Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekend at Okoboji

Stan's Bait and Tackle hosted a great bluegill
tournament on Little Emerson Bay
A weekend spent at Okoboji is always a good time for several reasons.  First, the morning scenery on this lake is like no other I have ever seen, the sun comes up over West Okoboji like a story book cover.  Another of course, is the vast amount of species anglers can fish for at these lakes.  I am pretty sure I could spend the entire month on this chain of lakes and not get bored of chasing down its many species.  My travel companion and tournament partner Mark Anderson made the trip with me, and as always we had many laughs on the ice and many conversations about the fish and fishing locations we tried.  During the time there, my buddy Mark or I caught the following species of fish: Bluegill, Walleye, Perch, Drum, Crappie, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Bass, and Channel Catfish.  Obviously, these lakes offer an endless array of fish to catch!
Fishing is a life-long adventure, you just never know what you might learn at any given time to make you a better angler for the rest of your life.  The best part of that is then sharing it with friends or my kids as they have taken a love for ice fishing as well.
We schedule the trip because of a bluegill tournament that was held on Little Emerson Bay on Sunday.  I have grown to love sight fishing big Okoboji Bluegills...but that was not the case this year.  For some reason or another the bay has been cloudy all winter long and sight fishing was not part of the trip.  We found a few areas that were holding nicer bluegills on Saturday and had a pretty good game plan of what we were going to do for the tournament on Sunday.  Those big bluegills that attract anglers from neighboring states, they were nowhere to be found by any tournament competitor.  Of the 30 teams/60 anglers that fished the event a 0.74 pound bluegill was the largest fish.  That is a great bluegill but doesn't compare to years past.  We fell short of the competition this weekend, finishing in the middle of the pack, but many fish were caught and lessons were learned.  Disappointed, yes, we both were but we will fight again another day.  A big Congratulations to friends Chad Angell and Josh Sansgaard on another ice tournament victory!!!

My largest fish ever caught through the ice
Channel Catfish: 7 pounds 10 ounces
22 inch rod, 2# test line
Another component of this trip was to try to fish for other species on the lakes.  Saturday afternoon we took a short drive to East Okoboji to fish there.  I have never iced fished there and was willing to take a look at it.  We were hoping for some yellow bass and crappies.  On this adventure a couple other friends joined in that were fishing the tournament as well.  The four of us drilled a lot holes on the breaklines to discover no fish on the Vexilars.  We continued looking and drilled out to the deeper basin, this is where the Vexilars started to light up.  For the last 70-90 minutes of daylight the fishing action was great.  Big yellows, nice black crappies, a keeper walleye and my biggest fish ever through the ice, a catfish.  It was quite a roller coaster those last few minutes of light, but we squeezed as much as we could into that day of fishing and we all enjoyed it very much.  It is fun to fail, and then conquer the fish...even if it was for a brief amount of time.  Lessons learned, experienced and remembered for another day on the ice.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A trip North

After the cold blast that hit Iowa last weekend, the ice has been growing quit nicely.  Reports of 6-12 inches of ice in Northern Iowa sent my friend Jacy and I on a trip before the Christmas holiday to that area.  Clear Lake was the destination, and the turnout was fantastic.  Clear Lake, Iowa is not only a great little town to stay in, it offers quite the variety of fish to chase after.  After doing some Internet searches and talking with friends we made a plan to hit several lakes in this area.  The number of lakes within a 30 minute drive of Clear Lake is pretty amazing.  It gives an angler ample opportunities to catch whatever species they desire.  In the two days of fishing our Vexilars were lit up quite often, we caught the following species; perch, yellow bass, crappies, bluegills, walleyes and bullheads.  The Bullheads were quite a surprise, as each time we thought we had a nice perch on, but the smooth-skin slimer came through the hole instead.  Beside the snow storm we fished through on Friday, leaving us soaking wet, it was a great few days in the Clear Lake area.  If you haven't been to Clear Lake lately, plan a trip.  Clear Lake Bait and Tackle is the place to stop for all your needs, live bait, shack rental, and guided trips for a variety of species.  Kevan Paul will help make your stop to Clear Lake a great one if you don't know the area.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fall to Winter

I have lived my 4 decades in Iowa, yet each and every year Mother Nature makes it feel different this time of year.  A year ago, there was no ice in site in this great state, however this last weekend many anglers, especially in the northern half of the state made their annual pilgrimage to the ice.  I was eager like many, but I am always very cautious this time of year.  This year there will be plenty of ice by the holidays, last year I had to travel to South Dakota to find some ice to scratch the ice fishing itch.  Not this year, Mother Nature has been kind, and I love the 10 day forecast!!!

Be safe out there and be sure to take the proper safety materials with you each and every time on the ice:
Buddy System~~~Rope~~~Flotation Device~~~Ice Picks

First Ice: December 11th

Last open water fish: November 26th

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Time to Brush-Up on what your VEXILAR is telling you

Fall wasn't here long in Iowa, and I sure hope that winter shows up quickly.  Neighboring states are on the ice or getting very close as I publish this.  Iowa ice anglers, our turn will be next.  It is time to get the gear ready and brush-up on our electronics that will help us this ice season.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to present a seminar at the new Clear Lake Bait and Tackle shop representing Vexilar.  At this event I presented to about 60 anxious ice anglers trying to gather as much information as they could to help them land a few extra fish this upcoming ice fishing season.  Each and every time I present tips and tricks about using a Vexilar to its fullest, I see the same "ah-ha" looks in the crowd.  I want to pass along the biggest items that anglers at my seminars learn from so you too can learn and catch more fish using your Vexilar.


As ice anglers we choose to use electronics to help us tell us many things.  In this illustration we can see a Vexilar read-out with the bottom being at about 12 feet.  We also see that our jig is at the 10 foot level in the water column.  The part that is the most important is the green line showing us a fish is below us.  Remember, green and yellow lines are signals that are away from the center of the signal from the Vexilar transducer.  So, the fish signal shows up at about 11 feet of water, but as we can see in the picture the fish is actually swimming at 10 feet.  This illustration shows/reminds us that we always need to fish above any green or yellow mark on the Vexilar.  If you need more information about this picture or tip, just drop me an email.  I will also be at Hank's Bait and Tackle Ice Fishing Open House November 30th.  

Photo Credit:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fall river fishlng

As November fades away, so does another season.  Fall has come and gone but it wasn't without some fantastic river fishing.  Largemouth started the fall season, but when the calendar turned to November, the smallmouth showed up and they were plentiful.  Depending on the current of the river and the weather for the day smallmouth found there way into the boat time after time.  The Hot Rod Baits tubes were fantastic and when the weather wasn't the best, small finesse worms fooled the smallies.  It was a blast sharing the Ranger and the small jon boat on the river with family and friends.

As Thanksgiving approaches my attention has once again turned towards ice fishing.  I'm not saying that all my Quantum rods and reels are put away, but the time is certainly right around the corner for just that.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Late October Fishing

Fall is in full force, and so is the fall bite for bass.  Like clockwork each year as the water cools, the rivers around the Midwest heat up!  I have shared time at the Mississippi River and Wapsipinicon River this last month and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Whether it was a quick couple hours after work, or an entire afternoon, these rivers have not disappointed once.  This past weekend I have the privilege to hit the Wapsi on Saturday for a little while and targeted smallmouth bass.  They have been hitting well and hanging near the current seams.  Spinnerbaits, and Texas rigged tubes have worked really well all month long.  It was no different for these smallies today.  Fish after fish came aboard the boat on this beautiful day, it isn't often you can fish in a t-shirt on October 29th.

The following day on the Wapsi I hooked up the jon boat and went in search of largemouth bass.  I never caught one the previous day, and I figured the smaller boat would get me into some backwaters to search out the green bass.  I used the same exact 2 Quantum PT combos from the previous smallmouth trip, but today it was all green bass.  It was so typical of fall river fishing.  Get out of the current, but close to it and you will find largemough bass.  Today though, the largemouth bass were really wanting the Hot Rod Baits tube, they wouldn't chase the spinnerbait like their smallmouth cousins did the day before.  I never caught a smallmouth all day long, totally different habitat was focused on, which led to totally different fish living there.  One day hooking smallmouth bass, the next hooking largemouth bass, river is simply the BEST!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Small Rivers are shining

October is one of those months that brings mixed emotions for anglers around the Midwest.  While a lot of guys have changed their rods/reels in for shotguns and shells, October remains one of my favorite times to fish.  I keep the Quantum Rods/reels at the ready when my schedule allows to hit the water for a few hours.  October brings less boaters, clean water and actively feeding fish.  With a recent purchase of jonboat, and the Wapsi only a few minutes away from my house, this month has been a great month to catch bass on this interior river.  While the jonboat doesn't have all the bells and whistles of my bass boat, the biggest thing I miss are the Talons, however this jonboat allows me to venture anywhere on the wapsi and get to places that a fiberglass bass boat cannot.  Keith Donnelly and I took a trip this afternoon to go on the river to see what we could find.  We found some active smallies and largemouth hitting a variety of baits; spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and Hot Rod Baits tubes.  Today, for the first day of this month, slower baits produced more bass than the fast bait presentations.  I am pretty sure the high pressure had something to do with this.  It was a fantastic day to be on the river, shorts, short sleeves and catching bass in doesn't get any better than that!