Hello Mike, thanks for accepting to answer our intrusive questions! At the time we speak, this year’s Classic has not yet taken place. However, when this interview is published, the Classic will be over and the readers of Predators will be able to read the tournament report at the same time as your answers. Now, here’s a difficult question for you: what are your predictions for this Classic? How have you been getting prepared?
The 2013 Bassmaster Classic was a really cool event. Even though we had true wintertime conditions with cold weather, water, and even snow; the fish still bit really good! The fish were set up in their pre-spawn/winter time patterns at Grand Lake. I concentrated on both main points and secondary points that were positioned in front of spawning creeks and coves. I basically threw three baits the entire event. My main lure was a suspending Rapala Husky Jerk. I threw a shad type pattern and added larger VMC Short Shank hooks to help the bait suspend better and to get better hook ups. I used a #3 on the nose and two # 4’s on the belly. I also caught some fish with a finesse jig and a few on the new Rapala Scatter Rap crank.
You have a reputation for being able to track down fish like no-one else. We saw you at work in MLF ….. How do you explain this special ability? How do you go about it?
Good question. You know there are really two part to finding fish fast. The first involves making some predictions and doing some research before you get to the event. This helps put you in the ballpark to where the fish should. But ultimately the biggest thing I do is to try and fish the moment. This means that every time I hit the water, I try and listen to the fish and let the fish point me into a direction for location and lure choice. I believe that every bite happens for a reason. There are no lucky or accidental bites. When you think like this patterns develop a lot more naturally.
What surprises us a lot is the great amount of time that you spend with a spinning combo in your hands …. Why is that?
Yes I love spinning rods and finesse fishing. The reason is that when the fishing gets tuff, finesse fishing and spinning rods are a great way to catch them. The fishing gets tuff for a lot of reasons: cold fronts, fishing pressure, clear water, etc. A spinning rod with light line and smaller more natural moving baits tend to get more bites under those tuff conditions. Some of my favorite finesse/spinning rod baits and techniques include the shaky head, drop shot, and whacky jig head techniques. I had a chance to work with VMC on developing hooks for all of these techniques. Our Ike Approved line up includes the Rugby Head for shaky head fishing, the Spin Shot for drop shoting, and a jig head for whacky rigging.
Speaking of which, can you describe it to us? The rod looks long, maybe 7 or 8 feet, and your reels look to be 4000’s!
I use 4 different spinning rod/finesse rod combinations. I use a 6’6” MH action with a 20-size reel for my jig head fishing. I use a 6’9” ML action with a 20-size reel for drop shoting. I use a 7’ M action with a 30-size reel for my all purpose (sinking worms, grubs, etc.) rod. And finally I use a really long 7’4” MH action rod with a larger 40-size reel for lures that I need to cast really far. I usually use this set up with braided line and techniques like weightless plastics and fluke/soft minnow style baits.
One of the reasons behind this interview is your recent collaboration with a French brand: VMC (cock-a-doodle-doo!*). Why did you choose to work with this hook maker? What’s the spirit of the "Ike Approved" range?
It was an amazing opportunity to work with a company like VMC! I’ve been a fan of their hooks since I was a kid. It was really like a dream come true to be able to help them with some product development. The theory behind the entire “Ike Approved” hook line up, was to take existing hook styles and make them better by incorporating many of the tricks and modifications that pro bass fisherman, including myself, were using on a regular basis. Modifications like epoxy bait keepers, closed hook eyes, 3 degree offset point, and Rugby head design were all taken from real life modifications I have been making for years on the pro circuit. These ideas and modifications were then taken to the next level by the amazing engineers at VMC!
* [Mike, this is in reference to the French cockerel, one of the national symbols]
The Ike-Approved range offers a whole host of tiny details, like the resin closed eye. Is this really important for you?
Yes all of the modifications are very important and they all address the same topic: putting more fish in the boat. The closed resin eye stops line from getting damaged or slipping through, especially with fine braided super line. The epoxy keeper barb on the flipping hooks help keep the plastic bait in place and secure, especially when flipping heavy cover. And finally the three degree offset point helps to maximize solid hook up by getting the point off line with the eye of the hook. In my opinion I catch roughly 10% more of my bites from the 3-degree modification!
Which treble hooks do you use to arm your hardbait?
I love many of the VMC treble hook styles. But if I had to choose one, it would be the short shank 2X treble. This hook is not only super sharp and strong, but also it allows me to up-size my hooks on many of my baits. I especially like the off sizes like the 5’s, 3’s, and 1 sizes!
Over in Europe, we rarely use Flippin’ hooks, since Wide Gap patterns are more popular (such as the 7342WG). What are the advantages of your Flippin’ hooks (ref. 7345FL)?
The Flipping Hook is an ideal shape when fishing around any form of heavy cover. Here in the states we fish around a lot of heavy cover situations including matted grass, standing timber, bushes, logs, docks, etc. The Flipping Hook allows you to use heavier line (braid or heavy Flora carbon) and really power the fish out of the cover. Also the combination of the VMC Flipping hook in conjunction with a Snell knot, cause the hook rotate upward into the fishes mouth on the hooks set. This helps to hook and land a lot more fish.
You also brought drop shot fishing up-to-date with the Spinshot swivel system. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes, the Spin Shot is a super big revolution in drop shot fishing. It has many features and benefits. Obviously this hooks helps tremendously to eliminate line twist, especially when fishing in deep water. The Spin Shot also allows the hook to always remain in the up right position. But the biggest feature of the hook, is the additional action it gives to the baits. No besides have the bait hover horizontally above the bottom, you also get a slight up and down and side to side (360 degrees) rotation of the bait! You can get more realistic and natural with your bait movement then that!
We hear you were behind one essential “tweak” on some of the new hooks: the 3° offset point ….This appears to be common practice amongst competitors, and yet, this is completely new to us! Tell us everything, please!
Yes the three degree offset point is something that many of the pros have been doing for years! By bending the point out of line with the line tie, you are creating as better angle to help the point drive into the fish’s mouth. So basically the 3-degree bend helps to maximize solid hook up by getting the point off line with the eye of the hook. In my opinion I catch roughly 10% more of my bites from the 3-degree modification! Over the course of a year of tournament fishing, that’s a lot more bass in the boat!
And finally, if you had to choose one hook model ….
Wow, that a tuff question. It’s a hard one to answer because hook style and size are such an important part of maximizing the performance of the bait. I need all of the different hook styles in the VMC line up to compliment the lure I am selecting. If I had to pick one, it would probably be a 2/0 or 3/0 VMC three degree offset style hook. I’d choose this one because I can do a lot of different things with this one hook, from Texas rigging, to Carolina rigging, to weightless plastics, to lighter flipping situations!
Interview originally published in the French language for Predators magazine (2013)