Hit the water with Matt and Tim as they locate huge schools of aggressive bass that are feeding heavily on small baitfish. The guys use a combination of paddle tail swimbaits and crankbaits to fool the bass as they feed on steep walls and ledges.
Combining different presentations is a great way to keep schools of bass “active”. The hardest part of fishing for schooling bass is triggering the frenzy, but these tips will help you keep them fired up longer and drastically increase your odds of catching a BIG bass. The combination of swimbait and crankbait offers two very different looks, both fast moving, and continues to trigger multiple fish at once.
As some of you have probably already picked up on thanks to my social media, I’m glad to be reporting to you from the Texas/Louisiana border, and a little piece of water known as the Sabine River. Yep! I’m heeeeere!
It’s taken some creative scheduling, a little awkward travel, and a helluva lot of luck, but I’m happy to confirm that I’ll be fishing this week in the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Sabine. And I have to be straight-up honest: as of two weeks ago, I was totally out of this tournament!
Let me explain everything in detail.
We were originally scheduled to fish the Sabine back in March, but some really nasty weather caused B.A.S.S. to cancel those dates due to safety considerations. Safety first! No problem! But a few weeks later, when it was announced that B.A.S.S. had rescheduled the event for June 7-10?
As most of you are probably already aware because of my social media, I’m involved in a project that has me traveling all over the world, chasing fish. I guess I won’t be revealing too much by telling you that it’s a television project unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before. It’s a show on a non-traditional-fishing network with an international audience, and the potential to reach millions and millions of people who don’t even fish!
It’s just SO much bigger in scope and potential reach, and an amazing, potentially life-changing opportunity. But when those June dates for the Sabine were announced, man, my heart sank: I was already scheduled to be somewhere else in the world to work on this new show, and there was probably no changing that.
Here’s why: unlike the traditional fishing shows I’ve done before – where there’s maybe a cameraman and a producer, and three or four people, max – this new project has a crew of 10 or 15 people! There are multiple cameras, sound engineers, lighting engineers, etc. Everything has to be scheduled months and months ahead of time, and everything has to line up just right in order for this crew to function.
As far back as December, we had already scheduled June 7-10 for television, so, that was that. I wasn’t willing to forego this amazing television opportunity. I was going to miss the Sabine River tournament.
Let me tell you, that really sucked for me! I’m slowly climbing back into the Angler of the Year points standings now, but to have missed a tournament would’ve been absolutely devastating for my chances to fish my 18th consecutive Bassmaster Classic.
When it all fell into place It wasn’t until I was driving away from Lake Travis after our last event that I got the final confirmation call: everything was going to work out! The people I’m working with on this show have understood my situation since Day 1. They know that I make my living fishing tournaments, they know how important making the Classic is to me, so they went to work rescheduling their team and changing dates around so I could get to the Sabine River.
I’m extremely excited about the opportunity, and I can’t thank them enough for working so hard to make it happen. I feel good about the Sabine! I got a Top 30 there in 2015, and it reminds me a lot of where I grew up fishing the Delaware River. It’s small, it’ll be crowded, and there’ll be a lot of 12- and 13-inch fish, but I’m totally confident in that environment.
Anglers need to be included in the decision-making One thing I’m pretty disappointed in, though, is the way this Sabine River event was rescheduled without any consultation with the anglers. I don’t disagree at all with B.A.S.S.’s decision to opt out of the original March dates – safety is the number one priority, and we’ve had a handful of events change location (or even be cancelled altogether!) in previous years – but I really can’t understand why the anglers weren’t involved in the process.
It’s not just me; a whole lot of guys had obligations that were affected. Graduations, weddings, etc. We have precious little free time during the Elite season to schedule things with our families, friends and sponsors, so it boggles my mind a little that we (the athletes who everybody is coming out to see!) weren’t factored into the decision-making whatsoever when this tournament was reset for June.
That all seems very strange to me.
I guess the most positive thing about that is that the issue of angler participation has now been addressed, and moving forward, maybe this was a good stepping stone for the anglers to have some meaningful participation when decisions like this are made.
I’ll share more about this amazing TV project in the coming months, but for now, I’m focused on finding fish on the Sabine River and having a good event. It took a lot for me to get here, so I’m going to make the best of it!
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Most anglers who fish a lot with crankbaits like balsa. It’s buoyant and has a unique vibration in the water. The thing is, though, it also has drawbacks. Handmade versions are expensive and not every one reacts the same. Buy a dozen and you’re sure to get a few duds. Buy two or three and you might not even get one you like.
Another thing is that balsa is soft. Make a 50 foot cast into a rock that’s only 30 feet away and you’ll often see a military-like explosion. At that point there’s little you can do other than say a few choice words and put the remains in your onboard trash bag.
Rapala has fixed those issues with their new square bill. It’s called the BX Brat — B for balsa, X for extreme. It’s balsa in its core but that core is wrapped with copolymer. That wrap does three things. Actually, it does two things and doesn’t do the third.
First, it protects the bait. Bouncing a Brat off a rock or a bridge piling is no big deal. I’ve done it in tests. No more shattered, expensive lures. A scratch or a scuff is about all you’ll get. And yes, we all make bad casts — even the most seasoned pros.
It also takes some of the variation out of the balsa. The copolymer doesn’t destroy the light weight or buoyancy of the wood but it does mute the individual characteristics of the baits. They all perform the same. I tested dozens of Brats and didn’t have to throw away any of them. They all caught fish and they all ran true. I was impressed.
The thing it doesn’t do is mess with the balsa’s buoyancy and its ability to float up and away from snags and obstructions that would hang a lot of other square bills. During testing I intentionally ran it into tree limbs and brush piles. It would strike the wood and then float right up, away from it.
Something else that’s really neat about this lure is that its bill is designed to protect the VMC hooks it carries. This is really important. A square bill is, by its very nature, supposed to bounce off things. That’s where it’s at its best. But the constant banging against things can take a toll on the hook points. The Brat minimizes that damage by the unique design of its bill.
The BX Brat comes in 12 colors and two running depths — 3-foot and 6-foot. The colors speak for themselves so I won’t say anything more about them. Find one the fish like and throw it. However, the two running depths are something we do need to talk about because they really set this bait apart.
Lets say you’re fishing a shallow, sloping bank early in the morning. The baitfish are up and the light is low. The 3-foot model is the one you want. It’ll get down deep enough to catch the shallow, early morning bass that are feeding on the baitfish.
However, once the sun is up over the trees the bass will move out a little deeper. They’re still relating to the bank but they’re out a ways. Swap your 3-foot model for a 6-foot model and you’ll be good to go. If you’re on a bite, you can throw the same exact color. It’s a really neat system.
You should have some of these square bills in your crankbait box, and they’re available right now. Try a couple. See what you think.
Ever wonder what Fish look like on your fish finder? In this video Tim explains what to look for and breaks down the basics of today’s Sonar units. Understanding your sonar unit, the transducer, and “Cone Angle” is very important to painting a complete picture below the surface.
Today, most sonar unit’s default frequency setting is 200kHz (Purple Beam). At this frequency, the bottom area that the sonar cone is covering is approximately 1/3 or 33% of your overall depth. An easy number to remember is at 30 feet deep, your sonar cone is scanning 10 feet wide. Another example – at 15 feet your sonar is scanning a 5 feet cone. In a later video we will explain how to change and adjust these frequencies.
Colorado Blade Spinnerbaits and Black Worms are history! Here’s what you need to know about night fishing today! We’re covering colors, moon phases, and a variety of lure styles that will change how you fish for Bass in the dark.
Are you ready to catch bigger bass at night? Tired of the same old results? Don’t throw the same lures as everyone else! Its time for wake baits, chartreuse crankbaits, swim jigs, and more!
We break our lures into 4 categories. We’ll discuss slow moving bottom baits, crankbaits, fast moving baits, and swimbaits. Here are our favorites…
All bass use a wide variety of their senses to find their prey, but smallmouth primarily use two — sight and smell. We’re going to save the sight part for another day. Right now I want to talk about scent.
I’ll start by telling you that I never fish with a plastic bait that isn’t scented or to which I haven’t added scent. That’s an absolute rule of mine. Never means never, not ever. It wouldn’t make sense. I want the smallies to smell something attractive and I never want them to smell me or anything I might have on my hands or in the boat.
You see, the scent thing works two ways. A good scent brings them in and gives them confidence that what they’re attacking is real, that it’ll be good to eat. A bad scent — soap, sun block, aftershave — will do just the opposite.
So what you want to do is get rid of the bad by never using regular soap or sun block on your hands and by washing them with scent free soap. You can protect your hands with gloves and you can get scent free soap almost anywhere hunting supplies are sold.
The best good scent I’ve found is the one that’s used in the Berkley Powerbait Maxscent lures. I’m not a chemist and I don’t play one on TV. I’m not going to tell you how they made Maxscent or what’s in it. However, I am a pretty good angler and I do sometimes play one on TV. I can tell you the stuff works. It gets them going and it disperses quickly into the surrounding water.
Berkley’s line of Powerbait Maxscent lures comes in an almost endless array of shapes and sizes. My preference for drop shotting is either a 4-inch Flat Worm or a 4 1/2-inch Hit Worm. They look like the real thing to me and they seem to catch more brown bass in the waters I’ve fished them, and that’s darn near everywhere in the country.
They’re offered in a super number of colors, nine or 10 at a minimum. Pick one to start and then swap them around if that doesn’t work. If you only get a couple of colors, I suggest black or green pumpkin. They’re pretty much universal.
I used both baits as my go-to lures at the 2018 Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet a couple of weeks ago, and they worked just like I thought they would. I finished 28th in that event, and I’m proud of it.
And, speaking of the St. Lawrence River, I’m telling you that if you want to catch giant smallmouth in giant numbers figure out a way to get there. I’m not kidding — Becky and I are thinking about looking at property up there. It’s unbelievable.
In the meantime, think about scent the next time you chase smallies. If you do, you’ll catch more of them.
Whenever I’m around a tournament, a sport show or the dock I’m often asked about jigs. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that a jig is a jig. Why should anyone spend their hard earned money on a new one? Well, the answer is because a jig is not a jig. There are good ones and ones that are no so good.
The new Missile Baits Flip Out is one of the good ones and that’s because we — John Crews and myself — took the time to do it right. We tried to do everything right from the very beginning. First, we ordered a prototype. Then we fished with it. Then we sent it back for another prototype. Then we started the process all over again. After it went back and forth a half-dozen times or so we had what we wanted.
The idea for this jig came from the success of the Mini Flip. But, as good as that one is, we knew we needed a bigger model for venues with bigger bass and bigger forage. The Flip Out is currently offered in 3/8, 1/2 and 3/4-ounce weights and in six colors.
We drilled down on five features for this jig. The first one was the head shape. The most important part of that was a weight forward design. That helps the jig maintain its balance and helps it work in and out of cover without snagging so much.
The next thing was the line tie. This is probably the second most underrated feature of a jig. It’s all about angle and position. Our tie is at 60 degrees. That’s perfect. It gives it just the right action to look real. More or less of an angle than that makes the jig act stilted and phony.
And, we recessed the tie. That protects the knot and, at the same time, keeps the eye from sticking out where it’ll attract weeds, leaves and other debris.
The third issue we had to deal with was the angle of the weedguard. This is the most underrated feature of a jig. If the guard sticks up too high, it’ll keep the hook from snagging but it’ll also keep you from getting a good hookset. If it’s down too low, it’ll be useless. You’ll hang on everything.
We also wanted a bigger, stronger hook. We got one from VMC. It has a giant gap that’ll give us solid hooksets no matter the cover we’re fishing or how hard it is to get a good angle on the bass. And it’s strong enough to fight a whale without bending or breaking.
Finally, and this one is super neat, we designed a 360 degree trailer keeper. No more single barbs on the shank that pull out and tear your plastic or lost fish because your trailer tore loose and fouled between your hook point and the bass’ mouth.
The Flip Out is a serious jig made for serious anglers. Fish it. You’ll agree.
[Editor’s note: The Flip Out is coming soon to Tackle Warehouse. Keep checking for it.]
Wondering how to catch bass? Did your fish disappear? This is a great time of year if you know where to look! Bass are incredibly predictable in the Late Summer and Early Fall so use these tips to your advantage. In this video we break down where the bass position, the best time of day to target them, as well as a few confidence baits to make your life easier.
By focusing your efforts during peak times you maximize your time and avoid a great deal of frustration. Intentionally focus on reaction baits early and late with your biggest push at finesse between 9 and 11 AM. The early afternoons are typically a bit slower this time of year so don’t let the lull in action discourage you from continuing into the evening.
We have a few key confidence baits that we lean on through the transition. Those baits are outlined below…
Bass Everywhere but too shallow for the big boats! Matt and Tim hit the water in Old Town’s Predator PDL Kayaks in search of big bites in ultra shallow water. Come along as they adapt to a new fishing style and succesfully power fish the shallows.
The bass were crushing frogs, buzz baits, and creatures. Using these power techniques while standing on a small platform presents unique challenges but the guys adapted to the conditions and continued to put fish in the boat. They’ve got a long way to go but Day 1 on the Kayaks was a success.
Do Red Hooks, Feathered Trebles, and different retrieves make a difference? Matt explores these tricks and more as he teaches how to catch more topwater bass this late Summer and early Fall. Do you want to catch bigger bass on top? This will make all the difference!
As Spring turns to Summer the bass become more wary of topwater lures. As Summer fades to Fall it can be downright tough to fool the bigger fish. Making these subtle changes will maximize your opportunities and in some cases, will actually get you more bites.
Our favorite Topwater baits vary but here are some of our top picks for this time of year…