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/2015-04-24-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 »

/news/2015-04-10-hanselmania-returns

Hanselmania Returns

He’s back at it again. Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Texas, won the season-opening Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Amistad, and today he weighed in 23 pounds, 5 ounces on the second day of competition at stop No. 2 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Hanselman vaulted into the tournament lead with a two-day total of 43-14. “Hanselmania” leads by 5 pounds, 6 ounces over Denny Brauer, also of Del Rio, who is in second place for the second consecutive day. The leader’s stringer is even more impressive considering that Hanselman lost three 5-pounders this morning and caught 23-5 on a day when only one other pro weighed more than 20 pounds, and only three others weighed more than 18 pounds. Day-one leader Joe Don Setina weighed in only four keepers for 11 pounds today. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-10-top-5-patterns-from-sam-rayburn-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Sam Rayburn Day 2

Two limits of more than 20 pounds have pushed Del Rio, Texas, pro Ray Hanselman atop the leaderboard at the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury. Hanselman is flipping and pitching plastics to flooded brush and trees, with careful consideration to the spots that allow him the best targeting efficiency. The lake level remains at a 15-year high, so anglers are chasing scattered bass in areas the fish rarely see. Overcast skies dominated the day, and isolated showers popped up throughout competition. Overall, productivity was lower than that of day one, with fewer fish and limits caught, and overall weights down. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-10-rayburn-day-2-midday-update

Rayburn Day 2 Midday Update

With only one fish in the livewell at 10:30, Joe Don Setina was probably hoping for a repeat of day one – at least the part where he sacks ’em up in the second half. We found the leading pro fishing the Black Forrest area that he worked the first day, and he’s sticking with the same routine of flipping heavy cover. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-09-setina-overcomes-slow-start

Setina Overcomes Slow Start

Pittsburg, Texas, pro Joe Don Setina is off to a hot start in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division this season. After a top-10 finish at the opener on Lake Amistad, Setina jumped out to the day-one lead on Sam Rayburn today. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Setina, however. He says nothing went right for him this morning, when he lost fish, snagged trees and finally had to sit down and collect himself before continuing on. After refocusing, Setina caught his first keeper at about 11 a.m. and proceeded to sack up 23 pounds, 6 ounces for a slim 8-ounce lead over second-place pro Denny Brauer, who also finished in the top 10 at the Amistad opener. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-09-top-5-patterns-from-sam-rayburn-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Sam Rayburn Day 1

Overcoming a tough start, Joe Don Setina rallied to take the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event presented by Mercury on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. He’s fishing flooded trees and bushes like most of the field and weighed in 23 pounds, 6 ounces. With the lake at a 15-year high thanks to recent rains, Rayburn’s bass are scattered, often in areas that are difficult to reach. Some pros are muscling their way through the thick stuff to search for bedding fish, while others opt for working the perimeter of the flooded zone for postspawn bass. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-09-anglers-brace-for-rough-weather

Anglers Brace for Rough Weather

At the morning takeoff, Texas pro Jim Tutt joked about putting on his rainsuit in the warm, dry sanctuary of the cove where the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn would soon commence. However, upon leaving the protected waters just east of the Sam Rayburn Dam, anglers soon found a very different mood that’s likely to worsen as the day progresses. Cloudy morning skies generally foretell some type of weather system coming or going, but this afternoon and evening will see some pretty fierce meteorological mayhem making its way across the Midwest and Mississippi Valley regions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-09-swollen-rayburn-challenges-anglers

Swollen Rayburn Challenges Anglers

High water, high winds and high hopes – that’s the forecast for the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, which kicked off today at the Umphrey Family Pavilion. Torrential rains of recent weeks have swollen this Angelina River impoundment, and a huge downpour last weekend has all but stymied efforts to lower the water level. Currently, the lake sits about 5 feet above normal – a level not seen here in more than 15 years. Realistically, anglers aren’t looking for much, if any, decline this week – particularly given the approaching storm system. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-24-tour-opener-timed-right-for-florida-spawn-fireworks

Tour Opener Timed Right for Florida Spawn Fireworks

It’s always nice to kick off a new season with the proverbial bang, but the Walmart FLW Tour might very well mark its 20th anniversary with a Boom. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-21-meyer-motivated-by-catch-of-a-lifetime

Meyer Motivated by “Catch” of a Lifetime

Cody Meyer had a tremendous Walmart FLW Tour season in 2014 – three top-10 finishes, his seventh consecutive Forrest Wood Cup qualification and a second-place finish in the Angler of the Year race. Suffice it to say, the seventh-year pro from Auburn, Calif., carries significant momentum into 2015, but that’s not all he’ll bring. Meyer’s recently intensified motivation comes from something you can’t find on stat sheets or in a tackle bag. Put it this way: Meyer has hoisted plenty of nice largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, but on Jan. 14, he lifted the most precious “catch” he’s ever held: Brooke Emily Meyer. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-01-05-cold-water-bass-fishing

Cold-Water Bass Fishing

Is cabin fever getting the best of you? If so, why not go bass fishing this winter? Let’s see what top competitors have to say about where and how to catch a few. READ MORE »

/news/2014-11-04-top-3-patterns-bfl-wild-card

Top 3 Patterns – BFL Wild Card

When day one of the Walmart Bass Fishing League Chevy Wild Card on Kentucky Lake commenced, J.R. Henard got right to the point, sacking up a limit by 8:30 a.m. and never looking back. For two days, he kept his foot on the gas and hauled in a tournament-winning total of 42 pounds, 5 ounces – nearly 12 pounds better than second place – and a top prize of $4,478, plus entry into the 2015 BFL All-American. READ MORE »