Q: Who took me bass fishing for the first time? Do you remember what type of lure you used?
A: I remember one of the very first times going bass fishing with my mother and father here at Lake Okeechobee and I actually fished with a live shiner and I caught bass that was 9 Â˝ pounds and I was just four years old. Itâ€™s a memory that I remember pretty vividly because that big bass really scared me to death. I didnâ€™t want to catch any more big ones. I just wanted to catch the little ones, as I told my dad â€” which he still reminds me of often.
Q: For bass fishing, what would you recommend to anglers who want to fish with live bait?
A: Living here at Lake Okeechobee we fish with live bait regularly. I like to rig my live bait up on a cork and a kale-style bait hook with about a 2- to 3-foot leader between the hook and the cork. Take a wild shiner and throw it against some windy shorelines or windy grass lines. Some of the biggest fish Iâ€™ve ever caught in my life are on live bait. Itâ€™s a blast, especially for beginners or young kids. You can introduce an angler to the joy of catching a bass with live bait much quicker and easier than with lures.
Q: If youâ€™re experiencing some fickle bass in a weed bed, what would you try?
A: There are two approaches you can take. First, you go into the thickest cover in the weed bed with a heavy weight â€“ 1- to 1 Â˝-ounce style weight River2Sea tungsten, rigged up with a TK 130 Flippinâ€™ Hook and some type of small creature bait. Or, go lightweight and finesse around the grass beds with a slow, sinking-style worm, like a weighted Senko or a soft jerk bait fishing on lighter line and let the bait fall weightless through the water column and in the grass. A lot of times that will catch those finicky bass.
Q: Letâ€™s say an angler wants to take his bass fishing to the next level, what lure would you recommend?
A: For me, crankbait fishing is something that an angler can develop their skills in. Crankbait fishing is so far beyond just throwing a crankbait around the shoreline because you can get offshore and find some of those hard to reach schools of bass that are out in deeper water on river channels and long points out in the lake. With this type of technique, youâ€™re going to need to have a good graph like a Garmin depth finder with a good mapping system in it and a good sonar unit thatâ€™s going to pick up the bait fish as well as the bass in the area to show you where they are. A lot of times, Iâ€™ll take a deep-diving crankbait, rig it up on a 7 Â˝-foot rod, use 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon line and make long casts over these deep water ledges in search of these schools of bass. When you find them, itâ€™s lights out because these are the bass that donâ€™t get a lot of action. Most anglers have a tendency to focus their efforts along shoreline cover and visible cover that they see. So any time you can get offshore and find schools of fish on deep water areas, thatâ€™s a way to advance your fishing to the next level.
Q: Tell us about an early bass fishing experience â€“ a good day, a bad day â€“ what sticks out in your head?
A: One of the earliest memories I have as a tournament angler was the very first bass tournament I ever fished. I had an old used bass boat with an Evinrude GT 140 on the back of it. I was so proud of that bass boat. Myself and a friend at the age of 15 were going out on Lake Okeechobee to do some bass fishing and ran into a guy at the boat ramp that said there was going to be a big tournament the next day. He encouraged us to fish the tournament, but then asked how old we were. When we said we were 15, he said he didnâ€™t think weâ€™d be able to collect the money if we won. So I talked to the tournament director and worked it out where if we did win any money, that they would write the check to my mom. We decided to fish the tournament and we ended up in third place. We beat many of the top anglers on Lake Okeechobee, and at the early age of 15, along with my partner who was 14, that was a lot of fun and a big part of the confidence that started me down the road as a professional bass angler. I sure do miss that old boat with the Evinrude GT 140 on the back. What a great motor.
Q: What other resources do you use for tips and advice from pro anglers?
A: Thereâ€™s plenty of websites out there that are full of fishing tips, but the E-NATION site is a great location to find great tips and great ideas of things to do. Whether itâ€™s fishing, catching more bass, or improving performance on your new boat or motor, the E-NATION site is a great place to do that. With some of the best anglers in the world on the E-NATION site daily, you sure can get a quick answer there.