You don’t have to look further than Dave Fenlon’s Instagram to see that he is a fantastic angler. He posts impressive pics of New York largemouth and smallmouth bass. He also has a very cool looking Nitro boat. We talk about all of it during this interview.
Have you been diagnosed as having a smallmouth bass obsession? You catch a lot of big smallmouth bass.
I’ve never really been known to be a strong smallmouth fisherman. I’ve usually always went after largemouth. However, in the past few years, I guess you could say I have developed quite the obsession for them. Obsessed enough to where I’d drive 180 miles to the St. Lawrence River just for a day trip to target them!!
I’d have to say my favorite thing about these fish is how beautiful they are. There’s nothing quite like the patterns and different colors they develop based on their habitat. Of course, the fight they put up is second to none. Pound for pound they are the strongest fighting fish without a doubt.
What are your favorite home State waters to fish for smallmouth bass?
My favorite fishery for smallmouth would be the St Lawrence River, hands down. I think anyone would agree it’s probably THE best smallmouth fishery in the country. My second favorite would have to be Keuka. I’ve spent a lot of time on that lake and it produces some great smallies. Keuka also provides great diversity…there are some monster largemouth in there as well. It has become my favorite lake to fish when I have the opportunity to get down there.
I saw one of the big smallies caught on a drop shot. How often are you drop shotting?
Dropshotting, I am relatively new to. I have always been a power fisherman, crankbaits and jerkbaits were my strong suit but of recent I am having a hard time putting my spinning rods down. I always keep 2 drop shot rods rigged and on my deck at all times.
One I use is a 6’10 medium light, I have that spooled with 10# braid and an 8# fluorocarbon leader with a 1/0 Trokar drop shot hook and a 1/4 oz. tungsten cylinder weight. My other set up is a 7’ medium light spooled up with 10# braid and generally a 10# leader 1/0 drop shot hook and 1/2 oz. tungsten cylinder weight. Those are my 2 go-to set ups and they are ALWAYS on my deck.
For baits, that generally depends on what I’m fishing for, when I’m chasing largemouth I usually like to wacky rig a Strike King Ocho 5”. I like this set up because I can fish it fast and cover water or slow down and work specific targets. If I’m fishing for smallmouth in my area, my favorite bait is a Strike King Half Shell. It’s a small 3.5” hand poured bait-fish imitator and it flat out catches em.
However, if I’m going to fish the St Lawrence or Lake Ontario for smallies, there’s no better drop shot bait than the Gajo Baits Spirit Shad. It is a 4” goby-shaped bait and it’s hard to beat in places where their main forage is goby. I like all 3 of these baits because they are excellent drop shot baits and they come in a wide variety of fish catching colors.
What are your other favorite ways to fish for smallies?
Some of my other favorite methods for catching smallmouth are without a doubt a jerkbait. It’s hard to beat for smallies early in the year and I ALWAYS have 2 jerkbaits tied on. I think I do well with these baits on smallies because of the “pause” action. For how aggressive smallmouth generally are, they CAN NOT handle having a bait sitting in front of them like a suspending jerkbait.
I think the biggest key in being successful with this technique is confidence. Once I was able to develop confidence in this bait, I had a hard time throwing anything else. But the most important part about being good with a jerkbait is you have to have some pretty clean water. Luckily my area produces some pretty clear water which plays a big part in my success with a jerkbait.
I’ve recently started fishing with Spybaits as well, Duo Realis makes a great one that has a lot of the Great Lakes forage colors. I’ve done well early this year with a spybait on Oneida and Keuka so far. Perch is a hard color to beat for that application. I’ll throw those on a spinning rod, 7’ medium light, with a 30 size Abu Garcia winch spinning reel, 10# braid to an 8# fluorocarbon leader. Hold on tight, because they absolutely HAMMER those baits. I find them to be most productive on slick, blue bird skies where a jerkbait is not the best option.
What are your favorite New York largemouth bass waters to fish?
Largemouth have always been a big part of fishing for me, like most I started by fishing ponds. There are a lot of great ponds by my house that produce some quality largemouth. My favorite largemouth lake would have to be Conesus Lake. It’s one of the Finger Lakes here in New York and it’s home to some of the best largemouth bass around. Being that it’s only 35 miles from my house, it’s hard to not spend a Sunday afternoon there.
Generally, one day tournaments on Conesus bring in some monster bags. It takes over 20 pounds to even be considered for top 3 finish most of the time. I’ve seen bags as big as 25 to 26 pounds with largemouth being most of the fish getting weighed in.
My favorite way to catch largemouth is by far flippin grass. Heavy weights, heavy line, big rods. If I’m fishing this lake in the summer time I generally throw topwater for the first few hours of the day; a frog or a walking bait usually does damage on grass flats. But once that sun gets up, I love to find some thick vegetation and flip. 1/2 oz tungsten weight, 4/0 straight shank flippin hook and a Strike King Rage Bug is my go-to here.
This technique has produced my biggest fish on this lake so far. She weighed in at 6 pounds 4 ounces and I found her flippin a section of grass in a flat that came to a point. I like finding the irregularities in grass. They usually produce the big ones.
I’d have a hard time picking a second favorite lake for largemouth but it would definitely be either Keuka again or Cayuga. They are home to some mega largemouth as well.
What are your favorite largemouth techniques?
Like I had mentioned before, a few of my favorite largemouth techniques are froggin and flippin. It’s tough to beat these techniques in the dog days of summer when they get schooled up in the vegetation.
I love to throw buzzbaits around docks as well, that can usually get a quality bite in the summer months. Most of my largemouth techniques are polar opposite of how I’d target smallies. Usually always 17# fluorocarbon when I’m flippin and 65# braid for frogs and buzzbaits. Obviously some days might be different than others and downsizing might be something to consider if you’re having a hard time getting bites. I’ll have a backup flippin set up spooled with 12# fluorocarbon and a lighter tungsten weight. Usually somewhere around 1/8-1/4 oz. will do the trick for when they’re being finicky.
You have a gorgeous Nitro. Tell us about the boat.
Back in July of 2017 I sold my first bass boat which was a 2007 Stratos with a 90hp Evinrude. I outgrew it pretty quickly and was looking for something a little bigger. I came across a 2017 Nitro Z19 and the local Nitro dealer and I thought it would be too much boat for me. Luckily, one of the local “sticks” was there visiting and he was the one that talked me into it. I’m glad he did because it ended up being the perfect fit for me.
Being 19’4 it fits in some of the skinny spots I like to get into but it also fishes big. It handles big water great and with a tournament load and full gas tank, it gets out of the hole so quick with hardly any bow rise and she HAULS ASS. I love this boat especially for my area because you can fit 2 people up front and flip docks all day long and also she can handle rough water like a dream. In my opinion it’s just the perfect balance of size and power, and it’s price tag makes it hard to beat.
What accessories have you added to it to tweak its fishability?
Since buying my Z19 I have added quite a few things that really catered to my fishing style. It came with one 8’ Power Pole blade which was great, but I had to have 2. So I added another 8’ blade. Power Poles are an absolute “must have” for fishing shallow water. The blades are so fast to deploy and super quiet as well, which doesn’t spook the bass.
Another addition I’ve made is a Lowrance HDS 12 on the bow. It came with 2 HDS 7’s which are nice, but splitting the screen, it made it difficult to see certain things. I removed the HDS 7 from up front and mounted both HDS 7’s next to each other at the console using a Precision Sonar dual mount.
I have also added some small organizational pieces to remain efficient and organized during tournaments. Cook’s go-to tackle storage system and Tackle Webs are great accessories to help keep tackle and things organized.
What are your plans with your YouTube channel?
I do have a YouTube channel. I am not as active on it as I once was. Most of the content I create is generally 60 seconds or less and cater to Instagram or Facebook. I would love to make more Vlog style videos but for now my main concern is learning and becoming a better angler in tournaments. I believe the rest will fall into place.
Do you have any sponsors or pro staff companies?
I do have a Pro Staff company that I work with as of now, that being Enigma Rods. They make a great line of spinning and casting rods. I use their “Aaron’s Edge” series which is Aaron Martens’ signature series rods. Their spinning rods are very technique specific and I always have a few of them on the deck of my boat. They really cater to the die-hard, drop shot guys which really has helped me become a better drop shot fisherman. Having the right tools to do your job is critical and can make or break your day of fishing.
Thank you Dave. Looking forward to season of big bass on your Instagram @dave_fenlon.