Fishing The Web

By Bill Schultz - February 1, 2002
It's Winter in Wisconsin. Your boat's been in storage for a couple of months, college football is over, there's only a month left of pro football, deer hunting and the holidays have come and gone, and you don't ice fish. It's about time for cabin fever to kick in big time.

How do you deal with not being able to get on the water until the first Saturday in May? Last year I found a great way to get through the winter and quench my thirst for fishing. I began seriously fishing the web and found it a great way to learn, interact with others who share my interests, and basically be entertained. As some of you know I'm a smallmouth bass enthusiast and enjoy fishing rivers and streams, so I was thrilled when my brother-in-law suggested I check out www.riversmallies.com. Because most of my fishing is done in Wisconsin I've also become a big fan of www.lake-link.com and I like www.bronzeback.com.

Trying to cover a topic like "Fishing the Web" could be an endless challenge, so I'm going to take personal perspective, telling you what I look for on a fishing Web site and what types of sites I like. I'm also going to challenge you to explore, because this is how you're going to find the sites that best suit your interests.

I've looked at many sites, and as you would expect they cover the spectrum from A to Z in topic, design, ease of navigation, etc. I particularly like sites that have a clean look and are organized so that you can quickly find what you're looking for. Riversmallies.com is one of the best. Brian King, a Lexington, Kentucky police officer, is the volunteer Webmaster and puts in hundreds of hours on this great site. It's been up since August of 1999 and has had almost 400,000 visitors.

I asked Brian why he started his site and he told me, "Several smallie anglers used to frequent the message forum on another web site and talk about river fishing. One day someone asked which web sites were best for smallie anglers and it hit me that there was no site devoted specifically to river and stream smallmouth fishing." Brian and co-founder, Marc Hutchison, have a volunteer staff of six who assist them with the site.

I recommend you visit this well-organized, educational and entertaining site. The Riversmallies.com message forum is my favorite place to stop. There is little frivolous information on this forum, with more useful information than most of us will ever use. I It's also a very courteous forum. I've never met any of the anglers who post, but I feel as though I know many of them. King tells me that they are averaging about 7,000 unique hits per month. He notes, "That's more than I ever expected, given the specific nature of the site. Most of our visitors come from the East and Midwest".

Darin & Steve Novak
Founders of Lake-Link.com
Lake-Link.com is the most popular fishing Web site in Wisconsin with up to 12,000 user sessions a day. Steve Novak, who co-founded the site with his brother Darin, tells me, "We have had months with 275,000 visitor sessions and more than 2 million pages viewed, with 75% of the traffic coming from Wisconsin". They are currently expanding into six additional states.

Lake-Link.com like Riversmallies.com is well organized and easy to navigate. A great feature of both of sites is the ability to send a private message to another subscriber with specific requests for information or simply to reply to something they may have posted. I've used this feature on both sites a number of times when I'm asking for information on a specific location or technique that someone might feel uncomfortable posting for all to read. Probably the most popular item on Lake-Link.com is the fishing reports board, but as Darin points out, "Like any public forum, Lake-Link.com's fishing reports are only as good as the people providing them. Even though there is some chatter, there's tons of useful information".

As with any source of information, you need to work through the items that have no interest to you. To keep non-fishing related topics off the fishing reports board, Lake-Link.com has a message board, which truly has everything under the sun. Many of the topics may not be overly deep, but many are entertaining. I sometimes wonder how some of the people who post to this message board have time to work. It seems they participate in almost every topic.

Bronzeback.com has a variety of great features, although it is not quite as organized or flashy as the other two sites I've talked about. However for the avid smallmouth angler, the National Smallmouth Alliance message board on this site is outstanding. It's not as easy to navigate as the message forums on the other sites, but the information is tremendous, coming from some very knowledgeable enthusiasts. A number of people show up on multiple sites. One of the most prolific and knowledgeable contributors is a guy whose handle is Mr. Jig. He's even shown up on Lake-Link.com when I started the topic, Saving the Big Smallmouth Bass.

One thing we anglers are notorious for is buying equipment and tackle. Virtually every equipment manufacturer and tackle company has a web site, which offer all of us a quick and easy way to learn about what's new and to compare products. I only fish St. Croix rods and use their www.stcroixrods.com web site all the time to study new developments and to learn more about their rods and accessories. PRADCO is the parent company for a number of respected lure and tackle manufacturers. On their www.lurenet.com site, they feature information from top pros called Pro Fishing Techniques and Tips. You can also play Name That Lure. All of these sites have information on how to contact the company. This is a quick and easy way to get customer service phone numbers and email addresses.

There are hundreds of sites out there, covering just about every interest area. I suggest that you use one of the search engines, like Yahoo, to find what you want, whether it's related to equipment or a certain type of fishing. For example I typed in "musky fishing" on Yahoo and 52 items came up. I'm sure this would be the case with walleyes, largemouth bass, etc. You walleye enthusiasts might want to try www.walleycentral.com. It's a great walleye resource and has links to many other walleye web sites.

I mentioned the interesting articles on my favorite sites. Articles are why many of us enjoy fishing and outdoor magazines. All of your favorite magazines have their own web sites and feature an array of interesting subjects.

Fishing the web is fun and informative, and will help you quench your fishing thirst until you can get back on the open water. Explore, the possibilities and opportunities are truly endless. Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, our summers are not.

Author Bill Schultz

Bill Schultz
Bill Schultz lives in New Berlin, WI and is a contributing writer for www.onwisconsinoutdoors.com., www.lake-link.com, www.smallmouths.com, www.onwisconsinoutdoors.com and various outdoor magazines, including On Wisconsin Outdoors and Kayak Angler Magazine. He is a smallmouth bass enthusiast and since catching his first in 1994 has caught and released over 19,000 smallies. His focus has been the big waters of Green Bay in Door County along with rivers and streams throughout Wisconsin. Bill is a popular seminar speaker and is on the Pro Staffs for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Adventure Technology Paddles, St. Croix Rod, Crestliner Boats, Mercury Marine, Uncle Josh Bait Co, and has sponsorships with a variety of other fishing and outdoor companies. Email: smalliecentral@gmail.com