Category Archives: How To Fish

Plugging for the Chetco River’s Giant Salmon

How Can I Catch Salmon Plugging for the Chetco River’s Giant Salmon

By Buzz Ramsey for Yakima Bait
from The Fishing Wire

If you crave big fall chinook, one that might tip the scales at 50 pounds or more, now would be a good time to plan a trip to Oregon’s Chetco River. Located on Oregon’s southern coast (near Brookings) the Chetco hosts a run of fall chinook that peaks in early to mid November, making it a destination for anglers from throughout the Northwest and beyond.

According to professional-fishing-guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing, 206-388-8988, the majority of the salmon returning to the Chetco River consist of 4-year old chinook which average 20-to-25 pounds. However, twenty percent of each out-migrating year class of salmon return as 5-year old fish that average 35-to-40 pounds; with some bouncing the scale at 50 pounds or more. For example, while guiding clients on the Chetco River over the last dozen years Andy has netted at least one salmon at, approaching or above 50 pounds each and every season. His largest to date is a 65-pound monster taken during the later portion of the 2011 season.

Originating in the Siskiyou National Forest, the Chetco flows for 55 miles before reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Chetco is unlike many other Pacific Northwest rivers as there are no dams obstructing the salmons’ pathway to their spawning sanctuary.

The river hosts a strong, self-sustaining wild run of fall chinook that according to ODFW can number as high as 15,000 returning adults. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife supplements the wild run with an additional 125,000 fingerling size chinook that are liberated in the lower river. Being of hatchery origin these fish are fin-clipped prior to release and tend to stage low in the river, where released, upon their return as adults.

The Chetco offers excellent access for bank anglers thanks to the City of Brookings and state of Oregon owning a large section of the lower river. Called Social Security Bar, this nearly two mile stretch offers free public access to bank-bound anglers that plunk Spin-N-Glo lures, sometimes in combination with bait, from shore when the river is running 3,500 CFS or higher, and drift and float fish for salmon when the water is lower.

In addition, the Chetco offers drift boat anglers’ excellent access with several put-in and take-out sites available. The most popular drift is from Lobe Park to Social Security Bar, a 5-to-6 mile float, which according to Andy Martin contains about 15 deep salmon holes. The next launch site is a private, pay-to-play launch called Ice Box. There are two launch sites above Ice Box that are located within the National Forest and go by the name of Miller Bar and Nook Bar. Nook Bar is the upper most launch and marks the upper deadline for the keeping of salmon.

The two fishing methods that dominate the drift boat fishery include back-bouncing bait and back-trolling plugs. Salmon egg clusters rigged in combination with a Corky Drifter are what the back bouncing crowd use. According to Andy Martin, the most popular Corky colors on the Chetco include rocket-red and green-chartreuse. When the water is on the high side those bouncing bait will switch out their Corky for a Spin-N-Glo threaded on their leader above a bearing bead and baited hook. A selection of 1-1/2 to 4 ounce sinkers is what’s needed if you are planning to back-bounce bait on the Chetco.

The other popular fishing technique is to back-troll salmon plugs. According to Andy Martin, salmon size plugs work especially well on the Chetco and account for the majority of the giant salmon taken in his boat. The plugs Andy employs most often are the 4.0 through 5.0 sizes Mag Lip, size M-2 FlatFish, and 5.5 Hawg Nose FlatFish. When it comes to determining what size plug to choose, it’s all about the water conditions.

The Chetco, like other rivers up and down the coast, is heavily influenced by rainfall. It’s the onslaught of storms originating over the Pacific and later hitting the coast that causes rivers to rise and subsequently drop when the rain subsides. Salmon, smelling the fresh water, migrate into rivers from the ocean each time the rivers come up and bite best as water levels drop and clear from each rain storm. A big rain event can make the Chetco River unfishable and not clear enough to fish for four or five days. When the water first drops and clears is when the catching is at its best.

According to Andy, the ideal height for the Chetco is 3,000 CFS (Cubic Feet per Second) and the river is considered low when it drops down to 1,200 CFS or less.

What Andy has learned over his many years of guiding is that he can catch salmon using plugs when the river is as high as 5,000 or at times even 6,000 CFS, providing the water is clear enough to see two feet or more into it. When the Chetco is dropping from a high water event, it’s the clarity of the water Andy closely watches.

This is a time when he employs the large salmon plugs that dive deep like the Hawg Nose or 5.0 size Mag Lip. The fast actions these plugs provide when back-trolled not only catch fish but their frantic action can shake the leaves off that strong winds can sometimes blow into the river. As the river continues to drop and clear, all the way down to 1,200 CFS, Andy reduces his plug sizes down to an M-2 size FlatFish and/or 4.0 size Mag Lip.

Although you can take your own drift boat, fully guided salmon fishing trips are available from guides should you decide to try your salmon luck from a boat. While the number of guides residing in Brooking is somewhat limited, this popular fishery draws professional guides from surrounding towns like Grants Pass, Medford and Gold Beach. There are several guides from California that work the Chetco too, so don’t limit your guide search to just the Brookings area.

The chinook limit on the Chetco is currently one salmon per day, and no more than five per year. Current regulations require you to stop fishing after catching your one adult salmon. And while your daily limit can include up to five jack salmon (salmon measuring between 15 and 24 inches) you must catch them prior to retaining an adult salmon.

Tackle, bait, shuttles, and fishing info can be obtained at Riverside Market, 541-661-3213, which is located along the lower Chetco near Social Security Bar.

Pacific Salmon Fishing in Lake Ontario Tributaries

Tipf for Pacific Salmon Fishing in Lake Ontario Tributaries

Editor’s Note: Here’s a great guide to the run of jumbo salmon now entering the rivers of New York from Lake Ontario, from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
from The Fishing Wire

The two species of Pacific Salmon found in Lake Ontario are the Chinook and coho salmon. Chinook salmon grow larger and are more heavily stocked then the coho, with approximately 1.7 million Chinook salmon and 250,000 coho salmon stocked annually in Lake Ontario and its tributaries by New York State. When salmon return to these tributaries in two to three years as adults, they weigh 8 to 30 pounds and offer a unique and exciting fishing experience.

Typically, the tributary fishing for Chinook and coho salmon begins in early-September and runs through early-November, with the peak often occurring during the first two weeks of October. Having success with these hard fighting fish requires using the right gear, flies, baits, lures and then presenting them in the most effective manner. Safety is also a concern when heading to these waters as most of them are large and can be difficult to wade in. Each of these topics will be discussed in more detail below to help get you started chasing these hard fighting fish.

Where to Go

Some of the more popular salmon fishing tributaries are:

Black River (PDF) (511 KB)
South Sandy Creek (PDF) (592 KB)
Salmon River
Oswego River
Sterling Creek
Genesee River (PDF) (601 KB)
Sandy Creek (PDF) (661 KB)
Oak Orchard Creek (PDF) (485 KB)
Eighteen Mile Creek
Lower Niagara River

Coho and Chinook Salmon

Coho and Chinook salmon are spawned at the Salmon River Hatchery during the month of October. The eggs hatch out in late November through December. Chinooks are stocked as 3 inch fingerlings in May or June. Besides shore stocking, some of the salmon are also pen stocked. Pen stocking is a cooperative effort between the NYSDEC and area sportsman groups. Pen stocking allows recently stocked fish a chance to acclimate to their new surroundings and offers some protection from predators. Fish and feed are provided from the NYSDEC Salmon River Fish Hatchery while the sportsmen’s groups build and maintain the pens and feed and take care of the fish for approximately 3 weeks. The fish are subsequently released into the stream or bay. This pen stocking program has been very successful. Shortly after stocking, salmon “smolt” imprint on the scent of the stream before migrating downstream to the lake. Coho are stocked as either pre-smolt fall fingerlings at 10 months of age (4½ inches long) or as 6 inch yearlings at 16 months of age. The life history of the coho salmon requires that they stay in the streams for at least one year before moving down to the lake. Once they reach the lake, salmon grow rapidly on a diet of alewives. Chinook salmon returning to the rivers where they were stocked range in age from 1 to 4 years. Age 2 and 3 fish make up 90% of the run and will weigh between 15-25 pounds. Mature coho salmon return to spawn as age 2 fish and will average 8-10 pounds.

Maturing Pacific salmon begin to “stage” off the river mouths from mid-to-late August. By early September some fish have usually started to trickle into the tributaries. The peak of the run when the best stream fishing occurs is actually a rather short 4 week period. On rivers whose flows are controlled by hydropower dams, such as the Salmon and Oswego, this peak period normally occurs from mid-September through mid-October. On other salmon streams across the state the timing of the runs is more dependent on rainfall. Generally salmon will enter these streams somewhat later with the peak occurring in mid-October. Once Chinook and coho salmon enter the streams, they are no longer feeding. Their bodies are undergoing rapid physiological changes and their sole purpose left in life is to spawn. While they are not actively feeding, they do exhibit several behaviors which make them vulnerable to traditional sport fishing techniques. One of these behaviors is aggression or territoriality, and another is their attraction to fish eggs or egg shaped lures.

Equipment

Fly Fishing

Fly rods of 9-10 feet long for line weights of 7, 8, or 9 work well for salmon. Reels with a smooth disc drag are recommended to stop runs and tire the fish. Reels should have large enough capacity to hold at least 150 yards of 20 pound test backing. The backing should be fluorescent colored so you can see where the fish is running and so other anglers can see you have a fish on. Full floating lines are best as they allow better line control. Leaders are normally in the 8-12 foot range. For the butt section use a 6-8 foot section of 10-15 pound test line. At the end of this attach a small black barrel swivel. This serves as an attachment point for the tippet section and a dropper for split shot. The tippet section should be 2-3 feet of 6-10 pound test, depending on conditions.
Spin Fishing

A medium or medium heavy action graphite rod 8-9 feet long will allow you to keep line off the water, detect the strikes and play the large fish effectively. Reels should have a smooth drag and the line capacity of at least 200 yards of 12-15 pound test line. A 2-3 foot leader of 8-12 pound test line is also recommended though not required. Using a leader will save you some tackle and time. The leader being a lighter pound test will break, theoretically, before your main line when snagged. That way you only lose your fly or bait and save your weight

Effective Flies and Baits
Flies

Three basic types of flies are used to catch Pacific salmon when they are in the rivers. These are egg imitations, wet fly/streamers, and stonefly/nymphs. Tie your flies with materials that have a lot of action, color, and flash to attract a salmon’s attention and aggravate it into striking. Larger size flies work better earlier in the run in the lower sections of the river. Switch to smaller sizes when fishing for salmon that have been in the river for several days or in the upper areas. Heavy fishing pressure or low clear water would also call for smaller flies and lighter leaders. Use patterns that are quick and simple to tie because you will be losing a lot during a day’s fishing both on the bottom and fish that break off. Fly fishing is one of the most successful methods of catching Pacific salmon because of the unlimited combinations of colors, shapes, and sizes that can be created in the fly.

Some wet fly/streamers patterns to try are: Wooly Buggers hook sizes #2-8 in black, olive, purple, chartreuse, flame or orange; Mickey Finn sizes #2-8; black bear green butt sizes #4-10; comet style flies sizes #2-10; and marabou streamers in various hot colors. Good egg imitations are glo-bugs or estaz eggs hook sizes #6-8 in chartreuse, flame, orange or hot pink. Both work well and are quick and easy to tie. You can also try stonefly/nymphs size #4-10. Carry some tied with hot colored flashy materials like estaz and krystal flash, as well as more natural colors like black and brown.

Eggs

Salmon eggs are one of the top producers, and both preserved skein eggs or loose eggs, tied into sacks the size of a dime or nickel with nylon mesh, are fished dead drifted through runs and pools. Artificial eggs come in a wide variety of styles and colors with some being impregnated with scents. Other good egg imitators are 1-2″ twister tails or tube jigs, small pieces of sponge, and plastic beads.

Presentation

Pacific salmon are fish that stay on or near the river bottom as they migrate upstream. You want your bait or lure to pass at eye level to the fish just off the bottom. They generally will not move up in the water column any distance to strike a bait. Salmon often show their presence by porpoising or rolling on the surface of the stream. It is not understood why they do this but they rarely strike when they are surfacing so concentrate on keeping your lure near the bottom. If you fish a large pool, concentrate on either the head or the tail-out. Deep slots or runs along banks, behind logs, or boulders that break the current are other places to try. Another area where salmon seem to strike well is in the upper spawning areas of a river. Once the Chinook and coho have established nests or “redds,” they become very aggressive and territorial. This is especially true of the males which fight each other and drive off young trout or minnows invading their space.
For the greatest success, you want your fly, lure, or bait to be presented in the first 6-18 inches of water off the bottom. To do this properly, you will almost always have to add weight to your line. The secret to success is to use only the minimum amount of weight necessary to keep your bait in that narrow band of water just off the bottom. Too much weight causes your rig to hang up on the bottom, resulting in lost tackle, a loss of sensitivity which limits your ability to sense when a salmon has hit your bait, your rig to drift unnaturally, and will often spook the fish. Not enough weight will cause your lure or bait to float by too high in the water column where it will not interest the salmon. Use removable split-shot sinker and carry at least 3 or 4 different sizes and constantly adjust the amount of weight depending on the type of water you are fishing. As your rig drifts downstream, it should only occasionally tap the bottom. Rarely will salmon smash the fly or bait or strike hard. Often the fish just grabs the fly or bait in its mouth, and your line will simply stop, hesitate, or dart forward slightly. There are two basic methods of presenting a fly, bait, or lure to a salmon. One of these is the “dead-drift” and the other is the “wet-fly swing.” These methods can be used with either fly fishing or spinning tackle.

The Dead-Drift

The basic aspect of this method is getting your fly or bait to drift along as naturally as possible in the current just off the river bottom. You can use egg flies, stoneflies, spawn sacks, or artificial eggs. It is an effective method in pools, runs, or spawning riffles. Position yourself across from, or across and slightly upstream from, where you can see salmon or where you think they are. Move as close to the fish as possible without spooking them. Cast up and across stream at a 45 degree angle. Have just enough weight on your line or leader to get the bait down to be near the bottom 15 inches of water. As your rig drifts back towards you, raise your rod towards the vertical position to minimize the amount of line on the water. When the rig has drifted down to directly opposite your position, your rod should be almost vertical. As the rig passes you, turn your upper body to follow the drift and slowly lower the rod until the line and rig are directly below you. During the drift, concentrate on the point where your line enters the water and feel with the line and rod tip. Watch for any hesitation, upstream movement, or tug on the line. Using as little weight on the line as is necessary and as light a pound test line as possible gives you the best sensitivity to detect the take of a salmon.

The Wet-Fly Swing

This method works best in areas of moderate current speed such as runs or riffles. You can use streamers or wet flies. Position yourself upstream from where you can see the salmon or where you think they are holding. Make your cast directly across or across and slightly upstream. The object is to get your lure to sink until it is just off bottom, drift downstream, and then swing in an arc passing directly in front of the fish at eye level. The streamer imitates a small fish intruding into the salmon’s territory and triggers an aggressive response or territorial defense. This is especially true when the salmon are on a spawning bed. Often it requires many casts, each passing the lure in front of the fish, before it becomes annoyed enough to strike

Fighting and Landing Salmon

After the hook-up, get all your loose line back on the reel as soon as possible. On the first long run, hold the rod tip up, and let the reel’s drag do the work. It should be set tight enough to put some pressure on the fish but not strong enough to break your leader. After the initial run, pressure the fish as much as you can. If the salmon makes a long run downstream, you usually have to follow it and try to get below it. You cannot drag a large fish back up river. The ideal situation is when the fish is running upstream where it will be fighting both the current and your drag. Chinook salmon can be landed by grabbing the narrow area just forward of the tail. With a coho you’ll have to wear a wool glove or the fish will slip out of your grasp. The best situation would be to have a partner stand below the fish with a wide mouth net. Try to be a good sportsman and be courteous to others. If a fellow angler hooks a salmon nearby, be prepared to reel in and step back out of the way.

Safety

Many of the rivers that have Pacific salmon runs can be dangerous to wade in. Rapidly rising water levels, slippery rocks, deep drop-offs, and strong currents are all things the angler should be on the look-out for. The sight of a school of huge salmon moving past has been known to cause some fishermen to lose all caution and get themselves in trouble. To make your trip safer and more enjoyable always follow these precautions:

Wear spiked footwear to insure firm footing.
Carry a wading staff.
Wear polarized sunglasses to detect wading hazards and spot fish.
Wear a wader belt or flotation vest.
Be cautious and don’t cross the river if you are unsure of depth or speed of the current.

Regulations

For current regulations specific to the tributary you are fishing, please review your Great Lakes and Tributary Regulations section of your fishing guide.

Wild vs. Stocked

Natural reproduction does take place in some of the tributaries and thanks to the purchase of an automated fish marking trailer (Autofish) in 2008 we are starting to understand to what extent this adds to the fishery. The Autofish is capable of adipose clipping and/or applying coded wire tags (CWTs) to salmon and trout at high speed and accuracy. To determine the proportions of wild and hatchery Chinook salmon in Lake Ontario, all Chinook salmon stocked by New York and Ontario from 2008-2011 were marked with an adipose fin clip. Percentages of wild Chinook salmon in Lake Ontario varied by year class and age, and among regions from 2009-2015. The wild study was completed in 2015 and overall, wild Chinook were an important component of the Lake Ontario fishery averaging 47% of the age 2 & 3 Chinooks harvested in the lake.

The Salmon River in Oswego County is, by far, the most famous New York stream for Pacific salmon fishing. It is stocked more heavily than any other stream to insure that enough fish make it back to the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar for spawning and egg collection. The Salmon River also has a high percentage of wild Chinook salmon. The estimated percent of wild Chinook salmon in the Salmon River, also varied by year during the marking study, but overall approximately 70% of angler-caught Chinook salmon (excluding age-1) are believed to be wild.

For more information on Lake Ontario research, please view Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit Reports.

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry


Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 10/16/21

The daily changes are never so strong as they are in the fall, and until the water cools into the 60’s change will be the name of the game. One day they were killing it the next day bites were at a premium; you just must stay the course, but patience can be testy. It was also a remarkably busy week on Guntersville, boats everywhere on every point, turn and grass line all week long!

The strongest bite for me was on the SPRO frog and SPRO square bill crank bait, we are also catching them on Tight-Line swim jigs, Tight-Line football jigs and traditional chatter baits. You just must keep moving as the pressure changed them daily and when you dial in on them work that area hard for the best results. Be persistent and make them bite, sometimes that is easier said than done.

Come fish with me I have guides and days available to fish with you, no one will treat you better or work harder to make sure you have a fun day on the water. We fish with great sponsor products, Ranger Boats, Boat Logix Mounts, Mercury Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Vicious Fishing, Lews Fishing, Power Pole, Dawson Boat Center, Missile baits and more!

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service
www.fishlakeguntersvilleguideservice.com
www.facebook.com/FishGuntersville
Email: bassguide@comcast.net
Call: 256 759 2270
Capt. Mike Gerry

WHAT IS SLOW-ROLLING HILDEBRANDT SPINNERBAITS FOR SUMMER LARGEMOUTHS

SLOW-ROLLING HILDEBRANDT SPINNERBAITS FOR SUMMER LARGEMOUTHS
from The Fishing Wire

Catch big largemouth like this one


At this time of year, many of the bass we are after are deep. They’re away from the shoreline relating to offshore features. And though today’s electronics can help us find them, catching them is a whole other matter.

Let’s assume we know where they are, their depth and the type of structure they’re holding on. What lures would you throw?

One that’s high on my list is a big spinnerbait — the kind specifically designed for fishing deep. I’m talking 3/4-ounce and heavier. The kind that get down quick and stay there throughout the retrieve. The kind that can also attract bass from a distance, or pull them out of heavy cover … even trick those that aren’t in the mood to feed.

Why a blade bait, you ask?

Spinnerbaits are relatively snag proof. They have the ability to pass through cover too gnarly for other moving lures — particularly crankbaits. And that makes them ideal for probing submerged brush, rockpiles and thick grass.

Spinnerbaits are also great baitfish imitators.

Whether it’s a cluster of small threadfin or large, single gizzard shad, the right blade size, color and profile can fool bass into believing the lure is real. We’re talking willow-leaf blades, of course — either tandem or paired with a leading Colorado blade.

Willow-leaf blades are fish-shaped and they give off a tremendous amount of flash. Built with the right combination of components and head weight, they can maintain lateral movement while maximizing travel time through the strike zone. And that is precisely why slow-rolling a spinnerbait is so effective. The key is keeping the lure in frequent contact with the bottom or the cover related to it.

For instance, if you’re fishing the edge of a deep, submerged grassbed, you’ll want to be sure the lure stays in contact with the grass as it tapers off into deeper water. When the lure grabs the grass, rip it free and let it fall on a semi-slack line. At least until you feel the grass again. Then repeat. Strikes will usually occur as the lure is falling or when it regains forward motion.

The same applies to stumps, brush and rock. When the bait gets hung up, try ripping it free with a snatch of the rod tip. This sudden movement and flash mimics escaping prey and it can trigger a bass to strike.

The right setup

To better facilitate these moves, it’s important to have the right balance of tackle.

Big spinnerbaits require heavier line with stout rods and reels.

My personal preference includes a Shimano 7’2” Expride casting rod in a medium-heavy action with moderate-fast tip. That length and action is ideal for casting big blade baits, as well as taking up slack on long distance hooksets. And I can feel every pulse of the lure as the blades turn. I pair it with their slower, 6.2:1 ratio Metanium MGL III reel, which allows me to retrieve the spinnerbait at the right rate of speed — assuring that it stays deep throughout the retrieve. The Metanium’s magnesium frame telegraphs even the most subtle vibrations, so I know what the lure is doing at all times. And it has the guts to handle big baits and big bass in thick cover.

The line I spool it with depends on certain variables. If the water I’m fishing is super clear or the fish are line sensitive, I’ll go with 15- to 20-pound fluoro. If I want to “feather” the lure through the tops of submerged grass or brush, I may choose mono in the same pound rating for its buoyancy. In extra thick cover or if I know I’m on big bass, I’ll opt for Power Pro Super Slick braid — usually in the 30-pound class.

The business end

Assuming you have the right balance of tackle, let’s discuss lure choice.

Most spinnerbaits used for this technique come with tandem blades, consisting of double willow or Colorado-willow combinations. That’s not to say that single spins won’t work, they will at times. But if you surveyed the top touring bass professionals, most would tell you they prefer a tandem model with a leading Colorado and trailing willow-leaf. The Colorado will provide much of the vibration, while the willow-leaf will better match the profile of live baitfish. Willows also provide maximum flash without forcing the lure to rise too much.

Spinnerbaits designed for slow rolling are usually bigger in all aspects — the blades, frame, head and hooks are all upsized. But it’s important that all of these components are balanced and working together … even the skirt and/or trailer can influence the lures overall performance.

Some anglers prefer super-sized trailing blades — No. 7 or 8 willow leafs. That’s fine if you’re after giant bass. But keep in mind, the larger the blade, the more resistance it will

create, and the more likely the lure will “climb” during the retrieve. So, unless you have the patience of Job, I would suggest No. 5 or 6 willow-shaped blades. They turn easier, which can create more flash and vibration.

I generally prefer a No.4 front blade (either Colorado or willow) paired to a No.6 trailing willow leaf.

My spin on things

Years ago, I designed a spinnerbait for Hildebrandt, specifically for slow rolling. We named it the Tin Roller. And, as you can probably guess, it’s molded with pure tin.

We chose this material for several reasons. At the time of its design, a national ban on lead was being considered. Concerned, I worked with Hildebrandt to find an alternative material — one with similar properties but nontoxic to birds, mammals or fish. And after numerous trials, we found tin to be the best alternative. It wasn’t as good as lead. It was better!

Here’s how.

Because tin is much harder than lead, it transmits sound and vibration better. That means, when the lure is traveling and the blades are turning, the head, hook and shirt will shake more with each pulse. And that extra movement can attract fish. Also, because tin is approximately two-thirds the weight of lead by volume, a large profile spinnerbait can be finessed through structure with less chance of snagging … appearing more realistic as it pulses.

When it comes to blade finishes, nickel-silver or gold are the two most common choices. Skirt patterns are normally white, chartreuse, or a blend of the two. If a soft-plastic trailer is added, its coloration usually matches one of these patterns. Obviously there are exceptions. But day in and day out, these are the most reliable combinations.

These are the tools I use when fishing a spinnerbait through deep structure. Hopefully what I’ve shared will help you next time you’re out on the water.

Follow Bernie Schultz on Facebook and through his website.

Fishing Lay Lake With Zeke Gossett

It was nice and peaceful on Lay Lake a few weeks ago on Tuesday and the bass were biting, if you knew where to go and what to throw. Zeke Gossett knows both. I met this young man about eight years ago when he was a sophomore in high school. I set up a trip with him for a magazine article not knowing his age and was shocked. His skills and knowledge of fishing were better than mine!

Zeke won many fishing awards in high school and college, including winning the College Classic on Lay Lake last year. This year he was third in the College Classic in Texas and he and his partner won the point standings College Team of the Year in 2020.

Now Zeke is trying to establish a professional fishing career while guiding on the Coosa River chain of lakes and Lake Martin. His father is one of the best bass fishermen in the area and coaches a high school team that has won high school team of the year two years in a row.

His knowledge of these lakes is exceptional from his own fishing as well as the teaching of his father. I have recommended him to some friends for guide trips and they were pleased. As many good fishermen as I get to fish with doing magazine articles, Zeke is the only one I have done three articles with!

Zeke showed me two good patterns for Lay Lake in August, and they are already working now. Lay is full of shallow grass beds and Zeke caught several nice bass casting frogs to the grass. Bream were bedding and Zeke knows there will usually be a big bass or several around a bream bed.

Another good pattern is fishing the many brush piles fishermen have put out on points and humps. These brush piles in 10 to 20 feet of water are magnets for summertime fish. They hold in them and feed around them day and night.

The night before we fished Zeke had placed second in a three-hour night tournament. He weighed in a three fish limit weighing almost ten pounds in that short time, missing first place by a couple of ounces!

While we fished Zeke caught about a dozen bass on humps and points with brush casting a topwater plug over the brush and working a jerk bait down deeper. I even caught a nice keeper spot while taking a casting break from my pen, pad and camera.

I get to fish with many amazing fishermen doing my magazine articles and Zeke is one of the best. There are a lot of young fishermen out there coming up into the pros and I get to watch as their careers develop. I am jealous!

While we fished many college fishermen were on Lay Lake practicing for a college wild card tournament that was held Thursday and Friday. I was amazed to see college age kids drive up in $50,000.00 trucks puling $80,000.00 boats.

When I was in college I ate 10 cents a can Showboat Spaghetti and loaf bread for dinner to save money. And I was one of the few lucky ones in my fraternity to have a car, an eight-year old hand me down Chevy Bel Air. There were students driving around Athens in new Vets and Mustangs, but they lived and revolved in a different world.

I know some college fishermen drive old vehicles and very well used boats and have done articles with some of them, but they seem to be the exception to the rule. I fear college fishing is developing into a sport for the rich.

Captain Mack’ Lake Lanier Fishing Report

The lake is fishing well,
typical summer patterns for
the Stripers and Bass, with
Bass fishing seemingly
benefiting from the below
average surface temps. We
have a full moon coming up
on the 23rd, so perhaps
that will add a little energy
to the bite.

The weather
forecast looks pretty good
for fishing next week, with
cooler temps and an
elevated rain chance
Sunday thru Monday, then
a return to seasonal temps
through the end of the
week.

Don’t forget the Capt
Mack’s Customer
Appreciation Tournament on July 31st! Thanks to the support of many of our local tackle shop,
Jim Ellis Buick GMC Mall of Georgia, and other supporters, we will have some really nice prizes
for the event. More on that to follow.

The lake level as of Friday am was 1070.13, up .23 feet
from last week, .87 feet below full pool. The surface temps was 83 degrees.

Striper Fishing

Striper fishing has been good, and the patterns seem to be transitioning to what would be more
typical relative to the calendar. While there are still fish in the pockets and drains as shallow as
35 feet, more and more fish are showing up over open water areas over the creek and river
channels. Focusing on the fish in the pockets early, then moving out onto the channels later in
the day has been a solid strategy.

The water releases at the dam seem to have had a big
influence on the fish many days, so plan that into your game plan as well. The fish in the
pockets will respond to Herring on the down line, and to some extent power reeling. Typically, I
think power reeling works best when you can drop a bait below the fish, and then reel it past
them, and that’s hard to accomplish in 40 feet or if the fish are glued to the bottom. Jigging a
Flex-it or Super spoon may be more effective in this situation. Keep the pitch baits in the spread,
they are still producing well.

Once you move out to the channels, the techniques are no surprise. Down lines and Power
Reeling are both very effective. Chipmunk Jigs, Spoons, or a Herring on the drop shot are all
effective power reeling baits. Use the down lines in combination with the power reeling, the two
will often compliment one another.

Trolling is effective, with a couple of patterns that will produce. The umbrellas over the humps
are still producing well, but this pattern is changing with the warming water. The fish are a little
deeper, and will often be around the periphery of the high spot. Fish the rigs a little further
behind the bait, 110 to 140, and target humps that top out 30 to 40. This pattern is still best in
the afternoons and evenings, or when the Corp is releasing water. The open water lead core
trolling is getting stronger, and is a very good way to locate the fish over the channels.
Chipmunk Jigs, Fat and Jr Spoons, Mini Mack’s and Capt Mack’s Underspin Jigs are all
effective for the lead core trolling.

Bass Fishing

Bass fishing has been good, and the patterns really did not seem to change much over the last
few days. Fishing plastics on lead heads, drop shots has been very good. Targeting brush 20 to
30 feet is probably the number one pattern, but many of the fish will be on clean bottom on the
humps and points. This is especially the case when the dam is releasing water, or after dark.

FYI, the afternoon bite is very good, and night fishing is also producing some fish.

Some favorite
colors in the Roboworms are the Chartreuse Magic, Morning Dawn (and any of the Morning
Dawn variations) Prizm Kraw, and Bold Bluegill. In bright light, the Sxe Shad and Baby Bluegill
have been good producers. After sundown switch to the darker patterns, and the larger profile
Roboworm Fat worms may get a few extra bites. Flukes over the brush continue to produce
very well, and may be the best overall technique. I would certainly start out casting the fluke our
a topwater over the brush, then cast worms to the brush to maximize the bite.

The topwater bite is still on, with good activity in the early am, and another spike in the
afternoons and evening. This is really two patterns, either casting to schooling fish, or pulling a
fish off of brush up to the bait. There are many baits that are effective, so go with your
confidence bait. Smaller baits if there is light or no wind, bugger nosier baits in the breeze.

There are also plenty of fish hanging around the marina seawalls, often scholling in the am
hours. Topwaters, swim baits on a lead head, Steelshads and again the Fluke, all all good
choices for the schoolers. They are up and down quickly, so a good cast is important.

The Spot Tail Minnow bite is very good, so if you have a youngster you want to get on some
fish, this is a really good way to make that happen. The Spot tails are easy to catch right now on
beaches and boat ramps, just something to chum them up and 3/16” cast net and bait catching
should be over in a short time. What kind of chum? Thats a great question and a good way to
spark a great debate. My favorite, Fig Newtons, but they are not picky

Good Fishing!
Capt. Mack

GUSTAFSON DETAILS FLIPPING TACTICS AND TECHNIQUES

GUSTAFSON DETAILS FLIPPING TACTICS AND TECHNIQUES
from The Fishing Wire

Gustafson flipping

Few presentations outproduce flipping when bass tuck tight into shallow cover. Such was the case at the 51st Bassmaster Classic, recently held on Lake Ray Roberts in North Texas. In the weeks leading up to the event, unrelenting rains caused the lake to swell, with high water inundating shoreline brush and trees and providing resident largemouth with nearly boundless opportunities to explore previously inaccessible cover.

“When these big southern reservoirs flood, incredible numbers of bass head for the bushes and stay there as long as the water remains high,” reflected Elite Series Pro and two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson.

“Typically, by the time June arrives, the best bite is usually offshore, where fish will bite on everything from football jigs to big crankbaits to topwaters – and that’s what I’d prefer to be doing. But the reality is, I’ll be spending lots of time flipping those flooded bushes to get the five quality bites I need each day.”

And flip, he did. By happenstance, I was paired with Gussy as his marshal on day 2 of the Bassmaster Classic, which afforded me the unique opportunity to spend the day observing – and dissecting – the mechanics and mindset of an elite angler competing in an apex-level event. I would be a student in Gussy’s flipping masterclass from the back deck of his Lund 2075 Pro-V Bass boat.

Gussy_2.jpg

Flipping is a short-range, shallow water technique that delivers a bait into heavy cover.

Flipping, of course, is a short-range, shallow water technique that delivers a bait into heavy cover. Anglers swing the lure on a pendulum-like cast and gently feather it into the water, minimizing surface disturbance as the bait plunges quickly to the bottom. “Flipping elicits a reaction strike,” noted the Kenora, Ontario native who won his first Bassmaster Elite Series event earlier in 2021 on the Tennessee River. “Bass will often pounce on the bait as it falls or right when it contacts the bottom; frequently, you’ll feel that fish as soon as you engage the reel and come tight to the bait. My routine is to drop to the bottom, giving the bait a couple shakes if I didn’t get bit on the way down, and then reel in and repeat.”

Gussy

Covering lots of water is the key to finding fishy targets.

With dozens of miles of flooded shoreline available, all brimming with fishy-looking bushes, where does one begin? Gussy remarked, “during practice, I’d start at one end of a long stretch of shoreline and flip my way to the other end. Invariably, there would be one or two key sections that provided consistent bites or larger average size. What makes those areas different from the miles of flooded bushes that aren’t attracting fish? Maybe it’s the bottom content; rocks attract more crayfish than does mud. Sometimes it’s the density of the vegetation; often, an isolated bush provides more consistent action than an uninterrupted line of greenery. Covering lots of water is the key to locating these fishy targets.”

While an individual flip doesn’t necessarily cover a lot of water, the rapid, rhythmic nature of the presentation allows anglers to survey significant territory during the fishing day. Out of curiosity, I counted the number of flips that Gussy made per minute while plying these flooded waters searching for Texas largemouth; each time I counted, Gussy flipped between six and seven times per minute. That’s at least 360 flips in an hour and closing in on 3000 flips for a solid eight-hour day of fishing. With Gussy at the helm, each flip was short, precise, and purposeful. A bush wouldn’t get just one flip; Gussy would flip to the left side, in front, to the right side, and often behind the shrub as well. “You just don’t know where that bass might be sitting or what direction it’s facing; so, you’ve got to cover all the options before moving on.”

Gussy

Gussy flipped up to 360 times each hour in search of quality Texas largemouth.

Precision boat control is an essential yet sometimes overlooked aspect of successful flipping. “I try to stay off the trolling motor as much as possible – just a quick touch of my Minn Kota Ultrex 112 here and there as needed – to avoid spooking these shallow fish,” remarked Gustafson. “I use the wind to push me along if I can, but often, that speed is just too fast to hit all the key casting targets. So if I find myself in a particularly fishy pocket, or when I need a minute to deal with a hooked fish or re-rig a bait, I deploy my twin Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchors to lock the boat in place.”

Gussy

Gussy flipped his way to success using a G. Loomis NRX+ rod paired with a Shimano Metanium reel.

The tournament day began with a broad selection of rods on the front deck of Gussy’s Lund, including rods rigged with a swim jig, a spinnerbait, and even a Texas-sized plastic worm. “Gotta keep ‘em honest,” quipped the Canadian cowboy. Truthfully, Gussy did throw those baits occasionally. Ultimately, however, Gussy caught all of that day’s fish using a flipping stick. His weapon of choice was a G. Loomis NRX+ 895C JWR – a 7’5” rod with extra-heavy power and fast action – equipped with a Shimano Metanium reel. “This combination is incredibly light and sensitive yet extremely powerful and durable. I can flip all day for a week and never have the slightest amount of arm fatigue. At the same time, once a fish bites, the NRX+ 895 rod has the power needed to bury the hook and to get the fish’s head turned quickly, while the 7.1:1 gear ratio Metanium winches it out of trouble.” Gussy spooled his Metanium with 50 lb test PowerPro braided line and threaded on a ⅜ oz Flat Out Tungsten flipping weight, held in place using a small rubber bobber stop. Then, Gussy tied directly to a Gamakatsu 3/0 Super Heavy Cover Flippin’ Hook using a snell knot.

Flipping lends itself to a wide range of lure choices, with creature baits being one of the frequently presented styles. As we waited out a two-hour storm delay, Gussy engaged his neighbor in the take-off line, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chad Morganthaler, in some friendly dock talk as Gussy asked, “how am I going to flip my way to five keeper bites today?” Morgenthaler, a seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, responded with one word: tubes. As it turned out, Gussy left his entire tube selection with his smallmouth bass gear at home near Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, so Morgenthaler reached into one of his compartments and gave Gussy a handful to try. “Each of us out here wants to see everyone succeed, and we try to help each other out anytime we can,” noted a thankful Gustafson as he rigged up his first borrowed tube.

Gussy

Tubes borrowed from two other Bassmaster Classic competitors let Gussy flip his way into championship Sunday.

Morgenthaler’s tubes would prove pivotal. By mid-morning, Gussy had three keeper fish in the livewell and had sorted through several members of the lake’s junior-varsity bass squad – but was down to a single tattered tube. Luckily, help was about to arrive as another Classic competitor, Seth Feider, idled into view. A quick exchange led to Feider recharging Gussy’s tube supply with a generous pile of green pumpkin-patterned baits. Those borrowed tubes helped Gussy capture a tournament limit of over 13 pounds that day and secure a berth in the Classic’s Sunday championship round.

GIve flipping a try the next time that high skies and high water push bass into shallow cover. Tips and tactics from Gussy’s masterclass will surely connect you with flipping success.

Gussy

Gussy’s tools and tactics will help connect you with flipping success.

#FishShimano

#FishGLoomis

#BassmasterClassic

About the author: Dr. Jason Halfen is a long-time guide, tournament angler, and specialist in marine electronics. He owns and operates The Technological Angler, dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage hi-tech tools to find and catch more fish. Learn more by visiting www.technologicalangler.com.

Joel Nelson’s Favorite Summer Jigs and Rigs

JOEL NELSON’S FAVORITE SUMMER JIGS AND RIGS will help you catch fish
from The Fishing Wire

JUNE 22, 20211

CAtch big bluegill on jigs


Part of being an effective angler is putting together a pattern. Knowing a bit about a specific species, its seasonal movements, and biology throughout the year. It also helps to have some locational information on where they like to spend their time. Rocks, weeds, mid-depths to shallow shoals, all can be fishy during certain months. That said, presentation, as-in the types of baits we put in those places and how, can really make a difference throughout all seasons. That classic Fish + Location + Presentation = Success formula that the Lindner’s devised those decades ago is still the basis for putting together a great day on the way.

Here are some jigs and rigs that have proven themselves to me again and again, year over year forgetting me bit during the summer calendar period.

Panfish Jigs

Thumper Crappie King Jig – It’s really a crappie go-to during the summer for trolling. I can pull tube jigs and they work well. So do your average curly-tail or boot-tail plastics. The Crappie Thumper King adds some vibration and shine to the presentation that really draws crappies
when jig-trolling. It’s like a finesse crankbait of sorts that fish just love.
Impulse Bloodworm – If you fish gills, call this a standard in your tackle box. In shallow, pitch it on a tight line as it swings down and gets popped by hungry fish. Out deeper, use it with a slip bobber to put it right on big bluegills’ doorstep. That could be an inside turn on a weedline or just off a shelf where they suspend.

Walleye/Bass Jigs

Fireball Jig – Probably the #1 selling jig of all time, this is just a staple again. For fishing vertically with livebait, I’ll pair a 1/16 oz. or 1/8 oz. fireball with a leech below a bobber. Or I’ll use heavy ones to bomb the depths on big water like Lake of the Woods or Winnie. Find fish on electronics and drop these on them, it can really be that simple for most of the summer.
Deep Vee Jig – This jig design could be one of the more revolutionary adaptations I’ve seen in some time. For a river guy, these baits track true when you’re dragging, and are setup for livebait and plastics both with the wire keeper. On lakes and reservoirs, they’re an incredible jig for pitching plastics. The keel keeps them running well, and great hooks paired with big eyes and hard paint make them a quality jig that will last.
Mimic Minnow Limber Leech – My boys came back from the river a few weeks ago with some trout they caught exclusively on limber leeches, adding to the already growing list of species we’ve caught on these baits. Everything eats a leech and especially on river systems, this is a very life-like and effective mimic.
Mimic Minnow Critter Craw – For bass, both smallies and largemouth alike, I’m always happy to throw this bait. Especially in rocky environments, I like how it works across the bottom without getting hung up and have had fish in river systems and lakes alike really select for these things. Like leeches, crayfish are just such a large food source for so many fish species, and this is a great imitation.
Mimic Minnow Shad – Few baits are as throw and go as these. For my kids, it’s been nice to have them tie something on that’ll attract a variety of fish and do so well in so many conditions. That versatility makes them extremely popular and at times, hard to find on store shelves so I like to stock up when I find the colors and sizes I like.

Rigs

Butterfly Blades – It’s hard to beat a butterfly blade in all of its configurations to trick moderate to neutral fish into eating. The Wingnut and standard varieties, with a smattering of crawlers on Super Death hooks, or simple leeches on a single hook are all good multiple looks to offer fish on finicky days. I love how I can really drop the boat speed and just hover over fish with these, as
the blades spin at speeds even slower than 0.5mph. What’s surprising to most people is that I pull these for panfish too. I use the smallest sizes with a chunk of crawler to catch mega gills and cover water near weed beds. That also tends to yield walleyes in the right lakes, and definitely plenty of bass. If you simply want to put a bend in the rod, these are great rigs to do it with.

Baitfish Series Spinner Rigs – There are times often in clear water where fish are more selective on color, yet still want the thump of a traditional metal blade. It’s on waters like Mille Lacs, Winnie, and Lake of the Woods that I’ll pull larger blades in the Baitfish series to put out some vibration, while allowing finesse color presentation both. These are very lifelike blades, and when imitating perch (firetiger, gold perch) or during a bug hatch (gold shiner, clown), I feel like I can dial in their preferences really well. Even in extremely clear water and on a down bite, these spinners coax fish.

SUMMER TACTIC FOR VIRGINIA SMALLMOUTHS

Summer Tactic for Virginia Smallmouths

By Alex McCrickard, Virgina DGIF Aquatic Education Coordinator

from The Fishing Wire

During the dog days of summer, many anglers put their rods and reels down and are content to wait until later in the fall for cooler weather.  Unfortunately, these anglers end up missing some of the most exciting warm water fishing conditions of the year.  During this time frame, I tend to focus my efforts on one species of fish in Virginia, smallmouth bass.  Pound for pound and inch for inch, these fish fight harder than most other freshwater fish in the state.

Smallmouth Bass in Virginia

Smallmouth bass, frequently referred to as smallies or bronzebacks, are a freshwater member of the sunfish family: Centrarchidae.  Their green and brown sides are often marked with vertical black bars.  Some of these fish have war paint like markings extending horizontally and diagonally behind their eyes and across their gill plates.  Smallmouth bass are native to the Great Lakes system and the Mississippi River Basin including the Tennessee and Big Sandy River Drainages of Southwest Virginia.  However, these game fish have been introduced all across the Piedmont of Virginia and are truly a worthy opponent on rod and reel.  Because of the smallmouth’s widespread range in Virginia, they are readily available to anglers fishing west of the coastal plains above the fall lines of our major river systems.  This allows anglers who reside in cities and large metropolitan areas to fish local as smallmouth opportunities are plentiful.  The James River in Lynchburg and RichmondRappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Rivanna River in Charlottesville, Maury River near Lexington, and the New River in Blacksburg are fine examples of local opportunities.

The author with a fine summer smallmouth on the James River. Photo by Joe Revercomb.

The mainstem and larger tributaries of these rivers are full of smallmouth. Anglers in Northern Virginia can focus efforts on the Upper Potomac River as well as the Shenandoah mainstemNorth Fork, and South Fork.  The North Fork of the Holston River and the Clinch River provide excellent smallmouth opportunities in Southwest Virginia.  Floating these larger rivers in a canoe or raft can be a great way to cover water, just remember to wear your life jacket. You can also wade fish these rivers and their tributaries, especially in the lower flows of late summer.

Summer Conditions

My favorite conditions to fish for smallmouth are from mid-summer into early fall.  During this time of the year our rivers and streams are typically at lower flows with fantastic water clarity.  These conditions provide for some incredible sight fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass.  Look for fish to be holding against steep banks with overhanging trees and vegetation.  During the middle of hot summer days it can pay off huge when you find a shady bank with depth and current.  It can also be productive to target riffles and pocket water during this time of the year.  Smallmouth will often be in the faster and more oxygenated water when river temperatures get hot.

It’s important to think about structure when locating summer smallmouth.  These fish will often be found along a rock ledge or drop off.  Log jams, underwater grass beds, and emergent water willow also provide structure that these fish can use for cover.  Smallmouth can be found along current seams where fast water meets slow water.  Fishing a quiet pocket behind a mid-river boulder or targeting the tailout of an island where two current seams come together is a good idea.

During hot, bright, summer days the fishing can be most productive early in the morning and again in the evening.  I try to fish during these times as smallmouth will often be active during low light conditions and can get sluggish during the middle of a hot bright afternoon.  That being said, these fish can be caught in the middle of bright sunny days as well.  Also, afternoon cloud cover and a light shower can turn the fishing on in a matter of moments.

Wade fishing can be a great way to break up a float during a hot summer day. Photo by Alex McCrickard

Summer Feeding Habits

Smallmouth bass are piscivores, they feed primarily on other fish.  Various species of shiners, darters, dace, and sunfish are bass favorites.  These fish also prefer large aquatic insects like hellgrammite nymphs and crayfish.  However, the abundance of other aquatic and terrestrial insects allow smallmouth to diversify their menu in the summertime.  It is not uncommon for these fish to target damselflies and dragonflies during summer hatches.  I’ve seen summer smallmouth feeding on the surface with reckless abandon as damselflies hovered along a water willow island on the James River.  These fish are happy to eat large cicadas, grasshoppers, or crickets that find their way into the water.  These seasonal food sources allow for exciting topwater action.

One time during a mid-August float on the James River I found a long bank with overhanging sycamore trees providing shade along the edge of the river.  I had been fishing a subsurface Clouser Minnow without a strike for nearly an hour.  Because it was a windy afternoon I figured I would try my luck with a small green Boogle Bug popper on my 6 wt fly rod.  A few casts later I had a fine smallmouth explode on the popper underneath the overhanging tree limbs.  I landed the fish and held it up for a photo just in time to see it regurgitate a half dozen large Japanese beetles.  The fish had been utilizing the windy conditions to snack on beetles as they got blown into the water.  It can really pay off to change patterns based on water and weather conditions.

Fishing with friends is a great way to spend time on the water. Joe Revercomb shows off a nice Virginia smallmouth caught on a popper. Photo by Patrick Dudley

Rods/Reels & Tackle/Approach

Medium to medium light spinning and baitcasting rods in the 7 foot range are great for late summer smallmouth.  It can pay off to scale down in low clear water.  You may want to consider fishing 6-8 lb test instead of 10-12 lb.  Soft plastics work well for smallmouth and favorites include swim baits and tubes.  Various spinnerbaits can be a great way to cover water in the larger rivers during this time of the year.  Sometimes you can be surprised at how well a simple Mepps spinner or Rooster tail will produce.  Topwater baits are a late summer “go to” with low and clear water.  Try fishing buzzbaits, the smaller Whopper Plopper 90, Zara Spooks, and Heddon Tiny Torpedos.  Buzzbaits and Whopper Ploppers can be retrieved quickly across the surface enticing explosive takes.  The rotating tail of the Whopper Plopper acts like a propeller and creates lots of noise and attention.

For fly fishing, 9 to 10 foot rods in the 6 to 8 wt range are best.  A 9ft 5wt may work well on the smaller rivers across Virginia but you will want a heavier rod on our larger rivers.  Heavier rods in the 7 to 8 wt range will also turn over some of the bigger bugs we tend to throw this time of year on floating fly lines.  A 9ft tapered leader in the 0x to 3x range will work well depending on water clarity and flows.  Fishing large poppers like Boogle Bugs or Walt Cary’s “Walt’s Bass Popper” will get the smallmouth going.  The Surface Seducer Double Barrel popper by Martin Bawden pushes lots of water.  Large foam cicada patterns, Japanese beetle patterns, and western style Chernoyble Ants are fun when fished tight to the bank.  Don’t forget to include a few damselfly and dragonfly patterns in your summer smallmouth fly box.

Don’t let the dog days of summer keep you from missing some of the most exciting warm water fishing conditions of the year!

When fishing these surface flies and lures, the takes can be very visual.  Sometimes during a strip and pause retrieve, the smallmouth will slowly approach the fly from 5 feet away to gently sip it like a trout.  Other times a fast strip retrieve will generate explosive takes.  These visual late summer takes are hard to beat!

If the fish aren’t looking up you can do well stripping streamers.  Bob Clouser’s Clouser Minnow was developed for smallmouth bass and a variety of colors can be productive this time of the year.  My favorite color combinations for this fly are chartreuse and white, olive and white, as well as a more natural brown and white.  The dumbbell eyes on this fly make it swim up and down through the water column as you retrieve.  Lefty Kreh’s Deceiver is another fine smallmouth fly along with the famous Half & Half which is a combination of the Clouser Minnow and Deceiver.  Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex has become a favorite amongst fly anglers in Virginia and the smallmouth can’t seem to ignore it.  The flashy profile of this fly attracts fish in clear and stained water.  Another popular smallmouth streamer is the Gamechanger developed by Blane Chocklett.  The Gamechanger is multi-sectioned allowing it to swim naturally through the water column.  Most other articulated streamers developed for trout fishing will also be productive on smallmouth bass as well.  All of these streamers come in a variety of sizes.  When choosing fly size, it’s essential to match the size of the forage fish the smallmouth are keying in on.  This can vary from larger rivers to smaller tributaries but typically sizes 2-6 will work well with larger patterns being in the 1, 1/0, and 2/0 sizes.

Crayfish and Hellgrammite patterns can be productive during the heat of the day in late summer.  Harry Murray’s Hellgrammite and Strymph can be fished with success lower in the water column closer to the bottom of the river.  Chuck Kraft’s Clawdad and Crittermite are two other go to patterns.  Its best to try numerous different approaches and techniques until you can find out what the fish are keyed in on each day.

In all, late summer smallmouth should be on your angling to do list.  The conditions during this time of the year are excellent for sight fishing and cater to a topwater approach.  From the smaller tributaries to the larger rivers, smallmouth opportunities are diverse across the state.  Make time to get out this summer and fish local in Virginia.

Tips for Catching Trout and Redfish on Soft Plastics

By Daniel Nussbaum, Z-Man Fishing Products
from The Fishing Wire

All along the Southeast and Gulf coasts, redfish and spotted seatrout are primary targets of most inshore anglers, and for good reason, too. They are relatively abundant most everywhere, can be targeted year-round, and are accessible from land or boat. Redfish are dogged fighters that never seem to give up, and sight fishing for reds or watching them run down a well-presented bait is an absolute hoot. While targeting trophy trout is a borderline obsession for some, for most, speck fishing is more about action, numbers, and aggressive bites, which they willingly seem to provide throughout their range.

Most importantly, both reds and trout can be consistently targeted using soft plastic lures. While live bait can often be more effective, that isn’t always the case, and most would agree that casting lures and tricking a fish into eating something fake is simply more rewarding and fun. That said, there are a few mistakes that we see inshore anglers making time-and-again.

Getting a handle on some simple technique and gear-related missteps will definitely help you put more redfish and seatrout in the boat. Fishing Too Fast. As one of the best inshore fishermen I know once told me, “If you think you’re fishing too slow, then slow it down some more.” Whether simply reeling too fast or working the bait too quickly with the rod, most folks would be well-served by slowing down their cadence a bit. For starters, gamefish are looking for an easy meal, not a tough one; they’re wired to expend as little energy possible to run down their prey. Fishing baits at a slower pace often garners more strikes for this reason, particularly when fish are pressured, lethargic due to very high or low water temperatures, or stingy due to bluebird conditions.

Many types of forage that artificials mimic – shrimp, crabs, worms, and baitfish – spend most of their time on or close to the bottom. Gamefish themselves often stick close to the bottom to maintain a stealthy profile for ambush feeding, avoid predation, and consume less energy by staying out of high water flow zones. Fishing baits slower mimics bottom crawling forage and keeps them in the strike zone for longer rather than zipping by quickly overhead. Sure, there are times when rapid retrieves generate reaction strikes from passive fish or accurately mimic baitfish moving quickly at mid-depth or on the surface. But perhaps more often, simply dragging and dead-sticking baits along the bottom will consistently get bites. To this point, one mistake anglers make is not letting the bait work for them.

With buoyant baits made from ElaZtech, the tails float up off the bottom at rest, coming to life and drawing strikes even on the slowest retrieves. Poor Line Management. Line management is a concept that is difficult to explain and takes time to master. While a straight retrieve can be effective, more often than not, inshore anglers find success by imparting some kind of action to their lures by working their rods. Giving the bait an erratic, rising and falling motion that imitates an injured baitfish or fleeing shrimp and can trigger aggressive strikes. On the period immediately following the jerk or twitch, the bait is allowed to settle to the bottom, and most strikes occur at this time—on the fall.

The key to line management is allowing the bait to fall naturally, while still maintaining enough tension so that light bites can be detected. Some of the biggest fish are the lightest biters, as they strike by simply opening their mouths, creating a vacuum and sucking in the bait without aggressively striking it. If there’s too much slack in the line, you might never even feel the bite. Conversely, if you apply too much tension on the fall, the bait may look or feel unnatural, and the fish may not strike or could spit the hook when it feels pressure. This is a difficult line to walk and takes time on the water to master. Line management is particularly important on the initial cast and descent. The small ‘splat’ that a softbait makes when it hits the water can be like ringing the dinner bell for a hungry redfish or seatrout. In many cases, strikes occur on the initial descent before many even engage the reel. If you allow the bait to fall freely to the bottom and allow too much slack in the line, you may be missing bites. Instead, try to allow the bait to settle to the bottom naturally while maintaining a bit of tension on the line so quick strikes can be detected. Using Tackle That Is Too Heavy.

When many think of saltwater fishing, they envision using big, stout rods and reels capable of horsing in sea monsters. As far as technology has come, this certainly is no longer the case. Nowadays, the best inshore rod and reel combos are more akin to freshwater tackle than saltwater tackle of yesteryear. The advent of microfilament braided lines, carbon fiber drags, composite reel bodies, lightweight rod guides and reel seats, and resin infused high modulus graphite rods allows saltwater anglers to tackle some pretty hefty fish on featherweight gear. Keep in mind that the lighter the rod and reel, the easier it is to feel light bites, and the less fatigue you will experience from continuous casting throughout the day.

Superbraid lines have changed inshore fishing for the better as the thin diameter and lack of stretch allow for a more natural presentation and far greater sensitivity. The smaller the line diameter, the further you can cast light weight lures. Being able to reach fish from longer distances allows for a stealthier approach in shallow water, and longer casts allow you to cover more water. Due to the incredibly thin diameter of the 10 to 20 pound test line used for inshore fishing, line capacity is no longer a concern, allowing you to use small, lightweight spinning and baitcasting reels. Nowadays, my entire inshore arsenal is comprised of 1000 and 2500 size spinning reels or baitcasters in the 70 to 100 size range mounted on medium light or medium power, fast or extra fast action rods in 6’6″ to 7′ range.

Rods with fast or extra fast tapers are critical, as their light tips provide sensitivity and help sling light lures long distances, while the stiff butt and mid sections offer the backbone needed to turn stubborn fish. Don’t skimp on a quality outfit either; it’s amazing how well high quality graphite rods cast and how sensitive they are, and a decent sealed saltwater reel will provide years of service under normal use, even when subjected to blistering redfish runs. Unless you’re fishing around structure or for larger fish, there’s simply no need for heavier tackle for day-to-day redfish, seatrout, and flounder fishing in the backcountry or marsh, as long as you’re using quality gear. Limiting Bait Selection. Without a doubt, everyone has their favorite confidence bait—the one that you’ve caught more or bigger fish on than anything else and that you always seem to have rigged up. Undoubtedly, you will catch the most fish on whatever is tied onto the end of your line, and more often than not, you’ve got your go-to bait tied on. Do you catch more on that bait because it works better or because you use it more often?

There is no doubt that certain bait profiles and colors are consistent producers, but on any given day, the best bait profile, size, or color likely varies based on a variety of factors, including water clarity, forage, weather conditions, tidal flow, water temperature, and who knows what else. Pigeon-holing yourself with one particular pattern is simply a mistake. On every inshore trip, I set out with an assortment of softbaits in various shapes, sizes and colors.

My typical selection consists of 4″ and 5″ Scented Jerk ShadZ, 3″ Slim SwimZ, 3″ MinnowZ, 4″ and 5″ DieZel MinnowZ, 4″ Scented PaddlerZ, 3.5″ EZ ShrimpZ, 5″ TroutTricks, and some Ned Rig baits like the Finesse TRD or TRD TicklerZ, along with a variety of Trout Eye and NedlockZ Jigheads and ChinlockZ swimbait hooks. These baits and hooks will cover just about all of your bases, from shallow to deep.

Reading conditions is critical to selecting the right bait for the situation. If terns are swooping down overhead and baitfish like glass minnows or fry are flickering the surface, then a smaller profile bait like the 3″ Slim SwimZ gets the nod. If herons are picking off shrimp on the shoreline, tying on an EZ ShrimpZ makes perfect sense. If mullet pods are running the banks, match the size of forage with a swimbait with aggressive swimming action, like the 3″ MinnowZ or 4″ or 5″ DieZel MinnowZ.

If the water is clear, the sun is high, and fish are laid up or not aggressively feeding, something super subtle like a Ned Rig might be the best approach. And perhaps most importantly, if you feel like you’re around fish and what you’re using isn’t working, change it up and try something different. Going Crazy with Colors. Yes, you are reading this correctly: a lure company is telling you that you don’t need to run out and buy every color we make. That said, having an assortment of different colors for varying situations is definitely important. The fact that companies offer literally hundreds of colors seems to complicate things, but following a few simple rules will help get your tackle selection dialed in. First and foremost, matching the hatch is always a good rule of thumb. If mullet are the predominant forage in your area, colors like Mulletron or Smoky Shad are good to have on-hand. If fish are feeding on shrimp, some natural looking shrimp colors like Greasy Prawn, Houdini, or Laguna Shrimp are good matches.

If reds are rooting around for crustaceans, earthy tones that blend in with the bottom, like The Wright Stuff or Redfish Toad, are solid choices. One of the key factors in color selection is water clarity. In clear water, I usually opt for more translucent and natural tones, like Opening Night or Smelt. In stained or tannic water, darker colors with a little bit of flash like Gold Rush or New Penny seem to perform well. In muddy water, brighter colors, particularly those with chartreuse like Space Guppy or Sexy Mullet are good choices, as are luminescent glow in the dark colors. Through fishing a number of locales from the Carolinas to Louisiana, a few other solid color trends have emerged.

First, Pearl (or some close variant like Pearl Blue Glimmer or Slam Shady) seems to produce in a variety of situations and water clarity scenarios. White shows up well in dark or muddy water and isn’t too unnatural or loud in clear water. Most baitfish have white sides, so it appears natural most everywhere, and it stands out against dark mud bottoms while still creating a natural silhouette over light sand.

Second, baits with chartreuse tails simply work. A lodge owner in Louisiana once explained to me that this is because shrimp ‘light up’ in a chartreuse hue when chased, and I have personally noticed tails of baitfish like menhaden exhibiting a yellowish tint. I feel that part of this is the contrast between the body and tail and believe that gamefish key in on this contrast. Baits with bright tails work in both clear and muddy water. In clear water, I prefer a color with a clear body like Shrimp Po Body, while in stained water, a bait with a darker body color like Rootbeer/Chartreuse is a good choice. In the muddiest water, the Glow/Chartreuse color seems to show up best.

Finally, wherever you go, redfish like the color gold. Everyone knows that a simple gold spoon is a redfish staple, and for good reason. Having some baits littered with gold flake, like Golden Boy or the new Beer Run color, is always a good idea when reds are the target. The bottom line is that while colors matter, having a few different options for different water conditions, along with a few other favorites, is really all that’s necessary. Again, if what you’re using isn’t working, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try something different.