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Note: This article was authored by Jim Cunningham who is a staff writer for Jason Mitchell Outdoors.
Anglers often debate the merits of soft plastics versus live bait. When temptation is necessary to coax difficult walleye into biting, good live bait often trumps soft plastics but what many walleye anglers have discovered is that soft plastics can often work as good or better than live bait for some applications. To say that soft plastics work better than live bait across the board is foolish but there are definitely situations where the fake can trump the bait.
What situations dictate soft plastics over the real deal? Anytime the lure is presented to trigger a reaction. Could b... more
Every summer I make an effort to explore a few new lakes to see if there are bodies of water I am not familiar with that need some attention. I also make a concerted effort to spend time looking for new fishing spots on my list of regulars. Either way, there is some research that is done before I get to the landing.
Before I even think about venturing to new water, I will check out a map that will give me contour and depth information. For me, this is absolutely critical. I need to know what type of structure I will be encountering when on the lake.
There are situations where once I study a lake map, I decide to look for something different and opt to skip that body of water. This happ... more
The older I get, the more Paul "Sprink" Hensal reminds me of King Solomon. Hensal was one of just four game wardens in wild and wooly northwest Illinois where I came of age in the 1960's.
Hensal was tough, gruff-and fair. His only son and I were good buddies all through school. Before we were born Hensal used to run with my Dad and other salty young men who had just returned from World War II.
They used to cruise the backroads at night with a bottle of whisky and a .410 pistol on a mission of filling the backseat of an old jalopy with dead rabbits.
My Grandfather was active in local politics. Hensal's day job was bagging groceries at the A & P market. Grandfather used his influ... more
Fishing with planer boards has become a popular technique over the past decade. It offers fisherman a way to cover a lot of ground in the hopes of getting a fish to strike. Typically a pattern is developed and that then puts fish in the live well.
Most fisherman report a standard presentation of distances behind the boards. A fisherman first starts out by varying the distances of line behind the planer boards to locate the depth at which the fish are actively feeding. When fishing deeper water an experienced board captain places his longer leads behind the boards on his outermost or furthest board from the boat.
This typically prevents the inside lines from getting tangled when che... more
The Rock River in Jefferson County gets a ton of pressure. It does so because it is one of the closest rivers to the metro-Milwaukee area that has a fishable population of walleye AND because it can be pretty darn good too.
One guy that has been fishing the Rock since he was barely in his teens is Tommy Kemos- one of the most successful walleye pros on earth.
"The Rock can be a really good fishery," he said. "But it can be pretty tough at times too. The system gets a lot of pressure but it still keeps churning out fish."
Any check on various social media sites will quickly alert people when the Rock is open in spring- and people pound it from the bank, but once the early run... more
Larger established bodies of water get a lot of attention from walleye anglers. Well-known destination fisheries are some of the surest bets for experiencing great fishing. Locations like Devils Lake in northeastern North Dakota or Lake Sakakawea in western North Dakota are two premier walleye fishing destinations in North Dakota. I also love Fort Peck Reservoir in eastern Montana. Walker is one of my favorite little communities in Minnesota on the shore of Leech Lake
that is where I like to hide out with my family for short mini vacations and Leech Lake is one my favorite places to film a fishing show. Also fell in love with Kabetogema Lake in the north country of soda land.
As we enter a new open water fishing season, it's good to get some thoughts together regarding changes in fishing techniques and fishing ideas. Some of us consider ourselves to be "walleye fishermen", some fit the bill as "bass fishermen", others narrow it down even more and proclaim themselves to be a "jig fisherman". However, there is a growing number of fishermen who consider themselves to be just that: "A fisherman". It seems that most people who consider themselves to be just "a fisherman" have more fun and, at the end of the day, have more fish in their livewell or have released more. Here's what I mean.
When we go out in the morning, we need to have a plan. On this day, o... more
Planning ahead is important to the success of any fishing outing. For the weekend warrior with time constraints, it is even more imperative that preparation "rituals" are strictly adhered to. While batteries can be recharged, rods relined and tackle reorganized, there are variables beyond our control that can crush time on the water. One of the most devastating things for a busy weekend warrior angler is a miscalculated weather forecast. This is quite common during the spring of the year in the Midwest due to extremely unpredictable weather. As a kayak angler, it is even more important that the weather cooperates, especially if one chooses to chase aggressive coho salmon off the shores o... more
When it comes to targeting summertime bass, there are truly a multitude of methods and strategies that will catch fish. These strategies vary from angler to angler and will cater to the demands of working a particular type of bass holding structure.
I have certainly been successful at finding and catching largemouth in a wide variety of aquatic habitat. However, if there is one summertime pattern I lean on for consistent results and impressive numbers, it would have to be the deep weedline pattern.
The initial strategy for successful deep weedline angling is knowing your lakes. Not all lakes have a suitable deep weedline that will work for targeting largemouth. Depending on the body of... more
As we drove into the lot at Island View Lodge on Rainy Lake in northern Minnesota, it only took a moment to realize this was going to be a different sort of walleye trip for our group. Instead of being greeted by the serenity of the landscape, we were greeted by sandbags and huge pumps spewing water from behind the makeshift dam.
It was somewhat disheartening to know there would be little in the way of "normal" fishing. Our milk-run of hotspots that characteristically hold fish in the month of July would be useless. The high water and cold water temps meant we would be starting from scratch.
Before we embarked on our initial voyage onto the water, our eight anglers from four boats hud... more
It's opening day! Not for baseball or the horse track, but for the gamefish season on the inland lakes of Wisconsin. The first Saturday in May is the official start of fishing season. The opening of fishing season marks the renewed traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. My tradition is the start of my guiding season. Of course I do find time to take my son or daughter fishing too.
My opening day takes place on the lakes of Walworth County in Southern Wisconsin. The biggest Lake in the county is Lake Geneva; it's big and cold in the early part of summer. Because Lake Geneva is so deep and cold on opening day, I usually hold off and fish there a coup... more
Now before you ask, no I'm not talking about a fun game you can play at your next club meeting. I am talking about a great strategy to help you land more of these delicious little fillets with fins. Fishing the late ice/early open water season for crappies can yield some serious table fare. However fishing this transitional season is wrought with it's own set of problems. Using this simple technique will allow you to catch crappies with greater consistency.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of bobbing for crappies, let's take a quick look at what the crappie are up to this time of year and how their habitat is changing during this transitional season. When the days grow ... more
Across the Midwest, walleye anglers are getting into boats and waders and are chasing walleyes. Jigging is perhaps the most popular way to catch walleyes this time of year. Jigs are popular because they're effective. Following are some ideas for using jigs to catch walleyes in rivers right now.
Most rivers throughout the Midwest are currently low and clear. Minimal snowfall this year means minimal run-off. In many rivers the walleyes are holding in deeper holes. As soon as we get some rain and the waters dirties up a bit, the fish will really start moving. For now, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
With the clear water, the fish can be kind of spooky. Early and la... more
The first trip of the season is most definitely not the best time to deal with all the little things that can and do go wrong in a boat. Common sense dictates that they can quickly become big things and will ruin a trip if you fail to address them. Foresight can not only salvage a trip for you, but should you experience equipment failures in extreme conditions
it might just save you and your occupants lives.
This is just as true for maintaining a boat you may have owned for years as it is for a newly purchased boat. Proper rigging and scheduled maintenance is the key here and any corners that are cut-no matter how seemingly small-will end up costing you big time. Unless you truly po... more
With the internet it has been almost impossible to get any kids to play outside or enjoy the outdoors. Most kids are always "plugged in" to their phones or computers. This is a big factor in the decline of the fishing industry as a whole. Given that fact I take every opportunity to introduce someone to the sport I love and make my livelihood at, teaching people how to fish is my small way to pay it forward. Taking first timer's ice fishing is a little trickier: weather, deep snow and quite frankly the fish don't usually bite as well as they do in the summer months. With all that you need to really plan for the trip out on the ice. Safety is paramount so safe ice is the number one requ... more
Every spring, I look forward to the days when I can drop a boat into open water and fish the shallow water panfish bite. For me, this is an enjoyable time that frequently offers some of the best crappie and bluegill angling of the year.
Most anglers understand that this early season rush to shallow water is not to spawn. The water is too cold for spawning right after ice out. However, the strong instinct to spawn may have something to do with the shallow water movement.
The shallow water panfish migration that happens each spring is all about food. It is about finding locations that will have the warmest temperatures in the lake. It is these warm spots that will harbor the most active ... more
Every man has limitations which can not be exceeded without suffering profound mental distress. My personal panic stage for not seeing bare ground and open water is about six weeks.
January in November had most voices in my head screaming "drive south". These voices grew louder as the whispers to hunt deer faded with every doe hanging in the pole barn.
A brief respite from winter's brutality around Christmas resulted in return of perpetual tinnitus, the aural test pattern which plays when the voices go away. But the die was already cast.
Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama has been on my bass fishing bucket list for years. This 75 mile long impoundment of the Tennessee River ha... more
When it comes to fishing in a large basin like many of our flowages and reservoirs, electronics are a must. I spend a great deal of my time out on ole Lake Winnebago and she behaves in much the same way. I consider myself an above average fisherman in the open water on these bodies of water and can catch active fish on any given day. A variety of tactics always work from trolling the mud to jigging up shallow.
The hard water bite is a little bit more complicated than the summer for me. One thing that I have learned is that the fish retain some tendencies from the summer into the winter. One of these that I have noticed through my electronics is targeting the fish that are active and ... more
The Best Rig You've Never Fished?
Written in conjnction with Brian "Bro" Brosdahl
Amazing that such a versatile rig- this prefect presenter of soft plastics and livebait- would be so little employed by panfish fans. In reality, a dropshot rig can be as productive as a bobber and bait, or even a tiny jig. It's even possible that the dropshot is the most versatile rig of all, providing instant depth control; fishes heavy without impairing or impeding the presentation; shines in shallow and deep water; and activates softbaits like no other presentation.
Despite the rig's "advanced" connotation, the dropshot couldn't be simpler. Think split-shot rig in reverse. As a softbait delivery met... more
In two-line situations throughout North-Central Ontario - and much of the continental Ice Belt for that matter -- not much beats a jig and minnow combination for scraping extra walleye off the spots you jig. Spoons, rattle baits and other lures bring fish under you, and a lively dace, chub or golden shiner set up nearby adds a whole other angle to your game. Struggling against the weight of a lead ball in its nose or back, a minnow rigged this way is just too easy for a walleye to eat.
Inside a shelter, rig up a horizontal rod holder and set your drag to slip a little if a good fish scoops up the jig and minnow when you're not looking. I like shorter rods, from 26 to 32 inches long with a... more
Perch are unquestionably one of the most sought after panfish during the hardwater season. It would seem they have the perfect combination of scrappiness and delicious to put them near the top of any panfisherman's list. The habitat is vast in the northern tier of states. Farm ponds in the Dakotas, mega lakes of north central Minnesota, small to medium natural lakes and impoundments across their range, and portions of the Great Lakes. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on my strengths. A lifetime of fishing the deep natural lakes of Madison, Wisconsin, and over 20 years of fishing both Leech Lake and Lake Winnibegoshish in north central Minnesota.
The Madison chain is home to... more
Times were tight for Dan "Bimbo" Gifford back in the summer of 2012. This longtime union carpenter and laborer was looking forward to retirement after a 30 year career.
He had just 72 hours to work before qualifying for a full pension. Dreams shattered in an instant when Gifford severed his Achilles tendon and was unable to get work.
Gifford and his wife were able to survive with the small income she brought in and from a small panfish fly Gifford tied while trying to recover.
He calls his bait the Bimbo Skunk. When two anglers living 250 miles apart asked if I had ever heard of the Bimbo Skunk in less than a week it was like a whisper from the Holy Spirit. I had to find this ... more
The deep water basin that typically holds winter crappies was void of activity. There was not one single house in the area and very few old holes.
As my fishing partner, Charlie Simkins, and I walked through the region taking readings through the ice with our Vexilars, it became evident why this perennial hotspot was being ignored this year. There were simply no suspended fish anywhere in the vicinity.
We didn't waste our time. Once we were convinced it was hopeless, we pointed the four-wheeler towards the landing and left.
Once at the landing, we were loaded and off to a different lake within minutes. Thirty minutes later we were marking fish on new water and drilling holes. There ... more
Fifteen years ago I was living the ice fishing dream, spoiled by limits of big panfish nearly every outing on the lakes around Madison, Wisconsin. I was very fortunate to have become friends with Kevin Fassbind who taught me the ins and outs of ice angling for panfish on the Madison Chain. The real key to success was to aggressively search weedbeds for concentrations of gills and crappies. Underwater cameras were a relatively new innovation at the time and we utilized them to the fullest, drilling dozens of holes and probing each with the camera before ever wetting a line. Our strategy was based on the fact that panfish are relatively stationary in thick weeds - find holes with concentra... more
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