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.

Creek Report 1-15-2021

This report is from yesterday which wasn’t much to talk about after having such success earlier in the week but I was only able to get out for a couple hours total. I did catch some fish but nothing worthy of my “big fish only” photo rules so in order to carry on the tradition of many humbled anglers before me I have included a picture of a beautiful sunset. I didn’t make it out till noon yesterday and I needed to be back at the house at 3 to pick up the grandson so that is my excuse for doing poorly. I didn’t have much time so I decided to try a few new places and a few new baits since time was short. I ran into my buddy Mike out in the creek and he was catching a few in a ditch. I assumed he was spooning but he told me he was using a Damiki rig in 40 feet of depth. I didn’t have one and Mike hooked me up with an extra he had so I put it in my pocket for later and another ditch I had in mind, my lucky ditch. I left Mike and his ditch and started hitting some rocky points and bluffs. I wanted to spend some time throwing a chatterbait on the sun soaked points to see if I could get a bigger fish to react to my chatterbait. My favorite and most successful chatterbait has always been the 1/4 ounce pearl Jackhammer with a pearl paddletail fluke. That chrome blade on the front of the jackhammer seals the deal. You want to always keep that blade as clean and reflective as possible. It’s the flash of that blade that often times causes the reaction on sunny days like yesterday. Turns out that wasn’t the deal yesterday and after about a solid hour of throwing the jackhammer I went to the shaky head and some rocky stuff I hadn’t checked in a while. I spend a little more than an hour with the shaky head on rocks and docks with just a couple of solid 2lbers to show for my efforts. After catching some big beefy 4+ bass earlier this week, every time I set the hook yesterday I just about ripped the lips off the little scrappy 2lbers thinking every fish is a big one now. I had a little less than an hour left and I remembered I had the Damiki rig in my pocket and I still hadn’t checked the lucky ditch yet so I eased up on the ditch after tying on the newly acquired Damiki head and little swimbait trailer. As I hit the ledge and dropped down into the ditch I could see a few fish on the ledge but I wanted to drop where the ditch bottomed out at 40-45 feet. When I hit the 40 foot mark I saw what I was looking for, a small group of suspended bass so I dropped the Damiki right through them and watched every one chase the Damiki down to the bottom. As soon as it hit I raised the rig up off the bottom slightly and then held it there. I could see the group of fish watching the rig on the graph. I started to pick up the rig and I felt a small tick. I lifed a little higher and realized there was a fish holding the Damiki. I jerked, the fish jerked and it was on. It was another feisty 2lber but hey, it was my first on the Damiki. I moved around the ditch a bit and found another group of fish to drop on, catching another smaller fish before calling it a day and heading to the house. Not sure what day I’ll be out again but I’m looking forward to playing around with the little Damiki rig in the ditches again next week. Have a safe weekend!

In search of the Meat Eaters

Early this morning I made an entry in my blog about the shaky head and some pointers on how and where to fish it. My trip out in the creek this morning was textbook what I had written about earlier. I didn’t get out to the creek till around 10am again so I missed the early morning stuff. This morning the sun was out and for a while the creek was flat and calm. Once I cleared the marina I made a quick dash to my lucky ditch that wasn’t very lucky this morning. There were no fish in the ditch at all so I went to a little stretch of deep docks that I frequent in the winter. I hit pay dirt and busted a beefy 4+ on some deep dark chunk rock right next to a deep dock. It’s the fish on the left pictured above. Just to give you an idea of the dock depth, it was 50 feet deep at the very end of the dock and the dock sat on top of some big dark chunk rock. I was using the same setup as yesterday with the senko style shaky head rig. I wrote a little more about the senko rig in my earlier blog post but I believe these bigger fish really like the looks of that fat body worm. Some of these bigger fish could be down in the ditch with all their buddies chowing down on 1-2 inch threadfin shad but they choose to hang out around deep dark rocky areas in ambush mode or they go cruising the shallow sunny secondary points in search of the bigger ticket meals like crawfish, bream and gizzard shad. I call these fish the “meat eaters”. After catching the big girl next to the dock I started throwing the worm on sunny secondary points. I tried to keep the boat out in 25-30ft of water on the point and throw the worm up as shallow as possible. The fish I caught on the points today were in 10-15 feet of water including the one pictured above on the right. Another solid 4lber. The key to my fish today was fishing the worm very slow. I caught a few fish this morning while dead sticking the worm but the common theme with all of my fish this morning was a very slow presentation. It’s hard for a power fisherman to slow it down to the speed of a three toed sloth but it’s the best speed for success right now. The two fish below were caught on back to back casts on the same secondary point in the creek. A good example of why throwing right back into the area of where you just caught a fish pays off.

Since my bum shoulder is only good for a few hours of fishing I spent the rest of the time just hitting sunny secondary points and working my way back to the house. I was back in the house by 2 pm and all totaled I had caught 7 fish, all of which were keepers. The water temps were around 47-48 at 10am and the wind was minimal and out of the west.

1-12-2021 Creek Report: Cold and Windy

It’s been a while since I was out in the creek in my boat so I needed to get familiar with the creek again today. I’m using my brace for my bum shoulder and mainly using the low impact baits like the shaky head so I don’t damage the shoulder further. I didn’t leave the dock till after 10am and came back shortly after lunch. The water temps are 48-49 right now, water levels are just below full pool and today it was cloudy with the wind out of the NW. My first stop was just up the creek from the house and I pounded a few docks with the shaky head. Not much was going on in the back so I headed out into the creek and straight to a ditch that I had been getting some nice fish out of. Nothing was happening in the ditch so I ran another stretch of 8-10 docks near the ditch with nothing to show for it. After that I went to the secondary points and caught my first big fish of 2021. It was a nice 4+lber and I caught her on a 1/4 ounce shaky head with a 5 inch Yamamoto senko worm. This was the fish below.

After that fish I concentrated on the points in the creek but I couldn’t scrape up too much more. I lost another larger fish next to the boat when I was trying to get fancy and lip it like the pros and I also caught my first largemouth of 2021 pictured below. The largemouth was hanging out on some rip rap in less than 5 feet of water, also with the stick bait shaky head combo.

I headed back to the house around 2pm after checking a few more docks back by the house. I’m going to try and get back out for a while tomorrow and expand my search so will see what that brings.

2020 to 2021 on the Sidelines

There just wasn’t much fun for me during this New Years holiday season. First, I came down with some kind of sinus/bronchitis funk before New Years eve and secondly I’ve been suffering through another torn rotator cuff. For me, making the transition from 2020 to 2021 is very similar to making the transition from 2010-2011 and 2016 -2017. Those were the New Years transitions that I had a torn rotator cuff and it looks like I’m going to need another repair on an already repaired right shoulder soon. I’m pretty sure I know how I did the damage and that was from making the transition to the Ultrex trolling motor from the Fortrex. I know it sounds weird but I noticed that the Ultrex was just a bit heavier and unfortunately I generally use my right arm to deploy and retract the trolling motor. The reason I use my right arm is because I’m left handed and I usually have my rod in my left hand so it’s out of force of habit. A few weeks back I started experiencing some minor separations in my right repaired shoulder and it just went down hill from there. It’s finally gotten to the point of burning pain anytime my arm isn’t supported so it’s just about impossible as well as very uncomfortable to fish right now. I’m in the process of getting a MRI and finding a Ortho surgeon that takes my insurance so going forward, I have a shoulder brace and I may try and fish a little here and there if possible.

With all that being said, my buddy Mike took me out for a couple hours this week and we were able to catch a few fish and I got my first few bass for 2021. The first was a feisty 2lber on a shaky head in a 40 feet deep ditch and the second was a small deep ditch bass on a spoon. We caught a few more on the jig and a little swimbait and most of our fish were deep fish this week. Hopefully I can get back out on the lake next week with my shoulder brace and I can find a few more fish. This is the time of year it can be tough, slow and cold but there are also opportunities for some very big fish and hopefully I can find some soon.

The summer patterns are here! 6/13

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I got out on the lake a few times this week and it’s been great. I don’t do weekends this time of year but I do like to throw out a report for the folks that can’t make it out during the week and are the true weekend warriors this time of year. I was told years ago by a very wise fisherman that when the moon and the sun are in the sky at the same time the fish bite the best. I’m convinced that that is just about always the case judging from my experiences over the years and it held true this week. The lake has set up for a 3 pattern bite right now and when you can catch them on 3 different patterns it really really makes summer fishing fun.

Here’s the scenario: You find humps or points in the creek or out on the main lake that have brush in 20-30 feet of water. The reason for those depths is that the thermocline is setting up and it tops out at about 20 feet and runs down a good 30 feet this time of year. The bass will find brush and structure at that depth and make it their summer home. On some days the bass will range out in search of schools of blueback herring that drift into their area and some days they will stay tight to the structure. If you have them marked on your gps you stay off of the brushpile by about a casting distance length away and make a few casts with a topwater bait. Sometimes there is what I like to call a “Bull Bass” cruising above the brush and he’s guarding the area and looking for something to eat. The big bull usually eats first and then the rest will follow. Generally he will strike out at any bait on the first cast. My favorite summer topwater baits are the Emerald Popper or a walking bait like a translucent KVD Sexy Dawg walking bait. That’s what I used to get the bull. I’ll make 5-10 cast with that while circling the structure and making casts from different angles. One thing that is very important this time of year is putting your catch in the live well to extend the bite. Make sure your livewell has nice cool water and some kind of O2 system. You’re only going to keep them there for a short period of time to extend the bite but you release them right before leaving the area. The reason for this is that sometimes a released fish will kill the bite. It’s like these bass have pheromones’ that alarm the other fish much like a bee that stings you, releasing a pheromone that alerts the other bees to sting you. After I make my topwater cast I keep my topwater bait handy in case the fish start coming to the surface to feed. You’ll want that topwater handy to make a quick cast at the surfacing fish. Next is the spybait. I’ll generally move in just a bite closer to the brush and start making casts with my spybait. On the spybait option, pick your favorite color and size or cycle through colors and sizes until you find one that works. There are many color patterns and a few sizes to choose from. I use a 5-10 second count down on my spybait and start a slow steady retrieve. Try different speeds until you hit the sweet spot with the spybait speed. If you catch a fish at a certain speed try and mimic that speed again. Once you find the right speed and start catching fish after a while that speed will become natural for you. I do the same thing as I did the topwater, I’ll circle the area making casts around and across the brush. The spybait is small and the ideal gear for this pattern is 6lb fluorocarbon ties on a good reel with the drag set properly for 6lb test and a Medium fast action rod about 7′ in length. If the spybait is working I’ll keep making cast until I feel like that pattern is slowing down. This is when I ease up on the brush and start the drop shot pattern. If you’ve never used the drop shot you are really missing out this time of year. My suggestion is that you do some research on the drop shot pattern and start practicing or book a trip with LJ Harmon from Lanier Baits. I hoover over my front graph waiting for fish to show up on the graph. When they do I’ll drop my bait down and watch it on the graph. If your electronics are tuned correctly and you drop around your transducer you can watch your bait go down in real time and you can watch the fish react to your bait. This is sometimes called video fishing and it is a blast.

I strongly suggest that you do research on these patterns and get out there putting them to use. It took me a while to learn these summer techniques but when you learn them you can go out on the lake during the summer and just about always catch fish on one or all of these patterns. Here’s a few pictures from the last few days on the lake and I also included a link to my latest video on spybait tactic and tips. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcNSKTXVBVE

Starting off 2020 with a bang!

Starting off 2020 with a bang!

 

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It’s a little more than a week into January and I feel like the past holidays are ancient history. I was on my way to the “Jim”inar a week ago this morning and getting ready for a big day. We had a blast last weekend. BASS elite series pro and Enigma Fishing owner Jesse Tacoronte, his brother-in-law Shane P plus BASS elite series pro Shane Lineberger were all guests for the weekend at Cast Away Cove. We had a blast in the man cave and did a lot of chatting about fishing and the upcoming BASS trail while watching MLF on the big screen…LOL It was pretty cool to have that much talent all together in the man cave for a weekend. We did the Jiminar on Saturday which was a raving success with over 170 in attendance. I did a 45 minute presentation and worked in the Enigma Fishing booth for the rest of the day. Sunday morning we all got up and had a little Cracker Barrel before spending a few hours on the lake. Jesse’s brother-in-law Shane had never caught a spotted bass so Jesse wanted him to ride with me and see if we could find some spots. It was windy and very cold on the backside of a strong cold front so that kinda limited our options for success. I wanted Shane to get a good bass up on the rocky points but I also knew that we could catch our fill of spoon fish in a ditch I had staked out earlier in the week that was loaded with 1-3lb fish. We wound up picking on the spoon fish before calling it a day and heading back to the house. Between Shane and I we caught 12-13 spots on the spoon and Shane got his first spotted bass as well as 6 more in addition to his first. His first spotted bas is pictured below. Jesse was heading up to Chickamauga and Shane was catching a flight out and needed to get to the airport so we could only spend a few hours fishing. All in all it was a very fun weekend and now it’s back to fishing.
I got out early in the week spending a few hours looking for that crankbait bite and found that it wasn’t working for me so this week I just kinda messed around with the shakey head and crawling a deep small swimbait. It has been pretty windy this week so I’ve been using a heavier Senko type worm with a 1/4 ounce head to get the bait down in the wind. The worm color has been a green pumpkin type worm with some type of flake. I prefer red or blue. I’ve also been using a Keitech 3.3 swimbait in a Dobyns 1/4 jig head on the points early. I’m swimming this bait at a steady pace early for suspended fish and then slowing it way down and dragging it on the bottom as the sun get’s up. You can also do this in the backs of pockets early swimming or dragging an underspin with a fluke or fluke jr.
Not much more to report this week. I did catch a few more than usual around docks this week but they were usually lacking in size. Yesterday I mainly fished rocks and docks but never found the big ones, just a bunch of smaller fish. The last picture was the biggest from the 7-8 I caught yesterday.

The water temps are around 51 to 53 depending on where you are and the lake level is a little more than a foot below full pool but the expected rains coming this evening could bump that up to close to full pool by late next week.
One other thing that we did that was fun was doing my first podcast. It was hosted by “Fish North Georgia” and lasted and hour and 41 minutes. It’s just a little more of a look at my personal life, military travels and how that relates to my fishing addiction. I’ve included a YouTube link to the podcast below as well as some pictures from the last weeks fishing. Take a look at the Fish North Georgia YouTube page and hit that “subscribe” button for these guys as they have some great upcoming videos and podcasts in the near future planned.

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The Right Chop to Pop and Spybaiting

I got out a few days last week and was able to find a few on topwater, spybaiting and dropping. Right now the topwater bite is the big ticket item for me so that’s what I’ve primarily been doing. I’ve been using my little emerald popper to catch them but just about any surface disruption bait works right now. I’ve been catching some doubles lately and that tells me a couple things, one, the bass are hungry and two, the bass are competitive. Here’s my philosophy about topwater baits right now on Lanier.

The bass are feeding on bluebacks that they have pushed to the surface. They have probably singled out one little blueback and they are relentless in there pursuit to get that little blueback. If you’ve been out lately you’ve probably seen this going down on the surface in the form of a bass chasing a skipping or fleeing bait on the surface. If you watch and listen you can hear the noise the bass makes when he’s attacking the bait. I try and emulate that noise with my popper and if you’ve watched my videos, it’s been working out well and I think I’ve got that noise down to a science. Right now the bass are very competitive so if they hear that noise they think another bass is chasing a bait and they have no problem trying to steal that bait from their buddy. That’s why you see more doubles being caught on one lure right now. Another thing bass do right now is follow wakes to the source. If you’ve ever watched a blueback swim on the surface they create a wake, bass can see this wake and they will track it to the source, thinking it’s a blueback so I use a combination of waking and popping. With my little popper, I put a dressed hook on the back and tied up holographic Krystal flash on the hook for added attraction.

Now, here’s where the chop comes in. Here’s one of my biggest tips I can give you about surface fishing and bass, if you want more success with your topwater, find a light chop, whether it’s a point or over structure, position your boat up wind of the chop and throw down wind over or across the point or structure and make your retrieve against the grain of the chop. This does two things, it makes the pop and wake more exaggerated and easier for the fish to see as well as distorts his view of your lure, more so than fishing calm or glassed over water. Another thing fishing up wind gets you is a longer cast and let’s face it, the more time that little bait is in the water the more chances of catching a fish. Here’s a video from earlier this week and a 2 hour afternoon run. You can see the chop and how I work the popper.

If you would like to try your hand at Spybaiting here’s a little info on my setup.
I’m using 7lb Sunline FC Sniper flouro on a spinning rig with a medium heavy rod. No leader, just straight up flouro. I primarily throw the 90 size but if you’re fishing the smaller 80 size you might want to use a medium fast action rod. For a rod I recommend the Enigma Aarons Edge. Enigma uses a different design that most rod manufacturers, it’s lighter and you get a longer cast from that design. I’m on Enigma’s Pro Staff so if your are interested in an Enigma rod, I can help you get a little better deal. I’ve lost very few spybaits this year even though I primarily fish it around and over offshore structure. Whether it’s a crankbait or a spybait, I hold the rod loosely in my hand when retrieving it and if I feel resistance it’s one of two things, either I have a fish or a snag. At any rate, I just gently reel down, if it’s a fish you’ll know because it feels way different than a snag. If I feel the fish head shake, I reel down even faster but I DON”T SET THE HOOK in any fashion. If it’s a snag and you don’t want to loose that $15 lure, don’t panic or try to jerk it out of the snag, just keep minimal pressure on the line and move your boat to the other side of the snag and chances are it will come out. If you’re holding the rod loosely and it snags, chances are the hooks won’t bury too far in the snag and just re-positioning the boat to the opposite side works almost every time. To me, $15 is a lot of money for a lure so I try and make sure I don’t loose it. I also check the first 3-4ft of my line a lot. Especially if I’m catching a lot of fish on it. It can get scuffed up after a few fish and with flouro you don’t want any scuffs or nicks.