Top 5 Spring Baits for Bass

So, originally the plan was to write another article after I went fishing at Newton Lake about a month ago. However, the plan was also to whack the fish that day, but not all plans work out. We ended up catching about 60+ white bass and 20 or so largemouth bass, almost all on squarebill crankbaits, but there wasn’t really anything too exciting or much to brag about that day. I also chose not to write an article because of the drastic difference between Newton Lake and normal lakes around Illinois. Most of the lakes around here finally unfroze about a week ago, but lakes like Newton Lake and Coffeen Lake (another lake I fish a lot) are power plant lakes, meaning these lakes have a power plant on them that flows hot water into the lake, never allowing the lake to freeze. Because the water temperature and everything is so much different on these lakes when compared to a regular lake, the information I gathered from my trip wouldn’t really be that helpful to most of you.

Now, getting onto our topic of the day, springtime fishing! When talking about springtime fishing, I’m talking about early springtime (right as the ice melts) all the way into prespawn and early spawn. This time frame is usually mid-February to mid-April here in the Midwest.

I have listed my five favorite spring-time baits below. These baits are in no particular order, just the five that I use most consistently to try to find my first bass of the year!

1. Jerkbait: Ah, the staple of bass fishing in the spring time. This erratic lure is meant to be jerked, twitched, and worked until the bass the just cannot stand it any longer. The best way to think about working a jerkbait is to pretend you’re AGGRESSIVELY trying to ‘walk the dog’. Your rod movement will be stronger than when you’re ‘walking the dog’, but essentially it will be the same rod motion. Now, the most important part of jerkbait fishing when it’s cold is to remember to pause the bait. A lot of your bites will come after the bait has been paused for a few seconds, so you have to remember to pause the bait and don’t get anxious. I like to start my day by pausing the bait between 3-5 seconds before I make the bait move again. If the fish aren’t hitting that, I’ll start pausing 7-10 seconds and so forth until you get a feel for what the fish want. They will always tell you what they want, just be patient. I like to keep my colors pretty simple: when there’s sunny skies and clear water, go with a flashy color, like a chrome. When it’s cloudy with clear water, I like a translucent color, and when it’s sunny with mildly-stained water, I would throw a very obvious color, like a flashy gold or even a chartreuse of some kind. The best way to figure it out is to just play around with it, however, if the water is muddy or if the water is stained on a cloudy day, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest a jerkbait. There are better presentations on days like that. For throwing a jerkbait, I like a shorter rod and a faster reel. The shorter rod is so I can twitch and jerk the rod tip without smacking the water, and the fast reel is for picking up the slack line only. When fishing a jerkbait, you are creating action with the rod, never the reel. My current setup is a Big Bear Rods 6’9″ medium-power rod with a fast action tip.

Image result for chrome jerkbait

2. Squarebill Crankbait: When throwing a squarebill, you can’t be afraid of contact. You’re going to run into things, and you’re even going to get hung up occasionally; it’s all part of the game. But the reward can be a hefty, hefty sum. When fishing a squarebill, it’s extremely important to run into things because most of the time, you are looking for a reaction strike. This means that the fish are not necessarily hungry, but rather they are just reacting instinctively when you bang that crankbait up against the wood right beside them. This brings me to my next point: where to throw a squarebill? I like to throw a squarebill anywhere that I can bang it into things like around wood, rocks, or even shallower docks, but wood is my favorite type of cover to throw it into. I use only about three different colors 95% of the time. The first color being some sort of shad imitation, whether that be a sexy shad color or more of a silver shad. The second color I throw is a chartreuse/black or a chartreuse/blue. I use this color in dirty water when I know they are feeding on baitfish. And the third color I use, though more rare, is a red squarebill. I like to use a red squarebill when I know that the fish are consistently eating craws. I tend to lean towards two rods when throwing a squarebill, either a Big Bear Rods 6’9″-7’3″ (depending on what you like and are comfortable with) medium-power rod with a fast action tip or a rod in the same length that has a medium-heavy power and a moderate action tip. I like to use the medium-power rod when the cover is more scarce and the medium-heavy power rod when the cover I’m fishing is heavier/thicker. As for the reel, I like to use a medium retrieve reel for squarebills, anything in the 6:1 ratio range is fine by me.

Image result for arashi squarebill

3. Lipless Crankbait: One of my biggest enemies as an angler; the lipless crankbait. Though I have had some good days throwing this thing, I have also has some very unproductive ones to go along with the good days. So while I’m pretty confident throwing the previous two baits, the lipless seems to still stump me every now and then. However, I will still tell you how and when I fish them. I really only like to fish lipless cranks around grass or rip-rap. When I’m fishing it around rip-rap, I like to do a yo-yo retrieve (if you don’t know what that is, look it up on YouTube and you can thank me later), but if I’m fishing around grass, I like to find where the grass is in the water column and then just let the bait tick the top of that grass while ripping the bait out of it, trying to cause a reaction strike. Again, I like to really only use a few colors for my lipless crankbaits. I like a sexy shad color when it’s cloudy outside, a shiny color (chrome or gold) when it’s sunny, and a red color for when the fish are feeding on craws. For the yo-yo retrieve, and really any retrieve except for the aggressive ripping, a regular crankbait rod will do just fine. When I’m ripping the bait, however, I like to have a stiffer rod on the deck. I choose my Big Bear Rods 7’3″ medium-heavy power rod for this job paired up with a higher speed reel.

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4. Spinnerbait/Chatterbait/Swim Jig: I put these three baits together because I feel like they are interchangeable most of the time, but I will tell you when/where I throw them differently. I like to throw a chatterbait around grass and spinnerbait around wood or rocks. However, there’s a catch. If it’s a slick-calm day, I try to avoid either of these baits and switch to a swim jig for all circumstances. I don’t like a chatterbait or a spinnerbait without any wind because I feel like they are too ‘loud’, if you will, without some sort of wind or current to break up the clarity. The colors  I choose for the baits are pretty simple again. If the fish are feeding on shad, I’ll throw some kind of white, white/chartreuse, or white/black to imitate a shad. If the fish are eating bluegill (I won’t throw a spinnerbait in this scenario), I’ll throw a natural presentation, such as a green pumpkin color. And if the water is very stained or muddy, I’ll throw a black and blue chatterbait or a predominately-chartreuse spinnerbait with a big Colorado blade. The rod I like for all of these applications is a Big Bear Rods 7′ medium-heavy power rod with a fast action tip. All of these baits have one relatively-thick hook, and I like some backbone in my rod so I can really drive the hookset through the fish’s mouth!

Image result for spinnerbait Image result for chatterbait  Image result for swim jig

5. Jig: And last, but not even close to the least, is the jig. Now the jig is a bit different ball game. While I love throwing a jig as much as the next guy, I tend to hold off on the jig until it warms up just a bit. I usually don’t start throwing a jig religiously until around mid-March. The fish aren’t moved up into the shallows yet until around that time at the earliest, so I don’t see a point in jumping the gun with the jig right away if there are other baits that will most likely produce fish more consistently for the time being (jerkbait, lipless crankbait, etc.). And don’t get me wrong, I’ve always got a jig tied on and I’ve caught fish on one earlier than that, but I just tend to start with the other baits first and go from there. I like to keep my jig colors pretty simple, natural and stained water. For my natural colors, I’ll have the classic (green pumpkin) paired with some kind ‘craw’ color (red flake, blue, orange, etc.), and for my stained water, nothing beats the good old-fashioned black and blue in my opinion! For my rod selection, I keep it reasonably simple. When I’m fishing a jig less than 3/8 oz., I go with my Big Bear Rods 7′ medium-heavy power rod with a fast tip, and when I’m throwing jigs that are 3/8-3/4 oz., I choose my Big Bear Rods 7’3″ 3/4-heavy power rod with a fast action tip so I have some more backbone against the fish!

Image result for cranked fishing flipping jig

So there you have it, my top five baits to throw from the time the water unfreezes until the fish begin to spawn! What are your favorite baits to throw this time of year? Either let me know in the comments below, or ask us either on Facebook or by email at midwestfishing@outlook.com! Thank you for reading, and I hope you learned something useful today that will help you next time you’re out bracing the cold on the water! If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our page and share us with your friends!

Saltwater Fishing

Before I get started with this article, I want to let it be known that I am not at all an expert when it comes to saltwater fishing. My family and I go down around Gulf Shores, AL every year at the beginning of summer for a week. However, we have been going down there since I can remember, and I have had a pretty decent amount of success fishing in both the ocean and the bay, so I have decided to share some of my information. Also, I want to thank my good friend Justin Sanders for giving me the idea of this topic because everything is frozen here in Illinois, and I was having trouble figuring out what to write about after school got out for the semester.

Now, down to business. Let’s start with surf fishing in the ocean. When I fish in the ocean, I have not had much success throwing lures. Obviously some people do, but I prefer to use live bait. When I’m fishing in the ocean, I’m pretty much targeting any fish that will bite, so I like to use a good all-around bait. I like to test and use different baits, but my all-time favorite is live sand fleas (pictured below). On the first day, I’ll buy frozen sand fleas and use those while I catch my own live sand fleas. The frozen ones are decent, but nothing beats the real thing!

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The way I rig these suckers is I buy a pre-made Pompano-rig (pictured below) from the store. These pre-made rigs come with two or three hooks separated by a few inches of line with a heavy weight (3-8 oz.) on the end of the line to hold the bait in place once on the bottom. I usually like to use a 4 oz. weight unless the wind and/or tide are bad. Once I get my rig all tied on, I like to take the sand flea in my left hand and put the hook through the middle of its shell from the back to the front. This will secure the flea in place on the hook until the fish takes the bait.

Image result for pompano rig

I use a pretty cheap setup for surf fishing since I only do it one week out of the year, but it’s an effective setup. The rod I use is a 9′ medium-power Daiwa D-Wave spinning rod paired with a 5000-B series Daiwa D-Wave reel. As far as line goes, I use 20 lb. Berkely Big Game monofilament line, but if I were to fish the ocean more often, I think I would try using some heavy braid instead so it would be more sensitive and there would be no stretch on the hookset.

Fishing in the bay is a whole different ball game. Fishing in the bay is a lot more like bass fishing, finding where you think the fish are and targeting specific areas. When I fish in the bay, I am usually either targeting speckled trout or Redfish. Both are great to eat, but Redfish are kind of considered to be the “bass” of saltwater and they are my favorite species to go after. When I target these fish, both Redfish and trout, I like to use two different baits: shrimp and some kind of baitfish. There are many companies who make imitations for each of these baits, but I refer the ‘Gulp!’ brand for shrimp imitations and if I’m going to use a baitfish imitation, I try to catch my own live bait. When using the shrimp imitation, I like to take a 2/0 Trapper Tackle dropshot/live bait hook and put the hook through the tail of the shrimp. Once you have cast out your fake shrimp, I like to let it sink for a bit (depending on how deep you think the fish are) and then kind of twitch it and move it similar to the way you hop/twitch a jig for bass. If I’m using a live baitfish, I like to use a bit bigger hook, like a 2/0-4/0 Trapper Tackle standard wide-gap hook. Then, I will put the hook through the fish about half-an-inch to an inch in front of the tail of the fish so the fish can still swim and attract fish.

Once again, I only do this kind of fishing one week out of the year, so I don’t have a super expensive setup for this either. I use a cheaper spinning reel, no specific brand, that is saltwater approved and a 6’6″ to 7′ either medium or medium-heavy power rod. If I had to pick one, I would just go with the medium-power, so I could be sure I wouldn’t break the dropshot hook. For the line, I like to use either 12 lb. or 15 lb. P-Line Floroclear.

I had a good time writing this article about the saltwater fishing I do! While most lakes and ponds are frozen over here in Illinois, there are some power plant lakes that don’t freeze over throughout the year. My buddy Jacob Wunder and I will be going to Newton Lake in Newton, IL to throw some jerkbaits, crankbaits, jigs, and spinnerbaits for some nice winter bass next weekend, so I should be writing another article in about a week or so about our trip! Thanks for reading and be sure to tune in in a week or so to hear about our trip to the well-known Newton Lake!

 

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It’s Time to Catch Some Monsters

                First, I want to start this article by sincerely apologizing for the lack of articles lately. I got busy with moving into a house, school, and football, but now I’m back, and we’re going to kick back into gear with an awesome topic: swimbaits.

                Just to be clear, I’m not talking about your typical swimbait that you either buy from Walmart or the hollow-bodied swimbait that you put on a swimbait jig head; I’m talking about BIG swimbaits, like 6+ inches of a delicious meal fit for a king (or queen) bass.

                One thing to mention is that I’m just now starting out. I actually don’t even have the gear yet (that’ll be my Christmas present(s)), but I’ve got a plan, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. My SIUE fishing partner, Jacob Wunder, and I have decided to dive head first into the big swimbait game. He’s already bought some of his stuff, but I’m holding off because I’m super broke, and most people don’t really throw these much except for in the winter and into the spring for goliath bass.

                I’m not 100% on the reel I’ll be buying to throw these giant baits, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. Right now, I’m eying the Abu Garcia Revo Toro S50. This reel was born to throw baits like the ones I’ll be throwing. It comes with extended handles (still two reel handles) for extra torque, plus a power handle (just one big reel handle) that will provide even more torque if needed. This reel can also hold 210 yards of 14 lb. test, but I’ll be throwing heavy braid with a 20-25 lb. monofilament leader to the bait. The Toro S50 has a maximum drag weight of a whopping 25 lbs. (which will hopefully be the size of the bass I’ll be catching with it). Granted, I know this reel is expensive, but because I fish for a college team, I get a discount to Abu Garcia (and other companies), and I am extremely grateful.

                As far as the rod I’m going to use goes, I have decided. I am going to go with the ‘Big Bear Rods’ (as always and will not change) 7’9” XH power with a fast tip. This rod was basically built to throw baits like this. You need to have a stout rod to both cast these monster lures without snapping the rod in half, and being able to handle the giant bass that go hand-in-hand with throwing big swimbaits. Because of the sensitivity and overall excellent rods I have in my Big Bear Rods, I have no doubt that I will fall in love with this rod as well.

                The last thing I will talk about are the swimbaits I plan on throwing. Though I don’t know exactly all the baits I’ll acquire, I do know a few I can’t wait to get my hands on. The top few on my list are a River2Sea S-Waver (size 168 and 200), a Castaic ‘Catch-22’, and, as all ‘swimbaiters’ should have, a Huddleston. It’ll be pretty difficult for me to spend too much money on a lure at first, but if I catch a couple of double digits and catch the swimbait-fever, I may be in trouble.

                One last thing I wanted to mention before I end this article is where Jacob and I have learned pretty much everything we know to this point about swimbaits. You HAVE to check out the YouTube page ‘tacticalbassin’ if you’re interested in swimbaits (or bass fishing at all). Those two guys, Matt and Tim, really know their stuff! Swimbaits are what they’re really known for, and for a good reason. These guys are no joke. They have tons of videos about rods and reels for swimbaits, how to rig them, types of swimbaits, and even giant fish stories that they’ve caught on swimbaits (Matt’s story is my favorite)!

                So that’s my plan for this winter/spring. I hope you enjoyed learning about my new hobby to come. Go and check out ‘tacticalbassin’ on YouTube, and tell me what you think and what your favorite video of theirs is! Thanks for reading, and welcome back!

Fish Tales (Story #1)

I have decided to start a “series” of sorts on this page. In this series, I will talk about some of biggest and most memorable fish to date. While most of the time these stories will be bass stories, I used the word ‘fish’ so I can leave the door open for a few more stories down the road. This one, however, will be a bass story.

I want to start this story with a visual image; it was a brisk, spring day. The water was cool, the geese were mean, and the females were big. My friend Austin Jones, who is now a U.S. Marine, and I decided to go to an undisclosed pond for a couple of hours. We decided to go to this pond, not because of the size of fish necessarily, but because it was pretty much the only spot available to us because neither of us had a boat. After what seemed like a mile-long hike through the woods, we had arrived.

When we got there, I already had a green-pumpkin purple flake Omega jig tied on and decided to just go ahead and fish with it for a bit before I switched to something else, but Austin had decided to make a switch and then he would be ready to fish. Before he even had the chance to re-tie, I had already caught two fish over three pounds! So, as all fisherman do, I was talking trash to him and trying to get him all riled up. After I caught a couple more, he finally switched over to a jig and joined in on the fun.

About an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes went by of just slaying solid bass and then the bite went cold for a while. We hadn’t caught one for thirty or forty minutes when Jones said, “Hey man, I have to leave for work in like fifteen minutes.” So, I told him that was fine, and that we would just say the next person to catch a fish wins because the day had been pretty close up to that point. Side note; I had on rubber boots over my sweatpants while Jones just had tennis shoes on. This will be important to the story later on.

So, as I was walking in the water about four to five inches deep, Jones was up the hill about seven or eight feet because the hill dropped so drastically and there were so many trees. So, as we were walking to a place where we could both fish, I fell into a sudden deep spot on the bank and my left boot went all the way under the water. Keep in mind, this was March so the water was somewhere in the ballpark of fifty degrees. After that, I was pretty much done for the day, but our competition was still going. Finally, I said, “I just really need an eight-pounder to tear my jig a new one. That would make me feel better,” (yes, that is an exact quote).

I can’t make this stuff up; the very next cast, I flipped my jig near the end of dead tree in the water. I had just moved it a few feet when I felt the undeniable thump of a bass choking the jig. I set the hook with my 7’3″ MH power rod and 50 lb. braided line and whacked this fish, but the fish whacked back. It shook its head and to this day, though I’ve caught some bigger fish, this fish is probably the second-hardest fighting fish I’ve ever caught. She thrashed for a few seconds before she got a better idea, and then she headed straight towards a big limb that was in the water right near my feet. She was running and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

I felt her run into the limb and everything stopped. But before I could process what had happened, I saw a flash of white near the end of the limb about seven or eight feet into the water. I could feel the line moving and tugging again at this point, so I asked Jones for help. The thing I had forgotten during this fight was that he had tennis shoes on, had to leave in like two minutes at this point, and, probably most importantly, this was a competition. Once I realized there was virtually nothing he could do to help me, I made a decision. I chose to hold the rod in my right hand (which is opposite for me), and reach down to try and drag the limb towards me. Keep in mind, this was a long limb. It was just out of Jones’s reach up on the hill, and it was about eight feet out into the water. So I picked up the limb with my left hand and began moving it back towards the hill behind me, so I could hopefully get a shot at reaching the fish on the end.

After what seemed like hours pulling on this limb and watching my fish, I decided it was time and quickly dropped my rod and jumped knee-deep into the water to try and grab the fish. It worked. I got my right hand in the bass’s giant mouth and popped the hook out with my left hand. In theory, probably not my best move to unhook the fish while it was still in the water, but things worked out all right. Once I had the fish, I couldn’t stop smiling and squealing like a group of twelve year-old girls. Jones had run over to grab my digital scale from my backpack and returned about fifteen seconds later. The fish weighed 7.8 pounds (very close to the eight-pounder I predicted just minutes earlier). I ended up dropping the scale in the water after weighing the fish, but it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time (I would later regret that mistake big-time, but that’s a story for another time).

Finally, after all that struggle, I had Jones take a picture of my personal best bass (at the time) and me smiling from ear to ear. Fun fact about that picture: I use it for almost every profile picture I have because it is such a high-quality picture. The fish looks absolutely beautiful in the picture, and you can see that I was in the water for it. It is my profile picture on this website, on my Facebook, and just about everything you can think of (blue sweatshirt, black sweatpants).

Though you may think that some of this story was made up for entertainment purposes, I promise you that 100% of this story is true and I will get Jones to testify to that fact because it was a crazy day. Even though I already loved fishing, that day is what really, really got me hooked for life (no pun intended).

I hope you enjoyed one of my favorite fish stories that I have to tell! I look forward to hearing about your stories and experiences in the comments or in e-mails to midwestfishing@outlook.com! Also, to my friend Jones and all other members of the military, THANK YOU! Have a great day!

 

Choosing a Topwater Frog

Today’s topic is a fun one. We’re talking about topwater frog fishing! Nothing beats the thrill of a giant topwater explosion just at dawn and reeling in a monster bass! Well today, we’re going to discuss which type of frog is right for you depending on your situation.

Just to be clear, we’re talking specifically about soft-bodied topwater frogs. They also make frog-colored poppers, wakebaits, etc., but that topic is for a later date.

Classic Hollow-Body Frogs: These frogs are the original hollow-body frogs. They have, like I said, a hollow body, two hooks on top of their bodies, and a skirt that acts as their legs. These frogs have an “A-shaped” nose to come through the nastiest slop as cleanly as possible (see picture below). These frogs’ main purpose is to be fished on top of the moss, slop, and grass. Because of the hollow-body, they will stay on top of the moss, and, since the hooks are on top of the frog, they will stay virtually weedless! I like to use multiple retrieves throughout the day to see which one the fish prefer. The first one I like to use is a quicker retrieve where I twitch the rod tip rapidly, using very few pauses. I like to use this retrieve until about an hour to an hour and a half after dawn and start using it again about an hour and a half before dusk. But, when the sun is up and temperatures spike, I like to use a slower retrieve, using more pauses between twitches because in the heat of the day, I have better luck fishing slowly with a frog. My favorite brand of hollow-body frogs is Pro-Z Baits frogs. They can be found at http://www.pro-zbaits.comImage result for pro z baits

Popping Hollow-Body Frog: These frogs are probably the most versatile of all of the hollow-body frogs. They also have a hollow-body, hooks on top of their bodies, skirts for legs. The only difference between the original and the popping frog is the front of the frog. The face of a popping-frog has a concave cup, just like a regular popper (see picture below). The reason I believe these frogs are the most versatile is because, while they aren’t ideal for thick slop because of the popping-cup on their face, they will still work for this application. I love to use these frogs in either open-water or sparse vegetation. I like to have a popping frog in this situation because it has a bit more fish-drawing power than the regular hollow-body frog. I like to use these frogs pretty much like a weedless popper. I will either fish them quickly with almost no pauses, or I will try a pop-pop-pause type retrieve. You really just have to play it by ear and see what the fish prefer. Image result for pro z baits popping frog

Soft-Body Frogs: While I don’t use this style of frog as often as the other two, these frogs definitely have their place in you tackle box. These frogs are a bit different. They have legs that make a flapping motion in the water rather than just using a skirt, king of like a soft buzzbait (see picture below). Another thing about these frogs is they don’t come with a hook, so you will have to buy hooks separately (I like the double hook screw-lock type hooks like a Mustad or an Owner). You just screw the head of the bait into the hook, set the hooks on top of the bait, and you’re ready to fish! There is really only one way to work these frogs, and that is to just reel them. You can add slight pauses and twitches, but overall, it’s just one retrieve. These frogs tend to shine for me in really low-light conditions like right at dawn or dusk. I really like the Zoom Horny Toad and the Stanley Ribbit Frog!

Image result for zoom horny toads

Another point I’d like to talk about for a minute is the colors of your frogs. To make things simple, I like to stick to four main colors: black, white, natural frog, and brown. The colors I have listed here refer to the bottom of the frog, not necessarily the top. The fish obviously can’t see the top of the frog, so what the top looks like is completely irrelevant. Here’s how I breakdown which color of frog I use for certain situations. I like to use a white frog when there is a big shad population in the body of water. I use the brown frog in the backs of coves and places like that close to the bank because a brown frog imitates a small beaver, muskrat, groundhog, etc. (check our Pro-Z Baits’ ‘Scooby-Doo’ frog)! I prefer the natural color frog in clear water because the fish are able to get a better look at the lure. And I really like the black frog as an all-purpose frog, though it shines in low-light conditions. The black frog is ideal in many situations because black shows up very well. It creates a big silhouette in the water when the sun hits it. The only other color I will use occasionally is a frog with a chartreuse belly in extra-dirty water.

I hope that these explanations have helped you better understand the different types of frogs on the market today! As always, we love to hear from you so leave us a comment or e-mail us at midwestfishing@outlook.com anytime! Once again, check out http://www.pro-zbaits.com for the exact frogs that I like to use every day! Thank you and have a great day!

Shaky-Head Fishing

Image result for flat bottom shaky heads

A shaky-head is a rig that I never had much luck with in the past, until lately. There are many different styles of heads and ways to fish them, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

The first thing I’m going to discuss with you is my favorite style of head. To cut straight to the point, my favorite style of head is a round-ball head with a flat-bottom (pictured above). The reason I prefer a flat-bottom head, also called a stand-up head, is simple; when I’m fishing a shaky-head, I’m trying to catch fish that are being finicky. When you fish a shaky-head with a flat-bottom, it makes the bait stand up in the water (like the picture above), making the bait look more vulnerable, thus, luring the fish into thinking they have an easy meal. Almost all shaky-heads I’ve seen have a screw lock (see picture) that helps keep your bait locked in place more efficiently. I really only use the ones with a screw-lock on the head.

Ways I Fish a Shaky-Head:

  1. Shake it: This method may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because while this seems to be the most popular way to fish this rig (hence the name), I have a different way I prefer to fish this rig most of the time (we’ll get to that later). I have found that this method can be very effective as well in certain situations. The way I shake this rig is to pretty much just bounce the rod tip to make the bait dance in the water. I find that I prefer to shake this rig when they’re biting a Texas-rig, but they aren’t biting it as well as I’d like them to. This means that the fish are reasonably aggressive, but I feel like I can get a better bite on a slightly more finesse presentation. In my opinion, this method is between fishing a Texas-rig and dragging a shaky-head as far as it’s finesse appeal. It’s a reasonably rare occurrence for me to fish a shaky-head like this, but every presentation has its time and place.
  2. Drag it: This is the way I prefer to fish a shaky-head most of the time. The reason I prefer the drag method is because most of the time I fish a shaky-head, it’s a tougher day on the lake, and I just can’t get the fish to cooperate. I also like to drag a shaky-head because when the fish are finicky, they aren’t going to want to bite a fast-moving, bouncing bait; they’re most likely going to want a less “aggressive” meal so they don’t have to use a lot of energy. another reason I love dragging a shaky-head I because it’s a pretty finesse style of fishing, but it doesn’t have to be slow like a drop-shot necessarily. If I’m going to fish a shaky-head, this is the way I prefer probably 80% of the time.
  3. Bounce it: I haven’t used this method very much in the past because, if I’m going to bounce a bait, I have always just preferred a Texas-rig. But recently, I’ve been trying this method a bit more and it’s definitely starting to grow on me. It is a slimmer profile, making it more finesse, but it’s also hopping and bouncing along, like  a Texas-rig. This combination gives a lot of versatility in your lineup!
  4. Swim it: I’m not going to lie to you, the only time I’ve ever caught a fish using this method is on accident while reeling the bait back into the boat. I know a lot of people purposely swim a shaky-head and use it as a smaller-profile reaction bait; it’s just something that I’ve never really tried, but I may have to look into it soon!

A shaky-head has become a go-to lure for me when I get frustrated, and I hope these tips can help you in the future too! Be sure to subscribe to our page for more “tips and techniques” articles like this one! Also, we’d love to hear from you so either leave a comment or e-mail me anytime at midwestfishing@outlook.com! Thanks and have a great day!

Tungsten Weights vs. Lead Weights

 

I know it can be difficult to make yourself spend a lot of money on something when there is a much cheaper alternative, and that brings us to the point of this article. Are tungsten weights worth the extra chunk of change you have to pay compared to the price of lead weights?

Lead: Lead has been used for years and is a staple in the bass fishing world. People use lead weights for everything from Texas-rigs to drop shots. Lead weights are also very cheap, you can even get them for as cheap as sixteen of them for $1.

Tungsten: The introduction of tungsten weights was revolutionary to the fishing world. The key selling point of tungsten is its density (1.7 times as dense to be exact). Since it is much more dense than lead, you can get away with a much smaller profile for the same amount of weight (see picture at the bottom of the page). For instance, a 1/2 oz lead weight is almost twice the size as a 1/2 oz. tungsten weight. Again, this is an advantage for tungsten because it’s much smaller in profile, but it’s the same weight. Also, because tungsten is harder than lead, it translates the bottom content much better than lead (rocks, soft bottom, etc.). The issue is, tungsten is MUCH more expensive than lead, usually about a dollar or two per weight.

So here’s a list of the pros and cons of each:

Lead Pros:

  • Cheaper price
  • More availability (you can buy them just about anywhere that sells fishing stuff)

Lead Cons:

  • Heavy weights = BIG profile (not as much density)
  • Not as sensitive as tungsten

Tungsten Pros:

  • Smaller profile for the same weight
  • Much more sensitivity than lead

Tungsten Cons:

  • Much more expensive
  • Not as good availability (may have to order them instead of just going to a store)

Tungsten is a much better alternative to lead if you have the funds for it, but it can be expensive. The good news is, I’ve found a loophole that I’m going to share with you today. Check out http://www.flipsideoutdoors.com! They have the cheapest tungsten weights I’ve ever seen, and it’s all I use now! When you place an order, be sure to send them an e-mail and tell them Midwest Fishing (Nick Scott) sent you!

I hope you learned a lot from this article today because this is a big topic that I hear being discussed a lot. Mae sure to subscribe to our page for more articles like this one. Also, we love to hear from you guys so be sure to send us e-mails or leave us comments with questions or any other inquiries. Thank you and have a great day!

Image result for tungsten vs lead

(lead weight on the left, tungsten weight on the right)

Different Types of Structure

Knowing the difference between the different kinds of structure in your lake can help you become a better angler in a hurry. If you fish a patch of grass the same way you would fish a rip-rap bank, you are more than likely going to have some disappointing days on the water.

In this article, I’m going to break down different types of structures and the ways that I like to fish them.

  1. Wood: Fishing laydowns and fallen trees is probably my favorite way to fish. There’s nothing quite like flipping a jig up into the nastiest part of a laydown and getting to power-drive a hook-set into a fish and winching out a toad. It’s an awesome way to catch fish, especially in the spring! When I’m fishing wood, I like to throw just a few different presentations, but it also depends on how deep the wood is. If the laydown or tree is shallow, my favorite, I like to throw a jig, Texas-rig, or a squarebill crankbait. Spring is the best time to flip shallow cover because the fish are moving up towards the bank to spawn. Once you get into the summer, fishing wood becomes big long trees laying down into deep water. For these situations, I love to throw a Texas-rigged ten inch worm because it gives those bigger fish a big meal. If they see a big meal, it’s worth it to them to use using their energy going after a big meal so they don’t have to eat again for awhile. I will also throw jigs and deep-diving crankbaits down these trees, but you have to be extra careful with a crankbait!
  2. Rocks: My favorite time to fish rocks (and rip-rap) is the spring. In the spring, the weather is just starting to warm up a bit, and the fish are looking for warmer to go (like retired people moving to Florida during the cold months). Bass will often hang around the rocks and rip-rap because rocks hold a lot of heat from the sun, so around rocks is where you’ll usually find your warmest water, leading you to more fish. I’ve got a few favorite lures throw around rocks, but my favorite is a jerkbait in the spring. Like I said earlier, fish like to hang around rocks in the spring because they’re warmer, so throwing a jerkbait can fire up the fish in a hurry! Another favorite of mine to throw around rocks, especially in the spring, is a shallow diving crankbait (or a squarebill if the rocks are very shallow). It depends on how far they’ve come up getting ready to spawn, but I like to throw up to 10-12 ft. divers in these rocks. The depth doesn’t quite matter as much to me as hitting the rocks do and making some racket, causing reaction strikes. And last, but not least, I also like to throw a jig around rocks. Crawdads love to hang around rocks, so a jig with a craw trailer can be a deadly combo anytime you’re around rocks!
  3. Grass: I’m not sure why, but for awhile right after the grass starts to grow up in the spring, I seem to avoid it like plague. But, when I do fish near it, here’s what I do. One thing I like to do is ripping a bait out of the edge of a grass line, usually either a chatterbait or a lipless crankbait. Ripping a bait out of any cover can be effective in causing a reaction strike, but, around grass, it can be extra deadly. A jerkbait can also be effectively fished this way. And my second favorite thing to do is drag a jig or Texas-rig around it, provided that it’s not too thick. In the spring, I like to fish the outsides of grass lines and mats, but in the summer, I like to fish in the mats themselves. My favorite thing to throw in the grass in summer, by far, is a topwater frog. These frogs can draw heart-stopping explosions, especially in the early morning and later evening (low-light conditions). I also find it can be a very effective technique in the summer to pitch and flip to holes in the mats. A lot of people also love to punch through mats (called “punching”), but where I live (Illinois), we don’t really have the right types of grass and/or moss to punch through.
  4. Brush Piles: Brush, like wood, can be fished differently depending on the time of year and depth of the water it’s in. If it’s in shallow water, I like to flip jigs and Texas-rigs into the nastiest of it. However, if it’s summer and you find a deep brush pile, I like to have a few things tied on. The first lure I want ties on is a big ten-inch worm to drag in and around the pile. My close-second pick for a deep brush pile in the summer is a deep-diving crankbait (however deep the pile is) to fish around the pile, and even in it if you can get through it without losing your crankbait. Big jigs could also be a good choice when fishing deep brush piles in the summer months.
  5. Docks: And finally, we have docks. Docks are an interesting piece of structure that a lot of people can have trouble with at times. here’s how I like to fish a dock. first, I always want something to be different about this dock, like a post sticking out farther than other docks or something like that. Bass prefer to be around a piece of cover that is just a bit different than the others. In the spring, I like to fish old wooden docks, or old metal docks,  because, like rocks, they hold some heat during the spring, which attracts the fish, and the reason I like to fish the older ones is because they have been there for while so the fish are used to them and know where they are. I love to throw a jig mostly around these kinds of docks, but I also like a squarebill crankbait. Floating docks are an interesting subject, but, in my experience, I’ve found that I really only like floating docks during the shad spawn because the shad will hang around these docks and bass will gobble them up like pieces of popcorn. So, in this situation, I like a fluke, shallow diving crankbait (because the shad stay pretty high in the water column while spawning), or really any shad imitation you can think of. In the summer, however, I really fish docks because of one reason; they provide shade. I still prefer the dock to have wooden or metal posts that go to the bottom of the lake because it still gives the fish some ambush points, but I really like docks for their shade coverage in the dog-days of summer. Skipping a bait into the shadiest part of the dock is your best shot at pulling out a fish, so I like pretty much anything I can skip under the dock like a jig with a flat-bottom head, a fluke, a topwater frog, or anything like that really! In the fall, you’ll really just have to experiment because they can be on something one day and not touch it the next day for me.

I hope you have learned the difference between certain types of structure and ways to fish them today! As always, feel free to leave us a comment or question and tell us what you think, or you can also e-mail me with other inquiries at midwestfishing@outlook.com. Please subscribe and share with your friends if you like our stuff and check out our other articles! Thanks and have a great day!

Types of Jigs

First of all, I want to start this article by saying how grateful we are to each and every one of you guys. This is the first article we have written since we were on the “Wobbly Arrow” podcast and since we were on that podcast, our visitors, views, and subscribers have spiked dramatically. I want to say thank you to Jimmy Nees and Justin Horn at the “Wobbly Arrow” for having us on the show. Thank you all so much and keep sharing and subscribing!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about fishing, specifically, jig fishing. Today I’m going to discuss the different types of jigs and when I like to use each type of jig. I’m not going to get into which colors for certain situations because I have already done an article about color selection (linked at the bottom of the page), or you can e-mail me anytime at midwestfishing@outlook.com for questions about anything!

  1. Swim-Jig: The ONLY reason I’m putting this bait in the jig category is the name. In my opinion, a swim jig is not a jig. However, since it is technically a jig, let’s talk about it. A swim-jig typically has a slimmer-profile head to come through cover, such as grass, more efficiently. Now, when do I use a swim jig? This is a pretty simple breakdown for me. Obviously everyone has their own opinions, but I like to use a swim jig and a chatterbait in very similar situations. The way I make the decision on which one to use is based on the amount of wind or chop on the water and water clarity. If it’s super windy, I have much more confidence in a chatterbait over a swim-jig because of a chatterbait’s ability to draw fish from farther distances with its blade. In super dirty water, I will also choose a chatterbait over a swim-jig because, again, I prefer more drawing power in the muddy water. However, if it’s super clear water, I will throw a swim-jig more often than a chatterbait because it looks a little more realistic. I only use two colors of swim-jigs, shad (white) and some sort of bluegill representation (pictured below). Again this could be argued, but I like to stay with these two colors because, if I think the water is dirty enough that neither of these will work, it’s time to switch to a chatterbait. Image result for swim jig
  2. Flipping Jigs (arkie-jigs): This is the stereotype jig that comes to most peoples’ minds when you talk about a jig. It’s not round like a round-ball jig (I call them finesse football heads) or a football head, but it’s not quite as narrow as a swim-jig head. My personal favorite is the Omega Custom Tackle Flipping Jig (pictured below). This jig has a perfect arkie-style head to get through cover, and a great hook for sticking the fish when you need it the most. I like to throw this style of jig around any kind of wood or brush piles. Like I said, the arkie-style head will keep you from getting stuck in this kind of cover while a football head jig would create all kinds of problems in a brush pile or some thick wood. This is my favorite style of jig. Image result for omega flipping jig
  3. Football Jigs: This jig seems to be a big-fish staple in the summer months. A football-head jig’s name is pretty self-explanatory; it has a head that’s shaped like a football. This type of jig will not be very effective in grass or wood because it won’t come through that kind of cover very easily, but a football jig can be deadly I’m some rip-rap and bigger rocks. A football head is also commonly used in deep water in the summer on ledges and points. To do this, you will need a football head jig that is no smaller, in my opinion, than a 1/2 oz., but I prefer to use a 3/4 oz. Image result for football head jig
  4. Round-Ball Jig: Even though I really only use it for certain situations, this type of jig has a special place in my heart. I like this type of jig because it’s usually a lighter, more finesse-type jig, but since it has a round head, I like to use it around rocks and rip-rap. It could also be used around sparse wood. I actually seem to draw more bites and catch more fish with this style of jig. The colors I use for this are the same as a regular jig, so you can refer to my color selection article (linked below). Image result for roundball finesse jig
  5. Casting Jig: I really don’t have much to say about a casting jig. I really don’t use them that often because there isn’t much of a difference between a casting jig and a flipping jig in my opinion, but the casting jigs I have (I think Dirty Jigs) have a head that would be in between an arkie-style head and a football-head, so it is pretty versatile if you can only afford a few jigs. Most of mine also have rattles so if I think I need to add a little more drawing power to my jig, I switch to my casting jig. But since you can get rattles on either a casting jig or a flipping jig, I think they’re pretty interchangeable. Once again, the color selection article is linked below if you have questions on which color to use for certain situations. Image result for dirty jigs casting jig

I hope this breakdown of jigs helped answer some questions you might have about jigs! If there’s a question you still have about jig selection, I encourage you to either comment below or e-mail me at midwestfishing@outlook.com. If you find our page and articles helpful, please subscribe and share our knowledge with your friends so you can all become better anglers. Thank you and have a great day!

 

https://midwestfishing.org/2017/05/22/lure-color-selection/

Baitcasting Reels vs. Spinning Reels

A lot of people think if you only use spinning reels, you’re not a real fisherman. And, while I believe that this isn’t completely true, ninety-nine percent of tournament anglers use baitcasters in addition to spinning gear because the features you get with a baitcaster give you some advantages over those using spinning reels.

Advantages of a Baitcaster:

  • Stronger drag systems – Baitcasters typically have a higher maximum drag weight than spinning reels do. This increased drag allows for the use of heavier applications like bigger jigs, Texas-rigs, etc.
  • Line – Baitcasters are also made to handle heavier line than spinning reels are. You can put sixty-five pound braided line on a baitcaster and, combined with the heavier drag capacities, just absolutely winch fish out of heavy cover.
  • Faster gear ratios – When using lures like topwaters and jigs, you want to be able to bring in the lure as fast as possible after a cast so you can quickly get another cast back out there. Also, if a fish hits the lure and swims towards the boat (or bank), you need to be able to catch up to the fish by reeling in the slack line before setting the hook.
  • Reel weight – While this one may be the least important for some people, it could also be the most important for others. This is one of those things that doesn’t matter too much for the weekend angler, but if you’re in to fishing tournaments, this will make a huge difference. Fishing an eight-hour tournament with heavy, uncomfortable equipment would be exhausting, and, honestly, would make your experience much less enjoyable. Baitcasters are typically lighter in weight than spinning reels, making them much more comfortable to fish with for long periods of time.

Disadvantages of a Baitcaster:

  • Frustration – Until you get the hang of using a baitcaster, they could make you want to give up fishing forever. While they are extremely effective once mastered, they can be tough to figure out how to use. It usually takes a solid day or two to figure out how to use these reels to their fullest extent.
  • Wind – Baitcasters are commonly known to cast baits very far, but if you’re trying to cast a lure directly into the wind, it can end in a catastrophe.
  • Lighter lures – It can be very difficult to cast lighter lures on baitcasters if you don’t have the right equipment, or if you don’t have your reel tuned exactly right.
  • Backlashes – This is the big deal-breaker for mot people when they decide not to use baitcasters. If you have your spool tension too loose, or if you let the spool continue to spin after your bait hits the water, your line will knot-up and create problems until you get the loops out.

Advantages of a Spinning Reel:

  • Line – On a spinning reel, you can use lighter-diameter line than you could with a baitcaster. Just remember, with the lighter line and lighter drag, you have to “play” the fish more rather than trying to just horse them into the boat.
  • Casting light lures – Like I said, casting light lures can be a problem with baitcasters because it can backlash your reel, but with a spinning reel, you can cast light lures without the worry of a backlash.
  • Wind – Just like light lures, wind can wreak havoc with a baitcaster, but since you don’t have to worry about backlashes with a spinning reel, you can cast as hard as you want into the wind with a spinning reel.

Disadvantages of a Spinning Reel:

  • Lighter line – Because you are using lighter line, your drag needs to be set properly, or you’ll break off fish almost every time.
  • No “heavy” use – Since you have to use lighter line and a lighter drag, you aren’t able to just winch in fish out of heavy cover.
  • Reel weight – Most spinning reels are heavier in weight than their baitcasting brothers, making them a little more uncomfortable to fish with for long periods of time.

I hope the things I have listed here today will help advance your bass fishing knowledge. Thank you for reading and I encourage you to comment or e-mail me with questions at midwestfishing@outlook.com. Make sure to subscribe to our page to receive notifications about articles that we post! Thanks again and have a great day!

How to Set the Hook with Different Baits

One of the most important assets in your fishing arsenal is hook-set knowledge because the type of lure you are using determines how you should set the hook when you get a bite.

There are three main hook-set techniques that I use.

Vertical: This technique is my favorite way to set the hook. With this technique, when you are ready to set the hook, you reel up your slack line and absolutely hammer the fish. The baits in which you will use this type of hook-set would be your flipping jigs, Texas-rigs, topwater frogs, and most things where you’re trying to drive one (or two with a frog) thick hook into the fish. You could technically also use this technique for lures like a chatterbait or swim jig, but the issue with these is you have your rod tip at 9:00 and you’re constantly moving the bait, so you need to set the hook quickly (see the sweeping hook-set). Going back to, let’s say a jig, when you feel the bite and think the fish has it, you reel down and set the hook hard vertically over your shoulder. This should drive the hook right into the top of the fish’s mouth. I suggest Trapper Tackle’s wide gap hook. With their innovative design, you will hook, and land, more fish than ever before.

Sweeping: The sweeping hook-set is one of those techniques that has its place, but it’s not something I use very often; however, I ALWAYS use a sweeping hook-set when fishing a Carolina-rig. Once you feel the bite, you want to reel up any slack line between the rod tip and the fish, and once you feel the fish on the other hand, you need to sweep the rod across your body horizontally rather than vertically because the weight is separate from the bait. A sweeping hook-set is also something I do when fishing a chatterbait, spinnerbait, or swim-jig because my rod is already at a lower angle and when you feel the bite you can just sweep into the fish.

“Leaning”: This one is more of a made-up term for me, but it describes the action so well that I thought I would just call it the “leaning” hook-set. This is the technique I use when fishing anything with treble hooks such as crankbaits, poppers, walking baits, etc. Instead of setting the hook hard vertically or setting it with some force while sweeping the rod, all you want to do when you feel a fish hit the crankbait is lean into the fish with the rod. To do this, you will want to sweep, kind of like the sweeping hook-set, but with less force, like a lean (ergo the ‘leaning” hook-set).

Thanks for reading this article, and please check out our other articles on the website for more helpful tips! I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment or e-mail me at nscott0698@gmail.com with any questions or feedback. Also, subscribe to our page for articles like this one and many more. Thanks again and have a great day!

Chatterbait vs. Spinnerbait

One thing a lot of people struggle with, including myself sometimes, is trying to decided when to throw a chatterbait over a spinnerbait or vice-versa. In this article, I will break down the variables that help me decide which lure to throw in certain situations.

I want to start off by saying that I am biased towards a chatterbait in this argument, but I will remain neutral for the article. It’s not that I hate a spinnerbait or anything like that, I just have a lot more confidence in a chatterbait because I have caught many, many more fish on one.

Chatterbait: I’m going to start the comparison of the two by saying that when throwing a chatterbait, I always use a trailer. I like a paddle-tail swimbait or a fork-tail swimbait. I also only really throw three main colors of chatterbaits. Shad imitation (white/chartreuse, etc.), black and blue, and a natural color (like a green pumpkin variation). I like the black and blue when the water is murky, I like the natural when either the water is really clear or I’m trying to imitate a bluegill, and I like to throw a shad imitation in any water color as long as there are shad in the lake I’m fishing. My ideal condition for a chatterbait is cloud cover because it’s harder for the fish to get a good look at the bait. However, I do prefer it to be sunny if I’m throwing a white chatterbait with a silver or gold blade because of the reflection of light.

Like I said earlier, I prefer to throw a chatterbait over a spinnerbait most of time. Most people prefer to throw a chatterbait in the grass over a spinnerbait because it rips out more easily, and that’s true, but I also prefer to throw a chatterbait in and around wood, which is weird because most people like a spinnerbait in this situation. A lot of people seem to have trouble throwing a chatterbait around wood, which happens sometimes, but I have caught fish more times in those areas than I have been stuck, so I’ll take my chances at a snag every once in a while.

Spinnerbait: I said that when I fish with a chatterbait I always use a little swimbait trailer, well on a spinnerbait, I always, always use a trailer hook, and I’ll tell you why. When a fish strikes a chatterbait, it is attacking a single fish, so it’s locked in on the strike; however, when a fish hits a spinnerbait, it believes that it is attacking a small school of fish, so instead of locking in and striking one, it will swipe at all of them. Hence the trailer hook. If it’s locked in, it will eat the bait and you’ll be able to set the hook, but if it swipes it may not get the main hook, so it’s always good to have a trailer hook for a fall-back.

There are a few situations when I prefer a spinnerbait over a chatterbait. When I’m around rocks, I love to slow roll a spinnerbait just over the top of the rocks, and I also prefer a spinnerbait in super muddy water. I’ll take either a bright spinnerbait (like a blue/chartreuse) or a dark spinnerbait (black) with a big Colorado blade or two and make a lot of commotion, drawing more strikes.

If you can think of anything you think I missed or if you have your own opinions, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail at nscott0698@gmail.com with any questions you may have. Also, please subscribe to our page to receive notifications every time we post a helpful article like this one. Thanks and have a great day!