Welcome to our web site!
SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!
Come visit us on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15, at the Florida State Fairgrounds on SR 301 and I-4. We’ll be exhibiting at the Florida Sportsman Expo, so stop by and say hello. The show starts at 10 a.m. and runs until late in the day, with offshore and inshore fishing seminars, a kayak stage, an 80-foot rigging table, an indoor fly-casting pond, free face painting and
prizes for kids, a free drawing each day for a 42-inch flat screen TV, and much more. For all the details and a discount coupon, visit www.FloridaSportsman.com/Expo.
Fishing, Faith & Fun is a Bible based fishing program and part of the recreation ministry of Idlewild Baptist Church. Our annual six-week program begins the second Saturday of January. Each session is two and one-half hours long and is composed of classroom instruction and hands-on fishing lessons on IBC’s property. Children ages 7-15 are welcome and parent participation is encouraged. Online registration is available between November 1 and December 31 or you may pick up an application at the Welcome Centers or church office.
Our Mission The mission of Fishing, Faith and Fun is to teach children fishing skills, conservation and stewardship of the resources God has given us. We seek to glorify God and bring children and parents closer to God and each other. We are privileged to teach children the love of fishing and the outdoors that He has given us. All of our instructors are background checked and committed to instructing your child.
Our History The Fishing, Faith & Fun ministry was created in 2007 after God placed in the hearts of a few men the desire to create a fishing program at Idlewild Baptist Church. Through 2011 over 450 children have become graduates of the program. Fishing, Faith & Fun is an offshoot of the Future Fisherman Foundation in conjunction with the US Department of Justice and is supervised by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Fishing Faith & Fun is a three-year program offering basic, intermediate and advanced instruction for children and their parents. The basic program teaches children two methods of fishing along with fish habitat, natural baits, fish biology, conservation and regulations. The intermediate program is for returning children who are placed into special classes and taught the use of artificial baits and a third method of fishing, fly fishing. Professional fishermen assist in the program as guest speakers. Both the basic and immediate programs participate in a fishing tournament, fish fry and graduation ceremony on the sixth week.
Beginning in October 2011, Fishing, Faith & Fun will offer a four week, three hour Saturday advanced program for children that have completed the basic and intermediate programs. The advanced program will pair one child, one parent and one teacher in a 14’ aluminum boat with electric trolling motor and all fishing will be on IBC’s Lake Reinheimer.
Children will be taught safe boating, navigation, charting of the lake and use of all forms of artificial baits. Teachers will also assist children in learning necessary concepts to pass the Florida Safe Boating Exam.
Let us know what you think!
Give us a call or send an e-mail today for more information or to register. (813) 264-1515
Or send us mail Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church 18333 Exciting Idlewild Blvd, Lutz, FL 33548
On August 10 at 5:45 p.m. a large group of teachers, students and supporters of the Fishing, Faith, and Fun Ministry at Idlewild assembled in the Gatheria for a special boat dedication ceremony to mark the beginning of an advanced fishing course this fall. In the advanced course students will apply their shore fishing skills to lake fishing in three new boats purchased for this program. The boats were on display outside the Gatheria and are named for friend of FF&F, Andrew Denison, and for FF&F teachers, Frank Ammirati and Ian Stillman, all of whom have gone home to be with the Lord. The families of all three men were in attendance as Pastor Ken Whitten, Pastor Chris Basham and Jimmy Ammirati spoke of the godly character of each honoree and of life lessons learned through the sport of fishing, such as patience, perseverance and dealing with disappointment when things don’t turn out as planned, i.e. when the fish don’t bite! All joined hands as Pastor Ken concluded the ceremony with a prayer of dedication asking God’s blessings on the ministry.
The “Capt. Andrew”, “Capt. Frank” and “Capt. Ian” will be launched in October on IBC’s Lake Reinheimer. Participants in the FF&F Advanced Program will have successfully completed both the Basic and Intermediate Programs and will master safe boating skills, navigation, use of electronic fish-finding equipment and advanced fishing techniques. For more information contact the Recreation Ministry office at 264-1515.
Pete Lucadano, MBA, CLP
Program Surveys: What did you like about Fishing, Faith and Fun?
“Every time I fished I got more experience with different poles.”
“I thank you guys for teaching me to tie a knot for the hook.”
“I liked the part where I caught fish!”
“I would like the program to go longer. It went by very fast.”
“I liked spending time with my dad.”
“My son and I learned a lot.”
“Well-planned, strong curriculum- they learned so much. The great encouragement from Godly men,
the fun they had in Christian fellowship, the enthusiasm.”
“My son enjoyed the opportunity to try something he really wanted to learn.”
“Great instruction. Plenty of fishing time.”
“Praise God! Just thanks!”
Attention saltwater inshore and offshore anglers, these tips are for you. The fishing guides in Fishing, Faith, & Fun have many years on the water and have learned techniques sometimes the hard way, mostly by trial and error. We would like to share some of our experiences that may help you boat a few more big ones!
“The Perfect Day” by, Captain Richard Seward
My alarm awakened me at 5:30 AM and I quickly went through my routine which this morning included making scrambled egg, cheese, tomato and pepperoni wraps to take along with me on a day of fishing in lower Tampa Bay near Fort DeSoto. It was still dark and the cool morning air of late March hit me in the face as I went through my front door just as my fishing Capt., Richard was pulling up in front of the building. He and I have fished together twice before in the last two months. Just a few blocks ahead, we merged onto Interstate 275 heading south and soon we were crossing the Tampa Bay on our way to the most southern point of Pinellas County which includes St. Petersburg. In its most southern parts this county ends at the part of Tampa Bay which opens into the Gulf of Mexico.
After getting the boat in the water, Richard and I slowly made our way out of the marina and into the Bay. I noted the numerous pelicans roosting on the roof of the building which protected some of the boats but was open all around. It was just getting light but I could not see the sun yet as Richard eased the throttle forward and we picked up speed heading south towards the fishing Piers which were at the South and North end of the Bay. These piers were saved when the old bridge that crossed the Bay had to be torn down after a large ship had collided with one of the piers bringing down part of the bridge. A new modern structure had been built to replace it and rises high above the water at its center to allow the large ocean going vessels to enter Tampa Bay. There are two tall towers at the midsection of the bridge which are supported by numerous copper colored cables which fanout from the towers to the bridge deck. As the sun rose to my left, these cables came to life with a shimmering golden glitter.
Although most of this bay is 5 feet deep or less, we were now entering the deepest part which has been dredged to allow a channel for the ocean going vessels. This deeper water is much more choppy and our flat bottomed Capt. Richard was taking us to the fishing Piers at the south end of the Bay in order to capture bait. He slowly maneuvered the boat under the old bridge deck and tied it off to one of the large concrete slabs which supported the pier. At this point, he reached for a large bucket of dried fish food similar to what you would feed goldfish in an outdoor pond. This would attract the small green backs which is what they call these 3 to 4 inch baitfish. Next, it was time to capture these baitfish so Richard gathered up his net and cast it into the water. Small weights around the perimeter of the net caused it to fall to the bottom quickly and with each cast numerous baitfish were captured and then placed in a well at the back of the boat which contained seawater.
Fully loaded with baitfish, we headed north into the bay going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The sun had been up for about 30 min. but was still low enough in the sky to illuminate the many diagonal copper cables supporting the bridge deck and causing them to glow with a golden iridescence. The spectacular view of this bridge required just the right angle of the sun and looking from water level up towards it. I considered myself fortunate to be one of the few to ever experience this.
As soon as we maneuvered into the more shallow waters, the boat ride smoothed out. Eventually we came to a stop and after dropping anchor, we cast our lines into the water. The boat was in a grassy area but not far from a sand only section. The idea was to cast into the sandy area pulling the baitfish back towards the grassy water where the larger fish were hiding waiting to grab them. The tackle set up was a baitfish on the hook followed by a large bobber approximately 2 feet further up the line. The splash made by the cast apparently alerts the waiting predators because most hits would occur shortly after the cast. We were pulling in Spanish mackerel pretty much every ten to fifteen minutes . They give a pretty good fight and required the use of a net to get them into the boat.
Capt. Richard has a special tool which he used to remove the hook without endangering his hands because these fish have amazingly sharp teeth. He then placed the fish into a separate live well at the back of the boat which recycled fresh sea water constantly in an effort to keep the fish alive.
The coolness of the morning had given way to the heat of the rising sun. It was about 9 AM when I removed my light jacket and applied sunscreen. The sun’s radiant warmth is accentuated when you are on the water by the reflection and reminded me of the feeling I had when standing close to glowing ingots of steel as they emerged from the steel factories where I had worked during my college years back in Pittsburgh.
It’s interesting because as the clock ticked on, we started catching different varieties of fish. The Spanish mackerel strikes slowed and yet the sea trout catches started to increase. Interspersed were individual varieties like Sky catfish, flounder, and even a small shark. Fishing slowed as we approached the noon hour and it was time to break out the sandwiches I had packed for lunch. Richard and I relaxed and downed our sandwiches quite quickly. He told me alot about his childhood having grown up within the Tampa city limits and how the area had changed and grown over time. The waters around us were very calm and only an occasional boat would pass nearby creating a small wake which slowly spread until it got to us – rocking the boat for a few seconds. Off in the distance, I could see a barge anchored near the main channel. On its surface was an enormous, steam shovel which worked incessantly to remove sand from the bottom of the channel. This dredged sand would then be carried to the far southeastern part of the Bay where it is dumped onto two small islands created by this process.
The main channel in this part of the Bay is maintained at a depth that allows large cruise ships and ocean going. We were almost within casting distance of the shoreline of the small island. I stood with Richard on the front of the boat looking down into this very shallow water. Occasionally a stingray would float by moving its wing like appendages much like a bird. There were crabs crawling among the grasses and sand and occasionally a larger fish. Not far ahead, the water was churning with activity on the surface. Capt. Richard explained that this was a school of mullet fish and even though they averaged 20 inches long were not going to be our intended prey.
Although they ate occasional crustaceans and mussels, their main diet was vegetarian. However, this vast number of congregated fish attracted the larger predators such as the redfish which is what we were looking to catch.
Mullet fish are captured for food but primarily by commercial net fishing.
As we glided silently through this school of mullet fish, they seemed undisturbed by our presence. Suddenly without warning, the school started moving to my left as a large osprey entered the water over my right shoulder.
The school had developed the ability to react to shadows cast upon the water by these large predator birds and scurried away as the bird approached. However, this huge bird would not be denied and exited the water with a large fish in its talons. He took off from the water with long slow flaps of his huge wings laboring under the extra weight of his catch as he attempted to gain altitude. He flew directly towards the island where there were probably baby osprey waiting for their noonday meal. No redfish today, so we made our way back into the deeper water where we could use the outboard motor and headed to a new spot.
The March sun was now penetrating our skin. The air continued to remain cool probably in the low 70s however the tide had stopped moving and was now in that transitionperiod where it was turning around. The breeze seemed to follow the ocean current pattern and had also ceased. The water all around us was like a glassy mirror and reflected the few billowy clouds that floated singularly in the sky. About a quarter mile away, we could see the shoreline and the multimillion dollar homes which privilege had built. Captain Richard released the electric anchor and we headed back towards the Skyway bridge in the direction of the Gulf. As the small flat bottomed boat picked up speed, I appreciated the cooling breeze. We passed back under the bridge and about 15 min. later we approached a small tree covered island marked with no wake signs. Richard turned off the motor and we quickly plowed to a stop. He explained that this water was even more shallow than the rest of the Bay and in order not to disturb the sandy bottom from this point into the island we would be using the electric trolling motor. About 200 yards ahead was another fishing boat using poles to push themselves along the shore much like the gondolas in We had not gone very far when we settled into a favorite fishing hole which I remembered from a past trip. After dropping anchor again, we cast into a sandy area much as we had done earlier in the day. However, now that we were well into the afternoon and the tide had turned around and was heading back into the Gulf, strikes were infrequent. We added two sea trout and one Spanish mackerel to our catch and almost simultaneously both Richard and I decided it was time to head home. It was close to three o’clock as we picked up speed heading back to the marina. Pleasure boat activity had increased significantly creating lots of wakes. Capt. Richard knew just how to ride through them taking each wake from the side. Soon, we slowed to a crawl as we entered the marina proper. I noticed an increased number of pelicans compared to the time we left earlier that day on the roof covering the building which protected most of the boats. They appeared agitated and began to move about on the roof from their stationary roosts. We tied off at the dock and Richard removed the fish which were approximately 15 keepers and carried them to a large white counter which appeared to be made of marble and had running It took about a half an hour to clean all the fish but once completed, Richard went back to the boat and maneuvered it close to the ramp where he would reload it onto his trailer. Soon, we were heading home and as we merged onto the interstate, I reflected back towards the entire trip, saying a short prayer to myself thanking the Lord for giving me “The Perfect Day”.
Brown Paper Bags Are Not Just for Lunch Anymore
I don’t like amberjack. They aren’t good to eat, their fight is so intense that you need to take a nap after catching one, they get in the way of catching other bottom feeding fish and they wreak havoc on your fishing tackle. Having said all that, fishing tournaments usually have nice prizes for that species, when grouper and snapper are not biting my customers did have something to catch and there are people out there that just love to be beaten up by monster amberjack.
You can catch amberjack on any wreck or artificial reef in the Gulf and Atlantic, but most guides keep good spots for the big ones a closely guarded secret. I have two spots that have those backbreakers. My favorite spot I can’t share with you as the Coast Guard shut down the LORAN navigational stations throughout the US in February 2009, and my 72 foot spring was lost to me forever. Sadly, I was not able to convert it to GPS before the signals were turned off.
My 2nd favorite amberjack spot is a ledge in 65 feet off Tarpon Springs that terminates into rock mounds. The GPS number is 28 21 492 83 08 858. Forty years ago I was fishing near the party fishing boat, Dolphin, who had hung his anchor in the ledge and could not free it. I volunteered to dive down and free his anchor for him and was amazed at the number of amberjack and grouper on the spot. The Captain was thankful and told me this was a good spot to fish. Immediately the amberjack started biting, but I was after grouper. After catching too many of them, I stopped for lunch hoping they would go away. My wife had fixed me a sandwich that morning and placed it a one pound brown grocery bag. As I looked at the empty bag, I wondered if I put my baited hook, sinker and leader in the bag, forced the air out and put a rubber band around the opening could I get passed the amberjack to the grouper on the bottom. When the bag hit the bottom I jerked slightly to get the bag off the line. It worked and a keeper grouper came to the surface. I only had one other bag and it also produced another keeper grouper.
Years later I was in a fishing tournament that targeted amberjack, and I headed for the 72 foot spring. The amberjack “stack up” above the outflow of the spring by size. From the surface to about 30 feet you would find the 10-20 pound fish. At 40 feet you would see 30 to 50 pound fish and close to the bottom were the monster 60 to 80 pounders. Before the trip I had bought a box of one pound bags from the grocery store in hopes the old “bag trick” might still work.
I stuffed my live threadfin herring on a 6 ought “J” hook with a 6 ounce egg sinker with 80 pound leader tied to 40 pound camo-colored mono in the paper bag and opened the bail of my Mitchell 306 reel on a custom made Harnell 7 foot spinning rod. The bag hit the bottom and before I could jerk the bag, the drag on my reel was singing. 20 minutes later a 60 pound jack came to the surface. My partner had not used the bag thinking it silly and was hung up in the 20 pound fish. He finally came around and switched to the bag and caught the 82 pound amberjack that won the tournament.
If you try the ledge spot, take plenty of bags with you. Be assured that you are not guilty of polluting; paper bags are biodegradable. Amberjack will also eat cut sardines. If not using live bait, I cut up 10-20 sardines in one-inch pieces, stuff them in the bag with my bait and send it to the bottom. A chum bag will attract the fish also, but the bait in the “cut up” bait bag works instantly.
Good luck and watch the weather. The ledge is 20 miles off the north end of Anclote Key.
Listen to your Customers
If I had my choice, I would rather take customers spear fishing. You don’t have to worry about the moon phase, tide, the right bait or did they eat last night, but then again, not all customers want to get wet to get their fish.
Many years ago, I had three customers from New York who wanted to catch their limit of grouper, have me clean and pack them in ice so they could carry the fish on the airplane back home. It was in the winter and we were trolling in 22’ of water using two silver and black Mann Stretch 25s, imitating the grouper’s favorite bait, threadfin herring, which were schooling in the area. We had both lines 150’ from the boat, so when you find the grouper you usually catch two together.
We had fished for 4 hours and only caught 3 grouper, when one of my customers asked if he could change my lures to firetiger Mann Stretch 25s. The firetiger is ugly green with black stripes and a red belly, and I told the customer no because it did not resemble any bait fish grouper eat. He kept asking me over and over during the next 2 hours and with only 5 fish in the box I finally gave in. With one hour left to fish, we boated 10 more grouper giving the customers their limits to take back to New York. Back at the dock, the customer told me he fishes for stripped bass in New York and that the firetiger color made the fish mad. He said the strippers bite the tail of the plug to get the fish away from their home. I did note 9 of the 10 grouper caught on the firetiger bit the back hook of the plug and the 5 caught on my plugs bit the hook closest the head (grouper bite the head first to make the bait go down easier).
Several weeks later I returned to the same area and was spearfishing. I noticed on the bottom that there were large sheepshead(black and white stripes) trying to swim under the same rocks the grouper call home. The grouper would dart out from their rocks and either bite the tail of the sheepshead or hit them in the belly with their head. I had seen this before many times but thought nothing of it. Now what the customer had told me made sense and I had witnessed it first hand.
My lesson learned here was no matter how much you think you know from experience, you don’t have all the answers. What works elsewhere might work here. Matching your artificial lures to what the fish eats is still the best rule, but sometimes fish are not hungry and just want to protect their homes. My tackle box is now filled with firetigers and getting customers their limits takes much less time. Try it and see if it works for you. Would you like to fish this spot? It is in 22ft of water 9 miles north of Tarpon Springs and the size of two football fields. I call it Ledge and Holes as it has a 3’ ledge on the south side and Swiss cheese bottom on the back side. I approach from the south and troll north then move west to east then crisscross back and forth. The area is good trolling from the time the water hits 65 degrees and below and the fish move out in early spring. This spot is in Federal waters and will be closed to keep grouper till July 1st. The water is usually clear and you can see the whole area. The gps number is 28 21 625 82 55 837. Good Luck!
Keeper Grouper do Communicate
The next time you see Pastor Reno ask him if keeper grouper communicate and watch for the smile on his face.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to take Pastors Jack Oliver, Reno Zuns, Tim Parsons and Dr. Randy Armstrong grouper fishing. Weather was great and by mid afternoon had a few fish in the box. I had saved my best spot for last and told the guys, the grouper at this spot are the smartest grouper you will ever find. The bigger the grouper you catch the better you can feel about your fishing skills as these fish have avoided numerous anglers for many years.
We were fishing on larger boulders in 35ft of water west of Tarpon Springs. I had dived the spot many times and knew you had to be quick pulling the grouper off the bottom or you would be cut off as there were many holes in these boulders for the grouper to hide.
Most grouper fisherman use a stout 6-7’ rod, 3-4ought reel with 50lb test line and terminal tackle of a six ounce egg sinker flex tied to a 2ft leader with 7ought hook(now circle hook), and that is exactly what we were using. We chummed and the grouper turned on. Pastor Jack was filling the box but the rest of us were getting broken off. In grouper fishing, the first 5 ft is the fight. If you win that, the fight is over. If you loose that repeatedly, you will find the keeper grouper bite will quit.
Why you ask? Grouper are gregarious. Big ones socialize with other big ones and the little guys stay with their kind. If the big guys see their friends eat and brake off they get weary, the little guys keep eating.
After Pastor Reno had number two big guy break off, I pointed to the east and asked him how far did he think the shore was. I jokingly told him an eight mile swim was in store for him if he lost another. We solved the break off problem by switching to 80lb line with no leader and letting the 6 oz egg sinker float up and down the line and rest on the hook. In this way when the grouper picks up the bait on the bottom he will feel no resistance and free swim. The sinker stays on the bottom the line passes through it easily. When the bite is felt in most cases the grouper is not heading for the rocks. It worked, no more break offs, and Pastor Reno did not have to swim.
This rig is called a knocker rig and is used mostly by commercial red snapper fisherman. Snapper are weary also and fishing with this method does not spook the fish and more are brought to the boat. Try it and see if it works for you. If you would like to fish this spot, the gps number is 28 12 007 82 56 484. Remember also grouper season is closed till July 1st and be sure to have a venting tool and hook remover with you. That is the law. Good Luck!
Grouper on a Balloon
Twenty years ago a friend gave me two winter trout numbers in 12ft of water west of North Key/Anclote Key. My wife and I fished one the spots on a winter day and had break offs the first four casts. These either had to be world record trout or my friend was playing tricks on me. I always have my spear fishing equipment on the boat and I eased in to the murky water to see what type fish had taken our lures. In front of me was a herd of grouper with three of the fish carrying our Love Lures in their mouths. I shot the smallest grouper (10lbs), surfaced and handed the hand spear to my wife who was in shock. When confronted with what had happened, my friend asked me to keep these spot quiet as most anglers travel many miles offshore to catch keeper grouper, and these spots are so close to shore you can see the color of the boats anchored off Anclote Key.
Not prepared to catch grouper that day I returned the next week with heavier equipment. The grouper were still there but the results were the same, 80 pound mono line broke like sewing thread. Due to such shallow water, the grouper would not come under the boat to bite. Casting out resulted in hook ups with live and dead bait, but the crafty grouper quickly hid in the rocks and no amount of pressure on the line would bring them out. Tried and true methods for removing grouper from the rocks like slacking the line to take pressure off the fish while leaving the rod in the holder or strumming the line didn’t work either.
My friend shared with me that a Greek sponge diver told him that around the turn of the 20th century, Greek “smack” boats brought olives from Greece to Tarpon Springs and anchored off the coast to remove boulder ballast from their hulls which made their boats ride higher in the water entering the Anclote River. They would unload their olives and take on phosphate (adding ballast) and return to Greece.
Diving the spots with clearer water, I saw the ballast rocks in areas of live limestone bottom and also found what appeared to be a fifty foot mast where one of the boats might have gone down. The grouper were still there and quickly hid in the rocks. While swimming back to the boat I wondered if a cork would work. It would keep the bait off the bottom and you could see the hook up before feeling the bite. That didn’t work either because the grouper were too fast and the water was too shallow.
The problem was solved with balloons, which were still in my tackle box from years of guiding in the Florida Keys for sailfish with live bait. Blue or green balloons tied to the line with a clove hitch(minimal stress on the line) and filled with air to the size of a soccer ball kept the bait off the bottom and made it difficult for the grouper to get to their hiding places. Anchoring the boat in the sand and letting the tide take the balloon (affixed at 9ft above the hook) back to the rocks was the ticket. I do chum with 1” pieces of Spanish sardines or threadfin herring placed in a hollow plastic baseball bat and thrown 20 to 30ft behind the boat.
Another tip I learned from a commercial fisherman is to catch a grunt, cut off the head and quickly return the hooked head to the sand bottom in front of the rocks. The nerves of the fish are still working and the scent will coax grouper from their rocks. Leave the rod in the holder and make sure you don’t have enough line out to allow the grouper to get back to his home. Don’t be surprised if the grouper caught on the head is the biggest fish of the day.
These spots can also be trolled with firetiger Mann Stretch 8 and 12 lures. I rig the lures with 12ft of flourcarbon leader and 80 lb Spro swivel with 50lb camo mono line on a 4 ought reel and 7ft stiff boat rod. I mark my mono line at 150ft to have both lures together for double hook ups which does happen 50% of the time. The tricky part comes when the fish hit the lures. Again you will find that your rod holders are the best fisherman on the boat. When the fish hit, it is best to put your boat in reverse and back down on the fish which have already rocked up. Have 2 people take up slack in the line until you are directly over the fish and lift them out of the water like you were fishing with a cane pole. The rocks are not deeply undercut and 50lb line will pull them out, but do watch your leaders as they will fray easily.
Big grouper are only on these spots in the winter. During the spring and fall, mackerel, kingfish, cobia and small black tip sharks can be found there, but sadly, no trout . Try these gps numbers out and save a lot of gas money on your next winter grouper trip. 1st Snack: 28 14 381 82 51 472 Mast: 28 14 191 82 51 485 2nd Smack: 28 14 845 82 51 311. Good Luck!
By DAVID A. BROWN Lure manufacturers invest loads of time, effort and resources to develop the next latest-and-greatest. Enticing wiggles, erratic darting, just the right amount of rattle and flash – how a bait moves accounts for the lion’s share of this attention
Notwithstanding the fact that many of these developments are intended as much to catch fishermen as fish, the tackle industry’s research and development machine is certainly a necessary mechanism. That being said, the best action is sometimes no action.
The term is “dead-sticking”, and although we often associate this technique with dropping a piece of soft plastic to the bottom, the strategy can actually apply to a variety of baits – both hard and soft. Now, a thorough lesson on the dead-stick premise could fill multiple articles, so let me just offer a couple of examples I encountered while covering an EverStart Western Division tournament on Northern California’s Clear Lake.
The first example is pretty straightforward – dropshotting. It’s often said that the best way to work a drop shot is to not work it. Just let the bait move naturally in the water.
I spent a practice day snapping up bass pics with iRod president and EverStart pro Matt Newman. A little before noon, we linked up with local expert Paul Bailey and co-angler standout Lester Albury to compare notes and diversify the photo shoot. As I probed a grass line with a dropshot, Bailey described his preferred method for working this rig.
“I like to dead stick my dropshot,” he said. “I don’t like to drag it. I fish it in one place at a time and just let it sit there.”
Although not directly related, Bailey’s advice rang true in the tournament’s co-angler division, as Chad Leblanc won the deal by essentially dead-sticking a dropshot with a 6-inch Roboworm in (Margarita Mutilator) and a 3-inch leader over rocky bottom outside of Rodman Slough where pro division winner Michael C. Tuck was nabbing big bass on a swimbait. Tuck graciously allowed his partner sufficient time for the patient presentations and Leblanc picked off the ones that passed on the moving lure.
“The key was just letting it sit,” he said. “It was almost like we were catfishing. I just let it sit and they ate it. Mike let my bait sit in the zone for a long time and I was fortunate enough to catch five.”
Now that’s the basic stuff. Here’s where it gets cool. Toward the end of our practice day, Newman and I slipped into a residential bay where huge schools of a large indigenous baitfish called “hitch” swarmed around docks and frequently showed signs of fleeing largemouth predation. Newman armed me with his iRod Jr. Swim rod and a segmented Gancraft swimbait, while he threw a popular soft-bodied model called “Trashfish.” (The same one that Mr. Tuck would later use to win the event.)
While my host pointed the bow toward all the likely corner shot, I worked my bait off the stern, mostly casting parallel to dock faces and swimming the bait past the shadows to hopefully entice anyone lurking below. Middway through a well-aligned cast, I got a call from another angler, recent Forrest Wood Cup finalist Cody Meyer, with whom I was coordinating for a later photo shoot. Holding the phone in my left hand, I gripped the rod in my right and gave the bait a couple of upward twitches to keep it out of the grass. But as I focused more intently on the phone conversation, I paused the swimbait’s motion and the big hunk of plastic and metal sank through the surrounding baitfish and into the 6-foot depths.
Suddenly, my line came tight. The rod started to bend and I nonchalantly tugged the bait to free it from the grass.
That’s when the grass tugged back.
Fast forward through the predictable stuff and I had to call Cody back – he eventually hung up when I tossed my phone to the deck. My follow-up report: 6-pounder on the swimbait. The tactic: dead sticking.
Newman and I discussed the experience and he noted that a day earlier his regular practice partner had stuck a nice one on the same bait after pausing the retrieve and letting it fall. Unintentionally, I had done the same thing. By pausing my motion, I let the bait sink like a dead or dying hitch.
Maybe that’s why bass will still bite in areas where the natural food is so thick they have endless options. Bottom line: You not only have to mimic the real stuff, you have to make your bait look like the easiest one to catch. Remember, these eternally lazy predators known as largemouth bass will follow the path of least resistance. Dead-sticking presents an easy meal that’s often the one they’ll chose.
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19