The 4 Jimigos do Venice

For me, southern Louisiana has become like an old friend that I like to visit periodically, if for no other reason, it’s just to catch up on what’s going on and reminisce about old times. It’s very hard for me to believe that it’s been almost 30 years since I first laid eyes on the Louisiana marsh and the best fishing Louisiana has to offer. Running down the Mississippi and diving into the marsh by boat is like entering another world for me; a world mixed with the timeless beauty of the marsh and the always present invasion of the ones who may eventually destroy it.

I‘m not sure how many times I’ve made the trip from the Atlanta area to Venice, but I can assure you that there has never been a faster trip down to Venice to my recollection. I’m not saying that because my friend Jimmy Sanders is a fast driver, which he is, but it’s because we were never lacking in laughs and conversation, so the miles just flew by at Mach speed. Our last meal before checking into the lodge was a lunch stop at Salvo’s seafood in Belle Chase. Salvo’s Po’boys has always been the gateway to a trip down highway 23 and some of the best red fishing in the world.

After a good lunch and about 9 hours on the road we were finally at our destination for the next few days. It was Wednesday and me, Jimmy Harmon, Jimmy Sanders and Jimmy Meadows were staying at the lodge through Friday night and leaving out very early on Saturday morning so Jimmy Meadows could make a 5pm wedding back in the Atlanta area on the day of our return.

The Lodge.

The lodge itself is located in the Buras area and is just off highway 23. We checked in mid-afternoon and just after the fishermen staying at the lodge had returned from a day of fishing. When we parked the truck, I could see a shovel on the front of a small tractor sitting by the fish cleaning station and the shovel held several redfish, sheepshead and trout carcasses. That was a good sign to start the trip. We were welcomed by the staff right away and we were shown to our rooms for the next 2 days and 3 nights. The lodge was good sized and spread out with a very large kitchen/dining area and the was also plenty of room to relax on the lower floor. The 4 of us split 2 rooms and our rooms were located upstairs. After we unpacked, we went back downstairs and sat in the kitchen/dining area and talked with our chef, Casey while she was preparing the evening meal. Casey cooked our lunch and dinner while miss Kim prepared our breakfast for the morning. There was a group of about 10 other fishermen from a manufacturing company up north that were on a team building/appreciation fishing trip and they kinda occupied the billiard room area. I went into the billiard room and started chatting with the group who had been there for 2 days prior to our arrival. I introduced myself and told the group that we were all named Jimmy or Jim so it would be easy to remember our names. During our conversation I found out that 2 of the guys were from Kansas so that struck up a whole new conversation on growing up in Kansas. I got the 411 from the group as far as the fishing went and it sounded like it was going to be another popping cork trip.

Years back, when I lived in Belle Chase and fished the marsh, after the first year or so of fishing the marsh, I started using more and more artificial baits instead of live, fresh or frozen shrimp. For speckled trout, it was usually a sparkle beetle under a popping cork, or I was beating the banks with a jig head/ plastic cockahoe minnow combination. After many trips back to the Venice area and using different guides for inshore fishing, I see more and more guides just using shrimp under popping corks for their clients. It seems that the shrimp under popping corks is effective and fairly easy to use for the novice and there is usually plenty of action from a variety of local fish. Personally, I’d rather take my chances beating the banks with a plastic minnow than slinging a popping cork around but on this trip, I was able to compromise with a big Gulp plastic shrimp under my popping cork which yielded our largest redfish for the day.

We settled into our new surroundings and after dinner and some evening chatting we all hit the sack for a early morning wake-up.

After a 5:30am wakeup call consisting of a knock at the door from Miss Kim the cook, “breakfast time-fishing time”, we quickly got dressed and headed downstairs. Scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and a biscuit were on the morning menu and the guides for the guests were waiting around the kitchen area. One of the other guests from the guys up north let me in on a little secret and told me that the quicker you got on the road the better chance you had of getting live shrimp at the bait shop. If you were one of the last ones leaving the lodge, chances are that the bait would be gone by the time you got to the bait shop. The guys from up north were the first ones to leave followed my Jimmy Meadows and Jimmy Sanders. I was paired up with LJ and when the dust settled from all the guide boats and the clients headed down the road to Venice from the lodge, myself and our guide, a 6’6″ -280lb local behemoth named Rodger were left standing in the driveway waiting for LJ to finish his business in the toilet. Rodger wasn’t happy about the delay, and I assured big Rodger that we were just getting started and LJ usually provided the entertainment for the day, one way or another. When LJ finally came out and we got underway, we hadn’t gone 5 miles and LJ realized that he left his cellphone in the toilet. That was the final sign that it was going to be one of those special LJ kinda days. I gotta say in LJ’s defense though, he redeemed himself when he fixed Rodger’s electronics after we blew a fuse while running down the Mississippi and hitting a large wake from a barge. Our skiff slammed down hard, and all of our electronics just died. LJ had us back up and running in record time.

LJ put us in the books with his first redfish of the trip on shrimp and I jacked a few more on the Gulp shrimp before we both started throwing the big Gulp shrimp under the popping corks. Using the Gulp shrimp cut down on the hardhead action and if something hit it, it was probably going to be a big redfish.

Here’s a few fishing pictures from the first day of fishing.

We returned to the lodge, which is about 15 miles from the Venice Marina around 1-2pm and the guides promptly went to work on cleaning the fish. We grabbed a cold drink and some hot gumbo from the kitchen, and we met our new friends and new guests to the lodge, Angie and Girard. They were from Pheonix and a treat to chat with. We quickly made friends with Angie and Girard and before you knew it, we were all joking and cracking up.

Angie is a divorce attorney and Girard….well Girard did a lot of things over the years. Girard was born in Morocco and eventually made his way to the United States. Girard is 81 years old and he has led a very interesting life full of adventure and success as a businessman. He spoke 3 languages fluently and a total of 7 languages, not so fluently. I took the opportunity to chat with Girard about his life and growing up in a foreign country so long ago. Girard rubbed shoulders with some very important leadership in our country and the fact that he could speak so many different languages opened a lot of doors for him over the years. Angie shared the story of how her and Girard had met at Girard’s restaurant and we all shared stories from our lives as the time flew by on a Thursday afternoon. Both Angie and Girard were fascinating people, and we were so glad we crossed paths. Angie actually has some relatives that own a house on Lake Lanier and they visit periodically so I’m pretty sure our paths will cross again someday in the future.

Angie gave the 4 Jim’s a title while we were all chatting, and Jimmy Sanders was dubbed “The Elder”, which I thought was appropriate. LJ was given the title “The Mayor” which made his head swell to an enormous size during our conversation. Angie gave Jimmy Meadows the title of “The Gentle One” which was a good description of Meadows, and I was named “The Storyteller”. I have a lot of stories, so Angie hit the nail on the head with that title. On Thursday evening we all had dinner and hung out till time to turn in. A storm was on the way.

At 2am on Friday morning I was awakened to the sound of thunder. I knew that there was a cold front on the way, and it was scheduled to hit the area around dawn according to Accuweather. The 2am arrival was a little early but nonetheless, the earlier it got through the area, the better. The thunder I heard was followed by some lightning flashes and over the next few minutes I could tell that the storm was quickly approaching. A few minutes later the rain started pelting the window next to my bed and my mind was taken back 25 years ago and the rain beating against the window by my bed at our old Man Camp. Thought about my old Navy friends and our trips out to Man Camp and all the fun we had over the years, fishing the marsh. I laid in the bed and thought back to our drive over the big bridge at Empire and looking out at the Empire rock jetty, in the summer of 1993 it was the location of my first redfish catch while sitting out on those big rocks with a pound of fresh shrimp for bait.

The wind and rain passed over the lodge and before we knew it, there was a knock on the door and miss Kim’s voice outside the door around 5:30, “breakfast time, fishing time”. We all knew that the quicker we got downstairs and had breakfast, the quicker we could get bait and get on the water. None of us was dilly-dallying around the room and Jimmy Meadow’s and I were paired up for fishing the second morning. It was going to be a rough morning on the back side of the front. They were calling for heavy winds out of the northwest. For that reason, our guide decided to fish the east side of the river where the winds would be a bit calmer. It made sense and I was all for the calmer winds in the marsh. After getting bait we launched out of an old broken-down ramp right on the Mississippi and we were running down the big river in record time. The wind was blowing when we went into the marsh for our first fishing stop. It didn’t take long, and Jimmy Meadows put the first nice redfish in the boat but then it got bad. I noticed a lot of the water was changing colors and the wind was howling over the reeds. The heavy winds were pushing the river water into the marsh where we were fishing, and the water was quickly becoming very stained from the river and the wind pushing currents. At that point the fish shut down and we were just going from canal to canal trying to find cleaner water and a better bite. At the same time Sanders and LJ weren’t doing much better and by lunchtime we were ready to call it a day. The wind was just too brutal to fish a lot of areas in the marsh and a lot of the guides were heading in for the day. One thing I liked about our guides is that they all talked over the radio, and they helped each other while we were fishing. Here’s a few pictures from Friday morning including a sunrise looking back up the Mississippi river to the east and some approaching storms out over the gulf to the west. We had to dodge the storms, wind and lightning most of the morning on Friday, but the front moved through and by mid afternoon the sun was back out.

When we got back to the camp, I was greeted by an old friend and tuna boat Captain from about 15 years ago, when I used to come down to Venice to go offshore tuna fishing. His name was Hooper but everyone in the area knew him as “Hoop”. He was a Captain on one of the boats I went out on and he was the co-captain of another tuna boat I went out on, so we got to know each other pretty well after a few long-range tuna trips. Hoop iss an inshore guide now, and he was the guide for Angie and Girard. When Angie asked Hoop how old he was, he said that he was so old that he played in the sandbox with Jesus. LOL…He is 80 years old and still going strong. We had a chance to chat for a while and it was great to see Hoop still kicking butt at 80. I hope that I’m in that kind of shape at 80.

After a quick lunch back at the lodge we got cleaned up and sat out back of the lodge under a gazebo and chatted the afternoon away. We played a little cornhole and had a few drinks before dinner, knowing it was our last evening at the lodge as we would be leaving out a 3:30am. Each person from all the fishermen donated a fish for the chef and Casey made us all blackened redfish for dinner and it was delicious. The meals we had during our stay at the lodge were to notch and very well prepared. We ate well the whole time we were there and there were always coolers with drinks available. They had an icemaker which supplied us with all the ice we needed for our filets. Jimmy Sanders and I loaded up and iced down all of our fish filet for the trip back home and we had quite a few filets for the cooler. After getting cleaned up and packed up we chatted for a bit longer and called it a night.

We were up by 3:15 in the morning and pulling out of the lodge by 3:45am. Jimmy Sanders laid the hammer down and the big Dodge Ram was headed back to Georgia so Jimmy Meadows could make a 5pm wedding. I think I wore a hole in Jimmy’s floorboard in the back seat, but Jimmy got us all back safely and in record time. Jimmy Meadows made his wedding by 5pm and I was prepping our catch for the freezer.

Was it just a Fluke?

Almost…. This week I put the worm away in favor of another favorite springtime bait of mine and I went to work with the weightless fluke. When I checked my history for this time of the spring there is one bait that always stands out for me and that’s the nose-hooked weightless fluke. This week wasn’t the best for the fluke, but it kept me occupied and every once in a while, I’d get a good one which made the slow sink rate of the fluke worth it. Mid to late this week I started seeing more and more bluebacks on the surface very early in the morning and I also found some schooling fish here and there in the creek around dawn. I used the weightless nose-hooked fluke early in the morning for the schooling fish and caught a few nice ones.

I focused on points and brush this week and much of the stuff I caught fish on this week is on my summer milk run which tells me that there are some post-spawn fish already setting up around their summer homes. Working the fluke over brush accounted for my biggest fish this week and they were mainly caught in the middle of the afternoon. The topwater walking bait on windy points accounted for a few nice fish also this week and I’m sure it’s only going to get better and better over the next few weeks.

Water temps are right around 70 degrees, and the lake is at full pool right now. The corps is generating water for a few hours in the afternoon and evenings. I made a video and talked about the baits I used this week and how I used them. I also included some random pictures from my week.

Fishing With Faith (A will to live)

Did you ever wonder why every fish fights for its life on the end of a hook? Why is it that all living creatures have this inherent desire to survive?? Why is it that we don’t just curl up and surrender our lives when faced with imminent danger? We’ve all been given a special purpose in our life and that purpose is often shrouded in mystery and occasionally highjacked by the devil along the way. I often wonder why Jesus went to the sea and chose fishermen for his first disciples. He didn’t really require their boats for travel with his ability to walk on water. Peter and his friends were terrible fisherman, so I don’t think it was because of their skill set but perhaps it was because of a fisherman’s willingness to accept failure and continue coming back armed only with the faith of a successful tomorrow. –Jim Farmer

The St. James Hotel

My stay was just a brief 3 months at the St. James Hotel in downtown Miami, Ok. in the spring of 1982 but the memory is now 40 years old, and I can still vividly remember one evening in particular that may have changed my life forever. It was a Friday and a buddy had told me about a little place off the road along Horse Creek a few miles before the creek dumped into Grand Lake……

Prepping for the Post Spawn

This week was somewhat abbreviated for a few reasons, the first being that it’s time for some boat maintenance in preparation for the long spring and summer run. The second reason is to give these fish a chance to finish their business with the spawn. Swimbaits on the Damiki heads and shaky heads in the afternoons/evening were the biggest producers this week. Water temps are just below or right at 60 degrees right now and the lake is just above full pool. The corps is moving water off and on every day now and they’ll be moving water tomorrow afternoon. Below are a few videos I made this week including a rundown of baits I’ll be using over the next few months for the post spawn. I also included some pictures of memorable fish this week.

Stalking the Huckleberries

There’s usually one in the bunch, the one that raises their hand and says, “I’m your Huckleberry”. The fish have their own version of a Huckleberry and that’s the fish I was looking for this week.

Not much has changed for me since last week. I did manage to get out to my buddy’s place on Sunday afternoon for a springtime crappie trip which never disappoints. We’re just kicking back and trolling around the pond in the Pond Prowler while catching the occasional crappie on lite crappie tackle to add to the cooler. Fileted out boneless, these little guys are the perfect size for fish tacos, and they are very tasty. We usually take out several every spring which helps with the pond size management. Here’s a couple pictures from the trip on Sunday afternoon.

This week I fished for a few hours almost every day and I pretty much did 2 things all week. I ran points and humps casting the Damiki swimbait, and I also threw the shaky head when I got bored with the Damiki. On the Damiki rig I rotated between the 2.8 size and the 3.3 size Keitech. The 2.8 averaged more bites and actually caught my biggest fish this week while it seemed like the fish just didn’t like the 3.3 as much this week. I can’t say that the Damiki bite is on fire and that’s where the “Huckleberry part comes in. Sometimes this week I would pull up to a point that held fish and I would start casting the Damiki all around the point. I would mark fish under the boat and some fish were suspended at 10-15 feet over a 25–30-foot bottom. I would just make a long cast with a 5-10 second count down before starting my slow retrieve and every once in a while, one fish would just randomly come out of the bunch and smack the little Damiki. It’s like the fish just raised his hand and said, “I’m your Huckleberry”. Usually, the first Huckleberry would be the biggest and if I caught another in the area it would be smaller more times than not. It seemed like this week the biggest fish ate first. For that reason, I didn’t stick around one place to long and I kept moving if I was throwing the Damiki.

The wind was definitely a factor late this week and some of my Damiki stuff was blown out from the wind, so I chose to drag the shaky head around the secondary points and docks for a few nice fish. I’m still using a 5-inch Senko style worm in green pumpkin with a 1/4-ounce head and fishing the worm very slow on the bottom is the key. Whether it’s rocks or docks my focus has been from 5 feet all the way out to 20 feet in depth. It seems like the fish on the docks are getting shallower by the day now and the docks that had rocks some kind of structure like a spud pole produced the best. This week the worm was more of a sure thing, but I couldn’t help but throw the Damiki about 50% of the time this week. I had good numbers this week and I released a bunch of 1-2lb fish on both baits all week.

The water temps are still in the upper 50’s and the lake level is almost a foot above full pool. The corps is pulling water a few hours each day and will be pulling water tomorrow afternoon and evening.

Here’s a few memorable fish from my week.

Finding The New Cheese

Years ago, there was a book published that became very popular in the business world. It was on a lot of desks for a few years, and it was a best seller in the book world for a while. The book was actually a parable about 4 different characters and how they delt with change differently. The name of the book is “Who moved my cheese” and it can be very enlightening and helpful if you’ve never read it. In a sense, I replaced the word “cheese” with the word “fish”, and I try and apply it to my fishing from time to time. This week was one of those weeks.

I put a link to a short, animated video version of the book below before I get into my report so you can kind of understand the storyline about dealing with change.

On Monday I hit the water early hoping for some good topwater but still not much happening on the surface yet. That all hinges on the bait and the water temps are still a bit low for the bait to come closer to the surface in big numbers. I was hoping the little Damiki bite was going to be better for me this week and on Monday I could tell that it wasn’t what I expected. The water temps haven’t really made a significant move upward yet and this week the fish fed a lot at night due to the near full moon. That slowed the daytime fishing down a little for me and I found the bites to be few and far between on Monday. I stuck with the swimbait like a trooper and refused to go to the shaky head again, so it turned out to be a slow day of searching and moving around. I probably put in 5 hours and had some smaller fish as well as these 3 decent fish all on the little Damiki swimbait. Here’s my 3 best from Monday.

On Tuesday I hit the water again about mid-morning and I decided to look for the new cheese out on the main lake. Generally speaking, it’s around this time of year that I start checking the offshore humps and points out on the main lake to see if I can locate some big girls that are less pressured than the popular creek fish that are staging for the spawn. Years ago, Jimbo and I were fishing in very early spring and the topic came up about where bass spawn on Lanier. For years I was under impression that a lot of the main lake fish made their way into the creeks when it came to spawning season, much like a striper does instinctively, but Jimbo had a different theory and I kinda liked his theory better than mine over time. Jimbo believed that the main lake bass find areas to spawn in place without ever leaving the main lake humps near the river channel. It took a while for that to soak in, but I eventually decided to spend more time on the main lake in the early spring and much to my surprise, the fish are there, you just might need to make some adjustments to catch them. On Tuesday morning I decided to make one stop before leaving the creek for the main lake humps. The one stop was close to the mouth of the creek, and it had been producing a fish every time I hit it with the swimbait, so I decided to make a couple casts. There were some loons and gull working in the area and I was hoping they had stirred up a bass or two. I wasn’t wrong and shortly after stopping I caught a nice one to start a chilly morning.

After that fish I hit 3 main lake areas and bombed in all 3 so I made my way into Young Deer to check some points I hadn’t checked in a while with the little Damiki swimbait. On my second stop in the creek I was able to bag another nice fish throwing the little Damiki and this fish pretty much made my day. This one was well over 4 and probably my biggest this week.

I got both fish on video and here’s a link below.

I may have caught a few smaller fish here and there, but I could tell that the little swimbait bait was dying off and the cheese had moved. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that I needed to go back to finesse fishing but I just kept right on throwing that little Damiki.

I didn’t fish on Wednesday and on Thursday there were no big fish to be had with the Damiki. The cheese had officially moved, and I just kept going back to the old cheese location, just like one of the characters in the parable.

By Yesterday I was ready to embrace the change and I decided to go back to finesse and throw the dang shaky head! There were docks that I hadn’t visited all week and there had to be fish on the docks by now so I set out to run some docks. It didn’t take long before I started catching fish around the docks with the shaky head but size was on the small side. I started thinking I might be in for a dink fest and there was some heavy rain headed our way. I really wanted to end the week on a good note and sure enough, right before the rain started I caught a good one on a rocky dock to end my week.

I had found the new cheese but who knows where the cheese will be next week??

The lake level is a little less than a foot above full pool and holding steady. Water temps are in the mid-fifties and the corps will be pulling water this afternoon and into the night so with the big moon tonight there should be some good night fishing on Lanier right now!

Creatures of Habit

The right shoe always goes on first. It doesn’t matter if it’s my house slipper or my work boots, the right shoe always goes on first. I wouldn’t know how to act if I had to put my left foot in a shoe before the right foot and I would probably deem it 7 years of bad luck if by some chance I had to put my left shoe on before the right. That’s just one of many habits I have and when it comes to fishing, I have a bunch of habits too.

This week I kept it simple and relied on one bait and one tactic to put fish in the boat. Not only are we creatures of habit but the fish are also creatures of habit and sometimes our habits cross paths. I have a habit of visiting the same places to catch my fish and the fish have a habit of showing up there every spring to greet me. Since I’m getting older and I tend to forget, I just looked back to a year ago on my YouTube page and also a year ago on my blog and I got all the info I needed to start my week. My plan on Monday was to throw the Damiki/swimbait rig and slow roll it back to the boat similar to a video I made 1 year ago to the day.

On Monday I tied on a 3.3 Keitech swimbait on a Lanier Baits 1/4-ounce Damiki head and hit the creek right after dawn. As soon as I left the marina I saw something that I hadn’t seen in a while and that was fish chasing bait on the surface. I could see splash after splash out on the end of a point, looking up the creek. I scanned the area and saw more splashes on the surface, some far away and a few that peaked my interest closer to where I was. It was time to sight fish.

There was a nice sized bass that was getting with it and having a ball chasing bait on the surface near where I was idling so I just made my way towards the fish. This fish was lit up and coming completely out of the water while chasing little threadfins that had rose to the surface to greet the morning sun. I could see little schools of threadfin popping up to the surface in small circular ripples all over the point where the bass was feeding. I cut the motor and dropped the trolling motor just out of my casting range and eased up on the area where I last saw the fish surface. It was a nice fish and looked to be around the 4lb mark. I made my first cast with the little Damiki and it was perfect. I counted it down to five and started a slow steady retrieve, much like retrieving a spybait in the summertime. As a matter of fact, this week was just like spybaiting in July only it was swimbaiting in March, and in some of the same areas as I would visit while spybaiting.

About halfway into my slow retrieve, I felt a little pop and the rod loaded up as I reeled down on a fighting fish. I can tell the little fish from the big fish by the weight of the resistance. Generally, if I pull hard on the fish and the fish comes towards me, it’s a small fish but if I pull hard and the fish doesn’t react to my pulls, it’s a big fish. This was a bigger fish and a lot of fun to catch on the little Damiki rig. Here’s a picture of my first fish on Monday morning.

Before I go any further, I want to brag on my gear this week. The rod and reel setup was from KastKing and it is their 7’3″ medium “Speed Demon” spinning combo. I loaded the reel with 12lb high vis braid and a 30 foot 7lb fluorocarbon leader. Take your pick on the swimbait just as long as it looks like the size of a 3 inch shad. I used the 3.3 Keitech this week. My choice of jig head has been Lanier Baits little 1/4 ounce plain Damiki head using it all winter and into the spring now. It’s just an all around good versatile jig head that I can use for these fish that are feeding on shad and I really like the yellow eyes. I highly recommend them. Sometimes something as small as the little yellow eyes is all it takes to convince a fish to react. I’ve gotten into the habit of simplifying my jig head selection and these are the most versatile.

After landing that fish it was just a matter of targeting the same areas and hitting the places that I saw more fish surface in the early morning hours. It wasn’t exactly power fishing, and the bite certainly wasn’t on fire but there was enough success on Monday to convince me that I was just going to roll with the little swimbait all week. I gave up on the docks and swore off the shaky head for the next 4 days straight. Just me and my little swimbait. I must have gone through 5-6 packs of the little 3.3 Keitechs I was using over the 4 days, just casting it on creek points, main lake humps, main lake points and also areas that the bass stage before the spawn. I would count it down 5-10 seconds and slowly wind it back to the boat, not changing speed or action, just a steady wind. As far as locations, I would have to say that my biggest bass this week came from staging areas like secondary points. The big fish were hit and miss, and you just needed to cover ground to get bites. I must have made over a thousand casts this week with the little swimbait, but I could tell by Thursday, the swimbait bite was on the decline as the water temps slowly lowered due to cooler days and nights. The same places that I had been catching active fish dwindled to barely a sniff by yesterday and the fish had moved back closer to the bottom as the surface temps cooled. Yesterday I found more success with the shaky head dragging the bottom on rocks and docks than the success I had enjoyed earlier in the week with the little Damiki rig.

I’m pretty sure I’ll see the little Damiki bite come back around as soon as the surface temps get back on the rise next week and the fish move closer to spawning. Right now, the corps is pulling water off and on throughout the day or evenings and the surface temps have been around the mid 50’s and dropping for the moment. The lake level is a little above full pool.

Here’s some pictures from my week with every fish this week being caught slow rolling the Damiki.

Here They Come!

It’s like someone flipped a switch this week. On Monday I kept thinking that the creek was beat up from the extended tournament weekend, but I was wrong. It was a new day, plus a new week and the spotted bass refused to disappoint. Over the weekend I ran a tackle history trend analysis for this time of year, and it seems that in the past I have had pretty good luck throwing a little swimbait around various places and catching some nice fish. I’ve had good luck in the past using other methods, but something told me that casting the little Damiki head with a little 2.8 Keitech would get some bites on the wind-blown points so as soon as I cleared the marina area, I hit my first point with the little Damiki rig. These morning fish have been suspended so I cast the little swimbait across the point and gave it a 5 count before starting the slow retrieve. The retrieve isn’t that much different than the speed of the retrieve using the little spybaits in the summertime. Same deal with the swimbait in the spring, casting, counting down and followed by a slow retrieve. It’s slow but when these aggressive bass hit that little swimbait, it’s a great feeling and it didn’t take long till I felt that old familiar feeling again when a nice 3lber hammered the little Damiki on my light tackle. I fought the fish all the way back to the boat and the fish shook free boat side, but I got a good look at the fish before it departed. That was the only interest I had in the Damiki around that point, so I moved on to the next long point in the creek and on my first cast I hooked another good fish, but I managed to boat this one, another nice 3lb fish. As I brought the fish in, I looked down at the graph and it was like a jailbreak underneath me. I had brought in the whole school along with the caught fish, so I quickly released the caught fish and dropped the Damiki straight down into the group of fish that had gathered under the boat, immediately catching another fish before the little Damiki could reach the bottom.

At that point I backed off the area and started fan casting the point to pick off any stragglers from the scattered school of bass. This was my biggest before leaving the area.

The bite was hit and miss for the next few stops before I hit the jackpot with the little Damiki when I gave it a long cast up onto a shallow point and started my retrieve. It wasn’t long before I felt a little tick on my line and when I turned on the fish, the fish turned on me. The fish almost pulled the rod out of my hand when he took off with the swimbait and it turned out to be my biggest of the day.

You can see in the video below that the first fish I hooked just about jerked the rod out of my hands and turned out to be the fish pictured above but the camera cut off just after I hooked him.

After a few more fish on Monday, I called it a day feeling good about the little Damiki bite only to have it hit the brakes for me on Tuesday. I was kinda screwed up for a while because the little Damiki pattern was nowhere to be found so I started casting the a-rig and chatterbait on the windy points for a few bites here and there. I didn’t feel real comfortable about the moving bait bite by the end of the day Tuesday so my plan was to go back to finesse on the bank for the stagers on Wednesday. Here’s a couple nice fish caught on windy points with the chatterbait on Tuesday.

On Wednesday I spent about an hour on the Damiki stuff but then quickly shifted to the finesse style shaky head on rocks and docks. It’s that time of year where the bass are coming out of their winter slumber and moving to the shallower staging areas before a push to spawn. Beating the right stretch of bank right now will net some nice fish. Bigger fish are coming out of the deeper water and cruising the secondary points in search of big-ticket meals and when they are up on the rocks, they are there for one reason and that is to eat. By noon on Wednesday, I was searching my staging area milk run in a few of our creeks on the south end and I found some very nice fish to make a pretty good sack by 4pm hitting rocks and docks with the shaky head.

At the same time I was fishing Wednesday, I was also starving because of my upcoming colonoscopy on Thursday and the requirement to starve for 24 hours before the procedure. It was a good way to take my mind off food for a while and I had a lot of fun on Wednesday with the afternoon shaky head pattern. Here’s a video from my day on Wednesday.

After my procedure on Thursday, I took it easy but managed to take Lisa for a little boat ride in the evening and she caught her first official shaky head fish for 2022.

Yesterday, Friday, I was back out mid-morning and back on the finesse bite again. It took a little while for the fish to warm up and start moving around but by noon I was catching fish again. I spent yesterday afternoon catching fish on both rocks and docks in all kinds of random areas. The fish are very hungry and very forgiving right now when it comes to tackle to use. This week it was the little 1/4 ounce Lanier Baits Damiki head with a 2.8 Keitech swimbait as well as a 1/2 ounce chatterbait. I also caught some fish on my little 1.5 shad crank pictured below.

The little 1.5 shad crank will be a must as we approach the shad spawn a little later this spring and I’m sure Lanier Baits will have a few in the upcoming weeks.

I ended yesterday on a bad note as my last fish was lost boatside and it was to be my biggest of the day, but the fish outsmarted me, jumping several times and dislodging my shaky head hook with every jump. She finally shook it at the side of the boat and swam away. The fish pictured below was my biggest yesterday and came from the end of a dock. Right now, the lake is just above full pool, and the water temps are approaching the mid 50’s. The fish are on the move and moving up into the shallow areas and with this beautiful weather it’s time to enjoy the lake and our resources.

The Ole Ten Second Rule

I still do it when I drop something on the floor; the ole 5 second rule comes into effect and I blow the dirt off whatever it was that hit the floor and eat it, more than likely if nobody is looking. The bass have their own cruel version of the 5 second rule, only it’s around 10 seconds and they use this rule every so often to mess with me.

Every once in a while, when I get these bass figured out and I’m sitting on a fastball, that’s when they throw the old curve ball….or slider…or change up or something besides the fast ball. It’s like these bass are messing with the old geriatric fisherman on purpose, playing with my fleeting memory and laughing at me, looking up through the gin clear water. Early this week I had them figured out and I was on top of their game. It was cruising fish on the deep flats in pockets early in the morning and then it was the rocks and docks in the afternoon. They were taking the bait with this pattern on Monday and Tuesday. My baits of choice on Monday and Tuesday were the Damiki early on the 30-40-foot-deep flats and then moving on to the rocks and docks with the green pumpkin shaky head in the afternoon. I looked for the sunny, rocky areas that had wind blowing into it. As far as worm color goes, pick one. If these bass are hungry, they’re going to eat, and I found that the color green pumpkin is just about as good as any of them when it comes to hungry bass and worms. You can get creative with the sizes and shapes too, it’s hard to say what will trigger these bass. Since I’ve surrendered most of my time to the shaky head pattern here lately, I’ve had to evolve a bit because I feel like the fish are evolving along with the pattern.

Generally, when I cast the shaky head, I control the decent of the worm, whether it is a dead weight freefall or falling at an angle because I have taken up all the slack in my line. This is something I have to think about because now I know that the fish are thinking about it too. It took me about 4 fish on Thursday to figure it out but I noticed that every time I made a cast and fed out a bunch of slack so the worm would freefall vertically. If I waited long enough, around 10 seconds after the worm settled on the bottom, when I took up the slack it was like magic, and a fish would be swimming away with the worm. My second clue was while I was running a stretch of deep docks, I saw 3 bass suspended underneath my boat, so I dropped my shaky head straight down through them and they all chased it down. I watched it all unfold on my 2D graph. As soon as the worm hit the bottom all 3 bass just stopped dead in their tracks and just stared at it. I fought off my natural instincts to “jiggle-jiggle it” and I just gave them the old razzle-dazzle dead stick to counter their 10 second rule. Little did these bass know old Jim was an expert at countermeasures and countermeasures was a very important defense system when fighting the bad guys back in the day. Sometimes the best plan is to let them make the first move, so I just let the worm soak till they either hit it or moved on. Just like clockwork at around 10 seconds I felt the old familiar tap and I set the hook on a fish some 35 feet under the boat. And so it was to be, the old 10 second rule was in effect. I remember this rule from past experiences with these bass, but I had forgotten that they sometimes use this rule to mess with me. Whether it was rocks or docks, these fish wanted that bait completely still for at least 10 seconds after it hit the bottom. If you gave it the old jiggle-jiggle they were gone.

Yesterday I got my revenge and I set out in the creek, through all the boat traffic to get some redemption and I was able to get a few good ones by using the old 10 second rule to my advantage before heading back to the house for a dinner menu consisting of crawfish gumbo, homemade potato salad and gator bites.

This week we also had windows installed for our screened in porch. These are made of a thick flexible plastic and the windows slide open and closed and are pretty durable. If anyone is interested in having there screened areas enclosed send me a message and I’ll give you their contact info. I ncluded a couple pictures below.

I also made a dozen of my favorite early spring jerkbaits this week and I’ll be sending ten of the 110+1’s to Lanier Baits next week. I included a couple pictures of the jerkbaits below.

I’m also finishing up around 20 custom spybaits for the guys at Fish North Georgia and they should be ready next week also. Most are my emerald color but there are a couple other favorite patterns of mine included.

Water temps are around the mid 50’s right now and the corps is generating off and on. Lake level is just above full pool. Here is a link to the corps generation schedule if you don’t have it.

http://spatialdata.sam.usace.army.mil/hydropower/default.aspx

I’m doing my pictures a little different starting this week. It’s mainly just random photos from my week.

This week in pictures:

The Magic Ledge

Three years back a friend and I were pre-fishing for an upcoming BFL tournament in late February, and he had just gotten the new Panoptix LiveScope system for his boat. Shortly after we got started fishing, we pulled up to a point and my friend Jeff said to check out the screen on the Panoptix as he panned the ledge of the point. He pointed out these little objects moving up and down the ledge just crawling on the bottom. Some going up and some coming back down. I was mesmerized by what I was seeing. They were fish and they were moving up and down the ledge of the point from 25 feet of depth to less than 10 feet. The wind was blowing across the point and the fish were on the leeward side of the ledge chasing bait as it came over the crown of the point. Jeff and I made our shaky head casts to the crown of the point and drug the worms down the hill, right where the bass were running up and down the ledge intercepting the bait. It didn’t take long, and Jeff was setting the hook on our first fish. I followed him up with a fish of my own and we proceeded to catch fish after fish off the ledge. Granted, most of the fish were in the 1-3lb range but some were decent tournament fish. After a while the fish scattered from the point, and we moved on. Later in the morning we pulled up to another point with wind on it in the mouth of YD and we found the same scenario, the fish were running up and down the steeper rocky ledge of the point and we were able to target another batch of those fish, successfully boating 6-8 fish before they scattered. Once again, I was amazed at the fish moving up and down the ledge chasing the bait that came over the point in the wind.

After that trip I had a much better understanding of what the fish were doing, and I was able to build from the scenario we were watching even though I didn’t have the benefit of Panoptix. Fast forward to last year in Feb. when I was cruising the ditches in pockets in a creek. There was one pocket or bay in particular, towards the back, where the very back made a “Y” and there were 2 drainage ditches on either side of an underwater point. The underwater point was kinda blunt at the end with a noticeable ledge or steeper drop-off, where it dropped from a 15-foot tier to another 25-foot tier. The ledge was fairly steep and felt rocky, plus sometimes I could feel my bait free-fall down the ledge a foot or so which told me there were so fairly large rocks around. The two drainage ditches were always packed with bait early in the morning and as the morning progressed, the bait would move out from the shallow backs of the ditches only to be ambushed every morning by the waiting bass on the ledge. Sometimes the wind would blow from the back of the pockets and help push the bait over the ledge for the waiting bass, and other times the wind would blow into the pocket and push bait into the ledge where the bass were staging. If there was no wind, the fish were still there waiting on the bait to move from shallow part of the ditch to deeper water as the sun came up. Either scenario produced fish and the fish were always there waiting on the bait, whether it was coming from the back of the ditches or being blown into the ledge. Some days there were a lot of fish and bait and other times the population of both was minimal.

This week I fished Monday, Wednesday, yesterday and today with pretty good results for numbers using the little Lanier Baits 1/4-ounce Damiki with a 3-3 swimbait from KBDBaits for the first few hours of the morning, and then moving to the rocks and docks with the shaky head or ned rig in the afternoons. On Monday we had a west wind and after a visit to the magic ledge and a couple of ditches in the creek I had 3 limits of fish so far. I set out for YD again, knowing that there would be wind on an area of rocks and docks that I wanted to visit. By the time I got there, the wind had kicked up a pretty good chop on the water and one dock in particular was right in the wind. The dock had a shade patch on the north side, and I made a cast into the patch with my shaky head but before the worm hit the bottom, I had my first fish from the dock. I pulled out a little further and hit spot lock in the wind and cast to the shade patch again, and again I caught another fish. This happened 5 times within a shade patch the size of a small car, in the wind a waves. It was a pretty cool way to end my day in the early afternoon. No big girls but fun numbers. Here’s a few pics from Monday.

On Wednesday I was back at it, hitting the magic ledge early with a Damiki and a Keitech and then pounding the rocky banks and docks in the afternoon with the shaky head and ned.

Yesterday I was equipped with some new baits I got in the mail the evening before from KBDBaits, so I had a few new options to choose from. It was overcast so I picked out a lighter colored 3-inch swimbait in an “emerald ice” pattern and I went to work at the magic ledge. The key to catching the fish at the magic ledge was finding the right speed, which was slow and slower. The slower you moved the bait, the more attention the bait got. I spent a couple hours at the ledge and amassed a few keepers. Here’s a few pictures of the fish from yesterday.

A strong cold front came through overnight and I really hadn’t planned to fish today but I finished some baits and had a couple hours to burn so I hit the lake not expecting much, but to my surprise the fish were biting pretty well with the strong north winds. The first stop I made was to the magic ledge, but it was after 12 noon and the ledge bite usually dies off about 10 or so but I made a couple casts with a new little swimbait color. Here’s a picture of the little swimbait on a Lanier Baits Damiki head I chose today. Kevin, from KBDBaits told me the color was called “green gizzard”.

It only took a couple casts, and I felt a little tap as the little Damiki rig slowly moved down the ledge. I reeled down on the tap and was rewarded with a nice headshake and this early afternoon ledge panda. I never saw one fish on the graph, and I was just casting on faith.

I spent the next 20 minutes looking for more fish, but I never caught another fish on the ledge, so I moved on to the docks and wind-blown rocks. I caught another fish on my first dock with the shaky head and I thought that was a good sign. I lost a nice fish a few docks later and then landed another shortly after. After that stretch of docks, I hit a couple wind-blown rocky points and found enough fish to finish out my limit before heading back home. All of my fish, with the exception of the ledge panda came from my shaky head. Here’s the others from my trip this afternoon.

The water temps are averaging around 50 degrees and the lake is just above full pool. The corps is releasing off and on for the past week.