One of the questions I get all the time is how to keep a plastic bait from sliding down the hook. I get it. Ruined plastics don’t catch bass and they can get to be expensive over time. Here’s how I’ve learned to solve that problem: Use a screw-type, spring looking bait keeper when you thread your plastic on your hook, but not in the way you might think.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s a screw looking, spring-like bait keeper with a ring on top. Some people call it a hitch hiker. The way it’s supposed to be used is by attaching the ring on top of the screw to your hook and then screwing the spring into your plastic. This keeps the plastic on the hook.
But there’s another way that works even better, and it’s more versatile. Don’t attach the ring on top to the hook. Just screw the entire bait keeper into your plastic, all the way in until the ring is buried and out of sight.
Then push your hook through the inside of the screw and out the bottom. This won’t interfere with the way you rig your plastic. It’ll work anyway you want. But, what it will do is keep the bait from sliding down the shank of the hook. And don’t worry about it interfering with your hookset. It won’t.
These bait keepers come in a variety of sizes. Make sure you have a few of each and don’t pay much attention to what size the manufacturer puts on the package — large, medium or small. There’s no standard. The sizes will be different from one manufacturer to the next.
I know this sound crazy but it really does work. Practice with some of your old hooks and baits. Once you get the hang of it your fishing will be closer to hassle free and you’ll save a lot of money that you can use to buy other fishing stuff.
One of the great things about fishing
is that everything old will become new again if we wait long enough. And so it
is with the free rig, a new technique that’s really a take-off of the old Texas
We’ll talk about building a free rig
first and then we’ll talk about what it does and why it’s so effective.
The idea behind this rig is to create a finesse type of presentation but with weight so that it’ll get to the bottom quickly and so that it can be handled by conventional tackle. That’s easy enough to do if you do start with a sinker that has a tear drop shape and that has a circular line tie on the top of the bait.
Back in the day we called these
sinkers Dipsy Weights, or sometimes just plain ‘ol catfish sinkers. In my
opinion the best ones have round metal eyes on top. Some anglers like a swivel
below the eye. That’ll help keep your line from twisting. I like the ones that
are called drop shot sinkers.
Run your line through the eye and then add an 8 mm black bead so that it’s between the weight and the hook. You’ll want your hook to be a regular or light wire model. Avoid heavy hooks. You don’t need them and they’ll interfere with the finesse movement of the plastic bait.
My strong preference here is a VMC closed eye drop shot hook. They offer
several models. Any of them will do the job. Match your hook to the
size and thickness of your plastic.
You can use any bait that’s made on planet Earth but my choice is almost always a Berkley Powerbait Mantis Bug. It’s a 4-inch bait that has lots of appendages. It has all the features you want and it seems like you get the best performance from a free rig when you use a creature bait like that.
Color is optional. If the water’s
clear or close to it, I go with something that looks natural and that matches
the hatch. If the water’s a little stained or even darker than that, I go with
black or something that has enough color to it that they can find it. There’s
not much noise with this technique so you need to give the bass some help.
What happens when you cast a free rig
is that the weight drops down the line to the hook and bait. This gives you
easy casting, long and accurate. But when it hits the water the weight slips
back, up the line and separates from the hook and bait. The weight drops
straight down — fast — while the bait falls leisurely towards the bottom.
I know that some anglers say this rig
is efficient anywhere but in my experience it’s at its best in open water or
sparse cover. Places like long, wide flats running out from points or near
creek mouths are perfect.
There’s a good video on the free rig
done by FLW professional angler, Shinichi (Shin) Fuqua,
for The Bass University. It’s only 5 minutes long but will give you a complete
explanation of how this rig is put together, how it works and why it works.
Click here to watch it.
Tip: Mess around with a punch skirt on
your plastic. Depending on how you rig it, it’ll act like a parachute on the fall
and it’ll make your plastic look like it’s breathing, kind of like a jellyfish.
Make the free rig a part of your bass fishing arsenal. It’ll give ever more pressured bass something new to look at, and bite. ______________________________________________________
This spring has been unbelievably wet. It seems like it rains every other day, sometimes not even every other — just every single darn day. The lakes and rivers are high. The fishing is tough but it’s still possible to catch them if you keep a few basic things in mind.
First, when water rises the fish will rise with it. They’ll follow it all the way in as far as they can go. They don’t care about houses, campgrounds or baseball fields. But, the good side of that is that their locations are predictable. They’ll usually be found in the thickest, heaviest and nastiest cover they can find. And so, that’s where you should be fishing.
I flip and pitch that kind of cover. I go right into the middle of it and worry about how I’m going to get them out after I hook them. It’s about first things being first.
For years my most productive baits were jigs, Texas rigged plastics and, more recently, a punch rig. But that was then. Things have changed.
The VMC Tokyo rig is my go-to setup now. It has everything you need except for the weight — you’ll want to pick your own depending upon conditions — and a plastic bait. The thing that’s so great about the Tokyo rig is that it holds the bait up, off the bottom regardless of how much muck and mud is DOWN there. That’s important because bass won’t root through the mud to get something. They aren’t scavengers.
My favorite bait is a Berkley Powerbait Jester Craw. It’s basically a creature bait with flappers, several appendages and a ribbed body. I don’t care how dirty or muddy the water is that you’re fishing, the bass won’t have any trouble finding this one.
A much tougher situation than when the water’s rising is when it’s been high and starts to fall. The bass move out with it but they don’t necessarily follow the water line exactly. In most cases they go back to the original bank line regardless of how shallow or deep it might be at any given time. I’m guessing they sense a measure of security when they do that, something they know.
The best bait for this scenario, bar none, is a heavy spinnerbait. It’ll give off plenty of thump and is easily controllable by almost any angler.
My preference here is a 5/8-ounce Molix Venator. The wire is flexible and so it has a lot of thump. That’s what I’m looking for in a spinnerbait under these conditions. As good as it is right out of the box, though, don’t be afraid to customize it with different blade combinations. Sometimes that makes a big difference.
You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about color. That’s because I’m a firm believer in matching the hatch. Whatever the bass are eating in your waters is what you should try to match. That’s true for any plastic or hard bait that I’ve talked about in this blog.
Tip: Learn to search the Internet for information about lake levels, where they’ve been and where they’re going. If you can’t find information about water levels where you’re fishing, ram a stick down into shallow water and check it periodically. That’ll let you know what’s happening and how fast it’s happening.
Don’t let this bad weather get you down. There are still plenty of fish you can catch.
We had a huge success with The Ike Foundation at the Bassmaster Classic Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. I couldn’t be happier with what Becky said about things. (I wasn’t there because I was fishing all three days.)
As I’m sure most of you know, The Ike Foundation is a charity set up to get kids fishing early. The idea is that if we get them started early, when they’re little, they’ll fish all of their life. But, even if they don’t, they always have positive memories of fishing and the outdoors. That’ll keep them on our side even if they aren’t out on the water.
That’s super important because the anti-types aren’t going to go away and temporary wins for us won’t guarantee final victory. We have to work at preserving this wonderful sport every single day — no exceptions.
So anyway, we had great support from the fans and from our sponsors, Toyota and Pure Fishing. They understand the importance of bass fishing and, frankly, they put their wallets in front of their mouths.
I’m told that the Paint-Your-Own-Bait booth was an especially big hit. That’s where the kids paint and design their own baits. They can do anything they want. Well, pretty much anyway. It’s interesting to see what they come up with. Some of it is really creative and some of it is really realistic.
Another thing is that we gave away 500 Flambeau tackle boxes with Ike Starter Kits in them. I’m especially proud of that program. It’s one thing to talk fishing. That’s all well and good. What we do, however, is give them the basic starter tools they need to go out and actually catch a fish. That matters even more.
The final thing I want to do here is remind everyone reading this that The Ike Foundation is a real charity that relies on the support of our sponsors, our fans, and the entire fishing community, really. There are lots of volunteers who generously donate their time and resources and all the proceeds of The Foundation go right to the kids.
I was fishing earlier this winter — ice fishing actually — up on Mille Lacs, Minnesota when something struck me that I want to share with you. I may have talked a little about it before but it’s worth mentioning again.
Fish are coldblooded, prehistoric creatures. They don’t know what a lure is supposed to do or why it was invented. They have no ability to think or reason. A fish will bite something because it looks like food or because they’re predators and they can’t help themselves. What they do is simple and straightforward, even if we don’t always understand it.
So anyway, back to the Mille Lacs trip.
We were supposed to be fishing for walleye and yellow perch. We caught plenty of them, too. But in the mix was a surprising number of bass — nice, healthy ones. The lure we used was a Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jig. They come in five weights and sizes, and in at least 10 colors.
Basically they look like a small minnow with flat sides. You tie them on through a loop on their back that’s in a place that allows them to hang perfectly horizontal when they’re in the water. They have one treble hook on the bottom just below the line tie and a single hook in front and another one in the back. To top all of that off they have a wide, flat plastic tail.
They are a true engineering marvel.
There’s nothing especially tough about fishing with them. Just drop them straight down below your boat and jig them up and down. If the water’s cold, go slow and easy up and even slower and easier going back down. When the water warms increase your speed accordingly.
But do not, under any circumstances, rip them when you pull them up. These baits are designed to be jigged slowly. They are not blade baits. If you pull them up too fast, you’ll destroy their unique vibration.
And, when you let them down do so on a semi-slack line, and watch it carefully. You want them to fall semi-freely so you get the benefit of their unique spiral, but you also want to be able to set the hook in an instant. Dropping them down properly is as much art as it is science.
Most of your bites will come on the fall.
The reason I’m talking about them now is because they are more than ice fishing lures, no matter what their name implies. They are dynamite baits when bass are suspended in schools. It doesn’t matter how deep they’re holding or how cold or warm the water is where you’re fishing.
With the smaller and lighter lures I drop down to a 7 foot Abu Garcia Ike Delay Series Casting Rod. I use the same reel but I lighten up my line to something between 8 and 12-pound-test.
I always fish my Jigging Raps with straight fluorocarbon line. Never use a leader. You’ll get better action and catch more bass that way.
Give a Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jig a shot this summer when the bass school up offshore over deep water breaks. That’ll show them something they’ve never seen before, and just might put a few giants in your livewell.
Just when you think you know it all something comes along that you’ve never heard about, not even thought about. That’s what happened to me this winter on the Upper Mississippi River when I was fishing Pool 2. I was introduced to the tumble rig.
We were fishing near a power plant with a warm water discharge. Typically that’s where you find a lot of fish in a small area, and that’s exactly what we found. But, even though we were catching fish, the bite wasn’t anything close to what we expected.
That’s when the fellow I was fishing with said we should try a tumble rig. Somewhat embarrassed, I told him I didn’t know what that was and probably didn’t have the tackle to rig one. No problem, he had what we needed.
The idea was to fish suckers, a swimbait or a plastic minnow on a live line but make them look dead. All you really do is hook them, cast them out and let them tumble along the bottom with the current. It was amazing! We immediately started catching more fish and bigger fish. Honestly, I can’t remember a fishing day turning around so quickly with only a change of bait.
We fished in a fairly strong current but I’m thinking it’ll work just as well in a reservoir or when the wind is making current. If the current isn’t strong enough to move the bait, you can always help it along a little. But, I mean just a little. Think natural when you fish a tumble rig.
The one problem with it is that it will twist your line. But we solved that by using a VMC Spin Shot Hook. There are three models to choose from — the Neko, the Wide Gap, the Power Shot. They’ll all work depending on what bait you choose and how you hook it. Grab the one that works for you.
We hooked ours in a variety of different ways. Open point worked best — nose or back — if the bottom was relatively clean. If it was covered in drift and other stuff, we Texas rigged the hook with the point skin hooked. And sometimes we just skin hooked the bait almost anywhere.
We were using spinning tackle so we tried not to bury the hook too deep because it was difficult to get a good hookset that way.
The best line setup is 6-10-pound-test braid to fluorocarbon leader (long) or a straight fluorocarbon spool. I like the straight fluorocarbon best because I helps keep the bait down on the bottom where it needs to be to attract the better size fish. All my lines are made by Berkley, either X5 or X9 Braid or Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.
I know this sounds crazy to some of you. A dead minnow tumbling along the bottom? Really? Come on Ike? We know better.
It goes against everything we know as anglers. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I’m telling you that this is a super good technique. I don’t write about anything that doesn’t catch fish. That’s not who I am, and I’m telling you this is the thing.
Last time we talked about the two rods in my Abu Garcia Ike Delay Series that are designed for twitching techniques. This time I want to cover the other five models. I’ll detail what they’re designed to do and why I recommend you take a close look at them when it’s time for you to upgrade.
I may have mentioned this before but it’s important enough to repeat: The name Delay was no accident. The idea behind these rods is to make them hesitate just a little bit before you feel the bite and set the hook. But, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about that.
This is a big deal with treble hook lures. If you set the hook too quick, you’ll get a shallow hookset or jerk it out of the fish’s mouth. Neither one of those things will put it in the
livewell or give you a long and thrilling fight. A tailwalk is a great thing to
watch, but not when she throws your lure 20 feet off to the side.
The first three of the five I want to cover here are designed with a 50/50 bend to them. The last two have a 60/40 bend. The reason for that is that the first three are for lighter lures that have less resistance when they’re retrieved. The last two are for heavier baits that pull hard when you retrieve them.
The 6 foot, 6 inch model is designed specifically for squarebill crankbaits. It’ll throw them easily and allow you to work them in and out of heavy cover, which is where you should be fishing them most of the time. It has a normal butt. You won’t be twitching a square bill very often and you don’t need a lot of leverage with these lures. A short butt doesn’t do a thing for your fishing with these baits.
The 7 foot version is my all-around rod. You can do almost anything with it. It has a normal butt for the same reasons as the 6 foot, 6 inch model. It’s a great choice for those who can only afford one rod or for those who want to try one of these out before they buy more.
My 7 foot, 3 inch design is for medium weight and medium running crankbaits. It has a longer butt that’ll give you just a little more leverage. That makes a huge difference over the course of a long day’s fishing.
The 7 foot, 6 inch rod is designed for heavy lipless crankbaits. With
its longer length and longer butt you can throw one of those things a mile, and
do it all day long without fatigue or muscle cramps.
My final design is a medium heavy 7 foot, 11 inch stick that I designed specifically for deep-diving crankbaits. It’s the perfect choice if you like to crank deep ledges, creek channels or main lake points with a Rapala Ike’s Custom Ink DT Series Crankbait.
I designed the Ike Delay Series rods
for specific purposes and for lures that are armed with treble hooks. They’ll do exactly what anglers want them to do when they’re on the water. I suggest you give one a try the next time you upgrade your tackle. And, they don’t cost an arm and a leg. They retail for $149.99.
Which rod is right for you? In this video, Mike lists the specific baits that work with each rod, so you can match your preferences to the right rod.
Recently I received a really good report from a friend who’s a serious recreational angler about one of my rods — the 6 foot, 4 inch, medium power, moderate action Ike Delay Series made by Abu Garcia. I thought I’d share some of his experiences with you and give you my perspective on why they should be in your rod box.
He fished jerkbaits for smallmouth
with it. Here’s a mix of what he had to say and what I have to say.
First, let’s talk about the length and the handle. At 6 foot, 4 inches it’s short enough to be used comfortably by anglers who aren’t 6 foot tall or better. That’s a big deal because as you create a cadence with that shorter length you don’t slap the water with the tip and you aren’t dealing with a piece of equipment that’s heavy and unwieldy.
Another thing — I learned this many
years ago from Larry Nixon — is that the shorter length slows you down. You don’t
move the lure as far with a twitch as you would with a longer model. My friend
is 5 feet, 8 inches tall so the shorter length suited him perfectly and, like
most of us, he has a tendency to speed up his presentations at times. The
shorter length helped him deal with that, too.
The last thing is this category is the
short handle. This
makes it easy to twitch with and the handle doesn’t slap against your forearm
or get caught in your elbow. It also helps balance the rod in your hand. That
might not make much difference during the first hour you’re fishing a jerkbait
but it’ll make a huge difference at the end of the day. And, my friend also
commented that it didn’t get all tangled up in his heavy clothing. (It was cold
where he was fishing.)
The second thing I want to talk about is the delay action that the soft tip gives you on the hookset. This rod is part glass so it has a soft, parabolic bend to it and a springy tip. This allows the fish to take the bait completely in its mouth before you feel the bite or are able to react to it. At the same time, though, the spring in the tip drives the hook home, clean and with force every single time.
Don’t worry about the soft bend, though. The butt is plenty heavy enough to handle a big fish. My friend was especially impressed with this aspect of the rod because his bite was out, off the end of big laydowns. He had to move his fish away from the tangle of wood quickly or he would have lost them.
There’s also a 6 foot, 8 inch model that’s basically the same except for the length. It’ll meet the needs of taller anglers or those who want to make longer casts, or in unusual circumstances handle heavier lures. I like to call both of these rods twitch rods because they’re made specifically for baits that are retrieved with a twitch or a jerk. They’ll handle walking sticks, prop baits or any other lure as easily as they handle jerkbaits. Give one a try if you get the chance. You won’t be sorry.
Ok, so we’re in London, England, this time. This was the first time I’ve ever been there and I have to say that it’s awesome, really cool for a guy from Philadelphia. I’m going to go back in the near future and take Becky with me. There’s no doubt that she’ll like it as much as I do.
Let’s talk fishing: Our targets are English Pike, Barbel and European Yellow Perch. You saw most of it on TV last night but I’m guessing you’d like to hear a little more about exactly what we did and how we did it.
They are basically like our Northern Pike except that they live in England. A big one will weigh 30 pounds. A giant will tip the scales at 40 pounds, maybe a little more. There are reports, however, of some in the 50 pound class but those reports can’t be verified. They’re either too old or the scales weren’t certified.
We fished the Thames River for them on this trip. It was cold and the fish were very lethargic. That made catching them a challenge,
but we did manage a few.
Our primary lure was a Berkley Powerbait Hollow Belly Swimbait — 6-inch version — rigged on a VMC Ike Approved Heavy Duty Swimbait Hook. The hook was a 5/0 and the weight was 3/8-ounce.
We used the big 6-inch version of the swimbait. These fish feed big so we wanted to match the hatch as close as possible
This was tough fishing. The only way we could get a bite was to slow roll the swimbait along, right on the bottom. And when I say slow roll, I really mean
s-l-o-w. It was just barely moving.
We managed to catch several with our best fish weighing 24 pounds. In the English Pike world that’s not real big but it’s not a dink, either. They fight hard even in the cold water. We had a ball catching them. It was a fun part of the trip.
My rod was a 7 foot, 6 inch medium heavy Abu Garcia Ike Power Casting Rod. I mounted a 6.6:1 Abu Garcia REVO Ike Casting Reel to it and spooled up with 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
I’m guessing very few of you know much about the barbel. I didn’t either until I went to London and fished for them. The best way I know to describe them is that they’re kind of like a small carp. They like heavy current, feed on the bottom, and they don’t bite artificial lures much. A good size one will weigh in the teens.
We went after them in the River Wandle just south of London.
Our rig was basically a Carolina Rig, not really much different from what bass anglers fish with all the time. We used a No. 2 VMC Drop Shot hook, a sliding weight, a swivel and a stop. Our main line was 20-pound-test Berkley 5X Braided Line. We attached a short leader — something like 2 feet long — using Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon to it using the swivel in between the two.
Our bait: This is the part where I don’t want you to laugh, at least not too hard. We used Spam. I’m telling you — it worked. A giant gobbled it up, I mean right now. You could almost hear her smacking her lips together in delight as she fought to stay out of our boat.
We only caught one but it was a true monster. We didn’t put it on our scales but I’d guess it weighed in the high teens. It was definitely pushing 20 pounds.
Question: Do you think channel cats would eat Spam? I wonder…
European Yellow Perch
European yellow perch aren’t much different from the yellow perch we have over here. They look about the same and have the same general lifestyle and feeding habits. But, there is one major difference. They grow much bigger than ours. A lot of them you catch will be in the 3 pound class and a true giant may go up to 6 pounds. You won’t see that in the United States or Canada. Ours just don’t grow that big.
We were cursed with a nasty cold front the day we went after them. That made the fishing really tough. We didn’t catch any.
I’d like to tell you something different but, as you know, my shows are real, authentic in every respect. We don’t fake anything. We’re proud of that. And, we have tough days just like you. Every angler does. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s nothing you should lie about. I won’t, not ever.
We fished the canals and waters around Canary Wharf. It’s a really cool place — lot of shops and financial institutions. I have to say that visiting it was worth the whole trip to London.
I fished with a 7 foot, medium action, Abu Garcia Ike Finesse Series Spinning Rod and a 20 size Abu Garcia REVO Ike Spinning reel. I spooled my reel with 6 and 8-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line — straight fluorocarbon — no braid, no leader.
Our lure was a 3-inch Berkley Powerbait Ripple Shad on a 1/8 or 3/16-ounce VMC Finesse Half Moon Jig.
London is a really neat place to visit. It’s historic, but modern at the same time. The fishing is good despite our struggles with the European Yellow Perch. It’s different from what we have here in the States. And, if you decide to take some time off away from the water there’s plenty of other things to do with your family before bedtime.