John’s Note: Jay Yelas from Corvallis, Oregon, has been a professional tournament fisherman since 1989 when he began his fishing career on the B.A.S.S. circuit. Yelas has won: the Bassmaster Classic in 2002 on Lay Lake in Alabama; the prestigious B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year title in 2002; the Angler-of-the-Year title twice on the FLW tournament circuit; and in 2003, an ESPY Award presented by ESPN to the top outdoor athlete of the year. Today Yelas is still actively fishing the FLW tournament circuit and is a member of Punisher Lures’ www.punisherlures.com Pro Staff. And, as Yelas explains, “I’ve got lots of examples of how to catch good bass on bad days.”
In 1995, I fished in the Bassmaster Superstars Tournament on the Illinois River in Peoria, IL. The river was out of its banks and flooding. I think the tournament was in early June. The river was so high that the locks the boats normally went through to go downriver or upriver were submerged. I think the river was about 30-40 feet higher than it ever had been. There were trees, logs and all types of debris floating down the river. I ran 60-miles downriver from the launch site to an area that I knew held bass, because I’d fished there the previous year. I knew that the general region was a productive place to find bass, but I also realized that due to the high water the bass wouldn’t be in the spots where I’d located them before. These bass there generally lived in small sloughs (bays) off the main river. The river was so high that it had overflowed into some farms in this area too. I noticed some milo (grain) fields had been flooded, and the high water was actually approaching some barns. I knew in rising-water conditions, the bass would move into shallow water, because that was the direction that the bait fish were moving.
On one high spot in this milo field, I could see about an inch of land sticking out of the water. So I designated that to become the bank of the river during the flood. I started casting a spinner bait around that high spot in the milo field, and that’s where I won the tournament. I bet if the farmer could have seen me, he would have scratched his head and asked, “What is that crazy bass fisherman doing out in the middle of my milo field?”
I knew a good bag of bass on the Illinois River only might weigh 10 pounds. I caught a couple of 3 pounders during the tournament and was able to win with an average of about 10 pounds of bass caught and brought to the scales each day. I learned from that tournament that by going to a part of the lake that I knew held good concentrations of bass and then following the water into the shore from that spot where I found shallow water, I should be able to locate bass. Because the water was so high, and I had to travel so far to find shallow water, I believe the bass actually had moved about a half-mile from where I should have caught them during normal river water levels.
I was fishing three different spinner baits in the tournament – a 3/8-ounce, a 1/4-ounce and a 1/2-ounce. On the 1/4-ounce spinner bait, I had small Colorado blades; on the 3/8-ounce, I had a small Colorado blade and a #6 Indiana blade; and on the 1/2-ounce, I had a little bit bigger Colorado blade and a #7 Indiana blade. I would cast all three different-sized spinner baits in that shallow water. Most of my bites were on the 3/8-ounce (middle sized) spinner bait. But the bigger bass I caught were on the 1/2-ounce spinner bait with the #7 Indiana blade, which was a huge blade. Remember, a big fish on the Illinois River was a 3 pounder.
The spinner bait is one of my favorite baits to fish when a river is muddy. It gives off a lot of vibrations, especially when you use two different types of blades on the same spinner bait shaft. I was also fishing white and chartreuse skirts on the spinner baits, which made the lure easier for the bass to see and attack. I like fishing spinner baits so much that I’ve designed a new spinner bait for the Punisher Lure Company in Celina, Tennessee www.punisherlures.com.
Jay Yelas talks about the need to stick with it to catch bass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4op-GYIWi-w
For more information about Jay Yelas, check out www.jayyelas.net.
To learn more about bass fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and some print books, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” “How to Win a Bass Tournament,” “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake: 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics, “Hot Weather Bass Tactics” and “How to Become A Tournament Bass Fisherman,” Click here to get these books.
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.