Category Archives: How To

High-Water Trout on the White River

River Rigging for High-Water Trout on the White River

White River Trout

White River Trout

Winter is an outstanding time to catch big trout from the White River, and high water normally lends itself to casting lures like the Rebel Tracdown Minnows that we would be using.

by Jeff Samsel

The flooded signs at the Wildcat Shoals access made it immediately clear that this trip to Arkansas’ White River would be unlike any other I had experienced. With all eight turbines at Bull Shoals Dam running around the clock and 10 floodgates open, the river was rocking, to say the least.

Winter is an outstanding time to catch big trout from the White River, and high water normally lends itself to casting lures like the Rebel Tracdown Minnows that we would be using. When you’re talking about floodwaters, though, the fish tend to hold tight to the bottom in any eddy they can find, and they won’t move very far to feed. Even with sinking lures, traditional casting strategies simply don’t get the lures down enough in the strong current.

Guides on this highly dynamic tailwater must continually adjust for conditions, and long-time guide Donald Cranor figured out exactly how to cope with the excessive water. For three days our group drifted over gravel bars and along the edges of grasslines and pulled Tracdown Minnows on “river rigs,” which kept the lures swimming just off the bottom and among the fish.

“That’s where the trout are when the water is like this, so that’s where you want your lure,” Cranor said.

A river rig is essentially a three-way rig, pegged with a 3/8-ounce bell sinker. White River guides routinely use this rig to drift with bait, but Cranor proved that it also works exceptionally well for delivering a minnow-style lure just off the bottom. Guides use an Albright knot to attach a leader to the main line so one end drops about a foot to the weight, and the other end, which is about 3 feet long, leads to the bait or lure. A small three-way swivel and two sections of leader could also be used.

We had excellent success with 2 ½- and 3 ½-inch Tracdown Minnows, including slender-profiled Tracdown Ghost Minnows, mostly in trout color patterns and in blue back/orange belly.

The TD47 Tracdown Ghost Minnow comes with barbless hooks, so it was the main tool we used for fishing a highly productive special regulations area, where only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. A good strategy, if an angler wants to spend some time in the special regs area and some time in general waters, is to have two rods set up with river rigs and a barbless Tracdown Ghost Minnow on one and a regular Tracdown Minnow on the other.

Cranor suggests a simple presentation for dragging a minnow lure on a river rig. “You can work it a little with tugs, just to make the lure flash, but often the best thing to do is just hold the rod still let the lure do the work,” he said.

As the White River gradually settles, casting the same Tracdown Minnows to the shore and working them with jerks and pauses will be extremely effective for brown and rainbow trout.

The Bull Shoals tailwater offers approximately 100 miles of trout water and year ’round action, with two distinctive trout fisheries. Rainbows are managed as a put-and-take fishery, with year-round stockings of nearly 1.5 million fish annually.

Brown trout enjoy excellent reproduction, and the population is managed as a trophy fishery. The daily limit is one fish, with a minimum size of 24 inches, and anglers mostly release trophy browns that would be legal to keep. Spawning areas are also protected with special regulations, including a total seasonal closure of the most important spawning area, immediately below Bull Shoals Dam.

Fishing with minnow-style lures produces excellent numbers of brown trout measuring from the mid-teens to low 20s, and any fish that grabs a lure in the White River could turn out to be a brown trout that weighs 10 or 20 pounds (or much larger).

Planning Information:

Guided Fishing, Cranor’s Guide Service –
Riverside Lodging, Cedarwood Lodge –
Rebel Lures,

Why Check Your Trolling Motor Shaft for Fishing Line?

Last weekend while fishing at Sinclair I got my jig hung on some line near a dock. When I got it loose I let the line fall back into the water. It got on my prop as I started to move and I got all of it off that I could see. i checked it today – thank goodness I remembered

Line on prop shaft

Line on prop shaft

Use a pair of pliers to remove nut

Use a pair of pliers to remove nut

To get the prop off, I used a pair of pliers to loosen the nut on my Motorguide Trolling Motor. You can buy a tool for this but a pair of pliers, opened a little and used like a wrench, works fine. You can do the same thing in reverse to tighten the nut when finished.

Take the nut off by unscrewing it, you will have to hold the prop while unscrewing the nut. After taking the nut off the prop should slide off the shaft. You may have to tap it on the back side to get it off. There is a pin in the shaft that goes into a slot in the prop hub and it sometimes sticks. Be careful you don’t lose the pin. See the picture of it below.

After I cleaned off all the line I checked the white line barrier. It helps keep line from getting into the prop shaft seal. if line gets into the seal and damages it water will get into the motor and it will rust and stop working.

Clean prop shaft showing seal protector

Clean prop shaft showing seal protector

Time to put the prop back on. First put the pin into the hole in the shaft

Look inside the back of the prop hub and you can see the slot the pin has to go in. You can see the ridges from the front of the hub to help you line it up. Slde the hub down on the shaft until it is tight on the pin. There should be little gap between the outside edges of the prop hub and motor housing when it is all the way down on the shaft as it should be.

Put the nut back on the shaft and tighten it. Use your pliers to get it very tight. I have lost two props because I left the trolling motor in the water and idled across a cove. The water pressure turned the prop backwards, unscrewing it. That is why I have a spare prop, nut and pin in my boat and why I never idle with the trolling motor in the water!

Prop pin

Prop pin

Slots inside prop hub

Slots inside prop hub

Prop on shaft

Prop on shaft

Prop Nut

Prop Nut

Nut tightened properly

Nut tightened properly

Chose the Right Rod and Land More Fish

Wrong Rod Choice Often Leads to Lost Fish

Yamaha Pro Todd Faircloth Matches Rod Actions to Specific Lures
from The Fishing Wire

Todd Faircloth landing a bass

Todd Faircloth landing a bass

Among his contemporaries in professional bass fishing, Todd Faircloth rates as one of the most consistent anglers in the sport, regularly finishing well and always a threat to win any tournament he enters. The Yamaha Pro has a simple answer for his consistency: he doesn’t lose very many fish.

“It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and believe me, I’ve lost my share of fish that ended up costing me some high finishes and definitely a lot of money,” smiles Faircloth, a six-time Bassmaster® Elite winner who will be fishing his 14th Bassmaster Classic® in March, “but I have also spent a lot of time studying why I lost those fish, and have made some serious adjustments in my fishing style to keep fish losses at a minimum.”

The first adjustment Faircloth made was to change to softer action rods when he fishes treble hook lures such as crankbaits and jerkbaits. One of the main reasons anglers lose bass is because their rods are too stiff and hooks simply pull free. Instead of using a heavy action rod, Faircloth has changed to slightly more limber medium action rods that flex evenly and with less pressure. Chose the right rod and land more fish.

In winning a Bassmaster® Elite tournament at Lake Amistad several years ago, for example, Faircloth used a medium-action, 7-foot 6-inch flipping stick while fishing a heavy swimbait lure. Most want the heaviest action rod they can find with these types of lures, but Faircloth boated bass over eight pounds with the more limber rod and won with a total of 76 pounds, 15 ounces. Just as importantly, he never lost a fish.

Todd Faircloth

Todd Faircloth

“On swimbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits especially, you’re not really setting the hooks on the fish itself,” explains the Yamaha Pro. “Instead, the bass is grabbing the lure and you’re just pulling the hooks into it. A stiffer, heavy action rod simply does not flex to absorb the shock when you do this, and the hooks never grab the fish.

“This doesn’t happen nearly as often with a single-hook lure like a jig or plastic worm because you’re just driving the one hook into the fish’s mouth, and a stiffer rod can do this.”

At the same time, adds Faircloth, treble hook lures often tend to be larger lures, and bass use the weight of the lure itself as leverage to help them “throw” the lure free. That led to Faircloth’s second major fishing adjustment, which is to change all the treble hooks on his lures to short-shank models.

“The majority of factory-made lures today are fitted with long-shank treble hooks that swing more freely when a bass jumps and shakes its head,” he adds. “Every time a fish does that, chances increase the lure will come loose. A short-shank hook actually keeps my lure pinned closer to the fish’s head so the bait can’t swing back and forth. I’ve changed to short-shank trebles on every treble hook lure I have.”

Faircloth’s third fishing adjustment was to change how he played bass as he was bringing them to the boat. He stopped depending on the drag systems in his baitcasting reels to control the fish and began relying entirely on spool pressure he applied himself.

“I don’t use the drag system on baitcasters at all,” the Yamaha Pro emphasizes. “Instead, I disengage the reel and thumb my spool. I feel like this gives me quicker and more complete control, especially on a larger bass.

“I can put pressure on the spool with my left thumb and keep my right hand on the reel handles to engage the reel instantly when I need to. If I feel the bass is pulling hard enough to possibly break my line, all I do is lessen my thumb pressure and let the fish gain a little line.

“These are just three changes I’ve made in my fishing over the years, and now I hardly think twice about them,” concludes Faircloth. “I still lose a bass occasionally, as does every fisherman, but certainly not as many as I did a few years ago.”

Will I Fish More Effectively With an Underwater Cam?

Fish More Effectively With an Underwater Cam

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

Given the drastic reduction in size, huge increase in performance, and ease on the pocketbook, I’m convinced the underwater camera is here to stay. Used in combination with mapping and sonar, there is no better combination of tools available to help anglers decipher lake structure and fish behavior secrets. I know I’m using my Aqua-Vu in more situations all the time.

Case in point, this past year we were filming a Lake Commandos episode on a lake known for its largemouth, but there was a small population of big smallmouth there as well. About 100-150 yards down a long weedline, my guest caught a 4-pound smallmouth. We turned back around and she caught another in roughly the same spot. After this happened a third time in this one little stretch of weedline, I got curious to find out what was holding the fish. So I dropped the Aqua-Vu over and discovered a 15-yard field of boulders that started inside the weedline and spread out deeper. And there were 3-pound and bigger smallies spread out over the rock!

each bridge corner had different habitat and a different fish species on it,

each bridge corner had different habitat and a different fish species on it,

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu. “Only 200′ from one of the busiest boat ramps in Minnesota, we learned each bridge corner had different habitat and a different fish species on it, including walleyes, crappies and bass,” says Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz.

This situation is just one of many and illustrates how important understanding “spot on the spot” locations can be to consistently catching fish. First, consider that there was almost no indication of the rocks on the the graph due to the weed cover.

Yet, with the camera, not only did we learn there were rocks down there, we figured out where the bigger boulders were and how the fish were positioned. So, when we came down the weedline again, it was a lot easier to fish effectively.

And that’s just one example of how Aqua-Vu cameras have helped me better understand lake structure, cover and fish behavior.

Plug it in and use it

Plug it in and use it

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu

“It’s plug and play. Viewing the Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu on my Garmin 7612 XVS gives a brilliant and easy-to-ready picture of what’s below,” says Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz.
Historically, putting underwater cameras into practice has been far from convenient. When the technology first hit the scene weight and size was an issue; it was like dragging around a dormitory refrigerator! And even as cameras grew smaller, screens were often hard to read in the sun. Lastly, there was always a lot of labor to put it all together, get it to run right and interpret what was on the small screen.

Aqua-Vu has made huge advancements in all of these areas. New models like the AV Micro 5 offer an unprecedented level of portability (fitting into your pocket), brighter screens, cool features live a built-in DVR, and ease of use. For me, I love the fact that new cameras are also compatible with the sonar units on my boat. So, rather than having to carry a camera, screen and other hardware, I’m simply attaching the Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu Complete Camera System to my Garmin 7612XVS. It’s as easy as connecting one wire, hitting a couple buttons and dropping the camera overboard. Some sonar units may require the addition of an RCA to BNC connector to integrate the camera, but these are available at RadioShack for under $10.

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu

Find and learn structure

Find and learn structure

fwuc3Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz says underwater cameras have helped him find and learn more about “spot on the spot” locations, even on waters he thought he knew well. He’s also a big fan of the ultra-portable AV Micro 5 with built-in DVR, seen here.
Nothing beats viewing underwater footage on the big screen of a video-capable sonar combo unit. On my Garmin, I can view underwater video in full-screen brilliance or run split-screen to compare with 2D sonar, cartography or Down- and Side-viewing technologies. That can be really revealing! And with the HD resolution found in units like the Garmin 7612XVS, the images are just stunning!

I’ve found that the Aqua-Vu penetrates 20′-25′ in clear waters to reveal structure, cover, transition areas – and the fish species of the marks on my 2D sonar, saving countless hours of fishing time. Are the fish I’m seeing on my graph really smallmouths? Or am I targeting suckers? (I’ve run into this twice in the past year!) Used as a species verification tool, the Aqua-Vu is a huge confidence-booster. You look down and say, “Wow, there’s a bunch of walleyes” or “Wow, look at the size of that bass!” I’m still like a kid in a candy store.


Find bass

Find bass

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu
Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz locates panfish in weeds near one of the busiest boat launches in Minnesota.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn waters is to allow some undivided time to camera use/underwater study. Choose a day when the conditions are tough, like when the lake’s flat calm, and go out with your GPS/sonar and get to know key structure in a way nobody else does. Leave the fishing rods in the locker, lower the camera into the water, and idle around off-shore reefs, points, cribs, what-have-you. Study what you see and when you find boulders interspersed along a weedline or bottom transitions you didn’t know were there, drop a waypoint. Then you’ll have something nobody else on the lake does!

About Steve Pennaz
Steve Pennaz excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.

What Is Bowfishing?

Bowfishing – combining two pastimes into one sport

Editor’s Not: Today’s feature comes to us from the Michigan DNR, but it applies to anglers anywhere who might like to combine a bit of hunting with their fishing.
from The Fishing Wire



Michigan DNR photos

Roy Beasley grew up fishing, but when he discovered bowhunting, he changed his technique. He became a bowfisherman.

“I still bass fish at my parents’ cottage or with the guys at work,” he said. “But I like doing this more.”

A research vessel captain with the Department of Natural Resources, Beasley is one of a growing number of sportsmen and women who like to combine hunting and fishing, using bows and arrows to take a wide variety of fish, including many that are generally not targeted by hook-and-line anglers.

Bowfishing is legal for bowfin, bullheads, burbot, carp (including goldfish), catfish, cisco, drum, gizzard shad, longnose gar, smelt, all species of suckers – including buffalo and quillback – and whitefish.

Beasley has taken most of them, including a number of Master Angler fish of six different species. But he particularly likes chasing gar and gizzard shad, because their narrow bodies make them more of a challenge.

Except in the spring, when a number of species are in shallow water spawning, most bowfishermen go out at night, using lights to see down into the water. Beasley said going at night “is easier and your shots are closer,” but he likes going in the daytime “because it’s more challenging.”

“A lot of people associate carp-shooting with night, except in the spring when the fish are spawning and wallowing around on the surface,” he said. “You can still shoot carp during the day in the summer, but they’re spookier.”

Bowfishermen prefer clear water and calm days with sunny skies.

“You can shoot them on cloudy days, but they usually see you before you see them,” he said.

Bowfishing is a shallow-water sport.

“Five feet is pretty deep,” said Beasley, who mostly plies the Great Lakes and connecting waters of southeastern Michigan. “To get shooting more than five feet deep, you’ve got to be pretty much right above them.”

Beasley said the transition from bowhunting to bowfishing is fairly seamless. Seth Rhodea, president of the Bowfishing Association of Michigan, agrees.

“If you’ve got an old hunting bow lying around, you can buy a kit with a reel and a line and an arrow for around $40,” said Rhodea, who also is a DNR conservation officer in Sanilac County. “You don’t need a boat – if you’ve got a place to wade in the spring when the carp and gar are up shallow, you can have fun all day chasing them around.”

Rhodea, who started bowfishing half a dozen years ago, isn’t a bowhunter. He said a buddy took him, and he enjoyed it and got into it. Lots of people have the same experience.

“In the last three years, it seems like it’s growing,” said Rhodea, who added there are about 175 members in BAM, but more than 2,000 “like” its Facebook page. “In the spring, it’s not uncommon to see half a dozen boats from one of the launches out bowfishing. A lot of guys have gotten into it in the last few years. Seems like every time you take a new person out, he gets hooked, gets his own boat, and gets going.”

As a conservation officer, Rhodea says he gets a lot of complaints about bowfishermen – lights bothering riparians or the sound of generators disturbing their peace, for instance. And there are complaints about improper disposal of fish. That isn’t a problem for most bowfishermen, who put the fish to use, often for fertilizer in their gardens.

Beasley says he has no problem disposing of the fish. He’s given some to bear hunters for bait, some to raptor rehabilitators to feed the birds, and even some to the Department of Environmental Quality for contaminant testing.

“And I’ve eaten some,” Beasley said. “The gar aren’t too bad. The drum is a little bit different texture – sort of reminds me of alligator.”

Beasley gets started in April and bowfishes into December some years, adding that spring is usually the best time.

“You can do big numbers,” he said. “My best day was about 40 fish – I shot until my cooler was full.”

But bowfishing is as much about quality as quantity. Of the five state records that have been set so far this year, three of them – a blackmouth buffalo and two quillback carpsuckers – were taken bowfishing. In the last two years, six state standards have been set by bowfishermen.

The DNR doesn’t have any data on how many anglers participate, but there’s reason to believe the number is growing because of increasing submissions of fish taken by bowfishermen in the Master Angler program. Either that or those doing it are just getting better at the game.

“I’m usually pretty successful,” said Beasley, who says he’s had 100-shot days. “But it’s like anything else…you don’t always get them.”

To learn more about fishing in Michigan, visit

What Are the Best Fishing Trips In Georgia Each Month?

Month by month tips for the best fishing trips in Georgia

Spotted Bass:
Lake Allatoona

What to Expect: Spotted bass are abundant on Lake Allatoona and boat traffic is at a minimum so you can fish for them in comfort. The bigger spots hold deep on steep rocky bluff banks on both arms of the main lake and feed in the cold water. Smaller spots are more active in the same areas in more shallow water.

How To: Fish bluff banks with a jig and pig or jig head worm on light line and move both baits in short hops, staying in contact with the bottom. Mid-day is often the best time to get a bite since the sun warms the rocks and water.

Contacts: Mike Bucca owner of Spot Country Guide Service –

Options: Largemouth move into spawning areas early on Lake Seminole and you can catch them around bedding areas on Carolina rigged lizards and worms on the flats.

Crappie at Lake Thurmond hold in standing timber on old creek and river channels, holding 11 to 20 feet deep in the tops of them.

Yellow Perch:
Savannah River

What to Expect: Yellow perch run up the Savannah River in the winter and concentrate below the Thurmond Dam. They feed heavily in the pools and eddies and can be caught on a variety of baits. Fish in the one pound range are common and bigger fish can be caught. The Georgia record is only 2 pounds, 8 ounces so you could probably break it if you want to try.

How To: Fish small jigs and live minnows from a boat or the fishing piers to fill your freezer with these tasty fish, there is no limit. Use light line and tackle to get the best fight possible from these fish known for their taste, not fighting ability.

Contacts: The Herring Hut – 864-333-2000

Options: The warm water discharged by the power plant makes Lake Sinclair one of the best places to catch winter largemouths on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

The state record spotted bass was caught at Lake Burton in February. Fish the ends of long main lake points under schools of baitfish with a jigging spoon or jig and pig.

Lake Oconee

What to Expect: Crappie at Lake Oconee move shallow and feed as they get ready to spawn. Some of the biggest crappie of the year will be caught in early March but the whole month is good for numbers of these tasty fish. They will be fat and full of eggs this time of year.

How To: Troll small jigs and live minnows on the ledges and flats up the Oconee River above the I-20 Bridge. Keep your boat right on the lip of the drop and change speeds and depths you are fishing until you hit the right combination. Using several poles or rods with different colors and at different depths will help you quickly find what they want.

Contacts: Guide Al Bassett – 706-473-7758

Options: Rainbow trout bite good in the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River below the Lake Lanier Dam and is restricted to artificials only and catch and release this time of year.
Prespawn West Point largemouths move onto secondary points in coves and creeks and will hit crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

Lake Seminole

What to Expect: The full moon on April 9th brings the bluegill into shallow flats to spawn on Lake Seminole. Starting a week before the full moon the fish congregate in huge numbers and make beds side by side that are easy to spot over large areas.

How To: Look for beds on sandy flats and fish crickets, grass shrimp and Mepps #2 spinners around them. Anchor your boat a cast away from the edge of the beds so you won’t spook the fish and you can catch fish after fish.

Fish with ultralight rods and reels spooled with four pound line for a good fight or go with the traditional cane pole. The bluegill don’t care how fancy your tackle but a rod and reel makes it easier to stay back from the beds and catch fish.

Contacts: Wingate’s Lunker Lodge – 229-246-0658

Options: Catch Sheepshead on fiddler crabs and shrimp around pilings and rock jetties in bays on the coast.

Your best chance for a Georgia smallmouth bass is Lake Blue Ridge on small worms, crankbaits and a jig and pig on main lake points.

Lake Hartwell

What to Expect: Blueback herring spawn on Hartwell in May, especially around the full moon on the 9th, and largemouth gorge on them. The blueback spawn offers some of the best fishing of the year for big largemouth since they will be actively feeding and the big baitfish make the big largemouth move shallow.

How To: Fish a topwater plug like a Zara Spook or soft jerkbaits like Zoom Flukes over shallow bars and humps on the main lake. Bluebacks like to spawn in “blowthroughs,” places where an island near the bank concentrates the wind blowing through a shallow area. The wind and waves expose gravel for the herring to spawn on and bass are nearby.

Contacts: Lamar’s Fishing Cabin – (706) 376-1478

Options: Catch your own mahi-mahi, also called dolphin fish, off the Georgia coast. Troll squid lures and spoons under birds.

The Ogeechee River is full of redbreast sunfish and they hit small spinners, earthworms and crickets under overhanging brush.


What to Expect: Both Spanish and King Mackerel are chasing schools of baitfish off the coast. They are on reefs not far off the beaches so long runs are not necessary. Kings get big and will test your tackle. Spanish Mackerel are not as big but both put up good fights and are great eating. On a good day you will get dozens of hits.

How To: Slow troll live bait or artificials near natural and man-made reefs. Be prepared for screaming runs up to 200 yards if you hook a big King. Watch for birds feeding over schools of fish and get near them before starting to troll your baits.

The state record King is a 75 pound, 12 ounce fish caught near Grays Reef by Joe Bell in 2004.

Contacts: Captain Mark Noble (912) 634-1219

Options: Flathead cats feed heavily in hot weather on the Altamaha River. Fish deep holes with big live bream.

Waters Creek is a trophy trout stream and the big ones are smart and hard to catch. Try to outwit a bragging size trout with a fly rod.

Spotted Bass:
Lake Lanier

What to Expect: Lake Lanier is crowded with pleasure boaters during the day but night time brings the spotted bass out to feed. Night tournaments are common on the lake and winning stringers usually include a five-pound-plus spot. Some big fish can be caught in the dark at Lanier in the summertime.

How To: Start at dusk with topwater baits over offshore humps and long main lake points. When it gets dark switch to big black spinnerbaits slow rolled along the bottom in 18 to 25 feet of water or a deep running crankbait on humps and points with rocks and brush. Also fish a jig and pig or jig head worm with rattles in the same areas, shaking it in one place to attract the fish.

You can get by with heavier line and tackle in the dark but stick with 10 to 12 pound line for your baits. Fish an area slowly and carefully and return to places were you catch fish since there is probably a school feeding there.

Contact: Guide Ryan Coleman – 770-356-4136

Options: Sea Trout feed on oyster bars in the bays on the coast and you can catch them with live shrimp or jigs.

Put your boat in the Flint River downstream of Albany and fish topwater poppers late in the day for exciting hits from big shoal bass.

Blue Cats:
Chattahoochee River

What to Expect: Big blue cats feed in deeper holes in the river below the Walter George dam. From eating size up to trophy size fish, you can catch a lot of them there now. The current means a hard fight from cats grown fat from the fish killed by the generators at the dam. Fishing is best when there is strong current from power generation.

How To: Anchor at the heads of deeper holes and drift live bream or shad into them. Also use cut shad on heavy line and stout tackle. Tie a rig with a sinker heavy enough to get to the bottom and hold there with a swivel two to three feet above it. Tie the sinker on with lighter line so you can break it off if it gets hung. Put a short dropper line from the swivel to a hook of suitable size for the bait you are using and the size fish you are after.

Use big baits for big cats or smaller baits for eating size fish. Frozen shrimp and small chunks of chicken breast work good for smaller cats. Whole shad and bream are best for trophy size fish.

Contacts: Corps of Engineers for generation schedules – 866-772-9542.

Options: Flounder are in the bays on the coast this time of year and can be caught drifting live minnows, bloodworms or shrimp.

Bluegill bed on the full moon again on August 6 so take some crickets and earthworms to the Big Laser PFA.

Red Drum:

What to Expect: Red Drum, also called redfish and channel bass, migrate out of the bays and rivers in the summer and congregate off the beaches and on reefs in the fall. This is the best time to land a big bull drum surf fishing or fishing wrecks and reefs.

How To: Fish cut mullet or blue crab are the best baits for big drum in heavy surf at the mouths of creeks and rivers or fished on reefs and wrecks. Use heavy tackle to take these strong fish – the state record is 47 pound, 7 ounce fish caught off artificial reef “KC.” You can keep Red Drum between 14 and 23 inches long, only and there is a five fish daily limit.

Contacts: Miss Judy Charter – 912-897-4921

Options: Stripers in the Coosa River seek out deep holes this time of year and can be caught on live bait and jigs.

For a change of pace, fray an eight inch piece of white nylon cord and tie it on a silver spoon. Cast to gar on the surface in backouts up the river at Lake Harding.

Shoal Bass:
Ocmulgee River

What to Expect: Shoal bass were introduced into the Ocmulgee River by fishermen and took a liking to it. Four and five pound fish are common from the Jackson Lake dam to Macon and bigger fish are caught. This time of year the river is low and the bass are easier to find. Be careful and watch the water levels because generation at Jackson Lake will cause the water to rise rapidly. Shoal bass bite better when there is a strong current when power is being generated.

How To: Fish small crayfish colored crankbaits at the heads of pools and work them by any rocks in the current. Drift a Texas rigged worm on light lead with the current through cuts and into deeper pools. Live bait like small crayfish and rock worms are excellent when drifted with the current under a cork. Fish all baits naturally with the current.

Options: In the fall big walleye move onto main lake points on Lake Raburn and can be caught on live earthworms and minnows.

Rocky Mount PFA offers two lakes to fish for largemouth. Time your trip the first ten days of the month when Heath Lake is open.

Jackson Lake

What to Expect: Cooling water makes Jackson Lake largemouth move to shallow wood cover and feed. It also means less boat traffic, making for a more pleasurable fishing day. Some of the biggest bass of the year are caught at Jackson during the cooler months since they are more likely to be in shallow water and more accessible to anglers.

How To: Fish a jig and pig around blowdowns and brush near the main river and creek channels. Use a brown jig if the water is clear or black and blue if it is stained. Work the bait slowly, hitting ever limb and letting it fall back to the bottom.

Wood cover in short pockets and small coves off the main channels are best since the bass can run into them to feed and still have access to deep water nearby.

Contacts: Guide Barry Stokes – 770-713-8521

Options: The Toccoa River is a good year-round river for rainbows but it gets outstanding in the fall

Lake Weiss is known for its big crappie in the fall. Fish wood cover in deep water in major creeks with jigs and minnows.

Striped Bass:
Lake Thurmond

What to Expect: Big stripers move shallow in the cold water to feed on blueback herring. Fish weighing forty pounds and more are caught each year at Thurmond. The population of big stripers is good and winter is the best time to catch them.

How To: Use planer boards to take live blueback herring in close to the rocks on main lake points. At the same time freeline live herring behind the boat in deeper water to cover a range of depths.

Contacts: Captain Dave Willard – 803-637-6379

Options: Laargemouth bass feed in the Altamaha River in the winter. Fish a jig and pig or crankbait around main river wood cover.

Look for gulls to point the way to hybrids schooling up on West Pointand cast bucktail jigs to them.

These are just a few of the trips you can take to enjoy Georgia fishing at its best this year.

Georgia Kayak Fishing

Fishing from a kayak in Georgia is great!

Have you ever been crappie fishing back in a cove full of button bushes and thought “if I could just get in behind these bushes I could load the boat with slabs?” Ever crossed a rocky river and thought about all the bass in the deeper holes and wished you could get to them? There is a way.

Kayak fishing is becoming more and more popular as people learn about it. Fishing from a kayak is inexpensive, it allows you to get to places others can’t fish and is a peaceful way to cover waters you can’t reach from the bank. And some modern kayaks are stable enough to stand in while casting.

Randy Vining has fished all his life. He started going to ponds creeks with his grandfather and progressed to the point of having a big bass boat and fishing tournaments. A couple of years ago he discovered kayak fishing and it allowed him to “get back to his roots” of fishing smaller waters, and catching more fish. His bass boat has not been moved from his yard in two years now.
Now a board member of the Georgia Kayak Fishing Club and on the Ocean Kayak Pro Staff, Randy gives seminars and has helped organize the first bass tournament trail for kayak fishermen. He has a half-dozen different kayaks and has spent many hours rigging them to make them efficient fishing boats. The growing sport of kayak fishing is a big part of his life and he is enjoying the hours on the water as well as the time spent helping others.

Choosing a fishing kayak is not as simple as you might think. What length and width do you want? Does color make a difference? Should you get one like you see on TV in the Olympics with people running white water rapids?

Randy says as “sit on top” is much better for fishing than a “sit inside” kayak. Sit one top boats can’t sink because they are full of air. They allow more freedom of movement and you can even stand up in some models. You can carry much more fishing equipment. And if you tip over you can get back in without having to learn the “paddle roll” method of righting the boat.

In general terms, width equals stability and maneuverability and length equals speed and straight tracking. If you are fishing the creeks on Lake Blackshear working around the cypress trees fishing for bass, you want a short, stable boat. If you are paddling three miles off-shore to fish for Spanish mackerel you want a fast boat that is easy to paddle and tracks straight.

Pay attention to the front and back. A deep skeg on the back is good for tracking in a straight line but not so good for running river shoals. A pointed bow makes the boat cut through the water and move more easily but is less stable for leaning side to side.

Color may not seem important but you need to consider two things. You are going to be in direct contact with the boat so you want a color that does not get too hot. And you want a very visible color so other boaters can see you. Randy says a yellow color stays cool and is visible.

You can get a good basic fishing kayak for less than $1000 new. You will probably spend that much more rigging it though. You will save money on gas and oil since you don’t need any in the kayak and you don’t have to tow a heavy boat and trailer. Kayaks don’t have to be registered since they don’t have a motor. And you can start with the basics and add the more expensive rigging as you learn what you want to do with your kayak.

You can get a kayak and a paddle and go fishing. But there are many accessories that will make it more comfortable and make fishing more efficient. The nice thing about most accessories is they are easily interchangeable with other kayaks and you can take them off or put them on as the situation demands. Accessories clip on the boat or slip into mounting holes you cut for them.

The taller you are and the wider your kayak the longer paddle you need. A shorter paddle means you have a higher angle and don’t dig as deep when paddling but a longer paddle is more cumbersome to handle and store. With any length it is important to get a good leash and keep it attached to the boat. You don’t want to be up the creek without a paddle and you can hold on to the leash to help you get back to the boat if you tip over.

A good seat with a support for your back is a basic necessity. Your back can get very tired if you paddle and fish very long so try different seats until you find one that gives you good support. Inflatable seats are comfortable but may not provide enough back support.

An anchor trolley is a rope and pulley system that runs the length of the boat and helps you move your anchor or drag chain to adjust it. You can also use it to tie up along side a dock. And you can clip it to your belt when you get out to wade and your boat will stay with you.

Fishing accessories are as varied as your imagination wants them to be. Dry boxes are good for storing things you want to keep dry, like a cell phone, and the built in boxes in a kayak will not stay completely dry. Tackle boxes can be bought to fit existing compartments or you can make special attachments for them. Coolers are the same.

Rod holders, a depthfinder and/or GPS can be mounted where you can use it but it does not get in your way. You can get a rudder system that you control with your feet and some kayaks even have a propulsion system that you paddle with your feet. A drag chain is important for fishing moving water and you can make your own with a piece of chain run into a bicycle tire tube to keep it quiet and make sure it doesn’t hang up as bad.

Plan on getting wet when fishing from a kayak. Even if you don’t tip over you will get wet from water dripping from your paddle. In cooler weather you can wear waders to keep you dry and also to use if you get out of the boat to fish.

Boating laws require you to have a life jacket and should wear it at all times. Get one that has straps at the top rather than bulky floats to allow freedom of movement while paddling. But be sure to get one that is comfortable to wear all day.

You will need one white running light and battery powered ones are available. A noise maker like a whistle is also required. Randy recommends a pea-less whistle to make sure it works when you need it.
Now that you are rigged and ready, where do you go fishing. You can catch any kind of fish in Georgia so take your pick. From small ponds to creeks and rivers, and even big reservoirs, kayaks give you access to all kinds of fish.

Randy recommends three books to help you find where to fish. “Fishing Georgia” by Kevin Dallmier lists fresh and saltwater fishing spots. “A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide To Georgia” by Suzanne Welander, Bob Sehlinger, & Don Otey gives access points to waters with lengths of trips, a very important factor. And Randy says a good road atlas is invaluable to getting where you want to go.
When planning a trip on a river or stream Randy says plan on fishing about one mile per hour. And he says you don’t want to fish more than about six hours a day or you will get very tired. You should always kayak in groups of at least two and that makes planning a trip much easier. Leave a vehicle at your take-out spot then drive upstream to put in. Floating downstream fishing is the way to go on moving water.

Some of Randy’s favorite trips are the Ocmulgee River blow Jackson Lake dam, the Chattahoochee River south of Atlanta and the Ogeechee River. All are good bass fishing waters and have several access points. Randy says you want to stay in the Piedmont section of Georgia and south since shallow water and rapids make fishing further north difficult.
Randy will be happy to get you into a kayak and take you fishing. The Georgia Kayak Fishing Club has many events where you can try kayaks and see how you like it. You can also experiment with different boats and rigging to see what suits you best.

Check out kayak fishing. It is a fun, inexpensive way to get on the water and catch fish.

The Georgia Kayak Fishing Club website is – their link page – gives links to kayak clubs, kayak companies, outfitters, gear makers, destinations and other information for kayakers.

How Should I Net A Bass?

Net Results – How To Net A Bass and Other Fish

By Mike Gnatkowski

The two most critical and exciting junctures when fishing are at the strike and when the fish comes to net. If the fish strikes aggressively and the hooks are sharp, the fish gets hooked solidly and battling the fish is largely a matter of rod pressure and patience. The most tenuous moment is when the fish nears the boat. With less line out, there is less stretch. Mistakes are magnified. Too much pressure can pull hooks out; not enough and the fish can shake free.

Play and net the bass right

Play and net the bass right

Photo by the Author

Assuming neither happens, netting must be a coordinated effort between the angler and the person wielding the net. Done correctly, the fish is in the net and in the boat before he knows what happened. Approach the netting process in an unsynchronized and haphazard manner and you’ll be lamenting the big one that got away. If you’re just fun fishing, it will be the source of a story that will be retold many times. If it’s during a tournament or on a guide trip, it can have more drastic consequences.

Part of the equation for successfully netting fish is to have the right tool for the job. Anglers should consider the type and size of the fish they expect to encounter to pick the proper net. Elements to consider are hoop diameter and size; handle length and composition and net bag depth, color and composition. A net that’s perfect for one type of fish may be totally inadequate for another.

Bass anglers should consider Frabill’s new line of Conservation Series nets. Conservation Series nets are designed with safe catch and release in mind. All nets feature 100% knotless mesh netting, eliminating injuries commonly caused by sharp knots. Knots also tend to scrape away the slime layer on fish, which can leave them vulnerable to infection. Flat, linear bottoms reduce fish rolling and support the weight of the entire fish. Tangle-free coating prevents hooks from entangling in the net and facilitates quick release. Mesh guard hoops resist wear and greatly extend the life of the net. The 20” x 23” and 23” x 26 Conservation Series nets should meet the needs of most bass fanatics.

The right net protects the fish

The right net protects the fish

Photo coutesy of Frabill

While the Conservation Series nets are meant to treat fish with a gentle touch, they are anything but wimpy. The first impression you get when picking one up is of its strength. The heavy-duty aluminum handle is strong enough to be used as a push pole. Been there; done that. I’ve seen lighter yokes on an oxen. The net yoke is made of hard, thick, nearly indestructible material that will endure a lifetime of use and features Frabill’s exclusive patented Pow’R Lok automatic yoke system. The Mesh Guard Hoop means the bag loops are recessed into the hoop instead of looped around it, which leaves one less thing to snag on when getting ready to net a fish. The solid black hoop and sure-grip handle are a nice finishing touch.

Another option for bass anglers is Frabill’s Crankbait Net. It took two years of development, but Frabill finally came up with a net specifically designed to keep crankbaits, stickbaits and other multi-hook lures from becoming entangled in the netting. We’ve all been there. Net a fish hooked on a crankbait and he starts flopping, creating a nightmare snarl. Not anymore. With the Crankbait Net your net-tangling frustrations are over. The Crankbait Net is available in 20” x 23” to 23” x 26” models with various handle lengths.

Frabill offers a couple of options when it comes scaling back the overall size of the net for storage and transport – key premise when it comes to fitting in a well, even overly geared-up bass boat. Frabill’s Folding Net comes in 18” x 16” and 22’ x 20’ sizes that take up little space when collapsed, but are readily available when it comes time to scoop a 10-pound toad. The Power Stow Net comes in 20” x 24” and 14” x 18” models. The hoop in the Power Stow folds in half and the handle retracts for easy storage,

Use a net big enough for what you hope to catch

Use a net big enough for what you hope to catch

Photo courtesy of Frabill

Handle length is largely a matter of personal preference, but is also dictated by the height of your transom and the amount of room you have for storage. Handles can stretch from 2 to 8 feet or more. It’s always better to have a net handle that’s too long than one that’s too short.

Bag and hoop color are considerations, too. Most anglers prefer net bags made from a dark material to prevent spooking fish prior to netting. Wave a flashing net over a fish near the surface and he’s likely to panic. Dark, anodized hoops and handles and dark bags help keep things calm at the moment of truth.

Netting fish is an art form. When done properly, the process is a coordinated effort using a quick, fluid motion that results in a fish flopping on the floor or in the live well. The angler needs to stay at the back or side of the boat to keep track of the fish and the fight until the fish is ready to be netted. Only then should the person with the net step in front of the angler. The angler should be lifting and bringing the fish closer as the netter brings the net up under the fish. The angler needs to be prepared in case the fish makes a sudden run or burst. Done properly, the netter should only have to lift the net as the angler leads the fish over the hoop.

One important point is knowing when a fish is ready to be netted. The fish should be within easy netting distance and show signs of tiring. Usually, the fish will be lying on its side. The idea is to slip the net under the fish headfirst without touching the fish until it is centered in the net. You can then put the net handle straight up in the air, effectively closing the net bag or swing the hoop into the boat. Be careful of nets with long handles. Wielding a long net handle around while paying attention to the fish and not to others in the boat can result in a knock on the noggin or worse.

Most fish are lost at the boat because of indecision or by being too anxious. Have a positive attitude that you can easily scoop the fish. Wait until the fish is well within range and shows signs of tiring. Don’t reach. More fish are lost at this critical juncture because the netter reaches for the fish at the same time the angler gives the fish slack. If you reach too far, the net will flow out in front of the hoop and the fish is likely to get caught in the netting before he’s safely in the net. The hooks get caught in the net and the fish shakes free. To prevent this, don’t reach and hold the bag against the handle until the fish is over the net. Then open your hand to release the bag. Once the fish is in the boat the angler needs to release the tension on the line or give some slack to prevent the hook from flying out and causing injury.

Netting must be a coordinated effort. Done right, it means sweet success and high-fives all around.

Is your  net big enough?

Is your net big enough?

Photo by Bill Lindner

How To Cook Fish Potato and Cheese Casserole

A simple fish, potato and cheese casserole is easy to cook and delicious. Any mild flavored fish like bass or crappie works well but you need filets You don’t want bones in it!

I filet some of the bass I catch – I know some diehard catch and release fanatics will not like my catch and cook attitude, but keeping some fish to cook will not hurt the population. Especially if, like me, you keep spotted bass from lakes where they are not native and damage the largemouth population! I keep spots 14 inches long and less. In Georgia there is no size limit on spots anywhere except Lake Lanier because they are not good for lakes. A six inch spot tastes good!

Ingredients needed for casserole

Ingredients needed for casserole

First I gather everything I need – a bag of bass filets, potatoes, grated cheese, onions salt, pepper and parsley flakes. I spray a baking dish with no stick spray like Pam to make cleanup easier.

Layer the fish, potatoes and onions

Layer the fish, potatoes and onions

Layer the fish and sliced potatoes and sliced onions, starting with a layer of potatoes, then onions, then fish. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on each layer as you build it. Repeat until all the fish are used.

Cover the layers of fish, potatoes and onions with grated cheese

Cover the layers of fish, potatoes and onions with grated cheese

Then sprinkle grated cheese on top. I use a variety of cheeses, usually whatever I have in the refrigerator. Fairly mild cheese is best.

Top with a little flaked parsley. This does not add much flavor but makes it look prettier, so it can be left out. Cover with foil and put in a oven preheated to 350 degrees.

Bake at 350 until the cheese melts and the potatoes are soft. Test with a fork to make sure the potatoes are soft and done. I usually take the foil off for a few minutes after the potatoes are done to brown the cheese a little. If you put the oven on broil to brown the cheese, watch it very carefully. It takes just a few seconds for cheese to go from browned to burned.

Serve with a salad and enjoy.

How To Filet Fish

I love to catch fish – I never met one I didn’t want to catch – but I like to eat them, too. I know those fanatical about catch and release will be upset, but I believe in catch and hot grease, too, even for bass. I keep a lot of the spots I catch, especially in area lakes where they are not native and cause problems, and cook them just about every week. I have many good recipes for fish.

When I filet fish getting ready usually takes more time than the fileting. I like to leave fish on ice overnight before fileting them. When I am ready to go to work, I get my filet board – a 2×8 about three feet long, and put it on top of a big trash can so it will be about waist height. I hone my big filet knife with a steel so it is very sharp. Some folks like an electric knife and some are good with it, and I use one if I am fileting a lot of fih. But since I usually filet five or fewer fish, I like my regular knife. It is slower but more precise. And I take a bowl big enough to hold the filets with me and set it nearby.

Start just below the gills and slice through the belly past one side of the anal fin

Start just below the gills and slice through the belly past one side of the anal fin

I lay the fish down with the belly facing me and stick the knife point in the middle just below the gills, and make a slice through the middle of the belly past one side of the anal fin. This makes the first filet cut better.
Slice past the anal fin on one side

Slice past the anal fin on one side

I then turn the fish so its back is toward me and cut straight down from the slice in the belly to the top of the fish. Cut as far forward as possible to get the most meat.

Cut to the backbone

Cut to the backbone

Turn the knife blade parallel to the backbone and cut the filet off, from the head to the tail. If you want a skinless filet, which I do, don’t cut through the skin at the tail. If you want a skin on filet you need to scale the fish before starting to filet it.

Slice along backbone to tail but don't cut through the skin at the tail

Slice along backbone to tail but don’t cut through the skin at the tail

Flip the filet over, place it flat on the board, and slice along the skin between the skin and meat in the opposite direction. You can make this slice if you cut through the skin at the tail but it is easier to hold if it is still attached. Keep the knife blade at a slight downward angle.

Slice from the tail to head between meat and skin

Slice from the tail to head between meat and skin

I cut the ribs out since I want a boneless filet. Unless I am planning on making fish chowder I throw them away since there is very little meat on them.

Cut out the rib cage, keeping your knife at an angle to get as much meat as possible

Cut out the rib cage, keeping your knife at an angle to get as much meat as possible

Flip the fish over and repeat the process

Flip the fish over and repeat the process on the other side

Flip the fish over and repeat the process on the other side

When done right, there is almost no meat left on the backbone. I throw it away unless I am making fish chowder. If I plan to make my Mahatten style chowder I cut the backbone at the head and tail and save it with the rib cages.

 When done right very little meat is left on the bones

When done right very little meat is left on the bones

Wash the filets getting all blood off. Feel along the edges, especially along the top where the dorsal fin was attached, to make sure there are no small bones left.

This may sound complicated, but with a little practice it is quick and efficient. I can filet a bass, from first cut to finish, in less than two minutes, and have a bowl of delicious boneless, skinlessw filets.

End results - a bowl of boneless, skinless filets ready to cook

End results – a bowl of boneless, skinless filets ready to cook