I have caught Big Bass from shore, wading, bass boat, rental boats, rafts, and float tubes, but when I got my Pursuit Kayak from NuCanoe a whole new world of options opened for me to pursue those monster bass..Here is a video to explain some of what I like about my NuCanoe Pursuit Kayak.. #Nucanoedoit
Over my 40+ years of Bass fishing I have seen lots of new products come out, and once in awhile something comes around that really gets my attention. When Owner came out with their “Beast” line of swimbait hooks I was stoked to see a big wide gap heavy wire hook with a fixed weight attached that I had to get a few and try them out.
The sizes Owner came out with first worked great for rigging swimbaits 5″-8″, and in 2016 Owner released a Monster Beast Hook a 12/0 which is giant wide gap hook that fits most of my 9″-11″ swimbaits.
The size chart above from www.tacklewarehouse.com shows all five Owner Beast Swimbait hooks with weight size, quantity per package, and price.
My two favorite sizes of Owner Beast Swimbait Hooks are the 12/0, and 6/0. They work great on my Rago Alpha trout in 6″ and 9″ lengths. One thing about me I’m a huge fan of weedless swimbaits, I like to fish my swimbaits where the Big Bass live and not every swimbait is weedless, but most can be converted weedless with the Owner Beast Swimbait Hook.
Each Owner Swimbait Hook comes with a Twistlock which is pictured above. This Twistlock has a center guide pin which makes it really easy to center the Twistlock on your swimbait.
The picture above shows the application process of Twislock into the swimbait. It is important to find the apex section on the nose of the swimbait and then push the center guide pin into the swimbait and with some light pressure applied on the Twistlock begin pushing it towards the swimbait. Now you will begin the twisting of the Twistlock into the swimbait keeping pressure towards the swimbait..
In the picture above you can see about how far to seat the Twistlock into your swimbait. Two things to watch for. One, make sure to keep the Twistlock as straight as possible in the swimbaits, and two, the hook needs to be in the vertical position as in the picture above or the hook eyelet will twist and tweak the nose of the swimbait.
Next step is to use a sharpie and make a small dot where the end of the hook will be in the swimbait.
Now it’s time to cut a 1″ line on the belly of the swimbait about 1/4 the depth of the swimbait. In the 2″ swimbait in the picture above I made cut around 1/2″ deep cut. You want to start cutting just past the end of the hook mark you made and continue about one inch towards the head of the swimbait.
Now it’s time to gently without putting to much stress on the Twistlock to run your hook through your swimbait. The trick is to keep the point of the hook as straight up as possible.
It is very important to make sure that the point of the hook goes through the top middle of the swimbait, or the bait will not run true while swimming. The picture above shows plenty of hook exposure, this swimbait is almost ready to use.
A little trick I use to make my swimbaits more durable and last longer is to add a little Mend-it soft plastic glue to the plastic.
By adding some Mend-it glue around the head area and around the hook, and hook barb area you strengthen the plastic which will give your swimbait longer life.
My advice on the Owner Beast Swimbait Hooks in size 12/0 is to use no lighter than 20lb line. I prefer 25, 28, and 30lb line for good barb sets, and a 8′-6″ MegaMag rod with a heavy back bone and your ready to hunt some big fish.
As a huge fan of lifelike lures I could not wait to get my hands on one of Lunkerhunt’s Lunker Frog baits. I had the chance to test the 1/2oz model in a Green Tea color on a pond that was half covered in weeds. Right out of the box I could tell that the Lunker Frog was not like any frog lure I had ever used before due to the Lunker Frog’s lifelike legs that extended when I retrieved the Lunker Frog back to shore.
Bait: Lunker Frog
Color: Green Tea
Style: Hollow Body/Weedless
At first glance you can tell that Lunkerhunt company paid attention to detail when designing the Lunker Frog. The Lunker Frog has one of the most life-like frog bodies on the market today, and for me that is a huge plus when I’m hunting those monster bass that are locked in on real frogs.The Lunkerhunt Lunker Frog has a real life kicking motion when you retrieve and pause the bait which I found in open water and on the edge of weed matts to be highly effective in creating more strikes than a standard frog lure.
When the Lunker Frog is paused on the water the legs are tight to the frog body and once you give the Lunker Frog a light pull the legs extend giving the Lunker the most life-like motion of any frog lure I have ever used.
There were multiple times while fishing the Lunker Frog in open water with no weeds that the leg action was the difference in getting a strike, or not.
I also found that the life-like frog feet gave the Lunker Frog a little extra splash while retrieving the lure.
The finish on the Lunker Frog is top notch and held up fairly well over two days of fishing and catching well over 20 bass.
The Lunkerhunt Lunker Frog is built with a soft plastic body that really helped with hook sets with the weedless hook system.
The Lunkerhunt Lunker Frog’s legs hang down below the surface just like a real frog, and many of my strikes were while testing the Lunker Frog in heavy cover while the Lunker Frog was not being moved for long periods of time. This is something to keep in mind while fishing this bait is to work it slow with many long pauses during the retrieve especially in small openings in the weed mats.
Overall I found the Lunkerhunt Lunker Frog to be one of the best imitation frogs I have ever used.
Pros: Very durable, great hook set ability to ultra soft body construction, very life-like in appearance, pause and retrieve motion creates more strikes.
Cons: The legs can come off with some bass strikes, but they float if they do not get eaten..
Visit www.http://www.lunkerhunt.com for more info on all LunkerHunt products
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Over the years, as underwater sports cameras have evolved, I have been able to keep stride with this ever changing technology and sometimes add my creative twist of thinking outside the box to get those underwater shots that in the past we could only imagine. So I have decided to make a series of short videos of underwater bass activity to try to help unlock some of the mysterys of just what the heck these bass are thinking when we toss our lures out in their environment.
The baits I used in the video are my own Natural Series Swimmers AM Shads
One of the questions I hear a lot is “Why are the bass just following my bait?”
The picture above shows a large group of bass that were just curious about the swimbait and never made an advance towards it, just followed the bait and stayed just behind it. While filming, it was the middle of a hot Summer day, heading into a no moon phase and the water was clear and around 80 degrees.
I have found that in these periods of the year, and time of day, most bass in clear water will be low light feeders and once you find them they will be offshore, suspended just deep enough to stay out of the sun’s bright summer rays.
The above picture is a snapshot of a behavior I have seen many animals exhibit in nature and that is to rub their body, or scent onto the bait and mark it. I’m not totally sure why bass would do this, but the bass in the video never bit the swimbait just marked it.
Under the same mid-day hot and bright conditions I was able to get a few bass to chase down my swimbait and get a little more aggressive with it once I got the lure down around 25 feet.
After finding that perfect depth of water I was able to consistently keep my swimbait in the bass biting zone.
Enjoy the video!!
Thinking back well over 40 years of bass fishing one thing always comes to mind and that is how I have always liked to tweak existing lures, or build new ones from scratch that would work for the bass hunt I was currently on. I absolutely enjoy creating something from just a few ideas and testing it in the water and hoping it would trick those finicky bass, not every idea works, but you learn from each one. Tweaking, or adjusting a lure is something I do on almost every trip, so after time and time of doing this you kinda know what most bass fisherman are looking for in a specific style of lure.
I have also spent many years working with, or consulting with some of the finest swimbait makers on the planet, from Sean Donovan the original owner of Optimum Lures to Jason Scott (Castaic, Decoy Lures), to Matt Servant (MattLures), and Jerry Rago of Rago Lures. These guys are all legends in the swimbait world and have made several lures to date that have caught many personal best for thousands of bass fisherman. These men all have one thing in common, they are all driven to build the best lures on the market today.
For well over 30 years I have worked full time in the construction industry, but a few years ago after that industry collapsed I decided it was time to pursue one of my dreams and build lures for the general public and so my company Natural Series Swimmers was born.
It has been a learning curve making production lures. In the past I only had to make a few lures at a time which is much easier than trying to make 20-50 a week.
I Started with a picture of threadfin shad and an idea of how I wanted the bait to swim and after years of watching shad in the water and viewing countless hours of under water video footage of shad in their natural environment. I knew how I wanted to start.
Next it was time to make a carving.
I started with the picture of what I wanted the lure to look like, traced it out with some tracing paper and transferred that image onto some bass wood and then cut out my design. I made the shad in one piece first so I would have a future template that I could build multiple jointed baits with.
The end result which was made out of urethane and hand painted had to be field tested, which for me was one of funnest parts of the entire process. On the first field test of the glide shad I scored a few nice bass up to 11 lbs. and found I only needed to make a few minor tweaks as to where the hooks were placed and what size.
This 6″ 2.5oz. lure which I call my Glide Shad is an incredible little bait that did everything I designed it to do. I prefer to use the Glide Shad with a 7′-4″ Dobyns Rod (744) and 18Lb. Maxima Fluorocarbon line. I also add a #4 Duo Lock snap to every bait which really helps give the Glide Shad maximum freedom in the water. I balanced the baits with Owner size 1 treble hooks which work perfectly with the 6″ Glide Shad.
Every bait is field tested to make sure it meets my standards.
When working the Glide Shad it is very important to keep your rod tip pointed towards the lure and make it glide side to side with a reel retrieve only. I made a video which shows the Glides Shads swimming and how I’m “reel retrieveing” them to get the side to side motion.
My second glide bait is my Gliding Panfish
The Gliding Panfish is a bait that I have made for myself for quite sometime, I just thickened up the tail and smoothed the edges to make a more durable swimbait for production to the public. That is one problems I have with my personal baits is that they are not always built to take a lot of abuse, but built as life-like as possible and when fins break you just build a new one and your back in business.
This was another bait that I carved the template out of wood off of a concept I liked in a two piece bait. Once again this is a balanced swimbait that needs a steady reel retrieve to get the Gliding Panfish to swim hard left and right. This little 6″ swimbait is a beast around docks and trees where you can get the glide the lure partially into these targets where some giant bass are hiding out.
Field testing the new design went very well, I found I only needed to make a sleight hook adjustment which is now in all the new Gliding Panfish.
The Gliding Panfish comes with a #3 Duo Snap, two Owner Stinger 2X Black Hooks, custom Taxidermy eyes, and two magnum grade screw eyes to hold each section together. Each bait also comes with the “ML” initial and is numbered in the order it was built. Every bait is field tested before it is packaged. Along with a floating version, there is slow sink, super slow sink, and fast sink.
Attached is a link to a video showing the Gliding Panfish in the water and the proper rod position with a reel only retrieve:
Here is a link to the Glide Shad in Action:
By clicking on the “Store” tab on the homepage there will be a link to the Natural Series Swimmers that are currently for sale:
The Gliding Panfish are $105+shipping, and the Glide Shads are $68+shipping.
Coming soon are the AM Shads a soft plastic realistic looking shad with a internal bladder and weight system that gives this little 5″ bait a very realistic look in the water. This new bait is something I have been working on for awhile and just fine tuning the color patterns.
Fishing in San Diego where the lakes are small and easily accesible you very rarely get on a bite that you can keep all to yourself. After over 40 years of fishing these pressured waters I’ve learned a trick, or two to stay ahead of the crowd and the most important one is to keep your mouth shut. Easier said than done when your excited about a bite, or large catch……… Remember that day, or days when you had the lake all to yourself??
Or that time on the water you got to spend with you dad, or a good friend when you were young and boats were small and motors were much slower. Yes these days are almost all but gone.. We live in the age of the internet where information moves almost as fast as you can catch that personal best bass. There once was a time where if you caught a big bass and weighed it at the marina you had until the newspaper posted your catch and then the crowd came looking for the bite they read about in the newspaper.
These days with the internet if you catch a big bass under the dock and send a picture out to social media, or just a good friend the next thing you know your surrounded by boats and yes, that bite is over. Those giant bass just can’t take the pressure of all the boats, or bank fisherman bombing the area.
It’s one thing to get the verbal information that a big bass was caught, but when there is a picture on the web the CSI (crime scene investigation) crowd can pick your picture apart and pretty much figure out location, time of day, if it was warm, or cold by the sky and clothes your wearing and if there is a rod in the picture that too tells a story, I think you get the point. It’s hard to believe that there are so many people who really don’t respect someones bite, but that is the new high pressured world we all live in, everyone who bass fishes wants the to catch a giant bass and how they go about it is just like watching the television show Survivor.
I think from time to time we are all guilty of hi-jacking someone else’s bite, I guess it’s just a part of bass fishing especially when your in a slump, but exercising a little respect is always the best way to approach these situations. If that person who found the bite shows up and your sitting and fishing their honey hole that you did not find, I suggest backing up some and talking with them and letting them onto their spot and fishing just outside them. You never know when the situation will turn and they may be on your bite and spot. This approach has really worked well for me, but when you get large groups on your bite all bets are off.
For me every time I go fishing I try to challenge myself and find the bite myself, it’s a much better feeling in the end if you catch a large bass and you figured it all out yourself it’s a feeling of satisfaction that I hope all fisherman can experience at least once in their life.
Another way I try to challenge myself is if everyone is on a good bite at one lake, I try to go against the grain and go to another lake that is dead quiet with almost no fisherman there and test my talent and see if I can get a quality bass, or two. This has really helped my fishing because I’m concentrating much more on the lake, weather, sun and moon trying to figure out where the bass are and what time they will bite instead of worrying about a bunch of fisherman in front of me, or on some of the key spots in the lake.
Fishing is suppose to be enjoyable and when you look back on your life and all those fishing trips you want to feel like you always did it the right way and not that you cut corners to get to the prize your after in life. Remember you’ll always feel better after a fishing trip if you just exercise a little respect while on the water, it goes a long way!
For those who did not know I have been working with BassMaster Senior editor Ken Duke over the last month on how to catch the biggest bass of your life. We are on step 3 which covers fitness, nutrition, hydration, and proper clothing. Check it out and let’s here your feedback.
Now that the days are longer than the nights, and the waters around the country are in the low-to-mid 80’s, and the bass’ metabolism are as high as they’ll get all year long, it is time to fish some of those fun reaction baits.
The sun is very intense in the Summer and bass, who have no eyelids to block out the suns rays, will seek shaded cover for ambush, and feed in low-light conditions early in the morning and late in the evening; before and after the sun rays hit the water. Maybe it’s that shaded side of the lake, or in the grass, or in the deeper waters where the suns rays can’t quite penetrate. Summertime is all about finding these areas and choosing the right reaction bait to entice and catch those aggressive Summer bass.
The small splashing and the subtle popping noise of the popper simulate small baitfish feeding on bugs on the surface of the water and what bass can turn down such an easy meal.
Nothing is more fun in fishing than seeing a bass blast a topwater bait off the surface. Another good lure in the early morning, along the shallow water, is a walk and spit style lure like a Daiwa TD Pencil. This type of bait you can walk and splash water at the same time.
Bottom line early morning before the suns rays hit the water you have night time feeding bass up shallow trying to catch baitfish that are trapped on the shore where they feel safe and there is some submerged cover, so any style of lure that floats and can move some water whether it be splashing, or side to side movement is going to get a bass’ attention.
My first choice early morning is a popper, I prefer it due to its smaller size, moves slowly, makes a good noise, and stays in the strike zone longer. I will switch after the popper does not get as many hits up shallow and when I feel the bass have moved out a little deeper. I will switch to the TD Pencil and work the lure a little faster and try to cover water to find those roaming bass.
If there is grass along the bank I will toss a popper right along the deep water weed edge and work it fairly fast trying to trick those bass to come out of the weeds and attack. If the popper does not get their attention, I will use a hollow body frog on top of the weeds. If in a boat I will cast to the bank and work it onto the weed mat with some moderate downward pumps of the rod all the way back to the boat. A bit of advice is to keep the boat at least 20-30′ from the deep water edge of the weed mats, so when you work your frog back in towards the boat the bass have a chance to follow it through the weeds until the lure hits open water and they can see it and attack it. I have caught hundreds of bass that have followed the frog and tried to hit it and even push the weeds up a bit and follow the frog until it hits an open pocket, or the weed edge and then blast it, so staying off the weed edge may put more fish in the boat.
When working a grass mat your going to need a med-heavy rod, a high speed reel and at least 50lb. braid for line. I prefer four colors of frogs, black, brown, green, and white with black being the most productive for me. I believe the darker color provides a better silhouette that helps a bass see it through the dense weeds and track it better. Rule of thumb when frog fishing, when you see your frog get bit count one thousand and one and then set the hook. This will give the bass a chance to compress the hollow body of the frog and expose the hook.
Towards the middle of the day you can find a good amount of fish deeper especially if your fishing a lake that has depths around 100′, or more. Where I live the lakes are deep and the night time cycle pushes plankton to the surface which the shad will feed on in the early morning. Once the sun hits the water the plankton start to sink in the water column and the shad will follow the plankton and so will the bass. The lakes can be as clear as 40′ in the Summer so the plankton and shad will be around this depth.
My lure choice when fishing this scenario is a 1/2 ounce shad patterned spoon on 8-10 lbs monofilament line and 7′ medium action rod. I’ll cast the spoon across creek channels where most of the shad balls are and count down till I believe the spoon is in the zone and then pop the rod hard from the 9:00 to 12:00 position giving about 2-3 seconds between pops until I feel a hook-up. This can be a great way to put numbers of bass in the boat during the middle of the day, but typically not the bigger bass which are most likely structure oriented in ambush mode during the heat of the Summer days.
Towards the end of the day I love to work a larger surface style soft swimbait along the shoreline, fan-casting from shallow to deep. The rod of choice is at least 7’8″ med-heavy action rod. I like a slow gear ratio reel 5.1-1 with 18-20 lbs monofilament line. I like the slow gear ratio so I can keep the swimbait in the strike zone longer.
I like at least an 8″ bait and will always start with a bass patterned color. A nice steady retrieve with the occasional pop and pause in the cadence is good. Sometimes I’ve found if the wind is light that a faster retrieve is better. The Eagle style swimbait I use has the fishing line run through the bait and then tie to a size 2 treble hook. This hook rig works great for keeping bass hooked due to the way the hook is in the bass’ mouth and not the entire swimbait that a bass come break surface and use the weight of the bait to shake it free.
There are hundreds of great Summertime reaction lures out on the market today, so lets hear what your favorites are.
As I’ve gotten a little older the sun has really been harsh on my skin. I have had plenty of days that when I got home after 12 hours of Summertime fishing that I felt like my skin was on fire and I was completely wiped out. I was dehydrated, and my skin was trying to heal from the sunburn so my body was tired and sluggish and it was hard to sleep. After years of wearing flip flop style sandals, shorts, and tank tops I started to realize I needed to wear shoes, pants, a long sleeve shirt, buff for the neck and face, a good hat, and light weight sun gloves.
After finding the right Sun protection clothing I have had much better success on the water by being in the game of fishing and not burnt by the sun and tired, sluggish, and overall miserable on the water. I can spend as long as I want out fishing in the brightest of sun and at the end of the day when I remove all my sun protection clothing I feel great and my skin is the same as when I started in the morning.
I put together a short three minute video to help with sun protection clothing.
“What swimbait should I use and why?” is one question that I get asked quite often. Well, to be absolutely honest, in order to answer that question there are a few factors to take into consideration. First, you must ascertain what forage fish lives in the water where you plan to fish and then what time of the year you’ll be fishing the body of water.
Where I live the majority of what the bass are feeding on year-round ranges between Threadfin Shad, Bluegills, Sunfish, baby bass, Crappie, Golden Shiners, crawdads, and Rainbow Trout. So one of the first things I need to do before finding a swimbait to match the hatch, is to determine what time of the year it is before choosing a swimbait size and color pattern. During the fall and winter months, most of the lakes here in San Diego stock Rainbow Trout between 6″ and 18″ so matching that hatch is crucial if you want to have any swimbait success. In swimbait fishing during these seasons the size of the prey that is predominant is important for two reasons. First, it is always important to match the size and color of what the bass are currently feeding on because they tend to program themselves to feed on one particular forage at a time and hone their hunting ability as they do; it is just how their mind works to survive. Secondly, during the winter and early spring months where the days are much shorter and the water is much cooler, a bass’ metabolism slows down and it tends to not feed as much during the day. But when they do feed they spend their energy on catching one larger meal that might take well over four to five days digest. So they may only hunt once or twice a week in cold season conditions.
I have witnessed large bass in cold winter waters look as if they were dead and barely moving, remaining very lethargic throughout the day. That being said there are fewer windows of opportunity due to colder conditions; the bass are almost in a hibernation mode waiting for a bright sunny day to warm their body and spark their metabolism and get them to feel like feeding. Their digestive system slows down and so does their desire to feed, but when they do, they will eat that one big meal and digest it slowly.
As the seasons change and the days get longer and warmer during the Summer and Fall months, the waters also warm. This increase in temperature boosts the bass’ metabolism and they will feed more often. Sometimes they’ll hunt several times per hour, but when they do they tend to feed on much smaller forage 1″-5″ in size which is a much easier meal to digest.
They expend lots of energy chasing smaller fish so they have to eat more often to replenish their fuel supply. Some of the forage fish such as Threadfin Shad, panfish, and baby bass, which are abundent after the Spring spawn, are high on the bass’ list of what they will feed on. So it is very important to match the size of these smaller baits first as well as the the color of what you believe the bass are currently feeding on. To explain this better imagine it’s a hot Summer day and you just went to the gym, or ran a race and afterword your going to want to re-fuel and eat a few small meals so your body can break down the foods quickly. If you eat too much too quickly you’ll load up your system and become sluggish and tired. Your body urges you to eat smaller meals throughout the day. The bass goes through the same motions during the warmer Summer and Fall months and its body urges it to feed on smaller meals throughout the day that its metabolism can easily break down.
If your lunker hunting with these smaller swimbaits during the warmer Summer and Fall months and your going through numbers of bass, but have yet to catch a lunker, don’t automatically switch to a larger swimbait. Try to think where the lunker bass are holding. They may not be right on the surface busting on the shad like the smaller bass, but may be 10′-15′ below the ball of shad waiting for an injured shad to fall to them or waiting to eat one of the small 4″-6″ baby bass chasing the shad on the surface. I find in the Summer on some of the hottest days the bigger bass will be low-light feeders, feeding in the early morning, or on cloudy days on the surface, or deep in the mouth of a cove during the heat of the day. Docks and sunken trees are a few other areas of low-light and shade where these monster bass could be hiding in ambush.
Something to also pay close attention to is the speed of the bait, I prefer a slow-medium retrieve during the colder months and a fast retrieve during the warmer months with lots of ripping and jerking the smaller lures to entice a bight. The water temperatures definitely dictates the lure speed and retrieve style, so slow and steady in colder water and fast with some erratic small fish evasion movement.
So downsizing swimbaits in that 3″-5″ size during for the Summer and Fall months is going to be a great decision that will allow you to catch more bass and still have that chance for a trophy bass, while during the colder months that larger swimbait for those cold lurking lunkers should be a great choice.
We’re proud to announce the first in a series of short videos that detail the secrets of monster bass. A year in the making, this series is the culmination of hundreds of hours of work to bring you the very best information about big bass we could put on film. We’ll explore their habits and habitat, and take a look at why they do the things they do. The main focus on these short videos is to help you find and catch the biggest bass you can.
Our first video, “In Search of Big Bass,” gives you a bass’ eye view of their habitat and feeding habits. If you’re a fan of bass fishing, this is a must see video!
UPDATE: Thanks for the response! We’ve listened to your feedback (now less than the price of a premium cup of coffee)!
When I think back on all my years of bass fishing there is always one image that sticks out in my mind and that is the image of a bass getting its head above the water and tossing my lure into the air. It’s happened so many times to me I have lost count. Even when I’m prepared for it I’ve had some bass charge towards the boat faster than I can reel up the slack and then come up and shake their head and toss my lure out. I guess it’s all just part of the battle and you’ve got to be prepared if you want win by landing the bass.
The three pictures above show a bass jumping completely jumping out of the water and not on this jump, but the next jump spit my swimbait out. Why does this happen? Water is much denser than air, so if a bass can shake its head back and forth underwater two times per second it probably can easily double if not triple that same head shaking ability above the water making it that much harder to keep the fishing line tight and the hook set in the bass’ mouth. Another factor is the weight of the bait, the heavier the bait the easier a bass can use that added weight to its advantage and toss the heavier lure from its mouth when above the water.
One technique that I practice after a hook set is keeping the rod tip close to the water and sometimes burying it into the water. At 6′-4″ this is not an easy task for a tall guy unless I’m using a long fishing pole.
There are many times where I will get down to one knee and keep my rod as close to the water as possible. This really helps when I see my line coming out of the water towards the bass that is about to jump, I can easily bury the rod tip down into the water reel faster and hopefully slow down, or prevent the bass from jumping out of the water. The primary goal is to always keep the line tight and control the bass. We joke about this “tight lines” but it is no joke when your fighting a monster bass and it gets some slack line on you by getting its head out the water and shaking it. So thinking it through while battling the bass and staying very calm will help prepare you for what an angry bass might do while the fight is on.
Another technique I try to practice if the situation allows it is to fight a large bass by keeping the line tight and letting it go through any underwater weed, or submerged grass. I have found two things while doing this; one if I can get some underwater grass, or weed on the bass’ face and blind it some it seems to trick the bass that is safe and slows its swimming surges and gives me a chance to land the beast. Two if I can get some underwater grass and weeds on my line the added weight helps to slow the bass down in the water and also slow down the head shakes when the bass tries to jump.
So next time your on the water keep the line tight and control the bass and you’ll be wearing a big ole smile on your face.
I have had a blast lately sharing some of my underwater bass pictures here on MLO and trying to tell a story through series of pictures. I have also had lots of requests for more underwater bass pictures so here are a few more bass pictures to share with everyone.
In the pictures above I was just able to catch this monster bass around 14 lbs. come out of nowhere to chase down this 2 lb Rainbow Trout. It was an incredible site to see in person let alone capture on film.
Thanks for viewing my pictures here on MikeLongOutdoors and please leave some feedback on what you would like to see here on MLO in the future.
I get asked all the time “How do you catch so many big bass” well the simple answer is eliminating water and spending more time in productive water. Basically if I spend a day just fishing down the bank I will only cover a small amount of productive fish catching water, where as if I spend my day on certain areas of the lake that I have found to hold bass like ledges, hard bottom areas with rock, sunken trees and bushes, and one of my favorite areas where I live docks then my success rate will be very good and thus i’m a happy guy.
In the pictures above you can see classic examples of how bass will congregate on a ledges with deep water access. I have found that if these ledges have a flat on one side and deep water access on the other side that they will be a highly productive area of the lake that I want to spend more time on throughout the day.
Another productive area of a lake is a small isolated rock pile. This is another area that can hold a trophy bass and if approached quietly and correctly it can be a highly productive spot to visit throughout the day.
Some lakes have tules, or what some call “cat-tails” that are rooted below the surface into the soft lake bottom around the shallow water areas and sprout anywhere from a few feet, to 15′ above the water. These tules can hold hundreds of bass as well as baitfish throughout the year.
The trick to finding the productive water while fishing tules is finding pockets within the tules due to hard bottom where the tules cannot root. Once an area is found it’s all about finding the right lure to flip into these pockets and the correct rod, reel, and line to get these hiding bass out of this thick cover.
One of my favorite spots to fish on a lake is a dock, especially one that has deep water access. In the picture above a very large school of bass had moved up from deep water to hunt the the small bait fish that were grouped up around the dock in part due the ecosystem that thrives around the dock area.
The picture above is a great example of why I love to fish docks. These docks can hold some very large bass throughout the day, especially when it’s sunny. These giant bass love the shade that the docks offer.
So if want to have more success while out on the water, then my advice is to try studying and finding the productive areas of the lake that will hold quality bass and spend more time in these productive areas of the lake and keep a journal of your catches and by paying close attention to the productive water triggers like low-light, the sun postion in the sky and what moon phase your in as well as when the moon will be overhead. By paying attention to these fine details you will understand when to be on the productive areas for maximum success. Good Luck!!
In my pursuit of chasing and learning more about giant bass over the years, I have been able to take a break from time to time and use my underwater camera to get some incredible underwater shots of big bass in their natural environment and catalog some of what these monster bass do throughout the day and throughout the four seasons of the year.
In the picture above it was the day of the rainbow trout stocking and after a few weeks of the trout being stocked on the same day the bass became conditioned to be at the same place at the same time for the trout buffet. On this particular day I would guess that at least 1/3 of all the large bass over 12lbs in the lake were under the boat dock staged and waiting for the easy trout hunt.
This is by far one of my favorite shots a bass in the 14 lb. class chasing a freshly stocked 2 lb. Rainbow Trout on the launch ramp. She was so fat she could barely swim straight and missed at least three trout while I was filming her wild pursuit.
Here is another shot of the same bass trying to pin a trout on the bottom. Most of the large bass I have witnessed during trout stockings seem to try this pinning technique in order to get the trout head towards their mouth. This behavior makes a lot of sense to me due to all the years of success bottom crawling swimbaits.
Here a giant bass sits tucked under a dock days after a trout stock, digesting and waiting for the next trout truck to arrive. Throughout the year I am amazed how many giant bass can be found just under your feet under a boat dock. This low light environment is a perfect place for a giant bass to hold especially with how many smaller fish that are attracted to the area around a dock. I have found that some of the best ecosystems in a lake are under and around docks.
As the Winter months end and Spring approaches some of the true giant bass of the lake head towards shallower waters and start mapping out and staying very close to where the spawning flats will most likely be. This is a great time of the year to find a large bass near to a ledge, large rock, or sunken tree next to a spawning flat.
As Spring time approaches and the water temperature reaches the right level the male bass begins making a nest and spraying their pheromones in preparation for spawning. This pheromone attractant acts as a big bass love drug to hold these giant female bass shallow where they really don’t want to be due to intensity of the sunlight on their eyes.
During post spawn these exhausted giant female bass stay near the shallow waters and spend what little energy they have left to hunt some panfish. You can really tell the difference in the bellies of pre spawn bass vs. a post spawn bass.
As winter sets in and the days get shorter and the storms arrive, run off from the storms muddy the water and change the water temperature. Bass metabolisms change and the big girls tend to move around less, so you can find some giant bass just sitting on the bottom next to some of the best structure real estate in the lake and if you slow your approach with a jig, or plastic worm you may land that trophy bass of a lifetime..
I hope you enjoyed my bass pictures and they gave you a little more insight into the world of the Large Mouth Bass and they inspire you and help you to better understand the world of the largemouth bass.
I have had some emails about purchasing some of my bass pictures, they will soon be available on MikeLongOutdoors.com Thank You for viewing and for your support!!
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!
Wow! I just hit the elusive 70 mph mark on ole Betsy; that’s what I call my bass boat. How did I do it? Taking a look at my gear and figuring out how much of it was tackle overkill & excess weight.
Listen up, it was actually pretty easy. The first item on my list was to get rid of every bait and tackle box that hadn’t been used in eons. An example would be my Senko boxes; I had in excess of 10 different colors and sizes. What stuck me was that 90% of the time, I only used two colors: the green pumpkin/black flake and the Junebug. Now, those two are the only ones I carry, this process of elimination continued throughout the day.
The next item on my list was to get rid of two anchors and since I’ve been using the DigIn shallow water anchor system they weren’t needed, all they were doing was taking up space and adding weight. I’m sure at some point I’ll wish i still had them, but for now, the weight had to go!
Moving on I started looking at how the items in my boat are distributed. After removing all the excess tackle and accessories I re-positioned the rest of my stuff equally on both sides. Here’s the final picture of the tackle that I carry on my boat and, when I’m on the road fishing with someone else, all I have to do is grab my bag … Done!
A few other tips I used to cut down on weight; I never top off the gas tanks in my boat or my truck, why haul around all that extra weight? I’ll get what is needed for the day plus a little extra. Also, don’t fill your live wells up until you get to your 1st stop. Remember its all about keeping your boat weight down.
Batteries are a huge weight consideration; get the lightest ones you can buy. I have a problem with this one because the cost of the new high tech batteries are through the roof, some of them going for a thousand bucks, or more, each. Needless to say I’m running the big ole heavy ones!
Take a look at your boat folks and see what your carrying around and how much needless weight it amounts to. With the gas prices being so high, these ideas will save you a ton of money. BTW I very rarely run faster than 50 mph so the 70 mph I hit the other day was only to prove my point, LOL!
Until next time “ Stay on Em” …. Let the picture below be the reason your boat is overweight !
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.
State fisheries agencies are tasked with conducting stock assessments each year in the lakes and reservoirs across their regions. During these annual surveys, biologists gather large amounts of data that are used to assess current population parameters, assess how these parameters are changing through time by comparing to data from previous years surveys, and determine if the population structure is meeting management objectives. During surveys fish scales are collected to assess the age and growth of the population. Age and growth are the keystone data of annual surveys. These data reveal more insight into fish populations than any other type of data. When combined with other types of data, biologists can form a clear picture of a population, identify temporal trends, and make well-informed management decisions soundly based on data.
Trophy anglers can use age and growth information to their advantage. The most successful trophy anglers are also those that choose the right lakes to fish (and the right time to fish each lake). Anglers can focus their fishing time on lakes with age and growth characteristics that promote the trophy potential, and equally important, avoid fishing lakes with poor trophy potential. Trophy anglers put themselves in the best position to catch the largest bass and catch more each year when they target lakes having a high trophy potential. It boils down to efficiency; increase efficiency in all aspects of your fishing and you will be more successful and more likely to achieve your goals.
Age and growth are two different parameters. Age refers to the age of a fish and age structure (which I don’t expand upon in this article) refers to the age distribution of a population. Growth can be looked at in several ways, but the most important is to understand incremental growth. Incremental growth is defined as the amount of growth in length a fish grows in one year, and it’s very important to understand how the annual growth increment changes through time. Lakes producing trophy bass, those exceeding 10 pounds, in the fewest number of years and that have high incremental growth throughout a bass’s life are the types of lakes trophy anglers should focus on.
The best trophy fisheries produce trophy bass fairly quickly. Defining fairly quickly is tough because it depends on what region you are interested in. In California, 5 to 7 years is exceptional and I would consider 8 to 11 years about average. For example, Mike Long caught Dottie from Lake Dixon in 1999 when she weighed 18.06 lbs and was 7 years old and again in 2001 when she weighed 20.75 lbs and was 9 years old. Compare this with a bass from the CA Delta that weighed 10 lbs and was 12 years old. If you had a choice which lake would you fish? Lakes producing trophy bass as quickly as Lake Dixon have high trophy potential, likely have a large population of trophy fish, and probably host some very large bass. It also tells me the trophy potential can recover quickly following collapse (assuming other factors affecting the trophy potential don’t change). Collapse can be caused by all sorts of events such as high harvest of trophy fish in small lakes, water quality issues causing die-offs, discontinued trout stockings, etc.
Incremental growth decreases with age. Bass typically grow very quickly in the first 3 to 4 years of life, and then show a sharp decline thereafter. Growth increment in lakes with high trophy potential show less of a decline through time. What I look for in terms of trophy potential is comparatively good incremental growth and consistent incremental growth among years in the latter years of a bass’s life. In lakes with poor trophy potential, it can be very difficult to age fish because incremental growth is so poor that the annular marks (called annuli which are counted to age a fish) are too close together to accurately count. Lakes with good incremental growth usually have a good predator to prey ratio and the bass are well fed and healthy. Bass with good incremental growth throughout their life have a better chance of weighing more because they have a larger frame. It goes without saying Dottie had excellent incremental growth in the latter years of her life.
There are two ways an angler can figure out the age and growth characteristics of a lake. State agency biologists can be contacted and they are usually very willing to discuss their data with inquiring anglers. Anglers can also gather their own data by collecting fish scales from their catches and if they do this will see immediate and, through time, long-term trends in the trophy potential of their lakes. Accurately ageing fish scales can be very tricky and subjective because it takes a little time to figure out what a true annular mark is and what isn’t. The internet provides plenty of information an angler needs to get started but I will try to provide a crash course on the basics of ageing fish using scales. The only thing an angler needs to do is gather a few scales from the fish they catch and make sure each sample is labeled with capture location, date, length, girth, and weight.
The scales can be stored in coin envelopes (wrapping scales in wax paper before placing in the envelope helps) with the catch information written on the outside of the envelope. Scales should be removed from just behind the pectoral fin and just below the lateral line and 10 scales per fish is plenty. I use a butter knife to remove scales and am very careful not to cause any damage to the fish or scales during removal. Preparing scales for ageing is very simple. Scales need to be cleaned by placing in water and using a small, soft bristled paint brush to remove dried mucus and dirt. After drying the scales they are placed between two glass slides and then the glass slides are taped together. A microscope can be used to read scales but most anglers don’t have one lying around. Microfiche readers work perfect and can be found in most public libraries. Ageing a fish scale is exactly like ageing a tree; you simply count the number of opaque rings that you see. Each opaque ring represents one year of life.
Growth increments on fish scales are formed by deposition of calcium carbonate and protein. The bony layer of the scale is characterized by concentric ridges that represent growth and are called circuli. Spacing between circuli provides information on the growth history of the fish. Growth is greatest during the warmer parts of the year and circuli are spaced farther apart. Circuli are spaced closer together during the colder months because growth is slower. The more closely spaced circuli appear as opaque bands. Each opaque band is an annular mark, or annulus, and represents one year of life. Count the number of opaque bands to determine age and look at the spacing between each annular mark to get an idea of incremental growth.
To show how easy this process is, I gathered a few scales samples I had lying around and went through the exact process I described above. I selected one good scale from Dottie and one from a 7 year old bass that weighed about 3 pounds, placed them between two glass slides taped together (Figure 1), and headed down to the Sacramento public library. I printed images of each scale from a microfiche reader, scanned the paper copies to digital format, saved them to a memory stick, and headed home to have some fun. At home, I opened the scale images in Photoshop, enhanced the images (brightness, contrast, and sharpen filter), and placed text on the images showing points of interest. The images were saved in an appropriate folder on my hard drive for future reference.
Developing a digital library makes long-term storage quick and easy, and makes future referral simple. Remember, collecting scales through time is how you will really see what is going on in your lakes so it’s very important to have a well organized database. I also name my files with a standardized naming scheme (i.e., the naming scheme is identical for all my images) that tells me date of capture, capture location, and weight. This ensures I will never lose this information (without it you have nothing) and allows me to quickly look at a file and know exactly what it is. Another thing I like to do is highlight the file in Windows Explorer, right click, and open the file properties. On the summary tab there is a comments section and I fill in all the information I want to remember about that sample. It’s very easy to lose sample information when you have been collecting samples for many years and a little forethought goes a long way.
Figure 2 shows a scale section from a 3 lb bass that was 7 years old. I chose this image because it shows how the annular marks typically don’t appear as perfect opaque bands, instead appearing as areas where the circuli are broken and sometime not present. Annuli show this pattern in many fish scales. The image also shows excellent incremental growth in the first few years, a sharp decline in incremental growth with age, and the typical poor incremental growth in the latter years of a fish’s life. Another pattern to note is each annulus wraps around the entire scale; you may see a few patterns in this scale that appear to be an annular mark but these patterns are not present throughout the scale.
These patterns are called false annuli, or false annular marks, and are formed during stressful periods that suppress growth. False annular marks are most often formed during the spawn which is a particularly stressful period for fish. Counting a false annular mark as a true annular mark will yield an inaccurate age assignment I did not annotate all of the annular marks present in Figure 2; there is an additional annular mark on the structures edge. Figure 3 shows a scale section from Dottie. This scale sample was taken when she was found floating in May 2008 at the ripe old age of 16 (the oldest trophy bass I am aware of that at least in part had Florida strain genes was 18 years old and was from Castaic Lagoon; 16 to 18 years can be considered the maximum life expectancy for a trophy class bass). The annular marks in this sample are clearly identified by opaque bands. Beware of the false annuli in this sample because there are several and I only annotated one which is marked FA.
There are also a few annuli in this image that I did not mark. Note that the opaque annular bands are strong throughout the entire scale, and the false annular mark only has a strong pattern in the corner of the scale. This is a very typically pattern of annular marks and false annular marks. A true annular mark wraps around the entire scale and what you need to look for, because they are not always obvious, is what appears to be a seam around the entire structure. You will also notice that incremental growth is better between some years than in others, and the better growth years can correlate to, among other factors, higher numbers of trout stocked, better water quality, or a greater number of warmer days. The other characteristic to note in Figure 3 is the excellent incremental growth, and fairly consistent among years, in the latter years. Remember, you are looking at the teen years of this fish, and this is excellent incremental growth for such old ages. Seems reasonable for the heaviest bass ever captured and what I will always consider the world record until a fish exceeding 25.10 lbs is caught.
Figuring out the age of the bass in the lakes you fish is not difficult. You only need to have a few items with you when you fish to gather scales samples and have access to a microfiche reader. Having some computer skills will help you develop and maintain a well organized long-term database. Accurately ageing scales can be difficult and subjective but through time any angler can learn to do it. Using information available on the internet will cut the learning curve. Understanding bass age and incremental growth is nothing more than another tool trophy anglers can use to target lakes with the highest trophy potential and increase the odds of catching a trophy bass.
Customizing your gear can result in more and bigger catches. In this video tutorial, Mike Long walks us through how he helps himself by adding gills to a swimbait for a more realistic presentation to a bass.
All you need to add gills to a swimbait are a pair of wire cutters (dykes), some red pipe cleaner, a razor blade (exacto knife), and some Mend It Swimbait Glue.
1. Take your swimbait and cut a slit along the gill plate of your swimbait with your blade or exacto. (depth varies on your swimbait, but deep enough that you can insert something in the pocket you make). Make sure to cut at a slight angle with the tip of the blade towards the head. Your goal is to cut your gill plate as it would look on a live Rainbow Trout.
2. Take a red pipe cleaner and cut it to a length that will fit along the slit you have just created (varies in length, but you want it to reach from the top to the bottom of your cut lengthwise). Pull at the cut ends to make sure they fluff out a bit.
3. In the slit you have created, liberally dab some Mend It Swimbait Glue into the slit (take care to not allow the slit to close after applying the glue as it will glue shut).
4. Quickly take your pipe cleaner you have cut previously and insert it into the cut you have made.
5. Once the pipe cleaner is inserted into the cut and seated firmly into the space, take a little more Mend It Swimbait Glue and dab over the top of the pipe cleaner and the cut. This gives it a wet appearance and seals the pipe cleaner (the gill filaments) into place.
Make sure you visit Mike Long Outdoors regularly for more tips to help increase your chances of catching a big bass!
As we all search for that competitive edge, whether that’s against another tournament opponent or the fish we love to catch, we are constantly looking for any additional edge we can find. We try to capitalize on any benefit we can gain and do so hopefully efficiently. One of the easiest ways to get that edge is to invest in Japanese fishing line.
I continue to see guys dropping $600 on Rod & Reel combos and yet continue to make sacrifices on the only connection between that set up and the fish. I often hear, “Those Japanese lines are just so expensive”. If that’s you, I challenge you to try some. I only say this as believe it or not, these Japanese lines actually SAVE you money and increase your performance and confidence.
Domestic company’s line’s integrity breaks down (abrasion, UV/Sun, Heat or age) much faster than the JDM line’s do. Which equates to you having to re-spool, re-tie and re-purchase much more frequent using domestic lines. It’s common for guys to spool up Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) fluorocarbon and not have to re-spool several months later.
I have had 5 lb fluorocarbon spooled on a tournament spinning reel during an entire tournament season without having to re-spool and that line was just fine. In my 6 previous years as a JDM line Sales rep, I was lucky enough to be a part of a few meetings with the production lab manager and product designer of that JDM line company. In these meetings, attended by very well known big time tournament anglers, a lot of technical information was gained. These meetings confirmed what I already knew in regards to the quality of these JDM lines.
Whether it’s a big tournament you have or a simple fun fishing from the bank, do yourself a favor and try out these JDM lines. The processes in which these JDM companies manufacture, test and quantify their products is on another level. The JDM market is constantly pushing the envelope of technology and one look at their online Japanese catalogs is mind-boggling! It’s not just a fishing line to them, it’s a passion and a product to specifically excel in their purpose.
I will say that the gap between JDM and Domestic lines is much greater when the lb test is between 4-7 lb test. These Japanese lines really prove their worth in the finesse sizes. If you aren’t familiar with what companies are Japanese line companies, here’s a brief list of some of the top ones: Sunline, Seaguar (aka Kureha Co.), Toray and YGK.
All of these companies offer premium quality lines that you will love! So, when it comes time to purchase some new line, go down to your local Tackle Shop or your favorite website you purchase from and add a spool of one of the previously mentioned lines.
Over the years I have learned a few secrets for catching giant bass that I just flat out keep under wrap, but while working on Mike Long Outdoors and getting such incredible feedback from people all over the world on what I’ve shared so far, it made it just that much easier to want to share some more fishing lures and techniques that have worked well for me over the years. One of these lures is the Giant Tora Tube.
I’ve gotta say, one thing I’ve noticed about bass over the years is they love baits that have arms, legs, or tassels on them. In the case of the Tora Tube, lots of thin tassels. The Tora Tube, when rigged right, can be fished up under trees and docks, along ledges, through grass and branches, and in open water. I’ve had tons of success when fishing them in open water above trees, and rocks that have some giant bass waiting in ambush.
When it comes to rigging, i’ve found using a 6′-6″, – 7′-0″ medium action rod, and light weight reel spooled with 12-15lb fluorocarbon line works best. I like a light weight reel due to due the rip, and jerk style retrieve while working the bait back in. If your a jerk bait fan then you’ll love using a giant tube. The way I rig the tube it has a super slow fall that makes it deadly. You can slow glide the tube left and right, and while pausing between retrieves, you can see the tassels flare out some and just tease those big bass that are watching.
The Giant Tora Tubes are made by Canyon Plastics and come in three sizes 7″,8″, and 10″. For all those bass fisherman that have used Gitzits over the years and had success with the smaller tubes these Tora Tubes are just Gitzits on steroids.
As for Tora Tube colors I like to use here in California, I prefer the Canyon Plastics Rainbow Trout color, which looks incredible in the water. It has a green top with pink/pearl sides and belly with some black flake added. It is important when rigging this color to make sure you rig the tube with the green side up. You want it to mimic a real trout and look as natural as possible to create a strike.
In the picture above you can see the hollow chamber in the lure that makes this bait a tube and is really helps with the buoyancy of the bait and is perfect for placing a custom rigged harness inside.
One of the best things about using a hollow tube is how collapsable it is which really helps to get a good hook set when a bass bights down on it and compresses it in its mouth. In my many years of using this lure I believe the Tora Tube is by far one of the best lures for setting the hook for its size.
Two of my other favorite colors are the pearl white and melon smoke w/red and black glitter. Canyon Plastics offers well over ten colors, from solid white, to black, to purple. Plenty of colors for any occasion, or lake. I believe when using the pearl-white Tora tube it sort of looks like a small group of shad in the water and I have had bass hit this color at full speed as if they were after a single shad. I also have dead-sticked the melon color tube, with an occasional pop off the bottom, with tons of success when the water gets cold and the bass are deeper and lethargic.
My secret for using the Tora Tube is the hook/rattle rigging. I start by taking a Gamakatsu 5/0 offset shank hook and a rattle chamber box, along with some resin from your local hardware store. Your also going to need a pair of pliers and some source of heat like a cigarette lighter, or your kitchen stove. Once your ready, you want to heat up the first bend, under the hook eyelet, once the bend has heated up enough you’ll need to grab it with a pair of pliers at the eyelet and bend it toward the hook point side of the hook and bend it to a 45 degree angle. Once this is done dip the hook in some water.
Now with your hook bent it’s time to prepare a small amount of resin. For a perfect template, take a Tora Tube and cut it at one inch from the nose end of the tube, it should look like a small bowl. Now set your hook in the template with the eyelet poking out of the template start pouring your resin into the template. Once the resin sets up a bit, its time to add your rattle chamber by placing it about 1/4 of the chamber length into the resin. I make my own rattle chambers from thin 1/4″ tubing from the hobby store and some broken glass and small brass balls. You’ll need some plastic ends and rubber cement to seal the rattle chamber.
When your finished your rigging should look like the hook/rattle rig in the picture above.
Once you have a hook/rattle rig ready it’s time to place the rig into the Tora Tube. Push the rig all the way into the bait untill the hook eyelet pokes outside the plastic and add a small quick clip to the hook eyelet, this will hold the rig in place in the tube like in the picture below.
Now that your hook/rattle rig is inside the tube it’s time to push the hook point outside of the Tora Tube and your ready to fish your Tora Tube Pro-Rigged!!
Keep watching MikeLongOutdoors for a future video of the Giant Tora Tube in action catching monster bass.
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.
Lately I have been slowing it down a bit and going “old school.” What is old school you ask? It is tossing the worm… most likely the first artificial lure to catch a bass and a favorite of most bass fisherman in the world. This time of the year I like to stitch a big worm between 12′ and 16″. Yes, I said 16″! It is a monster of worm, but it catches some big bass.
When getting ready to stitch a big worm, you first need to get your tackle set up correctly. I like a rod between 7′-0″ and 7′-8″ in a medium-heavy action and any reel that will hold plenty of 15-20 pound line. Over the years I have changed over from monofilament to fluorocarbon line because I like the way I can feel the bottom I’m stitching better with the zero stretch line. I prefer a slow ratio reel like 5.1-1 because the ideal is to “slowly” work the worm over the structure back to the boat, or shore.
Once you have your rod, and reel ready it’s time to find some big worms. This can be easier than you think, but I would suggest going to your local bait store and seeing what they have. You might only see smaller worms so ask the someone if they can order larger worms for you. Most people who pour worms have a few big worm molds that they will use for a custom order.
After you find your big worms invest some time in to getting some good worm hooks. I prefer to use Owner oversize worm hook in 7/0, and 11/0 sizes. As you can see in the picture above this hook is built for big worms. It has an extra long shank that gets the point of the hook further down the worm and the “Z” bend was designed to hold the hook in place better in the head of the worm. This “Z” bend is key during casting so that your hook stays in place. What I really like about this big hook is how the point of the hook lines up with start of the hook (as you can see by the picture below, I drew a red line to show how this lines up).
There have been plenty of years I have used pliers to bend the point towards the shank of the hook to keep the point from sticking out of the worm and hanging up on structure. Proper hook placement is key in a big worm your casting a lot of plastic that will stretch during the cast so you will have some movement. The last thing you want is your hook point sticking out and snagging on structure, or dulling the point of the hook, so when you get bit you can’t get a hook set.
I very rarely use a bullet weight with big worms since the hook has enough weight to help keep the worm head on the bottom. Besides, I like to stitch the nastiest structure I can find so rigging the big worm without a weight or fly-lining it is essential to getting all that plastic through the structure.
Once you’ve secured you tackle, it’s time to do some homework and find some good structure to stitch. I like to start with a main point and set up in about ten foot of water and toss out to the deep water. Stitching big worms is a technique where you need lots of patience. The key to success with these giants is to work these big worms as slow as you can, I mean “fall asleep slow.” If you want to catch one of the monster bass in the lake then you need to keep the big worm in the big bass’ house for as long as possible.
Stitching is an old technique where you hold your rod downward towards the water and hold the line between your fingers and slowly pull the line away from the rod. While stitching you want to pull the line and pause, you should always feel tension on the line, if not you need to pull more line out until you feel some light tension. What’s nice about stitching is your going to know when your bit. Big bass thump the big worms hard so hold on. If you have pulled some line out and get bit let the line pull back towards the rod while still holding, once the line is back to the rod, let go and set the hook.
Working big worms on points, humps, and flats with deep water access is how you’ll catch some of the larger bass in the lake. Once you fish these areas for a while, you’re going to find some sweet spots, or key areas on these locations that you will have to make note of mentally so you can visualize in your mind what your big worm is doing. Paying close attention to which direction you’re stitching is also very important. I almost always work the uphill, but there are times during the year when you’ll find the big bass want the worms pulled down hill.
Time of day is another factor you should pay close attention to. I have caught some giant bass early in morning and during the last light of the day while working shallow water key spots with deep water access. I have found that water color and time of the year really dictates if these big bass will be shallow and want to eat a big worm. Once again putting time on the water and taking really detailed notes will help you understand when and where you need to be and how much time to stay and stitch an area.
Moon phase was a trigger to some of my largest catches on big worms. I’ve found that while looking at my fishing logs, kept for over 30 years, that the times you want to be on your key fishing area is 45 minutes before and after a moonrise and moonset. These times of gravitational pull seem to activate the big bass and get them moving and hunting.
Another secret that for me has changed over the year is scent. I am a firm believer in using scent when spot fishing. I call it the “barbecue effect.” If your neighbor three houses down is barbecuing a steak, you can smell it through the air, it will most likely make your appetite increase. This is how I see scent on a key area i’m fishing. If I’m set up on a rock pile and have the wind at my back and there is some water current blowing towards deep water then the “barbecue effect” is working. The only difference between air and water is the density of the molecules. Air molecules move very fast and free if there is a breeze, water on the other hand is much more dense and you need some water current to move your scent in the water. Bottom line is the less current the smaller the area around your scented bait that the bass can pick up the scent. But if you work an area for an extended period of time you can really marinate it and believe this will help spark the bass into biting.
I prefer to use Smelly Jelly in the 3XXX, or Crawdad flavors and after years of getting scent on my hands I finally figured out a better way to apply this sticky smelly scent.
By using a large sandwich bag and placing a small amount of scent inside the bag you can now dip your worm in the bag and squeeze the worm around with your hand on the outside of the bag where no scent can get on your hand. I have found this to make my life much easier while worm fishing and less flavor on my sandwich.
As for big worm colors I always keep it simple brown with a black vein, cinnamon black vein, purple pink vein, and black with a purple vein. These colors for me where I live here in San Diego California work really well, but when I look at my fishing logs I have caught 70% of my largest bass on the brown black vein color. It is a very natural color matching a night crawler. My logs also show that some of the best times for me have also been during storms where there is some runoff going into the lake. If there is a key area next to some stained, or dirty runoff coming in the lake I have had some multiple big bass days. I believe as these bass grow up they recognize that food is coming in the lake during storms that are large enough to create some good runoff where worms and bugs are un-earthed and go down stream into the lake. I have noticed that the first good storm that produces runoff is best and only for a couple of days.
So next time you feel like slowing it down a bit, but still want a chance at a toad bass go buy some big worms and soak them on your best spot I think you’ll be glad you did.
A huge bass just swam by and all I can do is marvel at its beauty. We moved to Florida six years ago and I thought this is going to be power fishing at its best! It’s a flippin’ paradise with all kinds of wood, pads, grass and more weeds than you can shake a stick at.
There was another side to the fishing landscape that I had no idea existed; sight fishing. It involves fishing crystal clear spring fed rivers with a constant 72 degree water temperature year round. This really appeals to me, although I still love the classic in your face style of fishing that Florida is known for.
Think of sight fish every day you go fishing, you may say WOW that would be so cool. Being able to see the fish you’re attempting to catch is awesome, but therein lies the problem; if you can see them, they can see you as well. So it becomes a cat and mouse game of trying to fool a wary prey. It requires light line, light tackle, stealth and coming from the proper angle. Which also means everything has to go right from the beginning of the battle to the end. If you have a weak link in your plan, you’re toast. Retying is critical, the line has to be top notch, your rod and reel has to be in great shape.
You’ll only have one chance, if you’re lucky enough to get the fish to bite in the first place. It can become a real source of frustration, watching huge fish after huge fish swim by and literally swim away from your bait. The key is to find a fish that’s on the prowl for a meal; you’ll know when you spot these active fish by how they act. They’re more relaxed, focused on one thing and that’s eating what you’re presenting, whether it’s a jig, swimbait or even a drop shot.
Its one of the most exhilarating moments is watching a huge fish finally inhale your bait! Then watching every head shaking move a bass can make. The clarity of the water allows you to see all the action from the top to the bottom. One of the biggest observations I’ve made is that we are missing a lot of bites; fish have come up and inhaled my bait without the slightest tap, pull or even the appearance of having taken the lure.
Example , I tossed my drop shot along a grass island one day and as I get a little closer there’s a 5 lb sitting in the current about 10 ft off the weed bank. This fish had picked off my bait swam out and I never felt a thing until the final moment of setting the hook! It makes you wonder how many big fish, including what may have been a personal best, we have missed and not known it.
So as you can see, it’s not as easy as one might think and the frustration of watching schools of 5-10 lb’ers swim by lazily will drive you nuts. Then on the flip side the excitement of a big fish turning and heading for your bait is heart pounding experience! A 7 pounder lived on a particular cypress tree on the river; it took me 2 years before she finally fell for a Senko. Talk about determination. Curse or blessing you be the judge ….
Until next time….Stay on em!
Now that the days are getting shorter, and the waters are cooling down, the bass are starting to move into areas of the lake that are very rocky. This is a great time of the season to toss a jig and catch some of the larger bass in the lake. Growing up in San Diego California where the reservoirs are deep and clear most of the year, and the fishing pressure can be overwhelming on these smaller bodies of water, fishing a jig in deep water is a must at times.
Colors matter with jigs and I always try to keep it simple; clear water I use brown and greens, dirty water black and purple. You’ll find with the brown jigs, sometimes due to water clarity, the bass might want a little color with brown skirts. When I get jigs made for a trip, I always get straight brown, and at least 1/4 made with brown and green, and another 1/4 brown and purple.
Having some purple, and green mixed in your jig skirts is good if the bass slow down on hitting straight brown. I have had many days where the brown/purple jigs have out fished all other colors. In my experience it seems during the brighter part of the day the mixed color brown jigs work better and the solid brown jigs get bit better during lowlight. When the rains come and turn the water a dirty, or muddy color, I go to a black jig. I also prefer a black jig skirt with a little red flash added and the same with the jig trailer.
Now that I have some jigs made with the colors I want it’s time to get some rattle accessories and some trailers. Adding a rattle was an experiment for many years and I’ve found that I have had much greater success while using rattles on my jigs than without.
The rattle arms are normally sold seperate from the rattle chambers, so it’s up to you to pick the color for the rattle chambers (black, or clear). Even the size matters; some rattle chambers come with two ball bearings, or three. It’s all up to what you want to use, since I believe they work the same.
The body rattle chambers are another item that will be sold as a harness and rattle set that you will have to put together.
Now it’s time to start adding your rattles to your jig. Make sure if you add the arm rattles and the body rattles your going to have to make sure the body of your jig you are using will have enough room to allow both. If not, some trimming with a pair of scissors, or exacto knife, may be required. Once you have completed the rattles, it’s time for a jig trailer. I always try to match natural colors, starting with green, when choosing a jig trailer. If I plan on stitching my jig at a moderate search speed, I will use a twin tail trailer. If I plan on stitching my jig at a slow speed, or deadstick a ledge or rock, I’ll use a natural crawdad looking trailer.
Where I live, the water never gets cold for very long and is usually clear, so I always have used soft plastic trailers instead of pork trailers. The times I have used pork, it was very dirty water where I felt I needed a little extra scent to attract a bass to my jig.
The placement of the plastic jig trailer works best when you place it at a slight upward angle. This will let promote the claws to float upward and look very natural when the jig is in the water. Using a trailer with salt in it will help the trailer claws float a little bit better too.
Above picture is a shot of a jig in the water with a natural crawdad trailer. I have always felt that a jig should rise off the bottom as much as possible, I believe it helps it to get bit easier and look much more natural than a jig and trailer that just lays on the bottom.
When choosing a Fall and Winter jig, I prefer a football head, I like the way it moves through smaller rocks and pea gravel bottoms. It is this wider head that will work like a small bulldozer pushing rocks and sand making some disturbance on the bottom to help attract bass.With the wider head it keeps my hook straight up not rolling over catching rocks and snagging up like a round, or swimming head jig will. I also look for a jig head that has a bevel where the eyelet is. The lower the eyelet, the less likely it is to get stuck in the rocks. I have had much more success clearing rocks with the lower seated eyelet, that when using the eyelets the stick way above the lead head.
As for weight size, I almost always use a 3/8 ounce jig in depths of 1′-25′ and when fishing deeper waters 25′-40′ I’ll use a 1/2 ounce jig.
Above is my go-to lure during late Fall and Winter months. It is a 3/4 ounce football head in a bass candy color, a green skirt, and a flash of metallic green and orange. This is my deep water wrecking machine. As for the trailer, I always use the Castaic Craw trailers in the same colors. I have fished this big jig as deep as 100′ and can feel the structure on the bottom, but this lure is highly effective for those big bass hiding in that 30′-60′ zone as well. This jig keeps great contact with the bottom, as well as scratching rocks and making a lot of noise to call the big bass over. A few words of warning when using a heavier jig: if a bass charges to the surface and tries to shake her head above the water, you better bury the rod in the water, and reel like a mad man to keep the heavy jig set in the bass’ mouth. I recommend a high speed reel when using 3/4 -1 ounce jigs or heavier. Jig bass can bite violently and also make some crazy runs and charging the surface. A high speed reel will help you gain ground quickly and keep the situation in control.
As for a rod I am a huge fan of the Dobyns DX 744 for jigs up to 1/2 ounce. It is a 7′-4″ medium-action, four power rod that is the work horse rod of the Dobyns family. For the heavier jigs (3/4-1 1/2 ounce) I recommend a Dobyns DX 784. You get four more inches of rod over the DX 744, with the same power, but with a better hook setting ability in deep water. As for line I mainly go with Maxima 15lb. fluorocarbon line.
One last thing… if you’re fishing a spot and losing a lot of jigs, you’re probably in the right area. Buy as many jigs as you can and bring some extra line and have some fun! (Jigs used in this article were Skinny Bear Jigs and a few hand made heavy jigs)
Everyone who fishes for bass has a “go to” lure, or a special technique, a secret lure, or special color, or size bait that when fishing gets tough you need a secret weapon to tie on. And the longer you fish, the bigger the bag of these tricks. Sometimes you can barely remember what is in your bag of tricks and at times your lure, or technique works so well you don’t ever want to talk about it, not even with your best fishing buddy. All kidding aside, when it comes to swimbait fishing I have a few secret swimbait techniques that will, by far, help you catch more and larger bass when times get tough and the bass go deep.
Here in California in the deep water reservoirs we fish during the Winter months, and parts of the Summer months, we chase suspended fish as deep as 80 feet and some even deeper in the case of the bottom fish. Basically we hunt for bait and fish with our fish finders, and once we find some bait and fish that look good on the graph, we attack them vertically with 1/2 ounce spoons and ice jigs. Its just like a video game with the goal to drop your lure vertically in the water in front of the boat and graph while watching it fall on the graph and once you see it in the target area you begin to pop the lure upward. This looks like zig zag line with another line running through it and if things work out correctly you hook up quickly. But over many years of practicing this technique, I never hooked a bass over 5 pounds and I knew there had to be some big fish down deep around the smaller bass. I could see the big fish marks on the meter and at times while dropping an underwater camera down deep I could see the big bass, so I knew I had to think outside the box if wanted to catch these deep water giant bass.
Back in the late 90’s I use to have Jason Scott, one of the former owners of Castaic Baits, send me four, six, and eight inch trout swimbaits without any internal rigging systems in the baits at all. I just wanted a plastic swimbait painted with no hook and no weight. My goal was to get these baits down to where the big bass were hiding during the winter months. My idea was to nose hook these lightened swimbaits and to vertically drop shot them with a 3/4 ounce, or 1 ounce weight.
It took a few trips to really dial in this heavy drop shot rig and to figure out what pound fishing line to use. 15 pound fluorocarbon is what I found to work best for me.
Now it was finding a big mark on the fish finder and testing it out. The first thing I found was when using the larger baits (6″ and 8″) I would get lots of tail bites and very few hook-ups. I could see teeth marks on the tails and I knew once I found the bigger bass that they could inhale the entire swimbait, so I had to rethink what I was doing and this took some time. Quite some time, actually. Well over two years of trial and error to dial this new deep water technique in and increase my big bass hook-up percentages. The number one thing I learned is to be patient. I tried not to use tail stingers because when I did I hooked lots of good bass in the gills and killed them, so the goal was to nose hook my baits and find the right hook.
I have always felt, throughout the years, that the deeper the bass, the easier they are to catch, as long as you can get the right bait in front of their face. This is an area where I worked hard to make the bait look as life-like as possible. I paid close attention to the gills, eyes, fins, and tails.
I have found, through trial and error over the years, that a swimbait with a natural straight tail, or a slim boot tail works best when drop shotting in deep water, I can’t really say why… I just go with what the bass want in my world. When I first used the Castaic swimbait, I would fold the tail backward and glue it together to give it a natural look, it seemed to help and I got more hook-ups on the folded tail vs. not folded.
This drop shotting a swimbait should be called “drop shotting a still bait” because the bait just needs to get in the deep water area where the bass are holding and sit still and look lifelike and balanced. I truly believe in the years of doing this that you really need to pay attention and make sure your bait is balanced correctly and sits horizontally in the water. This is why I always start with a plastic bait that has no internal rigging — or weight in it at all — first. And when I rig this plastic only bait, check to see if it floats horizontally in the water. If it doesn’t, I will add nail weights as ballast till the bait sits flat in the water and looks as natural as possible.
There are quite a few companies such as MattLures, Rago Baits, and Jackall, that make some great swimbaits for drop shotting. The picture to the right shows two of the most productive lures I’ve ever drop shot in deep water with. The Jackall Clone Gill which is a 2 1/2″ bait that flat out gets bit at all depths due to it’s small size and lifelike colors and the MattLures Gill which is a 4 1/4″ bait that has an incredible lifelike appearance and has been, for me, one of the best big bass secret weapons I’ve ever drop shotted in deep water. In fact in the last four years I’ve caught more big bass drop shotting the MattLures gill in waters as deep as 80 feet than any other swimbait.
As for the hook I like to use, I almost always use the same size and style when heavy drop shotting in deep water. I prefer the Owner Weedless Wacky Hook size 1. I have tried lots of hooks and had the best success with the Owner Weedless Wacky. It has a weed guard on it which does help keep the bait on the hook and out of trouble when drop shotting in structure.
There have been times on the larger swimbaits when you will feel a fish grab the lure in deep water and you go to set the hook and miss him, but in most of these cases I’ve found if I just let my bait fall back in the same zone I got bit in, that the bass will come back and bite it again. At times I believe if your patient you can almost create a feeding frenzy with these deep water bass, which when you find them seemed to be schooled up in large groups.
So exercising some patience and keeping your bait in the correct zone is one of the keys to successfully catching some of these big deep water bass while deep water drop shotting.
When it comes to swimbait fishing there is one question I hear all the time… “Is there a swimbait for every occasion?” As a student in the game of swimbait fishing, I believe the answer is yes. There have been many fishing trips I’ve taken in my life where all I could bring was a backpack. This limited what I could take and no matter what season of the year, I always pack at least one swimbait for the trip. So having a swimbait for every trip is something I have been practicing for years and I have learned that the question is not, “is there a swimbait for every occasion,” but instead what style of swimbait will work for every occasion.
Over the years, I have used many different brands of swimbaits and I always preferred a swimbait that had a slow rate of fall, that was around 6″-8″ in length, had an internal rigging system, and most of the time a hook coming out of the back. The hook out of the back is always a preference for me because of slow-rolling on the bottom. I love to cast a swimbait out in deep water ,let it sink to the bottom and slow-roll it back uphill hitting as much structure as possible along the way. But I have learned from trial and error, over the years, that not all swimbait shapes, with a hook on top, are good for slow-rolling over rocks and branches.
I look for swimbaits that have broad, round heads. Most swimbaits have a very narrow, oval shape and these shapes will hit structure and turn on their side easier letting the hook grab structure. This will either compromise your hook point or snag stucture and you lose your bait.
Most swimbaits have a distinct profile and shape, so finding a swimbait with a wide, round head can be tough. Some of the broad head baits I’ve found are built to have a hook come out the bottom, but over the years i’ve learned how to modify these swimbaits to get the hooks where we want them. So with the bottom hook design if you run a small piece of a coffee straw vertically through the middle of your swimbait, you can now run your line from the bottom, through the middle of the bait, to the top, and then tie your hook. Now you have a broad head top-hook bottom bumper.
Another thing I’ve learned over the years is the difference between boot-tail style swimbaits. We often forget how important the tail of a swim bait is; it is the engine of the bait and dictates how much vibration the bait will put out. The larger the tail, the more kick and vibration it will put out and also how much drag the bait will have; which is important in how slow or fast you can retrieve a swimbait. And in my years of swimbait fishing and talking with others, I would say it’s safe to say that the boot-tail is the most popular tail of any swimbait ever made. What’s nice about a boot-tail is that it lifts the bait as it swims. The larger the boot tail, the more lift you will get from the rear of the bait. This is great if you’re bumping the bottom where you don’t want the swimmer to bury into the bottom structure, but rather ricochet off with just the lower jaw of the swimbait hitting the bottom structure.
The boot-tail style of swimbait is also great for burning it just under the surface where the tail will lift and V-wake the surface, while the head and mid section run just under the surface of the water. This presentation is deadly if the bait is built and balanced correctly. The boot tails can be designed in many different shapes like the few shown above. Others feature teardrop, oval, round, triangular, or figure- eight shapes, and some are even square and every style swims just a bit different, so it is very important to pay attention to what your using.
In the picture to the right, you can see grooving on the tail. It does two things: first it gives the tail a life-like appearance in the water by simulating the rays on the trout tail and second, as the tail moves in the water, the grooves give the tail a slightly different movement action and vibration.
Over the years, I’ve really had the best success in boot-tails with an oval grooved shape tail about the size of a quarter in the a 6″-7″ baits, and the size of a half dollar in a 8″-10″ swimbaits.
In order to have a swimbait for every occasion you might need to field modify it a bit. If I have a 6″ broad head or wide-head swimmer with a hook coming out the back and it has a hook and a 1/4 ounce of weight added, this swimmer should work great for surface burning and slow rolling down to 5′ of water. But if I need to get deeper, lets say 20’plus, I need some more ballast and that’s why I always have some tungsten nail weights of 1/4 oz and 1/2 oz. in my travel bag and in the boat. This will allow me to add weight to get my swimbait deeper and also adjust the ballast to be able to get the nose of the swimmer down, which I believe is a huge key to my success while slow rolling on the bottom of the lake and bumping structure.
As you can see in the picture to the right this is what I like in a perfectly balanced swimbait for bottom bumping. You want to add just enough weight to get your swimmer to the bottom and be able to slow retrieve it while just barely scratching and bumping, but not dredging, the bottom. Almost like the low gravity of when the man was on the moon running and jumping, this is what you’re looking for while adjusting your swimbait with tungsten nail weights. The ideal is to swim through the zone touching once in awhile, but not snagging on the structure and compromising or losing the swimbait.
When I decide I want a swimbait that I might slow roll off the bottom occasionally, I look for a bait that has very thick pectoral fins that are pointed downward. These fins help balance the bait when you let it rest on the bottom and slowly retrieve it back in. You know the fins are correct when you set the swimbait on a flat surface and sits perfectly without falling on its side.
So I believe it’s safe to say there really is no single swimbait for every occasion, but more of a style that will work for most occasions. Sometimes I clean my boat up and I’m amazed at all the different baits that accumulate over a season, but one thing I always recognize is it’s normally one style that did the best out of all the others swimbaits all year long.
From the West side to the East side in search of Trophy Bass, what’s the difference? This was going to be my challenge when 6 years ago we decided to move to Florida to be near my oldest daughter and grandson. Having caught my personal best, a 14.63 lb bass, on Folsom Lake in California and numerous other big fish from Clear Lake and the Delta, I felt like my luck was pretty good in California.
Most of the folks I hang with know the whole story about my PB bass. In fact, I think some of them are getting tired of hearing it. (LOL) I’ll tell ya’ll the story some time.
Swimbaits are a tool to target huge fish, but by no means are they the only way. One of my favorite baits in California was a Lucky Craft Pointer 128 or the 100 with an extra long feather on the back treble hook, which gives the bait a big profile and some additional action. Some other baits that worked well were the Basstrix, 3:16 Mission fish, Hudd 68’s and, one of my all time favorite baits, the Senko. All these baits shined at one time or another, so how would the move to the East coast be different from the West coast?
That was the big question.
The first thing that hits you when fishing in Florida is WEEDS, WEEDS, and more WEEDS. Then the fact that most of the water you fish is shallow — at the most 8 ft deep. If you find depths of 12 feet, it’s a miracle. Honestly, it was a huge adjustment and still is to this day.
I knew that Flippin heavy matts, pads, and weeds were going to be something that would come into play. My friend Danny Miller created a new weight for punching through the heavy cover called Miller Punchin weights. These weights by far have made fishing for me in the thick cover possible where just getting a bait in front of a bass is such is tremendous challenge. Then it was on to the topwater weedless frogs, birds, and skinny dipper-type lures, which were very productive as well. Now it was time to figure out what kind of swimbaits I could use that were fairly weedless and the 3:16 mission Mission Fish did the trick. As I started using larger lures, my fish catches went down. It was almost like the fish were intimidated by our big California-sized baits. To this day, the biggest bait I’ve used in Florida is the Hudd special 68; it is the only one I can get them to eat.
The learning continues. I’m always looking for new weedless-type swimbaits and rumor has it Hudd has something in the works. Fishing on the East side of the United States is a work in progress, but I’m having a blast!!
I’ll keep ya posted, oh BTW the fish love the West Coast drop shot — it has accounted for fish up to 9 lb’s …
Until next time,
“Stay on em”