Top 5 Tips for High School Anglers | Preparing for the Future

I’m going to impart a little knowledge on you high schoolers today. Just an old man here, so no need to pay me any attention. I had a kid in college call me Mr. Baker recently and I about slapped him for the blatant disrespect. I’m not that old. But I know what’s it like to be in your shoes. And the difference between me and you is that I also know what it’s like in mine. 

So I’m going to give you a few tips to help your angling career develop if that’s what you’re interested in. Tell you some things that worked well for me. Some things I would have liked to have done differently, and just have an all-around good heart to heart with you here for a bit.

Tip #1 for High School Anglers: Get into High School Fishing 

This is obvious, but something I wish had been around when I was in high school. There was no such thing when I was there. I was lucky enough to have a dad that fished a lot and that’s where I developed my foundation in and love for fishing. 

Now, you can fish competitively at such an early age and travel and see diverse fisheries, which are all crucial experiences if you want to make it to the professional fishing level. 

I did get to experience similar things with college fishing at its origin. In my second semester, I joined the Auburn University Bass Club and had some awesome experiences there and met some of the best friends of my life. The only thing cooler would have been being able to do that in high school and college. So, obviously, if you’re a Junior or Senior, you should start looking towards college fishing as well. But don’t rush your life away. 

I know a lot of people that hated high school when they were there but would give anything to go back now. I was the exact opposite. I chose to enjoy it as much as possible and now I look back fondly on it without much regret. 

Tip #2 for High School Anglers: Diversify Your Arsenal

My dad taught me a ton about fishing. I am very fortunate to have the parents I have in many ways, but when it comes to fishing, I couldn’t have lucked out anymore that I did. Dad has won two B.A.S.S. Federation State Championships and been a solid angler on the local scene for decades now. 

But… he hates a spinning rod. So I did too growing up. I went from a Zebco to a baitcaster at about 6 years old and I never even realized I skipped a step until I was in college. My finesse game needed serious work, and still does, to be honest. I can skip a baitcaster 20-feet back under a dock but can’t skip a spinning rod more than 2-feet consistently. 

In this day and age, you need to be versatile to compete. 

The guys leading the national trails when my dad was my age were specialists. Denny Brauer, Tommy Biffle, guys that chose to only do one or two things but did them very well. It’s extremely hard to be a one-trick pony in today’s fishing scene. Though the guys that win typically still win doing what they’re best at, they cash checks and stay consistent doing a little bit of everything. 

Tip #3 for High School Anglers: Find Your Own Fish

This is one bit of advice that will be frowned upon by many of you now but looked back on one day as sage wisdom. I see a lot of high school anglers rely heavily on their dads or boat captains to find fish for them. 

This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to longevity in the sport. 

Now I’m talking to the boat captains for a minute, I get it. You want your anglers to do well and all the other boat captains are doing it so you feel you have to do it as well or your anglers will suffer the consequences. But you’re stunting their growth as anglers if you just pull up to a spot, say cast there, do this, do that and then expect them to be able to take what you’re handing them and understand why those fish are there, why they are behaving differently from when you found them, why they should adjust and so on. 

If you want to practice together, by all means, do so. But you have to let them learn from you and the fish and not just force-feed them with a silver spoon. Because that spoon-fed stuff becomes scarcer and scarcer the farther they work their way up the competitive ladder and becomes more and more illegal according to tournament rules. 

To be competitive at the highest levels, you need to be able to constantly take the situation in front of you and do a deep dive in your brain to a similar situation where you had to make a choice. That’s when you’ll need to call on all the knowledge that you’ve built up since you started making your own choices. So if you start choosing for yourself at 13, you’re way ahead of the angler that starts thinking for themselves at 22.

Tip #4 for High School Anglers: Put Your Voice Out There

This is something I did that has paid dividends throughout my fishing and professional life and continues to do so. On the final day of the 2010 FLW College Fishing National Championship, my partner and I were sitting in 4th with zero in the box at 1 o’clock. The editor and chief of FLW Magazine, Colin Moore, was in a boat nearby providing on-the-water updates. 

I turned to him and said, “If this fishing thing doesn’t work out, I sure could use a job writing.” He asked if I liked to write and I replied, “I do, about fishing anyway.” And honestly, I didn’t think much more of it at the time. We went on to rally and catch a couple of 3-pounders and a 5-pounder, but it was only enough to move up to 3rd. 

After the weigh-in, my dad asked if I knew Colin Moore. I, of course, said yes and acknowledged he was the editor of the magazine. Dad said, “Well he wants you to write for him.” Apparently they had talked throughout much of the hour and a half weigh-in. 

So I started out writing a couple of small things for their college section and that little seed led to me having work published in FLW Magazine, Bassmaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. Times, a major Japanese fishing magazine called BASSER and several other publications both in print and online like,, and now ANGLR.

All because I put my voice out there. 

There are way more opportunities and avenues to put your own voice out there than ever before. You can start a blog like I did, even before I started writing for FLW. Or a podcast, or do Facebook LIVE or YouTube LIVE or a hundred other things. With so much content out there however, it is admittedly harder to be heard by the masses these days as well. But, the beauty of it is that you only have to be heard by the right one and then you’re off to the races. 

Tip #5 for High School Anglers: Don’t Let “Making It” Steal Your Joy

This is one of the hardest lessons I learned though fishing and one that took some time for me to accept. As many of you reading this have probably already seen, I wrote an article on depression a little while back. It talks about a lot of things in my personal and professional life. One of the things I always feared was that making fishing a job would inevitably take the joy I found from it away. And it did, for a while. 

Whether I was trying to develop a professional fishing career in my earlier days or a professional outdoor journalism career in my latter days, I was always dumping as much time, energy and effort as I could into my pursuits. And that’s a good thing. A noble thing. To an extent, and then it is a very unhealthy thing. 

You have to be careful not to overexert yourself. Make no mistake, both fishing and working in the fishing industry are real jobs. Jobs that a lot of people want, so they’re jobs you have to work extremely hard to keep. Some of the biggest names in the game have told me on multiple instances that they could have taken the time, money, and energy they have poured into fishing and been millionaires by now in a normal job or company. The grind and the hustle are relentless. 

I’m not saying don’t pursue a career in fishing. 

I don’t regret my choices at all because they have me where I am and who I am today. Each valley I went through led me to a higher mountain top. I just want you to be ready for the grind and remind you, do not grind yourself down to nothing. There was a time I’d rather fish than do anything else on God’s green earth and there was a time I backed my boat in the lake, sat there for 5 minutes and then loaded it back up without ever making a cast. Burnt out and completely disinterested in the sport that I had once loved so much. 

I’m in a better place now. I have a healthier relationship with fishing than I have ever had before. But the road was rough to get here.

The advice I’ll leave you with, love it. Love fishing. Profit from it, both financially and mentally if you can. There’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t expect it to be your cure-all. Enjoy it. Even lean on it to help you through tough times. I’ve had some great therapy and God moments in a boat. But you can’t ask it to be everything for you. I tried that. I learned what I’ve known since elementary school, Exodus 20:3. 

Making fishing a job turns wanting to go into having to go. There are a lot of worse things than to have to go fishing. I get that. But when you don’t want to go fishing anymore, it can be a little scary. Just respect it. Learn from a budding old man’s mistakes. You’ll be glad you did someday.

The Growth of Kayak Fishing Over the Last 10 Years

If you were to graph the growth of kayak fishing over the last ten years, it would follow the path of an exponential function; slowly increasing, the turning upward swiftly.

Growth of Kayak Fishing(1)

I used to fish Yellow Creek in my old beat up Jon boat and never see a single kayak. You would occasionally see a canoe or two, but never a kayak. Then four years ago, I could go to the same place on some days, and it felt like I could walk across the creek using kayaks as stepping stones.  

The first kayaks I started seeing were the small sit inside type, but it was just a couple of years (or how I remember it anyway) before those were replaced with the sit on top versions; with all of the gadgets people could attach.  

I can remember running through the television channels before I had a kayak and seeing Jim Sammons and Chad Hoover fishing out of them; thinking to myself, “Hey that looks like a great way to get on the water!”. These two may not have been the first in kayaks, but they have introduced many of us to what the sport is about.

Now the growth of the kayak tournaments is hard to keep up with! 

The Growth of Kayak Fishing | Tournament Growth

KBS, River Bassin, and tons of local trails started popping up allowing a lot of opportunity to compete out of the plastic boats. KBF had several events throughout the U.S., Hobie had a few opens that allowed you to try to get into the Hobie Worlds. Redfish events on the coasts were ramping up to full swing. 

Kayaks were everywhere and it felt like it happened overnight.

It was just a few years ago, the first KBF National Championship was held; then they partnered for the first FLW event last year! Now they have a Pro Series that allows you to try your skill on a slightly different level.  

Then came the Hobie Bass Open Series last year; a different format for anglers to compete for two days on some of the best bodies of water in the country.  This series culminating in the Tournament of Champions which pits the best on the Hobie trail against each other.

Now, the old standard for everyone who grew up thinking about being a professional bass fisherman – BASS – is beginning its inaugural kayak season with five events. The first was held in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Bassmaster Classic! It was the catalyst that got some of the top kayak angler’s national recognition. Hopefully, that allows some of them to consider doing this full time… with real sponsorship deals!

One thing for sure, it doesn’t seem like the sport has peaked. We are still pedaling/paddling up that exponential curve as fast as our kayaks will take us. If you haven’t jumped aboard yet, this is a great year to get your feet wet.  

You can still start in the grassroots clubs, move to some KBF trail events or to the Hobie BOS…or just dive off into the BASS events!  The choices exist, and I do not see it slowing soon.

Kayak Fishing Superstitions | Do They Float Your Boat?

I was sitting in Kentucky Lake’s Ginger Bay eating a banana when I learned I was not supposed to eat a banana in a boat. 

I was also catching bass on topwater during a snowstorm on the same trip… so I’m not sure I really believe in that superstition, or any for that matter.  

Since that trip, I’ve learned that there are many superstitions surrounding boats. Before my research, I had no idea that telling someone good luck was bad luck. Try telling Kristine Fisher it is bad luck to have a woman onboard the next time she is beating everyone else. 

Kayak Fishing Superstitions(1)

Jean Wilson even has a custom banana mount for her ride!

And how do you explain to every red-haired person that they are doomed before they launch? Anyone whistling on board is extremely annoying and distracting, but bad luck? Dolphins good, sharks bad — well, that that seems like more of a statement on the reality of the food chain. And I love a red sky in the morning or at night – it is just kind of cool.

Kayak Fishing Superstitions: My ‘Behaviors’

I like to call them my behaviors. There are a couple that I follow for each tournament. 

Having my duck on the boat – it was given to me by my wife, so it is a part of her with me always. 

Before each launch, I say “here we go” out loud as I push off from the ramp.  

It was the way I set up my gear that allows me to follow steps while launching: step in the boat with your right foot. It just naturally forces it, so I got lucky. (Oh wait, can I say lucky without being unlucky … maybe if I am on the couch and not the kayak?)  

I named my boat for fun, so I am not “tempting the seas” in an unnamed vessel. And, as much as I love what I named my first Hobie (BoHobien Rhapsody), I have refused to rename it. (Or use that name again … so maybe I am superstitious?) But the reason I don’t launch on Fridays has nothing to do with it being a bad idea… it has to do with bad career choices that have left me working much later in life than I meant — and I can’t always get off on Friday.  

Kayak Fishing Superstitions: My ‘Wasted Cast’

I was a bit surprised to find out how many of you make a “wasted” cast away from your intended target before you officially consider yourself fishing the event. It seems that this is a highly copied behavior along the kayak trails. Not sure if there is a superstition involved, but there seems to be a very strong tradition among many anglers.

Marlin Cassady explained this a bit.  

“I always do a short cast for my first cast. Seems like every time I catch a fish on the first cast, the rest of the day is slow. So, I short-cast and reel it in fast.”

Kayak Fishing Superstitions: The ‘Ignored Leaderboard’

I never look at the leaderboard during the day. Not sure of everyone else’s reasoning, but for me it was the added pressure of knowing.  

Brian Aliff agreed.  

“I never look at the leader board or check my placement. Not sure it’s a superstition but I don’t want to know, it adds an element of pressure, and the stress makes me make mistakes I could otherwise avoid. I can deal with bananas if they’re in chip form.”

Not looking at the leaderboard can be hard with so much social media and texts. All of your friends want to encourage you, but some of us don’t want to hear it! I had to tell my wife not to even call, because I can hear how I am doing in her voice.

Kayak Fishing Superstitions: Some Other Superstitions

Matt Spencer

“I pour a little of my coffee onto the floor of my kayak and let it drain out so the fish can wake up and have a nice trail of coffee scent.”

Chris Condor

“Don’t have my first ‘on-the-water dip’ until after the first fish. Or whenever I start fiending with withdrawals, whichever comes first.”

George Nemeth

I have a dedicated spot for one particular rod that never changes. Where the rest go don’t really matter and they’re roughly in the same areas day after day but the finesse jig rod is in the same place every time.

My main superstition is I always pay the ramp launch fee and have a current fishing license. It seems not everyone is as superstitious as I am on that subject but that’s my biggest one. Karmically speaking, I can’t afford any bad juju and not paying my couple bucks seems like a great excuse for the universe to spit the hook on me. (NOTE:  This is actually on the top ten list if you google “superstitions”… pay your debts!)

Nathan Hartley

Sometimes I will go out on an empty stomach as if I’m trying to live off the land or something. Funny enough though I’m strictly catch and release. So it’s just psychological I guess.

Then there is Ryan Marshall who has to kiss every fish. Having met him, not sure that is so lucky for the fish.

And Ron Himmelhaver has a fish dance.

“Super secret, mystical dance that was passed down to me by my father.”

Kayak Fishing Superstitions: As For Mine

I’m not superstitious. I don’t walk under ladders because stuff may fall. I don’t break mirrors because I am fairly certain it increases your chances of being cut. 

And spilt salt should be cleaned up. But if you throw it over your shoulder, couldn’t that just increase the chances of folks walking behind you slipping on it?  

But … is there something to all of this?  

I don’t know. I did learn that looking like a pirate is a good thing, so maybe that night in my late teens when I got drunk and pierced my earlobe with a corsage pin was good. My parents definitely did not share the belief that I had done a good thing – but then they were not seafaring (ok, kayak bassin’) folks. 

And I did catch myself looking for a cat to sit beside my duck on Amazon for the next season after reading all of this.

Just like the fact that I shouldn’t have been throwing a Rapala Skitterpop in a snowstorm (but I was catching fish), I cannot un-know anything I learned!  

So, this is the outfit I am considering for 2020.

Kayak Fishing Superstitions(2)


What are your kayak fishing superstitions?

Micro Jig Fishing | Up Your Game With the MISSILE Micro Jig

As more and more anglers hit the water these days, we are constantly in pursuit of new ways to outsmart the ever evolving bass. Finesse tactics have long been the remedy and seem to still be the frontrunner in cracking the code when it comes to catching overly pressured fish. 

One finesse bait that has taken the bass fishing world by storm over the last few years is the Ned rig. 

A lightweight jig head rigged with 2 or 3-inches of soft plastic, the Ned rig is about as intimidating as a chihuahua and extremely effective. 

Micro Jig Fishing(1)

But what if you wanted to dress it up just a bit? Enter, the MISSILE Jigs IKE Micro Jig

Micro Jig Fishing with John Crews

The Micro Jig is basically a Ned Rig with a skirt on it,” said John Crews, owner of MISSILE Baits and MISSILE Jigs. “It doesn’t replace the Ned rig, but it’s a good compliment to it.

The similarities in the head design of the Micro Jig and Ned rig are evident at first glance. The 90 degree eye of the jig and the overall compactness of the bait quickly place the two presentations in a similar category.

How Does Micro Jig Fishing Differ?

When you start fishing it slow and that little teeny skirt flairs out, there’s just nothing else artificial that small that has that flair to it. And that is exactly what a crawfish does when it feels threatened.

If you’ve ever seen a crawfish in a creek or tank or even on video, you’ve seen that moment Crews mentions here. The moment when running is no longer an option and the crawfish’s last resort is to try to look as big as possible. 

Micro Jig Fishing (2)

“But a little 3-inch crawfish can only get so big. He can flare his claws out all he wants, but a 2-pounder is just going to wolf him down. I think that’s just a natural defensive motion that bass see a crawfish do all the time and that’s what makes it so effective.”

As is the case with most finesse techniques, where you gain in performance, you lose in efficiency. Though usually when it comes to finesse techniques and a tough bite the exchange is worthwhile.

Because of the compact size, it’s not the most efficient bait to cover water with by any means. But there are times it’ll out-fish a dropshot and a lot of other finesse techniques.

Crews recommends using whatever gear you usually throw a shaky head on for the Micro Jig. 

You’ve gotta be able to put a little wood to them on the hook set. So you can go too light on the rod if you’re not careful. And I put it on 12-pound Sunline Xplasma braid to an 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Micro Jig Fishing: Great in Challenging Conditions

Crews says the bait works really well around sparse cover. Isolated laydowns, stickups and short rocky bluffs all represent good targets for the Micro Jig.


And it works really well in current. 

It’s really, really good in current. I’ve caught a ton of smallmouth in little streams around the house just letting it wash around in the current.

So if you find yourself faced with challenging conditions this winter due to overly pressured fish, cold water temps or whatever the case may be and you’re tired of all the same ole finesse techniques, give the Micro Jig a try. Fire it around isolated cover, fish it slow and don’t be afraid to lean into them a bit when setting the hook. Maybe you’ll find yourself a new clean-up bait to add to the arsenal.

Opening a Can of [Motor] Worms | The Kayak Motor Debate

Can I be honest for a minute? 

I am going to open up a can of worms so we can start a (hopefully) healthy conversation in our community. Actually, I am not opening the can, it has been opened already with the introduction of larger electric kayak motors.

The debate about whether we should allow trolling motors in kayak tournaments already has anglers on both sides of the fence, eliciting responses ranging from apathy to anger. But, with all of the new (higher profile) trails, having and using motors on kayaks is about to get more attention in the kayak world due to ratings on certain kayaks. And the safety implications of the larger motors.

Let’s Kick Off This Kayak Motor Debate

Now, I know that this is not going to sit well on social media (I’m already seeing posts in my mind as I write this) – especially those who have already invested in motors and are arguing that “mine is OK” or “mine has no rating so it is OK” – but the kayak ratings labels are not consistent or always clear as to what motor is acceptable. 

And even bigger — with very few exceptions — the kayaks documentation does not specify how or where to install a motor.  

That is why I called it a can of worms… and after the last couple of weeks they are out and I don’t think they are going back into the can.  

I am going to be upfront where I stand:  I wish we didn’t allow motors at all. (Unless an angler has a documented condition that requires them to use the motor.)

Kayak Motor Debate: Safety and Regulation

I love the Hobie BOS events for this fact… but I am not naive enough to think that since they have been allowed on certain trails that their use will ever be discontinued. I wrote an opinion on this topic and ended it with the fact that I will eventually move toward a motor too. So, now (in my mind) the conversation needs to shift toward safety and regulation.  

How many of you have pedaled up on standing timber that was just below the surface and felt your kayak starting to roll? 

At a paddle or pedal pace, you have time to react. Now picture that same treetop with your kayak skipping across the water at 5 or 6 or more mph… would you still have that time to react?  Would that additional speed push you past a tipping point and dump you? With these motors, should we be required to use a kill switch?  These are all questions I’ve been asking myself.

Kayak Motor Debate: The Legalities

Then the next question, who is at fault? I had this conversation with a fellow kayaker:

“I mean if I make a vehicle and put a tow rating of 5,000-pounds on it and you crash towing 10,000-pounds, you are at fault. If I don’t say the vehicle has a tow rating but offer a hitch when I sell it, I’d assume I’d be liable if something happened. Is that not the same thing here?”  

I do not have a crystal ball, nor am I an expert on the subject. But I do work in a highly regulated industry and am very aware of the documentation and standards that must be followed to eliminate (or just define) liability and keep the consumers (and the companies) safe.  

So, the first time someone is injured because Pat Kayaker exceeded the capacity of their ride by placing a large motor on a garage-rigged mount in a nationally viewed kayak event, we are all going to get some unwanted attention.

So I have this question for y’all. 

Who Regulates the Kayak Industry and Safety Standards for Propulsion via Kayak Motors?  

Just because the rules say I can have a certain horsepower, or pounds of thrust, is it OK to strap it to any kayak in any manner and blast across a lake? Is it safe?

Just ‘cause you can, should you?

Mine has a 400W rating. That means I cannot attach a larger motor and be compliant. Does that mean a DQ at check-in when I use a motor that exceeds the ratings?  

It seems that answer is yes — at least for KBF.

KBF Rules on Kayak Motors  

Unless specifically prohibited on the Event Page, use of a single electric propulsion unit per watercraft in KBF-sanctioned competition is approved with the following restrictions:

  1. Competitors must comply with all boating regulations pertaining to motorized kayak/electric-propulsion watercraft registration, use, and operating restrictions for the designated fishing area. Violation will result in disqualification from the Event.
  2. Electric motor used to propel a watercraft:
  3. must be attached to the kayak in a safe manner for operation, and
  4. may not exceed the lesser of (a.) manufacturer’s labeled Maximum HP/Thrust Capacity, (b.) 3 HP, or (c.) 155 foot-pound thrust. Violation of either condition will result in disqualification from the Event.

And it seems true for BASS in some capacity, they just exclude the final sentence that a violation will definitely result in DQ, so it is not as clear.    

B.A.S.S. Rules on Kayak Motors

Penalties for rules violations may include the following:

  1. Reduction of competition hours as determined by the Tournament Director.
  2. Loss of one or more fish caught in potential violation of rules or regulations.
  3. Disqualification from the tournament in question.
  4. Disqualification from future B.A.S.S. events, which may be from a specific number of events, a specific period of time, or may be a lifetime disqualification.
  5. Any different or additional penalties determined by the Tournament Director including but not limited to monetary fines and/or reduction of points towards championship qualification. 

So, it seems that the rules state it is not OK to exceed ratings in tournaments if your boat came with a label from the manufacturer.  If it doesn’t, I am guessing that will reach some level of clarity soon enough.

What Side of the Fence are YOU on?

Spring Walleye Fishing | Targeting Big Pre-Spawn Walleyes

One of the biggest events of the entire ice and open water season is the transitional movements of big pre-spawn walleyes. These fish are highly targeted by millions of anglers for their difficulty to catch, their fight, but most of all their table fare. 

Walleyes are one of the most sought-after fish in the country, for good reason. The pre-spawn period presents anglers with high quantities and quality of fish funneling through small areas. This time of year also presents anglers with the opportunity to catch their biggest fish of the entire year. The larger females move into shallower water and are full of energy and eggs. The bigger the female the more eggs she carries, which can create some absolute giant fish. 

However, it can also be a very stressful time of year if you don’t know the areas and the baits to use to target these fish. I will go into detail on the time of year to start looking for pre-spawn fish, where they are going to be moving and staging up, the baits to use to give you the best success, and how to avoid/work through the crowds of people.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Pre-Spawn Time of Year and Location

 Spring Walleye Fishing(1)

Photo Credit: In-Fisherman

The term pre-spawn has been used to describe anytime in a fish’s life from the winter period, to when the fish actually spawn out. The time period in which these fish begin to transition from their deep winter haunts to beginning their annual journey to which they will propagate the next generation begins around early February. 

Walleyes will begin to journey from their traditional feeding areas and deep winter holes to where they will spawn. This begs the question, where do walleyes spawn? The answer to this question has two parts because not all of the fish spawn in the same areas. The majority of the fish will spawn in the larger rivers that lead into your body of water. While a smaller subset of the population will spawn on rocky shoals in shallower water in the lake. These fish need the proper gravel, depth, oxygenated water, and sunline on the eggs in order for them to be as successful as possible. So, the areas in which these fish spawn are going to be different for every body of water. You need to look at maps to find the areas which have everything these fish need and then scout them out. Not every creek and gravel shoal will have fish, so it’s important to put the time on the water to really find out the hot spots.

The issue is that most walleye seasons go out during the spawn. So, how are you supposed to find the areas in which these fish spawn? Great point, you need to fish the areas outside of these possible spawning locations to see if they gather here or not. There are going to be early fish to the spawning areas and late spawning fish, they don’t all come in one wave. This means you can catch fish moving to spawn before and after the season goes out. Another good trick to use, look for large numbers of fishermen around small areas. This can be a dead giveaway for spawning areas. The trick is to figure out how to beat the crowds at their own game.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Walleye Movements

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Photo Credit: Angling Buzz

So, how do these fish move from their wintering areas to where they are going to spawn? It is by no means a one-way hell-bent trip in which they don’t stop. These fish are going to move methodically from one ambush area to the next until they reach their staging area outside the creek or in the deep access water near the shoals they plan to spawn on. 

All you need to do to intercept them is find your favorite hot spots from early-mid ice season and then look at there they are going to go. It will become very easy to determine where they are going to stop on the way. Look for the same type of humps, drop-offs, points, bends in river channels, and rocky areas that they would normally use during their normal routine feeding. 

These are going to be the areas that these fish stop on to refuel while they are on their journey. Think of it like when you’re going on a road trip. You need to stop to get gas at certain periods in the trip, thus you go to gas stations. Ambush points act as gas stations for these fish and they need to feed up in order to make the journey and spawn. The entire act of spawning is a stressful point in a fish’s life; thus, they need to feed up in order to survive the ordeal. You just need to get your baits in the right areas in order to capitalize on this bite.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Baits

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Photo Credit: Angling Buzz

The biggest thing people get caught up in is what baits to throw. In all reality, if you plan everything else out to perfection it almost doesn’t matter as much what you throw as to just being in the right area. 

However, it can be the difference between an ok day to being a phenomenal day. 

It does depend on a few things though as to what baits you use. Factors such as weather conditions, time of day, fishing pressure, whether you’re on ice or fishing open water, and water conditions. These all play a big factor in what you’re going to throw in their faces.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Fishing on Late Ice

Spring Walleye Fishing(4)

Photo Credit: Outdoor News

If you are on the ice you are going to be stuck using vertical presentations, and there is nothing wrong with that. For pre-spawn though, I like to start off with more in your face and attraction baits such as a Rapala Rippin Raps

Why would you use finesse baits for fish that will come in and eat a bigger meal more readily?

 This way you can cover water faster and potentially put more fish on the ice in a faster fashion. I will also use VMC rattle spoons and Rapala Jigging Raps as well to try and drum up the more aggressive fish. It always a good idea to check to see how aggressive the fish are before you downsize and start finessing the fish. My thought process is Why use small baits when you don’t have to?

The next step is harder, however. When you draw fish in, and you will, now you have to try and read their level of interest and adjust baits accordingly. If the fish come in and stay low and don’t make any kind of run at the bait, then you are too aggressive and you need to switch to something that is a little less aggressive. I like to go to a Tingler spoon at that point, or a jigging rap or something with less sound. I will work all the way down to a jig and a minnow if I have to. 

The test being you have to read the fish. That is a huge key, reading the fish. If they make a run or follow it up at least once then you’re on the right track and now you have to play with size and color. Going to something in a duller or brighter color, depending on what you started with. It really depends on what baits you already have confidence in on the water. These are just baits that I have had and seen a lot of success with. There are thousands upon thousands of baits out there that no doubt all catch fish. So, it’s up to you to experiment with the companies you like and use the baits you like. The general guidelines for switching during these situations remain the same however. You need to just feel the mood of the fish and adjust accordingly. Always assume that there is always a better way to catch them then how you currently are. This will keep you always on your toes and always thinking about what to try.

Some of my other favorite in your face baits include a Rapala slab rap, a Rapala jigging shad rap, and a Silver Streak blade bait. These baits, including the other baits listed above, are going to be my go-to baits for when I first show up to a body of water. After I strike out with these baits then I am going to go to more of a finesse approach. That is when I will break out a VMC tumbler spoon and a VMC flash champ, along with the others listed above. These baits will be my staples when it gets technical and the fish are being finicky.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Open Water

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Photo Credit: My Outdoor TV

The beauty of open water is that you can cover a lot more water in a lot shorter amount of time. This will allow you to locate fish in a faster time frame, in general. When it comes to open water baits there are two approaches, you can either troll baits or you can cast and retrieve. It really depends on the size of the area you are targeting. 

Trolling is a way to cover vast amounts of water using a variety of different crankbaits, worm harnesses, spoons, etc. Trolling can also be used as a method to simply locate groups of fish and then you can go back through and work them over with casting baits. During the pre-spawn period, however, the water is still around that 40-degree Fahrenheit mark. This means the fish activity is still going slow, as far as their willingness to chase down baits. I generally prefer casting for these fish because you can present slower but reactive baits that trigger these fish into eating. However, a slow trolled bait can still produce good numbers of fish.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Casting

So, for casting baits I have a general few that I go off of. The categories that I like to throw include plastics, crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, blade baits, jerkbaits, hair jigs, swimbaits, and live bait. As you can see there is a large variety of different baits that you can throw. It really just comes down to the action that the fish prefer and what the body of water allows you to throw. 

I look at the area that I am fishing before I decide what I am going to throw. If it is full of brush and stumps then oftentimes, I will lean more toward a jig with a soft plastics trailer such as a worm, a swimbait, or a live minnow. Something that I can work slowly over and around the cover with lower risk of getting hung up. A slow retrieved crankbait or a jerkbait is also a good option to tick the tops of the wood or suspend just over the wood. I want something that I can pop off or deflect off the wood to trigger a reaction out of these fish. 

A few of my personal favorite casting crankbaits include an original floating Rapala, a BX minnow, and a shad rap, an x-rap, a shadow rap, Rapala flat rap, and a Rapala tail dancer. Those baits are going to cover every casting scenario that I am going to run into. These baits are also made of balsa which will allow you to get your bait unstick from rocks, brush, etc. easier.

The idea behind casting these baits is to cover water and imitate whatever baitfish the walleyes in your lake are feeding on. 

You can never go wrong with perch colored baits, or a generic shad colored bait. These forage species are going to be in almost every body of water you are going to come across. To retrieve these baits, you are going to start with a steady retrieve and see how the fish react to that and then depending on the results you are going to mix it up and start adding stops and pumps into the bait. This will act as a triggering method if any fish follow or track your bait as you are retrieving them.

If I am fishing something with a sandy and rocky bottom then I am going to lean more toward a blade bait, a lipless crankbait. I need to use the action of the bait in order to trigger these fish into eating. Since the bottom is fairly clean, I depend upon the bait to draw the fish in and close the deal. This is where I really play with the cadence I use when retrieving these baits. I use both blade baits and lipless crankbaits as a bait that I jig off the bottom. I will not steady retrieve these this time of year. I will simply hop them along the bottom, while varying the length of the hop and the speed of the hop. Generally, you will find a specific speed and type of hop that these fish key in on. My favorite go-to casting baits for this type of scenario are going to be a Rapala Rippin Rap, a Rapala Jigging Rap, and a Steel shad blade bait

As far as a swimbait, a hair jig, and a minnow on a jig head are concerned I really use these to cover water and try to locate groups of fish. All of your time on the water is precious, so using faster search baits to really try to locate fish and eliminate water can help you spend more time putting fish in the net.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Trolling

Trolling is going to be a different animal altogether when it comes to pre-spawn. Since the water temps are so cold, it is going to be hard to get these fish to chase a bait unless you put it right in their faces. It is also really going to depend on the bodies of water you are fishing. If you are fishing lakes such as Lake Erie, then trolling is going to be the most effective way to catch fish and cover water. 

This can also be an extremely effective tool in larger river systems, to cover break edges of the river channel. 

However, if you are fishing smaller bodies of water that have smaller populations of fish, then casting baits are going to be a better choice. Bait selection and trolling speed are going to be critical no matter whether you are in a river system or a large body of water. The fish are going to be up in shallower water, so your trolling gear is going to be relatively very simple. Longlining crankbaits and crawler harnesses are going to be the most efficient approach as far as covering water while being able to fish slow. Nightcrawler harnesses are always a good option because they can be fished as slow as the user wishes, which is ideal for targeting sluggish fish. The choice of crankbait is going to depend on the water depth you are trying to target. If you are on Lake Erie then you are going to be fishing deeper than if you are fishing a small local lake or a shallow river system. 

It is all about finding those travel routes that were discussed above and using your search baits to effectively and efficiently cover water.

There are thousands of different crankbaits on the market today and all of them will catch fish, given the right conditions. So what crankbaits are going to work best for the prespawn? 

I like crankbaits that have a tight action, this imitates that action of the baitfish during the colder months. I also like running baits that dive deeper than the water I am fishing, when fishing 15-feet or less. This will allow you to slow your presentation down and really get a reaction out of those fish. 

A few of my favorite baits to troll this time of year are going to be Rapala Tail dancer, Rapala Shad Rap, Bandit Generator Walleye Deep Diver, Strike King Walleye Elite Bonzai Shad, Storm Deep Thunderstick Madflash, Storm Thunderstick Madflash, Bandit Walleye Shallow Diver, Bandit Walleye Deep Diver. These are a few good starter baits that will also cover you as far as hard bait are concerned. 

For worm harnesses, I like a couple of different types. If the water has good visibility, 3 or 4 feet minimum, then I like a Dutch Fork Stainless Steel Willow Leaf Blade Harness. If the water has more stain to it then I’m going to go with a Dutch Fork Stainless Steel Colorado Blade Harness. The Colorado blade is going to provide more water displacement and more thump to attract these fish from more of a distance. I also really like the Mack’s Smile Blade Double Whammy Walleye Rig for doing more drift fishing or slower trolling. This bait has a better action at slower speeds.

As with anything, you’re going to need to experiment with baits, depths, the amount of line you have out, colors, etc. In order to figure out the best combo for the fish during the time of day you are fishing. You might run one of each of the baits listed or you may end up running all of the same lure. It is just going to depend on what you are getting bit on and what depths you are fishing.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Bait Color Choices for Trolling

There is no shortage of different color patterns on the market these days. You could literally spend thousands on one bait by getting every color they make it in. So, what colors are going to give you the best chances of success? As a general rule of thumb, you want to match the conditions outside to the color of your bait. So, on cloudy days you want to throw darker more drab colors and on bright sunny days you are going to want to throw brighter baits. This is going to match what the forage looks like during these different weather conditions.

Color choices are also going to vary depending on the depths of water you are fishing. In shallower water, the colors that are going to show up the best are going to be your pinks, oranges, and your yellows. As you get down deeper your colors are going to want to switch more toward your reds, chartreuse, blues, purples, and your blacks. These colors stand out better at deeper depths. As with anything else though I encourage you to play with different color combinations to see what works best for you. 

Spring Walleye Fishing: Dealing with Crowds

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Photo Credit

The worst part of pre-spawn walleye fishing is the crowds. There is a large number of anglers that will go out and simply look for crowds of people and go fit right in assuming they are on fish. I like to be that one guy way away from everyone that leaves everyone guessing if I’m catching fish or not.

The number one way to be able to beat crowds is to truly know the area you are fishing. I mean knowing all the contour changes, the bottom composition changes, little irregularities on flats, etc. This will ensure you are always on the primary “spot on the spot”. You will be that one guy smashing fish while everyone 20 yards from you is left without a bite. This requires time on the water though. Hours and hours of scouting go into having a really good idea of what the bottom looks like. If you are ice fishing that can mean using an underwater camera, visibility permitting, and using this to look for rock piles and distinct and subtle edges. When there is open water it can also mean using your graphs and side imaging to make laps around these areas in preparation for the long winter months. 

It all depends on the amount of time you are willing to put into the game, just like any other sport.

The next best way to outsmart the crowd is to be the guy who is not afraid to move and change things up. Most anglers have a bait tied on that will be tied on from the time they get there to the time they leave. They will work it the exact same way all day and night. You need to be willing to switch up how you are working your baits, what baits you are throwing, and where you are fishing. If you are fishing areas that have large flats that have big crowds of people, Lake Erie for example, then you can use this to your advantage and place yourself on the outside of the group. Moving slightly away from everyone will help you get on top of the fish that avoid all of the commotion brought on by the other anglers. Fish aren’t as dumb as we think they are, however they aren’t as smart either. They aren’t going to do some drastic moves, they are simply going to slide around all the noise and commotion. This will set you up nicely for all the fish moving through.  

As far as baits and how you work them, this goes back to what I talked about earlier in being able to read the fish’s level of interest. Most of the time in a crowd I like to go either really small and bland or really big and bright. This will make your bait stand out from the droves of other baits in the water. Experiment with the action, the color, and the size until you find something that seems to fit the bill.

Spring Walleye Fishing: Understanding Movements Related to Weather

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Photo Credit: Great Lake Snow

One of the biggest overlooked aspects of targeting specific species of fish during different times of the year is the weather patterns and how they affect the specific species that you are targeting. During the pre-spawn period, with any species of fish, the weather patterns can really control what the fish do in major ways. 

Some of you may say, but my fish are under ice, how is the weather above going to influence the fish? 

Even under feet of ice the fish can still see changes in light and adjust to the different light periods. This is why morning and evening bites are still hot. So, the first thing to look at is the weather pattern. On cloudy days, the primary bite window is going to be drawn out even longer than it normally would be due to the reduced light from the cloud cover. On clear sunny days, the primary bite windows are going to be the shortest due to the increased light. So, fish are going to be more active on days with a lot of cloud cover, meaning they will be moving in the shallow areas more. This is especially true for the pre-spawn period.

If you have open water situations, then the word everyone hates comes into play, wind. Personally, I love wind. It can create some of the greatest bites you’ll ever see, while also making you wish you never went fishing. 

So, what does the wind do? The wind breaks up the surface tension on the water and creates a scenario in which the fish cannot get a great look at your bait. It also moves the surface water around and creates current. This current moves the small micro-organisms around, which then get followed by the baitfish. This current also creates current breaks in which fish will stack up. Either way you look at it, it can create some great scenarios in which to load the boat fast. 

So, what do you need to know about wind for pre-spawn? 

Wind can push the warmest surface water away from where it is supposed to be. This will stack up warmer water in smaller coves or along windblown banks. It may only be two or three degrees but that two or three degrees will attract those fish like flies to a light. The first thing I look at when looking for prespawn walleyes, other than where they are going, is what way the wind is blowing. That will be the first area that I will check for signs of life.  

The next thing to look at is the different moon phases. The greater the light during the night period, the more active the fish are going to be. This means fish are going to have the most nocturnal activity during full moon phases. This creates large waves of fish that move up shallow during the pre-spawn period. 

So, if you have limited days to fish it can be important to look at this information in order to try and have the most success possible.

2020 KBF The TEN Recap | Kayak Bass Fishing Kissimmee, Florida

“Hosted by Kissimmee Sports and Experience Kissimmee, the 2020 KBF Dee Zee The TEN pitted KBF’s top 11-12 anglers of 2019 in a two-day fish-off on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida.  This event is invitation only. Eligible competitors ranked among the top 10 (this year 11 due to a three-way tie for tenth) in the 2019 KBF Angler of the Year points race.”

2020 KBF The TEN: Going ‘All Out’

All of the competitors praised Chad Hoover, Scott Beutjer, and the sponsors for how well the event was run. From the accommodations, to the meals prepared each day, then lunch for the next day — there was not one angler who felt that KBF and the sponsors did not go all out.  

Derek Brundle, the 2019 KBF Rookie of the Year, was very excited about how KBF treated him. 

I had heard about what being a part of the TEN was like, but it was way beyond what I imagined. Catered meals every night, boxed lunches and snacks, tons of stuff on your beds, Yeti coolers, Dee Zee boxes, Columbia gifts, Yak attack stuff, Ketch boards, an Anglr Bullseye, just so much stuff.

Rus Snyder echoed Derek.  “The experience was just over the top! Chad and everyone just took care of everything. Usually that is a pain in the butt, coming off the water, getting ready and then finding food and all that stuff. I didn’t have to worry about that at all! Just getting that extra time, and it was like everyone had their own king size bed – like each had a big hotel suite.

2020 KBF The TEN: Sworn to Secrecy

It makes me want to work harder to be in the TEN… but I am not going to lie, this was the most difficult recap I have ever tried to put together. With one or two exceptions, the anglers were as tight lipped about where they were fishing as a Florida strain bass that was shipped to the arctic circle and dropped in a pool of water.  

There was information that was said to me, that I promised not to publish leaving me feeling like I had just heard confessions that I must now take to the grave. Then the next guy would tell me “he was at this lake…I was next to so and so… yeah, I talked to them while I was pre-fishing the spot he won in” but I already had promised to keep that information secret.  

A redacted account of my interviews would leave the page looking like a top secret document released to the public… maybe leaving page numbers visible. So I am going to write little about where, some about how – and not much about anything!

Rus was slow to release anything about the event.  

I gave some of the smaller lakes a chance… not sure I want to mention the lake. This lake, well, I don’t want to say that either — so, just call it one of the smaller lakes. Right before I got there — well, this is off the record too…

Then Rus gave me one of the best lessons in fronts, Florida and bass fishing far down south. But the lesson was off the record — sorry.

Ken Wood explained why he didn’t want to talk much about it during his cryptic answer.

When asked “Where did you fish the Ten?”, he replied: “.…..uhhhhh…I really don’t want to say, but uhhhh … there were some unique spots there. But they are coming back here, and just in case I make it to the TEN next year — I told everyone where I fished Lake George, and I wish I had not, so I would rather not talk about it.

And there it was. They have confidence (or hope at least) that they will make it back there next year and want to keep their secrets secret.

Even newcomer Allen Sweat from Florida didn’t want to talk. He had won the Tenvitational fishing one of the “secret lakes”, and though I did find out later the name of that lake and who had fished around him… well, a promise is very important to me so I ain’t telling!

2020 KBF The TEN: Here’s What I Can Tell You

The event was run in conjunction with the Tenvitational which saw 32 anglers, plus seven already qualified for the Ten. The winner, if not already a member of the Ten, would become the 11th man (twelfth this year due to a tie) and compete for the top spot.

Several Anglers in the Ten did not fish the Tenvitational. Instead, they used the opportunity to get in some extra time pre-fishing.  

Cody Milton commented on the decision.  

I didn’t fish the Tenvitational. Most of us at the top didn’t; it gave us more time on the water because we didn’t have to get off the water. They had to leave at three, and we kept searching. It was tough, but you got more bites early in the morning, then late in the afternoon. And if you found them in the afternoon, they were there in the morning.

Rus Snyders shared his feelings also.

I felt like it was going to be smarter to not focus on being in a tournament and focus on eliminating water. Several of us decided to not do it because it allowed us to go back later in the afternoon on the first day of the Tenvitational and expand on what was found earlier — develop more patterns.

But one angler was in it, trying to get the top spot and a place in the Ten.

2020 KBF The TEN: Allen Sweat’s Tenvitational Recap

Allen Sweat, who would eventually finish 6th in the Ten won the Tenvitational to get the final spot.

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“I was actually running late on the last day of the Tenvitational, so I pulled my kayak up under some palms and in some reeds, and ran to make the check-in time! They were telling me we need you at the TEN house and I was like I have to go back and get my kayak. All my stuff is there!”

Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, Alan has lived in West Palm Beach, Florida for 20 years. He is a father of four children who fishes when family and work affords him the opportunity.  

“I work in finance for the aerospace industry and had to make some calls on Friday after I won the Tenvitational because I really didn’t expect to win. I had to move some stuff around. I have been bass fishing since I was twelve, but I am brand new to kayak fishing. I fished BFL, club-level, non-boater, team tournaments, etc. Last year, I basically fished challenges down here in Florida. I saw Kissimmee as an opportunity to step up and fish a larger event.

I pre-fished one day a couple of weeks before the tournament, then fished three days before the start of the Tenvitational. I spent most of that on Kissimmee, but it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t get a good read, the water color was just a little off. I went back to the spot that I had fished two weeks before, I had actually caught one close to 9-pounds.  

“Basically, during pre-fishing the fish were more up spawning or in a real strong pre-spawn stage. I caught them on a black and blue jackhammer with a gambler trailer. I caught ‘em good doing it.  

“During the tourney, it was warm, then it was cool in the morning and then the wind would lay flat. For me, I thought it was bad being from Florida. I had to slow down and catch them with a black and blue Gambler Fat Ace in a 6- and 7-inch length. 

“It wasn’t dead fishing, but I was hitting isolated clumps of Kissimmee grass… just slow, painful fishing — the kind everyone hates when they come to Florida.

I knew that I was in an area with fish, so I didn’t leave — I just kept grinding. When the wind would blow, I went back to the chatterbait and caught some. I kept trying topwater but it never happened. I would catch my last fish at the last minute. On the last day of the TEN, I only caught five fish.”

2020 KBF The TEN: Brad Case’ Recap

Brad Case, fifth place finisher, went down on the 20th to get ready.  

“Pre-fishing I caught, one… I caught two… everybody was saying ‘I caught 10 and 15’… I just said ‘go ahead. Keep catching them! Burn your spots!

On day one I fished the same place that Matthew Scotch was fishing and it was supposed to be my primary. And I knew there wasn’t going to be any boats or air boats because the ramp was closed. The night before the TEN started, I was lying in bed thinking that I had gone to one spot, made three casts and caught one fish and I said that is where I am going tomorrow, and finished 2nd on day one in the Tenvitational. 

And then I went to a different spot. Everyone asked why I was leaving fish and I said I am saving them for the TEN.

So day two of the Tenvitational, I went back to the spot where Allen Sweat was fishing and he was struggling. Ken Wood was also there and he was struggling with only three fish. I turned around and Allen caught four in the last twenty minutes!”

(Brad did tell where this was, but since I was asked not to tell, I will not say it out loud… but I will not forget it either.)

“Everyone thought I messed up and didn’t do too well.”

But Brad had just left fish for the TEN. He finished 6th day one and 3rd day two, ending up fifth overall throwing a white chatterbait with a little orange in it.  

Brad said he could see the fish.

Sometimes they wouldn’t hit the chatterbait. I would throw it on the shore and pull the bait off the shore and they wouldn’t touch it. But I would throw that worm and they would nail it. I would throw it up in the muck. I was using a Texas rigged X-Mas colored Gambler worm with an 1/8 ounce weight.”

2020 KBF The TEN: Cody Milton’s Recap

Cody Milton, the fourth-place finisher, was a bit more open about what he was seeing and where.  

“I saw a lot of shiner guys within a 200-yard stretch. I saw a 9-12 caught, two sevens, a six something and 15-20 five pounders. For every 10 fish they caught I might get one bite.

I was on a giant grass spot on Kissimmee. It was really messed up, the water color in 95 percent of the lake was horrible. There were a few different areas where the water was really clear. But they were all a long way from the ramp. I went from 3-4 inch clarity to 3-4 foot with beds everywhere. It is a pretty famous spot on Kissimmee. I planned to get on one or two bed bites, and that just didn’t happen.

Day two, I got a strong west wind, and I was on the east side of the lake. And by 8 a.m. it was just as chocolate as the rest of the lake. It created a spot about a ¼ mile from where I was where the water was gin clear.  I caught way more fish on day two, but never caught a female. I probably caught 20-30 fish on day two. I thought if I could get 8-9 good bites a day I could have caught 90-plus inches both days.

I thought the conditions were going to be better. I thought I was going to wear them out on a spinnerbait. But I caught them on a senko and a swimming worm.

You had to pitch the senko right at the edge of the grass or pads and let the wind pull it in, or throw it back in a little bit.

The wind got so strong that I was pedaling, Torqueedo’ing’, and paddling… dead into the west wind. I had to bail water twice as I headed across the lake, the wind was 20-25 miles an hour.”

2020 KBF The TEN: Derek Brundle’s Recap

Third place went to Derek Brundle, the KBF 2019 Rookie of the Year who is going to be a guy to watch in the future. He left Massachusetts on Saturday morning, driving out of 28-degrees to find himself in 58 degrees on Sunday morning. Brundle, Rob Pagnano and Matt Conant had driven through the night and slept at Toho Marina till the sun came up.

“We went down Saturday morning before the tournament. I wanted to leave Friday, but I had to do a show with New Canoe. We got to Toho Marina at 3:45. I crashed for an hour and a half and woke to a big bass tourney staging for the day.

We headed over to Richardson’s fish camp and launched from there. The weather was good. Pre-fishing for me that first day was terrible, I only caught a single 14-inch fish. Rob and Matt did well, they were excited because they were fishing the Tenvitational.

On the second day, we went down to Kissimmee and launched out of the state park and found some decent fish. We all caught fish there.

We planned to use Tuesday to decide if we were going to fish there or at least narrow down the spots.  Everyone else seemed to be going other places, so we had either place to ourselves.

I went as far south on Kissimmee as possible on Tuesday and found some fish. My buddies did not. I told them that we can fish the Tenvitational wherever, but that we were going to this spot for the ten.

We started at Kissimmee state park, but it was a gamble. You had to wait for it to open, then we had to get off the water early to make it to check in.

Day two, I told them to pick. I was just scouting. We went back to Richardson’s fish camp and I headed south, they headed north. My day started out slow, I ran into Casey Reed and we ate lunch and talked about how it was all going.

I found some reed patches and hydrilla based off a conversation with Casey… I caught my personal best there — around 9-pounds. I was just looking down and happened to see it. I drifted off and hit my pinpoint GPS and started fishing it… threw a senko in there 30-50 times. 

She picked it up once and dropped. It had been 35 minutes. I threw my chatterbait next to the bed and was just running it past her trying to get her to react. I saw her getting agitated. Now she will bite something. I had tied on a VMC spinshot with a 3.5-inch Castaic jerky jay with a 2-inch leader down to the drop shot, it looks like a little shiner or something. I pitched it in and as soon as it hit the bottom it bowed my rod.

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And It was the lightest rod I have with the biggest fish I had ever seen. She took off toward the pencil reeds. I grabbed the spool on my spinning reel with one hand and leaned back with the rod in the other hand. It was only 10-pound test, so I figured I was going to lose her. For some reason she just turned and started swimming into open water. 

I started to net her and she dove straight to the bottom and I thought I was going to lose the biggest fish I ever hooked! 

I caught almost everything on a white chatterbait. I was throwing the jackhammer but they wouldn’t hit it, so I switched to the cheap ones and they started hitting it.

I guess it was the different vibration or frequency, but I was catching a lot of fish. Most of my fish were within a foot of the kayak.”

Derek ended up second in the Tenvitational.

“I went south to Kissimmee. I had in my mind that I was going back down to the spot I had found. The average was 16-plus. And I had caught a 21-incher as well. The conditions had not been right there, with 25 mph winds and muddy water. I heard that you had to be in clear water, but I caught 25-plus fish just running the banks, so I thought that I had found something special. The film guys were following me a bit… with Beutjer and Jensen. And the fish turned off.

What had happened was that the water went flat slack. I started bouncing around and they started hitting a senko on Kissimmee grass flats. After that, I put everything down and started throwing the senko. It was just one of those magical days. I ended fourth after day one.”

2020 KBF The TEN: Brundle’s Day Two

“On day one I was heading out and saw a school of fish off to my right. And I threw in and caught one on a chatterbait. I decided to save it for day two.

I turned on my side scan and the fish were still there… so it was lights out for the first hour. I caught 30-40 fish! Then, I went a long time without any bites.

I caught one flipping some lily pads, and they started again. I lost a good one right before I had to leave. Probably seven or eight pounds!

2020 KBF The TEN: Ken Wood’s 2nd Place Finish

Ken Wood, in his second TEN appearance, would finish 2nd by dropping all he had learned in pre-fishing during the Tenvitational and taking a risk.

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The lake I fished for the TEN I hadn’t pre-fished it at all. After day two the lake I fished at the Tenvitational, I didn’t like my chances at all. I was in ninth… but two inches out of first. I was catching them on a chatterbait throwing up into the slop, some on spinnerbaits.

“Day two I only caught three fish and it took me all day. I should have stayed on my spot longer, but I am glad I didn’t because I don’t think I would have done well. I knew I did not want to go back there.

I picked a random lake I had not even pre-fished. I didn’t do well on any of the lakes I had pre-fished, so I looked at this one and it looks good. I didn’t hear anyone talk about it, so it was either good or bad.

Day one I still caught most of them on a chatterbait. Rocky Ledge Tackle out of New Hampshire, makes a spinnerbait that I was using as well. It is like a swimming spinnerbait, the wire and the head are separate, it causes it to go through the water like a crankbait.

I had one fish at 9 AM then lost one at 11 AM which crushed my spirits a bit. I was fishing a spot that looked like someone had cut out a spot to water the cows and I caught a 12-inch dink. I told myself that if I had to catch dinks I didn’t care. I was fishing in 6-inches of water as I moved back into the pocket. I caught a 12.75, then a 17-something and on the way out I caught a 20-incher on a spot that I had passed on the way in. I moved to similar spots — and I caught a ton of fish.”

2020 KBF The TEN: And The Winner Is – Rus Snyders

In the end, 2019 AOY Rus Snyders continued his winning streak by taking first at the 2020 KBF The TEN.

“I was there the Sunday before the tournament. Sunday and Monday a bunch of us just crashed a house with Jody Queen and some other folks until the TEN house was open.

Sunday afternoon I fished out of Toho marina and got skunked.

I talked to some of the guys and learned that some of the smaller lakes had as much or more potential than the bigger lakes. The Kissimmee chain just had a Bassmaster Opens event there the week before with 200 boats and it got hammered. The first couple of days of pre-fishing was behind a cold front. Only got a few bites, but found one area where I got several bites.  

The rest was one bite here, one bite there.

I heard a lot about Kissimmee, I know there are big fish in this lake. But it is just so big, so I moved back to the smaller lakes.

On day one, I had the area pretty much to myself, catching them early on weightless flukes in areas where bass boats would not be able to get too.

I started punching through some weeds and then there was a field of lily pads. It was hard catching them out there, because there were just so many. The key to the lily pad bite was being super stealthy. I would stake down and fan cast, starting ten feet around the kayak, then twenty — then I would kind of move a little more. I was spooking bass. As soon as I saw that, I would just sit, look at the scoreboard and wait before making casts.

I was changing colors a lot with the water clarity and light. I was throwing creature baits – I kept a bunch of colors at my feet.  If the water was clear, I would throw a green pumpkin with some sparkles… then if it got overcast I would throw darker colors. Not sure it made a difference, but I kept doing it.

On the second day, I was worried I had caught all of my fish. Pre-fishing I was seeing a lot of fish. Went back, and it was a steady rain, started off with a fluke. The first three fish I caught were 18-plus inches. And I could tell they were not the same fish I saw during pre-fishing.  

I fished a log that I had bumped one day, I dropped my bait over the spot and a 7-plus pounder did a cartwheel over the log, but he wasn’t hooked. I threw right back in there and it hit it again. I couldn’t believe it.

It got caught up on the log. It was right under my kayak, but the log was 7 feet away. I finally got it loose and it was a 21.75 and close to seven pounds.

Then I went out into the pads and still needed to cull. I would go a while with no bite, then get several. I went back into the shallow later and got 20-plus.

This was the first tournament that I caught over 100 inches!”

2020 KBF The TEN: Leaderboard

2020 KBF The TEN(4)

It was extremely fascinating to talk with the top KBF anglers of 2019, and like I said earlier, very difficult to put together a recap. The confidence that these guys have—almost knowing they will be back next year—kept them from telling me much… but it didn’t stop them from taking the top spots. 

New Collaboration Delivers World’s-First Integrated Angling Experience With Connected Fishing Rods and Boat-Mounted Electronics

TULSA, Okla. — ANGLR, Lowrance® and Abu Garcia®, announce the successful collaboration between the three brands to blend their cutting-edge technologies to create a powerful new way to plan, record and relive fishing adventures all while using precise data to catch more fish. Giving anglers a previously unavailable level of control, the ANGLR app acts as a bridge between the new Abu Garcia Virtual™ Rod and compatible Lowrance chartplotters/fishfinders. This new functionality lets users privately capture key fishing data with a click of a button – without the need to stop fishing to access navigation displays, logbooks or mobile devices. This new functionality will be on display at both the Lowrance (#3200) and Abu Garcia (#2207) booths during the Bassmaster Classic Expo, which runs March 6-8 in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Abu Garcia Virtual Rod includes a Bluetooth device, powered by ANGLR, in the rod butt that fully integrates with the ANGLR smartphone app. One click from the rod marks catch locations along with coordinates, date, time, weather, water and other key details; two clicks marks a waypoint at the user’s current location; and a button press and hold automatically time stamps and records users’ gear changes. Recorded trips, weather and water trends, statistics, photos, coordinates and more are securely stored and accessed through the ANGLR user’s profile in their private logbook.

Building on this powerful functionality, the ANGLR app can simultaneously and seamlessly transfer waypoints bi-directionally onto compatible Lowrance multifunction displays. The wireless sync also allows data sharing from Lowrance sensors back to the app, providing greater precision by importing precise depth, water temperature, real-time GPS routes and other data to be added to the user’s logbook.

ANGLR CEO Henry Gnad said, “We are really excited about the strength of the ANGLR platform to be able to support this one-of-a-kind collaboration. For the first time the technology exists, both in Abu Garcia’s Virtual Fishing Rod and Lowrance’s premier fishfinders, that when connected with our app anglers can auto-record fishing trips, without missing a second of the action and save the entire story in the palm of their hand to retell for the rest of their lives.”

Navico CEO Knut Frostad said, “This innovative partnership is the perfect complement of three experts in our respective fields. Together, we are giving anglers the easiest and most streamlined way to drop waypoints on their charts and save vital details to be analyzed later.”

Abu Garcia Vice President of Marketing Jon Schlosser said, “We knew that adding integrated communication technology to a fishing rod was going to be a significant evolution within our sport. Now, with our partners at ANGLR and Lowrance, we are able to use this powerful functionality to help anglers maximize their time on the water with the most accurate data detailing how and where they fish.”

With a profile on the ANGLR app, users can better plan, record and improve their fishing. Redefining mobility and reliability, ANGLR removes the guesswork from a day on the water and provides data to help catch more fish for any level of angler. With a digital fishing log, users can quickly analyze trends and recognize patterns to improve their skills, plan how to approach upcoming fishing trips by exploring weather and water conditions, temperatures, GPS locations, moon phases, barometric pressure and more. The technology also allows anglers to replay and relive each memory with their closest friends. 

Compatible Lowrance fishfinders include the HDS Live and Elite Ti2, as well as legacy fishfinders like HDS Carbon, HDS Gen 3 and Elite Ti. This integration makes HDS Live the ultimate fishing system, a fully connected eco system for control of every system on the boat. The Elite Ti2 provides an affordable yet powerful option for standalone or dual display installations offering wireless networking capabilities. 

The Abu Garcia Virtual Rod series consists of 12 total conventional and spinning rods ranging from 6-foot, 6-inch Medium Fast spinning to 7-foot, 6-inch Heavy Fast conventional to cover most bass angling techniques. The rod’s replaceable battery does not require charging and delivers a 2-year battery life. It works regardless of cell service for off-the-grid fishing.

For more information visit, or


For imagery and other editorial requests, please contact:

Andrew Golden

Rushton Gregory Communications



About ANGLR:
ANGLR exists to empower fishing intelligence through measurement, learning and collaboration so that avid anglers can constantly improve and find more enjoyment in their sport. ANGLR is a fishing intelligence platform built for anglers excited to improve their craft of catching fish. ANGLR’s robust fishing logbook app syncs with optional tracking accessories and a private network of anglers who are passionate to learn from and relive their own fishing trips. ANGLR’s Private Fishing Logbook Platform provides robust capabilities for Planning, Recording and Reliving the entire journey of any fishing experience.

About Lowrance:
The Lowrance® brand is wholly owned by Navico, Inc. A privately held, international corporation, Navico is currently the world’s largest marine electronics company, and is the parent company to leading marine electronics brands: Lowrance, Simrad Yachting, B&G and C-MAP. Navico has approximately 1,800 employees globally and distribution in more than 100 countries worldwide.

About Pure Fishing, Inc.:
Pure Fishing, Inc. is a leading global provider of fishing tackle, lures, rods and reels with a portfolio of brands that includes Abu Garcia®, All Star®, Berkley®, Fenwick®, Fin-Nor®, Greys®, Hardy®, Hodgman®, Johnson®, JRC®, Mitchell®, Penn®, Pflueger®, Sebile®, Shakespeare®, SpiderWire®, Stren®, Ugly Stik®, and Van Staal®.

How to Fish Professionally | What’s the Best Path?

How to fish professionally… that’s an interesting question.

And not to skirt the question, but it is one that has several different answers for different anglers. Furthermore, I’m not sure that I have the best track record for answering this question… I had the same question posed to me over the phone by a young angler during an interview regarding his recent BFL All-American win about 10 years ago.

He was a young guy and I had just wrapped up a pretty eventful college career. So when he asked me if he should fish the college trails or roll the dice and go straight to the FLW Tour, I told him he’d be crazy not to fish the college fishing circuit. It was way less expensive and by far the easiest route at the time to either the Bassmaster Classic or the Forrest Wood Cup. 

How to Fish Professionally

Well his name was Jacob Wheeler and his “crazy decision” to jump into the Tour resulted in him winning the Forrest Wood Cup the following year on Lake Lanier in 2011… so yeah, maybe I don’t know the best route to becoming a professional angler. 

How to Fish Professionally | Are You in High School? 

If you’re in high school and have the slightest interest in becoming a professional angler one day, get into the high school fishing scene. 

That wasn’t around when I was in school. I was lucky enough to have a dad who fished and was able to teach me a lot. But high school fishing is a great base for a young angler to grow competitively.

As long as you actually do try to grow and don’t rely solely on your boat captain to find fish for you and do everything but set the hook and reel them in.

That is not beneficial to your growth as an angler. It will ultimately result in you becoming dependent on information and you’ll burn out as an angler when that information dries up later in your career. 

How to Fish Professionally | Dive into the College Fishing Scene

If you are college aged, definitely get into the college fishing scene.

Sure, I shot and missed with Jacob Wheeler, but chances are you’re not Jacob Wheeler, sorry, those are just the odds. People like Jacob are few and far between to say the least. But I do know a guy who fished the college trail and went on to win two Bassmaster Classics — my former partner and Auburn Bass Club teammate Jordan Lee. He is pretty good too and college fishing was the right route for him. 

How to Fish Professionally(2)

If you can compete in the college fishing ranks, you can compete in the pros. 

That has been proven time and time again over the last decade. You can always dabble in other competitive circuits while you’re still in college as well. I did that with the BFL’s and then the Everstart (now Toyota) Series and had some success. (Look at what Cody Huff just did, winning the Toyota Series event on Toledo Bend while still finishing up his senior year of collegiate fishing.)

There are some sticks competing in the college ranks, more now than ever. So college fishing is a great route if you’re in that age group, but certainly no cake walk.

How to Fish Professionally | “You Have to Put in the Work”

And there is no cake walk to the pro level if that’s what you’re looking for. Sure you can still jump right into the FLW Pro Circuit if you have the money, but if your skill set doesn’t measure up, you’ll get your teeth kicked in.

You have to put in the work.

The Bass Federation, B.A.S.S. Nation, BFLs and ABAs are all great options locally, along with a whole host of others for an angler to see if he or she has what it takes to compete. If you can dominate locally, there’s a great chance you can at least compete and cash checks nationally. 

How to Fish Professionally | Try the Mid-Level Events

There’s the FLW Toyota Series and the Bassmaster Opens.

How to Fish Professionally(1)

You may find the same to be true that I saw with my fishing. I actually fish better on the road than I do locally. Around the house, I’ll get in a rut and find myself fishing old milk runs with FOMO should I run new water. But when I travel to lakes that I don’t know that well, I find myself competing better while in pursuit of what those fish are doing on that exact day. 

How to Fish Professionally | Best Route? It Depends

So the best route to becoming a professional angler really depends on the angler. And we should also take a look at what defines a “professional angler.

I recently wrote a piece discussing the overlooked “local pro” route for Wired2Fish documenting Alabama hammer Michael Smith. Smith has likely profited more by fishing around the house over the last few years than 60% of the touring national pros.

So what does professional mean to you? 

To me, it’s someone who can pay the bills with a rod and reel in their hand. And that is an extremely hard thing to do. If you want to do that, assess yourself. Look at your current skillset, what trails you are eligible for and make the decision for yourself. There’s no right or wrong decision really, just various paths to the top. If you’re good enough to compete at the top, you’ll be able to traverse any road.

But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy.

50th Bassmaster Classic | A Brutally Tough Lake Guntersville

It’s that time of year again. Time for the Bassmaster Classic. The 50th Bassmaster Classic to be exact. For half a century, this has been the event that we’ve looked to crown the king of the sport. But now, for the first time ever, a lot of the big names will be sitting it out. The defending champ Ott DeFoe won’t be defending. 

So will it be the same? 

The short answer, yes. Though I did have my doubts last year that it would. Most of us know by now that the majority of the core group of the 2018 Elite Series roster moved over to create the core group of the newly formed 2019 MLF Bass Pro Tour roster. Though that transition happened prior to last year’s Classic, those anglers were still allowed to fish the Classic since they had already qualified for it.

The Difference With Last Years Classic

I didn’t attend that Classic, though I have attended and worked several in the past. Most of you reading this know that I worked as a contractor for B.A.S.S. for several years. I always had an admiration for the organization growing up, and being out there on the road working closely with the anglers I naturally developed a lot of great friendships. The same can be said for the staff. 

So I was torn when the breakup happened. As an angler, I was very excited for my fellow anglers and friends who were making decisions and building something they truly believed would better their lives and careers. But I was also empathetic towards B.A.S.S. or more so towards the employees that make up B.A.S.S. since this move was viewed in a lot of ways as an attack on the organization and the livelihoods of people I had worked closely with and cared for. 

So as the Classic unfolded last year, there was palpable tension throughout. There were moments that were cathartic, between the staff and the anglers that were moving on but didn’t make their decisions out of spite. Then there were moments where had the cameras shutoff, I imagine there would have been some bloodshed. 

Now, on to the 50th Bassmaster Classic

But now here we are. Time for the Classic again. Without so many familiar faces, will this one be as big of a deal as the Classic should be? I do believe it will. During the 2019 Elite season, we saw several new Elite anglers like Brandon Cobb and Patrick Walters rise to the occasion and start developing their stardom. We saw familiar faces from the sport like Chris Zaldain, Scott Canterbury, and Carl Jocumsen all settle nicely into their roles in this new era of B.A.S.S.

The 50th Bassmaster Classic will happen. Someone will be crowned king. And for the 50th time, someone’s life will change forever. The sport is bigger and stronger now than ever before. And the giants of the sport today only appear as big as they do because they are standing on the shoulders of those individuals who got the ball rolling 5 decades ago. The Classic is still the Classic and will always be the Classic. The event we’ll see this week will prove that.

A Tough Lake Guntersville for the 50th Bassmaster Classic

Now let’s talk a little about the fishing. It is brutally tough on Lake Guntersville right now. Has been for a month or so due to seemingly constant rainfall and the swift, muddy waters that come with it. The anglers that win are still catching big bags typically, and the angler that wins the Classic will have at least one ‘wow’ bag too. But the Guntersville most of us think of isn’t there right now. 

The filler weights are way down — the weights behind 1st place. In the past, if it took 30-pounds to win there would also be a few bags in the mid-20s and a heap of bags from 18- to 22-pounds. The closest thing we’ve seen to historical Lake Guntersville numbers came a couple weeks ago in the Alabama Bass Trail event there. It took 30-pounds to win, and nearly 18-pounds to finish in the top 20. 

But that was out of 225 boats, with the best locals on the lake, a team event and the weather had actually slacked up slightly around that time. Several other individual weight events this winter have been won with around 20-pounds, very light winning weights for that pond. And now we have even more rain forecasted leading up to the start of the event. 

So the fishing will be a little tough. But the bites, when they come, will still be big. Someone will still catch a 25-plus bag and if that person can compliment that bag with a couple 16- to 18-pound days, I think they’ll take the trophy home. 

The fish will be all over. Some will catch them as shallow as 1- to 2-feet, some will catch them 25-plus and others in between. This will be a tough one, but a fun one to watch and one I’m looking forward to seeing unfold. I still have a lot friends fishing this thing and one of their lives is about to change forever. And that’s exciting. 

Some Final Thoughts Before the 50th Bassmaster Classic

To be honest, I’m glad the shakeup happened last year. The end result is that more anglers now have avenues to fish for a living at the lowest risk than ever before. Every market needs competition. 

Do I like how it all went down? No. 

But growth requires growing pains. I’m glad to see B.A.S.S. power through and I think the 50th Bassmaster Classic will meet and potentially even raise the bar because of the work that has gone into it. The appreciation the anglers participating have for it. The history behind it. 

The pervasive attitude towards what many of the fans viewed as an attack has rallied the fishing community to B.A.S.S.’s side in a lot of ways. And that will to not let something die that so many people care about has actually made it stronger. 

But, again in my personal opinion, it’s time to stop picking sides and thinking you have to hate one organization or group of anglers in order to love another. Just enjoy the sport at its peak. This is the best it’s ever been. 

So good luck to all the anglers. And good luck to everyone working the event this week. A lot goes into this thing from all sides. Good luck to the families who will be stressed to the max as they watch their loved ones vie for the title. And good luck to the fans that make the pilgrimage to see the Classic first hand. This is going to be a good one.