The Timeless Smell of Shad

If there was a top 5 of smells in my record book of smells (not that I have one), the smell of shad would rank up there in the top 5 smells of all time for sure. My all-time favorite is definitely the smell of the old wooden church pews on a sunny Sunday morning in the spring. I also like the smell of a brand-new leather baseball glove and the smell of a distant campfire on a cool October morning out on the lake. My cologne collection has turned into a collection of scented memories from times past for me. I’ve got a bottle of cologne that I still wear called “The Baron”, and every sniff takes me back to 1979 and sweating in a disco. That’s the good stuff right there. There are a lot of familiar scents out there but there is one smell that hits different for many of us, and it can bring back a different kind of memory, and that is the smell of shad. I’ve always said that if women wanted a perfume to really turn a guy on, figure out a way to bottle up the smell of shad, and the guys, especially bass boat owners will just suddenly appear. It could be while you’re walking past the benches of a local shopping mall or at a parent teacher conference, but it’s bound to turn a few heads. Seriously though, if there’s one favorite scent that can bring back memories of long past days on the shores of our local lakes when I was a kid, it would be shad. Every once in a while, out on our lake I pass by an area where I get the strong scent of bait or shad and when I smell this, I can close my eyes and remember camping at local lakes in our old cabover Cameo camper and fishing for catfish with our old Zebco’s stuck in rod holders at the water’s edge. There’s not a lot of smells that can drum up some old memories like that, but the smell of shad can do the trick. The back of our house faces the east and every morning the sun rises over the creek. When the wind is out of the east during the spring and summer, it blows right down the creek from the lake and it dead ends at our house. Along with that east wind is the periodic smell of shad and to this day that smell has never gotten old. It’s almost like I’m drawn to it.

Burpin Babies and Bustin Bass

Burpin Babies and Bustin Bass

I’m pretty sure I’m losing my mind, but lucky for me, it’s a slow process and sometimes it’s downright entertaining along the way. Over the past few days, I’ve realized that burping babies is just about as much fun as catching a bass out in the creek. Don’t get me wrong, I’m old and I was burping babies back before that kinda thing was cool for me, but here recently I’ve found a new love for the technique and with the right rhythm of back patting I can generate some huge burps in these twins. It’s like the different rhythms of the Berkley 130 Choppo, sometimes when you hit the right rhythm with the Choppo, you can generate some huge blow-ups and in the case of burping babies, if I hit the right rhythm of back patting, I can generate some huge blow-outs. That’s my job around here this week, feeding, burping and entertainment of the twin infant guests. It’s kinda like being a Plane Captain for babies instead of fighter jets.

Between hours of babysitting, cooking and wandering around aimlessly, wondering why I came into a room, I’ve found time to go out on the lake and wet a line. This week I spent more time out on the main lake poking around humps and points just to see what’s happening. When I was looking through my YouTube page for videos I had made around this time of the year, I found a video from a few years back and I was already catching fish on the Spybait. That raised my brow and got me to thinking about a fresh spool of 6lb Tatsu flouro that has been sitting on my bar for the last 2 weeks. I got that spool specifically for 2 techniques, the spybait and the drop shot/pitch shot. I use 6lb Tatsu for both during the summer and it’s just about time to get that rigged up and ready. For ya’ll that are new to the drop shot, here’s a video I made a few years back for pre-rigging your drop shot rigs. Lisa and I drop shot a lot during the summer and the bottom line is that if you’re not getting hung up from time to time, you’re doing it wrong. Sometimes we need to replace a rig in a hurry, and this makes it quick. There are different ways to rig your drop shot and this is just a rig I use.

When I was out this week, I saw plenty of fish that looked like I could have dropped on them although I didn’t but it’s that time of year to start. I found a few brush piles both in the creek and out on the main lake this week that were just loaded with fish and perfect to drop on. Another technique to start thinking about or even start using over brush is the Spybait technique. It’s a technique that usually starts when the fish are suspending and peaks when the thermocline sets up very soon. The technique is good throughout the summer months and into the early fall. Once you learn the technique it can be a lot of fun. Here’s a video I found on my YouTube page that gives you a little more insight into the spybait technique. I’ve got some other videos on my YouTube page for spybaiting references also.

Another observation from my trips out on the water this week was the presence of more topwater activity, as a matter of fact, it was helpful in catching a few of my fish this week. It wasn’t every stop I made this week but on a few of the stops I made this week I saw surfacing fish. They wouldn’t stay up long but long enough for me to get to the area and make a cast with the weightless fluke or the emerald popper. What little time I had to fish this week, those two baits produced the bulk of my fish. The popper was driving the stripers crazy out on a windy main lake point in the chop. It was kinda comical to watch some of the stripers come out of the water around the bait and I couldn’t tell if the near misses were intentional or were they just missing the mark. The stripers were rather large, so I was kinda glad I didn’t connect with one. There are two outcomes to hooking a large striper out on a main lake point in the wind; either you are going to land it, or he’s going to win the battle and break off one way or another. Generally, on Lanier, the striper is going to look for brush or timber at some point if there is any around, so I like to keep my rod tip high to keep his head upward during the fight. I don’t like losing bass lures to topwater stripers, but I still enjoy the battle on occasion. The popper did produce a few bass this week and it also provided me with hope after some near misses from some bigger bass. I was definitely able to call a few to the surface with the popper, whether they connected or not was a different story. This week it was the popper and fluke combo over brush and out on random main lake points in the wind. You could roll the dice and start with topwater when you get to the brush, but if you strike out with the topwater, sometimes it scatters the fish so at times it may be better to try a more silent approach to brush. I’ve often times made a cast and see numerous fish on my graph that had followed my topwater bait back to the boat but they didn’t react to it. Those fish generally go to the bottom after seeing the boat and it’s for that reason that I approach the brush in stealth mode if the fish aren’t reacting to topwater. A lot of these noisy type topwater baits can scatter the fish and spoil the bite at times so I like to test the waters and make brush pile approaches in stealth mode as well as the “bull in a China closet” or “death from above” mode.

It’s getting to be that time of year here on Lanier and the baits that could possibly be on my deck right now are walking baits, popping baits, plopping baits, swimming baits, spinning baits, jerking baits, spybaits and dropping the wiggly stuff around brush. That’s just what I have going. The water temps are probably low 70’s this morning out in the creek and the corps is moving water according to the amount of water between my dock and dry land. The lake level is over a feet below full pool and dropping. Here’s a few fish from my trips out this week.

My other job this week has been to entertain, feed and burp the babies. This is little Lainey learning all about selfies and the last picture is my main view this week, little Lainey girl and big Tater bug.

Finding the Ham Bone Stash

Finding the Ham Bone Stash

It’s usually a process this time of year on the south end. The fish are a moving target and success usually comes from trial and error during the post-spawn/recovery period. This is the time of year that the graveyard of failed lures on the floorboard of the boat can be rather large, and the fish can look rather ragged and tore up when you do finally catch them. Right now, the fish are getting back into the swing of things and starting to feed again after a long spawning period of up and down weather. I’ve witnessed some bass still in the act of spawning in shallow water this week and I’ve witnessed a bunch in transition to structure out in a little deeper water where they’ll make their summer home. I’ve seen some great surface schooling on bait early in the morning over deeper water this week and I’ve also seen sporadic shad spawning in very shallow water this week. There are plenty of big Blue Heron wading along the shoreline, looking for unsuspecting shad and stripers are on the hunt and cruising the same shallows looking for the shallow spawning shad also. It’s a time of year that you can literally pick your bite because a lot of tactics are now in play and fishing is very forgiving.

This week I made it out to the creek every day in some capacity. Most days it was just for a couple hours but I think Tuesday and yesterday I got to spend 4-5 hours on the lake. On Monday it was just for a few hours in the morning, and I mainly looked offshore for a viable hump bite that has started. I spent the majority of my time making a few casts here and there out on the main lake over humps with a combination of topwater, swimming baits and the occasional shaky head, looking for cruising wolfpacks or big singles chasing bluebacks across the shallow humps. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I didn’t really get a chance to break anything down and the bite was slow for me before going back to the house for the morning.

Tuesday, I had more time to figure some things out, so I put the hammer down and started running my summer milk run out on the main lake just to see what was hanging around my summer haunts. It’s pretty early in the season for a lot of offshore humps to produce but the fish are starting to appear in some areas. On my first stop Tuesday morning out on a main lake point, my first fish of the morning came to the boat on a 110 Choppo in a ghost pearl pattern. It was windy and choppy early in the morning Tuesday and the Choppo can usually call a fish up in the chop on a main lake point or hump. I tried to duplicate it several times during the course of the morning, but I never could get another fish to hit it after that first fish. If you don’t have a Choppo or Whopper Plopper in your arsenal I’d highly recommend getting a few. My favorite is the chrome out on the main lake in the summer. Here’s a pic of my first Choppo fish this year.

On my second stop out on a main lake point, not long after stopping and making a few casts with the topwater and spinnerbait and nice fish came up within casting distance of the boat. I had a body hooked super fluke tied on and I threw the fluke right on top of where the fish had surfaced just moments before. Just a couple quick snaps with my wrist and I felt the rod load up on the fluke and I knew I had hooked the fish that surfaced. It was a very large post-spawn fish but she was very beat up and ragged from the spawn. Here’s a pic.

After that fish I started using the body hooked fluke rig a little more. On my next few stops I started rotating between the weightless fluke and the spinner bait at just about every stop. I pretty much put the topwater away and focused on the fluke and spinnerbait out on the main lake points. We had some wind and chop to work with and the fluke and spinnerbait combo was perfect for the conditions. All I did was get upwind of the point, brush pile or target area and used the stop-lock function on the trolling motor, then fan casted the area, bringing my bait back against the grain of the chop or waves. Sometimes it was the spinnerbait that produced and sometimes it was the fluke.

One of the key reasons the fluke worked well for me this week was because of the action on the fluke. There are a lot of ways you can work the fluke and a few different ways to rig your fluke for this time of year. Years ago, when I poured my own lead head jigs, I used to pour a little 1/8- or 1/16-ounce egghead jig head and Lisa and I used the little egghead jig head with our flukes to give them a little weight, but we never really used them weightless until about ten years ago. When I started using them weightless, we went a few years of nose-hooking the fluke with octopus or circle hooks through the nose. We still use the nose-hooked technique from time to time but this week I used another method, and it worked well. Jimmy Sanders uses the technique more than I do but sometimes I find it more effective than nose-hooking and sometimes I use the technique out of necessity. If I nose-hook my flukes, I go through more flukes than if I body-hook them so generally when my supply gets low I do a lot more body-hooking the bait. The biggest key to my success this week was the action I put on the fluke. You can use a steady jerking retrieve at times, but I used a quick snap or two with the wrist and kill it for 5-10 seconds. I was using a 7’4″ medium MegaBass Levante spinning rod and a Shimano Ci4 reel loaded with 15lb braid for the main line and an over-sized barrel swivel attached to a 2–3-foot length of 15lb fluorocarbon. The heavier line and oversized swivel get the bait down beneath the surface during the retrieve and that can be crucial to a successful bite. I used a # 4 Gamakatsu offset shank hook to body hook the fluke and with the braided line, the quick snapping action I used for the fluke really gave the bait a lot of movement. That pop and stop action was what the fish wanted this week.

Through the course of the day on Tuesday I boated fish off and on but the two main baits I used to catch them all out in the wind was the pearl fluke and white bladed spinnerbait combo. The humps and isolated areas out on the main lake were pretty much void of fish but the points out on the main lake that were attached to land produced well this week. It won’t be long till fishing the main lake humps and the creek humps turns on better for me but for now, out on the points and beating the banks have filled my days. Here’s a few more pictures from Tuesday.

Wednesday I was able to sneak out for a bit but we had mandatory team fishing training for the newest Cast Away Fishing Team in training. We went over identifying all the different lure types and their uses. I used my YouTube channel as a training aid and put some sweet topwater videos on the flat screen. We also covered proper hooksets and fizzing deep caught fish. This was all between bottle feedings, naps and poopy diapers. Here’s a picture of the newest team in training, looking intently as I tell them the story of Poppi hiking up the Sierra Navada Mountain range in search of trophy trout back in the day. You can see Big Tate on the left was all jacked and drooling while little Lannie girl thought I was funny and laughed a lot.

During our training session with the team, I was looking for something and I found a stash of flukes I had hidden in the guest bedroom closet after a un-authorized trip to Hammonds Fishing. I needed a quick place to stash the bag of tackle and the guest room closet is where it was hidden behind an old toy firetruck for the last 2 years. It was like Christmas again only it wasn’t socks, skivvies and furry slippers this time, it was some topwater baits and a fresh bag of Ham Bone flukes that I had purchased right after they came out with the Ham Bone color pattern special run. I’d forgotten all about the Ham Bone and never used the Ham Bone color before, only the pearl flukes. It was like an omen, and I knew I was going to be able to spend some significant time on the water the next day. Something in my mind said, “throw the Ham Bone fluke tomorrow Jim”.

Thursday morning, I hit the water early as I wanted to target a few main lake points to start my day. I had my fluke rod rigged with the new Ham Bone color on a brand new leader and I was looking for big fish on top of brush early in the morning. This week it just seemed like the better bite was over brush in 20-25 feet of water, although most of the fish were beat up from the spawn, they were willing to eat and on the larger side. They were few and far between at times, but I was able to scratch out some good fish over brush in the creek after coming back from some main lake points. We had some wind on Thursday, so it was just a matter of me finding the brush piles in 20-25 feet of water with wind and chop blowing across the area. The wind and chop were the key as the fish were moving around the brush feeding in the wind and much more active than the fish in the calm or flat water around brush. Again, Spot-Locking up wind, fan casting the Ham Bone fluke down wind and bringing back over the brush with a few very quick snaps with my wrist, letting it fall and then snapping or popping it again accounted for all of the fish I caught on Thursday, and I had some good ones. By the time I had to head back home I was on my last Ham Bone fluke, and it was about to hit the graveyard when I caught my last fish to end the day and destroying my last Ham Bone bait from the bag. It was a fitting way to end the day and end my week out on the lake. It was a fun day in the creek and the population of fish out on the brush is growing by the day. The lake is dropping and almost a foot below full pool. Water temps are around the 70-degree mark and it’s continuing to warm. Here’s a few fish from Thursday and fishing over brush with the Ham Bone fluke.

Fishing Like March in May

Fishing has slowed way down for me of late, and my plan is to devote more time to my golf swing in the upcoming months. I’m kinda interested in seeing how the new knee will affect my old golf swing and we should have some perfect weather for a change of scenery very soon. We also have the addition of our twin grandbabies and we’ve been watching them a few days a week and that’s been chewing up some fishing time as well. My back has slowly gotten better this week and I think I probably strained it when I was working here at the house. Unfortunately, my brain thinks I’m still in my 30’s when it comes to lifting things. One of the worse things about getting old is the fact that the mind often refuses to accept it. The bulk of my injuries these days are due to that fact.

I only fished a total of 13 hours (mostly in the creek) this week and it didn’t really give me much time to find my rhythm but nonetheless I was still able to put something together. There are several different patterns going on right now at different locations on the lake and even at different locations in the water columns. Once again, it seems that the north end is ahead of the south in terms of fish feeding closer to the surface and changing their target food source to swimming baits due to the shad and blueback spawn. I believe there are still fish in spawning mode, hanging out close to structure on the shore, and I believe there are a lot of post spawn fish in transition to their summer homes out on the brush. This week I chose to target the post-spawn fish around the brush out in deeper water after seeing the bulk of the glitter boat fleet beating the shallow shores. Monday and Tuesday my back was recovering, and they were pretty much a wash for me, and on Wednesday I finally made it out for a while with my back brace on. We had a lot of NW wind to contend with on Wednesday. I got out early to avoid as much wind as I could, and I eventually went back to finesse after bombing for the first hour or so on the topwater and shallow moving stuff. With all the wind I decided to target the transitioning fish that were post spawn and hanging out around the brushpiles and relating to the bottom. I didn’t see a lot of suspended fish, so I just positioned the boat at a casting distance away from the brush, upwind, and spot locked the trolling motor to fan casting around the brushpiles. I usually tried to make a few casts with the spinnerbait over the top of the brush using a 5-10 count before throwing the shaky head. Sometimes there will be a sizable bass hoovering over the brush and the spinnerbait has been my go-to for getting that bass to react before throwing the worm and working on the deeper bottom-oriented fish. On Wednesday that’s pretty much all I did, move around and target the brushpiles in 15-25 feet of water and with the combo of the spinnerbait and then the shaky head. I missed some fish on Wednesday and wasted a lot of time on topwater but I found a few nice ones to end the morning using the shaky head and spinnerbait combo. Here’s a couple nice ones I caught hanging around the brushpiles.

Yesterday I set out to do more of the same and I was able to spend 6 hours on the water with better results. It was a good day and once again my target was the brushpiles out on the ends of points. I didn’t waste a bunch of time with the topwater or fluke and I just went right for the combo. There wasn’t as much wind, but I used the same technique starting with the spinnerbait over the top of the brush for a few casts and then go to work with the shaky head all around the brushpiles. Here’s some of the nicer fish from yesterday.

Today was another babysitting day but I did manage to get out for a couple hours to end the week. On my first stop I caught a couple smaller fish on the spinnerbait on a windy point and I moved on, but that was a good sign. On my second stop I caught a nice one on the spinnerbait over brush and followed it up a hour later with another nice one off another brushpile on the spinnerbait again. After that I hit a little lull and my time was limited so I headed back to the house. My last 2 fish this week are pictured below and a fun way to end the week. My best 2 baits this week was the 3/4-ounce SpotSticker Mini-Me with no trailer and the Zman Big TRD worm on a 1/4-ounce Boss Shaky Head (pictured below). I did catch a few on the weightless fluke rigged Jimmy Sanders style. Water temps are in the low to mid 60’s and the lake is just below full pool.