Follow by Email

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Guys, would you like to add an inch????

...to the size of the average fish you catch on a topwater that is. I think you can do that easy by simply throwing a buzzbait. I'm pretty obsessed with fishing for big smallmouth. I'll be honest, I don't care how many smallmouth I catch, if you catch ten to my one but my fish is 19 inches and your best one is 17, well, in my book I had the better day. If you river fish long enough, you will have caught enough smallmouth. Tie on a roostertail or a little bitty floating Rapala and chances are if the fish are biting at all your'e going to catch a bunch. The problem is they are probably all going to be ten or twelve inches long. Which is cool if you only go fishing a few times a year. Heck then it's pretty awesome. But say you go three times a week, after a while you start wanting more. And a buzzbait will give you more. And less actually, for seldom is a buzzbait a numbers lure, but, and it's a big but, a buzzbait is a big fish lure. I think everyone knows this about buzzbaits and largemouth. But in reality the buzzbait may be even more effective in calling up big river smallmouth than it is big largemouth.
Lets talk a bit about fishing a buzzbait in a river first and that will probably lead to tuning and customizing your buzzbait to catch more fish. A buzzbait is a reaction bait. When smallmouth are aggressively feeding they will eat a buzzbait. But there is also something about it that will trigger a reaction in big fish even when they aren't actively feeding. And like I said we are after a big smallmouth here, this isn't about numbers. Well, numbers when in comes to inches of fish but not numbers of fish. I like whenever possible to fish a buzzbait at a ninety degree angle to the current and drag it across multiple seams and current lines. Even if the water is raging over part of that cast I'll still throw across current and bring it into that raging current. I don't know how many times a big smallmouth has nailed my buzzbait at that last possible moment inches before I'm going to pull it into a raging current. I think you are forcing the fish to make a decision, "if I don't hit it now it's gone".
Which brings me to another point. Often in a situation like this a big fish will absolutely hammer a buzzbait, you don't have a ton of line out and ninety percent of that is out of the water. Set your drag a little lighter than you normally would when river fishing a buzzbait and choose a reel with a good quality drag that starts up without too much grab. Otherwise you have a tendency to break off a lot of fish on the hookset, more so than almost any other lure. Having your drag set correctly takes all the worries out of hammering that fish a couple times with multiple hooksets as well. It's a terrible feeling to have that smallmouth of a lifetime spit out your lure on the first jump and setting the hook two or three times really cuts down on this with whatever kind of lure you are fishing. Speaking of hooking fish on a buzzbait, I almost never use a trailer hook on a buzzbait. As fanatical as I am about catching big smallies, I'm even more fanatical about releasing them to fight another day. And a trailor hook catches a lot of fish in the bottom of the mouth or the gills and lessens their chances of survival. And like I said I'm after a big fish and a big smallmouth has no trouble tracking down and killing a buzzbait, I think it's the little guys who are a bit unsure of themselves that blow up your bait without chomping down good on it.
I fish what you might call a full size buzzbait in rivers. I know a lot of guys use little buzzbaits in the river but I've found that if a fish wants a buzzbait she really isn't too concerned about the size. If anything I think a bigger bait might help, after all this isn't a finesse technique and a bigger bait calls fish from a greater distance as well as letting you outcast your own noise and disturbance.
Another instance where a buzzbait can really shine is right at daylight and dark fished on the inside bends of pools in the river. You know how most bends have a shallow slowly tapering rock bar on the inside turn? Well a buzzbait overs this water extremely well either fished from the bank or thrown up shallow and fished towards deeper water from a kayak.  Fishing from a kayak or jon boat affords you the luxury of having something like a medium baitcaster rigged and ready to cover water with as you move from spot to spot. It's amazing how often this blind prospecting with a buzzbait results in the best fish of the trip.
Most of the time while wading for smallmouth you will be carrying spinning tackle though which brings up another point. Don't let the lure hit the water and start sinking before you engage the bail but instead flip the bail right as the lure is hitting the water and begin reeling. You can get the lure up and working at a slower speed and it's amazing how often a fish will nail the buzzbait seemingly right as it hits the water and you want to be prepared.
I've never been a huge fan of buzzbaits with wide flat heads designed to plane the buzzbait up and help it run slow. I've found these type heads to be harder to keep running true and your buzzbait will have a tendency to lay over on it's side as you retrieve it. And a buzzbait with more of a "shad" profile head will help in making your buzzbait do a trick that will help you catch fish that we will discuss in a second. This tendency to lay over on it's side is a reason I'm also not a huge fan of buzzbaits that have two blades on separate wires that run side by side. While these guys often will stay up on top nicely on a slow retrieve they can be a pain to keep running straight, especially after a few fish. The two arms have to be bent at exactly the same angle away from the main shaft or one will ride lower than the other and your bait will not run true. The key to getting a regular buzzbait to run true is to keep the main shaft running from the head up to your line exactly in line with the shaft that holds the blade. Nothing to it really, just look at the bait from the top and bend the shafts till everything is back in line. Hopefully a big fish or two has bent up your buzzbait and you have to do this every now and then. If your buzzbait goes out of tune on it's own the wire is probably getting wore out and you need to replace the bait. But keep all the parts, we will use those to customize our bait here in a second. But first back to that "trick" you can do with your buzzbait. Say you are fishing down a bank or fishing a long current seam. You've got that buzzbait coming back true and straight. Well maybe here you want it to not run true but instead run off to the left or the right and follow that bank or seam and stay in the strike zone longer. Simply bend that wire arm to the side and your bait will run to the side as it comes in following the bank a bit longer. Buzzbaits with a "shad" profile head in this case act a bit like a keel on a sailboat that's tacking against the wind and can keep your bait running in the strike zone a tad longer when it's coming back offline. Likewise when your bait is running true they will help the bait run true as well.
When it comes to standard buzzbait design there are two schools of thought, the "clackers" and the "squeekers". Clackers have metal tags that swing of the shaft right above the line tie that bang or clack against the revolving blade making a metallic sound at every revolution. Squeekers have a rivet that rubs against the back of the revolving blade that will squeek as the blade turns agains it.
I personally like them both and carry both to give the fish a different look, or sound as it were. There are things you can do to make a squeeker squeek more. First off take a pair of pliers and pinch the shaft of the rivet so it doesn't revolve with the blade. Then there is the fact that a buzzbait that has been broken in will squeek more than a new one. Guys will zip tie a buzzbait to their antennae or luggage rack and let it spin all the way to the river. This will make a bait noticeably noisier as the rivet and the blade grind themselves down so they fit flush against one another. I sleep with a fan on for noise and have been known to prop a few buzzbaits up in front of the fan so they will spin all night and break in as well.
The best clackers have a bead instead of a rivet behind the blade. This lets the blade revolve with as little resistance as possible since you have the clacker for noise. Clackers with tags that are attached by having tabs bent over with the shaft running thru them like a buzzbait blade are a bit less likely to foul than ones where the tag is bent in a circle around the shaft. But since aluminum is soft having a tag that's bent in a circle around the shaft means if you are careful you can experiment with taking the clacker on and off and seeing which the fish prefer. You can also bend your actual buzzbait blade and add a bit more cup to it which will help it run slower on retrieve. I've found that every buzzbait could use a bit more cup to the blades and that's usually the first thing I do when getting a new one. Often that's the only thing.
Triple wing buzzbaits that have three instead of two blades do run slow and track well. They also have a tendency to get hard to turn as the shaft the blade revolves on gets bent by a fish. They also seem to get moss fouled inside the blade as well so it pays to check them to make sure they are freespinning frequently. I do use a triple wing buzzbait a lot but I find I'm taking the blades off the bodies they come on and putting them on buzzbaits with a shad type head and with a longer wire shaft.
There's a reason the majority of buzzbaits come with a single blade. And that is that they work perfectly fine and are trouble free. A good quality single blade buzzbait with pop up right after the cast to the surface and come back true on a fast or slow retrieve. Pretty much all you want out of a buzzbait.
Another way you can customize your bait is by the addition or subtraction of soft plastic trailer. A bulky soft plastic like a curly shad can add quite a bit of buoyancy to your bait and help it run slower as well. Often when the skirt is torn up after a ton of fishing I won't replace it but instead just use a soft plastic trailer in it's place. This gives me yet another look to throw at the fish and buzzbaits rigged like this will throw a bit further than a buzzbait with a skirt of the same weight will.
When that fish of a lifetime hits your buzzbait don't react to the splash of the fish but instead wait just a split second till you feel the weight of the fish. You will miss a lot less fish this way. A lot of those blowups aren't the fish missing the bait as much as they are us yanking the lure away from the fish. Some days I find this really hard to do and find if I purposely just look around a bit and sightsee as I fish I'll hook more than if I'm glued to my bait. That's pretty much the only time in fishing I can say that.
While the best time to fish a buzzbait is early and late in the day never discount their producing during the middle of the day in a river, especially on big fish. The fall in my mind is the very best time to buzzbait fish as big smallies put on the feedbag as the water temperatures begin to fall and they prepare for winter by going on a feeding binge.
Hopefully I've convinced you to throw a buzzbait every now and then in the river. I realize it's not considered standard for most river smallmouth fishing but if you are wanting a trophy, a buzzbait ups your odds more than any lure I know.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Fate

So it's day two after coming back from the Boundary Waters and the fishing gods do work in very strange ways. We caught fish up there, saw eagles, otters, millions of stars and heard loons make their haunting calls. A great adventure but no hawg smallmouth. I'm all set to go fishing this evening when the shower head busts. It's a special fitting that only comes with that showerhead so fishing is put off while I go to Lowes, get a new one and install it. But I still wanna go fishing D!$#%*T.  So afterwards I decide to run out for just a bit. I grab a rod out of the garage and stuff a zip lock baggie full of curly shads and jigheads in my pocket and go.
At the river I head to this one spot just perfect for a quick trip. A rush of super fast current that has a bit of slow water about the size of my kitchen tucked right up against it. I try several casts into the slow water and no strikes. Then an underhand pitch into the fast stuff, The lure sweeps by too fast and I reel it it trying to get it into the seam. But right in the super fast stuff something hammers it. Okay its a big channel I'm thinking. Then the fish greyhounds out thru the current pulling drag fast. Oh wow I've caught a big hybrid I'm thinking now. Then whoosh the fish is hanging in midair like an old sports afield cover shot and my hearts thumping pretty good. Finally after two more jumps and as many near heart attacks the fish is close to shore. No sliding this guy ashore I'm afraid it would pop the line so I'm down on all fours trying to lip it. A bit of a jump and some wallowing and then the fish is in hand. I'd rushed out so no tape measure and this fish was clearly very very long. I cut a length of fishing line and then carefully snipped it off to the exact length of the fish and tucked it in the ziplock baggie with the curly shads. Later at home I measured the length of line, measured it again and decided right then and there I'll never tell how long that piece of line is. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't believe me so I know nobody else will without a photo that includes a tape measure. She probably isn't as heavy as a fish I caught four years ago but in length she's second only to a monster boundary waters fish from last year and the longest fish in 35 years of fanatical smallmouth fishing around here in Southern Ohio. I'm pretty glad now the showerhead busted and vetoed the trip I really wanted to take tonight.

Monday, September 4, 2017

labor day bass

Out for a few hours at daylight before the whole holiday cookout thingy. Super fast super shallow on a hair jig and a three inch grub.The channel was in waist deep water right up against the riffle. Mature bald eagle sailed overhead. Pretty swell morning....




Sunday, September 3, 2017


9/3 big girl

This will probably be a fish I'll remember every time I fish this stretch of river as the years pass. She thumped a smoke metalflake grub on the end of a long cast then went airborne. Flipped end over end in a somersault before crashing back into the water. I set the hook again. I try whenever I can summon enough sense after hooking a big fish to set the hook another time or two. Everyone who smallmouth fishes knows how frequently a fish will jump and your lure goes one way and the fish the other. I try and remain philosophical and remind myself it's just part of what makes smallmouth special but I'd just as soon have that happen as infrequently as possible. So if I can I'll set the hook multiple times. And I'm glad I did for she jumped again. And then she started a series of multiple jumps.  Then wallowed on top for a while before jumping again.Like I said it was a fish I'll remember for a long time. A quick photo and I slipped her into a pocket of quiet water. She sat for a second kinda figuring out which way to go then swam thru a little ditch back into the river....

Saturday, September 2, 2017

topwater hybrids

I feel like I have a pretty good feeling what my smallmouth bass are doing most of the time. Give me a whole day and I'll put you on a big smallie. And though I enjoy fishing for them, I have to drive over a lot of smallmouth water to fish for hybrids so I don't do a ton of it. I'll be the first to admit I'm no hybrid striper guru like my friend Rob. But sometimes, like when they are busting bait all over the surface saying "here I am, come catch me", even an old smallmouth fisherman like me can catch them...



Friday, September 1, 2017

Harvey...

Went tonight as the remnants of hurricane Harvey were blowing thru. The cool temps and rain certainly had the big girls out looking to party. On Vic's five inch grub fished on a quarter ounce jighead pitched into small pockets of calm water in the middle of shallow roaring fast water. A shoebox sized calm spot behind a rock is sometimes all you need to hold a nice fish.