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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.

TFO Helps Set the Pace at Texas Fest

A few days after his finishing up the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, TFO advisor Cliff Pace took inventory of his performance.

Third place isn’t too bad. Not at all.

“Any time you give yourself an opportunity to win on our level, (it’s good),” Pace said. “I did that. I just came up a little short in total weight. All in all, it was a good week to finish third and get the big fish of the weekend. That was a neat deal. Given that, it’s hard to complain, but yes, you do always want to win. Third is better than fourth.”

It was Pace’s first top-three Bassmaster finish since 2013.  He will head to his next tournament with an extra $30,000 and a new Toyota Tundra after landing the event’s biggest bass during the May 17-20 affair.

“Momentum creates confidence, and confidence is good in anything from a competitive aspect,” Pace said.

Pace totaled 61 pounds, 12 ounces, trailing only Drew Benton (67 pounds, 15 ounces) and Jacob Wheeler (64 pounds, 8 ounces).

The key to his success? Versatility.

“I fished smarter,” Pace said. “I have multiple different patterns that will work, depending on the weather scenarios. You see a lot of guys who will have a really good day and then a really bad day. I had enough different things going on where I could be consistent each day. A lot of guys will catch fifteen pounds one day, then eight the next. I was able to stay in the teens every day. Over four days, you add up the numbers and it etches you up the list. A lot of guys they had the deep pattern going, then we had the overcast skies, and they weren’t as successful. I had enough things going on with the event to make it work with the changing conditions.”

Pace’s biggest bass weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces. He caught it using a TFO Pacemaker 747 with a Carolina rig and a Drop Shad in about 25 feet of water. He boated it within the first 10 minutes of fishing on the first morning.

“What it does is it gives you confidence in what you’re doing,” Pace said. “It makes you believe what you’re doing is the right thing, so I could settle down and fish and fish more effectively and efficiently. That’s what you want to do — find the right thing. But if you settle on the wrong thing, there’s danger in that. Catching a big one like that gives you faith in the area of the lake that you’re fishing.”

Lake Travis, located near Austin, is known for its water clarity and its stout population of bucket-mouth bruisers.

“That lake has a lot of big fish in it,” Pace said. “There were four fish over eight pounds in the tournament.”

Next up for Pace is the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite in Orange, Texas on June 7-10, as he tries maintain momentum for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year honors. He currently stands in second behind Brent Chapman

“To win that would be a very big deal,” Pace said. “It’s something I’ve worked for my whole career. I’ve gotten close a couple times. I’ve never been able to pull off winning it. It’s a little too early in the year to be thinking about it. I’ve gotten off to a very good start. It definitely feels good to be in position the rest of the year.”

Check out the TFO blog for more info as we follow Cliff on the Bassmaster circuit.

How to Fish Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee is one of the top bass lakes in the United States. It’s also one of the most challenging, given its sheer size and changing conditions. Two-time junior Bassmaster world champion and TFO Ambassador Joey Nania weighs in with a few tips on how to find bass in Lake O.

Preparation is Key

“The big thing is to do your research learning those key areas like the Monkey Box, certain places like that. Do your research on those backwater areas with good hard reed lines. But from what I heard the last hurricane wiped out the hard reed lines. And normally the key on that lake is finding the hard reed lines, even with the wind is blowing. Find a reed line that’s got good backwater behind it. Those kind of places are going to filter out the dirt and the sediment and the mud. Those Florida bass love to be in that clear water. Your best bet to catch them is in that not-sediment-filled water. Those reeds lines filter that out.

Expect the Unexpected Given Florida’s Recent Tropical Weather Trends

“A lot of stuff has changed. It’s one of those flat, shallow Florida lakes. A hurricane comes through and that can change the whole lake. It’s the same in Louisiana in those low-lying marshes. That vegetation can easily get ripped up and destroyed and killed. It can become a mess. Daytime decisions are a big thing. Understanding the wind, which way it’s blowing and which way things will be protected or blown out. Running away from the wind can be very important to having success.

Start Small

“I’ve always done well in the rim canal, those canals that go all the way around the lake. There’s some good backwaters off those rim canals. Those places are going to stay a little more stable in terms of wind conditions and weather.”

Think Outside the Box

“The spawn is always a good time. A lot of fish will spawn through the fall and into the winter. That will depend on the conditions. One of the most fun times I know of is to go down there is post spawn — April — when the fish are still shallow, but a lot of them have done their thing. They’re just in a full feed mode. That’s a great time to swim a jig. They’re done spawning and they’re in full feed mode. They’re feeding hard. That time of year is a lot of fun.

The key is finding clean water, somewhere that’s not filthy and dirty. And then it’s a matter of figuring them out. …”

The Right Equipment

“A 7-6 heavy action rod to punch the grass mats. Something to punch with 65 to 80-pound braid, something in the 1-2 ounce range to consistently punch through with every pitch. You don’t want half your pitches not go through the mat. A heavy rod with a good backbone to throw a decent jig with a soft tip. That’s really important. I would say a 7-6 Heavy Pacemaker is a great rod. The 7-6 is a perfect length. It’s not so long that it’s overwhelming and too much to fish with. It’s a got a good bounce to it. You can flip with that thing all day and not get tired. I would use a high-gear ratio reel for the punching technique, something that can punch through those mats and get the bait back to the boat quickly to get to as many fish as possible.”

The Right Technique

“It’s about getting as many flips as you can and hitting them in the head when you’re punching. With punching, it’s important to know when you’re getting the bite and nine times out of ten, your bite comes on the initial fall when you pitch it in there and let it drop, or it will be on the first hop, when you pitch it through the mat, hop it, let it fall, and they’ll get it. And if the water is really cold, you have to hop it in the hole for a long time. Normally, it’s punch it in there, let it fall once and hop it, let it fall and get it to the next good looking area or clump.

Don’t Get Frustrated

“That lake can be overwhelming. It’s overwhelming because it all looks the same. Finding the right area that has the right water quality and grass and an abundance of different grass. Work that area. And you’ve got to think there’s a population of fish that use that backwater to spawn and go through their life cycle. It’s finding that right area, hunkering down and figuring out are they on the outer edges and outer reed lines in the deeper water, or are they up in the flats trying to spawn? Do that type of thing.

“One type of grass to look for and there are a couple different types that grow on hard bottom. One of them is Arrowhead. If I’m in Florida and I find Arrowhead grass and it grows in sand. It’s 2, 3-feet tall with a spear-shaped arrowhead on it. That’s always a good sign for hard bottom. And any time you’re around a full moon the first couple months of the year finding that Arrowhead grass with that sandy, hard bottom in those backwaters is really important.”

Manage Your Expectations

“(Lake Okeechobee) is not as good as it used to be it seems like. Lakes go through cycles and weather changes. It will rebound, but it’s down right now from what it used to be. Hopefully it rebounds strong. I’m sure it will. That’s how these lakes work. But it’s certainly not what it was at one point. It’s still a great destination, but I would wait till the water warms up a bit so you can get stable warmth before you schedule a trip, sometime in March or April. January and February in Florida is always up and down. Normally you’re going to hit a cold front of some sort.”

 

If you liked this story, let us know. If you want more bass fishing info, check out this interview from TFO advisor Cliff Pace.

Five Ways to Catch More Fish in the Winter

Most fishermen hate winter fishing. But I love winter fishing. Full disclosure: I live in Florida. It’s warm pretty much year round. But even when I lived in Virginia, I liked winter fishing. Not many people fish in January and February, so chances are you will get your favorite spots all to yourself.

Here are few tips to make the best of those colder days on the water.

Safety

Wear neoprene waders. Gloves and a good thermal cap are essential. Layer up, if possible. It’s better to feel like the Michelin man than to freeze. Use a wading staff, if needed. No one wants to fall in the water. It’s uncomfortable in the summer; it’s potentially life-threatening in the winter.

Stay upright. Stay safe.

And even if you stay dry, make sure to take breaks to stay warm. Drink a cup of coffee or crank up the heat in your vehicle.

Pick the Right Water

Tailwaters are the obvious option in the winter simply because of the constant water temperature. Trout, for instance, like water temperatures in the 50s. You won’t find that water that warm in the winter — unless it’s a tailwater fishery.

My two favorites are the Nantahala in Bryson City, N.C.; the Jackson River in Hot Springs, Va.; the South Holston in Bristol, Tenn.; and the White River in Lakeview Ark. All are worth fishing, even when it’s not bone-chilling cold.

Sleep In

There’s no need to get up at the crack of dawn. I fish late morning until late afternoon. Sometimes, I go after lunch, when sun is up high enough to warm the water. This schedule applies to freshwater and salt.

For redfish on the Florida marsh, I wait until ankle-deep water covers the dark mud on the flats and in the creeks when the fish try to get warm off the heat from skinny water and dark bottom, always a good combination for winter fishing.

Slow Down

I typically fish too fast. My personality dictates more is better, particularly if the fishing is slow. This is the wrong approach in winter fishing. You need to slow down. Slow movements. Slow casts. Slow strips. Slow retrieves.

As the winter water temperature increases, a fish’s metabolism increases. Decreasing water temperature makes fish lethargic. To compensate, make accurate casts and slow down.

Use a Thermometer

The air temperature is important for personal safety. The water temperature dictates whether the fish will feed. Trout generally like temperatures in the 50s. Largemouth bass, on the other hand, prefer temperatures in the mid-60s and 70s.

I used to get wed to these guidelines, but don’t make the same mistake. Instead pay attention to whether the water temperature is moving. If you’re winter fishing, you want temperatures to rise. In the summer, you generally want temperatures to drop, preferably into each species’ feeding zone.

Temperature, of course, is only one factor in winter fishing success. But the important thing is to get out and enjoy winter fishing. Trust me, it’s worth braving the cold.

Any other tips you’d like to share, let us know with a comment or two below.

Five Must-Have Bass Lures

Ever wonder if your tackle box has everything you need to catch bass? At times, we buy more and more and think we’re improving our arsenal, but more is not always better. We asked TFO’s Dakota Jones for his opinion on his top-five bass lures. Here’s what the accomplished guide had to say about his choice of go-to lures.

Stick Bait

Look in any bass angler’s tackle box, odds are you will find at least one bag of Senkos or similar brand of this popular soft plastic. A stick bait is simply a straight soft-plastic worm with a thick body. Most anglers rig this bait weightless or weedless, but it is commonly used on wacky rigs, Texas rigs and countless other tackle configurations that require a soft plastic bait. Simplicity and versatility make this bait such a bass-catching machine. Rigged weightless, wacky style or weedless, the stickbait is a go-to in shallow water around docks, stumps, grass edges and laydowns. The Temple Fork Outfitters GTS C 735-1 casting rod is ideal for soft plastics such as a stick bait in and around cover. The 7.3 Medium Heavy will cast a weightless plastic effortlessly and accurately, but still has the power to fight and land bass living in the thick stuff. If light line is a necessity, the Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker TPM SP 705-1 spinning rod is a great choice for wacky rigged stick baits.

Football Jig

When bass live in deep water, it can be hard to beat a football jig. This style jig has an oval-shaped head, resembling a football, hence the name. Not surprisingly, it can maneuver through heavy cover, especially rocks, without snagging. Size and weight may vary, but a common choice among deep-water bassers is a ¾-ounce Football Jig and soft plastic craw shape trailer. Most fish a football jig in deep-water around rock piles, ledges or brush. The Temple Fork Outfitters TFG PSC 706-1 is a perfect match for dragging these big jigs around deep structure. With a medium-fast action the Professional Series 7-0’ Heavy will sling a jig across the lake! In addition, the TFO Professional Series is an affordable option, retailing at $99.95.

Spinnerbait

One of the oldest lures still widely used by bass fishermen today, the spinnerbait is no doubt one of the best bass catchers. Made up of multiple blades spinning on a v-shaped wire with a silicone skirt, a spinnerbait can range in size, color and shape, depending on the conditions. Although the spinnerbait can be fished in any water column and around any sort of cover, most anglers prefer to use this bait in shallow water. The Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker TPM SB 705-1 and 726-1 were designed by 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Cliff Pace, specifically for fishing Spinnerbaits. The 7-0 Medium Heavy rod is perfectly suited for casting a spinnerbait in tight quarters. The 7-2 Heavy Model was built with bigger baits in mind, even deep-water applications. Both rods are designed with a spinnerbait action that will cast with ease.

Square Bill Crankbait

The 4×4 of all bass baits, the Square Bill is a standby for every bass angler. Easy to recognize with its short square-shaped bill, most Square Bills have two treble hooks and are designed to plow through heavy cover —- shallow rocks, stumps or laydown trees. The square-shape design allows the crankbait to deflect off cover rather than roll over and snag like a bait with a round- shaped bill would. A Temple Fork Outfitters Pacemaker TPM CB 704-1 is the perfect match for fishing Square Bill cranks around shallow cover. Its long, slow action will increase your odds of hooking and landing bass in any situation.

The Whopper Plopper

This offering started a phenomenon in the bass fishing world almost overnight: Larry Dahlberg’s Whopper Plopper is now a must-have for any hardcore bass angler. This topwater–buzz bait/walking bait hybrid has been catching loads of big bass across the country the past two years. Fish it over grass, around boat docks, bluff walls or shallow points. The Whopper Plopper is an extremely versatile topwater bait that can cover water fast. The retrieve can be as simple as cast and reel it in or add some pauses to mix it up. The 130 size is most popular among bass anglers, but is also available in sizes 90 and 110. Monofilament or braided line is best. We recommend our Professional Series PSC 765-1 casting rod for the 130-size plopper. Rod length is the key to control at long distances. If you have yet to fish a Whopper Plopper, you may be missing out on the action! Larry, by the way, is a TFO advisory staffer.

Fifteen Minutes with DJ Muller, Part II

This is the second part of our interview with TFO ambassador DJ Muller, who took the time to discuss his passion for surf fishing and his favorite species, stripers. Muller, a noted author and guide, is an expert on both topics. Here’s what he had to say:

TFO: Do you see the internet as a good thing because it gives people information, but it’s a bad thing because of the way it’s been used?

DJM: “It’s totally destroyed fishing. Totally destroyed it. I know because of marketing and sales it’s helped, but it’s totally destroyed fishing. Saltwater fishing is much different that freshwater. You have migration times and heightened times of really good fishing and times of not so-great fishing, but there’s fish to be caught. In terms of migration periods, it’s very good, when you can catch ten, twenty, thirty fish a day and some big fish, so on and so forth. Normally, if you catch a few fish a week you’re happy. The thing is with the reports, they’re instant. You get a bend in your rod, somebody sees it, takes a photo and it’s up on Facebook in fifteen minutes. All of a sudden, there are fifteen guys at that spot. Kind of sucks the life out of it. It takes the fun and excitement out of fishing. It’s killed it. Destroyed it. You work to catch a fish and then somebody posts a photo on Facebook, then there’s somebody there in minutes. Guys are driving around and they get a Facebook post, so let’s go fish (this area). Then there’s fifteen trucks on the beach in twenty minutes. Totally destroyed it. It’s terrible. That’s why I really enjoy night trips, where people can’t see you. In the daytime, guys sit up on the boardwalk or in their trucks or whatever, then they’re in motion. It’s really terrible. I always pray that we catch a lot of fish at night. It’s the stealthy way to go. In general, I’m talking about extreme migration periods. I really like fishing at night, where your partner might be two hundred yards away on the next rock over. That’s what I like the most, although blitz fishing is fun. You’ll see a million peanut bunker and a thousand bass on them.”

TFO: You started with your dad, but ultimately what lured you into surf fishing? You could have gone freshwater or a different route, but why the surf?

DJM: “I used to fish the ponds and almost every day we’d fish it. I’d go sometimes, but I found it boring. It wasn’t stimulating when you’re buying worms or a night crawlers and you go out there and catch a largemouth. That was fun, but it was very limiting. Then you get in saltwater. Things change by the hour. The tides. Different levels of water. Winds. Bait migrations. Fish migrations. Mix all that together and it can be very complicated. There’s much more brainwork. You have to do a lot more thinking and processing. I’ve always said it’s like doing a crossword puzzle. Every day it’s a puzzle. You look at the clues. You put them all the together and you try to come up with something and see what works. When you’re good at it, it does work. It is a lot of fun as far as the figuring and the variables. It’s much more of a mental game. There is a physical part. You’re getting hit by waves when you’re walking across sandbars. It’s the mental, anticipating where the fish will be and why. To me, that’s very stimulating. I enjoy that a lot.”

TFO: Where’s your favorite place to fish? I’m not asking for a specific spot, but in general, where do you like to go? Do you have a favorite area? Montauk? Somewhere in North Carolina?

DJM: “I like fishing in New England. I know that’s pretty general. Block Island (in Rhode Island), which is a playground for surf fishers. Cuttyhunk in Massachusetts is playground for stripers. There’s a lot of water and not many people.  Cuttyhunk has had a bass club there since 1864. It’s legendary with allure with folk history. It’s a great place with great fishing and a lot of fun. It’s a desolate island out in the ocean. There’s not a lot there, but as far as fishing, it’s one of my favorite places. There are other places — Martha’s Vineyard, Montauk. There’s a ton of places to fish, but two notable ones that I like to fish are the ones I mentioned.”

TFO: Your favorite species in the surf? And why do you like pursuing them?

DJM: “Striped bass. A hundred percent. It’s a great fish. It goes everywhere.  I don’t know what it is, but the call for striped bass is very loud. Pretty much that’s all I fish for. I do some freshwater, but when it’s time to get serious, I go for the stripers. I spend a lot of time and travel in pursuit of stripers, from March until January. We’re always moving somewhere, going somewhere. Where ever they are, I go. If they’re in the back bays, we fish the back bays. If they’re in the rivers, we fish the rivers. If they’re in New England, we go up there in the summertime. After Christmas, they’re in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It’s a fish that means a lot. It’s an intriguing fish. We do a lot to pursue and catch them. Ninety-nine percent of our fishing is catch-and-release. Most of the guys that appreciate striper fishing don’t keep them because they understand it was a resource that was depleted in the ‘90s. A lot of the guys understand that and appreciate it. A striped bass is worth a lot more alive than it is dead. That’s how I feel about catch-and-release.”

TFO: Do you fish conventional gear or fly? Both?

DJM: “I fish full spin. Ninety-five percent spin.”

TFO: What do you like about the TFO line of rods?

DJM: “I use the TFO surf rods in different situations, depending of the size of the fish and conditions. I use their Surf Series rods. They’re very good rods for the money. I do fish other rods that cost five, six, seven hundred dollars apiece. But the TFO line is a very good rod for the working man’s dollar. I do a lot of guiding with entry-level people. Most of the guys starting out, I want them to have a good piece of equipment for the money. That’s one thing that’s drawn me to TFO, that appeal. Are there things I would change on some of them? Yes, absolutely.  That’s why I’m in the position to help modify some of them.”

TFO: You guide a lot of people. What’s the biggest mistake people make? Any advice?

DJM: “Most guys don’t pay attention. They don’t look at the situation. They don’t pay attention to detail and what’s going on in front of them. A lot of that is all there for you in fishing. The fish reveal themselves. A situation unfolds. If guys would study the water and see what’s going on before they cast and have a good reason to cast, they would do much better. Nine out of ten guys walk out to the water and start casting and retrieving without looking at anything. I think that’s the problem most guys run into. As I’ve gotten older, I cast less. I study what’s in front of me much more than I used to. I make much fewer casts, but those casts are high-percentage casts. My proficiency rate is much better now than it once was. My recognition is much better. You see something. You know what to do. What to put on. Where to go. How to work it. That’s really important. I teach guys that. It’s sight recognition, seeing something, then knowing what to do. You may only get one shot, so you want to do the right thing. It’s not a freshwater situation where the bass are always there. The fish could be here one day and then tomorrow afternoon, they could be thirty miles from here. So you have to see it and react and do the right thing. It’s a very impulsive sport. A guy sees a guy catch a fish over there, so then he wants to go over there.”

Fifteen Minutes with DJ Muller, Part I

Some anglers fish inshore, others offshore. Some like freshwater, some prefer the salt. DJ Muller’s first love is the surf. From Maine to Cape Hatteras, Muller guides for striped bass and is the author of a handful of books on stripers. His latest work is Striper Tales: A Collection of Surfcasting Stories. The TFO ambassador was gracious enough to take a few minutes from his writing and fishing schedule to talk to TFO blog editor Mike Hodge. Here’s what he had to say.

TFO: What are your earliest memories of fishing? Did you go out with your dad, your brother, another sibling or a friend? How did you get started fishing?

DJM: “My friends and I would get out in the neighborhood and do some freshwater fishing in the pond. Then my father would take my brother and me down to the municipal docks in the evenings, when we’d catch snappers, maybe bluefish. As we got older we’d start fishing out a bit, off jetties, inlets, stuff like that, which kinda whet my appetite. I really didn’t get into it until college when I got into the striper pursuit, as opposed to a love for fishing. It turned into a striper obsession. We pretty much hunt them nine months of the year now. I travel all over the northeast looking for trophy fish.”

TFO: Who was your mentor in surf fishing? Was there anyone who showed you the way in what you know?

DJM: “Funny question. My father always took us fishing. He wasn’t a mentor, even though we grew up learning together. I really say this because it made me a good fisherman — I’m self-taught. Nobody taught me what baits worked a certain way. Nobody gave me their opinions. I didn’t have a grandfather, friend of the family, nobody. I learned by fishing, learning and reading magazines. This was before the internet. I’d read articles and try to apply it. That’s basically it. I’m self-taught. It’s funny because when I I guide, I work with a lot of guys on a lot of different levels. Some of the guys will say, ‘Well, my grandfather taught me this. He said to do this and that.’ Well, it’s totally wrong. The guy’s trying to get into striper fishing, but his foundation is a little wobbly. It’s not really clear and it’s not really accurate, what he was told as a kid or as a young man. They’re locked into these bad habits. It pushes you to the other end. They’re trying to catch fish and having a hard time doing it because they’re doing stuff wrong. They believe it’s right, but it’s wrong.”

TFO: With that trial-and-error method of learning, what kept you going? You learned by making mistakes, so progress probably was pretty slow?

DJM: “When I first started pursuing striped bass, I didn’t catch my first one for a year-and-a-half. It was extremely frustrating. You could say the first one was extremely fulfilling, extremely gratifying. I was catching big blues, which was holding me over and keeping my appetite wet, but until I got my first striper, I was frustrated, but I was working hard. I’d work, work, work and read. Work, read. Work, read. There was no internet. There was nothing to draw from. Now you sign up for Facebook, you get a post, you go out and catch five fish. There’s no work ethic and the reward is minimal. It doesn’t mean that much to those people. They read a report and go fishing. That’s the overwhelming amount of people today. They don’t want to pay dues. They just want the result. It’s a very cheap quality of satisfaction.”

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for part II!

Fifteen Minutes with TFO’s Cliff Pace (Part 2 of 2)

This the second part of our interview with TFO advisory staffer and pro bass fisherman Cliff Pace. You can find part one here. Enjoy.

TFO: Back to your favorite way to catch bass, can you elaborate a little bit more on that?

CP: “A lot of people say topwater, and that is a very exciting way to catch them. If I had my druthers, I really like to fish structure out deep. Just because when you’re fishing that way, there’s the potential to find big groups of fish at certain times of the year. I like the bite. It’s pretty fun to me when I can catch fish and know that I can go back out there and catch another one. And another one. And another one. And another one. To me that’s the most fun you can have fishing that there is. If I had to pick one way that is my preferred preference, that would be it.”

TFO I’m sure you fish with people who are not professional anglers — friends, relatives, etc. — if you have to give someone like that advice on catching more fish, what would it be?

CP: “To improve on anything, and it’s not just fishing, you’re going to have to work on where your weaknesses are. As I just said, my favorite way to catch a fish is on deep structure. That type of fishing doesn’t even exist here. When I started fishing tournaments, I would actually drive after getting off work on a Friday afternoon north of here four, five hours away to where (deep structure) did exist, so I could work on it, practice on it and learn how to be successful doing it. It’s the same way with any sport. It’s no different from golf. If you can hit an awesome tee shot, but if you can’t putt, then you’re going to have to work on your putting and not concentrate so much on your tee shot. It’s the same way with fishing. The only way to get better with anything is to practice. The best way to become a better fisherman is to fish more. At the same time, if you feel like you’re a very good flipper, don’t pick up your flipping stick every time when you go fishing. Try to work outside your comfort zone. The whole purpose of doing that is your comfort zone will grow.”

TFO: Talk about the Pacemaker series of rods with TFO. I’m not asking you to brag on yourself, but now that you have a finished product with your name on it, what are you most proud of? I know I would be.

CP: “I am, too. That’s the first series of rods I’ve done in my career. It was good working with TFO. They didn’t put any time restraints or number restraints on it. They turned me loose working with their builder. … We have a very comprehensive series of rods in the TFO bass series. I truly believe that anywhere in this country that you’re going to bass fish, or no matter what technique you intend to use, I believe that there is a rod in this line that will fit that need perfectly. We don’t have any missing links. We don’t have any gaps. It was a well-thought-out project, one that we spent a lot of time on. You see a lot of rod builders and companies in general, I think they rush their design phase just to get a product on the shelf and the product ends up not being what it should be. I know I never experienced that working with TFO. TFO, I truly believe, builds one of the best fishing rods that there is, from a durability and value standpoint and also from a customer-service standpoint. From a customer-service standpoint, nobody can touch them. From a durability standpoint, I’ve fished an entire season with my rod and never broke one. I can’t say that about any rod company that I’ve ever used. Am I saying that TFO rods are unbreakable? Absolutely not. Am I saying that they are more durable than other rods on the market? Yes I am. They are more forgiving. And they still perform. There are a lot of things about that line that I’m very proud of and very impressed with.”

 

Thanks for reading! Be sure to checkout our Cliff-designed series of bass rods, the Pacemaker!

Fifteen minutes with TFO’s Cliff Pace (Part 1 of 2)

Cliff Pace is one of the best bass fishermen in the world. The Petal, Miss. resident has banked more than $1 million in career earnings and logged 25 top 10 finishes during his 15-year professional run. The 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion recently took a few minutes away from his busy schedule to chat with TFO blog editor Mike Hodge. Here’s what Pace, a TFO national advisory staffer, had to say during part one of a two-part interview.

TFO: What are your earliest memories of fishing as a kid?

CP: “I really feel like I lived a very fortunate childhood in the sense that I did get to spend a lot of my childhood in the outdoors. I had a dad who loved to fish, as well as friends of the family and uncles, people of that nature, who loved to fish as well. I really truly don’t remember fishing being a part of my life. … I grew up fishing with my dad and friends of my dad all up and down the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And we did a lot of different types of fishing. I grew up bass fishing, but I also did a lot of inshore saltwater fishing, so I was exposed to a lot of things (in the outdoors) at a very young age, and that continued throughout my entire life.”

TFO: When did you realize you wanted to be a pro fisherman?

CP: “For some reason it always struck me. I remember watching the Bassmasters on TV with the commentators years ago. It was on TNN. That was the Nashville network. Not even sure if that’s on or not anymore. I was always drawn to that being a career choice. That was before collegiate fishing tournaments and high school fishing tournaments. I grew up prior to that. For me, it was something I was drawn to do at a very, very young age. It was something that I always wanted to do. My parents thought I was crazy thinking that I would be able to make a living fishing. Somehow, through the grace of God, it’s all worked out.”

TFO: Was there one point in your pro career that you realized, ‘Hey, I can make a living doing this?’ I know there has to be a learning curve in the process? I know that’s got to be fairly steep because you’re going up against some pretty good competition, right?

CP: It is (steep). I was very fortunate in my fishing career that I managed, somehow, to win one of the first big tournaments that I fished. It was always something that I really wanted to do, but it’s also something that you never really know if it’s all going to work out. I just took the approach to work hard at it diligently. I still have that same approach now that I did then. Once I got out there and kind of got my feet on the ground competing in the tournaments against guys who were making a living doing it, I felt like it was something like I could for sure accomplish. I really devoted myself to trying to do so. Over time, I started fishing more and more events, I got more comfortable to where I am today. The struggle is the same now as it was then. That’s the thing about any competitive sport, you are never at a comfort point when it comes to the competition side of things. Our competition is better now than it’s ever been in our sport, because of some of the things I mentioned — the addition of high school fishing and collegiate fishing. People are fishing (competitively) at younger ages than they ever did before. People are taking it more seriously and looking at as a career choice and option, and therefore you have people who are getting better faster, which makes for a stronger competition field. I expect that field to get stronger throughout my career.”

TFO: Who was your mentor? Was there someone you tried to model yourself after?

CP: “I had a lot of guys who helped or coached me. I wouldn’t call it coaching. I had a lot of guys I could discuss things with and guys who helped me feel comfortable with what I was doing and gave me a sense that I could be successful with it. I was fortunate to meet Gary Klein and Mark Davis who helped me with things that I didn’t have answers to. Sometimes they didn’t either, things that you’re asking (about the learning curve). When it comes to the fishing side of it, typically you’re kind of on your own with that. It’s like a pitcher in baseball. He’s got to go out and throw the ball. You kind of have to take care of that on your own. I really think that with this sport or any other sport, that if you focus your time and effort on to that. … People ask me, ‘What’s the best way to get sponsored?’ Sponsors, yes, are a big part of making a living doing this. If you just take care of the fishing, the rest will take care of itself.”

TFO: That said, if someone wanted to take pro fishing as a career path, what advice would you give them? To focus on the fishing?

CP: “That would be my advice. And to put themselves out there and build a name for themselves. That’s what sponsorship is all about. Step one is being a person that sponsors would want to look at.

TFO: What’s your favorite way to catch bass? I know as a pro you have to be versatile, but what’s your preferred method when you get an opportunity to fish?

CP:  “My favorite way to catch a bass is however they’re biting.”

 

Be sure to check in next week as we conclude our two-part Q&A with Cliff Pace!

In the meantime, you can checkout our Cliff-designed series of bass rods, the Pacemaker!

TPM Pacemaker Bass Rods

Setting the Pace with Pacemaker Bass Rods

Designed by Bassmaster Classic Champion Cliff Pace, the TFO Pacemaker Series rods offers a wide arrange of action and technique specific tools for every angler from the hardened Elite Series pro to the weekend warrior.

This 14-rod family is composed of Cliff’s favorite rod lengths and actions, (both spinning and casting models).

Cliff’s series is a major jump forward in rod design, specifically directed to bass anglers.  The series ranges from his go to 7-foot crankbait rod for tossing his signature Black Label Tackle Ricochet squarebill crankbaits, to an 8-foot flipping stick for working thick, matted vegetation.

This series features TFO’s proprietary Tactical Series guides, rubberized reel seats for comfort and a natural cork split grip.

The Pacemaker Series of rods are tastefully finished; simply polished, with a thin layer of matte clear coat to enhance the natural luster of the fibers and TFO’s trademark Color ID Split grip.

Pacemaker rods retail for $189.95-$199.95.

For more information please contact Temple Fork Outfitters at, info@tforods.com or by telephone, (800) 638-9052.