March 2006 Archives

Top Bass Fishing Video

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John Fox's, How, When & Where to Catch Bass


When you know you have found something good, really good, you become a champion of that product. You want to share your find with others. I have found such a video in John Fox’s, How, When & Where to Catch Bass. Produced by Outdoor Videos in 1986, this two hour video has been a national bestseller for good reason. John Fox, nine time’s national bass fishing champion and host of the popular ESPN’s television series, Outdoor Adventures, methodically instructs the viewer in the nuances of bass fishing. If you have spent numerous hours viewing other bass fishing videos with grinning hosts in a fantasyland setting landing big fish after big fish, ask yourself this simple question. Did I learn from this instructional tape? Did I want to immediately rewind and start taking notes? Did I find myself nodding my head and thinking, “So that’s how they do it.” That was my reaction on viewing John Fox’s video. I found a used video on the internet of How, When & Where to Catch Bass. Later I found John Fox’s web site, John, who is now 76, retired from television productions after 27 years. He presently runs a bass guiding service in Florida, and he sells his DVD from his site. Having been a fly fishing guide for almost twenty years, I read John’s policies for running his guide service. I was impressed.

John’s video is well organized. He begins with necessary information on understanding how a bass survives and adapts to his environment. He stresses boat handling techniques, and although his product endorsements are dated, I never felt like I was captive to a commercialized pitch. Essentially, as in trout fishing, John makes the point that 90% of the fish are in 10% of the lake, so it is essential that beginners learn to know where NOT to fish! The tape is organized by seasons so viewers may return to a season and review the information. What follows are just a few highlights from each of the four seasons John Fox covers.

Spring, regardless of the calendar date, activates bass when the surface water temperatures reach the low 50’s. Bass begin staging in 20 to 40 feet of water off shallow banks, as they prepare to spawn. John recommends top water lures such as spinnerbaits, buzz baits, spoons, crankbaits, plastics, and the ever popular Jig and Pig. Each of these lures is covered thoroughly, including color selection. Crawfish, a mainstay of the diet at this time, should be imitated with lures such as Bill Norman’s Deep or Shallow Little N in a crawfish pattern. One of the many tips John offers for spring fishing is to simply troll over likely staging areas with an electric trolling motor carefully monitoring the depth of the lure. Catch a few bass with a lure that is designed for a specific depth, and that is the depth you should fish for the rest of the day. Two truisms John offers for spring fishing are, “Bass live deep and eat shallow,” and when the “turtles are in the coves, the bass will be there too!”

Summer arrives when the temperatures climbs to the low 70’s. But as most anglers know, climatic changes and barometric changes can interfere with those weekends that anglers plan with optimism and hope for stable conditions. John teaches you how to fish successfully during those unstable conditions in the transition between spring and summer; after all, the fish may be picky, but they are still there. You just have to learn how to locate them and successfully pattern them. “When the barometric pressure is low, fish shallow. When the barometric pressure is high, fish deep.” John methodically reviews tips and techniques for targeting bass during the summer. From points to structure, from the shady side to the darker times of day, John covers it all. I was especially intrigued by his endorsement of the Color Selector, a product I have read much about. Cool summer nights prompt a turn over of the lake’s waters. In a matter of days, cooler waters from the bottom of the lake rise and force warmer water to the bottom. John Fox describes this phenomenon. The change is dramatic. Surface water temperatures go from low 80’s to low 70’s, and John details tactics to target fish.

Fall fishing is best described as searching for replicated patterns. John advises moving around, exploring, testing, and most importantly staying with a pattern that works. He recommends top water lures, buzz baits and Rat’l Traps fished in 2-15 feet of water. He focuses on shad patterns and fall locations where bass go on a feeding spurt in anticipation of winter.

Some of the most intriguing and informative tips that John shares are his successful winter fishing tactics. I was fascinated with his floating buoy markers and his vertical jigging tips. Finally, John Fox shares his secrets for fine tuning and rigging lures for all seasons. If you are serious about improving your catch rate, buy this video and start taking notes. This tape is everything you would expect from a two times Bass Champion of Champions and from a man who holds Florida’s State Big Bass Record five times in two years. Enjoy.

Dave Archer

5 Star Book Rating on Bass Fishing

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Beginning with Roland Martin’s book, 101 Bass-Catching Secrets, published in 1980, I have read nine popular bass fishing books. The latest bass fishing book that I have devoured is The Bass Angler’s Almanac by John Weiss, published in 1991 by Lyons Press. Although I highly recommend the book and enjoyed the Question:Answer format, my first choice for a comprehensive teaching book on bass fishing remains Largemouth Bass – An In-Fisherman Handbook of Strategies.

Like a good textbook, the chapters are logically organized and clearly introduced in the table of contents for future reviews. The book covers the history of bass fishing in this country, bass biology, bass survival and adaptability, bass distribution, pattern fishing, lures and equipment and much more. A new angler to bass fishing can easily be overwhelmed by specialized vocabulary and references to techniques and terminal gear when picking up a bass fishing magazine. They may ask themselves what a neutral bass is. Could it be a bass who doesn’t take sides in an environmental debate? Is it a half-way submerged or suspended bass? Naturally, most of these specialized terms may be understood with contextual clues. However, if a beginning angler doesn’t know what a Carolina or Texas rig is or the meaning of Wacky Style, he or she needs this book now. If you forgot the meaning of pelagic or seiche, no problem, the writing staff has provided a glossary at the back of the book.

Any good text book should be well balanced with photographs, charts, diagrams and cartoons. This handbook has all of that including data from research that directly impacts anglers on the water. In addition to the thoroughness in reviewing the categories of lures, the staff provides a strategy for pattern fishing for bass. The authors state that a “pattern includes three basic components: (1) circumstances such as season, time of day, cover, water clarity, and other factors; (2) location, or types of areas to fish (specific spots in water); and (3) presentation including lure type, tackle, and mode of presentation. A proven pattern states: ‘If certain conditions exist, bass will be active in a particular habitat and I can catch them by fishing a prescribed way.’” You will definitely catch more bass after studying this book. It’s a great read.

Dave Archer

Video Review: Tube Worms

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The Gitzit!


Field and Stream’s April 2006 featured article, 50 Best Lures of All Time, lists the tube bait or Gitzit in the number 9 spot. The number 1 spot (drum roll, please) is the Gitzit’s first cousin, the Curly Tail Grub. Whether you agree with John Merwin’s placement has much to do with whether or not you have spent some real quality time with a Gitzit. Second place went to the Dardevle spoon, an all-around lure that attracts the full gamut of sport fish. Change the title to “50 Best Bass Fishing Lures of All Time,” and the Gitzit would more than likely be awarded the first or second spot.

Produced by Bazz Clazz Videos, Gitzits with the Garland Brothers is one of the best bass catching videos of the past 20 years. From the perspective of a retired high school English teacher and a devotee of Gitzits fishing for small mouth and large mouth bass in the Sacramento Delta, I would place this video somewhere in the top five positions of videos that actually teach, and where the results can be replicated by amateurs. Pro fisherman Dan Warme, an expert in his own right, carefully mines all the great tube bait fishing techniques from the inventors of the Gitzit, Bobby Garland and his brother Gary Garland.

The tube bait is just that. It is a slender, hollow, rubber tube in which the last 40% of the tube’s length is split or cut into tentacles. Hook size and weight is determined by the size of the tube bait, the depth to be fished and the time of descent as the tube spirals to the bottom. Probably the most common weight is a 1/16 or 1/8 oz. weight. Lead-head jig hooks are inserted through the top of the tube, exiting out the bottom. They may be rigged Texas style or they may be used with a weedless jigging hook or with a split-shot rigging. The Gitzit does it all. Add foam and it floats. Pull the lead-head back to create a pocket of air and it slowly spirals down to suspended fish. Best of all, when it comes to rest on the bottom, the tail stands up straight allowing the tentacles to breathe naturally with a rhythmic pulse, making it easier for a bass to locate and pick up in a soft, mucky bottom.
(photo 3)
Although I am comfortable with a bait-casting reel or a spinning reel in my hands, I never lose an opportunity to fish with my fly rod. I began my formative years as an angler fishing independently with my father’s fly rod in second grade in Bishop, California. Garden hackle, salmon eggs, crickets and hoppers were the bait of choice for trout and later blue gill in southern California during the fifties, the golden years. Had someone handed me a Gitzit, I would have been a passionate devotee for the rest of my life. Returning to California for the last four years of my teaching career, I stumbled upon Gary Garland’s tube baits ( and had smashing success fishing for small mouth bass in the slows rivers surrounding Modesto. Some of the largest bass that I have caught was during the spawn fishing the smaller Gitzits on slow-moving rivers that dump into the San Joaquin River, a major tributary feeding the Sacramento River. If you are new to bass fishing, I highly recommend the video, “Gitzits with the Garland Brothers.” Take some along on your next bass fishing trip, and print up the Tips Sheet below. Since it is condensed information, cut and paste and then print and tape to a Gitzit box. If you really want to learn, take notes and chart your success.

Dave Archer

Dave’s Gitzit Tips from the Video and his Own Experience (Print, cut and paste on your Gitzit box.)

1. Always keep the Gitzit rigged straight.
2. Use a weedless lead-head hook for fishing the bottom and structure.
3. Fishing the fall: Use 1/16 oz. hooks or create an air pocket up front.
4. For pitching rig the Gitzit Texas style with a sliding bullet head sinker.
5. Fish the Gitzit with a split shot 18-inches up from the Gitzit to keep the Gitzit
floating up off the bottom.
6. Always watch the line for movement and soft takes.
7. Always cast over your target. Slowly reel back to the target and allow the
Gitzit to free-fall vertically to the bass or target. On a slow moving river,
cast upstream so the Gitzit free-falls to the target zone.
8. For best results, use a spinning reel with 8 to 10-pound line. Allow some
measure of drag for the take, but not too much to miss the hook set.
9. Fish white Gitzits for bass feeding on shad in open water, and paint on eyes if
you bury the lead-head for slower retrieves and minnow action.
10. For deep water retrieves, allow the Gitzit to sink on a set count. Reel five or
six time somewhat fast, pause and then give a SLIGHT twitch upwards. Repeat.
11. Use a skip cast to reach hard targets under trees and docks.
12. Color Selection:
Dark brown or pumpkin with flakes = crawfish imitations early in the morning
Smoke with Silver or translucence with flakes = mid morning, clear water
Cloudy day = electric grape
Pearl white = shad imitation
Chartreuse and green = sun fish
13. Fish the fall or the crawl! If you rig the lead-head outside the tube, you can cut
off part of the lead to slow the fall to spooky bass in shallow water.
14. Size counts! Size down for non- feeding fish or spooky fish and size up during
the bite.
15. Fish the Gitzit year-around.