With our reservoirs aging and the depletion of cover, whether is from yearly water level changes, decay or erosion as anglers we can help. Before you say it, I’ve heard all the excuses not to build brush piles or fish attractors and not one of them hold water. The best excuses include: Billy Bob with the four Humminbird 1199 super HD/SI units will find my brushpile…this from the guy who had the same tricked out boat plus an underwater camera! Next best excuse was: That’s the job of the fisheries guys…with limited workers they can only do so much and lakes get by-passed. Several Bass Clubs and small groups of anglers have already joined with federal, state and local officials to restore and improve our lakes with great success. I submit to you that we all help in order to ensure future generations of anglers can enjoy our lakes as we have.
Bass, Crappie, Sunfish and many more will use brush piles throughout the year and will not only increase your chances of a good stringer of fish, but will improve the overall health of your fishery. First, I recommend you get help…placing brush piles is a lot of work. Talk to three or four friends or better yet make it a yearly club event on your home lake. Second, do your research and/or coordinate efforts will local wildlife resource agencies, dock owners and property owners. A great example is the tree cutting and habitat project which Big Shanty Bassmasters partnered with the Corp of Engineers and GADNR on Altoona Lake located in North Georgia completes each year, which not only provides good habitat but helps stop bank erosion as well.
What makes a good brush pile? Foremost is location, brush piles do not manufacture fish, the best locations have an existing population of fish in the area. Docks, just outside spawning areas, creek channel bends and channel ledges are some good starting places. Depth of water is another consideration; I suggest placing brush pile at several depths in the same area ranging from couple of feet down to 25 or 30 foot of water. Second is material, it’s a good practice to use several different materials in the same “Brushpile”. A good example would be two Christmas trees with hardwood between them or a PVC attractor such as the porcupine fish attractors. If using Christmas Trees, prune several of the limbs out of them leaving room for a fish to get between the branches, providing an ambush position. Furthermore, most people believe Christmas tree should be vertical in position, however I personally like to mix it up and will place a few lying flat sided.
Before sinking/placing a tree think about getting hung up in it. Trim all the twigs and smaller limbs. The more forks it has the better. Point the treetop towards where you’ll be fishing from. Use plenty of anchor weight, tie several concrete block to the underside of the trunk/tree to keep it up off the bottom. When securing the tree/brush please use a heavy gauge wire and tie it tight.
Lastly, Stack beds such as those found on Kentucky Lake, Percy Priest, Tims Ford Lake and many other have been a great success. They provide cover and spawning areas for all types of game fish as well as food sources such as shad and crawfish. Stack beds are mainly made of 2×2 material driven in to the bottom of the lake. These are spaced 6 to 8 inches apart and average 2 to 4 foot in height once driven in. If the lake bottom prevents driving the stacks build them with cross members at the bottom and use a concrete block to hold it in place.
Here is some general guidelines which almost every fisheries biologist I talked to provided:
The next time you or your local bass/crappie club are looking for a community project, may I submit that you get with your local fisheries agencies and put a plan together for some lake restoration projects.
Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed professional fishing guide on Lake Guntersville and Tim’s Ford Lake; to reserve your “Day on the Lake” visit www.midsouthbassguide.com or call/email 615-613-2382, firstname.lastname@example.org
As November brought us cooler weather and sent many to the woods in pursuit of Joe Buck or hit the duck blinds with their trusted retriever Ol’Yellor. Avid anglers know this also signals the start of some the best fishing of the year on area lakes. Here are some helpful hints for a great day on the lake.
Despite the difficult weather conditions, anglers can still manage to spend quality time on the water through the winter days of the year, catching fish on a variety of lures. First and foremost, dress for the conditions and “Always” wear your PFD! Second, is to emphasize a slow approach for just about every presentation would be an understatement; when you think you are fishing slow, slowdown!
Let’s set the stage, in November water temperatures began to drop and should continue to drop through Mid-February with some area lakes dropping to the mid to upper thirties over the winter. Bass become more lethargic to conserve energy. Bright sunny days can raise water temperatures by as much as 5 degrees in just a couple of hours; triggering feeding binges.
While I’m a firm believer that anytime on the water is a good time! If your time is limited than plan your trips around weather changes. The best days are normally any unseasonably warm day during the winter, but fishing before a cold front or any other weather change can also be productive.
Considering, you’ll find me fishing with water temps as low as 38 degrees; I’ll start a typical day searching for fish to react to a jerkbait bite. This pattern is fairly steady, winter time presentation that can produce quality fish and adequate numbers. Later in the day, say after about 11am, we will go a rattle trap. The trap works really well over the winter months and can get them working now in late afternoon, assuming the water has warmed up some.
Proper presentation is everything! As it gets colder, I’ll start a typical day with a four or five count — that’s one thousand one, one thousand two, and so forth —before you jerk it again. Sometimes it may not even be a jerk, just turning the handle of the reel and pausing it again. It’s something you have to play with. The colder the water temperature, the longer the pause needs to be. If it’s really cold, you have to make a cast and crank the bait down, put down the rod and drink a cup of coffee before you move it.”
I recommend using a variety of jerkbaits to reach different depths. Ideally, the lure reaches a depth at the top of the grass left over from the summer. I’ll keep about four rods rigged up with different baits designed to reach a different depth, 1 to 3 (feet), 4 to 6, 6 to 8, and maybe one deeper.
I highly recommend utilizing a sensitive rod such as Duckett Terex rods for most of his applications, normally spooling a LEW’s 6.4-1 with 10- or 12-lb. Vicious Ultimate Copolymer, occasionally dropping to 8-lb. line when the fish are finicky. I favor a 6’9” or 7-foot, medium-heavy rod with a fast tip for jerkbaits. With this setup, I am slowing that jerkbait down and stopping it! With this particular rod, I can actually feel the line tighten up (when a fish hits). The rod is really special with 12 eyes on it I can get a little extra casting distance with it, probably as much as 25 feet compared to the rods I’ve used.
I’ll use jerkbaits in colors ranging from sexy shad in clear water to clown in dirty water and in between, I’ll throw a variety of natural colors. You need a slow, patient approach right now, but the fish will hit.
If the water warms up or if the fish prove they will chase a lure, I would actually rather see his clients throw traps. They are simply easier for the average fishermen to use. I find the trap bite in many of the same places we’d might fish a jerkbait earlier in the day. The difference is these fish are more active, willing to pursue a moving bait.
The trap has got to tick that grass. Count it down until it’s ticking that grass and then rip it loose. In late winter, you can catch fish burning it across a point or across the top of the grass. As the water warms up, the fish totally commit to the prespawn area and feed up, put the feed bag on. They are chasing everything. That’s when the water temperature has risen into the upper 40s, 48 on up. I’m not saying it has to be that high for the trap to produce, but that temperature has been most productive for me.
For trap tackle, I use a Duckett rod with a soft enough tip that he doesn’t take the trap away from the fish. A rod that is too stiff will also result in lost fish after the hook set.
I’m using anything from 12-lb. Ultimate to 65-lb. test braid both made by Vicious Fishing, depending on what we are throwing it in and around. They will still hit it even when using braid. A key point is a rod with a fast tip that is still limber enough but with enough backbone to get the hook set.”
I’ll normally start trap fishing with an X-Caliber Xr50 or Xr75. If the fish don’t respond to the bigger baits, he has experienced success downsizing to a quarter ounce. What I use depends on the bait in the area. It’s a match-the-hatch scenario. The smaller bait creates a slower presentation, and a slower fall will trigger a bite at times when nothing else will.
While red traps are used extensively on Tennessee River impoundments such as Guntersville, I also like royal purple, sexy shad and I’ve experienced great success with gold with a black back.
If the fish don’t respond to hard baits at all, then time to revert to plastics or a jig. I’ll Texas rig or Carolina rig a lizard or Tomahawk 8.75 worm from Missile Baits. The other thing I do is pick up a 1/2-oz. Tightline football head jig in Guntersville special, which is green pumpkin with some black and blue mixed in or a Green Pumpkin Orange with a Turbo Tail Grub trailer from Missile Baits. The jig is particularly effective around deeper docks. I’ll fish the perimeter posts first and flips underneath on sunny days.
Slow that fall down, fish your Texas rigs with a 1/4-oz. tungsten weight. That’s where a lot of guys miss it here is they forget to slow down their presentation. Fish it slow, and then slow down some more.
Be prepared to throw any of the previously mentioned lures as the bite changes frequently in the winter months. As far as location is concerned, I’ll spend a good bit of my time fishing the many large tributaries that feed the area lakes.
One final suggestion about fishing area lakes this time of year is don’t ignore shallow water, especially if the priority is simply getting bit. The bigger fish might hold in slightly deeper water, but there are fish in skinny water year-round on the lake.
Generally, we’re targeting shallower grass in 4 to 10 feet of water. It’s a classic pattern with one caveat. You can catch bass 365 days of the year on most area lakes in a foot of water. There are always shallow fish if you try hard enough.
Now if you are after big trophy fish, then put the boat in 12 feet of water and cast to 4 foot of water.
Again, please use extreme caution when fishing in the winter months. I suggest dressing for the worst and always wear a lifejacket at all times.
Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Guntersville, Tim’s Ford, Normandy Lake and Nickajack Lake. Visit www.midsouthbassguide.com or call/email 615-613-2382, email@example.com
As I was talking to one of my neighbors the other day of course about “Fishing”, he made a comment. “I can’t believe you are so busy, why are so many people hiring a guide?” There are several good reasons my clients like to hire a guide service or charter. Fish tend to move around a lot and they feed differently every day. However, when you fish every day (and I do) you stay on top of them. For some anglers who fish only a few times a year, it is cheaper to hire a guide than to make boat and insurance payments plus the tackle needed. My clients get to try out new and different tackle, the latest new and improved gadgets, such as new rods and reels, GPS and depth finders. It is great for businessmen to take their customers or employee out for a good day of fishing. A guide trip serves as a good way to build customer relations or seal a business deal and reward employee performance. Catching some good fish and taking a few pictures during a trip have led to some great achievements. It is also tax deductible. Family trips can be a lot of fun, kids can be tough and trips can turn into a real job if you are not that familiar on the water or with fishing. With the right Professional Guide who guides families everyone walks away with memories of a lifetime. To learn “sweet” spots and proven presentations on new lakes or rivers is one of the prime reasons. It can take several trips to learn a lake and which cost money and time. With a good guide you can learn most lakes in a couple of days and that can save you many aggravating trips and possible repair cost on your boat. Lastly, most guides stay current on latest tactics, anglers can learn a specific tactic like jig fishing, the Float‘n Fly, or the drop shot rig. With the current economic conditions, we are seeing an influx of people getting into the guide/charter business without bothering to go through all the legal channels or investing in the proper gear. Furthermore, every Fall and Spring lakes such as Kentucky Lake and Guntersville we see an increase in illegal, unlicensed and uninsured guides who are willing to risk being caught and paying a fine of $5,000 to $30,000, jail time, and/or loss of equipment. They are also putting the clients at risk; normal boat insurance does not cover guiding. In short, protect yourself use a USCG Licensed service and in Tennessee guides must be licensed by the TWRA. (Note: USCG license is not required on some inland lakes that are “Land Locked” such as Percy Priest or Center Hill. Lake’s that a guide MUST be USCG Licensed are Kentucky Lake, Guntersville, and Old Hickory, any of the Great Lakes, and Mississippi River.
If you are planning a guided fishing trip; here are a few questions to ask the Captains/Guides so you can choose the one you feel most comfortable with.
The most important question to ask…Does the Captain LOVE what he does and VALUE his customer relationships?
Capt Jake Davis, Mid South Bass Guide, a Professional Service on Lakes Guntersville, Tim’s Ford and Normandy Lake. www.midsouthbassguide.com
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had several calls and emails from anglers asking “How are you catching those Smallmouth in super clear water?” My response has been slow down and go light…than I remembered writing an article a couple years ago and figured it might be time to dust it off and rework it a little bit…Some anglers live by the old adage, “It takes a big lure to catch a big fish.” This isn’t always accurate, especially during the cold winter months. Sure, you might lose a few fish that might have been landed on heavier tackle, but experience has shown that one can often catch 10 times more fish by using light tackle and you can land any size fish if you take your time.
Light tackle means different things to different people. Here is my take on the how to and benefits of light fishing, the biggest of which is catching more bass! During winter and hot summer months, many lakes and ponds tend to become gin-clear, making it easier for fish to spot heavy lines. The four and six-pound lines, in most cases, are nearly invisible to fish, even in very clear water. When employing light line, you must have the proper rod and reel combination. The reel must have a drag system that works well and does not freeze up. This is essential because a big fish can easily break the light line if the drag doesn’t work properly. Your rod needs a good soft tip, while yet having a strong back bone for the hook-set. My light tackle/line lures include Rapala Shad Raps, Rapala DT-6 Crankbaits, Missile Baby D-Bombs, Twin Turbo Tail, Fuse 4.4 and Yamamoto-Kut Tail 5 inch worms rigged on a Spot Remover 1/8 ounce head.
To me, it means a 6’6” to 7-foot rod that weighs very little with a soft tip, such as the Duckett Micro Magic or Ghost Series, Medium or Medium Heavy spinning rods. The reel is a Lew’s LS300 which is designed for four to eight-pound test line. I hardly ever use the eight-pound line, I prefer six-pound test Pro-Elite Fluorocarbon from Vicious Fishing. With this set up, I can easily cast lures weighing as little as 1/16- to 1/8 ounces jigs and including small crankbaits
Light tackle and methods may be used anytime by anglers who find this style and philosophy of fishing appealing. However, there are a few special situations where light tackle is the most practical and productive fishing method available. Here is some situations when I change over to light tackle:
Where fishing pressure is heavy: Heavily pressured fish get spooky, and they become less likely to bite large, fast moving baits. However, they are much more prone to eat lures that are inconspicuous in terms of size and action.
Extremely clear water: Crystal clear water is another condition that makes fish spooky. Thin line is less visible, and smaller baits are more visible, and smaller baits are less threatening, hence more appealing, than larger lures with abrasive actions.
Post-cold front conditions: Another perfect example is when during or after a cold front blows through, the skies clear and the barometer rises. Most angler say bass get lockjaw…bass get uncomfortable, much like we do after eating Christmas dinner. But we still snack on small stuff.
When natural forage is small: Match the food source! When minnows or insects are small, predator fish refuse to bite larger baits, but smaller lures which approximate the size of the natural food will still work.
Next time you go to hit the water, especially if conditions are tough and the fish have shut down, remember to downsize and breakout the light-line tactics to catch bass.
Capt. Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed Professional Fishing Guide, on Tim’s Ford and Lake Guntersville; to reserve your “Day on the Lake,” visit www.midsouthbassguide.com or call/email (615) 613-2382 firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall Tactics and Tips
With fall fishing just around the corner most anglers will make a drastic change in presentation. We will move from slow moving baits to power fishing with fast moving baits and aggressive top water lures!
A few of my favorite presentations are crank baits, spinner baits and top water lures over the grass that is eroding away from the change in weather. As the grass starts to break up exposing open water the bass will be looking up for food; when this happens I’ll start rolling a big spinner bait or True Bass Swim Bait over the grass again. I like to make erratic moves with the rod to attract reaction bites. If you roll the bait just on top of the grass yet under the water, the slightest change in the rod will cause a change in the action of the bait. The result of the movement will cause the swim bait or spinner bait to pause, drop or flutter giving the lure a more natural presentation.
For many years, I have fished a dual willow leaf spinner bait in the fall as it gives you more flash and flutters down better than a combination of Colorado blades or one of each; you can also rip it out of the grass easier and cause more reaction with dual willow leaf blades . Colorado blades add more vibration but to me flash attracts more bites during the fall than any of the other combinations of blades.
As the bass move shallow for the fall feeding frenzy, and the grass continues to erode, you will find yourself fishing stump fields on flats and creeks. Another advantage of dual willow blades is they bounce off of wood much easier than Colorado blades do, you can also rip the blade over stumps and drop them from one side to another around the stumps.
I also like searching with swim baits in the fall. They allow you to follow the same philosophy easily, using big swim baits to find bigger fish and downsizing to find bites. It is also a great presentation to search different depths as swim baits are easily counted down to different depths to find fish that will react while suspending.
Top Water lures are not created equal and if you are looking for just bites it is different than searching for big bites, especially in the fall! As a general rule, big fish require big search baits, small fish hit on smaller search baits. I also feel strongly that searching for fish in the fall is different than in the summer or even the spring. One of the most versatile baits ever made is the Zara Spook. If you’re looking for tournament size fish you can search with super spook or if you’re just fishing for bites you can down size to a spook junior with the same presentation.
Lastly but absolutely not least is crank baits such as a Rapala DT 6 or lipless crankbaits such as a XR-50 or 75. One key to crank baits is working the proper angles and using the grass edges to create a reaction bite. You should not just work the crank bait and achieve the results by lining up and working your crank bait at a 90 degree angle, I experienced some of the best results come when working crank baits at a 30 to 45 degree angle off the grass edges. There are two reasons for this: first, you should be just ticking the last edge of grass with your crank bait, this allows you to rip it over the last drop-off at the edge and cause a reaction bite. Second, the 45 degree angles gives the bass an opportunity to follow your bait and this, combined with a long cast, will keep the lure in the “Strike Zone”
Capt. Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed Professional Fishing Guide on Guntersville Lake, Normandy Lake and Tim’s Ford Lake; to reserve your “Day on the Lake,” visit www.midsouthbassguide.com or call/email (615) 613-2382 email@example.com
Frog Fishing 101 – Guntersville Lake
With over 35 years of fishing all over the world under my belt, the one thing I have found to be a constant rush is top water fishing with frogs or rats. Whether it’s in lily pads, duckweed, slimy black moss of winter or the fall grass mats there is nothing like the explosive action of a bass slamming a frog. While most people think frog fishing is simply a “fall” pattern you can almost always find a top water frog bite someplace on most lakes in the south.
Let’s look at Lake Guntersville, over the past 4 years she has been rated between #3 and #6 of the best 100 lakes in the country by Bass Masters for its ability to produce largemouth year round. More recently, Guntersville has been rated the #1 Bass Fishing Lake in the country by Wired2Fish.com…At just over 67,000 acres, Guntersville has often been referred to as the jewel of the south, especially when it comes to Frog or Rat fishing and the fall is the best!
First and foremost is the proper equipment. I use and supply my client with 7’ to 7’6” Heavy to Extra Heavy Duckett Micro Magic Rods, weight of the rods depends on the cover. LEW’s Speed Spool Reels 7.1-1 or 6.4-1 at a minimum and lined with 50-65 pound test Vicious Braid. Don’t know how to use a bait casting reel, not an issue, a professional bass guide can teach you in about 15 minutes. My choice of “Frogs” is PRO-Z Hollow Body Frogs. In various colors but with White (Leopard, Green Tree Frog, Brown or Black Yellow being the most predominate.
Second, finding the proper area that will afford the angler the best opportunity, in other words where the bluegills, shad and other bass forage are. Some things to look for as you travel the lake include blackbirds or herons in reeds, lily pads or along the shore. Dragonflies are another good indicator as they are food for other bass forage. In the spring listen for the live frogs in the backs of coves. In the late summer thru fall look for those little black or white flies (gnats) that normally relate to grass mats. As you are fishing an area listen for bait fish such as bluegill or shad plucking insects off the bottom of the grass or lily pads. This will sound like a bowl of “Rice Krispies” with milk for breakfast…when you hear this there is most likely bass in the area!
Third, is grass! In the early spring look for new growth of duckweed and lily pads in the back of creeks and coves. These areas are used as nurseries for frogs and bluegill. Some of the best areas will have last year’s milfoil floating or caught on old lily pad stems. Perfect hiding places for Ms Bucketmouth to ambush unsuspecting prey. Over the summer months, I focus most of my time on lily pads that are flowering out. The rich smell of nectar attracts flies and other insects which in turn attracts bluegill, small birds and shad all of which are perfect food of bass. Starting at the end of July till Mid November the most well known time for frog fishing, some of the best areas are yellow or brown slime over milfoil. This will resemble burnt cheese as if you over cooked it in a skillet. In this situation look for what we call blow holes, areas where bass have come through the grass to eat. This can be critical as bass will usually stay in a general location as long as there is food. This pattern will only improve as the water temperatures drop in the fall sometimes as little as 5 or 10 degrees. Winter time, look for that black slimy hair like stuff that collects next to the banks. This slime will warm fast in sunlight drawing bait fish, which in turn you guessed it the bass follow.
The “retrieve” before you make that first cast, check your drag! It should tightened down almost all the way. Second, trim the legs of the frog to about 1 inch and place a rattle inside the frog. While there are several types of retrieves, I use two primary retrieves to locate and catch fish under heavy cover. To locate and cover vast amounts of grass I use a steady pull and stop retrieve. (Keep in mind I normally have clients with me and my primary mission is not to hook up a fish but rather get the fish to show themselves) Now, the preferred way in which most of the fish are caught is to work the frog with short pops or jerks or the rod tip down for about 12 to 18 inches, stop for a second and repeat. If you get your frog next to or in a blowhole stop and simply twitch the lure. Using this retrieve you are imitating a shad or frog hung up on the surface of the grass.
The hook set, I always explain to my clients to say the following phrase to themselves “one, two, set the hook” or as soon as you feel the fish. All the while you are looking for the frog. If the frog is still on the water leave it for a second and simply twitch the frog, the beast should return for a snack. Again, it is important to keep your rod tip low to the water. By doing this your line recovery with the swing of the rod upward increases three fold. Thus, turning the fish and bringing him to the surface of the grass. If you miss the hook set, throw back in the same location and hang on, normally the fish will return.
Try these simple techniques on your next trip. If you’re still having issues, you can learn a lot on the day on the lake with a Professional USCG Licensed Guide. Capt Jake Davis, Lake Guntersville, Mid South Bass Guide, www.midsouthbassguide.com or call me on my cell at (615) 613-2382
Coming Soon Articles, tactics, tips, reviews on Bass Fishing with Capt Jake Davis, Mid South Bass Guide on Lake Guntersville, Tims Ford, Normandy and other area lakes