Monthly Archives: May 2021

Clarks Hill Memories

In April 1974 Jim Berry invited me to join the
Spading County Sportsman Club and fish the April club tournament at Clarks Hill out of Mistletoe State
Park.  I joined and fished the tournament and fell in love with fishing club tournaments.

I have not missed many tournaments over the years since then, and the club has not missed many Aprils fishing Clarks Hill, including this past one.

I grew up in McDuffie County and went to Thomson High School only 12 miles from the lake.  My church group, the RAs, camped there every summer and I got to go fishing there a couple times a year.  My family started camping at the lake in the early 1960s, first in a tent then a pop-up camper.

When I was about ten years old I was wading and fishing around our favorite camping place, “The Cliffs” and caught a small bass on a Heddon Sonic lure. That was my first bass of many from the lake.

In 1966 daddy bought a 17-foot ski boat and we joined the Raysville Boat Club, keeping the boat under the boat docks and parking our pop-up camper right on the water nearby.  We moved up to a bigger camping trailer a few years later.  

Although I fished a good bit, I skied constantly.  We often left Thomson High after classes in the spring and skied until dark.  And I was on the lake almost every weekend.

College slowed that down some but I was only 90 miles from the lake in Athens at UGA. I took Linda skiing – and fishing – on our second date, in 1969! I think her enjoying fishing convinced me she was the right one for me, and 52 years later that is still true!!

In 1974 I got tied of trying to fish out of the old ski boat although I had made a seat up front and put a trolling motor on it. That boat had some good memories, like Linda catching an 8-pound, 10 ounce bass from it while trolling and the memories of thousands of crappie daddy, mama Linda and I brought over its sides in the spring.

Linda and I bought a bass boat in 1974 and I went to Clarks Hill every weekend I didn’t have a club tournament somewhere else.  Since I was a teacher then school administrator, I had two weeks at Christmas and two months during the summer to spend there.

I spent many hundreds of days and nights in the camper sleeping and eating when tired and hungry and fishing the rest of the time. I loved those days. My parents visited often, usually bringing food. 

Those days lasted until they died, and I inherited the mobile home at the lake.  That was a couple years before I retired and I planned on endless retirement days there, but the first time I went over by myself there were just too many ghosts at the boat club. I got depressed and came home after two days.  It was just not the same.

Twenty years later the memories have mellowed enough I enjoy staying there again, but it is just not the same, and never will be. I guess that’s life.

Clarks Hill dam construction was started in 1950, the year I was born. I often say they built the lake for me, but it will be there long after I am gone.  I want my ashes dumped into the lake so I will forever be part of it.

One Good Day at Clarks Hill

The Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our April tournament at Clarks Hill out of Mistletoe on April 24 and 25th. After 17 hours of casting, the 15 members brought in 118 12-inch keeper bass weighing about 206 pounds.  There were 20 five fish limits and no one zeroed.

Kwong Yu won with ten weighing 21.52 pounds for the two days.  Raymond English came on strong on Sunday with a 15-pound limit and placed second with eight at 21.05. Sam Smith placed third with ten weighing 18.22 pounds adding over 12 pounds on Sunday. Billy Roberts had ten weighing 17.04 for fourth and his 5.15 pound largemouth was big fish.

I should know the lake better than anybody else in the club but it seems I always do good on Saturday then do terrible on Sunday, and this year was no exception.  Chris Davies fished with me and we both had limits Saturday, his at 12.35 was first place and my 11.44 pounds was third place that day.

After an hour of fishing Saturday, I had eight in the livewell and culled down to five. I don’t think I culled the rest of the day although I caught 19 keepers total.  The bigger fish were feeding on the shad and herring spawn first thing in the morning on riprap.  The rest of the day I caught them on a spinnerbait around button bushes and willow trees.

Sunday morning Chris and I ran to the riprap, and there was a kayak sitting right on top of the sweet spot where we caught them in the rain Saturday.  We never got a fish that morning.

At noon I had been fishing bushes for several hours and had one bare 12 inch keeper, then added three more before we had to go in at 2:00.  My nine for two days weighted 16.31 pounds, dropping me to fifth.

Maybe next year will be better on Sunday!!

Free Fishing Days in Georgia


SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (May 21, 2021) – You probably don’t “need” a reason to go fishing and boating…but when we tell you it is National Fishing and Boating Week (NFBW), doesn’t that provide one more excuse to get outdoors? Celebrate NFBW from June 5-13, 2021, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). 

“Boating and fishing are great activities that you can enjoy with your family and friends and that provide many benefits,” said Scott Robinson, Chief of the WRD Fisheries Management Section. “Benefits include connecting with family members, providing an opportunity for stress relief, and actively supporting conservation efforts with the purchase of a fishing license, equipment and boating fuel.”

National Fishing and Boating Week began in 1979 and was created to recognize the tradition of fishing, to broaden the spirit of togetherness and to share the values and knowledge of today’s anglers with tomorrow’s anglers. 

How to Celebrate: FREE FISHING DAYS: In the spirit of introducing new family members or friends to the sport of angling, Georgia offers two FREE fishing days – Sat., June 5 and Sat., June 12, 2021 – during this special week.  On these days, Georgia residents do not need a fishing license, trout license or Lands Pass (WMAs/PFAs) to fish.

Where to Celebrate: There are so many great places to fish in Georgia, from trout streams in North Georgia, to large reservoirs, to lazy rivers in the south part of the state. You can always start at one of the 11 Public Fishing Areas ( or at one of many Georgia State Parks ( that offer fishing opportunities for family and friends. There also will be multiple Kids Fishing Events on these days (

According to the National Fishing and Boating Week website, one of the main reasons people don’t go fishing or boating is because no one has invited them.  YOU can help change this! Make it a mission during National Fishing and Boating Week, or the next time you go fishing, to take someone new: a child, a relative or a friend.  

For more information on National Fishing and Boating Week and all it has to offer, including free fishing days, nearest kids fishing event or places to fish, visit . 

Tips for Catching Trout and Redfish on Soft Plastics

By Daniel Nussbaum, Z-Man Fishing Products
from The Fishing Wire

All along the Southeast and Gulf coasts, redfish and spotted seatrout are primary targets of most inshore anglers, and for good reason, too. They are relatively abundant most everywhere, can be targeted year-round, and are accessible from land or boat. Redfish are dogged fighters that never seem to give up, and sight fishing for reds or watching them run down a well-presented bait is an absolute hoot. While targeting trophy trout is a borderline obsession for some, for most, speck fishing is more about action, numbers, and aggressive bites, which they willingly seem to provide throughout their range.

Most importantly, both reds and trout can be consistently targeted using soft plastic lures. While live bait can often be more effective, that isn’t always the case, and most would agree that casting lures and tricking a fish into eating something fake is simply more rewarding and fun. That said, there are a few mistakes that we see inshore anglers making time-and-again.

Getting a handle on some simple technique and gear-related missteps will definitely help you put more redfish and seatrout in the boat. Fishing Too Fast. As one of the best inshore fishermen I know once told me, “If you think you’re fishing too slow, then slow it down some more.” Whether simply reeling too fast or working the bait too quickly with the rod, most folks would be well-served by slowing down their cadence a bit. For starters, gamefish are looking for an easy meal, not a tough one; they’re wired to expend as little energy possible to run down their prey. Fishing baits at a slower pace often garners more strikes for this reason, particularly when fish are pressured, lethargic due to very high or low water temperatures, or stingy due to bluebird conditions.

Many types of forage that artificials mimic – shrimp, crabs, worms, and baitfish – spend most of their time on or close to the bottom. Gamefish themselves often stick close to the bottom to maintain a stealthy profile for ambush feeding, avoid predation, and consume less energy by staying out of high water flow zones. Fishing baits slower mimics bottom crawling forage and keeps them in the strike zone for longer rather than zipping by quickly overhead. Sure, there are times when rapid retrieves generate reaction strikes from passive fish or accurately mimic baitfish moving quickly at mid-depth or on the surface. But perhaps more often, simply dragging and dead-sticking baits along the bottom will consistently get bites. To this point, one mistake anglers make is not letting the bait work for them.

With buoyant baits made from ElaZtech, the tails float up off the bottom at rest, coming to life and drawing strikes even on the slowest retrieves. Poor Line Management. Line management is a concept that is difficult to explain and takes time to master. While a straight retrieve can be effective, more often than not, inshore anglers find success by imparting some kind of action to their lures by working their rods. Giving the bait an erratic, rising and falling motion that imitates an injured baitfish or fleeing shrimp and can trigger aggressive strikes. On the period immediately following the jerk or twitch, the bait is allowed to settle to the bottom, and most strikes occur at this time—on the fall.

The key to line management is allowing the bait to fall naturally, while still maintaining enough tension so that light bites can be detected. Some of the biggest fish are the lightest biters, as they strike by simply opening their mouths, creating a vacuum and sucking in the bait without aggressively striking it. If there’s too much slack in the line, you might never even feel the bite. Conversely, if you apply too much tension on the fall, the bait may look or feel unnatural, and the fish may not strike or could spit the hook when it feels pressure. This is a difficult line to walk and takes time on the water to master. Line management is particularly important on the initial cast and descent. The small ‘splat’ that a softbait makes when it hits the water can be like ringing the dinner bell for a hungry redfish or seatrout. In many cases, strikes occur on the initial descent before many even engage the reel. If you allow the bait to fall freely to the bottom and allow too much slack in the line, you may be missing bites. Instead, try to allow the bait to settle to the bottom naturally while maintaining a bit of tension on the line so quick strikes can be detected. Using Tackle That Is Too Heavy.

When many think of saltwater fishing, they envision using big, stout rods and reels capable of horsing in sea monsters. As far as technology has come, this certainly is no longer the case. Nowadays, the best inshore rod and reel combos are more akin to freshwater tackle than saltwater tackle of yesteryear. The advent of microfilament braided lines, carbon fiber drags, composite reel bodies, lightweight rod guides and reel seats, and resin infused high modulus graphite rods allows saltwater anglers to tackle some pretty hefty fish on featherweight gear. Keep in mind that the lighter the rod and reel, the easier it is to feel light bites, and the less fatigue you will experience from continuous casting throughout the day.

Superbraid lines have changed inshore fishing for the better as the thin diameter and lack of stretch allow for a more natural presentation and far greater sensitivity. The smaller the line diameter, the further you can cast light weight lures. Being able to reach fish from longer distances allows for a stealthier approach in shallow water, and longer casts allow you to cover more water. Due to the incredibly thin diameter of the 10 to 20 pound test line used for inshore fishing, line capacity is no longer a concern, allowing you to use small, lightweight spinning and baitcasting reels. Nowadays, my entire inshore arsenal is comprised of 1000 and 2500 size spinning reels or baitcasters in the 70 to 100 size range mounted on medium light or medium power, fast or extra fast action rods in 6’6″ to 7′ range.

Rods with fast or extra fast tapers are critical, as their light tips provide sensitivity and help sling light lures long distances, while the stiff butt and mid sections offer the backbone needed to turn stubborn fish. Don’t skimp on a quality outfit either; it’s amazing how well high quality graphite rods cast and how sensitive they are, and a decent sealed saltwater reel will provide years of service under normal use, even when subjected to blistering redfish runs. Unless you’re fishing around structure or for larger fish, there’s simply no need for heavier tackle for day-to-day redfish, seatrout, and flounder fishing in the backcountry or marsh, as long as you’re using quality gear. Limiting Bait Selection. Without a doubt, everyone has their favorite confidence bait—the one that you’ve caught more or bigger fish on than anything else and that you always seem to have rigged up. Undoubtedly, you will catch the most fish on whatever is tied onto the end of your line, and more often than not, you’ve got your go-to bait tied on. Do you catch more on that bait because it works better or because you use it more often?

There is no doubt that certain bait profiles and colors are consistent producers, but on any given day, the best bait profile, size, or color likely varies based on a variety of factors, including water clarity, forage, weather conditions, tidal flow, water temperature, and who knows what else. Pigeon-holing yourself with one particular pattern is simply a mistake. On every inshore trip, I set out with an assortment of softbaits in various shapes, sizes and colors.

My typical selection consists of 4″ and 5″ Scented Jerk ShadZ, 3″ Slim SwimZ, 3″ MinnowZ, 4″ and 5″ DieZel MinnowZ, 4″ Scented PaddlerZ, 3.5″ EZ ShrimpZ, 5″ TroutTricks, and some Ned Rig baits like the Finesse TRD or TRD TicklerZ, along with a variety of Trout Eye and NedlockZ Jigheads and ChinlockZ swimbait hooks. These baits and hooks will cover just about all of your bases, from shallow to deep.

Reading conditions is critical to selecting the right bait for the situation. If terns are swooping down overhead and baitfish like glass minnows or fry are flickering the surface, then a smaller profile bait like the 3″ Slim SwimZ gets the nod. If herons are picking off shrimp on the shoreline, tying on an EZ ShrimpZ makes perfect sense. If mullet pods are running the banks, match the size of forage with a swimbait with aggressive swimming action, like the 3″ MinnowZ or 4″ or 5″ DieZel MinnowZ.

If the water is clear, the sun is high, and fish are laid up or not aggressively feeding, something super subtle like a Ned Rig might be the best approach. And perhaps most importantly, if you feel like you’re around fish and what you’re using isn’t working, change it up and try something different. Going Crazy with Colors. Yes, you are reading this correctly: a lure company is telling you that you don’t need to run out and buy every color we make. That said, having an assortment of different colors for varying situations is definitely important. The fact that companies offer literally hundreds of colors seems to complicate things, but following a few simple rules will help get your tackle selection dialed in. First and foremost, matching the hatch is always a good rule of thumb. If mullet are the predominant forage in your area, colors like Mulletron or Smoky Shad are good to have on-hand. If fish are feeding on shrimp, some natural looking shrimp colors like Greasy Prawn, Houdini, or Laguna Shrimp are good matches.

If reds are rooting around for crustaceans, earthy tones that blend in with the bottom, like The Wright Stuff or Redfish Toad, are solid choices. One of the key factors in color selection is water clarity. In clear water, I usually opt for more translucent and natural tones, like Opening Night or Smelt. In stained or tannic water, darker colors with a little bit of flash like Gold Rush or New Penny seem to perform well. In muddy water, brighter colors, particularly those with chartreuse like Space Guppy or Sexy Mullet are good choices, as are luminescent glow in the dark colors. Through fishing a number of locales from the Carolinas to Louisiana, a few other solid color trends have emerged.

First, Pearl (or some close variant like Pearl Blue Glimmer or Slam Shady) seems to produce in a variety of situations and water clarity scenarios. White shows up well in dark or muddy water and isn’t too unnatural or loud in clear water. Most baitfish have white sides, so it appears natural most everywhere, and it stands out against dark mud bottoms while still creating a natural silhouette over light sand.

Second, baits with chartreuse tails simply work. A lodge owner in Louisiana once explained to me that this is because shrimp ‘light up’ in a chartreuse hue when chased, and I have personally noticed tails of baitfish like menhaden exhibiting a yellowish tint. I feel that part of this is the contrast between the body and tail and believe that gamefish key in on this contrast. Baits with bright tails work in both clear and muddy water. In clear water, I prefer a color with a clear body like Shrimp Po Body, while in stained water, a bait with a darker body color like Rootbeer/Chartreuse is a good choice. In the muddiest water, the Glow/Chartreuse color seems to show up best.

Finally, wherever you go, redfish like the color gold. Everyone knows that a simple gold spoon is a redfish staple, and for good reason. Having some baits littered with gold flake, like Golden Boy or the new Beer Run color, is always a good idea when reds are the target. The bottom line is that while colors matter, having a few different options for different water conditions, along with a few other favorites, is really all that’s necessary. Again, if what you’re using isn’t working, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try something different.

Good Fishermen Are Consistent

Good fishermen are consistent.  This year in the
Flint River Bass Club’s five tournaments, I won the January tournament, zeroed the next three, then won last Sunday in the May tournament.  That is about as inconsistent as you can get!

At West Point last Sunday six members of the Flint River Bass Club fished for eight hours to land 13 keepers weighing about 24 pounds. There was one limit and one zero.  About half the bass were spots that can be weighed in at 12 inches. Largemouth have to be 14 inches long to be legal.

I won with five weighing 9.40 pounds and Chuck Croft placed second with three at 6.87 pounds. His 5.39 pound largemouth was big fish.  Don Gober came in third with three weighing 4.44 pounds and his grandson Alex Gober was fourth with one keeper weighing 1.52 pounds.

When I got to the parking lot over an hour ahead of our 7:00 blast off time and it was already crowded, I knew it would be a mess.  The West Georgia Bass Club had 60 boats in their tournament. Fortunately, they blasted off at safe light, about 6:40, so we waited and had the six ramps to ourselves to launch our four boats.

Fortunately for me, Alex Gober backed me in and parked my truck so I did not have to climb in and out on the trailer tongue or walk far.  I have had a lot of help at tournaments the past two years, I could not have fished them without it.

It looked like most of the boats in the big tournament went up the river, my original plan.  But I decided to go down near the dam since I knew the river pockets would be crowded. It turned out to be a good decision.

My first stop on a shallow gravel point where shad usually spawn was also a good decision. Although there were no active shad, I caught two keeper spots on a topwater plug the first 20 minutes.

With all the boats on the lake, there was only one fishing near me, back in one arm of the creek I was in. I fished around the arm I was in and they left. That arm is full of stumps and a good bedding place, so I went over there and started dragging a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog around, and caught my best fish, a 2.75 pound largemouth.

Then I went back to the starting point and dragged the Carolina rig and caught two keeper spots, filling  my limit. Two of the five in the livewell were two pound spots so I had three good fish.

After fishing around the area, I landed my second largemouth on a shaky head near some brush, culling my smallest fish. Then I ran to another creek closer to weigh-in at 11:00 and landed two keepers, one big enough to cull my smallest spot.

My motor didn’t want to crank at 1:00, my battery was dead from running electronics and live well pumps, so I jumped it off with trolling motor batteries and went back to the launch site. 

Just wasting time there I landed two more keepers, one a largemouth that culled another spot. I was surprised there were not more limits since I caught 11 keepers.

The West Georgia tournament was won with over 15 pounds and they had a six-pound kicker.  It took over 15 pounds to place second, and over 12 for 11th place and a check. 

Sometimes comparisons reinforce my feeling I am not a very good fisherman!

Top 5 Saltwater Shrimp and Jerkbaits

Own these and you are outfitted for every region, condition, and inshore species that swims
from The Fishing Wire

Open the lid of any saltwater tackle box and you are certain to see a menagerie of shapes, sizes, and colors that is more dynamic than a confectionary (for all you kids, that means a candy shop). You might have to rub off some rust to appreciate the brilliant rainbow of colors, but trust it’s there.To more fully grasp the eye-popping selection of available colors and schemes, sans rust, meander down the aisles of any well-stocked tackle shop. The Willy Wonka sights can easily overwhelm the senses; making actual selections can turn into an exercise in extended head-scratching. So, to simplify shopping, we’ve amassed a Top-5 list of inshore saltwater shrimp lures and jerkbaits with input from some of saltwater fishing’s brightest minds.


Every legitimate saltwater fishery in the world is home to one or more species of shrimp. And the better news? Every gamefish worth its salt preys on this ubiquitous forage. Moreover, shrimp imitations are simple to fish.The only thing better than the perfectly shaped shrimp softbait is one that’s internally weighted and adjustable. Z-Man’s anatomically accurate 3-1/2” Rigged EZ ShrimpZ bears an internal, notched ¼-ounce weight that can be pinched off all the way down to 1/8 ounce. The weight is ideally keeled, too, yielding a level drop and upright posture when it rests on the bottom. Genius.

More about its physique… The durable ElaZtech® Rigged EZ ShrimpZ features a segmented body, giving it lifelike looks and a natural action. Its thin, short appendages proffer a realistic quivering movement and improved wind resistance for increased castability.Made in the USA, the Rigged EZ ShrimpZ contains a 2/0 Mustad® hook and come in ready-to-fish two packs. Replacement bodies are also available.Operation is simple: cast it out and work the bait back with short snaps, letting it freefall to the bottom, or near bottom, between pops. Certainly, alter retrieval speed and aggressiveness of the snaps based on fish responses. Sometimes, all you need to do is slowly drag it across the bottom. If you’re dogged about realism, squeeze Pro-Cure Super Gel in the pack and let the baits baste in the savory concoction.

Z-Man’s Rigged EZ ShrimpZ is the perfect companion to a popping cork, too, often outfishing real shrimp – and without the worry of bait tearing away on the cast or pops. Pesky pinfish and other small marauders can’t dismember it, either. And being available in a multitude of colors, you can broker change, matching indigenous shrimp or tendering eye-catching colors in stained water.

VETARGET Fleeing Shrimp
Along with the aforementioned, LIVETARGET’s Fleeing Shrimp is the only other shrimp imitation you’ll ever need. It’s the most anatomically and visually precise shrimp bait ever designed. In fact, the Fleeing Shrimp won the prestigious Best New Saltwater Lure at ICAST in 2018, as voted on by the industry.The LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp seamlessly combines a biologically precise shrimp profile and anatomy, a dynamic color palette, biomimetic action and robust saltwater components to synthesize a soft lure that uniquely replicates the appearance, action, sound, and even the scent of a living shrimp. 

The action-packed LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp is, at its heart, a soft lure, but one that uniquely replicates a natural shrimp’s appearance. A portion of this biomimetic perfection stems from having a body size and shape that accurately recalls a living shrimp, bristling with three-dimensional anatomical features including tail and thorax segmentation, eyes, antennae, and more. A custom-designed jighead sporting an extra-strong corrosion-resistant hook blends seamlessly with the Fleeing Shrimp’s soft body, accentuating the lure’s ultra-natural profile. A broad spectrum of eight color patterns completes the visual deception.

The LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp truly comes to life when the angler imparts action, either popping it along the bottom or swimming it beneath the surface. The Fleeing Shrimp’s proprietary skirt masterfully emulates a living shrimp’s front legs, both in motion and at rest. When the shrimp is “fleeing” in a natural, backwards direction, the skirt folds together like the front legs of a living shrimp. When the shrimp comes to rest on the bottom, it stands perfectly upright with the head tipped slightly upward, while the skirt material fans outward and gently flows up and down, creating a subtle, lifelike action that will entice a bite and not spook wary fish.

Artistry meets engineering in the LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp. This standard in shrimp lures comes in two lengths and weights (2-3/4” and ¼ oz, or 3-1/2” and 3/8 oz) and eight ultra-realistic color patterns. And if you need to downsize weight, take the included extra body and rig it with a lighter Z-Man Trout Eye™ or longer shanked Redfish Eye™ jighead.


Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow
There’s no shortage of retailer peg-hooks draped with Yo-Zuri hardbody jerkbaits, and for good reason – they are deadly. The Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow, specifically, is a perennial saltwater fish catcher.

The lure’s patented and proprietary Internal 3D Prism Finish reflects all subsurface light, even in the murkiest water. The results of the dynamic flash will be evidenced by the fish chilling in your ice box. Accentuating the visual bursts, the Crystal 3D Minnow’s erratic side-to-side swimming action drives fish off the deep end.

The Crystal 3D Minnow attracts sonically as well with its internal rattle ball sound system. Saltwater-grade tin hooks, durable ABS resin body and stainless-steel split-rings complete the masterfully designed baitfish imitator.

Fishing one is simple as well. Cast and twitch, experimenting with pause times and forcefulness. Oftentimes, twitches mutate into hooksets, as inshore species regularly smash the bait while it’s stationary or just pulling away.Available in 14 unique patterns, there is a Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow to match your fishing situation, water clarity and targeted species.

Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow
Shallow does not necessarily mean fishing small. Inshore predators like redfish, snook, and seatrout eat big stuff, especially during the summer months when juvenile bait like mullet are developing into young adults.

In said situations, nothing begs to be bitten like Daiwa’s Salt Pro Minnow. Another effective hardbody jerkbait, the popular Salt Pro Minnow was engineered for versatility and casting great distances, which is a must in clear water. An internal weight-transfer system propels the lure amazing distances and cuts inshore winds to the quick. This, while heavy-duty saltwater hooks promote longevity and fight rust.Cosmetically, its realistic scale pattern and 3D eyes dare fish to prove it is not real. To that, the Salt Pro Minnow is available in a whopping 32 color patterns, catering to anything the ocean desires.The suggested 5-1/8” size dives to just three feet, making it fully functionable in most inshore situations. Twitch and pause, like any run-of-the-mill jerkbait, but expect improved results. Fish love to hate this thing.

Rapala X-Rap Salter
Rapala’s greater X-Rap® series is synonymous with success… the Suspending X-Rap® Saltwater, specifically, when saltwater species are involved. Categorized as a Slashbait® for its vigorous, darting action, the lure’s locomotion is unique to hardbody jerkbaits. And the fish notice.Visually speaking, the iconoclastic lure features prominent scales, a legit lateral line, internal holographic foil for optimum flash, textured translucent body and 3D holographic eyes. Aggregated, these traits present a realism that fish want to get to know better.Promoting tape-measure casts, the Suspending X-Rap Saltwater jerkbait houses a long-cast mechanism that flat-out works. VMC® Perma Steel® Hooks finalize the package.

And like all Rapala premium baits, every X-Rap Saltwater jerkbait is hand tuned and tank tested, so don’t be thrown off by any water droplet residue on the packaging. It means Rapala cares.Rapala’s X-Rap Saltwater is available in four sizes and a dozen surefire colors.If you’re looking for top-producing saltwater shrimp and hardbody jerkbaits, don’t be the kid in the candy store.

Take our advice and stock up the top 5… and be ready for a fight.

Boat Trailer Steps

picture of my boat steps

    My first bass boat was a 1974 16-foot Arrowglass with a 70 horsepower Evinrude motor on it. It sat on a single axle trailer and I pulled it for the first three years with my Cutlass Supreme Convertible before buying my first van in 1977.

    With the car, I could back the boat into the water, slide across the trunk and stand on the trailer tongue to unhook he winch. As I pushed the boat back off the trailer I would hop on the front deck.

    The van was as little more difficult.  If I had to back in until the back tires were in the water I would hang on to the rain gutter, step up on the tire then swing around to the bumper. Then I could get on the trailer tongue. I did that through three different vans until I got a pickup.

    With the pickup I often have to climb into the bed, step over the tailgate onto the bumper then onto the trailer tongue.  It has gotten harder and harder to do this then crawl rather than hop up onto the boat deck as the boat slides off the trailer.

    My current Skeeter came with a flat tool boat on the trailer tongue, about 18 inches square and a great place to stand while unhooking the winch. It had one step to the side of the front of the trailer by the boat and that made it a lot easier to get in and out of the front of the boat.

    Recently, boat manufacturers have been putting steps on their trailers. Some have three or four steps, and some have a pole to hang onto beside them. I wanted a set like that but the ones I priced were just too high, many over $400 and that did not include shipping or installation.

    A month or so ago at a tournament at West Point, Donald Wells gave me some business cards for James Hewitt and his Boat Steps. James lives in LaGrange and will come to the boat ramp and install the steps he makes for $250, a great price.  Two guys in the Sportsman Club had him install steps on their boats last month. They were very pleased so last week I called James and he met me after the Flint River tournament weigh-in last Sunday and put steps on my boat trailer in just a few minutes.

    The three steps and pole allow me to hold on and ease up and onto the front deck without much trouble.  I have seen a 300-pound guy use the steps and they flexed very little. The steps are well made, welded and heavy steel. 

    If you are interested in steps for your boat you can contact James at 706-668-3459 cell or 770-854-8713 home.  I put a picture of his steps installed on my boat on my website at

Mothers’ Day

Mothers’ Day is always a bitter sweet time for me.

My mother died 19 years ago. She was my mentor for fishing and always encouraged me to go with her to farm ponds near our house, and she often did my chores so I could go even more often.

I have many memories of our trips. I caught my first bass on a trip with her to Usury’s Pond. That jumping 10-inch bass hooked me for life by the way it jumped and fought on my cane pole.

We spent many happy hours sitting on the bank fishing for anything that would bite. Side by side we filled our stringer with bream and catfish and enjoyed our time together. Later we fished from a small jon boat in those ponds, then from our big ski boat for crappie around bushes at Clarks Hill.

We fished many times from my bass boat when I got one in 1974. I would cast artificial baits for bass while she fished for bream and anything else that would hit her minnows or worms.

I miss fishing and talking with her.

Fishing License Sales On the Rise as Manufacturers Adjust to New Climate

(Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes from Joe Sills at our companion publication, Fishing Tackle Retailer.)
By Joe SillsFishing Tackle Retailer
from The Fishing Wire

In Minnesota, fishing license sales are up 45% on the year. In Vermont, fishing license sales rise have climbed 62%. In South Carolina, sales of resident freshwater licenses have risen by about 20%. And in Kansas, license sales are up about 15%—all since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. And though some tackle stores remain closed across the country, one message seems to be ringing loud and clear from coast to coast: people are fishing.

Washington State was an early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in America, shouldering 841 deaths to date. Much of the state was closed to outdoor recreation in March, and April fishing license sales were down an estimated 70 to 80%; however, after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a partial reopening of activities including fishing on April 27, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reported $300,000 of license sales in a single day, according to the Chinook Observer.

“Outdoor activity is up across the board,” says Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Chief of Outreach and Communications Jennifer Wisniewski. “Before COVID-19, people would go out to eat, go to the mall, to kids ballgames and pro ballgames, you name it. All of those things aren’t happening, and what else is there to do? Those who own a boat and are off work or working from home have more time to get to the lake. Of course, we are really encouraging people to get out and discover or rediscover hunting and fishing.”Wisniewski adds that fishing license sales in the Volunteer State are also up over last year’s figures, though nonresident sales have decreased. In total, Tennessee has sold 697,418 hunting and fishing licenses this year—an increase of more than 100,000 from 2019. According to Wisniewski, the state agency does not know if sales figures are due to increased participation or the result of people getting back into outdoor sports after Tennessee’s shelter-in-place orders expired on May 1.

Impact on Tackle Sales
Gary Harsel runs Live Bait Vending, a Pennsylvania-based business that builds vending machines for tackle stores meant to be filled with live bait. While many tackle stores around the country remain closed, Harsel says they are looking to his machines to provide new anglers with bait while their doors are locked.“It’s almost embarrassing to say this with what is going on,” says Harsel. “Right now, we are the busiest that we have been in 22 years. Why? Because in a lot of places you’re allowed to go to Lowe’s or Walmart, but not a bait shop. In order to sell their product, people are buying our vending machines. It is sad to be busy because of this. I really hope it is over soon, but we will take it.”Harsel says that his machines—which generate an average of $300 to $400 per weekend for retailers—have been one of the few sources of income for some stores, and his numbers back that up. Live Bait Vending sold more machines in April than it did in all of 2019. Three times, Harsel has had to order new machines from his Des Moines, Iowa manufacturing facility. “My biggest customer has 76 machines, and he told me that he’s never had a better opener,” he adds.

American Made and Stimulus Supplied
In Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix Rods Director of Marketing Jesse Simpkins says his company has seen an uptick in sales in recent weeks. “We are not sure that is due to stimulus checks or more people being focused on U.S.-built products, but we have indeed seen a nice increase,” Simpkins tells. “We have seen more questions about which series are produced here in Park Falls in the past two or three weeks than almost any other question.”

Bullet Weights CEO Joe Crumrine says terminal tackle sales to distributors are up. “I believe there are more people going fishing right now than in years past, based on the orders we are receiving,” adds Crumrine. “We are seeing most of our customers ordering more than forecasted.

”On March 26, Z-Man became one of the first manufacturers to halt operations for employee safety as COVID-19 began to sweep the nation. President Daniel Nussbaum says Z-Man began reopening with a five-person skeleton crew in late April and has now brought all of its employees back online in staggered shifts. “We’re requiring face masks, cleaning work surfaces and common areas at two hour intervals, and enforcing social distancing.” he says.

“It’s a lot of work, but probably the new normal for a while.”According to Nussbaum, sales tapered off quickly six weeks ago; however, he says the situation has improved weekly. “We’re pretty much swamped right now. A big part of that is that we got behind while running a skeleton crew, but for the most part, people seem to be using this downtime to get on the water and fish. The weather has been great this spring in most parts of the country, and many of our distributors, dealers and sales reps report that business has been great.”Like many manufacturers, Z-Man is facing supply chain disruptions domestically and abroad. However, Nussbaum now has reason to remain optimistic about the season.

The apparel category was hit particularly hard by COVID-19. AFTCO CEO Casey Shedd says the story of one of the nation’s most popular apparel brands is a tale of two worlds. “The wholesale business has not rebounded yet on our end,” explains Shedd. “It experienced very dramatic declines in March and April as retailers understandably pulled back. So far, in May we have seen a slowing of the wholesale decline, but we aren’t yet to what I’d call recovery. We do a lot of business with apparel-only stores in more densely populated areas, and many of those stores are starting to open up just this week. Some are still not open.”Shedd contrasts his wholesale business with a success story from the online side.

“Our own web business and the web business of many of our customers has remained strong throughout the period. Unlike many other clothing companies, we didn’t rely on in-season discounts to accomplish that. This helped our accounts sell product through their own websites, as they didn’t need to compete with us.”Shedd says his customers have specifically cited stimulus checks as a reason for purchases, recounting one California resident—a hospitality worker that hadn’t had time to fish in years—that used his check to purchase soft plastics, a new rod-and-reel combo and an AFTCO performance shirt.

For retailers, increased demand at a time when their brick and mortar space largely sits empty presents a unique challenge. Those who can are adapting to curbside pickup and delivery service. Others are relying on machines like Harsel’s to stem the bleeding. And soon, many will be among the first guinea pigs for relaxed social distancing restrictions that will allow customers back into their aisles.

Turkey Hunting Not For Me

 I have never gone turkey hunting.  Season is in the spring when fishing is best and I never had time while working to do both.  Talking to friends that are as fanatical about turkey hunting almost makes me think I am missing something.

    A few years ago I started seeing turkey on my farm, and bought a call.  It scared them pretty bad.  And they disappeared after a few weeks. I have no idea where they went, maybe I said something I should not have with that call.

    I did get excited about going turkey hunting a few year ago.  An activity at the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association spring conference was going turkey hunting with some local “guides.”  I bought a used shotgun to hunt with and shot it enough times to pattern the loads.

At our spring conferences activities are set up with local folks and we do not know them.  My hunt was scheduled for the second morning of the conference, another group of three were to go the first day.

At lunch that first day the guys came back wide-eyed. Seems they were taken to deer stands scattered in the woods on somebody’s hunting area before daylight and told to stay and watch for turkey. They were to meet back at the truck at 11:00.

As it got light, all three started seeing yellow stuff on the ground. One by one they got down and found piles of corn scattered around the stands!  All three were back at the truck before the sun rose!

This was back before baiting for deer was legalized, and it has never been legal to bait turkey.  Getting a ticket for hunting over bait could ruin the career of an outdoor writer, destroying their credibility. 

As soon as the three of us scheduled to hunt the second day heard the tale, we canceled the hunt!

    Several members of the Big Horn Hunting Club hunt turkey in the spring. Their excitement was somewhat contagious, making me want to try.  Several members said they would take me and call a turkey in for me to shoot and promised I would be hooked on turkey hunting the rest of my life.

    There were two things wrong with that for me.  Mainly, I am too hooked on fishing to need another addiction!  Also, having someone call in a bird for me to shoot seemed a lot like someone hooking a bass then handing the rod to me.  There would be no challenge or reward to that. So I never went.

    Turkey hunting season is open for several more week. I hope everyone that loves it has a great season.  I will be fishing.