The Little Pond

Matthew Skoy, Wildlife Pursuit

zLjhgyon6OGGf4YPqgdmcgvEiK3yFiQoL0Qm5roQ4yg,TOidf435GYFa2L0kZOJcskrAjO7RlAaltQPdeSNduYsAs I was attending graduate school, I was also plotting a plan to pop the big question to my lovely girlfriend. However, as a broke graduate student, living on bottom of the fridge soup and whatever I could create from wild game, buying a ring was a stretch. So on my way home one evening after class I pulled into a local business and asked the owner if he had any work. I told him my situation, and he simply just did not have any opportunities. As I was walking out a little disappointed, he stopped me and offered an opportunity. He had some rental properties in town and asked if I would consider scraping and painting one of the homes? He guaranteed $1000.00 after the project was complete. Like a kid in a candy store I jumped for joy and agreed in the moment.

As we continued to talk, I asked him about the pond nestled between two of his buildings. I was looking for a place to get my line wet and this was my golden opportunity. He smiled and told me to help myself and assured me that I would probably catch a few bass. That summer I spent time in class, painting and doing a little fishing from time to time. I realized right away that this little pond produced some pretty nice sized largemouth. I was catching 1-3 pound bass regularly and enjoyed every minute of the peaceful little pond.

One day after a challenging day in the classroom, I stopped by the bait shop and picked up a few minnows and headed to the little pond. I knew I would be alone and I could take a moment just to relax. I caught a couple of bass right away and eventually found myself snuggled up to the bank catching up on some long-awaited sleep. As I zoned in and out under the blue Iowa sky, I watched as the wind drifted my big red and white bobber toward the tall grass near the edge of the pond.

As the day slipped away, I dreamt of big fish, diamond rings and the mysterious supper I would soon be preparing that evening. After a wonderful nap I quickly looked for my bobber and sure enough it was still nuzzled around the weed bed where I left it hours earlier. As I was getting ready to leave, my bobber began slowly moving back and forth and eventually it started drifting against the wind out of the weed bed. I quickly thought I would catch one final bass before the day ended, but that was not the case at all.

All of a sudden my bobber started moving rapidly across the top of the water and in a flash disappeared. I reached for my rod and set the hook and witnessed a swirl that immediately indicated I was not going to be fighting a bass, this creature was much larger. The fight was on! I finally recognized the challenger to be a monster northern pike. As I wrestled on the pond’s edge, I was finally able to get the fish close enough to reach down and pull it from the murky pond. To my surprise, I pulled a 40 inch northern from the pond and I immediately called the owner of the business to show him the monster fish. He was shocked and snapped this picture to prove the fish’s existence.

That summer I finished graduate classes with a 4.0 GPA, bought an engagement ring for my girlfriend and created an unbelievable fishing memory. Have you ever been cruising down the interstate and noticed little ponds on your travels? This story is living proof that one never knows what’s tucked beneath the waters of those little old ponds. If you have time, try and fish the spots that you always drive by, because the outcome could surprise you as it did me.

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Catching Post Front Walleyes

By Jason Wright, Co-host of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

In order to become a better cold front walleye fisherman it’s necessary to learn how to recognize the postfrontal conditions.  Since a cold front can be anything from a severe thunderstorm to strong northerly winds bringing with them a wind-chill in July, most fishermen won’t put time in on the water until the system has passed. However, as a fisherman that used to stay on shore during cold fronts, I quickly learned how to read the signs and found that I had been missing out on some of the best fishing with little fishing pressure.

I used to consider “cold fronts” as an excuse for my lack of success, but throughout the years I have quickly learned that it is possible to catch these “cold walleyes.”  I just needed to adjust my fishing strategies and learn to recognize the pre-front, cold front and post front conditions.  Since I have learned to recognize these weather patterns more precisely, I no longer cringe when the weather forecast is predicting a cold front or knowing that the tournament days will be during a postfrontal weather pattern.

It is the post front conditions that usually send most fishermen home scratching their heads and telling one another, “We sure couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day on the water.”  Post cold front conditions often are some of the most beautiful days fishermen spend on the water.  The sky is clear, the wind is calm and the temperature is just right!  They are also some of the least productive as far as numbers of fish are concerned.  The failure of recognizing post front conditions will send most fishermen in search of last weekend’s shallow feeding frenzy only to be left with the notion that they must have been one day late.  When in reality, they were in the right area at the right time.

The first step toward cold front success is realizing that you may be fishing during or after a major cold front.  Oftentimes post front conditions bring with them clear skies, calm winds, and cooler temperatures resulting in the perfect day to spend fishing your favorite 10 – 15 foot flat while trolling crankbaits or a bottom bouncer and spinner presentation. Yes, it might be the perfect day to be on that spot, but the walleyes might not agree.  Most likely, you and your fishing partner will continue fishing this spot or other spots similar to it with the same presentations not knowing that Mother Nature has played her “wild card.”  Put the pieces together…previous cold front…beautiful day…no fish!  There’s a good chance you are fishing during a postfrontal weather pattern.  It’s time to search for the map that you always keep in the glove box which you purchased because someone once mentioned that everyone should still have a good lake map – even with the technology available in the 21st Century.  Advanced sonar units with mapping capabilities are the norm on most rigs with installed contour lake maps, but I still rely on a good waterproof contour lake map when trying to locating these tight-lipped walleyes.

Whether it’s an electronic map on your Lowrance HD unit, program on your laptop computer, or the old fashion waterproof paper type, a good contour lake map will help to locate steep vertical drop-offs nearest your favorite hot spots.  Understanding and learning to read contour lake maps will enable you to be more prepared when you encounter a cold front fishing situation.

During stable summertime weather patterns walleyes are often found actively feeding on an underwater hump, sunken island or on top of a long shallow point.  However, walleyes will quickly abandon the typical summertime hotspots and retreat to the nearest deep/steep vertical structure and/or school together near inside corners or underwater bays seeking a secure refuge. These underwater “safe-zones” are pretty hard to locate without having the ability to see beneath the surface of the water via some sort of contour lake map.

Since more often than not these fish will quickly slip into deeper water, they are much easier to locate with your electronics compared to when they cruise the shallows searching for an easy meal.  Therefore, it’s as important to learn and understand how to use all the features/functions of your high-tech electronics to assist with this search.

As mentioned previously, cold front walleyes will relate most often to steep vertical structure which can be found using any contour lake map.  I would suggest starting your search by graphing main lake points where the river channel sweeps into the shoreline creating an easy escape to deep water.  If there’s no river channel in the area that you’re planning to fish, then look closely at the contour lines on your map and look for areas that normally hold large numbers of walleyes with easy escape routes to deep water.  These cold front “safe-zones” can be determined by looking for areas on the map where the contour lines are very close together referring to an area that has a steep vertical drop.

Once you have located these deep clinging cold front walleyes with your electronics, it’s important that you adjust your presentation to their lethargic state.  I have found that vertical jigging or slowly trolling a live bait rig triggers the most strikes.  It’s also a great time to dig out your anchor and toss out one rod with a slip bobber rigged with a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a leech. Then rig up another rod with a small jig or lindy rig tipped with either a minnow or nightcrawler.  Cast either the jig or lindy rig out and slowly retrieve it with short pauses.

Anchoring isn’t a method that’s used by many anglers with the advanced technology of powerful electric trolling motors, GPS units and 4-stroke kicker engines, but I assure you that it is a proven method to success when trying to catch “cold walleyes” on any lake, river or reservoir.  With the passing of the cold front, these fish have gone into a more lethargic state.  Therefore, it’s really important to position your bait directly in front of them while slowing down your presentation.  If you hook a fish under these conditions, quickly mark your location on your GPS or use a marker buoy in order to concentrate your efforts on top of the tightly schooled cold front walleyes.

Slow trolling with lead core line is another successful post cold front presentation which allows an angler to send small and/or otherwise shallow running crankbaits to deeper depths than they are normally capable of diving.  Utilizing lead core line is the best option in order to effectively contour troll crankbaits off and around breaks in order to target lethargic fish and/or fish that are relating tight to structure.  This is often the case for several days following a strong cold front.  The combination of the lead core trolling line and very small crankbaits can trigger an innate behavioral strike.

The next time you find yourself on the water during the most beautiful day, but without fish, think about the possibilities and ask yourself, “Is it possible that I am fishing during a postfrontal weather pattern?”  If the answer is yes, utilize your contour lake map, locate a “safe-zone” and adjust your fishing strategy.  You may be on your way to being a successful post cold front walleye angler.

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Loading up Walleye

 Loading up Walleye

By Jason Mitchell, Jason Mitchell Outdoors

Like many anglers, I learned how to live bait rig for walleye with the bail open and my trigger finger on the line.  At the first indication of a bite, the thought process was to let line peel off the spool giving the fish line so that they could swallow the bait.  Anglers insisted that the less a walleye feels your presence, the better.

The author Jason Mitchell shares a few secrets on how you can keep catching walleyes this summer with live bait rigs.

The author Jason Mitchell shares a few secrets on how you can keep catching walleyes this summer with live bait rigs.

There are situations where giving to the fish, whether it be by feeding line or pointing the rod tip back when either running live bait rigs or spinner rigs, can be the ticket.  Especially earlier in the season, the drill often seems to be creeping the rig along and feeding the fish momentarily before the hook set.

One adjustment to make however that can be difficult for some anglers is dragging the fish versus feeding the fish.  Around the 4th of July on many bodies of water year in and year out, the water temperature continues to climb and the metabolism of the fish climbs.  There comes a point where you catch so many more fish by dragging the fish along versus feeding the fish.

Dragging the fish is just that.  No finger on the line with the bail open, no worry about the fish “feeling” the angler and no pointing the rod tip back towards the fish.  When you get a bite, you simply let the rod load up and drag the fish along until you start to get a few head shakes.  Ever had one of those days where the rod holder out fished you… when you were trying hard to catch a fish with the rod you were holding?  I know I have.

I think what happens as fish get aggressive is that they simply grab onto the bait and just don’t want to give it up if it seems to be getting away.  When you drag the fish with steady and constant pressure, the fish just seem to keep choking up on the bait or harness until they hook themselves.  This adjustment or change in attitude happens every summer.

Summer walleyes often require a few adjustments with both presentation and mentality.

Summer walleyes often require a few adjustments with both presentation and mentality.

Earlier in the season, rigging with live bait can often be considered a finesse tactic.  As the summer progresses, I often find that I catch more fish with a more aggressive mindset concerning live bait rigs… power rigging.  I often use a heavier walking sinker or bottom bouncer that keeps the presentation close to the transducer of the sonar.

I like heavier snells, sometimes as heavy as twenty-pound monofilament so that I can move really fast without the snell twisting up.  I often move as fast as a mile and a half per hour but then drop my speed as I mark fish on the electronics.  Once fish are deeper than fifteen feet, I feel that I will mark most fish that are below me.  The name of the game is to scoot along fast until you come across another pod of fish.  Once you find or mark some fish with your electronics, you can slow down and fish at speeds that might range between one half mile per hour to a mile and a half per hour for rigs and up to two miles per hour for spinner rigs.

One of the hottest rigging trends the past few seasons have been half crawler rigs that utilize a bent hook that causes the half crawler to rotate or cork screw through the water.  Most of the half crawler rigs on the market today use a much heavier hook and use two bends on the shaft of the hook which is quite different from the original half crawler rigs we made ourselves from the standard gold Aberdeen hook.  I still think the original designs are much better because the hook is lighter and only incorporates one bend so the action on the night crawler is tighter and more of a shimmy at a much slower speed.

Recently I designed a half crawler rig for Northland Tackle called the Crawler Hauler that also has a barb on the hook to keep the night crawler pinned in the right position.

 

Here is a video explaining how to use this hook design to catch a lot of walleye:

 

As summer progresses and water temperatures climb, successful rigging for walleye often begins to morph into something faster and heavier.  Feeding and finesses is replaced by dragging and loading up the rod.  I often switch from a medium light spinning rod action to a bait-casting rod like our Jason Mitchell Pro Walleye Series JM701MC as summer progresses because it is easier to set the hook by just sweeping the rod with the wrist.  Be conscience of these different mentalities and rigging options and get comfortable on each end of the rigging spectrum because these adjustments will allow you to keep on catching as the summer wears on.

Editors Note:  The author Jason Mitchell hosts the outdoor program Jason Mitchell Outdoors, which airs on Fox Sports North at 9:00 am on Sundays and Fox Sports Midwest at 8:30 am on Saturdays. More videos and information can be found at www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com.

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[VIDEO] Trolling for Walleye

Join Justin Heider and Ryan Mereness as they go out trolling planer board for big Green Bay walleye! They also offer tips and words of advice along the way. Check them out in action here!

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Lessons from Grandpa

by Matthew Skoy, Wildlife Pursuit

blog_grandpa2While most of my friends were chasing the elusive walleye and throwing spinners for monster bass, I found myself tucked away on the banks of the mighty Black River with a different goal in mind.

The Black River is 190 miles in length and nested in central Wisconsin. All kinds of species of fish inhabit the river, including giant muskies. I learned many lessons from my Grandpa on that good ol’ river. One of the most important lessons learned was patience.

It was early spring. Grandpa and I were perched on the river’s edge with sparkplug sinkers, somewhat sharp hooks, and two dozen of Wisconsin’s finest crawlers. This particular fishing adventure was different; that day we were registered for the Annual Rubber Lips Tournament (RLT). The RLT was developed by a handful of old-timers sitting around the local watering hole trying to figure out what to do with all the rough fish (sheepshead, sucker, mullet, carp, red-horse) being caught on the Black River.

The tournament was organized into three categories; the heaviest single rubber lip, the heaviest three combined rubber lips, and the rubber lip toss. The toss consisted of trying to launch a rubber lip into a bucket without stepping over a makeshift line drawn on the ground. Some folks would call it small town horseshoes with a flair. I am happy to report that Grandpa and I took third place in the toss that year. He would tell you that it was all me and my golden arm, but I know I could not have done it without my coach.

We never took home first place, but we always had a story to tell. Fishing rubber lips on the Black River with Grandpa Skoy turned into a tradition and a memory I will never forget. I will always remember Grandpa telling fishing and hunting tales on those sandbanks, being snagged on the river’s bottom more times than I could shake a stick at, and relying on Grandpa to get me back in the action. I will always remember yelling “fish on” and both falling and scrambling in search of the net that we typically forgot… and who could forget the giant mosquitoes!

I will always remember my Grandpa Skoy and his love for the outdoors and his patience with a rambunctious kid trying to pull his line from yet another snag. My Grandpa taught me many lessons on the river’s edge and being patient was one I’ll always remember. Being patient with children as they learn the art of fishing and hunting is critical and I owe that gained perspective and insight from my Grandpa Skoy.

Thank you, Grandpa.

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Gear Up for Fishing at Scheels Fish Fests

Bass….Walleye….Catfish….What species are you angling for? At Scheels Fish Fest it does not matter because we have it all! Everything from tackle and electronics to premium rods and at the best prices of the season!

Need some advice? We can help you with that too. With Scheels Pro Staff Fishermen on hand, in addition to our Scheels Experts, we can answer any questions you may have about fishing, everything from the back channels to the open water.

Want to bring the family along? Please do! We have a Kids Zone with activities and prizes for your little ones. Make sure you catch the demonstrations put on by Bass Tubs of Oklahoma, a 40’ unique aquarium experience that will entertain the kid’s right along with mom and dad.

Sound like fun? Of course! Sioux City Scheels offered this experience to their customers on April 11th and 12th. With over 1,500 individuals perusing the event over the two days, the success of the event was evident. In addition to the great weather, there were smiles all around! Scheels Event Coordinator, Penni McIntosh, comments on the event, “Scheels truly enjoys offering these experiences for our customers. We pride ourselves on presenting fun shopping opportunities that other retailers do not.”

Customers were in awe at the amount of product and special pricing that were available at the event. That paired with the expert knowledge of the Pro Staff Fishermen made for a great start to all those novice anglers out there. Iowa Pro Staff Fishermen Scott Keeley & DJ Pinney comment on their event experience, “It was great to visit with and assist Scheels customers during Fish Fest. We spend a significant amount of time on the water and it’s always great to share our experiences with others to help make the most of their next outing.”

Want to attend? Check out the other Scheels Fish Fest events coming to a store near you, we know this will not be one you are going to want to miss!

2014 Scheels Fish Fest 2014 Scheels Fish Fest 2014 Scheels Fish Fest 2014 Scheels Fish Fest 2014 Scheels Fish Fest

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Scheels Pro Shares His Fishing Passion

featured_johnniecandle

I can’t remember a time when fishing wasn’t part of my life. My earliest memories are with my father and grandfather fishing from the shores of any lake we could get to. It started with pan fish and grew from there. My family bought our first boat when I was 8 years old. It seemed like we were never in it enough.

Fishing became a lifestyle for me as I grew through middle school and high school. Every art project, every writing assignment, even things built in shop class had to do with fishing. College was interesting, now it was just fishing on the weekends. My father started a charter service on Lake Erie my first year of college. That really made things challenging. It spurred me to get my own Captain’s License at the age of 21. I should have known then I was hooked.

My college degree in Marketing from the University of Akron was not a mistake or an accident. I knew I had to be involved in fishing. What would be more fun than fishing everyday than selling fishing equipment?

After a college career of studying and fishing, entering the work force just didn’t work. I bounced around a bit and tried selling anything I could. One day it hit me, I was meant to fish. I did not have a plan, but I quit my job that day and that as they say is the end of the story.

Not really, it has been 20 years now that I have been fishing for a living. There have been good years and bad, but overall, I have no complaints. I have fished some of the greatest bodies of water on Earth. I have competed at the highest levels and won. I have met some of the most incredible people anywhere, and I have worked with the best names in the business.

Scheels is one of those names. They share my passion for fishing and the outdoors. Every Scheels associate has the fire burning inside them just like I do. Scheels spends countless hours making their associates and their stores the best they can possibly be. I have had the opportunity to work with many retailers in one aspect or another, no one does it like Scheels.

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Leading Walleyes with Lead Core

Leading walleyes with lead core

By Jason Wright, Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

My first experience trolling with lead core line occurred while pre-fishing a tournament on Lake Sakakawea. Only days prior to my pre-fishing period, the walleyes had been on a feeding frenzy up shallow – less than 4 feet of water – and it was awesome as southerly winds continued to provide the most textbook walleye chop day after day; therefore, the bait was continuously being pushed up shallow on every point in this particular portion of the lake, which in turn triggered the innate predatory instinct of schools of walleyes. Any angler that was willing to pitch a small jig tipped with a leech or piece of crawler into most any shallow windswept point was in for some of the best shallow water walleye action Lake Sakakawea could provide.

But, like most pre-fishing situations, just when you think you have it all figured out and a pattern has fully developed, which seems flawless, the perfect weather pattern is completely disturbed… cold front! That’s right, the winds switched and began gusting 20 – 30 mph from the northeast, the temperature plummeted, and for the next 36 hours a cold front destroyed all established patterns and scattered these schools of shallow walleyes forcing them into deeper water to recover from the effects of the cold front.

The days following the harsh cold front rebounded as the temperatures climbed back into the mid 80’s and the wind calmed down, which may sound like the perfect conditions; wrong!  Yes, the weather was very nice following the cold front with clear skies, perfect daytime temperatures and absolutely no wind day or night, but the schools of active walleyes only days earlier were now in a state of inactivity, which eventually would force me to learn a new trolling presentation.

It was tough to give up on my shallow water pattern, but after nearly four hours of searching for my shallow fish, I conceded and began rigging with a very slow presentation in deeper water; 20 – 30 feet. Eventually fish began to show up on my Lowrance – nearly glued to the bottom – and every once in a while a fish would be enticed to bite, but they were scattered much too far apart for a presentation this slow.

Leading walleyes with lead core

The next best option was to try and cover more water with bottom bouncers and spinners in hopes of connecting with more walleyes; however, that proved to be even less effective, so we extended the telescopic trolling rods, put the 9.9 Mercury ProKicker in gear and dropped down four deep diving crankbaits in hopes that we could trigger reaction bites; nope! It was at this time that the “Walleye Gods” must have taken pity upon me and my crumbling confidence as the tournament day quickly approached, since the only technique left available to me at that moment were two 8 ½ foot trolling rods with large line counter reels spooled with 18 pound Lead Core trolling line with a 20 foot piece of 12# Trilene XT leader to absorb shock and a small crankbait, which under most circumstances would normally dive 4 feet.

It was late in the day, but if I didn’t give this small crankbait trolling presentation a try, it would haunt me the rest of the week, so out went the lead core trolling line with small crankbaits trailing behind to the target depth of 26 feet…WHAM!  That’s right, fish number one hit before I was able set the rod in the holder, and the rest of the afternoon was nonstop walleye action as were the remaining days leading up to the tournament.

Although trolling with lead core line is not a new approach to trolling by any means, it has become a more widely used practice in the Dakotas the past ten years allowing walleye anglers to send small and/or otherwise shallow running crankbaits to deeper depths than they are normally capable of diving. There are other methods that will position shallow diving crankbaits in deeper strike zones; however, lead core is the best option in order to effectively contour troll off and around breaks in order to target lethargic fish and/or fish that are relating tight to structure, which is often the case for several days following a strong weather disturbance. The combination of the lead core trolling line and small crankbaits was the turning point during this particular week of fishing, but without the lead core line, my fishing partner and I wouldn’t have been able to effectively present the lures and get the needed bites.

Leading walleyes with lead core

The Right Equipment

Similar to most any sport, you will need the right equipment in order to effectively take advantage of trolling with lead core, which may require a trip to Scheels, your favorite retail hangout, or online fishing source. But, who doesn’t like the excuse to browse and shop for some new gear for the upcoming open water season; right? Although there are a variety of brands and models as far as rod and reel combos are concerned, I will do my best to keep it simple, affordable, and effective.

My lead core trolling setup consists of four trolling rods, two 8’ 6” telescopic Scheels Outfitter rods and two 5’ Scheels Outfitter e-glass rods – also known as a shorty – which are designed with the lead core troller in mind. Each rod has an oversized Scheels Outfitters linecounter reel, which is necessary in order to spool up with the large diameter lead core line; this is not the time to look for a sleek linecounter reel…big is best! You may have a particular rod & reel brand preference, and some lead core experts prefer trolling rods up to 12 feet, but one thing we most likely all agree upon – due to the no stretch characteristic of lead line – is that it is critical that the rod tip section has a soft tip and moderate action in order to absorb the shock of a snag, aggressive strike, or the head pounding fight of a giant walleye.

Leading walleyes with lead core

Lead Core trolling line is just that, it’s a tightly braided polyester fiber or nylon sheath for strength and abrasion-resistance encapsulating a soft lead core or insert which is available in a variety of pound test spools ranging from 12 – 45 pound test. The preferred weight choice for most walleye anglers is 18 pound Lead Core trolling line because you get the best weight to line diameter ratio because it has the most lead with the smallest diameter line. A common misconception is that the greater the pound test, the heavier the line is; therefore, allowing it to dive deeper, which is not true.

The fact is pound test line greater than 18 pound Lead Core has the same size lead core insert, but rather, the greater the pound test the larger in diameter the line will be because it has a stronger sheath or outer covering, but not more lead. Again, the reasoning behind the 18 pound line is it has the most lead and smaller diameter allowing your crankbait to dive deeper and you can get more of it spooled on your reel.  Plain and simple, pick up a couple of 100 yard spools of 18 pound Lead Core Trolling Line, and remember, this isn’t about finesse or low visibility.

Depending on which angler you ask or what they are trying to achieve, you may receive a different answer as far as how they would recommend spooling lead core line onto the reel. My recommendation, until you have practiced and learned a bit more about trolling with lead core, is to just spool it directly onto the reel without any backing, but it is important – if using a linecounter reel – that the reel is at maximum line capacity in order to achieve accurate linecounter readings.  Then once you have successfully spooled your reel(s) it is important to incorporate a monofilament, fluorocarbon, or superline leader, and again whether you choose mono, fluorocarbon, or superline can depend on the fishing situation.  If I am fishing a tournament during windy conditions with few snags I might choose to use a mono leader of 12 pound Berkley Trilene XT because I want to have some stretch in the line while fighting a big fish close to the boat as it’s surging in the waves.  But, if I am fishing in an area with a lot of debris on or near the bottom or around submerged vegetation, then I will choose 10 pound Berkley Fireline as my leader material so that I am able to detect even the slightest debris which may foul my crankbait. The length of the leader can be a personal choice and/or determined by the fishing situation, but under most circumstances I tie in a 15 – 20 foot leader.

Through my experiences and practice while trolling with lead core line I have found that small crankbaits and lead produce much better results compared to larger crankbaits.  A few of my favorite go-to crankbaits whether I am trolling lead in 12 – 16 feet or 22 – 26 feet of water are the 200 Series Reef Runner Rip Shads as well as the #4 and #5 Berkley Flicker Shad.

Not to say that larger baits don’t work, but rather the smaller baits seem to produce time and time again.  Most often my best and most successful days trolling lead core have been when the walleyes are less active; therefore, the smaller baits seem to trigger more bites and the lead core line enables me to put the baits in front of the fish more successfully than other methods making it the better method during scenarios when walleyes seem to be hugging tight to steep structure during a tough bite.

The obvious is that lead core line has a much larger diameter compared to more commonly used mono or superline, which is actually another advantage that good trollers use to put walleyes in the boat when other anglers return to the ramp admitting that it was just good to get out. The larger diameter causes the line to be very speed sensitive; therefore, slowing the trolling speed down will allow the line to sink taking the crankbait with it and if you speed up the troll the water will actually force the lead core up and higher in the water column allowing the bait to run shallower. Knowing this will allow you to concentrate on contour trolling and using the trolling speed to adjust the diving depth of your lure(s) to the varying depths as you work up, down, and around sharp breaks/points.  The resistance caused by the larger diameter of lead core line also tends to allow the line – as well as the crankbait – to track the boat’s course; therefore, following the depth contours more effectively allowing you to target fish that may otherwise be untouchable with other trolling methods and presentations.

Is trolling with lead core the most intimate and “fun” method of catching walleyes? Probably not. But if you are interested in learning another method or trolling technique to put more walleyes in the boat during otherwise very tough fishing days and/or tournament fishing, then learning to effectively troll with lead core could very well be next on your list of accomplishments. I have introduced trolling small crankbaits with lead core to many fishermen from the most inexperienced to the more advanced walleye angler, and the result is always the same; it’s fun to learn more about a sport that you truly enjoy.

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Basin Crappies

Basin CrappiesBy Josh Clawson, Wildlife Pursuit

So, there we were, atop 10” of frozen water when we fired up the augers. “Drill 30 or so 15 paces apart in every direction”, I yelled over the purr of the augers. For the next 10 minutes we tore up the ice in an area the size of a baseball diamond. After the commotion came to a stop, we regrouped were we had started.

“They’re here, we just have to find them”, I said.

I have started many an outing in search of crappies this way, but before you drill you need to know where you are drilling. It was late December and that meant the crappies had already transitioned into their mid-winter pattern, wandering about the deeper basins of the lake.

The night before this outing, as with almost any outing I partake in on the ice, I studied maps on my GPS and plotted our course for the day.

First choice was an area that had a consistent depth of 31-32’ and was surrounded by shoreline drop offs on 3 sides. A typical basin area.

After we had our holes drilled and ready, we reached for 2 rods each and our flashers. We split directions and began scanning hole by hole looking for that tell-tale suspended mark of a crappie.

I like to set my flasher to the widest cone angle and swing the transducer in the hole giving me a much wider field of view to the underwater world below.

About my sixth hole as my ducer swung to the left a pang of excitement shot up my arm and out my mouth came, “Over here!”  There was a decent mark that registered on the screen of my LX-7 at about 27’ down.

I dropped a flutter spoon down in hopes of a quick chase followed by a triumphant hookset, but that was not the case. As I watch the return of my spoon slowly making its way to the proper depth, I noticed no fish gunning to intercept my offering. I hit 24 feet and gave a few jig strokes to produce some flutter and flash, but no response. As I quickly reeled in I looked at my companion and said “check those two holes”, as I pointed in the direction the mark came from. He did and immediately yelled “Christmas tree!”

That was all it took.

I was in the closest hole to him in no time flat. By the time I got there he had set the hook and was hoisting a beautiful slab to our side of the ice. “They’re aggressive” he said.

Basin CrappiesI dropped down and was amazed at the mass of fish my locator was revealing to me just beneath my feet. Only 25’ of water separated me from favorite fish to catch when the lakes are froze over. I didn’t want a replay of the first drop of my spoon so I went for the much faster falling tungsten offering on my second rod. I watch it plummet to the depths on my screen. Slowing it’s decent a couple feet above the fish as they began to rise. Twitch, twitch, and there he is.

This is a scenario that can be had most of the winter if you take your time in planning and drill appropriately. And is also my favorite form of ice fishing.

Get out there this winter and search out those basins. The crappies are there, you just have to find them!

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Fall Fishing: What’s Not to Love?

Fishing Boat Cold Weather Fall

My favorite time of the year to fish is now. What’s not to love? The boat ramps are not crowded, the lake is void of boats, and the fish bite better than they do all year. It could be Nirvana, but it is just fall.

I don’t understand exactly why the fish bite better. It could be that they are getting ready for a long winter with a slower metabolism. Maybe it is the fact that the larger females are trying to store energy to carry their eggs through the winter months. I really don’t care why, I just know that know is the time to get out there.

Johnnie Candle Walleye Fall FishingFall is the best time of the year for that fish of a lifetime too. Bigger fish go on a feeding binge in the fall. They are fat, sassy, and hungry.

Here are a few pointers for fall fishing:

First, fish fast. The fish now could be anywhere. The water temperature is the same from top to bottom. Cover water quickly and fish all depths. Use aggressive techniques like casting or trolling to cover water. Once you catch a few, then try slowing down and sitting on the fish for a while.

Secondly, leave the live bait at home. The water in the minnow bucket is cold. Wet hands are not fun.  The fish are hungry and seem to eat anything. Artificials like Berkley Gulp! allow me to change colors and shapes without keeping bait alive and keep my hands warm and dry. The exception to this rule would be large, lively minnows. If I can get my hands on legal bait in the 5 to 8-inch range for walleye and bass or even bigger for pike and musky, then live bait can be a home run.

Lastly, bigger is better. Go big or go home. Actually you can use any cliché for large and in charge lures and baits in the fall. The fish are hungry now. They do not want to waste energy eating. They are more likely to eat one or two big meals a day than several smaller ones. Grab the lure in your tackle box that you think is too big, then grab the next size bigger. I have yet to find a lure too big in the fall.

There are a lot of things to do in the fall: Watch football, shoot some pheasants, or clean the garage… but none of them are better than enjoying a great day on the water catching the fish of a lifetime.  Don’t give up yet, the best is yet to come.

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