Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

What Is Stacking Braided Line

The Art of “Stacking” Braided Line
By Ben Seacrest, Accurate Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

With the introduction of braid by Russ Izor in the 80’s, fishing as we know it changed drastically. With the diameter of the braided line being reduced significantly, many anglers started to realize the larger reels of yesteryear could either hold a ton of braid, or they could start looking for alternative reels to fish. Once braid was accepted by a few peer group leaders its popularity with the west coast anglers surged, sparking reel manufacturers to design smaller reels that would put out more drag and handle more pressure internally.

This is the little BV-300 which is our smallest reel with 30 lb on it that has caught numerous tuna upwards of 70 lbs.
The revolution was started with new, smaller reels being designed for cranking power plus drag, and rods that had a more forgiving action for the non stretch in the braided line to effectively fight fish of considerable size. The phrase “Small Reels, Big Fish” came to light which changed the way anglers had fished since the beginning of time. Guys are using reels a little bigger than your fist and landing fish over 100 lbs regularly. With the adoption of lever drags on these reels, the angler knows exactly where his drag setting is during the battle.

As anglers became more familiar with braid and its properties, new knots were developed and people took time to experiment with setting up line on their reels. On the west coast there is a group of anglers we refer to as “Long Rangers” that get on a bigger boat (100′ to 130′) and travel down to the islands and banks outside Cabo San Lucas and mainland Mexico for up to 21 days at a time. These anglers are fishing from dead boats for trophy yellowfin tuna up to 400 lbs and its critical to have the most line capacity possible on a reel. A group of these anglers who are always looking for a better way to skin a cat came up with the idea of stacking braid and perfected the connections to increase their catch rate percentages.

The reasons to stack braid on smaller reels is to gain maximum line capacity. Manufacturers give line capacities that is with one line pound test meaning one diameter line. When stacking braid you want to understand exactly what you will be using the tackle for species wise. There are a lot of gamefish that have enough power to spool reels so capacity is key. When stacking braid we put a smaller(test) diameter on the bottom, maybe 200 yards and the higher test on top. The rationale behind this is its very difficult to break braid on a dead pull unless its been frayed. The rod will likely break before the line would.

So on a 400 size reel that holds 325 yards of 50Lb braid I will take 40 lb braid and put 300 yds on the bottom with another 75 to 100 yards of 65 lb braid on top. It gives me a little more line capacity but the key is with the heavier line on top I can actually put the drag up on the fish and pull harder at the end of the battle. Most fish are lost coming to the boat. You want enough capacity to handle a good run early in the fight, then once he is close to the boat you can tighten the drag on him to get him within gaffing distance. This is a common practice with a lot of anglers fishing smaller tackle for bigger fish. The thought behind it is not to fight the big bulky tackle but have more comfortable tackle that is easy to handle over the duration of the fight.

There is no set combination of line sizes to stack but lines within 20 to 30 lb differences work well. Putting the capacity line size on the bottom(smaller diameter) and the heavier on top seems to be what most anglers do. One example we have been doing the last couple years is taking our Dauntless DX2-600N and putting 65 lb braid on the bottom and putting one hundred yards of 80 lb on top with a short fluorocarbon leader. The 65 lb will handle 20 to 25 lbs of drag no problem, then once we get a couple wraps on the spool of 80 lb we can increase the drag pressure as the fish approaches the boat into gaffing distance. This setup is used primarily for casting surface iron or poppers to foaming fish with an 8 ft heavy rod that will go directly to the rail once the fish is settled in. Stacking braid is a more specialized thing to do when targeting bigger gamefish but will also work when fishing bottom fish in deeper water.

Stacking the braid on the reel is a fairly easy process and there are a couple ways to do it. One of the easier ways to do this is to tie a 25 turn Bimini Twist for the line on the reel and that line coming off the spool. Put both loops together and pass the spool through them three times. Make sure the line is even as you pull them apart holding the Bimni knots on each end. Slowly pull them making sure as they get taut the line is straight. Once the line is straight you can pull them tight. This will leave you with a cats paw knot in the middle of the connection; I have never seen one break yet. The cool part of this connection is it will go through the guides the same way a solid line would.

The other way of connecting braid is by using hollow core line and splicing lines into each other. They are held together similar to a Chinese finger puzzle. The harder they are pulled the tighter they hold. This takes needles and practice to get good at doing it. Very important here to test all your connections. Last year I had one fail on a fish that was a real trophy on another persons tackle that had a spliced leader. It’s up to the angler which connections to use when stacking braid. One thing that is important is whichever one you use, you must be very proficient. Only way to become good is to practice and the perfect place is in front of the TV or at home in the back yard. It’s super important to test every knot and put your weight into it for maximum results. Don’t get discouraged if your first few fail; you will get the hang of it. Personally I stay with the double Bimini connection which works great but it is not as clean as the splice.

There are two schools of thought when you are fishing braid .

One way is fishing enough drag on a reel so its more like hand to hand combat which lets the rod wear the fish out with the main objective of getting his head coming up. This way you continue to put pressure on the fish without letting him get his head down as you are bringing him to gaff. More experienced anglers will do this and line capacity is usually not a factor. They are dealing with using the power of the rod and stopping power of the drag. You need to know what you are doing and be in some kind of shape to exert that much energy on those larger fish. The rail is extremely important too as your fulcrum while using your rod to gain maximum action and power out of the rod.

The other way anglers tend to fish is to rely on the line capacity of the reel and fish a little lighter rod with less drag and “play” the fish. This technique lets the fish wear its self out versus exerting all your energy trying to break his spirit. Its extremely important to have all connections solid so knots, crimps, splices all should be tested by pulling on them with some weight. Its important to make sure you stay clear of the boat and other anglers hooked up. Deckhands will be there to assist or on a private boat someone will put the boat where it needs to be. Trying to play out the fish with lighter drag with more line out means the fish is on longer and with big fish on the line, time is not your friend.

Always use the maximum test leader wise that will still get bit. Its a nightmare when a good fish wears through the leader.

Put the package together right, test it carefully before going on the water and you’ll be ready to take on some serious big game fish on tackle that fights the fish instead of your muscles.

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Why Use Rooster Tails For Early Season Trout?

Rooster Tails For Early Season Trout
By Bill Herzog, Yakima Baits
from The Fishing Wire

Big trout like Rooster Tails

April means Opening Day for trout anglers. Lakes are starting to warm, trout are becoming active and anglers are there for this exciting time. Choices for taking trout are many: dough baits, spinners, spoons, plugs and good old worms and salmon eggs. All work. But none have the versatility, all around effectiveness and reputation as well known as the Rooster Tail spinner.

Rooster Tails can be cast or trolled. Trolling is an excellent way to cover water and find aggressive trout. The flash of the Rooster Tail blade creates a greater attraction radius than most lures, bringing in more trout to strike. Early season trout frequently hang out in the first 10 feet of water, where it is warmest with the most feed. The weighted body of the Rooster Tail keeps the lure in the perfect depth while trolling, no need to add weight.

When trolling Rooster Tails, try a thin diameter braid with a 6 foot section of 8 pound natural toned mono tied with a Uni knot at the end of the braid to the lure. Even at slow trolling speeds, you may see the vibration and blade spin easily on the rod tip due to the non stretch properties of braid. Rooster Tail blades are tuned to rotate even at the slowest trolling speeds.

Favorite sizes and colors? Well, there are 10 sizes, 100 colors and 135 finishes to choose from. Try the 1/16th, 1/8th, 1/6th and ¼ ounce for the perfect balance of casting/trolling. For trout trolling and casting in lakes, here are some top choices that keep rising to the top of most effective: Red (R), red body/hackle/silver blade; Clown Coachdog (CLCD), olive/yellow/orange body/hackle/silver blade; Fire Tiger (FRT), yellow/olive/red body/hackle/brass blade; Frog (FR), green/olive body/hackle/brass blade; White (WH) white body/hackle/silver blade and Yellow (YL), yellow hackle/body/silver blade. My absolute favorite is the new Cheese Fly (CHFY), with an orange/yellow tail and body, brass blade. Last spring, more trophy sized rainbows, browns, brookies and especially cutthroat fell to that color combo than any other.

Tipping is not just for good service in restaurants, it can be the difference in an interested trout follow into a vicious strike. A small 1 inch piece of nightcrawler or single salmon egg on the treble/single hook on a Rooster Tail makes a great lure unbeatable. No bait, no problem…spritz a pump of Rooster Tail Scent Spray on the lure. Rooster Tail Scent Spray is loaded with amino bite stimulants and UV to really pop visually as well as smell. Best of all the spray will not matte down the attractive movement of the hackle tail.

Best flavors? In this order, but know that each one was flat deadly the last two seasons: Garlic Plus, Trophy Trout and the leader going into the clubhouse Trout Kokanee Magic.

If trolling is not your thing, no problem. Rooster Tails can be cast easily on light line. Position yourself (boat or bank) near where trout may be found and fan cast your Rooster Tail, covering the area. Start your presentations near the surface, then with each “round” of casts, let the lure sink a few seconds more, until bottom is reached or strikes become consistent at a certain depth/area. Retrieve the Rooster Tail just fast enough for a 4 to 6 time “blade thump” per second. To ensure a good blade spin, retrieve the lure quickly at the beginning of the presentation until you feel the “thump” of the rotating blade. Reel ‘till you feel, as they say!

Great sizes/weights for casting are the 1/8ths for shallower water/close to your position; the 1/6th for ideal all around size for distance and depth and the ¼ ounce for breezy conditions or when you have to get the lure down quicker.

A great tip that needs to be put out there is Rooster Tails are not just for trolling or casting/retrieving, they can be jigged also. When trout get finicky- and if you spend any time on the water there is a guarantee there will be times when bites are hard to come by- try this trick. After casting and beginning your retrieve, sharply drop your rod tip approximately six inches, creating a nano second of slack line and allowing the Rooster Tail to drop a foot or so. Many salmonids (trout, salmon) key on falling prey, mimicking a wounded/dead/distressed creature of sorts. This swift, short dropping action can trigger an aggressive grab from a trout that may have been on the fence if it was to bite or not.

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Costa Sunglasses® Adds Four New Styles

Costa Sunglasses® Adds Four New Styles to Popular Del Mar Collection
Press Release

Daytona Beach, Fla. – March 26, 2019 – Inspired by a life on the water, Costa Sunglasses has added four new styles to its Del Mar Collection originally released in 2018. The collection includes fresh designs collected from our watery world and feature colors, patterns and textures inspired by adventures on the water. The new sunglasses come in a variety of color options, including Shiny Ocean Current, and are aptly named for historic beach towns and islands – Apalach, Bimini, Coquina and Isla.

The Del Mar Collection frames are constructed with Mazzucchelli acetate, a renewable, non-petroleum, plant-based material, with frame colors and designs mirroring the beauty of beaches, oceans and waterways. The sunglasses feature a custom corewire, visible inside the frame arm, with either a topographical or fish scale pattern tying back to Costa’s history of being born on the water. The new styles are available with Costa’s patented 580 Lightwave® Glass lenses, providing 100 percent UV protection and polarization while also reducing glare and eye fatigue. Costa’s lens technology combines the benefits of greater contrast and clarity with some of the most elegant, stylish frames available.

Known for its oysters, pristine white sand beaches and maritime culture, Apalachicola is full of old-world charm in the heart of the Florida Panhandle. With sleek lines, Apalach offers an extra-large fit that will enhance your ocean views, and the new style looks good on multiple face shapes. Apalach is available in four color options – Shiny Tortoise, Shiny Black Kelp, Matte Gray Crystal and Shiny Sand Dollar.

Bimini, named after one of the most iconic islands in the Bahamas, is a large female frame available in four colors inspired by the sea – Shiny Abalone, Shiny Vintage Tortoise, Shiny Deep Teal Crystal and Shiny Ocean Current. The epitome of island style, Bimini is a large cat-eye frame style perfect for soaking up the sun and the island’s rich history.

The medium-fit Coquina frame conveys a relaxed, laid-back feel and is available in four bold color options – Shiny Ocean Tortoise, Shiny Vintage Tortoise, Shiny Deep Teal Crystal and Shiny Taupe Crystal. Named after one of the fine white sand beaches of Longboat Key, Coquina is the perfect companion for sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Coquina is a square-shaped frame with bold oceanfront style.

Isla is a small round-shaped frame style available in four vibrant colors – Shiny Tortoise, Shiny Tiger Cowrie, Shiny Deep Teal Crystal and Shiny Seashell. Named after Isla Mujeres, a beautiful island in Mexico known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, whale sharks, diving and white sand beaches, Isla is a must-have for activities on and off the water, and delivers an elegant vibe.

“The expansion of our Del Mar Collection was in response to the popularity of this colorful, ocean-inspired collection we launched last year,” said John Sanchez, vice president of product development at Costa. “Our goal with the new frames in the collection was to fit a variety of face shapes while infusing even more of what we love about the ocean into each unique design.”

The Costa 580® color-enhancing lens technology selectively filters out harsh yellow light for superior contrast and definition and absorbs high-energy blue light to cut haze and enhance sharpness. In addition, Costa’s lens technology reduces glare and eye fatigue, and its Lightwave glass is 20 percent thinner and 22 percent lighter than average polarized glass.

The new styles range in price from $229 to $249 based on frame style, color and lens selection. For more information on the new frames and Costa’s full line of sunglasses, visit

About Costa
As the first manufacturer of color-enhancing all-polarized sunglass lenses, Costa combines superior lens technology with unparalleled fit and durability. Still handcrafted in Florida, Costa has made the highest quality, best performing sunglasses and prescription sunglasses (Rx) for outdoor enthusiasts since 1983, and now its product portfolio includes optical frames. Costa’s growing cult-brand status ties directly to its mission to provide high quality products with a focus on sustainability and conservation as the company works hard to protect the waters it calls home. From the use of sustainable materials to its Kick Plastic initiative, IndiFly Foundation and strong partnership with shark research organization OCEARCH, Costa encourages people to help protect the Earth’s natural resources in any way they can. Find out more on Costa’s website and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at @CostaSunglasses.

Suddeth Crankbaits

Suddeth Crankbaits In Cold Water
with Joey Baskins

Some of the great colors from Suddeth Crankbaits

I wrote this for Georgia Outdoor News in February, 2012. Joey kept his promise of quality control for his crankbaits and you can count of them!

Bass fishermen dream of caching fish, but many also have the fantasy of working in the fishing industry, spending all their time fishing and thinking about it. Few make that dream come true but Joey Baskins did, developing and making lures for bass fishing.

Joey worked in a plant but loved fishing. He fished bass tournaments and made contact with many sporting goods stores, and saw a need for good, reliable baits that caught bass.
He developed Blademaster Lures then acquired Suddeth Crankbaits, and now spends his time coming up with new lures and colors and testing them out. He has been fishing for over 30 years and is fishing the some of the BFLs and Fishers of Men tournament trails.

The Blademaster side of the company produces spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, all kinds of jigs and jigs with belly blades. Suddeth Crankbaits were developed in South Carolina back in the early 1980s and Joey bought the company from the brothers that started it about ten years ago.

A few years ago there were problems with Suddeth Crankbaits. Joey had some health problems, took about a year and a half off from working with the crankbaits, and the crankbaits produced during that time often did not run right. Those problems have been corrected now. Each and every crankbait he produces is now hand tuned in a tank at the plant before they go out the door.

Joey has also invested many thousands of dollars in new molds to insure each bait is exactly right. The new molds mean better quality and uniformity of the baits. A thicker, sturdier wire is used in them to keep them from becoming “untuned” when they bounce off cover, too.

“I try to make the baits fishermen want, and will make any color bait a customer wants to order,” Joey said. All of the baits produced by Suddeth and Blademaster are hand made and painted. He has also teamed up with John Kissel of Kissel Krafts Custom Rods to develop the perfect crankbait rod, called the Little Early Rod.

Crankbaits in the Suddeth series include the well known Little Earl and Boss Hog. The Fat Earl is made to bounce off cover better and the new Pot Bellied Hog is coming out soon. It is a square billed bait that runs shallow and has a profile that should drive bass wild. He is also coming out with the Big Boss Hog, a bigger version of the Little Boss Hog.

All Suddeth crankbaits currently come with sharp hooks but the hook design Joey likes best is being discontinued so he is looking at different companies for future hooks. No matter which company he goes with he will make sure the hooks are sharp right out of the box and hold bass that hit.

Suddeth baits currently come in 67 different colors and color combinations. One of the best for February fishing in stained water is the 049 color. This bait has a brown back and chartreuse sides and produced most of the bass we caught a couple of weeks ago.

The most popular color of Suddeth Crankbaits is the GGG “dollar bill” color, or green/gold/glitter bait. The 026 color is very good in clear to stained water and looks like a baitfish. Both the 049 and 026 are good colors to have with you on any lake you fish this time of year.

Joey took me fishing in mid-January with one of his pro staff, Ken Cothran, who fishes the Bulldog BFL, Stren series and FLW Tour and FLW Series tournaments, the last two on the co-angler side. He also fishes many local team, pot and charity tournaments. They showed me where and how to fish crankbaits in February on Jackson Lake, a small lake in middle Georgia known for good crankbait fishing in the winter.

“Where you fish a crankbait in February is important,” Joey said. Points are always a key, with main lake points with deep water nearby usually producing the best bites this time of year. Rocks and hard clay are needed to draw bass to the point to feed, and some brush or stumps definitely help.
Main lake points are usually best in early February but as the days warm later in the month the bass will move back into the creeks and coves. Start out on the main lake but don’t hesitate to work back into the creeks, hitting points in them near deep water.

Sunny days draw bass up on the points in more shallow water and a little wind helps make them bite better. Some current running across the cover on the point definitely makes the bass more active. Bass will move in on these points and feed, so Joey and Ken keep moving, looking for active fish. If they catch one they will stick around for a while but will definitely come back since fish move in and out where they are feeding.

Crank the bait down with seven or eight turns of the reel handle then slow down the retrieve, working the bait very slowly across the point and through the cover. Suddeth baits are tuned to have good action at a very slow speed, which makes them ideal in cold water.

Ken says water colder than 40 degrees makes the bite extremely tough but water 45 to 50 degrees, which is more typical in February, means decent fishing. A few warm days in a row, making the water temperature increase, turns the fish on and we often have series of warm days this month like that. When the water temperature goes over 50 degrees the bite gets much better.

Keep your boat in fairly close to the point and work around it casting at an angle, fishing from the bank out. Angle casts like that keep your bait in the feeding zone and does not waste time. Bass usually feed from very shallow out to about ten feet deep on these points and that is the depth you want to cover.

We have all had it happen. The guy with us, using the same bait, line and even rod and reel, will catch more bass than us. The way you work the crankbait can make a huge difference. Joey and Ken both say try different things until the fish tell you want they want.

Try a steady, very slow retrieve first. Always try to bump the bottom with your crankbait. Most crankbait strikes are reaction strikes and bumping cover will make them hit. When you are reeling slowly the bait will turn on its side then move off, much like an injured baitfish, just what the bass want.

Also try a stop and go retrieve. Crank your bait down to the bottom then work it with your rod tip and reel, making it pause and then move forward. Again, it looks like and easy meal when moving erratically like this.

Suddeth makes both floating and sinking models of their crankbaits. With the floating models when you pause the bait will sit in one place, and then slowly rise. Try pausing floating baits for varying amounts of time, going from a pause where the bait just hesitates in one place, to one where the bait floats up several inches to a foot.

The slow rise of a bait will sometimes make a reluctant bass hit it. If you don’t get the reaction strike this pause and rise can make the difference. When a bass is not feeding actively they still can’t turn down such an easy meal.

With the sinking baits, do the same thing. The very slow fall of the Little Earl sinking model makes it look easy to eat, and the baits will settle to the bottom upright, looking like a baitfish that is trying to hide from the bass by not moving.

Wood cover definitely holds bass this time of year on the points and the square bill Pot Bellied Hog is made to bounce off shallow wood. It will run about three feet deep and is perfect for those sunny warm days at the end of a warming trend when the bass hold very shallow to take advantage of the warmer surface water.

Run it over any wood you see or know is there and the bait bill will hit it and make it deflect off it without getting hung like a round bill will do. Try the stop and go and the steady retrieve even when fishing this shallow, offering the bass different views of the bait.

Try to hit the wood. This seems like a bad idea when throwing a crankbait but the deflection off wood is often what is needed to get a bite. You may get hung up some, but you will get hung up on a bass more often if you bump your crankbait through the wood cover. The floating models of both baits work much better than the sinking models around wood cover.

With deeper wood try the Fat Earl. The shape of the lure will help it stay off the wood when you hit it, doing the same kind of action as the square bill in more shallow water. Bump the wood and pause it, or bump the wood and keep it moving, for different actions. But try both and let the bass tell you which they like best.

The line, rod and reel can make a big difference in crankbait fishing. A rod designed for crankbait fishing like the Kissle Little Earl rod has a parabolic action that makes for better casting and helps keep bass from pulling off when hooked. Reels are a personal choice but should have a good drag system and allow you to reel the lure at different speeds.

Joey and Ken like monofilament line like Trilene Big Game in ten pound test. Monofilament line has some stretch and is less likely to allow the bass to pull off the hook. Ten pound line is heavy enough to get bass away from cover but thin enough to let the bait work at the depth it is designed to run.

Most of the Suddeth crankbaits come with a rattle but some don’t, and Joey says he thinks bass in cold water often want a silent bait. If you are throwing a rattling model and not getting bites, try the ones without a rattle. This often happens in water that is clear. A rattle almost always helps in muddy water.

Crankbaits are great baits to fish right now, no matter where you fish. Give Suddeth baits a try and see if they produce for you like they do for Joey and his pro staff. You will be happy with the new, improved versions of the older models and the new baits coming out right now will offer you the ability to fish even more ways.

Joey’s website at shows all his lures and great colors. And you can check out more information on their facebook page at

Many sporting goods stores carry Blademaster Lures and Suddeth baits and you can order directly from the site, as well as contact Joey about any custom colors you want him to paint a bait for you on the site.

Pet Raccoons

Cute pictures on Facebook of pet raccoons eating and playing reminds me of how much I wanted one. For years I thought it would be great fun to have one, but when I got one it did not turn out so well.

In the mid-1970s Linda and I lived at Grandview Apartments. I hunted on some land near High Falls, using our VW bug as a hunting vehicle. One night as I walked from my stand back to the car, a mother raccoon and her five kits walked across my path.

I took off my heavy hunting coat and threw it over the last one in the line. It was about the size of a small housecat and it struggled and snarled, but I managed to wrap it tightly and tie the arms together, forming a bundle.

At the car I put the bundled raccoon in the small luggage area behind the back seat, got in and cranked the car. For some reason I flipped on the overhead light. All I could see were teeth and claws as the young raccoon came over the seat toward me.

Somehow, I managed to catch it again and get it wrapped back up in the coat without getting bit. This time I tied it tightly with some rope and made it home without any more trouble.

At the apartment, I carefully slipped the raccoon into the small downstairs bathroom after putting some food and water on the floor. I shut the door and we went to bed.

The next morning, I eased the bathroom door open an inch or so and peeked in, expecting the raccoon to be huddled in a corner, but did not see it. As I opened the door more I glanced up and there it was, perched on a shelf in the small medicine cabinet over the sink. I have no idea how it got up there, opened the door and huddled on the shelf.

It stayed in the bathroom a couple of days until I could build a cage for it. I made a nice one out of two by fours and hardware cloth that had legs so it sat six inches off the floor. It was four feet long and two feet wide and high, giving my new pet lots of room.

After about two weeks the raccoon gradually got less afraid of me. It stopped hissing at me and slowly started taking food through the wire. I was making progress.

Just when I had hope. Linda decided to vacuum the room with the cage. When she ran the hose under the cage, the raccoon went wild, bouncing off the wire on all sides, top and bottom. It never calmed down. Any time I got near it, it went wild again.

After a week, I gave up. I took it back near where I caught it and released it. That was my only experience with a pet raccoon and I still want one, but a tame one.

World Record Redear Solved

Mystery of World Record Redear Solved?
by Nick Walter, Arizona Game and Fish
from The Fishing Wire

5 years after world-record redear sunfish catch, invasive quagga mussels considered a likely contributor to monster sizes of these sunfish at Lake Havasu

PHOENIX — Have the redear sunfish at Lake Havasu really gone quagga crazy?

Have these panfish that really can fill a pan, and are widely regarded as one of the better fish species to eat, found a surplus of invasive quagga mussels to munch?

A mystery remains: Redear sunfish at Havasu have been reaching world record sizes. But why, exactly?

Let’s dive into this piscatory puzzle.

World Record Redear Sunfish – also known as shellcracker

On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a world-record redear sunfish from Lake Havasu.

That world-record feeling

Five years ago, “panfish” took on a new meaning.

We’re at the time of year when Lake Havasu tacked its world-record pin on the fishing map. On Feb. 16, 2014, Hector Brito caught a 17-inch, 5.78-pound world-record redear sunfish on a dropshot-rigged nightcrawler.

“I didn’t expect the record to last this long,” Brito said. “It’s amazing.”

This 45-mile fishing wonderland created by the Colorado River on the western-most strip of Arizona, adorned like a leather belt by the regal London Bridge, allows an angler to fish from the beach on the Arizona side and see the California mountains on the other. Some of those anglers said they witnessed a dramatic increase in the sizes of redear sunfish from 2009-2014 that — coincidence or not — occurred after invasive quagga mussels were first discovered in 2007 at Havasu.

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) did a study about the effects of redear and bluegill on quagga populations and found these sunfish do consume quaggas. Even more, the redear reduced quagga numbers by as much as 25 percent. The experiments of the study were conducted in field enclosures of Lake Havasu, as well as in the BOR’s Boulder City, Nev. Fish Lab. See the updated report.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department can’t verify that redear sunfish, also known as “shellcrackers” because of their pharyngeal teeth (throat teeth) that allow them to crush crustaceans such as snails, are reaching unprecedented sizes due solely to quaggas as an additional food source. Other biological factors include Havasu’s food base of grass shrimp and redswamp crawdads.

Regardless, Havasu is home to some of the biggest shellcrackers on the globe.

Fish chatter: redear sunfish are “quagga crazy”

Doug Adams, a former Lake Havasu City-based fisheries biologist for the Bureau of Land Management, said he also knows that redear sunfish eat quagga mussels. At the same time, he said that in 2005 — 2 years before quagga mussels were discovered in Lake Havasu – an electroshocking of 75 sites produced redear sunfish that averaged more than 2 pounds.

“From one standpoint, there wasn’t much fishing pressure until they started catching these bigger (redear),” Adams said. “Quagga could be a good contributor to their sizes. So it’s kind of a mystery.”

A mystery it might remain.

air of big redear sunfish captured during AZGFD’s November, 2018 survey at Lake Havasu.
Ashley’s monster redear sunfish caught during April of 2017 reportedly weighed 5.02 pounds and measured 16 1/2 inches.
During AZGFD’s fall, 2016 Havasu survey, the biggest redear sunfish captured (left) was 2.5 pounds.Still, some Arizona anglers have etched their conclusion: The increasingly larger sizes of redear is a quagga-based phenomenon.
For angler Mike Taylor of Phoenix, it’s simple:

They don’t call them ‘shellcracker’ for nothing,” he said. “No quagga, then lots of quagga. Regular redears, then big redears after quagga show up … coincidence? Maybe, but I’d say increased food source equals bigger fish.

In an email to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, an anonymous angler said he has been fishing extensively for sunfish in Lake Pleasant and the Colorado River. He wrote:

And I have observed that not only do redears feed on quagga mussels, but bluegill and green sunfish do as well. After holding them in a live well for a short period of time, they will regurgitate bits of broken quagga shells until there is a layer approximately a quarter-inch thick in the bottom of the live well.

And finally, some thoughts from Brito, the record holder:

They eat a lot of quagga mussels. Everytime I fish for them, I search their stomachs and always find shells of quagga mussels.

Redear sunfishing techniques

A new world record remains possible.

“I’m sure there’s a 7-pounder out there somewhere,” said John Galbraith, owner of Bass Tackle Master in Lake Havasu.

Perhaps surprising to some, AZGFD has not received a report of a redear that’s come close to challenging the record. Brito said that since his world record, he’s caught some big ones: a 2- and 3-pound redear this year and one last year that weighed nearly 4 pounds.

Are you up for a shell-cracking quest?

Here’s some redear sunfishing tips:

Use the right rig: One of the most popular techniques for catching redear sunfish is using a dropshot rig with a nightcrawler — the same technique Brito used when catching his world record. Brito said he caught the record by the chalk cliffs, and the rig included a No. 8 gold Aberdeen hook.
Show a natural presentation: Others use worms on the bottom, without a weight or bobber, and allow the bait to lie motionless.
Expect a light bite: Redear bite gently and seem to reject baits that offer resistance such as lead weights. Sometimes, redear will simply move the bait a foot or so like an unsettled shopper.
Depth and habitat: At Havasu, when redear are not in shallow water during their typical May/June spawn, they can generally be found in 22-30 feet of water. Redear prefer vegetated areas with submerged stumps and brush with little or no flowing water.
Record fish are loners: The world record-size redears seem to break away from the schools of smaller fish. “They’re more solitary fish,” Galbraith said. “You don’t see 1-pounders with a 5-pound fish.”
Back on the dinner table, redear are widely considered excellent eating. Their diet consists of hard-shelled organisms like clams or snails, as well as insect larvae, planktonic crustaceans and other invertebrates.

Quagga mussels: an aquatic invasive species

Stocking redear as a featured sport fish in some locations is a possibility.

Yet it’s unlikely the Arizona Game and Fish Department would stock redear sunfish with the sole purpose of reducing populations of the quaggas, which also have affected Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, the Lower Colorado River below Lake Havasu to Mexico, the Central Arizona Project canal, Lake Powell, Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, and Red Mountain Lake.

Quagga mussels are a poor food source for most other fish species, and drastically reduce food availability for aquatic organisms. This results in smaller catch sizes of other sportfish and native fish species. Quagga mussels may also contribute to increasing occurrences of toxic algae blooms, which can affect both humans and wildlife.

Quaggas colonize rapidly on hard surfaces and can ruin boat motors and clog water intake structures such as pipes and screens, thereby impacting pumping capabilities for power and water treatment plants.

A 2016 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report looked at costs related to quagga mussel management on the Hoover, Parker and Davis dams along the Lower Colorado River and found more than $6 million of additional funds were spent through 2016 with an estimated $17 million of ongoing maintenance through 2020.

This results in high water and power bills for consumers.

No mystery: Havasu a fishing destination

When it comes to the smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and redear sunfish, the fishing is at its historic best. The lake continues to be ranked as one of the top places to fish for bass in the country: in 2018, Bassmaster Magazine ranked Havasu as the No. 7 best bass lake in the Western U.S.

Redear sunfish isn’t the only species thriving at Havasu. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are also swimming in luxury. Already in 2019, the average winning daily 5-fish bag weight has been around 21 pounds. Most bass-tournament anglers consider average bags weighing more than 20 pounds impressive.

Striped bass fishing also appears to be on the rise. The single-day record for the total weight of striper was set during the annual Lake Havasu Striper Derby during May of 2018: eight stripers totaled 110 pounds, a new one-day record at the 37-year-old tournament.

Robert McCulloch Sr., founder of Lake Havasu City, would probably have been proud.

At the Lake Havasu City Visitor’s Center, history exits in a binder of newspaper clippings. One of the articles, coated in a hue of rusty yellow, features a black-and-white photo with a shoreline marked by protruding finger- and T-shapes that jet into Lake Havasu. The photo of old Site 6 dominates the cover of the Lake Havasu City Herald, issued Jan. 4, 1968.

That’s how it looked when Lake Havasu City founder Robert McCulloch Sr. flew overhead. He would end up purchasing a version of the London Bridge to adorn the Havasu Channel of his city.

McCulloch could hardly have imagined how big the redear sunfish have become – nearly 6 pounds, with potential for more.

The world-record redear caught in February was not even a spawning fish.

Some local anglers believe that a roe-filled spawner will be caught any day.

So grab a cup of nightcrawlers, maybe a fishing license online, and a sense of wonder.

A new world record could bear your name.

Fine Tune Finesse Fishing

Fine Tune Finesse Fishing with Mark Zona
from the Fishing Wire

Catch bass finesse fishing

How Hi-Vis Braid Provides An Edge In Detecting Subtle Finesse Bites

A decade ago, anglers were especially wary of hi-vis braids, preferring camouflage lines to everything else. That’s changed significantly with the success of finesse presentations like the ubiquitous wacky rig, Neko rig, drop shotting, the Ned rig, and countless other fish-catching finesse approaches. For many, hi-vis braid has become an indispensable part of the finesse rig, a way to monitor bites by sight and feel that simply increases hooked and boated bass.

One angler who’s made the conversion to hi-vis braid is Mark Zona, bass expert and TV fishing program host.

“Here’s what’s funny to me. 10 to 15 years ago a lot of us laughed at hi-vis braid and said, ‘What on Earth do I need this for? I need camouflage!’ Well, that thinking has gone by the wayside with spinning reel finesse fishing applications. It’s critical to have a hi-vis braided line. There’s no stretch in braid, so number one, you have much better sensitivity for bites. Then you add the visual aspect with the lack of stretch and that high level of sensitivity and you’re just putting more odds in your corner to land more fish. From a novice all the way to a professional angler, we look for every edge we can get in bite detection. That’s what this whole game is. If you’re using a braid that’s hard to see or camouflaged with the water with a fluorocarbon leader and you’re struggling to see bites, what you’re doing is absolutely pointless. I now probably apply hi-vis braid and a fluorocarbon leader to 80% of my finesse applications, whether it’s a drop shot, shakey head, etc.,” says Zona.

Especially in deeper water, bite detection when fishing finesse presentations becomes critical. Zona knows this well, spending much of his time in what he calls “crazy deep water”—20, 30, 40, 50, all the way down to 60 feet of water, working the bottom with finesse baits.

“That’s how I shoot my shows. To me, a hi-vis line is imperative. Sure, when you’re fishing in two feet of water or less, you don’t need to detect your bite as much because it transmits way faster. But when you’re fishing in deeper water as I am—10 feet all the way down into the abyss or 40, 50, or 60 feet—you’re looking for every edge you can get. Now, when I’m fishing the majority of my finesse techniques – power shotting, Neko rigging, standard dropshots, small finesse baits—basically everything—that braided line becomes, even more important than my rod, really, for telegraphing bites.”

One of the techniques Zona utilizes frequently is called power shotting, which is basically a very heavy drop shot application with ½-ounce to ¾-ounce drop shot weights.

“That’s one of my approaches in 20, 30, 40 feet of water. When my bait is down there on a six or eight-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon leader, I can literally tell you when a fish breathes on the bait with that hi-vis braid’s combo of no-stretch sensitivity and sight detection.”

But the same applies for drop shotting in all depths, especially when fishing vertically. Even if you’re using a lighter 1/8- to ¼ ounce weight, the sensitivity and visual aspect of a line like Seaguar’s Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green and fluorocarbon leader just communicates bites faster than any other line combination can provide.

Another deep water finesse application that benefits from hi-vis braid is Zona’s use of a Neko rig, essentially a weighted finesse or stick worm. Same goes when he’s fishing a standard Wacky rig.

“One of the things I can tell you, a wacky rig or Neko rig is probably tied on in every single boat across the country, period. And that is one of many applications where Seaguar’s Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green has really made a difference. I shot a show recently where I got on a school of bass out deep where I was catching them on a Neko Rig and that line jumps on camera to where the viewer could watch at home and tell I just got a bite! It was that impressive,” says Zona.

He continues: “What’s amazing is how well the high-visibility of the Seaguar Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green emits a bite; it’s staggering. When you get a bite, the color green line jumps like the green in a traffic light for ‘go’ and you just can’t miss it.”

The Ned rig is another finesse presentation that benefits greatly from a line like Seaguar’s Hi-Vis Flash Green. It allows you to see when your bait is falling through the water column and you can watch when it stops and the bait hits the bottom. Then, as you put a little tension on the line, not only can you feel and see any subtle jerk or sideways motion you can now decipher bottom content. The combination of braid and fluorocarbon leader allows you to tell when that Ned rig bumps into rock or slides through weeds—which is pretty much impossible with an extruded line alone.

That is the common aspect in fine-tuning any of your finesse fishing game—the use of a fluorocarbon leader, whether you’re power shotting, drop shotting, fishing a shaky head, wacky rig, Neko rig, Ned rig, small vertical baits like light jigging spoons, etc. A high-quality six to eight-pound fluorocarbon leader is perfect for most applications and you can even get away with 10 given how narrow and clear quality fluorocarbon is. Eight to 10-pound fluorocarbon also gives you a lot more abrasion resistance.

Whether you’re using a fluorocarbon like AbrazX or Tatsu it’s important you tie a good knot like a double-uni (aka uni-to-uni), cinch the knot tight and trim the tag ends closely to make movement through the end rod guide easier and necessitate longer casts, which are already 50% or so longer than using monofilament or fluorocarbon sans braid. The diameter is so narrow that there’s little resistance in the guides when you cast it, as well as how smoothly it winds off the spool. And with regards to tying line-to-leader knots like the double-uni, one trick that makes doing so much easier is wetting the end line of the braid, so it has some weight.

In terms of leader length, the higher you’re marking the fish in the water column on your sonar, the longer the fluorocarbon leader should be because you want to keep the braid out of their visual range. If bass are one or two feet off the bottom, they’re going to move down and eat stuff off the bottom, but you should have the knot and braid tied to a length that exceeds where they’re sitting. 24-inches or longer is a good place to start.

Back to the benefits of hi-vis braid, spooling your spinning reel with a high-visibility line like Seaguar’s Hi-Vis Flash Green also allows you to downsize the action of your rod, making it possible to use something with a little bit softer tip without losing any sensitivity. In fact, combine that rod sensitivity with what the line does and you can literally feel a fish breathe on your bait. The no-stretch characteristic of the hi-vis braid picks also up so much of the hookset that a high-quality rod like a St. Croix in the moderate to moderate fast action is a great match for finesse applications. This combination also delivers more visual information of what your bait is doing, with the line transmitting the wiggle, wobble, and other nuances of how your bait is performing under water, which is then telegraphed through the slightly softer spinning rod tip.

Like Zona, more anglers are turning to the use of hi-vis braid to fine tune their finesse fishing game—and for good reason. The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s a switch that not only makes sense in the bass realm but finesse fishing for all manner of fish—panfish, trout, walleye, striped bass, and just about any other freshwater and saltwater species you can think of. The recommendation? Give it a shot this season—you’ll be glad you did.

Fish Impacted by Hurricanes

Are Fish Impacted by Hurricanes?

Gray triggerfish tagged

Gray triggerfish tagged for research

From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

A new study indicates fish in deep water do experience the affects of storms

Hurricanes can and do wreak havoc on coastal marine ecosystems. They destroy coral reefs, mix up the water column, redistribute bottom sediments, and increase pollution via storm-water runoff.

Hurricanes can also cause fish to evacuate nearshore estuaries and coastal ocean environments towards deeper water. Nobody has studied whether storms influence fish in deeper water, but most people think they are mostly immune from storm effects.

Tagged gray triggerfish

Tagged gray triggerfish

In a recently published paper in Scientific Reports, researchers at the Beaufort Laboratory of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and a colleague at the Naval Postgraduate School show that fish occupying habitats as deep as 120 feet can also be strongly affected by hurricanes.

Researchers Nate Bacheler, Kyle Shertzer, Rob Cheshire, and Jamie MacMahan affixed transmitters to thirty gray triggerfish, a commercially and recreationally important oceanic fish species that associates with rocky reef habitats in the southeast United States. These fish were tracked in an area off North Carolina during September 2017 as two hurricanes, Jose and Maria, along the North Carolina coast.

What the researchers found was surprising, as each storm approached, most of the tracked gray triggerfish quickly evacuated the 120-foot deep study area in the direction of even deeper water, and those few fish that remained in the study area swam much faster than normal. After the passing of each storm, many of the tracked gray triggerfish returned to the study area within a couple of days and resumed normal swimming behavior.

Previous studies have indicated that falling barometric pressure, increased runoff, or a change in water temperature are primary cues that fish use to determine that storms are approaching. Here, gray triggerfish evacuated the study area 1–2 days in advance of hurricanes, long before any changes in barometric pressure or water temperature occurred. Instead, the researchers determined that, as surface waves increased in size from each approaching storm, energy from those large waves was transferred to the bottom, resulting in sloshing of water on the bottom. It appears as though the sloshing of bottom water, or the related fluctuating water pressure from sloshing, was the cue to which gray triggerfish responded. Only the waves from largest storms can transfer enough energy to cause sloshing in 120 feet deep of water.

We all know that storms can strongly influence the movements of organisms in estuaries and coastal oceans. This study shows that fish in deep, offshore oceans can be strongly affected by storms as well.

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew

When I first found this recipe for Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew it did not sound good. But since I had a bumper crop of yellow squash from the garden, lots of bell peppers that year, and a good supply of ground venison in the freezer, I tried it, and love it.

I have been making it for years and have adjusted my recipe Try it, you should like it! Its easy and quick.

I usually start in skillet then remember to put it in a pot for easier stirring.


4 or 5 yellow squash
large bell pepper
two 14.5 weight chopped tomatoes with chili peppers
a pound or so ground meat
bacon drippings
Tablespoon salt
half teaspoon black pepper

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew ingredients

Brown ground meat in bacon drippings. Add sliced squash, chopped bell peppers, cans of tomatoes, salt and pepper.
simmer for 45 minutes.

Little Manatee River

Snook-Rich Little Manatee River (FL) to Get 7300-Acre Watershed Preserve
Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings
from The Fishing Wire

With most of the shoreline along Tampa Bay either developed or restored, planners are looking upstream to protect tidal tributaries and provide higher ground for critical habitats as sea level rise continues to affect the region.

Lots of snook here

Miles of trails make much of the corridor easily accessible to hikers and much of the land is in its original state.
An important step in addressing that long-term trend is the development of a conceptual plan for nearly 7,400 publicly held acres in the Little Manatee River watershed, It is estimated to take at least 20 years and $30 million to complete the projects identified in the plan, said Brandt Henningsen, chief environmental scientist at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s SWIM (Surface Water Improvement and Management) Program.

“The district and Hillsborough County have purchased the land over the past 30 years, and the Little Manatee River State Park makes it a nearly contiguous 30-mile corridor along the river so wildlife can transverse it as needed,” he said. “When completed, it will be a passive preserve area for hiking and kayaking – not ballfields or ATVs.”

The plan itself was a $200,000 initiative funded jointly by the district and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

Much of the corridor remains in a relatively natural state, although other areas that had been converted to agricultural uses are covered in invasive species including cogongrass and guinea grass, as well as Brazilian pepper and hairy indigo. In some places, mosquito ditches drain land quickly rather than allowing water to slowing sink into the aquifer or naturally create low-salinity habitat. One location – the Willow Site – has become a popular, albeit illegal, spot for ATV enthusiasts who create ditches that drain to the river, increasing sedimentation and diminishing water quality.

To create the long-term plan, the district, county and Cardno assessed different parcels, dividing them into 10 sections ranging in size from 283 to 1,500 acres. Restoration plans are based on historical photos so that lands continue as close to their natural state as possible, Henningsen said. In some cases, the parcels can be restored to capture runoff from nearby agricultural fields, filtering nutrients before they get in the river.

Using a complex matrix that looks at water quality impact, groundwater impact, habitat value and enhancing regionally scarce communities, the district and county created a priority list based on average cost per restored or enhanced acre. The 1,423-acre Gully Branch Creek site was selected as the first phase of construction for an estimated cost of $5.9 million.

Although it is further from the bay than some other sites, it ranked well for its ability to improve water quality, improve groundwater discharge and establish a natural hydroperiod. It also ranked highly for easy site access, which will be a challenge at some of the sites, Henningsen said.

Within that section, the 444-acre Gully Branch upland restoration project is expected to be funded by SWFWMD in 2019. Formerly agricultural land, the site is now covered in cogongrass, considered to be one of the top ten worst weeds in the world. “The (SWFWMD) Governing Board has been very supportive of the SWIM Program and seen the value of these restoration projects,” Henningsen said.

Hillsborough County is responsible for most of the management and is participating in the restoration of multiple sites, adds Mary Barnwell, environmental lands management coordinator. “We’re already doing a lot of prescribed burning, exotics control and maintenance, including several recreational trails and trailheads that allow hikers back into the property.”

The Little Manatee River corridor is critically important over the long-term because it’s among the highest land in Hillsborough County with multiple bluffs overlooking the river. “We’re restoring both for the short term while also taking the long-term land use into consideration,” Barnwell said. “As sea level rise continues, we’ll need to create a west-to-east corridor that provides wildlife and plant communities room to move. We’ve seen them adapt to change in the past, but it was very gradual – now we’re looking at accelerated adaptation.”

The long-term plan for restoration of the Little Manatee River will function as a blueprint for habitats to accommodate a range of possible impacts from climate change. “This project is key to protecting some of our most vulnerable habitats, like juncus (black needle rush) marshes,” adds Maya Burke, science policy coordinator for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

By Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings