I had my first Club tournament of the 2017 season on Lake McDonough in Barkhamsted on Sunday April 23 from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. We fish a team trail that has a 5 fish limit per team, and had 18 teams participating. I really like Lake McDonough and always feel pretty confident when I’m there as I feel I know a lot of productive spots and the baits that the bass seem to prefer at any given season. Water temps ranged from about 49 in the morning to 55 in the afternoon. And, of course the water was nice and clear with visibility too 10+ feet. The weather was clear with a light south wind.
My partner Kevin and I drew boat #2 so pretty much had our choice of spots to start in so we decided to begin on a rocky 45 degree bank. Throwing a black/blue jig & pig and a watermelon spider grub gave us nothing. We gave this short stretch of bank another pass with a 4” curl tail grub and a suspending jerkbait and still had no action so, off to the south end of the lake. The next spot was a deep water “saddle” area in between two shallow areas. I scored a decent 2.48 pound largemouth on the jig from this area and missed a couple other soft, bites. I don’t really know why I missed those strikes but sometimes it just happens. A couple of other nearby spots also failed to produce so we decided to move back towards the ramp and found nobody sitting on a mid-lake shoal that typically is pretty good. This area is as shallow as about 4 feet but bordered by 30+ feet of water. I like the north end of it where it tapers off to form a nice point, while my buddy Kevin more likes the shallower portion of it. We started near the point and I scored a little keeper largemouth on a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog in about 10 feet of water. Instead of staying there, we moved to the shallower portion. After a lot of casts, I finally hooked up with a 14.5” smallmouth on a deep diving Rapala Husky Jerk. We worked back out towards the point and now with 3 in the box, I quickly caught another 3 largemouth on the C rigged Brush Hog from 8 to about 14 feet deep.
Time was beginning to run short and the shoal area had gone cold so we moved off to another small hump that rises to about 10 feet. Working a jig across the top of the hump showed that it was covered in old growth, brown, slimy, sand grass so I thought to pick up that deep diving jerkbait to throw around the deep edges and sure enough, it produced another largemouth that made a cull.
It sure seemed to me to be a slow day on McD and that fact was driven home at the weigh in scales. Most everyone got a 5 fish limit but weights were low and bunched up around 7 pounds. My partner and I had 8 and a 1/2 pounds which for the day was proving to be above average. As we usually fish this lake every spring, and every spring someone brings in a 6+ pound fish, I was waiting to see that jumbo, but she never showed up. In the end, it took about 9.25 pounds to win, while second place was captured by about 9.1 pounds. Third place? Turned out Kevin and I didn’t do so badly after all. We captured third place. And, the biggest surprise of the day was, my first fish of the day, turned out to be Lunker for the tournament. Not a very big fish but when the cash was handed out, it didn’t matter that it was only a 2.5 pound fish, it was still the largest for the day.
July 18, 2017
Summertime! My most productive time of the year. Generally, from late July through August there is a good population of bass that have moved off of the bank and onto and into some deeper water. During the daylight, give me two rods. One rigged with some kind of jig type bait, and the other being a dropshot rod.
Once the fish get out to 13 feet or grater in our area waters, they become easy targets for the drop shot technique. The overall set up is relatively simple. You have a weight attached to the end of your line with a small, thin wire hook attached about a foot above the weight. Attach a numerous array of soft plastic worms, minnow imitators, or crawfish and, you are going to get bit. If not by bass, nearly all other fish see your bait as a feeding opportunity. If you like fishing a Senko weightless, wacky style, the drop shot may be right up your ally. As there are many methods to fishing (i.e.) retrieving a drop shot, the majority of your bites will come as the bait is sitting still. Just as the Senko works best allowed to fall on a free line, the drop shot can often be at its prime while sitting still.
For me, a good drop shot bait has to float. Or at least not sink fast. A bait such as a 4” Roboworm will generally float the light wire hook off the bottom weed or muck. The 4” Lunker City Ribster, and Gary Yamamoto, Shad Shape Worm are also good choices as well as the Z-Man Finesse Shad. All of these baits have a tendency to float and imitate a small baitfish almost perfectly. Enough of the baits. I’ll leave that to the marketers who. By the way do a great job offering us very style and color imaginable. I’m nor sponsored by any of them.
What is the perfect rod and reel for dropshotting? Everyone has their own preferences but, I want a high speed spinning reel (6:1 or greater) in the 200 class paired with a lighter rod in a Medium action with a moderate power, around 7 feet long. I first started dropshotting using 6# P-Line Flouroclear line (which is outstanding light line for ANY application) but moved to 10# Power Pro braided line. This year, I moved to the same line but in yellow. Due to eye sight and many missed fish on the drop I made this adjustment and so far so good. With the braid, especially the yellow, I am tying on the 6# P-Line Fluoroclear as a leader, about 8 feet long, using a simple and fast Uni to Uni knot. I use a Gamakutsu #2 Split shot/drop shot hook. The next size up moves to a heavier wire and changes the presentation. It is absolutely amazing on how well this tiny hook sticks the fish. And lastly, the weight. I prefer the ¼ oz. Linker City Bakudan SKINNY” OR “PENCIL” WEIGHT. The thin cylindrical weight MAY come through the cover better. After the uni to uni knot, and about 8 feet of leader, I tie the small Gamakatsu hook about 1 foot of the end of the line using a Palomar knot. The tag end of that knot will be re-inserted through the eye of the hook dropping downwards and the weight simply pinches to the bottom of that line.
The retrieve, can vary from a slow pull to sitting absolutely motionless. Sometimes they want that bait quivering which you can do by shaking the rod tip on a slack line, while at other times they may want you to cover some ground and pull it slowly across the bottom. The retrieve largely depends on the mood of the fish so let them tell you how they want it. All fish seem to want this bait, it takes a bit of time to figure out what type of bite is a bass bite and which are nuisance fish. Either way, in the summer time this rig will get enough bites to keep your interest level up.
The hook set. Due to the nature of that small hook, and if you are using braided line, your hook set does not need to be violent. Contrary to the typical rubber worm hookset, most times with the drop shot it is no more than a “Lift and reel” situation. That tiny light wire hook often stabs them itself as soon as you put pressure on the line. From then on through the battle is usually up to your drag, and the rod. Crank when the fish is not pulling, and let the rod absorb the shock when they are pulling. Even using a light monofilament line, you usually do not need to give the hook a monster hook set.
The great thing about the drop shot is that it can be used not only in the summertime but the spring in shallow water can be pretty productive as well as the fall and winter when the fish get grouped up on points and sharp drops. All the modern electric sonar units on the market now may give you an opportunity to “video fish”. In the late fall/early winter time, you can mark individual fish on your sonar and drop you rig on top them and most likely catch that same fish. Myself and others have also used the drop shot while ice fishing. It works! Not all the time, but enough to keep me coming back to it but, in the summertime when the bass are setting up on their deep stuff, it is definitely one of my preferred techniques.