On the Radio this morning

 

I spent a little time with my buddy Brad Myers and his radio show, Georgia Outdoors Radio 92.5 “The Bear” FM. We talked about Lake Lanier stripers and bass this morning and some of the tactics we’re using right now. We talked about spooning up a couple of stripers for the grill and a good striper recipe we use for a little summer holiday stripers on the half shell. I also talked about the drop shot tactic and the fun we’ve been having with that. Just click on the link below. My portion of the show starts at the 91:45 mark.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/georgiaoutdoorsradio/gor-07-02-16?fb_action_ids=963130547119547&fb_action_types=spreaker_radio%3Abroadcast&fb_ref=image_bigbutton

Early Summer Report South End

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It’s been a couple weeks since my last report and the topwater is still going strong. For the past 2 weeks there was a good mix of stripers and bass out on the creek points very early in the morning. If you got out in the creek at dawn, you could see the fish surfacing and fishing these areas with a variety of topwater baits has produced a lot of nice fish lately. Being in the right place at the right time helps tremendously when it comes to catching these fish. More times than not, if you get your bait in the area of surfacing fish too late, the fish will not come back up for it. The window of opportunity to catch these fish has been small and basically, if you don’t get to them while they are on the surface or seconds after they surface, there not coming back up. That tells us that the water at the surface is degrading in oxygen levels. If the levels were good, the fish would be more than happy to come back up after a bait. The good part was that 2 weeks ago there was still a good mix of stripers and bass together and we caught a lot of stripers and bass but that is changing fast in the creek. Most of my trips last week were runs out to the creek at dawn and back at the ramp by 9am. I did get a chance to take a couple of people out to enjoy the topwater bite. Here’s a few pics from a trip with my friend Mark who joined me for an early morning creek run last week and a couple videos of my wife Lisa walking the Sexy Dawg topwater bait last weekend as well as a video of some early summer hump fishing this week.

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Just as in past years there comes a time when the stripers migrate from the reaches of the creek to the deep mouth or main lake and join forces in big schools to spend the hot summer feeding on bluebacks in the thermocline layer.  That’s what is going on right now. I’m starting to see less and less stripers in the creek and more and more out on the main lake. Most of the stripers still coming to the surface are smaller fish and the bigger stripers are going deeper in the water column. This is the time of year I start changing my tactics to a summer pattern and looking for fish out on the main lake. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of bass in the creek worth catching but I’d rather be out on the main lake humps where a lot of big bass are taking up their summer residence. The big bass and smaller stripers are coming up very early in the morning for a dawn feeding on the humps and then the stripers go deep but the topwater bass bite has been coming back around about mid day right now.  It’s the down time between the dawn bite and the midday bite that been tough to figure out. I’ve been catching a few with different subsurface methods when the fish have been suspended around structure on the humps. Right now I’ve been biding my time with the dropshot, jigs and shakeyhead around the structure and bagging a few nice ones.

Another option for early to mid morning right now is a crankbait on the cool shady chunk rock areas near the mouths of the creeks and out on the islands. During the over night hours the big rocks tend to cool and by morning the big rocks provide a nice cool little haven for baitfish as well as crawfish. Throwing a medium to deep diving crankbait in a shad or summer crawfish pattern around the shady rocky shoreline in the mornings is a lock for a few nice bass foraging for a morning meal.

After the morning and midday bite is over, it’s back to the dropshot on deeper structure for the rest of the day for me. If you can stand the heat, the Corps has been generating in the afternoon and into the evening lately which usually gets the dropshot bite going around structure on the main lake humps near the river channel. If the water is moving during generation, the bass are usually looking for a meal around the structure. If you’re new to the dropshot or looking for these main lake humps to find where the summer bass hang out, just look for shallower areas that are near the river channel. These are not visible to the naked eye so you need a good contour map to actually see the humps. You need to look for the humps that come up to 25-40 feet in depth and seek out the structure in these areas. If there is brush or structure on the hump, there’s bound to be bass. Soon we’ll have a solid thermocline out on the main lake and it will be time for our summer striper spoon bite so stay tuned for that. Water temps are in the mid 80’s right now.

Yesterday I took my friend Clint out for a 1 hour run to the humps at dawn. There has been some good surface activity on the humps and Clint had an hour before he went to work to catch a nice bass on topwater. Clint was throwing a blueback colored Whopper Plopper and nailed his personal best magnum spot. Here’s a pic of Clint’s spot and some random pictures from the last week including a few pictures of my new “Hump Buster” topwater plug.IMAG0831IMAG0830IMAG0828IMG_25291IMAG083720160602075152(1)20160602055502 (6)IMAG0820

 

 

Late Spring/Early Summer Report

Not much has changed since my last report and fishing is pretty typical for this time of the year. I will say one thing that is a noticeable difference from past years and that’s the population increase of stripers. I’m sure we can attribute that to the Georgia DNR’s stocking program and the great numbers of fingerlings they have been putting in the lake for the past few years. I think there were a few stockings in upwards of 600k fingerlings over the past 10 years which is almost double from what the lake would generally get. The stripers from those stockings are starting to get bigger and showing up around the lake in good numbers. The water quality is good all around the lake including the far reaches of the creek arms which means the fish are scattered throughout the lake. Right now you have many options for catching fish. The biggest ticket item has been the early morning striper and bass topwater bite. It’s fun, fast and furious. A lot of the fish I’ve been catching on topwater have been relating to structure, particularly the bass but the stripers have been present in the same areas. Basically the fish are using the structure as home base while moving around the structure looking for a meal. My recommendation right now for targeting these fish is some kind of bone or light colored plug, whether it’s topwater or something running just below the surface. Here’s a short video to explain how I’ve been getting a few. The second striper in the video was taken with a Sebile Magic Swimmer. I was just moving around sight fishing.

I’m still getting a few fish on the Emerald Popper on cloudy days and low light conditions but the more aggressive fish have been hitting the solid bone or light colors right now. There are several different topwater baits that will work and several different manufacturers that make a bone colored topwater bait or sub-surface bait. Here’s a picture of one I make in the shop and the one I used in the video above.IMAG0778

Once the topwater bite dies off about 9-10am it’s time for the grind. I’ve been squeezing out a few more fish with a chrome Rattle Trap or a Sebile Magic Swimmer after the surface activity subsides in the same areas but once that’s over I’ve been hitting the docks and shoreline with the shaky head or a shallow diving crankbait in a shad pattern. The docks have been producing a lot of smaller fish lately but if you’re looking for numbers and not size, docks and the backs of pockets will provide a lot of smaller fish on a variety of baits. I’ve also been catching a few fish around blow-downs with a shad pattern jerkbait. Here’s a picture of the jerkbait pattern I’ve been using around blown-downs rocky points and shallow structure.
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One other way I’ve been picking up fish recently after the topwater bite slows is to circle back around and keep fishing the same areas of early morning surfacing fish but casting a Blueback Herring pattern Shadow Rap. I’m just casting around the areas and particularly over areas of underwater structure from 20-30 feet in depth. It seems that some of the bigger fish are heading out to deeper water for the summer and spending their days looking for drifting bluebacks. Here’s a pic of a nice one caught in the early afternoon over deep water with the Shadow Rap.IMAG0794

Here’s a few recent rattle trap and popper fish.IMAG0772IMAG0773IMAG0776

IMAG0774With the water temps fluctuating right now the topwater pattern is hit and miss so it’s good to have a few alternate methods because there are going to be days the topwater just doesn’t happen. Water temps as I write this are just above 70 degrees and the water visibility is getting clearer by the day. Over all the topwater bite should last another month or so before the fish hunker down in the depths for a hot summer.

Fishing the “Green Points”

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I fished 4 days last week including Saturday and Sunday. Sunday was the HD Marine tournament and our club tournament. My club partner covered the club tournament and did very well as a solo. My HD partner and I fished Saturday to pre-fish and had no problem finding a limit on 2 tactics. It’s been the same pattern for a while now with the topwater very early in the morning on humps and points followed by docks, rocks and shoreline. When I say very early in the morning I mean right at the crack of dawn. In the overnight hours the fish have been loading up on the points and by morning the fish are ripe for the picking. If no one has fished the points where we have been catching fish or we see fish come to the surface in the creek and those fish remain undisturbed, we called that a “green point”. It’s pretty easy to find green points on the weekdays. Most of the points remain undisturbed for hours and I can go from point to point and get first dibs on the fish that are cruising the point and feeding on the spawning bluebacks and shad that are also moving over the points. Here’s a quick video from some green point fishing early in the morning.

Those kinds of days are great for making cool videos but during the weekends things change with recreational and tournament fishermen hitting the points in the creek and reducing the number of green points very early. The idea is to hit as many green points as you can before the masses flood into the creek and spoil the fun. Another challenge you have once you start fishing the green points is those pesky stripers. There are a few times a year the stripers and bass mix together and you can catch a bass on one cast and a striper on the next. The problem is that when you’re fishing a bass tournament and a big pesky striper decided to snatch your lure, it wastes time….I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like fighting a striper as much as the next guy but you can’t bring em to the scales and time is money. This is one of the time gobblers from yesterday:
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So yesterday, tournament day, our plan was to hit a big fish road bed I found followed by hitting the green points and then go to the docks after lunch. I found a nice road bed out on the main lake earlier in the week that held some good fish and from fishing in the same area earlier during the week I knew that it had been undisturbed by just about everyone for days. There were a lot of 3-5 pounders coming up very early and with the overcast skies predicted for the morning I figured we could get a good start with a nice fish or two very early on tournament morning and then assess the creek situation for green points. We were in the first flight so we were able to put the hammer down out of Little Hall and make it to the south end fairly quickly. When we pulled up to the road bed I popped a nice 4.10 on one of the first casts but after we netted that fish the stripers stole the show and snatched just about everything we put in the water which spooked the bass. We moved on to the creek and started hitting points, 2 of which were green. We were able to boat the other 4 fish to make up our 5 limit off the green points with 3 on the popper and 1 on a donkey rig my partner was throwing. When we moved to the docks around mid to late morning we only upgraded one small fish on the docks for an 11.50lb finish. We had a few opportunities for bigger fish and lost 2 very nice fish but it is what it is.

Basically the pattern has been the topwater popper early with follow-up baits like a light colored Sebile Magic Swimmer, Chug Bug or even a Fluke donkey rig will work. If the wind is up we caught a few using spinner baits on points and rocky banks. We’ve also been doing well for numbers around and between docks, very shallow, with the shaky head, donkey rigs and weigh less flukes. I’m still using the darker worms on the shaky head and sometimes it’s amazing how shallow the fish have been between the docks. Some of them were so shallow their little dorsals were still bone dry when I got them to the boat. LOL This little largemouth was one of the very shallow fish, hiding in the shadows.IMAG0766 (1)

Water temps are creeping past the mid 70’s and summer is on it’s way. I’m looking forward to more and more fish headed out to the main lake humps and the typical summer patterns.

Good Fishing from Top to Bottom

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For the past few weeks I’ve been on the same pattern on Lanier. As the water warms, the fish have been getting very much more active and it’s really been easy pickins for us. I’ve been hitting the creek very early in the morning and finding stripers on points that are more than willing to come to the surface for a meal. This doesn’t mean you need to see the fish to catch them, just pull up to a point and start casting. The fish are there! I’ve been using 2 topwater options to catch these early morning stripers; first is the Bone colored Vixen topwater bait made by Reaction Innovations. This is a topwater type walking bait with a couple of big ball bearings in it. When you walk it, the ball bearings move from side to side and create a distinct clunking sound that attracts the fish. The walking style and the size of the Vixen resembles a big blueback on the surface and right now there are a lot of fish looking for bluebacks preparing to spawn and swimming on the surface in the early morning warming sun. The Vixen is a bait that I first used early last spring for spawning stripers moving through the back of our creek but I found that later in the spring and into early summer the bass just loved the Vixen so we milked it out until early July. A lot of times I was catching very nice fish out on main lake humps through late spring to early summer. I liked the Vixen so much last year I wrote a story about it. https://castawayblog.com/2015/03/24/fixin-the-bone-vixen/
Right now a good place to find the bone Vixen is the Hammonds Fishing Center online store. I’d definitely get a few for the upcoming topwater season. Looks like they have 29 in stock! http://www.hammondsfishing.com/Reaction-Innovations-Vixen-Bone-p/76839.htm
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Another early morning topwater bait we’ve been using this spring with great success is my own Emerald popper. This is a bait I started making in the fall of 2014. I actually made the bait for a nearby lake but we found it seemed to work better on Lanier. The Emerald popper is now a bait that has been working for us with great success in the spring and fall topwater seasons and it’s been my topwater go-to bait for the last few weeks. If you are interested in trying this bait, here’s link to my website:  http://www.castawaybaits.com/product/the-emerald-popper/

Here’s a little more info on the popper and how I’m using it.

https://castawayblog.com/2016/04/09/the-emerald-popper/

After the sun has been getting up around mid mornings there are options. You can continue on with the surface lures and get a few good bass or stripers throughout the day but I’ve been switching to a few other baits with great success.

If I want to hit the banks or points in the wind a good choice is the Mini Me spinnerbaits by Spotsticker Baits. This is a great bait for these windy spring days and my favorite has been a white profile, white blades and I’ve been adding one of my little 3.5 inch fluke baits as a trailer. On windy days spinnerbaits are a must this spring for wind-blown points and shoreline.

If you like to hit the docks like I do, we’ve been having great success with 2 options right now. The first is my favorite which is the shakeyhead with a 6 inch trick worm in just about any darker color. There are a lot of different worms that will work on the shakeyhead around docks but I like the bigger 6 inch trick worms because it cuts down on the dinks. You can feel the dinks pecking at the bait but the bigger bass have been hammering the bigger worms. The shakeyhead is a finesse type tactic but once you get the feel for it, it’s the Bomb! The best docks for the shakeyhead right now are the ones with natural rock. Just about every dock we’ve been hitting with natural rock has been holding fish. A good choice for your shakyheads are the Spotskicker Screwball Shaky in a 1/4 ounce or 3/16 ounce in a green pumpkin color. Here’s a tip: dip the tail of your worm in a little Spike-it garlic flavored chartreuse worm dip. It seems like the bass have been holding the worm longer with the garlic flavor. Here’s a couple nice fish from last week on the shakyhead.
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Another tactic that has been good for numbers around the docks are weightless fluke style baits. We’ve been rigging white weightless flukes and throwing them inside the empty slips or as far back between docks as you can get it. You can’t get too shallow with a weightless fluke. Just cast it, let it sink for a few seconds and just bring it slowly back to the boat in short jerks and then stopping and letting it sink again. This tactic is always good in the spring for these active bass and sometimes a hungry striper.

Guys, there’s a lot of baits that work right now and as usual the spring provides us some great opportunities for a few fish. Even if you just get a bucket of minnows and take the kids for a day on the lake, right now the rewards can make memories that last a lifetime! Good luck this spring!

Our First Trip to Lake Guntersville 4-14 through 4-17-2016

Our First Trip to Lake Guntersville 4-14 through 4-17-2016

When I joined the Greater Atlanta Bass Club back in January, one of the first things I saw was that during the year the club was making 2 trips to Lake Guntersville in Al. The first was in April and I was really looking forward to making the spring trip. For a bass fisherman, a trip to Lake Guntersville is a must but it can be a challenge. I started doing research on the lake and found a few videos and articles about the lake so I went to work on tackle for the trip. I made a few swim baits, swim jigs and crankbaits for fishing the shallow grassy lake. I also found a couple videos on frog fishing the shallow grass beds and lily pads along the shoreline with artificial frogs. I was particularly interested in the frog fishing as it looked like a lot of fun and basically, not much different than topwater fishing on Lanier. The only difference is that on Lanier there is no grass but the concept is the same, the bass are deep in the Guntersville grass and watching overhead for the occasional meal to happen by. I especially got excited about the frog fishing when I watched a fishing show on tv with Roland Martin fishing with frogs in heavy grass. Roland was just hopping his little frog on top of the grass mats and out of nowhere the bass would come from below and pop the little frog. Some of the strikes were large and some were no more than little pops as the big bass just sucked the frog in. At any rate, it was topwater fishing at its finest. I also watched a tv show with Jimmy Houston fishing Guntersville in the spring but they were doing a different kind of fishing. They were fishing way out on the main lake over the shallow submerged grass beds that are everywhere on the lake. Fishing these underwater grass beds can be fun but Jimmy also mentioned that you have to know where the fish congregate in the miles of grass. Jimmy said that if you didn’t know where the fish were you could spend all day fishing nonproductive waters and hiring one of the local guides to help is a good idea. That really wasn’t an option for me and I only had a little over a day to pre-fish before the tournament so the prospect of finding fish in the expansive main lake grass was not sounding like a winning strategy for the tournament. A few of my friends that had some knowledge of the lake said the frog bite was more of a fall bite but you could still catch a few this time of year on the frogs.

With all that knowledge I gathered the time finally came and Lisa and I were on our way to Guntersville for a long weekend and a 2-day club tournament. We rented a little VRBO cabin on the west side of the lake and there was a public launch just a couple hundred yards from the cabin. As soon as we arrived and got all unloaded at the cabin it was midafternoon so we decided to launch the boat and do a little scouting. In the back of my mind I was committed to spending some time fishing the frog if I could find some shoreline grass beds. Once we launched I started looking at my lake mapping and found what looked to be a small cut across the lake that went back off the main lake so that’s where we headed. As soon as we pulled into the cut we saw some of what I was looking for, a grass-lined pocket with some reeds in the background lining the shore. My usual club tournament partner couldn’t make the trip but loaned us his “frog box” which had an array of frogs of all types but I also had 2 little Spro frogs that I had won from Eric Aldrich in a contest from a couple years ago. I told Eric I would give them a try someday when I got the opportunity. Well I got the opportunity so I tied one on for Lisa and put the other on for myself. Lisa and I were using some medium heavy rods with a stout braid spooled on our bait casters. When we pulled along side the weed line and started casting, it was apparent right away that we didn’t get a lot of distance with the heavier braid but the little Spro held water so once we got a little water in the spro’s we could cast them well enough to get them away from the boat to cover a good distance. It was a little awkward at first but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. We started down the weed line throwing the frogs and working them back to the boat. I told Lisa that the best thing to do was try your best to imitate the way a frog would kick and swim across the weeds, more than likely in little short jerks on the frog. I grew up in the country and as a kid I took pride in being able to shoot a frog with my Daisy bb gun while the frog was on the move to escape my wrath so I indeed knew what a swimming frog looked like.

Within minutes of throwing the frog a fish came from nowhere and whacked my frog, I felt the frog get sucked under but as quick as he sucked it down he spit it out. It was a pretty intense strike and at that point we were optimistic so our casts into the weeds had a little more getty up in anticipation of the next blow-up. A few minutes later I heard the distinct sound of a big fish blowing up on a bait and I looked back to see Lisa set the hook on the fish deep in the weeds. I could tell she was surprised by the fish and the rod bowed over. I told Lisa to pull hard and pull the fish out of the weeds. She laid into the fish and the rod went limp. We really didn’t know what happened but the braid had a clean cut when she brought the weightless line back to the boat. The braid was a little old but we couldn’t figure out what would have cut the braid unless there was a worn spot somewhere from casting. The biggest problem was we had lost one of our 2 Spro frogs and there were no frogs in the frog box like the Spro. We moved on down the weed line and before long another bass blew up on my frog and I was able to pull him out of the weeds in short order and I had my first Guntersville bass, a feisty 2lber.g-ville2
After that fish we hit a lull in the excitement but we did have a few swirls and blow-ups. We decided to check the mapping and go looking for a few more weed beds to fish. It didn’t take long to find another one just up the lake a short distance and we were back at it, throwing frogs in the weed beds. We had a few swirls and blow-ups at the next spot but it was getting late and we decided to hit one more spot before heading in for dinner. At the next spot there were only 2 little weed beds but the weeds were thick and just about all the action we found came from the thickest parts of the weed beds. Lisa was throwing a little mouse/frog looking bait with a couple of little Colorado blades for legs and that seemed to be getting some interest from the fish but on the last weed bed, right before leaving a nice fish exploded on my frog and the fight was on. It was a short lived fight because I had him pinned to a pile of weeds and soon we were hoisting him and a pile of weeds into the boat. I now had my first bigger bass on the frog and I was feeling good about the frog bite. Here’s a picture of my 2nd G-ville bass…g-ville
The next morning, Friday morning, our plan was to do a lot of looking and find a few new locations and a few more tactics for the upcoming tournament. We also wanted to find and fish some rip rap and test our skills at the submerged weed beds out in the open water of the main lake. As it turned out Friday was a very windy day and a very crowded day on the lake. Not only did we have the regular traffic from bass fishermen pre-fishing for the tournament weekend, there was also a high school championship tournament with no less than 325 boats with high school teams from all over the south. We stayed away from the weed beds we found a day earlier and just fished rip rap and docks. It was just too windy for us out on the main lake so we stuck to a lot of leeward rip rap and docks in pocket and bays. We used a variety of baits from shakey head to swimbaits, swim jigs, squarebills, jigs and lipless cranks. We caught small fish here and there throughout the day but it was a hard day of looking and fishing with not much to show for it in way of a game plan for day 1 of the tournament. Our plan for day one was to hit the primary frog spot the first thing in the morning and try and pull a good fish out of the grass to start the morning and then spend a little time back on the rocks, docks and rip rap.
When we got to the ramp before dawn I believe everyone had the same idea we did, get an early start and be number one to your number one spot. We got to the ramp before at 5:30 local and it was already a zoo with a bass club launching out at the same time we were launching. We finally got clear of the boat launched and set up at our spot. We were the first to get there but the flights of high schoolers and club fisherman hadn’t got started. When they finally did there we no less than 3 boats lined up to fish the same grass line we were in but we had first dibs on the prime grass. Not too far away another bass boat started working the opposite side of the bay and the grass line there, as we got started it wasn’t long till we watched the other bass boat across the bay bring in a nice 2-3lber on a buzzbait but we just kept throwing the frogs. We watched them boat a second smaller fish on down the weed bed and I wondered if I should dig out my buzz bait or just keep throwing the frog. We kept on throwing the frog with anticipation of a blow-up and we were both optimistic that it would happen after our success on Thursday evening. At least 30 minutes went by with nothing happening and no interest in the frogs from the bass. It was getting crowded in the bay as a couple more high school boats showed up and I knew it was going to get harder and harder as boat after boat scoured the weed beds in our bay. Finally a huge blow-up engulfed my frog and I set the hooks on a bigger bass. She tried to shake the frog at the surface and then she dove into the grass but we were able to pull her out and into the boat. I guessed the fish to weigh around 6 and just about as big as my biggest from Thursday. I felt a relief that we were able to get a confidence fish in the boat to start the morning and I was hoping Lisa would be able to pull one in for a second fish. We pretty much got crowded out of the bay we started in so we moved to another spot only to find boats galore. You couldn’t find a pocket that wasn’t covered up with boats. It was a grind just to find a spot to yourself. We fished the remainder of the morning without another bite, working rip rap and some grass beds on the leeward side of some Islands. The wind had picked up and it was brutal. That’s one thing we learned about Guntersville, it’s a windy lake. Shortly after lunch we were working some rip rap and Lisa popped a good one which looked to be around 4lbs on a lipless crank. That brought her spirits up and she was eager to get another one. We kept going and a few minutes later something slammed a swimbait I was throwing. At first, when I felt the hit on the swimbait I thought it was a very large bass but as soon as I felt the fish pull I knew it wasn’t a bass but a catfish. Sure enough, when it came to the surface it only confirmed what I already suspected, Mr. Whiskers.IMAG0738
We spent the last hour back at our frog hole but by then the boat traffic in and around the grass had scattered the once tightly bunched beds and it looked rough. We were sure boats had been in and out of there all day and it didn’t yield another fish all weekend. We wound up going to the weigh-in with 2 fish, my early morning fish being 5.93lbs and Lisa’s weighed very close to 4lbs. Our total tally was 2 fish and just shy of 10lbs. I knew that wasn’t going to hold as we were the 3rd boat to weigh in and there were about 30 other teams who hadn’t weighed in. I was sure our biggest fish was not going to be in the running for the big fish pot but as teams weighed I started feeling better about our big fish. There were a lot of fish weighed in but not very many hit the 5lb mark. Our 5.93 barely held through day 1 and we were in the money with the big fish pot for day 1. Although we didn’t have 5 fish or the weight to compete, at least we weighted a couple of decent fish. Lisa and I were both pretty happy campers going into day 2. Unfortunately, Lisa nor I thought about taking a picture of our fish from day one but it was on to day 2.

Our strategy for day 2 was to hit the weed beds early then hit some rocks and rip rap, followed by some submerged grass out on the main lake. The wind was somewhat calmer on day 2 so more main lake grass beds came into play. We did check the shoreline weed beds early with the frogs but there was nothing there and nothing to show for it. When we hit the rocks, the first rocky point we pulled up to produced a nice fish for me on a crawfish colored lipless. We were very lucky because the fish was just barely hooked and was trying hard to jump and shake the hook. I saw the lipless just barely hooked by one barb when the fish jumped for the first time. I pulled the fish to the boat as quickly as I could and Lisa shoved the net under the big bass just as the hook released from the fishes’ lip. I was relieved and very proud of Lisa’s cat-like reflexes with the netting skills. The fish looked to be about 5lbs and a nice start to the day. We moved from spot to spot and fished the main lake grass as well as shoreline grass, rip rap and some rocky points we found with nothing to show for it. It was a nice day to be on the lake but the bass bite just wasn’t working for us. We wound up going to the weigh-in on day 2 with our one 5lb fish.IMAG0838
When I talked with the tournament director he told me that on day 2 if no one caught a bigger fish than our big day 1 fish we would win the big fish pot for the tournament which sounded pretty good to Lisa and I but for a fish that size to last another day of 33 tournament boats on Lake Guntersville the chances were very small. After we weighed our fish we waited and watched as everyone weighed in. There were some nice fish weighed and some good numbers. I watched as sack after sack was weighed and every once in a while a big fish would hit the scale. There were a few fish over 5lbs weighed but one in particular that I thought was bigger than our 5.93 came up just shy at 5.89. That was the winning fish for the day 2 pot so we wound up winning the big fish pot for the tournament as well as the big fish pot for day 1. Lisa and I couldn’t have been happier for our first trip with the club.

Lisa and I really enjoy traveling and checking out these different lakes and we really enjoyed Lake Guntersville. The fishing is a little different than we’re used to here on Lake Lanier but we both really want to go back again when we’re not tournament fishing and just spend a few days learning the lake as well as getting into more of that frog fishing. We had a great time and the folks in the Greater Atlanta Bass Club are some top notch fishermen and great guys. I believe the winning weight for the weekend was over 30lbs and we saw several teams bringing 5 fish to the scales, even with some spotted bass mixed in. Guntersville is just a short 3 hour drive from Lanier and I highly recommend a trip if you’ve never been.

Spring Creek Report 4-1-2016

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I got out Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday this week and started with water temps in the upper 50’s on Tuesday. I mainly fished inside Shoal and Bald Ridge creeks this week. I caught a few fish with a spinnerbait around docks in the backs of pockets early in the morning and out on windy points later in the morning but the real numbers came from a shaky head on docks in the afternoons this week and also topwater on points. If you really want to sharpen your shaky head skills, now is the time because there are a lot of fish on the docks in the afternoons and the shaky head is a great tactic right now with these active fish. I’ve been catching a lot of smaller fish on the shaky head but every once in a while I’d get a nice one. For my shaky head I’m mainly using a 1/4 ounce Spotsticker Screwball Shaky in green pumpkin with a dark colored BPS Tournament Series 6″ trick worm. I’ve been dipping the tail of the worm in a little chartreuse garlic dip. You can see a picture of the trick worm color below. I like the 6 inch because it cuts down on dinks but I’m sure the smaller worm sizes would work great for better numbers. I’m using my light spinning gear with 6-7lb fluorocarbon. I’ve just been pitching and dropping the worm around the edges and inside slips as well as up in the shallow gaps between the docks. Docks with rocky shoreline has been the best producer for me. To me this is finesse fishing and kinda reminds me of drop shot fishing as you’re mainly fishing by feel and most of the time just feeling for a small tap. A lot of times the fish just picks up the worm and starts swimming off with it so I watch my rod tip and line angle and keep the slack out of my line as much as I can. Most times when the fish swims off with the worm it just feels like spongy weight and that’s when the hook set comes in. I probably have just as many missed hook sets as I do good ones but the shaky head in the afternoon around docks has been a lot of fun this week for numbers.

I didn’t fish yesterday but when I got out around 9:30 this morning (4-1-2016), water temps were in the low 60’s and the topwater was on! It pretty much started on my third cast and I caught some pretty nice fish out on points and over brush today, plus I left them biting. It stayed overcast which kept the topwater bite going throughout the day. There was also just the right amount of chop on the water and I was setting the boat up wind and casting down wind across the points and then bringing the popper back against the wind. I did a lot of popping, splashing and waking to get the fish to come up and I saw very little surface activity other than when they would come up to whack the popper. If I had a brush pile marked out on a point I positioned the boat up wind of the brush and cast the popper down wind and brought it back over the brush pile and caught fish at just about every stop. I did the same thing with the spinner bait this week and also caught fish over brush when the wind kicked up to high for the popper to work on the points. If the water temps continue to climb I think the topwater bite should do well and I think the bass should stay on the docks for a while. Here’s a few pics and a little bit of video from this week.
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Three Weeks of Cranking

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When I looked at the schedule for the HD Marine Lake Lanier tournaments and the date for the FLW Bulldog series tournament on Lake Lanier I knew it was going to be a grind. This grind included the grind of telling my wife I was going to be busy fishing for 3 weekends straight and probably doing a lot of pre-fishing in between. Now what fisherman can pull that one off without winding up in the dog house?? Well, you know what they say; “behind every good fisherman is an understanding wife”. They do say that you know…. Thankfully, I have an understanding wife, or she just wants to get rid of me, one of the two…..

Just over a month ago a few of my retired buddies and I were hitting the creek and catching fish out in the ditches and along the edges where the water runs up shallow. It’s not my style of fishing but I suffered through the agony of jerkbaits, underspins and spoons while the fish made their winter home out in deep water. The whole time I was just biding my time till my shallow water bite came around. While hanging out in the shop on the bad weather days I was making crankbaits in preparation for warmer days and the upcoming tournaments. I knew that we would have some nice days and from past experience it wouldn’t be long till our winter started giving way to spring and the bass would start foraging on the rocks. Usually when the water temps reach the 50 degree range the crawfish get active and the bass start fueling up for the upcoming spawn. On the sunny days the bass will hit the rock piles to find just a bit more warmth and whatever food source they can scavenge. It’s not like they always stay on the rocks but they will stage in deeper water and run up and down the shallow rocks when it’s time to put the feed bag on. When this happens I like to hit the rocks with crankbaits and jigs. Here’s a picture of the cranks I made and a good one I caught right after making them.
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Just over 3 weeks ago we had a sunny day and I was starting to pre-fish my first tournament of the 3 week stretch. I decided to hit a few rocks with some custom DT10 knock-offs I made in a shad pattern. It’s a pattern that I’ve been making for a few years now and it’s a pattern that works really well on the rocks when the bass are foraging. To that point I had been zeroing on the rocks with the crankbaits but on that day the pattern came around and I caught some fat bass up on the shallow rocks on a sunny day. That gave me some hope and something to go on. This was on the south end of the lake but I pretty much knew it would be the same up north too. There are some good rock piles up on the north end of the lake and that made it more convenient than running all the way down south from a tournament that launched on the north end, which all 3 of the upcoming tournaments did. Prior to the tournaments the best pattern I found while pre-fishing was throwing the crankbaits and jigs up on the rocks so I made up my mind that’s what I was going to do. The day before the first HD tournament was a sunny day so I checked my rock piles up north and I was right, the fish were on the rocks and I caught a nice limit. That gave me confidence for tournament day. The only drawback was that on tournament day it was overcast. When we hit the first rock pile the morning of the tournament the fish had backed off the shallows and suspended in 15-20 feet of water which threw a monkey wrench in my well laid plan. That morning I was able to compensate and I caught a quick limit using my shad crankbait pattern and caught my fish slow cranking the medium diver through the suspended fish. Usually I’m working the bottom with the cranks but these suspended fish wanted it up in the column. Problem was, once I caught the limit, that was the last fish I caught for the day. We went on the hunt for bigger fish and came up empty. We strolled into the weigh-in with just short of 10lbs and there were a lot better fishermen than us out there on that day.

Moving on to the FLW pre-fishing, my creek buddies were giving me some intel on a good pattern they had been using and that was using crawfish colored crankbaits. I knew I was going to have to bust double digits in the FLW tourney and it seemed that the crawfish pattern was yielding some bigger bass than my shad pattern. I made a few of my little DT-10 knock-offs in a crawfish pattern but as usual I started shopping at Tackle Warehouse. “Forget Holly Madison, if anyone ever hacks Tackle Warehouse I’m screwed”.
After looking at pictures my retired creek buddies had sent me, I was looking for anything in a crawfish pattern that caught my eye and that’s when I found the Rapala DT-14 in Red Crawdad. It caught my eye and it was perfect so I ordered 5. The day before the FLW tournament my buddy and I took a little boat ride and threw a few of our crawfish baits up on the rocks and we caught a few nice ones. I felt good about my chances for the tournament and I kinda knew I was going to put some fish in the boat. The tournament launched out of Laurel Park and my plan was to hit 2 of my favorite rocky points just north of Browns Bridge and try and get a couple early morning bass for a confidence builder then hammer down south all the way to Bald Ridge The night before the tournament I meet my partner at the meeting and we went over all the particulars of the next morning. I told him we were going to be making a long cold run and to dress warm.
The next morning everything went off without a hitch but when we rolled up on my first spot there was a boat on it so we moved to another point in the same area but came up empty. I pointed the boat south and ran to Bald Ridge without a fish to start the morning. I wondered if my co-angler was starting to wonder about my strategy but when you’re cranking the rocks, most times you have to be patient and give the sun time to get up and the rocks to warm up. On our first stop I zeroed but one the second stop I busted a 2 pounder to start us off. I was using the DT-14 in the crawdad pattern and I finally put one in the livewell. We went through a little lull of maybe 2 hours and I was wondering if it was going to get better. Finally I popped a 3 pounder up on the rocks and that made me feel a little better. I was just running and gunning rocks at that point. Soon I popped another 3lber off the rocks and followed it up with another 2 pounder over the course of a couple hours. Time went on and I had 4 fish in the livewell. My partner wasn’t really expecting a crankbait on the rocks bite and he didn’t have much in the way of crawfish colored crankbaits so it was slow back there for him. He did catch one on a red lipless but it just wasn’t happening for him back there. I just needed one more fish and there was less than an hour before I had to head out of the creek to the weigh-in. FINALLY, with minutes to spare I hit my 5th fish that we though was the 5 pounder that I had been looking for but it turned out to be a foul hooked 2 pounder. It was ok though because I couldn’t of ask for more in getting 5 fish to the scales in my first tournament that size. When I got to the weigh-in and started talking with other guys I realized it was a bad day for many and I was going to finish in the money!! I weighed 11.9 and finished 20th out of 142 Anglers. I was pleased. Here’s a couple pics.
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One more tournament to go and was feeling pretty good coming off my finish in the FLW. I didn’t fish till the day before the tournament due to weather changes but I figured the pattern would hold since we were looking at a warming trend through the tournament weekend. My partner and I checked our rock piles the day before the tournament and busted 4 nice keepers in a matter of a couple hours on the crawfish cranks and the jigs. Here’s our 4 from the day before.
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We felt good about the next day but as luck would have it, my luck ran out. Over night a weak front had past through and the fish pulled off the rocks and shut down for us. It was very hard for me to switch tactics when we realized it was going to be a tough day. We had basically came up empty through our first 4 stops and I started second guessing. We shifted to docks and pitching the shakey head but without pre-fishing the docks we were just fishing blind and pulled up a zero on the docks. We went back to the rocks and finally busted a decent fish cranking but it was too late and the fish just didn’t cooperate for us. Here’s a pic of our only fish from the tournament.
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There’s a lesson in there somewhere but I haven’t figured it out yet. It’s been a long 3 week stretch and I’m glad it’s over so I can get back to fun fishing for a few weeks. Here’s a picture of the baits that I’ve been catching my fish on for the last 3 weeks on the rocks and a few random pre-fishing pictures.
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Still hitting the Ditches

IMAG0490Nothing much has changed for me over the past couple of weeks, with the exception of a few more stripers showing up with the bass. I’ve been trying my best to find a shallow bass bite but it’s just not happening for me because I know there are still plenty of fish cruising the ditches so that’s where I’ve been spending the majority of my time. Last year I started reading more and more about ditches so this winter I’ve been determined to find these mythical “ditches” and conquer them and the massive schools of fish that reside in them during the coldest months of the year. I’ve spent the last month in the deep underwater valleys and I think I’ve finally located and slayed the mighty ditch this year so it’s on to the next thing.

Lately the best approach for me is to cruise right down the deepest part of a cut or pocket off the main creek and look for the presence of bait and/or fish. This week a friend and I got my structure scan and side scan working which helps tremendously in the search. Usually if there is going to be fish or bait it will start showing up around the 60-70 foot mark and then run into the shallower area of the ditch. When referring to a ditch, it can be nothing more than a submerged valley between two hills. It doesn’t really have to be a defined “ditch” that has been scoured out by years of run-off before the lake was created.

If the fish are present they have been showing up around the 40-55 foot range with a few out even deeper and some much shallower. I’ve been crisscrossing the ditch and if I find fish around I’ve got 3 items close by. The first is my new favorite striper bait, the Lucky Craft suspending Pointer 100 in Aurora Black. I bought this bait from Hammonds for bass but as luck would have it the stripers love them, the bass… not so much. The second bait I’m using is a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce underspin or Fish Head Spin in white or pearl with a all white fluke trailer. I lost all of my Fish Head Spins so I had to got to my low budget homemade version of an underspin. The key to using this bait is to fish it slow. Just when you think you’re fishing it slow enough, slow it down more. Sometimes just letting it set and taking a quick nap will do the trick. I know it takes a while for the 1/4 ounce to sink but you really have to take your time with it. Let it go all the way down and crawl it back, pausing every once in a while to make sure it’s still relating to the bottom. I’m throwing it in the ditch and along the edges where I’m marking fish. The third bait I’m using is a white spoon, about 2 inches in length and I’m not really dropping it unless I’m right over a few fish or a school. I’m just dropping the spoon down to the bottom and bouncing it along in small hops along the bottom. Yesterday, 4 out of 5 of our first keepers in the tournament came from the spoon. Here’s a picture of the three primary baits I’m using right now..

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*Note: I would recommend changing out the hooks and all slip rings including the oval tying ring on the Pointer if you are targeting larger stripers. I just replaced mine with two #4 Eagle Claw nickel plated 375 trebles with 30lb stainless slip rings.

So basically, I’m working the jerkbait and underspin all around the boat when in the area of fish and dropping the spoon when I feel like I can quickly get it close to the fish I’m marking. Very early in the morning the stripers are showing up, usually cruising near shore so there have been a few times I’ve chased them down and picked one off with the Pointer so you need to have it at the ready when they show up. A few more baits I’ve got tied up and ready is the dropshot and Shakey head for the bass and the Bone Vixen for the topwater stripers. If I don’t feel like the bass are responding to the first 3 options and I’m still marking fish, I break out the Shakey head or the dropshot. Both may work at any given time, and a week ago it was a primary bait for me in the ditches and around the docks. There’s been a few fish in the backs of the ditches in shallower water and that’s where the Shakey head has been working the best for me. Water temps have been around 49 very early and warming into the lower 50’s by afternoon.
Here’s a few pics from the last few trips out:

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Cold Weather Ditch Fishing

Guys, I’ve been having a great time with the Fish Head Spin and fluke bait combo in ditches, flooded timber and the backs of pockets. It needs to be fished sloooooow and relating it to the bottom but it’s definitely worth a try for a few decent fish right now. The 1/4 ounce white or pearl Fish Head Spin with a 3-4 inch Fluke trailer cast right down the middle of a small pocket or feeder creek in 10-25 feet of water is doing the trick for us right now.
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