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Fishing Online's 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Fishing Online's 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It's that time of year! Not sure what to get the angler in your life? Look no further. Fishing Online's 2018 Holiday Gift Guide is here!
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Snakehead Fishing In South Florida

Snakehead Fishing In South Florida

Snakehead Fishing In South Florida

Snakeheads...an exotic fish that has all of us running for our lives. This invasive "Lake Monster" can live up to four hours out of water and can consume small children left unattended while playing outdoors. These fish should be killed as soon as they are caught! The Snakeheads are taking over our waters, I say we should NUKE 'EM!... or let's just fish for them, less messy that way. 

   Now, let's get serious for a moment. Years back, it was believed that Snakeheads should be destroyed once caught as there was a fear that they would kill off any species that shared the water with these predatory beasts. Over the years, the Snakehead has in fact become a targeted game fish and big fish are being reported in the Potomac River in Washington, as well as my home area in South Florida. Now, while I can't speak for how to target them up in Washington, I know how to catch them down here and let me tell you, they are fun to catch and fight like crazy when hooked. Now I am going to get into a few ways I love to get them to strike. 

Snakehead fishing

   Here in South Florida, from Wellington down through Coral Springs, I have found Snakeheads to frequent tight canals, and normally where there are thick weed lines, "Matted Muck", docks, or timber, there is a Snakehead lying in wait for prey to swim past. They will often stay in shallow water, so working deeper water won't necessarily be the best way to get them. A Spinnerbait or Chatterbait can be a great way to get them to come out from under-cover if the water is deep enough to work these baits. I run the bait parallel to where I think they will be. I normally use a Medium Heavy Baitcasting outfit with 12-pound test and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader (similar to my bass fishing setups). The leader helps with preventing break-offs, especially when fishing near submerged timber. My absolute favorite way to catch them is by casting a weedless rigged frog "parallel" to this cover, just like I do with the skirted baits. For this technique, the frogs I use are dark in color and my favorite one is the Bruiser Baits Kickin' Frog in Houdini color. I rig it up with a 5/0 VMC Swimbait Hook. I use a Medium Heavy Spinning Combo with 15-pound braid tied directly to the hook. I find it easier to cast soft plastics with spinning gear. I cast the frog about a foot away from the cover/structure and I reel it just fast enough to keep the bait along the surface and let the paddle feet do their job, which produces a wake similar to that of a Buzzbait. When the moment comes, you will see the wake come from under the cover and "strike" the frog. I wait for a second or two to ensure the fish has the bait, then I set the hook and the fight has begun. Now, this is no ordinary fight. One of the Snakeheads favorite moves is the alligator "death roll". They fight very similar to a Redfish, as they charge downward as much as possible! Their death roll can make things interesting and has been known to claim the life of a spinnerbait from time to time. They will continue to fight even once you get them into your net and get the gripper in their mouth. Make sure you always have your gripper leashed to your kayak!! I have had a Snakehead "death roll" with my Fish Grip Lock and it pulled right out of my hand! These fish fight you with everything they have, and their size and strength is what makes them a sought-after game fish. Catching Snakeheads in the 25" range is somewhat of a letdown when they are reaching lengths close to 40". However, the few 35"+ ones that I have caught were fights I won’t soon forget.

Fishing For Snakehead

    Now like I mentioned earlier, there was a belief a few years ago that you should kill these fish because they were invasive. However, in speaking with the FWC, I was informed that there was a common misconception that the FWC rules prohibit traditional catch and release of exotic fish species. In their current interpretation of the rules, as confirmed by FWC council’s office, there is no prohibition against catching and immediately releasing an exotic fish. It is critical to note that you may not possess Bullseye Snakehead alive. If you’re going to retain the fish, it must be dead -- no putting the fish in the live well for pictures later or anything like that. FWC encourages anglers to harvest exotic fish, including Bullseye Snakehead.  Many exotic fish taste delicious, and Snakeheads lead the way on that front. Anglers not wanting to eat the fish could simply give them to friends or neighbors. However, the FWC does not support just throwing Snakeheads, or other exotic fish, on the bank to die. The FWC has not documented any impacts on native sportfish populations from the presence or introduction of Bullseye Snakeheads.  However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a recognition that they aren’t consuming energy in the systems where they occur or playing a role in the aquatic communities they inhabit. The potential for impacts always remains. This is a key reason that they constantly reinforce the message that new exotic species should not be released into the wild and existing species should not be moved outside current ranges.  

how to catch snakehead

   Now, if you like to eat your day's catch, from what I have been told, the Bullseye Snakehead makes good table fare and catching these fish is not difficult. Keep the bait moving, keep it moving quickly, work it near cover and hold on...because once you hook one, you are in for a fight!  

-Bill Sikora

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GIANT PA Northern Pike Caught from Kayak

GIANT PA Northern Pike Caught from Kayak

Every year I head to the Allegheny National forest for a few days of camping and fishing. This year my trip was at the end of September, as opposed to the normal timing of July. The water in the Allegheny Reservoir was still up and the weather was perfect, so I was feeling good about the fishing conditions. I headed out in my Bonafide SS127 with the mindset of targeting Smallmouth Bass. Early into the trip I heard a very large splash behind me, so I quickly launched a 412 Bait Co spinner bait (3/8 oz. Chartreuse Shad) with a 2.75” SmallJaw Craw trailer into the wake of the splash and it was bitten as soon as it hit the water! I could tell right away that this was not a Bass and the fear of losing this fish crossed my mind multiple times knowing that I didn't have a wire leader. I felt a huge rush of adrenaline when the Pike made its first jump and I saw the size of it for the first time. After fighting for several minutes, I was able to net the fish and get it into the kayak. I quickly noticed that my spinnerbait was destroyed! On top of that, I somehow managed to catch my hand on its gills so I was bleeding badly, but the fish was landed!

Mangled spinnerbait from Pike

I took some pictures and quickly released the big girl back into the water and watched her swim off strong. This was a new personal best Northern Pike for me by a long shot. I don't target Pike often, so I was unaware that this was a rare size to catch in Pennsylvania. I measured it with my hawg trough which is only 31 inches long, but it is estimated to be around 40+ inches. For comparison, the Pennsylvania state record Pike measured in at 48 inches and 35 pounds!

PA State Record Pike

This was an unbelievable way to start my camping trip and I am still in shock today! I'm glad to have been in the right place at the right time and to have had the opportunity to fight a fish like this and see it swim back where it came from.

I had a GoPro recording the whole time so here is the whole fight from cast to catch!

 

 

Thanks for reading!

John Harley

  • John Harley
Dave Lefebre's Top 5 Baits for Presque Isle Bay

Dave Lefebre's Top 5 Baits for Presque Isle Bay

Lake Erie native and Bassmaster Elite and MLF pro Dave Lefebre shares his top 5 baits for bass fishing on Presque Isle Bay in Lake Erie. From trophy Smallmouth Bass in the bay to monster Largemouth Bass in the lagoons, Dave shares a variety of his confidence baits for fishing these spots. So without further ado, lets just jump right into it!


Here is some more information on the baits Dave talks about in this video!
1 - Drop Shot
Rod: 6'10" 13 Fishing Medium Light Muse Black
Reel: 13 Fishing Creed X (1000 size)
Line: Sufix 8 lb. NanoBraid to a 15' leader of 6 lb. Sufix Fluorocarbon
Hook: Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot hook - size 2 or 4
Weight: VMC Tungsten Cylinder Weight
Bait: 3" or 4" Gary Yamamoto Senko
Misc: Bright colors for Smallmouth Bass. Baits are nose hooked or wacky rigged.

2 - Blade Bait
Rod: 6'10" 13 Fishing Muse Black Medium Heavy with Moderate Action (cranking rod)
Reel: 13 Fishing Concept Z (7.1:1 or 8.1:1)
Line: Sufix 10 lb. Fluorocarbon
Bait: Steel Shad 3/8 and 3/4 oz sizes
Misc: Gold or silver colors. Work this bait jigging it up and down.

3 - Jerk Bait
Rod: 6'6" Medium Heavy Action Rod
Reel: 13 Fishing Concept Z (7.1:1 or 8.1:1)
Line: 10 lb. Sufix Fluorocarbon
Bait: Rapala Shadow Raps, Scatter Raps, & Shad Raps
Misc: Dave prefers a rod with a little more tip than a moderate action rod. This helps work the bait a little easier.

4 - Swimbait
Rod: 6'10" 13 Fishing Medium Light Muse Black
Reel: 13 Fishing Creed X (1000 size)
Line: Sufix 8 lb. NanoBraid to a 15' leader of 8 lb. Sufix Fluorocarbon
Bait: Storm 360GT Coastal
Misc: Very important to make long casts with this bait with a steady, slow retrieve.

5 - Jig
Rod: 7'4" Heavy for 3/8 or 1/2 oz, 7'11" for 3/4 oz or 1 oz.
Reel: 13 Fishing Concept Z (7.1:1 or 8.1:1)
Line: 17 lb. - 20 lb. Sufix Fluorocarbon, switches to heavy braid for super think cover.
Bait: Terminator 1/2 oz
Trailer: Gary Yamamoto Double Tail Grub
Misc: Fish grass and grass lines, try to stay as vertical as possible!

Bonus - Crankbait
Rod: 7'9" 13 Fishing Fate Chrome Moderate Action
Reel: 13 Fishing Concept Z (7.1:1 or 8.1:1)
Line: 10 lb. Sufix Fluorocarbon
Bait: Rapala DT-16
Misc: Dave likes using a high speed reel because he can always slow down but likes having the option to go as fast as possible if needed.

 

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Lessons Learned at the KBFNC by Matt Ball

Lessons Learned at the KBFNC by Matt Ball

Lessons Learned at the KBF National Championship

With the kickoff of the season for Kayak Bass Fishing comes the National Championship.  Over 750 anglers from across the country converged on the town of Paris Tennessee with hopes of holding that check for 100,000 dollars and claiming the title of Kayak Bass Fishing National Champion.  Countless hours of studying maps, reading every piece of information available, buying the latest must have lures, getting the kayak just right for the big dance, and putting in the time on the water finding a pattern, all came down to two tough days on the water with many anglers scratching their heads thinking where did it all go wrong.  The one thing that we can not prepare for and often the biggest obstacle for a tournament angler is mother nature herself. This year she did her best to mess with all the well laid plans. Massive water drop over the weeks leading to the event followed by a strong cold front seemed to have Kentucky Lake on lockdown. Add to that the stress of fishing against 750 other anglers who have found the same spots that you felt were going to be your ticket to the win and frustration can quickly set in.  These are all the feelings that many of us had over the course of the weekend, yet still through all the adversity there were those that rose to the top and managed to cash a check. Whether you walked away with a check or not we all should have came away with lessons that can pay off for you in the future. Here are a few of the lessons that I took away form this years KBF National Championship that I will keep in mind throughout the year and hopefully cash in with later.

Matt Ball Kayak Setup

Don't try to cover too much water

Kentucky lake is massive.  The shear size of this lake can overwhelm anyone let alone an angler  in a kayak. A mistake that i have make here in the past is to try cover too much water.  Try to pinpoint some locations that play to your strength through google maps, navionics, or paper lake maps and dissect those areas thoroughly.  Many of us now use pedal kayaks and trolling motors which can be a great asset but can hinder you when they take away from your time with your line in the water by constantly moving to the next piece of cover or the next cove down the lake.

Slow down

Fishing slow may not always be the best technique but more often than not it will catch fish that others won't.  This is true anytime, but especially in tough conditions with cold fronts or periods of heavy pressure. Often you can slow down and follow another angler down a bank  and pick up fish that they never even knew were there simply by using a slower presentation and taking your time. This year I found that I had to fish painfully slow due to the conditions in order to get bites. With my shakey head presentation I would use no action at all and only slowly drag my bait to me during the retrieve.  This is when most of my bites occured and often resulted in my keeper size fish. For this technique I used a 412 Bait Co. 5” Free minnow on an owner ultra finesse head. I also found that with the finicky bite the Tournament strength landed more fish due to the salt content and texture of the bait.

412 Bait Co Free Minnow

Focus on your strengths when things are tough

Before a tournament I often have in my mind what the bite is going to be for a certain time of year.  There are times when one technique may be hot and others may just not produce. When the bite is on it is great to pick up a technique and hammer away on something that is not your strong suit.  Active fish can bring confidence to a new technique and may be what is needed to put the best fish in the boat. But what about when the conditions are tough? Grinding away on a technique that you are not comfortable with when the bite is tough can lead to long days on the water. When you just can't get a bite go to your confidence bait.  For me, that bait is the ned rig. Laugh if you want but if my confidence is gone I put on a ned head with a 3.5 free minnow and catch some fish. This gets me out of the slump and will allows me to focus on where I am finding them and building on that for bigger bites.

Don't leave fish

With conditions as tough as they were this year at the National Championship, one thing that I did right that put me in the money was sticking to a spot that I knew had fish.  This year as well as the past two years I have managed to finish in the money due to believing in the spots that I found while prefishing. In 2016 I won the National Championship by staying in an area smaller than a football field and catching fish all day long.  Last year I fished an entirely different area of the lake yet caught fish on a small bank for 2 days landing me a 17th place finish. This year was no different. I found fish and stayed there. Often the bite would die off but over the course of the day the fish would begin to feed and i would start to catch fish again.  If i had left after the first few fish were caught I may not have gotten a limit each day which this year was a big key in cashing a check.


Remember these tips next time you find yourself struggling to get a bite.  It is easy to get caught up in what other people are having success with. If you find yourself struggling,  slow down and go to what you do best and often that will put fish in the boat.

Good luck out there and God Bless!
- Matt Ball

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Having a Game Plan: Simple Stupid Success

Having a Game Plan: Simple Stupid Success

I remember when I got into kayak fishing back in 2003. The sport was growing at a feverish pace and everywhere you looked there were little plastic boats strapped to car tops going somewhere in search of fish. Fast forward to today. Kayak fishing is at the top of its game! There are tournaments everywhere, clubs forming to widen the reach of the sport, and even "National Championships" where the Country's top anglers go to compete every year. Many of these anglers prepare for weeks, perhaps months, carefully planning and preparing for these events in pursuit of big payouts and hopefully being crowned as "National Champion"! I have the privilege of knowing many of these anglers who compete, and I am honored to have some of them as dear friends. They are a special breed of angler... and then there is me!

I am more of a "Casual Angler". If I go fishing and catch a few dink Bass, it is a successful day. I personally enjoy the serenity that comes with kayak fishing. Now this is not to put any negative light on the serious competitive angler, what they do is nothing short of pure dedication and determination and I admire that. I have come to the realization that I am not at that level and that is OK. I am just someone who prefers to stick closer to home. Sure, I love fishing the annual YakAttack Tournament each year in Virginia, but I fish tournaments for a different reason. I do it for the comradery, the change of scenery, and to see longtime friends. If I catch fish, mission accomplished! If I place… well that is just a bonus. My method of preparation is simple, it might not win me a "National Championship", but, will it help me on a local level? It just might. Let me explain...

I usually compete in a few local tournaments here and there, and my approach is a three-step process I call: Top, Middle, Deeper. Back in September 2015, I competed in my first Kayak Fishing Tournament which was held on the outer rim canal of the infamous Lake Okeechobee. I had never fished there, but I did what I usually do for any Florida base tournament. I tied on a Topwater Frog, a Search Bait, and a Texas Rigged Soft Plastic bait. The result of that tournament? I not only won it, but also won "Biggest Bass". I took home almost $600 in winnings, two great trophies, and a bunch of really cool prizes, all from my simple approach. I caught "Bookend" Bass that measured 22.75" and 21.25" on a Scumfrog Pro Series, and then the remaining Bass were all caught on a Premier League Lures Spinnerbait in Houdini color.

Big Florida Largemouth BassLargemouth Bass from Florida


I saw a lot of surface commotion throughout the day, especially within cuts in the weed beds so the weedless Scumfrog helped me get to the Bass. As they fed on baitfish in the shallower areas of the canal, the Spinnerbait allowed me to catch the remaining 3 Bass to complete my limit.

Fast forward to March 10th, 2018. I competed in the 2nd Annual Tenoroc Kayak Fishing with Friends Tournament which was held in Lakeland, Florida at the beautiful Tenoroc Fish Management Area. I had never fished there but did what I usually do for any Florida tournament. I tied on a Topwater Frog, a Search bait, and a Texas Rigged Soft Plastic bait... sound familiar? The result of that tournament? I placed 6th out of 40 anglers and also caught the 2nd "Biggest Bass" of the day. What did I win? Nothing but a huge smile, which was just as good as winning prizes. This is what I always hope for from a tournament. I fished a beautiful area, I used methods that caught Bass, and I got to spend time with friends.

The largest Bass, just like the "Bookends" caught at Lake Okeechobee, were feeding in cuts within the weed beds

Big Florida Bass


My second Bass, 18.50", was caught on a LiveTarget Yearling Baitball Lipless Crankbait that I worked past a point with a drop-off. The third Bass needed to complete my limit was caught on a Bass Addiction GEAR Finsenko which was worked around sunken brush piles. There is a method to my madness, which may be limited to fishing the waters here in my home state of Florida, but you can apply this concept with baits you have confidence in on your own local body of water. I always have a Topwater Bait tied on and based any shallow water cover (i.e. Lily pads, Brush Piles, Water Grass, etc.) that will determine if I use an exposed hook or weedless Topwater Bait. Secondly, I always have a "Search Bait" tied on, whether it be a Spinnerbait or Lipess Crankbait. These baits can help cover a lot of water quickly and each are effectively deadly, with the Lipless being more useful in depths 8' and deeper. Thirdly, I keep a soft plastic on. When there are steep drop-offs or just a general deep bottom, I will go to a soft plastic and will change up the weight of the hook or add a Tru-Tungsten weight to help get the bait lower if needed. This same application can be used when a slower finesse technique is needed to get finicky fish to strike. These techniques are effective on a variety of species and every now and again, you'll be surprised on how well it can work on the unexpected.

Florida Snakehead

As I mentioned, I don't think this technique will win me any Nation Championships, but if you are new to the sport or simply prefer a simpler method of fishing, try this simple three bait technique to help identify where the fish are, how deep they are, and you just may be surprised of the outcome.

Bill's Favorite Lures

Tight Lines!
Bill Sikora

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