Category Archives: How To Fish

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Guntersville Keeper Bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 4/4/20

The bass were staged for an active pattern that was ready to explode then we had three nights in the 30’s and the fishing just stalled until Friday afternoon where it all changed. We found some 68-degree water temperature and the fish turned on like they were supposed to. I was a gift from the big guy as we boated several good fish and hopefully the best is yet to come.

We stuck mainly with plastics, Missile bait stick baits, Tight-Line jigs and swim jigs and we did throw some Picasso spinner baits and SPRO Aruka shad at certain times. We stayed in mainly 8 ft. of water or less looked for movement, bait and grass.

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Catching Ice-Out Crappies

Ice Out Crappie
Catching Ice-Out Crappies in Northern Lakes
From Northland Tackle Pro Joel Nelson
from The Fishing Wire

It’s been an odd spring, and for that matter, and even more peculiar winter.  Open water in the southern part of the northern states has been around for a few weeks, while in the north, there’s still ice, albeit a poor version of it, clinging to memories of a winter that wasn’t. 

Early season panfish bites are a rite of spring, typically happening in mid-late April for most northern lakes.  This year due to the unseasonably warm weather, I’m happy to say, we’ll probably have some bonus time in my state, Minnesota, with crappies already snapping in the shallows. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when tracking down a good spring crappie bite.

Water temperature is a key contributing factor to everything crappies in the spring.  Cold nights below freezing, cool-water runoff from melting snow, and heavy cloud cover can all contribute to the death of a seemingly un-killable bite.  As black-bottom bays and rock-laden shorelines store what solar energy they can, crappies flood to the shallows as water temps hit 45 degrees and above.  In most of the lakes I fish, this seems to be as close to a “magic number” as I can find in helping to predict not only locations, but mood of the crappies I’m after. 

Anything much off that value, and shallow water crappies become much more rare and hard to find.  Even after locating them, you just don’t see the large congregations of fish that are willing to eat like you do in the 45-50 degree range and above.  That said, spring is a roller coaster of conditions in northern states, full of false-starts, short intense feeding periods during warm weather, and then eventually spawn and post-spawn behavior.  Your best bet is multiple trips that allow you to track changes in water temperatures, such that you don’t hit before the front end, or after the spawn.

Regarding location, when warm water is scarcer in the early season, those shorelines that are even a few degrees warmer can be full of fish.  This is true even when they lack good cover, provided you’re fishing the warmest water in the lake and it’s still early.  Black bays on the north side of a lake are a good start, and don’t hesitate to fish shallower than 5 feet, especially in systems with poor clarity.  Even as water temps rise into the 50’s, fish remain shallow, feeding on baitfish drawn to the warm water and emerging life that’s brought on by warm afternoons and an even more aggressive sun angle.

Cover is king for pre-spawn crappies, and while any wood or timber is good for finding them, brush is better.  An isolated log or stump may hold a few fish, but large concentrations of fish will be found where they can bury themselves within and along brush piles.  Unfortunately, most anglers miss the bonanza by fishing only around the edges, rather than within the heavy cover.  Occasional fish are to be had this way, but to do well in these situations, you’ll need to be prepared to fearlessly fish inside of the heavy stuff, not just around the edges.  For that reason, especially in darker, more turbid water, I’ll fish 8lb test mono or heavier, as small jigs and small line are an exercise in brush-fishing frustration. 

In northern natural lakes with broad and shallow shorelines, timber can be hard to find, so crappies focus on bulrush and pencil-reeds for cover.  Whether wood or vegetation, getting in the middle of it seems to pay dividends.What to use is an important factor during this time of year, with water temps again dictating presentation and lure selection.  Especially early, the temptation is to fish fast and cover water to find larger schools.  Just coming out of winter, locations can be a mystery, and bobber-fishing shallows is simply too slow for most anglers. 

That said, especially during the early season, crappies will rarely chase to eat moving baits presented on the edges.  Fish with floats, and use meat.  Crappies are carnivorous little beings, and you’ll be surprised how savagely they’ll strike a minnow offered on a jig with hair, tinsel, marabou, or flashabou.  This larger profile requires some aggression, and hookups seem much more sure as crappies are required to fully inhale such a presentation. 

Keep in mind however, that bluegills which can be found in the same areas this time of year, are less likely to be able to eat such baits.  I have been pleasantly surprised by large perch, especially when fishing backwaters bites, that will be more than happy to eat a 1/32oz jig with a minnow.

Plastics bites are still to come, but typically require warmer conditions yet.  It’s unfortunate that minnows are best fished when your freezing fingers would otherwise want you to use artificial bait-only, but it seems like warm weather and glove-less hands are about the best predictor on when to start looking to retrieved plastic presentations.  For this reason, bring bait until moving presentations readily out-perform more stationary live-bait options.

It’s a great time of year to be on the water.  Wait till a warm afternoon, and pick apart the shallows until you find some fish.  Keep it simple, have fun with it, and save the ultra-serious stuff for later.For more fishing tips, visit www.northlandtackle.com.

Tips on Catching River Run Walleyes

Big Walleye

Tips on Catching River Run Walleyes in Spring With Northland Pro Chip Leer
How to catch river-run spring walleyes

Winter’s waning moments signal the start of an annual rite of spring, as schools of spawn-minded walleyes surge upstream in rivers across the continent. Don’t let the cool water temperatures fool you, the spring run can produce some of the year’s best fishing for walleyes and sag-bellied saugers.

Team Northland Pro Chip Leer of Fishing The WildSide knows the drill.“My favorite fisheries are good-sized rivers flowing into larger bodies of water, like the Detroit River on the western end of Lake Erie, or the Rainy River at Lake of the Woods along the Minnesota-Ontario border,” he says. “Walleyes from the main lake congregate around the river mouth in late winter, then swim upstream to spawning areas—thereby boosting the walleye population into the stratosphere.”

To find fish fast, Leer often begins his walleye quest at the river mouth and works up from there, prospecting prime lies like channel edges, eddies and all sorts of likely-looking seams and current breaks.“Virtually anything that breaks the current or otherwise offers walleyes an opportunity to rest or feed is worth a try,” he says. “Main-channel holes rank high on my hit list. Holes are magnets for fish moving up and down the river, and often ‘recharge’ throughout the day as fresh waves of walleyes roll in.”

A variety of tactics take spring walleyes, from three-way rigging to trolling crankbaits along the bottom. For Leer’s money, vertical jigging is hard to beat. “You can jig from an anchored position or while slipping down-current, using your trolling motor to keep the line vertical,” he says.

Leer’s go-to leadheads include Northland Fishing Tackle’s Slurp! JigUV Whistler Jig and round-head RZ Jig. “These jigs hold live bait and plastics in place, and allow me to get a solid hookset,” he explains. “That being said, the relatively new Swivel-Head Jig is an up-and-coming choice. I like the way the jig’s rotating hook gives live bait and plastics more action than traditional fixed hooks.”

Leer recommends tipping your jigs with a flavorful artificial trailer like Northland Fishing Tackle’s IMPULSE Paddle MinnowSmelt Minnow or Ringworm. “Three- to 5-inch baits give walleyes a target in the low-visibility conditions common in spring rivers,” says Leer. “For added scent and taste, skull-hook a fathead or shiner minnow on top of the plastic bait.”

For best results, Leer advises keeping your jig strokes on the down low, especially early in the spring run. “Slow and methodical lift-drop moves tight to bottom trump crazy ripping maneuvers,” he says. “Some days, holding the jig still, within an inch or two of bottom, gets the most bites. As the water warms up and walleyes gravitate to shallow water near the bank, pitch your jig toward shore and experiment with different dragging, swimming and pendulum presentations,” he says.

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.

Where and How to Catch October Bass at Lake Oconee, with GPS Coordinates

October 2015 Oconee Bass

With Cody Stahl

Die hard bass fishermen love October.  Pleasure boaters are mostly off the lakes so you don’t rock and roll all day while fishing. And a lot of part time fishermen are in the woods hunting or stuck in front of a TV watching football so there is a lot less pressure on the fish.  A great choice to take advantage of these things for an October trip is Lake Oconee.

Oconee is a Georgia Power lake in the middle of the state. It is lined by golf courses, houses and docks. There are so many pleasure boaters on a summer weekend day it can be tough to fish.  Right now bass are responding to cooler water temperatures and less boating activity by feeding.

Cody Stahl is a senior at CrossPoint Christian Academy in Hollonville, near Griffin, and loves to fish. His father Chad is a well-known tournament fisherman on the Berrys’ trails and won the Berrys’ point standings two years in a row.  He has taught Cody well.

Last Novemer Cody and his partner Tate Van Egmond won the BASS High School state championship at Eufaula.  They came in tenth out of 134 teams in the BASS High School National Championship on Kentucky Lake this past spring.  Cody plans on picking a college with a good fishing team next year to attend.

Cody loves bass tournament fishing so much he changed schools two years ago to attend a school where he could form a team.  His dad took him to night tournaments on Jackson starting when he was seven years old so it is in his blood.  Oconee is one of his favorite lakes, especially in October.

“By the end of September the cooling water is making the shad move into the creeks and the bass follow them,” Cody said. The old adage “find the bait and find the bass” definitely applies on Oconee this month.

“Active creeks are the best,” Cody says.  He likes to find a feeder creek that has a good ditch in it and fish it from the mouth back until he finds where the bass are feeding. Once you find that area is should be consistent in other creeks, too.

A wide variety of baits will catch bass right now on Oconee and Cody will be prepared to throw a lot of different baits.  He has a Texas rigged FishHog Angry Beaver, a Zoom Baby Brush Hog and a  FishHog JigSaw jig and pig ready to pitch to shallow cover.  For faster fishing a #6 Shadrap, Chaqtterbait and RC 1.5 square bill is on his deck. And he always has a Spro Frog to throw to grass and shallow wood.

Both a buzzbait and a spinnerbait are good for fishing faster around any kind of shallow cover.  These baits allow him to fish docks, grass, wood and rocks as he works from the mouths of the creeks all the way to the back.

Cody and Tate took me to Oconee in early September to check out the following places. Shad were just moving into them and fishing was tough, but we caught a lot of throwbacks and Cody landed three good keepers. Bigger fish will be on these spots much better now.

1.  N 33 25.184 – W 83 14.243 – Going down the river past the Old Salem Campground on the left the river makes a turn to the right.  On the left bank, an outside bend, there are a lot of rocks and small pockets that attract shad and bass early in the morning.  There is a gray dock with white post on a block seawall just upstream of a small pocket.

Start in the pocket just downstream of the dock with buzzbait and spinnerbait and fish upstream, working the wood, rocks and docks.  Fish around the point into the small creek upstream of the dock.  Cody likes a white three eights ounce Terminator spinnerbait with two sliver willowleaf blades and a Booyah black or white three eights ounce buzzbait.

Hit any cover you see and also cast right against the seawall.  The curves and changes in the seawall are key spots.  Pitch to the docks, too.  Wind blowing into the docks and seawall makes this and other spots better if it is not too strong.

2.  N 33 25.807 – W 83 14.571 – Back upstream a double creek enters downstream of the campground and the swimming area is on the left going in. Stop on the point between the two arms, across from the swimming area, and fish to the right, into that arm of the double creek.  There are rocks on the point and it is one of the first places the shad and bass move to as the water starts cooling.

Start on the point with your boat in about eight feet of water, a long cast from the bank, and fish a buzzbait and crankbait on it.  Cody likes a crawfish colored Shadrap and a squarebill in shad colors.  When you get past the point to the cuts on that bank and with other cover on it, cast a frog, buzzbait, chatterbait and spinnerbait to it.

There is a big blowdown on the bank past the first small pocket and Cody lost a good three pound bass right at the boat from it.  It hit his chatterbait on the end of the tree. Don’t hesitate to work a chatterbait through the cover like this. Cody likes a three ounce black and blue bait.

Fish all the way around the back of this creek. There is a good ditch in the back and I lost a two pound bass almost right in the back that hit a worm under an overhanging bush. Cody likes overhanging bushes like you find here and bass will often hold right against the bank under them.

3.  N 33 25.648 – W 83 15.290 – Across the lake there are some condos on the upstream point of a creek with an old dam across it.  Go to the corner of the riprap at the condo docks and start fishing.  Cast your Shadrap and spinnerbait on the rocks and try topwater early in the morning, too.

Fish through the gap and work the back side of the riprap, then fish the docks and other shallow cover on the left back in the creek.  Don’t hesitate to fish very shallow cover like the brush pile on the island with the “Traffic Island” sign on it back here.

A shad color frog is good on the thick shallow cover and your jig, Brush Hog and Beaver are all good when pitched very shallow, especially around dock posts.  Cody rigs his Baby Brush Hog in watermelon red or black and red on a quarter ounce sinker and skips it to the cover. He rigs a black and blue or dirty pumpkin beaver the same way.

4.  N 33 25.017 – W 83 14.550 – Going down the river the big inside bend on your right has some good docks to fish on the downstream side. Go around the point and stop at the first dock.  It has a black canvas top.  The house for this dock is way back in the trees.

The bottom at the first couple of docks is soft but turns to hard clay past them.  There are some rocks on the bottom, too.  Fish each dock with jig, Baby Brush Hog and beaver.  Also pitch a chatterbait under them.

Many people fish only the front of docks and Cody says this is a mistake. He always goes in behind them and fishes the back side and walkway, too. He skips his baits under them and works them back, hitting every post.

Cody is very good at skipping or skittering a jig under docks and says the rod action is critical to do this. He prefers to flip docks with an ALX Rods IKOS series Promise 7 foot rod because he says it has the prefect amount of tip on the rod to flip and skip docks,

Between the docks throw your crankbaits, chatterbaits or spinnerbait.  Shad move down this bank in October into the small creek it leads to.  Cody will fish all the way to the back of the creek and then fish back out the other side, hitting the docks and banks between them.

5. N 33 24.817 – W 83 13.495 – Go down the river past the island on the left and around the bend to the second creek on the left. A marina is back in this creek in a cove to the right and the creek goes to the left. Stop on the left bank of the main creek just upstream of a long point with grass down to the seawall.  The creek narrows down at this point.

Just upstream of this point are three small docks. The bank is fairly deep with overhanging bushes. Start fishing at these small docks, hitting each one with jig, Baby Brush Hog and beaver. Also skip a chatterbait or frog under the overhanging bushes and pitch a soft bait under them, too.

Fish down this bank until you stop seeing shad or catching fish, then jump across to the other side and fish those docks to the point of the marina cove.  Try to hit every post of each dock.

6.  N 33 24.531 – W 83 13.914 – Go back up the river to the next creek upstream of the one in hole 5.  It is a smaller creek downstream of the island and has a good ditch and docks to fish, and there are overhanging bushes, too.  Start at the third dock on the left and fish to the back of the creek.

Cody likes docks with five feet of water in front of them but says most of the fish he catches are three feet deep or less, so don’t hesitate to fish very shallow docks.  Fish all the posts. It takes longer to get in behind them to fish the back side but it is worth it.  Also fish the shade on this bank.

7.  N 33 25.228 – W 83 14.608 – Go back up the river to the big point on the left, across from hole 1.  This long point gets a lot of wind blowing in on it and has a hard bottom. There is a lot of brush in the water from bushes that have been cut to clear under the trees to clear the bank.

Stay out and fish a crankbait, spinnerbait and beaver all along the bank.  Run your faster baits between the brush in the water but fish the brush in the water thoroughly with your Baby Brush Hog.   Fish all the way around the small pocket on the upstream side of the point and the upstream side of the pocket has brush, too.

Wind helps on this point and in other places if it is not too strong to make boat control difficult.  Wind stirs up the water, breaks the surface and moves baitfish into the area.  All those things make the fish bite better and makes it more difficult for them to identify your lures as fake.

8.  N 33 25.039 – W 83 14.256 – Across the river from the  point in hole 7, just downstream of hole 1, is a small creek that splits right in the back. There is a blue canvas cover dock on the downstream point of it and one brown shingle boat house on the left bank going into it. There are four docks in this small creek.

Start near the upstream point and fish the left bank to the back, then fish the dock on the point in the middle of the split and the ones on the other bank, too.   Cody says the left bank is usually better in October since it is a little deeper and has overhanging bushes to fish.

9.  N 33 24.339 – W 83 15.597 – Go up Lick Creek until you see the first bridge ahead of you. On the right before the creek turns a little to the left is a small creek with light gray siding house with a black canvas top dock just inside the point.

Start at the dock, fishing it carefully, then work to the back of the creek down the left bank. There is a seawall with rocks in front of it along this bank and it holds fish.  The little points on the seawall are usually best.

There is a pond back in the woods above this creek that feeds it and water flowing into the creek attract bass. Fish all the way to the ditch in the back and fish the cove in the back of it. Also fish the first three docks in the back of the creek on your right going in.

10.  N 33 24.410 – W 83 15.724 – Going up Lick Creek a big creek comes in on the right just upstream of the one in hole 9.  Go into it and stop at the dock on the right with a black canvas top and red Adirondack Chairs on it.

Fish this dock and all the others going into the creek.  Run a spinnerbait on the seawalls between the docks.  In the back on the left side is a small pocket with a blowdown in it. Fish the blowdown with a frog, Cody got a keeper out of it the day we fished. Also work it with Baby Brush Hog, beaver and jig.

All these places are good right now and give you examples of the types of places Cody catches October Oconee bass.  They are in a compact area so you don’t have to burn much gas to fish them but you can run all over the lake and find many similar creeks where you can use this pattern to catch bass.

Predicting Muddy Water At West Point

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

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

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

  A bright lure that sends out sounds in the water is usually best. I will be fishing a bright chartreuse spinnerbait with chartreuse blades and skirt. A rattling chartreuse crankbait will also be used as will a black and blue Chatterbait, the bait I caught the three-pounder on at Neely Henry in the mud. Even my jig and pig, a black and blue one with bright blue trailer, will have rattles in it.  And I will fish all of then slowly and tight to cover.   

I home something works for me at West Point!

It did, somewhat. I caught three keeper spots on my chartreuse crankbait, three on the jig and ig and one on a dark Trick worm on a shaky head. My best five weighed 10.18 and gave me third out of 28 fishermen!

The Salty Ned Rig

Red on Ned

The Salty Ned Rig, with Captain C.A. Richardson
Captain C.A. Richardson believes the ‘Salty Ned’ shines during the toughest conditions.

Ladson, SC  “We call it the ‘Salty Ned,’” quips exceptional inshore guide, Captain C.A. Richardson. “A lot of days, it’s even better than livebait.”

In recent years, as Richardson and other intelligent inshore anglers recognized the parallels between freshwater bass tactics and those for redfish, seatrout and other saltwater species, a fresh approach began to emerge.

“We followed the evolution of freshwater finesse techniques and the rise of the Ned Rig for smallmouth and largemouth bass,” says Richardson, the brains behind Flats Class TV and University. “It made perfect sense that similar methods and baits could excel in saltwater for a lot of reasons.”

While cold-fronts, heavy fishing pressure and other adverse factors often make bass tough to catch, these same dynamics can have a multiplier impact on saltwater species. “From the first day we experimented with a Ned Rig under cold, bluebird skies our results spoke volumes. Three little baits—a 2-3/4-inch Finesse TRD™, TRD TicklerZ™ or TRD CrawZ™— on a 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ™ jighead are all you really need to continue catching fish when conditions turn tough. With water temps in the high 50s and low 60s, we start fishing a Salty Ned around December 1 in Florida and catch fish with it all the way through the first half of March.”

Richardson, who today focuses much of his redfish, trout and snook efforts on the fertile though popular waters between Tampa to Fort Myers, believes a Salty Ned easily outfishes previous-era finesse baits like a 3-inch stingray grub or a small bucktail jig. On some days even a live, juicy shrimp or strip of cutbait can’t equal the appeal of a soft, buoyant ElaZtech® bait on a small jighead.

“Even for a novice or someone accustomed to using shrimp on a jighead, it’s an easy-to-fish bait that also eliminates pinfish and other nuisance biters. Admittedly, you’ll often catch smaller reds, trout and flounder, but you certainly won’t lack action.“The buoyant nature of ElaZtech and the mushroom-shaped jighead make the bait pivot and float tail-up off the bottom when you stop your retrieve,” says Richardson. “These baits are the perfect match for so many of the small creatures eaten by inshore predators—marine worms, shrimp and other invertebrates as well as sea horses. The upright posture of a TRD on a jighead shows fish a lively morsel that moves with the slightest underwater current—even when you’re not moving your rod at all.”

A Z-Man Ned rig remains affixed to Captain Greg Peralta’s inshore rods at least eighty-percent of the time, all year long.Like its freshwater counterpart, fishing the saltwater Ned Rig is all about keeping the bait close to the bottom, letting its buoyancy and soft, active composition do the heavy lifting. “We might fish the Ned a little more aggressively in saltwater,” notes Richardson. “The best presentation I’ve found is to let the bait sink to bottom and then shake the rodtip to make it quiver. Give the jig a 6- to 12-inch pull, pause and then reel slack and repeat. You’re making the back of the bait quiver; when you stop, the bait pivots and goes tail-up.

With a bait like the TRD TicklerZ or TRD CrawZ, you’ve also got little appendages that undulate subtly in the current. The bait never really stops working for you.”Even while fishing high-pressure zones like Tampa Bay, Richardson says the Salty Ned remains a non-threatening presentation to which fish react positively. “What’s also cool is you can sight fish for really spooky reds up on clear shallow flats because the bait touches down with such a small, compact signature.” To fish the Salty Ned on featureless flats, in depressions on flats and bends in creeks with deep holes, Richardson rigs one of the aforementioned Z-Man TRD baits on a 1/10-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jighead. He spools with 6-pound test braid and a 50-inch leader of 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. Wielding a medium-light to light action 7-foot spinning rod, he can cast a light jig close to 30 yards.

For fishing around heavy cover or docks, Richardson switches to abrasion resistant monofilament line and a Pro ShroomZ™ Weedless jighead.The TRD TicklerZ quivers subtly, even at rest.

Summer Catches “Although we primarily finesse-rig in the winter, I’d argue with my guide buddies that even in the warmer months, when spooky, pressured fish won’t hit a faster-moving reaction bait, I can still get bit with a Salty Ned,” Richardson offers.It’s a notion shared by Charleston, South Carolina based Captain Greg Peralta, a now-retired guide who still fishes almost every day of the season. “Several years ago, we started fishing a Finesse TRD with a 1/5- or 1/6-ounce NedlockZ™ jighead and found it to be a super productive coldwater and post-coldfront bait. But when it got warm, we kept fishing the Ned Rig to see when they’d stop biting it. They never did.”

These days, Peralta says he fishes the Salty Ned about eighty-percent of the time. Particularly when the water gets warm, Peralta prefers a slightly more aggressive retrieve to entice a reaction. Keeping his rodtip low, Peralta gives the bait a hard snap, followed by a pause. He describes the cadence as similar to working a jerkbait.Z-Man Trick ShotZ on a NedlockZ HD jighead.

“Snap and give slack,” he explains. “The lure will pitch or roll left or right, showing fish alternating flashes of dark and light. Color becomes a critical factor because flash is a key indicator of something alive—dark on top, light on the bottom. It’s why I choose colors like The Deal in clear water. As clarity fades, I go brighter with patterns like Hot Snakes—still has that dark-to-light transition, but with a louder chartreuse belly.

”Peralta notes that the length of the pause between snaps depends on conditions. “Colder water, coldfronts and when the barometer is switching from low to high, I go with a longer pause. Because fish typically strike after the snap, when the bait is descending, I like using high-vis 8-pound braid. You don’t always feel the bite on the rodtip; you’re watching your line for a pop or a sudden acceleration.

“I can’t say the TRD looks like anything they eat. The action you give it just instinctively makes fish react to and bite it. But it’s so versatile, durable and buoyant you can fish it almost anywhere. I can even throw it on top of an oyster bed or other gnarly areas in a foot of water. The bait’s buoyancy largely keeps it out of trouble. But it also works for fish hunkered down in 15-foot holes. Catches all three of species—redfish, trout and flounder— with regularity; what we call a Lowcountry Slam.”Texas angler Chris Bush fooled a rare 30-inch seatrout with a Finesse TRD on a NedlockZ jighead.

The Speckled Truth Even while redfish and snook garner much of the spotlight, select anglers like Chris Bush place the highest esteem on seatrout of trophy proportions. This past September, Bush, who authors a blog called the Speckled Truth, caught a monster 30-inch trout from Upper Laguna Madre, Texas. Stuck in the fish’s jaw was the bait Bush describes as possessing “magic appeal.”

A PB&J or The Deal-pattern TRD rigged on a 1/10-ounce NedlockZ, says Bush, has proven itself when the water’s warm and seatrout aren’t responding to traditional presentations. “A Ned Rig has been really effective when other baits aren’t—when there’s so many baitfish in the water that trout aren’t looking for huge meals, but for selective opportunities. Same deal under heavy fishing pressure. The fish are just chilling, feeding opportunistically for short windows. That’s when it’s so effective to put a little TRD down there and sort of invade their personal space.

“I give the bait one or two hard twitches and let it fall back to bottom. I try to maintain contact with it at all times, because these big, sluggish trout don’t thump the bait aggressively. Rather, they sort of sit on it, and all you feel is a sudden weight on the line, almost like you’re hung on the bottom.Bush adds that the smallest 3.5-inch Trick ShotZ™ rigged on the same jighead, at times, yields equally productive results as the TRD. “Fished on light tackle in the most grueling situations, these little bitty baits just seem to have a magic appeal for really big trout.”

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

About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

West Point Lake Striper and Hybrid Fishing

A little over a week ago I went to West Point to learn how guide Andy Binegar catches stripers and hybrids during the spring. The information will be in the March Georgia Outdoor News magazine. 

We trolled all day in very muddy water and caught a few of both species on a cold, rainy day.

The fish were still stacked up in the mouths of big creeks on the main lake. Maple Creek and Wedhadkee Creek both had clouds of baitfish and bigger fish around them out in 30 plus feet of water.  With the muddy water, the fish would not chase our trolled baits.

Captain Mack Farr, Andy’s mentor, joined us. He has been a guide for stripers on Lake Lanier for many years.  In the post trip discussion, we agreed we probably would have had better luck sitting right on top of the fish and dangling live bait in their faces, giving them time to eat it.

We tried the Chattahoochee River out from the pumping stations, too. Andy says he checks that area often and when he starts seeing fish on his electronics and catches some.  That tells him the fish have started their “false” spawning run up the river. Once he finds them there, he follows them up the river to catch big stripers.

Andy contacted me Monday and said the water was clearing in the river and Maple Creek and the fish were biting much better. Then all the rain Thursday muddied it up again!!

On Facebook some folks are posting picture of big crappie they are catching at West Point and other lakes. They are biting good for people trolling jigs and live bait 15 to 20 feet deep out over creek and river channels.  This is a good time to fill your freezer.

Ned Kehde, Originator of the “Ned Rig”

Legendary angler, outdoor writer and guide, Ned Kehde

A Conversation with Ned Kehde, Originator of the “Ned Rig”
from The Fishing Wire

Ladson, SC – Classy, kind-hearted and self-effacing to a fault, Ned Kehde likes to tell you the world has passed him by. That he’s not the angler he used to be. That he uses simple baits because he’s a simple man. The truth is, Kehde has a wise reason for everything he does; knows precisely how to make bass bite; and for goodness sake, knows more about the history of bass fishing—including exact months and years various events occurred— than almost anyone alive.

A retired archivist for the University of Kansas and legendary writer of fishing stories, Kehde recalls that April day in 2006 when the modern Midwest Finesse technique clicked into place.

“I was in Japanese angler Shinichi Fukae’s boat at Beaver Lake,” Kehde recalls. “What immediately struck me were Fukae’s methods, which mirrored the finesse tactics my friends and I had adopted back in Kansas. Using a 3/32-ounce jig and shad-style worm, Fukae retrieved the lure a few inches off bottom, reeling and shaking as it went along.

”That same year, Kevin VanDam showed Kehde an early ElaZtech bait. The bait, a Strike King Zero, was the first ultra-durable soft stickbait manufactured by the parent company of what would eventually become Z-Man Fishing. Not long after, the Ned Rig was born. But we’ll let Ned take it from there . . .

Tell us about the history of what’s known today as Midwest Finesse fishing.

Kehde: A lot of folks think finesse bass fishing started in California, on those deep clear reservoirs, back in the 1970s and 80s. Actually, in the 1950s, a Kansas City angler named Chuck Woods was already fishing a soft lure called the Beetle on a spinning rod. Woods designed the Beetle, Beetle Spin and Puddle Jumper—three classic finesse lures—and also created the first Texas-rigged jigworm.

I first met Woods at a Kansas City tackle shop in 1970. He was a taciturn old cuss, but I believe he probably caught more Kansas largemouth bass than any man in history.Guido (Little Gete) Hibdon was another legendary Ozarks angler who regularly wielded a spinning rod rigged with a light jighead and soft plastic bait long before Western anglers. The first time Midwest finesse met Western waters was when Drew Reese fished the first ever (1971) Bassmaster Classic at Lake Mead. Reese finished in 7th place, fishing a jigworm and Beetle Spin. Finally, during a 1980s trip to Mille Lacs, Minnesota, Ron Lindner put a Gopher Mushroom jighead in my hands. I was amazed by how you could drag this jig over rocky terrain and rarely get hung up.

Kehde says the TRD MinnowZ is one of the most underrated, durable and productive finesse baits ever created.

Beyond the history, what’s one thing most folks today should know about Midwest finesse tactics?

Probably the most misunderstood and yet most important thing about the way we fish is what we call a no-feel retrieve. Most anglers prefer to fish a jig so they’re in constant contact with it, mostly hopping it along bottom. But the way we prefer to fish, if you’ve got constant contact it means you’re using too heavy of a rig.I’m primarily fishing from 3 to no more than 12 or 15 feet deep, mostly with 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigheads.

One favorite retrieve among Midwest Finesse anglers is something we call swim-glide-shake. We’re retrieving the lure 6 to 12 inches above the bottom, which is difficult to do with a heavier ¼- or 3/16-ounce jig. We like to err on the side of lightness. I guess you could say we try to use our intuition to figure out what the bait is doing — sort of let the soft ElaZtech material naturally shake, shimmy and do its thing without getting in its way too much. It sounds more complex than it really is because when coupled with the right line (Kehde prefers 15-pound braid), you immediately detect any resistance the lure encounters. That includes sensing the difference between the lure contacting filamentous algae, a twig or a lightly biting bass.

Why do you prefer a 1/16-ounce jig with a #4 hook for most of your fishing?

A 1/16-ounce #4 mushroom is the most unbeatable jig in the history of the world. We already talked about how this shape performs so beautifully around cover. But it really allows an ElaZtech bait to do its thing — shake and shimmy — without getting in its way. I know a lot of anglers think a #4 hook is too small, but to me, a bigger hook doesn’t slide through brush or vegetation nearly so well as a #4, which is almost snag-free

.I also feel like I do way less damage to the fish with a smaller hook. But beyond that, a bigger hook just gets in the way of the bait’s gyrations, sort of neutralizes some of the magic of super-soft, buoyant ElaZtech baits.

What’s the deal with your favorite red jighead?

I was already a fan of red jigheads when I fished with Shin Fukae that day on Beaver Lake, back in 2006. He was using red and doing a number on the fish, which really reinforced my beliefs and confidence in the color. Fukae also used red nail polish to paint polka dots on his crankbaits and topwaters.Years before that, Gopher Tackle owner Conrad Peterson would constantly urge me to fish “red, red, red,” regardless of water clarity. But when red isn’t going, I like blue and chartreuse, too. A blue jig is especially effective during the bluegill spawn. A flash of blue really mimics that super vivid hue present on a bluegill’s pre-dorsal area. Another hot pattern lately has been a Junebug colored Finesse TRD with a chartreuse jighead.Kehde’s favorite red mushroom jighead, this one rigged with a Finesse TRD and TRD SpinZ for extra flash and vibration.

What’s your record for the most bass caught on a single ElaZtech bait?

I believe the all-time record was 232 fish on a single 4-inch Z-Man Finesse WormZ. Few years ago, while testing a prototype of the TRD HogZ, we caught 55 bass in 69 minutes. When I mailed the bait to Z-Man, it had already produced 112 fish, and was still in really good shape.

Although the Finesse TRD and ZinkerZ receive most of the press, what are a few of your other favorite finesse baits?

One bait that for sure deserves more attention from finesse anglers is the TRD MinnowZ. The MinnowZ moves totally different in the water than the Finesse TRD. It totally lacks salt, making it exceedingly durable, buoyant and lively underwater. My fellow finesse anglers have caught untold numbers of bass on this bait, rigged on a mushroom jighead or a dropshot, including some 8-pound lunkers.From my experiences, the TRD MinnowZ possesses some of the attributes of a reaper, stick-style bait, and worm, all in one. I prefer to rig it with 1/32-ounce jig so the bait lays flat on its side, aligning the tail horizontally. It offends the eyes of some anglers, but the bait fishes beautifully this way. The ultralight 1/32-ounce jig produces a wonderful glide effect.

Jerk the bait once and let it glide. With this combo, 10 to 25 fish an hour is a realistic goal.The Finesse ShadZ is another serious fish catcher. It’s got an incredibly appealing shad-shaped profile that bass respond to. Because it lacks salt, the extra-buoyant, super-soft bait fishes light and with tremendous, subtle undulations. These manifold virtues enhance the ShadZ’s ability to render an unparalleled no-feel retrieve.A weedless Ned Rig alternative, the Finesse BulletZ weedless jighead dressed with a TRD MinnowZ.

What factors do you think account for the popularity of the Midwest Finesse (Ned Rig) style of fishing?

Well, I look at tournaments after all these years of observing the best anglers and am still amazed by how few fish they catch in competition. Fishing for five big fish is not a good way for us or the everyday angler to propagate the sport.I think tournaments have exaggerated the price of what it truly costs to go fishing. It’s important for recreational anglers to understand that fishing really can be much simpler, and much less expensive than it’s too often purported to be. Midwest finesse style fishing pares everything down to its bare minimum—just you, a simple jig and lively bait and the bass. Every angler can relate to that.

At the end of the day, most of us just want to catch a bunch of fish. Ned Kehde, Lawrence, Kansas, is a retired university archivist, fishing guide and longtime outdoor writer who has helped fine-tune a phenomenal fish-catching system known today as the Ned Rig. Connecting hundreds of anglers across the continent, Kehde’s online Finesse News Network features some of the most detailed fishing reports ever written. At the heart of the Ned Rig system, always, are a mushroom shaped jighead and an ElaZtech finesse-style bait. In recent years, the popularity of the Ned Rig has proliferated well beyond its Midwestern roots, becoming a staple presentation among recreational and tournament anglers across North America.

About Z-Man Fishing Products: 

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

About ElaZtech®: 

Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

Catch River Steelhead

River Steelhead

Catch River Steelhead with Worm Jigs
By David A. Brown
from The Fishing Wire

If ever the term “Go with the flow” was applicable, it’s Cameron Black’s worm jig technique. Black partners with Marlin Lefever in the Columbia River-based Addicted Fishing guide service. Mastering this and other salmon/steelhead tactics, these Pacific Northwest anglers have worked with Mustad to develop technique-specific tackle including a Steelhead Jig Kit that contains 1/8- and 1/4-ounce worm jigs.

As Black explains, these jigs feature a sturdy Mustad Ultrapoint hook with the same KVD Grip Pin keeper popularized by several Mustad bass hooks. A key design point is the head shape, a detail that Black finds particularly helpful in fooling perceptive steelhead.

“The difference between a worm jig and a standard round ball jig is that it has a flat surface,” he said. “When you butt a rubber worm against the head, you have a flat surface, so it’s kind of a streamlined look.

“At the end of the day, steelhead probably don’t care if it’s the difference between a round head and the flat back, but when you add weight to a round head jig, the profile gets continuously bigger. When you use a 1/4-ounce flat back, you just extend that piece back so you get the same profile with an 1/8- and 1/4-ounce jig heads.

”Noting that steelhead can be very particular, Black said this streamlined presentation can mean the difference between a looker and an eater. With most steelhead growing up on a diet of earthworms and baby lamprey, the worm jig package, properly presented, can be deadly.Black’s preference is a 4- to 6-inch tube worm — specifically, the Addicted Steelhead Worm — in pink, orange, purple or blue. With worm and jig head suspended under a Mustad Addicted balsa float, the rig is fished with the current for a natural presentation.

“As the worm is drifting down the river, a steelhead keys on it, swims over and grabs the bait, buries the bobber and drives the hook home,” Black said. “A lot of this is in-river fishing — boulder mazes, riffles. This is a really versatile lure because you can fish it in 6 inches of water — sometimes, the steelhead are that shallow — and you can fish it in 10 feet of water.

”As far as imparting action on the rig, Black says: Don’t bother. The water does all the work for you.

“You’ll get some natural movement with the roils in the current and maybe some up and down if you’re fishing it in a little bit of a riffle, but it take such little movement for the worm’s tail to move,” he said.

“Really, what you’re looking for is when you cast upriver, you want that bobber and that worm to drift as naturally as possible. You don’t want to be pulling on it and you don’t want to have too much line in the water to where it’s impacting the bobber and the worm.”

Ideal depth for worm presentation, Black said, is about a foot off the bottom. Keep it in the fish’s face and the worm jig is an easy sell.For more on the Mustad Steelhead Jig Kit, visit www.mustad-fishing.com.