Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Iowa Post-Spawn

What a spring is has been...cold, colder, rain, more rain, a little warmth, cold, more rain pretty much sums up the month of May.  May has always been my favorite month to fish for bass, but this May had to be one of the worst ever for that.  Rivers were out of control, many lakes are clouded, or dirty, however there is always fish to be caught.  This past weekend took me to a smaller Iowa lake  that covers about 150 acres.  It is known for some HUGE bass and I haven't bass fished it for over a decade.  With the Mississippi River still really high and the local Wapsi not cleaning up as fast as I thought, it was time to give the lake another try to see if we could catch one of those famous BIG BASS.  David Gissel and I scoured the shallows looking for what we thought might be the tail end of the spawn.  We saw dozens upon dozens of bluegills and crappies cruising the shallows and just a few largemouth bass.  The bass wanted nothing to do with our offerings and only chased them for awhile before turning back and returning to where they were first located.  This was a neat ritual to see in the clean water at first, but became very annoying as we couldn't catch those fish...they were not feeding and they made it quite obvious.  This led us to believe that the bass were in the post-spawn mood/habitats.  We decided to head to deeper water near some brush.  Immediately we picked up a couple nice keeper bass.  Texas Rigged tubes, and stick baits were casted out and brought back slowly for these bites.  However, it seemed as though only a couple fish lived there.  We decided to try some deeper shorelines and keep our baits in the deeper water.  We picked up a few more bass doing this.  Fast retrieved baits never caught a fish today, which was a surprise to the both of us.  Another rig that worked well was a Hot Rod Baits Big Craw rigged on swing-head jig.  I was able to work this bait ever-so slowly through and around the deeper brushpiles scattered on the lake bottom, it even produced our biggest fish of the day.  This rig has become more and more of a go-to rig for me in the last few years for covering water at a slow pace while maintaining bottom contact.  You can fish it faster than a jig or Carolina Rig and it seems to get more bites too.  I throw this 1/2ounce rig on a 7'2" G-Force Quantum R
The Biggest of the day
od with a QuantumPT Vapor Reel
in the 6.3:1 speed ratio.  I experimented with several rods and reel ratios and this one covers all the important aspects for me.  I can cast it long distances with the Med/Hvy rod and Vapor reel, and the extra fast action tip of the rod gives me the sensitivity to feel the bottom content and the strength to set the hook.  It is a fantastic combo for this set up.

It was a day of decisions and surprises for us today.  We had the spawn on our minds and picking fish off beds, but they simply were not there.  This was a classic day of letting the fish tell you where they are and what they want to eat.  We made the right decisions to make it a good day of fishing, even though neither of us caught that lake monster we were hoping for.
Close-up of the SWING-HEAD Jig

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Stop #1

The Optimum Baits Opti Shad
brings in a BIG ONE
This year Brian Bowles and I will be participating in this series once again.  It is a three event series, all-in format against 16 other teams.  At each of the three events teams earn points for their finishes to compete for the Team of the Year honors.  With only three events, there is no room for a major slip-up.  The first event of the year seems to always be the most difficult for us in the past few years.  With a full day of practice on Saturday, good May weather and a plan of attack we were pretty sure this wouldn't be the case this year.  Well, that didn't last long, I got a call Friday from my partner saying he had injured his ribs and was hurting pretty bad.  He was going to call me Saturday morning with an update.  I knew this wasn't good news...but went on to practice bright and early on Lake Sugema as I had planned anyway.  A few hours into the day I contacted Brian, and he was hurting pretty bad, trying to loosen things up.  He didn't have a definitive answer, and we left it as I needed to know his plans by noon.  The call...which I almost expected came in, Brian was out for the Sunday tournament.  I immediately started to think about who could come and fish with me for Sunday.  It is a 3-hour trip from Independence, and I really didn't want to trouble someone that much with such short notice.  So I started to think of other friends...Randy.  Randy Ellison has fished the series in the past and I knew he lived within an hour of the lake.  I made the call...and he was able to come and fish Sunday.  Talk about a roller coaster of a practice day...and that doesn't even cover the fishing! 

I made the most of the practice day in between the storms that came and went throughout most of the day.  I only set the hook 2 times that day, one was the fish you see above, a 21+ incher and then a 12-inch bass.  I knew I couldn't set the hook too many times, especially being a man down.  I felt at the end of the day I did eliminate quite a bit of water, and had two different baits that the bass were liking.  One of those baits was the Optimum Baits Opti Shad.  This 6 inch swimbait with a paddle tail fished on an irregular retrieve was getting quite a few bites, as did the Hot Rod Baits Tube rigged Texas-style.  It is always nice to end the day knowing a few bites that the bass were biting on. 

A little about the rigging of these two very different baits; first the Texas-rig.  I like a 3/0 EWG hook for pitching tubes, and a 1/4oz sinker was necessary on this day due to the swirling winds.  The Opti Shad was rigged with no weight and a 5/0 EWG hook.  These baits are very dense, making them easy to throw long distances even without any additional weight.  I do this to provide more natural movement from the bait itself.  It flutters, kicks, wobbles, darts in a variety of patterns that drive fish crazy.  I always throw this bait on a seven foot QuantumPT rod with a SmokePT baitcasting reel.  Between the QuantumPT combo and the high quality Optimum Bait swimbait it makes a dynamic pair...a pair that big fish like!  With these two baits and the trusty Black and Blue Wig's Jig I felt ready for Sunday.

Sundays weather was very much like Saturday, storms in and out, wind direction changes and rain on and off.  Not the best time to hit a lake post-spawn but that is what tournaments are for, testing yourself under Mother Nature's schedule, not your own schedule.  Randy and I started off on the on main lake and hit some keepers right away, the Opti Shad, tube and chatterbait all put keepers in the livewell.  We ended up culling a fish or two by around 10am.  We had our biggest fish in the livewell, a 4.00# caught on the Opti Shad along with two other nicer keepers, but still had 3 fish around that  two pound mark...not what we were hoping for.  We made the move to the west part of the lake and continued to fish main lake and some points.  The old channel breaks were hit and ended up on the west side of the silt dam.  We covered a lot of water, the Minn Kota got quite a workout on this day.  At the end of the day we both knew that we didn't have what it was going to take to win on this "big fish" lake, but we gave it our all and didn't hold anything back. 

The scale tipped us in at 14.46# for our limit of 6 bass.  We did have the 2nd biggest fish of the event with the 4.00# bass.  That weight placed us in 10th, definitely not where we wanted to end up, but almost every team was able to bring in a limit on this day.  It was great fishing with Randy, it had been a couple years since we shared a boat.  I hope it isn't that long in between trips this time.  It is quite obvious he loves the sport and this chance meeting saved my weekend for sure, so thanks to friends and the sport of bass fishing...I love it for so many reasons!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Iowa High School State Team Bass Championship

One simple thought...turned into quite an event.  That thought was, "What if any student in the state would be able to sign up to fish a bass tournament to represent their school?  How many would attend?"  That thought cam to fruition when the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series created the first annual Team Bass Championship that took place Saturday at Pleasant Creek Lake near Palo, IA.  I have enjoyed seeing the Indee Bass Club take off, but I knew there was much more interest around the state to fish bass tournaments, but schools didn't have a bass club.  This event would allow any student in the state to join the event and fish a tournament with a huge prize pot.  SCHEELS in Cedar Falls stepped up as the Title Sponsor for this event, allowing us to create beautiful trophies for the kids to enjoy for years down the road.  Quantum Rods and Reels made the large prize purse a reality, Cliff Keen Athletic Wear provided high quality dri-fit shirts for purchase, Hot Rod Baits, Wig's Jigs, and The Rod Glove all gave items for the students as well.  Without the generosity of these companies, this event would have not been possible.  Also a big shout-out to tournament directors Todd Reed and Keith Donnelly, tournament staff Rick Wendling, Dave Dost and Darrin Isaacson for making things run smoothly.
Over $1,500 in merchandise given away, including AWESOME trophies from CJ's Trophies in Oelwein, IA

Pleasant Creek Lake was chosen for the event.  This lake recently had a make-over and according to DNR fish surveys has plenty of bass to go around.  The lake is beautiful, clear water, rocky shorelines, brushpiles, rockpiles and plenty of shallow weeds.  This is certainly going to be a good lake for years to come.

So how many students did show up for this event...56 students from ten different school districts signed up for the event.  Independence, Alburnett, Starmont, North Linn, MLF/MarMac, West Des Moines Valley, West Delaware, Washington, Sumner/Fredricksburg, and Center Point-Urbana all were excited to get things going.  Four students make up a team along with two captains manning the
two boat teams.  Each team could work together to find the bass, catch them and bring them to the live weigh-in.  The weather was not a typical May Saturday, temperatures were in the fifties, and drizzle fell throughout much of the tournament.  Spring here in Iowa this year has been like no other.  The environment dictates every move of fish and on this day the bass were not very cooperative.  Only three teams were able to bring in a bass over the 12-inch length limit.  Those three teams and many random drawing teams took home over $1,500 worth of prizes and trophies.  Dispite the bad weather and the poor fishing, kids were leaving with smiles on their faces.  I hope to see many of them back for the 2020 event.

Here are the results:

1st Place and Big Bass: Washington High School- 3.14#
2nd Place: MFL/MarMac- 2.92#

3rd Place: Center Point-Urbana

1st Place: QuantumPT Accurist Combos

Big Bass Winner also received numerous items from The Rod Glove, Hot Rod Baits and Wig's Jigs.

2nd Place: Quantum Throttle Combos

3rd Place: Quantum Drive and Pulse Reels

The Next Generation

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I once again had the opportunity to speak at Fish Iowa this year in the Independence community.  Each year 5th graders at the local schools learn about fishing, the environment and how they can preserve it and protect it for years to come.  The kids get treated to an all-day field trip to the outdoors to see various programs from the Iowa DNR.  It is an awesome program and am proud to be a part of it.  I was asked once again to be the "fishing instructor".  I help the kids learn more about rods, reels, types of casting and the many different lures you can use.  It was great to field the many questions kids had about fishing and the local Wapsi River.  Throughout the day about 120 kids made their way to my station to pick up a few facts about fishing and how it can be much more than just a worm and bobber.  The more kids are involved in outdoor activities the better, and I hope I shared my passion with a few up and coming bass anglers on this day! 

Tools of the trade: Old and New school
Quantum, IMA Crankbaits,
and Hot Rod Baits

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Indee Bass Club High School April Club Tournament

To sum things up...AMAZING!  That is the brief sentiments after this tournament, however the longer version is available as you keep reading.  The first club tournament of the year was scheduled for Saturday, the weather scheduled for that day was a high temperature of 39 degrees, several inches of snow and wind gusts up to 30 mph.  These variables take all the fun out of fishing and it simply isn't worth the battle.  Team coaches, Keith Donnelly, Garry Anderson and I decided to not host the tournament on Saturday and look at other options.  Postponing to another weekend was possible, but you never know about the river levels in spring.  A quick call to the DNR and we were able to switch the tournament permit to Sunday afternoon, which promised to have temperatures in the 50's.  Mother Nature tried to stop us, but we found another way.  Sunday afternoon it was, and it was one for the record books...literally.
This team found the only two
willing smallmouth bass to bite on this day.

Twenty-Seven students to the water at 3pm for the 4-hour tournament.  The goal for the 2-person teams was to catch five keeper bass on the Wapsi here in Independence.  This is never an easy thing to do on the Wapsi, especially a day after a blizzard.  Fourteen boats and captains took to the Wapsi to see what they could catch, and ten boats came in with fish to be weighed.  This was very surprising considering the conditions and the large number of boats on the body of water.  The have made huge progress on the basics of casting and pitching baits, and I think the big weigh-in is proof of that.  Many baits were working on this day, spinnerbaits, jigs, tubes, swimjigs and crankbaits were all reported as catching fish, including several Northern Pike, which is always a nice surprise at the end of your line.  The weather held out for us, temperatures were in the forties at the end of the tournament, but the winds weren't too gusty.  Things worked out for the best. 

As for the fish catches...the students set several records on this day.  The club has been in existence for three years now, and this was the seventh tournament held by the club.  Today, the club set the record for most kids in attendance at 27, the most teams to weigh in at an event at 10, and the most bass weighed in at 21.  Today, the largest bass ever to cross the scales at a club event occurred, Caleb brought in a 3.72# largemouth bass.  That was of course the biggest bass of the event which gave him the Hank's Bait and Tackle "Big Bass Award".  This prize pack included a variety of baits and lures from this tackle shop located in Waterloo.  Overall, the results were far past what I had imagined the Wapsi River was capable of producing, it has been a weird spring, but I guess the day after a snowstorm is a good day to go bass fishing.   One limit of five bass was brought to the scales today weighing in just over eight pounds.  That earned the team of Jackson and Dalton the SCHEELS Tournament Winner Tackle Packs.  A huge thanks to the 14 captains that provided boats and their mentorship, an invaluable part of this club.  The club also gave away 5 rod and reel combos to random club members.  A big thanks to Quantum Fishing for their support!  Full results can be seen on the club website HERE.

The Indee Bass Club is thankful for all their sponsors, please support them if you can!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Time Bass Fishing- PODCAST

Recently, I had the opportunity to share some insight on locating and catching spring bass.  Click on over to The Sportsmen's Nation to hear those thoughts:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

It has begun!

First fish of the year, 3.19# on a
Wigs Jig and Hot Rod Baits Chunk
The 2019 OPEN WATER season has started here in NE Iowa.  I was able to get out on the Wapsi River for a few hours today and look around.  It always amazes me how rivers change from one year to another.  Some things always stay the same, but there are always things that Mother Nature changes.  It is one thing I love about rivers and the one thing I dislike about rivers.  moving around on the Wapsi River in Buchanan County hasn't been easy the past decade, and this spring has already shown me that is isn't going to get any easier.   It will be difficult to navigate around the sandbars, but the current will hopefully carve out a place for boats to enjoy the water and fish that swim in them.  On this day, we were after largemouth bass.  This time of the year on interior rivers is best time to catch a giant.  We went looking and ended up with three bass over 3#, one just missed 4# at 3.91 pounds.  It was a good short trip and both Keith and I caught some bass.  A win-win for early April, it sure was a good feeling to really set the hook with the long rods!