Friday, August 17, 2012

Why do you fish?

I am sure a lot of my readers have just as much passion for fishing as I what makes you keep wanting to come back for more?  Comment below and let's hear the answers!

Thanks a few weeks I will have some good news to give you all, and the plans coming up for next tournament season.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bassin' with Frogs

If there is one bait that I have loved learning more than others, it has been the frog.  Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping more out on the water until you see a violent strike from a bass attacking a plastic frog.  Just this past Saturday I had a run in with a massive bass that about made my heart skip a beat when it attacked my frog.  I was fishing at a forest preserve lake near Bartlett, IL with fellow DA member Parker Settecase.  With post cold front conditions, it was pretty cool early in the morning at around 65 degrees.  The lake we were at had a lot of vegetation so the frog was definitely on stand by to start picking apart the scattered weed flats.

We moved in on a spot that has produced fish in the past but the events that occurred soon after were definitely unexpected.  I decided to go with the frog after weighted plastics produced zero fish, so I grabbed my Kistler Magnesium 7' 0" Heavy Fast action rod paired up with my Shimano Curado 200E7 and 50 lb Power Pro braid.  I had a Koppers Live Target frog in black/chartreuse tied on and started working the weedline off to the left of where we were fishing.  I threw the frog onto the matted weeds pretty far away from where we were with the intention of bringing it towards open water just in front of it.  I gave the frog a few hops...paused...and then repeated the same motion again.  After getting out into open water I figured I would rush the frog along a little quicker.  After a quick set of hops I paused the frog in the section of open water just before the next weedline.  That was when the water ERUPTED!  What looked like a 4+ lb bass absolutely smashed the frog with a massive body slam as it swallowed the entire frog whole.  I gave it a quick one count and went to go set the hook hard.  In mid hook set...I felt the line slip away from the lure.  The fish was gone!  A 10 dollar lure and a hefty bass were gone in an instance left in nothing but a massive wake.  Parker turned over as soon as he heard the splash and realized what had just happened.  Heartbreaking is the only word to describe it.

If I could replay what I had seen you would have been in just as much shock as I was.  I don't know what was worse, seeing the bass leap out of the water after the bait...or finding out an instant later that I was going to lose him.  Just incredible.

Luckily for you guys I have a Youtube video of one of my favorite topwater frog strikes.  It pretty much sums up how sudden of strike it was when the bass hit.

Like I have said already....nothing beats a frog bite.  And to forewarn people in the future, if you don't have some heavier gear to back up a massive strike like this and you don't check every could have a missed opportunity just like I did.

So not to leave you hanging, and to provide further entertainment.  Here are some other topwater strikes that are high on my all time favorite list...

Good fishing guys, the topwater season is not over yet!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bassin' with Gatorshaun

Over the last couple of weeks I got a chance to get out with fellow DA member Gatorshaun on a couple local lakes to target some largemouth.  Our first trip was to Shabbona lake which is about 40 minutes or so West of Aurora, IL.  It isn't a huge lake by any means, but it has a lot of different types of cover which is perfect for some good practice.  I didn't know what to really expect so I brought a spinnerbait rod, pitching rod, dropshot rod, crankbait rod, and an extra all purpose spinning rod.  Probably way more than I needed....but I couldn't say I wasn't prepared to hit some new water.

We started out fishing the North end of the lake which has a couple nice points, submerged timber and a good amount of weeds and lilly pad shorelines.  I started out throwing a frog with little luck on the lilly pads, so as we moved towards the timber I switched up to a spinnerbait making sure I crashed my bait into every little piece of cover I could see under the water with my polarized sunglasses.  No takers though on the spinnerbait which was really surprising considering the amount of fry and baitfish around.  There were so many in some areas that it looked like there was current on the water when in reality it was just the baitfish moving along to new areas in the lake.

I switched it up to a jig after the spinnerbait wasn't working and it didn't take very long to land my first fish.  Gatorshaun by this time already had a couple fish in the boat so I had to make up some ground.  I was using a 3/8 oz California Reservoir Lures jig in their "Rusty Craw" color.  I used a Netbait Paca Chunk trailer in Alabama craw as well.  This combination has worked really well for me this year in slightly stained water because it really stands out and has a natural color to it.   After pitching to a few stumps I didn't get anything but then I saw a stump butted up right next to a weedline.  I made several casts to the same stump trying to hug the sides of it as best as possible.  I let the jig fall all the way down until I could see my line stop sinking.  I lifted the rod up just enough to feel the weight of the jig and that's when I noticed a difference.  There was a little extra weight to the line then my previous casts so I reeled down slightly and set the hook.  My line takes off and on the other end was a nice 3+ lb largemouth.  Shaun jumped for the net and we landed her after a few good jumps. 

That is what I have found so exciting about jig fishing especially on submerged stumps because that moment of anticipation to watch your line either fall to the bottom or start moving away slowly from your target will tell you if you have a fish or not.  You have to be really aware of how that lure feels normally as opposed to a fish on the line.  That is why a good rod and reel setup are so critical for this technique.  That day I was using a Shimano Curado 200E7 paired up with a Kistler Magnesium 7' 0" Heavy Fast action rod with 50 lb Power Pro braid.  I have to say it has been one of my favorite setups so far this year and has worked well when I needed a little extra power to pull fish out of some nasty cover.

Moving on though with the day...all I can say it was tough for awhile.  With 90+ temperatures and blue bird skies we didn't end up getting into any more fish until we moved into a nice flat with a bunch of scattered weeds.  I tied on a 4" green pumpkin chigger craw along with an 1/8 oz bullet weight and it didn't take long for another fish to tug at the end of my line.  The bullet weight allowed me to punch through some of the weeds and into the empty pockets in the weedline which seemed to be where the bass were hiding.   Within the next dozen casts I caught 3 more bass.  Not the size of my first fish but still in the 12-14" range.  After catching those 3 Shaun switched up to a similar setup with a different plastic and picked up a nice bass on a black and blue colored Havoc craw.

We fished the rest of the day and caught a few more fish.  Together we ended up with 10 bass with probably the heaviest 5 going about 10 lbs.  Not too bad for being the middle of July and after talking to other guys it was pretty slow for them as well.  For those of you wanting to hit Shabbona in the future they have a good amount of boats for rent so it is just a matter of getting out there.  It is a little expensive, but it would be definitely worth the trip.  Just wish we got into some Musky while we were there.  Oh well.

Round 2 was the following weekend but at a lake that Shaun and I fish fairly often around the Aurora area that has yielded some nice fish.  Shaun usually gets out there on his kayak so he offered to have me come along and borrow one of his other kayaks for the morning.  Now I was completely out of my element....especially from the confines of a single person kayak.  Only could bring one pole with me and a small bag of plastics and other miscellaneous lures.  Luckily I was there last week so I knew roughly what to expect and packed just enough stuff for short morning trip.

I met Shaun at 5 AM which was surprisingly rough for me to get up and out there that early.  I was still sleeping in the car when Shaun started knocking on my window to wake me up and let me know the kayaks were already down by the lake.  I have never fished from a kayak so I thought it was going to be a rough day, but after about 10 minutes of paddling around it actually wasn't too bad.   I threw on a buzzbait (my favorite 1/2 oz booyah) and immediately started catching fish.  It took a couple misses to finally get the hookset down but it worked out alright.  We worked a weedline that I have caught many fish on and after awhile Shaun and I just stopped counting.  Buzzbaits, craws, senkos, zoom flukes, crankbaits, we caught fish on everything.  I was mad though after digging through my small bag of tricks that I only had one Smokin' Shad Zoom fluke with me because bass were blowing up on shad for a good part of the morning.  I rigged up the only one I had and caught 3 bass within a few casts of each other just by throwing into the blowups and twitching it a few times.  After I brought back the mangled piece of plastic that once resembled a fluke I tied on my other stand by which was a watermelonseed fluke.  Same lure, just a different color and I couldn't buy a bite on it.  Match the hatch won that battle pretty easily, so I switched it back to a craw and continued catching.

We worked our way down to a hidden dropoff that Shaun found after his many trips to that lake and it wasn't long until he tied into his first pig of the day.  I saw his pole bend over as soon as the fish made it's first good run.  I watched Shaun battle him for a little bit and then I saw the rod tip pop back to its original position....line broke.  Man does it suck when that happens!  It wasn't long after though that Shaun hooked into another good fish with a crankbait around the same area.  He landed this one but not without getting a treble hook to the finger.  He weighed the fish and it tipped the scales at 4.5 lbs, not a bad fish at all for the area!

We fished until about 9:30 AM as we made our way around the perimeter of the lake.  After all was said and done if I had to guess we had roughly 40-45 bass landed with another 10 or so lost.  The biggest five weighed around 13.5 lbs.  Probably one of the better days I have had this year....and all out of a kayak with one pole!  Just goes to show you that sometimes you really don't need that 50 lb dufflebag of everything fishing to just catch a few fish.   But where would the fun of it be if I couldn't buy some new tackle every once in a

Just another testament to the memories you could have just being a member of Dupage Angler.  That's the whole point of it, getting out and having fun and making a few friends along the way.

Thanks for reading guys and good fishing!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Clinton Lake: Final 2012 ABA Regular Season Tournament

Time to play some catching up now that it has been a couple weeks since my last tournament.  This recent one was the final regular season ABA tourney on July 29th at Clinton Lake near Decatur, IL...same lake where I placed 2nd on a few months ago.

It was cloudy and a little cooler in the morning with the air temperatures warming up to the mid 80's during the day.  The cloud cover lasted most of the day and the water temperature remained in the low 80's as well.  Since Clinton is a cooling lake, the water temperature definitely played a big factor along with the drought we were the water level was down about 3 feet from about a month ago.

I started out throwing a black/silver zara spook along a rock wall near the shore, but couldn't find any bites for a good half hour.  I switched to a 5XD crankbait, the same one that I caught my keepers on last time around...and not even a nibble.  The crankbait bite was pretty much dead the entire day for most people so I definitely had to switch things up and fish a little differently than I expected to.

Our next spot was the bridge and we fished the points next to the open lanes and bridge pilings for regular boat traffic.  My boater got a bunch of nice hybrid bass...but not the largemouth we were after.  I threw on a 1/8 oz shakey head with a watermelon red flake zoom finesse worm and caught a couple small largemouth...but nothing over the 16" minimum that we needed to keep.   Shortly after my boater had a bad birds nest and after spending some time picking it out I hear a big "splash"....his pole fell in the water.  Oh crap...this was going to be interesting.  He started pulling up the line (luckily he was fishing with braid so the line was floating) and the line just kept coming.  A few f-bombs and he finally realized that the reel was still in free spool and he had to pull the entire spool of line off before he could pull up his rod.   Long story short, he got the rod back...but the line was toast after getting all knotted and bunched together.

Dysfunctional is what I would like to call the rest of our day since we were both back and forth working the trolling motor, retying, trying to come up with a pattern, losing fish, and ending the day with a few good laughs and wondering how the day went by so quickly?

I have to give ourselves credit though after we finally started putting 2 and 2 together when we saw another guy pop a nice fish on a topwater popper.  We fished a main lake cut and came out to the point at the beginning of the cut.  I threw out my Zara Spook from this morning and started working it past a submerged stump.  A couple nice twitches back and forth and...WHAM fish on!  15 1/4" bass....still not big enough to keep.  It's heart breaking seeing a nice fish having to get thrown back into the water with no keepers in the boat.  After a couple more blowups between my boater and I we focused on top water the rest of the day.  

There was a string of about 6 or 7 cuts with main lake points at either side and I would guess that at each point I had at least 1 or 2 good bites.  My problem though, I couldn't get one to hook up to save my life!  They would bull rush the bait, body slam it, and before I could react the lure came floating back up to the top of the water in the middle of the wake....just unbelievable.  2 to 3 of those bass could have easily been over 16" but I just couldn't stick them quick enough....I probably had a good maybe 1 count window and that was about it.  That was the breaks though, and I ended up getting a 0 for the tournament.  I wasn't alone though and only half of the field brought in fish.  The original guy that we saw catching bass on topwater was Mike Pappas who won the tournament with 3 fish at a little over 8 lbs.

To give you an idea what we were doing refer to the picture below...

The two lures that we focused on for the most part was the Rebel Pop-R and the Heddon Original Super Spook...

All in all it was a good tournament, kind of disappointing but not because we couldn't find fish.  I am going to need some more practice with the rod and reel setup that I was using with those two topwater lures to get the hookset down better.  Just another learning experience all for the benefit of becoming a better angler in the future.

And that's what I really wanted to drive home with what I have learned so far this year.  It's not so much just using a lure and picking up a technique specific rod and reel....its more so learning what the bite feels like, hooking the fish right, and playing the fish all the way to the boat correctly before you really understand the benefits of the tools you are using.

With that said, good luck on the water...and look for my next entry coming shortly!