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.
Probably the most important part of any flipping set up is the hook you choose to use. Personally, I like a straight shank hook. I think it gives me the best hook up ratio. It’s easy to rig, and the bait stays very straight. The hook I have recently started using is an Owner Jungle Hook (with zo-wire). This hook is extremely strong. Four times stronger than other hooks with the same size wire diameter. Having smaller wire, it penetrates the fishes mouth very easily. And I have found my hook up ratio increasing dramatically since using it. It has a great keeper, keeping the head of the bait up and is by far the best hook I have seen – period.
A great way to catch bass in the summer is targeting the bluegill spawn. The time is right when the water is warm and the moon is full or new. Fishing for blue gill is fun too. I love catching bluegill, but you can also catch big bass that are feeding on those spawning bluegill. Bluegill spawn in warm, shallow muddy-looking flat bays. My favorite way to fish the bluegill spawn is topwater, moving down the bank quickly. But if there is a lot of cover, try a swim jig. I like the Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig with a Rage Craw trailer. It runs shallow and looks a lot like a blue gill. You might move your rod a little to put inflection in the bait, but basically just reeling it in works well. If fish are not chasing topwater or swim jigs, try an Ocho rigged whacky style pitched up in shallow water. You can catch some really big fish during the bluegill spawn. covering a lot of water and using the right baits.
Swimbaits have become more and more popular over the last couple of years. Tournament anglers are always looking to these baits for bigger bites. One I have found recently that has really put some nice fish in the boat is the Strike King Rage Swimmer. It comes in two different sizes, 3.75” and a 4.75”, and really has a great action. To start with, it has a great tail kick with the tail swinging wide, but it also has a good back and forth wobble to it, which is what I think makes it irresistible. It comes in a ton of great colors. You can fish it on a weighted hook or on a jig head. Give it a try. It will definitely put some big ones in the boat!
The sixth stop on the FLW Tour this year was a place I have never fished – the Upper Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wisconsin on pools 7, 8 and 9. What a cool fishery! Shallow water, current, wing dams, grass, flooded timber – the fishery has it all. The cool thing is that you can catch fish a number of different ways. The tournament was won by Brian Schmitt throwing a swim jig and second place was flipping flooded cover in back waters. I didn’t have my best tournament and finished 66th, but I’d love to have another crack at it another year. I look forward to our return trip.
The 2017 FLW Tour is about to kick off. To give you an idea about some of the great fisheries we will be at this year, here’s a quick preview. We start off at Lake Guntersville, AL, arguably one of the best five lakes in the country. The tournament kicks off this Thursday, February 2nd. Though the water temperatures will be cold the weights will be big.
Next up is Lake Travis, my home lake. Most people know Travis as a lake with a ton of fish, but not many good ones. The lake is two years removed from a severe drought, which put it more than fifty feet low. There is all kinds of bass-holding cover there now. It will fish as good as it ever has.
Then for our Florida stop in early March, we go to the Harris Chain. It will probably be around the spawn, and even though I’ve heard it will fish small, I’m excited about this one because I’ve never been there, and I love going to new places.
From Florida, we head to Cumberland Lake in Kentucky. The Tour has only stopped at this reservoir one time, and it, like Travis is just coming out of a huge drought. What I hear is that the fishing is awesome there. I’m looking forward to this one.
Next is our annual stop at Beaver Lake, mid to late April. Fishing has been much better at Beaver over the last few years. This tournament ought to be in or around the spawn and I think a lot of fish will be caught.
Then we go to the Mississippi River way north in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Everyone I know who has ever fished this place thinks it’s awesome. Both shallow small mouth and large mouth could win here. This is another lake I’ve never been to, so I’m really looking forward to it.
The last stop on the tour is the Potomac River, which is probably my very favorite tournament venue. Last time FLW fished there, I actually won the event. It’s a power fisherman’s dream there – where lots of different patterns will emerge, but any of them could win.
I’m extremely excited about the upcoming schedule – several places I’ve never fished and several proven fisheries that I’ve always enjoyed. It should be a great year.