Home » Blog Posts

Tips on How to Fish for Ice-Out Bass

Editor’s Note: This post comes from TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney. Enjoy.

When we talk about ice out bass fishing in the northeast, we’re talking cold water, and believe me, it’s specialty fishing. In short, you must really want to do it, or there’s no point in reading any further. Now, for those of you still with me, we’re going to review what to wear, where to find these fish and review five lures and setups that will help get you bit during this cold-water period.

Dress for the Conditions

First and foremost, remember the acronym C.O.L.D.  Wear Clean clothes, don’t Overheat, dress in Layers and try to stay Dry. Don’t forget you can always take layers off if you get too hot during the trip, but if you don’t have enough on it’s hard to stay warm. Also, nothing will end an ice-out trip faster than wet clothes or cold hands or feet. I prefer to use finger-tip wool gloves that allow me to feel my line, yet they cover 90-percent of the exposed skin, and they still provide warmth if they do get moist or wet from casting. The other required items are a quality set of waterproof boots, a cap with a bill and a nice wool cap to wear over it along to keep your head warm, along with a pair of polarized glasses.

Where to Start

I’ve had my best success starting my search in the northwest corners on most ponds, lakes or reservoirs. This area of water usually warms the fastest after the ice out, and if you can find good hard cover, it’s a big-time bonus. Oftentimes the bass will be relating to deep water structural elements (rock piles, ledges, humps or the ends of secondary points) nearest spawning flats they intend to use in the next 60-90 days. I’ve found using my side-imagining unit I can quickly identify these areas and see if any fish are present. Remember, these fish have had a lid over them for the past 4-6 months and once the water opens, they’re going to feed in anticipation of the annul spawn that’s just around the corner.

As far as the ideal depth, it’s a relative thing depending on how deep your lakes are and where you’re fishing, but I’ve found most often that starting in the 15 to 20-foot zone adjacent to spawning flats is a reliable zone. Once I identify where the fish are holding, I scout around that general area looking for the migration routes out of the deeper water onto the spawning flat. It might be a slight rock vein or old road bed, perhaps a ridge that climbs up onto the flat or maybe a ditch or cut that comes out of the deeper water up onto the flat or one of last year’s submerged weed beds.

Not to over simplify it, but I’ve always treated this cold to warm-water migration much the same as when I go anywhere; I usually have a target destination, and I arrive there by traveling known routes along the path of least resistance. Think of the points, ledges, ditches, cuts or weed beds as sidewalks, not unlike if you or I were going to a store or restaurant. We don’t park our car hop out and then wander around the parking lot; instead, don’t we usually select a route, walk straight to the building open the door and go inside? Well, it’s generally the same thing for the bass; they’re looking to feed up so rather than meander all over the water column they too will take an easily identifiable path to get to the prime areas. In this situation. it’s food and a bit warmer water.

Once you’ve located these migration routes, then it’s just a matter of monitoring them as the water continues to warm, and the fish begin to use them more and more. Once the fish get up onto the flats, horizontal baits will produce the most fish, with the quality fish usually coming on vertical baits that fall and stay right in front of fish’s face.

Five Lures to Consider

For those deep-water fish, it’s hard to beat a blade bait like a Silver Buddy or a Heddon Sonar (3/8 or ½ oz). For this presentation I like to use the TFO GTS Bass C735-1, 7’3 MH rod paired with a 6.3:1 reel spooled with 12 to 15-pound fluorocarbon. It’s a good vertical presentation that allows you to cover water quickly and generate a bite that you can duplicate in similar areas of the lake. I start the presentation with a long cast toward the fish holding area and work it back to the boat hopping it along the bottom with short 12-15-inch pops of the rod tip. On the lift, you’ll feel a violent vibration, and on the fall, just follow the lure back down with your rod tip. Usually the hits occur on the drop, so be a line watcher, but sometimes they strike just as you lift the blade up off the bottom. If that doesn’t generate a strike, then try changing the length of your hop, either go shorter or possibly a tad longer.

Another great deep-water presentation is rigging some Berkley gulp minnow on a VMC Mooneye Jig, position your boat directly over the fish and keep the bait about a foot above where you mark them on the graph. I know this sounds goofy, but don’t work the bait. Instead rely on the natural motion of the boat on the waves to give it the slightest amount of movement. Until I tried this technique, I didn’t believe it, but this do-nothing method will get you bit. For this presentation I use the TFO GTS Bass S734-1, 7’3 M rod paired with a 5.1:1 spinning reel spooled with 8-pound Cortland Master Braid and about a three-foot section of 8-pound fluorocarbon leader. And for the jig I start with a 3/8 oz. head and might drop down to ¼ oz.

As the fish start moving into that 8-10-foot zone, it’s a good bet the Jerkbait will do most of the heavy lifting on any given day. Remember those weed beds we talked about earlier, this is where the suspending jerkbait rules. Baitfish are still in and around those weed beds, and the suspending jerkbait gets right in their face and just sits there daring them to bite it and most often they will. Again, we’re talking cold water, so you’ll need to keep your movements slow and subtle. I start with a long cast, give it about six or seven cranks to get the bait down, then give it a slight twitch and let it sit for an eight count. Reel up any slack line give the bait one or two light twitches and again let it set. If this doesn’t generate a strike, then I’ll increase the pause from the eight count to maybe 15. However if I find I’m generating follows but no strikes, then I usually drop down in lure size, and that seems to work. There are a ton of jerkbaits to choose from, and I happen to like Lucky Craft, so that’s what I use. However, having said that the most important thing is depth control and the lure’s ability to stay where it is in the water column once you stop the retrieve. For this presentation I use the TFO GTS Bass 695-1, 6’9” MH rod paired with a 7.3.1 reel spooled with 10-pound fluorocarbon.

As the fish start to occupy areas shallower than 6 feet, I’ve enjoyed good success with a Boot tail swimbait in the 2.8 – 3.3 sizes. There are a bunch out there to choose, but I prefer the Keitech Swing Impact or Fat Swing Impact. I’ve found keeping it simple works best for me, so I use three basic colors — Silver Flash, Blue Gill Flash and Tennessee Shad. I rig these swimbaits on 1/8 or ¼ oz jig head (size 1 hook) and fish them on a slow, steady retrieve. For this presentation I use the TFO TFG PSC 703-1, 7’ ML rod paired with a 5.1:1 spinning reel spooled with Cortland Master Braid and a 36” section of 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Another nice dual-purpose bait this time of year is the Swimjig. I use Strike King 3/8 oz Tour Grade in three colors, white, green pumpkin and black/blue. For the trailer I use a Zoom Twin Tail (Fat Albert) matching the jig colors. This is a great search bait for scouring the flats and if you see following fish, simply let the lure fall to the bottom, and the fish will usually nose down on it. As they go to it just give it a short twitch and they’ll hit it and if not just start a normal retrieve and they’ll usually grab it. The other nice thing about the swim jig is if you come across a weed bed you can pitch or flip it in there and work the cover the same as you would with a standard jig & pig.  For this presentation I use the TFO GTS Bass 736-1, 7’ 3” H rod paired with a 6.3:1 reel spooled with 20-pound Cortland Master Braid with a 48” section of 16-pound fluorocarbon leader.

I think if you dress accordingly and give these lures and setups a try, that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how many bites you can generate when chasing ice-out bass.

In closing, remember cold-water conditions are no joke and require a clear head. Take a cell phone with you and let someone know where you’re going and how long you’ll be out and be sure to let them know when you’re safely off the water.

 

Good luck and be sure to post those fish catches on one of our social pages. Questions, comments about ice-out bass, let us know those thoughts as well.

TFO Ambassador Chris Thompson

At some point, one’s life memories and friends become so cherished that they can cause you to dream in color. Such has been my relationship with Chris and his two “Brothers”.

Sometime back around 2005, three Gunnery Sergeant Marines ended up in Quantico, VA after multiple tours of duty. One of the three, Alex Colonna, had (and still has) a cute blonde wife (Chrissy) who met and endeared herself to Lefty Kreh at a regional consumer fly fishing show. Alex, Chris and the “third Brother”, Paul Norman, were in various stages of learning to fly fish and Chrissy boldly asked Lefty if she could buy a casting lesson for Alex’s USMC retirement gift. Lefty kindly declined, but offered to have Alex and his brothers come to his house. Paul was deployed and couldn’t join them. Chris tagged along with Alex and they were treated to a full afternoon with Lefty at his home in Frederick, MD.

The boys didn’t realize Lefty was a WWII veteran who fought through the Battle of the Bulge … and Lefty didn’t fully realize that they were both active duty Marines with a passion for fly fishing. About six months after that fateful meeting, Paul Norman was medevaced back from a tour in Iraq and they all became great friends of Lefty’s. The bond formed was so strong in the initial meeting that Lefty gave Chris one of our prototype 389-4 Finesse rods that had Lefty’s signature electric-pen engraved on the reel seat. Grateful, humbled and a bit confused, Chris emailed me to find out exactly what he had received from Lefty.

It turned out that Chris had a pre-approved prototype that we action tweaked and not a rod I would suggest he fish. I reply “It will make a great wall hanger-memento so I’ll send you one of the production models”. Chris replied “things are tight until next payday … and I don’t know when I can afford it”. “Chris, if you impressed Lefty to the degree that he gave you that rod – I’m doing the same thing”. We became great friends.

But let’s go back to Chris’ beginnings where he was born in Goldsboro, NC near Camp Lejeune, a major USMC military base. Although Chris’ biological father was active Air Force, he separated from Chris’ mom while Chris was young and many of his formative years were with his biological grandfather, Elmer – a USMC veteran of WWII’s Pacific theater. Both he, and Chris’ dad, Cecil, who adopted him when he was young, were excellent shots and avid anglers so as we say, “the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree” given their early influence with Chris.

After high school, Chris joined the Marines, graduated first in his Scout Sniper school training and after active duty tours, primarily in Europe, he ended up as an instructor back at the Infantry School at Camp Lejeune– and continued to fish for bass with gear until meeting Paul Norman. Paul introduced Chris to fly fishing. In spite of the claim that Paul was not a very good instructor … Chris freely admitted that he was not a very good student either! Chris, Alex and Paul became what I’ve called the “Fly Fishing Band of Brothers”. Another great example of how fly fishing, casting and fly tying makes friendships even stronger.

On one of my early trips to the Project Healing Waters (PHWFF) Two Fly event in Syria, VA, Chris and his brothers offered to both deliver me to the event and to help in any way they could. PHWFF founder and retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson’s response to my suggestion that they would like to attend was “Navy guys love Marines! Bring them along”! Another set of friends entered Chris’ life and he so moved by the good work of PHWFF that he recently assumed the Program Lead position for the PHWFF Camp Lejeune Program near his home.

Of all the great times I’ve had with Chris, one of the most memorable was spending three days in Florida with my longtime friend and television host of The Seahunter where we filmed Chris’ first tarpon, first shark and first blackfin tuna out of Key West with Captain Mike Weinhofer of Compass Rose Charters – the blackfin highlights are here and definitely worth a watch:

Chris’ all-time favorite specie is false albacore which arrive out of the gulf stream to the shallows off NC when the bait balls start coming out of the many estuaries on the way to the Atlantic. Weighing from 15 to as much as 25 pounds and cruising at 40 MPH while attacking bait in water as shallow as 20 feet makes for an incredible fight on fly tackle. His most memorable catch was a near 100 pound tarpon with me and Rob Fordyce (another television event) in 2015. We had chased tarpon all day and finally decided that a certain Flamingo Park flat could produce a chance at redfish. Within minutes of picking up an 8 weight and storing the 10 weight, the tarpon showed up less than 50 feet from the bow … a quick back cast, hookup and great fight brought the magnificent fish to Rob’s hand. I must admit it was one of my more memorable catches to watch as well.

Chris lives with his beautiful fly fishing wife Kellie and three of their five children in Hubert, NC. Saltwater fly fishing opportunities abound and they have only a short drive to the Shenandoah Mountains for trout. We’re honored to have him as a member of the TFO Ambassador family.

Fifteen Minutes with Junior Ambassador Braden Miller

TFO ambassadors and advisory staffers cover a wide spectrum. Young and old. Amateur and professional. Famous and relatively obscure. Young Braden Miller is in a class by himself. After all, how many junior-high kids represent a major fly-rod company?

Braden recently joined TFO as a junior ambassador. He’s just 13, but talks fishing like a seasoned pro. TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to the young man and his mom, Casey, for a brief interview. Here’s what they had to say while taking a break from a hectic afternoon schedule at their Glen Allen, Va. home.

TFO: How did you get involved with TFO?

BM: “I’ve been going to the Virginia show for the past couple years. I was showing people my flies. I got a booth and then I got asked to tie. Collins Illich stopped by and asked if I wanted to do an interview. I did an interview with Alex. Rick Pope was there talking about BVK rods. I stopped by the Edison Show, and then Lancaster was when I was asked to join the family.”

TFO: When you go to the shows, do you do the same thing that the adult ambassadors and advisory staffers do?

BM: “I go to shows. I go to the TFO booth. I go back and tie a little bit. Then I go back to the TFO booth and promote rods and talk to people.”

TFO: Let’s talk fishing. That’s probably more interesting for you to talk about. … What’s your favorite fish to catch on fly?

BM: “My favorite fish on fly would be the musky.”

TFO: Why so?

BM: “They’re a challenge to catch and they’re super powerful. Once I’ve hooked them, I’ve not be able to move them. They’d make a run and I’d have to let them run. I’d do the same thing, try to move them and let them run, until I could get them up to the boat. It’s like dead weight.”

TFO: And your favorite place to fly fish?

BM: “So far my favorite place to fish would be Alaska. The last time I went to Alaska I wasn’t super into fly fishing. I still had my fly rod there. I was fishing for rainbow trout and dolly varden.”

TFO: Any place locally in Virginia that you’re fond of?

BM: “Probably Atlantic Beach for albacore. That’s exciting.”

TFO: A lot of kids your age might be into basketball, baseball or football. Why invest so much time into fly fishing?

BM: “Early on I had a choice of fly fishing or baseball. Recently I got in car accident and broke my elbow. My shoulder got messed up and all that. Since then, I’ve been enjoying fly fishing. I can’t make any money in baseball. I can make money in fly fishing, with casting, selling flies and all that. Fly fishing, I like it. It’s calming, relaxing. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

TFO: I understand you got a chance to fish with TFO’s Blane Chocklett. Tell me what that was like.

BM: “That was awesome. I had never done any (musky) fishing like that. It was really cool. He knew exactly where the fish would be holding. The challenge was getting one to eat and hooking one and fighting it right up to the boat. He instructed me exactly how to cast, how to tease the fly. It was amazing.”

TFO: What did you learn from Blane? What’s one thing that you took away from fishing with him, that you maybe didn’t know before?

BM: “Casting. I learned a lot about casting. I was focusing on my casting instead of letting the fly actually go. Too many back casts, then I’d mess up my entire cast. And then letting the fly sink where it needed to be. That one was one of the main things, too.”

TFO: How much have your parents factored into your fly fishing?

BM: “They help with everything. Mom brings me. Dad looks after everyone else, who’s not coming. Sometimes they come to shows when they can. Mom drives me. She’s even willing to tie flies.”

TFO: Casey, what has Braden gotten out of fly fishing? What’s the value of it for him?

CM: “He has always been great in fishing, since he could walk. Fly fishing has been a totally different sport for him. He has learned more patience when it comes to fishing. Between tying his own flies and the fishing, he has really learned patience. Before, he would really be upset if he didn’t catch fish. Now he’s learned that it’s not about going out there and catching fish every time. It’s about being in the outdoors and enjoying himself. He’s really learned a lot from the people who have helped him out.”

TFO: Braden, last question, what is your favorite TFO rod and reel?

“I really like the Axiom II rods, and my favorite reel is the BVK in whatever range. I have I, II and the III. The III with a 7-weight would be my favorite combo. Super light weight. Casts like a dream. Large arbor reel. Picks up line super quick.”

Questions or comments about Braden? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages.

TFO’s Bob Clouser Talks Carp on Fly

I’ve never caught a bonefish. It’s on my bucket list, but the tropics may have to wait a few months. Fortunately, I’ve got a freshwater option close to home.

Carp.

They’re just as wily as a bone. And pound for pound they fight just as hard. And they’re cheaper. Many freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers in the continental U.S. have carp. There’s no need for a week-long trip to the Bahamas.

Once summer arrives and the water warms, it’s easy to take a break from trophy trout for carpin’. To develop a firm game plan, I turned to TFO advisor Bob Clouser, who touched on a few basics during a phone interview after taking a break from shoveling snow at his Pennsylvania home.

Patience

Carp are not easy to catch. They don’t always eat and when they’re willing to eat, they can be super spooky. Even if you make the right cast with the right fly, the stars have to align for an eat. And if you do hook up, landing one is not a given. Be prepared for a lot of trial and error along the way.

Required Skills

You need to make long casts. Forty feet will do. Sixty is better. However, distance is just one factor. Accuracy matters, too. Ideally, you want to put the fly in front of the fish and let your quarry find it, preferably near the bottom since carp like to forage in the muck.

“You don’t need to work the fly at all,” Clouser said. “You have to observe the carp and watch his lips. When they’re mudding, it’s hard to see their face. You can see their lips when they’re open. It has kind of a chartreuse look to it. It’s hard to see. There’s a saying, ‘When the light goes out, you set the hook.’ If you hesitate at all, he’ll spit that fly out. They don’t run off with it. It’s a different type sport to catch that fish.”

Reading the Fish

In trout fishing, you read the water. With carp, you read the fish. The beauty of carp fishing is its reliance on sight fishing. Look at the fish. Decide if it’s interested. Carp will sun. Ignore those. Carp will cruise. Ignore the speedsters. Take a shot at the slower fish. But even that’s a long shot. If you see a tailer, that’s the fish you want. Tailers are active feeders. Ever seen a tailing red? It’s a similar scenario. Once you discern the fish’s path, make your cast count, because chances are, you won’t get a second opportunity.

“’You have to watch them, observe them and see what they’re doing before you even cast,” Clouser said. “They are so spooky. A carp has two lateral lines. Most fish only have one. A carp has two, which makes them so sensitive. I have no idea how far they can see, but they can hear over 200 yards.”

The Gear

You’ll need a fairly sturdy rod — a 9-foot, 6-to-8-weight. Leaders, in general, need to be long. A 12-footer is not too short, but you can get by with a 9-footer, if you’re a good caster.

Try the TFO Power reel to handle those long runs. The TFO Clouser series in an 8-weight is a good complement.

“It’s easy to cast and soft enough for light tippets,” Clouser said. “It won’t break your 6 and 8-pound tippets. And I fish an 8-weight. An 8-weight will handle any size fly you need.”

Carp are primarily subsurface feeders. Crayfish are a big part of their diet. A brown or black woolly booger usually will get the job done.

That said, carp can feed on topwater or just under the surface. I hooked one — briefly —- on a berry fly. South Florida grass carp, I learned, feed on streamside berries from ficus trees. The moral of the story: Fish don’t follow a rule book. They feed on what’s available.

Thoughts on fly fishing for carp? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

It’s Showtime for the 2019 Fly Fishing Film Tour

Cabin fever got you down? If it’s too cold or too windy to fish, there’s another way to beat the winter blues.

If you can’t get on the water, then the next best thing to do is to watch fishing.

The solution: Say hello to the Fly Fishing Film Tour, a series of fly-fishing films that’s sure to quench your thirst to throw a tight loop.

The Film Tour usually gets cranked up in early winter and continues into the spring with stops throughout the continental United States.

To find out more about the FFT, TFO blog editor Mike Hodge chatted with Doug Powell, the FFT’s general manager. Below is an excerpt of the interview:

TFO: When does the Film Tour get cranked up? When does it end?

DP: “There’s a definitive starting point. Then there’s a loose end point. We generally start in late January. The last couple years we’ve been in Bozeman for our premiere. We pretty much end our tour in late April. By then, ninety to ninety-five percent of our shows are done. There are a few stragglers after that.

“We have two types of shows. We have what we call our primary film tour, which are the shows we put on ourselves with our road crew, where we book the venue, we book the promotion, control everything inside the theater and book the show. Those are about 50 cities that we do, which tend to be the Bozeman’s the Missoula’s, Seattle, Portland, Denver. There are the big cities across the country we do; then we have what are our affiliate shows — same films, same posters — for the consumer, but those are put by the local TU chapters, or a fly shop or a Project Healing Waters. Brevard, N.C. might not be one where we’re going to be, but a local fly shop might put it on. To the consumer, it’s the same set of films; it’s just who controls the promotion.”

TFO: With a primary showing (that FFT puts on), how many of you go to the event? How much work is involved in terms of getting everything together?

DP: “We’re traveling the country with two road crews. These are truly just temporarily out-of-work fishing guides. It’s the winter. Three of them guide in Alaska. One guides in Montana. They basically travel across the country. They’re driving two trucks, one towing our drift boat with a cargo trailer with all our gear. They’re fishing between the stops. They’re living the dream, trust me. Right now, they’re fishing for steelhead up in Washington. Later this week, they’ll be in Boise for trout. In a couple weeks, they’ll be in the Midwest.

“What it takes to put on a show. One is a projectionist. We have two dedicated to the sponsors. They’re in the lobby with our Costa, Yeti, Simms booths talking to people about gear. We have all of gear on display to chat up with folks and ambassadors of those brands. Then we have another person who takes care of everything else, taking tickets at the door, greeting people, handling the stage, running the thing from a making-it-happen stand point.”

TFO: Who came up with the idea of the Film Tour and how did it go from being an idea to a reality?

DP: “I would give full credit to the Angling Exploration Group, AEG, back in 2007. There was a group of people out there making really cool fishing films, but there was no way to see them. In 2007, the internet was still relatively new. It wasn’t like there was a YouTube to watch these things. There were VHS tapes and DVDs. The AEG guys decided in 2007 to do a film tour, so they took it around to fly shops and bars and showcased it. It was an amazing idea. We were helping those guys, and then in 2009, we bought the company and took it to where it is now, but they deserve all the credit for starting it.”

TFO: Why do you think it’s become so popular?

DP: “It was bound to. The sport was growing. As you know with the sport, it lends itself well to the big screen. Beautiful locations. One thing with fly fishing is it lends itself to some interesting characters. Then you have to give credit to the film makers who did a great job of showcasing those locations and people. Then when you see it on the big screen, it reminds you how entertaining it is. I think the sport is really growing. It’s kind of the perfect storm.”

TFO: Have the quality of the films improved since you’ve been involved with the tour?

DP: “For sure. The technology has improved. When we first started, there was no such thing as HD. There wasn’t Go Pros. The technology is certainly better for the film makers to get better. The technology is better. The film makers are better. Their budgets are probably better. One thing that’s always been the same: The sense of adventure has always been there. The fun was always there. The gathering of people in each community was always there. All those things were in place from the beginning.”

TFO: Tell me how the submissions work?

DP: “This year I think we got forty. Then we have to go through them. It’s really not fun. It’s fun to watch the footage. It’s not fun to make the decisions. You have the Rubik’s Cube of trying to give everyone something, going across the country in 170 cities and showing 10 trout films. You need some saltwater. You need some Midwest stuff. You need steelhead. You need some exotic stuff. Sometimes it’s hard. We’ll get three films on the Seychelles. We can only take one and they’re all amazing. It’s no fun at times, to make those selections, but usually the cream rises to the top.”

TFO: So ballpark, how many submissions do you get and how many make the cut?

DP: “I’d say 30, 40. This year we have nine films. Usually it’s eight to 10 (that make the tour). Basically, we’re working with two hours to fill (every show).”

TFO: Is there any way to give the viewer an idea of the work it takes to put together a film?

DP: “It really varies. They all take a ton of work and all of these film makers do so out of passion. No one makes fly-fishing films to get rich. They’re doing out of love, out of passion. The work in the field is insane; it’s dawn to dusk. We had one film this year and I think they had 58 hours of footage to make a 12-minute film. Other film makers, they’ll spend two years making a film with travel and research.  … Then there’s editing securing sponsorship, music rights. That could take a couple months.”

 

Comments or questions about the Fly Fishing Film Tour? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages to chime in.

Tools of the Trade for Catching Walleye

Sensitivity, stealth and pin-point bait placement are some of the cornerstones of effectively targeting walleye.

To be an effective walleye angler, you need to start with the appropriate rod. Below are some of the features of the TFO line-up of walleye specific spinning and casting rods.

GTS Walleye rods incorporate beautiful, translucent green blanks with proprietary, braid safe Tactical Series guides with black anodized foots and chrome inserts. These rods feature premium-grade cork grips and cleverly placed hook keepers.

GTS WJS 663-1 and WJS 664-1

Walleyes can be finicky biters known to suck the blood from a leech without ever alerting an angler to its presence.

The 6’6” medium light model is a superb tool for the subtle presentation of light jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers.

While the 6’6” medium power model has a slightly beefier backbone for a solid hook-set when working larger, meatier baits and fighting larger fish. Both rods feature split-cork grips for additional weight savings.

GTS WRS 703-1 and WRS 763-1

The Lindy Rig® has been, without a doubt, one of the most productive walleye-catching techniques in recent history.

Despite a relatively simple premise, not just any rod will allow this technique to succeed.

A rigging rod needs the subtle nuances of a faster, stiffer tip to bring to life the often ultra-subtle presentation.

The WRS 703-1 and 763-1 can also double as rods for pulling bottom bouncers, crawler harness rigs or crankbaits. Both the 7’0” and 7’6” medium-light models come in a split-grip handle.

GTS WBC 704-1 and WBC 764-1

A staple presentation for locating schools of fish has been to run bait along drops offs and weed lines.  The Spinner Rig/bait trolling rods brings to the table a smorgasbord of leeches, crawlers and minnows. For those running single and two-hook harnesses, the WBC family is the ticket. Both rods come in a full-cork grip to snuggly fit in rod holders.

It’s been said that the bigger the blade, the bigger the bump and thump.

The 7’6” model is perfect for when the water gets cloudy and anglers need to turn to larger, flashier blades to elicit strikes.

GTS WTC 703-1 and 863-1T

Peek into any walleye anglers tackle trays and you’re likely to find a healthy supply of long-bodied, tear-drop billed lures.

From Walleye Divers® to Hot N’ Tots® and Long A’s® to Shad Rap’s® walleye anglers have the trolling lure approach dialed in.

The WTC models load progressively from butt to tip, with a more forgiving action necessary for effective hook-sets when working cranks with treble hooks. These rods feature a full-cork grip and forward mounted hook keeper.

The 7’0” model is great for the close-in rod, in the holder and cranks that dive less than 10-feet.

The 8’6” model is ideal for deeper diving lures or running baits through a planer board. This model is telescopic to accommodate rod lockers.

Suggestions on walleye rods and comments about our rods, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

A Few Minutes About Musky On Fly With Blane Chocklett

When the southern mountain trout fishing slows to a crawl in the dead of winter, I hunt grouse. Now my attention has turned to fishing for musky.

The two species are different. One’s a mountain bird, the other a toothy fish, but the two have one thing in common: They are formidable quarry.

Since I used to live in Virginia, I turned to TFO advisor Blane Chocklett. The Roanoke-area resident is one of the country’s premier experts on musky.

We talked for a few minutes by phone on a dreary winter day and cobbled together the following tips for musky on fly.

Be Realistic

Musky are called the fish of 10,000 casts. Hyperbole? Perhaps. Nevertheless, expect to be on the water all day without a lot of action. If a fish follows your fly, that’s a good day. If it eats, that’s even better and if you hook one, you’ve had a great day. And if you land one, it’s time to cross another item off your bucket list.

It’s not unlike southern grouse hunting where one can walk for miles without a peep. If you flush a grouse, that’s good. If you get a shot, that’s even better. If you actually bag one, that’s something to boast about over a beer for season after season.

My ex-wife used to ask me if grouse were extinct. Spouses of musky fishermen probably ask the same question.

“On your own and not knowing where the fish are it’s a huge undertaking,” Chocklett said.  “But, it’s not impossible. Going out with me, we pretty much get fish every day, but I’ve been doing it my whole life, too.”

Stay the Course

Musky will challenge you mentally and physically. Not only will you have to cast until your arm falls off, you have to be disciplined enough to follow the fly to the boat. When the doldrums strike, invariably that’s when a musky will make its move.

Let’s say you’re on your game and hook a big fish. Prepare for a street fight. Musky generally don’t run. They prefer to brawl in a closet. Your biceps will burn, but listen to your guide. Teamwork, at this juncture, is crucial.

“You have to go into it knowing that you’re going to work hard for it,” Chocklett said. “People that get into it enjoy that challenge and they know that when they do connect, that it will be one of the biggest fish they’ve ever seen. It’s mind over matter and knowing that you’re in an uphill battle all day. It’s not easy, but when you have your mind set for that, it’s not that bad.”

The Casting

This ain’t trout fishing. It’s more akin to tarpon fishing. Big rods, big flies with heavy sinking lines. In tarpon fishing, you have to cast far with accuracy. The same is true with musky fishing — with one distinct difference. With tarpon, the name of the game is sight fishing, which means a handful of casts during the course of a day. With musky, you blind cast toward probable spots all day. The key is to make as many casts as you can without excessive false casts. The more efficient the better.

“Most people do struggle,” Chocklett said. “But we’ve made the process easier with TFO and Scientific Anglers, with the rods and the lines. We’ve made it a whole lot easier than it used to be. It comes down from everything, from materials being used and the (water) shedding capability. It’s easier now than it’s ever been.”

The retrieve can vary, but long, slow strips with a few pauses never hurts. Watch the fly all the way to the boat. A figure-8 move or a sweep of the rod can sometimes entice a strike.

Gear You Need

Count on a medium action 12-weight rod with a relatively light, serviceable reel. TFO’s Esox paired with a Power reel are good choices. A balanced rod makes casting easier. You will need a line with a sinking tip to maintain sufficient depth. Leaders are short, which helps with throwing big flies. Four feet of 30 or 40-pound flouro with 18 inches or so of wire tippet from Scientific Anglers suffices.

As for flies, Chocklett’s Game Changer in 2/0-6/0 is a good choice. The bigger the better. A 4-inch fly is small by musky standards. Ten to 12 inches is more the norm.

 

Any questions or suggestions on how to catch musky on fly? Feel free to chime in one of our social media pages.

 

 

 

Pace Rested and Ready for 2019 Pro Bass Season

Cliff Pace had two objectives this offseason:

To rest.

And to get better.

After a few months off from the grind of competitive bass fishing, Pace said he feels somewhat rejuvenated as he prepares for start of 2019.

“It helps me from a relaxation standpoint,” Pace said. “I love to fish. That’s why I ended up doing this for a living. I do a lot of inshore fishing, a lot of speckled trout fishing, red fishing and bass fishing as well. It allows me to be home, spend time with the family.  It allows for more of a routine lifestyle a few months out of the year, stuff I really look forward to.”

Pace said he has a new boat and more, important, new electronics. The TFO advisor said he switched from Raymarine to Garmin.

“I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to use the Garmin electronics to the best of my ability,” Pace said. “There is a learning curve there. It’s like using a computer, things like that, just trying to get ready. I learned how to use them, learned how to use what they’re telling me. Being more efficient with them was probably what I spent most of my offseason doing. I felt I struggled mostly with the smallmouth tournaments up north, which are very much an electronics game. I felt I was kind of behind the 8-ball with the technology that was available. I went ahead with the learning curve and learned how to use them. I have no doubt that there will be some events this year that it will pay dividends.”

The objective, of course is to evaluate what’s going on underneath the surface to find more fish.

“I spent a lot of time this offseason fishing in different types of water, spending time putting in a manual setting from an auto setting, where you can adjust everything independently on your own, to be able to interpret better what you’re seeing more so than anything else,” said Pace, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion.

Because professional fishing is so competitive once the season starts, anglers have to develop their skills in the offseason. The collective skill level from event to event is fierce, as are the changing conditions.

“There’s a huge difference between fishing an area you’re comfortable with to an area you’re fishing competitively,” Pace said. “The anglers that fish like I do have to be very, very diverse and effective with different things. If all I did was fish at home, I could use a couple techniques and have what I needed year-round. If you fish in South Florida and then go fish for smallmouth up north, it’s two very, very different situations. But both events count the same. You need to be dialed into the best of your ability in each respect. That’s pretty much competitive fishing in a nutshell, being competitive and diverse in all the situations that we’re put in.”

Pace spent much of his professional fishing career competing in the Bassmaster Elite series but has taken his skills to a new circuit — Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, which started its first season earlier this month.

The BPT was formed this past October when 80 of the top anglers from the Bassmaster and FLW circuits left for the invitation-only league, which will offer eight-regular season events, a championship, hefty payouts and backing from Bass Pro Shops.

“I’m probably more excited this season than I have been in any season I’ve competed,” Pace said. “I’m grateful to be in a time in this sport when we have people interested in growing the sport and taking advantage of all the technology to grow the sport and show case the sport for truly what it is. I felt like that was something throughout my career that was lacking. I think Major League Fishing is going to step up and fix a lot of those problems. That’s why I’m excited.”

The format differs from Bassmaster, which counts the top five fish. In the BPT, every fish counts.

“It’s definitely going to be more stressful,” Pace said. “I think all that’s positive. I think it will be much more exciting for the fans and a better platform for us to showcase our talents. You’re never in a sense of comfort and you’re never out of it.”

Regardless of the format, the goal is to improve from season to season.

“I had a good year last year,” Pace said. “I didn’t have a perfect year, but I definitely didn’t have a terrible year. Without a doubt, you want to do the best you possibly can. There’s always motivation to be a better and more competitive angler. The day that I can win every event that I got in, I will quit this sport. There’s always motivation. There’s always motivation, even for a guy that wins Angler of the Year. There’s motivation to continue that momentum. Motivation can come from a lot of different directions.”

 

Thoughts on Cliff or his change to Major League Fishing? Let us know on one of our social media pages.

How To Get Started in Bass Fishing

I caught my first bass more than 40 years ago, on a farm pond a pitch and a flip from my current house in the Western North Carolina mountains.

I remember the 4-pounder got away after I stuck the stringer in the mud, and the big green fish simply swam away with two panfish in tow.

I was 12. I was devastated.

Soon after college, I fell in love with trout on the long rod. I never really seriously pursued bass on spinning gear, but this season I’ve vowed to change that trend.

Here’s a few tips for those who wish to brush up on bass basics. Obviously, there are several types of bass. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus on the largemouth.

Fish Early or Late

I caught my first decent bass in late afternoon, but most of the time bass feed at sunrise and sunset. My rule of thumb is to fish when the sun is below the trees. Once the sun passes the tree line, the bite slows considerably.

In the evening, wait until the sun dips below the trees and fish until dark. Dusk is a great time to fish.

Because bass are light sensitive, your optimum windows are fairly tight. Nevertheless, take advantage of them.

Obviously, work and family commitments dictate when you can fish. If you can only go in the middle of the day, you can still fish, but fish deeper than you would if you were on the water early or late, when the fish are running shallow.

Tis the Season for Bass

A year or so after I caught my first big bass, I thought I was on a roll and would ride that momentum to fish after fish. One bitterly cold Thanksgiving I charged out on to Georgia’s Lake Burton with a carton of nightcrawlers. I caught a cold, but nary a fish.

What I didn’t know is that water temperature dictates when bass — and other fish feed — and success is largely seasonal. So if you’re a beginner, it’s best to fish in the spring or fall, when water temperatures are more conducive to success. This is not to say you can’t fish during winter’s chill or summer’s swelter, because you can, but your odds of catching fish are better in the spring and fall. Plus, the weather is more pleasant.

Where to Find Bass

Structure. Structure. Structure. Find the structure —- logs, brush, rocks, lily pads, hydrilla, or grass — and you will generally find the bass. The bass’ primary objective is to survive and they use structure as protection and as an avenue to ambush prey. This means you need to identify the structure where you fish. Learn it. Learn where it is and you’ll certainly find fish.

The Equipment You Need

You can probably get by with an initial investment of $100, maybe half that, to get your rod, reel, line and lures.

To get started, it’s best to buy a closed-face, push-button spinning outfit — with the line. If you have to spool your own line, go with 8-pound clear mono. Use an arbor knot to attach the mono to the reel and a clinch knot to attach the lure to your line.

For your second rod, I recommend a 7-footer, medium action TFG Professional Series from TFO, not too soft, not too stiff. Ideally, you want to feel your lure on the bottom as you make your presentation. Once you’re comfortable with a rod, a simple open-face spinning reel is a reasonable step up from the push-button combo.

Lures/Baits

When I first started fishing, I used shiners, nightcrawlers and crayfish. As I got more skilled, I graduated to artificial offerings. Some anglers thumb their noses at using bait, but there’s little doubt that can you can catch more fish and build confidence with it. If you choose bait, it helps to use a bobber. When the bobber moves, lift the rod to set the hook. Adjust the bobber according to the depth of the water.

My first lures were stickbaits/soft plastics —- mainly purple and black worms rigged weedless. My biggest mistake was chucking the offering as far as I could and reeling like a madman. What I should have done was cast toward structure and let the worm fall to the bottom before retrieving. A bass will often take a worm on the drop. My other lures were the venerable Snagless Sally and the Beetle Spin. These spinner baits helped me cover a lot of water and they were fun to cast. It also doesn’t hurt to have a crankbait or two in your tackle box as well, but plastic worms and spinner baits are a good start.

 

Thoughts on getting started in bass fishing? Let us know on one of our social media pages.

 

 

Part VI: The Basics of Flies for the Beginner

If you read our Getting Started in Fly Fishing Series, you should have a rod, reel, backing, line and a leader, all of which were covered in parts I, II, III, and IV. We went over fly casting in part V.

So what’s left for the beginning fly angler? Flies.

No blog post can begin to cover flies, fly tying and what to use when, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll go over a few basics.

Types of Flies

Nymphs are your basic subsurface trout flies. Ever been in a stream, turned over a rock and looked at all the critters? Those are nymphs. Examples of famous nymph imitations are the Hare’s Ear and Pheasant tail.

Streamers imitate the baitfish and minnows in a stream, lake or river. Lefty’s Deceiver and the Clouser Minnow are good examples. Both patterns were invented by TFO advisors, the late Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser.

Dry flies are imitations of the insects above the water from aquatic hatches. Caddis, blue wing olive, sulphur and drake hatches are traditional troutfare in much of the United States.

Another example of the dry fly is terrestrials — grass hoppers, crickets, ants and beetles, land-based insects. It’s best to use these in the summer, once the traditional hatches have faded.

Attractor flies don’t necessarily imitate a specific insect, but, for some reason, they catch fish after fish. The Royal Wulff and Adams fall into this category. I use these types of flies when there’s no obvious insect activity.

Sizes of Flies

Flies are sized numerically by hook size. The smaller the hook size, the bigger the fly. A size 2 Deceiver, obviously, is much bigger than a size 16 pheasant tail.

Ideally, you want the size of your chosen pattern to match the size of the food the fish are feeding upon. A size 10 Adams, for example, probably won’t work during a blue-wing olive hatch. A size 20 or 22 might.

What flies to Use

This, of course, depends on what you’re fishing for. If you’re fishing for bass, try a woolly bugger to imitate crayfish. Trout like woolly buggers, too.  The point is, whatever species of fish you’re angling for, try to collect an assortment of flies — subsurface and dry —- of various sizes and colors.

You will probably start out with one fly box. But as you start to pursue different species of fish at different seasons —- saltwater and freshwater — you will quickly acquire boxes of flies.

As you progress, try to whittle your fly selection to a handful of proven patterns you trust — but to a point. Much of what motivates a fish to eat is in the angler’s presentation and accuracy of the cast as much as the selection of the fly.

Your first season of trying to figure what fly to fish with when will be frustrating.  But stick with it. Information from your local fly shop or from a fellow angler can be a big, big help. For more information on getting started with flies, check out this video from Mad River Outfitters.

Comments or questions about fly selection for the beginner? Feel free to reach out to us one of our social media pages.