Secrets of the Guides
By: T. Edward Nickens
TODD KERSEY – The Bass Artist
Specialty: Catching huge Florida largemouth bass
Years Guiding: 9
Home Waters: Lower Florida’s famous bass waters Lake Okeechobee, Lake Walk in Water, plus Lake Kissimmee, Stick MarshFarm 13, and the Everglades.
Relax and enjoy what you’re doing. On 72 percent of our couple trips, the woman catches the largest fish. Most often that’s because she’s just fishing and enjoying herself, while her husband is operating under so much pressure. His buddies back home want to hear about the big one. He forgets the beauty of it all and the pressure makes him miss fish.
Contact: Hawghunter Guide Service: 888-629-2277; www.bassonline.com
Cook fish with beer. A cold one is the 11th essential on a good fishing trip. Besides being the beverage of choice after a long day on the water, it can help you cook your catch. Any kind of beer is perfect for poaching fish. It’s simple: Build a good fire. Lay out a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil two-and-a-half times longer and two-and-a-half times deeper than your biggest fish. Drizzle the bottom with olive oil and a 1/2-inch-thick layer of sliced green onions. Place a cleaned fish on top, and souse it with the first few ounces of a fresh beer. The rest of the can is for you. Roll it all up in a tight pouch and put it near hot coals for about 15 minutes for a decent eating-size walleye. The onions will char. The beer will steam. The fish will flake with a fork. You will eat and drink like a king.
Set the hook and get control. A hookset is more than hooking a fish. It’s one continuous motion that ends with the angler in the proper body posture to control the fish. None of this hands-over-the-head, rod-stuck-out-to-the-side business. You must assert control and wind up in a position for the fight ahead. And I say, take a swing every time you even think you feel a bite. Here’s the right way.
Start with a slight bend in the knees, just like a golf swing. This gives you stability and balance, which you’re going to need in the next few seconds.
 Think about where the fish is going. Don’t snap-strike. Lower the rod tip and point it in the direction the fish is traveling as it moves away with your bait. This is a critical detail.
 As you start the strike, keep both elbows close to the body. This gives you a lot more leverage, and you’re not relying on the muscles of your arms for the swing, but your entire upper body.
 Retrieve slack line and as the line goes taut, pull back swiftly with your forearms and lean backward as you set the hook.
This is where the bent knees come in, because you now straighten the legs to get the whole body behind the hookset. You’re in balance, the reel is close to your chest, the rod is in control. You’re in position to handle whatever comes next.
Fish with a shiner. Lake Okeechobee is famous for its wild live shiner fishing. The fish chase those shiners to the surface, and oh man, the world blows up right in front of you. It’s very exciting.
We use a 4/0 live-bait hook and a standard egg bobber, and really large baits, shiners between 6 and 10 inches. It’s a handful. The trick is to always keep the shiner right above the grass. Sometimes you need 1/8 or 3/8 ounce of lead to keep the shiners down, but if you use lead, make sure you’ve got a real kicker. That bait needs to spook, to really go on the run. Bass love to attack a moving target.
That setup is pretty easy. The trick is in working the bite. A bass can only eat a big shiner headfirstãif it goes down tail first, the shiner’s fins will get hung up in his throat. What happens is this: The bass blows out of the water, grabs that shiner and starts buzzing drag off the reel. Your first instinct, to lock down and let him have it, is the worst thing to do. You have to let the fish run, and when he stops to turn that shiner around in his mouth, that’s when you hit him. Sometimes it’s 5 yards. Sometimes it’s 35 yards. You never know.
Flip a lure the Florida way. When most people flip they let the line go, it hits the water, and if a fish hits the lure on the way down then releases it, the angler never feels the bite. Half the bites go undetected. Not down here. If they bang the lure on the way down, we catch them.
We don’t worry about finding a hole in the grass. We throw right into the middle of a weed mat and let the lure drive a hole into the hollow beneath. But the real key is this: As soon as the lure hits the water, apply slight thumb pressure to the spool to control the drop of the lure. Don’t let it free-fall to the bottom. Set it on the mat and lower it with your thumb. That gives you the chance to feel even the slightest take on the drop.
Fish with braided line. A major gear shift down here has been new braided lines like Stren Super braid. In the Big O there’s so much grass, these fish whack the bait, and by the
time you can get the bow out of the rod and the stretch out of standard mono line, he’s already balled up on the bottom with his head in the grass. With braided line there’s no stretch, and you can put it to him when he still has his head up. In heavy cover you can feel a subtle bite so much better with braided line, and we rely on that when pitching and flipping in grass and cattails.
GEAR I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
“There’s something about the polarization process of Maui Jim sunglasses that gives me much better vision underwater, especially in my peripheral vision. I’ve used a lot of sunglass brands, and I can really tell a difference in water glare.”
Once again, our guides out perform the others. While there are several services in Florida, there still are no sign of any of them in the tournaments, the top ten or the media. Don’t be folded by a “so called professional” Fish with proven successful guides that get the job done daily. Learn the latest techniques from successful tournament fishermen!