Posted on April 9, 2015 / By Scheels TV Partner Jason Wright of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV
Throughout the winter months I have the opportunity to travel to various sport show events, host fishing seminars with one of my best friends/fishing partner Kurt Schirado and enjoy collaborating with and meeting new fishing enthusiasts via social media. And, it doesn’t take long for people to gauge my enthusiastic approach in researching, testing and creating an honest opinion on outdoor hunting/fishing related product or technique. I’m always keeping tabs on the newest gear to hit the shelves prior to the open water fishing season creating an excuse to head to Scheels almost every Sunday afternoon when the weather keeps me from getting outdoors.
February seems to be the beginning of cabin fever for most open water fishermen and continues through the end of March – depending on weather – causing unannounced trips to a local marine dealerships, gatherings in the fishing aisles at sporting goods stores and unexpected fishing related purchases. It’s this time of year when I begin to get both emails and Facebook messages from fishing enthusiasts asking for my opinion about certain products and/or anticipating a truthful response to make their next outing more successful as they begin to prepare for the open water fishing season.
I regard all these questions seriously and often will take a day or two before I reply, and if necessary, do a little homework to be sure that my reply is both accurate and based on my own experience. Just this past week, and since I didn’t have to report to work due to a blizzard, I decided to go back through some of the questions I have received and share some of them with our readers. If my opinion helps a few people, then my goal was accomplished. Feel free to contact me any time with either a question or an opinion since I too enjoy listening to others discuss how to be more safe, comfortable and successful during their fishing adventures. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions I received from fishing enthusiasts this past winter, and while on a recent outing to Scheels in Bismarck I confirmed my replies as I started at one end of the fishing department and cruised each aisle.
Q: I am looking to purchase an outer layer for the spring fishing season, what would you recommend?
JW’s Opinion: I truly enjoy this question, not because I am an expert of outer layers, but in my opinion it is very simple. The most versatile outer layers for year round fishing is a good set of raingear which includes both an uninsulated parka and matching bibs. Now I don’t mean the cheapest set, but rather, search for quality raingear with areas of reinforcement for extended wear, large cargo pockets, zippered leg gussets with storm flaps and heavy duty zippers. You will begin to rely on your raingear not only during those unexpected rainstorms or long runs back to the ramp in 4 footers, but by layering properly you can expect to stay warm and dry throughout the entire year. I rely on my raingear to keep me comfortable during all seasons whether I am fishing a top the ice for big pike in March, pitching jigs for walleyes in May or fishing a walleye tournament Lake Sakakawea in July. It will be the fishing garment that you will wear the most – especially during the spring – and can be the difference between a great outing and a soggy adventure. I personally like the Scheels Outfitters Extreme jacket and bibs which have lasted me many years and can be purchased at any Scheels store. In my opinion, raingear doesn’t have to be worn only on rainy days.
Q: My kids are at the age that I want to start taking them in the boat with me, and I always make sure they are wearing appropriate life vests. Can you suggest a life vest that would be comfortable for me during warm weather?
JW’s Opinion: A number of years ago, I too was in the hunt for a couple of life vests that could be worn comfortably all day during tournaments and without limiting movement. Then, while at Scheels I found their automatic/manual inflatable life jacket. This was the answer to my all day comfort on the water whether it was bitterly cold or scorching hot not to mention a peace of mind when you have the kids on board. The life preserver will automatically inflate upon immersion in the water or when the inflation handle is pulled manually. This type of life jacket has become very popular amongst the fishing world and better yet they don’t take up much storage space.
Q: I would like to try trolling crankbaits on Lake Sakakawea with lead core and was wondering if you have a favorite style or brand crankbait. I know you have mentioned using smaller crankbaits with lead core; is there a crankbait that won’t break the bank?
JW’s Opinion: Trolling small crankbaits with lead core can be a deadly and a very productive trolling technique throughout the year on various lakes and reservoirs. The first of the two baits that come to mind is the Reef Runner 200 Series Rip Shad which is a shad styled bait that rattles. However, this particular bait can be a fish catching machine, it is important to be sure it is properly tuned. The other crankbait which I have had great success with while pursuing walleyes with lead core is the Berkley Flicker Shad. I like this crankbait because it is available in a variety of sizes and colors, runs true right out of the package, and they are priced much more affordably compared to other crankbaits. Last year Berkley introduced the New Flicker Shad Pro Slick and Pro Flash series which became very popular.
Q: I am in the market for a new rod/reel combo which is going to be used mostly for pitching jigs for walleyes. During one of your seminars you mentioned Fenwick rods, do they make good rod without having to spend $200 and what about a quality reel?
JW’s Opinion: You are right; when it comes to pitching jigs I definitely enjoy the Fenwick line of spinning rods. My recommendation to you would be to check out the Fenwick HMG 6’9” medium light fast action spinning rod and I think you will find it to be a quality stick with an affordable price tag at just under $100. Match the HMG up with a Pflueger President model 6925X spinning reel and you will have a quality rod/reel combo for pitching jigs for around $150.
Q: What line do you prefer when pitching jigs during the spring on Lake Sakakawea?
JW’s Opinion: This question is like asking a group of guys which truck is the best; you will receive differing answers. There are many jigging situations which require different line choices, but since you identified both the lake and time of year, this is a simple recommendation for me. Whether you are pitching jigs on a lake, river or reservoir during the spring most walleyes are found shallow; therefore, I choose to use a hi-vis 6# or 8# monofilament. Line color is critical when pitching jigs since it is important to watch your line so that you can determine when the jig hits bottom as well as visually detect the strike. Berkley Trilene Sensation successfully meets my spring pitching needs and best of all it comes in both blaze orange and solar which provides the necessary line visibility above the water. Another favorite monofilament which I seem to be using more and more while pitching jigs is the Berkley Trilene XT also in solar for the hi-vis advantages.
Q: Is there a difference between one brand of sunglasses and another? My eyes seem to get fatigued by the end of a sunny day on the water; what brand sunglasses do you wear?
JW’s Opinion: For many years, I wore cheaper polarized sunglasses because I didn’t want to spend the money on good quality sunglasses assuming the difference wasn’t that great. Finally, I decided to meet with one of the experts in the sunglass shop at Scheels and after listening to all the advantages I purchased a pair of Costa sunglasses. It was absolutely amazing at the clarity of the lenses and I actually felt as though I had an HD view of the world. Now I own a couple pairs of Costa sunglasses, and whether we are out filming or fishing for fun, I typically have my Costas on for many hours and the lightweight characteristic and clarity is incredible making my outings much more enjoyable. My current favorite Costa model is the Fathom 580g and I would strongly suggest spending the money on quality polarized sunglasses; there is a major difference.
Q: Do you use anything to organize your bottom bouncers or do you just toss them in the glove box?
JW’s Opinion: I keep the majority of my bottom bouncers in a Rubbermaid storage container about the size of a shoe box. This way I can keep plenty of extra bouncers on board and stowed in my bow storage compartment. The bouncers that I plan to be using are kept inside a Plano 3700 tote; however, I recently purchased a Scheels Outfitters Bottom Bouncers Bag that has six pockets that can easily hold a dozen bouncers in each pocket. It folds up and you will be assured to have the size bouncer for every situation in a compact heavy duty bag.
Q: Do you tie directly to your crankbait or use some sort of snap swivel?
JW’s Opinion: It is ok to tie directly to the split ring attached to the eye of the crankbait, but it makes it more time consuming to switch baits and it’s never a good idea to attach your crankbait to the line with a snap swivel. The snap swivel can actually act as a rudder steering your crankbait and/or keeping it from running true. I always use a #2 Fast-Lock Snap which allows the crankbait to run true and it makes it much easier to switch colors or crankbaits.
Q: I am planning to upgrade to the newest and best Lowrance electronics. What model would you recommend and is there anything new from Lowrance?
JW’s Opinion: Depending on how old your current electronics are, you are in for an incredible upgrade in technology. Keeping up with other electronic manufacturers in late 2012 Lowrance introduced its HDS Gen2 Touch models which are incredible units. However, my personal favorite Lowrance model is the HDS-9 Gen3 for its 9 inch multi-touch widescreen display, ease of use and price point. Although Lowrance has introduced several new series for the upcoming fishing season, the HDS series are the most popular in our region. If you are really fussy about boat control and knowing exactly where that “spot on the spot” is located or how far you are from the sunken hump you are casting to then I would suggest looking into adding the Point-1 GPS Antenna by Lowrance. It is much quicker and provides a more accurate boat position and speed update as well as boat direction at any speed. I am excited about adding one of these advanced antennas to my Lowrance equipped walleye machine this spring.
Q: My rod locker doesn’t have rod tubes and I am always having trouble with my rods getting tangled together. Is it worth trying to install rod tubes myself or do you have other suggestions?
JW’s Opinion: I actually wish that walleye rigs wouldn’t come with “rod tubes” installed in the bow rod storage or at the very least that it was an option from the factory. In fact, I usually remove them and/or cut them out when possible since I feel it is much more practical to have a large open locker versus the few tubes. Before you begin adding tubes to the rod locker purchase some “Rod Socks” which easily slip over the entire rod and you can pile a bunch of rods into your locker and be able to choose and remove any rod without trouble. I always have my rods socked with Scheels Outfitters Rod Socks so that I never have to worry about those troublesome rod tip tangles. This is an easy/affordable solution to your frustrating rod locker, and in my opinion keeping your rod locker open is much more practical and allows for more rods.
Q: I just recently purchased a boat, and up until this year, my fishing has all taken place from shore with a 5 gallon bucket used to store my tackle. Could you suggest any types of tackle boxes or storage containers that work good?
JW’s Opinion: The market is flooded with many great tackle storage options with soft sided tackle bags containing Plano boxes being the most popular. I use the Scheels Outfitters soft sided tackle systems for all my tackle storage needs. The small size Deluxe Tackle Bag which includes 4 Plano 3650 boxes work great for all my jigs and are easily removed and/or exchanged depending on fishing location and depth. Then for all my tackle tamers, slip sinkers, rigging tackle, spinner blades and bottom bounces I prefer the large size Scheels Outfitters Mega Tackle Bag which includes 4 Plano® 3700 totes. Both bags incorporate multiple pockets and tool holders on each side keeping additional items organized and secure. My suggestion is to closely check out a variety soft sided tackle storage systems to determine which one(s) will best meet your needs.
Q: During one of your fishing seminars both you and Kurt Schirado talked a lot about using Berkley Gulp! 3” and 4” minnows on the river in the spring with jigs. My family and I fish a lot of smaller lakes for walleyes as well as Devils Lake. What Berkley Gulp! products would you recommend during the summer with jigs and also with spinners.
JW’s Opinion: Berkley Powerbait, Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! products definitely work throughout the entire season and the benefits can be extremely rewarding. As the water temps begin to warm on any lake, I prefer to target shallow walleyes by pitching jigs to windswept points. I tip my jigs with Berkley Gulp! Alive! Killer Crawlers this time of year since they so closely resemble a pinched off or half a crawler. If my chosen presentation is trolling spinners then I will tip my spinner with either the Gulp! Alive! Spinner Crawler, Killer Crawler or the Gulp! 5” Jumbo Floating Leech. Many of our lakes are heavily populated with a variety of smaller bait stealing fish and using any of the previously mentioned Berkley products will keep your lines in the water rather than always having to re-bait.
I enjoy sharing information about products that I have found useful as well as fishing presentations and techniques which might help others be more successful during their next fishing adventure. However, it’s just as enjoyable for me to sit down with others who share my fishing passion and learn about the gear and tactics which they have found useful and/or productive hoping to better my own skills. My prior opinions are based on my own experiences and by no means am I trying to say these are the “best” or only options, but rather, a guide to finding what just might work for you. Now that the future forecast looks promising, get your gear organized and prepare for the open water fishing season.