Choosing A Fishing Boat

There is a lot to consider when choosing a fishing boat. Where do you plan on fishing and what type of water should you prepare for? What type of fish do you plan to catch? This video walks you through the basics and will give you a good idea of the direction you want to go.

Bass boats are designed for use in fresh water, as you might expect. They are fast and tend to be low to the water to give you the best access to the fish. In addition to the engine they usually come with an electric trolling motor for quiet cruising. Casting platforms in the bow and the stern are characteristic of this type of boat. They often come with amenities like depth sounders and marine stereo equipment.

Runabouts are also great for fresh water fishing on a lake or river. These smaller boats are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass, but classic boats can be found that have wooden hulls. Outboard motors are not uncommon, but they also come with inboard engines. Most are between 15 and thirty feet in length. A runabout will not have a cabin or a lot of amenities for other activities. You can certainly add marine speakers or other electronics to make your boating experience better. However, these boats are basically designed to get you out there and bring back your fish.

Some lakes do not allow boats with motors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fish there. A simple canoe can be a very peaceful way to get out on the water and do some fishing. If even that is beyond your budget, consider a float tube. I’m not talking about a recycled truck tire tube, either. Float tubes come in many different styles and many are specifically designed for fishing with storage areas for fish and tackle.

If you want to do some saltwater fishing then you are definitely going to need something larger and seaworthy. Inshore boats are typically designed with a flat bottom or shallow draft for plying more shallow waters. Most are around 25 feet long and offer lots of deck space and storage for rods and tackle. The hull is usually made of aluminum or fiberglass and they often have outboard type motors.

Offshore boats are much larger and are built to withstand an ocean environment. You should expect to spend quite a bit for a boat of this type. Luxury yachts often fall into this category because they have features that facilitate fishing.

Fishing Canyon Pocket Water

Some of our favorite trout streams across America that are suppose to be a sure bet for catching trophy trout are not always able to live up to all the expectations placed on them. Especially during the hot summer months these special rivers see hundreds or even thousands of anglers that drift endless amounts of dries, nymphs and streamers in every possible color and pattern. The fish in these so-called hotspots become wise to anglers; and the chance of catching a trophy becomes slim due to the increased angler pressure. The answer to catching trophy trout in these rivers is sometimes as easy as taking a hop, skip and a short climb.

Some of the best fishing opportunities in every river can be found in what is known as pocket water. Canyon pocket water is easy to identify from other sections of the river because it has an almost white water rapids appearance. With fast deep runs cutting between steep canyon walls, the fish that are in these pocket waters are usually some of the biggest found in the river. Their large size is usually coupled with a bad disposition for flies trying to travel throughout their respective pools. One of the main reasons that pocket water is so productive is because of the extremely rough terrain to get to the fishable water. One of the key concepts that I try to follow when fishing pocket water is that the harder I have to work to get to a spot, usually the better the fishing will be when I get there. I want to inject a word of caution to all: fishing canyon pocket water is not for the faint of heart. Most of the best pools in the canyons have long hikes through treacherous stretches of rock that can come in the form of massive boulders or algae covered wash rocks. Another good idea to follow is to not wear your waiters when trying to fish this type of water. With the rough terrain, steep slopes, and fast flowing water, a slip in your waiters on could prove deadly.

To be a successful pocket water fisherman, one must master a wide range of techniques to coax the fish to bite. First of all, learning a good roll cast will make your days on the water go much more smoothly. You will be spending most of your time down in the canyons or near thick brush, so there will not be room for long back-casts.

Paying attention to the water is the next most important point to consider. Some fish will be found in the white wash of the rapids, but an equal number of fish can be found on the outsides or breaks of fast pools. Targeting these fish is rather easy; simply search out points of breaks in the current and slow water and you will find actively feeding fish. Current breaks can come in many different forms. When fishing canyon pocket water you will usually find them behind large rocks or at the bottom of small waterfalls. As for fly selection, I find it best to use weighted streamers that contrast the water color. If the river I am going to be fishing is clear, I like to use a black or olive pattern; and if the river has a dark tint to it, I use a white or tan streamer. I have had some of my best luck using wooly bugger and cone-head leech patterns. Check with your local stream’s regulations before going out to fish the pocket water of your favorite river. Some rivers do not allow certain types of weights to be used in flies, so you might have to purchase some lead-free alternatives. When fishing canyon pocket water I use an upstream and cross direction to my casting. The instant the fly hits the water I start my retrieve, stripping a few inches at a time. I try to keep the rod facing upstream so that the fly faces into the oncoming water this gives it the longest drift possible. If the first few drifts go unnoticed by fish I usually cast again across and upstream. This time I let the fly sink and drift unaltered until it reaches the half-way point of the pocket that I am fishing. Once it hits this point, I start again actively stripping in the fly upstream- back to myself.

On a recent trip out to Yellowstone National Park I spent the first two days fishing what I call ‘brochure spots’. These are spots on well known rivers that have easy car access coupled with low rolling meadows providing anglers with easy walking and casting on the river. Sure, my fishing partner and I caught fish but not anything that would justify a twenty-hour drive and two eight-hour fishing days. On our third day in the park, we decided to try the same river but this time fishing the river’s canyons and its pocket water. As we parked the car in the early morning fog we looked for a spot that would allow us to enter the canyon below the fast running water but still a good distance from the beaten paths of the meadows. We hiked down the side of a steep cliff to the rivers edge where we positioned ourselves on some small boulders. We noticed immediately that there was a fewer number of tracks on the river bank. Our first casts into a large pool yielded nothing and raised some doubts into our minds about our choices but those doubts were soon to be settled. In a small intermediate run with a downed pine I swung a large black leech streamer downstream and was surprised with a beautiful 14 inch cutthroat. Minutes later I was again dumbfounded, this time I hooked a majestic 15 inch cutthroat. Within a matter of fifteen minutes and three meandering river bends my friend and I had already eclipsed the amount of fish caught in our first two days of fishing. Not only were the hits coming continuously, but the size of fish being caught was significantly better than that of the previous days. The further we worked our way up the canyon, the rougher the walk became and the fewer tracks that were present. Near the end of out day’s journey, we entered a narrowing portion of the canyon where the water became increasingly fast. After some careful wading and exploring, we came upon a deep hole which I have never seen the likes of before. It was turquoise in color and incased by a solid rock canyon on three sides it also looked to be deeper than anything we had fished all day. We positioned ourselves on top of a weathered granite boulder and began to swing our flies into the large pool. The fish were every where that our flies seemed to go. We spent the better part of two hours fishing off of this rock, changing flies every so often to keep the fish interested. We landed multiple fish in the 16-18 inch class and could have spent the rest of the week fishing this spot. This deep pocket had something special about it. It looked like the fishing hole that you have been dreaming about for years, but was so much more because it was real and we were there in that moment doing what we both enjoyed the most.

On the walk back we laughed to ourselves about our great day and wondered why others had not tried tapping into this wonderful fishery. Inside I know we both were thankful that others didn’t know or want to venture to the canyon pocket water. For now we would always have a place to go where we could fish by ourselves and at the same time have the chance to land a real trophy trout.

Bass Migration

Freakily the deep water Gypsies that are in a given area will move with the deep-water resident fish as one school. As conditions change the gypsies will move on following the shad. If conditions stay stable they will co-dwell in the deep-water home together. The two schools will move together but remember they are two schools and can move separately. This is very true if there is a big difference in the size of fish in the two schools. After fish reach the 2 Pound size they start to group by size, this is especially important to note as when you catch a really big fish; fish this area thoroughly as there could be a number of the lunkers in the area.

Lets look now when the water slows and the bait starts to leave the area. The bait will follow the deepest contours of the bottom into the open lake to a deep-water home. As a whole fish are very reluctant to swim shallow to get deep. What I am saying here is, fish don’t like to swim over shallow water to look for deep water. They just swim from deep to shallow and return back to the deep. The one exception I have found to this rule is running water. Fish will swim in running water to deeper pockets to feed as in moving from a lake into the river. This is also the reason why when the water slows down they move quickly back to the lake. In their world, don’t get trapped away from their home is a constant concern. The first fish to start to leave are most always the bigger fish. They will follow the deeper contours to home base where they will wait until the next migration when they may move right back to where they just left if there is enough flow to make them confident they can return home again. How much flow does it take to keep a migration active and what stops one are all variables there is no set factor I know of. The biggest factor to watch is the amount of bait in the area. When you see a reduction of shad, start looking for a reduction in bass – they go hand and hand.

What triggers a movement or migration? This I can give some insight about. Migrations are triggered by the need to feed. Under a stable weather pattern the fish will move about the same time every day. There are different theories of what controls this movement. Some lean towards moon phases and tidal charts and some say it is early morning and late evening. I personally lean to low light conditions. When the weather has a change approaching the fish will have a better awareness of this change than you or I will ever get. They can feel this change before any weather change can be monitored. This approaching change triggers a movement and will last until they have gorged themselves or the weather becomes to unstable to support the movement. Even after gorging themselves they may still stay in the shallows in a feeding attitude until the weather changes and pushes the fish deep again. After the return of stable weather and 2 or 3 days the fish will return to the previous feeding periods.

Most movements don’t cover long spans of time or distance. Fish under normal movements don’t swim extreme distance except in moving to the spawning grounds. During these movements the fish will move and stay as long as it takes. If a major front pushes them back towards the deep they will only move as far as the first major break. One of the biggest single factors in locking the jaws of bass tighter than a bank safe is a cold front. Fish in Florida will even cover themselves with mud to escape the effects of the big drop in water temperature that comes with a major cold front. During the summer we don’t see big negative changes in water temperature but these fronts have major effects on the fish behavior. Normally following a low pressure comes a high, this in the winter we would call a cold front. The high blue skies, lack of wind cause deep light penetration and a different slow down in fish activity. During the summer, sunny high blue skies, early cloudy skies mid day, and rains later, we see a whole week of change in weather in 12 hours.

In northern lakes with large shad population, the shad will make major shifts in areas of the lake on weather and seasonal changes. This will trigger a major shift in the bass movements especially in the gypsy population. A good rule to follow for finding shad is: Spring and Fall look in the back of the creeks, feeder arms and flats in the back of the creeks. Winter and summer look for the shad to be in the deep river channels and ledges over 25 feet deep. In natural Florida lakes, look for shad in any moving water any time of the year and in the deep vegetation any other time.

Maps For Fishing Success

Being able to find fish on a lake before you put the boat in the water is a great help to the start of a successful day on the water. Reading the bottom of the lake and finding the migration routes the fish will follow to and from the feeding grounds and where the feeding grounds are from a map is a huge key to success. This ensures time spent fishing will be in the more productive areas of the lake instead of casting blindly at some unproductive shoreline in the hope there may be a fish in the area that will bite.

A good contour map is worth its weight in gold if you have the knowledge to read it, and not worth the paper it’s printed on if you can’t. The lines represent the depth breaks. Each line shows changes in depth that graduate from shore to the deepest water in the lake. The value of the map is in the accuracy of the contour placements and changes. Most Government and geological survey maps are for the most part the most accurate. These agencies are a good source for maps as are any Aerospace contour map. Army Corps of Engineers is another good source. The tackle shop plastic maps are the most readily available but often lack true accuracy. These maps will get you in the right area and give you some good starting places; some even come with GPS reading of good fishing areas. The real key in catching fish is being in the area where the fish are. Good map reading can take you from one productive area in the lake to another just like it simply by looking on a map.

Finding the break or desired depth change on a map is the same as looking for it on the water. During the warm water seasons the fish will relate to a more gradual slope or break and during colder water seasons a sharper drop into deeper water will be their preferred choice. Once you’ve located the desired place on the map, finding the location on the water becomes the next challenging task. A GPS and a compass are needed tools and, for any structure fishing, a good depth finder is a must. Finding these places still requires time driving around on the water; good map studies just mean less wasted time. You can find the right areas with site and direction searches. A site and direction search starts with identifying two landmarks on the map and on the water. Take a bearing from one mark towards the other watching your depth finder. When you come to the desired depth throw a buoy marker. Marker buoys are a must to be able to picture what the area really looks like. Good map reading is one thing that separates the top anglers that win on a regular basis. By good map study, the areas of the lake that will be holding the most fish at a given seasonal period can be found days before ever seeing the water.

There are always changes to the bottom that are not on some maps and these places, if conditions are right, can be gold mines. Fewer people will know of these places and thus less pressure on the fish that live there. Other key pieces of structure and breaks to look for that are not on some maps are springs, wells, old house foundations and old pulp wood roads. Most of the newer reservoirs have maps showing all these details, but the older lake most of these details were not noted on maps before the lake was flooded. Sometimes fishermen will share good fishing areas on different bodies of water. Studying these areas and looking for similar areas can also increase the success of a fishing trip. I talked to a man at a Jiffy store on the way to a lake I was fishing miles away. He told me about a break in the river where a creek came into the channel. Sure enough that place was a great holding area but, after studying the map at the hotel, so were the next two creeks that entered on down river. Good patterns will reproduce themselves time and time again. Map study can just show you where.
God Bless, good fishing
Capt. John Leech

Choosing A Lure

What lure would you pick if you just had to choose just one?

With ever fisherman I know, going to your tackle store is like turning your wife loose in a shoe store with the credit card. Nothing against the Ladies. We look for that magic bait every time we watch a fishing show, read and article or visit the tackle store. With all the new technology in colors and finishes it is hard not to try any of the new lures.

First, let’s look at something. What is your favorite ‘go to’ bait when all else has failed you? You have one lure in your box that you pull out when the times are the toughest. If this lure is so great why do we have all the others in our box? I will give you my answer and this may help you. JUST BECAUSE!

Yes! There are times the fish are on the bottom feeding and you need a bottom bumping bait. Then there are times you need a swimming bait for the suspended fish, and the times the fish are feeding on top and a top water is great.

Now, is your favorite lure able to cover all of the above situations? There are three lures I would have a hard time choosing from. The Plastic worm, Jig, and Spinner bait. All three of these baits can cover all the fishing problems.

The Plastic Worm can be fished Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, Drop shot, wacky worm, and weightless. This bait now covers all the above situations.

The Jig may not cover all the above but almost. You can swim the bait as you would a spinner bait or hop it along the bottom.

The Spinner Bait can be slow rolled out in deep water or shallow. Reeled very fast and worked on top as a top water, and a medium retrieve to cover suspended fish. The biggest key is working the bait to match the conditions.

Many years ago I took everything out of my boat but spinner baits. I had colored blades, silver, gold, and every style you could find. I fished this bait for a full year. I found that a three eighths ounce spinner bait with a gold Colorado small blade and a larger silver willow leaf blade and a black and yellow skirt would catch fish on most of the lakes I fished year round. The presentation was the key. The black and blue jig in three eighths ounce with the same color trailer has been fished all across the USA. Here on Lake Fork this color is widely used year round.

When the grass was thick the jig was the bait to pitch or flip into the holes. The stumps and standing timber is another key places for this bait.

Of all the baits, the plastic worm has had more articles written about it than any bait. I am going to hedge a little. The Plastic worm is my choice over all the other baits. I will tell you about it and then you choose. I have fished the Plastic worm since I was thirteen years old. This bait was in every tackle box in the country.

As this is my choice I will tell you why. The rig can consist of pegging the weight and pitching or flipping it around timber and grass. Carolina rigging which is a number one fish catching tactic. This is my go to style when all else fails. This is my rig in the spring with a three sixteenth ounce weight pegged about eight inches up the line with a lizard or French fry as bait. The wacky worm is also my spring bait when the fish are skittish from cold fronts or boat traffic. Weightless Texas style as a floating worm is another spring bait. But all of the worm styles will cover all of the seasons. The worm is probably the most versatile bait in all the baits I have mentioned.

So, which is your choice? While you decide, I need to get to the tackle store they have a big SALE going on. See you all on the lake.

Avoidable Accidents

Too many times we take things for granted. As I write this article my right arm is still sore from the 33 stitches that were used to close the cut on my forearm. The cause of this was wanting to move my boat back three feet with my hands rather than hooking up the rig to the car. The tandem rigs are a lot harder to get to roll than a single axle rig. I went to push and my hand slipped off the boat and I fell over the trailer tongue catching my arm on the latch for the winch. I was lucky I didn’t have more sever injuries.

How many times do we push or pull our boats around which could lead to back problems or other problems. This would have been avoided with a little thought. Many accidents can be avoided with a little thought.

How many times while fishing have you reached over to pick up a bait with two treble hooks only to have one catch in the carpet and the other hook in your finger. Sometimes you get the hook deep, sometimes you only get a small prick. The best way to stop this is to put all baits up each time and this will keep the hooks out of the carpet. Think about how many of us wear sandals and our toes are exposed to any thing in the carpet.

As a guide I am constantly watching my clients helping them to keep the hooks out of each other and especially me. When the fish are schooling everyone wants to get back to the action. We don’t pay attention to where our lure is behind us. Almost everyone today is using six foot six rods. Think about this. Six and a half foot rod, arm two and a half feet long, and line out about one foot to a little more, my addition adds this up to almost ten feet. Now the boat is twenty feet except that is from tip to tail, not the inside. Usually the inside is only sixteen feet, the point is that your lure is always in a catching zone for your partner along with his tackle. Be more conscience of your surroundings.

Think about how you get into your boat as you are taking it off the trailer. You back down and unhook the winch cable and then climb up on the nose off the trailer tongue. Some non-slip added to the trailer tongue will keep your foot from slipping. This can be found in auto parts and the hardware stores. How many times have you had friend pull you out at the ramp and you jump out of the boat which is about five feet. Most of the time no problem but just once you land on an object and twist your ankle or worse. I had a friend pull his boat out and tie it down, when he got into the truck he hollered at his buddy if he wanted to ride up to the parking area and the friend answered no and the friend took off. At the last minute, the friend decided to jump up on the boat only to miss and land on the side of the trailer and was drug up to the restaurant as the driver was un aware. Luckily he only had a short distance to go or very serious injuries would have occurred.

There are so many things we do with out thinking and just that one time there it is. Get into a habit or routine and stay with it. This is why I tell my clients I don’t need help getting the boat off the trailer or putting it on the trailer. You change your routine and you forget something. The same goes for tackle. How many times do we have four or five crank baits or spinner baits laying on the boat deck. These are looking for a foot or finger to get hooked into.

This also goes for when you get home. If you have a cat they will get into your boat and start playing with them on the deck and the next time thing you know they are hooked. I had a client who fished about once a month in his boat and stored it in a barn on his property. He had put up his rods and on one of them he had left a long A . His cat got into the boat and with cats being curios it got into the rod locker and became hooked on the long A. I won’t go into details, but about a month later he went to hook up the boat to go fishing and smelled something. You can guess the rest.

These are only little things if you put your mind to it and I bet you can think of other areas. Just a few minutes thought and taking a little time will most often keep an accident from happening. I hope this will put a thought into your day that will keep you safe and having an accident free fishing trip.

Good Luck and be Safe!

Bait Color and Size Matter

Let’s take a look at the importance of bait size and color in triggering hits. I’m going to also drill the importance of speed and depth a little. In dealing with all the clients as I do, the number one question I get on artificial trips is: What color do I need? The important question should be, how deep and how fast do I need to work the bait? In some lakes 7 to 8 feet of water eliminates 2/3rds of the lake surface and if the fish are at 8 feet and you are setting in 3 feet, the question of color is not real important since you probably can’t cast to them anyway. I know I keep talking about the importance of deep but it is that important. Please read my article on depth and speed.

OK Color. When what where and why? Color does have its place and the clearer the water the more important color will be. A good rule of thumb for color is bright days = bright colors, white, chrome, etc. Dark days = dark colors, black, gold etc. Blue, reds, orange, and purple seem to be neutral. Again no color is a substitute for speed or depth. There are times when a particular color may add fish to the creel. To best prove these factors, have two fishermen fish from the same boat side by side and change colors after every fish. By doing this the factor of speed and depth is removed from the equation. If color is a factor it will show to the fisherman with the magic color will catch many more fish. If one color does not out perform the other it must be speed or depth, assuming both fishermen are equally skilled. Of course this goes back to controlling the bait, which leads us back to depth and speed.

The time when color does seem to have a real place is with rise and fall type baits like worms or jigs. These type of baits are fished slow for the most part giving the fish plenty of time to look and examine a bait carefully. Most other type baits are reaction strike baits. When there is a color preference, light conditions will play a big factor in those preferences and can change through out the day.

Lets look at size and the factor it plays in the equation. Size plays a big factor in the silhouette a bait cast or the bulk of the bait and the maximum weight a bait will have. Both of these factors have a direct relationship to control. Being able to control any bait and keep it in the strike zone which is the real key to catching fish. If it ain’t in front of him he can’t bite it. The more bulk a bait has the more buoyant it is. We all know if it displaces more volume than the same amount of water and the material it is made of weighs the same or less than water, then it floats. Simply said, weight controls rate of fall, bulk of a bait its buoyancy. Factoring these two variables together gives a bait its unique characteristic. Certain baits float because of their bulk and require a diving bill to pull the bait down to its maximum running depth. That maximum depth is determined by the buoyancy of the bait and the size and angle of the bill.

Different companies number their baits in many ways. The important thing is maximum running depth. Every bait has one. Mann’s Bait Co. list their deep diving baits by their maximum running depth. Bomber list a set of numbers i.e. 5a, 6a, 7a, etc. The important factor here is knowing how deep each bait goes and being able to CONTROL that bait to run it at the desired depth. Baits that sink like a Rattle Trap, Diamond Shad or Little George all fall to the bottom. This makes fishing them different in that rather than trying to get the bait down to a certain depth you may be trying to get the bait up to a certain depth. All of these baits add a whole new set of variables. Choosing which of these different style baits is determined by depth and speed desired to be fished. It is easier when fishing slower speeds to fish up from the bottom than down from the top. When faster speeds are required top down is easier. The exception to this is the Spoon Plugs. These baits sink and will hold a maximum running depth no matter speed. While these baits make poor casting baits they run true to their maximum running depth. We will address baits and there difference in another article.