Ice Panfish Only a Spoon Feed Away
the Right Flash and Flutter Out-Produce All Others
By Brian “Bro” Brosdahl
panfish from frigid water with tiny treats is, no doubt, the
modern ice angler’s most popular ploy. But while fishing in
micro-mode is a most excellent tactic, there are periods when the
flash and flutter of a falling spoon will out-produce any
ultra-miniature jig – especially during feeding furies near the
end of winter.
panfish with stamped steel and molded metals is nothing new. In
fact, anglers have been hauling multitudes of spoon-caught species
through holes since man first fashioned the tools needed for
shaping these precious metals. But there’s more to duping
panfish with spoons than meets the eye. The best lure for the job
depends on the demeanor of the fish, as well as where in the water
column the target species is located.
Falling All Spoons
fish could talk, they’d let on that not all spoons are created
equal; it’s the diversity in how different spoons flutter and the
rate they fall that is often the defining point to whether or not
they get smashed.
first style is what I call the ‘single spoon.’ It’s made from
either molded lead or brass, stamped metal, or a combination of all,
with a single hook rigidly affixed to the body. And from fishing
shallow to deep and all points in-between, they are the most
adaptable style of spoon.
On the lift, single spoons raise
quickly and then see-saw on the fall, often flipping horizontal.
Single spoons combine well with tasty treats like a string of
threaded maggots or a whole minnow pierced through its lips. Perch,
for example, still pummel Northland's classic Eye-Dropper Jig, as
well as the new High Definition (HD) LIVE-FORAGE Fish-Fry Minnow
Next in line is the 'treble
spoon.' As their name implies, these feature a treble hook attached
via a split ring so the barbs can swing freely from the body. The
new Northland LIVE-FORAGE Fish-Fry Minnow Spoon falls into this
Fish-Fry Minnow Spoons are heavy
and work wonders when bluegills, for example, are holding tight to
the bottom on main-lake basins. I like to rip the spoon up off
bottom and let it wobble its way back on limp line. Adding the
ever-squiggling Medusa's Head (loading the treble with writhing
maggots just nipped in their backside) is the perfect companion live
bait offering for the ripping technique.
'Stamped spoons,' on the other
hand, are made of lightweight metal, pressed narrow and thin,
similar to a trolling spoon. Because they flutter with a
side-to-side action that covers a wide swath under the ice, these
lightweights really shine when crappies, for instance, are suspended
high in the water column or are hanging tight to cover in
shallow-water environments and need to be coaxed into the
Northland's LIVE-FORAGE Moxie
Minnow, for example, has a narrow and cupped shape that, due to the
lifelike flank and flashy chrome-gold on the other, flashes an
injured-baitfish alarm from afar. Just don't add too much meat to
the hook of a stamped spoon as it will impede the action. One spike,
waxworm, or a small minnow head will do.
On the opposite end of the
spectrum you find solid spoons of lead or brass, which are heavy and
plummet promptly. I use them as "qualifiers" when fish are
deep and I need to get a lure down fast before they swim off. The
Northland's Macho Minnow is a prime example of a solid spoon.
Solid spoons don't yield as much
action, though, so I add the liveliest live bait available. Reaching
into my Frabill Aqua-Life Bait Station, I'll grab the most energetic
minnow and nip it just though its lips, or, as an alternative, I'll
stick several maggots onto the hook so they wriggle in squid-like
When fishing stained water, I employ
spoons that vibrate like the dickens, most notably bladebaits. Northland's
LIVE-FORAGE Fish-Fry Minnow Trap-the most realistic looking bladebait on
the market-is my go-to. They shake on the lift and shimmy on the fall and
panfish of all species will attack them on the drop. Bladebait-style
spoons work wonders in clear water, too, especially when fish are in a
funk and unwilling to strike. The vibration triggers the strike instinct
from even the most lethargic post-front panfish.
Big to Small
Contrary to common ice-angling contemplation, if panfish are
in a neutral mood, I send down large spoons first. Large-sizing
often decoys inactive fish from a distance, and, tipped with a meaty
bribe, will trigger strikes from the greediest students in the
school. As the day progresses and the most aggressive fish have been
duped, I'll finesse the others by switching to smaller spoons, and
then eventually jigs.
If one presentation isn't turning heads, I quickly switch to
another, not wasting valuable time on the ice. Plus, panfish are on
the move during late ice, so I keep my internal motor running not
wanting to fall behind. I hop from hole to hole like a frog on Red
When panfish are in shallow water
or just under the ice over deep water, I fish from inside Frabill's
Bro-sized Pro portable shelter, which, with the top up, eliminates
my silhouette and reduces the possibility of spooking the fish. The
Pro's the largest one-man shanty on ice, with an articulating seat
that goes forward, back, and side to side, which allows me to peer
down the hole in comfort and have plenty of room for fighting
As for sticks, the 24-inch Bro
Series Ultra-Light Combo's perfect for stamped spoons and is the
ideal length for in-house use. The Bro Series 26-inch Light combo is
a match set for heavier spoons. Both of these rods match up well
with 3-pound BIONIC Ice monofilament. This line-strength is primo
for spooning as it's light enough to maximize lure action yet strong
enough to lift gargantuan 'gills out of the hole. When downsizing to
a 1/16-ounce spoon, I like the forgiveness of the Bro Series 27-inch
Quick Tip Combo, and spool it with 2-pound BIONIC Ice. And no matter
the line weight, tie the line directly to the spoon (no snap or
snap-swivel) to get the best action from the lure.
While micro lures have their place, late ice panfish are only
a spoon feed away. Keep an assortment of spoons and combos
pre-rigged and ready to rock. Just figure out the flavor of the day
and where in the water column the fish are holding. Flutter away and
hang on. By late winter, panfish take the role of predator fish, so
set the micro-jigs in the back of the tackle box. In all likelihood,
you won't be needing them.
to Fin Combat - A proven pattern for hooking
gargantuan pike during early ice
By Brian "Bro" Brosdahl
Up above, I tiptoe across the
frozen shallows maintaining a low profile. Stealth is a big part
of the game. Down below, however, it's more like lions in the
Coliseum tearing and tossing-down everything with blood running
through its veins. That's what it's like in early winter when
northern pike slash through the shallows with hearty appetites and
an equal amount of recklessness.
These apex predators spent most of
late autumn roaming the basin, tracking along offshore humps and
deeper secondary breaks. With the flip of a switch, though, they
head straight for the shallows - 4 to 12 feet of water - when the
surface water solidifies. And there's no secret to the
gravitational pull. It's about gorging on the bounty of available
Panfish are standard fare.
Bluegills, crappies, and perch are already making use of whatever
green weeds are left. There, they find food, and, allegedly,
sanctuary from threats. Pike disrupt the peace, however, ferreting
through cuts and openings, as well as cruising along the edge
picking off the careless. Ultimately, panfish only find safety in
numbers, some brethren sacrificed for the whole.
On certain lakes and reservoirs
the summons comes in the form of whitefish and or tullibee
(ciscoes). Their reproductive ritual begins in the late fall and
finalizes sometime after first ice. Perfect timing for pike.
So the foodstuffs are up in the
shallows, but located randomly. Weeds have already been noted. But
make sure your focusing on the greenest and thickest vegetation
available. That could mean a lush garden grove. In
other situations it's a thick spot amongst an acre of spindly
brown weeds. The most reliable weeds are found in shallow bays
that are adjacent to the main lake.
River mouths are another natural
draw. Pike are suckers for moving water. Suckers, the actual fleshy
baitfish, are common there. Take heed that ice quality on and around
river mouths is several notches thinner than what the main lake
Although pike activity is at its
seasonal peak, there are good, better, and best times to fish.
Morning and evening are no-brainers. With that said, historically,
I've nailed the majority of my larger fish - 10-pounds plus - during
mid to late morning, say from 8 to 11 am. The last hour and a half
of the day is next in importance, but a distant second.
Weather is a factor as well.
Invariably, I pound more pike on cloudy days than those marked with
sunshine. Pike roam more freely. They loosen their range and don't
stick as tightly to cover. In response, I spread the field, which
means running Frabill tip-ups while maintaining a rigorous jigging
schedule. Depending on the state's legal allotment of lines and how
many partners I'm sharing the ice with, it can be half-dozen tip-ups
sprinkled about a 200 foot radius.
The only thing that bests
cloud cover is cloud cover on the leading edge of imminent
precipitation, either snow or one of those bothersome early winter
mists. Pike go bonkers before a front.
Now about that tiptoeing and
black-ops stealth I mentioned earlier… Yes, early winter pike are
ferocious feeders. That's to your advantage. But on the flipside,
you're operating in shallow water with only a thin veil of early
ice. The ice, in fact, is often transparent. To the fish, you're
silhouette is as apparent as the old tire and boulder on the bottom
you just walked over. Complicating matters, my preferred technique
positions me directly over their heads.
Jigging really scratches their itch, though. When pike are on the
move an energetic jig is irresistible.
Pre-drilling puts the angler in position to operate
stealthily. Drill your holes 15 minutes to a half hour before show
time. To really take advantage of the morning bite, pre-drill in the
darkness, before pike take their morning swim.
Finally, it's fishing time. Lurched
over a hole, I ready the rig, which was tied-up the night before.
There's no finer opening act than an oversized jig fitted with a
live sucker minnow, either. My preference is the Bionic Bucktail Jig
from Northland Fishing Tackle. Hand-tied with genuine bucktail,
the Bionic Bucktail creates a full-figured and vibrant target. In
clear water, I opt for White Cisco, as it mimics most native
baitfish. In darker conditions, Yellow Perch is a better choice.
Next comes a 4-inch sucker minnows
or chub - they are the ideal length and shape for jigging pike.
Lip-hook the minnow with the forged single hook. The rear of the jig
features a "sting'r" hook, a treble tethered by
teeth-resistant steel. Don't stick the treble in the bait's
posterior. It's a common practice, but I've stung more pike with it
floating freely alongside the minnow. My theory is that the lightest
part of the rig - the sting'r in this case - is the first to find a
The action is more of a swimming and
dumbed-down-darting than classic jigging. Don't snap it. Instead,
smoothly but confidently pump the jig in 1 to 2-foot motions. I'll
operate from top to bottom in clear conditions. Pike aren't bashful
about rising to the underside of the ice. In darker water, I've
found most fish operate within 4-feet of the bottom.
Not just any old rod will do,
either. Put away the panfish stuff. Remember, you're tangling with
muscle-bound fish in a relatively small space. It's fist to fin
A guiding buddy of mine and northern
pike nemesis, Paul Nelson, developed a pike-specific rod for Frabill.
It's quite the fish tamer. Found in the Ice Hunter series, the
32-inch, medium-heavy stick yields the perfect balance of a firm but
playful tip with the backbone of a brontosaurus.
For battling in tight-quarters I
recommend spooling with a superline, not monofilament or
fluorocarbon. You'll appreciate the toughness and resistance to
shredding. I look forward to testing the new Performance Fuse from
It takes angler skill to bring down
fish of this magnitude as well. Expect violent runs and very dynamic
directional changes. To win, you must wear the fish out, no horsing
it in. Pulling back too hard nearly insures that the jig will tear
free. Maintain pressure, letting the drag do what it's designed to
do. As a failsafe, I back-reel with the drag-system covering my
behind. If the fish runs exceptionally fast, lock down on the handle
and the drag takes over - beautiful 2-part harmony.
Icing a submarine-sized pike in the
shallows isn't like walking and chewing gum. Plan that the fish will
appear horizontally - wide head in the hole and numerous inches of
body tucked beneath ice. Keep the rod loaded, applying constant
pressure while turning the fish. Obviously, it's nice having a
"net man". As the snout rises, prepare for the snatch and
grab. Know that you're going to get wet. In fact, to reduce the risk
of breaking off, I take the fish while it's vertical, its movement
restricted in the hole. As a bonus, the fish is less likely to
flip-out and injure itself.
Once on the ice, it's a quick photo
- titans only - and the head goes back from where it came. Hold and
pump the fish a few times until it's self-powered. High-five your
partner, or do that faddish knocking fists move, and it's on to
another screensaver quality pike.
Piggyback Spoons for Big
By Jason Durham
Bluegill fishing is about
balance. Each trip is a constant trial and error to figure out
if the fish want a tiny speck of an ice jig - the flash,
vibration and, meaty profile of a jigging spoon, or any
presentation that falls in between. Each presentation has its
strengths and weaknesses so experimentation is a must every
day-sometimes every hour!
Miniature jigs are great when
the fish are super-finicky
Even the most wary fish can be
fooled when a tiny jig is paired with a super-thin line.
Seriously, what bluegill can't resist a tiny Northland Jiggle
Bug tied to the end of two-pound test, better yet, 100%
fluorocarbon. The smaller the jig and line the better when
fish are lethargic, spooky, or just a little "off".
Yet small bluegill love the tiny jig and thin line
combination, too. Sometimes the ratio between catching a small
fish compared to a nice one is 50:1. And once a bigger
bluegill does take your microscopic presentation, retrieving
the hook becomes yet another chore.
Conversely, a jigging spoon is
a great choice for bluegill when the fish are very active,
spread out, or if you're constantly pestered by smaller fish.
The flash and vibration of the spoon calls fish in from afar,
and the larger size discourages smaller fish. But sometimes,
coaxing a bigger fish to eat such a large offering becomes
frustrating. The fish may have been feeding for several days
and they're simply not as active compared to last week, not to
mention the waxworm, larva or plastic tail dangling from the
treble doesn't conceal the hook well enough to grant a bite.
Eager smaller fish still attempt to grab the treble hook, but
instead get a mouthful of waxworm or Eurolarve, ripping it
from the hook with a headshake. Take off the gloves and rebait.
So you try the small jig again
and silver dollar sized sunfish continually pound the tiny
offering you drop down the hole, beating the bigger fish to
the hook. Solution? Ride piggyback.
As previously mentioned, jigging spoons and ice jigs each
have positives and negatives. Yet putting the two together is
like joining peanut butter and jelly, an engine and gasoline,
or a young child and a set of blocks; it's simply a good
It doesn't take much know-how in creating a piggyback spoon
in your angling laboratory or garage stall. You can even
accomplish the task on the lake if you're careful so the
components don't get lost in the snow.
Simply remove the single or
treble hook from the split-ring of your favorite jigging
spoon, and then add your favorite ice jig to the now empty
split ring. A pair of split ring pliers makes the job easier,
but sometimes a strong thumbnail can open the ring just enough
to remove and replace a hook.
Jigs that hang
vertically work best, but don't underestimate a horizontally
sitting ice jig either. Sometimes an odd appearance is enough
to trigger bites from inquisitive bluegills.
You'll find endless
possibilities to be creative as you begin pairing up various
jigs with the wide variety of spoons on the market. Just
imagine the color combinations, luminescent finishes, hair,
rubber or synthetic attractors on the jigs, spoons that rattle
and even the size options for making a wicked, bluegill
catching bait. Yet don't be surprised when your piggyback
spoon lands a perch, pike, walleye, bass, crappie or other
variety of fish swimming in the lake, river or reservoir
My favorite combinations
include Northland Tackle's Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon or
their super-noisy Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon paired up with a
Northland Spider Ant or Jiggle Bug. The legs on the Spider Ant
are a great attractor and the Jiggle Bug hauls in the big ones
when less is more.
In other words, when the fish
are finicky the Jiggle Bug has just enough color to excite
whopper 'gills, but is subtle enough to tempt even the
pickiest eaters. Tip the jig with a waxworm, Eurolarve, or one
of Northland's lifelike Bloodworms from Bro's Bug Collection.
So the next time you're
looking for huge bluegills through the ice, consider teaming
up your favorite ice jig and your favorite jigging spoon - a
powerful combination that is sure to put a bend in your rod.
Show Them the Light!
By John Peterson and Travis Peterson
As another winter fishing season
grips the ice-belt, hard water anglers gear up with new and improved equipment. Advances
in ice angling gear continue to emerge. Electronics, portable and permanent shelters,
augers, and cold-weather gear have come a long way in recent years. Arguably the most
ice-shattering advancement in terminal ice tackle has been the application of "new
age" glow-in-the-dark paint. Glow-in-the-dark jigs and spoons have been mainstays in
the winter tackle box for years. Recent photoluminescent technological advances however,
have opened a whole new era in the ice tackle
Its no secret that glow is the way to
go for winter fish of all species. From walleye to trout and pike to panfish,
glow-in-the dark jigs and spoons will put more fish in the bucket than their relatively
Anglers use light sources such as flashlights, lanterns, and special
lure lights to charge the glow paint. The paint absorbs the light and releases it over
time. Glow lures are especially effective in low light conditions. A number of factors
contribute to reduced light below the ice and the importance of glow lures.
For starters, the angle of the sun is reduced. Days are shorter. Nights are longer.
When a lake surface becomes hard with ice and then blanketed with snow, light penetration
is abruptly hindered. Yes, light will find its way through the snow and ice. However, as
if a dimmer switch has been applied, the intensity of the sunlight is reduced.
Furthermore, consider the prime periods of the day for winter fish activity. For many
species, most notably walleye, crappie, and big bluegills, the action heats up during
"low-light" and "no-light" hours. Ice anglers across the Midwest
have learned to hit the ice during "prime-time" in an effort to increase their
catch-rates. While some target the hours before and after dawn, the masses focus on the
night bite. In clear water lakes, which are the norm in the Midwest, night time is the
right time for these species.
In addition, fish of many varieties tend to gravitate toward deeper water in the winter
months. As weeds in the shallows die, oxygen becomes scarce. The absence of a thermo-cline
after fall turnover allows fish to go deep relatively unrestricted. Panfish in smaller
lakes will seek out the deepest water they can find. The deeper they go, the darker it
Northland Fishing Tackle has a colorful remedy for getting the attention of fish in
their dismal winter environment. A lead dog in the development of ice fishing tackle with
popular lures like the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, Northland offers "Super-Glo"
versions of all items in its line of hooks, jigs, and spoons. Like standard
glow-in-the-dark paint, "Super-Glo" paint can be charged using any light source.
The paint absorbs the light and slowly releases it. However, "Super-Glo" paint
releases the light over a longer period of time. In effect, it holds its charge longer.
While the standard glow paint would release light for ten or fifteen minutes, Super-Glo
paint will glow for up to forty-five minutes.
In addition, Northland produces "Super-Glo" ice tackle in a
number of glow colors. The standard glow paint has been replaced with a rainbow of glow
colors. The application of chartreuse, pink, green, orange and other glow paint hues
allows Northlands lure designers to be much more creative. Some versions of
lures such as the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon are initially painted with Super-Glo paint. The
finishing touches further separate Northland from other brands. Non-glow paint is added to
give some dimension to the lure. Finally, a "holographic" baitfish image and
realistic eyes are added for realism.
Glow lures simply expand the strike zone by attracting fish from greater distances than
non-glow lures. The application of Super-Glo paint allows ice fishing lures to hold a
charge much longer and be designed in multiple glow colors. Its a dark world down
there. Show them the light and they will bite!
Fishing with a Legend in Brainerd Lakes Area
By Steve Mattson
When you fish with me, you get two choices of bait to
use, the captain said with a grin. I
thought for a brief second what my top two choices would be. Redtails, or Redtails, Marv said with
a smile. As you will hopefully see,
there is no reason to use anything else. Mr.
Koep was right. We spent the morning fishing
inside turns, sunken points and shorelines all the while looking for fish. And almost every time we marked a fish on the
electronics, a few seconds later one of us was feeding line to a hungry walleye. Lip hooked or tail hooked, the redtail chub has
been the mainstay in Marvs Ranger Fisherman boat for years.
the right bait was something that Marv was accustomed to.
He grew up seining minnows for his fathers bait business near Alexandria,
Minnesota. And in 1961, Marv and his wife
Judy moved to Nisswa to start Marv Koeps Nisswa Bait and Tackle.
bought the bait store from Pete Link and at that time they only sold bait. Now bait was Marvs specialty, but he also
knew that you need hooks, sinkers and tackle to catch fish too. Marv added basic fishing tackle to his store
within the first year. A few years later,
Marvs store was recognized as the premier bait store of the Brainerd Lakes area. It was also the home of the legendary Nisswa
Guides League. Former guides out of
Koeps include none other then Al and Ron Lindner, Gary Roach and of course Marv
Walleyes Come as No Fluke
By Brian "Bro" Brosdahl with Mark Courts
Admittedly, I'm a meat and potatoes sort of guy. I'm eyeing the
porterhouse steak on the menu long before the canary food, organic
"meals under 500 calories". In fact, I'll take the whole
right side of the menu, please. This instinctive weakness for
hearty meat translates to my walleye fishing as well. Nine out of
ten times I'm elbowing my way to the biggest minnow, not thinking
much about soft plastic alternatives.
Give me minnows, or give me death…or perhaps something less
dramatic, but along those lines.
With that said, I mean no disrespect to guys who put their trust
in plastics, sometimes choosing them over live minnows, leeches,
and crawlers. Professional walleye angler and educator Mark Courts
is one of those guys I respect enough to cut some slack. When it
comes to walleyes on plastics, he's one of the savviest on the FLW
Walleye Tour. And to give soft plastic its day in court, I
questioned Courts…pun intended.
"Walleyes crush them," began the Harris, Minn. resident
and native. "When a walleye eats a plastic, it's game over. I'm
digging in there with pliers to pull the hook out of the roof of
A certified proponent of live bait, too, Courts knows that plastic
have their time and place. And without hesitation, he named
springtime fishing on rivers and reservoirs as the foremost
situations for busting out the plastics. Courts explained:
"Usually, rivers run darker than lakes in the spring. Because
of the turbidity, you need to offer them a big target, something
with major profile. Plastics fill that role."
Any broad generalizations about soft plastics end here. Courts is
particular about his shapes and sizes. As far as spring walleyes go,
nothing does a better job of imitating natural forage (baitfish)
than a fluke, sometimes referred to as "soft jerkbait."
Typical to soft plastics, they come in more colors and variations
than jellybeans at the candy counter. I've seen them as long as a
ruler for oceangoing stripers and as miniscule as a blue moon in a
box of Lucky Charms to imitate young-of-the-year baitfish.
Relevant to walleyes, Courts' preferred size falls somewhere in
the middle. This is a direct reflection of what foodstuffs are being
preyed upon. Typically, you're dealing with some variety of shiner,
shad, dace or sucker from an inch to five inches in length. To no
great surprise, the marketplace bares numerous makes and models in
those sizes and shapes.
So recognize the general shape and size of the baitfish and
you're half way there. The other component, which Courts said is
equally as important, is finding "the right body to jig ratio
for the current conditions at hand." Essentially, you want to
hitch the jig and plastic to create the most natural presentation
"With too heavy a jig it'll lock in the bottom," said
Courts. "Too light, and it'll tumble downstream and never make
contact with the bottom." In a perfect world, Courts' properly
paired combo "tics the bottom every six inches to a foot."
Now that sounds more like the true behavior of a live, river running
In order to achieve equilibrium given a wide range of current
speeds and depths, it's only logical to tote an array of jig sizes.
And Courts does. "I'll throw jigs as light as 3/32-ounce and go
all the way up to 3/8 ounce if the conditions call for it."
Again, the goal is to keep contact with the bottom without becoming
part of it.
A guy who competes professionally on the bass side, too, Courts
is super particular about jig styles. "It must have an extra
long shank for reaching back into the plastic body," he stated
leaving little margin for error. "A wide gap is necessary as
well. The more hook point exposed the better for sticking walleyes
in dark and fast moving water. Small hooks are easily
Last but not least, Courts' jigs are required to keep a solid
grip on the plastic. His top performer is the Northland Slurp! Jig
Head. "A double-barb, BarbWire™ collar holds plastics better
than anything I've ever fished. They hang-on for cast after cast and
walleye after walleye." Slurp! Jig Heads also feature the
long-shank and wide-gap that Courts demands.
Maintaining holy matrimony, Courts couples his jig with a soft
jerkbait that was designed to wed a Slurp! Jig Head. "Can't get
a better match than the Slurpies Smelt Minnow. The profile is
perfect. The material is supple yet durable. And I have eight unique
colors to choose from." Additionally, the Slurpies Smelt Minnow
is available in both 3- and 4-inch sizes, yielding even more
Rigged and ready for deployment, Courts discusses specific
fishing situations where the jig and jerkbait tandem is especially
effective. "After the spawn, walleyes, especially big fish,
settle into current seams. A number of structures form seams, too.
Wingdams are a good example. Shoreline brush and rocky points and
fingers also produce seams that hold walleyes.
Best of all, most seams are visible on the surface." Courts
says to watch closely for speed changes on the surface, either fast
to slow, or slow to slack or even reversing - an eddy. It's all
about fishing those edges, or transitions.
Wide berthing river bends are worth a look, too. Current
sweeps hurriedly along the outside bend while the shallower inside
is slacker and more conducive to post-spawn feeding activities. Keep
this information in your back pocket in case the typical current
seams aren't holding fish.
Once a spot's been identified, Courts anchors or
"slips" downstream across from the target. Slipping is a
method of boat-control in current whereby the operator inches ever
so slowly downstream while running the motor - gas or electric -
upstream to manage speed. Yes, it's effective, but it also takes
skillful navigation. Anchoring is the easier choice and lets you
focus more on fishing.
||Anchored or slipping, Courts casts upstream of
ground zero at a 45-degree angle and "walks" the jig and
fluke downstream. He holds the rod at the 9- to 11 o'clock
position and maintains a taut line to feel every bump of the
riverbed and hopeful wallop of a walleye.
This wicked jig and plastic combo isn't limited to
current-going walleyes, either. I'll often throw it in flooded
backwater areas. Later in the summer, on natural lakes, jigs and
flukes can be very productive along deep weedlines for walleyes
and largemouth bass. And if you're into smallmouth bass fishing,
there might not be a better one-two punch out there.
Okay, Mr. Courts, I get it. I'll save some space in the tackle
box for jigs and plastics. But don't try talking me into dumping
the minnows. I consider them comfort food.
Hidden Structure For Angling Treasures
By Steve Mattson
Most serious fisherman rely on good lake maps to increase their fishing success. Fewer
anglers mark hotspots or spot-on-a-spot locations onto their topographical map. And even
fewer yet, are the anglers that scribe their own structure onto maps. These anglers are
more times then not, the successful, savvy anglers that know what to look for on any given
body of water. They go out onto any body of water and use their depth finder as their
eyes, combing the lake bottom looking. They are looking for something different such as an
inside corner or an offshore weedy sunken island. Knowledgeable anglers look for unmarked
structure that fish really relate to. By definition, they are structure anglers. And they
are always searching for the hidden treasure that nobody else has discovered. Chances are
they will eventually find a treasure and so can you, by making good use of your
Most good maps do a fair job of documenting the underwater topography of the basin.
They highlight the lakes major structures such as islands, main lake points, troublesome
spots for boaters and basic underwater topography. However, many maps do not show perfect
detail. Some underwater points, saddles, breaklines and humps do not appear on all maps.
The only way to really find these areas is to go out and make good use of your depth
finder. Cover a lot of water and scan the depths using your depth finder as your eyes.
Throw out a marker buoy in a suspect area and then drive around it looking for changes in
bottom composition, depth, vegetation and perhaps the presence of baitfish. Set up your
depth finder to display twice or even three times the depth you are actually over.
Hard-bottomed areas will be displayed as double, or triple echos. In other words, the
display will show another bottom twice as deep or even a third (triple echo) line. Mucky
or soft bottom typically absorbs the sound waves generated from the depth finder and
consequently will only display one bottom line.
I've lost track of how many times I've heard walleye tournament pros say their winning
pattern was finding and fishing transition areas such as a rock pile off of a mud flat.
Anglers should pay more attention to these fish holding areas. Finding these areas can be
relatively easy by understanding what your depth finder is telling you. Is it hard bottom?
Muck? Weedy? One of the easiest to operate and yet technologically advanced depth finder
is the Edge LC-507 from Vexilar. This depth finder utilizes two transducers with different
cone angles and allows you to see them both at the same time using split screen
technology. The unit incorporates one wide cone to see a broad view and a narrow cone to
see what is directly beneath you. This translates to a unit that can pinpoint weed edges,
bottom composition transition areas, display fish on a flat and display near paper graph
resolution all in one unit. And setting it up to be able to do all of this can be
accomplished with relative ease and very little operator input. How important is this?
Finding the exact weed edge, breakline or transition area can be critical to any angler's
success. Whether you are fishing for bass, walleye, or pike, fish seem to relate to these
areas to increase their hunting efficiency. By finding and marking these areas with close
proximity, you can increase your efficiency on the water too.
Make good use of those expensive depth finders and start exploring familiar or
unfamiliar bodies of water. By understanding your electronics and the body of water your
fishing, you'll be able unlock a few mysteries and catch more fish. Always remember that a
fish has simple needs, much simpler then our needs, and the key is to find out how they
fill their needs on any body of water. To put it simple, they need to eat, reproduce and
be comfortable. A high quality depth finder can tell where the fish are by showing you a
school of baitfish, transition areas, surface temperature among many other things. These
are all variables that equate to the location of the fish on any body of water.
Try to spend more time with your depth finder this summer and look for the hidden
jewels in your favorite body of water. Put in a little extra time looking for the right
structure and you just might end up fishing less and yet catching more.
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