The Angler Magazine | April 2024 | Great Smoky Mountain & The Upstate Edition

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Whether your vessel options are limited or you just want to spice up your inshore fshing experience, fshing from a kayak should not be overlooked as a possibility. When done correctly, it is some of the most exciting fshing. It can also be modifed for the extreme, or an entirely leisure day on the water.

Kayaking is how I fell in love with fshing. Of all the diferent ways I have gone about it, I have enjoyed them all. From packing a lunch and fshing my way to an island for a picnic and a swim, to drifing backcountry mangroves other vessels cannot access, to cruising dock lights at night, or deploying in

1,300 feet of water seeking yellowfn tuna of of the oil rigs, kayak fshing is versatile with endless possibilities.

Tis type of fshing can be dangerous, and its especially important to know your limitations and be overly prepared. Currents and wind change quickly and afect your return trip. Make sure to check tides and weather before venturing or drifing too far. Paddling against the current while battling the extreme heat can put you in a bad situation very quickly. Make sure to have a small anchor onboard as well. Obviously, this will come in handy for fshing, and it can also provide an opportunity to rest if exhaustion is getting the best of you.

Decking out your rig for fshing is an art form, and there are many ways to go about it. Prioritize having a cooler attached to the back over all else. You do not want to get dehydrated out there. Aferall, you are the motor of the vessel, and should be well maintained just like any other motor.

Afx everything to your kayak with the expectation of getting fipped. Of course, do everything to keep yourself from that situation, but things happen. Use dry-storage bags, and clip everything to the kayak itself. Most kayaks are designed to make this a straightforward process.

Fishing artifcials will simplify your set up, but sometimes afer all the paddling, its nice to relax and toss out some live bait. A bait bucket on a rope with shrimp, that can be tossed out between paddles, should be all you need. For more extreme fshing, modify a PVC pipe with holes drilled into it to hold live baitfsh.

Use common sense and check local regulations. Protect yourself from the sun during the day, be properly lit at night, and stay out of high-trafc boating areas and channels. You are also required to carry a PFD and a sound producing device, such as a whistle.

Once you have hit the full safety checklist, go out there and experience the possibilities that kayak fshing has to ofer. Fishing from a kayak will intensify the tug even with smaller fsh you hook up to, so hang on and enjoy the aquatic sleigh ride.

Capt. Quinlyn Haddon guides with Sweet E’Nuf Charters out of Marathon, Fla. See, @captainquinlyn or call (504) 920-6342.

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Hybrid striped bass are the Franken-fsh of anglers’ dreams. Also known as wipers, sunshine bass and other names, they are hatchery-produced crossbreeds of white bass and striped bass. Tey are stocked into reservoirs across the country for angler enjoyment.

Central Georgia’s Lake Oconee is a hybrid hot spot. Georgia stocks hundreds of thousands of hybrids in the lake, and conventional anglers get afer them with live baits, jigging spoons, bucktails and trolling lures.

Capt. Wayne Moore, of Oconee on the Fly guide service, is probably the only guy you’ll see on Oconee waving a fy rod from his center console. While he admits conventional tactics are more efective, there are three situations when fy fshing is both productive and a boatload of fun.

Oconee is a 19,000-acre impoundment about an hour and a half drive east of Atlanta. Te lake backs up behind a pump-back dam that creates currents that are key to a good hybrid bite. Moore said there is ofen a good afernoon bite when the dam kicks on and hybrids move onto main-lake points to chase threadfn shad. Afer locating bait and fsh with electronics, Moore goes to work on them with 8-weight fy rods and intermediate sinktip lines. He fshes a cadence of fve short strips and a pause with a 2-inch long white/chartreuse Clouser on a 5-foot leader of 12- to 15-pound


When the bite is hot, a good angler might boat 8 to 10 fsh, and 4- to 6-pound hybrids are not uncommon. “A 6-pound hybrid is going to fght like a 10-pound striper,” Moore said.

A fy rod is also fun for the mid-lake morning bite. When the water starts moving, hybrids herd shad to the surface and blow up on them in a frenzy. Te action only lasts an hour, but the bite is consistent for two or three weeks during the May shad spawn.

With thousands of newly hatched shad in the water, Cowen’s Somethin’ Else, and Cowen’s Coyote are Moore’s go-to fies. Henry Cowen is a legendary angler and fy tier who developed patterns specifcally for striped bass in Georgia waters. His fies work just as well on hybrids.

Night fshing under the lights is another situation when Moore would rather use a fy rod.

“We don’t have a lot of lit docks here, but the

ones that are lit will be covered with fsh,” he said. Casts must be precise, and the fghts are technical, so Moore reserves night trips for experienced fy fshers.

“You better have that 15-pound leader. A 6-pound hybrid will give you a run for your money,” he said. “Tey’ll run you right back under that dock.”

With the May schooling bite approaching, it’s worth making plans to visit Oconee now…or try these tactics on your local hybrid reservoir.

Contact Wayne Moore at (404) 317-9556 or and check out Oconee on the Fly at

Cast Lures in a Mitzi Tournament


May 10th & 11th, 2024

Online Registration:

Captain’s Meeting

The Island Fish Co.

Friday May 10th - 6pm to 7pm

Lines In: Saturday, May 11 - 7:30am

Lines Out: Saturday, May 11 - 3:30pm


Curly’s Cofee

Saturday, May 11th - 3:30pm to 6pm

Awards Banquet

Marathon Yacht Club

Saturday, May 11th - 7pm

Sunday Honor Our Moms

Always in our Hearts JB!

18th Annual Mother’s Day Dolphin Tournament

An Angler TournamentAngler Entry Fee is a Donation


Ladies, Junior (16 and under), Weekend Warrior and Pro Prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd in all categories

Contact Chris Todd Young at 305-797-5779

Presented by

FISH FOR A CAUSE to benefit

Springtime Has Arrived

Hey folks, it’s looking like springtime is finally here. My favorite time of year—turkeys are gobbling, and fish are biting. It’s a great time to live in the mountains.

One of my favorite destinations this time of year is Cheoah Lake in Graham County. It’s located about a mile below Fontana spillway and is shared by Swain and Graham Counties. Multiple species of fish live in these

waters, but my target species is trout, both brown and rainbow.

The waters coming out of the dam tend to keep the water temperature very low, even in the hot months, with temperatures in the 50s in the headwaters and around the discharge from the Santeetlah power station, which is located about 2 miles downstream of the boat launch at Llewelyn branch. The Llewelyn launch is going to be your best launch location as it’s paved parking and concrete launch ramp with a floating dock.

Take some precautions when navigating this first 2 miles and stay in the main river channel ‘til you reach the power station, because you will

Continued, see SPRINGTIME HAS ARRIVED Page 10

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What’s going on everyone? Captain Craig here with AWOL Fishing Charters. I hope all of you are able to get out and enjoy this month’s fishing because it has been on fire.

With all the wind, rain, water temperatures fluctuating, and water levels rising and falling it has had the fish scattered everywhere. Usually I go to locations I have marked on my Garmin, but these fish have been all over the place this month. I have ignored my electronics and popped in and out of new holes and have found some great fish.

Now this doesn’t mean that they’ll be there tomorrow, but it’s always good to go hunt for new territory and leave the honey holes alone every now and then. I’m not a community hole kind of fisherman; I like to put in the work to find new places on my days off. But this month I have a very special story I want to share.

Now I usually write about the Cape Fear River, but I received a call from the owner of Foust Heating and Air Conditioning a few days ago. Mike Foust wanted to go to a certain lake and do some bass fishing. This is one of our best kept secret locations, so for this article we will call it, “the lake.”

So Mike calls me while I’m out running errands (it was a bit breezy this day, so I took off to get some chores done), and he says, “I hear they’re wearing them out at the lake—lets go this afternoon. What time can you go?” I said, “I’ll pick you up in an hour.” “I will be ready,” he says. So I get back to the house and throw some tackle in the boat, grab some rods, put

Republished from April 2023

a splash of fuel in the tanks and I’m off to pick Mike up.

We drive an hour down the road and pull up at the lake around 3ish. When I pull up to the ramp there’s 5 kayakers putting in, so I kindly ask if they were going to be a while because they have to unload all their stuff from the trucks and put them into the kayaks. Be patient with the kayakers, folks; they have it a little harder than some of us with boats. But anyways they were nice enough to pull their trucks up and move their stuff to let us launch.

So I put the boat in, and the wind is blowing across the lake from the South at like 15knts. It was white capping at 1-2ft swells. That’s brutal for this lake. I looked at Mike and said, “This is definitely going to be a challenge for sure, but we should catch some fish.” I had no intentions on what was to come.

So we get into the throttle, and I go to a ledge I like to fish on a south wind. Not my favorite with its blowing 15knts, but we were going to make it work. The water was 72 degrees so I knew the smaller bass “should be” be on the beds. I am in no way, shape or form a bed fisherman. I just don’t like doing it for a number of reasons, and it’s not fun to me. But anyways, I pull up to this spot, drop the trolling motor, and I rig Mikes Rod with a Deep Creek Lures finesse worm.

First cast, Mike pulls in a 5lbs bass. So that’s got me thinking...ok great, the big females are here. We fished this ledge up and down for about two hours and landed over 60lbs of bass; the two biggest were 6lbs, and many


were in the 4-5 pound range. The smallest fish we culled was 2.43Lbs.

It was an unbelievable day of fishing, one of those days we will talk about for years to come. For the conditions, it was incredible. Blue bird, high winds, but the wind was right and the water temps perfect.

Mike said it was one of the best fishing days of his life. He caught a lot of quality fish and made one heck of a memory. It meant the world to me to be able to put him on these fish. It was his day to shine for sure! We took a few pictures and videos and released all of them unharmed to be caught another day. If you’d like to see the video check it out on my social media platforms, which I will list below.

So guys and girls don’t let the weather deter you from fishing. Just because it’s raining, windy, cold, or blue bird with high pressure, don’t pass up a good day of potentially catching some of the best fish of your life. Safety above all of course, but if you can tough it out, do it! The results could be fantastic.

I hope all of you are out there ripping lips this month and getting prepared for those big post spawn females. Give me a shout if you’re wanting to get in on some of this action.

Until next time. Keep those lines tights and drags set. We will see you all on the next one.

Capt. Craig. Facebook: AWOL Fishing Charters, Tik Tok: AWOL Fishing Charters, Youtube: AWOL Fishing

Captain Craig Hensel, AWOL Fishing Charters with Capt. Craig Inc. - 910-916-3138



April Fly Fishing Report

April in the mountains is about as good as it gets for the fly fisher. Almost every trout stream has some decent hatches coming off and good water temperatures that get the fish moving a little bit. Trout are looking up, too, scanning the surface for floating insects. This is the beginning of dependable dry fly action on our rivers and creeks. Getting to put away the six weight you use for nymphing double tungsten beaded bugs and indicators is like a breath of fresh spring air.

Stocking of trout on our delayed harvest streams continues and several of the hatchery supported waters receive the first stocking of the new year. In other word’s everything is fishing good right now, barring a deluge from a thunderstorm or some other event. There’s a lot of folks fishing right now but getting off the road can help you find some trout that haven’t been subjected to throngs of fishers.

The Blue Ridge Mountains in April are alive with wildflowers and fresh new leaf growth, making it one of the most diverse and beautiful places in the world. Dry fly patterns that work well during this time include March Brown, Quill Gordon, Elk Hair Caddis and stimulators. It’s a little ahead of the summer terrestrial fishing so matching the hatch may be more important than usual in the south simply because the trout have a lot to choose from. Trout spey in the spring can be awesome with all the aquatic insects moving through the water column to hatch. Matching the emerging bugs with soft hackles or flymphs is deadly at this time of year. Swinging flies perfectly matches the ascent of the insect and is very familiar to the trout drawing confident takes.

April is also the time that fishing on our mountain lakes gets rolling

with bass and bream moving into shallower water to spawn. Some great top water action can be had almost all day long before the hot summer temps kick in. On sunny days dropping a small Wooly Bugger or R.L.D. off the back of your popper can keep you busy unhooking fish. If the morning air temperatures are still cold a Clouser or Game Changer may be ideal for the early bite. Being flexible on flies and technique will go a long way catching largemouth and spotted bass.

Now is the time to book your summer class or guide trip with us!

6 GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS & THE UPSTATE APRIL 2024 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM Give David & Becky Hulsey a call at (770) 639-4001 to book a class or a guided trout trip. See his website at

Fishing With Chickens

For as long as we’ve been filming the Nuts & Bolts of Fishing television episodes, I’ve always wanted to produce a show that would incorporate a combination of fishing, bluegrass music and chickens. Yes, chickens. Live chickens. Don’t ask me why, it was just one of those things that I thought would make good TV.

nowhere…and the audience was a couple of chickens? Their answer… Count Us In!

Well it wasn’t too long ago that the opportunity arose to film a show about fishing for bluegills on a neighborhood pond. Hmmmm….bluegills… and bluegrass! Now the puzzle was starting to come together. So, I contacted the winners of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the BlueBilly Grit Band, and presented the concept of having them play while floating on a pontoon boat in the middle of a pond. And I mentioned there might be a couple of chickens on the pontoon too. Apparently this bluegrass group had done some crazy things before, but this took the cake. Playing bluegrass music on a farm pond in the middle of

We met on a cool spring morning at a buddy’s farm pond. We launched a small pontoon boat for the band, and a jon boat for me to fish from. Along the shoreline, you could smell the distinct aroma of bream beds and the dogwoods were in full bloom. I had a tube of crickets, a tub of worms, some corks and a 6 foot bream rod. My buddy off-loaded three prize chickens and a couple hay bales for the pontoon boat. We were all set.

This was a perfect pond-fishing morning. A low mist over the water. Lots of shade along the banks. And we could see the pond grass move as fish swam among the beds. Nothing else smells quite like bream on the bed, and for me…that smell brings back so many memories.

Perhaps I should mention, this vision was hatched from growing up watching fishing shows on TV. I can remember a gentleman by the name of Jerry McGinnis who fished on TV every Sunday afternoon. They filmed

Continued, see FISHING WITH CHICKENS Page 10


Wishing for April Showers

Yes!!! The Witch of the North is dead, and spring can roll on in. I remember reading a story many years ago about a crappie guy that had to keep putting off his spring trips because of continuous cold fronts. While that can put a damper on things, I feel a big rain does more damage. Always seemed to me a good rain would wash in bait from the streams and fish would wait at the confluence and gorge on night crawlers, bugs, crawdads and everything coming into the lake. For whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to work that way.

I have pictures from last year when a cold front had pushed into the

area, not much precip, just cold air. The stripers were piled up in the cooler til the lid wouldn’t close. This past week we had lots of rain but mild temps, not a ton of wind, overcast and I just knew we would kill ‘em, same week as last year, but no go. What bait and fish we found were sucked into the bottom, and nothing could get them to cooperate.

Here is wishing for April showers, not April downpours. I don’t mind fishing in a light rain, but please, no biggies. This time of year rain or not your best areas are going to be towards the headwaters of whatever lake you choose. Bait is starting its spawning runs along with other species, and even those that aren’t going upriver to spawn will follow the bait.

Fish when you can. Take kids whenever possible. And give thanks for God’s present of the beautiful lakes—and I guess even the big rains.

Later, Capt. James

Capt. James McManus owns 153 Charters. Give him a call for a great day on the water at (828) 421-8125



continued from page 7 and float through the shot behind me, then disappear out of the shot. With the next fish, they’d come from the opposite direction, playing a different song and so on.

the show without any location sound. So when the show aired, it was just Jerry doing a voice-over of what was happening on the screen. As an accompaniment, when he would catch a fish, there was always bluegrass music playing in the background. It was mesmerizing and left a huge impression on me.

The premise for this episode was somewhat similar, but with a unique twist. The band (and the chickens) would hang out on the pontoon boat, just out of the camera’s view. When I’d catch a fish, they would start playing


continued from page 2

have some really shallow water on either side. Most years I tend to catch more brown trout in the river run above the bridge with the lower section holding more rainbow and steelhead. Walleye really like this upper stretch, but when they go deeper they’re hard to troll for, since standing timber that was left when the lake was flooded is still standing. I use a variety of lures, from spoons to Rapalas and Flicker Shad’s. My main method for fishing these trout is trolling both service lures and downriggers above the treetops. Occasionally, we will hook a Muskie, but I really don’t target them.

Pictured is my good friend John Singer holding a good mess of trout. He loves coming up from Florida and getting on this cold mountain lake as well as taking home a few of these great-eating fish.

If you’re looking for fun, fast action and some great table-fare, give me a holler, and I’ll be glad to hook you up. As always, stay safe an take a kid fishing.

Ronnie Parris is owner and head guide of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited-Fontana Lake Fishing Guides, headquartered in Bryson City, N.C., heart of the Great Smoky Mountains,; (828) 488-9711.

The fish cooperated virtually all day. Maybe they knew they would be on TV, or that I had plenty in the freezer and all of them would be released. Maybe they liked the bluegrass music. Whatever the motivation, the plan came together nicely with the same simple formula that has filled skillets for centuries. Light line, small hooks, crickets and a cork. You can use a spinning rod with 4 to 6 pound test line, or a cane pole. Whatever will let you get a bait gently placed near the bream beds. This is the perfect way to introduce youngsters to fishing. The action can be almost non-stop, and you don’t need a lot of expensive gear, or even a boat, to fill a bucket up with dinner.

During the day, I think the chickens enjoyed the music as much as we all did, but they were also harsh critics. If there was a long pause between songs – because I wasn’t catching fish – the chickens would let us know. They’d cackle and walk the rails of the pontoon looking for something, or someone, to peck. Once the water started to splash with a hooked fish, they immediately turned their attention to the action.

By mid-afternoon, we had a great TV show. And I was elated. There were a bunch of fish on film…we had our own private concert from a world-class bluegrass band…and I finally got to justify a reason to have chickens in the show.

After the boats were loaded and the band all packed up, we realized we hadn’t eaten a thing all day. You guessed it… the closest place to eat was Kentucky Fried Chicken. And yep, it was real good. The chickens didn’t think it was that funny.

If you’d like to watch this episode, check it out on It’s called Bluegills and Bluegrass and it’s a hoot! Here’s the link: https://www.

Tight lines and calm seas.

Tight Lines and Calm Seas, Capt. Cefus McRae


Fishing With A Musician

It’s Spring as I sit here in Asheville, NC typing a few words for Angler Magazine about “Fishing with a Musician.” The rivers are currently full of trout. The guided trips have been excellent in the 3 states we work in: North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia but alas I’m inside on the computer. Some days it’s like that. FWAM is a program started by my friend and fellow musician Arthur Hancock IV. It benefits the nonprofit organization CAN’D AID. This is their mission statement: “Can’d Aid is a nationally recognized nonprofit that rallies volunteers from all walks of life to build thriving communities. Through our unique integrated approach, we distribute water, provide access and opportunities for underserved youth to experience music, arts and the outdoors; and protect and restore the environment. Fueled by people power and in direct response to evolving community needs, our programs create transformational impact.”

When I told Arthur I was contributing an article to angler magazine he offered this quote,

“Fishing with a Musician was created to connect musicians who are also anglers with their fans through one of a kind experiences, and Charles is a perfect participant as he is passionate about both. Can’d Aid is grateful for Beast Coast Anglers participation supporting “Fishing with a Musician” and we are excited to continue the fundraiser in 2024. I am grateful to have gotten to fish with Charles and play music with him and his willingness to participate in “Fishing with a Musician” will have a lasting impact. Fishing with Charles is fun, and I encourage anyone from beginner to seasoned angler to book with him and enjoy a day on

the water with a truly passionate guide.”

Beast Coast Anglers is proud to participate as an official guide service for the program. Some of the musicians we have worked with in the program are Abby Bryant (Abby Bryant & The Echoes), Mimi Naja (Fruition), Robert Greer (Town Mountain), Wyatt Ellis, and the list goes on! After a day of drifting on the boat and catching trout, the experience usually wraps up with an impromptu jam session or performance by the featured artist. I believe this is a great program for a good cause.

Thanks for the opportunity to spotlight this program. We are proud to give back to the angler community by connecting music lovers and

Continued, see FISHING WITH A MUSICIAN Page 13


Time for Coastal Topwater Fishing to Heat Up

Much like the thrill of a rising trout slurping a dry fly off of the surface, having a redfish or speckled trout blow up a topwater bait is a jaw-dropping experience! Seeing the water explode with hopes of feeling your line come tight can easily be classified as a top pick among saltwater anglers.

With the sweet smell of spring in the air, and the blooming dogwoods, waters along the Carolina coast are warming up. That’s what it takes for our trout and reds to come out of the doldrums of colder water temperatures through the winter. I normally look for 60 degrees before

trying to entice these guys in to hitting a surface bait. While I have had success in colder waters, the warming spring temperatures are taking us toward the ideal setup for some awesome topwater fishing trips.

Water temperature plays the biggest role, but there are some other conditions required for a successful topwater fishing trip. Wind and light conditions are also important factors in being able to produce topwater bites. If it is too bright, the fish will not want to look up at the sun for their prey. I don’t recommend it, but if you take a step outside to stare at the sun, you’ll probably have to look away in under 1 second. The same holds


true for fish, even though they’re under the water.

The wind plays just as much of a role as every other factor. If I walk out the door, and see the tree branches moving, I’m changing tactics. In addition to simply making topwater baits less effective, the wind makes it nearly impossible to get your bait to end up where you need it. You can still make a perfect cast, and the bait can land exactly where you want; however, your fishing line will act as a big parachute, and drag your bait along with it.

Let’s say we get the perfect day to go topwater fishing…now what? You’re probably wondering what bait to use and how to use it. I like to use Mirrolure’s range of topwater baits, like the Top Dog in the 808 color pattern; but there are plenty of choices out there. Different sizes and different colors are something for you to enjoy experimenting with as an angler.

When it comes to actually fishing with a topwater bait, a little bit of experience can go a long way. The most successful technique is referred to as “walking the dog.” This is accomplished with a certain degree of feel and rhythm. Many times, I will offer topwater fishing as an option to my clients based on two things 1) # of anglers on board and 2) skill levels. The ideal topwater fishing charter will include two anglers, with just enough experience to pick up on the technique. This minimizes the number of treble hooks taking flight and provides ample opportunity for the anglers on board.

Topwater fishing is my favorite specialty trip to offer clients. Just seeing the water blow up on heated strikes, and coming tight on a few of those, is equivalent to catching 20 fish with any other traditional methods. The challenge and excitement make it an unforgettable experience. These warm spring days will have us looking for action very soon, so get out there if you’re up for it!

Capt. RC was born and raised in coastal South Carolina and is owner of Harvest Moon Fishing Charters. His grandmother taught him how to fish at the age of 2, and now he enjoys teaching others.


continued from page 11

anglers while raising money for a good cause. Please visit CAN’D AID’s website and the Beast Coast Anglers site for more info or to book your next guided adventure!

Links :

Fly Fishing | Beast Coast Anglers LLC Can’d Aid (

Owner Beast Coast Anglers LLC, Grammy award-winning songwriter/ producer, Western States 100 endurance ultra run finisher, Kentucky Colonel, North Carolina Music Hall of Fame member, touring musician in the Asheville, NC based group Songs From The Road Band, and father of two. Charles’ two foremost passions in life are spreading joy through music and fly fishing.





Owner StriperFun Guide Service, Tennessee and Kentucky Walleye, Bass, Crappie and Muskie Charters, Superbaittanks. com, Captain Jim Marine Electronics and much more……

DATE OF REPORT: April 12th, 2023

Greetings to my readers! I hope that the world finds you and your family doing well!


The early summer Crappie fishing on Dale Hollow Lake produces fantastic, big stringers of nice slab Crappie! These trips run June and July. We longline small crank baits catching massive slabs! Our Jeff Brown is a terrific fisherman, and our clients always have a great time on Dale Hollow! Look for large schools of bait.


Laurel Lake, located west of Corbin, Kentucky, is one of the top Walleye lakes in America! Our Kentucky Walleye Charter guide, Fred Hoskins, has several decades of fishing experience for Walleye on Laurel Lake. We offer both day and night trips. The fishing is phenomenal! We fish live bait as well as troll and cast Captain Jim “Walleye Magic” lures concentrating on where creek channels hit the river channel.


Spring Crappie fishing is also great on Green River Reservoir! We longline small crank baits catching massive slabs! Our guide is Bracken Castle who has fished this lake many years and can teach you techniques as well.

It is great to be alive and be a “free” American! I look forward to seeing all of you this year on the water. Always remember to stop and shake the hand of a person in uniform or wearing garb that shows they are a veteran! Their service is why you speak English, can vote and can enjoy the freedoms you do!

Until next time, blue skies and tight lines!

With full State licensing and insurance, all Captain Jim’s Guide Service guides (19 guides on 18 waterways fishing 9 different species of fish) can take you on a safe, fun and unforgettable fishing adventure! Check out all of our fishing services as well as our exclusive “online” store at or call 931-403-2501 to make reservations today.


The End of Ole Faithful

The Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” I feel the effects of a good dose of that medicine every time I grab a rod and step into the cool waters. I feel a calmness in my heart, where the troubling thoughts of the world fade away. TV advertisements have shown “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat,” and more than a few times I’ve experienced both while chasing trout, sometimes on the same day. These two sentiments have driven my mind and emotions during many hours on the water.

I’ve also pondered the similarity of fishing with playing the one-armed bandits at your favorite casino. By nature, most fishermen are optimists as they possess a belief that next pull on the handle or next cast with the rod will reward them with the big one. There are hundreds, if not thousands of other phrases that can and do cross the minds of anglers, some good, some bad, but all with some level of accuracy and truth. A not too recent incident still weighs on my mind, revealing the good and the bad all wrapped up in one, and when I release my wondering mind, I come up with not one, not two, but three observations about the incident that cover the full range.

It all started about twenty-five or so years ago when I was in the market for a fly rod. Let me start by saying that I am not a “gadget guy” who “NEEDS” a lot of equipment. I’ve always preferred keeping things simple; thus, I was adding a new fly rod, the second in my arsenal. Specifically, I was looking for a four-piece, nine foot, four weight rod with which I could cast further but still high-stick nymphs, as well as toss heavy streamers and dry flies. So, I drove down to the nearest “fly shop” which was Wynn’s Outdoor Store in Sevierville, Tennessee. Wynn’s has long since gone out of business, but the man working the fly-fishing section, Ted Myers, was a man who knew his stuff. Like me, he was old-school, but he possessed tons of experience.

I was a regular customer and when I walked in, I told Ted what I was looking for as I asked him to gear up some rods for me to cast in the parking lot behind the store. I didn’t want to know any prices, thus eliminating my natural frugal self from the decision-making process. After casting four or five rods, I particularly liked the way one rod fit my casting stroke. I had read somewhere that “The rod should fit one’s casting stroke, not vice-versa,” and this one did. It felt like going to the animal shelter and picking the one dog that just “clicked”. It wound up being a G-Loomis GL3 for a then moderate price of $175.

For nearly twenty-five years, I terrorized many trout and an occasional smallmouth on the local streams, tailwaters, and ponds with that rod. The rod became what I can only characterize as an extension of my arm. Together, we caught some very nice fish, losing some nicer ones, but wow, how good that rod felt. There was never any thought going into my cast, whether long or short. My eyes pinpointed the spot, my arm/rod put the fly there. It was like an old, reliable friend with whom I’d shared tons of good times. And it wasn’t just me.

On a camping trip to the Smokies, I chose to use a six-weight version of the GL3 that I had purchased several years after the four weight. Where many are downsizing to three weights or smaller, I went to using the six weight in heavier water conditions and when “hunting” for trophysized trout. I had recently been schooled by a thirty-inch brown with my favored four weight when the monster got into the branches of a fallen tree. Though I believe I could have landed the mighty brown if not for the tree, I wanted something a bit “beefier” for this particular weekend and for this trip, I wanted more backbone. Walking in with the two rods, my fishing buddy asked, “What are you taking two rods for?”

“You never know” I answered. On the second day of the trip, my fishing buddy broke his rod. He walked back to camp to pick up “Ole Faithful”, my four weight. The rest of that trip, he demolished me! I swore

from that day forward to forever keep them separate!!

A few years later, on another camping trip, it rained constantly, or as I call it, PERFECT fishing weather, with the caveat that the creek didn’t overflow the banks with chocolate water. On our last day as we broke camp, I broke down “Ole Faithful” to place it in the rod case for the hike out. It had been assembled for the three days we were there. Uh oh… I couldn’t get the two middle pieces loose. I tried every trick I had heard and still no luck. Arriving home hand carrying “my precious”, I still had no luck even with chilling the pieces. Finally, I took it to a friend and rod-builder. He said it was the worst case he’d ever seen. After failing at several methods to separate the pieces, he had one other thought but said it was risky and could damage the rod. I begrudgingly said “ok”. I felt like I was handing my favorite pet over to the vet for a perilous procedure. Fortunately, it came apart. We were back in business!

A few months after that, I was back on the stream with the “Ole Faithful”, and all was right in my aquatic, mountain paradise. Fishing my way up on a tail out of a long shallow pool, I had that “fishy” feeling perhaps a signal from the rod to me, but I had it. I cast one of my Jim’s Grampus flies and BANG!!! The fight was on. It was a nice, though not huge brown that I guessed at about nineteen to twenty inches. It wasn’t that hard of a fight as my fishing buddy took out his smart phone to video the action. It’s a funny video to watch as while I was working the nice trout into my net, my rod came apart.

The look on my face was priceless as I realized the pieces had separated. It’s happened a few times before and is always a bit embarrassing. I probably eased up a bit on connecting the pieces so that it wouldn’t get stuck again. But now I had a wild, nineteen-inch brown heading downstream and my rod had come apart. As I grabbed the two separated pieces, the video shows me trying to reassemble them only to realize “Ole Faithful” had broken on the third piece from the butt, right where it was gripped when getting it unstuck. The removal a few months earlier had indeed weakened it. Miraculously, the trout was still on as I used the remaining pieces to bring the trout to the net.

Reflecting on the process, saying I was distraught at losing “Ole Faithful” is a minor understatement. Because of where it broke, it could not be repaired. The rod and I had made so many memories over the years from the Smoky Mountains, to Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas and other trips, and now it was gone. I felt like a major league slugger who had broken his bat and was losing his mojo. So here come the three perspectives of the incident:

I was sad for the loss and now having to look for a replacement. I REALLY hate shopping for new things. “They just don’t make them like they used to” rings true to my experience. I’m the type of person who would rather have something old and reliable, than new and untested. Second, on the flipside, I was happy because I had caught another nice brown in the Smokies.

As I walked away from the stream that day, I knew I had lost a friend in that fly rod. But in retrospect, some semblance of a smile appeared as I thought, “What a way for “Old Faithful” to go. It went out in style.” With that, I felt some sense of satisfaction in knowing it went out on a high note! I hope someday when my maker deems my time is over and he’s pulling me into the net, I too go out on a high note!

Jim Parks, a native of Newport, Tn, has spent over forty-six years fly-fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which he considers his home waters. Jim has written articles for Fly Fish American and The Angler Magazine. He works with and gives talks on fly fishing to various civic organizations. Jim is the author of “Tails of the Smokies”. For copies, he can be reached via his Instagram page at “TailsoftheSmokies”


What A Tournament!

Douglas Lake Results

East TN Crappie Club held its 6th tournament of the season on Douglas lake today. We had 18 boats participate in the tournament and all 18 weighed fish. The day started off with a little rain and a congested boat ramp, but quickly turned good once the anglers hit the water and started catching fish. This year’s tournament showed the largest weights ever recorded on Douglas in the 10 year history of our club.

The team taking the win today with the heavies bag ever competitively weighed on Douglas at 11.79 lbs. was the team of Matt Xenos and Josh Sanders. Great bag men—congrats. They reported catching there fish in open water with a white and chartreuse BoneHead Tackle stump bug. They caught fish suspended 2 to 10 ft deep in 20 to 30 ft of water.

In second place with a bag of 11.52 lbs. and the winners of the Sniper Marine LLC Nog Fish was Larue Isom and Jason Grimes. They also fished open water and used a Slab Happy Lures bait in white and chartreuse. Awesome bag gentlemen!

In 3rd place was the team of Joel Nash and Skeeter Hayes with 11.31 lbs. They too fished open water, casting to fish with a white and chartreuse Crappie Reaper bait. Way to go!

In 4th place weighing in a bag of 11.12 was the team of Greg Estes and Quinton Barnett. Great bag!

The winners of the ACC Crappie Stix roll the dice award winning 2 now rods was Johnny Vrooks and Addison Davidson. Congrats guys!

Congrats to all who participated in the event! And most importantly, everyone left and came back safely—amen for that. Our next event will be on Watts Bar Lake March 16th going out of Kingston City Park. See you all there.

Visit our Instagram or scan one of the links below to book a stay! Airbnb Vrbo

The Perfect Day?

It’s happened to all of us. We plan and plan for our perfect day on the river, take off work, go to the nearest fly shop to practically buy them out, or order way too much gear online, preparing every detail for the outing. The day arrives and we are off before the sun rises. Arriving at the river, we find that perfect spot we have been dreaming about. All is perfect. We have been enjoying the beauty surrounding us as our stress levels have plummeted to zero. This is our day. Then out of nowhere steps another fisherman in the run just above you or maybe below you. Surprised, our attention goes from getting the perfect drift to watching him or her and thinking, what the heck are they doing in my stretch of river?! Then to top it off, you watch this other fisherman, only after a few casts, catch a trout, then another, and then another. Our perfect day has now turned into a day full of emotions that have nothing to do with perfection—anger, frustration, and maybe even jealousy, the very stress we were so longing to get away from.

When I began flyfishing back in the early 80’s, there was a somewhat different code of ethics on the river. Flyfishing was special and there was an air of pride that came with it and one thing was known, you did not encroach on a fellow angler to the point you could have a conversation with them. If you did your conversation would probably be short and communications would indicate a desire to be left alone. Communication between fly fisher men was very distant, you knew what you knew, and experience was everything.

I go back to a day on the Jacob Fork in the South Mountains as a young eighteen-year-old who had been fly fishing for some time with no luck.

As I was leaving, I noticed an older gentleman in the river flyfishing. I stopped up the trail to observe, and in about five minutes he had caught three trout. I think out of compassion he invited me into his run and in the next two hours, I learned more about flyfishing for the trout (that I had convinced myself were not there) than I could have learned in years. He took time to show and teach me so much and from that day on I felt like I belonged on the stream. Much to my regret, I never got his name, but I never forgot what he did for me. His kindness that day changed my whole prospective about small stream flyfishing and that’s where the obsession began.

Back to the person who has encroached on your perfect day. Maybe instead of the typical emotions that flood our brains, a different approach may work best. Communication is always a good thing, so step out and talk to the guy. His only fault, might be that he had the same idea you had for the day. A friendly tone may work best. Form a plan to fish on up the stream to give him space and he will probably give you yours, and by all means ask what he is working. You never know it may change your whole approach to the stream and you may learn something new. Today, I meet countless anglers on the river and most all are willing to share and talk. A lot of days, I give more flies away than I use and there are plenty of trout for everyone. You never know, you may make a fishing friend because in today’s world that is priceless

As a guide, I see more and more anglers on the water each year, and with the recent pandemic more are taking up the sport because of its solitude. I read an article recently that stated that flyfishing in general


was up almost 50% since 2016. The streams are becoming a lot more crowded than ever, especially in the delayed harvest waters here in North Carolina. We have an abundant of strictly small wild trout streams in our state, but these fish are wild, and their diet is super specific.

Let’s face it, to catch these fish takes skill, patience and a lot of experience. Its usually not the big yellow egg or the huge mop fly that they are after, it goes back to watching and spending time on the stream and putting in the effort that it takes to figure out what these fish are feeding on and even then, a lot of times its trial and error. It takes work and especially time on the water. For me, it’s rewarding even with clients. Most people who fish with me understand the skill balance that it takes when you are dealing with stocked fish and wild fish.

Flyfishing is not always about big numbers or the 20” rainbows. To me, it’s about learning the sport and developing an appreciation for just how technical this sport can be. Most of all, it’s about enjoying the beautiful surroundings I find on every stream I fish. Recently, I had a client tell me how much he appreciated me showing and telling hm how technical and tricky this sport can be but giving him the tools and understanding of what flyfishing was all about. Our day did not produce big numbers or a 20” rainbow, but it did give him the excitement and the enthusiasm about flyfishing that eighteen-year-old boy had on the Jacob’s Fork that day long ago. For me, that works every time.

Jimmy Lackey has been a fly-fishing guide for Hunter Banks Flyfishing almost ten years. As a retired firefighter his passion for the sport began as early as fourteen years old. He prides himself on small wild trout streams throughout Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. He is always open for any questions and good fishing stories (704-477-9856 and loves to share with clients. He is married to the love of his life Christine Earls Lackey and together they have four sons. Hunter Banks Flyfishing 828-252-3005.


Fly Fishing On The Middle Saluda River, South Carolina

South Carolina’s Middle Saluda River became the first stream in the state to be designated in the Scenic River program. The Middle Saluda River and its tributary, stream, Coldspring Branch, are both included. This portion of the stream lies in the Jones Gap State Park. It is a beautiful stream and one of South Carolina’s best wild trout streams. Fly fishing the Middle Saluda River can be both fun and rewarding.

The Middle Saluda River begins in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. From there it flows through two state parks, Jones Gap and Ceasars Head. The stream has both stocked and wild rainbows, browns and brook trout. There is a catch-and-release section that starts at the footbridge at the Jones Gap State park line and continues downstream to Hugh Smith Road.

The upper part of the Middle Saluda River drops on a good decline and has lots of fast pocket water with some runs and a few riffles. It is mostly completely covered with a canopy of tree limbs that helps keep the water cool. The wild trout are on the small side, probably averaging only about 5 or 6 inches but they can go up to 12 inches. Access is fairly easy in the upper section of the stream but you will have to do some hiking. Jones Gap Trail follows along the stream for over five miles.

The state and the Mountain Bridge Chapter of TU arranged for the trout to be feed in the catch-and-release section of the stream, so the trout do grow large. It

is managed as catch-and-release on a year round basis.

Below the special section, the lower Saluda River flows to its confluence with the South Saluda River. Most of the property along the lower section is private. You can access the lower section in the town of Cleveland at the U. S. Highway 76 Bridge. This area of the stream is stocked and does get warmer in the summer.


Pre-Spawn Is Here

Winter is finally behind us and now we can plan on the three seasons of spawn. The three seasons of spawn are pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn. Drastic changes happen during this time of year and it kicks off the rest of the season for bass. With water temperature rising you will get the benefit of catching multiple species of fish like trout and walleye while you are fishing for bass. All species of fish are aggressive this time of year coming out of the winter. All varieties of fish are preparing the way for the next generation to replenish and renew the waters.

In the deep south their season is further along and is in the post-spawn phase by now while in the Northern regions are coming out of their thaw. Here in Western North Carolina we have many options of elevations and lakes to choose from. Spring time rain warms the water rapidly driving the instinct of bass to feed and multiply. If you are a beginner it pays to do your homework for locating bass or find an experienced angler to fish with to teach you the stages of spawn for a faster approach to learning.

The type of baits used will depend on water clarity, wind, and weather trends. Moving baits will help you locate bass concentrations while slower baits can pick of numbers of bass in an area once located. In a cooling weather trends you use slower baits while warming trends you

use faster more aggressive baits. Water clarity will determine the color of bait you will use also. Use natural colored baits for clear water, bright colors for stained water, and dark colors for muddy waters.

To locate bass on a new body of water you will want to start from the main point and fish your way to the backs of the creeks. They will be deep in the early morning hours and move up in the shallows once the sun hits the water. You can develop a pattern once you find the areas the bass are in then you can replicate it all over the lake.

An important thing you need to start with is the condition of your batteries from the winter. Nothing will end your trip faster than dead batteries. Maintenance is a must for a good start to your season. The winter months are great for planning the health of your boat. Do not forget the trailer as well. Bearings, lights, and tread wear also contribute in getting you to the lake. Another thought is to replace any rusty hooks and line from the previous season just to eliminate problems before they start. The real strategy for a successful trip is to stack all the odds in your favor. Enjoy the new season and keep learning.

Scott Norton is a Western North Carolina native. Born in Asheville, N.C., he is a long-time hunter, angler and weekend warrior.




As the seasons change, so should your fshing locations and tactics. In my quest to target larger trout and reds, I modify my approach slightly versus what I have been doing for the past three or four months. However, depending on the weather, spring can be a tricky time to fnd solid and repeatable patterns. With the water temperature swings, the fsh begin to move from winter to spring areas. But a slight cold front will send them right back to their winter patterns, and it will keep you on your toes.

Te frst major transition is from mud to a frmer sand bottom. In my area, the prominent structure will still be grass, but the base sediment will change. If your area structure is shell or rocks, you will still want to fnd harder sand. According to biologists, the primary reason for this is the winter forage, primarily mullet, fnd their food source in the mud during the colder months. We all know fsh follow the bait, and that is why we target trout and reds on sofer bottoms in the winter. As the water warms, the next generation of perch shrimp and other species hatch and will be found in structure with a frm bottom. In my area, that will be grass.

Now that we know where to fsh, let’s cover the how. In spring, staying tight to the cover is important. It is imperative for juvenile forage to stay in tight schools and intermingled in the structure for survival. Keeping your lure near the grass, shell, or wherever you are fshing will be critical to success. I target the borders where sand and grass meet. Each area will vary depending on if it is predominantly sand or grass. If it is mostly grass, I concentrate my eforts casting into the grass and working my lure into the sand, paying attention to the edge and giving the fsh time to fnd my lure at that intersection. On the other hand, if it is mostly sand, I will target the grass patches and once again the edge.

Spring allows us to utilize a wide range of lures. Sof plastics danced along the bottom or topwaters skated across the surface can both be efective, depending on the mood of the fsh. Tis will be determined by water temp and the passing of late-season cool fronts.

Whatever lure you decide to use, concentrate on the edges of the available cover to increase your odds of having a productive day. As always, take a kid fshing; you just might learn something.

Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures®, and the owner of

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Spring is one of my favorite times of year for many species on the inshore menu, including red drum, snook and trout. I usually fsh at night for several reasons including my “day job,” which keeps me occupied for a vast majority of daylight hours. I guess I could become a weekend warrior, but I’ve noticed the best weather typically doesn’t occur on weekends. Tere’s an old saying that goes something like this: “You know what happens afer two days of really crappy weather?”


All joking aside, I believe the best bite for older, wiser, heavily pressured fsh is at night. Tey’re a little more at ease afer the sun goes down and the boat trafc lets up. Tis is when the big girls let their guard down and come back into shallower water to feed. Wherever you fnd shrimp and small mullet along the edges is a good place to take advantage of aggressively feeding redfsh, trout or snook afer dark. Te patterns are similar for all of them.

Just before dark is a good time to get situated to the rising or falling tide and the water clarity, which might be afected by

frequent rains this time of year. Get used to your surroundings and how fast the current is running. Keep the lights low, and allow your night vision to kick in as darkness settles.

Music on the boat is fun, but this is a situation when you’ll want to be quiet. Don’t play the radio loud or stomp around on the deck. Close your coolers and hatches quietly. Try not to talk are laugh too loud. Sound travels extremely well in the water, and when the rest of the world is quiet, the noise you make is even more startling to the fsh.

I don’t even use “spot lock” on the trolling motor at night in shallow water. I think fsh have learned to associate the sound of trolling motors with the presence of a boats and humans… just saying. Make your own choice here.

Color selection is a very important at night. Dark colors, especially with shrimp lures, work better at night, especially when there is a bright moon. It might sound crazy, but dark colors are silhouetted by the moonlight and are easier for fsh to see. Dark brown, purple and black can be extremely hot on nights with a full or nearly full moon.

I’m partial to shrimp imitations, and a lot of times I’ll suspend one under a glowin-the-dark cork for night fshing. Tat cork carries it along perfectly with the current and you can keep your eyes on where your bait is, which is one of the difculties of fshing at night.

If you’re like me and have a job that keeps you occupied during the day, consider fshing the second shif. You might be pleasantly surprised.

See more from Tim Barefoot at

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Cobia are robust, daring, and always up for a challenge. You know you’re in for some fun when you spot them cruising near the surface, sometimes in pairs or groups, hounding baitfsh like a wolfpack or drawn in by curiosity at the action around your boat. If you’re geared up and ready for them, a little fnesse will have you luring them in like a pro.

Location is key. When fshing for cobia in the backcountry here in the Florida Keys, we look for them to be around structures, wrecks and foating debris, ofen roaming the same areas in groups. Tey’re not pickiest eaters. Pitch a live bait out in front of them, and they’ll usually eat it, and we’ve also had great success with a Savage Gear RTF 3D Shrimp.

Te action when using these Savage Gear shrimps is a hard jerking lif, then letting your shrimp fall, mimicking a shrimp’s natural actions. For the battle, the optimal gear is at least a 4500 reel, but you really don’t need more than a 6500, and we always trust our Penn Authority and pair it with a medium/medium-light Carnage III Rod for maximum control and power.

Te most important thing to remember when hooking a cobia is to be ready, as it’s very common to spot “following” cobia. Tey ofen travel together and like to investigate what your hooked cobia is doing and eating. Tese “followers” can lead to an epic double header, but only if you have enough rods rigged and ready on the boat and hands to cast them.

Cobia are known for powerful runs, ofen scoping up and switching directions in a split second. Keep calm, adjust your drag, and let them exhaust themselves. Stay alert as you reel in your cobia, as they are known for sudden maneuvers, and will sometimes dart under the boat in a heartbeat. And the fght doesn’t end even afer you’ve gafed a cobia. Exercise caution when you bring them over the rail and onto the deck because they ofen cause havoc on the boat. It’s best to tire them out completely during the fght to minimize potential damage.

Since regulations frequently change with cobia, staying informed is important. One keeper cobia can feed a lot of people. Teir meat is known for its steak-like texture and delicate favor, perfect for a mouthwatering sear with butter and seasoning.

For the best shot at spotting a cobia, consider booking a full-day charter. Tis helps your chances to see one, and the timing should be pretty solid for in the upcoming weeks.

Book a charter at and follow their cobia adventures at “Bean Sportfshing TV” on YouTube.

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Along with blooms on the trees and frogspawn in the ponds, the annual rites of spring include an uptick in anglers reporting heavyweight catches.

A spate of recent record catches marks the transition to longer days, warmer weather and spring-spawning species putting on weight. In Indiana, an angler caught a monster 8-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth bass that crushed the existing state record by a pound. In Kentucky and Georgia, two anglers boated big yellow perch. Te Kentucky perch set a new state record, while the Georgia fsh earned the angler a tie for the heaviest perch ever caught in the Peach State.

In Indiana, angler Rex Remington caught his big pre-spawn smallie on March 3 at Monroe Reservoir. Te fsh was weighed on certifed scales in the presence of Indiana DNR ofcials before being released. Te new record was adopted a couple weeks later and is listed at 8 pounds, 4 ounces, beating a record that had stood since 1992. Te all-tackle world record smallmouth weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces. It was caught from Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee in 1955.

Smaller, but no-less-impressive, Lynn Bumgardner caught his 1.58-pound Kentuckyrecord yellow perch at Lake Barkley on March 2. It beat the existing 1.44-pound record caught in 2010. He was trolling grubs for crappie and knew

he had a heavy fsh when it hit, but he didn’t realize it was a potential record perch until it surfaced. Te fsh was 14.25 inches long.

Tey must grow perch bigger in Georgia. On Feb. 18, Emerson Mulhall caught a huge 16-inchlong, 2-pound, 9-ounce yellow perch that tied the existing state record set in 2013. Mulhall, who usually bass fshes at north Georgia’s Lake Burton was initially confused, because the fsh he’d hooked didn’t fght like a bass. When he realized it was a perch, his father convinced him to get of the lake and go get it weighed on certifed scales.

Te all-tackle world record yellow perch is reported by IGFA to have weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Tat fsh was caught in New Jersey in 1865.

For more record fsh, go to




In some parts of the country, the bass spawn is already coming to an end like it is down here in Florida. In others the post-spawn might not start up for another couple months. Regardless of your phase, this post-spawn fshing tip should help you dial in your fshery when the time is right for you.

One thing is the same for every fshery and every species of bass afer they spawn, they are hungry! Tis can create some awesome and fun fshing opportunities. Post-spawn bass have provided some of my best days on the water.

Typically, afer the largemouth bass spawn, there are other fsh that begin their spawn. I’m not a scientist, but I’m sure this has a lot to do with the specifc timing of why bass do their thing when they do. In most areas of the southern United States, bluegill and ofentimes shad start to spawn very shortly afer the bass fnish up. Afer a long couple weeks or months protecting eggs in the shallows, bass use every advantage they can to feed when these baitfsh group up, and this can make for some fun fshing.

Smallmouth bass and spotted bass in the post-spawn phase are very similar to largemouths when it comes to taking

advantage of bait schools. I have seen them group up and attack shad, perch and alewife schools and any other bait that is readily available. Typically, I do a lot of my searching for these things with my electronics and forward-facing sonar, which is a very helpful tool for learning fsh activity and seeing what’s going on under the surface of the water.

Most of the time you don’t necessarily need electronics. You can use clues visible to the naked eye to help you fnd this “feed” that is going on. Birds feeding on the water is an awesome sign of a feeding frenzy, and it’s one thing I always look for. Also, always keep your eyes peeled for fsh blowing up on the surface or shad fickering under the surface. Sometimes the very smallest clue can lead you to much larger picture. Birds standing on specifc banks, the sound of bluegill popping around vegetation, anything that clues you in to bait in the area usually means the bass aren’t very far away.

Hopefully this tip will help you when the fsh in your area get into the post-spawn feed. Find the bait, and you will fnd the bass!

I try to imitate the prevalent baitfsh with whatever kind of lure I’m throwing. For bluegill eaters, I will throw a frog or a swimjig in bluegill colors. For shad eaters, I will throw white or silver topwaters and crankbaits.

Always match the hatch if possible. Good luck out there this season, and tight lines!

Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at

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With gag grouper closed until late summer for many of us, it is time to be out looking for red grouper to fll our tacos this spring and summer. Fortunately, they are aggressive eaters if you’re willing to make the extra efort to go to their feeding grounds. In general, to get to decentsized reds, you’ll need to head a bit farther out, with the best fshing being found in 80 feet or deeper, especially as the water warms. You are still looking for the same type of environment; Swiss cheese bottom, ledges and artifcial reefs can all hold good numbers of quality fsh.

Te tactics are the same and simple. Tey will eat dead or live bait in most cases. Tat said, I found a combination of the two to be the best bet. I like to start with “stinky bait.” Dropping some frozen squid or menhaden is a great way to get the bite going. Once the bite starts, which is usually quickly if they are around, I like to switch to palm-size live pinfsh to entice the bigger fsh. While dead bait and jigs will certainly get you keepers, the larger fsh are quicker to hit a live bait.

Rigs are simple. Circle hooks must be used with natural bait and 5/0 to 7/0 hooks will do the trick. I prefer to use about 2 feet of leader, then a swivel and my weight, and a knocker rig will also work. A minimum of 50-pound fuorocarbon leader is recommended, as they will run for a hole in the rocks once hooked. Keep a close eye on your leaders, as they tend to get chafed when the fshing is good.

Even though red grouper are typically smaller than gags, I still use my goto big grouper set up, as at these depths you could get a big gag or other sea monster. Fortunately, new lighter combos like the Accurate BV600 reel and 70H rod make a full day of fshing more fun and less fatiguing. Tese two-speed reels have a patented twin drag that will stop the hardiest of fsh, and with that winching power you can use a lighter more parabolic rods to handle the biggest of bottom fsh. Line is important too. Te lack of stretch in braid is a must for landing big grouper. A minimum of 65-pound test, and a metered braid like the Nomad Panderra 8x is great for knowing how close you are to the bottom. Moreover, these rods are sensitive enough to do double duty as trolling rods for kings, sails and mahi.

While they might not be quite as big as some of their cousins, red grouper are great table fare, and it is hard to turn down a grouper taco, no matter what variety it is.

Will Schmidt is a seasoned tournament angler who has been writing about fshing from more than two decades.

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