Shaw Grigsby Raw - Part 7

Shaw Grigsby Raw - Part 7 In this episode, Shaw explains boat control, eliminating water, confidence baits, and more!


Shaw Grigsby

Keri May, owner of, spent a day on the water with Shaw Grigsby posing questions that members from our forums submitted for Shaw to answer.  Here is part 7 of a nine-part series where Shaw answers every single one of them!  In this episode, Shaw explains boat control, eliminating water, confidence baits, and more!

Keri: Outside bass from bass fishing, what's your favorite species to catch?

Shaw Grigsby: Tarpon.

Keri: Tarpon?

Shaw: Tarpon.

Keri: Never caught a tarpon.

Shaw: They're a saltwater called the Silver King. Where we fish from they run from little guys, the 5, 10, 15 pounders, but most of ones we catch are 70-150 and I fly fish for them. I like that way of doing it, but any way of catching them is good, but fly fishing is just that much better.

It's just awesome. It's just a awesome, awesome fish. They're very acrobatic so they get in the air. They're very big. You're talking a fish that can tax you to the max. Take every bit of skill that you have in fighting the fish, landing the fish, working the fish, getting them to bite, all that and put it together on a fish that's 100-150 pounds and it's sight fishing. To me, you're site fishing doesn't get better. You're out there on the flats, you're looking for these fish, you'll see them coming.

A lot of times you'll see them at 50, 70, 100 yards, sometimes even 200 or 300 yards out you'll see them. You line up and you get the boat positioned and then with this giant fish swimming at you, you have to make the right cast, present it, work it right, get it hooked up and you're watching it eat your fly. It's crazy; it's pretty awesome.

Keri: What about freshwater? Is there any other species?

Shaw: Peacock bass is probably as good as it gets and smallmouth.

Keri: Yeah.

Shaw: The only difference between a peacock and a smallmouth, peacocks get bigger. We know how aggressive smallmouths are, most people have caught them, they're really crazy, they're aggressive, they're all that. A peacock is that magnified by 5 times, 10 times.

Keri: Wow.

Shaw: A really great fish.

Keri: What's the biggest smallmouth you've landed?

Shaw: 5.14 I think, my biggest.

Keri: What did you catch him on?

Shaw: A shaky head.

Keri: Really?

Shaw: Yeah.

Keri: Where at?

Shaw: Lake Michigan.

Keri: Oh yeah. There's some big smallmouth there.

Shaw: The next day Earl did a show with me. He caught a 6.10. He caught five that were well over 25 pounds.

Keri: Holy smokes.

Shaw: It was like crazy good. He's a stunning angler. Everybody thinks of him as a boat racer and boat designer and guy that made Stratus and Triton and all that he's a former tournament angler and he's good. He's really good.

Keri: Can you talk to us a little bit about line? The question was do you ever use fluorocarbon for top water?

Shaw: No, no, no.

Keri: No, no, no. Okay.

Shaw: No, no, no and we had an angler on the Elite series win Oneida a couple of years ago that was using fluorocarbon on his top water, but fluorocarbon line sinks. Top water doesn't help, it's going to drag your bait down, but he did it successfully. But no, I have when it's just been on the rod and I looked around and I didn't have any mono or anything on or braid. Braid is probably my preferred on top water.

Keri: Really?

Shaw: Love it. You can make super long casts and you have great hook setting power and I just absolutely love braid on top water bait. Then the next thing would be mono-filament on top water because it floats again, so you need something that's not going to sink. Mono-filament does absorb after a bit and it will sink a little, but it's still better than fluorocarbon that's going to drag her down.

Keri: I never thought about using braid on top water.

Shaw: Especially on those big top water baits, the big Zara Spook, Walk the Dog, stuff like that, it's just phenomenal what you can do, the power you have then when you get the bite. You can throw it out of sight and that's a good thing and then when you are that far out, fluorocarbon of course will sink and then the bait will be bobbing out of the water, up and down type deal, but when you have braid it's on the surface and then get a strike way out there you get great hook set, a great deal.

Keri: So talk to us a little more about that. Do you like fluorocarbon for any other situation?

Shaw: Worms, crankbaits, soft plastic, jigs, all that kind of stuff. Now if you're flipping in heavy cover of course I'm using braid again, but I use fluorocarbon more than I do anything. Braid is probably second and mono-filament being last now. It used to be all you did was use mono-filament. So that's probably one of the things when you asked something I do, I don't use mono-filament that much any more, I do a little, but it's not nearly what I do with braid and fluoro.

Keri: That's what I found interesting. One of our members was reading that you're able to catch larger fish on a spinning reel by reversing the crank of the reel instead of messing with the drag.

Shaw: Yeah, it's called back-reeling.

Keri: How did you come to figure that out?

Shaw: Back in the old days we had crappy spinning reels. I'm not saying they were crappy, but they had crappy drags. In fact, those old Zebco Cardinal 4 and the Mitchell 300s and all those types of things that were old ancient spinning reels and they were really good quality, they still work today, but their drags and their drag washers and stuff were very suspect. You'd hook a fish and rely on the drag and they'd break you off. The drag would lock up and you'd lose a big one, so you learned real quick that you needed to do something.

In doing that, it's back-reeling. So you'd leave it off the anti-reverse so that it can spin freely, you set a hook and when the fish runs you can just let the handle go backwards and spin backwards and then you can put whatever pressure you want on it. Let's say you're using 10-pound test and you've got a drag that's set at 7 or something like that, so you're never going to stress the line enough to break it.

It's one of those situations where you can put pressure on him, but then when he's running you can back-reel, then you can get back on and reel. Whenever he slows up you can keep constant tension, where with a drag they're more of a zzz-zzz-zzz, so it's kind of a hit and miss kind of deal.

Nowadays our drags are spectacular. But once you learn to back-reel you'll do it forever because it's that efficient. It's very good and very efficient and you can manage a big fish very well, because a big fish you can't do anything when he's running, especially on light line. So you let him run, just back-reel, two pounds of pressure or less, and then he starts to slow down you can put all the pressure on them.

Now he's expended his energy, or she has, big female, expended her energy running and then when she's kind of resting you're dragging her right back to you and so you're kind of keeping her off base right then. Then she expends her energy again and you're just letting her go and you bring her back to you again and you end up wearing down a big one very rapidly. I won a lot of tournaments on 8 and 10-pound test on spinning reels and catching 7, 8, 9, 10- pound fish.

Keri: How long would you say it took you to perfect the technique?

Shaw: Not long at all.

Keri: Really?

Shaw: Yeah. I actually have it down now where I don't even touch the handle. Most people would try to hold onto the handle back-reeling and I literally just put my finger down on the bail head and let it spin backwards and pick it back up. It's pretty simple to do and any two-year-old can do it with about 20 years experience.

Keri: Some members would like some tips on boat control and positioning. It's a kind of hard question, but any advice would be great.

Shaw: Sure. Keep it where you can cast, or pitch or flip or whatever you want to cast to.

Keri: It's an open-ended question.

Shaw: The bottom line is there is something to running the boat. The real key that I've seen and I think it's really unique and that I have a unique position, not only have I been the angler, and the angler, but I've also set back and done television commentary at the Classics. I did it for quite a few years and I did the On The Water color and to watch other anglers move down a bank and fish and pick out places to cast and I'm looking at a piece of structure and I'm going I know he's going to hit that because there will be a fish there. He doesn't even make a cast at it. The angler goes by and doesn't even make a cast.

What's he thinking? What's in his mind that tells him not to cast there? Boat positioning is some of it, but choosing the right thing to cast at, knowing where your primary opportunity to catch one is going to be. These little cuts in the bank here. If they're not there they might be right in the middle of the thickest stuff. So there's my stuff in the thickest stuff. So trying to figure out where they are and positioning and that type of thing is real important, where boat control and positioning is just kind of keep it slow and easy.

If you have an opportunity go into the wind rather than with the wind. With the wind pushes you, like if you catch one, it  pushes you on top of the fish. Into the wind you let your foot off the trolling motor and you drift backwards away from what you just caught and you're much more likely to pull back up there and catch another fish.

Any time you can go into the wind with the exception of when it's really brutal, then you obviously can't, that's always a plus and then just keeping it slow and easy and whatever presentation you're using. If you're casting, making sure that you're not having the stress on your cast, that you're within your range so you can be accurate. If it's crystal clear water maybe it's how far away you can cast. Crystal clear means that the farther away you cast you can have a little bit more success.

It's all just a little relative. It's kind of like a little chess game. You put this piece here and that piece there, or a puzzle I guess is a better word for it, a puzzle, until it all fits together to make the right combination and then you're good to go.

Keri: Every time we do one of these there's always somebody that asks, how do you eliminate water?

Shaw: Just don't fish it.

Keri: That's a great answer.

Shaw: We do it as methodical as possible. I learned from Gary Klein back in 19..... A bald eagle, a big bald eagle. See that big, giant bird up there on the tip of that tree back there?

Keri: Oh, wow. Yeah.

Shaw: That's a big old bald eagle. That's a long way away and he is that big. That's huge. A big old white head sticking out against the sky.

Keri: Isn't that beautiful?

Shaw: It would be good if you had a blue sky you'd really be able to see that white head, but with the whitish clouds behind it, you can see it when he turns it though. When he turns it left and right it's pretty impressive.

Keri: Great animals.

Shaw: Yeah, they are. They're just impressive, impressive critters. I learned it from Gary Klein and he said when you go to a new body of water and you don't really know it, I asked him, as a red man all American in 1985 I qualified again and we were going out west to fish it and I fished with Klein at the Hudson River and I just asked him, I'm fixing to do this and I've never been there. How do you go out there and figure things out? He said just take a section of the lake or a creek or something like that, something that has a variety of stuff.

He prefers creeks so you've got a section of the lake where you've got a creek bed and stuff like that where you can start and cover things real quick. So you cover the points like we just did. A point, now we're coming down inside the edge here, we're fishing the bank, we'll try some middle, we'll try a little bit of everything. Then you just record and make that your body of water.

You don't go okay, I'm going to run here and check this, run here and check this and I'm going to run there and check this because then you end up running a lot and you don't do a lot of fishing. You take one area that has a lot of good stuff like a river arm, creek arm or whatever and you fish everything in that. Make it your whole lake for the day, that one little deal, and then every strike you get you remember it, record it.

I used to carry a pocket tape recorder. There's another thing that I don't do anymore that I used to. I used to carry it and record every strike and at the end of the evening I'd lay down with it on my chest as I'm going to sleep. I'd replay the whole day back and it would just be minutes because you're just talking for a few seconds on this fish, a few seconds on that fish.

You would re-imprint everything and you would actually develop patterns. You'd see I got one here that I didn't realize, so you'd usually pick up the primary pattern, what they were like on points or something or backs of coves or whatever, but then you'd always get a couple of bites and you're going that's a secondary pattern, so that's another thing they're doing. You'd find another little pattern working out somewhere, so that would really make a big difference.

So there's a really good suggestion to figuring fish out is to just take a small area, make it your lake, record all the strikes, figure out a pattern or two and then apply that to the rest of the area, so that's kind of what we do in a nutshell.

Keri: So you've decided this is my body of water, this is what I'm going to fish, when do you decide that it isn’t working and I've got to do something different?

Shaw: Generally speaking, in any section of water you're at there's plenty of fish and if you're not getting them generally you're not doing something right.

Keri: So how would you start changing that?

Shaw: Start changing baits. Like right now I'm flipping a jig and I'm pretty convinced I need to go slow because the water temperatures are cool and all that kind of stuff and yet you've seen me pick up my crank bait a little, pick up my spinnerbait a little, flip and pitch a little. My primary is my jig. I feel confident that if I'm going to get a bite I can get it on a jig. If it's cold I can get it on a jig, if it's warm I can get it on a jig so I'm kind of okay sticking with it and it's pretty much black and blue, can't go wrong.

In doing something like that you just have to start eliminating things and if you're going a long time and you're not getting any bites you've got to learn you've got to slow down, speed up, try something different and then if you're still not getting them then you can change. Obviously there's conditions that can dictate that that area of the lake doesn't have anything whether it's cold or hot, but it's really cool.

I used to go to Rayburn. I won three BASS's on Rayburn in the spring and I remember one of my earlier tournaments when I was struggling on Rayburn that I looked everywhere. I ran all over the lake looking for warm water. That's what I wanted to find. It was about this time of year, it was late February, early March and I'm looking for something. I finally found one cove that had like 60-degree water and found fish in it. It was the warmest one I could find.

I got paired with George Cochran and I drug him in there and he whacked them. But I knew what I was doing, I looked for that. What was interesting was Clunn whacked them, Clunn destroyed them and caught a big sack and he was running around finding the coldest water on the lake.

Keri: Oh, go figure.

Shaw: Because he knew there would be pre-spawn and he would have some big fish. I'm looking for the warmest and the majority of the field was looking for the warmest, so you look at things and no matter what situation you're in there's fish there. It's just a matter of figuring them out and getting things and working on them. My suggestion is you can have a situation where something odd is going on like that hot water discharge, you don't know what's coming out of that plant.

You don't know what's creating that situation. Maybe there's no oxygen. I don't have an oxygen meter here to keep those filaments in all right and you just can't do it. You just have to try enough different things to figure out what they're doing.

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