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 Catching fish while others are not, while ice fishing

Kevin Dahlke

Many anglers when you talk with them as they come off of the ice, the first question that always starts a conversation, how did you do? More times than not when fishing for pan-fish, the response comes back, they weren’t biting very well today. In reality, the fish were there and willing to bite if the right bait and presentation were presented to them.

This article is going to give some helpful tips and hints on how to locate, entice and catch these fish that do supposedly not want to bite. Fishing here in New England, and being from Minnesota, there are many tactics that we use there that are super productive here in New England and some of these just have not made it here to the angler.

To start, most if not all ponds and lakes here in New England have some sort of pan-fish in them. Not all species are found in these waters as some waters may only have sunfish, or maybe some have sunfish and perch and then there are others that have a good population of all the pan-fish, sunfish, perch, crappies and white perch which are the most commonly sought after pan-fish.

The techniques that we are going to be talking about work for any and all of the species and will be caught in the same hole as you are fishing. If there is one fish that you only want to target on a particular trip, then as you are catching the other types of fish, you will need to keep moving until you find an area that supports the fish that you are seeking.

The key piece of equipment that we like to use and never go to the ice without is a flasher type piece of electronics. There are a variety of manufacturers on the market these days, Vexilar, Humminbird, Marcum and others as well. They all do the same job of showing you fish and also showing you where and what your bait is doing around the fish and with that, which company you are more comfortable with using, that would be the choice for you.

Don’t get stuck into what a number of anglers do, and that is once they drill their holes and get setup, that is where they park themselves and they don’t move. To be successful in catching fish through the ice you will need to be mobile and follow the fish instead of being the one that sits and waits for the fish to come to them. Of course at certain times of the day you will sit in one spot because they are aggressively feeding, but to keep catching throughout your time out there you will need to be on the move.

What a typical day is for us is that we drill anywhere from 50 to 100 holes throughout an area and that allows you to cover many depth variations as well as different structure on the bottom. By having this many holes, you would be able to take your electronics and place it in the hole and if you see no activity, move on to the next. This way you are targeting active fish and not jigging a hole that has nothing hanging around.

Once you start finding those active holes, the next key feature that we use to catch fish is keeping the jig very small. In the cold water, fish have a tendency of biting much more finicky than the warmer waters and we have also seen that small baits produce so much better and fish size generally goes up with these smaller baits.

The jigs that we have been using this winter are the Northland Tackle Mooska Tungsten jigs in the #16 hook 1/57 oz size. Here in New England we are not allowed to use lead so these tiny tungsten jigs work very well and show up on the electronics very well in deep water. By using a loop knot this will allow the jig to hang horizontally and look more natural in the water as well.

Another little trick that we have implemented this winter season is using the Euro Larvae colored worm live bait grubs. These need to be ordered online as we have not been able to find them here but after bringing them back from MN this winter, these little grubs have been a fantastic attractant to our jigs. These grubs come in a few different colors and the best combination we have been finding is a red and white or yellow hooked onto the jig.

To give you an idea as to how our presentation goes, once we find that active hole, we have our electronics setup and can see the red lines of where the fish are in the water column. Watching our jig on the screen dropping down to that location, keep the bait a bit above the red lines and start working the jig and you will see the active fish move up towards your presentation and the fish is on.

The main points that we are trying to get across here is don’t get stuck in one hole and keep moving to find those active holes with fish. Trust your electronics as these are your eyes to what is going on underneath the sheet of ice. Also, keeping your jigs very small and tipping them with bait, this will make your presentations much more attractive to even the finickiest fish that is down there.

Hopefully you can get a pointer or two out of this article and the next time that you are coming off of the ice and get ask that question, “How were they biting?”, with a grin you can say, pretty good today.

Good luck and may your lines always be tight.

 Icing Chubby Bass

Kevin Dahlke


Anglers in the winter months target many varieties of fish species that range from panfish, perch, sunfish and crappies to bigger game fish such as pickerel and bass. Here in New England running traps, tip-ups, for the bigger game fish is the norm, but those that want a little more variety should try jigging for bass.


There are a variety of different jigs on the market to target bass with from jigging spoons to jerk style baits. One of these baits, which have been working very well for us this ice season, is the Salmo Chubby Darter. These baits are used a lot in the Midwest for jigging up walleyes but have been working wonders here in New England for large and smallmouth bass.


The bass’s metabolism in the winter months slows down considerably but the need to feed is still there. By using livebait and traps you setup and then wait for the bass to come through to you. But jigging for bass allows you to keep on the move and find those bass that are more in the aggressive biting mood. These are the fish that are targeted and the fish that will make for a great day on the ice.


Location is one of the key factors in success and if you have favorite places that you fish in the summer, those areas are good starting points on the ice. Bass can be caught in shallow water as well as deep water and ranges in the 10 to 18 foot depths seem to be the most productive. Structure and baitfish are key points in finding active bass and having good electronics is also a key point to knowing what is going on below the ice.


Areas of concentration in searching for bass should be underwater points and where flats drop off into the deeper waters. Drilling many holes throughout these areas: with some on the shallow flats, to the downside slopes of the flats out towards the deeper waters as well as off of the deep sides of these flats into the deeper waters of the main lake. This will allow you to cover the whole area by moving from hole to hole in search of fish.


By having these holes you will be able to intersect the paths of these fish as they feed or move to the safety of deeper waters. As we get back to the bait of choice, the Chubby Darter, good electronics will pay big dividends in allowing you to see how the fish are relating to the Darter.


The Chubby Darter is a baitfish imitating hard bait that is worked to imitate a dying minnow. Many anglers will rip this bait upwards trying to entice a bite from the fish but we aren’t finding this technique to be working for us. Our presentation is much more subtle with the use of a limber tipped rod, lightly jigging the rod tip just to get minimal movement out of the bait.


By doing this subtle jigging, this makes the bait quiver like a dying minnow right before it dies. If you are watching the flasher and can’t entice them to bite, raise the bait up a little and then work it again to see what they will do. Some days colors may not matter on certain days but then there are other days that you will change through every color you have with you to make for a successful day.


To catch bass in the ice season, keeping on the move is essential as well as location is very important. Keeping a good color selection on hand will allow you to change your baits up and give them something different to look at. Then the very subtle presentation of the action is what will seal the deal in making the bass commit to this and making a very enjoyable day on the ice.


By putting the myth that bass are lethargic and not willing to bite in the winter months behind you and just getting out there and searching and catching them. By working the bait lightly and keeping on the move, bass will be caught and they are a lot of fun to catch on ice fishing gear. Some of the biggest fish can be caught during the winter months and is also one of the best times of the year to catch them.

 Mobility for Success

Kevin Dahlke

Ice fishing is one of those sports that don’t take a lot of equipment to be able to enjoy a day of fishing out on the ice. Only the bare basics are needed to get started and that entails an auger, scoop, electronic flasher, rod/reel combo and some baits. Compared to summer fishing, winter fishing allows you to carry everything with you in the car.

Ice fishing also makes it easier to take the kids along so that they can enjoy a productive day of fishing as well. If the fish are not biting very well they will be able to enjoy themselves out on the ice doing some ice skating, exploring or just playing in the snow. Ice fishing is a sport that the whole family can participate in and have a great day out in the outdoors.

If you are out to catch numbers of fish or a meal while you are out there, mobility is the name of the game to being successful. You may get lucky and drill those first holes over a school of fish but more chances than that you are going to have to keep on the move to stay on the fish. Ice fishing is similar to summer fishing where you don’t keep the boat in one place; you are always on the move.

Winter fishing is very similar to summer fishing as the fish are always relating to something and that is no different in the winter. If it is points, humps or certain weed lines, the fish are still using these features in the winter as well. If you have favorite places that you fish in the summer, these areas should be looked at first when you hit the ice.

Points are a prime area that an ice angler should concentrate on but there will still need to be some work to find the fish. The fish may be located on the top, down the side or even off the side in deeper water. This is where the mobility factor comes into play and being mobile and searching fish out will make for a successful day. Too many anglers drill a few holes and sit and wait for the fish to come to them and then wonder why they aren’t catching anything. By moving around the underwater point or other structure searching, fish will be found but some work will be involved in doing this.

Generally I will start on the deep side of the point and punch a number of holes searching for active fish. If after a number of holes and there isn’t any activity there start moving up the side of the point. As we move up the side the water is getting shallower and may come across a certain depth that the fish are relating to. If not move on top of the point in the shallow water and there may be weeds there as well that is attracting fish to the point top.

By varying the depths with a number of holes, we are able to work a variety of water column levels. By working these varying water columns this is giving us a better opportunity at success in finding fish. Some days drilling twelve holes may be enough to work an area but then there are days that sixty holes will be more of the norm to finding success.

Once all of these holes have been made then the fun part of fishing begins. Just like summer fishing when we are always on the move, having numbers of holes in varying depths opens many doors to a successful day. As we work shallow to deep and vice versus, a pattern will start to form and a depth will be found that the fish are relating to on that particular day.

Baits are the choice of the angler but the varying weather patterns and conditions are going to dictate where the fish are relating to the point. Pressure systems and cloud cover also play into fish positioning themselves around the location and by having many holes punched; this gives you an advantage on finding them quickly and efficiently. This adds to creating a successful day on the ice as opposed to fishing only a few holes and not being productive.

The name of the game for success on the ice is being mobile and searching varying depths. You do this in the summer while fishing from the boat, why not put a little work into it and do the same in the winter on the ice. Fish are always on the move and the angler that does the same will be the productive one out on the ice.

Mobility is the key to success and putting fish onto the ice. A normal day for me could entail fishing up to 60 holes and some of them more than others but as you fish them you find out which ones are the most productive. Don’t let a little hard work take away the opportunity to ice some fish and having a great day on the ice. Keep those ice blades sharp and get ready to catch some fish because being mobile will bring success.

 Ice Season Safety Equipment

Kevin Dahlke

Living here in New England this winter season we have had a very unusual fall/winter transition especially for anglers that like to get onto the ice in search of their quarry. We have had cold weather that would skim over the lakes and ponds and as the ice is firming up we would get a spell of warm weather that either would soften things or take away anything that was formed.

When the cold had finally settled in for a fair amount of time the ice was getting to be a couple inches of solid good ice. Then what happens is we get into our snow storm phase and that dumps up to 2 feet of the white stuff onto this good ice. In turn what this did was weigh down the minimal ice that was there and water comes on top to form slush and an insulating layer that is not what the ice angler wanted to see.

Then the typical New England weather of having spring days show up with rain, wind and 60 plus degree days. This was a good thing at the beginning as this had melted all of the snow that was on the ice but also softened the ice considerably so if you threw a stone out onto the ice if would go through. Along with this the shorelines have all opened up once again and access to the ice will be taking a number of days once again before any ice will be acceptable for walking onto.

Looks like there may have to be a road trip to the North Country for any type of chance at getting into any ice fishing at this time. Luckily the gas prices are at an all time low so this won’t be as hard on your pocket book for making those trips. For those that are able to get out onto early ice these are also possibly some dangerous times and caution should always be taken.

If you are unsure or nervous about venturing onto the safe ice, no ice is safe, and then it may be better to stay home and do other things. For those that are out there searching for fish there are a few items that you should make sure that you have along so that if the worst were to happen, you can either get yourself out of a bad situation or someone nearby will be able to assist you.

The things that we carry along for safety equipment should include a spud bar, PFD life preserver, rope, ice picks and also a floatation cushion. These items pack very well into any sled and should always be taken along so that you have access to them or someone that may be helping you can get access to them to help save your life. Water in the winter time is very cold and you only have a short period of time before hyperthermia sets in and you don’t have the ability to use your arms and legs to help get you out of a bad situation.

To start off the SPUD BAR is a very important piece of equipment and every angler should have with them especially early in the season. This looks similar to a spear but is a long bar with a chisel on one end. You hold the spud bar in your hand and hit the chisel end into the ice in front of you as you take each step. If you hit the ice and the chisel doesn’t go through, the ice is a little thicker there as opposed to when you hit the ice and the chisel goes through you better back up as you may fall through that area.

If you are hitting the ice and is looks fairly solid, take a moment to chisel a hole through the ice and check the thickness as you go along. This way you have an understanding as to the thickness and a gauge for you as you are walking along. This is very important as ice does not freeze uniformly and one spot you may have 4 inches and then ten feet away you may have only an inch or two. Springs in the lakes will do this as well and this is why using a spud bar is very important for traveling on the ice.

Many anglers don’t think about a PFD life preserver for their ice fishing adventures but should be packed in with your gear as a safety item. We use these in the summer for saving our lives if we were to fall into the water and why not in the winter. One thing when you break through the ice and are in the water is if you don’t get out fast, you will start losing the ability to use your arms and legs. By having a PFD preserver on and you are in the frigid water, this will at least keep you floating so someone can help you and find you out on the ice. This is always an item that should be brought along and many times is not.

We all have ropes in the trunks of our cars or the back of the pickup and why not grab them when heading out onto the ice. Many don’t think about a rope but this may be one of the most important pieces that should be packed into the ice sled. One thing that a rope is very useful for is throwing it out to an angler in distress and this allows you to stay away from the questionable spot. Having a hook or clip on the end is good as well as this way the person in the water can wrap the rope around their upper body and clip in the rope as opposed to trying to hold onto the rope as they are being pulled out.

A minimum of 20-25 feet should be the length and longer is always better. When rescuing a person in the water we don’t want to get to close to the edge where they broke in as the rescuer may break through as well. Always have a rope along and there is another piece that will go along with the rope and that is a boat seat cushion.

Some don’t think about it but when sitting in your ice house you may be sitting on one of those floatation cushions. These are not PFD’s but they float and will definitely be a huge help if trying to rescue someone. These usually have straps on them and will aid the person in the water for something to hold onto. Also with the rope, wrap the rope around the cushion and clip the end and snug it tight around the cushion. Now you will be able to throw this out to the distressed person and give them something that floats, to hang onto and also something with some weight for you to throw the rope out to them.

The final thing that is a must in any ice traveler’s arsenal is called ice picks. These are hand grip sized handles that have a pointed sharp pick end coming out of them. These are used after you would have broken through the ice and you are hanging onto the edge of the ice. These should be carried around your neck so they are easily accessed after falling through the ice and getting your bearings on what had just happened.

Place each ice pick into each hand with the pick point end down towards the ice. Hit each pick into the ice and using your arms try pulling yourself out of the water. Continue doing one hand at a time in front of the last and once you get your movement going forward, you will be able to pull yourself out onto the top of the ice and to safety. Never stand up when getting out of the water but instead roll away from the hole until you are once again on thicker and safer ice.

These are only a few items that every angler should carry along and don’t take up to much room in your sled. There are other items as well and everyone has different applications for using these and other items. Safety on the ice is number one and if nervousness is over whelming to you that may be a sign that you should stay clear of the ice. Ice is never safe and should always be ventured with caution in every step you take as it only takes one step to get into a dangerous situation.

Be very careful out there especially here in New England as the ice season of 2008-2009 is and has been off to a very rocky start. Once we get a good base down there will be plenty of time for fishing through the ice, but patience must be taken until we get to those days. Think safety at all times on and around the ice and always pay attention to others out there as well and you may not need help one day but there may be another out there that will. Have a safe ice season and come back and enjoy another next year.

 Fishing and Yakking

Kevin Dahlke

There is a period here in New England, and across the northern United States for that matter, that the boats are put away but there isn’t any ice yet. We sit and look at our favorite bodies of waters and wish for the days that we can wet a line once again. For those that continue their fishing throughout the winter months and not hang it up as some anglers do, don’t fret as there are still ways to enjoy catching a fish.

We winterize out bigger boats as the cold nights wreak havoc on our inboard and outboard motors especially with the lower units. Then there are the anglers that take to the ice once that is safe enough for one to walk on in search of the swimming quarry that lies below. This transition period can be short lived but it could also go on for a couple of months.

Here in New England early season ice can happen in the beginning of December, but that seems to be a rarity. It will take until almost February in certain years and this does get very frustrating to the ones that want to drill a hole and sit on the ice. But normally around Christmas time we are usually finally on the ice and this couldn’t be a happier day.

But until those days come what shall we do to wet a line if the water is not hard yet? What I have been doing the last few years is to pull out the kayak and put it to good use. There are many ponds around my area that I am not able to get my bigger boat into so this time of year is when I explore a number of these smaller ponds with my kayak. These smaller ponds are much less pressured as well and this time of year I like to concentrate on the pan fish species of fish as well.

I use a tandem kayak on my fishing trips as this gives me a little more room to stow my gear and spread things out a little better. How I fish out of the kayak is similar to how you fish while on the ice fishing. I like to use my flasher with the transducer hanging over the side as well as my ice fishing rod/reel combo. While watching the flasher I am vertical fishing the jig and watching for fish activity suspended off of the bottom just like you do while ice fishing.

By keeping your bait, rod and everything else near the side of the boat, this is preparing me for once the lakes ice over. I generally paddle around the area that I am fishing and watch the flasher for signs of fish activity. Once the screen is lit up then I will drop the anchor and try and hold my position over these fish. There is one drawback that I am experiencing with the anchoring and that is if there is wind, the wind will turn you around the anchor line and this in turn affects my presentation as I will move over the fish and miss those until I am brought back around.

You learn how to play the timing game and if it gets fairly windy out there you will need to add a little more weight to get the bait down there a little faster. I am using typical ice fishing jigs that are made for pan fish and these are micro hair jigs as well as micro plastic baits. No bobber is used as I have a spring bobber attached to the end of the rod and use that for bite detection.

I am fishing totally like I would be fishing out on the ice with the gear that I am using. Instead of casting and searching for fish the way you do in the summer months, I am vertical fishing just as you do in the winter months but in the kayak. By fishing this way you are able to watch the flasher and find the more active fish.

As I paddle around watching the screen, what I am looking for is fish that are suspended off of the bottom from 3 feet to 8-10 feet up off of the bottom. If you are able to find areas that the fish are doing this, these are active fish and will be a little easier to coax into biting. But there is no guarantee that they are going to jump all over your offering as there are many days that they are suspending but refuse to bite anything that you put down there.

his time of year you pretty much have the lake or pond all to yourself as those frigid cool days keeps the average person off of the water. But the fish that we are looking for are feeding because they know that as the water is cooling, winter is coming and they need to fatten up before that takes over. These solitude days that you are out there floating in the crisp cool air, allow you to sit and ponder your thoughts as well as see what is happening in the wildlife activities.

Other then getting some cold fingers, I really enjoy this time of year for fishing and also just paddling around my favorite pond. Fishing generally isn’t too bad and fish are caught on most outings, but there are days they are jumping into the boat as well as the other days that you really have to work at getting them to bite.

If you have a small craft, kayak, canoe, or jon boat, you owe it to yourself to dig it out of the snow and get to a local pond. I know that we still have some time here to take advantage of this and will definitely get out a few more times before the ice takes over. Nothing better than floating around trying to catch a fish instead of sitting on the couch and looking out the window. Get out there and enjoy these times as winter is coming and some anglers won’t come out till spring.

 Gearing up for Hard Water

Kevin Dahlke

Many anglers don’t look forward to when their open water season is coming to an end. This means that they need to put all of their fishing gear away for a number of months, and also getting the boat winterized and getting that ready for the long winter season ahead.

For those anglers that hang up their fishing when the water turns hard, they are the ones that are missing out on some of the best times to be on the water hard or soft. Hard water fishing in my eyes is much easier to get ready for as the equipment is more compact and easier to travel with.

Hard water fishing is much more exhilarating as the physical work that is involved is much more rewarding when fish location is achieved. The solitude of the frozen waters and the coolness of the cool crisp days really get an anglers blood pumping once the hard water season comes around.

The trips that are enjoyed the most are the ones that the ice is not as easy to get to as the adventure getting there is half of the fun. Dragging the house or sled full of gear through the fresh snow and woods is something that all anglers should experience at least once. Many anglers think that the weather is to cold but dressing in layers offsets that cold feeling, but one gets use to it the more that you go.

Getting up at the crack of dawn and stepping out into the frigid cool air, really gives the lungs a shock, but a good shock at that. The numbing of the fingers while drilling those holes through the ice makes most folks look and think that we may be a little strange. But as we enjoy our times out on the hard water, while others mock, there aren’t any other times to be on the water compared to the fishing of the hard water season.

I find that the hard water fishing allows me to have minimal equipment that I am able to carry all of it in a small sled. Equipment consists of an Auger, Skimmer, Flasher, Rods/Reels and some tackle pending the species you are seeking. I am able to keep all of my gear in the sled in the back of the truck, so that I am able to stop and fish at any time.

To get the full enjoyment of being out in the cold on the ice your clothing is one of the most important pieces of equipment. There are getting to be more and more companies coming out with ice fishing clothing that it is making it easier to stay on the ice much longer. There is a company that has come out with what they call Arctic Armor and is produced by “idi Gear”. There is a built in feature that if you were to fall through the ice, this suit will keep you afloat to allow you to get yourself out of the frigid water. I am looking at this suit and plan on purchasing this as our ice here in New England can be very unpredictable early and late in the season.

As for equipment in the auger stage, power or hand, the most important thing is to make sure that you are using sharp blades. Sharp blades will cut the ice so much easier and will be easier on the motor as well as your arms for the hand version. If the blades are not sharp it will take longer to cut the ice and you will have to work so much harder to get the holes drilled. Blades are inexpensive and pending on how much you use them, they should last you a season or more.

For the electronics a vital component is the battery and should be checked to see the condition and age of it. If it doesn’t seem to be holding a good charge, then it is time to replace it. If the battery isn’t functioning to what it is suppose to be doing, this will in turn affect the signal that the flasher is trying to get. There is nothing worse then being on the ice and the battery starts acting up as this could really put a damper on your day on the ice.

or rod/reel equipment the line is a vital component that should be replaced before the ice season even starts. Ice will do a lot of damage to the fishing line and if your reels still have last year’s line on them, make sure to change that out. A good lubing of the reels is always a good maintenance thing to do as the cold temperatures make the reels fish differently compared to the warm summer days.

These are a few of the key items that should always be looked at before the hard water season gets here. Ice fishing is not that complex of a sport and with a little hard work, good electronics and some determination to find fish; this can turn out to be the best time on the lake. I will never say that ice fishing is easy but there are days that you only have to drill a few holes and that is all that is needed. But then there are the other days when 60 holes are needed to locate fish.

This is where the determination comes into play and if you really want to get the fullest experience, you need to just get out there. Once you have been bitten by the ice fishing bug, there is no other season that compares to sitting out there on the hard water. When we get to this time of year, I know that I get very anxious for the upcoming hard water and you should be to.

 Fall Plastics

Kevin Dahlke

When the fall season comes along, it is always a guess as to what we are going to throw out there into the water to catch a fish. Fall can be a tough time to fish as well as there are fall days that no matter what you throw for a bait, fish just chow on whatever you are throwing them.

If you happen to hit a day that the fish are on fire and eating everything in sight, just throw what they want and catch as many fish as you can. But traditionally for fall time baits they consist of crankbaits and spinnerbaits and if you don’t feel liking casting and cranking all day, there is another alternative that may get overlooked and you will have in the boat at all times, the plastic bait.

Lets take a look at a few plastics that have worked well over the last handful of seasons and we are going to look at what BearPaw Hand Poured Baits has for these selections. We are going to take a look at five of their baits and give an idea of what can be done with these baits in your fall fishing.

Four of these are plastics baits which consist of the Hippie Stick, Lizard, Grizzly/Mega Jerk and the Load Toad. The fifth bait that BearPaw offers are the jig lineup that can be used with these and other of their plastics. So let’s start out by taking a look at their jig offerings.

The Spiked Football Jig has been known to catch a lot of fish across the country and is able to use multiple various plastic baits on this jig. The action for this jig comes when the bait is lying on the bottom and the angler moves the line a little, this will make the back part of the jig flip upward while the head stays in position. What this creates is a bait that looks like it is moving into a defense position similar to what a crawfish does to protect themselves.

These jigs can and will be fished primarily around structure that may have little weeds around it. Rocks and gravel areas are prime places to fish this jig as the crawfish lives and frequents these areas consistently and bass know this. But this may also be fished in weeds and just need to make the bait weed-less by hooking the plastic bait over the hook point. The same effects will occur as working the jig in the weeds and you may be fishing this jig where others are afraid to put their bait.

Let’s move onto a handful of the plastics that are fished regularly in the fall time when searching for bass. Next in line let’s look at the Hippie Stick which is a straight plastic bait similar to the Senko style bait. These are generally fished weightless with spinning gear and can be casted with great accuracy in and around docks and overhanging objects.

Skipping is a great technique that takes some practice but once you acquire the skills to do this, any overhanging object, dock, tree, boat lift or anything else for that matter where, the fish that live in these areas are not safe anymore. Skipping is done by casting sidearm and having the bait hit the top of the water which will launch the bait along the surface as far as the line will allow it to go. It is very similar to skipping a rock and if you are able to do that, a little practice with a fishing rod and you will have this mastered.

The Hippie Stick is good for working along the shoreline with any type of structure that you can find to cast the bait at. By being weightless, the bait falls naturally through the water column and with each movement of the bait, resembles an injured baitfish as it is brought back to the boat. This bait really works well when targeting feeding cruising fish along the bank that are looking for that easy meal and also lets you take your time in working it through heavy cover as well.

Moving on to a creature offering lets look at the Lizard plastic bait that can be fished a number of ways. The most productive way to fish the lizard is on the Carolina Rig and this can be fished at any depth and through any type of cover as well. One feature that is poured into each of these baits is the fact that there is a floatation aspect to these baits and with the Carolina Rig; the bait is actually hovering above the bottom when being worked through whatever is being fished.

Fishing with the Carolina Rig this can be fished in shallow water as well as deepwater and through heavy vegetation as well. This rig allows you to cover good portions of water somewhat quickly and this allows you to put the Lizard in front of as many fish as possible. The Lizard is a bigger bait and offers the fall feeding fish a better meal as they are looking to fatten themselves up for the long winter ahead and this bait definitely aids in that process.

Lizard plastic baits are known to produce numbers of fish in the spring around the fishes spawning time but are great fall producers as well. Bigger baits work very well in the fall time and should not be over looked at all. As the fall rains have been plaguing us here, these bigger creature baits are great possibilities as these fish are looking for these tasty morsels that are being washed into our local waters.

The next plastic bait that we will take a look at is the Grizzly/Mega Jerk bait that is an injured minnow soft jerkbait imitator. This bait when worked through the water imitates an injured or dying minnow that darts to the left and right as it is being worked. Fall is a time when minnows and baitfish start schooling together and moving around the lake in search of warmer water and food. Also, as these schools are moving around some of the baitfish are dying as well and this is what the bass are keying in on as they follow these schools around.

The Grizzly/Mega Jerk will be worked similar to the Hippie Stick, as it is casted towards objects and structure in the shallower water. Skipping this bait is another great way to get it into areas that are missed by many and are holding those better quality fish. This bait is fished weightless as well as weighted and fished in shallow and deep water as well.

Something that we have been experimenting with is fishing this bait on the Carolina rig in shallow water and has been very productive. This bait has that floatation feature in it as well as all of the baits and when fished behind the Carolina Rig, this gives an erratic motion of an injured baitfish. There have been some very nice fish caught with this technique as there aren’t many anglers fishing the Grizzly/Mega Jerk on a Carolina Rig.

The last bait that we will take a look at for “Fall Plastics” is the Load Toad which is a frog imitation. Bass are in love with the frog as this is a main staple in their diet and regularly available most of the season. This bait is fished weightless as well and worked on top of the water. As it is worked through the water the tail legs create good action and commotion which alerts the bass beneath that something is coming towards them.

Being this is a frog imitation, bass know what to expect when the fall season comes around. As the temperatures of fall start getting lower, frogs start their migration back to the lake shores. Frogs hibernate in the muddier lake bottoms and the predator fish know that they are coming and wait in anticipation for an easy meal. Other fish other than bass know this as well and when a fish explodes on the Load Toad, you could have almost anything on the line.

The Load Toad is great for fishing around lily pads in the fall as there is a tendency that these are growing in softer bottom areas that the frogs are looking for. Cast these bait up to shore and work it all the way through the surface vegetation and be ready at all times as you never know when the fish is going to hit. On those warmer fall days is a prime time to fish this as this shallow water is teaming with life. Topwater baits are always a lot of fun to fish and especially in the fall when they are hungry, hard fighting fish waiting below the surface.

Fall fishing can be feast or famine and I won’t tell you that it isn’t. There are going to be those days that you can’t get a bite if your life depended on it, but when you hit those days that the fish are on fire, you will definitely be thankful that you were out there fishing instead of watching football. These nice fall days are going by to fast and why not take advantage of these remaining days before the water turns hard.

You fish plastics all summer long and why not fish them throughout the fall as well. By trying some of these out on your next outing, you may have an upper edge compared to your fishing partner.

 Prime Fall Time Fishing

Kevin Dahlke

Many anglers enjoy fishing throughout the summer months and one can’t blame them as the weather is so much more tolerable as opposed to either the spring or fall. But to those that put their boats and equipment away after the Labor Day weekend holiday; these anglers are the ones that are missing the best part of the year for catching quality fish.

As the temperatures are getting cooler with everyday that passes, this will take the temperature of the lake down with it as well. Taking the waters from around 80 degrees down into the low 60’s, this is like a trigger that is being pulled as the fish know that it is time to put the feed bag on and start putting some weight on them before the long winter ahead.

Many fish go into somewhat of a dormant stage in the northern part of the country throughout the winter months. So for them to be able to handle those long northern winters they need to put on more weight so that they will be able to draw from that as each day of the cold season passes. So to put on this extra weight that they will need, these fish are eating and chasing everything in sight.

For the angler that knows about this little tidbit, days on the water can be very fruitful as well and rewarding by putting up with a little cool temp. For the most part if you were to venture out onto the lake, you probably will be the only angler out there. When do you get the chance to fish and not have to worry if someone is on your spot or the water skiers are flying around the lake or the jet skiers are
being a nuisance?

For the months of September, October, November and possibly part of December, I am able to fish open water and catch some very nice fish. Of course there are going to be days that I am out there and not get a bite no matter what I try, but that is part of fall fishing. But then there are other days that I am out there and the fish are on fire and big fish are biting very well and a possible trophy will hit your bait and that will make your day.

One thing that is nice about the fall fishing is that you don’t need to get up in the wee hours of the morning to get on the lake at sunrise. At least I find the fishing is better in the afternoon as the water warms a little from the sun if the sun is out. On those cloudy days that we see so frequently in the fall then it pretty much doesn’t matter what time of the day you are fishing.

The key for fall fishing to be successful is to find areas in the lake that offer green weeds that haven’t died off from the cooler water temps. Finding these areas is fairly critical and once these areas are found, there is a tendency that the fish are going to frequent these areas much more and also they are in schools more in the fall and this offers you more fish to catch.

Good ways to find these green weeds is to fish with either a crankbait or a spinnerbait and as long as you are hitting the weeds with these baits, the fish are going to grab them. Pay attention to the weeds that are stuck to these baits as this will give you an idea as to what fish are relating to so that when you are exploring other areas of the lake, you will know what the productive vegetation is.

The crankbait and spinnerbait are two of the top choices for fall fishing as these can be moved quickly through the water and also cover a lot of water as well. The name of the game in the fall is to cover as much water as possible and once you hit a school of fish, then slow down a little with these baits and cover that area very well as chances are you are going to catch a number of fish from that spot.

Fish in the fall are looking for big meals and by offering them big baits this is more than enticing for them to chase and eat. Fish these baits throughout all of the green weeds that you can find and keep on moving to be able to cover a lot of water as the fish are more concentrated in the fall. Make sure that you hit the weeds or actually crank these baits right through the weeds as these fish maybe stacked in there very thick.

Weedlines are some of the most productive areas to search and by watching your electronics, and using your trolling motor, just follow that weedline like you do a road that you are driving. Any time that you find an irregular feature in a weedline, make sure to concentrate on that area as these little differences makes a load of difference in catching fish or not catching fish.

There are weedlines that I fish that I know when I get to a certain spot there is a hook in the line or a turn and every time that I fish an area like this, you always catch a couple from there. When you understand what your electronics are telling you this makes you such a better angler and allows you to dissect the homes of these fish that are missed by many anglers that will go right on past these prime areas.

Another technique that I find fairly productive in the fall is fishing jigs in and around docks. Docks absorb heat from the sun on these cooling fall days and that gets transferred into the waters below. These waters that are a little warmer than surrounding waters attracts baitfish which in turn attracts predator fish as well. Jigs or weightless plastics are good choices for fishing around the remaining docks as the days go by more docks are taken out of the water for the winter months.

Make sure to fish a dock very thoroughly from as many different angles as you can possibly cast at that dock. Also work the dock all the way from the shore out to the end of the dock as the fish can be anywhere’s along that structure. Get a lot of practice at skipping the bait under the dock as there are also fish buried deep under the heaviest parts of a dock that should not be overlooked.

When moving from one dock to another dock there is that area in between docks that many anglers usually don’t fish. Most anglers turn the trolling motor on high and get over to the next dock before making the next cast. Be a little different and make some casts out into deeper water as fish in the fall can be spread out anywhere and you can’t catch a fish if the bait is not in the water.

The name of the game for fall fishing is finding green weeds and also fishing some of the remaining structure that is still in the lake. Keep those baits in the water at all times because you don’t know when that next bite is going to happen. Also, keep yourself on the move at all times until you find an area that you feel has a school of fish there.

Covering water is key to successful fall fishing and by using baits that cover a lot of water this will keep you in more action more days than not. Fall can and will be a tough time to fish certain days, but those days that you hit that jackpot, you will definitely be thankful that you are out there. Spring is the only other time of year to get these big fish on your hook and more times than not when you catch a fish, take a look at their belly as they probably have an engorged stomach from all of the baitfish they have already caught.

I enjoy fishing in the fall with no one else out there and I feel that the lake is mine. Many of my biggest fish have been caught in the fall and I definitely look forward to fall fishing. Sure you have to bundle up on those days when it is around the freezing temperatures, but when you feel that tug on the line, it feels like summer out there once again. If you haven’t experienced fall fishing, definitely make it a point this fall to get out there and catch some fish.

We still have quite sometime before the ice forms on our favorite lake, so why not wet a line, catch a trophy, and brag it up to your buddies that are at home watching the football game while you are rippin’ some lips.

Enjoy what Mother Nature has offered you and live life to the fullest. Enjoy the outdoors and make some memories as you never know what is in store for your life.

 Fishing, Years Gone By

Kevin Dahlke

Many of us anglers these days can look back from the days we were kids and smile from all of the memories that we have. Those days may not be able to be relived, but these days are the days that we will never forget as we grow older. From the many days of fishing with our school buddies to those many excursions with dad and gramps to the water.

There were many trips that our buddies would show up on their bikes with the fishing rod strapped to the bikes frame and the tackle box in their hand. Of course the closest lake was around five miles away but at those times we really didn’t care how far it was as we were going fishing.

After peddling for what seemed like an eternity, we could see the lake in the distance and knew that there were going to be fish caught when we got to our secret spot. This was our best place to fish and you always hoped that nobody beat you there. This place consisted of a culvert that went under the highway and the sunfish that lived in there were very nice sized fish.

The key to fishing here was to aim the cast to go into the culvert, but you had to cast as far as you could possibly cast. With the hook baited and the bobber set to the magic depth, you would eye up your target and get the angle just right and launch that cast as deep into that culvert as possible. As soon as the bobber hits the water, down it goes and the battle is on to get that trophy bluegill out of their deep dark homes.

The two of you would look at each other and start laughing hysterically at the size of these fish and how we were catching them. We weren’t in any type of backwater type of lake with the tranquility of the breeze blowing or the birds chirping. We were fishing next to a major road with cars zooming by us not more than ten feet behind the guard rail. As the afternoon would wear on you know that you had to be home for dinner and would strap everything back onto our bikes and off we would go back home after a very fun filled day.

Then the weekend would come and it was time to go visit grandma and grandpa for a couple of days. They really enjoyed having fresh fish for a meal and grandpa had a great spot that would give us plenty of opportunities at catching a few meals. Run out to the garden with a bucket in hand and a digging fork to dig up a bunch of worms for the days fishing trip. After digging up a few dozen worms, load the rest of the gear in the truck and head for this honey hole.

This was one of those areas that you hoped that someone doesn’t beat you there as it is another shoreline fishing spot. This area was a channel that came off of the main lake and wasn’t to deep but also had some weed growth in it as well. Staking out our spot we would get all setup and get ready for a fun filled day of catching fish.

Gramps would help you get your fishing rod and bait setup and would tell you to cast over to that spot over there. The bobber would hit the water and as soon as it would standup, down it would go. There was cast after cast that would play out the exact same way over and over again. The bucket was filling up very quickly between gramps, dad and me as the fish were biting like they were having their last meal.

Then there is that time when the bobber goes down and when you set the hook it doesn’t feel like a sunfish that is on the line. The fish is fighting and your mind is wondering as to what you have on the hook. Now gramps, dad and everyone else that is fishing there is watching you. Gramps is telling you how to fight this fish as we don’t want to lose it whatever it is.

As it comes to shore the bobber is getting closer but no one has seen the fish yet. A few feet away you are pulling the line in and there it is, the biggest dogfish that you have ever seen. What a great fight this fish gave you and there was no way that you were going to touch this fish as it was the ugliest thing that you have ever seen.

As the afternoon wore on, catching all of these fish seemed to get a little boring after a while and I would start searching for other creatures that were living there. This is when I came across a little painted turtle and asked Dad if I could keep this little guy. Went and got another bucket and filled it with water and now I had a new little friend. We had our fair share of fish and looking at our catch, we knew that it was going to be a long night of filleting fish and many meals were going to be frozen and also a fish fry was in store.

There are many memories that have been made over the years and many more that are still to be made. But these memories that are from my childhood seem to be the best by far since at those times things were so simple and there wasn’t much for complexity at those times as well.

Those early days of spending time with gramps are missed very much these days. Being the first grandchild of four, there was a much stronger bond between him and I and being we had such similar interests, we got along so well together and spent many days fishing and walking in the woods. These days of memories are never to be lost but they are very missed from time to time when grandpa comes to mind and I can relive those many trips together through all of my memories.

 Fishing, What it Means

Kevin Dahlke

If one was to ask an angler what fishing means to them, they would probably get a different reason from each of those fishers. There are loads of reasons why we fish and when you sit down and think about it, every one of those reasons has a meaning and something behind them.

Over the years I have looked at fishing from all different angles and theory’s and they all had their time and place over my fishing career. What does this mean? I want to give you, the reader, an idea of what fishing has meant to me over the years and it does and will go from one side to the other.

Back in the early days of when you were a kid and you and a buddy jumped on your bikes and rode to the closest body of water to wet a line. There were days that many fish were caught and also days that you were lucky to see a fish, but every chance you would get you made that ride to try your hand at catching a fish.

Those days that were spent sitting on the shoreline casting a worm and bobber as far as you could, to try and beat your buddy with a bigger fish. You would brag to each other that your fish was bigger than theirs and seems that everyone caught huge fish by the time the end of the day came and then you had to make that ride home once again. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and you wonder where these buddies of your childhood are today.

Then the days come when your father and grandfather would take you along in the 14 foot boat with the 5 hp motor on the back for a day on the lake. Panfish were always the species that was sought and many hours were spent anchored near some shallow weeds and casting a bobber out looking for fish. Dad and Grandpa were always telling you to stop making so much noise because the fish can hear you and that is scaring them away from biting your hook.

There were thousands of hours spent with the three of us on such a variety of different bodies of waters exploring and searching for those meals of fish. If it looked like rain we were not going to be caught out there and would head off as fast as that 5 hp would move us along. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and one day you look forward to meeting with Grandpa once again to share those quality stories of yester years with each other.

Then the day came that you got your drivers license and you thought the fish better watch out now because I am coming to get you. You hook that 14 foot boat and 5 hp motor to your parents’ car that you borrowed and head to the lake that you think is going to produce those big fish for you. You fish like there is no tomorrow because you are living through your dreams of watching those guys on TV and what they are doing to help put fish in your boat.

Your mindset is not on catching panfish like your dad and grandpa had you catching all of your youth. You want to catch some of those big bass like they do on TV and you have all of the latest baits that you figure that will do that job for you. You cast and cast like there is no tomorrow and pound every target that you can find and are catching fish here and there and a smile is forming on your face.

After some time spent out on the water fishing the way that you want to fish, ideas are flying through your mind like “hey, I bet I could do this for a living like the big boys”. I felt that I could go to any body of water and catch fish after fish and there was no stopping me now. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and you hope that these dreams come true one day and there wouldn’t be anything better than fishing for a living.

So you are at that point in your life and you are working a real job at this point and the temptations of fishing bass tournaments are on your mind all the time. You take that next step and buy yourself a bass boat and start looking at some tournament trails that look inviting for you to fish. You spend hours and days pre-fishing for these tournaments and looking for that one sweet spot that is going to make you famous and put you into the winners circle.

Many lakes are fished and many miles are traveled around a few states to compete at these levels. You are making friends from the competitors you fish against and are starting to make a name for yourself. But you are not finishing in the standings where you really want to be and this starts playing mind games with you each and everyday that you are on the water. You now are second guessing all of your moves and this dream that you want to fish for a living is starting to not look so good or promising.

Anytime that we start moving towards a passion of ours that we would like to turn into a career things seem to be not what they look like. Getting up in the wee hours of the mornings to get to the lake at dawn to start another practice day, isn’t as inviting anymore and seems to be a lot like work and the fun really isn’t there anymore. Do I really want to fish for a living as this is starting to feel more like work and not play. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and I was fortunate and glad that I took my shot at tournament fishing and can say that I tried something that I wanted to.

Since I have that behind me now, my fishing is all about having fun and enjoying spending time out there on the water. I enjoy these days hooking my boat up to the truck and picking a lake to go fish at, and I don’t care, I do a little, if I catch a fish or not. My days on the water now are to get away from the rat race of being an adult, a husband and a father and using that time to clear my head and get myself back to reality.

I look forward to the days that I am able to get out and fish with some of my old friends and relive some of the old days that we had together. I also look forward to the days that I am able to take my dad out fishing, like he use to take me, as he doesn’t fish much anymore and we don’t get to fish together that often either. These are memories that you keep with you all your life and I try and keep them going forward as each year passes.

Now are the days that I am truly enjoying fishing as I have my own kids to take along and show them the art of fishing. My daughter is getting into those teenage years now so we don’t get out much together anymore, but over the last years we had spent many hours in the boat, just the two of us and those are the memories that I will be carrying with me as I go forward. Hopefully the day will come once again that she wants to try her hand at fishing again and I will be there ready and willing to do that for her.

Also now that my son is getting a little older he has been accompanying me on quite a few adventures as of late. This past winter he had really gotten himself excited and went on many ice fishing trips with me and for a six year old, he showed this old man how to catch some very nice fish. Just watching his excitement while he is watching the electronics and catching a fish is priceless in my book. He always looks forward to our fishing and if we haven’t been out for a while he starts bugging that we need to go once again.

These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and I treasure all of these and hope that they continue to be made for many years to come. It is funny how we come full circle in life and from what my father and grandfather had taught me out there on the water, I am teaching my kids the exact same things. Sure we now have much bigger boats, all of the fancy electronics, more baits than we will ever use and more fishing rods/reels that we know what to do with, but we seem to always come back to the basics in whatever we do.

Fishing these days has been much more enjoyable to me and means so much more to me these days as well. I really look forward to each trip that is made to the water and at the end of the day, fish or not, I know that I had a great day out there. Fishing is not work anymore but a favorite past time that I can spend many hours out there again. But if I only have an hour to fish, so be it, I was still able to do something at that moment that means so much to me. Fishing, what it means to me is time to reflect on life, get away from all of the hustle and bustle, and spend some quality time with family, my kids and friends new and old. Once again, there aren’t enough days that I get to fish again and this is telling me that my passion to fish is back stronger than ever…

Get out and enjoy the outdoors and what Mother Nature has given to us…

 Deep Water Bassin, Carolina Style

Kevin Dahlke

Any bass angler out there knows that if they want to catch bass that they can go and pound the shoreline and put a decent limit together. By hitting wood, rocks and docks along the shoreline this will and does put fish in the boat and at certain times nice ones at that. But what if you would like to upgrade those sizes of fish to larger sized that may be a little more consistent than the bank runners.

Instead of facing the shoreline take a step back and turn around and tell me what you see. There is a vast amount of water out there and it is very intimidating to a number of anglers that their comments will be “where do I start”. Fishing deep water for bass isn’t really that much different if you sit down with a good map and plan out your attack and you will quickly find that it is very similar to what you were doing along the shoreline.

When fishing shoreline you are fishing targets along that shoreline and when you turn to deep water, it is very similar. We don’t just go out there into deep water and start casting at will but will concentrate on features and objects that we will locate with the maps and electronics that we have. Things that are concentrated on in deep water are humps, grass beds, ridges, or anything that is a little different that breaks up the bottom content either structurally or depth wise.

The depth of deep water means different things to every angler and body of water that you fish and this is what we consider deep water. Normally I fish depths from 8 to 12 feet of water and will fish sunken islands down to the 25 foot depths as well. There is a lake that I fish in central New Hampshire that is fished down to 40 feet of water in grassbeds in our search of smallmouth bass but this is a very clear lake as well.

Now that we have the deep water somewhat defined, the approach that we use the most often for fishing this deep water is using the Carolina rig. The Carolina rig allows me to cover vast amounts of water and by doing this it is also exposing my bait to more fish. The Carolina rig is a plastic bait technique that requires a few components to build this up. The components consist of a weight, followed by 2 glass beads, followed by a swivel tied to the line. Next we tie another piece of fishing line with a 3/0 to 4/0 hook tied to this tag end.

Main fishing line is usually 10-12 pound test with the tag leader of 8 pound test. The 8 pound test allows the bait to move more freely through the water and more natural looking. The length of the tag leader varies from 12-36 inches long and the bottom content dictates this length variety. Shorter leaders are better for working the bait through thicker weeds while longer leaders are great for sparse weeds or no weeds at all. Weight wise down to 20-25 feet of water use a ¼ oz sinker unless it is extremely windy then maybe a 5/16 oz. For 35 feet and more typically a ½ oz weight is sufficient and this in only needed to be able to get to those depths much more quickly and to keep you more in contact with your bait.

Now that the depths are covered as well as the technique, let’s take a look at the approach that works well for us. Typically anglers are afraid to throw the Carolina rig into weeds and that is the first thing that you will need to get away from. After you have fished in the weeds for a while you will understand how to work the rig through the weeds and also learn the differences in the feel between weeds and a fish biting. There may be times that you get hung up and lose some tackle but the fish that you are going to catch will definitely make up for that.

Once we have looked at our maps and found some promising looking areas, sunken islands, ridges, irregular bottom contours as well as different bottom content, weeds are what we are looking for in these areas. Not so much the thickest weeds that are there, but at times that is what we are looking for, but more of the edge and what is going on at the weed edge.

More of an explanation here: weeds only grow so deep and depending on how far the sunlight goes down determines how deep the weeds and edges are. The areas that I am looking for are where the thick weed edges end and from there out into the deeper waters. The tops of the structure areas will have thick weeds that if fished slowly with the Carolina rig you will be able to get through them. But where the heavy edges end, this is our high percentage area.

What we are talking about is that there is always a weed edge or front line and fish use these heavier weeds as ambush areas. But from this front edge out into deeper water the weeds themselves get thinner as the water gets deeper and bigger fish use this zone in their search for food. This is what is called a transition area and baitfish use transition areas all the time in their movements and feeding. The bigger dominant fish in the area know this as well and are positioned or are cruising this transition area ritually searching for prey. These transition areas will have smaller and sparser weeds here and you will definitely feel this with your bait as you are working it through.

So how do I get setup to fish this type of structure area from the boat? Typically find where the edge of a specific piece of structure is and where that drops off into the deeper surrounding water. Position the boat back more on top of the structure so that the sparse edges are out in front of you and not under you. Anchoring will help immensely if there is wind or also if you find an area that is holding numbers of fish.

With the boat positioned on top of a so called hump, cast your Carolina rig out into the deeper water. Let it fall to the bottom before doing anything else and then your concentration level will need to strengthen. Move the rig only about 6 inches at a time back towards the boat, as the slowness of fishing this is the key to your success. You probably won’t feel anything transmitted through your fishing rod at this point, but as you work the bait back towards the boat you will feel that first contact with those outer sparse weeds.

At this point you really need to start focusing on what your line and fishing rod are telling you and this will give you an idea as to how much sparse weeds are there and where the thicker weed edge is starting. Also be ready at all times as in this transition area the fish are cruising and will be picking your bait up at any time. What is happening here is that fish position themselves in these locations as they know that the prey are coming out of the deeper water to find food and cover.

After you have worked through that transition area you will still need to get the bait through the thicker weed edge and top as well. Slowly work your bait through these thicker weeds as well all the way back to the boat because until you get an idea as to how the fish are using these areas, a bite can come at any time. You will definitely start feeling and understanding the differences between weeds and a fish biting and won’t be long and the fish are going to be caught as well.

Many anglers are not going to be fishing these depths of waters and if you can get your confidence levels to work to your advantage in these situations, you have opened up a whole new area of fishing possibilities. This is a technique that I have been employing for a number of years and the size of the fish are much more to my liking. One thing though, is your numbers of fish will probably go down and if you like numbers this may not be for you. But if you don’t mind not getting the numbers but rather quality is more to your liking, then you definitely want to give this a try.

Once you have the feel for this approach, you will be able to take this into different areas of a particular body of water and search out similar type of structures there as well. Some of these remote deeper areas are very under fished as well as some of these fish may have never seen a bait in their life. The best structures and areas are going to harbor the biggest fish and after using this for a while, you will understand these areas and will be able to be more consistent in your size of fish caught going forward.

 Plastics, are They all the Same

Kevin Dahlke

When people think of bass fishing baits, there is always one that comes to mind in every angler's arsenal, the plastic bait. When walking into a tackle store and you stroll over to the section that has the wide array of plastic baits hanging there, an angler can be overwhelmed by all of the selections. This angler used to do that and never could decide which brand to go to and they would never have the bait that I would be looking for.

Since those days I have gotten away from the tackle store selections and to another bait manufacturer that I feel produce the best plastics for the money. This company is BearPaws Hand Poured Baits and I have been associated with them for the last few years and their plastic baits are the only ones that are fished in my boat. Do these baits produce more fish than other baits, they all have their time and place but what these baits offer is something different from the run of the mill plastic bait.

Most plastic baits are mass produced and the plastic material can be a little harder than I like. BearPaws Baits are all hand poured with the best plastic materials and when these are hand poured they are much softer to the touch. When a fish picks these baits up that softness alerts the fish that this feels lifelike and they will hold on longer for that hookset. Being these are hand poured there is a natural floatation in each bait that when rigged on a hook or jig, the tail will float up making the bait look as if they were feeding along the bottom similar to a baitfish.

Another feature that you won't find anywhere else is that these baits are also poured with the MegaStrike Formula, which is fortified in each of the bait’s produced and if you are familiar with fish attractants, MegaStrike is an advanced formula that was developed with the Amino Acids that fish look for in their prey. So with the hand poured and the MegaStrike in these baits, the fish that pick these up will hold onto these baits a little longer than normal plastic baits.

BearPaws Baits are offering a number of bait variations numbering around 30 variations to allow the angler to meet whatever situation or bait they are looking for. One other feature that is being offered these days as well is the bait's fall rate through the water column. There are three varieties that you can choose from: floating, slow fall and a faster fall rate. This is another advantage that you are not going to find on the over the counter baits. Color selection is second to none with over a 100 available and if the color that you are looking for is not there, let BearPaw know and they will developed that color you seek.

side from BearPaws Baits plastic selection they also offer a hook selection to match with their product list. Another new item that has come out is their Jighead Lineup that has the screw lock feature molded into the head to help secure your bait to the jig itself. These jigs are offered in a wide variety of colors as well and are a nice addition to the BearPaws Baits.

I have been using these for at least 3 seasons now and only fish with the BearPaws Baits. The softness, the wide array of styles, color selection second to none and an attractant embedded into each bait, BearPaws Baits have a bait for any and all anglers out there fishing in my opinion. You can check these baits out at and see for yourself.

 Late Ice, Kids and Mules

Kevin Dahlke

As spring is vastly approaching and warmer weather is coming more frequently, spending time on the ice fishing is so much more enjoyable at this time of year. The breezes are much warmer which makes sitting out on the open ice so much easier and enjoyable. The days of ice fishing without wearing a coat are here and this is something that most ice anglers always look forward to.

The days are getting longer and more sunlight is penetrating the waters of the lakes that we fish. The sun is much higher in the sky and very warm on the angler’s backs while time spent fishing on the ice. With spring coming, everything feels and looks like life is being reborn, but at the same time another season is coming to an end once again.

The late spring of the year brings along with it the best ice fishing of the season in regards to fish quantities but more importantly fish quality. This time of year the fish are thinking of one thing and that is the upcoming spawn. This time of the ice season is a great time and opportunity for getting kids out onto the ice as the frigid days of cold are gone and the fishes activity is picking up.

This late season ice is also a time that caution needs to be heeded as the ice is in the melting stages and shorelines are going to be eroding. Sunny shorelines are going to be opening up and becoming soft so getting onto the ice may entail some walking to find a good access point. Also once on the ice keeping an eye on the kids that were brought along is critical as well as we don’t want them to get near the areas that the ice is weakening and by causing a bad situation.

Getting around on the ice is much simpler for the adults as well as the kids since the snow has melted and left a good flat surface. This is allowing better sun penetration and the lakes weeds are going to be growing and they will be putting more oxygen into the water and this is an area that an angler should find as the fish are going to be congregating into these areas.

With spring and spawn vastly approaching this is prime time to getting kids onto the ice and trying their luck at ice fishing. Finding areas that have weedbeds are going to be areas that the baitfish is going to be in and as well as a bigger fish hangout. Fish are going to be at varying depths this time of year and by moving from shallow water to deeper water and watching your electronics and finding that magic depth will be fairly easy.

Setting up the kids is fairly simple and showing and explaining how to use a fishing rod/reel is fairly straight forward. Drill your two holes a foot or so apart and this way you and a child can use the same electronics to see what is going on down there. Vary your bait depth and their bait depth so that the two of you can cover two different water columns and when fish come through, that way one of you can adjust your bait and both of you have the opportunity at catching fish.

Micro baits are a good choice of baits from the tiny hair jigs to the micro plastics that are on the market. This time of year the forage these fish are looking for are still a tad on the small side and by matching the hatch, this allows the best catching opportunities. Changing the shape and color of your bait until the fish tell you what they want is the key and this will help you keep the kids attention on fishing.

If by chance the bite is a little slow let the kids play around some to kill some time until a new school of fish comes through. Another fun thing to bring along if you have one is an underwater camera and get that setup and watch the screen and see the excitement on their faces when either schools of fish swim through or when that occasional big fish swims through and watch how they want to fish once again.

This time of the season is when everyone has that opportunity and catching a mule, slab crappie. These big female crappies are feeding more regularly for the spawn and when you get into a school of these, there will be a lot of rippin’ lips as the angler is rearin’ back. Watching a kid fighting a mule crappie in the 13, 14 and up to 18 inch class is something to see and the excitement that comes along with it is second to none.

If the weather has been to cold, wet, windy or the timing was never right, take those kids out on these last nice days of the season. By getting them out at a younger age gets them use to the rigors of getting set up and fishing in a totally different fashion. But the late ice fishing also makes things easier as well compared to open water fishing and more people can ice fish at once as opposed to the open water season. Enjoy these last outings of this ice season and instill another great outdoor adventure into the youth while they are rippin’ lips and rearin’ mules.

 WaveSpin System Review

Kevin Dahlke

There is a new wave of reels that have hit the market and they are storming the fishing scene. The name of this company is WaveSpin and these reels were designed by Doug Hannon “The Bass Professor”. The concept of these reels is and will eliminate that pesky loop that forms after numbers of repeated casts.

We have been fortunate to being able to field test the 3000 series reel and so far have been very impressed up to this point. The 3000 series reel that we are using has the feel and construction that are superior and are rugged enough to endure the rigors of daily use on the water. With the 8 ball bearing system, the reeling motion is very smooth and with the anti reverse feature makes for a very good reel.

The design of the spool is the key to the elimination of those loops that form on the cast. On every reel that we fish with, after a certain number of casts the loop will form and we need to sit down and work it out and this takes away from our fishing time. We have been using the WaveSpin 3000 now for a while and have made a load of casts and to this date, there has not been one loop that has formed yet.

This is a big benefit to the angler that is either a tournament angler or an angler that is out there fun fishing on a limited time frame. If you can have a reel that doesn’t form that pesky loop, this can and will increase your time with the bait in the water longer. Also by having this loop elimination there is no need to cut off yards of line that typically happens and this is a huge benefit as well.

The casting ability of this reel has been very good and we have been able to hit the targets that we are casting at on a consistent basis. With the no tangle design we weren’t sure if this was going to affect our casting abilities but with the tests so far there haven’t been any restrictions in our casting. Also with the design of the spool we are able to load more yardage of line onto the reel and this also increases casting distance.

A great feature that was built into the reels spool was that you are able to take apart the spool without any tools.  What benefit this has to the angler is that by disassembling the spool, we are able to slide all of the old line off of the spool for line replacement. So instead of pulling the line off of the spool hand over hand, take the top spool part off of the spool and slide all of the line windings right off, assemble the spool top back and you are ready to load new line on. This is another time saver for the angler as every one of these minutes we are able to retrieve; this gives us more time for other fishing activities.

he construction of the body of the reel is designed to be light weight but rugged as well. The handle comes with a knob that looks oversized but in reality is very form fitting into your hand and easy to find if your eyes are else where. The drags system is built rugged and smooth just like the rest of the reel and since “Doug Hannon” had designed this there was no question about the drags capabilities. Lastly there is a lube port that makes it very easy for applying oil to the reel and this makes sure that the oil goes where it is suppose to.

For the hours that we have used this reel to this point we haven’t found one issue or complaint about it. With the exclusive 2 year unlimited warranty that comes with every WaveSpin reel, how can you go wrong with that. As we start approaching our open water season here again, we will continue using the WaveSpin reel and also will be getting more of them as well. This is the first reel that we have used that is loop free and to us that is a huge benefit. I don’t know how much time we have sat down to work out a loop in frustration, but never yet have we had to do that with our WaveSpin 3000.

If you are looking at purchasing a quality spinning reel this season, take a good look at the WaveSpin. These reels are priced in the same ballpark as other quality reels of this caliber and with the no tangle feature, how can you go wrong. “Catch the Wave” with the New WaveSpin System spinning reel, we have caught the wave, why not you.

DH 3000:       Mono/Braid    6lb/20lb 260 yards    8lb/30lb 220 yards    10lb/40lb 155 yards
Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
DH 4000:       Mono/Braid    8lb/30lb 290 yards    10lb/40lb 220 yards  12lb/50lb 170 yards
Gear Ratio: 4.9:1
DH 5000:       Mono/Braid    10lb/40lb 240 yards  12lb/50lb 200 yards  14lb/60lb 160 yards
Gear Ratio: 4.9:1


Saltwater Sealed

Exclusive “WaveSpin” spool for longer casts

Exclusive NO TANGLE Technology

Exclusive No-Tool/Quick-Strip/Split Spool

8+1Stainless Steel Ball Bearings

On/Off infinite anti-reverse

Dead Stop No Slack anti reverse

Lightweight graphite body

Aluminum handle w/comfort fit knob

Multi disk front drag system

Lube port for easy lubrication

Oversized bail roller

Convertible right or left had retrieve


 Downsizing to Dead Sticking

Kevin Dahlke

As January has wrapped up and February is underway, this is the time of year that starts getting tough for a number of anglers. The anglers that are consistently catching fish are in the know about what to do in the toughest time of the year. This time of year brings cold weather, snow and along with that comes the relentless onslaught of cold fronts pummeling areas that many of us ice fish.

The anglers that are taking on these tough times that are being presented consistently are using tactics and techniques that are putting the favor to the anglers that are in the know. What these anglers are doing is very simple and one thing that they are doing is they are downsizing their baits and also dead sticking their baits.

The fish at this time of year are facing barometric pressures that are high and rising at all times and what this is doing is putting the fish into a very finicky, dormant and not willing mood to chase our baits like they were earlier in the season. Since these fish are looking for much smaller baits this is where downsizing is going to come into its own.

By downsizing we are not talking about the usual 1/32 oz or even the 1/64 oz jigs that many anglers using but there are baits out there that are much smaller and these are the baits that we use on a consistent basis. The sizes we are using are 1/60, 1/80 and even 1/100 oz and these are very tiny baits that many anglers are not even taking a look at. These tiny jigs are called hair jigs and imitate the small fry that are hatching and are a main staple of the fish’s diets at this time of year.

By using these tiny jigs this is giving those fish a much smaller profile looking bait and one that isn’t doing a lot of movement. By tying these on with a loop knot they are able to hang freely and act much more natural in the water. We aren’t putting any livebait on these as the design and the content that these are made from is all that is needed.

nother aspect of downsizing baits that is sweeping the ice belt is the use of micro plastics. These are newer baits that anglers are using but are finding their ways onto many a hook across the ice belt. These plastic baits are put onto tiny lead head jigs in the same size that we talked about earlier.

hat these tiny plastics baits are representing are the larva stages of many different insects that are hatching out of the lakes bottom. These come in many sizes, shapes and colors and all of them can be adapted to the mood of the fish on a given day. With their tiny tentacles and appendages these quiver and move freely in the water with the tiniest movement applied to them. If they seem to big for what the fish are wanting or looking for then all that is needed to be done is pinch a piece off of one and put that onto the hook.

There are also going to be times that no matter how small you go with baits the fish may still ignore your offering. When this is the case what we will employ is the dead sticking technique. This is exactly what it sounds like and that is leaving the bait just sit at the depth where the fish are hanging and see if this will get them to bite.

There has been many times that when we leave our bait sit and go and drill another set of holes in the ice, what we come back to is a load of fish hanging around our bait. Then all we do is give the bait a little action and this will generally excite the fish into biting. If not leave it sit a little longer and eventually these fish will come around.

Between now and when late ice comes if the angler employs either or both of these tactics, this should put more fish onto your line. Now is the time that will test the best of anglers and if you and they try a couple of these techniques this will make a better angler out of you. By changing between these techniques and offering the fish something a little different at all times, this will dramatically increase your odds and you will notice other anglers not catching fish like you are

 BearPaw Hand Poured Baits Roundup

Kevin Dahlke

There are a wide array and variety of plastic bait manufacturers out in the market place these days and this makes those bait selections a difficult one. One company that I have been associated with for the past few years is in that mix and is coming out with a variety of baits every year. That company BearPaws Hand Poured Baits, is an innovative and aspiring company that offers a plastic bait that is hand poured. Being hand poured gives the bait a different look than normal plastic baits and offers a higher floatation factor over the others. One other important feature that BearPaws Baits offers in their baits; is every bait is fortified with MegaStrike and BearPaws Baits is one of only a couple companies that are able to say that.

We are going to take a look at the BearPaw Baits lineup and give an idea of what they are offering the angler with a variety of plastic baits. Some of the new features that are being incorporated into all of the baits produced are the floatation factor that you are able to dictate when ordering each bait. You can chose between the floating, medium and fast sinking choices. Floating allows you to keep the bait on or near the surface, Medium allows the bait to have a slower fall through the water column and Fast Sinking allows the bait to get to the bottom quicker without using added weight to the bait. Lets take a look at a few of the baits that BearPaws offers and also some scenario’s that they can be used in.

The B-Bug is a favorite bait of ours that is a resemblance of a creature type bait with its many appendages throughout the body. It starts out with the straight main body portion that has the flipper style twin tail on the backend of the body. On the head end of the bait there are either 2 or 4 tentacles protruding out. Between the tentacles and the flipper tail, these appendages give off a tremendous amount of action and also vibration in the water. This bait can be fished in a variety of ways from Texas rig, jighead, weightless and also a very effective technique is using it on a Carolina rig.

One of the most used baits that BearPaws offers is the Hippie Stick lineup and by also getting these in the three different floatation qualities that are offered, you are able to cover all of the different parts of the water column. The Hippie Stick is straight soft stick bait that has no appendages on the bait. The attraction to this bait is from its slow and wiggling action as it descends through the water towards the bottom. Rigging this bait can be wacky rigged, weightless Texas style, on a jighead, Carolina rigged and almost any other imaginable way that an angler can think of.

Let’s take a look at the soft jerk bait which is called the Grizzly Jerk and also the bigger version called the Mega Jerk; the difference between these two is the size with the Grizzly measuring at 5.5” and the Mega measuring at 6.5”. This soft jerk bait when worked weightless darts and dives through the water when worked with a slow jerk motion on the retrieve. The body has a cavity that the hook rests into that the lips of this cavity open up to expose the hook on the hook set. Rigging this bait can be weightless, to create a darting minnow representation which is the most common. This last season we have been experimenting by using this bait on a Carolina rig as the bait darts side to side and this has been producing some very large fish as well.

Another favorite BearPaw bait of ours is the newer Load Toad which is a frog impersonating bait. This bait has an open cavity in the body that the hook sets into and is unrestricted when the hook is set. The legs are very flexible and on the retrieve move fluidly through the water to give the illusion of a frogs legs as they are swimming through the water. This bait is highly productive when fished through lily pads or any other floating vegetation.

Another line of baits that BearPaw produces is called the Hippie Jig which is a finesse jig. When matched with a BearPaw trailer, this becomes a deadly approach to the jig fishing community. These are light jigs but fish just like their bigger brothers do and can be fished in the same locations as well. These give off a smaller profile than the bigger jigs and this is attractive to those finicky fish as well as highly pressured fish.

One thing about BearPaw’s Baits that are different than other plastic baits is that being that they are hand poured there is an endless array of colors to choose from. Currently there are over a 100 color selections to choose from and if you don’t see the color that you are looking for just ask and it can be made to your specifications. You are not going to find that at most of the plastic manufacturers and that is a huge benefit by using BearPaw’s Baits.

This is only a sampling of the more popular baits that we use on a regular basis on our fishing trips. But BearPaw’s has a number of baits in their lineup,  around 30 in total that can and will cover every imaginable application that the angler will encounter while out on the water. All of the BearPaw’s baits are poured with a heavy dose of MegaStrike in them and the color is tailored to your specifications. If you haven’t given the BearPaws lineup a try yet, you may want to get into contact with them and give them a try. With the MegaStrike in each bait, this gives the angler a few extra moments to set the hook and this maybe the difference between putting fish into or not into the boat and every angler out there wants to put fish in their boat.

 Lake Secrets in the Fall

Kevin Dahlke

As the fall season descends on the northern part of the country, many anglers start focusing their time and efforts in the woods chasing their favorite quarry. But for the anglers that are in the know, fall time is that time of year when the big fish bite and many lakes and ponds give up their hidden treasures.

We all know that after the lakes turnover the fish will start in on their feeding binges in preparation for the long winter months ahead. But for the angler that is always looking for that edge over the fish or other anglers, fall time is when to be on the water. What we are looking at is the fall time of year the lakes are usually at their lowest for water levels, and this is exposing those hidden secrets that an angler may never have known were there.

The lake levels in the fall are usually their lowest either from a dry summer or the lake associations are lowering the lake as a weed control method. By exploring your favorite body of water at this time, there are many things that an angler can look for and take note of. Some of these things are structure objects, holes, contour changes or at times when different things meet together.

As in many bodies of water, the levels may be down from 2 feet to as much as 10 feet lower than their normal level in the spring and summer. The water may be back from the original shoreline anywhere’s from a few feet to possibly 50 or more feet back. This is exposing much of the shoreline that was hidden from the angler’s eye and this is the areas that we are going to take a look at.

Objects of structure are things that are lying on the bottom or standing up off of the bottom. These may be things from rocks, wood, tires, blocks or anything that is sitting in the sand or mud that typically is under the water at normal times. By taking a look around and finding areas that have a mixture or combination of any of the listed items, these areas are fish magnets at normal water levels.

Finding a stump or tree standing or lying down, with some rocks around it, these are key examples that are going to attract fish. By making a note of where these spots are at, an angler can quickly find these areas when fishing these marked areas at normal water levels. The more things that come together in a particular area, the more fish that will be attracted to these areas as prey fish are using these areas as well.

As we are moving around the lake and checking out the exposed shoreline, another thing that begins to show themselves will be holes, or depressions, or change in the contours of the shoreline. As to referring to holes, these are depressions in the lake bottom that may be sporadically scattered around. Fish will position themselves in or very near to these and use them as an ambush spot. These features are hard to determine on electronics or hard to see by the eye if the water is to deep and by now looking at these during low water conditions, making a note to these will help when fishing at normal water levels.

Looking at the lake contour lines will reveal many new things to the angler as well. As you are looking at the lake imagine where the water line will be at full water level and this will give you a good idea as to the change that occurs in the water depth. Things that we are looking for are areas that deep water comes near the shoreline, big flats that may go out into the lake and any other erratic features that are either coming to shore or going out into the lake.

The main point that is trying to be conveyed in this article is that in the fall there are great opportunities at giving an angler the extra edge to catching fish. By taking a walk or leisure cruise on the boat around the lake a person is going to see many things that are on the bottom that more times than not are covered by water at most times.

By taking the time now and doing some exploring, there are many things that you are going to see. Don’t forget to bring your camera or video recorder with you and record this information that you are finding. Also may want to bring your GPS with you to mark places as well for future reference. Get out there and enjoy the fall weather and take a walk around your favorite lake and find some of those secrets that the lake has been hiding from you.

 Slow and Meticulous

Kevin Dahlke

Ever wonder how some fishers are always catching fish and others aren’t as fortunate. Those same fishers are the same ones that are catching some very nice quality fish and you wonder what they are doing that you aren’t. There is one technique that seems to produce better fish but may take some patience and practice time to get it down.

The “Slow and Meticulous” approach works very well for fishing deep water with structure and/or cover. By concentrating on these types of areas, these areas hold very good quality fish and possibly that trophy that you are looking for. The approach that is used will be with plastics but would work very well with jigs or any other bait that works the bottom contours.

The areas that are focused on are deep flats, underwater islands/humps or deep weeds and weed-lines. The main focus is that as long as there is a concentration of weeds to work, that is the main thing to look for. We work that bait through some of the thickest weeds that can be found. These types of areas can and will hold some very large fish and if you can work the bait through them, you will be putting the bait in front of some fish that may not have seen a bait in quite some time.

What are concentrated on are the weeds themselves and the scarcity as well as the thickness of them. The scarcity part of it would be the outer edges of the weed clumps not the inner thicker weeds. The edges have limited weeds growing as the light penetration is lesser or possibly the bottom content is of a different makeup.  These lightly weeded areas hold baitfish and the predators are using the thicker parts of the weedy areas as their ambush spots. By scarcity we mean that there maybe only a few strands of weeds growing or possibly small patches of weeds growing that are not necessarily very tall in their growth. We can imagine looking at a grown man that is balding and the back of his head he has much more hair than the front part that has strands of hair here and there.

The thicker weeds that we will look for are the actual middle or anything that is inside of the outer weed-line. Many fishers will never put a lure into these thicker weeds as they are afraid that they may lose their bait, but don’t realize that they are missing out on numbers of fish and bigger fish at that. After you study weeds and weed-beds for a while you will start understanding what you are looking for and notice that many weed-beds have holes or pockets in them. These are the areas that this technique will really start to excel at as you are bringing the bait along; they fall into these hole or pockets and in front of a waiting fish looking for a quick meal.

Let us look into the “Slow and Meticulous” technique that works so well for us and whether you have sparse weeds or thick clumps; this has worked in any weed situation. To setup the rig, we generally use any type of plastic bait on a 3/0-4/0 hook size Texas rigged with a bullet sinker on the line. The bullet sinker size that is generally used is a 1/8 ounce weight unless it is very windy and then a 3/16 ounce is used. Anything heavier than that will sink too much into the weeds and be hung up more than not. Many fishers will not use such a light weight when fishing heavy weeds but time after time we are finding that these very light weights work very well for sneaking through the weeds. Never let “what you should be using” get in the way as any fisher out there knows that to catch better size fish, you need to do something a little different than everyone else.

There are two different ways that we will fish this setup and one is deep water into the weeds and the other is directly in the weeds. First, the deep water to the weeds approach. On a recent trip to Minnesota, the better quality fish were coming from doing this and what was done was to have the boat positioned on top of an underwater hump and cast the bait into deep water. After letting the bait hit the bottom, slowly move the bait only a foot or less at a time. It is known that bigger fish will not expend a lot of energy for a meal and will wait for it to come by them. By working this very slowly, it leaves the bait in their strike zone much longer and bigger fish will be caught.

As you are working the bait back towards the boat, the beginning part of the retrieve you will not feel any weeds. But as you start getting to the edge of the hump, you will start noticing that there are a few weeds there and now you really need to pay attention to what the line and rod are telling you. You will slowly and meticulously work the bait through the weeds and this action makes the bait look like a creature coming out of the depths and searching for food in the sparse weeds. As you work the bait over weed after weed you are putting the bait in front of fish that may not have seen bait a quite a long time. Work it very slowly through and over the weeds all the way back to the boat as these fish could be located anywhere on the hump.

The other area that we generally use this will be in shallow and deep weed flats that numerous anglers will avoid working bait through. As the boat is positioned over a weed patch or flat, cast the bait out and let it sink into the weeds, while watching the line at all times, a fish will strike a falling bait out of reflexes. By using the light weight the bait doesn’t sink too far into the weeds and sort of floats near the top of them. Once the bait stops falling, tighten the line and move it 6-12 inches at a time and then let it sit for a moment. Fish this way as slow as you can stand and that may still be to fast but patience is the key to catching fish by doing this.

As you are working the bait back, what is happening is that the bait is sitting towards the tops of the weeds. As you move it a bit, it may get hung a little in the weeds but with the light weight you have on the line this allows you to be able to pull a little and it comes free fairly easy compared to a heavy weight that gets clogged with weeds. As we keep working the bait through the weeds, there are holes or pockets in the weeds that once the bait hits one of these, it will fall either to the next level of weeds or to the bottom to a waiting fish. These pockets and holes may and will hold big fish that are waiting for food to fall into them.

As we continue to work the bait ever so meticulously through the weeds, this gives the fish an impression that food is crawling through there and makes for a easy meal for a bass lurking in the weeds. This presentation is painstakingly slow and many people just can’t fish this slow or get aggravated working bait through the thick weeds. But for those that can figure this out and employ this technique to their body of water, the rewards can be phenomenal.

If you are searching for something different to try and possibly catch some bigger fish, give this approach a try for yourself. We have been doing this for a number of years and has earned us some very good finishes in tournaments and has caught us some dandy fish while fun fishing. The main point that is being put forward is that you cannot fish slowly enough and you will need to get the “I can’t fish bait through those thick weeds” notions out of your head.

By fishing ever so slowly and also fishing some jungle of weed beds, you will notice after some time that it isn’t hard to do this and hopefully the quality of your catches will go up as well. You will be fishing areas that others may never fish and also your one cast will take as long to reel in as your buddy that has casted 4 times while your one. But your fish may and will be bigger than theirs and their quantity may be more but yours will be heavier at the end of the day. Key point is fish thick weeds as slowly as you can and pay attention to the feel of the line as you will get a feel as to what a weed feels like versus what a fish feels like.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors and what Mother Nature has given to us…

 Spring is in the air

Kevin Dahlke

It is looking like the winter is finally wrapping up and hopefully the last couple of snow storms are the last. With the warming weather moving in the tulips and daffodils are poking through the ground looking for the sun. The robins are coming back in full swing as well as the ducks and geese are flying overhead daily.

With the warming days and ice melting, something is in the air starts to get the wildlife into a very active mode. One of the most noticeable things that an outdoorsman or nature lover notices is that the Turkey’s are getting very active and more noticeable in areas as you are driving around.

Spring is the time of year that the Turkey population gets geared up for the mating season. This time of year for anyone that watches or hunts for Turkey’s, will see some very spectacular show displays as the males are courting the hen Turkey. One is truly amazed at how beautiful and big a Tom Turkey looks in their full plumage and display.

As the male Turkey courts a number of the hens that he is traveling with, other males will try and move in to take their turn and these younger males are called Jakes. One way to tell the difference between a Tom and Jake Turkey is by looking at the feather clump that proudly sticks out of their chest while they are strutting and this is called their beard. A Jake Turkey’s beard will only be an inch or two long as opposed to a Tom Turkey that can be up to ten inches long.

You will also notice the beautiful colors on the male Turkey’s head and neck, from the very bright and colorful blues to the very brilliant and bright reds. As the male Turkey struts and displays himself, these colors get brighter as you are watching. The tail display is spectacular as well and is a big part of the courting ritual. The hen or female Turkey doesn’t have these brilliant colors for display, but is more natural colored. This allows the hens to be able to blend into the environment where they lay their eggs and have their chicks to protect them from predators.

As you are hiking through the woods and fields there are a few things that you can look for to see if Turkey’s are in your area. If you are in the field at the crack of dawn, hoot like an owl or caw like a crow and the Tom Turkey will return with a full gobble and this will reveal the trees that they are in. Another thing that you will see will be scratching on the ground where they are looking for bugs and other things to eat.

The Turkey uses two of their senses to help themselves survive in the wilderness. The first is their eyes; the eyes of a Turkey are some of the best in the wild kingdom. Their keen eyesight is what keeps them safe as they are foraging through the fields and woods. They are able to see and detect danger long before they are to close and are able to disappear into the surroundings to protect themselves.

The other attribute that helps them to survive from day to day is their hearing. Along with their eyesight, the hearing of a Turkey is very acute and allows them to also detect noises from great distances of possible danger approaching. Stalking or trying to get very close to a Turkey is fairly difficult with these two senses that are always working.

Many times while sitting in the woods next to a big tree, there have been times that a flock of Turkey’s are coming and something happens and they totally disappear. After reassessing what had happened the conclusion came that they had seen me blink my eyes and also move an elbow ever so slightly and that is all it takes. This flock of 15 or so Turkey’s at that point had vanished into thin air and left me with no clue as to the direction that they had gone.

Of the hunting opportunities I have had, I find that hunting Wild Turkey’s to be the most challenging of hunts. With the preparation of weeks before hand in the field locating areas that are frequented by them, to the excitement of setting up on opening morning in the darkness of a cool spring morning. Nothing more thrilling than giving out an owl hoot to see if they are in the area and to get the return of a full gobble through the quietness of morning, is one thing that really gets you fired up.

If you are fortunate enough to have the Wild Turkey in your area, take some time and learn a little about them and watch their habits. It is very interesting and you will see the beauty that these birds have and what and how they use their senses to survive through nature. Spring is the time of year that they are the most visible and by watching the field openings and edges of forests, this will give you that opportunity at seeing these great birds.

 Secret Weapon Lures

"Sidearm Spinnerbait Review"
Kevin Dahlke

Secret Weapon Lures
is coming out with a new version of a spinnerbait that will be available after January 1. The new spinnerbait will sport a short arm for the main length versus a normally long arm and also will have a double blade setup that incorporates the Standard Secret Weapon Lures technology of being able to switch to any blade type and color.

The new bait is called the Secret Weapon Lures “SideArm Spinnerbait” and I have been using a pre-release prototype since September and it will now be available to anglers after January 1.

I have been fishing this prototype bait since the beginning of fall and I can truly say that this is a great bait and a must have for all you bladed bait fishermen. You are able to fish this in a variety of ways but the couple of techniques that I find that it works exceptionally well are as follows:

I find that with the twin blades you are able to rip it under the surface of the water and wake it over the weeds that are growing near the surface. By having the short main arm this allows the bait to go through this thin water to get by the weeds and not get fouled hooked unlike a longer arm version may.

The other technique that I found very beneficial was to cast it out and let it sink to the bottom. As it is falling towards the bottom, the twin blades are always turning throughout the fall and by watching your line you will see the fish pick it up and you set the hook. After it reaches the bottom, I would slow roll it back by reeling it as slowly as possible and the blades are turning ever so slowly and if you start to drag the bottom, you will reel it a little faster. By varying your retrieve, this drives the fish crazy and they will slam the bait.

The SideArm Spinnerbait has the same Secret Weapon Lures technology that allows you to take the Twin Blades off and put any combination that you want on. If the water is clear you may want to have the willow blades on it, if you come across dirty water, all you do is un-snap the willow blades and snap on the Colorado blades and you are ready to go. That is the greatest thing about Secret Weapon Lures is that you just change the blades and you don’t waste time tying on a new bait.

The SideArm Spinnerbait uses a V-Frame blade bar that holds the twin blades apart and doesn’t allow them to hit each other like other twin blade baits do. You can also change the blades so that one is a willow leaf and the other a Colorado blade and where are you going to get a bait like that other then having them specially made for a high cost.

The SideArm Spinnerbait will be set-up like all of the other Secret Weapon Lures and can be purchased in a Propack or MasterPack kit that offers a wide variety of combinations that only your imagination can create. The head weights will be in two sizes, 5/16 and 9/16 oz versions and in ten color versions for head color and skirts to choose from.

If you are a blade bait fisherman then you owe it to yourself to check out the NEW Secret Weapon Lures SideArm Spinnerbait and get the edge on the fish and the other fishermen. This bait is something that the fish are not use to seeing and gives the illusion that there is a bunch of bait that they are chasing.

I have been fishing this bait for some time now and have been trying it at different depths of water, different types of structure and cover and I truly think that you will like this bait as well. You are able to fish it fast, slow, through grass, around rocks and wood and this will drive the fish crazy.

Check them out and you will not be disappointed, I know that I am not disappointed and can’t wait to get out on the water again with the NEW SideArm Spinnerbait.

 Ice Fishing Comparison
Midwest vs New England

Kevin Dahlke

When growing up in the Midwest, one really gets accustomed to enjoying the outdoors in a certain fashion. When ice fishing, we are taught a certain way to fish or from watching others for so long we generally fish in that fashion. But when you move across the country and fish the same way that you have for so long, you notice that anglers use different techniques and tactics to catch the same fish, and every outing on the ice is another new adventure and the angler will gain more from those experiences.

This particular ice season, I was able to enjoy many days on the ice and at the same time was watching how the other anglers were fishing out there. There is definitely a difference in the way that anglers fish in different parts of the country. By watching, I was able to see and learn these differences and at the same time I was able to show a number of anglers the way that I am accustomed to fish.

One of the first things that I had noticed after moving to the New England area was that the fishing pressure is much less. With very close proximity to the ocean, there are higher numbers of anglers that target the saltwater species over the freshwater species. A comparison would be that in the Midwest, many bodies of water, you needed to be at the boat landing by dawn to get a parking spot. Here in New England, you can show up on most of the waters at any time of the day and still be able to get in unless you went to a landing that had a tournament going on.

So with fewer anglers chasing freshwater fish, the pressure on them is considerably less. This is an advantage to those anglers that are fishing these lakes and ponds as most of these fish are not lure shy as much as they may be in the Midwest. Don’t get me wrong, the popular lakes do get their fair share of pressure on a given weekend. The difference in New England is that a big body of water is around 600 acres, and there are some bigger, but many ponds that are fished are less than that in size. Many of the smaller ponds do not have a boat landing but you can still get a canoe, kayak or Jon boat into them.

The species of fish that are caught are just about the same between the Midwest and New England. Both areas have Panfish consisting of sunfish, crappies, perch and bass both large and smallmouth. As far as the significant differences, there are only a few areas in the New England area that supports any type of Walleye populations. Most of these are found in the Connecticut River system and some in the Merrimac River. The Pike are also not populated here as much either but there are loads of Pickerel, as opposed to Pike in the Midwest and no Pickerel there.

The ways that anglers fish in New England varies somewhat to the ways that I had learned in the Midwest. In the Midwest the majority of the time, fishing was done by jigging with some sort of a jigging pole. Tip-ups were also used but being able to use only 2 lines to fish with at the same time, the angler would have a tip-up out and jigging with the other line.

In Massachusetts we are allowed to use up to 5 lines per angler and a majority of the anglers from my observation will run a line of tip-ups for a variety of fish species. Anglers will setup the tip-ups and catch pickerel, bass, perch and crappies. Some anglers will use one line for jigging, but I haven’t noticed any great numbers of anglers doing this. When fishing I like to keep active so I drill a number of holes and keep moving from hole to hole jigging looking for fish.

As mentioned earlier, the fishing equipment is a majority of tip-ups and some jigging setups. Since the winters here in southern New England are much milder than the Midwest, many anglers will use a hand auger for drilling their holes. The ice this winter was 15 inches thick at the thickest that I had drilled. In MN, right now they are still looking at over 36 inches of ice and most winters this is a common thickness.

One piece of equipment that I have noticed this ice season that is not used much compared to the Midwest would be the flasher electronics, Vexilar. There were numerous occasions during the season where I would give demonstrations on the ice and these anglers were amazed at what the flasher was showing them. In the Midwest most if not all anglers are fishing with some sort of electronics to help in their fishing. The way that I fish with jigging from hole to hole, I am able to find a hole that has active fish in it quickly and this allows me more opportunities at catching those fish and not just sitting around waiting for them.

The differences are not that great but they are there and no matter how folks are fishing and using their techniques and tactics, the main thing is that they are catching fish and that is all that matters. Ice fishing is one sport that doesn’t require a lot of technical or high dollar equipment and this allows more folks to be able to enjoy being out on the ice. With milder winters here in New England, anglers are able to enjoy sitting out on the open ice as opposed to having some sort of shelter to get out of the weather.

The main thing that truly matters to anglers is that everyone that spends their time out on the ice enjoys being out there. Ice fishing is one sport that makes it easy for KIDS to get involved and if they get board of fishing, there are plenty of other things that they are able to do. If you were not able to get out on the ice and enjoy some of these types of fishing this past season, prepare yourself over the next six months and get out there and experience fishing through a hole in the ice.

 Auger Buddy Review

Kevin Dahlke

 I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with Craig, Mr. Auger Buddy, this past weekend and the report has been filed from that trip. I was able to give The Auger Buddy a try as well and totally enjoyed being able to use it.

Craig demonstrated how compact the unit is and folds up quickly to stick into the back of an SUV with minimal effort of assembly. By looking at it, many folks have commented that they felt it looked as if it would be fairly top heavy. But after seeing the width that the ski’s are spread apart too, makes it very clear that this unit is very stable once the power auger has been put into the stand.

The Auger Buddy is very rigid and looks like it will be able to withstand the punishments from being used on the ice. The lake that we were fishing just had a coating of a few inches of snow. I wasn’t sure how it would handle in the snow and right away those doubts were taken away. I had Craig’s 10” Jiffy auger in the stand and went about my business of drilling holes.

Moving The Auger Buddy took little effort to no work at all and by lightly pushing it across the snow, it glided very easy. This product is something that all gas auger users should have as if I would have had to carry that 10” auger; I know that my arms and back would have been sore from the 12 holes that I had drilled. As I drilled a hole, I would lift the auger up and put it back into The Auger Buddy and off to the next hole I went with no effort other than lifting the auger a little bit upwards to get it out of the stand.

While we were fishing, a group came out onto the ice and carrying their power auger with them. It was unfortunate that while they were walking to the area that they wanted to fish, they were having a tough time carrying the auger and actually fell a couple of times. At this point, Craig offered The Auger Buddy to them to try out and when they returned it after drilling all of their holes, were much appreciated for the use and totally enjoyed being able to get around without hurting themselves and getting tired from dragging the auger around.

This was my first exposure to The Auger Buddy and I am totally impressed with how well it worked and the simplicity of moving it around on the ice and snow. If you have a power auger and are getting tired of dragging it around, make sure to check out The Auger Buddy. This product will help you and also make your fishing adventure more enjoyable and you will not feel like you are exhausted after drilling numerous holes.

I highly recommend The Auger Buddy to anyone out there that is dragging their power auger around without it.

 Late Season Ice Fishing
Kevin Dahlke

As the days get longer and the sun gets warmer, the ice fishing season is getting shorter with each day that passes. As we think back on the great season that we had, our thoughts are switching to the open water season. Don’t get too excited yet as the best Ice Fishing is still ahead.

The days of very cold weather while on the ice are getting less and less as the day’s pass. More days on the ice at this time of year, get more enjoyable as the temps are getting warmer. The days of those heavy parkas and many layers of clothing are fading away and there may be days that you will be on the ice in sweatshirts and t-shirts.

The late ice season puts the fish into more of a feeding mode as the light penetration is getting better, the shallow water areas are starting to warm a little more. Fish in general are fat with their spawn eggs and are getting into a feeding craze in preparation for the upcoming spawn. The activity under the ice is coming from new forms of life emerging and starting to appear and this is drawing the fish closer to shore.

This is the time of year that ice fishing in general gets to be more fun. The fish are coming out of their deep water doldrums; the weather is getting nicer allowing an angler to have more fun on the ice. This time of year is a great opportunity to get those KIDS out there and give their hand a try at ice fishing if the winter weather has been to cold and miserable for them.

Whenever going out onto the ice and particularly in the spring, it is a good idea to start checking the conditions of the ice. With the warming temps the shorelines are getting warmer and this is thawing the ice fairly quickly. Areas that have runoff coming in or feeder creeks may be dangerous at this time of year and should be avoided.

With the warming sun overhead, the bite should be very good and if you are not experiencing this within 5-10 minute, it is time to move. Spring is not the time to sit and wait for the fish to come to you but you need to be mobile and since it isn’t frigidly cold out, moving will be very simple. Move a little distance at a time and this can make all the difference in the world.

Also, change up on your bait selection as the minnow fry are changing sizes as they grow. Experimentation is a big part of making or breaking a good fishing day and by trying different things until you find what the fish wants, this could be the best days of fishing that you are going to experience all season.

This time of year you may be surprised as to what depth the active fish are being caught at. You may be in 10 feet of water but catching fish 2 feet under the ice is a common thing in the spring. This may also be a great time to have your KIDS looking down the hole as you fish as chances are they are going to be able to see the fish swimming around your bait and this can be exciting for them to watch.

As fishing in the spring is a lot of fun, there are a few dangers that are lurking out there on the ice as well. Number one concern is that the ice on the lake is never safe and precautions need to be taken at all times. We already talked about the shoreline ice eroding; a couple of other dangers are old unfrozen holes and areas that permanent ice houses have been moved off of.

Old holes in the spring are major hazards and if you are not cautious where you walk, can be harmful to you as well. With the warming of spring the old holes do not freeze over much anymore and actually grow in size. A 10 inch hole can grow to 12-24 inches in size in this warming trend. By stepping into these holes, your leg can be badly hurt or even broken on occasions. Always watch your KIDS out there as a KID can fall completely into one of these holes and go under the ice.

One other thing to watch out for is the placement of permanent ice houses. As anglers pull their houses off of the ice, these spots are creating hazards as well. What happens is that the sun heats up the house and actually melts the ice underneath it creating an area that may only have a few inches of ice in that spot. I have stopped my truck near spots like this and find out that there was a house nearby and was only 4 inches of ice in that spot. Where my truck was parked there was 14 inches or more but gets a little to close for comfort.

Spring is the time to have your KIDS out there fishing with you but remember that it maybe very messy on the ice. Always be prepared with extra clothing for them as they will probably be getting wet at some point and once they are wet, they will want to leave and make for a short day on the ice if you are not prepared. Let them be the one’s that decide what they want to do out there on the ice as this will make it more enjoyable for all of you.

With spring coming and thoughts of open water fishing starting to consume your thoughts, don’t miss out on a time of the ice season that is the best time of the year. Between catching some of the biggest fish of the winter, getting a suntan on the ice and enjoying quality time with friends and family fishing, don’t put that auger away just yet as this is the best of the best when it comes to late season ice fishing.

 Ice Fishing Revolution
Kevin Dahlke

Loby Baits Plastics and T.H.E. Jig

The ice fishing scene is ever changing with new tips, techniques and equipment to catch the angler’s eye. Not so much with the open water season as that equipment and tackle is another whole discussion in itself with its cranks, spinners and the whole array of plastics.

With ice fishing you have all of your basic equipment that gets better as each year passes by. The electronics are getting better and easier to use and are telling the angler more information. Augers are drilling faster and blades are staying sharper much longer. Portable fish houses are being built better, lasting longer, built lighter and making it easier for the angler to enjoy the ice fishing experience.

But there is a trend that is appearing for the tackle that is being used and it is the theory of getting away from the use of livebait. This Ice Fishing Revolution is in the use of plastic baits for ice fishing and also the down sizing of a jig that is not using any sort of livebait.

The plastics side of it is that the baits are imitators of the newly forming water insects and small minnows. The jig side of it is a representation of newly hatched minnow fry and also being able to downsize on those tough days when nothing else seems to be working.

The plastics that are going to be discussed will be from varieties that are being offered by Loby Baits, Plastics are Fantastic. Loby Baits line of plastics consists of a wide array and that allows the angler to be able to match the hatch on a specific day. With the assortment that is being offered and a wide range of colors being offered, there is always a bait and color combination that will fit the fish’s entire wish's.

The Loby Baits line consists of the Mousi, Polli, Buggi, Maki, Rocki, Stoni, Wormi, Micro Flei, Drag-n-Mag, Whiskered Loby and the Leaf Leech. With this line up, there isn’t a day or condition that you shouldn’t be able to take one of these and catch numbers of fish. These plastic baits are small and with the cold water of winter, the fish’s food source is small as well.

Let’s take a look at the Loby Baits line up:

Mousi – these were designed to represent the Mousi grub and with the hollow body and longer thin tail, the Mousi is very realistic in the water.

Polli – the Polli is one of the small baits and represents the very early stages of larva development and with this hooked on a jig the tail creates a lot of action and will create some aggressive feeding.

Buggi – the Buggi represents the water bug, and when hooked through the main body, all three tentacles are very active in the water with the least amount of movement.

Maki – the Maki is a small bait that works very well on those cold front days and also high pressure days. The main body has a number of tentacle legs that entice any tight lipped fish into biting. For any and all fussy fish, the Maki will get them onto your hook.

Rocki – the Rocki looks like a forming water insect with a thicker body and eight legs on the sides with a split tail as well. The hollow body will give the fish a sense that the bait is alive when they bite into it and they won’t let go.

Stoni – the Stoni is a bait that can be used in a variety of ways depending on what you do with it. It can be fished the way it is, nip the head off and it will represent a shrimp or cut the main body off and use the twin tail portion.

Wormi - the Wormi is a representation of the blood worm. This can be fished as is or trimmed down to match what the fish are feeding on. This bait is very lifelike in the water with a thicker head and the sides are flat so that when being worked, acts as if it was swimming through the water.

Micro Flei – the micro Flei resembles the water flei and is kind of a combination between the Polli and a smaller version of the Buggi. This minute bait is very good for those hard cold front days where everything else seems just too big.

Drag-N-Mag – this bait was designed to represent the larva stage of the dragon fly and has a gliding and swimming action that attracts the bigger crappies and bluegills. This bait can also be rigged a variety of ways to achieve numerous types of actions.

Leaf Leech – represents the ribbon leech in most freshwater lakes. When hooked and jigged the Leaf Leech flows with the motion and looks as if it were swimming through the water column. The Leaf Leech attracts a better quality of fish as well.

Whiskered Loby – this represents a large insect and has many appendages that quiver in the water with minimal movement. The tail moves as well and this bait when matched with a jig is deadly on those large crappies that everyone is always looking for.

Plastic baits are nothing new during the summer fishing season as there are numerous companies producing these. But plastics for the winter season and especially for the ice fishing season, which is something that a number of anglers have not experienced yet. Ice fishing with plastics is starting to catch on some, but until you actually fish with them and use them then get the confidence built up with them, you will start seeing why Plastics are Fantastic. Take a look at the line of baits from Loby Baits and there is something there for every ice fisher out there.

Now that we have covered a very wide selection of plastics that any and all ice panfish anglers should be using to add more fish to your experience, let’s take a look at a bait that requires no live bait as well, T.H.E. Jig.

T.H.E. Jig
– T.H.E. stands for Totally Hot Everyday Jig. This is a jig that is hand tied with hair instead of feathers to give it more of a lifelike appearance in the water. What T.H.E. Jig is trying to represent is very small minnow fry and in the dead of winter, this is the size of forage that the fish are feeding on.

The size of T.H.E. Jig is a key factor in the success of catching numbers of fish on it. Most folks will fish a similar jig but chances are that it is just too big of an offering and not as successful. T.H.E. Jig comes in three sizes – 1/64, 1/80 and 1/100 ounce, and also in a wide array of color combinations.

First off there is no need for any type of meat on this jig. This jig is fished without anything added to it. By jigging this will create the hair to vibrate and pulse and give the action to it. Being these are very small and lightweight, they excel in performance on those high pressure days and hard cold fronts as well. Many times when the minnow drowners are not catching anything, T.H.E. Jig will put fish on the ice for the novice as well as the most experienced anglers.

There are numerous anglers getting to use T.H.E. Jig and having some very remarkable results. When the bite is going well the 1/64 oz works superbly, but when those fish are finicky, use the 1/80 or go to the 1/100 oz and turn those finicky biters into feeding frenzy fish.

Every year there are always new products that come out and catch more fishers than fish. But by changing the way that an angler fishes and start leaving that live bait at home, you are going to start experiencing the Ice Fishing Revolution. When you are on the ice and not having to stop at the bait store, you are saving time and being able to be fishing longer.

By fishing with Loby Baits and T.H.E. Jig, this is going to allow you to be able to just carry a box with you, and no freezing hands from that minnow bucket. Also, by fishing either of these this will give you more time to catch fish as after unhooking your fish you are able to get the bait right back down there, not baiting a hook, and catch another fish.

So if you are looking to be on the cutting edge of the ice fishing scene, you will need to get some of the products from Loby Baits and also T.H.E. Jig. By having these baits with you, you should be able to catch fish in any and all conditions that Mother Nature will throw at you this winter’s ice season.

 Ice Fishing 101
Kevin Dahlke

Most of us ice anglers are seasoned veterans and know the basics on equipment and things that we use to make our day on the ice enjoyable. But there are numbers of folks that are just getting into ice fishing and this article is going to touch on the basics of the equipment that is used. This is by no means items that you have to have to enjoy ice fishing, but a general guide and some insight into the equipment that we ice anglers use

We will start with a tool that allows us to drill a hole in the ice in which we fish through. There are two basic ice augers that are out there, power and hand. Power augers are faster and allow you to drill far more holes than a hand auger will, but there are a couple of things that folks may not like, weight and noise. The hand auger is nice for when there isn’t much ice yet and you want to be able to travel light as well. The key to the hand auger is keeping the blades sharp and with them being sharp, it will cut through the ice with ease, but once they start to dull, you will have to work at getting a hole drilled

 Spud Bar
A spud bar is a steel rod with a piece of metal on the end shaped like a chisel. This is used to check the ice in the early and late season for thin ice. Using it similar to a chisel, you stick it into the ice ahead of you as you are walking to check the ice thickness. If it were to go through fairly easy, you will want to stop and assess the ice conditions as they are very thin ahead of you. Always remember that no ice is safe and if you are uncertain, either turn around and find another way around or you may want to leave that body of water.

The skimmer is a piece of equipment that looks kind of like a spoon with a lot of holes in it. After drill a hole, there will be left over ice that needs to be removed to allow you to be able to fish through it. The water at this time of year is very cold so using your hands would not be a good idea. Stick the skimmer into the slushy ice and scoop it out until the water in the hole is clean.

Though the flasher is not a necessary piece of equipment, it does help you out and tell you if there are fish in the area. Flashers are more widely used as opposed to liquid graphs. The graphs have a tendency to freeze under severe cold conditions that most of us face. The flasher will give you instant readings as well as what the bottom content is made of. With the right settings you are able to also see your jig on the screen, and this allows you to adjust your fishing to the level that the fish are at, by using a flasher, this will improve your fishing and is a vital piece of your ice fishing equipment.

Underwater Camera
One other piece of electronics is the underwater camera. This is not needed but will allow you to see what is down there playing with your bait. You maybe fishing over a pod of fish and they are not biting and after sending the camera down there you find out that they are all bullheads. The fun part of using a camera is watching how the fish are reacting to your bait, but don’t get too wrapped up into it and forget that you are there to fish. KIDS love watching the screen and seeing what is going on down there. 

There are many types of tip-ups out on the market and the determination of which one that you would like to get comes down to cost and how you want to use it. If you are fishing in very cold climates most of the time, then the tip-up that covers the whole hole is the way to go. If you don’t have many problems with the hole freezing over, then the basic stick frame will do fine. Comes down to personal preference and over time, you will determine which one is best for you.

Rod/Reel versus Jiggle Stick
There are a few different variations as to what you are going to fish with. You can fish with something similar to what you use in the summer, rod and reel, but at a much smaller version that the rod may not be longer than 3 feet long. The fishing reel is the same reel that you would use doing summer fishing. The Rod/Reel combination you will want to match to the fish that you are fishing for, similar to how you match your summer gear.

The Jigglestick is a very simple piece of equipment, a basic rod with line wrapped around some stand offs in the handle. You won’t have a reel to reel the line in with, so when you hook a fish with this you bring in the line, hand over hand until the fish is out of the ice. This is a very simple and very inexpensive way to fish and the way that most of us start out in ice fishing with. Which ever method you decide to use, you need to remember that you will need to match it to the fish that you are fishing for.

The line as well needs to be matched to the fish sought after, and the lightest that you can get away with the better. Line in cold water tends to get stiffer than summer so going as light as possible is the best way to go. Plus the fish are a little more finicky as well and lighter line will catch you more fish, just have to play a big fish longer with the lighter line.


I am not going to get into the jigs you use much as there are so many out there that it can be over whelming. Match the size of the jig to the fish that you are seeking. Also look for jigs that are made with good hooks that hold a sharp point for catching fish. Colors of jigs is up to you and have a selection with you as the fish will only hit certain colors one day and the next they will hit any color. A good body jig will allow you to see it on your flasher and this is what you really need if you are using a flasher. Have a small box with a good assortment of jigs with you all the time and if you are not getting bites, just tie on another color and this may solve your problem.

If you are using a jiggle stick approach you will be able to get away with a bobber that fixes to your line. If you are using a rod/reel combo, then either a slip bobber or a spring bobber is what you want to use. The bobber selection is very good as well and the main thing is to get away with the smallest bobber that will hold up your jig and bait. To big of a bobber and you will not see the fish biting, and in the winter, the fish will bite very light most of the time. To get away from this problem is to install a spring bobber and these will allow you to detect the lightest bites that the others would never show you. Decide which one is best for you and use that.


The bait that we use is suited for the fish that we seek. If you are searching for bigger game fish then you will usually use sucker, shiners and fatheads for your bait of choice. As well as dead and frozen minnows that are available as well. For panfish, there is quite a selection as well, you can use minnows, wax worms, euro larva, and shrimp and there are probably a few others as well. Any bait shop will have a wide selection of livebait to choose from. There is another new approach surfacing and that is no livebait, and fishing with plastics instead. Catch-N also offers Bio-Bait which is a non livebait as well and very productive in the winter season as well as the summer.

Ice House
Truly brave souls will fish without an ice fish house, but most of us opt to use one. They not only
keep you warm with a little heater inside, but most days on the ice it is fairly windy and being in a ice house protects you from that wind. Take a look at the Otter Outdoors fish house as a good product to own. These houses are built onto a sled and are self contained to keep the size at a minimum and weight wise are not that heavy. Otter offers many sizes from the small for one person to the largest for handling a few people as well as plenty of room to move around in. These are all built on a sled for easy movement and setup and take down in 30 seconds. Nicest way to ice fish and being mobile that you are going to find. 
Most ice anglers that are fishing out of a house will use a propane heater to heat their house. These are adjustable depending on how cold it is and if you use a 20# grill propane tank, will run for a very long time. One thing to keep in mind is always have some ventilation in the house to keep fresh air flowing through. Keep the heater away from the walls and any equipment that you have in the house. Especially watch your line when bringing a fish in.

The traditional 5 gallon bucket is a very important part of an ice fisherman’s arsenal. The bucket serves many purposes from carrying all of your fishing equipment, to being a seat, to holding the fish that you catch to bring home for dinner. Always seem to have a couple with as these are a very valuable piece of equipment.

Being mobile is the number one thing that an ice fisherman has to be. Fish are always on the move and an ice angler will need to be as well. A good sled will slide over the ice and snow with minimal effort and needs to be big enough to carry all of your equipment with you. A good sled is one piece that you don’t want to skimp on the price as you will have this for many years to come. 

Hopefully this general guide will help some folks that are getting started into ice fishing for the first time and to understand some things about the equipment we use. As always, please introduce a KID to fishing as fishing will make them a better person as any video game or TV show never will.


 Old Reliable...the JigWorm

Kevin Dahlke

One of the oldest techniques that catch numbers of fish is fading into memory. But the anglers that remember the jigworm know that it catches fish. The jigworm is probably the lure of choice when anglers start out fishing and it can be used with a wide variety of plastic and live-baits.

With live-bait, you can use any bait of choice and numbers of people will use the roundhead jig for this bait setup. The live-baits of choice will be minnow, leeches and crawlers and these combinations are deadly on a variety of different fish. If you use live-bait you may want to look into this, as it is very effective.

What we will concentrate on is the plastic jigworm combination. The jigworm is finesse approach to fishing and can be fished in different areas with different retrieves. We will look at some rigging techniques, types of retrieves and look at area’s that we would fish the jigworm in. if you haven’t fished the jigworm much lately or maybe not all, this will be another technique that you will want to have rigged at all times.

The two main ways of rigging the jigworm will be weedless and exposed hook. A wide array of plastic baits can be used for the jigworm, worms, lizards, grubs, creature baits or any others that are out there. Below are pictures of the weedless and exposed hook jigworm and the key to these riggings always comes to keeping the plastics as straight as possible. One other key is to use a jig with the minimal weight that you can get away with. 1/16 or 1/8 ounce are usually the norm with this approach, but if you are fishing deep water you may have to go to the ¼ ounce.

The way that a majority of people fish the jigworm would be to cast it out and let it sink to the bottom. Always pay attention to your line as a number of times the fish will hit the bait before it hits the bottom and you will see your line jump a little. Once the bait is on the bottom, you can jiggle the rod tip a little to get the bait to dance a little to try and entice a curious fish to hit.

Bringing it back to the boat try using short hops and pauses between each hop. If the fish are aggressive, they will hit it right away, but if not aggressive, you may have to let it sit for a period of time and also shake the rod tip a little as well. Always retrieve all the way back to the boat as a fish that is not in the feeding mood, may follow the bait all the way back and strike at the last minute.

Depending on if you are fishing in weeds or fairly barren bottom, this will determine if you fish with the jigworm weedless or exposed hook. Either of these areas is going to hold fish and fishing the weed edges is the top producer of the jigworm. I find that fishing a light weighted weedless jigworm in the thickest weeds produces numbers of fish and good sizes as well. These fish are not targeted by numbers of anglers and may be the ticket for you on those tough days.

Jigworms can be fished in all cover and structure and what this bait mimics is a baitfish feeding along the bottom. Weeds are the cover of choice but other cover areas are productive as well. Laydowns and stumps are areas that you can fish the jigworm very well through just make sure to use the weedless version. Rocks and gravel are areas to try as well and you may be able to use the exposed version in these areas.

Many people started fishing with the jigworm and as they acquired other skills along the way, they seem to forget about it. The jigworm is a technique that is going to produce fish when times get tough. You are also able to switch the plastic bait to something else fairly quickly and you are fishing once again. If you haven’t tried the jigworm or haven’t used it lately, tie one on and you may never take it off and forget about it again.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors and what Mother Nature has given to us….

 Bio-Bait…the livebait alternative

Kevin Dahlke

Are you a livebait fishermen or fisherkid, but don’t like the mess of livebait? Well there is an alternative out there without the mess, and it is called Bio-Bait. Bio-Bait is not your average artificial alternative bait; there are NO plastic ingredients that can be left behind that will take years to dissolve.

Bio-Bait is a totally organic bait that if fish, bird or other mammals eat it, it will safely digest through their system. What Bio-Bait consists of is soy and real bait flesh.

The soy which is the base for this product is in the shape of a noodle and is of a hard consistency before being used. Also, being soy based, allows the product to have 75% protein in it and with this concentration this will give the fish something that they are looking for. For the other component of Bio-Bait is the actual flavoring that is put on this soy base and you can get any of your favorite livebait flavors: crawfish, larva, mealworm/shiners, crawlers and leeches.

When you open the package the baits will be of a hard consistency. To soften them all you need to do is add a small amount of water to the bag and let it sit for fifteen minutes. When you are done fishing with Bio-Bait, there is no need to throw it away as all you need to do is put the soft baits in the freezer at home or leave them to air dry to get hard again. Then the next time you go fishing, just add water and you are ready to go again.

The bait is used by itself on plain hooks, but also can be added to artificial lures as well. A benefit of adding it to lures is it adds scent to the bait as an attractant. Another bonus is that Bio-Bait is buoyant and by having it on weighted jigs or spoons, this will make these lures fall slower in the water column and fish are always attracted to slowly falling baits. Bio-Bait comes in a variety of colors that will also add a visual attractant to your lure.

Bio-Bait is a great product to use with kids when you are fishing. Kids, a majority of the time, are afraid of moving livebait and this is a more economical alternative and also lasts longer on the hook as well. Kids have a tendency to cast baits fairly hard and most livebait will fly off of the hook. But, Bio-Bait has a very durable texture and composite that stays put on the hook much better and won’t tear free very easily.

With the simplicity of Bio-Bait, it has no mess and there is no fuss for kids to use it themselves. For the kids that are biking to their favorite pond, all they need to do is toss a bag in their backpack and they are set for a day of fishing. No more minnow buckets, no more boxes of worms drying out in the sun. With trips to Canada and also the Boundary Waters Areas, Bio-Bait packs away very nicely and compact and it is like having livebait with you, but without the headaches.

If you haven’t tried Bio-Bait yet, today is the day to try the livebait alternative, Bio-Bait.

 Rigging Plastic Baits to get more Bites

Kevin Dahlke

When we are fishing, there is always one type of bait, that for almost all fish, we will have tied onto our line. That bait is soft plastic lures, be it a worm, lizard, creature bait or whatever the shape, most anglers will have a plastic bait on one of their lines. If you are going to use this type of bait, you will need to rig it properly, so that it works the way it is suppose to.

The biggest problem people have with rigging these baits is that once rigged it has a kink or twist in it from wrong placement of the hook. If we don’t have the plastic bait rigged very straight, what happens when you are retrieving it, it spins and doesn’t look natural coming through the water. We are going to go through the steps in rigging plastic baits so that when you are done, the bait will hang straight and will fish and look very natural.

The first step is to lay down the bait and look at the natural shape

Then we will hold the bait in our fingers and thread the tip of the head onto the hook:

As we push the point of the hook through the head, we will then feed the bait up the hook towards the eye of the hook, so that the bait lock bend of the hook will hold it in position:

Now that the easy part is done, let’s look where we are going to insert the hook into the body of the bait. While laying the bait and hook on a flat surface, lets lay the hook point over the bait to get an idea as to where the hook will be going through the bait:

We now know where the path of the hook must go, so with remembering this, start threading the bait the same way that it was laying on the bait:

With the hook buried in the bait, pick up the hook from the eye end and let the bait hang naturally. By looking how the bait hangs, is there any kinks or turns in the bait or is it straight? If it isn’t straight, take the hook out again and keep trying until the bait hangs very straight:

By being able to accomplish this, we are creating our bait to come through the water in a very natural and enticing way so that we are not turning off the fish that approach it. If you are having trouble getting it straight, keep on practicing until you accomplish this and after doing it a number of times, it will come second nature and you won’t even think about it anymore.

Hopefully this information will come in handy and if there are any questions or other topics that you would like to see, please post that here and we will work on getting that information to you.


 Getting Started in Bass Fishing

Kevin Dahlke

Today we will be discussing some topics on how to get started in bass fishing. Things that we will be covering today will be rod/reel combo, spincast versus spinning, basic terminal tackle that will be needed and some basic lures that will catch you fish. Then we will move into what lures to use at different times of the year, and then finally, we will look at locations to find bass and which lures to use in these situations.

As always, we need to be careful with the equipment we use and be very careful with the hooks, as they are very sharp. One last thing is, handling the fish you catch very gently, as we don’t want to harm them and we want them to go back to their home as they left it.

To start with, let’s take a look at the rod/reel combo that you will want to look at using. Chances are that a number of you may already have a setup, but we will cover this quickly.

Let’s take a look at the Spincast combo first. There are a number of different models and brands on the market, and Zebco puts out a very good combo with the Zebco Platinum 33. This combination is a great starting setup and the spincast reels are the easiest of all the reels to use. A couple features of this combo are that it comes filled with line and the rod breaks into 2 pieces that will allow you to put it into a backpack. It is a quality combo that doesn’t cost a lot of money and will last you a long time.

The other combo that you will see is the spinning reel combo. These will come the same way as the spincast combo, but are a little more difficult to use, until you get use to them. Spinning reels will give you better casting distance and allow you to cast lighter lures as well. The key to casting spinning gear is getting the relationship between the line and your finger as to when to release the line to make the cast. Once you get this action down, it will come as second nature and you won’t have to even think about it.

Think about what you want for a combo, get that combo and then it comes down to practice. A great way to practice is to tie on a casting plug and cast it in the backyard. Put a target out and practice casting to it from different distances and you will be amazed how good you get after doing some practice.

Now that we have the most important part of the equipment covered we will move onto the terminal tackle that we will need to get started. There are only a couple of key components to the terminal tackle that will be needed, hooks and weights. For the hooks I would stay with an EWG size 1, 1/0 or 2/0 for most applications starting out. For now, these sizes are more than adequate for the sizes of the soft plastics that we will be putting on them.

As for the weights, we will stay with a small assortment as well. Let’s use the 1/8 and ¼ ounce size, as these two weights will cover most situations that you will be fishing. If you are fishing from shore than we will be using the 1/8 ounce size or no weight at all and I will discuss this a little later. As for what the weight is made out of, try and get weights that are not made from lead, use brass or Ultra Steel as an alternative. There are more and more states that are not allowing you to use lead any more so we might as well try using these alternatives and this is helping the environment as well.

Now that we covered the basic terminal tackle, let’s take a look at some of the basic lures that you can use for your bass fishing. To go with the previous terminal tackle we can use 4 to 5 inch plastic worms or other plastic baits. These are a great all around bait and can be fished in and around anything. You can also fish these worms without a weight and catch many fish in the shallow water. Color selection usually is good in either black, junebug or a pumpkin/chartreuse pattern. These worms can be fished either in shallow or deep water, can be fished in the weeds and also around docks along the shoreline. This is a great bait that you can take wherever you fish and be able to use it in any type of cover that you come to as you are fishing and catch many fish with them.

The plastic worm is a slower type of bait to fish with and now let’s move onto some of the baits that we can fish at a faster pace, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater. For the spinnerbaits we should look at the 1/8 and ¼ once size and for the colors stick with the all white or white/chartreuse combination.

This bait will allow you to fish it at any depth that you want. If you were to pick a bait to be your only choice, the spinnerbait would be it. We are able to fish this in any situation that you will be faced with. This bait can be fished fast, medium and slow and also as a
topwater bait, allowing you to cover varying depths from topwater, to a few feet down to slowly along the bottom. It can be fished in a wide variety of structure and cover, such as wood, weeds, rocks and sandy areas. This is a very universal bait and a must have bait that every bass angler should have.

We will now look at some diving baits that are called crankbaits. These are a very fun bait to fish with and will catch some big fish as well. For this discussion we will concentrate on lipless crankbaits as they are able to be fished similar to the spinnerbait, in a variety of areas and cover.

The nice thing about lipless crankbaits is they draw a number of fish to them and also you are able to cover a lot of water with them. They can be fished from shore and from a boat and with the weight of these, at a ¼ ounce, you will be able to cast them very long distances. These baits are at their best if they are fished where weeds are present. Just reel the bait fast enough so that you can feel it hitting the weeds. If it gets hung up or stuck in some weeds, give it a good jerk and a lot of times, a fish will grab it at this time.

Some of the most exciting types of bass fishing will be when you are fishing with a topwater lure. Topwater lures float on the surface of the water and when you move it with your rod, it moves side to side looking like an injured minnow and this action will drive bass crazy. After casting it out, let it sit momentarily before moving it. Move it slowly so that it moves from side to side, and then let it sit for a moment. After sitting for a little while, move it again and continue this routine all the way back to the boat or shore. The exciting thing about topwater’s are, you never know when the fish is going to strike and when they do, it is the most exciting way to catch fish.

Now that we are set with our equipment and some basic tackle, we will begin discussing which of these lures work in which seasons of the year, spring, summer or fall. We will start with spring which will have different times for certain baits as where to look for the fish. Before the fish come into the shallows to spawn, they will be in the 8-15 foot range of water waiting for the shallows to warm up. To cover this depth range, try fishing the lipless crankbait or a weighted plastic worm. As the water warms and they move up to spawn in the shallow water, try a topwater, weightless worm, spinnerbait and a shallow running lipless crankbait. The lipless crankbait works very well at this time. Then finally after they leave the shallows and head back towards deeper water where they were before going shallow, try the same lures that you used before they moved into the shallow water.

After they have left the spawning shallow areas and moved out to their summer areas, let’s take a look at lure selections for this scenario. As the water starts to warm or get hot, the fish will move out to areas that are in deeper water. They will move to shallow water areas in the morning and evening to feed, and the earlier shallow lures will work for this. But during the day, they will be in deep water and these following lures will work for these fish. Summer is the prime time for the topwater baits that you have. If you are fishing deep weeds, the weighted plastic worms, spinnerbaits and the lipless crankbait are all good choices and should be used. Try all of your baits you have and when you start catching fish on a certain bait; you will know what they want for that day.

As fall starts approaching, bass will start their migration back towards the shallow water again to feed heavily again for the long winter ahead. The water is cooling and the baitfish are hanging along the shoreline where the water is warmer and more comfortable. The fish are looking for a fast meal and fishing the faster baits are going to produce many fish. Spinnerbaits reeled fast and slow will draw a number of strikes and always make some casts with these. The lipless crankbait will allow you to cover a lot of water and it will also catch you some very big fish. Plastic worms weighted and un-weighted will work very well as well and try and target objects in the water with the worms. Fall time can be some of the best fishing you will experience, but there will also be days that you won’t get a bite no matter what you try. Keep trying as hard as you can and you will be rewarded after all of your hard work.

As with any fishing, try some different lures where you wouldn’t normally fish them and you may be surprised in what you catch. This leads us to our last area and that will be where and what to look for on the water that will attract fish to certain areas. The structure that draws most bass will probably be in the shallow water and docks are the most visible targets to start at. Not all docks are the same and let’s take a look at the better docks to fish. A dock that is very close to the water is much better than one that is high off the water. Also, if there are boats tied to the docks or boat lifts on the sides of the docks, these are going to hold fish very well. Fishing with a weighted or weightless worm is going to be very effective here and catch numbers as well.

Now that we have looked at the most obvious piece of structure, lets take a look at some others. While fishing along the shoreline look for rocks or trees the have fallen into the water and these areas normally hold numbers of fish. Always fish all the way around the trees or brush in the water and using a weightless worm, weighted worm or the spinnerbait, cast into the shadows of the objects in the water. If you catch a good fish off of any of these, you can go back to them at another time and usually a fish of similar size will be there again. Always fish anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there and chances are there will be a fish there.

Let’s take a final look at an area to fish and that will be an area that looks like a field that consists of lily pads. Lily pads are like bass magnets and any lake that has these will also have fish there. These areas are good in the spring as well as the heat of the summer and also going into fall. Lily pads offer baitfish places to hide and a bass knows this and will also be there. There are plenty of places that bass will be able to ambush prey and with the overhead cover, gives them a feeling of security and a great place for you to fish. Spinnerbaits work very well on the outside edges and also any of the bigger open pockets in the pad field. But a weighted or weightless worm really shines here as you are able to cover the surface as well as in the roots of the pads. Always fish the pads whenever you see them as there are fish there.

Hopefully this will get you started on the road to becoming a bass fisher KID and this will give you some hints as to how to put fish into the boat. We have covered a lot over this discussion and hopefully I have showed you some things that will help you locate and catch fish. If there is an area that you are uncertain of, please post that here and I will be more than happy to get that information for you. We here at Catch-N KIDS are here for you to teach you whatever you need to know about the outdoors and all you need to do is ask.


 Small Pond Fishing for Big Bass

Kevin Dahlke

Many anglers travel to their favorite lake and often these are fairly large lakes, reservoirs or river systems. What anglers always seem to forget is that some very good fishing and also large fish can be caught near in your backyard.

Many people chuckle to themselves as they leave the driveway and see the local kids fishing in the local pond that is within 10 miles of their home. The only thing that they are missing is that there is a very good possibility that where they are going, they will probably catch smaller fish than that kid by the pond, and many hold the next state record.

With small water (pond) fishing there are a variety of ways that you can approach on how to fish it. If you are fortunate enough that the city or state has put a ramp in then you will be able to drop a bass boat in there. If you are not lucky to get that, then there are a few other options that you can use. There is the car top boat, johnboat, canoe or kayak. You can wade either with or without waders, and there are also float tubes. The float tube is very nice and an inexpensive way to get on the water. Trout fishermen have been using these for many years and are a great alternative.

If the pond that you are fishing isn’t big enough to get the bass rig in, don’t pass it up. A lot of these small waters are really overlooked by the bass fishermen. One evening, take a walk down to the local pond and talk with the kids fishing there and chances are they can tell you many stories of some big fish. Don’t be like most bass fishermen and think that you have to fish big waters to get big fish. These small waters will produce some very big fish.

One nice thing about these small waters is there is light fishing pressure and in most cases you can go to the landing at anytime. Another nice thing is that you can fish most of the pond in a few hours and don’t have to kill a whole day if you are on a time frame. These places are great locations for before or after work when you only have a small amount of time.

When the decision is finally made to fish small waters, there are a variety of ways to attack the water. First thing when getting on the water is to assess what fishing opportunities there are. Survey the shoreline and see if there are docks or wood (trees) in the water. Take a quick look at the development on the water, as this will tell you many things right away. Lastly, watch your electronics as you cruise around the lake. Establish if there are any humps, ditches, edges or if it is just a bowl shaped body of water. At the same time, try to establish the weed line and look for baitfish as well. Water quality is also a big factor as dark water means shallow fish and clear water means deeper fishing is to be had.

For the waters that have a dark, murky or muddy color, the fishing will more than likely be shallow. The weed lines will only go out to about six feet and may be more clumps of weeds rather than pronounced lines of weeds. Fish in this type of water typically are object orientated. Look for wood as this is the top structure that you can find and this is where the fish are going to be.

Stumps, lay downs and docks are the most common wood targets that you are looking for. These can be fished in a variety of ways and with a variety of baits. Docks can be flipped with jigs, worms or any other plastic baits. Spinnerbaits are a great bait to work down a dock and a great trick is to bend the arm of the bait, so that it runs underneath portions of the dock. Stumps and lay downs are best fished with plastics and jigs. This is where accuracy comes into its own, as you need to precisely place the bait in small areas around these pieces of structure. This is where all of the practice comes into play, as accuracy is everything. Start with the structure in the deeper water and work your way towards shore. Make as many flips as possible as the bait is only in the area for a short period, so if the fish doesn’t pick it up right away, jig it a few times and then flip it to the next target.

Clearer water, you will also fish in a similar way with the shoreline structure. But in most clear water there usually will be a pronounced weed line and areas that will have clumps of weeds and weed patches as well. Clear water will probably have you fishing deeper. Good tactics for this is jigs and plastics in the weed beds. By casting into these weedy areas, you can dig out some big fish that are buried in there.

Other techniques will include spinnerbaits, crankbaits and the rattletrap type baits. Spinnerbaits can be burned near the surface above the weeds, they can be brought right across the tops and tick the weeds this way. Also, slow rolling them on the face of the weed line where the bass are positioned to attack anything that is going by. The rattling baits should be ripped through the tops of the weeds and will attract some ferocious strikes. Lastly, crankbaits worked at a variety of depths around the weeds are very productive and should never be over looked. If you feel the bait snagging weeds on the retrieve, give it a pop to break it free and this usually attracts many strikes that wouldn’t occur by just using a steady retrieve. Use these techniques on sunken islands as well, since a number of fishermen don’t even know that these structures are even there.

After you have fished a few of the many small waters that are around you, you will wonder why you never tried them earlier. Don’t laugh anymore as you drive by these lakes or ponds, as they may and probably do hold the biggest fish that you will catch. They may not have the numbers that the larger lakes have, but the size will more than likely make up for it.

So give that local pond a try and if there is a kid sitting there fishing, try and take them out as well and when they catch one of these big fish you will be amazed at their reactions and gratitude that you took them out. Always remember that these fish may not grow quickly and if they are not returned to the water, the pond may not have any more fish for our kids to catch. Practice catch, photo and release so that future generations will have the same opportunities as we have. These waters are fragile and need our help to keep them going.

Tight lines and have fun

 Have you tried Carolina Rigging

Kevin Dahlke

The Carolina Rig is a setup that is used to find fish that are in deeper water, but, it can also be used in shallow water as well. I have been using it quite a bit the last couple seasons and I am finding that it works at any depth and if you get comfortable using it, it can be fished in almost any type of structure as well.

The rig is primarily used with soft plastic lures, but can also be adapted in using a wide variety of baits and live bait as well. The whole rig consists of a weight, swivel, couple of beads, a hook and whatever bait of your choice. Its main function is to explore deep structure but is being used in a variety of depths and structures as well.

The nice thing about this rig is that it can be fished slow, and fairly quickly as well. The speed of the retrieve is going to be determined by the fish that you are catching, and always vary your retrieve to see what is working. This can be fished in two feet of water as well as forty feet and all that you are going to do is change the size of the weight to accomplish this. One more aspect of this rig that we need to watch is the length of the leader that the hook/bait is tied to. Some days this leader needs to be short as you may be fishing weeds, but if the area is void of weeds, we would be able to use a long leader.

Let’s now take a look at the Carolina Rig piece by piece and how it is all put together. The first thing is the main fishing line that we are using and I normally fish with 10 or 12 pound test. There are going to be times that we break this line with a hook-set, but overall, it has proved itself as a good starting weight of line. The main thing that should always be done is you need to always check the line for knicks and if any are found retie the rig as those knicks are what is going to break on a hard hook-set.

The first component to go on the line will be a bullet weight. The size is going to be determined by the depth you are fishing. If you are fishing 2-10 foot depths, the ¼ ounce size is good for that. When we go to 10-20 foot depths, we will use a 3/8 ounce and 20-40 foot depths I find the ½ ounce works very well. As you go to the heavier weights, just pay attention as you are casting, as it will hurt getting hit by a ½ ounce weight.

After threading the weight on, next will be two glass faceted beads and usually one is clear and the other red. Normally the clear bead goes next to the weight and then the red bead after. The red bead is to add color to the rig and by using glass beads, when they hit together, they will make a clacking noise that sounds similar to that of a crawfish.

Now we are going to tie this end of the line onto a ball bearing swivel in the 30-50 pound rating range. Try and get the smallest swivel that you feel comfortable using and stick with the black colored ones as opposed to the silver or gold versions.

Now that most of the Carolina Rig is ready; weight, beads and swivel, we will look at the remainder of the rig. Now we will tie on a leader and typically we would use a line of lesser poundage than the main line. The reason for this is that by using lighter line, the bait we have on, will look more natural coming through the water. For sensitivity reasons, fluorocarbon is a good material choice of line to use for this as the sensitivity will allow you to feel the lightest of bites.

he leader length will vary from 18 inches up to 3 to 4 feet in length. Pending on where you are fishing this rig, dictates the length that we tie on. If we are fishing barren areas, lack of weeds, wood or rocks, we would use the longer leaders to give the most realistic bait action and we don’t have to worry about obstructions where we are fishing. But, if we are fishing areas that consist of weeds, wood or rocks, then we will use the shortest leader and this will keep the bait from snagging into the previous cover items. In reality, we really need to experiment with leader length and let the fish tell us what it is that they want.

The final component, that will finish this rig is the hook and usually use a 2/0 or 3/0 hook size in the EWG (extra wide gap) hook style. You can use the normal black colored hook and also experiment with the bleeding red colored hook as well. After using either color, you should be seeing which of these two the fish really are keying in on.

As for the plastic bait choices, there are no limits to this selection. Lizards, Creature Baits, Worms, Senkos and any other variation works and it comes down to whatever you feel the fish is going to want or what you are most confident in using. Make sure that you rig it weedless if you are fishing it around different types of cover.

The Carolina Rig is fished prominently on deep structure and this would be points, humps and deep weed flats. But don’t let that sway you from fishing it, as you can cover any water depth that you choose. This rig can be fished in as little as two feet of water all the way down to fifty feet of water. It can be fished slow and fast as well and experience is going to tell you what is best.

The way to move the Carolina Rig through the water is to use a side sweeping motion and setting the hook we should use this same motion as well. By using the side motion, this will keep the bait moving horizontally along the bottom as it is being brought back to the boat.

There are pre-made Carolina Ready Rigs that you can buy, then all you need to do is tie the line on and you are ready to go. Whatever version you use, try these out and you will see that you are able to cover a vast area and catch numbers of fish as well. This is one setup that you should have ready at all times as the places to fish this rig are endless.

 Proper Fish Handling to Ensure Survival

Mike Walbridge Team Ice Heave

Catch and release is important for the future of fishing, but without being sure to properly play and handle a fish, the chances of the survival of a released fish greatly diminish.  Here are some helpful tips to try and ensure these fish can survive.

One of the most important factors in the health of the fish is the amount of time that is spent “playing” or “fighting” the fish.  A fish that is to be released should be played as quickly as possible to limit the amount of stress placed upon the fish.  A good way to make sure this is possible is to have the proper equipment for the species you’re chasing to allow you to get that fish in the boat, or on the shoreline, for a photo opportunity as quickly as possible and back into the water.  This includes a rod with the proper power, a reel with a quality drag system, and a tough, durable fishing line.

The next factor involves the netting and actual handling of the fish.  Fish have a protective “slime coat” to help them keep free of infections and fungus.  It is important to prevent damage to this protective layer.  A landing net, laying a fish on the carpet of your boat, even handling a fish with dry hands can cause damage.  That’s right, something as simple as wetting your hands before handling a fish can help ensure its survival.  Most fisherpersons use nets to bring fish into the boat.  Using a rubber net, knotless net, or coated net are all great options.  When it comes to holding that trophy up for the photo, it is important to support the weight of the fish.  When handling a Walleye or Northern Pike, grip the fish with one hand beneath it’s head while placing your other hand roughly 2/3 of the way down it’s body.  The same is important for Bass, where most will have one hand gripping it by the lip, and then your other hand in the same area supporting the fish’s weight.  It is fine to grip a fish by the gill plate, being careful as they are extremely sharp, as long as you keep your fingers out of the fish’s gills.  The gills are the most sensitive area of the fish and damage easily.  When handling a fish in this manner, it is still important to support the weight of the fish.

When you bring in a fish that has swallowed your hook, or has been hooked deep, it is best to cut the line.  Most fish will be able to break the hook down and survive for many years to be caught again and again.  If the hook is in it’s mouth, but the teeth are a factor, there are a number of tools to help you in hook removal available today.  Keeping these tools out in the open for easy access, help to reduce the time needed in removing the hook and getting the fish back into the water.

Last but certainly not least is introducing that fish back into the water.  It is important to revive the fish rather than just throwing it over the side of the boat or back into the stream.  Hold the fish by the stomach into the current on a river, or if you are on a lake, away from your boat.  If you are drifting, hold it in the opposite direction you are drifting.  The process is the same when trolling.  If you are stationary, gently move the fish back and forth.  It is important to be sure the fish has no obstructions in the direction it will be swimming.  Be prepared to let go of the fish as soon as it makes an attempt to swim away.  If you follow these guidelines, it won’t take long for the fish to be prepared to return home.

A lot to remember, I know, but as with anything else practice makes perfect.  Try to improve your time needed with each fish you release keeping these tips in mind.  Under most circumstances, one should be able to land the fish and return it to the water in one minute or less.  All of these factors become all the more important as we continue into the dog days of summer, as the temperature changes these fish go through alone greatly impact their stress level.

Good fishing, I hope to see you on the water.

 Utilizing Electronics to Catch more Fish
Mike Walbridge Team Ice Heavve

There was a time when the following information would have seemed a little far out to conceive. I remember a guy on Mille Lacs Lake telling me once, after he had asked me what structure we were working and explaining that his GPS wasn’t working, that he would just have to fish like his parents and grandparents did. Tie a knot at twenty feet in the anchor rope, keep dropping it in the lake until the knot hit the water and start fishing. Those times have passed us now, for those who choose, as we have a seemingly limitless supply of electronics within our grasps.

Now more than ever these units are becoming more and more affordable to the average everyday fisherperson, and there are always newer technologies, and more expensive units, for those who spend more time on the water than most. Sure, it’s easy to go out and buy a unit if you have the money to afford one, but how do you ensure it will catch you more fish? Just because you have a brand new sonar or GPS doesn’t mean the fish will just come jumping into your boat. Here’s a little insight on choosing the right unit for your needs, how to get these units to work for you, and some keys to utilizing these units to their fullest potential to ensure you a quality day on the water.

Before going out and buying a new piece of equipment that could cost you anywhere from $150 to $2,000 or more, you need to find out how, and where, most of your fishing will be done. If you’re a person who fishes a lot of smaller lakes, doesn’t fish that often, or more or less goes onto the water for the fun aspect of fishing, buying a unit that is a combination Sonar/GPS Chartplotter may not be necessary. On the flip side of the coin, if you’re a person who fishes a lot of larger bodies of water or plans on fishing any kind of tournaments, buying a simple, compact sonar unit may not be your best option.

Let’s start with the different features these units offer. Lowrance, Humminbird, Eagle, and Vexilar all make quality products, with various features to fit every fisherpersons needs. For your average weekend fisherperson, a smaller, simpler, fisherfinder is all that you will really need. These are less expensive units, you should be able to find one to your liking for under $300 even with a color option, and will give you your basic readings including depth, speed, and temperature. They will also help you find those weeds and distinguish what kind of bottom you are fishing, be it rock, gravel, mud or sand. It is important to note that a number of units on the market today display fish as “arcs” rather than with the “fish symbol” the older units used. This has been a great advance in technology as it allows you to distinguish quite simply your target fish from the baitfish your favorite species is chasing. There are still units on the market today which do still use the “fish symbol.” I would highly recommend picking one that shows you “arcs.” The following are examples of more basic units which you can find, in both black/white and color, for under $300. They are, in order from left to right, the Humminbird 323, the Humminbird 141c, the Lowrance X96, and the Lowrance X67c. These are not your only options in this price range, just a few which may be of interest.

In the next line of units I will discuss, there is quite a jump in the information you can receive from the units. These units will range in price from $400 all the way to $2000 plus. For most of us, myself included, the units over $800 just aren’t going to be necessary. The great thing about these units is we get into GPS Chartplotting and map chip capabilities. With the previous units you can always get a handheld GPS with a map chip to have on the side of your sonar unit, however, with these units you can have all of that information in front of you on one screen making things much more convenient and saving space in your boat. A Sonar/GPS Chartplotter unit not only allows you to  know where you are at all times making your trips back to the access much easier and safer, but some also allow “plug and play” technology with the map chips available today. These map chips truly are the next great thing on the water. There is no more guess work, simply slide your preferred map chip into the slot and get a complete visual of the lake you are fishing. This will save you a lot of time tracking down fish, allowing you to drive immediately to your favorite rock pile, point, flat or other structure. You will also be able to save waypoints (areas you’ve found fish in the past or even areas you’d like to work in the future) and never again have to spend the time tracking that area back down on your next trip out. Once again, we are back to saving time finding the fish, and spending more time with our lines in the water catching them. These units are also available in black/white or color, along with screen size options ranging from 5” to 10” plus as well. A selection of the higher end units also come preprogrammed with lake maps already installed. Here is a small sample of some of these units. From left to right, the Humminbird 757c Combo, the Lowrance LMS-520c External GPS, and the Humminbird Matrix 97 Combo.

Now that we’ve gone over some of the options and features of these units, how do we get them to work for us? The key to catching fish, is having them beneath you! I know a lot of people who hear they are biting on a particular flat, reef, point, etc., then go there only to get skunked. The key is to use your fish finder to your advantage, and with the help of a map, or your brand new Sonar/GPS Chartplotter with map chip capabilities, locating where the fish are on that particular structure. This could be the bottom edge of a drop, top edge, humps, scattered on top, etc. A great way to help ensure better numbers of fish in the boat is spending some time locating the fish before you drop a line.

Putting in some time motoring around the area, using your electronics, and checking various positions on the structure, allow you to locate groups of fish, and baitfish, within that structure and gives you good starting points along with some back up options. This also allows you to eliminate nice sized portions of water that will, more times than not, be unproductive. Having a Sonar with a GPS/Chartplotter, or a hand held GPS on the side also allows you, if you choose, to mark waypoints at these areas you locate fish, making it easy to come back to that school after scoping out the whole area. As always, the key to finding active fish is being mobile, and with the use of a good set of electronics, you can locate more fish quicker and spend more time presenting your bait to them. I am in no way trying to persuade you to purchase any of the units listed above, but rather giving you some examples of units which have the options and capabilities mentioned. It is up to you to find the unit that best suites your wants and needs, and a little research can go along way. I hope this article makes that decision a little easier for you, and has educated you in some form on the different options that are available today. So many times fishing comes down to the simple things, and with the right electronics, and proper knowledge of how to use them, you can save time searching and spend more time catching.

Good fishing, I hope to see you on the water.

 Fishing with Confidence
Keith Nelson

So how does a fisherman gain confidence?  I've been thinking about fishing over the last 40 years and there are so many ways to catch fish.  It's funny when to think about how many different styles and patterns that I've used to catch those quality fish.

One of the main ingredients to producing great action is having confidence in the pattern you are using.  I believe once you have determined the forage the fish you are targeting are eating and the structure the fish are holding to, you need to have the patients to work that pattern.

It does not matter if you're young and just learning how to cast or your an old pro working a proven pattern.  Time spent working a pattern will produce fish and sometimes a fish of a lifetime.  Fishing is really a game of numbers.  The more time your baits are wet, the better your odds are of catching fish.  It's also a game where anything goes...well just about.  Letting those fish tell you want they want is key, but what's even more important is remembering how it all went down.

Keeping a log can aide you.  Things like wind direction, moon phase, barometer level, water temperature, storm fronts, time of the day or year all play apart of developing your pattern.  As we find a pattern we should bank that pattern in our memories or the log.  Patterns can change from day to day as they change for diferent species of fish.

My general rule of thumb is to start small and work to bigger baits or visa versa until I find what those fish want.  Colors can have an effect as well, so have different sizes and colors in a bait aides me in dialing in to exactly want that species want on that day.  Retrieval speed or trolling speed has to be considered as well as boat control.  Since I have some expierence already banked I can dial in quicker then I was able to 20 years ago.  For example catching crappies just after the ice melts.  I know that I can go into some of the smaller lakes that warm faster.  Three days after the ice leaves for the open water season is when I can start.  I know that the mud flats and cabbage patches adjacent to deep water will be areas that I'll target looking for those early slabs.  I know that the submerged trees and floating bogs have a tendancy to warm that water a bit faster.  I also know to work those areas with super small baits under a bobber in stealth mode.  A key option here is to work a ton of water until you find that first one.  Since crappies are a schooling fish I know that to find the first one is everything.  Once that happens it's time to set anchor quitely and proceed to rearing.  This is a CPR time of the year for me as these will be spawning fish as soon as the water warms into the 60's.

All fish have patterns, finding one that works for you within your abilities and working that pattern is where that confidence is developed through catching fish.  Make sure you bank that pattern as you fish throughout the year.  As the fishing trips come and go your account will grow enabling you to reach into that account to withdraw that go to pattern for those species of fish you are targeting.  Work that pattern.  Your confidence will drive you to catch more fish more often.

Have fun and remember what got you there!

 After the Spawn
Kevin Dahlke

Many anglers have been catching fish in the shallow waters of the shorelines and have been doing fairly well at that. But now as spring is further along and fading into the past those shallow waters have warmed up considerably and these fish may be on the move.

Spring time fish are generally found along the shorelines doing their yearly spawning ritual and replenishing the lakes with new offspring for the years to come. After the spawn the females leave the shallows first and then the males will follow once the fry reach a certain size and don’t need the male’s protection any longer.

When both of these fish have vacated the shallows, this is the time that anglers struggle for a while trying to locate fish. These fish are still in the generally same area but are relating to different types of things at this time. They leave the shallows and head for deeper water and this can entail anything from the first weed line to different water depths.
Since the water is warming nicely, they will start moving towards their summer haunts and these areas are where you need to focus your energy in search of fish. Flats out from the spawning areas are great resting places as well as feeding areas as the fish still need to eat to survive.

Working these flats is a great way to locate some fish and the flats that have clumps of weeds on them with open sandy areas around them are great attraction areas to fish. What we are looking for are areas that the weed growth has started but doesn’t grow into a big area of continuous weeds. Pods of weeds are great ambush places for these fish to sit and rest waiting for an unexpected meal to come by.

Plastic baits are a good choice to working these areas and a few different techniques work very well. A Texas rigged plastic bait, a weightless plastic bait and also the Carolina rig works very well in this situation. For the Texas rig any type of plastic worm or creature bait will work very well as well for the weightless baits. The Carolina rig works very well with creature style baits and also some finesse plastics as well.

The waters are still a little cool so working these baits somewhat slowly works very well and also the slow presentation is something that these fish may not have see that often. Many anglers fish to fast and are missing a lot of bites because of this, but don’t get the wrong idea, there are still times when burning these baits produces better than anything else.

If these flats aren’t producing that well then it may be time to move to the next deeper feature. This can be a drop off, ditch, hump, or just about anything in deeper water. These areas may not be quite their summer haunt areas yet but are the in between “season” places. To many times anglers don’t like to fish deeper water but by changing your tactics a little, these may turn into your favorite places to fish.

Underwater points are a great place to search for fish and finding the tip of these underwater points can be very productive. “Just had that happen recently as the flats weren’t producing very well and decided to look at a nearby underwater point. The water at the tip was 11-12 feet deep and by working a Carolina rig around this point, put a few fish in the boat in a short period of time”.

If I wouldn’t have tried that there would have been only one fish caught on that outing as I went back to the flat and tried again later and nothing was there willing to bite. By trying these different areas you will learn some new waters as well as some new ways to fish different baits.

In general my type of fishing is mainly deep water and struggle some in the shallow spring time areas. But once the spawn is over and they start moving out, then the fishing season really kicks into gear for me.

Next time that you head out and are not finding the fish in the shallow waters, move out some and look for something that is a little different. Each year these fish use different areas or relate to the same areas a little differently and by using your electronics as your underwater eyes and search around these spots, this will put a lot more line tugging days on your side.

 Fishing Snells for Walleyes
Mike Walbridge Team Ice Heave

Snells are a popular choice for many anglers, for a variety of species today.  As far back as I can remember, whether in the boat with my Mom and Dad, or fishing with my Grandparents, we were drifting snells and looking for the old marble eyes.  It has stuck with me ever since.  There is something about drifting a structure and waiting for that tell tale hit that got me so interested in fishing, and kept me addicted for all of these years.

There are some keys to keep in mind when fishing this method that I’ve come to learn throughout my experiences on the water.  In the beginning it seems simple, add enough weight to get you to the bottom and wait for the bite.  In fact, in a number of situations that will be enough to put a few fish in the live well, but what about them days when the fish are finicky?  What about length?  How should snells be fished differently when working rocks versus working mud?  Believe me, I’ve snagged my fair share of rocks.

There are a number of quality weights available today to help keep you out of the rocks.  You will still have to deal with some snags depending on the size of the boulders you are working, but these new bottom bouncers, rock runners and other slip sinkers can greatly increase your odds of being snag free and keeping your bait in the zone for a greater period of time.  As with anything else, there are a few options I like better then others, but ultimately the decision rests on your shoulders.  My top choice has become the Rock-Runner Slip Bouncers from Northland Tackle, and there are a few reasons for this.  One, they feature a thin, wire feeler keeping things sensitive, allowing you to feel the structure you are running across.  This also makes it a great choice for fishing mud, which I will touch on shortly.  The second feature that keeps these particular weights in my tackle box is the Quick-Change Weight Snap.  We all know the winds can change at the drop of a dime, and this feature allows you to change your weight size just as quickly, without having to take the time to re-tie.  They also range in size from ¼ ounce all the way to 1 ½ ounces, giving you an option for nearly every situation you will face on your favorite lake.  Some other great weight options when using snells include Roach-Rig Walker Sinkers, also from Northland Tackle, and the No-Snagg Sinkers from Lindy Fishing Tackle.

As I mentioned, the Rock-Runner Slip Bouncers are an excellent choice for fishing mud, here’s why.  When you drag your bait across mud, it creates a “cloud.”  Depending on how hard your weight is hitting the bottom it can be a substantial one that will spook the fish you are chasing.  Avoiding this is simple, but takes a little getting used to in order to feel comfortable knowing you are down far enough.  When you drop your rig down, stop the bail as soon as you feel it hit bottom (or when your line slacks if you can't feel it).  Drag it for a short time, because whether you're trolling or drifting, chances are your set up will lift some when it gets up to the speed you're traveling.  Lower your rod tip to the water, if it doesn't slack, let out some more line until it does.  Once you know you are down there in contact with the bottom, give it a couple of cranks on the reel to lift your weight up.  You should now be out of contact with the mud, yet a foot (or less) off the bottom.  You can once again drop your rod tip toward the water and see if it slacks just to be sure, and if you don't think you're down there, start the process again until you feel comfortable that you are.  Using a Rock-Runner Slip Bouncer for this situation gives you a little forgiveness, thanks to the thin wire feeler on the bottom.  It creates a lot less disturbance than other weights, ultimately allowing you to put more fish in the boat.

Now that we have you off the bottom, and hopefully snag free, what should we do on those days when the Walleyes are biting but not making it all the way to your hook before you rear back?  Reeling up a half eaten leech, crawler, minnow or plastic can become extremely frustrating.  A good way to avoid this problem is to “feed line” to the fish the instant you feel that bite.  The most effective way to do this is to keep your bail open, using your finger (often referred to as your “trigger finger”) to keep the line from spooling out.  The length of time you will want to feed fish line will all depend on how aggressive they are.  This could be as little as five seconds and as much as thirty seconds.  From my experience, a majority of the time it will be in that five to ten second range.  Another important point to this is to set the hook as soon as the slack in your line disappears.  You shouldn’t try to “feel” for the fish first because there is a good chance they will end up spitting the bait.  As soon as that line tightens, rear back and prepare for the fight!

One of the most overlooked aspects to fishing snells is the length of the snell.  For your more stained or murky waters this isn’t as big of an issue, but on lakes where the water is clear, this becomes much more important.  Take Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota as an example.  A lot of people go to their local bait shop and pick up spinners, float rigs, etc., that range from 1 foot to 4 maybe 5 feet in length.  More often than not on Mille Lacs you're going to want to run a snell that is between 8 and 10 feet in length.  I know a lot of the guides up there are running them as long as 12 feet in length.  A longer snell gets your bait presentation further away from the weight, bottom bouncer, rock runner, etc. This is key in this lake as the water clarity is exceptional, and having your leech dragging 4 feet or less behind your weight can spook the fish, reducing your catch rate.  This is far less important on stained lakes, as your weight will not be as visible to the fish.  There are a few options to remedy this situation.

First, and the easiest for most fishermen, is to find tackle shops, or sites online, that carry longer snells.  For instance, a lot of the bait shops around the Mille Lacs Lake area, knowing you’ll need that extra distance between your sinker and your bait, carry longer snells, including spinner rigs.  Another option, one that I usually go with, is to tie your own snells.  It isn't difficult to do, and once you get the hang of it you'll be able to kick out plenty of them for your outing in 10 to 20 minutes, and it is much cheaper on the pocket book as well.  Obviously, in this scenario it will take some thinking in advance of your trip to allow you to purchase the component parts (floats, spinners, clevis', beads, hooks, line).  One thing is for sure, it will save you a lot of money, and tying them yourself allows you to have a variety to your liking.  For clear lakes, I like to tie them 7 to 10 feet in length on average.

If you take the time to apply these tips while you’re out fishing with snells, I’m positive you’ll put more fish in the boat.  As always, practice makes perfect.  Give it a shot and see how it works for you.

Good fishing, I hope to see you on the water.

 Angling Summer Dog Days
Kevin Dahlke

We anglers always can’t wait until summer finally gets here because we keep telling our selves “then the fishing is going to get better”. Pending on which part of the country you reside, this particular spring into summer has been far from normal by any means.

Most places spring came in and never left with the cool air temperatures and many extra days of rain as well. The lakes and rivers water temperatures are far below normal as well with New England waters in mid July and barely over the 70 degree mark, which is almost 10 degrees off.

Fishing this season seemed to be focused around spring like conditions for a much longer time this fishing season. But now we are finally getting to the point that the fish have moved into their summer haunts and it seems like that may have happened over night. That is fine with this angler as now the deeper fish are finally there and time to search them out.

This time of year, many anglers dread because the fish are not as easily found as they are in the spring or fall. The air and water temps are rising and those conditions do make it harder for some anglers to locate fish. The bigger fish leave the shoreline shallows as the water is getting to warm and head off shore looking for cooler and more comfortable waters.

This time of year with fish seeking refuge off shore, this has anglers perplexed as to how are we going to locate and also catch these fish. If the waters are deeper than 5 feet or so, some anglers will still avoid looking for fish there, as they will still catch some fish shallow, but the bigger fish are out deeper.

This time of year the electronics in your boat come into play much more than they do in other times of the year. Finding the deep weed line is fairly critical as these are ambush locations that fish use fairly regular in their search for food. By watching the graphs that we have we are able to follow these weed lines and anywhere that it makes an abrupt turn or nook, these are key areas that the bigger fish in the area will occupy.

Also, if you can find areas in the weed line that have rock or wood there as well, these are fish magnets that will attract fish every year. Always look for something that is a little different and that is what is going to keep fish biting your baits. Don’t be afraid to venture out into deeper water as there are many areas that the fish haven’t seen bait and are willing to bite whatever comes by.

If you have an underwater camera, this is a great tool to have out there as well. This will allow you to take a look down there and see what are there and also what the fish are relating to. Having underwater eyes is fun to watch but is something that will definitely teach you as well as now you are in the fishes world and can see what they are doing.

Try exploring some deeper waters and you may surprise yourself in what you find and catch there. While you are reeling fish in you will see boat after boat going down the same shoreline not catching much and much smaller fish. You can then tell yourself, “that use to be me and now I am fishing for fish that are more than likely untouched and more willing to bite”.

 Fall Fishing Heating Up

Kevin Dahlke


Fall is definitely in the air and also when one looks out across the horizon, the changing of leaves and the brilliant colors reminds us that the cold months are ahead. But we don’t look at that right now and try and enjoy what we have today as those days will be long an we can’t wait for spring to get here.


Fall time fishing here in New England isn’t so much about the fish that we catch, but also the scenery that is laid out in front of us. Many of the northern states go through this same change of seasons but here in New England, it is something that we all look forward to.


Many folks hit the road and head north in search of their favorite place to enjoy the fall foliage or also many head into the woods in search of their favorite quarry. But there is a group that doesn’t so much do any of those things but instead makes their trek to their favorite pond or lake.


These folks know something that maybe the others are not aware of as in the fish know what is coming ahead in the coming months. Water temperatures are falling as each night passes with cooling air temperatures and windy cooler days as well. This triggers something off in the fish in our favorite lakes and ponds and for those that are willing to dress a little warmer and head to the waters, they will be very well rewarded.


Many fishers have hung up their fishing rods and are getting around to putting the boats away for the long winter ahead. But, these folks may be missing out on some of the best fishing of the season and you only need to adapt to the conditions a little differently. The fish knows this as well and they are going through these changes also and why not take advantage of this while we can.


Ice here in New England is still quite a ways away so that leaves plenty of empty lakes and ponds to those brave fishers that are willing to head out there. Many days are still fairly warm so it won’t feel like winter is coming but the fish have other things on their minds that may play into the fishers advantage.


A fish’s metabolism slows way down once the waters cool off and they know this as they go through this year after year. But some fishers may not know is that these fish need to feed and they need to feed big time to fatten themselves for those months of cold that they may not do much moving around in search of food.


So where should a fisher start to look? More times than not heading towards the shorelines will be a productive venture and these are going to be some of the warmer waters especially on those sunnier days. Later in the day can be more productive as well as opposed to the early morning trips that most are use to in the summer months.


What we find the most productive until the water gets very cool is that fishing with faster moving baits are more productive. Minnows are schooling up at this time of year and this is what fish are concentrating on and these schools don’t just lie around, they are constantly on the move and so are the bigger predator fish. By using faster moving baits we are able to cover vast amounts of water as well and search and find those actively feeding fish that are hunger and ready to grab anything that goes by.


Heading to shallower waters, fishing with faster moving baits and covering vast amounts of water on a given trip, will provide the fisher a great day on the water. In the fall they can be biting one day like crazy and then the next they are not but fall also throws many weather variations compared to any other season and this needs to be remembered.


If you are a fisher that fishes year round, there is nothing better than pulling up to the landing and there is not another soul to be seen. This gives you a feeling that the lake is yours and only yours and those fish are all waiting there for you to catch. Take advantage of the fall fishing season as the fish are hungry and the scenery couldn’t be any better.

 Get ready for Open Water, Its Time

Keith Nelson

With the rains of this week and the fact that we did not really make ice like normal I’m thinking we could have our lakes open up a bit early this year.

So now is the time with about 5 weeks to wait until we see our lakes open up to get the boats and motors ready to hit the water.

Some of the things that should be on the to do list are. Greasing the bearings on the trailer. Anchor ropes and winch straps should be replaced if worn. Boat motors should get new spark plugs.

Every spring I’ll see trailers broke down because of the bearings are burnt out or boat flying off of the trailer due to winch straps busting.

One of the most aggravating things for fishers is getting behind a guy at the launch with a boat motor that does not start.

We really need to make sure all of our gear is in proper order to reduce those issues turning a good day of fishing into a bad day of fishing.

There are other things to check. On board batteries need to be charged and even tested if you have the ability.

Running lights need to be checked that they operate as well. Live well and bilge pumps should be checked that they are in good working order.

Last but not the least our fishing rods; reels and tackle should get a thorough once over.

Guide wear on a rod can loose a fish of a lifetime. A tip to check your guides would be to take a q-tip and rub your guides. It there is an anomaly you will spot them fast as they will grab the cotton.

Soap and water can clean your rod blanks and hers a good one. Fine grit sandpaper rubbed on your cork handles will make them look like brand new. Cork is wood after all and can be sanded …gently.

Your reels should be lubed .A light machine oil applies the gears and in the case of spinning reels apply oil to the spindle were it protrudes from the reel head will ensure proper operation.

Your line should be changed to especially if you’re spooled up with monofilament. A good or better choice may be to try some copoly or fluorocarbon this year.

Fluro works great for jig fishers as the line has the quality where it sinks unlike copoly wants to float.

The benefit is that these lines can be spooled up in thinner diameters yet you can gain extra tensile strength.

Having a thinner line will aide in castabiltity, distance and accuracy. A pro was once asked “how often should you change your line” and he answered “ as often as you can afford too.

A trick I will use is to leave about a half of a spool of old line on as a backer and then only fill up half of the spool with new line… much cheaper and just as effective.

The tackle box….oye vey…what a mess. Well at least I have a few weeks to go through to remove all of the garbage including old rusty hooks, melted plastics and what ever else that got stuffed in there that needs to hit the trash can.

Going through the box will reveal all sorts of things. I already know I’m in need of some 1/0 hooks and sinkers as that trip to Chequamegon Bay for smallies last fall was a tackle eater over those rock piles. I’m also pretty sure that I could use some batteries for those lighted bobbers.

My supply of plastic shad and grub bodies took a pretty good hit last year too … looks like I’m going to need those 5 weeks to make enough at work to support my Cabelas run.

It never fails to amaze me how I can walk into a sporting good store for a few inexpensive items and walk out with a new reel or a rod or some new fangled crank bait that ran 10 dollars a piece. Yes I needed every color they made in all three sizes!

Can you feel it? Open water is almost here so lets try to be ready for it.

Moving onto the pan fish bite. There have been good days and some slow days. that’s fishing.

The ice is getting somewhat honeycombed with the water draining off. Bring ice cleats if you’re coming out. The snow is gonzo.

I’d also be thinking about not driving on the lakes anymore either unless it’s on a quad or sled.

Be careful out there and fish with a friend if you can. You will never know when you could use their help on this late not so safe ice.

Ice picks may also be a life saver if you fall through.

Seeya on the ice!


 Hot Temps, Drive Fish Deep

Keith Nelson

The heat is on…yup summer is in full swing and just as we change what we do and how we react to warmer temperatures fish also change their habits of how they eat, what they eat and where they hang out.

So let us take a look at these changes. Most of the aquatic bugs have hatched so they are not available food sources any longer and to add the metabolism rate is much higher for the fish so minnows, leeches and crayfish become food sources to these fish.

Depending on the predator perch, sunfish and crappies also become prey to the larger fish in the chain.

The point being we can now go to larger baits and we can present these baits much faster.

Next up …where are the fish located? Depending on the species of course, but for the most part deeper water or water that has shade.

The key here is cooler water.

Most walleyes are looking for 15 foot of water or deeper. Pike and bass like to hide right in the weeds as the Lilly pads and Cabbage will provide shade.

Sometimes docks, boatlifts and swimming platforms can be a great source of shade.

Crappies may be holding suspended over deeper water basins and blue gills may be holding right to the bottom in 10-15 feet of water too.

Ok, so we know the food source and the areas that your target species is holding to so what’s next?

Finding a presentation that works in the water depths you are wanting to fish.

Slip bobbers dangling minnows or small pan fish leeches work great for pan fish that are suspended.

Utilizing a lindy rig with a short snell works great for blue gills. You don’t even have to troll. Fish that system like you would on the river. Just toss it out and set the rod down and wait for rod tip to twitch.

Then there is working the outside edges of weed beds. This is a perfect hide out for the baitfish and the predator fish know it. They will patrol these edges looking for schools of minnows.

Vertical jigging, bobber and bait or casting a number of cranks, swimbaits, spoons or spinner baits can be deadly this time of year.

Try this troll buzz baits…talk about a blast catching pike. Simply follow weed lines and hold on.

Big bass may even make a mad dash to slam that buzzer…. top water is fun to do with the explosion on the waters surface.

Walking the dog with a Zara spook is also fun, but it takes a good stiff rod and some practice to get that bait to dart back and forth.

There are fishers from all over the country including Canada that have all sorts of ways to catch fish. These fishers do not mind giving advice on how to do what they do. We really want to help you if we can. Join us…it’s free.

You can also get all kinds of advice on what rods or reels work the best for what your budget says you can buy if gear upgrades are in your future.

As to the local report…the patterns I’ve been working in the shallows are changing for pannies. They indeed are moving to cooler water.

Walleyes are also moving somewhat deeper.

I also had the chance over the past few weekends to stop into Big Sandy Lodge for some breakfast and lunch. They sure do have some great food and it was surprising to see that it all costs about the same it does everywhere else in the Aitkin/McGregor area.

Too add being able to sit on the 2-tiered deck overlooking the lake was an awesome bonus and the staff was super friendly.

I know that when I’m on BSL guiding that stopping in will be a must when we get hungry.

Big Sandy Lodge is a true gem in our area. Thanks again Don!!!!!

See ya all on the water!


 How To Choose Fishing Line

Keith Nelson

Not all fishing line is created equal. Back in the days of my youth there was either that black braided line or monofilament. Sure there was different tests, but that was it as far as choices went. In today’s market there are so many variations of braid and monofilament.

I’d like to focus on the mono’s…they now have what I’d call sub categories. They are broken down into fluorocarbon and copolymer. Monofilament still is out there. You can get different version of like Trilene. It comes in XL for extra limp. This type of line is great for casting although memory seems to be an issue. It is not very abrasion resistant unlike it’s counter part XT which stands for extra tough. This XT version is much stiffer and is not very castable compared to the XL ,but it does hold up much better fishing around rocks and in some cases will not bust as much with those sharp toothed species of fish.

When choosing fishing line sometimes we need smaller diameter lines. This is where fluorocarbon and copolymer come into being the choice for me anyway.

I’ve been watching and it appears that not only can I loose the thickness of line which does help in it not being seen but adds to my casting ability in both distance and accuracy,but it also is stronger. For example a 4 test diameter can actually be rated for 5 to almost 6 test in tensil strength. Knot strength is also higher.

Did you know that at the knot your most likely to have lost half of what the line is rated for…again depending on the style of knot.

Talking about knots. Here’s a great website that shows animated knots.

Another aspect of these to cousins of mono is that copoly floats and fluro sinks.

Again as to choice..I’ll use coploy with a bobber style rig vs. fluro when I’m jigging.

The thinner line aides the bait to get down quicker too…what a bonus.

Some have asked, how often should I change line?

The answer has always been as often as you can afford too. Well I’ll tell you what, those better lines are not cheap. Yet there is a way that works well without breaking the bank.

On all of my reels I leave about a half spool of old line for a backer and then I’ll add the new line over the top. This way I can change often keeping fresh line that is not all twisted up and stretched out on my reels.

Most fish that are green at the boat, oh green means that the fish that still has a ton of energy in it. Anyway that fish will turn to make a hard run and the line snaps. These lines have a certain amount of stretch when they are new and they can loose that quality over a few battles. Then to add insult to injury the line is shorter because that fish is right at the boat. There is no room for error. Of course a good reel with a smooth drag helps.

So having fresh line is a major concern and should be maintained.

Last but not the least I’d recommend to run your hand over the line after catching a fish to feel for nicks.

You may even want to keep a mental count on the number of fish. In both cases that last bit of line or the knot can get weak and retying may just be what saves the day on your next personal best.

Good luck out there and tight lines everyone,


 Finesse Fishing Finicky Fish Need Coaxing

Keith Nelson (CrappieKeith)

Most often once we hit summer our waters have warmed up considerably from what we know as cold water . Fishing during cold water or water under 60 degrees usually requires smaller baits to be productive. The fish have metabolisms that are moving at a snails pace. They do not need large amounts of feed to maintain them. They typically will not exert much energy to chase down their prey either, however during cold water periods we will see an aggressive bite and it really doesn’t matter what we throw at them. Breaking down the mood if you will is a key in producing a pattern that catches fish.

So moving on to the present day. It’s the later end of July. That water has really heated up.
You would think that those fish are really feeding hard and on large food sources. In some case they are. I know of a fellow that fishes for walleyes. He trolls with very large river chubs and does he catch walleyes? You bet he does and they are trophies is some cases. I also know a guy that is a bass fisher. He is also using monster sized baits . You should see the size of those largies he drills. Talk about bucketmouths!

The question in my mind is this. Do these guys catch these quality fish day in and day out? The answer is a resounding no. Many days they go without a hook up on their target species. I’ve talked extensively with these gentlemen and they both have that trophy fish mentality. They would just as soon skip those smaller fish for the chance at the “Big One”.

Knowing that identifying the mood is a key and I will be looking at several factors. Moon phase, barometer level and water temps are a few items to think about. I also look at where we are as to when they spawn. There are other factors like what kind of structure is available or what types of food sources are those fish keying in on.
Just the other day I was catching a few smallies on some black plastics. After one catch I had notice a crayfish in the mouth of the fish so I went to orange. I’ll tell you this …my catch rate tripled.

Fish are not always hitting hard and furious, moreover they will be neutral and or negative. Finesse fishing helps during these times. Fishing finesse is not just about bait size. It is also about line diameter. A thinner line allows you to present smaller baits more lifelike. It can also be about speed in the presentation. Fishing a finesse pattern may also improve with a rod built for the type of fishing you are doing like drop shotting.
A 7 foot medium action rod with a soft tip will allow you to see those subtle hits without the fish feeling any pull back from a stiff rod tip and then the medium action backbone for setting the hook really comes in handy for quick hook sets.

The old adage that say’s “ big bait catches big fish” can and will hold true, however hooking up on more fish more often which will include big fish is where finesse fishing really pays out.

Last but not the least is boat control and the fact that speed can kill. Kill as in putting you in a non-productive pattern by moving baits too fast, but then again ripping big baits may just be the ticket for that day.
I guess if I had all of the answers I would be a rich man. Good luck on your next adventure folks.

Tight lines

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