We’ve had a lot of conversations lately about the Jika (pronounced “zee-ka”) Rig for catching Bass, and maybe even Walleye. Does this cross between a dropshot and a Texas rig work in place of the standard dropshot? We know it will punch through heavy vegetation and has great action!
Our warehouse is stocked with supplies to build your own Jika Rig, so read on, and when you’re ready, start shopping our Jika Rig essentials via the links below!
The Jika Rig has been around for a long time in Japan but only made the jump to the U.S. a few years ago (you can find other articles out there on the topic like this one from Angling Buzz).
The Jika Rig uses a split ring to connect the eyelet of a widegap hook with a dropshot weight. This additional weight creates a unique swim and dropping action that grabs the attention of both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. Connecting the weight without a leader offers a more compact casting profile and allows the bait to sink straight down. The split ring allows the wide gap hook to float freely and rotate from side to side as it descends.
When and How to Fish a Jika Rig:
The two main cases for fishing the Jika Rig are: (1) the same situations when you would use a drop shot and (2) to pierce heavy vegetation.
When used in place of a short drop shot, the Jika can be thrown between boulders and in holes where Large and Smallmouth Bass might set up for an ambush of their prey (minnow or worm). It can also be used in spots where fish are feeding on crayfish. Like most Bass jigs, it’s effective near brush piles, rocks, standing timber, stumps, and under docks.
The Jika Rig is also great for punching through heavy grass and vegetation. Its compact configuration concentrates the rig’s mass, and the split ring stands the bait straight up when descending. It is a unique alternative in any part of the United States where you are fishing heavy hydrilla, lily pads, milfoil or other matted grass.
The Jika Rig can also be used in deep sediment but unlike a Texas rig, the separation of the weight and the hook keeps the bait just off the bottom instead of pulling it down into the muck with the weight.
Similar to other rig techniques like the Texas rig or Carolina rig, the number of variations is nearly endless. Smallmouth tend to be uniquely attracted to the tube bait which can be added and dropped between large boulders or across mid-lake humps.
Add a finesse worm, craw, creature, lizard, or other soft bait in a color that matches the season or water clarity of your waterbody and the Jika Rig will deliver a big hook up.
How to Build Your Jika Rig:
As a tackle company that’s creating custom shopping experiences by lake, we want to show you how to make your own.
Here’s a quick video from Angling Buzz on how to make a Jika Rig with very little cost and even some gear you probably already have.
These are the products we recommend
for making your own Jika Rig with little investment and an opportunity to give
it a try. The main components are:
The effectiveness of the Jika Rig in certain situations is nearly unmatched with its ability to penetrate dense vegetation and keep a bait horizontal and close the bottom in open water situations. Give this technique a try and let us know how it goes!
The Square Bill Crankbait has a long history of success, producing heavy bags early and late in the season for decades. Recent tournament success has re-sparked popular interest, so we’re digging into the details – why is a square bill crankbait different than any other shallow water crankbait?
Taking the name from its dive lip, the sharp corners of the “square-bill” are ideal for banging off cover like rocks, wood or docks without getting hung up. A disruption in the swimming action caused by crashing the bait into the cover is usually what triggers the bite. This crashing action and performance in cover is what separates the square bill from typical round bill crankbaits.
Designed for shallow water (6 ft. or less) and meant to be fishing in and around cover, the square bill makes an excellent search bait. Look to fish in areas with lots of cover, stumps, rocks or docks, working to bounce the bait off of the cover.
While the square bill is a versatile bait that can catch fish year-round, Spring and Fall are the primary seasons of usage as fish tend to be more concentrated in the shallows.
Selecting a Square Bill Pattern:
Some of the best colors early season colors are the craw patterns. For spawn/post spawn in stained water, try a Sexy Shad or more vibrant colors with chartreuse. In clearer water, stick to natural colors such as Bluegill or Summer Sexy Shad.
Ready to pick your square bill pattern? Shop here!
Anglers have been catching fish with a simple jig head and soft plastic for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that this common setup was given a set of guidelines and a name. The Ned Rig is named for Ned Kehde, who is known for catching absurd numbers of fish on a regular basis with this simple bait.
The components are simple, but the variations are limitless. First, you will need a light wire hook attached to a moon head or round-shaped jig head. The light wire combined with the smallest head applicable to the situation you are fishing (anywhere from a 1/32oz to a 1/4oz) will give the bait the most realistic/natural action possible. The shape is important because round heads allow the bait to stand up when dragged across the bottom.
Variations can include head style, hook size, and the presence of a weed guard. The head style is dependent on the structure you are fishing. For instance, if you are fishing rip rap or rock chunk it may be better to switch to a football-style head to prevent snags.
Hook size should match your bait size. As you increase your bait size, you’ll want to size up your hook to improve your hookup ratio. Generally, for a bait 3 inches or less use a #1 and anything larger use a #1/0 size hook. If you are fishing around wood, consider using a jig head with a weed guard.
Selecting the Right Stick Bait:
Choosing the right stick bait comes down to size and buoyancy.
Stick baits can come in many different lengths and girths. Figuring out what the fish want on any given day could mean the difference between loading the boat or going home empty-handed. If you are on a spot where you know there are fish, try out different sizes to hone in what the fish want.
Buoyancy will determine the rate of fall and action of the bait. More buoyant soft plastics will produce a slower gliding presentation as the bait falls through the water column. If you’re looking for a faster fall, use a heavily-salted bait (which will also produce more bites).
Since this is an ultra-finesse technique you will want a rod in the Medium to Medium Light range with a parabolic bend. Having a soft tip is also important to help you pin the light wire hook in the fish’s mouth during the initial hookset. The strong backbone in a parabolic bend rod helps you fight the fish on the light line that is used in this presentation. A 7 ft. length is perfect for making precise casts to targets and is also long enough to help make long casts in open water.
For the most part, you will be fishing this technique on a spinning reel setup. The two main factors you want to have in a reel when fishing the Ned Rig is a butter smooth drag and a larger spool size. The drag is key when fishing light line applications. Setting your drag properly allows you to fight the fish and prevents you from breaking off. Since you will not be horsing the fish in and instead be waiting for the fish to tire out, you want to have a larger spool size to pick up slack line faster. A 2500 series reel is the perfect size as it gives you more spool pickup but isn’t so big that you lose feel when working the bait.
Using the smallest line possible in any given situation will not only make the presentation stealthier but will also enhance the natural movement of the bait. For a leader, use 6- to 10-pound fluorocarbon depending on the water clarity and structure you are fishing. For the main line, 15- to 30-pound braid will increase your sensitivity, reduce line twist, and allow you to cast farther.
How to Fish It:
The Ned Rig is ideal for clearer water fishing when the bite gets tough. It’s a perfect follow-up bait when more active techniques shut off or when fish are hard to come by altogether.
Focus on subtle color patterns: silvers, chromes, greys, and blues imitate bait fish feeding on the bottom while greens and browns will imitate crawfish scurrying across the floor.
The Ned Rig is a high percentage-area bait, meant to be cast to precise spots or structure. The highest probability of getting a bite will come on the initial fall and within 5-10 ft. of working it on the bottom. If you don’t get a bite, reel in and cast to a new location – no need to waste time working the retrieve with this technique!
Let your initial cast fall to the bottom on a semi-slack line to prevent the bait from swinging back towards you. Semi-slack line also gives the bait the realistic action needed to elicit a strike.
Once the bait hits the bottom, reel in extra slack and let it sit for a second or two. From there you can do just about anything with it, depending on how the fish want it that day. The most common retrieve is dead sticking – dragging the bait along the floor with the rod tip and then reeling up the slack line. Repeat for as long as desired. Another popular retrieve is hopping it along the bottom. Again, make the bait move with the rod and only using the reel to pull in the slack line.
During the retrieve, pay additional attention if the bait gets hung up. If you feel it against a rock, stump or any other piece of structure, take a couple seconds to shake the bait in place. That action along with popping it free from a snag will often produce a reaction strike. You can also watch for line jumps or it swimming off, indicating you got a bite.
Money Saving Tip: Do you also Wacky or Neko Rig soft plastic worms? When you retire a worm because it is ripped or torn, save it for your next Ned Rig. A slight trim with scissors will give the bait a second life and save you money!
Moving into March and early April the Largemouth should be on beds spawning. Good places to try your luck for a trophy bass include the back of Harvey Creek, Buck Bay, and Deer Stand.
“Some of the fishing is way back in the bays, along the edges of some of these that have a drop off close by,” said seasoned Rayburn fishing guide, Lynn Atkinson. “We’ll start off throwing a spinner bait, looking for bedding bass and then maybe switch off to wacky worm or a jig.
Atkinson is fishing water 3-8 feet deep. “I stay in that
water column pretty much during the spring. That’s where the majority of the
big girls are going to be. You should be able to see the bass on the beds in
the shallower depths where the water is pretty clear.”
Lynn likes the double gold-bladed spinner bait. “My buddy and I have been throwing them for years. I put a little trailer on behind the skirt. Usually, I’ll throw it out there, let it sink to the bottom, let it sit for a while, pop it a couple of times, and slow roll it, just getting the blades to revolve as I reel it back to me. I want it to touch structure or bottom as it comes back to me. The fish I catch will be laying on the bottom.
Lynn uses five to six inch Zoom Finesse or Senko worms. He throws the worm out, let it sink to the bottom and just kind of jiggle it back to him, real slow. “If you see a bed, throw it up in that bed, let it sit, just kind of jiggle it. The bass will pick it up. They think it’s a salamander or other predators that have come to feed on the eggs of the bass.
Jig weight size can be anywhere from a 5/16 to 3/4 oz bait. “I pitch toward stumps or a bed that I can see a bass nesting on. He also targets fish on incoming points, 12 feet of water with a 1/16 oz. jig catching fish that are moving in and out of bays and coves. His favorite color is green, with a green Zoom Magnum Crawler behind the hook. “It has some red metal flakes mixed in; I think the name of the color is Watermelon.”
“I like the flipping jigs as they seem to come through most of the cover good. I work it real slow, drag it on the bottom.” Final words of advice: “Stay tight around the spawning areas; that’s where they are a going to be, up shallow and keep the bait on the bottom.” About the end of April or the beginning of May the fish will be moving into the deeper water. His biggest fish has been a 11.20 lbs. trophy.
Crappie in Toledo Bend can be found in brush along the bank, around boat docks, marina piers, bridge pilings, and enclosed baited fishing shacks. They like to stay close to some kind of structure. The best-producing structures are submerged man-made brush piles. “People try to find Crappie on their own, but once they get into the boat and we go to one of our brush piles, it’s a different ball game,” said Haley Porter of Toledo Bend Guide Service – Hook’em Up. “Not every time, but most of the time.”
March, April and May … “Typically we tell our customers that the Crappie season starts in April and ends about in June, sometimes July,” continued Haley. “It depends on what kind of winter we have had. Late March is usually a good time to start fishing for crappie.”
A Gentle Hookset
A Crappie bite can be a hard hit, but in my experience, it’s more of a “soft bite.” They will just kind of peck at the bait offering. When you feel the peck, don’t try to cross their eyes like you would a bass or catfish. They don’t call them “paper mouth” for nothing. If you jerk too fast or too hard, it will rip their lip from their mouth. Use a net for landing crappie, instead of swinging him over the side of the boat.
Live Fatheads and Golden Shiners are generally the two most-used minnow-type baits. Use lightweight wire hooks to keep minnows alive longer and to make it easier to get out of snags. Hooking the minnow through the lips allows it to swim relatively freely, but with a small minnow it prevents small fish from drawing water into its gills and it eventually dies. Another way is to hook the minnow is through its back, in front of the dorsal fin. If care is taken to pierce only the skin and not the spine, this method will keep a minnow alive for a longer time.
Jig Fishing for Crappies
Marabou jigs or Kip jigs… two totally different jigs and both have their merits. The Marabou lets the jig sink faster than the Kip tail. Marabou works well with a chenille body jig and the Kip tail works well by itself. A Kip tail, sometimes known as a “Calf tail”, is tied utilizing a crinkly material. Marabou is cheap and comes in some vibrant colors.
For vertical jigging when there is very little forward movement, one angler said he preferred the Kip tail. Without forward movement, the Marabou tends to poof out like a ball of fluff while the kip tail keeps a more streamlined profile. The Marabou has more action, but the Kip tail works well when the water is still cool.
Now is the time to check out Crappie equipment. The season is almost here. Remember to ease the hook into the paper-thin mouth of old slabside…kind of like fishing for Speckled Trout in saltwater (but that’s another subject for another time).
The spinnerbait stands the test of time – it’s been a mainstay in tackle boxes for as long as people have been chasing fish. Recently though, there has been a decline in the use of spinnerbaits for the simple fact that new baits and innovative lures have come onto the market. Where someone used to throw a spinnerbait, they are now picking up a swimbait or crankbait.
Despite the ever-changing lure market, a spinnerbait shouldn’t be overlooked. It remains one of the most versatile baits on the market and can be fished year-round. Its versatility comes from the ability to change components to match the water and conditions you are fishing.
Nothing affects a spinnerbait more than tinkering with the blades. With the varying types, sizes, colors, and configurations, spinnerbait blades provide dramatic changes in how the bait fishes. Below, we dive into modifying your spinnerbait with the various blade options.
There are three main blade shapes, each with its own purpose. Properly matching the type of blade to the conditions you are fishing will put more fish in the boat.
The three main blade types are Willow Leaf, Colorado, and Indiana.
Willow Leaf blades are longer and have a slender shape. They kick off the least amount of vibration, making it the perfect choice for clear water situations when fish are primarily feeding with sight. The slender profile mimics many of the baitfish in our lakes and rivers. The shape also allows the bait to move through the water faster, preventing fish from getting a good look at it as it cruises past.
Willow blades should also be used when you want to burn the bait back to the boat in warmer water where Bass are more willing to chase prey. With the least amount of resistance in the water, they also make a great choice when fishing deeper. The bait will not want to lift as much as it will with other blades. Lastly, the longer profile is also a great option when fishing through vegetation, as it helps the bait slide through without getting hung up.
Colorado blades are the complete opposite of the Willow with an almost perfectly round shape. It produces the most amount of vibration in the water and should be used for murky or muddy water situations. The loud thump produced by these blades allows Bass to locate the bait with their lateral line when they are primarily feeding by sound/feel. The shape of these blades also mimics the shape of panfish and are a great option when the primary forage are smaller Bluegill, Sunfish, and Crappie.
Colorado blades should be used when you want to work the bait slowly back to the boat in colder water while the Bass are more lethargic. With a lot of water displacement, these blades will want to rise up in the water column as you reel faster which makes it a great option in shallow water applications. Colorado’s work best in open water or around hard structure like rock and docks since they are more likely to get hung up in vegetation.
Indiana blades are the happy medium between the Willow and Colorado with their teardrop shape. This blade makes a great option when you don’t want to completely commit one way or the other. They are perfect for medium retrieves in warming or cooling water. They’re also a great option for slightly stained water where there are several feet of visibility.
All three blade types come in different sizes and there are several reasons to play around with different optins. Common sizes range from 0 – 8 with eight being the largest.
For Willow blades, the main reason to adjust size is to match the hatch. Since you will be using these blades when Bass are feeding with sight, finding the appropriate size blade that matches the size of the forage in your body of water will help get more bites. Bass will relate better and feel more comfortable attacking something that has a similar profile to what they usually feed on.
For Colorado blades, size will primarily determine the amount of thump the bait has in the water. When Bass are feeding with their lateral line and seem finicky, reducing blade size will make that bait seem less powerful. In extra muddy situations, heavy current, or lots of wind, a bigger blade may be needed to allow the fish to feel your bait from far away.
For all blade types, increasing the size will also allow you to run the bait slower and provide more lift in the water column. Being able to determine what the fish are reacting to and matching that with the current conditions will help you select the proper size blades.
Blades come in three primary color options: Gold, Silver, and Painted.
Gold blades are a great option in low light conditions. Whether it be slightly stained water, cloudy days or early morning/late evening, the gold blade provides the benefit of a darker profile while maintaining some flash. They should also be utilized when the primary forage has a goldish tint to it (think Golden Shiner).
Silver blades will perform best in clearer water and sunny conditions. This color is all about the flash which can imitate many different types of baitfish. Without letting the Bass get a good look at the bait, a silver blade will look like something they regularly eat. A perfect example would be during the Shad spawn.
Painted blades can be used in many different situations. The only downside is the lack of a natural flash like you get from gold and silver blades. White, black, red or orange are great options for really muddy water and night fishing. Solidly painted blades are ideal for giving the bait contrast and will help fish locate it as it comes by.
The other option for painted blades is a color pattern that imitates specific types of forage (like a Sexy Shad or Blue Back Herring pattern). These blades are best used in clearer water.
There are three main types of blade configurations: Single,
Double, or Tandem.
Single blades are just that – one Willow, Indiana, or Colorado attached to the body of the bait. Single-bladed baits should be used when a smaller presentation is needed. If the bite has been tough, or you keep getting short strikes, moving to a smaller profile with a single blade will be less intrusive.
Double-bladed baits have two of the same style blades. It can be a double Willow, double Indiana, or a double Colorado. Depending on the style of blades, doubling up causes a different effect. Running double Willows gives the spinnerbait a bait school look. If Bass are chomping hard, adding that second blade could increase your strike percentage by looking like an easy 2 for 1 meal. Double Colorado will give you extra lift and allow you to work the bait slower. If you are looking for a more subtle presentation in dirty water you could go to a double Colorado with much smaller blades, giving you the same lift and speed as a larger single Colorado.
Tandem is when you have two different styles of blades on the bait and is typically the most versatile of the three configurations. Whether it is a tandem Willow/Colorado or Willow/Indiana, each pairing will allow you to tweak the presentation ever so slightly to your liking.
There are virtually unlimited options with different blade styles, sizes, and colors. The two most import pieces of the puzzle to put the winning combination together is understanding the current conditions you are fishing and paying attention to what the fish are telling you. With that in mind, there is no reason not to catch fish any time of the year on a spinnerbait! Give it a shot, and let us know how it goes!
We had a chance to catch up with Seth Feider before he hit the water for practice leading up to the start of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. Fresh off winning the Big Bass at last year’s Classic, we wanted to get his perspective on the water, the competition, and how he plans to approach this year’s tournament. Read on for his thoughts, and stay tuned for more leading up to the Classic!
With this being your
second Classic appearance how does this go around differ from your first?
SF: I have a different mindset going into this one. The first one you make you’re just happy to be there. This one I am putting all my focus on trying to win.
Do you think
smallmouth or largemouth are going to be a bigger factor in winning this
SF: I think they will both play. The water is kind of muddy, so the deep Smallmouth bite might be a little off, but I think those fish will get up shallow and end up being caught cranking like you’re Largemouth fishing.
Tellico or Fort
SF: I am going to spend most of my practice on Tellico. I came for pre-practice and there was only one area on Fort Loudoun that interested me. On the last day of practice, we have to blast out of where we will take off from in Knoxville during the Classic. I am going to use that day to look at Fort Loudoun. Other than that, I am going to spend the first few days on Tellico.
With other anglers
posting on how muddy it looks, do you have any concerns with the water clarity?
SF: I actually drove around the lakes a few days ago looking at it and they both looked pretty good. Loudoun was a little bit dirtier on the main lake, but it hasn’t rained for a while and they drew the lake way down. The backs of the pockets are some of the clearest water on the lakes right now. A lot of those creeks are running crystal clear in the back. I thought it was going to be in way worse condition listening to everybody on the internet.
How do the water
SF: Right now (the day before official practice begins) the water is 3 or 4 feet low. They dropped it down hard to the point where I hope we get some rain to get a little more water in the lake. It’s supposed to rain every day while we are practicing but I don’t know if it’s going to amount to much.
What are going to be
some of the challenges during the tournament?
SF: It got really cold here. It has been in the teens and low 20’s for the last 3 nights. I have been fishing on Watt’s Bar and am barely getting bit over there. I think by the time the Classic rolls around, the fish will be biting good, but I think practice is going to be tough to get a bite. At the end of the day, I think it is going to be a grind even if they are biting good. Especially if you are making a long run and then keying in on an afternoon bite. It’s going to be long days.
What types of areas do you think will play during the tournament?
SF: Tellico had some pretty clear water, so I am going to try some deep smallmouth stuff there. I don’t know if it’s going to play or not. If it doesn’t, its just going to be a bank beating tournament. I will be looking for rock transitions in the creeks because the water seems to be a little clearer and warmer back in there.
We can’t wait for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic (we’re pulling hard for our boy Seth Feider) so we’re getting started early. Any purchase from now until March 20 is automatically entered to win this Daiwa jerkbait rod/casting reel!
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Arbitration: Except where prohibited by law, as a condition of participating in
the Sweepstakes, Entrant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be
resolved between the parties, claims and causes of action arising out of or
connected with the Sweepstakes, any prizes awarded or the determination of
winners, shall be resolved individually and exclusively by arbitration pursuant
to the commercial arbitration rules of the American Arbitration Association,
then effective, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Further, in any such dispute, claim
or cause of action, under no circumstances will Entrant be permitted to obtain
awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim indirect, punitive,
incidental or consequential damages, or any other damages, including attorneys’
fees, other than Entrant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e., costs associated
with entering the Sweepstakes), and Entrant further waives all rights to have
damages multiplied or increased.
List, Official Rules: For a list of prize winners or a paper copy of these
Official Rules, send your request and a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Omnia
Fishing Feider Classic Sweepstakes, 6146 Olson Memorial Highway, Golden Valley
Addresses: 6146 Olson Memorial Highway, Golden Valley MN 55422
The GEICO Bassmaster Classic Presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods is set to kick off next week. This will be the 3rd time in 49 years that a Classic has been held in the state of Tennessee, but the first time this historic event will take place in Knoxville, on the upper Tennessee River. With more than 30,000 acres of fishable area, the 52 anglers competing in this year’s classic will have plenty of room to spread out.
Each morning, the field will take off from Volunteer Landing in downtown Knoxville. From there, they have the option to go north up the Holston River to the Interstate 40 bridge or up the French Broad River to the Highway 168 bridge. The southernmost boundary is formed at the Fort Loudoun Dam, allowing anglers to explore both Fort Loudoun (explore the Omnia lake page for Fort Loudoun here) and Tellico (see the Tellico lake page here) in their entirety.
Fort Loudoun sits directly on the Tennessee River and has an abundant supply of river features and backwater areas for anglers to explore. Its water clarity is similar to that of other TVA reservoirs with 2-5 ft of visibility. Many features like rock piles, bluff walls, and humps/flats will come into play this time of year.
Tellico sits at the bottom of Fort Loudoun and is connected via a canal for greater flood control of the Tennessee River. The lake was formed by damming up the Little Tennessee River which flows northwest out of the Appalachian Mountains. This water source is the reason for its enhanced clarity, often allowing for 10 ft of visibility.
Another challenging factor for anglers will be whether to
target smallmouth or largemouth bass during the tournament. This fishery is
known to have a healthy population of both. The size limit for largemouth is 14
inches while smallmouth sits at 18 inches. Coming into the scales with a limit
of smallmouth will no doubt put an angler higher in the standings but will
certainly be a challenge to fill out a limit. It will be more common to see
mixed bags coming across the stage.
Factors to Consider
Depending on the weather, this time of year should have
smallmouth in pre-spawn to spawn while the largemouth will be a month or so
behind. Focusing on spots that are holding both smallmouth and largemouth may
prove to be the key to hoisting that classic trophy.
Having a storm roll through could affect the fish greatly. With no rain, the lakes currently sit at about 4 ft below summer pool, eliminating a lot of shallow cover and backwater areas where bass could have otherwise been located. It also means that the water is relatively clear and has an effect on the overall approach an angler might have to certain spots. If rain does start to come through, you could see warm muddy water push fish even shallower and create a dream situation for bank power fishing.
With a possible rising lake due to rains, current could also
play a huge factor in locating fish. A sudden rise in lake level would cause
the TVA to fluctuate the flow of water to help regulate water levels. Pulling
the water hard one day and barely moving it the next could make it difficult to
replicate the same pattern from day to day.
The tournament waters are filled with a variety of structures as you move from top to bottom. It feels more like a river in the Northern part and starts to show more like a lake as you move farther South down the waterway. Locating hard surfaces will be an important factor in finding pre-spawn fish. The fish will also most likely be using ditches and canals to move throughout the waterway. Bluff walls and sand ridges with rock could also prove to be holding places for smallmouth as they stage for the spawn.
With water temps projected to be in the high 40s to mid 50s,
baits that can be moved slightly slower in high percentage areas will be great
options to target bass gearing up for the spawn. The water clarity will also
play a huge factor on how the fish are relating to structure and how receptive
they will be to different types of lures.
Fort Loudoun will play well for a mid-depth to shallow bite with its relatively murky water. Little to no rain before and during the tournament will provide for relatively higher water clarity. In that situation, more realistic baits in size and color should be a great option. With shad being the predominant forage, expect to see more whites and silvers being used to imitate bait. Cold, clearer water also plays well to using flat-sided crankbaits and smaller swimbaits.
With one good rain, Fort Louden could get muddy in a hurry. If that happens, we should see anglers adjusting to slower moving baits that displace a lot of water. Crankbaits and Colorado bladed spinnerbaits could become a winning factor. Rain during the tournament would also provide a good opportunity for bass to feed up in creeks where warmer water is bringing in phytoplankton that baitfish will gravitate towards. Picking apart these areas with a jig could be a great strategy to fill up the livewell.
Tellico will allow anglers to catch fish deep with the
extended water clarity, especially since the bass should be moving into their
pre-spawn staging areas. If we see any angler finesse fishing deep during the
tournament, it will most likely be in this clear water for staging bass.
Jerkbaits should also be productive with the added visibility and will allow
the angler to cover more ground trying to find schools of fish.
Cloudy and windy days could help anglers who focus their time down in Tellico. The expanded strike zone and the ability to locate bait sets up well for a productive day on the water. In that case, willow bladed spinnerbaits and tight wobble crankbaits with forage paint schemes could be the ticket to catching that 20-pound bag.
While any given tournament winner is hard to predict, especially when it comes down to the Classic where the top anglers in the world meet, there is something to say for the local guy. In this case, there are four anglers who call Tennessee their home. With there not being a lot of history on this section of the Tennessee River it definitely is an advantage to fish and be familiar with the waters that East Tennessee has to offer. Of the four locals, Ott Defoe may stand out from the rest as he calls the take-off location, Knoxville, his home. Defoe has also been doing extremely well the last couple of years around his home waters with two first place finishes and several other top-20 finishes. The other three to look out for are Brandon Lester, Wesley Strader, and Jacob Wheeler.
The tournament kicks off on Friday, March 15 from Volunteer
Landing in Knoxville, TN.
Hall of Fame angler Steve Pennaz is known nationally as one of the deadliest multi-species anglers today.
So when he says he can help any Walleye angler catch more fish with a couple tweaks in technique and tackle selection, well, we listened.
“Most walleye anglers struggle with keeping their cranks in the strike zone when trolling,” he shared recently. “It’s not good enough to put a bait a couple feet above the bottom and expect success. You need the bait to run less than a foot above the bottom, and there are even times when bouncing off the bottom will trigger strikes that other depths can’t.”
“But line selection is just as important because it allows you to put the bait exactly where you need it and continually monitor it to makes sure it’s not fouled with grass.”
“Top braids like Berkley X5 in pound tests like 8 or 10 are ideal. Not only does the thin diameter allow the bait to reach its maximum diving depth, the lines also don’t stretch, giving you incredible sensitivity.”
“Berkley X5 was launched last year and it quickly becoming the favored line of top pros. It’s a 5-carrier braid with four strands of strong Dyneema fibers braided around a core that allows the line to maintain shape. The result is a line that is incredibly strong, handles well and offers tremendous abrasion resistance.”
We’ve tried it…and we wholeheartedly agree.
“With braid and the right lure, all the angler needs to do is continue to let out line until the bait starts tapping bottom, then reel up a crank or two – the bait is now in the strike zone.”
And Pennaz has one more trick up his sleeve—the twitch!
The Finishing Touch
“Ah, the twitch…you really want me to share this?,” Steve says with a wry smile.
“What I call the “the Twitch” is nothing more than working the crank with quick pops, pulls, and hesitations that trigger strikes from fish that would pass on a crank that simply swims over it. Fish prey on forage that is easy to catch and with the Twitch you are perfectly mimicking a wounded or dying baitfish.”
Lastly, Pennaz also shared that Walleye in lakes with high fertility (lots of weeds, Bass, and Sunfish), often key on small Bluegill. Crankbaits like the popular Berkley Flicker Shad in colors like Purple Tiger and Flashy Green Crush are superb.