My article for the February 2020 Edition of Coastal Angler Magazine Charleston:
Our water temps historically bottom out mid-January, but they are still awful cold in February. Since fish are cold blooded, they are going to be pretty sluggish as a result. You’ve probably heard the following advice; “If you think you are fishing slow enough, slow down”. It’s good advice, but how is it applied?
Think about what your lure is doing underwater. This month we want our lure on the bottom, and for it to move just a couple inches at a time. Watch your rod tip and consider how small a motion equates to a couple inches on your lure. At the end of a 6 to 7 foot lever (your rod), the amount of motion required is tiny. A very small motion of your wrist is all that is required. If you have access to a swimming pool, try this and you will be surprised to find you’re lure probably moves a lot more than you thought.
A good technique is to use very small hops bringing your rod tip from about 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock a few inches at a time, then take in line as you slowly lower the tip back to 10 o’clock. Manage your line! How much reeling is this? Maybe half a turn depending on your reel.
A cold redfish will suck that lure in and often it won’t feel like a bump, but rather kind of a mushy weird feeling. Unlike other times of year, you might need to give him a second to eat before setting the hook. Similarly, a February trout bite will often go unnoticed, even with the best gear. All you will feel is a mysterious weight that wasn’t there before and pulling up the rod will reveal tell-tale headshakes.
A small finesse soft plastic rigged on a light jighead makes a good choice. A favorite is the Z-Man StreakZ 3.75” with a TroutEye Finesse jig. The ElaZtech material is buoyant, allowing the tail to stick up when sitting still.
Give these methods a try this month and let us know how it works.
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing
Since we have released our Jail Bait Reef Jigs, we have heard some strong opinions from hard-core sheepshead fishermen that generally fall into the following categories:
Sheepshead will be afraid of the enlarged eye. What is the eye for? The eye is a turn-off. Etc
Sheepshead can’t fit their mouth around them
There is not enough relief between the lead and hook so you can’t get a hook set
I’d like to address some of these concerns, based primarily on my personal experience fishing them.
“Sheepshead will be afraid of the enlarged eye. What is the eye for? The eye is a turn-off. Etc” – So, in the prototype stage, this was also a concern of ours. Would sheepshead be afraid / wary of the lead on the back of a fiddler. Fishing these in clear water where we could actually see the fish, that concern was quickly put to rest. Sheepshead are curious fish and instead will swim up to the jig to check it out. They go to it and immediately try to bite the crab. This makes sense because all day long they are biting at crustaceans on rocks, seawalls, pilings, etc. They are used to having a crab or bait attached to something. The eye in the case of this product is not “functional”, in other words unlike our other products, it’s not intended to act as an eye. Honestly, it’s more for marketing – everything we make has a large eye. It does add to the appeal of the product as it looks better than raw lead. In the future in fact we may replace the pupil eye with other patterns that represent a crab carapace or something like that. Will it make a difference? I doubt it! Sheepshead are absolutely not afraid of the Jail Baits. Claims to the opposite are BS.
“Sheepshead can’t fit their mouth around them” – While this may be true, it doesn’t matter. They are not designed to be swallowed by a sheepshead! These fish crush the crab with their incisors, then go back and swallow the bits. The Jail Baits are designed so that when the fish goes to crush the crab, they get hooked in the lip. In just about every pic you see that is where they will be hooked. Yesterday, fishing at the reef, we caught many sheeps that were around 6″ long, and a few that were approaching 6 pounds on them.
“There is not enough relief between the lead and hook so you can’t get a hook set” – This is not an issue in my experience. I have personally experience a great hookup ratio with them. A trusted guide who has fished them extensively claims the hookup ratio factor approximately 2X better.
Some general thoughts about fishing Jail Baits in comparison to the typical “Carolina Rig” consisting of an egg weight and short leader with a small hook. Fishing both at a 40 ft reef yesterday, I am confident that the feel of a bite is significantly better with the Jail Bait. If you keep a finger on the braid you will feel every slight touch. For that reason, I was able to catch a juvenile red snapper, an octopus(!), a sheep approximately 5 lbs and a few very small sheeps, easily out-catching two others using the Carolina Rig. When the current and wind/waves picked up (at end of trip was 4-5 ft waves and 12 knots out of the NE), I was not able to use the Jail Bait in that depth of water due to not enough weight. Switching to the traditional Carolina rig in swifter water, the rigs got cleaned off much faster due to piercing the crab shell with a hook and also not being able to feel the bite as well. We did lose a few big fish to broken hooks on the Carolina rig – a problem that won’t happen on the Jail Bait.
I know that some people will make a snap decision and never try something new. That is fine, but we suggest that if you’re on the fence, to give these a fair shake and decide for yourself.
Rule #1 For Artificial Lure Fishing: Master Your Line
As the title of this column suggests, I’ll be writing about the art of deceiving a fish into believing a piece of plastic and metal is something to eat. A bit of an introduction first. I started saltwater fishing in 2006 and started in the way probably many of you did: I was invited by a friend trout fishing in the Fall and thus began an obsession that is now a large part of my life. I’ve been very fortunate to stand on some high-profile shoulders and learn from the best, most notably my business partner Ralph Phillips. Another mentor is Bob Sanders of Trout Trick fame. If you know Ralph you’ve probably heard him needle you a bit if you caught a fish on shrimp or bait. To Ralph, if you didn’t catch it on artificial bait, it doesn’t count! Not surprisingly, a few years ago I decided to fish artificial lures exclusively, knowing my catching was going to suffer for a while until I figured it out. Countless times I would be standing by as Ralph wore me out using the same tackle, in the same hole. Slowly but surely and with a lot of work, I began to understand why. My goal with this article is to pay it forward. Not having a strong fishing pedigree and learning the same as anyone else I hope will make my column relatable. If I can do it, you can too. Being an engineer, I’m a pretty analytical guy and I’m going to interpret what I’ve learned along with personal experience and try to help you become better at fooling them too. There are a lot of benefits to catching fish on artificial lures. One of which is not needing to net bait or visit the tackle shop for minnows or shrimp. Once you have felt the subtle tick of a big trout on a jerk bait you will find it’s an addiction that will last the rest of your life.
In my opinion, the single most important thing a new artificial lure fisherman must master is line management. It’s the reason one fisherman may have a banner day, while the other gets the dreaded skunk, even if fishing the same lure and fishing where the fish are. Pretty much every fish is going to hit a lure on the fall, in other words, when the lure is dropping toward the bottom. The thing most people do wrong is drop their rod tip after jigging a lure up. This causes a bow in the line and dampens the sometimes very subtle bump of a fish. Most people will never feel the bite if they do this. Its imperative that you keep in semi-contact with your lure by minimizing bow in your line. This is done by jigging the lure up, then keeping the rod tip high – only lowering it slowly as you slowly reel in a very small amount of line as the lure falls. It takes practice, but I promise you that you will feel many, many more bites than you ever did before if you follow this simple advice. Its one thing to fool a fish into biting plastic, but it usually won’t be long until it spits the lure back out, realizing the mistake it just made. Make sure you set the hook after feeling that bite by simply raising your rod tip and holding it there until you feel some head shakes. Try it and be sure to let us know how it works for you!
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing
We were approached by Coastal Angler magazine recently about advertising in their magazine. We agreed to give it a shot, and put together a piece we are happy with (below). In addition, they mentioned they were always looking for authors. Truth be told, I have considered doing one for a while but I have so many things on my plate I was hesitant. But I decided to give it a go. The local section of the magazine is full of reports and “What’s biting now” kind of pieces. I thought that a fresh take would be to do a series on techniques associated with fishing artificial lures.
I racked my brain for a while on what to call it, and found one I really like: Artificial Intelligence. I have a genuine fear of AI in the future, but that’s another story. So, its kind of tongue-in-cheek for people that know me.
I’m going to publish each article as a blog post and I’m thinking of including a video companion to each one as well.
Hope you like them and get something out of them.
If you have further questions, contact me through social media and I’ll answer as best as I can.
We at Eye Strike Fishing are very thankful for you, our customers, for supporting us. We have several great sales coming up in the next few days. In addition, we have a bunch of gift packs we have put together for the fisher in your family. Can’t decide? We now offer gift cards as well. They can be used on our online store, or redeemed in our shop. Here is a preview of our upcoming sales.
Black Friday – We have 25% off store wide, and orders of $50+ will get a free pack of jigs (your choice, just indicate on the comments at checkout. If no choice is given we will pick one for you) and of course free shipping. Use code EYE at checkout.
Small Business Saturday – 20% off store wide, use code SMALL at checkout
Cyber Monday – All bulk jigs will be discounted 40%!! No code is required!
Hope you have had a chance to get out fishing in your area. Here in Charleston the bite has been fantastic!
As always, send us or tag us in your catch pics. We love to see them and will repost and make you famous 🙂
Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving from Eye Strike!
After being off the water for a couple weeks, Ralph and I took an R & R day and hit the brackish waters for a well needed break. With zero expectations we started out just following our noses. We quickly discovered that the redfish were hitting extremely hard – a very good sign. When I say hit hard, I mean like almost dropping your rod when it hit!
We were going along picking at nice slot fish here and there (and a little striper) and suddenly we doubled up on flounder drifting by a piece of structure. I put the MinnKota on anchor and we proceeded to pick one after another out of this one spot. I’ve never seen anything like it. They were also hitting extremely hard like the redfish. When it finally slowed we were into the teens in numbers of fish boated.
At this point, I was thinking we might have a shot at a “Margarita Slam” (redfish | trout | flounder | striper | largemouth) since we had three of the species already. I never said anything for fear of jinxing us, but about an hour later Ralph hooks up and the fish jumps…Ditch Pickle! With a photo snapped of the largemouth I finally said “Thats it! We need to head for the salt and get a trout for the slam”. So we picked up and ran way down river and shortly thereafter got our trout.
A super fun day and a great preview to what should turn out to be a stellar Fall for fishing! Now let’s keep those hurricanes away…
Every fish we caught was on 3/16 Texas Eye jigs with Scented Jerk ShadZ in various colors (nuked pilchard, perfect perch, smoky shad).
Huge Labor Day Sale
Now through Labor Day we have a big sale on all jigs, sampler packs and apparel on our store. Use code LD15 to save an additional 15% over our usual discounts. That means our max bulk jigs discount of 40% now becomes 55%!! Trout Eyes for under a dollar…
Okay, so if you’ve been following along, I had identified a new location for my transducer – under the step and near the drain plug. I REALLY didn’t want to drill more holes in the hull, especially since I wasn’t sure it was going to work in that location. I did turn to Google to see if there were any posts about moving a side-scan transducer there, with marginal success. Based on detaching the transducer from its current location and pulling some slack in my cable, I was able to eyeball the new location and see that everything seemed to be okay – the main concern being clearance of my lower unit when trimmed fully down and turned both ways. In that location it was clear that I would have an unobstructed view for a full 180 deg.
Again, some Googling brought me to this site, that describes a way to mount Starboard (a.k.a HDPE) on a fiberglass hull. HDPE does not like to stick to anything, usually. I pretty much followed the instructions on the side to a “T” and had very good success with it. Luckily I had some 3/4″ HDPE lying around already from other project(s). If you need to get some HDPE, you can get it here. Just in case the website link disappears in the future, I’ll list the steps below.
Cut the 3/4 HDPE to size for the places you want to make a mounting plate. I chose to make 2 plates, one for the new location, and one to make a plate along the transom where transducers are usually mounted (and also to cover the old holes). I figured while I’m at it, I might as well make a second plate “just in case” and covering the old holes was a second motivation.
Once you have test-fit the HDPE block(s), drill 1/2″ +/- holes approx half-way through the thickness of the back part of the plate. No special rule but put them randomly throughout the piece. The link has some pics of what it should look like. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics of mine. I then took a hand drill and 1/8″ drill bit and made short holes in the back of these holes angling to the side. This is for the epoxy to grab onto. The website says to make a lip underneath the holes. Its really the same thing.
Next, use your sandpaper and rough up the back surface pretty good. I also held the blocks on my transom and put painters tape around the perimeter of the desired location. Then removed the block and sanded the gel coat so it was roughed up.
Use your acetone and clean the gel coat and back of your block. Get rid of any hanging pieces of plastic.
Using a propane torch, flame treat the back surface of the block. Apparently this is the key to having the HDPE stick. Pass the flame over the surface in overlapping passes at a rate of 2″ to 3″ per second. It should not show any visible difference (ie. do not melt the surface – you can melt it if you go too slow). The heat creates a chemical property change that aids the bonding.
Mix up the G-Flex (super easy to do, its roughly 50:50 mixture) and using a Popsicle stick or similar, fill the holes in the back of the block completely. I also buttered the entire back of the block with a thin coat.
For the next step, get your painters tape, paper towels and acetone ready. Place the block in the desired location. It will stick a little but will want to slide. Using the painters tape, tape it thoroughly to keep it in place. Don’t worry if its not perfect.
Wait about an hour and come back and remove the tape. Make slight adjustments in the location. Wet a paper towel with acetone and clean up excess epoxy now. Re-tape to hold the block in place. Give it a good 24 hrs to set. Should be a very solid hold now.
With the blocks being set I went ahead and placed the transducer with my motor trimmed as far down as it would go in the driveway making sure it cleared with the wheel turned all the way to the left. This was a goof – as described below (I do a lot of dumass things)!
Took it out to trial it, and images were great, both left and right. I did a check when trimming the motor ALL the way down and turning the wheel and quickly noticed that it would hit the transducer IF trimmed all the way down. Something that I really never do (lowest I go is 40%) but Murphy’s Law says “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong”. When I got back home, I lowered my trailer jack all the way down so that I could trim the motor to the locks and turn the wheel. Luckily I was able to shift the transducer about 3/4″ right and avoid an interference. (AH, the benefit of having a block – no new holes in the transom!)
After all this, the only thing I did was replace the temporary cable ties with smaller profile ties secured with a tiny bit of G-Flex. Again – no holes in transom.
I’ll just need to be careful of having the transom get beached (I do this anyway) but it is a little more vulnerable in its current location even though its above the bottom of the hull. For me, having the advantage of a full view of my side-scan and getting everything out of it is worth the additional risk of it in its new location. My last post on this subject will show some of the images I’m able to get now. Stay tuned!
So, where I left off on my last post, I had purchased a replacement transducer and installed it in the old mounting bracket.
So, upon inspecting the new Simrad / Lowrance ActiveImaging 3 in 1 transducer, the first thing that was apparent was that it is significantly deeper than the StructureScanHD. In other words, it sticks down farther from the mounting bracket. When I mounted the new transducer I used the old bracket and this made the new unit stick down just a little below the bottom of the hull, maybe 1/2″. In my haste to see what difference it would make, I took it out for a trial. Turns out, that was a bad idea. The force of the water hitting the transducer was enough to bend the metal bracket and twist it. But, I was able to get some images to show that the new transducer is in fact a big improvement.
Some initial screen shots after driving around at Edisto during a short family vacation:
If you look closely at the above plots there are a few problems still…
First, if you look at the center of the image. This is where the transducer is. Note that on the right you see a clear black zone, but on the left you see yellow lines where the water should be. This is interference from the motor’s lower unit. You could trim the motor up out of the way whenever you need sidescan but really, who’s gonna do that? Not me. The other very significant result of the lower unit interference is that the left side of the plot is almost useless. You see almost no detail on that side, if you look at all the above plots.
It’s now clear that the transducer should be moved, both to mount it safely above the bottom of the hull for one, and also to hopefully allow a full 180 deg unobstructed view. Looking around at my options, it appeared I could mount it near the center of the hull next to the drain plug and meet both requirements.
But, I wasn’t sure where exactly to mount it – and no one wants to drill more holes in their hull. The next post will discuss how I solved these problems, and where I am at today.
A side note: Ben made a point to say he purposely installs the transducer himself to make sure its done right. I, like most people I guess, had the factory/dealership install it. I’m honestly not sure who installed it but in hindsight, it was originally installed in a bad location for its purpose. I would recommend anyone who reads this and is purchasing a new boat with side scan to either ask where its going to be mounted or do it yourself. That is, if you want to get the most out of your unit!
I’ll have the third part of this series updated in a few days…
This will be the first in a several part series of blog posts documenting my journey to improving my side-scan sonar, based on what I learned from Capt Ben Powers at our Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar on the subject of Setup and Interpretation of Sonar. If you missed it, you can watch it in its entirety here (Note that there are 4 separate videos covering the seminar).
So, I took delivery of my Sportsman Masters 207 in June of 2018. I knew I wanted side scan technology so I just asked for a side-scan transducer. What I got was a Simrad StructureScanHD transducer. It was mounted on the side in the general location where transducers typically are, up near the right trim tab. I could see all kinds of cool stuff with it and was generally pleased with it. I knew I had a pretty good understanding of what I was looking at, but really felt Iike there was a lot more to it than I was understanding.
With this in mind, and having had many conversations with friends and customers on the subject, I felt like this was a great first seminar where we could go in depth on the subject and learn a lot from it. Having gotten to know Ben Powers through the course of business and hearing about what he was seeing on his side-scan, he became the natural choice to deliver our seminar.
Ahead of our seminar, I didn’t want it to seem like an advertisement for a particular brand of sonar, so we discussed bringing my boat down to Folly and getting some comparison images between our units. He is running a Humminbird Solix. Honestly, I was feeling like I would get very similar results to his….Wrong!
The difference in images was very significant. His were crisp and high contrast. Mine were blurry and low contrast. He could identify individual fish under a dock, I could hardly see anything of interest.
If you know me, you know I couldn’t let this rest! I figured that competition being what it is, that Simrad probably had an improved sonar available to compete with Humminbird. I did some googling and had a few interactions on social media and discovered that, yes, this was true. There is a better transducer called ActiveImaging 2 in 1 or (3 in 1) available and that it was relatively inexpensive (under $300) and a bolt-on upgrade. You simply mount the new one, pull the old transducer cable and route the new one and simply plug into your NSS-EVO3 unit. It automagically recognizes the new unit.
I went ahead and placed an order for the new unit. I got the 3 in 1 because it also allows Med and High Chirp echo which my current thru-hull transducer does not have.
Sportsman does a good job allowing cable runs to the console and pre-inserted pull cords, plus, of course the all-access bilge which is A-MAZING. I am able to fold my entire 6 ft tall body inside the bilge to work on stuff. So, once the transducer came in, pulling and routing the transducer cables was relatively easy with a couple hours and a little bit (OK, a lot!) of sweating.
Before I got a chance to try the new transducer, we had the seminar and I learned that how and where the transducer is mounted is almost as important as anything.
The next posts will discuss initial results, how I repositioned my transducer, and what results I am getting now.
Stay tuned and I hope someone finds all this of interest!
If you weren’t able to make our first Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar Series – Sonar Setup & Interpretation with Capt. Ben Powers – – now you can! We have uploaded the entire seminar (4 parts) to our YouTube channel.
Below are links to the videos on YouTube (please consider subscribing to our page). The videos can also be found on our website under the Learn menu, and Fishing Instruction (scroll down).
Please note that I will be following up this post with several more that document my journey to improve my side imaging on my Simrad technology. I have been able to make big improvements based on what I have learned from Ben. Hope it can help you too.