Each year to start the season, I can’t wait to drive to the first event. Everything is fresh, we have a blank slate for points, and the whole year is ahead of us. I think about this as I drive my rig east at the beginning of every year.
I fly back home to Idaho between events, so I don’t have to crisscross the country. Then, when the season wraps up, I tow my boat back. I have the same great feeling as the season ends, and I head west and make the long drive home.
Even though I miss the Bass Pro Tour events, I’m thrilled to go home and spend quality time with the family. I also can’t wait to spend time fishing around home, and the late fall and winter are some of the best times to be fishing on the West Coast.
One of my favorite places to fish is the Snake River in Idaho: it’s full of big smallmouth bass, and they’re hungry because they know that winter is right around the corner. I also spend a lot of time in my old stomping grounds of Northern California and will compete in team tournaments on lakes Oroville and Shasta, chasing spotted bass.
I’ll also do a lot of fun fishing with my buddies, which is a blast because it’s not as serious as tournaments and there’s no pressure. You can sleep in a little bit and still catch some really big fish. It’s one of the best things about the offseason and something I look forward to every year.
Fishing across the western states really starts to heat up as the water gets colder and fish start to keg up in massive schools in deeper water. There are several good ways to catch them, but two of my favorites are with a drop-shot or crankbait. They’re both great ways to catch fish this time of year; if I had to pick, they’re my two best ways to fish anywhere on the West Coast during the fall and winter.
For the drop-shot, it’s hard to beat a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm. I like to fish it on a rod I designed specifically for drop-shotting, the Daiwa Tatula Elite 7-foot medium-light “Finesse” rod that I pair with a Daiwa Tatula LT in the 3000 size. I tend to use a light line in the clear water back home and will use a 10-pound Daiwa J-Braid with a leader of either 6- or 8-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro Leader.
This is also a great time to throw crankbaits: they work well for deeper fish, but also for suspended bass. You can reel right through the schools and catch those fish on deep, clear lakes. I like the EverGreen CR series of cranks, from 10 to 16 sizes in natural colors like Ghost Wakasagi.
I’ll fish them on a 7-foot, 4-inch medium-heavy Daiwa Tatula Elite Brent Ehrler “Crankbait and Bladed Jig” rod with a Tatula Elite reel with 10-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro.
It’s a one-two punch that works for me every year: find the fish with a crankbait and finish up with a drop-shot. At this time of the year, the fish aren’t everywhere, but once you find the baitfish, you’ll find a lot of bass.
While I miss the competition, I can’t complain about our great fishing opportunities out west and I get out as much as I can when I’m back home.