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Lure Chat with Byron Velvick

This is a must read interview for anyone wanting to learn how to fish swimbaits.

Byron Velvick slings his BV3D swimbait at the Golden State Shootout. (Photo: Seigo Saito / BASS)

If you listen to dock talk among fishermen out West, you will learn that the WON US Open tournament rivals The Bassmaster Classic in terms of prestige out there.  Because he won two US Open championships during the 90s, Byron Velvick earned his reputation as a big stick out West.  Back East, however, he is known as much for being “that bachelor dude” as anything else.  (That “bachelor dude” refers to his appearance on season 6 of ABC’s “The Bachelor” TV show).

His credibility as a pro-fisherman among us Easterners should should rise considerably after this weekend however, as The Bassmaster Tournament Trail on ESPN2 will chronicle how Byron lead the field, wire-to-wire, at the 2010 Golden State Shootout.  Byron ended up beating his nearest competitor by nearly six pounds, and bested others fishing on the final day by over twenty pounds.

I caught up with Byron on the phone at his Amistad Lake Resort in Texas.  Right off the bat I could tell that Byron is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the sport.

Bo Crawford (Bocraw):  To prepare for this interview I googled “Byron Velvick”, and was amazed at all The Bachelor stuff that came up.  Do you ever feel like your celebrity from The Bachelor overshadows your fishing career?

Byron Velvick (Velvick):  No—I think they are two different things.  I was glad to take professional fishing and expose it to ten million new people on national TV.  I didn’t mind the fact that for a moment in time I was the most recognized professional fishermen on TV…I got to expose bass fishing to a monster audience–that is not a bad thing for the sport or for fishing in general.

Bocraw: You live in Texas now—do I remember reading that you moved there after falling in love with Lake Amistad?

Velvick:  Yes.  We fished a tournament here five years ago and I ended up buying a house, and eventually ended up buying a hotel ( Amistad Lake Resort ).  It has really worked out great.

Bocraw:  You are also famous in the bass fishing world for having the BASS record for a three-day event.  Does that record still stand?

Velvick:  Yes, the three day record still stands–it has been challenged several times—but all in all the record still holds.  It is the three day winning weight for five fish daily limit in Bassmaster competition.  That record was set ten years ago, almost to the day, at Clear Lake. (The 3-day weight record is 83-05).

Bocraw:  I think the first time I read about swimbaits was after you caught those fish.  Weren’t those fish caught on a swimbait too?

The Rago BV3D ( Photo: Tackle Tour)

Velvick: Yes, I was throwing a swimbait.  It was really a neat deal back then because not a lot of people were throwing them.  I had won several tournaments in the 90s using swimbaits, and was trying to keep it as much of a secret as I could.  My secret was pretty solid until I broke that record in 2000.  Prior to that people didn’t used to use swimbaits that much in tournaments because they were always considered too big.  People used to think, “I can’t believe a fish would eat that”.

It is amazing what people used to think of as too big.  Everyone was so stuck on crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, and all these little 2, 3, or 4 inch lures.  It just blew their minds when you pulled out something that was 7 or 8 inches.  People just fell out of their chairs!

Bocraw:  Back then swimbaits resembled trout.  Right?

Velvick: The swimbait I won with back then didn’t even resemble a trout—it didn’t have any trout colors.  It was just a big swimbait with a pearl body and black back.

The thing is that most fish lose a lot of their color when they flee.  When they are running for their lives they lose their normal color and turn pearlescent.  It is just like a person when they get in a fight—they turn real blanch and all the blood rushes to their stomachs.  Fish are the same way when they are spooked—they lose a lot of their color.  So you can’t go wrong throwing a generic color like white or pearl with a little color on the back.  That is what I used ten years ago.

A Hitch fish, aka yummy bass candy on Clear Lake.

Bocraw:  The swimbait you used for this tournament resembled a hitch.  What is a hitch?  We don’t have those here in the East do we?

Velvick:  No you don’t have them and most places don’t.   It is funny because around the country when you talk about a hitch, people think your are talking about the connection between your boat and truck…it’s the ball and the pin and all that.  They are asking, “what is this hitch fish thing”?

A hitch looks like a carp.  It has a long body with a pronounced set of fins on the upper part of it.  It kind-of looks like a little trash fish, but it is long and narrow and easy for a bass to swallow.

Bocraw:  Are they exotic or native to California?

Velvick:  It is a native fish as far I know.  It is not found in many lakes, even in California.  But Clear Lake is a natural lake and the hitch have probably been in there forever.

Ten years ago a lot of people in California didn’t know what a hitch was.  In fact, I remember getting one and driving it all the way down to Southern California so that Bruce Porter could take a good look at what a hitch looks like (Bruce Porter is a famous swimbait designer with BassTrix).

Bocraw: What is the exact lure you used to win the Golden State Shootout?

Velvick:  It was the seven-inch Rago BV3D made by Jerry Rago.  It is a perfect replica of a hitch.  The reason we call it a 3D is it actually has all the dimensions of a hitch all the way around.   It doesn’t have a flat back like a lot of the other swimbaits have.  The BV3D really is a natural looking three dimensional bait.

The BV3D swims. (Photo: Tackle Tour)

Jerry Rago is one of these old school legends.  There is a group of these guys out here; Jerry Rago, Bruce Porter, Ken Huddleston, Mickey Ellis—these are the old school salt of the earth guys from the swimbait era.  I’ve got nothing but respect for these guys.  I’m so stoked to give Jerry Rago props for winning a tournament on one of his baits.

Bocraw:  When you are fishing with a big swimbait, does it really feel like you are throwing a housecat?

Velvick:  Ha!  You had better get your arms in shape and do your P90X workout.  You have to do your stretches and get warmed-up in the mornings before you go out, or else you will pull a muscle.

It takes a lot of torque to throw that thing…you have to lob it out there.  Don’t expect to feel much except a blob of nothing coming in.  You aren’t going to fell the rod wiggling, moving, and vibrating like you would with a chatterbait…it is not going to do anything fun…it is just going to slowly come in.

Bocraw:  For that reason, do you really need clear water to fish a swim bait like that?

Velvick:  Clear, yes–but not too clear.  Actually, the Clear Lake water had that nice green stain…I like water with a little bit of color to it, but I certainly don’t want dirty water.

Bocraw:  I’ve read something about not fishing braided line with swimbaits.  What is up with that?

Velvick: You don’t want to throw a heavy bait on braid.  It will bind up and cut itself.  Primarily I use mono because it is more forgiving…I like 17 or 20 lb Berkley XT.  In this tournament, because I was fishing on the bottom, I was using 20 lb Trilene 100 % Fluorocarbon.  I was throwing it out and slooowwly reeling it in and just ticking the bottom.  Flurocarbon is better for bottom bouncing.

Bocraw:  I’m looking at this picture of the BV3D on Tackle Tour, and it shows a big treble hook on the bottom of the lure.  How can you bounce that on the bottom without getting hung up?

The Owner Stinger Harness Rig. Byron used #4 hooks.

Velvick: There are two things going on.  The way Rago weighted it, the lure rest nose down on the bottom so the hook is riding above the bottom.  Plus the two pectoral fins protect the hook and knocks stuff out of the way.  The best part of the tournament was that I was able to crawl this thing across the bottom and didn’t have problems getting hung.

Now, the other thing I did was use an Owner Stinger Harness Rig #4 and ran the wire to the tail, so that if I got short strikes I would catch the fish, including the 10-11.

Both those hooks were riding above the bait as I bounced it off of stuff along the bottom.  It was not getting hung.

Bocraw:  All your competitors were complaining about short strikes.  So I guess the stinger hook was critical considering your 10 lber was hooked on the stinger only?

Velvick:  I know it was critical.  That stinger hook was a very big part of of it because the fish were popping it.  There were a couple of other things I did differently too; I colored up the bait and put some red gills on it, and I put some Hot Sauce on it.  I was rubbing it down with Hot Sauce and making it scenty and making it slippery so that when the fish hit it, it felt like a hitch.  The hitch is a real slimy carp type fish.  I wanted to put a slimy skin on that swimbait like a hitch.

That is a secret I’ve been doing for well over 10 years that I never talked much until this week when I literally had a plastic plate on my boat that I used rub this hot sauce on my swimbait.  Hot sauce is a fish scent that kind of looks like butter.  I called it buttering the toast.

So three things were going on that I did differently:  1) My lure was scenty, 2) my lure was slippery, and 3) my lure had a stinger hook in the tail.  I think those three things allowed me to get more fish in the boat than my competitors.

Bocraw:  All twenty fish that weighed in were caught on the BV3D?

Velvick:  Yes.  All twenty fish.  When you get on something like that at Clear Lake you are going to be tough to beat.  That bait and I got so dialed that I almost knew when I was going to get a bite.  All 98 pounds was caught on that bait.

Bocraw:  Byron, do you still have the saltwater show on ESPN2?

Velvick: Yes– Going Coastal.  ESPN2 on Sunday mornings at 8:30 EST.

Bocraw: Have you tried throwing swimbaits for saltwater fish?

Velvick: I throw them almost every show…

Bocraw: I guess I am telling on myself…

Salmon like swimbaits too. (Photo: ESPN Outdoors)

Velvick: If you watch Going Coastal you are going to see me pick up a swimbait.  The production guys laugh at me because I take swimbaits with me.  I’ve caught Rooster Fish, Snapper…I was catching Mako sharks on my True Tungsten swimbait.  In Alaska, I was putting Berkley Hollow Bellies on a downrigger and catching Salmon—the Captain couldn’t believe it.  Everywhere I go I have swimbaits.

Bocraw:  I saw the name Tight Lines on your boat wrap.  What is Tight Lines?

Velvick: Tight Lines is a soft plastics bait company.  They are making these incredible soft plastic baits.  These baits reflect UV light like the baits do in nature. What Berkley did for scent, Tight Lines is going to do for vision.   Many of the pros are starting to use them.  ( See Tight Lines website at http://www.uv-tackle.com/ )

Bocraw: Thanks for the knowledge Byron.

Velvick: I had a great time.  Thank you very much.

Note: Tackle Experts will add the following to our BASS Prize Pack:

  • 1 Rago BV3D, Light Hitch Color
  • 1 package Owner Stinger Harness Rig
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  1. March 30, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Great article!

  2. Joshua F
    June 6, 2010 at 6:49 am

    It is a great article and it works.

  3. Cody
    June 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    That Hot Sauce stuff works. Check it out at http://edgefishing.com/html/hot_sauce.html

  4. Evan Wofford
    April 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Wow, I just went swimming in our creek yesterday, which runs out to Clear Lake from the southwestern side, and the was hitch every where, but all we had was a bucket, so we actually caught them with our bare hands! It was very easy actually. And yes, they are native fish. My mother used to watch the Indians follow the creek all the time, and it was legal for them to trespass because it was their creek.

  5. Evan Wofford
    April 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I hear they dumped a bunch of carp and trout into Blue Lakes. You should check it out.

  1. March 30, 2010 at 1:47 am
  2. April 27, 2010 at 4:04 am
  3. May 14, 2010 at 8:30 am

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