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Typically, days with current are your better days to catch fish. The current usually fires the fish up, making it a day for power fishing. But, we all know that sometimes the fish aren't really digging your favorite power fishing technique, whether that is topwater, cranking, or any other moving baits. Some times they are just as finicky as those days with no current. Though the current may group them together, getting a typical shaky head down to them can prove to be nearly impossible. Throw in a solid 10MPH sustained wind, and you can be right on top of the fish and unable to get the bait down to them....and, with that wind, being able to feel it becomes just as impossible.
Last year, Josh and I were fishing Logan-Martin, looking for those Coosa River magnum spots. We had already caught and culled over 20 fish in shallower water with 1/8th ounce shaky heads on our spinning gear. We found some fish in 25 feet of water on a submerged rock pile. Still using that shaky head and a PTL 5" Sick, I was fighting wind and current. I just couldn't get the bait where I wanted, and when I did, I couldn't feel it. Josh had the same issue, so he made a change from a 1/8th ounce shaky head to a magnum 3/4th ounce shaky head with a larger worm. After he had caught 3 or 4 fish before I could even feel the rocks, I made the change. I dropped the spinning rod and went to a 6'6" medium heavy bait casting setup. We went on to have a stellar day as the bigger head allowed me to quickly get the bait down to the fish despite the current, resist the wind from blowing the bait, and allowing me to feel the rocks....and the bites. You can read about that trip and watch the video below.
We didn't use that technique much for the rest of the year, but I found myself this year in situations eerily similar. Fishing Wheeler right after the spawn, we were targeting solely smallmouth on ledges. The same problem presented itself. We were fishing tight to the bluffs and a smaller shaky head would not get the bait down fast enough before the combination of wind, current, and boat positioning got the better of me. 3 of my 4 casts were wasted trying to get the bait down to the depth I wanted...and I missed many...many.. bites because the spinning rod with 8 pound test didn't have the backbone to bury a hook in the fish's mouth due to the line stretch. I remembered what Josh had done just 12 months before, so I went to the rod locker and brought out a 7' medium heavy rod with a baitcaster spooled with 17 pound flouro. I selected a PowerTeam Lures Triple X Pea Head in 3/8ths. But, I had a little apprehension about bait selection. I didn't like the ratio of the 5" sick stick to the size of the head. Additionally, I wanted a bigger bite than I had been getting. I selected a bait that I had bought a few years ago and never quite found a niche for. It was something larger than the Sick Stick, but not as big as a 8-10" magnum worm. Though I wanted that bigger bite, those magnum worms create a lot of drag as well as being very buoyant, both working against the idea of getting the bait to the fish. I selected the 7" Tickler from PTL. The combination of the larger head size and its ability to get me (and hold me) in the strikezone, plus the in-between size of the 7" Tickler got me loading the boat. Not only does the slimmer design of the Tickler help me get the bait in the strike zone, but the construction of it allows the worm to have excellent action in current....I.E. waving while remaining upright, something magnum worms don't do. In fact, I went through my one-and-only propack that day. Naturally, I remedied that. You can read about that tournament and watch the vid here:
Here is the 7" Tickler and Triple X Pea Heads
After the post spawn, the fish headed out to the ledges. You may recall that we fished Pickwick last week where we won a club tournament.
Leading up to blast-off, we noticed there would be no current. To combat that, we concentrated on largemouth on the ledges. We quickly had a limit on power baits, but the sun came up and the bite died. We idled for miles looking for a good ledge, as we had been taught by Guntersville guide, Basswhacker. You can read about that experience and watch the vid here:
We located fish on structure on the ledges. After catching a few on Spro cranks, the bites disappeared. But, we knew the fish were there, so we started throwing finesse baits. About the time we busted out our gear, the wind kicked up....HARD. So hard that smaller weight shaky heads and texas rigs were not going to cut it. I went back to the magnum shaky head setup. And, off we went. Wind no longer blew my line and made me lose feeling or contact on the bottom. Being able to use that heavier rod allowed me to really snap those hooksets.
Each and every year, I lay out a plan to get better as a fisherman. Last year was about getting better with a shaky head. I think I did that and you can read about my results and thoughts in the blog post below. In fact, it's the 3rd most popular article on this blog.
The combination of the larger head design and bait allow you to make a lot of quick casts down a ledge, regardless of boat positioning. The current won't blow your bait down stream and past the fish. As it sits on the bottom, you will be able to really feel that bait working through the rocks. The wind won't be able to blow the line and move the bait, nor allow you to lose feeling. And, that tickler won't hinder the fall rate. Most importantly, that Tickler will stand on end and beckon the fish to come take a bite. When they do, the ability to use a heavier rod will allow you to really rip lips, without the worry of breaking off.
What I think is amazing is that gaining confidence in one bait allows you to start experimenting with the technique. You take an existing and wildly popular technique and you tailor it to be even better. My experiences with magnum shaky heading are exactly that. Not only is it a work around for current and wind for a proven tough conditions fish catcher, but it is something a little different than can really pay off!