DAVE WOLAK: SPINNING TACKLE HAS ITS TIME AND PLACE
I constantly get the question, “Do you use spinning equipment often in tournament competition?” Honestly, my feeling towards spinning tackle has changed over the five years that I’ve been fishing professionally. During the early years, I tended to agree with the many anglers that consider spinning gear inferior to more “macho” baitcasting outfits. After discovering how useful a spinning setup can be in certain situations, my opinion has completely changed, however. The reality is; each type of outfit has a set of angling applications that it’s better suited to handle.
Spinning tackle definitely has its time and place, whether you’re fishing competitively or recreationally. As lakes, rivers and ponds receive more and more fishing pressure, spinning tackle is gaining popularity due the advantages it provides for light-line applications. Spinning gear is also tailor made for certain situations; such as skipping jigs way under docks in clear water. So, here’s some good advice: Don’t worry about “perceptions” or what you might “look like” on the water. Instead, think about the efficiency and effectiveness of your chosen outfit for the specific situation and application. If the set of variables thrown at you requires that you “lighten up” to fool wary fish, or if you need to skip lures to access hard to reach places, don’t hesitate to employ a spinning outfit. A great choice would be a Pinnacle 7’ 2” medium action Perfecta rod and a matching Performa PEF40 reel spooled with 10- to 12-pound test fluorocarbon line.
Again, don’t be concerned about how your peers will react if you pull out a spinning outfit instead of baitcasting gear. Just think about the look on their faces when you start landing more fish. Worry less about “image” and start focusing on what will fill your livewell given the situation and conditions. I promise you – you’ll start catching more fish and placing higher in more tournaments.
DAVE WOLAK: FISHING BAITS ON “THE FALL”
Anglers frequently ask me, “What’s the most effective way to work your soft plastic baits or jigs back to the boat after casting, pitching or flipping?” I’m a big baseball fan, so statistics are always in my head. And statistics show, at least for me personally, that roughly 80% of the bites I get occur as my bait is on the fall or sinking freely. Using the baseball analogy again, if I was a hitter and I knew a pitcher threw 80% curveballs; I’d be looking for a curveball…wouldn’t you? Similarly, when I’m fishing, I’ve learned to “fish the fall” properly and more often, staying on a sharp lookout for bites whenever my bait drops.
The term “proper” is subjective, of course, so I’ll tell you what has worked for me. It has been my experience that fish generally like to bite a falling bait when it’s sinking vertically, not in a pendulum-type curve toward its point of origin. With this in mind, I feed line from my reel while it is falling to eliminate any resistance. This is easier to do with spinning gear, because all you need to do is flip the bail open. Accomplishing the same thing with a baitcasting outfit requires a little more work. I basically feed line manually with one hand while the bait is falling, while thumbing the spool lightly with the other hand to keep the spool from “over-spinning.” As soon as I started doing this, I began to get more bites. Within just a few hours, I found that I had unconsciously incorporated this technique into my fishing routine.
When I say that I now “fish the fall” more often,” what I really mean is I’m working my baits less. All I do is cast, allow the bait to drop, work the bait minimally and then reel it in. I’m careful not to waste time and energy during a statistically-proven unproductive part of the cast/retrieve. The more casts I can get in during a given time period, the more “falls” I create. For me, this has resulted in a significant increase in bites and generally more successful fishing.
So, keep statistics in mind and apply them appropriately when you fish. You’ll experience a dramatic increase in your productivity out on the water.
PAUL ELIAS: GEAR UP PROPERLY FOR DEEP CRANKING
One of the most important aspects of crankbait fishing is outfitting yourself with equipment that’s specialized for the task. Your rod, reel and lure needs to meet certain requirements in order to effectively present a crankbait, and land a fish after it strikes your offering. For deep-diving crankbaits, your rod should be 7 to 8 feet in length with a slow, medium taper. An excellent choice would be Pinnacle’s new Tournament Class Perfecta DHC5-781CAMHCB, or my personal favorite – the Perfecta DHC5-7111CAMHCB. Your reel should have a 4.5 to 5.0 gear ratio and be spooled up with 10- to 12-pound test fluorocarbon. I recommend Pinnacle’s new Tournament Class Optimus OP10XTSR baitcaster, which casts great, is ultra-smooth and features a 4.7:1 retrieve. Before you start fishing, make sure the drag on your reel is set fairly loose, so the treble hooks on your crankbait are less likely to tear loose when a fish makes a sudden, hard lunge.
With the multitude of different crankbaits on the market, deciding on colors/patterns can be a confusing task for any angler. Making the right choices, however, can mean all the difference in the world when it comes to catching fish. The first rule of thumb is to stick to the main forage patterns. Bass feed on three main forages – bluegill, shad and crawfish. If you stick to these three patterns, you’ll be able to fish confident, knowing you’re using a lure that’s likely to produce. When selecting bluegill pattern crankbaits, look for patterns that include “blueback chartreuse” or “blackback char” colors. If you’re out to mimic shad, choose either “blue and chrome” or “gray and pearl” patterns. To imitate crawfish effectively, I suggest a crankbait that features a black or green back, brown sides and an orange belly.
When you purchase your crankbaits, instead of buying baits in five different colors, go with several baits that feature just one or two color patterns. This way, you’ll be able to build up your level of confidence in certain colors.
JOHN CREWS: DROP SHOTTING 101
One of the most frequent questions I get from anglers of all skill levels is, “What is the key to drop shotting?” These fishermen are generally familiar with the tackle required, so in most cases they’re really looking for the “how” and “where” to use this application. For reference, however, here’s the type of tackle I recommend for drop shotting: A medium-light to medium action rod, such as Pinnacle’s new Tournament Class Perfecta DHC5-721SPM, works best for this type of fishing. You’ll want to match your rod up with an appropriately-sized, high quality spinning reel with a smooth, precision drag. Either of the new Pinnacle Tournament Class Performa XT reels (PEF 30 or PEF40) would be ideal. Spool up your reel with 6- to 10-pound test co-polymer or fluorocarbon. When drop shotting, low stretch line is key for maximum sensitivity and solid hook-sets, especially when you’re fishing in deeper water. As far as hooks go, I recommend small EWG hooks (no. 4 to 1/0) for Texas Rigging, and the same size Gamakatzu drop shot or wide-gap finesse hooks if you’ll be nose-hooking your baits. Your weight should be a drop shot “cinch on” type, placed about 6 to 18 inches from the hook. A 3/16 ounce weight is standard, but you can make adjustments, lighter or heavier, according to the depth and conditions.
Once you have the proper set-up, you’re ready to start catching fish. Knowing when/where to employ a drop shot rig is critical for maximum effectiveness. Clear water and drop shotting go together like cornbread and chicken. Clear-water bass rely heavily on sight when feeding. When these kind of conditions prevail, the fish are well aware of any offering that has an unnatural motion. That’s the beauty of a drop shot rig. Since the line goes directly to the hook and bait, which are not hindered by the weight, the movement is more natural. Straight-tailed worms allow for the best undulating action when drop shotting, and generally elicit the most strikes. Again, clear water is key – the more stained the water gets, the less effective drop shotting becomes.
GRANT GOLDBECK: DON’T GIVE UP ON A SPOT TOO QUICKLY
Many times, in tournament competition, I’ll find a spot where the bite is on fire one day, and basically non-existent the next. When this type of scenario occurs, there are two possible scenarios: the fish have simply moved on to another part of the lake, or they’re still there, but no longer hungry. Some anglers, after getting no bites with the same lure and retrieve that worked so well the day before, will quickly give up on an area. That can be a big mistake. Often, the fish are still on the spot; they’ve just looking for something different. And sometimes, all it takes is getting that first bite to make the school competitive and turn things around.
If you’re not catching fish using the methods so productive the day before, try switching things up to entice that first bass into biting. If the fish are no longer falling for slower presentations, try a reaction bait and a faster retrieve. A change in lures and a speedier crank can often alter the mood of an entire school. Sometimes, bass won’t go after a slowly worked worm or creature bait because there’s no sense of urgency. Changing things up and ramping up the speed can change the entire situation. If you’re fishing a jig, speed things up by keeping the bait moving on the bottom, deflecting it off as much cover as possible. If you’re crankbait fishing, try using a more rapid retrieve to get the fish to bite. Regardless of the lure you use, getting a reaction out of that first fish is often the key to turning a negative school positive. So, don’t be quick to give up on fish that you know are there. Sometimes, all it takes is a little faster, more aggressive technique to get them in a biting mood.
GRANT GOLDBECK: TARGETING OFFSHSORE BASS WITH FINESSE PRESENTATIONS
When fishing offshore brush piles, I love to throw big deep-running crankbaits, big jigs, and big worms. And there are days when “power fishing” baits are all you need to get fish around offshore cover to bite. Then again, there also days when these bigger baits are simply too much, and the fish won’t eat them as well as smaller offerings. I’ve found that, when oversized offerings don’t work, switching to spinning tackle and downsizing both my line and lures will often do the trick.
Both drop shot set-up or a shaky-head rig with a finesse worm will entice offshore bass when bigger lures fail to produce. Try drop shotting a finesse worm in front of a bass that’s suspended in a brush pile. Chances are, if that fish is hesitant to strike a larger bait, he’ll readily take this kind of offering. If the bass are holding deeper in the cover, a smaller shaky-head worm will let you allow you to get down there and still offer a finesse presentation.
At times, I like to combine the two techniques to target fish suspended over the brush and fish locked down at the base of the brush with the same rig. This is actually quite easy to do. Simply combine the drop shot with the shaky-head by using the shaky-head jig as your drop shot weight. This lets you use two baits to target different fish in different parts of the water column. Use the finesse bait of your choice as your drop shot bait, and tie on a shaky-head with another finesse bait as your weight and “second” lure. This kind of novel presentation will increase your percentages by allowing you to finesse fish and cover more water at the same time.