As the majority of the country either already finished the spawn or is just about to begin the swing of things, I wanted to touch base on how I approach the spawn and how fishing tournaments on new bodies of water during this period can a great experience.
First, there are millions of opinions on how to approach bed fishing and it would take a novel to cover them all. I will touch based on the three tactics I employ to trigger a strike on bed fish. First, after you have spotted the bed and located the fish, the initial cast I make is past the bed allowing me to work the bait into the bed. To do this I use a J&J Jig in a 5/16 oz size paired with a Mountaineer Custom Rod with 14 pound Gamma edge. Note, the jig itself I trim the skirt to make this a very finesse jig, the skirt is only about an inch long at its longest strand. I then pair this jig with a Reins Ring Craw. The Ring Crawl is very buoyant and when you craw and stop the jig the Ring Craw stands up adding extra action. My first cast is always with this jig usually the fish strike this jig.
The second technique if they are not communist to the jig is a light Texas rigged wormed with a 3/16 Reins tungsten. Fish will nose down on a 3-4 inch senko type bait and if you up your hook one size, when the fish picks the worm up to move it off the bed they grab the hook. Third, the 1,2 punch. I say this because when the fish is fired up and running enemies off the bed, a first throw a weight fluke type bait, something like an Optimum Opti Shad, and twitch it aggressively toward the bed. If the fish hit it but does not eat it I immediately throw in a wacky rig. This year I utilized a Reins Swamp Mover, this bait in a medium size has an aggressive but subtle action when floating and twitched. I throw this right into the bed after firing the fish up with the jerkbait. (all of these products can be found on tacklewarehouse or reins website)
Fishing tournaments during the spawn on new bodies of water allows you to quickly identify unproductive water and replicate areas and patterns across a lake. This past month I competed in the BASS Carhart College Regional on Lake Norman in NC. This tournament went from prespawn to full spawn in 4 days and tested me in my ability to deviate from prefishing to analyzing current conditions . In summary, my prefish the weekend prior yielded winning stringers of prespawn spotted bass up the river on main river points with an Alabama rig. When we went back for our one day of practice before the event water temps rose 10 degrees.
We couldn’t locate any bedding fish and our prespawn bite was nonexistent. What we did do was study our navionics overlay and look for possible spawning areas with docks. We fan casted and skipped docks near sand and natural rock adjacent to deep water. We fished entirely new water both days of the two day tournament. We caught upwards of 60 fish a day but the majority were bucks and we couldn’t locate more then 4 females a day. However, we fished areas solely by looking at lake contours, never having prefished. This was an incredible learning experience. Although we fell around a pound short, fishing 14 out of 62 when the top 12 made the nationals, we were able to be consistent fishing entirely new water. This bodes large amounts of confidence for the remainder of the season.
Dissecting water, utilizing our electronics, and having the proper equipment was crucial. This tournament utilized three baits and set ups, 7′ med hev Mountaineer Custom spinning rod, with 10# Gamma Torque with an 8# Gamma edge leader attached to a 5 inch finesse worm. A 6’6″ med hev Mountaineer Custom dock skipping special rod, with 10# Gamma Torque with an 8# Gamma edge leader attached to a wacky rig. And a 7′ med hev Mountaineer Custom all purpose rod paired with a Shimano Core with 10# Gamma Edge with a 3/16 Reins tungstens Texas rig.
Since the 2013 season is now underway in the majority of the country, I began to look back at the 2012 season and review my decisions and analyze where, how, and why I caught my fish in a variety of different situations. I noticed a constant trend in the tournaments that were successful: shallow stained water.
Regardless of the conditions and time of year, shallow stained water seemed to capture my best fish in each tournament scenario. Yes, there is a bias considering the Potomac River is my home waterway, naturally it’s my confidence setting, but finding these conditions yielded great statistics in very diverse venues. I will attempt to examine a few vastly different experiences and unlock the secrets to shallow water, aside from the Potomac.
Experience A: Lake Kerr, NC FLW College Regional Qualifier
This tournament took place in June of 2012, which presented a tricky venue unlike previous dependable conditions of Lake Kerr. Lake Kerr is know for buck brush and pitching, it is no secret. But, this tournament served a totally different entree to anglers as lake levels were extremely low due to droughts eliminating the majority of the quality shallow water fish and substantial cover. The northern everstart series I believe was won fishing in 20 some odd feet of water, off shore, which yielded a significant limit of largemouth.
During our tournament practice we were able to locate a specific area with constant current flow coupled with shallow stained water and an abundance of shallow structure. Given our short practice period, this location yielded the key features that keep a portion of fish shallow regardless of current conditions, cover, current, and creatures, (yes I mean bait I just wanted to use alliteration). Given the the low water conditions and high temperatures, locating shallow water that offers fish a current flow while also holds substantial cover and other forms of aquatic life separates productive shallow water from the rest of the bank. In this example, we were able to catch a respectable limit for our particular tournament fishing very shallow exploiting the key features that hold fish shallow when the water levels drop in the summer months.
In this particular scenario I utilized the Peak series rods constructed by Mountaineer Custom Rods, which was a 7 foot, medium heavy rod, which was used to drag a Carolina rig across a shallow chuck rock grassy hump located in less than 5 feet of water in a small creek lined with aquatic vegetation, buck brush, and substantial current. I depended upon the ultimate strength of 12 lb test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon paired with a 1/0 Trokar offset worm hook to bag a 5th places qualifying finish. Due to the current flow, fish were positioned in this shallow stained water, regardless of the heat, because of the plentiful supply of vegetation that was sustaining oxygen. More importantly, the current was transporting bait which would stack up against the rock bluff. The bass located themselves on the sides of the hump feasting on bait that washed out of the grass and pooled up in the slack water outside the current flow.
Example B: FLW Northen Conference Championship Philpott
This particular event took place in September of 2012 on Philpott Lake in Va which further unlocks the secrets to successful shallow water fishing, taking place in the summer to fall transition period. Philpott lake is a much different than the Potomac River or Lake Kerr, but at this particular time of the year it in fact fished like the Potomac. This lake sets up much like a Lake Lanier fishery, very deep, very clear, with the north section of the lake shallower with creek entries, and with southern end being the dam and very deep with abrupt steeper banks. The strategy upon fishing this lake was thought to be light line, electronic fishing for deep school bass in main lake areas and secondary points. At this time of the year, the thermocline was deep with oxygen levels being more suitable deeper, housing larger more consistent schools of bass. This pattern did in fact yield the most consistent and winning limits of bass but there was potential to compete with the pattern exploring the shallows, going against the grain.
In practice for this event, I had just gotten my Humminbird 898si unit and hadn’t yet gotten comfortable graphing and identifying deep structure and utilizing the unit to vertically attack fish. As I began to dissect the lake via fishing my way around each creek, I discovered similar areas that held substantial amounts of grass uncommon to the rest of the lake. Each of the three areas I was able to identify where flats located near deep water the had clearer water near the mouths of the flats with tall deep stalks of grass and transitioned into think matted vegetation to the surface with stained water in the backs of the flats.
Each of these areas possessed shallow stained water with thick vegetation significant different than any other area on the rest of the lake. Although the majority of the fish in the lake were deep suspending off shore, the better quality fish, although sparse, were catchable shallow within these three locations because of the drastic difference in water clarify, the presence of grass, and large shad that were utilizing the grass for cover which was few and far between in this lake. Looking back on this scenario there was a much larger potential limit within these three areas to be exploited but never the less I was able to catch quality fish within these areas by understanding how and why the fish would position themselves within these shallow grassy pockets.
The fact that the water clarity was so vastly different in these areas allowed fish to be extremely shallow to ambush prey. In the morning while temps where cool, shad had migrated to the shallows within and behind these isolate grass areas which placed the bass around the outskirts of the grass. As the day progressed and the sun rose, the shad would migrate to the adjacent deeper grass and water placing the bass deep within the matted vegetation. Let me explain that the shallow grass I am referring to was located in 3-4 feet of water or less, what the deep stalks of grass was located in 8-15 feet of water, while the majority of anglers and large schools of fish were located in ranges such as 20-35 and 45-60 feet of clear water.
How I approached these areas was first with the use of Mountaineer Custom Rods and Gamma Edge fluorocarbon employing the same strategies as the Potomac. First, during the morning I pitched weightless plastics using the Peak series medium heavy Mountaineer Rod with 10 pound test Gamma to target the chasing bass on the outskirts of the grass. After fishing my way around the grass I would then transition to pitching a 1/2 oz tungsten weight to create a reaction strike within the thick grass on the same medium heavy action Peak Series Mountaineer Rod, but upped my line to 16lb test Gamma. I would perform this same strategy to each of the three locations I identified and rotate through each location.
As I transitioned to from the thick grass to the deeper grass, I covered the water by throwing a J&J Custom swim jig which captured fish as the day progressed. By exploiting this shallower stained grassy area I was able to weigh in the largest fish of the tournament but the quantity of fish was not as consistent as the deep water bite. The fish I weighed in was enough to secure a 6th place sitting on the first day and a 7th place overall tournament finish. To look back, the stained water was prevalent in other areas within the creek but fishing by myself in this partner tournament had me focusing on the areas I had caught fish in practice because of the confidence I had built within the grass. I should have expanded the pattern to the adjacent shallow areas.
Regardless, stained shallow water had the potential to compete with a top finish within this deep water bite tournament if you understand how to unlock the secrets of shallow water. Fish are always shallow all year long, but locating the areas that hold these shallow fish and being able to exploit the features within the prime locations is the hey to success.
I hope this helps to shed some light on how to dissect shallow water and exploit key features within the shallows to unlock the potential for shallow pigs! Please visit www.jonathanmillerfishing.com to check out the sponsors mentioned within the article and other articles and videos to aid your fishing experience.
As we proceed to the beginning of the tournament season, many anglers will encounter the first competition primarily focused on the prespawn and staging fish. This typically means fish are leaving their winter haunts to press the shallows and feed before entering the spawn.
For the tidal Potomac, this typically means fish are locating themselves in the mouths of large bays that contains spawning grounds focusing on emerging new grass growth that houses an abundance of valuable nutrients.This time of year is typically when the largest weights are weighed in on this famous river as large school of large females are much easier to target based upon the quality and quantity of grass that is available for cover relatively close to zoned off or protected spawning areas.
Once found, you will not be alone this time of the year. Typically, along with constant large weights are large amounts of boats flocking “community” holes which creates a scenario frequently seen on the Potomac, boats on top of boats. The key to success this time of year to separate yourself from other anglers is to offer baits that are slightly different then every other lure buzzing by the bass’s lateral line.
Silence can be deadly, less can be more. My opinion to getting the bigger bites needed to out gun the competitions can be achieved by using the most natural approach possible. Lures such as swim jigs, which emit a more natural presentation without all the flash and rattling offer bass a slightly different temptation. Regardless of water clarity, for the most part, swim jigs offer a deadly combination of natural presentation, a natural vibration to the lateral line, and fishibility in heavy cover that is unmatched by other lures.
My preferences are a Dirty Jigs swim jig, along with home made J&J jigs, paired with an MHX Mountaineer Custom rod 7 foot, medium heavy, with 14lb Gamma Edge. This combination gives me the most confidence in offering a distinctly different lure to bass in the grass in prespawn situations.The use of a highly sensitive rod from Mountaineer, matched with the superior quality of Gamma Edge allows for the slightest strikes to be noticed when creating a reaction strike within the grass which hold the large schools of bass. The best areas for these swim jigs this time of year to have the best chance at a larger fish is to located deeper grass concentrations or grass adjacent to shell beds. Small J&J Jigs and Dirty Jigs paired with the correct trailers offer the natural and best presentation in my personal opinion. Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you on your body of water! Tight lines.
As a tournament fisherman, in search of that winning stringer of huge bass, whether it is largemouth or smallmouth, there is the daunting challenge of figuring out a game plan. A game plan can be a precise pattern that is completely dialed to the location, timing, technique, and lure or a general idea of what not to fish and a few key ideas of how to fish an area considering the given conditions.
For me, and the purpose of this article, we will not focus on dialing in patterns or weather conditions and their impact on fish, but instead how to approach pre-fishing and evaluating the results. For the most part, when approaching a new body of water, or any waterway for that matter, the first thing I recommend, before ever starting the outboard, is to get a topography map, or a computer with Google earth or access to programs such as angling technologies mapping tools to get a sense of the contour of the lake. By looking at a map and analyzing obvious locations in regards to current weather trends an angler can generate a working idea of the best location to begin.
After you have taken a look on a contour map and considered the times of the year, you should look for reports of the water which can also be accessed via the internet, from sites like TheBassCollege.com, to get an idea of what is actually going on with similar bodies of water within that region. These tactics are all applied prior to the trip to the lake to give you a basis for a pattern pyramid.
Once you are on the water, the prefishing begins. What I have learned to be the most beneficial idea through the 2012 tournament season is prefishing is not about finding a winning bag of fish, but finding areas of potential and nonproductive water. If you picture a lake as a giant piece of pie and cut each creek, bay, backwater ect, into portions of the pie dividing the lake into many pieces, you can take your focus from the big water and place your focus into much smaller portions.
When you begin fishing, the most important information you can provide yourself with is where you are not catching fish or getting bites. When you approach a body of water, a common misconception is to find fish, where in fact the goal should be to find productive areas. When your first begin to catch fish on a new body of water that you will return to in the future to fish, the worst possible action you can take is to catch fish and continue to fish the same way to catch more fish in practice.
The route I take is this, if I catch one, that’s great, two, even better, if it’s three and they are all in similar areas, structure, presentation, and lure, it’s a pattern. One pattern found, time to duplicate and expand. The goal should be to find an initial pattern and see if you can duplicate it with similar structure on the lake this allows to you eliminate unproductive water and find productive areas.
Once you have accomplished this, move on to a completely different pattern. Successful anglers find productive water and different ways to fish the productive water. Most of the time winning anglers develop a pattern and have eliminated much of the water they fished and found sweet spots holding fish and several of them, and then they find multiple ways to catch those fish.
In most situations best anglers have areas, rather than specific spots, that hold fish, not a fish, which allows them to spend more time fishing then casting. That is what practice is for me, to eliminate water. Hope this helps tight lines!
This is a play on words, Bird Nests, referring to the love hate relationship many anglers have with bed fishing in the promising weeks in the holy grail of bass fishing, the spawn. During the spawn many angler have a feast or famine day on the water.
Typically, anglers love the spawn because they have a passion for site fishing and the challenge of tempting that hefty female into destroying one’s bait in shear anger and frustration. Other anglers hate bed fishing because they have had bad experiences and are not patient enough to see the fish stare at the bait and not touch it, or they just cannot find the vital bed locations. Spring bed fishing also allows for in some geographical locations, an opportunity to get out the heavy rod, braid, and a top water bait to disrupt the bedding process, irritate bass, and hook up with top water baits during the spawn.
For me top water bait fishing for big bass has always been about the frog, but this year, I was able to implement a new weapon into my highly pressured waters, the bird. The bird to me, offers fish on clear shallow beds, a whole new way to literally annoy a big female into striking. We know from experience, studies, feathers in our live wells birds eat bass. During the spawn is typically when I believe many bass become accustomed to seeing bait and diversity can be the key, for some people that upsizing and for others its downsizing. For me it’s throwing a bird.
When you study bass movements on the bed, aggressive fish are either naturally aggressive and bite immediately, others are turned aggressive by repetitive placement of an obstruction near, on, or over their bed. The bird offers a unique profile that bass do not typically see during the spawn as a copious amount of lures are pitched into their faces on a regular basis. The large realistic profile of the wings of the bird in clear water will cause a bass to aggressively when it will not strike other baits. Ish Monroe is known for fishing a frog on beds, and has an article that was in a BASS magazine a while back about frog fishing during the spawn. I have applied similar strategies to the bird and have resulted in large bass when other lures did not produce.
My advice, fire up a fish by pitching lures into the bed until the fish is aggressive, then pitch the bird and do not move it until the fish hits. The strikes for me have come without moving the bait. Give it a try during your spawn, diversity is the spice of life.
When it comes to the bird, there is one thing that is obvious; it’s a top water bait. But, my philosophy on where and how I fish the bait do not necessarily coincide with the typical locations and tactics employed for many of the top water, hollow-bodied baits that take up space within my boat. First I will start by saying, when I think bird, I think cover, and when I think cover I think a jig. Therefore, I apply many of the of my jig tactics to my bird fishing, which I believe helps fish the bird more effectively and in areas that are not suspect to constant top water pressure.
Location IS Everything When Bass Fishing
Where to fish the bird? I recommend fishing the bird in areas you would typically pitch a jig and fish the bird like a jig. This means I focus on overhanging specific targets and make constant pitches with the bird just like a jig. I focus on overhanging shrubbery, trees, banks, docks, vegetation, etc. These areas offer a prime location to skip a top water bait with the idea that you would pitch a jig into the same area. Overhanging structure of any type creates shade, dampens light, creates structure, and gives big trophy bass an area to ambush prey.
Areas that provide shade, with a source of structure, such as a dock are also subject to big bass that will graciously devour a big fish bait such as a bird. Keying in on these areas, areas you instinctively would skip a lure of some sort are the beginning steps to figuring out the most productive way to fish the bird lure.
Getting Some Action
How to fish the bird? When fishing the bird, I like to think outside the box, relating the big bass lure to a jig, but specifically, a cold water winter jig bite. When I say this I am referring the activity of your bait, or lack thereof so to speak. In the winter you typically fish a jig slow and methodically, letting the subtle movements of the bait create a natural presence inducing a strike.
For me, fishing the bird is the same type of approach, Natural. The bird bait works best when you do not overwork the bait. The bird is meant profile a bird and “spin” so to speak like a distressed bird when twitched. Fishing the bird like a cold water jig means letting the bird sit upon impact to the water on the initial cast, settle, and let the appendages of the bird spread and creating the unique enticing profile. Over working the bait prevent the profile of the bait to correctly express its action, thus think cold water jig, think natural, think do nothing approach.
Rolling for Thunder
Skipping the bird with a roll cast and proper reel control allows for tight untouched waters to be exploited. Although I recommend the action implied on the bait to be natural, the bait can still be worked fast, like a jig. Roll cast, skip the bait, let it settle, profile expands, “twitch the bait” to create the spinning distressed action, let the wings re expand, then reel in and repeat much like flipping a jig. These are just my experiences and how I fish this tremendous top water bait with great success, experimentation is the best form of advancement.
This contribution is from Brandon Dawson of Illinois:
A Flip In the Bird lure is THE lure to catch to catch bigger and better bass. It has all the components of a legendary lure.
First of all, it’s an innovative lure. It’s the first and only hollow bodied bird lure on the market today. Innovative lures mean that most bass will strike it just out of curiosity.
The soft plastic body will collapse with the slightest pressure but that’s not going to be an issue with the vicious and violent strikes this will draw from trophy bass.
Because of its weedless design, it can go places other lures cannot: over emerged wood, through heavy weed mats, next to reeds and cattails. These are the spots that large bass live to ambush prey but anglers can’t reach.
Once exposed on the hookset, the sticky sharp hooks will grab and not let go until you choose to release your catch.
The realistic lure patterns allow you to mimic local bird species that will convince the most cautious bass to take a bite.
It has nine rubber limbs that will move even when the lure is sitting completely still giving this lure a whole new level of life like action. Since the rubber limbs have knots tied on the inside, they will not eventually be pulled out like what happens on some frog lures that anglers try to modify like the Flip In the Bird lure.
When bass are wary and you can’t get too close to them or when sometimes the best way to catch find and catch fish is to simply cover water. The Flip In the Bird lure’s 5/8 ounces and compact size allow it to glide further than thought possible to find and catch fish.
Think about what type of bass will attack a bird. It has to be big and bad to eat a bird. You will definitely get your limit of keepers with this lure. It also has to have a huge appetite which means every strike will be like a freight train. Aggressive strikes mean better hookup ratios.
Those are the reasons why every angler should get a Flip In the Bird lure to catch to catch bigger bass.
This contribution comes from Brandon Dawson of Illinois:
This fall I had a great time teaching my brother-in-law and my nephew how to catch bigger bass. When my nephew was three years old he asked me to teach him to fish and I can vividly remember his mother shaking her head no in the background. She thought he was too young to stand next to a body of water. On top of that, since she had never been fishing herself, she imagined waves of poisonous snakes or fish that drag grown man in their doom roaming these Illinois ponds and lakes. I told my nephew we had to wait until he was five. God bless his soul because he never mentioned that promise again until his fifth birthday. When we were at Walmart buying a kid-sized push button fishing pole, his father expressed interest to learn also so we picked up a fishing license for him.
One Saturday, we all drove out to a catch and release pond. I lent one of my open faced spinning reels and rod to my brother-in-law. After tying a weighted bobber on the end of both their lines, I had to teach the fundamentals: casting. They say kids have minds like sponges and my nephew actually learned to cast pretty efficiently before his father did. Once they had enough practice casting, I taught his father to tie a Palomar Knot. It’ll be a couple more birthdays before I think my nephew can tie his own knots on his hooks.
The set-up was a whole corn kernel on a size eight hook, a split shot about 6 inches above the hook and a bobber six inches above that. We all caught dozens of bluegills using that set-up. I even let my nephew reel in a couple of the bluegill I hooked! Most of them were undersized probably because of over-population but it was catch and release anyways.
My nephew really enjoyed how clear the water was at this particular pond. He could see the bluegill engulf the corn before he set the hook and reeled the fish in. It is an amazing feeling passing the sport of fishing to another generation. The look of excitement and accomplishment is priceless. That is a memory that will last forever.
First, I would like to start off by saying hello, I am Jonathan Miller, a 22 year old graduate from Shippensburg University, where I am currently working on my MBA. Hopefully I’ll never have to use it, because I am attempting to work my way into the career as a professional bass fisherman and all the nuances that are involved with the career choice.
In this article though, I’ll be focusing on “how” and “why” I flip the bird. This will be a two part article, first focusing on the how aspect, the equipment, technique, and various nuances of fishing with the bird. Then I’ll transition into part two, which will focus on why and where I fish the bird lure to successfully target and catch bigger bass. Oh, Do not forget to check out our Writers Incentive Program Earn Money and Product
Equipment for Fishing Top Water Lures
In my opinion, the Flip In The Bird has a specific niche, where it is the best top water lure available and a definite big bass lure. First, equipment.
To effectively fish this top water lure, it takes the right equipment. I recommend a seven to seven and a half foot, heavy power rod with a fast action to allow for ultimate power with a fast tip. Longer, more stout rods, with a tiff tip, prevent the natural action of the bait, and cause the angler to “over work” the bait, unfortunately pulling the bait from the strike zone.
Braided line is essential for most top water baits and the bird is no exception. The bird lure is an effective bass lure when fishing over, under, or around thick, heavy, or stationary structure, thus I recommend fifty to sixty pound braid for really hauling big fish away from obstruction.
When discussing reels, I suggest using a higher speed ratio, starting with six four to one or higher. The reason the reel makes a difference is the rate of line retrieval. This plays a large role in being able to pull large fish from heavy cover and preventing fish from driving themselves deeper in to thick grass like structure.
Techniques and locations to fish the bird will be discussed in part 2 in great detail. This was solely introductory basics of bird fishing just to lay the foundation of the proper equipment that is needed to fish the bird, without the equipment the greatest technique makes no difference. Look for part two in the near future and I will also post a page about myself to give you insight on background.