Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How to Get Spots Out

The great thing about my job is that I meet a lot of people who are great, and often relatively unknown fishermen who share my same passion for the sport. I've made some very close friends over the years through fishing and writing about fishing. The great thing about our friendship is that at any given moment we might call each other and say the bite is on at our local lake and invite the other over for some great fishing. Great fishing when I was a kid was all about catching a lot. Then it got to be catching a lot of big ones. Now it's more about catching some fish and having a good time with your friends and family.

So my buddy Ricky calls me and says the spotted bass are gorging themselves on shad and I needed to get down there.

"What should I bring?" I asked.

"Bring jerkbaits, shakey heads, some deep crankbaits and maybe a few spinnerbaits," he said.
I've been getting a lot of new tackle in the office so I wanted to bring some of it to the lake. I brought Optimum and Berkley swimbaits, Damiki spinnerbaits, drop shot and shakey head worms from Berkley and Roboworm, Lucky Craft jerkbaits and a few Lucky Craft DB20 crankbaits. I took three baitcasters and a spinning rod.

I hit the road around 4 a.m. on Friday morning and we were on the lake by 8 a.m. We fished maybe 20 minutes before Ricky had a keeper spot on a Lucky Craft jerkbait. We boated several on jerkbaits. Ricky caught a nice pair of 3 1/2 pounders on Headshaker jigheads with Wave Worm finesse worms. I caught a couple as well on shakey head Berkley PowerBait Hand Pour worms.

As the day progressed the fish got more active. We started fishing spinnerbaits and swimbaits off some shallow points in the howling wind and a giant spot nearly took the rod away from me. It hit a Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait. On the scale it measured 4.42 pounds, one of my biggest spotted bass ever. Not even 2 minutes later, Ricky hit an even bigger fish with a jerkbait. The fish tipped the scale at 5.12 pounds. By this time we had now boated a 20-pound limit of spotted bass. Unbelievable.

The next morning I was chomping at the bit to get on the water. It was 27 degrees when we launched from the ramp. The jerkbait bite we soon learned, was over. We managed one 3-pound spot on it early and that was all we could muster. We started fishing Optimum double diamonds and Berkley Hollow Bellies around deeper wood cover. Ricky was getting some jarring strikes on one retrieve when the fish got hooked up about 10 feet from the boat and broke his line on the hookset. They are so powerful and they hit those swimbaits like a ton of bricks.

I opted to fish a drop shot for a while as the water temperatures had gone from 58 to 52 degrees over night. And I focused on fishing a little deeper than we had been. I almost immediately hooked up with a nice 3 1/2 pound spot. Then moments later another nice one and then another.

Ricky put down the swimbait and grabbed a shakey head and went to schooling me. HE must have gone 10 casts in a row catching a bass on every one before he got his bait back unbitten.
We worked back up to where he broke that big spot off earlier and didn't do much. So I spun the boat around and fired a cast back to the deep spot we had been catching them. I picked up on the drop shot and it was tight. I set the hook and had that sensation that I was stuck. Then a powerful surge pulled the rod tip down into the water and I told Ricky to get the net because this was a big fish. After a lot of back reeling and playing of the fish, we netted it.

My biggest spot ever - a 5.28 pound behemoth. So fat she looked deformed. And all at once, my world was right again. Any of the negative talk about economies and retirement plans was all but a faint memory that day. And I was sporting a smile you couldn't knock off with a stick.

Another 18 pound limit of spots for our five best fish and for two days of nearly freezing temperatures and high winds, we managed to boat roughly 35 spotted bass with three over 4-pounds. You don't catch many bass weighing more than 4 pounds. And even less weighing more than 5 pounds.

If you compare it to the world records, catching a 5-pound spot is like catching an 11 1/2-pound largemouth or a 6-pound smallmouth. Three goals I've set for myself and two of which I can now say I've accomplished. All that is left is an 11 1/2 pound largemouth and my quest will be complete!

Here's hoping you get out and catch them. And remember it's not too cold yet. Bass still need to eat and they eat more than you think when the water cools.

Good Fishing!

Jason Sealock

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I'm Not David Fritts!

I had the privilege of being on assignment during the Wal-Mart FLW Series BP Eastern Division event on Clarks Hill Reservoir in Georgia last month when cranking legend, David Fritts won the tournament on a series of Rapala DT crankbaits. To say he won was about as much of an understatement as you can make. He literally decimated the field by more than 10 pounds. Not many people can do what Fritts can with a crankbait. And I spent several hours photographing and watching him work his crankbaits in an area.

From the surface, it doesn't appear as Fritts is doing much different than you or I would do with a crankbait. Even his casts didn't seem that far to me. But the proof is in the pudding, and there is definitely a method to his madness. He looked so relaxed out there -- the first thing I noticed. He casts effortlessly, he sits leaned forward slightly in the chair on the front deck of his Ranger bass boat and his casts jettison his crankbait from the tip of a slow-reacting glass rod like a medieval catapult.

He matches a BPS David Fritts Signature Series reel on an American Rodsmith David Fritts Signature Series Crankin' rod. The fact that he uses a David Fritts reel with a David Fritts rod overstates his unassuming demeanor on the water but understates his beaming confidence off the water when talking about crankbait fishing. They guy knows his stuff. The only reason he has rods and reels named for him is because he knew the exact action of a perfect rod for casting distance and sensitivity requirements as well as the fact that a dual-pawl anti-reverse allowed for more feel of his crankbaits in the water. They didn't have exactly what he needed on the market at the time, so he got some good folks to make them for him.

But again it’s the man as much as the equipment that wins tournaments of this magnitude. I'm pretty sure David could have caught bass on a kid's Snoopy pole; it would have just been harder.
We have some great information about how he found the fish, fished for them during the tournament, and won the event in an upcoming issue of FLW Outdoors Magazine. We got the nitty gritty details about bumping the stumps and standing timber and when not to bump. So we'll save the juicy details for then.

But watching Fritts for a couple days yanking on 4- and 5-pound bass got me itching to go crankbait fishing on Kentucky Lake. Mistake number one: you don't tell the bass what they'll bite, they tell you. But sometimes I get stubborn after I see an angler who I've admired for many years just whack the fish on certain lure. Let's face it. That's why we watch fishing shows and read magazines, to figure out maybe a better way or a new toy that catches bass. We're all about the toys, aren't we?

Well after about 8 hours and 2,000 casts with a DT16, DD22, DT 20, Fat Free Shad, and a Hot Lips Express, I had nothing to show for it but two small dinky bass. Now I had heard the fishing was tough, that the weather had messed up the water temperatures and every local club having its year-end championships was putting a lot of pressure on the obvious places, but still I should have caught them better than two short fish. Then it dawned on me --- I'm not David Fritts. While I love to catch them on a crankbait, it's naive for me to think I will go catch them as well as he does everywhere he goes if the conditions aren't right on my own lake.

I guess we live and learn. Maybe next week, I'll pretend I'm Mark Rose and go catch them on a big spoon. Or I'll go pretend I'm George Cochran and fish ultra shallow way up the river. Maybe I'm better off just picking up my homemade jig and fishing slower and not pretending to be a pro. I seem to always do better fishing when I have no pre-conceived notions about how I should catch them or where I should catch them. Just put the trolling motor down and go to work.

Good Fishing!

Jason Sealock