Monday, February 22, 2021

The Long Walk... Worth Every Step?

This past weekend we headed south once again to look for some crappies.  The lake has little access and no machines are allowed to move around on the lake.  A long walk through snow was something we were not going to avoid.  We were up to it for a chance to catch some big crappies that lurked in this small lake.

Once we got to the lake we started in the some of the deepest water the lake held.  This proved to be a good first move.  We started picking up fish slightly suspended off the bottom of the lake with our Vexilars and we started catching crappies, and we knew right then the walk was well worth it!  The weather was great for hole-hopping and we searched all day long.  I used a Reins Tungsten spoon most of the day, the quick drop on the Quantum Drive reel really makes fishing the deeper water quick and easy.  The middle part of the day was brutally slow, but then about 4pm, right on schedule, the crappies magically appeared once again.  It was a great way to end the day as reeled up our final catches of the day.  Dozens of crappies made their way to the top of the ice and some of those will make a nice meal soon.

Big takeaway from today was locating and fishing the active fish.  Fish were located on the bottom of the lake, 5-6 feet suspended and fish in the middle of the water column.  Only one group of these fish were the "biters" on this particular day.  The fish that swam 5-6 feet above the lake floor were the biters.  We were able to keep our spoons/jigs in that range to call the fish in from surrounding areas.  This no doubt led to bringing more fish under our Vexilars and helped us catch more fish all throughout the day.  





Monday, February 15, 2021

2021 Yellow Bass Bananza


Once again. the largest ice fishing tournament in the state took place at Clear Lake yesterday.  Kevan Paul and his crew at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle continued this tradition in a scaled down version.  There was not a large meal/bash the night before but as for the tournament itself, things were the same.  With all that is going on this year, and no banquet, the attendance for the event was right around 90 teams.  The weather and temperatures did not encourage any late entries either.  Temperatures plummeted this week with many days seeing temps under 0 degrees.  It was some of the most brutal ice fishing conditions I have ever fished in.  As we pulled into the event on Sunday morning, the temperature was -17 degrees, that did not include the wind, the "real feel" was -44 degrees.

David Gissell joined me at the event this year as my regular partner decided he didn't need his appendix anymore a week before the event.  The plan was to stay in the little lake, cover as much ground as we could and drill as many holes as we needed.  I had not visited Clear Lake this year at all, which is rare. I have fished this lake for many years and in recent years the "little lake" has treated me well.  I decided to go with history and fish areas I was comfortable with.  We fished water from fourteen feet deep all the way to six feet deep.  We found the typical perch, walleye, a white bass and caught about 45 yellow bass during the four hour event.  We found one area that the yellow bass kept feeding in, it was about half the size of a football field.  We kept moving and even hit old holes over and over again.  It worked out as we pinned this group of yellows in that 8-9 foot range.  The Vexilar FLX30 continues to impress me.  The fine lines and details of weeds really helps pick out fish and the size they are.  I could tell if small perch were below or if they were the targeted Yellow Bass.  Equipment is always key and today was no different in these adverse weather conditions.  I choose to go with a 24-inch Jason Mitchell Meat Stick to help me stay close to the hole while the wind whipped around.  A Quantum Drive reel with 3# test line tied to several spoons for the day.  The smooth drag on the Quantum reel was good insurance on this day as ice built up around the line, eyelets and everything else.  


The four hours went quickly, and the multiple layers of clothes kept me comfortable for the day...drilling a lot of holes keeps you warm too!  Our limit of 30 yellow bass weighed 12.02#.  I figured by getting 30 yellows in the bucket that it would put us in the  op 15, which was our goal.  However, as we talked with the many other competitors we knew we would be closer to the top than we thought.  As the prizes were given away, we ended up in 5th place.  The reward was the hottest electric auger on the market, the Strikemaster Lithium 40 volt 8-inch ice cutting machine.  

Another YBB in the books, my seventh in a row.  Jacy Large and I started fishing these events back in 2015 and ended up with a 5th place finish, 2016 was a 15th place, 2017 was 16th, 2018 was 150th, 2019 was 7th, 2020 was 9th and this year the 5th place finish.  It has been a fun run chasing these Yellow Bass all over Clear Lake.

Kudos to all the anglers that braved the weather today.  By staying on the hunt all day without a shack we were able to overcome Mother Nature and collect our share of yellow bass.  The reward was a place in the top 10 once again.  


Sunday, January 31, 2021

FLX-30BB- What's the BIG difference?

 

This year Vexilar came out with a new unit called the FLX-30BB.  Every few years Vexilar raises the bar a little more on the flasher market, which is designed for ice fishing, dominated by them and Marcum.  The latest upgrade to the Vexilar fleet has made quite a splash thus far.  If you are a Vexilar user, you already know the great things about their products and different models, however I hope this review sheds some light on the all new FLX-30.

Trials- I have used the unit on 12 different lakes/rivers this winter.  My fishing adventures have taken me to two feet of water all the way down to 32 feet of water.  I have fished in and around brush piles at many different depths and weeds from two feet all the way out to 12 feet.  As you can see, I have ran it through many different scenarios and now I feel that I can honestly give a review of the unit and offer you details on why this is the best Vexilar out there.

New Features- The BB stands for Broad-Band, or different settings for your transducer in kHz power.  The settings range from 160kHz to 300kHz and can be changed with the push of a button.  In the 160kHz setting the unit will show you a 19-degree cone angle, and can be adjusted down to a 8-degree cone angle in the 300kHz setting (7 different cones angles in total).  Another new feature is the addition to a third zoom option.  This unit will allow you to zoom to the bottom 18 feet of water, along with the standard 6 foot and 12 foot options available on other models.  Vexilar also added a 15-foot range on the manual range settings for this unit.  Another new feature on the FLX-30 is the ability to choose from normal(high) power, medium power or low power.  In the past, there were only normal and low power options.  Lastly, it comes standard with a 9amh Vexilar Lithium Battery.

Disadvantage-  The Ultra Pack (shown above) is the only option of buying this unit for the 20/21 ice fishing season.  While this is an awesome carrying pack, more options would be nice, and would bring the overall cost of the unit down too.  Hopefully there will be more buying options next winter.

Awesome Upgrades-  The biggest advantage I saw right away is how much smaller the lines on the screen showing your bait and fish are.  This allows for precise jigging, and location of fish.  This has also made fishing brush piles much easier with less clutter on the screen.  Another great upgrade on this unit is the the medium power, it has really been great for me while fishing weed beds this year.  Other Vexilar units offer either high or low power, much of the time low power takes away too much of what we can see down below the ice, while the medium power option is a perfect fit in most weedy situations.  Another nice upgrade to the FLX30 is the ability to change zoom settings by pushing the gain button.  On other units you must turn the dial to change zoom settings, which can be cumbersome with gloves on, a small thing I have noticed but has been a very nice difference.  Multiple cone angles is an important part of ice fishing, the previous Pro-View transducer thad this capability and when used correctly is a huge advantage to anglers.  This new Broad-Band transducer on the FLX30 is even better.  With a press of a button I can rotate through the seven different cone angles very quickly to see which screen I like.  When searching fish 160kHz is best as it has the largest cone angle of 19-degrees.  However, when fishing near brush, weeds or on top of a large school of fish, the narrower the cone angle the better.  I will be able to pick out my jig and how the fish are reacting to it much easier in a 9-degree cone.  Again, this is done by pressing the gain button and you can cycle through all 7 cone angles in the matter of a few seconds to see which screen looks the best for that particular hole you are fishing.  As you cycle through the different cone angles they narrow down as you push the gain button.  It really is amazing how a small tweak can let you see so much more of what you want to see.  

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As you can see there are many advantages to the new FLX30BB.  It is a fantastic system for those that like to visit many different lakes with unique fishing situations.  There has not been one case yet this winter that I have not been able to fine-tune the FLX30 to fit my every need.  It has led to a few more fish, no doubt.  Let me know if you have further questions about this system, I would be happy to answer them for you and compare them to the unit you have right now.  Email: treedbass@yahoo.com

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Try Something New...you never know what you might find


Ice fishing is in full swing around the state even in the southern half of the state.  This took me south this past weekend to try a lake I have wanted to visit for the last year.  I was able to meet up with several friends to search out some bluegills and crappies.  The five of us worked well together dissecting the water, hopping around with our Vexilars and trying a variety of depths.  We landing on several schools of gills and crappies doing this.  Many of the gills were solid keeper size and the crappies were of good quality too.  As a group we kept some of each species, but released many of the larger crappies.  This is something we have done for the past several years, letting those bigger fish back into the system so they can reproduce for years to come.  Of those bigger fish we decided to release was my largest public water crappie ever, a solid 15inch black crappie that weighed 2 pounds and 1 ounce.  It was a beast, and I just couldn't put it in a bucket.  A few pictures and it was released back down the hole.  We also found some schools of catfish.  In typical fashion the catfish were suspended in the middle of the water column and fell to spoons jigged with meat.  


The key bait for the day was a silver/pink Reins Tungsten Palpuntin Spoon.  If you like spoons, you have to take a look at this tungsten version.  It has a unique fall and drops like a stone.  I love using spoons on the 36-inch Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Stick paired with a Quantum Drive spinning reel with two pound test mono line.  Everything about this combo compliments each other and is perfect for hole hopping and dropping spoons on hungry fish.  

Get out and enjoy the ice, hopefully we still have 6 or so weeks left here in Iowa to hit the ice.  



Saturday, January 2, 2021

Saying Good-Bye to 2020 at Lake Okoboji

 Lake Okoboji has called my name every winter for quite some time.  I tend to hit this body of water around the first of the year when ice isn't that great around the state.  This trip was by far the most difficult in recent years due to the late winter weather.  A lot of the lake was not "safe" to venture out on which limited us to a few areas in Spirit Lake and West Okoboji. Both lakes produced fish, however we ended up sticking to sight fishing on Little Emerson Bay for most of the trip.  The water was very clear and you can see every detail of the bottom of the lake in 9 feet of water, a real treat as it has not been this way in recent years.  Being able to see your jig and how your every movement impacts whether that bluegill below you bites or not can be quite humbling.  This trip provided us with a solid sight bite that was steady enough enough to produce a few dozen good sized keepers each day for our 5 man group.  using small jigs with spikes or small plastics was key to catching most of the fish.  As with any trip to Lake Okoboji many species were caught; bluegills, pumpkin seeds, black crappie, largemouth bass, perch and a northern pike.  


A 13.5 inch Crappie was a big surprise while sight fishing.

If you have never ice fished at the Okoboji Lakes, put it on your list of things to do.

It isn't often that you catch a fish as long as your pole!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

First time on the ICE

It wouldn't be 2020 without another "first".  Today marked the first time on the ice for me in Iowa, most likely the latest ever for me...2020 just keeps stinging!  Anyway, with several small ponds and lakes above the Highway 20 line I had to give it a go.  After several plans were made and scratched I decided to head west and try a small lake.  I had heard the ice was a solid 4 inches and people had been fishing on it all week.  Now it was my turn!

I studied the lake using the Navionics app on my phone and the DNR website.  I had never been to or seen this lake before, only knowing that the bluegill and crappie population were solid.  It was like Christmas Eve all over again as a kid...I couldn't sleep.  I really enjoy trying new lakes and areas to fish, that curiosity of where they are living still puts me in a trance to this day.  

I made the most of this trip, I arrived in the parking lot just before the clock turned 7am.  I was a bit surprised to see 7 vehicles already parked there as I got my ice gear on.  With a small sled packed with my day gear I was once again "walking on water".  I knew where I wanted to start, but instincts took over and I was once again staring at the map on the phone as I paced out to what I thought would be a good spot to start.  I got there rather quickly, the lake is under 100 acres and soon began to drill a grid of about a dozen holes.  I went around with the Vexilar FLX30 and I noticed some marks flying high off the bottom, that's always a good sign!  I quickly grabbed my rod with a spoon on it and started dropping it down the holes.  I rotated around the grid for next two hours picking up bluegills and crappies at a regular pace.  The gills and crappies were very healthy and I decided to keep 10 of them for a meal and put the rest back.  Things slowed down a bit so I grabbed the auger and started to expand my area.  I picked up a few fish here and there, but as the morning disappeared the fish seemed to do the same.  After drilling another 50 or so holes around my starting grid, I ended up back in the same general area as I began.  

While back at the original grid for the second time I was able to tangle with two very large bass.  I was fortunate both times to be holding my spoon rod which I had teamed up with a Quantum Throttle reel.  This reel is equipped with 9 ball bearings and most importantly a very smooth drag.  That drag got a workout with the bigger of the two bass.  It took several runs and took a couple of minutes to bring the bass through the hole using 2# test line.  I got a measurement of the fish, it is my biggest through the ice for sure!  A beautiful fish that someone else will hopefully have the chance of catching someday.

Oddly enough, around noon the bite seemed to pick up once again.  Typically this is the slow part of the day, so my energy level increased and it was hard to pack up!  All in all it was a great first time out.  The plan and method of searching out fish and catching them worked perfectly today, I can only hope the next outings will be as fun and easy!




PLEASE USE CAUTION ON THE ICE, EACH LAKE HAS DIFFERENT THICKNESSES OF ICE!





Monday, December 14, 2020

Do these 6 things before WINTER hits

December always marks the end the open-water fishing season here in Iowa. A lot of anglers have their boats put away and the tackle and fishing poles haven't seen daylight for awhile. This may be a big mistake, and you will want to get some of those things back out soon. No, not to go fishing, it is ice fishing season now, but to help you get off to a good start next spring. Here are 6 things you should do now before it is too late.


#1- Take the line off of your reels (leave about 1/3 of the old line on) = FRESH line in the spring ***see video below about old line


#2- Loosen your drag on your reels = longer life to your drag


#3- Zip up bags to plastic lures = better scent and prevent dryness


#4- Keep tackle indoors = prevent mice from destroying


#5- Replace any rusty hooks, sharpen dull hooks


#6- Make a wish list- What do you need before the spring???


These are a few things I try to do each and every winter.  They don't take very much time, unless you have a lot of hooks to replace which takes quite a bit of time.  These 6 things will help you get off to a great, and fast start this spring as the ice melts away.