The Magic Dock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All About the Shad

Holy cow, I’m not sure ya’ll have been smelling what I’ve been smelling in the creeks this week but I’m smelling the strong scent of shad every morning that I’ve been out this week. This week I’ve been able to get out fairly early just about every morning and it’s really been worth it. The creeks are starting to come alive with bait moving around early in the morning and the fish have been responding well. I kinda knew the fishing would get better as we’ve had fairly stable weather all week and the water temps are on the rise. We’re getting closer to the spawn every day and the fish are moving around looking for food after a long winter slumber. I can remember just about 6 weeks ago I was freezing my butt off and dragging a little swimbait on the deeper bottom just hoping the little swimbait would lure a fish into biting. The fish were cold and my fingers were frozen but that little Damiki rig I was using got it done in the later part of the winter for me. I had to work it very slow as you can see in the video below that I made back on Feb. 1st. This video was made in the back of the creek while the bait and fish were stacked in the back. Most every fish was under 2lbs but it provided me with some late winter action for days. I probably caught close to 100 fish just making the same cast in the same place for 3 days straight. The fish were sitting on a ledge and constantly intercepting small bluebacks coming out of shallow water into deeper water via the ledge and I was just hoping the little Damiki down the ledge.

Throughout the month of Feb. I used the little Damiki a lot and I’ve built a trust in the bait. In my opinion the little 2.8 Keitech is a pretty good match for the little threadfin shad that the fish are keying on in the creeks so it was just a matter of figuring out how the fish wanted the Damiki. As the water started to warm the fish started getting more active and I found that it wasn’t necessary to drag the bait anymore and I started getting more and more fish while swimming the bait at different depths Rather than dragging it down ledges and across flats. I also jacked up the size of the swimbait to a 3.3 keitech. If you look at my videos from this time last year I was using the 3.3 Keitech with a lot of success. Here’s a picture of the rig I’m currently using and the rig that’s done the bulk of the damage this week.

The cool part about the Damiki is that it is very versatile and I can use it several different ways. Lately I’ve been making long casts on points, flats, around docks, in ditches, rock bluffs and if I see a fish swimming under the boat I’ll drop it down and dead stick it on the bottom. I will say this, you may not get good numbers on it but if you are patient and throw it in the right places it can be fun. The key is the speed. It really reminds me of the spybait technique sometimes because it can be like watching paint dry. Earlier this week I was coming out of the marina and saw some birds diving on some bait so I cruised over to make a cast or two in the general vicinity of the bird action. I had my video camera with so I decided to make a little Damiki video while I was out. You can see the technique and speed I’m using now with the Damiki vice what I was doing 6 weeks ago with the same bait in the back of the creek.

Don’t get me wrong here, there are plenty of other baits besides the Damiki rig pattern that work well right now, there is also a crankbait bite, a chatterbait bite, a jerkbait bite, jigs and a few other things that are working well right now some I wouldn’t exactly hang my hat on a Damiki rig bite from one day to the next but it has been a lot of fun this week and every once in a while I’d bust a good one. Right now I have a ton of confidence in the little Damiki and I’m probably using it just about 80% of the time. As far as the color choice for the Keitech goes, it varies. My advice is to choose whatever catches your eye because the fish are pretty forgiving when it comes to color choices. Just try until you find one that works well.

When I got out this morning the water temps were in the mid to upper 50’s and the lake is down a couple feet right now. Here’s some fish pictures from the week including the last 5 which were from offshore fishing the main lake today. That’s another thing I wanted to mention, this pattern works well on main lake humps and points and that’s where I found them today.

What’s All the Chatter About

For the month of March I have a rolodex of baits and patterns I like to use, so when I hit the creek about mid morning this morning I started factoring the conditions and going through the rolodex of baits and options for a beautiful sunny afternoon with a little breeze. Luckily, this morning, every once in a while we had a gust of stronger wind and I was able to find some wind on a point right away. It wasn’t a lot of wind but the surface had a pretty good chop which meant I had options. One bait I’ve had on the deck for the past week or so has been the chatterbait. It’s been on my deck recently because of this gut feeling I get every year about this time so I’ve been throwing it a little bit each day. One sure thing about the catterbait this time of year is it’s unpredictability of success. One day it will work great and on other days it won’t get a sniff but there are ways you can better your chances, kinda like today. When I saw the wind blowing on the point I thought about my old friend, the chatterbait. I hadn’t caught a fish on it yet in 2021 but it wasn’t for a lack of trying and I felt good about it today. It was Friday and the wind was blowing on the point, a perfect combo to break out the chatterbait and let it fly. I think it was my 2nd cast and the fish pictured above hammered the chatterbait in less than 15 feet of water. That made me feel good and it gave me something to build on. All it took was that one fish to get me going. At that point I started running points and looking for as much wind as I could find on every point I could find and every once in a while I would get a little reward for my efforts. It’s not like the chatterbait bite is on fire or anything right now but the way the fish bite it makes it somewhat addicting. Most times when a fish hits the chatterbait the rod just unloads for a second or two and the quicker you reel down on the slack, the better chance you have of hooking the fish before the fish shakes the bait out. The reason the rod unloads is because the fish hits the chatterbait and usually swims towards the boat with it for a second or two so I’ve learned to reel down quickly and then apply a little hook set. Here’s another chatterbait fish from the afternoon.

Yesterday and the day before were a couple of those early spring days with the temps in the upper 60’s and a little wind out on the lake. Normally I’d be out there slinging a crankbait around because it’s certainly crankbait season but I have yet to find a decent crankbait bite. The crankbait is working well right now and from the reports I’m getting, it sounds like it’s a good choice to have on the deck. Here’s a picture that my neighbors David and Ann sent me a few days ago. Ann caught a nice bass Thursday afternoon cranking a point in the creek with my 1.5 Shad crank.

Earlier this week, before I got on the chatterbait run I was mixing it up with the ned rig on the docks and the little swimbait around the ditches and also on some flats. My little Damiki rig with the 2.8 or 3.3 keitech is still working for me so if I mark a few fish on a 20 foot flat, I back off a casting distance away and throw back into the area, letting the swimbait sink to the bottom and then slowly dragging it through the fish. Here’s a nice fish I caught earlier in the week with the Damiki rig on a flat near brush.

Another bait I’ve been starting to throw each time I got out is the little keitech on the underspin. If you check out my YouTube page and go back to spring of last year I made some videos featuring the little swimbait pattern. So far this spring they are still a little reluctant to get after the underspin for me but that bite is coming very soon and if this warming trend continues and shallow bite will be very good. Here’s a picture of a few underspin fish from earlier in the week. That crappie smashed the underspin in less than 5 feet of water.

More to follow but to recap a few baits in my March rolodex, first would have to be the chatterbait for me right now. Second would be keeping that crankbait handy. Third for me is the little swimbait or underspin and lastly is the little ned rig on docks. If you want one more option for windy points in march I would have to say the a-rig would be a good bet if you like slinging the a-rig in the spring. Water temps are anywhere from 54+ in the backs of the creeks and 51-53 out on the big water. Lake level is rocking on 2 feet low.

Slinging the Rig in Early Spring

It’s been about 10 years now since I first picked up an Alabama rig. Years ago when the a-rig first came on the scene I was making and selling a lot of striper tackle so making the transition to bass tackle wasn’t that hard, especially since an a-rig was just a sized down design of the u-rigs I made for stripers. At the time I was making a lot of u-rigs for the striper guys so it was just a matter of taking a Dremel tool and modifying one of my smaller lead head molds to accommodate smaller wire diameters. Once I finished the design we started manufacturing a-rigs for another label and they were sold at Sportsman’s Warehouse’s across the south. Back then my now son-in-law Levi was still in high school and worked in my shop after school helping me make the a-rigs to sell. Now it’s some 9 years later and he married my step-daughter and now they have a son, my grandson Dawson Hogan. Here’s a video from 9 years ago featuring the castable Georgia rig we designed and manufactured.

There were times when I would throw the a-rig but I always thought it to be a lot of work and in a way, cheating a bit, offering an array of baits instead of just one lure. Nonetheless, it is a good way to target fish and if you learn the technique it can be a lot of fun. The thing about the a-rig is that it mimics a school of bait and that little wired up bait ball can be used in a lot of different places as well as covering a lot of ground quickly. There are two ways that I use the a-rig in early spring and one of the two is around the docks, I really like moving down a row of docks with the rig and there are specific areas of the dock that I focus on. The first is making casts in front of a dock. That’s the first cast I make. Secondly is casting parallel to the sides of the dock and getting the rig as close to the dock as possible. I don’t really let the rig sink that much and I try and focus on keeping it around 5-6 feet in depth during the retrieve. When you let the rig go deeper around docks you take the chance of hanging cables or someone’s brush piles they dropped off their dock so I’m very careful around docks. Another area of the docks I like to throw the rig is the shady side or the shady areas around the dock as well as inside an empty slip (provided they don’t have a hidden lift). Usually in the afternoon bass will be very close to the shady areas and react to objects that pass through the shady patches.

The second area I like to throw my a-rig is just random points and shoals in the wind. Let’s face it, these fish put on the feed bag when the wind is blowing on these early spring rocky points and shoals so throwing an a-rig in these places is generally a lock on warm sunny days.

When I say “wind”, I don’t mean some mild breeze creating a pretty little choppy chop on the surface, I’m talking about a beefy wave event that can push the bait and your boat up onto the shoals or points. I know it’s uncomfortable to fish in the wind and waves but I learned a long time ago that comfort and big fish are rarely used in the same sentence. Big waves distort the fishes view and causes the fish to make bad reactional decisions. You need to get on that trolling motor and get out there in them big waves because those big bass are banking on your fear for not being there….

Such was the case this week when I got to fish. I only went out two times this week as it was a boat maintenance week for me. I fished the day I trailered my boat and I fished yesterday when I put it back in the water. On Tuesday I trailered my boat but before I did I wanted to make a lap around the creek. It was warm and windy on Tuesday and I took advantage of the wind that was blowing waves onto some rocky points that big females like to hang out on in early spring. They are stagers and they are generally looking to eat on those wind blown shallower rocky areas so that’s the areas I targeted plus with the Spot Lock function on the Minn Kota I was just setting the boat in deeper water and fan casting points in the waves. Here’s a few more I caught using this pattern in addition to the bass pictured above.

As far as gear goes, I’m using a pretty basic setup. The rod is a 7’6″ MH baitcaster with a good Shimano reel loaded with 14lb flouro. Here’s a picture of a pretty basic a-rig setup.

In addition to starting with the basic rigs I suggest finding a good plug knocker or rig retriever because you’re probably going to get it hung a few times during the learning process.

A-rigs are a lot of fun and you can cover a lot of ground throwing it. If you commit to throwing it all day, it will definitely work out your core and work a few back muscles that probably haven’t been awake for a while. Water temps are back into the lower 50’s and I’m beginning to see signs of life in the creek.

The Ned Rig on Deep Docks

This past week I didn’t really get to fish a lot and only went out for a few hours on 2 different days. I mainly stayed inside and battled a stomach bug and recovered from the BFL last weekend. I did want to highlight one of the patterns I’ve been having fun with for the past 2 weeks and that’s the ned rig around deep docks. Last Monday I went out for a few hours and I noticed that I was getting more short strikes on my shaky head than usual so I sized it down to a 2.75 Z-Man TRD Finesse worm on a 1/5 NedlockZ jighead and that did the trick. I focused on docks that were 30 feet or deeper and I just skipped or pitched the worm all around the docks including just dropping it right in the front of the dock and letting it fall to the bottom and dead sticking it or just bouncing it very slow. Slow is the key for the deep dock fish right now but the rewards are a few bigger fish in the 4-5lb range. Right now we are getting ready for a big push from the bass as they start their pre-spawn staging and feeding for the spawn but until we see a rise in surface temps above 50 we may still be dealing with slower fish due to their metabolic condition. That’s why I’m still fishing slow bottom stuff like worms and jigs deep. Water temps are still below 50 and the back of the creek is very stained right now with lake levels about a foot below full pool and dropping slowly. If you’re looking for a fun little pattern and you have a lot of patience give the little Ned rig a shot on some deep docks right now and you might get a good one. Here’s a few pics from last week. The biggest one I caught this week pictured above was caught on the ned rig was when I was using a Canada Craw on a deep dock and the others were caught on a Green Pumpkin Goby pattern.

Karma, Payback or the Wrath?

This week was a doozy and I hope I can get a reset this morning in church. It all started on Monday morning when I was dealing with the worst toothache in the world. The man-pain needle was pegged off the charts but I had a dentists appointment in the afternoon so I just ate a bunch of Motrin and went on about my morning. It started at the McDonald’s drive thru when the lady taking my order got snippy with me because I asked for a “regular” biscuit instead of a “plain” biscuit. Apparently she wasn’t able to make the correlation that early in the morning and with my toothache I was in no mood for McDonald drive thru shenanigans. She got snippy, I got snippy and then I told her I would help her out and cancel my order all together because I wanted a Hardee’s pork chop and gravy biscuit anyway so our transaction was over and I drove away mad. As I drove by the window to give her my stink eye I looked at the lady I was speaking with and she looked young and frazzled. It almost looked like she had been crying as we looked in each other in the eyes and I thought that maybe she was having a bad day too. Then I felt bad because my sore tooth was probably minuscule compared to the problems she may have been facing and that’s the moment when my punishment began this week. It just went from bad to worse as the week progressed…

On the fishing front this week it was fun. I was still on my little swimbait bite from the week before and I was still having fun with that. I was mainly fishing an area I named the horseshoe gauntlet because the brush piles are shaped in a large horseshoe on a flat and the bass mainly cruise the inside of the horseshoe shaped brush looking for bait. It’s like a big 40 foot across underwater corral of bass and a lot of fun when they eat what you’re throwing. I just hit the spot lock and make casts inside the coral with the little swimbait, letting it fall and dragging it till I feel the tick. The gauntlet had been reloading with bass very frequently so I could leave and come back 2 hours later for more fun. Most of these fish were the 1-2lb variety but every once in a while a bigger fish would show up. I was fishing the BFL tournament on Saturday so I wasn’t really thinking of the gauntlet for a tournament spot. The gauntlet is more of a minor league warm up spot before you go find the big girls out in the deep or you need a quick fix if you haven’t felt the little tink tink in a while. Here’s a picture of some of my gauntlet fish this week.

I also ran across another little bite that was cool this week and provided some bigger fish and that was the little ZMan ned rig combo. These deeper docks have been holding a few bigger fish and I found out this week that they were looking for the smaller stuff so I sized down my worm to a ned rig and started pitching it around deep 30-50 foot deep docks. It was a lot of fun but it was slow fishing. Once again, like the swimbait, the bite was slow but rewarding. Here’s a few fish from the ned rig.

Once the rain came I slowed down with my fishing and just tried to manage my toothache pain until Friday when we had a root canal scheduled. It was a necessary evil because my toothache pain was reaching unbearable stages and I needed it done before the weekend. Root canals haven’t changed any by the way. They are still as painful as I remembered from years past. Anyway back to the fishing. My neighbor and I hit the creek for a bit Thursday when it wasn’t raining and we ran across a few schooling stripers in a quiet cove. We both tied on a little weightless fluke jr and had some fun. My neighbor David has a friend from Louisiana that had recommended a recipe for striper so we kept a couple for David’s table fare.

When Friday morning arrived I was in the dentist chair bright and early getting a nerve drilled out by a dentist who lied to me. He said it was going to be fun and we were going to joke around during the procedure but the only joking we did was right before he hit a active nerve with his tiny drill and joke time was over. I think I would just as soon taken my chances with trying to pull a tooth from a greased up bobcat rather than sit in that chair and let a dentist hollow out the root of one of my molars. So we got the root canal out of the way and I got a few pain pills and a pat in the rear before heading home. I immediately ate one of the pain pills and relaxed for a while before heading down to the boat to get my gear for the morning tournament. After I let the Hydrocodone kick in real good on an empty stomach I took off trotting down to the dock and slipped and fell on our stone paver steps damaging my right arm. I had enough of being poked for one day already so I had Lisa just butterfly it up for my tournament. I think our doctoring skills need help but we got it fixed up only to have it come apart during the tournament.

Yesterday, tournament day it was my first time as a co-angler and I had a good time even though the weather sucked. We fished up north for a while and then came down to the south end. We hit the gauntlet briefly and I caught my biggest fish of the day, a solid 3 plus and my partner boated one also. We mainly fished docks with worms from that point on and I boated 3 more fish while my partner zeroed on docks. I wound up with 4 fish for 7.8 pounds and a 35th place finish out of 224 co-anglers. I got a little check and felt pretty good about the day after seeing some of the sticks that struggled along with me. It’s been a long week and it’s been filled with a lot of pain and suffering for me so I’m going to spend a little time this morning trying to get right with the big man upstairs and see if we can get a reset for next week. Have a good week!

Fishing and Trend Analysis

Every winter is different”….repeat after me, “Every winter is different”. Sometimes I tend to forget that and so right now I’m looking at a giant pile of brand new shaky head worms that I have invested my winter budget in and I can’t find a fish that will bite a worm to save my butt. For the last 3 years the shaky head has been my go to bait through the month of Feb. and I have amassed some giants over those 3 years on the shaky head but this year I had to change it up and I think I know why.

Back when I was in the Navy working on fighter aircraft, one of the many programs our squadron was required to maintain was the “Trend Analysis” program. The Trend Analysis program was a complexed study of every facet of each of our 12 aircraft and their many systems over a period of time in an attempt to find any trend in discrepancies that could later lead to catastrophic failures. I maintained the program for a few years and the attention to detail required in aircraft Trend Analysis is something that I try and transfer to our lake and fish habits. I’ve gotta be honest, tracking trends in fighter aircraft is far less complexed than tracking trends in fish habits. There are a lot of variables to fishing and the fish is a moving target. For the past few years I’ve flourished in the winter and shined like a diamond in a goats kulu when it came to Feb. and my shaky head pattern but this year it’s shaping up differently. It’s pretty much right in front of my face every day when I throw the worm and get snagged way more than I should and have little fish to show for it. It took me a minute but if you look at the water level data for the past 3 years you’ll see that the lake is trending downward and has been for a while. If you look at the past 3 years in data you’ll see that the lake rose sharply in each of those years and as the lake levels rose my worm bite took off. More than likely the bass were foraging the new shoreline from the sharp rise in lake levels where as so far this year there is nothing new for the bass to forage. Crawfish holes are drying up and submerged rocks are now dry. That leaves less options for the bass so it’s back to scrounging food in other places, with worms and crawfish out of the picture it’s most notably where the bluebacks and shad are hanging out.

The above hypothesis is why I have decided to drag swimbaits around endlessly to get my bites as I just needed to make the adjustment from worm to tiny swimbait. Basically, for the past 2 weeks my goal was to locate fish and drag a small swimbait slowly on the bottom to mimic the food source they are looking for. Here’s what I know; every morning when the sun comes up the bluebacks leave the shallows of the backs of the pockets and other shallow places and they move out to deeper water. The bass live in the lake and do this for a living so they tend to congregate in areas like shallow to deep drop offs and across flats in an attempt to ambush the bluebacks as they return to deeper water when the sun rises and warms the surface. This is important to remember, I’ll capitalize it for you: BLUEBACKS LIKE AND CRAVE SUNLIGHT and spotted bass like and crave bluebacks. My biggest suggestion is to find an area, whether it’s the back of a creek or the back of a pocket in a creek, if there is bait present in shallow areas and you see sporadic fish scattered on the graph, back off to deeper water, say maybe 25-30 feet and cast a little swimbait rig up into the shallows, dragging it down the slope or ledge very slowly. This week, I found a school of hundreds of fish and all that the bass were doing was feeding on bluebacks as they made their escape from shallow to deeper water chasing the sun as it broke the tree line. The key is to work the bait slowly, stopping every once in a while to see if dead sticking the bait will trigger a bite. I know it’s like watching paint dry but the rewards can be good. Here’s a picture of my setup this week and the bait I used to catch over 70 bass.

If we have a cloudy day, which we have a lot of right now, the bluebacks tend to scatter more so another trend I’ve been tracking is the striped bass trend. Striped bass on Lanier are very elusive in the winter but at the same time they are more predictable. During this time of year the gulls and loons can give away the location of the stripers and one cloudy day this week I chased the birds with a small spoon and caught a few nice stripers for a friend and his family to eat. If you’d like to learn more about the striper technique I’m using right now check out my bog posts about loons and gulls last month.

Water temps are mainly in the upper 40’s right now and here’s a few random pictures from my week:

More Loons and Spoons

This morning I was back at it bright and early. My plan was to hit the back of a few ditches early and see if I could find a few more nice bass first thing in the morning. This morning the wind was already blowing out of the northwest just like the last 2 days but it was definitely blowing a little harder early this morning. When the wind is blowing early in the morning the chop makes it harder for the gulls to see the bait below the surface so the gulls weren’t much help early this morning. I found a few fish in the backs of the pockets but I kept getting distracted by the loons and gulls moving around the creek in different areas. I saw the loons off in the distance and they were in a a pretty big group. I moved closer to the area the loons were in and I started watching them work. There were 12-15 loons in the group and they were all diving at the same time which means that they were working. When loons are moving around looking they tend to dive randomly looking in a search mode but when they find a good pod of bait they all go to work together to round up the bait in a tight pattern for the feeding. I saw a few baitfish hit the surface where the loons had been and that little bit of surface activity with the baitfish triggered the gulls to move in. A few of the loons surfaced and quickly dove back down splashing the surface in the process. More loons were popping up, quickly moving around and diving back down for another mouthful of small 1 inch shad or small bluebacks. More gulls showed up and started diving on the water but by that time I was within striking distance with my little white spoon and I let it fly right into the area where the birds were working. I made a very long cast to get into the area and when the spoon hit the water I just let it freefall for about 5-10 seconds so it would clear most of the loons before I made my first long pull on the spoon. The loons know the difference between my spoon and live bait so they rarely get hooked accidentally and thankfully so. Hooking a loon is no fun and something you want to avoid at all costs. Once the spoon cleared the loons I gave the spoon a good long pull upward and then let it freefall while I reeled down. I was over 60+ feet of water and after my second long pull I felt a familiar tick and the line going slack. A tick and slack line can only mean one thing when you know the spoon hasn’t hit the bottom. It means that it’s time to reel down on the slack and make sure your drag is set because your fixin to go for a ride. I set the hook on the tick and felt a pretty sturdy pull back and I knew it was the man in the striped tuxedo. I spent the next few minutes in a tug of war with my biggest striper this year, pictured above.

My setup was primarily for vertically jigging bass or the shaky head rigs and is pretty light when it comes to stripers but I was using 12lb high vis braid with a 30 foot 7lb flouro leader mounted on a Shimano 3000 Ci4 spinning reel and a 7’6” Enigma HPT rod and a 1/2 ounce War Eagle spoon. After landing the fish above I watched the loons and gulls move out over the middle of the creek channel and well over 100 feet in depth when they all started working again. The gulls showed up again and I could tell that they had more bait corralled so I moved the boat to within striking distance. I looked down at the graph and could see striper suspended at 20-30 feet over a 110+ foot bottom. I let the spoon fly into the group of loons and gulls and within 10-15 seconds I felt another tick on the line, I set the hook and missed but within seconds I felt another near miss before the line loaded up again with another nice striper. This striper spent most of the fight near the surface which was the way I like it. Sometimes bigger stripers will take you right down into the standing timber when over deep water but this fish swam on the surface and rolled a few times. It was another stout fish that really put that Shimano drag system to the test. This fish had really put on the feed bag and was another stout teenager and a little smaller than the first fish.

After those two stripers I decided to look around for any kind of pattern for the bass which was a washout effort today. I’ve been trying a few new things and checking some new areas for fish every time I go out. Soon these fish will start making their way to the staging areas and shift to a pre-spawn feeding pattern. Every year is different and to this date I can’t nail down a time when that will happen, but it will happen gradually and soon. I have years of data to draw from and I’m able to put together a trend analysis from my past posts, videos and pictures. That’s the reason I’m starting to focus more on the pre-spawn staging stuff as well as the deep fish on every trip.

With the exception of a few smaller variety bass on a shaky head in the marina area on the way back to the house my effort for bass didn’t pay off today so called it a day early. The stripers made my morning and really made up for the lack of greenfish so if you find yourself in a slump during the dog days of winter there’s always a few stripers hanging around the loons waiting on the action to start. Give it a shot sometime. Water temps are just below 50 and the wind was out of the NW again today.

Using the Loons and throwing the Spoons

This morning I was able to get an early start in the creek. I hadn’t been out before 10am in a while but this morning I was on the water before 8am. As soon as I cleared the marina the first thing I noticed was the bird activity. Gulls were everywhere in the creek this morning and they were active, tracking the loons and capitalizing on the labor of the loons. Gulls are notorious for following groups of loons that are moving around looking for schools of baitfish such as schools of small shad and small bluebacks that are drifting near the surface. The loons generally travel in small groups and they work together to move, corral and devour schools of baitfish. The gulls see opportunities for meals when the loons are feeding on the schools the loons have found and have pushed to the surface. The gulls will hover and circle the loons and when the gulls see a target baitfish they dive into the water to pick off the baitfish. Now just pretend for a minute that the gulls are bass and stripers, only the attack on the baitfish comes from below. The fish also capitalize on the labor of the loons and often times are right below the action picking off a wounded baitfish or a few baitfish that have escaped the wrath of the loons and gulls above. I noticed that some of the birds and a few loons were in water less than 20 feet deep and they were actively feeding on the surface. That’s the perfect scenario for me casting my little white spoon. Generally when I see loons and gulls feeding in shallow water it’s just about a lock that feeding fish will be nearby and that was the case this morning. My first fish this morning was the fish pictured above, caught in less than 15 feet of water and caught casting my spoon around diving birds. The second fish of the morning was the striper pictured below which is my biggest so far this year and I caught the striper in a little deeper water but casting right into the middle of about a dozen feeding loons. The striper was a blast on a little Shimano Ci4 2500, 7lb test and casting a little white War Eagle spoon.

I was just making the cast and letting the spoon freefall for 3-4 seconds, then a slow pull upward and letting it fall again. The idea is to mimic a dying baitfish under the loons. This technique worked well early this morning but once the sun came up a little ways the spoon bite slowed considerably. I was able to catch a few more smaller fish and I also got stupid and tried to boat flip a 3lber which didn’t work well. All in all it was a good morning and I also managed a few more smaller fish pictured below.

That little white spoon works well in the winter for vertically jigging fish in the ditches in the winter but it can also be cast around feeding birds for big fish in the winter.