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A Few Tips for the Hearty Smallmouth Bass Angler

Editor’s Note: This week, we turn to TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney for a few tips on fishing for late-fall smallmouth bass. Enjoy.

When the water drops below 50 degrees, it’s the best time to down-size your presentation for consistent rod action throughout the day. In central and northern New York, our waters are running 46, 47 degrees, and when other power presentations fail to produce, light line and small baits will get you bit day in and day out.

This past Friday my bass tournament teammate (Mike Cusano) and I fished Oneida Lake with the TFO Professional Series TFG PSS 703-1 paired with 5.1:1 spinning reels loaded with 4 or 6-pound test to present 2.8 and 3-inch Keitech swimbaits on 1/8 or 3/16-ounce jig heads.

Our best presentation was a long-distance cast with a slow steady retrieve. We wanted our baits to imitate the small size forage base of perch and shad, and these little swimbaits baits work perfectly for this application.

Often times in tournament fishing we hear anglers talk about employing a stop-and-go retrieve to help generate strikes. However, when it comes to cold water bassin’ I believe a slow steady retrieve works best especially for smallmouth. My theory: Since the water is colder, the fish usually react a bit slower. If they can find forage in open water that’s slowing passing by, they’re going to hit it nine times out of ten rather than let it go.

We employed this presentation with good results on a recent Friday and knew we could duplicate it on Sunday in the 2018 Brian Rayle Go Anywhere Tournament on Oneida Lake. During the tournament we landed 35 bass and 20 perch, with our five best bass weighing 21.31 pounds, which beat the second-place team by more than a 2-pound margin.

A lot of anglers put their boats away once the late fall hunting starts, and when they do, they leave behind some of the best smallmouth bass fishing of the season.

So the moral of this story is the next time you find yourself surrounded by cold-water smallmouth bass, in gin clear water, make sure you have a TFO Professional Series TFG PSS 703-1 rod paired with a 5.1:1 reel loaded with 4-6 lb. test and a handful of small swimbaits with 1/8 or 3/16th oz. jig heads.

Trust me on this one, you’ll be glad you’re properly geared up to enjoy all-day rod action.

Additional thoughts on smallmouth tactics? Let us know on one of our social media pages.

Lefty Kreh Honored for a Lifetime of Influence

Lefty is No. 1.

So says the editorial staff of Fly Fisherman Magazine, which compiled a list of the 50 most influential anglers of the past five decades and placed TFO’s Bernard ‘Lefty’ Kreh at the top of the heap.

“Absolutely, he deserves to be No. 1 on that list,” fellow TFO advisor Rob Fordyce said. “I never saw Lefty seek (that type of attention). He was a very humble guy. He was Lefty being Lefty enjoying teaching women and children to fly fish for the most part as well as tens of thousands of others. I think it was deserving, but I don’t think he would have (cared) about it.”

Kreh, a long-time TFO advisor until his passing last spring, was followed by Joe Brooks, John Voelker, Tom Rosenbauer, Lee and Joan Wulff, Dave Whitlock, Cathy & Barry Beck,  John Randolph, Nick Lyons and Ernest Schwiebert to round out the top ten. However, fly-fishing’s premier ambassador would have bristled at the notion of such a pecking order.

“I think Lefty would have, first of all, resented the list,” said TFO advisor Flip Pallot, who was a close friend of Kreh’s. “It was a silly endeavor. All you had to do was look at that list to know how silly it was. Lefty was the guy who didn’t want to be in the IGFA Hall of Fame, who didn’t want anyone to do anything special for him. I think that list would have gotten a laugh and chuckle out of him, and he would have kept right on going.”

Pallot, for what it’s worth, cracked the list at No. 16. The popular host of Walker’s Cay Chronicles said he found out about the honor from a congratulatory text message.

“I had no idea, so I forgot about it,” Pallot said. “Then someone else said something. I knew there had to be a list somewhere. I proudly followed in Lefty’s footsteps and ignored the list. Lefty was very fond of saying that a piece of paper will sit there and let you write anything you want to on it. It was someone who made a list, and that was that.”

For the record, TFO placed two other anglers on the top 50, fly tyer/guide Blane Chocklett (27), who invented the Game Changer fly; and noted fly-casting author/instructor Ed Jaworowski (39), who teamed up with Kreh to produce The Complete Cast, now available through TFO. Chocklett and Jaworowski are members of TFO’s national advisory staff.

“I think it’s cool,” TFO chairman Rick Pope said. “But, I didn’t need that list to tell me the (TFO) people on the list are more than worthy. All our Advisory Staff share certain personality qualities — humility, a desire to teach and, needless to say, pride in their knowledge and ability with a fly rod.  Lefty exhibited the best of these traits, and I’m sure that most all named would feel the same as Flip and Rob.”

Anytime a list is compiled that honors the elite of any profession, someone will be slighted. The most obvious omission: TFO’s Bob Clouser, the inventor of the Clouser Minnow.

“For them to miss Bob Clouser tells you how well vetted (the list) was,” Pope said. “I think the Clouser Minnow is the most widely fished fly in the universe.”

Best-of lists are not always journalistically bulletproof, but one thing’s for sure, they create controversy and, in turn, attention.

Thoughts on Fly Fisherman’s list? Let us know what your opinions on one of our social media pages.

Casting Carolinas Gives Cancer Survivors Hope

Cancer.

It’s everywhere. And it affects everyone.

In 2018, 1.7 million Americans will contract some form of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 600,000 will die from it.

“Cancer is evil,” TFO advisor Wanda Taylor said. “We detest it.”

Science can help prevent cancer. Compassion can help those who are fortunate enough to survive it.

It’s the main reason Taylor helped start Casting Carolinas, an organization in North and South Carolina that helps women’s cancer survivors cope. Taylor and other anglers gathered in the Western North Carolina Mountains last weekend to host the Tie-One-On Challenge, a fly-fishing team tournament and CC fund-raiser. Also on hand at the Cherokee, N.C. affair was Starr Nolan, CC’s executive director, who was assisted by a slew of volunteers, who braved high water and a wave of cold rain to pitch in during the two-day event.

“My father died from lung cancer,” Taylor said. “Starr had a close friend die from cancer. We wanted a way to fight back. This is our way to fight back. When you find out you have cancer, your world stops. We wanted a way to stop that. That’s basically it. It’s not just one cancer. We have 17 different kinds on our retreats. When it all comes together, it’s like a posse. Everyone says, ‘thanks for giving your time. You’re so patient.’ They have no idea how much it helps us. It helps me to know my dad didn’t die in vain. There are people out there surviving. Each year we have earlier detection. That’s key for the healing of cancer.”

Nolan and Taylor were both involved in Casting for Recovery, a non profit that provides fly-fishing therapy for breast cancer survivors, but decided several years ago to start Casting Carolinas, which is independent of any national oversight and welcomes women who have faced all forms of cancer.

“We wanted every dime donated, every dollar, every hundred-thousand dollars donated to stay in state,” Taylor said.

The goal of Casting Carolinas is to provide education and support for women who have survived cancer. Part of the weekend retreats is fly fishing. Taylor, a member of Southern Appalachians Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, has served as one of the instructors.

“You can’t think about anything else when you’re fly fishing,” Taylor said. “When you’re casting toward fish, your world is focused on that. You can’t think about chemo. You can’t think about dying or radiation. The brain needs a vacation, a huge vacation. They’re so giddy, whether they hook a fish or not, just from being in the water, they’re so refreshed. When they come in, they’re so beaten down. When they leave, they’re so refreshed. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

Nolan stressed that CC’s mission is much more than fly fishing, but nevertheless its impact is undeniable, particularly when it comes to creating confidence.

“They get to the end of the retreat and it’s like, ‘Wow. Success,’ which is a big rush,” Nolan said. “Part of healing from anything is having successful experiences, maybe doing something that you never thought you could do.”

Taylor has assisted with cancer-survival retreats since the early 2000s. She sees no reason to curb her commitment.

“For me, it’s a passion I have bringing other people into the sport of fly fishing,” she said. “I love fly fishing. I dream of fly fishing. I just think I get a joy of bringing new people into the sport. What we teach our staff is, this is never about you. It’s always about someone else. In any volunteer organization, that’s the bottom line. If you’re doing it for any other reason, for fame, for notoriety, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

And CC would not have thrived without Taylor’s expertise and enthusiasm.

“Her heart is in it,” Nolan said. “That’s what moves non-profit organizations along is having people who are so devoted in terms of understanding the vision from a heart place. That’s been Wanda all along. She’s always been there. She’s always been there and supportive, available and part of the vision. We could not replace her.”

Every non profit needs resources, and TFO, through Taylor, has donated rods and reels for retreat participants to use. Taylor and other TFO advisors developed several series of rods as a tribute to various charitable organizations, including Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters and Reel Recovery.

“People have such big hearts,” Taylor said. “(TFO) loves creating new anglers, whether they’re missing their arm or leg or part of a breast. If they have a passion for it, (TFO) will find a way to help.”

Thoughts on Casting Carolinas or other fly-fishing related charities? Feel free to chime in on one of TFO’s social media pages.

Lessons Learned While Learning to Row

Nearly 25 years ago, I had visions of being a fly-fishing guide. I went to the Western Rivers Guide School and did well. I could cast. I could read the water. I knew the bugs. I thought I had the curriculum wired.

Until I tried to row a drift boat.

And it was brutal. I could not stay out of the rocks or the bushes. Bow? Stern? Left? Right? Backward? Forward? I was lost.

In retrospect, my struggles were entirely understandable. I learned how to fly fish in the mountains of Virginia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Very few, if any southerners, used a raft or drift boat back in those days. Freshwater fly fishing by boat was a Western trend.

I never got back on the sticks after guide school. What little guiding I did was on foot.

Fast forward to this past summer. I made the move from the Florida salt to the North Carolina mountains, where drift boats and rafts are now common.

So I decided to buy a Flycraft, a small, portable two-man raft that arrived on the fly-fishing landscape a few years ago. I had the hot new toy, but could I steer it?

I took the new raft for a spin for the first time yesterday. It was far from smooth, but I felt comfortable for stretches of water. Here’s what I learned.  

Take it Slow

Baby steps. We all need them. The first time I took my raft out I rowed on a lake. The main thing you want do early on is trouble shoot potential problems and I, for one, am glad I did. My oar locks weren’t set up correctly. It wasn’t a big problem on a calm pond. On a crowded river, such a misstep would have been disastrous.

While you’re evaluating your boat, get used to its mechanics and how it moves, rowing backwards and forwards with a small pull and push. Watch how the bow relates to the stern.

Some of the boat’s movements are subtle. If possible, find a friend who knows a little bit about rowing. If you can’t find an experienced rower, go with someone who’s got a sense of humor. You’ll both make mistakes, but you’ll learn together.

Experience matters. Towards the end of the first trip, I faced a decent riffle. I got the raft where I wanted in a nice current seam that swept near a bank. There was plenty of depth. There was also a submerged rock. I should have gone to the shallow water to the left. Other rafts behind me didn’t get stuck. Why? Because they knew that rock was there. I did not.

Prepare for the Worst

Even the best plans yield problems. I checked everything I possibly could beforehand and still got blindsided. At the put-in on my maiden voyage, there is a respectable rapid, so there’s no time to get your bearings. Once you launch, it’s game on.

Unfortunately for me and my fishing partner, the rower’s seat slid off its tracking, not once, but twice. Eventually, we were able to pull off to the side and diagnose the issue: There’s a latch that secures the seat. Merely sliding the seat on to the tracking doesn’t ensure security. You have to use a bit of elbow grease to make sure the latch catches.

Thinking in Reverse

Remember when you learned to back up a trailer? Or how you learned to parallel park?

Both tasks are counter-intuitive and can be difficult to master. Learning to row falls into that category. Simply put, you row backwards to avoid obstacles while using the current to propel your watercraft. Easy enough, right? Not exactly. You have to be able to have a sense of current flow, your strokes and the positioning of your bow and stern. Every stroke affects both. Focus on the bow too much and then your stern can unexpectedly be swept into an unfavorable position. It’s difficult to have a feel for what you can’t necessarily see. It’s easier to look ahead, but the back of the boat is equally important.

Smaller is Better

When I first wanted to row, I had visions of rowing a boat across a lake with big sweeping strokes. Naturally, when faced with the stress of a swirling whitewater, my strokes were longer and faster. That’s the wrong approach. I should have slowed down and tried for smaller, more precise strokes.

My Flycraft, is small and physically easy to paddle, but my mistakes were magnified. It’s akin to learning to back up a small trailer and overcorrecting. The same principle applies.

Wear your Waders

Back to the counter-intuitive nature of this task. Logic would suggest you wouldn’t need waders to row a raft or a drift boat. After all, you row a drift boat to avoid wading and cover more water. Here’s what most newcomers don’t realize: Inevitably you will get stuck on rocks or other shallow-water obstacles. You’ll need waders (with boots) to get out and push the bow or stern off the obstruction. Is it cumbersome? Yes. Unfortunately, it’s necessary.

Any good tips on learning to row, let us know on one of TFO’s social media pages.

Things to Know Before Your Guided Fishing Trip

I’ve taken dozens of guided fishing trips – from as far west as Montana to as far south as the Virgin Islands. Most of the trips have been good. A few, have not.

I have guided and been guided, so I’ve been on both sides of the skiff. I’ve worked in a fly shop. I’ve been a customer. There hasn’t been much I haven’t seen in more than 30-plus years of fly fishing.

There’s no way to ensure a great fishing trip. There are simply too many variables to control. However, there are a handful of things you, as an angler, can do to help avoid those forgettable guided fishing trips.

Practice Makes Perfect

Fishing requires different skill sets. It doesn’t matter if it’s fly or spin.

Bonefishing requires a double haul. Freshwater trout require precision and line control. Smallmouth bass require long casts with big poppers.

Very few anglers have every skill mastered, so the key is to focus on the type of fishing you will most likely encounter and master that scenario, over and over. In your backyard, or on your local stream or pond.

Failure to Prepare Is Preparing to Fail

Pack early. Not the night before. Start packing at least a week out. Of course, you can’t have everything packed, but at least start organizing your tackle, clothes and gear. Chip away, so when the night before the trip arrives, you’re merely tying up loose ends — and not starting from scratch.

If you wait until the night before, you’ll be stressed. You’ll either run late or forget a key piece of gear, which leads to even more stress, which means you won’t enjoy your trip.

One last thing: Be on time. Timing is everything, fishing. I know a saltwater guide, whose clients arrived an hour and a half late without rigged rods and reels. Fortunately, a breeze sustained an incoming tide that saved the day, but it’s best not to rely on mother nature for a bailout.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Tell your guide what you want — from the type of fish you want to catch, and how you want to catch them. Part of that equation is a realistic assessment of your skill level. It’s best to low-ball your ability. Double hauling 70 feet of line in your yard on a windless weekend afternoon is not the same as being able to duplicate that feat while trying to maintain your balance on the bow of a skiff with a swell. If your guide knows your skill level ahead of time, he or she should be able to put your in situations where you can be successful.

Do Your Homework

You and the guide, to some extent, are a team. It’s a working relationship. To fortify that relationship, personalities have to mesh. No one can change their personality. That’s why it’s important to find a guide that matches your personality and needs.

If you want a guide who’s patient with beginners, state that goal before you agree to a trip. If you want a high-octane guide who can put you on big fish, that’s different. Ask for references. Check at the local fly shop. More often than not, you’ll be glad you did.

Be Realistic ON YOUR GUIDED TRIp

Many clients assume that hiring a guide ensures success. It does not. There’s no question that hiring a good guide can increase the likelihood of catching fish. Good guides know where the fish are and how to catch them, but typically that’s under standard conditions. Sometimes conditions change. Weather patterns can be tough to predict. Tailwater releases can be random. Sometimes the fish don’t want to eat, even when conditions are favorable.

I don’t evaluate a guide on the quality of fishing. I evaluate on the quality of effort and professionalism. Guides can’t control the former. They can control the latter, and I tip accordingly, usually 20 percent.

One last thing: Bring cash for the tip. It’s much easier than a check or debit card at the end of a long day on the water.

 

Any other suggestions for getting ready for a guided trip, let us know on one of TFO’s social media pages.

TFO Ambassador Tucker Smith Basking in the Glow of a Championship Run

TFO Ambassador Tucker Smith helped Briarwood Christian win the 2018 Mossy Oak Bassmaster High School National Championship this past summer. The Birmingham, Ala. resident joined with Briarwood Christian teammate Grayson Morris to prevail in the prestigious Paris, Tenn. event.

Smith chatted with TFO blog editor Mike Hodge about his championship run, his favorite tactics for bass, his mentor Joey Nania and his goals down the road among other things. Below are excerpts from last week’s interview.

TFO: How much did the national title mean to you?

TS: “That (win) meant everything, because the past year I’ve focused on fishing a lot. I quit all the (other) sports. Fishing’s my only thing right now. It means the world to me. I started fishing when I was … I’ve been fishing since as long as I can remember. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s my biggest passion.”

TFO: What was the key to victory for you in that tournament?

TS: “Staying in one spot, focusing in and being patient, waiting for those key bites. We knew we were around fish. We had to keep fishing and not give up, because we knew the fish were there. Basically, it was a matter of being patient.”

TFO: Do you have any tournaments coming up, any more events you’re looking forward to?

TS: “Our high school season just started. Bass Nation, all the tournaments are just starting up. I plan to fish around fifteen team tournaments this year, but with weekend tournaments maybe a little more than that.”

TFO: Do you have any short-term goals you want to accomplish in the next year or two?

TS: “Obviously a goal is to win the (national) championship again. A smaller goal is to qualify for it. Qualifying is hard. It’s a huge deal. Sometimes it’s harder to qualify than the actual tournament. We qualified at Toledo Bend. We had never been there before. It was tough, but we got third in that one, so. ..”

TFO: Any long-term goals, maybe to fish competitively in college?

TS: “I’ve been looking at Montevallo, Bethel and Auburn. When we won the championship, we got a scholarship to Bethel. I don’t know if I want go there or not.”

TFO: Anytime someone competes, they usually get something out of it, whether it’s basketball, baseball or football? What do you get out of fishing?

TS: “It’s my favorite thing to do. You can win money doing it. I think that’s really cool when you do something that you love and can get money out of it. That’s great, especially as a high school angler. I would never think that’s something you could do. That’s really cool.”

TFO: What appeals to you about bass fishing?

TS: “The camaraderie. I’ve gained so many friends from fishing. I know people from different schools that I fish with. All of my buddies. We all hang out on the lake and stuff. It’s good to get together with people and have fun.”

TFO: What’s your favorite way to catch bass? Your favorite tactic?

TS: “In the national championship, I was using a Chatterbait. That’s probably my favorite way to fish. I’m a power fisherman. I don’t like the finesse stuff as much. I’ll do it if I have to.”

TFO: Any advice you’d give to those who want to improve their fishing?

TS: “Time on the water is the most important thing. I fished ponds to start out and fished until I got those techniques down, then moved on to the lakes. Time on the water makes you better. You have to spend time on the water to find the fish.”

TFO: What do you think of TFO’s equipment, the rods?

TS: “I’m really good friends with (TFO Ambassador) Joey Nania. He’s been my fishing mentor. I grew up fishing with him. He introduced me to (TFO’s) rods. I’ve been fishing them ever since. I love them. They’re not too heavy and they’ve got great action. The 7-3 Heavy, you can throw so many things on that.”

TFO: What about the Pacemaker series? Do you like those rods?

TS: “I do. I just ordered eleven rods from (Bass Category Manager) Collins (Illich). I just got some Pacemakers. I haven’t fished with them a lot yet, but I like them so far.”

TFO: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from Joey?

TS: “How to locate fish. The best thing he taught me is finding fish deep. A lot of people can fish the bank, but not a lot of people can look at their graphs, find fish and catch them. I’m a shallow guy, but catching fish when it’s cold is a real big key.”

 

Be sure to follow Tucker, Joey, Cliff Pace and other TFO ambassadors/advisors on one of our social media channels.

Pace Qualifies for the Bassmaster Classic, but hopes for a Better 2019

The 2018 Bassmaster Elite series is nearly over. For Cliff Pace, it’s time to take inventory of the season, what went right, what went wrong and what could have been.

Bottom line: There were some good tournaments, just not enough of them.

“I had some bumps in the road,” Pace said during a phone interview from his Petal, Miss. home earlier this week. “I didn’t have the year I wanted to have. I definitely fell short (of my expectations).”

The TFO advisor logged two top 10 finishes, but clearly left the water wanting more. Even though Pace didn’t string together enough quality catches to win an event, he did grind out enough placements to finish 26th  (out of a field of 110) in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, which propelled him to a coveted spot in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, an affair that’s considered the Super Bowl of competitive bass fishing.

Fifty of the world’s premier anglers will gather in Knoxville, Tenn. next March to compete for $1 million in prize money. The winner of the 2019 Classic earns $300,000.

Pace won the 2013 Classic. So far he’s competed in seven Classics. Knoxville will make No. 8.

“That’s something we always look at all year long,” Pace said. “It’s always a goal. To qualify for the Classic is always a big deal. That’s always a goal going in.”

Pace finished a respectable 25th at the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship last month in Hiawassee, Ga. Other 2018 highlights were a third-place effort at Texas Fest and a seventh-place showing at the Bassmaster Elite/Mississippi River.

His primary weakness, in retrospect, stemmed from a lack of consistency. Competitive anglers often have to make quick decisions during the course of a weekend tournament. If Plan A doesn’t work, what do you for Plan B and equally important, how long do you wait before implementing Plan B?

“The tournaments I did well in the game plan, played out the way I planned it,” said Pace, who helped design TFO’s Pacemaker series. “Where I struggled this year was where I had to scramble. I didn’t scramble very well this year. Same thing happened at Lake Oahe. Same thing at St. Lawrence Seaway.  The good tournaments are easy. Everything goes to plan. The bad ones are the ones that are hard. If I could have scrambled in the tournaments I did bad in and figure out how to get from the back of the pack toward the middle, that would have made a huge difference in the (Angler of the Year) points. To me going into next year, (scrambling) is what I need to work on. Knowing when to throw away (what you saw) in practice and start over and being able to piecemeal together (a solid tournament) is something we all face as fishermen.

“Every day we fish, there are always changing conditions. I have to be able to put two and two together faster and get something going; it’s critical to the success of the tournament fisherman. I had some opportunities to accomplish that this year and I didn’t.”

With several months before the start of the 2019 Bassmaster Elite season, Pace, 38, will use the downtime to recharge, get organized, wrap up some off-water commitments and maybe find a little time to hunt.

“At the end of the season, my tackle is in disarray and scattered all over,” Pace said. “I need to reorganize my boat and things of that nature. And I like to spend some time away from fishing. I love to archery hunt. I may get some fishing in there, too. I may not always bass fish. We’re close to the gulf here in Mississippi. I love to saltwater fish for fun. I love to catch redfish. That helps with the competitive grind of professional fishing.”

As the months pass and the start of the professional tournament circuit draws closer, Pace will be prepping for what he hopes will be a more productive 2019.

“Any new equipment I’m going to fish with, I like to get that in my hands as soon as possible and fish with it,” Pace said. “I want to be ready and satisfied with everything. Also, it’s a time to work on something that I’m struggling with, a technique or whatever. That’s pretty what I like to do. Sometimes I’ll travel to a body of water that I know is on the schedule next year to familiarize myself with it.”

It’s Back to Basics for Smallmouth

Tis the time of year for freshwater transition. It’s September. It’s still a bit too hot for trout, and the largemouth bass is a morning and evening proposition. However, the most willing sparring partner in early fall is not hard to find. The smallmouth bass is a viable fly-rodding option as summer yields to autumn. Smallies love to take a fly and fight hard, from the hookset to the release.

Even though the bronzeback is a formidable foe, it’s a fish I’ve consistently neglected throughout my 30 years of fly fishing. I’ve always found trout sexier. It’s true that trout, as a species, boast loads of tradition, but if you honestly evaluate the attributes of each species, the smallmouth compares favorably and is well worth pursuing.

And since trout usually need a break, I’ve decided to give smallmouth a fair amount of love from now on during each fishing season.

So, it’s back to basics. Below are a few key components of my strategy.

Time Year for Smallmouth

Geography, of course, plays a role. I live in Western N.C., where the southern smallie season starts in late spring and ends in late fall. My fishing calendar starts in March and April with trout. As soon as the trout start to feel the heat of summer in late May and early June, it’s time for smallmouth. And when the autumn leaves start to turn, it’s about time for trout.

Temperature and Time of Day for Smallmouth

Smallmouth can be caught if the water temperature lingers in the 50s, but cold water is better for trout. Smallmouth like water temps in the high 60s and 70s, about the time trout head for the oxygen of the riffles.

For most of us, fishing revolves around work and family commitments, but the ideal time for smallmouth is early or late in the day. Low light is better than bright sun simply because the fish feel more secure. If you can fish on a cloudy day, take advantage of such conditions. The fish will hold shallower longer.

Where to Find Smallmouth

Smallmouth are not easy to find on your local river. But if you find one smallmouth, you will usually find several. And once you pinpoint a fishy spot, remember it, because chances are, fish will hold there consistently.

Smallmouth are ambush feeders. They use structure — logs, rocks and boulders — to hide and wait for unsuspecting prey, not unlike brown trout. And don’t forget your trout training. The tails of pools usually hold nice fish. Deeper runs are also a good option.

Food for the Smallmouth

If you don’t have a specialty box of smallmouth flies, don’t despair. Trout love dragon flies and crayfish. The venerable woolly bugger works well for both. I like to use bead-head versions of this pattern. When fish are feeding on the surface, I love poppers, and there’s no better smallmouth popper than the Sneaky Pete, which can be fished with a small woolly bugger or similar substitute as a dropper.

For trophy fish, there’s no better option than Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer. The Game Changer’s movement rivals many conventional lures.

The Equipment for Smallmouth

Heavy trout or light saltwater setups work well. A 5 or 6-weight rod is about as light as you would want to go. A 7, 8-weight can be used to throw bigger poppers. If you throw small flies, you can bring your lighter rod. Big flies, obviously, need a bigger stick.  For instance, you would not want to fish a Game Changer on your 5-weight rod. Step up to a 7-weight or bigger.

Temple Fork’s Axiom II series is a good option as is the BVK series. As for reels, our Power or BVK are good choices.

I fish for smallies with standard weight-forward line, but specialty lines and leaders come in handy when you need to throw bigger flies into a headwind or find yourself fishing deeper water, where you need to get the fly down fast.

Most of the time, I keep the leaders simple —- with a 9-foot 2 or 3X approach. Again, the main variable here is the size of the fly. There’s a difference between casting a size 10 woolly bugger and a 5-inch Game Changer.

If you have any other smallmouth suggestions, feel free to leave a comment on one of our social media pages.

Five Tips to Catch Flood Tide Redfish

The sun came up early. After a long drive from the North Carolina mountains to the beaches of north Florida, I was dog tired.

But I got up to go fishing anyway. The allure of tailing redfish on the marsh is intoxicating. Sleep would have to wait.

I arrived at my favorite marsh in time. The sun was up and the tide was trickling in. After 30 minutes of walking, I arrived at my favorite spot and looked for fish. The water was shin deep, and I waited for it to reach the bottom of my knee caps. And I waited and waited and waited.

The projected flood tide never arrived. And neither did the tailing redfish.

The culprit was Hurricane Florence, which was several days away, but close enough to yield a west breeze, which stymied the tidal flow. There just wasn’t enough water for the fish to feel comfortable enough to feed.

So I trudged back home. I knew the west wind might be an issue, but I fished anyway. I have a soft spot for tailing reds. The mere sight of a spotted tail in the grass takes my breath away.

It doesn’t matter if it’s in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina or North Carolina. Where there’s a marsh, there’s usually a tailing redfish. And I will go to just about any extreme to find them.

Below are a few flood-tide tips that I learned along the way.

The Tides For REDFISH

Tidal flow is huge when it comes to flood-tide redfish. You need enough water to reach the dry areas of the marsh, so the big reds can feed on fiddler crabs. Each area has its required tidal flow to entice tailing fish. In Northeast Florida, for instance, you generally need a high tide of at least 5.2, but that designation is a mere guideline. Flats near Jacksonville don’t need as much water to flood; flats near St. Augustine and points south need a tide of 5.4, 5.5. In short, each area, each flat, has different tidal requirements. Local knowledge is key to ferreting out these nuances.

The Wind FOR REDFISH

Wind is a big factor in tidal flow. In north Florida, north or east wind pushes water on to the flat. That means you can fish longer, because you’ll have ample water. By contrast, a south or west wind pushes water off the flat, which means you’ll have less time to fish, or even worse, not enough water to cover the flat.

If you have a big tide, a southwest wind may not ruin your fishing, depending on the strength of the wind. However, if your tide is borderline with a southwest wind, the fish might not have enough water to tail, which is exactly what happened on my most recent trip.

Timing for REDFISH

Once high tide arrives, you generally have about an hour or so of good fishing before the water will recede and the fish will leave. It’s important to prepare the night before. Get up early and be on the flat well before high tide, so you can be in position before the water rises and the fish move in. If you cut it too close, you might miss opportunities. If you’re late, head to the next flat.

Mobility FOR REDFISH

Wading is a possibility and has its benefits. You don’t have to prep a boat or a kayak. All you need is a rod, reel, a sling pack and a pair of flats boots. In a matter of minutes, you can be on the water and fishing — before or after work or on your lunch break.

A boat or kayak/paddleboard requires more preparation, but offers the advantage of mobility. You can cover more ground and potentially reach more fish. Boats need a two-person approach. One fishes; the other poles. Kayaks and paddleboards are solo affairs. Kayaks are more stable; paddleboards have a better casting platform, but require above-average balance and core strength. I’ve used both. For longer trips, I use a kayak. For shorter, quick trips, I use the paddleboard.

The Equipment for REDFISH

An 8-weight Temple Fork Axiom II with a Power reel is the ticket. The Axiom will punch through the wind and the Power will handle any flood-tide red with ease. As for fly lines, I use a weight-forward line. The Rio Redfish or Cortland Liquid Crystal Guide are both good options. Rio’s lines tend to be heavier. Cortland’s lines, in my opinion, are lighter and easier to cast.

With flies, you can’t go wrong with a crab pattern. The primary food source on the marsh are fiddlers. I load up my fly boxes with EP crabs in black and tan, toad style. It doesn’t hurt to have a Gurgler or two. When fish are feeding intensely with their nose in the muck, I will cast a popper in their general vicinity to get their attention. Though counter intuitive, this approach sometimes works.

Any other advice or questions, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

Rod Repair 101: The Basics of TFO’s Warranty Program

TFO has offered the same no-fault lifetime warranty on all its fishing rods since being founded in 1995. Today, the warranty program is a core part of our business and an area that we’re constantly working to improve, so that it represents another value-based reason to be a TFO angler.

When a TFO rod is broken, we always want to get a TFO angler back on the water with as little hassle as possible. And with this goal in mind, our warranty program is built on two simple principles: First, we run it as a break-even part of our business – no profit. This means we charge the least amount possible to quickly repair or replace rods to get them back in the hands of TFO anglers. Second, we always try to be fair or in the angler’s favor when we make a warranty decision.

Sustaining these principles is getting more difficult for a few interesting reasons. First, all the major fishing rod manufacturers make very good rods. As a result, it is extremely rare that a rod breaks because of manufacturing or material defects. Tom Kirkman’s article Rod Failure does a great job of exploring the subject and provides easy-to-use examples to determine why a rod broke. We never like to be the bearer of bad news to our anglers, and the “why-your-rod-really broke” conversation can sometimes feel unfair.

Second, about 10 percent of the rods sent to us include no information about the owners. Nothing – no phone number, no address, no email. We just get a broken rod. Over the course of few months, this can quickly add up to many “orphaned” rods at TFO. We take great care of each one, but reuniting angler and rod doesn’t always go as smoothly as we’d like.

A related tragedy is when anglers don’t know that shipping companies have invented machines that survive by consuming unsuspecting fishing rods returned for warranty. Trust me, high-speed conveyor belts and fishing rods do not mix well. Last month a warranty rod arrived wrapped in cellophane with a shipping label stuck on it! It was not in good shape!! Always follow the warranty return instructions, and think defensively when shipping your fishing rod!

However, the above problems pale in comparison to a new reality – counterfeit and used rods sold as new. When we warranty a rod that was purchased “used” (and damaged) or replace a fake rod with a real TFO rod, the cost of warranty for every TFO angler goes up. We are deeply committed to the principles of fairness and minimized costs. Both of these principles are in jeopardy when anglers buy rods from folks other than our dealers and expect us to provide warranty service. While we will always go out of our way to help any angler, at the end of the day our loyalty will be to TFO anglers and the dealers that support them.

Lastly, a remark recently on our social media feed said, “if that’s the warranty program, then I’ll never need to buy another rod?” Exactly.