Monday, April 30, 2012

Lake Shelbyville Aftermath

Finally back from my fun filled weekend, and all I can say is I am beat!  Both days were filled with rain, wind, and cold temperatures...the cold front was in full swing.  Saturday we hit the lake around 7:30 AM, and started a mile or two South of our launch area and worked our way North up to the two rivers that feed into Lake Shelbyville.  Lake Shelbyville in general is a beautiful lake with a lot of sparse stump fields, brush piles, rock piles, drop offs, and flats.  Having intimate knowledge of this lake is crucial because the water level varies dramatically from spring to summer.   At "winter pool" which is what the lake is at now is about 9-10 feet down from what the lake is during the "summer pool".  You could tell just by the erosion of main lake points how far down the water was from normal summer pool levels.  

A good starting tip that I learned from my club boater, Mike, on Saturday was that the spawning period for the lake was usually in mid May.  This was one of the key points that I had to soak in because it told me several things...that the males are starting to move up to spawning areas, and the females will probably be lurking in some deeper water or might have started moving up depending on the portion of the lake they are in and the water temperature.  Water temperature on Saturday was about 56 to 59 degrees depending on the time of the day which was perfect for most lures that I wanted to use.  Water clarity was varied again depending on where you were at, but you could see about 1.5 - 2 feet down.  This wasn't great so I knew that brighter colors or really dark colors would have to be key.

We hit several areas throughout the day, picking up a few keepers here and there with a mix of some hybrid white bass.  Crappie fishing was in full swing there also so we worked our way around the chunks of boaters working brush piles for their dinner.  While we were doing this I was making note of the areas we were fishing by marking way points (exact fishing spots) on my Navionics app on my phone.  This app is 10 bucks, but allows you to drop pins on a lake map using your GPS location from your phone making it easier to hit your spots the following day.  Water temperature, type of cover, water depth, and water clarity were all necessary pieces to the puzzle that needed to be figured out.  The main thing though was to cover A LOT of different water quickly...and once you get that first bite you will be on your way to developing a pattern.  

My boater, Mike, kept on getting hits next to stumps in our second area (the first area was a bust).  The stumps were in 5 feet of water but had steep drop offs near by (secondary points).  The stumps that were consistently holding fish were primarily next to main lake points.  Now, I am a novice when it comes to lake contour lingo...but a main lake point is a land structure (usually a peninsula) that works its way down into the water...something that you can visibly see from shore.  As you can see in the picture below, a cliff on the left side runs into the lake down to five feet of water where it flattens out.  That is what would be called a main point.  A secondary point though is when that depth transitions then to a deeper physical contour of the lake this case the contour drops down to 12 feet of water and then flattens out again.  So whenever you hear someone saying main point or secondary point, this is what they mean.

Not only were we catching fish on stumps next to main lake points, but also at gravel walls next to marinas and bridges.  Mike caught a nice female next to one of the mouths of the bridge on a crankbait.  The female was full of eggs and still feeding on shad.  What is important to note was the condition of the female's tail. The tail isn't fully stretched out flat in the picture...but a good indicator whether a female is actively moving for the spawn is a bloody or red hued tail.  When the females start filling with eggs they sit lower in the water column and hug the bottom because they are heavier and don't expel much energy.  When they swim around then, they end up rubbing their tail on the bottom causing a non-permanent wound on their tail. The fish below did not show signs of this so she was still active and will probably be moving up soon for the spawn.  Up to that point, all males had been an active female was a good sign that we might have some bigger fish in the bag come tournament day.

Stumps and rock points...we had our game plan.  Most fish were caught between 5-10 feet of water and the water clarity was murky.  The shad were in full swing and a lot of the bass were keying in on that so crankbaits were picked meticulously to match the hatch of the shad that we saw jumping out of the water.  Light whitish grey sides with a light silver/pale black back was the key.  KVD 2.5, Strike King 5 and 4 series crankbaits in Green Gizzard Shad and Blue Gizzard Shad worked the best.  Spinnerbaits were also used, but the right color combo/blade configuration wasn't figured out until tournament day...but we will get to that juicy detail later.  Black/blue jigs, black and blue creature baits, and green pumpkin senkos around stumps and brush worked well also.

The main thing we focused on though during practice on Saturday was to only set the hook on one or two keepers in an area once we found them, because if you catch a bunch of fish in the will more than likely not produce on tournament day.  A lot of the fish hit our bait and we let them shake free without setting the hook so they would bite tomorrow.  Once we located fish in an area, we marked that point and made note of the characteristics of that area, and then made our way to a new area with similar characteristics.  By the time we were finished we had 6-7 areas that we knew held fish that were willing to bite.  I made note of all of this information, but come tournament day I might be fishing some totally different areas and lures depending on who I drew as my boater.  That is the dilemma of the non-boater and are at the mercy of your boater on tournament day no matter how well you did in practice in other areas. Practice should still be utilized as a tool familiarize yourself with the water and the fish patterns to prevent you from getting overwhelmed and over thinking things.  I have to say it helped me out getting my head in the game and having ideas in my back pocket that my boater might overlook.

Tournament Day

Tournament morning started at 5:45 AM with check in...followed by drawing for boat order number and non-boater draw.  My name was called out and I ended up picking boat number 5.  Boat number 5 belonged to a local guy named James Williams.  Really great guy, and ended up learning a ton from him throughout the day.  He had been pre-fishing for the last 3 weeks patterning the fish, so I knew we were going to get into them.  The day called for severe weather and a little colder temperatures...but James and I were in for a little bit tougher day than expected...and not just from the weather conditions.  From the get go he was having issues starting the motor.  Everyone took off and we were left stranded on the trolling motor until one of his buddies came to give us some starter fluid.  The motor luckily started up and we ran to our first area.

The starting spot was in one of the fingers of the lake...stumps and trees galore!  I tried a black/blue jig for a while with no luck.  James threw Texas rigged plastics but had no luck either.  About an hour into picking the area apart...the rain came.  Thunder and lightning started to come in but we stuck it out for a bit as the rain was pouring.  I decided to switch up tactics and put on a white/chartreuse spinnerbait with gold and silver colorado blades.  I threw that for awhile until I finally got my first bite of the day.  We were way back in one of the fingers of the lake and I saw a lay down tree under the water parallel to the shore maybe about 2 feet down.  I threw the spinnerbait right up next to it and slow rolled it after it sank down a bit.  I wasn't fully paying attention until I felt a heaviness on my line.  I had gotten hung up a few times that day so I figured that was the case...until my line started moving.  I realized that it was a fish and I laid into her!  Next thing I know she was off to the races!  My boater dropped everything and scrambled to the side of the boat to help me.  As soon as I saw the side of the fish I knew she was a big one and my heart started racing as she splashed around in the water.  My boater finally lipped her and she was on the board, what an amazing feeling!  I guesstimated her at 4.5 lbs but my boater knew she was heavier then that...we had to wait and see once we got to the scales.  

The storm started getting worse with the lightning and thunder being right over the top of us so we went into a cover for a bit and waited for everything to roll through.  Once it started letting up we went to go turn over the motor...didn't fire.  We tried and tried to get it to luck.  It took us awhile to figure out what went wrong...and with a little help from another couple guys on a different boat we finally got it to run.  Unfortunately we lost a good hour in the tournament, but we tried hard to recover quickly.

We fished a few more spots with no luck and finally headed over to a rock break wall that was next to a marina.  James told me that this marina was where most of the tournament fish are released so we were sure to fill the rest of our limit fast if they were biting.  James picked up two keepers quickly on a jig and creature bait and I picked up my second one on a KVD 2.5.  Mind you, all of the keepers had to be over 14" so some short fish that we caught had to be tossed back.

We hit a few more areas with no luck, it wasn't until 10 minutes before weigh in that we found one more fish.  James tossed a spinnerbait (same chartreuse/white one I had) at another lay down tree and saw a fish roll on it.  The fish missed it and he immediately threw his creature bait in there.  He hooked into his third keeper which was a fat 14" bass.  I was too slow on the draw and I ended up missing that chance to capitalize on his miss...oh well, you live and learn.

We finally got into the weigh in...I was really excited to weigh in my fish because it could have very well been the biggest bass of the tournament.  A lot of the boats surprisingly were missing from the parking lot...some left because of the rain and others had no fish so they took off early.  I had a good chance!  When it was my time to weigh in I pulled out my big bass and the feeling was just indescribable.  She weighed 5.17 lbs!

The other fish of mine weighed 1.6 lbs so I had a total weight of 6.77 lbs.  I didn't think that was enough to place because I found out Bob Pointer, another member of our club, weighed in 5 fish for 15.57 lbs.  His big bass weighed 5.46 lbs.  I didn't know how the rest of the field fared so I went and released my fish and headed back to the weigh in for the announcement of the winners.  They paid out up to 6th place.  It didn't dawn on me until they called out 6th place that I actually had a winning weight!!! My two fish were good enough to put me in 4th place...out of a field of 37 anglers!  I was just shy of big bass too by .29 lbs!  I walked away with $150 bucks for 4th, and Big Bass would have been an extra $190...I was on cloud nine either way.  I beat 10 out of 13 of our club members, and I caught my biggest bass of the year...I just couldn't believe it!

I ended the day talking to my boater James and thanking him for all of the help.  It was awesome to place in the tournament, but learning from someone who is a veteran tournament fisherman was priceless.  I owe him a lot of the thanks, and all of my club members the same as well for making this tournament a memorable one. It was a great time, and the fishing gods were looking out for me.

Mike and I left the lake Sunday afternoon...and another fishing memory was in the books...

Thanks for reading, and tight lines!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prep for Lake Shelbyville Tournament (4/29)

Tournament number 2 is finally on the horizon, got my gear all packed up and ready to go to hit the road tomorrow afternoon.  This tournament will be a little different this time around because I have never fished this lake, and I will actually have a full practice day to see if I can develop some sort of pattern before Sunday.

The inner workings of tournament fishing is still really new to me so I have been taking it in stride learning the ins and outs of what I really need to focus on.  The Shelbyville tournament is actually an ABA (American Bass Anglers) tournament, which is a separate tournament trail from our regular club tournaments.  Even though this is the case, we are using a couple of the ABA tournaments as our regular season club point tournaments since the trail is technically still under the FLW division.  One thing I recommend to all new tournament anglers...if you are fishing in more than one tournament trail you have to be a member of that tournament trail in order to participate.  Good thing I was reminded of this because I just bought my membership a couple days ago and registered online for this tournament.  Without the membership, I would not be eligible to compete. What will be nice though is that I can compete in any ABA tournament outside of my club if I decide to do so in the future.

Pre-fishing is a relatively new thing to me also so here are a few things that have helped to speed me up over the last few weeks...
  • Topographic Maps of Lake Shelbyville
  • Weather patterns
  • Recent tournament weigh ins and weigh ins from last year
  • Average fish size and bigger fish for the lake
  • Current water clarity and water temperature
  • Prominent food sources
  • Prominent type of cover
  • Talking to other people who have pre-fished the lake
  • Average water depths
Having an idea of all of these things before you even see the lake can be very useful in helping you break your game plan down into smaller chunks.  The topographic maps can usually be found online.  Some of the better ones take some digging but I managed to scrounge up a few decent ones.  Since this is an Army Corps of Engineers lake, some really detailed topographic maps can be had relatively easily.

The weather has been nice, mostly in the 70's all week but starting today the temperatures have dropped down into the 50's.  This means a big cold front has just moved into the area and the fish might be harder to catch.  Finesse tactics as well as slower reaction strike presentations might work better than anything else come Sunday.

After reviewing recent tournament weigh ins it was evident that there is some size to most of the fish in the lake. 1.5 to 2.7 lbs seem to be the average size with a few fish reported in the 5 to 6 pound range from previous years.  A tournament that took place a couple weeks later this time last year had a winning weight of 17.75 lbs.  The weather conditions probably weren't the same, but I know now that it will probably take around 3 lbs a fish to come close to first depending on how the rest of the field fares.

After speaking with one of the other guys from our club who pre-fished the lake, the water clarity has been stained the last couple weeks. Now with the cold front and the rain coming on Saturday it will be a guarantee that the water temperature will be slightly colder and stained for Sunday.  He also let me know that a lot of the fish have been feeding on shad, so with the weather patterns and the time of year...the fish are probably likely to be in their pre-spawn staging areas or possibly backing off more now to deeper water with the cold front.

Another member in our club who fishes Shelbyville quite a bit has helped key me into the type of cover that I can expect this time of year....rock and wood.  There are a few old road beds that could potentially hold fish as well as numerous stumps and lay downs in the channels and fingers of the lake.  So both will be worked over pretty well to see what form of structure the bass are keying in on.  Water depth of the lake varies depending on where you are at from 5 to 40 ft, but once the structure is patterned...the water depth that they are holding at will be the next key to the puzzle.

So what do I get from all of that?

This is the dilemma now of the non-boater.  Even if I developed a pattern on Saturday I am at the mercy of my boater that is chosen for me come tournament day.  Even though this is the case, I should still have anything I learned in practice in my back pocket just in case.  Finesse techniques will probably be more effective with the cold water, such as dropshotting and shakeyheads.  Dark colors as well as really bright colors will have to be used since the water is stained.  Reaction baits with a lot of rattle and water displacement such as Colorado blade Spinnerbaits, rattling jigs, rat-l-traps, crankbaits, and chatterbaits will probably be used.  Also shad style lures will probably be productive since most of the fish have been keying on shad this past week.  So jerkbaits and soft plastic jerkbaits can be added to the list as well.

I plan on bringing only 5 rods and reels with me to the tournament so this is what I limited myself to...

(2) Crankbait setups for rat-l-traps, jerkbaits, squarebills, and deeper divers.
(1) Finesse spinning setup for dropshot, shakeyheads, and flickshake
(1) Heavier jig setup for swimjigs, rattling jigs, and swimbaits.
(1) Spinnerbait setup for chatterbaits and spinnerbaits.

Some of my starting lures will include...

  • Shad pattern or all White spinnerbait and chatterbait
  • 3/8 oz black/blue rattling jig
  • Dark Texas rigged craw/creature bait
  • Black/Silver Lucky Craft Pointer and Rapala Shallow shad Rap
  • Black/chartreuse and Black Silver 1.5 and 2.5
  • Zoom Finesse worm and Roboworm for finesse techniques
  • Silver/Black Back Red Eye shad
I am sure other techniques will work there way in, but it is always good to start out with your confidence baits.  After taking the time to go through my game plan I feel more mentally prepared even though I haven't set eyes on the lake yet.  I will shoot out a short update Saturday night with my progress and let you guys know how I am doing so far.  20 boats will be at the tournament come Sunday so this will be double the size of our last tournament.

Wish me luck, and tight lines!


Monday, April 23, 2012

So they call you Fluke?

It still shocks me and people around me when I get someone shouting "Fluke" across Bass Pro followed by me turning around with a confused look and realizing another member has spotted me.  Fluke is a relatively new nickname, but the meaning behind it has stuck with me for easily 10 years of my fishing career.  Of course I get the comedians that like to say, "is it because it's a Fluke when you catch a fish" which is immediately followed up by a chuckle if you know me, or a good shove into the nearest body of water if you don't know me. Haha.  But in actuality I call myself Fluke because of the Zoom Super Fluke.

The Zoom Super Fluke has been a staple in my line up every year for the past 10+ years of my fishing career, and I have cut my teeth learning and understanding weightless plastics because of it.  The Fluke is one of the most versatile and productive baits that I have ever come across and I continue to use them year after year because the flat out produce results!  I feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump talking about shrimp sometimes...but there are so many ways to change up the Super Fluke that it is almost impossible to fish this lure incorrectly.  So sit back and relax as I go over 5 of my most productive ways of rigging and fishing the Zoom Super Fluke!

1) Carolina-Rigged Zoom Fluke

Ideal Setup:
Rod: 7' 3" MH or H power with a Fast action
Reel: 6.4 Gear Ratio
Line: 17-20 lb Fluoro leader with 50 lb Braid main line
Hook: 3/0 EWG hook
Weight: 3/8 - 1/2 oz Bullet Weight

If any of you have used a Carolina Rig you will understand why this lure is so effective.  I had a chance to do this type of fishing down at Lake Fork last year near Alba, Texas and it was surprising how many people used the Fluke as the bait of choice for this rig.  With any C-Rig you have a bullet weight, plastic bead, barrel swivel, leader, and a hook.  The leader can vary slightly in length depending on where you are fishing, but the guys down in Texas usually use an average of  3'.  They put the bullet weight on the line first, followed by the bead, then by the barrel swivel, leader, and finally the hook.  The Fluke is then Texas rigged on the hook and you are ready to go!  This rig is made for dredging the bottom and what some fisherman find important about using the Fluke is that it creates a "competitive" urge in the fish.  What I mean by this is that when you drag along the weight at the bottom it kicks up dirt and debris.  A bass keys in on that action and noise, but then they see a fish type looking lure following it.  Well the bass has to be the head honcho in the area and sees the smaller lure as prey and they attack it!  C-rigs are way easier to fish then they are to cast so here a few simple guidelines I learned when fishing this rig...

- When you cast a C-Rig your goal is to cast the weight...not the lure.  If you focus on the lure then you will cause more issues than not when you wind up to chuck that entire rig out to the water.
- When retrieving this lure you want to use your rod to pull along the weight at the bottom.  Once you have pulled it as far as you can go...reel in towards the rig to pull in the slack.  If you feel the weight hit cover...continue to drag the rig and SLOW it down!  You don't want to hop the weight or reel it want to drag it along keeping that weight in contact with the bottom the entire time!

2) Dropshotting a Zoom Fluke

Ideal Setup:
Rod: 6' 10" Medium Power Xtra Fast Action
Reel: 6.2 gear ratio
Line: 8-10 lb Fluoro
Hook: 1/0 EWG
Weight: 1/4-3/8 oz Cannonball weight

Drop shotting is a new technique that I covered in a previous post so look for more information there on how to rig this technique.  The main point I want to bring up is how to rig the fluke on the hook.  Ideally a smaller hook should be used so a 1/0 EWG would work perfect.  In this case you won't be Texas rigging this lure, instead you will be nose hooking the bait instead.  At the nose of each Super Fluke is a section of plastic that is at least 1/2" in length.  You want to bring the hook tip up between the bottom flaps of the bait and push the hook tip through the nose until it comes straight out the top of the bait (kind of like the picture below)  Toss the rig out...bounce it around off the bottom and wait for your line to start moving or the rod tip to bow over!

3) Donkey Rig

Ideal Setup:
Rod: 7' Medium Power Fast action
Reel: 6.2 gear ratio
Line: 10-12 lb Fluoro
Hook: (2) 3/0 EWG
Weight: No Weight
Swivels: (2) Barrel Swivels

The donkey rig is a new rig that I just recently started using, but it is probably one of the most fun rigs for the fluke that I have ever used.  In order to tie this rig you need 2 barrel swivels, 2 Zoom flukes, 2 3/0 EWG hooks and one 8 inch and one 10-12 inch fluoro leader.  First tie each leader to one barrel swivel at one end and then one 3/0 EWG hook at the other end.  Next take the "shorter" leader and run the main line from your reel through the other end of the barrel swivel. Next take your "longer leader and tie your main line to the other end of that barrel swivel.  If you did this correctly your rig should look like the picture below.

This rig is effective for a few reasons.  It creates a "schooling" effect between the two lures and  when you twitch the rod tip it forces the two lures to come together making it look like a feeding frenzy.  The bass react to the two lures competing against each other and attack it.  This rig would also be really great when bass are swarming on shad during the spring and fall!  Subtle rod twitches will be enough to cause the flukes to flutter and dart erratically.

4) Wacky Rigging

Ideal Setup:  Same rod and gear ratio as number 3
Line: 10 lb mono or copolymer
Hook: Circle hook (Octopus Hook)
Weight: No Weight

The wacky rigged fluke has been around for awhile and it is one of the easiest to rig.  Take a Zoom Super Fluke, push the hook point of the circle hook through the center of the bait on the flat side of the bait (not top) and you are finished!  Subtle rod tip twitches will make the bait bounce around like a wounded bait fish.  Also a great rig to throw when fish are schooling up on shad or throwing into weed pockets and up against different types of cover.

5) Deadsticking

Ideal Setup: Same rod and gear ratio as 3 and 4
Line: 10 lb mono or copolymer
Hook: 3/0 EWG
Weight: No Weight

Now comes the moneymaker...the most sought after technique that I have been using for years!  Time and time again this rig produces during the spring, summer, and fall without fail.  A Zoom Fluke on a 3/0 EWG hook Texas rigged weedless and weightless is all you have to do.  The link below shows a good step by step process to how I EXACTLY rig my Zoom Fluke for this technique!

From this article there are three pictures that I really want to point out.  The first one is showing the hook point penetrating through the ENTIRE nose of the bait.  Bringing the hook point all the way through the nose helps to prevent the nose of the bait from tearing more easily and it conceals the knot in your line preventing it from getting damaged in high cover areas. (SEE BELOW)

The next important thing to do is make sure that the hook point then makes it up between the flaps of the bait and into the center of the back  Be careful not to stretch or scrunch the bait because it will cause the lure to "spiral" while you are twitching it along...that alone destroys the action of the bait. 

The last thing to consider is burying the hook point just barely under the skin of the back of the bait.  This subtle detail will make this plastic virtually weedless!

Now that you have the rig down, the next important factor is how you fish it.  Deadsticking is pretty self explanatory...throw it out, and DON'T MOVE IT AN INCH!  You want to make accurate casts on weed edges, pockets, brush piles, docks...pretty much any type of cover that could hold a fish.  Watch your line after the cast religiously because 70% of my strikes have been on the initial fall.  If you see your line sinking faster than usual...set the hook, if you see your line jump...set the hook, if you see your line go tight or move left or right of your initial target...set the hook!  If nothing happens on the first fall and your line stops sinking...give it a few twitches and let it sink again.  Let the lure sit for 8-10 seconds, twitch it a few times again...and let it sit. Repeat Repeat Repeat!

When you are "twitching" your bait your rod tip should be pointed down towards the water...not up in the air.  Your wrist is your main source of action for this bait and will allow you to control how quick or slow the side to side action of the bait will be.  Take some time to practice this retrieve and it will pay off dividends for other lures such as jerkbaits, topwater, and frogs!

Now that you know most of my are some more regarding the colors I use...these colors are in order of favorite to "old stand by's"...

1) Watermelonseed
2) Green Pumpkin
3) Watermelon Magic
4) Watermelon Candy
5) Smokin' Shad
6) Albino Shad
7) Baby Bass
8) Smokin' Silver
9) Black

Take some time to learn these baits, water temperatures are getting to the point where these baits will be highly effective!  If you can learn to master this bait and be patient enough to understand when this bait will be used...a whole new door will be opened to you when using any type of plastic lure!

Like always, any questions you have feel free to ask!

Tight Lines, 


Monday, April 9, 2012

Expensive Backlashes, Snags...and Some 20's!

Easter weekend was right around the corner, so that meant nothing less than a 3 day weekend to get out on the water and do some relaxing!  The morning predicted temperatures for the weekend had dipped down into the frost zone so it was going to be a toss up whether this awesome spring fishing was finally dying down for now. 


With no one home and Friday open to do some fishing I decided to brave the weather and head out to a local Naperville Forest Preserve Lake. Since the water temperature had dipped down I knew I was going to have to focus on a colder water bite...rat-l-traps, shakey heads, jerkbaits, and flat sided square bills were all ready to go on seperate poles.  Luckily I had my rain suit with me so the cold weather was a bit more bearable, but the winds were definitely unkind to my exposed face and hands.  I walked to my first spot and decided to use my shakey head for awhile that had a Yamamoto grub texas rigged on it.  I threw atleast a dozen casts hopping and dragging the shakey head along the rocks on the bottom trying to imitate a fleeing craw...but no takers.  I put the shakey head away and tried my luck with a suspending jerkbait...first cast...SNAG!  Tried popping it loose for a couple minutes but eventually conceded defeat...there went a 16 dollar Lucky Craft Pointer >: (  Lake 1...Fluke 0.  I switched back to the shakey head...threw about five more casts still ticked off about losing such an expensive lure...but then finally felt a hard thump from a hungry bass.  Took about a minute to get him in but fish number 1 was on the board for today.  38 degree air temperatures and 10-20 mph winds and I was able to land a fish.  I could have not cuaght anything the rest of the day...and I would have been perfectly happy with the fact that I got rid of the skunk on a day like today.

After I landed that one I decided to move over to a different spot on the lake where I had luck earlier in the week at.  What was unique about this area was the combination of sparse vegetation, big and small boulders, less exposure to the wind, and somewhat of a significant dropoff from the shore.  The main things that I thought were significant was the decrease in wind (for my sake mainly), and the fact that there were alot of rocks there. Rocky bottoms are one of the best forms of heat sources for bass when the water temperatures are colder.  I took out a flat sided Lucky Craft Squarebill and started performing the same retrieve I used last Wednesday.  I use the rod tip to pull the lure towards me and then reel in the slack towards the lure to give the lure time to float back up.  This caused two important things to happen...allowing the bait to be pulled deeper to the rocks allowing it to collide and deflect with the cover...and then upon retrieving the slack, you allow the bait some time to float up in the water column slightly to give on looking sluggish bass a chance to strike.  I threw the squarebill out...pulled the lure twice...hit some rocks...paused...and FISH ON!  Bass number 2 was landed and he was a fatty!  2 lbs 12 oz and probably 16" in length.  A nice fish to bring to the scales any day of the week.

The pattern worked perfectly on the first cast...but bad luck set in catching a fish on the first cast with the new lure and there were no more takers to be had in the area.  I decided after a few dozen casts of the squarebill that the water temps might still be too cold for the erratic action of the squarebill.  I then switched it up to a Rapala Clackin' Rap.  Knowing that I couldn't run the lipless crank too deep I decided to yo-yo the bait keeping it just above the weeds and rocks.  It took a few casts to get the bass feeding again but I ended up getting back to back to back fish...with the biggest one tipping the scale at exactly 3 pounds.

But with all success there is always some form of failure...and boy did things go south in a hurry.  Ended up snagging the Rapala Clackin' Rap on a boulder since I got too greedy and let it sink too long...there went another 10 bucks.  Lake 2 Fluke 5.  Moved spots, tied on another lipless crank.  Wound up for the next cast, in the backswing I snagged a bush behind me and as I threw forward the reel exploded with fluorocarbon!  That reel was toast for the day and so was the line...goodbye 20 dollar Seaguar 15 lb test!  Lake 3 Fluke 5. 

That was soon followed up with a shakey head snag and a snapped line on a good fish.  There went another 5 bucks.  So with the total reaching 50 bucks in lost lures/line...I counted my blessings with landing 5 decent fish for the day and decided to leave.

Moral of the story for the day...If you can't afford to lose it, don't buy it at all!


I had a short window of time in the morning on Saturday since I had Easter obligations that afternoon so I decided to make a quick trip to one of my favorite spots and had ThePatrickBrewer from join me since we were both free that day.  Patrick is new to baitcasting and ended up getting a baitcaster a few weeks ago so today was going to be a good day for some practice!  Again with the morning being so cold, I thought it was going to be a hum-ho day like yesterday...but that turned out to be dead wrong!  We started throwing Strike King Swim Jigs tipped with Big Hammer Swim Tails with nothing really coming within the first 15-20 minutes.  After that short skunk period, I finally got my first bite of the day, a small 13-14" bass that pounced on my bluegill colored swim jig.  With little interest from the bass with my swim jig thereafter...I decided to switch over to a Red Eye Shad in Bluegill pattern.  I started doing the yo-yo retrieve again like I was yesterday and it wasn't long until I hooked into the first beast of the day!  This BIG female hit my crank twice before finally taking hold and giving me one of the better fights I have had all season.   I got her to shore quickly seeing that she was barely hooked.  As soon as I reached down the hook popped free and I had to react quick to land her without her taking off back into the pond.  Luckily I snagged her at the last second!

She taped at 21" and 13 3/4" girth...maybe 14" if you were being generous.  The scale clocked her at 4 lbs 6 oz...which was plenty to call her my biggest bass for the season so far!

It wasn't long after landing that fish that Patrick jumped onto the lipless crank bandwagon.  I started to teach him how to yo-yo the took a few minutes but I think he got the hang of it!

He landed this second monster 19-20" bass.  She weighed in at 3 lbs 8 oz.  I knew this pond had some monsters, but two in a day was unheard of!  We worked our way around the rest of the lake picking off bass on lipless cranks, swim jigs, squarebills, and texas rigged plastics.  I would say between the two of us we probably walked away with around 35-40 bass by the time we left around noon. 

All in all it was another great weekend spending time on the water with another fellow Dupage Angler!

Thanks for reading, and tight lines!


Monday, April 2, 2012

100th Bass Weekend!

As the end of March was nearing closer and closer and knowing I had a short period of time to get some fishing in...I knew I was going to be close to hitting that 100th bass mark.  I only needed to land 8 fish, but I knew with the cold temperatures and wind the fishing could potentially be a bust.

I sent the word out that I needed some help in completing my goal for the weekend and I got a call back by the one and only PondBoy!  We made plans to hit a few spots that have been hot lately and that could potentially hold some PIGS.  Why not go out with a bang right?

I met Pondboy early Saturday morning at 7 a.m....he arrived at the lake sooner than I did and had good news that he already landed one fish on a Big Hammer swim tail.

He met me farther down the shoreline and we started picking apart every inch of water within casting distance.  Fish number one came within the first half hour to my surprise on a 3/8 oz California Reservoir Lure jig with a Berkley Chigger Craw trailor.  He smacked the jig on the fall and I easily felt the bite on my FSA Custom Hydra Stick.  With a short fight...I had him landed.  Only 7 more to go...

Shortly after Pondboy got one on a rattle trap and mocked the bass because he knew it had fallen prey to one of the most common rat-l-trap colors known to fishingdom...the red craw!

I threw around the jig a little longer...eventually got hung up and had to cut the line.  Only bad thing about Power Pro is the fact you can't snap the line even if you I had to cut it by hand.  I had a backup plan though in the works in the form of a 1/8 oz shakey head rigged with a Yamamoto grub.  It wasn't long after that I got one good bump and the bass was off to the races!  It took me a few seconds to get him in becasue I only had 8 lb fluoro on my reel...but bass number 2 was landed! 

The wind started picking up and with the air temperature being colder than we expected we decided to move spots and head to the second location.  We arrived at the second location and started at my usual spot. It took a little while until I finally hooked into the third fish...who proceeded to inhale my Zoom Super Fluke.

Pondboy and I saw quite a few fish busting the surface off the shore so we put our brains together (insert joke about our intelligence here) and finally came up with a legitimate solution...shallow jerkbaits!  First cast on a Rapala Shallow Shad Rap in Silver/Black and it was game on!  Fourth fish was landed!

Pondboy followed suit by throwing on a Rapala X-Rap in a similar shad pattern and boom!

The action seemed to all but stop at that moment and the fish must have wised up to our tactics.  We tried a few more spots but no more fish came knockin'.

We left the second spot for our last and final spot.  This was Pondboy's pride and joy so we made sure we erased our tracks and set booby traps as we made our way down to the honey hole. :)  I fished the first pipe that Pondboy (PB) one was home.  Meanwhile, PB hooked into a nice one off to the left of me on a rat-l-trap.

I moved farther down to another pipe that was butted up against some nice brush piles from an overhanging tree.  I made a few pitches in the area with my Shakey head and Yamamoto one was home again.  I switched to a Rat-L-Trap since PB was doing well with that, but again nothing.  I decided to try the Shakey head at the same spot one last time...I bounced the grub towards the surface and that's when the first PIG showed its face...the big bass came up and turned after the grub as it fell back into murky water.  I waited until the line went tight and I set the hook!  Bass number 5 was on the board!

Meanwhile, PB switched to a white/red spinnerbait farther down the shore...while working it parallel to the shore he hooked into his first PIG of the day!

He threw the fish back and began to do the same thing over with the spinnerbait.  He got smacked again by another big fish...and then it was gone...hook came undone.  PB was on to something since he had back to back bites.  In this type of situation I always like to expand upon or mimic the pattern a little bit differently so coax the bass that may have thought about biting too.  I knew spinnerbaits were the ticket...but what kind?  Murky water...wind...what to choose?  Then it hit me...murky water means that the bass key in on bright colors and noise more often than not.  Luckily I packed a few spinnerbaits the night before and pulled out one of my new Single Colorado blade 3/8 oz Revenge Spinnerbaits in Shad pattern.  I walked over to the area where PB had missed his last bite.  Threw the spinnerbait out and worked it back slowly parallel with the shore.  I felt the buzz of the blade turning over and about half way back the spinnerbait vibration stopped dead like it had hit a wall.  I set the hook hard and fish number 6 was in the books!  This one was close to 4 pounds!

I worked down the shoreline with the same pattern.  I heard PB yell to me that he had another on...but the fish turned on him before he could see it and snapped right through his 12 lb test mono.  A few casts later I was working the spinnerbait towards was about 10 feet away and I could see the flash of the big Colorado blade under the water.  Next thing I know this bass comes out of nowhere trailing the spinnerbait...I stopped my retrieve while still slowly pulling the spinnerbait as the bass inhaled it!  I set the hook and number 7 was landed!

It was now around the 1 o'clock mark and PB made a few casts and we had to go our separate ways.  I thanked him for helping to put me on fish and I left to go back to a few more spots.  I knew I only needed one more fish to hit 100 so went to the most likely place that it could happen.

At that point I was 100% keyed in on using the spinnerbait...and knowing this last spot also had murky water it was bound to work...right?  Five casts later with the spinnerbait and fish number 100 for the year was on the line.  He wasn't a pig like the others but he marked a giant step in my fishing career. 

I have never in my life have caught this many fish this early in the year.  The earliest to date for catching fish for me was late April...and even that was pushing it.  I have to thank for most of this because they have pushed me to fish more often and to fish smarter.  I have learned so many things from others on that site that my versatility as an angler has doubled within the last couple thank you to all the people that helped get me to this point!

After the weekend was all said and done I am now up to 115 bass for the year so far.  It has been really helpful logging my catches because it will help me that much more next year for patterning bass throughout the year and for different lake conditions.  It will be interesting to see come October or November what my numbers will be when I finally have to hang the poles back on the wall for next spring.

Thanks for reading and please comment on what you would like to see more of in the future!  Send all post requests to I want to pay it forward to all my readers so if I can help you succeed, then you are making all of this writing worth while!

Tight lines,