The older I get in this sport the more a good finish means to me. With the changing technology, industry curves, and constant new talent making their way into the tour level; the harder it is for me compete against fellow anglers. However this past weekend in my current home state of Florida at Lake Toho, Mickey Mouse must have given me a little magic being so close to Disney World because everything came together.
The fishing in Florida has been really off so far this year. Between the low water in all the lakes, the Red Tide issues the entire state faced last year, and it still being early in the year the best fishing is still yet to come. This last week I was really able to pinpoint a good amount of fish that were pre-spawning and spawning. I used my local knowledge of the lake to lock into Lake Kissimmee and fish staging areas leading into spawning areas with good, healthy grass around it. With water temperatures in the mid-60s I knew as the week processed the fish would continue to move up.
In practice I was really able to capitalize on a morning pattern and then an afternoon pattern, a key to my success knowing I could stay calm throughout the day and capitalize on the different patterns when they were at their best. In the mornings I was catching fishing on a 1/4oz Black and Blue 3DB Knucklebait with a soft plastic swimbait trailer. I was able to catch a couple really good fish on this and thought it would be a key bait for me throughout the tournament. I was throwing the Knucklebait over submerged grass around staging areas. As the afternoon took place and the sun got high I was able to pitch to hydrilla mats and dollar pads with a soft plastic stickworm catching spawning fish.
In the tournament, the morning Knucklebait bite had died but I was still able to capitalize catching these same fish using a 3DB Pencil in Bone color. For this technique I was throwing 20lb Yo-Zuri Hybrid line, and I was making short casts with it. I think the bait has better action when making shorter casts and not having so much stretch in the line. In the afternoons I was able to again capitalize again on the plastic stickworm bite. I was fishing the worm on a little [1/16oz] weight and throwing it on 16lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline Fluorocarbon.
One of the last factors that helped me was covering water in an area. I was fishing a massive area of Lake Kissimmee and it seemed like covering water and then breaking down an area once I got a bite was the key to capitalizing on water holding fish.
It was by far 3 of the best winter days of fishing for me at Arizona’s Lake Havasu. My practice started out pretty rough. My first day was spent in the river around the I-40 Bridge looking for smallmouth bass in the current. After a full day of practice I had only 4 bites; 2 largemouth and 2 smallmouth throwing a HARDCORE Twitch’ N Glide to locate fish. The fish will follow the swimbait and I would mark a waypoint on my Lowrance HDS unit.
The second day of practice consisted of the Lower part of the river with zero bites and a school of 6 largemouth I found hanging around a letdown tree in 4 foot of water. The 3rd day of practice was spent in the main lake. I was targeting Rock, Grass and bait. But after a week of cold temps below freezing and dropping water temps of 47 degrees the bait was very difficult to locate. I managed 6 fish on a small Swimbait and a HARDCORE CRANK 4+ in Baby Bluegill pattern.
The air temps started to get warmer and day 4 the water temp was 50 degrees. I had a feeling that the bass would start moving shallower. So I started looking for Mud Hens (Black Birds with white beets). The birds feed on grass and if the cove had more than five bits in it I know there was bass and grass close by. I was using a HARDCORE VIBE 70S Baby Bluegill color, working it slowly ripping it through the sparse grass. At around noon on the final day of practice I decided to fish one of the popular Marinas on the main Lake. It too had Mud Hens there so I knew there was grass. Around the 5 casts in the marina on the VIBE I caught a 5 pounder that absolutely choked the VIBE. I had to cut the hooks from the inside of the gills to keep from severely injuring the fish. A couple cast later I caught a 2 pounder on the same bait. I immediately left the marina and continued my practice.
Moving further south down the lake I found a few fish on the 4+ Crank in the main lake on the edge of some grass in 10 foot of water. That day I had a total of 5 fish. The next day was somewhat of a day off. I was able to fish till noon but never got a bite or a follow from a bass.
I have over 30 years of fishing Lake Havasu and I knew it was going to be a tough 3 days of fishing. My best estimation was winning weight 46 pounds. Not much “dock talk” other than tough fishing. My roommate was averaging 2 bites a day.
The tournament was shared weight. The day before the first day I drew a guy from Arizona and he was eager to know what to tie on. I gave him a 1/2 ounce bladed jig. I elected to start day 1 in the marina. After about an hour I started catching fish. I was throwing the Vibe between the boat docks ripping the bait through the grass. I caught 4 fish from 2-4 lbs. My co-angler then caught a 7.75 Largemouth to boost our weight. A few cast later he caught a 5 pounder. We ended up catching 12 fish with the largest 5 weighing in at 23.70, leading the tournament by over 5 pounds.
Day 2 I decided to give the marina the day off hoping to manage my fish to make it 3 days. I fished the main lake and southern area with small swimbaits and crankbaits. I caught 2 fish early on the 5 inch Basstrix Swimbait in Hitch color on a 1/2 ounce Bladerunner Spintrix head. I later caught fish number 3 running south on a HARDCORE 4+ Baby Bluegill Crankbait. With a 4:15 weigh-in and only 3 fish with an hour left of fishing I was wondering if I had made the right decision to not fish the marina. At 3:15 I pulled into one of my favorite pre-spawn coves and began to throw my swimbait around some submerged habitat. My co-angler noticed a Grebe diving and coming up with a threadfin shad on the surface. I worked my way to the area where the grebe was feeding on shad and also had several coots in the area feeding on grass. I made a cast a caught a 4 pound+ largemouth. A few cast later I caught a 2 and 1/2 pounder to fill out limit for 17 pounds.
The third and final day was spent entirely on the above mentioned marina. I started the morning with a 4 pounder and never looked back from there. I caught a bass on every other row of docks. I caught 8 fish on the bladed jig and ended up with over 21 pounds. It was the second largest bag of day 3 and I won by over 5 pounds.
The key to my success was locating bait, grass and fishing the baits slowly ripping them through the grass. I was using 14 lb Yo-Zuri Top-Knot 100% Fluorocarbon. Saving those fish the second day was also a key to victory.
Thanksgiving Dinner around my house is always a very busy time of year. The food, the family, football, hunting season, decorating, and then there is the day-to-day chores to keep up with. This is also a great time of the year for me to start thinking about the upcoming fishing season and keeping my body and mind in tune to being a competitor and chasing my dreams. While most anglers are breaking in their new boat for the upcoming year or just trying to escape cabin fever, there is still a good chance to catch a nice bucket mouth.
During the winter I usually try to keep things simple throwing jigs, swimbaits, and of course hard baits. There are usually three baits I always keep tied on the deck of my boat and match the colors according to water color and visibility outside. In clear water and sunnier days outside I prefer more translucent colors. On darker days and dirtier water I like more solid colors and always follow a shad pattern. The exception is sometimes I prefer crawfish colors depending on the structure I am targeting.
The Hardcore Flat Minnow, Yo-Zuri 3DB Shad, and 3DS Mid-Crank are my most trusted arsenal this time of year. I always try to fish areas that have a rock bottom or have close relating rip-rap around them; throw in some brush to the mix and you have pot of gold sitting in front of you. Generally the water temperatures are anywhere between 48-53 degrees here in the state of Alabama. When temperatures are this cold largemouth are usually not very aggressive but they have to eat to stay warm. My favorite bait is the 3DS Mid-Crank in a shad or crawfish pattern, I’ll always have the fish tell me what they want. This is a great bait when targeting fish in 4-8 feet of water. I generally throw this bait on 10lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot mainline fluorocarbon and use just a slow steady retrieve to the boat. The key here it to have the bait bumping the bottom since the fish usually are not high in the water column. On slick sunny days I have caught some of my biggest winter time bags on the 3DB shad. I love throwing this little bait because I can use light spinning tackle and catch everything from 12 inchers all the way to 6 pounders. Make sure your using a long fast action spinning rod with a high quality spinning reel that has a good drag system. For this technique I will use a 15lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid with a 8lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline Fluorocarbon leader. The Hardcore Flat minnow is just tried and true bait any time the water is cold. It always catches a few more fish for me throughout the day because it resembles a dying bait fish and will be an easier meal for the fish.
When trying to locate good areas of the lake to fish try to keep in mind where the warmest water will be. Generally the areas with darker water color or middle sections of the lake with the deepest water are a safe bet. You will almost always find my boat up a river where the water is dirtier and warmer or fishing down the bank of rip rap in the middle sections of the lake where there is deep water relating.
Always trust in Yo-Zuri and happy fishing!!!
The Yo-Zuri Rattl’n Vibe is a great bait that can be utilized all year-round, however it really shines when you are needing a reaction bite to catch finicky fish. It is also a great baitfish imitator and can work is several different applications.
As soon as the water temps begin to drop in late summer, and the fall transition begins, I tie on the Rattl’n Vibe. This is the time of year when the bass will really begin to concentrate on shad. Any shad imitating color, such as, Metallic Bleeding Shad, or Blue Chrome. (which ever color best represents the bait in your lake) will work best. I will continue to use the shad colors until late fall/ early winter. Once the water temps start to get around or below 60 degrees, the shad will begin to get less and less active. This is when I will switch to a red/ crawfish color. I will stick with the crawfish colors all the way through winter and into the early stages of the spawn. When the water really begins to warm up and the females begin to get on beds, I will switch to a bluegill/ perch color. The fish will be protecting their beds and fry from the perch and will be aggressive.
During the late summer/ early fall when I begin chasing shad, I will begin in the mouths of the major creeks that stem directly from the main lake. As the water temperature continues to drop the shad will continue to migrate further and further into the creeks, and you will need to follow them, by using your electronics. Most of the time these fish will suspend in the middle of the creeks instead of around the bank. Look for fish busting the surface, and don’t be scared to throw the Rattl’n Vibe over deep water. When you change to the red/ crawfish colors, I will begin to fish tighter to the cover. The crawfish will be buried under rocks and deep in vegetation. I will also concentrate on harder breaks that are close to deep water, channel swings, and points. As you make the transition to chasing spawning fish and change to your perch colors, you will have a few more options. The fish will spawn anywhere from the very back of the creeks to big main lake flats. I will move up shallow, and cover water until I find the females.
Since the Rattl’n Vibe is best used as a reaction bait, speed is key. I use a very high-speed reel, anything that is 7.1:1 or faster. I use a rod that has a fast tip to keep from pulling the treble hooks from the fish’s mouth. If you are fishing heavy vegetation you will need a rod with a little heavier backbone, so you can rip the bait free of debris. Make long casts and a very speedy retrieve. Keep your rod tip pointed at the bait to keep it from rolling sideways. You will also need to adjust the height of your rod tip according to the desired depth you want the bait to run. If you are fishing heavy vegetation, you want the bait to skim just above the top of the vegetation bumping it on occasion. If your bait begins to bury up, a swift jerk of the rod( almost like a hook-set) will free the bait. If you are staying buried up, you may need to switch to a smaller size bait or raise your rod tip.
CHUNK- CRANK FAST- HANG ON