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Soft Plastic Bait Storage | Finding A Method To The Madness

So we’ve talked recently about terminal tackle storage and storing hard baits.

But what about soft plastics? 

Well I’ve done a few different things over the years. I’ve tried putting a bunch of baits in their original packaging into big ziplock bags. I’ve tried making one big bulk bag of baits by dumping several packs into a gallon ziplock bag. I’ve tried deep well tackle boxes and other plastic containers. 

And I honestly like a little bit of it all. My preferred method, though, is to leave the baits in their original packaging and then put those in plastic bins.

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Soft Plastic Bait Storage: 3 Reasons to Keep Baits in Their Package 

  1. It seems to help preserve the baits a little longer. 
  2. For baits that come in a harder shell type packaging, it keeps them true to form better than if they were just dumped in a big pile. 
  3. It’s easier when fishing to take a pack out and keep it in my pocket for the day.

Soft Plastic Bait Storage: Don’t Break The Bank

My soft plastic storage was in need of a facelift recently. I looked around online and found some fancy options, even a $40 box for soft plastics. Now I’ll splurge on storage in a few areas where rust and corrosion are big issues, though I’ve never known a soft plastic bait to rust… and I’d need a dozen or so of these boxes to accommodate all of my soft plastics.

So I had to get a little thrifty.

I took the measurements of a pack of MISSILE Baits D-Bombs and poked around on Amazon. I found a 10 pack of stackable plastic bins with decent looking latches for $30. Score. I ordered those and I have been pretty pleased so far. 

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I’ve had some bins similar to these in the past but the lids just kind of snapped on and didn’t have latches. So they would inevitably pop off at random times in the boat or when I’d go to pick them up. Also, their walls had a slight angle to them so the packs didn’t really fit very well.

However, these new boxes are perfect for a lot of the standard packaged baits. And I really like that they’re lightweight, since the added weight of a lot of soft plastics in the boat is already problem enough. 

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They also hold my frogs perfectly in their original packaging. Side note: the frogs still in their packs actually create little compartments for me to drop some of the ones I’ve already used into. 

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Soft Plastic Bait Storage: Labels, Labels, Labels

When it comes to labeling the boxes so I know what’s where, I like to take clear tape and put down a base layer on the lid. Then I’ll take a sharpie and write on that tape so that if I ever want to change it I can just peel that tape off. And to keep the writing from smearing or wearing off over time, I put a second layer of tape over the first layer with the writing on it. 

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What’s nice about keeping my baits stored this way is that it’s very easy to minimize what I take in the boat on each outing. 

For instance, when it’s January in central Alabama, I know I won’t be needing my popping frog or walking frog boxes and I can just pull those out of the boat and stick them on the shelf. And when it is time to frog, I won’t spend an hour looking for them only finding a few here and there. 

This organization scheme is really beneficial when it comes to knowing what I have and where it is. I can quickly check my inventory to know what I need to order. 

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And for the money, you can’t beat it. Give it a try if you’re in need of a soft plastic bait storage solution.

Terminal Tackle Storage on a Budget with Shaye Baker

Organizing tackle and dealing with terminal tackle storage is about as much fun as fishing, especially in the wintertime. 

And it’s really the only thing close to fishing some of my northern brethren can do this time of year — short of sitting on a bucket over a hole in the ice

There are more companies designing products for tackle storage now than ever before. Back in the day you just had the Plano tackle box. And though I later found out the boxes were named after the town they were built in, for the longest time I thought it was just a play on words — plain old tackle box. 

But ‘plain’ hardly describes their products or 90% of the others out there these days. 

There are boxes with LED lights and no-slip material in them to keep baits in place like Lure Lock. There are boxes with rust inhibitors built into the dividers like those offered by Flambeau. And there are even some tough enough to drive a truck over, as you can see in the ads for Bass Mafia.

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Terminal Tackle Storage: Penny Pinching Pointers

If you’ve got the money, there’s something awesome out there now to store just about anything in. But if you’re living life on a budget, there are a few little tricks.

First, take a stroll down the Tupperware isle at Walmart or the toolbox isle at Home Depot. You’ll find lots of great options there at half the price, especially when looking for something to hold packs of soft plastics that don’t need to be in water tight boxes. And there are discount stores like Harbor Freight and Mike’s Merchandise that will have containers like this even cheaper. 

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When it comes to terminal tackle, there are some pretty cool boxes built for nuts and bolts that will actually accommodate hooks and weights too. I bought a Flambeau box that I like a lot for terminal tackle but since then I found what is basically the same box in yellow at Harbor Freight for $3 less. 

Terminal Tackle Storage: Here’s What I Did

The main cavity of the box holds several smaller trays that can be organized anyway you like and can be taken in and out individually. So, if you’re having a hard time fishing out a particular weight from one of the trays, you can just pluck that one out and dump it on the deck. To take that a step further, I actually found some little plastic boxes from Harbor Freight that fit three to a tray.

With these little containers, I can have 3 different sized dropshot weights in one tray, but still keep them separate. To make the containers easier to extract from the tray, I simply stuck a piece of tape to the backs of the containers and then doubled them over to create a pull tab.

The little containers are clear, but if you want to know exactly what’s in them without pulling them out, simply take a Sharpie and label each box. 

The box won’t accommodate the packaging that most hooks come in, but I didn’t just want to dump the hooks into a tray and have a jumbled up mess. So I took some little blocks of foam and buried the hook points in them so that anytime I need a hook, I can just pull one from the block. 

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Terminal Tackle Storage: Now It’s Your Turn

You can put a system like this together for about $10 and have hundreds of dollars worth of terminal tackle neat and organized the next time you go looking for something. I only keep a couple days supply in this box, but the way I have it laid out, I can do a quick inventory and restock from my larger stash at any time. 

This has been a very efficient system for me so far, so give it a try if you’re in need of a little better terminal tackle storage system yourself.

Preparing for a Bass Fishing Tournament | Co-Angler Techniques & Mentality

As co-anglers, there’s really not too many tips and tricks articles out there for us to dive in on. What’s crazy about that is the fact that there are tens of thousands of us out there that fish competitively as weekend warriors almost every weekend of the season… we just do it from the back of the boat.

With that in mind, I’m going to break down how I prepare myself for a big tournament as a co-angler. I’ll cover how to select what techniques to use, how to select the baits to bring along, and some mental preparation you’ll need to be successful.

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Selecting Techniques as a Co-Angler

When selecting what techniques to use, the first thing you should do is determine what part of the season the tournament is in. Will the tournament take place in the pre-spawn, spawn, post-spawn, late summer/early fall, fall, or winter? 

Once you determine that, think about what technique you’re most confident in during that time of year… personally, I will usually have at least three

Most of the time my most confident techniques are dropshot, crankbait or jerkbait, and a chatterbait. I will then figure out a couple more techniques that could come into play such as topwater, Carolina rig, Texas rig, or a jig. I will then base those colors solely on the forage in the body of water.

Selecting Baits and Colors as a Co-Angler

I will do whatever I can to determine what the water clarity of the fishery is prior to rigging. I usually start looking into this pretty heavy the week before the tournament. Watch the rain forecast, if there’s a lot of rain, prepare for less water clarity. It also helps to look at the bottom composition for that body of water, that information can usually be found by doing some digging online. 

Once I have determined the clarity, I will then look into what the forage is at that fishery. I can determine this by searching the internet for fishing reports and/or searching the fisheries forage (what shad are in lake (fill in the blank) or what color crawfish are in lake (fill in the blank?) this usually will give me an idea of what to baits use, as well as colors.

When selecting colors, take into consideration what the water clarity is. For fisheries that have clear water to slightly stained water, match the hatch

If you’re going to a fishery that has stained to muddy water, focus on reaction baits and baits that have more of a dark color pattern.

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Mental Preparation as a Co-Angler

Mental preparation is just as important if not more important than rigging up your rods for the tournament. Try to get your rods rigged up a few days prior to the tournament at the latest, so you can mentally prepare during the last few days leading up to the tournament. 

How do you mentally prepare yourself? 

Think of situations you may encounter such as the cover or structure you’ll be fishing and ask yourself;

What will I use? 

How will I fish it? 

Will I go fast or slow? 

What if my boater is going too fast or slow, how will I adapt? 

What if my boater is paralleling the bank what will I do to be the most efficient? 

What will you do if you get to your first spot and the water color is different than you thought, what will you tie on?

These are all questions I ask myself throughout the few days prior to the tournament. Some may say that’s too much thought prior to the tournament, but I am actually preparing myself for situations that I have encountered in the past and did not make good decisions. I play these scenarios over and over in my head so if or when it happens on tournament day I am ready for it and will make a good decision as well as be confident in the decision I am making.

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No matter what scenario you find yourself facing, remember to keep a positive mental attitude and remember why you fish… enjoy your time on the water, it’ll help you fish more freely and focused.

5 Cold Water Cranking Questions with Kevin VanDam

Featured Image Credit: Alan McGuckin of Major League Fishing

Wondering how the pros use their crankbaits when the water gets cold? Well, I was curious too, so I caught up with Kevin VanDam to ask him. Here’s my top 5 questions and what he told me.

How deep do you fish a crankbait in cold, muddy water with current? 

“When the water gets muddy, fish go shallow. That’s what I look for. You can throw up in 2-feet of water and they’re there. Especially when they’re running a lot of water. It’s not like the water is warmer out deeper or anything like that.”

“I’ve caught them super shallow at times in river situations when it’s cold. They get right up against the bank to get out of the current. But I have caught fish 10-feet deep too. It’s all about finding that spot where they can setup close to current but not be in the current, where there’s going to be food coming by them and they can ambush it as it’s rolling by. It’s more about the structural element than it is anything else in that situation.”

Do you pay attention to how the hooks are oriented when you change hooks on a crankbait? 

“With fussy baits like the Lucky Shad you want to make sure the hooks are laying up against the bait without the split ring twisted. The bait should lay in the V of two of the hooks with the third hook of the treble pointed down.”

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Do you use slower gear ratio reels? 

“For me, personally, I would over fish the bait if I threw it on a 6.5:1 or something like that. A reel in the 5:1 range is ideal for me. It just helps force me to slow down a bit. I like something that takes in about 24-inches per turn when you crank it. And I’ve always used a reel with a larger spool for cranking just to get the extra distance on the cast.”

What type of rod do you prefer? 

“I throw a composite rod for cranking. I’ve used straight fiberglass before and I’ve tried graphite. Graphite rods are not very forgiving when it comes to cold water fish, especially when landing them. So it’s very important to me to have that perfect balance between the two.” 

“The way composite rods load and unload, you can actually throw them a lot farther. And their softer action allows the bait to deflect off cover better. When the bait hits the cover, the rod doesn’t immediately snap back like a granite rod does. So you’re not getting hung up as much and the fish gets the bait deeper.”

“Having a rod that’s comfortable to throw is also important, especially in freezing conditions. And you certainly don’t want micro guides or anything like that because they’re going to freeze up fast.”

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When do you use the bigger 4.0 and 8.0 squarebills? 

“The big baits are basically when you’re looking for a big profile offering, typically in places that have a lot of big fish or in warmer water scenarios. Places where the bass target gizzard shad and big bluegills, that’s when I use the big 8.0 and the 4.0.”

“Early in the fall is the time when a big squarebill is good. If you think about it, the foliage is at its biggest in the fall. It’s had all season to grow. But I don’t use bigger baits a lot in the winter time.”

How to Rig a Worm | 3 Weird Ways to Rig a Worm with Shaye Baker

A couple years ago when MISSLE Baits introduced The 48 worm, they decided to put together a video series called 48 Ways to Rig a Worm.

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So, naturally when you’re trying to come up with 48 different ways to rig a worm, you’re going to be splitting hairs at times and you’re going to have to get pretty creative. 

I sent in a few contributions and thought it would be worth sharing since they were kinda weird. But I caught fish on all three so I must have done something right. Here they are, listed in order of effectiveness. 

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How to Rig a Worm: The Double Shot

I remember watching Scott Canterbury fish this rig at the Forrest Wood Cup several years ago. I’m not sure what he called it or what it’s called by others, but double shot sounds pretty descriptive. 

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This one is fairly simple to rig. 

Just go about rigging a dropshot but instead of putting a weight at the end of your tagline, tie on a shaky head and add another worm. 

You’ll want to leave a little longer leader than normal so that you have enough line to tie your shaky head on. And you can leave a much longer leader if you’d like. That’ll let you fish the bottom as well as 3 or 4 feet up into the cover if you’d like. 

What was really interesting about this rig was that I actually caught more of my fish on the shaky head than I did the dropshot worm. Now I’ve only fished this rig one day, and it may have just been the day. But for whatever reason most of my bites came on the lower bait.

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How to Rig a Worm: The Free Rig

The free rig is actually a pretty neat little deal to fish around vegetation.

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You simply take a bell sinker and run your line through it. Then, you tie on your preferred hook for whatever soft plastic you plan to rig up. 

Once you’ve added the hook and soft plastic, you’ll see that the weight can move freely up and down the line. So it works kind of like a Carolina rig, but it weighs less. And there’s no leader, so the weight can come all the way to the nose of the bait, then slide back up the line and let the bait float and wash around at times. 

How to Rig a Worm: The X Rig

I spawned the X rig out of necessity when trying to come up with 48 different rigs. I simply tied on a Whacky Jig Head, took two of The 48 worms and put o-rings on them and then put them both on the hook whacky style to form an X. 

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I’ll admit, I don’t know the advantage to this rig, if any at all. 

And it is quite a mouthful of soft plastic. Which concerned me in regards to the hookset should a fish try to eat it. But I quickly put one in the boat with this little rig and then moved on to another. 

Give These a Try!

So there you have it, three weird ways to rig a worm. 

If you get bored with the same ole same ole, give one of these a go. I caught fish using all three. It might be worth the experimentation. Let me know if you find success with any of them!

Using the Right Crankbait Treble Hooks | Kevin VanDam Breaks It Down

Featured Image Credit: William Redmond | Mustad

Not one individual on this earth has spent more time with a crankbait in his hand than Kevin VanDam. 

He’s helped design some of the most effective crankbaits of all time and shaped and molded the technique of crankbait fishing in countless other ways.

One such innovation is his signature Mustad Triple Grip Treble Hooks

“I change the hooks to those Mustad Triple Grips on just about everything,” VanDam said. “Topwater baits and all. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, spotted bass, smallmouth, 10-pound largemouth or whatever, there is no situation where there’s a better hook.”

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Crankbait Treble Hooks: Years In Development

KVD spent years testing and tinkering with different crankbait treble hooks in the development process.

He found that lighter wire, round bend hooks would often flex under pressure, absorbing some of the force of the hookset. That would also prevent the hook point from making a quick and clean entry into the fish. 

“Those Mustad Triple Grips don’t flex. I can fish them on heavy line, smallmouth and spots don’t tear them up and I know my strike-to-land ratio is going to be the best it possibly can with that design,” he said.

The importance of choosing the right treble hook is something that VanDam has stressed for years.

Having won literally millions of dollars using these hooks, it’s safe to say he knows what he’s talking about. Image Credit: William Redmond | Mustad

 I’ve seen the knockoffs and they’re just not the same. Mustad’s Ultra Point is so durable if you’re grinding the gravel and zebra mussels. Those points don’t roll and they don’t bend over. They hold up better to rough cover than any other hook.

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Crankbait Treble Hooks: Does Size Matter?

Yes.

These hooks are shorter than those offered by other brands but maintain the same hook size relative to the gap of the hook. This allows VanDam to upsize his hooks when possible without the hooks hanging on one another or hanging on passing cover. 

“They’re more compact but with a bigger bite because they’re extra, extra short. Even on small baits I can put on what is an oversized treble for that bait and really up my strike-to-land ratio.”

Since the hooks are made from a heavier wire, they weigh a little more than most other hooks. This added weight actually works to a crankbaits advantage. 

But you have to be careful. 

“Certain baits, balance-wise, you’ve got to be careful about putting too big of a hook on,” he said. “But for most crankbaits, especially the wide wobbling ones like the Series 4 and 1.5, the added weight of those hooks enhances the action of the bait.”

VanDam doesn’t want the bait to come straight back to the boat while he’s reeling it in. Instead he wants the bait to behave erratically, to ‘hunt’.

“I can see the difference of how those baits act with those hooks on there with my own eyes. I want the bait to search and hunt and not be perfect. That’s what’s in nature and what the bass are looking for.”

Replacing the light-wire, round-bend treble hooks that come standard on most crankbaits may not seem like that big of a deal to you. But for the man that has spent his whole life perfecting his cranking system, it’s imperative. 

So take the time to try this tip on for size and see if you can tell the difference.

Shop Mustad Triple Grip Treble Hooks

Blade Bait Fishing | The Perfect Cold Water Bait

Everyone is talking about the blade bait these days.

Or at least it seems that way. 

Apparently one of the most effective baits of all time when it comes to near freezing water temps, the blade bait is all the rage right now. I personally have little to no experience with it and wanted to know what the craze was all about so I called on my buddy and smallmouth guru Ben Nowak to shed a little light. 

“It’s not the most exciting way to fish, but it catches a lot,” he said. “And I can throw it all the way up til there’s ice on the water.”

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Why the Blade Bait is so Effective

The later we get into the winter, the colder the water gets and the slower the bite tends to be. So to be able to fish a moving bait, no matter how slow it’s moving, certainly has some appeal to it. 

“It’s almost like fishing a jig. I mainly cast it myself and rarely fish it vertical. I like to keep the bait within a foot or two of the bottom and just drag it or slow hop it,” Nowak said.

The presentation is also a lot like slowly fishing a lipless crankbait on the bottom, but the blade bait offers up a couple advantages to the trap. One, the bait sinks a lot faster allowing it to be fished deeper more efficiently. And it also has a tighter action. 

But there are certain times where Nowak will lean towards the lipless crankbait

“If I get in really dirty water I’ll go to the lipless crankbait because of the rattles,” he said. “Or I’ll change the color of my blade bait. My predominant colors are silver or white. And then if I get in really dirty water I’ll go with a chartreuse or gold blade.”

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Nowak’s Blade Bait Gear

The gear Nowak uses is a little unorthodox compared to the bigger, stiffer baitcasting rods and heavier line used by a lot of anglers throwing a blade bait, but there’s a reason for it all. 

“I throw a blade bait on a spinning rod all the way up to 5/8ths of an ounce and I don’t throw over a 5/8ths. A 7-foot medium fast or extra fast spinning rod with 15-pound test braid and an 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.”

Nowak prefers spinning gear because it allows him to throw lighter line. He prefers lighter line because it’s more effective at starting the bait’s action. 

“A lot of guys are going to fish it on a baitcaster with 15- or 17- pound fluorocarbon and the blade bait just doesn’t start as fast once you’ve let it sink to the bottom with that setup as it does when you fish it on lighter line.”

There’s More to His Blade Bait Setup!

His unorthodox choices in gear don’t stop there.

“The other big thing is a really long leader on that spinning rod, like a 30-foot leader. I actually prefer a longer leader like this on all my spinning gear.”

The reasoning here is a little complex, but sound. Nowak explains that with a shorter, say 6- to 10-foot leader, you’re going to have issues where you shock your leader and you’re going to break off.

“Fishing a longer leader lets that fluorocarbon absorb the shock of a hookset but it actually lets you cast a lot further too. Think of how your line comes out of a spinning rod. When your connection knot hits that choker guide, it slows the line down coming out of the reel.”

As the knot catches the guide, the momentum of the braid behind it continues to push the line out while the leader line that has already passed the guide begins to slow down.

“Your braid catches up to the fluorocarbon and ends up tangling around your connection knot. With a longer leader, your line basically has more momentum coming out of the reel before your connection knot hits that choker guide and it comes out a lot cleaner.”

One thing’s for certain, fishing in near freezing waters often makes for a long day with little action. A blade bait may very well be the magic bullet you need to fire in the direction of deep, lethargic bass this winter. 

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There’s only one way to find out.

Kayak Motors | Adding a Trolling Motor to My Kayak Saved My Marriage

Now obviously being a 33-year-old bachelor, I’m not talking about saving my literal marriage. I’m talking about my marriage to kayak fishing. Though I could definitely see the advantages of coming home to your spouse not worn out from paddling all day. 

But babe, I had no choice once I paddled so far but to turn around and paddle back.” doesn’t sound like a great excuse for missing dinner reservations. 

For me, it was more about longevity in this sport. If I wanted to commit to kayak fishing for the long haul, there had to be more than a paddle involved. 

I like paddling. I like the exercise — and need it. But I can see a lot of joint pain and wear and tear on my body in the long run if I had to paddle every stroke of the way. In addition, competing in KBF events and other tournaments with just a paddle puts you at a massive disadvantage on some fisheries. For me, there needed to be some energy source for propulsion other than calories.

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Kayak Motors | Adding a Motor… DIY Style

So, I decided to add a trolling motor to the Bonafide SS127 I borrowed from my buddy Scott Beutjer. My uncle just happened to have an old Minn Kota hand controlled trolling motor that would barely slip through the hole in the SS127 where the pod usually is. 

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I needed some way of mounting the trolling motor, so I screwed a couple of pieces of wood together to help keep it upright and then I was ready to shove off and test it out. 

My biggest concern was not being able to steer the kayak well with the motor being towards the middle of the boat and not on the front or back where most motors are mounted.

I quickly found that, though the boat was harder to turn with the motor in the middle, I could still move it in the right direction by exaggerating the degree to which I turned it. 

Having a motor definitely made the fishing more enjoyable. I only fished a couple of hours but quickly found a few benefits.

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Kayak Motors | The Benefits of Having a Motor

Beating The Wind

I was able to combat the wind far better. Without a motor, I’d often have to stop fishing mid cast to pick up the paddle and turn or back the boat up to keep from getting on top of what I was trying to fish. 

Pulled By Fish

The motor solved a similar problem that would occur when I’d hook a fish and be pulled by that fish into the cover. With the motor, I was able turn it on, with one hand still on the rod, and quickly move the other hand back to the rod. 

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That way I was backing away from the cover while I brought the fish out of it. 

Better Mobility

I also found that I was able to move around a lot more, although that ability could be a hindrance from time to time. One of the things I have liked most so far about kayak fishing is that you’re forced to slow down and fish what’s in front of you. Still, having the ability to quickly motor into a pocket to get out of the wind or skip a shady bank in pursuit of a sunny one is a definite advantage. 

Kayak Motors | Some Final Thoughts

There were a couple of negatives that I also noticed. You lose a little bit of stealth due to the added noise, but you can always just pick the paddle back up in situations where you need to be a little quieter. You’re also not able to go quite as shallow due to the motor and prop below the boat and the added weight of the motor and battery.

But overall, I definitely enjoy having a motor on the kayak. I don’t see the need to take a motor with me on every outing, but having one in bigger water or windier conditions is a huge benefit.

Late Season Buzzbait Fishing | When Does The Water Get Too Cold?

In the south, we all too often bail on the topwater bite after waking up to frost on our vehicles for the first time. As anglers, we have a tendency to fish the air temperatures and not the water temperatures. In the spring, a warm sunny day will have us burning baits back to the boat when the water temps are in the ‘40s and the fish are still in a slow roll mood. In the early winter, our need for coveralls and toboggans will have us crawling baits through water that’s still in the mid-’50s, not considering buzzbait fishing.

The truth is, it takes several consecutive days of cold or warm air temps to really get the mercury moving in either direction relative to water temps. So you need to really focus on what the fish are feeling and not what you’re feeling. Bass will still bite a topwater bait when the water temperatures are in the mid-’50s. 

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I even caught a 6-pounder in a club tournament once on a Stanley Ribbit in 49-degree water.

Though I would not recommend pursuing a topwater bite when the water is that cold. I shouldn’t have been that day. But I had caught a 3- and 4-pounder the weekend prior during practice on the Ribbit. We had a massive cold front leading up to the tournament and the water temps plummeted from the mid-’50s to upper ‘40s. Still, nothing else was working for me the day of the tournament so, against my better judgment, I picked up the Ribbit and was pleasantly surprised.

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Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Slow Roll or Bust

The point is, fish will still bite a topwater even when we don’t think they will. A buzzbait is one of the best topwater baits for this timeframe. To get bit buzzbait fishing in colder water, you’re going to want to really crawl the bait along. Hold your rod tip up a bit and fish the bait as slow as you can while still keeping it up on the surface. 

I’ve caught fish on both 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce buzzbaits this time of year. The 1/4-ounce buzzbait is a little easier to fish slow and better mimics shad if you’re around an abundance of bait. But if I’m not around a lot of bait, I prefer the slow, deep chug of a 1/2-ounce buzzbait in cold water.

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Late Season Buzzbait Fishing: Conditions to Look For

There seems to be some correlation to sunny days and catching fish on a buzzbait for me personally, but I honestly think that’s probably a false positive due to the tendency I mentioned earlier. I’m guilty as well of not even considering buzzbait fishing on a brutally cold winter day. 

There are also some sunny winter days where a buzzbait is pointless since the water temps have already plummeted deep into the ‘40s. However, 3 or 4 consecutive sunny days in a row can bring the water temps back up into the ‘50s as long as there aren’t disastrously low temps at night between those sunny days. 

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So on the tail end of a trend like that, be ready to break a buzzbait back out. 

Warm rains can also raise the water temps here in the south. And shallow water is the quickest to change temperature due to the multiple days of sunshine or rain. So if you find yourself in a situation where your body is telling you no but the temp on your graph is telling you yeah, just try it out. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

How to Flip and Pitch Bushes in Cold, Muddy Water

Let’s dive in to how to flip and pitch bushes. This is something I haven’t done a lot, but when I do it, I’m apt to catch a big one. Flipping bushes is a dangerous game to play if you’re an emotionally unstable person. There’s a good chance throughout the course of a day that you’ll get hung up a couple of dozen times and, when the eventual big bite comes, about a 50/50 shot you’ll see her but never touch her. 

That’s when a person less in control of their emotions might string together a tapestry of obscenities that would make Ralphie’s dad from a Christmas Story blush. But that’s not me… no, I would never. 

The fact of the matter is, this style of fishing is grueling and tedious. You need to be accurate and thorough. Patient. But it is an effective way to get a big bite, especially in shallow, cold and muddy water.

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How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: What Conditions to Look For

Typically, given this set of conditions, I prefer to throw a square bill or spinnerbait. That’s because I like to keep a bait moving, even if it’s moving very slowly, both to help the fish track the bait from the constant vibration and to allow me to cover water a little quicker. However, these two baits are also better suited for horizontal cover: laydowns, seawalls, riprap, etc. 

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For more isolated targets like bushes and sometimes even stumps, I will slow down and pick them apart with either a jig or a soft plastic pitching setup. 

Overhanging bushes are hard to fish, especially in the wintertime, since the fish will often bury up in the middle of them and under them. Those fish are extremity lethargic in cold water and not typically willing to rush out and attack a passing spinnerbait or square bill. So you need to go in and dig them out.

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How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: The Similarities to Punching

That’s where you can draw a lot of parallels between this style of fishing and punching. The gear isn’t quite as heavy. Where I use 1&1/2-ounce tungsten, a 7’ 8” Fitzgerald Big Jig/Heavy Mat Flipping Rod and 65-pound test Sufix 832 braid to punch, I’ll go with a 7’ 6” Heavy Vursa rod, 50-pound Sufix 832 braid, and a 3/4-ounce bait. But the reel is the same with a Lew’s Super Duty and a lot of the basic principles apply to how you target fish. 

Sure, when I’m punching we’re talking about hyacinth, hydrilla, or some other matted vegetation. Obviously, with flipping bushes, there is rarely any of that. But you can still treat the bank like a line of vegetation and the particularly thicker bushes over a little deeper water like the mats. 

Those are the higher percentage areas and should get the majority of the focus. 

Similar to when you’re punching vegetation, you don’t want to dob the bait all around the edges first. That will just distract the fish or likely draw them away from the sweet spot. No, you want to go dead center right out of the gate. That’s the best way to surprise the fish and get a reaction strike. 

The same basic principle holds true when learning how to flip and pitch bushes. Try to put the bait right in the middle of the bush, or as best you can while still leaving a reasonably good exit strategy. Then I’ll yo-yo the bait a few times the same as when I’m punching. Only then will I toss the bait around a bit in some of the less probable places or perhaps even further back into the cover from time to time. 

When you get bit, be sure to keep pressure on the fish. It’s best not to hammer them on the hookset, the same as punching. This will give you a better chance to start the fish out of the cover before he even knows what’s happening. And it will prevent the braid from cutting down into the wood like it did here on this fish catch. 

How to Flip and Pitch Bushes: Using Fluorocarbon Instead of Braid

Another tip to prevent that, use heavy fluorocarbon instead of braid. This tip comes from Brandon Palaniuk and is advice that you should definitely consider. Again, I don’t fish this way often but I do know that a lot of anglers who regularly fish bushes prefer the heavier fluorocarbon to the braid for the fact that it doesn’t cut into the wood as bad. Often times these fisheries are also clearer than what I’m focusing on in this article, so the fluorocarbon is less visible too. 

I’m a braid guy. That doesn’t mean I’m right though. I’m just stubborn and that is what I’m most comfortable with. But as you can see from that video, braid and poor hookset technique nearly botched that fish catch for me. 

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But the proper technique is a lot easier to talk about than employ when a 5-pounder rocks your jig. 

Still, do as I say and not as I do. It’ll likely be better for you in the long run.