Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Ever-Changing Favorite

 Last year, I put together a series of blogs on my favorite 3 soft plastic baits. I discussed how I fish each one and why they're my favorite. Also, in my most recent blog I mentioned that during my first tournament, a Stealth Worm on a shaky head might as we'll be the only lure to exist. Yet, last year, it didn't even make my top three.
 Truth be told, in the world of bass fishing, there are no constants. Everything changes from year to year. Season to season. A lot of times, even hour to hour. Favorite lures are no exception. For example, a few years back I discovered the Senko. I didn't like it wacky rigged and I believed it was blasphemy to add any weight to it. It was my magic lure. Fast forward to this year, I have been putting a lot of bass in the boat with the Senko I seemed to have forgotten about the last couple years. And, oddly enough, the two I have tied on right now are with a pegged weight and the other is wacky rigged. 
 The same can be said about a lot of different baits. My personal belief is that it all boils down to confidence. When I have full confidence in a lure, I know exactly what it's doing underwater. I can paint a picture with what it's doing. I have a good feel of how to entice a strike with it. Where as, without that confidence, I am not interacting with the bait like I should. To some it may sound crazy, but I bet the majority of serious anglers know exactly what I'm talking about. 
 The fact of the matter is, in the oh-so unpredictable world of bass fishing, there are no magic lures. We have our favorites, but it's just a matter of time before one bait's importance fades away so another can take its place. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Aspiring Amateur: The story of my first bass tournament.

Jared Helms

Dateline: Lakepoint, Lake Eufaula, Alabama. August 2010. 

 There I sat in a plethora of sparkly fiberglass bass boats. The smell of outboards in the air. The sun still not even peeking out yet. It was an adrenaline high most people get from jumping out of airplanes, doing flips on a dirt bike, or something of that nature. But, here I was getting all fired up just sitting still, in my grandpas 14' stick steer aluminum boat, all by my self. I looked like the dude in holy jeans and a cutoff flannel shirt at a high end wedding reception. But, I didn't care. I had all I needed. My boat far as my 3 gallons of gas would take me. I had my livewell up to specs. It was a homemade type deal. A big Rubbermaid storage box, two minnow bucket aerators, and a nice ruler I drew on the lid myself. I had my rods laid out for the day. All three of them bad boys. One spinning, two bait casting. I had rigged and re-rigged them 100 times the night before in the parking lot. Time wasn't an issue since I got there at about midnight, eager to start my first bass tournament. 

 At day break, they called my number. Boat 17. I turned the key, she fired up on the first try, and I was off. I made a long monotonous run to my first spot. Luckily, I got there safely in about a minute and a half. It would have took less time, but blast off was so fun that I just wanted to drive for a minute. THE spot was right inside Cowikee Creek, on the right. Had some lily pads. Had some water. Had no bass. They were probably on edge since there were three doe swimming right through my honey hole. With nothing to show there, I ran straight across the creek to where the channel sweeps in close to the bank. With a slight breeze blowing from the west, I knew the fish would be positioned down current. I made a cast right to the backside of a little point that jutted out. Tick-tick. Bam! First fish of the day was a one pounder. He bit a Bass Striker Stealth Worm rigged on a 1/8 oz shaky head, which at this point in my career, might as we'll be the only lure to exist. 

 I spent the next little while looking around for more places with deep water access close to the bank. I finally found a few spots that fit the bill. One spot seemed perfect. Especially the wad of roots that was just under water, out of sight. At the time it felt more like I had a bite, so I set the hook. Now, not many people set the hook like Godzilla when fishing with 8 pound test, but I did. And, broke my only spinning outfit in the process. Without hesitation, I tied the small shaky head to one of my baitcasters and was back to work. This was a huge shot to my confidence. My go to rod and reel was out of order, and trying to cast this light bait with a baitcaster was quite the chore for an inexperienced fisherman. I thought I was done. I sat down, took a drink of water, ate a sandwich, and collected my thoughts. It was a sizzling 100 degrees by now so I decided to take a ride back to where I caught my first and only fish. 

 This decision turned out to be a good one. I made a cast to a small group of lily pads. With my mind elsewhere, I happened to notice my line swim off to the left. I set the hook and it was a hoss. He jumped. I jumped. I hollered. He rolled. Then, he wrapped my line around the lily pad stems that he was just sitting in. Next thing I know, I'm hanging 3/4 of the way out of my boat, hanging by my toenails, trying to get this fish in my hands. I won. He lost. After somehow managing to stay in my boat, I held a solid four pounder. There was another guy fishing several yards away, so like any good sportsman would do, I held up the fish and hollered a bunch of sounds that I had no control over. This fish was very significant for me, mentally. This fish taught me patience. This four pound bass taught me not to get down, no matter what happens. This fish changed my mindset toward fishing altogether. 

 My confidence had just went from an extreme low to super high. This was only fish number two, but both fish came off the same pattern. Bank. Channel swing. And, now we can add isolated lily pads to the equation. I ran up the creek a little ways and found a very similar area. Bank. Channel swing. Isolated lily pads. First cast in this area I landed a fish. Soon after that I landed my fourth. Then the action slowed. I tried to keep running this pattern, but it did not seem to pan out. With weigh-in at 3, I had about 45 minutes left to fish. I ran back to the the boat ramp to get a head start on loading up my boat. I didn't want to be in the way of everybody else when they showed up. 

 I pull into the basin, and see my Dad at the ramp. He had come to watch me weigh-in. When I pull up to say hey, he asked what time weigh in was. I told him it was in about 45 minutes. He asked how many I had. I told him four fish. He then promptly told me to go fish until I had zero minutes left until weigh-in. So, being he was my dad and all, I didn't question him. In what seemed like no time, I was fighting fish number five. Once he was in the boat I though I has done it. They weren't big by no means, but if had caught a limit in my first tournament. I thought. That was, until I overheard someone in another boat talking about how the minimum length for largemouth on Lake Eufaula was 14". On the River and other lakes I usually fish it is 12". I pulled up to the ramp and quickly measured each fish one by one. Thirteen and a half. Thirteen and a half. Thirteen and a half. Three of my fish were just short of minimum length requirements. (Later I learned you're suppose to close their mouth and tail to measure them, which would have put the all at 14".)

 When all was said and done, I weighed in two fish for just under 5 pounds. More importantly, I learned many lessons from this one day on the water. I will never forget a single one. And, no matter how many days I spend on the water, I learn just as much every time. This sport just never gets old. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Elite Experience

This past week, I got to personally experience the Bassmaster Elite Series as a Marshall on Lake Seminole. I've been looking forward to this for a while, but I'll be honest, I was not sure how it would feel to watch someone fish on my favorite lake and I couldn't even pick up a rod. Looking back, I'm glad I couldn't. It afforded me the time to just sit back and watch what really makes these guys the best in the business.

DAY 1 - Trevor Romans

Since I signed up for this, I had visions of me kickin' it with a big name pro like Van Dam, Swindle, or Aaron Martens. It never crossed my mind that I would be in a boat with a rookie on the first day. I met him at the briefing on Wednesday, he told me he didn't have a good practice, and I was worried I wouldn't even witness a fish catch on Thursday. Throughout the first day, Trevor became some guy from Texas I've never even heard of, to one of the best guys I've ever met. We ran to his first spot near the mouth of the Chattahoochee where he would flip matted hyacinths and some reeds. He missed one. He caught a mud fish. He caught a small keeper. And then the lull began. After trying a couple more spots without avail, we made a run back to the Flint River to look for spawning bass in small coves. The first cove we pull into has several boats in it, so it's on to the next one. The second cove has a couple boats, one being Alton Jones. He decided to look for spawners although they were more than likely already picked through. This faired well, as he boated a nice fish spawning in slightly deeper water on a couple stumps shortly after arriving. The next fish came up shallow off of a bed. Then after working the deeper stumps again, Trevor was able to boat a 5+ pounder. Another fish, and a cull later in a different cove, Trevor went on to weigh right at 16 pounds of bass. The day I spent with Trevor was one of my favorite days on the water. I got the opportunity to learn how to make things happen under immense pressure. It was his first day of his first year on the tour. He's doing all he can to afford it. He had a terrible practice. Yet, he found a way to catch them.

Not to mention his wife makes some KILLER homemade cookies!

DAY 2 - Chad Pipkens

On the second day, I drew a second year pro from Michigan, Chad Pipkens. This dude is full of positive energy and I had an absolute blast watching him fish. He was just outside the cut going into Friday, and he wanted badly to fish on Saturday. We talked on the phone the night before and he told me what he was going to be fishing. I was pumped for him because I know Seminole enough to know that he had the chance of catching a HUGE sack. We ran to Spring Creek to a flat where the big mommas were sure to be staging and moving up..........we thought. At around lunch, he had yet to get a single bite, so we ran into a canal where he said he could flip up a limit. And he meant it. within just a few flips, he had four fish in the boat. Knowing that size wouldn't help him, and not wanting to miss if the big ones moved up, we ran back out to his flat. He was mixing it up between a Speed Worm and a Lipless crank. All he had to show on that spot was one heckuva Jack. With time drawing close, he went back to flip up his fifth fish, which didn't take long. He tried to make some last minute heroics on a couple spots on the way back to weigh in. And, I applaud him for his confidence. He felt, on every cast, he was going to catch one. With four minutes left to weigh in, he was still casting, saying, ''This is it. 6 pounder.'' Though, it never happened. Even with the lack of action, I still learned a great deal by watching him fish.

These guys in the Elites are the real deal. Even when it's tough, the majority of them are still stand up guys who will do anything to help you out. I know I had an awesome time on the water with these guys, even though I couldn't fish. I would encourage anybody and everybody to sign up to Marshal next time these guys come around!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jared Helms - Pick 3 Soft Plastics - Big Worm

If there is a plastic bait that has caught more bass for more people, I think it has to be a plain ol' curly tail worm. I know it has caught a ton of bass for me, including my first. Yet, while most people stock up on with an average 7'' size, I like to stick to the big guns. 10-11'' gets the nod from this guy. Just about every soft plastic company makes a big ribbontail, but my favorites are the ones produced by Zoom or NetBait.

I've heard it several times from my granddad and a few others, "That thing is just too big'' or ''Ain't no bass gonna eat that thing." But, truth is, it will catch em when other things won't, and it will catch anything from little-uns to great bigguns.

There really is no bad condition for fishing a worm, but I'll let you in on the times that really make it shine for me.


There are several lakes right across the Florida line that I love to fish. These lakes are nothing but big sandy sink holes with grass everywhere you look. A big texas rigged worm is EXCELLENT for really dissecting all the grass. My favorite way to really cover water is to swim the worm through the grass like I would a swim jig.I actually prefer the worm over a swim jig, just because I feel it looks like a bigger easier meal. And, from my experience, I just have more confidence fishing for Florida strains with plastics instead of jigs. The great thing about the big worm is it's versatility. I can swim it through shallow grass when looking for em. But, when I come to a deeper grass line in 8-12' of water, I can stroke it to cover the whole water column looking for aggresive fish. Then, I can slow down and drag it through anywhere I found some fish. Now, I've located the fish and picked apart the area without ever changing lures. For fishing grass, I'm pretty much tried and true with any variation of June Bug color or plain black.


When alot of people see clear water, they think about down sizing to smaller less imposing worms. Not I! This lesson was learned in my pond. It had been muddy for the past few years, up until a couple months ago. It got really clear. I went by the text book and tried the normal shaky heads and drop shots. NADA! I had a big 11'' worm on a rod and decided to fling it out there. BAM! Started catchin' em. My belief is, in the clearer water, a bigger bait with some action to it calls them in from alot farther away. It's worked for me in ponds, rivers, and lakes. It works shallow and deep, but the perfect scenerio for me is that 4' to 12' zone with scattered cover. I like to keep it fairly active and cover some water with it until I'm positive I'm on a wad of fish. If I get alot of bites on the fall, I'll retrieve it by stroking it a few feet off the bottom. If they seem to be eating it closer to the bottom, I still like to actively hop it, but more like a few inches to a foot instead of a few feet. I still keep a simple color selection by simply trying to match the bottom. Light bottom; watermelon/red or some natural color. Dark bottom; dark colors. In 90% of situations I'll use a 3/8 oz tungsten bullet weight, atleast 17 lb line, and a long heavy action rod.

A big worm is a great way to locate fish AND clean up an area. You can catch fish of all sizes with it, while still appealing to the big mommas hangin' around the area.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jared Helms Pick 3 - SoftPlastics - Caffeine Shad

KVD Magic

I get excited just talking about this bait! I’ve liked throwing soft jerkbaits for a long time. Caught my first ‘’quality’’ bass one a Zoom Super Fluke, and have always just taken a liken to ‘em. Then, come the day I found the Caffeine Shad from Strike King’s Perfect Plastic line of baits. The tail has a different shape to it that most soft jerks. Instead of the normal split tail, it’s more of a bulbous tail which gives it a different action. It’s also loaded with salt, so you can cast this baby a mile on baitcasting gear. Not to mention, they smell delicious!

What makes it so special to me is the way this bait is designed. You can jerk it like you normally would, or, you can burn it real fast and it has a great swimming action. But, the Caffeine Shad really shines when you kill the bait. It has a fall very similar to a senko style bait, and this can draw a tone of strikes! There are just so many ways to fish this bait, so I’m gonna do my best to go over my favorite scenarios.

Locating Lovers

My favorite time to throw this bait is around the spawn. Whether they’re just moving up, shackin’ up, or at the hotel check out, this is a great way to locate spawning fish. If the clouds or wind take sight fishing out of the equation, I can fan cast a Caffeine Shad around bedding areas. And even still, if the sun comes out or wind dies and I locate a bedding bass, I can pitch past the bed, work the bait up to it, and let in fall in there just like I would a senko. This tactic can be killer! I really like a pearl color this time of year because it help me really keep an eye on the bait if I need to work over a bed with it. If I’m dealing with stubborn bass, I’ll switch to KVD Magic or watermelon and dip the tail in chartreuse to more closely imitate a bluegill.

Morning Coffee

Smokey Shad
Once the bass have made it back home and kick into their old summer patterns, most people start everyday out throwing a topwater. While that can make for a good time, when the water is seeing a lot of pressure, this just gives them a different look. I can still cover water quickly, working the bait right near the top, but can also kill it and let it shimmy down if it’s a hit and miss. Most of the time, that bass will come back and clobber it! Color choice depends on the main forage. Most of the time, especially around the shad spawn, I’ll opt for Smokey Shad. But, again, when I’m imitating bluegill, I’ll throw KVD Magic or watermelon tipped off with a little chartreuse.

Takin’ ‘em to School

This is the number one reason I have one tied on all the time. Year round. You never know when you might see bass come up and start chowing down. 9 times out of 10, a Caffeine Shad will catch ‘em. This is also my favorite time to take advantage of the swimming action of this bait. If I see bass bust the surface, I’ll chuck this thing past them, burn it for a few reel turns, and kill it.

My tools for the trade are a 6’10’’ MH rod with a high speed, 7:1, reel. I like to use a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG hook. Just like a topwater, I’m usually keeping this bait where I can see it, so when you see that strike give them a second to eat it. With so much plastic to go through, once they eat it, I want to really drop the hammer on ‘em.

If you’ve ever fished soft jerkbaits, you know they can be fun and catch a lot of fish. Next time you’re headed to the water, pick up some Caffeine Shad and try ‘em out. They straight up catch fish, and I guarantee you’ll be back for more!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

G-man (Wise) and the Choma Moment

This is a story my buddy, Chad Wise, posted on his face book a while back about him and his son. It's a must read for any fisherman, father, ..........or anybody with a heart, really.

First let me explain,
G-man: My oldest son's nick name, in this note I'm shortening it to G because I'm to lazy to type Garrison or G-man.
Choma Moment: An unexpected, unbelievable event that happens while Bass fishing for fun, or in a tournament. This was coined from adding my name with one of my fishing buddies nickname, "Coma", which is a whole other story, hence the name, "Choma." It's corny but it's stuck with me and my fishing buddies and even their other fishing buddies. It's also a lure company Keith Stevens, Jeremy Stevens, and I to an extent started.

This note is note being written by a proud father, or to boast, or to even sell Choma baits. It's just an unbelievable story and events that happened when I took my oldest son to fish in his first Tournament with his old man. A day God literally reached down and blessed a father and his son. I'm also writing it to have a record of it as well.The Wiregrass Bass Trail, sponsored and ran by Sportsman Outfitters, had it's February Tournament at Lake Eufaula this past Saturday the 12th. Already having other T's(tournaments) planned this month and the wife on me about fishing so much, I came up with the ultimate plan, take your son fishing so you can.

With a 29 degree outside temp, a high of only 56, 8-12 mph winds expected, and muddy water from recent rains, Eufaula is not a place to take your kid for his first Tournament right now. G of course didn't care, he was ready. We blasted off as boat# 12 from Lakepoint and set off on a 20 minute ride to the south end of the lake to get out of the muddy water. G was bundled up and I brought a thick sleeping bag that he covered up under and laid in the bottom of the boat during the ride. Water temp's were anywhere from 43 to 47 degrees. Tough fishing and not many bites when it's that cold so you got to make them count.

We started out in White Oak and fished for 3-4 hours with no luck. Moving on to several other spots running and gunning but shooting blanks we rode to the Georgia side of the lake around 11 am. Now I'm frustrated, I knew it would be tough but I can usually catch a small fish in that amount of time. G has fished hard the whole time. I've had to untangle his line, get him unhung from trees and docks, and even let him off on the bank for a Mother Nature call in the woods( another proud moment for, my buddies understand). G had his Ipod on the boat and never touched it, that's how focused he was.

We arrived at one of my best docks on the lake about 11:30 and G says to me, "I think this is where we'll get it going." I played it off because I've fished enough to know we were on a fast track for a goose egg and bad day on the lake. This dock has 2 boat slips in it and has always produced a small fish. I flip my jig up in the first boat slip, THUMP, the line jumps, I rear back and tell G to get the net. He jumps up, gets the net in the water and scoops the fish up, a solid 3 1/2 pound fish. He's going crazy while looking at the fish in the livewell, I flip under the other boat slip, THUMP, I set the hook and G jumps for the net, a solid 4 lber in the boat. In 2 casts we've turned the day around and lit a fire in this boy.

I think we may have found a pattern but for the next 2 hours we catch nada. It's 2 pm and weigh-in is at 3. We run back to Lakepoint and head to a spot where several Choma Moments have happened in the last hour of a tournament. The water is 44 degrees and a deep red mud color. I was hoping for at least one more decent fish and I knew we may get a top 10 out of the 30+ boats due to the conditions. Now as lucky as the 2 fish may have been earlier, I never would have expected what would happen that last 20 - 30 minutes of the tournament.

G is fishing hard. He's using a little $1 spinnerbait that he and his brother usually throw and catch a lot of small fish on when we go fun fishing. I had put a trailer hook on it just for extra sticking power if he did get a bite, even a 14 inch fish would have put us past the middle of the pack. I see some small shad flicking right on the bank, haven't seen this all day so i head for them. Where there are shad, usually there are bass. I'm clipping along pretty good and G is casting out the back of the boat. I look down at my clock, 2:30, guess we will have to see where those 2 good fish will place us. Then I hear a huge splash behind the boat, then the cry, "DADDY! DADDY! It's a fish!". I turn and G has this monster bass jumping trying to throw the spinnerbait. Now my tournament instinct kicked in and wanted to grab the rod from my rookie big bass catching son and get the fish in the boat, I mean he was using a 6' spinning rod with 10lb test line and a rinky dink hook on a spinnerbait to land this fish. But the father in me won out, I coached him and coached him, the fish took him around the boat and finally I got the net around it. G threw a fit like I've never seen,"I GOT HIM! I GOT HIM! I thought I was hung up daddy but it was a huge bass." The fish had engulfed the bait and the only hook in the fish was the trailer hook, which was only looped around a gill, no penetration anywhere, tell me God didn't want that boy to catch that fish.

This big burly, hairy, eat hot sauce on everything man, welled up with tears. As excited as he was, i was twice that way inside. It's 2:45 now and I was hoping to get one more from the area since we were only 5 minutes from the weigh-in. I changed to a spinnerbait similar to his but had no luck. G wanted to look at his fish so he put his rod down. I grabbed it immediately and threw it toward the bank. Not but one turn of the reel and BAM, I'm hooked up with a good fish. G almost literally does a front flip trying to get the net and I play the fish carefully because I can see it's barely hooked. I get the fish in the net and the bait comes flying out of it's mouth! G starts packing up everything so we can make it back to weigh-in.

At the weigh-in, G is grinning ear to ear. He wanted to carry the bag but it was too heavy so he follows me along side it with his hand touching it. The 4 fish weigh 16.54 lbs and wins the tournament by 3 lbs. G's bass weighs in a 5.34 lbs and winds up the 2nd or 3rd biggest bass of the tournament. That's a cool $1000 bucks in our pockets. G only wants to get some more spinnerbaits with his cut, he's hooked. Miracles happen every day, but what happened those last 20 minutes of the tournament was a literal gift from God, no doubt. Now I've had many last second catches, some won the T's some got us a high finish and a check, but that one right there may never be topped, except maybe when Will fishes with me in April in a tournament. He's already saying he'll catch a bigger and more fish than what G caught. Got to love that brotherly love.

Thank you if you suffered through reading this Dothan High School educated writer's story. This  was the definition of a Choma Moment.
Thanks from one proud dad,Chad

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Jared Helms Pick 3 - Soft Plastics Part 1

With so many plastics to choose from nowadays, it’s easy to rack your brain until your tackle box is overflowing with a ton of baits you’ll never use. Not saying my tackle box is not like that; but, I do have my go-to baits that I know will get me through the tough times and produce fish in a number of situations. I’ve decided to list the top three in a three part series, and break down why I chose them and how I use them.
Big Bite Baits Fightin’ Frog

I discovered this little gem just last year, but since then, I have found this bait very productive in many different scenarios. I’ve fished it a ton of different ways and I’m sure I havn’t even tapped into everything that’s possible with this bait.

Flippin’ the ol’ Texas Rig

My favorite way to fish this bait, like most other people, is to flip it into shallow cover. Whether, it be wood or grass, this bait really produces bites for me. I like it because it’s got a perfect, meet in the middle, action. It’s not quite as bulky and active as something like a brush hog, but it’s got more action in the pincers than your beaver style baits. I flip and pitch this bad boy on a 7’6’’ heavy action rod paired with a Lews Speed Spool high speed reel. My line is determined by the cover. In thick wood and brush I’ll use 20 lb fluorocarbon, whereas, in grass I prefer 65 lb braid. I don’t really worry about downsizing my line in clearer water, just because fluorocarbon is highly invisible and I’m usually putting this thing in the thickes
t stuff I can find. 98% of the time, I use a 3/8 oz tungsten bullet weight and a 4/0 straight shank hook.

Shakin’ things up

Another way I like to fish the Fightin’ Frog, is to rig it on a Buckeye Spot Remover jighead. Anytime I’m fishing a hard bottom like rocks or hard clay, I’ll pull this trick out of my hat. When fishing it this way, I want to ALWAYS maintain bottom contact. There are very few instances where I’ll hop this bait. This is great for cleaning up a school on clay points and ledges where most people will be throwing a football jig or a Carolina rig.  The ¼ oz Spot Remover usually gets the nod for most situations, and I can fish it on baitcasting gear and 12 lb fluorocarbon. But, when things get tough, I’ll get out the small size Fightin’ Frog and rig it on an 1/8 oz jighead. This is when I throw it with spinning tackle and 8 lb fluorocarbon.

Happy Trails

For today, the last way I’ll cover this bait, is using it as a jig trailer. In either of my last two scenarios, if I’m looking for that kicker, I’m pulling out a jig. When I’m flippin’ a jig, I like to pinch of the first little bit of the “frog” to make it a little more compact. It just seems to go in and out of tight places a lot better that way. But, if I’m fishing deep, I’ll thread the whole thing on the back of an All Terrain football jig and drag that sucker around. I use the same flippin’ set-up as before. For the football jig, I use a 7’11’’ heavy action rod and a high speed reel to help me get a solid hookset on the end of a long cast. I still opt for 20 lb fluorocarbon, because like I said, I’m hunting that big fish. Once he’s hooked, he won’t stand a chance.

The Fightin’ Frog can be a very versatile bait, and I think it deserves a spot in every angler
is tackle box. Even it is already overflowing with more soft plastics than you know what to do with.