Mike Meisenheimer, better known as Mikey Balzz, has been hard at the bass fishing game for decades now, bringing countless hours of on the water action to his friends and fans through the lens of his video camera.
Though he’s an awesome shallow water angler, Mikey has also been fishing deep and perfecting his offshore game for years now. He’s even relocated to Alabama where he frequently fishes Lake Guntersville and other fisheries around the state where offshore fishing reigns supreme once the summer sets in.
Mikey has a basic three bait approach when fishing offshore: crankbait, hair jig, Ned rig. He’ll cycle through the baits depending on how the fish are acting and points out, it’s not just something that works on the current driven lakes you’ll find along the Tennessee River.
“I’ve done it a bunch in Florida too,” Mikey said. “I’ve done variations of it for spots on Smith Lake. You can really do it anywhere.”
The biggest “trick” according to Mikey is finding semi-hard bottom and some kind of “offshore structure”. Examples of this structure being trees, creek channel breaks, shell bars, rock bars or something else along those lines. Once Mikey has found some offshore structure, he’ll look for fish relating to it, then it’s all about figuring out what to throw first.
“Ninety percent of the time I’ll start with the crankbait. My biggest thing with ledge fishing is I try to figure out where they are in the water column.”
Mikey will scan off to the side of the fish so that he doesn’t have to go directly over them or he’ll use his Lowrance Active Target to determine whether the fish are down on the bottom or up in the water column, suspended off the bottom.
“Based on that, I’ll start with a hair jig or a crankbait.”
If the fish are glued to the bottom, it’s the crankbait for Mikey, a Sixth Sense Cloud 9 C20 typically that works well in water between 18- and 22- feet. And he likes to fish it fast.
“I’m frying that thing. I’m literally trying to break the bill off it.”
The early season offshore fish are “fresh”, meaning they haven’t been beat up on a lot yet because they are just arriving to the offshore spots. So burning a crankbait through them is often a great way to get bit. If the crankbait bite slows down, Mikey will then swap over to a 5/8- ounce True Bass Shuttlecock Hair Jig to try to pick a few more off.
He’ll also start with the hair jig if the fish aren’t on the bottom when he first pulls up. When the bass are suspending a few feet off the bottom, he can get the hair jig up and in their face better and typically draw a reaction strike by ripping the bait up and then letting it fall back to the bottom.
“What I’ve found too is these fish move up and down throughout the day.”
Mikey is constantly watching the fish on his Active Target forward facing sonar to see where they are in the water column. He’s fished schools before for extended periods of time and has seen them float up off the bottom a bit and then tuck back down close to the bottom, often based on the amount of current that’s being generated.
“One recent school in particular, they had been floating 6, 7, 8 feet off the bottom for a couple hours and I don’t know if people turned their air conditioners on around 1:30 or what but they went from being suspended and chasing bait to being glued to the bottom. It was the craziest thing ever.”
Whenever the fish lock to the bottom like this, Mikey returns to the crankbait. But if the crankbait will no longer get the job done, sometimes he has to finesse them a bit. This often happens when it is “dead calm”, meaning there’s no wind or current.
“That’s usually when that Ned comes out.”
Mikey’s Ned rig of choice for offshore fishing in the early summer is a Nichols JT Magnum Ned Head rigged with half a Gambler Fat Ace on the back. But Mikey doesn’t simply drag his Ned rig, like most anglers.
“I’ll reel it kind of like fishing a small swimbait for spots on those little finesse ball heads.”
If swimming the Ned doesn’t work, he’ll try popping it up off the bottom and then letting it fall again, a similar action to how you see many anglers fish a flutter spoon or hair jig.
“Even though I’m going from reaction baits to a more finesse, slower soft plastic approach, there’s still a lot of reactive presentations I can do with that Ned rig. But then I can just drag it along the bottom too if need be.”
Rotating through these three baits based on how the fish are positioning in the water column, Mikey is able to present most any offshore fish with some kind of an offering that will draw a strike.
The crankbait typically gets the first shot, slowing down a bit to the hair jig next and settling all the way in to grind out whatever’s left on the Ned rig last. Try this three bait approach the next time you hit the water and you may find Mikey’s tactics work well where you fish as well.
Mikey's Top 3 Baits
Strike King Red Eye Shad Lipless Crankbait
Strike King Thunder Cricket
MONSTERBASS Texas Rig Tungsten Pro Pack
Want more Mikey in your life? Check out his latest video: Fishing the Jungle with a Walking Frog