Z Man Drop Shot Rig | Pro Tips

Z Man Fishing Products - The Drop Shot Rig

One of the most consistent fish catching rigs is the Drop Shot Rig. One of my favorite presentations for the Drop Shot Rig is the brand new bait Z-Man Trick ShotZ. Traditionally the way to rig this is with a nose hook it. But a better way to rig it to make it a little more weedless and more realistic is still to nose hook it, but take the Drop Shot hook and go under the chin of the Trick ShotZ and bring the hook to where you can just barely feel the hook. That will create a more horizontal presentation and all you to catch more fish.

Pro Tips,

The Sweetwater Boys

Z Man Ned Rig | Pro Tips

Z Man Ned Rig | Pro Tips

Ned Rig fishing has taken the fishing industry by storm over the past few years and one of my favorite variations is what I call the “Ned Meek.” With the Ned Meek I use the Z-Man TRD MinnowZ, I use this because it is the best bait to imitate shad. The thing about shad is that they don’t lay on the bottom and they are always moving. It’s a great vertical technique for dropping down and holding the bait about a foot off the bottom and teasing fish into bitting.

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Power Pole | Pro Tips

Power Pole - Total Boat Control

The Power-Pole is a great addition to any boat about to venture into the shallow water. For us, we use the Power-Pole not only as a shallow water anchor, but to keep our boat in place after unloading from the dock. That way, there is a decrease of chances to have scuff marks, as the boat won’t be sliding roughly off the ramp. With the Power-Pole, our boat is intact, and anchors wherever the best bass fishing spots are located.

Pro Tips,

The Sweetwater Boys

B&W Trailer Hitch | Pro Tips

B&W Trailer Hitches - Towing Adventure

The best thing about bass is that they can be found all over the country, but for so many, traveling can cause worry when attaching a boat, on top of a trailer, behind your truck. Luckily, for us, we never have to worry with the B&W Trailer Hitch, and can take our boat anywhere we choose without any fear of unlatching. This past week, we’ve been traveling to Tennessee and North Carolina, in search for the biggest bass we could find in the South, and have used B&W every mile of the way. B&W Trailer Hitch is built for safety and security in mind, and has a lifetime guarantee; it’s just that good.

Pro Tips,

The Sweetwater Boys

Sonar's Safe Summer Boating Tips

It felt like forever, but the wait for warmer weather is now over, and with the coming of summer conditions, comes some prime boating conditions.  

I am fortunate enough to spend a bunch of time on the water throughout a year, and over my many years of boating experience, I learned to accept safety as one of my most important priorities while on the water- in fact, I should say it is THE MOST important.  

Since taking the boat to the lake is likely going to be one of your top priorities too, during the next few months, here are some things to keep in mind about some safe boating practices.

Rules Of The Road

Though it might seem like driving your boat like Mad Max is completely acceptable, there is actually an equally complex set of rules for driving on the water, as there are on land.  Knowing the fundamentals of the "rules of the road" when it comes to boating really is essential.  

Here is a brief, and very basic, refresher course of the rules of the road while boating:

Understanding the basic "rules of the road" on the water will drastically improve safe navigation.

Understanding the basic "rules of the road" on the water will drastically improve safe navigation.

  • Remember "red, right, returning" which, in a nutshell, means that red channel buoys are on your right (starboard) side when you are returning from open water, while green markers should be on your left (port) side when returning from open water.

  • Always stay to the right on a channel when passing other boats- just like the driving on a street.

  • If a boat is coming towards you in a crossing situation, to your right, it is your responsibility to avoid them by turning right and continuing on at a safe distance behind them as they pass.

  • If a boat is coming towards you from the left in a crossing situation, you technically have the right of way, but still use caution as you proceed on.

  • Always use caution and give the right of way to boats and vessels that have less maneuverability.

 Though there are many rules to follow on the water, there are also many variables that may require you to improvise, but the key to making safe decisions is to be aware of your surroundings and use extreme caution when navigating anywhere near other boats, and never assume other boaters know the rules of navigation.  

The Right Stuff

I'll be honest, when I first started operating a boat when I was younger I really was quite lax on making sure I was keeping, and using, the correct safety equipment that the USCG recommends-and in many cases legally requires.

After more than a decade of working in Alaska as a fishing guide, my experiences have changed my overall attitude towards boating safety.  I know theres a big difference between the perils of the icy cold waters of The Last Frontier and the bathwater of the Tennessee River, but one thing I have learned is to never underestimate any waterway, or be careless on the water.  Most of the same safety gear I keep in my boat in Alaska, is the same that I use down here, and for good reason.  

Here are my must-haves anytime I launch the boat:

  • Life Preserver (PFD): This is an obvious item, but one that many neglect to properly use. Have one for each passenger and wear them!

  • Class IV Throwable: A Class IV flotation device is a throwable float, usually in the form of a life ring, or square cushion.

  • Kill Switch: This is essentially a switch that is attached to a lanyard, where if the lanyard is pulled, the engine will shut down. You should always attach the lanyard to your person, or clip it onto your PFD. It won't work if you aren't wearing it.

  • Fire Extinguisher: Know where it is, know if it works, know how it works, and know how to use it!

  • Sound Emitting Device: Your boat's horn is of course handy for making audible distress signals, but I think you should go as far as attaching a small whistle to your PFD for good measure.

  • Visual Distress Signal: Whether you select flares (always a good choice for day or night) or some other sort of high visibility (usually orange in color) device, this can save you from a similar fate to Tom Hanks in that one movie.

  • Water: Yes, you are surrounded by it, but it's always nice not to have to drink pond water when battling dehydration. Carry several bottles of water per passenger, and be sure to drink often, because once dehydration sets in, it is very difficult to battle it.

  • Sun Screen: Because your momma told you so.

  • Protective Clothing: Wearing clothing that has SPF protection can be a much better alternative to trying to apply sunscreen every two hours. My favorite shirts are the HUK hooded sun shirts, and I also often wear Buff Gloves, and obviously never forget my Buff face mask.

Have a USCG approved PFD for all your precious cargo!

Have a USCG approved PFD for all your precious cargo!

In the end, I know many of these things on this list are cliche, and things you have heard before, but as your friend, I feel they merit mentioning again, because having a fun time on the water is the goal for everyone during the summer, and theres nothing fun about having an incident, that could have been prevented, put a damper on your outing.  

Have fun in the sun this summer, and BE SAFE!


Monster Stripers Kick-Off Season 4!

Photo: Graham Tayloe

Photo: Graham Tayloe

Joey and I have been very fortunate to be part of Sweetwater since the very beginning.  Over the last three seasons we have been humbled by the show's growing success, but we are also very grateful for the opportunity to be part of so many great fishing adventures across the country.

Though our first few seasons have continually raised the bar, I firmly believe that Season 4 is going to be our best yet- and we kick it off with a striped bass extravaganza that neither Joey or I will soon forget!

Photo: Graham Tayloe

Photo: Graham Tayloe

Graham's Striper Heaven

We are fortunate to work with some very talented photographers while we are filming, and one of them is Graham Tayloe, who is also an extremely skilled outdoorsman, and intuitive angler.  

Graham had been telling Joey and I about the striped bass he had been catching, and we had seen a multitude of photos on his Instagram, so we knew he was legit.  So, when the stars aligned and we were able to schedule a trip to come up to the Coosa River to join him, we naturally jumped on the chance.

Without giving too much away, all I can say is that I have never experienced striper fishing even close to the caliber that Graham showed us during this episode.  First off, the stripers (and massive hybrids) were much more skeptical and cunning than I had ever though possible with that species of sportfish- and I certainly hadn't been giving them their due credit.  Also, it was absolutely incredible the size of the fish we were targeting, and we ultimately able to catch.

Of course, I don't want to get into too much detail because the show will be debuting VERY soon on Waypoint TV and I don't want to spoil it for you.  What I will say is that it is some of the most exciting striper footage you likely will ever see, and Im excited for you to see it.  

We all at Sweetwater TV have had a blast this year filming for our fourth season, and we hope that the episodes you will be seeing hit Waypoint TV will continue to carry the torch and represent what Sweetwater is truly all about- adventure, outdoors, friendships and family.  






Sonar's Top-3 Trailering Tips

Stay In Touch

I will openly admit, I consider myself a bit obsessive compulsive when it comes to my equipment, and in recent years my boat trailer has received the most attention when it comes to my obsessive tendencies.  My intense attention to detail with my trailer comes from a major mishap on the road many years back that left my boat and trailer stranded at a truck repair lot in the middle of nowhere for over a month, all due to an issue I could have easily prevented by paying attention to my equipment regularly.  

Since that experience, beyond making sure my lug nuts are tightened and tire pressure is to spec, the biggest thing that I pay attention to when towing a trailer is the condition of the bearings and hubs.  Moisture and heat are the two major killers of bearings, and usually both are present in the event of a bearing failure.  That being said, I highly suggest that every time you stop for gas, you take a moment to walk around and touch each hub to feel for excessive heat.  Warm hubs are normal, and a little more heat will be present on axles that are equipped with brakes, but if the heat is such that you cannot hold the hub for more than a couple seconds, you need to get your bearings checked.  Excessive heat can also be due to faulty brakes that remain engaged, which is another issue that needs immediate attention.  I also inspect the hub for any possible damage that could let water into the hub- which usually is easily recognizable by seeing grease spatter on your wheels originating from your hub.  If grease can escape, water can get in!


The Right Height

While trailering your boat, or any kind of trailer, one of the most essential- and often overlooked- factors that can ensure a safe towing experience, is the height of the trailer ball in relation to the height of your trailer and truck.  

As a general rule, when your trailer is hooked up to your vehicle, the trailer hitch and chassis should be parallel with the ground rather than having the trailer hitch sloping towards the ground or angled up.  Having a trailer with the hitch angled too high will result in a less stable towing situation, as well as increase the risk of bottoming out the rear of the trailer (or your engine) while entering and exiting parking lots with inclines.  When it comes to trailer hitches that are too low, you again reduce the stability of your trailer while in tow, and also increase the risk of bottoming out your hitch or trailer entering and exiting areas with inclines.  

I recommend getting a quality adjustable hitch that you can adjust the height of the ball, because when I go from my bass boat trailer to a box trailer that is a bit lower to the ground, I want to be able to adjust on the fly. For this reason, I choose the B&W Tow and Stow adjustable trailer hitch because I can adjust the height of my hitch quickly and easily to get the perfect height out of any trailer.  Another great feature of this hitch is that you can not only change the height but also choose between either two or three ball sizes on the fly, so I always have the right towing gear for any job that comes up.  

Be Your Own Pit Crew

Over the years touring the country fishing tournaments and filming Sweetwater, I have acquired quite a collection of tools that have helped me maintain my equipment, and often fix issues before they become even bigger issues.  

Though the amount of tools and spare parts I carry with me might be excessive for the average person who tow’s on occasion, I can’t overstate the importance of being prepared on long trips.  Issues with a trailer can be one of the most inconvenient and dangerous situations on the road, so I want to help you equip yourself with a basic kit to help you keep your trailer rolling safely behind you, even if you are hundreds of miles from a service center.  


Here are the basics I recommend you invest in:

-One or two  short 4”x4” blocks of wood for chocking wheels.

-Standard bottle-style hydraulic jack (optional, but very helpful for quick and easy lifting jobs)

-Cross-style lug wrench.  

-Spare hub, or spare bearing assembly, and trailer bearing grease.

-Adjustable wrench big enough to remove hub nut for hub replacement.  

-Shop towels

-Spare pins to keep trailer tongue in locked position if a pin breaks, bends, or is lost.

-Emergency air compressor for tires.

This list may seem excessive to carry around with you but if you log a lot of miles with a trailer behind you, being prepared for the most common things that leave trailers stranded is simply good trailering practices in my book!!

Be safe out there!