Category Archives: How To Fish

Plastics Transition for Walleyes

The Live-Bait to Plastics Transition for Walleyes
By Tony Roach
from The Fishing Wire

Perhaps the single quickest abandoned pattern in a walleye angler’s arsenal is the shallow jig bite, and I plead “guilty” to the above charge. Anglers that have six boxes with nothing but jigs in them for opener, forget what part of the garage they’re now in collecting dust. Early in the season, shiners are purchased not by the dozen or the scoop, but by the gallon, as the simple act of just threading one on the correct-sized jig will instill confidence throughout the north-country and beyond. One week later, anglers flee the shallow shorelines, developing weedlines, and near-shore rockpiles for the hope of greener pastures out deep, and more familiar, longer-lasting summer patterns. Rigging, slip-bobbering, pulling crankbaits, anything but jigs seem to get the nod as temperatures rise and fishing heats up. Yet, there’s plenty reason to keep those jigs around, and even tip them with minnows in the weeks after opener. What’s more, is that there are a number of developing shallow bites right now that keep jigs in play, just maybe with some different meat threaded onto the business end.

I asked famed guide Tony Roach what was getting him bit, and his response was simple. “Everyone sees me up shallow in 4 -8 feet of water. They think I’m bass fishing, but I’m whaling on walleyes right now with a simple jig and plastic combination.” Truly, there are strong segments of the walleye population in most lakes that never leave the shallows for the entirety of the year. That’s news for technical fishermen that use electronics to pick apart deep water structure and dissect off-shore features during this time of year. As the lake system ramps up biologically, fish need food, cover, and oxygen, with the greatest limiter being food. Developing weeds, especially cabbage, are magnets when interspersed with rock or other hard bottom. These locations always hold some bait, and typically always hold some walleyes throughout the season.

My experience has seen some good shallow bites going right now too, with the best being a river run in 5 – 7 foot of water. Current is the great equalizer, as high skies, bright sun, and no wind still translates into a great day when fishing current seams, eddies, and riffles in rivers. The same conditions that absolutely kill other patterns, especially in clear water natural lakes, don’t seem to hassle the river fish that are taking advantage of current that sweeps unsuspecting invertebrates, bait, and terrestrials downstream and into their gullets. Long-lining and leadcore staples that typically produce good numbers of fish during this time of year were poor in comparison. The bite ebbs and flows, with low-light periods still shining brightest, but moving water is a great savior to an otherwise weary day of walleye fishing.

In both scenarios, the classic pitch and run technique utilizing jigs and shiners were tweaked if only slightly. “As the water warms up, there’s a transition to where plastics become just-as, if not more effective than shiners or other minnows,” mentions Tony. “It’s something I see every year. As people move to the mud or mid-lake structure to rig, I simply switch to jigs with a Northland Impulse Smelt or Paddle Minnow to get these fish to chase a bit more,” explains Roach about his shallow techniques. Honed on the big waters of Mille Lacs, Leech, and Winnie, Roach is a big fan of this pattern, “Plastics allow me to fish more quickly, cast further without losing bait, and keep on a hot bite without pausing to re-bait.” Those valuable bite windows can be small and precious, especially in unfavorable conditions, so staying with the heavy part of the bite and not missing out on fish becomes crucial to making a decent day into a great one. Visual cues put off by paddle-tails, ringworms, and even minnow shaped flukes go well beyond your average minnow, especially in the colors and hues available. Nowadays, our choices for colors to pique a fish’s curiosity are nearly limitless, and often we can mimic forage that doesn’t even resemble our offering just by switching colors. For example, an orange jig and grub combination looks nothing like a rusty crayfish, but don’t tell that to Lake of the Woods walleyes that were coughing up blaze-orange crustacean parts all over the live well last summer. Those fish happily engaged that offering crawled near bottom on many of the rock reefs and points that we fished.

Plastics design has come a long way since varieties from days gone by. Color and flash give way to vibration, flicker, and quiver all throughout the very lifelike baits on the market today. The end-result is an attraction based not just on visual cues, but key components in the way a bait pulsates that trigger fish’s predatory instincts. As walleye’s lateral lines pick up these distinct tremors in the water column, I’m convinced that the heavy thumpers truly call in fish from a distance to warrant a close investigation at the very least.

Fishing a jig is a rewarding way to get bit, and offers a few more weeks of great near-shore fishing for walleyes. Just remember that as a lake’s “metabolism” gears up for the best fishing of the year, the bite becomes both more effective AND efficient when pairing those jigs with plastics.

Proper Equipment and Fish Correct Depth to Catch Crappie

Use Proper Equipment and Fish Correct Depth to Catch Crappie with Roger Gant
from The Fishing Wire

Editor’s Note: Roger Gant of Corinth, Mississippi, has fished Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River for more than 40 years. Some fishermen haven’t recognized Pickwick Lake, located on the Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi border, as a crappie lake. However, Gant guides on Pickwick Lake more than 200 days a year and consistently catches good limits of slab crappie. Here’s how he does it, from noted outdoors writer John Phillips.

* Have the proper equipment for the time of the year you plan to fish. Many crappie fishermen don’t take the time they need to make sure they have the very-best equipment they can purchase for the time of year they plan to fish. If you use too large a line, your jig will float too high in the water for crappie to take it. If your line doesn’t have the strength you need, you’ll break the line when you set the hook. I’ve found that I can set the hook hard on 8-pound-test MagnaThin line (http://www.stren.com/stren-line-monofilament-stren-magnathin/stren-magnathin/1347942.html), yet the small line will cut through the water so that my jigs run at the proper depths. You need an extremely-soft rod with enough backbone to hold itself upright. When sight-fishing for crappie, I look for the bite on the tip of the rod. So, I must have a sensitive rod to show me even the lightest crappie bite. I like a B’n’M 6 1/2-foot crappie jig pole (https://www.bnmpoles.com/c-13-bucks-series-jig-poles.aspx).

I fish with Quantum’s casting reels (https://www.quantumfishing.com/reels) that have bearings in them and reel smoothly. I use casting reels on spinning rods because most casting rods have a trigger or a hump on the butt of the rod. But, a spinning rod has a straight handle. When the rod’s on the deck of the boat, the reel faces down. I place my rod and reel in this position when I use my style of trolling. I also use casting reels, so I can count the line down to the proper water depth to catch the fish. I put a white piece of tape on the rod 1 foot from where the line comes out of the reel. My fishermen can pull the line off the reel out to where the line crosses the white tape. Each time an angler pulls the line to the white tape, he or she knows his jig will go down one more foot in the water. By having the jigs troll at exactly the water depth where the crappie hold or slightly above the crappie, then we catch more crappie. I believe you can pull line off a bait-casting reel easier and more accurately than you can a spinning reel.

* Fish in the exact depths where the crappie hold to catch more crappie. By constantly watching your depth finder and searching for fish and structure, the depth finder will tell you at what depth you need to troll your jigs. Once I determine the depth of the structure I see on the depth finder, I know how deep to tell my fishermen to let their jigs down, so they’ll pass just above the structure. If I see crappie holding above the structure on my depth finder, I can tell my fishermen how much line to pull off, so that the jigs will pass at the depth where the crappie are holding or slightly above them. If I see crappie 15-feet deep, I can tell my fishermen to let their jigs touch the water and then pull off 14 feet of line. I know that when I slow troll, those jigs will pass about a foot above the crappie. If the fish don’t take the bait, I may tell my fishermen to pull off 1/2-foot of line. Because of the tape, the fishermen know how far to pull the line and can get the jigs down closer to the crappie.

To learn more about crappie fishing with Roger Gant, call him at 731-689-5666 or 662-287-2017, or go to http://visitmississippi.org/events-and-points-of-interest/super-pro-guide-service-26669.

To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, and print and Audible books by going to http://johninthewild.com/books/#crappie or to www.barnesandnoble.com for Nook books. To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denis

How to Find and Catch Channel Cats

How to Find and Catch Channel Cats
Editor’s Note: Here’s a useful novice level how-to for locating and catching one of the most widely-distributed fish in the nation, the channel cat, from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
from The Fishing Wire

Channel Catfish – What do I need?

Lake anglers use fairly short rods, while stream anglers like longer 6 to 8 feet rods. Some even use a fly rod. Longer rods offer better placement of the bait and lets you fish many good holes without casting. Just drop the line near a likely spot with no more line out than the rod length. Ten-pound test line is suggested over lighter weight line since the bait is fished on the bottom and often near underwater snags.
Match the reel to the fish. Light duty reels are made to catch small fish and heavy duty reels have the power to land lunkers. Light tackle will catch more smaller fish but may not handle one of record class size.

Terminal tackle is an important consideration when setting out after “old whiskers.” The sinker and hook is the most important part of the terminal tackle. Always use the lightest weight needed and a slip sinker. The slip sinker rig lets a catfish pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. With any resistance on the line, a channel cat will leave the tasty bait in search of another.

Use a sharp hook. Hooks with bait holders on the shank are preferred. Use sponges or plastic worms when fishing with soft, prepared cheese baits. Present your selected hook and bait to the fish in the most natural manner, which requires the use of a minimum amount of sinker or weight.

Circle hooks are popular when using live or cut bait. There is no need to “set the hook” as they are designed to hook the fish themselves. Slowly pull back on the rod when it starts to double over as the fish takes the bait. Quick hooksets typically result in missed fish. When used properly, circle hooks reduce the chance of the fish swallowing the bait as they are usually caught in the corner of the mouth.

Bait options range from nightcrawlers, leeches, chicken blood, chicken liver, chicken or fish guts, crawdads, grasshoppers, water dogs, live and dead minnows, cut bait and a variety of prepared “stink” baits. Prepared baits usually have one thing in common – cheese. Use cut bait or dead minnows in late winter and spring- just after ice-out. Made of half-rotten fish, use this bait when the water temperature is less than 60 degrees F. Catfish actively eat fish flesh and other animals that die during winter and sink to the bottom. The stronger the rotten odor of bait, the better the success. Fish in deeper areas of the lake or stream before ice melt then shift to shallow water that warms faster and draws catfish into the near-shore reaches. Catfish can be caught under ice conditions, but feeding begins in earnest after the water temperature reaches 40 degrees F.

A channel catfish’s keen sense of smell makes it one of the few game fish species that can be readily caught during high stream flows in the spring, summer, and early fall. Rising water levels often provide more food for channel catfish to eat by flooding terrestrial areas along the river and food being washed in from runoff. Fish become more active during this time. Catfish become less active when water levels fall. During times of stable or rising water levels nearly all baits will produce good catches of catfish. Use baits that are most available under natural conditions.

Easy to store prepared bait is one of the most popular catfish baits. Many catfish anglers switch to prepared baits when water temperatures warm to 70 degrees F and above. Prepared bait is most effective for pan-sized catfish in mid-summer (June, July and August). Use large-sized baits such as dead bluegill, live chubs, water dogs, crayfish and frogs when seeking larger catfish. Large catfish like a good-sized meal and the movement of these creatures will get their attention.

Channel Catfish – Tips and Tricks
Catfish eat a variety of food items and are attracted to “smelly” morsels. Smaller catfish (less than 14 inches) feed primarily on bottom-dwelling organisms, such as aquatic insect larvae and other invertebrates. As catfish grow, their diet changes and a wider variety of food items are eaten. Fish, alive or dead, make up the bulk of their food after they reach 16 inches.

Channel catfish diets vary with the seasons. A wide variety of organisms, including fish that died in the winter, are available in late winter and early spring. Catfish devour these morsels, in various stages of decomposition, in large quantities. It is not unusual to find catfish stomachs full of decaying fish shortly after ice-out. As the water warms into late spring and summer, aquatic and terrestrial worms, fish, frogs, crayfish, mulberries, insects and their larvae forms, elm seeds and algae are the most prevalent foods. Many other items are eaten but usually make up only a small portion of the menu. Catfish food choices change again in the fall as the water cools. More fish is eaten along with aquatic invertebrates and terrestrial insects. Frogs become an important food source as they move into streams before the onset of winter.

Streams and Rivers
Fish upstream of river snags and log jams and cast the bait back towards it so the scent of the bait is carried downstream into the structure by the current drawing the catfish out.

Channel catfish move into the deepest holes of a river in late fall to over-winter. Fish won’t be as aggressive as they are in the spring and summer because of the colder temperatures. Try cut bait or nightcrawlers on slip sinkers rigs fished near the bottom.

As June approaches, catfish begin to spawn. Male channel catfish will find a cavity in a rocky shoreline, snags or stump to make a nest to guard its eggs. The male channel catfish will defend the nest from other fish attacking it. Float live fish, crawlers, or leeches under a bobber along rip rap shorelines, stumps, snags or any other structure that may provide a cavity for the fish. Riprap shoreline with big boulders is best because of the bigger cavities it makes. Let the bobber rig drift in the current or with the wind close to the structure to lure the catfish out. Strikes are fairly aggressive so you need to set the hook quickly before the fish releases the bait.

Most midsummer Mississippi River fishing is done anchoring above snags along the main channel and side channels or above the wing dams in the main channel. Use slip sinker rigs fished on the bottom with stink bait or shad guts and nightcrawlers. Walleye anglers often catch channel catfish casting or trolling crankbaits on the wing dams in the summer.

Increase the weight of your sinker when fishing for Missouri River channel catfish and use cut bait, stink baits, crawdads and nightcrawlers. Try fishing the outside bends of old oxbows cut off from the river as this is where the deeper water will most likely be. Use slip sinker rigs fished on the bottom with stink bait or nightcrawlers in the summer.

Lakes & Reservoirs
During the spawn in early June, target channel catfish around rock structure that offer cavities for nesting. Many smaller lakes have rip-rap (rock) along the shoreline to protect the banks from erosion. Large rock is also placed on the dams of man-made lakes or impoundments to protect the dam from erosion. This large rock provides large cavities for channel catfish to make their nests. Drift minnows, night crawlers or leeches under a bobber along the rock.

As June approaches, channel catfish begin to spawn. Look for channel catfish along rocky shorelines that offer cavities for nesting. Large rock along the shoreline is best because it provides better cavities for nesting. Float bobber rigs along these rocky shorelines with live green sunfish, minnows, crawlers or leeches.

Buy Your Fishing Licenses Online

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are found in nearly all Iowa lakes, ponds, streams and rivers. They are the most abundant game fish in our nearly 20,000 miles of interior streams.

Fish Details – Channel Catfish
(Characteristics, distribution, etc)

Channel Catfish – Where to Find Them
Streams and Rivers
Studies show that populations of 500 to over 5,000 pounds of catfish per mile in Iowa streams are common. Look for catfish in riffle areas just above pools, cut-banks, snags, rocks and other submerged structures in the stream. The outside edge of river bends usually has a cut-bank and deep water which hold large catfish populations. These outside bends usually have snags or log jams that provide good cover for catfish.
The Mississippi River has many areas that hold channel catfish including snags and log jams along the main channel and side channels, main channel wing dams, rip-rapped (rock armored) shorelines and shallow stump fields in the backwaters. Fishing typically begins in the spring as the ice goes out and channel catfish start to eat winterkilled shad. Many of the backwaters and shallow mudflats usually have dead shad that died that winter. Use cut bait or shad on the bottom in the mouths of these backwaters and shallow mudflats .

The Missouri River, heavily channelized with fast currents, has good numbers of channel catfish. Target the wing dike fields which create current seams, eddies, and sandbars that hold baitfish and aquatic invertebrates and attract channel catfish. Snags in the river hold channel catfish as well.

Lakes
Lakes have excellent catfishing thanks to an aggressive stocking program. Stocked fish grow fast and to a large size. The largest catfish caught in Iowa each year are taken from lakes and ponds. Fish over 10 pounds caught in our man-made lakes are common. Lake-dwelling catfish are not evenly spread but gather into specific locations. Most ponds and fishing lakes stratify into three distinct thermal layers 10 to 15 feet below the surface and water in the lower strata contains no oxygen – and no fish. Limit your fishing to depths above this stratification level. Streams that flow into the upper ends of lakes hold catfish, as does submerged structure such as timber, rock protected shorelines and drop-offs. Look for diverse habitat – the more diverse the habitat, the more attractive it is to catfish.

Large Reservoirs
Iowa’s large reservoirs offer great channel catfishing throughout the open water season. Fishing usually begins in the spring at ice out as channel catfish begin to eat gizzard shad that died over the winter. Focus fishing efforts towards the upper ends of the reservoirs fishing the shallower and warmer mudflats. Fish the windblown shorelines and points where the dead shad have been blown into to find actively feeding fish. Use cut shad or shad parts fished on the bottom.

Channel catfish move out along the channel edges of the reservoir in the summer and follow schools of shad to eat. With today’s advancements in sonar technology, many anglers will boat around until they find schools of shad. Usually there will be larger arcs on the sonar under the school of shad showing the presence of channel catfish or other predatory fish. Drift through the school of shad from the upwind side using lindy rigs/three-way rigs with cut bait fished on the bottom. You may have to move around some as the schools of shad and channel catfish move. Bends in the creek channel or drop offs near shallower stump fields are often good places as well. Catfish may also move up into these shallower stump fields or mudflats to feed at night.

Two-Lure Approach For Cold Weather Bass

Try This Two-Lure Approach For Cold Weather Bass

Editor’s Note: While spring is arriving early in much of the southeast, bass anglers in many areas of the nation are still challenged by chilly water. Here are some tips for connecting from noted B.A.S.S. Elite pro Bobby Lane.

Yamaha Pro Bobby Lane Alternates Jigs and Crankbaits in the Same Water

By most standards, Florida-based pro Bobby Lane would be among the last to say he enjoys fishing cold winter water, but just the opposite is true. The veteran Yamaha Pro has developed a two-lure approach that has nearly taken him to victory in the last two Bassmaster Classics,® both conducted in extremely cold weather.

“The two lures I use are a tight wobbling shad-imitation crankbait and a jig,” explains Lane, who used this combination to finish second in the 2015 Classic® on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, and 11th last year on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. “The crankbait allows me to cover water, and when I do catch a fish with it, I switch to the jig and work the immediate area more carefully.

“In cold water a lot of bass suspend, but at the same time they still move up in the water column routinely to feed. This is when they become more accessible, and these are the fish I’m looking for first with the crankbait. For the most part, I concentrate in water only about 10 feet deep, and traditionally it seems I have my best success early in the morning, even when it’s brutally cold.”

Lane’s crankbait is a suspending model he fishes on either spinning or baitcasting rods, normally using a slow but steady retrieve.

If he does stop reeling, which he does occasionally just to make the bait look more natural, the lure remains at that depth instead of rising to the surface. He targets deeper points, creek channel bends, bluff walls, and even boat docks when he can find the right water depth. He often visits the very same spots several times each day.

“The crankbait stays in the potential strike zone anywhere between five and 10 feet deep, and since I can fish it slowly and stay at that depth, bass will hit it because it looks so natural,” continues the Yamaha Pro. “I’m not crawling the lure through rocks like I might do in summer, or digging along the bottom the way I do in the fall months. I’m just casting and slowly reeling back, and not really trying to make contact with anything. I may not get very many strikes during the day, but I am covering water where I’m always expecting a strike.”

When Lane does catch a bass this way, he changes to his jig to work slightly deeper water. He knows winter bass gather in schools but not all of them move up to feed at the same time.

“I’m really going after the same fish,” he says, “because the jig will appeal to those bass that just aren’t as active at that moment. Not only can I fish it slower, I can also work bottom cover more effectively with it. I’m fishing it only a little deeper, maybe down to 15 feet or so, and in the same places I fished the crankbait.”

Lane’s favorite jig is a compact 5/16-ounce model, and he adds a small plastic trailer for added action and a more lifelike appearance. As well as having a completely different appearance than the crankbait, the jig also has a different presentation, two factors Lane believes take on added importance in winter fishing for either largemouths or smallmouths.

“While the crankbait looks and moves like a shad, it’s not going to attract every bass that sees it,” emphasizes the Yamaha Pro. “I do know that when I catch one fish with it there are almost certainly others nearby, which is why changing to another lure that looks and acts differently may be what triggers one or two of them to strike. It looks good and they don’t have to spend any energy chasing it, so they bite it.”

For the past five years, Lane has used this two-lure combination in competition on lakes all over the country, and one look at his record certainly proves that it works. Even though he loves the warm water in his home state of Florida, the crankbait and jig have made him just as comfortable in cold water, too

Catch More Tailwater Trout

Trout’s Fly Fishing- 5 Ways to Catch More Tailwater Trout
By: Kyle Wilkinson, Trout’s Fly Fishing Marketing and Brand Manager
from The Fishing Wire

Whether we like it or not- Winter is here. That pretty much gives us two choices- quit fishing, or keep fishing. I’m always of the opinion to ‘keep fishing’. One of the best parts about living in Colorado- and particularly on the Front Range- is the abundance of Tailwater fisheries that lie within an easy drive of our homes. That said, I still believe many anglers aren’t catching as many fish as they should be. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling with your success on winter tailwaters, give these 5 tips a try next time you decide to bundle up and get the boots wet in the months to come:

1. Use Yarn- many of you reading this may have heard this recommendation before, but it bears repeating. I feel that strongly about it. Simply put, yarn indicators are WAY more sensitive than plastic bobber-style indicators. Fish this time of year can be pretty lethargic (compared to summer) and typically won’t eat your flies with much aggression. Oftentimes your yarn won’t even dunk underwater but rather just ‘pause’ or ‘lean over’ when a fish strikes. If you’ve never used yarn indicators before, be prepared to be amazed with the sensitivity you’ll get. Side note- tips for yarn success- carry several and liberally apply some fly floatant before starting the day. Be prepared to dry off your indicator every couple hours and reapply. If you decide that your indicator is too waterlogged after a few hours, simply swap it out for a fresh one. While I realize these do require a little more maintenance than a thingamabobber, the fact that it leads to more fish in the net throughout the day is always worth it to me.

2. Putty and Split Shot- if you’re not using both split shot AND putty, you’re really missing out. Flows are at their lowest levels of the year and being able to dial in the weight on your nymph rigs is paramount to success. Any of the commercially made tungsten putties will work great so don’t get too caught up on which ‘brand’ to buy. Here’s how I put both split shot and putty to use for me this time of year. To start, select the size of split shot that will get you by in the shallowest water you’ll be fishing. Anytime you come to deeper water, simply pull out a little putty and apply it directly on top of the split shot, rolling it into a nice round ball. Voila. That’s it! Throughout the day you can add and remove putty as necessary to make sure you’re always getting your flies right down into the fishes faces. When you decide you need to take off a little (or all) of the putty you added, simply peel it off and place back in the original container. You can use and reuse tungsten putty for months on end before running out. The best part of using tungsten putty is that it avoids having to constantly pinch and remove split shot throughout the day. This will help protect your light tippets and is also just a whole heck of a lot faster way to make weight adjustments!

3. Never make a cast standing in the water that you could have made standing on dry ground. This is another HUGE one for me, but is a mistake I see anglers make time and time again. Whenever you approach a likely looking area, always make it a point to fish it while keeping your wading boots on dry ground.

Avoiding splashing around, crunching rocks, and in general- disturbing the water with your steps- is always going to leave the fish feeling much more at ease and in turn- more eager to eat your flies (this rule should actually be applied year round).

4. Tighten up your flies- If you don’t fish your flies spaced closely together during winter, I’m confident you’re missing out on a few fish throughout the day. I always like to say that a wintertime tailwater trout lives in a shoebox. (i.e. if you put a trout in a shoebox, it doesn’t have much room to move side to side). If I’m not getting my flies in this ‘shoebox’ zone, my confidence in getting an eat goes down drastically. My rule for spacing my flies during winter is to make a fist, and then extend my thumb and pink in opposite directions. This is the spacing you should be using- approximately 10″ or so. If you’ve never fished your flies this close together, consider yourself warned- it’s probably going to seem a little weird at first. One thing I can promise you though is that you’re going to need your net more throughout the day if you give it a try!

5. Watch the bubbles- we’ve already talked about indicators and weight, and I firmly believe that one of the biggest reasons people don’t catch as many fish as they should is that they’re simply not getting down to them. Next time your nymphing make sure to keep an eye on the bubbles on the surface. What are they doing? Are they moving the same speed as your indicator? If so, this is a dead giveaway you’re not getting down to the fish. Most fish this time of year are sitting very close to the bottom. The water on the bottom of the river is moving slower than the water on the surface. If you’re indicator is floating the same speed as the bubbles on the surface, this means that you’re not getting down to the fish. Simple as that. The goal is to always have your indicator floating SLOWER than the bubbles on the surface. This can quickly be achieved by adding a little more depth and/or weight to your rig. If you’ve never paid attention to this before I think you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it makes and how quickly you are now able to dial in your rig, ultimately achieving a perfect drift to the fish!

Trouts Fly Fishing is a full service fly shop located in the heart of Denver, CO between Downtown and Cherry Creek North. A second location was established in Frisco, CO located right on Main St. In addition to selling fly fishing goods, Trouts also offers a wide selection of fly fishing classes, guided trips and destination travel options. Some of their trips include both float fishing and wade fishing on the Blue River, Colorado River, Williams Fork River, Eagle River, Roaring Fork River, Frying Pan and Arkansas River. Trouts has been proudly serving the angling community for over 15 years.

Fall River Bass

Fall River Bass
By Chip Leer, Fishing The WildSide
from The Fishing Wire

In rivers across the Midwest, smallmouth bass make a fall migration from their summer ranges to deep wintering holes in the main channel. Along the way, they stop at predictable places to rest and feed, offering savvy anglers some of the year’s best bass fishing.

One of my favorite fall fishing areas is the tip of a firm-bottomed, sandy bar bordered by softer substrate and vegetation such as wild rice. Depths of two to four feet are ideal.

I use a two-pronged attack to catch the most bass possible from each spot.

First, I cast a diving crankbait like a LiveTarget Threadfin Shad Magnum Crankbait (http://livetargetlures.com/freshwater/threadfin-shad-crankbait1) tight to the weed edge and quickly crank it down, then slowly bounce it along bottom. Occasionally, I pause to throw slack in the line, which causes the lure to turn and often triggers a strike.

Casting crankbaits is a great way to pluck aggressive bass off the spot. After the initial flurry dies down, I toss a Carolina rig into the hot zone. My typical rig consists of a pegged sinker, 24-inch, 12-pound monofilament leader, 3/0 hook and either a creature body or Northland Fishing Tackle IMPULSE Fatty Tube (http://shop.northlandtackle.com/soft-plastics/impulse-fatty-tube/), rigged weedless. You can slowly drag the rig or let it rest in place, allowing the river’s current to activate the soft plastic.

I use 13 Fishing’s 7′-11″ Envy Black Crankenstein (http://www.13fishing.com/envy-black/) casting rod with 10-pound mono for crankbaits, and their medium-heavy 7′-1″ or 7′-4″ Omen Black (http://www.13fishing.com/omen-black-omng215/) casting rod with 30-pound Northland Bionic Braid (https://shop.northlandtackle.com/line/) mainline for Carolina rigs.

Bouncing from one high-percentage spot to the next with these two tactics is a great way to enjoy banner days for hard-fighting bronzebacks. The action often lasts deep into November, meaning there’s still time to get out and enjoy this exciting rite of fall.

Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, which offers a full suite of promotional, product development and consultation services. For more information, call (218) 547-4714

How To Catch Redfish

Redfish Bonanza
By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
from The Fishing Wire

Venice Louisiana has to be one of the best if not the very best location in America for both inshore and off shore fishing! Factor in the ability to pursue inshore species all year long such as Redfish, Sheepshead or Tripletail and these three alone are enough to entice most anglers. However, inshore angling in Venice has many more species to offer within its shallow grassy contours, such as Speckled Trout, Flounder, Black Drum and even largemouth bass.

October can be primetime to target both larger Bull Reds as well as smaller more palatable Juvenile Redfish within the Mississippi Rivers backwater estuaries. Better know as the ‘Marsh’ these shallow water areas are filled with wildlife activity and spawning Redfish. (The Redfish spawn occurs from August into November.)

Cruising through the narrow channels framed by tall walls of canes sends flocks of various bird species to flight. Then without warning these narrow channels open up to backwater ponds ranging in size with varying depths of crystal clear water. Scanning the pond areas reveals thick clumps of vegetation scattered throughout the opening. Pockets and coves filled with matted grass intertwined with lily pad fields and stalks of cane beckoning anglers to cast in every direction.

The Venice tidal water environments comprise of twisting and turning salt marsh channel networks offering forage and predatory species an abundant assortment of mixed vegetation for shelter and ambush points alike. Schools of Mullet’s are endlessly on the move, leaping out of the water, while swimming full speed through the channels and around the backwater ponds.

If you have experienced the heart throbbing thrill of hard pulling striped bass making long never-ending runs, then you will surely enjoy battling Bull Redfish. Just when you think these Bull Reds are ready to come aboard they suddenly peel drag from your reel making long head thrashing runs over and over again. Patience is the key to success with Bull Reds!

Bull Redfish are normally 30 inches or longer and may range anywhere between 15 to 40 plus-pounds. While Bull Redfish normally are attracted to rocky jetties, outcroppings, manmade structures and oilrigs, during the winter months it is not uncommon for bulls to move near-shore or inshore. Juvenile Redfish (Under 30″.) mostly occupy inshore estuaries all within the ‘Marsh’, cruising sand bottoms and grassy areas feeding on oysters, crabs, shrimp, mullets, pinfish and mud minnows. However, these energetic bottom feeders have been known to inhale topwater baits.

I utilize the same tackle arsenal for either bull reds or juvenile redfish. Long rods are imperative for keeping pressure on redfish and your hooks pegged. Reels with larger spools holding more line eliminate being spooled, while the parabolic action of your rod absorbs the hard thrashing runs of a big bull red.

I prefer St. Croix IPC Avid Inshore 7’6″ medium heavy power fast action BC III graphite spinning rods, saddled with a Diawa 3000 Laguna spinning reel, spooled with Seaguar 40 lb. Smack Down Braided line. The vegetation within the marsh can be unforgiving to most lines braided line on the other hand has the ability to cut through most vegetation eliminating break-offs. (www.StCroixrods.com, www.seaguar.com)

When it comes to preferred redfish baits, most seasoned anglers keep it simple. Plastic 3″- 4″- 5″ MinnowZ and DieZel MinnowZ impelled unto pointed jigheads such as the TroutEye and RedfishEye jigheads are most common. The pointed jighead allows your bait to come through vegetation and canes easily when pitched or flipped into pockets. Retrieve speed varies depending upon the activity level, at times a slow crawl with a sudden hop in your cadence triggers strikes.

The advantage of ZMan’s ElaZtech buoyant material to float up off the bottom when impelled unto ZMan’s Redfish Eye Jigheads, TT Lures HeadlockZ HD, Jig HeadZ, or Top Brass’s ‘Super Spike’ Jighead (www.TopBrass.com), all make for the perfect natural presentation when chasing bottom-feeding Redfish.

A few other baits that produce well include; ChatterBait’s, Z-Man’s DieZel ChatterBait, DieZel Spins and one of my ‘now’ favorite hard baits Rat-L-Traps. More often than not all of these baits favor long cast to trigger reaction strikes, especially when sight fishing or when redfish blowup on schools of baitfish.

When it comes to eating redfish they are delicious! And, as with most edible fish there is a slot size that offers the best taste. Louisiana limits an angler to five-redfish per day, with a minimum length of 16 inches and only one of these five redfish may exceed 27 inches. Anglers anticipating a redfish dinner prefer redfish within the twenty to twenty-five inch lengths.

Anglers looking for an exciting excellent winter fishing trip would be wise to contact any of the following outstanding Professional Guide Services:

Captain Mike Frenette at www.RedfishLodgeofLouisiana.com or call Captain Mike @ 1.504.78.0924.
Captain Scott MacCalla at www.RedFishonFly.com or call Captain Scott @ 1.321.795.9259

Best Bassin’

Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

Summer Fishing Tips for Walleye

Summer Fishing Tips for Walleye from Champ Scott Glorvigen
from The Fishing Wire

Forget the bank for summer fishing success

A variety of gamefish gravitate to offshore feeding grounds in the summer, giving savvy anglers ample reason to abandon the bank in favor of deep-water hotspots.

“This time of year, many walleyes, bass and other types of fish move away from shoreline areas that held fish in the spring,” says noted fishing expert and tournament champion Scott Glorvigen. “The good news is, they don’t scatter aimlessly. More often than not, the fish relocate to main-lake cover and structure that offers reliable feeding opportunities.”

While more than a few anglers are intimidated at the prospect of searching for fish in the blue-water abyss, Glorvigen says finding and catching your favorite quarry is a simple process, provided you follow an easy yet effective plan of attack.

“The first step is using your electronics to find likely areas and scan them for fish,” he begins. “The sport’s pioneers used simple flashers to quickly sweep structure as they hunted for walleyes on massive bodies of water like Lake Oahe. They had the discipline not to fish until they saw them on their electronics.

“The concept still applies,” he continues. “And today we’re blessed with cutting edge sonar and GPS chartplotters with built-in mapping that make our searches far easier and more efficient.”

For his part, Glorvigen rigs his boat with Lowrance HDS Gen3 units stationed at the bow, helm and stern, networked together for seamless shifts between presentations including trolling, backtrolling and live bait rigging. “I can share waypoints and maps, and even select multiple transducer locations, all without missing a beat,” he explains.

And no matter how promising a spot may appear, Glorvigen doesn’t linger if no fish are marked. “Too many times, anglers are guilty of fishing areas that look good, even if fish aren’t present,” he says. “That’s a waste of precious fishing time.”

If you’re tempted to try a fishless spot based on memories or how it looks, he encourages you to reconsider. “Think of it in hunting terms,” he says. “If you were spotting and stalking whitetails, and glassed every inch of a field or valley without seeing anything, would you still sneak out there on your hands and knees just because it looks so good?”

Watch this video to see more of Scott’s finesse fishing tactics.
When fish are marked, Glorvigen uses sonar to gauge their mood, or activity level, so he can select a presentation to match it. “For example, walleyes suspended a foot off bottom on the top or crown of a breakline are most likely active and will respond to more aggressive tactics like crankbaits or spinners,” he explains. “Bottom huggers lying on the side or base of a break usually need more finesse with a Roach Rig, Lindy Rig or some sort of snell and live bait.”

Fish that move around also dictate different presentations than those content to hunker in one area. “Spinners and cranks help you keep up with cruisers,” he says. “Jigging or slowly dragging a crawler on a live-bait rig is better for fish that stay in one spot.”

He also advocates a more vertical approach when fish are concentrated in a small area. “People have a tendency to make long drifts or trolling passes, even when all their bites come from one spot,” he says. “You’ll catch more fish by staying on top of them.”

Deep water or stained conditions such as algae blooms allow anglers to position themselves over a school of fish without spooking them. “Use your sonar to watch the bait and how fish react to it, similar to ice fishing,” Glorvigen says.

If you have trouble holding the boat over a sweet spot, he suggests throwing a marker buoy for reference or dropping a waypoint on your GPS plotter. “Hands-free options like the Spot-Lock feature on Minn Kota’s Ulterra bowmount trolling motor are a big help, too,” he says. “They allow you to focus on fishing, not boat control, and keep the boat in place even when you’re tending to a fish or otherwise preoccupied.”

As he formulates a fishing strategy, Glorvigen also considers mitigating factors like the prevailing wind. “Fish are usually more active where the wind or a wind-driven current meets cover or structure,” he says. Places where migratory baitfish such as smelt, shiners or ciscoes bump into a piece of structure when moving in from open water can also be hotspots, he notes.

While fishing an area, Glorvigen also pays close attention to which trolling passes and casts trigger the most strikes. “Predators are often conditioned to baitfish, wind-blown insects or other forage coming at them from a certain direction, such as deep to shallow,” he says.

By piecing together such pertinent clues after locating fish on main-lake structure or cover, Glorvigen guarantees you’re well on your way to enjoying successful offshore adventures all summer long.

Lake Trout on Lake Michigan

Tips for Targeting Lake Trout on Lake Michigan

By Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire

It’s no secret that lake troutt have become the most numerous fish in Lake Michigan and you cannot consistently win tournaments without spending most of your tournament and pre-tournament days targeting them.

Although lake trout can position themselves throughout the water column, for example, in mid-level temperature layers where the bait and other sport fish like salmon are found, they spend a large portion of their time on or near the bottom of the lake. This tendency to hug the bottom is especially true during the middle of the day when the sun is bright.

In addition to being drawn to investigate flashers and lures trolled in the bottom-hugging zone lake trout prefer, these fish will positively respond to the stirring up of bottom sediments. It seems the more you can stir up the bottom by occasionally dragging (it’s really more like skipping) your lures and/or occasionally bouncing your downrigger ball on bottom the more lake trout you will catch.

Some avid trollers targeting lakers will extend a short length (18-to-24 inches) of chain or wire from their downrigger ball to help draw these bottom-hugging fish into their gear. The reason adding a short length of chain, such that it will scratch bottom occasionally, is used is that it will accomplish the goal of stirring up bottom sediment without jeopardizing the loss of your downrigger weight. Keep in mind this technique is best used when trolling over flat bottoms and not where bottom structure makes just skipping the bottom difficult or impossible.

Another method used to stir up bottom sediment is to employ a triangular shaped flasher, like an 8 or 10 inch Fish Flash, which will stir up bottom sediment without hanging up or tripping from your downrigger release. Try running near bottom, occasionally touching sandy bottoms, in combination with a 48-to-60 inch leader and spoon, spinner, Spin-N-Glo or spinning bait. You want your gear running fairly close, ten (10) feet behind the downrigger ball, so it will be in or near the sediment cloud.

An all-time-favorite trolling combination used by anglers wanting to target lake trout is to rig a size 2, 4, or 6 Spin-N-Glo in combination with a size 0 or 1 dodger. The dodger’s side-to-side swaying motion adds additional action to the already lively Spin-N-Glo and is the go-to combination for many charter operators and avid anglers. Most rig their Spin-N-Glo 24-to-30 inches behind their dodger. It’s important to place a few plastic beads between your Spin-N-Glo and hook so this lure will spin freely.

Some of the more productive Spin-N-Glo colors for lake trout are Luminous Spot, Stop N Go, Luminous Green, California Watermelon, and Red Hot Tiger. These finishes are now available with glow-in-the-dark wings. So, in addition to the phosphorescent bodies the wings also glow. To see them visit www.yakimabait.com or ask your local dealer.

And it’s not just dodgers that are used in combination with Spin-N-Glo. Take last year’s Salmon-A-Rama “Yakima Bait Rewards Program” winner who trolled a Spin-N-Glo in combination with Fish Flash to take home real money – it could be you this year.

How To Catch Early Season Jerkbait Bass

Early Season Jerkbait Bass

Lessons learned in cold, clear waters

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

Mandy Ulrich and TV host Steve Pennaz

Mandy Ulrich and TV host Steve Pennaz

Pro bass angler Mandy Ulrich and TV host Steve Pennaz hoist the spoils of fishing jerkbaits in cold water.

This past February, on a bitter cold morning better suited for hot coffee and a roaring fire, I met Elite BASS Pro Chad Grigsby at a just-opened Perkins to outline our plans for taping an episode of “Lake Commandos.”

The air temperature was 22 degrees when we finally launched the boat, and water temp on my graph varied from 36 to 42 degrees depending on our location on the river.

The Commando format is simple: Each angler picks a pattern before getting on the water, and then we see who catches the most fish. For this particular show Chad picked a great year ’round smallmouth pattern: 3.5-inch Berkley Power Tubes while I picked jerkbaits, specifically the new Cutter 110+.

For the next three hours we struggled to put a fish in the boat. I had one fish hooked on the tube, but lost it, and after we switched to jerkbaits it was clear we were doing something wrong.

Cutter 90+ in Chameleon Vapor pattern

Cutter 90+ in Chameleon Vapor pattern

Berkley’s new Cutter 90+ in Chameleon Vapor pattern.The 3.5-in., 3/8 oz. bait is the smallest in the three-model jerkbait family.

A series of tweaks fixed that.

Our first move was to downsize from the Cutter 110+ to the 90+. Secondly, we dropped anchor so we could slow our retrieves. The final tweak was the final puzzle piece: we cast downstream or quartering and slowed our retrieves to a crawl.

And we started to catch smallmouths…a lot of smallmouths. But the funny thing was, I was catching small fish and Chad was catching big fish.

What Chad had figured out was key: cast directly downstream and allow the current to work the bait. He’d jerk it two or three times to move the bait forward and then he’d let the current wash it back on a semi-slack line. As a result, he was getting the big fish – 3s, 4s and 5s – while I was getting the 15 and 16 inchers. The big fish simply weren’t going to chase a faster retrieve.

At one point, Chad put his rod down to net a fish for me, leaving his bait to essentially wash in the current a bit. When he went back to pick up the rod, there was a fish on it!

This should have been a lesson for me to slow down, but at that point it was too late in the day, and we wrapped the show. I caught more fish, but Chad whipped me in total weight.

Another lesson learned: There are times when you can fish a bait wrong by fishing it too fast – especially jerkbaits.

Steve Pennaz

Steve Pennaz

Years ago Steve Pennaz fished a “jerkbaits only” tournament on Lake of the Ozarks, an experience that taught him numerous lessons. These days, he keeps a jerkbait rod rigged and ready at all times.
If you want to become a better jerkbait angler, here are some things that will improve your success.

Lesson #1: Down, down, down!

Some anglers have the tendency to fish jerkbaits by moving the rod horizontally, even vertically. Actually, its better to fish jerkbaits by moving the rod tip in downward sweeps from roughly the 3:00 o’clock to 5:00 o’clock position. Quick rips at the beginning of your retrieve will help your bait reach your target depth zone sooner, and subsequent strokes and pauses will keep the neutrally-buoyant bait more or less on a horizontal retrieve toward the boat.

Lesson #2: Slack is good

Introduce slack line between the lure and the rod tip before you start the actual jerk-stroke down and immediately after. The introduction of slack line produces more erratic lure action and allows the bait to glide naturally after the stroke. You want to hear “tsst, tsst, tsst” during each cast.

Lesson #3: Cadence

I quickly learned that the right cadence and stroke combination is key to jerkbait fishing. During our filming, water was cold and bass did not want the baits fished fast; the pause was key, those moments in the retrieve when the bait would just sit in the water column, neutrally buoyant. Instead of a pop, pop, pop, and pause – or even two pops and a pause – it was a single stroke followed by a pause that got bites.

Lesson #4: Painfully long pauses

As a general rule of thumb, the colder the water, the slower you should fish a jerkbait. There may be times when you need to pause 10, 20, 30, or even 50 seconds between jerk-strokes. It’s painful to fish that way—and I hate it—but sometimes that’s the only way you’re going to get bit in cold water. Other times, fish may want the bait fished more aggressively.

Lesson #5: Apples and oranges

The best way to fish a jerkbait can also depend on target species. In this particular tournament we were targeting largemouths, and I mention that because smallmouths and largemouths seem to react differently to how jerkbaits are fished. In some cases it can really be apples and oranges. My experience is smallmouths typically want the bait fished with more aggressive strokes, while largies prefer jerkbaits fished slow. Still, on most days, you’ll need to let the fish tell you what you what they want.

Lesson #6: Rod Length

I’m 6′ 2″ and I fish out of a Ranger 620FS, so I’m a little higher off the water when I’m fishing off the deck. So, depending on your height and your boat, the key is to look for a rod that is long enough that you can fish the bait with a downstroke without the rod tip getting wet. My go-to rod (an Abu Villain) measures 7 feet and features a soft tip. I like a long rod; I can pick up line faster, and it gives me a little more control of the fish during the fight.

Lesson #7: Rod power/action

For larger jerkbaits, I prefer a medium-power baitcasting rod, which is 90% of the time. But for finesse situations in clear, heavily-pressured waters, I will step down in bait size and use a spinning rod. But no matter which you choose, the rod should have enough backbone to move the jerkbait. I like a 7′ medium-action rod with a softer tip, which allows slower bait movement at the start of each rip (doesn’t seem to spook as many fish). A softer tip is more forgiving with hooked fish; you’ll land more fish.

Lesson #8: Line choice

I’m usually throwing jerkbaits on 8-, 10- or 12-lb. Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. First, it’s a little stiffer than mono to prevent the bait from hooking itself on your line. Secondly, because fluorocarbon sinks, that little extra weight can help keep baits down. Lastly, the near-invisibility of fluorocarbon puts the odds in your favor on clear waters. Fish that move 10, 20, 30 feet or more to hit a bait can be line shy.

The exception to the rule comes when fishing long pauses. There may be times when heavier fluoro can cause certain baits to nose-dip. In those cases, I may switch to neutrally-buoyant monofilament to keep baits horizontal.

Lesson #9: Examine how fish are hooked

Cutter 110+

Cutter 110+

Berkley’s new Cutter 110+ in Black Silver pattern. The 4 3/8-in., 9/16 oz. bait is the largest, beefiest bait in the new jerkbait family.

Which jerkbait hook you catch the fish on can tell you a lot. If you’re catching bass barely hooked via the rear jerkbait hook, chances are fish aren’t in love with what you’re doing. So, you may want to look at your presentation. Are you fishing with the right color? Am I fishing it too fast? Not fast enough? The best bites are those when the front or front and rear hooks end up in the bass’ mouth. I’ll start by trying different colors if I get several fish on the back hook.

Lesson #10: Colors

In clear water, I like more natural patterns, those translucent finish options in silver or natural forage patterns. But there are times when it seems smallmouths react better to bright baits with chartreuse and oranges. So, start with more natural patterns and see what the fish prefer.

Lesson #11: Bait choice

There are a lot of great jerkbaits on the market, but I’m most excited about Berkley’s new Cutter Series, designed by David Fritts, and fished by pros like Justin Lucas, Josh Bertrand, Gary Klein and Scott Suggs.

Unlike most jerkbaits, the three baits in the Cutter Series feature a coffin-style bill—a complete departure from traditional jerkbait design—for an action all their own. It’s almost like an underwater walk-the-dog with a slight side-to-side roll. And bass crush ’em.

The Cutter 110+ is a beefy, standard-size jerkbait; the Skinny Cutter 110+ has a similar length but thinner profile; and the Cutter 90+ has only two treble hooks — the perfect jerkbait for finesse situations. Each comes in 12 finishes and features Berkley’s new Fusion 19 hooks, which are sticky sharp.

My go-to bait is the 110+ but there are times when downsizing to the 90+ is simply the best way to get bit.

Parting Thoughts

Skinny Cutter 110+

Skinny Cutter 110+

Berkley’s new Skinny Cutter 110+ in Gilly pattern. The 4 3/8-in., 7/16 oz. bait is a perfect “in between” size jerkbait for both largemouths and smallies.

Really, the best way to learn how to fish a jerkbait is to leave the dock with a small sample of jerkbaits – and commit to yourself to fish only those baits for the day. It’s even better to have two anglers in the boat: one fishing fast, the other fishing slow; one fishing natural colors, the other bright colors; one fishing a larger bait, one a smaller bait; and so forth.

What will happen is you’ll start figuring out little patterns in the patterns.

Finally, although we’re focused on early-season cold water right now, keep in mind that jerkbaits are incredibly versatile. Sure, they’re a great spring, fall and winter bait, but can perform in warm-water situations, too!

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About Steve Pennaz
Steve Pennaz excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.