The Myth of Best Fishing Times

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


For many years, I was in the ranks of most other anglers that thought that the best time to fish was in the early morning or early evening. The bass experts (and there are many) told us that bass only feed twice a day, during those advertised times. This fact was of course true in terms of nature’s clock which is the clock used by all fish. What was being overlooked however was that bass, like all other fish will also eat at any time that a tempting meal is passed in front of them.


I have found that one huge advantage of keeping a detailed fishing log is my ability to create an interesting argument about life long fishing myths and this is a big one. I recently examined some of my catch data over a period of five years from 2005 through 2010. Using only data from days that I fished complete days so as not to bias the results, I plotted the catches made from more than 2681 different fish of several species. Much of this data was from trips that I had made to locations other then my home waters, trips to Canada and other US lakes and rivers. The results shown left (left image) may shock you but the middle of the day produced better catches than the morning or evening. Obviously my fishing technique was different when the sun was high in the sky, but the results present an interesting argument for not taking a lunch break.

Many of my friends on Lake Norman asked if these results also apply to that reservoir and if there is any difference in the results for different species of fish. I examined my data for Lake Norman, using the same criteria and got the results shown right (right image).


For all of the popular species, the results were the same, the best catch rates were between 10 am and 5 pm. Since my argument about the best times to fish was now getting interesting, I decided to go back and evaluate the data and compare it to the popular Solunar Tables that are published in nearly every outdoor magazine. Using thousands of catches as my data base I could only correlate with the recommended best time published by that source 22% of the time. In other words, I only had good results at the predicted times 22% of the time. Wow, I thought if I flip a coin and call the results I will be right 50% of the time if I flip enough times. That doesn’t place much confidence on the position of the moon relative to the earth when it comes to fish behavior.

I decided to do some more digging to better understand the sources of this solunar material. I have always believed that the tides, which are controlled by the moons position, do indeed affect fish behavior in the oceans. But in fresh water, I am a doubter. My research dug up some interesting facts. The earliest material written on this subject shows that very early work with the moons position involved the use of clams and other shellfish. These shellfish were observed in a tank of saltwater. Their movements and behavior were recorded and compared to the position of the moon. It was concluded that the shellfish opened their shells in a pattern that could be correlated with the moons position relative to the earth. This was the original work that eventually led to creation of the Solunar Tables. There were never any tests run with fish that I could find.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to convince any anglers not to fish in the early morning or early evening, because you will get results at those times. What I am suggesting is that you not abandon the midday hours. Instead of taking a two hour lunch break, pack your lunch and fish right through the midday hours. I believe that you will find this practice helps improve your overall catch rate for all species of fish. Based on my findings, you might not want to schedule your fishing vacation based on the published tables, especially if you are fishing in freshwater.

Originally published in the Charlotte Edition of The Angler Magazine.

Winter Bass & Crappie Fishing in Florida

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013


During Northeast Florida’s winter fishing season bait shop sales for live crappie baits often exceed sales for live bass minnows. In fact many of Northeast Florida freshwater lakes will experience more fishing activity for crappie rather than Florida’s number one freshwater game fish, the “Bigmouth” bass. During a past winter fishing trip to the Harris Chain of Lakes I motored from Big Lake Harris into the “Dead River” and counted over fifty crappie fishing boats anchored up and fishing the deep edges of a mix of lily pads and hydrila.

The cooler water temperatures of Florida’s winter fishing season promotes a huge largemouth bass and black crappie migration from shallow water to nearby deep water structures. Without saying the best crappie and bass fishing action comes during the cooler months of winter where both species tend to bunch up along deep edges of aquatic weeds, ledges, boat docks and submerged brush.

A good knowledge of fish finders is a huge aid in hooking up with some of Northeast Florida’s best winter crappie and bass fishing action. Here fishermen often prefer a combo GPS/Sonar unit where the screen shows both navigation and structure. Once a productive winter fishing location is located, the location can be logged into the unit and revisited easily during future fishing trips. More importantly when you locate a school of black crappie, you will be able to record such information as water temperature, water depth, water clarity and type of structure that the crappie are holding too. Finding similar situations in the same body of water is a great aid in catching crappie when your present crappie fishing waters produce little action.

A deadly fishing tactic for both locating schooling black crappie and catching them too, is employing a slow drift along a deep water edge while monitoring your fish finder This can be accomplished if the wind is blowing perfectly parallel to the deep water weed line allowing your crappie skiff to drift slowly along the weed edge. If the wind is dead calm, a bow or transom mounted electric trolling motor will navigate your fishing boat slowly over prime deep water crappie structure.


Without saying Missouri minnows are by far the #1 crappie bait. However casting a Missouri minnows are barbed from the bottom and right through the top of the mouth with a #4-#6 wire hook. The wire hook allows the minnow to swim lively along the deep edge. Pinch a tiny split shot a foot above the hook onto to 8-10 pound monofilament fishing line so that the live minnow swims deep. Other prime black crappie baits include worms and crickets.

Crappie artificial lures include beetle spins, small plastic tail jigs and rooster tails in the 1/32 to 1/16 ounce size. However some of the largest black crappie caught are
often taken by bass fishermen casting small minnow type plugs liken the black and silver Rapala.

Once a crappie or two has been caught, be ready to anchor your fishing boat close to a hopeful school of Northeast Florida black crappie. Once anchored attach a small torpedo float on to your terminal fishing line which is adjusted so that the minnow swims just off from the bottom and close to the deep weed line.

Florida winter largemouth bass can be located using almost the very same fishing tactic that is used for locating schooling crappie. Here largemouth bass will also migrate from their spring, summer and fall shallow water habitat to the edges of deep water structures. If there are submerged deep water weed beds located just offshore of shallow water weed beds, this type of deep water weed bed can be a huge magnet for winter bass.

During a past winter bass fishing trip to Florida’s Rodman Reservoir, we used our Lowrance GPS/Sonar unit to locate a deep water weed bed that produced winter largemouth bass to 12-pounds. During cloudy periods of the day, the deep water bass would move out of the 20-foot drop and re-locate over a 5-6 foot flat. While during sunny periods of the day the bass would re-visit the deep weed bed.

Our lures of choice were large live shiners free lined from our anchored bass boat into the deep weed bed without a float and barbed to 20-pound bass tackle using a 5/0 weedless kahle hook. The kahle hook was barbed just behind the anal fin which promoted the shiner to swim deep. During cloudy portions of the day we would drift over the nearby weedy flat while barbing our live shiners from the bottom of the mouth right through the top of the mouth.

Our lure of choice was a #11 silver and black Rapala which we made long casts with 10-15 pound spin tackle to floating stumps and logs that harbored large weed beds close by.
Finally simply every Northeast Florida Lake and river that harbors largemouth bass will more than likely have a nice stock of black crappie as well. Both popular freshwater game fish find their winter Holmes where deep water and a shallow water structure make for both a comfort zone and ambush point for winter bass and crappie. Look for the best winter bass and crappie fishing to come during long periods of stable weather and a few days before a full moon. The current daily bag limit for black crappie is 25-per day. The current bag limit for largemouth bass is 5-per day measuring at least 14-inches with one bass measuring over 22-inches. For more information, visit

Ten Tips for A Trophy Bass

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Winter & Early Springtime Bass Fishing

Sunday, December 1st, 2013


As the seasons for catching bass come & go there is none I enjoy more than early springtime. This time of year produces catches of the years’ largest females as their weight is naturally increased by Mother Nature. The large egg laying females begin their annual migration to the shallows following the smaller young males upon the changing moon phases. The thinner, smaller and aggressive males move into the shallows first finding the best places for the females to lay their eggs. As the frontal conditions are constantly changing this time of year, a short warming trend combined with a Full-moon or New-moon phase will send these larger roe filled females quickly to the shallows from their staging locations. They will search out the younger males who have already prepared a bed by fanning a roundish area of lake bottom until it is free & clear of sediment or debris. These bed areas are usually about 36” in diameter of clean sand bottom which can be spotted from several yards away. These females will arrive to the bedding areas, seek out a bed that suits them, lay their several thousand eggs & then return to the staging areas all within a few days. The younger and more aggressive males are left in the bedding areas to protect the beds from the natural predators such as the bluegill, shiners & even other bass who will eat their own fry ( young hatched eggs). As the eggs quickly hatch the males protect these small schools of fry until there are large enough to move off to grow up on their own.

As this early springtime bite may last several months depending on the lake’s location the aggressive bites you get from these bass will be some of the years’ best. In the cleaner shallow water of usually four feet in depth or less sight fishing for these aggressive males & large females is not only exciting but can be equally frustrating as well! The aggressive young males will protect the prepared beds with their life. As you spot these bedding areas either by seeing the beds or by fan casting areas with fast moving search baits, the males will pick-up a bait by the tail, remove it from its bed & spit the bait out of its mouth as you watch without feeling a bite. A male may remove the same bait multiple times off his bed before he gets mad enough to eat your bait and you are able to hook him. Other days either prior to or just following the moon phases as these bass are in the deeper water staging locations close to the bedding areas At this time they will bite just about anything more aggressively than any other time of year as they feed heavily getting ready for the chore of spawning. In between the moon phases search baits like large 4” to 5” swim baits, plastic frog baits, top water poppers & chugger baits will get massive strikes as these fish will compete with one another trying to get a meal before another bass can. As you see these aggressive fish pushing a wake as they zoom-in on a slow rolled swim-bait, a plastic frog or popper it is very hard not to set the hook before they crush your presentation. At no other time during the year will the fish fight harder or be happier to eat most any bait you present.

As you search your local lakes looking for the best bedding locations look for areas most protected from the “Northeastern” blows. Look for areas with hard and sandy bottom with the cleanest water you can find in the shallows of 4’ or less. Find areas with scattered vegetation like Kissimmee grass, cattails, hard reeds or buggy whips, thin lily pads both large and small with deeper water & heavier vegetation close by. The areas on the lakes most protected or on the north-side will warm-up the fastest as the winds will push the cooler water towards the southern lake areas. Having a good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must. As you spot existing beds in the shallows or smaller male bass moving about in these areas, you can bet the larger females are close by. On days either prior to or just after a new or full moon, fish the thicker cover adjacent to the beds you see or close to these spawning areas. The larger females will be just waiting for Mother Natures’ time clock to move them into the bedding areas where the males are awaiting their arrival. During these periods of time between the moon phases the larger females will also feed but are typically found in the thicker or denser vegetation. Flipping or pitching heavy slow moving baits in the holes & pockets in these areas will produce some of the years hardest & rod jarring bites. The egg bearing females are heaviest of the year at this time. A normal female 8lb bass may be as much as 2 to 3 lbs. heavier at this time due to feeding aggressively and the weight of the eggs they are carrying.

To help protect these egg carriers, please take great care when handling these females after catching one. Make sure to remove the hook quickly and return the fish to the water; try to only keep the fish out of the water as long as you can hold your own breath. Upon reviving the fish get your camera &, measuring tape ready, position the boat for a good photo and only then take a few good photos, measure the fish and return it to finish its spawning cycle & fight another day. At no time of year are these large females more vulnerable to death due to miss handling of these fish!! Please help make the practice of catch-photo-release the norm for these large females and past on what you learn to others. Tight lines and good luck!!!

Late Fall Bass Fishing on Lake Okeechobee…Insider Tips!

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

By Capt. Mike Shellen

“Bear” Hale, who hails from Indiana, with a great Lake “O” trophy bass caught on a shiner.

“Bear” Hale, who hails from Indiana, with a great Lake “O” trophy bass caught on a shiner.

The cooler temperatures of fall trigger many different changes in Lake Okeechobee. After reaching into the high to mid-eighties during the summer, the water temperatures have fallen into the high to mid-seventies. The cooler water triggers longer feeding periods in general. The large trophy size female bass that make themselves scarce during the summer months suddenly appear on the outside grass lines stalking the massive schools of baitfish that have hatched out during the summer. Along with the big females, all the bass in the Lake are in a feeding frenzy as they eat to prepare for the long spawning season

There are numerous patterns that will work for catching fall bass. It’s a great time to catch bass on a top-water bait. With the many styles, colors and sizes of top-water plugs, it is difficult to pinpoint what really works best. My experience has been that the bait an angler cast and works with the most confidence, is the most successful for that angler. One of my favorite lures are Pop-R’s which have a cupped face that throws water and imitates a fleeing shad. A Bang-o-Lure is a very old bait but still performs quite well. It has props that throw a shower of water as you retrieve it. Then too is a Zara Spook Jr. that features a walking type action that drives fish crazy at given times. There are literally hundreds of different baits available and they all will catch bass in the right situation. Knowing what color and action to use in certain situations is a skill that is acquired by tying a bait on and making enough casts that you become proficient with it.

Spinner baits, soft plastics and lipless crank baits all have their place in the boat and will all draw strikes in the right time frame. Being able to read the cover and having the imagination to use the right bait with the correct presentation is a skill that is learned from putting in long hours on the water. Fishing with a more accomplished angler is a great way to learn new skills and perhaps widen your understanding of reading the cover you are fishing. The best anglers in the world are those that are able to adapt to any situation and still catch fish.

As fall progresses the bass will form into large schools and move about the Lake following either the baitfish or responding to the moon phases. Okeechobee is blessed that our bass do not all spawn at the same time, waves of bass will move in feed up and them spawn from mid-October through the end of April. What this means is that at any one time we have bass that are in pre-spawn mode, bass that are actively spawning at this time, and then there are bass that have already spawned and are ravenous from the rigors of spawning. The long spawning “season” is the thing that separates Lake Okeechobee from all other bass fisheries in the USA . I started a log of my fishing experiences over 30 years ago and it tells me that nearly every year that I have fished Okeechobee the single largest bass of the year is caught between November 1st and the first week of January. This fall has already started out with a bang with 4 fish over 9 pounds in early October.
In addition to world class bass fishing, the town of Okeechobee offers great amenities for the anglers and their families. Great accommodations, fish camps, down-home cooking and friendly folks are all waiting for you. Come see for yourself what Lake Okeechobee is all about. For more information about The Lake Okeechobee area visit

Capt. Mike Shellen
Shellen Guide Service
Phone: (863) 357-0892

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Monday, July 1st, 2013

A Drop-Shot Primer For Your Bass-Fishing Arsenal

By Jenny Crowley

Eric Crowley, of Lake & Stream Guide Service, with a nice spotted bass caught with a drop shot on Georgia’s Carters Lake.

Eric Crowley, of Lake & Stream Guide Service, with a nice spotted bass caught with a drop shot on Georgia’s Carters Lake.

Over the last decade, drop-shot or down-shot fishing has proven itself time and again as one of the most effective ways to target finicky fish. Especially during the summer and winter months, when bass are deep and packed tightly on open-water structure, the finesse approach of a drop shot may be the best way to consistently catch difficult fish.
Some say it came from Japan, where tournament anglers adapted it for use on heavily pressured lakes. The technique is also very similar to those used by saltwater anglers targeting lethargic or suspended fish. Wherever it came from, drop-shotting exploded onto the U.S. bass tournament scene in the late 1990s when pros used it with great success on deep western lakes. Since then, the drop-shot has gained a foothold nationwide.

Even so, many anglers, even tournament guys, still do not include a drop-shot rig in their bag of tricks. The following is a drop-shot primer for those of you who still haven’t gotten with the program.

Although there are many different ways to set up and fish this rig, the keys to success are proper equipment and a finesse approach. Start with a 6 ½- to 7-foot medium-action spinning rod spooled with 10-pound braided line. The braided line helps to eliminate line twist. The next step is to tie in a swivel. A 50-pound SPRO Micro Swivel is a good choice. Cut a 5-foot piece of fluorocarbon leader and tie it to the open end of the swivel. Next, using a palomar knot and leaving a long tag end at the hook, tie on a 1/0 or 2/0 hook (a Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap is a good one). Lastly, depending on water current, wind and depth, tie on a 3/16- to 3/8-ounce Tungsten drop-shot weight to the tag end. Now the rig is ready for the next crucial element, bait.

A drop shot produced this nice spotted bass for Gary Turner, of Statham, Ga.

A drop shot produced this nice spotted bass for Gary Turner, of Statham, Ga.

As all anglers know, the options for plastics are endless. First one must determine the target species and then choose appropriate colors and sizes. Keep in mind that water clarity plays a significant role when choosing colors that will yield the best results. In clear waters, the most productive colors are natural: albino, white peal, silver or shad. For those anglers fishing in stained waters, opt for green, pumpkin seed or watermelon. Once the colors have been chosen, one must choose a size. Whether the target species is spotted bass, smallmouth bass or largemouth, it’s wise to be prepared with a variety of sizes. For small baits, Zoom Tiny Flukes and 3-inch Berkley Gulp Baitfish are excellent choices. For medium and large baits, try a Zoom Super Fluke Jr., a Zoom Super Fluke, a 4-inch Berkley Mud Minnow or a 5-inch Berkley Gulp Shad. Hook the bait of choice through the very tip of the nose, just enough to hold the soft plastic on the hook.

Now that the gear is ready to go, it’s time to do what every angler looks forward to the most. Get on the water and execute the plan. Look for humps, long points, bends in creek channels and structure like rockpiles, brushpiles and fish attractors. Once the structure has been located, deploy the trolling motor and adjust your depthfinder. By only fishing in “the zone,” the angler can slow down and concentrate in a specific, productive area.

With the hook and bait above the weight, a drop-shot rig allows anglers to present soft plastics with a finesse approach while keeping the bait near the bottom in deep water.

With the hook and bait above the weight, a drop-shot rig allows anglers to present soft plastics with a finesse approach while keeping the bait near the bottom in deep water.

Turn up the sensitivity on the sonar to almost max. Remember that drop-shotting is a vertical presentation. In many cases, the angler will be watching the fish on the graph and targeting them directly. Increase the chart speed to just under max. Switch to a view where both the GPS and down sonar show simultaneously on the screen. Now, use the trolling motor to move around the target structure and mark fish on the GPS. After fish have been marked, drop the drop-shot rig to the bottom and start jigging while watching the sonar. Get a visual on the newly dropped bait moving up and down. Lastly, decrease the sensitivity on the sonar until the screen clutter disappears yet the dropped bait is still visible.

The gear is ready, structures are located, fish are marked and sonar sensitivity has been finely tuned; it’s time to fish. Get as close to the structure as possible. When working the drop-shot rig, keep the weight on the bottom at all times. Lift the rod tip 6 to 8 inches to give the bait a dancing motion while keeping it in the strike zone. Be sure to keep the rod tip moving in a constant twitching motion. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a live baitfish imitation. It is not a slow-crawling-on-the-bottom type system. Stay patient and develop a finesse that makes this technique work for you. Also, keep a watchful eye on the sonar. It’s always exciting to see a fish that takes an interest the bait.

Drop-shot fishing is productive year round. Warm and cold water, wind and even post-frontal conditions are not a deterrent for this rig. In the South, the most plentiful catches occur May-September, after the spawn when the water is warmer and the fish are on structure aggressively feeding on baitfish.

If you’re not already using a drop shot to ramp up your productivity on the water, give it a try. This technique will provide results, just as it has for saltwater anglers and professional bass fishermen targeting deep, difficult fish for decades.

Jenny Crowley is an avid angler and the wife of Eric Crowley, of Lake & Stream Guide Service, which offers full-service guide trips for all species on north Georgia lakes and rivers.

The Lodge on Lake Oconee Puts You On Top Of Excellent Spring Fishing

Friday, March 1st, 2013


There’s something disconcertingly wonderful about seeing the boat rocking gently in its slip on a crisp spring morning, especially to an angler accustomed to the hassle of trailering and launching a boat before daybreak. With a steaming cup of coffee in hand, it’s just a few flights of stairs down to the docks at The Lodge on Lake Oconee. Once you get there, all that’s left to do is fire up the boat and go fishing. And there’s no better time to fish Oconee than the next couple months—no matter what species you’re after.

Largemouth bass should be bunched up and staging for the spawn, which can lead to fast action and the potential for a fish worth taking photos of. Build a strategy around the spawning areas. The fish were already bunched up on the secondary points in February, and they will soon be making their way up onto the beds. Find them feeding somewhere in between, and you’ve found the pattern. It’s hard to beat a crankbait for fish staged on the secondaries. If they’ve made the move a little farther up or as the sun warms the shallows around rock, a jerkbait fished in the 5- to 10-foot channel swings is a good option. Also, it’s always wise to keep a shaky head and a jig on the deck at Oconee. You can almost always pull a few off brush or docks with the shaky head, and if you’re patient, the jig will likely be the bait that produces that pre-spawn kicker fish.

Crappie fishermen are also in for a treat this time of year. Although the famed winter big-fish bite will be tapering off, March is the time to fill a limit quickly on Oconee. Troll the shallows in 3 to 10 feet of water in the backs of the creeks, or head up the Apalachee or Oconee rivers. Spider rigging minnow-tipped jigs is an excellent way to push baits up shallow, but you can also cover a lot of water quickly and pick up a mess of fish longline trolling. If you’re not familiar with the lake, just ride the creeks until you find the other crappie boats. You’ll find the fish as well.

Spring lineside fishing at its best will start in the middle of March, said guide Mark Smith. On Oconee it’s easy to locate stripers and hybrids in the spring. Because of the pump-back system, which pushes water back into the lake at the dam, the fish on Oconee pile up down at the dam on what Mark called a reverse spawning run. Flatlines, downlines, planer boards and balloons, Mark runs eight rods out of his boat in the spring. The best baits will be live shad and shiners, but once the shad spawns start in April, the fish will switch over to eating only shad.

Catfishing will also be at a peak over the next two months as fish start getting ready for the spawn. Guide Chad Smith said channel cats, big flatheads and blues will move progressively shallower up into 2 to 10 feet of water, especially on warmer days. Look for catfish in coves and secondary creeks around structure. Chad said he catches a lot of his biggest fish around docks. Cut bream, shad and shiners will all work, but as we move into April the bite will switch over to more live shad.

At the end of a long day on the water, you’ll likely pull your boat up to The Lodge on Lake Oconee tired and hungry. Grab a bite to eat and then go soak your sore arm in a hot tub overlooking the lake. With The Angler Magazine special rate of just $79, it’d be foolish not skip all the boat hauling and just stay for the weekend… or the week if you want to make a vacation out of it. Reserve your room now at (706) 485-7785, and tell them The Angler sent you.

Fishing the Warm Weather States

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

For many families, some part of the late fall and winter involves a trip to the south. It might be to Disney Land or Disney World, depending upon where you live. It might involve the several Gulf States trying still to recover and rebuild finances and resort travel from the BP oil blow out.

In any case, you can easily shove a little freshwater tackle into the car or an airline travel bag. Realize that for freshwater fishing, you probably already have the tackle you need, with perhaps only a few adjustments. For example, if you are a Maine smallmouth fisherman, you have the rods, reels, lines and lures for largemouth, a more southern fish related to smallmouth.

Admittedly, the largemouth of south Florida or the swamps around the Gulf states or in lakes of San Diego are larger and tougher than the river smallmouth of Maine, but you can still fish easily with your tackle. Most of us have a range of tackle of all types. I have fly rods of 4-weight for light trout fishing, and some of 10-weights for big pike and yes, even saltwater fly fishing. The same applies to casting and spinning tackle, so that I can adjust for any part of the country the tackle needed for the fish and conditions.

If there is any change you might want to make, it could be in the line category so that you can cope with the heavy weeds of the south, the tules of the West Coast, the cedar knees of the Gulf and such. If it is too light, spool off the line you presently have on spinning and casting reels and reline with heavier pound test perhaps in the 15 to 20 pound range. If worried about line capacity, go with some gel spun line that is thinner for the same tensile strength as mono. Add a heavy mono leader to the end so that the opaque line does not show.

If fishing the southern left coast for the big bass around San Diego, keep the same thinner line on your reels, but when you get to your destination, visit a local tackle shop and add some of the big lures that serious anglers use for this bass fishing for the big boys.

For fly fishing, take the heavier tackle, such as outfits for 8 through 10 weight lines. Make sure that you have high quality and enough Dacron or gel spun backing on the reel under the weight forward fly line. Use a heavy short leader of about 8 feet length. For best results, both for some local tips and to cement relations with a local fishing guide or tackle shop, buy your leaders or leader material on site.

Realize also that lures, bug and flies are often best bought on site, buying them locally to gladden the heart of the local tackle shop as well as helping him feel comfortable about divulging some favorite spots and techniques for your winter trip. After all, with good results and catches, you might come back the following year.

Stalking a Fish Called Walter on Arrowhead Lake

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By Wayne Hooper

Wayne Hooper hoists a bass from Arrowhead Lake in Maine.

There is a big bass known as “Walter” in Arrowhead Lake in Southern Maine and only Clyde and I know where he hides. Much to my dismay, I had to call Clyde to join me when my fishing partner for a tournament there cancelled on me at the last minute.

As we reached the lake, the sun was just starting to shine through the trees and it was beginning to warm up. At the mandatory tournament meeting we listened as the rules of the day were read and then we drew for starting positions. I eased the boat off of the beach, started the engine and proceeded to move through the channel markers and out into the deeper water. As our boat number was called, I pushed the throttle forward and the boat jumped up on plane and we headed to where Walter made his home. When we neared his home area, I shut off the boat and flipped the trolling motor over the side. I set the speed on slow and crept to a distance that would enable us to cast to his hiding spot without him seeing us first.

The shade that was covering the other edge of the bank was starting to disappear as the sun rose and I could see his big, dark stump lying close to shore. I nosed the boat so I could get the first cast without Clyde thrashing the water. My jig/pig hit the side of the stump and I got hooked on it. After a few expletives, I told Clyde to cast his lure to the stump. Clyde’s lure hit the water like a ton of bricks, as he didn’t release his thumb from the spool quick enough. When the splash occurred the stump moved!

For what seemed like ten minutes, I jerked on my pole moving back and forth trying to get it dislodged from the stump. I was able to see my lure but it wouldn’t budge. I gave it one, last, desperate giant tug. My lure jumped off of the stump and immediately came to life.

“Oh baby, it’s Walter!”

He was running for deep water and I couldn’t turn him. He was as strong a fish as I have ever had on the end of my line. The only thing I could do was to hang on and wait for him to tire. He jumped and thrashed his head in a desperate attempt to throw the metal that was in his mouth but the hook was strong and it didn’t give. Walter was running back and forth as I kept reeling, trying to turn him towards the boat but he just kept taking me on a trip around the boat as he tried to dive under it for safety. He leaped again and made a tremendous splash but I held tight. Walter was in a panic mode but tiring fast. His quick jumps, dives and power tugs had worn him out and he slowly gave up and I reeled him closer to the boat.

As he neared the boat and saw Clyde’s face he took off once again in a powerful dive in one last attempt at freedom. I held on and survived another power surge. I brought him back to the boat and Clyde finally got into the act as he got the net and scooped the fish into it and lifted the net into the boat.

I sat there looking at this beautiful fish and realized that it had to weigh all of nine pounds and would likely be the lunker of the day. Every five minutes Clyde was back into the livewell looking at the fish and making cooing sounds to it. I finally told him to start fishing, as one fish would not win this tournament. He got back into fishing and we caught our ten-fish limit by noon. The remainder of the day we caught and culled another limit and with a half hour to go we fired the big Johnson outboard and proceeded to return to the tournament weigh-in location.

When our number was called, Clyde got a weigh-in bag and began to unload the back livewell while I retrieved the fish that were in the front livewell. I heard a groan from the back of the boat and turned to see Walter swimming off with four other fish.

“What did you do?” I asked Clyde.

“Nothing,” he said. “I just put them in the bag.”

I grabbed the bag and there was a big hole right in the bottom.

“Didn’t you check the bag?” I screamed.

“No, I never thought there would be a hole in it,” he said.

Do you know what this means?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said as he jumped off the boat into the water.

The guys in the boat next to us were holding their sides and laughing so hard I thought they would cry. I wanted to cry but not so much for losing Walter for the second time but for being stupid enough to take Clyde fishing again.

Fall Shallows Equal Great Fishing

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Sometimes you hit the fishing scene just right. That happened to a buddy and me some years ago fishing in mid-October for largemouth and smallmouth bass. We live in the mid-Atlantic area and were fishing a river turned into a lake courtesy of a hydroelectric dam.

It was on the Susquehanna River, but the same experience can occur on any river or lake/impoundment on any of our three coastal areas. And it could occur either earlier or later in the fall, depending upon the temperatures and local conditions in your area.

We tried several previously known hot spots that day with some success, and then decided to drift the rocky shoreline where some crayfish and their nemesis bass might be arguing with each other.

While there was a fair drop off along the bank, it stayed fairly shallow for 10 to 15 feet out, with rounded rocks providing cover for any bass, crayfish, frogs or minnows. We could see the rocks as we fished, and occasionally a crayfish darting around. It seemed that we had hit this shoreline bank at the prime time for fall fishing.

That proved to be the case with the first several casts. Throwing deep diving crankbaits in crayfish and fire tiger colors, we shortly were hitting bass. And before you question our sanity of using deep diving lures, realize that the long-lipped lures we used bounced around the rocks, darting enticingly, and for all practical purposes resembled in action if not color the crayfish of the area.

We literally caught fish on every few casts, all day long, with both smallmouth and largemouth ranging from a pound or two up to five or six pounds. It was fabulous. The bass were there to stock up on groceries for the winter while we were there for the bass. We released all of the fish, but not before taking a bunch of photos of our daylong success story.

We also learned something. While we were both using spinning tackle, I was using a reel with a much faster (higher) gear ratio than my friend. He was taking more fish than me, right from the start. After trying and eliminating other variables such as lure, size, color and even brand, this fact of lure speed dawned on me.

I could have switched to a lower speed reel, but instead just reduced my cranking speed of the reel handle to match the lure speed of my buddy. Immediately, I got a strike, and kept getting them to match my partner’s catch rate as we fished through the overcast day into late afternoon.

Fishing from the front or back of the boat made little difference, it seemed. In all cases, we cast ahead of the boat quartering the casts to hit the shoreline just short of dry dirt and then working the lures back in the erratic zigzag retrieve, all at a slow enough speed for the bass to catch them and for me to get hits to match my buddy.

We have both come close to matching that day since, making it a worthwhile trip for any of us to try to get in on fall fishing at just the right time. You just want to get there when the fish—bass in this case—are working the shoreline to get fattened up for winter!

Back to the Country

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

After the carnival atmosphere of Trinidad de Cuba, a scenic drive north through the quiet hills is welcome. Once beyond the cities boundaries, the land is sparsely spotted with small shacks, connected to the road by a trail of worn earth and a single power line. Nine kilometers from Lake Zaza—the quaint town of Sancti Spiritus rest along a rocky river. (more…)

Summertime Bass Fishing on Lake Lanier

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

By Jimbo Mathley
As we move into the summer in North Georgia, an angler has many options to catch spots here on “Big Sid.” Depending on the water temperatures, there are several techniques you can utilize to stay on top of the fish, sometimes literally, and remain successful on Lanier during the hot months. In today’s installment, we will review the locations, techniques, and lures to utilize to ensure you keep on hooking spots! (more…)

Getting and Staying Deep When It Counts

Monday, November 14th, 2011

staying_deepBy: C. Boyd Pfeiffer

While nothing beats the fun of taking a bass on the surface, nothing beats going deep to get big bass—and get them regularly. Deep fishing is the key for much of the year. It is the only way to take bass through the late fall, winter and early spring months and best for getting fish regularly during the hot days of summer.


Beating the Bass Doldrums

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

nightbassBy: C. Boyd Pfeiffer

Bass seasonal patterns, habitat and habits are pretty well known by now. Everyone knows that pre- to post-spawn spring and the fall turnover of the thermocline are among the best times of the year to be out for smallmouth and largemouth bass.


So, You Want to be a Professional Angler?

Monday, August 8th, 2011

kevin_vandamBy: John N. Felsher

Many young anglers dream of fishing for a living in the best lakes of the world and one day standing on a stage to lift a championship trophy before thousands of adoring fans as endorsement deposits flood into their bank accounts.

Most wannabes don’t realize the commitment, money and sacrifices they must make to pursue that goal. They don’t realize the endless traveling involved or think about living out of suitcases away from their families and homes for months.

“I have a true love for the sport, and I couldn’t do it if I didn’t. But no doubt, it’s a job,” said Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., one of only two people in the world who actually did raise that championship trophy four times. “It’s a lonely life. I spend about 250 to 275 days a year away from home. I love fishing new lakes, going to shows and meeting people, but it’s tough to be away from my family.”

At 16 years old, VanDam joined a local bass club and fished as a non-boater for a year. In his second year, the champ fished as a boater and won the club Angler of the Year title. He began entering bigger events and won the Michigan Bass Federation Angler of the Year title in his rookie season. He entered his first Bass Anglers Sportsman Society event in 1987 and turned full-time pro in 1990. He won his first Bassmaster Classic title in 2001. During the next 10 years, he dominated the professional ranks, winning the Classic three more times, most recently in February 2011.

One would think someone like VanDam would spend every day on the water. Many young anglers don’t understand all the other things a professional angler must do besides casting a rod.

“I don’t fish nearly as much as people think,” VanDam lamented. “I probably fish less now than I did when I was younger because of various commitments. The only fishing I do now is for tournaments, preparing for tournaments or fulfilling sponsor obligations like filming TV shows or appearing at media events.”

Besides fishing, top professionals spend a considerable portion of their time promoting sponsor products on weigh-in stages, in television programs and at myriad public appearances. They work with writers and photographers to put articles and photos in various media to help move products off the shelves.

“Professional anglers are basically salespeople,” VanDam advised. “Sponsors couldn’t care less about how many bass the pros catch. It’s all about how many trucks, boats, lures, rods or reels they can sell. If the pro can represent the brand, show the brand to many people and sell it, that’s what sponsors want. Professional anglers always represent the sponsors 24/7 and are always in the public eye. They must hold themselves to a higher standard.”

VanDam also recommended that anglers complete their education before embarking on the tournament trail. Many people think they need a biology degree to learn how fish think, but VanDam suggested that young anglers earn degrees in business, marketing, public relations or something similar so they can learn how to conduct themselves and promote their sponsors. The better they can promote sponsor products, they more money they can make.

“Professional anglers have to be good at public speaking and public relations,” VanDam said. “What helped me more than anything was in high school. I was pretty shy, so I took a debate class. It taught me how to get up in front of people and be comfortable. I also had a lot of experience in the retail industry selling products.”

The best advice he can give to anyone hoping to pursue a professional fishing career is just do it! Try it to see if it works. It worked for VanDam.

Quick Anglers Get Second Chance at Wily Bass

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

bass-fishingBy: John N. Felsher

Every angler can remember a big one that got away. But prepared anglers talk about the lunker they landed when they reacted quickly after a fish rose to a bait.

“If anglers are ready to follow up when a bass strikes, they can put more fish into the boat,” said Kenyon Hill, a professional bass angler from Norman, Okla. “Frequently, a bass that strikes at a bait and misses circles around to find what it just lost.”

When a fish strikes at and misses a bait, many people immediately throw that same lure back into the spot again. Sometimes that works, but usually it doesn’t. Instead, follow up with something completely different. For example, if a bass swirls at a fast spinnerbait, flip a soft plastic behind it.

“It’s very difficult not to throw the same thing back where a fish struck, but bass very seldom hit the same lure twice,” said Peter Thliveros, a professional bass angler from Jacksonville, Fla. “I’ll drop what I’m throwing and pick up something different every time.”

Both Hill and Thliveros recommend keeping a soft plastic temptation tied to a second rod as a follow-up bait. A fluke, wacky worm or other slow sinker stays in the strike zone longer. Jerkbaits, Texas-rigged worms and jigs also make excellent second-chance baits for fishing shallow waters. If a bass strikes at a fast crankbait or spinnerbait, slow down the presentation. Perhaps throw a popper and let it sit for awhile or toss in a smaller suspending jerkbait.

“Follow-up baits are usually smaller and bite-sized, like flukes, grubs, worms or small jerkbaits,” Hill said. “When something strikes at a topwater bait and misses, I immediately follow up with a fluke. It slowly sinks like a dying shad and stays in the strike zone. To a bass, there’s nothing more tasty than a shad. I keep a fluke ready to throw.”

Although anglers typically go from aggressive to subtle baits for second chances at bass, the opposite sometimes works. If a bass strikes at a fluke or other soft plastic bait but doesn’t inhale it, perhaps it wants something moving a bit faster or more aggressively.

“If a bass misses a bait, it’s not because it couldn’t see it or catch it, because a bass is such an efficient predator,” Thliveros explained. “If a fish misses a fluke, it’s because it didn’t want it. It was interested and wanted to feed, but it wasn’t exactly what it wanted. If a fish misses a slow bait like a fluke, I follow up with a fast bait like a Rat-L-Trap and run it aggressively through the same area.”

Changing colors, shapes or retrieval speeds can sometimes help. Anglers usually go from brighter colors to subtle hues and from larger baits to smaller ones to catch second-chance bass, but sometimes the opposite can also work.

In addition, an angler might target several fish in the same hole instead of just the one that struck first. If the first fish doesn’t hit again, others might. Sometimes, bass occupying the same honey hole act more aggressively to beat their brethren to the food. During those times, bigger, brighter baits might tempt more aggressive, larger fish.

In any situation, the angler who plans, observes and reacts quickly usually catches the most fish.