Bass Pro Shop’s Tournament Series Baby Stik-O-Craw

Ned Kehde

A green-pumpkin Baby Stik-O-Craw affixed to a red 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig.
Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri, began wielding a prototype of Bass Pro Shop’s Tournament Series Baby Stik-O-Craw during the middle of the winter of 2018-19.

King is an astute and talented black bass angler. Those virtues were lauded by the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2015, which was when he was inducted into that piscatorial shrine.

What’s more, King is a Finesse News Network member and a Midwest finesse devotee, and in his eyes, the Baby Stik-O-Craw fits the Midwest finesse motif magnificently. As he field tested it, he was wowed by its effectiveness at inveigling the largemouth bass, spotted bass, and smallmouth bass that abide in Table Rock Lake, Missouri.

Ultimately, King talked to Dustin Back of Springfield, Missouri, who is a member of the Finesse News Network and a product specialist for Bass Pro Shops. And they thought that scores of Midwest finesse anglers would find the Baby Stik-O-Craw to be a very effective soft-plastic bait to affix to a mushroom-style jig for catching largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass.

Therefore, Back sent us a package of Baby Sik-O-Craws to work with and describe.

When we worked with them, here is what we discovered:

It is a multifaceted soft-plastic stickbait that is 2 5/16 inches long.

Its torso is cylinder shaped.

The anterior section of its torso is encircled with 10 ribs.

The tip of the anterior section is capped with a small dome-shaped head. The head is adorned with two minuscule antennae, which are a quarter of an inch long and less than one-sixteenth of an inch thick.

The width of the torso at the first rib is three-eighths of an inch with a circumference of about 1 1/4 inches. The torso’s width at rib number 10 is seven-sixteenths of an inch with a circumference of about 1 5/16 inches.

The middle portion of its torso is five-eighths of an inch long. Near the junction of the middle section to the posterior section, it is seven-sixteenths of an inch wide at its widest spot with a circumference of about 1 3/8 inches.

The middle section is devoid of ribs. But a long appendage radiates from each side of the torso, and a crayfish anatomist would describe this appendage as a front walking leg. Each of these legs is crowned with what an anatomist calls a chelae and anglers describe it like a claw. Each of these walking legs and chilae is 1 3/8 inches long. The chilae is seven-sixteenths of an inch wide at its widest spot with a circumference of about seven-eighths of an inch. Each side of the middle portion of the torso is also endowed with two tiny appendages that are somewhat heart-shaped. They are flat and a quarter of an inch long and three-sixteenths of an inch wide at their widest spots. The front ones are a half of an inch from rib number 10, and the back one is five-eighths of an inch from rib number 10.

The dorsal portion of this middle portion of the torso possesses a hook slot that is a half of an inch long and about one-sixteenth of an inch deep. This slot begins slightly behind rib number 10.

The middle portion’s epidermis is smooth.

The posterior section of the torso is three-quarters of an inch long. It is encircled with 11 ribs, and it is capped with a small dome-shaped anus. The first posterior rib is a half of an inch wide with a circumference of about 1 7/16 inches. Rib number 11 is three-eighths of an inch wide with a circumference of about 1 3/16 inches.

The tip or anus of the posterior section is where a Midwest finesse angler will insert the hook and collar of a jig. And many Midwest finesse anglers will employ a mushroom-style jig. But Back notes that Bass Pro Shops has created a finesse-size jig that is called a Tungsten Offset Jighead. It possesses a 1/0 extra-wide-gap hook, which will allow anglers to work with a Texas-rigged Baby Stik-O-Craw.

It is available in the following hues: Black/Blue Flake, Blue Craw, Cally Craw, Green Pumpkin, Houdini, PB&J, Summer Craw, and Sungill.

It is heavily impregnated with salt and 8UP scent, and it is not buoyant.

A package of 10 cost $3.49.

When King worked with the Baby Stik-O-Craw along Table Rock Lake’s steep and deep bluffs during the heart of the winter of 2018-19, he usually affixed it on a one-eighth-ounce jig. These bluffs are graced with a series of ledges, and some of the ledges are adorned with flooded trees. To prevent the Baby Stik-O-Craw from becoming snagged, King’s jig is equipped with a small fiber-style hook guard. He presented this rig to the black bass that abide around the ledges by making a cast to the water’s edge, and then he slowly and subtly pulled the rig until it reached a ledge. When it reached that ledge, he allowed it to fall to the next ledge, and then he subtly pulled it to the edge of that ledge and allowed it to fall to the next ledge. He executed this retrieve until the rig plummeted into 20 feet of water. Most of the strikes occurred as the Baby Stik-O-Craw was falling from one ledge to another ledge.

He also used it to catch black bass that were abiding around boat docks, and when he did this, he affixed it to a 1/16-ounce jig, and a lot of the strikes that he elicited occurred on the initial drop.

Besides plying boat docks and steep bluffs, King probed a variety of shorelines with the 1/16-ounce rig, which he would retrieve with a slow swim-and-subtle-shake presentation, allowing the rig to delicately cruise a few inches above the bottom. This is a no-feel presentation, which is an important ingredient of every Midwest finesse retrieve.

King concluded his observations about the Stik-O-Craw by noting that it perfectly mimics the size of the small crayfish that inhabit Table Rock Lake

13 smallmouth stream lures that rock

Recently, while giving a river smallmouth seminar, I asked the attendees which lures every stream smallie fanatic should own. I set no restrictions on the number of lures that could be listed, the only stipulation being that participants would list lures until all present were satisfied that they had enough choices to be able to fish successfully throughout the year. Once the list was created, I asked some of the best river smallmouth anglers I know how, when and where they fish these baits. Here’s how these guides, experts and the seminar audience as a whole ranked the lures from No. 13 to No. 1.

Click Here to see the Whole Gallery

Why Only 3 Flies?

Why Only 3 Flies? thumbnail

Carrying only a handful of flies can make you a more efficient angler. Especially when fishing small streams (like high-gradient mountain creeks), the less you carry can really make a difference. Wearing an overburdened vest into the back country just isn’t  necessary. Furthermore, you’d be much better served to bring along water or food – not hundreds of fly patterns.

Efficiency matters. Whether you are hopping out of your car for an hour chasing brookies or spending a week out of a pack in the Colorado wilderness catching cutthroats, only taking what you need matters in small and large ways. If you lay out all your gear on a table, you’ll notice that fly boxes probably account for the most volume. A normal trout box is the size of a decent paperback book. A couple of those will fill up a sling pack quickly.

Moreover, boxes and boxes of flies just aren’t necessary. Consider your favorite high-gradient mountain creek. How many flies do you use? Outside of wild water conditions or sporadic hatches, is it four patterns? two? one?

I’d like to propose that you can get by – and get by very well – with only three flies in these conditions. Here are three patterns that I’d carry… the three flies that I would be comfortable with if they were all I was carrying:

Continue reading “Why Only 3 Flies?”

Elfin Cove Resort – An Adventure to Southeast Alaska

Elfin Cove Resort – An Adventure to Southeast Alaska thumbnail

Visiting Alaska has been a long-time dream of mine with the rugged mountains, deep forests, and untouched rivers. So when I was offered the last minute opportunity to jump on a plane and go to Southeast Alaska, I didn’t hesitate.

The next thing I knew, Photographer Jesse Packwood and I were loading up all of our gear onto a fishing boat for a three-hour commute from Juneau to a small fishing community nestled in between the mountains. We arrived at Elfin Cove Resort to find a beautifully renovated lodge with a majestic backdrop of Brady Glacier and the Fairweather Range.

A quaint boardwalk leads you throughout the community of only 25 year-round residents, You can feel the history that remains, the bar & grill, other small homes, and lodges, and even a few sailboats that have been docked for years.

Elfin Cove is known worldwide for its renowned fishing. The opportunities are endless with off-shore fishing for Halibut, King Salmon, Ling Cod, Rockfish, and other species. Also, Captain Kieran Oliver recently discovered an abundant steelhead fishery and has been passionate about sharing the resource with others. We set out on an exploratory mission to search for the elusive steelhead.

We started each morning early, with a delicious chef-prepared meal at the lodge to then set out on our day’s adventures with Captain Kieran, Captain Jeff Mans and Deckhand Charlie Denatale. The endless fog and rain intensified this journey. It was usually rough conditions to get to the unnamed and remote river systems. We’d get to the opening of the river, transfer onto another boat, then commute the rest of the way on a small aluminum jet boat.

It felt like we were in Narnia, rifles, and pistols were attached to the guides and we were all prepared in case something went south. Trekking into unknown territory and following a trail along the river that was made from centuries of bears walking this same path.

We spent the next few days searching various rivers, hiking for hours in downpouring rain, only to find a few steelheads and some coastal cutthroats. When the tide and conditions weren’t right, we would head offshore to fish for Halibut, King Salmon, Rockfish and other species. Most of us being fly-fisherman, the guides had a good laugh watching us struggle with a conventional rod. After a while, we figured it out and landed some cool species. I caught my first Yelloweye Rockfish! It wasn’t a steelhead but it was exciting nonetheless.

We had two days remaining on our adventure and with time running out, we were feeling eager to find steelhead. With it being our last chance, Captain Kieran warned us about the river he was going to take us too. Known for its abundance of bears, and a difficult river to fish, we accepted the risks and set out on the adventure. A short hike in, we started spotting a few steelhead. The river was crystal clear, small, with thick, tight trees overhanging. You had one cast and if you messed up, you’re entire rig was caught in the trees overhead.

After a few hours, one of the other anglers spotted a massive Steelhead. The excitement was high among us all, Will Baker, one of the anglers on the trip, stepped upstream to take a cast at the fish. The steelhead was sitting in the most difficult spot to cast too. It was tucked up under the bushes making it nearly impossible to get a good drift. Will dropped his fly about 40 feet upstream of the steelhead, we watched as he carefully swung it downstream under the overhanging branches, through a spider web of foliage, just in front of the fishes face. The steelhead aggressively ate it, Will stripped set and the guys yelled fish on! We watched as Will battled the steelhead, through the maze of trees. Running backwards, forwards, stumbled and fell in the river all while the steelhead still remained on. Hooking into this fish was one thing, but being able to land it was another. The stars aligned and Will brought the fish in.

We captured a few photos and then let the beauty go. It was then time to head out and start the trek back to the jet boat. That moment was one we will all remember, and we drank beer and swapped stories with staff when we got back to the lodge.

The following morning was our last day, and we headed back to the river. Our hopes were high, we knew there were fish and we were eager to try again. When we arrived, Jesse and I started walking ahead. As Jesse was looking into his backpack, gearing up for the hike, I walked around the corner of a rock cliff, looked up and saw a bear just ahead. My heart dropped.

The bear hadn’t noticed me and I walked out of view of it and signaled to the rest of the crew. The guys joined me and we watched the bear, directly on the path that we needed to be on to access the river. The bear then noticed us and stood up on his hind legs. We weren’t sure if that was a sign of aggression or perhaps he was just checking us out like we were on to him. We did a few things to try to scare him off but the bear wouldn’t budge. The guides made the final call and decided to head out.

I wasn’t able to catch a steelhead on this trip, but honestly, that’s just steelhead fishing for you. There are so many different factors that go along with steelhead fishing. “The fish of a thousand casts,” they say and boy are they sure right. It’s not easy and it’s not always about the fish. It’s about the incredible journey and adventure along the way. The guides and staff at Elfin Cove Resort were phenomenal and it was an experience I’ll be forever grateful for. All the more reason to come back and try again. Someday, Steelhead. Someday.

To check out Elfin Cove Resort for your own check them out online here. Article from Shyanne Orvis, an angler based in Carbondale, Colorado. Give her a follow at @shyanneorvis. Photos from Jesse Packwood of Team FlyLords.

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When Adventure Pays Off: Exploring Nothern Glacial Lakes

When Adventure Pays Off: Exploring Nothern Glacial Lakes thumbnail

It’s so easy to go stick with what works. Whether it’s the way you approach problem-solving or simply how you cook your burgers, what’s easiest usually becomes the norm because people like easy. This is especially true in fishing, anglers are constantly getting stuck in their ways. Throwing the same bait, fishing the same areas or targeting the same species of fish. While I’m guilty of this too, I’d like to share a story with you about how exploring new water recently paid off for me.

This past weekend I ventured up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin with my fishing buddy Alex. Al and I grew up playing little league baseball together and at one point us two southpaws were pretty decent ball players.

Sorry, Anyways… It was Memorial Day weekend and we wanted to fish somewhere off the beaten path. Our goal was simple – See as few people as possible, explore new water, and rip a few lips along the way.

We decided to make a 5+ hour drive north to fish a series of small glacial lakes in the middle of the wild Wisconsin wilderness. The game plan was set and we agreed to leave as soon we finished work on Friday.

One last Walmart stop is essential for any fishing/camping trip.

I wrapped up my day at the Catch Co. and jumped on the train home to meet Alex at the pickup point. Once he arrived, we did the mandatory dude fist bump and then loaded the truck and headed north.

After a tank and a half of gas, a few energy drinks and a whole lot of fishing stories we rolled into our primitive campsite around midnight. We set-up camp and briefly talked about morning plans before retreating to our tents. After a full day of work and a 5+ hour car ride, both of us fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Our vessels. Combined cost under $900

For me, there’s no need for an alarm clock when camping, the suns light beaming through my nylon tent are enough to wake me from any slumber. Plus, the feeling when I wake up and remember I’m about to do something I love is unlike anything else. I get a spring in my step like you wouldn’t believe. I’m as springy as a slinky.

We woke up at the crack of dawn, slugged a coffee and then jumped in the truck to get to the first lake. After launching the kayaks, Alex and I started fishing opposite bait styles in the effort to quickly pattern fish. Alex started with a wacky rigged Senko and hit the north shoreline while I tied on a spinnerbait and headed south. These lakes are glorified ponds so it didn’t take long for us to meet in the middle report on our findings. The Senko was clearly out fishing my spinnerbait, so I tied on a wacky rigged BioSpawn Exostick and joined Alex on a stickbait smashfest.

After catching close to 30 small bass between us, Alex pulled out a 3lb+ pounder that was the icing on the cake. At this point, we decided to keep it moving and headed to lake number two.

My buddy Alex prepping for the upcoming lake.

Lake Number 2

Next, we launched into a larger lake that which had noticeably cooler water and less active fish. My lure was bitten off by a Northern Pike within the first five minutes but we couldn’t buy a bite after that. Instead of sticking around and trying to figure out the fish in this particular lake, we decided to lick our wounds and head on to the next one.

Alex cruising on Lake #2

Lakes Three and Four

PB&J’s and fishing go together like frog fishing and lily pads.

Lakes three and four were both densely populated with small Nothern Pike. I wasn’t sure if this was due to a fish kill, (small bodies of water in northern states are prone to fish kills due to oxygen deprivation during harsh winters) or just a lack of bio-diversity which resulted in these dink pike. However, I do pike are both delicious and fun to catch. Chatterbaits and swimbaits were the best-producing baits in lakes three and four but I honestly think they would have eaten almost anything. These fish were hungry.

This is a dink pike which some anglers refer to ‘Snakes’ or ‘Hammer Handles’

Lakes Five And Six

After finishing up at lake number four, we met a fellow kayak angler who was portaging (carrying a boat) back to the lake in which we just fished. This guy was extremely friendly and provided us with valuable insight regarding the next two lakes, it was simple. Don’t fish them. There was indeed a fish kill a few winters back and it turns out that lakes five and six were hit especially hard. This news was saddening but also served as a reminder of how nasty nature can be. It’s not the first time this has happened and probably not the last. Those lakes will be back and filled with action, it’ll just take time.

Virtually every lake we explored was empty

Lake Number 7

The last and final lake on our journey was my personal favorite. It was deep, clear, and the fish were very foolish. I was using a Ned Rig jighead that was trailed with a small pink plastic worm. Within the first five casts, I landed four bass. It was just one of those days.

Z-Man Ned Rigs and Pink Worms were the deal.

After fishing lake number seven, I was dog-tired. The excitement from exploration was beginning to fade and the realization of the work ahead was beginning to set in. We were miles into the woods and it was finally time to turn back to and head to the truck. The next couple of hours were not fun but they were damn rewarding in hindsight. We put our heads down and just paddled our tails off, eventually making it back to the truck around dinner time. Our bodies were exhausted but our spirits were high. We just spent the last 12+ hours in our kayaks exploring new waters while catching dozens of fish. Plus, we kept a few of those tasty pikes for dinner.

We capped off our epic day in true Wisconsin fashion, cheddar brats, and a northern pike fish fry, the Wisconsin version of surf and turf. It was so dang good.

Could we have found bigger fish in a local retention pond near our house?

Sure, we probably could have but there is no way it would have been as memorable as the day I had checking out new water with an old friend. The fish catches were just the icing on the cake. Get out there and get you some.