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Casting Early Season Walleye Techniques with TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney

Walleye season in New York State opens on May 2nd; so we decided to have upstate New York TFO Ambassador and walleye expert Burnie Haney go over some tips and techniques to help you make the most of your walleye fishing season.

Burnie discusses what works best for him for Eastern Basin Lake Ontario walleye, but a lot of these skills can be applied towards walleye fishing tactics anywhere.

Casting Early Season Walleye

Depending of your approach and exactly where you are looking for walleye, it can be either feast or famine. However, one thing is for certain once you get dialed in it can also be non-stop rod action. Undoubtedly trolling will reign supreme in the larger bodies of water like the great lakes,, but if you have the patience and temperament for it, casting is a very productive method as well and for the purposes of this writing I’m going to focus on casting techniques with artificial lures only, the gear used, how I rig it and what areas to look for.

I make no guarantees these methods will produce 100% of the time, but I can say if you apply what you’re about to read I feel confident you too will put a few more walleye in the net this season, so let’s start off with gear.

Rods & Reels

For my spinning rod applications, I use the TFO Professional Walleye WS 704-1. This is a one-piece 7’ rod (fast action- medium power) rated for 6-12 lb. line and 1/4 – 3/4 oz. lures. With this rod, I can present jigs, jerkbaits, squarebills and finesse swimbaits. I usually run 8 lb. braid on this rod and depending on water conditions and sunlight penetration I’ll sometimes use a fluorocarbon leader of 36-48”. I use a size 20 or 30 spinning reel with this rod.

For my casting rod applications, I use the TFO Professional Walleye WC 764-1. This is a one piece 7’6” rod (fast action-medium power) rated for 6-12 lb. line and 1/4 -3/4 oz lures. With this rod I can present, jigs, squarebills & diving crank baits, swimbaits, in-line spinner rigs and finesse umbrella rigs. I fish 8-15 lb. braid on this rod and again I will use a fluorocarbon leader if conditions dictate. I usually have a Daiwa Tatula reel 6.3:1 on this rod, but sometimes I will drop down to a 5.4:1 depending on the exact presentation.

Line

When most folks talk about walleye fishing in gin clear water, you will oftentimes hear how you must use light line (4-6 lb. test), small hooks, leaches, worms, minnows, on a jig or a slip bobber. You will not hear me argue about that, but remember, we’re talking about artificial lures only and in most cases that’s horizontal moving baits. When fishing moving baits for these big water walleyes, I seem to do best fishing with braided line. I think in part that is due to the fact I’m making super long casts and braided line provides me the ability to get a hook point into the fish quickly as I feel the strike, while monofilament line impedes my ability for good hooksets at long distances. The other nice thing about braided line is it allows you to put more line on the spool which translates into longer smoother casts.

Just a tip – When you are spooling up with braid be sure to put about 10-12 yards of mono on the spool first because this helps prevent the braid from slipping on the spool. Also try to use mono that is smaller in diameter; it does two things for you: 1) Helps the braid lay flat on the spool; and 2) Prevents it from biting down into the grooves of mono below when under pressure.

Leader

Cortland’s Top Secret tippet is hard to beat. I like this stuff because it offers a line that’s approximately 1/2 the diameter of most other fluorocarbons out there. As an example, the diameter of their 12.9 lb. tippet is equal to 6 lb. mono. It’s a bit pricey, but then again you get what you pay for.

 

Spinning Rod Presentations

My first choice for early season walleye is either a jerkbait or a jig tipped with some Berkley Gulp or a Keitech Swimbait. The jerkbait is usually a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 or 100 in perch or baitfish colors and the jigs routinely replicate the same forage base, with the addition of a football head jig dressed with Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impact (to mimic a goby).

Jerkbaits are routinely fished in the 5 – 10 ft. zone adjacent to weed edges along shoals and rock rubble shorelines with the standard cast, crank it down three or four quick turns, let it sit (pause) for 5-10 seconds, reel up the slack line, give it one or two light taps, pause and repeat that cadence all the way back to the boat. If I notice walleye following the jerkbait back to the boat but not striking, then a follow up cast with the swimbait on a 1/8 or 3/16 oz jighead on a steady retrieve usually gets that fish to bite.

Another great technique for scrubbing up reluctant walleye that are holding tight on a rock rubble bottom is the football head jig. Here in Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario the round goby has become a staple in darn near every fish’s diet and walleye are no exception. To imitate this tasty nugget, I use a 3/8 or 1/2 oz. football head with a Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impact (Green Pumpkin or Tennessee Shad). I am looking in just a tad deeper in that 15 – 30 ft zone, still near or adjacent to rocky shoals and a hard bottom is a must. Cast it out, let it fall all the way to the bottom, reel up the slack line and move the bait by sweeping the rod across your front from 9 to 3 or vice versa or by employing a slow steady crank of the reel. The key element to this presentation is maintaining good bottom contact throughout the retrieve.

The bite’s not subtle and you will know without a doubt when they take it, but you must keep your rod in the proper position to set the hook. I’ve enjoyed my best success dragging the football head by avoiding vertical rod movements and employing the aforementioned horizontal rod movements which keeps me in good position to quickly snap the rod tip for a solid hook set at any point throughout the retrieve.

Casting Rod Presentations

I typically employ presentations more akin to power fishing for bass. I use squarebills & medium diving crankbaits, Keitech 3.3 or 3.8 Fat Swing Impact Swimbaits on 1/4 – 1/2 oz. jig heads depending on depth which is usually in the 5 -20 ft zone. The other techniques that serve me well are the umbrella rig and the weight forward in-line spinner both presentations can be fished from 7 – 20 ft with equal success and allow you to cover massive amounts of water as your search for the active biters.

I will fish all these presentations on the same line, 15 lb. Cortland Masterbraid tied direct to the lure except for the single swimbaits. For the single swimbaits I use a 36-48” section of the Top Secret tippet material connecting the braid to fluorocarbon with Lefty Kreh knot and I’m fishing those on a slower speed reel 5.5:1 when fishing in 10- 20 ft. The slower speed reel helps keep the swimbait in the slightly deeper strike zone.

The squarebills are exceptional and drawing and trigging strikes from walleye that are feeding in the 5 – 8 ft zone, again we’re targeting shoals on the main lake or looking at the mouths of creeks off of the mainlake with scattered weeds and rock rubble or rock humps nearby. The other lure that is a great search bait in the 7- 20 ft. zone is a weight forward in-line spinner, like an Erie Deerie or South Bend’s Walleye Wonder. Traditional walleye angling has you dressing them with a night crawler or minnow, but I’ve found using rubber worms works very well and my two top choices are the Zoom Trick Worm in 4” or 6” (green pumpkin or green pumpkin with a chartreuse tail) and the Gambler Floating Worm (bubblegum yellow). Why bubblegum/yellow because they hit it and they hit it hard.

Crazy as that sounds these rubber worms work great. Think of it this way, once you cast out and begin the retrieve the night crawler stretch out behind the spinner, well the rubber worms look just the same on the retrieve. Other than scent the only way a walleye can tell the difference is to bite it and that is exactly what happens. It is a lot easier to rig and I get four to five fish on each rubber worm before it is so torn up that I must replace it.

With the squarebill, the single swimbait and the weight forward in-line spinner I get the most bites employing a steady retrieve. If I find the fish aren’t holding over or near the rock rubble on the shoals, but they are positioned more toward slightly deeper open water adjacent to the shoals then I employ a countdown method with the weight forward in-line spinner or I use the umbrella rig or the medium diving crankbaits, again a steady retrieve works best for me.

For the open water umbrella rig presentation, I am dressing the rig with Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impacts on 1/8 & 1/4 oz. jigheads. Simply casting out, counting it down to the desired depth and employing a steady retrieve all the way back to the boat. I try to keep the presentation at the depth I saw the fish on the graph or just slightly higher. This presentation replicates a school of bait fish and while some anglers have mixed emotions about using a multi-hook presentation like this, I can say the umbrella rig is a great choice and often times overlooked presentation for walleye that are feeding on open water baitfish.

If you think what you just read sounds a bit like power fishing for bass, then you are right. I would also ask you to keep an open mind, because these big water walleyes are predators. They are not as shy or skittish as their inland lake or small river cousins, these fish roam in good numbers and when they move up on or near the shoals to feed, they do so with abandon.

The current New York State record walleye is 18 lb. 02 oz. and these Eastern Basin fish average between 4.5 – 8 lbs. with a solid 10 lb. (+) fish showing up on most daily trips.

Good luck out there, enjoy the fishery, take a few for the table and do not forget to free the fighter because it might just be that next record catch for some lucky angler.

Photos by Oliver Sutro

About The Author

Burnie Haney is a TFO Ambassador from upstate New York. He sits on the New York State Jefferson County Sports Fishery Advisory Board, serves as the Jefferson County Sportsman Representative to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation Region 6 Fish and Wildlife Management Board, he holds two International Game Fish Association (IGFA) line class records and one IGFA All Tackle Length record and he’s set three fly fishing line class records with the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin. You can find out more about Burnie here.

COVID-19 Update

May 4, 2020 – UPDATE!

We’re happy to update our anglers with the news that our headquarters is now open and operating at full capacity! Dealer orders are being processed, web orders are being fulfilled and warranties are being repaired. All angler orders are being shipped in as timely a manner as possible.

We’re doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by adhering to the safety procedures outlined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you need to visit our office in person, we have social distancing and sanitizing procedures in place and are happy to serve you!

Sincerely,

TFO

 

March 23, 2020

In light of ongoing global health concerns, we want to let you know that your well-being, and the well-being of our team members, is our number one priority.

We are carefully following all appropriate safety procedures as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And we are ensuring our team members are safe so that they can continue to take care of our anglers.

TFO is located in the County of Dallas, Texas, which has ordered all businesses to cease activities at facilities located within the county effective March 23rd at 11:59PM. This means that we will have limited operations until further notice to help do our part to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect the safety of our team members. Our customer service will remain open and we will continue to do our best to support our dealer and anglers promptly. Our fulfillment department will operate in compliance with the County of Dallas order and we will keep our customers notified of any changes to the situation. Please check our website and social media outlets for further updates. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.

We look forward to continuing to provide you great fishing tools to better enjoy the outdoors.

Sincerely,

TFO

Customer Service: As mentioned above, we have had to reduce our phone coverage hours to comply with County of Dallas requirements and to maintain the safety of our customer service team. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. During this time please email us at info@tforods.com for the fastest response.


Update On Warranty Repairs

Please note that the impact of COVID-19 has caused us to have limited operations at our warehouse in Dallas. While our customer service and warranty repairs will remain active, we are working with limited staff, and there might a longer than normal return time for repairs.

To insure the location of your shipment, please be sure to grab your tracking information from the carrier you use for your records.

 

Swim Jig Fishing Tactics for Spring and Fall Bass Fishing

During the spring and fall, out west and on lakes across the country when the bass are shallow, TFO Ambassador Steve Lund has found that a combination of various swim jig techniques and specific jig patterns really excel. Here’s how he has found success.

 

TARGETING THE SPAWN PERIODS EFFECTIVELY

During the spring time, bass move shallow for pre-spawn, spawn, and immediate post spawn periods.  In most lakes this means fishing around some type of cover.  A weedless swim jig is a very versatile bait as it can be fished slow, fast, or even skipped, and is very forgiving by not hanging up so easily. This means more time fishing and also allows you to present your bait within the strike zone even in tight covered areas.  

Pre-Spawn > Spawn

During Pre-spawn and spawn I prefer to use a 3/8 ounce Confidence Tackle Supply swim jig in bluegill pattern paired with a Keitech Easy Shiner swimbait as bass are feeding up during pre-spawn and during the spawn they are guarding their nests from bluegill.  

Post-Spawn

Post-spawn I transition mostly to a 3/8 ounce Confidence Tackle Supply swim jig in baitfish, white, or chartreuse/white (depending on water clarity/visibility) as bass tend to push and gorge themselves on baitfish after the spawn, but I will still give the bluegill color swim jig a try as bass will still be guarding their hatched fry at this time and bluegill are usually enemy number one. 

Fall 

In the fall after the water begins to cool this sparks a feeding frenzy where bass will push bait fish shallow, so I will again throw a 3/8 ounce Confidence Tackle Supply baitfish color, white, or sometimes white/chartreuse depending on the water clarity. Most of the time I prefer to use a 3/8 ounce swim jig, since I rarely fish it deeper than a few feet this time of year and the heavier the bait the less the action.  

 

Rod Selection & Tackle

I have tried many different brands of swim jigs one of the things I like about the confidence tackle supply swim jigs is the stiffer weed guard so I can fish in and through thick cover like tulies and throw it over wood and rarely hang up.  

Since these baits have a stiffer weed guard I opt for a Temple Fork Outfitters 7’3” Heavy action rod GTS C736-1, this rod has an extra fast tip for a quick hook set and plenty of backbone to drive the hook home resulting in more fish making it into the boat.  I pair this with a Shimano Cronarch MGL 6.3:1 reel, spooled with 15# P-Line 100% Fluorocarbon line.  

 

Varying Retrieve Styles 

Swim jigs are a very easy bait to fish most of the time – just throw it out and reel it in like you would a spinnerbait with a steady retrieve. You can also vary the retrieve with intermittent pulses or twitches while you reel it in, or even burn the bait back to the boat if the fish are really active. 

What makes this bait so good is that for one, it’s a swimbait – which presents a natural swimming action and the ability to fish that kind of action in places where it’s difficult to fish most other baits. 

So next time the fish are pushing shallow, pick up a swim jig and don’t be afraid to fish beyond the open water!

 

 

How to Beat the Summer Heat and Catch Fish

As the first stretch of August approaches, it’s time to enjoy the last bit of summer. And if there’s a sliver of free time between time with family and friends, fishing is a great way to relax.
Below are a few summer options to help maximize success, regardless of whether you prefer spinning gear or a fly rod.
Find a Tailwater
Summer brings heat. Fish as a rule, trout, in particular, struggle with higher water temperatures. Tailwater rivers pull cooler water from the bottom of a lake. Fish like consistent water temperature, and the insect hatches tend to be more prolific. The result is big fish that like to eat year-round.
Warmer water temperatures are not as big of a factor in the West, but that’s not the case in the Southeast and East, where anglers are always searching for cooler water. Top tailwaters to try include the Watauga and South Holston in Tennessee, the Nantahala in North Carolina, the Jackson in Virginia. Outside the southeast, there’s the Bighorn in Montana, the Green in Utah, the White in Arkansas, the Farmington in Connecticut and the Arkansas in Colorado.
A good setup for bigger water is TFO’s Axiom II-X paired with a BVK SD reel. Both of these items are set to be be available in October, along with a few of our other new products. A more current big-water option is the Axiom II.
 Try Lake Fishing
River and creek fishing offer more of a definitive roadmap to find fish, assuming you can identify the current seams and structure. Lakes and ponds can be intimidating to the newcomer and therefore are often overlooked. The good thing about stillwater fishing is you can find summer fish, if you learn how to fish cooler, deeper water, which is, in general, where the fish will be holding. Try drop shotting or the countdown method to increase your odds of a quality catch.
Top TFO spin rods to try are the Tactical Bass and Tactical Elite Bass. Both are expected to be available in October. Another good option is our Pacemaker series, designed by TFO advisor and pro tournament angler Cliff Pace.
If you prefer a less technical strategy, target panfish with TFO’s Trout-Panfish rod. They’re perfect for kids and can be caught on spin or fly much of the summer.
Head for the Brine
Freshwater fishing, though doable in the summer, can be tough once July’s swelter arrives. Plan your weekend trip or vacation to your nearest southern coast. Snook, redfish and tarpon, to name a few, are warmwater species. Time the tides right and opportunities abound. The biggest obstacle with saltwater angling is finding the fish. There’s a lot of water, and the fish hold in a mere fraction of it. The best thing you can is do in this instance is hire a guide. Guides have the benefit of local knowledge and will significantly shorten your learning curve on new water.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Many of us are creatures of habit. We fish a certain way when the conditions suit us. Rarely do the stars consistently align with that regimentation. This where it pays to learn a new skill. If you fly fish, pick up a spinning rod. If you spin fish, try to fling a fly. If you’re a dry-fly fisherman, maybe throw a streamer or two for deeper fish. If you love streamers, toss an afternoon grasshopper along the bank. If you like shallow-running crankbaits, try fishing a Carolina rig with a purple worm to get closer to the bottom.
Summer, without question, provides its share of challenges, but there are ample opportunities for the aspiring angler. Try one of the above approaches and let us know how your fared on one of our social media pages.

TFO Introduces the Tactical Elite Bass Rods

The Tactical Elite Bass series is our premier level fishing tool for tournament anglers.

Tactical Elite Bass rods optimize technique specific actions with performance maximizing componentry. When success equates to earning a paycheck, Tactical Elite Bass series rods do not compromise on any aspect of design, engineering or manufacturing in order to guarantee anglers performance, consistency and durability.

The foundation of the Tactical Elite Bass series are technique specific fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber. The blanks are gun metal grey with Pac Bay Titanium SV guides. The series includes 17 models: 13 casting in 6’10”-7’10” lengths in medium- lights to extra-heavy powers; and 4 spinning in 6’10”-7’3” lengths in medium-light to medium-heavy powers. Componentry includes down- locking graphite feel-through skeletal reel seats for maximum sensitivity with black anodized hoods. All rods include a custom Winn® split grip. Every Tactical Elite Bass rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we add the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

Tactical Bass rods retail for $199.95.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

TFO Introduces the Tactical Bass Rods

The Tactical Bass series of rods are precision fishing tools for serious anglers.

Designed to match optimized rod actions and powers to specific fishing techniques, this series insures success on the water. From topwater specific, to crankbaits, to various structure and finesse actions the Tactical Bass series has it covered. And most importantly, TFO’s manufacturing capabilities and quality standards guarantee rod action consistency and durability over time.

The foundation of the Tactical Bass series are technique specific fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a natural satin clear coat finish topped with Pac Bay Minima Stainless Steel SV guides. The series includes 22 models: 18 casting in 6’9”-8’0” lengths in medium-light to extra-heavy powers; and 4 spinning in 6’10”-7’3” lengths in medium-light to medium-heavy powers. Componentry includes down-locking feel-through skeletal reel seats for maximum sensitivity. All rods include premium split cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings. Every Tactical Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we add the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

Tactical Bass rods retail from $149.95-$169.95.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

TFO Introduces the Professional Walleye Rods

With a premium on high sensitivity, the Professional Walleye series is designed specifically for pursuing this finicky and notoriously light biting fish. Beginning with the blanks, to the grips and the reel seats, everything is maximized for sensitivity and the series lengths, powers and actions are built around some of the most successful walleye techniques: jigging, rigging, cranking and trolling.

The super-fast actions, light weight and sensitivity of the WS 663-1 and WS 664-1 are perfect for anglers focused on jigging. The longer 7’0” and 7’6” rods are specifically for the sweeping hooksets of rigging. And the slower actions and light weight of the 7’0” and 7’6” casting rods make them ideal for anglers cranking and trolling.

The foundation of the Professional Walleye series are blanks designed with technique specific actions constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a non-glare gold fleck finish topped with Pac Bay Minima Stainless Steel SV guides. The series includes 9 models: 6 spinning in 6’0”-7’6” lengths in light to medium powers; and 3 casting in 7’0”–7’6” lengths in medium light to medium powers.

Componentry includes down-locking split graphite reel seats for maximum feel and transmission. All rods include premium cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings. Full cork grips are provided on all casting models and split cork grips are provided on spinning models. Priced at $99.95, every Professional Walleye series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we added the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

It’s Time for ICAST

It’s closing in on mid July and ICAST 2019 is here. Temple Fork Outfitters will be among the vendors at the world’s largest sportfishing tradeshow.
This will TFO’s be 25th  appearance at ICAST, an annual event the company looks forward to every summer as it releases a handful of new products.
On the fly side, TFO will unveil a new saltwater rod, a revamped NXT series and an upgraded BVK reel. As far as spinning gear, we have new walleye rods and bass rods. Make sure to check out next week’s TFO blog for more detail on each of these products once ICAST has concluded.
The four-day, Orlando, Fla. event allows companies in the fishing industry to personalize their products while meeting a wide-range of anglers, from those who design the gear to those who run the companies. All share the same passion for the outdoors.
Feel free to stop by the TFO booth. You can try out rods and talk to members of our staff about the Axiom II Switch, the Pro-II two-handed series, Finesse Trout Glass rods, Bluewater SG fly rods, the Seahunter spinning/casting series and the TFO Inshore spinning/casting series. Among the TFO national advisory staffers expected to be on hand are Major League Fishing Stage 8 winner Cliff Pace, Seahunter host Rob Fordyceand North Carolina saltwater specialist Gary Dubiel.
Thoughts on ICAST? Questions for TFO? Feel free to reach out on one of our social media pages.
Cliff Pace Major League fishing win

Pace Sets the Standard with Major League Fishing (MLF) Victory

Cliff Pace strung together a strong Sunday finish to win the MLF Bass Pro Evinrude Stage 8 Championship, and the TFO National Advisory Staff member had a little help from two of his favorite rods.

The TFO 6’10” ML Tactical Spinning rod and the 7’0” M Tactical Casting CB rod were Pace’s rods of choice last weekend. Both helped him compete and win Sunday.

The reason: Very few, if any, breakoffs or lost fish.

“The SP 6103 fits me,” Pace said. “At the Table Rock event, I caught 179 bass over the course of four days, and I caught the majority of them with the SP 6103.  I never broke a single fish off. And carrying that forward, the other rod I used the last several events is the CB 704. I used it at Table Rock throwing jerk-baits and top-water baits. And that’s the rod I used championship Sunday to win. In any format, any lost fish makes a big difference. In the MLF format, any lost fish makes a huge difference. If you lose a giant in a five-fish tournament, that could be a problem. If you lose two or three smaller fish in the MLF format, that’s a huge problem. Over at Green Lake, smallmouth are notoriously difficult to land. I credit .the rod’s design and its parabolic bend that I worked so hard with TFO to build for my success.”

Each rod has a functionality

“I personally saw to that.  Working with TFO is unique.  They listen to my needs as an angler, not just a face.  The final prototype on the CB 704, the day that I got it, I took it to a body of water and caught 30 or 40 bass on it to see what my landing percentage would be,” Pace said. “Before I signed off on it, I did that with every rod in the TFO Family.”

The SP 6103 and CB 704 helped Pace wrap up the victory in the MLF Bass Pro Tour’s final inaugural season’s event; it can also help the recreational angler on any given day.

“Anybody who goes fishing wants to be successful,” Pace said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re a weekend angler or it’s your career. When every fish counts, you can’t miss opportunities. Our rods enabled me to maximize opportunities and bring fish to hand.  Their action is definitive to my success. It makes a huge difference. I won by 10.12 pounds. If I had lost a few bass out of my 47, I would not have won the tournament.”

Pace,  the 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion, bagged 47 bass for a total weight of 81.9 pounds to surpass all others in the 80-angler field in Neenah, WI.  The victory earned Pace $100,000 and moved him closer to $2 million in career earnings.

Pace now has four major career wins and 31 top 10 finishes.

Thoughts on Cliff’s performance? Feel free to weigh in on one of our social media pages.

Squarebills for Smallmouth

Editor’s Note: This submission comes from TFO ambassador Burnie Haney, who offers some interesting strategy for smallmouth bass.

Oftentimes in our conversations about smallies the topic of topwater plugs, jerkbaits or the drop shot get the most attention, and yes, they all catch fish. However, one technique that isn’t talked about as much is casting squarebill crankbaits for smallies. In many regions of the country bass anglers are well-versed in casting squarebills in and around wood or over rock rubble for largemouth, but there are also many anglers who have yet to pick up a squarebill when they’re specifically targeting smallies. Below are a few squarebill presentations I’ve used over the past 15 years when I’m out chasing Great Lakes smallies and clear-water smallies in general.

Safety Considerations

Smallies are a fish with big attitude, and they get pissed off when you hook em, which is why I like them so much. And once you get them in the net or in the boat, they’ll show you just how sassy they can be. For this very reason I have a couple recommendations that can better prepare you for this close encounter. Wear a quality pair of polarized sunglasses; this allows you to see where and how well the fish is hooked as you get it near the boat, and should the fish throw the lure as you attempt to land it, the glasses prevent a treble hook from hitting you in the eye.

Another handy item is a good set of needle nose pliers or a hook-out device. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than trying to pop out a treble hook and it finds the flesh on your thumb or finger with a pissed off smallie still attached to the other end. Now I realize that may sound weird to some folks and you could be thinking if treble hooked baits are that dangerous why throw them at all? I can only say I throw them because they flat out catch fish and that’s what I’m all about. So being prepared for a hook in the hand should the unthinkable occur isn’t all together a bad thing, either. Now having said that, if you use the needle nose pliers, you’ll greatly reduce your odds of getting hooked in the hand.

Rigging Up & The Presentation

I do most of my squarebill fishing with the TPM CB 7105-1, 7-10 MH power rod. I keep two of these rods rigged, one with a 6.3:1 reel and the other with a 5.1:1 reel. Both reels are spooled with 8-pound. Cortland Master Braid (Moss Green). I set the drag so the line slips just a tad on the hookset. What I most enjoy about this setup is it lets me make 35 yard casts or longer which is super important whenever I’m chasing clear-water smallies and the rods moderate action doubles as a good shock absorber on the strike while the braided line provides rock-solid, long-distance hooksets.

As for the two different retrieve speeds, during low light conditions I’ll use the 5.1:1 reel and once the sun gets up good I prefer the 6.3:1. If I notice multiple fish are chasing the hooked fish back to the boat, then I may pull out an 8.3:1 reel and turn-on-the-burn. I’ve found with clear-water smallies you can use speed as a trigger, especially so when you’re around a bunch of actively feeding fish. It seems to make them more aggressive as they race each other to get to the bait first.

Most of my clear-water squarebill fishing for smallies is focused in 3 to 7 feet of water in and around slate shoals or rock rubble areas. And if the area has some scattered vertical vegetation near it, that’s even better. What works for me is firing a cast out employing a steady retrieve trying to contact the hardbottom area. When the lure contacts the tops of any perimeter vegetation, the braided line is great because a hard snap of the rod tip will make the lure explode out into open water, which can stimulate a strike from a following fish.

Early in the season when the water temps are 58-65 degrees, I usually start with a 1.5 squarebill. As the summer progresses and the water warms into the mid-70s to 80-degree range and the bait (baitfish and crayfish) get bigger, I’ll use the 2.5 squarebill more, but even then I usually start my day with the 1.5 and I’ll let the fish tell me what size they prefer.

I use Lucky Craft squarebills; keep in mind there are many brands available and for this style of fishing getting the bait to deflect off the hard-bottom area is what triggers the most strikes. I recommend you find a squarebill bait that you like best then try it out on different size lines and retrieve speeds until you find it regularly bumping bottom. Once you get that dialed in then it’s just a matter of locating what areas of your lake or river are holding the actively feeding smallies.

I try to keep my color choices simple. I’ll use a Mad Craw (Red Craw) early in the spring, switch up to a Chameleon Brown Craw in the warmer summer months and mix in a Perch or Shad imitator as the season progresses. Day in and day out those four colors will usually get you bit anywhere you go.

Remember with squarebills seeking hard-bottom areas that provide deflection opportunities with a steady retrieve is usually the best option, but on some days, they’ll also work along the weed lines with a stop-and-go retrieve. Let the fish tell you how they want it and don’t forget speed as a trigger anytime you’re around a group of feeding smallies because their competitive nature can get the better of them resulting in more hook ups for you.

Good luck and be sure to post photos of those catches. Comments, questions about fishing for smallmouth? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.