Monday, December 20, 2021

Maximize your FLASHER this winter on the ICE

The flasher...the oldest electronic fish finder known to anglers.  It is also the most durable, reliable and fastest resource we have on the water too.  The signal is instant with no need to digitalize the signal.  It is by far the best tool to catch fish on the ice.  Hundreds of thousands of anglers will grab their flasher and head to the ice this winter in the Midwest hoping to enjoy a winter day on their favorite slab of ice.  I have been grabbing my Vexilar flasher since 1999 to enjoy my time on the ice.  It seems like forever ago when my then girlfriend, now wife of 18 years, gave me an FL8 for Christmas.  I loved ice fishing, mostly sight fishing on the river backwaters, but that FL8 really showed me what I was missing.  The simplicity of the machine was amazing back then, and it is still today.  However, Vexilar, like all other electronic companies have fine tuned their products to make them better with many upgrades over the last few decades.  Last year Vexilar introduced the FLX30BB, and of course it is better than previous options.  If you want an in-depth look at the FLX-30BB click HERE for a past blog entry on that topic.

Back to the basics, how to maximize your flasher this winter; each fall and winter I get to visit stores and bait shops around my area to help consumers with purchases and educate people on usage of flashers.  Each year a few things always dominate the conversations and seminars.  If you can remember and use these two different pieces of knowledge on the ice, you will catch more fish in 2022.

Tip #1- Know what you are looking at:  This graphic sums things up pretty well.  The lines on your flasher are not random, each and every one of them have meaning, our brain has to determine what they are communicating with us.  

The biggest thing to remember from this graphic is that there are NO FISH deeper than eight feet of water.  Red is the key color to zone in on, this is the indicator that the fish is directly below you.  Yellow and Green are off to the side, thus the return "ping" from the transducer is longer and shows up deeper than eight feet.


TIP #2-
When using a Vexilar to search out fish or structure beneath the ice be sure to use it to its full potential.  First, turn up the gain to at least "2".  Second swirl the transducer (gently and slowly) around the hole to see any fish or brush in the water column.  This is often know as "stirring the hole".  Lastly, know how much you are looking at under the ice, see the graphic below to understand just how much your Vexilar is telling you.  With some simple math you can maximize your efforts in drilling the holes where they are needed.

This chart tells us that when we use a 12-degree cone we can see a 2.2 foot diameter circle below us.

In summary, a Vexilar is a tool that we need to use properly.  We can use it as basic as we want, however if you have an FL18, FL20, FL22, FLX 20, FLX28 or FLX30BB you have a lot of options that you can dive into to make you a better angler on the ice.  Enjoy the ice, release as many fish as you can and be sure to enjoy a few fish on the table with friends and family this winter season!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Bass Fishing in December?

I am not sure if any of my boats have ever floated in December in search of bass.  This past Friday was a perfect opportunity for a trip to see what the bass were up to in December.  All week long there was a huge warming trend, temps were in the sixties for many days and in the forties at night.  I had a feeling that shallow lakes were on the warm and in turn would kick up the appetite of the largemouth bass.  That was my hypotheses, and the only way I could know for sure was to drop the boat in and go find out.  

In prepping for the adventure, I loaded the boat with the following rod combos; Texas Rigged Tube, Shallow Crankbait, Jerkbait, Ned Rig, and a Drop-Shot.  I figured these five combos would cover all depths of the water and I could present baits at all speeds for the fish to chase.  My second cast told me all I needed for the next few hours on the water, a nice keeper bass inhaled the shallow diving crankbait.  For the next few hours the only bites I had were on that shallow crankbait.  I choose a bluegill pattern for the IMA Lures crankbait because if they were chasing baitfish, bluegills would be there choice of prey.  I tried other baits, and perhaps in other areas of the lake they could have worked, I only focused on large shallow bay where the water temperature was 44 degrees, the warmest I could find.  I was catching bass from the boat and the calendar said December, that is rare and it was a great bite.  I am continued to be impressed by the new Quantum Accurist Crankbait combo.  It isn't a high priced rod/reel combo, but it preforms like one.  For only $150 you can pick up a great combo to throw shallow running crankbaits.  The rod has 8 guides, which is plenty for the seven foot overall length.  The reel is the time tested Accurist model with a 6.3:1 gear ratio.  This rod is not a one size fits every crankbait, not at all, no crankbait rod is.  This is ideal for shallow running crankbaits and medium runners when target casting.  The short butt section of the rod makes it ideal to cast around docks, laydown logs, weeds and any other cover the bass may be hiding in or around.  

Rarely in the world of fishing does a plan come together, especially in December from the boat.  On this day a hunch on the warm weather trend led me to make some decisions to allow me to enjoy some great largemouth bass fishing.  It was awesome, but I am ready for ice fishing!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

If you ICE FISH, you have to read this!

 It's December's ICE FISHING time!  I wish this was true this year, temperatures today reached 57 degrees and all I can do is shake my head.  I still have a boat ready to hit the water, but I would rather be drilling holes in the ice right now.  It is Iowa, so each Monday you look at the forecast and think, I wonder how much this will change in the next few days?  Either way, I hope things cool down and we are on the ice chasing fish in the next couple of weeks.  Either way, anglers that do ice fish need to be taking steps right now to be ready to hit the ice and the make the most of it this year.  Check out my recent article from the Iowa Sportsman Magazine to be ready for the frozen water!

Throughout my 30+ years of ice fishing, this simple activity has gone through some major changes in equipment.  The activity is quite simple; drill a hole in the ice, drop down your bait, wait for a bite.  How you do those different tasks is all up to what type of ice angler you choose to be.  I know some people who love to set up an ice shack and sit on the same few holes all day.  This works for the most part and you can literally wear a sweatshirt all day long when running a small heater.  Comfort fishing, as I call it, is a great way to relax, talk with friends and hopefully catch some fish for a meal.  Mobile anglers seem to be always on the move trying to hit the perfect spot on the lake to haul in fish after fish.  Both are fun, and both are a great way to spend a day outdoors in the middle of an Iowa winter.  As this ice season creeps up on us, check your equipment for these “Must Have’s” before the ice really settles in.

~Ice Auger- this may seem quite obvious, but perhaps it is time for an upgrade.  There are many options when it comes to drilling a hole in the ice.  If you are still drilling with a hand auger, I would suggest getting a gas, propane, electric or cordless drill auger bit.  Having a powered auger will allow you to drill many more holes throughout the day and that should equate to more fish.  Most of the ice fishing season, the ice remains fifteen inches or less, this is ideal for a light-weight cordless drill auger.  Many people have a brushless cordless drill laying around, all you need is an ice cutting bit.  There are many on the market for less than $200, a favorite of mine is the K-Drill, it is made mostly of aluminum and plastic and is very light weight.  It attaches to any half-inch drill and will cut dozens of holes with one battery.  Another great feature of the K-Drill is the blades are sharpened for free by the company for life.  That brings me to my next point, no matter what auger you do have, get those blades sharpened or purchase new ones for the season, sharp blades make all the difference.

~Rod/Reel Selection- Ice anglers often have a large selection of rods and reels, often times more than their summertime collection.  This is not necessary, however having these four setups will allow you to fish for any species under any condition here in Iowa.  The first combo you will need is a jigging rod for smaller jigs, 3mm in size and smaller.  This rod (22-26 inches) must have a very soft tip or a spring bobber to detect the lightest of bites.  When using a rod without a spring bobber to work your jig, make sure the weight of the jig “loads” or pulls down on the rod tip just a bit.  This will help you see the bites.  I prefer to pair these rods with a smooth spinning reel with an excellent drag system, like the Quantum Drive in the size 10.  Rod #2- Same as the first one but with less flex at the tip for 4mm and above jigs.  Rod #3- Spoon rod.  This is a rod that gets overlooked by many anglers, but when paired with the right spoon it can be deadly with crappies, gills, perch and yellow bass.  Spoons are great for the anglers on the move, they can call fish in from a long distance for their next meal.  When jumping around from one hole to another, using a longer rod can make you more efficient.  I prefer to use a 36-inch Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Stick for this presentation.  The sensitive, hi-visual tip is perfect for any panfish spoon.  It is a must have when jumping around to different holes and jigging spoons.  Rod #4- A finesse rod is critical for those days that the fish are looking at your bait but will not bite.  This combo should have a large spool on it to minimize line twist, the old Schooley reels are perfect for this.  The rod itself should have a spring bobber at the tip to not only jig ultra small jigs, but to detect the smallest of bites.

~GPS- When most people think of this the first thing that comes to mind is a lot of money.  This cannot be further from the truth.  Technology is out there and you have this device on your phone.  All smartphones have a built in GPS system, all you need to do is get the Navionics App.  It costs $10 and is worth way more than that!  It has built-in lake and river maps to all the popular lakes in Iowa, big and small.  It has detailed contour maps of the lake bottoms and includes some fishing structures to try around the state as well.  You can mark your own hotspots on this app too, so you can return to them time and time again.

~Clothing- If you are cold, or your feet are wet, no fish will make things fun.  Waterproof boots and weather-tight clothing are a must for ice anglers.  Even if you plan to fish in a shack, you may have a lot of time out in the elements setting things up, moving around during the day, and getting back to shore at the end.  Spend wisely and layer up on those cold days.

~Electronics- Last but probably the most important is having some type of electronics to tell you if fish are nearby.  The Vexilar flasher is by far the most common unit you will see helping anglers catch fish.  There are many models to choose from, starting around the $250 mark.  Using a flasher is very simple and will last you for decades.  A flasher will not only tell you when you may get a bite, but more importantly it tells you to move on when no fish are present.  It can also tell you if your jig is something the fish like or if they are just looking.  No ice angler is complete without the use of electronics, if you do not have one yet, you are missing out!

Ice fishing has brought me so many memories; from drilling a few holes on the backwaters of the river with my dad while in middle school, to the many weekend trips with fellow ice friends each year.  It is a great hobby I have learned so much about and have come to appreciate the times on the ice.  The friendships and time outdoors are priceless during the Iowa winters, and the fresh fish frys are always fantastic too!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

November = Fish Transition

October always brings one of the best bass fishing bites to the state of Iowa, especially on the river systems.  The cooler water and shorter days had the bass feeding up for the long winter ahead.  I always look forward to October fishing and the first part of the November, then the slow down begins.  Late November has its ups and downs, typically with temperature and that in turn has the fish a little confused too.  This November has been no different, cooler temps, windy days and shorter days all make fishing that much harder.  As the month of November moves forward, the number of bites gets lower.  This was no surprise to me on this trip, there are some patterns in fishing that no matter what you do, Mother Nature has the final say.  With water temperatures in the high 30s the bass were lethargic.  Dragging small worms along the bottom was the only way to get a few bites on this day.  One thing is for sure though, the month of November brings out the big fish, especially the big BROWN BASS.  Catching this beauty alone made the trip well worth it mixed in with some smaller ones.  Another great trip to the outdoors in final days of open water fishing.  If the water is flowing the boat will be floating, but to tell the truth after Thanksgiving my attention turns towards the frozen water.  Perhaps a few more fish from the boat is yet to come, but if not the month of November was one to remember.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

2021 Fall Fishing in FULL Swing

This beautiful 3# Smallmouth couldn't 
resist a medium diving crankbait.
 October is here and so is the last of the bass fishing season.  The water has cooled to around 60 degrees in most places here in NE Iowa and that has the fish eating up.  It has been really good, but it hasn't gotten to the "GREAT" bite just yet.  It seems as though the bass take a look at the leaves on surrounding trees, because when the trees are a mix of yellow and orange they go nuts!  

The more I am in nature and the older I get, I realize that so many things are connected.  The leaf colors, water temperatures, movement of bait, it all is a mad equation that Mother Nature has created for us anglers to enjoy this time of year.  I hope you get out and enjoy the next month on the water.  Shore fishing can be dynamite this time of year on rivers if you don't have access to a kayak or boat.  Typically moving baits are best to cover a lot of water, such as; crankbaits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and topwater lures.  As the days get closer to November it will be time to take things slow with plastics, jigs, jerkbaits and tubes.  As always, let the fish tell you what they want, if you are not getting bites, change baits and change locations often this time of year.  

Get out there and soak it up, you know I will be!

Monday, October 4, 2021

October Indee Bass Club Tournament*** New CLUB Record

Scheels Delhi Champions: Jackson and Dalton

 The Indee Bass Club held its final tournament of the year on October 3rd at Lake Delhi.  The club, which is organized and ran by Todd Reed, Keith Donnelly, and Garry Anderson is free to any student in the Independence area in grades 7-12.  Events are set up throughout the year where students can compete in bass tournaments while learning from adults that are running the boats.  The club has a great lineup of sponsors which makes these experiences free for all kids; they include Klever Concrete, Bank Iowa, The Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Colony Plumbing/Heating/AC, Scheels in Cedar Falls, Hank's Live Bait and Tackle in Waterloo, Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, Strike King Lures, Quantum Rods/Reels, and The Rod Glove.

Lake Delhi, which has both smallmouth and largemouth bass was the site of the last club event for 2021.  Fourteen students made the trip on a beautiful fall afternoon.  Temperatures ranged from sixty to seventy degrees and was mostly cloudy for the entire event, making for ideal conditions for bass fishing.  As the coach for the club I knew a lot of bass would be caught on this day for a variety of reasons, which is the goal each and every time I schedule events.  Lake Delhi was a great day, and in fact set a new club record; most bass weighed in at an event: 26 bass!  It was great to see every team weigh in fish, this was only the second time this has occurred in the sixteen events that the Indee Bass Club has held over the past five seasons.  

Scheels 2nd Place: Justin and Huner

The champions at Lake Delhi for 2021 were Jackson Toale and Dalton Hoover.  They brought in a limit of 5 keeper bass that weighed 7.72#.  This was the eighth club tournament that this duo has won together.  Their day started off slow, after fishing for about 45 minutes without getting a bite, they came along a stretch of docks that allowed them to catch four keepers all while Texas-Rigging Hot Rod Baits Tubes.  Shortly after that they reported getting their fifth keeper and kept catching them throughout the tournament.  Their great day of fishing earned them trophies and Scheels hats and gift cards.  In second place was Justin Schmadeke and Hunter Patton.  They brought in a limit of bass that weighed 6.65# while skipping docks, Justin also caught the Hank's Bait and Tackle Big Bass of the event that weighed 2.63#, a huge smallmouth for the lake.  Justin reported catching that giant on a green pumpkin/purple flake Senko bait on a rocky point.  Second place took home trophies and Scheels hats and gift cards.  In third place was the young partnership of Cal Sweeney and Remy Ressler.  They had a limit of 5 bass that weighed 6.19#, earning them trophies and Rod Gloves.  In fourth place was Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron, they had a limit that weighed 4.97#.  In fifth place was Jackson Beatty and Gable Eddy, they caught 3 keepers that weighed 2.65#.  Sixth place went to Teegan McEnany and Jackson Wolf, they had two keepers that weighed 2.56#.  Fishing their first ever tournament was Carter Dauth and Walker Kresser, they brought a keeper to the scale that weighed 1.06#.  A huge thank you to the boat captains; Randy Toale, Paul Schmadeke, Dan Sweeney, Todd Reed, Landry Jones, Adam Farmer, and Mike Heims.

It was a great day in the outdoors for these kids, and thanks to the sponsors over $800 in prizes were given away to keep these kids enjoying this great sport of fishing.  At the conclusion of the live weigh-in Jim Klever, an avid fisherman and owner of Klever Concrete greeted the anglers, boat captains and fans attending with a grill out of hot dogs, brats, chips and pop.  What a great way to end the competition season!

To find out more information about the Indee Bass Club, search "Indee Bass Club" on Google, Facebook and Instagram.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fall Topwater- My favorite pick


September and into October bass typically "feed up" on baitfish.  This gives anglers one last chance to target bass using topwater baits.  Normally baits like buzzbaits, pop-r baits and walking baits are reserved for early mornings and evening hours.  However, during the cooler days bass will strike these baits all day long.  Sandbars, rocky banks, points and bluff banks can all be good places for bass to trap shad, minnows or other baitfish.  

There are many baits to choose from this time of year to intice a topwater bite, but my favorite has become a walking bait made by IMA Lures, the Skimmer.  This is slim bodied bait with two treble hooks and walks across the water at any speed you like.  You can move this slender bait very quickly or glide it slowly on your favorite structure.  Any walking bait take a bit of time and the right rod/reel combo to get the proper action, but it is a quick learn.  If you haven't tried a walking bait for fall bass, I highly recommend it!

Rod/Reel Specifics:

Rod: 7 foot Quantum Smoke, Medium action/Fast tip

Reel: Smoke Reel 6.1:1 Gear Ratio  30# Braided line or 15-20# Mono (Both have worked well)