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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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Ultra Light Winter Fishing

Ultra Light Winter Fishing

Hooray... Winter... The most rotten time of the year, especially for us anglers. Many of us are waiting for the first signs of spring by crossing days off the calendar, rigging... then re-rigging kayaks, tying flies, cleaning and re-spooling reels, and organizing tackle... over and over again. Other than spending time with our loved ones, it's the toughest time of the year and fishing is no exception.

Here in the Southeast, while we do not have it nearly as bad as our brethren in the Northeast, but Mother Nature can still play havoc on us down here as well. We can quickly go from a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid 70's, to a cold front being pushed southward bringing the next day’s air temps into the mid 40's at launch with sustained winds into the 15-20 mph range (not fun). Fish, especially Bass, have no clue what to do... run the shallows looking for forage or head deeper and wait for air temps to remain consistently warmer before returning to shallower water. One thing is for sure, these changes keep us anglers guessing, and these ever-changing conditions can often send us home with a "skunk". After having my share of these "Fish-less" days, I decided it was time to have a "contingency" plan and this plan is simply called "Ultra Light".

I decided to increase my chances of a hook-up on every trip by keeping a very simple presentation handy. I have 5'6" UL Manley Black Ops Spinning Rod paired with a Shimano Symetre 500 spooled with 2-pound test (WARNING! Tying 2-pound mono requires steady hands and strong eyes... or good glasses). My two "Go-To" baits are a 412 Bait Co. Stinger Fry on a 1/64 oz. VMC Pug Pug for shallow water presentation and a 412 Bait Co. Free Minnow on a 1/32 oz. VMC Pug Pug for deeper water presentation.

412 Stinger Fry

Using the Ultra Light technique is simple and there are a variety of ways to do it. You can find structure and drop the bait vertically and simply "jig it" or you could locate drop off's and cast the bait just beyond the drop off and let it slowly sink, make sure to watch your line! Many times, the fish will grab it on the fall and simply flutter away with it. To help see these bites, I use a "High Vis" yellow Panfish line from Vicious Fishing and have often seen the line start to slightly move in another direction, and I knew I had one on. Another technique to try is to cast the smaller baits, which mimic small fry or even tadpoles, beyond grassy points and slowly retrieve the bait right back over the point. This will often lure a hungry Bream from within the bed to feed. These techniques are not only simple, but using Ultra Light tackle makes catching any fish, even smaller fish, an absolute blast to catch! A one-pound fish can feel like an eight-pound fish and this can make an unproductive trip a fun and exciting one.

Bass on 412 Bait Co

Don't be fooled though! It's not only smaller fish that go after these tasty little morsels though, larger "weary" Bass may also jump on one of these baits and that will be a fight you’ll remember! So, the next time you head out to the water, try keeping an Ultra Light combo at the ready. You never know what can happen, it may just help turn your day and your frown around!

-Bill Sikora

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Fishing with Bull Shad Swimbaits

Fishing with Bull Shad Swimbaits

When Mike Bucca got into swimbait fishing he saw plenty of trout imitating baits but a serious lack of quality Gizzard/Threadfin Shad style baits. What did he do? He designed and handmade his own! It was then that the “Trout of the South”, better known as the Bull Shad, was born. The Bull Shad, whose name comes from the nickname of large gizzard shad (Bull Nose Shad), became notorious for catching bass; and BIG ones. Now, many years after the original first generation of Bull Shads, there are many different options and some anglers may not know where to start. Here we are going to dive into some Bull Shad options, tips, and recommended tackle to hopefully answer any questions and help you choose the right Bull Shad for you!


BULL SHAD OPTIONS

Sizes: 5”, 6”, 7”, 8”, 9”, 11”

Bull Shad Swimbait Sizes

Most people are going to start off with the 5” or 6” size because they are intimidated by the larger sizes. Once they build some confidence, they will step up to the 7” or 8”. Generally, you should base your selection off the size of the baitfish in your local body of water. The 5” and 6” are going to catch you more fish but the 7” and larger are for really targeting that trophy size fish.

First time buyer recommendation: 6”

Colors: Gizzard, Threadfin, Golden Shiner, Dirty Bone

Match the hatch. Choose the color for the type of baitfish in your local body of water. If you are unsure or are looking for a good all-around option, then Dirty Bone/Bone is a terrific choice. The paint jobs are one of the best parts of the Bull Shad swimbait. Mike Bucca didn’t want factory, replicated paint jobs. He wanted these to look like real life bait fish, which meant imperfections such as scales missing and a beat-up look; not picture-perfect paint jobs. These color options are available for the 5” and 6” options. Once you hit 7” or larger then Gizzard is the only color option.

First time buyer recommendation: Match the hatch or Dirty Bone

Bull Shad Colors - Match the Hatch

Sink Rate: Floater, Slow, Fast, Extra Fast

What depth are you trying to target? This should be your first question when selecting the sink rate. If you are fishing deep water with fish holding close to the bottom, then you probably want a faster sink rate so your Bull Shad gets down into the strike zone quicker. Overall, we like the slow sink the most. This gives you some versatility so you can vary what depth you want to fish. You can keep it along the top or let it sink and fish deeper. Sink rates also vary on size. The 5” has floating, slow, and fast options. 6” has all options including extra fast. 7” and larger are all only available in slow sink.

First time buyer recommendation: Slow Sink


TACKLE RECOMMENDATIONS

Reel:

Sure, almost any reel can cast any bait. However, you need a reel that has the strength and components to handle the stress and work load from throwing large baits and can continually do it throughout thousands of casts. Then, when you hook that monster, it needs to have enough power to reel the fish in. So, a reel with larger gears, improved drag systems, and larger spool sizes is a good place to start and typically anglers look to either round or low-profile style reels. It’s really a preference of how you like the feel of each reel in your hand, but generally the low-profile reels are lighter in weight. When you are using an overall heavier setup, saving some weight in the reel is a big help to reduce fatigue so you can make cast after cast on a long day of fishing. We like using the low-profile casting reel from 13 Fishing; the Concept A3. As far as gear ratio goes, we like something between 5.2:1 up to 7.2:1. Usually, you want to retrieve a swim bait in the slower to medium speed, so something in this range will work great. If you tend to work baits faster, staying on the lower end near 5.2:1 will help force you to slow down. If you have the discipline to fish slow, you can use a higher speed reel so you can work the bait at whatever retrieve speed you’d like.

First time buyer recommendation: 13 Fishing Concept A3 Casting Reel 6.3:1

Rod:

Taper, action, line weight, rod length, handle length, lure weight, etc. There are so many factors but we like to keep it simple. We look for a rod with Fast action/taper and we match the lure weight to the lure we’re throwing. Here are the average weights for each size of Bull Shad:

Length Weight
5 1.2
6 1.8
7 2.3
8 3.3
9 5.3
11 7.5

We like 13 Fishing’s Muse Black swimbait rods for 2-4-ounce lures. It’s a little heavy for the 5” size but works great with the 6”, 7”, and 8”.

First time buyer recommendation: 13 Fishing Muse Black Swimbait Rod – 7’9”, Fast Action, 2-4 Lure (oz.) rating

Line:

Another thing we like to keep simple is the line. We like to use all monofilament line and generally 15 to 20 lb. breaking strength for the 5” and 6” size baits. We like to be a little heavier on the line so we have some extra peace of mind on our lure investment. The stretch in the monofilament helps to prevent pulling the treble hooks from the fish's mouth and won’t break as easy as a braid to fluorocarbon combo if your reel birds nest mid cast. Once you get up to using the 7” or larger, you should consider stepping up the size line to help handle the extra weight of the lure.

First time buyer recommendation: Your favorite monofilament 15 to 20 lb.

Bull Shad Swimbait Rod and Reel


TIPS

Here are some tips from our team to help get you started:

Where do you throw it?

Bull Shad Underwater Smallmouth

“I will throw it anywhere I would throw a spinnerbait or crankbait. The dirtier the water the closer to the target structure I want to be with the bait. Both smallmouth and largemouth will eat them. I love fishing them in rivers for smallmouth where baitfish is the main forage no matter if it's shad, shiners, or minnows. I target deep cuts and rock and will slow roll it over my intended target and then as I reach open water I will make a few fast cranks to make it appear as a fleeing fish. This is when I get bit 90 percent of the time. In lakes I will target grass lines, laydowns, and secondary points largemouth. When targeting them I seem to get bit more on a slow steady retrieve.” - Nathan Rees

What’s your setup?

“The rod I use is an extra heavy, mod fast rod, and is 7'10". I prefer a faster reel in at least a 7:1 ratio and I use 17lb mono.” - Jeffrey Rabbitt

Working the bait.
" Being in knee-deep water, the only way to fish this 6” Bull Shad was to wake it. I mean who really wants to snag and possibly lose one? With the first few casts being short ones, I figured out the speed I needed to reel to keep the bait from busting the surface. And then I started bombing this bait as far as I could. The fourth 19” fish would come after I watched him follow it for about 15 feet. In a panic I just killed the bait, and he just demolished this bait as it turned its side on him, revealing the bait's profile." - Russell Johnson (describing one of his tournament winning fish)

What happens if you get snagged?

“You made the investment into a quality swimbait so you should also invest into a quality lure retriever, just in case. If that doesn’t work, make sure to have some goggles and go swimming.” - Seth Willoughby


One thing to keep in mind is there are no set rules when it comes to tackle requirements. Ultimately, you should experiment and find what works best for you. We listed what we like to use to help give some people a starting point. Check out our Youtube video for more tips and to see this lure in action and catching some monster fish:

Thanks for reading!

  • Seth Willoughby
St. Clair Tournament Tip with Matt “Bass” Ball

St. Clair Tournament Tip with Matt “Bass” Ball

I just returned from a wonderful weekend spent exploring the waters of Lake St. Clair in Michigan. I traveled there to fish in the KBF trail event held there with my Dad as well as my good friend and FishingOnline teammate Russell Johnson. Spending time with friends and family has been the most rewarding part of my tournament career but one thing that has recently came to mind has been how much I have learned as an angler through fishing around the country in different bodies of water. This trip was no different and I would like to share one of the things that I learned that has made me a better angler and hopefully will help you as well.

Smallie Underwater

To set up this tip I will give you some background as to the type of water and conditions that we faced on Lake St. Clair. We arrived at the same time that a strong cold front was making its way across the area. The weather had been abnormally warm for this type of year and the temperatures had dropped with heavy winds. These conditions made fishing the open water very difficult so we, along with the other competitors, had been limited to looking for safe places to fish that protected us from the heavy wind and waves. We were lucky enough, despite these conditions, to locate some of the Smallmouth bass that this lake is known for. I learned a lot on this trip and ultimately it landed me a top 10 finish. What was the key to getting the bites and finishing strong? Weight! These fish were staging up in anywhere between 20 to 28 ft. of water off steep ledges. On the top of the ledges were underwater grass beds which dropped sharply to the 20 ft. range. On our fishfinders were the telltale arcs of the bass we were looking for. The problem was not so much the depth of the fish but the fact that the wind was blowing us one way while the strong current was pulling our bait the other, making fishing out of our Jackson Kayaks quite a challenge. The answer to our dilemma was using enough weight to have control of our bait as well as contact with the bottom. We were using 412 Bait Co. tubes with ⅜ oz. jig heads and drop shots with ½ oz. lindy sinkers. We spent the night before the tournament searching for anything we could find that would give us the weight we needed to get down and feel the bottom. Without bottom contact the bite was nonexistent. Most of my fish came off the dropshot. I feel the ability to get down to the bottom and stay there, with the heavier weight while still being able to present my finesse technique effectively, was the key to landing fish.

So, if you are like me and have struggled with confidence dropshot fishing, try increasing your weight until you have a good contact with the bottom. You will have a much better feel and be able to keep your bait where it is needed. This may be the change you need to start having success!

Matt Ball St Clair Smallie 2

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