Change Your Ways
Most anglers will openly define their fishing abilities. “I am a flipper” or “I love crankbaits,” has been said a thousand times. These types of anglers will live and die by their favorite technique. Often times their favorite technique coincides with what their favorite angler is known for using. There is nothing wrong with being really good at one technique. If you do so, make sure it is a technique that is very adaptable or you only use your go-to technique when the conditions are right. Don’t flip when the water is crystal clear and no thick cover is around. Be smart about your favorite way to catch fish. Know when to use it and when to change your ways.

Knot Talk
Knots are very important in fishing. It is your connection between the lure and line. It is often the weakest link between you and Mr. Bass. There are only 4 types of knots that a bass angler needs to know. 1) The granddaddy of bass knots is the Palomar knot. Best used with monos and even braid with a touch of super glue. Use it all times when other knots are not preferred. 2) A type of cinch knot is also needed. The Trilene knot or San Diego cinch are great examples. Fluorocarbon needs this knot so that the dense line does not cut itself. 3) A loop knot is an additional knot that gives some topwater lures and crankbaits more action. There are variations of it. A type of monofilament line should be used for this one although braid with super glue to hold can work, too. 4) The old Blood Knot is the last type of knot needed for a bass angler. It is used to hold two lines together and work like one. You can connect braid to mono, braid to braid, mono to fluorocarbon, or whatever you need. Once you have a grasp of these 4 types of knots, you can cover all knot applications in bass fishing.

Jerkbaits for Giants
Jerkbaits are great lures for those pre-spawn giants. Rapala Husky Jerks and the new X-Rap are my favorites. The Lucky Craft line has some good baits as well. These lures need to be worked properly in the right areas for success. Clear water and wind are two criteria for getting in the right areas to catch fish on the jerkbait. Long points, rocky banks, and steep banks can be the right locations to utilize the wind and clear water. The sun can also help this bite. The locations start to heat up when the water starts to warm up from the cold winter lows. Even a 4 or 5 degree increase can get the bass up on the jerkbait. Keep the jerkbait in mind this spring to twitch up some giants.

Cabin Fever
Is it a little too cold outside? Is there snow on the ground? Can’t wait to go catch some pot bellied pre-spawn bass? Most bass anglers feel your blues. I know that I have felt this way. I used this time to organize my tackle and see what lures I did and did not have. During my sorting, I always culled out baits that I do not use. It makes more room for the ones you do use. The “good” baits should have 2 or 3 back-ups. If not, this is a perfect time to write your list of needed back-up lures. It is also a great time to shop for deals to find those. I encourage anglers to use fishing shows, eBay, and the new stock at your favorite tackle shops to find those discount lures that you are looking to find. Have fun but only buy things that will fit into your style of fishing.

Christmas List
When I was younger and not fishing professionally, I had the arduous task of getting the tackle I needed to compete. Christmas was a great time for me to tell the people that were buying me gifts exactly what I wanted. Sometimes I would circle items and bookmark the pages of a Bass Pro Shops catalog and give it to my dad, mom, or whoever. This made me very happy since I got items that I really wanted but did not have the money to buy. Little by little, I acquired a nice array of rods, reels, rain suite, and other essential gear. Use this holiday season to get the fishing items you need and ask that angler on your list what they need for the outdoors. Remember Christmas is truly about giving.

Dropshotting 101
One of the most frequent questions I get from anglers of all skill levels is, “What is the key to dropshotting?” Most people are familiar with the tackle so they are really looking for the how and where to use it. For reference, here is the tackle set-up. A medium to medium light action spinning rod works best. The reel should be spooled with 6 to 10 pound co-polymer or fluorocarbon. Low stretch is the key to the line. Small EWG hooks (no. 4 to 1/0) work best for Texas rigging and the same sized Gamakatzu drop shot or wide gap finesse hooks work best for nose hooking. The weight is a drop shot cinch-on type placed about 6 to 18 inches from the hook. A 3/16 ounce weight is standard but adjustments can be made up or down for the depth and conditions.

Once you have the proper set-up, you are ready to start catching fish. Knowing where to use it is a big key to the dropshot. Clear water and the dropshot go together like cornbread and chicken. Clear water bass rely heavily on sight to feed. They are well aware of the unnatural action most soft plastic rigs portray. The dropshot can produce lots of natural movement since your line goes directly to the hook and bait, which are not hindered by the weight. Straight tailed worms make the best undulating action and generate the most strikes. As a rule of thumb, the more stained the water gets, the less effective a dropshot becomes.

Get Ready for Your Tournament
Every person is different in their preparation or lack of it before tournaments. I know from experience that almost every big name bass pro spends an appropriate amount of time preparing for every tournament day. This is another topic that shows the difference from pros and aspiring pros.

Weeks before I even head to a body of water, I start preparing for that event. I mentally go over every possible scenario and make sure I have all the potential tackle and gear I may need. If I have never been to a lake, I like to study the map and see how it compares to places I have been. These types of mental preparation reduce the number of surprises you may encounter.

Practice on the water is the next phase of preparation. You get what you put into practice. Spend all available time on the water trying to refine what you find or don’t find. Be smart and have a plan for areas you want to explore in practice. Nobody can fish the whole lake in a few days so don’t try to be the first. Sampling areas is good.

The night before the tournament begins is very important. At this time I mentally go over all possible situations and make sure I have all my tackle and gear ready. Any reel I am going to use will have fresh line on it. All hooks will be brand new. I try to take all precautions in order to fish as efficiently as possible. This extra effort before the event saves you time and fish during the tournament day. These preparations will help your fishing to the next level.

Water Temp and Bass
The water temperature gauge is one of the most under utilized tools that an angler has access to use. Everybody can see the digital read out on their Lowrance sonar or GPS. Knowing when and how to process that information is another reason why the pros are pros. Experience is a key to learning how to use the temp gauge to catch more fish.

In the spring, the air gets warmer and so does the water. Some areas of the lake warm up quicker. Those warmer areas are usually on the northern side but a water temp gauge will tell you exactly where it is. The bass, being cold-blooded, can sense the warmth and migrate to those areas. Finding the warmer water in the spring before they spawn can put you in higher percentage areas.

Once the water warms up enough in the spring, the fish will start to spawn. Knowing the base water temperature can help you determine whether the fish are spawning. With the exception of Florida, bass will start to spawn once the water reaches 58 to 60 degrees. To get an accurate reading, you should measure early in the morning and do so in the middle of creeks, not the backs of pockets. Most of Florida actually waits for the water to cool down in order to start the spawning cycle.

Cold fronts can affect bass and bass fishermen. A drop in air temperature does not always mean a big drop in water temperature. Clear water is less affected by air temperature changes because the light (heat) passes through it easier. The stained and muddy water is the opposite and retains that heat. Use your Lowrance temp gauge to see what happened to the water from the day before. If there is less than one degree change, the fish will not change their pattern (all other variables equal). If the water does drop more than a few degrees, a pattern change may be in order.

Tricks of the Trade
Whatever job or equipment you use, if you do it long enough, you will learn tricks and short cuts. Auto mechanics can change the oil in our car in half the time a regular person can. Graphics design artists can take an idea and make the most vivid advertisement you have ever seen. Bass pros can usually catch more fish faster than the weekend angler. All these feats can be done because the professional does a certain activity so much that they pick up of the tricks of the trade.

Ever lose fish on a tube? Take a no. 7 swivel and use it to peg the upper part of a tube. When rigging, put on the weight and then thread the line through one loop of the swivel. Then tie on your Gamakatzu EWG or G-Lock hook. Next thread the upper part of the tube on the hook. This is where you put the other end of the swivel through the hook and up to the nose of the tube. Then rig the hook point through both sides of the tube and bury the point like normal. The swivel will lock the upper part of the tube to prohibit it from sliding down the hook. Also bend the point of the hook slightly to one side, which will cause better penetration. These tube tricks work.

Always getting hung up with your shallow crankbait? Slowing your retrieve helps not to get hung but many times there is no avoiding it. When you get near the bait you have 2 options. Use a pocket plug knocker that quickly clips on the line and hope it pops your trebles free. My quick method is different. I get over the bait and reel down until there is about 4 feet of line extra. Then I grab the line above the reel and let my rod and reel slide down the line until it hits the lure. Most of the time the lure is popped free from the rod tip hitting the bait. Be cautious since this is a fast way to damage or break your rod tip. If your reel gets submerged underwater (not recommended), it will cast different. After the technique is perfected, it is the fastest way to free a shallow running crankbait.

Once explained, almost every trick of the trade in bass fishing makes sense. I often hear, “why didn’t I think of that?” Many of the pros’ secrets are written in articles. A world of tips can be learned by fishing a day with a professional bass angler like Tim Horton or Takahiro Omori. These are just a couple examples of little tricks that make my fishing more efficient.

Shallow Crankin’ in the Fall
The fall of the year means the technique of throwing a shallow running crankbait will be successful on most southern impoundments. This time of year signals shad to migrate towards the back of creeks and up rivers. Bass follow the baitfish. The water is usually lower than normal so shoreline cover is not much of a factor. All that is left in the water are stumps and rocks. This combination of bait, reduction in cover, and the migration of fish to water with some stain makes the shallow crankbait work.

These days literally hundreds of crankbait models are available. Where do we start? The target depth is usually less than 6 feet. That eliminates over half of all crankbaits. I usually fish with 3 to 5 crankbaits on my deck in the fall. One standby is the lipless crankbait or the Rat-L-Trap. A ¼ ounce model in chrome with a blue back is pretty standard to use on those nothing banks with shad on them. My next standby is the small fat wobbler. A Bagley BB1 or 2, Lucky Craft BDS 1 or 2, and Mann’s Baby 1 Minus are great choices. These baits cover the less than 2.5 feet of water and often catch fish without bumping cover because of their hard side to side thump. Then there is the intermediate plug. A 3 to 5 foot running plug that will cause reaction strikes is the money bait. One of my favorites is the Luhr Jensen 1/8 ounce Speed Trap in chrome/ blue or clear silver foil insert. This bait swims like a shad and bumps stumps and rocks perfect.

Remember the back of creeks and pockets are the places. Stained water is a must and baitfish should be present. Try some of these baits this fall for some reliable catches during one of the toughest times of the year. I have made a lot of money using this technique but it does require practice. Be prepared and you can also do well with the shallow crankbait pattern.

Treble Troubles
Treble hooks trouble all anglers that use them. Recently I have found a connection between water temperature and hook style. When the water is below 65 to 70 degrees, round bend Gamakatzu trebles work the best for me. It seems that the colder water keeps the fish’s mouth area tougher so that a very sharp round bend hook gets more penetration. That penetration factor is not needed when the water is warmer. That mouth area is softer and therefore a wide gap treble gets plenty of penetration. Most people would agree that wide gap hooks hold better in fish and I will attest to that in water above 70 degrees. Eagle Claw Kahle style and Gamakatzu EWG hooks both work well for me.

This rule of thumb works for me. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Jerkbaits and topwaters have their own set of rules differing from crankbaits. Jerkbaits get round bend hooks 98% of the time. A wide gap model can be used on the rear hook hanger in warm water to keep those “wild ones” hooked up. Since fish slap at these lures so often, round bend trebles penetrate better into where ever the hooks hit the fish. Topwaters by nature are used when the water in warm. Round bend “Gama’s” get 75% of my topwater choice. Small popper baits do very well with a wide gap model on the front. Fish often eat the whole popper and stay on better with that type of hook. Most other topwaters work best with round bend trebles because the bass often slap and the surface lures. When using treble hooks, remember my rule of thumb and the 2 exceptions to put more bass in the boat!

Reaction Action
In today’s world of bass fishing, more anglers on the water equal more finicky bass. Not all the fish have to be caught to be finicky. The picky ones usually do NOT get caught by the average angler. Recently many pros have been using finesse techniques to land big stringers and win tournaments. Under the right conditions we do not have to resort to those boring presentations.

If conditions lend themselves to the power fisherman, we can leave the finesse worms in the box. The first thing that can help is low- light conditions. Early mornings, heavy clouds, and rain can hinder the bass’ vision enough to not detect your fake offering. All of a sudden a crankbait or spinnerbait looks like a great meal instead of unnatural. Stained to muddy water can also disguise your lure enough that a bass would want a taste.

The key to being able to utilize power techniques is to recognize the conditions that make them work. Sunny skies often make it hard to catch fish on a spinnerbait, even in stained water. Sunny skies mean the barometric pressure is high. Rain and snow indicate the opposite or low pressure. As a rule of thumb, bass become more active and susceptible to power fishing as the barometric pressure falls. The converse usually holds true in that high pressure brings on finesse presentations, such as Senkos and shakey head straight worms, to maintain success on the water.

Utilize Your Electronics
Some of the most under utilized parts of a bass boat are the electronics. The liquid crystal or color units (I prefer color) at the bow and driver’s console can be used to boat more fish. Sure, most people glance at their units while they fish but do not take the time to decipher what is on the screen. Rarely do I actually look for bass with my unit.

Numerous methods can be used to find fish with electronics. Most avid fishermen can idle around on a point or ledge and find irregularities like high spots, brush piles, and drop offs. Many fishermen do not watch their unit when running down the lake. During practice, I drive slow enough that my powerful Lowrance unit will read the bottom and I watch for any of the previously mentioned irregularities. Many riders in my boat are surprised when I am running down the lake and do a u-turn. I have told them I saw a hump with a brush pile on it and they don’t believe it until I show it to them. The same holds true for isolated grass clumps.

Once I drop the trolling motor and start casting, my eyes still stay tuned to my Lowrance unit on the bow. When fishing shallow flats or backs of creeks, I watch for any water that is slightly deeper than the rest. This is not always where the fish are but often they are close by or use the deeper water like a safe pathway. While fishing, I also look for any of the common deep water structures like stumps and brush. I usually don’t turn around and make a cast on what I just saw. Give the fish a few minutes to get settled back and return where you saw “the goods.” These are just a few techniques that will help you catch more fish if you take the time to properly utilize your electronics.

Give the Bass a Call
Ever used a game call to lure in wild game such as turkeys, foxes, or deer? I have and it works. Each animal has a particular sound that will make them find out what is making the sound. Sounds of mating, distressed young, or prey often bring game into shooting range. Are fish, particularly bass, the same way?

Bass feed and sometimes do so in groups. They often feed on shad and shiners. These actions make sounds. Would a bass start looking for an easy meal if it heard sounds of a school of shad or a bass eating shad? I think they would. Bass are opportunistic feeders. Now I am not saying every bass would run to gag on a crankbait if it heard a school of shad coming. On the other hand if you could catch 2 more bass during the day by making sounds of shad, would you try it?

A company called Bill Lewis (you know the Rat-L-Trap) has been testing this type of technology for about 5 years. This year they have come out with a unit called the Biosonix. It is a self contained unit with an external speaker that mounts on a trolling motor or can be dropped over the side of the boat. I have no affiliation with this company and these units are not cheap. I have talked with an employee at Biosonix to accelerate my knowledge of how it works. The field studies are interesting and my initial testing seems promising. The unit is programmable with 5 different sounds and other controls. I don’t think it is a miracle discovery but another tool that will put more fish in my boat over the course of the year.

The Mental Difference
In my opinion, the mental side of tournament bass fishing is the hardest to perfect. With practice, most anglers become very proficient with their mechanics. Side arm roll casts, pitch- skip casts, and ambidextrous casts can be performed all day long by almost every pro and many amateur anglers. Why do some fishermen catch more than others? Whether they know it or not, they are mentally polished.

Rick Clunn is considered one of the founders of this school of thought in tournament bass fishing. He has read many books on all sorts of mind and body relationships. It is my understanding that he is constantly trying to achieve mental perfection in his fishing. Some say it is impossible but it is the challenge that peaks his interest. Clunn attempts to attain an elevated connection between his mind controlling his fishing and the target in nature (the bass).

How do we apply this to our fishing? One of the simplest methods is to adhere to something I heard come out of Clunn’s mouth. He said, “Only concern yourself with the things that you can control.” In other words, block out anything that you do not have direct control over such as the weather, other anglers, and whatever your partner is babbling about. Focus solely on your presentation, the cover, boat position, and other “controls.” This task is not easy but can be practiced similar to mechanics.

Don’t Waist Your Time
When I started fishing, I bought some of this brand equipment and some of that. I fished with the best deal at the tackle shop and swallowed the cost of a few high quality items. It did not take too many years before I figured out that the money spent on higher quality goods often meant a better product. Some prices are hard to justify but most are well worth the sticker price.

One of the first high quality items that I bought was a Shimano Calcutta 150 reel. It set me back about $170. At the time it was a ton of money but I wanted it. I can tell you that reel cast further than any other reels I had at the time. It lasted in my fishing starting line-up for about 8 years! I have since changes reel styles that I use but “Goldie” still works great to this day.

Some big sticker items that I would not do without are my Ranger boat and Yamaha outboard. For the years that I have run these products, they have proven to me that they are worth their price. I have had very few problems with my boat and motor. When I have had issues, both companies work hard to keep me on the water. They are the only boat and motor company that has service crews at every FLW, Everstart, BFL Regional, BASS Tour event, and BASS Open event. That is service!

Next time you go to buy a boat, motor, rod, reel, fishing line, lure, depthfinder, sunglasses, or other bass fishing product, don’t let the price be the determining factor. Let quality be your highest priority. If it is lesser quality, you will likely have to buy another one anyway. So do it right. Don’t let your competition out fish you because they have better equipment. For information on why I promote the high quality products from my sponsors, check out my Sponsors’ pages.

Bass Vision
Most people have no real idea how bass see. This week I will tell what I do know on the issue. Take these facts, not myths, with you and put them into your bass fishing brain.

Bass stay out of sunlight because it hurts their eyes and they don’t have eye lids. WRONG! Bass can’t see well in direct sunlight. WRONG! Bass can’t see red. WRONG, AGAIN. Bass feed at night because they see better then. ALSO, WRONG!

Bass have rods and cones in their eyes, similar to humans. They have a lot more cones in their eyes, which see colors. The lower amount of rods in their eyes means that they see comparable to the way we humans see in the light and dark. They don’t have eyelids because they are already in water and don’t need them to stay moist, like land animals. Bass can see all the colors we can see. They have eyes that can both focus on an object directly in front of them. In other words, they have depth perception only in front of them.

So what does this mean to your fishing? Bass seek shade for ambush reasons. They can hunt more efficiently where their presence is not detected. Bass seem to feed better under low light conditions because they have a harder time detecting our lures are fake. The same can hold true for night fishing. It is just easier to fool them. Bass have eyes that adjust to the amount of light available, again like humans. It takes time for our eyes to adjust after being in the movie theater. The bass is the same. The brighter the light, the better bass and humans can see.

So next time someone tells you a myth about bass vision, you can set the record straight. Much of the information I know came from books by Doug Hannon. Read for yourself and know your fish anatomy.

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