Caught (and RELEASED) by Thomas Hendel, angler in Lake Placid, FL
Lake Placid is located in Central Florida, in Highlands County, it is a 3,400-acre lake on the south side of the town
The TrophyCatch program is a Florida Angler Recognition Program from a partnership between the FWC, anglers, and fishing industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops. Visit www.floridagofishing.com for details.
By Forrest Fisher
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch program, now in Season 8, commemorates its first Hall of Fame bass caught in the new season. Weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces, it was caught and released in Lake Placid on Jan. 31 by Thomas Hendel, also from Lake Placid.
“I was excited to learn I caught the first TrophyCatch Hall of Fame bass of the season and amazed at the size of my catch,” said Hendel. “This is the first bass I’ve submitted to TrophyCatch. I look forward to continuing my participation in this program for years to come.”
“Since its inception in 2012, TrophyCatch has approved over 9,000 photo submissions of largemouth bass exceeding 8 pounds that have been caught, documented and released into the waters of Florida,” said Jon Fury, FWC’s director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “There is no other program like this anywhere and it could not have been possible without Bass Pro Shops and all of our partners who are committed to the conservation of Florida’s trophy bass fishery for our more than 1.2 million freshwater anglers here in the Fishing Capital of the World. Together, we will continue to enhance and protect 3 million acres of lakes, and approximately 12,000 miles of fishable rivers, streams, and canals.”
Lake Placid, in Highlands County, is a 3,400-acre lake on the south side of the town of Lake Placid. Lake Placid offers great opportunities for those looking to catch a high number of fish, as well as the chance at a lunker. This unique lake has a variety of vegetation and quality habitat types, including deep flats, ledges, and humps not typical of most Florida lakes.
TrophyCatch is a partnership between the FWC, anglers and fishing industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, that rewards the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos showing the entire fish and its weight on a scale to TrophyCatch.com before releasing it back into the water. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch’s citizen-science data for bass research, to make informed decisions about the management of Florida’s bass fisheries and to promote the catch and release of trophy bass.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, bluegill (bream) and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) fishing has slowed, but fish can still be caught while fishing for black crappie (specks).
Specks (crappie) will be turning on with the cooler water temperatures in these next few months. Drift live Missouri minnows and grass shrimp in open water, or troll with Napier deer hair jigs and Hal flies for schooling fish. Find areas with sandy bottoms around bulrush and cattails, and fish a grass shrimp under a cork for spawning fish. Henderson’s Cove and the north end of the lake usually produces good numbers of specks on the outside edge of the pads and grasses near deeper water.
Lake Istokpoga is one of the best lakes in the state at a chance to get your hands on a fish of a lifetime.
As of November 2019, there have been a whopping 527 TrophyCatch submissions of bass larger than 8 pounds since the program was launched in October 2012!
A total of 441 fish have been entered into the Lunker Club (8-9.99 lb.), 84 into Trophy Club (10-12.99 lb.), and 2 into the Hall of Fame Club (13 pounds or more).
TrophyCatch Tracker – TrophyCatch is FWC’s citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger.
Remember, as part of the TrophyCatch program, these big bass have been released, so your trophy still swims in Lake Istokpoga. Largemouth Bass have also been tagged by Biologists on the lake. If you catch a tagged fish, remember to remove the tag and call the number provided. You will need it to collect your $100 reward!
Largemouth bass fishing can be tough during the early months of winter, with cold fronts slowing the fishing on a regular basis. Slow working baits like plastic worms in Junebug and red shad colors and suspending jerkbaits in shad colors can be beneficial during these colder months. Just remember, you must have patience while working these baits.
Live wild shiners typically produce better than artificial baits during this time of year.
Bass will begin to spawn in late January and will be moving into areas in and around bulrush (buggy whips) on the northern shoreline and the submerged vegetation in the channels south of Big Island and Bumblebee Island. Flipping these areas with soft plastics, weightless speed worms, and swimbaits will be the best bet during the spawning season. Fishing for bass between the cold fronts can be very productive.
Use caution when the wind blows on this shallow lake, it can get rough in a hurry! Tight lines!
More details about Lake Istopoga:
Located five miles northeast of Lake Placid, Highlands County, this 27,692-acre lake has quality fishing for black crappie (specks) and one of the highest largemouth bass catch rates in the state. The best speck fishing occurs during winter months drifting over open water, particularly in the northeast and southwest corners. Predominant aquatic vegetation includes spatterdock (bonnets), bulrush (buggy whips), cattail, and pondweed (peppergrass). Kissimmee grass on the south end is particularly productive when there is flow into the Istokpoga Canal. This canal, located off County Highway 621, provides excellent largemouth bass fishing from the bank when the gates are open. Arbuckle and Josephine Creek mouths are also good areas when there is flow. The island areas and associated grass can hold bass any time of year and the deepest portion of the lake (10 ft) is in the southwest corner. Public boat ramps are located on the north, northeast, and southwest shorelines off of U.S. Route 98, Lake Boulevard off Cow House Road, and Highland Lake Drive off of County Route 621, respectively. There are also six fish camps/resorts on the lake with various accommodations. Anglers can wade fish off of the Cow House Road boat ramp.
Chef Todd’s first Choppo bass could be an Illinois first!
Strip Pit Largemouth Bass LOVE ‘EM
Choppo Plopper Action is NEW and DEADLY
Designed by Bassmaster Elite angler Justin Lucas
The Berkley® Choppo, one of 10 lures introduced with Berkley’s new topwater line at ICAST 2018, played to smashing reviews from Illinois strip mine bass…and a prominent Peoria angler/chef.
By Mike Pehanich
The “Plopper” lure concept took the fishing world by storm a few years ago when River2Sea’s 2008 introduction, the Whopper Plopper, suddenly factored into big tournament and TV-host catches. The excitement it generated hasn’t dimmed yet.
Ploppers feature a thick single-arm propeller that produces a plopping gurgle that drives fish nuts and, better yet, draws them from a distance.
If there’s a downside to ploppers, it is price. Original River2Sea Whopper Ploppers generally cost from $12 to $22. That’s why tackle junkies with an ear to the rail got itchy with rumors that Berkley would enter the plopper category with their own iteration.
Berkley’s hardbait strategy has been relatively cautious, but quite successful to date. The simple formula is this: take a proven concept, let pro anglers modify and tweak it to proven performance, and then finally produce and market it at an angler-friendly price.
That marketing formula is in evidence again with the Choppo 90 and 120 – the two sizes of topwater lures filling the “plopper” niche in Berkley’s new 10-item topwater line that made its debut at ICAST 2018 (Orlando July 11-13). The Choppo will retail for $9.99 in both sizes.
Choppo Works the Pits
A coveted Choppo bait arrived at my door under cardboard cover in advance of ICAST 2018. Would it prove to be the real deal? I headed to central Illinois to test it on strip pit bass.
I consulted with Chef Todd Kent, multi-species angler and head chef at Jim’s Downtown Steakhouse in Peoria. For Choppo’s Illinois debut, he suggested Lake X, an unmanaged private lake accessible only with purloined map, secret handshake and promise of first-born grandchild, or in this case, agreement to let him fish the Choppo that day.
I opted for the latter.
“I’ll catch a bass on the Choppo within the first 15 minutes on the water,” Chef Todd predicted.
A weak cold front had pushed through the night before, but I took the bubble trail in the wake of Chef Todd’s first cast with the Choppo to be a good omen.
“I like it,” said the chef, a few casts into the day. “The propeller produces a little deeper ‘plop’ than R2Sea. It’s a little different.”
The strip pit featured a long, steep-sided, main lake with two narrow arms running perpendicular to the main lake. Deadfall and sunken timber provided cover shallow and deep. Algae mats sat in protected pockets between wood.
It seemed a prime topwater setting, so good, in fact, that we were surprised when our first 10 or so casts drew no response.
A washtub explosion ended the drought. Todd leaned back on the bite and his fish went airborne.
“Ten minutes,” he said as he hefted his fish, just a tad under three pounds. “I said I’d have a bass on the Choppo within 15 minutes. Amen.”
The chef let the thought simmer for a few casts. Then the prospect of fame – however fleeting, took hold.
“I’ll bet that was the first bass taken on a Choppo in Illinois,” he said. “Yeah. I’ll stake my claim to that,” I responded.
The worm bite we expected to flourish that morning never developed, but finesse jigs and flippin’ jigs with craw-style and beaver-style plastic trailers drew a flurry of action. A swim jig with swimbait produced nice fish as well.
But we missed the topwater bite and despite the bad omen of high cloudless skies, we pulled out the high-riders again at 11:00 A.M.
The Choppo went down in an angry spray within minutes. Another well-muscled bass hit it a few casts after that. The unexpected mid-day topwater bite was on. Choppo would prove to be the day’s MVP.
“I’m really impressed with this Choppo 120,” said Chef Todd, high praise from an angler with a healthy stockpile of the lure that pioneered the category. “It has a more defined plopper tail sound. The head design is a little narrower, and it has a nice side-to-side roll. The tail rides a little higher, too. And it has great hooks.”
Designed by Bassmaster Elite angler Justin Lucas, the Choppo 120 is just under 5-inches (120 mm) long. Weighing a full ounce, it casts a mile, allowing the angler to cover water quickly. Six weights in two belly chambers and a tapered nose deliver the tantalizing roll that helps convert tail-plopping fish attraction into hard strikes.
And, yes, it has extremely sharp Fusion 19 hooks.
The Choppo 90 is the 120’s little brother. Its smaller dimensions of 3-1/2 inches (90 mm) and ½ ounce weight, add to its versatility. It makes for an easier meal for a wider range of predators. Justin Lucas testifies to its effectiveness on smallmouth bass in particular.
Current colors are Sexy Back, Perfect Ghost, MF Shad, MF Frog, MF Bluegill, Maverick, Ghost White, Ghost Bluegill, Bone and Black Chrome.
Unlike many topwater lures, the Choppo does most of the work for you. Just cast and wind with rod tip raised to maintain a high-riding, waking movement. Vary your speed until you dial in the fish’s preference for the day.
You’ll likely be mesmerized by that plopping sound and tantalizing spray until the inevitable explosion awakens you from the spell!
When the wind on Lake Erie kicks up waves that churn over the top of the 7-foot breakwall at Chadwick Bay in Dunkirk, New York, it’s too rough to go bass fishing there. In Chautauqua County, though, there are many other inland lake options that can offer the green light on those days.
Mike Joyner and I had joined fishing educator, tournament bass angler and longtime friend, Scott Gauld, at Cassadaga Lake, a little waterway located near the village of Lily Dale, just 15 minutes away. See: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/26964.html.
We launched at the state boat access located on the Middle Lake, the scene was pristine, not crowded and offered two floating docks for launch and retrieve.
Giant fluffy clouds masked a brilliant blue sky and there was a rising red glow of sunrise glimmering over the trees in the eastern horizon. But surprisingly, to the north, there was another cloud line of demarcation, as a cold front with dark rain clouds was visible in that direction. They seemed to hover there and we hoped they would stay away. They did and we didn’t get wet.
Scott explained that we would try our luck by fishing the weedline in the Lower Lake (there were three lake parts to Cassadaga Lake: Upper, Middle and Lower) and that would put our lures in about 10-12 feet of water. He described the details that we start out by trying one of his old favorite baits he had used successfully there several times before, while fishing with his dad.
He reached into a storage compartment on his new Nitro bass boat to hand each of us a 4-inch Salty Sling plastic worm (Venom Lures), then helped us rig up in drop-shot style using rather unique Size 1 “Standout hooks.”
Green-pumpkin copper and green-pumpkin candy were the plastic worm color choices.
We were using 7-foot Quantum rods with Sixgill open-face fishing reels loaded with 8-pound test Berkley Nanofil braided line that had 6-feet of Stren fluorocarbon leader (8-pound test) tied on to the end of the braid. Scott said, “The braid will give us better feel and the fluorocarbon will help keep us in stealth mode so the fish can’t see our line.”
I felt like we had a distinct advantage, such was the confidence in Scott’s voice.
The plan was to toss the drop-shot rigs a few feet in front of the boat and allow them to reach bottom, then lift slightly and check, sense, feel for the slightest tap from a feeding fish. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass lived in the lake, but so did crappie, walleye and musky too. Lots of possibilities.
The standout drop-shot hook was tied about 8-10 inches above a specially made 1-1/4 ounce sinker made by the Western New York Bassmasters fishing club, that allowed for quick descent and positive contact with the bottom. Scott demonstrated what to look for and how to react with a demonstration. “Cast out, let it hit the bottom, lift the rod ever so gently, feel for a fish, watch the rod tip, if you get no reaction from a fish, then lift the rod tip and gently swing the bait toward the boat a foot or two – watching it the whole time, then drop it to bottom again and repeat.”
We observed this process while he cast a few times and visually showed us how to work the bait back to the boat. What he stressed for us to know and learn was to sense for that possible VERY LIGHT TAP, the strike signal, from a feeding fish. A moment later, he said, “There’s one! Fish on.” He lifted his rod tip to set the hook and started reeling. A beautiful, healthy, 3-pound largemouth bass came aboard about 30-seconds later. My camera woke up to capture this really handsome fish.
We were having a friendly contest with two buddies in another boat. Hardy, old time anglers and long-time friends, Leon Archer and Wayne Brewer, were fishing with pro bass angler, Scott Callen, in another bass boat.
Mike and I grinned at each other because it seemed that Scott had insight and skill for this Cassadaga Lake waterway. The fish went into the live well to be released after we weighed them and finished fishing later in the morning. The plan was for each boat to weigh in a three fish bag of bass for the top-gun honor. A little friendly competition.
One moment later, Mike hooked a smallmouth bass and brought it aboard. We caught several fish along the weedline and enjoyed just working the baits and learning this new fishing method.
We caught many other fish, smaller bass, a perch, and then I even hooked-up with a giant musky. He looked like about 45-inches or so, maybe a 30-pounder, using one of Scott’s Rattle-Shake swim jig lures tipped with a white Venom Skip Shad tail. The big fish swirled at my bait, grabbed it, and took off with my line like a freight train to Texas.
Then, in less than five seconds, he spit it back toward the boat, the line went twang, and the bait went airborne as it came flying back right past my ear. WOW! The rod was a just little too light to set the hook into the jaw of that monster, but what a huge fishing moment! I’ll never forget that fish. Unforgettable memories are made of this. Pure fish power.
Our three biggest bass tally weighed in at a little under 10-pounds. A very nice morning of fishing, fun, good natured joking, busted laughing and serious hook setting above talk-to-fish expressions. There were one or two comic expression, “Oops, that one got me,” or “I should’ve set the hook sooner,“ or “Thought that was a weed.” Fishing with friends, it’s the best.
One other new secret to learn on this trip was the covert hooking of the plastic worm. The worm was hooked by pushing the hook point right through the worm diameter about a half-inch from the heavy end of the worm, so the rest of the worm just dangled freely. It looked so very real in the water. Tantalizing.
The rod, the line (type and size), the hooks, the weight, and where you cast was important too, but the most important thing was the technique of hooking up the Salty Sling worm to the hook. That’s what gave the worm the action that provoked the fish to strike.
It was deadly.
I added a little diagram to the “fishing secrets” book I keep after each trip for future use and to share with some youngster learning to fish along the way when the chance to help a kid occurs.
Cassadaga Lake is a sleeper lake for sure. When the bigger nearby waterways of Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake are too rough with wind or rain, this is one secret spot to be aware of.
Lots of cooperative fish for catching and releasing for the fun of fishing. Especially with friends. Right now, you know at least one way to fish and what to do when you get there.
It was another stifling day in the Ozarks. The temperature steadily climbed toward the upper 90s and the humidity made it seem even worse.
A bad time to go fishing, right?
Not in Dennis Whiteside’s eyes. To him, these were near-perfect conditions to take a float-fishing trip for smallmouth bass.
“I’ve had some of my best days of fishing on these Ozarks streams on days like this,” said Whiteside, 69, a longtime float guide from Springfield, Mo. “For one thing, no one else is out. You can make a float and not see another person.”
“And this is the time of the year when their (smallmouth bass) metabolism is highest. They’re eating. You just have to drop the food in front of them.”
Minutes after launching his canoe on the middle stretch of the James River near Springfield, Mo., Whiteside was doing just that.
With a few strokes of his paddle, he maneuvered his 18 ½-foot canoe through a gurgling riffle, then positioned it to the edge of a pool.
He cast a topwater lure to a spot where slack water met the current and began buzzing it across the surface. But it didn’t get far.
The bait disappeared in a flash of bronze and an angry smallmouth bass leapt out of the water, arching to get free.
The fish landed with a loud splash, then made a frantic run to escape. It wasn’t long, though, before Whiteside had the 16-inch fish in the canoe and was celebrating another day of fishing the old-fashioned way.
“This is how I’ve been fishing most of my life,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with being out on a big lake, in a bass boat, with a big motor and all, but that isn’t for me.
“I’d much rather be on moving water, where you’re practically alone and you’re fishing the same way as people have been for more than 50 years.
“I don’t even use a trolling motor. It just gets in the way. All I need is a paddle.”
Whiteside can do magic with that paddle. He can negotiate hairpin turns, find water that is barely deep enough to float his canoe, and display an uncanny ability of knowing where the smallmouth’s will be.
It was the James River on this day. But it could be countless others—the Current, the Niangua, the Eleven Point, Crooked Creek, and on and on. He estimates he has floated 300 streams in Missouri and Arkansas, some of them so small that they aren’t even on the map. And he has caught smallmouths out of every one of them.
He is part of a vanishing breed. In a day and age, where most guides take customers out on large reservoirs to fish for bass or crappies, Whiteside does things the old-fashioned way – with just a paddle, a couple of fishing rods and a small tackle box of lures.
Even on the hottest days of the year, it works. When Whiteside took two customers – David Gray and me – on the James in late July, the fishing was spectacular.
As schools of suckers scattered in front his advancing canoe, Whiteside continually searched for the shaded water with enough depth, current and cover to provide good smallmouth habitat.
Feeding the fish a steady diet of a variety of topwater lures, we got explosive hits throughout the morning. Most fishermen would expect the action to slack as the sun got higher. Just the opposite.
As noon approached, the fishing got even better. Casting to rocky banks in the shade, we watched as big smallies routinely emerged to attack our lures. By the end of our five-mile trip, Whiteside estimated we caught and released 40 smallmouths, many of them in the 13- to 16-inch range.
An unusual trip? Hardly. Whiteside expects good fishing on the Ozarks streams once summer arrives. There is one caveat. There has to be enough water. Some streams, especially those that aren’t spring-fed, will get too low to even float for long stretches. But those that have springs, will remain floatable.
“The big fallacy about topwater fishing is that you have to be out either early in the morning or just before the sun goes down to catch fish,” Whiteside said. “That’s not true. Even on these hot days, our best fishing will be from 11 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.)
“You have to be accurate with your casts. But if you can put that lure within 3 feet of where you think that fish will be, and it’s in the shade, you can catch some big smallmouths.”
Brent Frazee is a freelance writer from Parkville, Mo., who served as the outdoors editor of The Kansas City Star for 36 years before retiring in 2016. He continues to write for magazines and has a blog on his website www.brentfrazee.com.
Lake Erie – Buffalo, NY – Trophy Smallmouth Bass Fishery, is NEW ADDITION to FLW Northern Series
Lake Guntersville will host 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship November
MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 22, 2017) – Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest tournament-fishing
organization, announced today the 2018 Costa FLW Series schedule, which will consist of three events in each of the five divisions – Central, Northern, Southeastern, Southwestern and Western – along with the no-entry-fee Costa FLW Series Championship to be held on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
The top 40 pros and co-anglers in the final point standings in each division after three qualifying tournaments will advance to the 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship, provided they fished all three qualifiers in a division.
The highest finishing pro from each of the five Costa FLW Series divisions based on final results at the 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, along with the highest finishing pro from the championship’s international division. A total of six Costa FLW Series pros will advance to the 2019 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of professional bass fishing.
Complete rules and entry dates will be announced soon.
2018 Costa FLW Series Season Schedule:
Central Division Fishery City Local Host
April 19-21 Table Rock Lake Branson, Mo. ExploreBranson.com
June 7-9 Lake Barkley Cadiz, Ky. Cadiz-Trigg County Tourism
Oct. 11-13 Lake of the Ozarks Osage Beach, Mo. Tri-County Lodging Association
June 21-23 Lake Champlain Plattsburgh, N.Y. City of Plattsburgh
July 26-28 Lake Erie Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission
Sept. 6-8 1000 Islands Clayton, N.Y. Clayton Chamber of Commerce
Jan. 4-6 Lake Okeechobee Okeechobee, Fla. Okeechobee County Tourism
March 1-3 Lake Seminole Bainbridge, Ga. Bainbridge CVB
April 5-7 Santee Cooper Summerton, S.C. Clarendon County CC
Feb. 15-17 Sam Rayburn Reservoir Jasper, Texas Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn CC
March 22-24 Grand Lake Grove, Okla. City of Grove
Oct. 4-6 Fort Gibson Lake Wagoner, Okla. Wagoner Area CC
Feb. 8-10 Lake Havasu Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Lake Havasu City CVB
May 10-12 Clear Lake Lakeport, Calif. Konocti Vista Casino Resort/Marina
Sept. 27-29 California Delta Bethel Island, Calif. Russo’s Marina
Costa FLW Series Championship
Nov. 1-3 Lake Guntersville Guntersville, Ala. Marshall County CVB
The full schedule and details for each fishery can be found at FLWFishing.com.
About FLW – FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2017 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 258 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW” television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. For more information visit FLWFishing.com and follow FLW at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.
Quality Line, Sharp Hooks, Stiff Rod can help ASSURE Hookup & Catch
By Forrest Fisher
When does the adventure of a short fishing trip become special?
After that unforgettable connection to big fish success.
When the fun is non-stop spontaneous.
When you realize something very good happened that was not totally expected.
When you’re fishing with your grandson!
That’s when. Grandkids grow up too quick, but they sure create some great memories that become more than special. Here’s one trip story that is time-honored in my “greatest gift” memory scrapbook.
Bass boats with 250HP engines whizzed from spot to spot around the lake, their engines echoing brilliant monotones of sheer power among lake cottages and the luscious green hills. You could sense the connection to new technology watching them.
There were jet-ski rigs too, and water skiers, and brave stand-up paddle board folks, and kids in tow on floating rafts behind family-sized pontoon boats – there was lots of mid-afternoon activity. Fun activity.
There was also one bright-yellow 12-foot Mirrocraft aluminum boat with two anglers and only two fishing rods. In the sun, the yellow boat rig was easily visible from a half-mile, but looking from the bottom up, it was so bright that it matched the sunshine. An uncommon mode for fishing stealth.
There was no gas-powered engine on the transom. It was a very common, simple, durable, car-top fishing boat with wooden oars for normal motion, except for one thing: On the bow was mounted an old-time, cable-drive, foot-pedal controlled Johnson 12V electric motor on a cross-piece of pressure-treated board. The battery was in a case in the back of the boat for weight distribution and a shielded electric cable, duct-taped along the side of the boat, made the power connection. A Lowrance X-50 sonar unit, tiny in size and volume, but effective, was also hooked in, providing underwater eyes for depth awareness.
The rig offered stealth movement in sheer silence. It provided more ability to work a quiet fishing line around weedbeds, docks, and rocks and buoy markers, maybe even more stealth than one of the new $85,000 bass boat rigs.
With a 15-pound cannon-ball anchor for holding position in the wind, it was simply efficient. In fact, it was a pretty slick-looking fishing rig in a class all by itself. Even with movement, it did not spook fish – big bass, that were nearby.
The fella driving the boat was my grandson. I’m so proud that he shares a similar passion for the outdoors, like I do, and that his father does too – now a long-standing family tradition. It’s the kind of passion and tradition that keeps us all curious to learn more about new things we find when we spend time in the outdoors. It helps to bring us back to meet adventure in the outdoors time and again, and that next time can never be far away.
His fishing rigs are simple, but like the boat, are totally functional. He has thought this out. The boat and fishing rigs are assembled to hook and land big black bass. His humble Shimano open-face spinning reel is mounted on a 7-foot long, semi-stiff graphite rod (Carbon-X, S-15) with 10-pound Gamma braid line that has 6-feet of 16-pound fluorocarbon Sun Line leader tied to the end. The leader is dock-tough line, thin in diameter and is nearly invisible. The 10-pound braid allows feathered casts for short pinpoint casting, or into the wind with a little “wrist-reach” for long distance.
Terminal tackle includes heavy-wire size 3/0 VMC hooks, the same kind used by many of the Elite Series pro anglers. His favorite bass bait? Friend and bass pro-staffer, Scott Callen, recommended the Sun Line and the 6-inch Big-Bite-Baits “TRICK STICK” plastic worms. My grandson rigs them Texas-style to be weedless (not wacky). An assortment of worm colors is visible in the clear plastic Plano tackle box on the boat seat, and there is only one box. My grandson adds, “Why complicate simple fishing, but just gotta make sure you have that green-pumpkin red flake in there.”
A check with Ted’s Bait & Tackle in Lakeville, N.Y. (opens at 6AM every day, (585) 429-0587), helped with the plastic worm color selection. Proprietor Ted Decker and associate, Bill Brizzee, know the lake and what’s working, and they provided advice about the Big Bite Bait worm colors. Brizzee says, “Yeah, you know they’re priced right ($1.99) in a 5-pack package and we go through ‘em pretty quick when the fish are biting – like this time of year, especially that green-pumpkin color and black w/red sparkle color.”
My grandson stood up in the rig and said, “This little boat is so easy to take places, it is so stable in the water and so safe, and so crafty inside the areas I like to fish. The weed lines, the tree blow-downs near inlet and outlet creeks, the docks, and if you splash-cast up into the shade of whatever structure you can find – even in 6-inches of water, so that your worm entry makes little or no sound, it just settles and sinks – the fish just jump on it. Getting the presentation right is fun! It took me a few years to get better at good casting though.” I knew about those fun years, “Look, you caught a 40-foot hemlock tree!” More good memories.
He went on to show me his nearly perfected casting technique,splash-casting, and on the second cast, he said, “There he goes, he’s movin with it.” He reared back and set the hook two-handed. “Got ‘em! Fish on!” He smiled with that look of fun and approval. Not using the net, he reached over the side and lipped the big bass. One picture later the fish went back to swim another day.
He did that 11 more times in the next two hours. The largest for this day was a healthy 4.65 pounder and the smallest was a 13-incher. All of the fish were plump and with good color.
Sunfish and perch make up a large part of the bass diet here, but why they like plastic worms is still anyone’s guess. I suppose they look like a salamander, leech, snake, nightcrawler or other edible live bait forms too, but one thing for sure, the fish like ‘em – or hate ‘em, because they seem to destroy them.
Before fishing, we reviewed the Conesus Lake Fishing Forum on Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/ConesusLakeFishingForum/. We noted that there is a weekly, 3-fish, Tuesday evening fun bass contest open to all anglers that begins at the state launch in the central portion of the lake. Exactly where did we fish? We launched at the north end of the lake and followed the directions and advice provided by the NYSDEC to fish the lake. Visit this link: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/25575.html.
We worked the weedbed edges, shadow side of some of the docks, and we also did some deep jigging in 25 feet of water. Found success there too, but switched to using sonar-style vertical jig baits there.
Advice for the next trip? Leave no docks and weedbed drop-offs unexplored, don’t forget the water bottles and the peanut butter/jelly sandwiches.
Tight lines everyone.
Bass Anglers bring in 13 Bags of 20 Pounds or More!
Kevin Van Dam is ZONED-IN on Smallmouth Bass
Wind Direction Change was KEY
WADDINGTON, N.Y. (July 22, 2017) – It’s been every pro fisherman’s nightmare for more than 25 years. Superstar Kevin VanDam — a Michigan native and arguably the best smallmouth angler in the history of the sport — is hammering the smallies with no sign of slowing down. And now, the remaining anglers in the field have just one more day to overtake him and keep him from recording his 24th career B.A.S.S. victory wire-to-wire style at the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Go RVing.
VanDam added five bass that weighed 22 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday and maintained the lead he has held from the start with a three-day total of 66-7.
“Today was really calm,” he said. “The wind changed 180 degrees and blew the exact opposite direction from what it did (Friday). That really slowed things down, and it’s a lot easier to position your boat when it’s like that.
“You saw what the weights were like today. If it’s like that tomorrow, it’s going to be a shootout.”
Saturday’s semifinal round saw 13 bags of 20 pounds or more brought to the scales, including the 21-8 limit weighed in by VanDam’s nephew, Jonathon VanDam. The younger VanDam moved into second place with a three-day mark of 64-0.
“It’s been a great week so far for me,” JVD said. “I definitely needed a tournament like this for the points.
“All you can ask for is to put yourself into position to win, and I’ve definitely got a shot.”
Idaho angler Brandon Palaniuk had another strong day with 22-4 and rose from ninth place into third with 63-3. It would be a remarkable feat for Palaniuk to record a victory, considering he was in 72nd place on Day 1.
After those early struggles, Palaniuk said he believed he would need at least a 24-pound average for the remaining three days to have a chance for a win.
“I caught 25 Friday and 22 today, so I’m off that 24-pound average by about a pound,” Palaniuk said. “That probably means I need 25 or 26 to have a shot.
“That kind of bag is out there — and I’ve got to have them because all of these guys are going to catch 20 pounds again tomorrow.”
Brent Ehrler, a veteran California pro with more than $2 million in career earnings, caught 21-8 Saturday and jumped into fourth place with 63-1. Ehrler has two second-place finishes since joining the Elite Series in 2015, but he’s still seeking his first win.
After leading two events into the final round this year only to fall short, he said he feels strong about the position he’s in going into Championship Sunday.
“I like being back just a little bit instead of leading, but it’s a tough hill to climb,” Ehrler said. “I didn’t necessarily lay off of them today. But at one point, I stopped fishing a couple of spots and kind of defended them. I started looking around a little bit instead of pounding on them.
“The fish are there — and if everything is right, I think I can catch them.”
VanDam and Palaniuk are also locked in a battle with South Carolina pro Casey Ashley for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. Palaniuk leads with 621 points, followed by Ashley with 616 and KVD with 604.
The tournament will conclude Sunday, with the Top 12 remaining anglers leaving Whittaker Park at 6:15 a.m. ET. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3:15 p.m., with a $100,000 first-place prize on the line.
The event is hosted by the Village of Waddington.
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Shell Rotella, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, Huk, Humminbird, Nitro Boats, Mercury, Minn Kota, Power-Pole
2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, Shimano, T-H Marine, Advance Auto Parts, Academy Sports + Outdoors
About B.A.S.S. – B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Like to fish for bass in the summertime? Topwater action can be the most exciting! CHECK
The Terminator Popping Frog is designed for flawless, big, fish-catching fun. Many crankbaits have their action built in by design of the lip and weight placement, why not the same on a frog. Now, YES, we have built-in action on a topwater frog too. The Terminator Popping Frog provides a cupped face to create a loud, strong pop, it will drive fish crazy, even from deep below. CHECK
The weight is positioned to allow long, perfect casts and the extra-wide hook gap converts strikes into hook sets. The extra-soft body compresses easily to expose those hooks. CHECK
The round rubber lug tentacles articulate life-like action. Even the line tie is extra-duty and is welded for no line-wiggle escapes during the hook set. The Terminator Popping Frog is a unique bass-catching tool for all serious Bass anglers. CHECK
The Model 25 is the only model made at this time, but it is a perfect size at 2-1/2” in length and 9/16 oz. Perfect. CHECK
The color on the right is my favorite “Lime Leopard” color, but there are 16 colors. The lure is a topwater fish killer that allows every angler to fish effectively with the effortless walking and/or popping action built into this topwater frog lure. CHECK
The premium VMC® double hook allows you to hook up with new bass friends as you “Walk the dog with a frog!” FISH-ON!
Get one. CHECK!
Cost? Under $10. Check colors and supply: http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Terminator_Walking_Frog/descpage-TWFG.html?gclid=CIzzjd6egdUCFcKKswodEigFdw.
February Bass Bonanza begins with “No Snow” Down South
Spring fishing is something that everyone all around the country simply cannot wait for. While many enjoy the hard-water action and great success during the winter months up north, not everyone can handle the cold. Aches and pains seem to migrate to between the ears when the mercury drops and folks all start to think about spring.
Why? Well, almost everyone looks forward to the fish-catching action we find for many freshwater species as those colorful spring flowers start to pop and the birds begin to warble and chant through the morning collection of their annual mating jukebox.
For some lucky folks, springtime and good fishing starts really early in the year, for example, in Florida, where professional fishing guide, Tom Marks, visits his mom to test many freshwater lakes and ponds that he calls, “Friendly waters down south.” Some of these are on golf courses.
Last year, Marks was rewarded with a monster largemouth bass that tipped the official Florida scales at 13 pounds-12 ounces, a healthy bass.
With his home near Buffalo, New York, you might understand why Marks looks forward to a southern trip in winter. Living on the Great Lakes, Marks is a professional guide, he catches big fish throughout the year. With this last big fish, he may have achieved a mark that few pro’s anywhere in the country ever achieve, that is, catching three bass in the last three years all over that magic 10-pound mark. Some folks can fish their entire life with hopes of catching a 10-pound bass someday, but never do. It is a giant wish on the bass fishermen’s bucket list, for sure.
You have to understand that Marks is a retired engineer that took his scientific mind from the desk to the water and he thinks his way through every fishing situation. This tends to make the end result a good possibility that good luck fishing will be realized.
Humble as Marks is, he says, “Catching big fish does take a bit of luck, you know, you have to pay attention all the time.” Those folks that know Marks say he never really talks too much about what he is thinking, he just catches fish and then shares his rod with his friends. He catches fish every day too, even when other charter captains on the fishable waters that he is either guiding on or competing in, are wondering where the fish went for a vacation day. That probably tells the rest of us ordinary anglers that he is not just lucky, but that he has a system, a logical approach to find fish and attract fish, then entice them to strike.
Asked about his big feat, Marks says, “It’s funny fishing the smaller lakes in Florida, I scoot around in some places, always with permission from local ownership, sometimes on a golf cart loaded up with rods and tackle. I was telling my wife I feel like I am on a bass boat because I run as fast as the cart will go from “spot” to “spot”, then I race back to the house, not for weigh-in, but for dinner. It’s so much fun!” So how does he know which golf course ponds to fish? He says he depends more on the weather, as it seems many of the ponds have fish, many of them big fish, and yes, he does have a plan that he insists he calls lady luck.
He adds, “Many Florida ponds and lakes have almost no structure in the form of plants or weed lines. Some are more than 20 feet deep, bowl sharp, with almost no bottom structure. Sometimes there are flood control culvert pipes here and there, surface dams and drain tube, sometimes that is the structure! There are some points with drop-offs that fish hang on. I think I have figured out how to catch the bigger fish.”
In reviewing his notes, Marks shares, “In steady weather, folks casting a line can catch a ton of smaller bass in the one to three pounds range. Now, when the cold front comes to pass and the weather is windy with cold air and a clear, bluebird sky, the bite is off for the average bass. Most folks go home, they know that rule, but I have found that the giants are still feeding! It’s exciting! It’s the one time I can get my lures to the big fish before the aggressive smaller bass wack the baits.”
Marks continues, “During the post-front hours, I catch very few fish, but they tend to be much bigger than average.” Marks says, “In the two weeks after I caught that big bass, I missed a few other real giants, but maybe we can save those for next year.” Marks caught the monster trophy (which he released after one picture), on an artificial lure. He really nailed it hard, stripping 14-pound fluorocarbon right away. It never jumped or broke the surface, so I had no idea what I hooked was that big. The fish made several good runs before I got it close to the bank where I could see what it was, this is where I start talking to the fish. “Don’t come off! Please don’t come off! At least not until I could get a solid grip on its lip.”
It was an amazing day for Marks, “As I brought this fish in I could see my spinner bait was broken, but I had two hooks on the lure and they were both in its mouth (I use a trailer hook). I kept just enough pressure on the lure to guide it to my hand, what a relief it was to lift it out of the water. I ran it over to my golf cart to weigh it on my Berkley “Boka” grip scale. There was no one around to take the picture I was headed back to the bank to let it go when a golfer came up and wanted to see the bass. I showed him and he took the picture with my iPhone. I got it back in the water real quick. I came back several times to that golf course “water trap,” no floating bass, so I know it made it. Actually I have never seen any bass floating, I get them all back in pretty quick.”
So whether or not you may feel Marks is extremely lucky or simply extremely good at fishing, either way, you might want to check his calendar availability for early spring bass in Florida where the air is warm too. There are not that many open dates (I checked), but what I was extremely surprised at was the low rates that Marks charges his clients for hire. I asked him about his all-day charter low fees ($225) and Marks said, “Well, you know, I have enjoyed my job and our great fishing all over this great country for all of my life. In a sense, I’m just trying to give back a little and help other folks learn a little bit about my systems for catching fish, no matter what the conditions. I charge enough to cover my boat gas, some fishing supplies and to pay my taxes, that’s all I need. I might raise them a little this year to be fair.”
Marks guides for many species and he also offers photo-trips, sightseeing and “ECO” conservation trips. Visit his website at http://gr8lakesfishing.com or call him direct at 716-997-6919. There is nothing like on-the-water-education from someone that knows their way around.