Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

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

Blackmouth

“Spinfishing”  for Puget Sound Black
mouth
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.

Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras

Look underwater

See What You’re Looking at With Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras
Three ways underwater study will help you find and catch more fish.

Crosslake, MN – For most anglers, watching the fish is something that happens only in the mind’s eye. You picture what your lure looks like, and how it moves underwater. You visualize what the weedbed or brushpile looks like and you wonder what types of fish might be inhabiting it. You imagine what it looks like when a bass first sees your lure and moves in for the strike.But unless you’re scuba diving or looking through the lens of an underwater camera, you don’t really know what’s happening below the surface.

For anglers truly interested in learning about fish behavior from an underwater perspective, an Aqua-Vu camera provides rare and incredible opportunities to observe, marvel and ultimately, catch more fish. No matter if you’re an ice angler, lure troller or a shallow water bass angler, an underwater camera can revolutionize your subsurface understanding.

Pole-Cam Perspectives Bass and crappie anglers have joined the ranks of underwater scholars, probing into and examining hard-to-reach areas beneath boat docks, inside brushpiles and under matted vegetation with a camera. Reaching out to inaccessible areas with his Aqua-Vu HD10i camera connected to a telescopic push pole, Major League Fishing pro Ott DeFoe likes to peek below boat docks. A special XD Pole Cam Adaptor makes connecting to any telescopic pole an easy five-second process.

“The pole-cam set up lets me look for big bass living in remote locations and under hard-to-reach shallow cover, like docks, without spooking them,” notes DeFoe, a longtime advocate of underwater study.“The Aqua-Vu also allows me to find concentrations of bass during pre-tournament scouting, without having to catch them before competition begins. That’s a huge asset in a tournament, and it works in clear as well as stained water, when all you need to see is the presence of fish a few feet from the lens.”

Visual Ice Fishing Mike Hehner, photographer, angler and producer for Minnesota based Lindner Media Productions has been a longtime fan of real-time underwater viewing with an Aqua-Vu camera. “I’ve spent the last few ice fishing seasons watching how bass and other fish behave in their natural habitat,” says Hehner. “What you learn is that every individual fish exhibits unique behavioral responses to lures or livebait.

“While ice fishing, I like to train the lens of my micro Revolution 5.0 Pro camera on a live minnow. Hit the record button and just start capturing footage. I can watch the video on the screen, live, or view it on my computer later on.

“Most people would be amazed to see what’s really happening down there—even during those periods when you’re not getting strikes. I’ve seen huge schools of bass move past the bait without even stopping to sniff. Other fish stalk and examine the minnow for many minutes at a time. Some bass lightly mouth the bait or nudge it, as if to taste or test it for palatability. Other times, they’ll nip the splitshot but totally ignore the minnow. I’ve also seen days when bass absolutely crush an artificial rattlebait over and over but completely ignore the livebait.

Trolling Goes Interactive A great way to add spice to the otherwise mundane task of trolling lures around the lake, sight trolling allows anglers to watch fish react in real time, right on the Aqua-Vu display. “The XD Live-Strike system connects the camera to your fishing line, letting you watch fish react to and bite lures, live,” says Dr. Jason Halfen, owner of the Technological Angler.

“What makes sight trolling with an Aqua-Vu such an amazing experience is the ability to see fish strike right on the screen, as it happens. With other Go-Pro type cameras, you don’t get to see what unfolds on the water until you’re done fishing.”Halfen and other anglers who’ve tried sight-trolling have seen some remarkable fish behaviors unfold on the screen. “You can’t believe how many fish—trout, salmon or walleyes—might be following your lure at once,” he observes. “Or the fact that a single muskie might follow your lure for 5 minutes or more before biting. You learn that a rapid acceleration in lure speed or a sudden interruption in its forward momentum, perhaps by contacting structure with the lure, can prompt an immediate violent response from fish.”

“After watching the fish for the past few years,” adds Hehner, “I realize how many times underwater study has revealed fish in spots I wouldn’t have otherwise found them. It’s also helped me make key adjustments to my presentation—a different way to hook my bait, lure size or a new color—that resulted in more bites and more fish on the line.“You never get bored watching the underwater show. You see something different, something new and exciting, every time you go out there and drop the Aqua-Vu. You learn and you absolutely catch more fish.”

View Online Version About Aqua-Vu The Original Underwater Viewing System, Aqua-Vu® is manufactured by Outdoors Insight, Inc., and has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds other popular outdoors products, such as the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera (iballhitchcam.com). For more information on Aqua-Vu, visit www.aquavu.com.

St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods

Surf casting with St Croix Surf rodz
Caris and Broderick on the Right Surf Rods at the Right Time
Handcrafted in the USA, redesigned St. Croix Avid® Surf and Legend® Surf rods provide surfcasters a significant edge
Park Falls, WI (February 5, 2020) – Serious surfcasters encounter an incredible variety of conditions over the course of their fishing seasons. From working chilly back bay flats in early spring to the roaring rips of major inlets during mid-summer, and the heavy, wind-driven suds along open ocean beaches come fall, the challenges are wide-ranging. Add multiple presentations for varying species, and the difficulties are compounded.The bottom line?

A surfcaster’s gear must not only be up-to-task, but also be well-matched to the conditions and opportunities at hand.“That’s why I love my Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods,” says St. Croix pro-staffer Matt Broderick of Medford, NY. “Between them, I can cover any surf-fishing situation Mother Nature tosses my way.” It’s the classic tale of having the right tool for the job at hand and these two families of American-crafted surf sticks let me fish with confidence throughout the season – whether I’m dealing with schoolies or cows in quiet waters, a rough-and-tumble surf, or anything in between.”
Broderick likes the versatility of both St. Croix series, but notes that each has a special place in his arsenal. Together, he explains, they allow surfcasters to cover all the bases, throw lure weights and styles to probe any kind of water from top to bottom, and turn big fish before they reach the nearest snag.“Take the newly revamped Avid Surf series,” Broderick explains. “Featuring premium SCIII carbon blanks and IPC technology, these smooth and powerful rods are designed for maximum casting distance and superior fish-fighting performance. I really like the 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model. It’s a terrific plugging rod that also excels working big pencil poppers and smaller options like bucktails, too. I’ll use it to toss anything from a half-ounce jigs to 2.5-ounce Super Strike, Cotton Cordell or Tsunami poppers. It has a sensitive tip and loads smoothly on the cast so you can throw those bigger lures a mile. It also has plenty of backbone, so I have no fear of targeting big fish around nasty structure.”
While Broderick lauds the Avid Surf series for its versatility, dependability, power and value, he says the Legend Surf series pushes the performance needle even further with high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon and FRS for unparalleled strength and durability, plus upgraded components and grips.“Legend Surf series sticks are extremely sensitive,” notes the 25-year-old striper sharpie. “The blanks and guide trains combine to create rods that cast exceptionally well and allow anglers to respond to the slightest bump or strike with an instant lure adjustment or powerful hook set. They also have tremendous stopping power.

Overall, Legend Surf rods deliver an edge in every department, which really comes in handy when the fish are far off the beach, while fishing in tight quarters, or when the bite is cautious and light.

”Broderick’s overall favorite surf stick is a Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model rated for lures ranging from 2 to 6 ounces. It’s his go-to rod when using finesse techniques in rocky areas and inlets along the Long Island coast.“There was a night last year when I was throwing 2-ounce jigs tipped with soft plastics at a single piece of structure protected by numerous boulders,” Broderick recalls. “A lot of lures are lost in that stretch, but the sensitivity of my Legend Surf 10’6” allowed me to pop those jigs up and over the rocks the instant I felt them. That placed my lure perfectly in the rip where I knew those bass were waiting. The stripers were biting light that night, but with the Legend’s super sensitivity and power, I was able to respond instantly to the pick-ups, drive the point home, and guide my fish out of the trouble zone before anything could go wrong.

”Like Broderick, St. Croix pro Shell Caris puts both his Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods to work targeting everything from schoolies to slobs as he mines the New Jersey Shore each spring before heading up to the Cape Cod Canal to concentrate on bigger bass. 
“I use every one of the Avid and Legend rods during the course of the year,” he says proudly. “Among my favorites for stripers and blues are the Avid Surf 10’ medium power fast action (VSS100MF2) model, which I love for its backbone and overall versatility; the Legend Surf 10’6” medium-heavy power moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2) model, which is my go-to rod in spring and early summer; and the Legend Surf 11’ medium-heavy moderate-fast (GSS110MHMF2) model, which is perfect for making really long casts and battling cow bass in the Cape Cod Canal. I match any of these three rods with 30- to 50-pound test braided line.

”Caris, 73, finds the backbone of the Avid Surf 10’ medium power, fast action model especially helpful when working big bass and chopper blues around large baitfish like adult bunker along the Jersey Shore in the early spring. He appreciates Avid Surf’s new charcoal color as an aesthetic improvement, noting this redesigned series now “looks as serious as it fishes.” He’ll grab his 10’6” medium-heavy, moderate-fast Legend Surf model when tossing smaller lures or tangling with anything from school bass to 20- and 30-pounders. On Cape Cod Canal, he enjoys the fast action, sensitivity and responsiveness of his 11’ Legend Surf stick, noting that with today’s braided lines, this is a rod that can cast far off the shore and still have the responsiveness to work a pencil popper or walk the dog with a surface lure.“I love that you don’t have to retrieve surface lures at bluefish speeds with this rod,” he says. “Just reel at a steady pace with a short, sharp twitching motion and it provides a tantalizing action that calls predators to the surface.”
Both Broderick and Caris believe that the recently redesigned St. Croix Avid Surf and Legend Surf rods give them an added advantage whenever they step up to the water’s edge. “You need a rod that can really stand up to big fish, tough conditions and a lot of time in the suds,” notes Broderick.

“These St. Croix surf rods have the pedigree and the new enhancements that prove themselves as superior fishing tools day after day and night after night.”Caris agrees. “To be successful in the surf, you’ve got to put in the time – so you might as well put your best foot forward with the Best Rods on Earth®.”Designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. for maximum casting and fish-fighting ability, the St. Croix Avid Surf Series features seven spinning and three casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length.

All are made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology with premium, high-modulus SCIII carbon and a charcoal gray color that fades into the background, especially at night. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® K-Series KW tangle-free guides with Alconite® rings and Corrosion Control™ (BC matte grey finish), a matte grey Fuji® DPS Deluxe reel seat with Back Stop™ lock nut, and a custom cork tape handle with machined trim pieces provide surf casters maximum casting distance and a firm, comfortable grip. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $225 to $420.
ST. CROIX AVID SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, fast action (VSS70MF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (VSS90MMF2)9’6” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS96MHF2)10’0” medium power, fast action (VSS100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSS110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSS120HMF2)

ST. CROIX AVID SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’0” medium power, fast action (VSC100MF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, fast action (VSC110MHF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (VSC120HMF2)Engineered and built for extreme surf-fishing performance, St. Croix’s Legend Surf Series is also designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A. It features ten spinning and two casting models ranging from 7’ to 12’ in length, all made using Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology and Advanced Reinforcing Technology™ (ART™). They feature premium, high-modulus/high-strain SCIV carbon with FRS for unparalleled strength and durability. An offset, slim-profile ferrule on two-piece models ensures one-piece performance. Fuji® Torzite® RV K-Series tangle-free surf guides with titanium frames provide unrivaled, 100% corrosion-proof performance, while a Fuji® Torzite® surf top with flanged ring greatly reduces line friction. A Fuji® DPS reel seat with PVD-plated hood ensures a rock-solid connection under extreme conditions and a custom neoprene handle improves comfort and durability while providing a positive grip even when wet. All models carry a 15-year transferrable warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Retail prices range from $470 to $670. 
ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF SPINNING ROD MODELS7’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS70MMF)8’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS80MMF)9’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS90MMF2)9’0” medium power, moderate action (GSS90MM2)10’0” medium power, moderate-fast action (GSS100MMF2)10’6” medium power, moderate action (GSS106MM2)10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS110MHMF2)12’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120MHMF2)12’0” heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSS120HMF2)

ST. CROIX LEGEND SURF CASTING ROD MODELS10’6” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC106MHMF2)11’0” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (GSC110MHMF2)
#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Shop now! 
MEET OUR MACHINERYComing to northern Wisconsin? We’d love to meet you, and we’d love for you to have the chance to Meet Our Machinery. Call us at 800.826.7042 or email us at factorytour@stcroixrods.com to schedule a factory tour. Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/factory-tours.#stcroixrods

Purging Fishing Equipment

Fishermen, especially bass fishermen, can never have enough equipment. Anytime anything new hits the market, we buy it.  If we don’t have a bait a professional fisherman uses to win a big tournament, you can bet that bait will soon be in our tackle box.   

Walk into Berrys Sporting Goods and you will be dazzled by the colors and variety of bass baits. Crankbaits look like little fish but come in colors Mother Nature never dreamed possible.  Spinnerbaits look like wire contraptions with spinners on one arm, lead head and skirt on the other and do not look like anything in nature.  And many baits look like nothing on earth.   

My “tackle box” is a 20-foot bass boat with six storage compartments, several of them big enough for me to get inside and close the lid. And they are all full of rods and lures.  

  Every few years I try to simplify my fishing, taking rods, lures and worms that I have not used in a couple of years out of the boat.  Boxes of those unused lures line my garage wall after a purge, but somehow seem to make their way back into the boat over the next few months, just in case I want to try them.    

Preparing for a tournament, I usually rig about 21 rods with baits.  Up front on one side of the casting platform I have seven rigged with baits I plan to use, based on time of year we are fishing. On the other side I have seven more rigged with baits I might use.  On the back, if I do not have a partner, I have seven more just-in-case baits.   

In a typical tournament I use four or five of the ones I plan on using, usually during the first hour.  Then I settle down and stick with one or two, usually a jig and a shaky head.  Normally I never pick up any of the other rods I have ready.   

I’m trying to simplify again. I basically have two color worms I use on my shaky head, and I have a dozen 20 packs of each color so I won’t run out. I am taking out the 30 two-gallon zip loc bags filled with colors I have not used in the past year.   

With the jig and pig, I again use two colors of jigs and two colors of matching trailers.  I don’t need the 25 other colors of both!   

There are crankbaits in my boat I bought back in the 1970s and have been moved from boat to boat nine times, but probably not tied on a line in 40 years.  The two-gallon bags of “spare” spinnerbaits have been unused so long their skirts are gummy and hooks are rusty.  No point in carrying them.  

  Even after I finish getting rid of all the unnecessary junk, my boat will still be full. And no doubt things will somehow move back in to my boat during the year, never used and purged again at some future date.

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act


House Passes Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act
By Jesse Allen
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing—in particular flyfishing—has inspired me to travel the world, ostensibly to pursue species commonly targeted with fly and light tackle such as bonefish, tarpon and permit. Like most anglers, it’s the encounters with exotic ecosystems and the wildlife they produce that inspires me to explore, rod in hand.

The most unforgettable encounter of my fishing career took place not far from home, in the blue wilderness called the Gulf of Mexico off southeast Texas. It’s an area I fish regularly for a variety of species. On that trip, I targeted sharks. That trip inspired an appreciation for apex predators and the reasons to protect them.

In 2005 Capt. Brandon Shuler guided me to a seamount that rises from about 300 feet to 80 feet of water southeast of Port Mansfield. Massive schools of forage fish, menhaden and pilchards, dappled the calm, green water as they circled the structure, attracting myriad predators to the surface. False albacore and blackfin tunas blitzed through the bait. Amberjacks ambushed from the cover of the reef below. But the sharks were the real “lions” of this watery domain. Thousands of them had aggregated over that reef, presumably to gorge themselves on the bait and gather energy for the rigors of their springtime mating.

I was so enraptured by the scene that Capt. Brandon had to remind me why we came.“Cast, cast,” he shouted, as the biggest blacktip I’ve ever seen crossed the bow heading right to left. I tossed a greenback streamer to the marauding shark. The fish charged the offering, and I set the hook. Between its spinning, high-flying leaps, the fleeing fish spun off line deep into the backing. But Brandon maneuvered the boat to our collective advantages in ways that put maximum pressure on the shark, which allowed us to land it quickly, without thoroughly exhausting the animal.

We photographed it. Then we took the measurements necessary to use in a formula that closely estimates weight. We felt a rush of excitement and relief as we realized we’d broken a Texas state record, while the shark swam vigorously away. The fish, landed on a 12-weight fly rod and 20-pound tippet, weighed and estimated 110 pounds.

No Hands Clapping

My record hardly made a splash in the news at the time. Media coverage of sharks in Texas typically focuses on Mexican lanchas poaching the animals in U.S. waters to sell in the fin trade—a trade that is an international scourge and blight on marine ecosystems.

Sadly, U.S. fishermen and seafood purveyors are still allowed to participate in an industry that is decimating ocean ecosystems around the world. The legal sale of shark fins by U.S. vendors perpetuates the market, one that encourages illegal fishing and overfishing all over the world. Poorly regulated or unregulated shark fishing can and has caused ecosystems to collapse, along with fishing-based economies.

Essential Predators

Depending on the species, sharks are high-level or apex predators. Their positions at the top of food webs put them in charge of removing the weak and the sick from fish and invertebrate populations lower on the food web, and of keeping the food web in balance. Without sharks, populations of predators lower in the food web can grow out of balance.

On a trip to The Bahamas, a nation that has banned commercial shark fishing to protect its ecosystems and tourism, a biologist-turned-fishing-guide taught me how sharks are essential in keeping jack populations in check. If jacks become overpopulated, they eat too many of the parrotfish and other grazers that clean algae from corals and seagrasses. That’s just one way that sharks protect robust, balanced food webs.

Economics 101

Recreational fishing, especially fishing-related travel, is expensive. I shudder to think what I’ve spent over the years getting myself and my expensive equipment into the world’s most sublime waters. Anglers like me drive the massive boat and tackle industries, as well as coastal economies, around the nation, and around the world. But like most anglers, I’m not going to spend hard-earned money to visit places with badly damaged ecosystems devoid of high-level predators. In fact, it angers me when mismanagement of a fishery or ecosystem undermines my investments in our sport.

There are a couple of ways to ruin coastal and marine ecosystems, and the economies they support. Pollution may be the most recognized and recognizable culprit. But overfishing—especially overfishing of high-level predators—especially in combination with pollution and habitat loss—is a quick course to collapse and economic despair.

According to experts, exports of shark fins generates only about $1 million annually for U.S. purveyors. I would wager that anglers spend at least that much in every shark-fishing destination around the country, in places such as Palm Beach, Florida and the Florida Keys, Louisiana, as well as in southeast Texas and Southern California. That’s not counting the goods and services that living sharks provide ecosystems.

Most shark species are easily overfished. They live a long time and reproduce infrequently, giving live birth to a few offspring every few years. Sadly, we are killing sharks at perilous rates, amid mountains of uncertainty, and in changing ecosystems.

By the numbers

U.S. fisheries managers don’t have adequate stock status data for over 62% of domestic shark stocks. Only 12 out of 64 stocks with data are not experiencing overfishing and are not overfished. That’s alarming. One of the driving factors behind shark mortality is the demand for their fins, which I contend should be eliminated in the United States.

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 877)

Shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters. However, fins can be sold as part of the whole shark or detached once the shark is onshore. The import/export trade also results in thousands of pounds of shark fins passing through U.S. ports and ending up in our marketplaces. Many of the fins come from countries with lax or non-existent shark-fishing regulations, including countries that still allow shark finning.

By allowing the sale of shark fins, and supporting illegal and unsustainable shark fishing, the United States besmirches its reputation as a leader in marine conservation. In fact, the very practice of shark finning flies in the face a national conservation ethos evidenced by our stewardship of special ecosystems through national parks, self-imposed excise taxes on recreational fishing gear that benefit wildlife, and massive investments in ecosystem restoration initiatives such as Everglades Restoration.

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 877), which just passed the U.S. House of Representatives, would prohibit the possession, sale and trade of shark fins in the United States. It would not prohibit the sale of shark meat, including the sale of meat from the increasingly popular and prolific spiny dogfish.Now it’s the Senate’s turn: passing the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act into law would go a long way toward protecting sharks, repairing our reputation as conservationists, and protecting domestic and international ecosystems that drive coastal economies. The Senate needs to pass S. 877 now.
Photo by Capt. Scott Hamilton

Great Holiday Deals on St. Croix Rods

Happy Holiday Deals!
Great time to fill your rod locker with
St. Croix Rods
Enjoy the biggest savings of the year on select, retired St. Croix Rod models from December 6th through the 20th
Park Falls, WI (December 3, 2019) – St. Croix anglers are always on the hunt for big fish, but now is the time of year when they are also hunting for big savings. Whether shopping for anglers on your holiday list or taking advantage of the biggest savings of the year to add to your own rod collection, St. Croix Rod has anglers covered with our special two-week Holiday Sales Event, starting this Friday, December 6th and running through the 20th.

It’s our way of saying “Thank You and Happy Holidays” to our passionate angling customers, and a sure-fire way for you to make the anglers on your shopping list smile. The fast-approaching online-only sale will offer incredible savings of up to 60% off a great selection of retired St. Croix rods, plus FREE SHIPPING on orders shipping inside the continental US!

St. Croix’s Holiday Sales Event will run from 7:00 AM CDT on Friday, December 6th through 10:00 PM CDT Friday, December 20th. Shoppers at www.stcroixrods.com/collections/rod-shopper can take 30% off select Legend Surf, Avid Surf and Mojo Musky rods; 40% off select Mojo Bass Glass and Premier Crankbait rods; 50% off Rio Santo fly rods; and a phenomenal 60% off SOLE fly rods and Avid Carp rods!
Freshwater rods, saltwater rods, flyrods… from trout to tarpon, online shoppers will find phenomenal deals on them all. But don’t be late; St. Croix Holiday Sales Event prices are limited to available stock.#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Spend $75 on apparel during the St. Croix Holiday Sales Event and receive a FREE Catch & Release Hat! 
MEET OUR MACHINERYComing to northern Wisconsin? We’d love to meet you, and we’d love for you to have the chance to Meet Our Machinery. Call us at 800.826.7042 or email us at factorytour@stcroixrods.com to schedule a factory tour. Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/factory-tours.

Christmas Gifts For Fishermen

I try to not think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, so I guess its time.  I have my two front teeth, so my next choices are fishing equipment. Fishermen are easy to buy gifts for, since we never have enough fishing stuff.

Prices range from a couple dollars to ridiculous amounts.    I think any fisherman would be happy with any of the following.  I know I would since I use all of them and depend on them.  I have everything on this list, but, like any other fanatical bass fisherman, I could always use duplicates!  

  Garmin Panoptix Livescope – If you like knowing what is underwater, the Panoptix system can’t be beat.  It shows structure and cover, but more importantly, fish as they move, their depth, distance from the boat and direction from the boat, much like shining a spotlight underwater.    You can make every cast count and see how the fish react to your bait in real time. Its almost cheating! The first time I was in the boat with one and saw how it worked, I ordered one for my boat as soon as I got home.   

This system is expensive, costing a little under $3000.00 for transducer and sonar unit with a ten inch screen for it.   

St.Croix Avid Rod – The Avid line of rods are good quality for the cost and have a great warranty.  The seven-foot medium fast is good for topwater, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits and the medium-heavy fast is perfect for small jigs, Texas rigs and shaky heads.   I use those two actions for almost all my fishing.   

The Avid series of rods are about $180.00. each.    

American Hero Speed Stick rod –  I bought a rod from Berry’s Sporting Goods to replace my heavy jig and worm rod I broke.  When I tested it in the store, it felt good even though it is a seven-foot rod and I really wanted a shorter rod for skipping baits under docks.  The medium heavy, fast action was right, though, and I got it.    After using it several times and catching a few fish on it, I am very happy with it.  It cast half ounce jigs and Texas rigs with a three sixteenths ounce sinker well, exactly what I wanted it for.  I can skip ok with it and it has good sensitivity for feeling bites on those baits.  The seven-foot length gives me good leverage when setting the hook.   

The American Hero Rod I got at Berry’s SportingGoods was a little under $100.00.   

Bass Pro Shop Reels – I get a nice discount from Bass Pro Shops on their branded stuff, so I use their reels.  They are less expensive than many of the same quality and have had good service with them.    The three I use are the Pro Qualifer, Carbonlight and Signature Series. The higher priced reels are a little smoother and cast a little better, but for most of my fishing the cheaper models serve all my needs.  I use the Signature Series for pitching and skipping baits under docks when the higher price makes it worth it.  For everything else, the lower priced reels are fine, and I can pitch and skip with them if needed, I just get a few more backlashes.   

The Pro Qualifer is $80.00, the Carbonlight is $125.00 and the Signature Series is $160.00   

Guidewear – I fish year-round and this time of year it can be miserable on the water if you don’t have proper clothes.  A few years ago I bought a Guidewear suit from Cabellas. The bib pants and jacket have both zipper and Velcro flap closings on all openings.  They are lined and have Goretex for waterproofing.    When suited up with hood up and closed, nothing shows but my eyes, nose and hands.  It is warm and completely waterproof.  I have fished in rain, sleet, wind and temperature in the teens and have been comfortable, except for my hands, even in the worst conditions.  Rubber insulated boots complete the outfit when it rains.   

This outfit is not cheap, at about $275.00 each for bibs and jacket, but worth it if you are out in bad weather.    

 Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon – Fluorocarbon line is important in clear water but works well in stained water, too.  The lighter line is limp enough for spinning reels but 12-pound test and up is best on baitcasters.  It is some of the toughest line I have ever used, strong and abrasion resistant.  If my reel is spooled with fluorocarbon, its Sunline Shooter. It has never failed me.   

A 200-yard spool of this line is about $25.00.   

Trilene monofilament line – Some baits like topwater require monofilament line, and I like Trilene XT Extra Tough line in 12 to 14-pound test. It is very strong, abrasion resistant and cast well on both bait casters and spinning reels.   

At 1000-yard spool of this line, plenty to last a few years, is about $25.00. 

   Rapala DT 6 – The DT series of crankbaits come in a wide range of colors and depth they work. They run true out of the box with no tuning.   The DT 6 is good from fall through Spring for bass feeding in relatively shallow water.  They have no rattles and that helps for spooky, heavily pressured bass. I have one tied on every trip and have caught some of my best limits on them.   

Rapala DT 6 crankbaits cost about $8.00 each.   

JJs Magic – JJs dip and dye quickly colors plastic baits and gives them a strong garlic scent.  It comes in several colors to “match the hatch“ and bass love it.  I never throw a plastic bait without dipping the tails in chartreuse JJs.   

A bottle of JJs Magic cost about $6.00.   

All these things work well for me and I would not want to be without them on a fishing trip.

Garmin Panoptix Livescope Review

A week ago last Thursday, after two frustrating days of running wires, hooking them up and screwing brackets on my boat, I got my Garmin Panoptix Livescope unit hooked up.  Part of the frustration was with the installation instructions with the unit. I kept having to stop and watch videos to try to figure out what to do.

    I thought maybe the confusion was just me, but several of the folks showing how to do it in the videos said they agreed, the instructions were terrible.

    Even though that Friday was rainy and cold, I just had to go to Jackson and see if I had it hooked up right and how it worked.  Although I had watched the system in action on Brent Crow’s boat, he has been using the Panoptix for three years and knows what he is doing. I was afraid the unit set-up would be as confusing as the installation, but it was very user friendly and simple.

    After launching the boat I idled to a point, turned on the unit and dropped the trolling motor with the transducer on it in the water.  Instantly I watch a school of fish slowly move across the bottom under a school of baitfish. It was amazing.

    I eased around with the trolling motor for about three hours, looking at brush piles, rocky points and fish.  It took some time to get used to the very different view on the Panoptix than what I usually see on my other units.  But it quickly became apparent what I was seeing.

    I made a few casts and watched my bait in the water.  A crankbait left a line as it wiggled back to the boat.  I could tell exactly how deep it was running. A jig arched to the bottom then left lines as I jerked it up and let it fall back.

    A couple of times I could see my jig going through groups of fish that I assumed were bass, based on their position.  But they would not hit it.  In and around brush I could see groups of fish suspended and guessed they were crappie, based on their size and position.

    Last Saturday in the Potato Creek Tournament I got to use the system for eight intense hours of hard fishing. The system preformed as advertised and expected. I learned a lot. 

    The main thing I liked was that I could see fish and know my casts were in the right place.  When fishing without the unit, I often wonder if I am casting to empty water or to places with fish but ones that won’t bite.  Now I know.

    It was very frustrating to see fish, know my bait was in front of them but still not get a bite.  It did make me change baits often, trying to offer the bass something they would bite. It also worried me that many fish, as the boat approached within about 30 feet, would sink down into cover and become inactive. That told me the importance or long casts.

    I did not do well in the tournament, catching only three small bass and placing ninth out of 17 fishermen.  But I am not sure I would have caught those three without the Garmin.

    The first two hit in some deep brush that I have fished for years.  But normally I would fish there with a couple of different baits then move on if I didn’t get a bite. Seeing fish there made me try different things and stay longer. 

    I caught one on a jigging spoon and one on a swimbait.  Normally I would fish the spoon but not the swimbait since it gets hung in brush so much. But with the Garmin I could cast and watch the bait, keeping it just above the brush, and not get hung.

    The first cast I made I saw a fish hit the swimbait  as it fell and got excited when I felt a fish on it, but it turned out to be a 1.5 pound crappie, a nice fish but no help in the tournament.  A couple of casts later I caught my second keeper on the swimbait.

    After trying several places and not seeing fish, I worked down a bank.  As I passed a dock I saw a brushpile in front of it that I did not know was there, and it looked like fish were in it.  That made me cast to it repeatedly rather than just making one or two cast as I usually do to brush.  Several casts to it produced my third keeper at about 10:00 AM.

    The rest of the day I watched fish ignore my baits, no matter what I tried.  That was very frustrating but based on the tournament results and what folks said, everybody had trouble getting bites. 

    Maybe if I had just left the Garmin turned off and fished the way I usually fish I would have done better. Or maybe I would not have caught a single fish.  Tournament fishing is like that.

    I am amazed at the Panoptix and how it works.  I think it is the electronics of the future for bass fishing and expect to see more and more of them on bass boats.

Watch Out For That Deer During the Rut

  The cartoon “George of the Jungle” had a theme song that contained the phrase “Look out for that tree.”  Drivers had better heed the idea “look out for that deer” right now.

    Bucks are in full rut, chasing does with abandon, paying no attention to their safety, or yours.  They will run out in front of cars, as will the does they are chasing, without a warning.  A friend on Facebook posted about seeing 16 dead deer in 30 miles on a highway not far from here.

    Bucks also do no pay as much attention to hunters as normal. A usually wily buck that feeds only at night and hides in thick cover during the day will be out roaming looking for and chasing does all day.  The rut is the best time to kill a big buck.

     I was out at Jack Ridgeway’s house, getting a tire replaced on my boat trailer last week, when Keith Duncan drove up. He had a massive eight-point rack in his truck from a buck he had killed.  The pages and website of Georgia Outdoor Magazine are full of pictures of trophy bucks killed in the past couple of weeks.

    So many deer have been killed in the past couple of weeks that every deer cooler in this area was full last weekend. None of them could take any more deer to process until they worked through some of what they had, preparing delicious venison for hunters’ freezers.  

    The good news for drivers, and bad news for hunters, is the main rut is about over.  Activity will decrease rapidly in the next few days and both drivers and deer will be safer. So, if you want a big buck you better get in the woods fast.