I took a short weekend trip to Dale Hollow to visit my good friend and guide, Bob Coan of Celina Tennessee. Bob had been touting a technique of fishing for Smallmouth that while not new is not common anywhere but on Dale Hollow at this time. The technique is called the Floatín Fly. The rig starts with a 10 foot or thereabouts Daiwa Rod, a trigger bail spinning reel. And jigs so small that a crappie might not look twice at them. 1/16 oz is the norm in size for this type of fishing, although you could alter the rig somewhat to use either a smaller or larger jig I guess.
Several companies make what they call a Floatín Fly, but Bob swears by the Beehead Jigs. The jigs come in several color patterns and combinations. All white with a gray feather pattern, rainbow trout pattern, and blue / gray / chartreuse/ and, blue / gray / and pink seem to work the best in most conditions. Bob likes to use the chartreuse later in the day when the sun is well behind the hills for more visibility.
Bob rigs the baits using a 3 way swivel. From the rod, Fire Line attaches to the swivel using a palomar knot. From the swivel attaches a length of Vanish copolymer fishing line. Usually this dropper is from 9 to 12 feet in length, and Bob uses 8 pound test line because it is stronger ... While this may seem a bit large for line in winter Bob uses the Vanish Line specifically because it allows him to go to a larger test without increased visibility of the higher test line.
The third swivel loop is where you attach the bobber. It takes about 10 minutes to learn the intricacies of casting this set up, but the key is the 10 foot Daiwa Noodle Rod. You have to make sure that when you make your back swing that the lure hits the water behind you and that the rod is fully loaded before you cast. The bait is cast fairly close to the bank and when the bobber stands up straight you start to working the bait in place or in short moves. Bob basically shakes the tip of the rod as if he is scolding a small child, or at me for not making the cast correctly. The bobber seems to jiggle in place. Usually you jiggle for a few seconds and stop. Then you HOLD ON. The hit almost always comes shortly after stopping the jiggle. The bobber starts to sink slowly then more rapidly. You sweep the rod and let it do the hooking for you. At this point it is best to hold on with both hands because even a 2 pound smallie will put up one heck of a fight.
If you think that you cant possibly handle a 6 pound Smallmouth or larger on miniature tackle, you will need to rethink your stand. I managed to get a beautiful Smallmouth around 6 pounds to the boat using the system and it got away only because I hesitated to long when the fish changed directions and let her have a half a second of slack. I managed to boat fish (With Bob's help) up to 4 pounds using this method on my first Float'ní Fly trip. Since you cannot reel in the line past the 10 foot mark, you will need a partner to net your fish.
This method will work in cold water for Largemouth Bass as well, and the colder the better. If you think that BIG BASS can only be caught in spring, try this method and you may just quit hunting and pick up your rod more often in the dead of winter. Our best fish came around laydowns and root wads and timber although we caught several nice fish on gravel banks. All came in the backs of creeks to the mid creek area as opposed to the main lake. One last addition to all of this is the use of a scent or attractant. Bob likes to use a Vaseline consistency garlic scent that is red in color and sold by Beehead Lures called Fish Dope.. I tend to believe that the petroleum jelly scent may have as much to do with the success as the small jigs. The red color of the jelly may actually be an attractant since there are trout in the lake to feed on and while it does keep the artificial hair from, for lack of a better word, flowing, I have to believe it may play a part in the success that Bob has. You can get the Fish Dope from Beehead Lures at http://www.jigandbobber.com. If you can't find the Fish Dope, I recommend trying the Garlic Kickn Bass Scent. It holds to the hairs of the jig quite nicely for 5 to 10 casts and leaves a nice rainbow color oil slick as it is worked.
The real excitement on this trip though was the idea that at any time a fish rivaling the David Hayes Smallmouth could pop that little jig and make a real run. Bob has had the occasional fish on that has taken off for parts unknown and broken off, or just worked its way loose. While this is light tackle, the extra long rod seemed to take up most of the tension on the line and even the big sow did not take much line when she made a run. Instead the rod seems to bend and take the stress much more than the line and the reel. This is the secret to the system and how it is able to handle a large fish. Think of the worst conditions for fishing for Smallmouth Bass you can have in winter, and that was what we had the day I went with Bob. High Blue Skies not a cloud anywhere. Winds in the 20 MPH range on the main lake, and a Low Pressure area sitting over the top of the lake. We pulled up to the first place we could find out of the wind, and Bob caught a nice 2 pound Smallie right away. On my 3rd Cast while Bob was still fooling with his smallie, I hooked my first Float'n Fly Fish and it was a nice slab Kentucky Bass of about 1.5 pounds. The rest of the day was like this. Never went more than about 20 minutes without a fish on or hooked. Total in the boat 10 (9 Smallies and 1 Kentucky) We hooked at least 4 more, and I swear one of them went at least 13 pounds. That's my story and I am sticking to it... ( It broke off on 8 pound test line so it had to be more than 8 pounds?) OK, I am telling a story, of sorts we never saw the fish, it broke the 8 LB test line like it was sewing thread. Could have been one of the few Muskies I guess that are in the lake......???? But hey I can dream can't I???
The Float'n Fly originally started about 5 or 6 years ago when crappie fishermen complained to Charlie Knuckles a tackle store owner about not being able to get crappie on because the darn (I am sure it was a different word) Smallmouth would not leave the jig alone. This began the development of the Float'ní Fly system and the special jigs to catch the fish. I hope you will give this method a try. I think you will want to start looking for warm clothing for your new fishing season. If you are going to Dale Hollow you can reach Bob at 1-931-243-3827 or on his toll free # 1-866-233-2471.
You can get the Beehead Float'ní Fly at the Tackle Shack in Celina, TN. Or you can order the jigs from their website at www.jigandbobber.com.
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