tail design is one of the oldest swimbait tail designs. It is an unbalanced design which will give the swimbait more of a rocking motion than an S-motion. It too gives the swimbait more motion depending on its size of the tail and generally it will give upward lift to the rear of the swimbait. This lift, which wants to lift and push the head of the swimbait down, is what creates the uneven rocking motion. Some swimbait manufacturers have designed the heads to be more oval shaped and flatter. This helps with boot-tail designed lures to take that energy from the tail that is moving towards the head and distribute it outward toward the sides of the bait. The combinations of tail sizes and body shapes go on and on.
There are some soft plastic swimbaits that use a diving bill under the head of the bait help generate energy to create S-motion to power the swimbait as well as swimbaits that have hard U-shaped wings in the middle of the bait to simulate side to side swimming motion. These baits typically have straight tails and have very natural fish shaped bodies.
In the clear water, during bright light periods, a subtle swimming swimbait is what I prefer to use, it seems to work better for me than a harder kicking swimbait. I believe in this situation that the bass are watching and waiting for the right opportunity to ambush the trout, or in this case hopefully my swimbait. A subtle swimming swimbait with a rip or jerk thrown into the retrieve occasionally can trigger the bass into biting. If you watch a live trout in the lake this motion is very similar to how the trout swims when a big bass is in close proximity. When I have used a hard-tail kicking swimbait in this same situation with very clear water, I have found the bass to be very curious and follow the swimmer and maybe taste the tail but not commit and attack the swimmer head first.
In a low-light situation, or dirty water, the bass uses its sense of hearing and lateral line system more than its vision for hunting its prey. I have found that a noisy larger tailed swimbait is a good match for this situation versus the small subtle-tail swimming swimbaits in this environment. The bass seem to always be a little more aggressive when searching for a lure in low-light and dirty water. So as you can see the water conditions play a huge factor in determining which style of swimbait tail to choose from. Once again a little homework on the water you plan to fish is needed to determine which lure to use.
Most of the lakes I fish here in Southern California stock rainbow trout from hatcheries here in the state. These Rainbow Trout are the primary reason the bass I fish for and catch here in Southern California have the massive size they do. These trout are high in protein, easy to digest, and at times very easy for the bass to catch due to the trout being transplanted into a very foreign environment where the bass live and rule and have a huge advantage in ambushing the trout. The lakes here get stocked an average 25,000-30,000 lbs. of trout per year and if you average the trout size at two pounds a piece that’s about 13,000-15,000 trout that are stocked between November and April. So when I need a lure to match the hatch, to catch some of the true giants of the lake, I need a swimbait that will imitate as closely as possible the Rainbow Trout that are being stocked into the lakes.
Matching the size of the trout that are being stocked in the lakes, or streams is very important. I have found in my years of using swimbaits that if I don’t match the size of what the bass are feeding on, I will get lots of followers and very few takers. I am someone who at the end of a day fishing takes a few minutes to take some notes on what happened during that day. I am a firm believer in statistics and I always try to review my past notes carefully to help remind myself of what the bass were doing on average during similar stockings, weather, moon phases, lake conditions, etc. And my statistics show a huge success rate in large bass catches when I have matched the size and color of the rainbow trout that are being stocked. For example, we have the Department of Fish and Game stock a few of our lakes with 5″-8″ rainbow trout and when I used swimbaits that were the 6″ or 8″ range I had lots of success compared to using swimbaits in the 10″-12″ range and vice versa when the lakes stocked the 10″-14″ sized trout.
Another huge factor in choosing a swimbait is the color of the water where you plan to fish. Here in So Cal. most of the lakes I fish have very clear water so the visibility is really good. This makes finding a picture perfect paint job on my swimbait a must if I want to trick those lunker bass into taking my artificial swimmer. As you can see by the picture above, the swimbait need a life-like paint job. When the trout are stocked, they will be one color and that color can change as they get adjusted to their new environment. So my advice is to do some homework and try to take a look at what some of the trout fisherman are catching. This can really help in choosing the proper color and size of what the bass are chasing and eating at the moment. Keep in mind the trout will change colors due to weather, water temperatures, oxygen, and what foods they can find to eat. So pay close attention to this because sometimes a slight different strain of Rainbow Trout will have different characteristic colors. I find where I live the DFG trout that are stocked are very small and have lots silver to their scale color, while the bigger trout that are stocked, normally from cold-water hatcheries, have more of the pink and green colors with lots of dark green, brown, or black dots throughout the body.
The little details for me have made a difference in helping me catch some of the largest bass of my fishing career. The little things I’ve done include adding glass eyes and red gills, maybe a touch of paint here or there, or a new larger tail. These are a few of the alterations that I have done at times to give my swimbaits that added edge towards making them look as life-like as possible and different from what all other swimbait fisherman are using. I have always been a firm believer here in Southern California where pressure on these small lakes is tremendous and lots of people have been fishing the same style of swimbait, showing the bass the same lure over and over that finding a way to separate myself from the rest of the pack is crucial. This does not mean that the bait was not designed to catch fish. I just believe anyway that I can enhance the bait where the bass will take a second look because it looks a little more realistic than the stock lure he’s seen over and over give me good odds of getting the fish to bite on these highly pressured waters I fish.
There are two ways that soft plastic baits match the color of the prey: one is painting the bait and the second is mixing colors into the plastic during the hand pour process. I have found that on the highly pressured clear waters here in So.Cal that the painted swimbaits look much more realistic than the hand poured swimbaits do. You will normally see this in the price you pay for the painted bait too since the paint is another expensive process that has to be added after the bait is poured or injected.
This does not in anyway mean that the hand-poured swimbaits don’t catch fish; it all depends on what company did the hand pour to how well they will look. I have caught hundreds of quality bass on hand poured baits, in low light conditions, or dirty water. And for the lower price of the baits I tend to fish them in the cover more not as chicken as I might with a more expensive painted bait. And some hand pour companies are really good at pouring a very light, almost transparent, bait which actually works better sometimes under clearwater very bright-light conditions. This “ghost” pattern hand pour, if poured to the colors you desire, can really put a hurting on the fish. I have had plenty of days where this was my go to bait, especially in the deeper clearwaters down to 30′, 40′ even 50′.
In conclusion, pay very close attention to what season it is and what your fish are feeding on and try to match that prey as much as possible. Once this is done you can start to look for lure-making companies that make the sizes and colors of swimbaits you need and then it’s more about the rigging and fine details to give you the best chances to catch more fish or that fish of a lifetime. And as for hard resin swimbaits, that is a different article for a another day.
Columbia Custom Tackle has built the next generation of custom swimbait storage boxes with the 6″ swimbait box and the 11 1/2″ swimbait box. The 6″ swimbait box has the ability to hold up to 14 six-inch or smaller swimbaits while the 11 1/2″ swimbait box has the ability to hold up to seven 11 1/2″ or smaller swimbaits.
The Plano boxes are waterproof models with custom black gorilla hand latches that keep these boxes sealed until you’re ready to open them. Inside the boxes, you’ll notice a hard, steel bar that runs inside a hard, plastic sleeve with snaps and vinyl-coated wires for swimbait attachments. The 6″ box has eight snaps and six wires which can accommodate bait with eyelets or line-through swimbaits.
Company: Columbia Custom Tackle
Box Type: Swimbait Box
Material: Impact-resistant polypropylene
Box Capacity: 6″ swimbait Box 14 baits / 11 1/2″ swimbait Box 7 baits
Color: Clear w/Black Latches
Water Resistant: Yes
Box Size: 13″L x 7 3/4″ W x 2 1/2″ deep
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Swimbait boxes are modified with a threaded bar which can be removed so the snaps and wires can be adjusted to add more or less.
The black hinge latches are some of the best ever put on a lure box. They latch easily and stack and store with ease in a boat or a storage cabinet with a notch built into the box to make it easy to grab and carry.
The Columbia Custom Tackle swimbait boxes hold plenty of baits in place while keeping them dry and it is easy to take the holding bar out to add snaps or wires.
Pros: These swimbait storage boxes are waterproof, with some of the best latches available on a lure storage box, and the threaded lure holding bar is very easy to remove and realign with the removal of one threaded nut.
Cons: Your lures can move around a lot and tangle, but a quick fix is to add a little foam to the underside of the lid which will help keep the baits in place.
Large Bass at Lake Jennings in San Diego, California swallowing an adult stocked trout whole
Fishermen are known to go to extremes to increase their chances for catching big fish. Bass fisherman are no exception and Mike Long has spent a life time gathering data on what works and why. While many people think fishing is equal parts luck and gear, the truth is a lot more scientific. Knowing when to fish and why is as important as knowing where. That’s where the philosophy behind the “scientific angler” comes from. Taking copious notes over 25 years has landed Mike dozens upon dozens of trophy sized bass and unlike a lot of fisherman, he has absolutely NO problem sharing his knowledge with anyone willing to listen.
If you’re interested in increasing your chances of landing bigger fish, then you should catch Mike Long talking about the ideas behind becoming a “scientific angler” on Bass Angler Magazine’s Youtube Channel. Learn what it takes to be among the world’s most prolific big bass hunters as well as the science behind the movement with this informative video interview.
In my mind, hiking and hydration go hand in hand. In fact, hydration is by far one of the the most important things you need to think about when doing any outdoor activity. Replacing your body fluids is key to keeping the body cool and keeping the body’s electrolytes in balance to avoid dehydration. On average, a person needs to drink eight glasses of water daily. That being said, meals supply about 20% of our daily fluids needed. Fruits and vegetables are about 90% water and almost anything cooked in water is an excellent choice. So a balanced diet is very important to having success on the trails.
We live in an awesome time where we have many choices of sports drinks or energy drinks to help in the rehydration program. Gatorade is by far one of the most popular, but over the last few years we have had a boom in the coconut water craze, which is proven to be one of the most healthy beverages you can drink. Coconut water is a superfood filled with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, and growth factors. It is low in fat and only has a fifth of the sugar found in fruit juices. It is very effective in relieving dehydration and fatigue. I like the Vita Coco, it is one of the first I found in the health store and comes in a soft light container that is easy to compact after consumption.
One other rehydrating tool I love to use is G2 powder by Gatorade because it is so convenient and comes in a very small package that is very easy to pack and can be added to water whenever needed or added to your coconut water for a super rehydrating drink. The key to G2 is it helps supply carbs, sodium, and potassium electrolytes that body needs whenever your pushing yourself in sports or on the trail.
So next time you’re at the store try some of these awesome rehydrating products. I promise you’ll notice a huge difference in your performance and recovery on the trails.
When getting ready to go out on a day hike you need to do a few things first before you leave. One is always check the weather for where you plan to hike. This will let you know how you will need to dress or possibly what extra clothing you might need to bring along with you. It is always a good idea if you love to hike to always have a few things in your car in case of an emergency including extra water, light rain gear, energy bars, and sunscreen. this makes it nice to have back-ups in case you forgot something or run out of some of the items you brought with you.
Making a check list is always a good idea before any hike. I still make one to this day, sometimes it depends on where, and how long I’m going to what’s on my list, but my basic list always has water, energy bars, sunscreen, cell phone, pocket knife, matches, or lighter, whistle, laser light pen, and a flashlight. What’s nice about these items is they are very small, light, and easy to pack.
When hiking I always try to find a friend to hike with. The buddy system is always a good way to hike in case there is an emergency and can help keep you motivated on longer, more challenging hikes. If you decide to go by yourself it is always a good idea to leave a note or voicemail with someone to where you plan to hike and about how long you will be gone.
When dressing for a day hike I always prefer a good pair of light-weight hiking boots. I like shoes that cover your ankles for good stability on hill climbs and descents. The light-weight mesh designs are excellent for day hikes and very easy to break in when new and keep your feet fairly cool and dry. As for clothing I love shorts with lots of pockets which makes it convenient to store a few items you would like to get to easily while hiking.
A walking stick is always good to have you never know if you’ll need it for balance or to remove a rattlesnake off the trail. Some of the more aggressive day hikes I go on I have always had a walking stick and it has helped me many times when climbing some really tough hills.
One very important item I always have and wear around my neck or in an easily accessible place is a whistle. If you become lost on the trail or get separated from your hiking buddy, you can use the whistle to help people find you. Also, if you encounter some wildlife such as coyotes, bob cats, or mountain lions the whistle can help to make these guys turn and go the other way.
Bottom line is to always think ahead about where you plan to hike and be prepared even if it is a short one hour hike.
Over the years of bass fishing I’ve caught some large bass and some very large trophy bass. We all want to take a photo before releasing the bass and it is important to handle the bass properly to avoid harming her. Wanting that “Hero Shot” in the past, I’ve held two bass vertically or even worse tried to hold five very large bass up vertically and I’ve learned that this is a very bad habit. Doing something like this can be really damaging to that big bass’ lower jaw which could possibly dislocate it and make it where that trophy can no longer function as well as she did before I caught her and took the trophy pictures.
I now try to always practice holding a bass with two hands supporting its weight and trying not to over-handle it and compromise it’s slime coat. I will still grab its jaw as I would if I were going to lift her with one hand, but, as it’s body is coming out of the water, I get my other hand under it towards the anal fin so I’m able to support the weight and have some control of the bass.
Sometimes to get a good shot I have found it helps to give yourself some time. Often after I catch a really good bass I’ll put the bass in the livewell for 20-40 minutes to let her calm down. This also gives me time to get my camera ready for the best shot. If you’re on the shore or in a rental boat, you can use a long stringer or small rope. A 10′ rope provides enough distance and length down so the bass can sit on the bottom and recoup. Once I feel the bass has recovered, I make sure everything is ready to go and only then do I get out the bass of the well or water. A good rule of thumb is to not keep her out of the water for more than 30 seconds because any longer out of water can cause brain damage to the fish due to lack of oxygen. I try to get all of my shots into two photo sessions and then release her back into the water hoping I did everything right so she will be fine and grow even larger to be caught again.
These methods are good practice for catch and release and hopefully we can all get the word out in a very polite way so we will have even more healthy trophy bass to catch and enjoy in the near future.
Why use a swimbait? Well, in my opinion, based on years of using swimbaits I feel they are one of the best search baits on the market. They allow you to go out and cover miles of water in a day and have a high percentage chance of hooking a trophy bass while seeing lots of water and finding key spots along the way. Additionally, you can fall back on your milk run too and no other bait allows you to truly match the hatch better than a swimbait. Swimbaits or as I like to call them swimmers can have no lip and have soft bodies with a life-like paint job. These are the type I look for first. When first choosing a swimmer I want something that in the crystal-clear water that I fish here in Southern California will trick the bass while under close inspection from the bass. I have seen bass of all sizes just swim beside my swimmer and eyeball the bait as if something is off just a bit. It might be the shape, color, vibration, size, and even smell causing them not commit and bite the swimmer.
So pay close attention to what type of forage your bass are feeding on in your area of the world; it is very important to take detailed notes about everything you can see regarding the forage, size, shape, and color. Also remember that the bait will change in size and color throughout the year.
Now that you have an idea of what size, shape, and color to choose it’s about how much are you willing to spend. Soft, plastic swimmers can range in price anywhere from one dollar to $100.00 and if you’re fishing and losing baits you may want to avoid the high-end baits unless you can afford to buy more. The next thing I pay real close attention to is the type of water I’m going to be fishing. If it is crystal-clear then that life-like paint job is a must, but if it’s stained or dirty that high-dollar paint job is no longer a factor and now its more about shades and colors of the swimmer and this can really vary throughout the year. If the water is dirty you only need to find the predominant color of the bait you’re trying to match. For example, if it’s a bluegill then you need to determine what single color sticks out the most on that bluegill. Sometimes it’s very easy to see say light grey, brown, white, or silver. You might need to catch some bait and put it in a clear container with the same water to determine what predominant color you can see. Once you determine the color now it’s finding a swimmer that matches it. Another factor in determining color is depth of the water you’ll be fishing. At a certain depth in your lake some colors disappear and some become more visible. Clarity is a key factor in trying to determine what color to use. Bass can see most colors much like we do but see red and green much better than we do. Many people use this simple rule of thumb: sunny and clear water use lighter and brighter colors and on cloudy or darker days or with stained or dirty water use darker colors. For me in California when it’s sunny and the water is clear, I use light baits that are almost translucent and they create very little silhouette. I like shades of sliver, smoke, grey, pink, and sometimes yellow and purple. And when the skies darken or there is low light in that same clear water, I go to a darker bait in green, brown, dark purple, and sometimes black all of which present a more prominent silhouette. So hopefully after reading this you have a better understanding of where to start in choosing a soft, plastic swimbait. I will have more articles and video in the months to come as well as interviews with some of the best in the bass fishing business here on Mike Long Outdoors.
I’ve always been a little paranoid about having my hands clean while fishing. I always fuel up my boat and truck the day before I fish to keep the fuel residue off my hands. Also, if I’m using paints on a lure project, spraying insectisides around the house, or doing any other project that would leave any type of residue on my hands, I always use rubber gloves. Even applying sunscreen can affect your bite. What I’m getting at is I try hard to keep my hands as clean and natural as possible. Bass, like most other fish, have a superb ability to sense the chemical dynamics of their surroundings.
Bass are constantly using their senses to gather information they need to survive. Their senses of smell and taste are called chemoreception which means they use sensory receptors that respond to chemical stimuli. These are two of the ways they sense the world around them and if something is off just a bit they will be weary and may not feed. They sense in parts per billion so these information senses are capable of detecting a wide array of minute particles in their environment. So if you have a chemical residue on your hands, it is very possible to transfer it to your lures or baits which may create a negative response from the bass.
One solution is to use a soap made just for fishing. One brand that I like to use is “Thee Fishermans Soap.” It comes in a bottle like some sunscreens do and is very easy to use by just applying to your hands. I have kept statistics on each fishing trip I’ve been on over the last ten years and on a quick computer search it has shown that the times I used the soap my catch ratios were very good.
I did a little teaser video on a small portable rigging box that is always in my boat or travel bag and I got many email requests asking what was in that box.
Well here is a breakdown of the basics I keep in one easy to get to box:
– Treble hooks of about 10 different sizes
– Single hooks quite a few sizes and shapes
– Hook sharpener
– Split rings of up to five different sizes
– Split ring pliers
– Needle nose pliers
– Small screw drivers
-Swivels five sizes
– Swimbait glue
– Rubber cement
– Tungsten Sticky Weight
– Line Wire
– Tube weights of at least five sizes
– Tape weights
– Nail weights many sizes
– Speed clips
– Rattles. and Rattle harnesses
– Stick on eyes of many sizes and colors
– Taxidermy eyes, four pairs of 7mm, and 8mm
– Very small crescent wrench
– Super small zip ties
– Small spings
– Exacto knife and blade kit
– Twist ties
– Fine wire 24 gauge
– Couple Q-Tips
– Reel oil
– Paper clip
– Reel grease
– 3’Mylar (few pieces)
These are the things that I have packed into a small box that is almost always with me in the boat and when I’m shore hopping I keep it in the car. After 36 years of doing this I have learned that I want to be able to keep my lures in tune and make any adjustment needed while using them in the field. For those of you who watch Nascar it’s like making pit stop; they have everything that the driver needs to keep going and can make adjusments to his car. That’s how I feel when tossing lures. I want to be sure I can fix and adjust as quickly as possible and keep my bait in the water. A good friend of mine Aaron Martens said it best, “If your bait is not in the water you have no chance to catch a fish.” So if my bait is in the water and it’s working well at the depth and speed I want it, I’m in the game!
What fishing line to use is a question I get asked about all the time and it can be a very tough question to answer. There are so many good brands of fishing line out on the market and sometimes it just comes down to how much are you willing to spend. That being said, there are some things I look for in a fishing line. I want a line that is very durable and I want it to have a good, elastic response. If I toss a heavy swimbait all day and my line starts to stretch on every cast, my line is no longer the same diameter and will not have the same strength it had when I first put it on my reel. This could result in losing fish and that’s not acceptable in my world. So once I find a durable line, I try to use the heaviest pound I can get away with.
There are times when fishing very clear calm water where fish are super spooky. To compensate for this you have to use light line to trick these fish due to their sense of sight being so unrestricted that they can see that heavier line in the water and be on on guard. Also, their lateral-line system works better in this calm water and they can easily detect heavier line in the water. In Southern California we have learned to fish 2-5lb lines in this clear, calm water and by downsizing the baits as much as possible so not to overrate the line.
Knowing the type of line you will need, next you need to find a line that fits your price range because you will be buying a lot of it. No matter what line it is, it has a shelf life and will only last so long after being exposed to water and sun along with all the abuse of fishing it. When I purchase fishing line, I try to ask someone in the store when they stocked the line that I want to purchase because I don’t want a line that’s been sitting in a store for over six months. For me that is just too long. I’ve had bad times fishing with line that has sat in stores for far too long. After that I examine the line by taking it out of the box and feeling it. I look for a line that has a smooth, silky feeling. This has always been a true sign of a good line and when I pull some off the spool I want it to be as straight as possible. I don’t want it to have a lot of memory because that may indicate that the line is old or was sitting in a hot container during shipping too long and the chemical make-up of the line may be compromised. This can sometimes give the line a dull look and feel kind of chalky and rough.
Taking good care of fishing line after you purchase it is very important. I always store my line in an air-tight sealed bag and then put in a refrigerator when there is room. I don’t want to freeze it; instead just keep it at a controlled cooled temperature. When I take it out to spool up a reel I try to let it get to room temperature before I begin.
When spooling up a reel I try to make sure if it’s a bait caster that I always take line off the top of the spool towards the reel. This helps with any memory the line may still have. Using a line conditiner on a small cloth or a paper towel pinched on the line as it goes on your reel will help tremendously with tangles and twists. This can also be applied to your line while on your reel from time to time to continually help with tangles and twists. An old-school trick if you do have a lot of tangles and twists in the line while you’re out on a boat, is to move at idle speed and with no lure or hook attached, just line only, let out about 50 yards of line while out on the water and pull it behind the boat for around five minutes. This will help get tangles and twists out of your line.
Another thing I try to always practice while fishing in the boat is to only have rods out that I will be using right away sitting out on the deck. This helps keep the sun off the line and also the heat from the deck of the boat from damaging the line.
One of our goals as fisherman is to catch fish, lots of fish, how many times have you had one of those epic trips where you caught lots of fish, and wondered why you have not been able to catch fish like that more often, well the truth is you can, you just have to practice some simple rules of eliminating water to find productive water.
Yes, you need to understand how to read and eliminate unproductive waters to find those rich productive waters. I have been doing this for years and it’s helped me catch thousands of fish from bass, catfish to panfish.
The first basic rule to understand in the water elimination process is to look for humps, points, and flats with deep water access, the later is key “deep water access’ this is the on ramp, and off ramp for the open water migration highways fish use. One of the first things you should do is find a topographical map one that you can write notes on would be great. Once you have this and you have studied the topo lines on the map which show water at different levels you can use a yellow highlight pen to draw a straight line over the deepest channels of the lake. Once this is done you can use a darker highlight pen to highlight the points, humps, and flats next to your deep water channels that you have marked in yellow. Now you have completed one of the major steps in the elimination of water process before you have ever visited the lake, you could call it some of your fishing homework.
Topo maps are not 100% accurate and if your serious about catching more fish, then you need to try to take pictures of the lake at lower levels. This can take quite some time. Where I live most of the lakes are high in the winter, and spring, and low in the summer, and fall, so taking pictures is not a problem.
Google Earth is another great tool for looking at a lakes at different water levels. They have a time bar so you can go back in time to see if they have an image at a lower water level.
Another way too explore the lake to find the key areas is to meter them and take good notes or mark them with GPS to find where the deep channels are in relation to the points, humps, and flats. This is something that will be very accurate and really help you out, the key is to pick small areas of a lake and take your time. Some graphs have map chips that you can install which make it very nice to mark your waypoints on and build a milk run of these key areas.
So doing some homework is key in eliminating water, I have spent hundreds of hours looking at topo maps and reducing hundreds of surface acres of water down too just couple of surface acres or less of productive water, and now I can spend more time figuring out the timing of these areas in relation to fish migration through them.