Monthly Archives: February 2024

Finding Good Seafood While Fishing In Alabama

 One of the perks of traveling around Georgia and Alabama doing research for my Map of the Month articles is exploring places to eat.  Many of the places I eat are memorable, most for the good food, some not so much. And a couple literally gave me a stomachache.

    I love to cook and most food I cook at home is better than what I can get in restaurants.  I never look for a steak, pork chops, Italian, or any kind of country cooking since that is what I cook at home.  And my fried bass filets are good enough I won’t eat fried fish in a restaurant. 

But I don’t do fried seafood very well and I love fried scallops, so I seek them out.  My second choice, usually easier to find, is fried shrimp.

    I am seldom in a big city, so I eat in small towns and around the lake.  And after driving several hours to get there, I don’t want to go too far for food the first day. After spending the next day on the water getting information, I really do not want to drive far that night.

Often, small hole-in the-wall type places turn out surprisingly good. And some of them have interesting histories and backgrounds.  A few years ago, when at Logan Martin Lake near Pell City Alabama, I found “The Ark,” a little nothing looking place with a very rustic interior just off the Riverside City exit on I-20.

When I walked in I was greeted by my kind of people, with accents like mine. The wood paneling was dark from years of food frying in the kitchen, and the walls were decorated with racing memorabilia. Riverside is not many miles for Talladega and many famous stock car drivers have eaten at The Ark, most loving the catfish if their autographs are any indication.

The back of the menu tells the story of “The Ark.”  Back in the early 1900s most of the counties in that area were “dry” meaning you could not buy alcohol legally. This was long before the lakes were built and the Coosa River itself was the county line of the two counties there, but they considered the edge of the rive the county line.  So, the river itself was not under the jurisdiction of either counties’ law enforcement.

E. O “Red” Thompson, being an enterprising young man, bought an old barge and anchored it in the river about 30 feet from the bank.  He made a four-foot wide walkway to it and provided tie-ups for locals with boats to access the bar onboard.

A salvaged sign from that old bar said “Beer 15 cents” and “All the catfish and hushpuppies you can eat, 60 cents.”  Apparently, many folks had “fun” there, eating catfish and drinking their favorite beverages that were illegal on the nearby bank, all during prohibition and the roaring 20s.

 The original Ark burned and by then laws were more liberal, so Red build a restaurant on the bank near the road.  It too burned a long time ago, but the current restaurant was built across the highway.  No dates were given, but I would guess sometime in the 1950s.

Catfish is the staple on the menu, but you can get everything from chicken livers to frog legs. The jumbo shrimp I got that first night were exceptional, very lightly battered and fried to perfection.  The cup of gumbo started the meal just right and I loved the hushpuppies served with it.

Every time I am at Logan Martin for an article, I stay at a motel about five minutes from The Ark and have eaten there several times. Last summer the Potato Creek Bass Masters fished our July tournament there and I camped about 15 minutes away for a week, driving up two nights to splurge at The Ark.

Monday I drove over to Childersburg on Lay Lake, the next lake downstream on the Coosa River.  I checked and my GPS said I was 30 miles and 45 minutes from The Ark. After the miserable three hours drive in the rain, I just could not make myself do that, so I went to “La Parrilla,” a Mexican restaurant across the street from my motel.

It was a nice surprise, with bright fresh paint, excellent service and even better food.  I thought it must be new but one of my waiters said they had been there 14 years. I had my favorite, chili rellenos, and they were as good as I have eaten.

After a rainy day of fishing Tuesday, I just had to drive up to The Ark Tuesday night for dinner. As expected, it was well worth the drive and the cup of gumbo and dozen big butterflied shrimp stuffed me just right.

With So Many Choices How Do I Choose My Line for Fishing

What’s My Line For Fishing?

By Bob Jensen

It’s this time of year when people who fish gather in a variety of locations.  It might be at a sportshow, maybe a fishing seminar, sometimes at a bait shop.  The talk will start with current subjects like the Super Bowl, college basketball, families, or almost anything else.  Eventually the conversation will turn to fishing.  In late winter and early spring, fishing equipment will be a popular topic.  One area that gets lots of attention is fishing line.  

The line that we fish with is so important.  Your line is the only connection between you and the fish. In today’s fishing world there are three primary types of line, and they all have their own personalities and features.

Monofilament has been the go-to line since most of us have been fishing, but braided and fluorocarbon lines possess desirable qualities and have become popular in recent years.  In a very unscientific poll, it appears that most anglers still mostly use monofilament.  Monofilament handles well on a reel, it has some stretch which provides forgiveness when fighting a fish, is usually less expensive, and has the trust of most anglers. 

Braided lines are often favored when we’re after largemouth bass in heavy cover.  Braid is resistant to nicks from the vegetation, and with its no-stretch feature, an angler can get quicker control of a bass in heavy cover.  50 and 65 pound test braids are what many bass-chasers use when fishing in shallow vegetation.  

Braid is also favored by walleye anglers who are trolling crankbaits in deeper water.  Braid is smaller in diameter than mono or fluoro in similar weights.  Smaller diameter has less water resistance, so a crankbait trolled on braid will run deeper than a crankbait trolled with the mono or fluoro of equal pound test.

Fluorocarbon is tough stuff, very sensitive, and nearly invisible under water.  It also sinks faster than mono, so it can be an advantage when fishing deep water.  If you go with fluoro, practice your knot tying.  The knot that you use with mono might fail with fluorocarbon.

More and more anglers are using a combination set-up when it comes to line.  They’re using braid as the primary line with a fluorocarbon leader between the braid and the bait.  The braid is super-sensitive and doesn’t stretch, but some anglers are concerned that the fish can see the braid easier and it might spook them into not eating the bait.  Whether or not braid spooks the fish is another story, but to eliminate the possibility of the braid alerting the fish, these anglers tie a two to three foot length of fluorocarbon to the braid, then tie their bait to the fluorocarbon.  Because of fluorocarbon’s hard-to-see quality, the odds of scaring the fish are significantly reduced.  With the braid/fluoro arrangement we get superior sensitivity and hooksets as well as minimal visibility to the fish.  The braid/fluoro set-up is best when a slow moving technique like jigging or drop-shotting is being employed.  

I often have the same thoughts about modern fishing lines that I have for modern boats, motors, electronics, rods and reels:  How can they get any better?  But they always do.  I wonder what the next improvement in fishing lines will be?

What Is Stealth Rigging for Panfish and Does It Work?

Z-Man: Stealth Rigging Panfish

  • By The Fishing Wire

Borrowing finesse bass rigs for endless crappie, bluegill and panfish action

Ladson, SC – Sometimes, it pays to pitch for panfish as if they’re merely miniaturized versions of their larger bass brethren. In a way, they are. As members of the (Centrarchidae) sunfish family, species like bluegills, crappies and bass, in fact, all share a common pedigree. 

The connection is even closer than anglers realize, as each of these species regularly co-mingle near the same aquatic turf, feasting upon the very same prey. Crayfish, insect larvae and tiny shad and shiners all whet the appetites of these communal predators. Bass and big bluegills frequently stalk the same rock-strewn turf, nosing around in little nooks and crevices for concealed crayfish, or larval insects clinging to the hard cover. Same deal on boat docks. 

Just as often, they’re hovering and hunting around the fringes of brush and aquatic plants where baitfish hide. Here, bass, crappies and adult bluegills chomp and even cannibalize scads of baby, thumbnail-sized panfish. 


Whether close to cover or cherry-picking emerging insects in the abyss, panfish frequently feed up and off bottom, leaning on their nearsighted talents to inspect potential prey, eye-to-eye. Picture a single big crappie or sunfish, nosed right up close and personal with their next meal, examining it for several seconds before finally scooting in for the kill shot. Imagine then the power of presenting a bait that hovers and quivers continuously in the water column, rather than sinking to the bottom and out of the strike zone. 

Offering all the depth precision of a slip bobber or float rig, yet with the added ability to traverse the bottom terrain, micro-sized finesse rigs remain among the deadliest yet most overlooked panfish presentations of all. But accomplishing the valuable “hover” portion of the presentation relies solely on a new generation of specialized superplastics—exceedingly soft and lively, impossibly durable and perhaps most important, naturally buoyant. 


Micro “Hover” Rigs
Consider the value of a micro finesse dropshot, Carolina or Cherry (aka Tokyo) rig, coupled with a softbait that floats and hovers naturally in the water column. Often, panfish graze insatiably on emerging insect larvae that hatch out of soft bottom. In other waters, crappies and sunfish crunch crayfish and bugs, such as dragonfly larva, clinging to the upper branches of aquatic plants, vertical dock pilings, or tangles of brush.

In each of these fish-attracting scenarios, a Z-Man LarvaZ™, StingerZ™ or Baby BallerZ™ rigged on a dropshot soars at a set depth, continuously. The natural buoyancy of this specialized ElaZtech material offers ample loft to float the hook itself, tirelessly hovering and twitching nervously, right in the fish’s strike zone. Little tics of the rodtip make the bait’s tail kick, dance and undulate in place, mimicking the exact movements of a live larva. The durable nature of the softbait material keeps the bait on the hook and won’t tear, even if you merely impale it once through the nose with a #8 to #14 hook. Or thread it onto the hook shank for a more horizontal posture while maintaining complete tail motion. 

If sonar shows fish staged two feet off bottom, rig the dropshot with the hook riding 2-1/2 to 3 feet off bottom. Most panfish enthusiastically swim up to feed, so always better to keep your bait at eye level or a foot or two above. When fish gather closer to the substrate, switch to a shortened dropshot or “Cherry” rig, pinning the bait/hook within inches of the bottom. Once again, the buoyancy of the ElaZtech material keeps the bait hovering right at the fish’s eye level and out of soft mucky bottoms, where a traditional soft plastic will descend and disappear.

As noted, tail-kicking microbaits like the LarvaZ and StingerZ shine for moving slowly around smaller areas where fish gather. For covering more water or for imitating faster moving baitfish, switch to a micro finesse swimbait like the Shad FryZ™ and drag the rig slightly faster across the terrain. Moreover, the versatile Micro GOAT™ imitates both a crayfish or a baitfish. Rigged flat and retrieved with a slower, rod-twitching cadence, the Micro GOAT resembles a crayfish. But arranged on the hook vertically and retrieved faster, the GOAT’s twin tails become a double tail swimbait with an alluring scissor-kick action. . .


About Z-Man Fishing Products

A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech® softbaits, among the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide. 

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2024 Bassmasters Classic To Be Held On March 22 – 24 On Grand Lake O the Cherokees

The 2024 Bass Masters Classic will be held on Grand Lake O the Cherokees, Tulsa, OK onMarch 22–24. This is the biggest tournament of the year on the pro circuit. 

I was quoted in Sports Illustrated a few years ago saying, “The Super Bowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football,” a twist on the usual comment.  I had no idea a writer for that magazine was sitting near me on the bus going to practice day on the lake for the pros.

    One thing some don’t understand about the fan support of pro fishermen. We are different from other pro sports.  We may watch our favorite pro catch bass on TV today then go out and try to catch them ourselves tomorrow, using the same baits and equipment the pro used.

    Other pro sports fans are viewers only.  They may have played the sport years ago in high school or even college, but almost none will be competing on the field tomorrow.  Bass fishermen keep competing all their lives.

    I have been lucky enough to spend time in the boat with many of the pros, including five of the 53 competing in this year’s Classic.  After hours of watching how they fish and questioning them on what they are doing and why they chose to do that, it always amazes me that they fish just like the rest of us. They just catch more and bigger fish.

    The Bassmasters Classic is a big event. I will not be able to attend this year but a trip to Birmingham next weekend to attend the huge outdoor show, meet the pros and watch weigh-ins would be a great way to spend some winter days.  Then you can come home and go fishing with the baits and equipment you bought at a discount at the show, fishing just like them.


Problems with Cold Weather Now and Growing Up In Georgia, and A West Point Club Tournament

“Baby its cold outside!”  For some reason that song keeps going through my mind.  Temperatures in the low 20s are not usual here, thank goodness! But when they hit, unusual problems pop up.

    The pressure switch on my well will freeze if the temperature stays in the low 20s overnight.  A heat lamp on it solves the problem, if I remember to turn it on!  Outside faucets will freeze.  I have “freeze proof” faucets on the outside of my house, but I found out a couple of years ago they will freeze if you leave a hose attached!

    Many houses are like mine, with heat pumps to warm them.  But a heat pump can’t get enough heat out of air in the low 20s, so they switch to either gas or electric strip to produce heat.  Problem is, the relay that tells it to switch over can go out, and you won’t know it is bad until it doesn’t work on a cold night!

    Farmers have an especially tough time in bad weather like Texas had this week.  Taking care of livestock and other farm animals is miserable for the farmer but can be deadly for the animals if not done.

    Every winter when I was growing up seemed to produce a few days when the temperatures didn’t get above freezing.  Our 11,000 laying hens didn’t stop eating, drinking or laying eggs. 

    We had seven chicken houses.  The older four were wide, open structures with shavings on the floor.  Nests were attached to the inside of the walls and filled with shavings.  Food troughs had to be filled with five-gallon buckets of food brought from the big bin twice a day 

A trough ran the length of each house.  Water ran very slowly into one end. At the other a drain kept it from overflowing. The pipe nipple had to be pulled from the drain and the trough flushed out every day, chickens don’t know not to poop where they drink!

That water trough would sometimes freeze overnight so we would have to break the ice out by hand so fresh water would be available to the birds.  I hated that wet, messy job.

The other three houses were modern, with cages along the inside walls of narrow houses.  A small trough for water ran the length of the house, and it had to be cleaned, too.  A bigger trough was filled with a motorized cart that augured it into the trough, much easier than carrying buckets!

On very cold days and nights, we had to gather the eggs every hour to keep them from freezing.  The caged chickens’ eggs rolled out onto a wire shelf, so they froze fast. Even the ones in the old houses nests would freeze since the chickens didn’t stay on them after laying them.

With that many chickens, gathering the eggs hourly was never-ending. By the time we made a circuit of all the houses, it was time to start over!

Now, the only time I have to go out in miserable weather is to go fishing. But for some reason, eight hours in a boat is not unbearable, no matter how bad it gets!

Last Sunday 21 member of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our February tournament at West Point. After eight hours of casting we brought 58 keeper bass weighing about 138 pounds to the scales. There were eight five-fish limits and five people didn’t catch a keeper fish.

I won with five weighing 15.50 pounds and Jamie Beasley was an extremely close second with five at 15.48 pounds. Evan Skipper placed third with five weighing 13.31 pounds, fourth was Lee Hancock with five at 12.80 and Buddy Laster had big fish with a 5.97 pound largemouth.

I was very happy to see so many largemouth, and such good size.  There were two over five pounds each, I had a 5.85 pounder for second biggest fish. And there were two more weighing just under five pounds each.

Spotted bass usually make up the majority of our catches at West Point. They are more aggressive and more active, especially in cold water, and tend to displace largemouth.

We took off at 7:00 in the misty rain and it was cold.  I ran about ten minutes to a point I like this time of year and the water was stained but not muddy and 47 degrees there.  Cold but not terrible.

My rule of thumb is if the water is 50 degrees or warmer, I have a good chance of catching a bass.  If it is between 45 and 50 I may catch one. Below 45 degrees is pretty hopeless in my mind, so it was borderline.

I started with a spinnerbait then a crankbait.  As I fished around the point to the next one, I switched between those two and cast a jig and pig to any wood I came to in the water.  At about 8:00 I was going around a sandy point casting my spinnerbait when a two-pound spot hit about halfway to the boat. At least I would not zero.

By now the wind had gotten up on the points I was fishing so I went into a cove that was protected from the wind. My hands were freezing!   

The bank going into the cove looks good and sets up right for this time of year, but although I have fished it several times I have never caught a fish there.  But I caught my three biggest fish there, the five pound largemouth, a three pound largemouth and a 2.5 pound largemouth!

At 10:00 I went to a rocky main lake point and caught another two-pound spot to fill my limit. I did not get a bite after 10:30. Some days everything just seems to work out.

The Toledo Bend Elite Predictions Compare the Guesses and What Actually Happens

Weights Could Amaze During Bassmaster Elite Series Opener At Toledo Bend Reservoir

  • By The Fishing Wire

Many, LA — The Bassmaster Elite Series will make its much-anticipated return to historic Toledo Bend Reservoir at the perfect time of the year to catch giant bass and record-setting bags, according to Louisiana pro Darold Gleason.

“I’d be more surprised if they didn’t break 100 pounds than if they did,” said Gleason, a Toledo Bend guide and a Tackle Warehouse Bassmaster Elite Qualifier. “The fishery is just too good. This time of the year, our fish weigh more and are bigger than they will be all year. They are full prespawn. I personally think it will happen if they get the right weather conditions. There should be several bass over 10 pounds.”

Tournament days for the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend are scheduled for Feb. 22-25 with daily takeoffs at 7 a.m. CT from Cypress Bend Park and weigh-ins back at the park each day at 3 p.m. All pros will compete the first two days before the field is cut to 50 for Semifinal Saturday. Then, the Top 10 anglers will duke it out on Championship Sunday for a chance at $100,000 and a coveted blue trophy. 

It’s been seven years since the Elite Series last visited the massive reservoir on the Louisiana/Texas border, an event won by John Murray with a four-day total of 77-10. After several perceived down years, the Opens returned to Toledo Bend in April 2023 where Ben Milliken showed the true potential of the lake with a three-day tally of 77-14. 

Throughout 2023, giant bass were caught on Toledo Bend, with multiple 40-pound bags brought to the scales in events, as well as plenty of lunker-class bass. The fishing has remained strong this winter as well, and Gleason noted grass is starting to show up in several areas.

“The fish are good and healthy,” he said. “We are starting to see some grass pop up in popular areas of the lake, and there are tons of baitfish and bream in there right now. Tournament weights have been really good. It should be one of the higher-weight events of the year.” 

Water levels were low most of the winter until a major rainstorm moved through several weeks ago. The lake has since stabilized, and Gleason doesn’t anticipate any drastic changes unless another major weather event rolls through.

Warming temperatures leading up to the tournament will create multiple opportunities for anglers to catch a winning bag. At the time of this writing, water temperatures were already in the high 50s. 

What’s more, Gleason believes the entire lake will play.

“What you end up with is a really interesting tournament on Toledo Bend. They are very diverse,” Gleason said. “With it being such a big fishery and with it being in February, guys can literally fish to their strengths. Guys can catch them out deep with LiveScope, and there will also be lots of activity near the bank.”

Much of the focus will be around prespawn staging areas. Gleason believes there’s a good chance the first wave of spawners will be wanting to make their way to the bank. The key to that bite will be finding the hydrilla that has made a comeback the last two years. ChatterBaits and Rat-L-Traps will be important lures.

“We have some deep grass this year as well. It’s 12 feet deep in places,” Gleason said. “We have some other grass, but deep hydrilla is the deal. It seems to me that a lot of times the grass fish feed on bream and seem a little healthier and bigger.”

There will also be plenty of opportunities for anglers to capitalize on a deep bite. The lake has tons of standing timber and hard bottom around creek channels, and Gleason thinks forward-facing sonar will play a big role in catching those bass. Jerkbaits and Damiki-style rigs will be popular choices, as well as jigs. 

Whether deep or shallow, Gleason believes if someone can get on something and keep it to themselves, they have a chance at having a special tournament. 

“I’m talking about 35-pound bags and stuff like that,” he said. “It is hard to find that special stuff, and you have to be fortunate to fish it effectively for several days in a row.”

As with many tournaments this time of year, the wind speed and direction will determine just how good the fishing will be. If there is a strong north or south wind, Toledo Bend gets rough in a hurry, which will make navigation nearly impossible in some cases.

“All of us who have fished there throughout the years have had tournaments where it was like, ‘If we could have only gotten to where we wanted to fish.’ There are literally some days you can’t fish it,” Gleason said. 

Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on all four days, and coverage will also be available on FS1 on Saturday and Sunday. 

Those wanting to attend will be able to enjoy the “B.A.S.S. on the ’Bend” festival on Saturday and Sunday at Cypress Bend Park before weigh-in. The festival will feature live music and many local vendors.

The event is being hosted by Toledo Bend Lake Country and the Louisiana Office and Tourism.

2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro ShopsDakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Lowrance, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC

About B.A.S.S.

B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting-edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (, TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series presented by SEVIIN, Mercury B.A.S.S. Nation Qualifier Series presented by Lowrance, Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Strike King Bassmaster High School Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship, Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series scored by TourneyX, Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors.

Catching Bass and Staying Warm In the Winter

When I first joined a bass club I had no idea bass would bite during the winter.  But a January, 1975 tournament at Jackson taught me they would.  Six bass weighing more than six pounds each were weighed in.    

    I thought I would freeze that cloudy, windy day with sleet all day long.  I had worn my winter hunting clothes that were fine for deer hunting in the fall or walking winter fields and woods looking for squirrels, rabbits and quail, but they were not fine for sitting in a boat in 32-degree wind and sleet!

    A catalog at home from a new mail order company, Bass Pro Shops, offered snowmobile suits and boots.   I ordered both the next week.  The thick insulated jumpsuit was water resistant and repelled sleet and snow, but I had to get a good rainsuit to go over it.

    The boots were very heavy, with inch thick felt liners inside. I knew if I ever fell out of the boat they would take me to the bottom, so I never tightened up the string at the top, leaving them where they would easily slip off.  Of course, with everything else I wore, getting out of the boots probably would not make much difference.  This was way before the small auto inflatable life jackets I now wear at all times.

    I had some of the old hand warmers, the ones you filled with lighter fluid, lit and put in a case in your pocket.  When they came out I got the ones that used a charcoal stick and put it in a cloth lined case to put in a pocket to keep you warm.    Both kinds were messy and hard to use, and inconsistent staying lit, but they helped.

A few years later I saw a product called “Hot Hands” at Berry’s Sporting Goods that did not make sense.  It was a small cloth pouch with grit in it that, when taken out of a plastic bag, shook up and put in your pocket, it warmed up.  Since I taught science at the time I was able to figure out the iron dust inside rusted really fast when exposed to air, producing heat.

Hot Hands make a huge difference when fishing this time of year.  They are not messy or bulky and are easy to use.  I can put them in my boots before leaving home and they are still warming my toes up nine hours later. 

One in each jacket pocket lets me put hands in them one at a time when driving the boat or even fishing a slow-moving bait to warm them up.  A few scattered inside my heavy suit keep my body toasty.

I was a press observer at the 2015 Bassmasters Classic on Like Hartwell. On practice day I rode with David Kilgore, watching him figure out patterns for eight hours.  I could not fish, just sit and talk and watch.

The air temperature was eight degrees that morning, but it warmed all the way up to 20 degrees during the day. And the wind blew. I was comfortable all day though, since I had hot hands in the toes of each boot, in each outside coat pocket for my hands, and four in inside pockets against my body.  I even put one under my cap before putting on a stocking cap and pulling my hood over it. 

Two-packs of both hand or toe warmers are about $1.75 at Berrys and bulk packs are cheaper.  They really help and I don‘t leave home without them this time of year.

St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Presented by SEVIIN Reels Kicks off Division 2 Competition on Lake Ouachita

Bass Fishing: Pick A Pattern

Below are the pretournament predictions, and here is what happened:

Bassmaster Open Winner

  • By The Fishing Wire

St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Presented by SEVIIN Reels Kicks off Division 2 Competition on Lake Ouachita

Hot Springs, AR — At over 40,000 acres, Ouachita is Arkansas’ biggest lake and one of the most popular fisheries in the state. It has been more than 20 years since B.A.S.S. visited the lake for a major tournament, but today through Saturday, high-stakes bass fishing is back, with Visit Hot Springs hosting the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Ouachita presented by SEVIIN. It’s the second Opens event of the 2024 season, and the first of three in Division 2 competition.

Tournament days are scheduled for Feb. 15-17, with daily takeoffs set for 6:45 a.m. CT from the Brady Mountain Rec A ramp. Anglers will return for weigh-in each day at 2:45 p.m. The full field of pros and co-anglers will fish the first two days before the field is cut to the Top 10 pros on the final day. The winner will punch a ticket to the 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, provided they have fished every event in Division II. EQ Anglers (those signed up for all nine Opens) will earn points towards the Tackle Warehouse Bassmaster Elite Qualifiers race.

With surface water temperatures barely rising above 50 degrees in most parts of the sprawling lake, Ouachita remains very much in a late-winter pattern. Rain leading up to and throughout practice has impacted water clarity, impacting how and where anglers will chase bites from the lake’s abundant smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth bass. Ouachita has both Northern- and Florida-strain largemouth, the latter of which can reach double-digit weights feeding on the lake’s shad, crayfish, and other ample forage. Expect anglers to use live sonar to focus on suspended bass keying on shad in open water areas, jigs and crankbaits on main lake points, and vertical presentations in Ouachita’s copious amounts of standing timber. Grass flats will also come into play, as long as competitors can find the ones that have pockets of clear water.

Bass Fishing

Maple Grove, Minnesota angler and St. Croix and SEVIIN Reels pro, Chad Grigsby, is a familiar face and talent in bass circles. He’s been fishing full-time on the national level for over 20 years – 18 on the FLW/MLF tour and two seasons in the Bassmaster Elites.

Grigsby says he has two goals fishing the Opens this season. “I’m fishing all nine events in hopes I can finish in the top nine in points and re-qualify for the Elites,” he says. “The other goal would be to win one of the nine events to get into the Bassmaster Classic.”

Going into this week’s competition, Grigsby says his goal is much simpler. “It’s the same mindset I have going into any tournament,” he says. “Ultimately, I just want to catch five bass to weigh every day. But I want to do it by putting myself in a place where I can get as many bites as possible.”

The pre-spawn period on Lake Ouachita is a pretty good place to do that. “It’s consistent fishing here,” says Grigsby, who has fished multiple tournaments on the lake in the past. “There’s really no fish headed to the banks yet, so it’s not like Florida where a cold front rolls through and messes things up. I think the rain is over, so it looks like we’ll have stable weather throughout the competition. Everyone is out live-scoping deep, but there’s bait and fish everywhere. I caught a couple 4.5’s in practice shallow, but they didn’t look as healthy as those deeper fish.”

While multiple options abound, expect the jig to play throughout competition for Grigsby. “I’ve got a lot of confidence fishing a jig and it’s been as good for me as anything else throughout practice,” he says. “I’ve been throwing jigs on a bit shorter St. Croix Legend X 7’ medium-heavy rod (XLC70MHF) with 14-pound line and a SEVIIN GS 7.3:1 reel,” he adds. “What I’m seeing them eat is really small.”

bass fishing

EQ Points Standings

Alabama’s Tucker Smith leads the Bassmaster Opens EQ race after the first event at Lake Okeechobee with 199 points. Florida pro Randall Tharp is second with 198 points, followed by Paul Marks in third with 197, Matt Adams in fourth with 196 and Austin Cranford in fifth with 195 points. Easton Fothergill is sixth with 194 points, Sam George is seventh with 193 points, Beau Browning is eighth with 192 points and Brandon McMillan is ninth with 191 points.

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Follow the Action

The final day of competition on Ouachita will be broadcast live on FS1 Saturday morning beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET, with streaming available on, as well as FS2 and the FOX Sports digital platforms.

2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Presented by SEVIIN Reels Schedule

Division 1
February 1-3, Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston, Florida
March 7-9, Santee Cooper Lakes, Clarendon County, South Carolina
October 10-12, Lake Hartwell, Anderson, South Carolina

Division 2
February 15-17, Lake Ouachita, Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 2-4, Logan Martin Lake, Lincoln, Alabama
June 20-22, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Oklahoma

Division 3
July 11-13, Lake St. Clair, Macomb County, Michigan
August 22-24, Leech Lake, Walker, Minnesota
September 12-14, Mississippi River, La Crosse, Wisconsin

St. Croix & SEVIIN Rewards Programs
The St. Croix Rewards Program remains unchanged this year, but an identical SEVIIN Rewards Program has been added.
Each program pays $1,000 to any registered pro angler (boater) who wins an Open tournament fishing St. Croix rods or SEVIIN reels, or $500 to the highest-finishing registered top-10 pro angler (boater) fishing St. Croix rods or SEVIIN Reels.
Similarly, each program awards $500 to any registered co-angler who wins an Open tournament fishing St. Croix rods or SEVIIN reels, or $250 to the highest-finishing registered top-10 co-angler fishing St. Croix rods or SEVIIN reels.
Since these are two separate contingency programs, a registered angler fishing both St. Croix and SEVIIN who wins or finishes highest in the top 10 would receive both rewards – up to $2,000 for a boater and up to $1,000 for a co-angler.
Anglers must pre-register to be eligible to win these contingency programs. Registration takes place at the St. Croix / SEVIIN tent prior to the start of competition at each tournament.

About St. Croix Rod

Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for over 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Avid®, Premier®, Imperial®, Triumph®, Mojo, and BASSX, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.

About SEVIIN Reels

Wherever and however you fish, the reel in your hand should help create better experiences. Born from St. Croix’s seven decades of design and manufacturing expertise, industry-leading customer service, and unbroken private ownership by the Schluter family dating back to 1977, SEVIIN reels are meticulously engineered and purpose-built to help anglers conquer every species on every piece of water on the planet. SEVIIN focuses on reels and reels only, designing and crafting products that improve the angling experience, regardless of the rods anglers choose. Seven seas, seven continents, seven days a week, SEVIIN reels are fueled by a collective love of fishing surpassed only by a passion to deliver the most reliable reels on the water.



What Do Bass Do In Muddy Water and How Can I Catch Them?

A trip to Neely Henry four years ago got me thinking about muddy water.

I met Peyton Nance, an Auburn University bass team member and reserve defensive tackle on the football team.  We managed to get the boat in and to the dock in the ripping current.  The water level had dropped four feet overnight. Peyton explained they were trying to get it down to hold all the flooding water coming downstream.

    We looked at and tried to fish ten spots that are good in March, but the current made river places impossible to fish and back-outs very muddy. I did manage to land a three-pound largemouth on a Chatterbait, my only bite. Peyton lost a five-pound spot right beside the boat when it pulled off his crankbait.

Muddy water makes bass fishing tough.  Bass tend to get very tight to cover and not move much. It is like us in a heavy fog, we like to stay in familiar places and not run around and get lost!

My Garmin Panoptix has confirmed this. In clear water I see bass holding near but not down in brush and just over rocks and stumps. In muddy water they are down in the brush and right against rocks and stumps.

    Bass still have to eat, though. They can be caught, especially if the water has been muddy for a couple of days and they have gotten used to it and have gotten hungry.

    A bright lure that sends out sounds in the water is usually best. I will be fishing a bright chartreuse spinnerbait with chartreuse blades and skirt. A rattling chartreuse crankbait will also be used as will a black and blue Chatterbait, the bait I caught the three-pounder on at Neely Henry in the mud. 

Even my jig and pig, a black and blue one with bright blue trailer, will have rattles in it.  And I will fish all of then slowly and tight to cover.

Who Is Trying To Ban Your Fishing?

Angler Rights Activism

  • By The Fishing Wire

Those who would nix your right to fish in an instant are active and organized – recreational anglers need to be equally vigilant.

Forestville, WI – Nearly half of Australia’s fishable waters are now off limits. Some European countries ban catch and release, claiming it hurts the fish. Think it can’t happen here. Think again…

The good news is that American angler interests are backed by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the nation’s largest trade association for the recreational sportfishing industry. The bad news is that they can’t completely protect your rights alone…and that’s where you come in.

Recently, ASA VP of Government Affairs Mike Leonard spoke at the annual NPAA conference in Fort Myers, Florida on the topic of advocacy, what ASA is doing on your behalf, and what you can do as an individual to protect your fishing interests.

Leonard’s engaging presentation highlighted three key themes:

  • DO NOT take fishing for granted.
  • DO NOT sit on the sidelines.
  • Stop with the infighting.

He went on to talk about knowing the issues in your area, joining fishing organizations that work to protect sportfishing like the NPAA and the ASA, and keeping up with the issues that could affect your ability to access the vast amount of aquatic resources available in this country at

If you care about the future of recreational fishing, you’re not too busy to watch Leonard’s presentation

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