Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
Do you think a 2-ounce tungsten is a big weight? Is 85-pound test braid a heavy line? Do you consider 60 feet to be “really deep?” Do you think a 10-pound bass is a big fish?
All that is mere child’s play to Major League Fishing pro Jeff Kriet.
Yes, Kriet is a professional bass angler. He does make his living probing freshwater lakes to depths of 60 feet looking for bass. And he will spool up 85-pound braid in hopes of catching a 10-pounder in pro level bass tournaments.
But in his free time, Kriet puts all the “little stuff” in the garage and heads south from his home in Ardmore, Okla., to the coast of Port O’Connor, Texas, where he runs his 34-foot Contender some 50 to 200 miles offshore in search of fish that weigh twice as much as he does.
“I’m now addicted to offshore fishing,” said Kriet, who caught the bluewater bug about five years ago. “As exciting as tournament bass fishing is, there are still times I hit the snooze button on tournament day. But when it’s time to go offshore – I don’t even need an alarm. I wake up at 3 a.m. on fire ready to get out there.”
Kriet says the anticipation level of journeying far offshore is so much higher because bluewater is a non-stop theater of big fish excitement.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still love bass fishing,” Kriet said. “But you kind of know what you are going to get when you go bass fishing.
“When I set out offshore, there’s no telling what the day will bring; the possibilities are endless. It’s a thrill a minute because there is always something spectacular happening out there. One day we might have a 500-pound Tiger Shark come up and cruise around the boat. The next day we might see whales. To see tuna feeding on top is freakish; it looks like boulders are being dropped into the ocean.”
Another draw for Kriet is just the sheer order of magnitude of everything on the bluewater.
“It’s bass fishing on steroids,” Kriet clarified. “We’re talking about fishing 2000 feet of water with a 10-pound weight on 400-pound test line for fish that are as big as your refrigerator. Heck, it’s takes like 15 minutes for my bait just to get to the bottom. It’s insane!”
Kriet’s list of targeted species include dolphin, tuna, grouper, snapper, swordfish, marlin, jacks and “anything else that’s big and ready to bite.”
But despite magnum differences in the size and scope of fishing freshwater lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, Kriet says the one thing in particular that would shock most bass fisherman is the acute similarities in the way bass and offshore species position in open water.
“The way bass suspend off a ledge in Kentucky Lake is identical to the way swordfish position on sea mountains in 1800 feet of water,” Kriet says. “The way smallmouth gather around a single boulder in 30 feet on Lake Erie is the exact way grouper gather around a piece structure in 200 feet of water. It’s so similar it’s frightening. It just goes to prove that fish in general, whether they are bass in freshwater lakes or saltwater fish in the ocean, want something significant to orient around.
“Even pelagic fish that spend most of their time in the upper water column will relate to some kind of primary contour a 1000 feet below them,” he continued. “If I find a single piece of driftwood or a wayward buoy floating out there in the middle of nowhere, I guarantee there will be some kind of fish hanging around it – a big cobia or a school of dolphin (mahi). Just like bass, they want something to be around.”
Also just like bass fishing, intersections of cover and structure is where you will find the fish.
“Just as a submerged laydown or cluster of stumps is the sweet spot along a creek channel ledge in freshwater, in the bluewater, anytime a current rip or floating weedline on the surface crosses over a primary contour or row of sea mountains on the bottom, that’s where the magic happens, that’s the juice.”
Kriet says spending hours reading a graph offshore has made him a better graph reader on freshwater as well. It’s like learning to read on big block letters before deciphering the fine print.
“Since everything out there is so much bigger, obviously it’s easier to read on a graph,” Kriet says. “And even though everything is smaller in scale in freshwater, the spatial relationships between the structure, the gamefish and the baitfish are proportional.”
Kriet has taken other things from the offshore game to help improve on the “little stuff” where he makes is living in freshwater as well. For instance, the big water spurred his interest in sonic technology.
“If you don’t believe that a HydroWave works, come on out there to the ocean and watch what happens when you click that thing on,” Kriet beamed. “Since the water is so clear out there you can literally watch fish of all kinds rise up to the boat to investigate those sounds. Sound is a critical part of fish finding they prey and it’s no different in freshwater.”
Since spending so much time in the ocean, Kriet has also become a dedicated bird watcher on inland waters.
“If there is a bird out there, he is watching something in the water,” he explained. “Even if the bird is not feeding at the time, it’s looking in the water at bait or is following a school of fish. Frigate birds will get on marlin and follow them for miles. I never really appreciated bird activity when looking for bass until I spent some time offshore. Birds on freshwater lakes are just as important.”
Kriet says that a lot of the little things he has learned offshore have all accumulated to a much bigger lesson: no matter what you fish for, things are always changing in the water, nothing is ever static.
“Sometimes bass fishing can seem stagnant, like nothing is happening, nothing is changing,” Kriet pointed out. “By comparison, when you go offshore, it seems like something is always happening, every minute. But that’s just because everything out there is so much bigger and obvious. Things are changing just like that in freshwater, too, it’s just on a more microscopic level. Being offshore has taught me that new opportunities are always evolving no matter how big your pond is.”