Okay, you can all relax now, our invasion of S. Mo is over! We came, we saw, we kicked some trout butt! It was a much needed respite from N. Mo as we descended on Taneycomo over the weekend to start the year out with some trout fishing. My Dad, Joefish, and myself were happy to boat several nice trout over two days of fishing at Taney and breaking the winter blues. I'm sure Joefish will post some pics in the future. Went to the pothole both nights with no luck, lost a couple nice rapala's to the rocks though, an acceptable sacrifice to the cause. We're planning another trip down soon, hopefully at the peak of the walleye spawn! I didn't realize it was still duck season down there, saw lots of ducks and heard a lot of shooting, next year I might come down to do some late season hunting. Its supposed to warm up here for a few days so I plan on doing some ice fishing now that my rods are rigged and ready to fish, I will let you know how I fare. Till then, tight lines everybody. Buck.
Last day of muzzleloader over yesterday. Finally killed a doe on the dead run after it was chased by me by brother buck and his cohorts.
Passed up a couple of "almost shooters", one on the river and one on gramma mary. Lost my camera in the river so there wont be any pics for awhile. Brother got a nice one opening day, which is same one on previous post.
Ducks are flying this year for a change, reminds me of the way it used to be. Dad and I and bro are knocking down a few once in a while. Hope to report back as ice fishing is near if we get some good cold days. Bow season still on so might report back with a late
pope and young.
Okay, another slow day at the office. I don't know about the rest of you but I am having a banner duck season. My Dad and I have been slamming ducks for the last two weeks. My Dad, at age 75, has been hunting ducks for over 60 years, and is still out there banging away at more ducks than he's seen since the 70's. He's contributing it to three factors; 1) cold weather up north has pushed ducks down earlier this year than previous years, 2) due to all the rain this spring and fall farmers were late planting and late harvesting so they haven't had a chance to disc up the cornfields, 3) with all the rain this year there is a lot of water (not that there hasn't been water in the past). Since getting my buck tag filled opening day I've been hitting the cornfields with Dad and we've been seeing hundreds if not thousands of ducks flying the river. It reminds me of when I was a kid tagging along with him and Joefish, you'd see string after string of ducks coming up and down the river. We went out two weeks ago Sunday and lay down in a cornfield, no layout blinds for us hardcore duckslayers, and put up "spinner", our only decoy, and waited.....I'd watched about 2-300 landing in the field the night before, and just as soon as I'd told him it was time for them to show, there they were. They circled about two or three times and were calling like mad, we watched them set their wings and come soaring down to the decoy and I said, "Take em'!" and sat up and started shooting. Realizing something was amiss after the ducks vacated the area, I looked over at Dad and he was just laying there. I said, "Why didn't you shoot?" He replied, "I couldn't sit up!" So much for laying on the ground, eh! The next morning I went out before work in the dark and spooked a few hundred off a little slew, hurriedly I set out a half dozen decoys and sat down to wait. Ten minutes later they started coming back, at 6:30 or so I started shooting, I had twelve shells, at 7:10 I was back in the truck with my limit of drakes! Yeah, I know, twelve shots, four mallards, what can I say, I was excited! I was only 15 minutes late for work! Since then we've been out a dozen times and had mallards coming in every time. We've since left the water alone and used it for a refuge, we stick to hunting the cornfields because they are so predictable, on bright sunny days its from 7:00 to 9:30 and 4:15 til shooting time ends, on cloudy days its the same in the morning but action in the afternoon starts at about 3:15, they go get a drink around 4:00 and come back at 4:30. Clockwork. Joefish is still after a big buck, however, he went with us one day and the action was non stop. We've been mixing it up hitting different cornfields, sitting in the wide open with no blinds its amazing that the ducks still come in, I mean were sitting still as a post, but c'mon, its almost better than a blind, except for comfort. I want to get Dad a layout blind for Christmas but by then the season will be over, and who knows if it will be as good next year? I hope the ducks stay around for another few weeks til season closes because I like spending time in the duck fields with my Dad, its like I was a kid again, except now its him that gets cold and wants to go home, haha, naw, just kidding, he's a tough old bird!
As I was reading some of my earlier blogs I realized that I needed to point out that the matched sheds I found last March were the sheds from the buck I killed last week. The difference is truly amazing, I don't know if it was the wet year we had with lots of rain, the food plots of white clover I planted, or the antler restrictions which we are benefiting from, but the buck grew about 40 inches from last year to this year. Maybe it is the result of all three in combination, again I'm not sure, whatever the reason, let me say it works! I'm going to continue to plant food plots, only harvest mature deer, kill all the does I have tags for, and continue to manage my measly hundred acres for big deer. I am a believer that you don't have to have thousands of acres of fenced habitat to grow big whitetails. My neighbors are a mismatch as well, some hunt little, some hunt everything that walks, but I am continuing to see bigger deer and I am convinced that it is due to managing for whitetails. Something else I didn't mention in my previous blog, because I was to involved in telling my buck story, is that we have built another pond on the farm. This one is the biggest yet, can't decide whether to stock it on our own or do it through the state? Will have to consult Joefish on that one. Still haven't got my buck pics uploaded yet, but I will......until next time.....cheers.
P.S. I'm to challenged to upload photos so if you want to check out the pic of my buck see Joefish's blog, hes got a pic posted!
Okay, I've been really busy between work and hunting so I haven't posted much recently. You've read about my elk hunt so no need to recap that. I've been bowhunting as much as possible but with the warm weather and all haven't seen a lot of shooter bucks. Joefish has taken some awesome pics on his trail camera though. I put up some new stands and I have been seeing a couple of really nice bucks on the farm this year. I saw a really nice buck in the headlights a couple weeks ago, debated on telling Joefish where I saw it but eventually broke down and told him! I know, I know, when you see a big buck you should keep it to yourself, but hey, he's my brother! The night before the season opener Joefish was debating on where to sit the next morning when he saw this buck in his headlights! He even got to look at him through binoculars! That made up his mind, he called me that night and told me he was definately hunting on the farm! Soooo.... opening day arrives and finds us in our stands on that cold and windy morning. We all sat until about 9:30, went to the house for coffee and to warm up and then went back out. We did this all day, only coming out of our stands to warm up and have a cup of java. In the afternoon I got on stand at about 2:00 and didn't see any action til about 4:45, two does and a little buck, but then.....coming out of the treeline about 80 yards away was the big boy I've been seeing all summer. BAM! (pause) BAM! (pause) BAM! HE'S DOWN! Yes, it took me three shots, although I hit him twice, I didn't want him getting away. I called Joefish and gave him the codewords, Big Buck Down! When I got to him there was no ground shrinkage, my biggest so far, sixteen points, typical 6x5 with a lot of stickers around his bases. When I got him back to the house I realized I had his sheds from last yearas well as two awesome trail cam shots of him this summer, so all in all I can honestly say that this is a buck with history and I am glad that we (joefish and I) got him and not a neighbor or someone else. The really cool thing is....he is not the biggest buck on the farm, he's probably third in line for the hierarchy! Maybe I'll run the big one out to Joefish and we'll post the pics here for your viewing pleasure. I'll try and attach the pics now, I scored him at 168 gross, 154 3/8 net? I'm no official measurer by any means but I'm pretty close. Good luck to you all and Happy Holidays! Okay, sorry, I'll have to get Joefish to download the pics, I had trouble with my computer last week and must have deleted the photos, sorry for the hype and no show on the pics. I will get them posted. Promise!
So last weekend my friend from junior high through college came up his with little girl and his parents for the weekend. His parents had a week at a timeshare near Branson. For the last year or so he has been living in Dallas, TX after living in Denver for several years. In Colorado he fell in love with fly-fishing, a love that his father had discovered years before. Living in Dallas he is several hours drive to the closest trout fishing and he knew how much I love fly-fishing so they all came well prepared. I only got to fish with him for a few hours, since my wife was baby-sitting my son with Jim's parents whom she never had met before. The next day though Jim brought his father where he and I fished the day before and Jim sent me a couple of pictures after he got back to Dallas. When I saw one of them I knew I had to paint it or at least the spirit of it. I will keep adding pics as I work on it. Shouldn't take more than a couple weeks, but then again I am terrible at guess-timating finishing times. It will be done when its done.
Well its almost mid oct and starting to go bow hunting. Weather is warm and should be doing more fishing, but this time of year i seem to be in hunt mode. River looks great and ponds and lakes do too.
Bow hunted elk last week in Sept. First 2 days were great, me and bro were really into them and had multiple encounters but didnt get off any shots. Then, the weather warmed and the elk seemed to vanish. On a scale to 10 id give it a7.5.
I did float the river several times and as there was great water in late summer after bunches of rain. Caught limit almost every time out but nothing big. Heres a pic or two.
Modern minnow shaped lures are called stickbaits, slashbaits, jerkbaits, or often by the name of a popular brand or model such as Rapala or Rogue. I'll call them all jerkbaits whether they're floating, suspending, or sinking just to make it simple. The first popular lure of this kind was the original Rapala Minnow. It was such a success it made Rapala a world wide brand. Now available in many different sizes and colors and even jointed models, it remains a popular and effective lure. Success like that is bound to be copied, so today there are many different brands that make a similar lure, but it took the ingenuity of an Ozarks fisherman to take it to the next level. Somewhere in the late 60's or early 70's, someone doctored up a Rapala with added lead weight where it would suspend in the water, neutrally buoyant, where it wouldn't sink or float back up. Looking like a stunned, dying, or just not paying attention baitfish, these lures are dynamite on cold weather Bass in our clear Ozark reservoirs. There are now dozens of these suspending lures by different manufacturers, no tinkering required. Well, a tiny bit of tinkering, but we'll get to that in a minute, let's move on to some tips and tactics for using these lures for all three Bass species in our Ozark Reservoirs.
My favorite time to fish for Bass at Table Rock is from right after the Holidays (early January) through prespawn (mid April), and the main reason is the suspending jerkbait bite. I love the fishing style, and the solitude- the fact that you may catch the biggest bass of the year while everyone else hasn't even thought of getting their boat out of winter storage. One more thing, bass may or may not "school up" in winter, but groups of them are often attracted to the same type of structure or cover in winter, giving you the chance of scoring multiple fish when you locate them. There are experienced fishermen who don't believe how good it can be, or they're just put off by the cold. Either way, you often have the lake to yourself.
The very beginning of this period typically has the coldest water temperatures of the year. There may even be ice in some of the coves protected from the wind. Bass may only feed sporadically during this time, if at all. What you are waiting for is a warming trend. It doesn't have to be more than several days of warm and sunny weather to warm the water by a few degrees. It may not seem like much, but a rise in the water temperature of only a couple of degrees is enough to spur some feeding activity. It doesn't have to be sunny, I've had great success when a low pressure system has stalled out and made it cloudy for several days in a row, keeping the night time temperatures mild, rather than the crisp clear nights with temperatures below freezing. A warm rain can get the fish going if it doesn't muddy the water up too much, but that's usually more of a factor close to the spawn, any precipitation we receive in January or February tends to be the frozen kind! When the water is in the low 40's feeding activity can be hard to predict, but as it increases toward 50-degrees you can bet after 2 or 3 days of a warming trend fish will suspend near cover, and hit a properly presented jerkbait. By properly presented, I mean it has to suspend perfectly. It can't float up or sink even slightly, it has to suspend like it has it's own perfectly tuned swim bladder. Thankfully lure manufacturers have many different models that suspend pretty well right out of the box. Rapala XRaps tend to float up in the very coldest water, which is fine, because you can add weight to most lures to get them to work perfectly. The more "Boutique" lures like Lucky Craft Pointers suspend almost perfectly, but even older mainstays like the Rapala Husky Jerk and Smithwick Suspending Rogue can easily be "tuned" by adding weight.. The two easiest methods of adding weight are Storm stick-on Suspen-Dots and Suspen-Strips, and lead flytying wire or rolled 50/50 solder. Some fisherman swap hooks out with bigger, heavier sizes. Screwing around with split ring pliers and spare hooks in the cold isn't much fun, you can adjust weight with lead much easier and get it exactly right in far less time.
You'll have to try the lure at boat side to see how it suspends. Cast it out 15 feet or so and reel it in just close enough where you can clearly see it, then watch as long as you can stand it. A lure that floats up very slightly isn't too hard to see, but ones that barely sink are subtle and hard to spot without staring at them for what seems like an eternity out there in the gray winter cold. Luckily, this time of year there aren't to many folks around to see you blankly casting a lure a few feet from the boat and peering at it for a long time. If a lure sinks pretty quickly in 40-degree water, I take it back. You can always add weight to lures that float up, but I haven't had much success with ones that sink quickly in cold water. In very warm water most suspenders sink slightly which is fine because you tend to work them faster in warm water, but that's a subject we'll get to later.
Now, how to add the right amount of weight? Using either stick on weights or lead wire winds up being a trail and error affair. Lead wire is the easiest, I usually try a piece about 2-inches long stuck through the front hook hanger and twisted once, cast it out, and remove lead as needed until it suspends perfectly. After you're satisfied it's right, wrap the lead around the hook shank. You can use a dap of superglue to help hold it in place. Stick on lead is a little more tricky, dry the part of the lure right behind the bill before you stick the weight on, and either stick more on, or use a knife to cut small pieces off as needed to get it right. Again, after you get it right, a dab of superglue will hold it in place a little better.
With all three Black Bass species in most of our lakes, there are many different places to try these lures in late Winter. Rockslides on bluffs, bluff ends, deeper rip-rap banks, floating docks over deep water, basically more vertical structure with some kind of cover. Deep banks that "stair step" with ledges in smaller creeks just off the main lake can be good, especially if they face South and are protected from North winds, have floating docks, or both. Large isolated cedar trees, especially on steeper banks are another good place. These lures don't run very deep, but properly presented have the ability to draw Bass up from the depths. One day last March three Spotted Bass came straight up from deeper water and attack my lure vertically, drawn out of their cedar tree in 40-foot of water. Just don't get locked into thinking all Bass are deep during Winter. I've caught fish in less than 15-feet of water in January and February on chunk rock and pea gravel flats near main lake points. To fish a specific piece of cover (tree, boat dock, large boulder) cast beyond it and work the lure with downward jerks of the rod tip until it gets close, then stop it. Let it sit. Keep your line almost tight, but try not to move it. Maybe add a small twitch after 30 seconds. Experiment with how long you wait between twitches, the rule of thumb being colder water equals longer time between twitches. Sometimes fish will move long distances to hit a lure, and others you have to almost snag in in a tree. I experiment with how far away from cover I let it sit, trying to get a pattern nailed down. After I've let it sit in a spot and twitched it a few times, I work it along for another 20- or 30- feet and before stopping it again. You'll read of people casting a lure out, then lighting up a cigarette and smoking it before moving the lure again. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. For covering water, experiment with how far between pauses you stop. You can cover an area faster than you'd think with a jerkbait, even with long pauses.
Sometimes strikes are the " rip the rod out your hand" types, and others are subtle. Sometimes a fish will mouth a bait and swim at you, your only clue the line going totally slack. If the wind is calm, the water is usually so clear that you can watch your bait as it get's closer to the boat. Polarized sunglasses are a must for fishing these lures. There's been days where I never feel them hit, but I do see the lure disappear, or a small flash of a fish turning as it takes a swipe at it. I've tried attractant sprays, thinking maybe the fish will hang on longer, but I'm not sure if it makes a difference. You do need sensitivity to feel what's going on down there when you can't see your lure, so you need low stretch line. I've used fluorocarbon, but nothing beats superlines like FireLine or PowerPro for sensitivity. For most of my jerkbaits I use a 7-foot medium power/fast action spinning rod paired with a spinning reel spooled with 4/10 FireLine. I use a 10-pound test fluorocarbon leader about 8- to 10 foot long tied to the superline with a blood knot. I remove the split rings on my lures and use a snap tied to the end of the fluorocarbon leader to attach the lures both for easy lure changes and better action. Some guys use shorter rods, or baitcasting gear. To be honest, whatever you are comfortable with will probably work. I like the ease of fishing spinning gear when I have gloves on, and a with my long arms a 7' rod works great for me from the deck of even a low profile boat. A spinning combo puts the weight of the reel under the rod, just hanging there, the tendonitis in my rod arm more manageable with that instead of palming a baitcaster all day. A longer rod also helps rocket casts far from the boat, which can help get more strikes in the crystal clear waters of the White River chain of lakes.
It's said the original suspending bait was either A Rebel Spoonbill, a Rapala, or a Smithwick Rogue, depending on who you talk to. I've tried to pin that down for a couple of years and got really nothing to show for it. Does it really matter? There are so many great suspending lures these days, it's almost hard to choose. Starting with the more expensive models, Lucky Craft Pointers are considered top of the heap by many, I just can't justify the price to buy very many of them.
Lucky Craft Jerkbaits
There are other exotic lures that are available, but the only one I've used was the Diawa TD Minnow. It runs a little more shallow than most of the others listed here.
Diawa TD Minnow
One I have used quite a bit the past couple of years is the XCaliber XS4. It looks kind of like a Smithwick Rogue, but has a weight transfer system that helps casting in the wind, fantastic hooks, and great colors. In fact, for the coldest water, I'd have to call it my number 1 choice.
Rapala has two great suspending lures. One of the first factory made suspenders, the Husky Jerk, is a classic. It comes in tiny Trout/Panfish sizes, and all the way up to models for Pike/Musky. The #10 size is still a favorite jerkbait for Smallmouths and Spotted Bass when they're little finicky. The other Rapala model, the XRap, has become a huge success for the company. Meant to compete against the higher dollar Japanese baits, it's really well made, but affordable. Last time I bought one it was less than 7.00$. Now available in 3 sizes, shallow and deep diving, and lots of good colors, you can't go wrong.
Rapala Husky Jerk
The Smithwick Rogue Suspending Rattlin' Rogue is one of my most used jerkbaits. It's inexpensive, it comes in some good colors, and it just works. Any time I want to stick a lure right in submerged tree, it gets the call. That might also be why I catch so many good fish on it, I'm not afraid to lose one. Maybe because of the price point these lures sometimes require more tinkering to get them right, but for less than 5 bucks a pop, who do you want?
Smithwick Suspending Rogues.
For colors on these lures I've experimented with lot's of different things, but I like a general rule of bright day (sunny) I use bright lures. One pattern that works for me is blue back/silver sides/orange belly. The XS4, Rogue, and Husky Jerk are all available in this color. The XRap isn't, but you can color the belly of the blue pattern model with an orange Sharpie like I do. One color that Rapala should make the XRap in is "Purpledescent". They offer it in other lures, but not the XRap. I email them all the time about it. They probably have my email blocked by now.
One color that's popular is purple back/chartreuse sides/white belly. I've colored some Rogues like this, and some days they really worked, others not so much."Clown" is another bright pattern lot's of folks like, and I like it too. On cloudy days, I like a more natural, translucent color. Of course, this isn't written in stone. I know someone who uses bright chartreuse almost exclusively and really nails them, but I can't seem to get them to hit that color except when the water is cloudy, so go figure. Don't be afraid to use some Sharpies or highlighter pens, you never know if you'll find the right custom color that really works.
As the water gets into the 50-degree range and rising, fish start responding to a little more "jerk" in the jerkbait. I like to start out working the lure just a little faster than I think will work, just to see if the fish are "turned on". You can always slow it down of deadstick it beside cover if you aren't getting any reaction from a faster retrieve. A lure that sinks slightly here is not a bad thing if you are working the lure faster, it can even help you get a little deeper retrieve, sinking on the pause between jerks. All through the pre-spawn different retrieves and pauses should be experimented with, you just never know how the fish will react on any given day, and don't think that the fish will always hit a jerkbait during early prespawn, I've had several slow days that I turned around by using a shaky head or grub near or on the bottom. If you're fishing with a buddy, I can't think of a better way to locate active fish early in the year than have one person throw a jerkbait and the other follow up with a grub swam near bottom, covering most of the water column.
As it gets closer to the spawn, just because the water is above a certain temperature or it's after a certain date, don't think it about putting the jerkbait down until you try it. I fished a tournament on April 1st a couple of years ago, and I got a funny look from my partner when I started throwing a Rogue. After I started catching fish on it, he commented that "I didn't think those worked unless it was winter." It was the only thing I could get them to hit in practice, and it was the only thing that worked that day. Even though the water temp was near 60-degrees, the fish wanted that bait to sit there motionless for 30-seconds or more, move it faster and they wouldn't touch it.
I don't pester spawning fish, so I can't tell you if jerkbaits will catch bedding fish, but I do know that when they are done and move out from their spawning areas and scatter, one of the best lures to fish is still a jerkbait. Through summer and into fall anytime you can't get a topwater bit going try the jerkbait. There are good floating models that have a little more action, but suspenders work great for our deeper lakes. I have several spots on Beaver Lake I hit early in the morning for a topwater bite, and some days that bite can be stretched out a little further into the morning by trying a jerkbait in the same places. Some days the fish just won't come up to hit topwaters, and the jerkbait is the answer there, too. Just experiment with the cadence of the jerk-jerk-pause. I find myself turning to a suspending bait in the middle of summer to fish a key spot I just know has a fish on it. I use the same method as the one for cold water fishing, deadsticking it beside the cover for as long as I can stand it. There are prominent spots that get hit hard that I still manage to pluck a fish from doing this. (think Kimberling City Bridge) Sometimes wave action from all the summer boat traffic makes keeping contact with your lure impossible, and a slip-float rig with a realistic PowerBait or Gulp lure is the answer for suspended fish, but that's different topic.
You can see jerkbaits don't get left at home, they're always on my boat. Maybe during Summer and Fall I use them less at Table Rock or Beaver, but that will bring us to part 2 of this series: Jerkbaits for river Bass. My favorite time for river Smallmouth is Summer/Fall, and the fish like an aggressive, power fishing technique like ripping a jerkbait.
So I have been working on my latest painting. I have been keeping it pretty secret since it is something totally different. But as my wife and family can tell you I am not good at keeping secrets so I'll let just the people who happen to randomly read my blog in on it. You can see about it here:
And if you want to see some of my other paintings done with brushes click here: http://www.farandawayonline.com/Water/Apr0...routhunting.htm
Thanks for reading and watching.....updates will follow.
Well, if time flew on that last entry it literally skipped a few months this time. I just got back from CO after a week hunting elk with a bow. If you want to stop reading now you can, I didn't get one. My bro and I went out for the last week of the bow season and gave it the old college try. To make a long story short, the first weekend we had bulls all around us, it was raining and cold and they were bugling like mad. I had five close encounters, within 60 yards, two ragheads and three nice bulls, one very large! Couldn't make an ethical shot on any, had a chance to wound a couple, but just can't do that. The rest of the week was dead, they stopped bugling, went on a couple death marches and never saw a single sign. We did get into some at the end of the week but never close enough to see if there were any shooter bulls in the bunch. Walked my butt off, lost ten pounds, and came home tired, discouraged, and footsore. Work this week hasn't been to much to brag on either. If wishes were horses and I'd of had a muzzleloader I'd have had my choice of bulls. I haven't lost hope yet, though, I had several deer in my front yard this morning, that cheered me up. I'll be looking to bag a buck this weekend. Hope all goes well with that. Hope anyone else who spent the time, money, and energy to go out West after the mighty elusive wapiti had better luck than I did. Cheers. Buck.
Man what a day! Yesterday we worked hard for eleven fish. Today we caught lots and a few big ones. It seems the more time you spend on the water....the better chance you have of catching fish!
I have one for sure sponsor and two are considering sponsoring me for next year. I never though much about competitive fishing, but it seems fun. You hang with a bunch of like minded people and go out to see how you do. I think as long s you don't take it too seriously and have fun it is a good thing. I really like the people in the tournaments. They are friendly conservation minded folks. I hope I don't let my sponsor or sponsors down!
I finally posted the Smallmouth Flyfishing article at my site:
I still don't know what to do with this blog, and to be honest, the amount of traffic showing up at my blogspot blog has me thinking about an actual .com domain, but I barely have time to fish these days, let alone write much about it.
Who knew working and taking care of a 2-year old would take up so much time? Oh yeah, everyone. I really need to buy a cheap digital video camera, and start making my own outdoor show, you don't even need public access or any of that anymore, just post on YouTube or using a host like Photobucket. If the day had 30 hours in it...
Ozark Anglers is huge. I didn't even know we had a blog. It takes me forever just to browse the forum to see if there is anything I am interested in each day. I like the group of people we have that share information. I told my friend, Tom, exactly where I caught some bass yesterday on Table Rock so he could go try there. He shares information and things he has learned with me.
I think I am going to use this blog like diary of sorts. I love fishing, but Table Rock has been a challenge. I think I have it figured out, then it changes on me. I think I am going to fish the Anglers in Action tournament series next year. I have one sponsor of sorts, Kuhlman's Koffee. He gives me free coffee on occasion. I wish I could land Eakins as a sponsor. I use their stuf almost exclusively and ended up buying a ton of jigs each year. Purchased six more yesterday. If I could get them and Yamamoto to give me some of the magic grubs, it would cut down on the cost of fishing a great deal. I am considering making my own jigs, but time is always an issue.
Had a multi species couple hrs today. Went out about 230 this afternoon temp close to 90. First fish a decent bass on plastic worm. Then I screwed aroung and caught a 17 inch walleye. Then caught a 3 lb cat on a curly tail jig. My next fish was a crappie.
Went back out in evening and caught 2 nice whites and a bluegill. About all I needed was a carp to complete the cycle of lake viking fish.
Lots of rain and the river has been up all spring and summer. Rainin again today just when it looked fishable in a few days. I guess late summer will be more water than usual which will be ok.
Well, time sure flies when your having fun.....sorry I haven't posted anything in a couple months....like anyone's actually reading this anyway! Turkey season wasn't to bad this year, my group harvested several nice birds. I bagged a jake, it was my only option. However, we saw a lot of nice tom's just couldn't put any lead in their heads. I've been fishing a little bit, nothing compared to last year though. Caught some nice crappies, some bass and a few channels the weekend before last at a farm pond in the area. With all the rain we've been having it has been a trial to get out and go. I have been seeing some nice bucks of an evening, the racks are well formed already. I've got my food plots planted and they are seeing some action, haven't set out my cameras yet but plan on doing so next week. My folks are selling one of our farms and some of my best hunting to a neighbor, it really sucks, but life goes on. I'll be depressed for a few years but I'll snap out of it. It has been in my family all my life and having them sell it is worse than selling my children, if I had any. But it is theirs to do with as they wish so I'm going to shut up and live with it. I'm sure there are others out there who have experienced the same thing, I have to remove all my stands by the end of July. I don't want to end on a sad note so..... oh well, I can't think of anything happy right now so eff it. Talk to ya later!
Rock Bass A. K. A. "Goggle-Eyes"
I grew up in central Kansas, so just like countless other youngsters the first fish I caught entirely by myself was a Bluegill. There are few things in life that remain pure, simple fun, but I think catching some panfish on light spinning or fly tackle may be one of the last. As I grew up I read about Rock Bass, but never caught one when I had visited the Ozarks due to the fact I was usually Trout fishing on the White or at Taneycomo during those trips. It wasn't until I moved to Springfield that I caught my first Rocky. I was fishing a small Clouser Deep Minnow at the tailwaters access for Lake Springfield, which is the James River. I was just killing some time, wet wading, and catching a few pint-sized Smallmouth and assorted Sunfish, when the line pulled tight, I set the hook, then when I pulled it in I realized it was a Rock Bass. I caught several more that day and had a great time, and I still really like catching these little guys, so let's take a closer look at these often overlooked fish.
I did a long (and sometimes fruitless) Internet search, referred to my copy of "Fishes of Missouri" and as it turns out, found an older post on OzarkAnglers.com where Al Agnew summed it up better than anything else I found, but as I understand it, there are several different species in the Ozarks we commonly refer to as "Rock Bass". The northern Rock Bass, native to the Meremac River system, the Ozark Bass, native to the White River system, and the Shadow Bass, which was native to the rest of the Ozark drainages. A similar fish, the Warmouth, was native but rare in Ozark rivers, but are now more common in the large reservoirs. Many locals still call of them "Goggle Eyes", but just to simplify things here, I'll call them Rock Bass, or "Rockies". They all have similar habits, diet, and you catch them all the same way.
One thing I ran across on my research was the entry on Wikipedia : "All species of rock bass are considered garbage fish and are unpopular with sustenance and sport fishermen." Huh? This is only one of the entries on the popular site that clashes with reality, because most folks in the Ozarks consider a platter of breaded and fried Rock Bass traditional after a float trip. They are good eating , too. The firm, flaky flesh is somewhere between the milder Crappie on one side, and the more nutty flavor of Bluegills on the other. In general, Rock Bass from our streams are safe to eat, it's the longer lived Black Bass that are problematic as far as the biggest widespread problem we face-mercury. See the news release from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for the full report HERE: http://www.dhss.mo.gov/fishadvisory/
So… fun to catch, good to eat, wide spread across the Ozarks, and accessible to nearly every one. Now, how do you go out and catch a bunch of them?
Most Rock Bass are caught as a happy accident while fishing for Smallmouth, but to target them specifically calls for a little lighter tackle. Some folks like to use the same little 4'6" or 5' rods paired with a tiny spinning reels they use at Bennet Springs or Roaring River for trout. I call these little combos "Pea Shooters". Fly anglers could be tempted to use that special little 6- or 7- foot 3 weight rod they bought for Crane Creek. I take a slightly different direction, and like longer rods for both spinning and fly. All else being equal, longer rods help cushion light line better than short ones, this usually isn't important until you hook a 3-pound Smallmouth under a log where you expected a 12-ounce Rocky, but still, longer sticks also help with line control in current, with fly gear you'll notice the difference between a 7-foot rod and a 8 footer immediately.
For spinning tackle, my current favorite is the 7' Medium/Light Microlight rod from Bass Pro paired with an older Quantum reel spooled with 3/8 Fireline, and I usually use a 6-pound test fluorocarbon leader about 8-foot long, but I step it up to 8-pound when I'm fishing where it's likely to hook a bigger Smallmouth. What I like best about this rod is that it has just enough backbone to set the hook through small Texas-rigged plastics and fight good sized Smallmouths, but isn't so stiff that it won't let the little guys show off. It's also a great small creek trout rod, and doesn't cost more than 40.00 dollars. I have more expensive rods, but this one gets used more. For fly tackle, if you have a nice 8- to 9- foot rod in 4- or 5-weight you're set. Since the most effective flies for Rock Bass are sinking models (we'll get to fly selection in a minute) a longer rod helps with line control, and just like spinning tackle it helps cushion the strain on lighter line you'll use for your tippets, which should be 4 or 5x. My pick is an old IM6 Fenwick 9' medium action that casts a 5-weight line much better than the 6-weight it's rated for. This rod is a sentimental favorite usually reserved for fishing small dry flies like size 20 midges at Taney, but it's great for panfish, too. For kids, simple spin casting outfits will work great when using live bait or one of the prepared, scented baits like Berkley Gulp. Keep it simple for beginners.
It's probably easier to list what lures don't work for Rock Bass than narrow down all the choices in lures and bait that do, but to put things perspective, I found this bit of information in a story by Bob Distefano in the in the February 2006 Missouri Department of Conservation News, online edition: "During the 1990s, Conservation Department biologists examined the stomach contents of more than 25,000 smallmouth bass and goggle-eyes on portions of the Jacks Fork and Big Piney rivers that were managed especially for those species. They found that crayfish make up more than 60 percent of smallmouth bass food and 78 percent of goggle-eye food. The great majority of the crayfish consumed were medium-sized, not large or small. In short, crayfish are the fuel on which Ozarks smallmouth and goggle-eye fisheries run." So if a fish loves crawfish, and crawfish tend to live on the bottom, keeping your lures on or near the bottom will be the key to success. I've caught Rockies on topwaters, but only in very shallow water, and I've caught them on hard and soft jerkbaits, but bottom bouncing crankbaits, small jigs, and smaller soft plastics worked close to the bottom are going to get you bit more often, and by bigger fish.
Upper left: Three unnamed flies. Rabbit strip tail, some marabou, heavy lead eyes.
Bottom Row: Bomber Fat A, Smallie Beaver, Bitsy Bug-1/8-ounce with Salty Craw trailer.
Right: Zoom C-tail, Renegade 4" curly tails in Motor Oil and Electric Blue.
Center: Gulp Mini Earthworms.
My favorite lure day in and day out is small natural colored 4-inch action tailed worms, either Texas rigged with small wide gap hook and 1/16- or 1/8-ounce bullet weight, or a similar sized jig head for more open areas. Zoom makes two great ones, the C- Tail worm, and the brand new one called the "Shaky Tail". Under the store brand Renegade, Walmart carries good, cheap 4- and 6-inch curl tail worms that come in assorted colors. Another great lure any Smallmouth fisherman knows is the tube. Bass sized tubes can be a little big, but several smaller 3-inch tubes are out there, from Zoom to Yamamoto to Bass Pros' store brand. Strike King had two tubes slimmer than their current Bitsy Tube that were perfect, but sadly aren't made anymore. A similar but different bait is the Yamamoto "Ika" which has a tenticle like tail similar to a tube, but the body is solid, allowing less weight to reach bottom. The smaller beaver baits are also excellent. All of these work so good for Rock Bass you'd be crazy not to use them. Small grubs are another favorite, as are small crawfish colored crankbaits. One overlooked lure is a small finesse jig, like the smallest Eakins or Bitsy Bug from Strike King. Back these with a tiny craw trailer, or the smallest pork chunk for targeting bigger fish. I've tried the small plastic craws by themselves, but usually just get the pinchers ripped off by tiny fish for some reason.
For flies, there are a few crawfish imitations out here, but I have had better luck with more impressionistic flies versus realistic patterns. Darker weighted Wooley Buggers, Clouser Minnows, and any of the more heavily weighted grub type flies on the market will work. One good example of this type of fly is Whitlocks' Scorpion. One thing that should work that I haven't tried yet is the same type of dark colored micro-jig and strike indicator rig popular at Taneycomo. Maybe tip it with a tiny piece of Powerbait. If someone tries this, let me now how it works.
Just like Bluegills, Crappies, and (gasp!) Trout, Rock Bass are a great fish for beginners because you can easily catch them with bait under a float. In faster water it requires more precision with weighting and float placement than most of the anglers that look down on bait fishing would admit, but in calmer water, yes, it can be pretty easy fishing. A small clip-on float, a couple of split-shot, and a small baitholder hook is all you need. What kind of bait works best? Nightcrawlers are still probably the most popular and small live crawfish come to mind but usually require catching your own, minnows work, but also require some way to care for them, so for when I take someone fishing and use bait, it's one of the new, scented prepared baits. Both Foodsource and Berkley have products that don't require refrigeration, work fantastic, and come in many different shapes. Both have small earthworms that work excellent, I may be a little more partial to the Gulp product, but I have used the Foodsource 3" worms and liked them, too. Don't let fish run with any of these lures, they are appealing enough to fish that they will swallow them just like live bait, so set the hook as soon as the float starts going under or moving off. A youngster or new fisherman should have no problem catching a few without all the mess of regular live bait.
O. K., where do you find Rock Bass in our streams? Almost anywhere a piece of cover breaks current, Rock Bass could be there. But if you look at their body shape, they aren't as streamlined as Smallmouth, so they don't sit in water as fast as Mr. Brown Bass does. So instead of looking at the top of a pool, prime Rock Bass cover is more towards the middle, calmer section. Boulder slides, rootballs and submerged timber, and anything else that is cover probably has everything they want. I have found a few "Rock Bass holes" as I call them on the upper Finley near my place in Ozark. These are pools that are simply full of Rock Bass, but rarely have any big Smallmouth in them. All tend to be a little smaller, shallower, and less complex than the best Smallmouth spots. Is that because the Rock Bass like slightly different cover, or is it a reaction to bigger Smallmouth preying on them or driving them away while foraging so they seek out pools absent of the bigger predator? I'm not sure, but it's something to keep in mind while scouting.
Do you want to catch big Rock Bass? Go Smallmouth fishing. Seriously, my biggest Rockies have all come to my canoe while I was trying to catch Smallmouth. I do know if I was going to try to break the current record of 2-pounds 12-ounces, I would probably go with my favorite little 3/16-ounce Baby Boo Bug finesse jig. While Smallmouth fishing, I usually catch one or two 10-inch plus Rock Bass while using that jig. I use shaky head worms a lot these days, and really catch them on that, too. Third choice would be those small crawfish colored cranks. Rock Bass just love to whack 'em.
But for me, catching Rock Bass isn't something I'm going to make too complicated or serious. One of these long summer days, I'm thinking my not-quite 2-year old son will reel in his first fish, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be a Rock Bass. It will probably bite on a chunk of Gulp Mini Earthworm, under a simple clip-on float, and I'll help him set the hook and reel it in. Pictures will be taken, the fish will be let go, and I think that'll be almost perfect, just like my Bluegill was way back then in Kansas. There'll be plenty of time to get all serious about Bass and Trout later.
You know everyone has that special place to get away, no one asking anything of you, just yourself out in woods or on a stream, just that speical private time everyone needs sometimes.
This is my special place I go, now some of you will think you know of this place, but you don't, only a few ever see this gem, there is no public access and no bridges cross this little piece of water, I'm not the only one that uses this little waterway, there are few locals, mostly kids that swim in its cool inviting waters on those hot summer days, I get on the water early, never have seen a soul while fishing this water, I don't catch those big fish like the trout at taney or the state parks, but it is mine alone. The trout I catch are small pretty and never, well hardly ever bothered by anybody, but me and a few herons, and I'm sure a few of the young local boys give it a try once in awhile. I follow this little stream, it is only yards deep most of the time, and give it a try once or twice a year, sometimes I'll go a few years between visits, I fished it a few weeks ago, walked a good 2 miles of stream, never saw a track, and saw very little trash, it is very clean by stream standards. It is as pretty as crane, and just as cold, but few people ever realize there are trout in there, I spent the better part of a wed. on this little stream and it was as good a day as I've had in a long time, I wish I could take friends there, but I was told not to by the owner that has given me permission to cross his property, I take him a few flies a few times a year, and he in turns lets me fish, never really caring if am catching fish or not, his mind is on his cattle and crops he works hard on every year. I use his land to get away, to clear the mind, he has the most beautiful stream on his land and he never even looks at it except to see how high the water has risen, he just doesn't know what he has.
I fished this little stream and caught only 12 fish in a days fishing, and was very happy with that number, none were large, the biggest might have been 14" and he was a monster, he came out of a hole not much bigger than a 5 gallon bucket, but he was king of that hole. It was a most rewarding day, I hope it remains the same forever, or at least I hope I never see it change, for now it is very protected by the farmers and there farms, and the fact that it is hard to find and it isn't on any map I've found, I'm very lucky I stumbled accross this gem 25 years ago, thank you Glen for telling me of this place and talking that farmer into letting me use his stream, thanks for the good times.
I was going to post an article about crankbaits for river Smallmouth, but I think it's a little small (about 1800 words) for Ozarkanglers so I posted it at my personal blog. I'm working on an article about Rock Bass (Goggle-Eyes, to you old river rats) that'll really be up to par, but it won't be done for about a week. Turns out I don't have a really good header picture. So I have to take a trip, sucks to be me, huh.
My other article I want to do is a starter course in fly gear for river Smallmouth: Rods, line, flies, leaders, waders, the whole deal. You wouldn't know from recent posts, but the thing I love most of all the fishing around here is throwing a popping bug for Smallies. And I haven't done a flyfishing article for my blog yet, so it's just a natural topic.
I finally started my own blog " Ozark Outdoor Journal ", not that anything is wrong with Phil's site here, but there are some topics and themes that may be a little more in-depth than I want to do for free. Anyway, I'll still post here, but I might save the longer articles for my site. I want to do how-to articles that span beginner to novice to expert in flyfishing, spin, cast, and cover river Smallmouth, lakes for Crappie, Bass, and everything else, and of course I'll cover trout, from Taney to the White and even Crane. I'll even be doing video segments, basically episodes like a television show.
Just got back from a hiking trip in Montana and Idaho. Hot days so rivers were raging and fishing sucked so not troutskys.
Been awhile since blogged so Ill hit the highlights. Caught a few bass and craps. The whites were hitting great at lake viking few weeks ago and I landed the 50 plus flathead. Weather has been crap so fishing sporadic, and the mushroom huntin was so so.
Just took two floats down river turk huntin and did not score, although saw plenty. If i would bother to carry a decoy would make a difference i think. bucka.
heres a few montana pics. one of the yaak river, one of the Kootenai river froms pumas cabin, and the other overlooking Koot and Yaak valley from atop adjacent ridge after a bike ride and hike.