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February is the last month of guiding hiatus. Fishing with friends has been wonderful! But this time of year, dressing for fishing conditions is complicated. Finding the right layers can make or break a winter’s day on the water.
From the bottom up, cold feet can throw cold water on the best-laid cold weather fishing plans. Showing up in 35-degree weather with sandals always receives a second look…’Really, you really do wear TEVAs in the winter!?’ Here’s the “how and why” on sandals keeping feet warm. It’s all about circulation. Warm body-core-blood never reaches most sock layered feet, which are jammed into shoes for a tight fit. They create a tourniquet blockade preventing toes from benefiting from the body’s natural heating system.
Loosening straps on open-toed Teva sandals provides room for specially prepared feet. Start with a silk sock, followed by a thin wool sock, and the outermost layer is a SealSkinz Chillblocker waterproof sock. The first layer allows a bit of insulation, the second a bit of warmth and the outer layer keeps the elements, precipitation and air chill at bay. Keeping feet warm is a participation effort! The sandal system only works when the wearer takes note of toes feeling the chill…an occasional toe wiggling sends a surge of warm blood to toes and allows cold blood to return to the furnace!
For hands…Grabber hand warmers activated to occasionally warm hands. For gloves, there are two: to keep the wind chill off skin new Sveltz gloves from the makers of SealSkinz are just enough to keep hands away from cold reels and rods, providing a good grip with rubber gripper dots on the hand surface. For the coldest conditions, SealSkinz Chillblocker gloves free hands from the cold grip of winter. Another tip…pull fingers from the gloves and keep in the palm of the gloves and allow them to work free in the “mitten” of the glove until circulation takes over.
After that, a good Gore-Tex rain suit is the perfect outer shell. For pants, Wrangler makes a great fleece lined jean. Under that, a thin pair of long johns. Preferably a wicking synthetic, especially in the upper body layer. Redington’s REDILAYER, a fast wicking material with anti microbial odor resistance, adds more airflow without an air about you. This piece zips up to cover the neck area…again a key to staying warm. Toss in a decent hoodie and a light layer over that. Top it off with a stocking cap to cover the ears and some grey-lensed Polarized Plus Maui Jim sunglasses to protect eyes from winter’s glare! Add a bit of sunscreen and chapstick and if it’s still too cold, you should probably be home on the couch watching ball games.
It’s important to point out that dehydration can also occur in the winter. Drinking water throughout the day can prevent dehydration as well as contribute to keeping warm! Cut back on caffeine as it acts as a diuretic, and can contribute to the drying out!
Winter fishing is special as I received my first national exposure 20 years ago fishing a Silver Buddy. In addition to clothing, this time of year has many layers; friends, great fishing and a fondness for the season that helped me gain national recognition for what I do! A brief respite until my new Skeeter arrives, then it’s back to work!
Capt. Steve Chaconas
When I hit the water this January I am going to attack it in 2 ways… slow and subtle.
I will make sure the presentations I make to the fish will be painfully slow to me. Then I will know I am moving the bait slow enough for the fish to take it. A bass’ body temperature will be low this time of year due to the water being so cold so their movements will be very slow as well. I believe most fish don’t eat really big meals in the winter months either. Because of that I will choose smaller and more subtle offerings. Make certain your presentations are natural to the environmental conditions. No animal in that cold water is moving very fast or acting overly aggressive. For some proof to my analyzing of what bass will fall prey to this time of year I can tell you of a recent catch from Lake Fork, Texas. A 15.02 lb. bass, yes a 15 lb. behemoth, was caught in 30 feet of water by a crappie fisherman vertically fishing a crappie jig. What an awesome catch! The proof is in the pudding… big baits are not always needed for big bass.
Now, when you’re invested in fishing to the point where it is your livelihood, this is the time of year you‘re working behind a desk and trying to find days to get out and hit the water! It’s been a few weeks and it is making me stir crazy. I started thinking about the little ways I am staying engaged while taking care of things at the office. Then I realized I should pass along how I have stayed engaged because this it was most weekend anglers have to do all the time while working their 9 to 5! SO here goes… I have been keeping up with all the BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff blog entries these last few weeks - they have been sharing some great stories!
I have found myself getting the latest pro fishing news in two locations - www.bassfan.com and www.basszone.com. These two websites really give the independent goods when it comes to industry happenings and staying on top of what your favorite bass anglers are doing. Of course there is no substitute for the sport of bass fishing when it comes to the competitive angler than the information provided at www.bassmaster.com. As students of the game we need to stay abreast of all the happenings so when we chat with our buddies we can speak knowledgably.
I have also been sure to check out many podcasts on iTunes and I am fond of the one I helped co-host. Enjoy!
It's no time to put away the fishing equipment for the winter! The bass are still swimming around and feeding so anglers should be getting after them. Winter months signify a great time on the water or even ice if you live far enough to the north. My go-to technique this time of year is vertical fishing. Seems pretty simple… and it is.
This is a great opportunity to become more proficient with your electronics and get a head start on locating fish that will move up into pre-spawn position in a few months. I generally will not even fish a location in the winter time unless I detect fish on my sonar while idling or trolling around structure. I tend to favor fishing main lake structure this time of year but you may also find some fish grouped up and wintering in major creeks or tributaries on your local waters.
My two favorite lures and set ups are the drop-shot and slab. The drop shot can be fished so many different ways. Targeting suspended fish or fish relating to the bottom can both be equally effective. Line size for me in the winter time is critical. I will downsize to as little as 4lb test or as small a diameter as possible depending on the type of cover and structure I am targeting. I rely on the smaller line to provide me greater sensitivity which helps me detect the subtle strikes that occur in the winter months.
My bait selection is fairly simple. I like to use shad imitation drop shot baits in the cold weather season as it has worked better for me than worm imitators. Be sure to work your lures erratically when fishing vertical to ignite a reaction from the fish, but keep a slow pace when moving laterally along the bottom because the fish generally will not travel far or fast for a meal this time of year.
The Slab is my other favorite set up for winter bass fishing as I have seen bass react very well to this presentation. The key steps in working a slab it to be sure the bait is dropped on a slack line after jerking it off the bottom. The erratic fall of the bait when allowed to descend on slack line is what really drives the fish to strike. The slab becomes the perfect imitation of a bait fish dying right in front of them. I like to use 12lb test when slab fishing as the smaller diameter line allows the bait to fall faster and more natural after I have located a fish on my sonar unit.
I hope you get the opportunity to do some winter bassin' in the near future so you can start locating those winning pre-spawn fish before your competition even thinks about that first derby of the year this spring.
BTW - A Christmas gift idea for your angling friend? Get them a BoatUS ANGLER membership... it is the gift that keeps on giving!
November=BIG Musky Tine!
by Joel DeBoer, www.wisconsinanglingadventures.com
November is often not the most kind or comfortable month to fish; precipitation, winds, and cold temperatures affect not only fishermen, but the fish as well. Typically speaking, fishing during the month of November requires "thick skin" and patience - while feeding windows still exist, they are greatly shortened. Anglers having spent any time on open water this late in the calendar year know better than to expect fast and furious action.
Perhaps you find yourself asking, "Then why fish in November at all?!" The answer is simple – the late season gives you one of, if not THE best shot at boating a true giant. The fall feedbag has been worn and top predator fish such as the musky are very likely at their heaviest weight of the year. A glance through the volumes of photos I've taken over the years lends proof – make no mistake about it, fall muskies are fat muskies!
Certain patterns emerge at this time of year to effectively and consistently score on trophy muskies. The first of these is the use of live bait, mainly suckers, rigged on quick-strike rigs such as Fuzzy"s Clip-N-Go. "Musky suckers" can range anywhere from 10"-12" all the way to pushing two feet long. Suckers can be used be themselves or in conjunction with casting artificial lures. When wind and weather conditions allow casting of traditional esox offerings such as jerbaits and crankbaits in fall, it’s a deadly tactic to trail a sucker behind the boat, where legal, suspended either a couple of feet down below a large float or allowed to swim freely.
In addition, hanging suckers below the boat at staggered depths either while casting or not, is as close to "money" as it gets for late autumn bruisers. Adjust the depth of the bait to ensure one sucker is within a few feet of the bottom while the other is at mid-depth. Not only will the bait attract action on its own, but also entice muskies that follow an artificial lure into eating the sucker at the boat instead.
Where legal, trolling large crankbaits and jerkbaits is also an effective method to score on big muskies. Trolling gets a bad rap, as many anglers are ignorant to the complexities involved in trolling precisely. I'm not talking about the guy who blindly casts behind the boat having no idea how much line he has out or at what depth his bait(s) are running, cracks a beer, and drives randomly around the lake. Precision trolling is an acquired skill, requiring time, hard work, and even specialized equipment to do it right, but one worth mastering. Trolling allows an angler to place multiple baits at a given depth and keep them there, all the while covering water.
In respect to equipment, I prefer St. Croix rods and Daiwa line counter reels spooled with 50# Berkley Big Game; I prefer the monofilament during cold weather as it holds less water and thus is less likely to freeze to the spool. Top lure choices include Bulldawgs, 10" Jakes, Crisco’s, and other large quality crankbaits or jerkbaits.
Musky season closes the end of November; catch a monster and let it go. I'll see you on the water.
Wisconsin Angling Adventures
by Kurt Dove, www.AmistadBassGuide.com
I hear from many anglers how tough fishing can be in post spawn conditions, and it can be. It is also very rewarding if you have a good game plan and attack the conditions properly. I believe most anglers are fishing in areas that are not holding many of the bigger female bass in the post spawn phase. Our tendencies are to be up on the bank because we saw the big girls there as they were spawning over the last month or so and we are often conditioned to think they are still there. Yes, some are, but most are behind you out in that mid-depth ‘no man’s land’ zone. They can be found around the deeper edges of the areas they used to spawn and they are typically not very aggressive… that is where the finesse comes in.
When I say finesse I don’t mean to imply you need to break out the spinning rod, at least not in all occasions. My best results happen when I down size my lures and slow down my presentations. The bites are very subtle this time of year as well so good concentration on the task at hand is very important to detecting the strikes.
My go to techniques are the Carolina rig with your favorite straight tail worm, Texas rig with very light weight and topwaters. The key to success with the Carolina and Texas rigs are to weight them as light as possible based on wind conditions. The lighter the weight the more natural appeal the lure will have as you present it to the bass. The light weight will also help you detect strikes that would otherwise go unnoticed. The topwaters are very effective if you can work to find the right presentations. The action you need to entice the strikes will change often in the post spawn phase. Surprising to some anglers, many fish will react to the lure while sitting still with no action at all! So be sure to vary your presentations until you dial in the right one for the conditions present.
Success is available in the post spawn phase of bass fishing, you may just have to alter your tactics to find it.
by Kurt Dove, www.AmistadBassGuide.com
It's summer and it's hot. We are in the middle of the “dog days of summer”. I’ve been to a lot of lakes all over the country and since fishing Lake Amistad for the first time in the winter of 2005, it never ceases to amaze me that most lakes in Texas, (and everywhere else for that matter), are tough as nails; although, at Lake Amistad we continue to catch high quantities of fish and it puts out high quality bass as well. Lake Amistad is a little piece of heaven on earth. I have often taken techniques and fishing tactics that have been producing at Amistad to other lakes at the same times of year and fished well in tournaments or just for fun.
I thought it would be great to share with you tactics that are working here at Lake Amistad and you may be able to reproduce the success on your home lake. Here are the best techniques and tactics currently working at Lake Amistad; in the early mornings there is a sporadic reaction bite. Here we have grass and in the really thick mats I am using an Optimum baits Furbit frog. When I fish scattered grass the bass are exploding on El Grande Lures Sapo frogs buzzed swiftly around the shallows. Shallow crankbaits, rattle baits, and spinnerbaits have been producing at times as well as creating the reaction bite for the morning feed.
After an hour or two burning up the trolling motor, another early pattern is the edges of the hydrilla grass in 10-15 feet. I have been tossing both straight and ribbon tail worms to the grass cover. The size of the worms can make a big impact on how many strikes you receive. Some mornings the bass seem to prefer a 7” worm and other mornings a 10” worm will produce better. When the sun moves higher around 10am I will switch to more finesse presentations if the wind allows for lightly weighted baits. The deep bite continues to be the most consistent as the afternoon hours arrive. Drop-shotting and some spooning work best around the deeper lake structures and ledges. These are ideas you may be able to use in your neck of the woods to produce some summer fishing success in your hometown.
Fishing is getting really good! Get out and wet a line… but be sure you fish at a slow pace to start off the year! It seems as though when I get into the spring spirit I am moving along at a pretty good clip. I am taking care of chores just as fast as they hit the to-do list typically because I can’t wait to hit the water and start winding in those active bass. They start actively moving as the water temps start to warm with the longer daylight hours and warmer air temperatures. Once I get out there on the water I then find myself ripping through the cover on my new hot fishing spots with little or no success. I can’t quite understand??
The water is warming, the fish are moving to the shallows and they are hungry to fatten up for the spawn, right? Well yes, but what often goes untold is the fish are still moving at a slow pace and so it is important we move and fish at a slow pace as well to be successful during the early spring. Often times in the spring when you find a location holding bass then slowing down can really make a more productive day. The bass are moving in to feel the warmth of the higher water temps but their bodies need time to adjust to the warmth before they become really active and move aggressively all the time.
Cranking or moving your baits slowly through the water is typically the best approach this time of year. Don’t get me wrong… use your reaction lures, but use them with a slow presentation. For example… when winding your lipless crankbait make sure to crank at a slow enough speed to just barely make the lure vibrate while ticking along the bottom. When twitching your jerkbait make small movements with your rod tip to keep the bait in the fish’s strike zone longer. When the fish do get really shallow and start to nest, your plastic lure presentations will be much more effective crawled slowly across the bottom rather than hopped quickly.
Mentally it can be difficult to slow down because we are so fired up to start swinging them in the boat. Slowing down should also be related to the speed in which you move your boat. Once I get a few bites in a promising looking area I really like to saturate it with multiple presentations and techniques. Remember the fish are moving slowly so it is likely that more will be moving to the areas that are producing some bites. Recently I fished the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Sabine River and it was just these types of tactics that enabled me to have success… I hope it will work for you too!
by Rob Brewer, courtesy of www.BassJons.com
In the lull between the close of deer season and the area lakes warming up, you'll find me pouring Spinnerbaits. Spinnerbaits are great! They require no special skill, cover lots of water, are relatively weedless, and catch lots of bass, big bass. The following is how I approach spinnerbaiting in the tidewater area from "ice-out" on into April.
I like to use a 5 ½' casting rod spooled up with 14-17lb mono. I've used many brands of spinnerbaits. I like my own the best, but Terminators, Strike King and Stanley will work just as well. I prefer to use a ½ oz to 3/8 oz lure with single #5 or 5.5 gold willow leaf blade. I find dark colors (black, blue, purple, root beer) work best in the spring. I always use a twin tail trailer too. I find the undulating action of the tails really bring the bait to life. I don't use trailer hooks but I do make certain that my hooks are razor sharp.
Ideal conditions are just after a warm spring rain. The runoff has washed in bait, raised the water level and made the water murky. These are all positive factors to make fish move shallow. Key areas of the lake to hit are points, flats and underwater humps. The key to identifying good areas are shallow (1-3') water with deep (8-12') adjacent to it. If it has cover on it, so much the better. Just be sure to keep the boat "out of the fish". By that I mean remain out in the deep water, casting up onto the flat. If you can cast your bait up onto the edge of the shore and slowly pull it into the water. Sometimes bass will be sunning themselves in water less than a foot. It's quite exciting when a bass turns into a torpedo and almost beaches itself trying to inhale your bait. Be certain to work the deep water adjacent to the flat as well. Stealth is paramount. Any noise you make in the boat or sloppy casting will send "ol' mossback" scurrying into the depths quickly.
The retrieve should be very slow (AKA "slow rolling"). You should never see your lure during the retrieve. You should be able to feel the blade turning though. Learn to concentrate on that and be a line watcher. Often, you can feel a slight variation in the bait's vibration just milliseconds prior to a bite. Whenever there's a funny feeling, your line moves, or the blade stops, set the hook! I use a sweeping motion so as not to introduce any slack to the fish.
These methods have brought me several 4-6 pounders. You'll catch the "dinks" too, along with pickerel and bowfins. Give it a shot. Believe it or not, there was a time (1990) when I had absolutely no confidence in these lures. Now, I always have one tied on. Remember that fishing is life!
Fishing Deep Water in Winter
by Jay Yelas, courtesy of Berkley Fishing
Fishing in deep water is still probably the most misunderstood type of fishing that bass anglers have to deal with on a regular basis. Deep water can be productive almost any time of year that the bass aren't on the beds, but during the winter is when it can be especially effective.
One of the reasons that many anglers struggle with fishing deep water is because we're all so accustomed to fishing around and casting to visible cover. This makes fishing around non-visual targets difficult for the average angler. "Deep", of course, can be in the eye of the beholder. But to me, anything deeper than 10 feet can be considered deep. Most times (and only in certain fisheries during specific times of the year) will I explore anything more than 50 or 60 feet, though bass can be caught at greater depths in some places. When searching for places to focus your fishing efforts in deep water, remember the difference between cover and structure. Cover is some physical object separate from the actual bottom contour. Structure is the actual bottom contour (breaks, drops, humps). These structure elements serve as a kind of thoroughfare for the bass to travel from one place or another in search of food and optimum water conditions. The presence of cover on some form of structure is what you should be looking for.
Most of the short cuts to finding deep-water structure occur long before you get to body of water. Start with a contoured lake map and identify all of the depth changes and bottom features, marking them with different colored pens or markers. Once these areas are identified, you can begin finding bass by understanding that their entire life cycle revolves around two core areas: their spawning areas (flats) and their wintering areas (deep water vertical break areas). The structure breaks that connect these two areas are their migration highways. For the most part, the bass winter in the deepest water/vertical break areas available, usually in the main lake.
When I arrive to the lake and get into the areas that I want to fish, I will fast idle the area in a zigzag pattern, keeping a constant eye on my electronics. I will look for any irregularity of signs of activity such as cover on the bottom (brush piles, weeds) or pods of bait that appear as black clouds. I keep zigzagging up and down the potential area until I find something that I like. When I do, I will throw a marker buoy on the area and continue to circle it to establish my boundaries. If I see something else or find a definite end to something I will drop a second buoy.
Using a search-type of bait (a Berkley Frenzy crankbait, a PowerBait, Power Lizard on a Carolina rig or a big Berkley Classic jig) I begin to fan cast the entire area. I am trying to establish contact with the bottom or with cover or near bait. It's important that as you catch fish, you keep mental or written notes of the area you are in. Take note of the water depth at which you are fishing, water temperature, water clarity, wind anything that might help you in the future. Also look around and take visual note of landmarks so that you can more easily find your newly discovered honey hole the next time you hit the water.
There are also some general guidelines for fishing deep-water structure. During periods of active feeding, such as low light, rain, or wind, the fish generally move shallower and hold looser to cover. During periods of high pressure or under adverse conditions the bass tend to be a little deeper and tighter to cover. Structure with hard type cover on it is better in the spring and late fall (shell/rock); structure with soft type cover and areas where debris has been deposited by the current are better in the summer. Structure areas with more vertical breaks are better during the winter periods. Generally, the same sweet spots on structure tend to produce over and over each year.
One of the best ways to get and keep a bait in front of fish relating closely to structure in winter is with a drop shot. This finesse presentation is especially suited to clear water and heavily pressured areas. Using 6- or 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, a spinning reel and 7-foot-6-inch medium action rod, I will rig a small, wide-gap hook using a traditional drop shot set up. With a tungsten weight anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet below the hook, I will either nose hook (in open water) or bury the hook, Texas rig style (in and around heavier cover), a Berkley Gulp! bait. These baits disperse scent so powerfully in the water, it helps me catch bass even when I don't put the bait right in front of the fish. By shaking the rod tip, I am able to give the bait a lifelike appearance without moving it out of the strike zone.
Winter can be a great time to catch fish. With cold temperatures, most anglers and boaters are content to stay off the water, leaving most of the best spots with little fishing pressure. With a little homework and the right gear, you can be catching the big ones while everyone else is sitting at home.
Berkley Pro Jay Yelas, who currently fishes the FLW Tour, is a former Bassmaster Classic winner from Corvalis, Ore.
If we're going to be honest about it, fishing in the winter isn't always the most pleasant activity. It can be cold, windy and sometimes getting the fish to cooperate can be frustrating. But just because the calendar has been flipped to December doesn't mean that you should park the boat and resign yourself to hanging lights and watching football.
Catching fish in the winter requires some knowledge about the body of water that you are fishing and a decided amount of patience. Slowing down your presentations will go a long way towards ensuring you get more than a runny nose for your time on the lake. So before you head out for your next day of fishing, try focusing on these three types of structure.
A lot of tournaments are won year round on rock bluffs. Big smallmouth and largemouth both like to hang on these bluff ledges during this time of year. But enticing strikes from finicky bass in winter can be a challenge. Fish each spot slowly and don't limit yourself to just one lure or technique. In clear water, natural colored worms can be very effective for a smallmouth bite. A Berkley PowerBait Hand Pour Finesse Worm fished on a dropshot rig that is worked slowly on the ledges works extremely well.
But don't forget that crayfish also inhabit these rock bluffs and a big jig tipped with a PowerBait Chigger Craw will also work. Just keep the retrieve slow. Lipless crankbaits like a Frenzy Rattl'r fished parallel to the bluffs is also can entice strikes, but be careful that your retrieve isn't too fast. Also remember that shad and other baitfish swim these bluffs during winter so a Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad Texas rigged with a wide-gap hook and swimmed through the desired depth can result in a lot of hook ups.
Main-lake points hold bass pretty much year round. But during winter, when the lake is low, they really start to bunch up on these structures. Find a point that is just out of the swift, main lake current and there is likely to be a bunch of bass feeding on baitfish and crayfish. If there is deep water nearby, that deeper water is likely to hold bass, too.
These out-of-the current spots can hold huge schools of bass, bunched up, usually in one very small spot. This means either dragging bottom-bumping lures, or fan casting, Carolina-rigged lures like a PowerBait Power Lizard or a Gulp! Turtleback Worm and looking for that instinct strike. Wood cover along these spots always harbor the bigger largemouth's in the area. Try laydowns, washed in debris, stumps and brush piles and go after them with a jig and trailer.
Smallmouth bass and a surprisingly good number of largemouths, can both be found around islands, submerged humps, sand bars and ridges, located throughout lakes. Because of low water levels in winter, many are now visible; others can be found by paying attention to your electronics. Smallmouth relate to the edge of the swift current, waiting for an easy meal. Largemouth tend to hug the bottom and hang out in the cover (stumps, ledges).
Fishing these areas can be tough when the weather is extremely cold, but slowly down and finesse are of the utmost importance whenever fishing these areas. Dropshotting small, straight-tailed finesse worms like the PowerBait Hand Pour Finesse Worm or Carolina rigging small, finesse lures, such as worms, lizards, grubs, jerkbaits and crayfish imitations, will entice more strikes in very cold water than baits with a larger profile. Lighter line also works better in these situations, so make sure your spinning reel is in good working order.
Don't let a little cold keep you off the lake this winter. There's a lot less boat traffic this time of year and still a lot of fish to be caught. Just make sure to slow down your presentation and downsize your line and focus your attention on these three wintertime hotspots and pretty soon everyone will want to go with you.
Berkley Pro Scott Suggs is the 2007 FLW Champion and the first angler in professional bass fishing to win $1 million in a single tournament.
by Mike Iaconelli, courtesy of National Hunting & Fishing Day website
A big part of locating bass on any body of water is identifying which seasonal
pattern the fish are in and having an idea about how fish behave during
this pattern. These patterns can vary from place and depend a lot on latitude.
Just because it's technically fall on the calendar, it can still be 80-90
degrees in parts of the south. Just the same, it can still be officially
summer in Minnesota and still get pretty chilly. Fish weather and fisherman
weather aren't always the same, so just monitor the water temperature
if you're uncertain about which pattern the fish will be in.
But since it's now officially fall, I want to talk about fishing for fall bass. I break this pattern into two: early fall and fall transition. Fishing in this part of the year can prove challenging but it's not impossible.
In early fall, bass get a sense that winter is coming because the water temperature is beginning to cool from what is has been throughout the summer. Since they instinctively sense that winter is on its way, they begin to feed pretty heavily on the baitfish that are moving into shallow water. Most people think that if the fish are really chowing down then the fishing will be easy. Wrong. They aren't just eating anything, they are keying on a certain kind of bait.
Because they are keying on certain bait (shad, crawfish, etc.), it is extremely important that you match the hatch. It's a big thing especially for fly fisherman, but bass fisherman should apply it, too. Whether it's baby bluegill, crawfish, dragonflies or anything else, I need to know so I carefully examine every fish that I catch by looking down their gullets or carefully feeling their belly to try to determine what they've been munching on. If the belly is squishy, they've probably been eating soft bait fish like minnows or shad; if it feels crunchy then there's probably a crawfish shell in there that hasn't been digested. An object turning end over end is most likely the spine of a bluegill.
During this early fall time, I like to hit creeks and pockets with drains or any place that has an influx of freshwater water because it will draw in more of the baitfish that the bass are eating. I might throw a Berkley Power Tube or Power Craw in these areas, Texas rigging them and keeping them close to the bottom. But as good as these areas can be, don't overlook the backsides of windswept points. During this time of the year, bass love to get behind these points and face into the wind and ambush and kind of baitfish that get pushed towards the banks by the current. A Berkley Frenzy Diver in whatever color or pattern that coincides with what their eating can very effective. The point is that fishing the early fall requires moving around a lot and trying to find these areas where the fish are feeding.
Later fall will find the bass heading back towards wintering areas so focusing on isolated points or cover near vertical breaks is a great place to start looking for these fish. These later-season fish will also be a little easier to catch, so don't let the cooling weather keep you off the water.
But it's the early fall where you might need a light jacket in the morning and an air conditioner in the afternoon that provides some challenging fishing with the possibility for some hefty fish. All it takes is a little detective work to match the hatch and the ability to determine the seasonal pattern and you will be well on your way.
Berkley Pro Staffer Mike Iaconelli is the 2006 BASS Angler of the Year and the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion.
Hot Weather Bass Fishing
by Ed Harp, courtesy of The Fishing Wire by Berkley
and pitchin' heavy vegetation is an often overlooked tactic for hot weather
The heat of summer can bring some of the toughest bass fishing of the year. But, according to many experts, much of that toughness is caused by anglers themselves. That's because far too many believe that all the bass are deep. They aren't. Many fish, in some cases the biggest ones, head for the heavy weeds and vegetative growth of July, August and September. Such places offer high dissolved oxygen levels, shade and protection from the sun. At the same time they are darn near perfect for ambushing prey. That's all a bass needs to be happy.
Fishing vegetation can be tough, however. To do it effectively we need a plan. A day on the water observing professional angler Kevin Wirth fish lily pad fields helps us develop such a plan.
"That's the thing most anglers miss, the pattern within the pattern," says Wirth as he lips his fish and heads towards the livewell. It's a respectable 4-pound largemouth that fell for a plastic bait tossed precisely to the base of one lily pad among a field of thousands.
When asked to explain the pattern within the pattern he quickly points out that all the pads don't hold fish. And even if they didhe couldn't fish them all effectively. The Southern impoundment he's fishing this day is full of pads, tens of thousands of them.
"You notice I'm fishing only the pads on the end of the points (made by the pads) and further refining my pattern by only fishing those with big, thick stems. That's where the big ones are holding."
Wirth goes on to explain that big, mean bass are much like rich humans. They claim the best neighborhoods. In this case, the best neighborhood was under the huge, thick root of the lily pad with the biggest stem growing on the end of the point.
In Midwestern impoundments look for a spot where brown meets green, mostly that'll be wood, drift, laydowns, stumps, near weeds. Old wood and thick, mossy weeds are usually best. Keep moving until you find a bass or two.
And remember Wirth's advice; don't try to fish all the good looking spots.
Tips - Bass Fishing in Cold Weather
by Steve Chaconas, BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff
Defined by water temperature rather than calendar, winter
fishing is generally the period where water temperatures are 38-48 degrees.
Water is at its coldest point of the year after fall migration and before
pre spawn. The good news is largemouth bass can still be caught!
Location and when to fish are keys to winter fishing. Fish during the warmest part of the day and near hard, sun-warmed surfaces. A few degrees can make the difference. 2006 BASSMASTER Angler of the Year and 2003 BASSMASTER Classic Champion Michael Iaconelli says, “In colder winter months bass seek the deepest most vertical break areas in any given part of the lake. I look for the sharper break on main lake points and deeper channel bends. On tidal waters, I’m looking for an area out of the main fast current.” Sharp drops allow fish to change depths without having to travel very far!
Ike doesn’t overlook shallow bass and won’t slow down! “I approach winter patterns like I approach spring, summer, and fall. I always try to generate that reaction strike.” Starting shallow before heading deep, he throws tight wiggle crankbaits like Berkley’s Flicker Shad, Frenzy lipless rattle baits with a yo yo retrieve, and metal baits like spoons and Silver Buddies. These imitate winter’s dying shad. Most fishermen overwork blade baits like the Silver Buddy. Less is more…you don’t have to rip them to get bites. A short “burp” of 6 inches off the bottom and semi-tight line back down will entice sluggish winter bass to bite. Most bites occur on the drop. These baits are great at any depth.
Eliminating the shallow bite, Iaconelli goes smaller, deeper and lighter. He parallels break lines, dragging until baits hit bottom cover. “I like to pop with a light snap of the wrist and that sometimes triggers the bite.” Bait presentations allowing you to fish in one spot for a while are best. Bass still eat, but aren’t willing to chase prey. In addition the food chain is moving very slowly. When forced to downsize, Iaconelli uses dark 3-inch grubs, bottom-dwelling craw imitators like heavy Stone Jigs (with pork chunks), as well as The Bomb, a new, smaller finesse football jig. Keep baits on the bottom, where winter bass spend their time. You probably won’t feel a tap…if you feel mushy weight, don’t try to figure out what it is…set the hook!
For even more finesse, Ike rigs a 5” Power Bait Shaky Head worm. Ike likes this worm’s buoyancy for shaky head action in one place, sometimes biting it down to 4 or even 3 inches. Furthermore, he says drop shot rigs also stay put, and are the perfect wintertime finesse presentation. Find baitfish on your depthfinder, then drop shot at that depth using 3 or 4-inch soft plastic baits. With a 4-8 inch leader above the weight, Ike leaves Gulp worms in one spot once he contacts bottom cover, allowing the bait to quiver and release its attractant. According to Iaconelli, “When you find them, there are a ton of them down there!”
Fishing in the winter can be rewarding, but safety and comfort are essential. A PFD is a must. Heavier clothing and fishing in deeper water can prove to be a disastrous combination if you fall overboard. Loose layers trap body heat and let moisture escape. Taking a buddy, letting an onshore contact know where you are and when you plan to return, and being prepared for emergencies make winter fishing good sense.
The advent of catch-and-release has been great for the
sport of fishing. It has literally re-cycled fish/opportunity for other
anglers. However, there is a proper method to returning fish to the water
after you catch them, that assures the fish's chances of survival.
Here are some basic tips:
- Don't play or fight a fish any longer than necessary. This way when you do catch and release the fish, it's not fatigued or stressed.
- Do not touch or handle the fish any more than necessary. Doing so removes a protective slime
coat that helps protect the fish from disease. It might be a good
idea to wet your hands before handling the fish.
For the same reason the use of dip nets is not encouraged with fish you plan to release. And if you do use nets, those with rubber webbing seem to be less harmful in this regard than those made of twine.
- If a hook is swallowed, cut it off as closely to the eye of the hook as possible and release the fish, rather than trying to remove the hook. Studies have shown fish have a better chance of survival if you do this.
- There is nothing wrong with taking photos of a catch, but consider that the fish cannot breathe out of water. Take the photo and return the fish to water as soon as possible.
- Fishing with barbless hooks aid in the survival rate of caught and released fish. The same is true of anglers using circle hooks. These hooks are designed to turn when taken by the fish and hook it in the corner of the mouth rather than be swallowed.
February is the pits.
Mother Nature punctuates dreary weather with a pounding cold rain, snow or damaging ice storm. But, it is not necessary to sit around the house and mope about the seemingly endless days of highs in the low 40s with low gray clouds and no sunlight. This bleak time is also the beginning of fishing season.
For many of us, fishing in mid-winter isn't any fun. It is cold. You spend an entire day in the biting winter wind with numb hands and burning face for maybe a couple of bites. This style of fishing appeals mainly to the diehard.
However, you don't have to wait until it is 75 degrees outside to start fishing. A three-day warm front from late February to mid-March that pushes air temperatures into the 60s kick-starts the fishing season. Farm ponds offer productive fishing for largemouth bass. Stream smallmouth bite heartily and sauger make their spawning runs.
If you wear a layer of old-school thermals or thin polypropylene with wicking properties under a layer or two of outer garments, you'll stay comfortable while you fish in late winter and early spring. Packable rain gear is great for this time of year because you can wear it in the morning when it is cold, shed it in the mid-afternoon warmth, and put it on again at dusk when it gets cold again. They will usually fit in the back of a fishing vest, a pocket or tackle box.
Among anglers, there is perhaps no more controversial topic than whether
or not, as conservationists, we ought to fish for bass while they are
spawning. Battle lines on this issue were drawn in the sand long ago -
some northern laws that prohibit it date back to the 1800s - with no end
to the argument in sight.
Those against fishing for bass during the spawn contend that it disrupts the breeding cycle, resulting in fewer fish in the future. However, studies indicate that fishing during the spawn, even if specifically for trophies, does not appear to harm the bass populations. Obviously, taking a spawn-ready female from the bed will, if she dies, reduce the numbers of young bass produced. But bass produce thousands of spawn every year, leaving the surplus millions of juvenile fish to become food for other species - so numbers aren't an issue. Further research has shown that if a big female hasn't spawned yet and is released in good shape, then it is likely she will spawn.
Contrary to some beliefs, a bedding bass is not easy to catch, particularly the big females. It is true that the small males are often aggressive in their guardian duties, but the trophy fish is very difficult to catch. To catch fish during this time of year, I use two methods, depending on whether or not the water is clear enough to see the beds.
If the water is reasonably clear, I look for hard-bottomed coves, a place where the bottom will be mostly pea gravel and chunk rock. Once there, I get on the deck of my boat and watch for the mostly round nests, areas that have been cleared off by bass fanning their tails. Once I spot a nest, I either look for a bass or its shadow. Once I spot the fish - be it a small male or a large female - I use my spinning reel, spooled with 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line (especially if the fish have already been pressured) or a casting reel spooled with 17- or 20-pound 100% Fluorocarbon, and cast a white, Texas-rigged Berkley PowerBait Flippin' Tube, with the hook barely piercing the skin of the bait.
I position my boat far enough away from the nest so as to not spook the bass, but close enough that I can still see what is going on. After casting just beyond the nest (if the fish hasn't already gone for the bait), I hop the tube into the nest, working it through the nest area searching for the sweet spot. The sweet spot - for some unknown reason - is an area of the nest that, when a bait reaches it, will cause the fish to attack. It may take several minutes or several hours to get the bass to react, but when it does, it will turn itself sideways and scoop the bait off the bottom in an effort to remove the intruder from the nest - not always to eat it. Because the hook is barely in the bait, it will be easier to set the hook.
If the first approach doesn't work, a like to turn to a dark colored Berkley Gulp! Lizard and try the same tactics. However, unlike the white tube, the dark lizard is harder to see in the water. If the water is too murky to see the nests, try Carolina rigging in the shallows. And if you're after smallmouth bass, look for underwater cover to hold bedding fish.
Fishing the spawn can be fun, difficult and rewarding all at the same time. Just be sure to practice catch and release so that other anglers will have the opportunity to enjoy the fishing, too.
Berkley Pro Jay Yelas is the reigning FLW Tour Angler of the Year and a former Bassmaster Classic champion from Corvalis, Ore.
Post-spawn fishing for bass can encompass everything from hatched eggs to shady summer
haunts, but it pretty much begins as soon as the bass start leaving their
spawning beds and runs throughout the summer. Though some anglers love
this time of year and others hate it, once you get post-spawn bass pinpointed
you could be in for some of the best fishing of the year.
Just because the bass have quit spawning doesn't mean they've quit being bass, so some of the tactics for spawning bass will still work. One of my favorite spawning baits is also very effective during post spawn. One of my favorites is a Berkley Power Lizard in green pumpkin, one of the most productive bass baits ever made. After the spawn, I'll Carolina rig the Power Lizard and fish it for post-spawning bass in areas where I expect to find the fish coming off their beds.
Even when I'm fishing offshore areas, I'll still fish the lizard -- either Texas or Carolina rigged -- to catch bass during the rest of the year. But if the post spawn coincides with the shad spawn, I'll look for some shallow chunk rock or rip rap that will hold spawning shad and target the predatory bass nearby.
Sometimes post-spawn bass will take to the shallows or other staging areas until they leave for their summer hangouts. When I go after post spawners in the shallows I prefer a Berkley Power Tube jig. I'll rig the Power Tube with a lightweight slip sinker if I want a slow fall to let bass see the bait longer. If the bass aren't feeding actively, and I want to trigger a reaction strike, I'll use a heavier sinker like a 5/16- or a 3/8-ounce and fish it around any type of cover I can locate. I'm betting on getting a strike as soon as the bait hits the water and begins to fall. If the bass don't take the bait on the fall, I'll pop the lure up one or two times off the bottom. If I still don't get a strike, I'll reel the bait in and pitch to another piece of cover.
Remember, the post-spawn period is much longer than the pre-spawn and spawning periods, so learning how to fish this time of year will ensure you're catching fish even up into the dog days of summer.
Scott Suggs is the 2007 FLW Champion and the first angler in professional bass fishing to win $1 million in a single tournament. For more information on Scott Suggs visit www.scottsuggs.com
Stay Safe on the Water and Catch More Fish
The pleasure boats are gone and the water is now all yours. But don't venture out for your next winter fishing trip without following these top ten tips:
1. Check the bellies of fish you bring up and if you find silt, that's an indication that the fish has been glued to the bottom. So take your time presenting the bait or lure, stay in one spot for a longer time and use presentations with smaller baits like drop shot or shaky heads. Find the deepest water close to shore and fish more vertically than horizontally.
2. With the pleasure boating season over there are fewer potential rescuers to assist you in an emergency, so never fish alone. Leave a float plan behind with your spouse, friend, or anyone else who is willing to call authorities if you haven't checked back in at a predetermined time.
3. A spray of line conditioner, such as Reel Magic, will help keep your lines ice-free. Use a smaller line size so you can get better hooksets with less line resistance. Low stretch line is best in the winter as well.
4. Wear layers of clothing - preferably synthetic or wool - but never cotton. It's a poor insulator when wet
5. Use attractants such as Jack's Juice, which can sprayed on a soft plastic lures. Fish are sluggish in winter and attractants encourage them to hold on longer.
6. Bring along high-energy foods such as granola bars and warm drinks. It's important to keep hydrated in winter's dry air. Stay away from alcohol, which dilates blood vessels and cools your body's core.
7. Cold water drains energy and body heat rapidly. If you fall overboard, a life jacket can give you the time you need to pull yourself back in the boat before the effects of hypothermia set in. Vest styles can provide warmth both in and out of the water while automatically inflating life jackets allow great freedom of movement and fit over bulky winter clothing. Also, make sure you have a method to get back in the boat, such as a built-in boarding ladder or a short length of rope with loops for footholds that is firmly attached to a cleat or other fixed object.
8. According to US Coast Guard boating fatality statistics, January's and February's cold weather represent the greatest fatality risk. Always check the weather before you go. With hypothermia a very real threat, sudden squalls can be deadly.
9. Now is the time to disconnect water pressure and speed hoses behind the helm gauges to prevent freeze damage.
10. When you're done fishing and before you leave the launch ramp, trim the outboard motor all the way down, remove the kill switch and turn the engine over for a just a second to pump out any water that may still be inside the motor. Remove any mud or plant debris from the boat or equipment and thoroughly drain livewells or anywhere else water may have pooled to stop the spread of invasive species. Storing the boat high and dry for two days before fishing a different body of water can also help. Remember, it's your fishery.
for Keeping Heat-Stressed Bass Alive in Summertime Fishing Tournaments
by Haley Lynch, Kentucky Afield magazine
Frankfort, Kentucky - Bass tournaments are an exciting
and popular activity on Kentucky's lakes. However, tournaments held during
the heat of summer place a great deal of stress on fish.
"We don't promote summertime tournaments because of the potential for increases in mortality of fish," said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources' fisheries division. "We recommend that tournaments not be held when water temperatures are over 80 degrees."
Higher temperatures mean less oxygen in the water and more stress to fish held in a boat's livewell. If anglers don't take measures to cool the water, maximize aeration, maintain a healthy salt balance and flush ammonia from the livewell, fish can die either during the tournament or after they are released.
"If anglers cannot move their tournaments to cooler time periods, they need to learn the best techniques for taking care of fish in warm water," said Buynak. "If you are going to have a summertime tournament, maintain aeration and use ice and salt in the livewell."
Anglers should first fill their livewells in the morning when the lake water is cooler. Switch the livewell to recirculate so it is not taking on warm lake water, and keep it running continually throughout the tournament day. Add two 1/2-gallon frozen bottles of water to the livewell and about 1/3 cup of untreated salt for every 5 gallons of livewell water.
"After about a three-hour period in the livewell, the ice will be melted, bass waste will be building up and you could have an ammonia problem," said Buynak. "The recommendation is to change half the water in the livewell after three hours, then add ice and salt again."
Taking care of fish in the livewell is only one part of keeping bass alive during summer tournaments.
"You've got to have the full range of resources to keep them alive," said Dave Dreves, fisheries research biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "Proper set-up at the weigh-in is also very important."
Tournament organizers can reduce stress on fish by lowering the creel limit, staggering weigh-in times and keeping weigh-in lines short and efficient. Summer tournaments can be held at night or shortened to four hours to reduce stress on fish. For full eight-hour tournaments, a weigh-in and release can be held halfway through the day to shorten the amount of time fish spend in the livewell.
"The big thing is, the less time in the boat, the better," said Buynak. "At the weigh-in, have an iced, aerated trough for fish. The water should be salted and cooled 5 to 10 degrees below the lake temperature. When releasing fish, take them out further from the bank where there is deeper, cooler water."
Fish survival is not only good for the resource, but it puts a positive face on the tournament fishing sport. Tournaments can encourage good fish handling even more by penalizing anglers whose fish die.
"A lot of tournaments have penalties for bringing in dead fish," said Dreves. "That's one reason anglers want to keep their fish alive. But the reason these rules were instituted was to promote good care of the fish during their time in the livewell."
Buynak recommends anglers and tournament organizers review the B.A.S.S. sponsored manual "Keeping Bass Alive," which outlines in complete detail the best methods for handling bass during tournaments. Basic guidelines and information on how to get a copy of the manual are available at fw.ky.gov/bassguidelines.asp.
Author Hayley Lynch is an award-winning writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. She is an avid hunter and shotgun shooter.
The Summer Conundrum of Suspended Bass,
courtesy of Kentucky DFW
The intense sun and summertime
temperatures in the 90s stifles the desire of most of us to move around
much. A glass of tea in the shade or a nap in an air-conditioned room
are much more inviting than digging a hole for a fence post or putting
Black bass are just like us. Their activity slows down in the heat of a summer's day. Bass suspend in the water column and rest like a human sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, letting the heat of the day pass. While fishing topwater baits at night, dusk or dawn is an effective way to catch bass, many anglers believe that they can't catch bass during the heat of a July afternoon.
However, you can effectively target bass suspended over deeper water in the middle of the day by downsizing your lures and tackle, then slowing down your presentation. If you can find the fish, this can be one of the most reliable ways to catch bass than at any other time of the year.
"Bass are going to pick off an easy meal, but they aren't actively feeding," said Chris Hickey, black bass research biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "But, once you find them, they'll spend all summer there."
Water temperature, dissolved oxygen and the lake's water fertility all play a role in where bass will suspend during the dog days of summer. "It's an issue of comfort," Hickey explained. "They don't want to sit in 3 feet of water that is approaching 90 degrees. Their metabolism increases as water temperatures increase, and that can stress them. They find a neutral zone of comfortable water temperatures."
That cozy zone usually resides just above the thermocline - the breakpoint between the warmer, oxygenated water on top and the colder oxygen-depleted layer underneath. Fish rarely venture into this bottom layer because of the lack of oxygen.
"They'll chase food under the thermocline," Hickey said, "but can't hang out there."
In fertile reservoirs such as Barren, Taylorsville, Nolin, Green and Guist, the summer thermocline is roughly 12 -16 feet deep. Bass suspend over humps, points and channels at this depth in July and August.
A lightweight jig-and-pig combination in green pumpkin, black-and-blue, green-and-brown or brown-and-orange swum just above these structures will produce strikes. The channel drops in the lower one-third of Barren River Lake are a dynamite place to practice this technique in summer. You may catch all three species of black bass. A skirted grub worked in the same manner as the jig is another excellent presentation for these fish. Good colors to try include watermelon with red flake, pumpkinseed or black.
Don't overwork your jig or skirted grub. Simply swim them just above bottom on a slow, steady retrieve. You want your lure to stay in the strike zone in front of the fish for as long as possible. A lot of anglers would try a crankbait for these suspended bass, but the erratic nature of the lure often turns off idle fish.
"Bass don't want to spend their metabolic energy chasing prey in summer," said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries and former black bass biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "They are in a lazy mode. They aren't going to chase a lure."
Things get a little more complicated for clear, low fertility lakes such as Cumberland, Paintsville, Laurel, Dale Hollow and most mountain lakes east of Interstate 75. These lakes can hold dissolved oxygen in their depths. This is the reason they can support cool water fish species such as walleye, striped bass, trout and smallmouth bass.
Black bass, especially smallmouth bass, often suspend 6-10 feet deep over ledges that start at 40 feet and fall off into the old river channel. Bass also hold at the same depths over 25-50 feet deep long, sloping points.
Use a 4-inch finesse worm or a 3-5 inch grub rigged on a 1/16-ounce lead head jig to catch these fish. Cast your lure over a channel drop or long point and slowly retrieve it. If this does not produce a hit, then let your lure sink for five seconds on the next cast before you begin your retrieve. Keep adding five seconds to every cast until you find the active zone of the fish.
Slow down once you find this active zone and watch your line intently. Often the line will suddenly go slack, tighten or move to the side. A bass probably has just inhaled your lure.
Avoid lines heavier than 8-pound test if you're bass fishing in a clear, infertile lake. Set a light drag and let the fish run. There is little structure in deep, rocky infertile lakes for the fish to hang upon and break your line. Many anglers may balk at using such light line, but in these types of lakes during the day in summer, lures fished on heavier lines simply don't get bitten by bass.
Slow down and swim a lure for suspended bass during these long, hot lazy days. It may be the fastest bass fishing of the year.
Down Summer Doesn't Mean Fishing Stops by Bob Jensen
courtesy of The Fishing Wire by Berkley
may not know it by looking out the window, but signs of summer's departure
are already starting. You may not even realize that fact by stepping
outdoors. It's still hot outside, the breezes are warm, and dew
covers the grass in the morning. However, it is September and we
can't avoid the fact that another summer is slipping away. As summer
makes its exit, the fish start to detect the changes in their surroundings.
If we want to continue to catch fish, we need to make some changes
Take a look into the water, and pay close attention to the baitfish. The bluegills and bullheads that were tiny just six or eight weeks ago are noticeably bigger. There are also fewer of them. Many of the baitfish that were spawned in the spring have been eaten by the larger gamefish. That means that the food supply has diminished in the past few weeks, and it will continue to get smaller as fall closes in. The gamefish are still hungry, in fact, they're hungrier. If we can put a bait in front of them, they'll eat it.
The key then, is to find the fish, then give them what they want. In reality, that's always the key. Now and for the rest of the open water season, especially if you're looking for a trophy sized fish, you should be using larger baits. As the waters start to cool off, fish will recognize that as a sign from Mother Nature that they should put the feed-bag on. One big meal will be more attractive to them than several smaller meals.
If largemouth bass are the quarry, a big bulky bait will be a good bet. From Berkley, Seven inch Power Worms or Gulp! Turtle Back Worms will be good, but don't hesitate to try a ten inch worm. You might not get as many strikes, but big baits catch big fish. Also try the new PowerBait Sabertail Burly Bug. This is a bulky bait that has been outstanding since its recent introduction.
It often works best to rig these baits on a rubber-legged jig like a Northland Jungle Jig. This style adds bulk, and that's what the bass want now.
Same thing is true for walleyes, smallmouth, muskies, and northern pike, even crappies. Larger baits will take the larger fish of all these species.
Different bodies of water will be affected by the changes in weather also. Just as larger bodies of water heat up slower early in the year, they also cool off slower in the fall. Smaller bodies of water will often provide the best bite early in the autumn, while the bigger water provides the most action later on. Throughout the Midwest, you can generally find a body of water near where you live that is offering some action.
The fishing action at the end of summer can be a little slower than we're accustomed to, but by moving around you'll still catch fish. And this brief lull in the fishing action signals that some of the best fishing of the year is getting very close.
-- Bob Jensen was introduced to the sport of fishing as a toddler and has been an active angler since. Bob has been involved in fishing education, promotion, and communications for the past seventeen years. Visit his website Fishing The Midwest
Change-Ups For More Fish
by Bob Jensen, courtesy of The Fishing Wire by Berkley
year we learn more about fishing. In fact, much of the time, every time
we go fishing we learn something. The past few summers have been a very
good learning experience. Here are a couple of things I've learned relative
to summer fishing that can help anglers catch more fish.
On the largemouth bass side of the world it has again become obvious that we need to keep doing things differently if we want to be successful. Just this past week my nephew and I were chasing bass in shallow water. We were fishing reed beds. Action was ok, but it wasn't as good as it usually is on this lake using the same techniques at the same time of year on previous trips.
When fishing reed beds, spinnerbaits are usually a good bait to throw. They come through the reeds with minimal hang-ups, the blade calls fish, and you get bit often. Not on this trip though. The bass just didn't seem to want a spinnerbait.
When fishing reeds it's a good idea to pitch a jig to the heavier clumps or wherever you see darker water. Pitch the jig in there, let is settle to the bottom, jig it a few times, then pitch it to another clump.
We did that. Interesting thing happened. The bass didn't eat the jig when it was jigged slowly, but when we started reeling it quickly back to the boat, they smacked it. We started working the jig the same way we working the spinnerbait. We would cast it out and just starting reeling. We would delay it just a split-second near heavy cover, but mostly it was a straight retrieve. The bass liked this presentation. They really liked it.
The best set-up was a three-eighth's ounce Jungle Jig with a four inch Power Grub. A watermelon jig with a white grub was good.
Maybe the blade on the spinnerbait was too much for the bass, or maybe they had just become conditioned to the spinnerbait. Whatever the reason, the jig fished like a spinnerbait was clearly the way to catch'em on that day.
Another break in tradition. Walleye anglers often stop using minnows in the summer. It has been believed by some walleye chasers that after a certain point in the summer, walleyes prefer crawlers and leeches to minnows. While it is true that crawlers and leeches will catch walleyes in the warmer months, minnows will too.
Some anglers suspect that minnows lost favor because they're hard to keep alive in the summer. With the advent of effective aerated minnow buckets, minnows are now easy to keep alive even in the warmest weather. Frabill is the leader in aerated minnow storage systems. Their units are quiet and effective, and walleye anglers are finding out that walleyes like to eat minnows in the summer, sometime even better than leeches and crawlers.
It's important that we don't get locked into fishing ideas too firmly. The fish don't always do what we expect them to do. If we keep an open mind to fishing presentations, we're going to catch more fish.
Bob Jensen is host of Fishing the Midwest on www.WalleyeCentral.com and www.MyOutdoorTV.com
Riggers, jiggers, crankers, and bladers, all nicknames for anglers who use a particular method in pursuitof the elusive walleye. The most successful fisherman have become adept at applying all of th aforementioned techniques. While all methods can produce all year long; they’re not always the most productive method for that particular moment. Being able to read the conditions and adjusting your presentation can keep you on the fish. Good “bladders” have learned that one of the most consistent producers across the country has been a spinner and live bait combination. Spinners are designed to add flash and vibration to live bait like crawlers, leeches, and minnows. Flash and vibration is delivered by a revolving blade at the front of the bait. Different blade shapes and sizes can vary the amount of vibration produced and they can also add a splash of color. Northland Tackle’s new Rock’n Rainbow Spinner comes with a new level of vibration and has an erratic and kind of crazy action that can drive walleyes nuts and is something they haven’t seen before. It’s available in some great colors a and comes with a one or two hook harness. The standard spinner comes tied with a pre-determined leader length, and can restrict its use. The Rock’n Rainbow has a short length of leader that holds the main body of the bait together and has no extended leader. Leader length is determined by the user which allows you the flexibility to adjust the length for each set of conditions.
One of the most common uses for a spinner employs the use of a bottom bouncer and a three or four foot snell. Popularized on the western reservoirs; bottom bouncers have allowed anglers to troll spinners through some pretty tough neighborhoods including rock, timber, and certain weeds. The wire tip of a bouncer keeps the bait elevated in the “zone” and out of the junk when used properly. The proper use includes keeping the bouncer as straight up and down as possible. If you get past a 45 degree angle on the line you have out to stay with the bottom the bouncer is going to lay down and lose all of it’s snag resistant properties. If you need the speed to trigger the fish you’re after it’s best to go up in bouncer size to keep it all under control and might mean using one as heavy as three or four ounces. The depth and speed you are trolling will determine the size bouncer that is required and the key is to go as light as you can while keeping the line as straight up and down as possible.
Another method for trolling spinners while targeting open water fish incorporates an in-line keel sinker. When using in-line weights you can use up to a six or eight foot snell, to keep the weight as far from the bait as possible and out of the picture. To adjust the running depth anglers can either vary the sizeweight they’re using or vary the amount of line out. Hanging on to a trolling rod all day can be tough on the body and a set of rod holders can make the chore much easier, but don’t get lazy. Good fishermen like to keep a rod in their hands for a couple of reasons; the first being the feel. If you’re hanging on you can tell if you’re getting hit and missed and know it right a way, which allows for quick bait replacement. It also allows you to set the hooks on the strike which can increase your strike to fish landed ratio.
The second reason is the ability to add some extra action. Instead of just pulling the bait along at trolling speed you’ll get more hits by pumping the rod forward and quickly dropping it back. The result is an erratic flash and flutter presentation that can help trigger the followers and the mildly interested. Good spinner gear includes longer bait casting rods like St. Croix’s model TWC70MM Light Bouncer model with a medium sized reel loaded with eight or ten pound test Berkley Fireline. Fireline provides excellent feel and the super thin diameter will allow you to get away with using lighter bouncers. The combination of a high quality rod along with the braid will allow you to stay on top of your bouncers position and in complete control. While spinners are one of the most consistent walleye producers year in and year out, they do have their time and place. For example; they really don’t come into their own until the water temps reach into the mid to upper fifties. However, when the time is right spinners can be the best thing going. When early season presentations start to fade like rigging and jigging, look for spinners to really pick up. They are also an effective method for covering lots of water. When looking for fish traditional rigging and jigging methods prove to be much too slow. Spinner speed can let you cover a lot more water by the end of the day and is the secret to actually finding fish. See you on the water
prime time to go fishing on Lake Erie
by D'Arcy Egan, courtesy of Cleveland.com
Balog knows Lake Erie's rock piles and reefs, the humps and bumps that
are home to hungry smallmouth bass.
"I've been fishing these areas since I was a kid growing up in Brecksville," said Balog, 34, whose top national tournament wins have come on Lake Erie. "You can catch bass just about any time of year on Lake Erie. If you're after trophy bass, the ones that jack up your pulse after you set the hook, October is prime time."
Balog now lives in Harrison Township, Mich., traveling the country to compete in bass tournaments and appear at fishing seminars and shows. More often than not, his down time is spent on the bow of his Ranger boat, casting for bass or hunting ducks. A fishing invitation from Balog is an opportunity to learn new bass-catching tricks. Always on the cutting edge, Balog takes pride in fishing with the latest in angling electronics and fishing tackle.
"Drop shot rigs are the key right now," said Balog as he backed his Ranger boat down the Mazurik launch ramp on Marblehead. "And Pelee Island is the place to be. The Bass Islands and Kelleys Island will light up in the coming weeks, and the Ohio shoreline from Huron to Lorain is pretty darn good in the fall."
By the time we arrived at the Wagon Wheel reef complex on the west side of Pelee Island, southwesterly winds had begun to pick up. Balog had to focus on controlling the boat with a bow-mounted electric motor as I struggled to keep the sinker on my drop shot rig in contact with the rocky bottom.
The smallmouth bass were cooperating, but waves began to crash over the bow of the boat. We decided to escape the wind and try the north shore of Pelee Island. The bass were usually smaller there, said Balog, the only time he was wrong all day. His first bass was a stout fish that weighed a shade under 6 pounds.
The bass move to shallower waters as Lake Erie cools down in October, and become more aggressive," said Balog. "The bass that are fairly scattered in the summer begin to group up for the winter. If you catch one, there should be a few more in the same area."
Bass fishermen complain that the prime areas along the Huron and Vermilion shorelines aren't the hot spots of past years. Balog believes the smallmouth bass are around but have changed their habits.
"You might catch one smallmouth bass from a good spot off Vermilion in summer," he said. "In the middle of October, after the water temperature drops into the low 50s, the same spot may be holding 50 fish."
Balog had the latest in electronics on the dash, a Hummingbird side scan sonar unit. The side scan sonar showed him the piles of rock and rubble as far as 50 feet away on each side of the boat, and sometimes bass hovering around the rocks.
"Identifying structure is the big key," said Balog. "The side scan unit has been a shortcut to success."
Balog enjoys a perch or walleye dinner, but smallmouth bass are precious. Every one is handled gently with wet hands and quickly released.
"Lake Erie's smallmouth bass are so pressured, and the big ones are becoming increasingly hard to catch," said Balog. "The fisheries biologists checking smallmouth bass at the FLW tournament in Cleveland in 2005 found the average trophy bass caught was about 9 years old. Some were 14 years old.
"We've got to protect our bass in order to have great fishing in the future."
Kentucky - We have experiences in the outdoors that can be transcendent,
although the conditions are rough. Catching crappie after crappie in cold
March sleet, bagging your biggest turkey ever in a chilling April downpour
or taking a limit of ducks in weather so cold hot coffee quickly freezes
on the rim of your cup make great memories.
Although these encounters test your mettle and enrich your life, few outdoor pursuits compare to December fishing for smallmouth bass in the snow. The activity seems incongruent - floating in a boat on ice-free water with white frozen snow lining the banks. You seem completely out of place, casting a hair jig, the float and fly or a shiner with snow in your eyelashes. You feel you should be at home; that it is dangerous to fish in such weather.
Except it may be the best weather condition for catching the largest smallmouth bass you'll ever hold.
"On an overcast snowy day, light will be greatly diffused," said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "This brings the smallmouths up shallower and they can be easier to fool. They are more likely to strike an artificial lure because of less light penetration."
Anglers should take advantage of this. In our premier winter smallmouth lakes such as Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow Lake and Laurel River Lake, anything than can get smallmouth out of their usual deep-water lairs is a blessing. These lakes are so clear you can see where you chipped paint from your jig head in 10 feet of water. This water clarity pushes smallmouths deep for most of the year during the day, but snowfall and a leaden sky bring them up to feed.
"I also think it is a pressure-related thing," said Ted Crowell, former assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "Snow brings along with it low barometric pressure. It is just like when it rains in summer. This turns fish on."
Crowell has spent many a winter day chasing smallmouths at Lake Cumberland and Dale Hollow. "It is unbelievable, the fish you can catch in December in the snow," he said. "There's nobody else on the lake. There's nobody in the parking lot. It's great."
Also, unstable weather places predators at an advantage over prey. The changing weather of a snow storm and the cold of winter disorient baitfish and smallmouth bass gobble up all they can. This is especially true for larger female smallmouths who must store up fat reserves for egg development in early spring. They need to eat.
The plummeting water temperatures of December also stress baitfish such as shad or alewives. They swim in circles and quiver as they fight death. This is why the float and fly technique is so deadly in winter. A small, light craft hair or duck feather jig suspended on light line 8 to 12 feet deep perfectly imitates baitfish in their death throes.
Another highly productive technique is suspending a large crappie minnow or medium-sized shiner under a bobber 6 to 10 feet deep off points. The bobber flutters on top until it abruptly torpedoes toward the bottom. Smallmouth bass that hit live bait in winter don't fool around. They strike fiercely.
Both of these techniques produce, because the baitfish suspend in the water column in tightly packed schools in winter. Smallmouth bass cruise under these schools looking for those alewives or shad acting peculiar and pick them off.
A black 1/8th to 3/8th-ounce rabbit fur or bucktail jig swum just above bottom and down those main lake points produced winter smallmouths for your grandfather and they do the same today. The old-school pork rind is still the best trailer. Find the smallest pork rind possible or cut a bigger one in half. Although the soft plastic chunk trailers prove much easier to handle and take on and off the hook, pork is still the best choice in cold water.
Don't let snowfall scare you from chasing bronze this winter. Don some waterfowl hunting clothing or coveralls and a pair of warm boots. Grab some hand warmers, a thermos of strong coffee and your fishing rod. Five-pound smallmouth bass are waiting for you if you brave the elements.
Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.
is a good time to think about some things you can do to take advantage
of the great fall fishing opportunities that exist across the Midwest.
The fall season provides perhaps the best opportunity for catching numbers of big fish. Sure you can catch a big one before it spawns in the spring, but fall fish are preparing for winter by bulking up, so they're hungry. They're thinking about eating, not about spawning. That makes them more susceptible to an angler's presentation.
As with any fishing, the key thing is to fish where the fish are. I've caught walleyes in the fall in two foot of water on wind-blown shorelines, and in thirty feet of water on deep humps. Same thing's true with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskies, and crappies. Keep moving until you find them. If you suspect them to be in deep water, some sonar work will pay big dividends. The 798 Humminbird sonar that I use has a color display that really exposes fish holding on deeper structures.
Remember that in the fall, big baits catch big fish. It's more efficient for a gamefish to eat one big meal instead of several smaller ones. Therefore, big baits are the way to go. If you're after largemouth, try a Reed-Runner spinnerbait with a big blade and tip it with a big trailer, something like a four inch Power Grub. If a slower presentation is desired, go with a rubber legged Jungle Jig with, again, a bulky soft bait trailer like a five inch Power Hawg or Sabertail Tube. Make sure the jig color contrasts with the trailer color.
If walleyes are the quarry, try a Roach Rig or Fire-Ball jig tipped with a redtail chub, one in the five inch range, maybe even a little bigger. When it comes to fall walleyes, a redtail is hard to beat. Don't crowd them in the minnow bucket, and keep them aerated. We always take at least three or four dozen redtails on the water with us in the fall. To make sure they stay lively, we keep them in a Frabill Aqua-Life Bait Station. If there are any left at the end of the day, they're just as lively as they were when the day began with this minnow bucket.
Make sure you're using fresh, strong line in the fall. Too many anglers use the same line they've used all spring and summer, and things usually work out o.k. But knowing that the odds for hooking a truly big fish are better in the fall should be incentive enough to spool some new line on just in case the line you're using has a nick. Your line is the only thing keeping you stuck to the fish: Use good stuff.
There are lots of reasons to go fishing in the fall. The colors can be spectacular, the crowds are gone, and the big fish are eating. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you'll be on your way to taking advantage of these fall fishing opportunities.
-- Bob Jensen
Watch Jensen on Fishing the Midwest television on www.WalleyeCentral.com and www.MyOutdoorTV.com .
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