Yes, you guessed it…it’s late fall and so my collection of random thoughts I call a blog will center on hunting this time. Don’t worry, I’m not here to brag about some 16-point monster buck I killed or go on about a new rifle that is supposed to be the greatest ever.
Honestly, I don’t even consider myself all that great of a hunter. In fact, for 10-year period of my life, I didn’t hunt at all. But when hunting is in your blood, the urge to get in the woods in the fall never goes away.
As a kid, I grew up in Michigan where the hunting tradition is very strong. As summer turned to fall each year in September, we put away the rods and got out the guns. Indeed there were two distinct seasons: fishing season and hunting season. Early hunting opened with small game like rabbit season, then bird hunting opened and then, of course, deer season came in.
When life got busy with a family and a fishing career around 2000, hunting took a backseat and the guns were put away. But a few years ago I ventured into the woods again and realized just how much I missed hunting.
I should clarify that technically it was not so much the actual killing that I missed, but rather walking in the woods or sitting in a stand and watching wild animals in their environment – it’s what makes the outdoors such a fascinating place. Mostly, though, I am always floored by the extreme similarities between wild game activity/movement and bass activity/movement. Some of the things I observe when hunting serve as powerful reminders when fishing.
For instance, walk into the woods and it’s amazing how aware animals are of your presence. Sit still and quiet for while and eventually a bird will chirp, a squirrel make his way down a tree, chipmunks will scurry across the ground and deer will begin to show up. It’s as if nature has a very effective chain of safety in place – first the birds give the all clear, then the squirrels ground check the parameters, then the deer feel it’s safe to move again. I’m convinced the underwater world works the same exact way; as a result, I am reminded of just how critical stealth is in fishing as well.
Another element of hunting and fishing that is so parallel is how deer and bass move and migrate along topographical features and contours. The same kinds of “S” bends or channel swings bass use in creeks are the exact same places deer use to cross creeks. Just as deer use ridges for orientation and movement, bass use submerged ledges along river channels the same way. It’s a big reminder to always be aware of even the subtlest contour changes when bass fishing.
Locating major food sources is comparable as well. Finding a mother lode of acorns or a grove of crabapple trees means finding the deer, just like finding shad or a big bream leads to bass. Reminder: Always consider the presence of forage when searching for bass.
Big temperature changes along frontal cycles get both game and fish moving, too. Just as a big cold front will move bass, a sudden drop in temperatures will push deer up.
Again, I don’t claim to be the best hunter in the world, but after getting back in the woods the last few years, I do believe that becoming a better hunter can only make you a better fisherman because deer and bass behavior are so similar.
As a professional angler, one of the most common questions I’m asked is if I fish for fun during the off-season. And the answer is, yes, absolutely! Except it’s not always for freshwater bass.
When I’m looking to fish purely for fun, I head to the Louisiana marsh or Florida coastlines and fish for redfish because they are an absolute blast to catch.
The best part about redfishing is I can take my same exact rods, reels, line and tackle I use for bass and catch redfish on them – no new tackle or extra rigging is required. You can literally walk out to your bass boat, grab a rod with ½-ounce spinnerbait, a ½-ounce flipping jig, a lipless crankbait, a big topwater walker and maybe a fluke-type bait like a Z-Man Jerk Shadz and you’re in the redfish business. Florida’s water is a little clearer, so if I’m headed that way I might have to spend a half a minute rigging a spinning outfit with a ¼-ounce lead head jig – but it’s no big deal.
The other great thing is most slot-sized redfish live inshore in water that is about waist deep or less. So there is no traveling offshore 50 miles, fighting big waves or getting seasick. I’ve done the offshore thing, and personally, I would rather watch a 30-inch redfish wake up behind my topwater and smash it in a foot of water than troll for dolphin in 200 feet of water.
At first a redfish may just look like a big lug of a fish, lumbering along in no real hurry to do anything. But when a lure gets their attention and they decide to eat, I can assure you, the fury of their strike will rival any fish out there. And once they wreck your lure with those powerful crushers, then they proceed to strip drag off a reel like no bass is capable of. Because most redfish live in such shallow water, when they run, they have nowhere to go but away from you. Fighting a 35-inch bull red in shallow water can easily be a 7 or 8 minute battle that requires walking around the entire boat three or four times.
I recently traveled to Louisiana and filmed a redfish show with fellow Z-Man pro-staffer and Flats Class host Captain CA Richardson. And just to prove how similar bass and redfish are, I tied on a Z-Man Chatterbait and the redfish couldn’t stand it. When my first redfish of the trip crushed a Chatterbait and began peeling drag out through the swamp, I was instantly reminded of just how much I love fishing for these ferocious beasts. In fact, I used to fish the FLW Redfish Series with my father-in-law and those events were my fondest memories of my FLW days. We visited places like Venice, Cocodrie, Lafitte, Charlotte Harbor and Mosquito Lagoon. It was such fun fishing that if we didn’t make the cut, we would go back out and fish until dark just to keep getting our lines stretched.
Believe me, if you like shallow-water bass fishing, you will love inshore redfishing. The skill set required to catch reds is so similar to bass fishing – reds are literally saltwater bass. The tackle, the water depth, the casting angles, the lure actions for bass are all transferable to reds.
Come to think of it, I’m will be fishing an IFA ProAm Redfish event in just a weeks at Punta Gorda, Fla., and I can hardly wait.
Fishing in the off-season? You bet! For saltwater bass, of course.
These days it seems as if many big lure companies are obsessed with mass production and low price points. It’s understandable in the economy that we’re in right now. When these big companies hire fishing pro staff, the anglers’ job is to promote lures that already exist in the product line: Company makes lure. Pro angler pushes lure.
Over the last four years I have been involved with Live Target Lures, a lure company that is far more interested in perfecting lures than pushing lures.
It has been a privilege and a breathe of fresh air to work for a lure company that is keenly interested in my input on lure design and function. Grant Koppers, the Founder of Live Target Lures, is obsessed with fishing lures and he is never satisfied with his product until they are absolutely perfect.
And Grant knows about perfection – he cut his fishing teeth targeting trout and salmon in Canada where “matching the hatch” is a critical part of getting a fish to bite. He has been a fulltime fishing guide on Ontario and Erie for more than 10 years where he has watched clearing water from zebra mussels make gamefish more pickier than ever before. In his world, if an artificial lure is not an exact duplicate of the real thing right down to the exact size, profile, action and color, it’s not going to get bites. In short, Grant has taken that same obsession for matching the hatch to the bass fishing world with Live Target Lures.
What’s more, the lines of communication between Grant and his pro staff (which also include Stephen Browning and Dave Mercer) are wide open. He wants our input on every aspect of lure production.
In fact, just over a year ago he invited me to China and Japan to observe, firsthand, where and how Live Target Lures are made. I made the trip overseas with him, we toured the manufacturing facilities and along the way he asked for my input on anything they might could do better in the production process. Needless to say, I was floored at Grant’s sheer dedication to making the absolute best products possible. He is the kind of guy that I could call at midnight with a product idea and he would answer his phone with all ears. That’s a rarity in the lure business these days.
At Live Target, Grant does not believe in naming a lure after a forage species just because of a color scheme or paint job. For instance, he does not take the same 6- to 8-foot diver body, paint it like a bluegill, then like a perch, then like a crappie. Instead he is insistent that if a lure is going to be called a “bluegill,” the whole body of the lure should be anatomically correct, so to speak. If it is going to be called a “crappie,” it should be thinner and rounder. If it is going to be called a “perch,” the body of the lure will be longer and thicker. Live Target’s names for their lures are not based simply on a paint job but in mimicking that forage species exactly in size, shape, action and color.
Live Target’s saltwater line is the same way. Their “mullet” is not the same body shape/function as their “pinfish.” The mullet is a floating, topwater walker and the pinfish is a sinking lipless rattler.
At ICAST this year Live Target won the best of show in the hard lure category for their Bait Ball – a single hard lure that looks like a small school of baitfish. This is now the fourth year in a row that they have taken an award at ICAST.
With the Bait Ball concept, Live Target will no longer be relegated to making exact duplicates of singular forage species. Since a Bait Ball involves multiple forage items, the size and shapes of the ball of bait are now limitless. And we are now working together to produce some Bait Ball renditions that will continue to lead the lure market with innovation instead of falling in line with lures priced to sell.
To see Live Target Lures obsession to “match the hatch” to perfection check out www.livetargetlures.com
As professional bass anglers, we don’t usually brag too much about our accommodations at bass tournaments. Our homes away from home are often of the econo-stay, “we’ll leave the light on for you” variety.
But at the last Elite Series event on the Alabama River, I stayed at a place that was so incredible, I just had to take a moment to brag about it.
Call me lucky, but I just happened to land an invite to stay at Ray Scott’s pond in Pintlala, Alabama – as in Scott’s “Presidential Lake,” the 55-acre bass fishing fantasy land that hosts the “Eagles of Angling” tournament where both former Bush Presidents have fished.
Back in the early 1990’s (when I was still fishing club tournaments) I can remember reading about the Eagles of Angling tournaments in Bassmaster Magazine and watching them on the Bassmasters TV show. Ray Scott would invite the President of the United States to fish with the top bass pros of the time – Rick Clunn, Gary Klein, Larry Nixon and Denny Brauer – on his super pond that was custom built for bass fishing.
That was a magical era for the sport of professional bass fishing. Back then the growth of the sport was on an epic incline. There seemed to be no limits to how far this sport could go. At times pro fishing was even touted to be the next NASCAR. After all, when you see the President of the United States fishing with your angling heroes on Ray Scott’s pond on national television, “the next NASCAR” sure seemed possible.
Now, some 25 years later, we all know professional bass fishing did not become the next NASCAR. Over the last two decades, the sport has sort of waxed and waned like a rising and falling tide. It’s not exactly front-page news like the other big sports, but when I see 8,000 fans attend an Elite Series weigh-in, I know it still has a strong heartbeat.
But back to my accommodations – when I had the opportunity to stay at a guesthouse on Scott’s legendary lake, recently, I jumped on it. I wanted to see if the legend and lore of “Presidential Lake” was everything I thought it would be and I was not disappointed.
The afternoon I arrived, I took a rod out of my boat, walked down the bank and on my very first cast, caught a bass. After catching a few from the bank, a guy who works on the property came down and told me I was welcome to use one of the small electric fishing boats kept on hand for guests.
So I grabbed a few more rods, hopped in a “Twin Troller” and headed out onto the pond. I had the whole lake to myself – catching bass after bass. As afternoon fell towards evening I came upon on sign on a stump that read, “Clunn’s Hole” and I suddenly remembered when Rick Clunn caught a 13-pound, 15-ounce bass – the lake record – in one of the Eagles of Angling tournaments. In that moment, I was taken aback to what it must have been like in those Eagles of Angling events 25 years ago. I could imagine the place buzzing with Secret Service agents. I could see the President casting intently in eager anticipation of the next bite. I could hear the voices of Clunn and Klein, steep with optimism for this sport. For me, it was a kind of special trip back in time to a golden era of our sport.
Later that night as I was finishing up my tackle and putting everything away, I noticed an odd green glow emerging on the lake. I went down to investigate the mysterious glow and found its source: two lights fastened to the bottom of the lake and pointed up, lighting up some 10 feet of the entire water column. As I got closer, I noticed swarms of shad swimming through the lights and an occasional big, dark shadow darting trough the beams, taking swipes at the shad schools. Like a kid on Christmas, I ran back up to my boat, grabbed a rod with a crankbait and returned to the bank to fire a cast across the lights. As my crankbait wobbled into the beam, one of those dark shadows shot out – I held on for the strike – a split second later a 6-pound bass loaded up on my rod. What an incredible experience! To watch backlit bass come from up under the bait and annihilate it gave me a new perspective I’d never seen before.
And with each cast out to the lights, I could see big, dark silhouettes streak across the beam after my lure. Each time, I clenched the rod in anticipation of that jarring strike – it’s the very moment I live for as a pro fisherman. Then it dawned on me: No, professional bass fishing did not become the next NASCAR, but it has not exactly disappeared into obscurity, either. It’s still here, surviving, mostly because we as fishermen all love the anticipation of that vicious strike.
Well for me the 2011 season is about to get underway and I couldn’t be more excited. I will be traveling this week for the first BASS Elite tournament at the Harris Chain of lakes in central Florida. This is the first time I have competed in the Elite series, I qualified for them last year by finishing fifth in the points in the Northern division of the BASS opens. I fished the BASS top 150 trail from 2000 till 2006 but since then the format for BASS has changed, and because of this I will be considered a Rookie.
It seems strange that I will be starting over after having been fishing as a full time Pro for 12 years now, but change is good. The main reason I am excited about the change for me, is the BassMaster Classic. I have competed in 6 BassMaster Classics, and had my chance to win in New Orleans in 2001. That was the year Kevin VanDam won his first, I remember it too well. I was the last man to weigh in and came up ounces short of having a Classic victory.
Being that close can either make you or break you and I am determined to be back on that stage again and finish what I started. The BassMaster Classic is often compared to the super bowl of tournaments, and it really is If you like to fish for Bass you owe it to yourself to go to one and experience first hand how exciting it really is being there. I remember my first one, it was 1997 when Dion Hibdon won in Birmingham Alabama. I was a club tournament fisherman who went down there from Kentucky to help out a boat dealer friend of mine. I was running my first Ranger boat at the time and to see all of those BASS Master Classic editions going around that arena and the crowds that were there cheering on their favorites, I was totally hooked. It took me three years, but I was running my very own BassMaster Classic Ranger at the 2000 Classic in Chicago. I have been with Ranger and Evinrude for 15 years now and I have ran the latest models, starting with my first boat a 481vs with a 150 Evinrude fast strike till now.
Next week I will be pulling my Ranger Z520 with the Evinrude E-Tec 250 down to the first Bassmaster event trying to qualify for the next Classic being considered a Rookie, again. This season is a change for me but chasing the dream is still there and I hope that never changes.
Hello everybody, Well the new year is finally here and I am ready to get this one started. Last week the first Bassmaster Southern Open was held in Florida at Lake Toho, I was there and I don’t know if you heard or not but the day before the first day of practice my boat along with 7 others including Dave Smith were broken into and a large amount of fishing equipment was stolen. This was the first time that I had lost anything to thieves out of my boat. I had my truck broken into a number of years ago, but the only things that were taken were some cds and a radar detector. The people that did this robbery at the hotel were not just a grab and run group they were either bass fishermen or had stolen so much that they new what brands of equipment to steal. Out of the 8 boats that were hit each one was robbed of only certain things. Video cameras around the hotel recorded the time that they were there and what kind of vehicle they were driving, (white ford excursion). They stole G Loomis rods as well as Shimano reels along with a couple of Signature series Power Poles. With the kind of response that I received on facebook about what people wanted to do to the thevies I get the feeling that these guys are headed for a really bad ending. There has been alot of rumors lately saying that the guys had been caught but as of right now I haven’t seen any of my rods and reels.
Hello everybody, I am having a bad case of cabin fever, so to pass the time before leaving on my first trip of the New Year, I have been working on tackle.
“Working on tackle” is a phrase that covers a lot of bases, but it is a job that I enjoy doing, and for me it’s a necessary function of a bass fisherman. This is the time of the year when I get ready to hit the tournament trail, and I have to be sure that when I get to the first event, I have everything I need.
My first step is to inventory everything that I have. Second, I determine what items need to be repaired or disposed of. Third, I figure out what new items should be purchased.
This week, I have been organizing tackle boxes. Tackle boxes have changed significantly for me over the years, but I still have one of the first boxes that I ever owned. It was like large tool box with a handle on top and with trays that opened up as you lifted the top. It had room for a couple dozen lures as well as a large area in the bottom for everything else.
Now, my entire boat is really the tackle box – I use several boxes that are clear and have adjustable dividers that allow you to customize the storage spaces in each. Each one, packed neatly in my boat, is about 9 by 14 inches and about two inches deep. Many companies make them and most are the same size, so they fit neatly into the storage areas on the boats or into soft-sided tackle bags for travel. These boxes – unlike boxes from the good old days – are also not affected by the salt or plastics used in my soft and hard baits.
This is the best system for organizing because you can lay out the box dividers to fit your own needs. I will put lures into different boxes, usually dividing them by style such as lipless crankbait, deep crankbaits or topwater boxes.
I do have a few boxes that are setup for specific lakes and labeled, and when I’m ready to fish that lake, I can replace a tackle box on my boat that won’t be needed. This is a great time saver and this is the best time of year to get organized.
A few tips — Be sure to not mix your soft plastics with your hard baits. The salt that is used in the soft plastic baits will rust the hooks and rings of your expensive hard baits. Also, don’t allow water to be left in the boxes for a long period of time – damp tackle boxes will damage both soft plastics and hard baits. Many times during the year, I will leave my tackle boxes open in the sun to dry out everything inside them.
I’m counting down the days until the new 2011 tournament season begins, but look for more blog posts this winter!
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a great New Year!
Good luck and good fishing,
Hey everyone, thanks for checking out this week’s blog.
I was in Oklahoma last week doing a little deer hunting. I was happy to get the chance to harvest this nice 8-point buck, and we also had some time for a little quail hunting as well.
The week before, the family and I headed down to Florida where we did saltwater fishing for Red fish, and I went over to Lake Okeechobee for one day to try my luck with the bass. I managed to catch an 8 pound, 14 ounce bass right away that morning, and it was by far the largest of the day. The weather was great while we were there, and now that we’re dealing with frigid temperatures farther north, I would sure like to see a little of that warmth here in Tenn.
Winter can be a great time to catch fish, but because of the cold, it is important to choose your days carefully. My favorite days in the cold are ones with little or no wind. Wind can make a sunny day seem much colder than a cloudy day without wind.
Probably my favorite lure is a jig when the water temp is below 50 degrees. I use it like you would a Texas rig worm – simply cast it out let it sink to the bottom and use very short hops for your retrieve. You must pay very close attention to your line because most bites will be very subtle.
Another great bait for late fall or early winter is a crankbait. I usually use a smaller profile bait of less than 2 inches in length. I also use crawfish colors instead of shad patterns. The Koppers live craw in natural crawfish pattern is one of my favorites. The detail of that lure in cold, clear water gives it a great look.
I like to fish these lures around steep banks, especially banks that have a channel swing or short bluff wall to them. The fish I caught in Okeechobee were still on the fall pattern and were feeding on shad and other baitfish. I was using a new Bluegill wake bait over submerged vegetation when that 8 pound big girl bit.
One last quick note. When you’re fishing where the water is cold – sometimes close to freezing – be sure to take a friend with you. If you were to fall in the water, it’s very difficult to get back into your boat by yourself when you’ve got multiple layers of clothing on – and it will only take a few minutes for hypothermia to set in. Cold water can be very dangerous. Please don’t take it lightly, be safe out there.
Besides, after you catch all those big fish, someone has to be there to take the photos!
Good Luck and Good Fishing,
Welcome everybody and thanks for checking out my website.
I want to share with you all some good news in the world of fishing and that is the EPA has shot down the proposal to completely ban lead sinkers. It was in the EPA’s opinion that there was not enough of a case against the fisherman and it will not support the ban. Earlier they (EPA) had ruled that it would not ban lead in bullets but it would further review the lead sinker issue. Thankfully the decision has been made in our favor. This is a perfect example of how easy something in the future can slip by the anglers, little if any was written about this in the places that most of us read ie BassFan or the tournament organization websites. It seems a total ban on lead sinkers would have been a very big story but it wasn’t. I think that many anglers don’t realize that there have already been some areas where lead is banned including national parks, areas in Canada and all of New Hampshire.The states of Vermont and New York also have banned the sale of lead sinkers and the use of lead sinkers under 1/2oz. The reason for the ban in most of the areas used is death or illness in water birds with the Common Loon being one of the most referred to bird in the studies. One study reported that 50 percent of the adult death in loons was from lead poisoning. The study then went on to say this was approximately 11 birds. The Vermont hunting and fishing state website has a section called get the lead out. In this section it has links to websites giving stories about the effects of lead on birds. One of them is called (The straight Dope) hardly, after going to this site I can hardly believe how it got such a link on any official website.
The problem with not having the anglers know more and get involved about these decisions is only information from the people supporting the ban gets heard the loudest. It is very important to make your voice heard don’t assume that someone else will do it for you. It is much like the voting process if you don’t like who is representing you – but you didn’t vote then you don’t have any reason to complain.
Thanks for checking out my blog I have recently added my flipping and pitching videos from the E-Team website be sure and watch them as well.
I have been fishing the FLW Tour for 14 years, and I have experienced everything the sport has to offer. I fished both BASS and FLW, but in 2006 I had to make decision – I had to pick one tournament trail over the other and I chose FLW. When I chose FLW it was based on my sponsors. One was the Ranger Trail the other was the Skeeter/Triton Trail. As a Ranger/Evinrude Pro, it was best for me to fish FLW.
I have ran a Ranger/Evinrude from the start, since tournament fishing in the early 90′s. I can remember feeling like I have arrived once I owned my first Ranger. The days when what boat I am in determining what Trail I am going to fish are gone, and I am excited about that.
Fishing the Opens this year, my goal was to make the Elite’s, and finishing 5th in the Northern points, I accomplished my goal. I really feel as I have missed BASS, the biggest names in fishing are made with BASS and the BassMaster Classic is the biggest fishing event. I want to get back to the Classic and back to that level of fishing. For me, there’s nothing like it, and once you’ve done it – it becomes an addiction.
I have fished six Classics (qualified for 7) and had back to back third place finishes. My finishes have always been higher in BASS, I can’t explain why, but maybe it is the types of lakes and time of year BASS visits them. I am a power fishermen, finesse fishing is not for me. Also, with the Classic being held in the pre-spawn/late winter time of year it is a better fit for me. I have caught some of my biggest stringers at that time of year.
This past season, I had a hard time getting into the proper mind set. There were so many tournaments where I was fishing just trying to get a check, I new it was time for a change. A couple of other things helped me make the decision as well. I really like that their are no co-anglers in the Elites. I have never understood the concept of a non-boater sponsored by a boat company. To me, many of these guys are really good. They need to get out and fish on the pro side. They need to take the risk and do it! You do not get the sponsors then decide to go fish, you fish and you fish well enough to get the sponsors- and that’s the way it should be. You can’t wait for someone to pay your way to take the leap. I know Kevin VanDam did not sign a big deal with Bass Pro Shop before he started his career. I am always working over time, if I don’t fish – I don’t get a check. Fishing tournaments is how I get paid and I fish as many tournaments as I can.
Also, the smaller field size with the Elite’s frees up more fishing areas and you don’t feel like you get lost in the crowd at weigh in. This past summer I was standing in line with 156 anglers (pro’s and co-anglers) at the weigh in tank for two and a half hours at the Forest Wood Cup in Atlanta.
In addition to the BASS Elites, I plan on fishing the FLW Open’s( Series tournaments) as well, there are no conflicts with the dates. Fishing BASS I feel it allows me to promote my name and my sponsors to a larger audience.
For me, it’s good to have focus – a goal that you can keep your eye on and continue to move forward. I look forward to doing the whole thing again and being competitive and having that drive to get there.
As a tournament fishermen, you need that excitement that gets your heart pumping and your hands shaking – when you quit feeling that, it’s time to make a change.
Thank you for all of your support and positive comments you have left on my site and facebook page.