Buyer’s Guide: Ultra High-End Rods And Reels!

The best rods and reels money can buy! If you’ve ever wanted to see the craziest, most outrageous combos a bass angler can buy, look no further than today’s in-depth look at high-end rods and reels for bass fishing! We’re talking the best rods from G Loomis, Shimano, St Croix, Daiwa, Megabass, and more! From Spinning to Casting, reasonably affordable to just plain outrageous, this video is going to be fun!

Are you looking for a new combo? Have you always wanted a top-tier rod but didn’t know what to buy? Are you looking to upgrade your entire arsenal? Maybe you just want to see what’s out there. Matt and Tim have acquired a wide variety of high-end gear through the years and today they’re showing you their favorites. They aren’t just showing off combos without explanation though, each angler explains why they own them, what they use them for, and how that rod has improved their fishing.

High-end tackle has a wide range of advantages. Obviously sensitivity will be second to none with these combos but they can actually increase your enjoyment and ease of fishing with seamless use. Additionally, there can be health benefits for injured anglers that need to avoid repetitive movement with heavy equipment. Regardless of your reason for wanting a high-end combo, Matt and Tim will help you choose the best option for you.

Below is a breakdown of all the combos discussed in the video. They’re shown in order of appearance and include live links to each model on Tackle Warehouse where you can see the exact specs on each rod and reel model.

Spinning Combos…


Rod- G Loomis GLX:

Favorite Models- 822S DSR, 852S JWR, 853S JWR

Reel- Shimano Exsence 3000:

Combo #2…

Rod- Megabass Destroyer:

Favorite Models- Addermine and Flyssa

Reel- Shimano Exsence 3000:

Combo #3…

Rod- St. Croix Legend Elite:

Favorite Models- 6’10″Medium, 7′ Medium, 7’6″ Medium

Reel- Shimano Exsence 3000:

Combo #4…

Rod- Dobyns Xtasy:

Favorite Models- 7’2″ medium Light, 7’5″ Medium Light, 7’5″ Medium

Reel- Daiwa Certate LT 3000:

Combo #5…

Rod- G Loomis Conquest:

Favorite Models- 7′ Medium, 7’6″ Medium

Reel- Shimano Stella FJ 2500:

Combo #6…

Rod- G Loomis NRX:

Favorite Models- 822S DSR, 852S JWR, 872S JWR

Reel- Shimano Exsence 3000:

Casting Combos…

Combo #1

Rod- G Loomis GLX:

Favorite Models… 852C JWR, 843C MBR, 844C MBR

Reel- Shimano Aldebaran 50 MGL HG:

Combo #2…

Rod- Megabass Destroyer:

Favorite Models- Oneten Special, Otomat, and Daemos

Reel- Shimano Metanium DC HG:

Combo #3…

Rod- Daiwa Steez SVF AGS:

Favorite Models- 7’2″ Medium Heavy, 7’6″ Heavy

Reel- Shimano Metanium MGL HG:

Combo #4…

Rod- Dobyns Xtasy:

Favorite Models- 7’2″ Medium Heavy, 7’5″ Medium Heavy, 7’5″ Heavy

Reel- Shimano Bantam MGL HG:

Combo #5…

Rod- G Loomis NRX:

Favorite Models- 852C JWR, 853C JWR, 894C JWR

Reel- Shimano Antares A 70:

Swimbait Combos…

Combo #1…

Rod- G Loomis IMX Pro 966:

Reel- Shimano Tranx 300 A HG:

Combo #2…

Rod- Megabass Destroyer Onager:

Reel- Shimano Tranx 300 A:

Favorite Braided Lines…

Spinning- Sunline SX1 Hi-Vis 12 lb:

Casting- Power Pro Maxcuatro 50 lb:

Swimbait- Power Pro Macuatro 80 lb:

Protect Your Investment…

Casting Rod Sleeve-

Spinning Rod Sleeve-

Casting Reel Cover-

Spinning Reel Cover-

Buyer’s Guide: Best Rod and Reel Combos Under $500

With a $500 budget you can find incredible rod and reel combos! Many companies use this price point to help anglers transition into high-end tackle. The differences in sensitivity and value at the price point are amazing! Want to feel every rock, every twig, and every soft bite in cold water? You can do it with these combos!

If you’ve ever wondered what “high-end” feels like, you can find out with a $250 rod and $250 reel and save yourself hundreds of dollars over the ultra high-end offerings that we’ll be covering in tomorrow’s video. These “mid-range” rods come with high-end sensitivity at a great price. Rods like the Shimano Expride and Daiwa Tatula Elite AGS will change your entire fishing experience.

In addition to highly sensitive rods the reels available at this price are next level. Ultra smooth and durable are the best way to describe these offerings. Below you’ll find a breakdown of each combo (in order of appearance), including a handful of model recommendations for each and a direct link to Tackle Warehouse where you can see the detailed descriptions for each.

Combo #1…

-G Loomis IMX Pro Casting Rod:

Favorite Models Include 7′ Medium, 7′ Medium Heavy, and 7’6″ Heavy.

-Shimano Curado 200K HG Reel:

Combo #2…

-Megabass Orochi XX Casting Rod:

Favorite Models Include Braillist, Extreme Mission Type F, and Perfect Pitch.

-Shimano Curado 200K HG Reel:

Combo #3…

-Dobyns Champion XP Casting Rod:

Favorite Models Include 733, 744, and 764.

-Shimano SLX 150 DC HG Reel:

Combo #4…

-Shimano Expride Casting Rods:

Favorite Models Include 6’10” Medium, 7’2″ Medium Heavy, 7’6″ Heavy, and 7’11” Extra Heavy

-Shimano Curado 150DC HG Reel:

Combo #5…

-Megabass Orochi XX Spinning Rod:

Favorite Models Include Whipsnake, Shaky Head, and Enforcer

-Shimano Stradic 2500 CI4+ Spinning Reel:

Combo #6…

-Shimano Expride Spinning Rod:

Favorite Models Include 6’10” Medium Light and 7′ Medium

-Shimano Stradic 2500 FL Spinning Reel:

Combo #7…

-Daiwa Elite AGS Spinnig Rod:

Favorite Models Include 7’1″ Med Ehrler and 7’6″ ML Feider

-Daiwa Tatula LT 2000 Spinning Reel:

Favorite Braided Lines…

Sunline SX1 Hi-Vis 12 lb:

Power Pro Moss Green 15 lb:

Protect Your Investment…

Casting Rod Sleeve-

Spinning Rod Sleeve-

Casting Reel Cover-

Spinning Reel Cover-

Renegade rigging

When I became immersed in bass fishing back in the early 1970s, it seemed that we had plenty of techniques to learn in our attempts to fool Mr. Bass. For soft plastics, you could use the deadly Texas rig, which has sure stood the test of time, thanks to its versatility and ability to fish through the thickest cover. The Carolina rig was a whole different animal, but all who learned to adjust their sinker selection and leader length found it deadly on structure or flats without thick cover. It became a fixture in the pros’ arsenal, even if they dread spending the day “draggin’.”

Then some offbeat angler got the nerve to hook a plastic worm through the middle, and the wacky worm was born. I first encountered it at a B.A.S.S. Federation tournament on Cayuga Lake, New York, in the late 1970s. I chuckled as my partner hooked a ­6-inch Mann’s Jelly Worm through the egg sac. But when he skipped it under docks and boated several good keepers, I got really interested. He kindly offered to share, and I joined the action. He referred to the odd setup as a Helderberg rig, after a Federation club in the Albany region. It also became known as a “twink” worm, as the bait could be retrieved with sharp rod snaps, or twinks, that caused the two ends to rapidly flex. Club member Brian Rayle used it at the 1980 Bassmaster Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River to finish in the Top 10. Bassmaster’s report dubbed it “Rayle’s rig” in a sidebar to the tournament report, though some sources referred to it somewhat disparagingly as a “Yankee rig.”

Today, one of the hot rigs is the Neko rig, a fancy form of the wacky worm. It involves the use of a weight in one end of the worm, which gives it a unique fall. Years ago, anglers used to stick finishing nails or short screws in the tail of worms to increase drop speed and to alter the action on the fall. Today, several companies offer specially designed Neko weights equipped with barbs to keep the bait from being lost on a cast or strike. With a weight in the tail and the hook placed about 2/3 of the way toward the head end of the worm on an O-ring, a Neko rig glides backward on slack line. When a bass approaches a worm and it suddenly moves toward the fish, it generally gobbles the bait. This reverse gear also can be used to scoot worms far back under docks. Placing the hook closer to the weighted end changes the action, causing the worm’s tail to rise in the water column, waving about in a tempting manner that’s hard for finicky bass to pass up. It’s also deadly for bed fishing as the tail stands upward, teasing the guardian bass into striking. Neko riggers vary in their preference for hook position and weighting, but the versatility of the setup stands out, as it can offer several different postures on the fall and on the bottom.

Like many rigs that have come along, the exact origins of the Texas and Carolina rigs are shrouded in mystery. I’ve heard several differing accounts of Texas anglers and Carolinians credited with being the first to rig soft baits in these manners. This aspect of rigging history continues today with few exceptions. Several recent rigging revelations came from Japan, but the evidence often stops there, perhaps lost in a lack of accurate translation. One notable exception to that trend is the hottest rig today, the Ned rig, which has humble origins, having been crafted by former fishing guide and outdoor writer Ned Kehde of Lawrence, Kan. Over many years, he and his companions toiled in relative obscurity to fine-tune finesse tactics to fool as many bass as possible in the Midwest reservoirs they fished. Their goal was to crack the century mark in bass catches in a four-hour trip, a feat they often accomplished.

Today, many top pros have added the Ned rig to their arsenal, typically reserving it for times when bites are extremely tough to come by, due to weather, moody bass or fishing pressure. Many rod companies have added “Ned rig” rods to their lineups, designing them for the light-line application of fishing little mushroom-head jigs with various soft baits and making them available in sensitive new graphite blends. This is rather ironic, since Kehde and his cronies typically relied on inexpensive, older rods and basic spinning reels for their outings. For decades, Kehde used a light-power Shakespeare ­6-foot rod and vintage Zebco Cardinal 4 reel, and he refers to their approach as “frugal fishing,” especially given the longevity of Z-Man baits. He and other Midwestern finesse aficionados lately have been fishing even shorter rods, under 5.5 feet, for best results.

Elite Series pro Seth Feider displays proof that the Tokyo rig is no joke.

East meets West
Though Norio Tanabe and Takahiro Omori had made their mark in bass tournaments, most American anglers had only hazy notions about Japanese fisheries and tactics until Kota Kiriyama burst onto the scene at the 2000 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Michigan with a rig he called a down-shot rig, which he used to finish fourth, while Californian Mark Rizk was runner-up behind Woo Daves using the same setup, which he’d learned about in Western circles where the rig first caught on. This Japanese import has become a key tool for deep-water finesse fishing and more, as it ensures quick bottom contact while keeping a soft bait hovering above. It opened the doors to more Japanese anglers who shared their riggings after demonstrating how effective they were in tournament competition.

The Tokyo rig
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Patrick Walters of South Carolina has quickly shown he belongs at the highest level of bass competition with a great rookie season on the tour. As a Rapala/VMC pro staffer, he was

introduced to VMC’s Tokyo rig at a pro staff meeting in 2018. He was dubious at first about the clunky-looking setup but tossed some in his boat. He tried it on the St. Johns River in Florida last February at the first Elite event of the season. “I was working areas with mixed pennywort and lily pads and tried flipping a Tokyo rig with a 5/­8-ounce weight and a Zoom Speed Worm. I saw a giant on a bed and tried drop shots and a wacky worm to get her to bite, to no avail. But she smashed that Tokyo rig on the first cast!” The lunker weighed 11.28 pounds and needless to say, that was all the convincing Walters needed. He parlayed that pattern to a fourth-place showing in his first Elite event.

“This setup is amazingly versatile,” he proclaims. “It’s great for punching through thick vegetation with a pair of 3/­4-ounce tungsten weights attached. I use it with a 1/­2-ounce tungsten weight for spotted bass holding in brushpiles to 25 to 30 feet of water. On a Tokyo rig, swimbaits hold close to the bottom and come through the branches easily, unlike an ordinary Texas rig, shaky head or drop-shot rig. I count it down and slowly reel it. The hanging sinker creates a keel effect that keeps swimbaits running perfectly. And it’s easy to clip on a small spinner blade to add flash.”

The rig’s components are key to its versatility, as an angler can slip any weight onto the 2.­5-inch wire that hangs below the hook, then bend it to secure a sinker or two. Change weights with the twist of your pliers. Because the sinker isn’t adjacent to the lure, as with a Texas rig, hook sets are surer. In some cases, when a bass bites a Texas rig, it clamps down its jaws on the sinker, preventing a solid hook set. Another advantage is that whatever lure you use is free to pivot on the hook above as the rig falls or bumps along, unlike a Texas rig that’s pinned to the bottom.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Seth Feider of Minnesota also is a fan. “I’ve won tournaments on it,” Feider reports, “as it can’t be beat for flippin’ deep milfoil, hydrilla and other thick vegetation from the postspawn through summer. Because of the way it falls, you can get away with a lighter sinker, often a 3/­8-ounce weight instead of 3/­4-ounce or more. It slithers through vegetation much easier than a Texas rig or a jig. And the increased action of your lure means you catch more bass where fishing pressure is high. At times, I drop it through the grass, then shake it like a drop-shot rig, as the bait is above bottom and more visible to bass. I usually match it with a craw tube or a Biospawn Vile Craw in those situations.”

The origins of the Tokyo rig are Japanese, as the name suggests. It reportedly gained fame on the waters of Lake Biwa, where the world-record-tying bass was caught. It seems to be a derivative of the Jika rig, which appeared around 2009. In that setup, the weight hangs from a split ring that also holds the eye of the hook, giving more movement to the lure. But the Tokyo rig separates the lure from the weight by a greater distance, giving it freer movement and surer hook sets. At the 2019 ICAST show last July, VMC introduced a couple of new wrinkles on this setup, offering a Heavy Duty Flippin’ hook version in 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0 sizes and one with a Heavy Duty Worm hook in place of the offset-shank wide-gap hook of the original.

Tokyo rig – The Details
The Tokyo rig pictured here includes two tungsten bullet weights positioned with the flat sides together to help penetrate dense vegetation. Seth Feider’s preferred soft plastic for this rig, the Big Bites Bait Craw Tube, is threaded on the wide-gap hook.

The Tiny Child Rig
Unlike the many rigs that have arisen from the tinkerings of pro anglers or tackle designers, some are the result of imaginative anglers facing a need for something that’s not available. Outdoor writer and editor for Wired2Fish Kyle Peterson represents such a case. He lives in Grand Rapids, Minn., home to countless top-notch lakes for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Many of these waters were used by loggers of yore to transport giant pine trees to the Mississippi River and then points south. Today, the waterlogged timber represents a common form of cover. As a veteran scuba diver, Peterson has observed how bass, as well as walleye and other species, live around and under this gnarly cover. And he’s found that most “weedless” setups hang up way too much.

His solution was the Tiny Child Rig, sometimes shortened to the cryptic “TCR” to keep it as much of a secret as possible in today’s media-savvy world. “It’s quite simply the most weedless thing you can throw,” Peterson notes, “so it’s deadly in many situations that are unfishable with standard presentations. I make it with a 2.­75-inch Z-Man Finesse TRD or other bait impaled on a No. 1 VMC Finesse Neko hook that goes in the tail end of the lure, with a 1/8- or 3/­16-ounce VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight in the head end. That hook is light wire and has an adjustable fluorocarbon keeper to hold the lure in place. You never miss a fish. To get the sinker into the stretchy ElaZtech material, however, you have to first insert the barbed weight a couple of times to create a hole in the worm. Then apply superglue to the sinker, insert it back in and hold it while the glue sets. It takes some time to rig properly, so I make a bunch before each tournament. I’ve also tied mono around the head end of the worm to hold the weight in place, as the line digs into the ElaZtech and catches on the weight’s barbs. I’ve had a lot of success rigging the Hula StickZ and Big TRD this way for a larger profile that’s equally snag-free.”

Dan Quinn, field promotions director at Rapala, has also been using this rig for fishing tough cover like beaver lodges, riprap and dense, fallen trees. “It doesn’t snag,” he affirms. “That also means it’s the best lure to introduce kids to bass fishing. It won’t snag and no hook set is needed. Just start reeling and the bass is hooked. It also casts easily on light spinning or spincast tackle. It works anywhere — shallow, deep or in current.”

TCR – The Details
The Tiny Child Rig, also known as the TCR, is about as snag-proof as an artificial offering can be. Plus, it is simple to use, hence the name. As you can see in the photo, you simply Texas rig a Z-Man TRD with a small Neko hook on one end, and add a half-moon nail weight to the other. To get the weight to stay in the specialized plastic, you likely will need to use some superglue.

The Tumble rig
Quinn has discovered another oddball method he calls the Tumble rig. “This one is very specialized, unlike the versatile TCR,” he says, “but in rivers in winter, it can out-fish anything else. River smallmouth often flock to warm-water discharges in winter. The water near the outflow often is shallow and fast, but it may be 20 or more degrees warmer than other parts of the system. Contrary to what you might expect, bass are looking upward to feed, apparently to eat suckers, shad and other baitfish that might be stunned by cold temperatures. Local anglers fish live baitfish and baitfish that may fall off the hook or are discarded.

“I rig a small swimbait like a Keitech Swing Impact Fat or VMC Largo Shad on a VMC Finesse Neko hook. You could also use a Fluke or other fork-tail bait. Thread the hook through the lure so the point comes out the back and is exposed. The lure drifts in current, so it won’t snag. Don’t reel; merely let it drift and tumble in the current. When a bass bites, start reeling and he’s hooked. The best action is on a warming trend in winter, which seems to increase bass’ activity level, as well as making it more tolerable to be on the water.” Quinn has shared this secret rig with several pro anglers who have been amazed by its effectiveness.

Since the days of Isaac Walton, inventive anglers have tried to figure out more effective and efficient ways to catch fish. Given the legions of sophisticated bass anglers today, it’s hard to predict what new rigging trend may come along in the coming years. But we’re sure to marvel at its effectiveness and wonder why we didn’t think of it first.

Tumble rig – The Details
The Tumble rig is not built for every situation. However, when you are fishing fast current in the winter, especially during a shad die-off, it will outfish everything else in your tacklebox. As you can see in this photo, the setup is simple. Use either a paddletail swimbait or fluke-style plastic and run a Neko hook through its topside. Simply cast upcurrent and let the drift do the rest.

The Dangle Berry rig
While most rigs are intended for fishing worms, craws, swimbaits and other deeper presentations, Lee Sisson of Winter Haven, Fla., former lure designer for Bagley Bait Co., devised the Dangle Berry rig for use with Zoom Super Flukes and similar baits. It consists of a 4/0 offset Mustad hook with a free-sliding weight on the shank. Sisson claimed not to know the precise weight of the sliding lead but figured it at 3/16 ounce. He reported that this rig garnered him a spot in the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series, where he became the oldest “rookie” on this tour in history.

During a cast, the weight slides toward the bend of the hook, which facilitates casting. After it lands, Sisson recommends retrieving it like a wacky jig. He allows it to slowly sink, and as it does, the weight slides forward, giving it a horizontal fall with a shimmying or fluttering action that imitates an injured baitfish. Once it reaches bottom, he may deadstick it or lift it a foot or two off bottom, then allow it to fall back. Sisson has retired from tournament competition and no longer sells his rigs. But VMC’s Drop Dead hook was designed to imitate this action and horizontal fall, and anglers also have fashioned their own versions with split shot.

Berkley Fishing’s Powerbait Water Bug

Ned Kehde

Berkley Fishing introduced Powerbait’s Water Bug to the angling world at the 2019 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show.

It is a soft-plastic finesse bait that was designed by Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, New Jersey, who in 2019 competed at the Latin Bass Cup and on the Bassmaster and Major League Fishing circuits.

It is manufactured in two sizes: a 3.3-incher and a four-incher.

And in the eyes of a veteran Midwest finesse angler, it is a multifaceted stick-style bait that can be employed on a mushroom-style jig.

We asked Hunter Cole of Columbia, South Carolina, who is Berkley’s media and public relations manager, to help us in our endeavor to publish a gear guide about the 3.3-inch Water Bug. He responded by sending us some samples to examine, work with, and describe.

According to our measurements, it is 3 7/16 inches long.

The first three-quarters of an inch of the anterior section of its body, which includes its head, has a convex dorsal, and it is endowed with two minor eyes. This segment has a smooth epidermis.

At nine-sixteenths of an inch from the tip of its head, an appendage radiates at about a 30-degree angle from each side of its torso near the junction of its dorsal and ventral areas. Each appendage is round. They are thirteen-sixteenths of an inch long and about one-sixteenth of an inch wide. They readily quiver, gyrate and undulate.

The next 1 3/8 inches of the dorsal section of its body are convex and adorned with 15 pronounced ribs.

The next nine-sixteenths of an inch of the dorsal section of its body is convex and devoid of ribs, which makes its epidermis smooth.

The size of the body diminishes as it approaches the end of its posterior section and the junction with the Water Bug’s tail. At three-eighths of an inch from the tip of its head, the body has a circumference of about 1 3/6 inches and a width of three-eighths of an inch. At rib number nine, which is 1 7/16 inches from the tip of the head, the width is five-sixteenths of an inch with a circumference of one inch. At rib number 15, which is two inches from the tip of the head, the width is a quarter of an inch with a circumference of five-sixteenths of an inch.

The first 2 5/8 inches of the Water Bug’s ventral section is flat, and its epidermis is smooth except for the word Berkley, which is embossed upon it and located from nine-sixteenths of an inch to one inch from the tip of its head.

The Water Bug is adorned with an obvate-shaped tail that is divided equally in half. The outside edges of the tail are rimmed with a significant flange or rib. The entire tail is 1 1/16 inches long with a width of seven-sixteenths of an inch at its widest area. A Berkley press release described the tail as possessing two scooped appendages, which “displace a great amount of water and generates a fluttering wave.” The tail’s epidermis is smooth.

It is manufactured in the following hues: Baby Bass, Black, Coppertruese, Goby Magic, Green Pumpkin, Green Pumpkin Candy, Pearl White Silver Fleck, Road Kill Camo, Smoke Purple, Pinky, Watermelon, and Watermelon Candy.

It is permeated with Berkley’s poignant Powerbait scent.

It is also exceptionally buoyant. This buoyancy factor, combined with its flat ventral area, will accentuate the Water Bug’s ability to glide subtly and alluringly when a Midwest finesse angler affixes it to a small mushroom-style jig and employs a swim-glide-and-shake presentation.

A package of 10 of the 3.3-inch Water Bug costs $4.99, and a package of eight of the four-inchers costs $4.99.

Not Going to a Fishing Show? Here’s Why You Should

Not Going to a Fishing Show? Here’s Why You Should thumbnail

Every fall I sit down and take a look at my calendar for the next few months. The holidays feel like such a sprint. Afterwards? The winter actually fills up pretty fast. That is why I always make sure that outdoor expos, fly tying nights, and other events get penciled in ASAP.

Running from January to March, The Fly Fishing Show is always a priority. Because of where I live, I usually make two of the seven stops. Each year I browse, I help out friends in the fly fishing industry, and I start to put together content for Casting Across.

I’m not alone. A lot of people go to this show and shows like it. But I’ve heard plenty of angling acquaintances express reasons why they don’t go to fly fishing shows. Let me be clear – I’m not saying that you’re wrong if you don’t enjoy events like this. Who am I  to tell you what you do or don’t like? But just like anything else, I’ve come across plenty of folks who have formed their negative opinions off partial truths or incorrect assumptions.

With that in mind, here are 5 responses I’ve given to common excuses for not going to fishing expos:

Continue reading “Not Going to a Fishing Show? Here’s Why You Should”

Fall Fishing for Smallmouth Bass [Tips and Techniques]

Fall Fishing for Smallmouth Bass [Tips and Techniques] thumbnail

It’s always a depressing time for me when I discard my flip flops and shorts for wading boots and long johns.  It seems as if there is never a gradual transition period; one day it’s an endless summer filled with poppers and drift boat mojitos only to find frost covering my rowers seat 12 hours later. Sure it can be off-putting however this is one of the best times to fish for monster smallmouth bass. The key to catching big smallmouth this time of year is fishing transition lines in the river bottom.  If you can find these locations, you can increase your chances of catching a stud smallmouth. Below you will find tactics and tips for three types of imitations I used to target smallmouth; baitfish, crawfish, and top water. 

4-6’’ Baitfish Streamer Imitations

As the water temps start to drop into the 60s and 50s, smallmouth bass, as well as all warm water species shift into overdrive for the upcoming winter. They become somewhat reckless as they chase baitfish near the banks and in the shallow flats of river systems. I even start to see them get into feeding groups in an effort to trap baitfish easier. It’s not uncommon on the rivers that I guide on to see multiple bass chasing my flies during the retrieve.

When throwing baitfish streamers I focus on areas with shallow, gravel flats immediately next to a sharp drop off. My retrieve is very aggressive up to the drop off which I will then kill the retrieve and dead drift the fly. If the fly is not eaten in the shallow water, it will get crushed at the drop off. This transition from shallow too deep is critical for smallmouth.  It allows the fish to move quickly from deep to shallow when heavy cold fronts arrive and provides a great ambush line.

Guide Note: I throw almost all of my streamers on sinking or intermediate lines. They help me get my flies to the correct depths quickly and help in providing a more realistic swimming action to weightless streamers as compared to jigging motions of weighted flies. 

Crayfish Imitations 

Over 70% of a smallmouth’s diet consists of crayfish. This is why a crayfish is my go to  pattern year round, especially in the fall. Depending on water clarity, I prefer to throw larger patterns but will size down in low, clear water. I prefer to fish these in deeper holes with little to no current. As well as bottoms that are scattered with large, chunk rock and a mixture of logs seem to produce better. However, it can be very effective to fish in deep riffles so long as you can get the fly down to the bottom.

Unlike a streamer, I do not consider a crayfish search pattern. I think of them as more of a “direct” or “target area” pattern. I fish them to specific rocks and structures that stands out. Often time while guiding clients they typically end up snagged on the bottom. So don’t worry if you are snagging up a lot. And Keep in mind, crayfish are a bottom dwelling creature. They do not like to swim as it makes them vulnerable as prey. To increase your success with crayfish, fish a specific rock or even a specific side of a rock. Once you finish working that targeted area, move to the next. Don’t waste time trying to fish the entire area in one cast.

Guide Note: Fish structure closest to you as the angler. Don’t go for the long cast initially. Often times I find my clients spooking fish 40’ away when they are trying to cast 80’. You can always add distance to your cast, but you cant get back a fish that spooked out.

Topwater Imitations

I do not throw a lot of topwater as fall progresses. However, there are times when a warm snap will occur and it can make or break your day. I let the fish tell me before I tie one on. A key indicator that it is time to throw on a topwater is when I see baitfish blowing up along a shallow flat or against the bank. I typically only throw minnow patterns that are flashy this time of year and I fish them in the exact same areas that I would throw a streamer. I work them very aggressively with little to no pause. This is an area coverage fly just as a streamer. I want to cover as much water and structure as possible in the shortest amount of time. Cast away and be aggressive. 


Article and photos from Wesley Hodges, a longtime fly fishing and bird hunting guide in Blacksburg, Virgina. Check him out on Instagram on online at

Fly Fishing for Smallmouth/Largemouth Bass: Your Complete Guide



4 Late, Late Fall Baits That Get Chewed

4 Late, Late Fall Baits That Get Chewed thumbnail

The same productive lures you threw throughout early fall and mid-autumn will continue to trigger bites by late fall as long as you slow down your presentation.

As the water temperature continues to drop by late fall, baitfish start moving out of the shallows to deeper water and bass start losing some of their aggressiveness. While just about any lure in your tackle box caught active bass earlier in the fall, now the fish have become a little more moody with the colder water and weather conditions.

Bass still favor lures that best imitate baitfish, but which lure they prefer each day depends on the weather.  Here are five lures to try in various water and weather conditions to catch late fall bass.

Square Bill Crankbaits

This lure can be thrown in any weather conditions for late fall bass in stained water. The water is still warm enough to trigger reaction strikes from bass when the crankbait deflects off of stumps, logs and rocks less than 5 feet deep. You can still run the lure at a fast pace and then pause the crankbait after it bangs into something to trigger a strike.


Late Fall Fishing - Spinnerbait

A 1/2-ounce chartreuse-and-white spinnerbait with tandem willow-leaf blades is great for sunny or cloudy days when the wind is blowing. Try slow-rolling the blade bait in stained water in the backs of pockets around docks, logs and laydowns about 7 to 10 feet deep.

Buzzbait (In The South)

Late Fall Fishing - Buzzbait

This topwater bait can still produce big bass in late fall even when the water temperature drops into the low 50s. I throw a 1/2-ounce buzzer with a big blade, which helps keep the lure on the surface while I retrieve it slow and steady enough to make it bubble.  The buzz bait works best in stained to dirty water on cloudy days with a slight chop on the surface around laydowns, rocks banks and sides of docks.

Finesse Jigs

Late Fall Fishing: Jig

It’s hard to beat a jig for any weather or water condition in late fall, but the optimal time to throw the lure is during post-frontal conditions. The great thing about a jig is the lure produces using a variety of retrieves such as crawling, hopping or swimming it. Slowly crawling the jig along wood cover or docks works best after a cold front hits and calm, bluebird skies prevail. Match a 3/8-ounce jig with a magnum-sized plastic chunk to create a slow-falling bait to trick inactive bass into biting.

Buyer’s Guide: Best Rod and Reel Combos Under $400!

Today’s buyer’s guide is all about finding the best bang for your buck! $400 is the industry standard for quality gear and virtually every company strives to have a great combo in this price point. Matt and Tim tried dozens of options and created this list of spinning and casting rods and reels that stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking to purchase a quality combo but want advice from angler’s that have the experience that only time on the water can provide, look no further.

The guys put their heads together and came up with an amazing offering from a wide variety of brands. How does a rod or reel make the cut? The guys tried literally dozens of rods and reels in search of the stand outs that were more sensitive, more reliable, and better priced than their competition. No matter your brand preferences, you’re sure to find something on this list that will help take your bass fishing to the next level.

Below you’ll find a detailed description of each rod and reel combo. We’ve included links that will take you directly to the products on Tackle Warehouse. We make this as user friendly as possible so you can find what you’re looking for but also so your non-fishing loved ones understand the products as they shop for you this holiday season. We’ve organized the rods below in the same order they were presented in the video to help prevent confusion.

Combo #1…

-G Loomis E6X Casting:

These are great budget-friendly offers from G-Loomis. You get the same models and actions that you find in their high-end offerings at a more affordable price. Our favorite model: 845C CBR.

-Shimano Curado 200K HG:

Combo #2…

-Megabass Levante Spinning:

Great sensitivity and technique specific actions at a mid-range price. Favorite Models include the Whipsnake and Shakyhead.

-Shimano Ultegra 2500:

Combo #3…

-Shimano Zodias Casting:

The Zodias offers a perfect balance of sensivity, power, and affordability. Shimano’s mid-range offering, these rods are worth far more than the asking price. Favorite models include 7’2″ Medium heavy, 7’5″ Heavy, 7’6″ Medium Heavy Glass.

-Daiwa Tatula Elite:

Combo #4…

-Shimano Zodias Spinning:

The Zodias spinning offers some of the most universal actions available. The 7′ Medium light (dropshot, ned rig tube), and 7′ Medium (dropshot, shaky head, Neko, senko) will do virtually anything you want to do with a spinning rod.

-Shimano Stradic CI4+ 2500:

Combo #5…

-Daiwa Tatula Elite Casting:

These are great all-around rods offering a variety of lengths and actions for virtually any circumstance. The standouts include the 7’1″ Heavy, 7’3″ Medium Heavy Ehrler, and the 7’6″ Meyer.

-Daiwa Tatula SV TWS:

Combo #6…

-Daiwa Tatula Elite Spinning:

The Tatula Elite’s feature 4 angler-influenced actions that cover a wide spectrum of actions. The most universal are the 7’1″ Medium Heavy Howell and the 7’3″ Medium Howell. Paired with a Fuego this combo comes in way under budget, barely breaking the $300 mark.

-Daiwa Fuego LT 2500:

Combo #7…

-Cashion Casting:

Cashion makes unique actions in the USA with Carbon fiber grips and micro guides. Some of our favorite models include 7′ Medium Heavy, 7′ Heavy, and 7’3″ Heavy.

-Shimano Curado 200K HG:

Combo #8…

-Cashion Elite Spinning:

With their mild actions and slower tapers the Cashions offer unique rods that load deep into the blank to help control big bass on light tackle. Our favorite models include the 7′ Medium and 7’2″ Medium Heavy Shakyhead.

-Shimano Ultegra 2500:

Combo #9…

-Megabass Levante Casting:

The 2019 Levante’s offer some amazing actions with unique tapers. If you’ve ever wanted to try a Megabass rod the Levante is an affordable option with that true Megabass feel. Our favorite models are the 7′ Tour Versatile, 7’2″ Perfect Pitch, and 7’5″ Braillist.

-Shimano Curado 200K HG: