Archive for the ‘Bass Fishing Tips & Techniques’ Category

Lake St. Clair – Smallmouth Bass “In the Moment”

May 26, 2010

Every fish has its moment where they will bite anything you throw at them yet there seems to me to be something special about smallmouth bass and their propensity to turn off just as fast as they turn on. Tournament anglers work under the pressure of a ticking clock and are most likely to get the broadest look at the phenomenon. The pressure that is on them to produce at the highest possible level during each hour of a tournament produces a kind of tunnel vision toward smallmouth behavior. Different behavior = different bait or presentation.

On a macro level bass have semi-predictable seasonal trends which clue us into their position in the ecosystem and what type of bait selection might be the most effective. A pre-spawn smallmouth has a wide range of movement and a wide range of appetites. A summer bite smallmouth holds tight to structure and may only bite one style of bait presented in a very specific fashion. In both cases an angler can make good general judgments about where to fish based on very little information.

There is probably nothing more fun than just going out with friends and “winging it,” taking stock of “the moment” with each other and accepting whatever a beautiful day on the water will bring. Some anglers though thrive on expanding their knowledge and build on each success or failure then apply that knowledge to a future trip. On a micro level general information is used to isolate tight spots and presentations which then in turn become a strategy or “game plan” for a successful day on the water.

This was one of those 'big fish' moments on the St. Clair River

So being “in the moment” is that place where every factor that led up to getting on a hot bite comes together. A west wind in the summer with cloudy skies becomes a trip out to a weed flat where you just know they will be waiting for you. A mayfly hatch means that only certain rods and baits come out of the rod locker to press the attack. You catch a nearly undetectable swirl out of the corner of your eye and make a cast to it for a sure hook-up. It’s those moments that keep us coming back for more and it’s the time on the water plus knowledge and information which makes more moments like these possible.

For Lake St. Clair, Marked Maps Live!™ and Fishing Spot Specs™ delivers exactly the kind of information that can help make your trip out to the big water the best it can be. Both internet products work side-by-side with laminated Marked Maps, books and downloadable spot specific reports which carry both Live! and historical data. These tools and the knowledge and experience you already have can help to make this the best bass fishing season possible.

If you are interested in a guided trip on Lake St. Clair click here for brochure

To order Xtreme Bass Tackle baits:

Call Xtreme Bass Tackle TOLL FREE – (877) 485-2223

XBT on Ebay (click here)

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

Tube Trailers – Advanced Bass Fishing Techniques

May 14, 2010

Modified Tubes – The Tube Trailer Effect

This subtle change to your tube can yield big results in your catch.  To date, field tests have shown the darker colors to be effective for largemouth and the lighter ones for smallies.  Nothing is written in stone here but one thing has been universal…once you get on a bite with tube trailers, you take the trailer off and the bite stops.  Put the trailer on and you’re back on aggressive fish.  By adding color and action to a tube, you will get a different bite.

The first prototypes of the tube trailer appeared in 2000 and you could find them in the Xtreme Bass Tackle catalog.  Since then, more companies have jumped on board but most have been conservative in their color selection.  This is for a good reason: anglers have yet to discover what an effective tool this bait can be.

I’m drifting an 11 foot flat in Lake St. Clair (Michigan) and we are routinely hooking up with 2 lb. smallmouth which is fun, but it’s not gonna cut it at tournament time.  My partner continues to do the “same old, same old” while I slip a white tube trailer onto my 4 inch Canadian Mist.  Now that is quite a contrast!  Immediately, I begin picking up the bigger fish in the school.  Coincidence?

The next time we are fishing Grassy Island outside of the St. Clair River channels.  This island is primarily sand and bulrushes with long shallow flats that give way to a 3 to 8 foot break and a weedline.  Anyone who fishes with me knows that I am a real fan of the inside (shallower) break for smallies, but nothings cookin’ here.  I insert a dark melon pepper tube trailer into the same 4 inch Canadian Mist tube and go three for three with fish in the 2 to 3 lb. class; Made something out of nothing.

Have you ever been hot-to-go on a school of bass only to find the bite shut off like someone threw a switch?  Like they said, “Play time is over!”  One of my top tricks is to switch flake color in my plastic baits.  I did this once over a two hour period; switched six times after the bite “shut off” and continued to catch fish.  My partner, who was throwing our “top” color couldn’t get bit again.  If you’re throwing red flake, switch to green, from green to blue flake, from blue to purple and so on.  Tube trailers accomplish the same effect by adding a trailer color to any color tube you’re using.

Customers have called over the years and confirmed my personal experiences.  It’s no magic bullet but once they start eating the modified tube, you take the trailer off and the bite is off too.  This has been true for both largemouth and smallmouth.  Once you see the two tendrils swinging off the back of your bait, you too will be convinced this modification can help you put better fish in the boat.

Rigging Your Tube Trailer

Tube Trailers can be easily inserted into any tube that you are already using.  Start with your tube rigged normally with a standard tube head.

Put the jig hook point through the center of the nub of the Tube Trailer.  Thread the nub of the Tube Trailer along the hook shank and into the tube.

Fully rigged tube with Tube Trailer.

When To Use Tube Trailers

I use tube trailers primarily as an upgrade bait.  Every season I take these out when I’m catching average bass and after attaching a Tube Trailer to the tube, end up upgrading my catch.  I’ll inform anglers about what works or what doesn’t work through my research.  It’s all good information.  Tube Trailers haven’t let me down since 2000.  My staff and I use them under tournament conditions.

Early season bass respond well to tube baits that are two-tone in nature.  One effective method to use is dipping the tube tail in a dye.  Usually a red, orange or chartreuse color.  Tube Trailers accomplish the same thing and add more action at the same time.

Post-spawn bass tend to school up and eventually go on a feeding binge.  There is a tendency for these aggressive fish to ignore natural tones and go after bright colors and baits with extra action.  Tube Trailers allow both options and allow you to continue to use the same bait and presentation you are used to.

Summer bite bass become very color selective.  This is a time when a color trigger can make all the difference and keep you on a spot instead of “leaving fish to go find fish.”  Tube Trailers come in a variety of colors and it won’t take long until you find what works best on your body of water.

Fall pattern bass school up and Tube Trailers become a strong option once again.

How To Get Started

I don’t use Tube Trailers 100% of the time, but I have customers who do.  Here is how I would recommend that someone get started using Tube Trailers and building confidence:  Work an area until you have caught all of the weight you believe is available.  It could be a 2 lb. average, it could be a 3 lb. average or more.  Before you leave the spot, insert a Tube Trailer and make some casts.  If you upgrade your catch, it will establish confidence in the bait and presentation.  You will be on your way to getting the most weight out of the area and the most out of a presentation you already use.

God Bless, Good Luck and Good Fishing…


Xtreme Bass Tackle TOLL FREE – (877) 485-2223

XBT on Ebay (click here)

Xtreme Bass Tackle website

(c) Wayne Carpenter

Those Crazy Smallmouth – Dial in the Bite by Speed Loading Tubes

May 11, 2010

Even though early season bass show some signs of being color selective, they have yet to show their true colors. They begin to reject a wide variety of baits once the summer bite sets in. This phenomenon can be an hourly, daily, spot by spot or even presentation related trend. It can take a while to go through enough colors to find the one they want but the process can be much shorter if you speed load your tubes.

Speed loading simply means that you can switch from one bait color to another without having to retie the line to the jig. There are two ways that we will discuss doing that in this blog: speed loading with tube heads and also with football heads.

To start with you need a captive group of smallies that you know will get a look at the bait(s) you present. Smallmouth in an eddy, behind a river marker, swimming around a rock or rock pile in the Lake or roaming a small flat all give us that opportunity. Next I line up my different colors on the deck, one of each, then proceed to get the first bait out where the smallies can see it. No matter if that bait works or not I give it a few casts, take off the tube I just threw, then speed load the next color on and get it out there. After going through six or so colors it will become obvious which ones they find the most attractive. This entire process takes very little time and yields big dividends in information.

To speed load a tube heads you penetrate the tube from the outside and force the body of the jig through the surface and into the tube cavity. Adjust the jig to fit well then cast it out. By using this method you will never have to retie and can gather valuable information quickly. The downside is that the tube won’t last very long because it has a tear in it but it won’t take long to see if they will bite on that one color, then you can move on to the next.

Another way is to thread the hook of a ball head jig or football jig through the front of the tube as you would any plastic with that style jig. Even if you don’t intend to catch your fish with that presentation you can use the speed afforded by not having to retie to find the optimum color the bass are looking for. After learning that, a different presentation can be used with the “magic” color attached.

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

Lake St. Clair Combat Bass Fishing™ – Bite INDICATORS

May 10, 2010

The word INDICATORS is one used frequently in the books and articles I write.  It’s a great way of thinking when trying to figure out how the bass are going bite on any given day, or in a given situation.  They are the key you looking for to quickly unlock the secrets of the trend bass are in.

Cottonwood seed

When the cottonwood starts flying I use that as an INDICATOR that the topwater bite is on for Lake St. Clair.  It’s just one of those things that has worked out over a long period of time and that I’ve come to rely on.  If you can’t seem to get the bass to bite that’s a good INDICATOR that the post-spawn period has begun.  Seeing schooling bass feeding voraciously after that period has started tells you that we are coming to the end of it and heading into the summer bite.  Having to place the boat into a specific position relative to the structure you’re fishing and/or pulling the bait around only one side of a structure and/or only being able to use one specific color to catch bass is an INDICATOR that the summer bite has taken hold.

One way to add to your personal library of INDICATORS is to log your catches from year-to-year.  As you thumb through a log book or sort it on a computer, specific trends will show up.  The easiest trend to track and to match up with catch rates is water temperature.  Most bass anglers key on this single piece of data and get a lot of mileage out of it.  If you really want to expand on what works best for you take the log and start comparing water temperature with another type of data like baits.  You will begin to see specific time periods where the baits turn on and when they turn off.

If you are looking for that kind of logged information for Lake St. Clair you can find it on the Fishing Spot Specs™ website.  This powerful search engine can extract INDICATORS from multiple combinations of fishing, weather and water data and sift through both current Live! information and historical records.

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

Those Crazy Smallmouth – Crankbait Patterns

May 4, 2010

It’s amazing how smallmouth bass can be so different from one day to the next, one hour to the next or even one minute to the next. We would all need a lot less tackle if this weren’t so but it is what it is. Here are some reflections on crankbait patterns they respond to:

My first choice here is almost always a lipless crankbait (rattle trap) or a spinnerbait.

Frank Keller (aka 'Mr. Big Fish') with another hog. This is a nice fall smallmouth from the Walpole area.

On Lake St. Clair the classic chrome and blue 1/2 oz. rattle trap (Bill Lewis or Rapala) is the bait of choice for me. I’ve thrown other colors but always come back to that standby. A recent development was brought on by a friend who recommended a shallow running lipped crankbait, the Norman Little N in white. It was very successful on inland waters and when I took it out on Lake St. Clair it performed perfectly.

Provided the bottom slopes off quickly a deep diving crankbait works best. The bass usually hit the bait moves down the slope but some of the bigger fish come when the crankbait reaches its deepest running depth. Here color hasn’t been much of an issue since it is mostly a reaction bite that comes with that presentation.

On Lake St. Clair the bite on crankbaits on the open water has changed considerably over the last 15 years. Now that the water is very clear the crankbaits with high quality natural finishes tend to fish stronger. The open water crankbite bite is also subject to the whims of our bronze backed friends. While tracking the bite throughout the season I’ll find a few periods where the crankbite bite turns on and that will be reported in Fishing Spot Specs™.

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

Bass Fishing Tips – More Bass with Rattles and Scent?

May 2, 2010

Dave Misaras led the way on this day where we ended up with our best trip fishing together ever

I’ve seen rattles turn bass on and I’ve seen them turn bass off.  I was fishing with my friend Dave Misaras in the St. Clair River and he was picking up several bass to my one.  Finally I turn to him and ask, “You’re using a rattle, aren’t you?”  Of course he was, I started to, now my numbers were more like his.  In a different trip that year with a customer we were fishing a shallow river break with largemouth all over it.  I’m hooking up one after another and my guest who was using the exact same bait, St. Clair Crayfish™, couldn’t get bit.  Finally I turn to him and ask, “You’re using a rattle, aren’t you?”  Of course he was, took it out, then his numbers were more like mine.

Anglers who use rattles tend to be “true believers” and use them 100% of the time.  While they will never know how many bass they are missing I believe in the long run they will be successful because confidence will catch more fish than any technique or bait.  Using scent is a confidence trait that draws the same type of angler.  Stories abound with those who have found the specific scent which is their magic bullet and responsible for out-fishing both friends and competitors.  Their confidence will also likely result in long-term success.

I’ve tested both rattles and scent in the field and have found a mixed bag of results.  When bass are available in murky waters rattles are definitely a “go to” option.  Rattles are also worth trotting out at any time to see if there is a strong response.  Testing different scents has generally shown weak results.  If there was one instance I would use scent for sure is when it’s known that bass are in a spot but not biting.  I would add scent to try to stimulate a response.

Xtreme Bass Tackle™ plastics come unscented.  Having a bait that allows an angler to add their confidence scent is important with so many effective scents on the market.  This appeals to a wider number of anglers and doesn’t lock the angler or bass into accepting the bait with only one scent option.  What XBT baits does offer is a wide variety of color options developed with Natural Forage Technology™ that can give the bass a reason to look, then the rest is up to you.

To buy XBT baits call:

Xtreme Bass Tackle TOLL FREE – (877) 485-2223

or off of Ebay

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

Early Season Prep – Organize…Stock Up!

April 21, 2010

There’s still time to take one more pass at organizing your tackle before things heat up and old angling habits take hold.  Sure, we all have more baits than we use but there may still be a few gaps that can be filled.  Before buying the latest and greatest bait designed to catch anglers let’s look at the baits we have first, then decide which way to go?


An angler calls me one day, early in the week to ask me if there was anything special going on.  There was a definite buzzbait bite going so I put him on that pattern.  That weekend he called me on the way home from a tournament to tell me that he followed my advice on buzzbaits and came in 2nd place.  Good right!  It could have been better.  He told me that he pulled up on a spot and boated a 4 lb. smallie on his first cast: then a 3 lb. smallie.  On the next cast the bait broke off so he ties on his only other buzzbait and puts another 4 pounder in the boat.  On the next cast he hits another nice fish but the buzzbait broke in half.  He couldn’t get them on anything else so he headed back to the launch.  Before pulling out of the water he added one decent largemouth to his bag and finished second.  If you have a confidence bait have plenty available. I can tell you that this angler didn’t usually throw buzzbaits so his supply was limited.


Going through a lot of jigs isn’t new to tournament anglers, but there are times when we might take our inventory of jigs for granted.  I’ve been on the water more than once without an ample supply (and I’m in the business!).  It comes down to keeping tabs on the terminal tackle to be sure there are enough of each weight and size to survive a robust tournament day.


It’s also good to keep in mind that the buying cycle for distributors who stock fishing tackle can run up to May or June.  If a bait or color runs out in July or August, it probably won’t be restocked until the following year.  Over the last couple of years there has been a trend where anglers stock up early.  This can help to keep you on fish in the later months when you might be in the hunt to qualify.

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

Lake St. Clair – To Hold ’em or Fold ’em

April 18, 2010

A classic smallmouth bite relates directly to a spot or an area and has a life span. In early season the bite on spots or in areas can be expanded and life span of the bite extended but there is usually a beginning and end. The decision to stay and hope for the bite to pick up again (hold ’em) or run to a different spot (fold ’em) is a consideration all season long.

Smallmouth stay on the move in schools, visit favorite structures and sometimes hover over them. Their behavior centers around seasonal trends, the presence of forage, wind direction, fishing pressure and more. It’s even more likely they are reacting to more than one of these factors and knowing what is motivating them can be an INDICATOR to tell us whether the bite on a spot will hold up.

Fishing Reports

Using Fishing Spot Specs™ can deliver exactly this kind of information. It’s the best fishing information search engine available and when filled with the right information can deliver powerful results. The right information is the same quality information anglers have come to expect from the Lake St. Clair Combat Bass Fishing Weekly Newsletter™. The same type of information that was in the newsletter for over 10 years is in the database of the website.

Here’s a sample entry from the Combat Bass Fishing Weekly Newsletter #5 July 2007:

“This is one of those periods where it would probably be better to stay on a spot to wait the bass out, or wait out the big bite.  Instead of running to up to 10 spots, having 2 or 3 to work should be more than enough to cash a check.  Shoot for a 17 lb. bag and you could be in the running at this point.  That will change soon as the St. Clair River fish turn on.”

I’m looking forward to providing the same kind of information and more through Fishing Spot Specs™ this year.

(c) Wayne Carpenter

Lake St. Clair – Smallmouth Bass Opening Day For Buzzbaits

April 17, 2010

Anglers who fish are are interested in fishing Lake St. Clair have a strong reaction when I mention catching smallmouth bass on buzzbaits. Most seem surprised that buzzbaits are a serious option for smallies. This is a perfectly understandable reaction when you consider what kind of coverage the topic has received in print or TV; none that I know of.

As far as high percentage presentations go, topwater fishing with buzzbaits is right up there but there are a few things to know to get the best of it. In the early season the buzzbait bite doesn’t emerge the same day the topwater bite picks up on Lake St. Clair. It comes later and that could also be a cause for anglers to give up on it early. If they try buzzbaits when smallmouth are hitting every other type of topwater plug and don’t get bit, why should they try later?

The best way to know when the buzzbait bite has started it to either go to Fishing Spot Specs or subscribe to the weekly research newsletter. The first sign of action on buzzbaits will be reported there.

If you would like to get warmed up on the buzzbait action earlier then go for the largemouth. They get active on topwater action much earlier than smallies and the shallow zones they love are easy to target. Largemouth are real suckers for buzzbaits and if you find them shallow, the action is fast and the bite strong on or before opening day for topwater.

(c) Wayne Carpenter

Lake St. Clair – Aquatic Vegetation Maturation (weed growth)

April 16, 2010

Weed growth on Lake St. Clair and connecting waters has a direct impact on fish position, quality and quantity.  In some areas a weed patch six inches high and a foot wide can hold a school of smallies then in other areas the bottom can be covered with weed for over a mile and it would be really something to find one fish.  Unfortunately, weed growth or dispersal hasn’t been one of those elements in the environment that can be predicted with certainty so each year it  takes a trip out to the water to be sure.

When the water levels dropped the last time from a relative high point in the 80’s conventional wisdom said that there would be an explosion of weed growth in the shallows due to increased light penetration.  What happened in most cases was just the opposite.  There was barely any weed shallow and the first weed to come up (and the heaviest) was in the 8 to 9 foot range.  Even in the St. Clair River system the same was true.  Areas we thought would blow up with heavy weed turned into bare sand flats.

At the Belle River Hump in Canada one year we saw milfoil beds blow up going east and west as far as one could see.  The water clarity that year was crystal clear to at least 16 feet and you could count small rocks the size of a dime in 12 feet.  On the sonar the milfoil beds looked like Volkswagon Beetles parked side by side.  We had never seen this phenomenon before and never since that time.

In 1995 we were fishing a wall of weed in 16 feet of water at 11 mile road.  The weed was so thick on the way out to the 16 foot mark you couldn’t make an open water cast.  Smallies would use the end of the weedbed in 16 feet as a superhighway and run the edge.  Since then it’s been pretty skinny for weed growth in the same zone.

If you are interested in tracking the water levels go to the Corps of Engineers website:

Below is a monthly bulletin pulled (April 2010):

(c) Wayne Carpenter