Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fishwrench Goes Home

The website went underground for awhile.  I was experimenting with different layouts, ecommerce, and free web hosting sites.  Even if I would have been able to find something satisfactory - something that would embody the spirit of - find it for free, and keep it simple, I still would have felt a little empty.

I have something in my head that makes me want to do things myself.  You have a template?  Great... use your template.  I want to make my own.  So, because of that psychological abnormality bouncing around in my head, Fishwrench has gone back to where it's started - home.

All of the Fishwrench blogs, forums, and idiocy are right back where they belong ---

No more jumping through hoops; no more trying to figure out what subdomain or host we're using this week.  No, now it's simple -

Welcome home.

Monday, October 25, 2010

FWBass On Carolina Rigging

With a string of 90-degree days and a lack of rain around the state, the dog-days of summer are barking at our doorstep much earlier than usual this year.  A basser has about three choices for finding fish – docks, slop, or deep.  I’m going deep, and I’m getting there with a Carolina rig.

A Carolina rig requires patience to tie with three different knots – one on each end of a swivel, and a final one at the hook.  For a first-timer, setting a hook into a fish on this jointed mess of monofilament can be at first daunting.  The rewards for sticking with it, however, can be outstanding!  Recently, I was able to introduce a friend to the Carolina rig. His bassin' game hasn't been the same since.

When we hit the water on a steamy summer day, I headed just a handful of feet from the water-starved boat landing. There, I settled the boat down about a good 9-iron shot from the shoreline.  The hum of my trolling motor was drowned out by the constant hullabaloo of personal water crafts and silent-choice Formula exhausts.
As my back swing went overhead awaiting the perfect overhand cast, my fishing buddy looked at me a little sideways. He had never seen a Carolina rig before, and couldn't believe I was throwing something so ridiculous looking. "Nice boat, nice rod, nice reel...what the hell is he doing throwing that thing" he must have wondered to himself. Saddling up in the back of the boat, my partner for the day started to gingerly cast his crankbait toward a visible weed line.

Tap, tap, tap - BAM! Fish-on! The very first cast of the day landed my first fish. As for my fishing partner's crankbait - well, it caught its share of weeds and was finally laid to rest in the depths of a beat up tackle box as I was landing my seventh bass. The Carolina rig was proving its worth in bass pounds.  Fish lazy from the heat couldn’t resist this easy to snatch meal.  It was then that I found myself showing my fishing partner how to tie a Carolina rig.

A Carolina rig is comprised of 3-4 main components, a weight, swivel, and hook. Rigged weedless, some sort of plastic worm, lizard, or thingamajig is on the end of the hook.  The weights for Carolina rigging come in all different shapes and sizes.  Some fishermen prefer a lead or steel weight because of their small size to weight ratio. Brass weights are generally bulkier than their lead and steel cousins, but they give off a much more pronounced vibration in the water, catering to the lateral line of a bass. Most of my rigs have a 1/4oz to 1/2oz brass weight on them. I vary the weight based on the type of cover I'm fishing and the depth. If I'm fishing deep or need to cut through thick weeds, a heavier weight will get me to the bottom of the lake the fastest, but I always want to use the lightest weight I can get away with. The lighter the weight, the more I'm able to sense a fish on the end of my line.  Keep the weight from bouncing against – and breaking – your knot.  Accomplish this by putting a glass bead just behind the weight of your rig.  Not only does this protect your knot, but it also helps to produce some extra clackity-clack when being drug along the bottom.
The weight is the first thing to go on your line. Next, you'll want something to keep that weight from sliding down to your hook. Tie a snap-swivel or plain old ordinary swivel to the tag end of your line. If tied correctly, you should be able to slide your weight all the way to the tip of your rod, but it should never be able to come off the line - the swivel or snap prevents it from sliding off. I've found that a swivel without a snap makes my Carolina rigs easiest to tie, and help to avoid most swivel related tangles. Nothing is more frustrating than getting your line wrapped around a snap with every cast, and there's a lot of line to get tangled.

On the empty end of the swivel, you'll be tying about 18-24" of open-ended line. This will lead to your hook. I like to use a line that's about 2-4lbs lighter test than my main line. This way, if I get hung up on timber or a rock and start tugging, I know that the tag line will snap before the main line, saving me an expensive brass weight. All I will be out is a cheap plastic worm and hook.

Use a wide gap hook for Carolina rigging. I've used everything from a 1/0 to a 4/0 in Minnesota. A handful of my fishing peers will tell you will tell you to use a 5/0 hook always - no questions asked. I find that to be a little too much, but it does keep the smaller fish at bay, giving you a larger catch overall. In any case, I would start with a smaller hook and work your way up. If this is your first time finesse fishing, it's going to take some work and patience to get used to the feel of marshmallow-mouth tapping at a plastic worm. Smaller bass, with their tenacity for chasing a Carolina rig, make for great practice until you're comfortable with a finesse fishing type of bite.
In the early season - pre-spawn to early summer - I use a 4" Centipede made by Zoom, although other "do-nothing" worms will work as well.  Lizards are an excellent choice too, but I find a get too many tail-bites for my liking, probably from wayward sunfish.  As the season progresses, I'll increase the size of the worm, being at 6-8" by mid summer, and as much as 10" snakes in the fall.

Regardless of the time of year you're fishing, the key concept with a Carolina rig is to maintain contact between your weight and the bottom of the lake. By having 18-24" of tag line behind your weight, the worm is able to come up a good 6-10" off the bottom. This will keep it in the strike zone of a predator bass.  The longer it's in the strike zone, the more likely you are to get a strike.

Uncommon to the basser that has not finesse fished before is the type of bite felt when a bass goes after a worm. Bass are known for pounding crankbaits and top-waters with viciousness that almost rips a rod right out of your hands. But when hitting on a Carolina rig, the bass becomes the Jeckyl and Hyde of fish.

Every Christmas and Easter morning I wake up to "tap, tap, tap". When I don't move, or roll away, I feel it again - "tap, tap, tap". The more I try to ignore it, the more tapping I feel - "tap, tap, tap…tap, tap, tap". Finally, I'm startled awake from my slumber and there sits my children - "Remember us?  Let’s open presents!" Like a child trying to wake you up to tell you it's Christmas morning, bass have perfected the tap, tap, tap. The first few times it's felt by the novice bass fisherman, it's passed-over as just contact with the bottom of the lake, or a tug from a weed. The taps, however, keep coming. Taps come in threes – the first is the fish opening its big mouth, the second is the fish sucking the lure in, and the third is the fish trying to swallow it. There is not biting in the process. Bite, suck, swallow - tap, tap, tap.  Try to set the hook now, and all you'll end up with is a wad full of line around your head, and possibly a brass weight between your teeth.

The key to a finesse-fishing hook-set is to wait - be patient - then wait some more.  Eventually, your line will start to move away from you - the fish has picked up your lure. As soon as he starts swimming away with it, set the hook – BAM!  Fish on!  You have now mastered the art of finesse-fishing with a Carolina rig.

Year round the Carolina rig will get you on bass.  In the dog-days of summer, it’s a great alternative to mucking up your line with slop, or tangling it around lifts and docks.  It also provides an opportunity to fish bass that see very little fishing pressure during the summer because of the deep haunts upon which they squat.  It takes patience and practice, but the rewards of fishing a Carolina rig can be found on almost every trophy hunter’s wall*.

* Bob Wood is a proponent of catch-and-release.  Instead of keeping a trophy and having it mounted, please catch, photo and release.  Graphite casts look every bit as realistic as a mounted fish, and last a lifetime.  The more trophy fish we release back into the water, the more trophy fish we will be able to catch.