By Captain Chris Shepard Looking for a big fish technique in bass fishing? Feed them nature’s candy, wild shiners or shad are the most productive and efficient way of catching trophy size bass. Take these steps in to consideration and make this work for you.
Properly Handling of the Bait
Golden Shiner Fishing
Handling of the livebait can be very important. One of the key items is water temperature, it should make slow changes, if any, from the time shiners are placed in live well, until they reach destination to be fished. Plenty of oxygen and aeration must be provided also. Bass rarely hit bait that can not escape from them, although there are times they will. If your bait is dieing after only a few minutes on the hook, check the water temperature difference between the lake and your livewell.
Tackle, Rods, Reels and Fishing Line
Shiner Fishing Rod
Using proper tackle to match bait size can increase number of hits. For example, if the bait is three inches long, stay with 4 ought or less on your hook size. For shiners 8 to 10 inches long, use 5 and 6 ought hooks. Use weed guards only when necessary in heavy cover. At least a seven foot heavy action rod, we prefer 7-1/2 G-Loomis GL2. It has a soft tip to help you cast distance and back bone to turn a trophy when needed. Spool them up with 20 to 30 lb. Berkley big game line when fishing cover, grass lines, trees etc. It, sounds a little over powering I know, but it is all about being prepared when that big one hits. During the winter months the bigger the better when it comes to wild shiners size. Summer months we tend to change tactics, down sizing in bait is key once the feed changes to shad. The tackle should also be down sized, like the line. We convert to 40lb Stren Superbraid and here is the key, attach a 17lb clear Berkley big game leader to it. It will give you an edge over the other anglers.
Hooking of the Live Bait Shiners and shad live longer if hooked properly, one option is to hook them through the bottom lip, then through the nostril. Care must be taken not to hit between the nostril, this is where there brain is located. Careful not to break the neck of the bait, when slipping the hook upper ward pass the bottom jaw look for the small holes (nostrils) once located hook should penetrate with very little pressure. This technique makes the shiner swim in a downward motion, and works great for trolling. Hooking in the dorsal fin will make the bait swim up and away from the line or bobber, thus creating more action, but the bait will wear down much quicker and die sooner, so wait until you are anchored to try this technique. You can hook the shiner in front or behind the dorsal fin. Each method allows the shiners to be steered under, over and around vegetation to exact points.
Bait Presentation When casting live bait, remember the object is to get them to the fish in perfect condition. Underhand pitching or side arm casting prevent hard impact with the water, thus helps to keep all the scales intact. Your cast or pitch should more of a lob then a cast. Scales that are knocked off leave white spots on your bait that can be seen under water as well as makes your bait weak. Take the time to hit your target the first time without repeated casts. Just remember you are not fishing with artificial bait, so let the shiner sit and work for you, do not try to work it.
Bobbers, no Balloons Keep the bobbers as small as you can, large enough to keep up with where and what your shiner is doing. Two, three or four foot depth in most lakes are good to keep free movement of your shiner. As far as bobbers vs. balloons, “just stop using the balloons”. Even if you saw Roland Martin using them on TV, it does not may it right. The balloons in most case pop, come untied or break off, either way it’s really bad for the environment and the fish. Some say bobber color matters, personally we like what ever your favor color. Remember most lakes and systems in Florida have fairly stained water.
Shiner Fishing Rig
We covered a lot of this in our Field & Stream article in July 2005, Free lining works seems to be the most popular, it’s great in running water or for trolling. Carolina rigging in running water will normally blow your mind, it requires constant contact with weight in order to distinguish hits. Depending on the water speed, 1 ½ oz. weight with 3′ to 4′ leaders.
It also works better in deep water or high skies days when fish do not want to come up. Our all time favorite still has to be the drop shot rig. In most cases you are fishing grass mats, grass lines or some kind of structure. The drop shot rig allows you to position your bait in a specific location and not have the shiner swim out of the strike zone.
Anchoring Basics Always check wind direction! If you know where the fish are, be sure to set the boat up properly first time around in order not to spook them. We use two methods of anchoring. One is using covenantal anchors, one on the rear with another off the bow. Have adequate rope and heavy enough anchors to hold. Scope, scope and more scope, the magic to getting the anchors to grab is having enough rope out. A good rule of thumb is three times the depth. Four feet deep, let out 12 ft of rope for each anchor.
Florida Shiner Fishing
The other option for anchors are to use poles instead of anchors. Yes, that’s right PVC poles, in most Florida lakes poles can be used and there always areas that you can not use them, but day in and day out there easier on your back and a lot less messy.
Hook Setting Technique Most people tend to wait to long and set the hook to hard. It is true women in the boat tend to prove that the strength of the hook set is not the most important, often good skills are better. Mono fishing line will stretch, so the most important thing to do is retrieve all slack until you have made contact with fish, do not let the fish feel you reeling. With the rod tip down set the hook over head, while maintaining pressure with a bent rod all the way in keeping hook firmly in place.
Lake Okeechobee, best well known to most of the world as the largest producer of Trophy Bass. This reputation has continued for many years as not only producing trophy size largemouth bass, but also providing notable bluegill, shell cracker and speck (crappie) fishing.
We are not claiming Lake Okeechobee is the world’s best producer of all these species, but I don’t know of another lake that produces or has access to more species of fish like it. A commonality on most lakes is that 90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the fishermen. On Okeechobee, because of the quantity of fish every angler has the opportunity to target, quantity and be one cast away from a QUALITY lunker!
Lake Okeechobee has another unique feature, in that it produces sizable fish all year round. Although November through April are the major spawning months, the rest of the year also produces big numbers; and what’s wrong with catching 3 to 6 lb. bass?
Historically, I believe June brings on good changes; the bass go into a post-spawn pattern and there’s a distinct change of bait for the trophy largemouth on Okeechobee, said Todd Kersey. The wild shiners, which are the chosen bait for many anglers during the spawn, tend to thin out and migrate to the open water, where the bass will follow. This is a good thing, because the lake has also a great supply of shad. The migration of the bass to the open water forces the shad to start seeking cover in the shallower grass beds. We now we have schooling action, as the shad school, so do the bass. It is not uncommon this time of the year to find a school of bass and catch 50 to 80 fish, or to find a school and boat 6 to 8 pounders on top water baits. Now does everyone do this? Absolutely not! Bass Online.com is very fortunate to have some of the most experienced guides on Okeechobee, which allows us to easily keep up with the movement of the schools of fish. So while others are searching we’re catching!
I know what your thinking, “Wow, June has to be hot at this time of the year in Florida”, and you are somewhat right. However, because of where Okeechobee is located, with either the east or west coast of Florida being only 1 to 2 hours away, there is often a nice breeze, which helps to keep the lake comfortable, though strangely enough, there’s always something about fishing, when we’re catching them we never seem to notice the temperature!
Utilizing the natural food chain as bait that Mother Nature provided, wild shiners or shad are the most productive and easiest way of catching the numbers and size of fish. Catching bass with wild shiners or shad can be very action-packed if done right. The knowledgeable and skilled, wild shiner angler has a variety of techniques upon which to rely on. There are several key steps in making this work for you: anchoring in the appropriate direction, proper handling of the bait, utilizing the correct fishing rods, reels and terminal tackle, and knowing how to hook the live bait and presenting it can be key. Although, setting the hook may be the most important of all!
If you’re an angler who particularly likes to fish with artificial lures, when in a schooling situation, and you catch a bass or two in specific small area, try anchoring. The bass will most likely be more plentiful than just one or two, they are an inhabitant, and travel in groups.
Be sure to pick your lure of choice. What is this, you ask? Well, it’s normally the bait that’s working you for at that moment, right? Wrong! Once the school is located you have several choices, which will lead to different results. For example, if you want to catch lots of numbers from the school, use a Senko-style bait or a Texas-rigged worm. This approach allows you to pick one fish at a time out of the school without disturbing or spooking the majority of the group. On the other hand, one of my favorites, the full-size Zara Spook, while it definitely will not catch the same amount of fish, it provokes the largest fish in the school to attack.
The sudden explosion of each bass striking and jumping will cause the school to move, but you have to decide. Do you want numbers, or the heart crushing sound of your topwater lure disappearing? Either way, the action on Lake Okeechobee can provide great results. To contact us go to www.bassonline.com or call 888 629-BASS and email firstname.lastname@example.org
Artistry from the Deep South : Awesome Bait Company‘s Thundershad Crankbait
Introduction: Are you willing to pay top dollar for a crankbait but grow tired of the plethora of cookie-cutter, injected plastic mold replicas – despite the wonderful array of finishes they offer? Do you value the unique and eccentric action of a hand carved, wood crank but are frustrated over the lack of true color selection in these hand made wonders? What if we told you that it’s possible to have it all – the unique characteristics of hand carved wood baits with the dizzying color array typical of some of the larger lure manufacturers? Would you say “Awesome!”? Pull up the trolling motor and lean back on your pedestal seat as we take a closer look at Awesome Bait Company’s pre-eminent Thundershad Crankbait!
Thundershad Model 175 Specifications Type Crankbait Depth 0-5 ft Class Floating Size 3-3/8″ (1/2 oz) Colors/Patterns Approximately 37 different colors Hook Sizes #4 front & rear MSRP $14.99
Impressions: Founded in January, 2000 by professional bass fisherman, Mark Shepard and his stepfather, Paul Kaptis, Awesome Bait Company has been busy building a fierce and loyal following in the deep south – the heart of American bass fishing country. With close to a dozen different models of freshwater cranks and endorsements by bass fishing professionals such as Rick Clunn, where does one begin? We chose, for our trials the shallow running, round billed Model 175.
At first glance, the Thundersad 175 crankbait appears no different than your run of the mill, mass produced lure. Take a closer look, and one begins to notice quality components and construction with such touches as oval split rings, Gamakatsu brand hooks, and a thick, clear coat protective finish over the lure’s paint. While the intricacies of the lure’s paint job may not be the most detailed or exquisite we’ve witnessed, one can certainly discern great care goes into the painting and finish of each Thundershad crankbait.
Complete test rig for Thundershad Model 175 Field Tests Rod Kistler Helium He70MC Reel Shimano Conquest 51 Line 12 lb Yozuri Hybrid
The Field Tests: We rigged our Thundershad Model 175 on one of our typical cranking setups and took it out for tests in some of the clear water reservoirs of Northern California as well as the California Delta. Our three test colors to cover this range of bass waters were Citrus Shad, Fire Tiger, and Black Silver. Casting/Pitching Most plastic crankbaits can be launched, with ease, in just about any casting conditions one might encounter on the water. This can be attributed to internal weights that shift depending on the lure’s orientation to help change the baits center of gravity as it flies through the air. Most wood cranks, on the other hand, are not privileged to these technological advancements. As a result, most are difficult to cast even in the absence of wind, unless one is using a light action rod, light line, and a high quality fishing reel. Conversely, our Thundershad Model 175, with its half ounce weight rating, yet, average overall length, was an ease to cast, even with a heavier action fiberglass cranking stick (our Heavy Action Custom Seeker BS706 featuring a 3/8 – 1oz lure rating). We were quite pleased with the ease by which our test baits could be cast at all of our targets. Awesome Bait Company has done an excellent job at engineering the castablity of these baits.
Carving a Niche Casters and crafters discuss angling’s ongoing fascination with wooden plugs. By Brent Swager
Water Scout Streamliner
Back when the earth was just beginning to cool, my grandfather introduced me to fishing. His rusted metal tackle box was filled with cork bobbers, bits of line and hooks and two wooden lures he’d carved from a salvaged chair leg. Crudely painted and pinned with salvaged hardware, the plugs were more a work of pride than effective fish-enticements, but I was squeamish about hooking my own worms and as a result, caught my first lake bass on one of Grandpa’s homemade wooden lures.
Thirty years later, most of the plugs rattling around in anglers’ boxes are made of plastic. They are mass-produced, injection-molded with volume and affordability in mind. You can find any size, color or configuration you can imagine. Some have internal rattles, some holographic finishes, some better hooks than others.
But among fishermen of a certain age or mindset, there’s just something about those wooden plugs. For some the appeal may be purely nostalgic, but for others it derives from fish-attracting qualities that may seem hard to reproduce.
Is wood better than plastic? No. Just different.
At a local flea market, I ran into Al Veach standing beside a display filled with wooden lures. Veach, of Tampa, has been turning out handmade plugs under the name Al-Lures for years. For him, it’s a question of function and flexibility.
“There are a lot of reasons to use wood,” Veach said. “For me, it was a natural fit; I love to carve and fishing is fun, so making a lure I can catch fish with is just two tangents coming together. “You can create subtle differences with wood that just aren’t feasible with plastic or composite lures. I listened to the old-time guys talk about the wooden lures they had success with and tried to capture the quality and detail they seemed to think so important.”
Veach is understandably proud of the lures he crafts and while the African mahogany, cedar and walnut lures generally draw a variety of lookers to his display, it’s the results his lures get that bring serious fishermen back for more.
Talk to anglers who favor wooden lures, and some common threads emerge. Action, how a lure runs on a particular retrieve, is a big subject. “You can buy four or five wooden lures and one out of the bunch will float or wiggle just a little differently than the rest,” said Tony Banner, an avid fisherman from Wesley Chapel, Florida. “Maybe it’s the grade of the wood or the weight of the paint, but I think that adds to the effectiveness.”
Joel Richardson, a bass guide in North Carolina and Virginia, agrees. “No two wooden lures are alike,” he said. “Plastic is so perfectly made that each one comes back the same, but wood is different. You might get one that skips a beat every ten feet or floats a little different than the others and that’s what makes them so good.”
One feature a lot of plastic plugs offer that’s hard to duplicate with wood is internal rattles. Many anglers swear by the click-clack of a brass bead inside a hollow-body plug. On the other hand, there are situations when a quieter profile is desirable.
“Wood makes a natural vibration when it hits off blades of grass on top of the water,” said Todd Kersey, a bass guide on Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. “Wooden lures are particularly effective when you have a school of fish you don’t want to spook or when you are facing finicky fish. The noise they make is very lifelike.”
“A wooden lure is quieter than plastic, I believe,” said Kersey. “Too much sound is an alert to fish. Bass will spook if you make strange noises.”
Water Scout 1934 The versatility of wood inspires makers to experiment with different designs for different purposes. “It’s not unusual for me to have a single body shape with eight or nine small differences I’ve addressed after trying it out or hearing feedback,” said Veach. “Everyone develops their own way to fish these lures; I often create lures for people based on their technique or on a lure they used to use and liked. I can build the lure to dive or plunk loudly or wiggle, depending on where it’s going to be fished.”
For guide Mark Shepard, a past 5 time championship qualifier and BASS 150 competitor the new Stren Series was a another accomplishment for his resume. He really looks forward to this years championship on Lake Wheeler and is very positive about chances.
Mark was in 7 place overall going into the last event in Santee Cooper, after a disappointing 121 finish he still held onto 23 overall in the points. Mark’s really looking forward to Lake Wheeler and reminds us that his goal was to qualify for the event, then focus on winning the championship!
Rick on the other hand has dominated fishing in the south central Florida for the last few years and this was his first attempt at going out of state. Also, like Mark his goal was to qualify for the championship and he did on the first try at the tour.
Rick, also had a disappointing finish at Santee Cooper but caught enough to finish in 33 place overall.
The championship starts on November 1, 2006 and is being held on Lake Wheeler. The word is that the flipping and frog bite will be on! So, watch out they both will be swinging for the fence.
If you are going to be in the area, stop by and say high to the guys. I am sure they would enjoy seeing you!
Once again, our guides out produce all of 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 media. Don’t be folded by a “so called professional” Fish with proven successful local guides that get the job done daily. Learn the latest techniques from successful tournament fishermen!
while fishing guide Todd Kersey might look the part, wearing sunglasses and a ball cap, and sporting a deep tan, at heart he is a driven entrepreneur. Kersey (Pictured on an expedition with a young client) had run several different businesses until about 10 years ago when he chanced upon his current endeavor. “I had sold a business and didn’t have any idea what I was going to do next,” recalls Kersey, a lifelong fisherman and member of the Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I looked into the industry and realized nobody had put it together as a business. I put my business background to it, and away we went. ” Kersey hasn’t slowed down since. His company, Bass Online, Inc., employs nearly 30 guides and serves freshwater lakes and rivers in Florida from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
Kersey, 41, also speaks regularly to groups, hosts a weekly radio show, and films fishing programs for networks such as ESPN and Outdoor Life Network. Despite his hectic schedule, he has never lost sight of his love of the sport. “Fishing is one of the last great American things where it doesn’t whether you’re 1 or 100 years old, whether you’re black, green, white or blue. Everyone has the same opportunity. That’s the beauty of it.” – Steve Wilson