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
Where to Start When its Cold?
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.
Cranking in the Winter
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!
Big Bass Big Baits
In the early Fall, you often see lots of big Gizzard Shad. Bass love these giant shad, and you want to go big with your set up to target these fish. When you start noticing big Gizzard Shad, think big baits. I like to use a big Strike King 3/8 oz. buzz bait with a Rage Toad on the back of it. As the water cools (even down to the 50s, you can catch them with this reeling pretty slowly. I also like big spinnerbaits or even a KVD 8.0 or 4.0. The 4.0 is smaller, but still works when bass are keying on big shad. So in the fall of the year think big baits for bass that are targeting big shad.
Flipping – Its All About the Hook!
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.