Monthly Archives: September 2016

September Bass Fishing Is Tough At Jackson

We had only seven members of the Flint River Bass Club fish our September tournament at Jackson. We started at 5:30 AM trying to avoid some of the traffic and heat and quit at 1:30 PM. There were 12 bass weighed in, six spots and six largemouth. Two of us had limits and two did not catch a keeper.

Chuck Croft won with three largemouth weighing 7.17 pounds and his 3.66 pounder was big fish. Niles Murray placed second with five at 5.73 pounds, my five weighed 5.60 pounds placed third, Don Gober was fourth with two at 2.93 and Wes Delay rounded out the fishermen with keepers with two at 2.86 for fifth.

Chuck said he caught all three of his bass before daylight around lighted boat docks. I caught two of mine before daylight on a jig and pig on a rocky point then at noon got three more off that long point I talked of earlier.

I kept seeing fish on the point but could not get them to hit. I finally drug a Fishhead Spin along the bottom and caught a keeper spot. I guess that turned them on a little since I soon got a small keeper largemouth on a jig and pig and another one on a drop shot worm.

Fishing is tough right now and will be until cooler nights start making the water temperatures drop. That should happen within a couple of weeks. And eventually the lakes will get less crowded as people go hunting and watch football games rather than going to the lake.

Traditional End to Boating on Labor Day

Tradition has it that Labor Day is the end of the boating season. This is not a traditional year!

Last weekend while fishing a club tournament at Jackson I was shocked at the number of barges still on the lake. I consider boats that don’t plane off, that just plow through the water making a huge wake, a barge.

Although they are great for skiing and they don’t really bother me when they are out on the lake, for some reason some drivers think they have to stay near the bank and get as close as possible to fishermen. That does cause problems.

One boat at Jackson just before noon was not only being inconsiderate, they were breaking the law. I was fishing a long point in Tussahaw Creek and had put a marker out about 100 yards from the bank where the point dropped from ten feet deep into deeper water. From my marker back to the bank the bottom slowly sloped off.

There was one boat that came between me and the bank about 75 feet off the bank. I have no idea how they didn’t hit the bottom. This big boat was plowing along about 25 miles an hour making a wake at least four feet high. And no one was behind the boat skiing.

Not only did they rock me a lot, they went by a dock with pontoon boat tied to it. They were within 50 feet of the dock. Georgia law says boats must stay at least 100 feet from a dock unless at idle speed. When the barge went by the dock I though its wake would tear up the pontoon boat.

They kept going along the bank like that as far as I could see them. At weigh-in I mentioned it and another club member said that same boat came by him just like that, way up the Alcovy River. Apparently the folks in that boat ran the whole shoreline of Jackson Lake just like that. I wonder how many boats they damaged that were tied to docks.

I expect pleasure boaters to be inconsiderate of fishermen, but I find no excuse for someone in a fishing boat to do that. While on that same point in Tussahaw creek a bass boat was puling tubers. For some reason their route made them circle over the point I was fishing rather than go 100 yards to more open water. They circled within feet of my marker, some times when I was within casting distance of it, repeatedly.

The fun did not end at the ramp. We were taking out at 1:30 at the Georgia Power Ramp. There is a double ramp there with docks on each side. When I pulled up someone in a pontoon was tied to the dock, completely blocking one ramp. I watched as they finally got a trailer backed in and started trying to load it as two or three boats either launched or took out from the one ramp they left open.

In the meantime three teenage boys had pulled to the top of the ramp. They were waiting to put their bass boat in. They started yelling at the older men having trouble with the pontoon, fussing at them for being so slow, I think.

When the pontoon finally moved the teenagers got their boat backed into the water after several tries. For some unknown reason one of them was wading along beside it. He finally got into the boat and, after several minutes, got it cranked.

He kept trying to back it off the trailer but it would not move. He yelled at the truck driver to back in further and kept having problems. He finally had the diver pull up on the ramp so he could get out of the boat, walk around to the back of it and unhook his rear tiedowns.

One of these days it will be cold enough to make some folks stay home. I won’t miss the comedy.

What Is A New Way to Control Fish Populations?

Idaho Fish and Game Develops New Way to Control Fish Populations
Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us courtesy of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game

Technique won a national award for fisheries restoration
Roger Phillips, Public Information Specialist, IDFG
from The Fishing Wire

Hatcheries have long been used to replenish and restore fish populations, but can they also be used to reduce or eradicate them? Idaho Fish and Game researchers are studying whether using traditional hatchery technology in a nontraditional way can eliminate unwanted fish populations in the wild.

Fish and Game researchers and hatchery staff are collaborating on a project using 50 year-old technology to develop a monosex fish population whose offspring can only produce males. These males have two YY chromosomes (YY) rather than the usual XY arrangement.

Stocking YY-male hatchery fish into a body of water with an undesired fish population could change the sex ratio to all males within a few generations, and the unwanted fish population would eventually fail to reproduce and therefore die off. Once accomplished, Fish and Game would stop stocking those fish and fisheries managers would then restock that body of water with a more desirable fish species.

Brook trout were selected for the first YY project because they are short lived and quick to sexually mature, which enables researchers to rapidly produce the hatchery broodstock and test the technique in a natural environment. Brook trout are also good candidates because they are nonnative, frequently overpopulate, and stunt in both lakes and streams, which means fish are too small to be of interest for most anglers.

The YY technique begins in a hatchery, where young brook trout are exposed to low-doses of a common female hormone, estradiol, which has no effect on female fish, but causes male fish to produce eggs when they mature. The egg-producing males are crossed with standard males, which produce about 25 percent YY-male offspring. Those offspring are used to produce another generation that will theoretically produce exclusively male offspring when bred with any other brook trout.

Brook trout produced in the program for stocking in the wild are not exposed to any hormones and appear like all other brook trout, but they carry two male chromosomes instead of one.

While it sounds complex, it’s a fairly simple method of using hormones to affect gender in a segment of the population, then selectively breeding them to get an entire population to produce one gender. It’s routinely done in commercial aquaculture hatcheries to raise identical-looking food-fish, increase growth rates, and control reproduction.

If the program with brook trout proves successful, the “YY male” method could eradicate or limit other undesirable fish species in select waters, perhaps even large bodies of water with carp infestations, or other unwanted fish that limit game fish populations and harm habitat.

Fish and Game has long used fish toxicants to eradicate unwanted fish from entire bodies of water, but toxicants are typically limited to smaller bodies of water, such as ponds, small lakes and reservoirs or small streams.

Netting, trapping, and other fish removal methods also rid waters of unwanted fish, but those efforts are rarely a long-term solution because a few fish usually escape and spawn successfully. All those methods are time consuming, labor intensive, and often have to be repeated years later when unwanted fish populations rebuild.

Fish and Game officials hope the YY-male approach will be a cost-effective technique to control undesirable fish populations. Gary Byrne, the Fish Production Manger overseeing the hatchery portion of Idaho’s YY brook trout program, said it only took four years to develop the YY brook trout broodstock.

Head Fisheries Researcher Dan Schill, who led the team conducting the research project, said they are encouraged by the low cost of broodstock development, and they hope the technique will curb brook trout populations in waters where it’s being tested.

“The proof will be in the pudding over the next few years when our research staff obtain results confirming whether stocked YY fish successfully spawn in the wild and are ultimately effective in reducing the percentage of wild female brook trout in test waters,” Schill said.

Stocking trials of YY Brook Trout in four Idaho streams began in 2014, and the first results are encouraging. A marked YY Male was observed actively spawning in October with a wild female, and testing done on wild fry in study streams in 2015 conclusively showed that some YY males successfully spawned. Of equal note, all progeny of stocked YY fish found were XY males, exactly as predicted and as investigators hoped.

Fish and Game officials presented their findings at the August 2016 American Fisheries Society (AFS) national meeting in Kansas City, which has generated excitement in the fisheries science community. There, the AFS announced Fish and Game’s YY Male Brook Trout Research Program won the 2016 Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project award in the category of Research and Surveys.

The awards highlight the importance and effectiveness of the sport fish restoration program and recognize excellence in fisheries management, research and education.

Questions and answers about the YY-male fish program

Q: I understand the basic method of producing YY males in the hatchery, but how does the process of eliminating an undesirable fish population work in an actual stream or lake?

A: In natural fish populations, females have two X sex chromosomes (XX) and males have an X and Y chromosome (XY). When two wild fish spawn, offspring can only inherit one sex chromosome from each parent. Offspring receive an X from the female because that’s all she produces. Half the progeny receive an X from the male side and half receive a Y, which produces a 50:50 sex ratio.

When a hatchery-produced YY male spawns with a wild, XX female, all the progeny inherit one Y from the male and one X from the female and therefore would all be XY males. The basic idea is to continue stocking YY Males into the wild population until all the fish in the water are male, then stocking would end and the population would consequently die off.

Q: Is Fish and Game trying to eradicate all brook trout?

A: No, that’s not the intent of this program. While there is interest in eliminating brook trout in specific waters where they severely impact native species or stunt and become undesirable to anglers, this is primarily an effort to test the basic YY male concept in small, isolated waters. Anglers will continue to find hundreds of streams and mountain lakes in Idaho with wild Brook Trout populations.

Q: Are these brook trout being stocked considered a GMO?

A: No. Because no genes are “spliced” into the target fish genome from another fish species, the YY male fish produced are not genetically modified organisms (or GMO’s), a plus that has been noted by the authors of several recent scientific papers reviewing the YY male approach.

Q: What happens if someone eats a fish that’s been exposed to estradiol.

A: Fish exposed to the hormone in the program remain in enclosed hatchery production silos and are never stocked so it’s virtually impossible for that to occur. However, the doses given to tiny fry are very low and the 100 percent clearance rate from tissues is a matter of days, well over a year before fish become a size of interest to anglers. For these reasons, it is inconceivable that an angler or other animals would be exposed to estradiol, which is a common and frequently used human prescription drug that’s also used in aquaculture.

Q: Could the YY approach lead to eliminating other types of unwanted, non-native, or nuisance fish?

A: Although not the goal of the current program, Fish and Game is always trying to find ways to improve fishing and water quality. Where an undesirable species is limiting fishing opportunity, this is one method that could be attempted if the present experiments on Brook Trout prove successful.

Q: Is it reversible if for some reason you wanted that fish back?

A: Yes. All Fish and Game would have to do is stop stocking YY fish and the population would return to a normal 50:50 sex ratio.

Lake Wheeler Smallmouth

Last Friday I drove to Rogersville, Alabama and got a room near Joe Wheeler State Park on Wheeler Lake. For years I would have gotten up at 1:00 AM to make the five hour drive over but I think those days are gone!

The next morning I met Makenzie Henson, a student at nearby North Alabama College and member of their fishing team, at daylight to get information for my October Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month article.

Wheeler is a big Tennessee River lake and it is a 5.5 hour, 200 mile drive from here. It is a pretty lake and it produces quality largemouth and smallmouth bass. Smallmouth have made a come-back in many of those north Alabama lakes and have added an exciting element to fishing them.

The lake is mostly river with small creeks entering it. We started at daylight and it was nice, for the first time this year, to actually want a jacket it was so cool riding in a bass boat. The first place we stopped, back in a small creek, Makenzie pointed to three does feeding in a pocket off to the side. One stood out a lot more than the other two since she was white.

We were not close enough to tell if she was a true albino or just a white deer. But I got some pictures of her with my zoom lens and they kept feeding there as we fished.

Makenzie had to be at work at 11:00 Alabama time so we fished for only four hours, from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM central time. But in that time he landed five or six keeper size largemouth and I caught a couple of keeper largemouth, and we both caught several short largemouth and smallmouth. All hit either a drop shot worm or a Texas rigged worm on rocky points.

Although it was a beautiful Labor Day weekend Saturday we saw very few boats. Other than a small tournament that took off as we put in the lake was very quiet. Rumor had it fishing was not very good but our trip seemed to show otherwise.

The last place we fished some fish were schooling on the point and Makenzie caught a three pound smallmouth on his drop shot worm then got a hybrid on a topwater plug. A couple of cast later the highlight of the day, a four pound smallmouth, hit his topwater bait.

We hated to leave with fish hitting better than they had all morning, but he had to go to work. And I had a long drive home. It was a fun trip even if I didn’t get to fish much compared to the hours I drove. But a weekend or longer trip to Wheeler would be a good get-away and Joe Wheeler State Park would be a good place to stay.

Did Hook Tweaks Help Rapala Pro Ott Defoe Win?

Hook tweaks help Rapala pro Ott Defoe win Bassmaster tournament

Tweaking your hook set-ups can improve hook-up ratios and put more fish in the boat. Such was the case last week for Rapala pros Ott DeFoe and Seth Feider, who respectively won and placed second in a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the Mississippi River near La Crosse, Wis.

A new hook set-up and new knot helped DeFoe beat 106 of the best anglers on the planet and win his first regular-season, full-field Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. For Feider, a new take on a classic bassin’ rig put fish in the boat when it counted, rewarding him with his highest-ever finish in two years on the Elite tour.

Although DeFoe and Feider fished in different areas with different techniques, the Rapala family of brands contributed key elements to their success, including VMC hooks and terminal tackle, a a Storm topwater bait and Sufix fishing line.

Swim a Treble

Fifteen of the 20 fish DeFoe weighed for a four-day winning weight of 62 pounds, 7 ounces came from a well-known community hole below a low-head dam’s spillway. Although many other competitors fished in the area also, DeFoe caught more bass there than anyone else by throwing a soft-plastic swimbait with a non-traditional hook set-up.

Rather than rigging the swimbait with a weighted swimbait hook or swimbait jig head – as he most often would do – DeFoe fished it weightless, armed with a treble hook. The way cavitating current in the spillway was causing bass to bite led to DeFoe’s decision.

“In this particular situation, the hook-up ratio can be considerably better with a treble hook,” he explains. “When smallmouth in current come up under a bait to bite it, they have a tendency to just slap at it. So an exposed No. 1 treble hook back there, rather than just a single hook, can really help land more of those fish.”

Forged from the finest high-carbon steel, VMC Round Bend Treble 1X hooks are the leading choice for lure manufacturers and anglers who value maximum strength and sharpness. Available in a wide size range, VMC’s model 9650 round-bend trebles give savvy anglers multiple options for switching up the hook set-ups on their favorite baits to adjust to unique or changing conditions.

That’s exactly what DeFoe did to catch his spillway smallies, which were suspending in the top two feet of the water column as heavy current – caused by rain upriver prior to the tournament – washed stunned baitfish over the spillway, practically on top of them.

“There were a lot of other guys in here at the beginning, but I’d guess most of them were fishing under the fish, you know, with weighted baits,” he says. “Rigged weightless with a treble hook, that swimbait gives you almost like a topwater bite.”

DeFoe casted upstream and reeled in at the same speed as the current – not faster, not slower. “That’s so important about the retrieve,” he says. “You want your bait moving the same pace that something naturally flowing down through there would be.”

DeFoe caught the tournament’s biggest bass in the spillway late on the second day of the four-day event, a 6-pound, 1-ounce smallmouth that would prove instrumental. After he caught the 6-pounder, he culled a 2-pounder, for a net gain of about 4 pounds. He beat out Feider for first place by only 1 pound, 3 ounces.

Follow these steps to rig a swimbait with a treble hook:

• Using a line-threading tool, run your main line through your swimbait’s nose and down through its body, exiting just short of the middle. “This will end up putting the hook about dead in the middle of the bait,” DeFoe explains. If you don’t have a line-threading tool, he says, a needle or a long, thin-wire hook like a VMC Neko Hook will “do the trick just as well.”

• Attach a VMC split ring to a No. 1 VMC Round Bend Treble 1X hook.

• Tie your line to the split ring.

• Stick one of the treble’s three “arms” up into the swimbait’s body, vertically centered. The other two treble arms will flare out slightly to the sides. “This will keep everything settled on the cast,” DeFoe explains.

New Knot, Same VMC Hook

It was not a new hook, but a new knot that helped DeFoe land keeper largemouths when he was resting his spillway smallmouth.

After swinging and missing on a few bass while flipping grass with a punch rig, DeFoe re-tied his 4/0 VMC Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook with a snell-type knot. Such a knot creates a pivot point which, when pressured by a hook-set, causes your hook to kick out into a fish’s mouth.

“I actually didn’t have it snelled the first two days,” DeFoe confides. “The first day I did OK – I missed one, but I caught more than I missed. The second day I only had one bite [on it] and I missed it.”

So on the third day that DeFoe re-tied all the VMC Flipping Hooks in his punch rigs with a knot he learned from a fellow competitor. “It’s not exactly a snell knot, but it works similar,” he says. “I don’t actually know the name of it. My roommate [on tour] showed it to me. It’s a similar style knot where your weight pushes down and it kicks the hook out. That really helped my hook-up ratio those final two days.”

To build your own punch rigs, click these links: VMC Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook, VMC Tungsten Flip’N Weight, VMC Sinker Stops, Sufix 832 Advanced Superline.

DeFoe caught five of the 20 bass he weighed in the tournament by flipping his punch rig into mats of duckweed and coontail in a 100-yard stretch of river on the southern end of Pool 8. All his flippin’ fish were largemouth. Located about 20 minutes downriver from his smallie spot in the spillway, his largemouth spot featured clean water, current and “a really good edge and canopy,” he says. The vegetation was growing in three to four feet along a breakline that fell to about five to six feet.

“Those transition areas – where the depth changes and the grass ends – give bass an edge to follow and move in and out, up and down,” DeFoe explains. “And it makes a very good ambush point. They can tuck up into that canopy, under that shade, and look out into that open water and watch for baitfish. And they can look up shallow in the other direction under that canopy and look for targets to feed on.”

That being said, it pays to locate numerous such spots. “I found a lot of other places that looked very similar, but only one had fish in it,” DeFoe says.

Feider Finesses ‘Em

While Feider found hungry smallmouth around offshore sandbars with a Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bug, he put them in the boat when it counted with a modified Carolina Rig armed with a sticky-sharp 3/0 VMC Extra Wide Gap hook. While most Carolina Rigs feature heavy sinkers and a leader as long as three feet, Feider fashioned a finesse version popular among river rats on the Upper Mississippi river, but less so elsewhere. While it follows the same formula of main line + weight + leader line + hook, the weight is lighter and the leader shorter. This combination allows an angler to not only get bites in brisk river current, but feel those bites and set the hook soon enough. Feider was throwing a 3/8 oz. weight with a 12-inch leader.

“The really short leader is key,” he explains. “You’ll feel and detect bites better. With a long leader like with a traditional Carolina Rig, your bait just gets blown all around by the current.

“That current I was fishing in was running super hard,” Feider continues. “If you’ve got a three-foot leader behind your sinker downstream and the fish eats it, you’re not going to feel him until you move that sinker six feet.”

The short leader also keeps your bait on the sweet spot to which you often must make repeated casts. “You use the sinker to kind of feel around where the best little spot is and then that short leader keeps the bait right where it needed to be,” Feider explains.

Most of Feider’s Day 3 and Day 4 fish came on his modified Carolina Rig, which was anchored by 3/0 VMC Extra Wide Gap hook dressed with a 3 ½-inch green-pumpkin crawfish-profile bait with the claws dyed orange. He used 17-pound Sufix fluorocarbon for both his main line and leader.

Two of Feider’s key Day 3 bass came on another curveball finesse tactic – a drop shot rig.

“I’ve literally only caught two bass on drop shot on that river before the tournament,” Feider says. “That’s not really a traditional bait that guys throw there. But I knew there were still fish there and it was the next logical step in finesse to catch them. I caught two good fish on it and definitely saved my Day 3.”

Feider’s drop shot rig comprised a 3/8th oz. VMC Tungsten Drop Shot Ball Weight and a No. 2 VMC Neko Hook dressed wacky style with a soft-plastic stickworm.

Despite having no track record of successful drop-shotting shallow smallies on the river, Feider tried the tactic after a couple bass slapped at his modified Carolina rig “but didn’t really eat it,” he recalls. “They’d bite the pinchers off my bait, but wouldn’t really get to the hook. So I knew there were still some semi-active fish sitting there. Twenty casts later with the drop shot, I’d get one of them to eat. It had a little bit more subtle look to it.”

Chug ‘Em Up

Feider’s finesse bites came from about 10 or 20 spots he found in practice with a Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bug. Although each spot was different in subtle ways, each featured current seams in one to three feet around sandbars or small islands that are usually above water, but had been recently submerged by influx of upstream rainwater. Feider calls such spots “sand drops.”

“With the water being high, now they had water going over them and that usually creates a pretty nice drop, or hole, around them,” he explains. The location of these holes are given away by surface disturbances familiar to experienced river anglers.

“There’ll be some kind of key feature in the current that puts the fish where they are on the breaks,” Feider explains. “There’ll be a little swirl on it, or two streams will come together hard.”

In the three days of practice that preceded the tournament, Feider targeted these current seams with a Chug Bug in a chrome pattern. “It’s one of the louder poppers there is and I think the fish really like the profile on it too,” he says. “If there were fish there, they would show themselves on that, for sure.”

And not only did the Chug Bug tell him which spots held hungry fish, it showed him which spots held big fish. “I didn’t have to catch ’em to see how big they were, the way they were coming out of the water to hit the bait,” Feider says. “After the first morning of practice, I was committed to those spots. I feel like there’s more 4-pound smallmouth in that river than there are 4-pound largemouth.”

Bow Hunting In Georgia

Although archery season opened yesterday I don’t think many deer were killed. I didn’t hear any shooting at all.

I haven’t tried to throw sticks at deer for many years. When I was about 13 years old I got a bow, supposedly suitable for hunting. It as a 40 pound straight limb bow and was legal, but I am not sure it was strong enough to kill a deer.

At 15 I got a 50 pound recurve and shot it a lot,

enough to be fairly sure I could kill a deer. My parents did not want me deer hunting with a gun at that age but they felt comfortable with bow hunting, so they let me go with an uncle that was an excellent hunter.

They were not worried about me knowing gun safety but were a little worried about others with high powered rifles in the woods. This was back at the very beginning of open deer seasons in the state. There were a lot of rumors about how dangerous it was to go deer hunting and I think it scared my mom a little. My dad had gone deer hunting one time and hated it, so that did not help.

Uncle Adron taught me a lot about looking for sign and about stand placement. Opening day when I was 16 I missed shots at four deer, using all the arrows I had with me. That was my first experience with buck fever! The next year I got a 30-30 for Christmas so I hunted with it and didn’t spend as much time in the woods with a bow.

In college I hit the only deer I ever stuck with an arrow. A doe came directly under my stand and I shot her between the front “shoulders” straight down. I was so excited I tried to follow too fast and found half my arrow and a big pool of blood, but no blood trail leading from it. That ruined archery hunting for me for several years.

After moving to Griffin I didn’t hunt much for a few years with bow and when I started shooting it again I found I had some arthritis in my right shoulder and could not hold the arrow back long enough to make a decent shot. I never tried a compound bow, I was still using my old recurve.

I got a crossbow and learned to shoot it. But that was before they were legal to use unless you got a special permit because a doctor said you physically could not use a regular bow. I did get the permit but never hunted with the crossbow.

Hunting deer with bow is a challenge and I admire people with the skill and patience to kill a big buck with one. But I will wait until October when I can use my 7 mm mag. I have enough trouble hitting a deer with it nowadays!

How Did Justin Lucas Win the Elite Tournament on the Potomac River?

Instinct and Lure Choice Led Lucas to Winning Catch
from The Fishing Wire

The way Yamaha Pro Justin Lucas won the recent Bassmaster® Elite tournament on the Potomac River surprised everyone in the 107-angler field, possibly most of all Lucas himself. The weather was hot and humid and fishing on the famous waterway had been poor, but Lucas led all four days of competition and weighed in 72 pounds, 14 ounces of bass, all from a single long boat parking dock.

“I guess the lesson to learn from the tournament is to follow your fishing instincts,” noted Lucas. “The dock was not where I intended to fish at all, and even during two previous Potomac River tournaments I’d never made a single cast to it. It was 40 yards from the area where I had chosen to start fishing when the tournament began, but when I didn’t get a bite there, my instincts just told me to try it.

“I had not fished it in practice, and really, my entire practice had been pretty fruitless so all I was trying to do was salvage a top-50 finish. I had no idea my first few minutes around that pier would change everything.”

Those first few minutes resulted in two quality bass and by the time Lucas reached the end of the long pier, he had put more than 16 pounds in the livewell. Another pass down the pier allowed him to cull up to his opening day weight of 20-4.

“The longer I fished there, the more I began to understand what I had stumbled into,” continued the Yamaha Pro. “The pier was actually several hundred yards long and had vegetation growing right up to it. The water depth was five to eight feet, there was current, and I could see bluegills and other baitfish around. The pier itself offered plenty of hard cover as well, including not just the vertical pilings but also wide crossbeams between the pilings.

“It literally had everything you look for in one place, and with that much cover and food available, the tidal fluctuation did not move the bass very much. I caught fish on both the rising and falling tides.”

Lucas also credits much of his success to the lure presentation he happened to be using when he made his first presentation to the pier, a drop shot rig with a thin, six-inch plastic worm. He doesn’t think he would have caught nearly as many bass, if any at all, had he been fishing a jig or any other lure.

“Maybe it’s part of my West Coast fishing background where the drop shot was developed,” he said, “but it’s always my ‘go-to’ presentation, regardless of whether bass are shallow or deep. I used spinning tackle and flipped or pitched the worm around the crossbeams. I never made an actual cast all week.

“I’d raise the worm up and shake it on top of a crossbeam, then pull it off and let it fall to the bottom. Bass usually hit while the worm was still falling.

Lucas rigged the drop shot with a 3/16-ounce sinker at the end of his line and positioned the worm 10 to 12 inches above the weight. He prefers the six-inch worm for largemouths because it has a lot of action and it gets their attention, and it’s his first choice anytime he’s fishing for largemouths in less than 10 feet of water. Because of all the wood cover and barnacles, he spooled on 10-pound braided line.

“Several competitors noticed the three spinning rods on my boat deck that first morning and kidded me about them,” laughed the Yamaha Pro, “but I could not be a stronger advocate for learning to use a drop shot with spinning tackle. A regular baitcasting outfit simply would not have been efficient where I was fishing.

“Everyone thinks of a drop shot as a purely finesse-type presentation, but it’s much more versatile than that, and I know from years of experience a drop shot will attract bass when many other lures won’t. I’m just glad I had it ready and used it first when I decided to go over to that pier. I’m not sure those bass had ever seen a drop shot before.”