Winter Maintenance for Rods and Reels

With the holidays upon us its a great time to take a break and maintain your equipment. This week Tim breaks down the steps he takes to keep his gear in tip top shape. Take a few minutes over the holidays to winterize your gear, it will pay off when the new year starts. 

Step 1) Clean The Cork

After a long season of flipping, pitching, frogging, etc... the cork can get pretty dark. A quick scrub with denatured alcohol will have it looking like new. When you're done with the cork rub down the rod and reel as well. 

Step 2) Clean and Inspect the Guides

Cork Before Cleaning

One of the most common causes of lost fish and nicked lines is damaged guides. Inspecting the guides by sweeping a cotton ball through them will show you if there is any damage. Any chips or cracks of any kind will require a guide replacement. Better now than when there is a 10 lber at the other end of the rod!

Step 3) Adjust and Dry your Reels

We're not going to go into a full breakdown of reel maintenance as its is a whole video series by itself. We do however recommend backing off your drags and drying your reels thoroughly. This is especially important if you use braided line. Braid holds moisture long after you're done fishing and if you have a perforated spool that moisture is going straight into the reel's interior. 

4) Clean the Braid

Clean the braid? Really? That seems like overkill until you do a little research. Cleaning your braid with a product like Braid Aid (recently recommended to us and man does it work) will extend the life of the braid and drastically increase your casting distance. Its a time consuming process to strip all the line and clean it properly but its worth doing. Besides, its the holiday season... its this or fruitcake so get to work. 

5) Rod Gloves

Cork after Cleaning

Last but not least, use rod gloves. They're your friend. Matt spent years making fun of Tim and his rod wraps but fast forward to Matt's equipment falling apart and Tim's looking brand new... get some rod gloves. Not only do they keep your rods protected (no more broken tips in the rod locker) they also keep lines from tangling and can help with organization by color coordinating rods (wrap all your sissy spinning rods in pink rod wraps so everyone knows you're actually using those things).

We know this isn't a typical fishing tactics video but with the year coming to an end its important to take a few minutes and maintain your equipment. You'll be glad you did when you hook a giant on your first trip back to the lake!

Winter Fishing: Top 5 baits for Cold Water Bass

With winter fast approaching most lakes have turned over and the bass have headed for warmer deep water haunts. "Deep" is a relative term that varies lake to lake but when bass head for the depths a lot of anglers lose confidence.

In this week's video we break down our favorite baits for seeking out those deep water bass. This list may be missing some baits you expect but when the going gets tough, these 5 options are consistent producers.

1) A Football Jig: Tim and I vary a little on our specific choices. I lean toward a 1/2 oz or heavier Dirty Jigs Finesse Football (Give "Go To" or "Super Matt Brown" those colors are deadly). Tim takes it a step further and will occasionally go as light as 3/8 oz with his Dirty Jigs HP Football Jig. Why go with a light weight in deep water, you ask? With the lighter weight comes a smaller hook, allowing you to drop to lighter line and even throw the jig on a spinning rod if conditions require.

2) A Drop Shot: Tried and true, this bait is deadly in deep water! Tim likes to downsize, often using a size 2 Owner Mosquito hook with a small tungsten weight. He insists that the light hook allows his bait to have maximum action in deep water. As for baits, he uses a wide range of options but a 6" Roboworm Margarita Mutilator is a proven winter time color.

3) Ball Head: The ball head is such a simplistic way to fish and consistently catches quality fish in the cold water months. Much like a darthead, you should thread the worm on so the point of the hook is left exposed. The difference between a ball head and virtually every other head design is that it has almost no action of its own. This is a drawback most of the year but when the water is cold that "dead action" drives the fish crazy. Tim and I both agree, a 5" senko is your best option with this presentation. Day in and day out, it gets a significantly larger bite than smaller worms.

4) A Jigging Spoon: The spoon is a deadly bait throughout the fall but don't lose faith as cooler temps take over and the bass become lethargic. Using a very subtle flip-flop approach, keeping the jig on bottom at all times, is a phenomenal way to get a big bite in winter. Matt prefers the Blade Runner DUH spoon for its ideal weight, size, and color schemes.

5) The Small Swimbait: I prefer the 6" Basstrix or the 4.8 Keitech coupled with 1/2 and 3/4 oz Swimbait Heads. With an exposed lead head its very easy to maintain bottom contact. From rock to gravel, sand to mud, you'll feel every change in contour and the bite will be unmistakable. For this method I maintain constant bottom contact and swim the bait as slowly as I can stand. It presents a sizable but slow moving meal to the bass that is hard to resist.

This Winter, consider not getting your boat winterized. Instead, head for the lake! The bass are still there and they still need to feed. You may be surprised to find that some of your biggest bites of the year come when the water temperature is below 50 degrees.

Epic Battle On Light Line

You know that moment when you set the hook and instantly know you're not in control of the situation? This was one of those times! As soon as the hook was set it was very clear, Matt was in this fight for the long haul.

Its no secret, Matt will pick up a swimbait rod spooled with heavy line over just about anything else in his arsenal. Day in and day out the giant baits on heavy gear produce big bass. Even so, there is a time and a place for everything and on this particular day the bite was tough. A nasty cold front had blown in, bringing with it freezing rain and the threat of snow.

Matt spent the first half of the day probing likely areas with Huddleston and Trash Fish swimbaits to no avail.  After giving up on the big baits (It happens to everyone) he was doing his best to draw a reaction bite before packing it in and heading home.

Just hoping for any bite and not really expecting a big bite, Matt had abandoned the heavy gear and was throwing a small crank on a light Crankbait rod, spooled with 20 lb braid and 10 lb leader. When the big fish hit she immediately surged away from the boat, the drag screaming as 20+ feet of line flew off the reel on the first run. Matt struggled to loosen the drag in time. Once the drag was backed off, cooler heads prevailed and it was a matter of waiting out the big fish as she burrowed under the boat in the open water.

While this big largemouth bass was unexpected, having the right gear and the patience to play the fish out made all the difference. With light line and little size 4 EWG hooks the fight could easily have ended in disaster. The whole experience just goes to show, its important to be a well rounded angler, willing to adapt to changing conditions. There are so many ways to catch a big bass. Its okay to fish your favorite techniques but when its not working, face the reality, change your presentation, and you might just catch a giant bass on a new technique!

Has this happened to you? Tell us about your most unexpected big bass catch. We'd love to hear about it!

Lipless Crankbaits in Winter?

Most anglers consider a lipless crank to be a warm water lure. Its something you pull out after the spawn and fish until the bait goes deep in the fall. There is little doubt that it shines during these periods but if that is the only time you're throwing a rattle bait you're missing some of the most exciting fishing of the year!

Lipless crankbaits are a 12-month a year bait. Whether you're fishing in 2 feet or 70 feet, 75 degree water or 38 degree water, there is a bass just waiting to smash the bait. The key is how you approach the technique.

In this video we break down 4 key retrieves that will help you take full advantage of the baits you already know and love. In addition we will break down the key factors to look for (weight and sound) and how they combine to create the perfect package.

We're not here to try and convince you to buy a particular bait. You can buy any bait, or better yet, open your tackle box and pull out a bait you already own, and put these retrieves to work on your local lake. I will however, tell you my favorite lipless baits for cold water bass fishing. But more importantly, I'll tell you how I came to that conclusion.

Let's start with the retrieves:

1) The Flip Flop: The flip flop retrieve (unfortunately it has nothing to do with my favorite footwear) involves very gently lifting and dropping the rod tip without moving the bait laterally across the bottom. You quite literally flip the bait back and forth from one side to the other without lifting it off bottom. Every 10-15 flips you give the rod an extra bump to move the bait forward about 12 inches then repeat the process. 

When and Why? This retrieve works best in the coldest of cold. The bass are lethargic, they don't want to pursue a fast meal. Instead of trying to draw a reaction you're simply making commotion, letting out extra sound, and giving the bass time to inspect the bait. They're slowly lulled in and when the bait hops away, they attack.

2) The Shake: This retrieve is almost a perfect mirror of how I like to work a jig in cold water. It involves shaking the bait right on the bottom. I shake it very aggressively but without moving the bait forward. After 5 to 10 seconds of shaking I snap the rod tip and hop the bait forward 12-18 inches. Once it settles back to bottom I begin shaking again.

When and Why? This retrieve works best in cool to cold water. If the fish are open to feeding some but are still not aggressive, this will fool them. The incredibly obnoxious sound given off by an aggressively shaken lipless is enough to drive anyone insane. (If you fish from an aluminum it will drive you more insane than it does the fish!) Once the fish is agitated and ready for a fight the bait snapping up off the bottom is enough to make them come unglued!

3) The Gentle Approach: This retrieve is incredibly simple! Whether you're in a grassy pond, a rocky ledge, or a featureless mud flat you can catch bass with this approach. After letting your bait settle to the bottom reel up the slack, draw the line tight, and lift the rod 12-18 inches. Lift just fast enough to feel the bait begin to vibrate. Hold the rod still and allow the bait to pendulum back to bottom. Once its settled let it sit idle for 2-5 seconds then repeat.

When and Why? This retrieve is deadly from September to April in a variety of environments. It shines when the water is cool but not cold. If the fish are doing anything from ambushing bait shallow, to sitting under docks, or even lounging in a deep water haunt, this retrieve will get them to bite. Don't be afraid to use this as a direct replacement for a shaky head, spoon, or even a jig.

4) The Rip and Rattle: The first time I saw this approach I didn't know what to think. Was I watching bass fishing genius in the making or just another snagger doing his worst? The weigh-in later that afternoon told the story! This retrieve involves letting the bait settle just long enough to hit bottom. As soon as it hits you sweep the rod (set the hook). As you're reeling up your slack the bait settles to bottom again and you sweep again. This retrieve requires a heavy bait to get back to bottom between sweeps. (You can see how this could be confused with snagging but I assure you the bass come to the boat with the bait in their mouth)

When and Why? The Rip and Rattle is DEADLY when the bass are shallow and feeding. Water temp doesn't seem to matter as its a pure reaction bite focused on triggering an extremely aggressive bite. If the bass are in the shallows and bait is present, you may want to tie the rod to your arm so you don't lose it! The combination of the bait flying through the water, extremely loud sound, and repetition, is more than most bass can stand. If they're under docks, tie it on twice!

Implementing these 4 retrieves will turn you into a cold water rattle bait fishermen overnight. It sounds crazy until you try it for yourself. The fish will take it from there!

I don't like to recommend specific baits because its important to find what works for you but this is one of those rare exceptions where some baits just work better. Bear in mind, I haven't tried every bait on the market but if you want a place to start you can't go wrong with these three and yes, they're in order of importance.

1) Lucky Craft LV-500: Its a killer. This is the best I've found. Its loud, compact, heavy, and has size 4 hooks (this makes light line and a finesse approach an option when the fish are finicky). Its not perfect, but if there is a better all-around bait I've yet to find it.

2) Lucky Craft LVR D-15: When the baitfish are large the D-15 can out-produce the LV-500. Its got larger size 2 hooks, the same deep sound, weighs 1 ounce, and has some killer paint jobs.

3) The Strike King Red Eye Shad: In 1/2 and 3/4 ounce options you get a medium size bait, large hooks, a deadly sound, all at a fair price.  

Understanding sound, weight, and color is also important to your success.

Sound: In cold water, a deep sound is best. Don't be afraid to walk down the aisle at your local shop shaking every bait you can find. The deeper the sound, the better it will work.

Weight: 3/4 ounce seems to be the magic number. If you're working the slower retrieves you can branch out and get away with lighter weights but for the "Gentle Approach" and the "Rip and Rattle" 3/4 or more is critical to how the bait moves.

Color: Let's keep it simple... I like a clear shad color, a clear/opaque mixed color, and a flashy color. In the lucky craft that's going to be "Ghost minnow" , "Light Hitch", and "American Shad". If you're throwing the Strike King think about using "Clear Water minnow", "Sexy ghost Minnow", and "Gold Sexy Shad". I like the clear baits on bright sunny days or in very clear water, the flashy colors in overcast or low-light conditions, and the mixed colors everywhere in between.

If you've made it this far I already know you're open-minded. Take it one step further and really give this a try. Convincing anglers to throw lipless baits while its cold is like trying to convince a kid they're going to like their dinner. You're just going to have to trust me on this one.  

I look forward to your feedback as you experiment with these baits and retrieves. Good luck!

Luck Favors the Prepared

As a serious angler one of my pet peeves is hearing someone say that fishing is "nothing but luck." Anyone who has put time on the water knows this simply isn't the case. We spend countless hours fine-tuning our equipment, studying weather, following fish movements, pouring over maps, and occasionally even fishing in order to keep an advantage on the water and eliminate as much of the "luck factor" as we can.  However, as this week's video will show you, sometimes it just pays to have a little luck!

I guess there will always be a very small part of bass fishing that involves luck. The vast majority of it is skill but you still need the fish to do what they're supposed to do, when they're supposed to do it. On this particular day, the fish did everything right, even when things went completely wrong.

Its been quite a while since we just put up a fun video so this week we thought we'd do something different.

In case you don't understand what you're seeing, I'll give you some background. Tim is on Clearlake in Northern California. He's fishing a bait that we throw often, an S-Waver 200 in Light Trout. He's using a Dobyns 806H spooled with 65 lb braid and a 30 lb leader, afterall this is big fish country. Unbeknownst to him, he's nicked his leader and its no longer 30 lb.

As you can see he gets bit several times but doesn't connect on the hookset. Now here is where the luck factor starts kicking in. In the moment, Tim just thinks he missed a bite, he has no idea (yet) he's enticed a wolf pack of big largemouth into attacking his bait. He immediately gets bit again, set's the hook, and breaks his weakened leader. On any other day it would be time to hang your head, shed a tear, and wave goodbye to your $35 lure and a BIG bass. But today, luck is on Tim's side. As a prepared angler he continues scanning the water instead of throwing a fit like most anglers would.

What he sees is a 2nd bass from the wolf pack try to steal the bait from the bass that broke him off. Now there are two bass (one on the front hook, another on the rear hook) fighting each other over the bait they're both hooked to. The fighting is so vicious they're actually doing cartwheels through the water. Tim springs into action with his net, scooping up not only his expensive swimbait but two big Clearlake bass!

There is no arguing that at this time, on this day, luck was on Tim's side. Too often things go terribly wrong. Gear fails, boats break down, bass don't bite, weather doesn't cooperate, but if you stay prepared the day will come when luck favors you and perhaps you too will have a day go from bad, to worse, to EPIC!

Congrats Tim and thanks for rolling the cameras so we could all see this crazy story play out. From cast to catch, one of the most amazing catches I've ever seen!

Matt Allen Ranked 5th for California's Top 40 Bass Anglers

With the temperatures dropping and bass in the fall transition, there are a couple things I look forward to this time of year. Great bass fishing, and “The List.” For those of you that don’t know what “List” I’m talking about, annually, outdoor writer George Kramer’s publishes his list of California’s Top 40 Bass Anglers. This year is extra exciting. It is the 20th anniversary of the list, and it’s the last. Tacticalbassin’s own Matt Allen not only made the list for the 6th consecutive time, but he is in the TOP 5! Matt landed in 5th place this year and is the highest ranked non-touring pro. Now that Matt is guiding (BassinGuide.com) I don’t get to fish with him as much, but I’ll be the first to say he truly deserves it. Every time we fish together, or film our next video for Tacticalbassin.com, I learn something. The great thing that sets Matt apart from the other “Pros” is his desire to teach. Putting many clients on their personal best bass and straight up crushing giants himself, 2014 has been an unforgettable year. With 72 Largemouth over 7lbs, and 26 Spotted bass over 7lbs to date (11/13/2014), THIS YEAR, nobody can argue his rank! Congratulations to all the anglers that made “The List.” You can see the entire list on Kramer's Blog.

Matt with a GIANT Spotted Bass