Monday, April 29, 2013

Bassin' at the Border (Falcon Lake April, 2013)

Some of you may know that my Dad and I have been planning a trip down to Falcon Lake in Texas for some time now....and I am sad to say that it came and went way too fast!  If I could some up the trip in one word it would be IN-FREAKIN-CREDIBLE!  The size and power of these giant Florida strain bass are just unbelievable.

Three days we were out there with guide Jay Greishaw of   We started each morning around 6:30-7:00 AM and finished up about 3 PM.   In that stretch of time my Dad and I hooked, landed and lost more quality bass then we ever have in our entire fishing career.  I will have to admit it wasn't a numbers blowout with around 25-35 fish caught each day between the two of us....but the quality was second to none.   That was the whole purpose of the trip, to potentially hook into a fish of a lifetime....and we did!

With the drought down in Zapata, Texas in full swing we knew right away that good water was going to be slim.  The lake was nearly 30 feet down with the main lake markers looking like sky scrapers sticking out of the water.

The main areas we targeted were deeper rock piles, ledges, humps, and brush.   Deep crankbaits, texas rigs and carolina rigs were pretty much all we threw.  Jay knew exactly where to go, what areas to hit, and knew exactly what the fish were dialed in on.   For the first time in a long time I threw a texas rigged worm...and not just any worm...a 10" Berkley power worm....and even threw a 12" Mag ol' Monster Zoom ribbon tail worm when the time called for it.   Deep cranks meant DEEEEP cranks....5XD's are medium cranks to them down there....we were dredging the bottom of every rock pile every time we had the chance.

Alright, alright....enough are the stats....

Top 5 lost fish...estimated by Jay....
1) 12 lbs
2) 10 lbs
3) 9 lbs
4) 8 lbs
5) 7 lbs
Total: 46 lb bag

Top 5 landed fish...weighed
1) 6.74
2) 6.5
3) 6.0
4) 6.0
5) 5.5
Total: 30.74 lbs

Both my Dad and I landed new personal bests with mine at 6.74 lbs and my Dad's at 6.0 lbs.   What really just blew me away was the size of these fish...not so much on girth, but length.  My 6.74 lber was easily pushing 24 inches.   When you see a 12 lb bass sky rocket towards the surface of the water with a mouth the size of a dinner is an indescribable sight!

Now on to the pictures!

One of Dad's first fish of the trip on a crankbait

First bass for me of the trip...also on a crankbait

Dad's new PB at 6 lbs

Another 5+ lber

5.5 lber caught on a know it's big when you rod stops mid hook set!

Getting better at 6 lbs...

Getting even better at 6.5 lbs

New PB at 6.74 lbs!

Just to give you a comparison as to how large these fish were....a 4 lber a few weeks ago compared to my new PB of 6.74 lbs

And to think how much bigger the mouth was on that 12 lber I lost on day 1!!!  That fish will haunt me for a looong time!

Only way to fly on bigger water....2012 Ranger Z522 Comanche....sweeeet!

Sunday morning came....and man did it rain!  Glad we could bring some of our Illinois flooding down to Texas!

Best picture of the trip...getting a double with my Dad...somehow he always catches the bigger one.

Funniest moment of the trip...playing a fish on a crankbait for 5 minutes only to find out it was a soft shell turtle the size of an F150!

If you have the opportunity to ever get down to Falcon Lake or any other big bass it!  Just an unbelievable trip that will be in the memory books for a long time....just thankful I was able to do it with my Dad.

A huge shout out as well to Jay Greishaw, easily the best guide I have booked a trip with.   He did whatever he could to make the trip great....learned a lot from him and will definitely be down again for a second visit. 

Tight lines everyone,


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WCTT Deep Lake Tourney 1 and Des Plaines Tourney Recap

This past weekend was the first time I have ever had back to back tournament days….and man was it an experience!   Not a ton of details to recap on, but I definitely know that I still have a lot to learn and need more time on the water that we fished over the weekend.

Saturday brought 20+ mph winds, 38 degree air temps, 41 degree water and snow!  We were at Deep Lake in Lake County, IL with the guys from   I think about 18-20 guys showed up to fish so there was definitely a good set of competition.  I have never fished this lake before so I knew it was going to be hit or miss for me and my partner.  Everyone decided to head to the North end of the lake early in the AM, but from some tips from other people we decided to hit the South side where a creek ran into the lake.  There was a pretty significant drop off where we were that went from 3 to 15 feet pretty quickly.   With the winds whipping us around in that 12’ aluminum boat it was a pretty safe bet we were going to stay there for a little while just to stay out of the wind and warm up for a few minutes.  Long story short, I had one bit the entire morning and didn’t get a good hook set and lost him.  With nothing to weigh in at the first weigh in at 9:30 and with the wind and the cold…we called it a day.  Only 11 fish were weighed in the entire tournament between 20 guys….needless to say it wasn’t the best day for that lake.   I plan on getting out there again…hopefully more time on that body of water will produce better results.

Sunday was my first club tournament of the year on the Des Plaines River.    After talking to the guys in my club about their pre-fishing the week before it sounded like the river water temps went down about 9-10 degrees….so the cold front was definitely in full swing.  Water was dirtier than usual, wind was still just as bad….but at least the air temperature was much warmer than Saturday!   Rocky shorelines and warmer water with shad in the area produced our only fish.  One of the cuts had bass exploding on shad all over the place, but getting bit came down to throwing at the right spot at the right time.   There was a brush pile that a buddy of mine was pitching to when we pulled in to that cut.   He picked the entire thing apart and got nothing.   We followed in behind him, second cast way into the center of the brush pile and I just felt a weight.   Thought I had my lure wrapped up in the brush…then started seeing my line move.   Set the hook and yanked that fish into the boat as fast as I could.  First keeper just shy of 14” was on the board.   Again…just was a matter of throwing to the right spot at the right time.  We hit multiple spots and I only caught four bass all day…one being a ½” shy of being another keeper.    Only 8 or 9 guys weighed in fish so that made me feel a little better only showing up with one keeper.   That gave me some decent club points and a good start to the year.   Hopefully I can keep it going the remainder of the year….only time will tell.

When I came home Sunday I was definitely wiped out.   Getting up at 3:15 on Saturday and 4:30 on Sunday….definitely crashed as soon as I could.   All that just to catch some bass….wouldn’t have spent my weekend any other way!

Tight Lines,


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Get 'em shallow while it's HOT! (Shallow Squarebills)

In the last few weeks I have found myself on a very HOT shallow squarebill bite.  This style of fishing has become one of, if not my favorite techniques to take advantage of in the early spring months.   Weeds are scarce, shallow shorelines are starting to warm up, and the bass are looking for food before they head to their spawning areas.

If you have a favorite pond that is shallow in the 2-8 feet of water range, you absolutely should have a squarebill on hand.   They are not as trivial as you think….toss it out, reel it back.  I see a lot of guys giving up on crankbaits really quickly like I used to, but the reward of learning to use these baits is worth the time put into it.

What to have on hand to fish these lures effectively…

7’ 0” MH Moderate to Moderate Fast action rod
12-15 lb fluorocarbon or monofilament
5.0-6.3 gear ratio reel

When you fish shallow areas you have to pay attention right away whether or not you are getting your lure fouled up with weeds or other debris on the bottom.   If you are, I suggest trying a couple things…

1)      Have your rod tip raised up during the retrieve…it will force the crankbait to run shallower in the water column.
2)      Try switching to a shallower running crankbait
3)      Switch to a reel with monofilament instead of fluorocarbon.  Monofilament floats so your squarebill will run shallower.

A few great crankbaits to have on hand…

-          Strike King 1.5 (dives 2 to 4 feet)

-          IMA Squarebill (dives up to 2 feet)

-          Bass Pro EGG (dives 1-2 feet)

A few colors to have on hand…

-          Shad patterns (Silver/Black back, Tennessee Shad, Gizzard Shad, etc.)
-          Craw patterns (Bright reds, oranges, and even some dark greens)
-          Bluegill pattern
-          Bright Colors (Chartreuse/Black Back, Lime Green/Blue Back, Bone White, etc.)

How you should retrieve this lure….

The best way I have found with this lure is a slow steady retrieve while adding in slightly faster  and slower turns of the handle.   Doing this will change how fast or slow the crankbait rushes through the water which creates a deadly hunting action.   I also try to add short pauses here and there to make the lure stop which kicks the back side of the crankbait forward making a really noticeable flash or jerk in the water.   Usually once you start the retrieve again, the bass are all over it!  Another retrieve that has done well for me in the past is pulling the crankbait along with the rod and reeling in the slack.  The rod tip should be closer to parallel with the water and you should feel   5-10 wobbles of the crankbait as you pull it along.  Once you stop moving the lure, reel in the slack and do it again.   If you are casting to an adjacent shoreline, it seems like everytime I craaaawwwlll that crankbait away from the shore line the bass will kill it….so always start with a really slow retrieve if you are casting towards the shore.

How do you ensure a good hook set?

The hookset is a side sweeping hookset.  The usually tip towards the sky does not work as well as it does with a treble hook lure.  Side sweeping will increase your hook up percentage more than anything else.  New treble hooks will also help increase your hook up.  Most crankbaits come with cheap treble hooks that can bend or break easily.   The last thing you need is to lose a monster spring bass only to find out he bent out one of your hooks….trust me, that happens more than I have liked it to happen!  Last is to check your line for rough patches.   Crankbaits bounce and crash into everything, so pay attention to your line fraying and re tie if you need to.   It doesn’t hurt to second guess yourself and re-tie.

Last but not least, what does the bite feel like?

The only two things that come to mind are a freight train hitting your bait, or the subtle “bump, bump” of a bass slashing at it.  If you feel a fish just plow the snot out of your lure, more than likely he choked it and I would be immediately swinging for the fences.   If you feel a bump, take a quick 1 count and then set the hook.   Usually just a bump means they haven’t got it all the way and giving them that extra second could make all the difference.

Now is prime time to take advantage of this action.   Get to your local tackle shop and grab some shallow diving crankbaits.  The big mommas are out and active now, so let’s hear some success stories in the near future!  You’ll be glad you did!

Tight Lines!