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Category Archives: Tutorial

Over my 40+ years of Bass fishing I have seen lots of new products come out, and once in awhile something comes around that really gets my attention. When Owner came out with their “Beast” line of swimbait hooks I was stoked to see a big wide gap heavy wire hook with a fixed weight attached that I had to get a few and try them out.

Owner Beast Swimbait Hook

The sizes Owner came out with first worked great for rigging swimbaits 5″-8″, and in 2016 Owner released a Monster Beast Hook a 12/0 which is giant wide gap hook that fits most of my 9″-11″ swimbaits.

owner-beast-size-chart

The size chart above from www.tacklewarehouse.com shows all five Owner Beast Swimbait hooks with weight size, quantity per package, and price.

beast

My two favorite sizes of Owner Beast Swimbait Hooks are the 12/0, and 6/0. They work great on my Rago Alpha trout in 6″ and 9″ lengths.  One thing about me I’m a huge fan of weedless swimbaits, I like to fish my swimbaits where the Big Bass live and not every swimbait is weedless, but most can be converted weedless with the Owner Beast Swimbait Hook.Owner Beast Swimbait Hook

Each Owner Swimbait Hook comes with a Twistlock which is pictured above. This Twistlock has a center guide pin which makes it really easy to center the Twistlock on your swimbait.

beast5

The picture above shows the application process of Twislock into the swimbait. It is important to find the apex section on the nose of the swimbait and then push the center guide pin into the swimbait and with some light pressure applied on the Twistlock begin pushing it towards the swimbait. Now you will begin the twisting of the Twistlock into the swimbait keeping pressure towards the swimbait..

Owner Beast Swimbait Hook

In the picture above you can see about how far to seat the Twistlock into your swimbait. Two things to watch for. One, make sure to keep the Twistlock as straight as possible in the swimbaits, and two, the hook needs to be in the vertical position as in the picture above or the hook eyelet will twist and tweak the nose of the swimbait.

Owner Beast Swimbait Hook

Next step is to use a sharpie and make a small dot where the end of the hook will be in the swimbait.

Owner Swimbait Hook

Now it’s time to cut a 1″ line on the belly of the swimbait about 1/4  the depth of the swimbait. In the 2″ swimbait in the picture above I made cut around 1/2″ deep cut. You want to start cutting just past the end of the hook mark you made and continue about one inch towards the head of the swimbait.

Owner Swimbait HookNow it’s time to gently without putting to much stress on the Twistlock to run your hook through your swimbait. The trick is to keep the point of the hook as straight up as possible.

Owner Beast Swimbait Hook It is very important to make sure that the point of the hook goes through the top middle of the swimbait, or the bait will not run true while swimming. The picture above shows plenty of hook exposure, this swimbait is almost ready to use.

mend it

A little trick I use to make my swimbaits more durable and last longer is to add a little Mend-it soft plastic glue to the plastic.

 

 

mend-itmend-it

 

 

 

 

 

 

mend-it

By adding some Mend-it glue around the head area and around the hook, and hook barb area you strengthen the plastic which will give your swimbait longer life.

My advice on the Owner Beast Swimbait Hooks in size 12/0 is to use no lighter than 20lb line. I prefer 25, 28, and 30lb line for good barb sets, and a 8′-6″ MegaMag rod with a heavy back bone and your ready to hunt some big fish.

 

 

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

Over the years, as underwater sports cameras have evolved, I have been able to keep stride with this ever changing technology and sometimes add my creative twist of thinking outside the box to get those underwater shots that in the past we could only imagine. So I have decided to make a series of short videos of underwater bass activity to try to help unlock some of the mysterys of just what the heck these bass are thinking when we toss our lures out in their environment.

The baits I used in the video are my own Natural Series Swimmers AM Shads

AM Swimmers - ©MikeLongOutdoors

 

One of the questions I hear a lot is “Why are the bass just following my bait?”

BBB1 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe picture above shows a large group of bass that were just curious about the swimbait and never made an advance towards it, just followed the bait and stayed just behind it. While filming, it was the middle of a hot Summer day, heading into a no moon phase and the water was clear and around 80 degrees.

I have found that in these periods of the year, and time of day, most bass in clear water will be low light feeders and once you find them they will be offshore, suspended just deep enough to stay out of the sun’s bright summer rays.

BBB2 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe above picture is a snapshot of a behavior I have seen many animals exhibit in nature and that is to rub their body, or scent onto the bait and mark it. I’m not totally sure why bass would do this, but the bass in the video never bit the swimbait just marked it.

BBB4 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsUnder the same mid-day hot and bright conditions I was able to get a few bass to chase down my swimbait and get a little more aggressive with it once I got the lure down around 25 feet.

BBB5 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsAfter finding that perfect depth of water I was able to consistently keep my swimbait in the bass biting zone.

 

Enjoy the video!!

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

Thinking back well over 40 years of bass fishing one thing always comes to mind and that is how I have always liked to tweak existing lures, or build new ones from scratch that would work for the bass hunt I was currently  on. I absolutely enjoy creating something from just a few ideas and testing it in the water and hoping it would trick those finicky bass, not every idea works, but you learn from each one. Tweaking, or adjusting a lure is something I do on almost every trip, so after time and time of doing this you kinda know what most bass fisherman are looking for in a specific style of lure.

I have also spent many years working with, or consulting with some of the finest swimbait makers on the planet, from Sean Donovan the original owner of Optimum Lures to Jason Scott (Castaic, Decoy Lures), to Matt Servant (MattLures), and Jerry Rago of Rago Lures. These guys are all legends in the swimbait world and have made several lures to date that have caught many personal best for thousands of bass fisherman. These men all have one thing in common, they are all driven to build the best lures on the market today.

For well over 30 years I have worked full time in the construction industry, but a few years ago after that industry collapsed I decided it was time to pursue one of my dreams and build lures for the general public and so my company Natural Series Swimmers was born.

It has been a learning curve making production lures. In the past I only had to make a few lures at a time which is much easier than trying to make 20-50 a week.

The first lure I built under Natural Series Swimmers  name was a glide shad .Glide Shad

I Started with a picture of threadfin shad and an idea of how I wanted the bait to swim and after years of watching shad in the water and viewing countless hours of under water video footage of shad in their natural environment. I knew how I wanted to start.

Next it was time to make a carving.Glide Shad Template
I started with the picture of what I wanted the lure to look like, traced it out with some tracing paper and transferred that image onto some bass wood and then cut out my design. I made the shad in one piece first so I would have a future template that I could build multiple jointed baits with.

Wood Glide Shad

Every hard bait I build has my “ML” intial and is numbered in the order as it was built.ML Initial and Number

The end result which was made out of urethane and hand painted had to be field tested, which for me was one of funnest parts of the entire process. On the first field test of the glide shad I scored a few nice bass up to 11 lbs. and found I only needed to make a few minor tweaks as to where the hooks were placed and what size.Natural Series Swimmers Glide Shad Big Bass

This 6″ 2.5oz. lure which I call my Glide Shad is an incredible little bait that did everything I designed it to do. I prefer to use the Glide Shad with a 7′-4″ Dobyns Rod (744) and 18Lb. Maxima Fluorocarbon line. I also add a #4 Duo Lock snap to every bait which really helps give the Glide Shad maximum freedom in the water. I balanced the baits with Owner size 1 treble hooks which work perfectly with the 6″ Glide Shad.

Every bait is field tested to make sure it meets my standards.

When working the Glide Shad it is very important to keep your rod tip pointed towards the lure and make it glide side to side with a reel retrieve only. I made a video which shows the Glides Shads swimming and how I’m “reel retrieveing” them to get the side to side motion.

My second glide bait is my Gliding Panfish

Gliding PanfishThis is a 6″ bait that weighs in at around 3.6oz. and along with a floater comes in sink rates of super slow sink, slow sink, and fast sink.Natural Series Swimmers Gliding Panfish

The Gliding Panfish is a bait that I have made for myself for quite sometime, I just thickened up the tail and smoothed the edges to make a more durable swimbait for production to the public. That is one problems I have with my personal baits is that they are not always built to take a lot of abuse, but built as life-like as possible and when fins break you just build a new one and your back in business.

Gliding Panfish Wood CarvingThis was another bait that I carved the template out of wood off of a concept I liked in a two piece bait. Once again this is a balanced swimbait that needs a steady reel retrieve to get the Gliding Panfish to swim hard left and right. This little 6″ swimbait is a beast around docks and trees where you can get the glide the  lure partially into these targets where some giant bass are hiding out.Gliding Panfish Catch

Field testing the new design went very well, I found I only needed to make a sleight hook adjustment which is now in all the new Gliding Panfish.

The Gliding Panfish comes with a #3 Duo Snap, two Owner Stinger 2X Black Hooks, custom Taxidermy eyes, and two magnum grade screw eyes to hold each section together. Each bait also comes with the “ML” initial and  is numbered in the order it was built. Every bait is field tested before it is packaged. Along with a floating version, there is slow sink, super slow sink, and fast sink.

Attached is a link to a video showing the Gliding Panfish in the water and the proper rod position with a reel only retrieve:

Gliding Panfish Video

Here is a link to the Glide Shad in Action:

Glide Shad Video

By clicking on the “Store” tab on the homepage there will be a link to the Natural Series Swimmers that are currently for sale:

Online Store

The Gliding Panfish are $105+shipping, and the Glide Shads are $68+shipping.

Coming soon are the AM Shads a soft plastic realistic looking shad with a internal bladder and weight system that gives this little 5″ bait a very realistic look in the water. This new bait is something I have been working on for awhile and just fine tuning the color patterns.AM Shads

 

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

As I’ve gotten a little older the sun has really been harsh on my skin. I have had  plenty of days that when I got home after 12 hours of Summertime fishing that I felt like my skin was on fire and I was completely wiped out. I was dehydrated, and my skin was trying to heal from the sunburn so my body was tired and sluggish and it was hard to sleep. After years of wearing flip flop style sandals, shorts, and tank tops I started to realize I needed to wear shoes, pants, a long sleeve shirt, buff for the neck and face, a good hat, and light weight sun gloves.

After finding the right Sun protection clothing I have had much better success on the water by being in the game of fishing and not burnt by the sun and tired, sluggish, and overall miserable on the water. I can spend as long as I want out fishing in the brightest of sun and at the end of the day when I remove all my sun protection clothing I feel great and my skin is the same as when I started in the morning.

I put together a short three minute video to help with sun protection clothing.

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

I get asked all the time “How do you catch so many big bass” well the simple answer is eliminating water and spending more time in productive water. Basically if I spend a day just fishing down the bank I will only cover a small amount of productive fish catching water, where as if I spend my day on certain areas of the lake that I have found to hold bass like ledges, hard bottom areas with rock, sunken trees and bushes, and one of my favorite areas where I live docks then my success rate will be very good and thus i’m a happy guy.

Ledge II - ©MikeLongOutdoors

Ledge Bass - ©MikeLongOutdoorsIn the pictures above you can see classic examples of how bass will congregate on a ledges with deep water access. I have found that if these ledges have a flat on one side and deep water access on the other side that they will be a highly productive area of the lake that I want to spend more time on throughout the day.

8 - ©MIkeLongOutdoors

Another productive area of a lake is a small isolated rock pile. This is another area that can hold a trophy bass and if approached quietly and correctly it can be a highly productive spot to visit throughout the day.

Big Bass in Tree 12lber5A - ©MikeLongOutdoorsOne of the hardest areas to fish in a lake is a sunken tree, or bush. These sunken trees and bushes act as shelter and ambush areas in a lake and can hold quite a few  fish.

1 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsIn the picture above this lunker bass was able to ambush a trout that swam by.

3 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe above picture is a great example of how a bass will sit in a sunken tree waiting in ambush mode trying to blend in with the tree until an unsuspecting fish swims by and gets ambushed and eaten.

9D - ©MikeLongOutdoors I have found that where you have boulders and small sunken bushes to be a highly productive area throughout the day that sometimes can be easily overlooked.

4 - ©MikeLongOutdoors

Some lakes have tules, or what some call “cat-tails” that are rooted below the surface into the soft lake bottom around the shallow water areas and sprout anywhere from a few feet, to 15′ above the water. These tules can hold hundreds of bass as well as baitfish throughout the year.

2 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe trick to finding the productive water while fishing tules is finding pockets within the tules due to hard bottom where the tules cannot root. Once an area is found it’s all about finding the right lure to flip into these pockets and the correct rod, reel, and line to get these hiding bass out of this thick cover.

Hundreds of Bass6 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsOne of my favorite spots to fish on a lake is a dock, especially one that has deep water access. In the picture above a very large school of bass had moved up from deep water to hunt the the small bait fish that were grouped up around the dock in part due the ecosystem that thrives around the dock area.

7 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe picture above is a great example of why I love to fish docks. These docks can hold some very large bass throughout the day, especially when it’s sunny. These giant bass love the shade that the docks offer.

So if want to have more success while out on the water, then my advice is to try studying and finding the productive areas of the lake that will hold quality bass and spend more time in these productive areas of the lake and keep a journal of your catches and by paying close attention to the productive water triggers like low-light, the sun postion in the sky and what moon phase your in as well as when the moon will be overhead. By paying attention to these fine details you will understand when to be on the productive areas for maximum success. Good Luck!!

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

In my pursuit of chasing and learning more about giant bass over the years, I have been able to take a break from time to time and use my underwater camera to get some incredible underwater shots of big bass in their natural environment and catalog some of what these monster bass do throughout the day and throughout the four seasons of the year.

Bass Clan - ©MikeLongOutdoorsIn the picture above it was the day of the rainbow trout stocking and after a few weeks of the trout being stocked on the same day the bass became conditioned to be at the same place at the same time for the trout buffet. On this particular day I would guess that at least 1/3 of all the large bass over 12lbs in the lake were under the boat dock staged and waiting for the easy trout hunt.

BASS MOVIE II 2 - ©MikeLongOutdoors

This is by far one of my favorite shots a bass in the 14 lb. class chasing a freshly stocked 2 lb. Rainbow Trout on the launch ramp. She was so fat she could barely swim straight and missed at least three trout while I was filming her wild pursuit.

Big Bass II - ©MikeLongOutdoorsHere is another shot of the same bass trying to pin a trout on the bottom. Most of the large bass I have witnessed during trout stockings seem to try this pinning technique in order to get the trout head towards their mouth. This behavior makes a lot of sense to me due to all the years of success bottom crawling swimbaits.

TROUT MOUTH - ©MikeLongOutdoorsPicture above shows a giant over 12 lbs. with just a few inches of a trout tail sticking out of its mouth.

Bass Under Dock1 - ©MikeLongOutdoors

Here a giant bass sits tucked under a dock days after a trout stock, digesting and waiting for the next trout truck to arrive. Throughout the year I am amazed how many giant bass can be found just under your feet under a boat dock. This low light environment  is a perfect place for a giant bass to hold especially with how many smaller fish that are attracted to the area around a dock. I have found that some of the best ecosystems in a lake are under and around docks.

Bass 2 - Untitled - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThis big bass in the picture above was just hanging out under a boat dock waiting for the right opportunity to grab a meal.

Sequence 1 - ©MikeLongOutdoors

As the Winter months end and Spring approaches some of the true giant bass of the lake head towards shallower waters and start mapping out and staying very close to where the spawning flats will most likely be. This is a great time of the year to find a large bass near to a ledge, large rock, or sunken tree next to a spawning flat.

Spawning Bass 3 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsAs Spring time approaches and the water temperature reaches the right level the male bass begins making a nest and spraying their pheromones in preparation for spawning. This pheromone attractant acts as a big bass love drug to hold these giant female bass shallow where they really don’t want to be due to intensity of the sunlight on their eyes.

Post Spawn - ©MikeLongOutdoors

During post spawn these exhausted giant female bass stay near the shallow waters and spend what little energy they have left to hunt some panfish. You can really tell the difference in the bellies of pre spawn bass vs. a post spawn bass.

Cats and Bass 2 - ©MikeLongOutdoors

Cats and Bass 3 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsNot even a channel catfish is safe during the Summer months from a hungry bass.

Poway 14lber - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe bass in the picture above was in the 16 lb. class most likely a older bass. I love how beat up her tail is from years and years of spawning.

Knot Head - ©MikeLongOutdoorsThe long hot days of Summer drive some giant bass into hiding in the tules to escape from the intense sunlight until the low light of the evening allows these monsters to come out and hunt again.

Dirty Water Bass2 - ©MikeLongOutdoorsAs winter sets in and the days get shorter and the storms arrive, run off from the storms muddy the water and change the water temperature. Bass metabolisms change and the big girls tend to move around less, so you can find some giant bass just sitting on the bottom next to some of the best structure real estate in the lake and if you slow your approach with a jig, or plastic worm you may land that trophy bass of a lifetime..

I hope you enjoyed my bass pictures and they gave you a little more insight into the world of the Large Mouth Bass and they inspire you and help you to better understand the world of the largemouth bass.

 I have had some emails about purchasing some of my bass pictures, they will soon be available on MikeLongOutdoors.com  Thank You for viewing and for your support!!

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

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.

Hero Shot

Hero Shot

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.

20lb-12oz Bass

20lb-12oz Bass

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.

Needle Like Front Teeth

Needle Like Front Teeth

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.

Rear Crushers

Rear Crushers

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.

16 lb. Bass Help Properly

16 lb. Bass Held Properly

The picture above is a good example of how to properly hold and supporting the weight of the bass.

The Boys Practicing Proper Bass Handling

The Boys Practicing Proper Bass Handling

Even the boys have taught me how to properly handle and hold large bass.

Holding a Monster Bass

Holding a Monster 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:

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

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!

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

16″ Big Worm

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.

Big Worms

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.

Owner Oversize Worm Hook

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).

Owner Oversize Worm Hook

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.

Owner 5/0, and 11/0 hooks

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 Big Worms

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.

Stitching Big Worms

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.

Stitching Finger Hold

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.

Smelly Jelly

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.

Scent Applicator

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.

14″ Green Pumpkin Worm

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.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

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.

Reel Oil

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.

Unlocking the Reel

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.

Reel Maintenance

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.

Oil the Outer Bearing

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.

Spool Maintenance

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.

VPS Break Weight Inspection

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

Reel Break Weights

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.

Improper Hold VPS Casting Position

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.

Proper Hold for VBS System

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.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

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.

Jig Time

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.

Fall / Winter Colors

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.

Jigs and Accessories

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.

Rattle Arms Connecte

Rattle Arms

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.

Body Rattle Chambers

The body rattle chambers are another item that will be sold as a harness and rattle set that you will have to put together.

Arm Rattles on Time For a Trailer

Time to add Rattles

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.

Natural Crawdad Trailer

Twin Tail 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.

Jig Trailer should be at an Upward Angle

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.

Natural Look in the Water

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.

Beveled Head on the Jig

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.

3/4 ounce Bass Candy

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.

Underwater Picture

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)

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

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.

Fish on the Bottom with the Lure just Above

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.

Castaic 6″ Swimbait with no Harness

Swimbait Drop Shot Rig

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.

Heavy Drop Shot Rig

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.

Good Swimbaits for Drop Shoting

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.

Jackall Clone Gills, and MattLures Gill

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.

Owner Wacky Hook Size 1

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.

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

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.

Some of my Go-To Swimbaits throughout the years

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.

Broad Head Swimbaits

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.

Bottom Bumping King

Broad Head Swimmer

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.

Boot Tails

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.

RagoBaits Boot Tail

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.

Tungsten Nail Weights

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.

Well Balanced Swimbait

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.

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

Crawdads or rainbow trout? This is a question I ask myself every year around this time when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. I always wonder what the bigger bass are doing and what they really want to feed on during these colder days. Where I live here in San Diego, California our Fall and Winter months can be one of the best times of the year to to catch a few really fat healthy bass, maybe even that one trophy you have been chasing all year. I myself have caught a 17-2 out of Lake Jennings Ca. in November on a jig as well as an 18-1 out of Lake Poway Ca., also on a jig. Both bass were very deep; the Jennings bass was in well over 50′ of water while the Poway bass was caught at around 40′ of water. I find that during the colder shorter Fall/Winter days the bigger bass seem to be deeper, gorging on crawdads every chance they get. But once in awhile, I hook a good bass well over ten pounds on a swimbait during these same periods.

Rainbow Trout vs. Crawdads

Every year is just a bit different and this year has been one of the hottest on record. It is almost Halloween and the air temps are in the 90’s while the water temps are still around the mid 70’s and a bit higher at some lower elevation lakes, so even though the days are getting shorter there is still some unusually warm water to be found and even some top water action still going on during the day. Typically this time of the year the water temps are in the low 70’s and the nights are really cold and clear so the bass are typically deeper where the water temperatures are a bit more consistent.

These deeper bass seem to be mainly feeding on crawdads and even with trout stocks starting they still remain very focused on slowing down and feeding downward on crawdads. I believe the cooler water decreases the bass’ metabolism and encourages the large female bass to slow down and start loading up on calcium-rich crawdads. I have seen this scenario play out year after year and that is why I prefer to use a jig with a crawdad trailer from October through March. Historically for me throughout this these months the jig has always been a high percentage go-to lure in the colder water. But every now and then, after a few trout plants have been put into the lakes, I’ve noticed some short windows of oppurtunity where some of the bigger bass seem to want to chase some trout over feeding on crawdads.

This is where I scratch my head trying to understand why these big bass have a slight change in their diet during the cooler months. I want to understand what triggers these bass to change their feeding pattern, if I can understand some of what influences this change then I might have a chance of being at the right place with the right lure and hooking a good bass.

Jig & Craw Imitation

One thing that I’ve noticed over the years during the Fall and Winter months is on clear, sunny, warm days with little to no wind that around 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I have witnessed some monster bass up shallow in 2′- 10′ of water just sitting on some shallow warm rock piles as still as possible as if they were sleeping. I believe that after eating crawdads for several days that these hard shell crawdads are very hard to digest and load up in the bass’ stomach and intestines, thus pushing these huge bass up shallow where the warm sun can help to warm up these bass and help to increase their metabolism which will help to push these crawdad shells through the bass’ digestive system just a bit faster.

And if the weather stays warm during the Fall and Winter months for more than a week, I have seen some huge female bass start to set up on shallow structure and ambush anything that will swim by and this typically is one of the freshly planted rainbow trout that are such an easy target for these frisky bass. But I’ve also noticed they don’t seem to want to expend too much energy or travel too far to catch one of these trout. This is where the game gets interesting. Now where some of these bass are set up on shallow ambush structure you now have a strike zone and it is up to you to discover what the range of that zone is.

As I have written about on MikeLongOutdoors, when a cold storm approaches where I live, it will push some  monster bass out of their deep hiding areas of the lake and put them almost on the bank for a brief period before the cold storm arrives. This is when these bass seem to be very frustrated and highly aggressive. These short windows of opportunity before the storm arrives, with falling barometer readings, have historically been great times for me to be tossing a swimbait over a jig and the results, at times, have been very good for a large bass on a swimbait. But these monster storms don’t come in every week and the bass always seem to move back to their deeper winter crawdad areas and now it’s back to scratching my head trying to figure out why, and where these big bass are again. But truthfully I love this part of the game almost as much as the payoff!

When looking at my notes and talking with other swimbait and jig fisherman, I have noticed that these big bass will definitely at times come out of the deeper winter waters and chase and eat the swimbaits. Too many people have shared their stories that say the same.

One of the greatest things to happen in my world of learning and sharing info has been FaceBook. I have met thousands of people from all over the world who share the same passion as me in pursuing these monster bass. I have gotten well over a thousand emails and private messages from people wanting to pick my brain and for me I have picked their brains too. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I have learned about bass characteristics around the globe. Now I’m asking you for your brief stories on this topic of crawdads or rainbow trout. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

“How to catch larger bass,” is probably the most common topics of discussion whenever I meet fisherman. Well, this is a question that can’t be answered in one sentence, but I will do my best to provide an answer that can get you on your way to catching larger bass.

A Trophy Largemouth Bass

The first thing you have to do is commit some time on the water. This is by far the most important thing you must do in order to catch larger bass. If you’re not there on the water you don’t have a chance to catch any bass at all. So trying to get out on the water early and staying till dark is a must. This has been the one major factor that has helped me catch some giant bass. There have been days when I started to recognize patterns that the bass were in and this helped me because then I knew the next day what to expect and how to prepare to catch these giants. Sometimes it was just as simple as bringing a new lure to try to see if I could catch a few more bass or some larger ones.

Another very important element in locating and catching larger bass is learning about and studying the ecosystem of the lake or stream you’re fishing. There is an old saying: “match the hatch”. Well, this is exactly what you want to do and by understanding your lake’s ecosystem you’ll understand where the bass are and what they prefer to feed on.

Understanding and finding an ecosystem in your lake or stream takes a little time invested, but the payoff can be huge. Where I live, here in Southern California, we have small, deep resevoirs that are built to hold drinking water so the water is very clear and clean and not as full of nutrients as many other dirtier, darker-colored lakes. These clear waters are full of phytoplankton, which rely on minerals found in the waters they live in, such as iron, nitrate, silicic acid, and phosphate. They then absorb energy from sunlight through the process of photosynthesis. The sun’s energy allows the phytoplankton to convert the minerals in the water to a source of food they can use to survive. These plankton are the foundation of food chains in the lakes I fish with minnows, shad, small bass, and small panfish eating the plankton and larger bass eating the smaller fish and so on. There are also other parts of the food chain that drive the ecosystem where I fish and they include the crayfish, sculpin, and aquatic insects that live both in and on the water. By understanding what’s in the food chain where you fish, you’ll slowly start to put the pieces together of how the ecosystem is driven in the waters you fish. Once this is done, you’ll spend more time in the right areas at the right times and you’ll start catching larger bass due to matching the hatch.

Phytoplankton

In the lakes where I live the favorite food bass hunt throughout the year is crawdads. These crawdads, which are high in calcium content, give the bass a healthy bone structure and the calcium is also key for a female bass in the development of eggs. Crawdads are something that are easy for bass to hunt and catch while exerting very little energy.

Crawdad

So when you want to really catch some of the bigger bass in the lake you need to match the hatch with a jig or any other crawdad imitation. Even using live crawdads caught from the same lake you plan to fish is an awesome game plan to catch a bass of a lifetime. Two words you need to remember when fishing a crawdad, or a crawdad imitation lure, are slow and deep. These two words are key in catching large bass. As a bass ages, it becomes weary when hunting and begins to hunt at a slower pace, much more of a sit and wait ambush mode. The bigger bass understand to not to move to0 quickly around potential prey, to just sit, or move at a snail’s pace to avoid threatening the prey. So by fishing slower and deeper where these giant bass feel much more comfortable is key in catching these keystone predators of the food chain and the king of the ecosystem of the lake or stream.

A Trophy bass over 14 pounds on a Jig

Another huge factor in catching large bass is knowing where the prime ambush areas are and understanding the timing of these areas. I’ve found where I live, with water clarity being 15′-20′ on average, I need to fish during the low-light periods for ultimate success in getting some of the monster bass to eat. Once I’ve found  a few structure-oriented ambush areas that I feel are key spots, I try to figure out the right direction to set up on these key spots to present a bait correctly  through the key structure area while paying close attention to the speed of the retrieve. Then it’s all about the timing of these key spots which is driven by the sunrise-sunset and moonrise-moonset. I have found in my years of keeping data that the hour before and after both the sunrise and the moonset are beneficial times to be on a key spot. My records show that well over 75% of the bass I’ve caught over 10 pounds were caught around these time frames.

Sometimes catching a bigger bass is as simple as just fishing the biggest lure you can that matches the hatch and in some cases is even larger than the prey. In the world of swimbaits here on the West coast we have been matching the hatch with Rainbow Trout swimbaits with an average size of 8″-12″ and the occasional 13″-16″ monster swimbaits. Our mantra is go big or go home.  When chucking these monster lures it takes the right tackle along with some fitness and endurance to chuck and wind these big lures all day. But keep in mind to fish slow and deep even though this is hard to do when you’re all pumped up to toss these big lures. It’s hard to slow down. So remember next time your out on the water and wanting to hook some larger bass try paying close attention to what’s going on above the water as well as under the water and slow down and fish deeper. Good Luck!

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

Approaching Storm Front

Growing up and living here in Southern California one of the best jobs you can have, in my opinion, is being a weather forecaster mainly because it’s almost the same weather here all year long with an average air temperature of around 72 degrees. What an ideal job! But all kidding aside, we do get some good, cold winter storms roll in from northwest from time to time and we have some years where we get what is called an “El Nino” season where it will rain hard every two to three days from January until April due to unusually warm ocean water around the equator pushing to the north. These storms are normally warm and loaded with moisture and, when they mix with cold air loaded with ice from the northwest, the warmer air will melt the ice high in clouds and pull a large percentage of the water out of the clouds making fishing very interesting.

So, first let’s begin by looking at the true definition of weather: The atmospheric conditions that comprise the state of the atmosphere in terms of temperature and wind and clouds and precipitation. In the world of fishing weather it’s one biggest driving forces that make fish move in the water columns from deep to shallow water and vice versa. Fish always look for stable conditions. One of the reasons for this is the way they mentally map out an area where they’re going to hunt, feed, or spawn and when the water level drops, or rises quickly, or weather changes drastically, most fish will back off and suspend and wait till these situations stabilize before they will begin to remap a hunting, feeding, or spawning area. So when you have a really cold-air winter storm start to move in, you’ll notice a change in how the fish start to act and feed. There are two factors at play here: barometric pressure and low-light conditions.

Barometric pressure is an atmospheric pressure as indicated by a barometer and the atmosphere is basically just air surrounding the earth. When you have water in the atmosphere you have low pressure which will be measured by a barometer. The more water that’s in the air, the lower the barometer reading will be and so on. So whenever you look up and see a blue sky, this is a high pressure light-air condition and when you look up and see clouds in the sky this is a low-pressure condition with lots of water and ice floating in the sky. But, due to Earth’s gravity, these clouds have weight and want to fall towards the earth. And what determines the weight of the clouds are their size of the clouds and elevation. The higher in elevation the cloud is in the sky, the more the water molecules in the top of the clouds freeze and sink down towards the earth. This frozen water really weighs the cloud down. So when we get a cold storm from the north-west, with hundreds of miles of clouds packed together that are high in elevation, it’s like a freight train in the sky that has carts loaded with water and ice and as it moves closer to land you start to see the barometer readings drop. This is how it all begins in our world of fishing in relation to cold air and atmospheric pressure on the water.

Ominous Storm Front

So now we have this huge mass of cold and wet air that we call a storm moving towards the lake. The atmosphere is being pushed which creates heavy atmospheric pressure in front of the storm which is  shown by a drop on the barometer. As a result, the fish, which use an internal swim bladder system that gives them the ability to control buoyancy and stay at different water depths, begin to feel the affect of this pressure that is in front of this cold air storm rolling in. The swim bladders are internal and filled with an oxygen gas mixture. The less gas that’s in the bladder will allow the fish to sink and with more gas in the bladder the fish will rise. The swim bladder is much like our lungs except most fish cannot expel the gas out as quickly as we can let air out of our lungs. This means that the fish needs time to slowly absorb the gas from the swim bladder to the outer glands. And as a fast moving cold storm approaches, the fish feel the pressure on their bladder first due to the added water pressure resulting from the increase in atmospheric pressure on the water. This increase in pressure starts to compromise the fish’s buoyancy in the water and starts to make the frustrated fish move to shallower areas to help relieve some of the added water pressure on their swim bladder.

Image by John Cimbaro

To better understand this situation, if a fish is suspended in a lake is sitting at around 20 feet using it’s swim bladder for buoyancy, it has adjusted and is comfortable sitting at 20 feet with 20 foot of water weight pressure above it. But ,when you quickly add atmospheric pressure like a storm moving in and putting added pressure on top of the water, this adds to the water weight above the fish which makes the fish very uncomfortable. The fish will then start moving around and trying to find relief from this new added water pressure. In a few hours or more, the fish can start to adjust and absorb some of the bladder gas and find some relief from the new pressure rolling in overhead by the approaching storm. So, as you can see in this huge game of adjustments, which is change in a fish’s environment and will put the fish on the move until it can find some stability which may take some time for the fish to adjust to.

Now with lots of suspended fish getting frustrated and moving toward the shallows to find some relief from the pre-frontal conditions the bigger the fish the more affected it is. I have seen some monster fish move up shallow swimming around in just a couple of feet of water and most of the time these fish are very aggressive and easy to catch. I have found the pre-frontal dropping barometer window that will push fish shallow to be very small and length depends on how cold the approaching storm is along with the storm size and speed. But typically where I live the pre-frontal fishing window is around 3-6 hours and then the fish seem to adapt and adjust to the new atmospheric pressure overhead.

The other factor of having clouds overhead is the low-light condition. Fish love to hunt and feed under low-light conditions. Hunting out of a shadow is much easier than on a bright sunny day condition where small fish tend to hide until there are low-light conditions. The one factor you need to pay attention to after a storm has arrived is to look for stable conditions. If a storm rolls in and you get 2-3 days of steady clouds and rain, the fish will adapt after about 48 hours. But as soon as anything changes drastically, all bets are off and the fish will go back to a holding pattern till conditions stabilize. This is by far a very frustrating time as a fisherman because every atmospheric disturbance is a mixture of things and tend to always be just a bit different than any other before it. So finding tiny windows like in a pre-frontal falling barometer, or when the storm stalls over your area for a few days and conditions stabilize where you can find small productive  fish catching windows where the fish are willing to bite is all part of the challenge of paying attention to change. Knowing how to read a barometer and understanding what kind of storm is in the atmosphere is all part of the homework you need to do to understand when and where you need to be.

But here in Southern California, we get the majority of our storms throughout the year from the West or Southwest and these storm are built off warmer waters so the clouds are thinner and warmer with no ice at the top of them. These storms tend to stretch for hundreds of miles and since the density of lower, warmer, thinner clouds is less they won’t push the barometer readings as low and these storms tend to be slower moving also so the fish have plenty of time pre-frontal to adjust to a slower change in the atmosphere. What I normally look for with type of weather is the shallow low-light condition. Typically the weather is very steady and the fish have had plenty of time to adjust and are in the shallows hunting and feeding. This has historically for me been a great time for a swimbait mid-depth (5′-10′) or on the surface. I have had some great times under theses conditions and landed some giant bass.

Some storms are packed with winds from all different directions and, once again, the rule of stable conditions in the fishing world applies. The fish will ride out the winds and wait for conditions to stabilize offshore suspended and as soon as the conditions stabilize the fish will start to move shallow and explore the inshore areas once again and begin their hunting and feeding ritual.

I have found that even on clear blue sky during a high-pressure weather pattern that the fish will look for stable conditions and once again if the weather stays in a stable pattern for more than 48 hours you can start to pattern the fish and find them to be much more predictable in their daily migration routes from deep to shallow water and vice versa and now it’s more about the timing of their movements with low-light conditions along with the moon, and sun phases.

So next time you watch the news and see that the weather is changing you’ll know how to change with it and catch more fish.

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

Eliminating water can be very simple, as long as you follow some basic rules to start off with. Finding points, humps, and flats with deepwater access is a very important start in finding fish. Once you have done this, you’ll find that you have eliminated quite a bit of water and now can concentrate your searches on much smaller areas of the lake and can now really focus on what I call the “key spots on the spot”. These are areas of the points, humps, and flats where fish tend to frequent more often in their migration from deep to shallow water and vice versa. They are areas that are typically not much larger than a bathtub in size, but can bas large as truck. And if you can find these unique spots you may be able to pinpoint exactly where the fish should be within the key spot area. How many times have you been on a body of water and seen someone sit in one general area and catch fish all day long? Well, I would bet that person has found one of the “key spots on the spot”, a key area which will hold fish much longer than most other areas of the lake and most of the time where some of the larger fish of the lake will also be hanging out.

In trying to find the timing of these key spot areas this will depend on many factors such as time of year, time of day, moon phase, sunrise, and sunset, moonrise, and moon set, weather (low pressure, high pressure) wind direction, water currents, and, most important, water level. If the water level gets too low around key spot areas this will push the fish deeper to the next key spot area and in some cases if water level drops too fast it will push the fish offshore to open water where they will suspend till the water level stabilizes and remains at a consistent level for at least 48 hours before they will slowly venture towards the shallow water and re-map it.

Main Lake Point

In the picture above of a main lake point, the water level is down well over 60′ exposing multiple rock piles all over the lake point. I used this picture because it is a classic example of different rock piles that will hold fish on a lake point. Using one of the first rules in eliminating water, which is looking for deepwater access and finding the rock piles that are closest to deep water or the deep creek channel, will help you in finding your most consistent rock piles on this point throughout the year. But this is only part of the elimination process, after finding structure with deep water access you will still need to dissect it to find where the key spot is on it and try to figure out exactly where and how fish will use it to ambush other fish. So, as you can see in this picture above, finding a few key areas that will hold fish more often than others areas is not so hard. But what areas on these spots will hold fish and why?

Spot on the Spot

In the picture above I used one of my trophy bass replicas to help show how a large fish might sit in a key spot between some large rocks to ambush fish. The picture shows a key spot within a large pile of rocks on a main lake point and if you can find an area like this you’ll load the boat with fish and possibly a fish of a lifetime, especially if you can set up on it correctly. A Global Position System (GPS) can be one of your best tools to use to be able to locate and save waypoints to where these key spots are and to return to them at a later date and set up on them correctly. I always have two GPS settings per key spot; one is where the actual key spot is and the other is where I want to sit my boat in relation to the key spot to be able to cast towards and effectively work my bait through the key spot area.

Classic Ambush Area

The above picture is another example of a classic rock ambush area along a lake point where a large fish can sit in ambush waiting for prey to swim by. The large rock in the picture where the replica bass is sitting under provides an area of shade and darkness when in deep water, where a fish can tuck up tight almost underneath it and ambush from the shadow of the rock, almost like a ninja-style stealth attack. Understanding an area like this is very important, one thing that helps is to try to envision in your head which direction fish will use in a key area like the rock in the above picture. This will really help in understanding which direction you’ll need to present your bait on in a key spot and why this is so important to execute this bait presentation properly so your catch ratio on a key spot will be as high as possible.

Ambush Area

These key spot ambush areas that a big fish might use more often are not always easy to find. If the water drops low enough once in awhile, you’ll have a chance to walk around and look for these key spots on a point, hump, or flat with deepwater access and save the waypoints with GPS. But, if the water never drops low enough, then an Aqua View underwater style camera is a great tool. If the water is too dirty for an underwater camera, then your underwater electronics are going to be very important in finding these key spot areas. With the new downscan technology it has made it easier than ever to get a more accurate, underwater snapshot image of what structure is on the bottom with a very detailed image that will really help you to dissect a spot to find the “key spots on a spot”. Remember, what you’re looking for is a key spot area. It may be a rock, stump, a steep ledge, etc., but it has to be one of the best spots in the area where a fish can hide and ambush its prey.

Rock an Wood Ambush Spot

In the picture above is one of my favorite types of  “key spots on a spot” with just a few large rocks on this lake point and one nice piece of wood where a large fish can get up underneath it in the ambush position. I cannot tell you how many large bass I have caught in this type of of structure situation. It is by far a high-percentage area as long as there is adequate deep water access available nearby.

Hard Bottom by Spawning Flat

The picture above shows a very overlooked area. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overlooked a hard bottom area of a lake. These hard bottom spots in a lake that have deep water access can be very productive, especially if you have a lake with little to no rock structure at all.

Hard Bottom Point

Above picture is another example a hard bottom point or reef which can have hundreds, if not thousands, of holes where crawdads and other small bait fish can live. These hard bottom areas that have lots of holes can have an amazing ecosystem that can thrive in a lake as long as the water level is adequate above it.

Hard Bottom Point

The picture above shows another angle of the hard bottom point where you can see more of the hiding holes and the ledge area on the spot where the 18 pound bass replica can easily tuck up too and wait in ambush for smaller fish to swim by.

A Spot along a Ledge

The picture above is another great example of a key spot along a ledge. There are so many overlooked areas in a lake, but once you start to understand what to look for and why, you’ll start finding these areas in a lake and heading right to them and spending more time catching fish and having a great time. Keep in mind, once you have some key spots to fish, you’re now spending more of your time on them instead of spending time fishing unproductive water.

If you look at creek channels as highways and lake points as off ramps to the shallow water and the spots on the spots as rest and feeding areas, you’ll start to really create a vision of mechanics of what’s happening under the surface of the water.

Rock Step Spot

The above picture shows a three-level rock spot on a point that most large fish will use at different times of the day and when the water color, or depth changes. When finding and fishing a spot like this, it is very important to understand how fish will use the different levels throughout the night and day and when the water gets stained and dirty. I have found that if the water was on average ten feet above the large rock, as seen in the picture above, during the heat of the day the fish will be on the lower ledge levels waiting up tight in ambush mode for any prey to swim by. And in low-light conditions the fish seem to be up towards the top of the rock pile moving and hunting for small fish and crawdads.

Stump Spot

Stump Spot

These two “Stump Spot” pictures are classic examples of very small key structure spots that often get missed and can be very hard to find at times. Once again, this is a 29″ bass replica that demonstrates how a live bass could hide much of its body underwater near one of the stump targets. What I have found is that these type of lone stump areas seem to only hold only one or two fish for brief periods of time. Also, the time of day and sun angle are giveaways of which side of a stump target a fish may be hiding in ambush. And from my personal experience it can be one violent bite if it’s lined up correctly.

Bush Spot

In the above picture is an isolated bush that throughout the day can hold numerous fish of all sizes. These bush spots can be hard to fish without hanging up  your bait once in awhile, but once you find a good weedless lure you’ll have a chance at hooking fish after fish without hanging up your bait in the bush and shaking it and spooking the fish out of it. Underwater brush can be one of the most productive ecosystem spots you’ll find in a lake. The tall branches will get moss attached to them during warmer water months creating areas where aquatic bugs and insects will live and hunt within the moss and branches. And as for some of the fallen branches laying on the lake bottom can make great hiding areas for crawdads, sculpin, and other small fish. I have found that if these bush spots are at a correct depth per the right time of year they will hold fish all day long. The shadows, once again, play a key role in determining where a large fish might sit within the branches to wait in ambush.

Hopefully next time you go fishing you will be able see things a little bit differently and understand why key areas of a lake are so important and how taking good notes, many pictures, and using your GPS to better mark key spots along with understanding how to use your electronics will help you to better understand how to eliminate water and find that productive water and learn to use the key spots on the spot and catch more fish.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

Imagine that you have just caught the Fish of a Lifetime and now have a huge decision to make, do you keep the fish, or do you release it? This subject comes up from time to time about C&R  (Catch and Release) of a Trophy fish and what to do about capturing the moment in the form of a Skin Mount, or a replica. Along the same lines of Mike’s recent article titled “Are you prepared for a record catch?” I’d like to reinforce  some of his major points and add that all these measures are very important along with, do you want a mount made of your big fish? If you’re a C&R fishermen then it’s a replica ,if you decide on a Skin mount then the fish will be used to produce the trophy mount. It’s a personal choice that only you can make and you have every right to do what you want to do with your trophy catch. With the advent of good quality fiberglass reproductions, along with a good picture of your catch and measuring all the dimensions then, I would suggest that this is the way to go.

Plus here’s the kicker, the fish gets released for another angler to catch someday and also gets to reproduce for years to come. The merits of C&R are well documented with numerous cases of guys catching the same fish time and again. I have a replica of my PB ( personal best ) 14.63 lb’er hanging in my den and every morning I wake up I get to relive that day knowing she could still be swimming around Folsom Lake, Ca.

Along the same lines there are times when we see folks keeping a huge fish and not releasing her for one reason or another. Emotions can run high on both sides of this situation, remember it’s not against the law to keep any fish caught by legal means. All we can do is promote with good sound advice and not be judgmental. So in conclusion lets educate, promote and leave the next generation with a chance to enjoy the sport that we all love.

Until next time…Stay On EM !

Danny Barker

I’m a Calif. transplant living in Ocala, FL. I’ve lived here for the last 6 years. My home town of Sacramento/ Folsom, Ca is where I lived for 40 years. Some of the best bass fishing in the country with the Delta, Clear Lake, Folsom and tons of other outstanding water. I write/moderate for a cool website called the Unemployed Fishing Club Unemployed Fishing Club, I’m also a writer/ Field Editor for North Central Florida Fish Explorer.com. Looking forward to contributing to MLO. Look me up on FaceBook too !

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Lake Hodges 14 lbs. 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Swimbait

What is a swimbait and why does it work so well? Well, as fisherman, we want nothing more than to always catch fish each trip to our favorite lake or stream and have a chance at hooking and landing that trophy fish of a lifetime. I have been on this quest for over 40 years and it never changes. I want to catch more bass with the goal of finding and landing that one true elusive giant bass, that for most of the year is just a myth, that giant fish you dream about day and night. And there is no better way to accomplish this task and finding that mystic bass than by using a swimbait. It is that one lure that most represents the larger food that the monsters of our lakes and streams feed on. It is by far one of the most productive lures for covering water throughly to find where that trophy size bass lives and hunts and when it comes to trying to match the hatch, or in some cases, matching the prey in which these giants are feeding upon, the swimbait is the perfect tool for the job. In this article I’m going to focus on the soft plastic swimbait.

With a swimbait I look for three things: the shape of the bait, the internal and external rigging system, and the paint job or colors added to the plastic. These three things are basically what gives the swimbait the ability to imitate life and trick the fish into biting. If one of these features is incorrect or missing, your swimbait will not be as effective thus your hook up ratios may be very low.

Soft plastic swimbaits are made out of plastisol, which is the main material for making soft plastic swimbaits. Once the plastisol is heated up to around 325 degrees, colors, glitter, and salt may be added to the mixture to give a bait a desired look, and texture. Then it can be hand poured ,or injected into the swimbait molds and allowed to cool. Every swimbait manufacturer may use a different brand of plastisol, or a different recipe of softeners or hardeners that will give the baits a different feel and swimming action in the water. Their procedures for heating up and pouring the plastisols can vary as well and even the machines they use can make a difference in how the swimbaits are poured, or injected. These are a few of the reasons why one swimbait may look, feel, and swim differently from all other brands of swimbaits on the market.

Two styles of Swimbait Tails

The tail design of the swimbait is something to pay very close attention to since with most swimbaits this is the motion engine of the swimbait and where vibration from the bait is started. And that vibration of the tail needs to be as life-like as possible to fool the fish and its lateral line system into thinking that this is a real fish. If the bait does not swim right, the fish may not bite. There are two basic designs of swimbait tails on the market today: the “wedge” style tail and the “boot” tail. The wedge-style tail, which is more of a balanced tail design, will give the lure an S-motion swimming action and, depending on its size, will determine how much S-motion. The smaller the wedge tail the less S-motion out of the swimbait and the larger the wedge tail the more S-motion out of the swimbait (see pic.5). With the larger tails the swimbait head and body will shake so much that you can see and feel the vibration through the rod tip. The girth of the swimbait will also determine how much side to side movement will be allowed. Keep in mind in low-light conditions, stained and dirty water the swimbait vibration is a huge key to a swimbaits success since it is displacing water which a fish will feel through its lateral line system and give it the ability to hunt that swimbait.

The “boot” tail design is one of the oldest swimbait tail designs. It is an unbalanced design which will give the swimbait more of a rocking motion than an S-motion. It too gives the swimbait more motion depending on its size of the tail and generally it will give upward lift to the rear of the swimbait. This lift, which wants to lift and push the head of the swimbait down, is what creates the uneven rocking motion. Some swimbait manufacturers have designed the heads to be more oval shaped and flatter. This helps with boot-tail designed lures to take that energy from the tail that is moving towards the head and distribute it outward toward the sides of the bait. The combinations of tail sizes and body shapes go on and on.

Stocker Trout (left) Castaic 12″ (right)

There are some soft plastic swimbaits that use a diving bill under the head of the bait help generate energy to create S-motion to power the swimbait as well as swimbaits that have hard U-shaped wings in the middle of the bait to simulate side to side swimming motion. These baits typically have straight tails and  have very natural fish shaped bodies.

In the clear water, during bright light periods, a subtle swimming swimbait is what I prefer to use, it seems to work better for me than a harder kicking swimbait. I believe in this situation that the bass are watching and waiting for the right opportunity to ambush the trout, or in this case hopefully my swimbait. A subtle swimming swimbait with a rip or jerk thrown into the retrieve occasionally can trigger the bass into biting. If you watch a live trout in the lake this motion is very similar to how the trout swims when a big bass is in close proximity. When I have used a hard-tail kicking swimbait in this same situation with very clear water, I have found the bass to be very curious and follow the swimmer and maybe taste the tail but not commit and attack the swimmer head first.

8″ Huddleston Deluxe Tail

In a low-light situation, or dirty water, the bass uses its sense of hearing and lateral line system more than its vision for hunting its prey. I have found that a noisy larger tailed  swimbait is a good match for this situation versus the small subtle-tail swimming swimbaits in this environment. The bass seem to always be a little more aggressive when searching for a lure in low-light and dirty water. So as you can see the water conditions play a huge factor in determining which style of swimbait tail to choose from. Once again a little homework on the water you plan to fish is needed to determine which lure to use.

Rainbow Trout

 

Most of the lakes I fish here in Southern California stock rainbow trout from hatcheries here in the state. These Rainbow Trout are the primary reason the bass I fish for and catch here in Southern California have the massive size they do. These trout are high in protein, easy to digest, and at times very easy for the bass to catch due to the trout being transplanted into a very foreign environment where the bass live and rule and have a huge advantage in ambushing the trout. The lakes here get stocked an average 25,000-30,000 lbs. of trout per year and if you average the trout size at two pounds a piece that’s about 13,000-15,000 trout that are stocked between November and April. So when I need a lure to match the hatch, to catch some of the true giants of the lake, I need a swimbait that will imitate as closely as possible the Rainbow Trout that are being stocked into the lakes.

Some of the best soft swimbait copies of rainbow trout

Matching the size of the trout that are being stocked in the lakes, or streams is very important. I have found in my years of using swimbaits that if I don’t match the size of what the bass are feeding on, I will get lots of followers and very few takers. I am someone who at the end of a day fishing takes a few minutes to take some notes on what happened during that day. I am a firm believer in statistics and I always try to review my  past notes carefully to help remind myself of what the bass were doing on average during similar stockings, weather, moon phases, lake conditions, etc. And my statistics show a huge success rate in large bass catches when I have matched the size and color of the rainbow trout that are being stocked. For example, we have the Department of Fish and Game stock a few of our lakes with 5″-8″ rainbow trout and when I used swimbaits that were the 6″ or 8″  range I had lots of success compared to using swimbaits in the 10″-12″ range and vice versa when the lakes stocked the 10″-14″  sized trout.

MattLures Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Another huge factor in choosing a swimbait is the color of the water where you plan to fish. Here in So Cal. most of the lakes I fish have very clear water so the visibility is really good. This makes finding a picture perfect paint job on my swimbait a must if I want to trick those lunker bass into taking my artificial swimmer. As you can see by the picture above, the swimbait need a life-like paint job. When the trout are stocked, they will be one color and that color can change as they get adjusted to their new environment. So my advice is to do some homework and try to take a look at what some of the trout fisherman are catching. This can really help in choosing the proper color and size of what the bass are chasing and eating at the moment. Keep in mind the trout will change colors due to weather, water temperatures, oxygen, and what foods they can find to eat. So pay close attention to this because sometimes a slight different strain of Rainbow Trout will have different characteristic colors. I find where I live the DFG trout that are stocked are very small and have lots silver to their scale color, while the bigger trout that are stocked, normally from cold-water hatcheries, have more of the pink and green colors with lots of dark green, brown, or black dots throughout the body.

The little details for me have made a difference in helping me catch some of the largest bass of my fishing career. The little things I’ve done include adding glass eyes and red gills, maybe a touch of paint here or there, or a new larger tail. These are a few of the alterations that I have done at times to give my swimbaits that added edge towards making them look as life-like as possible and different from what all other swimbait fisherman are using. I have always been a firm believer here in Southern California where pressure on these small lakes is tremendous and lots of people have been fishing the same style of swimbait, showing the bass the same lure over and over that finding a way to separate myself from the rest of the pack is crucial. This does not mean that the bait was not designed to catch fish. I just believe anyway that I can enhance the bait where the bass will take a second look because it looks a little more realistic than the stock lure he’s seen over and over give me good odds of getting the fish to bite on these highly pressured waters I fish.

(Pic.5)  6″ Huddleston Deluxe before and after alterations

There are two ways that soft plastic baits match the color of the prey: one is painting the bait and the second is mixing colors into the plastic during the hand pour process. I have found that on the highly pressured clear waters here in So.Cal that the painted swimbaits look much more realistic than the hand poured swimbaits do. You will normally see this in the price you pay for the painted bait too since the paint is another expensive process that has to be added after the bait is poured or injected.

Rago Lures Hand Poured Boot-Tail Swimbaits

This does not in anyway mean that the hand-poured swimbaits don’t catch fish; it all depends on what company did the hand pour to how well they will look. I have caught hundreds of quality bass on hand poured baits, in low light conditions, or dirty water. And for the lower price of the baits I tend to fish them in the cover more not as chicken as I might with a more expensive painted bait. And some hand pour companies are really good at pouring a very light, almost transparent, bait which actually works better sometimes under clearwater very bright-light conditions. This “ghost” pattern hand pour, if poured to the colors you desire, can really put a hurting on the fish. I have had plenty of days where this was my go to bait, especially in the deeper clearwaters down to 30′, 40′ even 50′.

In conclusion, pay very close attention to what season it is and what your fish are feeding on and try to match that prey as much as possible. Once this is done you can start to look for lure-making companies that make the sizes and colors of swimbaits you need and then it’s more about the rigging and fine details to give you the best chances to catch more fish or that fish of a lifetime. And as for hard resin swimbaits, that is a different article for a another day.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

One of our goals as fisherman is to catch fish, lots of fish, how many times have you had  one of those epic trips where you caught lots of fish, and wondered why you have not been able to catch fish like that more often, well the truth is you can, you just have to practice some simple rules of eliminating water to find productive water.

Yes, you need to understand how to read and eliminate unproductive waters to find those rich productive waters. I have been doing this for years and it’s helped me catch thousands of fish from bass, catfish to panfish.

The first basic rule to understand in the water elimination process is to look for humps, points, and flats with deep water access, the later is key “deep water access’ this is the on ramp, and off ramp for the open water migration highways fish use. One of the first things you should do is find a topographical map one that you can write notes on would be great. Once you have this and you have studied the topo lines on the map which show water at different levels you can use a yellow highlight pen to draw a straight line over the deepest channels of the lake. Once this is done you can use a darker highlight pen to highlight the points, humps, and flats next to your deep water channels that you have marked in yellow. Now you have completed one of the major steps in the elimination of water process before you have ever visited the lake, you could call it some of your fishing homework.

Topo maps are not 100% accurate and if your serious about catching more fish, then you need to try to take pictures of the lake at lower levels. This can take quite some time. Where I live most of the lakes are high in the winter, and spring, and low in the summer, and fall, so taking pictures is not a problem.

Google Earth is another great tool for looking at a lakes at different water levels. They have a time bar so you can go back in time to see if they have an image at  a lower water level.

Another way too explore the lake to find the key areas is to meter them and take good notes or mark them with GPS to find where the deep channels are in relation to the points, humps, and flats. This is something that will be very accurate and really help you out, the key is to pick small areas of a lake and take your time. Some graphs have map chips that you can install which make it very nice to mark your waypoints on and build a milk run of these key areas.

So doing some homework is key in eliminating water, I have spent hundreds of hours looking at topo maps and reducing hundreds of surface acres of water down too just couple of surface acres or less of productive water, and now I can spend more time figuring out the timing of these areas in relation to fish migration through them.

 

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.