Fishing from a kayak brings an entirely new dynamic to fishing that is both challenging and therapeutic. While the average angler starts out bank fishing and some move directly into boat fishing, I think kayak fishing is heavily overlooked. Kayaks come in all different shapes and sizes, styles and price points, so it’s understandable that some may be intimidated by the unlimited options. I’m here to tell you it’s not as bad as you might think, and if you decide to get into one it can change your life!
I’ve used multiple types of kayaks, from paddle to pedal, budget to premium. One aspect they all have in common is the ability to get to where bank fisherman and boaters can’t or won’t normally go. It allows you to seek and chase a new adventure whether it’s a creek, river, small pond or even a big lake. It puts you where the fish are! You also get a little exercise out of it as well.
For those of you looking to get into your first kayak, you should start by establishing a budget. This is key to determining the type of boat you will be able to get into. There are tons of kayaks on the market that fall into multiple price points so having a solid budget is the best place to start. You will see those cheap $300-400 boats at your local Walmart and think I’ll just grab one of those and be good. Most of the time these kayak will work just fine, but just for a little while. You’ll quickly realize the lesser expensive models aren’t comfortable for fishing all day. They’re usually not as stable, and because of the cheaply made design, they can take on water easier, and often quick. My advice is don’t cheap out. While I totally understand its not always easy to afford some of the big name kayaks, but in my opinion, a good baseline for a great fishing kayak is around $1,000. My very first kayak retailed for $899 before taxes and was out the door right at $1,000. Most, if not all kayak outfitters offer demos at no cost – which you should absolutely do before purchasing. Reach out to your local dealer or outfitter to see if they offer demo days.
In addition to a kayak, the absolute first item you should purchase is a PFD (life vest). This is probably the single most important piece of equipment you need to always be wearing. It will literally save your life! Second, you’ll need a good paddle. Even if you purchase or use pedal kayaks, having a paddle comes in handy – especially when you get into a jam or your pedal drive fails! Consider getting a paddle that is comfortable to use and light enough that it doesn’t cause arm fatigue after several hours on the water. A first aid kit, and other safety equipment i.e., whistle, 360 light and flag are also items you should consider as well.
Now for the fun stuff, the fishing gear! This is the whole reason you bought that kayak, and now you’re ready to get after that new PB right?! I typically have a lot of rods with me. This isn’t always needed as I constantly find myself only using a hand full of them. We kayakers tend to bring the whole tackle shop with us as a “just in case”.
Spring is probably one of my most favorite times of year to fish and there are 3 very specific setups I always have in the yak!
A Texas rig setup: I use a 7’ MH Heroes on the Water benefit rod as my t-rig setup. You get the same great action and sensitivity as the Professional Series and when you buy one, a portion of that proceeds benefit a great organization!
A Panfish setup: we live to fish, and fish to eat right? I always have a 6’6-7’ Trout-Panfish rod on the kayak for those crappie and sand bass because you never know when you might run into a school and smack’em! Keep that stringer on deck!
All in all, kayak fishing is a new experience that is easy to get into and I think everyone should try. It’s a great way to relax, unwind, and reconnect with nature. If given the opportunity to try it, you should give it a go. You never know what kind of adventure you may find!
Blog written by TFO Ambassador Brandon Mayes (IG: _thatbassfishingdude). You can find Brandon on social media here or visit his website here.
Prespawn smallmouth to me is associated with constant movement. The prespawn period is typically when water temps are between mid 40 degrees to upper 50’s, with the “Magic Number” being around 60 degrees for smallmouth to be in full-blown spawn mode. Smallmouth in the prespawn are constantly in transition from deeper waters into staging areas and getting closer towards shallower flats where they will spawn. Smallmouth are unique in the fact that they tend to spawn in deeper water than largemouth and are more willing to be in open water areas near the main lake, as long as they can be protected from the elements; wind, waves, and current. The areas that I’m looking for during the prespawn are areas where fish can transition very easily. Fish want to have easy access between shallow and deeper water areas, especially during early to mid spring while they’re feeding up in the prespawn. Important factors such as weather, water color and temperatures are constantly changing, so being able to adjust to these variables is important for catching more smallmouth.
Ideal Water Temperatures
Typically the ideal prespawn water temperature for smallmouth is in the upper 40s to upper 50s – approximately 48-58 degrees. That’s really when I’m going to consider active prespawn smallmouth fishing. Mid April to mid May is a pretty good gauge for when fish seem to be fully in prespawn mode.
Transition, Contour & Structure
Finding transition points in depth and structure are where smallmouth can be found in early spring. Typically, these transitional staging areas are drops, points, or really any subtle structures on the bottom. Hard spots, or areas where there’s small contour off the edge of a hard drop are great holding spots. Smallmouth on northern lakes tend to set up on obvious contour changes, for example areas where there are steep drops near a main lake point can be very productive locations.
In order to adapt to the weather, water color and temperatures, and ever-changing moods of smallmouths, I’ll have a variety of baits tied on during the early spring to find smallmouth. The bait that I’ll choose will depend on the situation, fish mood, and water clarity. Having the ability to catch fish on a variety of baits is one of the most fun, but most challenging things during the spring.
The jerkbait is probably my number 1 bait for fishing the prespawn. Jerkbaits work especially well for the Northern lakes that I’m typically fishing this time of year. They catch fish that are both lethargic and don’t necessarily want to eat. A jerkbait elicits more of a reaction strike, but they’re also a really good bait to cover water with and just get really aggressive fish to come up and eat too.
The rod that I prefer to use is the 7’ Medium Cranking Tactical rod (TAC LW 70CB-1). The reason I like this rod is because the action is snappy enough that I can fish the jerkbait well, but when the fish bites, the rod has a deeper bend (more moderate action) to keep these big smallmouths hooked!
I also really like a medium diving crankbait for covering water in the springtime. Using an 8-12 foot diving crankbait allows me to cover a lot of water to locate these big pods of smallmouth. Once I’ve located the school, I can also use the same bait to trigger fish to bite cast after cast. What I’m looking for when fishing a medium diving crankbait are mid depth contour changes, preferably with isolated cover on bottom. Grass, rock piles, or even subtle bottom composition changes can be the key to finding perfect prespawn smallmouth habitat!
One of the x-factors during the spring are warm sunny days with light wind. After a long winter under ice up here in the north, fish are seeking warmer water areas, so light wind days with high sun will warm the shallow waters quickly. On days where other techniques seem not to be effective, a small marabou hair jig can be a great way to target these shallow smallmouths that are sunning themselves in warming shallow water.
A big key when fishing a hair jig is the ability to make long casts to isolated targets. Similar to hunting, having a stealthy approach and being able to sneak up on fish is important, so having a longer rod with the right action to cast light baits is paramount. My rod of choice for a 3/32 ounce or ⅛ ounce hair jig is the 7’6” Medium Light Professional Walleye rod. This rod is long enough to allow me to make the long casts that I need, but also soft enough to handle these baits with ease.
When I’m fishing a hair jig, I’m looking for really obvious cover – big boulders, isolated dock posts, or any obvious isolated pieces of cover. My favorite approach to target this shallow cover is to throw the hair jig by these pieces of cover and use a very slow retrieve, just waiting for the rod to load up with a fat prespawn smallmouth.
Last but not least is a soft plastic swimbait. Of all of the approaches, a 3.5” soft plastic swimbait is one of the most versatile baits that I will throw in the prespawn. This is a lure that you can do just about anything with, from slow rolling in deeper water to swimming high in the water column, a swimbait can be used in a variety of situations. When choosing swimbait colors, I keep things simple in the prespawn; white or shad based colors in clear water situations and darker green based colors when the water gets slightly off-colored or has a stain to it. With these two colors, you can approach a variety of water clarities with success.
With a swimbait, let the approach dictate the size jighead that you choose to use. For smallmouth around open water I’m typically using an open-hook jighead. This allows the best hookup to land ratio, and is my preferred method.
Although these are setups that I use for smallmouth in Michigan, you can use these same setups in other smallmouth fisheries and have success anywhere that smallmouth swim.
The biggest things to prespawn smallmouth fishing is covering water and finding where they are staging. A lot of times where there is one smallmouth in the prespawn, there tend to be many! Cover water until you find them and then slow down and pick them apart.
Blog written by Midland, Michigan based TFO Ambassador Ben Nowak. You can find out more about Ben by visiting and subscribing to his YouTube channel here or following him on social media here.
TFO: How do you adapt to the change from winter to spring and maximize your time on the water to catch more fish?
CP: In early spring, those fish are going to disperse from the winter groups that they were in during the winter, and leave those areas to push up into the shallower, flat bays and bottoms to spawn. In other words, pretty much anything that has a hard bottom without a lot of current.
The Louisiana Delta as a whole, is a very soft bottomed environment. If you can find areas where there’s quality spawn habit in the form of a hard bottom, typically, there’s going to be more than just one or two fish that move in to that area. You have to cover a lot of dead water to find those areas, but once you do, you can slow down and use your typical spawn techniques. This is when your search baits really come into play. Soft plastics primarily fished soft slowly with a very light weight are very effective for picking those fish off.
The other rod I like to use is a 7’3” Heavy Tactical Elite (TLE MBR 736-1) for fishing soft plastics. I’ll also use this rod to fish a swim jig or a light Texas rig that I can either reel throw the grass or a weightless stick worm or something similar.
But what about cold fronts? It happens every year – a stretch of warm spring days, followed by a cold snap that takes us right back to winter. This seasonal transition can be extremely rewarding when targeting prespawn bass, but can also present some challenges when cold fronts come into play. See below for two important tips for how to find more fish in these scenarios.
Another tournament season is about to kick off for Bassmaster Classic and MLF Bass Pro Champion Cliff Pace, but before he hits the road, Cliff is doing what he loves the most – winter fishing in the Delta for redfish and bass. Check out some suggestions from TFO Advisor Cliff Pace on how to maximize your time on the water this winter.
TFO:Talk about your fishery back home and why winter fishing is one of your favorite times of year to fish.
CP: Winter fishing back home has always been special to me. To me, home is considered the coastal deltas along Mississippi and Louisiana. It’s where I grew up and learned to fish.
There are several advantages for fishing in the Delta in the winter. First, like many places, there is less boat traffic and fishing pressure in the winter. Unlike other times of year, you can go out and have a day to yourself and just enjoy the solitude that the great outdoors has to offer. Winter is also the easiest time of year to fish (to me), if you understand it well.
During the winter, there’s obviously going to be cold fronts that come through. Cold fronts can be detrimental to the fishing. When it comes to tidal fisheries and cold fronts, some of the Northwest winds that stem from the fronts actually blow the tides out to their lowest points. What that does, essentially, is it bunches up fish from hundreds of thousands of acres of shallow water into whatever deeper water that is nearby by for them. It’s the best time of year to target fish that tend to group up.
Locating Fish in Winter
It can be a little bit difficult to locate fish in the winter. They aren’t as scattered out and you really need to find those precise locations where they group up. Once you get them dialed in, you can essentially have a chance at catching all the fish in that area within a square mile.
So to me – it’s that time of the year where those fish are going to pull to a little bit deeper water. They’re going to be bunched up on really hard spots – anything that’s in the water from a curb standpoint – maybe some grass that’s a little deeper than anything in the area.
When I say “deep” I’m not talking about 20-30 feet deep. I’m referring to water that is 4-7 feet deep. That might be the deepest water in an area.
The other aspect is a lot of our fishes’ food source is actually salt water based. We have shrimp and other food sources that migrate into the marsh in the fall and in the summer. These winter cold fronts push all those food sources back out into the gulf.
You have these fish that have bunched up that don’t have a meal sitting around the corner just waiting for them. It just makes them very susceptible to be caught. It makes it easy for the angler.
There are many situations where areas that contain bass will also have redfish, and will also contain speckled trout, flounder, and lot of varieties of other species. You can catch all these different types of species in the water in an area the size of your truck.
Winter Set Ups
TFO:Talk about the your favorite setups for fishing in the winter.
CP: There are two main techniques for me when fishing during the winter on the Delta: one is a crankbait, and the other is a jig. You can pretty much take those two techniques and get a fish to bite when you find those concentrated locations of fish.
For baits, I usually go with Black Label baits. I also really like the flat sided baits – especially when the water is really clear. If I’m in a situation where I want something that has a little bit more feel or noise to it in dirtier water conditions, I’ll often times use some of the Jackall baits.
Winter Jig Set-Up
As mentioned earlier, water this time of year is really low, so typically your shorelines are mud banks with basically nothing up shallow to target fish. You’re normally fishing little hard spots.
I usually go with one of my V&M jigs – something subtle rather than a jig that has more kick or flap to it. I’ll pair it up with a chunk style trailer. The weight of the jig is usually somewhere between 3/8 oz. and 1/2 oz. depending on the depth I’m fishing and the tidal flow we have that day.
Positioning the Boat For Maximizing Success
TFO: What other tips do you have for making the most of your time on the water in winter?
CP: It’s important to position the boat in a way that you can present the bait to the fish with the tidal flow. I’ve found it definitely makes a difference more so on these lethargic fish than what it might on other times of the year. Presentation anytime of the year can be everything.
Once you learn an area and know where the fish are positioned, it is important to set up (to me) on the downstream side if possible, and fish your way towards the fish upstream. Typically, those fish are going to be facing upstream. These fish are very tough. They’re going to be on something like a hard spot or a piece of cover – it could be anything.
After you catch one, nine times out of ten, there’s more than one there. If you’re fishing with the current and you catch a fish, by the time you unhook that fish and release it and fix your gear – the current is either directing you right on top of or past that location. So, by fishing into the current, you can catch a fish while holding you boat position, and you can make the same cast twenty or thirty more times if you need to in order to fully maximize the potential of that spot without disrupting it.
TFO:When does the winter season typically transition into spring for you? What are signs that you look for or notice on the water?
CF: Every year is different, but there’s always a drop dead date when this stops. I’ve seen it end as early as the first of February, and I’ve seen it as late as March. It just depends on what Mother Nature gives us.
Spring fishing revolves around when these fish decide to move up and spawn. Other factors include the length of the day, as well as weather patterns (temperature, precipitation, etc.). A lot of fish will spawn based on the moon.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog for early Spring tactics!
Available Now! Temple Fork Outfitters has added five new additions to the TFO family of conventional rods: a live bait casting model to the popular Seahunter Series, fast action Mag Bass rods additions to the popular Tactical Elite Bass & Tactical Bass spinning rod configurations, the all new Tactical Surf available in seven models, three variations of the Professional Walleye series specialized and engineered for trolling, and the fiberglass Tactical Glass rods. See below for more information on these new products.
Tactical Seahunter – Live Bait Casting Rod Addition
The modern center console boat has transformed nearshore and offshore fishing from traditionally passive to an amazingly active, almost athletic sport. Designed by TFO National Advisor Rob Fordyce, the Tactical Seahunter series matches this evolution with cutting edge gear to handle a range of techniques and species while remaining durable and light in hand. Casting, jigging, trolling, kiting, or all the above in concert! Regardless of the demands, these high performance rods allow saltwater anglers to quickly respond to changing conditions and opportunities by offering a wide range of capabilities without the need to change gear. This series is perfect for competitive tournament teams and serious anglers fishing salt-borne techniques and species.
The foundation of the Tactical Seahunter series are moderate-fast action blanks constructed with standard modulus carbon fiber material and a proprietary fiberglass scrim. The blanks are a midnight blue with metal fleck finish topped with braid- and saltwater-safe Fuji® Concept Guides™. The series includes 9 models: 5 casting in 6’0”–7’0” lengths in 20#-50# weight classes and a live bait rod; and 4 spinning in 6’0”-7’0” lengths in 20#-50# weight classes. Componentry includes down-locking reel seats on casting models in aluminum on the #40 and #50 models; up-locking reel seats on spinning models in aluminum on the #50 model. EVA foam fore and rear grips. Fore grips are 7” long in a large diameter for comfort while fighting fish. Rear grips are rocket launcher friendly at 13” in length and all models are equipped with anodized aluminum gimbals.
Every Tactical Seahunter series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original ™
Tactical Elite Bass – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Additions
The Tactical Elite Bass series of rods are our premier level fishing tools for tournament focused anglers. This series optimizes technique specific rod 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 to guarantee anglers consistent performance and durability.
The foundation of the Tactical Elite Bass series are technique specific moderate and fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a gun metal grey finish with PacBay’s lightweight Titaium SV guides. The series includes 18 models: 13 casting in 6’10”–7’6” lengths in medium-light to magnum extra-heavy powers; and 5 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 custom Winn® split grips.
Every Tactical Elite Bassseries rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original ™
Tactical Bass – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Additions
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 ensures maximum success on the water. From topwater, 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 is technique-specific moderate to fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a natural satin clear coat finish topped with Pac Bay’s lightweight stainless SV guides. The series includes 23 models: 18 casting in 6’9”–8’0” lengths in medium-light to extra heavy powers; and 5 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 and all models are one piece.
Every Tactical Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability across a wide-range of fishing situations. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original ™
Tactical Elite Bass Spinning Rods – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Addition
Tactical Bass Spinning Rods – Fast Action Mag Bass Rod Spinning Rod Addition
The Tactical Surf series is designed for the intermediate to advanced angler and optimized for long accurate casts from the beach, that special rock or fishing pier. And because performance is critical when you reach your spot (or the top of your waders), we’ve designed the Tactical Surf series as powerful casting tools that are durable enough to handle the extremes of the surf environment but light enough to fish by hand all day without fatigue.
The foundation of the Tactical Surf series is moderate-fast to fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a satin sky-blue finish topped with braid- and saltwater-safe Fuji® K-Series Guides™ with Fuji® Alconite® inserts. The series includes 7 models in 8’0”-12’0” lengths in medium light to heavy powers. All 2-piece models are 70/30 split for one-piece performance and safe transport. Componentry includes up-locking pipe-style reel seats. All rods include blue/gray fish scale heat shrink grips with black EVA foam and rubber butt caps.
The SUS 804-1 through SUS 1103-2 incorporate longer, softer actions perfect for anglers casting and working artificial baits. The SUS 1065-2, SUS 1106-2, and SUS 1206-2 are for anglers focused on fishing bait rigs and making long casts with either spinning or casting gear. These rods are particularly popular along the Cape Cod Canal where the current requires the use of heavier lures and jigs.
Every Tactical Surf series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original ™
Professional Walleye – Trolling
With a premium on high sensitivity, the Professional Walleye series is designed specifically for pursuing these finicky and notoriously light biting fish. Beginning with the blank, the grip and the reel seat, everything is maximized for sensitivity and the series lengths, powers and actions are engineered to maximize angler success when fishing the most successful walleye techniques.
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 PacBay Stainless SV guides. The series includes 12 models: 6 spinning in 6’0”-7’6” lengths in light to medium powers; and 6 casting in 7’0”–7’6” lengths in medium light to medium powers. Componentry includes down-locking split graphite reel seats for super sensitivity. 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.
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 casting rods make them ideal for anglers cranking. And for 2021, we’ve added three rods in 8’6” and 10’ lengths specially designed for all trolling techniques.
Every Professional Walleye series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability across a wide-range of fishing situations. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original ™
Tactical Glass Bass
The Tactical Glass Bass series is designed specifically for anglers fishing crank baits and who want the hook setting benefits of fiberglass, married to the light weight of carbon fiber. These composite rods are sensitive enough to transmit the lure action to the angler, but also have a slightly damped recovery that maximize hook sets because they allow the fish to consume the bait. The Tactical Glass Bass series delivers a higher level of technique-specific performance to anglers focused on fishing action-oriented lures with light-wire treble hooks.
The foundation of the Tactical Glass Bass series are blanks constructed with 60% intermediate modulus carbon fiber and 40% S-Glass fiberglass material. The blanks are a natural satin clear coat finish topped with PacBay’s lightweight stainless steel SV guides. The series includes 3 casting models 7’2”-7’10” lengths in medium to medium heavy powers. Componentry includes down-locking reel seats and premium cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings.
Every Tactical Glass Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability. And when combined with TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty against defects, these rods are the perfect choice for anglers wanting to insure their fishing enjoyment. Fish the Original ™
Not many 19 year olds can say they’ve won three Bassmaster High School National Championships, but TFO Ambassador Tucker Smith can proudly say he has. Last weekend, Tucker and his teammate Hayden Marbut won the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors on Kentucky Lake with a final three-day total of 47-5. It was Tucker’s third-straight title win, and the first for his teammate Hayden.
The tournament was not a cakewalk by any means for Tucker and Hayden. Originally scheduled to be in August, the tournament was rescheduled due to COVID to late October. Although Tucker had fished Kentucky Lake before, fishing it at a very different time of year brought many challenges – including cooler water and air temperatures, heavier winds, different holding spots for fish, and a change in eating patterns/behaviors. Tucker and his teammate were able to have very productive practices to adjust to these changes, but also had the right tools to get the job done.
This week we caught up with Tucker while he took a break from his virtual freshman year classes at Auburn University to get the scoop on the Championship win, the TFO rods that helped him bring home the gold, but also to get some backstory on Tucker on how he got into competitive fishing, and how he became a part of the TFO family.
Where did you grow up and how long have you been fishing?
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama fishing around the Coosa River. I’ve been fishing for as long as I could remember. My Dad, Uncle, and my grandfather really got me into fishing. Eventually, I met local competitive angler, guide, and TFO Ambassador Joey Nania. Joey was kind of a mentor to me growing up.
How did you and Joey meet?
Mutual friends. My Dad had a friend that recommended we fish with Joey for a guided trip when I was 14 or 15 years old. We did a trip with Joey and caught a ton of fish and had a great time. I started fishing with Joey a lot more after that. We became buddies and he started taking me out fishing just for fun outside of guide trips. He kind of showed me the ropes. We’re still good friends today.
When did you start fishing competitively?
I started fishing competitively in high school when I was a freshman. I did a few tournaments in middle school, but didn’t really start fishing the “bigger” tournaments until I got on the high school fishing team.
How long have you been fishing TFO?
I’ve been fishing with TFO as long as I’ve been fishing with Joey. He was a huge supporter of TFO rods when I started fishing with him. I got comfortable using the rods competitively in my high school tournaments. I wanted to get more involved with TFO, and thankfully not long after I won my first championship my sophomore year, I became a Youth Ambassador for TFO.
Let’s talk about the tournament. When was it originally supposed to happen?
It was supposed to be in August at the same location the tournament has been the last two years – Kentucky Lake. When it got postponed due to COVID, it was definitely a challenge because we were fishing this lake at a totally different time of year. The fish were focused on completely different baits and holding in different spots as well. We had to adapt and catch them outside of what we had done historically there.
What were conditions like throughout the tournament in late October, compared to what they would have likely been in August? How did you adjust and adapt to this change?
Typically in August, its 95 degrees and you’re having to take your sunglasses off every five minutes because they’re getting fogged up with sweat. Late October, the first couple of days were nice in the high 60s/70s, but the last day it really dropped – mid 30s with high winds. It was pretty miserable that last day.
For the most part we were throwing topwater the whole tournament, but on the last day when it was windy and got down in the 30s, we had to get a little deeper.
What TFO rods were you using? Why did you choose that rod and stick with it versus using others?
I was using the 6’10” Medium Tactical Elite Bass almost the entire time. I was throwing topwater most of the tournament. That 6’10” is perfect for working a spook. I was using that most of the tournament. For this type of topwater fishing, you really want a shorter rod so you can work the bait not hit the water with your rod every time you jerk it. The Medium Action has enough to give to load up with those treble hooks, so they don’t sling it when they jump.
We were catching 3-7 pound fish. When they have a big topwater in their mouth jumping with treble hooks, you need that rod to bend and give them some space to jump. That’s why I went with the 6’10 Medium Tactical Elite Bass. For the rest of my setup, I was using 40 lb. braid to a Shimano Curado K (7:1).
Would you have used this same setup (topwater) in August?
In August, we were throwing a lot of chatterbaits and I was using the 7’3” Medium HeavyTactical Elite Bass. That’s actually my favorite rod because of the versatility of it – you can throw so many things on it. It’s a great chatterbait rod.
Give us a breakdown of the days of the tournament. Sounds like you guys had a pretty successful first day out.
A few weeks prior to the tournament, we were fortunate enough to get some practice time on the lake. We fished five days, daylight to dark before we got cut off to practicing. When it came to be the official tournament practice days, we went back and checked all the baits that worked for us during those five days of scouting practice, and cut the hooks off so that we wouldn’t catch the tournament fish, but we could see where they were.
We were throwing topwater, so you could easily see when they’d come up and eat. We’d work down these long main river flats and bars until we’d get bit. Whenever we’d get a bite, there’d be a few others as the fish were usually schooled up. Once we’d find these spots, we mark it down for actual tournament days.
On Day 1, the conditions were perfect – calm, no wind. We hit up a few of the spots that we had marked during practice, but we weren’t getting into any big numbers. We eventually moved to another spot we had marked. After a few casts of no bites, I noticed an indention in the flat that looked really good about a hundred yards down the flat. After I got on the trolling motor and got close enough, I made a cast and caught a 4 lb. smallmouth. My buddy picked up his rod, made a cast in there, and caught a 7.5 largemouth (which was the biggest fish of the tournament). I threw back in there again and caught another 4lb smallmouth, he threw in after me and caught a 4lb smallmouth, then I followed up again and caught a 3 lb smallmouth. So after all that, we had 22 pounds in five casts in five minutes. It was the craziest five minutes of fishing in my life. We ended up getting biggest bag and biggest bass of the tournament on that first day.
Day 2 – We started with the spot where we caught the big bag from the day before. The wind had picked up making the water really choppy and they just weren’t hitting topwater. We were able to get eight 3+ lb bites, but they just wouldn’t eat it. My buddy snagged a 4lb smallmouth with a spook in the back of the head cause they were just basically slapping at our bait at that point.
We decided to switch up our tactics. I grabbed a 7’3” Medium Heavy Tactical Elite Bass with a rattle trap and caught a 4lb smallmouth, and then the next cast I caught one over three pounds – so at that point we had three good ones in the box.
We tried another spot later in the day where I caught another bass pushing 4 pounds on the 6’10” Medium Tactical Elite Bass. We ended up getting two more at that spot and filled our limit for the day. We ended up with a bag of 17.5 for that second day.
Day 3 – This was a super rough day with 20-degree temperature drop and very strong winds. They actually almost didn’t let us go out, but after a 45-minute delay, they ended up letting us go. Right out of the marina we were hitting 4-foot waves. It was rough.
We knew we had a good lead amongst the other teams from our previous two days, but still needed to get fish in the boat. We ended up getting two 4 lb. fish, but it was really tough.
We ended up winning by 10 pounds, but it was funny the way we found out. We were the last ones to pull up to the weigh in because the judges typically put the people they think are going to win in the back. When it came to be our turn, they called out “Alright boys, you want to come on up here and weigh your fish, or do you want to just come get your trophy because you’ve already won without weighing in your fish.” We would have won by 3 pounds if we haven’t weighed our fish in from that last day, but after we did weigh in, we ended up winning by 10 pounds.
Now that the tournament is over, you’re back at school for your freshman semester at Auburn now. What’s next for you in terms of fishing and life?
I’m on the Auburn Bass Fishing team right now, and I’m currently majoring in Business. My goal is to fish all these college tournaments and make it to the National Championship. If you make it to that and get in the top four, you can make it to the Classic Bracket. If you win in the Classic Bracket, then you get to fish in the Bassmaster Classic – which is the biggest tournament in bass fishing. That’s my dream.
Other than that, I’ll fish some Opens, and maybe fish some Toyota events as well. Try to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic through that as well.
Have you thought about guiding some? I’m sure you’ll want to focus on your competitive fishing first, but have you thought about doing some guiding down the road?
I’ve definitely thought about it, but you’re right – mainly focusing on fishing competitively right now. I might pick up some guiding in the summer when I’m back home. We’ll see..
If you could only take one TFO rod with you – doesn’t matter what time of year or the conditions – what TFO rod would you take and why?
If I could take one, I’d probably take the 7’3” Heavy Tactical Elite Bass. I think it’s the most versatile. I like the Medium Heavy too, but if you have that Heavy, you can do flipping, frogging, throw a jig, chatterbaits, big swimbaits, A-rig. You can throw most of what you need to make it work.
TFO Ambassador Ben Nowak is no stranger to smallmouth fishing. Based out of Michigan, Ben hosts a YouTube channel called The Smallmouth Experience where he uploads weekly videos sharing his experiences of catching smallmouth bass, as well as helpful tips for anglers out there who want to find more success on the water.
While summer can be a fantastic time to catch smallmouth, the transition into fall is not to be overlooked for catching some serious numbers (size and quantity). While the casual, warm weather anglers are storing their boats for next summer, anglers like Ben are taking advantage of the less crowded lakes in Michigan, and finding success on migrating baitfish near the banks.
As we begin to move into fall, we decided to catch up with Ben on how he adjusts his tactics and setups for catching more fish.
Tell us about your home waters and what tends to happen as we transition into fall. What temperature fluctuations do you see, how does it effect the fishes’ behavior and location?
I spend a lot of time fishing on Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, and several other glacial bodies of waters in Michigan. Up here, the biggest thing is we are starting to get a lot colder nights. You go from the summer time where you’ll have 80 degree days with 65 degree nights, and now we’re transitioning into 60 degree days with 35-40 degree nights. As the air temps drop, this causes bait fish to push shallow and into the grass or up into the rock piles in the shallow water situations.
My favorite part of this is when the fish wish will start to move into the river mouths, and they’ll push up and congregate at the first piece of cover or structure (drop off, rock pile, or grass patch) they come to. This, to me, is when it’s the most fun, because in the summer, a lot of our fish can get really tough because they spread out a lot more. As it gets cooler, locating fish is a lot more predictable, and you can get into some serious numbers when you find that first really hard piece of structure outside of a shallow grass flat or river mouths. Typically they’re in 15 feet of water or less located next to something pretty obvious such as grass patches or boulder fields with some sort of drop off. This is where my 5 fall baits and specific TFO rods come in handy.
For both rods, I’m using 12 lb. test line. Typically, with this set up I’m targeting the medium depth rocks out in front of rivers where you tend to have some of that gravel pushing and those bait fish are kind of pushing up on that gravel. This is probably my favorite approach in the fall because you can usually catch so many fish and it’s just an awesome bite.
For smallmouth, I typically got with a lighter wire swimbait. A lot of anglers are going to want to throw this on a heavier rod, I’m actually throwing it on the cranking rod as well –7’4” Medium Heavy Graphite Cranking Tactical Elite Bass rod – TLE LW 74CB-1. With the light wire hook, you’ll want something that is a bit softer, and for the fish to get the bait a lot better.
This is one of my favorite applications with this rod, because it lets the fish get the bait a little bit better. It also helps me play the fish better. Once again, I’m targeting medium depth rock with some grass.
3.) Wobble Head
I really like to throw these because it’s almost like a compliment to the crank bait – fishing it slower and close to the bottom. I’ll throw this on the 7’5” Heavy Tactical Elite Bass – TLE FS 756-1. I like this rod because it’s moderate. When the fish hit that bait, a lot of the times the fish won’t get that bait the first time they bite it, so you want to let them have the bait a little bit more. The moderate action is going to let those fish get that bait, and you’re not going to tend to lose as many fish on the wobble head. A lot of guys go with an XH (Extra Heavy). For me, a softer and more moderate rod is going to help those fish stay pinned, and have a lot more success.
4.) A Rig
I throw this on the TFO GTS Swimbait Rod 7’11” Mag Heavy. I’m typically throwing a heavy, big A Rig – I’ll throw a seven wire with five hooks and two dummies. So basically, what you’re looking at is three jig heads that are ¼ oz., 2 jigs that are 3/8oz., and two dummies that are empty, non-weighted jig heads. It’s a heavy A rig so I throw it on the 7’11. When those smallmouth hit it, they just absolutely smash it! The rod loads up well, and you can cast it forever.
5.) Finesse Tube
I don’t like to go finesse in the fall, but when I have to, I’ll go to a tube or a ned rig. A lot of the smallmouth fishing I’m doing up here is in clear water, so I want to get that bait super far away from the boat. For this scenario, I’m going with the 7’3” Medium Heavy Tactical Elite Bass spinning rod – TLE MBR S 735-1and then a 3000 size spinning reel.
The biggest thing is getting that bait super far away, but still having enough power in the rod to drive the hook home. So that Medium Heavy is pretty important. This is about the only (and my favorite) scenario in the fall where I use a Medium Heavy rod.
Ben Nowak is a TFO Ambassador based out of Michigan, where he has lived his entire life. Ten years ago, he started fishing TFO when he was in college, but came back to TFO last winter with the release of the Tactical Elite Bass and Tactical Bass rods. Ben hosts a YouTube channel focusing on catching smallmouth bass. (The Smallmouth Experience). His YouTube channel is all about sharing his experiences of catching smallmouth, but to also help others to be more effective smallmouth anglers wherever these hard-fighting fish.
August can be a challenging time of year for bass anglers, but very rewarding for those that know where and how to look for fish. Being willing to be versatile and switch up your tactics is crucial, and TFO Ambassador Joey Nania does exactly that when fishing the Coosa River system in Alabama. If you aren’t familiar with Joey or the Coosa River system, just take a look at his Instagram (@joeyfishing), and you’ll get a glimpse of the very healthy bass that come out of these lakes and rivers. If there’s anyone that knows how to find these fish, it’s Joey Nania.
We got on a call with Joey in between his family time and guided trips to catch up, and to talk about how he’s finding (and catching) bass during the hottest and most difficult times of year – the dog days of summer.
To start things off, let’s talk about the fisheries/areas where you are fishing and what brings you to this area.
I’m from Washington state originally, but my family and I now live in the hot, but very beautiful state of Alabama. I specifically chose Birmingham (Pell City, AL) for the many amazing fisheries in the surrounding areas. I mainly fish the Coosa River system, which entails Weiss Lake, Lake Neely Henry, Lake Logan Martin, Lay Lake, Lake Mitchell and Lake Jordan. There’s a ton of diversity and fishing options within this river system, and for a guy that fishes tournaments and guides around 200 trips a year, this area is paradise.
Sounds perfect for you. What do conditions typically look like on the Coosa River this time of year? How do you decide where and when to get out on the water as opposed to other times of year to maximize your fishing time?
We get the four seasons like everyone else, but we get some long, hot summers! It’s not uncommon to have days in the 90s for 3 months consecutively, with water temps in the high 80s to low 90s. When there’s not much current and things are tough like they are right now – the fish are all over the place. When there’s a lot of flow, fish set up on specific places on the main river and places that current flushes over, and they really group up in big groups. When the oxygen gets low and there’s not much current flowing, the fish start to disperse. That tends to happen on one end of the lake to the other.
Typically, I like to narrow down locating the fish by breaking down/targeting different sections of the lake –which I’ll break down in two sections:
1) The Upper End – Where you’ve got your narrow, winding rivers with lots of lay downs and trees/logjams and then you’ve got rock piles. Those are the three structure options up in the rivers that I like to focus on.
2) The Bottom End – As you come down toward the bottom end of the Coosa River lakes, they widen out and you’ve got big major creeks flowing in. Every lake on the Coosa River has several big feeder creeks that are good contributors of fresh water that are also great backwaters for the fish to go to when they are spawning. The bottom end has a lot more open areas for the fish to roam, feed and hide.
I typically like to focus more of my time fishing the upper ends of the rivers this time of year. It’s narrower up there so when they do run the water (generators), at least there’s flow that you can feel. When they’re only running one generator on the bottom ends of our lakes, you really can’t feel a whole lot of current. Water is typically warmer there, thus more lethargic fish.
Let’s talk about fishing the bottom ends of the lakes first. Where are you looking for fish and how are you targeting them (baits/setups)?
On the bottom end, if I’m going to fish the main parts of these lakes and the bigger creeks, what I target a lot of the times is docks, grassy areas, and then you’ve got your offshore fish. When fish leave those deep schools where they group up by the hundred, a lot of them to go to brush piles. There’s always fish in man-made brush piles on these lakes in the south. I’d probably say the brush pile bite is the best, but in the dog days of the summer, no matter where you are, offshore fishing is always an option. There’s plenty of fish that spend most of their life offshore.
From Frogs To Flipping Baits – Working The Banks
The key to being successful during the dog days of summer is being versatile – especially on the lower ends of lakes. Typically I like to start shallow, and fish that way as long as possible. You’ve usually got shade and willow grass and other types of grass, which produces oxygen and provides excellent places for bass to find a meal. A lot of the times I start off with a frog pattern or swim a jig, but it seems like for me, as it gets hotter the swim jig bite typically fades away. You can still get some on the frog, but I really love flipping. Just slowing it down a little bit and you can be very efficient and cover a lot of water and hit the little shade pockets and really get the bait in front of the fish when you slow it down and pitch it down down the bank. It’s not really flipping, it’s pitching – Taking that underhand cast and skipping it under the overhanding cover; it’s just a very effective way of fishing this time of year.
For this scenario, I really like fishing the 7’3” Heavy Tactical Elite Bass (TLE MBR 736-1). I love that 7’3” Heavy! To me, that’s the most versatile heavy line rod that TFO makes. I throw this rod a ton. The 7’3” is the most effective rod for skipping, pitching, fishing tight covers, flipping jigs – Pretty much every bait I fish with anywhere from 17lb lines to 50lb braid, I rely on that 7’3” Heavy. It has such a perfect backbone for setting the hook. You can crack it and feel there’s no give when you set the hook really. But the tip is nicely tapered. It’s almost like a hybrid medium heavy rod in my opinion, but that’s what’s neat in that there’s no industry standard to come up with each power and it be the same for every company. This rod and other TFO rods are so perfectly balanced, and they’re true to what they’re supposed to be – an easy and reliable rod to fish with.
I like to throw the 7’5” Heavy Tactical Elite Bass (TLE FS 756-1) for fishing with frogs on mats. With this style/setup I’m typically making longer casts and forcing them out. I like to have that longer rod/leverage to get them out of the mats.
In terms of patterns, my go-to is the pop-n-frog. The new Z-Man Leap FrogZ Popping Frog. Bluegills make a really specific noise when they slurp a bug off the surface. They’ve got a really perfect cupped mouth. I feel like 90% of the time when they are eating your frog in open water or up under stuff, they really probably think it’s a bluegill. It’s just something up there that looks good to them. They’re predators and just looking for a good meal, and when something’s pretty big and twitching above them, they’re probably going to eat it. When a bass is sitting up under a tree or in the grass in the summertime – they’re comfortable. They’re sitting, they aren’t moving. Just in a holding place waiting to strike when food presents itself. Its almost like when you’re sitting in your chair at home and your wife comes home with a pizza – you’re probably going to go after that pizza (laughs).
For my jigging set-up, if the water is really clear, typically I’m using 20lb fluorocarbon on a high-speed reel. I use an 8:3:1 reel so I can be very quick and efficient. Usually when I’m working the banks, I don’t keep the bait out of the water for very long – just in and out. Working that jig, just trying to fish every single piece of cover that could hold fish.
What about retrieval patterns for fishing top water stuff?
I really think one of the keys to fishing frog patterns is the fact that the bait can walk. You can make the bait walk the dog where it’s jumping from side to side. That walk the dog action where you’re twitching and popping 5 to 6 inches from to left to right each time you twitch it – it makes the bait stay in the strike zone longer. On really hot days, it might not hurt to fish it a little slower, but there might be days where you’ve got to make them react, and slower retrieves might not trigger that response. I just vary it up depending on the day. Find what works and stick to it. Changing your retrieves, changing your tactics, and just knowing that each day is different is key to finding more success on the water during the dog days of summer.
Let’s say the sun is coming up and the morning bite is slowing down on the banks. Now you’re deciding to focus on the offshore bite. How are you looking for fish offshore and what are you throwing?
My very favorite way of catching bass is on deep schools. Part of that is being a guide and its just so much fun to put people on fish and that usually works the best for my clients. There’s certain summers where there’s definitely schools of fish to be found offshore. Our school fish here disappeared in the last month, but that doesn’t mean they always do that or they’re going to do that everywhere. So really, for the deep schools – what I’m going to start doing if the dams are running current, I’m going to start idling, and looking out offshore for schools of bass. Learning how to use your electronics is definitely important in the dog days of summer. As soon as you leave that bank, its super important to know where to look for fish and how to get the bait in front of them.
Brush Piles & Finesse Jigs
If there isn’t any generation current and I can’t find any schools of fish because its so hot, I’ll go and start fishing brush piles. It doesn’t have to be deep brush piles. Some of the best brush I fish is in 8 to 12 feet of water. One of my very favorite brush baits to throw is a CrosseyeZ Power Finesse Jigwith a TRD BugZ trailer in the back. For this setup, I’m fishing the same rod – 7’3” HeavyTactical Elite Basswith an 8:3:1 reel. I’ll use 17-20 pound test fluorocarbon cause I’m fishing it out off the bank and I like to have it fall through the water a little better with a lighter line. This is a prefect combo for a finesse jig. Sometimes the fish want something with a little bit more finesse, so if that’s the case, I’m switching over to a spinning rod.
Spinning Rods & Ned Rigs
A spinning rod is definitely something you’ve got to have ready during the dog days of summer. To me, a ned rig is one of the best rigs you can throw out there and also a dropshot. My favorite ned rig set up is a 1/6 oz. Ned LockZ Jighead. That 1/6 oz. is the right weight for fishing that depth, but if I’m fishing docks and stuff where its more shallow, I’ll do 1/10 oz., but that 1/6 oz. is great for getting down quicker. The bait I use is a Finesse TRD. I actually rig mine weedless. I fish it like a miniature shakey head on a Jighead just much smaller. That way I can throw it into brush and when the bait swims with that shakey head style rig, it makes it swim at a 45 degree angle rather than standing straight up off the bottom, and I just feel like I get less drag and it looks really good, too.
The spinning rod that I use for this set up is the 6’10” Medium Tactical Elite Bass (TLE SHS 6104-1). I use 10lb braid to an 8 or 10lb test fluorocarbon leader. In October, TFO is coming out with a 7’1” Medium Light that is an amazing ned rig rod that has a perfect back bone for that style of fishing with a great tip as well. Highly recommend that rod when it does come out!
Let’s switch things up and head up river. Talk about how you are fishing these sections this time year.
I typically spend more time on the river sections in the summer as there is more shade/cover, typically more current/flow from the generation, and the area for the fish to be in is a lot narrower compared to the bottom end of the lakes so it can be easier to find them. What I’ve been catching them on lately is my favorite way to catch them – which is flipping my finesse jig toward the banks. There’s also a pretty good squarebill bite a lot of the time during the dog days. Ive got a 6th Sense Crush 100x Squarebill I throw that will get down to about 6 – 8 feet where I can fish logs and other structures off the bank.
The rod I’ve been using for this setup is the 7’4” Medium Heavy Tactical Glass Bass rod that is coming out in October. That rod has that unique 60/40 bend where its 60% carbon fiber/40% fiberglass. Great rod for throwing crank baits, really perfect for throwing squarebills, but also an incredible chatterbait rod. Fishing those outer trees off the bank with a medium crankbait on all the rivers throughout the South is a good way to make fish react.
If the tree bite dies, I usually look for rock piles offshore that create any visual disturbance in current flow on the river. Basically any type of structure/rock pile that holds perpendicular to the current where the current rolls over it, there’s usually a great spot for bass to hold up in, and I have a lot of success targeting those areas. I really enjoy fishing a 6th Sense Cloud 9 C10 Crankbait on offshore rock piles in 6 to 12 feet of water. I typically stick with shad colors, but if the waters a little dirtier, I’ll go with a chartreuse.
I like to do long casts in this scenario because I want my bait to track on the bottom for a longer period of time and hit all those rocks/lips where the drops are. For this situation I’m throwing what I think is by far the best cranking rod for this scenario, and it’s the 7’10” Medium Heavy Tactical Glass. This rod is the perfect flexing catapult that launches crankbaits and for making those longer casts.
A Forgotten Tip…
We’ve talked about the offshore fishing on the bottom end, and hitting up the upper main river sections where’s there’s more grass/laydowns/structure and it’s a little cooler, but one forgotten tactic that not a lot of people think about is fishing the very back ends of creeks this time of year. It seems totally weird to go about 5 miles off the main channel to the very back of a shallow creek when its that hot out. Anytime we get any rain, the water is going to flush into those creeks, so when I’m going down the river, I like to target the back ends of those feeder creeks where the water is a little cooler. If you really do your homework and target specifically spring creeks, you can find bass that are pretty much residential in that everything they need is provided by the resources in those creeks and they really don’t need to migrate to the lakes. You can find some really nice bass in these creeks.
For the angler working on a budget, or to simplify a boat setup – If you could only take 3 rods/baits for this time of year, what would you take and why?
1) The finesse jig would be my first pick. Jigs are such an old school way of fishing, but they really are one of the most versatile baits there are. Especially if you get one that’s weighted properly – you can fish one from 2 feet deep to 20 feet deep, and really feel it down there and make it move the way you want to.
2) No matter what time of year, I like having a chatterbait rigged up. You can fish them shallow and slow roll it a little bit deeper. Chatterbaits just get bit. Especially the Chatterbait Jackhammer that hunts and cuts. I like to fish a Zman Diesel MinnowZ swimbait trailer off my Chatterbait Jackhammer. The ultimate setup for this scenario is with a 7’4” Medium Heavy Tactical Glass Bass rod. I fish it with a 6:8:1 reel and 17lb fluorocarbon.
3) I really believe that having a spinning rod and having a ned rig is important. No matter what time of time, having a neg rig ready is such a good idea. This is probably my most trustworthy/reliable setup for clients anytime of year. For this set up, I’ve using the 6’10” Medium Spinning Tactical Elite Bass, but I’m really excited for the upcoming 7’1” Medium Light Spinning Tactical Elite Bass that’s coming out this fall.
Based out of Pell City, Alabama, Joey Nania has been a TFO Ambassador since 2012. He is also an ambassador for Z-Man baits, Bass Pro Shop, and many other brands. Prior to coming onboard to TFO, he began fishing tournaments since he was 12 years old. He worked his way to fishing in high school and Junior Bass tournaments, and is now fishing professional tournaments regularly. Joey runs a guiding service, Joey Fishing, where he is on the water with clients about 200 days a year. Outside of guiding, you can find Joey on the water with his family, as his wife and two sons, Zeke and Eli love to fish as well. You can follow or get a hold of Joey on his Facebook or Instagram pages or at his website.
That’s a wrap for our first ever TFO Photo Contest! Over the past few weeks we received around 500 entries, and we loved seeing so many anglers enjoying TFO gear on their favorite waters.
This Monday, our team selected our Top Six photos for a public vote to help select the winner of the $1000 in TFO gear.
After almost 1,000 votes, we had a stand out winner – John McCarthy and his shot of the Inshore spinning rod! Second place was Brandon Genova’s shot of the Tactical Elite Bass, but not far behind was Adam Koontz’s shot of the Finesse Trout.
Congrats to all the photographers who made the finals! Check out the poll standing below, as well as stories from each of the finalist photographers about each of their finalist submissions!
This shot was taken at Barr Lake State Park here in Colorado. The clouds and sky that day were amazing. My buddy and I were bass fishing that day. Our first time at this location actually. The rod I had just purchased was this TFO Tactical Elite Bass 7-5 H I believe. I’ve been fishing TFO rods going on for 6 years now.
Being a tournament angler, I’m hard on my gear. I’ve found that TFO rods are by far the most durable, and the sensitivity is unbelievable.
When I started using them, I actually had to take time adjust to them versus my previous rods. They were so sensitive I was actually setting the hook too early!
During this shot, I was in Northern New Jersey casting small dries for brookies on one of the many native brook trout streams.
I like the TFO Trout Finesse for its ability to handle delicate presentations and for its sensitivity. There are days that you’re not out searching for a fish of a lifetime, and this rod handles small streams and brooks perfectly!
4th Place – Robert Ledezma – Axiom ll 8wt w/ Streamers
This shot was taken on the banks of the Henry’s Fork near Ashton, Idaho. I was after big brown trout looking for a big meal. This is actually the river where I first started fly fishing many years ago so it’s a special place for me. Some of my biggest fish and favorite memories have been here.
A lot has changed since I started fly fishing and I’ve gone through a lot of different rods and gear. I’m not entirely sure when or how this happened but the Axiom II has easily become my go-to rod. There’s just something about rigging this rod up with a big streamer that feels right. We’ve gone through a lot of battles together and it has never let me down. I can trust the rod to do its part as I can only try to do mine.
No matter what adventure I go on the Axiom II always comes with me!
6th Place – Mark Kolanowski – Axiom ll Meets Striped Bass
My image of the Axiom II rod and Striped Bass was made in Texas on the Brazos River below the Morris Sheppard Dam which forms Possum Kingdom Lake above it. When the flows are right, the fishing for Striped and White Bass can be very good! This particular fish was caught by my good friend and fishing buddy Craig Rucker on a pink, purple, and white Lunch Money streamer.
I actually do not own this Axiom II rod – Although I do own 7 TFO fly rods in my quiver from a 3wt Finesse to an 8wt BVK. Craig did let me make a few casts with his new 10wt Axiom II. He had gotten it for an upcoming trip we were taking to Alaska and wanted to give it a try on our local river. It proved to be a great choice. The Brazos River Striped Bass we were targeting like big weighted streamers. Long casts are needed to get the flies up towards the dam and bigger flows where the Stripers roam in search of shad.
The Axiom II had the backbone and power to deliver the big flies into the wind that is ever present in Texas. The swing weight was comfortable even on a big 10wt rod . The power in the butt section was there to keep a hooked fish out of the underwater boulder field, stiff current, and into the net!
Nice rod ! It’s the next one I’ll be adding to my TFO collection.
THANK YOU to ALL those who submitted their photos to the first ever TFO Photo Contest. As difficult as it was to narrow down to our Top Six, it was such a joy to see how everyone enjoys using their TFO gear and we look forward to seeing more photos down the road.
Keep taking those TFO photos and stay tuned for more giveaways and contests down the rod!
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-Xpaired 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 pondscan 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.
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.