Category Archives: Fish Stories
Over the past ten years I have been capturing some incredible underwater images of Largemouth Bass hunting and feeding in the wild and it was time to put some of the images into a video that everyone can enjoy..For me capturing the footage is the real fun and going into the edit phase is where I get a bit frustrated that my storyline is not perfect, but finally I feel that with my video Largemouth Bass XL I got it pretty close to what I visioned in my head
The opening scene is a question that I will ask for the rest of my life “what is it about these Largemouth Bass that drives us to constantly come back for more” I know that I have had the bass fishing obsession since I was six years old, how about you?
Early in the video I added some scenes of some Monster bass chasing and crushing rainbow trout and tried to show just how real the struggle is, and later the video I show many scenes of the food chain and how the small bass need to be aware of larger bass and just them trying to move from one area to another could mean your dinner for a Big Bass.
In future videos I will pick out specific scenes and and do some comentary of what I believe was going on while filming and after seeing the clips in edit…
So enjoy the video and please subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Instagram at MikeLongOutdoors
Have you ever caught a Bass in a Clown Suit? More commonly known as the Peacock Bass, South Florida is the only place in the main land USA that they live. They’re a tropical fish that require warm water to survive.
I went out to hunt for these unusual looking fish with local guide Chris Licato, AKA “The Swamp God.” Chris is the ultimate guide with a flair all his own; he talked about techniques, locations and presentations all the while giving positive feedback. He never brought a rod or caught a fish.
He’s the kind of guide whose main goal is your enjoyment and experience. A lot of guides will fish during trips and not surprisingly catch the biggest fish, which is not cool in my opinion. The Peacock Bass are by far stronger and fight harder, pound for pound, than a Largemouth! They don’t achieve the massive size of the ones in the Amazon, but still have the same “Never give up“mentality and could be described as a Smallmouth on steroids!
As the case with the Largemouth, Chris recommends that the fish be released, but with that being said, I believe the limit is two per day. The fish are most active during the warmer months in Florida. Check out Chris at his website, swamp god outdoors or send him a PM on Chris’ Face book page for the best times to come. Chris will provide all the tackle, but if you like bring some of your own, he’ll also instruct you on what to bring and what to wear. Kudos to Chris for a fantastic fishing trip and for our friendship. I have a new-found respect for these Bass in Clown Suits! I also want to thank Breathe Like a Fish, Bassaholics, Glacier Gloves and California Reservoir Lures, Bozo the Clown Killer Jigs for their fine products that made this trip that much more enjoyable.
It was gorgeous day fishing on the Withlacoochee River, Florida, until I hung an expensive swimbait on a tree. No problem, I troll over, reach out and then splash head first into the water. Pop up, swim to the back of the boat and get back in, a little embarrassed but no worse the wear. Then the bad news sunk in: my $250 .00 pair if RX sunglasses were gone! Lost in a murky Gator infested cove …
This started my search for another cost-effective way to protect my eyes and give me the polarized effect for seeing underwater. There was no way I could afford another pair of RX sunglasses. I remember running into Ish Monroe at the Live Eyewear booth at ICAST where he told me to check out the Cocoon sunglasses, designed specifically to be worn over prescription eyewear. The average cost was around 50 bucks which was a relief to know. Cocoons are the leading brand of optical quality sunglasses designed specifically to be worn over prescription glasses. All backed by a limited lifetime warranty!
I’ve been using them now for some time and can give them my two thumbs up review! The new Style Line MX fit perfectly over my eyeglass frames and felt comfortable through out the day. If you wear RX glasses give Cocoons a try!
”Best tool of the modern days”
Since the boom in social networking sites like Facebook, I’ve become a big fan of the technology. I should just say I can’ live without it, but I don’t just share whatever I’d think is cool or just chill online chatting with friends. I utilize social networks as a tool to connect with fellow anglers out there who share the common love for fishing.
It shows that fishing really is the common language we use to share experiences with each other. In fact, we all love sharing that passion. I wouldn’t be just randomly talking to people and say “What’s up, do you fish?” or something like that, but I like how we find one another and really start talking with enthusiasm about our shared passions. I believe the motivation is pure and helps us connect with fellow anglers across the country who feel the same way we do. That “fishing passion” opens me up to unlimited opportunities and possibilities.
Being A “GLOBE RIDER” – Beyond just online friends
After couple years of interacting with bunch of fellow anglers from different countries on Facebook, I really started thinking that I should visit them so we could fish together. The timing was perfect too.
Aurel (now one of my best friends) from Hungary, contacted me, offering me kind words on what I do through fishing and also mentioned he would take me to some good waters if I ever had a chance to visit him in Hungary.
So I immediately got back to him and said “Can I go visit you?” He said “Why not?” Just a few months later, I was standing at the famous Heroes’ Square in Budapest where I started the “Globe Ride.”
You might say I’m totally reckless, but I always remind myself what comes first to your mind is the best idea you could come up with. The decision was right.
Aurel was the right person for my first global trip (my first Euro trip as well), as he obviously has the greatest personality. Thanks to him, I got to experience fishing a much different kinds of water and fishing for species I had never caught before like Pike and Perch. He arranged for me to fish with bunch of his fellow Hungarian anglers too.
The crazy thing was that there were people who came down to the hotel I was staying in just to see me and say hello. They even gave me a special bait with my name printed on it right before I flew back to Japan. It was just very flattering to me that I have such passionate people who live far away from where I live and think about me.
With the success on my first global ride, I continued planning trips with my fellow anglers. It was and has been pretty tough traveling around the world finding time between work and using my major finances to do it., but I knew I had to make it through because something good is waiting.
For the second trip, I ended up going to the East of France and Switzerland (Geneva-Montreux). Again, everyone I met was very supportive, and this trip was just as successful. I have lots of stories to tell from the trip, but it would make this article a hundreds pages long.
Instead, I’ll close this chapter with a simple message of thanks to all the people who make these trips possible. From the friends who let me stay in their place for a couple of nights to help me save money, to the others who share their wisdom and guidance and generous attitudes.
NEXT Time: Asia & Beyond
Every now and then in life someone comes along who really understands the sport of trophy bass fishing and Brett Richardson is one of those people. Brett is an In-Fisherman contributor and has been chasing trophy bass for over five decades. He is a multi-species fisherman who has chased monster fish from the great USA all the way into Canada. Brett has been a freelance writer as well as guide who loves to do seminars and help people world wide with his articles and incredible DVD’s Brett’s DVD series was created for the serious bass hunters who want to obtain specific info on how to hunt and catch trophy bass throughout the year in any body of water.
Zoning Migratory Bass, and Water Elements are two must have DVD’s for understanding where the big bass and why, and reading the water.
Vertical Spring Bassin is a great DVD to help to understand where and why the big girls group and hold till the warm sunny spring days pull them back to the shallow banks to spawn. And Crucial Factors for Post-Spawn Bass will help answer some of the questions about where those big exhausted females go after the spawn.
Factoring Variables for Summer Bass is a DVD for the true trophy bass hunters and Getting a Grip on Traditional Bass is a great DVD for all levels of bass hunters.
Bite Windows is a great DVD that will really help to answer some of those questions about why bass don’t bite all day and The Hunt for Summer Pelagic Bass is one of my favorites. I promise it will make you think outside the box when fishing for those big stubborn Summer bass.
Equations for Fall Turnover and The Quest for Fall Bass will definitely help to answer some of those tough questions about where those monster bass go in the Fall months and how to pattern them.
If you would like to purchase an individual DVD, or the DVD collection they are available by contacting Brett Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org he accepts PayPal and all DVD’s are shipped the next day. Thank You for reading and please support Brett anyway possible!
Starting this week, guest writer and world traveler Takatoshi Murase shares his unique perspective on bass fishing. In this multi-part article, his enthusiasm and passion for the sport transcends language, showing us that a love of fishing connects every culture on the planet.
Takatoshi Murase Unites the world, one fish at a time.
I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. I started ocean fishing when I was 9, then got into bass fishing at age 10. Nothing serious, I just loved how exciting fishing could be. By age 19 in 2003, I moved out to Southern California to train at a tennis academy in Ojai, playing in on a college team thereafter.
This is the only period where I didn’t spend time on the water. While I was at the academy, my English tutor told me about a nearby bassin’ lake called Lake Casitas and that’s when I realized California is one of the best places for bassin’ on the planet. With this famous lake’s proximity, I knew that I would have to start bringing my tackle over from Japan.
Hooking up with those cool local sticks I met while I was in SoCal, I learned a lot of the skills, tips, and knowledge that would push me to fish harder than I ever fished in my entire life. I returned back home in Tokyo in 2010 after my long-term SoCal experience. These last 2 years, I have been focusing on traveling around the world. I have made it to Hungary, Eastern France, Switzerland (Geneva-Montreux), Malaysia, and Florida. My experience abroad in SoCal really opened up new doors and possibilities to the things I’m most passionate about.
Now, a new chapter begins.
Bass fishing is obviously what I’m most passionate since I really started fishing.. But it’s not my ONLY interest in fishing. I have been interacting with fellow anglers around the world through Facebook, sharing experiences, pictures, thoughts, etc. and that really blew my mind, taking me to a completely different level.
I’m very impressed and surprised that they are comfortable talking to me and sharing their passion for fishing; one we share in common even though I mainly fish for bass. It showed me that what we fish for just doesn’t matter. For instance, my fellow anglers in Malaysia would love to exchange tips and thoughts with me knowing that we fish for a different target, but some how the conversations still increase our shared knowledge.
Some of the skills and strategies I use for bass would suitably fit their techniques for catching snakeheads, and their skill can translate for catching bass. So that simple fishing connection creates an intimate atmosphere between us, which really shows fishing is universal.
At some point, this everyday global interaction with fellow anglers out there through the social network led me to a mentality that why not go visit them, fish together, share passion and get experienced in completely different cultures.
My bait is better than yours … Trophy Hunters wanted: fish this way please. Keep in mind that I fish for fun so some of what I’ll say is naive to a degree. I don’t know the inner workings of the bait making business nor do I know what classifies one as a Big Fish expert. What I do know is there’s a lot of back and forth going on about who made this bait first and people drawing up guide lines for being a true Trophy Hunter. It’s a sad commentary on the sport when we have all this drama and division when you realize we’re talking about fishing.
Renowned Poet Ted Hughes once said and I agree …
Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.
We need to keep in mind that there’s room for all kinds of baits and fishermen; nothing is cast in stone, nothing is new under the sun. I’m sponsored by a bunch of folks, but it doesn’t stop me from liking other baits or enjoying how one trophy hunter pursues his passion over another. The world has enough trouble occupying our worries, we don’t need any in the sport we love. These are tough times on a lot of people, most of which we never hear about … loss of loved ones, health, jobs, the economy and the list goes on …
My hope is that we can all have fun in this sport we call fishing and not let the noise in the background affect our love of the game. You can draw a line in the sand but you can’t draw one on the water. Stay on Em … Peace!
Finding a giant bass is even rarer than you might think. Over the years I’ve been lucky to have caught many large bass well over 15 lbs. and to have caught one bass over 20 lbs. I have caught them using swimbaits, live crawdads, waterdogs, and jigs. Most of the large catches were during the spring months here in southern California (March-May). Some were blind catches and some were spawning bass. Most of the time, if the water is clear in the reservoir, you’ll get a chance to see one of the giants of the lake and, if you see them multiple times, you might even get a chance to track them and figure out their current migration route between their feeding and spawning areas.
One day early this March, I found a giant bass and was able to figure out its route. I was at one of San Diego’s clear water, trout-fed lakes casting swimbaits in the evening before it closed and had spotted a monster bass that I knew was well over 20 lbs. This giant bass would follow my swimbait all the way to the steep bank I was casting from. She followed the bait and would turn at about 20′ from the shore near a sunken tree in the water and hold off the tip of the tree. She played this game with me for about five casts and then would just sit off the end of the sunken tree and slowly swim under it where you could not see her at all. The following day, I made an early morning trip to the lake and hit the area where I had seen this big bass. After about a dozen casts with no follows and no sign of the big female bass I started to make a move.
I kept with the swimbait hoping to get a bite, or just get a big follower and eliminate water. I worked my way to a fishing dock and that is where I saw this giant bass again from the day before. She had a distinct shape which made me certain it was the same bass and not just another giant bass. This big bass was hanging out at the end of the dock and would not follow a swimbait, or even give it a look. As the sun rose and hit the water, she slowly began to move off the dock towards deep water and in the direction of where I had seen her the day before, which was about 100 yards away. It was about seven days before a full moon with some really nice, warm weather so there were quite a few males up on nests spawning with just a handful of female bass up at that time.
I slowly fished my way back to the area where I originally saw the giant bass and with my first cast I saw her again. She would follow my swimbait to the shore, but not commit. As the sun got higher in the sky and lit up this North-facing steep bank, I noticed a spawning male that was about ten feet to the right of the sunken tree. When I would toss my swimbait near him he would rise up and chase it away from his nests in a guarding posture; he was very aggressive.
As the sun got higher in the sky and the air temperature reached around 80 degrees, the big bass would sink down in the water and disappear into the depths. I played this game through the weekend seeing her early in the day around the dock and then 100 yards away by the steep bank and the sunken tree as later in the day. I had definitely found a big bass with a recognizable pattern I just had to stay on it. Monday came and I had to go to work, but I knew I wanted to return to the lake that day. I rose early so I could get an early start and was able to leave work around 3:00 p.m. and I headed straight to the lake.
We were now just two days before a full moon and that day the moon rise was around 5:42 p.m. When I arrived at the lake I went right to the spot and, to my surprise, there was the big female bass sitting dead center on the nest with the aggressive male bass. My heart was pounding and I almost fell down into the water from the steep bank I was standing on. It was time to think before making a cast; I got the net near the water and checked my line and knot and planned the fight of how I would I hook her and land her. I had calmed down some and started to make some some casts.
I was using a Revenge Jig with their custom, shad-color skirt tied to 20lb. Maxima line and a Dobyns DX744 rod with a Shimano Calais reel. I was ready. After about 30 minutes of casting into the nest, I started to realize this big bass was not going to move. She was frozen on the nest and the male was sitting outside and would not show any interest in my jig either. Knowing how big this bass was and that I could bump her with my jig it was extremely frustrating that she would not show any interest at all. Sometimes in these situations if you can get the male interested in the jig the female will follow, but in this case both were in a neutral mood. It was now around 6:00 p.m. with only an hour left until the lake closed, the sun was behind the hillside, but I could still see the bass in the nest and that is when I saw another female rogue bass that was around 15lbs. approach the nest.
The male bass instantly worked his way up to this new female bass and they both began rubbing and swimming in a circle around the nest, but the original giant bass was still in the middle of the nest not moving. I watched this for about ten minutes to see if the giant bass would show some interest in the new female being in the nest area, but she did not. So I figured it was time to flip the jig again. Immediately the 15lb. bass showed some interest in it and went nose down on the jig after a few more casts she ate the jig. As I fought her to the bank, I watched the other giant bass slowly rise up and follow her to the bank and as I reached down to land the 15lb. bass with my left hand the giant was about 3 feet away; so close that I could have netted her and yes she was a lot bigger than the 15lber I had just landed. I unhooked the bass I had just caught, grabbed my scale and weighed her at 15-6, and released her quickly so I could make a cast back towards the nest. Unfortunately, I noticed the big girl did not go back; she was gone.
Tuesday morning I was back at the lake first in line and first to the spot. The giant bass was there again sitting in the center of the nest, but this time she was moving around more and rubbing with the small male bass. I retied my jig, checked about ten feet of my fishing line for any cuts, or kinks and started to cast out to the nest. It did not take long to get the big female bass interested; after about 20 minutes she started to back out of the nest area and slowly charged towards it and tilted forward so she could get her big bug-eyes that were almost on top of her fat head to see the jig. BOOM!
I saw her finally inhale the jig and I as I swung she turned toward the sunken tree took off in the blink of the eye and in about all of one second had snapped me off in the sunken tree … and the words I used next I can’t publish. I had just lost a bass I believe to be between 23-24lbs. and I never turned the reel handle once after she ate my jig. All I can do is learn from this disappointing experience and try to find her again or another monster and hope for that window of opportunity to get them to bite and land her.
I’ve talked to all kinds of fishing enthusiasts and one constant topic of discussion is the various hooks they like to use. Often they’ll lament that this hook or that hook isn’t sharp enough or lacks consistent setting ability. Imagine what fisherman in times gone by would make of our modern hooks.
A recent Live Science article sheds a little light on what types of gear ice age man may have carried around on his hunting and fishing excursions. It makes me think twice before complaining about modern conveniences.
These days where almost everyone has a camera phone and can take a picture, or even video of their trophy bass and upload it to the internet you get to see lots and lots of bass pictures and video. Unfortunately, one common thing I see is the way the bass are handled and held for that “hero” shot. I have been guilty many times of taking to many pictures, or holding the bass by its jaw with one hand. In this article we’ll take a look at proper bass handling.
When I was younger I loved to try to catch two bass and get the “Hero Shot” it looks awesome, but over time I’ve begun to wonder if it really hurts the bass. I have caught a few big bass in my days and sometimes have caught the same fish multiple times within a few months. On those occasions, I have noticed that a few of the mouths on a few of those fish didn’t close properly anymore. The lower jaw was extended a bit and no longer lined up with the upper lip.
In the picture above of the 20lb-12oz. bass I caught and as you can see, I did hold the fish by the lower jaw a few times. If you look to where the red arrow is pointing you can see some stretching has occurred. I have found no scientific studies to prove that this lower jaw stretching interferes with the feeding habits of these bass, but I have been doing underwater video now for over two years of big bass in their natural habitat and have noticed something. When filming during trout stockings, I have noticed that the big bass have a visual difference in their jaw, one that does not allow it to close all the way and these fish definitely struggle to catch trout and hold on to them.
Bass have multiple small needle like front teeth that slightly tilt inward and work to hold onto large prey and help direct food further into its mouth to the crushers, which also have small teeth on them.
The crushers push down and and slowly roll the prey into the stomach of the bass where digestive enzymes will start to break it down. So if part of this system is not working properly, it can lead to difficulties in successful hunting.
The picture above is a good example of how to properly hold and supporting the weight of the bass.
Even the boys have taught me how to properly handle and hold large bass.
In the picture above of a monster bass weighing over 20 lbs., I am teaching someone the proper way to hold and support it. Over the years I have helped quite a few people take pictures of their big bass and in doing so, teach them what I have learned in proper bass handling technique. I have heard through the grapevine that these same people were passing this information on to others, which is really great news. I do believe it is up to all of us to help teach everyone who is willing to listen, how to properly handle large bass so the next generation of bass fisherman will get a fair chance at catching a healthy trophy bass of a lifetime.
Below is a short video I shot a few years ago about proper bass handling:
Over the years while fishing I’ve battled one constant enemy, “Confidence.” I can’t count how many times I’ve second guessed an area where I was fishing, a lure, speed of retrieve, whether to use scent or not, color of a bait, size of lure, and if the fish were even in the area I was fishing. I know it is something I will deal with for the rest of my life while fishing, but my goal is to always have enough confidence to get me to those epic fishing days where everything seems to go right and I stick a few giant bass. Those days definitely fill my confidence tank up and help me get through the tougher days.
I have recognized that one of my strengths while fishing also led to one of my weaknesses while on the water: fishing the same area too much. I have over the years picked apart spots and sat and waited for the big bass to come to me, but that takes time and can make for a dull and boring experience. I found that on the days that I had a milk run of spots to run to, it kept my mind fresh and that resulted in keeping my mind in the game and accessing the water and all the elements above it. Double anchored on one spot too long will make you bored and your brain starts to wonder off thinking about other things besides the when, and why the bass are going to be in your area and biting. Covering water or running a milk run of key spots will keep your brain fresh and I believe that is a huge factor besides luck and thus keeps my confidence high by mixing it up once in awhile and not burning out an area, or pattern.
One of the things I’ve taught myself over the years is to have confidence in the tools I use first. If I feel my rod and reel are no good, and I have the wrong pound, and color line, and my lure is plain them my confidence is low and I will second guess these things all day long. So I have learned to get the best rod and reel I can and try to match my line properly and most important upgrade my lure to make sure it as real life as possible so I will feel confident in it and not second guess it. You may ask how do you that? well if I’m swimbait fishing I always try to match the size and color of what I believe the bass are currently feeding on and then it’s adding real glass eyes, gills, maybe even fins. If 20 boats are fishing the same area with the same bait I will have more confidence if I’m using the same bait they are but I changed it to look a little different than what the others guys are tossing. The little things sometimes can really make the differrence in boosting your confidence to stay with a lure till you find that key area and the fish start to bite.
I get asked all the time in seminars and by editors “do you use scent on your lures?” I look at using scent this way that smell and taste are very low on a bass’ sense chart. A bass’ sense of sight is number one closely followed by lateral line, and then hearing, so smell and taste are not that big of a factor to me most of the time. If I’m using a fast moving lure that a bass will see, or feel the vibration first and the bite is slow and I’m second guessing everything, that when it’s time to put some scent on my lure and stop the second guessing if my lure is good enough. By adding a little bit of confidence that your presentation is almost perfect now your mind can focus on the real issues like water temps, time of day, and area of the lake speed of the lure etc…
For the last twenty years I’ve kept good notes on my fishing adventures and this has really helped to boost my confidence before I get on the water. By looking back at my notes and doing my homework about similar bites per time of year, weather, moon phase, time of day, water temps and levels really gives me a big scoop of confidence before I ever get on the water that I should be in productive water using the right bait at the right time and right depth to catch some giant bass and that alone makes a tremendous difference to my confidence level.
By being prepared and thinking ahead and making a punch list to make sure you have all the lures you’ll need, or making sure you’ll have enough food, water, clothing, and sunscreen will give you confidence while on the water that even if the weather changes you’ve thought ahead and can make it through the day and get to that epic bite and catch that trophy bass of a lifetime.
Growing up in the “concrete jungle” that is Southern California, the lakes I fished and studied were typically 60% full year round, often more than that.
An exception was Lake Hodges and its natural loss of water every few years, which exposed the structures that held some of the old legendary trophy fish for which Hodges was famous at one time, but the other lakes were, more often than not, mostly filled.
Having grown up in SoCal, I have not experienced a real “rainy season.” Our local lakes remained mostly filled because they are the primary source of water for the Southern California residents. This water is diverted in from the snow-capped western mountains through a maze of canals throughout the western states. Low water periods aren’t common unless a drought lasts for years at a time.
I remember growing up and seeing the lake levels fluctuate and seeing structure exposed for the first time and taking a mental photograph of it. Later in the season, when the structures were once again under water, I’d use points of reference (trees, rocks and the tops of the hills) near and far to line up on those structures that were now occupied by a trophy fish.
I have recently moved my family from that previously mentioned “concrete jungle” to the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest. Of course, one of the first excursions I made in our new hometown was to one of the many local lakes.
The natural beauty was breath-taking. I found myself sitting down with my wife watching our kids playing in the water and picturing what had to be some incredible rock piles, tree stumps and other forms of natural structure for the Rainbows to cruise and hide from their predators. This internal imagery was based off of the incredible beauty of the tree-lined shore and grass fields surrounding this mountain lake.
A couple of months have passed and summer has turned to late fall. The trees have turned colors to vibrant Reds, Greens and Yellows. The rain has fallen for 10 days straight, just a steady rain, nothing torrential. One day coming home from work, I thought I’d make a trip around that lake to see just how much the water level has come up since my last visit.
When I got my first view of the lake, I was in absolute disbelief! The water level was incredibly low! The lake was now at roughly 15-20% full. I continued to drive to the same spot I sat in next to my wife as we watched our kids play and found it also incredibly low. I could see lake bottom from the shoreline I was standing on, all the way across the lake to the marina. The lake had turned to a large puddle. I thought to myself, How could this be? With all of this rain and the constant flow of rivers feeding into it. That night, after dinner and the kids went to bed. I hopped onto my laptop and did some research to find out more about this phenomena.
What I discovered was comical to me. It was comical due to my own preconceived mindset based on everything I had experienced growing up in Southern California. In the Pacific Northwest, they actually have to purposely draw down their lake levels to accommodate the upcoming winter rains. A wonderful concept for an area that receives more rain than the typical SoCal city.
My mind starts to turn and the very next weekend I take my wife and kids up to this lake and bring along a camera. We are all suited up for the conditions. Rain and mud, here we come! We walked the lake bottom, looking nothing like what I had pictured.
The lake bottom was roughly 8-12″ of soft mud with the occasional rocky areas and very sporadic tree stumps. A vast channels zigzagging throughout the lake bottom became exposed. Some of these channels were 10 feet deep and went for hundreds of yards. Tree stumps within these channels created what I would now understand as the new prime spots on this lake.
Taking hundreds of pictures and making mental notes to transfer to my computer file as soon as I got home, these newly discovered spots would minimize my learning curve of this new lake. Sure, today’s new HD graphs give us a far better understanding of what is beneath us, but nothing is better and clearer than our own eyes and mind.
Seeing a tree stump within the channel and the way that channel creates a clearing on one side of that channel. Even more so, having a general understanding of how a preying fish would position itself in order to capitalize on the lazily cruising trout, school of bait fish or even a crawdad that has come washing through that channel when the rivers feeding that channel are flowing, will help me catch more and better quality fish.
The subject lake in this story goes through this intentional draw down every fall and it does not affect this fishery in terms of quality. There was team tournament here 2 years back and the winning 5 fish weighed in just under 38 lbs!
The take away from this story is that I encourage all fisherman to take advantage of these situations. Get out to explore any nearby lake during low water level periods and walk it, study it, photograph it and study it again. Make notes and refer back to your pictures and notes before you head back out to fish that lake when the water level has come up.
You’ll be glad you did.
Another fish makes it safely into the boat and is quickly released, and in a house on the shore, a thumb rises into view from the window. With that, the bass fishing season in Florida has begun. The fish are staging and the males are preparing their nests. You may wonder about that lonely thumb in the window right about now as I did then and therein lies my story.
A lot of my fishing takes place in areas where houses dot the shoreline and the residents must be pretty well off to afford such awesome water front property. Fancy cars, plus beautiful landscaping, leads you to believe that they don’t have a care in the world. What’s odd is that you never really see any of them fishing, it makes you wonder why?
This one house with a dock always has nice fish around it and is one of my favorite spots. A while ago I noticed a window with the blinds cracked to reveal what looked like an elevated bed, a crumpled up pillow and nothing else, or so I thought. The fishing comes easy this day and in the process of releasing a fish I notice something out of the corner of my eye coming from the open window. A single arm raised into view and at the end of it, a thumbs up signal.
“Ok,” I think to myself. Now, I’m getting curious, since very often these home owners feel like they own the water and can be rude. So I want to wait to see what happens before passing judgement. Another fish bites, I land it, and back in the water it goes. Looking directly at the room I see that same arm rise slowly and the thumbs up sign is given again. This same motion repeats throughout the day and on many occasions thereafter.
It wasn’t until sometime later that I spoke to the caregiver and found out the story about the man behind the window. She related that he was very sick and bed ridden. She explained that he loved to fish off his dock and that I had reminded him of a better time in his life.
The caregiver went on to say that every time I showed up he would instruct her to crack the blinds and prop up his pillow. To this day when I catch a fish by his house and see his thumbs up, mine goes up as well. It’s a reminder that sometimes our problems are so small compared to what goes on in the life of others.
This quote is by my fellow fisherman and friend… “Appreciate the water, man. Appreciate how lucky you are to be out on the water, whether you catch a fish or not, you know.” – Mike Long
Until next time my friends enjoy your fishing or whatever your passion is because nothing is guaranteed and we never know when our health will leave us…
Professional athletes usually become professional athletes because they not only have the natural ability that raises them above normal folks, but also because they possess the innate drive to succeed… or put another way, the need to feed the unquenchable fire of competition.
Long after their professional careers are over though, that fire doesn’t die down to a warm glow. Instead, it usually manifests itself in other pursuits. For Andy Ashby, retired MLB pitcher, the fire to succeed simply shifts to different pastimes including hunting, fishing and golf.
A brief run down of his baseball career:
– One of only 24 pitchers in MLB history to pitch an “immaculate inning” on June 15, 1991, when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies, playing against the Cincinnati Reds (Struck out Hal Morris, Todd Benzinger, and Jeff Reed on 3 pitches each)
– Won 98 games over 13 professional seasons
– Pitched in the 1998 World Series with the San Diego Padres
– Member of the 1998 and 1999 National League All-Star team
– Career stats: 1173 strikeouts and a 4.12 ERA in 1810 innings pitched.
Ashby now lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and 4 daughters and now that the time-consuming world of the MLB is no longer a factor, he spends his days with his family enjoying retirement and all the trappings it affords.
Andy Ashby’s friends describe him as having a never-ending passion for learning and for always having a positive attitude. It is obvious to anyone who spends even a few moments speaking to him about the things he loves as we did when we recently caught up with the former MLB pitcher to get his take on his favorite outdoor pursuits.
Andy Ashby: I fish, I golf, I hunt… and I love spending time swimming… you know pretty much anything that has to do with the outdoors I love.
MLO: Do you do these things with your family or prefer to do them solo?
Andy: Well the fishing I take my kids, going out on the weekends, but they can get burned out sometimes. I do fish alone often.
When we are out in San Diego, we go out on a four-day camping trip with the family. That’s like our dad and daughter trip every summer.
Hunting I go with buddies. I do take my kids sometimes. Everything else I do by myself most of the time including golf.
Oh I do go swimming with the kids a lot, at the beach.
MLO: Out of all those things, what is your favorite?
Andy: My favorite thing is fishing.
MLO: You seem to enjoy it. I’ve seen pictures of you fishing with Mike Long a few times, is Bass fishing predominantly what you prefer or do you go for other types of fish like catfish, trout, etc?
Andy: You know, it’s mostly bass fishing. That’s my number one thing to do. I love hunting, but the fishing is by far my favorite thing to do.
MLO: How old were you when you first started fishing? Who introduced you to the sport?
Andy: Probably about 10 or 12 years old. When I was in Missouri, my family and I used to go to the lake every weekend. My dad would take my brothers and I out to fish.
Andy: Oh my gosh! That’s tough. I love Lake Castaic up in Los Angeles because I’ve caught so many fish there. Mike has taken me to so many lakes, and Lake Jennings is right up there at the top two or three. Yeah, Lake Jennings and Lake Castaic are the top two probably.
MLO: Do you prefer fishing for smallmouth or largemouth?
Andy: You know, I fish for Smallies when I am out here, but I guess it depends on where I am at. When I am in California I love to fish for largemouth bass, but here in Pennsylvania the small mouth are the thing to catch because the largemouth don’t get very big like they are in California. Recently we fished at Lake Wallenpaupack and we caught over a hundred smallies, all of them over a pound or two pounds, some of them upwards of 4 pounds. I’m gonna have to say, I love catching largemouth more better than small mouth, but it really depends on where I am at.
MLO: Have you considered joining the pro tour?
Andy: (Laughs) You know what, I would love to, but if I knew as much as Mike Long about fishing, I think I could do it. But honestly, travelling and being away from my family would be hard. Bass fishing, I hear the professionals talking and these guys fish every day, and they’re gone quite a bit. I don’t know if I am willing to do it, but I would love to do it later on, maybe get into so smaller tournaments, but right now that’s in the real distant future.
MLO: What’s the best advice anyone has given you that applies to fishing or hunting?
Andy: Patience (laughs).
MLO: Speaking of which, the last time I tried talking to you for this interview, Mike told me you were out deer hunting, sitting up in a tree blind.
Andy: Yeah. I was sitting up in a deer stand for about 12 hours.
Andy: Well, you know, you kind of text every once in a while to let everyone know you didn’t fall out of a tree or anything. Otherwise you’re just sitting there trying to be quiet. Really you’re just sitting there waiting for the moment, just like waiting on that bite, you know?
Fishing is a little bit different because you can actually cast and do something. The hunting is obviously different because you have to wait for the animal to come to you. I think the main thing is just patience and try different things. You know, you see Mike Long, and I know I bring up Mike quite a bit, but he has taught me a lot about trying different things because you never know what’s gonna work.
MLO: What is your favorite bass lure?
Andy: I would have to say the Senko.
MLO: What is your favorite style of fishing?
Andy: I fish a lot of plastics, so slow retrieve stuff is something I like more. I think you catch a lot more and bigger fish that way. I do a lot of night fishing so slow retrieve works a lot better in that environment.
MLO: How would you compare fishing and major league baseball?
Andy: Anything in life, I think you have to be patient and you have to believe in yourself, trust what you are doing. When I am on the mound I have to trust what i take out there is going to get these players out that day. When I am on the lake, I have to believe in what I throw at the fish and have confidence that it’s gonna work.
MLO: When you were playing how often did you fish when the team traveled?
Andy: When I was in LA, I would fish every night when I knew I had four days off. So I would fish 2 or 3 days in a row. When we’d go on the road trips, I would try to fish, definitely Houston, chicago… I would definitely fish once or twice, but it was harder because you didn’t want to carry all that gear on the road with you. I would try to fish four or five cities throughout the season.
Andy: As I kid, growing up, it would have to be George Brett. As a player, just being around somebody, I had the privilege of playing with guys who are in the Hall of Fame now. Dale Murphy helped me out a lot. Terry Mulholland, Bruce Ruffin, because these are the guys who were around when I first came up. Kevin Brown, Trevor Hoffman, we all played together. There were so many guys who influenced me just playing with them, at different parts of my career.
MLO: Who did you enjoy fishing with?
Andy: Kevin Brown, Mike Long obviously, I fished with Bruce Ruffin a few times, and Tony Gwynn a lot. Brad Ausmus I fished with a lot in San Diego. Bruce Bochy is a big fisherman.
MLO: How did it feel to be on camera fishing with Randy Jones?
Andy: You know, it was awesome. I wish we would have caught more fish on camera. I enjoyed the pressure of trying to catch fish on camera. It was so funny though because I caught four fish off the dock and we caught one on the boat when the camera was rolling (Laughs). It was all good though. It was pressure, but it was fun. It was my first time fishing on camera, so it was a good first experience. Randy is a good guy!
MLO: When you fish do you still have the same competitive fire as you did when you were on the mound?
Andy: Yes. Definitely. I usually want to catch big fish and if someone is catching fish and I’m not, I’m like, “what in the world is going on?” It’s funny. You fish with Mike though and you learn to accept you’re gonna get beat every time in the boat.
MLO: Do like night fishing, or daytime fishing better?
Andy: You know what? I like night fishing. I just a really enjoy it. Obviously I fished at night into the mornings because I had to be at the ballpark in the daytime. It was, more or less, the time that I had to go fish, then sleep a little bit, then be back at the ballpark for a game.
MLO: Do you think you’ll ever burn out on fishing, or have you in the past?
Andy: No. I know that the time I have doing it is special. It is like a stress relief for me. And my wife is like, “you have no patience for doing stuff around the house, but you can sit out in the woods all day long or fishing all night long, I don’t understand it!”
It’s a relaxing thing for me. On the Golf course, I snap every once in a while, but fishing and hunting part of it relaxes me. It’s a peaceful time for me.
MLO: Making multi millions in Baseball you can fish anywhere you want in the world, so what is your game plan for the future?
Andy: You know I’d love to go to Mexico and fish El Salto. Ten pound fish there are like two pounders everywhere else. El Salto would be cool and I’d also love to go out and fish for Peacock Bass because they get huge and fight like crazy. Definitely the Peacock Bass and Mexico are on my bucket list.
MLO: What is the largest bass you have ever caught?
Andy: 14 lbs, 3 oz.
MLO: What bass have you caught in your life sticks out the most and why?
Andy: That fish sticks out because it was the biggest I caught, but I remember watching this 10 pounder swim back and forth. I’d throw a bait out there and it would go out and come back to it and never hit it. Finally I threw out the right one, I think it was a curly tail worm, and she hit it. You know I tried for this fish for over an hour and I finally caught it and it was a ten pounder. It was awesome, because she didn’t want to hit what I was throwing, but I stuck with it and put something on there that made her mad enough to want to bite it. There’s different memories but that was kind of cool. It’s similar to being out on the mound with a 3-2 count and trying to figure out how to get that batter out. I had to figure out how to catch that fish, and kept throwing until I got what I wanted.
Ever wonder what goes on down there with the big ones? How they relate to other fish? What they see? What their food choices are? Big Bass inhabit a world of wonder and intrigue. Get to know the life of the big bass with this fantastic bass-eye view of their world.
Recent events have reminded me of how difficult it is to be a kid today. There aren’t any real safe havens for children if what we’re seeing on the news over the last few days is any indication. I have wondered these last few days if the world is that much different today than it was when I was growing up. How modern entertainment in the form of video games and smart phones and other electronic devices have turned us away from exploring the natural wonders all around us. Whether these electronic pursuits desensitize us, making us lose the connection with the things that make us human. I don’t have all the answers, but one thing is obvious to me. We need to get our kids away from their laptops and smartphones and video games more often.
In this day and age of craziness and where we don’t really know what tomorrow will bring, I believe it is more important than ever to take a kid fishing and introduce them to the great outdoors where never ending adventure always produces a smile.
I grew up as an outdoor explorer, mapping out my town from one end to other, always trying to find where every fish lived and every creature called home. In doing this I got to enjoy the great outdoors and appreciate what God gave us all to enjoy, but I was lucky. I consider myself lucky because I had the opportunity to experience a variety of outdoor activities mainly due to where I lived. It allowed me to be an outdoor explorer.
I had friends, when I was young, that I literally had to drag out of their houses to go on an outdoor expeditions with me. Almost every one of those adventures ended up at some pond or creek fishing, which at the end of the day, I could see by the smiles on their faces how happy these trips made them. I was one of the lucky ones for sure.
When my kids were growing up I loved to take them out and explore the lake with me and they always had a good time even if we didn’t catch a fish. When I involved them in the preparation, letting them pack their lunches and get their fishing gear ready, there was always that pure excitement about getting out of the house and going on an outdoor adventure. I believe being outside has a way to keeping your mind fresh and can heal you when you’re feeling down.
I always hated when my kids were stuck in the house playing video games because they became very addicted and obsessed with virtual reality when I knew reality was infinitely more entertaining. I’ll admit that it came out in their the attitudes at times when I’d force them outside, but not one time going on a fishing trip did my kids ever get upset. Mother nature is a powerful force and always has a way of making you enjoy the great outdoors.
For the last 15 years I have donated my time and gathered products for the Lake Poway Youth Derby in the city of Poway along with my partner Captain Ronnie Baker, the true King of youth derbies here in Southern California. We have had tremendous success teaching some of the young kids, from 5 years older to 14 years old, how to catch the outdoor bug. Along with an army of volunteers, we teach and help every kid enjoy the outdoor experience of fishing. It is such a great feeling seeing so many kids enjoy a day fishing, and competing with each other, catching trout or catfish. The smiles on their faces say it all.
If each one of us takes just some of our free time to take a kid fishing and introduce them to nature’s great gift, I truly believe we can heal some of the damage all these virtual entertainments have done to our young people. The violent video games popular today are definitely not the answer, but in my experience, taking a kid fishing will not only make you feel good and young again, but teach a child how to go out and enjoy the true gifts of the great outdoors.
I get asked all the time what my favorite swimbait color is, and you might think it would be Rainbow Trout because of where I live, but it’s not. It’s a bass color. Since I was a little kid, I have witnessed largemouth bass eating each other. I grew up in an area where there were creeks and small ponds to fish and the majority of what was in these creeks and ponds were bass. I watched numerous times where small bass were being chased and sometimes caught by larger bass.
So it was a no brainer to try to match the hatch, but when I was young we did not have the choices of swimbaits and colors that we do today. It was not until Castaic, and Optimum Lures came along that we had soft plastic realistic imitations in the 4″-6″ length. These days, we have a plethora of choices and it is easy to find a favorite swimbait color that matches the forage in your local waters.
The lure in the picture above is one of the first Optimum swimbaits to be made in the bass color. This is a 5″ bait that opened up a whole new world for me when using swimbaits. The color, along with the body shape and size, were close enough to some of the smaller bass that were getting eaten by some of the larger bass in the waters I fished. When I first used this new color it was unbelievable how aggressive the larger bass were when they chased and bit the swimbait.
I believe that a large bass living in a creek, pond, or lake will try to eat almost anything that moves. So if a smaller bass is in the larger bass’ strike zone, look out! He now is the target meal.
I have always wondered, “If a large bass had a choice of a crawdad, minnow, or a small bass, right in front of him, what would he choose?” Well after years of pondering this, I truly believe if a bass is hungry it will go after whatever is around it. I have also closely watched smaller bass seem to have their guard down around larger bass and especially around structure where they must feel they can escape if needed. I have seen large bass grab another fish and when it does, scales and sometimes small parts of the fish come free around the larger bass and the small bass move in and eat the small scraps. Another thing I have witnessed during spring is small males guarding their nest get eaten by some of the monster females that come up into the shallows from their deep water spots. This could be because a small male may not mature enough to emit any pheromones that drug out the big monster female, so she feeds instead of spawning.
During the colder months of the year when most of the smaller bass have pulled off the bank and have moved to deeper water, I have watched through an Aqua View camera groups of small bass hiding around and under rocks. Meanwhile, large bass are on vigilant patrol waiting for a crawdad, small panfish, or small bass to come out of these rock sanctuaries. Once out in the open, the larger bass can hunt them down and pin them against the bottom, or one of the rocks.
These few examples are a key reason to use a bass-colored swimbait once in awhile to see if that is what’s on the big bass’ menu. In this day and age of incredible paint jobs on soft plastic swimbaits, we now have a huge list of tools to choose from to make sure we always have access to their dinner choices.
Above are a few of the latest swimbaits made over over the last few years, with sizes ranging from the Decoy at 5″, the MattLures at 4 1/2″, and the Huddleston Deluxe at 6″. If you notice one theme besides the color in the pictures, it’s the size. I’m a firm believer that an effective bass-colored swimbait needs to be 6″ or smaller.
MattLures makes one of my favorite small bass-colored swimbaits with his 4 1/2″ version. Matt paid close attention, making the body shape look as natural as possible as well as matching the color almost perfectly.
Jason Scott, former owner of Castaic Lures, a company known for realistic looking swimbaits, now runs Decoy Baits, another company that pays close attention to making realistic looking swimbaits. The 5″ Decoy in a bass color is on the top of my list as one of the best looking soft-plastic paint jobs on a small swimbait.
The Decoy bass, and the MattLures bass have both become my go to lures when I need a small bass-colored swimbait. So next time you’re heading to your favorite pond, or fishing hole, pick up a few small bass-colored swimbaits and start having fun while catching some of the larger bass in your zip code.
“I just ate the World Record Bass tonight and it was good!”
Who did this? Soon after he caught that infamous fish and it was certified, George Perry’s record catch went into the frying pan. Before the advent of catch and release (C&R) back in the early 70’s, it was almost always catch and eat.
Let me say I release all my fish, but are we doing more harm than good now with the C&R mentality? Some studies seem to bare this out coming to the conclusion that lakes have become over populated with small fish and have actually hurt the bass from growing bigger. So what’s the answer? Maybe we should start taking some of the smaller fish home. One of the major problems is that some will become the victims of ridicule for keeping fish.
I’ve always felt if someone wanted to take his limit of keeper bass then that was just fine. It seems the answer is to take the right fish home and let the big fish go after a quick picture and measuring. It’s safe to say that the number of really big fish in a given body of water is relatively small. So it only makes sense to release them to spawn and fight another day. One point here is there’s no need to be mean or rude to someone who does decide to keep a trophy fish. I’ve see guys get beat down verbally and bashed, so all we can do is try to instruct folks on the merits of releasing the big girls, and in a positive manner.
This next area is something that needs to be examined as well, and that’s how we are handling these bigger fish. All too often we see folks bouncing big fish off the boat deck, taking pictures of them on the ground and just generally not treating the fish with care. The Pro’s and Tournaments circuits preach the merits of C& R but what message does it send when you see them culling fish on the bottom of the floor or flexing their jaws on the weigh in stand? Look we all need to do better myself included, we all want to protect the resource and educating folks is the way to go.
Selective harvesting on certain lakes can be a good thing and will no doubt help the big bass population grow by providing more forage. One way of looking at it is instead of releasing that 2-3 pounder and it becoming the next big fish in the pond, it may be the reason we’re not catching 10 pounders, food for thought. So until next time “Stay on Em “and maybe taking a few of them rats home for the family or friends will produce future giants.
Another day comes to a close and my arm is hanging on by a thread. It seems all you hear about are the big swimbaits and the huge fish they catch. Surprisingly you also see lots of smaller fish with huge baits hanging from their mouths as well. On the flip side, small baits catch small fish and I’ll suggest that they also catch more than your fair share of giants. We just don’t hear much about it because it’s just not sexy enough to say you caught a DD on a Drop Shot as opposed to a huge swimbait. The key to catching big fish is “be versatile.” While fishing for big fish one day with a large bait and not having any luck, I decide to throw a little drop shot worm down and BOOM she bites first cast. There are just times when you have to downsize even when trophy hunting. Yes you will catch a bunch of small fish, but then you might also be rewarded with a monster!
One of the big obstacles for many fishermen is the cost of these Big Bait. Some go for as much as $85.00 a piece. Make no mistake, you will catch huge fish with these baits given the time and opportunity, but keep in mind that you can find alternative big lures that will be just as good and won’t break the bank.
Last week I was throwing a big 7” jerk bait by a company called Deadliest Katch that is priced around $6.50 and stuck a really nice fish. Look around at some of the big Musky baits and some of the other companies that make oversized lures at a reasonable price.
Now back to the small bait tactics. I would venture to say that big fish eat tons of crawdads which are normally small in size. Bass eat a lot of frogs as well, and they’re usually on the small side too. There’s no shame in saying I caught that Toad on a 6” FX Soft-Shell Craw RoboWorm or a hand poured Fringe worm by your local worm maker. Have an open mind and don’t get locked in to thinking, “if I don’t have the hottest, I’m out of the game,” because you’re not! The big fish will eat what your throwing whether it’s a 10” top of the line swimbat or a small jig.
Gary Dobyns West Coast Tournament legend and rod maker spoke to our trophy bass club and related a story about catching a 12 lb fish on Folsom using a small worm that he had just bite off to make it smaller.
Big Baits… Big bass, small baits… Big Bass. Yes, it happens more than we think!
Until next time… Stay on Em!
Back in the summer of 1979 I walked out into the backyard of the house my parents had just purchased and met a tall, gangly kid with a shock of red hair. He was holding a fishing pole, a bucket, and the widest smile I had ever encountered in someone my age. Only seconds after he had introduced himself as Mike Long, he asked me if I wanted to help him catch some crawdads.
The house we had just purchased sat no more than 50 feet from a creek that meandered the length of Poway, California, surrounded by Sycamore and Scrub Oak, which were home to Opossums, Raccoon, and Red-tailed Hawks. Having lived in the suburbs almost my entire life, I was out of my element among all this natural wonder. As strange as it all was though, I was about to get a master’s class in nature and Mike Long was the first and most notable of all the professors I’d ever have directing my education.
I’ve known Mike for going on 32 years, and enjoyed the privilege of having first hand access to the vast amount of information he gathers about his chosen hobbies. He taught me to fish for Catfish, Rainbow Trout, Crappie, Sunfish and of course, Large mouth Bass. He pulled me up and around hill and dale, all the while, teaching me about what to do and when to do it. He never asked anything in return, just friendship and I was more than happy to oblige.
Though time and distance have always come between us, we’re kindred spirits. We enjoy the same things and share many of the same beliefs, the least of which is our passion for the outdoors. Eventually college, and then a career in advertising pulled me away from Southern California, but I kept up with his adventures in the great outdoors.
When fate and my father’s illness brought me back to San Diego in late 2010, one of the first people to welcome me back was Mike Long. We began toying with the idea of a website to share his knowledge and the site you find yourself on now is the result of many such conversations.
While we’ve talked almost daily since I’ve returned to San Diego, it actually wasn’t until this past September that we actually got together on a lake to do some fishing for largemouth bass.
Mike chose the body of water we both grew up fishing, Poway Lake, located in San Diego’s North County. It’s a small reservoir, made smaller by consecutive years of drought, stocked with Rainbow Trout each winter and Catfish each summer. It has a good population of Largemouth Bass, Sunfish and Bluegill to keep everyone happy no matter what your particular passion.
It had been almost two decades since I last fished for bass, but Mike promised he’d take it easy on me and show me what to do. In fact, he even brought a few spinning reels for me to use since I’ve not used a bait caster in a very long time. First thing Mike did was get the lay of the land, or water to be more precise. Choosing a few possible spots, we made our way across the lake toward the first area he wanted to try, a deep water channel. As we arrived, I looked around and noticed there were a dozen or so other fisherman on the lake. From the look of it, they were doing a bit of fishing, but not a whole lot of catching. That isn’t unusual for this lake, especially for those fishing for largemouth bass.
The thing was, much like when we were kids, I had a secret weapon. I had Mike to show me the way. He quickly tied on a 4″ Robo worm in Aaron’s Magic color, using a simple drop shot rig and told me what to do. I’d like to say I quickly landed my first bass in 20 years, but that wouldn’t be true. What is true is within 30 minutes on the water, Mike DID land our first fish… a 3 pounder, very small by Mike’s standards, but a whopper in my book. Keeping with Mike’s teachings, we moved around, eliminating water, trying to find where the fish were. We moved to shallower water near a point. Mike landed a few more, small bass, while I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the proper action necessary to catch a fish… any fish… heck I was willing to land a shad if it would take me out of the skunked column.
He kept explaining what he was doing and why it was working. Mike had landed 3 other bass while he was explaining the intricacies of fishing this particular lake, at this particular time in the day, in this particular season. It was akin to listening to Stephen Hawking talk about cosmology while orbiting the Earth on the space shuttle. If I remember half of what he told me, I’ll be three times the fisherman that I am now.
Finally, I put it all together and I landed my first bass of the day. Less than a pound, but it was a pound more fish than I’ve caught in 15 years and I was quite excited. A few more casts and I caught another fish, this one almost breaking 2 lbs. I figured if I kept at it, by the end of the day I might have enough fish that, combined, would weigh as much as the smallest fish Mike would catch that day.
We broke for lunch and it gave me the opportunity to ask Mike the questions that I would imagine most people would ask him if they had the opportunity.
Ed: When we were kids, we fished for a lot of different kinds of fish, but mostly for stocked trout and catfish. Did you ever think you’d make your mark as a trophy bass fisherman?
Mike: Not at all, I just wanted to fish more than anything else in the world, i did not care what species of fish as long as they put up a fight.
Ed:This lake (Poway Lake) has been our “home” lake for over 30 years and it’s changed a great deal since we started fishing here back in the late 70s. What’s changed for the better? What’s changed for the worse?
Mike: Lake Poway is a small lake where kids can learn to fish and that has gotten better over the years with some added structure. On the downside the lake is infested with quagga mussels which are killing the ecosystem and I’ve seen a huge decline in the numbers of big bass in the lake.
Ed: Of all the local lakes, which is your favorite?
Mike: San Vicente Reservoir
Mike: It is a deep semi-clear reservoir that offers lots of different types of shorelines from steep hard rock to large boulders, to flat shallow bays and offshore islands. It also has large blue catfish over 100 lbs and some giant bass.
Ed: What drives you to hunt big bass?
Mike: Catching big bass is the end game of big bass hunting. And what drives me is the never-ending challenge of trying to figure out where the bass are in the lake and what to catch them on. It’s always a game with the payoff being landing that big bass.
Ed: Was coming close to the record a positive experience?
Mike: The day I caught the 20-12 was the most peaceful day of my bass fishing career and nothing else mattered that day. It has been a positive experience, especially since it has only been done a handful of times.
Ed: Is there anything you would have done differently knowing what you know now about that whole experience?
Mike: The first time I weighed the big bass she weighed over 22 lbs, so I have learned the first weight is the official weight. I never leave the house without a verified scale. Who knows what would have happened had I known to bring the right scale that day.
Ed: We’ve talked a little bit about tournament fishing, and I know you’re a pretty competitive guy, but you refuse to fish competitively. Why is that?
Mike: Raising a family costs lots of money these days and trying to get kids through college and finding a new job has been a huge challenge of survival this year, so tournament fishing has taken a back seat until there is some money available to fish them right.
Ed: When we were kids, you used to keep a notebook, filled with data from our fishing trips. I know you’ve converted all that information into a spreadsheet. Do you ever let anyone peruse that information?
Mike: My data is my data. I have spent years collecting it and don’t let anyone have access to it. I do, however, teach people how to build a spread sheet and convert their data into a useful form that will help them in their pursuit of giant bass.
Ed: Why did you choose this format (a website) to share your information?
Mike: I love the World Wide Web. It’s amazing what you can learn from different people, all over the planet. I wanted to be part of this global classroom… doing my part is to simply share as much as I know about bass fishing. If I can help others to learn and see things a little differently in their pursuit of big bass, this website will be a success in my eyes.
Ed: Is a book out of the question?
Mike: One of my goals is to write a book, and in fact, I have my first more than halfway done. Hopefully I will finish it soon and have another way to share what I know with people who are willing to learn.
Ed: What does the future hold for you as an outdoorsmen?
Mike: Lots of adventure, taking my abilities on the road and traveling the globe in pursuit of giant fish is my future goal. Sharing that with everyone would be the icing on the cake. I LOVE to catch fish and I hope that desire never changes.
We spent the rest of the day simply figuring out where the fish were and what they’d likely bite. I honestly can’t remember how many fish Mike caught that day, but I can tell you he beat me by a country mile. This isn’t unusual of course, and I doubt many people can keep up with him when he gets in a groove, but it was fascinating to see someone so knowledgeable about a given pursuit put it into practice. After spending a day on the lake with him, he’s still every bit the kid I met over 30 years ago. Maybe a little grayer, and a little thicker around the middle, but still loves what he does and loves sharing what he knows with everyone he meets. 30 years later I can safely say that I still learn something every time we spend time together.
He’s still the professor and I’m still the student.
Crawdads or rainbow trout? This is a question I ask myself every year around this time when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. I always wonder what the bigger bass are doing and what they really want to feed on during these colder days. Where I live here in San Diego, California our Fall and Winter months can be one of the best times of the year to to catch a few really fat healthy bass, maybe even that one trophy you have been chasing all year. I myself have caught a 17-2 out of Lake Jennings Ca. in November on a jig as well as an 18-1 out of Lake Poway Ca., also on a jig. Both bass were very deep; the Jennings bass was in well over 50′ of water while the Poway bass was caught at around 40′ of water. I find that during the colder shorter Fall/Winter days the bigger bass seem to be deeper, gorging on crawdads every chance they get. But once in awhile, I hook a good bass well over ten pounds on a swimbait during these same periods.
Every year is just a bit different and this year has been one of the hottest on record. It is almost Halloween and the air temps are in the 90’s while the water temps are still around the mid 70’s and a bit higher at some lower elevation lakes, so even though the days are getting shorter there is still some unusually warm water to be found and even some top water action still going on during the day. Typically this time of the year the water temps are in the low 70’s and the nights are really cold and clear so the bass are typically deeper where the water temperatures are a bit more consistent.
These deeper bass seem to be mainly feeding on crawdads and even with trout stocks starting they still remain very focused on slowing down and feeding downward on crawdads. I believe the cooler water decreases the bass’ metabolism and encourages the large female bass to slow down and start loading up on calcium-rich crawdads. I have seen this scenario play out year after year and that is why I prefer to use a jig with a crawdad trailer from October through March. Historically for me throughout this these months the jig has always been a high percentage go-to lure in the colder water. But every now and then, after a few trout plants have been put into the lakes, I’ve noticed some short windows of oppurtunity where some of the bigger bass seem to want to chase some trout over feeding on crawdads.
This is where I scratch my head trying to understand why these big bass have a slight change in their diet during the cooler months. I want to understand what triggers these bass to change their feeding pattern, if I can understand some of what influences this change then I might have a chance of being at the right place with the right lure and hooking a good bass.
One thing that I’ve noticed over the years during the Fall and Winter months is on clear, sunny, warm days with little to no wind that around 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I have witnessed some monster bass up shallow in 2′- 10′ of water just sitting on some shallow warm rock piles as still as possible as if they were sleeping. I believe that after eating crawdads for several days that these hard shell crawdads are very hard to digest and load up in the bass’ stomach and intestines, thus pushing these huge bass up shallow where the warm sun can help to warm up these bass and help to increase their metabolism which will help to push these crawdad shells through the bass’ digestive system just a bit faster.
And if the weather stays warm during the Fall and Winter months for more than a week, I have seen some huge female bass start to set up on shallow structure and ambush anything that will swim by and this typically is one of the freshly planted rainbow trout that are such an easy target for these frisky bass. But I’ve also noticed they don’t seem to want to expend too much energy or travel too far to catch one of these trout. This is where the game gets interesting. Now where some of these bass are set up on shallow ambush structure you now have a strike zone and it is up to you to discover what the range of that zone is.
As I have written about on MikeLongOutdoors, when a cold storm approaches where I live, it will push some monster bass out of their deep hiding areas of the lake and put them almost on the bank for a brief period before the cold storm arrives. This is when these bass seem to be very frustrated and highly aggressive. These short windows of opportunity before the storm arrives, with falling barometer readings, have historically been great times for me to be tossing a swimbait over a jig and the results, at times, have been very good for a large bass on a swimbait. But these monster storms don’t come in every week and the bass always seem to move back to their deeper winter crawdad areas and now it’s back to scratching my head trying to figure out why, and where these big bass are again. But truthfully I love this part of the game almost as much as the payoff!
When looking at my notes and talking with other swimbait and jig fisherman, I have noticed that these big bass will definitely at times come out of the deeper winter waters and chase and eat the swimbaits. Too many people have shared their stories that say the same.
One of the greatest things to happen in my world of learning and sharing info has been FaceBook. I have met thousands of people from all over the world who share the same passion as me in pursuing these monster bass. I have gotten well over a thousand emails and private messages from people wanting to pick my brain and for me I have picked their brains too. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I have learned about bass characteristics around the globe. Now I’m asking you for your brief stories on this topic of crawdads or rainbow trout. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.