You have to understand, I haven’t been on Lake Mead since 2002 (ish). The very last time I fished it as a Non Boater for a BassMaster in the early 2000s! Crazy. I used to hit Mead hard with my traveling partner, Dan Frazier, when I was in college from 1996-1999. Back then, Lake Mead was a largemouth bass only fishery. Now, smallmouth are the dominant fish, and there is grass. Great grass, in Lake Mead. I was super pumped when I heard there was grass. I love grass fishing and honestly, the US Open was a really good excuse to take a vacation from my software gig, and get my fishing hat back on.
I worked out a deal with Kevin Mattson from San Diego to join me for practice and the tournament. Kevin is a really really good fisherman, and the guy you want onboard whether you are fishing for largemouths or tuna fishes. I spent a lot of time leading up to the tournament getting the boat ready for action. I needed to get my fishing gear in order too. That was a really lengthy process I’m still trying to sort out. I don’t have a garage, so my apartment becomes a tackle shop in a hurry. Bottom line, I just invested in a bunch of new equipment. I bought a bunch of Daiwa, Quantum and Lew’s reels….the kind that can handle saltwater. I feel like it’s wise for me to be buying stuff that will serve salt and fresh purposes for the future. Reels are now 8:1 or >7:1 anyway. I realize you trade torque and ability to move big fish with faster gear ratios…..however, there are many more GOOD reasons why faster gear ratios are better. Especially if you are a power fisherman. Especially if you like to fish Triple Trouts, buzz baits, spinnerbaits, walkin’ baits….heck, even worm and jig fishing requires fast gear ratios for better line pickup and catching up with fish who run at you.
I’m stuck in an old school world of rods and reels. I literally have 20+ Shimano Curado 200s. They are cool, but sorta all 6.3:1 and just sorta blah. I will use some for cranking, but other than that, my fishing is all around >7:1 gear ratios. It just works and fishes better. Lake Mead is a great place to test things like gear ratio, rod length, braided line, casting distance, ability to cover water, ability to hook fish way away from the boat, and ability to power fish. Besides investing in a bunch of new reels, I’ve been investing in rods too. Daiwa makes some really inexpensive swimbait rods, so does Okuma. I like having a quiver of light action 8 footers. I want to have light action 8 footers and fast reels for the majority of my fishing, I’ve decided. And on the spinning rod front, more like 7 and a half foot spinning rods, with new, faster pickup gear ratios, saltwater grade spinning reels.
I spent a ton of time trying to get my tackle organized. I have lots of stuff, and it sorta is either big or small. And soon, will be salt vs. fresh too. So, trying to get my fishing gear better organized and ready for action was another derivative of the US Open exercise. I have to say, I’m impressed thus far with the Flambeau boxes. I’m a big fan of the zerust idea. Rusty hooks and terminal tackle are the worst. I bought a bunch of boxes to get organized and containerized. You have to be able to grab your ‘drop shot box’ or your wacky box or your treble hooks, etc. The good news continues to be how much space I’m saving by putting stuff into real tackle boxes and getting it out of the OEM packaging and having it in large boxes in closets. Consolidation and organization.
Kevin and I won the practice, hands down. We had a wonderful 5 day practice, a decent hotel (thank you Boulder Station Casino) with excellent security and plug-ins, and great weather. We fished, we took pictures, we hiked, we swam, we made food, enjoyed icy cold beverages and generally put things together. The fish were in pockets, grassy pockets. The kind you can find by driving down the lake and looking for green bushes and trees. You could literally cover water and get a good feel for the grass and the pockets via the shoreline ‘green’. We were not the only folks who found these fish, and they got pounded. Kevin is not a drop shot/slow down sorta fisherman. So, power fishing it was to be. Topwater, jerkbaits, and the Triple Trout was our practice. Over the grass, along the grass, on the deep edges of grass, or all the way in the back of pockets.
Sunday, 9/11, was our day off and pre-tournament meeting. That was when the wind first started blowing. It blew a good 15-20 MPH on Sunday before the event. Monday, Day 1 of the event, we had 15-20 MPH winds too. The upwelling cooled the surface temps. Things changed badly for me. My areas were getting directly hit by wind, and the water temps were dropping …..two things that usually re-position fish. Not good. Day 2, we had literally 30-40 MPH winds. I actually had my best day, but it was the worst conditions ever. No clue why they bit for me on Day 2, but my practice was sorta de-railed by the wind. I did my best to adjust, but boy, Mead kicked my butt. Day 3, things calmed down much more, but man, I couldn’t make a good decision or get a bite or anything going. It was awful.
Lake Mead and the US Open were a proving ground for me. I have this strange itch to take my fishing into the saltwater. The freshwater fishing around Southern California, is a bit fickle. Not lots of water and options. I have bay and calico bass on my mind, honestly. I feel like all my setups need to be ‘saltwater grade’ so to speak. All my gear needs to be ‘saltwater’ grade. If things are saltwater grade, you can take them to the ocean without fear. There is a an explosion of inshore fishing around me, and its effecting how I approach gear I’ll use in freshwater. Here were some new setups:
- Quantum Smoke 100 Inshore PT Casting Reels – Fast 8:1. I’m all about fast reels lately. I know some big fishes gonna kick my butt, but yeah, I like fast reels. Add a small spool, saltwater ready, braid ready reels that performed and fished really well. Hello Bay Bass. Hello Calicos. Hello Largies and Smallies. Burning 5 & 6″ Triple Trouts. Buzz Baits, Spinner crickets, swim jigs, swim worms, and a whole bunch of swimbaits. The Quantum 100s kicked butt. They aren’t the super casters I found the Lews to be, but man, I really like how smooth and consistent they were. I fished in the a lot of wind and the did great with braid. I can see myself fishing lots of Quantum and Lews reels in my fresh and salt approaches.
- Lew’s Speed Spool Inshore LFS MCS Casting Reels – Not quite 8:1, but a great value reel at $129 and again, saltwater ready. These Lews are really impressive. I’m like whoa this things cast a mile. Very smooth. Flat out get it done. Amazing value and functionality for my quiver.
- Daiwa Tatula Type-HD Casting Reels: TWS T-Wing System is killer. Way long casting reels. Lots of room on the spool. 7.3:1 and definitely geared for inshore fishing.
- Daiwa Lexa 300 HD Casting Reel – Big ole knob, sweet saltwater grade reel, made for power fishing. 8:1
- 30-40-50# PowerPro – whatever your braid of choice, just trust me, throw braid, smaller diameters rock for small Triple Trouts
- KVD Mustad Short Shank Triple Grip Treble Hooks– You can quite simply fish a bigger hook and don’t have to worry about the hook getting fouled around the tail section of the Triple Trout. Very simple yet effective solution to a pain point we have all experienced with Triple Trouts and fouling. Braid ready too. Strong little hooks with sharp points and small barbs. I mean, KVD style.
- 5″ Triple Trout – I love me some 5″ Triple Trouts. These things are beautiful. They match the hatch of smaller baitfish, and when you see it swim on a good grind, you will be impressed. Scott is selling these things off his website, and I have to say, the Morning Dawn, the Chartreuse Bass, and Bubble Gum Bass look really good on this size bait. Candy bars.
- 6″ Heavy Triple Trouts – Heavy Triple Trouts, that have and “H” or perhaps a 1/8 or some other form of weighting system stamped on the head, are good for burning. The smaller Triple Trouts will blow out if they aren’t weighted, at super high speeds. Blowing out or slip/skipping across the face of windy or wakey surfaces, is not usually bueno. You cannot get the bait to swim. The Heavies fix that problem. You can burn your 8:1 reel and keep the bait in the water, down an inch or two. You can fish windier, more blown out stuff, you can fish wavey/wakey water that otherwise would be hard to burn a Triple Trout in. Spinnerbait roughness. Really impressed with the Heavy 6″ Triple Trouts and the swim. It’s going to tear up Desert Lake fish for me, and salty bass too. I am secretly planning a trip to Lake Havasu sometime this Fall/Winter. Get out to TripleTrout.com and get some 6″ Heavies for your game. The heavies don’t stall and have the radical kicks, but they are good enough, definitely meant to keep moving and make our pauses be really brief and understated.
- The Deps Balisong 130 – Kevin will be annoyed I even am mentioning this. There is this company called Deps. They make the Slide Swimmer and some really killer & innovative baits. The Balisong is a jerkbait you need to ‘explore’. This thing is a 130, so it’s big. It casts like a bullet at 7/8 oz and brother, let me tell you….this is a deep running, walky walky walk stall bait, if there ever was one. Definitely a suspending jerkbait. Very deep runner and very good suspender. Owner ST36 trebles, and a knocker that well, they haven’t heard. Clank clank clankity clank as this thing is walking and stalling and dying down 8-12 feeet. Loud knocker. Very vocal jerkbait. 12# mono. The only non braid setup we fished. The Bali Bali Bali—–Song as it became known in the boat, straight wacked fishes of all shapes, colors and sizes. Mono is good to stretch and give great action to the Balisong. 7 foot Heavy rod. Jerkbaits, are one of those baits that catches fish in really tough conditions, and triggers strikes in really good conditions, easily. Great lure for bass.
- Walking baits – Bone White Super Spooks, duh. Vixens, duh. But whatever secret tricky walking baits you have, they eat them good on Mead. The problem is you catch 10-15 stripers in an area looking for a largie or smallie. The stripers eat all your lures, but the walking baits are particular favorites. There are usually bass mixed in or nearby. But man, we caught the beegeezus out of stripers on Mead. In practice and tournament days.
Super Bummed I couldn’t the bite I wanted going, and my fallback positions sucked. I thought I could fish the narrows and catch easy limits. I caught fish, but man, I struggled to catch 13″ fish. Sad. Not much else to reflect on. Boat ran great. That is a whole other story. I’m ready to upgrade into a saltwater rig already! I have a super sick box of Micro Triple Trouts I’m looking forward to getting around some active fishes that will chase a swimbait down. Bay, Calico or Havasu Smallmouth….one of these days. San Vicente opened and apparently they are all 50+ feet!?!?!?! Whatever. Go West Young Man!