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 

/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 »

/news/2015-04-30-top-5-patterns-from-lake-texoma-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Texoma Day 1

Pittsburg, Texas pro Joe Don Setina took the day-one lead in Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division action on Lake Texoma with 20 pounds, 9 ounces. Setina was targeting spawning fish in flooded brush. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-lake-texoma-midday-report-day-1

Lake Texoma Midday Report Day 1

Early goings on Lake Texoma seem to be pretty tough for the Rayovac FLW Series field. From the water, FLW Website Content Manager Jesse Schultz reported seeing several anglers bed-fishing in the GrandPappy Point Resort & Marina area. Most were putting in a lot of time on each fish, which means the bass weren’t exactly snapping. Today’s calm, sunny, post-cold front conditions are, no doubt, helping anglers see their targets clearly, but the visibility works both ways. Someone’s going to find the right bank with just enough water tint to relax the fish and deliver a nice sack, but it’s likely that many will struggle through a tough day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-texoma-tough-but-stabilizing

Texoma Tough, but Stabilizing

As of press time, we were unable to confirm whether or not Troy Broussard has ever suffered a barnyard assault by any beast of burden. Nevertheless, his colorful metaphor bespeaks a challenging scenario facing the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division field on Lake Texoma for this week’s finale, which is presented by Evinrude. From Broussard’s facebook page: “Well, after three full days [of practice] on Lake Texoma, I can honestly say that I compare this to getting kicked in the face by a mule. It’s brutal.” Allusions aside, the big Ouachita River reservoir straddling the Texas-Oklahoma border has indeed shown its persnickety side of late. Blame Mother Nature for that. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-spawn-looming-at-beaver-lake

Spawn Looming at Beaver Lake

As the pros who fish the Walmart FLW Tour begin practice on Beaver Lake, this jewel of northwestern Arkansas could be setting up for another spring spawn showdown. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-13-top-10-patterns-from-sam-rayburn

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

With heavy rainfall swelling Sam Rayburn Reservoir, this Angelina River impoundment had risen 5 feet above normal level by the start of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament. This gave fish and fishermen access to miles of shoreline forest and brush that normally stand in mere inches of water – if not on dry ground. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-12-top-10-baits-from-sam-rayburn

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

With Sam Rayburn swollen to 5 feet above its normal water level, the top 10 pros broke out various flipping and punching rigs to pick apart newly flooded cover. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-hanselman-wins-back-to-back

Hanselman Wins Back-to-Back

Once you get Ray Hanselman going, just get out of his way. The Del Rio, Texas, pro is riding an incredible high right now after sewing up his second consecutive Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division win. Hanselman won the opener on Lake Amistad in February, then backed it up this week with a win on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in an event presented by Mercury. For his final-day limit, Hanselman plowed deep into Rayburn’s flooded cover to track down a five-bass limit worth 16 pounds, 10 ounces, raising his three-day total to 60-08 for a win by more than 7 pounds. For his efforts, Hanselman earned a cool $35,815 check and another trophy to add to his mantle. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-wilson-tops-co-anglers-on-rayburn

Wilson Tops Co-anglers on Rayburn

Dan Wilson caught one of only three co-angler limits on the final day of competition to come back from fourth place and win the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury. Consistency was key for Wilson, who weighed in 11 pounds, 1 ounce on day one, then followed with 13-04 and 14-15 on days two and three, respectively. His three-day total of 39-04 bested day-two leader Bryan New of North Carolina by 3 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-rayburn-day-3-midday-update

Rayburn Day 3 Midday Update

A chilly morning greeted the top 10 pros and co-anglers for the final day of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, but a warm sunrise filtered by scattered clouds bespoke the gorgeous conditions forthcoming. Winds have dropped off to barely a breeze, main-lake running is easy, and the coves and creeks where most anglers are fishing are glassy smooth. Fish surely pulled tighter to cover with the sunny conditions, but that probably makes little difference, as the majority of anglers have been flipping close to trees and into dense buck brush since day one. The heavy, tangled spots with vines seem to be the prime targets again today. READ MORE »