Tuesday, November 10, 2020

When Fall turns into Summer

In the past couple of weeks I have had the chance to fish same body of water six times.  Most of those outings were in the 2 hour time range, not a large sampling but enough for this time of year.  Late October and the first week of November are typically those last few days when an angler can get out and chase a few smallmouth around the rivers.  This year Mother Nature decided to take those cool, crisp November days and turn them into summer-like days.  We had several back-to-back 70+ degrees days the first week of November...can 2020 get any more bizarre???  With this temperature swing, the water temperature rose quickly.  At one point in a seven day stretch the water temperature rose 10 degrees.  That is a lot for fish, especially when the fish were setting up in their winter pattern.

The interesting change of weather, and the frequent stops at fishing the general areas helped me to peak into the world of the smallmouth bass.  In late October the bass already changed their eating habits, preferring smaller baits like a ned rig, stick baits, grubs and the occasional jerkbait.  Once the unusual summer-like weather hit the bass started to prefer a 4-inch tube, a much larger bait.  Water temperatures ranged from 42-57 degrees throughout this observation.  Fishing has always intrigued me, why do you catch them in a location one day and not the next time?  What bait are they looking for in certain situations?  Amongst other countless questions I am always mulling over while out fishing.  The past couple weeks have helped me answer a few of those, and has let me peer into the world of a smallmouth bass, one that seems complex and ever-changing. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fall Bass Fishing

 The calendar may say October, but the water temperatures are already saying November.  Water temperatures have crashed the past couple weeks and are settling in the 40's.  I have stated many times that Fall is probably my favorite time to chase bass.  I am not sure if it is because my internal clock is telling me that my days in the boat are about to expire, or that crisp clean air that returns in October.  Either way, I always look forward to chasing bass in this time of year.

Fall brings fishing back to simplicity, something that I like.  The summer days when 8 or 9 or 10 rods are on the deck are long gone.  When the water temperatures drop into the low fifties and forties it is time to get back to the basics.  I typically will have 3 or 4 Quantum rods/reels on the boat deck this time of year.  A Texas-rigged Hot Rod Baits tube, a Wig's Jig and Chunk, an IMA Jerkbait, and a Drop-Shot or jighead grub.  Pretty simple, which helps me maximize getting my bait in the water during these shortened days.  Over the years I have noticed that fish do get very picky in the size of bait, color of bait and the speed of the bait during these cold weather months.  My go-to is the 4-inch tube this time of year, if the bass won't bite that then I downsize to a small worm or grub.  Some days the fish will hit one very well, while not touching another type of bait.  Also, like this past weekend sometimes the bass will prefer the jerkbait.  The erratic stop and go method and suspending in the water column must drive them nuts!  Make sure and mix things up, and like always; let the bass tell you what they want.  

Get out and enjoy the weather, not too many more days left and water will be freezing...and we all know what that means!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Reflecting on the 2020 Bass Season

(The full article can be found in the November 2020 edition of The Iowa Sportsman Magazine)

www.iowasportsman.com  for subscription details


The 2020 bass fishing season was a long one this year.  The ice melted away rather quickly in March opening up lakes all over the state by St. Patrick’s Day.  This gave the spring bite a kickstart as the year began.  Those anxiously awaiting to chase down some big spring bass headed south to the many Iowa lakes that dot the map.  Southern Iowa in the spring is known all over the Midwest as some the best bass fishing a person can have at that time of the year.  The bass did not disappoint anglers in 2020 as many Iowa lakes and rivers were in excellent shape with booming bass populations.

Bait Trends:  Each and every new fishing season brings out our best lures and baits.  I am no different, I have my favorites for certain situations that have treated me well over the past few decades.  However, in my travels throughout the state each year I witness hundreds of anglers casting for bass.  Each year there seems to be some common trends that take the bass fishing world by storm each year.  Several years ago the bladed jig was the buzz, and everybody had to be throwing one, or two.  A few years ago it was all about the finesse baits; drop-shots, shaky heads and wacky rigs were being tossed around all the time.  The Whopper Plopper crashed its way onto the bass fishing scene last year as everyone seemed to have a few in the tackle boxes.  All of these baits are great baits, and yes I have a “few” of each too!  In 2020 things were a little different.  COVID-19 hit the country early in the year and put a halt to the professional bass tournaments that occur all over the country.  Typically, us weekend anglers follow suit with the pros as to what they are using and try the different products that hit the shelves this year.  There wasn’t a big wave of new types of lures or presentations this year, yet I saw one old tried and true bait more than ever.  The good old spinnerbait is slowly making a comeback into the bass scene.  It never left, but the bladed jig and swim jig have taken some of its glory.  This year, many anglers went back to “old school” spinnerbaits and like they have for over 50 years, they caught bass.  I bet 2021 has something for all of us to spend our money on, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see...in the meantime shine those spinnerbait blades up! 

New Gear: While 2020 didn’t have that new, everyone must have bait, it did see a lot of new gear being released for the bass angler.  Trolling motors seemed to be the biggest “latest and greatest” thing coming out in 2021.  Garmin, Lowrance and MotorGuide all came out with new motors to help you spot-lock your way to more fish.  The technology of spot-locking sure has made bass fishing easier the past few years and is a big upgrade to any boat out searching for bass.  Electronics keep pushing the boundaries as well with forward viewing as well as side imaging to allow anglers to not only find structure but see fish swimming around in real time.  Again, this technology is amazing, but takes days and days to learn the units so they can be helpful to aid anglers in catching more bass.  Rod and Reel manufacturers seem to be in a price war the past few years.  Each major brand seems to have a high quality baitcasting reel for around $100.  These reels are great, and worth a look if you have been spending more.  Some of these carry a one or two year warranty while Quantum is the only one that offers five years of warranty on their reels.  Anglers are in luck with rods too, as quality seems to be getting higher, while the prices keep dropping.  You can get a high quality rod from most major brands around the $80-$100 range.  Competition is good, especially when it means a better product for a smaller cost to consumers.   

Sunday, September 27, 2020

2020 Iowa High School Team Championship

Lake MacBride was the venue of the 2020 Iowa High School Team Championship, presented by Scheels in Cedar Falls.  Twenty-Six boats from fourteen different schools showed up to take home over $1,500 worth of fishing gear.  The event was hosted by Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, and sponsored by Scheels, The Rod Glove, Cliff Keen Athletics,  Quantum Rods and Reels and Hot Rod Baits.  This event ended up being the BIGGEST youth bass tournament in the state of Iowa for 2020!

Lake Mac Bride was in great condition for the tournament, the water had good clarity and the bite was good the week before the event.  However, Mother Nature showed up Friday with 20+ mph winds that kept going the day of the event, making fishing a little more challenging for the kids.  Even in the difficult conditions 44 bass were brought to the scale.  many techniques worked throughout the day for the kids, as many bolstered their success at the weigh-in station.  Many of those fish were in 1.00-1.50 pound range but there were also four bass that weighed right at or over the 3.00 pound mark.  As with any bass tournament held across the nation some teams were able to figure out the mystery and walk away the trophies and fishing gear.  The top five individual boats received trophies and prizes as well as the school champion.  The school champion is the total of 2 boats from the same school district.

Here are the individual results of the top 5 and the 2020 team champions:

1st Place: Jace and Tristan- Marion High School       10.45#

2nd Place: Gage and Hayden- Solon High School       9.59#

3rd Place: Noah and Charlie- Washington High School  8.00#

4th Place: Jake and Devon- Benton Comm. Schools     7.83#

5th Place: Cole and Quade- West Des Moines Valley    5.54#

Big Bass- Jace and Tristan: 3.54#

2020 High School Team Champions: Marion- Jace/Tristan/Parker/Haiden 8 bass for 13.61#

Full results and more pictures can be seen on the tournament website: Iowa High School Team Championship

Monday, September 7, 2020

Do Fish Really Bite Better in the Rain?

Not a month goes by that a person doesn't ask me about this, lately there hasn't been rain for about a month, but this past Tuesday it did finally rain.  It just so happened that I was fishing a local Tuesday Night Tournament during this rain.  As the rain started to come down, I chuckled a bit just thinking about this myth...or is it a myth???

A nice Smallmouth Bass fell
to the Whopper Plopper

The night of the tournament was going as planned...for once.  I had a stretch of deep wood that was holding a lot of bass, the size was smaller but I knew we could get a fast limit of three bass there to start the night.  We took off and went to that shoreline and quickly started to get bites, and keepers in the livewell.  It didn't take long and we had our limit of three bass.  I then went to the next location where some bigger bass tend to hang out from time to time.  I caught one that was around the 3.50# mark, a big upgrade and our night was panning out just right.  Then, it started to rain.  Out came the raingear and the Whopper Plopper, a buzzing topwater bait.  

So, does the rain really make the fish bite more?  If a person were to randomly ask people I would bet the percentage of people saying yes would be far more than those saying no.  This isn't something new, the saying the has been around, well forever.  I have no real scientific proof if it is a myth or not, however I know from fishing countless days in the rain that I can safely say it doesn't really matter.  I will say this though, when it is raining you will see me throwing one of two baits the majority of the time while it is raining.  I am not talking about when it is sprinkling or misting like we see in the spring and fall quite often, but when the drops are falling hard, a good solid rain.  

Those two baits I speak of are the buzzbait and or the Whopper Plopper.  These baits are designed to stay on top of the water while you reel them in.  I can only assume that when it does start raining rather hard, the disturbance on top of the water gets the attention of the fish, especially bass.  This is why these baits are so affective while a rain storm is moving through.  The rain causes the attraction, and the bass can't help but to swim up and eat the pretend fish swimming away.  This played out perfectly on this night, as the rain fell, the Whopper Plopper brought fish after fish to the boat.  It also caught our second biggest first of the night, a nice smallmouth bass.  Sometimes things just work out right.

So does rain really make fish bite better?  I always say no, however some baits do work better during those rain storms, so give them a try next time you find yourself stuck in a rain storm. 

***As always, if you see any lightning or hear any thunder, take cover, it is not safe to fish under those conditions.***

Saturday, August 8, 2020

August Indee Bass Club Tournament Recap

1st Place: DaltonH/Captain Randy Toale/JacksonT


The Indee Bass Club held their latest event on August 5th on the Wapsi River in Independence.  Eighteen students participated on nine different boats.  The Wapsi River was at a very low level; 4.90ft, the lowest the kids have ever seen during these club events.  The current was almost nonexistent on the river, but in August the fish must eat.  The anglers and their boat captains took off at 4:30pm and had four hours to try and find five keeper bass which must measure over 12-inches.  At the conclusion of the event at 8:30pm the anglers bring their bass to the weigh-in scale from the boats livewell to get their total weight.  After the weight has been recorded the bass are released back into the river to swim again.  

This months tournament had a repeat at the top two spots from July.  JacksonT and DaltonH brought in five largemouth bass that weighed 11.57# for the back to back win, they were captained by Randy Toale.  They reported catching their fish on Texas-Rigged tubes, buzzbaits and swimjigs.  In second place was RangerR and CarterC, they brought in a mixed bag of five keeper bass for 8.77# including the big bass caught by Carter that weighed 2.93#, Todd Reed was their captain.  This team caught all their keepers on spinnerbaits and wacky-rigged stick baits.  In third place was senior ParkerS and partner RemyR.  They had four largemouth bass that weighed 6.92# and were captained by Dan Sweeney.  This duo caught all their fish using a Tokyo Rig and a plastic craw bait.  In fourth place was another senior, Landry Jones and his partner Kegan Postel.  They brought in two big smallm

2nd Place and Big Bass: RangerR and CarterC

outh bass that weighed 4.95#.  Landry has been the club president for the past two years, a student voted position.  This partnership caught those beauties on a black and blue swimjig and twister tail jigheads.  Fifth place finishers were EJ M and SamH.  They caught three smallmouth bass that weighed 3.78#.  Their captain was Brian Miller.  This pair caught their bass on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.  Sixth place was GradyC and KyleB, captained by Rick Wendling.  They brought in two keepers that weighed 3.09#.  In seventh place was Justin Schmadeke and Hunter Patton.  Captain Paul Schmadeke and this team brought in two keeper largemouth bass that weighed 2.65#.  In eighth place was JacksonW and ZachJ which were captained by Dave Wilson.  They caught one nice largemouth that weighed 2.40#.

As you can see from the results, many bass on the Wapsi were hitting a variety of baits on this night.  It ended up being a record setting night for the Indee Bass Club.  The club as a whole broke two records; the first was the most keepers brought in at a single event at 24.  The second record that was broken was the total weight of bass weighed in, it was 44.13#.  The kids, with the help of the volunteer captains just keep getting better. 

This Independence area club is open to any 7th-12th grader at Independence or St. John's school.  Information can be found on Facebook or their webpage; just search Indee Bass Club to find them.  The club is sponsored by Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Scheels of Cedar Falls, Hank's Bait and Tackle in Waterloo, Quantum Rods and Reels, The Rod Glove, and Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  With the help of these sponsors the club was able to hand out five trophies and every participant received some fishing gear which totaled over $700.  The next event for the club is the Bass Nation State Tournament on Pool 10 of the Mississippi River.  Four teams are participating in this event.  The next club tournament is on September 13th at Lake Delhi.

Kegan and Club President Landry Jones

Friday, August 7, 2020

The "Wacky-Rig" lives on

A small jighead can be used while Wacky-Rigging
to quicken the fall rate.

Bass fishing is ever-changing especially when it comes to finesse fishing.  In the past decade many new rigs have been introduced to anglers and all will produce bass.  However, one of the first of these new trends was the wacky-rigged stick bait.  I was never a huge fan of anything finesse while bass fishing, especially during tournaments.  However, there were many tournaments I found myself lacking a limit, so I had to use finesse baits to try and fill the limit to stay competitive and gather as many Angler of the Year points as possible.  A decade or two ago these baits were commonly seen tied on during tough fishing conditions; split-shot rig, wacky-rig, shakey head, and finesse bass jigs.  They all played parts of successful days on the water and few earned me some Angler of the Year awards as well.  Today those still exist and are commonly used but rigs such as the Ned Rig, and drop-shot rigs get most of the attention these days.  

One of these rigs, obviously from the title, is one that has lasted the test of time, the wacky-rigged stick bait.  This bait is great from the shore, on a boat, in a lake, in a river or a pond.  It simply works and is a very easy technique to teach the next generation of anglers.  First, the gear you need is as cheap as it gets, a medium action spinning rod, a hook and a stickbait (one of the cheapest plastic baits you can buy).  Throw it out around cover and move it slowly back to you, it is really that simple, add a weighed hook for quicker retrieves.  Of course some days the bass want it moving a little slower than other days but that is easily adjusted with your patience.  This rig does not do well if you are in a boat that is moving along the shore, it takes time to work a wacky-rig correctly, but the results can be second to none on some days.  I'm not saying it is the best finesse approach out there, but if you haven't used one lately this summer, you are most likely missing out on some bass.  Give one a try, and if you have a young one learning the game of bass fishing, tie one on for them as well.  The slower they go, the more bites they will typically get.