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Like We Never Left – The Return to ICAST

We can all agree that 2020 was a tough year. Between many places being shut down and inventory issues brought on by unprecedented demand, it was (and in some cases still) a mess. Not being able to attend fishing shows was one of the many aspects that we (and others) missed about 2020. Needless to say, the return of ICAST last week was a blessing and a long overdue meeting of friends and family, ambassadors, pro staff anglers, and more – both new and old.

Photo: Tom Wetherington

Over the last week, we saw hundreds of familiar and new faces at Booth 3420 at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), many of which were eager to see and feel both the new conventional gear and new fly products. Since ICAST didn’t take place in 2020 (or hardly any fishing shows last year), many people were excited to see last year’s additions: Tactical Glass Bass, Tactical Surf, Seahunter Live Bait addition, Tactical Elite Bass additions) — as well as last year’s fly category additions: LK Legacy, Blue Ribbon, Stealth.

The newly redesigned Professional series. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The newly redesigned Tactical Inshore series. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The Tactical Surf – a new addition from last year. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
A favorite for ultra light anglers – the Trout-Panfish series added two new models this year. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The Tactical Elite Bass series. // Photo: Tom Wetherington

For those unfamiliar with the changes in ICAST and IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealer), the shows are now happening at different times of year – ICAST in July, and IFTD now taking place in October. Historically, both shows happened at the same time – which was ALOT to take in, but great for those wanting to get the most of both worlds. Needless to say, even though ICAST is now more focused on the conventional side of fishing, we still had a TON of people stop by the TFO booth to check out our fly gear, and make trips to the casting pond to try out the new Mangrove Coast and BC Big Fly, as well as some familiar favorites like the Axiom ll-X. While the fly stuff was getting plenty of love, there was a lot of attention aimed at the newly redesigned Professional and Tactical Inshore series, as well as the new Tactical Elite Bass swimbait models.

The all new Mangrove Coast and BC Big Fly – two new additions to TFO for 2022. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The all new NTR reel in black/gold new to TFO for 2022. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The all new NTR reel in clear/gold new to TFO for 2022. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
Checking out the new Tactical Elite Bass swimbait models. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The Mangrove Coast and NTR set up got a lot of test drives on the Casting Pond at ICAST this year. // Photo: Tom Wetherington

We were able to film a few videos with TFO Ambassadors Rob Fordyce, Joey Nania, and Jonathan Moss going over some of the new stuff, as well as some classics.

Our good friends at Tackle Warehouse stopped by for a bit to interview Joey Nania, and go over some of the new Tactical Elite additions. Check out those videos below.

Temple Fork Outfitters TFO Tactical Elite Swimbait Rods with Joey Nania | First Look 2021

New Temple Fork Outfitters Tactical Elite Spinning Rod 7’6″ Med Lt w Joey Nania | First Look 2021

Temple Fork Outfitters TFO Tactical Bass and Tactical Elite Comparison | First Look 2021

Be on the lookout for more content from ICAST. We had several friends and dealers stop by to shoot some content on the new conventional gear, and we can’t wait to share them on our socials as they become available.

We’re already getting ready for IFTD at Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 20-22, 2021. For those planning on attending IFTD, we hope to see you there, and for those not able to attend, be sure to follow along on our social media pages to stay in the know.

TFO Releases 2022 Conventional Products

Temple Fork Outfitters is proud to announce the release of the newly redesigned Professional and Tactical Inshore series, two swimbait models to the Tactical Elite Bass series and two new light power models to the Trout-Panfish series.

All of these new products for 2022 are available now and shipping to TFO dealers in your area. Find out more about these new additions below!

Professional

TFO’s redesigned Professional rod series is designed for the versatile angler of any skill level and is perfectly suited for a wide variety of species and environments.

Highly durable, standard modulus, and moderate fast action blanks with powerful butt sections, come together to create one of the best values of any rod on the market.

New to the Professional series are down-locking reel seats with hidden threads for increased comfort, Fuji Concept O-ring guides, and cork grips all combine to give you a fabulous rod, safe for use in both fresh and saltwater. The Professional series continues to use the popular TFO color coded power system so you can quickly identify which action you are grabbing when the bite is hot.

Full length grips on 7’ & 7’6” spinning rods, split grips on all remaining models.

Find out more about the new Professional series here or at your local TFO dealer!

Professional Spinning Rods

Professional Casting Rods

Tactical Inshore

The newly redesigned Tactical Inshore series, are specialized inshore saltwater rods, built and designed for the accomplished inshore angler looking to find a series that will fit every need they have regardless of geography.

Compared to previous models, the new Tactical Inshore features a slight reduction in the blank weight, improved balance resulting in increased sensitivity, and new down-locking reel seats with hidden threads for enhanced comfort.

The series features TFO’s sky blue finish, Fuji K Guides with corrosion control and Fazlite inserts, premium cork grips with EVA accents and butts – along with shorter split grips on rods less than 7’. Full length grips on all other models.

Find out more about the new Tactical Inshore series here or at your local TFO dealer!

Tactical Inshore Spinning Rods

Tactical Inshore Casting Rods

 

Tactical Elite Bass Series Additions

New to the Tactical Elite Bass series are two swimbait additions (TLE BBC 806-1 & TLE BBC 807-1), and a new spinning rod addition (TLE MBR S 763-1) ideal for for hair jigs, long finesse and spy baits.  These new additions feature IM carbon fiber blanks, and are incredibly light and powerful.

Trout-Panfish Series Additions

New to the Trout-Panfish series are two new light power models: the TPS 662-1 (6’6″ Light Power) and the TPS 702-1 (7′ Light Power). Anglers familiar with this series will appreciate these new additions for throwing larger baits, and having more hook set power. Both new models feature the same components and look as the others in the Trout-Panfish family.

These new rods are available now and shipping to your local TFO dealers! To see our entire catalog of conventional fishing gear, click here.

Kayak Fishing 101 – Getting Started In Kayak Fishing

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!

Photo: Cameron Mosier

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.

Photo: Cameron Mosier

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.

Photo: Cameron Mosier

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.

Photo: Charlie Wells

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!

  1. 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!
  2. A shallow to medium cranking setup: for this I use a 7’4 Medium Heavy Cranking Bait Tactical Elite Bass rod. This rod is perfectly balanced and is extremely lightweight and doesn’t cause any fatigue when I’m making a million casts throwing those square bills
  3. 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!
Photo: Charlie Wells

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.

Spring Crappie Tactics with Chris Meitzner



As the ice begins to recede on the lakes in the Midwest we start thinking about our first opportunity to dip the boats back in the water. Crappies, who have been wintering in the basin (deep holes) begin to make their migration towards the shallow spawning grounds as the waters start to warm. Crappies are a riot to fish in the springtime and can be caught in a variety of locations, with many different presentations. I’ll be touching base on the How To’s, and the Do’s and Don’ts of Early Spring Crappie fishing. Let’s start at the beginning with Pre Spawn.

Pre Spawn

Crappies are very responsive to water temperature changes which play a crucial role when the first signs of spring come. Shallow water starts to warm into the low to mid 40’s which signals to the crappies they need to increase their foot intake for spawning. The shallow, warmer water is the first to see the start of the new weed growth which attracts the entire food chain, from the invertebrates/bug hatches which bring in smaller fish (minnows) and which are fed on by the crappies, bass, northern etc. As the days start to warm and cool these fish can make their way back and forth from varying depths called a staging area. Staging areas are generally just outside of main spawning grounds (3-12’) and can vary in depth by a few feet.

Temperature swings from early morning to afternoon can rise and lower water temps upwards of 5-6 degrees some days. The sunrise bite might not start in until a little later in the morning when the shallow water starts to warm up a few more degrees. Sunny days can hold true to some of the best crappie fishing. When you put a few of those sunny days together in a row it can sure warm up the water and turn the bite on fast!

Spawn

As the waters temps start to stay consistently around the 55+ degree mark you will start to find crappies getting ready for the spawn. Crappies have a very wide range of temperatures that they have been found spawning in. They have been found dumping eggs at temps upwards of 65 degrees. When the temps finally get into the spawning mark I will slide my search shallower and start in the reeds/cattails from 1-5’. At this time if the water your fishing is clear enough you will actually be able to see fish guarding the beds and can target these fish relatively easy by picking them directly off with a well-placed slip bobber. When these fish end up in the shallows they can be very easy to target in their large numbers. With that being said we as anglers have a duty to keep ourselves in check and think about the conservation as a whole. For me, that means only keeping what I plan to eat and releasing the larger fish to help stimulate healthy genetics for years to come.

Location – Where To Find Them

Crappies will show up in a variety of locations based on different bodies of water, but there are ways to breakdown that water to make it easier for them to be located. Generally, as the sun goes across the sky throughout the day the north sides of the lakes and bays will soak up a majority of the sunlight thus warming up quicker. Bays that are cut off from the main lake can be a great place to start your search as the main lake will have lower temps due to the amount of water that needs to warm up. To help narrow the search down further keep an eye out for bays with old weed growth with a soft/murky bottom. If you can find green cabbage at all there will most likely be fish in the vicinity. New growth starting can also be a key to finding the fish in the back bays. New growth gives off oxygen and attracts numerous other species of life which all get predated on. Crappies are also attracted to areas with bulrushes/cattails, fallen trees, lily pad roots, beaver huts and canals/creeks leading to other lakes. Boat dock areas are great because they are generally shallow and warm quickly. They also contain a lot of structure for them to hide/stalk prey as it goes by. They move around from day to day so each trip out may take some searching to initially find some fish but the rewards can be great!

Tactics & Equipment – How To Fish For Them

Choosing a good rod for the species you’re targeting is always key for fishing. I use a Temple Fork Outfitters 7’ Ultralight Trout/Panfish rod. The length of the rod is great for making long casts which are extremely important when you’re in shallow water as these fish can spook out of an area very easily. One of the best ways to target crappies is from under a float (bobber). I like to use a Northland Tackle Light bite bobber either in the Pencil or Oval. A simple slip bobber is very versatile for being able to pinpoint exactly where you want to place the bait whether its right on the edge of bulrush/pencil weeds or between lily pad roots where they can take cover and ambush prey. Bobbers can be very affective on fish that are either schooled up or spread out on an area. They can be paired with a variety of lures including and not limited to a simple hook/crappie minnow, hair jig, tube jig, plastics, tungsten, or working a fly slowly with a small sinker for a subtle approach. I will either let the bobber soak or slowly retrieve it back to the boat jigging it as I go, but be careful not to over work the bait. One of the easiest ways to search an area for crappies is by using a small jig anywhere from a 1/100th to a 1/16th ounce and tip it with a plastic. I work plastics for a couple different reasons. It keeps the bait on the hook so you know you are not going to lose your bait after a failed hookset and you can cast it farther without having to worry about throwing your bait off.

When searching with your trolling motor it is key to keep a low profile and use creep mode to stealthily invade the shallows (2-10’). Slowly make your way in and if you do end up spooking fish quickly hit your waypoint marker on your electronics and return to that area a little while later after they have returned. Make sure to stay back and take advantage of a long cast. As soon as that first bobber starts going under I hit my spot lock and we post up until we decide our next move.

Jig size, Color, and Presentation can be very critical to catching crappies, and other days it doesn’t matter what you throw at them! My favorite go to colors for jigs are generally white or pink and I like to pair them with my favorite crappie plastics from Juice Bait Co known as the Rubber Chicken. Small tube jigs can work well when other methods are not producing and give the bait a different look in the water. Another way to catch early season crappies is to troll or cast small crankbaits such as the Salmo Hornet at slow speeds giving subtle pulls and pauses to help generate more bites. Trolling can be utilized when the fish are anywhere from 4’+ but is not as feasible in super shallow water. When I troll for crappies I will normally start out a little slower, anywhere from .5mph – .8mph and then slowly increase my speed as I catch fish. When you find your top out speed that they stop biting at back down a couple notches and you can find the sweet spot for how fast they want it!

 

Photos and Words by Chris Meitzner

Chris is a TFO Pro Staff Ambassador based out of Brainerd, Minnesota. He runs a guiding service called Tight Lines Guide Service. When not targeting crappie, he targets trophy walleye, northern pike and bass in Northern Minnesota. You find out more about Chris here.