Jan 21 2014

Almost Ready for the Open

bass Almost Ready for the Open

I’ve been out in some brutally cold weather for Florida standards since Saturday. I spent the weekend on Lake Kissimmee and Monday on Lake Toho.

As far as Lake Kissimmee is concerned, I feel like I have this place so dialed in that I’ll get bites all day long irrelevant of how cold it gets. I have no idea what size the fish are since I practice without a hook. The “hitch hiker” screw locks come in real handy for this. Anyway, I’ve got 4 to 5 key areas where I feel like I can get 5 bites fairly quick. All these spots are near bedding areas so there’s gotta be some big females nearby.

I’m  catching fish in a mix of vegetation. I can catch fish anywhere with that combination. In fact, I ran all of Lake Kissimmee looking for that combination. Everywhere I saw it, I would pull in, get a bite, and go to the next spot and do the same thing.

I started Monday on Lake Toho and decided to focus on the trap bite. Within a few casts at my first spot I catch an 8 pounder and some smaller fish. The area had a mix of shells and hydrilla so I decided to try to duplicate the pattern and a few hours later catch a 5 pounder in a similar area. The only thing that concerns me is that the bites are not coming that quick. In fact, they’re few and far between.

At about noon, I decided to look for beds since it was getting really warm. My lower unit had other thoughts thoughts. I blew the darn thing and had to get towed to shore. The guys at the Mercury service trailer put on a new lower unit for me so I should be good to go for the tournament. Thank you Scotty.

I really don’t feel the need for any more practice but I’m heading out this morning anyway. I’ll start in Toho and who know what I’ll do from there.

The bites on the trap on Toho were good but I don’t necessarily know if they’re reliable. I’m getting a lot of bites on Kissimmee but I don’t know the size so there’s always something going around in your head saying you haven’t seen any big fish so do something else.

I guess I’ll finalize my game plan after today. Sun up until sun down should give me some ideas. I’m pretty dialed in and its scary. Hope this rodeo ends up being my time. Still need to find a more reliable trap bite on Toho.

Jan 8 2014

First Day on Lake Kissimmee

I heard the cold weather was coming so I spent the day on Lake Kissimmee this past Sunday in warm 80 degree weather with hardly any wind at all. It’s probably the best weather I will see in the next several weeks.

It’s absolutely amazing how much the grass changes from year to year. The places where they were bedding last year are now filled in with hydrilla and a lot of places that was topped out is now clear.

The fishing was a bit tough to start with. The beds are just not there for the most part but I did find one area with lots of beds without any roosters on them. I’m betting that they will at least have roosters after this cold front.

The water was in the low 60’s in the morning and got up to about 65 in the middle of the day. I started punching with an 1.5 oz and caught two 5 pounders in a 50 yard stretch… guess I’ll come back to expand this area a bit this weekend. Caught a few more with the usual swimbait and speedworm but those fish were tiny.

With the wind being so calm, I spent most of the running the lake and checking out how the grass is looking everywhere. I started in the “school bus” area, then went on to “lemon point”, “7 palms”, “27 palms”, “jack’s”, and the area with the one palm tree down south (no idea what this place is called). I pretty much ran the entire east side of the lake. Hopefully the wind will cooperate and I can run the west side next time.

The only thing I figured out is that I can catch them on isolated matts. I hope to find an offshore rattletrap or carolina rig spot in the next few times I go out. Stay tuned.

I’ve also noticed the more I can’t figure things out, I tend to get more superstitious. I noticed a lot of bad things in Tennessee and a lot bad things happened. The good news is that I’ve been noticing good things lately so my mind must be in the right place. I’ve seen rainbows the past 2 times I’ve been on water so I’m gonna take it as a sign of good things to come.

Dec 24 2013

First Day of Toho Practice

I checked out Toho this past weekend in preparation for the Open coming up in January. Water temps were in the high 60’s, air temp in the mid 80’s, sunny skies, but the bedding has not started yet.

The fish are still in the open water hydrilla in the same places I’ve been catching them all summer. They were gone for a while so I think they’re returning to the same areas in prespawn mode (I think).  In fact, my first stop in 5 to 6 feet of water had tons of fish in it although they were small. I had just rigged up all of my new Kistler KLX and Kistler Helium 3 rods with my new Shimano Chronarch CI4+ reels the day before and caught several fish on each of them. It was like I can call my shots… we’ll see if that happens during the Open since my best guess is that the bigger fish will filter into these areas in January.

I spent most of the day on the north end of Toho and caught fish at every stop I made. The largest was about 3 to 4 pounds on 2 of my new favorite sticks, the Kistler KLX 7’3″ MH Crank, Rip, and Twitch rod on a 6:2:1 Chronarch CI4+ with 17 lb Seaguar Inviz X and a gold and black rattletrap and a Kistler KLX 7’3″ Heavy Texas Carolina Jig Rod paired with a 7:6:1 Chronarch CI4+ spooled with 50 lb Sufix 832 rigged my speedworm.

I planned on looking for beds most of the day but the allure of catching fish on my new rods was too much. It ended up being a relaxing day catching about 40 fish.

I did take note of where the hydrilla is growing in the middle of the lake so I may check it out in the next few days when the next cold front comes in.

Dec 21 2013

My New Gear

Finally got all my new Kistler KLX and Kistler Helium 3 Rods, Shimano CI4+ Reels, and Mecury Marine clothing for the year. Woohoo!

everything My New Gear

Dec 19 2013

Toho Practice Starts This Weekend

In preparation for the BASS Open on Toho I’m gonna attempt to keep a log of all of my fishing days. My first official day of practice will be this Sunday. My new rods from Kistler will be arriving Saturday and I can’t wait to get out on the water with them.

Much of the day will be testing the rods, looking for beds which should have started with this cold front that just passed, and a lot of driving around.

The water level is way up and I’ll probably start my search on Lake Kissimmee. Water temps should be in the high 60’s and Sunday should be the second day of a warming trend.

Hopefully, I’ll have some good pics for the next post.

Dec 19 2013

Jessie on Camera

My friend Jessie just finished 2nd at the BASS Wild Card at Okeechobee and he’s already hamming it up for the cameras.

Dec 17 2013

Stolen at Old Hickory

DSC0803 300x199 Stolen at Old Hickory

photo from abaproam.com

My trip to Old Hickory for the BASS Weekend Series National Championship in Tennessee started with high hopes but I think I did pretty good not to lose it all together. I had been fishing pretty well and making good decisions leading up to the event and I really felt I had a good chance at doing some damage here. The only problem was that it seemed like everything in the world was working against me.

I arrived in Tennessee after an 11 hour drive just before dark. I check into my room to find there’s no refrigerator in my room. I change my room and the new room did not have a refrigerator. I go back to the front desk again and the finally I get a room with a refrigerator. The only problem was that now I did not have a clear view of my boat from the room. A few hours later, I get a call from the front desk saying another guest had reported some strange looking people near my boat.

I run downstairs with my heart thumping to check my boat and all of my fishing rods were gone. The hotel clerk just happened to already have the police at the hotel and as soon as I confirmed my rods were stolen, the cop turned his police lights on and chased the guy they suspected to have stolen my rods. The cop returned about 10 minutes later saying that he had to stop chasing the guy because he was not allowed to go over 80 mph. WTF!

I spent nearly a day rigging line and baits so I could maximize my practice time but now I didn’t have anything ready. The next day I borrowed some rods from my friend Jessie and rigged up some of my spare rods that were in my car and got out on the lake in the afternoon. Needless to say, I did not get a single bite the entire day. Maybe it was the cold front that came in or my head was all out of wack, but it wasn’t happening.

The 2nd day of practice, I started in Bledsoe Creek and caught the heck out of them. I spent nearly half the day mapping out the creek and there were fish everywhere. I start venturing out to some other creeks and my trolling motor goes out. From there, I spend the rest of the day finding a repair shop and getting my trolling motor fixed.

That night I realized that I had never checked in at the scheduled time on day 1 of practice so now I had to wait until 9 AM to check in on the next day. Great… losing more practice time. The third day of practice I found a small backwater area called Saunders which had some nice fish in it.

I attend the meeting and stopped at a red light on the way back an 18 wheeler tries to take a sharp turn and takes out a street light and a fire hydrant. I stop for gas and a car goes head first into a ditch while I’m filling up.

The next morning, I finally convinced myself that I was gonna have a good tournament. I will be getting all new equipment since my insurance covered the theft and I had found some nice fish in practice although I only had about a day and a half. As I’m driving to the boat ramp I notice a deer in the road and swerve right to miss it. I managed to miss it but the stupid thing kept on coming anyway and head butted the side of my car leaving a big dent.

At this point I was ready to just pack up and head back home.

The tournament was pretty uneventful for me. I caught all of my fish in less than 2 feet of water in Bledsoe, Saunders, and Crypress Creek with a bluegill colored chatterbait. A crankbait would have been great but I really didn’t have a rod that was suitable for it so I stuck with the chatterbait and it caught fish.

In the end, I did end up cashing a small check and finishing 39th.

Old Hickory is a tough fishery. I think I did good with the hand that I was dealt. Just like in poker, the cards don’t come to you sometimes. They definitely didn’t come to me here.

I guess my next chance to make the Classic is the BASS Open on Toho. Hopefully I’ve used up all of my bad luck.

Dec 5 2013

Xtreme on Lake Seminole

dsc 0226 Xtreme on Lake Seminole

photo from xtremefishingseries.com

I recently fished the Xtreme Bass Championship on Lake Seminole. They were giving away a new Ranger so I had hopes of winning a new boat on the drive up there. With all the tournaments I’ve been fishing lately, I only had 2 days of practice that me and my partner Pete could devote to finding fish.

It started raining about an hour into the drive and you know what that means this time of the year… the weather’s gonna change for the worse. By the time we got up there, it was freakin cold with lows in the 40’s.  I thought for sure this would drive the better fish into the hydrilla matts.

The tournament was launching out of the state park in Fishpond Drain so we began our practice there. Some of the clearest water on Lake Seminole can be found here and to me, clear water fish are less affected by cold than fish in stained water.

We caught a slew of 2 pound fish on my trusty Mag Speedworm at our first stop in Fishpond. The cool thing about Lake Seminole is that most of the stuff that works in Florida works here so there wasn’t too much tackle I had to prepare for the tournament. In any case, we had a spot where we could catch a small limit so we proceeded to check other spots that I knew held fish during the last tournament I fished here a few years back in the BASS Open.

I had spent a solid 3 weeks of practice the last time the BASS Open was held here and had plenty of places to try where I’ve had past success. The first place we checked out were the back waters on the Hooch. I thought for sure the fish would be moving into the creeks with the colder weather but we never got a bite in any of the usual places. We checked out the matts in Spring Creek and in front of Sealy’s and never even got a sniff. We checked out my rattletrap area in front of Wingates and still no bites. In fact, we never got another bite for the rest of the 2 days of practice.

As much time as I’ve spent on Seminole, I thought for sure we could dial something in within a couple of days but it just wasn’t happening. Our practice was cut short a half day because the armature went bad on my trolling motor and we had to drive to Dothan, AL to get it fixed. We still should’ve had something figured out by then but we were lost as all get out.

We decided to start at in Fishpond since it was the only place we caught fish and it was close to launch. The first day of the tournament was in the low 40’s with 20 mph winds and I was thankful we didn’t have a long run. We caught a small limit that weighed about 9 pounds by 11 and decided to start looking on the main lake for bigger fish. We tried a handful of areas with hydrilla matts and was struggling quite a bit until I caught a nice 3 pounder with minutes left before weigh in. We ended the first day with about 11 pounds which had us sitting in about 20th place.

The 2nd day of the tournament we started in Fishpond Drain but the bite was way slower with clear bluebird skies kicking in and a heck of lot less wind. We only had 3 keepers by 10 and decided a small limit wasn’t going to get us anywhere and went to flippin matts again. We ran to the matt we caught the 3 pounder the day before and immediately catch a 4 pounder within a couple flips.

We decided we were doing the right thing and culled just about every fish we caught in the morning and ended up with about 15 pounds. The key here was an area in the matts that gets overlooked quite a bit. Many of the fish were right at the edge of where the hydrilla was topped out and thinned out underneath the water. They were hanging out in that area of the matt when I fished the Open a few years back and sure enough, it still held true for this tournament.

A lot of the other top finishing anglers told me they were on a rattletrap bite which I would’ve loved to have found but I never did. In the end, we ended up in 12th place which I feel is a respectable showing but we never did have a chance to match the 41 pounds the winners had.

Each time I go Seminole I learn a little bit more. Its an awesome fishery without big numbers of fish but plenty of larger ones. I always struggle between getting a limit of just going big on this lake. If you go big like I did in the Open I fished, then you can come back with something less than a limit. If you go for a limit, then you have zero chance of winning but you’ll probably cash a check. In fact, a lot of guys cashed a check during the Open running way up the Flint and bringing in small bags of Shoal bass that weighed 7-8 lbs each day.

Lake Seminole is an awesome place to visit and I learn something more about this place every time I visit. I think I’m probably to a point where I feel confident I can find a winning pattern the next few times I fish here. We’ll see what happens here in the future.

Nov 26 2013

The Tackle Doctor

Aaron Martens put out some neat instructional videos this past year. The best video of the series is the one that shows you how to make your own bait keeper, the drop shot vid, and storing baits in your boat. Enjoy.

0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor 0 The Tackle Doctor

Nov 13 2013

Lessons from Lake Hartwell


2013 SE Regional Lake Hartwell 2 day 005 225x300 Lessons from Lake HartwellFirst of all, I know I’ve been MIA for a while and many apologies. All I can say is things are pretty busy these days.

Anyway, I recently finished 2nd at the Bassmaster Weekend Series Regional at Lake Hartwell doing something I’d never done in a tournament…. video game fishing with a drop shot.

I still don’t like it but now I feel like I can catch the fish I’m seeing on the graph. It’s pretty amazing how effective a drop shot is on spotted bass.

I arrived at Lake Hartwell praying to God that it would be cold enough to push the fish into the creeks, but when I arrived it was still quite warm and the water temperature was still in the mid  70’s.

That didn’t stop me from starting my search in the creeks though. My friend Ben who won the Everstart in Okeechobee earlier this year fished the BFL regional here last year and told me about some creeks that I should check out on the west side of the lake called Gumlog and Paynes.

I spent my first 2 days of practice in those 2 creeks and really had very little success. The water was totally clear and there was no shad to speak of. The best bite I got in those 2 creeks was off a steep rocky point that dropped into 30 ft of water. I saw some fish on the graph and a small spot ate the drop shot right away.

My friend Jessie told me he’s been catching fish off the marked shoals and I had every intention of checking them out on the third day but for some reason I ended up by one of the numerous bridges on Lake Hartwell. Immediately, I remembered being on Smith Lake and how Shawn Shrader caught those spots in a 100 ft of water drop shotting the pilings.

I didn’t feel that up to it so I pulled up to the one closest to the shore in about 30 ft of water and caught a nice largemouth off the first cast with the drop shot.  I still didn’t feel like drop shotting so I began casting the drop shot towards the rip rap on the bank and caught a nice 3 pound largemouth. I didn’t realize at the time that most people don’t cast a drop shot but it seemed to work as I caught a nice limit of largemouth in the first hour of practice.

I finally talked my self into drop shotting the deeper pilings sitting in 1o0 ft of water and caught a few small ones but I just don’t have that much patience. Some bait starting showing up so I began throwing the Tennessee Rig around those same pilings. Wouldn’t you know it, I started catching largemouth after largemouth in 100 ft of water…. that’s retarded. You’d think you’d catch spots but they were all nice sized largemouth. For sure I thought this could be a winning pattern. I ran to the next bridge and caught another largemouth in about 75 ft of water.

The fourth day, I had enough of the drop shot and fished some marked shoals with a white fluke and Chrome Lucky Craft Gunfish and caught the living daylights out of them. Every marked shoal had a nice spotted bass or two on it. About half way through the day, I decided for some reason that this pattern was too obvious and those fish would get hammered the next few days so I got drawn back into the creeks and finally found a creek with a little stained water. There was no shad but I immediately felt more comfortable.

My gut told me there would be resident fish in this creek and they would be near the mouth since the fall migration had not started yet. Ahhh… I was wrong. I didn’t get a sniff until I got about 3/4 of the way back on a dock with about 12 ft in front of it. My green pumpkin jig got swallowed up by a 5 pound largemouth. Now we’re talking. A few docks later another giant ate my jig but it broke me off.

I decided I’ve seen enough and explored a bunch more shallow docks with no fish on them. The docks with flat land next to it tended to be shallower and the docks with steep land were worthless.

The dock pattern was a good one but I just didn’t know if I could catch a limit doing it both days so I began looking offshore on the 5th day of practice. I probably spent 6 hours graphing different spots and drop shotting a few that looked good but I didn’t get a bite. Towards the end of the day, I finally found a nice hump in about 30 ft of water with brush on it. I idled around and found the motherlode. Even I could understand that there was a massive school of fish on this spot. I dropped my drop shot and immediately caught an 18″ spot. I drop in there again and I get a 17″ spot. It was unreal the amount of fish here. You can see my graph in the pic below.

The last day I decided to find some similar humps near the area I found the day before and found another 3 similar places that I caught fish at. I decided to call it a day around noon and start rigging.

I decided I needed to get a limit first on the humps and then go hunt down largemouth so I started the first day of the tournament offshore fishing for spotted bass. My co angler, “Barefoot”, caught the first 2 fish of the day and I thought here we go again. I’m gonna play guide service today. It took about 30 minutes, but I finally got my first bite and the drag was absolutely screaming. It was a giant spot that finally got me in the brush and got off. The second bite was an instant replay of the first fish. That stupid thing got me in the brush again.

Finally, I tightened up the drag a little bit and I started holding the drag so that it wouldn’t slip until I got it away from the brush and landed my first keeper… a fatty 3 lb spot. I then proceeded to land the next 3 spots that were all really good size.

At about 10:30, the bite really tapered off and I wanted to save the spot for the next day so I went hunting on the marked shoals. I hit nearly 20 of them and thought for sure I’d get my 5th fish but to no avail. There were still some fish on the shoals but they were all short.

I ended the first day of the tournament in 10th place with a little over 11 lbs with 4 fish. Not a bad start but not getting my limit would haunt me the 2nd day.

I began the 2nd day on the off shore hump and caught 2 right away but the stripers were invading my territory and giants stripers began schooling all around me. The only problem was that the spots stopped biting. I stayed on the hump for 2 hours and decided it just wasn’t happening.

I run to a nearby marked shoal and absolutely nothing. The only good part is that some fish started schooling nearby on a point and they looked a lot different than the stripers so I ran over there and finished out my limit. I maybe had 7 or 8 lbs but I had a limit and now its time to hunt down some largemouth. I ran into the creek with the dirty water and hit both docks that I had caught big fish on to no avail. I thought that figures, but I kept on going anyway simply because I was developing a migrane from looking at the graph so much and it felt good to have a flippin stick in my hand. About 8 or 9 docks, I get a giant thump on that jig and it was giant that weighed nearly 6 pounds… an absolute giant for Hartwell.

I flipped docks with a jig the rest of the day but not another bite. I was just happy to be flippin.

I ended up with the biggest bag on day 2 of nearly 13 lbs and the biggest fish of the tournament. I was in the lead for most of the weigh in until a local who was in the top 5 the previous day ended up with a pound more than me.

Ouch… sure wish my dumb ass got a limit on the first day. At the very least, I’m now super confident video game fishing drop shots. I looked at the graph so much that it was all I could see when I closed my eyes to go to sleep that night. The only thing I could see was those streaks on the sonar.

I have no idea why I never went to the Alabama Rig fish on the bridge pilings and I probably should’ve made it out there.

The few things I picked up this week is that a tungsten drop shot sinker is way better than lead because of the added sensitivity, the Roboworm Rebarb hook works better than an exposed hook around brush, fish caught out of 30-40 ft of water need to be deflated with a needle or they float upside down in your livewell (thank goodness my co anglers were from a state where they carry such things in their tackle box), the new Gamakatsu Drop Shot rig with the swivels and clip for the tag end saves you a ton of time re tying baits, and that 5 to 6 days is the ideal practice time for me personally. It allows me to cover enough water to get rid of the feeling of being lost out there and not so much time that I’m not dwelling too far in what’s happened in the past. Learned a lot of this week although I didn’t catch the giants I’m used to catching in Florida

At least I made it to the National Championships which was priority number one. Winning was never an objective although it would have been nice. Either way, I ended up with a nice check for 2nd place and big fish of the tournament and added a new technique to my tournament fishing arsenal.

Posts about my Xtreme Championship at Lake Seminole and the Weekend Series National Championship at Old Hickory will be coming soon so stay tuned.

2013 SE Regional Lake Hartwell 2 day 028 1024x768 Lessons from Lake Hartwell

graph Lessons from Lake Hartwell

You See This, You Better Drop