Monthly Archives: April 2015

What Are Some Tips for the Michigan Opening Day for Fishing?

Michigan DNR fisheries experts offer opening-day tips

(Michigan’s DNR Biologists offer these tips for their home state, but they’re also very useful for anglers fishing early spring anywhere in the Midwest in the next month. Editor)
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing may be a 12-months-a-year sport in Michigan, but there’s little doubt that the last Saturday of April is one of the biggest days of the year for anglers. It marks the opening day of trout fishing, statewide on more than 80 percent of the state’s trout streams, as well as the season opener for walleye, pike and muskellunge on the inland waters of the Lower Peninsula.

Like many anglers, a fair number of Department of Natural Resources fisheries personnel will take to lakes and streams very soon. Here’s what some of them have to say about opening-weekend opportunities:

Trout from Michigan

Trout from Michigan


Mark Tonello, a fisheries biologist out of Cadillac and a trout aficionado, says anglers must rid themselves of preconceived notions.

“Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one river,” Tonello said. “What if you get up there and the river you chose is running 4,000 feet per second and all mud? You might want to look at smaller waters, further upstream, where it may be clearer.

“And use all weapons available,” he continued. “A lot of good anglers I know go ready for anything. If there are hatches going off, they’ve got their fly rods and are ready to match the hatch. But if there’s no hatch, they’re ready to throw spinners. And if that’s not working don’t be afraid to try bait.”

Tonello said anglers shouldn’t be afraid of competition.

“Opening weekend tends to be one of the busiest weekends of the year, but we have so much water, you can find places to fish,” he said. “A good hint is to start with our trout regulations maps that are all color coded – you can catch trout from any of those streams.

“And don’t be afraid to contact the local biologist,” Tonello said. “As a biologist, those are some of my most enjoyable phone calls, when someone calls and says, ‘I’m heading up to Cadillac, can you give me tips on where to fish?'”

Walleye caught in Michigan

Walleye caught in Michigan


Walleye anglers will likely be spread between rivers and lakes and anglers should wait until right before opening day to decide where to fish.

“Last year there were a lot of fish still in the river for the opener,” said Tim Cwalinski, a fisheries biologist in Gaylord. “This year we’re warming up a little more quickly and we didn’t get as much snow, so the fish may be further along this spring than last spring. On our big lakes – Hubbard, Grand, Long, Burt and Mullet, for instance — there are going to be fish in close, near the river mouth, but your best bet is probably going to be fishing really, really slowly. Trolling won’t cut it.

“If they’re still spawning, they’ll be in rocky, cobble areas in 2 to 10 feet of water,” he continued. “If they’ve finished spawning they’ll be out deeper. Males hit the spawning grounds first and stay on the grounds longer; there are fish there all the time, but there are aggressive fish there only part of the time. So don’t be afraid to fish well into evening. That’s what I’ve found on some of these big lakes.”

Fisheries biologist Jim Baker of Bay City – whose management unit includes the tributaries that feed Saginaw Bay – says a lot will depend on what happens weather-wise the couple of days immediately preceding the opener.

“If you get a big rain and the rivers get high and muddy, it can be hard to catch fish,” Baker said. “But we think the fish will be spawning late because it was so cold, so there should be a lot of fish left in the river when the opener arrives. Most of the guys will be vertical jigging with jigs, baited either with minnows or twister tails, but after the crowds dissipate, we know some guys troll up and down the rivers with Rapalas and they do pretty well.”

Muskie caught in Michigan

Muskie caught in Michigan

Muskellunge and Pike:

Muskellunge enthusiast Don Barnard, a fisheries technician out of Bay City, says the colder water around opening day means anglers should downsize their baits.

“I use smaller baits in the spring than what they use in summer and fall,” he said. “In fall we use 10- or 12-inch baits. The advice is to scale that down to about 8 inches or less in the spring. I use a smaller bucktail or twitch bait, 6 to 7 inches.

“A lot of anglers like to sight fish for spawning fish,” Barnard continued. “Spot them and cast to them.”

Barnard said he often fishes reservoirs and creek mouths.

“Fish the north end of the lake where it gets more sunlight and it warms up a little faster,” he said. Fish 6 to 8 feet of water, not any deeper than that. The fish are going to be up trying to sun themselves.”

Pike anglers should follow the same strategy.

“We like to fish them shallow around the opener,” said Jody Johnston, a fisheries technician out of Crystal Falls. “A lot of times they’re up very shallow – I wouldn’t be afraid to throw up in 2 feet of water. That’s where some of those nicer fish hang out, especially if you get a wind that is blowing the warm water into the shallows.”

Gary Whelan, the fisheries biologist who runs the DNR research team out of Lansing, says pike anglers should use bass techniques, only more so.

“Use the biggest flies and lures you’ve got,” he said. “I like to fish rivers, and pike will take large streamers like you use for bass – deceivers, Clouser minnows, zonkers – something that looks big and offers a lot of motion. But make sure you use some sort of shock tippets or heavy leader.

“If you’re casting lures, use spinnerbaits or body baits like Rapalas – the biggest ones you’ve got.”

To get more tips and information – including Family Friendly Fishing Waters, the June 13-14 Summer Free Fishing Weekend, and season rules and regulations – visit

Have Gun Deaths Surpassed Automobile Deaths In the US?

The latest news to get gun control fanatics all a dither is a report showing gun deaths have exceeded automobile accident deaths in some cities and states. And gun deaths were predicted to exceed automobile deaths nationwide by this year, 2015.

There are a lot of reasons for this change. Comparing the two causes of deaths is like comparing which is best to use, live bait for bass or rifles for deer. The gun control lobby wants to use the statistics to demand more restrictions on law abiding citizens to own guns. Of course they ignore the fact that owning a gun is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and driving is not.

John Lott, Jr. has done a lot of research on gun violence. In an article for Fox News he presents facts about these two sources of deaths in the US. (I know, Fox News is denigrated by those getting all their propaganda from MSNBC and related sources, hated by them like the Nazis were in WWII and called liars by them, but that is a whole nother story)

He shows that gun deaths have risen and car deaths fallen, but demonstrates that accidental deaths from cars are 99.4% of the total while accidental deaths from guns are only 1.5%, And the car deaths drop corresponds to the rise in gas prices, making people drive less. As gas prices came down recently, car deaths have risen.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution in a headline this past Sunday reflects this. It says “Roadway deaths in Georgia have increased by nearly a third so far this year, a troubling jump that transportation officials and experts are struggling to explain.”

As Lott says “But if increased safety regulations are the solution, why is it that between 2000 and 2013 accidental deaths from guns fell twice as much as those from cars (35% to 18%)?”

Another claim is guns are too easy to get so more people use them to kill themselves. That ignores the fact if people wanting to commit suicide could not get guns they would find some other way. As Lott points out “Despite fewer murders and accidental gun deaths, gun deaths have risen slightly because of a 28% increase in firearm suicides. But non-firearm suicides increased even faster (56%) – something is causing suicides in general to rise.

One hue and cry from the gun control fanatics is a demand for more background checks, like the Brady Law. But, as Lott says, they ignore the facts, a common trait of that group. “The Economist points to a new Bloomberg-backed study claiming that prohibited people with criminal records made 7 out of 169 online gun purchases. Unfortunately, they merely verify that people with names similar to those who are actually prohibited were interested in buying guns. They never showed that prohibited people actually bought a gun.”

“Some guns were listed as having not gone through background checks, when in fact they had. In reality, Bloomberg’s groups have inadvertently exposed the problems with the current background check system.”

Lott’s bottom line is “So will gun control advocates ever explain why accidental gun deaths have fallen more than those for cars? Or why non-firearm suicides rose twice as fast as firearm suicides? I predict they never will.”

His article is at

My bottom line is this, something not mentioned by anyone I have seen. How may car deaths were caused by cars illegally owned, compared to guns deaths caused by guns illegally owned?

All too often, but just a few times a year, a car death caused by an illegal alien who should not even be in the US make the headlines. But almost every day headlines about a shooting include the fact the shooter was charged with possession of a gun by a convicted felon. One of the most recent was the Griffin daily News 4/16/15 article about the felon that shot the two year old in a car on Highway 19/41. He broke laws to even have a gun.

Some say there are 20,000 gun laws in the US. Others dispute this number saying “there are only 300 federal gun laws” and that state laws are not relevant somehow. Even if you swallow this claim that gun laws are really not gun laws, there are 300 federal laws that criminals using guns violate.

How many laws are enough? If 300 are not sufficient, with 301 do? What law should be passed that only law abiding citizens will follow? Laws have no effect on criminals so, as Hillary said, at this point what does it matter?

Take anything about guns and cars – in fact, anything you read or hear about – with a grain of salt. Look for the agenda of those making the claims, including me. Get the facts for yourself.

How Can I Get Ready for Spring Stripers?

Yamaha Tips: Get Ready for Spring Stripers
from The Fishing Wire

Use soft  natural baits

Use soft natural baits

Big stripers like this one may prefer soft natural baits early in the season, especially in murky water.

It’s been a brutal winter for most of the Mid-Atlantic States, with record low temperatures and an amazing amount of precipitation in the form of snow, sleet and freezing rain. Just what does that mean for spring striper fishing? If past experience is any indicator, fishing might get off to a slightly later start. The water will be a bit colder due to the spring snow melt, resulting in a rush of cold water pouring into the bays where the first bass of the year are usually encountered. All that extra fresh water will probably be carrying more silt, which could hinder water clarity and affect feeding preferences, but that can be accounted for with the right techniques.

A look back in our fishing log books reveals that striped bass fishing after cold winters has been as good if not better than during mild years. So if you haven’t gotten to it already, you better start getting the boat and tackle ready.

Extreme cold water temperatures in rivers and estuaries where small-to-midsize stripers reside can put them in near hibernation throughout much of the winter. When the first hints of spring make an appearance—the sun gets a little higher in the sky, the days get a little longer, air temperatures start to rise—the bass stir and start to get hungry. If you’re willing to brave the weather and get on the water, chances are you’ll be rewarded with some decent fishing action. But are you prepared? Have you gone through the spring commissioning process with your boat, outboard and trailer? Have you serviced your reels and filled them with fresh line? Do you have the gear you’ll need for early season tactics in your tackle box? If not, you have some catching up to do.

The following two techniques can be effective under the spring conditions you will probably encounter when fishing for stripers in the coming weeks, and we will follow those up with some tips on where you should look for them.

Use clams for spring stripers

Use clams for spring stripers

Clams and other natural offerings fished on a circle hook can be just the ticket to turn early spring stripers on.

One of the best ways to coax bass out of cold water is fishing with soft, natural baits like sandworms and fresh clams. This is especially true when the run-off from winter snows and spring rains keep bay temperatures cold and hamper water clarity. When this happens, bass will rely more on scavenging by using their sense of smell rather than on their ability to seek out baitfish visually. When striper metabolism is sluggish, soft baits are easier to digest, making them preferable when the water is colder. If the water temps are below 50 degrees or water clarity is poor, break out the clams, sandworms or bloodworms and go fishing.

These baits are fished on or very near the bottom, and light spinning or baitcasting outfits filled with 10- to 15-pound test line are more than ample tackle. The preferred bottom rig is a simple fish finder type, with a light bank sinker mated to a 24-inch fluorocarbon leader armed with a 4/0 or larger circle hook. Using circle hooks is important because stripers feeding on soft baits are likely to swallow the hook in the time it takes for you to realize they are mouthing the bait. Circle hooks almost always set in the corner of a fish’s mouth, making unhooking and releasing them easier for you with less potential to harm the fish. That reduces release mortality of young fish or any fish you catch over the bag limit. If you’re using worms, the addition of a small float between the hook and the sinker will help keep the bait off the bottom and attract more bites. Clams give off more scent and are easier for bass to locate and gulp down lying on the bottom. When clam fishing, bring along a chum basket and fill it with crushed clams, then suspend it on the bottom under the boat to disperse even more scent to attract bass from further away.

Once water temperatures have risen above 50 degrees and river herring and alewives start their move from the ocean into bays (and eventually into rivers and streams to spawn), try switching over to trolling with diving plugs. Several lure companies offer swimming plugs with long diving lips rated to run from 15 to 30 feet down. They are excellent lures for early season stripers and a lot of fun to use because they do not require heavy rods and reels with special line to get them deep and make them work.

Trolling these plugs can be done on a variety of light conventional rod and reel combinations, but be sure they are loaded with 30- to 50-pound test braided line. The thin braid allows these plugs to dive to their rated depth. Add a six-foot fluorocarbon leader and a snap for quick changing lures, and fish them from outrodder-type rod holders to keep them spread apart behind the boat. Be sure to keep your eyes on the depthfinder to locate schools of baitfish, and to watch for stripers. That way you can be sure you’re fishing in the right places and using plugs that are running at the depth the fish are holding. You should have plugs in a range of colors that run at a variety of depths.

Use light tackle

Use light tackle

Light tackle is adequate to handle even big stripers like this one when fishing natural bait.

If you are not familiar with where to hunt for early season stripers, here are a few tips that might help. Review charts of the estuary you’re planning to fish, and look for areas adjacent to where feeder streams and rivers enter the bay. Then look for areas of flats along channel edges, especially flats that get exposed to the most sun during the days as they will warm faster, and warmer is better this time of year. In a lot of cases, flats along shorelines with southern exposure will fit the bill because the sun is still in the southern sky and will strike those flats with the most direct light. You can find stripers in water depths from a few feet out to edges of channel drop offs in 20 to 30 feet.

Bottom fishing with soft baits will often be best on flats near drop offs. Anchor the boat up current of the drop, and set out a chum pot with clams or just cast your bait behind the boat and let the fish come to you. Time your fishing to coincide with the top of the incoming and first few hours of the outgoing tide, when bass will be most active. This way the current carries the scent of your baits to deeper water, and the fish will be working into the current for just that reason. Pay attention to tides when trolling with plugs, too. High tide stages will produce the most bites.

With spring upon us (even if it might not feel like it quite yet), it’s time to put down the winter projects, get the boat and gear loaded, and go fishing. The stripers are hungry and waiting, and fishing for them is a great way to shake off the bad case of cabin fever you’ve been suffering from this winter.

How To Cook Deer Liver and Heart

I love to cook, and love deer meat, even the heart and liver. And I hate to waste anything so I take care to keep the heart and liver to cook. There is an old joke that farmers use everything from a pig except the squeal. I don’t take using deer that far, but I try to use everything I can when I kill one.

Recently I shot a deer and hit it just right, blowing out the lungs without damaging the liver or heart. I try to shoot all deer like that, without damaging any meat. When I gutted the deer I carefully washed off the heart and liver and put them in a plastic bag so I could cook them.

When I got home I washed the liver and heart again, sliced both and put them in a Ziploc bag with salt water. That pulls out a lot of the blood and I think it helps give the meat a better flavor.

Saute onions until soft and browned a little

Saute onions until soft and browned a little

The next night I got the sliced meat out and dried it, then coated the half-inch thick slices with flour. I then heated olive oil and sauteed sliced onions until they started to brown. I use a lot of onions, I really like them, too!

After the meat is brown on one side, flip it and add onions back to it

After the meat is brown on one side, flip it and add onions back to it

After the onions are soft and browned I remove them and put the floured meat into the oil. When the meat is brown on one side, I flip it and put the onions back on top. The heat should be low enough to just fry the meat and brown it. Too hot and the liver will be tough.

Add warm water to cover the meat and simmer

Add warm water to cover the meat and simmer

After the meat browns on the second side I add enough warm water to cover the meat and let it simmer at very low heat. I use a spatula to make sure I scrape all the brown crust off the pan and get it mixed with the water. Again, too high heat makes the meat tough so keep it as low as possible to keep the sauce bubbling slightly. Stir it frequently.

When the meat is just barely done and the sauce a nice brown, you are ready to eat

When the meat is just barely done and the sauce a nice brown, you are ready to eat

The sauce will be white to start but brown as it simmers. I like the meat barely done, still a little pink inside. It is more tender and moist before it gets too well done.

While the meat simmers, usually for about 30 minutes, I slice potatoes and more onions and saute them in another pan until the potatoes are soft. This is a great dish with the meat. I have a salad with it – gotta get my green veggies! In the picture below the salad is all gone! I eat it first.

Fill your plate with meat and potatoes, cover all with gravy, and eat it up!

Cover the meat and potatoes with gravy and enjoy!

Cover the meat and potatoes with gravy and enjoy!

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 Did the Bass Pros Do On Lake Guntersville?

Legendary Bass Pros in North Alabama on Lake Guntersville

By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

The  pros get ready

The pros get ready

Most of the best-known names in professional bass fishing probed the favorite local spots at Lake Guntersville, in the northeast corner of Alabama, as the Diet Mountain Dew Bassmaster Elite tour got underway on Thursday, April 9, and continued through Sunday, April 12. Daily takeoffs and weigh-ins were at Guntersville City Harbor, adjacent the 431 bridge on the north edge of town.

With water temperatures still in the low 60s, the lake’s giant female bass haven’t completed their spring spawning, and this should mean fishing fans will see some gigantic fish brought to the scales during the four-day event.

“There was a 12-7 caught in a tournament here just recently,” says Elite Pro Chris Lane. “I would be surprised if there aren’t several fish over 10 pounds caught next week. It’s going to be that kind of tournament.”

Lane might well be one of the anglers finishing near the top–he has lived on Guntersville for the past several years, thrives on shallow water fishing due to his Florida roots, and just won an Elite Tour event at the Sabine River.

Guntersville’s vast beds of milfoil, hydrilla and coontail grass will likely play a role as the Elite pros try to figure out what the successful pattern to win here will be. Lily pads, primrose and other shoreline cover, as well as docks, also attract spawning fish here.

Lane agrees with the popular assessment that it could take a four-day weight of more than 100 pounds to win. So does Casey Ashley, winner of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic held on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell in February.

Like all B.A.S.S. events held in Alabama, the field will include a host of in-state anglers with extensive knowledge of the venue.

Lane, who lives close enough to the lake that he can have his boat in the water in just minutes, finished 36th in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and 40th in the 2010 Elite Series event on Guntersville – his two most recent events on the fishery.

Justin Lucas, who relocated to Guntersville from his native northern California, will be fishing a professional event for the first time on his new home lake. He’s a top-rated young angler who can never be counted out. Ditto for Kevin Hawk, who now guides on the lake.

Aaron Martens, another California native who now makes his home in Leeds, Ala., has a rich history on Lake Guntersville that includes a win in the 2009 Elite Series event on the lake. He also finished 13th in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, 17th in a 2006 Elite Series event and 14th in Bassmaster Tour events in 2004 and 2005 here.

Flamboyant pro Gerald Swindle of Warrior will be in the mix, and has proven himself a consistent producer when bed fishing, and Randy Howell of Springville won the 2014 Classic on this lake, though that was a late winter event where crankbaits were king. Randall Tharp, an Alabama native now living in Florida, can’t be counted out here either–Guntersville is practically his home lake.

Launches are scheduled for 6:15 a.m. CT each day from Guntersville City Harbor with weigh-ins also set for the ramp at 3:15 p.m. daily. Launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public. The B.A.S.S. Outdoor Expo gets underway at noon Saturday and Sunday, and free demo rides from Mercury, Yamaha, Nitro, Skeeter and, Triton will be available.

Skeet Reese won after Mike Iaconelli led for three days. Iaconelli caught only one bass the final day and dropped to 12th place.

For details and results, visit

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

What Is An Overlooked Crankbait for Cold Water Bass?

An Over-Looked Crank For Cold-Weather Bass

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

Bass on a Flicker Shad

Bass on a Flicker Shad

When you fish against a guy like Tony Owens, biologist with the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center in Athens, Texas, you pay attention to the little things or you get left in the dust.

Tony not only lives bass every day at his job, he regularly fishes tournaments in East Texas and knows how to catch fish.

But on this trip, he was struggling almost as badly as me. His spinnerbait pattern produced a couple good fish, as did mine (flippin’ PowerBait Jigger Craws), but the cold front that blew through the day before had shut the fish down. Texas’ world-class bass fisheries were built by stocking Florida-strain largemouths, a fish that doesn’t like it much when water temps plummet quickly. (,default,pg.html)

When I tape an episode of “Lake Commandos” television show, I compete with my guest to see who can catch the most fish. While it’s always my goal to catch the most fish, really what I like about the show’s format is seeing how my guests react to not only what the fish are doing, but to what I am doing. And today, Tony reacted to the slow bite by fishing faster. Traditional wisdom calls for slowing down when dealing with cold-front fish, but I have found that it’s often better to actually speed up to see if I can trigger reaction strikes.

And one of the best baits for doing that is a crankbait.

The lake we were fishing was loaded with shad, which serve as the primary forage for the bass and other gamefish. So I switched over to a Berkley Flicker Shad, casting it on a medium heavy spinning rod loaded with 10-pound NanoFil to make it easy to cast long distances.,default,pd.html

Most bass anglers seem to overlook cranks with subtle side-to-side rolls like the Flicker Shad, opting more often for baits that have a more aggressive action. But the shad imitators can be dynamite under certain conditions and I like to toss them after a cold front.

The fact is, I should have started the day with the Flicker Shad as the day before I had been targeting crappies on another east Texas lake, casting small #4 and #5 Flicker Shads, and while we caught a ton of slabs (one pushing 3 pounds!), we also caught a lot of big bass. In fact, we caught so many bass they interfered with our planned fish fry for that evening!

I was guilty of fishing inside the box of what’s comfortable. Like a lot of anglers, I had forgotten just how effective small, tight-wobbling crankbaits can be for early-season or cold-water bass.

Fact is, small, tight-wobbling cranks like the Berkley Flicker Shad can trigger bites when nothing else does.

A thin bait by design, the Flicker Shad has a tight wobble – actually, more of a roll – than a square bill. As such, it sends out an entirely different underwater sound, which is picked up bass both in the auditory sense and via the fish’s lateral line. Could be that thin, narrow baits with roll produce an acoustical signature more akin to the sounds and vibrations that shad emit as they travel through the water.

Another thing that’s great about the Flicker Shad is it’s a great casting bait, which means you can cover great distances without spooking fish in clear or pressured waters. It also makes it a great option when you visually locate schooling bass busting bait on the surface.

When I locate schooling bass in open water I like to cast past the school, working the bait quickly to get to the larger fish in the school, which are typically deeper than the smaller bucks. These larger fish have learned that the lunch falls right on their plate as smaller fish shred and slash shad high in the water column.

On rivers and reservoirs, I’ve found casting Flicker Shads along rip rap or timber and brush a great way to locate active fish. On natural lakes, I’ve gotten past my fear of fishing crankbaits around emergent weeds using smaller, shallower-running baits for ripping bait through small gaps or lanes in the weeds.

I typically choose Flicker Shads according to the depth I’m fishing – a #4, #5, or #6 for waters up to 7 feet — and a #7 or #9 for depths over 8 feet. Consult the following dive curves to pick the best sizes for where you fish.

Four Go-To Colors

The Flicker Shad

The Flicker Shad

For cold, clear early-season waters, I rely on four color patterns that allow me flexibility on different waters. The first is Natural Shad, the match-the-hatch choice for lakes, rivers and reservoirs with threadfin and gizzard shad. Second is Red Tiger, which mimics both crawfish and bluegills – definitely a solid early-season pick. Third, I like Racy Shad, which has hues of green and orange in it, as well as a chartreuse lateral line for dirtier, stained waters. And lastly, sometimes plain Pearl White can be a great performer, which mimics young white bass or shad that have been regurgitated by other fish – the same reason plain white Flukes are so effective.

How to Work ‘Em

I rarely fish Flicker Shads on a steady retrieve for bass. Instead, I use a fast twitch-twitch, twitch-twitch, which mimics shad movement. And the key to this retrieve is using spinning gear.

For me, I prefer a 7′ Abu Garcia Veritas with a little softer tip, like a medium power, fast action model. I like Abu Garcia Revo Sx20 or Sx30 spinning reels for their smooth gearing, powerful drag and how easily line falls off the spool for long, accurate casts.,default,sc.html?prefn1=ZZSUBSER&prefv1=Abu%20Garcia%20Veritas &,default,pd.html

In terms of line choice, NanoFil Dyneema-based superline casts farther than anything on the market. Ten-pound Nano has the diameter of 2- to 4-pound mono and gives me the sensitivity I need ensure the bait is working as it should. It’s amazingly telegraphic. I can tell if one treble has a piece of leaf on it, even with 16 inches of 8- or 10-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. Speaking to the leader, I like it for making bait changes easier and it virtually eliminates the tendency of the line tangling in the trebles during the cast.,default,pd.html

Consider adding an additional spinning stick and a subtle action crank like the Flicker Shad to your boat deck this season. Not only is this system effective for early-season and open-water bass – especially on shad-filled waters – it’s a solid MVP for anything that swims.

And if you ask me, that’s pretty cool. In my world more bites equals more fun!

Lake Lanier Fishing Did Not Live Up To Hopes, At Least for My Club

Last Sunday 21 members and guests of the Flint River Bass Club fished our April tournament at Lanier. We were all excited – fishing reports said they were biting good and everything seemed right. And when Chuck Croft told us at the meeting Tuesday night he and his partner won a tournament there the weekend before with 22 pounds, we just knew we would catch fish.

Nope. In nine hours of casting, we landed 41 bass weighing about 79 pounds. There were only four five-bass limits and six members didn’t land a keeper. As expected though, there were only eight largemouth landed. The rest were spotted bass. There is a 14 inch length limit on all bass at Lanier, though. Many of us caught a lot of 13 inch bass that would be keepers on most lakes.

We are going to have to stop allowing guests to fish this tournament. Last year William Scott fished as a guest and won the tournament and had a six pounder, the biggest bass caught in any of our tournaments. This year Sam Smith fished as Niles Murray’s guest and won it with five weighing 10.79 pounds. And he had a 3.12 pound spot for big fish.

Brandon Stooksbury should have won but he came in 7 minutes late after being told the wrong weigh-in time on the phone after arriving late for blast off. He did place second with five weighing 8.86 after a 21 percent penalty. And he had a 3.39 pound spot that would have been big fish without the penalty.

William Scott came back as a guest and came in third with five at 8.40 pounds and my five weighing 7.60 was good for fourth place. Jordan McDonald fished with me and had three weighing 5.61 pounds so we had a decent day, but not nearly as good as expected.

I couldn’t wait to get to my first place at the 6:30 blast off. A few years ago I did an article on Lanier in early April with Laura Gober and she took me to a place at daylight where we caught several three pound plus spots on jerkbaits, and she said that was not unusual. Jordan and I hit it and fished it for an hour, and caught several short fish. I did hook a 2.5 pound plus spot we could see down about six feet under the boat in the clear water, but it pulled off the jerkbait.

By 10:00 we were frustrated. Although we had caught several small bass we didn’t have a keeper in the live wells. So we took off up the Chestatee River, headed to the back end of it where the lake looks more like what I am used to fishing. Jordan had taken me up there last March in a Flint River tournament and I came in second in it.

On the way we stopped on a hump and Jordan caught a keeper at about 10:30 so our attitude improved. And soon after getting to the very back end of the river, 22 miles from the blast off ramp, I landed a keeper largemouth on a jig and pig from about two feet of water.

We fished shallow bushes, grass and rocks the rest of the day and I landed four more keepers and Jordan got two more. I had only three with about an hour left to fish when I hooked a three pound plus largemouth on a worm in two feet of water and told Jordan to get the net just as it jumped and threw the hook.

With less than 30 minutes to fish we went to a small island and I caught a keeper largemouth and a keeper spot to fill my limit almost on back to back casts. It took us 22 minutes at 60 miles per hour to get back to the ramp, but it was worth the ride!