The Early Bass gets the Worm

I can usually tell when the early staging bite gets good as there are signs. Yesterday when I was out beating rocks and docks, I had just made a cast when I got a text from Lisa. I needed to send her back a text right away so after making a cast, I cradled my rod in my arms and started texting. I think I was about 3 texts in, and 2-3 minutes had gone by. My worm had been just lying on the bottom during this time. Right in the middle of my texting, I feel the rod tip start bouncing and I fumbled with the phone and the rod to set the hook on a running fish. That worm had been down there soaking for a few minutes before a bass whacked it. I can only imagine the bass down there on the bottom staring at the worm and daring each other to grab it. Finally, one of the bass said, “I’m your Huckleberry”!! It’s staging time and the bass turn into a bunch of Huckleberrys during this period before the spawn.

This week was hit or miss with the staging bass, but the rocks and docks was all I focused on with one bait, the shaky head. I know that I’ve got the worm color blacked out this week because the worm color doesn’t really matter, and you may have better success with your own color than trying to use mine. I used two different colors this week and both worked well. When it gets to be staging time on Lanier, the bass are going to eat, and they aren’t very selective about what they eat. I caught a couple bass this week that were regurgitating chow on their way to the boat and what they were barfing up was a cornucopia of chewed up mess. There were chucks of crawfish, frog legs, dead brim, shad, bluebacks, bugs and I actually think I saw an old chartreuse Hot Wheels car as well! The point is that these fish are feeding on a lot of stuff, so color choice doesn’t really matter, and bait may not matter as well. I ran into my lake neighbor yesterday on the lake and we chatted for a while. While we were chatting about our week, I couldn’t help but notice the worm he was using. It was very bright in color, and he had shortened it a bit. His little worm stood out like a sore thumb, and I asked him how his little worm was working. He said, “Jim, I’m smoking them with this little guy”. They were on that little unique worm like a bum on a ham sandwich.

Talking to my neighbor and seeing that worm color took me back to at least 10 years ago when Lisa and I fished up around Longhollow a lot. At the time about all we knew how to do was beat the banks and we found that a little pack of twin tailed grubs in that same color was all we needed to have a good time. Lisa and I would just go down the bank throwing our little grubs and every once in a while, we would pop a bass or get into a little flurry of bass. We had a blast with our little bright grubs. To me, catching the occasional bass is like getting the occasional birdie in golf, it gives you a good feeling, and it keeps you coming back for more.

I fished every day this week and pretty much ran the same milk run. Basically, my milk run is the best way to monitor the progress of the fish. Inevitably, they will show up in certain places and by me checking these places every day, it tells me what to look for and where to look. I don’t need forward facing sonar to find the fish and at this point, as my contour mapping is my biggest help. I didn’t really fish any ditches this week and my main focus was rocks and docks. For me the dock bite is steadily getting better, and more fish are starting to relate to the warmth of the docks on sunny days. Yesterday evening I picked up Lisa at 5pm and we went out and ran docks for an hour. In that hour we caught 3 very nice bass just throwing worms around a little stretch of dock. This was Lisa’s first bass of the year and my last bass of the evening.

Earlier in the day yesterday I was running stuff in the creek and racking my brain to try and think of places I haven’t fished in a few days or places I haven’t checked in weeks that might hold a bigger fish. Right now, the fish could be in a lot of different places so I’m doing a lot of moving around. I might run a stretch of docks and then run a stretch of bank with rocky secondary points that are visible from the shore, and my favorite, those hidden underwater outcroppings that are also secondary points, only submerged. Those submerged secondary points are often overlooked and that’s where my Humminbird mapping comes in. I want to find and target those areas, especially if the bank leads to a spawning area. Some of these submerged points have rock and muscles on them and they are a favorite hunting ground for the staging and feeding bass.

I’m not fishing the BFL, but it looks like the weather is going to be post front and sunny. If I were fishing the BFL, I would definitely utilize the sun to my advantage and find those sunny rocky points that Lanier is full of, and I’d throw my bait all day on those sun-drenched points. I don’t think the bass are going to be too choosy in the afternoons when they put on the feed bags. I caught just about all my fish this week in less that 20 feet of water and the fish that I was catching had good color with some being fat as mud. Most had been feeding heavily and spitting up chow boatside. Every once in a while, I’d see half-digested crawfish in the fish’s gullet which tells me that the crawfish are active right now and which has driven my focus to the meat-eaters this week.

The lake level is a few inches below full pool and the corps is generating a little more than normal this week. The water temps are starting to rise into the low 50’s. Last year we turned the corner in water temps in the last week or so of February and the days of water temps in the 40’s may be over till next winter. Here is a few of my memorable fish for the week.

Cast Away Cajun Seafood Dip

A few years back my lake neighbor Glen introduced me to his Langostino lobster cheese dip at a Christmas party he hosted, and I got the original dip recipe from him. Glen’s recipe inspired me to make a Cajun rendition because of my time in Louisiana and my love for cooking Cajun food. Although it’s a seafood recipe in title, I thought that the Andouille sausage really gave it some pop and a Cajun flair. I get the Louisiana Crawfish at the Walmart at 369 and 400 and I’m pretty sure you can find the sausage there also. They make three different kinds of sausage, mild, medium and hot. Your call on that but I prefer the mild or medium. The picture above is just about everything I used for the dip, and it makes enough for 10+. I reduce the ingredients to half for a smaller group of 4-6 guests.


  • 1lb of cooked and peeled shrimp
  • 2- 12ounce packages of cleaned Louisiana crawfish tails (sautéed for 10 minutes)
  • 1 package of Ragin Cajun Andouille sausage
  • 1/2 chopped sweet onion.
  • 2 8-ounce packages of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 tbsp of Old Bay (optional)
  • 2 cans of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis (drained).
  • 12 ounce bag of grated parmesan
  • 12 ounce bag of grated mild cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of grated Mexican blend
  • Lemon pepper, salt and coarse ground pepper to taste.


First, I preheat the Oven to 375 and sauté the crawfish in the juice from the package for 10 minutes. That gives the crawfish a great flavor. I mix the thawed shrimp in a bowl with the crawfish and that gives the shrimp a good flavor also.

Next comes the sausage cut into quarters and the the rest of the ingredients listed above, stirring as I go. Once everything is mixed, the mixture goes in my deep 9×13 baking dish.

I cover the top with foil and bake the mixture for 45 minutes and transfer it to the crockpot. At that point I stir and serve with scoops.

The Big Girls Cometh

I’m up at 4am every morning to get my day started. From 4am to 6am when Lisa gets up, among other things, I usually spend a bit of time in prayer and reading scripture from the Bible. I also like to watch a little of the many videos from Billy Graham. This week I watched one of his sermons and he told the story of a young self-proclaimed atheist who walked to the front of the huge stadium in which Mr. Graham was speaking to a large crowd. The young man was holding up a watch, and he shouted out to Graham, “if your God is real, let him strike me dead in the next minute”. At that statement the whole stadium went silent, but then an elderly man standing near the atheist turned to him and said, “son, God has a lot more patience than just one minute“. Probably the best video I watched all week and I thank God for his patience.

This week was one of those weeks in February that I look forward to every year. You can’t stop the bass from doing what they do and in February some of the largest bass prepare for their spawn by running rock for a high protein meal this month. Some stay out over timber or on a deep bottom ditch feeding on shad but there’s some that prefer that warmer rock water and the little orange mudbugs that are spawning and molting in those rocks. Our Chattahoochee crawfish population likes to spawn when the water temps are in the 50’s and they can spawn several times a year. A few weeks after they spawn, they will molt and turn shades of orange, copper and red. When they turn these vibrant colors, they are highly visible moving around on the darker chunk rock and very easy picking for the bass. Knowing which rocks they occupy is both beneficial to the angler as well as beneficial for the bass. Here’s a few key factors I look for in rocks when looking for big fish in February can really help with your rock game. Probably, the first and most important is that there has to be deep water very near the rock early in the staging game. This week there needed to be 40 feet of water very near the rock. I believe that the fish are still oriented to the deeper water and run up and down the ledges and steep drop-offs when they are ready to feed. Secondly, I believe that the green slime that covers some of the rock I fish is a deterrent to the bass as well as the crawfish. From what I have researched and understand, the crawfish make noises on the rock with their hard tails when they spawn to attract other crawfish. They click their tails on the rock as some sort of mating call. That clicking sound is like a dinner bell to the bass and the reason some of our choices for lures work well. If a crankbait is banging and clicking as it contacts the rock, I believe that sound is an attractant to the bass, and they are drawn to the sound. The rock that gets covered in slim is counterproductive to this ritual. For this reason, and the lack of fish catches in the areas my lure of choice comes back with green slime on it, I try and avoid the green rock in favor of the clean hard, dark chunk rock. Thirdly, I look for rock with sun on it on the sunny days as I believe the bass are just like us, in that they love the warmer rocky areas to boost their metabolism.

On Monday I fished with my good friend Jeff Nail, who is a retired Army veteran (Airborne Ranger) and the owner of Jeff Nail Guide Service. Jeff and I decided to look at some areas north of Browns Bridge and one of the things we keyed on was rock that faced the sun early in the morning. One of the first places we stopped was a huge bluff that faced the sun and had deep water within a few feet of the bluff. It was the perfect area for what I look for in February and it paid off right away for Jeff. We hadn’t been on the stretch long and Jeff busted this 5.4lb toad on a shaky head, on the sunny rocks. It was a great way to start the week and a good sign of what’s to come.

After that rock run, we focused on two things, the first was steep chunk rock and the second was locating deeper fish in the ditches using a small swimbait. I will say this about this week, for us the bite seemed to follow that big ole moon up in the sky. For the most part, when the moon set, so did the bite. After the moon went down, it was a grind and finding fish got a lot harder. We ended our day with over a dozen fish with some being caught on the shaky head and some on the little swimbaits in and around the ditches.

If you’re looking to up your staging game on Lanier this month, Jeff is your guide. Give him a call as he’s fishing every day now and he has an array of tactics for catching fish in February. Here’s a few pics of our biggest for the day.

On Tuesday I was out by myself scouting rock and found a few on rocks and docks with the shaky head. I ran up lake and worked some rock from Bald Ridge to Vanns and located a few here and there but it was slow. Probably my most productive areas on Tuesday was sunny rock bluffs and some deeper shady docks with rocks nearby. Not sure why but the size was off just a bit on Tuesday, but numbers were good, and I finished the day with some decent fish.

On Wednesday I met up with my good friend Joe McVickers and we looked at a few things up lake. It was a bit of a miserable day with the weather and the cooperating fish but it was mainly about getting out with Joe for the fellowship. I first met Joe years ago while fishing up lake. Joe was sitting in his Ranger boat and we were fishing near each other. I went over and struck up a conversation with Joe and he showed me a few of his hair jigs he ties. We chatted for a while before I headed out, but I didn’t forget about Joe and his hair jigs. Fast forward to Jimbo’s gathering a few weeks back and I ran into Joe again at the expo. We chatted for a bit and we wound up swapping some lures. Joe showed me pictures of his new Ranger boat, a 50-year edition Ranger that was just beautiful. Joe had won the boat in a picture contest with Cabela’s, and I really wanted to check it out so we planned our trip for Wednesday. Joe and I weren’t really blessed with fish, but we were blessed with fellowship and that’s much more important than the tangible fish. I enjoyed every second of our trip and looking forward to the next one.

Yesterday I was skeptical because of the weather coming through but as luck would have it, the rain was minimal as the front approached. I think the front stalled out over our area for a brief period and the wind calmed down a bit. I checked the barometric pressure about 10am and it had dropped considerably. It was right at 30.01 and still dropping when I first checked. I went to a rock bluff where I had picked up a decent limit on Tuesday and it didn’t take long till I put my first keeper in the boat, a really nice 4.2-ounce fish. I was casting to the bluff from a depth of 40 feet and picked up the fish in about 30 feet of water. My next cast hit the bottom and I started slowly dragging my worm on the bottom when I felt that old familiar tick and I reeled down on another fighting fish, another solid keeper, a bit smaller than the last but still a good 3.3-ounce fish. From there I started moving around a bit but usually after a few releases the bite starts to slow, and I was satisfied with the two keepers. My next stop was at the mouth of the creek and another rock bluff. I set up the boat out in deeper water again and made long casts to the bluff. The first 5-6 cast came up empty, but I made a cast to a little rock pile at the end of the bluff, and I found what I was looking for when another bass thumped the worm. It was such a great fight all the way to the boat, and it was another solid fish off the rocks, and she weighed 3.14 ounce. From there I hit a little dry spell and the wind started to pick up again. I’ve been catching a few fish on this unsuspecting underwater point in a large bay with the wind blowing right into the bay. The underwater point had some brush out on the end in 25 feet of water and it had gravel rock back in the shallow area near shore. The fish had been migrating between the shallow gravel and the brush, so I started making casts in between the brush and the rock in about 20 feet of water. On my first cast I reeled down on a running fish that had picked up the bait as soon as it hit bottom. I knew this was a better fish and I grabbed the net. I thought that if I could land this one, I’d be working on a nice sack. when I boated the fish, I knew right away it was bigger than the 4.2 and when she dropped on the scale it read 4.9lbs.

At that point I started going over places in my mind where I thought I might get one more good fish and I thought of another rocky bluff in an area I call Kenny Bunkport because of the fancy long cruiser boat in a very nice dock. The fancy long boat was a Chriscraft and had a American flag on the back. I could just imagine the Kennedy clan riding around Martha’s Vinyard in this boat. It’s a place where I had been picking up a good one from time to time but recently it had produced nothing. Nonetheless it had dark chunk rock and that was what I was looking for yesterday. The wind was dying but there was a little bit of chop on the rock when I pulled up and made my first cast up onto the rocks in 15-20 of water. I could feel the worm falling down the chunk rocks and before I could get my first cast back to the boat, I felt a very faint tap on the worm. Hooksets are free in my boat, so I took a chance and set the hook on the tap. I was correct in my suspicions, and I had my fifth keeper on. I said a quick prayer and low and behold, I boated another nice fish to complete my sack, a feisty 3.11-ounce spot. At that point I was satisfied with my day, and I headed back to the house.

One change that I had made since fish with Jeff on Monday was changing to a lighter rod with a softer tip. Jeff was using a medium-fast rod while I had been using a medium heavy and occasionally breaking off fish. I had switched out my rig and loaded some 12lb Cast Co. braid Jeff had provided me on my Shimano Stradic Ci4 3000. I mounted the Stradic on a new 7.5 Mega Bass Levante spinning rod. I put a 6 foot leader of 8lb Tatsu fluorocarbon and married the two with my modified Alberto knot, appropriately called the “Jimberto” knot. I was really excited about the new rig and I gotta tell you guys, It felt great to bring in a 19-20lb sack on the first outing with the new rig. Here’s the pics of the fish and rig I was using yesterday, with 4 of the 5 fish coming from rocky bluffs.

Here’s a picture of the rig I was using for my shaky head this week.

Today I made a short trip through the creek and around a few other creeks to look at some stuff I hadn’t been fishing lately. I took some pictures of the type of stuff I fished this week. This is the stuff my larger fish have been coming from. It’s hit or miss on the rocks but when your timing is right, there are some big girls up on the rocks.

Things seem to be looking better and I feel like were just about to turn the corner with the water temps. I saw a 51–52-degree average in the creek and lake level is a few inches below full pool. The corps did a few big generations early this week, but they are only generating for a few hours a day now. The shaky head did almost all the damage this week and it’s probably something I’ll be using more and more on the rocks as we approach spring.

The Dog Days of Winter

It’s never been my favorite time to fish but I just can’t bring myself to find another interest to bide my time until warmer weather shows up again. The bottom line is that I don’t like the cold and I don’t like fishing in it, but I guess it could be worse and I could be drilling holes in thick ice to drop a line right now.

This week I’ve struggled to find something to write about. It’s amazing how much one year can change things. Every morning I get up at 4am and at some point, shortly thereafter I usually look at my memories on Facebook to see what fishing was like a year ago. All week this week I’ve looked at pictures that brought back memories of my fishing this time last year. I can’t believe how much of a void there is in the same locations as last year. Last year the numbers were more than twice what they are this year and I have to ask myself why? I can’t see pressure being the issue here because there is just so many bass in the lake. Several years ago, when I was fishing in the striper community there was a big concern over the number of stripers being caught and most assuredly killed during the summer months by me dragging leadcore. I used to troll leadcore a good bit in the summer and a small group of striper fisherman decided to start crying about the possibility of fish being killed. There were even fishermen from other lakes commenting about the carnage of trolling leadcore and they were clueless as to what leadcore even was at the time. It was all unwarranted and the “Karens” of the striper community were put at bay when the DNR release a study that showed that the effects of fishermen during the summer months and the mortality rate was around 2-3% of the total population. That was 15 years ago and now leadcore is commonly used, and probably by some of the people who used to whine about it. I’ve never forgotten the minority of folks involved and harassment I took just to show folks a different successful way of fishing.

Fast forward to now and I’m primarily a bass fisherman. During the winter months fish can be grouped up in a small area and catching these fish in the ditches is fun because of the numbers. Most fishermen know that sometimes releasing caught fish over the same area can kill the bite after a few fish releases. It’s a fact and it’s something I’ve seen for years. It’s because of that that I would put my fish in the livewell to continue the bite. I would put 5-10 fish in my livewells at the most and then move away from the area and release the fish. The whole process sometimes would be an hour or two at the most and the caught fish would be released. They would swim away with their lips and feelings hurt but unharmed. The biggest mistake I made was posting pictures of the fish in the livewell and that’s all it took for the bass “Karens” to move in and start making comments about putting fish in the livewell if you’re not tournament fishing. One of these goofballs even went as far as calling me a liar twice on a certain local Facebook fishing forum that went unchecked and I’m no longer a member of that group. This was even after explaining twice in the public comments that the fish were caught in one area and released unharmed within an hour. This harassment was ok because it was all in the name of conservation. I don’t think Ranger made those live wells just for the arrogant tournament anglers and their ill-informed ilk. Sometimes it’s necessary to use my livewell to put my fish in to enjoy my afternoon of fishing and I have every right to do so. Now, I see picture after picture of fishermen holding up 5-10 bass at one time and you know those fish came from a livewell but I’ll bet the ole bass Karens of Lake Lanier aren’t saying a word now because some are their buddies. Be sure and use your livewell in the ditches to continue the bite and release your fish when you’re done, just don’t take livewell pictures. That’s the obvious bass Karen trigger.

My livewell was damaged during the polar freeze last month and I can’t use it right now. Now every time I get into a big school of fish, the bite dies after the 2nd or third release so that’s one reason my numbers are down this year. Another reason is because of the stain in areas I frequently fish in the winter but the stain has been bad in these places which changes the bite. All in all my ditch bite has been lacking so I’ve been doing a lot more beating the bank this week. I know that the fish will be moving to the shallows in bigger numbers soon so I’m just biding my time and testing the staging areas for the impending process of pre-spawn staging. I can tell from the lack of big females in these places that it’s still a bit early. A lot of the fish I’m catching are less than 3lbs right now in these staging areas and most are just there foraging fish in the shallow rocks for a change of pace. I think the rocks and dock bite is going to continually get better over the next month and we should see some of these big females on the move.

This week I’ve also been able to catch a few stripers that came close to me while I was bass fishing. One of which was my biggest this year, a 16lber on a 2.8 Keitech. It was a lot of fun and that striper really gave me a workout. One of the things the bigger stripers like to do is dive to the bottom after being hooked and with light line it’s hard to force them to the boat. What you can do is keep a little distance between you and the fish and keep your rod tip high in the air to keep the fishes head up. Take your time and if the fish starts diving put a little extra pressure on him to turn him back up. Usually this works well, and stripers will stay on top most of the time if you keep their head up.

I had another 2023 personal best this week when I thought I was stalking a surfacing striper and it turned out to be a 4.11lb spot for my best this year. It was a nice surprise to see that it was a surfacing bass. I got the fish catch on video, but we’ll probably wait a while to release the video because the location is still active for me. It was a fun catch and it felt good to bring in something big for a change.

I made an “On the Cast Away Deck” video yesterday of what I’ve been using this week to catch my fish. Here’s the video and a few pictures from my week.

Water temps are hovering around 50 degrees right now and the lake level is dropping because of the constant generation from the corps yesterday. Lake level is just below full pool, and the corps is doing another big generation today.

The Spotted Roaches of Lake Lanier

I figured it was time to put this down on the internet before someone else steals my term for all these spotted bass on our awesome lake. A few years back, right after the release of Garmin’s forward-facing sonar, a friend of mine who fished in the Bassmaster Elite series, Jesse Tacoronte, stayed at Cast Away Cove and I got to witness forward-facing sonar on Jesse’s boat not long after the release. He showed me how it rotated in sync with the trolling motor, and I was amazed at the clarity of forward-facing, real-time sonar. I’ll never forget what Jesse said to me while showing me his Garmin, he said “if you aren’t using it on Lanier within the next year, you’re going to be behind the power curve”. He was correct, speaking from a competitive or business sense but if you’re retired and mainly fish for fun is it worth the investment? Well, I guess it depends on what you consider success and reward. On one hand, I feel like there is a lot to be said for the challenge of reading my 2D and mapping to find fish, whether in a deep ditch or around a shallow hidden rock pile. On the other hand, I’m never too old to learn new things and I’m looking forward to learning forward-facing sonar in the near future.

You’re probably wondering about the “roach” reference in the title and if you know me pretty well you’ve probably already heard me refer to our spotted bass on Lake Lanier as roaches. I first used the term a few years ago at a Jimbo seminar when I was speaking to a larger crowd. I explained that the first few times I was on a boat that had forward facing sonar and I got to see first-hand, all the bass that were crawling along the bottom in random places we would stop. A while back my partner and I had a couple hours left in a tournament and were scanning areas around bridge pilings with heavy structure using the Garmin. We couldn’t go 20 yards without marking fish glued to the bottom. If I looked close enough it was like the bottom was alive with little bumps popping up from the bottom and swimming back down. I could see that it was groups of bass just crawling and moving around the bottom like roaches. I was just amazed at the volume of fish just in one area alone, but we saw this in multiple areas throughout the afternoon. After that day I referred to the bass as roaches, especially this time of year when they are more oriented to the bottom.

This week I fished almost every day and bounced between the ditches and the rocks. My docks haven’t made much of a showing lately so it’s down to the ditches and the rocks this week. On Monday I spent the better part of the day looking for productive ditches and I had a pretty good day. On Monday just about every fish I caught was hanging out in 40+ feet of water going into a ditch or bay, and I caught them all with a Lanier Baits 1/4-ounce Damiki head with either a Cast Co. 3″ Prodigy or a 2.8 Keitech. I’d say that 90% of the fish were caught while casting and dragging my bait very slowly on the bottom. Other times I like to hop the Damiki on the bottom. I keep my rod tip up if I’m hopping the bait and rod tip down near the water if I’m dragging it. Here’s a video I made a couple years ago while fishing the Damiki in the ditches. This gives you an idea of how slow I’m working the Damiki on the bottom.

Although I didn’t use the spoon much this week, it’s always a good bet this time of year. If the fish are finicky with the Damiki, definitely give the spoon a try. I made this video a few years back and it kind of explains a little more about ditches and spooning this time of year.

The biggest thing about fishing ditches is DON’T overthink it looking for ditches. A ditch can be the center or deepest part of a bay or cove, or it can be a narrower defined drainage area, but the main ingredient for fish is the presence of bait. When I was out yesterday morning, I saw some gulls diving in the center of a cove further back in the bay I was fishing. Some of the gulls were circling and diving on the water, plus I could see some loons diving in the center of the cove. I idled over to the area and eased up on the cove with the trolling motor. The loons were diving in less than 10 feet of water and the gulls were also diving at bait on the surface. I made a cast to the center of the cove where the loons were working, and I felt a little tap on my Damiki right after it hit the bottom. I was hoping it wasn’t one of the loons, but I knew better because the loons rarely mistake my bait for the real thing. Sure enough, it was a nice spot in less than 10 feet of water to start my morning. Five minutes later I caught my second fish after following the loons out of the cove and into the deeper water. I actually think some of the bass were trailing the loons and feeding on the same bait balls the loons were chasing around and feeding from. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the birds, especially early in the morning around pockets and coves. Take your time and watch your graph closely from 50 feet all the way back to the back of a cove. Just as soon as I start marking fish under the boat, I start fan casting the Damiki or I drop the War Eagle spoon straight down.

The second pattern I’m having success with is the shaky head on the south and west facing rocky shoreline in the sunny afternoons, especially if there is wind and chop on the shoreline. If there is a sunny rocky point facing the southwest and there is wind blowing right onto the point, it’s pretty much a lock that at least one fish is going to be cruising the point for a meal. I’ve been keeping the boat out in 25-30 feet of water and making long casts towards the bank, fan casting with Spot lock on. The biggest key is working the worm slowly; the fish are there but moving the bait too fast has been counter-productive for me this week and slowing the worm down to a slow stop and go crawl has been the key. Sometimes I’ve really been soaking it to get my bites, but it seems like the fish were a little bigger on the rocks this week so maybe the staging bass are going to get with it soon. I did notice that the bite got better once the moon was up and visible this afternoon.

I’d almost bet a crankbait or jig would work under the same conditions, but I like the shaky head and I have the most confidence in it right now. Keep in mind that these fish on the rocks are feeding and not particular about what they eat so a variety of baits should work with these fish.

The lake is back up to full pool and the corps is generating 4-5 hours a day now. Water temps were around 49 in the creek and it’s dropped a degree or two this week. Fishing isn’t the best right now overall and it’s definitely cold out there, but ditches or rocks are two good options. Here’s a few of those roaches from this week.

Rockin in the Wind

Patience! Maybe it was something that was taught to me on our little farm on the outskirts of my hometown when I was very young. Maybe patience was born during an evening of fishing on a pond dam back in 66-67 or was it the rocky shore of Grand Lake camping in the 60’s. Maybe it was out at our little river cabin in 70-72 where I learned to set trotlines and limblines. Maybe it was with our Britney dogs on point, waiting for that covey of quail to burst from the ground in a thunderous explosion and just maybe it was staring out across the deep blue pacific from the open doors of the aircraft carrier’s hangar bay, just waiting to come back home.

This week was all about patience and it wasn’t much different than last week in terms of what I did for my bites. I started out on Monday swearing that I was going to spend some time in the ditches but after a couple of hours of driving and looking, followed by casting and dropping I had two pale 2lbers and one 3lber, all on a Cast Co. Prodigy swimbait. Don’t get me wrong here I enjoy a good ditch bite, but I just couldn’t hang with it, and I have decided to let Jeff Nail give me a refresher in ditch fishing because my confidence is lacking. Hopefully next week Jeff and I can get it straightened out.

I’m like a dog rolling on a deer carcass right now when it comes to the shaky head on the rocks. I really can’t help myself and if it wasn’t for my gift of patience, I’d probably be doing something else; but because of that patience I sit with my back to the cold wind with my spot lock on, fan casting and dragging the worm down the hill. If you have been diagnosed with ADD or some other disorder that makes it hard for you to watch paint dry, this isn’t a pattern for you, but if you like the occasional dull thump of a fish sucking in that worm, I think it’s worth it.

The screen shot below explains my position on the secondary points in the creek pockets. If you can imagine that underwater rocky area where I’m sitting with the point facing the west in full sun and the wind blowing right into it; that’s my target area right now. I took this picture because that’s exactly where the fish pictured above came from. I was making casts with the shaky head worm up onto the shallow rocks and the fish was in less than 10 feet of water. Basically, I’m just shopping rocky areas in the sun and looking for rocky outcroppings, ideally, with sun and wind on them. There are places like this all over the creeks on our lake and the options are endless using this pattern alone. The bites aren’t usually fast and furious but moving around and finding the little areas that produce fish are probably going to produce fish again and maybe again day after day. This, meaning that most of the places I caught fish this week provided me fish just about every day I fished it. One of the biggest problems with this pattern, this week was the size. I usually expect the fish to be over 3lbs when I catch them using this pattern but this week, I had a lot of frustration due to the lack of larger fish. The 4’s and 5’s just didn’t turn out this week like I expected. Sometimes it’s like that during the winter running this pattern but soon mother nature takes over and the larger females will find their way to the rocks. Fan casting is the deal on the rocky points for me right now. Whether there is wind or no wind, sun or clouds, just spend a few minutes fan casting the point and move on, win or lose. The fish that are on the rocky points aren’t there for sightseeing or to visit the local sunken lounge chair, they are there to eat and they aren’t really picky eaters. Definitely a crankbait, swimbait, underspin, a-rig or chatterbait could work on these fish but I like dragging the worm down the hill or ledge.

If you look at the background in some of the pictures below, some were cloudy and some were sunny backgrounds. I think there was more activity on the rocks during the sunny/windy post front days at the latter part of this week but there were fish cruising the points in the afternoons whether the sun was out or not. Some of the points I checked in the mornings were barren of fish but a return in the afternoon produced fish. If you’re looking for an addition to the ditch bite right now this pattern is a definite option.

Right now, the lake level is falling again after a heavy generation from the corps yesterday and the level is about a foot below full pool. Water temps are around 50 in the creek and there is still a good stain in the back of our creek. Here’s a few pictures from my week. I will say that there were quite a few smaller fish up on the rocks that didn’t make the picture cut this week.

Looking for them Early Stagers

I woke up at 4am listening to the subtle whining sounds of a cat wanting my attention at the side of the bed. No doubt she wanted to be the first to tell me that during the night 3 local cats, 2 deer and a scary looking possum had tripped the outdoor light sensor and she had also barfed up a juicy hairball because I didn’t empty the litter pan before bed. With all the commotion going on the dog woke up and wanted out for his morning leak. When I stepped outside at 4:15 to let the dog out the north wind hit me right in the face and I was instantly reminded that it was the back side of a front, and it was blowing cold air right through my pajamas. I watched the big pines across the street swaying back and forth in the howling wind and I was happy to go back inside, thinking I just may stay at the dock today.

This week I stayed away from the deeper stuff and ran my early stager milk run, focusing mainly on the creek. I’m still staying close to the house until I get a few more hours on the new motor but it’s hard because a lot of the water is stained around the back of the creek, and this is the time of year I like to fish the backs of the creeks in cleaner water circumstances. It’s not like there is an official staging effort going on with the fish right now and at best, it’s totally random, but there are some fish cruising the usual staging areas for the spawn. Secondary points of the underwater variety have been my target of interest this week and my thoughts are that there should be some big girls showing up around these areas very soon. When I go through my history from previous years, January has always produced some giants pre-staging on the rocky areas close to spawning areas. The fish pictured above was caught on some deeper rocks alongside of a sunny point and the fish had harked up a small dead bream as well as pieces of crawfish around its gullet. It wasn’t the usual 1–2-inch shad so many fish are feeding on right now, but these fish are the meat-eaters, and they are up on the rocks finding the bigger ticket items to chow down on. The good thing about these fish that are feeding up on the rocks is that they aren’t really particular about what they eat. For years we used a crankbait to catch these rock dwelling fish, but more recently I’ve switched to using a worm fished slowly to target these fish. I think that either bait can get the job done right now but I like the slower presentation rather than power fishing the crankbait. I found that the fish are starting to slow a bit and soaking a worm may have the same effect as running a crankbait over a point but it’s less wear and tear on my shoulder if I’m dragging a worm at the speed of a three toed sloth. The way I look at these staging fish is that I can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to the fish. The fish are going to be staging soon, especially on the sunny/windy days and when the bigger fish decide to stage, I want to be there to greet them, rather than find that I’m late for the party.

Right now, I have the mapping coloration on my graphs set up for red-0-5 feet, white is 6-20 feet and green is 21-35 feet. I’m keeping the boat out at 30 feet and casting around and up onto the shallow secondary points. Sometime the fish will be very shallow along the side of a point and sometimes the fish will be cruising out in 25 feet of water on the end of a point. By keeping the boat out deeper I’m covering more of the deeper areas where the fish may be cruising around as I’ve caught fish this week in 5 feet of water and out in 25 feet of water on secondary points. It’s as simple as dragging your worm down the ledge very slowly, and if there is wind on the point, I like to Spot Lock in 30 feet of water up wind and fan cast sunny points, dragging the worms very slowly on the bottom and stopping the worm from time to time. I’m using a 1/4-ounce ball head and a 5-inch Senko in a Junebug or Green pumpkin color and occasionally dipping the tails in a little chartreuse garlic. I gotta say that it’s pretty rewarding as well as addicting when these bass pop the worm on the bottom and you load up on a nice fish.

That’s about all I have to report this week. It’s been a pretty simple week for me just throwing the worm around the rocks and a few docks here and there. The docks did account for a few fish this week but nothing real significant around the docks and nothing worth focusing on yet. The lake is continuing to rise and is now less than a foot below full pool with the corps moving water a couple hours a day. The water temps are right around 50 on my graphs and the further you go back in the creek, the worse the water clarity gets. Here’s a few pics from this week. Size was down from what I expected but better days are coming.

2023 and Back in the Saddle

After a long two months since my knee replacement, I’m finally back on the water and fishing again. This has been a tough one in terms of endurance and recovery. When it comes to knee replacement, everyone handles it differently and some replacements are smoother than others. I’ve had friends that recovered very quickly with minimal pain and others that didn’t fare so well. For me, it was as much mental as it was physical recovery. Physically, the discomfort continues but it’s getting better, but mentally it’s been a struggle. I’ve had several surgeries and a few broken bones over the years, but this was definitely the most debilitating event I’ve ever endured. It was the fact that I couldn’t use my dominate leg for things I’ve used it for my whole life. The anxiety from sitting around waiting for my leg to heal was mentally challenging for me. As far as the physical stuff goes, the best way to describe it is as if my knee went to sleep and I can’t wake it up. It also feels like there is a tight painful band around the upper part of my knee. That is more than likely from cutting or loosening the muscles around the femur and then reattaching them, as it can be painful at times. It is also still painful to step up or step down using my knee. The surgeon says it could take up to a year for that to heal but he seems to think it will be way shorter in my case because my healing has gone much better than he expected. The good part is that the bone-on-bone pain I was feeling before the surgery is gone and that was the ultimate relief for me.

During my time without fishing my boat got a new powerhead after the old one blew right before my surgery. Timing couldn’t have been better because my boat and I both needed a rest. I had been fishing just about every day for months and the boat motor as well as my knee turned out to be the weakest link in my fishing efforts. The guys at C&S Marine got me fixed up with a new powerhead in record time and had I not been recovering from surgery; I would have been back on the water in less than a week. Chris and the guys at C&S know their stuff when it comes to motors and had the powerhead swapped out in 2 days.

Now for the fishing. Monday Lisa and I made a trip out and after breaking in the motor we started hitting ditches. Lisa tied on a little jig head with a 3″ Prodigy from Cast Co. I was using a little silver War Eagle spoon and the little swimbait did all the damage in the ditches for us. Lisa caught a few smaller fish casting the little swimbait in 40 feet of water and bouncing it on the bottom and then she caught the fish below just before we headed home. Every winter I enjoy catching a lot of fish on the Damiki rig and the new Cast Co. 3-inch Prodigy swimbaits are a great option for these fish feeding on small baits in the ditches. Be sure and give them a try this winter on Lanier.

It was overcast and the fish in the ditches we hit were very scattered and not too many were interested in eating in the afternoon. On Tuesday I was back out but only caught 3 in the ditches. On Wednesday I had enough of perch jerking a bunch of 2 pounders in the ditches and I went looking for the meat eaters on the rocks and docks. I wanted to try the little emerald ned rig again since I had good luck with it around this time last year. I pounded a few docks and rocks with it, and it produced a few but I felt like I could do better, so I tied on the green pumpkin shaky head and went to work on the rocks. This time of year, I focus on the sunny rocks for the most part. There are some big fish around the shady/deep rock bluffs, but they are few and far between right now. Same with the docks in the creek, I just couldn’t get bit on the docks successfully this week so by yesterday my primary focus was sunny rocks facing the south and west. With the west wind blowing, most of the west facing rocky points had sun and wind blowing right into the point and the fish were cruising the rocks. With the stained water getting worse in the creek and pushing out towards the main lake, I mainly concentrated on clean water around the mouths of the south end creeks and rocks on the main lake where the water was the cleanest. I had my best day today and I had to leave them biting. With the weather getting more stable the fish seemed to respond well today and they were really getting up on the secondary points and staging areas early this afternoon. I wished I could have stayed longer but I think I put 9-10 in the boat today before heading to the house. This week the best pattern for me was the shaky head on sunny rocks with wind and chop. It’s been slow, partly because of the full moon this week but also because the water temps are getting down into the 40’s now. When the water first hits the 40’s, the fish really slow it down for a bit but they get used to it and they’ll get going with the pre-spawn soon. Most of my fish were caught in less than 20 feet of water this week and the warmer/shallow fish were very strong fighters, unlike the lethargic ditch fish. Water temps were around 50 today and the lake is a little over a foot below full pool. The corps is only generating for an hour or two each day so not a lot of water is moving right now. Here’s a few of the memorable fish this week including my 2023 PB of 4.01pictured above and caught yesterday.

Fall Return to San Luis

During my time in central California, I made a lot of trips to the San Luis reservoir in search of stripers and largemouth bass but there was one fall trip in particular that always rises to the top of my memories of the massive San Luis reservoir and O’Neil forebay. I’m guessing that the year was around 1986, and it was a late fall weekend of fishing with the backdrop of barren rolling hills and cool-crisp mornings around the reservoir. The kind of mornings that you can see your breath and the familiar smell of campfires drifted around the shores of the lake at dawn. Back in 1986 things were very different than they are now. We didn’t have the luxury of cellphones or debit cards like we do today, with most folks using cash or check for purchases and pictures were somewhat rare unless someone in our group was a photo buff. I doubt we took any pictures of our trip, but I still have my memory and this one was a doozy, that’s why I still remember it. Oh, I had made a few trips to San Luis with my good friend Sonny since checking into the squadron 3 years earlier, but this trip was probably the best I had made in terms of numbers of fish and the size as well as shear laughter and fun we had that weekend. Here’s the way it went down….

We had been planning the weekend for a while and it just so happened that our plan all came together for a weekend of camping and fishing at San Luis reservoir, located in central California. It was going to be myself, Sonny and Tom, all from the squadron and all somewhat avid fishermen. As I remember, Tom wasn’t quite as avid a fisherman, but nonetheless he was a musician with an acoustical guitar and an interest in fishing with Sonny and I, so I saw the entertainment value right away. That came into play later on in the story, but Tom was a good friend of mine and our wives also hung out together, so he was a shoe in for our trip. Sonny had the truck and the boat, which was a 17-foot Bass Tracker that he personally picked up from the factory and towed out west to its new home in central California. Sonny and I put a lot of miles on his Bass Tracker and his little Ford Courier pickup truck. His little truck had an aluminum camper shell over the bed, and he had a big handmade wooden camping box inside the covered bed, where he kept all his camping equipment/supplies and kitchen type equipment. Common items we generally had in the back for the trip was at least 1 Coleman lantern, we generally had mine and Sonny’s. We also had a couple Coleman stoves for cooking/deep frying, as well as a few tents and sleeping bags so needless to say, with all that equipment the little truck was loaded down. For that reason, Tom agreed to ride in the floor of the boat for the duration of our trip up to San Luis. Looking back on that decision, I’m not sure that would fly by today’s standards, but we really didn’t see the harm and it was less than 2 hours away. Besides, it gave Tom a chance to wrap up in a sleeping bag and sleep a bit down in the floor of the Bass Tracker on the trip. It was Friday evening, and we were off for our trip shortly after finishing work and getting everything ready. Tom met me at my house and Sonny picked us up curbside with the boat and gear in tow. Tom crawled into the floorboard of the Bass Tracker and covered up with his sleeping bag. It wasn’t long till we hit the I5 interstate, and we were cruising north for the next hour and a half, blasting music and chatting about fishing.

Sonny and I had been up to San Luis a month earlier on a bass fishing trip and we had a good time, not only with the bass but we both caught some nice stripers as a bonus. Before San Luis, I knew very little about striper fishing and I never really thought about targeting them at the time. Sonny and I were mainly interested in bass fishing, that is until I caught my first big striper on San Luis. I can’t remember if I had caught some smaller stripers prior to catching a behemoth right before dark on our last trip, but my fate was sealed, and I found a very large interest in striper fishing from that evening on.

I can remember that Sonny and I were fishing the forebay and there was a long stretch of grass parallel to some rip rap, and we were concentrating on throwing topwater along the edges of the grass. We had caught a few nice bass along with a few smaller stripers and the sun was setting fast. State Park rules said we had to be off the lake at sunset, and we only had another 30 minutes or so to fish. I got a bad wind knot in my reel, and it looked like the reel was done for the evening. It looked like a re-string job, so Sonny told me to grab his little spinning rod with a Pop-R tied on it to finish out the evening. I grabbed Sonny’s little spinning rig and made a long cast out the back of the boat, away from the weed line and out into deeper water. I just wanted to see how the rod and reel felt before working the Pop-R down along the edge of the weed line. Sonny got his topwater snagged in the weeds and I turned to watch him work his topwater out of the obstruction. I heard a large splash in back of the boat and turned around to see a large boil and circular swirl right where the Pop-R has landed. I was confused because I could no longer see the Pop-R on the surface, but my line was very slack. I looked at my slack line and wondered if the Pop-R had somehow broken off or it had come untied. I was baffled so I started taking up the slack on the reel and when I looked down at the remainder of the line where it entered the water, I saw it slowly tighten on a very dark shadow under the water swimming towards the boat. No sooner than I saw the fish, the fish saw me, and the boat. At that point the big striper made a quick turn away from the boat and the drag started screaming off the reel. The big striper was headed for the middle of the lake with the little Pop-R and I was hanging on for dear life. The pile of line wrapped around the spool was getting thin and the striper showed no interest in slowing down, so we had to chase him down. Thankfully there was very little structure and the fish stayed near the surface for the duration of the fight. He must have pulled the Bass Tracker around for 10 minutes before we finally landed the 31lb monster and called it a day. Back then we kept everything for table fare as long as we were within our legal limits and that big striper provided a lot of meat for us Navy folks on a budget. A month had passed since that trip, and Sonny, Tom and I were returning to San Luis in search of stripers for the freezer.

The long drive to San Luis went by quickly and it wasn’t long till we were pulling into a local San Luis gas station, store and bait shop just a couple miles from the entrance of the state park where we were camping. On this trip we were only interested in stripers and the best way to catch them at the time was using cut bait in the form of frozen anchovies. The store sold frozen anchovies by the bag and there were a few dozen in the bags so we wanted to get enough to last us through the next day’s fishing. I wanted to stretch my legs and I was pretty sure Tom wanted to stretch after riding on the floorboard of the boat for a while. When Sonny and I got out of the truck we were chatting about something and I watched as Sonny reached into the bed of his truck, over the side and it dawned on me that something wasn’t right. Tom was walking up after climbing out of the boat and I realized that we no longer had a camper shell on the bed of the truck. Sonny was busy digging in a bag for cash and I asked if he noticed anything out of place? Right away it dawned on him that his topper was missing. Nothing in the bed had blown out and nothing was out of place, the topper was just gone. We asked Tom if he had heard anything, but Tom said he fell asleep and didn’t hear a thing. On further inspection, we found that the shell had hit the corner of the windshield on the Bass Tracker and did minimal damage. We debated on going back up the freeway to see if we could locate it but it was getting late and interstate 5 is a big interstate to try and find a small camper shell, so we let it go for the night, citing that we would look for it on the way back home. Money was pretty tight back then and we all pitched in for groceries and gas. After buying supplies, bait and gas we were on our way to the park to set up camp, grab a quick bite to eat and get some rest. After unpacking, pitching tents and heating up some supper we called it a night and hit the tents.

It was a brisk morning on the water and the ramp was lined up with boats waiting to launch. We got there a little late and by the time we were on the water and moving the sun was up and it was warming up to be a nice sunny morning on the lake. We found an area that had a long tapering point, and we dropped the anchor on the crown of the point in 20 feet of water. We cut the anchovies into 2-inch chunks and put them on a single hook 1 foot leader with a 1-ounce weight 2 feet below the leader. That got our cutbait about a foot off the bottom. We just dropped the baits straight down under the boat till the weight hit the bottom and we brought up the slack which brought the bait suspended a foot off the bottom and dangling from the leader. We just sat and waited for the stripers to show up. It didn’t take long, and we were all three bring in nice 2-5lb stripers. Every once in a while, one of our rods would pull down and another striper would come to the boat. Over the course of the morning, we boated 5 nice stripers a piece and headed back to the launch to trailer and have some lunch. We had 15 very nice stripers, and we were pretty happy with our catch. We cleaned the stripers right after lunch and decided to drive down to the Oneil forebay for an afternoon/evening of more striper fishing. The launch at the forebay was about 15 minutes from the upper lake and the state park where we were staying. Legally we could catch 5 more stripers a piece to finish off our daily limit and there were plenty of stripers in the forebay for us to catch. We used the same method of suspending the cut anchovies and in the course of the afternoon through evening we accumulated our limits again, including a few bigger teenage stripers. We were having a blast and it was by far the best trip that Sonny and I had been on. We had a total of 30 stripers for the day and we were going to be eating deep fried striper for our supper along with some fried potatoes to go with it. When we got back to the camp Sonny broke out the cooking equipment and I started fileting out the stripers from the afternoon trip to the forebay. Tom broke out his guitar and we built a nice fire in the firepit in the center of the camp. Tom played music as we ate fish, drank beer and sang songs into the chilly October night before hitting the sleeping bags for some rest. Nights like that have always been some of my best memories while on fishing trips.

The next morning was Sunday, and our plan was to fish the morning before breaking down camp and heading back home in the afternoon. The morning was a copy of the morning before, and it was a little chilly to start the morning. When we got to the ramp, we realized that none of us had enough cash to pay the launch toll. It was pretty ugly as we pulled up in line to launch but had no money. We had to move out of the way of the other boaters waiting to launch and we were just sitting in the parking lot with the boat trying to figure out what to do. We would need to drive to town and write a check for cash as this was before ATM machines and cash withdrawals. It was really going to screw up our morning, but Tom came up with a plan and took his hat off, broke out his guitar and just started playing songs right there at the top of the ramp with his hat turned over on the ground in front of him. It didn’t take long until a couple of the boaters dropped a few dollars in Tom’s hat and Sonny, and I stood back and watched as more boaters donated to Tom’s hat on the ground and within 15 minutes, we had enough money to launch the Bass Tracker for our morning run. It worked out just the same as the morning before and we all got another 5 fish limit of stripers before calling it a morning and heading back to break down the camp and pack for the ride home. We cleaned the stripers and packed the gear for the ride home in the early afternoon. Tom covered up on the floorboard of the boat again and we had an uneventful ride back home, not finding Sonny’s little camper shell on the way back down Interstate 5.

We made several trips back to San Luis over the next few years, but we never experienced a 45-striper weekend like Sonny, Tom and I had on that October weekend. We didn’t know much about striper fishing at the time, and we only had a flasher for electronics, but we had a blast catching those stripers and I was hooked on chasing stripers for years to follow. We also fished a lot of other lakes for stripers after that and we caught some nice ones out west including the Colorado River, the California Aqueduct and the Delta but the San Luis Reservoir and Oneil forebay is where my striper roots begin.

Cast Away Chicken Pot Pie

This is one recipe that doesn’t take a lot of prep time and is a delicious meal for fish camp or deer camp. I make it from time to time and usually we have enough leftovers for sharing with family members. Since we just celebrated thanksgiving, sometimes, I’ll use the leftover turkey or ham instead of a chicken.


  • 1 roasted chicken or 1-2lbs of leftover turkey
  • 1/2 stick of melted butter
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 16-ounce bag of mixed vegetables
  • 3 cubed softened potatoes
  • 2 cans of plain crescent rolls
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make sure your vegetables are thawed before mixing and mix all the ingredients above in a large mixing bowl.

I use one of the crescent roll cans and line the bottom of a greased (or Pam) 9×13 baking dish. Spread the chicken mixture evenly on top of the crescent dough.

After spreading the mixture evenly, spread the other can of crescent dough across the top. You may need to stretch it a little to cover the top.

I bake mine at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes uncovered.