Wednesday, January 16, 2019

FLORIDA BLACK BASS TEXAS STYLE


The pursuit of Florida strain black bass led me to a ranch on the Nueces river in west Texas the main purpose of the trip was my annual deer hunt. I have hunted here many times.
Part of the attraction of the ranch is a 3 or 4-acre pond in front of the main lodge. Stocked with Florida black bass some years ago, there has been little fishing pressure since that time. The year before my trip they did an electro-shocking study of the fish population and found one fish that was over 8-pounds.
Elsewhere in the state wildlife biologists have introduced Florida bass. Currently about 8,000.000 fish per year are being stocked into 126 Texas reservoirs. Since that stocking program began, more than 450 have been recorded weighing more than 13-pounds. The state record of 18.3 pounds came from Lake Fork in the northern part of the state.
The biggest difference between the Florida and Northern strains of black bass is that the Florida has a black coloration along the lateral line. It is blotchier than the Northern. This sub-species of the Northern Black Bass has a reputation for being difficult to catch. They also do very well in small bodies of water such as this pond.
The first afternoon that we fished the pond, I had a fish on with the second cast. Just as I got it to the shore, the fish threw the road runner and swam away. I fished for some time that afternoon and caught one nice fish. We photographed it and returned the fish to the water.
Conditions were far from ideal with cold water and 25 mph winds. It was fun to cast with the wind. I have never cast so far in my life.
The following afternoon, I returned to the pond intent upon catching that big bass. A change of lure seemed in order. A large “bomber type” lure of unknow n origin was the choice of my host. I caught several bass but they were all about 2 pounds in size. Nice fish but not the “big one.”
Once I figured out that they were hugging the structure at one side of the pond, I was able to catch several fish. But I continued to have trouble landing the fish as they would fight right up to the shore and throw the lure as if to say “so there.”
Still it was a fine afternoon for fishing.


Monday, January 14, 2019

RIVER RUN WALLEYE & SAUGER


The most popular area of the Illinois River for sauger and walleye fishing is between Henry, Illinois and the Starved Rock State Park. The fish population is about 80 percent sauger, 10 percent walleye and 10 percent saugeye.
Cool temperatures and high water will bring the big female fish back from down river.
When the water temperature of the river rises into the 50-degree range, the fish provide anglers with opportunities to catch big fish. Fishermen work lead head jigs just off the bottom of the river at about 15 feet deep and just off the ledges.
The warming water brings the big female fish back to the area in search of spawning areas.  Anglers begin catching 15 to 16-inch fish in the 2 to 3-pound class.
The basic rig is a three-way variation on the classic Wolf River rig. The main line is tied to one of the three-way eyelets. To another is a short drop line of about 8 inches with a 3/8th to ½ ounce jig which will bounce off the bottom. The other eyelet leads to an 18-inch line and another jig and minnow combination. Often a trailer hook is added.
In the warmer weather a 1/4-ounce jig is used. Both jigs are in bright colors to better allow the fish to see them in the dark water of the river. Blaze orange, chartreuse or pink are popular colors but others work as well. As the water cleans up black, blue and purple begin to produce results.
Anglers seem about equally divided in their use of braided vs. monofilament line. Most prefer the lighter 6-pound test line but some will go to 8-pound. For the three-way rigs some anglers prefer 6 ½ to 7-foot rods.
Some like to use rods in the 5 ½ to 6-foot length with sensitive tips. Out in the deeper water anglers switch to longer rods.
This economic treasure to the area is in jeopardy from the advancement of the Big Head and Silver Carp. Both are invasive species not native to the area. The Big Head eat the eggs of the sauger. The Silver Carp devour the zooplankton upon which the sauger and walleye depend.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

GETTING CHILDREN INVOLVED IN ICE FISHING



A close cousin to bank fishing is ice fishing. This time of the year it is the only fishing opportunity in most norther areas.
Getting children involved in ice fishing is a challenging family experience as well as an opportunity to learn about nature. But, safety and fun have to be given consideration. 
Kids need plenty of opportunity to catch fish to make their first experience a memorable one. Many families will go out ice fishing and if they are not catching fish the kids are soon off sledding or doing something else. Kids love to feel that slight tug on a line or watch the flag of a tip-up spring to attention. There is something special in that anticipation.
In order to be safe, it is important to wait for good cold weather over a long period of time. Then it is time to take to the ice with an overturned bucket or ice fishing shanty. Basically, a safe family sport, ice fishing accidents can happen due to inadequate information or poor judgment.
A popular way of attracting and maintaining the interest of children is have communities put on small tournaments. Local parks are good as they have small ponds containing panfish which freeze over. It adds competition and children win prizes.
Taking them to a spot that is going to be productive the first time and teaching them what the fish are doing as well as how to catch these fish and how to rig up the line and doing all that stuff the first time, is a lot of fun and they will want to do it again.
It is always a good idea for kids to wear a personal flotation device and not to fish alone. Ice can vary in thickness from one location to another. This is especially true near creek mouths, points, bridges and springs. Ice is thinner anywhere there is current.
Kids do have a short attention span. It is a good idea to bring something along for the kids to do if the fish are not biting. Video games (hand held) balls, etc. They can do anything they want on the ice and it will not interfere with the fishing action of others. It is not like warm weather fishing when kids start to play in the water or throw sticks and stones into it and scare away the fish.
A lot of people have under water cameras these days. Using one and the kids will be amazed to watch fish swim by and see how the fish react to the bait. They even see how they react to each other. It really interesting.
If you do not have a camera, then consider renting a shanty for the day. When enclosed, kids can actually view fish much like in an aquarium. It gives them a chance to see how fish live as well as view how the bottom appears.
Ice fishing rods are a perfect size for kids. Everybody can do it. Unlike in the summer time when you sometimes need a boat to get to the fish, everybody can get to these fish.
The sport is a great opportunity to get kids involved in fishing because you can go out and find the fish and equipment is not expensive. You can buy a rod for $15 and a couple jigs and some wax worms and then you have a day of fishing that does not break the family budget. Vertically jigging gives the kids a chance to experience one on one contact with the fish.
The main thing is getting them started.  It is all about how you start off. Make it a learning experience for them. They can read up on the fish before going out.
Clothing is important. You need to focus on the feet and fingers in terms of getting cold. If a kid’s feet get cold or their hands get cold they are going to be miserable. They need good boots, gloves and of course the coat and hat are really important. Make them look like a big puffball.
It is not just small children that enjoying ice fishing. More and more teenagers are going out on their own. There has to be something fun about it or they would not be doing it. Teens are out in groups of four or five guys and they go out, drill a few holes, sit there and have a good time.
A lot of sports shows have ice fishing seminars that produce third party reinforcement to the younger set. Kids can learn techniques and have their questions answered by experts in the field. They can talk to the pros that they have seen on TV.
Besides being another cure for the winter doldrums, ice fishing is a fun family experience that provides education as to how man fits into the overall scheme of nature. And it adds some nice healthy fish for the table.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

WINTER DEEP WATER CRAPPIES


As we get older there is a preference for the warm confines of home rather than fishing out on a lake in 40-degree temperatures. Winter fishing becomes pretty much limited to ice fishing or an occasional trip to a power plant lake.
Mostly we tend to put away the fishing gear once hunting season begins. It comes out again in late February in anticipation of spring spawning of bass and crappie. In areas south of St. Louis a few hardy souls seek out the big crappie that go deep in cold weather.
In addition to the cold weather, I do not have much experience of fishing with long rods. The limber rods provide the sensitivity to feel virtually everything that comes into contact with the terminal tackle. They also make casting further possible.
On Lake Kinkaid near Murphysboro, Illinois the wind is down but the air cold. We make for some bluffs to start fishing. The bluffs continue into the water and below the surface can be found rocks and brush. What is surprising is the structure is some 40 feet below the surface.
The terminal tackle is the standard crappie rig of a heavy sinker at the end with a tag line tied about 18 inches up. On the tag line is a small jig or a hook with a minnow. The rig is mooched vertically. A slight twitching motion is applied to give the minnow or jig a realistic presentation. 
We slowly stroll parallel to the underwater ledges beneath the bluffs. We follow the lay of the land beneath the surface as opposed to the shoreline.  The bottom here drops off three or four feet which seems to make a difference.
When retrieving a fish, we quickly net it and place it in a Slabmaster Crappie Saver. This fish has been brought up from 33 feet beneath the surface and if we are to save it alive, immediate attention must be paid to its air bladder. The Slabmaster holds the fish so that it can be measured for length, and an estimate of age and weight can be taken.  In order to keep it alive, the air bladder must be deflated.
A hollow needle is inserted into the air bladder at a 45-degree angle. Where is the air bladder? The Slabmaster has a slot that marks the location for the fisherman. Insert the needle and the process is over in seconds. The fish is alive and will stay that way. 
I never thought of crappie being at such a depth in this lake let alone in winter.
Not only will I no longer assume that winter fishing is for little fish. Staying home and sorting tackle is not the only option in winter.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

ORGANIZING FISHING TACKLE



Waterfowl hunting is almost over and ice out fishing has not yet begun. It is time to check out the fishing gear by cleaning out the tackle box, checking rods and reels, and replacing rusty or dulled hooks.
Organization and convenience are keys to storing my gear. If I did not get it done last fall then now is the time. If I wait until later it robs me of fishing time.
There is nothing more frustrating than looking for a particular piece of equipment and not being able to find it. Organizing can take place on a winter evening while watching television with the family. One common method of organization is to use a different tackle box for each kind of fishing.
Organization does take a little advance planning. It is dependent upon what type of fishing I am planning for the year. If all the fishing is done for a single species it is simple. In wadding or shore fishing organization must consider space and weight limits. Limited pocket space must be considered. There are just so many pockets in a fishing vest.
Since I fish for a variety of species from shore, I have a number of tackle boxes. I use those clear plastic boxes made by Plano and related companies. I label them as to for what species the tackle inside is intended. The boxes then go into a cloth bag on the particular date I plan to fish. If I go catfishing one day and bass fishing the next day it is just a matter of changing out the boxes.
Now is the time to check rods and reels as well as terminal tackle. The first step is to check the rods for cracks and/or unusual wear. Look at the guides carefully to find chips and cracks. A Q-tip passed through a guide will soon show where any abrasion has taken place. The cotton from the Q-tip will stick to any cracks or abrasion in the guide. Repair or replace the guide immediately as such sharp edges will eventually cut a line. That usually happens when that big fish is on the line.
Wipe down the rod with a damp cloth and wipe the guides with some Reel Magic oil so as to further cut down any friction as the line passes through them.
Turning to the reel, the work really begins. The first step is to make sure it is functioning properly. Check the brake and drag. Strip off all the old line. Clean and lightly oil the inner workings. When disassembling the reel use a white terry cloth towel on the table beneath it. If a screw or some other part falls out it will be caught by the cloth and is very visible on the white background.
Once you reassemble the reel spool it with fresh high-quality new line of your choice. Different pound test and materials can be placed on various reels. A small label is attached denoting the date, pound test, number of yards and type of line on each reel. I do not remember which reel holds which line later in the season.
Finally check out the terminal tackle. Hooks are cheap to replace so rusty ones can be snipped off of lures and discarded. New quality hooks are applied. Any leftover line still attached to a bait is clipped off and discarded.
Crankbaits that are faded can be renewed by the application of a little paint. Bent blades of spinnerbaits are easily replaced and the arms straightened. Tie crankbaits to a short piece of line and pull them through water in the bath tub to make sure they travel straight. If they do not travel straight then bend the eye so that they do run correctly.
In replacing any rusty or damaged hooks I recommend brand names like Tru Turn or related companies. Cheap hooks give cheap performance and hooks that bend or break are not going to provide satisfactory use.
By paying attention to the quality and condition of your fishing equipment at the beginning of the season many hours of wasted time on the shore are avoided. It is fun to work up the anticipation of fishing trips by getting your gear in shape.

Friday, December 28, 2018

TIPS FOR ICE FISHING IN PONDS


Finding fish through the ice can be difficult but possible.  The most obvious way is to know the water and at what level the fish are holding.  Bluegills and perch are typically near the bottom.  All fish seek a comfort zone in the water column.
Discussions with other anglers and at bait shops often will provide the information needed.  Portable fish locators and submersible cameras will tell you if fish are present and at what depth.  Since fish tend to school up during the winter you can ignore one or two fish in favor of a school.  Find where the crowd is and fish that location.
Since fish look for food at eye level or a little above it, knowing where they are will help in placement of bait or a lure.
Drill a number of holes and fish them all until you get some action.  The fish will move but generally not very far away.  Drill a pilot hole and lower some kind of line to measure the depth.  A weight placed on a length of fishing line works well.
On colder, low light days, star by fishing deeper and tighter to the available cover.  With more light and warmer conditions, fish shallow and close to weeds, drop-offs, weed beds, and any other submerged structure that tends to attract fish.
Anglers on ice should be mobile.  Many ice fishermen use snowmobiles or a sled.  The snowmobile allows you to pull a small ice house.  Both tools permit hauling tackle and other gear.  A tackle box with a selection of jigs, hooks and plastic jigs and an auger are essential.  A skimmer aids in cleaning ice off the hole.  A portable heater or lantern aids in keeping your own body temperature up.  Together all this is called the "bass boat of the ice."
Ice rods and small reels as well as tip-ups complete the ice angler's repertoire.  Ice rods are short flexible graphite rods made for ice fishing.  They are usually 24 to 36-inches in length and the reels spooled with 2-pound test line.  Tip-ups hold the bait at a certain depth.  The reel turns from the tug of a fish and releases a red flag signal.  When the flag flies it is time to hand line the fish up through the ice hole.
Hooks are usually size 8 or 10.  Small tear-drop jigs in a variety of colors are good.  Bait for bluegills and perch is usually grubs, mousies, wigglers and waxworms.  Hook small minnows through the back to allow them to swim freely.  Use a small bobber to keep the minnow or other bait at a precise depth.
Jig the bait and then allow it to sit motionless.  The movement attracts the fish and they strike it when it sits still.  Do not overdo the action.  If fish are reluctant to hang on to the bait, try using a fish attractant.  Attractants are at their best in cold weather.
Finally, the best time to ice fish a pond is any time you can.  Ice thickens in the severe cold weather so it is probably most desirable to key on the warming trends, abrupt weather changes and low light periods.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

ICE FISHIING ON MINNESOTAS LAKE WINNIE



Watching a 6-pound northern pike move up on a jig/minnow and then flare his gills to inhale it, has got to be one of the big attractions to ice fishing from a spearing shack.  The darkness of the windowless spearing shake makes the water beneath the ice light and clear.
Here on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota the long fish moves along the bottom and then lays still. Looking down into the water we have trouble at first seeing it.  It is there because the electronics say he is there.
Suddenly we can see him as he flares those gills and the minnow disappears into his monstrous mouth.  A quick yank of the line and he is hooked.
The fish thrashes back and forth flaring his gills in a vain attempt to spit out the hook that came with the minnow.  No use, he is well hooked and will grace the dinner table this evening.
Ice fishing is a relaxing and social experience.  There is no pressure to catch a lot of fish or to catch that big one.  Both do happen, but no one gets excited if it does not.  This solitude of a northern lake is a welcome respite from the pressures of daily life.  The weather can be frigid and forbidding but if one wears modern winter clothing it is no problem.
There is a saying among ice fishermen that 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water.  The anglers who find fish know the seasonal movement of their quarry and know how to use electronics to locate them.
Fish move to areas with food sources.  Northern pike prefer bays full of perch.  The real big ones tend to stay near deeper breaks.
Another consideration in finding fish is when they are not eating; they go to the warmest water available.  That is generally right on the bottom of the water column.  If you have a map of the lake and know where the deeper holes and drop-offs are located, you can make the knowledge work in your favor.
Rigging the minnow can also improve one's chance of luring in a fish.  Once dropped into the water the minnow is competing with all other baitfish.  Once hooked a little differently it may attract a predator fish.  Because of rough conditions, small subtle changes in the rig may make a difference.  Other anglers often do not go the extra mile and this puts you ahead of the game.
Once you have the depth of the fish with the use of electronics or video cameras it is a simple matter of dropping a minnow on a jig to the bottom.  Then raise it up about 2 to 4-inches and jig it.  Let it sit motionless for a few seconds and repeat the jigging activity.  It helps to vary the speed and rhythm movements.  Fish are attracted to the motion but usually bite when the minnow stops moving.
Shiner minnows are universal perch bait.  Northern pike and walleye also love them.  However artificial grubs can result in action.
Ice fishing up here is usually out of a resort.  It is not expensive as fishing trips go.  There is no stress to go out and cut holes.  The guides do it for you in advance.  Most resorts also provide ice houses that are large, warm and comfortable.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

CRAPPIE FISHING GETS EVEN MORE INTERESTING EACH YEAR



Considering the multitude of changes in fishing tackle during the past 20 years, it is difficult to single out the top one. Think about all the changes in rods, reels, spider-rigs, fish locators, hooks, artificial lures, plastic baits, jigs that have come into the sport. We have come a long way since the advent of the “crappie rig” and the “jigging pole.” 
Once while fishing with some tournament pros, I posed the question as to what is the most exciting development in crapping fishing of the 21st century. Without hesitation their selection was fish finders.
You can see the bottom structure and the fish just like a photo. The units have side scan ability giving on a picture of not only the bottom but also an almost 3-Dimensional view beneath the boat.
This ability to view the bottom helps to eliminate many promising locations that do not have fish on them. Anglers are also able to find fish and make sure they are concentrating efforts in the strike zone.
The image is not an actual photo but the down and side-scan sonar interpret the direction and speed at which sound goes out and returns. The units, to give a similar image picture, process it. Fish appear as dots or small circles as opposed to the arches displayed on traditional sonar units.
Units like these, process the sound waves like an MRI and then analyzes the data to produce a 3-D image. The image gives a view up to 480 feet out from the boat. It allows one to cover more water in less time by not wasting time on unproductive locations.
Every year the many electronics making fish locaters improve on this base and more recent models are producing models that show crystal clear views of fish and structure beneath the surface. It is an exciting development that gets more so each year. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

ICE FISHING WOLF LAKE (IL)


There are two Wolf Lakes in Illinois.  This one is near Chicago just off of Lake Michigan on the Illinois/Indiana state line.  The other one is downstate.
In a previous life I fished the forest preserve lakes and ponds surrounding the metropolitan area. In the winter when "The Hawk", as Chicagoans refer to the wind coming off Lake Michigan, was it froze everything in sight. My bank fishing turned to ice fishing, the next best activity available.
Wolf Lake is a 419-acre lake in the William W. Powers Conservation Area located at 131st Street and the IL/IN state line.  Dredged and separated into different sections by dikes.  There are 5 different sections.  The maximum depth is 15-feet with an average depth of 5.91 feet.
Numerous drop-offs and weed lines provide excellent ice fishing opportunities.  There is a variety of species available including smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, bullhead, carp and yellow perch.
Entrance is from Avenue O at about 123rd street.  It is accessible from Interstate 94 and 90.  Ample parking is available in the winter a short distance from the shoreline.
Most of the better fishing areas are on the Illinois side.  Be sure you know what side your fishing as you need a license for the state in which you are fishing.  The state line is well marked.
A popular area for ice fishing is the cove at the south end of the lake just off 133rd street near the Ranger's office.  The weed beds in the cove attract perch.  Other areas attracting fish include those with current.  The current flows through the dikes but it may make the ice pretty thin as it wears away the underside.
Basically the current flows into the Illinois side of the lake at the state line and the dead end of State Line Road.  It then flows northeast to the railroad bridge.  As it flows under the tracks there is a deep drop-off of from 5-feet to 14-feet.  It then flows southwest to the culvert dike, coming back up to 5-feet.  From there it flows west over the dam and into Indian Creek near the parking lot.
As the waterfowl season ends the ice fishing begins as the ice begins to thicken enough to be safe.  It continues as long as the ice is safe.  The park is open sunrise to sunset and there is no ice fishing at night.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

WINTER TROUT FISHING AT DEVILS KITCHEN LAKE (IL)


WINTER TROUT FISHING AT DEVILS KITCHEN

This sprawling 810-acre lake near Marion, Illinois is a surprise trout fishery. Stocked each October with 7,000 to 12,000 rainbow trout, the fish are plenty wild and soon scatter. By the following spring when the anglers venture forth they might be anywhere in the lake.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake in southern Illinois is easily accessible via Interstate 57 exits 53 and 54 west. The lake is on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge just off Spillway Road. Day use passes, directions, and site-specific regulations are available at the refuge Visitor Center 2 miles south of Veterans Airport on Illinois Highway 148.

Designed originally as a resort area, there are a number of roads off the main thoroughfare that end in cull de sacs. Most have been plowed up but it’s a short hike to the water’s edge. Once there it might be a sharp drop down to the shore but not impossible. Further south there is a gravel road that takes one down closer to the shore. Most provide a solitary area for the shore fisherman.

The torpedo shaped rainbows have a square tail with many small spots over the entire body. They sport a white mouth and gums and have 10 to 12 anal rays.

Trout are a cold-water fish and thrive in the mild winters here. Most downstate lakes warm quickly in the spring making for the potential of a quick die-off. This make them unsuitable for trout habitat. Due to the depth of this lake, the problem is not as severe. It is over 90 feet deep near the dam area and the fish tend to congregate there on warm summer days.

If fishing from shore, a good topographical map is helpful to fishermen. Search for shoreline structure. Trout seem to be particularly susceptible to the sun's rays. They don’t like the sun but do need its warming of the water right now.

Devil's Kitchen Lake has a number of ledges and drop offs. The map comes in handy in locating such areas. The area just to the south of the dam area has a number of such ledges. They look like steps going from the shore into deep water and may hold a bass or two.

Rainbow trout are most comfortable in water that is 56 to 70 degrees F. Today with air temperatures in the 60’s, the water was about 45-degrres down here in the southern reaches of the lake.

There are some trees that attract trout. I had hoped that the sun shining on the wood would warm the nearby water enough to attract some trout. Any area where there is runoff from the shore also attracts trout. As the water warms the trout hang out there in hopes of getting anything edible that may wash into the lake.

Trout take natural baits like mealworms, red worms, minnows or pieces of nightcrawler. You can usually cut the nightcrawler in thirds and threaded them onto a hook for best results. I tried to use some artificial baits to catch the trout. I used small lipless crankbaits and the blade bait SteelShad. No luck.

I tried working the lures very slowly in hopes of attracting any fish that were still sluggish from the cold. The idea still sounds good to me despite a lack of success today.

For more information about fishing Devil's Kitchen Lake and site-specific regulations, contact the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge at 618-997-3344. Fish for trout in Illinois lakes requires both a fishing license and Inland Trout Stamp. These are available at local bait shops and online at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

WINTER DOCK SHOOTING FOR CRAPPIES


Dock shooting is no crazy idea by a long shot. No pun intended. It is a technique for crappie anglers to get those small jigs and Road Runner lures into tight pockets near docks and boats. It is a combination of finesse and special tackle that allows you to get back under the dock where fish seek refuge from the sun in summer. n winter they go there to find warmer water.
Russ Bailey is a friend from Ohio who has a television show entitled Brushpile Fishing.
Bailey uses the ultra-light rod from BnM Pole Company (www.bnmpoles.com) that is called “Sharpshooter.” It is an ultra-light spinning rod designed specifically for the task. Made of 100% graphite it is bendable but has a stiff backbone required for dock shooting.
He finds a comfortable stance then points his rod at the spot where he thinks a fish is hiding. Holding the lure in one hand and bending the rod down in an arc he lets go without snagging his fingers on the hook. Sounds simple but it takes some practice and skill to master this technique.
We leave the public boat ramp on Lake Kinkaid in sunshine but temperatures only in the 40’s. There is no wind so the day is not really uncomfortable. Two other writers and a local guide accompany us to the marina area.
Russ jockeys his boat into position just off a dock housing a number of pontoon boats. Moving into position he explains pontoon boats offer the chance of finding fish under each of the pontoon tubes. The sun warms the aluminum faster than most other objects in the water.  I have found different size fish under each of the tubes of the same boat,” says Bailey. “One might have small fish and the other tube might have the big ones.”
The metal of the tubes can warm the surrounding water by a degree or two which Bailey finds important in cold weather. It is in cold weather that he looks for sunny areas. “After a few casts to the pontoons,” explains Russ, “it is important to check the line for nicks from sliding across any sharp edges.”
According to Russ cobwebs between a boat and the dock are often a giveaway of the lack of fishing pressure in the area. He likes cobwebs because they mean no one has disturbed any fish that might be living back out of the weather.
Docks are not the only place Russ uses this technique. He finds that in warmer waters crappie will congregate under over hanging tree limbs. Bailey will shoot the lure under the limbs to reach fish resting near the shore in cooler water. Crappies always seek out water temperatures they find most comfortable.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

BLADE BAITS IN COLD WATER SITUATIONS



There is no match for the tug on a blade bait when being retrieved. The vibration at the end of a line and the smashing action as a hungry predator strike. There is no nibble or slow response.  It is a train wreck under water.
Blade baits are especially effective in cooler water when the angler is in search of bass be they smallmouth, largemouth, or white bass.
When jigging from the dock or pier or swimming this bait from shore it cannot be denied that it is an effective part of an angler’s arsenal. The shiny, usually nickel or chrome coating, reflects light as effectively as a crippled forage fish. The fact that it is metal helps provide fish attracting noise when the hooks hit the body of the bait.
To some the name Steel Shad is a new blade bait. The original Silver Buddy lure has remained basically unchanged in the last two or three decades.  
Everyone seems to have his own way of using the blade bait. The most popular seems to be in a cold-water situation. It is used to cover deep water break lines and points. The blade bait is effective in all kinds of weather situations and times of the year. Blade baits can be fished for any fish that will eat minnows. The flash and vibration make it a special bait for anglers wishing to cover deep water quickly.
A popular way to fish a blade bait is vertically over the edge of a creek channel where it joins the edge of a flat and areas close to shore. It is hopped though what the angler perceives as the strike zone of the fish. He makes short upward pumps of the rod. This raises the bait off the bottom and allows it to fall back again.
The vibration of the bait is felt via the line. Keep a tight line and watch for a twitch during the fall.  Currents cause a flutter of the lure in a swaying side to side motion. Fish tend to hit blade baits on the fall. Once hit it is simple to set the hook by a sharp upward jerk of the rod.
Some anglers like to rip the bait with strong, quick jerks.  This makes the blade bait jump off the bottom to stimulate aggressive fish. It can cause the bait to be jerked out of the strike zone of lethargic fish.
For less active fish suspended on points or along creek channels the swing presentation may be best. Cast beyond where fish are believed to be suspended. With the reel engaged the lure falls in a pendulum motion back toward the angler. As it falls there is a sway from side to side like a falling bait fish.
Blade baits are attached to the line by way of a snap provided with the bait. It is attached through a hole in the top portion of the lure body.
For fishing those feeding white bass on the jumps, it is best to burn the lure. You simply cast to the fish that are breaking the surface in a feeding frenzy. Then crank it back hard.  Sometimes it helps to wind with occasional hesitations.
Fishing for bass along weed lines and atop weeds is usually the province of crankbaits. Blade baits can be used like a crankbait in the same manner.
Blade baits are excellent cold water go-to bait.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

THE PASSING OF ANOTHER FISHING LEGEND



I first met Mick Thill at a press event on Wolf Creek Causeway at Crab Orchard Lake (IL). Yes, that Thill of the balsa floats fame. Mick became a friend in the late 90’s as he traveled about explaining the European style of bank fishing. He was an international champion in the sport.
That day Mick explained this method of attracting fish with smells and food and the international style tackle he used in competition. He explained that the idea was to attract fish with chum but not to fill them up. His chumming technique would make them so hungry they got excited, and lost the natural instinct of caution. Thill explained that the chum may also attract smaller fish which in turn often attracts the big guys.
Mick had a few different recipes of chum which he tossed into the current running under the bridge on the causeway. Almost immediately he caught a couple of fish much to the dismay of other bank anglers who were not so successful. He soon had all of us interested.
Mick explained that there is no need to make a smelly lot of chum. Less is best. Otherwise you may end up smelling like an old outhouse from handling spoiled chum.
As others moved along to another media even, I stayed and learned of the tackle including Mick’s recently developed system of European style floats. Today they are called Thill Floats and are widely available in tackle and sports stores across the country.
From that day some 30 years ago Mick and I remained friends as we both lived in the Chicago metropolitan area and attended all the outdoor shows.
This morning I received word that Mick has left the shore and will be exploring some new waters in the great beyond.
Mick, who had lived in both the U.S. and England, died November 18th in England where he had been living with family.
His legacy will go on with the floats that bear his name and with the proponents of international match fishing both here and in Europe.
I will miss him.