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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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-
September 30, 2014
They Come Without a Barb
by Stan Fagerstrom
The call surprised me.
When a question comes my way as a result of something I've written about fishing, it most often originates from someone just getting into the sport. This one wasn't.
"Stan," this familiar voice said, "why the devil don't some of those guys who produce all the fishing tackle start making some barbless treble hooks? I know they've they've been making barbless single hooks now for years. I've never heard of barbless trebles and now they're required in places where they've never been required before."
My caller was hollering before he was hurt. Those barbless trebles are available, all right, you just gotta know where to look. I hung my own fishing hat in the Pacific Northwest for a long time before moving to the warm weather country of Arizona years ago. Hook into a monster salmon like this expert angler did and you'll want the best hooks you can get going for you. The angler is Dave Pitts, of California.
I didn't hear that much about barbless treble hooks back when I lived in either Washington or Oregon State more than 20 years ago. Like my caller said, barbless hooks are now required in many places that didn't require them years ago.
My friend was aware of the barbless regulation as it applied to single hooks. It was the trebles he was unsure about; but if you really stop to think about it, how much sense would it make for such a regulation to apply to only single hooks and then allow lures carrying one or more trebles used in the same water to still have barbs?
Anglers in both Washington and Oregon now are often required to use barbless hooks. One particular such area includes the broad Columbia River, where it divides the two states as well as some of the tributaries flowing into the big river.
The primary fish we are talking about here, of course, are salmon and steelhead. You may have read about certain of the record salmon runs anticipated in the Columbia this fall. If you are one of the many anglers planning on heading West to get in on some of the impending action, by all means, get yourself a current copy of the fishing regulations. Pay special attention to those that apply to the areas you'll be fishing. Get those regulations well in advance so you can study exactly what you can and can't do.
If you're one of the many salmon anglers who prefers to troll lures equipped with a treble hook or two, just what approach are you planning to take where this barbless treble hook business is concerned? You'll be wise to give this some thought.Note the deep gap on this Gamakatsu barbless treble. More and more Pacific Northwest anglers are now using these fine hooks.
If the caller I told about had read one of my columns here earlier this year, he wouldn't have been asking the questions that he did. I'd written a column before that had dealt primarily with single barbless hooks, but also mentioned the barbless treble variety.
Any time I have a question on hooks, barbless or otherwise, the first people I turn to are the good folks at Gamakatsu Hooks. I was involved in the testing of Gamakatsu's super new hooks even before they were introduced to the American market. They've been right on the cutting edge of hook making ever since.
What I detailed in that earlier column was how the single barbless hooks Gamakatsu has had in its lineup for years aren't just more hooks with the usual pin-sharp points. That they are being made barbless is taken into consideration prior to their manufacture. They are made with a special design.
I outlined what Gamakatsu executives had to say about this design in my earlier column. They pointed out that the special bend of the hooks gives them a bigger "bite" when an angler sets the hook. Anglers all over the world have had excellent success with these single barbless hooks.Fishermen headed for salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest should be darn sure what the regulations are going to be in the areas they plan to fish. Barbless hooks are a requirement in some places.
What you need to know is that the Gamakatsu's barbless trebles are made exactly the same way. You'll have the same deep bend with its extra holding power available going for you — only now when you're using a lure equipped with one of the new barbless trebles, you'll have three of them working for you instead of just one.
I had another recent call that led to another discussion of barbless trebles. My caller this trip said barbless hooks were no problem for him. "I'll just bend down the barb on my present hooks," he said, "then I'll file them a bit if I have to and I'll be all set."
He can take that route if he chooses. I won't. Why ruin a perfectly good treble? There may be areas other than the Pacific Northwest where you may well want to use the lure involved with its hooks as they were when it came out of the box.
I'll do what I've already mentioned. I'll just remove the original treble, replace it with a Gamakatsu barbless treble and store the removed hook where I can do the reverse if I ever choose to.
Barbless hooks are also a requirement for steelhead fishing in the lower Columbia as well as designated tributaries.
I've heard rumbles that some of the fisheries agents checking where barbless hooks are required have been testing the hooks of some actual fishermen by running their hooks through fabric like that often used in pantyhose. These hooks almost always go through the fabric point first with no sweat.
The problems show up when you try to back them out. If there's anything left of that barb you thought you had carefully pinched down — beware! You could be in trouble.
To sum things up, don't sweat this business of finding barbless
treble hooks. If your favorite sporting goods store doesn't have them in stock, they can be ordered for you. It's my understanding Gamakatsu is currently making these hooks from size Number 8 to Number 1/0.
For that matter, if you continue to have difficulty of any kind give Gamakatsu's Tacoma, Washington headquarters a call yourself. I've already gotten the company's ok for you to do that. Just call (253) 922-8373 and ask for sales.
July 28, 2014
Which Rod Will Be Right?? — Part 1
by Stan Fagerstrom
Everything else is packed. You've got everything ready from rain gear to long underwear, but one question remains. What the heck rod should I put in my rod case?
You could, I expect, apply similar questions to the guy who plays golf, another who goes hunting in Alaska or perhaps the bird hunter who's just itchin' to take a whack at those pheasants in South Dakota. Believe me — it applies every bit as much or more to the angler who is heading for a distant destination with a limited amount of info on what he'll find when he gets there.You'll run into some tackle busting whoppers in the Amazon but you can also find those you're able to handle with a spinning gear. That's how I boated this big black piranha and the small peacock bass I'm holding here.
Most readers will agree the best golfer in the world isn't going to beat par unless he's got a bag full of clubs designed to enable him to solve the different problems he's certain to face as he tours a course. It won't take the newest newcomer to sport fishing long to figure out he's in a similar situation.
There simply is no single fishing outfit that's a cinch to be best for every angling problem. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Be that as it may, the way I see it there is one outfit that comes a heck of a lot closer than most. My thinking is the result of having had a line in the water in a whole lot of different places around the world. I'd like to share some thoughts in this regard.
What outfit, for example, would you select if you could carry only one and you were about to take off on a long-range fishing adventure? You knew this trip would take you into parts of the world where you weren't sure what conditions you'd encounter. For that matter, you weren't even certain what kind of fish would be available.I used a spinning outfit and trolled a small Flatfish lure to take this dandy trout from a lake high in the mountains of Argentina.
I've had to make that kind of determination many times over most of the past century. Fishing adventures of one kind or another have taken me from the Amazon to Alaska, from Honduras to Hawaii, from Panama to the Pacific and a whole lot of spots in between. I've rarely been stuck with packing just one outfit, but many times I've been limited to only a couple.
I've reached my own decisions in regards to gear. I don't care where my travels take me; the outfit I pack first is a spinning rod and an open-faced spinning reel. I'm aware it won't be adequate for everything that swims in freshwater, but I do know that chances are great this set up will get me by reasonably well under a variety of conditions.
Having made that choice doesn't mean I think the spinning outfit is always going to be the best choice to solve every problem I encounter. No way! You can't, of course, use a lightweight spinning outfit for many kinds of Alaskan salmon fishing. You couldn't even throw the big surface lures often used for the Amazon's peacock bass with a light rod. If you did hook one of those wild-eyed buggers with such a rod, it would likely resemble a pretzel before the battle was over. You can be sure I'd rather have a bait casting outfit in my hands if I have to tackle a mad largemouth in heavy cover.
I'd much rather have a casting rod and a level wind reel for most kinds of bass fishing. But again, day in and out, no single outfit does the variety — underline that word, variety
— of jobs that can be handled by a good quality spinning rig. And it's going to cover a whole lot of bases when you're not certain of what you're up against going in.
I've had experienced fishermen, some who have traveled extensively, attempt to tell me the only outfit worth carrying on a fishing adventure to New Zealand is a fly rod. Baloney! I've had occasion to fish in that beautiful land almost daily for a month on two different occasions. On both trips I had opportunity to use my spinning outfit every bit as much as my fly rod if I chose to do so. You can, if you choose, do the same.
As I've indicated, the thing that makes the lightweight spinning outfit such a wonderful tool is its versatility. Purchase extra spools for your spinning reel. Load one with 4-pound line, another with 6, a third with 8 and a fourth with 10. Those four different line sizes let you cover a tremendous variety of fishing tasks. Today, with some of the new strong but small diameter braided lines, you can go even heavier than that in line test and still handle relatively lightweight lures. I'll have some specifics on that in my next column.
You can slip a 4 or 6-pound test spool onto your spinning reel and throw tiny jigs in the 1/32nd-ounce class. Such tiny jigs, equipped with miniature curly-tailed plastic worms, are among the most deadly of lures for panfish such as crappie and bluegill. They also work well for some of the exotic species you'll find in other parts of the world. I've whacked piranha with them in both Colombia and Brazil. I've done the same with tilapia in the waters of Mexico.I'd never have hooked this beautiful trout at the New Zealand Lake I'm pictured on if I'd not had the spinning outfit you see in my hand.
Your spools of light line work just fine on a spinning rig for lightweight trout fishing with small lures. If you choose, you can use the same outfit to throw a floating bubble and a fly. I've had the opportunity to spend a couple days fishing with General Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot. Here's another guy who has fished all over the place. One of his favorite angling adventures is hiking into the high Sierras for golden trout. He often catches them with flies. On a fly rod? No way! He uses a lightweight spinning outfit and one of those baubles I mentioned.
Yeager told me he has done the same thing in some of the top trout waters of Montana as well as in New Zealand and other parts of the world. "I can get way out there where the fish are with my spinning outfit," he says. "Often, conditions wouldn't permit me to do that with any other kind of outfit."
As I've already mentioned, be assured that if I have a choice, I'll do the same thing those pro golfers do. I'll carry an assortment of rods and reels that will give me a shot at solving the different problems I'm a cinch to encounter. Having access to the right tools is one of the basic ingredients to consistently putting fish on the bank or in the boat.
There are some other factors to consider. Watch for my September column, where I'll discuss some of the additional reasons I feel the way I do about the versatility of a top quality spinning outfit.-To be continued-
May 30, 2014
The Smallmouth of Steelhead Country, Part 1
by Stan Fagerstrom
It's something even experienced bass men who should know better find it difficult to believe.
And just what is the "it" I'm talking about. It's just because a lure that always seems to get the best results on your home lake may not be all that great someplace else. If you don't realize this already, you dang well better wise up because you eventually will.The beautiful John Day River runs through the quiet country of central Oregon before it dumps into the Columbia River. The river supports the migratory fishes like steelhead and salmon but it's also loaded with smallmouth bass. Nobody knows this great Oregon stream better than Steve Fleming, the operator of Mah-Hah Oufitters at Fossil, Oregon.
I've been around for awhile. I can remember two or three times when one or another of the country's top lure makers has suddenly quit making a lure that was one of my very best baits. I thought they had lost their marbles.
Those "loose" marbles were mine. One of my good friends at the Heddon Tackle Company brought this to my attention decades ago when the company announced they would no longer be marketing a beautiful old lure called the "Heddon Basser."
"What in hell are you guys doing?" I asked my friend. "That Basser is one of the best lures you've got. When conditions are right I catch more fish on that thing than anything else in my tackle box."
"Stan," my friend responded, "there a few others like you here and there who catch fish on it but that Basser you're talking about just isn't a good seller for us. Lures that sell are what lets us stay in business. We just can't continue to carry the ones that don't in our inventory. It's really quite simple---if they don't sell they don't stay."Book a trip with guide Steve Fleming and he'll take you to isolated stretches of the John Day above Fossil. You'll drift downstream and fish for smallmouth as you go. Here Steve launches his drift boat at the start of a trip.
I didn't like that response, but even a bullheaded old Scandinavian like yours truly had to admit it made sense. It has happened to me a couple more times since that Heddon Basser experience.
Did this mean I had to change tactics? No way! As soon as I learned that the lure was no longer going to be available I made darn sure I got a supply of them that would last me down through the years. I'll do the same thing again tomorrow if a lure I like and am catching fish on is about to disappear from the market.
All this came to mind recently when I had opportunity to visit with one of the most experienced outfitters and fishing guides in the western United States.
The man I'm talking about is Steve Fleming, the veteran operator of Mah-Hah Outfitters on Oregon's famed John Day River. Steve headquarters in Fossil, Oregon. As you'd expect, Steve guides for the migratory fishes for which the Pacific Northwest is famous. But his superb guiding efforts don't end there.The John Day River got a plant of 80 young smallmouth for the first time back in 1971. Guide Steve Fleming shows us here how well that plant made 43 years ago has turned out. He took the beauty he displays here in mid-March of this year.
What you might not realize is that the John Day also carries an abundance of smallmouth bass. An Oregon State Department of Fish & Game biologist named Errol Claire planted 80 smallmouth bass in the John Day River in 1971.
To merely say those young smallmouth liked their new home doesn't get the job done. They flat out loved it! "The plant Errol made was the only stocking of smallmouth ever made on the John Day," Steve Fleming says. "Today you'll find the river holds about 1,000 smallmouths per mile of water. Some of these fish exceed 5-pounds in weight."
Fleming has been running his Mah-Hah Outfitters operation on the John Day now for 25 years. During that time he's guided anglers from all over the country at one time or another. One of them happens to be the same retired fish biologist who made that original plant of smallmouth in the John Day.
"One of the advantages," Fleming says, "of getting to fish with lots of different folks is that they introduce you to new lures and techniques. This happened when I started taking Errol Claire smallmouth fishing on the John Day."
That's not surprising because besides being technically qualified as you'd expect an experienced fish biologist to be, Errol is also a cracking good angler. Today Steve will tell you his retired biologist friend turned him onto the lure that now is his number one producer in the cold water of early season fishing.Here's another example of the excellent smallmouth fishing to be had on Oregon's John Day River.
He'll also tell you that this valued friend introduced him to the tackle and technique he now employs to nail some beautiful big John Day smallmouth when the river is up and discolored. One of these set ups has produced John Day smallmouth that have won top honors in the "Catch & Release Contest" conducted by In-Fisherman magazine in the nine Western States.
But right here's where my friend Steve Fleming ran into that same problem I mentioned in the beginning. That problem is no longer being able to continue to get the exact lure he'd been clobbering the fish with because it's no longer being produced.
Don't miss my next column. I'll reveal what that lure is and how Steve Fleming uses it to produce even when conditions are less than ideal. It's bound to give you ideas you can use in your own fishing.
You'll find that column right here beginning in July.
-To Be Continued-
March 31, 2014
Can You Get By Without A Barb?
by Stan Fagerstrom
Want to start a debate with your fishin' partner?
I can tell you a great way to do it. The way I'd have you start this debate might not make much sense to you. It didn't to me either when I first thought about it. It does now.
Boil it down and here's how you can get that debate going. Simply tell your fishing partner that he'll hook more fish if he'll switch to barbless hooks.
Now let me back up a little bit. I said "hook" not "catch." And I didn't say anything about you having to be totally convinced you were right about what you were saying. I said it would simply be a good way to get a debate started.
But wait a minute! Is there any possibility that because barbless hooks really do let you "hook" more fish that you just might wind up "catching" more of them as well? Darn right there is! More and more water around the country is now being restricted to the use of only barbless hooks. There are experts who say that's not all bad.
You don't have to take my word for it. There are guides out there who rig their clients with barbless hooks. Why? For just one reason, of course, and that's because they're convinced their clients wind up putting more fish in the boat when they do.
I used to visit regularly with a former guide who went the barbless route when I lived in the Pacific Northwest. He guided anglers for salmon and steelhead in that part of the world for eight years before going elsewhere.I've had guides tell me they intentionally have had clients use barbless hooks for steehead fishing even when they weren't required.
"I used barbless hooks for years in my steelhead and salmon guiding," this former guide told me. "I was often taking out anglers who didn't know how to set a hook. It was a whole lot easier for them to get a good hook set if I used a hook without a barb."
I'm always gonna listen close and careful when a dependable guide shares his advice with me. And why not? Here's a guy who has to get results for his clients just to be able to buy his own beans.
The guide I have in mind told me something else. "We didn't often lose fish as the result of not having barbed hooks," he said. "When we did lose one it was far more likely due to errors a client made in not playing his fish properly or if the fish made a great move of one kind or another."
I've had the good fortune to work closely with the management of the Gamakatsu Company ever since these Japanese based hook makers first came onto the scene here in the United States. As a matter of fact I was given some of their wonderful new hooks to test before they actually reached the American market. Some of the barbless hooks now available to anglers are specially made to hook and hold even without a barb. They'll give you a darn good shot at putting a beauty like this in the boat.
If you've paid much attention to the manufacture and marketing of hooks you know that Gamakatsu has been right on the cutting edge of things ever since coming on the scene. If it involves hooks, you can bet these Japanese sharpshooters are in on it one way or another.
This includes those barbless hooks I've mentioned. It was Gamakatsu's barbless hooks that the guide I told about earlier was tying on for his clients. He told me some things about these specially designed hooks that I really hadn't given consideration.
I've since had opportunity to get more deeply into just how these hooks are specially designed get the job done by today's company officials I have the good fortune to know. It's information you might choose to employ in your own fishing.
One of the Gamakatsu's hook experts is Joe Quiocho, a sales manager at the company's Pacific Northwest headquarters in Tacoma, Washington. One of the things you'll hear Joe mention early on in any discussion of barbless hooks is how it's becoming more and more common to find waters where you no longer have a choice as to the hooks you use. It's not at all uncommon to find an increasing number of spots where barbless hooks are required.Are you into catch and release bass fishing? Barbless hooks make it ever so easy to release a beauty like I have here without damage.
As Joe points out, Gamakatsu has been on top of this relatively new and growing requirement. "We've been marketing both single and treble barbless hooks now for years," Quiocho says. "It's especially important that anglers coming into this part of the world to fish rivers like the Columbia and certain of its tributaries be aware of existing barbless hook requirements. The same kind of restriction is now seen more often in other parts of the country as well."
Quiocho points out something else that can be darned important if you find yourself required to use barbless hooks or want to experiment with them a bit yourself. What'll you'll find out from an expert like Joe is the difference in the actual design of Gamakatsu's barbless hooks.
I'll get into the details of exactly how the design used for Gamakatsu barbless hooks differ from the barbed variety. Keep an eye peeled because it just might be something you'll want to test in your own fishing. You'll find this information right here beginning May 1.
-To Be Continued-
February 28, 2014
You Can Make Your Practice Pay
by Stan Fagerstrom
You and your best pal are going fishing in the morning.
You've been thinking all afternoon about what you need to do to be all set when he comes by to pick you up in the morning. As you think about it, you become more aware of just how darn few things you can do that will actually help assure catching a few fish.
You can't, for example, do a blasted thing about what the weather will be. You don't have any kind of control over the water temperature, barometric pressure, wind velocity or direction or any number of other factors - all of which might affect the fish to one degree or another.
As I've mentioned, there are just so many things you can't do anything about as you prepare for the trip. Developing the ability to handle your gear so you can place your lure on target time after time isn't one of them.
Actually, accurate casting is one of the few variables associated with fishing that we can control. Sadly, and as I've endeavored to point out in my last two columns, not all that many anglers do exercise this one controlling factor that is available to them.A level wind reel is one of the best fishing tools there is. I don't care what the advertising says, you're going to have to accept the need for practice to really learn how to use it.
Let's suppose you're one of those rare newcomers to angling who does recognize and accept the need for practice. What's the best way to go about it? I'm assuming, of course, that you've been successful in finding quality equipment to work with.
The first step is to get yourself a selection of practice casting weights. Be certain that you have weights of 1/4th-ounce, 3/8th-ounce and 5/8th-ounce. These three different size practice casting weights are essential for your practice sessions.
You'll also want different size targets. They needn't be fancy. You don't have to have water for your practice sessions. That's one of the easy things about it. Just get your gear and head for the backyard or the front lawn. Either spot will work just fine.
Hula Hoops work well as targets if you're doing your practice in your back yard or a neighborhood park. Different sized cardboard boxes also work well.
I like to use a small kiddies' plastic wading pool as a primary target. You can fill it with water if you choose. Your casting weight won't bounce out of the plastic pool if it is filled with water. You can get the same result by placing something like a blanket in an empty pool.
Whatever targets you select - and this so important in the beginning - don't set them way out there somewhere. Forget all about distance as you begin your practice. I'll make you a promise: Concentrate on learning to hit your targets consistently close in. Once you do, you'll find that it's no sweat to reach out farther when it's necessary.
I stress this because it's so darned important in developing good casting techniques. Unfortunately, distance is often what beginning casters are prone to give the most attention to. Don't make that mistake. Again, learn to hit the targets you've positioned fairly close in the beginning. If you do it the other way around you'll be in trouble from day one.I've had the good fortune to share thoughts and demonstrate casting over a sizeable chunk of the world. This picture is from one of a number of appearances I've made in Brazil.
So what's a good distance to work with in the beginning? I recommend setting your primary target 25 to 30-feet away. There's little physical effort involved in casting that far if you've got good quality, balanced equipment to work with.
If it's a level wind reel and casting rod that you're working with, tie on a 5/8th-ounce practice weight in the beginning. You'll find the heavier weight handles with less effort. A practice plug that size also brings out the action of the rod and helps give you the "feel" for what good casting requires.
You'll eventually want to switch to lighter weights for some of your casting practice with a level wind reel but hold off doing so until you've got a good sense of what's required. Your level wind reel will never perform the way it should if you screw all of its spool tension devices way down tight. Practice will enable you not to have to do that.
Someone is sure to ask what test lines should they choose for their practice sessions. I favor 12 to 14-pound test on the level winds where monofilaments are concerned. With quality braids like Power Pro, my choice is 20-pound test.
With the open faced spinning reels my choice is usually 6-pound test with monofilament and 10-pound with braid. Incidentally, if you've not used Shimano's Power Pro braid on your open faced spinning reels, don't hesitate to do so. It spools beautifully. You won't quite get distance as easily as you do with monofilament, but as aforesaid, distance is overrated where accurate casting is concerned.
Closed face spinning reels come already loaded with monofilament. If you're teaching a youngster how to use one, and those reels are a great choice for kids, pick one that's small enough for them to easily handle.
Like most anything else, you'll generally get about what you're willing to pay for in purchasing a closed face reel. One of the best I've found is a Daiwa Goldcast. It's a dandy. The smallest of these quality reels, and that's the best size for kids to handle, is the Daiwa GC80.
If your wife, like mine, doesn't want to get into fishing up to her ears, but wants to be able to enjoy herself when she does choose to go, a closed face is also a good choice. Years ago, I got her a Daiwa Goldcast closed face. I taught her how to use it properly early on and she's pretty darn good with it.
There's a whole lot more to be said about the importance of casting practice and how to go about it. But I'll make you a promise: mastering the gear you'll be using for actual fishing will have just one result - that's more fish in the boat.
If that doesn't make you happy, I don't know what would!
January 31, 2014
Practice Makes Perfect - It Also Puts More Fish In The Boat
by Stan Fagerstrom
Practice casting is certain to put more fun into your fishing. It's also going to make it a whole lot more pleasant for your fishing companion.
When I wrote my previous column about the importance of practice, I immediately thought of what a friend told me about a couple of friends he had taken along on fishing adventures, each at a different time.
"I asked both of these guys a few questions well ahead of the time we were to leave," he says. "I was to provide the equipment and I needed to know what kind of gear they could handle.See the edge of the lily pad field in the background of this picture? I had to get my lure into those pads just right to get results. Here's proof that the practice I'd done prior to getting out there with my bait casting outfit enabled me to get the job done.
"The first of the two I took assured me he was familiar with both level wind reels as well as open faced spinning reels. As a result I put together four bait casting rigs and a couple of spinning outfits. I asked him if he'd like to do a little practice casting before we left. He assured me that wasn't necessary.
"How wrong that turned out to be! I doubt he had ever attempted to cast with a level wind reel. He never even picked up one of the outfits I'd brought along for him. His experience with a spinning reel had evidently been limited to trolling. He's a heck of a good guy and I value his friendship, but if anybody could have used a little practice before getting on the water, it was him.
"I well remember the reaction of the other friend who I invited to accompany me on the same kind of trip. I was again to provide all of the equipment we'd use once we got there. "Jack," this friend said, "any chance I could come down and spend a day or two with you before we go? I've not used a level wind reel much and I'd like to practice with it a bit if that works out for you."I should never taught this attractive gal to handle a spinning outfit properly. Why? Because now she often catches more fish than I do!
My friend went on to tell me how the second of his two friends did come to stay with him a day before their departure for the trip. He set up a couple of targets out in his yard and gave this guy, his name was Bob, a couple of the same reels he'd be using when they got to where they were going.
You'd like Bob. I'd heard that he was competitive in anything he tackled. He sure as heck was. In no time at all he was handling my level wind reels like he'd been using them for years.
So what was the result of my friend's experience? If you're an experienced angler yourself, you could undoubtedly guess. The first guy, the one who didn't see the need for practice, had an awful time. When he wasn't hung up in the trees, he was picking at tangles. As a result he didn't catch as many fish as he should have.
"That wasn't how it went with Bob," my friend told me. "He was a pleasure to have in the boat. He was able to put his lure on target darn near all the time. As it turned out, he caught more fish than I did and I think he went home happy about the entire experience."
I expect I've done about as much preaching about the importance of casting practice as anybody in the country. As I mentioned in my previous column, I've been at it since I gave my first casting exhibition more than half a century ago. You can bet that little gal waiting her turn for some hands on instruction is going to hear about the importance of casting practice. So are those other kids waiting their turn. Years later I sometimes hear from one or another of those I've helped at outdoor shows somewhere around the country. They invariably tell me how important their practice casting was to them in learning how to catch fish.
There's no question about it, casting practice is essential if you hope to ever catch your share of fish. The sooner you accept that, and do something about it, the sooner you'll join that 10 per cent of anglers who catch about 90 per cent of the fish.
There are certain steps to take that can be of great help if you do decide to practice your casting. I'll detail what some of the important basics are in my next column. It starts March 1.
-To Be Continued-
November 26, 2013
The Stan’s Spin Spinnerbait - Part 2
by Stan Fagerstrom
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.
June 05, 2013
The Secrets To Catching Crappie
by Stan Fagerstrom
The first two keys to catching crappie is first to find them and then fishing at exactly the depth where the schools are holding.
I've detailed these two essentials in my last two columns. In this, the third and final column in this series, we'll deal with another factor of equal importance. That factor is the speed of retrieve regardless of the lure being used.
What is the right speed? It's not at all involved. What you need to remember is that you simply can't fish too slowly if it's crappie you're after. That sounds simple enough, but some would be crappie fishermen never do figure it out.
I've fished crappie a few times with one of these guys. He's one of those nervous individuals who just isn't happy unless he's jerking and twitching his rod tip and retrieving his lure so fast a starving barracuda would have trouble catching up with it. That flat won't work where crappies are concerned.
Sometimes the best speed of retrieve for a crappie bait or lure is simply not moving it at all. One of the most effective methods to catch crappies under many conditions is to suspend a little jig, fly or miniature plastic worm beneath a float. Cast your float out where you know the crappie are holding and let it set. Now retrieve it a couple of feet. Then let it rest again.
Now and then, depending on how rippled the surface is, most of your hits come while the lure is seemingly dead in the water. Just the up and down movement of the float as it bobs on the surface is sufficient to attract crappie---sometimes lots of crappie.Big crappies like this dandy are down there but they can be hard to come by
Tiny tube worms, flies dressed with marabou feathers and miniature plastic grubs are all super crappie baits. Use all of these lures with a leadhead jig of appropriate size and remember that the best size weight isn't necessarily always going to be the same.
I prefer to use the lightest leadhead I can get by with and still fish efficiently. I say efficiently, because while I might generally favor a 1/32nd-ounce leadhead, I don't want to use something that falls as slowly as a 1/32nd- ounce jig does if the fish are feeding at 25 feet.
I recall fishing some bushes on a favorite lake that always hold crappie in the spring. The guy I was with couldn't figure out why I was catching one fish after another while he wasn't getting a bump. I had given him lures identical to my own.
Finally, knowing something was haywire and wanting to see him get his share of the action, I asked to see his jig. One glance was enough to discover his problem. We were fishing water only three to four feet deep. While the miniature grub he had been using was the same as my own, the little jig he was using it on was 1/16th ounce. Mine was only 1/32nd ounce.
His lure was falling so fast the crappies didn't have time to get to it before it hit bottom. As soon as I gave him a leadhead the size of my own he started catching fish. To an inexperienced crappie fisherman that slight difference in jig size might not seem significant. It was and is. Little things can make a really big difference in any kind of fishing. The sooner you make that discovery, the sooner your catches will increase.Jig heads like those pictured are super crappie lures when used with a tiny plastic grub. You'll want to vary your jig size depending on the depth at which the crappie are holding
If you have read my book, "Catch More Crappie," you will recall a chapter in which I mentioned a man named Tom Jones, of Longview, Washington. Tom has been gone a long time now, but I always regarded him as the best all around crappie fishermen I ever met. He went after crappie the way us bass nuts go after largemouth.
I used to see him often at a favorite lake I fished 50 years ago. He had the crappie holding spots pinned down. Every now and then I'd take a break from bass fishing and run by to check how Tom was doing catching crappie.
I did that one day and thought my eyes were deceiving me. Tom had a burlap bag attached to both sides of his boat. He showed me a couple of fish out of the bag on the starboard side. They were average fish. Then he reached into the bag attached to the port side. In it he had a bunch of crappie larger than anything I'd seen in that part of the world. They were beauties. For that matter, I've not seen any as big since.
I asked Tom, he was as nice a guy as he was a good angler, how he caught those fish. He showed me. He had a small bucktail fly that looked something like a cross between a Royal Coachman and a Cowlitz Special. The fly was suspended under a float. Tom heaved the float out and then inched it back. Many of his fish were caught when the fly seemed dead in the water.
I've always remembered the tips Tom shared with me. One of them was how slow you must fish to catch crappie consistently. It's something you also need to remember if you hope to fashion a successful approach to catching crappie.There's a heap of good eating shown here. You'll need to fish your crappie lures at just the right depth and at the proper speed to get similar results
In the last three columns I've shared the three main keys to successful crappie angling. They are location, depth and proper lure speed. They aren't something I read about somewhere. They are based on most of a lifetime of fishing experience.
If you want to get more fun out of catching these interesting and great eating panfish, there's no better time than right now to put these same tactics to work in your own angling.
December 06, 2011
Closed Face Spinning Reels - The Best For Kids
by Stan Fagerstrom
I'm one lucky guy.
Why? Because I'm one of those fortunate few who for the most part have been able to make a living doing something they love. In my case what that's boiled down to has been fishing and writing about it or demonstrating how best to use the tools---the rods, reels and lines---associated with the sport.