Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Stop #1

Jake Olson brought the big bass
 to the scale, weighing 5.77#

TOURNAMENT RECAP:
Lake Sugema was the first stop on the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  This lake is known for its big bass and numerous bass catches it yields day after day.  The tournament was supposed to held on Sunday, the 15th.  However, with the forecast of temperatures in thirties and sleet and snow scheduled for the area it was moved to the day before.  The DNR approved the change and the tournament was set.  Anglers were anxious to get there and start fishing, however no one told the bass.
Bites on Friday were rare, with many anglers reporting nothing for the days fishing.  The excitement turned into big disappointment.  Friday turned out to be a great day to be on the water, it even allowed a few anglers to get some sun on their legs as they wore shorts in the late afternoon under the sunny skies.
Saturday morning came and the sun, the nice temperatures and light wind were all gone.  Saturday turned out to be in the 40's with 25+mph winds, rain for most of the day and like Friday the bass were not cooperative.  Some competitors left early due to the frigid temperatures and staying warm was the main concern of anglers throughout the day.

Of the 17 teams, only 8 teams found at least one keeper on the day.  Like always though, fish were caught and brought to the scales.  Jon and Jeremy King let the way with 3 keepers, weighing 7.86#.  2nd Place went to Kevin Christensen and Keith Donnelly with 2 keepers weighing 6.31#.  Only one other team brought 2 fish to the scales, Chad Albright and Brandon Pettigrew found 2 keepers which landed them in 6th place.  Big Bass honors and 3rd place finishers Jake Olson and McKinley Geiger brought in a 5.77 pound largemouth.  4th Place was another 5 pound + fish.  5.01 to be exact for Chris Calkins and Adam Rundall.  Rounding out the top 5 was James and Zach Cook with a 4.69# fish.  All the weights and more pictures can be found HERE.  The next event will be held at Pool 9 on the Mississippi River on June 9th.
Jon and Jeremy King pick up
where they left off last season
WINNING on the series

THOUGHTS:
It has been a spring to forget in the world of bass fishing.  The weather patterns cannot stay steady and temperatures have been all over the place.  Lake Sugema, being one of the most southern lakes in the state had water temperatures varying from 46-57 degrees.  To put it simply, the bass are really confused as to what to do.  I do know this, from practice day and weighing the fish in, they are eating and look very healthy, which is a good thing.  It is always hard for me to reflect on tournaments like these.  Typically they happen in April, no matter who shows up at the lakes when weather is this unstable it seems as though a few fish are tricked but most of the anglers are left scratching their heads.  I was one of those anglers this weekend, it is a hard pill to swallow but I will take what I can from the days on the water and move forward...after all that is all I can do now.

Monday, April 9, 2018

April ICE FISHING

Probably the most beautiful fish swimming in Iowa waters
No one in this state has said this winter has been typical.  The first month of winter we saw no snow, this really built some nice ice.  January was cold, and February was as equally frigid, again, not much snow had fallen in Iowa, guaranteeing ice fishing into March.  March 16th was my latest ever ice fishing outing until this year.  We were able to get out on Clear Lake on march 17th with out any worries of ice not being safe.  however, this past Saturday was a first for me, and quiet perhaps the only time I will ever ice fish in April.  With temperatures hanging in the 20s the ice in Northern Iowa is just not melting away.  This took David Gissel and myself to the Okoboji Lakes region for one last day on the ice...I know I said that last month, but I just couldn't resist this quick trip to Okoboji.

David and I met up with Mark Anderson, Nic Meyer, and a few others locals as well as a surprise visit from Curt Dvorak on West Okoboji.  The morning temp was 11degrees with light winds, and we were loving it.   The ice measured right at 18-inches and was still very solid.  With numerous augers drilling it didn't take long to see the fish hovering just off the bottom on the Vexilar FLX-28s.  Soon after dropping down a variety of fish were coming to the top of the ice.  In total on the day the following species were caught in our small group; bluegills, crappies, perch, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, pumpkin seed and yellow bass.  One neat thing about Okoboji is that you just never know what you might pull through the hole.  Fishing was consistent throughout the day which made leaving hard, but I know Okoboji will be waiting for me in December...or perhaps earlier!  I can honestly, without a doubt say that my ice fishing season is now over, I swear. ;)

The average size of bluegills in the
Okoboji Lakes are truly amazing

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

All good things MUST come to an end

A sample of what one "hot hole"
can do at Clear Lake when
you have the right bait and
correct jigging motion in just
a few minutes.
The old adage suggests that no matter what we have going for ourselves, the good things must come to an end.  As the month of March marches on the ice season is slowly melting away for us here in Iowa.  The ice has been gone or unsafe in the Independence area for several weeks, so traveling north has been necessary to keep Mother Nature at check.  This past weekend sent me back to Clear Lake to chase down the Yellow Bass, I think I may be addicted to these feisty fish.  They are fun to track down and haul through the ice, I just can't get enough!

This weekend proved to be the latest I have ever ice fished in Iowa, March 17th.  Not only was the ice safe, we were able to utilize the snowmachines once again this weekend to cover a lot of ice on Clear Lake.  I once again was fortunate enough to meet up with other anglers, David Gissell joined me on the trip, and Jim Klever and Mike Lenius joined us on the ice too.  I also got to catch up with with some Central Iowa anglers I only see a couple times a year, Curt Dvorak and Joey highland.  It is always icing on the cake when you can see friends out while catching a few fish. It has been great fishing with these guys this year as well as many other ice enthusiasts.  Typically in March you are walking on pins and needles to get out on the ice, but not this year.  The fishing was fantastic, bouncing from one hole to another dropping the Vexilar FLX-28 down hundreds of holes throughout the day.  The day yielded 5 buckets of fish for our group of 4 anglers, countless laughs and hooksets made the day one to remember.  The fillets will be tasty very soon and serve as a reminder of yet another reason why to sample the ice fishing at Clear Lake.

This was the last go-round on the ice, as the open water bass are calling my name...oh I think that one was a smallmouth, I better wrap this up!

All packed up until the water freezes once again, it was a GREAT 2017-18 ice season!

Monday, March 12, 2018

There's GOLD in Northern Iowa

(a bucket full in the last hour of the day)
David Gissel made his first trip
 to Clear Lake with me, I will
assume he wants to go back next year!
Thousands upon thousands of ice anglers flock to Clear Lake, Iowa each winter in search of gold, gold as in Yellow Bass.  These feisty fish are a blast to catch, they are known to knock your bait harder than any other fish, and test your drag on every hookset.  Clear Lake itself can be a beast to tackle on your own because of its size.  There are several access points that will get you on the "big lake" or the "little lake", also called Ventura Lake.  Even though the lake is large, walking can easily put fish in your bucket, however using an atv, utv, or snowmachine will help your chances.  Yellows can be found all over the lake at any day.  They are very nomadic fish and anglers wanting to ice a bunch of fish must stay on the move.  Another big attraction of the "gold" in Clear Lake is the amount of yellow bass you can keep...there is no limit on the number of fish you can keep.  They are an invasive species and if anglers do not harvest their catches it will harm the ecosystem of the lake and fishing will suffer for all species.  More info on the Iowa DNR site HERE about the Yellow Bass.


With the no limit, anglers will keep a 5-gallon bucket full on a good day.  They are very tasty in many ways.  Fried, or as part of fish chowder are my favorite ways to enjoy yellow bass.  Jigs or spoons work well for these fish and it is really about drilling as many holes as you can to find them, once you find them it can make for an awesome day of catching.  Spikes, waxworms or cutbait all work at times, experimentation is needed to find what the fish really want.  If you are a Clear Lake newbie or rookie, stop in at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle and they will get you the bait you need and point you in the right direction.

This past weekend brought many lakes with no or very unsafe ice, so north I had to go to find some good ice.  Clear Lake had well over 15 inches of ice everywhere we drilled in the two days.  There were quite a large numbers of anglers out on Saturday, many large groups of anglers working together and having a good time.  The group I met up with fished the little lake and big lake throughout the day catching yellows on both with a few crappies mixed in too.  Hopping from one hole to another looking for yellows hovering over the lake bottom was key to catching many fish.  Moving around and checking countless holes with the Vexilar FLX-28 made this easy.  The instant readout kept me going from hole to hole until I found the magic one...then the bite was on.  Fishing in a group is fun and can really help when fishing Clear Lake, I crossed paths with many friends this weekend and met a couple new ones along the way.  Some yellow fillets in the freezer, and another fun trip on the ice with friends catching fish...perhaps for the last time of the year...perhaps.






Sunday, February 25, 2018

Should I stay or go?

This past Saturday Mother Nature was just not kind.  Friday was beautiful, temps in the high 30s, light breeze, and sunny, Saturday was cloudy, a strong East wind and chances of rain/snow/sleet possible for most of the state.  Sometimes you just have to load up and go, which is what David Gissell and I did.

We headed down to Otter Creek Lake in search of some Yellow Bass action.  Now, if it wasn't late February and the ice season winding down we probably wouldn't have made the trip, but you never know how many weekends are left to hit the ice.  We made the trip knowing that the weather would ultimately rule the day and probably force us off the ice sooner rather than later, so a 70-minute trip was as far as we wanted to go.  A couple more Independence anglers met us there, as well as Chad Pietig from Marshalltown...always good to see the Marshalltown boys! 

With a stiff east wind predicted we knew it wasn't going to be an easy day...and it wasn't.  The yellows were pretty picking on this day and small jigs had to be used to trick most of the yellows, and as usual spoons came into play as well when the bite increased from time to time.  One thing that I observed today was how easy it is to find fish while working as a group.  At any given time we had 4-5 guys hopping from hole to hole in search of the fish.  This is made really easy when everyone can be mobile with their Vexilars to cover dozens of holes in the matter of minutes.  Turning up the cone angle on the Pro-View transducers and "stirring" the hole really helped to pick up some extra fish as well on the shallow flats.  The action was pretty consistent, and the Vexilars were not black much at all, triggering the fish to bite was a challenge on this day.  the old saying, "Fish bite least when the wind is from the East" was certainly true today.  David and I ended up with about 40 keeper yellows, released many gills and some crappies as well.

Using the group work method and the power of the Vexilars really made it a fun day on the ice, even though we had precipitation falling on us for several hours in the morning.  The was solid, and will hang on for awhile there, but things will go pretty fast if we get more rain.  Stay safe out there and remember to use all your ice fishing safety gear as the season winds down.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Holiday Lake Derby

This past Saturday was a unique opportunity I couldn't pass up.  Holiday Lake, located near Brooklyn, IA held an open fishing day/derby.  Anyone could pay $20 to enter in the event and fish the lake for a day, enjoy lunch and talk with the nearly 400 anglers that showed up.  There were also dozens of prizes donated from businesses to help the event raise money.  The main purpose for the event was to raise money for the fish committee of the lake.  They have numerous fish structures in the lake, and have an extensive stocking program to make the fishing opportunities for the land owners a positive one year-round.  364 days a year the lake is closed to the public, only land owners in the Holiday Lake Association can fish the private lake.  Like I said, this was a unique opportunity to chase down the famous gills and perch that I have heard about in this lake.

The turnout for the event was probably more than the committee expected.  Over 400 anglers showed up to participate in the special fishing day.  I traveled down to the lake with David Gissell and met 3 friends from the Des Moines area to fish for the morning.  No contour maps are available for the lake so the plan was simple...drill as many holes as possible and hop around to see where the fish were holding for the day.  At times we had 3 different augers punching holes at the same time, covering water and constantly keeping the Vexilars in the water looking for the fish.  We focused on the northeast cove and ended up with a pretty consistent bite for gills.  Each guy in the group caught their limit of 10 gills or were within a fish or two of that feat.  David caught the only crappie, a nice 12+ incher.  I ended up with the only 2 perch in the group, one that measured just over 12 inches.  The group caught a couple walleyes as well.  All-in-all it was a good fishing morning, as most of the gills we caught were of keeper size.  We never found any structure to fish, so focusing on depths of water and the imaginary contour map we were creating with the augers and Vexilars kept us actively on fish.  Down sizing jigs seemed to help after the first couple of hours of fishing, helping us to catch fish all the way up to the 1pm lunch time.

A big thanks to the Holiday Lake fish committee for making this day possible for anglers to try a different location to fish during the winter.  Below is the flier from this year, and hopefully they will have a similar event next year, if they do, I highly suggest giving it a try.



Sunday, January 21, 2018

ISU Ice Tournament at Hickory Grove Lake

Our Top 10 for the day

The Iowa State University Fishing Club held their annual ice tournament at Hickory Grove Lake today.  It was a nice turnout of 17 teams for the event. Weather for the day was overcast/drizzle throughout the day.  This actually helped the bite from the previous blue sky day on Saturday.  Once again, Mark Anderson and I joined up to fish the event.  The tournament limit was your top 10 panfish.  The lake has a good population of bluegills, some crappies and some green sunfish mixed in too.  We knew we had to focus on crappies to end up towards the top.

We both hit the lake on Saturday to look things over.  The previous weekend I was able to confirm some things we already knew about the lake from previous years.  We took our past experiences and what we saw on Saturday to come up with a game plan.  We had a solid plan A that we hoped would give us some crappies, and a plan B for big bluegills if we needed it.

The forecast on tournament day was cloudy with intermittent rain all day long, temps were in high 30's and was very comfortable to fish.  The overcast day definitely helped the fish bite all day long.  Water clarity in the lake was over 6 feet, the clouds definitely played in our favor on this day extending the bite.
We never did try plan B on the tournament day as plan A was very good to us.  We fished water from 14 feet to 25 feet deep.  Moving frequently helped us to stay on the moving schools of gills and crappies.  Light colored jigs seems to be the trick for us with a waxworm, although there was an hour or so mid-morning that the fish preferred red spikes.  Just more proof it is always good to have a variety of bait with you at all times.
One big advantage we had today was using the Vexilar FLX-28.  Almost all fish were caught suspended off the bottom several feet.  Utilizing the zoom feature to fine tune jigging cadence and capitalizing on then minuscule target separation really made working the fish a fun and an easy task on the day.
We ended up weighing in 9 crappies and one big bluegill that out-weighed other crappies that we had caught throughout the day.  Our 10 fish weighed in at 7.84#, good enough for 2nd place.  The winners, Chad Angell and Josh Sansgaard took 1st with 8.52#.  This event proved once again that this lake has some great fish in it!

Top 5 Results:
Angell/Sansgaard     8.52#
Reed/Anderson         7.84#
Stanley/Martin          4.50#
Kjormoe/Dolash       4.48#
Tom/Don                  4.40#