Simms Pros Take Over the Podiums


Last week was a big week in the tournament circuit for the Simms Professional Anglers. Multiple events, multiple trophies.

It’s been a big few weeks for the professional angler circuits. Because of the crazy start to 2020, fishing tours across the country are in full swing due to the delayed starts. From Walleye to Bass, professional anglers have been grinding away the summer doldrums, chasing trophies across the nation. For a few individuals, the chase was fruitful in the form of huge cash prizes and hoisting trophies on the big stage.

Bassmaster Elite is Back in NY, and Simms Pros take the top two spots

Entering the final day at Lake Champlain, the field was insanely tight. The top 10 anglers were separated by a meer 2lbs 12 oz., and the weather pattern that held for the first 3 days was finally breaking. Enter, Brandon Palaniuk.

Palaniuk went into the final day sitting in 5th, 1lb 1oz off the leader Jamie Hartman, but he was feeling good. A lot of Palaniuks practice fishing was done under similar windy, overcast conditions, so he knew leaving the dock he stood a chance, a real one.

“I had a really good practice and I felt like I could literally drive around, look at my (Humminbird) LakeMaster charts, pull up on a spot and catch big ones. I think the wind this morning helped push those baitfish up and it moved a lot of those fish up. Those fish aren’t resident fish; they chase schools of bait,” recounts Brandon after the final weigh in.

And boy did he catch the big ones- lots of them. Palaniuk finished the final day with the biggest bag of the entire tournament at 21lbs 6oz, earning him his first Bassmaster Elite Series trophy in over 3 years. When he went up on stage to collect his cup, he also collected a total prize purse of $100,000 dollars. I’m not a betting man, but I have a feeling that trophy felt priceless…

Not to be outdone, fellow simms pro Seth Feider put up a stellar performance at Lake Champlain, falling short of Palaniuks mark by 1lb 3ozs to claim the second spot. Feiders approach to the tournament was far more centered around flipping docks chasing largemouth in the early stages of the event until Sunday when he shifted his whole focus towards smallmouth. Feider kept himself in the running by scoring some monster fish, stating “I got really lucky and caught two great big ones that gave me a chance. It just wasn’t enough.”

While Feider couldn’t close the gap on the last day, he did go home with the Phoenix Boats Big Bass title, scoring a 6lb 6oz largemouth on day 2. Two anglers, two trophies, and a one, two finish- not a bad showing for the boys up in Champlain. Onto the next one.

Sprengel crushes the competition on Green Bay

Just like everything else in 2020, the start of the National Walleye Tour was off to a rocky. Originally scheduled for mid April, the anglers waited patiently for the revised start date- July 23rd. No one was more excited for the opener than Simms pro walleye angler Korey Sprengel, perennial Walleye champion. Since the National Walleye Tour’s inception, Sprengel has won 5 of 29 events, and has been in all of the top 10s of the Angler of the Year since 2013. 2019 was still a stellar year with a 4th place AOY finish, but his season’s success was overshadowed by a few other story lines, namely fellow Simms pro John Hoyer’s three tournament run of two first place and one second place finish.

As you could imagine, redemption was on Korey’s mind. And when he saw that the opening event was to be hosted on Green Bay, he knew only he could beat himself. Time to reclaim the unofficial title of the greatest walleye fisherman the tour has ever known.

And wouldn’t you know it, that is exactly what he did. Korey had a good grip on what to do in Green Bay, and his plan played out perfectly. “The whole key this week was my first bite on day one,” recalled Sprengel. “With the northeast wind, I knew it was going to be a needle in the haystack. But I also knew the recipe. I just needed to know if the recipe was going to work. That first fish bit twice, if not three times. It was only like a 20-incher, but I knew if they were going to bite multiple times, there was something to be had. From there, it was all about fine tuning it.”

After putting up a huge bag the first day with 5 fish to 42.13lbs and his closest competitor scoring 36.03lbs, he was in great standing for day 2. Come weigh in time on the last day, the victory was nothing short of comprehensive. Sprengel finished the tournament with 77.48 pounds, obliterating the rest of the field. His margin of victory was 17.17 pounds, the biggest margin in the tours history. With that win, Sprengel took home a purse of over 92K dollars. Not bad a few days work.

Welcome back to the top, Korey. Go get that throne.

A Win For All Things Wild

In a great showing of bipartisanship for the sake of our national parks, equal outdoor access, and preserving the wild places that we hold dear, the Great American Outdoors Act cleared its final hurdle. Let’s all raise a glass and celebrate this monumental win for conservation.

A signature from the president putting the Great American Outdoors Act into legislation — for all outdoor enthusiasts, is a big deal. In fact, some are calling it the biggest win in conservation since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

After passing through the Senate in mid-June and through the House of Representatives at the end of July, POTUS made the legislation official today by signing the historic bill into law. The bill, which has been in contention for years, can be thought of in two major parts. On one side, the bill will provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and at the same time, the bill will also create a separate fund to improve a drastically underfunded national parks system.

The goal for the national park fund is to make sure that parks have adequate support, ranging from fixing access roads to maintaining trails, all the way to bathroom access. With the LWCF, this will be the second time since its inception in 1965 that it is fully funded. It will help ensure access to public lands for recreation- including fishing, while protecting and expanding the public playground from the most remote wilderness areas to local municipal parks. This is helping access and usage for all, no matter where you live, using zero taxpayer dollars.

The LWCF has been a highly contested fund for years, and Simms has been on the front lines in support of full and permanent funding of LWCF for decades. Since his earliest days at Simms, K.C Walsh, Simms’ Principal Owner and Executive Chairman, recognized the significance of conservationism and the importance of working towards maintaining clean air, clean water, and protecting wildlife habitat for all to enjoy. During his tenure as Board Chair for the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Walsh became intimately familiar with LWCF and its significance to the fishing industry from longtime conservation lobbyist and founder of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), Jim Range. From that point forward, Walsh and other leaders of the Simms team have leaned into the conversation wherever and whenever possible.

This is a step in the right direction. The world is a crazy place these days, and nothing is going to get fixed overnight. This, however, is a huge win that warrants celebration. It’s a win for public land access, a win for bipartisanship, and most importantly, its a win for natural resources.

The administration feels it is such significant news that from here on out, August 4th will be known as the “Great American Outdoors Day.” That means that entrance fees will be waived on public lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a special bonus, Wednesday, August 5th will also be a fee-free day on all the aforementioned public lands.

So remember- the next time you’re on the water or recreating on public land, give toast to the Great American Outdoor Act and be grateful it passed.

For information on this historic milestone for the outdoors, click here.

Layering Under Waders

Unlocking the puzzle of what to wear under waders

Today’s the day. You’ve got big plans to spend a long day hiking around in waders, looking for risers, and playing in natures’ playground. You pull out your rod and reel, some flies, maybe a libation or two, and you’re ready to go. You’re about to step into your waders, look down at your blue jeans and think to yourself, “there’s got to be something better than this.” And wouldn’t you know it- there is.

From the hottest days on the Henry’s Fork to the coldest days swinging for steelhead, base layers are essential items to stay comfortable in your waders. That part is obvious. However, choosing the right layer for your particular fishing situation might be less obvious.

Continue reading below to hear what we think are some of the right clothing options for layering up under waders for different fishing scenarios throughout the year.

Something to keep in mind when layering up before putting on your waders- despite the season- you are likely to sweat to some degree. Whether it’s a long hike in through the snow or baking in the sun on a hot summer day, you get hot in waders. Wearing clothing underneath waders that breathes and wicks moisture away from the skin is key. Look for base layers that contain polyester, which is a tried and true moisture-wicking material. Other materials to consider are nylon, merino wool, or a blend of all of them. One thing to always, always remember- Cotton in any form is your enemy! It sucks up moisture, keeping you damp and uncomfortable all day long. 

Socks

Let’s start at the bottom- the socks. Simms offers a whole line of merino wool socks for any season and any scenario. It is always a good idea to wear socks that go above your ankle to prevent rubbing against the neoprene in the booties of your waders. Longer socks also give you the option to tuck your leg layers in to prevent bunching and cold spots where the skin is directly against the waders. 

For the warmer summer months, the Guide Lightweight Crew Sock is going to be your best friend. In the cooler months when air temps are more variable and the water temps are on the chillier side- Guide Midweight OTC Socks are going to be the perfect fit. For any cold-weather fishing or water that’s constantly below 45 to 50 degrees, we recommend the Guide Thermal OTC Socks. You have to be careful about layering socks when the weather gets cold- constricting blood flow to your feet in cold weather is only going to make you get colder faster.

Leg Layers

During the warmer summer months, you can usually get away with a pair of light pants under the waders rather than a core bottom. Since wool is a little more insulating, focus on the quick-dry pants like the Superlight Pants or the Fast Action Pants. For the lady anglers out there, the Bugstopper Leggings and the Mataura Pant are the perfect options for this time of year. This way you will still have a barrier between your legs and the waders to draw a bit of moisture away from the skin, but won’t insulate heat towards your legs.

For the remainder of the year, you are going to want to focus more around the baselayers and thermals we have on offer. Even on hotter days when the water is on the colder side, you will always be more comfortable with some level of insulation. The Men’s Lightweight and Midweight Core Bottoms as well as the Men’s Fleece Midlayer Bottoms are the perfect options for the intermittent weather and water conditions. On the women’s side of things, the Women’s Lightweight Core Bottom and the Women’s Fleece Midlayer Bottom‘s apply to the same scenarios. The fleece midlayers are on the warmer end of the spectrum, so those are best served in the early spring and fall temps.

If you are anticipating spending the day in freezing air temps and frigid water, finding bottoms that have multiple layers is going to help with trapping heat close to the body. This is the point where you should start looking towards our Men’s Exstream Core Bottom, Fjord Pants, or even the Midstream Insulated Pants, as well as the Women’s Coldweather Pants. The exstream core bottoms are going to suit you well for that late fall/early winter situation where you need insulation, but also might be moving around quite a bit from spot to spot. The Fjords and the Insulated pants are for those extreme conditions where you know it’s going to be cold the whole time. Consider combining layers if you are going to be spending long days wading rather than hiking. For anyone that has spent a day swinging for winter steelhead knows that the heat slowly gets sucked away from your legs the longer you spend standing in 35 degrees water. Combining a few layers together like Midweight Core or the Fleece Midlayers under one of the heavier Fjords or the Midstream Insulated pants will give you optimal warmth without adding too much bulk under the waders.  

It often takes a bit of time coming up for the perfect layering formula for each fishing scenario, so mix it up until you find what you are most comfortable in. Nothing is worse than trying to take your waders off to adjust your leg layers during the middle of a freezing cold day, so do your best to plan accordingly.

The Modern Surf Fisherman: A Different Breed

It can take months to get proficient in the surf fishing game. It takes years, if not a lifetime, to master catching large striped bass from the surf. Unlike the boat bound anglers, the surf fishing crowd is a different breed. They spend countless nights sleepless and skunked, even going as far as dawning a wetsuit and swimming out to normally unreachable structure. If you ask around, you will hear all sorts of surf fishermen stereotypes, but the one that always comes up- they have a screw loose. That’s what these fish do to this dedicated group of anglers. They are tight-lipped, scientists of their craft, and constantly pursuing that next epic bite.

We decided to pick the brains of Simms Ambassador Frank Goncalves– plug builder and big fish enthusiast – on what it takes to be successful from the surf. Frank spends his whole spring, summer and fall targeting large striped bass from the beach and rocks, often in the middle of the night. He is a bit of a jedi knowing where to be on what tide, what moon cycle to fish, and which hand-built plug is going to serve him best on any given night. If you want to learn about what it takes to be successful from the rocks, check out the conversation below with one of New England’s best.

Simms: Hey Frank, good to hear from you man. We are sitting down for this talk at the end of June, which means your season is already well underway – how’s it been so far for you? We just have to know…

Likewise! As for the 2020 season, thus far, it’s had its solid nights followed by some really slow nights. Which is expected, of course. It seems to be another season, where some serious dedication and sleepless nights are the only thing that yield solid results. Which, of course, I’m all for but I won’t argue stumbling across some easy bites. Hoping as we enter summer, patterns from previous seasons mixed with what has been working for this season all comes together. Fingers crossed!

Simms: Alright now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, tell us a little bit about you- who you are, how long you’ve been surf fishing, what you spend your fishing time doing, what you are targeting, etc.?

Frank: I’m a surfcaster living in South Eastern Massachusetts, where I was lucky enough to be born and raised. Although I fished most of my childhood, from boat and shore, I was drawn to surf fishing about fifteen years ago. If I wasn’t already addicted enough to fishing, the combination of targeting striped bass from rocks and doing it through-out the night, made for my perfect recipe.

Simms: Now let’s get into the knitty gritty of it all. Can you give us some insight into fishing during the day versus the night game? I have a feeling I know your preference, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about your favorite conditions?

Frank: Like most surf rats, I primarily fish nights, dark ones preferably. I do, however, really enjoy day time fishing early spring and late fall. Hard to beat topwater after a long winter or after a long, tiring season.

As for conditions, it’s mostly dependent on the spot. In saying that, it’s tough to beat a big tide around the new moon. I love finding light wind out of the southwest and just enough swell to drown out any noise. The fish just seem to feel much more comfortable in tight to structure during those times. There’s always a balance with the wind though- I like just enough to cause some surface disturbance but not enough to dirty up the water.

Simms: The fishery changes a ton throughout the season. Aside from the obvious- hotter/colder longer/shorter days- what changes do you see throughout a fishing season? 

Frank: Fish behavior for sure. Often spring and fall, I feel like I’m targeting a completely different species than in the summer. They often take up residency wherever they feel comfortable for the warmer months and they’re a lot less charged up than the migratory months. This makes targeting them a little less run-and-gun and a lot more finesse fishing. For me anyway. 

Simms: You mentioned the big tides and the structure around your home waters; what factors are you looking at when deciding when and where to go? Is there a golden formula?

Frank: Our tides aren’t as large as some other places so I try to take advantage of the larger tides each month. If you can pair those tides with structure where that already fast-moving water is being forced through, you can usually find larger fish. They tend to be lazy looking for easy meals, so you’ll often find them using the same structure in the same types of choke points.

Simms: Okay, hold on a second here- we need to know more about this whole moon tide situation. We hear people talking about the new moon bite, the flood tide full moons, and all sorts of strange lingo about tides. Please enlighten us.

Frank: The tides around the moons (full and new) are generally larger, therefore faster, which bass seem to use to their advantage and maybe more so tight into shore. However, if you asked any surfcaster, they’d most likely tell you they despise fishing full moons. The full moons are a love-hate relationship- if you get some cloud cover the bite can turn on, but for whatever reason the bass don’t like feeding under the bright moon light. This leaves the new moon, ideal for most surf rats. 

Simms: So conditions and locations aside, surf guys love their gear, to the point where they often start making their own. I’ve seen the plugs you’ve built over the years, and it’s left us drooling over at Simms. Tell us a bit about what got you into plug building?

Frank: Since I started surfcasting, I’d use a variety of plug styles from various builders. Most from small volume builders that I grew to respect. While most were great swimming plugs that were extremely well built and caught, I thought I could build my own and make them specific to the spots I fished. Much like tying flies, I guess.

After toying with the idea of building in the off-season, I built my first few plugs about thirteen years ago after buying an old lathe. I had success on some and each winter, I’d try to improve on those styles while creating new ones. I’d also clone classic styles and fish them to see what made them popular for so many years. Not much has changed in design over the years, so you can learn a ton from any plug.

Simms: I need to know, do you still have the first plug that you built? Did it actually work or was it just a throw away?

Frank: I actually do! Well I have the first plug that actually caught fish from the first set I built. It was no eye-catcher, but I did manage a handful of fish on it including a 22lb bass. Before losing it, I decided to fish a duplicate and hang that one up. I’ll spare everyone a look at the monstrosity but it still hangs on my shop wall, slightly hidden.

Simms: If you had one lure/bait to fish for the rest of your life, what would it be? Swimmers, Jigs, eels ? 

Frank: Tough one here, BUT, I’d have to go with a darter. A rigged eel would be a very close second! Although, it’s still early on in the season, and metal lips have produced more for me than any other plug- I’d be surprised if that holds true all season. Season after season, darters just produce for how and where I fish.

Simms: By your standards, what is the mark of a trophy striper?

Frank: I mean, I consider a fifty-pound Striped Bass a “trophy” like most, but I always feel some amount of luck comes into play with a fifty. I won’t say a forty pound fish is considered a trophy but I’d be just as happy with a forty that I targeting used wind, tide and some experience over a blindly caught fifty.

Simms: What’s your most memorable fish that you have taken from shore to date? Can you give us a rundown of how that experience went for you?

Frank: Ah, another tough one. A few stand out but most of my memorable fish wasn’t the largest, actually. It was more so just how everything played out. The most recent was topwater fish at dusk last fall. Not sure a day time fish gives a surfcaster the same satisfaction as a large fish in the night, but this particular fish did. It was late season, I had dropped two or three fish that weren’t huge but I would have been happy landing. Right before I was thinking about throwing in the towel and taking a break until the night bite, I made a few more casts hoping to raise another. After feeling almost certain it wasn’t going to happen, my plug got absolutely crushed. It was one of those times when you’re actually watching it and didn’t just catch it out of the corner of your eye. BUT unlike the previous fish, I dropped it. I feel like I didn’t really have pinned- it almost seemed like it clamped down on the plug so hard it took drag before letting go of the plug. After throwing my head back and rolling my eyes with frustration I started to burn my plug back in. Two fast cranks in, it came back and hammered it. All shoulders and tail and twice as angry. I’m almost positive it was the same fish as they’re certainly weren’t many around that size and like I mentioned above, I don’t think I ever hooked it, as it’s rare a hooked large fish comes back. Anyhow, after one of the grittier fights I can remember, I got her in and I remember mumbling while out of breath “I freaking love this stuff”. 

Bassmasters is Back!

The Bassmaster Elite Series Resumes at Lake Eufaula

After a 3 month hiatus, the Bassmaster Elite Series is finally back up and running. The tension was palpable leading up to the event with the entire field itching to get back onto the water. Simms decided to catch up with Elite Series angler Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson about what it was like going through quarantine as a professional angler, to hear his thoughts about the tournament and what it is like getting back to what he does best- fishing. 

Simms: So it’s been almost a 3-month break from tournaments for you- what’s it feel like finally getting back to work?

Gussy: It was SO NICE to get back at it last week.  I missed the competition – I live for it – and I missed my buddies.  We have a good travel group including Seth Feider, Chris Groh, Chris and Cory Johnston and we will usually rent houses for the weeks of our events.  It was great to reconnect with these guys and just get back to fishing.  Like many others out there, it’s been a tough few months with little opportunity to earn income.  

Simms: What was it like when you got the call that the Elite Series was starting back up? I’m guessing you were excited? Were you feeling anxious about competing again?

Gussy: BASS did a good job keeping us in the loop with multiple plans for resuming our season.  We had a few events canceled during the spring and rightfully so, but when we got word that we would be able to continue the season with some social distancing and safety measures in place, I think we were all very excited. I didn’t have a lot of anxiety, there was more anxiety about not being able to fish, compete and try to make some money for me.  Once we get back out there on the water, it’s just business as usual. 

Simms: For someone that makes a living traveling and fishing, what was it like not being able to move around and fish?

Gussy: It was a strange few months for me, for all of us I think.  I live in Canada and we’ve been locked down pretty tight.  In my home area of NW Ontario (Lake of the Woods), we have had very few cases so we were lucky on that front but our area is suffering pretty bad right now because we rely so heavily on tourism, mostly from US Midwest anglers who travel here for fishing trips year after year.  None of that is going on right now. I do some guiding when I’m home so I missed that big time. 

Simms: What were you doing to pass the time during quarantine?

Gussy: Luckily, where I live is an amazing place if you like outdoor activities.  When my wife Shelby and I returned home after the Classic, we got in a few weeks of ice fishing – caught a bunch of big walleye, crappie, pike, and lake trout. When the ice started to break up we got in some shed hunting for deer antlers, and once we could get the boat back in the water, we were back on the fishing train.  We are lucky here to have world-class fishing for several species so there is always something to catch out there.  

Simms: You quarantined up north, didn’t you? Did it feel weird getting thrown back onto a southern lake? Did you feel out of your element or any rust throughout the weekend? 

Gussy: Getting back to fishing last week wasn’t too unusual but I was not really prepared for the heat down in southern Alabama.  It was in the 90’s every day and humid.  I’ve found the best way to make it through the long practice days down south in the summer is to cover up.  You’ll very seldom see me fishing in the summer time anywhere without a SolarFlex Hoody.  The hood covers up my head pretty well and also helps with keeping the sunlight out of my glasses.  I can’t imagine fishing anymore without wearing one of these shirts.  

Simms: Tell us a bit about your thoughts on lake Eufaula and what your strategy was for the tournament? You’ve come close to winning there in the past- did you feel confident going into this one? 

Gussy: I almost won an FLW Tour event on Eufaula in 2015, throwing a topwater lure.  I hadn’t been back but I was excited for sure because of the good experiences in the past.  It’s a great tournament lake because it’s big and you can choose to target bass with almost any technique you like.  The lake is also in really good shape right now, fishing wise, so we knew it was going to be a fun week. 

Simms: Eufaula is a big lake with a ton of structure in it- how did you break down that size body of water? Did you go searching for brush piles, or did you want to take a different approach from the rest of the field?

Gussy: So, my first day of practice I checked a few of the areas where I caught them last time with the topwater, got a few good bites and felt confident I could catch some fish doing that.  I then spent the majority of my practice looking offshore for both brush piles and schools of fish on the river ledges.  Because of the time of year, we all knew that there would be good numbers of fish offshore but they take time to find, especially the sneaky spots that a lot of the competition might overlook. Heading into the tournament I was confident that I could do okay because I had a few options on where to fish and techniques to employ.   

Simms: After the first few days, did you feel like you were on a good bite? give us a breakdown on how your strategy changed throughout the weekend, if at all?

Gussy: Both days of the tournament that I fished, I caught one big fish out deep and then put the rest of my limit together fishing shallower.  A few groups of fish that I found disappeared so that hurt- I felt like these were really going to pay off. It turned into a grinder tournament for me, just trying a bunch of different things to put the best five bass together that I could.  I ended up with a 43rd place finish, which is not awesome because the top 40 fishes a third day and makes a little more money, but I made a few bucks and didn’t bomb so I didn’t hurt myself too badly in the points standings.  Obviously, the goal for everybody fishing the Elite Series is to make the Classic next year.  At this point I’m sitting on the bubble, tied with my buddy Feider for the last two spots but we are heading north for the next four tournaments so I think we’re both in pretty good shape.  

Simms: We were watching the leaderboard all weekend and it looked like it was a roller-coaster with different guys shooting up and down the board- why do you think that was happening? Was it just the fishing pressure, or was it the amount of boats buzzing around the lake in general?

Gussy: It was pretty interesting, all of the different ways that guys were catching fish and it seemed to change every day.  The first day, the shallow guys got’em, the next day brush piles seemed to be the deal, then the third day, ledges were the best.  It would have been fun to watch for sure!  Not many lakes where you’ll see the variety of techniques the guys were using.  Pressure was a big issue there for sure…there was a big tournament on the lake the week before we arrived and there are a lot of local anglers around Eufaula, it’s kind of in the heart of bass fishing in the south.  

Simms: What was it like fishing a tournament during these strange times? Did it feel surreal not seeing a crowded dock when you pulled in for weigh in?

Gussy: It was different fishing the tournament last week for sure, not having the usual fan engagement that we do, but I think we were all just happy to be fishing.  The social distancing requirements were all pretty standard for the situation we’re in right now so we did what we had to do.  Hopefully moving forward, things get better and at some point we get back to normal with some high fives and hugs.  

Simms: Your next few events are back in the northern fringe in New York starting with Lake Cayuga- are you excited for that spell up north? 

Gussy: I’m excited for the run of tournaments we have coming down the pipe up north.  On paper the schedule is really good for me, but I still have to catch the fish.  We are going to Cayuga, the St. Lawrence River and then Lake Champlain three weeks in a row in July, what bass angler wouldn’t be excited about those places.  I can’t wait to get back at it out in New York! 

To keep up with how Jeff is doing for the remainder of the season, follow along on his website and social channels- Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.