Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

Christmas Gifts for Fishermen

Black Friday has lost much of its hype with so many on-line sales and Black Friday sales in stores seeming to start after Valentine’s Day.  But if you are looking for Christmas gifts for that special fisherman, I have some suggestions – all are things I use every trip.

    If you have a really special fisherman in your life and want to be extravagant, consider a new Skeeter bass boat. You can get a fully rigged 20-foot Skeeter with a 250 Yamaha motor and most of the bells and whistles.  They are on sale for only $69,500 including sales tax.

    Somewhat more reasonable but still expensive, a Garmin Livescope depthfinder will show you in live action everything going on underwater around your boat. It is much like radar, showing fish movements and all cover.  A head unit and transducer will set you back about $2600, on sale.  They are amazing. I love and hate mine, watching fish follow my baits and not hit them, but at least I know I am casting to bass. And I enjoy watching schools of crappie suspended in treetops and how they move.

    I really like St. Croix rods.  Their Avid series medium heavy seven-foot rod is great for light worms and jigs and the medium action handles spinnerbaits, soft swim baits, crankbaits and more.  They run about $180 and the Avid series is mid-range – they have more expensive and cheaper series, too.

    Last year I bought a Lews American Hero rod at Berry’s Sporting Goods for heavy jigs and worms rigs.  I liked it so much I bought a second one, then purchased a combo with rod and reel.  The rods are about $60 and for that price they are great. Although I was skeptical of the reel that came with the combo for only $90 – a $30 reel is usually worth what you pay – so far it has worked great.

    Warm, water proof boots are a necessity this time of year for hunting and fishing.  I could not find any locally so I ordered a pair of Aleader boots for $50 and so far they are warm and comfortable.  I wish they had a removable liner, but the fur lining is nice. 

    I usually wear 10½ EEE boots but I ordered size 12, and they are a little tight.  If you order them get a bigger size than normal or you will probably have to return them.

    I have my favorite lines for different methods. For spinnerbaits, some crankbaits and topwater I like Trilene Mean Green in 12 to 14-pound test, less than $10 for 700 yards. For slow moving baits like jigs, shaky heads and worms that bass get a chance to look at closely, Sunline fluorocarbon is my choice in 10 to 16-pound test.  It runs $25 to $30 for a 200-yard spool, but it is invisible, tough and holds up well for me.

    Crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are good smaller gifts and run less than $10. I really like Rapala DT series crankbaits in a variety of colors and sizes.  The number tells what depth they run, hence the name “Dives To.” A DT 6 runs six feet deep on ten-pound line, a DT 16 runs 16 feet deep.

iI caught my biggest bass on a Suddeth Boss Hog crankbait, a nine pound, seven-ounce largemouth at Jackson in 1991. Suddeth makes a good line of crankbaits in a variety of sizes and colors. They cost around $7 each.

    The Hawg Hunter spinnerbaits work well for me and come in a variety of sizes and colors. And Rapala Jerkbaits work well for the price. There are more expensive jerkbaits, for example the Megabass and Lucky Craft Pointer series are about $15, and they may be worth it.

Professional bass fisherman Aaron Martens listed 25 things he must have in his tacklebox in an article in Bassmaster magazine. JJs Magic was one of them. I never throw a plastic bait that is not first dipped in chartreuse JJs Magic. It is about $7.50 a jar and comes in three colors and clear. The clear is just to add scent without changing color of baits.

    For stocking stuffers, hooks, leads, swivels and other terminal tackle ranges from less than $2 to several dollars.  Sinkers are hard to find right now, Berry’s bins are almost empty of popular sizes, but more will be in soon. And I like VMC, Gamakatsu and Owner hooks in a variety of sizes.

    The best gift of all would be to take family and friends fishing and hunting to make memories for a lifetime. They are both “essential activities” not only during Covid but year-round, every year. And they are priceless.

Costa Helps Vets with their Freedom Series

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing WireLong known for high-quality, on-water eyewear, Costa® Sunglasses recently released the Freedom Series, highlighting the brand’s partnership with Freedom Fighter Outdoors (FFO). If you’ve been needing an excuse to splurge on some admittedly fairly pricey Costa’s, their assistance to FFO might be just what’s necessary.
The Freedom Series glasses feature many of the most popular Costa frame styles in patriotic-inspired colors, and support Freedom Fighters Outdoors’ initiative to help get veterans out on the water and participating in recreational outdoor activities.

Costa offers the series in both glass lenses—which are more scratch-resistant and also somewhat clearer than polycarbonate–and the poly lenses, which are lighter and also more shatter-resistant. I personally have always liked glass lenses for the clarity, plus glasses used in a center console tend to get the heck scratched out of them bouncing around on the dash if they have plastic lenses. Costa says their glass lenses are 20% thinner and 22% lighter than average polarized lenses, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer.  The models with glass lenses are somewhat heavier than some other brands just because Costa builds their stuff to last, but they’re not so heavy that you notice the weight on your nose or ears. The hinges, for example, are not only stout stainless steel, but they’re inset inside the durable composite frame. This not only protects them from salt spray and the resulting corrosion but adds reinforcement at the point where most glasses eventually fail. 

The blue mirror lenses are among the best choice for bright sunlight and flats or offshore fishing—minimal color distortion, good fish spotting and the polarization and mirroring greatly cuts glare. If you’re strictly a flats angler, you might like the amber lenses better because they tend to make vegetation and fish “pop” in the shallows, but the blue mirror gives things a light gray cast that seems natural after you wear it a few minutes.

A very useful feature on all Costa glasses is that they provide exact measurements of all their glasses on their website, so you know in advance how they’re going to fit if you buy them via the internet. For example, the Reefton version we checked out has an overall width of 129.2 mm and a bridge width, that is across the nose, of 15 mm.

The lenses are 63.5 mm wide, 42.3 mm tall, the ear pieces 112 mm long. They’re designed for those with large heads. They also make other models that are smaller, better fits for young anglers or for most women.  I like that the ear pieces are curved to grip the contours of the head, but have relatively little drop behind the ears. To me, this design stays on well and is easier to take on and off than those with a pronounced drop in the ear pieces. (I always put CablZ eye glass retainers on my sunglasses before wearing them the first time—saves losing them overboard, plus I always know where they are when they’re not on my head.)

The ear pieces, like the nose piece, are made of a “sticky” composite that helps the glasses stay in place, even when you’re sweaty.

The Freedom Series includes 16 frame styles across the brand’s lifestyle categories. The line ranges in price from $179 to $279, depending on frame and lens combination—pricey, but the company is known for standing behind their stuff.  (I also like that Costa does their bit for fish and fisheries habitat through programs that include producing a collection of frames made from recycled fishing nets as part of its Kick Plastic initiative, as well as partnerships with conservation groups and the shark research organization OCEARCH.) 

For more information on the new frames and the full line of Costa sunglasses, visit

Squirrel Season

 Squirrel season opens Saturday. 

    When I was young, I looked forward to this opening day with as much anticipation as any deer hunter waits for deer season now.  It was a highlight of my life until my late teen years.

    I got my first “real” gun for my eighth birthday. That used Remington semiautomatic .22 was the love of my life.  I followed a strict rule, I could not load the gun or take it from the house without an adult present.  I knew if I broke that rule, I would not see the gun for months, if not years.

    Since daddy didn’t have time to take me squirrel hunting, and I could not go with any of my friends, I was dying to go that fall.  I knew exactly when season opened and daddy told me we would go after dove ended and before quail season opened, but that seemed to be forever away.

    One afternoon I came home from school and got a snack of cold corn bread and catsup.  While eating it I saw a squirrel run up a big hickory tree across the road. Mama and daddy were not home. The only adult in the house was Gladys, the woman that helped mama around the house, with the chickens and raising me and my brother.

    I told her to come with me, got my rifle and loaded it, with her fussing the whole time. She followed me out the door and across the road.  The squirrel, being a squirrel, instantly ran to the top of the tree and hide on the back side of it.

    I eased around the tree and the squirrel went to the opposite side, as they do, but Glady’s fussing and movement made it move back into my sights. I was so excited I did not make a good shot, but it fell to the ground with the hole made by the long rifle bullet through its belly. 

    I grabbed it by the tail and knocked its head on the tree, killing it.  Then Gladys and I went back to the house, with her still fussing at me.

    When daddy got home he was little mad but proud of me killing my first squirrel.  He showed me how to clean it, the first I gutted and skinned of hundreds since then. And mama and Gladys cooked it that night for dinner.  It was old and tough, but they made it tender and delicious!

    Daddy was always busy with his job as principal of Dearing Elementary School and taking care of our 11,000 laying hens after work and on weekends.  He hunted every Saturday afternoon of dove and quail season and only rested on Sunday afternoon, after church and doing what had to be done daily with the chickens.  That was the only time I ever saw him slow down, relaxing in his recliner and sleeping through a baseball game on the radio or TV.

    But one afternoon he came home after school and said he would go squirrel hunting with me. I quickly grabbed my rifle and he took the .410, my second gun. We went into the woods across the street and hunted a bottom that ran down to Dearing Branch.

    I killed ten squirrels that afternoon, the only time I really remember getting my limit. But daddy never fired a shot. I realized later he made sure I was the one that got a shot when we saw one up a tree, moving around so the squirrel came to my side.

    I will never forget that afternoon.

    A few years ago I went to war against tree rats around my house. They gnawed into my garage and nested in the ceiling, dropping leaves, twigs and other stuff into my boat. If I saw one in the yard, I would grab a 12 gauge shotgun, step out on the deck and kill them. There was no sport or hunting involved.

    When he was alive, Rip would jump around and go to the door as soon as I picked up a gun. Now Cinnamon does the same thing. Both learned to look where I was looking up in the trees and run to the area. I’m not sure they knew what they were doing but they would drive the squirrel around to my side for a shot.

    Both loved to grab a fallen squirrel and shake it, breaking its back and killing it if not already dead. And both would bring the squirrel to me, even if reluctantly.

    I try to cook every one of them, using some of mama’s recipes for fried squirrel and gravy, squirrel stew and squirrel and dumplings. And I BBQ them, make squirrel and cream of chicken soup and several other methods.

    I wish every kid knew the joy of squirrel hunting and daddy going with them.

Old Lures Copied To Catch Bass

By Frank Sargeant, Editor

What’s old is new again with a couple of true classic lures reincarnated by PRADCO and released as part of the July virtual ICAST.

The Jitterbug from Arbogast, with the identifying metal cup on the nose, has been around since the early 1940’s, while the company says the equally odd-looking Heddon Slopenose originated in about 1902—it was the first commercially-produced lure developed by legendary lure designer James Heddon, according to the company.Of course the modern versions of the lures have some significant upgrades, including durable synthetic bodies, complex multi-coat paint-jobs and upgraded ultra-sharp treble hooks. But the original action and shape are still there in each.

The Slopenose is designed to perform as something between a popper and a stickbait. The weird-looking collar acts to catch water and make a satisfying splash when jerked, a plus for aggressive schooling bass, and it can be bobbed up and down in place to fool more cautious bass in flat water situations.

This is not a lure that pops easily like a Rebel Pop-R, however. It takes a bit of a touch, but with just a little practice it’s possible to make it dance in place while fluttering and splashing—the bass in my Alabama home lake loved it. Best action came from three short hard twitches, followed by a 10 second rest, then three more, etc.

This lure also looks like it has some serious saltwater possibilities for lunker trout and snook in the surf, and big redfish around the jetties–I’ll be trying that this fall if all goes well.

The new Jointed Jitterbug 2.0 not only has a wobbling jointed tail section, but also a large feathered treble as the tail hook. The thing comes across the surface much like a buzzbait, with a classic “bobbling” sound that identifies this iconic lure. However, the Jitterbug has the advantage of being a floater—you can stop and pop it in place now and then, adding to the attraction. The long feathered tail makes a sinuous aft wake behind—the thing looks a bit like a small water snake on the move.

The lure is offered in cool-looking crackle-paint patterns, and has an anodized aluminum headplate—the lure won’t corrode when used in brackish water.I note that keeping the lure bobbling requires positioning the rod tip just above water level—raise it up and the lure loses traction—and fish appeal. Otherwise, it’s a very easy lure to fish, good for the kids to learn topwater fishing. It doesn’t take the line control or the timing of a topwater twitchbait.

You can see more on both these PRADCO brands at we’re on a topwater roll, check out the new Choppo from Berkley.

This one also qualifies as a weird-looking lure, but it’s a modern invention.

The separate tail has an off-center fin or blade that rotates as the lure is cranked. This causes the whole tail section to rotate, creating a “plop-plop-plop” sound not unlike that produced by the Jitterbug, above, and with similar fish-attracting possibilities.The Choppo shape is more shad-like, so it works well around bass busting bait schools on top as well as over shallow grass and around shoreline cover. It comes in three sizes, with the 90 mm ½ ounce version a favorite for spotted bass and smallmouths, the larger 105 and 120 mm versions usually best for largemouths. The 120 is also a good wake bait for striped bass in cooler weather when the fish go shallow chasing shad.

All three sizes also can function as topwater jerkbaits, with plenty of splash when twitched along steadily. As with all topwaters, the action is brought out best with no-stretch braided line and a fast-action rod.

All of these lures have the new Berkley Fusion 19 trebles, some of the sharpest, “stickiest” hooks on the market. See more at

Give Your Reels a Little TLC–and They’ll Return the Favor

Clean your reels

by Jeff Williams 
Editor, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
from The Fishing Wire

LITTLE ROCK — Outdoorsmen have as much fun tinkering, fiddling and piddling as they do hunting, fishing or looking for wildlife.

They break down rifles and shotguns, clean and oil the mechanisms, and put the pieces back together. They clean binoculars and cameras so they’ll be ready for the next sighting of a favorite critter. And they tear into fishing reels to make them spin smoother than the day they came out of a box.

There’s probably a gene for taking things apart. If you’ve got it, you love to open a reel to see how it works, especially if it’s old and crusty.

Years ago, I was driving to a float-fishing trip when I spotted a yard sale. This one featured the usual out-of-date items, from bread boxes to Brownie cameras, but one table was loaded with reels. Like most fishermen, I have reels to the gills, but I liked the idea of buying a couple and putting them back into service.

I picked up a Cardinal 553 and a Cardinal 763 for $10. Neither was obviously damaged (the 763’s handle was attached with a replacement screw, although it appeared serviceable). The action of each was sluggish and they were dinged up. I packed them away, went on with the trip and came back to them months later.

Parts and Pieces
If you’re not familiar with the process, yard sale reels are a great place to start. You’re not investing a lot of money and most older reels are pretty basic. Check websites for reel schematics; you’ll be amazed at the number of schematics for obscure reels that have been posted. Reels are loaded with parts, especially washers. Perhaps the best advice for anyone who plans to breakdown a reel is: Keep the parts in order (this is where the schematic can come in handy). Create a system (number the parts, go by order of disassembly, whatever works) that will help put them back the way they were. Owners’ manuals (check the internet) may give tips about how to disassemble or reassemble.

Now that digital cameras are on everyone’s phone, it’s a great idea to take pictures of the inside of the reel as soon as it’s open and take plenty of pictures along the way. These images could be vital if the parts just won’t fit later.

A good scrubbing
Degrease everything. It’s the grit inside a reel that causes it to grind when it’s cranked, sort of like dirty oil in an engine. Even a cheap old reel turns much more smoothly after cleaning. Just put the parts in a shallow bowl with degreaser and let them soak. The degreaser will do most of the work for you if it’s given time.

With an old toothbrush or swabs, wipe away gunk from gears, washers and the “worm shaft,” a perfectly descriptive phrase. Clean the inside and outside of the housing because dirt left there will find its way into cogs. The goal is to remove anything that could hold grime.

Use light greases and lubricants on the worm screw and gears – anything that moves. An owner’s manual might explain how to reach the bearings, which should receive a few drops of oil. Don’t overdo it with the oil and grease, though. Too much lubricant can dry and cake up around bearings and gears, collecting the sort of dirt and grime you just cleaned.

Besides the two reels mentioned above, I found a Browning rod and reel at my feet while wade fishing in the Buffalo River several years ago. The combo was covered in all sorts of growths. None of the rod was visible,and I knew the reel only by its shape.

As beat up and hopeless as that rod and reel looked, they are in use to this day. A cleaning removed the crud from the rod, light sanding restored the cork handle, and the reel works like a charm after a thorough cleaning and oiling. Fresh electrical tape straps the reel to rod.

Keep it clean
Maintaining reels on a regular basis will keep them out of your future yard sales.

On spinning reels, oil the bail assembly at the hinge where the bail flips over to cast and the crank where the handle meets the reel body. Take the handle out of the reel and drop just a little oil where the handle goes.

With baitcasting reels, oil the level wind and put a drop of oil on the bearings – just a little bit. Pull the spool out and wipe around it. Keep it clean and oil those bearings.

After a while, no amount of cleaning will keep a reel from needing some professional help. Bearings and gears wear; there’s no way around it. But keeping everything clean is a sure way to prevent an early visit to the repair shop.

The original version of this story appeared in Arkansas Wildlife magazine in 2010. Visit to learn more about the magazine and how to subscribe.

Buy Fishing Line Based on Diameter

My favorite fluorocarbon line

Buy Fishing Line Based on Diameter, Not Lb. Test, Advises Sunline
from The Fishing Wire

Making enough line to go around the world nearly 34 times each year, Sunline has the largest stand-alone line factory on the planet. Despite making so much line every year, quality and accuracy are guiding principles for production of every spool of line that Sunline makes. 

 Sunline manufactures their lines to strict diameter tolerances that require a specific diameter range for each lb test. These diameter specifications are held across the globe for any line we offer. 

 Japanese laws require line companies selling line in the Japanese domestic market to label lines with a specific lb test based on pre-determined diameter ranges.  This policy ensures lines rated at a specific lb test will break at that lb test for true accuracy.

The true measure of a line or fiber is the denier rating.   Denier is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers.  It is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fiber. This provides a true measure of the strength of a line or fiber and allows the strength of different materials to be compared regardless of the diameter.  One fiber may have a higher breaking strength because it is larger in diameter, but that does not mean it is stronger, only thicker in diameter.  Denier allows fibers to be tested and compared regardless of diameter for a true comparison.

Companies selling line in Europe are also held to a similar standard for diameters with the EFTTA Line Charter.  The charter is a pledge by over 35-line manufacturers stating they will only manufacture lines that meet agreed upon standards.  

A few of those include:
To print on their products clear and accurate descriptions in terms of diameters and breaking strength that are easy to understand, truthful and respectful of consumer protection laws and the standards of the industry, in compliance of the ISO 2062 Standards.

To run quality controls in sufficient quantities and sufficiently often to ensure that products labels are always accurate.

Not to use any other labeling in terms of breaking strength that is not scientifically demonstrated or agreed by the industry so as to avoid any confusion among consumers leading to unfair competition.

So, what about the US?  There are no such guidelines or charters in the US market regulating diameters.  Line companies can produce a line and label it with any lb test they want.  What better way to make a line seem stronger than it really is than to make a larger line and label it with a lower lb test.  This will make the line seem much stronger than it really is. An angler thinks the line is strong but doesn’t realize they are fishing with a much larger line size.  

If an angler were to catch a record fish using one of these inflated lines, the record would not be upheld when they submitted the record catching line for testing.

 In some cases, an angler thinking he is buying 12lb line is actually buying 22lb line with a 12lb label on it.

This can obviously impact the status of record fish caught with inflated line sizes. Other ways inflated lines impact anglers are in the performance of their lures.  Many lures swim or run better with lighter line.  If you are buying line you think is 12lb which will allow a lure to perform at its best, but the line is much larger it can impact the performance of the lure. 

 Crankbaits and jerkbaits run deeper with smaller diameter lines allowing them to reach maximum depth.  Similarly, anglers that troll a lot purchase lines based on the diameter knowing it will impact the diving depths of their crankbaits when trolled.  

The Precision Trolling Data shows the impact that a larger diameter can have on the diving depth of a crankbait.

Additional Resources
Trolling data,

Fishing the Ned Rig

Ned Rig
Tips on fishing the Ned Rig
from The Fishing Wire

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Ned Rig is one of the hottest techniques in bass fishing these days. Just a few years ago though, this ultra-finesse setup was known only in the backyard of its birthplace in the Midwest, and when Z-Man brought the Ned Rig to the bass fishing mainstream six years ago, most serious bass anglers laughed at the idea of using ‘crappie jigs’ to target bass. The technique has now proven its worth, racking up multiple tournament wins and helping cash countless checks, and today, you would be hard-pressed to find a tournament bass angler who didn’t have some variation of the Ned Rig on-hand.

Nonetheless, while many anglers have picked up on the Ned Rig due to its simple ability to produce bites in tough conditions, most are still not maximizing its effectiveness due to a few simple – and easily corrected – misconceptions or errors in tackle selection and technique. Below is a list of missteps we see time and again from our customers that limit their success of this technique.

1. Using Hooks That Are Too Big
Initially, many anglers scoffed at the small, light wire size 1 and 2 hooks on our Finesse ShroomZ jigheads and labeled them ‘crappie jigs’ that weren’t suitable for bass fishing…until they actually tried them. The fact is that you will get more bites and maximize the effectiveness of ElaZtech finesse baits by using a jighead with a small, light wire hook, whether it’s one of our Finesse ShroomZ or a jighead made by another manufacturer.

One of the main reasons why the Ned Rig works so well is because of the buoyancy of our ElaZtech material. At rest, the baits stand up off the bottom and move ever so slightly, even when deadsticked. On the fall, the buoyancy allows for a slower, more horizontal, sometimes spiraling descent.

A larger hook can not only weigh down the bait and cause it not to stand up properly, but it can throw off the balance of the rig and cause it look unnatural in the water.

Moreover, the ElaZtech material is extremely soft and limber, much more so than conventional soft plastic materials. The portion of the bait with the hook running through it is stiffened by the hook shank itself, but the section behind the hook is completely uninhibited and moves freely and naturally. The more material behind the hook, the better action the bait will display in the water.

In fact, Midwest pioneer and Ned Rig namesake Ned Kehde routinely uses tiny size 6 hooks in his fishing. Ned is the most meticulous note-taker and documenter of his fishing efforts, and his logs reveal no problem with hooksets or thrown hooks with these tiny hooks. We selected size 1 and 2 hooks for our Finesse ShroomZ as we felt it was a healthy balance between allowing for plenty of bait action and lift and offering a product that consumers would not be uncomfortable using for bass fishing.

Of course, there are times when a larger or heavier hook is beneficial, like fishing around cover or in heavy current when more pressure is needed to horse in fish. That is precisely why we created the NedlockZ, which features the strongest size 1 and 2 jig hooks known to man, and the Pro ShroomZ, which utilizes a strong size 1/0 custom hook. Day in and day out, the lighter wire hooks of the Finesse ShroomZ get the nod, as they simply provide better bait action and get more bites.

2. Using Tackle That Is Too Heavy
When we say that the Ned Rig is an ‘ultra-finesse’ technique, we mean it! Chances are that many bass fishermen may not even own a rod that is suitable for a Ned Rig. Due to the light weight and diminutive size of a Ned Rig, spinning tackle is a must. Spinning rods designed for shaky head, drop shot, or split shot techniques may be suitable, provided that they have a very light tip to accommodate the small hooks of the Finesse ShroomZ jigheads. Other anglers have employed trout or panfish rods, which probably are a better choice. Several manufacturers, like Lew’s for instance, have designed technique-specific Ned Rig rods to help anglers match the right rod to the rig.

Generally, rods should be light or medium-light power with a fast action and a very soft tip.

While standard 2500 or 3000 size bass reels will work fine, we have found that smaller 1000 size spinning reels usually reserved for trout or panfish are even better, as they are built to handle fine diameter lines. In addition, the smaller spools on 1000 size spinning reels take up less line with each turn of the handle and enable anglers not accustomed to this technique to slow down their presentations.

Though some anglers opt for fluorocarbon line, light braided line of 10 lb. test or less is better as it allows for longer casts with very lightweight jigheads. Tying on a light fluorocarbon leader is always recommended.Just as important as tackle is the drag setting. Due to the small hooks on the jigheads that work best for this technique as well as the light wire they are deliberately built from, much lighter drag settings than bass fishermen are accustomed to are required.

One common complaint we get about our Finesse ShroomZ jigheads is that the hooks bend out on big fish; however, the bottom line is that if you are straightening hooks, then your tackle is too heavy or your drag is not set light enough.

Many bass over 10 lbs., pike over 20 lbs., and redfish over 30 inches have been caught using these jigheads with appropriate tackle, so they’re plenty strong to catch big fish.3. Using Too Heavy a JigheadWhen we get asked which weight jighead to use for the Ned Rig, we always tell people to use the lightest jighead possible. Fish routinely hit the Ned Rig on the fall, and if you’re using too heavy a jighead, the bait will plummet past the fish straight to the bottom. A lighter head will simply keep the bait in the strike zone for longer and will allow for that tantalizing, slow descent that makes the Ned Rig so effective. A lighter head also hangs up less on rocks and helps keep the bait out of grass or algae that lines the bottom of many lakes.

There are certainly occasions where a heavier 1/6 or 1/5 oz. head is necessary, like in depths of greater than 20 feet or in significant current. Day in and day out, a lighter head will simply produce more bites. For general shallow water lake or pond fishing in depths of 10 feet or less, the 1/10, 1/15, and 1/20 oz. jigheads should be your mainstay.

4. Throwing Away a Bait After a Few Fish
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a novice Ned Rigger toss an ElaZtech bait after catching a few fish on it. This may seem counterintuitive, but ElaZtech finesse baits actually get better with age! After being chewed on by a few fish, the flexible material starts to exude salt and takes on a softer, spongier feel with a slimy coating that is irresistible to fish. Small rips or tears from teeth limber the bait up even more.

Many diehard Ned Riggers go as far as to gluing worn baits onto their jigheads or even tying them together with thread. Others stretch their baits before using them to eliminate some of the salt and give them the sought-after spongy texture, while others soak the baits in water to achieve the same effect.

5. Fishing Too Fast
Most bass fishermen love power fishing and love fishing moving baits. There’s just something exhilarating about covering ground with a ChatterBait® bladed jig or swimbait, yanking bass from thick cover with a flipping stick, and having a bass smash a topwater plug is equally exciting – not to mention that’s how most tournament anglers are fishing these days, and bass fishermen are quick to mimic their techniques even on recreational outings.In our mind, fishing the Ned Rig is just as much – if not more – fun and exciting, though the excitement comes from the sheer number of bites you get and the fight on light tackle – not to mention out-catching just about everyone else on the water!

The key to generating all of those bites is to slow down your presentation.This takes discipline, especially when using lightweight jigheads. Let that bait sink all the way to the bottom. Deadstick it for a few seconds on the bottom before hopping, dragging, or swimming it. Drag it very slowly along the bottom and then let it sit again. Doing all of these things truly maximizes the effectiveness of the ElaZtech material, allowing it to work for you whether the bait is slowly spiraling through the water column or standing up off the bottom and moving ever-so-slightly at rest.

6. Setting Hooks Too Hard
Just like tackle and drag settings must be adjusted to account for the small, light wire hooks used with the Ned Rig, so must hook setting techniques. Most bass fishermen are accustomed to hard hooksets while power fishing, but setting the hook hard with the Ned Rig is counterproductive and can result in bent or pulled hooks.

The hooks used on our Finesse ShroomZ jigheads are made from light wire and are very sharp out of the pack, a combination that leads to easy hook point penetration with very little pressure. When setting the hook, simply reel tight and lean into the fish, loading up the rod. Just a little bit of pressure is all that’s needed to firmly embed the hook in a bass’ mouth.

To that end, maintaining a sharp hook point is critical when using the Ned Rig. It is always wise to carry a small hook file when fishing the Ned Rig to touch up those hook points after a fish catch or dragging the hook across a rock. We prefer a small diamond hook file, the type used more commonly by fly fishers to sharpen tiny hooks meant for stream trout. It really is amazing how much of a difference keeping a sharp hook point can make.

7. Using Baits Made From Materials Other Than ElaZtech
While this point may sound entirely self-serving coming from a manufacturer like Z-Man, it is perhaps the most important note on this list. Sure, the small and simple profile of the Ned Rig has a lot to do with why it gets so many bites, but the ElaZtech material is just as important. As noted above, the buoyancy and softness of ElaZtech are keys to providing the absolute best action, both on the retrieve, on the descent, or at rest. In addition, the material’s durability presents a superior value, but more importantly, keeps you fishing rather than re-rigging when the bite is on. And with a Ned Rig, you get a tremendous number of bites, making durability even more important!

This importance of using ElaZtech baits truly cannot be overstated, and we hear this nearly every day from customers who have experienced this for themselves. Case-in-point, here’s a note we received recently from a customer: “I have to admit, after recently learning about and deciding to try the Ned Rig, it just wasn’t working out. Of course, I was ripping a standard Senko in half and using a mushroom-shaped swimbait head. What a joke – I couldn’t figure out how people were actually catching fish on it. I was at a local retailer and saw the TRD and the Finesse ShroomZ heads and bought 2 packs of heads and 4 packs of plastics and set out for my tournament the following day. I AM A BELIEVER!!! What a difference! I am so impressed, I caught so many fish doing something I had never done before. Best part – one single bait lasted all day. To top it off, I ended up winning the tournament by over a pound.

“While we routinely read in tournament reports about professional anglers using other non-ElaZtech plastics on their Ned Rigs, most of this can be chalked up to sponsor obligations and conflicts that prevent them from using or mentioning Z-Man baits. The fact is that we’ve shipped product directly to dozens and dozens of tour-level anglers with conflicting soft plastic sponsors over the last couple of years, including overnighting baits to tournament locations at the last minute on multiple occasions. And, the most dedicated and diehard Midwest finesse anglers are still using ElaZtech virtually exclusively.8. Limiting Yourself to Certain Bait ProfilesAgain, this last point definitely may come across as self-serving, but we feel it is absolutely worth mentioning, nonetheless.

The 2.75″ Finesse TRD is far and away the most popular Ned Rig soft plastic, and for good reason – it flat-out catches fish. However, anglers are shorting themselves by having a few packs of TRDs on-hand and figuring that they have their Ned Rig bases covered.

Like other types of soft plastic fishing, there are many Ned Rig profiles that work at different times of the year or under certain conditions. Most any small soft plastic bait can be used with the Ned Rig; in the Z-Man line alone, the 4″ Finesse WormZFinesse ShadZHula StickZ3.75″ StreakZTRD TubeZSlim SwimZCrusteaZ3.5″ GrubZTRD HogZTRD CrawZTRD MinnowZTRD TicklerZ, and TRD BugZ all complement the Finesse TRD as part of Ned Rig system. Each of these baits offers its own set of advantages and can be utilized to match predominant forage in different fisheries.

One advantage of the Ned Rig is that it works so well on pressured fish, but keep in mind that fish can become accustomed to and resistant to certain profiles that are over-utilized; when the bite slows down, mix it up by switching to a completely different profile to show the fish something that they may not have seen.

If you read Ned Kehde’s frequent entries in the Finesse News Network, you’ll see that he consistently relies on the Finesse WormZTRD MinnowZTRD HogZ, and Finesse ShadZ while fishing in Kansas reservoirs. Z-Man finesse bait designer and Bassmaster Classic veteran Drew Reese, along with several tour-level anglers like Z-Man and Bassmaster Elite pro Jeff ‘Gussy’ Gustafson, feel that the Hula StickZ gives them a better shot at connecting with larger fish on a regular basis. A group of finesse devotees in Texas have seen their catch rates increase by adding the Slim SwimZ, a diminutive swimbait, into the mix, while northern anglers have recently latched onto the TRD TubeZ as a go-to finesse bait. We could go on and on, but the point is that having several different profiles on-hand and experimenting with them in various situations will undoubtedly help up your success with Ned Rig!

Breaking Fishing Equipment

 My trip to Eufaula in March was tough on equipment, but I did not realize it until the next weekend.  Some of it was wear and tear over time, some from stupidity and some from just bad luck.

At Bartletts Ferry the next weekend while re-tying a Chatterbait something just did not look right. On close inspection, the clip holding the line to the lure had corroded and the hook holding it together was gone.

I had caught two good bass on it the weekend before and lost a four pounder that just pulled off. I don’t think the broken clip had anything to do with that but will never know. I do know that if I had hooked another bass on the lure the hook would have come open and I would have lost lure and fish.

Fortunately, it was a regular Chatterbait costing about $6, not their Jackhammer costing $18!  But even an inexpensive lure from a big company should not corrode like that.

The next day I picked up my St. Croix crankbait rod, tried to cast it and something was wrong. I looked and the first guide from the reel was bent. When I tried to straighten it, I saw the rod itself was crushed. It had been stepped on!I don’t remember stepping on it but may have since I have so many on my boat deck while fishing. 

When I got home I contacted St Croix warranty service about sending it back, and was told due to the COVID–19 problem I should just send in pictures of the break and the serial number and it would be replaced for $85, less than one third the cost of a new one

.A couple of days later they called me. Although the rod was about ten years old, and the break was obviously damage, not a defect, it was still under warranty and they replaced it for only $50!

You can not get better service or warranty from anybody.

While all this was going on, I noticed a reel laying under the rods in my back rod holder.  It had fallen off a rod. At first I thought it has just vibrated loose, but when I looked the ear that holds one end of the reel to the rod was broken off.  That is not repairable!

I had to replace my back running light at Eufuala when I let the wind blow the back of the boat under an overhanging bush and broke the pole.

Maybe my run of bad luck is over, but with a bass boat and a lot of fishing equipment, there will be other problems.

Tips on Fishing the ChatterBait JackHammer

Chatterbait Bass

Tips on Fishing the ChatterBait JackHammer from Winning Pro Anglers
The Original ChatterBait bladed jig had already made a sizeable splash in the professional bass scene when in 2017, Z-Man and Japanese lure maestros EverGreen International collaborated on what would quickly become the single most coveted tournament bait in America.

Three years later, the Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer still sits at the top of the game.

With a major collection of tournament wins and dominating performances already to its credit—including the Bassmaster Classic and other elite events— the ChatterBait JackHammer has worked its special blend of magic once more, this time at the January 2020 FLW Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

On day one, Z-Man pro Grae Buck hoisted the largest bass of the event—a 9-pound 8-ounce heavyweight that engulfed a ½-ounce green-shad-color ChatterBait JackHammer dressed with a Z-Man RaZor ShadZ™ trailer.

Eventual tournament champion John Cox credited a black-and-blue Z-Man ChatterBait for its clutch performance. After fishing the first three days with a crankbait, Cox’s pattern for staging prespawn bass fell apart. Grinding through the final day, he ran to a pair of favorite trees, where three 2-3/4-pound bass ate Cox’s ChatterBait in succession. A cool $102,500 payday rewarded the Florida angler’s choices.

Further proving the JackHammer’s mettle for heavyweight largemouths, third place finisher Darold Gleason relied on a ½-ounce B-Hite Delight-color ChatterBait JackHammer to elicit bites from shallow, prespawn bass. Meanwhile, keying on isolated cypress trees, tenth-place angler Jon Canada called a chartreuse-white JackHammer his primary lure.Z-Man pro Grae Buck lipped the tournament big bass, a bruiser 9-8 largemouth caught on a ChatterBait JackHammer.

At Rayburn, two more elite ChatterBait programs yielded top-20 paychecks. Z-Man pro Miles “Sonar” Burghoff notched a respectable 18th place finish thanks to a JackHammer; Burghoff might have risen much higher in the ranks, had a submerged tree not punctured his hull on day-2.Weighing a total of 41-pounds 3-ounces, fellow Z-Man angler Buck leaned on his big bass and three solid limits to earn a respectable 19th place finish. Buck, a standout collegiate hockey and fishing star during his days at Penn State University, worked a ChatterBait JackHammer around and through mats of submerged vegetation.

“I was keying on massive patches of hydrilla up in 4 and 7 feet of water,” said Buck, who won the 2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open on a Z-Man Finesse TRD™. “The key to triggering bites was to rip the bait free each time it contacted a hydrilla stem. Even when I’m fishing the bait in open water, I’ll pause or give it one rodtip twitch every so often. Seems like every time you make the bait ‘hunt’ a little or change direction, you get bit.

Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ”One amazing thing about the JackHammer is its ability to produce more vibration and thump and a bigger footprint than its physical size might suggest,” Buck noted. “I think when you put a RaZor ShadZ on the back, the whole package looks like a gizzard shad. But when bass move up close to it, the lure isn’t intimidating. So you get both powerful attracting cues and lifelike physical attributes that result in big bite after bite.

The JackHammer has now produced my two heaviest largemouths to date, and a lot of really big smallmouths.

“Burghoff, an exceptional, versatile angler who lives near the shores of Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga, fished a similar ChatterBait pattern, with a slight variation in retrieve. “At Rayburn, I threw a ½-ounce JackHammer in a neat pattern called ‘Bruised Green Pumpkin,'” he said. “The head is highlighted in blue fleck and the skirt includes a few blue silicone strands added to a green pumpkin base. It’s one of the really unique colors that helps set the JackHammer apart from other bladed jigs.

“Like Buck, Burghoff employed a Z-Man RaZor ShadZ trailer (green pumpkin) and also concentrated on dense stands of submerged hydrilla. The anglers each fished near drains—Texas terminology for the back ends or pockets of feeder creeks.

“I often fish a JackHammer with what I call a yo-yo retrieve,” Burghoff noted. “You’re lifting the ChatterBait and letting it freefall back to the bottom. Each time you do this, you’re presenting fish with an opportunity to react, to bite something that’s vulnerable.”Although Z-Man ChatterBaits have been touted almost exclusively as shallow water tools, Burghoff also likes to ‘yo-yo’ baits like the JackHammer and new ChatterBait Freedom CFL Football on deeper ledges.

“On the Tennessee River lakes, I fish a ChatterBait all summer in those offshore situations,” he adds. “I’ve caught bass in up to 25 feet of water. Where others might fish a crank or a hair jig, I’m throwing a ¾- or 1-1/4-ounce JackHammer, giving fish a different look. The lure’s a lot more versatile than people realize.

“Miles “Sonar” Burghoff says a ChatterBait can also be a great tool when fished yo-yo style on deep structure.

Puget Sound Blackmouth


“Spinfishing”  for Puget Sound Black
By Captain John Keizer So how do you find Puget Sound winter blackmouth? The answer is don’t look for the blackmouth but rather look for what attracts blackmouth.

Blackmouth are a delayed released hatchery king salmon that don’t migrate to Alaska but instead inhabits the waters of Puget Sound after being released. The name blackmouth comes from the black gumline that identifies it as a resident chinook salmon. Blackmouth range from the legal size of 22 inches up to fish taken in the upper teens.

In the many years I have fished Puget Sound I have found that Puget Sound blackmouth relate to three things, structure, current and food.We have all heard the line, “Find the bait-find the fish.” It sounds so easy but so many anglers ignore this simple advice in locating blackmouth. Blackmouth salmon are voracious feeders and will be looking for sand lance (candlefish) or herring to fill their bellies year around in Puget Sound.

The sand lance, which are also known locally as “candlefish,” because pioneers used to dry them and make candles out of them due to their high oil content are an ecologically important forage fish throughout Puget Sound where they school in many bays, banks and inlets. Sand lance are important food for young salmon who crave the high oil content; 35% of juvenile salmon diets are composed of sand lance and blackmouth salmon depend on sand lance for 60% of their diet.

Sand lance spawning occurs at high tide in shallow water on sand-gravel beaches. Sand lance will also use sandy beaches for spawning. Knowing when and where this food source is will directly reflect on locating winter blackmouth.

Herring can be located at resting spots that are dictated by the current. As in river fishing, bait will be pushed into the lee of a current flow behind points, islands and land masses. The same is true in Puget Sound, knowing the position of the tide will allow you to find the best location to find baitfish and salmon feeding on it.

Trolling a downrigger is in my opinion the best method for consistently hooking blackmouth. I spend much of the winter season employing this method of fishing. I run 3 Hi Performance Scotty 2106 downriggers onboard Salt Patrol my 27ft North River O/S. Being able to cover lots of water with your tackle at a controlled depth is an extremely effective way to fish for winter chinook that like to inhabit the deep waters of Puget Sound.

My rod & reel setup is a Shimano Tekota-A 600 Line counter reel matched with a G. Loomis E6X 1265 moderate action rod. The reels are spooled up with 30-pound test mono main line. Yes, downrigger fishing is the one fishery that I still run mono line for.

New from Yakima Bait is the Spinfish bait-holding lure, representing a new design in combining lure-and-bait to produce more and bigger salmon. The SpinFish features a pull-apart fillable bait chamber with a scent-dispersing design. When trolled behind a downrigger this lure will produce a vibrating, spinning, wounded-baitfish action that salmon can’t resist.

Yakima SpinfishI was lucky to get to test the prototypes for the Spinfish last winter. My first experience with the Spinfish started with targeting winter blackmouth out of Port Townsend located on the northern part of Puget Sound. We ran the Spinfish behind 11” rotating flashers and medium size Fish Flash and had very good success on blackmouth up into the mid-teens. The strike on the Spinfish is not like on light tap on a bait bite. The blackmouth will hit the Spinfish hard, run a bunch of line out of the reel and then race to the surface for the rest of the fight.

Several times the rod tip would be in the water when we went to take the rod out of the holder.

To ready the Spinfish you just pull apart the body and fill with any bait including tuna, herring or sardines. I had the best results using canned Chicken of the Sea Tuna (packed in oil). Pour the canned tuna into a plastic container with the all the oil in the can. At this point I will add scents from Pro-Cure. Mix in some Bloody Tuna or your choice scent and mix and you’re ready to charge the Spinfish body. Pack the Spinfish body with tuna and put the two parts back together.

I rig my Spinfish 25-40 inches behind a Fish Flash or 35-45 inches behind rotating flashers. My setup last year was to tie two 4/0 Mustad octopus hooks close together on 30lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and add one glow bead above the top hook to act as a ball bearing. Slide the Spinfish on the leader and tie to swivel and then attach to the Fish Flash or rotating flasher and you’re ready to fish.Yakima Fish FlashThe SpinFish can be rigged to spin clockwise or counterclockwise and unlike other bait holding lures, it needs no rubber bands to keep the lure together. The precisely drilled sent holes in the Spinfish will disperse a sent pattern into the water and salmon will follow the scent trail back to the lure. Just like any lure bring your gear up every 20 minutes and check it for shakers (undersize salmon) and re-charge the Spinfish body with fresh tuna.

I normally have 4-5 Spinfish loaded with different bait scents and ready to swap out each time I check my gear. Blackmouth bites windows are short and you don’t want to waste time during the prime bite times rigging tackle.

The new SpinFish comes in two sizes, a three inch and a four-inch version, that now both come fully rigged and ready to fish. The three-inch size comes in 20 of the hottest colors Yakima Bait producers. The four-inch version comes in 10 proven fish-attracting colors. All the Spinfish colors are coated in UV blackmouth catching finishes.

Blackmouth like to do their feeding where the bait is. They are aggressive feeders and tend to feed when the current is minimal to expend as little energy as possible. That means the best time to catch them is when you’re fishing in the right current flow or lack of current movement. You may have heard that the best fishing for blackmouth is one to two hours before or after a tide change. Really its right before or right after a current change as that’s when the water goes slack and the fish will expend the least energy finding baitfish.