Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at

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May 04, 2015

Let's Look at Hooks - Part 1

by Stan Fagerstrom

I never really got to know my dad until he finally retired from his labors and was able to join me on some of my fishing adventures.

I cherish the time we spent together. It gave me opportunity to realize just what a great guy he was and how much I loved him. I also remember something he told me that I've been using as a yardstick of sorts in my own life ever since.

"Son," my dad said one day while were fishing, "always remember there ain't nuthin' worth all that much unless you can share it with someone you love."

I found that bit of proof surfacing when I was asked to do a column about some of the changes I've seen in fishing tackle in the many, many years I've been up to ears in the sport, both as an angler and in writing about it.

I had a whopper like this straighten out a 4/0 hook for me once. That hasn't happened since Gamakatsu Hooks became available.

I've done a whole lot of fishing alone. Living right on a darn good lake as I did for years with my boat anchored about 60-feet from our front door made that easy. All I had to do was just to grab my gear and go. There was waiting no waiting for anyone, no debate over where on the lake to fish, when to go, when to stop, etc., etc.

No doubt about it though, when I nailed a good one I missed not having someone to share my excitement. I also wasn't able to get a picture or two once I got the hooks out of a big one before I turned it loose.

The names of a couple of the best fishing friends I've ever had surfaced immediately when I got a request asking me to do a column about the tackle changes I've seen. Most of my angling experience when I met one of those friends for the first time had been in the field of bass and panfish angling.

I'm convinced the biggest change I've witnessed where fish hooks are concerned was when a friend started importing Japanese made Gamakatsu Hooks back in 1983.

I lived in Washington State at the time. I'd done a bit of steelhead and salmon fishing but mainly just enough to realize how much more I had to learn. The guy who changed that for me was named James Ewing. He lived in the community of Longview in the southwest part of the Evergreen State. For that matter he still does.

Hooks were the tackle item subject I decided to first write about in detailing some of the tackle changes I'd seen. To me that made nothing but good sense. Nothing is more basic or more important when it comes to putting fish in the boat than the hook you have at the end of the line.

My first experience in that regards came a long, long time. Believe it or not, it's not all that now from being a hundred years ago. The first fish I ever caught was a little bullhead catfish that grabbed the grasshopper I was using for bait. The fish came from a lazy little creek not far from the small North Dakota wheat farm where my folks were trying to eke out a living way back in the last century.

The grasshopper that little bullhead grabbed was impaled on a bent safety pin my father had fashioned into a hook. My folks couldn't afford anything else. If that doesn't convince you I have indeed seen my share of hook changes in the countless decades that have come and gone since that North Dakota Experience I don't know what would.

Gamakatsu Hooks helped cement the companionship I was to enjoy with Jim Ewing, of Longview, Washington. We both did some testing of the new Gamakatsu Hooks before they eventually were brought to market.

Actually, the biggest single change I've ever seen in the production of hooks wasn't as far back as you might expect. As far as I'm concerned it came about when some brand new hooks were brought into the United States for the first time.

There had been other changes since I'd used that safety pin hook, of course, but 1983 was when hooks bearing the name "Gamakatsu" first came onto the angling scene here in the United States. As far as I'm concerned that was the most significant and meaningful hook change I ever saw happen.

I'd actually had a chance to do some test fishing with early samples of these new hooks before they were ever brought to market. They were the sharpest darn things I'd ever tied to a leader but some of the early samples I'd tested had a tendency to bend too easily.

I suppose an experience I'd had not too long before testing those samples hooks influenced my thinking a bit. I'd wound up losing one of the biggest bass I'd ever hooked on my home lake. I'd been fishing heavy pad cover with a pork chunk on a 4/0 hook when that big bass smashed it.

I hooked that fish solidly, but then it took off and went ripping away through the pads. I did my best to slow it down. That whopper kept right on going and bent that 4/0 hook almost straight out in the process.

The man who was considering importing these new hooks for the American market was a friend of mine. That hook I'd had that big bass straighten wasn't one of the samples I'd been testing. I had, however, found that a couple of ones I was testing did bend just a tad when I'd hung a snag. I told my friend about my experience.

I've taken thousands of bass and panfish with my Gamakatsu Hooks. Once I got together with Jim Ewing I also started using them to put my share of
steelhead and salmon on the bank or in a boat. Here I slide a nice one up on the shore of Southwest Washington's Toutle River.

I shared my sentiments with him. He was a tad unhappy to hear what I said but he obviously passed my single criticism along because when I got the second batch to try that bending had been totally eliminated. I wound up convinced these new hooks were a whole lot better than anything I'd ever used---bar none.

Remember now, I was using those new sample hooks I was testing mainly for bass and panfish. And this is where my friend Jim Ewing enters the picture.

I was just itchin' to let the readers of my fishing columns know what I thought of those new hooks. At the time Jim was guiding for both steelhead and salmon in the rivers of Southwest Washington.

I'd heard Jim had also been testing the new hooks. As soon as I had a chance I asked him to provide the details of his own experience. I was well aware that few fish put more of a test on hooks that those sleek silvery battlers just in from the Pacific.
Watch for my next column. I'll share what my pal Jim had to say and why we've both been using these Gamakatsu hooks ever since.

-To Be Continued-

April 01, 2015

You Better Learn To Look - Part 2

by Stan Fagerstrom

Somehow I just knew that fish was going to hit.

If you read my last column you know I told about being up to my boot tops in Southwest Washington's beautiful Kalama River. I'd felt what I thought was a spring steelhead pick up my bait but it didn't stick with it.

My bait of eggs still looked all right after I'd reeled in. I had noticed what appeared to be a tiny white spot on my leader a few inches up from my hook. It didn't look like it was big enough to pose a problem. Besides, I just couldn't wait to get my bait back out there again.

I cast and my bait plopped into the river. I felt my sinker bumping and thumping its way along the river bottom. Then there it was again---that hard to define sensation that my bait had stopped but not because my sinker had hung up. I hesitated a heartbeat and then snapped back with the tip of my rod.

Fish on! If you've ever had to good fortune to tangle with one of those early spring steelhead on the Kalama you'll know I'm not exaggerating what happened next. That fish went absolutely berserk! It came bursting up through the surface and hurled and twisted itself up so it was as high as my head. I brought my rod into position to try to fight this first Kalama springer I'd ever hooked. My rod was almost pulled from my grip as the fish boiled up again and then there was that sickening slack in my line and I knew the fish was gone.

I hope someone took the time to teach this little guy just how important it is to always look at your gear between casts to be sure it's in good shape.

You better hope your line, leader and knots are in good shape when you get a good steelhead in as close as I had this one. Taking time to take a little look at your gear between casts will give you that assurance. My heart was still pounding as I reeled in. Remember that teensy white spot I'd seen on monofilament not far up from my bait just before I cast? That's where my leader had parted.

And that's why you see why the title I selected for this two part column really fits. I learned a lesson that day. It's one you'll eventually learn yourself if you do much fishing. Perhaps you already have.

Certainly it's extremely important that you make sure all your gear is in great shape before you even start fishing. You can't stress too much the importance of tying your knots properly, having sharp hooks, etc., etc.

Do you check your knots to your lures from time to time. This is so important after catching a fish or sometimes when you've had to keep yanking and stressing your knot after hanging up on a snag.

But what's often overlooked, and there are plenty of occasions when it's probably even more important, is not checking your gear repeatedly after the fishing actually starts. Actually, it was a recent suggestion from somebody who knows just how darn important what I'm writing about is that you're seeing these last two columns.

I shot the picture you see here of a youngster fishing steelhead on a Washington State River a long time ago. I hope someone took time to teach him how important it is to continually keep an eye on your tackle.

One such individual who does is my good friend Bob Schmidt, the general manager of a tackle company called Mack's Lure. Bob's the guy who calls the shots at this growing Washington State tackle company that's enjoying a steadily increasing impact of its products among anglers all over the country.

It's important, of course, to have the hooks on your lures sharp before you ever cast one out there. Be just as sure they remain in good shape by looking them over carefully once the fishing starts.

Here's that Bob had to say when he sent me a recent e-mail: "I have an idea," Bob said, "for an article you might want to do sometime. I know in the past you've done stories on getting your gear ready to go. The idea I have is different in that it would stress the importance of checking knots and leaders while you actually out there fishing."

Bob, my friend, I wish you'd of been around to share that truth with me back there when I hooked my first steelhead on the Kalama. Why? Because if I'd of simply followed your advice I'd probably have put that fish on the bank.

Schmidt, unlike certain tackle makers I've known and worked with over the years, is a fisherman himself. And he's a dang good one. I've fished with him often enough to know. I also know he'll be the first to tell you he's made mistakes of his own---but when he does he learns from them and unlike some of the rest of us he doesn't make ‘em again.

You're looking at an expert who has "learned to look" at every item of his gear each time he's on the water. Here he displays proof that his approach gets the results he's after. Bob Schmidt is the general manager of Mack's Lure, a company located in Washington State. Among other things, Bob's company has introduced those wondrous little Mack's Lure Smile Blades that have attracted the attention of anglers all over the world.

"As an angler," Bob says, "I well know the frustration of a knot failing. I have even had it happen when fishing with professional guides on knots they had tied to their swivels. Checking knots, and checking your line for nicks at the start of the day, and after a catch, and especially after temporarily having snagged up is always a good idea. A season has yet to go by where I haven't been glad I replaced a leader or retied a knot at least one time."

Let's face it, that's just about as solid advice as you can come by. I didn't have any trouble at all coming up with how I managed to lose the first spring steelhead I hooked. And as much as I hate to admit it, I don't have the slightest difficulty remembering other occasions where if I'd simply followed the advice Bob has shared it would have also meant more fish in the boat.

What hurts even more is that the type of common mistake he details often involve some of the biggest fish you'll ever get a hook into. It has happened to me twice on Mexico's Lake El Salto and when it did both times I felt like kicking my butt all the way back to the bank!

Don't wait until you've been around as long as I have to build checking your gear often and repeatedly each time you're out there on a lake or stream. Learn to look---and don't wait until you have a stringer empty of fish but full of regrets for not having done so.

November 26, 2013

The Stan’s Spin Spinnerbait - Part 2

by Stan Fagerstrom

Part 2

The Mack's Lure Stan's Spin spinnerbait I talked about in my last column can be a fish-catching son of a gun when it's in the hands of an angler who knows how to use it.

If you read my previous column you know I urged readers to get away from the habit that so many bass anglers share when it comes to spinnerbait fishing. That habit is to simply keep throwing these lures hour after hour without ever varying the speed of retrieve or trying certain other techniques that can sometimes make a dramatic difference in results.

One of the lakes I used to fish contained lots of piling. These piling were a favorite hang out of some of the lake's largest bass. Most of the pilings were located in water that ran from 7 to 10-feet in depth.

Rarely did I take bass on a spinnerbait by simply firing one up next to a piling and then just start reeling back in. What sometimes did work was to cast just as close to the piling as I could get, then just let the lure drop on a slack line. I counted the lure down as I picked up the slack. Once I knew it was near bottom, I flipped my rod tip sharply to cause the lure to dart up and away.

This simple procedure helped me boat some of the largest bass I ever took from that lake. More often than not I had my best success when I added a trailer to my spinnerbait hook. Sometimes I used a plastic trailer, but more often I'd tip the lure with an Uncle Josh pork rind strip.

It doesn't matter where you're fishing largemouth bass, a quality spinnerbait is going to get its share of fish. It may get more than its share if you use the right one in the proper fashion. The one these anglers are about to boat came out of Clear Lake, California.

The Mack's Lure Stan's Spin works wonderfully well for this procedure. The main reason it does is because of the lure's lightweight Mylar plastic spinner blade. To observe what I'm talking about, drop your Stan's Spin in clear water next to your boat and watch what happens as it falls. You'll find that the lure's plastic blade has a unique helicopter-style action as it drops.

A swimming pool provides an even better place for you to get a look at what I'm talking about. Cast your Stan's Spin into the deep end of the pool, let it drop and then flip your rod tip once it gets down a ways.

That old pot bellied bass down there in the cover you're fishing has probably seen more spinnerbaits than you have. But she's never eyeballed one like the Pro Model Stan's Spin. Every now and then that ‘copter blade action and the darting get away it makes when you flip your rod tip are sufficient to trigger her short fuse. She'll smash the living daylights out of that bait and you better have a good grip on your rod when it happens.

See that white skirted Stan's Spin spinnerbait? It got this fish from the cool waters of Siltcoos Lake on the Oregon Coast.

In my last column I also touched on the importance of slowing down your retrieve sufficiently so your Stan's Spin bumps into the underwater cover where big bass often hang out. I love to use this approach whenever the cover happens to be submerged timber.

If you've ever had the good fortune to fish Mexico's Lake El Salto you know what I'm talking about. This wondrous bass fishing paradise is loaded with wood cover. I've had a chance to fish it half a dozen times and always I come away amazed at the number of bass just one cluster of partially submerged trees might hold.

Often, depending on just how thick is the cover you're fishing, plastic lures of one kind or another provide the best chance to take fish. But this doesn't always apply. Never overlook a spinnerbait, especially in stretches where the partially underwater wood thins out a bit.

I'll never forget what transpired one evening at El Salto just before it was time to head back to Anglers Inn Lodge for our evening meal. The guide eased our boat along a steep bank where partially submerged trees were scattered all along the shoreline.

This picture doesn't do justice to the size of the fish. The fish my guide is helping me get out of the net weighed 10-pounds, 4-ounces. I caught it at Mexico's Lake El Salto.

I'd made about a dozen casts with a blue skirted Stan's Spin and---wham! Fish On! That heavyweight bass had to be one of the largest I've ever hooked at El Salto. I've caught largemouth down there of almost 12-pounds so I know what a trophy fish feels like.

Look close and you can see the blue and black skirted Stan's Spin spinnerbait that put this nice fish in the boat.

I was never to find out the exact size of that bass. The guide had the net poised and was all set to use it when the fish came unpinned. The line didn't break and the hook was as sharp as when I took the lure out of its package. The fish just hadn't been well hooked.

As soon as I'd determined my Stan's Spin was in good shape, I went right back to casting. Whenever possible I cast up between the trees that poked slender fingers up above the surface. Then I'd let the lure drop and endeavor to make it bump off the larger underwater limbs I couldn't see but I could feel as the lure came back to me.

I'd made just such a cast, felt it bump off one of those larger submerged limbs and again---wham! Fish on! This one didn't get away. When we finally got it onto our Boga-Grip scales it weighed 10-pounds, 4-ounces. We shot a couple of quick photos of that old girl and back into the water she went.

A guy like me who has spent most of a lifetime fishing bass in the Pacific Northwest doesn't have that many chances to eyeball a bass of 10-pounds or more. There just aren't that many of them around. You can be assured I was one happy camper when the fishing was done that day at El Salto.

This two-part series on the Stan's Spin spinnerbait still just scratches the surface on the tricks and tactics you can use with it. Perhaps you have developed even better methods of using it effectively. If you have, by all means let me know. I'll be happy to hear from you.

While the lure that carries my name is one of my favorites, let me make something else abundantly clear. The Stan's Spin is not "always" going to catch fish. Neither will any other single lure you have in your tackle box.

Be that as it may, few lures are more dependable day in and day out than a spinnerbait. The Mack's Lure Stan's Spin has some things going for it that the others don't. You're missing a bet if you don't let the fish in your area tell you whether they like it or not.

October 31, 2013

The Stan's Spin Spinnerbait - Part 1

by Stan Fagerstrom

Part 1

I never expected it to happen. And not very darn many of us who are into fishing up to our necks have had a similar experience.

So what am I talking about? It's having a lure maker who has just produced a new model of a popular bass fishing lure call and ask if they can use your name on it.

One of the reasons this happened, of course, is because I've been writing about bass fishing since shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire. Well, I guess it hasn't been quite that long but my first writing on the subject did see daylight way back in 1946.

It was still a pleasant surprise when the good folks at Mack's Lure, a growing Pacific Northwest tackle company, came up with a brand new style spinnerbait some years back. The company was headquartered at that time in Leavenworth, Washington and today Mack's is located in Wenatchee, Washington.

You may not be familiar with Mack's Lure but if you're a guy who likes to troll for trout you've undoubtedly heard about their Wedding Ring spinners. If you haven't heard about the Wedding Rings you should remedy that immediately. Those things have probably put more trout in the boat than darn near anything you can find.

Ray McPherson, at that time the president of Mack's Lure, knew that I had helped pioneer the sport of bass fishing in the Pacific Northwest. He asked if I'd help in the testing of his company's new spinnerbait and if it was all right with me if they called it the 'Stan's Spin.'

It's a special kick to catch fish using a lure that has your name on it. The Mack's Lure Stan's Spin spinnerbait has done lots of that for me.

Ray, one of the finest men I've had opportunity to meet, will verify my response. He'll tell you I told him I'd be pleased and proud to have my name associated with a Mack's Lure product, but with one stipulation. That stipulation was that the lure would catch fish. He immediately gave me prototypes of these new lures in an assortment of colors for testing purposes.

I was familiar Ray McPherson and his company. As I've indicated, I had the highest regard for both. Ray and I share a number of beliefs that aren't restricted to just the selling of fishing tackle.

As soon as I got the samples I immediately set about testing them. My first experience with them was at Siltcoos Lake on the Central Oregon Coast. The very first time I tried them there I wound up having one of the better days I'd ever had on that particular lake. I continued to have sufficient success with the new lure elsewhere. They didn't get fish every time out. Neither did the unending assortment of other baits I'd tried. Properly fished they got their share and then some. I called my friend Ray and gave him an enthusiastic "Let's do it."

The original Stan's Spin was marketed with only the plastic spinner blade you see here.

I had a hand in the design of this pro model of the Stan's Spin spinnerbait. As you can see, this one has a metal blade to go along with its Mylar plastic blade. The added metal blade gives the lure more vibration and sound on the retrieve.

While I was proud to see my name on the new spinnerbait once it hit the market, I found I had another reaction. I very much wanted other bass anglers to have the same success with it as I'd had.

One of the first questions I had from anglers who purchased the lure was "What's the best way to fish it?" It's a question I continue to get. I wish there was one easy answer to that question, but there isn't. Bass, you see, don't always react the same way. That's one of the things that make the sport so darn interesting and challenging. What those fickle boogers do today they might not do tomorrow.

Most newcomers to fishing a spinnerbait do the same thing whether it's the Stan Spin or some other model they're throwing. They simply cast it out and reel it back. Rarely do they vary the speed of their retrieve or try a variety of other procedures that sometimes pay off big time.

Have you, for example, ever tried fishing a spinnerbait so slowly that it was bumping the bottom all the way back to the boat? Now and then you're going to be surprised if you can simply manage to slow down enough to try it.

Bass fishing isn't one of my wife's favorite things, but every once in awhile I can talk her into going along. On those relatively rare occasions she does accompany me I know in advance the lure she'll invariably want me to tie on for her. It will be a spinnerbait. That was true before there was a Stan's Spin and it's even truer now.

Like most other bass fishermen I'm inclined to fish too fast. My wife doesn't have that problem. Time after time she'll sit back there in the stern seat of my bass boat and throw her Stan's Spin into water I've already covered. The difference is she retrieves so slowly the lure gets down where mine didn't. Now and then, for that matter more often than I care to admit, she catches fish when all I get is casting practice.

There's more than one reason why that slow retrieve with the Stan's Spin often pays off. If there's a good bit of cover where the bass are holding, a slow retrieve is a cinch to cause the lure to bump off underwater obstructions. For some reason bass can't stand to see a lure bump and run without doing something about it. It's a super way to trigger strikes when the fishing is slow.

I've found smallmouth bass often grab a Stan's Spin spinnerbait as readily as do largemouth. This one did that on Oregon's beautiful Umpqua River.

The Stan's Spin had something else going for it where spinnerbaits are concerned. Its appearance in the water is different. There's nothing else out there quite like it. If you've seen some of the same research on bass fishing I have you know this can be of great significance.

Bass have been proven to stay away from things they've had trouble with before. Show 'em something new, something they aren't aware is going to spell trouble if they grab it, and up go your odds of catching fish.

They put my name on the original Stan's Spin but I didn't design it. I have had a hand in certain parts of the changes made to the lure since it first came to market. The original model had just a single Mylar plastic blade.

The Pro Model Stan's Spin now available also has a metal blade to go along with its Mylar blade You still have the easy-turning Mylar blade at the back but now you also have the whump and thump vibration of the Colorado style metal blade up ahead of it.

There are a number of ways to fish these dandy spinnerbaits. In my next column I'll get into some procedures I've used with it, those techniques have accounted for lots of fish, including the second biggest largemouth I've ever boated.

You'll find my next column right here beginning Dec. 1.

-To Be Continued-
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