Go large or go home

Using a large lizard as a spinnerbait trailer is one of the ways to turn big plastic into big bass.

When Ish Monroe missed first place at the Stren Series Western Division event on California's Lake Oroville by 4 ounces back in May, he probably felt like crawling into a hole - perhaps the very same one where the gopher that mysteriously appeared in his livewell once lived. No kidding, Monroe found a rodent weighing well more than 4 ounces in his livewell when he sacked up his limit for the final day's weigh-in. Monroe surmised that the gopher had been displaced by recent rains, gobbled up by a bass and then later regurgitated into Monroe's livewell. "I think when the water started rising that gopher finally had to leave his hole and when he did, that bass was waiting for him." That tells us two things: First, largemouth bass are indiscriminate opportunists. Second, these fish won't hesitate to grab a meal that will surely test their gullet capacity. No doubt, throwing the big stuff means aggressive strategy. It's not an everyday - or everywhere - tactic, but there's no better way of weeding out the riff raff and finding the ones you want than slinging oversized baits. Smaller fish may take their shot at big targets, and there's not much you can do about that. However, big fish are far more likely to grab a big bait than a small one. "I fish big baits pretty much all the time because I'm looking for big fish," Monroe said. "You can catch big fish on little baits too, but I think the majority of times, a big fish is looking for one big meal." Some of it comes down to location. Mexico's famous bass lakes are known for their lunker potential where on any given day of the week, a first-timer can make that lucky cast and score the fish of a lifetime. Perhaps not quite so predictable, but no less rich in trophy potential are stateside treasures like Falcon Lake and Lake Amistad (Texas) as well as the fabulous California Delta. Visit any of these big fish Meccas and you're sure to hear of anglers finding large bass floating at the surface with a ridiculously large tilapia, bluegill or trout stuck in their throat. State fishery departments typically offer historical catch records, as well as lake data and current big fish reports. A little research may help you size up your chances of sticking a toad, but even in waters not known for great numbers of huge bass, some would gladly trade quantity for quality. So stands the eternal question: Do you want to scratch out a limit with bank runners or swing for the fences? Tube talk California pro Ish Monroe helped design a jumbo 7-inch tube that temps big bass shallow and deep.Spend any time around the Cal Delta or Clear Lake and you'll see a fanatical fixation on big swimbaits. Foot-long trout and bulbous bluegill imitators see a lot of action, particularly around the spawn, but one of Monroe's favorite weapons is his signature 7-inch Ish tube. Partnering with Picasso, Monroe took his inspiration from California's saltwater scene in which anglers often drop big tubes for rock cod and lingcod. A random experiment produced a light bulb moment that Monroe had to explore. "I know some saltwater guys who like to go bass fishing, so we trade trips," he explained. "The bass guys take the saltwater guys fishing for bass and the saltwater guys take the bass guys fishing for rockfish and (other species). One day, a saltwater guy brings his tubes and says `I'm going to try this.' I kind of laughed at it, but then he pitched it on a bed and I saw (how aggressively) the fish reacted to it and I said, `Huh. I can do that.' Monroe began bed fishing with big tubes and found that he could consistently tempt big bass as well or better than he could with practically any other bait. It didn't take long for him to realize that the big-fish appeal probably extended past the sight-fishing game. "I decided I'll just try flipping this thing, because if the fish react the way they do on a bed, what about the bed fish you can't see?" Monroe said. "They pretty much react the same way - they hammer that thing HARD. It's something big and bulky, so the fish get down there and say `Oh, I gotta eat that!'" With Monroe's input, Picasso made whopper tubes with softer consistency for the less toothy freshwater scene and added salt for greater bass appeal. The partnership also yielded the monstrous Picasso 12/0 Ish ProX hook, a serious lip-grabbing hunk of metal sized perfectly for the big tube. For bed fishing, Monroe pairs his tubes with 1/2-ounce Tru-Tungsten weights. He goes with a 3/8-ounce weight for flipping. Other "big tube" options include the 7-inch Garland Tora Tube and the Lindy Tiger Tube. Available in 6- and 8-inch models, the later come pre-rigged on jig heads with body hooks and trailer hooks hidden in the tails. Big baits, big benefits The Yum Money Craw is an oversized plastic body that increases a jig's profile and its appeal to big bass.Applications for big plastics also include jigging with large trailers like the 4 ¾-inch Yum Money Craw; flipping hefty water-moving creatures like Reaction Innovations' Double Wide Beaver; Carolina rigging large lizards like Strike King's 10-inch 3X Iguana; and Texas rigging titan worms such as the 10-inch Berkley Power Worm, Yum's 10-inch Big Show Paddle Tail and Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' 12-inch Curly Tail worm. (Dressing up a spinnerbait with a large plastic lizard or grub is a real head-turner.) With all of these the benefits are many. But in simplest terms, a bigger target yields bigger interest; its simple time and energy management. Bass that live to trophy size have learned the lessons of survival and high on that list is the one about energy gained with each meal vs. energy spent in its acquisition. The promising profile of a big bait convinces a fish that this is prey worth pursuing. Once you close the sale, big plastics offer more to chew on which in turn stimulates a greater feeding response. From a distance, these baits present more body for fish to see and more water displacement/vibrations for fish to detect in lower visibility. With scented baits, larger bodies release more fish-calling aroma into the water. Big lizards make highly effective Carolina Rig baits, particularly in low visibility.On the strike, a mouthful of plastic also lessens the chance of a fish feeling the hook too soon. With anorexic finesse worms, there's not much to mask the metal and a hyper-sensitive fish may spit out the rig if they feel the hard stuff before you can jack his jaw. From a delivery standpoint, a larger bait means more weight and that means greater casting distance. This is always a good thing, but it's especially handy on windy days. Drop(shot) it like it's hot Clearly, all this talk of big plastics smacks of brash, in-your-face fishing; but there is a balance to boldness. Say "finesse" to most anglers and they'll pull out dinky little plastic worms, leeches or minnows maybe 6 inches in length. But not Oregon angler Chris Ricci - he won't hesitate to run 9- to 10-inch worms on a drop-shot rig. Oregon angler Chris Ricci likes big worms on his Texas rig, but he won't hesitate to rig a 10-incher on his dropshot.In reality, Ricci takes what is traditionally a finesse rig and employs it for more aggressive flipping and pitching presentations. Preferring ultra-limber hand-poured worms made by Bass Chow and Maverick, Ricci uses 17-pound Berkley 100-percent fluorocarbon line, a 4/0- 5/0 extra wide gap hook and a 3/16-ounce weight on a 4- to 6-inch leader. "The weight of the (large) hook pulls the head of the worm down and the tail floats up so the worm looks like it's feeding on the bottom," he said. "When the worm goes down the soft body wiggles and vibrates. The subtleness of the hand poured worm (imparts) all the movement for you." With this, or any big plastic presentation, there will be times when a bass will just suck in the bait like he's sipping a hot cappuccino, while other encounters will feel like the fish is literally trying to break down the bait's molecular composition. Either way, a big fish is a big fish. And a big bait just might the strategy of choice for landing your next super-sized catch.

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/tips/2015-04-26-queen-and-black-crowned-high-school-fishing-champs

Queen and Black Crowned High School Fishing Champs

Kristopher Queen and Tyler Black of the North Carolina Student Angler Federation won the 2015 SAF High School Fishing National Championship on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. Queen and Black bested a field of the 10 best High School Fishing teams in the two-day competition. They caught 17 pounds, 2 ounces on Saturday to make it to today’s final round of five teams in second place. Then today, the Tar Heel State’s best backed it up with 17-15 to surpass Oklahoma’s Trevor Yates and Jacob Keenom, the day-one-leaders, by 4 pounds, 6 ounces with a two-day total of 35-01. Queen and Black earned a $10,000 scholarship for their win. 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 »

/tips/2015-04-25-keenom-yates-grab-high-school-lead

Keenom, Yates Grab High School Lead

Oklahoma’s Trevor Yates and Jacob Keenom sacked a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 3 ounces to top the leaderboard on day one of the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship on Grand Lake. Kristopher Queen and Tyler Black are hot on their heels in second with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 2 ounces. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-25-a-high-school-fishing-grand-finale

A High School Fishing Grand Finale

Adrenaline and optimism were running high among the 19 young guns gathered at Wolf Creek Park as they anxiously awaited takeoff on day one of the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship on Grand Lake. Set for April 25-26 on the legendary Sooner impoundment, the championship pits the nation’s top 10 two-person high school teams in an all-out bass battle for the national title and a $10,000 college scholarship. One contestant, Cameron Pappan, is fishing solo. The road to the finals began in 2014, with state and open championships leading to one of five conference finals, then ultimately to Grand Lake. 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 »

/tips/2015-04-21-weekend-wrap-up-april-21-2015

Weekend Wrap-Up – April 21, 2015

With the College Fishing National Championship and the kickoff of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division going on, this past weekend was pretty hotly anticipated. Lucky for fishing fans, it sure lived up to the billing. 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 »

/tips/2015-04-18-grand-lake-midday-update-day-3

Grand Lake Midday Update Day 3

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/tips/2015-04-17-grand-lake-midday-update

Grand Lake Midday Update

As the second day of competition in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Grand Lake draws on, the sight-fishing bite is still strong, but day-one leader Todd Castledine has been unable to capitalize thus far. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-16-grand-lake-day-1-midday-update

Grand Lake Day 1 Midday Update

GROVE, Okla. – After the fog delay stalled action on day one of the Central Division opener on Grand Lake the anglers are now enjoying perfect weather for sight-fishing. Lingering light fog and clouds gave way to calm, sunny conditions this afternoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-16-20-questions-with-ray-hanselman

20 Questions with Ray Hanselman

Ray Hanselman is on fire. The Del Rio, Texas, pro won back-to-back Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournaments to start the 2015 season. His first win was in February on Lake Amistad, which is Hanselman’s home lake and where he runs a guide service. His second win came last week on Sam Rayburn. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-15-weekend-wrap-up-april-13-2015

Weekend Wrap-up – April 13, 2015

The week after the Easter break turned out to be pretty spectacular. We saw incredible feats at the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn and the FLW College Fishing event on Table Rock. Plus, BFL competition was hot across the country. 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 »