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Monday, January 29, 2018

The new book

So like three years ago I had a rough draft of a little fishing book called Knee Deep. It was pretty rough and full of bad grammer and maybe half of what I wanted. So, finally three years later I've finally got the thing the way I want it. Since only about forty percent of the original book survived edits, and rewrites, and just plain new ideas, I ended up renaming the thing Extreme Smallmouth Fishing. Which I think if you know much about me and how I live, eat, sleep, and dream smallmouth fishing you have to agree is a pretty good description of how I go about river fishing for smallmouth. It looks like the first printing of the book will be ready just in time for the Columbus Fishing Expo so I guess for me that will be the books big coming out party. Please look me up at the show I'll be in the Vic Coomer Lure booth all three days and will have the book for sale there. I'll also be giving a seminar each day on smallmouth fishing. Hope to see you all there!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Zen and the art of jig fishing

A little weirdness from my new book to brighten up a rainy day...

Zen and the art of jig fishing....
Jig fishing can be a bit like the rabbit hole, you can go deep. So let’s drag out our inner Alice for a few minutes and go deep.
In fly fishing just about the most effective technique you can employ is to nymph fish with a "dead drift". That is a drift where you try to let the nymph drift along freely with the current. Not sinking like a rock but not being pulled along by the line either. But instead floating along like it was unattached to anything at all. But in conventional fishing there are very few ways to do this effectively.
This is what I strive for when fishing a grub in deep runs. That is, a free and natural drift down the run. I stand not upstream or downstream but roughly across the stream from where I expect a fish to strike. I then make a short cast across and upstream. I then flip closed the bail and do not reel, or at least reel as little as possible. Instead of being retrieved the grub should sweep down and across from me on a tight line. Well not really a tight line. Instead try for a line with no slack but not tight. If the lines tight it will pull on the grub and it won't drift naturally. But if the lines too slack you will not be able to detect the strike. Reel just enough to maintain a taut but not tight connection to our jig. now a jig's by definition a hook with a big hunk of lead attached so it's going to sink not drift right?
Well, we have to stop for a second and at least subconsciously match the size of our jig head to the force of the current we are fishing. Too light and the jig will zip along too fast over the fishes heads. Too heavy and your jig will just hang up on the bottom. In most medium sized rivers something in the 1/8 to 1/4 ounce range will let you fish the faster deeper runs that often hold the very best fish.
But I will often search out the deepest fastest water in miles of river. Here I might even go to a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig head. It's amazing how often these spots hold trophy fish, and how little these areas are ever fished. After all, a huge smallmouth is still only twenty inches long. It doesn't take a very big spot to shelter it from the current, a calm spot barely bigger than a shoebox in all the turbulence is all we are trying to find. A single big rock or a pile of smaller ones is really all we need. A place where a big fish can lay and then murder any unsuspecting prey floating along in the current. Or even better our jig.
Now I know it's hard to fish a jig like a curly tailed grub wrong. You can just chuck it out and reel it back in and catch fish. Or better yet slow your pace and swim it back just off the bottom. But a grub fished like that is almost a completely different lure than our dead drifted one. Our grub is drifting along with the current. The tail is working but because of the current, not our reeling it in. Just drifting along just like a helpless juicy delicious minnow being swept down the run. For me this is much more effective than bouncing a heavier lure along the bottom of the run. I think the look is just more natural. Not only does the size of the jig head affect your drift but you can also change the quality of your drift by the soft plastic you use, sometimes quite dramatically.
As a general rule I try to match the soft plastic I use to what I might expect to be swimming there. But it's sometimes better to forget that rule and instead match the size and shape of the bait I'm using to the drift I want. If you put on a three inch grub you get one drift. If you put on a four inch one you get another. I carry a couple sizes of grubs, A couple sizes of paddletail swimbaits and a curly tailed swimbait like the curly shad. If you jig fish long enough you can tell which style is giving you the freest drift in the particular run you are fishing.
Different sizes and styles of bodies will also change the depth in the water column you are fishing. Often instead of tying on a lighter jig head I will instead go with a bulkier bait like a curly shad if I'm dragging bottom instead of drifting. This lets me still fish a heavier jig which in turn lets me feel the bait batter.
Pretty simple isn't it? Cast across and let the bait sweep down on a tight line? Reel in and repeat. Nothing to it. Well, the problem with this is staying connected and yet unconnected to the lure at the same time. I'm not sure there is a shortcut here for experience and time on the water. The good news is that the lures soft plastic body will often feel lifelike enough that you will catch some fish you didn't even hook. Fish that just hung on long enough till you felt a weight on the line that eventually turned into a fish. Try this different twist on an old favorite. It might just completely change the way you fish many parts of the river.

Mushin: a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

That's really what we are after. Nothing other than the lure floating along down there. Use that big mind of yours to decide where to fish. What seam you need to set up on. Where to stand, what to use, etc. Then just let all that flow down the river. Take a deep breath and the slowly relax and exhale. And let it all go. Flip open that bail and cast that jig and then lose everything. Don't think about about how your buddy might be doing, how your marriage is going, work, none of that bullshit. Just be in the moment with that jig. Feel the calm spots in the current, feel the bottom, feel the lure free floating.
Sometimes, if I think no one is around. If I think no one is around to see me that is, I'll cast, take a deep breath close my eyes and just imagine my lure down there. I know it's more effective to watch your line, watch the river, watch everything. But sometimes when I'm having trouble getting that connection with my lure it helps. Close your eyes and picture that lure down there on the end of your line. Lose everything but that lure. Once you have that you’re ready to fish.
Hopefully then our Mushin becomes Zanshin.

Zanshin refers to a state of awareness – of relaxed alertness. The literal translation of zanshin is "remaining mind".

Like a deer feeding in the woods. Watch a deer which thinks it's alone in the woods. Even though that deer might be completely relaxed it is still totally and completely in the moment and aware. This is what allows a deer to react to the twang of a bowstring so well that the deer is no longer there when the arrow gets there. Too tight, too keyed up, too much wanting to catch that fish gets in our way. I know I've been there. Just relax, exhale, lose everything but the jig and the rest will take care of itself.
Let's face it. It's just fishing. We are going to let that fish go anyway. Why do think they call timeouts before free throws? To let that guy at the foul line think about it. Let him get in his own way and miss that shot he can make in his sleep. Don't put that pressure on yourself. Then we might fail. Just another failure we don't need. Let's face it your probably out here to forget that job you don't like, hiding from that life you never imagined for yourself at eighteen. Another failure is the last thing you need. But if you just let it all go and become the jig you lose all that. Even if you don't catch a thing you have succeeded. And at the same time opened the door for more. Opened the door to catching that trophy smallmouth you've dreamed about. But forget about that and become the jig. Then you'll step thru that door when you are ready and not even noticed that you have.

Friday, January 26, 2018

some evenings it's ok to get skunked

some carpness...

A weird video tonight. Checked out a pipe pumping a bit of warm water into the river. No smallmouth but in a little eddy right next to the pipe some carp were clooping off the surface. In January! maybe ill go back with the fly rod in a few

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

So what should I throw????

So at every show I work Vic's booth at someone asks me what selection of Vic's stuff should they get for smallmouth. So Sunday when things slowed a bit I grabbed a few things in the booth that would make an okay "starter" selection and I'll give my reasons why. I do think it is important to keep in mind that more and more studies all the time show that bass can remember things for a long time. And amazingly enough even learn that something is bad by just watching another fish get caught on it. So these colors are not set in stone and in my mind should be rotated in and out with other colors to be the most effective. I have seen two studies where bass were found to be less shy of soft plastic lures after being caught on them than they are of a hard bait like a crankbait and require less of an interval between capture and recapture on one tho. Anyways here my choices and why. First off is a chartreuse metalflake grub. For some reason unknown to me smallmouth everywhere seem to have a fondness for chartreuse. If I fish the same stretch of river often I'd rotate in a plain chartreuse grub without the metalflake and one of the grubs that has a different color body with a chartreuse tail. Another "attraction" bait that smallmouth love is clear with gold flakes as well. I almost always have a grub with me that is in the "shiney" family, that is clear with metalflake, smoke with metalflake, and clear or smoke with colored metalflake. Smoke metalflake and clear with metalflake just look extremely "fishy" and natural under a wide range of conditions and have always been my answer to the "if you could only use one color" question. I think it is a good idea to have a smaller and larger version of the classic curly tail as well. I'd want at least one or two grubs in darker colors as well. Many riffle species are darker and rounder in profile than pool species and a darker grub is a good choice the closer you get to the riffle. In the photograph I have an electric blue grub as my darker grub. In my eyes it makes a fine imitation of many darter species which have a lot of bright blue in them. Other colors I'd rotate in here would be a brown or motoroil grub with or without glitter. A brown with orange tail grub would also fit right in here. I'd include a couple curly shad which have the great action of a curly tail but also a flatter deeper profile to imitate species like shiners, chubs, shad etc. Most of these minnows are lighter and shinier than the rounded riffle species and I go with something like a pearl with a painted back like the green one I have pictured here. You can get these with different colored backs to change things up. You can also do that with the other curly shad I have pictured which is one of the clear with mylar ones. These come with if I remember right, black, blue, red and clear backs and are just about the fishiest things out there. Speaking of "fishy" last fall Vic came out with a new family of baits, the curly swim, the paddle swim you see pictured (second up from the bottom on the right side) and the fork tail which is the same bait with a fork tail on the back. I just started using these guys late in the year last year but have fallen head over heels in love with them. In my eyes no lure I have ever thrown looks more natural than these guys. And they are tough as nails and last forever. Although I haven't used them nearly as much as other baits they are already number one as my confidence lure. With several different tail styles and colors to rotate in and out I'm sure they will stay that way too. I simply love these things. Last but not least is a USB swimbait (top right). In many of our smallmouth streams shiner species are very prevalent and emerald or spotfin shiners are quite often the most common little fish in the stream. And nothing does a better job of looking like a shiner than a USB.
So there you have it. No hard and fast, you gotta use this, but instead a few proven choices but with reasonable alternatives. I know I'll get some " I kill them on such and such" and I believe you, that's part of the magic of fishing. But the above choices and similar ones work for me and I think are a good starting point for someone new to the game.

Monday, January 22, 2018

What a swell day for January....

So I've been down with the awful bug that has been going around for seemingly all of January. Finally starting to feel myself again and even went fishing twice. Once Friday which produced zip. Which was to be expected since it was the first day it didn't feel like the north pole outside. Today was much nicer though spitting a little rain every now and then. Trying out two new bits of gear. Both passed the test with flying colors. One was a custom rod by rodbuilder Jeff Byrd. He calls his rods Little Miami Rods, if you want a top quality rod put together just the way you want it Jeff is the man. Plus I love the idea of supporting the idea of a local guy building something one at a time that is top quality. Bravo Jeff. The other is a new little bait by Vic. It looks just like his curly swim with the mylar tubing and realistic eyes. Except it has a little split tail for a more subtle action. This thing is the most lifelike thing I've ever seen. I'll have to post some pictures of both sometime soon. Anyways back to the fishing. Today was starting to feel like a repeat of Friday. I'd fished a pretty good while with nothing going on. Well not really, it was warm, ducks were flying overhead, I'd jumped a doe on the way in. It was just good to be out of the house. Then bump and I set the hook. The rod bent double and the drag sang a bit. Something that doesn't normally happen with bass in 35 degree water so I figured it was a carp. After fighting the thing for a bit it rolled on the surface. That is no carp! A few moments more and I had a firm grip on the jaw of an absolutely swell smallmouth bass. A couple of quick pics and back she went. Hopefully no one saw this goofy old man doing a fist pump all by himself back in the bushes

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fishing’s second sport

"New Zealands's Stuff magazine reports that a spurned New Zealand woman sold the secret locations to her ex-boyfriend's favorite fishing spots online, netting $3,000, which she then spent on herself."

One of the things that the internet age has brought us is a brand new sport: spot hacking. I know I spend half the winter at it when the weather is just too bad to go out and actually fish. I can think of a few great successes. Once a few years ago a fellow posted a photo of himself and a 20 inch smallmouth bass. In the background was a nondescript photo of a section of riverbank with nothing notable in the background. Nothing that is except for a electrical tower and a set of wires crossing the river. And under his name he had posted his hometown, a "Chris from Columbus" sort of throw away tag line.. So I first brought that up on Google maps. Now his town wasn't on a river but it was five or six miles away from a good smallmouth river. So I then zoomed in on the river about ten miles downstream. Really tight, as close as Google would let me zoom. And then began crawling the mouse slowly upstream. A few minutes later Voila! Towers and wires crossing the river. The next day I drove out to test my theory. I parked the truck, grabbed my rod and headed over the bank to the river. And there he was, standing there fishing his hotspot! Sometimes it's just that easy.
Sometimes it's harder of course. You have to match bits of different photos and try to name unnamed features. Tying to match a piece of smokestack sticking above the trees with photos of power plants in the area you find on Google images. Or take tiny snipits of text from two or three different posts and add them together. It can become a sport all unto its own. And I'm not alone, I know at least six or seven guys that I know personally that practice the art to varying degrees. And of course these are the guys you have to watch out for. Never con a con man as the saying goes and never trust these fellows fishing reports. Oh they caught those big fish for sure. That's a thing of honor. But where they said or implied? Probably not. If I say what river I caught it in then it was that river. After all my favorite two rivers are well over a hundred miles long each so I don't have to worry about that. But give you details? Never. And every photo is checked for landmarks in the background before it's posted. Not everyone does this. I have a friend who last year posted some dandy fish he caught mid winter. But the river he said online was an hour drive from the river he caught them in...Caveat Emptor
And today’s electronic fishing world has brought us the photoshopped trophy pic. You've seen them, the ones where the background is all blurred or just painted over with a layer of white. Sometimes it's even done in an artful manner. I once went fishing early one morning with a good friend. It was a picture perfect morning, mist rising, the sun just kissing the treetops. And he caught a huge fish, a trophy bass. Well back at home on the computer in the background of the photo was an obvious landmark. Anyone that lived within a dozen miles would know instantly where we were. A little bit of photoshopped mist and it became a calendar quality shot. Minus the landmark of course.
Then there is the opposite of the paranoid fishing zealot. The guy that makes us all cringe with fear when he posts. The fishing neophyte that lucked out and hit a good spot on a good day and managed to catch a few quality fish. Now he doesn't do that very often so he has to share his good fortune with the world. "Yeah you park behind Larry's used appliances and follow the path to the river. It's a super spot!" And he's just posted it on a website that gets thousands of views every week. My biggest fear in life is one of these jokers is going to unwittingly stumble on one of my most secret spots. It's enough to keep you up nights and make you shudder on a warm day. If you want the guys who are good fishermen to think you’re a good fisherman for God's sake don't go posting directions to where you caught that hawg.
The best use a serious fisherman can make of the internet though is to find spots on his own. Google maps and sites like it have made it possible to look at more water in a day sitting at home than you could in a lifetime on your feet. My favorite site is Here besides the usual map and satellite views you can also get a topo map. I'd hate to add up all the time I've spent doing this. If it's in southwestern Ohio and its flowing water I've looked at it at least once. Some spots dozens of times before I finally go there in person. So you zoom in close and begin slowly working your way up the river, noting the rock bars, the riffles, the bend pools. Now of course maybe only half of these will pan out in the real world. At least at first till you gain some experience at this sort of thing. But even half is way better than just going out blind. After all the old saying 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water is gospel truth.
But then it possible to turn that on its head too. Me, I'd rather catch one 19 or 20 inch smallmouth than a hundred smaller ones. It's what I live for. I'm not after the 90%. And let's face it, a really big 20 inch smallmouth is something like one tenth of one percent of the total population in a river around here. It takes well over a decade, sometimes more like two for a fish to grow to that size. So back we go to those mapping sites. Now, instead of obvious classic spots I'm looking for that out of the way not so obvious spot that might hold just a few fish. But hey look, it's away from any good spot to park so there's little pressure. And it's not so fishy that some guy on a float trip is going to beach his yak or canoe and get out and fish. It's pretty ordinary except that it gives the few fish there that magical thing they can't get anywhere else, time.
All of this also takes time as well. Lots of it. You can spend a lifetime developing a library of tried and true hotspots. And an even bigger list of hoped for hotspots you just haven't tried yet. But will. Just as soon as you get time. But to quote one of my favorite writers:

"Angling is extremely time consuming. That's sort of the whole point." - Thomas McGuane

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

first fish

First fish of the new year. Caught two more about the same size, plus several gills. Nothing too exciting but not bad for an hour after work in this weather