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Posts Tagged ‘fishing information’

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.

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One of my Twitter followers, @mnangler, read my last blog post on boat ramp etiquette and noticed that I forgot to mention tips for getting your boat back on the trailer after a day of fishing. Excellent point, thank you MNAngler!

Getting your boat back on the trailer is an easy process. Simply repeat in reverse the process of putting it INTO the water.

When you approach the courtesy dock (or bank), park your boat on the opposite side of the ramp as to not block anyone else from backing into the water while you are walking to your truck. If there is not courtesy dock and you have to park on the bank, park well away from the ramp. Turn your engine off and remove your boat keys. This step will help prevent anyone from taking your boat.

Typically, a boat ramp is not as busy as the day progresses. Everyone tends to show up all at once at first light, but the “end of the day” varies for each fisherman. Consequently, you may have less traffic to deal with when pulling your boat.

Back your trailer down the ramp to where the water is at the top of your wheels. How far you back your trailer into the water will vary from boat to boat. When you find your trailer’s “sweet spot”, make a mental note of how far your wheels stick out of (or how far they are in) the water.

If you back the trailer in too far, you boat will not hit the running boards and your hull will slam into the trailer. Your boat should contact the running boards enough for you to have to either give it a little gas or simply crank it on. Turn your engine off and trim your motor up so you don’t make contact with the ground.

If you are fishing with a partner, they can attach the boat to the trailer. If you are fishing alone, you do that yourself.

Once the boat is secured to the trailer, single boaters can climb off the front of the boat on to the trailer. Having your deck clear of rods and lures will help this process.

Depending on the slope of the trailer, you might have to get your feet wet if the bumper of your truck is past the water line. If you don’t have a shell on your truck, you can climb into your truck’s bed and jump off the side onto dry land. If you drive an SUV, you can open the back hatch and crawl through the vehicle.

During cold weather, I like to carry a pair of rubber boots that can easily be slipped on so my feet don’t get wet when I go from the trailer to the truck.

You can now pull your boat out of the water and finish strapping the boat to the trailer putting on the transom saver. Make sure you pull far enough away from the boat ramp so others can easily access the ramp. Blocking the ramp to clean up your boat or put your rods away or to put on your transom saver is a big NO NO.

Drain all live wells completely. Some states are having trouble with zebra mussels, which can be transported from one body or water to another by water left in the live wells. If you have been in water that you KNOW has zebra mussels and you are heading to a new lake, wipe down your hull and check your motor and trailer for any unwanted zebra mussel hitchhikers too. Manual car washes are a quick way to remove them.

Pulling your boat is a process that gets easier the more you do it.

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Backing Your Boat Into The Water

Bass fishing lures millions of anglers each year. Warm weather signals fishermen to grab their gear, hook up their boats and head to their favorite lake. Anyone who has been to a boat ramp at first light on a warm spring Saturday realizes that bass fishing is a VERY popular sport.

We’ve all been in line at the boat ramp only to find that one inexperienced boater can bring the boat launch process to a grinding halt. There are things that you can do to expedite the process…experienced or not.

Before You Head To The Lake

If you have not been on the water since last summer or fall, invest in a pair of “ear muffs” for your motor, and test your it before you leave your house. Make sure that your motor is working properly and starts quickly. When you get to the boat ramp, you can quickly launch your boat and get out of the way for the next person to launch.  Don’t wait until you are backed into the water only to find out that your motor won’t start.

If you have started your boat at home but find that it won’t start when you get to the lake, quickly check the following:

  • Kill switch; did it get pulled accidentally?
  • Battery connections; these sometimes loosen due to vibration from traveling.
  • Make sure the ball on your fuel line is hard and primed. If your motor is not getting fuel, it won’t start!

Before You Get In Line

If you are launching your boat at a State Park or private marina, you most likely will have to pay a fee. Fill out the information on the envelope and pay your fee prior to getting in line at the ramp.

Also, unhook your straps and remove your transom saver prior to getting to the water. Only leave your front strap hooked until you boat is in the water.

Backing Your Boat Down the Ramp

Inexperience boaters are often uneasy about backing their boat down straight down the ramp. Follow these techniques

  • Start by making sure your trailer is straight behind your truck. Keep your wheel in line with the side of your truck.
  • Place one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel to determine which way you want the trailer to move. If your boat needs to go to the left, move your bottom hand to the left.
  • Practice in a parking lot away from the lake until you are comfortable backing the trailer in a straight line.

Multi-Slot Boat Ramps

If the boat ramp you are using can accommodate more than one boat at a time, make sure you don’t take up more than one space. This seems like a pretty obvious thing to do, but it happens all the time.

No Partner?

  • If you are fishing without a partner, make sure your front deck is clean and easily accessible. This will make climbing into your boat when it’s backed down the ramp quick and easy.
  • Start your boat and quickly tie it off on the opposite side of the courtesy dock (if there is one) or pull your boat up onto the bank away from the ramp so you don’t block any other boaters once you move your tuck.

Courtesy Dock

The courtesy dock is for unloading your boat. If you have to get rods ready, change lures, re-spool your reel, motor out to the middle of the cove or the lake. Hanging around the courtesy dock will prevent others who ARE launching their boat from using it.

Don’t be the guy at the ramp that everyone hates to have in front of them. Putting your boat in the water should be quick and easy. Do you have any other tips for getting your boat in the water quickly and easily? Let me  know by leaving a comment!

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I got to Bull Shoals on Friday night…right smack dab in the middle of an approaching cold front. Since we figured the black bass bite would be slow, we decided to go after the white bass that are now in the backs of the running creeks. Sometimes you have to go after what the lake will give you! Today, the lake gave up 18 of its white bass

I went with my father-in-law, Tom, and we decided to take his boat. Just before we left, I grabbed my gear out of my boat to take to the dock. I saw a small Swimming Minnow on my front deck that I had used to chase crappie last year. I RARELY chase crappie and this is one of only a few crappie lures I own. I grabbed the small chartreuse and green lure, and we headed to the dock.

We got to the back of Shoal Creek where we found just one other boat. Typically, when the whites are running, one person tells another person and next thing you know, half the county is in the back of the creek with you.

I started throwing a 1/4 oz. Rooster Tail and caught a white on my fifth cast. After about an hour, I had three fish in the boat and Tom had one.

We drifted by the other boat in the creek and asked how they were doing. The responded that they were catching a lot of fish on Swimming Minnows. Naturally, I switched to my sole Swimming Minnow and ended up catching 15 of the 18 whites. My partner wasn’t exactly thrilled with my luck. Every time I hooked a fish, I heard a definite expletive from the front of the boat…usually starting with an “M” and an “F”.

As a general rule, when either of us buys a lure, we like to buy more than one so we can give our partner one if the fish are hitting it. That way we both catch fish. Unfortunately, there was only one of this particular Swimming Minnow in the boat, and, of course, that is the one that caught all the fish.

Tom is an excellent fisherman and has been fishing on Bull Shoals since the 60s. He always knows how to put fish in the boat and rarely do we come in skunked. Today was just a day where the fish wanted a certain color, and I was the only one with that color.

We are taking my wife and kids out today to let them have a go with these whites. I will have my camera in hand and will post about the day’s adventure…tomorrow.

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One of my greatest pleasures in life is to be standing on the front of my Champion bass boat while heading down a bank in search of lunker largemouth bass. Unfortunately, many of us are not lucky enough to have their own bass boat and have to fish with someone else who DOES own their own boat. When this happens, you are stuck fishing from the back deck of their boat.

There are many advantages to fishing from the front of the boat. For example, you get to run the trolling motor…which means YOU get to make the decisions of where exactly to fish (depth, structure, location, etc.). You also get to decide on the speed of the boat as it heads down a bank which means you get to decide if it’s going to be a Wiggle Wart day or a Chomper’s day. To put it bluntly…you are in control.

For those of us who get to fish from the back deck of the bass boat, don’t despair! Even though I own my own boat, I often fish with my father-in-law in his boat since his boat is already in the water on a lift in his stall. This means that I don’t have to haul my boat five hours and spend a bunch of money on gas just getting to the lake. He always runs the trolling motor which leaves me on the back deck…and there have been many times where I have caught more fish than him!

There are ways you can improve your odds fishing from the back deck and catch more fish. Following these suggestions will allow you to keep some control over your fishing experience.

First, if your partner is catching fish, you get the advantage of watching exactly what he is doing with his lure. You get to analyze his cast (is he flipping, pitching…is the lure hitting the water softly…landing on the shady side of a stump, etc.). By identifying what he is doing, you can mimic his approach which will help you land more fish.

Second, don’t fall into the repetitive cast-and-retrieve without thinking about lure placement. Break the water up into small sections. Watch where your partner casts, then cast to an adjacent section. Dividing the water up will allow you to fish “new” water even though it might only be four to five feet away from where your partner placed his lure. Sometimes, a few feet will be the answer to a fish deciding to strike a lure.

Third, change the cadence of your lure. If you are both fishing a grub, and he’s hopping it on the bottom like a jig-n-pig, then you can try swimming it or dragging it like a Carolina rig. By switching up the cadence, you have better odds of finding out how the fish want the bait presented. This technique is especially helpful in tournament situations.

Lastly, when the driver of the boat shuts off the big motor and climbs up to the front deck, reach over and turn the steering wheel so that the back end of the boat is turning toward the bank. This technique is extremely effective when you are paralleling a bank with a spinnerbait or crankbait. Having the back end swing in allows you to increase your casting area and gives you better access to the bank. It also allows your bait to be retrieved at a slightly different angle than that of the person on the front deck.

Don’t let the fact that you are fishing from the back deck of a bass boat discourage you. The secret is to use it to your advantage and follow the tips mentioned in this blog. Keep in mind that on windy days and when the lake is busy with a lot of boats that NOT running the trolling motor has its advantages and your back will thank you…

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The water is in the low 40’s. The extreme cold is gone (hopefully), and they days are getting longer. These conditions are perfect for suspending jerkbait fishing on your favorite lake or reservoir.

Smithwick Rogue

Smithwick Rogue Suspending Jerkbait

March is a great month to be on the water. Fish are filling up with eggs which means the chances of catching a lunker are greater now that at any other time of year. The way I like to chase these lunkers is with a suspending jerkbait.

When the water is cold, bass do not want to expend a lot of energy catching their dinner. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are effective search baits in warmer water, but in the cold water, bass will often wait for an easier feast.

A jerkbait can be fished many ways. Finding the cadence of jerks and pauses is simply a matter of trial and error. When the water is colder, I like to let the bait rest for at least 15 to 20 seconds between jerks. As the water temperature rises, I quicken the pace.

Don’t be afraid to try different retrieves: jerk-jerk-pause; jerk-pause-jerk; jerk-jerk-jerk-pause; Let the fish tell you how they want it. Once they tell you, you can stick with that pattern for the rest of the day.

The most important aspect of jerkbait fishing is to make sure the bait is neutrally buoyant or rising VERY slowly. Above all, you do not want your bait to sink.

If your bait does not suspend correctly, you can add weight to it several ways. The first way is to add larger hooks. If the bait raises with #6 hooks, switch one or all of the hooks to #4 hooks. A second way to weight the bait is to add additional O-rings to the hooks. This should be done only when the bait is slightly too lite. The third way is to add lead strips or dots to the bait.

Stgorm Suspend Dots

Storm Suspend Dots are great tools for fine-tuning your suspending jerkbait.

These strips or dots can be purchased at your local tackle shop and are placed on the front or middle of the lure so that it rests horizontally or with its head down.

There are many brands of suspending jerkbaits on the market today. Perhaps the best-known is the Smithwick Rogue. The Rogue comes in many different colors and sizes. I primarily fish clear water reservoirs, so I like to fish natural shad colors. Darker water calls for brighter colors like chartreuse and orange.

Whatever brand and color you choose, a suspending jerkbait is an extremely effective way to put fish in the boat during early spring. Contact me via the comments section if you are interested in custom-painted jerkbaits.

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