While there are a multitude of different ways to catch panfish on early ice, few methods can compare to using mini hardbaits. The Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe Mini is a great example of a mini hardbait that can lead to fast and furious action with explosive strikes from some of the largest panfish in a given body of water. Large crappies, perch, and bluegills strike the Mini with the veracity of apex predators.
At 1 5/8” and 3/16 oz., the Rattl’N Vibe Mini is a perfect size hardwater panfish lure as it is a little bit bigger than the average crappie minnow, but a little bit smaller than the average fathead minnow. This in-between size makes the Mini an ideal lure choice for enticing some of the bigger fish which may be hesitant to bite out of a respective school.
The numerous color schemes that the Rattl’N Vibe Mini comes in makes it an exceptional choice on any body of water as the variety virtually covers any situation that may be encountered. For example, the metallic patterns (Blue Chrome, Gold Black, and Black Silver) work perfectly for tannic-stained water due to the amount of light and flash that they reflect when jigged. Green Perch, Hot Perch, and Matte Crawfish Minis are all solid choices for clear bodies of water with high visibility due to the naturalistic appearance they have to prey panfish feed upon. Lastly, the Luminescent, Luminescent Perch, and UV Tiger patterns are all great selections during low light periods at the beginning and end of the day due to their glow and UV presence.
The new Yo-Zuri ice lines are strong beyond their pound test listed, they are abrasion resistant when fish go on runs and rub the line on the bottom of the ice, and they have a very thin diameter which is paramount for increased sensitivity to feeling the bite. As a general rule of thumb the new Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon or Hybrid Ice lines in 3lb or 4lb test are good bets when using the Mini for panfish at early ice. The 3lb or 4lb test of either line allows for the Rattl’N Vibe Mini to be fished effectively with varied cadences to prompt the rattles within to click, but they also are strong enough lines to hold bass or northern pike when hooked as these predators are often found in the same vicinity as large panfish.
If an early ice fishing trip is on the docket, then stocking up on a variety of Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe Minis and new ice lines is highly recommended to improve your odds of landing some great bull bluegills, slab crappies, and jumbo perch.
Good luck, tight lines, and stay safe!
By: Steve Wayne
The retention pond was teaming with life! I stared down into the clear water and watched as a giant tilapia and a small 1 lb. bass swam lazily by my vantage point. A school of finger mullet darted nervously past the wary bass which indicated that the retention pond was in some way connected to the nearby Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County. I was targeting largemouth bass but welcomed any of the various species of brackish water fish such as snook, tarpon or redfish that might inhabit the pond. My bait of choice for this adventure was a Yo-Zuri 3D Jerkbait, a lure that would likely catch any type of predator fish that swam in either freshwater or salt. I surveyed the pond and spotted my intended target, a large grass bed that formed a point at the mouth of a nearby ditch that emptied into the retention pond. I casted the Yo-Zuri 3D Jerkbit well past the grassy point and slowly retrieved the bait along with the direction of a slight current coming out of the ditch. As the bait neared the point I watched as an attacking fish swirled at my bait! I instantly felt a hit and then set the hook on a decent size fish. The fish surged to the left easily taking drag. After a short battle I stared down into the clear water trying to decipher what was on the end of my line. The olive brown fish looked like a cross between snakehead and some type of goby. As I dragged the fish up the muddy bank, I realized that I had caught a rare catch, a bigmouth sleeper!
Bigmouth sleepers, Gobiomorus dormitor are a torpedo shaped fish with dull coloration that can vary from a light or dark brown to olive. They have a short broad head with a blunt snout. This species of fish has a large cavernous mouth-hence the name “Bigmouth” and can often swallow surprisingly large prey. The bigmouth sleeper has 2 dorsal fins as well as a broad and round caudal fin. According Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Research Administrator, Dr. Richard Paperno, bigmouth sleepers vary in length and can grow to almost 3 feet. They are found in rivers and bays on the Atlantic coast normally south of Melbourne. They inhabit the Sebastian River, St. Lucie River, Loxahatchee River as well as other brackish water canals and creeks in central and south Florida. Dr. Paperno advises that bigmouth sleepers are not abundant north of the Sebastian River, however the FWC has occasionally collected several samplings from as far north as the Jacksonville area. “Bigmouth sleepers do occur elsewhere in Florida, just not in very great numbers. They are in a group of fishes collectively referred to as tropical peripherals. Their center of abundance occurs in more tropical areas south of Florida, but they have managed to get a foothold in Florida, existing on the periphery of their normal habitat range” advises FWC’s Dr. Paperno. In addition to Florida, bigmouth sleepers are commonly found in the Mississippi River and along the rivers and bays of coastal Texas.
Bigmouth Sleepers spend most of their time in freshwater and are believed to travel to the brackish estuaries or marine waters to spawn. After spawning the juveniles move back into the freshwater tributaries. In some places where they have been trapped in freshwater due to development, they have been able to adapt and complete their entire life cycle in freshwater. Bigmouth sleepers are predator fish and feed on smaller fish, shrimp and crustaceans. The bigmouth sleeper lies on the bottom with slow moving currents to blend in to the bottom with its sluggish behavior and dull coloration. Brevard County angler, Gil Tompkins regularly catches big mouth sleepers while fishing brackish water spillways along the space coast and treasure coast. “I’m usually targeting bass or snook in front of the spillways but frequently catch bigmouth sleepers” explain Tompkins. “They are fun to catch!”
Bigmouth Sleepers will readily attack minnow type jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, small swimbaits and flukes fished in the middle of the water column. Keep your color selection simple by matching the forage of the area that you are fishing. Basic chrome, silver and white are often good choices as they will imitate small finger mullet or minnows. Although bigmouth sleepers have a large mouth keeping your bait choice to under 4” will increase the chance of a good hookup. Yo-Zuri’s 3D line of jerkbaits are excellent producers and come in a 3 ½” size that easily imitate a finger mullet. Cast your lure in and around the mouth of spillways and areas with current making sure to retrieve your bait in the direction of the current in a natural manner. Slow and steady is the key as bigmouth sleepers are ambush predators that won’t swim very far to chase down a meal. Don’t be afraid to cast up tight to the bank as bigmouth sleepers will get very shallow in anticipation for an unsuspecting baitfish to drift by in the current. “I’ve caught fish right up against the rocks” exclaims Tompkins.
Live baits such as shiners, finger mullet, mud minnows and shrimp are excellent choices to fool bigmouth sleepers. As with lures, keeping the size of your baits to under 4 inches will increase the chance for a successful hookup. Freelining live baits as well as using a float are affective techniques. Bigmouth sleepers generally run in the 1 to 2 lb. range however, a 20 to 30 lb. Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon leader is recommended in case you encounter a larger brackish water species. “I always use a leader because you never know when you might hook into a snook, tarpon or a big gar!” explains Tompkins. “I’ve caught bass, snook, redfish, tarpon, gar, speckled perch and mangrove snapper all in the same areas with the bigmouth sleeper” boasts Tompkins.
Bigmouth sleepers can be targeted year-round with the best months occurring during the warmer periods of spring summer and fall. Focus on smaller brackish water spillways in central and south Florida with minimal but steady current. Avoid large spillways with fast and rolling current as bigmouth sleepers prefer quiet areas to lay on the bottom while awaiting an easy meal to drift by in the mild current. To scout out a prospective spillway, make sure that spillway flows from freshwater into salt or brackish water. The presence of freshwater species of fish at the mouth of the spillway such as bass, bluegill or tilapia are a good indication that bigmouth sleepers may be present!
The FWC designates the bigmouth sleeper as a “restricted species of marine life” along with other species of ornamental tropical fish. Many fishermen targeting bigmouth sleepers value them as a rare and unique fish and immediately release any fish back into the water. There is no size limit with a daily bag limit of no more than 5 of any one “restricted species of marine life”, which includes the bigmouth sleeper. Any fish harvested (kept) must be maintained alive as part of FWC’s “restricted species of marine life” requirement. The FWC does not maintain a state record for the bigmouth sleeper, however the International Game Fish Association has documented a world record of 4 lbs. 6 oz. caught in 2001 in Costa Rica.
Bucket list anglers may want to add the bigmouth sleeper to their list of unique Florida catches such as with the Suwanee bass, clown knifefish, peacock bass and the bullseye snakehead. Due to the bigmouth sleeper’s specific habitat and range in Florida, they are indeed an uncommon species and the envy of any angler desiring on a rare catch!
Targeting Bigmouth Sleepers:
• Focus on warm months when bigmouth sleepers are more active.
• Locate brackish water spillways in central and south Florida.
• Favor small spillways with mild current.
• Avoid large spillways with fast or rolling current.
• Artificial lures used should be less than 4 inches in length to ensure a solid hookset.
• Try jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, small swimbaits or flukes fished in the middle of the water column.
• Live bait can be excellent for bigmouth sleepers. Try finger mullet or shiners freelined or fished under a cork.
• Always use a 20 to 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader in case of snook or other toothy fish.
• Once a bigmouth sleeper is landed, there is the likelihood that there are others present. Keep casting!
• Practice catch, photograph and release!
There is no better place in the world for consistently catching trophy sized Striped Bass from land than the Cape Cod Canal. The six-mile-long, man-made canal, is a land-based fisherman’s dream. There are multiple points of access, a sidewalk on each side of the canal for walking or biking and most important, boats are not allowed to fish in the canal! If you’ve never been to the canal before here are some tips to get you ready for your first trip.
The key timeframe is the end of May through early September. The fish migrate from the south and quality size fish will arrive sometime around the end of May. Some fish will push through and continue north, while others will stay through the summer, taking advantage of the bait that stays in the canal. At the end of August and through early September there is a push of fish heading south, “when the cows come home”. If you are making a special trip to the canal the key is to line up your trip with the “breaking tides” during June, July or August. The breaking tides are negative (or double negative) low tides that occur at or around sunrise. These tides trap bait in the canal and offer Stripers the ability to ambush prey, particularly on the surface. The best tide chart to use is the Army Core tide chart – https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portals/74/docs/Recreation/CCC/Brochures/2020TideTables.pdf . The negative tides are marked with a * or ** for double negative. The sun rises in the summer sometime around 4:30-5am so plan on being there early to get a spot in the dark.
Planning your trip
Once you have identified the dates for your trip there are a few key things to book. First would be a location to stay. There are several local hotels and campgrounds in the area but my first choice is an Airbnb rental. If your lucky you can find a rental directly on the canal for an affordable price. One addition that I would highly recommend is renting a bicycle for riding the path along the canal. There are a couple local companies that rent bikes with rod holders and baskets for your gear, specifically for fishing the canal. Having a bike is key for maximizing your chances of being in the right place at the right time. Be sure to grab a rental vehicle large enough to carry your fishing gear and bicycles. A lot of the guys fishing the canal wear waders so they can wade out to cast and to make landing big easier. I personally prefer water proof boots and comfortable pants over the waders. That combination makes riding the bike much easier. Whatever your choice, make sure that you have water proof footwear. You can choose to wear spikes on your boots but I haven’t found that to be necessary for most areas on the canal, although you do need to be careful with your footing especially at low tide.
The canal is a long-distance casting game and your gear needs to reflect that. I bring two rods (both 2 piece) for the canal:
1. 10-1/2 ft, 20-40lb class spinning rod, 1-4oz lures – This is the rod I use to throw swimming plugs or smaller topwaters.
2. 11ft, 30-60lb class spinning rod, 4-10oz lures – This is the rod I use to throw heavy swimbaits, heavy jigs and large topwaters.
On both rods I fish either a 200 or 250 size Van Staal but you can fish any comparable size spinning reel. The key is to not go overboard on line and leader size. On both rods I fish:
40lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid – http://yo-zuri.com/category/superbraid/
40LB TopKnot Fluorocarbon – http://yo-zuri.com/category/topknot/
If you are doing heavy jigging you can step up your leader size but in almost all cases 40lb is fine. If you want extra distance on casting you can drop your braid down to 30lb but for me 40lb is perfect. There are a lot of people fishing the canal and therefore I like to us white braid because I can see it easily and keep track of where my line is compared to the other anglers. On my rods I fish a 75lb prime snap by Spro, that allows me to quickly switch lures without having to re-tie.
Lures for the canal can be broke down into three categories: Topwaters, swimming plugs and heavy jigs/swimbaits. I will be the first to say, I am not dialed in to the jig/swimbait bite and they are most effect after dark. I focus my attention on topwaters and swimming plugs. The key with any lure for the canal is distance. There are a couple key lures by Yo-Zuri that fit this fishery:
a. Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser (6-1/2”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/surface-cruiser-floating/
b. Yo-Zuri Mag Popper (5-1/4”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/mag-popper/
a. Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow Long Cast (6-3/4”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/hydro-minnow-lc/
b. Yo-Zuri Mag Darter (6-1/2”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/mag-darter/
c. Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitch Bait (5-1/4”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/3d-inshore-twitchbait/
The Surface Cruiser has enough weight (2-1/2oz) and the stream lined shape to cast long distances but still floats, unlike many of the other topwaters thrown on the canal. That allows you to vary your retrieve while the other pencil poppers can only be fished fast or they sink. The Mag Popper, Mag Darter and Hydro Minnow LC have weight transfer systems to offer even greater casting distance, especially into the wind. That can make the difference between hooking up or just watching fish break outside your range. All of these plugs have 3X or 4X strength treble hooks and split rings that can handle bass up to 50 inches or more, even in the strong current of the canal.
The majority of the topwater lures thrown on the canal are pencil poppers, like the Surface Cruiser. However, a traditional style popper can be extremely effective as well. On my last trip I caught 20+ slot and schoolie size Stripers on the new Mag Popper. This is the best casting floating popper on the market period. It has a patented Magnetic Weight Transfer system that uses a sled that slams into the back of the bait during your cast and then locks back into place after landing. I fish the popper around slack tide and the first hour of the tide. I work it slower and more subtle for Striped Bass than I do for other species (Jacks, Tuna, Roosterfish). Letting it swing at the start of the tide, while working it slowly can be very effective. A big plus on the popper is it stays in the strike zone longer and many times you can hook up even if the fish misses the plug on the first strike.
Personally, I reserve throwing topwater plugs until I see fish actively breaking on the surface. Some guys will throw them all morning but for me I put in on the secondary rod and grab it when the opportunity appears. For the most part I fish a swimming plug and 75% of time the swimming plug I throw is the Hydro Minnow LC. That plug casts very well because its stream lined, weights 1-3/4oz and has a weight transfer that keeps it from tumbling in the wind. It has the swimming action, shape and size that perfectly mirrors the tinker mackerel in the canal. It’s a plug that I can make long casts to breaking fish with or that I can catch fish up close to the rock because it stays in the water all the way back to you. I always have this plug tied on a rod when fishing the canal and I’ve caught some of my largest Stripers when they aren’t actively feeding on top.
A new addition to fishing the canal for me is the Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitch Bait. This is a slow sinking lipless twitch bait that can be fished with a straight retrieve or slowed down and fished with a twitch and pause retrieve. This bait has a different (deeper) profile and you can vary the retrieve to get finicky fish to eat. In this bait I tend to throw the Bone pattern or the Peanut Bunker pattern.
There are many colors that will work on the canal but the two main patterns for plugs are Green Mackerel and Bone. Mackerel are the key forage for Striped Bass in the canal. Other prey is available, including Squid, Herring and Bunker, but Mackerel is the bait that fuels this fishery. When picking colors for my plugs I make sure to have at least a couple of each plug in a mackerel pattern. In 2019 the regular Green Mackerel pattern was the hot ticket for me. In 2020 the new Wacky Mackerel pattern (combination of Green Mack and Bone) was the go-to color for the bigger fish. For topwater plugs, I will once again fish the Green Mack patterns but I would also suggest having a few in the Bone pattern and a couple in an all Yellow school bus pattern. When throwing to breaking fish having a solid color, that is easy for them to see can be important.
Before I arrive, I research where the fish have been showing up on the canal. There are several forums, blogs and pod casts that report on the bite in the canal. I have personally had the most luck in the middle to west end of the canal. I will park at an access point close to where the fish have been and with the bike work that general area. The canal connects Buzzards Bay on the west end and Cape Cod Bay on the east end. Buzzards Bay is shallower than Cape Cod Bay and the water warms up faster. Therefore, most of the early season (May/June) fish tend to be caught on the middle to west end. One unique thing you will notice about the canal is the direction of the water and the tides are not lined up exactly. The water will change direction (from east to west or west to east) an hour before high tide and low tide. The key is to be in the right spot when the tide turns from west to east. I will typically be somewhere on the west end early in the morning and fish that location until the tide turns east towards Cape Cod Bay.
I am not a stationary fisherman. I grew up chasing fish down the beach or up and down the pier. So, when the tide turns east, I wait for a school of Striped Bass to push the mackerel through and I will jump on bike and follow them for several miles, picking away at fish as I go. I will catch a few, when they pass by, I jump on the bike and find an open spot farther east and repeat as I go. A lot of guys will won’t put in the effort to move, instead choosing to wait for the next school.
There are names for many of the famous spots along the canal and you can find a guide to that online. There are key spots like the Railroad track bridge, the radio tower and the state park on the east end that get larger crowds, but fish can be caught at any location along the canal.
One of the best ways to get outfitted for EVERYTHING you need to fish the canal, including information on where the bite has been, is to go to Red Top Sporting Goods or Canal Bait & Tackle. These are well stocked stores and the employees fish the canal on a regular basis. They are a great place to pick up a two piece rod, reel, line and all the lures and terminal tackle you need. Check out these stores, including their great section of Yo-Zuri products.
Red Top Sporting Goods
Address: 265 Main St, Buzzards Bay, MA 02532
Phone: (508) 759-3371
Canal Bait & Tackle
Address: 101 Cranberry Hwy, Sagamore, MA 02561
Phone: (508) 833-2996
The last thing I will say on the canal fishery is if you do visit please pick up after yourself and follow the local fishery laws. This is a one of a kind fishery, let’s keep it great for future generations!
As summer temperatures heat up, slab crappies and bull bluegills can become more challenging to catch. They have often times moved on from their spring spawning grounds and can be in multiple locations in a lake as their metabolism is at its peak. The Yo-Zuri Snap bean is a great lure choice to entice these hungry bulls and slabs.
At 1” long and 1/16 oz., the Yo-Zuri Snap Bean is big enough to get the attention of big panfish, but it is small enough to still get fish to bite when they are more finicky. The Snap Bean is one of the most versatile mini hardbaits available as I have successfully used it with a bobber, casting, and trolling and drifting while fishing crappies and bluegills. This versatility is one of the most important features of the lure during the summer as it may be necessary to fish it several differ ways in the same fishing trip.
Using a bobber can be a solid choice when crappies and bluegills are stacked in submergent grass. In this situation, I use a split shot about a foot above the lure and set the rig so that the Snap Bean nestles just above or just at the tops of grass. Using a cadence of one or two reel cranks followed by a pause can elicit strikes from fish which are deep in grass and unfishable with other setups. Patterns like the Silver Black, Perch, and Tennessee Shad are good options in grass as they emulate the minnows which often inhabit these weed scenarios. When fish are finicky or lipping and spitting out the lure, I tip it with a 1” or smaller yellow grub as that small trailer can sometimes turn reluctant biters into feeders.
Casting Yo-Zuri Snap Beans with 4 lb or 6 lb Hybrid line is preferred when fish are stationed in isolated cabbage patches. Once again, I use a split shot about a foot above the Split Bean rigged up on an ultra light rod. The key to fishing isolated cabbage patches is to get as close to the vegetation without scaring fish (20 yards or closer) so that all sides of the weeds can be fished. Working the Snap Bean painfully slow is key in this scenario as the idea is to cast the lure next to cabbage plants and let it sink slowly to the bottom. If a fish does not hit it by the time it hits the bottom, I reel up and cast again as most strikes usually occur on the fall. Pink, Black Purple, and Gold Black are all great colors as they can easily be seen by fish surging out of cabbage to eat.
Trolling and drifting Yo-Zuri Snap Beans can work great in shallow sand/rock (10’ of water or less) which is adjacent to weeds and when chasing suspended schools of panfish over deep water (fish 15’ deep in 30’ of water, for example). As with bobbers and casting, I usually go with a split shot a foot above the Snap Bean to help with getting the lure down to the desired depth. The Crawfish Snap Bean is my favorite pattern when chasing crappies and bluegills in sand/rock areas as this color is similar to the small crustaceans upon which they are feeding. The Perch, Silver Black, and Tennessee Shad patterns all work great when trolling or drifting for suspended panfish as they look like the minnows that big crappies and bluegills are eating.
When others give up on big slab crappies and bull bluegills in the heat of summer, the Yo-Zuri Snap Bean can put fish in your boat. Stock up on these dynamite mini hardbaits today!
Lure: Rattl’N Vibe
Line: Yo-Zuri 20 lb test SuperBraid
Colors: Glow, Glow Perch, Wonderbread
Location: Lilypads or grass in 4′ of water or less adjacent to a sharp drop into 10′ of water or more.
Scenario:Crappie metabolism is at its peak in mid-summer and the fish feed on bigger prey. Using a 2 1/8″, 5/8 oz. Rattl’N Vibe in the new Glow, Glow Perch, and Wonderbread patterns from 30 minutes before sunset to 15 minutes after sunset close to the edge of lilypads and/or grass can be dynamite for big slabs. Letting the lure fall to halfway down in the water column and varying the cadence with up to 4 reel crank turns followed by a pause can elicit some dynamite strikes.
Early and Late Ice Season Walleyes
Lure: Rattl’N Vibe Mini
Line: Yor-Zuri 4 lb test Ice Hybrid or TopKnot fluorocarbon
Colors: Glow, Glow Perch, Wonderbread
Location: Sand/Rock Flats in 10′ of water or less
Scenario: Early and late season ice walleyes are voracious predators as they begin to pack on weight for the upcoming winter and then for the spawn respectively. The Rattl’N Vibe Mini is a great lure choice because it can be worked aggressively for active fish, but at 1 5/8″ and 3/16 oz., it is small enough that it can be effective for more finicky eaters as well. Using it with or without live bait works great for early and late season ice walleyes.
Yo-Zuri Pro-Staff Brandon Cobb breaks down his Top 4 Finish at the BASS Elite Series event on Eufaula
• What was your plan coming into the tournament and did go as planned?
When it comes to tournament bass fishing you usually need to keep a completely open mind when going to a lake you are not familiar with. It is very hard to have a completely accurate theory on what the fish will be doing. With that being said, I knew this would be a primarily offshore tournament. So, I put all my eggs in one basket and devoted my entire practice to graphing for offshore fish. I found quite a few schools of fish and brush piles. The strange thing about the schools of bass at Lake Eufaula was their tendency to move. On most lakes I’m used to fishing offshore schools of fish they are always there; they just may not bite. On Eufaula, I had to idle the same spot 3-5 times a day and the fish would randomly be there at some point. I felt like I had a solid plan going into the tournament. After Idling for 30+ hours in the 3 days of practice I marked 9 schools of fish and nearly 100 brush piles. My plan in the tournament was to cover as much water as possible and make just a few casts to each key piece of structure.
• What was your pattern the first three days?
The fishing pressure during the tournament definitely repositioned the fish. Lake Eufaula had been highly pressured not just from our tournament but also the Toyota Series tournament the week before. The First two days of competition, I was able to rely heavily on the large offshore schools of bass I located. It was very challenging to get my timing and positioning right on these schools. I knew from practice the areas these fish would pull up on the ledges and feed but they would position differently every day. I had to idle with my Lowrance over every place to see where they were positioned at that exact moment.
I would mark the fish then be able to catch a few in a row before the school broke up and I had to find them again. Sometimes the ledge would have 5 fish and sometimes it would be 50+. It was just a timing thing. As the tournament progressed into days 3 and 4 the ledge fish became too pressured, so I shifted to more of a brush pile game. I would run as many brush piles as I could. The brush piles were solid fish but the bite was very slow. I usually only caught one or two fish before having to move to another pile.
• How did the weather change going into day 4 and how did that change your approach?
The final day of the tournament started very slowly for me. I fished many of my ledges and brush piles with limited success in the morning. However, around midday the weather the wind picked up somewhat to cause a little current to start moving through the lake. I decided to make a move back through the string of my most productive brush piles. The conditions had been basically calm for the past days. During the calm conditions I relied mostly on a more finesse approach with a worm and swimbait.
Reel: Abu Garcia STX Revo 7.3:1
Rod: Ark Rods Prototype Brandon Cobb Signature Rod 7’4″ MH
Line: 16 lb Top Knot Flouro
Bait: Zoom Mag U-Tale Redbug on a 1/2 oz shaky head
Reel: Abu Garcia STX Revo 7.3:1
Rod: Ark Rods Prototype Brandon Cobb Signature Series 7’4″ MH
Line: 16 lb Top Knot Fluoro
Bait: 1/2 oz greenfish tackle swim jig white with 3.8in Zoom Z-Swim swimbait (white)
Once I noticed the wind causing some water disturbance, I picked up the Yo-Zuri 3DS DD crankbait. I caught 20 lbs in that particular bite window in just a few brush piles. The crankbait excels in conditions with wind, clouds, or current.
• What made you decide to use the 3DS Crank Deep Diver in particular? What are some of the advantages of this bait over other deep diving crank baits in that depth range?
The 3DS DD has always been one of my staple offshore crankbaits. It is not an extremely deep diving crankbait but perfect for that mid-depth 10-12 feet of water. Most of the brush I targeted was in that exact depth of water making it the perfect option. The bill design allows it to plow through the brush easily with minimum hang ups. Retrieve speed is really key to fishing brush piles with crankbaits at nearly every lake. You need to be able to quickly plow the crankbait through the limbs to trigger the fish. The 3DS DD allows you to not slow down when the bait hits the first limb. This triggered the bass they may have really not been feeding.
Reel: Abu Garcia STX Revo 6.6:1
Rod: Ark Rods Prototype Brandon Cobb Signature Series 7’3″ M Fiberglass composite
Line: 12 lb Top Knot Fluoro
Bait: 3DS DD chart/blue (Available at https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Yo-Zuri_3DS_Series_Deep_Diving_Crankbaits/descpage-YZ3DDC.html)
• This was the first tournament coming off pandemic. Was there a different feel to this tournament compared to the typical Elite series event?
It really felt like the first tournament of the season. It also felt like it had a “bigger” feel than a lot of the other tournaments. It was really one of the first major bass tournaments, or really any kind of professional event, back at it. The pressure was a little higher because I felt like it was a necessity to get the season back on track. During mid-season it can often become a grind going from one lake to the next with little down time, but with the break I was more excited than ever to get back to competition.
Spring is here, boats are out and the fish are hungry. Just because they’re hungry does not mean they want the whole enchilada in one bite! Don’t over look your smaller baits this time of the year. Our GO TO, Spring Salmon and Trout bait in shallow water is the 3.5 inch crystal minnow, and even the 2-3/4 inch version.
The warmest water is most consistently found close to shore and getting as tight to shore as possible is our goal. I’m talking less than 10 feet of water. During the Spring season we rarely break the 20 FOW mark and typically stay in the teen depths, with our planer boards cruising under 10FOW. In most cases, I want my planer boards within inches of docks if possible! This goes for you shore anglers as well. Casting the crystal minnow from piers, docks, etc is a great way to get at these same fish. On a breezy day or a situation where you want more casting distance, bump up to the 4-3/8 crystal minnow for a little added weight and distance.
Fishing such shallow water can easily spook fish, here are five ways we combat this.
#1 – Get your lines away from your boat, send your planer boards out there! (But be courteous to other boaters)
#2 – Increase your lead length. Instead of running your baits 100ft back, run them at 125-150ft.
#3- Run a lighter fluorocarbon leader. In the summer we use 20lb Yo-zuri fluorocarbon, instead tone it down to a 15lb leader.
#4- Run a longer leader, we tie 30 foot leaders. This increases stealthiest and gives us plenty of leader to retie due to wear and tear.
#5- Fish “dingy water”! We are looking for “Pea Green Water”. If you can see bottom, the fish can see you, find a different spot. On the other hand, DO NOT fish “Chocolate Milk”. If it looks like you just order a Chocolate smoothie, they can probably NOT see your bait. Again find a different spot, search until you find the muddy water mixing with the clear water.
Salmon & Trout, typically hit very ferociously this time of the year because they are so hungry. To reduce foul hook ups, and increase our landing percentage we typically remove both stock hooks and replace them with a single #4 Treble hook on the back only. This will also reduce the amount of snags we encounter, as the bill is diving deepest and the rear hook is sitting just a touch higher.
Spring is a great time to be out on the lake fishing for bass. If you are like me and like a little topwater action, you might want to fish the bluegill spawn pattern. Imagine a hungry bass and all the bluegills bedding in an area, what a feasting opportunity for the bass to be drawn to. My go to bait is a Yo-Zuri 3DR Popper and sometimes I mix it up by using a weightless Merthiolate colored trick worm.
Basically, bluegill can spawn between April thru September. As soon as water temps reach about 70 degrees, or a range of about 68 to 75 degrees, it is time to look for bluegill beds. Bluegill spawn 4 times a year (every full moon). Your best time of day or days to fish will be fishing early and late in the day, or on cloudy days.
Where to look
You’ll be looking shallower, in water less than 4-5 feet deep. Bluegill beds can be on sandy, gravel, and even muddy bottoms. With vegetation, can be even better. Be sure to look in the backs of spring fed creek that have flat bottoms. And areas with shallow water and a flat bottom, 5 feet or less of water and weedy protected bays are a good choice.
“Sea walls” – one of my favorite types of places to catch bass off of bluegill beds
Bluegill spawn on sea walls (wood or concrete). The better sea walls will have some depth at the wall. About 2 to 3 feet is good. You must have bluegill in the area! When working sea walls, cast your Yo-Zuri Popper tight to the wall! Either work your popper along the wall or cast to the wall and bring it back to the boat. Another tip is to “work the area “fast”, make 10-12 casts, then move to another spot. Bass are either there or not…
How to Work you Popper
Mix it up and figure out how the bass bite best. You can do the “Pop and Stop” or the “Walk the Dog” techniques and catch bass. Remember, wait until you feel the bass before setting he hook!
My go to color for my Yo-Zuri Popper
I like bluegill patterns and better with an orange throat and/or belly. The Yo-Zuri 3DR Popper in the bluegill pattern is a perfect bait for this application.
How do I know I’m in the right spot
If you are getting “bluegill bites” and maybe even catching a few bluegill, you are in the right area.
Have fun and catch some good bass using your Yo-Zuri Poppers!
Us northern anglers are finally rejoicing and celebrating even with the Coronavirus news; OPEN WATER IS HERE!!! This is the time of year you definitely want to break the boat out and get out there. Hungry Smallies, Northerns, and Walleye will be feeding heavily for the next couple of weeks. This year, the open water came a touch early as we have had above average temperatures but none the less fishing is going to be very very good. Armed with the top Yo-Zuri hardbaits and St. Croix rods; the fish do not stand a chance against me!
It is still considered winter throughout most of the country, but the warmer temperatures has spring in the air. With the open water happening the fish are typically not too picky in what you throw at them. Obviously I love bass fishing but this is the time of year to stock pile on some quality eating fish, and those are walleyes. The beauty of walleye fishing this time of year is they are the most aggressive fish out there. Normally they are not picky at all in what you throw at them, but I have seen very good results in sticking to darker colors that are following the perch and crawfish patterns. This will be what the Walleyes are feeding on mostly right now. For this I really like Acid Perch, Hot Perch, and Green Perch patterns offered by Yo-Zuri in the Crystal Minnow Deep Diver Walleye.
Typically in the late Winter and early Spring trolling is the key to catching aggressive walleyes, the reason for this is they are heavily in hunting mode and will be constantly on the move. Therefore I like to troll to cover as much water as possible and find that aggressive school of walleyes. With the Crystal Minnow Deep Diver Walleye it is a very good trolling bait and will get down deeper depths depending on the trolling speed. Slower speeds will allow the bait to dive deeper and faster speeds will keep the bait higher in the water column. This is where it is key to have good electronics on your boat because once you can locate schools of bait and/or schools of walleyes (which typically are not too far from bait) you will know the depth you need to get your lure and adjust your trolling speed accordingly.
The rod and reel setup I prefer is a 7′ Medium/Fast action St. Croix Legend tournament series spinning rod with a 2500 series spinning reel. I will spool my reels with 15lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid and run a 10lb TopKnot fluorocarbon leader. One tip I will give anglers is keep you drag loose that way when you get a bite the fish can take the line off the reel but there is still enough tension on the line to get them hooked. You want them to be able to strip a little drag because lighter line will allow the bait to diver deep depths, and with already trolling for them you don’t want to risk breaking your line.
As I always suggest and often see in the fishing I like to do, this is a great opportunity to get kids, family, and friends out on the water to make memories that last forever. Also, the more people you have out there the more fillets to add to the grease at the end of the day. Be safe out there my friends!
Well, stop #2 at the Harris Chain is done and I had another good week. I made the cut, which is awesome, but I was a little disappointed in the finish. If that sounds crazy, especially for me, you are right except for one thing. I had one of my best practice weeks that I have ever had. I found the perfect one-two punch in my Yo-Zuri 3DB 110 jerkbait and my Gambler Fat Ace. The jerkbait is a prototype that will be introduced at ICAST this summer. While testing and filming the bait during pre-production I fell in love. I caught lots of fish and big ones. So the first official practice day I started with the jerkbait and immediately caught two fish between 7-8 pounds. I moved around and caught another one close to 8 pounds. This jerkbait has great action and the giant Harris Chain bass were choking it. After the sun got up high, I started to try some pitching in the shoreline grass, with my Gambler Fat Ace. I got about 15 bites and I caught another fish over 8 pounds, that I was trying to shake off. So as you see, I had almost 35 pounds without really trying to bear down on them at all.
Unfortunately, I did not get many big bites except on day 2, I did catch one that weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces. I can’t tell you how excited I am about our new jerkbait. For some reason the big ones eat it up, and I know they are going to bite it all over the country. I threw the jerkbait on a 6’10” Witch Doctor Surman 50G rod, with 16 pound Yo-Zuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon line. I pitched the Gambler Fat Ace with a 7’6” Witch Doctor Oracle rod and 20 pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid line.
So yes, making the cut was great, but with all those big ones during practice, I had high expectations. I can’t wait to get to stop #3 at Lake Martin in Alabama in March. I promise I will be leaning hard on my Yo-Zuri 3DB 110 jerkbait and targeting both the Lake Martin largemouths and spots. As for all my friends, you will have to wait until after ICAST to get your hands on one. But don’t wait too long because they will be going fast and catching lots of giants all over the country.