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Ohio Next Generation Trail Aims to Increase Youth Participation in Bass Fishing

Beginning in 2014, Ohio’s “next generation” of bass anglers will have the opportunity to compete in a newly formatted tournament circuit that aims to increase youth participation in bass fishing, while maintaining a fun and educational backdrop.

The Ohio Next Generation Trail (a U.S.A. Bassin affiliated organization) will be offering a five-tournament series that pairs an adult with a youth under the age of 19.  Parents, teachers and mentors will have the chance to team up with their child, student or mentee to compete on some of Ohio’s best bass fisheries during their peak times.

Tom Hack, an Ohio public school teacher and tournament bass angler, will serve as Ohio Next Generation’s Tournament Director.

According to Hack, “There are many things I’ve taken into consideration in planning this circuit.  First, we are hitting the right lakes at the right time in their prime.  I want our young anglers to experience success.  Second, the tournament hours for the circuit are six hours in duration compared to the typical eight hours, which will make fishing these tournaments easier on both the kids and the adults.  Third, the cost of the circuit is very affordable, at $50 a tournament.  And finally, teams who compete will have a chance to qualify for a national championship tournament, where a $5,000 scholarship will be awarded”.

Tom Hack and Son

The 2014 schedule will visit some great fisheries, including Buckeye Lake, Clear Fork, Delaware, and O’Shaughnessy.  For more information on the circuit, take a look at the Ohio Next Generation Trail – Schedule and Membership Information flyer, or contact Tom Hack at (419) 560-0432.


Fall Bite Heating Up!

If you have a favorite big bass lake, it’s about time to start hitting it hard.  The recent cool nights have fired our lakes up.  Want proof? Check out some of the big bass photos that have been submitted to me over the past few days by Ohio anglers.  For more on hunting for big bass in Ohio in the Fall, check out http://www.ohiobassblog.com/2011/10/24/fall-hawg-hunting-in-ohio/

Clear Fork – October 8th – Steve Holsinger

Steve Holsinger - Clear Fork - 10-8-13

Burr Oak – October 6th – Ryan Woods - 7.32lbs

Ryan Woods - Burr Oak - 7.32lbs - 10-6-13

James River, VA – October 7th - Nick Prvonozac – 7 lbs 10 oz

Nick Prvonozac - James River - 7lbs 10oz 10-7-13

AEP ReCreation Lands - September 23rd – Aaron Duemmel – 7lbs

Aaron Duemmel - 9-23-13 AEP



The Alien Labs Bottom Buster

For a $249 investment, there are very few bass fishing tools that can redefine an angler’s ability to catch fish.  The Alien Labs Bottom Buster, a manually operated shallow water anchoring system, is one of them.

Shallow water anchoring systems have transformed the way bass anglers can attack shallow cover.  Although there are a number of these anchoring systems available on the market today, most of them are expensive, ranging anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a single anchor.  Fortunately, Ohio-based Alien Labs (www.alienlabsusa.com) has created a unique system that performs at a high level, but at a fraction of the cost of other anchors.

Bottom Buster Image 1

By pinning a bass boat to the bottom of the lake, the Bottom Buster neutralizes the effect of strong currents, waves, and wind on boat positioning.  The result is better casting accuracy, and the ability to pick apart shallow cover that would otherwise be challenging to fish.  In certain tournament scenarios, such as bed fishing and dock fishing events, not having one equipped can put an angler at a serious disadvantage against his competition.

The Bottom Buster is individually crafted with high-quality materials by Ohio tournament angler Matt Bores, and priced at a very affordable $249 (plus tax).  The system consists of three main components:  a RAM Mount; an anodized aluminum sleeve; and a durable eight foot long fiberglass pole.

Bottom Buster Image 2

The mounting system can be affixed to any flat surface of the boat with four stainless steel bolts.  The most common mounting positions are at the bow (either affixed to the trolling motor track or the top of the bow), or at the stern (affixed to the transom or jack plate).  Most mounting systems on the market can be mounted in a limited number of areas, making the Bottom Buster truly unique.

The sleeve is tightened onto the RAM Mount ball the same way an electronics unit is tightened to a mount.  Constructed of a sleek black anodized aluminum, the sleeve is durable and can be positioned at any angle the angler prefers.

An eight foot fiberglass pole is manually inserted down through the sleeve, and pushed into the bottom of the lake to anchor the boat firmly in place.  The 7/8” diameter pole is jointed, and can be broken down into two four foot pieces and stored in a rod locker when not in use.  The tip of the pole is machined out of stainless steel, making it impressively strong and rust/corrosion resistant.  The rubber gripped handle allows for easy handling of the pole.  The pole also doubles as a push pole for those skinny-water situations.


In addition to the many fishing scenarios where the Bottom Buster comes in handy, it also can be used to anchor your boat while you or your partner are grabbing the truck to load up, eliminating the need to tie off to the courtesy dock!  And the  Bottom Buster isn’t just for bass boats.  It’s a great for  kayaks, jon boats, and canoes as well.

For any angler who is looking to gain a competitive advantage without spending a fortune, the Bottom Buster is the perfect solution.  For more information about the Bottom Buster, or to place an order, please visit www.alienlabsusa.com, or stop by Ohio Bass Blog sponsor Fin Feather & Fur Outfitters and ask to speak with Steve or Tyler.



Lake Erie Smallmouth on Display

In case you haven’t been following, Lake Erie is currently playing host to the third and final Bassmaster Northern Open of the season.  Day 1 results were insane, with a number of 20 pound limits brought to the scale.  For complete tournament coverage, be sure to visit www.bassmaster.comThere are several Ohio anglers at the top of the day 1 standings.  Unfortunately, day 2 was cancelled due to the windy conditions.

Opens angler Steve Priest sent me this photo from a trip to the lake a couple of weeks ago.  Talk about an insane fishery!

Steve Priest Lake Erie





A Needed Change of Pace

Bass fishing in Ohio can be a real grind in late summer, even for the most hardcore of anglers.  Sometimes the best way to rejuvenate yourself for the end of the season is to hop in the car and drive to where the fish are biting.

This week I traded in the bass boat and Ohio’s small, highly pressured waters for an eight foot kayak and an expansive view of crystal blue water.  My destination was Grand Traverse Bay, a smallmouth mecca located on Lake Michigan in the north west corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

Grand Travers Bay

The water in Grand Traverse Bay is so clear that you can see the bottom from 30 feet above.  Weed beds, sunken drift wood, and rock piles line the drop offs, and as you peer down you’ll occasionally see the lumbering shadows of giant Lake Michigan smallies cruising in search of a meal.  Most of these fish have probably never seen a lure before, a theory that’s reinforced by the ferocity with which they bite!

Kayaking for Smallmouth on Lake Michigan

My presentation was simple - a seven foot spinning rod, a Shimano Sedona 2500 series reel spooled with six pound Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon, a size 1/0 EWG Gamakatsu hook, a 3/4 oz drop shot weight, and a variety of Berkley Gulp baits.  I worked the break lines where the bottom fell from 10 to 25 plus feet of water, making long casts and letting the weight drop to the bottom.  As the rig bumped the edge of a rock or weed line, I would shake it in place.  Most of the fish would hammer it, sending a hollow thump through my forearms.  Occasionally I wouldn’t feel the bite at all, and the rod would just load up.

5.2 pound Lake Michigan Smallmouth 2013

Fishing from the kayak was an amazing change of pace for several reasons.  First, it allowed me to get back to the basics – no fancy electronics, trolling motor, or casting decks – just me and the fish.  Second, I didn’t have a landing net, so I got a lot of practice lipping and belly landing 3, 4, and even 5 pound fish.  And finally, the kayak allowed me to gain a respectful appreciation for the power of these smallmouths.  Some of the larger fish fought for close to five minutes, gave incredible acrobatic displays, and pulled the kayak a hundred feet before finally surrendering.  There’s nothing quite like having a five pound fish jump to your eye level while you’re virtually sitting on top of the water.

5.4 pound Lake Michigan Smallmouth 2013

Over the course of five days, I boated hundreds of fish, including a 5.4, 5.2 and 4.9.  It was a much needed change of pace, and best of all, I didn’t spend a dime on fuel!

Grand Traverse Bay Kayaking



Charity Events Highlight Busy Weekends of Ohio Bass Tournaments

Over the next couple of weekends, Ohio anglers will have the opportunity to take part in two open charity bass tournaments.  Both will be donating a percentage of the entry fees to great causes.  If you’re looking for something to fish, try one of them out:

Turkeyfoot Benefit Crew for Hospice-August 24th & 25th-Indian Lake

Indian Lake Frog Water

The frog bite should be on!  As it has for many, many years, Indian Lake will play host to the Hospice Benefit Tournament this weekend.  The entry fee for this two-day event is $100 per team, which includes big bass.  Top tournament finishers and top big bass winners will receive cash prizes and trophies.  50% of the boat entry fees will be donated to charity.  Based on a 250 boat field, $10,000 will be awarded between the top ten finishing teams, and $5,000 divided between the top three big bass winners.

For more information: Call Tammy at 937-623-1277 or Doug at 937-492-1791.

Outcast Bassmasters Special Olympics Benefit Open – August 31st – Delaware Lake

On August 31st, the Outcast Bassmasters will be hosting their first annual Special Olympics Benefit Open on Delaware Lake.  30% of all entry fee money collected, as well as half of the 50/50 raffle will be donated to the Special Olympics.  The entry fee is $90 per boat, plus an optional $10 big bass pot.  Anglers can register the day of the event beginning at 5:30 a.m.  Food will be provided at the conclusion of the tournament, and a number of great door prizes donated by companies such as Knox Marine, Boat Boys, Paul’s Marine, Sizzle Marine, Tumbleweed, TGI Fridays and Movie Tavern will be given out to contestants.  Complete rules and event information is posted on the Open Tournaments page.



Catch and Release in Ohio – Signs of Success

Many scientific studies have been conducted to evaluate the survival rate of bass that are caught and then released at the conclusion of bass tournaments.  Because many environmental factors can come into play (water temperature, how the fish are handled and cared for by the anglers, and the weigh-in methods used by the tournament organization), the survival numbers can range dramatically.  According to an article published on the Ohio Division of Wildlife website, the average survival rate for catch and release of sportfish is 82%.  However, that number can range as low as 25%.

Catch and Release Works in Ohio

Fortunately for Ohio bass anglers, every major tournament organization that I’m aware of practices outstanding weigh in procedures, and my feeling is that the survival rates associated with their weigh ins substantially beat out the 82% average for all catch and release scenarios.  For their efforts, they should be commended!  I’m sure there are still a few outlying organizations that have not adopted proper procedures.  My challenge to anyone reading this is to speak up and voice your opinion to the tournament director should you encounter a process that hurts the chances of a bass being released alive and healthy.

While fishing an Ohio Mega Bass tournament on Indian Lake Saturday I got a first-hand reminder of just how successful catch and release can be.  Indian is perhaps the most highly pressured tournament lake in Ohio.  You’d be hard pressed to find a Saturday from April through September where at least one bass tournament isn’t taking place.  During my tournament  we caught three quality fish in the two pound range that all had small puncture holes underneath their jaws from where they had been on culling tags from a prior tournament.  The fish were fat, healthy, and full of fight.  Had they been kept or mistreated by the pior anglers who caught them, or had the prior tournament organization not conducted a quality weigh in, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of weighing them in.

Fish care is extremely important to our bass fisheries here in Ohio, particularly in the heat of summer, and I encourage everyone to do their part!  For more information on proper fish care, please read my Summer Fish Care article.


So you want to be a bass pro?

A lot of guys (myself included) dream of some day having the opportunity to compete at the highest level of bass fishing.  I recently read a two-part article by former professional angler Joe Balog that discusses the challenges of succeeding at that level, both competitively and financially.  In the article, Balog has an open and honest interview with current Elite Series angler Michael Simonton, an Ohio native.  I think you’ll find it quite interesting: Part 1 Part 2



As we approach August, I’m happy to report that the bass fishing in Ohio continues to be strong.  Here are some photos that were recently shared with me:

Steve and Jarrod Priest with a load of quality fish after a recent trip to Lake Erie:

Steve Priest Lake Erie SMJarrod Priest Lake Erie SMSteve Priest Lake Erie LM

Sol Curtis and Aaron Duemmel with a pair of AEP hawgs they caught this week:

Sol Curtis - AEP - 7-25-13Aaron Duemmel - AEP - 7-25-13


Ohio Crawdad Varieties and Colors

There are 17 different species of crawdads living within Ohio’s waters.  Although at first glance they appear quite similar, on close inspection you’ll find that each species exhibits unique qualities that sets them apart from the rest, such as orange or red highlighted pinchers.  Take a minute to check out the crawdads that live within our borders by clicking here.

Devil Crawfish

Sometimes, modifying your bait to match the color and size of the crawdads found in the body of water you’re fishing can lead to more bass hookups.  Subtle modifications, such as dying the pinchers of your jig trailer or the end of your tube orange can make a big difference.  The easiest way to see what your local crayfish look like is to simply search the bottom of your livewell for the leftovers spit out by bass!

Crawdad Jig

Making these modifications is more effective in clear to slightly stained water conditions.  If the water you’re fishing is chocolate milk, forget trying to match the natural forage, and instead go with something bulky in a dark color to get their attention.


Upsize Your Summer Topwaters

July is prime time for throwing topwater baits in Ohio.  Oftentimes, anglers in Ohio think that downsizing their topwater baits is the right move this time of year.  Sometimes that is the case.  But over the last few years I’ve found that giant topwater walking baits regularly elicit more and better quality blowups than their smaller counterparts.

The concept of throwing big baits to catch big bass is nothing new.  However, as it relates to topwater baits, only in the last few years have anglers been upsizing their topwaters.  Many lure manufacturers now offer walk the dog style baits that are 4 inches and longer.  These baits come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and all have unique characteristics.  Some are extremely noisy, built with internal rattles, and designed to furiously slosh the surface.  Others are surprisingly stealth, cutting across the water with finesse and speed.

A few of the more popular oversized walk the dog baits on the market right now include (pictured in order below):  River2Sea Rover 128; Lucky Craft Gunfish 135; ABT Lures King Dawg; Jackall Bowstick 130; and the Heddon Super Spook.

Giant Topwater Baits

Why do these baits draw strikes?  A popular theory is that bass hit ‘em for no other reason than they haven’t seen them before.  I recently wrote an article that discusses these “jumbo” topwater baits in detail for FLW Bass Magazine.  Be sure to check it out in an upcoming issue!

Although low light periods in the morning and evening present the best windows for capitalizing on the topwater bite, bass will often blast big surface baits in the middle of the day around shade pockets and over thick cover, particularly when there’s a nice chop on the surface.  The next time you decide to pick up your topwater rod, try tying on something over-the-top big.  I think you’ll be surprised with the results.

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