The First Week of Summer

It’s official, it’s summer on Lanier and time to settle into the summertime fishing patterns on Lanier. This week I had four rods on the deck and every one of them produced good fish and good numbers, it was just a matter of figuring out which one worked the best for the conditions where I was fishing.

First and foremost, I have to brag on my electronics this week. There are certain times of the year I can get by without electronics but for the next few months my Humminbird units are essential for the way I’m fishing. For the next few months brush and structure in the 20–35-foot range is what I will be targeting and boat position in relation to the brush or structure is crucial for my success. My Humminbird mapping is what I’m relying on to get the boat in position in relation to the brush. A lot of times, if there’s wind, I want to position the boat up wind of the brush and make my casts down wind, using the wind to help carry the little spybait or topwater bait on a long cast. Being up wind and pulling a topwater bait against the grain also provides more surface disruption. I really need good mapping to target summertime fish in or around the brush and my Hummingbird’s get the job done every day.

This week started out on Monday with Lisa joining me in the morning. We were going to do a little topwater and drop shotting on our trip and Lisa loves to drop shot. I kinda figured we could find a few with the drop shot and maybe a few topwater fish if the wind picked up. That was the problem early this week, the wind has been sporadic and the topwater was only good when the wind picked up for me. We struggled to find a topwater bite and the spybait was still coming around, so we focused on the drop shot fish. Lisa started us off as usual and started boating fish right away on the drop shot on our first brush pile, so we spend the next few hours dropping. I think we boated 12-14 fish and just about all were from the drop shot around brush. LJ had re-stocked me with some fresh Blue Lily drop shot baits and we used Lanier Baits Blue Lily fruity worms and Roboworms Aaron’s Morning Dawn for just about all of our fish. Here’s a few pictures from the trip.

On Wednesday I got out for the morning with my neighbor David, and we focused on the topwater and ended up with 12 fish for the morning. We had a decent Choppo bite, and we had a little wind to work with, so David used a pearl white 105 Choppo and I had a 105 in a ghost pattern. I think we were about even in the number of fish we caught and that pearl Choppo was the ticket early in the morning while it was still a little low light. After the sun came up, mid-morning the ghost pattern started producing better. The pattern for the bait was back to slow rolling it. Ripping the Choppo wasn’t necessary to get bit, it was just a cast, a few quick pulls to draw attention and then slow rolling it back to the boat. The technique would usually gather a school of bass and it would get hammered by the school. We had some good explosions but the topwater really slowed down about late morning. I dropped David off at his dock around lunchtime and I went back out to see if there was a better afternoon spybait bite and drop shot bite. Here’s a few pictures from our morning and some of David’s pearl Choppo fish.

On the way back out I was digging through my little passenger glove box and found a brand-new little chrome and blue chug bug that I had been looking for over the past year or so and I tied it on just in case I saw some fish surfacing. I was really surprised to catch a nice fish on my first 2 casts using the little spybait at my first stop after dropping David off. It was getting hot, but it seemed like the fish were responding a lot better to the spybait in the afternoon which is usually the case in early summer. I spent the next few hours catching fish with the spybait and occasionally I threw the little chug bug if I saw fish surfacing nearby. The little chrome chug bug was money if I could quickly get it into where fish were schooling, and I caught some decent fish on it, but I also caught a lot of dinks on it. I also caught a few on the drop shot when I moved in on the brush. Here’s a couple of nice spybait fish from Wednesday afternoon in the heat.

Wednesday evening Lisa and I had dinner at the BBQ place (Smokey Q) at Bald Ridge marina again. Great food and if you’re on the water, it’s a good place to stop in and cool off and grab some great food. Lisa and I both had a brisket dog, mac and cheese and some Cajun tater tots. It was delicious.

Yesterday I got back out early in the morning, and I had 4 rods on the deck. First was the 105 Choppo, second was the little chrome chug bug, third was the little Duo Realis G-fix 80 spybait and last was Lanier Baits Blue Lily 5-inch worm rigged up on the drop shot. I caught fish on all four and it was just a matter of how I wanted to approach my target area.

Approach can be a problem in the summer months and sometimes it’s a good idea to leave the topwater on the deck and make a more subtle approach to your target area. This week I found that a lot of times if I threw the topwater when I approached a brush pile the fish would school and follow the bait back to the boat only to turn away and head to the bottom without reacting to the bait when they saw the boat. I could see them on my electronics and the school would head to the bottom and disappear. After doing that a few times the schools would scatter, and the brush pile would be just about depleted of fish by the time I decided to move in on the brush to drop shot or throw the spybait. Sometimes the topwater approach would work but most of the time the topwater would amount to a big blow-up without producing a fish so I left the topwater stuff on the deck unless there was a good chop over the brush pile. If there was a good chop, I would usually give the top water baits a quick try because the hook-up percentages went up when there was wind, so it was worth a shot. I could still call a few fish up to the topwater offerings yesterday but today when I got out there was hardly any topwater fish to be called up.

Today I was on a mission to get a buddy some bass for a family get together. I pretty much bypassed the topwater and went straight to the spybait and drop shot method I’ve been using. We had a nice wind today and lots of chop. I utilized the Minn Kota spot lock upwind of the brush piles and I made my casts down wind. It didn’t take me long till I had some very nice fish for my buddy and his visitors to have a nice fish fry this weekend with the spybait and drop shot combo.

Here’s a video I made this week to explain the spybait and drop shot approach I used. I also added a video that explains a little more about the drop shot technique and my gear. At the end of the video I included a nice 4+ on the spybait.

I also had a little fun this week with Lanier Baits chrome swimmer out on the main lake. Here’s a video of the swimmer in action as well as a couple pictures.

Water temps are in the mid 80’s right now and the lake is about a few inches below full pool. The corps is generating during peak power hours in the afternoon and evening. Hopefully next week will be cooler.

Rip’n Stop, Spybait and Drop

There are times I feel guilty playing dirty tricks on these fish but it’s all in good fun and a lot of times the fish swims away with nothing but a sore lip and a bruised ego. This week the fish were waiting on me to give them the ole “plop-plop-plop” over the top of the brush pile with the 120 Choppo again, but I blew their little fish minds and mixed it up this week. I noticed that when I threw the Choppo over the brush piles early this week the fish were slow to react to the constant plopping or chopping sound of the Choppo and there was little to no schooling like the weeks before. They were tired of the Choppo and they had gotten used to the chopping sound of the Choppo. With the exception of a few overnight newbies to the brush pile it was the same old schools of bass at the brush pile, and they knew the chopping sound meant trouble. I could see the fish swimming around the brush but the Choppo had little effect on the fish. They had fallen for the Choppo’s constant steady plopping sound for the last 2 weeks and they were done with it. They had figured it out so I gave them the old razzle-dazzle “rip’n stop” with the Choppo.

I haven’t used the rip’n stop technique with the Choppo lately, but I used to use it this time of year with the Choppo and the 130 Whopper Plopper when it became a little harder to call the fish to the surface as the water heats up. Years back my buddy Jake Wohlers painted a 130 Whopper Plopper knock-off and he called it the “J-rip”. At the time I had never had the pleasure of ripping a Whopper Plopper and I wondered why he would use the name “rip”. I asked him and he told me that they had been catching them by ripping the 130 rather than the steady retrieve I had been using exclusively. I tried ripping and killing the big J-rip on my next trip out and to my surprise it was a great success and another great option for the whopper plopper type baits. This week I brought the old ripping technique back into play and that’s how I caught about 80% of my fish. I found out earlier this week that the fish were used to the constant chopping technique I had been using but they didn’t expect the ripping technique and just about everywhere I went there was schooling, followed by either a blow-up, multiple blow-ups, and about 50% of the blow-ups resulted in a hook-up. I reduced the size of the Coppo 120 to a slightly smaller 105 which netted me a lot more smaller fish this week.

With every school that came to the boat with a caught fish, I could see bigger fish beneath the caught fish swimming around whereas last week I was catching nothing but the bigger fish on the 120 with a steady retrieve but for whatever reason this week, they weren’t as interested in the big 120. I could actually cast the smaller 105 a little further and one of the key features of ripping the Choppo is the amount of water it splashes out in front of the bait and the amount of water it displaces around the bait when you rip it and kill it. The amount of displaced water around the bait is important, especially when the surface is flat because the displaced water confuses the fish much like a choppy surface with a little wind. When the fish sees all that displaced water around the bait, the fish thinks it’s a distressed bait and takes a whack at it. Unfortunately, they are somewhat cautious of the bait and the hook-up rate was slightly lower. Lots of blow-ups but not a lot of hook-ups, and a lot of times the bigger fish would let the smaller fish react to the bait as they would be swimming a few feet beneath the schoolers.

We had pretty extreme temps this week but if you could stand the heat, the fish didn’t care, and they were usually putting on the feed bag early in the morning and then again in the hottest part of the day. Mornings were pretty awesome with that big ole moon in sight and a lot of surfacing fish. If I was in the right place at the right time, I could put the 105 Choppo in a “Perfect Ghost” pattern right in the area and they would react to it. The fish were very active in the morning, but the grind was the hottest part of the day. Rewards were bigger in the afternoons, but you also had to contend with no wind and lots of summertime recreational boat traffic if you were in the creek. The afternoons didn’t really bother me so much as I spend about 4-5 days a week in my sauna for 30 minutes and the temps in the sauna are 130-170 degrees for the 30 minutes I spend in it. My body starts pouring sweat quickly and it’s just a matter of staying hydrated with lots of water and covering my skin from the sun.

The trend this week was numbers in the morning and big girls in the afternoon for me. I could catch a few big ones early here and there, but in the heat of the day the big ones took over the show and got way more aggressive. Here’s a couple of those fish I caught on a mid-day Monday trip out to the main lake.

There were two other baits that I used successfully this week and one was the G-fix 80 Duo Realis Spybait in an American Shad pattern. I tried my old faithful spybait color pattern, but the fish only had an interest in one pattern, and it was American Shad for me. Once I caught a fish or had the fish school on the Choppo I could pull back away from the area and then cast the little spybait around the area and pick off another fish or two. It was just a matter of casting the spybait as far as I could and giving it a 10-15 count before a slow retrieve back to the boat. Here’s a video I made a while back that explains a little more about the spybait and how I use it. It’s a tactic that is coming into play now as the water continues to heat and the thermocline becomes more defined.

The last technique that I used to put fish in the boat this week was the drop shot. The population of fish on brush has exploded over the last week and competition for a Lanier Baits Blue Lily worm is getting stiff in the brush. If I was directly over a school of fish this week or I saw fish in the brush, I had my drop shot rod at the ready and I had it baited up with the 5-inch blue lily pattern. Here’s a link to the Lanier Baits Blue Lily and I recommend getting some for the summer month ahead:

Yesterday I made my final trip of the week and I caught fish on all 3 baits listed above but ripping the 105 Choppo over brush this week was the big-ticket ride for me. The blow-ups would come from nowhere at times and sometimes I could watch the fish school around the bait before inevitably one would take a crack at it. Other times a big one would come from nowhere and just blast it into the air and attack it when it came back down. It was a fun week for topwater and I got to hone my spybait/drop shot skills for the upcoming few months. Water temps are pushing the upper 80’s now and the lake has dropped a few inches below full pool. The corps is only generating for a few hours a day and during the week it’s generally during peak usage hours. I got a new I-phone this week and didn’t figure out how to take pictures till yesterday.

If we thought this week was hot, wait till next week, it looks like a scorcher. Here are a few pictures from yesterday’s trip.

Choppin chop with the Choppo

This week wasn’t much different than last week in terms of what I was using and what I was doing. One big bonus this week was the wind. I was able to do very well this week when working with the wind in the right areas and utilizing the choppy water to my advantage. It has become very apparent to me that my bite all hinges on the wind, and it becomes very hard to connect with larger fish when the wind isn’t blowing.

I only had 2 baits on the deck this week and the size of the chop determined which one I used. If there was medium to heavier chop, I used the Berkley Choppo 120 in a “Perfect Ghost” color pattern. If there was light to medium chop I used my little Azuma Z-dog in a “Casper Shad” pattern, which closely resembles the Perfect Ghost pattern on the Choppo.

I can say this about both baits that I used this week; 90% of the fish I caught were larger fish. I didn’t have hardly any smaller fish this week and when I did connect with a big one, the blow-up was phenomenal, especially on the Choppo in the wind.

I found that the Berkley Choppo is more of an annoyance bait to the bass and their cat-like mentality. I think the bass just get riled up when they hear that chopping sound around their home at the local brush pile, and pretty soon one of the bigger ones in the area decides to give it a whack. I’m using a larger Choppo (120), so the profile looks pretty big going through the water. That may be why I don’t get many smaller fish. As far as the cadence for the bait, it’s pretty simple, just a slow and steady retrieve. No burning it or jerking and pausing it, just a slow steady retrieve is enough to drive them crazy. I had a lot of near misses and it’s a test of nerves to keep from jerking the bait away from the fish, but the key is to keep your composure and just keep right on cranking until you feel the fish load up. There’s a chance the fish will continue to pursue the bait after an initial and intentional miss because of the translucent bait.

With the wind being a factor out on the main lake, I really utilized the Spot Lock function on the Minn Kota a lot this week. I just positioned the boat upwind of brush on a point or hump and fan casted the Choppo against the grain for the best surface disruption with the bait. Some of the blow-ups on the windy humps and points out on the main lake this week were the best I’ve seen this year. That Choppo really makes the fish aggressive and although I haven’t used it this year, the 130 Whopper Plopper would probably get you the same results. I’ve used the big 130 out in the wind over the years and I’ve had great success with it, so that may be an option to try besides the Choppo. I’m using 8lb fluorocarbon on a spinning reel for the Choppo. The further you can cast this bait the better. The more time this bait is running through the water the better chances of it gathering a school of fired up spots.

The second bait I used with success this week was the Azuma Z-dog in a Casper Shad pattern. It was a little tricky to get it to work but I could get the fish to school on the bait and it was also a good option if fish were schooling on the surface and you’re close enough to make a cast to the action. If you got the Z-dog in the area of schooling quick enough, they would just hammer the Z-dog. I found that I could call the fish up and get them to school on the bait if I could make it splash and skip enough to get the fishes attention but not let the bait sit long enough for the fish to see it well. You have to keep the bait moving 90% of the time. It was imperative to keep the fish moving and guessing rather than a traditional walking of the bait. If I walked the bait normally, the fish would follow or swirl on the bait, but they would not react to it. Another big reason both the Choppo and the Z-dog worked well is the fact that they are translucent baits. I’ve found that the fish will keep coming after the translucent baits if they miss the first strike. A lot of times the fish will strike at the bait with its tail and knock the bait in the air if they are unsure of the bait. When they do this, they want to see what the bait does when it comes back down. A live blueback will be disoriented when it hits the water after being knocked in the air. It becomes easy prey for the bass. I found that a lot of times a bass will turn down a solid-colored bait after knocking it in the air or swirling on it, but they tend to keep reacting to a translucent bait more often than not. It just seems to me that the fish is just a little unsure about the clearer baits and they just keep coming after it 9 times out of 10. The Z-dog is just a great bait to mimic a blueback and if you can make the fish think that it’s a blueback skipping across the surface and having some kind of blueback seizure the fish definitely react to it.

Once again, the way I used this bait was in the smaller chop areas of the main lake and the creek, both points and humps. If I felt like the chop wasn’t large enough to fool the fish with the bigger Choppo, I broke out the Z-dog. I used either one or the other depending on the size of the chop. I really utilized the Spot lock this week in the wind and I didn’t move around quite as frequently, mainly because it wasn’t blazing hot and I had good wind to work with.

Two other baits that I caught a few fish on this week was the Emerald Popper and the little Duo Realis G-fix 80 Spybait. I’ll probably talk about the spybait a little more next week because I’m pretty sure that bite is going to kick in very soon.

Water temps are in the low 80’s and the lake is hovering around full pool. The Corps is generating during the high power usage times, usually late afternoon and into the evening. Lots of summer boat traffic out there so be safe. Here’s a few pictures from my more memorable fish this week.

The Law of Averages

Shortly after I checked into boot camp almost 40 years ago…to the day, our Company Commander (the equivalent to a Drill Seargent) sat us down for a little chat one evening. There was about 75 of us sitting cross-legged on the floor of a gathering room in the barracks and the Company Commander told us about the “Law of Averages”. Something I haven’t forgotten, and I apply it to everyday life still to this day. Our Company Commander explained to us that out of the 75 of us sitting on the floor, in the next 8 weeks someone’s immediate family member would die, and they would have to leave bootcamp to mourn with their family and attend a funeral. For that reason, one of us would be set back and graduate at a later date because of the time missed to go back home. He said that it was the law of averages and it always happened. Guess what, he was right, about halfway through bootcamp, sure enough, one of our shipmates mother had passed and he had to leave for 10 days. We never saw him again and I learned a lesson in the “Law of Averages”. It never fails.

This week was fast and furious for me. It’s been hot and I’ve shifted gears into my early summer topwater milk run, averaging over 30 stops in a day right now. The law of averages says that out of 6 hours of fishing and 30+ stops, I’m going to put fish in the boat. It never fails. I’m probably spending 10 minutes or less at each stop, trying to stay cool and hydrated in the warmer part of the day. Moving around frequently helps stay cool and as far as the fishing goes, I usually know within a couple minutes if the stop is going to produce. It’s just a matter of throwing my little walking bait out just as far as I can and walking it back over brush to lure a fish or a school to my bait. It’s been tricky but I figured out a way to up my success and its pretty much textbook what I wrote last fall in one of my topwater reports. I included a link to the report because it explains exactly what I’m doing now with the little Azuma Z-dog to catch my fish. here’s the link below. It fits this week to a T.

I started this week with my last Azuma Z-dog walking bait on Tuesday after the holiday festivities during Memorial Day weekend. I didn’t get out on the lake over the weekend, and I was anxious to get back out for some topwater this week. I’ve been diligent about checking my line and taking good care of my last little z-dog but Tuesday morning it happened, and I lost my last Z-dog in the Casper shad pattern. I dug around in the tacklebox and found a similar bait in the little 4-inch Sexy Dawg. The sexy dawg was translucent and that was one of the key factors in success this week. The fish were just a little too smart for the solid colors so you I had to trick them with translucents. It’s pretty common with Lanier when the water gets gin clear, I have the best success with the clearer topwater baits. It’s mainly because the fish can’t quite figure it out and he keeps after in instead of moving on and not committing to it. Another aspect of my success this week was the cadence of the bait and making the fish think it’s the real deal without letting the fish analyze the bait too much. I explained the cadence in the link above and once again, it’s helped me put fish in the boat. The sexy dawg was the perfect replacement, and I really didn’t skip a beat until I lost my only sexy dawg yesterday afternoon when I was out with my buddy Steve. Before I lost it though, it accounted for my 2 biggest fish of the day and also most of the fish yesterday. I gotta say that the clear sexy shad pattern for the sexy dawg did the trick. Here’s a few fish it accounted for this week.

After I dropped Steve off yesterday afternoon the boat traffic was getting pretty bad, but I wanted to try one more bait that I’ve had good success with this time of year and that’s the Berkley Choppo. I had it sitting out on the deck of my boat and I had planned to make some casts with it during the day. The wind was hit and miss yesterday but I stopped at a point on the way back home yesterday and on the first cast with the Choppo, I was rewarded with a nice 3lber. On the very next cast it was the same result with a smaller fish, but those 2 fish told me it was a pattern, so I ran with it for another hour yesterday afternoon and probably caught another 6-7 fish just running points with or without wind. The Choppo did the trick yesterday afternoon. One other little pattern I had some success with this week was the drop shot. What little bit I did the drop shot, it produced a few fish. The drop shot is going to get much better over the next few weeks. I still haven’t found a good spybait bite yest but that’s a thermocline deal and the thermocline is still setting up. The lake is at full pool and the Corps is generating during peak usage from afternoon into evening. The bite seems to be hot first thing in the morning and then again in the hottest part of the day. Water temps are in the low 80’s.