Going Pro: What You Need To Know

Professional angling is a highly sought after career path, and it requires alot of time, effort, faith and creativity to make your mark.

Professional angling is a highly sought after career path, and it requires alot of time, effort, faith and creativity to make your mark.

Question:  "I wanted to ask how you got started in getting sponsorships.  I want to get a start at becoming a pro." -Justin

Answer:

Great question Justin!

Actually, of all the questions I receive-other than people asking me what the Power-Poles are on the back of my boat- is how to get sponsors and how to become a pro.  

This is a very simple question, that unfortunately requires a very complex and variable answer.

Just like fishing, the journey to become a professional angler, and acquire sponsors, is different for every person, and is dependent on a broad set of uncontrollable factors just as much as it depends on the things you can control.

However, I do have some advice, from my own experiences, that I firmly believe will help you on the path to becoming a pro.

What is a Pro?

Before we get into the how, I believe it is important to understand the what.  What is a professional angler?  What makes a person a "pro"?  

Understanding the job that you are aspiring to is just as important as understanding how to get there.  

My personal-albeit oversimplified- definition of a "pro angler" is a person that makes their full living in the sport of fishing.  Under my definition, guides, tournament anglers, television hosts all fall under the spectrum of being a pro, however, all of these also fall under another category- an ambassador.  

It is almost impossible to make a quality living, and become a legitimate pro, without becoming an ambassador for the sport.  Promoting the sport in a positive way is an essential quality of any pro, and one that is not only good for the sport, but also creates endless opportunities, helps build your own personal brand, and attracts sponsors in the long run.

On the other hand, a pro, is not simply an angler who has a tournament jersey with a bunch of sponsor logos on it.  

I believe that a certain level of respect must be given to the title of "professional" and to actually achieve your dreams, you need to focus on becoming the whole package- a product promoter, a conservationist, a good angler, a writer, a photographer, and a salesman.  Note how being a "good angler" is sandwiched somewhere in the middle.  

In the end, fishing by itself is a pastime, not a profession, however, when you provide a service to the sport as a whole, you promote it so others get excited about participating,  you will then start making a living and finally become a professional fisherman.  

Meet & Greet

We all have to start somewhere right?  When I started fishing, I had a tremendous drive and had a desire to find sponsors.  

My first step was to learn as much about sponsorships as possible.  I bought books, read internet articles, and listened to instructional cassette tapes (yes, I am that old) on the subject.  I then proceeded to create the best portfolio that I could, including as professional of a resume as I could.  

No luck.  No sponsors.  No real leads.

I soon realized that the portfolios and resumes I was sending out were getting lost in a sea of other anglers seeking sponsors, and I was getting no visibility with those companies at all.  

I then decided I needed to meet these companies face-to-face, and I started going to trade shows like the Bassmaster Classic Expo, and ICAST.  These were the kind of places I could get to meet the decision makers in each company and show them who I really was.  

These in-person networking opportunities have proven to be the most important, and effective, approach to seeking sponsors.  

My basic approach wasn't to get sponsors at these events, but rather get to know everyone I could and simply introduce myself, understand what their company is about, and make sure everyone knew my name, recognized my face and knew that I was willing to help them out in the future.  

Networking is by far the most important part of the process of acquiring sponsors, but like anything else, it must be done correctly, and in my opinion, real networking isn't about immediate results, or gaining sponsors in the short term, but rather building real long-term friendships and business relationships.  The networking you do may not directly lead to a sponsorship, but indirectly, more often than not, you will benefit from just staying fresh in the minds of the people in the industry.  

Positivity

I've always been a big fan of reading books that focus on successful individuals, and almost every book I've read on the subject of success has a common thread- a positive attitude.

There is a lot of negativity in the world, but honestly, what good will it do to talk about it?  

Yes, venting is good, but when you are trying to become a professional, and an ambassador, your job is to get people excited about fishing, so in today's world of social media, it is your job to be a positive influence on people.  

The point I'm trying to make is that your personal life is going to be full of ups and downs, but the only thing that people are truly interested in is the good stuff- the stuff that makes people happy, laugh, or motivates them to do some fishing.  

Sponsors don't appreciate negative content, so don't put it out there- stay positive and you will reap the rewards.

Follow Through

In this industry there are many ways to skin a cat, meaning that you can make it to the top doing many different things, but the quickest way to get nowhere is to do nothing, and not follow through with your promises.

Today social media is the "big thing," there is no denying that.  There are many opportunities to make your mark and start building your personal brand, and sponsors respond to increases in impressions on these platforms.  

Social media isn't the only way you can create value for sponsors.  You can do seminars, organize a kids fishing event, take a writer fishing, start a blog- the ways you can provide value are virtually endless.

The best advice I can give in this regard is to always produce that of which you promise, and it is always best practice to over-produce.  

This is a small industry, and everyone talks, so don't burn any bridge by not producing.  We all make mistakes, but if you are serious about working with a company, you better act professional. 

Slow Down

Aside from reiterating the importance of networking, the next biggest piece of advice I can give an aspiring professional is to SLOW DOWN!

Yes, we all want results NOW!  We all want sponsorships NOW!  However, what I have realized, and you soon will too, is that the biggest partnerships and milestones in your career will happen organically by doing what you enjoy, while you continue networking.  

I distinctly remember my desire to have a tournament jersey full of sponsor logos, which is what initially drove me to applying to any and all sponsors, but over time I realized that if I had just slowed down, and focused more on fishing, creating content and becoming the best competitor, and ambassador, I possibly could, that the real sponsorships and opportunities started coming my way.  In the end, you are not going to be noticed by the number of logos on your jersey, but rather what you have proven you can, and will do.  

In short, slow down, focus on building a foundation and give yourself time to build lasting business relationships in the industry.

This of course is just my perspective on this subject, but I believe if you use these basic lessons that I have learned, you too can start seeing results.  

Also, remember that you should never stop learning, I know that I for one am still learning and trying to achieve my goals.

Good Luck!!

-Sonar

 

Bayou Bassin on the Basin

I'm a self-proclaimed grass fishing freak!

I love implementing power-fishing techniques to find big bass in vegetation, so it is no surprise that I was very excited about fishing the most recent, and final, Bassmaster Open on the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana.  

In essence, the Basin is a massive labyrinth of hundreds of miles of rivers, marshes, canals, bayou's and bays filled with lush aquatic vegetation and lined with jungle-like cypress tree forests.  

After a week of eliminating miles of Louisiana marshland I was able to find some productive patterns that lead to a 29th place finish in the third Central Open of the year. 

Eel grass, hydrilla and coontail (oh my!)

I decided on focusing my abbreviated practice period in a well known area called Bayou Black, which is known to have a variety of grass.  

In any lake or waterway that has an abundance of grass the number one goal is to figure out what type of grass the fish are holding on, and then figure out what areas have the best qualities that enhance that type of grass.  

In this instance, Bayou Black had three primary types of submergent grass- hydrilla, coontail and eel grass- and also had some emergent vegetation- hyacinth, reeds an pads.  

I quickly found out that the submergent vegetation was the key to getting the majority of bites, but I also realized that the healthy eel grass was the key player, and the bass were all over it.  I would catch an occasional bass off of the other grasses, but eel grass was producing 10 to 1.  

I was catching all of my fish rotating between a swim jig and a 3/8oz Z-man Project Z Chatterbait (in chartreuse sexy shad).  The Project Z is by far the best Chatterbait for grass fishing, due to it's very aggressive vibration that keeps the blade free of grass during the retrieve.  It was also very important because the Project Z tends to want to pull up to the surface, so it is a much better shallow water Chatterbait, and in this instance I was trying to keep the bait right about the shallow grass while maintaining a slower retrieve.  

Flippin' On The Fly

By the second day of the event, my eel grass pattern was starting to die, and I knew that it was going to be a losing battle, so I abandoned my beloved Chatterbait and my grass flats and ran to the back of a dead-end canal where there was a few shad starting their fall migration to the backs of some of these canals.  

In the canal there was plenty of beautiful hyacinth mats and it was lined by reeds on both sides.  I had two flipping rods rigged up- one with a 1-ounce punching rig and the other with a 3/8-ounce flipping rig using a variety of craw-style baits and the Boar HogZ.  

In here I was able to catch the majority of my second day limit, as well a my 4-pound kicker on the first day.  

Overall it was a good event for me, and I made some very good decisions on a fishery that very easily to illicit indecisiveness.   

My advice to anyone fishing a lake with a variety of grass-like the Atchafalaya Basin- is to cover lots of water with reaction baits and try to figure out what type of grass the fish and the baitfish are relating to.  

I can't wait to go back and fish the Basin again!

Tournament Report: BFL SuperTournament Lake Eufaula

When I first started taking tournament fishing seriously, Bass Fishing League (a.k.a. "BFL") tournaments were some of my favorite events to fish.  With excellent participation numbers, good payouts and a great pro/am style format, I always jump on the chance to fish a BFL.

Last week I had the opportunity to enter the Bulldog division SuperTournament on Lake Eufaula, and ended up having a pretty good event despite some setbacks.  

Here is how that event went down.

Practice

Due to arriving late on thursday, and then getting sick later that day, I decided that rest was more important than a long practice and ended up putting in only about four hours on the water. During that short practice, I was only able to get one keeper bite, however, I was able to find some good looking water that I felt was very promising and that fit my style of fishing.  

Day 1

The best looking water that I saw during my abbreviated practice was a creek several miles up the Chattahoochee River.  The mouth of it had a sea-wall leading the way into the back of the creek, and inside there were several stretches of beautiful vegetation mats.  

The sea-wall was the first to catch my eye, and the overhanging brush and tree limbs casting shadows against it were just screaming "throw a frog at me!"

It didn't take long for me to get my first bite, and before I knew it I was sliding the biggest fish of the day into my livewell- a fish close to 4-pounds.  

My second keeper came only a few minutes after the first, again from the sea-wall.

After fishing the sea-wall as thoroughly as I felt was necessary I moved on to a shade line that was quickly disappearing with the rising sun on a wooded bank.  I ended up catching my third keeper skipping that hollow bodied frog under overhanging limbs and small patches of grass.  

I ended up making a move to another creek up river that I had not seen before after feeling I had done what I could in my first creek.  Here I caught my final frog fish of the day and also discovered a strong punching bite in some healthy looking hyacinth mats, which I used to catch my final keeper and cull once more.  

The bite had been brutally tough, but I was happy with my performance but was surprised when I found out that my 15lb 14oz bag was good enough to lead the event going into the final day.

Day 2

Going into the second day, I knew I had my work cut out for me.  I had worked the only areas I had very thoroughly, and I wasn't sure if they would replenish or not. 

With conditions seemingly unchanged from the first day, I felt my best shot at another quality bag was to cover water quickly with the frog, covering the sea-wall and other new areas I had spotted on the ride to weigh-in the day before.  

After a few hours of working the frog on overdrive without so much as a sniff, I got the memo and put that rod down and picked up the punching rod.  I was able to finally catch the one keeper I caught that day with the punch rig before I had to head to the weigh in.

At the weigh in it was obvious that everyone had a tough day and most anglers either got skunked or caught 1 to 2 fish.  

Not surprisingly, I tumbled down the standings a bit to settle at 9th. 

Conclusion

I can't lie, I hate it when I don't win an event when I put myself in contention.  However, when it comes to this event I am satisfied with the finish.  Sure, I wanted another SuperTournament win on my ledger, but in the end I fished clean and made the best of what I had to work with after a short practice. 

Tackle

Frog Rig: 7'3" MH casting rod; 7.6:1 casting reel; 40lb Vicious Braid; various hollow bodied frogs with white bellies and yellow accents to imitate sunfish.

Punching Rig: 7'6" Heavy casting rod; Quantum Smoke 8.1:1 casting reel; 65lb Vicious Braid; 1.5oz Tungsten weight (pegged); 5/0 Trokar TK133 hook; Zman Turbo CrawZ (Dark Melon).  

 

 

How To Consistantly Catch Fish

Everyone has a tough day on the water from time to time, and anyone that says they don't are lying! It's just part of the game we love and is something that honestly makes a true angler even hungrier for understanding and success. The key is limiting how often the tough frustrating days happen and there are definitely ways to do just that. While time on the water and an understanding of fish behaviors are very important there is one simple tip that can help you succeed on a daily basis.

Always keeping an open mind is extremely important. On any given day there are more ways to catch a bass than you can count. Having a progression of techniques that you have confidence in will help you be able to flow through the day. If your original plan doesn't work just move on to the next throughout the day until you start to get some sign of life by the means of catching a fish or getting a bite. Utilizing a wide variety of techniques or patterns from shallow to deep throughout the day definitely increases your odds of succeeding. Now in order to do this effectively you need to have confidence in all of these different techniques which does take some experience.

Here is what a typical days progression looks like for me in the month of August/September.

Early morning topwater and reaction bait fishing is an absolute blast and can start your day off on a high note! 6th Sense Movement Wake

Early morning topwater and reaction bait fishing is an absolute blast and can start your day off on a high note! 6th Sense Movement Wake

1) I always like to start shallow with topwater baits, spinner baits, or shallow diving crankbaits around shoreline cover such as rock banks, rip rap, and seawalls. Often you can get some quality bites doing this but the window of opportunity is limited meaning you need to adjust quickly if the shallow reaction bites just don't happen. If the pattern is working however I will continue the shallow approach until the fish activity tells me otherwise. Typically this bite will die as soon as the sun hits the water but you can prolong the action by targeting shady banks later in the morning.

Mid morning can be a great time to catch a giant on the shallow parts of offshore structure! freedom tackle football head with a zman boar hogz trailer

Mid morning can be a great time to catch a giant on the shallow parts of offshore structure! freedom tackle football head with a zman boar hogz trailer

2) If the topwater didn't work I like to immediately hit some off shore structure. Key offshore structure for me in the early morning period would be the top of humps and as well as long mid depth points and mid depth brush piles. These are often key early morning feeding areas where bass that live deep go to feed at night and on in to the morning. If the offshore bite is on I will continue hitting as many deep places as possible following the fish deeper as the sun gets higher in the sky. Fish will often transition from the 10 to 12 feet range to the 15 to 20 feet range as the day progresses.

The Zman TRD TubeZ is a deadly bait around docks!

The Zman TRD TubeZ is a deadly bait around docks!

3) My next option I like to try is fishing docks. Saying that you are fishing docks is very broad for the reason that docks can be found from 1ft deep to 30ft deep, at times in the back of a pocket, in a major creek, or on the main river channel. In August and September I like to flip soft plastics as well as skip finesse baits under docks that are in mid depth and close to some sort of a channel. Having a dock near a channel means there will be current on that dock at some time throughout the day whether it is a creek channel or a river channel.

This is the kind of school that can save the day. Deep water fishing is a game changer when you find them stacked up like these spotted bass! Lowrance

This is the kind of school that can save the day. Deep water fishing is a game changer when you find them stacked up like these spotted bass! Lowrance

4) Finally I like to finish off my day with more deep water fishing on offshore structure. Current and sunlight is key for deep water success. The brighter the sun the more fish will hold on deep structure and the more current there is the more active they will be. This is your last attempt at using your electronics in order to find fish and salvage the day. I have had many days saved by finding an active school right when I least expect it that loads my livewells with healthy fish.

Overall you need to stay confident and just keep adjusting and rolling with the punches. I have learned over the years to keep an open mind and adjust often and I believe it will bring more fishing success to you as well.

I'll see you on the water!!!

Joey Nania

TRD TubeZ The Ultimate Finesse Bait

Finesse fishing is a term that anglers use for explaining small subtle baits that work best when fished on light line with light equipment. For many years finesse fishing has been relatively unchanged with the drop shot rig and the shakey head being the best and most used options out there. These are in fact great ways to catch bass and are typically utilized most when the fishing is tough during either extreme heat or extreme cold temperatures. But guess what, there is a new kid in town and trust me it is here to stay.

The 2.75 Inch TRD TubeZ is a fish catching machine!

The 2.75 Inch TRD TubeZ is a fish catching machine!

Zman introduced the NED Rig utilizing there special ShroomZ Head jig head rigged with either a TRD or a Hula StickZ. There is no telling how many fish have been caught on these baits since they where introduced and now Zman has taken their famous NED to the next level. At ICAST 2016 they introduced a new ElaZtech Plastic designed specifically to be rigged on their patented ShroomZ or Weedless ShroomZ head. The TRD TubeZ was the perfect addition to the family.

Spotted Bass Choke The TRD TubeZ

Spotted Bass Choke The TRD TubeZ

Tube lures are an old school staple in bass fishing and are often a forgot about soft plastic that will put incredible amounts of fish in your boat throughout all months of the year. The TRD TubeZ is simply a downsized version at only 2.75 inches long that is designed with a solid head that stays up incredibly well on the Zman ShroomZ Head. What's so great about a tube is it imitates so many different prey options at once and it simply looks erratic and natural to a bass. In my opinion the little TRD TubeZ perfectly imitates a small crawfish which is definitely one of the primary forage options for bass.

Solid Largemouth on the Ned Rig TRD TubeZ

Solid Largemouth on the Ned Rig TRD TubeZ

Lately I have been fishing the TRD TubeZ around docks and brush piles rigging the bait on a 1/6oz Weedless ShroomZ head. If you split the wire weed guards apart the bait works incredibly well around cover hardly ever snagging. Another one of my favorite things about the TubeZ and the NED Rig in general is how well it skips when using a spinning rod. My setup of choice is a 7' Medium Light spinning rod with a 2500 series Quantum Smoke Speed Freak Reel, spooled with 8lb test Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon. Let the bait sink to the bottom then gibe it little pops with the rod allowing it to fall back down and you will be amazed at the bites it entices. While this is a finesse rig it is not a small fish rig. It can put big bass in the boat of all species, smallmouth, spotted bass, and yes largemouth bass are not safe even during the most extreme months of the year.

I'll see you on the water!!!
 

Joey Nania

Different Types Of Deep Water Bites

Deep Fish Detected And Caught

Deep Fish Detected And Caught

As far as deep water fishing goes there are two approaches an angler can take. One is reaction baits such as crankbaits, spoons, and swimbaits, while the other is fishing slow moving baits on the bottom. With reaction baits the bite is simple, they slam the bait and there is no doubt a fish is on the line. However with the slow moving approach the bites can be very finicky at times and extremely difficult to detect. In this quick tip I want to identify the different types of bites you will feel while fishing a slow moving bait in deep water.

This might seem like a silly article that is simple and obvious but the truth is a large number of bites in deep water go undetected to the untrained hand or eye. Of course having quality equipment is essential but aside from that having an understanding of exactly what you are feeling on the bottom is the key.

Mushy Pressure Or Lost Bait Contact Bite

One of the most common bites you will feel while fishing in deep water is no bite at all. When fishing a bait in 15 feet of water or more there is a good bit of distance between you and a fish that picked up the bait at the end of your line. Often you won't even ever feel the actual bite because fish often grab the bait while it is sitting still on the bottom in between working the bait and picking up your slack line. Sometimes fish that pick up the bait while you are not feeling the bait will pull the other direction easily letting you know that it is time to set the hook, but more often then not all you will feel is a mushy sensation in your rod or you all of a sudden won't be able to feel your bait at all. If I'm fishing a bait and all of a sudden I have lost total contact with my bait and the bottom I pick up line as fast as I can and slam down with a hard hookset. Fish will often pick up a bait being fished on the bottom and immediately swim the bait off of the drop or edge you are casting up on to. If you wait to long to set the hook you risk allowing the fish to swallow the bait, or deciding to spit it out. If you don't pick up your line fast and bring up enough slack before you set the hook you won't be able to drive the hook into the mouth of the fish. This mushy pressure or nothing at all bite can definitely be tricky at first but the feel can be mastered if you are aware of the potential of having it happen!

Thump And Run

Other bites while fishing deep are often easier to detect where a fish will aggressively thump the bait and begin to pull in the other direction. If this happens I like to drop my rod tip putting just a small amount of slack in the line before I slam the hookset home. Just remember fish don't have hands so when you feel that tick and the fish begins to pull away from you it has the bait in it's mouth, often if you feel a second thump that will be the fish releasing the bait which means you didn't set the hook soon enough.

Deep Water Spotted Bass

Deep Water Spotted Bass

Final Thoughts

The key really is no matter what type of bite you feel you need to pick up your slack properly, slightly drop the rod tip and then pop that hook through the meat or bone in the mouth. Be prepared and be ready to feel these different types of bites and when the opportunity presents itself don't miss out. For added sensitivity try putting your index finger on the line where it comes out of the reel, this can really help you to feel subtle bites, and also don't forget to watch your line with your eyes as well. If you do this right your fish catching percentage in deep water will go through the roof.

I'll see you on the water!!!

Joey Nania

 

Why Bass Love Grass

On any given day bass can be found from 1 foot deep to 30 feet deep. In my opinion that is one of the primary reasons for the extreme popularity of bass fishing. As far as shallow fishing goes typically in 1 to 10 feet of water grass is one of the most abundant cover options across most of the united states.

No matter what type of grass you are fishing whether it is floating water hyacinth or submergent deep cabbage beds there are some key factors that make almost every type of grass a great place to catch a bass. There are three main factors, cover, baitfish, and oxygen!

Matted hydrilla

Matted hydrilla

Cover and Baitfish:

The first two qualities of grass definitely go hand in hand. Bass are almost always relating to some sort of cover or structure, whether it is deep rocks and brush or shallow docks and grass! Grass might be the most appealing cover of all for the reason that grass is a perfect place for baitfish to hide and thrive. While grass is perfect cover for bass it is also a hunting ground where bass can live in shade and comfort while at the same time they can feed on the abundant bait fish. I've found fish living in grass beds from 2ft deep water willow all the way out to 15ft deep hydrilla edges and cabbage beds and there is no doubt that the bait fish are the key. Across all of the US bluegill can be found in grass beds while in the southern states shad can also be found enjoying the protection of grass. Move up to the northern half of the country and perch are almost always going to be relating to some sort of deep vegetation. Baitfish love grass and bass definitely love baitfish and grass.

Oxygen:

The final factor that really brings the whole puzzle together is the fact that grass produces oxygen. Oxygen is obviously essential to life on land and under water, it is this oxygen that attracts baitfish and bass alike. Grass is especially good during low oxygen times of year such as mid to late summer when the water is at it's hottest and the oxygen levels are at there lowest. This oxygen is a huge attractant to bass throughout the summer months so just because it is hot does not mean that bass won't live in shallow grass. I have caught bass in 1 foot deep grass in 94 degree water simply because the grass provided the most amount of oxygen available.

Grass is cover that holds fish year around and while it is not always the very best option it is always a solid option to put fish in the boat. So give it a try, for deep water grass fishing I recommend a drop shot rig, while shallow grass can be fished with a wide variety of baits such as swimjigs, frogs, and flipping soft plastics or jigs.

I'll see you on the water!!!

Joey Nania

 

How To Keep Fish Alive During Hot Summer Tournaments

Hot summer fishing is definitely a difficult craft to master. While it is tough at times it can still be very productive if you keep an open mind and understand what the fish are wanting to do. If you do have success on a hot summer day in a tournament there is nothing worse then having your fish die because they weren't properly taken care of.

I understand that some times fish die and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, but I am also willing to say that around 75% of fish care issues are avoidable. The key is taking the right measures to protecting your fish and here is how I do that.

ICE: Properly using ice to cool down your water is absolutely essential. When fishing on a hot summer day water temperatures can easily climb into the low 90s, put that 90 degree water in a livewell under direct sunlight and you have a recipe for disaster. Another main reason why ice is so important is because in the summer months fish often live in deep water where the temperatures could already be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the surface temperatures. Trust me ice is a must in summer tournaments and here is how to properly use it. As soon as I catch a fish I begin to introduce ice into my livewells. Typically I use normal cubes of ice but one of the best ways to keep fish cool throughout the day is by using frozen gallon milk jugs. No matter how you do it you don't want to over do it! I believe it is very difficult to get your water to cold but the key is introducing the ice slowly utilizing close to half a bag or one milk jug every 1.5 hours. Introduce ice properly and you will greatly increase your chances of not having a dead fish penalty when you get to weigh-in!

CHEMICALS: Today in the fishing world there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to chemicals that are designed to relax and protect your catch. These chemicals absolutely work and they are something that when put together with iced down water increase your chances of not having a dead fish even more. Here are the products you have to choose from. Bass Medics Rejuvenade, Fish Life Livewell Treatement, Sure-Life Catch & Release, and T-H Marine G-Juice. There are other options out there and they all work, just make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle while using any of the ones I mentioned.

FIZZING: The one thing that can throw your entire fish care approach out of alignment is an issue that is well known but not always well practiced. The act of fizzing a fish consists of inserting a hypodermic needle into the swim bladder of a fish in order to release the air that is trapped. This is so important because when a fish has a bloated swim bladder it is unable to right itself, it is easy to tell when a fish needs this treatment because it will be on it's side or upside down in your livewell. What causes this issue is when a fish comes out of relatively deep water typically 15 feet or deeper to quickly it will cause the swim bladder to inflate. This can absolutely kill a fish if it is not taken care of properly. Make sure you do your research and know exactly how to fizz a fish properly, and it will definitely take a little practice to master it. There is a debate on how to properly do it weather you should go through the side of the fish or down the throat, personally I go under a scale on the side but I am not saying that is the best or the only way, I just know it works for me. Once I've inserted the needle I keep the fish and the needle under water in order to see the bubbles releasing. One important tip is to not release to much air. As the air is bubbling out I like to let go of the fish, while I watch to see when the fish rights itself. Fizzing is must for keeping fish alive throughout the day as well as after weigh-in. A huge problem I see is fish being released after a tournament that where not fizzed. If the fish does survive the day in the livewell it surely won't survive being released before it is properly treated. Almost every summer tournament I fish I see fish floating around that are still alive. I like to take this issue into my own hands by personally fizzing fish after a tournament but this issue is definitely something that needs to be talking about in order to protect our resource.

Get out on the water this summer and follow the 3 steps I just wrote about and you will be able to enjoy the full wait of your catch all summer long which can be the difference between winning and a mediocre finish.

I'll see you on the water!!!

Joey Nania

Creek Fishing for Hot Summer Bass

Most people who think of summer time fishing immediately picture deep water fishing on offshore structure, or fishing docks in order to catch fish that are cooling down in the shade. While these are great techniques that definitely play a strong role in summer time success there is another option that is often forgotten!

Creek fishing is possibly one of the most under utilized techniques for catching fish throughout the hottest months of the year. When I say creek fishing I'm not talking about fishing in big open creeks, what I'm referring to is going as far back in the creeks you can go, and actually fishing in the original creek channel. Here is why the very back of creeks are almost always a place you can find fish in the summer months.

Creeks like this are absolutely perfect!

Creeks like this are absolutely perfect!

Why Are Creeks So Good?

As water temperatures rise oxygen levels diminish throughout much of the lake. Creeks however are easily influenced by any small amount of rain and are often much cooler then the main lake temperatures due to underwater springs. Those two facts alone make them a given for summer time fish attempting to beat the heat and thrive with more oxygenated water. Another fact is that there are large populations of fish that are residential to the small creeks that stretch across most of the country. The majority of fish holding in the back of creeks where born there and will live out there entire lives in these places.

What Cover Should You Focus on?

Fishing in shallow creeks is fairly simple because the fish have far less places to hide when they are in these tight quarters. There are three things I really focus on when fishing creeks in the summer, lay down logs, overhanging bushes, and rocks. All of these different options hold fish and are often the most effective if they are in a creek bend where the water is deeper.

What Baits Get The Job Done?

As far as bait selection goes I go with a three technique approach. First is a texas rigged soft plastic, second is a square bill crankbait, and third is a topwater buzz bait. For the texas rig several different soft plastic options can get the job done but one of my very favorites is a Zman Palmetto BugZ, as well as the brand new Zman Z Hog. Square bill crankbaits such as a Spro Little John and a Spro Fat John bumped into heavy wood cover and rocks can trigger some great mid summer creek bites. On cloudy days or under overhanging trees a buzzbait can be a great option to get a big bite as well. What I like to do is rotate between these three options throughout the day in order to figure out what the fish want while maximizing my opportunities to trigger bites.

Final Note!

Not every creek has a defined original creek channel but a large majority of them do. One of the best tools you can use in order to find creeks that have potential is google earth. So find a creek that looks like it stretches far into the woods in the back of a major creek, then go out and do some exploring. Always take your time so you don't end up hitting a stump until you really feel confident and learn the creek well, and if you see the water temperature dropping and bait fish such as shad and bluegill present then get ready because a big bass might be just around the next bend.

I'll see you on the water!!!

Joey Nania

Keep It Cool This Summer

Coolers are very important for what we do during the summer, but using them correctly might require a little more than just dumping ice in them.

Coolers are very important for what we do during the summer, but using them correctly might require a little more than just dumping ice in them.

Summer is my favorite season, and it's not hard to understand why- the sky is the limit with all the activities that we can enjoy in the outdoors with family and friends.  

Warm and sunny weather makes for a great excuse to get out and go boating, fishing, camping, as well as to fire up the grill, and the lynchpin for any great summer activity is a quality cooler.  

It's no secret that Joey and I love our Yeti coolers and drink ware- they are just plain awesome- but just like any key piece of equipment, there are some tricks to help you get the most out of them.  

Here are some tips to keep your drinks and food ice cold for days.

Ice Needs Sacrifice

As a guide in Alaska for almost twelve years, I have learned a thing or two about how to manage a cooler to get the most out of our precious ice.  

The first step in getting any cooler ready for an adventure is getting it pre-cooled.  Whether you have a soft-sided cooler, like the Hopper, or a hard cooler, like a Tundra, you need to make sure that you start with a cool interior.  The best way to do this is by adding some sacrificial ice to your cooler a day prior to your journey.  

Personally, I like to dump out the sacrificial ice before adding the contents and some new, extra cold, ice.

The Right Ice

Not all ice is created equal.  Though all ice is cold, there is some ice that is colder than others, which means that it will stay solid longer.  

If the ice you put in your cooler goes in to the cooler looking wet and glossy, then that ice probably won't last as long as you'd like it to.  On the other hand, if the ice looks frosty and sticks to your finger when you touch it, that ice is going to last much longer.

The Yeti Hopper series are soft sided coolers that are perfect for keeping drinks cold, and is one of my favorite for kayak fishing.  

The Yeti Hopper series are soft sided coolers that are perfect for keeping drinks cold, and is one of my favorite for kayak fishing.  

Dry Ice

Many coolers aren't made to withstand dry ice, but if you do have a cooler (like most Yeti's) that can, it might be your best option for keeping food cold, or frozen for long term.  

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, and it is WAY colder than regular water ice.  Another great thing about dry ice is it evaporates instead of melts, so you aren't left with any liquid to keep your groceries soggy.  

One thing I have learned is that dry ice will not only keep things cold, it will actually freeze the contents of your cooler.  This quality is great when you are trying to keep meat, ice cream, or frozen goods…..well……frozen.  However, obviously dry ice doesn't work well with beverages or items you want to stay cold, but not freeze.  

Dry ice can also be pretty dangerous if you don't handle it correctly or store it correctly.  Never touch dry ice with your bare skin, you will immediately get a pretty severe case of freezer burn.  Usually when you buy dry ice (many grocery stores cary it) someone will get the ice for you and properly handle it.  Ask them to double bag it in paper bags so you can handle it.  Once you put it in your cooler, keep it in the paper bag to protect your groceries from the same freezer burn, as well as to further insulate the ice.  Keep the bag of ice on the top of your groceries as opposed to below, because the cold air will disperse from the top to bottom.  

Finally, though dry ice is not toxic, when it evaporates it will displace oxygen levels which means it can be a hazard to you in enclosed spaces like inside your car.  I almost learned this one the hard way!

Keep Stuff Dry

Ill be honest, I hate getting water in groceries that aren't meant to have water in them…….and it always seems to happen.  

A trick I have found to remedy this is to buy some appropriately sized dish racks that fit perfectly on the bottom of the cooler.  I end up putting all my ice and groceries on top of those racks, so as the ice melts, the water drips below the racks, but leaves the contents in the ice instead of swimming in water.  

Overall, putting ice in a cooler might seem like a pretty easy task, but nothing ruins a day in the sun like having ice melt too quickly. 

Use these tips to help you keep all your goodies cold, and it'll make whatever summer activity you're doing cooler!

-Sonar