Bass Pro Tour Stage 2: Recap with Dave Lefebre

The Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Stage 2 on Lake Conroe is in the rearview mirror for the 80 professional anglers competing on the Tour. ANGLR Expert and Bass Pro Tour angler, Dave Lefebre weighs in on his 30th place finish in the event.

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Bass Pro Tour Stage 2: Preparing for the Weather

“Weather-wise and fishing-wise, Conroe was identical to the Kissimmee Chain. The lake size was different. Fishing a small lake like that for the whole event was a little weird, but I love that lake. If it’s not my favorite lake to fish, it’s probably my second favorite.”

The weather leading up to the event had the bass staged in pre-spawn areas, waiting for the water to warm a little more before pushing shallow to spawn.

“I needed it to stay cold to do better in this one. If they moved up, everyone was going to catch them. I was kind of liking that nastiness in the weather where I could really focus on those docks and that really early pre-spawn deal. That one 80-degree day is what hurt me. I did really good that day but that warm day and warm night put the fish on the move and they left me.”

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Photo by: Josh Gassmann

“It was humbling. I’ve had some humbling days on Conroe. This time of year that dock bite can just fade on you really fast if those fish start to move up and that’s what happened.”

Bass Pro Tour Stage 2: Successful Baits

Lefebre primarily fished one bait to make his way through the Shotgun and Elimination Rounds, a Texas-rigged green pumpkin lizard made by Gary Yamamoto.

“I’ve never just Texas-rigged a lizard in my life. I’ve got thousands of them but just never use them. Sometimes I’ll rig them on a Carolina-rig or when I’m bed fishing but never just on a Texas-rig going down the bank. I bet the 50-pound bag of them I had with me was probably 20-years old. I know it was 17-years old at least.”

How did Lefebre land on the lizard?

“I was fishing a tube in practice but I don’t like it when I’m fishing for a lot of bites because you miss too many on it. And everybody’s throwing a Senko now so I don’t know, I just ripped that tube off the hook in practice and stuck that lizard on there and got a bite right away which gave me confidence. I just felt like I could follow anybody with that lizard because I knew nobody else would be throwing it.”

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Photo by Josh Gassmann

Lefebre rode the lizard to day 3, the Knockout round. But it wasn’t long before he knew, too much had changed and the fish were on the move.

“I realized it on the third day about midway through the first of three periods. I think I had two fish and I just got the feeling that those guys casting and cranking and reeling were going to catch them today in those spawning flats. You could look at the Scoretracker and see the guys that you know were pitching and flipping not catching anything. I mean look at Andy Morgan, the best to ever do it and he was struggling. So I just picked up the Terminator Shuddering Bait and a ChatterBait and I would throw that Shuddering Bait in the muddier water and the ChatterBait in the clearer water and caught 9 fish or so on it.”

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Bass Pro Tour Stage 2: What’s Next for the Bass Pro Tour Anglers?

Lefebre’s performance cashed him his second $6,000 check in as many stops on the BPT, pure profit having paid no entry fee to enter the tournaments. Reflecting on where his mind is after the first two BPT events:

“I just think that everything is so fresh and it keeps you on your toes. It’s just fun again. And you forget about stuff because it’s all happening so fast. Now we have had two tournaments already and we have the first Major League Fishing Cup event that 30 of us have qualified for that I totally forgot about.”

After the first two BPT events, 30 anglers have now qualified for the first of 4 MLF Cup events to be held later this fall. After Stages 3 and 4, the field for Cup 2 will be established by the top 30 anglers from points accumulated in just those two events. The top 30 anglers from Stages 5 and 6 will feed into Cup 3 and thusly the 7th and 8th Stages of the Bass Pro Tour will be used to fill the 4th MLF Cup of the fall.

All the while, cumulative points acquired across all 8 Bass Pro Tour Stages will determine the qualifying field for the BPT Redcrest Championship to be held at the end of the season. The 4 MLF Cup events will once again feed into the 2020 General Tire World Championship.

Bass Pro Tour Stage 3: Looking Ahead at Three Different Bodies of Water

Confused yet? Get a load of this.

MLF revealed a few details about Stage 3 of the BPT trail to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina during the Championship round of Stage 2 on MLF LIVE, announcing that competition will take place on 3 different bodies of water.

“I like that. I mean, we’re starting from zero anyway. We’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to think about anything but I was watching MLF LIVE on the final day and that’s the first I heard of it.”

While competing on the first lake in the Shotgun and Elimination rounds, BPT anglers will likely have some type of practice time allowance to scout the upcoming two fisheries where the Knockout and Championship rounds will be.

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Photo by Josh Gassmann

“There’s just so much strategy now. It’s such a thinking man’s game. We’re going to have two days of practice for the first lake and we’re probably going to have time to practice those other two lakes too like we did at Kissimmee when they gave us 4 hours to ride through Garcia.”

“But there were only a few of us that took advantage of that. There were only 3 of us out there the day I went and I think maybe 8 guys max did it. So a lot of those guys that made the top 10 and actually fished Garcia had never even seen the lake before.”

MLF certainly has the anglers on their toes and rumor has it that there have been 30-and-40-pound traditional 5-fish tournament weights pulled in recent years from the waters of the upcoming fisheries for Stage 3. We’ll see what’s in store for Dave Lefebre and the rest of the field in March.

How to Throw a Shallow Square Bill Crankbait in Cold Water

Fishing a shallow square bill crankbait around wood in the wintertime is one of the best ways to break down cold, shallow water. As water temps drop into the forties, the bite slows drastically and a lot of anglers put down their power-fishing gear and abandon shallow water altogether. Contrary to popular belief, bass stay shallow year-round. That’s right, winter, spring, summer and fall. Not all bass obviously, but some. And some of those some are big ones.

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Shallow Square Bill Crankbait: Approach

So how do you modify your approach to fish a square bill in shallow and cold water?

Well for starters, you certainly have to slow down. Way down. Not just your retrieve, but also the speed at which you cover water. You have to be much more thorough.

Why?

Bass are cold blooded, and cold blooded animals become lethargic in cold environments. So a bass isn’t likely to chase a bait like it would in warmer water conditions. Therefore you have to be really thorough when breaking down an area.

Shallow Square Bill Crankbait: Slow Down Your Retrieve

As previously mentioned, slowing your retrieve is important. On a few particularly cold trips when the water temperature was in the low forties, I have actually had to slow my retrieve to where I could just barely feel the bait wobbling back and forth. At times, I would feel as though I had a leaf or a small stick hung on my bait only to have a 3-pound bass roll over and come to the surface. I have caught bass this way that were so lethargic they would still have mud on their bellies where they had been sitting in one place for a long time and hadn’t fought at all on the way to the boat.

I know this is hard to believe.

I didn’t want to believe the first person that told me he had seen that either. But I did believe him. Because that lesson came on the heels of a 15-pound beat down my dad delivered to me in a club tournament. Three of us fished the same area all day. I had two fish for 3-pounds and the other guy zeroed. I went back out the next day and slowed down. Then I slowed down even more. And then finally when I had slowed my retrieve to the brink of boredom, I got bit. A 2-pounder, fighting like a twig, with mud on his belly when he came into the boat.

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That made me a believer.

Shallow Square Bill Crankbait: Find the Cover

A bass’s lethargic nature in cold water is what makes cover so important. It gives bass an ambush point to sit by in hopes that something will come along that they can eat without exerting much energy. Cover also helps us as anglers fish slowly with confidence. Because the only thing harder than crawling a bait this slow is doing so without a target. You also want to focus on sunny banks in the wintertime. That’s not to say you want get bit in the shade, but your chances certainly go up around cover in the sunshine.

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But just because you know where to throw, doesn’t mean you’re going to get bit.

Not necessarily right away at least. I have also, on several occasions, had to throw at a piece of cover multiple times in order to get bit. You can find a really good example of that at the 3 minute mark of this video I shot when the water temp was 47-degrees.

In summation, you can still catch bass on shallow square bill crankbaits in extremely cold water, but it won’t be easy. You have to be very disciplined and dedicated to get a bite and when you do, you’ve got to make that bite count because they’ll likely be few and far between.

Fly Fishing for Bluegill and Other Panfish

ANGLR Expert Jon Dietz started fly fishing about 10 years ago, but being originally from Northeast Pennsylvania he didn’t really have a lot of access to trout waters. What he could find were ponds full of bass, bluegill and other panfish. That’s how he grew up practicing, fly fishing for bluegill and other panfish!

So tune in as Dietz gives you the full breakdown on how to get started!

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Getting Started Fly Fishing for Bluegill

I’ve been fly fishing all-in-all for around 10 or 11 years. My mother got me a fly tying kit for Christmas one year. I started fly tying before I started actually fly fishing. I used them on conventional gear. The real driving factor was that I chase steelhead a lot, being from Erie. When I would go, all the guys that were using flies and fly rods were catching way more fish than I was, so I wanted to figure out how to do this thing.

So I got myself a fly rod, and my buddy got one at the same time. We were using live bait on fly rods because we thought we were cool. Then I finally broke my fly tying kit out and started taking fly tying lessons.

It grew into an obsession from there.

Why Fly Fishing for Bluegill?

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You can catch panfish literally everywhere. It’s the most overlooked fish, I think.

Ice fishermen target them a lot because they’re plentiful and they fight really well on light tackle, but they’re forgotten about for the majority of the year. As soon as the ice is gone, no one thinks about them. But they’re everywhere. You can catch them in farm ponds, lakes; pretty much any lake in Pennsylvania is going to be home to one of the eight species of bluegill that reside in PA.

There are actually quite a few anglers that enjoy fly fishing for bluegill. They’re extremely fun fish to fight. As bad of a rap as bluegill have for not being any fun to catch, they really do put up a fight!

I use a five or six-weight fly rod, which is what you’d use to catch trout or smaller bass, and those bluegill put up a really good fight, especially when you find them in the 10” to 12” range. They can really pull pretty hard. They use their flat body when they swim to sort of parallel you. That large body disperses a lot of water and makes them feel a lot bigger than they are.

They’re actually one of my favorite fish to go catch in the spring. I have another buddy who feels the same way, so every spring we get super amped about it because they spawn in the bays of Presque Isle and we’ll take our kayaks out and head out bluegill fishing. Everyone looks at us like we’re crazy! We actually like to consider bluegills the “gateway drug” to the rest of the fishing world.

They’re great for smaller children and people that are just getting into fishing because they’re so aggressive and so prolific. Generally you can have a great day and not have to sit forever before you catch one. Their action is generally fast and furious, they fight really well, especially on smaller rods and lighter tackle. You can keep catching them all day long. It’s a great introduction into fishing.

Where to Look When Fly Fishing for Bluegill

In the spring and fall bluegills are pretty easily accessible because they stay really close to shore. In the spring and early summer, they spawn way up shallow, in the same places largemouth bass do. They rely on the areas that don’t have a lot of vegetation, so a lot of times they’ll be right up along a boat launch or access areas.

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That makes them really easy to access for everyone.

But as the water gets warmer, they push out deeper in the bigger lakes so it’s hard to target them in the summer with fly fishing gear. But if you have access to a pond, they don’t really have that many places to travel to, so they’re usually always within casting distance.

By using my ANGLR App with the Bullseye, I can keep track of where my catches are, along with all the pertinent information like time of day and weather and water conditions, so I know right when and where to come back on my next trip.

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Fly Fishing for Bluegill: Flies and Gear

You’re using basically the same motions for everything- the hooksets are the same, the same flies, same rod and reel. I just got the practice I needed for trout on bluegills! The lines you use for fly fishing vary in weight, to give different sinking times, depending on what you’re looking to do.

As far as panfish go, they’re pretty easy to catch if you can find them. They’re opportunistic, which is what really makes them so prolific.

They can feed on a variety of different things. As far as flies go, you want to throw pretty small flies in the 12-14 size range. Look for anything that appears “buggy” like a small aquatic insect. They’re going to eat it; they’re pretty aggressive when it comes to that.

Generally when I’m fishing for bluegill, I’ll fish a lot of wet flies and small streamers, or dry flies. Because they have small mouths, it limits what you can throw and get away with. They’ll hit at anything, but when it comes to hook-up percentage, I think the size 12-14 little wet flies work best. You can fish them just under the surface.

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Whatever you do, make sure that you’re using flies that have been finished well. You need them to be indestructible because the bluegill have very small, fine, sharp teeth that can really tear fine thread apart pretty quickly. I like to tie my own because I’ll really put a good finish on it that won’t be destroyed very easily.

Fly Fishing for Bluegill: Locations and Movement

Early in the summer when they first start spawning, they can gather in huge colonies of 60 to 100 fish. You’ll pull up and it’ll look like someone threw a dozen dinner plates on the bottom because they make those big nests. They get incredibly aggressive at that time, so you can catch them on dry flies or anything. I’ll put three flies on at a time and space them out about five feet, and I can catch three at a time. That makes for a really fun time.

The real key with bluegills is that they like movement.

You’ve always got to keep something moving in front of them to really keep their attention. If it stops and sits for too long, generally they lose interest and back out. If I’m fishing a dry fly on top, I’ll fan cast in an area where I think the fish are, then I’ll give it an 8 to 10 second count before I twitch it and leave it sit again for another few seconds before I twitch it again. If I’m fishing a wet fly just under the surface I won’t generally give them more than a one or two second pause. The size makes them really easy for fish to eat, and that movement just drives them crazy.

Generally the only time I’ll stop something is if there’s a bluegill that’s sitting on a nest. He’ll want to keep that nest clean of all debris, so he’ll pick it up to move it. If I put it on the nest and let it rest, he’ll either think that something is eating the eggs, or he’ll want to clean it off because he wants the females to think he has a really nice looking nest.

These are just a great fish to go after, all around. You can find them just about anywhere, you won’t get bored waiting for them to show up, and they’ll give you one good fight. What more could you ask for?

Bass Pro Tour Stage 1: Recap with Dave Lefebre

The highly anticipated Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour is finally here and ANGLR’s very own Dave Lefebre weighs in on what he thought of the inaugural event on Lake Toho and the Kissimmee Chain. The first stop of the Bass Pro Tour Stage 1 was an incredible event, full of highs and lows for anglers as they set the stage for this new professional bass fishing format!

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Bass Pro Tour Stage 1: A Tough Practice was a Good Thing

“I felt really bad going into that tournament because my practice was terrible. It rained really hard during practice and made it difficult to move around and fish. And I didn’t have many bites in practice but that turned out to be a good thing because it made me hunker down in one area and just fish and pray the weights weren’t too high.”

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“We’re not allowed to talk to anybody, not even guys in our own group, so there were a million things going through my mind that first morning. So, to see very little movement on the Scoretracker early I kind of realized, I just gotta put my head down and grind it out.”

Dave cashed a check in the inaugural Bass Pro Tour event by covering water with a Terminator Shuddering Bait and a swim jig when the conditions allowed and when the wind would die down he slowed his approach by switching to a Senko. His area consisted of a good mix of lily pads and hydrilla with holes between the vegetation where he would catch most of his fish.

“It was kind of neat to hunker down in one area for all 3 days I was on the water because I don’t do that very often. I’m a runner. But that’s kind of the way I do decent in tournaments in Florida. Just put the trolling motor in the water and spend the whole day standing up.”

Bass Pro Tour Stage 1: A Unique New Format

The new format of the MLF Bass Pro Tour is unique. The 80 anglers are broken into two groups of 40 and those groups alternate fishing every other day for the first days for each group are “Shotgun Rounds”. Then the second days for each group are considered the “Elimination Rounds”. Each angler’s weight is cumulative across their first two days of fishing. The top 20 from each group moves on to the “Knockout Round” where weights are zeroed out. The remaining 40 anglers then compete for one day to determine the top 10. The top 10 fish in the “Championship Round” on what equates to be the 6th day of competition, though each angler only fished 4 days total.

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One question we posed for Dave, how do you manage fish now?

His response, “I have no idea.”

In a traditional multi-day tournament format, an angler tries to get 5 solid bass in the boat and then has to decide if they want to try to cull up in that area or leave it for the remaining days of competition. Several new factors come into play with the Bass Pro Tour (BPT).

First of all, every bass over 1-pound is scorable, so why not just catch every fish you can on day-1? Well that makes sense at first glance, but when you think about the fact that weights are zeroed for the Knockout Round, burning through every fish in an area right out of the gate isn’t necessarily a good idea. However to counter that, in the BPT, you have to take a day off between your first two days of competition and run the risk of another angler in the other group pounding on the same area. It’s definitely been a curveball the anglers are trying to figure out.

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How Does the Off-Day Effect A Pattern?

That day off also throws another 24-hours of random variables like changes in the weather, current, and water level into the mix that could make an area that produced on your first day obsolete on your second day of competition.

So, is it best to catch everything you can right away?

Maybe. But remember, first place after two days gets the exact same reward as 20th place by advancing to the Knockout Round where weights are zeroed. Dave’s best guess is to try to ride that sweet spot in the standings around 10th and hope you’re saving some fish and have done enough to advance.

“You’ve got to play it safe when you’re trying to make that 20-cut and it’s pretty obvious about what you’ll need with the Scoretracker. So I think once you’re in, you just kind of have to lay back. This format is just totally different. There’s so much more strategy involved. So using the tools available to me, like the ANGLR web application paired with the mobile app and Bullseye is a great way to give me that competitive advantage!”

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“In the past, your success in tournaments depended on being 90% good fisherman and 10% smart fisherman. And now it’s like 50/50 good fisherman to smart fisherman.”

“The good thing about these first tournaments of the year when fish are moving up to spawn is that I think you can really beat up on your fish because you know there are more coming. So, I think the only time you can really save fish right now is if you’re in a good position on the second day when you have to make the top 20 cut. Other than that I think you’re always having to catch everything you can right now.”

As Dave heads out on Lake Conroe for the second event of the Bass Pro Tour, you can retrace his steps from Stage #1 on the Kissimmee Chain by viewing the trip data he logged with the ANGLR app!

Chatterbaits: An In-Depth Guide to a Bass Catching Machine

For some new anglers, using chatterbaits may seem a bit difficult. There are certain techniques involved, right? If you’ve ever considered trying one but felt that you weren’t really sure which one to choose, or that you didn’t really know how to get it going just right and what technique to use, you’re not alone.

For many fishermen, thinking about branching out with a new technique or trying something outside of your comfort zone may leave you sitting on the fence. Many never really take the plunge and wind up missing out on something that could put them on the path to a successful fishing trip.

ANGLR has recently launched their Chatterbait: Everything You Need To Know About the Vibrating Jig. This is the next addition to their ever-growing bass fishing educational series.

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Chatterbaits

Part of the extensive Bass Fishing Resource series, Everything You Need to Know About the Vibrating Jig, delves deep into what makes these baits so effective and fun to use! Author ANGLR Expert Shaye Baker has a ton of experience to share, so this is definitely something you don’t want to miss!

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Not only are pictures included, but detailed videos by Baker illustrate talking points throughout the article.

History Lesson On Chatterbaits

Vibrating jigs have only really come into popularity in the past 10 years, but where did they come from, and what made them catch on so quickly? Find out exactly how they got their start so you know why you can’t afford to not give one a try!

Chatterbait Basics

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Before getting too far into how incorporating chatterbaits is going to change your life, Baker educates you on what makes this jig type such a great choice and how it differs from other baits like a spinnerbait, crankbait, or lipless.

Customizing Your Chatterbaits

Once you have the basics of chatterbaits together, you’re free to customize it to the hilt. You have many variations of options from customizing the skirt, to differing trailers.

Baker tells you what it is about trailer selection that can make or break your setup and gives you pointers on some of his favorite and most successful options. There’s a trick to choosing the right trailer for your circumstances, whether that be around vegetation, or piles of heavy structure.

Color selection is important, also, matching your choice to circumstances. Trailer hooks may be a touchy subject for some anglers, but Baker clues you in on a little secret that could mean a full live well for your return trip.

He also gives you some extra tips on other useful tools to keep around in your tackle box when working on customizing your chatterbaits.

Chatterbaits Gear & Tackle Selection

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There can be major differences in gear and tackle selection depending upon your background and fishing location. Baker acknowledges he’s comfortable and successful with his way, but there are other successful philosophies, as well, including the credited master of the chatterbait, Brett Hite.

Baker details what he likes to put together and why, and then also shows you what Hite likes to grab, so you have options to choose from, complete with links to each item.

Popular Presentations for Chatterbaits

While he touched on presentation a bit earlier on, now Baker really dives into a few ways you can pattern bass with a vibrating jig. Everything you need to know (as promised) on how to nab bass with a vibrating jig right here.

He walks you through how to choose which technique to use, based on your circumstances. Sections here include: Skipping a Vibrating Jig, Fishing Chatterbaits Around Shallow Wood, and Ripping a Vibrating Jig Through Vegetation.

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Ideal Conditions To Throw Chatterbaits

You may have success throwing chatterbaits just about any time of the year, but there are certain times and conditions when the vibrating jig really shines. Learn how to be a discerning angler and choose your lure wisely. You’ll know exactly when to reach for your chatterbaits.

Chatterbait Takeaways

Baker sums it all up and puts things into perspective for you so you’re ready to go out there and toss those vibrating jigs with confidence. If you’re looking for a new technique to tackle this coming season, do yourself a favor and learn how to throw a chatterbait!

Bass Fishing in Ohio: Breaking Down The Bite

ANGLR Expert, Tanner Ward has spent his whole life bass fishing in Ohio. Growing up in Coshocton, he’s been fishing for as long as he can remember. Both his father and grandfather were avid fishermen, so he just sort of fell into it. He started tournament bass fishing with his dad back when he was a young grade schooler and is currently very involved with college fishing along with being the president of the Kent State University Fishing Team in his junior year of college.

If anyone knows the bass of the Buckeye state, it’s Ward.

catch more bass fishing app banner 1Bass Fishing in Ohio vs. Southern Bass Fishing

During the cold months of winter, the lakes in Ohio will get over six inches of ice on them at certain points. “That can really take a toll on the fish here in Ohio,” he begins. “They’re not able to grow well during the winter months, so we wind up with fish that are smaller than their southern counterparts.”

You really don’t see many bass that get over six to seven pounds.

In the south, the bass see year round growth. Hence why the Florida strain bass grow larger than their northern counterparts. With more opportunities to feed throughout the year, they don’t have to experience the winter lull that the northern bass undergo.

Where to Head for the Best Bass Fishing in Ohio

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Ward believes that the fishing in Ohio gets better as you head farther north, towards Lake Erie. “Lake Erie is great for smallmouth, and there’s so many in there and they’ve had the opportunity to grow larger with the introduction of Goby.

Around Kent, Ohio, home of Kent State University (KSU), there are a number of great locations for largemouth. “I believe they have a better quantity and quality than lakes in southeastern Ohio,” he shares.

His favorite places to frequent include Mosquito Lake and some of the electric only lakes around Kent.

The lakes in northeastern Ohio are grass lakes, which can really positively affect the bass fishing. The more cover the fish have, the more places they have to follow baitfish. Having that mat also helps with the spawn, so there’ll be a good wave of new fish coming along.

It helps to scope the area out ahead of time, and here’s where technology can really come in handy. “I really like the Lakemaster Chips by Humminbird for locating bass. I think they give really clear mapping.” Along the way, Ward drops waypoints through the ANGLR App so he can easily find where he wants to return to.

Bass Fishing in Ohio: Dealing with Peculiar Ohio Weather

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The wind in Ohio can be terrible sometimes due to very flat land with little to no geographical changes in elevation to act as a windbreak. “On Mosquito and especially the electric only lakes, the wind actually forcefully concentrates anglers to certain areas,” Ward explains. “You can’t even fish some areas because the wind won’t allow you to control your boat.” The lakes are shaped like a big bowl.

“On Mosquito in the springtime you’ll see all of the boats concentrated on one side of the lake because you can’t really control the boat otherwise.”

Bass Fishing in Ohio: Dealing with Seasonal Bass

During the different seasons, bass will migrate within a lake. “During the spring, the fish will usually be moved up closer to the bank.” But a lake like Mosquito makes it tough. It’s a really flat lake, so the fish could conceivably be out 100 feet off of the bank, yet still be in three feet of water. “I’ll look for the differences in the contours, because the fish usually relate to that.”

In the summertime they’re found along the edge of the grass or the harder structure out off the bank, whereas in the fall, the fish are out in the main creek channel drops where there are a lot of stumps and rock and larger structures.

Gearing Up For Bass Fishing in Ohio

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Most of Ward’s rods and reels are Abu Garcia. In the spring, he grabs a chatterbait because they work great on the grass lakes. “I’m usually using moving baits like a swimbait or spinnerbait in the spring.” He says he also spends time flipping.

“In the summer, I’m using either topwater in the mornings or dragging a Carolina rig or some sort of jig out deeper.” Attached to his Carolina rig is usually a Zoom Bait Brush Hog. In the fall, he’s still using topwater, and some sort of swimbait.

Ward advises that a lot of knowing what baits to grab is a lot of trial and error. One of his favorite brands is Keitech, though he doesn’t necessarily have a specific model he’s attached to. He also frequently grabs his Z-Man Chatterbait.

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All About the Technique

Learning to master the Carolina rig may take a little bit of time, but it’s worth it in the end. Ward offers a few tips on how it’s done.

“You want to drag it really slowly, then when you get around the cover, slow down even more and pick it apart.”

“The chatterbait is a cool one to use in the springtime,” he continues. “You can reel it in and tick the tops of the grass coming off the bottom, or you could yo-yo it by holding the rod and lifting quickly before letting the jig fall back to the bottom.”

In the fall, he uses similar techniques with the swimbaits, ticking the tops of the grass.

Best Advice for Bass Fishing in Ohio

The biggest advice Ward has for anyone, whether they’re just getting started or have been at it for a while is to spend time on the water. “That’s the biggest thing with fishing. Get out there as much as you can. It really doesn’t have to be tournaments, just get out there for fun because you really will learn so much,” he says.

Using Fishing Data to Figure Out Patterns and Trends

At some point in the history of bass fishing, someone had to figure out when bass were going to spawn. They’d see the bass in their beds and before they knew it, they were gone. If they were Northeastern bass, anglers had to wait another year to see the spawn again. So year after year, anglers would have to gather some fishing data.

Where would they keep this fishing data?

In their fishing logbook! They factored in the month, season, water temperature, barometric pressure and even moon phases! If they were using water temperature to determine the spawn, they probably took several readings from ice off until the water reached the low 60’s. With this info they could pinpoint when the bass were going to come out of the deep water and into the shallows to do their mating dance. This trend would help anglers catch big bass every spring.

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We Still Use the Same Fishing Data Today!

It’s 2019 and we still use that same fishing data to figure out when to hit the spawning beds. We also gather all kinds of other fishing data with our technology and eyes to determine how to catch more fish.  

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Things like fish finders, thermometers, video cameras, the ANGLR App and Bullseye to help us gather fishing data to view trends in water systems.  

Every pro angler has a practice period where they can learn whatever new lake they are fishing on. They use this time to find brush piles, rocks, transitions and lay downs. After they scan the lake and place waypoints and other marks, they have a pretty picture of where they need to target fish. If a lake has clear water and lots of rocks, you can bet you’ll find smallmouth hanging around those rock piles. If there are reeds and hydrilla, you’ll probably find largemouth bass waiting to ambush.  

How Do You Use Your Fishing Data?

Once you find the fish, what do you catch them? One of the biggest trends in fishing is homing in on what the fish are biting on any particular day. On one day they might be onto crawfish.  This means that you’ll need to fish the bottom and use soft-plastic colors and jigs that resemble the crawfish that the bass are targeting.

The hot color could be red with black or black and blue. It might even be something even more natural with a greenish color like green pumpkin and black flake. By tracking your catches and fishing data, you will be able to scientifically break down exactly what bait and color the fish were after!

Fishing the different colors will help you determine that particular trend. If they are biting more on black and blue, that’s the trend of the day. What if they aren’t going after craws at all and are feasting on spawning shad? That might mean a topwater or mid-water column bite. That also means you need something flashy that can cover distance. You’ve heard of matching the hatch right?

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Find a crankbait, jerkbait, topwater bait, or swimbait that matches the bait that the bass are keying on.

Bass feed at different times of the day and they tend to target bait in different ways depending on what the bait is. So when the trends change throughout the day, you have to change with them. You might have a heavy topwater bite in the morning, but by late afternoon when it’s sunny, you might be better off with a jig or a punching rig. Again, by tracking your fishing data, you don’t have to guess if this is the case, you can just analyze the data and know for a fact!

So head to your favorite lake or pond and fish it for an entire week. Try different baits, locations and times of the day. Track all of your fishing data in the ANGLR app and then look at the big picture. You’ll find that you’ll become an expert on your own lake and start to catch more fish by analyzing your data!

Kayak Carts 101: Everything You Need To Know about Kayak Carts

So you made it to the lake, now what?

A decade ago when I began the journey into fishing from a kayak, things were not as complicated as they are today.  I’m not even sure if complicated is the correct word, but either way, kayak fishing has grown, and with its growth, a massive industry has developed to support it.  Our kayaks are now built as fishing specific machines, equipped to carry more weight, and every crevice and crease is used to house more gear. With this, the kayaks have become heavier, but more stable in the water, and better equipped to serve as an awesome fishing vessel. With the heavier kayaks, kayak carts have become a necessity.   

Back when I started, kayaks were generally lighter, not as wide, and they had carrying capacities that are not even close to the limits of modern day fishing kayaks. Back then a couple rods, a milk crate loaded with a little tackle, a set of pliers, and you were kayak fishing. When you take a minute and think about how much the sport has grown over the last ten years it’s just crazy… but crazy in a good way.

Kayak Carts Allow For Ease of Transportation

With all of this said, we need a way to get our heavy rigs to the water’s edge from our transport vehicle. Getting the kayak to the parking lot is a whole other article that we will unpack at another time.

There are several ways to accomplish getting the kayak to the water, but one way I have found changed my life.  This is the kayak cart. There are many types sold as well as the DIY versions where the sky is the limit as far as your design and build go.  They can be made as simple, or as complicated as you want them to be. With the weights of some popular fishing kayaks, kayak carts have almost become a necessity. 

Weights of some popular fishing kayaks on the market today:

Wilderness Systems ATAK 140:  95-pounds

Hobie Pro Angler 14:  120.5-pounds

Old Town PDL:  117-pounds

Popular Kayak Cart Models

Popular Kayak Cart Models: The C-Tug by Railblaza

I personally use the C-Tug made by Railblaza.  I have put this cart through its paces and have had only one issue the entire time.  I broke the kickstand on a boat ramp that I had no business dropping the kayak off of, the break was completely my fault.  The cool thing is, all of the parts are replaceable as the unit breaks down for storage and requires no tools for disassembly or assembling.  

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Pictured above is the C-Tug made by Railblaza.  It can be found today on some sites for around $140.00.  The picture above belongs to shop.potomacpaddlesports.com.

All of the C-Tug’s parts are replaceable should you break the cart dropping it off of a boat ramp you have no business dropping it off of.  The cart will fit most kayaks due to its adjustable pads and is corrosion free. There are several different tire choices for the many different terrains we encounter as kayak anglers.  The maximum load weight is 120kg/300-pounds static loading. If you are in the market for a kayak cart you can check out the C-Tug at https://www.c-tug.com.  

Popular Kayak Cart Models: The Boonedox Landing Gear

Another very popular cart, or more like a flight system for a kayak, is the Boonedox Landing Gear.  The landing gear is made by Boonedox in Thomasville, North Carolina.

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The above picture is the property of boonedoxusa.com

The Boonedox Landing gear is made to actually bolt onto the kayak. When you are in the water the legs simply fold up and are out of your way while fishing or just leisurely paddling around. When you make it back to the dock simply fold the legs down and roll your kayak back to your vehicle, house, or wherever you may need to go.  The wheels are always with you so lifting a heavy kayak to place a cart under it is not a factor.

For our heavy fishing kayaks, this has become a very popular option. I have not used one personally, but I have a couple close buddies that swear by the Boonedox Landing Gear.  

The Boonedox Landing gear can be purchased for around the $270.00-$300.00 and comes in some different models that are kayak specific. On the site, if your kayak model does not have a specific landing gear listed, then the general Landing Gear can be purchased and in most cases should work for you. Like the C-Tug cart, there are replacement parts that can be purchased if you were to break something. There are also different tires available for the many different terrains we traverse trying to get to that one magical place that holds the bass of a lifetime. Check the Boonedox Landing Gear out at https://boonedoxusa.com.  

Popular Kayak Cart Models: Hobie’s Kayak Carts

Let’s take a look at Hobie’s kayak Carts. Hobie makes their own carts for their very popular line of kayaks, and generally, have one for whatever Hobie kayak you paddle or peddle. Their carts work by inserting the scupper tube into the scupper holes of the kayak near the rear of the boat, behind the seat. Hobie makes a few different carts.

  • Fold & Stow Plug-in Cart –  This cart weighs in at just over 5-pounds and will break down (no tools) to fit inside a large hatch.  The maximum capacity for this cart is 175-pounds. It comes with a nice carrying bag for storage.
  • Hobie Plug-in Carts – This cart comes with removable wheels and is made out of Stainless Steel.  Your choice of wheels, Standard with a 150-pounds capacity and Heavy-Duty allowing you to carry up to 225-pounds.
  • Trax 2 Plug-in Cart –   This cart is great in the sand because of its pneumatic tires.  The tire pressures can be lowered to assist you in softer sand or soil.  This cart has a 176-pound capacity.
  • Trax 2-30 Plug-in Cart –   This cart is the same as the above listed Trax 2, but with a higher carrying capacity because of the 30cm pneumatic tires.  This allows you to carry up to 242-pounds and is the best Hobie cart for sand duty.

Contact a Hobie dealer near you or check them out online at https://www.hobie.com/accessories/carts/.

Popular Kayak Cart Models: Other Kayak Cart Options

There are also some kayak carts that are made for general duty or purpose.  A simple google search will provide you with several options for a basic cart.  Some of the ones on the market today are:

A Final Option: DIY Kayak Carts

Some PVC and lawn mower wheels can get you well on your way to a DIY cart.  The picture below is a fine example of a DIY cart that someone made for probably a really affordable cost.  It uses the above-mentioned items along with a pool noodle that can be picked up at your local Walmart or General Dollar Store.  The PVC, glue, and wheels can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot. You will find many instructional videos on YouTube in reference to building a kayak cart.

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The above picture was obtained from gearcloud.net

No matter who you are or how old you are, your back is taking a beating by lifting and moving your kayak around every day.  If you are one of those kayak anglers like myself that doesn’t live on the water, then do yourself a favor now and get a cart.  Some of them are expensive, but the DIY carts will work fine and at least get you started, your back will thank you later.

As always stay safe on the water, take care of each other, promote our sport in a positive light every chance you get, and always have fun.

Bass Fishing Tennessee: Top 5 Lakes to Target for a Weekend Trip

Do you ever get tired of fishing the same old places? I know most anybody who has ever fished has surely gotten a little tired of fishing the same old lakes, with the same old lures, fishing the same tried and true places that continue to produce even after 20 years. Maybe it’s time to explore a new lake when bass fishing Tennessee.

As a die-hard tournament fisherman, there is nothing more exciting and challenging than breaking down a new body water.

If you think that could be for you, look no further than the beautiful state of Tennessee. Tennessee has a diversity of fisheries from the famed waters of the Tennessee River chock-full of grass, docks, and wood to the many highland reservoirs slam full of rock and clay banks. Tennessee offers world-class largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass fishing. Here is a list of the top five lakes in the state of Tennessee that any serious bass fisherman needs to take a trip to this coming season!

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Bass Fishing Tennessee: Lake Chickamauga

Lake Chickamauga is already one of the most popular lakes in the country. It was recently ranked the 2nd best lake in the world by Bassmaster. Chickamauga has a surface area of 36,240 acres of fishable water located on the famed Tennessee River. The lake is very diverse allowing an angler to fish however they want. You can find plentiful vegetation like hydrilla, milfoil, and eelgrass. There is also loads of shallow wood cover, and docks. The lake is very popular for “ledge fisherman” as well, offering endless ledges for anglers to search for that next big bite.

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Chickamauga is absolutely slammed full of fish in the 2-5-pound class fish. Fish over 10-pounds are caught fairly regularly in the past few years. Just recently, a fish weighing 14.20-pounds was caught. Most local tournaments take well over 20-pounds to win. On three different occasions during the 2018 season, it took over 40-pounds to win a one-day local tournament. Whether you’re a tournament fisherman or just a bank fisherman, Lake Chickamauga needs to be at the top of your must-visit list when bass fishing Tennessee.

Bass Fishing Tennessee: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake is arguably the most famous lake on the Tennessee River chain. It is massive, covering 160,309 acres of fishable water. Kentucky Lake is widely known for its vast amounts of ledges and bars.

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At least that’s what I think of when I hear about Kentucky Lake… deep cranking ledges!

It’s a ledge fisherman’s dream. However, Kentucky Lake is also famous for its vast number of shallow bushes and “yellow flowers” in the water during the spring.

Kentucky Lake has been in the news a lot recently due to the invasion of Asian Carp. While the lake has certainly taken a step back from what it once was, it is still alive and well.

A recent FLW Tour event that took place in May of 2018 took 101-pounds and 9-ounces to win over four days. That’s a testament that Kentucky Lake still has giant bass and is still deserving of a spot in the top five fisheries for bass fishing Tennessee.

Bass Fishing Tennessee: Parksville Lake

Parksville Lake is a small lake that flies under the radar of most bass fisherman in the state. It’s a very small body of water hosting only 1,930 acres of fishable water. Located in Benton, Tennessee, it’s formed by the crystal clear waters of the Ocoee River.  

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Parksville Lake is what I would consider a diamond in the rough. It’s arguably Tennessee’s premier spotted bass fishery. The lake is absolutely chock full of spotted bass. The lake was once featured on Kim Stricker’s “Hook N’ Look” TV show. The Tennessee state record spotted bass came from this lake weighing in at 7-pounds even back in March of 2014.

An angler can expect to find the lake full of wood cover along the bank and long sloping points. However, the lake does offer one interesting challenge.

Blueback Herring.

Herring make the fishery unpredictable from day to day. Anglers can expect to find a healthy population of spotted bass chasing these schools along with some healthy largemouth. Jerkbaits, drop shots, shaky heads, and small swimbaits are some of the more productive lures.

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Bass Fishing Tennessee: Dale Hollow Reservoir

Dale Hollow is no secret to any serious bass fisherman. Covering 27,700 acres, the lake is the premier smallmouth fishery in the state of Tennessee.

It’s arguably the best lake in the country for trophy smallmouth. In fact, the three biggest smallmouth ever weighed-in have come from Dale Hollow. The world record was caught here in July of 1955 weighing in at 11-pounds and 15-ounces. The second biggest weighing in at 10-pounds and 8-ounces.

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Any serious bass angler needs to visit this beautiful fishery.

The lake certainly doesn’t get the national attention it once did, but the nostalgia you feel when visiting is something every fisherman needs to experience. If you’re going to be bass fishing Tennessee, this is a must-stop kind of location.

Bass Fishing Tennessee: Center Hill Lake

Much like many lakes in the state of Tennessee, Center Hill is mostly overlooked by many serious anglers visiting the state. However, Center Hill is a premier location for all three major species of Black Bass. The largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass.

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Center Hill gives any angler an equal opportunity for a quality fish of any species.

The lake covers 18,220 acres. The lake would be considered a highland reservoir and is full of rock-based shoreline and ledges. However, the lake also boasts plenty of wood cover as well. Center Hill allows an angler to be diverse and fish how he or she wants given the time of year.

If you’re a serious angler or a not so serious angler, give these five lakes in the beautiful state of Tennessee a try. These lakes all offer other opportunities outside of fishing from hiking to rafting, to camping. Bring the family and enjoy a trip bass fishing Tennessee that you won’t soon forget!

Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Where to Find and Catch These Iconic Fish Through the Ice

Three years ago, success when Sturgeon fishing Michigan seemed to be nothing more than luck – growing up in the Middle of Michigan, it was a rare creature that you’d hear of people catching once or maybe twice per year.  It wasn’t until I moved to Northern Michigan and explored some of our smaller lakes, that I realized there were plenty of opportunities to target these fish.

One of the most unique initiatives that I learned about when I moved was Michigan’s effort to stock Lake Sturgeon into some of our lakes and rivers.  This stocking is very unique to Michigan because they realize the value of sport fishing for sturgeon, but also the cultural importance of these fish, which are on the endangered species list.  There are a few lakes throughout the state of Michigan which are part of these stocking efforts, including Black, Burt and Mullet Lakes in Cheboygan County, and Otsego Lake in Gaylord.

Sturgeon Fishing MichiganMichigan Sturgeon Fishing Regulations

Sport fishing for these freshwater dinosaurs does come with some regulations. The state of Michigan requires anglers targeting Lake Sturgeon to have a special Lake Sturgeon permit.  Anglers are allowed to keep one fish per season, over 50 inches. This incentivizes anglers to practice catch and release, while still offering the chance at catching a fish of a lifetime.

Another very unique opportunity in Michigan to celebrate the Lake Sturgeon is a one-day spearing season on Black Lake.  On February 2, 2019, Black Lake will be hosting their annual Sturgeon spearing season. The unique aspect of this festival is that once the 6th Sturgeon is speared, the season closes.  In 2018, the season lasted a total of 66 minutes – the largest Sturgeon of the day weighing over 79 pounds!

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These efforts, from the Sturgeon stocking to fishing and spearing regulations are critical for the promotion of conservation of these amazing fish.

Where to Target When Lake Sturgeon Fishing Michigan

The most obvious place to start when looking at where to start fishing for Lake Sturgeon is to look at the Michigan stocking efforts – Burt and Mullet Lakes, Black Lake, as well as Otsego Lake offer great opportunities to target these fish.  These lakes are now regularly stocked with Sturgeon and have populations that can offer you a real shot at catching one of these dinosaurs.

Once you’re on the lake of your choice, I like to locate “Fish Highways.”  A “fish highway,” is a high percentage area that fish will use to travel around the lake – what I look for are steep breaks where shallow water drops quickly into the main lake or river channel.  These areas of the lake offer fish easy opportunities to move from shallow to deep water depending on water conditions, but also ambush points where they don’t have to move very far to find food/baitfish.  Identified on the map below are some areas that I target along major “fish highways.”

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Main Lake Points

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Shallow Water near River Inlets

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Steep Drops near Main Lake Flats

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Gear for Targeting Lake Sturgeon

Heavy rods, 10-pound test Monofilament line, and heavy gauge hooks are the standard in Lake Sturgeon fishing.  My preferred setup is to use a 40-inch Heavy – Moderate Fast Rod. There are a couple companies that build custom rods of this length and action, but for most purposes, any 36” to 42” Medium-Heavy or Heavy power rod will work.  You want something that has enough backbone where you can fight the fish effectively, but not so stiff that you end up pulling or bending out your hooks.

The hooks that I rely on for this technique are 1/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hooks.  A circle hook helps the fish set itself when it starts to swim away with your bait, so you don’t have to set the hook hard.  You also want to fish with a relatively light drag and play the fish – typically on a circle hook, the fish is pinned well and playing them on light drag will ensure you are able to get the fish through the ice.

As far as a reel goes, I prefer a 2000 or 2500 size reel.  This is the standard size reel from most manufacturers that most of us know and love.  I pull mine off of my open water spinning rods, put it on my ice rod with some 10-pound test monofilament line and am ready to go!  The monofilament is important in ice fishing because it won’t absorb water so it won’t freeze up like braid or become brittle like fluorocarbon in the cold weather.

Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Using Bait to Trigger Strikes 

When jigging for Lake Sturgeon, the scent is important as it is in most ice fishing situations.  I prefer to chum the area with bait – dropping a few handfuls of smelt or dead minnows down the hole help to draw in fish to the area both through smell and feeding opportunities.  Lake Sturgeon, while thought of as bottom feeders are actually aggressive predators that feed on baitfish.

I then set up two rods with the 1/0 Circle hooks to a nose hooked live Blue Minnow.  I like to nose hook the Blue Minnow because it will still be relatively lively and have a more natural action up off the bottom of the lake, making it an easy target for the fish of a lifetime!

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Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Practice Conservation

While Lake Sturgeon fishing can result in one of the coolest fish catches of your life, I encourage you to remember that these are special creatures.  Practicing conservation and following catch and release practices allows for these fish to be around for many years to come. I recommend bringing a tape measure and a good camera get records of your fish in the case you’d like to get a replica mount!  Unless you plan to harvest the fish for your freezer, I recommend releasing it for someone else to experience as well.

Be safe on the water, and I hope that this advice helps you land the fish of a lifetime!