Category Archives: Safety Tips

4 Tips on Pre-Spawn bass fishing

 

The pre-spawn chaos can be overwhelming, the search for big bass and that lifetime trophy are in full swing, and fishing pressure will just get heavier as each day passes and the water temperatures warm. The pre-spawn patterns make some fishing days great, while rapid changes in weather due to frontal systems and high pressure can leave anglers wondering where all of these aggressive fish went in such a short amount of time. Here are my four tips of targeting pre-spawn patterns and catching your fish of a lifetime.

Tip #1- The Wacky Rig

The wacky rig was for a long time in my life something I knew about, but I had never really had too much luck with it. This all changed about two years ago on a hot summer day, when I hooked up a wacky rigged Yum Dinger and began skipping and flipping it under docks and overhangs with incredible results. Since then, I have become what some of my friends call Mr. Wacky, I really focus on this presentation because there’s not a lot of people who consistently work and target fish with it at various depths. What I mean by this is everybody throws a weightless wacky in the summer, but I throw them on weighted jig heads in Pre-Spawn, various weighted hooks in summer, and once again in fall and winter. Whether I am targeting fish in the shallows, or fish in 15-20 feet of water, the suspending presentation of this lure is hard to beat.

Tip #2- Always have a one – two punch combination

My one two punch consists of a Zoom Super Fluke, and a Yum Dinger, both in watermelon red. I will work one bait presentation for a set amount of time, and then double back over the same area with the follow up bait. Which one goes first and which one goes second is never a set thing, but what is certain is the follow up bait produces bigger and more fish over the same worked area every single time. To the point that on Kentucky lake I have worked behind 3-4 bass boats on the same shoreline and consistently pulled off  2 – 3lb bass right behind where 3 other boats just worked. Having a one – two punch combination is crucial to consistently producing good bag limits in limited amount of time during tournaments.

Tip #3- Understand where the fish are holding-

We all see big bass cruising the flats this time of year and want to target those big flat areas in hopes of enticing a monster. But when you really look at productive approaches, and where the majority of fish stage this time of year, you will realize that targeting the flats is highly ineffective unless you are specifically targeting beds. I have noticed that I consistently produce bigger bag limits when I switch from the flat areas, to directly targeting the drop offs and sloping banks adjacent to these flats. The word drop off doesn’t always mean a large drop in depth to me, I consider a 2 foot flat that drops down to a 5 foot area a drop off,  and that is what I really focus on this time of year. I look for a 1-2 foot water depth up against the bank that has 5-10 foot water within 10-20 feet of the bank. This terrace-like feature is a money maker during Pre-Spawn through Post-Spawn patterns when worked with plastics and top waters as the water warms up. Just remember the fish are very active during this phase and while they will be cruising and searching for an area to spawn they are also creatures of habit and will remain in the same general depth/feature patterns throughout this spring.

Tip number 4- Be persistent and methodical

The bass moving up to spawn follow very specific and predictable patterns, frontal systems and rapid weather changes will alter the fish’s behaviors and predatory behaviors in terms of aggressiveness and what they will strike at and why. But unless that water temperature rapidly drops more than 5 degrees and stays that way for over 7 days, the bass will not retreat back to the primary points and deeper water unless they absolutely have to. Fish are efficiency minded creatures and will not expend energy or perform big changes in location if they don’t have to.  If you are catching fish in a cove ,or on a primary point before a weather change, target that same area after the weather change but change up your presentation and move just a tad bit deeper. If the fish were holding in 2-4 feet of water move to 6-10 foot marks and target that area of the drop off or cove. Changing up from crank baits and bladed baits such as spinner baits or chatter baits, to a more subtle approach like a Carolina-rigged worm, or finesse bait like a fluke or stick worm can be absolutely game changing in terms of fish production.  This might sound “corny”, but always think, if I were a fish how far would I go to use the least amount of energy and still be better situated for the changing weather.

At the end of the day different water bodies produce different patterns and bait presentations during this time of year, but understanding how the fish think and how you can make change-ups to better approach these fish can have huge pay offs during the springtime. Stay safe, always wear a PFD, and don’t forget to fill out a US Coast Guard float plan to leave with a friend or family member in case you are late,  so authorities know where to start searching for you. This single sheet of paper could save your life.

Why are we losing so many kayak fisherman?

 

 

Kayak safety is no longer a topic I can address once a year.  Every week I read numerous articles about kayak fisherman dying while pursuing this sport we all love. before I dig too deep into this topic let me tell you who I am and what I do for a living to give this article better context. BE WARNED- beyond this point I am very straight and to the point, I don’t want to sound insensitive but we need to address this issue at its root cause, the “it won’t happen to me ” attitude.

 

My Name is Holton Walker, I have been serving in the US Coast Guard for almost 8 years now, and over half of that has been on C-130J Long range search and rescue aircraft. I am stationed in Elizabeth City, NC. I’ve conducted operations from Reykivik, Iceland to the Pacific Ocean. On numerous occasions, I get launched on Missions searching for Missing kayak fisherman all over the east coast and Great Lakes regions. It breaks my heart every time I get the details for our search plan and they paint a picture of a kayaker who wasn’t even prepared for the weather conditions, let alone a survival situation in those conditions. With that out of the way let’s get into the issues that are killing our friends.

 

The biggest killer in survival situations is hypothermia

 

The cooling of the body below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  a common misconception is that it only occurs in cold water. If the water is below 95 degrees you can expect hypothermia like symptoms even though it may take longer to affect you. Here are some hypothermia survival statistics with no protective water gear.

 

Water temperature

 

40-50 degrees you lose dexterity in 5 minutes, are unconscious in less than an hour and maximum survival time before death is 3 hours.

 

50-60 degrees you are unconscious in 1 to 2 hours with maximum survival at 6 hours before death.

 

60-70 degrees you lose consciousness in 2-7 hours and death around 2-40 hours depending on age.

 

The second biggest danger is not having a clear float plan.

 

A US Coast Guard float plan is form you leave with a family member or friend that includes where your launching from and where you intend to fish and when you expect to be back. it has section on what survival equipment you have on board and gear etc. This information is crucial to authorities estimating your survival time. A proper form can extend a search if we think you could survive past the normal expectations. There is a link on the menu bar of my site with a blank Float plan available for download for free.

 

Safety and survival equipment-

 

Here’s the average rundown of a search and rescue case for a missing kayaker. A friend or family members usually reports the fisherman missing by dusk depending on the time they were supposed to be back. The time it takes authorities to contact the US Coast Guard, then we are airborne within 20-30 minutes of the alarm going off.  The initial search is normally started after dark by the time we get on scene. The most important piece of gear is a PFD to keep you afloat until a search starts, at that point the most important device is something to signal the aircraft or boats searching for you. One of the best and cheapest devices is a chem-light or glow stick. You take the glow-stick and tie a 12-inch line to it and spin it in a circle. On night vision goggles and the naked eye alone it’s a very effective signal at night. My best signal device is more expensive, it would be an aerial flare or strobe light.  If a US Coast guard aircraft is searching for you at night, the pilots are wearing NVG’s and any light source waving will be very visible to them.

 

Radios and or GPS devices-

 

A handheld VHF radio is a critical tool to be rescued, every US Coast Guard aircraft that is flying is monitoring VHF Ch 16, 156.8 MHZ at all times. There are also many different GPS based devices like the Spot GPS device where you can send distress signals. E-Pirbs are more expensive but are the top of the line satellite distress beacons.

 

Protective clothing-

 

Staying warm is a huge deal when the air temps start falling. Hypothermia can set in quickly and you can start losing your decision-making abilities and start making bad judgement calls due to it. Always have the gear to not only fish when you plan but to survive the night if you get stuck or stranded.  However, when you go in the drink the only things that will dramatically affect your survival time is immersion suits or wet suits.  Dry suits are the most effective of anything on the market but are costly, the lesser effective mustang suits will keep you alive but you will be in contact with the colder water.

 

Conclusion-

 

At the end of the day, the most important tool is your brain, if the weather is bad or foretasted to get bad and you absolutely must fish, do what I do and instead of open water fish a backwater creek that is protected from wind and waves. I personally wear a life jacket not just for survival gear but so if god forbid I have a heart attack, get bit by a snake a go into shock, or hit my head on something they search can find my body for my family. It’s a morbid thought but it’s an honest one. There is nothing worse than closing a search and rescue case without recovering a body for the family.  I hope this article helps shines some light on some of the lesser discussed topics in the kayak community. Stay Safe and come back next week for some Fall bass fishing tips and techniques to catch some monsters with the falling temperatures.

 

No fish is worth your marraige

When it comes to fishing, most of us thought that no woman could ever impact our love for fishing or our abilities to fish when we wanted. Songs like Brad Paisley’s “I’m gonna miss her” can pretty much sum up how we feel about giving up fishing trips. But if there is one thing I have learned in my marriage is that it might not seem like a big deal to you, she is upset that your going fishing instead of spending time with her, even if it’s just a little and it barely shows on the outside. Over time it adds up and eventually turns into a big problem.

My problem was when my wife was pregnant I felt like I had to fish as much as I could anytime the weather allowed, because I felt like once my daughter arrived that was all she wrote for me and my fishing habits. I knew she was frustrated that I was fishing so much but it didn’t seem like it was really bothering her so I kept on fishing.

Once my daughter arrived I realized it wasn’t the end of my fishing life and I could easily go out once a week without getting on her nerves but now my finances had changed and things were quite different, resulting in no money in the budget for lures, bait or gas money to go fishing. Instead of realizing this, I continued to push the issue so I could fish like I wanted. Unfortunately, this habit put strain on my marriage and finances. What took me a while to realize is I was trying to change my financial habits and priorities when it came to spending time with my family, all while changing as little as possible. If that sounds stupid, it’s because it is!

I ended up realizing my problem before it seriously affected my marriage, I took a 6 month break from fishing, sold my fishing kayak and focused on getting our finances in order and building a strong foundation in my marriage. What is amazing, is after those 6 months, my wife came to me and asked if I wanted to buy a kayak and start fishing again. Because I had gone out of my way to change and show her I was serious about our marriage, she went out of her way to make sure I still get to enjoy my hobby and love for the outdoors while fishing.

In the end, I have a strong marriage, because I finally realized that fishing was my hobby, not my life. My life was my marriage and my family. Fishing was something I got to do on the side when there was time and everything at home was in a good place. No fish was or ever will be worth my marriage.

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Affordability vs Quality

A common question among beginner kayak anglers or people looking to get into kayak angling is what kayak should I get to start out with.Unfortunately that question can’t be answered.  Every aspect of the different kayak brands better suits one style of fishing or one style of angler. Today’s post will be covering what all you should consider before purchasing your first fishing kayak or your next fishing kayak.

Price Vs Quality-

The price ranger of kayaks can ranger from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, and with so many brands out there it can get overwhelming with which kayak you should buy. I just purchased an Ascend FS12T kayak. And I was torn between the FS12T and FS128T, there is a $250 price difference between the tow and the only added features are a much wider stable, yet slower kayak you can stand on when looking at the FS128T. The FS12T is cheaper, more maneuverable but slightly less stable and can carry less cargo. My style of fishing is mostly in rivers and creeks so I don’t need a ton of gear and I’m not really looking to stand up much, so I spent the extra $250 on upgrading my tackle and gear. And that is where the arguments start.

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FS12T on Left, FS128T on Right Photo courtesy of Texasfishingforum.com

How you decide which kayak should factor in these three factors.

#1- DO you NEED the added speed and features?

I would love to own a  Hobie mirage drive kayak, but at the price difference of the lower end kayaks I can’t justify spending the extra thousand dollars on a added luxury of feet propulsion that I think will get in the way more than help. However, if your fishing larger bodies of water or open water beyond the breakers of the beach it would be extremely useful. So deciding what features your looking for is completely unique to your style and your fishing area.

#2 Would I rather have the more expensive kayak, or spend the extra money on new tackle and gear?

This decision was a no brainer for me. I would much rather buy a $700-$1,000 dollar kayak and spend 300 on tackle and gear than buy a $1,300+ kayak and have no new tackle in my tackle box.

#3 Do i want stability or speed?

A common tradeoff with kayaks that don’t have a foot propulsion system is that the fast the kayak generally the less stable. The FS128T is one of the most stable kayaks out there and at $899 its a heck of a deal compared to the wilderness systems kayaks or Hobie’s. But with that stability comes weight, bulkiness, and slower tracking speed. So once again the perfect kayak is up to your personal preference.

SAFETY NOTE- My job is Long range search and rescue. I have had many cases where I have been looking in large areas for missing kayakers from the Great Lakes, to the Atlantic Ocean. When you chose the color of your kayak please chose something that contrasts the water you fish. If you have to get a camo kayak, and you fish blue water, get a green or tan camp, if you fish brown water get a blue or green camo. Imagine our thoughts when I’m told where are searching 500 square miles at an altitude of 1,500 feet for a missing kayaker in a camouflage kayak. Always plan for the worst case scenarios happening and always file a float plan with a family member or friend. ON MY PAGE MENU BAR THERE IS A LINK TO A BLANK USCG FLOAT PLAN THAT COULD END UP SAVING YOUR LIFE ONE DAY.

 

 

 

Getting ready for a new season of fishing.

Hey everyone and welcome back to AptoOutdoors, Today’s blog is going to cover getting your gear ready for fishing after a winter of sitting in the garage.

#1 Check your line-

Braided line has a tendency to weaken and fade after a season of use. An easy trick to avoid 45 dollars of new line for each spool a rod using the braided line from another . You are essentially putting the old line at the base of the reel and utilizing all the perfectly good line that was buried the previous season.  For fly fishermen and mono users  go over your line very carefully, if you think it could be replaced it probably needs to.

#2 Re-Stock on tackle and gear-

Make sure your tackle box is stocked again with what you use the most. For me what I go through the most is saltwater hooks, bottom rigs and popping corks. Go over your lures and see if any treble hooks need to be replaced. A common practice that has been hitting big with saltwater fisherman is to replace the treble hooks on topwater lures and suspending lures with circle hooks, providing an easier hook removal and survival probability for under-sized fish.

#3 Buy some Fish Grips-

A set of Fish Grips is something I consider an essential item. It doesn’t matter if I am fishing Freshwater or Saltwater, Inshore Or Surf, I will always catch something I don’t feel like touching or putting my hand near its mouth. Fish that come to mind are Pickerel, Bowfin, Snakehead, Rays, Speckled Trout, Flounder, Sharks  and other species make you cringe and really wish there was a way to get your favorite lure back. Fish Grips make that happen by providing a great way to firmly grab the lip of a fish and remove the hook or lure with ease.

Courtesy of Yakoutlaws.com
Courtesy of Yakoutlaws.com

#4 Safety Items-

If you don’t own a good first aid kit buy one, if you don’t have a CPR Mask or device Buy one, if not for the safety of the people on your boat do it for the other boaters who you will find having a bad day. We are all out on the water together regardless if someone is in your spot or acting a fool when bad things happen its better to be prepared. I can’t count how many times we have pulled our boat to someone flagging us down to find a wade fisherman stung by a stingray , and old man who hooked himself, my dad even pulled up to a drifting boat to find a 70 year old man clinging to the other side of the boat’s rails. His anchor had broke free while he was wade fishing and by the time he grabbed hold of the rails he hit a drop off and his waders filled with water. Always be prepared to help out other  fisherman. if something on the water does’t look right it probably isn’t right and you should always go check it out.

In conclusion one of the most important things to do is get out and fish. New structure is waiting to be found, new honey holes ripe for the taking, and good memories are waiting to be made this summer. So go out have fun, catch fish, but most importantly remember to be safe. No fish is worth risking putting yourself in a sketchy situation. Thanks for reading and come back next week.

What topics would you like to see on our next few blogs?

Hey Everybody and thank for stopping by  Apto Outdoors.

I can write every week about things I love to do or things I have done, but I would like to write based on topics suggested by my readers. Leave a comment on topics you would like to see coverered over the next 2 weeks and I will do my best to cover it. Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom section of this post of the topic you want to see covered. Thank you for stopping by and our first Reader-Suggested Blog will be posted Monday February 6th.

As always stay safe enjoy your outdoor adventures and come back by to request and read the next 2 weeks of user submitted blog topics!

The largest Black drum I have ever caught. Sabine Pass, Texas on Cut mullet.
The largest Black drum I have ever caught. Sabine Pass, Texas on Cut mullet.

The 2015 Apto Outdoors fishing and hunting schedule.

 

January- the launching of the website as well as an introduction into aptooutdoors.com and associated social media sites.

February- Freshwater fly fishing,  and the boat restoration project I am currently working on.

March- Spring crappie and bass fishing from fly rods to conventional rods, surf fishing and boat restoration.

April- Focusing on Freshwater fly fishing, but also covering  gearing up for the intense summer saltwater action.

May- Saltwater fly fishing, surf fishing, and some freshwater fishing. Main focus is the 2015 bucket list for apto outdoors.

August- Saltwater fly fishing, surf fishing, and some freshwater fishing.

September- Wrapping up the saltwater fishing season and the start of early waterfowl seasons.

October- Some fishing but mostly focusing on The 2015 Waterfowl seasons and saltwater fishing while it is still producing.

November- Most posts will be covering the waterfowl season.

December- Waterfowl Season is in full swing and most posts will be covering the waterfowl trips.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you back for our fishing adventures coming this spring!