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Big Bass Bash Tactics

It is almost October in Missouri. For fisherman, that means that it is time for the annual Fall Big Bash Bash (BBB) at Lake of the Ozarks. The fall tourney is always the first full weekend of October and draws thousands of fisherman in search of one great bite that will mean pay day.

Big Bass Bash

7.04 largemouth

The Big Bash Bash is an excellent tournament because it gives everyday fisherman the chance to compete for real money like the big boys of the FLW or Bassmasters do on their circuits. This tournament is different, however, from regular fishing tournaments. In the BBB, fisherman are really only looking for one good bite. Big fish for the day will win someone $100,000. Second place will take home $20,000, third is $10,000 and fourth is $5,000. More than $105,000 guaranteed in bi-hourly payouts with a total of 240 places paid. 30 places will are paid for each of the four time slots (7-9, 9-11, 11-1, 1-3). Typically, fisherman are looking to weigh five fish for the heaviest weight.

I have had several friends fish recent Big Bash Bashes on Lake of the Ozarks, and I have always been curious about their strategy. A few of them have taken checks in recent Bashes which is really quite an accomplishment given the number and quality of anglers. After listening to them as well as formulating my own plan of action, I have my own roadmap to hopefully take a check at this year’s BBB.

1 – Just fish
I know this sounds funny, but how many times have you been pre-fishing for a tournament and hook into a nice 4 lb.+ bass. I believe that I fish better when I am not under pressure to win. Take your time and enjoy the day. Fish like you want to fish, and don’t be inundated with information from anyone and everyone on the Internet and friends of friends. Go out and fish the way that is comfortable to you, and gives you the best confidence in catching fish.

2- Do something different than the rest of the crowd
There are going to be a ton of boats on the Lake for this tournament. Chances are that at some point in the day, I will be following someone down a bank. When that happens, I am going to be very aware of what the people in the boat in front of us are throwing. My plan will be to show the fish something different. If they are fishing, jigs, I am going to switch to a large swim bait or spinnerbaits and search for fishing in a different part of the water column. I could also use a different type of bottom bouncer to present to the fish something different. If they are fishing show and picking apart a piece of structure, I might try a faster presentation and go for a reaction strike.

3 – Use big-bass lures
While I will have a few “regular” lures tied on my line, the majority will be large jigs, swim baits or other large-profile baits. I am looking for one bite all day. If a fish hits one of these baits, it will most likely be a money fish.

4 – Target out-of-the-way brush piles
If you have had the chance to place your own brush piles in the Lake, then you are in luck. If not (like me), you have to rely on the handy work of others. When pre fishing for any tournament, I am always very aware of other fishermen on the water. I pay special  attention to those boats who are camped on a bank that would not be a “typical” bank. A good example would be someone who is fishing a do-nothing bank, and they are not moving very fast. Chances are, they are fishing some out-of-the-way brush. Once they leave, I go check out what was making stay in that spot for such a long period of time.

5 – Hope for some serious luck
Someone is going to win, it might as well be you. There are always a lot of anglers on the Lake. Luck goes a long way when searching for big fish. I always tell my partner that we have a 50/50 chance to win…either we will or we won’t. I never did well at statistics…

 

 

 

 

How to Tell the Difference between a Kentucky/Spotted Bass and a Largemouth Bass

When I first started fishing lakes that contained both Kentucky and Largemouth bass, I did not care about identifying which one was on the end of my line. I just enjoyed catching fish. However, once I started fishing tournaments, I had to differentiate between the two species on lakes that have different size limits for each one. For example, Lake of the Ozarks and Bull Shoals Lake each have a 15” limit on black bass but a 12” limit for Kentucky bass.

I will never forget my first tournament on that lake, my partner and I were catching a ton of “bass” on Chompers…and we were having a fantastic time doing it. Neither of us knew, for sure, how to differentiate between the two species. All we had heard was that Kentucky bass have a rough patch on their tongue. We didn’t know HOW rough of a patch…just a rough patch. So…when we started catching fish after fish, if we felt anything AT ALL on the tongue, into the live well it went!

We were a red faced at weigh in and VERY lucky that a conservation agent did not stop us on the water to check our fish. Most of our 12-inch fish were, in fact, largemouth bass! Lucky for us, it was tournament that consisted of a bunch of friends, so we were simply mocked and made fun of instead of receiving monetary penalties.

Differences between a Largemouth Bass and a Spotted Bass

The Tongue

As stated above, spots have a rough patch on their tongue. Largemouth bass do not. Please note that the rough patch is very noticeable on a spotted bass, and you might feel “something” on the tongue of a largemouth.

The Hinge of the Mouth

There is a reason that largemouth bass are called largemouth! If you were to draw a line straight down from the back of a largemouth’s eye to the bottom of the jaw, the end of the hinge of its mouth would be behind that line. Kentucky bass, on the other hand, will have the hinge in front of that line.

Kentucky Bass

The jaw of the Kentucky Bass is in front of the back of the eye.

Largemouth Bass

The hinge of the Largemouth's jaw extends behind the back of the eye.

 

The Dorsal Fin

Both species have a set of dorsal fins. The front one is larger than the rear fin. The difference is that, on a spotted bass, there is little to no separation between the two. A large mouth will have as distinct ending and beginning between the two.

Kentucky Bass

Little or no separation between dorsal fins.

Largemouth Bass

There is a definite separation between the fins.

Coloration

Both species of bass have a lateral line running down the middle of their body. Spotted bass have blotches or “spots”

above their lateral line. They also have a bluish/green tint to their color. Largemouth bass on the other hand, favor the green side of the color wheel!

The Cheek Scales

Cheek scales on a largemouth bass are the same size as the rest of the scales on its body. Spotted bass have noticeably smaller scales on their cheeks.

Another big difference between the two species is how they fight on the end of the line. Largemouth bass tend to come straight to the top of the water and try to shake the lure out of their mouth. Kentucky bass fight more like a smallmouth. They head to the bottom and resist every inch of the way to the surface.

Hopefully the next time you hook a bass at your favorite lake, you will be better able to identify the football on the end of your line.

I showed up at Tim Schulte’s farm to turkey hunt and go jug fishing. Unfortunately, neither the turkeys nor the catfish were aware of the weekend’s game plan. Mother Nature was also on the side of the animals because it rained just about the entire weekend.

I got to the farm late Thursday night. I figured it would be better to get there late and sleep in till 4:45 a.m. than get up at 3 a.m. and head to the farm. As usual, I slept well. Tim and Ben Cole showed up just after 5 a.m. and we headed into the woods. They headed to the back of the farm while I went to the field and sat in the ground blind (that would eventually provide great cover from the rain).

I have been hunting at the Schulte farm since 1993. Spring turkey season always provides great hunts with lots of gobbling by the toms. Unfortunately, this year was different. I did not hear one gobble all weekend. Tim and Ben heard some in the distance, but none was close to the farm.

I did get to see dogs chase four deer about 35 yards from my blind. There is nothing more relaxing than having two dogs start barking and howling at the exact time the turkeys should start flying down from their roost. We have had problems with these dogs in the past and this weekend was no different. They noisily made their way through the neighbor’s farm and eventually to Tim’s farm. I actually spotted the small dog twice. I sure hope those dogs don’t get hit by a passing car or truck.

After the barking and chasing dog episode, I spotted another deer that emerged from the cedar patch across from me. The deer went to the creek for a drink and then headed back into the woods to eventually pop back out into the field exactly in the same spot where the other four deer emerged about a half hour earlier. He/she eventually made his/her way around the edge of the field and out of site.

It wasn’t’ long after the deer left that it started raining. My plan to hunt in the pop-up blind was finally paying off. Tim and Ben headed to the back of the farm…and they “got their panties wet”! While I did not see any turkeys, I did see deer and stayed dry. The guys emerged from the woods about an hour after the rain started, and they picked me up and we headed back to the cabin for a quick high ball and a nap.

Jug Fishing

Turkey season closes every day in Missouri at one o’clock p.m. That leaves the rest of the day to do what ever we want. The activity of choice this year was jug fishing on the Missouri and Gasconade Rivers. I have never jug fished for catfish before, but it has always interested me.

Catfishing usually includes a stout rod and reel with heavy line and heavy sinkers followed by lots of snags and fighting a strong current and really, really stinky bait. Jug fishing is different. The “sport” consists of a jug (two coffee cans soldered together, a half of a “noodle” float, an old duck decoy or even an empty paint can), a heavy line, a weight and a hook.

The line is tied to one side of the jug so the jug stands on end when a fish takes the bait that hangs anywhere from 1 ft. to 4 feet below the jug.

The basic technique for jug fishing is this:

  • Put a hot dog on the hook
  • Place the jug in the water
  • Repeat 15 times with the remaining jugs
  • Move the boat above, below or to the side of the jugs
  • Watch the jugs and drink beer.

That’s about it.

It is definitely not a physically demanding sport, but it does get interesting when a jug gets hung up in a wing or trail dike that is located just below the surface of the rising river. Releasing the jug takes some pretty savvy boat maneuvering.

We fished for about three hours each day, and we only caught one channel catfish that weighed about three pounds. The great news is that it rained on us both days…and we got our panties wet…again. Here is a great photo (from my Blackberry) of the back of my truck to show how much rain fell from Thursday night through Saturday afternoon. It’s basically a poor man’s rain gauge.

Poor Man's Rain Gauge

Poor Man's Rain Gauge

We had some great food and even better company. Nick Zagarri, Zach Cole, Ben, Tim and I had a fantastic weekend and are going to miss the cabin until late September when bow hunting season starts.

Watching the Rain...Waiting for Dinner

Nick Zagarri cooking wings and Tim Schulte watching the rain from the front porch of the deer cabin.

I sure hope those dogs don’t get hit by a truck while we are gone.

I had the pleasure to fish the annual Lazy Acres Fishing Tournament on Bull Shoals Lake over the weekend. There were 18 boats entered into the tournament and more than half brought in limits of largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky bass.

Lazy Acres is located on the south side of Buck Creek near mid lake. I fished with Tom Visconti and we caught more than 40 bass during the eight-hour event.

Lazy Acres Annual Bass Tournament

Boats Getting Ready for the 6:45 a.m. Take Off from the south point of Buck Creek.

The top-water bite was on as was the lizard bite. We spent most of our time in Big Creek (Big Cedar Creek) and East Sugar Camp.

The fish were sitting on the outside of the buck brush and were holding tight to it. If the fish did not hit within the first 10 feet past the brush, then we picked up and started over.

Top-Water Baits:

  • Zara Spook Jr. (Color: white pearl)
  • Chug Bug (Color: black back with silver sides)

Lizards

  • Zoom 8” (Color: Green Pumpkin) Texas rigged

There were also reports of a lot of fish being caught on Zoom Flukes (White Pearl) on #3 Gamagatsu hooks thrown just in front of the buck brush.

It was an exciting day with one of the best weigh-ins the tournament has ever seen. Everyone caught fish. The team that won the tournament fished in the Big Buck Creek and Trimble Creek areas…as did the second- and third-place teams.

The top three places all had between 14 and 15.75 lbs…which is a decent weigh-in total.

Did anyone else duplicate this pattern? Did you find a different pattern? If so, let me know because I’m heading back down in two weeks.

My wife and I loaded the kids in the truck and spend the weekend in Hermann, Missouri with our friends, Tim and Michelle Schulte. They were celebrating their youngest daughter’s birthday on Saturday and invited family and friends to help celebrate.

Tim and Michelle live on 50 acres just outside of Hermann, and they have a nice lake behind their house that is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. Below are some photos of the event. The weather was fantastic as was the company was even better.

Uncle Tim Helping Everyone

Brenna and her Big Fish

Colin Waiting Patiently

Colin Still Determined

Casting Pro

My Wife Enjoying the Day

Brenna on the Dock

We had a great time on Saturday and are looking forward to moving to this wonderful town in mid Missouri.

Two Nice Fish

We had a decent Easter weekend on Bull Shoals and fished on Friday and Saturday. Friday was the better of the two days. We only fished for three hours on Saturday with one fish.

Temperature was in the lower 80s all day Friday with wind at 30 mph. While wind is generally good, I would have liked a little less of it.

Water temps. ranged from upper 40s to mid 60s depending how far we went back in the creeks.

A cold front was scheduled to push through around 4 p.m., and it arrived on schedule. The skies clouded up and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees in one gust. We fished for about 30 minutes past the temp. drop and then headed back to the dock. We caught the biggest fish of the day just as the front was pushing through – a 2.5 lb. Kentucky bass.

Since the wind was so strong, we fished mostly jerkbaits and spinnerbaits. We found a few banks that were protected enough from the wind that allowed us to try jigs, but only one fish was caught bouncing the bottom.

We boated nine fish and with two keepers. We did have one 16” walleye.

Below are photos of some of the lures used and the fish caught. Some of the fish were from a few days prior to me arriving and were caught by my father-in-law.

Easter Weekend on Bull Shoals

Easter Weekend on Bull Shoals

4.25 lb. Largemouth

Jerkbaits and Chompers

Jig and Craw

I was watching the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in the California Delta on ESPN2 a few weeks ago. They were highlighting Mike Iaconelli on the opening morning of the tournament. When Mike got to his first bank, someone who was not in the tournament was already there fishing. Mike started to talk to the guys in the boat. Their conversation went something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

Ike – “How’s it going?”

Other Boat – “Fine.”

Ike – “Are you guys tournament fishing?”

Other Boat – “Nope…Aren’t you Mike Iaconelli?”

Ike – “Yes – I’ve been fishing this bank for four days.”

Other Boat – *silent*

Ike – “Can I go ahead and jump in front of you?”

Other Boat – *silent*

Mike then went ahead and started fishing in front of these guys because he thought that, since he was fishing a tournament, he was somehow more important and more deserving to fish that particular bank at that time.

I have seen this many times, especially on Lake of the Ozarks (LOZ) in Missouri. LOZ is pounded by both recreational and tournament fisherman on a daily basis. I have had MANY boats cut in on me on many occasions, and it infuriates me when it happens.

I wish I could have been the guy in the “other boat” from the conversation above. If so, the conversation would have gone something like this:

Ike – “I’ve been fishing this bank for four days.”

Me – “You must have done pretty good to fish it for four days…what were you catching them on?”

Ike – “I’m fishing a tournament, can I jump in front of you?”

Me – “No…I worked all week and this is the only time I get to fish for the next three weeks. You have fished for four days straight. I was here first and you can jump in behind me if you like, but please don’t crowd me because I’m getting some great fish.”

Ike – *kicks breaks his rear running light and throws it in the water while screaming,* “But I’m Mike Iaconelli…Elite Series Tournament Pro.”

Me – “Never give up, Mike…never give up.”

I feel etiquette should dictate that a boater, if he/she is going to fish a bank that is already occupied by someone else, should jump in BEHIND the existing boat. Most tournament rules require that a distance of 50 yards should separate boaters, but it says nothing about which side of an existing boat is acceptable (to my knowledge).

It seems that tournament fisherman think that, since there is money on the line, they somehow get bank priority over recreational fisherman. Fishermen weigh many factors when developing a “game plan” for a tournament…even for just a day of recreational fishing. Wind, temperature, barometric pressure, channel location, water color, cloudy vs. clear skies, etc. all factor how and where you should fish. In my mind, having other boaters on the water is simply another factor you have to weigh to determine fishing location.

Do I want to fish a bank that has been pounded for three weeks straight? Probably not. I would get out but not an obvious place for fisherman to find. If I get to a bank, and it already has someone on it, my first response is, “I should have hit this bank first and I could have had it to myself.” If I absolutely HAD to fish that bank, I would hop over to a nearby bank and wait until that fisherman was done and THEN go to the bank.

Maybe I am wrong and am reading too much into this. How many of you have been fishing on a bank and had a boat jump in front of you? I would love to know your thoughts on this.