UPCOMING EVENT: Rayovac FLW Series - 2015 - Lake Champlain

Wrangling ribbonfish

Catching live bait usually means that fun is right around the corner for kingfish anglers. However, with ribbonfish, the fun starts long before you head offshore. For most, ribbonfish are flat, frozen baitfish that you unwrap, thaw and load up with stinger hooks. For those who fancy gathering fresh ribbons, however, the lively, lanky baits can provide as much sport as the kingfish they'll someday tempt. Officially named Atlantic cutlassfish and known colloquially as "silver eels," ribbonfish are a ghoulish lot with slender, bladelike bodies, narrow heads loaded with formidable teeth and an aggressive nature rivaling that of the predators for which they are prey. Ribbonfish often turn up in cast nets, usually thrown for menhaden, but bait-seeking anglers capitalize on their ferocity by employing hook-and-line tactics that are as fun as they are effective. The biggest concern with the aggressive ribbonfish is its menacing choppers, which make short work of monofilament. Long-shank 2/0 hooks will suffice, but adding 6 inches of No. 3 wire will minimize bite-offs. Pre-made wire rigs with barrel swivels for attaching main line and snap swivels for hanging hooks work fine. Fish these rigs on medium-action 6 1/2- to 7-foot spinning outfits with 8- to 20-pound main line and 30- or 40-pound monofilament leaders. Look for ribbonfish in estuaries, commercial and cruise ports and anywhere you find deep water with muddy bottoms. Ribbons prey on smaller schooling baits, and anglers often find them by watching for slender, silver figures leaping across the surface. Cunning predators, ribbonfish will corral baits next to piers, jetties and seawalls, so keep watch near structure. When the fish don't show, probe the area with chrome or blue Rat-L-Traps to locate your quarry. Anglers can catch ribbonfish along jetties, piers and seawalls by casting Rat-L-Traps or by setting up a night-fishing rig with fluorescent lights, miniature light tubes attached to wire leaders and shrimp pieces.Helpful for ribbonfish location is a fluorescent light tube connected to your boat's main battery, via alligator clips and hung from the stern. The light attracts small forage fish, which in turn draw in the ribbons. Once you've located the fish, toss out your rigs baited with thumbnail-size chunks of fresh shrimp, mullet or previously caught ribbonfish. These opportunistic and often cannibalistic hunters quickly sniff out the chow, but clipping mini light tubes to hook shanks increases visibility in dark water. After a productive night of ribbonfish angling, conclude by preparing your baits for freezing and storage. Start by mixing a brining solution, which toughens the baits for freezing and prevents them from turning to mush when thawed. In a large cooler, combine two 1-pound boxes of baking soda, three 3-pound boxes of coarse Kosher salt (not iodized) with a 5-gallon bucket of seawater and an 8-pound bag of ice. Fill the brining solution to just above the cooler's drain plug and periodically add ice to maintain a chilly slush. Don't overdo it, as too much ice will form a solid sheet over the baits and prevent brining. Leave the ribbonfish in the brine for 8-12 hours - any longer and the solution will damage baits. You can cover the baits in plastic wrap overlaid with aluminum foil, but vacuum-sealed food storage sleeves yield optimal results. If you freeze two ribbons per sleeve, leave about an inch of space between them for thorough freezing. When it's time to thaw ribbonfish for rigging, just lay them on the deck for a few minutes. You'll find it's easier to rig a firm bait than one that's completely softened, so don't rush the thawing process by soaking your baits in warm water.

Tags: tips-and-techniques  david-a-brown 

/tips/2015-06-22-thrift-flirting-with-second-aoy-title

Thrift Flirting with Second AOY Title

Bryan Thrift can’t say for certain what baits will sit on his front deck during the final Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015 on the Potomac River, which is set to kick off this Thursday, but he’s quick to say what will not join him – the memory of his 2010 Angler of the Year title. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-09-starting-strong

Starting Strong

Zack Birge likes to play the numbers, and right now the math is looking pretty sweet for him. With two events remaining on the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour, the Blanchard, Okla., pro has essentially sewn up Rookie of the Year honors, and he’s currently sitting in fourth place in the Angler of the Year standings. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-08-top-10-patterns-from-the-james-river

Top 10 Patterns from the James River

Flipping isolated clumps of spatterdock produced the winning fish for Canadian pro Cory Johnston at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on the James River. Adapting to the week’s extreme high water was critical to bagging the winning total of 46 pounds, 14 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-06-johnston-rises-from-sixth-for-the-win

Johnston Rises From Sixth for the Win

Cory Johnston’s bucket list just shrank. After a couple of close finishes, the pro from Peterborough, Ont., finally bagged his first Rayovac FLW Series victory with a winning total of 46 pounds, 14 ounces at the Northern Division opener on the James River Saturday. “I’ve always wanted to win one of these,” Johnston says of his accomplished Rayovac career, which hadn’t included a first-place finish until now. “I’ve won some other tournaments; I’ve been second (in Rayovacs) two times and my brother (Chris) has been second two or three times. So to win this really feels good.” Fishing the Chickahominy River — a major James River tributary — Johnston got off to a lukewarm start, as a 10-pound, 9-ounce effort left him with a 27th-place showing on day one. Regrouping for day two, he formed a new game plan borne of a revelation that came early on day two. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-06-co-angler-honeycutt-triumphs-in-james-river-debut

Co-angler Honeycutt triumphs in James River debut

READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-06-james-river-day-3-midday-update

James River Day 3 Midday Update

Pro leader Kelly Pratt had a good morning and was culling by about 9:30. He returned to the shallow creeks and coves inside the Chickahominy River where he’s been targeting spawning fish all week. With a limit of about 13 pounds by 10, Pratt was still looking for his big fish to turn on later in the day. He’s throwing at gaps and drains in the spatterdock, along with various structure from laydowns to duck blinds. Pratt’s using reaction baits for his primary presentation and following up any missed bites with a finesse worm. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-05-pratt-stays-close-to-take-lead

Pratt Stays Close To Take Lead

High water on the James River has created a challenging scenario for much of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division field. For top pro Kelly Pratt, however, it has brought a bounty of opportunity reflected by his tournament-leading weight of 33 pounds, 4 ounces. Michael Crocker, the leader on day one with 16-10, slipped to 22nd in the second round as he could only muster three fish for 5-09. Georgia pro Troy Morrow shadows Pratt with 31-0. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-05-top-5-patterns-from-day-2-on-the-james

Top 5 Patterns From Day 2 On The James

Gaining two spots today, the FLW Tour pro from Eastanolee, Ga., again committed his day to the Chickahominy — a major James River tributary known for the quantity and quality Morrow sought. Today’s limit added 15-14 to Morrow’s total. “I caught them all day again, but still no size early,” he says. “Every once in a while I’d pick off a big one. Morrow says he’s been catching fish on several types of shallow habitat from wood to vegetation, but one particular bait has produced all of his weight. He wouldn’t divulge the particulars, but he did say it was a bait “that moves a little.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-05-james-river-day-2-midday-update

James River Day 2 Midday Update

Most anglers seemed to have been struggling for most of the morning on the James River in round two of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division opener, including day-one leader Michael Crocker. The Maryland pro started his day by running up to the Chickahominy River where he fished a variety of habitat ranging from pads and cypress trees to stumps and docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-04-crocker-takes-james-river-lead

Crocker Takes James River Lead

Michael Crocker stepped to the front of the boat and fished his way to the front of the pro field in the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division opener on the James River. Crocker won this event’s co-angler division in 2014 and now the Pasadena, Md., pro has positioned himself well at the other end of the boat with a limit catch of 16 pounds, 10 ounces. The morning delivered an early round of action, albeit short-lived. “I got a couple of bites and then it just died on me,” Crocker recalls. “Then, about halfway through the day, I made a change and nailed two really fast. I made another move and nailed another one really quick and that’s all I caught. I caught five fish today.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-04-top-5-patterns-in-the-james-river-rayovac

Top 5 Patterns in the James River Rayovac

Hailing from Williamsburg, Va., Pratt says he fared well in conditions that challenged many of his competitors. Essentially, the week’s full-moon cycle brought extremely high tides to a river already swollen by recent heavy rains. This contrasted the period of extreme low tides leading up to tournament week. High water allows fish to push farther into cover, but Pratt said he didn’t allow that to hinder him. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-04-northern-rayovacs-kick-off-on-the-james

Northern Rayovacs Kick Off on the James

Ostensibly, the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division tournament presented by Mercury that began this morning is taking place on the James River, but much of the fishing focus will be centered on the Chickahominy River – or Chick, as it’s affectionately known locally. “This tournament is typically won out of the Chick,” says North Carolina pro Jamey Caldwell of the James River tributary. “There are some great bags coming out of the [James] river right now, but I just feel that those big fish are a little more sporadic. I’m going to hang out in the Chick and hope for the best.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-04-james-river-midday-report

JAMES RIVER MIDDAY REPORT

A damp, drizzly morning turned into a soggy day for anglers in the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division tournament on the James River. A light mist became a steady shower, which gave way to sporadic downpours of moderate intensity. The remainder of day one will see little change, according to weather reports. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-04-top-10-patterns-from-lake-texoma

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Texoma

With his win on Lake Texoma, Del Rio, Texas, pro Ray Hanselman made Rayovac FLW Series history by sweeping the Texas Division. Hanselman did most of his damage with a Strike King Sexy Frog, although he made a few flips and pitches here and there with plastics. Recent rains had pushed Texoma to about 2 feet above normal pool, and Hanselman used this to his advantage by targeting overlooked areas that had been muddy during practice. Working flooded brush in the backs of secondary coves, he found bedding fish, as well as postspawners ready to chew in the clearing water. Most of the other top 10 finishers also targeted a mix of spawning and postspawn fish. The changing water level, plus a mild cold front that pushed through the first day of the event, made for tough fishing under mostly high, bright skies. Anglers reported super-tough conditions, and many struggled to get daily limits. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-02-hanselman-trifecta-tops-texoma

Hanselman Trifecta Tops Texoma

Del Rio, Texas pro Ray Hanselman made history on Lake Texoma with a victory that completed his sweep of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division. With victories in the previous two divisional events on Lake Amistad and Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Hanselman caught a 5-bass limit that weighed 18 pounds, 9 ounces today and finished with a tournament total of 58-13 and a 12-pound winning margin. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-02-big-day-one-catch-sets-up-lejeune-s-texoma-win

Big Day One Catch Sets Up Lejeune’s Texoma Win

No doubt, co-angler Ryan Lejeune, of Eunice, La., would have preferred two more days like his first, but a big opening effort set up his wire-to-wire win in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Texoma. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-02-hanselmania-closing-in-on-texoma-title

Hanselmania Closing in on Texoma Title

It aint’ over ’til it’s over. The fat lady has yet to sing. All the cliches still apply, so in fairness to nine other talented pros, we’ll make no predictions or insinuations about day-two leader Ray Hanselman and possible outcome of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Texoma. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-01-big-bag-pushes-hanselman-ahead

Big Bag Pushes Hanselman Ahead

It’s the question of the day, the question of the week; indeed, it’s the question of the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division season: Will we see the trifecta from Ray Hanselman? With the Del Rio, Texas pro leading the final division event on Lake Texoma with 40 pounds, 4 ounces, it appears that the stage is set for a third installment of Hanselmania. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-01-texoma-midday-report

Texoma Midday Report

Lake Texoma is showing its stingy side as Rayovac FLW Series anglers ply this Ouachita River reservoir for day two of the final Texas Division event. The weather is nice, with sunny skies and moderate wind, but the first half of the day was painfully slow for the handful of boats we followed. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-setina-takes-day-1-lead

Setina Takes Day 1 Lead

Joe Don Setina, of Pittsburg, Texas leads day one of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division action on Lake Texoma with a limit catch weighing 20 pounds, 9 ounces. Setina caught his fish by flipping flooded brush. Ryan Lejeune, of Eunice, La. leads the co-anglers with 12-4. READ MORE »