The FLW Tour held their third stop of the 2019 season this past weekend on Lake Seminole in Georgia. Among the angler’s that made a strong fight for the win was Yo-Zuri Prostaff angler Braxton Setzer. In what was one of the most electrifying final day performances, followed by a very emotional final day weigh-in, when the smoke cleared Braxton achieved his best finish on the FLW Tour.
“Second Place is not that bad at all, although it does sting, it was not my time and now I really feel like my time is coming,” says the 31 year old angler competing in his fourth year on the FLW Tour. “Practice was terrible on me as with the rest of the field, everyone was talking about how tough the fishing was during the meeting. If you told me I would have finished second I probably would have laughed at you”.
Braxton had very little confidence after practice and it took slowing down with a worm and swimbait to get those key bites during the tournament. In the grass were little highways and that is eventually what Braxton knew he found with locating a clean spot where he was catching his fish. The fish seemed to be suspended in 10 feet of water where the water was 12 feet deep.
“During practice I was looking for flat areas that had a healthy amount of grass in it leading into spawning areas. The lake had just experience a cold front during the early part of the week and I felt like as the week went on it would get better,” reported Braxton. “The area where I caught 25lbs the first day and 23lbs the second I actually found casting around a Yo-Zuri 3/8oz Vibe. I got a bit with a keeper fish and then scanned around using my electronics and was able to locate a clean spot within the grass and I knew the transition would be useful throughout the tournament. It is also the only place I had confidence in.”
That magical spot really did pay off for Braxton, but it took all the way until the final day of the tournament to key in the exact presentation and cast.
“It really was a fun tournament and I am still in shock that I was able to crack the top-5. Definitely another key to my success was Yo-Zuri TopKnot fluorocarbon. I hardly had to retie all week never broke a fish off. One thing I will add about using the fluorocarbon that most anglers don’t do; I never change my line out every day of fishing. I’ve never had an issue with using the line multiple tournament days and multiple events. The line really holds up and is the quality anglers are demanding, for me it is dependent on my career.”
Fishing for sharks anyone? As crazy as this may sound; this is often one of my favorite species to target and the time to target them is now. Now, we are not talking about filming the next episode of JAWS, we are talking about fishing the surf and going after the Black Tips and Spinner Shark species.
How do you locate sharks that are catchable? Well, remember sharks are predators like most other species of saltwater fish. Therefore, find the bait and you find the sharks. Common bait you want to look for is Bluefish, small Jack Crevalle, Pompano, and Spanish Mackerel. It is not hard to find them because you’ll see the Spinner Sharks jumping out of the water and also busting the top after schools of bait. Overcast weather conditions seem to be the most favored, however sometimes the weather does not make a difference, sharks are hungry no matter what time of day it is. Usually the migration period for the Black Tip Sharks and Spinner Sharks is January through March.
Topwater baits are the guaranteed best bait to throw for feeding sharks. Again, a topwater mimics a wounded bait fish and creates a large water displacement. The sharks will locate the lure based on sound and motion. For the best choice in topwaters; try using the Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser or Hydro Popper. Common colors to consider are Red Head, Pearl Yellow Pink, Dorado, and Sardine. Also, another important aspect to think about is your rod and reel setup. I would recommend using a spinning reel that can carry up to 300 yards of 50lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid. A 20-50lb spinning rod is a strong enough rod to fight the sharks and is long enough to increase casting distance from the beach. The most critical component of this operation is the leader. I use 100lb-130lb TopKnot Leader and you want to use a really long leader. There are two reasons for this: sharks will jump and spin wrapping themselves up in the line, sharks have sharp fins and tails that can cut the line if it is too small. Another tip is to replace the treble hooks with inline J hooks; this makes it easier for unhooking the sharks once you reel them to land.
Shark fishing is not something for the faint at heart, however can definitely be something to cross off the bucket list not many anglers get to try. If you’re vacationing in south Florida in the winter months and want to catch a bizarre species not many people attempt look into land-based shark fishing!!!
Clent Davis, a native to Alabama and one of the original grassroots anglers to the college fishing program, found himself doing a lot of soul searching leading into the 2018 season. Coming off a couple rough patch years and redirecting his focus to the FLW Tour, he simply “had to just go fishing again.” Fast-forward to August 12th, 2018; Clent’s career took a 360° turn when he posted the biggest come back in FLW history to become the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup Champion. Joined by his wife, daughter, and mom on stage in Hot Springs, Arkansas; Clent looked like a little kid again on the playground without a worry in the world. Fast-forward to February 2019, Clent has accepted a new opportunity with the Bassmaster Elite Series and his accomplishments are still piling up.
“Coming back to the Elite Series was definitely a decision that was hard to make. With the support of my family, friends, and sponsors I felt like I was making a conscious decision,” says Clent. “The first tournament in Florida kept my reputation in Florida the same ‘terrible’ but coming to Lake Lanier I knew I could put together a great opportunity.”
In practice he found himself struggling again to establish a pattern to go with. Not having a definitive game plan in place, he put 20 rods on the deck and went junk fishing.
Lake Lanier is a renowned spotted bass fishery, probably on the bucket list of many anglers out there as it should be. Multiple top level tournaments and championships have been held on the lake over the years. It is also where some of the best drop shotting anglers and spotted bass anglers cut their teeth learning everything they did. However, putting a mixture of all the new swimbait and finesse techniques that are popular today; it is almost like taking a knife to a gun fight. But no one out there is going to back down from the challenge, especially Clent Davis.
“Even with all the rods on my deck, I weighed in most of my fish on the Hardcore Flat Minnow 110 and then using a finesse technique. Without a doubt the best technique I had going for me was throwing the jerkbait around docks. I really didn’t think it was going to pan out however, because the weather did not cooperate the way I had hoped.”
The element that played the most into Clent’s favor is consistency. The first day many of the anglers really caught them, but day 2 and into the weekend things changed. Clent was able to stay consistent and put together strong enough weight to post his first Top-10 finish of the 2019 season on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He spent most of his time covering as many docks as he could throughout most of the four days in the tournament throwing the jerkbait. His set up included:
-7’1’’ Phenix Feather ML rod
-6.4:1 Shimano Curado K reel
-12lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline 100% Fluorocarbon
-Hardcore Flat Minnow 110 (Ghost Pro Blue)
“It feels really good to keep the ball rolling that I got on at the Cup. I spent a lot of time in the off season with my family and in the deer woods. That gave me a break and allowed me to be comfortable going into 2019. I am happy to have gotten my first top-10 early on in the season. Hopefully this will propel me into the remainder and lead me straight into the Bassmaster Classic.”
Matt George, one of the craziest but respected personalities to the Yo-Zuri family. Matt grew up in the northeast US, but has called Florida home for several years now. When not traveling for business all over the world, he spends his down time wisely fishing inshore and offshore.
“To me, I don’t care what I am catching as long as I am on the water. But lately the offshore bite has been really picking up. Following a strong pattern lately is turning into more success on the water. Let the birds help you find the bait, let the bait be your GPS, and bring on the exhilarating fight that lies before you.”
Recently, Matt is spending more time chasing the offshore bite as it is picking up. As winter is coming to a close in south Florida, the bait abundance is increasing and so is the bite.
“Right now I am hitting the water as early as possible and making a 8-12 mile run out. The key depth is anywhere between 100-200 feet. That may seem like a lot, but in your search for lurking Mahi it is easy to eliminate water quickly. Once you find that sweet spot, it is all easy pickings at that point.”
To duplicate what Matt is doing, you have to find the water that will most likely have bait, again Mahi have huge appetites and are predators. Once you find the bait you can find the fish. Along with the right amount of depth, Matt suggests looking for the temperature changes. This little subtlety could be key, but also the any irregularities in the water. Weed lines, cleaner water, dirties water, whatever may appear different out in the ocean could be the ticket. From there just find the bait which is usually accompanied by diving birds.
“The added bonus right now is on top of the Mahi I am catching, I am also finding a mix of Sailfish, again one of favorite species to target. Recent trips I am averaging 3-4 keeper Mahi and about the same number of sails. The days out there have been really fortunate and exciting!”
Matt is using a 2-way approach to targeting his catch. The traditional trolling method and topwater have paid off the best. For the trolling methods, he is rigging live bait on 30lb Yo-Zuri Blue SuperBraid with 30lb TopKnot Fluorocarbon Leader. The topwater he has been using is the Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper on a spinning outfit with the same line and leader. For the popper, Matt emphasizes to always use a loop knot when adjoining your leader to a topwater bait. This always creates the best action on the water.
The older I get in this sport the more a good finish means to me. With the changing technology, industry curves, and constant new talent making their way into the tour level; the harder it is for me compete against fellow anglers. However this past weekend in my current home state of Florida at Lake Toho, Mickey Mouse must have given me a little magic being so close to Disney World because everything came together.
The fishing in Florida has been really off so far this year. Between the low water in all the lakes, the Red Tide issues the entire state faced last year, and it still being early in the year the best fishing is still yet to come. This last week I was really able to pinpoint a good amount of fish that were pre-spawning and spawning. I used my local knowledge of the lake to lock into Lake Kissimmee and fish staging areas leading into spawning areas with good, healthy grass around it. With water temperatures in the mid-60s I knew as the week processed the fish would continue to move up.
In practice I was really able to capitalize on a morning pattern and then an afternoon pattern, a key to my success knowing I could stay calm throughout the day and capitalize on the different patterns when they were at their best. In the mornings I was catching fishing on a 1/4oz Black and Blue 3DB Knucklebait with a soft plastic swimbait trailer. I was able to catch a couple really good fish on this and thought it would be a key bait for me throughout the tournament. I was throwing the Knucklebait over submerged grass around staging areas. As the afternoon took place and the sun got high I was able to pitch to hydrilla mats and dollar pads with a soft plastic stickworm catching spawning fish.
In the tournament, the morning Knucklebait bite had died but I was still able to capitalize catching these same fish using a 3DB Pencil in Bone color. For this technique I was throwing 20lb Yo-Zuri Hybrid line, and I was making short casts with it. I think the bait has better action when making shorter casts and not having so much stretch in the line. In the afternoons I was able to again capitalize again on the plastic stickworm bite. I was fishing the worm on a little [1/16oz] weight and throwing it on 16lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline Fluorocarbon.
One of the last factors that helped me was covering water in an area. I was fishing a massive area of Lake Kissimmee and it seemed like covering water and then breaking down an area once I got a bite was the key to capitalizing on water holding fish.
One of the greatest rewards after a day on the water, is cleaning and preparing your catch. In the past few years I’ve been making more fish tacos from my catch than anything else – whether you choose to fry your fish, or prepare it in the oven, this recipe will elevate your meal to the next level!
– 1 cup of oil for frying (safflower, canola, or vegetable oil will do)
– Fresh fish fillets
– 1 cup of all purpose flour
– 1 tbsp of seasoning salt
– 1 beaten egg
– 1 tbsp of water
– 1 cup of Panko bread crumbs
– ¼ cup semi sweetened shredded coconut
– 3 medium sized bowls
1. In the first bowl, add flour and seasoning salt and mix
2. In the second bowl, beat one large egg with 1 tbsp of water
3. In the third bowl, add Panko crumbs and coconut, and mix
Heat the oil in a frying pan or shallow pot to a temperature of 350 degrees Celsius (or heat oven to same temperature).
Take fish fillets and cut into bite sized pieces. Take each piece of fish and dredge in the flour mixture, then egg wash, and roll in the Panko coating. Repeat for all remaining pieces.
Fry fish a few pieces at a time – never crowd the pan with too many pieces. This will cause the oil to lose temperature. Turn fish after the bottom turns a golden brown. Remove pieces as they finish, placing them on a plate lined with paper towel.
Pre-heat oven to 365 degrees Celsius. As each piece of fish is coated, place on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet into the oven – checking for a golden coating before flipping. This may take up to 10 minutes depending on your oven. Flip fish and cook until done.
Living is South Florida, I feel blessed to have so many species of fish within a short drive from home. Most of these prized fish can also be caught from the shore. My favorite fresh water fish is the Butterfly Peacock Bass. The Peacock Bass will be found from South Miami to Palm Beach since they cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees. As crazy as it sounds, we still see cooler temperatures here in Florida.
Target them in canals, ponds, and lakes, and specifically in shady areas around bridges, culverts, canal intersections, bends, dead ends, and near fallen trees. They feed in the shallow water adjacent shorelines. When I am specifically targeting the Butterfly Peacock Bass, my go to lure is the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow. However, whether you are targeting largemouth and peacocks in fresh water or snook, tarpon, and jacks in saltwater, fishing from the shore or your boat, the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow truly does it all.
My go-to set up is the 3.5 inch suspending in the bronze color on a medium heaving spinning rod with 20lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid and 15lb TopKnot fluorocarbon leader if the water is clear. My favorite conditions are when there is lots of small-medium sized baitfish in the area.
It was by far 3 of the best winter days of fishing for me at Arizona’s Lake Havasu. My practice started out pretty rough. My first day was spent in the river around the I-40 Bridge looking for smallmouth bass in the current. After a full day of practice I had only 4 bites; 2 largemouth and 2 smallmouth throwing a HARDCORE Twitch’ N Glide to locate fish. The fish will follow the swimbait and I would mark a waypoint on my Lowrance HDS unit.
The second day of practice consisted of the Lower part of the river with zero bites and a school of 6 largemouth I found hanging around a letdown tree in 4 foot of water. The 3rd day of practice was spent in the main lake. I was targeting Rock, Grass and bait. But after a week of cold temps below freezing and dropping water temps of 47 degrees the bait was very difficult to locate. I managed 6 fish on a small Swimbait and a HARDCORE CRANK 4+ in Baby Bluegill pattern.
The air temps started to get warmer and day 4 the water temp was 50 degrees. I had a feeling that the bass would start moving shallower. So I started looking for Mud Hens (Black Birds with white beets). The birds feed on grass and if the cove had more than five bits in it I know there was bass and grass close by. I was using a HARDCORE VIBE 70S Baby Bluegill color, working it slowly ripping it through the sparse grass. At around noon on the final day of practice I decided to fish one of the popular Marinas on the main Lake. It too had Mud Hens there so I knew there was grass. Around the 5 casts in the marina on the VIBE I caught a 5 pounder that absolutely choked the VIBE. I had to cut the hooks from the inside of the gills to keep from severely injuring the fish. A couple cast later I caught a 2 pounder on the same bait. I immediately left the marina and continued my practice.
Moving further south down the lake I found a few fish on the 4+ Crank in the main lake on the edge of some grass in 10 foot of water. That day I had a total of 5 fish. The next day was somewhat of a day off. I was able to fish till noon but never got a bite or a follow from a bass.
I have over 30 years of fishing Lake Havasu and I knew it was going to be a tough 3 days of fishing. My best estimation was winning weight 46 pounds. Not much “dock talk” other than tough fishing. My roommate was averaging 2 bites a day.
The tournament was shared weight. The day before the first day I drew a guy from Arizona and he was eager to know what to tie on. I gave him a 1/2 ounce bladed jig. I elected to start day 1 in the marina. After about an hour I started catching fish. I was throwing the Vibe between the boat docks ripping the bait through the grass. I caught 4 fish from 2-4 lbs. My co-angler then caught a 7.75 Largemouth to boost our weight. A few cast later he caught a 5 pounder. We ended up catching 12 fish with the largest 5 weighing in at 23.70, leading the tournament by over 5 pounds.
Day 2 I decided to give the marina the day off hoping to manage my fish to make it 3 days. I fished the main lake and southern area with small swimbaits and crankbaits. I caught 2 fish early on the 5 inch Basstrix Swimbait in Hitch color on a 1/2 ounce Bladerunner Spintrix head. I later caught fish number 3 running south on a HARDCORE 4+ Baby Bluegill Crankbait. With a 4:15 weigh-in and only 3 fish with an hour left of fishing I was wondering if I had made the right decision to not fish the marina. At 3:15 I pulled into one of my favorite pre-spawn coves and began to throw my swimbait around some submerged habitat. My co-angler noticed a Grebe diving and coming up with a threadfin shad on the surface. I worked my way to the area where the grebe was feeding on shad and also had several coots in the area feeding on grass. I made a cast a caught a 4 pound+ largemouth. A few cast later I caught a 2 and 1/2 pounder to fill out limit for 17 pounds.
The third and final day was spent entirely on the above mentioned marina. I started the morning with a 4 pounder and never looked back from there. I caught a bass on every other row of docks. I caught 8 fish on the bladed jig and ended up with over 21 pounds. It was the second largest bag of day 3 and I won by over 5 pounds.
The key to my success was locating bait, grass and fishing the baits slowly ripping them through the grass. I was using 14 lb Yo-Zuri Top-Knot 100% Fluorocarbon. Saving those fish the second day was also a key to victory.
As the ice thickens, snow accumulates on top of it, and fish have seen just about every bait imaginable offered by ice anglers in northern states, catching walleyes and northern pike can become a bit more of a task in mid-winter than at first ice. By the middle of January through early February fish have become more lethargic, and in many cases are reluctant to chase down bait than they were earlier in the year. However, this is no reason to put away your noisemakers that have worked throughout the open water and early winter ice fishing season! The 3DB Vibe can be a great lure which creates a disturbance in the water that can be used in more way than one catch walleyes and northern pike in mid-winter.
The Yo-Zuri 3DB Prism Fire Tiger Vibe is probably my most versatile lure that I use on lakes where perch is the forage species for northern pike and walleyes. Like in open water, it can be used effectively throughout the ice season to catch fish. The first way that I employ the 3DB Vibe is to rip it through the water column, making as much noise as possible and trying to get a reaction strike. This approach with the Vibe through the ice is great in mid-winter wherever the first big drop-off is in the lake. Usually, I look for quick transitions from 12 feet down to 18 feet or more and set up right in the middle of the transition. In this scenario, the goal is to catch fish that are moving up breaks and transitions before they get to the flats at dusk to feed on forage species.
While rapidly ripping, jigging, and swimming the 3DB Vibe can be a great way to catch some northern pike and walleyes in mid-winter that are cruising drop-offs, there are time when I simply use it as a decoy to draw fish in from a long way off. Even the most finicky of fish can be drawn into the area to investigate all of the commotion caused by the 3DB Vibe. When fish approach while pulling the Vibe through the water, but will not strike it directly in mid-winter, I employ a second Yo-Zuri product, the Snap Bean tipped with a fathead minnow only a few feet away under a slip bobber at the same depth that I am jigging the 3DB Vibe. What happens is that northern pike and walleyes will come cruising right up to the Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe to investigate, see the Snap Bean setup, and will leave the Vibe to catch the easier smaller meal with the Snap Bean and minnow. In this case, the Vibe is used just to get the fish’s attention, and the Snap Bean tipped with a minnow is what seals the deal. In this scenario, I move to the top of the flats in 8-11 feet of water as the focus is less on reaction and more on catering to feeding fish after dusk.
Whether you are using the Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe to get fish to bite it directly, or you are using it as a decoy to draw in finicky fish from a distance so that they bite a Yo-Zuri Snap Bean tipped with a fathead minnow, the Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe is a top-notch choice that can keep catching fish for you throughout the mid-winter ice season.
Previously we talked about different knots to tie in freshwater applications, but now let’s dive into another simpler topic. From the time I move to Florida and started getting more experienced into saltwater fishing I quickly learned that saltwater anglers stick to the basics; this includes the knots they tie. Now just like freshwater anglers, everyone has their preferences but from what I have experienced is anglers stick to the knots: loop knot and Uni-Knot for tying to their favorite Yo-Zuri lure, Uni-to-Uni Knot for adjoining main lines to leaders, and then there is the art of crimping.
The basic loop knot is probably used the most in saltwater fishing because it is simple to tie with heavier fluorocarbon or monofilament leaders. Tying a loop knot also gives the bait the ability to move more freely in the water, which will create more action. As you can see in the photo, the actual knot is away from the lure, not at the actual line tie.
The Uni-Knot is also a favorite among saltwater anglers for the same attributes as the loop knot; it is easy to tie, works well with larger pound test line, however does not give the bait an extra moving ability. The Uni-Knot is tied directly to the lure line tie and is common to tie for the baits that just swim through the water column and resemble a bait fish.
One popular fishing technique that is shared among both freshwater and saltwater anglers, using a braided mainline to a leader material. Commonly anglers use a Uni-to-Uni knot for this application. Typically an angler will wrap the leader material four or five times around the braided mainline to form one Uni-Knot, then wrap the braid around the leader material ten to fifteen times to form the second Uni-Knot before tying them tight together. This knot is relatively small and will easily go through your rod guides when casting. The friction on the two knots is pulling against one another so the Uni-to-Uni Knot will hold up well.
Finally, another form of knot tying that requires tool is not really a knot: crimping!!! Crimping is something a lot of saltwater anglers will use for tying on lures with heavy and large test line. Commonly anglers will implement a crimping technique when using 80lb test or larger; something for fishing to beat world records!!! Crimping tools required are: Crimpers, a Crimp, Chaff Tubing, and of course your favorite Yo-Zuri lure or one hook for live bait fishing. To perform this properly you will want to: feed the mainline through the crimp and chaff tubing, go around the eye of the lure, and feed through the crimp again. It is suggested that pull all the components as far down as you can but still leave a little room in case the mainline does slip a little. This is very common anglers that are using live bait with larger leaders and trolling bait (Yo-Zuri Bonita and Mag Speed Vibe are common examples).