Monday, 26 December 2011

Split Shot Smallmouth

This week on Extreme Angler TV, Season 10, Episode 13, "Search & Destroy Smallmouth"

Even with the snow on the ground and sub-zero temps this afternoon, I can close my eyes and recall the awesome day I had this past summer in cottage country chasing big fat brown bass with Strike King spit n kings and bashing them silly with strike king KVD finesse worms as a follow up presentation.
Now, remember this was a perfect warm, calm summer day. The smallmouth SHOULD HAVE been all over my topwater presentation right?
From my very first cast in the early a.m., I witnessed one of the laziest smallmouth topwater bites I have ever encountered.
These big fat brown bass would roll over by bait, they would toilet flush under my bait, they would jump over my bait, they would suspend inches below my bait. Do everything except eat my bait!
Instead of screaming and letting frustration set in, I decided to alter my approach before I started to go nuts.
I slowed my presentation down to a crawl. Same results.
I let my bait sit stationary for the longest of times. Same results.
I worked my bait quickly and changed the cadence to inspire a bite. Same results.

I finally tricked a few fish to strike, but they too we`re so lightly hooked, once they jumped, they broke free. Boated a few, but not nearly enough to film a show or enjoy my day.
So, instead of complaining about what bite I wasn`t getting on this day, I decided to change it up a little and give these fish something a little different to hopefully inspire them to bite.
Enter the Strike King KVD Finesse worm.
Instead of rigging the worm on a traditional shakey head, I rigged up one of my favorite set ups for lazy day bass with a tiny split shot placed approx. 18-24 inches above a small Daiichi finesse worm hook and threaded the finesse worm onto the hook, over the hook eye and up onto the line so the hook would come thru the worm almost half way down to hopefully increase any potential strike to hook up ratios.
I knew the bass we`re in the locations I was fishing, but they decided they would not commit to my topwater presentation, but locating bass is half the battle won, now I just had to figure out how to make them bite, hence the change up to the finesse worm, split shot rig.

I continued to work my topwater bait over similar locations we`re I had found the fish and once a SINGLE fish was located, I would put down the topwater bait and pick up my spinning outfit and begin making long casts with the spilt shot rig and altered my cadence to include long and short drags, slight lifts and drops, short sharp twitches and then let the worm settle on the bottom.
From my experiences with smallmouth bass, find or locate one single fish, and chances are, more will be present or not very far away.
Finally, a presentation that worked.
Over the next few hours, I repeated the same formula by using the topwater bait to locate the bass then change up to the finesse worm/split shot rig to inspire these thick brown bass to eat the worm.
These bass we`re in such a non-aggressive mood, that even with the small, slender finesse worm, these smallmouth found a way to tear or rip off my bait and ate it so softly that almost every second fish hooked either jumped off on the first leap or pulled the hook free from a soft spot in their yap.
Thank goodness for numbers of fish, or I would have certainly gone crazy with the amount of fish I saw, hooked, caught and lost on this day.
The moral of this episode?
Fish the way you like. Fish in a way that you enjoy.
But, if the fish DO NOT want to co-operate the same way, remember what you read here and what you`ll see in episode 13 this week on Extreme Angler TV, have a back up plan and don`t hesitate to use it to put more fish in the boat next season.
Even you lose half the fish you hook, at the very least, you will still feel better knowing you still found a way to make them bite, which is a lot better than giving up and putting the boat on the trailer too early.
Please consider to release the big ones and enjoy every day on the water.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Dead-Stick Surface Smallies

I got such a good response from one of my blog posts on topwater fishing for Bass that I thought I would answer a few questions people had for me regarding how I decide what cadence to use on any given day for smallmouth bass.

When I decide to fish for smallmouth bass with topwater baits, I usually have a good assortment of baits tied on and have a system based on the conditions I`m faced with on any particular day.

As for baits, I`ll tie on two totally different colored Strike King Spit n Kings, one in a natural baitfish and the other in a totally opposite tone like firetiger or bright gold with orange belly.

One another rod, I`ll have a small three to four inch walking style bait that creates less noise and can be worked very slow or very quickly depending on the mood of the fish.

My fourth rod will have a bigger profile walking style bait that has rattles inside and creates a big splash, moves alot of water and is a big target for larger fish to zero in on. I`ll use this bait if the water is slightly choppy or if I`m fishing in the rain. Louder is better, sometimes!

On the next rod, I`ll have a "back-up" bait tied, rigged up and ready in case one of those big bad brown bass decide to roll on my topwater bait and won`t commit to eating the topwater, but instead want a sub-surface bait that they usually take a shot at. This rod is usually rigged with Strike King Zero in either bright bubblegum tone or a green pumpkin/red flake on a 2/0 wide gap Daiichi catch & release hook, which is very similar in shape and design to a circle hook.
Nine times out of ten, they will eat the Zero.
Find them with the topwater, catch them with the stickworm.

Now when it comes to choosing a cadence to start my day, again I`ll look at the conditions I`m faced with at that moment. Is it ultra calm, overcast, high bright sunny conditions, choppy, it all plays a part in my decision on which bait to throw first.
I`ll usually start with the spit n king in the bright colored tone and see if the fish are aggressive and smash my bait. If that doesn`t produce the strikes I am expecting, I`ll change to the natural tones in the spit n king and alter my cadence to try and provoke a strike.
Still no action?
This tells me two things. Either the fish are not in the area I am expecting them to be, or they want the bait and/or presentation slowed way down. Its up to you as an angler to figure out what your next course of action will be.

I`ll put down the spit n king and pick up another topwater bait, only this time, I`ll go with a smaller profile bait like the walking style, mini-cigar-shaped bait and make longer casts to potential areas and slow down my approach to an almost dead stop and leave the bait sit stationary for long periods of time, up to thirty seconds at a time if the bite is super slow.

Changing baits and altering my presentation speed usually will result in a strike, boil or hook up if the fish are in the area. They simply cannot stand a bait that stays in their strike zone for long periods of time, before one of them decides to take a swipe at it. Its basically in the DNA of smallmouth bass, very similar to cats, they have to investigate every single thing that enters their domain and sometimes that leads them to more trouble than they can handle.

This do nothing, dead-stick approach is exactly what I had to do while filming a show this past summer for season ten. I had an awesome looking location, with ultra flat conditions, warm water and still the smallies made every effort, NOT, to eat or smash my topwater baits if they we`re moving.

But, once I let the baits sit in one spot for longer periods, the bigger fish made the decision to "suck the baits" down from the surface without moving very much water. I had to watch the bait like a hawk, signalling the soft, pull down inhale of those bigger bass.
The bites we`re so soft, I thought the first bite was maybe a perch inhaling my topwater lure, but once I leaned back and the tiny treble hooks found their mark, all I could feel was weight!
An awesome feeling.

Next time your out on one of your favorite lakes, rivers or ponds and you decide you want to have some fun catching smallmouth bass on top and they decide they will drive you bonkers by swiping, rolling and bumping your bait instead of eating the topwater baits, try the "do-nothing, dead-stick" approach to provoke more bites.
It takes patience and a strong will not to move that bait once it lands.
But, trust me, when you start hooking up with those lazy, moody smallmouth when everyone else is complaining about the lousy bite, you`ll thank me.
Slow it down, fish with confidence, focus on what your doing and you`ll catch a lot more and possibly bigger smallmouth bass on top next season, good luck and fish extreme!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Heavy Duty Smallmouth

As I am planning road trips for Season Eleven of Extreme Angler TV in 2012, I take great pride in the fact that I am able to locate, catch and capture on camera, some of the biggest bass ever seen on TV north of the border.

It is by no means an easy task.

Ask my competitors what its like to keep the camera rolling when hunting down bigger than average Bass for those "live" flip, pitch, cast and hook shots without going broke on all that dead video tape.
I`m talking about filming on public water, not a private waterway, pond or in some far off destination with mega sized bass on beds.

When you see our tagline, 'as hardcore as it gets"....well, it is!

And lately, I have had the pleasure of fishing for big brown bass with the same Heavy Duty gear that I make my bread and butter. Heavy action St.Croix rods, Ardent Flip n Pitch reels, 20-25 pound fluorocarbon lines, wide gap X-Point hooks and of course, those incredible Strike King Perfect Plastics including Rodents and Game Hawgs...absolute killer on both largies and big ole smallies.

Its not that I don`t enjoy catching smallmouth bass with traditional methods and baits like topwaters, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, tube jigs, grubs, drop shot, etc...I do. But, when I can pick up one of my heavy action casting outfits, pull my cap down and roll up my sleeves and get to work hunting down those big brown bass in heavy nasty cover, well, its a match made in heaven.
Dragging a tube jig a thousand yards behind my boat is not my idea of action packed fishing. I don`t care how big they are.
Or shaking a noodle-like spinning rod over six hundred feet of water so "maybe" one of those negative mood bass will decide to mouth my bait and then pull it up like a wet blanket, then have to fizz it so it maybe survives the battle and lives to fight another day.
 Again, thats not my idea of action-packed bass fishing.
Sure, sometimes thats exactly what has to be done in tournament situations.

 I`ll choose the heavy duty stuff over the soft-noodle stuff any day of the week.

My job and career is fishing. I have to catch fish or its no-go-Joe!

But, when the conditions are right and I`m either filming a show or going out for FUN, and smallmouth are the only bass available in a certain waterway, then I`ll pick up the casting gear and find those bigger than average smallmouth and make `em fight hard with the heavy action casting gear.
Hooking one of these big brown fish on heavier line, beefy rods and tightened down drag systems is like wrestling with a wild boar. They pull hard, jump., splash, twist, turn and are downright FUN to catch. Its like catching a big fat largemouth in a slop pile, except these brown bass don`t give up after thirty seconds of short powerful runs. They don`t stop until they are netted, grabbed or just plain tired.
And, another good thing I like about this type of smallmouth fishing, the fish are less stressed out due to long drawn out fights with light action spinning outfits.
On heavy duty casting gear, you can make them fight hard, but land them in a much shorter time frame.
When I mean, "if the conditions are right", I mean I can locate and entice smallmouth bass with heavy action casting gear in almost any river situation known to mankind.
Locating smallies in river conditions is very predictable, they may be different in appearance, but very similar in the locations smallmouth like to occupy.
Outside turns in the river bed, laydown logs, overhanging trees, docks, stumps, current breaks, weed to sand transition areas, rock piles, gravel, etc...different rivers, same locations!
If the river or waterway has stained water, even better.
Those big brown bass will occupy the shallows very similar to largemouth bass.

These bigger than average smallmouth bass are not at all like their cousins in ultra clear great lake conditions, these brown fish act like largemouth, rather than the traditional smallmouth anglers have read about or saw on tv.
 You need to remove the mindset that smallies are line-shy, moody creatures who favour clear, deep water. Thats not the case when it comes to northern smallmouth in cottage country waterways.
These brown bass eat EVERYTHNG that will fit into their yaps.
Or at the very least, make an effort to try and eat it.
I`ll usually rig up several rod options with Strike King rodents, game hawgs, finesse jigs and baby rage craws, football jigs with rage craws or a simple sliding tungsten weight, wide gap worm hook and a rage craw so I can keep changing my bait/lure presentations until I find the "meal choice" of the day.
Everyday is different.
Having options will increase your odds of provoking strikes from bigger brown bass.
Keep these tips in mind next time your out on your favorite lake, river or waterway and your buddies tell you the smallmouth "only eat so-and-so-baits".
Do some research on the waterway, locate the heavy duty cover these big brown bass love to occupy and break out the heavy duty casting gear and have some FUN, instead of trying to stay awake dragging or shaking a tiny morsel from six hundred feet of water.

Keep it fun and you`ll enjoy fishing, for the rest of your life.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

In Love with Topwater Terror

I`m not sure exactly what it is about fishing topwater baits that excites me the most.
Is it the water splashing explosions that make your heart miss a beat?
Is it the anticipation of the strike?
Is it the expectation of a bigger than average fish that thinks your little topwater lure is its next meal?
Or is it simply the enjoyment of witnessing the strike.

When using most other baits, lures or presentations, the actual strike is not seen, but rather felt.
With topwaters, most of the time, it is the visual strike that hooks anglers both young and old.
I can tell you first hand, no matter how good the smallmouth bite is on our cottage lake, it is almost impossible to get my girls out fishing, except of course, when I say we`re going to throw topwaters.
The mere mention of topwater baits and smallmouth bass, fills the boat with willing guests.
And, the best part is, the fish don`t even have to be BIG, to excite them.
The mere sight of a fish engulfing that little topwater lure makes them all giggly and instant panic sets in once a fish is hooked! Everything else in the world stands still for that one minute tug of war, scrap with a spunky smallmouth.
Now when it comes to filming shows for Extreme Angler TV, well, topwater fishing can be either feast or famine.
Most times I`m certain I can convince my share of bass to strike a topwater bait, weather it be a Strike King Spit n King, Snag Proof BuzzFrog, Perfect frog, walking style bait or buzzbait. Getting strikes is not the hard part, hooking up with bigger than average Bass is a totally different monster.
Big bass love to jump Big smallmouth can spend more time out of water than they are in water once hooked. And if that first, hookset wasn`t a good one, or didn`t grab enough meat, its usually a sad ending to a great story.
Weather I`m using buzzbaits over rocky flats in fall, small poppers or walking baits in summer or snag proof frogs on the California Delta, I try to ensure, that very first hookset is the right one! I`ll even let the fish take the bait down a few feet before seeting the hook, which does increase the odds of bigger fish getting wrapped up in heavy cover, but overall, that slightly longer pause before my first hookset, hits more meat than it misses.
When it comes to using the right equipment for topwater fishing, I don`t mess around.
My topwater equipment choices are just as intense as my choices for rods, reels and lines for fishing soft plastics.
Strong, yet light and beefy enough to hook bigger fish, yet  have the right tip action on lighter action rods for those drag pulling brown bass at boatside. Tiny treble hooks hooked lightly in a big bass yap are easily pulled free by a drag system to tight or rushing a bigger than average fish to the net.
St.croix make all the right actions and models for me. I`ll match them up with different Ardent casting reels and either braided line for heavy cover largemouth or 10-12 lbs monofilament when I`m fishing smaller poppers or walking style baits for smallmouth in open water conditions.
Overall, matching the right equipment to the conditions and locations you are fishing will increase your odds of landing, photographing and releasing those big bad bass next season.
Long live the topwater bite!