When to Tip and Sting for More Results

By Brian Athern - October 1, 2002
As I brought back in my retrieve I could sense it felt spongy. This registered the impulse to set the hook a short tick later and I was positive I had another one. Just as I saw the bronzed colored back, it was all over. That is, everything but the second guessing.

After beating myself up and plaguing my guide, Steve Tieman of the Rock River Guide Service, I stopped the assault. Later it would dawn on me as I reflected on the events and misfortunes of that chilly November morning. It wasn't about what we did, it's what we didn't do. We tipped our jig and twister offerings with minnows, solving whether or not the fish would hold on long enough to be acknowledged with a hook set. The next step could have been, the stinger hook.

It's that Catch 22 scenario every angler dreads, do or don't. If we use the stinger, we increase the odds of snags and the likes. If we don't, then we lose more fish that are just nipping at our presentations. It's no secret that early and late in the season these tactics aid countless anglers in putting more fish on the end of their line and in the boat. Looking at the possibilities, let's review where discretion and hind sight benefit all. If I had to pose the worst possible situation to attempt adding a stinger hook, two places come to mind immediately.

First, the snag infested Des Plaines River running through the northern suburbs down through Joliet. Gambling on the aid of more than just tipping a nice jig offering with a minnow means three words on this body of water; terminal tackle donation. Rather than leaving your lead behind just to say you were there, opt for tipping the smallest, lightest, jig and grub combo with a medium sized fathead chub minnow.

Next, a river close to my heart but nonetheless just as bolder, snag infested; the Kankakee. Yes, this flowage holds the possibility of both a bragging sized smallmouth and walleye on the same trip. The trouble is, how does one benefit from either technique without being an equal contributor of lead as the Des Plaines river angler. The answer is two fold.

First, we must concentrate our efforts in productive cuts with a rig that is as snag free as possible. Some good choices are the Weighted Keeper Hook, V & M weight forward rig, Slider Heads, and Blakemore's Jaker Jig. By rigging Texas style with the point of the hook just barely exposed, we fare better than most going open hooked.

Next, tip that rig with a minnow on the shank, through the lips and head just before you complete Texas-sizing your offering. Again, a stinger hook is out of the question except in the deepest of cuts when working the bait more vertically than horizontal. This will save you both time not spent retying and a small fortune in jigs better suited for other places.

Now we've seen the ugly side, when can we use that stinger to our advantage. Locally, I'd bet there are more cuts and stretches of the Rock River that afford the added hook. I've fished some near Oregon, Illinois that can really bare fruit when employing a stinger. Still using the lightest jig possible, the hook is extended back to the tail or just behind the dorsal for best results. Nothing is taken away from a lift and drop, pumping, or swimming retrieve either.

We've also seen on MidWest Outdoors Television where river masters like Jim Saric and Chip Porter demonstrated their mettle on both the Illinois and Detroit Rivers. They've even shown the use of a heavy lead jig with a smaller trailer or dropper as the "stinger" outfit. Other filmed spots include the St. Joe in Michigan, also noted for stretches fished hassle-free with stingers for cold water 'eyes. These waterways afford a better environment for the use of these aids to our success.

As I reared back into another bite, there was no mistaken this fish was hooked. The cold water prevented the fish from going airborne, but it gave quite splashy display boatside. Steve smiled as I lifted up a quality bronzeback caught on a 1/8 ounce Road Runner Jig tipped with a minnow. The catch added a smile, warming me up beyond the air temperature on a cold autumn day on the Rock, in the great outdoors!

Author Brian Athern
Brian Athern
Brian J. Athern is a Field Editor with MidWest Outdoors Magazine, Fishing Facts Magazine and has also worked with the former www.thesuburbanangler.com. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article you can email Brian at bumnbri@aol.com