Using The Main Lake Option

It seems like just a couple months ago I was freezing my butt off dragging tiny swimbaits across the bottom of a ditch ledge at the speed of a 3 toed sloth and dreaming about the early summer topwater bite. Well, here we are, it’s early summer and the stop, pop n drop pattern is in full swing.

Last year about this time we were in a great spybait pattern but all in all the topwater was lacking. This year the spybait pattern hasn’t really took off but the topwater pattern is on fire and the popper is really showing out. Yesterday was one of those days that I could get the fish to school at every stop with the popper. A lot of times it’s just the rhythm and deep sounding popping noises that really get these summer bass worked up and yesterday the wind was just about perfect to fish the popper with success. There were a few places that the popper created enough surface disruption in dead calm water to create a strike and as the morning progressed it just got better and better. That’s another thing about these summer bass on a blueback lake; they know that the bluebacks like to come close to the surface on sunny days and once the sun gets up the gauntlet begins between the predator and prey.

Here’s a YouTube video I made yesterday. These were some of the fish I caught on the popper yesterday. I’m using a St Croix 7’1” Bass X spinning rod with a Penn Fierce III loaded with 7lb flouro.

This week was a little different for me and for a few reasons. This time of year I would be doing a lot more spybait and drop shot but this week I wanted to see if I could get a 5+ pounder for a replica wall mount. I want to do it on the popper so that makes it a bit harder. I know there are bigger profile baits out there right now that I could use and more than likely get the job done rather quickly but I want to do it on something I created so that makes it a bit tougher. I’ve mainly been fishing the main lake because of the water clarity and the boat traffic in the creek but I also know my chances of a 5+ go way up out on the main lake right now. My strategy has been to fish the places I could throw the popper where there wasn’t too much wind. A light chop is perfect so I just looked for points and humps that either had no wind or just a little wind on them. When I start throwing the popper around a moderate to larger chop my hookup percentages go way down and it get’s much harder for the fish to pick up on it. This week I’ve had a pretty solid milk run and went up the west side of the main lake to past Vanns, hit the humps on the main lake and worked my way back down the east side of the main lake. I’m mainly fishing places to I have caught big fish in the past and my electronics doesn’t play a real large part of my fishing.

I’m kinda old school and I fish a lot by memory but I do use my electronics as a reference. Let’s face it, a lot of these bass are cruising around in wolf packs right now and just throwing a loud topwater bait near brush piles could induce some schooling action on your bait. I’m using my electronics as a reference to pinpoint the brush but I’m actually working my bait all around the brush and I only move in on the brush when I feel like the topwater chances are over and it’s time to pick up the drop shot. Since it’s getting hot out, this whole scenario of pulling up and fishing and area, plus drop shotting, may only last 10-15 minutes and then I’m moving on. A lot of times the bite heats up the best in the hottest part of the day and if you can stand the heat the rewards can be worth it. Running and gunning with plenty of cold water in the boat and body coverings are the norm from now till Sept.

I also have 2 different tactics I use for the topwater pattern; first is my “Bull in the China Closet” approach where I come into an area doing a lot of splashing and popping, creating as much disruption as possible. A lot of times this will trigger the fish to start feeding and if you watch some of my popper videos you’ll see that the popper actually triggers topwater schooling around the boat. That’s the bull in the china closet approach and it’s been working well lately. My other approach is my stealth approach which also works well. I use my little 4 inch walking bait for the stealth approach and it’s more about just creating a wake and letting the bass track the wake back to the source. Waking a bait is just about as effective as popping a bait right now but sometimes one approach may work better than the other so you just need to see what works. I know a lot of folks don’t have an Emerald Popper so a good replacement is the small chug bug. It is a great choice and you can generally get the same effect as the popper. To be honest, I’d probably be using the small chug bug a lot more if I wasn’t trying to get a magnum on the popper right now.

For me the spybait bite hasn’t really taken off and I’m pretty sure it’s because we don’t have a solid thermocline yet. The stratification process is still ongoing and there is still very good oxygen near the surface, hence good topwater. Once we have a more defined line at the top end of the thermocline at 20-25 feet the fish will be more inclined to feed deeper and that’s when the spybait will really take off. It’s just around the corner and I would definitely throw it every day I’m out right now under normal circumstances. I like the Duo Realis G-fix 80 in a few different patterns. You just have to play with the colors to see what works on any given day. Just remember to count it down and fish it slow and steady around brush and out on points.

Lastly is the drop shot. It’s starting to get heated up as these fish start to pile up around their summer homes. I’m seeing more and more fish in and around the brush out on the main lake and in the creek. Right now I’ve got Lanier Baits Blue Lily worm tied on and if I see fish underneath me, I’m dropping the blue lily right on their heads. More specifically, I’m easing my boat over the brush and dropping my bait right down into the middle of the brush and dead sticking the bait. Generally there will be a bigger fish deep in the brush so don’t be scared to drop right into the thick of it. That’s where the big girls hang out.

Here’s a few pictures from my week. I did catch a lot of smaller fish that didn’t make the highlights this week but out of the 3 morning I fished this week I probably caught 30-40 fish.

They call me “Stuck-on”.

Years and years ago I worked with a guy that acquired the nickname “Stuck-on” due to the fact that he had a hard time learning from his mistakes so they claimed he was stuck on stupid. Sometimes I feel like ole Stuck-on because this week I really got stuck on throwing the popper. In terms of percentages, this week the popper probably took up about 50% of my time on the water. I’d say the little white pearl walking bait came in a close second to the popper with the fluke and spybait coming in third and the anchor was the drop shot with Blue Lily worms. The fish pictured above was caught earlier this week on the drop shot with Blue Lily.

The problem with the popper was that it wasn’t very effective this week in terms of hook-up percentages. I have to say that I only caught maybe 30% of the fish that actually schooled or blew up on the popper this week. I just couldn’t believe the amount of big fish near misses or big fish coming unbuttoned on the popper. These big fish really made it frustrating to use the popper. Another thing that really bothered me was the amount of fish following the bait without reacting to it. I literally had to quit watching my retrieve at times because it was frustrating to have fish swimming around the popper without striking at it. I think they get interested in the holographic tensile on the trailing hook swaying back and forth on the retrieve and they just follow it. At any rate, it was frustrating to watch but I just kept after it and every once in a while I could get a fish to commit to the popper so I just kept throwing it over and over and over….

This week the creek was pretty crowded so I mainly focused on the main lake and the offshore stuff. Main lake points and humps held some good fish this week and I focused on topwater being my primary pattern but I did catch some good fish on a little holographic swimbait and the G-fix 80 spybait. When I was fishing brush I caught some very nice fish throwing the weightless fluke over the brush and then when I moved in over the brush I was dropping the Blue Lily drop shot right down into the brushpile and dead sticking the worm. The bite was so subtle sometimes the fish would be on the hook when I lifted the rod without any hint of a fish eating the worm. I will say this about the drop shot bite. When I caught one deep in the brush it was a good one.

Another bait I gotta brag on this week is the little pearl white walking bait. It was a great choice early in the morning or when it was cloudy. Every once in a while a good fish would come out of nowhere and just hammer the walking bait and usually they didn’t miss so the hook up rate was pretty good. The spybait bite hasn’t really kicked off good yet but I feel like it’s coming around very soon so I keep throwing it around suspended fish that aren’t coming up or after I’ve caught a topwater fish or two and the topwater bite dies off. I think the main lake offshore bite is a little better than the creek and far less crowded so if you haven’t checked out some of the points and humps on the main lake give it a try sometime. There’s a lot less pressure out there and there are some quality fish cruising around. Lake temps are around 80 degrees right now and the lake is down about 1.5 feet. Here’s a video of my top 5-6 baits this week and some pictures from the week.

Cast Away All In Crawfish Gumbo

A few months back I discovered a new resource for frozen peeled Louisiana crawfish tails so I’ve been stockpiling the deep freeze in the garage with bag after bag for cooking all kinds of delicious recipes with crawfish. Back when I lived south of New Orleans on the West Bank I immersed myself in the local culture and a local favorite comfort food of mine was gumbo. Everyone that was local had their own special style and gumbo recipes were passed down from generation to generation. I was fortunate enough to eat a few bowls of gumbo and taste a lot of different flavors while I was there. This gumbo recipe is one that I came up with after I discovered that making a roux wasn’t my thing so I was looking for the easy button. I started using a box of gumbo base instead of creating a roux on my own. I found that my gumbo was just as tasty with a good boxed base like “Zatarain’s Gumbo Base” or “Louisiana Fish Fry Products Gumbo Base”. Those are my two favorites. Gumbo is something that I like to serve as a appetizer if we are having a seafood dish for dinner or I like a hot bowl of gumbo if I’ve been fishing on a cold winter day and l’m looking for something to warm my core. Lisa and I can make a meal out of gumbo and sliced French bread.

Ingredients

******Here are a few different brands that really give my gumbo that Louisiana taste*******.

Thomas brand Ragin Cajun Andouille Sausage in either medium or hot flavored.

Riceland brand Louisiana crawfish tails

I like to add Gumbo File’ for flavor and thickening

One of my favorites for making my base

  • 2 boneless skinless breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds) cooked and cut into small pieces
  • 16 ounces of peeled crawfish tails or peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 pack Cajun-style andouille sausage (680g; about 8 links), sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 package Zatarain’s Gumbo Base
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper  
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen sliced okra,
  • 1/2 teaspoon filé powder, plus more as needed for serving

Cooking Directions

Here is how easy it is to make my Louisiana Gumbo… Bring water, Gumbo Base and oil to boil in large saucepot on medium heat, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in crawfish and/or shrimp, chicken, sausage, celery, bell pepper and onion; cover. Simmer additional 30 minutes or until desired thickness. Add File’ as needed for thickness.

Serving Suggestions

I’m pretty simple when it comes to a rice bed. Here’s my favorite rice for keeping it simple. You just add a bag to boiling water and wait about 10 minutes until the rice is done and ready to drain and serve.

I prefer sliced French bread and butter as something to go with the gumbo and often times the gumbo winds up on top of the bread. Enjoy!!

Cast Away French Bread Pudding with a Kentucky Bourbon Sauce

“This is a recipe that Lisa and I came up with after a recent visit to the Bourgeois Fishing Lodge in Louisiana. We came up with the idea after talking with one of the local cooks that prepared our food for us while we were staying at the lodge. She made a delicious French bread pudding with a bourbon sauce one night and while chatting with her, she gave us some good ideas for our own personal recipe”.  

 Prep Time  10 minutes

 Cook Time 50-55 minutes

 Soaking Time overnight if possible

 Total Time  1 hour

Bread Pudding Ingredients

  • 1 loaf French bread, broken into pieces (approximately 9 cups)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 ripe bananas (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons spoons ground cinnamon

Bourbon Sauce Ingredients

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream or whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon or 2 teaspoons brandy extract

Bread and Egg Mixture Prep

  • Pinch bread into 2 inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl Pour milk over bread, stirring to allow bread to soak up the milk.  Make sure to have enough milk to just cover the bread, being careful not to add too much milk or it will be too soupy. Thinly slice 2 bananas and fold into bread mixture.
  • In a separate bowl whisk the eggs then slowly whisk in the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and melted butter.
  • When thoroughly blended, pour this mixture over the bread mixture and gently fold together.
  • Pour combined mixture in a metal 13×9 baking pan.
  • Cover and refrigerate 2 hours minimum but preferably overnight.

Baking Instructions

  1. Bake at 350F degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the liquid has set and the top and sides begin to brown.
  2. The outside should be a little crisp and the inside will be soft and delicious.
  3. I like to let it cool uncovered for a few minutes before serving.

Bourbon Sauce

  1. Over low heat, melt the ¼ cup of butter in a small saucepan.
  2. Whisk in 1/2 cup of brown sugar and whipping cream and continue stirring while you heat the mixture over low heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in 1/4 cup Bourbon and continue cooking over low heat for about 2 minutes. Serve immediately. The sauce should be thickened, but thin enough to pour over the bread pudding when serving.

Serve

  1. Serve warm, drizzled with the warm Bourbon Sauce.
  2. Jim also likes to add a scoop of French vanilla ice cream

Sportsman’s Paradise Again

It’s truly is a “Sportsman’s Paradise” and once again south Louisiana didn’t disappoint. When I think back to the first time I experienced this little slice of heaven fishing along the Empire jetty, I had no idea what kind of profound effect the area would have on me. Years later I still come back to be immersed in the culture I’ve grown to love. I found my voice changing and I couldn’t help but revive the old Cajun slang that used to be as prevalent as my love for chicory coffee and a good bowl of hot gumbo. You can’t get that feeling anywhere but south Louisiana and it’s something that comes as natural as cheering at a baseball game or smiling at a newborn baby.

Since being stationed at Naval Air Station Belle Chase while in the Navy during the mid 90’s there was a history for me out in the marsh chasing redfish and speckled trout. We were old school back before GPS was a thing, and you had to learn the marsh by memory. When you were starting from scratch in a little 14 foot Montgomery Ward semi-v aluminum boat with a 25hp Johnson the learning process was a slow one. I’ll have to say this about my time in the Navy and being stationed in south Louisiana just after the height of the first Gulf War, it was pretty laid back. There was a golf course on base and golfing was one sport I love to play. Golf for me takes a close second to fishing and if there was a third it would have to be baseball or softball and playing on military softball leagues. The Naval Air Station had all that and much more. If I had a plug for the Navy it would be to join the Navy and request to be stationed at Belle Chase, Louisiana. It’s a tour you’ll never forget, especially if you are a sportsman and posses a profound love for fishing.

Bourgeois Fishing Charters

The best way to find anything these days is the internet and that’s how I ran across a fishing lodge by the name of Bourgeois Fishing Charters. I did my search on the internet by location and Bourgeois Fishing Charters was in the heart of where I wanted to go this time. I saw plenty of pictures on the website and when I called for more information the young lady on the other end of the line had the perfect voice to seal the deal. The lodge sounded first class and very accommodating, from the pictures I saw there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity. We set up reservations for our fishing trip a few weeks in advance and planned the trip during the week days. Our thinking was less traffic at the camp so we could slide in and out for a quick lagniappe. My French is rusty but something told me that the definition of lagniappe may be the word I’m looking for when describing Bourgeois Fishing Charters.

The Cajun Vista Lodge

As soon as we crossed the Huey P Long bridge and hit the West Bank I felt right at home. I knew the lodge was only a short distance away and we were going to be right on time for the first of many meals provided by the cooking staff at the lodge. Both Lisa and I were amazed there were no locked doors and no keys to your room. You didn’t need to worry about theft because it didn’t exist at the lodge. It was a gated lodge but also deep in the heart of a community where everybody knows everybody and not much goes on without somebody knowing about it. They provide a worry-free friendly atmosphere at the lodge. The lodge itself has a deep history, its actually a converted plantation style schoolhouse from years past and I’m sure it is the definition of a historic site. Most certainly the room we slept in was the room that many children from the area had received their education. We deduced each of the rooms in the long hallway was a classroom, you could almost hear children playing in the hall through the old transom windows above the tall doorways to our rooms. There were so many things to look at and absorb, just one trip of 48 hours isn’t enough time to experience it all. In addition to all the relics on the wall, you are greeted and meant to feel at home by a staff that is as authentic as the lodge itself. I haven’t even got to the fishing ……..

Captain Theophile Bourgeois IV

Lisa and I arrived on Wednesday evening, we had just enough time for dinner and a hot shower before bed. Thursday morning wake up was early, breakfast at 5:00am and fishing at 6:00am. It was starting to get daylight around 6am, we were launching for our first day of fishing so we really didn’t get a chance to take the lodge all in till after our first fishing trip. After the first fishing trip Lisa and I had a chance to relax on the screened in porch under ceiling fans that provided the perfect breeze. While we were relaxing with a cold drink a pickup truck pulled up just outside the porch and a bearded man with two younger boys jumped out and said hello. One of the boys was dressed in a baseball uniform and they looked like they could be headed to a little league ball game. The bearded man came in the screen door, walking directly over to where we were sitting with a smile on his face and introduced himself as Theophile Bourgeois or “TJ” for short. Now the pronunciation of his name is a little tricky and just as tricky as my French but the best way to describe it is ‘toe-feel’ ‘booj-waa’. Believe me, I’ve had to work on the pronunciation for the last 500 miles of our journey since leaving the lodge but I think I’ve got it down now. The funny part is that when TJ first introduced himself I didn’t make the connection that he was the owner until a few minutes into our conversation. He had an instant attractive personality and he had a way of making you feel right at home. I could tell right away the lodge was his pride and joy and his primary objective was to make Lisa and I a memory we wouldn’t forget. We told him that we had some fishing friends and it would be pretty cool for a few of our friends to come back again with us for a visit in the fall. TJ was more than happy to share some options including non-fishing activities for a few of the wives if they wanted something a little different than fishing during our next visit. We chatted about the delicious food and a little bit about the history of the lodge before we parted ways and enjoyed our evening meal. It’s not often you get to meet the owner of a lodge but just like everything else, he was as natural and authentic as the lodge itself. If you look up the definition of the French name “Bourgeois” you’ll find it to represent the working class.

The Food

Each meal was prepared by local folks and it didn’t take Lisa and I long to warm up to the cooking staff. Tammy prepared most of our meals while we were there and she also shared some of the local history for us as well. She also shared some tips from her personal cooking recipes and her bread pudding was the best bread pudding I’ve ever tasted. I believe I’d make that 10 hour drive again just for the bread pudding and good conversations about cooking with Tammy. Every meal was included in our package and we also had a sack lunch and drinks with our fishing trip. I can’t say enough about the meals, every one was delicious.

Shrimp pasta, crab cakes, glazed brussels sprouts and bread
French bread pudding with bananas and a bourbon sauce
Crawfish Etouffee with asparagus and rolls
Soft shelled crabs with jambalaya and green beans
Potato salad and gumbo

The Fishing

For me, fishing in the marsh is a little different than the occasional visitor to the area. One of the main reasons I picked the lodge that we picked is because it is in the same area that I used to roam some 25-30 years ago. I have some very fond memories of the area and I spent days and days in the marsh chasing redfish. If you’re reading this story in my blog I’ll invite you to read another fishing story in my blog called “Man Camp” . Man Camp will give you plenty of background into my history with the marsh and a fishing camp on a little island out in the marsh. This is where myself and some of my Navy friends spent many long weekends while in a Navy F/A-18 Squadron at a nearby air base. I was much younger then and I learned a lot about fishing during my time in Louisiana.

Our guide for the fishing was Steven, a local to the area and very knowledgeable when it came to the same areas I once used to fish. My memory of the area is fading and the marsh is constantly changing but I still recognized some of the old camps still standing after years and years of weather. Steven introduced us to the popping cork technique for redfish along the grass lines. In the past I used an older version of a popping cork for speckled trout but on my more recent trips we used moving stuff like spoons and swimbaits. Water in the marsh was pretty muddy from recent rains wind and tidal movement so we concentrated on shrimp tipped jigs under popping corks. It didn’t take long for Lisa and I to get the hang of throwing popping corks and we soon realized the redfish were right up against the grass. The closer you got the cork to the grass the better your chances to catch a redfish. Lisa started us off with the first sizable redfish but just as we were netting it the hook pulled and the redfish disappeared back into the muddy water. A little later Lisa and Steven saw a redfish tailing in a little pool so Lisa made a perfect cast into the pool. The redfish turned on Lisa’s popping cork and grabbed the shrimp, the fight was on and Lisa made sure this big redfish didn’t escape the net with a strong hook set. The bigger redfish have a very hard and bony mouth so a stout hookset is a must with a jig type hook. Lisa kept the fish under constant pressure and before long she was posing with her first redfish in six years.

It wasn’t long after Lisa caught her fish I was bringing in my first redfish in 2 years. They were both very nice fish and we spent the morning catching redfish and catfish. We moved around the marsh and fished many of the bays, ponds and lakes I used to fish years ago. We spent our morning talking with Steven and learning more about the Louisiana culture as well as Steven’s personal experiences growing up in the area. Steven was a trooper when it came to helping me find some of my old stomping grounds in the marsh. Things had changed dramatically after I left, especially after a few hurricanes.

I don’t know which I enjoyed more, running and gunning our way through the marsh or the conversation about the history of the lodge and the local seafood industry in the area. I was able to relive some of my adventures in the marsh once again as we watched the big shrimp boats come and go through the canals crisscrossing the marsh. My intention was to bring back a few larger filets for a recipe called “redfish on the half shell” and some smaller redfish filets for fried or blackened. We were blessed to achieve catching both larger and smaller redfish during our stay. I was able to put our catch in a cooler and the lodge had an ice house where you can ice down your catch until you get ready to leave. Our neighbors here at the lake house have never tried redfish on the half shell and some other Cajun delights so tomorrow, Memorial Day we are going to prepare dinner for them. Our dinner will consist of a Crawfish Gumbo, Redfish on the half shell, grilled butterflied Shrimp, grilled asparagus and for dessert, a Louisiana French Bread Pudding with a warm Bourbon sauce (Thanks Tammy).

All in all, TJ, Tammy, Steven and the rest of the staff at Bourgeois Fishing Charters made our stay very relaxing and enjoyable. They also came through in fulfilling my passion for chasing redfish in the marsh and helping me relive those special moments I had while living in Southern Louisiana.

Give them a shout if you want an authentic Cajun style fishing experience http://Bourgeois Fishing Charters. I can promise you, you’re going to love it.

The Mystery and the Thrill of Spring

If you’ve been on the lake lately and watched the surface, you’ve probably seen a little blueback skipping across the water with a large wake right behind it. The bass are like cats sometimes and play with their prey, slapping it in the air, coming back down disoriented so the fish can easily consume it upon landing. It usually ends with a big splash and another blueback has completed it’s purpose in life. I don’t know about y’all but I think some of these tackle companies need to develop a portable pacemaker that comes with each topwater lure purchase because some of these blow-ups and anticipated blow-ups have had my heart racing this spring.

For the past few weeks we’ve been experiencing the ups and downs of our spring topwater bite. It’s kinda been like a false season so far because the fish are on the top one day and relating to the bottom the next. You have to be prepared for that and use a variety of techniques. To give you an example, on Monday I hit the water at 8am and started hitting the points and humps with the topwater. It’s been my experience so far this spring that when I first approach a point or hump there is usually a topwater fish willing to bite provided they haven’t been pressured yet. I call those “green points” and I wrote an article some years ago about fishing the “green points” on Lanier. The term green points came from me describing the points that haven’t been touched by another boat and the fish are still “green” when it comes to committing to a topwater bait. Usually, they are subject to mistakes when they haven’t seen a lure in a few hours and pretty easy to catch. Sometimes the bass will be grouped up and schooling when they are green and sometimes it’s a crap shoot as whether you get a 2lb bass, a big 4-5lb bass, or a nice aggressive striper. Unfortunately, as the day progresses there are less and less green points and less and less opportunity for success unless you make the proper adjustments. On Monday I was able to capitalize on some surfacing fish on a point and I connected with a good fish on my little topwater walker by throwing into an area which the fish were schooling on some bluebacks. After boating the fish, I had to make some adjustments to get a second fish. First, there was no wind on the point so I ruled out big moving baits that they could easily see, plus the bait that they were feeding on was smaller 2-3 inch bluebacks so I was thinking of using my small swimbait but every fish I saw on the graph was either on the bottom or very close so I pulled out my shaky head rig. On my shaky head rig I’ve come to rely on the ElaZtech worms rather than the traditional Plastisol worms the fish have been seeing for years. In my opinion the fish hold the ElaZtech plastics longer than the harder plastisol and if you couple ElaZtech with salt the fish tend to swim away with it rather than shaking it and spitting it out. I also believe that sometimes you can rule out smaller fish by using bigger worms so for that reason I use a pretty beefy worm. Not long after I started throwing the worm I felt a few tugs and missed a bite but it gave me hope that they were interested. I threw back into the area with some shallower brush and before long I felt the soft spongy resistance of a fish slowly swimming away with the bait. I reeled down and set the hook on the fish and was rewarded with the fish pictured below in my left hand. The fish in my right hand was the one I caught on the topwater when I first pulled up and saw the surfacing fish.

After these two I went searching for more fish using the same two punch combination of topwater and then the worm on the bottom. I caught a few more fish with that method and lost another nice fish to the brush. I’m starting to see more fish coming from the shallower water and moving to the summer brush piles every day. This observation brings things like the drop shot and spybait into play but that is for another week down the road shortly. Right now the water temps are still solid in the upper 60’s and we desperately need some warmer stable weather and a pretty stable lake to get the topwater bite really going. I can remember a couple of years ago we had an algae bloom that pretty much destroyed the topwater bite and any activity on the surface. From what I understand the root cause of the algae bloom was from the large influx of fresh water being moved through the lake and the normal stratification did not occur as it usually does. When this happened the fish just went to the bottom and acted like it was the middle of winter when they do the majority of feeding on the bottom vs the top. It didn’t take me long to build a pattern on that and I had a phenomenal time with the shaky head on points and humps out on the main lake. I spent the better part of a month without much fishing in the creek but I found that I could catch better fish on the less pressured main lake. Such could be the case this year but things could be just the opposite as I have found that it’s impossible to predict what will happen down the road. The best advice I can give for any day on Lanier is to be prepared from top to bottom and understand the options vs conditions.

One other pattern I’d like to address and that is the weightless fluke bite. It’s been working pretty well over the past few weeks but for me it’s loosing it’s momentum and luster for the moment. That really doesn’t mean to put it away from the deck. I’ve found it to be a really viable option on the windy points when I can set the boat up wind with spot lock and make my casts down wind and let the fluke soak with the occasional double or triple twitch. I probably caught as many stripers as bass using this technique in the wind but it’s been an effective one nonetheless.

Last week Lisa and I went out for few hours and basically threw the fluke over brush and on a few points. We both used a different color fluke and they accounted for 10 of our 11 fish. I used a plain white pearl super fluke and Lisa used a super fluke with some pearl, flakes and a blue hue. The one Lisa used out fished the white pearl I was using and I believe it was because they hadn’t seen Lisa’s fluke as much as mine. It was a fun trip and the fish were obviously reacting well to the weightless fluke. Here’s a few pics from our trip.

Things kinda changed this week so I made an adjustment to the little Keitech instead of the fluke and that paid off. One of the reasons I started using the Keitech is because my friend Jimmy is retired and fishes the creek just about every day just like me. We fish many of the same spots only Jimmy feeds the fish a steady diet of flukes so I’ve given the fish a different option. Here’s a picture of my preferred rig this week.

It’s my old faithful, the 3.3 Keitech and the Damiki head. I did a little slow rolling over brush for a few good ones yesterday. I can’t brag enough about my little 7’ St Croix medium Triumph rod with a Penn Battle III and 6lb flouro. It’s been getting it done with some big stripers and bass this spring and it’s going to be my spybait rod in just a few short weeks. Here’s a video from yesterday and slow rolling the Damiki swimbait rig over brush.

Right now it’s all about options and I have 5 active rods on my deck including the ghost type walking bait, the emerald popper, a pearl white super fluke, a pearl 125 Sebile and some kind of shaky head option for the bottom fish if I see a trend of fish relating to the bottom instead of being suspended. We’ve had a lot of unstable weather over the past few weeks with fronts coming our way every 3-4 day but soon the fronts will run out of steam and high pressure with start to set up for longer periods of time. Topwater and the bait situation is often driven by by stable weather conditions running for multiple days in late spring. The water temps will soon be north of the 70 degree mark and the shad spawn will be in full swing for the bank beaters. The lake itself is more than a foot above full pool and on the rise. The corps is starting to move a little more water because of the most recent rains so lets hope the weather stabilizes for a while so the topwater will get back to normal.

The Goose in the Pot

It’s been about ten years now, ten years of watching nature at it’s best and at it’s worst. It all started several years ago when we purchased a little doublewide trailer on the lake and started using it for a weekend getaway from our main home which was 10 minutes away. My wife and I really enjoy fishing so buying a lake house with a dock for our boat was a no brainer and a mutual goal of ours to make it easier to fish and enjoy the lake. We really enjoyed the lake life and started making plans to live on the lake full time by building our dream home on the property. One of the main reasons we decided to live on the lake full time was due to the peaceful serenity of our little cove, appropriately named “Cast Away Cove”. Since making our purchase and spending time at the lake we’ve gotten to know our surroundings and our neighbors as well. Our little place is tucked back into a private little pocket that is out of the way of all the boat traffic and is only visited by the occasional fisherman if the water level is high enough to provide cover for the bass around our docks. Also, since making our purchase, we removed the old doublewide and built our permanent full time home on the property. Since our home is above the cove we made the best of the lake views and positioned our large living area bay windows to face the lake. We have an un obstructed view of the cove and the shoreline as well as 4 or 5 of the neighbors docks. Right away when we started making fishing trips from our dock to the creek we started noticing a few Canadian geese that seemed to be hanging around one of our neighbors dock like maybe the dock was their home. They were either on the dock or out in the water swimming around but always making the dock their focus while swimming about. Sometimes they would disappear for months at a time but they would always return sometime in late winter and stay until late spring. During the time that they stay around a neighbors dock we started noticing one particular goose sitting atop one of the large flower pots that the neighbors had sitting on a corner of the dock. At first we thought that the goose had taken ownership of the pot for territorial purposes but we soon realized that the goose was sitting atop a pile of eggs. We were baffled at first because our neighbors have a boat in their slip and occasionally use the boat but the mother goose never really seemed bothered by the neighbors comings and goings, she just kept right on sitting on the eggs. We’ve gotten to be good friends with our neighbors and they are of a mind to let nature take it’s course so they go on about their business of launching their boat around the pot and the nesting goose. She hasn’t been too fond of the neighbors comings and goings on the dock while she sits in the pot but she tolerates the traffic with an occasional squawk.

The remarkable thing about the whole process of nesting and hatching eggs is really ‘the whole process’. In the 9-10 years we’ve been here at the lake, we’ve watched it play out year after year, no two years have ever been the same when it comes to the outcome. What has been constant in the hatching of the eggs is the devotion of mother and father geese and not one year has gone by without mother goose sitting on those eggs through rain or shine for more than a month. She rarely leaves the pot and the male mate is always patrolling the area around the dock for intruders…. and there are intruders. Other geese would try and move in on the territory but the male mate is pretty big and usually takes care of business in short order, running any other geese out of the area. These geese don’t play either, they can fight to the death if one doesn’t relinquish and leave the area. From time to time a big Blue Heron might show up but is promptly run off by the male. I’ve also seen him go after our little Rat Terrier a few times when our terrier got close to the waters edge next to the dock.

The male that hangs around the female has a large neck and he gives me the big stink eye with those big black eyes every time I idle by their dock. They communicate through honking sounds and the male usually has a few low groining sounds when I go by. I’m sure it’s some kind of obscenity in goose language but I politely move on and he goes on about his day without incident. I’ve really been impressed over the years because out of all the years of watching these geese, they have never left the eggs until they either hatched or didn’t. There were years that they didn’t hatch, mostly because of the weather. If we got a real cold spell during the process there was a chance the eggs would get to cold and not hatch at all or in the case of last year, the eggs hatched but the goslings died shortly there after because the mother had smothered them during a bad storm. While she spends hour after hour and day after day on the pot she passes her time pecking away at the edge of the pot and slowly making the pot shorter. Over the last 10 years she has managed to chew the sides down a good 4-5 inches and if this keeps up the pot will dwindle to nothing in the next 4-5 years.

Two years ago we placed a small towel in the bottom of the pot to help with insulation the bottom of the pot and five of the eggs hatched after the mother removed one of the eggs from the pot and left it on the wood stained deck of the dock right next to the pot. I assumed the sixth egg was just too much for the pot so she removed it. It was pretty cool because all five eggs hatched the year and we had a group of seven geese around here for a while before five of the seven left the area, assuming they may have migrated with other geese during the migration periods here on the lake. This year she successfully hatched 4 out of five goslings and they are cruising around here as we speak.

The tragic part about this years hatching is that four of the five eggs hatched this spring but a fifth didn’t. We’re not for certain why the fifth didn’t hatch but I can say that the four that did hatch left the pot while she was still sitting on the fifth egg off and on waiting for it to hatch. Occasionally she would get off the pot and the four little hatchlings would try and jump out of the pot as we could see their little heads bobbing up and down inside the pot. Finally, three of the four vacated the pot while mom was walking around the pot but the fourth was smaller and really struggling to get out while mom was on and off the pot. We could tell the mother wanted to be with her new hatchlings but there was still one egg unhatched and one small hatchling that was really struggling inside the pot to get out. Finally the fourth made it out and left the dock to join the other three. Later we found out that another neighbor who was watching everything unfold with binoculars from her house said a small prayer for the fourth gosling to make it out and by golly the little one finally made it out and joined the rest of the little ones.

Once the little ones left the pot and entered the water for the first time, daddy goose quickly rounded them up and they swam away to another neighbors half submerged gangway that was directly in the warm sun. There the father goose and the four goslings rested at the waters edge of the gangway. Momma goose was still on the pot waiting for the fifth egg to hatch while she helplessly watched the other four of of her hatchlings on the gangway with daddy from afar. Perhaps she knew the fifth egg wasn’t going to hatch or perhaps she couldn’t stand watching the newborn goslings from afar anymore but whatever the reason she chose to leave the pot to be with her newborn goslings and leave the fifth egg unhatched in the cold morning air.

We watched to see if she would come back to the pot after joining the rest of her family but she never returned. Her, daddy and the four babies moved to another neighbors shoreline where mom and dad have spent the bulk of their time coddling the young ones. The goslings have a hearty appetite and eat constantly. The family wanders around the grass and weedy areas of our shoreline while the little ones graze on new grass and weed tops. As in past years I’m sure we’ll be visited by the family from time to time throughout the remainder of the spring and summer as we watch the small goslings grow into adulthood and leave the area by next winter only to see two geese reappear around the dock next February ready to start the cycle all over again.

It’s Time to “Pick Your Pattern”!!

This week started out slow but on Tuesday I was rewarded for efforts with my biggest spotted bass of the year, a 5.23 ounce beauty that I caught slow rolling a swimbait over brush just before giving up for the day and heading back to the house. It was my only fish of the day and I can say that I was totally satisfied with my day. I had the video camera in the boat and made a little video of the occasion…

On Wednesday I took my neighbor David out for a morning trip to see if we could find a few on docks and points. Once again it was a bit slow and we really didn’t have much wind to work with but we put together a decent morning with the shaky head and the weightless fluke. Here’s a nice fish David caught on a weightless fluke in front of a dock.

David had a good morning with the fluke and I was throwing the shaky head a getting a fish here and there. That evening I took Lisa out after work and she was able to catch a few on her favorite shaky head worm, “The Sweet Potato Pie”

On Thursday everything kinda changed for me. I have been throwing some topwater with no good results earlier in the week but on Thursday morning I felt like the topwater was going to work so I tied on an old spring favorite of mine, the translucent walking bait. I was trying to find the right chop in key areas like points and humps. I had the video camera in the boat and made a video of my first topwater action of 2021.,,

This morning, (Friday) I was back out looking for more topwater and found a little area with a light chop blowing over some brush so I set the boat upwind and started making casts down wind with the walking bait. My focus was bring the walking bait across the top of the brush to see if I could lure a fish up to the bait and it worked out to perfection. Here’s a video I made this morning that explains the process.,,

So that kinda gives you an idea of how my week has gone by and also it should give you an idea of how to approach the lake right now. Here’s one more video that I made to cover the baits I’ve been using this week….Water temps are in the mid to upper 60’s and the lake is just a few inches above full pool. This weekend should be a busy one on the lake so be safe and enjoy!!

Fishing on Faith

Call it what you will but this week it was all about “Fishing on Faith”. I think it was the dead of winter just a few short months back when I wrote an article about “Dropping on Faith” and I described the winter deep spoon bite. If you missed the article, the description I gave was about taking a chance and dropping your spoon down when there was nothing on the graph and having “faith” that fish will be there. If you look up the word “faith” in the dictionary, among a few other definitions, one in particular is described as “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.

This week is a short week because of a two day tournament this coming weekend. I’m done until Saturday morning when I make my first cast on the lake. This week I fished Monday through yesterday and I could tell that my knees and shoulders needed a rest. I’ve made so many casts in the last 3 days it’s time for a rest but the casts I made were productive casts this week. I have the luxury of fishing every day and with that I am able to stay on the fish and track their movements from one day to the next. Lot’s of times I can follow them by reading my sonar and seeing them beneath the boat or they may surface for a brief second and I can get an idea of what they are doing from the surface activity. I also possess the old school knowledge of reading the shoreline because there was a time in my past that reading shoreline was the best way to locate fish. All this is factored in when I made my decisions on where to fish and what to use. A few weeks ago my up front sonar bit the dust so I’ve been using my console sonar for double duty, moving it back and forth from the front to the back as I need it. Some may think that it’s problematic but to be perfectly honest, I’m not really using my sonar at all this time of year. If anything, the most I’m getting out of sonar is water temp and maybe a verification of depth, the rest is combination of mapping and reading the bank.

Right now the fish are determined; they are on a task right now that cannot be stopped. That’s what I kept telling myself when I’ve been fishing this week. This is the one time of year that the fish are very predictable in what they are doing and where they will be. Understanding that the fish are on a mission to spawn is half the battle, the other half is understanding where they will do it. If you know where they will do it, then you can backtrack to where they will be feeding before they do it and possibly run into one along the way. One of the variables this year is the water levels. They are down a few feet from previous years so what was good last year may not be good this year and that’s where the mapping comes in. My mapping can show contour and underwater features that I can’t necessarily see with my eyes reading the shoreline so that’s where the fishing on faith comes in. I’m positioning my boat at a certain depth while making a cast at a certain feature and trusting that the fish will be there. I’m totally relying on what I am seeing on the mapping and the fact that the fish will be there feeding up and nourishing those eggs. Right now the window for feeding fish is wide open for a lot of the day. Sometimes the window is small and they may only be feeding for a few hours a day but right now, in pre-spawn mode they are packing on the pounds for stored energy and egg growth so I have faith that they will be there. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s never a lock that there will be success but that’s where the second definition of faith comes in, which is a belief in God and being at peace with failure as well as success. Believe me, there is failure for sure but failure can be turned into success if failure is used as a tool for future success. By that, let me give you an example when it comes to fishing; Right now I am making several stops a day and if I continually fail to catch a fish at a certain location day after day, at some point I will quit wasting my time in that location and remove it from my list of stops. That’s what I mean about turning failure into future success, something was learned from the failure of not catching a fish in that location and I moved on to more fertile grounds. I may have moved on but I still ponder the reason why there were no fish in that location and if there was something inherent to the location that made it void of fish.

All that being said, I have found and slayed enough fish for the week and my satisfaction cup hath runneth over. Whatever happens from this point on is just extra gravy on my biscuit and I have reached the pinnacle of my spring fishing. I have moved from creek to creek this week and looked for the same contour with success at just about every stop so bring on the weekend and our chance at success in a field of the best. I’m going to once again rely on Faith as well as experience for my success this weekend. Water temps are in the upper 50’s and on the rise and the lake level is around a foot below full pool. Here’s the pictures from the week.

The Magic Dock

This week was a weird one in terms of finding fish and getting them to bite. One day it was the moving baits that worked and the next, they wouldn’t touch them. When it comes to early spring and pre-spawning fish, finding a pattern and finding the fish can be a grind. There are so many variables this time of year. Weather is probably the biggest variable this time of year because one day it could be sunny and 72 degrees and the next it could be 35 degrees and the north wind howling at 25mph. When it comes to spring you need to learn to fish the elements. When the wind is howling, take advantage of it and fish the wind blown banks and points with the moving stuff and when it isn’t blowing slow it down to the wormy slow stuff on the bottom. That’s my rule of thumb. Next is finding the fish. Look, they could be anywhere right now. They could still be hanging out in the deep water chasing the deep bait or they could be in less that 5 feet of water basking in the afternoon sun and crunching on crawfish.

A few weeks ago I was running a stretch of docks in the creek and I happened into an area of docks where I continually catch fish. At first I thought that maybe there was a series of brushpiles that someone had set out under and around their dock but I could never really find the brush. After fishing the area a few times I finally pinpointed an area where the fish always seemed to be. It was a lock for catching at least one fish when I came to this one dock. If I made a cast about 10 feet off the corner of this dock, I was going to catch a fish. A couple weeks ago I pulled up to the dock and made my first cast to the corner and immediately caught a fish, a nice 2.5lber so I threw back into the area and caught another on the very next cast. I released that fish and caught another, then another. On 4 consecutive casts I had a 10lb sack and needed one more for a limit. When I made my 5th cast I felt my little Ned worm stop as soon as I made my first little pull. I leaned in and set the hook for fish number 5 but I felt nothing but dead weight. I pulled hard and whatever it was started coming to the boat but it was very heavy. I pulled and tugged on the line thinking I had finally found the brush pile and it was slowly coming to the boat. As it got closer and closer I could see fish on the graph scattering everywhere under the boat. It was like someone had dropped a fish bomb over the side of the boat. The graph was loaded like spaghetti and the big piece of structure finally came into view; it was a large plastic Adirondack style chase lounger and I had it hooked by the leg. It had blown or had be thrown off the top deck of the dock I was fishing but before I could get a hold of it my little Ned hook had straightened and let go of the chair. The chair slowly disappeared back into the depths as I realized that these fish were using the chair for structure and there were a bunch of fish occupying the chair. The chair had a lot of algae buildup on it and clouded the water around the area when I brought it up so I left the area for things to settle back down. Since then, I have visited the dock on each of my subsequent outings including the day before yesterday when we stopped at the Adirondack dock and my buddy pulled this one out from under the chair.

For the past few weeks that chair has provided me with some fun fishing and it seems like there is a never ending supply of bass hanging out around the chair. So far it’s provided me with some fun times and at least a couple dozen fish. I never thought my strategy for catching fish would be targeting outdoor furniture but it is what it is and I’ll take the action.

As for my favorite baits this week, I would have to say the little 3.3 KeiTech on a 1/4 ounce Damiki head was the most productive in the wind and around active feeding birds. Here’s a short video I made earlier this week out at the mouth of the creek. I was chasing birds and targeting the fish feeding on the bait beneath the birds with my little Damiki rig and a new St. Croix spinning rod I had just purchased.

My second bait that has been producing in the wind is the a-rig. Just find the windblown points and shoreline and let it fly. Here’s a nice fish I caught on the a-rig on a windy point earlier in the week.

This week there were times I’ve needed to go to the slow stuff on the bottom to get bites and a variety of worms have worked for me. First, I would have to say the Ned rig has done the most damage on the bottom. It’s been good on the points in the creek as well as pitching it around shallow docks. If you’re new to the Ned rig, now is the time to give it a try. It can be casted or dropped down and when the fish are keying on the smaller stuff the Ned is a good choice. Colors may vary so pick out some that you like and give it a go. The fish are very forgiving when it comes to the Ned rig and color patterns.

Lastly, a bait that gets an honorable mention and that’s the Chatterbait. It’s hit or miss with the chatterbait right now but if slinging an a-rig isn’t your thing then pick up a chatterbait on those windy points and go to work. You may be surprised at the results right now. Water temps dropped back down to the mid 50’s over the last few days but I’m sure it will quickly bounce back to the upper 50’s next week. Here’s a few more pictures from my week. Fishing is only going to get better as the water warms so get the popcorn ready, we’re in for an awesome spring for fishing!