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.
Last year at ICAST Orlando I ran into the guys from Boomerang Tool Company who have this really cool tool called the Snip. It’s a line cutter that’s light and strong; it uses rust proof “Grade 420” stainless steel blades that cut through monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid, like butter. By far the most convenient line cutter I’ve used.
- Dimensions: 3.25 x 1.25 x 0.75″ (8 x 3 x 1.5cm)
- Weight: 1.25oz (35g)
- Jaws: 420 Stainless Steel
Their other product which was not available at the time of this review was the Grip Pliers but wanted to mention it. This tool is a great general purpose plier and it also has a spilt ring feature on the end which makes changing out hooks a piece of cake. Having been a machinist for 35 years the machine work is top notch! Two more things the jaws are replaceable and so are the carbide blade line cutter . Check out both of these tools you’ll agree that they’re a must have…
|GRIP Fishing Pliers Specifications
||CLIP Tether Specifications
You can buy the bonus pack for $61.85 check out this link …http://www.boomerangtool.com/shop/grip-snip-clip/Until next time….Stay on Em!
Growing up in the “concrete jungle” that is Southern California, the lakes I fished and studied were typically 60% full year round, often more than that.
An exception was Lake Hodges and its natural loss of water every few years, which exposed the structures that held some of the old legendary trophy fish for which Hodges was famous at one time, but the other lakes were, more often than not, mostly filled.
Having grown up in SoCal, I have not experienced a real “rainy season.” Our local lakes remained mostly filled because they are the primary source of water for the Southern California residents. This water is diverted in from the snow-capped western mountains through a maze of canals throughout the western states. Low water periods aren’t common unless a drought lasts for years at a time.
I remember growing up and seeing the lake levels fluctuate and seeing structure exposed for the first time and taking a mental photograph of it. Later in the season, when the structures were once again under water, I’d use points of reference (trees, rocks and the tops of the hills) near and far to line up on those structures that were now occupied by a trophy fish.
I have recently moved my family from that previously mentioned “concrete jungle” to the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest. Of course, one of the first excursions I made in our new hometown was to one of the many local lakes.
The natural beauty was breath-taking. I found myself sitting down with my wife watching our kids playing in the water and picturing what had to be some incredible rock piles, tree stumps and other forms of natural structure for the Rainbows to cruise and hide from their predators. This internal imagery was based off of the incredible beauty of the tree-lined shore and grass fields surrounding this mountain lake.
A couple of months have passed and summer has turned to late fall. The trees have turned colors to vibrant Reds, Greens and Yellows. The rain has fallen for 10 days straight, just a steady rain, nothing torrential. One day coming home from work, I thought I’d make a trip around that lake to see just how much the water level has come up since my last visit.
When I got my first view of the lake, I was in absolute disbelief! The water level was incredibly low! The lake was now at roughly 15-20% full. I continued to drive to the same spot I sat in next to my wife as we watched our kids play and found it also incredibly low. I could see lake bottom from the shoreline I was standing on, all the way across the lake to the marina. The lake had turned to a large puddle. I thought to myself, How could this be? With all of this rain and the constant flow of rivers feeding into it. That night, after dinner and the kids went to bed. I hopped onto my laptop and did some research to find out more about this phenomena.
What I discovered was comical to me. It was comical due to my own preconceived mindset based on everything I had experienced growing up in Southern California. In the Pacific Northwest, they actually have to purposely draw down their lake levels to accommodate the upcoming winter rains. A wonderful concept for an area that receives more rain than the typical SoCal city.
My mind starts to turn and the very next weekend I take my wife and kids up to this lake and bring along a camera. We are all suited up for the conditions. Rain and mud, here we come! We walked the lake bottom, looking nothing like what I had pictured.
The lake bottom was roughly 8-12″ of soft mud with the occasional rocky areas and very sporadic tree stumps. A vast channels zigzagging throughout the lake bottom became exposed. Some of these channels were 10 feet deep and went for hundreds of yards. Tree stumps within these channels created what I would now understand as the new prime spots on this lake.
Taking hundreds of pictures and making mental notes to transfer to my computer file as soon as I got home, these newly discovered spots would minimize my learning curve of this new lake. Sure, today’s new HD graphs give us a far better understanding of what is beneath us, but nothing is better and clearer than our own eyes and mind.
Seeing a tree stump within the channel and the way that channel creates a clearing on one side of that channel. Even more so, having a general understanding of how a preying fish would position itself in order to capitalize on the lazily cruising trout, school of bait fish or even a crawdad that has come washing through that channel when the rivers feeding that channel are flowing, will help me catch more and better quality fish.
The subject lake in this story goes through this intentional draw down every fall and it does not affect this fishery in terms of quality. There was team tournament here 2 years back and the winning 5 fish weighed in just under 38 lbs!
The take away from this story is that I encourage all fisherman to take advantage of these situations. Get out to explore any nearby lake during low water level periods and walk it, study it, photograph it and study it again. Make notes and refer back to your pictures and notes before you head back out to fish that lake when the water level has come up.
You’ll be glad you did.
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!
The contest to win a Dobyn’s 867 HSB Swimbait Rod is now over! Make sure you enter to win our next contest ending March 30! Sign up for the contest here!
Brought to you by:
Another fish makes it safely into the boat and is quickly released, and in a house on the shore, a thumb rises into view from the window. With that, the bass fishing season in Florida has begun. The fish are staging and the males are preparing their nests. You may wonder about that lonely thumb in the window right about now as I did then and therein lies my story.
A lot of my fishing takes place in areas where houses dot the shoreline and the residents must be pretty well off to afford such awesome water front property. Fancy cars, plus beautiful landscaping, leads you to believe that they don’t have a care in the world. What’s odd is that you never really see any of them fishing, it makes you wonder why?
This one house with a dock always has nice fish around it and is one of my favorite spots. A while ago I noticed a window with the blinds cracked to reveal what looked like an elevated bed, a crumpled up pillow and nothing else, or so I thought. The fishing comes easy this day and in the process of releasing a fish I notice something out of the corner of my eye coming from the open window. A single arm raised into view and at the end of it, a thumbs up signal.
“Ok,” I think to myself. Now, I’m getting curious, since very often these home owners feel like they own the water and can be rude. So I want to wait to see what happens before passing judgement. Another fish bites, I land it, and back in the water it goes. Looking directly at the room I see that same arm rise slowly and the thumbs up sign is given again. This same motion repeats throughout the day and on many occasions thereafter.
It wasn’t until sometime later that I spoke to the caregiver and found out the story about the man behind the window. She related that he was very sick and bed ridden. She explained that he loved to fish off his dock and that I had reminded him of a better time in his life.
The caregiver went on to say that every time I showed up he would instruct her to crack the blinds and prop up his pillow. To this day when I catch a fish by his house and see his thumbs up, mine goes up as well. It’s a reminder that sometimes our problems are so small compared to what goes on in the life of others.
This quote is by my fellow fisherman and friend… “Appreciate the water, man. Appreciate how lucky you are to be out on the water, whether you catch a fish or not, you know.” – Mike Long
Until next time my friends enjoy your fishing or whatever your passion is because nothing is guaranteed and we never know when our health will leave us…
There hasn’t been a “game changing” innovation when it comes to fishing equipment in at least a decade. You can, of course, point to any number of recent products and claim they are innovative, and while true,”game changing” design or ideas are few and far between. One area in need of innovation is the mobile fish finder category.
ReelSonar, a product being developed by serial entrepreneur Alexander Lebedev and a team of engineers from a variety of disciplines, hopes to change all that.
It all began when Lebedev asked himself a simple question. “I was fishing with my brother on Lake Union (Seattle) last April and thought to myself, why no one has yet to come up with the mobile fish finder?”
He quickly found out that SmartCast by Hummingbird was such a device, but it is relatively obsolete and a lot bulkier than what he envisioned. He thought about how bringing mobile technologies to an outdated system seemed like a logical step. A casual fisherman himself, he knew many people, including his father-in-law, an avid bass angler, who might benefit from a mobile fish finder.
With a background in medical ultrasound technology Lebedev thought he could improve upon the system and incorporate a variety of newer technologies that would help bring a mobile sonar system to the masses. With that, ReelSonar was essentially born.
Already an old hat at building technology start-ups, Lebedev took what he learned from Mirabilis Medica (a therapeutic ultrasound treatment for uterine fibroid) and JeNu Bioscience (an aesthetic ultrasound for wrinkle reduction) and applied it to developing this idea into a functioning prototype. First, Lebedev assembled a team of knowledgeable experts who shared his vision. Then, along with a team of hardware Engineers, RF Engineers, Embedded Software Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, App Designers and Anglers, the team spent hours bouncing around ideas, talking to professional and amateur anglers, researching, designing and testing ReelSonar technology.
A New Player in the Mobile Fish Finder Category
ReelSonar is a new wireless, mobile fish finder that uses sonar technology, embedded into a bobber, that fisherman can use to locate fish. The device then transmits the data via Bluetooth to nearby smartphones and tablets. Embracing current technology, its patent-pending elements combine more expensive fish finders functionality with the convenience, community, and affordability of mobile apps.
“My goal was to create a unique fish finder that utilizes advanced technology in an inexpensive way that is easy to use – paired with a device that many people already have,” related Lebedev.
Live tests for the device have worked out quite well so far. Said Lebedev of the process, “Development has gone perfectly; though there is still work to do, but all technology hurdles are now solved. We are now in fundraising mode to bring the ReelSonar mobile fish finder into production.”
Currently ReelSonar gathers data on whatever is in the surrounding water up to 150 feet deep. “My goal was to create a unique fish finder that utilizes advanced technology in an inexpensive way that is easy to use – paired with a device that many people already have,” said Lebedev.
Feature Rich Product
Several features allow the unit to be priced well below other fish finders on the market, and still use a 3 Volt rechargeable battery. Low frequency ultrasound transmits strongly through water without the signal getting lost, and fish are highly reflective surfaces, making the signal easier to process. “When there is enough sensitivity on the receiving circuit, paired with a well-designed signal processing unit, there is no problem with power,” explained Alexander Lebedev. The app (on Android and iOS devices) displays data and images in a dynamic, user-friendly interface – no separate display panel is needed.
Lebedev has a bright outlook for his developing product and can see how this product will change how people fish. “It is great learning tool for youngsters. Teach kids what is under the water. This tool will help to be a little bit smarter about the surroundings and water conditions. Its got water temperature and salinity meter. Great tools to see if it is a good spot for bass or trout.”
Some details about the ReelSonar device:
- Locate fish and underwater structure up to 150 feet away, and 150 feet deep
- Map the entire water bed using synthetic aperture, from a composite of multiple images (this feature is also useful for boat navigation in unknown areas)
- Check water temperature and salinity
- Bite Alarm – the smart bobber lights up, and the app signals when fish are near the bobber
- See relative sizes of fish, and estimate how many there are
- Get suggestions on bait and lures based on data and location
- Keep track of favorite fishing ‘hotspots’ and location history using GPS tags
- Tap into or contribute to aggregate ‘hotspots’ based on other ReelSonar bobber data
- Record location, date, size/weight and photos of the day’s catch all in one place
With R&D nearing completion, ReelSonar will retail for under $100. Besides the app itself, it consists of the bobber and its USB recharging cable, making it easily portable. Because users cast the ReelSonar bobber as far as they like, it extends the under-boat views of existing boat-mounted fishfinders. It works in any water temperature, in fresh and salt water, in boats or on the shore.
Want to take part in the development of this great new product? Get more details and updates at Indiegogo
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.
The 3:16 Mission Fish is the KING of all weedless swimbaits. It was designed well over ten years ago, but by far is one of the best kept secrets in the bass fishing world. This is a swimbait that can be fished with a cast and retrieve technique, or flipped in the tules, or sunken trees, or through one of your favorite rock piles where you will very rarely snag up due to its weedless design.
Company: 3:16 Lures Co.
Lure: Mission Fish
Weight: 2 ounces
Style: Weedless Paddle Tail
Hook: Gamakatsu 8/0 G-Mag
Sink Rate: Med.-Fast
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When I was first introduced to the Mission Fish lure I knew right away this swimbait would fit perfectly in my play book. I am a huge fan of stitching jigs and here was a lure that could be worked on the bottom like a jig through the rocks and sunken trees and with a large profile I knew this bait would work well for lunkers. The Mission Fish comes in five sizes 4″, 5″, 6″, 7″, and 8″. I have had my best success with the 7″ and 8″ Mission Fish in the bass color. 3:16 offers plenty of colors to match the hatch where your fishing.
The Mission Fish comes in two tail styles, boot-tail, and curl-tail. I prefer the boot-tail for its open water swimming action and the way it slows the bait down some when falling to the bottom.
The weight is incorporated into the head which really makes this bait unique by itself. The design of the head weight allows the line to go through the weight and into the center of the Mission Fish.
3:16 Lure Co. uses a very cool Gamakatsu G-Mag hook which works perfectly in the Mission Fish. The 7″ bait comes with a 8/0 G-Mag hook.
In the picture above you can see the slit on the bottom of the Mission Fish where after you run the line through the head weight it will come out into the slit where then you can then tie the hook on. I like using 12lb-15lb Fluorocarbon line with the 7″ and 8″ baits with a med-action rod.
After tying the hook on you’ll need to Texas rig the hook by lining up the G-Mag hook in the bait, then poking the hook point through the top of the bait from the inside of the slit. Now you can pull on the main line while holding the bait in the other hand and you will see the eyelet pop into the bait. Now your ready to fish. A little tip is if you want your bait to be 100% weedless after your hook is in place you’ll need to get the point of the hook to stick back into the Mission Fish.
There are two things about the Mission Fish that really help with your hook-up and catch ratio. One is the Mission Fish is a very collapsable bait which really helps during the hook set, and two the Mission Fish will ride up your line after the hook set which is key if a big fish gets her head out of the water and starts shaking it. I like having just the hook it a large bass’ mouth instead of the entire weight of the bait.
The Mission Fish is a very thin swimbait which I really believe helps this weedless model during the hook-set. There is a very small channel along the back which helps keep the hook in place and weedless.
Pros: The Mission Fish is an incredible bait in the rocks, and when flipping trees, or brush piles. The hook-up ratio is really good for a weedless swimbait, the G-Mag hook is a big reason why. Very durable bait.
Cons: Not many, I would like to see a larger boot-tail to give the lure more kick. After catching a few bass the plastic will tear on the back from the hook ripping out, some swimbait glue will repair this quickly.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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.
Ever wonder what goes on down there with the big ones? How they relate to other fish? What they see? What their food choices are? Big Bass inhabit a world of wonder and intrigue. Get to know the life of the big bass with this fantastic bass-eye view of their world.
It was an up and down year for me personally from a fishing standpoint: I lost three out of four double digit bass. However, I caught more fish in the 5-8 lb range than ever. As the year draws to an the end, I can only look back and say that it’s great to live in a country where we have the freedom to pursue our passions. Thanks to our men and women of our Armed Forces who make this possible!
I also saw the underbelly of the big bass scene that I never knew existed. Where guys look to tear down people and disrespect one another because of one thing or another. Fishing should be about having fun, sharing our experiences and communing with nature. Nobody’s perfect we all make mistakes, can’t we make our points in a private and decent manner as opposed to a public undressing? I hope so since we have too many fish to catch and dreams to chase. We already have enough trouble in this world without adding to the noise with hate for ego’s sake.
On the positive side, we have seen lots of huge fish caught and released by a larger group of anglers than ever. Guys are focusing on doing battle with the big girls with an unbelievable line up of new baits and some of the old proven ones. The top big bass anglers are sharing what they know and where they’re catching them as well. 2013 is shaping up to be a banner year, who knows maybe the World Record will fall and hopefully in the USA!
Here’s one of my highlights from 2012… I’m buzzing the shoreline, looking for any signs of fish and I come across a small 12″ male. I watched him for a few minutes and then a big female swims by! The adrenaline starts flowing I grab my Senko rod and make a cast, she stands her ground. After a few more cast with no response, I change to a White jig with a curl tail worm. She starts to get annoyed, then starts to elevate, lightly picks it up by the tail and swims off. SWING nothing but air, she’s mine now, the next cast with no worm trailer she just crushes it and the fight is on! In the livewell she goes moments later. I do all the measuring, weighing and a quick photo session. She went 10.3, 26 inches long. Watching it all happen is such a thrill but the payoff is the release knowing she’ll spawn and live to fight another day.
As we reflect back on 2012 and look forward to 2013, lets all do our part in keeping the sport fun, handling our fish properly and respecting the outdoors. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, until next time “Stay on Em “!
Recent events have reminded me of how difficult it is to be a kid today. There aren’t any real safe havens for children if what we’re seeing on the news over the last few days is any indication. I have wondered these last few days if the world is that much different today than it was when I was growing up. How modern entertainment in the form of video games and smart phones and other electronic devices have turned us away from exploring the natural wonders all around us. Whether these electronic pursuits desensitize us, making us lose the connection with the things that make us human. I don’t have all the answers, but one thing is obvious to me. We need to get our kids away from their laptops and smartphones and video games more often.
In this day and age of craziness and where we don’t really know what tomorrow will bring, I believe it is more important than ever to take a kid fishing and introduce them to the great outdoors where never ending adventure always produces a smile.
I grew up as an outdoor explorer, mapping out my town from one end to other, always trying to find where every fish lived and every creature called home. In doing this I got to enjoy the great outdoors and appreciate what God gave us all to enjoy, but I was lucky. I consider myself lucky because I had the opportunity to experience a variety of outdoor activities mainly due to where I lived. It allowed me to be an outdoor explorer.
I had friends, when I was young, that I literally had to drag out of their houses to go on an outdoor expeditions with me. Almost every one of those adventures ended up at some pond or creek fishing, which at the end of the day, I could see by the smiles on their faces how happy these trips made them. I was one of the lucky ones for sure.
When my kids were growing up I loved to take them out and explore the lake with me and they always had a good time even if we didn’t catch a fish. When I involved them in the preparation, letting them pack their lunches and get their fishing gear ready, there was always that pure excitement about getting out of the house and going on an outdoor adventure. I believe being outside has a way to keeping your mind fresh and can heal you when you’re feeling down.
I always hated when my kids were stuck in the house playing video games because they became very addicted and obsessed with virtual reality when I knew reality was infinitely more entertaining. I’ll admit that it came out in their the attitudes at times when I’d force them outside, but not one time going on a fishing trip did my kids ever get upset. Mother nature is a powerful force and always has a way of making you enjoy the great outdoors.
For the last 15 years I have donated my time and gathered products for the Lake Poway Youth Derby in the city of Poway along with my partner Captain Ronnie Baker, the true King of youth derbies here in Southern California. We have had tremendous success teaching some of the young kids, from 5 years older to 14 years old, how to catch the outdoor bug. Along with an army of volunteers, we teach and help every kid enjoy the outdoor experience of fishing. It is such a great feeling seeing so many kids enjoy a day fishing, and competing with each other, catching trout or catfish. The smiles on their faces say it all.
If each one of us takes just some of our free time to take a kid fishing and introduce them to nature’s great gift, I truly believe we can heal some of the damage all these virtual entertainments have done to our young people. The violent video games popular today are definitely not the answer, but in my experience, taking a kid fishing will not only make you feel good and young again, but teach a child how to go out and enjoy the true gifts of the great outdoors.
For well over ten years now I have been using the Rago Rat and it is by far one of the easiest swimbaits to use and highly effective. Long over due, here’s my Original Rago Rat Lure Review.
Company: Rago Baits
Lure: Original Rago Rat
Weight: 1.7 Ounces
Length: (Body 4 1/2″)(Tail 4 1/2″)
Lure Speed: Slow-Medium
Composite: Hard Resin
Sink Rate: Floater
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The body of the Original Rago Rat is 4 1/2″ and the tail is 4 1/2″ with a weight of 1.7 ounces this little bait casts like a dream. It is built from very buoyant hard resin which keeps the Rat on the surface. When Rago Baits made the very first Rago Rats they were made out of wood which and were about 1/4 ounce heavier and sat in the water perfectly to make a beautiful surface V-wake.
The Rago Rat has a small hard plastic lip which helps to pull the Rats first section just under the surface, while the second section of the Rat wakes the surface.
The tail of the Original Rago Rat is made from soft plastic and works in a S-motion behind the Rat to tease any bass watching into biting.
The single joint of the Rago Rat makes a knocking sound in the water from the front, and rear sections hitting together while the Rat is swimming and this is a great noise attractor to the bait in dirty water, or low light conditions.
The Rago Rat only has one treble hook on the first section which works out perfect to help give the second section more freedom.
Below is a small video of the Original Rago Rat in action:
Pros: Very compact durable wake bait, cast good in windy conditions. The joint makes a great knocking sound to attract bass as well a soft plastic tail for a teaser. The lip is built into the bait to survive shore, or rock hits. Hinge is built to handle very large stripers, and the eyelets are heavy duty with a 100lb. split ring to hold the hook on with the big fish.
Cons: Tail does come off and is difficult to reattach in the field, make sure you have a few extra when you go out on the water with a tooth pick to help reattach one.
I get asked all the time what my favorite swimbait color is, and you might think it would be Rainbow Trout because of where I live, but it’s not. It’s a bass color. Since I was a little kid, I have witnessed largemouth bass eating each other. I grew up in an area where there were creeks and small ponds to fish and the majority of what was in these creeks and ponds were bass. I watched numerous times where small bass were being chased and sometimes caught by larger bass.
So it was a no brainer to try to match the hatch, but when I was young we did not have the choices of swimbaits and colors that we do today. It was not until Castaic, and Optimum Lures came along that we had soft plastic realistic imitations in the 4″-6″ length. These days, we have a plethora of choices and it is easy to find a favorite swimbait color that matches the forage in your local waters.
The lure in the picture above is one of the first Optimum swimbaits to be made in the bass color. This is a 5″ bait that opened up a whole new world for me when using swimbaits. The color, along with the body shape and size, were close enough to some of the smaller bass that were getting eaten by some of the larger bass in the waters I fished. When I first used this new color it was unbelievable how aggressive the larger bass were when they chased and bit the swimbait.
I believe that a large bass living in a creek, pond, or lake will try to eat almost anything that moves. So if a smaller bass is in the larger bass’ strike zone, look out! He now is the target meal.
I have always wondered, “If a large bass had a choice of a crawdad, minnow, or a small bass, right in front of him, what would he choose?” Well after years of pondering this, I truly believe if a bass is hungry it will go after whatever is around it. I have also closely watched smaller bass seem to have their guard down around larger bass and especially around structure where they must feel they can escape if needed. I have seen large bass grab another fish and when it does, scales and sometimes small parts of the fish come free around the larger bass and the small bass move in and eat the small scraps. Another thing I have witnessed during spring is small males guarding their nest get eaten by some of the monster females that come up into the shallows from their deep water spots. This could be because a small male may not mature enough to emit any pheromones that drug out the big monster female, so she feeds instead of spawning.
During the colder months of the year when most of the smaller bass have pulled off the bank and have moved to deeper water, I have watched through an Aqua View camera groups of small bass hiding around and under rocks. Meanwhile, large bass are on vigilant patrol waiting for a crawdad, small panfish, or small bass to come out of these rock sanctuaries. Once out in the open, the larger bass can hunt them down and pin them against the bottom, or one of the rocks.
These few examples are a key reason to use a bass-colored swimbait once in awhile to see if that is what’s on the big bass’ menu. In this day and age of incredible paint jobs on soft plastic swimbaits, we now have a huge list of tools to choose from to make sure we always have access to their dinner choices.
Above are a few of the latest swimbaits made over over the last few years, with sizes ranging from the Decoy at 5″, the MattLures at 4 1/2″, and the Huddleston Deluxe at 6″. If you notice one theme besides the color in the pictures, it’s the size. I’m a firm believer that an effective bass-colored swimbait needs to be 6″ or smaller.
MattLures makes one of my favorite small bass-colored swimbaits with his 4 1/2″ version. Matt paid close attention, making the body shape look as natural as possible as well as matching the color almost perfectly.
Jason Scott, former owner of Castaic Lures, a company known for realistic looking swimbaits, now runs Decoy Baits, another company that pays close attention to making realistic looking swimbaits. The 5″ Decoy in a bass color is on the top of my list as one of the best looking soft-plastic paint jobs on a small swimbait.
The Decoy bass, and the MattLures bass have both become my go to lures when I need a small bass-colored swimbait. So next time you’re heading to your favorite pond, or fishing hole, pick up a few small bass-colored swimbaits and start having fun while catching some of the larger bass in your zip code.
“I just ate the World Record Bass tonight and it was good!”
Who did this? Soon after he caught that infamous fish and it was certified, George Perry’s record catch went into the frying pan. Before the advent of catch and release (C&R) back in the early 70’s, it was almost always catch and eat.
Let me say I release all my fish, but are we doing more harm than good now with the C&R mentality? Some studies seem to bare this out coming to the conclusion that lakes have become over populated with small fish and have actually hurt the bass from growing bigger. So what’s the answer? Maybe we should start taking some of the smaller fish home. One of the major problems is that some will become the victims of ridicule for keeping fish.
I’ve always felt if someone wanted to take his limit of keeper bass then that was just fine. It seems the answer is to take the right fish home and let the big fish go after a quick picture and measuring. It’s safe to say that the number of really big fish in a given body of water is relatively small. So it only makes sense to release them to spawn and fight another day. One point here is there’s no need to be mean or rude to someone who does decide to keep a trophy fish. I’ve see guys get beat down verbally and bashed, so all we can do is try to instruct folks on the merits of releasing the big girls, and in a positive manner.
This next area is something that needs to be examined as well, and that’s how we are handling these bigger fish. All too often we see folks bouncing big fish off the boat deck, taking pictures of them on the ground and just generally not treating the fish with care. The Pro’s and Tournaments circuits preach the merits of C& R but what message does it send when you see them culling fish on the bottom of the floor or flexing their jaws on the weigh in stand? Look we all need to do better myself included, we all want to protect the resource and educating folks is the way to go.
Selective harvesting on certain lakes can be a good thing and will no doubt help the big bass population grow by providing more forage. One way of looking at it is instead of releasing that 2-3 pounder and it becoming the next big fish in the pond, it may be the reason we’re not catching 10 pounders, food for thought. So until next time “Stay on Em “and maybe taking a few of them rats home for the family or friends will produce future giants.
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.
Takeshi Matsumota owner of Fish Arrow and Ken Huddleston owner of Huddleston Deluxe have collaborated to make the Huddle Jack 150 a 6″ hard bait with the Huddleston Deluxe swimbait tail. Fish Arrow the maker of the famous Monster Jack swimbait decided it was time to up their game and make a hard swimbait with a kicking tail instead of the traditional lipped hard bait, or hinged S-motion style swimbait.
Lure: Huddle Jack 150
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Color: Blue Back Pearl
Composite: Hard Plastic
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
The Huddle Jack 150 is the Sparta of swimbaits, it is a tough little swimmer weighing in at 1.6 ounces for its slim 6 1/4″ body length it is built for speed. Fish Arrow loves to build swimbaits that are durable and will last for years of fishing abuse. I found casting this bait was effortless especially in the wind.
One nice thing about a 6″ swimbait that only weighs 1.6 ounces is you can use lighter gear. I matched the Huddle Jack with a Dobyns DX 744, and a Shimano Calais reel spooled with 15lb. flourocarbon line.
The Huddle Jack 150 is marked on the back for the model and an “S” for sinking. As you can see by the picture above the tail is a Huddleston Deluxe hard wedge tail.
The Huddle Jack 150 is built with a super strong hinge that will handle some monster bass especially if you plan on using a rear hook off the tail.
Fish Arrow research and development people are fishing all the time and know that sometimes you need a rear hook and by removing the two belly hooks and using a rear tail hook it will allow you to fish much more structure instead of hanging up on it, or dulling the point of the hooks.
Fish Arrow always puts good hardware on their baits and with the Huddle Jack 150 Fish Arrow used 60lb. split rings and Owner 1/0 treble hooks. The eyes are high end realistic taxidermy grade and on the eyelet they added a 80lb. split ring.
While I was casting and testing the Huddle Jack 150 a small bass decided to give his review..He was hooked!.. Below is a Huddle Jack 150 demonstration video I made to show just how amazing this little strong bait is.
Pros: The Huddle Jack 150 is an incredible bait for casting all day long, flies straight in the air, and swims just like its soft bait cousin the Huddleston Deluxe swimbait. Having a choice of hook placement is key if you need to adjust your bait for short bites, or trees and rocks.
Cons: I found none
MLO: 5 out of 5
Editors Note: This article was written by Mike Long and not E.A. Castro as previously ascribed. We apologize for the confusion.
I’m only 47 and have worked in construction since I was 16 and being a highly active person mountain biking, fishing, and hiking every chance I get, I live in a world of chronic pain –shoulder, neck and back pain — almost everyday. I have had days where standing at the front of the boat was such a challenge, I could barely fish.
I was fishing this past Summer with a friend who plays professional baseball and he witnessed how much pain I was in while fishing. He walked up to me and handed me a necklace and said to put it on it should help to relieve some of the pain in a few days. Well, I was real skeptical, but figured suffering from years of chronic back pain, I had nothing to lose, so… what the heck, I’ll give it a try.
The core of Phiten technology is in their Aqua Metals – metals that are broken down into microscopic particles dispersed in water. Every product features Phiten technology: from their signature necklaces, to their performance apparel, and to their sports care items like body supports, tape, and lotion. They tailor their products for everyone, from hardcore athletes to weekend warriors, to get them through the daily grind and to support a healthy and active lifestyle.
So after about a week of wearing my Phiten necklace, I was pain free and after over four months of wearing my Phiten necklace at least three days a week, I am still pain free. First time I can say that in well over ten years.
The Phiten necklace that my friend gave me is a camo color which blends right in with any of my fishing apparel. It has an easy to use latch and the necklace is easy to clean with soap and water.
After talking with some other baseball players about the Phiten necklace they suggested I use some of Phitens’ other products like the Phiten bracelet, tape, and lotion. They told me while rehabbing from sports injuries and using the Phiten products like the Phiten tape, and lotion on the areas of the body where their injuries had occurred seemed help to speed the healing process of their injuries.
So from my personal experience, if you suffer from any kind of chronic pain give Phiten products a chance, I think you’ll be glad you did.
For years I’ve tried my hardest to get my hard lures to look as natural as possible and to have a durable finish that will last for at least one season and withstand the toothy bass that will be attacking them. I have also searched for a lure painter that did a good job for a reasonable price and had a quick turnaround. Yes there are some lure makers that put a top notch paint job on their lures, but they also charge a lot of money and it may not be the right swimming-style bait I want.
I got lucky one day and received a custom painted BullShad Swimbait from owner Mike Bucca in the mail. It was a threadfin shad paint job and it looked incredible. It was by far one of the best paint jobs I had ever seen at the time in a shad pattern.
I later found out that Mike had BaitWerks do some custom paint jobs on his BullShads and that the shad was just one of the custom colors he offered.
Dwain Batey, the artist and owner of BaitWerks, has custom painted quite a few swimbaits for me over the years and they all just flat out look incredible. So realistic that my large bass catch percentage increased when using the custom painted baits.
I truly believe, from my many years of chasing the little green bass, that the lures having that real-life custom paint job make a huge difference. First off, I have more confidence with a custom-painted lure than I do without a custom paint job. I can’t tell you how many times I have second guessed a lure and was using thinking it did not look natural enough to get the job done and switched it out for another lure. This was down time that my lure was not in the water, when the game plan is to have confidence in a lure and keep it in the water.
Above are a few samples of what BaitWerks has custom painted for me in the BullShad swimbaits. Baitwerks can paint anything you can send a picture of.
When I sent a picture of a California Golden Shiner to Mike Bucca and asked him to have Dwain at BaitWerks paint a BullShad close to the picture, I was very skeptical that he could match the picture. A Golden Shiner can be a tough fish to copy, but when I got my custom painted BullShad back I was shocked at how good it looked and as soon and as put it in the water I was very impressed at how realistic the lure looked. Bottom line it made me a better bass fisherman.
BaitWerks does a great job doing custom paint jobs on almost any lure for a fair price and in a timely manner depending on their workflow. Take a look at BaitWerks.com and see if BaitWerks has a color you like, or send them a picture of what you would like to copy. I believe you will be happy if you do.
Another day comes to a close and my arm is hanging on by a thread. It seems all you hear about are the big swimbaits and the huge fish they catch. Surprisingly you also see lots of smaller fish with huge baits hanging from their mouths as well. On the flip side, small baits catch small fish and I’ll suggest that they also catch more than your fair share of giants. We just don’t hear much about it because it’s just not sexy enough to say you caught a DD on a Drop Shot as opposed to a huge swimbait. The key to catching big fish is “be versatile.” While fishing for big fish one day with a large bait and not having any luck, I decide to throw a little drop shot worm down and BOOM she bites first cast. There are just times when you have to downsize even when trophy hunting. Yes you will catch a bunch of small fish, but then you might also be rewarded with a monster!
One of the big obstacles for many fishermen is the cost of these Big Bait. Some go for as much as $85.00 a piece. Make no mistake, you will catch huge fish with these baits given the time and opportunity, but keep in mind that you can find alternative big lures that will be just as good and won’t break the bank.
Last week I was throwing a big 7” jerk bait by a company called Deadliest Katch that is priced around $6.50 and stuck a really nice fish. Look around at some of the big Musky baits and some of the other companies that make oversized lures at a reasonable price.
Now back to the small bait tactics. I would venture to say that big fish eat tons of crawdads which are normally small in size. Bass eat a lot of frogs as well, and they’re usually on the small side too. There’s no shame in saying I caught that Toad on a 6” FX Soft-Shell Craw RoboWorm or a hand poured Fringe worm by your local worm maker. Have an open mind and don’t get locked in to thinking, “if I don’t have the hottest, I’m out of the game,” because you’re not! The big fish will eat what your throwing whether it’s a 10” top of the line swimbat or a small jig.
Gary Dobyns West Coast Tournament legend and rod maker spoke to our trophy bass club and related a story about catching a 12 lb fish on Folsom using a small worm that he had just bite off to make it smaller.
Big Baits… Big bass, small baits… Big Bass. Yes, it happens more than we think!
Until next time… Stay on Em!
In the last year I have fished with quite a few people who were complaining about how their reels just didn’t seem to cast as well as they use to. The first thing I ask is, “Do you ever oil your reel?” Everytime the answer is, “No, how do you do that?” Well, here’s how you do it.
These fishing reel casting and maintenance tips begin with lubricant. Almost every reel I have ever bought has come with a small bottle of oil. If yours didn’t most sporting good stores carry reel oil.
Accessing the spool is a little bit different with every reel. I try to always use reels where it is easy to field access the spool.
The reel I have pictured above is a Shimano Scorpian and the side plate can be completely removed. On some reels the side plate pops-out and moves up or down. The goal is to get to the spool bearings for oiling. Once you’re able to unlock the side plate, the first thing you want to do is visually inspect it for any foreign debris and run your finger around the outside of the spool and spool guide making sure it is smooth and free of debris.
Now that you have unlocked the side plate and inspected the spool and bearing it’s time to hold the bearing level and add few drops of oil.
Next step is to very carefully move the spool away from the reel handle plate and add a few drops of oil to the spool shaft. After adding oil, you will need to tilt the reel so the oil can run down the spool shaft to the inner bearing.
With reels that have a VBS (variable braking system) you want to inspect the break weights to make sure some of them turned on and some are turned off. The way this is done by pressing the break weight closer to center is off and pushing the break weight towards the outer end of the post is on. I like to have my break weights set at 50%, or every other one on. If all break weights are off the spool is 100% free
Another great thing about reels that have a centrifugal braking system using break weights is you can remove them and add lighter or heavier brake weights that can help when conditions require some centrifugal weight adjustments.
When using any reel with a centrifugal force braking system there is a right way and a wrong way to cast. The picture above shows the wrong way to hold and cast the reel if any brake weights are on.
The picture above shows a proper hold when using a VBS system with any brake weights on. You need to turn the reel on its side so gravity will not be pulling at your brake weights that are turned on. Holding the reel sideways the centrifugal force has a chance to work evenly and casting will be smooth.
I sure hope these small tips help you to get some better and further casts and will let you have a more productive day catching fish instead of pulling backlashes out.
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)
Back in the summer of 1979 I walked out into the backyard of the house my parents had just purchased and met a tall, gangly kid with a shock of red hair. He was holding a fishing pole, a bucket, and the widest smile I had ever encountered in someone my age. Only seconds after he had introduced himself as Mike Long, he asked me if I wanted to help him catch some crawdads.
The house we had just purchased sat no more than 50 feet from a creek that meandered the length of Poway, California, surrounded by Sycamore and Scrub Oak, which were home to Opossums, Raccoon, and Red-tailed Hawks. Having lived in the suburbs almost my entire life, I was out of my element among all this natural wonder. As strange as it all was though, I was about to get a master’s class in nature and Mike Long was the first and most notable of all the professors I’d ever have directing my education.
I’ve known Mike for going on 32 years, and enjoyed the privilege of having first hand access to the vast amount of information he gathers about his chosen hobbies. He taught me to fish for Catfish, Rainbow Trout, Crappie, Sunfish and of course, Large mouth Bass. He pulled me up and around hill and dale, all the while, teaching me about what to do and when to do it. He never asked anything in return, just friendship and I was more than happy to oblige.
Though time and distance have always come between us, we’re kindred spirits. We enjoy the same things and share many of the same beliefs, the least of which is our passion for the outdoors. Eventually college, and then a career in advertising pulled me away from Southern California, but I kept up with his adventures in the great outdoors.
When fate and my father’s illness brought me back to San Diego in late 2010, one of the first people to welcome me back was Mike Long. We began toying with the idea of a website to share his knowledge and the site you find yourself on now is the result of many such conversations.
While we’ve talked almost daily since I’ve returned to San Diego, it actually wasn’t until this past September that we actually got together on a lake to do some fishing for largemouth bass.
Mike chose the body of water we both grew up fishing, Poway Lake, located in San Diego’s North County. It’s a small reservoir, made smaller by consecutive years of drought, stocked with Rainbow Trout each winter and Catfish each summer. It has a good population of Largemouth Bass, Sunfish and Bluegill to keep everyone happy no matter what your particular passion.
It had been almost two decades since I last fished for bass, but Mike promised he’d take it easy on me and show me what to do. In fact, he even brought a few spinning reels for me to use since I’ve not used a bait caster in a very long time. First thing Mike did was get the lay of the land, or water to be more precise. Choosing a few possible spots, we made our way across the lake toward the first area he wanted to try, a deep water channel. As we arrived, I looked around and noticed there were a dozen or so other fisherman on the lake. From the look of it, they were doing a bit of fishing, but not a whole lot of catching. That isn’t unusual for this lake, especially for those fishing for largemouth bass.
The thing was, much like when we were kids, I had a secret weapon. I had Mike to show me the way. He quickly tied on a 4″ Robo worm in Aaron’s Magic color, using a simple drop shot rig and told me what to do. I’d like to say I quickly landed my first bass in 20 years, but that wouldn’t be true. What is true is within 30 minutes on the water, Mike DID land our first fish… a 3 pounder, very small by Mike’s standards, but a whopper in my book. Keeping with Mike’s teachings, we moved around, eliminating water, trying to find where the fish were. We moved to shallower water near a point. Mike landed a few more, small bass, while I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the proper action necessary to catch a fish… any fish… heck I was willing to land a shad if it would take me out of the skunked column.
He kept explaining what he was doing and why it was working. Mike had landed 3 other bass while he was explaining the intricacies of fishing this particular lake, at this particular time in the day, in this particular season. It was akin to listening to Stephen Hawking talk about cosmology while orbiting the Earth on the space shuttle. If I remember half of what he told me, I’ll be three times the fisherman that I am now.
Finally, I put it all together and I landed my first bass of the day. Less than a pound, but it was a pound more fish than I’ve caught in 15 years and I was quite excited. A few more casts and I caught another fish, this one almost breaking 2 lbs. I figured if I kept at it, by the end of the day I might have enough fish that, combined, would weigh as much as the smallest fish Mike would catch that day.
We broke for lunch and it gave me the opportunity to ask Mike the questions that I would imagine most people would ask him if they had the opportunity.
Ed: When we were kids, we fished for a lot of different kinds of fish, but mostly for stocked trout and catfish. Did you ever think you’d make your mark as a trophy bass fisherman?
Mike: Not at all, I just wanted to fish more than anything else in the world, i did not care what species of fish as long as they put up a fight.
Ed:This lake (Poway Lake) has been our “home” lake for over 30 years and it’s changed a great deal since we started fishing here back in the late 70s. What’s changed for the better? What’s changed for the worse?
Mike: Lake Poway is a small lake where kids can learn to fish and that has gotten better over the years with some added structure. On the downside the lake is infested with quagga mussels which are killing the ecosystem and I’ve seen a huge decline in the numbers of big bass in the lake.
Ed: Of all the local lakes, which is your favorite?
Mike: San Vicente Reservoir
Mike: It is a deep semi-clear reservoir that offers lots of different types of shorelines from steep hard rock to large boulders, to flat shallow bays and offshore islands. It also has large blue catfish over 100 lbs and some giant bass.
Ed: What drives you to hunt big bass?
Mike: Catching big bass is the end game of big bass hunting. And what drives me is the never-ending challenge of trying to figure out where the bass are in the lake and what to catch them on. It’s always a game with the payoff being landing that big bass.
Ed: Was coming close to the record a positive experience?
Mike: The day I caught the 20-12 was the most peaceful day of my bass fishing career and nothing else mattered that day. It has been a positive experience, especially since it has only been done a handful of times.
Ed: Is there anything you would have done differently knowing what you know now about that whole experience?
Mike: The first time I weighed the big bass she weighed over 22 lbs, so I have learned the first weight is the official weight. I never leave the house without a verified scale. Who knows what would have happened had I known to bring the right scale that day.
Ed: We’ve talked a little bit about tournament fishing, and I know you’re a pretty competitive guy, but you refuse to fish competitively. Why is that?
Mike: Raising a family costs lots of money these days and trying to get kids through college and finding a new job has been a huge challenge of survival this year, so tournament fishing has taken a back seat until there is some money available to fish them right.
Ed: When we were kids, you used to keep a notebook, filled with data from our fishing trips. I know you’ve converted all that information into a spreadsheet. Do you ever let anyone peruse that information?
Mike: My data is my data. I have spent years collecting it and don’t let anyone have access to it. I do, however, teach people how to build a spread sheet and convert their data into a useful form that will help them in their pursuit of giant bass.
Ed: Why did you choose this format (a website) to share your information?
Mike: I love the World Wide Web. It’s amazing what you can learn from different people, all over the planet. I wanted to be part of this global classroom… doing my part is to simply share as much as I know about bass fishing. If I can help others to learn and see things a little differently in their pursuit of big bass, this website will be a success in my eyes.
Ed: Is a book out of the question?
Mike: One of my goals is to write a book, and in fact, I have my first more than halfway done. Hopefully I will finish it soon and have another way to share what I know with people who are willing to learn.
Ed: What does the future hold for you as an outdoorsmen?
Mike: Lots of adventure, taking my abilities on the road and traveling the globe in pursuit of giant fish is my future goal. Sharing that with everyone would be the icing on the cake. I LOVE to catch fish and I hope that desire never changes.
We spent the rest of the day simply figuring out where the fish were and what they’d likely bite. I honestly can’t remember how many fish Mike caught that day, but I can tell you he beat me by a country mile. This isn’t unusual of course, and I doubt many people can keep up with him when he gets in a groove, but it was fascinating to see someone so knowledgeable about a given pursuit put it into practice. After spending a day on the lake with him, he’s still every bit the kid I met over 30 years ago. Maybe a little grayer, and a little thicker around the middle, but still loves what he does and loves sharing what he knows with everyone he meets. 30 years later I can safely say that I still learn something every time we spend time together.
He’s still the professor and I’m still the student.
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.