Scheels Pro Shares His Fishing Passion


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.


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.


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!


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.


Scheels Lures Aid Skarlis to Crappie Title

Tommy Skarlis Crappie Tournament

As a child, pro fisherman Tommy Skarlis was, by his own admission, undersized and not very good at sports. Encouraged by his mother to try fishing, Skarlis is living, breathing proof that ‘mother’s intuition’ is a true phenomenon.

Gemini Trophy Tommy Skarlis CrappieSkarlis has been fishing over 25 years and participated in over 300 tournaments. A decorated walleye anger, he won the 2004 Professional Walleye Trail ‘Angler of the Year’ award and claimed the FLW Walleye Tour Championship in 2008.

A fiercely devoted outdoorsman, Skarlis is also a promotional hunter that pursues most species of North American upland game, waterfowl and big game. He also broadens his horizons as a fisherman, pursuing bass and crappie.

In September, Skarlis added to his resume by winning the 2013 Crappie Masters National Championship in Grenada, MS.

Skarlis, an Iowa native, recently shared with Scheels how he brought 27 pounds of Crappie to the scales and took home the hardware:

One of the key factors in winning the Crappie Masters National Championship was lure selection and color utilization. To win the Championship we used Berkley Flicker Shads in #5 and #6 as well as Salmo Hornets in 4cm and 5cm sizes. These baits matched the forage in the lake, which was Shad.

0924131806ceDIT1The other key was changing colors with the changing conditions. When it was sunny, flashy metallic baits like Scheels custom colors of Blue Crusher and Chartreuse Crusher (Black Crusher would have worked as well) were hot. When the water was dirty or it was overcast, we fished with bright colors such as Chartreuse Pearl and Fire Perch and Hot Perch.

We pulled the baits behind Off Shore In-Line Planer Boards. One strange occurrence was that the baits higher in the water column worked best closer to the boat (#5 Flicker Shads and #4 Hornets  – ran 8 feet below the surface), and the deeper baits (#6 Flicker Shads and #5 Hornets – ran 11 feet down) needed to be as far from the boat as possible. This is opposite of normal trolling practices, but it worked well for us.

We also caught a lot of fish on the #6 Flicker shads when we would “kill the bait” during an inside turn or a stall, then when we would take off again or straighten the boat out. The Off Shore would alert us to a fish “hanging on”… probably a triggering factor from the bait’s ability to suspend better than others!


Scheels Pro Recaps 2013

Aaron Teal Scheels 2013 Bass

It was a unique summer in Minnesota, one where you could find 50-degree water temps in June. A lack of stable weather patterns in the spring and early summer months followed a winter that took the term ‘excessiveness’ to the next level. This made the fish less predictable in the already ‘bipolar’ Minnesota weather tendency.

However, I cannot complain because this past bass season blessed me with a lot of success, and like always a learning experience each and every day on the water.  Summer 2013 was an exciting season for me, overall very successful.

From filming to tournament fishing, I was very busy fishing about five days a week. The first film shoot was successful and enjoyable as I met a young Jr. Fisherman for an outing on Mille Lacs Lake to go shoot a smallmouth video.

To say the least, we probably caught around 50 smallmouth in a matter of about 6 hours and just had a blast on the water. It was a pre-spawn jerkbait bite. This is what filming is all about, having fun, and sharing my passion for fishing with other young aspiring fisherman as well as outdoor enthusiasts… not to mention it was a specific bite we were on that allowed for good demonstration of the technique and proved the techniques effectiveness under the conditions.

Tournament Fishing

As far as tournament fishing goes, any bass fisherman or tournament fisherman will be the first to agree with me when I say that getting a win is never easy. Some of us have the skills to do well and compete, but in order to win, everything has to go right. I was very fortunate for this to happen to me this year. I was consistently taking second through fifth-place finishes, but nothing feels quite as good as a win and seeing your hard work on the water pay off.

On July 22nd, I was very blessed to bring over 22 pounds to the scales, with big fish of the tournament weighing in at 5.74 pounds for the Super Slam Bass Tour on the Horseshoe Chain. Our big fish of the day was the difference maker as the second place bag differed by a margin of 5 pounds. This day was a struggle. The bite was tough, so I really had to slow down to generate those larger bites. Most of the fish that day came on a 3/8 oz All Terrain Jig, A Carolina rigged Scheels Tube, and a Scheels 5” soft stick bait rigged weightless.

Aaron Teal 2013 Bass FishingDue to the dirty water of this lake, the bass were spread out and positioned fairly shallow, ranging from 3-6ft deep. I usually shine when it comes to deeper water, but luckily I knew the lake pretty well and was able to manage the bites I did. The fish caught that day were caught on trees, a small rockpile I was able to locate with my Humminbird Side Imaging, and sand breaks with subtle weeds scattered along the edge.

The key was to find hard bottom and pockets that concentrated the fish a bit more. No fish weighed that day was caught in the same area, so on-the-water decision making proved to be crucial. The key was slowing way down, taking as much time as an hour to fish each spot that day. Each spot never spanned larger than 25 yards.

In order to catch the fish I had weighed that day, I had to generate them to strike when they were in a very inactive mood. This involved less movement in my technique almost dead-sticking my baits.

I was also very fortunate to finish 2nd in the UMBCS tournament on Clearwater Lake with 17lbs in late June. This tournament was a lot of fun as I fished one spot the entire day targeting a school of post-spawn bass that were positioned on a weed edge with sand pockets.

Scheels 5” soft stick baits along with ½oz All Terrain Tackle jigs proved to be key. This particular spot was unique due to the isolated concentration of coontail vegetation and had the fish positioned in about 13 ft of water right near the outside weed edge. This large school, consisting of about 40 fish, was using these sand pockets as ambush points.

The cast was very important, because these sand pockets were only about 2 ft in diameter, and the only time a strike was generated was if my bait was positioned in those 2ft wide sand pockets. The stickbait delivered a slow fall for those larger females that had just finished spawning and were tired and inactive, suspended higher in the water column along the weed edge.

The jig was able to penetrate the bottom in those sand pockets and stir up where many of the fish were ambushing. The patch of coontail, which stretched about 25 yards, was healthy and held fish. However, when fishing an area with multiple fish you always want to pinpoint the “spot on the spot” in order to maximize time and strike percentage.

In this case the patch of coontail is considered the spot, and the sand pockets located within this patch of weeds would be considered the “spot on the spot.” If I would not have located the “spot on the spot,” I would not have been able to catch the fish I did. I would have been making casts of lower strike percentage concentrating on a larger area, versus making the right cast and getting bites every cast.

In closing…

These were a few highlights from my 2013 season, which also included five finishes in the top ten and four more top-five finishes. If I was to say that a particular style of fishing was a trend for all of these results, I would say there was a similar correlation for all of my finishes: Every good finish I had came fishing slow and having a keen awareness on surrounding conditions and structure I was fishing.

Slow-falling baits like the Scheels 5” soft stickbait seemed to be most effective in the first half of the season. All Terrain Tackle Jigs proved to be more effective in the warmer summer months. I had to look beyond and below the surface to find fish, finding subtleties that most people would often overlook.

Overall, 2013 was a fun summer, and I am truly blessed for what has come from that.  Maybe on to some “deer opener” late fall bass fishing in the snow.

Until hockey season, tight lines.


Cool Down Walleyes

Cool Down Walleyes Jason Mitchell

Cooling water temperatures often make the classic fall bites better. As water temperatures steadily cool come fall and sink below seventy degrees, solid patterns seem to develop. My favorite patterns are classic breaks and hard bottoms over deeper off shore structure, along with current or bottlenecks and shallow rock and weeds. What is kind of interesting regarding fall fishing is that the triggers that make the bite good are the exact opposite of spring.

During the spring, warming water temperatures and stable weather seem to ignite the bite. When water temperatures steadily rise, the fishing gets easy, good and predictable. When the water temperature crashes even a few degrees because of a front, the bite typically becomes tougher, unpredictable and changing. A 30 mph wind and cold front that drops the water temperature six degrees over a twenty four hour time period is the worst thing that can happen to you in May on most natural lakes and reservoirs.

Fast forward to fall and the worst thing that can happen to most patterns is the opposite, a hot stretch of unseasonably warm weather that warms up the water temperature and reverses the cool down. When the nights start getting cool and the water temps start dropping, the fish start chomping but watch that pattern change when the cool down comes to a temporary halt.

Cool Down Walleyes Jason Mitchell FallWhere you are in relation to water temps should play a key role in your strategy for finding and catching walleyes come fall. As a general rule of thumb, I find fish scattered and more unpredictable when the water temperature spikes upward in the fall. When temperatures slowly drop, the fish seem to concentrate and become more predictable. Often however, the bite will get better during the fall in the afternoon when the water temperature warms slightly through the day just like in the spring but what you are looking for during the fall cool down is colder water temperatures in the morning from cooler nights that keep that water temperature dropping despite the sun during the day. If the nights are not cool enough to chill the water enough to keep that temperature down, patterns can unravel quickly.

We can’t control the weather so all we can do is adjust our strategies and mindset so that we can hopefully make good decisions and catch fish. When fish are scattered and patterns seem to be in disarray, you can still catch fish. Sometimes in the fall, it seems like the pattern is that there is no pattern. You will find fish scattered and nothing emerges as a sure deal. When this happens, cover water and fish as many good spots as possible. Know going in to the day that you are probably not going to find a spot that has so many fish where you catch several fish off of one spot.

After you catch the fish or two that lives on a particular spot, keep moving but keep the spot in mind for your milk run. A milk run is exactly what you need when fishing gets tough. Fish as many good spots as possible and keep moving. Over the course of the day, the fish add up.

If I had to pick just one presentation for this scenario, I would break out the lead core and troll crank baits. The reason I like lead core so much for this situation is because of the variation in depth control for finding scattered fish. I can slide up shallower and drop down deeper and make fast adjustments to my running depth while covering a lot of water. I also like to puller bigger baits. Wide wobbling baits that have a bigger profile and move water are often the key. My favorite crank for this time is the Salmo Bullhead 8SDR but some other good cranks that I have also caught a lot of fish with include the Reef Runner Deep Ripper and the Bomber Long A. Another lure I have fallen in love with over the past couple years that is kind of hard to find but a real walleye killer for me is the Salmo 8SDR Perch, that particular lure catches fish.

Lead core and crank baits will accumulate fish when the going gets tough but when things get good and easy, focus on sitting on top of concentrations of fish. Trolling can still be an important part of the game plan but instead of covering water, the focus changes to pulling cranks back and forth over the same zone until your GPS gets hard to read. When fish do get piled up on specific spots, different presentations also come into play. Namely presentations that make you more efficient. If fish are tucked along a specific break or structure, sitting over the spot and fishing vertically is tough beat. Vertically jigging is obviously productive but for big fish. I don’t know if there is anything more effective than rigging big red tail chubs.

We filmed a segment with guide, Toby Kvalevog of Leisure Outdoor Adventures on Leech Lake last fall and something that Toby said made a lot of sense and stuck with me. Toby stressed that when rigging with big chubs, it is important to fish extremely slow and let the chub do the work.

That big chub struggling in front of a fish is hard to resist. Obviously, in order for these types of presentations to be real effective, you have to have fish dialed on to the spot and the fish have to be concentrated, or sitting on a spot is bad use of time.

Besides classic sharp breaking main lake structure and deep rocks where rigging and jigging can really shine, another great overlooked bet when temps do cool down is shallow weeds and rocks. Bull rushes can get really good again in the fall and cabbage and coon tail can both hold fish. Particularly a top location in weeds in the fall are subtle dish bowls or troughs where slightly deeper water forms open pockets in weeds. These locations load up with fish as well in the fall when water temperatures start dropping.

By monitoring the environment where fish are living and making good decisions, you can capitalize on great fall fishing but remember that the date on the calendar means nothing. Everything revolves around cool nights and cold mornings.


Turning the Corner into Fall: Why Troll for Fish?

Johnnie Candle Walleye Fishing

September is by far the most difficult month of the year for anglers. No matter where you fish in the country or what species you fish for, the month of September becomes the great equalizer.

It is all about transition. Water temperatures will begin to fall, food sources change, and the fish act different. By the end of the month, things become much more stable and fishing seems to be as good as or better than any other time of the year.

Johnnie Candle's tips for September fishing. So, how do we get through September? My advice: Troll your way through it. Pulling crankbaits around solves a lot of the mysteries of September.

The first advantage trolling gives us is the ability to cover water faster. Trolling 2 – 2.5 mph lets us see a lot of water in a short period of time. Not that jigging or rigging will also catch fish in September, but they are slow techniques that focus on specific spots. Trolling presents lures to more fish in a shorter period of time, providing more opportunities to find fish that are feeding.

Trolling also allows us to change things up very quickly. We can move from 10 feet of water to 20 feet by simply letting out more line or tying on a deeper diving lure. No new rods, no new rigging. During this transition period, it is common to catch fish at a variety of depths all in the same day.

We can use trolling to connect with fish in many types of cover or on many types of structure. Trolling works over main lake points or sunken islands, mid-range flats, along weed edges, and over the top of deeper weed beds. There are not many structures that we can’t troll on, over, or next to and catch walleye.

The last advantage trolling gives us is that it creates reaction strikes. During this crazy fish funk of September, they seem to not want to eat. However, fast-moving crankbaits may just make them mad enough that they try to kill it anyway. Since fish obviously have no hands, this means they kill it by eating it.

This year, try trolling your way into fall — it will put a few more fish on your line!


Finding Bass on a Hot Summer Day


It’s August, the sun is beating down on your skin, and it’s hot and humid on the lake with pleasure boaters swarming any H2O in the area.

This is a great time of year to catch more than just sunburn and some awesome tan lines. It’s one of my favorite times to go catch bass. Unlike the spring and fall, you can’t just go up to the shallows every day and start catching fish.

Summertime fishing takes a little more searching. But where do you search? This time of year, there are four key characteristics to consider when looking for bass during the hot summer months: Shade, deep, weeds, and current. These characteristics often compliment each other, so the more you can find at one time, the better.

The fourth characteristic (current) is only existent on a river system or reservoir, or if the water is really high on a lake in the summer. Other than that, if we are talking lakes, disregard current and use wind as a substitute.

When I go to a lake/river this time of year, I first look at a lake map and find areas that appear to have these four key factors. If it appears to be a lake with deep structure such as main lake points, humps, and inside turns, that’s where I will look first. That does not mean fish will not be shallow, but typically the majority of fish will be in those deeper areas where the water temp is a little colder. Remember that most bass will be relating to some type of structure in this deeper water, whether it is weeds, rock, or a steep break.

AaronTeal_2013basspicI like to look for vegetation (weeds) such as cabbage, coontail, or milfoil. These weeds are hotbeds if you can find them out in deeper water because one of the bass’s main forage such as sunfish, bluegill, and perch will likely be stacked in those areas. I like to slow down and penetrate these areas with an All Terrain Tackle Grassmaster Weed Jig, Jig worm, or Texas rig.

If the lake is lacking in the weed department, I like to find steep breaks with hard bottom and drag an All Terrain Tackle Rock Jig, or dead stick a shaky head. The absolute best thing you can find this time of year is concentrated weeds in deep water that provide shade as well as deep water for those bass.

Look no further, because that is three of the key characteristics in one spot.

Make sure, if you do catch a bass in an area similar to what I’ve described above, to cast back to where you caught that fish. Why? Because this time of year bass often school up out deep and you can really have a heyday if you come across one. Some of the most fun days of fishing I’ve ever had involved catching up to 100 schooling bass out deep in one or two areas. Let me tell you, it’s way too fun!

Although many fish seem to look toward deeper structure during the hot summer, don’t rule out those shallow bass. This can be a fun time of year for that, too.

The biggest thing I can stress when targeting shallow fish this time of year is SHADE, SHADE, and SHADE. I know we all love a sun tan, but the bass are likely going to be relating to shade. The awesome part about shade is that it’s relatively easy to find, especially if you have a lake with boat docks, overhanging trees, and matted weeds such as lily pads and milfoil. These are all good places to start if you’re looking shallow.

Lures such as frogs, senkos, and flipping baits like jigs will likely be your best bet. Find these structure forms in 2-5ft of water. I like to find shady, shallow areas with deep water close by because more fish will likely hold there and can move up quickly.

When I’m fishing bodies of water with current, such as river systems, I’m looking for all these characteristics but keeping one thing in mind. Those bass are always going to be near current. That’s where their food source is. Bass will often sit where the current breaks because this gives them an ambush point for their prey.

The term ‘current breaks’ refers to slack water or spots where the current is halted or deflected another direction. Bass will often be sitting in this slack water ready to pounce on the next lure that floats by. A good way to simplify this is to imagine the current moving by is an assembly line belt in a factory. The belt is the current, and the product on the belt, let’s say a box of cereal, is the bait.

That cereal is moving down the belt with ease just like a baitfish would float down the current. So can you guess where the bass would be? The employees of the factory sit close to the belt in one place on the side. They watch the product ride down the belt all day, much like a bass does with baitfish floating by in the current, so key in on places in the river where something breaks the current. This includes wing dams, backsides of islands, overhanging trees, boulders, etc. Those bass will be positioned right where that current is broken.

It’s never too hot to have a great day of bass fishing in the summer. Bring your sunscreen, bottles of water, ice, and remember the four characteristics of where to find bass in the hot summer and you’re in for a great day of fishing on a lake near you. Whether it be a river or lake, shallow or deep, bass love shade, deep, weeds, and current.

So, go give it a shot! This is a great time of year to catch so much more than sunburn. Good luck and tight lines!


Using Planer Boards to Spread Your Baits

Using Planer Boards to Spread Your Baits-Header

Planer boards can be used with great success to catch all kinds of species of fish. Planer boards allow you to spread your baits out and cover more water and portions of the water column when trolling and locating active walleye. Planer boards in their simplest form are nothing more than a buoyant piece of material with a wedge attached to your line with a snap or clip between your rod and lure/bait.

They are designed to pull or “plane” the baits you are presenting out and away from your boat. Some anglers debate whether or not a boat scares fish away or pushes them out to the sides of the boat when trolling over them. Plenty of fish are caught by long line trolling off the sides or straight out of the back of the boat. However, incorporating the use of planer boards into your fishing tool bag will pay big dividends in several different scenarios.

Clear water and shallow water are two of the most common scenarios where a troller will employ planer boards. However, spreading your baits out and away from the boat allows you to cover more water and various depths of water when determining where the active walleye are feeding.

Clear Water

Scott Keeley Holding a FishSome reservoirs and lakes have gin clear water where you can easily see several feet into the water column. When fishing these types of waters, planer boards are an essential tool to have when trolling. Depending on water clarity, moving those baits 60, 80, 100 or even 150 feet left or right of the boat helps ensure your baits are running in undisturbed water and may significantly increase your hook-up rate.

Shallow Water

On our most recent outing on Green Bay our best walleye were being caught on sand bars and long flats in depths ranging from 3-8 feet of water depending on the time of day. By keeping the boat in 5 feet of water and using planer boards, we were able to run our baits in the warmer, shallow 3-4 feet of water early in the morning and get several actively feeding walleye.

As the morning progressed, some fish started sliding out to the 7-8 foot depths while others lingered in the shallows. Again, by using planer boards off both sides of the boat, we were able to present baits to active walleye in depths from 3-8 feet of water at the same time.

Locate Actively Feeding Walleye

Have you ever noticed suspended arcs on your graph just below or at the same depth as you are marking bait fish? How can you use planer boards to help determine where the active walleye want to eat? I find the use of boards extremely helpful in letting the walleye tell me where they want the bait.

In Wisconsin, each angler can run three lines. In other states, anglers are limited to two or even one line. A technique my fishing partner, D.J. Pinney, and I like to use in this scenario is to work the water column vertically. Granted, planer boards move your baits to the side of the boat, but why not take advantage of that capability to work vertically as well? When using cranks, crawler harnesses or other baits, experiment with letting out different amounts of line before attaching the planer board. Employ snap weights or inline weights in front of your lures in conjunction with planer boards and now you are presenting your baits at various depths within the water column as well as distances from the boat.

Once the fish start hitting at a certain depth, switch a couple more rods to match it while keeping one high and one low in case the walleye change to feeding at a different depth.

KeeleyReelThe Set Up