Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hawk Sings Sweet Home Alabama on Smith Lake

by Cara Clark/B.A.S.S.
(Oct. 04, 2012 - Hawk Sings Sweet Home Alabama on Smith Lake)...
An Alabaman leads the way at the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Smith Lake. Kevin Hawk posted a Day 1 weight of 16 pounds, 7 ounces to claim the top spot with two days of competition remaining in the season finale. At stake are more than $50,000 in cash and prizes for the winner, as well as a Bassmaster Classic berth and five invitations to join the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series.

Hawk, a westerner by birth who now calls Guntersville home, caught his limit of bass a variety of ways and on a multitude of baits.

"The bass I weighed in came from every level of the water column," Hawk said, careful not to reveal too much with two days of fishing left. "The deepest were in 35 feet of water."

Coming into this event, Hawk ranked second in the Southern Open points standings. The Top 5 ranked anglers will earn invitations to join the 2013 Elite Series, so Hawk is looking good to claim a spot. If he can win this event, he’ll also take a coveted berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake, Okla., Feb. 22-24. The Classic berth is restricted to Opens winners who fish all three tournaments in that division for the season.

"I think I can catch them again tomorrow," Hawk said, modestly, "but I know it can go either way."
North Carolina’s Hank Cherry ranks second with 15-9, and he may be fishing the most unusual pattern of anyone in the tournament.

"I’m mostly putting the boat in 60 feet of water and making long casts on 4- and 6-pound-test line with 3- and 4-inch swimbaits," Cherry said, greatly simplifying his pattern. "The key seems to be making a really long cast and getting the bait out away from the boat."

Cherry’s swimbaits are homemade soft plastic models, poured by some friends in North Carolina. "They’re curly-tail and boot-tail models," he said. "I use the boot-tail baits when there’s some wind and throw the curly-tail when the water surface is slick."

In third place is 2004 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala. He has 14-14 - just more than a pound and a half behind the leader - and he’s targeting largemouth bass rather than the lake’s more plentiful spotted bass.

"Every bass I weighed in was a largemouth, and they all came from 15 feet of water or less," Swindle confided. "I’m working a 1/2-ounce brown Arkie jig with a Zoom Super Chunk trailer around manmade brushpiles and making 60 or 70 stops a day. I just keep moving because I know I’ll eventually find some quality bites. It’s tough out there."

Swindle, accustomed to keeping the crowd in stitches with his well-known sense of humor, was poignant at the scales on Day 1, telling the several hundred fans in attendance that Smith Lake was where his dreams took shape.
"Launching out here this morning reminded me of when I was a teenager and fishing tournaments in a beat-up old boat," Swindle recounted. "All I ever wanted was to fish professionally. Now I’m fishing for tens of thousands of dollars and using the finest equipment anyone could ever ask for."

Defending Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane doesn’t need a good finish here to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic or to re-qualify for the Elite Series. Because he’s qualified as the defending champ and through points in the Elite Angler of the Year standings, Lane’s spot in the Classic is nailed down a multitude of ways. By fishing this final Open, he’s also qualified through the Southern Opens since he won on the Harris Chain in January.

That means Elite pro Jared Lintner earns a Classic berth once Lane launches tomorrow. Lintner is currently on the bubble, but gets in when Lane triple qualifies.

"It’s the right thing to do," Lane said of his appearance. "A Classic berth means a lot to all of us, including Jared and his sponsors." Lane is currently in 10th place with 13-0.

The Carhartt Big Bass for Day 1 was a tie between Drew Benton of Panama City, Fla., and Brian Morris of Cullman, Ala. They came to the scales with matching 5-0 lunkers.

On the co-angler side, Travis Dehart of Greenville, S.C., leads the field with a limit of three bass weighing 8-7, including the Carhartt Big Bass among co-anglers at 5-2. Dehart was paired with Elite pro Charlie Hartley for the first day.

Lewis Smith Lake is a legendary spotted bass venue. Its 21,000 surface acres were impounded in 1961, and it produced several world records between the late 1960s and late ’70s, including the former world record and current state record spot weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces caught in 1978.

2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops

2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Boat U.S., BOOYAH, Carhartt, Humminbird, Luck "E" Strike, Minn Kota, Power-Pole

About B.A.S.S.
For more than 40 years, B.A.S.S. has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and an expansive tournament structure while connecting directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.

The Bassmaster brand and its multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications -BassmasterMagazine andB.A.S.S. Times- comprehensive Bassmaster website and ESPN2 and Outdoor Channel television programming,Bassmasterprovides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series,Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation events and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.

B.A.S.S. offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members and remains focused on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bass Fishing Hook Set – The Moment of Truth

By Marc Rogers

Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve…..a bass picks up your offering and you experience the moment of truth in bass fishing.

The worst time you will experience this moment is when fishing is slow and you have not had a bite for some time. You concentration is lacking and you are not paying attention to what your offering is doing under water. During this moment, the bass will inhale and expel your lure before you realize you should have set the hook. There is generally no second chance for catching this bass.

In the past, anglers were instructed to set the hook hard while fishing soft plastics. Much of this was due to the hooks that were available. These older hooks were sharpened with files and stones regularly for the best performance. Today, hooks are manufactured with chemically sharpened points that are super sharp. These hooks penetrate easily through soft plastic lures and into the mouth of a bass.

The new technology used to make hooks have changed the way many anglers now set the hook on bass. Instead of the extremely hard hook-set, anglers are now using a sweeping or slight snapping motion to set their hooks. Reeling in the slack line and simultaneously pulling back or snapping the rod is common among anglers using bottom bouncing soft plastic offerings. Other techniques require different hook-sets.  Recently I caught up with Derek Vahey and Aaron Hunter to discuss how they set the hook while bass fishing.

Derek Vahey, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, reports, “When fishing Texas rigged soft plastics, you have to push the hook through plastic. In this case, when I feel a bass or see my line move, I keep slack in the line and set the hook with a slight snapping action to drive the hook through the soft plastic and into fish. If you do not do this, what will happen is the hook will simply slide into plastic and never penetrate the fish’s mouth, and the fish will come off. The key is making sure not to snap the line to hard and pop the fish’s mouth open before the hook can stick the jaw.”

In addition, Vahey says, “When I finesse fish for bass I usually use finesse jigs or shaky heads with light line and spinning tackle. This requires a properly set drag for the light line to prevent breaking off when setting the hook. After taking up any slack line, I lift straight up and back to set the hook, and then keep constant tension on the fish until I get it to the boat.”

When flipping and pitching soft plastics to heavy cover it is best to use long rods, casting reels and heavy line. This requires an aggressive hook-set to ensure the fish is coming to the angler and away from the cover. It is a balancing act on how hard to set the hook using these techniques. While setting the hook too hard can pop the lure out of the bass’ mouth, a soft hook-set may result in anglers not being in control of the fish and it will tangle in the cover.

Vahey said, “I will error on the side of the hard hook-set when fishing heavy cover. If I miss one by pulling the lure away there is a chance I can get it to bite again. If I lose it in the cover after hooking it, chances are slim it will bite with a lure stuck in its mouth.”

Aaron Hunter says jig fishing is his favorite way to catch big bass. Hunter said, “I am never on the water without a Midwest CustomTackle football jig tied on.” He presents a football jig differently than most anglers. Hunter prefers to hop his football jig off the bottom keying on the more aggress bass. He adds a NetBait Paca Chunk to the back of his jigs for his trailer.

While bouncing a jig along the bottom Hunter seldom has any slack in his line. He sets the hook by “aggressively sweeping my rod up and back to about the 11 o’clock position.  I never exceed a higher position because I will lose control of the bass once it is hooked”, he says. When fishing heavy cover with jigs he said, “I will set the hook harder in heavy cover because I want to turn the fish towards me and away from the cover to avoid getting it tangled up.”

When fishing crankbaits, Vahey said, “I learned my lesson the hard way fishing crankbaits. The hook-set is dependent on the rod action and a medium-action limber rod is the key. There is not really much to the hook-set on crankbaits, when the rod loads up, simply pull to the side while keeping constant pressure on the fish. I advise everyone never to jerk on the rod to set the hook with these lures. The small hooks will easily pull out of the bass.” He added the limber rod assists in keeping the hooks in the bass when it pulls hard during the fight.
When top water fishing, it is best to use a limber rod. The limber rod assists in preventing anglers from pulling the lure away from the bass when setting the hook. Hunter reported, “I wait until I feel the weight of the fish before I set the hook. Top water is visual and many anglers set the hook too soon and miss bass by pulling the lure away from them before they have tried to eat it. Also, never jerk on the rod with top water lures that have treble hooks. A number four treble hook may look like it will hook anything, but they are really only three small hooks and can easily be pulled out of a bass.”

Hunter and Vahey both added this advice, anglers should use monofilament when fishing top water lures. Monofilament line floats and helps keep the lure floating on the surface. Monofilament also stretches on the hook-set and can be advantageous to keep the hooks set in the bass’ mouth.

Vahey uses the same hook-set on buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. He said, “I use heavy gear for both with a high-speed reel. Once I feel the bass’ weight on the line, I hit them hard. Monofilament line will help a buzzbait stay on the surface and I always use a trailer hook on both lures”. Many of the bass I catch on these lures are hooked with the trailer hook. Hunter added, “When fishing open water, I will use a long shank treble hook for a trailer hook. Sometimes I cut off the one point that would face down to avoid hang-ups.”

Changing hook-set technique is difficult for many anglers. They have become habit over time and great effort to change these habits is required. Recently, many anglers I know have changed their hook-set style when using Texas and Carolina rigged soft-plastic lures. The change is from the old “cross their eyes” style to a hard, sweeping pull. Most reported the harder hook-set was costing hook ups with bass due to knocking the bass’ mouth open with the lure and not burying the hook point. Regardless of your current style, it pays dividends to experiment with new styles if you are experiencing missed bass when you set the hook.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bass in Deep Water Have Consistent Behavior

By Marc Rogers
With the surface water temperatures reaching their peak of the summer season bass will seek comfort in deep water.  Once positioned in the cooler, oxygen rich water near the thermocline bass will generally not move far.  Not moving makes their behavior more predictable and getting them to bite is the key to a successful day on the water.

There are still times when bass will exploit opportunities to feed on prey in shallow water.  Sunrise and sunset remain opportune times for bass to feed shallow.  However, the feeding period is short lived, making the window of opportunity for anglers also small.  On lakes in the Midwest, catch rates remain the highest in deep water near cover.  Lake of the Ozarks is a great example of bass positioning close to cover while remaining near the thermocline. 

The most consistent bass anglers on Lake of the Ozarks, and similar waters, catch bass near 25 feet depths and close to cover.  The thermocline is close to this depth throughout the summer.  Lake of the Ozarks has very little natural cover in the lake and brush piles are the most popular cover.  The most successful anglers have planted brush piles and know their exact locations.  The most productive brush piles are submerged at the thermocline depth and near areas close to bottom changes - bluffs changing to broken rock, broken rock to pea gravel or main and secondary points.

On Table Rock Lake summer time bass fishing is productive presenting jigs and spoons to suspended Spotted (Kentucky) Bass.  These bass will suspend at depths of 50 feet or more and again near cover.  Table Rock Lake has an abundance of submerged trees left behind while the dam was being constructed and many of the trees tops sit near these depths.  Main lake points are quite productive and once the depth the bass are holding is determined, the pattern can be duplicated all over the lake.  Suspended bass in Table Rock Lake will move more that resident bass on Lake of the Ozarks but generally remain near the same depth when they change locations.  The bass will follow a food source when they must and locating shad will alert anglers to the bass’ location.

Bass located on or near the bottom during the summer are susceptible to being caught when anglers slowly drag jigs and worms through the cover that is close to the same depth as the thermocline.  Another productive technique is slow rolling a dark colored, single bladed spinnerbait in the same areas.  The key to the spinnerbait presentation is moving is just fast enough to keep the blade spinning.  In addition, many times bouncing a spinnerbait just a few inches off the bottom during the retrieve can produce big summer time bass. 

For anglers who prefer throwing a crankbait, bass can be caught as well.  Deep diving baits in dark colors have caught a fair share of summer time bass.  Deep divers matched with 10 pound test line are ideal because the lighter line allows the crankbait to reach its maximum depth.  Fluorocarbon lines will allow baits to dive deeper because they sink where monofilament lines will float.  The major drawback to this technique is when the baits get snagged deep in the cover and the light lines breaks off.

Dark colored crankbaits are sometimes difficult to find.  To solve this problem many anglers will simply paint a crankbait black.  A simple way of doing this is to remove the hooks and split rings, hold the lure by the rear hook attachment with pliers and spray paint the entire bait.  Lightly scuffing it with sandpaper will help the new paint better adhere to the bait.

When searching for bottom cover the Carolina rig is ideal because the heavy sinker allows you to feel the bottom composition.  When the sinker comes through brush and wood cover it is easy to distinguish it from rock or mud.  In addition, the Carolina rig is the perfect technique to cover a lot of water, using soft plastic lures, close to the bottom. 

Using these techniques will help anglers locate bass positioned in deep water.  It goes without saying that locating bass is the key to a productive day on the water.  Once you locate areas likely to hold deep water bass, use a variety of lures to entice them to bite and fish the area with determination.  The resident bass do not move often and a high percentage area will replenish when some are removed.
When Choosing Fishing Line - Things to Consider
by Marc Rogers
When choosing line anglers are bombarded with enormous amounts of information from manufacturers.  Line packaging lists many features and specifications of each product.  The information can be overwhelming to anglers and it seems there are so many different lines available, finding an all-purpose line is nearly impossible.  Fishing lines made for specific purposes are here to stay.

The four major categories of line available are monofilament, co-polymer, braid and fluorocarbon.  All four have advantages and disadvantages for use by anglers.  With these different qualities comes a variety of prices from inexpensive to very expensive.

Monofilament lines have been available for several decades. It was one of the first lines made of nylon.  As the name implies, it is a single strand of nylon material extruded into a thin line for fishing applications.  Monofilament line is buoyant making it a good choice for topwater applications.  The line will float on the water and reduce the downward pull on the lure.  This reduction allows topwater lures to ride higher on the surface.

Monofilament line has more stretch than most fishing lines available today.  Once monofilament line gets wet, it begins absorbing water, further adding to its stretch.  There are times when line stretch can benefit an angler but modern rods, now built for specific applications, have reduced the need for lines with stretch.  Crankbait anglers benefit from line stretch allowing the fish to get a better hold on the lure before anglers set the hook.  However, modern crankbait specific rods have flexible tips and compensate for the lack of line stretch.  In addition, the floating characteristics of monofilament reduced the depths anglers could reach with crankbaits.

Line memory is another reason anglers shy away from monofilament lines.  Once spooled onto a reel it will retain the tight coils of the reel spool, thus reducing the casting distance.  Casting distance is not the only drawback to using monofilament.  When setting the hook, the line has to be fully stretched, removing the coils, before pressure is applied at the business end of the line.  In addition, when monofilament is used on spinning reels, anglers risk loops being added to their reel spool, which can cause terrible tangles and knots on the next cast. 

Co-polymer lines are made of two or more strands of nylon monomers combined during the manufacturing process.  By adding more than one material, line manufacturers enhance the benefits a line offers to anglers. 

Co-polymer lines are more abrasion resistant and stretch less than monofilament.  They are also less buoyant and generally are smaller in diameter.  Co-polymer line is still effective for use with topwater lures but being less buoyant allows crankbaits anglers to reach depths not available to anglers using monofilament line.

One of the greatest benefits of co-polymer line over monofilament is the added abrasion resistance.  For bottom bouncing lures, rocks and submerged cover will weaken line as it rubs and nicks the line.  This blend of nylon materials have made affordable lines that hold up better than monofilament.  Co-polymer lines, which are very resistant to abrasion, do have more line memory than those less resistant.  They are stiffer and this characteristic is more evident when used in cold temperatures.

Braided lines offer great line strength in a small diameter.  Many manufactures have braided lines that are the diameter of 10-pound test monofilament but offer strength equal to 50-pound test or greater.  Braided lines are ideal for fishing lures in heavy cover because of their added strength and abrasion resistance.

Braided lines can cut through vegetation instead of it wrapping around the line as it often does on monofilament and co-polymer.   Anglers in Florida where vegetation is heavy above and below the water surface, many time prefer braided line.  Braided line if very abrasion resistant, almost zero stretch and has little memory.  All great characteristics for a line used for flipping and pitching into heavy cover.

Due to the abrasion resistance of braided line, many anglers use braid for main line when Carolina Rigging soft plastic lures.  With a leader of monofilament or co-polymer, if the lure hangs in cover, the leader will break prior to the main line breaking, saving sinker, beads and swivel.

Braided line is harder on equipment.  Many line guides will wear more rapidly when using braided line.  However, modern line guides are manufactured with braided line in mind and hold up well to its added wear.  In addition, braided line will spool more loosely on a reel.  This can create a learning curve for anglers using it for the first time on level wind reels and it does not perform as well on spinning reels.

Fluorocarbon line began it rises in popularity in the early 21st century.  One of the best selling points of fluorocarbon line was its “near invisible” characteristic.  In addition, fluorocarbon line exhibits abrasion resistance, and low memory.

Fluorocarbon line offers benefits for crankbait anglers.  The line sinks allowing crankbaits to reach maximum depths and the line diameter of fluorocarbon is smaller than both monofilament and co-polymer lines.  For shaky head and drop-shot presentations, fluorocarbon line offers greater sensitivity than both monofilament and co-polymer line.  When presenting lures in deep water the lack of stretch and added sensitivity fluorocarbon line offers is unmatched.

When choosing a line it is best to do so with lure offering in mind.  Lighter – smaller diameter – lines will allow better lure action while heavier – larger diameter – lines reduce lure action.  Limp line will also allow for better lure action.  Cover will damage less abrasion resistant line, especially close to where the line ties to the lure or hook.  Monofilament floats and is good for topwater application while fluorocarbon line sinks making it ideal for crankbaits and deep-water presentations.

Regardless of the line anglers choose, each is a compromise if used for every situation.  If I were going to use just one type of line for every situation, my choice would be a co-polymer line.  However, I have different rod/reels equipped with all of the four major categories to be prepared for each lure presentation encountered.

Note: When line is stored on a reel or on the manufacturers spool, ultraviolet light (sunlight) and heat breakdown most types of fishing line. It is best to store fishing line in a dark, room temperature area.

Prespawn Bass Fishing in Ozark Lakes

 Prespawn Bass Fishing in Ozark Lakes
 by Marc Rogers

The word prespawn creates many different thoughts in the minds of bass anglers. These thoughts depend on where anglers chase their prey, as this seasonal stage is different in each region of North America. Water temperature and hours of sunlight are the most dominating factors causing bass to reach the prespawn stage.

As spring approaches, the air temperatures begin reaching into the 70-degree range and this triggers many anglers to hit their favorite waters. However, air temperatures change rapidly, water temperatures require many days of warm air and sunlight to increase several degrees.  Water temperatures also cool rapidly when the sun goes down at night. Warm air and south winds are the ideal situation to warm a body of water. These two factors alone will jump-start the prespawn activity.

When the water reaches the 50-degree range, a lot of activity begins below the water’s surface. The bass begin leaving their deep-water haunts that sustained them throughout the winter and migrate to shallower water. During the bass’ first movements, they generally will not move to the surface or even shallow flats, but begin staging in deep water closely located near shallow water. Beautiful days of sunshine and warm temperatures cause the water to creep into the 50-degree range and trigger anglers to flock to the water. Many times anglers fail to remember the changes under the water do not react to the beautiful spring weather as quickly as the world above the water.

Derek Vahey, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member and a regular on Ozark lakes, says, “I always try to locate water slightly stained and a few degrees warmer than the majority of the lake when locating prespawn bass. I really like the ends of docks sitting close to or over deep channel swings with shallow banks at the back of the docks. These areas are ideal for presenting suspended jerkbaits and finesse jigs.”

When putting together a pattern for prespawn bass it is best to pattern the migration routes instead of particular lures. Anglers should locate creek channels, fencerows, roadbeds and extended points as these are often what bass use as highways to the spawning areas. Prespawn bass activity is likely to be similar for all bass as they move from deep water to the staging areas near shallow water. When the bass’ location is discovered along these migration routes, most of the bass will be in these areas. 

Bass are more aggressive that many anglers believe during the prespawn. They will not chase lures like in the summer months but will strike moving baits. Aaron Hunter, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, reports, “I have found it easier to catch bass that are moving from deep water to shallow water than the other way around. When bass move from deep to shallow they are starting to get aggressive enough to strike slow moving crankbaits and swimming jigs.”  Hunter says, “When a cold front passes through and causes the bass to move deeper during the prespawn, fishing can get tough. I really have to slow down when this happens.”

During the prespawn, Hunter says, “I have found that slow moving, deep diving crankbaits are ideal for locating bass. I can cover a lot of water with a crankbaits in a short time, even when exhibiting a slow retrieve. Matching the color of the lure to local baitfish colors is often productive.”  In addition, crawdad colors are ideal as bass seek out the slow moving crustaceans for their high protein food source.

Lipless crankbaits are good lures for locating deep bass because anglers can make long casts and count down the lure to a desired depth before starting a retrieve. A lipless crankbaits slowly retrieved along the bottom are big bass lures. Many times these lures are best with a slow lift-and-fall retrieve and allowed to lightly make contact the bottom on the fall.

Once active bass have been caught using crankbaits, jigs are another productive lure for prespawn bass. Jigs can be slowly crawled along the bottom to mimic a crawdad and allows bass more time to strike the lure than crankbaits. A Natural color is best for stained to clear water, but when dingy water is encountered, dark colors like black/blue are quite productive.

Suspending and deep diving jerkbaits are another option for locating prespawn bass. The deep diving models should be presented with a slow retrieve like a crankbait. In addition, these deep divers can suspend at the greater depths to keep the lure in front of the bass longer.  When the bass are not deep, a suspending jerkbait is a key to many big, prespawn bass taken. Both jerkbaits models are very productive when left sitting still in the water column for a long period. Vahey reports, “Most of the time I have better luck with shallow running, suspending jerkbaits in the afternoon when fishing prespawn conditions. I believe this is due to the water warming as the day progresses.”

Bass in the prespawn stage have a much smaller strike zone than in the warmer months. Slow moving lures, presented in the strike zone, create some very big stringers of bass in the early spring.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fishing the Courtois Creek

The middle of March is the beginning of some of the best smallmouth bass fishing Missouri has to offer on this overlooked creek. Several outfitters service the Courtois Creek and some of the best areas to fish are between the access at Berryman Road and the confluence of the Courtois and Huzzah Creeks.

The Courtois Creek is floatable above the Berryman access but not a lot of water is available during the dry seasons. I have floated from Brazil access to Berryman in one day in January several years ago. It is a long float for this time of year due to limited daylight hours and my partner and I did finish the last mile in the dark. If you float during the cold season, you must be prepared for the conditions. In case you get wet, a dry change of clothes and the ability to build a fire are essenitial.

Through trial and error, I have found the best float fishing on the Courtois Creek is from the Berryman access to Bass River Resort. If you rent a canoe from the resort, they will take you to Berryman and you can float back to your vehicle parked at the resort. This float is approximately 11 miles of stream but if you would like a shorter trip they is another access they will put in that is approximately 6 miles of stream. The shorter trip access is called Blunt Road Access - sometimes called Misty Valley due to an old outfitter that is no longer in business here.

From Berryman Road Access to the Huzzah Creek there are miles of clear water filled with Smallmouth Bass, Goggle-eye, Largemouth Bass and Spotted bass that do not receive a lot of fishing pressure. The best time to fish this water is during the spring and fall – before and after the traditional float trip season. The Courtois Creek receives a lot of float trip traffic and the waterway can get crowded on the weekends. If you do fish the creek in the summer months try to do so during the middle of the week for less traffic.

The water flow in the creek is gentle and suitable for most people regardless of experience in operating a canoe. As the creek meanders through the valley there are a few places along the way that can be tricky to navigate. A couple of sharp turns and narrow passages create some faster moving water but still things a novice can handle. The beauty of this area is the water is clear and only is stained during rainy conditions. There majority of the stream is not much deeper that five feet with a several deep holes along the way.

Recommended fishing tackle for an outing on this stream is light to medium action rod and reels. Rod length is best at no greater than six feet due to tight cover requiring short casts. My choice is a five and one half foot pistol grip casting rod with a high-speed reel. In addition, I do carry a medium action-spinning outfit for ease of casting lighter offerings.

When floating a stream always keep your rods stored inside and below the top of your watercraft. Many times, you will travel under low-lying overhead cover that can snag your rods and pull them from the canoe or boat. If not pulled from the boat, rods may hit the occupants when the pull loose from the snag or hit an occupant.

A small tackle boxe filled with soft-plastic lures, weedless jigs, spinnerbaits, topwater (including buzzbaits) and shallow-running crankbaits complete the ideal lure assortment for a day -long outing on the Courtois Creek. Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits with a chartreuse skirt are very effective on smallmouth bass. The other lures are best in natural colors with jigs and soft-plastics in green pumpkin and crawfish. My choice for topwater and crankbaits is natural shad colors.

Soft-plastic lures presented with a football shaky head offer anglers a snag resistant, very effective lure. The screw lock keeper holds plastic lures securely to the head as well as covering the hook point creating a weedless offering. Football shaped jig heads reduce the chance of your lure to become wedged in the rock bottom of the stream. Most soft plastic lures work well on this type of jig head but the stream bass generally prefer a crawfish imitator in natural colors. The jig head also helps keep a crawfish lure in a “pinchers up” position; this is the defensive position of a crawfish. Bottom bouncing lures are effective any time of year and water temperture.

Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices from mid-spring until late fall. Chartreuse skirts are always my color choice with nickle, willowleaf blades. Chartreuse, it seems, attracts violent stirkes from smallmouth bass. Willowleaf spinnerbaits blades create less lift when retreived and lift is something not necessary in these shallow water streams.

Topwater poppers and chuggers in natural color patterns generate intense stirkes from all three species of bass during the warmer seasons. Your assortment of these lures should include the Storm Chug-Bug, Storm Baby Chug-Bug and the Rebel Pop-R in shad color patterns.

Shallow running crankbaits can be effective at times but are more difficult to present in the smaller streams. If used, I suggest it done so in the deeper and slower moving waters. Deep water is relative to the surrounding water and 5 feet is deep in the Courtois Creek. A shad imitating crankbait running 1-2 feet below the surface will entice bass to come up from deeper water to attack the offering.

After you set out on your fishing adventure floating a small stream remember to let the fish tell you what they want that day. Use this as a guide for lure choices but do not be afraid to experienment with other lures and presentations. The bass in the Courtois Creek are generally willing to entertain you all day, but I have had days when it seems nothing could make them bite.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Locating Bass Fishing Areas

Anglers of all skill levels are constantly in search of productive fishing areas and getting the maximum reward for their efforts. Fishing areas that have the ability to hold bass for extended periods will not hold feeding bass throughout an entire day of fishing. The bass that use the area as their home will only feed at certain times during a day. Successful anglers are able to locate the areas where bass live and determine the times they feed.

The first step in this process is to locate areas where bass reside most of the time. While bass are caught shallow at anytime, they seldom reside in shallow water for an extended period. Therefore, deep-water bass are more predictable when it comes to locating them. Deep water is a relative term and bass holding in deep water are affected by the thermocline when it is present. Lowland lakes deep- water holding areas are much shallower than deep-water hideouts highland lakes.

Locating bass fishing areas is a seasonal approach. During the summer and winter, bass generally live in deeper areas. Spawning bass will hold in shallow water for longer periods to complete the spawning cycle. In the fall, bass will scatter more than other seasons and is the most frustrating season for some anglers. Some will still be holding in deep water while others have already made the move to shallow areas to chase schools shad.

Isolated, submerged cover will concentrate bass better than a lot of scattered cover in the similar areas. They will sometimes use this cover for ambush points to attack prey that venture close to the cover. However, bass will also wonder outside the cover to chase unsuspecting prey. In addition, sometimes bass will use only one part of the cover more than to ambush prey for reasons not evident to anglers. When presenting lures to cover, anglers should do so from all available directions as well as over the top and through the center of the cover.

When locating bass fishing areas, Midwest Fishing Tackle Staff Member, Aaron Hunter reports “Main and secondary points are always my first stop. If I can find cover located on these points I target that cover.” Regardless of the season and water temperatures, Hunter says, “Points always have the ability to hold bass. Points are like highways for bass to travel from deep to shallow water. The seasons do not matter, when bass have deep water close to points that have shallow banks, bass will be close by.”

When choosing lures offer the bass a variety until they indicate what they prefer. Do not limit lure selection due to cover you are fishing. Many anglers use only Texas rigged plastics and jigs for fishing cover. Crankbaits are one example of lures effective for covering a lot of water and are effective when fishing brushy cover. The crankbait bill will somewhat protect the hooks when retreived and are better at getting through cover than many anglers realize.

Deep-diving crankbaits on ten-pound test florocarbon line is an effective technique to find isolated cover on points. The lures will reach depths of 20-feet or more and contact the available cover giving away its location on the bottom. When crankbaits deflect off the cover, they will draw a reaction strike from nearby bass.

Carolina rigged plastics are another way to cover water quickly and locate the available bottom cover. The heavy sinkers allow anglers to distinguish between rock and wood cover. Slowly dragging a Carolina rigged soft plastic will draw strikes from lethargic bass that will not take a fast moving crankbait.

Once productive cover is located jigs and Texas rigged plastics are a great technique to slowly pick apart of piece of cover. The slow moving lures often aggravate bass into striking because they want to chase off or kill the lure.

Because bass are not always feeding, the second key to getting the most from these areas is to be fishing them at the time the bass decide to feed. Many productive areas have been abandoned by anglers because they determined the bass were not present when the bass were not feeding during the time the angler was there. It is best to have located a few potential areas close to each other and rotate between them throughout the day. This increases the chances you will be on at least one of them when the bass decide to feed. Aaron Hunter says, “I rotate between a few spots throughout each day on the water. Bass do not always feed at the same time on each spot and I feel I have more opportunities each day by doing this. Also, I can still get reaction strikes from bass that are not actively feeding.”

To better your chances of catching bass pick a few areas and patiently present lures to all sides and in the middle of the available cover. Rotate between these areas during your fishing time and visit each several times throughout the day.