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Entries in bass fishing (54)

Sunday
Nov192017

'Fisheries-Induced Evolution' Could Make Bass Tougher To Catch

Following what is believed to be the first research to look at fish stress as it relates to angling success, scientists have some bad news for bass fishermen.

"We could potentially be selecting for fish that are harder to catch," said Cory Suski, University of Illinois natural resources and environmental sciences professor, who conducted the investigation, along with Illinois Natural History Survey research scientist Jeffrey Stein and graduate student Michael Louison.

Over time, as the bass within a population willing to bite are diminished by anglers who keep their catch and/or delayed mortality, "fisheries-induced evolution" could occur, leaving behind a larger percentage that are not. Commercial harvest of the only the largest fish in a species provides an example of how that happens.  Eventually, fish predisposed not to grow as large dominate and average size declines.

Before this research on bass, most studies of fish vulnerability have focused on personality traits, such as boldness and aggression. This one looked at levels of stress hormones and how they related to a fish's reaction to presentation of a bait.

"When it encounters a challenge or novel situation, a fish's adrenaline shoots up, and that individual is more likely to attack or run away," Louison said. "But if an animal shows a relatively high cortisol response and a low adrenaline response, they're more likely to freeze."

Based on a study of 113 largemouth bass for boldness and stress response, those that freeze are the least likely to bite. For the boldness test, researchers looked at how often each fish left a refuge area of a tank and ventured into the open. For the stress test, they took blood samples, exposed the fish to the open air for three minutes, and then returned them to the tank, where they recovered for a half hour before a second blood sample was collected.

The researchers compared cortisol levels in each fish before and after the air-exposure challenge. A separate trial measured the fish's metabolic rate.

They then released the fish into a small pond and commenced seven days of two-hour angling trials, using a variety of lures. They found no correlation between a fish's metabolism or willingness to explore and its likelihood of being caught. But they did see a substantial association between stress-related cortisol levels in the fish and their likelihood of being captured by angling. Post-stressor cortisol concentrations were 48 percent higher in the fish that were never caught than in those that took the bait.

The researchers cautioned that their findings so far apply only to one species under a special set of conditions. Other species may respond differently.

"The ultimate question that we're trying to ask is, 'Why do fish hit a fishing lure?'" Suski said. "We tested a lot of mechanisms that could potentially explain this behavior, and we saw that hormonal response was the main driver."

Friday
Aug042017

Trik Fish Introduces Fluorocarbon For Flipping, Pitching

Stealth fishing just got stealthier with new Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon line by Trik Fish, a company in Clermont, Fla., owned by my good friend Dave Burkhardt.

 Just introduced at the ICAST show in Orlando, the new line is tough enough to fish in the heaviest cover, yet, unlike braid, it "disappears" in the water. That makes it especially effective on bright days, in clear water, or when bass have lockjaw.

"I like to use the 20- or 25-pound test when I have to fish slower and they are looking at the bait longer," said Florida tournament angler Uby Rosell. "Bass are more likely to see the braid than the fluorocarbon."

Additionally, fluorocarbon keeps baits in the strike zone longer. Because it is more dense, it sinks faster than monofilament and copolymers, but not as fast as braid, allowing the bait a slower and more natural fall. That's another plus when the bite is tough.

Also available in 15-pound test, this is the first fluorocarbon packaged specifically for bass anglers who flip and pitch cover. "It's on 150-yard spools so this German-engineered line is perfect for the bass guy with low-profile reels," said Burkhardt.

Rosell added that he uses the 15 for flipping and pitching to grass edges with a smaller bait. "Also, I'm a co-angler," he said. "While the guys up front are using braid, I'm using fluorocarbon to get the bites they miss, especially when the fish are sensitive."

FLW pro Troy Gibson especially likes the 15-pound line. "I really am pleased with the minimum stretch that is delivered by Trik Fish and the super stealth that this line provides," he said.

" I cannot say enough about this line and will not use anything else when the money is on the line."  

Besides minimum stretch, Trik Fish Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon doesn't absorb water, meaning it won't lose strength when wet. It is extremely UV resistant. Plus it has great knot strength and is highly abrasion-resistant with virtually no memory.

Finally, braid, no matter its color,  has a distinct visual presence, meaning fish can see it in even the dingiest of waters. On the other hand, Trik Fish Flippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon refracts light nearly the same as water, meaning it disappears. That translates into more takes, especially when the bite is tough.  

"More and more of the pros are rigging with Trik Fish Fippin'/Pitchin' Fluorocarbon to get more bites," said Burkhardt.

(You also can check out Trik Fish on Facebook.)

Wednesday
Jul202016

Volunteers Bring Texas' Lake Livington 'Back to Life'

Too often, fisheries habitat projects by non-government groups are limited or even shut down because of a lack of funding. With that in mind, bass clubs and other organizations would do well to follow the example of Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs (LLFoR).

The goal is "to bring this lake back to life," according to Tom McDonough, project director for. "This used to be one of the best bass lakes in the United States, and we want to make it that again."

But McDonough realized that sustaining a 10-year commitment to establish aquatic vegetation on the 83,000-acre water supply impoundment near Houston will require more than occasional grants from Friends of Reservoirs and others. A funding-raising raffle helped some, but it was formation of a Business Leaders Council (BLC) that likely will sustain the project.

 

In just two months, LLFoR is a quarter of the toward its goal of recruiting 20 companies, local governments, and even individuals to donate $500 a year for the nine remaining years of the project.

"The BLC donations will be key going forward, as we most likely cannot apply to FoR for a grant every year," McDonough said. "This will provide us bridge funding and gives us the flexibility to do some funding of items that the federal government will not allow grant funds to be used for."

Thus far, work has focused on propagating and planting water willows for the coalition that has 23 partners, including six school districts, Texas Black Bass Unlimited (TBBU), Onalaska Bass Club, and Polk County Hookers, as well as Trinity River Authority, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), and Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership severing as advisers.

Plantings by volunteer students and teachers were planned for May and August of this year, while McDonough hoped that anglers and others would wade into the action in between those two months. The goal is to put in 10,000 plants a year, with TBBU paying for production of a video, both to promote LLFoR's work and to provide guidance for volunteers.

All of the vegetation to this point has been water willows, but McDonough said that other species might be added as well, including bulrush.  "This plant is  grass carp resistant and can grow from the shoreline into three to five feet of water," he said.

Both the natural aging of the lake and the illegal introduction of grass carp contributed to the fishery's decline.

Monday
Jun132016

Gift Guide for the Father Who Fishes

 

1. New bass boat--- $50,000

2. New tow vehicle --- $30,000

3. Fishing trip to Mexico's Lake El Salto--- $2,000 plus air fare

 4. Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen--- $12.86

 

Monday
Feb012016

Confidence, Patience Just Two of Secrets for Topwater Success

I caught this bass on Sam Griffin's Offset Sam, my favorite topwater for big bass.

Its rubber skirt long ago dried up and crumbled into dust, but the old yellow Hula Popper remains one of my most prized possessions.

I haven’t fished with it in 40 years, and, as best I can remember, I caught only one bass with it.

But that one fish . . . well, it set the course that I have followed as a lifelong angler, including to my friendship with Sam Griffin, a lure designer and one of the world’s best topwater fishermen. That’s why I so love that Hula Popper.

Yet, I didn’t make the connection between that lure and my addiction to topwater fishing until I wrote an essay in my new book, Why We Fish.

As I started to write “The Proof Is in the Popper,” my intent was to point out that pleasant memories of previous trips are some of the main reasons that we fish. But then the essay took on a life of its own as I visualized that fall day on Turner’s pond so many years ago.

The water was flat calm, and I knew next to nothing about fishing a topwater. Since the bait was a “popper,” I popped it. In fact, I popped it as hard as I possibly could, sending ripples all across that pond.As the pond returned to glasslike following my second pop, water under the lure exploded, and I suddenly was tied fast to the biggest bass that I had ever hooked.

Of course, it wasn’t large enough to pull drag on my Johnson Century spincast reel. But at 3 pounds, it was a trophy in my eyes as I dragged it up on the bank. My heart nearly leaped out of my chest at the sight of that fish, and, after I put the fish on my rope stringer, I remember looking down to see my hands still shaking.In the decades since, I’ve caught thousands of bass larger than the one that I caught that fall day, including more than a dozen that weighed 10 pounds or more. And I have caught some of those lunkers on Sam’s wooden surface baits, mostly the Offset Sam.

But I’ve never caught one that excited me more than that 3-pounder did. And as I wrote about that, I suddenly realized, hey, that’s why I like topwater so much!

How can a 3-pounder that I caught on top as a child mean more to me than 10-pounders that I’ve caught as an adult?

If you’ve ever returned to the elementary school that you went to as a child, you know that the halls, the rooms, the desks, everything looks smaller to you as an adult that it was in your memories. Well, it’s the same thing.

I have no doubt that if a 3-pound bass were to blow up on that Hula Popper today in exactly the same way as that one from my childhood, the explosion would pale in comparison to what I remember.

But just as school is larger in our memories than in the reality of adulthood, so too is that strike.

That’s why I’d rather throw a topwater than anything else.  I remember how that blowup excited me, and I want more, in much the same way that an addict needs his fix.

And that’s why I’m so blessed to have Sam as a friend. It’s as if some higher power led the student to his teacher. For years, Sam made baits for Luhr Jensen, including the Jerk’n Sam. Now he makes his own line, including the Offset Sam, a slush bait, and the Lil’ Richard, a finesse lure that has been his biggest seller.“Keep throwing a topwater and eventually you will get bit,” says the man who has been designing and making topwater lures for more than 30 years and who has been living on and fishing Lake Okeechobee for most of his 70-plus years.  While guiding and “field testing” his lures, he has logged more time on the water than most any professional bass fisherman.

“My big things are to be confident and have patience. I’ll fish behind people throwing worms and crankbaits and catch fish they bypass. I like to fish that topwater slower and let ‘em read the menu.”

Sam Griffin making b

Sam’s Secrets

Here are some of the strategies that Sam has shared with me during our time on the water together:

1. On topwaters, most fish are caught on the front hook. That means it is important to have a bigger, stronger hook there.

2. Dress up the back hook. Sam has learned that he gets 25 percent more bites when he puts pearlescent Mylar tinsel on the back hook. It’s especially productive when the bait is still.

3. The same topwater bait will work anywhere. “It’s a matter of confidence,” says Sam. “That’s why there are regional favorites.”

4. Slow down. “Most of the time, people fish a topwater too fast,” the lure designer says. “They’re just pulling and pulling. I’d say that 85 percent of the time, the bite comes when the bait is still or coming to a stop.”With most topwaters, Sam will jerk the bait twice, creating slack in the line and allowing the bait to sit. Then he will swing the rod tip toward the bait, taking in line, and repeat the sequence. With a popper, he might jerk just once.

“Pay attention and fish will let you know what they want,” he says. “If you are fishing too fast, they will follow but not hit.”

5. “Early and late is a myth,” says Sam. “Those are not the only times to throw a topwater. People used to fish two or three hours before work and then come home and fish two or three hours. That’s the way that got started. I’ve found that 10 to 2 is the most productive time for big fish.”

6. Color is more important to the fisherman than it is the fish.

“When I develop a lure, I seal it so it won’t take on water, but I don’t paint it,” Sam explains. “Then I fish with it. I’ve probably caught more fish on those baits than with painted baits. I’ve sold a few like that too, but mostly they’re too bland for fishermen.

“I offer 26 colors, but black and white is what I use the most. It’s what I grew up with and what I have confidence in.”

7. Topwaters aren’t just for warm water.

“You can catch bass consistently on top in water that is 50 degrees or above,” the Florida native says. “Usually in colder water, you want to fish extremely fast or extremely slow, not in between.”

The popper is a good choice for colder water, he adds, because you can keep it in one place longer and because its tail sits down in the water, making it easier for the bass to take.

8. Topwaters aren’t just for calm water either.

“Take what the weather gives you,” says Sam. “In rough weather, you can throw in the ‘wind rows’ in grass. And you can throw in troughs between waves. Most of the time, you’ll want a faster retrieve in rough water, to take the slack out of your line.”

9. Not every topwater bite is explosive. In general, louder and larger baits will draw more aggressive bites. Smaller, more subtle baits will get the “suckers.”

“In cold weather and in calm water, when you’re using a small bait, it’s really important to watch your line, just like you would with other baits,” Sam says. “That’s because you’re more likely to get a sucking bite.

“With a soft, suck bite on the back of the bait, don’t set the hook hard,” he cautions. “Instead, lift up and reel. Otherwise you’ll pull the hook out. When you do get a fish this way, it’s usually hooked on the edge of the mouth or even the outside.”

If you want to incorporate some of Sam’s lures with his strategies, your best chance of finding them are in the bait shops around Lake Okeechobee. A few are listed from time to time on eBay and possibly you might find some at other websites as well.

Just as with that yellow Hula Popper, I’m not about to part with any of mine.