“I’ve still got a long way to go but here’s a short explanation of a few of the things that have made me a better bass fisherman over the last few years. I wrote the following as a response to the question “how do you get better at fishing” in the GON forum and thought I would share it on my blog”.
Well, if you exclude time on the water which is by far the most important and just count that as a given the second most important factor in getting better for me is location. Without productive locations it’s just a waste of time. Here’s how I have gotten better with my bass fishing since changing from primarily fishing for stripers to targeting bass and competing in some local bass tournaments. I like competing because I know there are a lot of other folks that are just as passionate as I am about fishing and I like to compare my effort and skill level against theirs.
First off you need to locate the fish and sometimes that is as simple as watching the surface of the water and watching your graph. On Lake Lanier it’s all about structure most of the year. The spotted bass live in structure such as submerged brush piles, docks and dock structure as well as small submerged trees and venture out away from home for food. I watch the surface a lot and almost always find fish by site, whether it’s fish surfacing or birds diving. I also spend time driving around and marking structure itself and structure that holds fish. Sometimes that’s all I do, I don’t fish it till later but the more structure you’ve got marked, the more options you have for locations.
I’m kinda different than most folks when it comes to tackle. I have the ability to make my own so I can design things you can’t find in stores. A long time ago I read an article by KVD and in the article he talked about trusting your bait. He said that a lot of folks will buy a bait and use it once or twice and if it doesn’t work it sits in the box in a black hole. He said that a lot of folks won’t spend enough time to thoroughly work the bait, and I tend to agree. Just about anyone who has been in my boat and fishes with me knows that my tackle is a mess. I don’t usually use my tackle boxes as much as I fish out of bags. Usually I have a game plan and put the baits I want to use for the day in a bag. I spend time with these baits, sometimes all day. I’ll use different patterns at different depths, speeds and presentations. I’ll use them in different seasons too.
Another thing that helps is finding baits and techniques that work that I haven’t used before and using them till I feel confident that I can catch fish with it. A good example is the dropshot for my wife and I. We’ve used the dropshot technique before, but only on rare occasions with minimal success. This past summer we spent days and days on the lake doing nothing but working on the dropshot around structure and now I feel confident that we can catch fish with it. Same with a jerkbait, I knew that the jerkbait was working good in the spring a few years back so made some jerkbaits and forced myself to learn and use the jerkbait till I felt comfortable with it and caught fish with it. Right now we’re learning the shakey head and using it on every trip till we feel confident with that, then it’s on to something else that is new to us.
Finally, I like to think outside the box. I like to try new things, new color combinations and tackle catches my eye. I think about tackle that has been proven to be successful and find variations of that to try. I’m not afraid to go out for a day and use nothing but new stuff that I’ve never tried before. I don’t get caught up in using what I know works when I’m trying new things and failing. You have to have the patience and the dedication to stick it out and suffer through the bad days to get to the good days with new tackle and new techniques.
I used to be a coach and competitor for a Navy marathon team and one of the most basic questions runners would ask me is how to get better finishing times.
This is my philosophy:
“The only way to improve yourself is to push yourself into an uncomfortable zone to the point it becomes comfortable. It’s the same with fishing, the only way to improve your fishing is to push yourself into the unkown until it becomes known”.
Well, it’s late October and what a month it’s been for us so far. I’m primarily using a topwater popper and the Shakey Head for bass and as a bonus I’m finding surfacing schools of stripers eager to hit the same topwater bait the bass are keying on. It’s been weird because one day I can find stripers feeding on the surface and the next day they are gone but the bass are hitting the surface baits. The stripers are moving around in and out of the creek but being in the right place at the right time is required to get them. You have to have a keen eye and watch the surface like a hawk this time of year. The fish will give themselves away but in the case of stripers, they are moving around so you have to get to them quick when they surface. Having a boat with a big motor on the back has helped us get to where the stripers are surfacing a lot quicker and we’ve been able to pick a few off before they move on.
More specifically the topwater pattern that I’m using is more of a waking pattern than a popping or splashing pattern. I’m using a popping bait but I’m only popping it a couple of times to get the fishes attention before I lower the rod tip and start a slow wake back to the boat. The wake itself is what the bass and stripers are keying in on. The reason for this is because there are small groups or single 2-4 inch bluebacks roaming the surface right now and the fish are keying in on the ripple lines the bluebacks are leaving. They just follow the trail of ripple lines right to the fish, or in this case, my popper. This is the second year I’ve using my translucent emerald popper on our fall surface fish and the translucent color seems to be a color that can fool these fish. Often times if they miss on the first strike, they come right back to it. It takes some patience and practice to leave the bait alone until you feel the fish but if they miss on the first attempt, if you leave the bait in the strike zone most of the time you can expect another strike with just a small twitch or pop of the bait. Here’s a picture of the emerald popper.
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Note: A lot of folks have asked if I can make these baits to sell and I would like to but the blanks are very hard to get right now and my supply has dwindled to just a few blanks.
Here’s a good example of the way I’m working my bait and a striper following the wake back to the boat before the strike. You can expand the size of the video and see the striper following the bait.
If I can’t find the stripers, I’m using the same topwater popper technique over points and brush to get a few nice bass. The brush pile bass are roaming around a watching the surface for bluebacks so just waking the bait over fish on a brush pile works pretty good right now. Also, points are another good location for bass right now as the fish seem to be cruising up and down the drop-offs and shallow in search of bluebacks. That brings me to my next successful pattern which is the Shakey Head. I had been using the Shakey Head primarily in the back of the creek and catching some smaller fish but I decided to put it to work out further towards the mouth of the creek and beyond and it’s starting to yield some bigger fish. Basically I’m just using a Watermelon Trick worm on rocky points and outcroppings and also around deeper docks with natural rock near. You’ve gotta work it slow because the bite is soft right now. Here’s a picture of the worm and a nice bass from the weekend.
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So there are 2 patterns that should yield a few fish this fall and remember to always keep your topwater handy and watch the surface for both stripers and bass.
Here’s a few more pictures and videos from the month. Note: The last video is not for the squeamish but for you guys that like to see hooks in fingers, this ones for you. I was releasing a bass and caught a treble to the thumb with the fish attached. I had to remove the hook from the fish and my finger. Enjoy!
I hadn’t been out in the morning all week so I decided to get out yesterday morning and take a peek at the topwater situation. It still isn’t quite ripe yet but there are some bass hitting the surface in pretty good numbers. If it’s like last year, a lot of small fish will be hitting early in the topwater season and as we get into the cooler days of fall the big guys will start surfacing more and more. Right now, for me the topwater bite is kinda subtle. They aren’t hammering it on the surface so I’ve been just popping the popper a few times and then creating a wake and then a few more pops and more wake.
I caught as many waking the bait as popping it this morning and I probably caught somewhere between 10-15 fish with maybe 5-6 keepers and 2 small stripers as well. I only had a few minutes of battery power this morning but I made a little video of how I’m working the bait and a couple of fish as well as some keeper pics.
I’ve been doing a good bit of fishing this week, both stripers and bass. For the stripers, it’s pretty short and sweet. I’ve been running out over deep water on the south end around mid day and it hasn’t taken long to find a few fish. Once I find a few suspended fish on the sonar I drop a chrome Ben Parker Magnum Spoon and get it going up and down. I think the flash of the spoon on sunny days attracts more fish and pretty soon you have a whole school under the boat wondering what all the flashing is about. Then they’ll all get worked up swimming up and down the water column trying to find the bait making all the flash and then they start hammering the spoon. That’s pretty much the way it goes down right now. Find the stripers over deep water, drop the big spoon through the fish, reel up and repeat till one hammers it then hang on and enjoy the ride.
For the bass, it’s been a little more complicated but you can catch a few nice ones if you have patience and fish the right areas. I started the week on the south end trying to find a good early morning bass pattern and after playing with the finicky suspended fish over my brush piles I started looking for shallow fish. I had pretty good luck with a craw on the shaky head for bigger fish but I probably missed more fish than I caught on the shaky head. I made my shaky heads jigs in the shop and I didn’t use a wider gap hook which cost me some fish. Early in the week I was throwing the crankbait but not getting a whole bunch but on Friday my partner and I fished up on the north end of the lake so I hit my crankbait holes up there and it was absolutely ripe for crankbaits on shallow rocks. The fish were running threads up into the shallows and whacking them right on the bank very early in the morning. Several times we saw bass pushing bait in less than a foot of water so hitting them shallow with the cranks was the ticket. As the day progressed a lot of the fish were backing off the shallows but you could still hit a few cruising the rocks during the afternoon. Our biggest fish came in a couple feet of water around 1pm and we caught a few more nice fish after lunch on both days. I did the unthinkable and didn’t clear the scuffed up flouro after I wrapped it around a dock cable. Two casts later I hooked a good one and the line broke right at the scuffed up area. It was a heart breaker but I probably won’t make that mistake again.
Today we fished the Shriners bass tournament out of Little Hall and they had a great turn out of around 40+ boats to raise money for the Shriners Children’s Hospital. I think we finished in 7th place with 11.88 and I think the winners had around 16. We just missed big fish by a couple ounces. Both yesterday and today just about all of our fish came off cranks fished very shallow. Here’s a couple videos from yesterday and today and a couple pics from some afternoon striper spooning on Thursday.
This is a bait that I make in the shop and has been my “go to” crankbait for the last year or so. I did very well with it last winter and you can see the bait in several pictures and a few videos. It accounted for 3 of our best 5 tournament fish and 90% of the fish I caught over the 2 day stretch including our biggest on Friday and Saturday. I only had one in that size and pattern and it took a beating on the rocks for 2 days but hooked the biggest fish as usual.
The day after the tournament I made these so I’ll be a little better prepared next time.
Here are a few stripers we caught on the afternoon of 9-17-2015 while we were suppose to be doing some bass pre-fishing for the upcoming tournament. My partner Joey caught his first and second Lanier Stripers on the Ben Parker spoon.
Well, as most of you already know, I’ve been on the fish lately. I’ve been enjoying our resident creek stripers out at the mouth of the creek with my new Ben Parker spoons. A good friend brought a couple spoons with him a few weeks ago and I jumped in the boat with him for a day. I had never used a spoon that big before but it took all of about 2 minutes to figure it out. Basically, the way the spoon bite is working is to find the big schools of stripers and drop the big spoon through the fish and then just reel the spoon back up through the fish and hang on. The stripers are moving around inside and outside the creek and it’s no easy task to find them but when you do, it’s on!
As far as the bass bite is concerned, as I write this we are noticing more and more bass moving into the shallow water. The drop shot bite was very strong for the past month but now it’s starting to slow down a bit. The fish are still hanging around the deeper structure in a drop shot pattern but many of the fish are looking for swimming baits and not vertical baits. I think the pattern is getting ready to change a little and I believe were going to start catching more quality in the shallows. The topwater bite should be just around the corner if the fish follow the surface temps that are cooling. Right now the surface temps are still in the lower 80’s but once it hits the 70’s we should start seeing a great surface bite. Here are some pictures and videos from the last month including some very nice dropshot fish as well as some awesome striper videos. Enjoy!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a creek report so I thought I’d get ya’ll caught up. The creek is about as busy as it’s going to get right now. The boat traffic this past weekend was off the chain. I’ve never seen so much traffic in the creek. As far as fishing is concerned, get it done early or late. Some of my brush piles are right out near the creek channel where points come up shallow. There are plenty of bass holding in these areas but in order to target them this time of year you have to do it in off peak traffic hours or very early in the morning. The drop shot has still been our primary pattern right now but we can still find some nice fish in the back of the creek near a little deeper water. Lisa has been doing some fishing out of the kayak and doing pretty well around structure in the back of the creek. The fish are there and we’ve been seeing a lot of bass coming in and out of our cove feeding on the bream population. Here’s a couple videos and a few pictures from the last week of fishing.
I‘m thinking…and hoping that we have reached the apex of summer heat this month. The topwater bite has slowed to a crawl due to the rising surface temps so we’ve been concentrating on the drop shot bite of late. The drop shot is a finesse tactic and is something we’re still learning but Lisa and I have been fortunate enough to find a few fish and we’ve had some good success with it this summer. I first started exploring the drop shot tactic for spotted bass on Lake Lanier years ago after reading a few local fishing reports from a fella that goes by the name of “Lanier Jim”. There’s no doubt that he’s the best on Lanier at catching spotted bass in the summer months on the drop shot rig and after reading his reports and seeing some of his pictures I was intrigued.
My first experience with the drop shot came from live bait on a drop shot rig. Basically, with the drop shot tactic you’re using your electronics to locate fish while slowly moving above structure holding fish and when the fish show up on your sonar, you drop the drop shot rig down to them on the bottom. Often times we can see our drop shot rig on the sonar as it drops to the bottom. You can watch your bait and the fish in real time and some call it “video fishing”. Once I got used to catching fish on live spottail minnows I started using artificial worms and fluke type baits. The rig itself is pretty simple and is nothing more than a small in line hook 1-2 feet up from a small weight. My main line is 6lb XPS fluorocarbon with an 10-18 inch Sunline 8lb FC Sniper leader holding the weight and I paint my weights green. Mostly I’m using a 3/8 ounce teardrop type weight and in heavier wind I use a 1/2 ounce weight. The hooks are #2 VMC Spin Shots. My thought is to make the worm look like it’s jumping and dancing either close to or on the bottom without moving the drop shot weight as much as possible. Every once in a while I’ll pick up the weight and pull up an arms length and then let it drop. I’ll move and re-drop every few minutes. I’m not sure how important hooking the worm is but I hook mine up in the head vertically at an angle and in a fashion so when I pull up on it the whole worm will whip up. I don’t expose the point but it’s right at the top of the end of the worm. I believe the way you hook the worm determines the action you can put on it and I like the whipping action from the little 4 inch worm.
The idea is to keep the weight on the bottom while keeping the line tight and bouncing the rod tip slightly to make your bait on the hook dance in a suspended state. The bait can vary from live bait to artificials.
Probably the most important thing we’ve learned about the drop shot is location. These summer spotted bass on Lanier reside in the underwater structure such as brush piles or small timbers submerged in the 20-40 foot range and come out to forage for their meals. Some days they hold tight to the structure and other days they may range out onto flats or shallow rocks. Since I’ve gotten my new boat, I’ve been making trips to the lake in search of structure and brush piles that are holding fish to mark on my gps and fish. I’ve been concentrating my efforts to water depths between 20-35 ft. It seems like the summer bass like to hold at these depths if there is structure nearby to provide cover and safety. I posted a couple of videos below so you can see the drop shot technique and I included a few pics from some of our recent trips with the drop shot: