Every year around this time, we have our biggest tournament of the year, the FLW Forrest Wood Cup. Its’ a culmination of all the hard work, travel, tackle preparation, and the good and not-so-good tournament finishes in one unique championship event. This is my 18th appearance at the Cup, and I’ve fished several of them on Lake Ouachita. Ouachita is a great venue because it is such a versatile fishery. It’s a big lake with clear water, timber, grass and rock, and could literally be won on any end of the lake. I’ve had some good finishes there and some poor finishes, but I really love the area, the community is supportive, and it’s always a fun place to fish. I spent four days pre-practicing before off limits, and though I think the fishing will be tough, it will be a good tournament. August is always a tough time to fish, but the lake is in the best shape I’ve ever seen. I expect a three day tournament weight of 50 pounds. The show that accompanies the tournament will be exciting. Hope to see you there! Photo Courtesy FLW
Learning how to find fish on a new lake is really an art that can be learned. The best way to do it is simply to go to unfamiliar lakes at different times of year and try to figure out what the fish are doing. Every lake is a little different. Some of them will have shared tendencies, but they are all still a little different. I love going to a lake I haven’t fished much, finding an area that looks like something I’ve fished successfully elsewhere, and putting the trolling motor down to figure it out. Usually, when you fish a lake you haven’t fished in a while, it takes time to figure out what the fish are doing, and your day might not be as productive as a day on your home lake, or one you know exactly how to catch them on. So as you practice the art of finding fish on less familiar waters, you may be giving up a great catch on your home lake for a tougher day of problem solving, but if you want to get good at finding fish, in my opinion, this is the best way. In anything, the way to get better is to stretch yourself. Best of luck out there!
In tournament bass fishing, there is one thing that is widely disputed. How much does information really help in tournament bass fishing? Obviously, it can be a huge help. You’re heading into a tournament and you don’t know that much about the lake, somebody tells you about a great spot or area or a certain pattern, and it can mean a great finish in that event. But overall, how much does it really help – in the long run? I contend that help (information) can be a crutch that hurts long term results. It might get you by for a tournament here and there, but overall, relying on it is truly detrimental to your fishing. The reason I say this, and what I really like to tell young anglers is that the more you can find on your own, developing your own techniques, figuring out how to catch fish on your own, the more confidence you will have. You see, tournament fishing is truly all about confidence. Everybody in a Tour level tournament can cast, set the hook, figure out what baits are the best etc…, but the guy that can make the best decisions during the event with no one to help him while he’s out there is the one who will come out on top in the long run – those are the guys with longevity. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and the only way to do it is to get out there in a tournament and figure things out on your own. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do your homework about a lake. You absolutely need to understand the history of and the type of lake you’re fishing and what’s been going on recently on a lake, but once you understand the basics, going out and figuring it out on your own will build momentum and confidence that will carry you through tournament day after tournament day and give you longevity in this sport. PC: FLW Outdoors
A swimbait is a pretty easy bait to fish – you make long casts with it and just wind. Swimbait bites are one of those bites you have to be real patient with. You will feel them tap it. It’s almost like a worm bite. You’re just reeling that thing along, and you’ll feel it. Then when one bites it, until he loads up on your rod, you just can’t jerk. You’ll feel him pop it, but a lot of times, they’ll just pop it and then hit it again and get it. Swimbaits require a lot of patience and attention, but they are a great bait for catching big fish. Good luck out there!
One of my very favorite ways to fish in the pre-spawn in lakes that have clear water is with a jerkbait. Either over grass or on rocky shorelines, a suspending jerkbait, when fished properly can yield some great catches. First, it’s a slow technique. Usually, you make a long cast and your cadence is the key. Normally, I will go with twitch, twitch, pause – twitch, twitch, pause, with the pause being longer the colder the water is. With the water temperature in the low 50s or high 40s sometimes the best cadence is very, very slow. My favorite bait right now is a Strike King KVD J-300 Deep. This bait will get to about ten feet when fished on ten pound fluoro, which is right in the area where a lot of bass suspend this time of year. Bass like to suspend on vertical rocky banks, channel springs, around trees, docks or over grass. Sometimes the pause may be for up to 20 or 30 seconds, which is very slow, but you just have to let the bass tell you what they want. For a rod, I like a Cabela’s XML Bass Jerkbait/Topwater Rod. I’ve come to love this rod for throwing either a jerkbait or a topwater. It is light and will not wear out your forearm, elbow and wrist. If you get to a lake this time of year with clear, cold water, think about throwing a jerkbait.
When the weather starts getting colder and water temperatures drop, the first thing I do when I put my boat in the water is look at my Garmin 7612 to find where the bait is and what the topography looks like. A lot of times in this cold weather, fish will come out of the creeks onto the main body of water and suspend, so you will want to concentrate on fishing stuff that is vertical, fishing baits that work vertically, like a jig and spoon, something that will work up and down, or fishing a jig very slowly. Or if your depth finder tells you the bait is suspended, often the bass will be suspended, and you can catch them on a jerkbait or maybe a tight wobbling crankbait or a swim bait that doesn’t have a lot of action. It will be a little trial and error, but understanding what bait and bass do when the water is cold is key.
Throwing a crankbait in the winter months can catch a lot of big fish. The key is you want a crankbait that does not have a lot of wobble to it, something that runs really tight. I like to throw a Strike King Lucky Shad this time of year. It can go anywhere from four to ten feet, depending on the line set up you have and it has a nice steady retrieve. This isn’t a bait you crank real wildly, just make a nice steady retrieve. When fishing like this, you’re looking for stretches where fish can suspend, sometimes bluffs, sometimes rocky. And I like to use a light crankbait rod because these baits can sometimes be pretty heavy to throw. Enjoy these cold fishing days and catch a lot of bass. The dog days of summer will be here before we know it!
One of the best ways to fish during the winter months is to flip mats or matted vegetation. Often and on many lakes, instead of heading out deep when the water gets cold, bass will snug up under the canopy of matted vegetation. I flip this type of cover with an ounce and a quarter Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten. heavy weight to be able to punch through the vegetation. My favorite bait to use is a Strike King Rage Bug in Green Pumpkin. It’s a small compact bait that you can rig totally straight, and I really like the Owner Jungle 4 oz. hook for this set up with a bobber stopper on top and a heavy weight line. The key to fishing this bait this way is to make repetitive pitches into the mats. Pitch it on all sides of the mat, cover it fully and then jiggle it so it can get through and free fall all the way through. It’s a total reaction bite, so you want to be sure to let it get all the way through the canopy and to the bottom. Then when you get it in there, yo yo it up and down, fishing it slowly. This is a great way to catch some giant fish this way in the dead of winter. Good luck!
I’m a power fisherman, and one of my very favorite baits to power fish with is the square bill crankbait. The one I throw probably more than any other is the KVD 1.5 Square bill. As far as colors go, I usually like something in a shad color or chartreuse or sometimes crawfish. These baits are extremely versatile. It’s a bait you wind pretty fast because when you wind it, it actually moves back and forth and doesn’t track perfectly true, but that is part of what makes the bait really good. Square bill crankbaits also come in lots of different sizes depending on how deep you want to fish. It’s an extremely versatile bait, and during the fall when they are keying on shad, it’s a must-throw.
Choosing the best line for topwater fishing can be a difficult proposition. There are several ways you can go, and each one of them has its benefits and drawbacks. The old standby is monofilament. I like Sunline Defier mono, usually in 17 or 19 pound test. Mono floats, it does not backlash badly, and it’s easier to cast, especially when you’re in a hurry. The drawback to mono when fishing topwater is the extra stretch and it can be more difficult working your bait from a long way away. The other way you can go is with braided line. I prefer Sunline SX1 35 on 50 pound test. I also use 65 pound test when throwing a frog. Braid has no stretch, and it can be easier to work the bait, and it’s often easier to extract fish from hang ups with braid. The drawback to braid is castability – it’s just not as easy to cast, especially when casting in a big hurry like on schooling fish. The other thing you can do is to put a monofilament leader on braid. This is an option I use quite often when throwing a prop bait, a popper or a walking bait. It is probably my overall favorite way to fish topwater. My leader length is 7-8 feet and I end up retying the leader knot about once a day. The bottom line on fishing line is that it’s really personal preference. You just have to get out there and decide which one you like the best.