Monday, November 11, 2019

Understanding your Electronics on the ICE

Ice fishing shows in Iowa are in full swing, I was sent to Clear Lake Bait and Tackle last weekend to give a seminar on using flashers to catch more fish through the ice.  No matter where I end up speaking about how to maximize the use of a flasher a few tips always create the loudest buzz.

Below you will see the most common thing I get asked while doing shows at the beginning of winter.  This graphic shows the math behind the lines on your flasher.  We need to train our minds that the colors are not just the "size" of fish, as a lot of anglers assume.  The graphic shows how the colors can create a mental picture for us as we decipher what our flasher is telling us.  Use the colors to present the baits at the appropriate depths, never go to a GREEN or YELLOW line, always fish above it.  Also, always go after the RED lines, those fish are right beneath you and it also tells you at what depth the fish are moving through your water column.  Note, the crappies are swimming all at the same depth, however the lines on the Vexilar will appear deeper as they are farther away from the ice-ducer.  This is the reason why we need fish above the yellow and green lines.

Many great videos can be found on the Vexilar website: http://vexilar.com/pages/new-video-page

Have fun, be safe and enjoy the upcoming ice season...it might be here before many think!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Change with the Weather to Catch MORE Fall Bass

Fall has arrived here in Iowa. There have been many signs of this for quite some time; shorter days, crisp morning air, the turning of the leaves and the mysterious fog that settles in over lakes and ponds. Everything around us is changing, and we have to change our fishing strategies to continue to catch fish.
Lakes: No matter if you are fishing a 100-acre lake, 8,000-acre lake or a small pond the fish will have the same general tendencies. Bass, crappies, bluegills must search out their prey to survive. Gone are the days where we need to look closely for the thermocline and plan our day around that. The water in lakes and ponds this time of year is pretty uniform and the fish will use all depths to find food. This fact alone can be troublesome as to where to start looking. As a general rule of thumb, if the water temperature is still above 50-degrees fish will be feeding shallow, and by shallow I mean a foot deep. It is all about the prey, and those small fish, minnows and crawdads that these species love to eat will still be shallow. Crawdads will go dormant around that 50-degree mark, but other prey will continue to stay shallow. Shallow coves that have quick access to deep water are always on the top of the list of places to try. If the main lake creek channel swings in towards a shallow cove, that makes an excellent stop for fish to feed up in the shallows. Coves that have distinct creek channels feeding them is also a great place to fish. Add some brushpiles, rockpiles or standing trees and this makes things even better. Looking at lake maps and studying them before your trip can help you plan your day to focus in on these starting places. Most gamefish are sight feeders, fall offers very few daylight hours, this is to the anglers’ advantage. Although fish don’t need as much food to survive during the cooler months, they still need to feed during a smaller window of time. Take full advantage of this and use those sunlight hours for your fishing adventures, and one of the best things about fall fishing, no need to get on the lake at dawn, it is best to let the sun warm the lake up, sleep in and fish the middle of the day. (Don’t forget your radio to listen to that football game!)
Rivers: There is no better time of the year to fish a river than right now. The rivers in Iowa seem to get rejuvenated during the month of September and get prime in the month of October. No matter if you are talking about the Mighty Mississippi or a small interior river which flow through most counties in the state, now is the time to hit them. When I am not fishing with my children or relatives I fish for bass, however in the fall it seems that every bass fishing excursions turns into a multi-species day. Rivers are notorious for being full of many species of gamefish; walleyes, pike, smallmouth, and largemouth are the most popular and it is quite common to catch some of each on a trip to a river this time of year. I think that is one reason why people enjoy fishing rivers so much, you just never know what you might set the hook on. Besides catching a variety of fish on the rivers right now, numbers can be fantastic as well. This is caused by Mother Nature, typically in the fall rivers will be at their lowest flow, or river height. This concentrates the fish into smaller areas where food is present. This is true for panfish too. There is just not a lot of extra water to search out these fish. The low flow also helps the water to clean and provide a steady current for fish. Typically in the fall fish will be near current and even smack in the hardest current the river has to offer. It is all about the food source. Anglers need to focus on slight or secondary currents during this time to find those large groups of fish that may offer the memory or a lifetime. Secondary current isn’t the swiftest flow in the area, but it isn’t calm water either.
Finding what current the fish want and then duplicating that will have you catching a lot of fish this month. When fishing those small rivers/streams it come down to outside bends and inside bends that control the current. Once you solve the mystery of that, then that pattern can be repeated up the stream as far as you go. Take  close note to sandbars at this time as well too. These offer a current break for prey and thus any gamefish could be lurking on the backside of a sandbar awaiting its next meal. Same goes for rivers as lakes, no need to get up with the sun, let the sun warm the rivers and keep that bait in the water.
Fall is my favorite time of year, and there is little doubt that the fishing is the main reason for this. The crisp air, the calm flow of a river, the steam rising up on a lake or pond, October is a magical month and I hope you all find a bit of that magic this year!

The full article appears in the October issue of "The Iowa Sportsman" Magazine.


Monday, September 9, 2019

September Indee Bass Club Tournament

The last tournament of the 2019 calendar year took place this past Saturday on the Wapsi River here in Independence.  Eighteen students signed up for the event to test their fishing skills against the smallmouth and largemouth bass of the area.  When the event was scheduled all the coaches were just hoping for good weather...it was perfect weather for a September event.  Partly sunny skies greeted the anglers all morning, the event took place from 8am-Noon, and not a drop of rain fell from the sky.  Nine boat captains made this event possible, as each pair or team of students is in a boat with an adult to operate the boat as well as teach the students as much as possible about the sport of bass fishing.  Captains included; Chad Postel, Randy Toale, Kevin Sidles, Karter Wendling, Guy Stacy, Chad O'Brien, Sean Stephenson, Todd Reed and Brian Miller.
Of those nine boats 5 of them were able to bring keeper bass to the live weigh-in on the banks of the Wapsi River.  Students can travel all along the river in search for the bass with their captains and cast whatever artificial baits they can at the fish trying to trick them into biting.  Reports of rock bass, crappie, northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass being caught all throughout the day made it fun for the students involved.  Although the Wapsi river gives up a lot of fish species, it is largemouth and smallmouth bass that the anglers can weigh in.  As with any tournament throughout the state one team always seems to be around more fish than others and on this day it was Dalton Hoover and Jackson Toale.  They had five keeper bass that weighed 12.95#, a new Indee Bass Club record!  Jackson also had the biggest bass of the day that weighed in at 2.99#.   Congrats to those kids as they caught some true Wapsi River giants!  Second place went to Jackson Wolf and Zack Sidles, they had two keeper bass that totaled 3.65#.  In third place was Gabe Campbell and Zach Jimmerson with 2.79#.  Fourth place went to Scott Faust weighing in two nice smallmouth for 2.75# and rounding out the top five was Teegan McEnany and Caleb Weber with one largemouth bass that weighed 1.79#.
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The top two teams and big bass winner earned wooden plaques for their efforts and bonus prizes donated by Scheels of Cedar Falls and Hank's Bait and Tackle in Waterloo.  Just two of the fine club sponsors.  Prizes valued at over $600 were also given out to students at the tournament in a random drawing, these were provided by the other sponsors of the bass club; The Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Quantum Rods/Reels, The Rod Glove and private anonymous donors.  The weigh-in facility was once again donated by the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, and a big thank you to the weigh-in helpers of Kevin Jimmerson and Sean Stephenson.
As you can see the Indee Bass Club is helped along by community support and volunteers throughout the year.  Volunteer coaches/organizers include; Garry Anderson, Keith Donnelly and Todd Reed.  For more information about the club find them online at their website or Facebook page by searching "Indee Bass Club".

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Night of Two Giants

When living in the Marshalltown area I started the Wednesday Night Fishing League.  We would travel to local lakes and have a friendly competition amongst friends to see who could catch the largest three bass in a span of 3-4 hours.  It was fun and always a challenge to get those three keeper bites in that short of time.  That league grew to having 20 or so boats at each event at its busiest times and many memories and friends were made throughout the years.  For the past 3+ years of living here in Independence I have often thought of that league and how fun it was to see my fishing friends throughout the week after work...I missed those times. 
The first bite of the night!
The past few weeks this feeling was rekindled a bit by fishing the Lake Delhi Weeknight Bass Shootouts.  These take place every other Tuesday and have fished the past two events with Keith Donnelly.  A few key things; first it is nice to just show up and fish a tournament, not having to "run the show", secondly no matter how long the event is I still get "that feeling" when chasing bass, and thirdly, I will be fishing more of these events next year.  It is a good break in the week to go and chase some bass.  Delhi is a great location as you can cover a lot of ground in the boat, and it has a good population of bass of all sizes.  A limit isn't a guarantee, and size always matters on this lake. 
A couple weeks ago we made it our first Delhi Weeknight Shootout and came in with a decent limit of just under six pounds.  I knew this would put us in the mix, and it did as we ended up 3rd place out of 18 teams with a nice cash prize.  While that night was great to get back in the swing of things, this past Tuesday night will be one that I won't forget for a long time. 
Lake Delhi is known for a couple of things here in NE Iowa, huge beautiful lake homes and it being a really busy lake.  However, the fishing has always been pretty good too, before the huge flood and now after the dam has been repaired it remains good.  I have fished tournaments on lake Delhi for many years before the tragic flood of July, 2010.  Many of the same areas that bass loved before the flood, the bass still love almost a decade later.  While some things have changed, the lake is back to its full magic of being a busy lake for jet skies and water skiers, and a good place to do some bass fishing. 
Onto the tournament...this particular night we had from 5pm-7:45pm to fish.  The goal each time is to get 3 keeper bass at least 12 inches in length...the bigger the better.  Keith and I had a good plan, similar to our first event there a few weeks ago, but it included a plan B also.  In each of the tournaments I have ever fished on this lake it always comes down to getting that one big bite.  It isn't easy on this lake as it is a river system and bass just don't live as long on river systems as they do in lakes.  If you don't have that one big bite, then you better have all your keepers be around that 1.75#-2.00# mark to be around the top of the leaderboard.  The first twenty minutes were a struggle, Keith caught a couple really small bass, then BOOM, my first bite of the night, a 4.25# largemouth.  In all my times of fishing here, this was my best ever on the lake, I was amazed by this specimen.  In the livewell she went and we kept looking.  We picked up a couple more fish and had our limit of three keeper bass by the time the event was half over.  We kept fishing hard, using Hot Rod Baits tube baits and Wig's Jigs and chunks around rocks, wood and docks.  Pitching to this heavy cover is no easy task, however the QuantumPT Heavy, 7'6" Signature Series Rod and AccuristPT high speed reel made things much easier.  We were able to upgrade on these baits, as well as a swimjig.  With about 30 minutes remaining the great night of fishing turned into the unforgettable night with one bite.  My line made a slight movement to the right...that was all it was, and I laid back into the hookset.  The fish came out of about 10 feet of water and flashed just below the surface before diving back down into the deeper water.  We both saw it and knew it was yet another big bass.  Keith dipped the net into the water and we had our second huge bass of the night...we were both shocked to see it.  A quick picture of this one, which I knew was bigger than the previous bass, and into the livewell it went.  We kept fishing and headed to the weigh-in as confident as I have ever been going to a weigh-in.  What a beautiful lake, beautiful fish and a night to always remember.  As an added bonus we did win the tournament with 11.02# and the biggest fish weighed 4.90# on the scale, this sent us home with nice payday after our workday.

A big shoutout to all my sponsors for 2019: The Iowa Sportsman Magazine/Website, Bill's Pizza, Vexilar, Optimum Baits, Hot Rod Baits, Quantum Rods/Reels and Cliff Keen Athletic Wear.

A 4.30# and a 4.90# caught in a 3-hour weeknight tournament. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

When was the last time you changed your line?

Fall is in the air and the fishing is going to get better and better as the days go by.  For many anglers around the state, no matter what you like to fish for you may not be ready for the fall season.  How you ask?  Your line.  As the title states, how long ago did you put line on your reels?  If you want to get the most out of your reels and lures, fresh line is an important part of that want.  Keeping enough line on your reel is the most important thing you can do to maximize casts and efficiency of your reel.  Here are a few tips to save you a bunch of money in your life and to keep your Quantum Reels in the best working order it possibly can be in. (note: this information can be used with baitcasting and spinning reels)
This reel is in desperate need of line.  I can see by how empty the spool looks and my technique of coloring the line.
Can you see the darker or black line showing through?  This is telling me that I am getting close to my "backing line".
This gives me a visual after a long cast that I will need some new line soon.

Backing is line that is put on your reels and never taken off.  You shouldn't/won't use the bottom half of your line ever.
I color the top 2 or 3 foot of line with a black permanent marker and then tie my fresh line with an overhand knot to it.
The "black backing" never comes off my reels, thus saving me 100's of yards of line each year.
This also saves me a lot of money as I only use half the amount of line, and I know it is always fresh.
One last advantage, I can re-line a reel in matter of just a minute or so and not lose fishing time.
Another common mistake of anglers is not filling their spools to the maximum capacity.
The more full your spool is; the better it is going to perform.
Notice how the new line is 1mm or 2mm from the top of the spool, this will allow maximum casting distances and allow your reel to work at the proper gear ratio.
An "empty" spool is a BAD spool!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Last Stop on the 2019 Hot Rod Baits Bass Series: Pool 9

The Optimum Baits Furbit Frog
buried in the mouth of our biggest bass.
Today marked the last tournament of the 3-event series in the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  The first two events were on Lake Sugema and Brushy Creek Lake, the last being on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  Brian Bowles and I decided to spend two days looking around the immense pool for just the right location to get us into the top 5, a goal that we always make for ourselves.  In those two days the QuantumPT rods and reels along with the trolling motor got quite a workout.  We spent nearly 20 hours in the two days covering as much water as we could.  We found several areas where fish were feeding, but mostly on the small side.  We figured that 12# would be a good target to hit our "top 5" goal.
Tournament day was upon us and off to our first spot in the southern part of Pool 9  We caught a couple dozen of bass in this spot,  but only 3 keepers and they weren't very big.  Off to the next 2 areas that were similar to the first one; rocky structure near the main channel current.  These areas did not put any more keepers in the boat.  Off to our 4th area, the area that I had the most hope for.  This was a shallow weedy area off a side slough that had a lot of current flowing.  What made this area good was the fresh green weeds that were growing.  Coontail, eel grass, lilypads, wild rice, and duckwork.  It was full of green weeds and plenty of bait too.  We quickly put the Optimum Baits Furbit Frog to work using 65# braided line on a Quantum SmokePT Freak reel and Quantum Smoke 7'0" Medium Heavy rod.  This setup is idea for fishing a frog bait, it casts the baits very well, and has the backbone to yank any fish out of the heaviest cover.  We ended up pulling four quality bass from this grassy area to boost our limit near that 12 pound target weight.  We tried a few other areas as we made our way back north to the weigh-in but we couldn't get rid of our two smallest bass.  In the end this held us out of the top 5, finishing in 7th our of 17 teams.  We had 11.89#, with 5th place weighing in 12.39.  It was a great day of fishing for Brian and I, but the lack of bringing in 6 quality bass compared to the 4 that we had just didn't get us towards the top enough.  This was a disappointment as we won at this particular venue last year, but as we all should know, "You never step in the same river twice." ~Mark Twain

Sunday, July 14, 2019

First Tournament on the Mississippi River for 2019


This weekend was the annual Cedar Valley Bassmaster Kenny Thompson Memorial tournament out of Prairie Du Chein, Wisconsin.  This event is open to any member of the Cedar Valley Bassmaster club past or present.  This club is where I got started fishing bass tournaments.  Kenny was the fearless leader of the club back then and was for many, many years.  This event brings together anglers who have had the pleasure of fishing with Kenny in past years and always brings back good memories of times fishing with him.  What an honor to have this event for Kenny each year and I hope Eric Johnston keeps this going.
This year I partnered up with Randy Toale to compete in the event.  A total of 23 teams participated, all looking for those 5 big bass to weigh in.  Randy and I both decided to take Friday and look around the river to see what we could find.  We focused our efforts completely in Pool 9 as the pool was in better shape than Pool 10.  The water level was 12.3ft on Friday and scheduled to drop a few inches come Saturday.  The weather was HOT...and HOT on both days which had us going to the boat cooler often to stay hydrated.  The plan on Friday was to cover as much water as possible in the lower half of Pool 9, about 15 miles of river.  Obviously we hit some areas that I have done well in the past with similar water levels and some new water that I have not fished before as well.  To our surprise and delight almost every area that we tried on Friday, we caught keeper bass (14 inches).  A wide variety of baits were working too, the Mississippi River was in great shape and the bass were hungry.  We were able to come up with a solid plan that would put us in 5 different areas on Pool 9 for the tournament day.  It was a long day on the water but the bass were cooperative and we were having a great time.
We knew the water was supposed to drop over night, and sure enough it did.  We didn't think it would affect the areas we were in, the bass should still be biting.  Plan A was to hit a shallow area full of green weeds that had some current and plenty of bait.  The bass were loving the Optimum Baits Furbit Frogs on Friday and I couldn't wait to get back at them.  However, Plan A was not anything like it was supposed to be.  It did yield 3 keepers, but they were under two pounds.  We gave up on that and went to our second spot.  We caught several bass here on Friday, the size was not the greatest but we decided we couldn't drive past it without giving it a try.  We tried crankbaits, swimjigs, tubes and big craws, small fish and not very many.  The wind change definitely moved these fish around and the keepers were gone.  Off to Plan B, hit as many areas with current as possible to find feeding fish.  The water temperature was hanging around eighty degrees and the bass were on the chew.  Current points on the main channel and off-sloughs were holding fish on Friday and this was Plan B.  Plan B saved our day as the bass were still using these areas to ambush food.  Crawfish seemed like the choice of food as many fish had them sticking out of their throats when we caught them.  The fast baits like the crankbait and swimjig did not pan out on this day like they were on Friday.  We had to make adjustments in our presentations to get the keepers to bite on tournament day.  Hot Rod Baits Tubes and BigCraws along with a Wig's Jig brought in all the keepers that we weighed in.  The QuantumPT flippin rods with all the all new Accurst S3 PT high speed reel were the perfect combination to get those bass to bite and get them in the boat. Using a high speed reel when the current is rolling is a must to keep up with the fleeing bass.  We knew we had between 12.5 and 13 pounds, and it "put us in the game".  The weight was good, and would get us towards the top but I didn't think we would finish as high as did.  As more and more teams weighed in we realized we were much closer to the top than we first thought.  As friends and old friends talked with us we came to the conclusion that fishing was much more difficult today than it was on Friday, it wasn't just us, it was the bass.  Their mood changed over night and the fishing was different.  We made the right decisions and the adjustments throughout the tournament day.  It was a pleasure to fish with Randy as moved through the tough day.  We just kept fishing and let the bass tell us what they wanted.  When in doubt, always listen to the bass!  We ended up going through about 15 keepers to weigh our best 5 bass.  Our limit weighed 12.97# which was good enough for 3rd place and a nice check.
The Mississippi River is an amazing place, and this weekend helped me to remember that once again.
The combos and baits that we used to get in the top 3