Thursday, June 20, 2013

Structure?...What Structure???

When approaching a new lake one of the key things that any angler should try to accomplish, besides the obvious of catching fish, is to get an understanding of the lay of the land.  What type of cover does it have on the shoreline, where are the drop-offs at if there are any, where is the isolated underwater structure?   My success on the water relies heavily on these features and helps me solve one part of the riddle as to where bass are hiding.

When my Dad and I fished together when I was younger, I couldn’t tell you how many times he would let me know as we are fishing….”hit that spot, there is a dropoff there”….”hit that pocket, there is a pile of rocks 4 feet down”.  How did he know all of this?   Over the years I have started to understand how this was done and there are four things that allow that to happen…

1)      Search baits
2)      A sensitive rod
3)      Fan casting
4)      Slow down and pay attention!

In my case I would classify search baits as anything that allows you to learn the bottom structure of the lake.  Crankbaits, jigs, weighted texas rigs, Carolina rigs, and other similar baits all allow you to gain instant feedback as to what is lurking beneath the water.   They will be your depth finder and structure scan if you learn how to use them right.

Last year I was fishing a local pond that I have been fishing for quite some time.   I wasn’t getting bit that day and decided to walk the pond until I found some fish.   Well, I got to the one side of the pond that I rarely hit because of my lack of catching in that area and decided to throw on a crankbait since the weeds were receding.   Threw it out, brought it back….and just fan casted the area.   On my third cast about 10 feet out from shore I felt my crankbait rattle against a rock pile….bingo!  Next cast, brought it over the rock pile and WHAM…4 pounder.   Almost every fish the next several casts were hanging right before or on top of that rock pile.   Isolated cover can be a magical thing…and when you find it you can almost bet money that there will be fish there.

Last night, I went to a new forest preserve lake that is known for having some good fishing.   Had no clue where to start so I decided to start at the first spot I found.   First thing that I noticed….a stump sticking out of the water along with a brush pile in the water to the left and right of me.   The last thing I noticed was the rock lining the bank.   As soon as I see rock on a bank my decision is always towards a texas rig or a crankbait.  I threw out a texas rig to the left towards one of the brush piles.  Dragged it through and I could immediately start feeling sparse rock on the bottom.  Made another cast just to the right of my last cast and started to find heavier sections of rock.  Then eventually I was lifting my bait higher off the ground because it got stuck in some limbs or chunks of wood from an underwater bush.  Wouldn’t you know it, after popping it free from all of the junk down there….fish on!   I ended up pulling four bass off of that spot in a matter of 20 minutes.

When you can unlock the secrets of newer water, the higher chance you have of catching and not being skunked out on the water.  So always have something tied on to allow you to search the bottom and find out what the fish are relating to…that’s the name of the game!

Tight Lines,


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bassin' in the Weeds

It’s finally starting to feel like summer around here!   The rain and cold fronts are finally starting to come to an end giving the local ponds and lakes a chance to remain at a consistent water level.   Once that begins to happen you can guarantee that our local waters will start to show some heavier weed growth…some more so than others.  This can be a really frustrating time for a lot of anglers because what worked in the spring is now getting piled on with weeds and muck every other cast.   It makes it even more frustrating because the bass take shelter in the hot summer days underneath these weed mats and lily pads making them harder to access and catch.   I remember fishing a local pond in my neck of the woods four or five years ago that used to get choked up with weeds every summer.   It was nice because it kept the weekend warriors at bay for a while, but it also made it tough for me to figure out for the longest time until I started using a few key lures…

1)      Topwater hollow belly frog
2)      Zoom Fluke
3)      Buzzbait
4)      Weightless Senko
5)      Swim jig
6)      Weighted Texas Rig

The lures above aren’t completely fool proof, but 9 times out of 10 you should be able to work the bait effectively without bringing in a 10 lb pile of weeds every cast.
The areas you want to target with these lures are…

1)      Open pockets within the weedline
2)      Thinner patches of weeds in the weedline
3)      Outer edges of the weedline

Open voids and thinner layers of weeds always allow bass to blow up on a lure much easier than the thick matted weeds that line parts of the weed bed.  The easier it is for them to see and get to the bait, the easier it will be getting a good hookset.  Weightless lures like a senko and fluke should also be worked into open pockets and outer weed edges. What I like to do is throw the lure past the pocket….give it a couple good pops before it reaches the pocket to create disturbance on top of the weed bed…and then once I get to the edge of the pocket I give it one more good pop and then let it sink into the pocket.  I have caused some major blowups by doing this and really gets them fired up!

If there were only a couple of things I would add to my gear line up for fishing in weedy areas, it would first start with braided line.  Braided line has no stretch giving you solid hooksets after a fish takes a lure under into matted weeds, and it cuts through weeds and lily pads more easily than fluoro and mono.  The second thing that I would have handy is a longer MH or H spinning rod or baitcaster.   Braid does help you achieve a more solid hookset but means nothing if you don’t have some backbone to back it up.   The last thing you need is a nice bass blowing up on a frog and you are throwing 10 lb mono on a medium light rod….that won’t end well.

Hopefully these tips will help you out on the water the next few months, and I guarantee the strikes that will occur will be heart pounding!  If only I had video of the topwater strikes I have had on a frog the last few years….just incredible!

Tight lines!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crushing the Cold Front with the Crabby Crawdaddy!

93 degree days....rain, rain...some more rain....55 degrees for the high...what gives May???  We have been seeing some nasty weather swings so far this year....but today, this brutal cold front was no match for the Crabby Crawdaddy!

Now what the heck is a Crabby Crawdaddy?  Well, I will tell you that is one of the nicer craw imitators that I have ever used and came in my possession about a week ago.   This plastic craw was thrown together by the mix masters at Crabby Bass Lures.  Brad Wilkins and Chuck Simon set up shop last year to provide premium plastic lures to the Dupage County community and beyond.  You got a color you have in mind....done!  You want a certain flake you want in it that you don't see on off the shelf plastics...done!  You want it to smell like it could scare away a vampire....done and done!

Well, I shot a message to Brad asking for a custom color that I have used pretty pumpkin with purple and copper flake.  After today, I think I am going to have to start calling this color....MONEY!  It was game on from the time that lure hit the water tonight until 2 hours later when I walked away with 22 bass with more than 10 more missed on top of that.   Add a 3/0 EWG Gamakatsu hook with an 1/8 oz bullet over!   With the recent rain however, the water was slightly I added my own little final touch, which is something that I have done previously to my craws.   Chartreuse Spike-It on the claw tips to give it a little more pop in the dingy water....yup, they ate it up!  Besides spilling some though all over my hand and turning my fingers chartreuse it worked quite well.   So what was the final name of this completely custom craw with a spritz of chartreuse....TOXIC MONEY! haha.  I think it has a nice ring to it.

Anyway, on to the catching.   Throw it out, hop it through some weeds....felt that 'thunk' of the weight getting sucked in....and SWING!   Fish after fish...same textbook bite.   Those crabby cold front bass didn't stand a chance against the Crabby Crawdaddy!

About 17 bass in and then I started to get crabby....starting to miss fish, wth?  I would get a bite....line would tighten up, then they would drop it.   I mean, clear as a bell bite and then nothing.   I think at that point the bass were on to my scheme and were making it a little tougher on me.   After grinding it out and waiting a little longer on the bite...two more on the board.   Then number 20....and holy cow number 20...what a sow! camera on my phone will be struck by a hammer shortly after this post for losing a great picture of this   Buuuuttt, I did get a picture of the craw being choked down by the 5+ lber...just sad I didn't get her bugeyes and gut....the bass are definitely still in pre-spawn mode here

Now for the other nice bass caught in this 2 hour window!  22 fish....all between 9-21.5 inches

After seeing what this new plastic lure is capable of, I know this will be in my back pocket this tournament season.  I am pretty picky when it comes to new plastic baits as some of you already know, but this one passed the test with flying colors.  With the ability to choose my own colors...I can get the right bait for the right time of year, and I know Brad and Chuck will be ready to go when I need them.   If you want some of your own go and check them out at....

Tight Lines,


Monday, April 29, 2013

Bassin' at the Border (Falcon Lake April, 2013)

Some of you may know that my Dad and I have been planning a trip down to Falcon Lake in Texas for some time now....and I am sad to say that it came and went way too fast!  If I could some up the trip in one word it would be IN-FREAKIN-CREDIBLE!  The size and power of these giant Florida strain bass are just unbelievable.

Three days we were out there with guide Jay Greishaw of   We started each morning around 6:30-7:00 AM and finished up about 3 PM.   In that stretch of time my Dad and I hooked, landed and lost more quality bass then we ever have in our entire fishing career.  I will have to admit it wasn't a numbers blowout with around 25-35 fish caught each day between the two of us....but the quality was second to none.   That was the whole purpose of the trip, to potentially hook into a fish of a lifetime....and we did!

With the drought down in Zapata, Texas in full swing we knew right away that good water was going to be slim.  The lake was nearly 30 feet down with the main lake markers looking like sky scrapers sticking out of the water.

The main areas we targeted were deeper rock piles, ledges, humps, and brush.   Deep crankbaits, texas rigs and carolina rigs were pretty much all we threw.  Jay knew exactly where to go, what areas to hit, and knew exactly what the fish were dialed in on.   For the first time in a long time I threw a texas rigged worm...and not just any worm...a 10" Berkley power worm....and even threw a 12" Mag ol' Monster Zoom ribbon tail worm when the time called for it.   Deep cranks meant DEEEEP cranks....5XD's are medium cranks to them down there....we were dredging the bottom of every rock pile every time we had the chance.

Alright, alright....enough are the stats....

Top 5 lost fish...estimated by Jay....
1) 12 lbs
2) 10 lbs
3) 9 lbs
4) 8 lbs
5) 7 lbs
Total: 46 lb bag

Top 5 landed fish...weighed
1) 6.74
2) 6.5
3) 6.0
4) 6.0
5) 5.5
Total: 30.74 lbs

Both my Dad and I landed new personal bests with mine at 6.74 lbs and my Dad's at 6.0 lbs.   What really just blew me away was the size of these fish...not so much on girth, but length.  My 6.74 lber was easily pushing 24 inches.   When you see a 12 lb bass sky rocket towards the surface of the water with a mouth the size of a dinner is an indescribable sight!

Now on to the pictures!

One of Dad's first fish of the trip on a crankbait

First bass for me of the trip...also on a crankbait

Dad's new PB at 6 lbs

Another 5+ lber

5.5 lber caught on a know it's big when you rod stops mid hook set!

Getting better at 6 lbs...

Getting even better at 6.5 lbs

New PB at 6.74 lbs!

Just to give you a comparison as to how large these fish were....a 4 lber a few weeks ago compared to my new PB of 6.74 lbs

And to think how much bigger the mouth was on that 12 lber I lost on day 1!!!  That fish will haunt me for a looong time!

Only way to fly on bigger water....2012 Ranger Z522 Comanche....sweeeet!

Sunday morning came....and man did it rain!  Glad we could bring some of our Illinois flooding down to Texas!

Best picture of the trip...getting a double with my Dad...somehow he always catches the bigger one.

Funniest moment of the trip...playing a fish on a crankbait for 5 minutes only to find out it was a soft shell turtle the size of an F150!

If you have the opportunity to ever get down to Falcon Lake or any other big bass it!  Just an unbelievable trip that will be in the memory books for a long time....just thankful I was able to do it with my Dad.

A huge shout out as well to Jay Greishaw, easily the best guide I have booked a trip with.   He did whatever he could to make the trip great....learned a lot from him and will definitely be down again for a second visit. 

Tight lines everyone,


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WCTT Deep Lake Tourney 1 and Des Plaines Tourney Recap

This past weekend was the first time I have ever had back to back tournament days….and man was it an experience!   Not a ton of details to recap on, but I definitely know that I still have a lot to learn and need more time on the water that we fished over the weekend.

Saturday brought 20+ mph winds, 38 degree air temps, 41 degree water and snow!  We were at Deep Lake in Lake County, IL with the guys from   I think about 18-20 guys showed up to fish so there was definitely a good set of competition.  I have never fished this lake before so I knew it was going to be hit or miss for me and my partner.  Everyone decided to head to the North end of the lake early in the AM, but from some tips from other people we decided to hit the South side where a creek ran into the lake.  There was a pretty significant drop off where we were that went from 3 to 15 feet pretty quickly.   With the winds whipping us around in that 12’ aluminum boat it was a pretty safe bet we were going to stay there for a little while just to stay out of the wind and warm up for a few minutes.  Long story short, I had one bit the entire morning and didn’t get a good hook set and lost him.  With nothing to weigh in at the first weigh in at 9:30 and with the wind and the cold…we called it a day.  Only 11 fish were weighed in the entire tournament between 20 guys….needless to say it wasn’t the best day for that lake.   I plan on getting out there again…hopefully more time on that body of water will produce better results.

Sunday was my first club tournament of the year on the Des Plaines River.    After talking to the guys in my club about their pre-fishing the week before it sounded like the river water temps went down about 9-10 degrees….so the cold front was definitely in full swing.  Water was dirtier than usual, wind was still just as bad….but at least the air temperature was much warmer than Saturday!   Rocky shorelines and warmer water with shad in the area produced our only fish.  One of the cuts had bass exploding on shad all over the place, but getting bit came down to throwing at the right spot at the right time.   There was a brush pile that a buddy of mine was pitching to when we pulled in to that cut.   He picked the entire thing apart and got nothing.   We followed in behind him, second cast way into the center of the brush pile and I just felt a weight.   Thought I had my lure wrapped up in the brush…then started seeing my line move.   Set the hook and yanked that fish into the boat as fast as I could.  First keeper just shy of 14” was on the board.   Again…just was a matter of throwing to the right spot at the right time.  We hit multiple spots and I only caught four bass all day…one being a ½” shy of being another keeper.    Only 8 or 9 guys weighed in fish so that made me feel a little better only showing up with one keeper.   That gave me some decent club points and a good start to the year.   Hopefully I can keep it going the remainder of the year….only time will tell.

When I came home Sunday I was definitely wiped out.   Getting up at 3:15 on Saturday and 4:30 on Sunday….definitely crashed as soon as I could.   All that just to catch some bass….wouldn’t have spent my weekend any other way!

Tight Lines,


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Get 'em shallow while it's HOT! (Shallow Squarebills)

In the last few weeks I have found myself on a very HOT shallow squarebill bite.  This style of fishing has become one of, if not my favorite techniques to take advantage of in the early spring months.   Weeds are scarce, shallow shorelines are starting to warm up, and the bass are looking for food before they head to their spawning areas.

If you have a favorite pond that is shallow in the 2-8 feet of water range, you absolutely should have a squarebill on hand.   They are not as trivial as you think….toss it out, reel it back.  I see a lot of guys giving up on crankbaits really quickly like I used to, but the reward of learning to use these baits is worth the time put into it.

What to have on hand to fish these lures effectively…

7’ 0” MH Moderate to Moderate Fast action rod
12-15 lb fluorocarbon or monofilament
5.0-6.3 gear ratio reel

When you fish shallow areas you have to pay attention right away whether or not you are getting your lure fouled up with weeds or other debris on the bottom.   If you are, I suggest trying a couple things…

1)      Have your rod tip raised up during the retrieve…it will force the crankbait to run shallower in the water column.
2)      Try switching to a shallower running crankbait
3)      Switch to a reel with monofilament instead of fluorocarbon.  Monofilament floats so your squarebill will run shallower.

A few great crankbaits to have on hand…

-          Strike King 1.5 (dives 2 to 4 feet)

-          IMA Squarebill (dives up to 2 feet)

-          Bass Pro EGG (dives 1-2 feet)

A few colors to have on hand…

-          Shad patterns (Silver/Black back, Tennessee Shad, Gizzard Shad, etc.)
-          Craw patterns (Bright reds, oranges, and even some dark greens)
-          Bluegill pattern
-          Bright Colors (Chartreuse/Black Back, Lime Green/Blue Back, Bone White, etc.)

How you should retrieve this lure….

The best way I have found with this lure is a slow steady retrieve while adding in slightly faster  and slower turns of the handle.   Doing this will change how fast or slow the crankbait rushes through the water which creates a deadly hunting action.   I also try to add short pauses here and there to make the lure stop which kicks the back side of the crankbait forward making a really noticeable flash or jerk in the water.   Usually once you start the retrieve again, the bass are all over it!  Another retrieve that has done well for me in the past is pulling the crankbait along with the rod and reeling in the slack.  The rod tip should be closer to parallel with the water and you should feel   5-10 wobbles of the crankbait as you pull it along.  Once you stop moving the lure, reel in the slack and do it again.   If you are casting to an adjacent shoreline, it seems like everytime I craaaawwwlll that crankbait away from the shore line the bass will kill it….so always start with a really slow retrieve if you are casting towards the shore.

How do you ensure a good hook set?

The hookset is a side sweeping hookset.  The usually tip towards the sky does not work as well as it does with a treble hook lure.  Side sweeping will increase your hook up percentage more than anything else.  New treble hooks will also help increase your hook up.  Most crankbaits come with cheap treble hooks that can bend or break easily.   The last thing you need is to lose a monster spring bass only to find out he bent out one of your hooks….trust me, that happens more than I have liked it to happen!  Last is to check your line for rough patches.   Crankbaits bounce and crash into everything, so pay attention to your line fraying and re tie if you need to.   It doesn’t hurt to second guess yourself and re-tie.

Last but not least, what does the bite feel like?

The only two things that come to mind are a freight train hitting your bait, or the subtle “bump, bump” of a bass slashing at it.  If you feel a fish just plow the snot out of your lure, more than likely he choked it and I would be immediately swinging for the fences.   If you feel a bump, take a quick 1 count and then set the hook.   Usually just a bump means they haven’t got it all the way and giving them that extra second could make all the difference.

Now is prime time to take advantage of this action.   Get to your local tackle shop and grab some shallow diving crankbaits.  The big mommas are out and active now, so let’s hear some success stories in the near future!  You’ll be glad you did!

Tight Lines!


Monday, March 18, 2013

How to set up and cast a new baitcaster

Fishing sales are in full swing up here...and I know a few of you probably have been toying with the idea of picking up a new reel for this season....maybe a baitcaster?  Baitcasters simply put can be very intimidating to the weekend angler...they are hard to cast...they definitely aren't spinning reels...and the ultimate fear of the dreaded "birds nest"...dum dum dummmm!

I remember last year returning something to Bass Pro, when I overheard a gentleman telling the employee at Bass Pro that his reel was broken.  I looked over and saw a baitcaster sitting on the counter.   The reel representative came over...toyed with it a few seconds, and said it was fine.  The gentleman tossed a confused look and didn't understand what was wrong.  Long story short...he didn't set up the reel correctly.  With a little up front work and some practice...this type of situation can be avoided, and there is less chance that you will toss the baitcaster to the side and forget about it.

Every baitcaster on the market today has several characteristics that need to be dialed in before you even make your first cast.  The drag, spool tension, and the braking system all need to be set to the lure that you are planning on throwing.

The drag star is located on the handle side, usually has 5 or 6 spokes and clicks when you turn it.  It is used to set the drag of the reel by applying more tension to the spool.   I usually turn it until it's snug and give it one  more 1/8 of a turn.  Some people run their drag a little loose, but for most applicatons around here you shouldn't have an issue running the drag tighter.

The spool tension is also found on the handle side and is usually a small cap or knob.  This knob puts tension on the spool when the spool is disengaged by the thumb bar.  With a lure tied on, and your rod tip about 8 o'clock you should set the spool tension so the lure falls slowly under its own weight.  Let the lure fall until it hits the ground...and the spool should stop spinning.  If the spool continues to spin, tighten it up a little bit more.

Now comes the most trivial part...the braking system.  Your reel comes with one braking system or two braking systems.  Magnetic braking systems are on the non handle side, and can be adjusted externally on the reel with a knob.   Magnetic brakes can be found in most Daiwa and Lews reels.  Centrifugal brakes are also on the non handle side of the reel and can be adjusted by taking off the non handle side plate of the reel.    Once the side plate is of there is usually a set of counter weights.  When the counter weights are pushed out...more braking.  When the counter weights are pushed in...less braking. Centrifugal brakes are usually found on Shimano and Quantum reels....with Quantum reels being the oddball because their centrifugal brake can be adjusted with a knob on the outside.  Some reels have both magnetic and centrifugal brakes...such as the Bass Pro Pro Qualifier, Lews Tournament Pro, Revo STX, and Pflueger Patriarch.

When you set up a brake system you always want to start with the braking system fully engaged.  So for magnetic brakes...that dial should be turned on as high as it can go.  With centrifugal brakes, the pins should all be pulled outward.  

Last thing you need to do is get your thumb ready to go....your thumb is the one thing that will eventually allow you to become great at using a baitcaster.  Train your thumb, and you will be less likely to rely on the braking system that the reel provides you.

Before you even go to cast for the first time you need to forget everything you have ever done with a spinning reel if that was your strength originally.   Baitcasting and spinning setups are two different animals and DO NOT cast the same.   Press the thumb bar and hold the spool with the thumb of your casting hand.  Let your thumb "feather" the line as the lure drops down to the ground.  Just as the lure is about to hit the ground, stop the spool with your thumb.  Repeat this several times until you get a feel for your thumb starting and stopping the lure.

Next you want to make a roll cast...or side arm cast.   Use your thumb to release and stop the spool as you already did above.  It is important to not let the rod tip "follow" your lure on the cast...try to keep the rod to the side of you during the cast....this will allow the bait to head straighter to your target.   Once you get a feel for can start to dial back your brake system.   Turn the dial a few ticks back on the magnetic brake, or push two "opposite pins" inward to disengage them.   Centrifugal brakes you always want to disengage in pairs.  If you have a dual brake system....always start with the magnetic brake and work your way into the centrifugal brake.

Now comes the hardest part to learn...the overhand cast.  The mystery behind this cast is all in your release point and the follow through after.   When you release the bait your thumb should be coming off of the spool around the 11-12 o'clock position....and on the follow through your rod should hover around the 10 o'clock position.  You never want to follow the lure down in the follow through...or your lure will dive bomb right into the water....same will happen if you release late.

If you are just starting out I would recommend practicing with a cheap monofilament.  I know the temptation is there to jump into braided line because you heard it is easy to learn on....but I gaurantee you will not want to swallow a birds nest of 30 dollar braid.  Braid can be a bear to pick out on a bad birdsnest. 

Take your time, and be patient!  It took me 2 years to get pretty good with it, and I still get bad birdsnests every once in awhile.   But the reward in accuracy and casting distance will be worth it!  Had trouble in the past throwing heavy lures on spinning gear?  Won't be an issue anymore!

Good luck and tight lines!