Friday, April 25, 2014

Rookie School: Topwater 101

If your a seasoned angler, a weekend warrior or a tournament jersey wearing pro, then this series of articles may not be for you.. but then again we can all use a refresher on the whats, whys, when and hows as it pertains to teaching a kid to fish.

lets start off with a pretty standard reminder..  "the main goal of objective when teaching a rookie or child to fish is to ensure they have fun". That means focusing on fair weather days, shorter trips, and of course plenty of fish.. you know, all the stuff you ignored when teaching your wife/girlfriend to fish.

Disclaimer number two, if you are teaching a  child who has not yet mastered art of worm and bobber fishing, then this may not be the time to tie on a top water bait, so be patient and enjoy the peace and quiet that goes along with watching a red/white bobber float along.

Ok, now on to some tips for teaching a rookie the art of the top water bait.

Bait Choice

Bait choice is key when learning a new technique, and although this may seem pretty easy  there are some things to take into consideration when teaching a rookie or child to use a top water bait, here are some good choices and baits to avoid:

Poppers - are a great choice for rookie top water anglers, they float, meaning they can take their time and not worry about getting hung-up on any submerged weed or timber. Poppers are also super easy to use, no technique is required, simply jerk the rod tip back or to the side, and pop away, that's all there is too it (well at this stage anyways)

There are a few things to watch out for when teaching someone to use a popper, the first is that that are often too slow for some youngsters. I don't know about you but most kids I watch fish like to cast, reel, cast, reel, cast reel and a  popper will force them to slow down, which may not hold their interest allowing them to get bored quick. The next concern may be the twin treble hooks that come on most poppers, this can be dangerous (for you and your student). If your worried about the trebles feel free to remove one, or replace both with single hooks, your hook-up ratio may lower, but your trips to the ER will be fewer

Floating Buzz'n Baits - are the perfect combination of fish catching noise and motion and also allow plenty of room for error without fowling up. Baits like the Arbogast Buzz Plug or the Rebel Buzz'n Frog both float when paused, giving your youngster the the chance to take a breather on their retrieve without having to worry about the bait sinking. In place of treble hooks most floating buzz'n baits are equipped with double frog hooks, yes they can still stick you, but the longer shanks and wider gaps make them easier to handle and remove from fish (giving you a great opportunity to also teach them  how to handle fish with out the worry of trebles)

Standard Buzz-baits are fairly easy to use, but not as child friendly as the floating versions. A Standard Buzz bait really requires patience and the ability to retrieve steadily at a certain speed to catch fish. The floating version will be easier to use, and cast (due to the added weight).

Walking Baits - I personally don't recommend selecting a walking bait as you child's first top water lure. They all require some level of patience and technique in order to fish them properly. Walking baits are intermediate level lures and your rookie should only be promoted to them once they get past the beginner baits listed above. That being said there are some walking- baits currently available that have a "swayed-back" which makes them much easier to walk than most. If you are going to start you student out with a walker, be sure to check out the Live Target Walking Frog as well as Heddon's Swayback Spook (if you can still find one) these baits are a breeze to fish will help build their confidence.

WakeBaits - Although not technically a top water bait ( i can almost feel you rolling your eyes) a wake bait is a great way to get started out  and excited about top water fishing. Wake baits like their deeper running brothers are designed with a built in wobble or action that will allow a rookie to easily retrieve the bait and get the desired action, without really any skill. Like the other baits listed above wake-baits will float on the pause and even though they will run 1-2ft below the waters surface you will still get to see and react to that great top-water blow-up.

Practise & Patience 

In sticking with our original goal of keeping your trips short, you should always ensure that when teaching a rookie angler to throw a top water bait that you focus on the time of day (and water conditions) that are best suited for top water fishing,  this may mean spending a few hours in the morning or evening tossing top water, but then putting it away as the conditions dictate. Remember the goal is not only to teach them the skills required, but also to build their confidence, so going hours without catching a fish or getting a blow-up may be great practise,  it probably won't be any fun and will do nothing for the newbies confidence level.

The last tip that I will share with you is patience, not only will you need to impart patience to your student, but you'll have to show patience yourself. Top Water fishing is fun, it's exciting and for some its pretty difficult to master, so be patient with them, and allow them to make mistakes, as long as they are having fun while doing so. When I have a rookie in the boat with me, I won't comment or offer advice on the first few missed fish, unless I'm asked. After they have missed a few I try to gauge their confidence and frustration level, if confidence is high and frustration is low, let 'em keep fishing, they will learn as they go. But if you see frustration setting in,  be sure to offer some advice (not criticism) and give them a few pointers, tips or tricks that work for you, not jargon or something you read in a magazine.

We were all rookies once and in order to grow our sport we need good coaches, teachers and students

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Go Big or Go Home: Shaking the Big Bait Phobia

Some people are afraid of spiders, others are afraid of heights, but there is one crippling fear that often caused anglers to miss out on catching big fish.. and that's the fear of big baits!

Ive spoken to a Shrink and in turn I will be attempting to rid myself of this very specific phobia, the only way I know how.. throwing the biggest bad ass baits I can find. So this past off-season I spent some time seriously bulking-up.. no not personally, just to my arsenal, I  added monstrously sized swimabits, top water baits, worms,  and even frogs.. if you too are in need of some big bait medication, the following baits may just be the perfect cure

Hard SwimBait: Triton Mike Bucca's Bull Shad

ever since I toyed with the notion of going big, I have wanted to own a Bull shad swim bait, simply put they are handcrafted fully jointed perfection available in 5", 6" and 9" sizes. And remember going big does not not have to mean picking up the 9" version of this bait.. if your lake is overrun with guys using long but slender baits the wide profile of the  6" Bull Shad will really offer a unique look.

I love the almost dead or zombie like look of this bait, Bass love easy prey and the Bull Shad looks and moves like a live bait fish that has seen better days.

SPRO King Daddy

Frogs come in all shapes and sizes, but none are bigger then Spro's King Daddy, whose body alone is 3.5inches in length and its shoulders and back are wider then that of most pro wrestlers. Weighing in at 1oz and equipped with 4/0 gamakatsu hooks this frog is a force to be reckoned with.

Big fish looking for a "hungry man" sized meal will not be able to pass up the chance to hammer away at the King Daddy when walked in and over cover… be warned a frog this size will also attract the attention of many other predator fish such as pike and musky.

Zoom Mag Ol' Monster 12" Worm

10 inch worms have become the norm on many big fish lakes, so in order to make an impact you may need to go even bigger… Zoom stepped up to the plate this year in offering the 'Ron Jeremy" oops, sorry I mean the Magnum Ol' Monster and 12 inch version of the standard Ol' Monster.  Not only is this worm longer then it's now little brother, but it is also thicker/beefier. I love this worm and can't wait to throw it this coming season.

My personal best largemouth came on a 10'inch ribbon-tail worm, which in turn began the process of converting me to a large bait believer

El Grande Lures - Gila Monster

If your looking for a large bait that will slide through cover easily yet still offer you that big profile, then the Gila Monster by El Grande Lures would be a great addition to your arsenal.  Coming in at 8.75" this beast is a versatile bait that can be flipped, pitched and of course Carolina rigged. I love how the Gila Monster floats tail up, really driving fish crazy and making them want to kill it.. believe me when I say bites with this bait are truly furious

If a bait of nearly 9" in size scares you, then start out with the 5" version of the Gila Monster, then once your phobia passes and you want to catch fish with the big boys come on back to the Monster

IMA "Big Stick"

There are some pretty big top water baits hitting the water and shelves these days, but none are larger then the "Big Stick" by IMA.  This 7" walking, popping spitting beast truly lives up to it's name. The sheer size of the Big Stick makes it easily seen in deep and shallow water alike, it walks like a well-trained dog, pops like a bubble and spits up more then a new born baby. 

but to truly understand how large this bait is, all you need to do check out the bathroom scales.. yes, it really weighs 1.75 oz and is equipped with Owner 1/0 trebles, so open up your bail and let this baby fly

the big bait montra:  Fear nothing, catch everything

Friday, April 4, 2014

Custom Treble Shop Now Open!

I have been very surprised with the level of interest in the custom dressed treble hooks that I have been sharing here as well as on the BJFA Facebook page, since beginning this journey back in December I have had multiple requests to purchase some of the various patterns I have been working on, and up until this time I have been putting them off.. until now.

Today I have officially opened the Custom Treble Dress Shop (link found on the right hand side of this page)


All trebles are custom made to order, and 100% hand tied by me personally. Any interested buyers can choose from the growing list of patterns found on the BJFA Facebook page as well as in the all new Custom Treble Shop found HERE, or you can request a completely custom design to match your favourite bait.

If you would like me to create a custom treble you will be able to choose the Hook brand, size, thread colour, feather colour as well as flash. If you provide a picture of your bait I can provide feedback or suggest various colour options. As a form of reference below you will find a custom treble I created for a Rapala X-Rap Popper.


Standard ties on a quality hook of your choice (Gamakatsu, VMC, Mustad) will cost $3 per hook or $5 for a pair. If you provide the hooks a standard tie fee of $2 per hook will be the only cost to you.

Note: Trokar hooks are also available but will cost $5 per hook 

Currently PayPal is the only payment option available (unless your local, in which case case is acceptable)