Well my first Northern Open on the James River was one I will never forget. I arrived at the James the Saturday before the tournament and had 4 full days to try and figure this place out and punch my ticket to the Bassmasters classic. Day 1 I spent fishing around the launch, mostly in an area they call the Barge Pitts. I caught 2 fish over 4 pounds in there and lots of little dinks but this was a big community hole. I probably saw close to 50 boats that day coming in and out. Day 2 I started my practice on the Chickahominy river which was located about 45 miles down river from the launch. Through the research I did prior to this event I knew the area right below the damn was the most popular area to fish on the Chick and would be the most pressured ( The tournament was eventually won there again this year..ugh!). I decided to try and get away from the crowds and focus on the mid river to down river sections of the Chickahominy . During the first day I spent most of my time fishing lily pads and docks and the numerous cypress trees spread throughout the system. Everything looked like it should have a bass on it but not much did, I fished a 12 hour day and managed about 15 bites which wasn’t to bad, one of them included a 5 pound fish which was considered a real big one for this place. The only small pattern that I had figured out was that the fish were on isolated patches of lily pads and from what I could see there wasn’t very many small patches like this. Day 2 I went down river into a place called Gordon’s creek. I idled in to make sure I didn’t hit anything because this entire river system was just one big obstacle course, I saw a bay on Google earth that looked really good so I spent about 20 minutes getting back in there to check it out. On my way back I passed several boats coming back out of there, when I finally reached the bay there wasn’t a lily pad or cypress tree within sight. I now knew why all the boats I passed were making there way out of here. After spending 20 minutes getting in here though I figured I might as well throw a few casts. There was small point in the reeds that lined the bank about 100 yards in front of me and I made up my mind I would fish to that point and then get out of this mud hole. About my 4th cast a 3 pound fish blew up on my frog. I thought it was just another random fish and then 2 casts later another one. Next cast another one. I quickly cut the hooks off of my frog and continued to fish, I had 17 bites in the next 50 yards. As I looked closer there seemed to be a grass line that was off the bank about 20 feet and was in about 2 feet of water at low tide (which was considered deep at this place) I left the area and figured I would come back the next day to check it out to make sure it wasn’t just some kind of fluke. I spent most of the next day fishing wood of all kinds, with minimal success, you would catch a few fish here and there but you had to cover a ton of water to do it.
I decided to return to my honey hole during the first part of outgoing tide to see if I could catch the fish on something beside a topwater. I fished the grass with a swimjig, chatterbait, flukes baby 1 minus, pretty much everything I could think of and had no bites. I honestly just thought the fish that were there yesterday were gone and they were just passing through or on a school of bait. I waited till the tide got low and broke the frog out again, first cast one inhaled it, I put the fish on my digital scale and it was just over 4 pounds. I switched to my hookless frog and had 7 blowups on the next 9 casts. I then switched to a fluke…..not a bite threw a buzzbait…..not a bite, threw the frog a few more times and it got smacked again. Never in my life have I ever seen fish that were so aggressive but so picky at the same time. There were fish blowing up everywhere and frogs swimming in the water along the shoreline getting ambushed by bass, it was something I have never seen before and probably will ever see again in my lifetime. This was the best spot I had found but the problem was these fish would not touch anything but top water. Not that big of a deal unless we would get some freaky wind but this bay was very protected from every wind direction but a NW wind and I looked at the extended forecast and they were calling for South Southeast for the next 5 days so it didn’t look like that would be a problem. I fished the Chippokes the next day and found some more grass like the stuff I found in Gordon but there were boats all over it.
I planned on trying to idle around in some of the other creeks on the final practice day to try and find more of this grass but my trolling motor was broke so I had to take it to the service crews to get fixed the next morning, they were late getting there so my last day of practice was pretty much blown because we had to be at registration that afternoon. After the meeting I met with my co angler for the following day, he was a local guy Clay Lewis and said he spent quite a bit of time on the James. We arranged to meet at my hotel the following morning. Clay seemed like a real nice guy which was a big relief; there is nothing worse than spending all day in a boat with somebody that you don’t really mesh with. The first day of the tournament we were boat 168 out of 170 so I was a little worried somebody else might of found my spot with all of the pressure the Chickahominy was receiving. At about 6:15 our boat number was called and we went blasting down the James river at full speed, dodging tons of debris that was in the water from the massive thunderstorms the week before, it was a miracle we didn’t hit anything, it took just over an hour to get to my little area in Gordons and I was relieved when I came off of pad and saw nobody else was in there. The tide was completely wrong when we got there and I told Clay we might have to wait an hour or 2 for the tide to get right and the fish to turn on. My 3rd cast a 3.5 pounder toilet flushed my frog and I had him in the boat. When I went to put my hands on him I noticed he was bleeding a little bit and when I opened his mouth I saw my frog was halfway down his throat. I tried to get it out the best I could without hurting him any more but he ended up dying shortly after. Clay had the next action catching a 4lb 14oz fish that would earn him an extra 1000$ for lunker that day on the co angler side. We made 5 or 6 passes over my little stretch over the next hour and I had put close to 14 pounds in the box and Clay also had a good limit and we had each lost a fish in the 5 pound class. Clay told me he had fished the James for over 20 years and had never seen an area like this during this time of year. We left this spot after only fishing it for about 90 minutes and ran back up to fish some creeks closer to the ramp. There were bad storms rolling in that afternoon and we didn’t want to risk getting caught in them or breaking down with the fish we had in the live well. My goal was to catch enough weight on day one to put me in striking distance of the top 12 cut, I ended the first day in 17th place less than a pound out of the 12th place cut line. I knew that if I stayed in my area the next day for all 6 hours of my fishing I could catch an even bigger bag and easily move in to the top 12 and be able to fish Saturday.
That night when I was laying in bed thinking about the next day I could barely sleep I decided to check the weather and saw the wind had switched from SE to NW 18-30mph. I couldent believe it!! I had an earlier launch time the next day and most of the time the winds are calm at first light and gradually increase through out the day. I hoped this would be the case and I could get down there and make short work of those fish like I did the day before. When I got to my area my first instinct was not to even make a cast and just leave…and I should of. There were 2 foot waves rolling into the bank. The reed clumps that were out of the water by a few feet yesterday were submerged, and the tide that was supposed to be falling wasn’t because of the wind. The locals call it a “wind tide” What happens is the tide is still pulling out but the wind is pushing just as much if not more water back into the area so the water level doesn’t actually move. These fish were here though I some how some way had to figure out how to catch them. I did throw a frog out of pure desperation at first but with waves crashing it underwater it was a hopeless effort. I then went through a gradual progression of everything else I knew how to do to catch fish on in the wind, spinner bait, crank bait etc…. with no success, by 10:00 I had every rod in my locker on the front deck trying to get these fish to bite and I had not had a bite all morning, I finally ditched my spot with about 3 hours left to fish. I stopped at a tree on the way out and it produced a small keeper. I then ran up the chic to another small stretch of lily’s that produced another. By this time it was after 11 and I had a 2:00 weigh in and still had well over an hour run back to the launch. I decided to take off and close the day out in Herring creek, I had fished there the day before and figured I could scratch out a limit in there. On my way back my low fuel light came on about halfway to herring, there was a Marina about another 5 miles upriver and figured I could easily make it to there. Just as the Marina came within sight I ran out of gas. I trolled into the marina from about 300 yards away and put fuel in the boat, this mishap cost me about 40 minutes of fishing time. I only managed to catch 3 fish in herring and 2 of them didn’t measure. I returned to the ramp with 3 fish in my bag that didn’t even weigh as much as one of my fish from the day before, what a freaking Nightmare!
I could blame the wind for trashing my spot but the wind blew for everyone, I did not make the right decision to ditch that place early enough. I broke the cardinal rule of trying to catch yesterday’s fish under today’s conditions and I paid for it. I had a very good chance to put a beat down on the best fisherman in the world this past weekend but I couldn’t make It happen. I learned a ton about fishing the James as well as fishing Tidal waters in General. The final day of the tournament which only the top 12 are invited to was calm as could be and I know there probably wont be a day that passes in the near future that I wont be thinking about what could have been.
Here are the results from the 20th Annual Bob Reddick Crappie Tournament.
Click results to see larger view
fish are in a “post spawn funk”, How many times have you heard that? With the spawn starting to wind down, if you haven’t heard it, more than likely you will hear it from some of your fellow angler buddies in the weeks to come. The post spawn is one of my absolute favorite times to fish, especially in grass lakes. The fish haven’t moved far from where they performed there spawning ritual and are hunkered down in thick cover recovering from the strain they put on there bodies. I believe the biggest fish in the entire lake spawn first so these big fish are already in the thick grass and vegetation when allot of the other fish on the lake are on beds.
Punching your bait into the heart of thick vegetation is a sure way to catch big fish during this time of year. Thick lilly pad clumps, duckweed, coontail and milfoil are starting to thrive and grow with the warming weather. Some people will shy away from the thick grass because it can be challenging to fish if you don’t know how , or have the wrong equipment. Other people will pitch to the holes in the grass and you can definitely catch some fish that way. In my experience though to catch more and bigger fish in the grass you want to flip your bait into the nastiest thickest grass you can find. This is one technique in bass fishing that having the right equipment means all the difference in the world. You need heavy artillery to get these mossback monsters out of the grass thickets they call home.
As far as bait selection goes I stick with 3 baits and they can cover just about any kind of vegetation thickness that I encounter. When punching heavy duckweed or heavily matted grass I like to use a tube or slim creature bait that will slide into the thick cover with the least resistance. Powerteam Lures 4.5” food chain tube and bully grass devil are my baits of choice when targeting bass in the heaviest cover. Some grass species grow slower than others and if the grass isn’t as heavily compacted I will opt for a big creature bait like a conviction craw.
Hooks and Weights
The weight is one of the most important parts to this entire system, even if a lighter weight will get your bait down in the grass, you will get allot more bites 99% of the time with a big heavy weight. A 1-1.5oz weight will get you reaction bites from big bass as the bait flys by there face, you will also catch any fish that are in the mood to feed when your bait presents itself to them. I prefer unpainted polished silver tungsten weights for this method of fishing. It is dark in the dense vegetation and I think the little bit of flash you get from an unpainted weight gets you a few extra bites. Also with no paint on the weight it comes out of the fishes mouth a little smoother and allows you to burry the hook in the roof of there mouth where it belongs. Honey Hole tackle out of Pittsburgh has some of the best tungsten weights on the market, if your looking for some good pure tungsten give these guys a look. Below the weight sits a 4/0 or 5/0 Paycheck baits punch hook. You can use any hook but the welded eye and slightly larger gap on this hook gets the nod as the best punching hook money can buy.
Rod, Reel and Line
Until a few years ago using a big heavy rod was the norm for this type of fishing. I landed lots of fish on my old heavy flipping sticks, but I paid for it the following day when I couldn’t move my shoulder due to wielding a rod that weighed as much as a brick. Normal heavy action rods are just that, HEAVY. Last year I heard about a new company out of Florida called 13 fishing, I ordered one of there 7’11” Omen Black Heavy action rods just for this technique. I heard these were good strong rods and American made, when I put the rod in my hand for the first time I got mad because I thought for sure I got sent the wrong action, I flipped the blank over and sure enough it was the heavy action that I had ordered. This rod is so light it is unreal; it literally weighs half of what my old flipping sticks did. Needless to say I ordered a few more in other actions. Having a light, sensitive rod is crucial when when flipping with a big heavy weight all day. I pair up this rod with a 7:1:1 high speed reel, you want to make as many flips as possible during the course of the day and a high speed reel helps you get your bait back to you as quickly as possible to make another flip. Braided line for this type of fishing is an absolute must. I like to use 50lb Gamma torque. Gamma is a little more expensive but you wont need to change your line nearly as often so its actually cheaper in the long run. Besides the cost savings it is absolutely the strongest most sensitive line on the market today. When you set the hook on a big bass in heavy vegetation your line is the last place you want to skimp.
Now that you know what kind of equipment you need lets get into the specifics of where these fish are living right now. You should be able to find large concentrations of bass in the 3-6 foot of water range. If you know of a flat that had allot of spawning fish on it a week or 2 ago and there is grass nearby, there is a good chance allot of those spawners are now in that grass recovering. Inside weed lines are an excellent place to start but make sure you’re not just flipping to the edge. Be sure to throw your bait back deep into the weeds and explore the depth ranges. A small drop off or little rock pile in the weed bed could be holding the mother load of fish so be thorough in your fishing this time of year.
I hope this helped any of you that are suffering from a case of the post spawn blues, get out there! Big fish are waiting!!!
Spring has officially arrived! That’s right guys, if you haven’t made it out on the water yet I suggest you make arrangements and get out there as soon as you can. The pre spawn bass are in an all out feeding frenzy right now. Most of the lakes around western PA are up quite a bit with all of the rain we have been having, pushing tons of bass into the new cover that’s available to them on the shore line. The “pre frontal” day before the storm is one of the best days to be on the water, the fish are usually aggressive and it’s also the best time to catch a real giant Bass. Any time I have the chance to get out on the water the day before a front I make it an effort to go, even if it’s just for a couple hours. Yesterday was one of those nights and I was blessed with the best day of bass fishing I have had so far in 2013.
We started off shallow throwing a chatterbait over the flooded cat-tails and brush, almost instantly I was hooked up. Fish after fish came exploding out of there new found homes in the flooded cover along the bank. This was allot of fun but most of the fish were males in the 2-3 pound range. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining about catching fish of this quality cast after cast, but this lake has produced fish near the 7 pound mark every spring and this is what I really wanted to catch. In the words of Paul Elias I was looking for “Nadine”. I was pretty dialed in on how to catch numbers but told my dad I would trade all of these for one big one, so we were going to give the shallow fish a break for a little bit and go search for her. I went to a bank that we found some big ones on last year this time of year. This bank has a defined weed line that runs from the bank out to about 3 feet of water and then comes out to a ledge and it drops off to about 10 feet. With the water being up so high the weeds were now in about 6-8 feet of water, what a perfect place for some bigger fish to be staging in. I backed off the bank and started dragging a jig down the slope on my 4th or 5th cast my rod loaded up and when I set the hook the fish didn’t move, it felt like I just set the hook on a truck. I have been fortunate to have caught fish of this size in the past and was pretty positive unless it was hung up on some cover I indeed had old Nadine on the end of my line. This was one of the hardest fighting largemouth I had ever hooked when it came up beside the boat for the first time and started thrashing I honestly thought it was close to 8 pounds after one last ditch effort to get to the bottom I got the fish turned and back up where my Dad could get put his hands on it. The Digital scale that I carry in my boat bounced back and forth between 6.50 and 6.56. We snapped some quick pictures and got the fish back in the water.
Catching big fish like that makes me shake, it is pretty much the same feeling you get after shooting a big Whitetail with a bow. That’s about the only other thing I have ever experienced that makes me have the feeling of catching a 6-7 pound bass. I cant stress enough the importance of having good equipment when you have fish of this size hooked, any weak point in any of your equipment from the hook point to your reel will result in failure. This is why you hear so often about “the big one that got away” I make it a point to be meticulous about my fishing equipment. You might only have the opportunity once or twice a year or once or twice in your life depending on how much you fish so you want to make it count.
The window to catch a giant bass is short so get out there, there is another storm coming across the Midwest right now…..Nadine is waiting
The Bassmasters of CrawfordCounty
Spring Bass Classic
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Registration: Boat position will be in the order that the applications are received.
Launch Site: Snodgrass Boat check starting at 5:00AM.
Start: 6am, Trickle Start, Weigh-in: 3:00 PM.
Cash payback 80% of the field entered. Entry Fee: $80 per boat
Optional Big Bass pool: $10.00
The Bassmasters of Crawford County Presents
Father’s Day Open Team Tournament
Presque Isle Bay
Sunday, June 16, 2013
To All Proceeds to Benefit Deb Genter
Registration: Boat position will be in the order that the applications are received.
Launch Site: Marina Bay Boat check starting at 5:00AM.
Start: 6am, Trickle Start, Weigh-in: 2:00 PM.
Cash payback 80% of the field entered. Entry Fee: $100 per boat
Optional Lunker pool: $10
The Bob Reddick Memorial
19th Annual Lake Arthur
Crappie Buddy Tournament
May 19, 2013
$50 Team Entry Fee (includes $5 lunker pool)
6:30 AM to 3:00 PM (After May 14th, $5 late fee will be added)
$1000 Guaranteed 1st place (with 40 boats)
As some of you may know the Bassmasters Classic was this past weekend and like allot of other Bass nerds out there I was glued to my computer for 3 straight days following Basstrak and the live blog through out the day. This was the one classic that everyone predicted a “local” would win. Mostly in part because there were allot of guys fishing this event that were considered aces on Grand Lake. Jason Christie said he fished upwards of 50 tournaments on Grand Lake and has won 3 boats there. Mike Mcclelland and Edwin Evers also cut there teeth fishing this lake and were pre tournament favorites. There were also a handful of guys from the federation and Opens who qualified that were sticks on this lake as well.
So how is it that a guy from Mississippi who can count on both hands how many days he has been on this lake and another young man from Idaho who was fishing his first tournament ever on Grand Lake out fished these local aces? They call it the local curse that only one guy has ever won a classic in his home state, is it a curse or just the fact that being a local is not really an advantage at all but maybe in a big event like this with this kind of talent it’s a HUGE disadvantage. I believe in the latter, I have a lake that I fish 50 or 60 days a year in the summer time, it’s a great lake and its only about 10 minutes from my house. I find myself fishing it pretty much the same way every time I go there because I have success fishing that way. I can look around that lake and can show you a laydown or clump of pads that I have caught a big fish off of all over that place, but if there were ever a big tournament there with allot of good fisherman unless I could erase every memory from every fish I ever caught at this lake more than likely I would get beat. Knowing where everything is at on a lake is precious information, the key is not to get attached to any of it. You have to treat the piece of wood that you have caught fifty 4 pounders off of the same as you treat the piece that looks so good but you still to this day have never had a bite off of.
I hear allot of guys talking about how they found some great spots on lake X last year or 2 years ago and they cant wait to get back up there for that tournament. Some of them are so confident in these spots from years past they might not even practice much for the tournament because they think they already have the thing locked up. Weigh in rolls around and they just shake there heads in disbelief as they come in with out even a limit. This does not just apply to places you found the year before but even the month or the week before, This is especially true in the spring and the fall. Fish are moving so much this time of year your pattern can change literally from hour to hour based on the temperature, wind, sun, clouds etc… Try to approach every day on the water as a new day I try and treat my tournament days as additional practice days and some of my best tournament finishes to date where instances where I ran new water and caught fish in areas I never even fished in practice. If you’re a recreational angler just out fishing you favorite lake for the day, go ahead and fish with a different bait or technique that you don’t usually do, the results might surprise you!
In the past winter has been a somewhat unhappy time for me because the lakes are frozen and fishing is very limited. Personally, I have never been one to drill a hole in the ice and fish. However, lately I have found myself enjoying the winter months more and more. A few years ago I started pouring my own soft plastic and lead jig & weights. In my next couple posts I will show some pictures of lures, molds, and tools that I use. This post will show you some very general information.
First of all, I should tell you that after a couple years of doing this I can honestly tell you that I do not want to try to make a living pouring lures. It is a great hobby, but it is very time consuming and can become frustrating at times. Here are several things you should know before you start.
1. You should have a well ventilated area or work with a garage door or at least a window open.
2. Moltant plastic & lead are both over 300 degrees during pouring and have toxic gases. Practice safety by wearing gloves and a respirator at a minimum. (Safety glasses are recommended.
3. Getting started is the most expensive part of pouring anything. Molds can be expensive and it will cost you a decent amount of money for liquid plastic, glitter, dye and other supplies.
4. The internet is your best friend. There are many forums and guys out there willing to help you become successful at it. They might not give you the mix for this colors, but they will help you with any problems that you are having. This includes me. Any knowledge I have gained you are welcome too.
A good place to start looking for supplies is www.lurecraft.com. There are several good companies when it comes to molds. Aluminum molds are expensive, but they are worth the money. A lot of companies will send you samples of the lures before you by the mold so you can see if it is something that you want. In order to get the samples you will often have to contact them via email or by phone. Realize that you can get hand pour molds and injection molds. In my next post I will explain the difference between the 2 styles of molds and the basic equipment and supplies you will need for both.
As always good fishing!
I bet allot of you reading this have thought about it and some of you will end up doing it eventually when the time is right. I took the jump this year from local tournament angler to the national stage and put my deposits in for all 3 of the B.A.S.S Northern Opens for 2013.
First off let me introduce myself and give you a little bit of background on me. I am a 29 year old fishing nut who grew up fishing the small ponds and creeks that dot the country side in Western Pennsylvania. I am not rich and would like that to be known from the get go, I had to make a TON of financial and family sacrifices to be able to fish the opens this year. Just like in years past I had allot of great excuses not to make the jump and fish the bigger events this year. When I was 6 years old I watched Brian Kerchal hoist the Classic trophy over his head and I decided at that moment that I was going to be fishing against those guys some day. Fast forward 23 years I am now married to my beautiful wife Holly and was blessed with my first son Brody this past June. In those 23 years though I have not really done anything pro active to get myself to the upper levels of the sport so this is the year that I really start trying to get there.
Well that’s enough about me, I would like to hear from you guys and what you would like to see me write about this year I am planning on doing a complete recap of all of the tournaments I fish and explain how I caught them ( or didn’t catch them) I will also be doing lots of product reviews so if there is a bait out there you have been wondering about or a question you want answered about anything at all please feel free to email me email@example.com I think there are allot of misconceptions amongst anglers about moving up in the ranks of tournament fishing and I will do my best to share the bold truth of tournament bass fishing at every level I compete in this year.
This winter has been rough on me I am ready to get this tournament season started, my first tournament of the year will be a Bassmasters weekend series event on Rocky Fork lake in Ohio. Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts I will not be able to fish the full schedule of the weekend series but I am going to fish enough events to make the regional and hopefully make it to the national championship on Old Hickory in Tennessee.
Cant wait to see all of you on the water in 2013!