Category Archives: How To Fish

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!

//

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.

How To Catch Spring Walleyes

‘Eyes of Spring

by Chip Leer

Spring Walleye

Spring Walleye

Catch the early season river bite for spring walleyes

Winter’s demise signals the beginning of an annual rite of spring, as schools of prespawn walleyes surge upstream into rivers across the Walleye Belt.

Although the water is cool and fish location often changes day by day—even hour by hour—savvy anglers can enjoy some of the year’s best fishing.

My favorite scenarios are rivers that flow into larger bodies of water, such as the Rainy River at Lake of the Woods or Detroit River at western Lake Erie. In these situations, walleyes from the main lake gather at the river mouth in late winter, then move upstream toward spawning areas as the ice recedes, boosting the river’s walleye population to its highest point of the year.

I typically start my search at the river mouth and work my way upstream, checking channel edges and a variety of current breaks. Main-channel holes are among my favorite stops, because they attract waves of migrating fish and often “recharge” several times during a day of fishing.

Current seams and shoreline eddies also hold fish, but don’t overlook anything that blocks the current or offers winter-weary walleyes a chance to rest and feed.

Top tactics include vertical jigging, either from an anchored position or while slipping your boat downstream with the trolling motor, keeping your line as vertical as possible.

Long-shank leadheads like Northland Fishing Tackle’s Slurp! Jig and round-headed RZ Jig are hard to beat because they hold live and artificial tippings well, while yielding solid hooksets. Northland’s new Swivel-Head Jig is another great choice, because the rotating hook gives plastics and live bait extra action you don’t get with fixed-position hooks.

Tip jigs with a 3- to 5-inch scented soft plastic trailer, which gives walleyes a target in the turbid, relatively dark waters common in spring river fishing. A variety of softbaits attract fish and trigger strikes, including Northland’s Impulse Paddle Minnows, Ringworms, Smelt Minnows and even old-school creature designs. Sweeten the presentation with extra scent and flavor by skull-hooking a shiner or fathead minnow on top of the plastic piggy-back style.

Since the water is still very cool, keep jig strokes to a minimum. Often, a slow and methodical lift-drop cadence within a few inches of bottom is all it takes, but sometimes simply holding the jig as still as possible an inch or two off bottom is the best approach.

As the water warms, walleyes often shift into shallower water near shoreline spawning areas. Pitch the same style jigs and tippings toward the bank and swim, drag and pendulum them back to the boat, keeping the jig close to bottom on the retrieve.

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

Should I Use A Bait That Makes Noise to Catch Walleyes?

Make Some Noise to catch walleyes

Get loud, catch more walleyes

Anglers across the Walleye Belt keep commotion to a minimum to avoid spooking skittish walleyes. But there are times when silence isn’t so golden. In fact, making a little noise can often help you catch more fish, year-round.

“We’ve been taught that stealth is critical to success, but there are many situations where using sound to attract walleyes can increase your catch rates,” says veteran guide and tournament champion Scott Glorvigen.

Nice Walleye

Nice Walleye

To be clear, he doesn’t advocate creating a clamor of cataclysmic proportions. “Dropping an anchor on the bottom of an aluminum boat isn’t going to make the walleyes come charging in,” he laughs. “But the judicious use of rattles inside spoons, crankbaits and other presentations can call fish from a distance.”

Glorvigen likens the art of using fish-attracting rattles to calling game in other outdoor pursuits. “When I duck hunt, I use a call to bring the birds into my decoys,” he explains. “And a rattle bag or antlers are standard gear for serious whitetail hunters hoping to rattle up a big buck.”

 Rattling Spoons Walleye

Rattling Spoons Walleye

Rattling spoons attract a variety of gamefish including jumbo yellow perch, walleyes, pike and more.

In a similar manner, he says rattling lures pique a wandering walleye’s curiosity and encourage it to move in for a closer look.

Such tactics aren’t new, of course, but they’re still underutilized among the vast majority of walleye anglers. “Especially in the open-water period,” he notes. “But even in winter, people don’t take full advantage of how a rattling spoon or lipless rattlebait can bring in walleyes from the surrounding area.”

Besides luring fish within visual range of your wares, Glorvigen says rattling tends to attract the most aggressive ‘eyes in the neighborhood. “The ones that are most active and likely to strike,” he adds.

“And even if they don’t hit the noisy jigging presentation, incoming walleyes will often slam into a more sedentary bait positioned a few feet away, like a live minnow on a dead rod,” he continues.

Northland Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon

Northland Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon

Northland Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon

Glorvigen has been a firm believer in the power of sound ever since watching Northland Fishing Tackle founder John Peterson use a prototype of the Buck-Shot Rattle Jig during an In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail tournament years ago.

“We were up on Lake of the Woods, and John absolutely put on a clinic, catching fish after fish amidst a crowd of other anglers who were struggling to get bit with traditional silent jigs,” he recalls.

Following Peterson’s lead, Glorvigen used sound to win the 2004 PWT Championship on Houghton Lake, Michigan. “Using rattle beads on my nightcrawler rigs was key to catching enough fish in the lake’s turbid water to win the tournament,” he says.

The $100,000-plus payday confirmed the importance of sound under the right conditions. “Whenever visibility is compromised, due to low light levels, stained water, vegetation or other factors, rattling lures can be a huge factor,” he explains. “They can also help you call walleyes from a distance in clear-water conditions.”

For example, when pulling crankbaits in summer, Glorvigen relies on lures with internal rattle chambers like Rapala’s Down Deep Husky Jerk to widen his trolling spread’s sphere of attraction in the underwater world. “Same thing when pitching jigs into weedy cover,” he adds. “A rattle helps walleyes home in on the bait.”

Troll for Walleye

Troll for Walleye

Glorvigen trolls rattling crankbaits like the Deep Walleye Bandit to draw scattered walleyes within striking distance.

When jigging, Glorvigen recommends a slow, shake-rattle-and-roll approach that gives fish time to move in and locate the jig. “In more open water, you can move a little faster,” he notes.

He also encourages anglers to experiment with lure styles pigeonholed to a specific season or situation. “For example, we use lipless rattlebaits like Rippin’ Raps, Cordell Spots and Rat-L-Traps through the ice on big-water fisheries like Lake Winnipeg all winter long,” he begins.

“But come summer, how many fishermen would think of vertically fishing a rattlebait? Not very many. Same thing with a rattling jigging spoon like Northland’s Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon or the Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon. Yet these rattling lures are every bit as deadly during the soft-water season.”

Toward that end, Glorvigen advises anglers transitioning from late-ice to early open-water opportunities to keep their winter weapons handy.

“Next time you go out jigging in a river this spring, don’t keep the rattle spoons on the bottom of your tackle box,” he says. “Tie one on and give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised at how well they work at the ‘wrong’ time of year.”

CONTACT INFORMATION
Glorvigen & Glorvigen LLC – 29 County Road 63, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
sglorvigen@wired2fish.com – 218-301-9072

Find O2 To Find Fish Under the Ice

Aim for the O2 to find fish under the ice

Move regularly, change offerings often: you’ll crack midwinter’s code

By Mitch Eeagan

locate and lands fish in the dead of winter.

locate and lands fish in the dead of winter.

Bro doesn’t save lives or build rockets, but it’s his own brand of deep-thinking that locates and lands fish in the dead of winter. Photo by Bill Lindner

Imagine your home growing darker by the day, to the point you haven’t seen sunlight in over a month. Moreover, your surroundings are growing colder by the day. In fact, it’s so frigid that your muscles have become rigid; to the point it’s all you can do to muster moving a few feet…even to eat. And you’re hungry.

Oxygen is diminishing, too. Some areas are completely void of oxygen, while other pockets have just enough to sustain life. So you migrate to where respiration is still an option.

To say life’s registering a zero on the fun-o-meter is an understatement.

And with that lowly scenario in place, you now know what it’s like to be a fish living in the Ice Belt during the dead of winter. It’s been a long time since light penetrated the surface and temperatures are at the coldest they will be all year. To boot, the lack of vegetation, rain and wave action have oxygen levels dwindling rapidly.

And it’s this combination of factors that make midwinter a difficult time to catch fish. But if you’re game to put in the time, find those oxygenated zones, rewards are paid in bites and fillets.

Heavy breathers

if oxygen levels are critical, crappies, bluegills and perch could be right under the ice

if oxygen levels are critical, crappies, bluegills and perch could be right under the ice

The safest place to avoid suffocation is sometimes right under the ice. In the bowels of winter, if oxygen levels are critical, crappies, bluegills and perch could be hanging right under your feet. Photo by Bill Lindner

Minnesota Ice-Fishing Guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl is no stranger to fishing shallow, heavily snow-covered lakes. The Grand Rapids, Minnesota resident moves around a lot. And uses specialized electronics to find panfish other anglers often overlook.

“I drill a lot of holes and check every one for any signs of life,” said Bro. “If fish are right under me I’ll see ’em on the ‘Bird, and, because of the ultra-sensitivity settings on the Humminbird ICE HELIX 5, I can put my jig right in their faces.

“But I’ll also lower my Aqua-Vu Micro DT down every hole, as well; especially if I am not marking anything. Fish might be just inches under the ice during the heart of winter, following the oxygen. The camera is able to spy those fish.”

Custom Jigs & Spins' new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM)

Custom Jigs & Spins’ new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM)

Custom Jigs & Spins’ new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) has been fully weaponized. In the dead of winter, the ballistic-bait is best aimed at active fish, especially ones in well oxygenated waters. Photo by Bill Lindner

Paying close attention to the underwater viewing system’s screen the moment its camera hits the water, Bro starts spinning the lens right the bottom of the hole. Oftentimes, panfish will be literally inches away, curiously inspecting the corded device. Once fish are revealed, Bro removes the camera, strips off a couple feet of line and lowers his jig—tipped with either spikes, wax worms or mousies.

“A lot of anglers have no idea those fish are even there,” Bro added. “These suspended fish get totally overlooked this time of year. It’s cool when you can see your jig and watch a fish swim over and gobble it up.”

If there are a lot of fish just under the surface, Bro will operate out of his Frabill flip-over. The darkness not only allows Bro to see the fish better, but also camouflages the fact he’s above by muting his silhouetted movements.

When oxygen levels are low, and fish lethargic, Bro uses tiny jigs with a slow fall. His preferences are Northland’s new Impulse Helium Mayfly, Stonefly and Waxyfly. Custom Jigs & Spins’ Nuclear Ant, Ratso and Shrimpo are another trio of lifelike lures that sink slowly.

Goin’ with the flow

Walleye Pro Mark Brumbaugh

Walleye Pro Mark Brumbaugh

Walleye Pro Mark Brumbaugh holds a hefty perch taken on a Custom Jigs & Spins’ Lightnin’ VertiGlo Spoon late in the winter season. Photo by the author

When Walleye Tournament Pro Mark Brumbaugh targets pike, walleye and jumbo perch late in the season, he searches out river and creek mouths.

“Anywhere water’s flowing into a lake there will be more dissolved oxygen,” the Brownstown, Ohio, resident said. “And because fish spawn in these same rivers, they’ll be here staging to reproduce, too.”

Because there’s more dissolved oxygen near inlets, fish will be spread throughout the water column. Subsequently, Brumbaugh likes larger, heavier jigs that can move up and down quickly.

Bladebaits are one of Brumbaugh’s go-to lures in stained water as they produce a lot of vibration. Reef Runner’s Cicada is one of his favorites. He also employs Custom Jigs & Spins’ B3 Blade Bait and new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) swimming bait.

Take a deep breath

Aqua-Vu optics and fishes in real-time with an AV Micro DT in a Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case.

Aqua-Vu optics and fishes in real-time with an AV Micro DT in a Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case.

When fish are tucked tight to the ice, Bro employs Aqua-Vu optics and fishes in real-time with an AV Micro DT in a Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case. Photo by Bill Lindner

As avid anglers will tell you, late winter can be one of the toughest times of the year. But maybe that’s because they weren’t looking in the right places.

Some fish might be right under foot; literally, mere inches under the ice. If this is the case, use light lures with a slow flutter and fall. In waterways with inlets, search out the entire water column with lures that sink fast so you can get the lure to fish before they turn tail.

Mitch Eeagan is a writer and photographer who not only lives, but survives off the land and water in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

How Can I Catch Giant Winter Catfish?

Catch Giant Winter Catfish on the TVA Lake Chain

By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

Big catfish from a TVA lake

Big catfish from a TVA lake

While a lot of folks were still recovering from their hangovers on New Year’s Day, 76 boats headed out on a chilly Lake Wheeler in pursuit of the giant blue catfish of the Tennessee River system in the annual “Winter Blues” catfish tournament put on by the Alabama Catfish Trail.

Fishing for these catfish is a whole different ballgame from going out to land a few pan-size cats for dinner. Blues reach enormous size–the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) all-tackle record now stands at 143 pounds–and there are few places where the big ones are more abundant than in the lakes of North Alabama.

Big winter catfish

Big winter catfish

The current Alabama state record, 120 pounds, came from Holt Reservoir not far from Tuscaloosa, and the former record, 111 pounds, came from Wheeler. Blues reach lengths of almost 5 feet, and the largest have girths approaching 4 feet, according to the IGFA. Several blues over 200 pounds and one over 300 pounds were reported in newspapers of the 1800’s from the Missouri River, but whether these weights were anywhere near accurate is anybody’s guess.

Biggest catfish in the Winter Blues event was not record class, but Team Magness from Mississippi did manage a 72.58 pounder, the heaviest fish for the event. The team with the heaviest total weight for the event, Tammy Strouth and Brian Lawson, had a fish that went 68.69 pounder as part of their three-fish total bag of 168.9 pounds, while the second place team of Nick Diminio, Adam Long and Doug Jolly brought in a 69.58 pounder as part of a total bag of 151.9 pounds.

These fish can live at least 20 years, and don’t reach sexual maturity or spawning age until they’re 4 to 5 years old. Since they’re valued more as trophy fish than as food fish in the larger sizes, Alabama has placed a limit of one fish daily over 34 inches on the species. The idea is to allow more fish more time to grow into the lunker class. (All trophy-class fish caught in the Alabama Catfish Trail events are released.)

You can catch big cats

You can catch big cats

While the giants are most often found in the deepest holes in the river or directly below the dams in summer, in winter they spread out to feed on river points, shell beds and sandbars, and the big ones are evidently most active in the colder weather.

Blues eat just about any type of fish, but they seem to have a special preference for a herring-like baitfish called the skipjack, which is found naturally throughout the Tennessee River system. Most expert catfish anglers here prefer cut skipjack over gizzard shad or other bait. A chunk about 6 inches long is typically used to lure the larger fish.

The baits are usually fished on bottom, or just off bottom via a small float between a heavy egg sinker and the bait.

Most anglers use 40-pound tackle and up, with heavy spinning reels loaded with braid a favorite with some. Hooks are 8/0 or larger circle hooks, which are said to hook the fish without a hook set, and which make it easier to release the fish alive since they usually lodge in the front of the jaw.

Big cats are strong adversaries, and battles of 15 minutes and more are not uncommon with a lunker. However, the biggest problem most anglers face when the fish finally rolls at boatside is how to get it aboard–even the largest landing nets are likely to buckle under a 60-pounder.Gaffing would work, but since the fish are to be released alive, it’s not a good strategy. Some anglers who fish the giants regularly use two nets, placing one over the head, the other over the tail for a combined lift.

For more on catfish tournaments, visit www.alabamacatfishtrail.com.