Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hickory Grove- Dec. 28th

With reports of ice up to 5 inches thick, I just had to get outdoors and try some of my old stomping grounds at Hickory Grove.  Packed real light for day, as I only had about 2.5 hours to fish.  With the Vexilar 22hd, rod case, power auger and GPS in hand, I quickly found my first "can't miss" spot on the lake.  Well, miss was more like it.  Not a fish was to be seen.  Off to spot #2.  Another zero.  Spot #3 paid off though.

Spot #3 was a brushpile in about 17 feet of water, deeper than the previous two.  That may have been a piece of the puzzle, and it was located on steep drop-off as well.  Although I was after bluegills and crappies, only bass were coming through the hole, and they were light biters to say the least.  Numerous fish were being marked on the Vexilar, so I decided to give them a little something different.  I changed my jig color from black and red to pink and white. 
A nice gill, just shy of the 9 inch mark.
First drop down the same hole, BOOM, a nice hit and round and round my line went, I just knew it was a bluegill.  Sure was, and a nice one too.  Things continued in similar fashion, catching some gills and bass.  Then the Vexilar went blank for awhile.  I decide to try another brushpile, just 20 yards away. 

A quick move, and another dozen holes or so and the action was on once again.  There was about a 30 minute time period when there was always a fish moving into the view of this brushpile.  Fun, to say the least.  I ended the day there with totals for the day at; about a dozen bass, 20 bluegills and two of the famous Green Sunfish.  Many of those fish came on plastic baits, the rest on live bait spikes.  A great little trip, with a lot of fish coming to the ice, just what I needed.

First time on the ice

December 24th was the first day on the ice for me.  I made it to two different public lakes with friend Chad.  We had a plan to start out and just check the ice to see if it was going to be a fishing day...or a day wishing we were fishing. 
My first "ice fish" of the year, a smaller bass.
The cooler nights and no wind, made perfect ice.  We stopped at a small pond in Marshalltown first, and found about 4 inches of ice...PERFECT and clear.  We popped a few holes and started catching a few fish. 

A nice crappie from the "town pond".
My first one on the ice was a bass, after that a bluegill, and then a crappie.  Chad picked up his first fish of the year too, a bass.  After I caught the bluegill, making a grand slam for the lake (those are the only 3 species in the lake) I suggested we pack up and look at another lake.

We quickly moved south of Marshalltown to another public lake. 
We started out in the deepest basin of the lake, but nothing, not a light on the Vexilars.  We continued to drill holes (finding 3-5 inches of ice each time) until we made our way to some structure.  This was the key, as our time expired we kind of found the sweet spot for the day.  A channel that bent towards some structure.    For the day we caught about 10 fish at this pond.  Next time we will continue to look around this lake and catch more gills. 

Christmas came a day early...as I have been itching to get on the ice, and WALK ON SOME WATER!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A real JERK!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hit Hawthorn Lake in Central Iowa.  It is about an hour drive from Marshalltown and I haven't been there for about 10 years.  The lake just got a face lift from the DNR at a cost of about $1,000,000.  They purchased land around the lake to deter silt from depositing in the new lake bed, drained the lake to rid all living creatures (over-populated shad), made lake improvements, and added catfish, bluegills, crappie and bass to the lake. 
A brand new lake with thousands of bass ready to eat any lure thrown their way...well at least that is what we hoped.  Dave Jordan and I quickly put the pieces together that day, and it was a good thing because we only had four hours to fish.  We had to be close to deep water, as that is where all our bites came from.  We also had to be off the main lake, it appears that the bass in this lake are setting up for winter already, however the water was steady at 50 degrees.
A healthy Hawthorn Lake bass on a Jerkbait
Back to the "any lure" part.  That thought was a JOKE!  Jigs, and soft plastics where catching a few fish, however I just had to try a jerkbait, which is normally great for fall bass when the water dips below 45 degrees. 
First cast...BOOM!  Bass-on!!!  It was like someone had hit the BASS-BITE switch.  It was the lure that they were looking for. 
We caught about 60 bass that day, and I alone caught about 30 on the jerkbait.  It was a suspending jerkbait, as the fish were sitting in 12+ feet of water.  The key was violent twitches, I really had to jerk it every time I twitched my rod.  It was a great day...I have never caught that many bass on a jerkbait in one day in my life.  A little hint if you are using a jerkbait; rod selection.  Picking the right rod to cast and work a suspending jerkbait is key to the action of the bait and hook-up ratio.  I used a 6'10" Quantum PT Tour rod in the Med/Hvy action.  This rod also has a "fast" action on it, meaning that the rod tip has some bend, but not too much.  This allows me to rip the jerkbait, but also allows me to keep the small trebles in the mouth.
All the bass that day were from 12-14inches long.  These bass were stocked about 4 years ago and they look very healthy.  They have great color, thick bellies, and they fight with an attitude, all signs of a healthy body of water. 
It was another great day on the water, and as I always say, any bass in November is truly a blessing!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The last time???

I hit the water with friends; Dave Jordan and Don Henry on Sunday.  Bass was once again my main target.  The weather was beautiful, temperatures in high 40's and low 50's all afternoon.  I assumed the water temps would be around the upper forties, however I was way off.  Temperatures varied from 50-56 degrees.  I was hoping for cooler water, and "bunched up" bass for this outing. 

We ended up catching bass all throughout the water column.  Some were as shallow as 2 feet, and others in 15 feet of water.  The bass were scattered to say the least.  I employed a three-rod arsenal for the day, my Quantum KVD cranking combo, Exo rod/reel for a spinnerbait, and the trusty EnergyPT and Accurist Texas rig pole.  All three got worked over pretty good this day!  Most fish did come on the KVD cranking rod, as the bass were wanting a slow crankbait retrieve. 


The Hot Rod Baits "Big Daddy" fooled a few bass aboard on this late fall trip.
 A great day in the outdoors for me and two friends, and perhaps my last day in the boat this year, but i am hoping that Mother Nature will allow me one more time before my gears shift into ice fishing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A trip to Pool 4

I headed north this past weekend with friends, Dave Jordan, Rick Fisher, Brian Bowles, and Ken Lunsford.  Our goal was to catch as many bass as we could in the two days we had to fish. 

Brian Bowles with a 3# 10oz SMALLIE!

Saturday was a beautiful day, light wind, sunny and the temps hung around 60 degrees most of the day, after sub freezing weather in the morning.  We caught a lot of bass that day, capped off by Brian's big smallie.  It weighed in at 3# and 10oz, a true beauty!  We caught bass, mostly smallmouth this day, on tubes, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and finesse tactics.  At one point that day, all three of us in the boat had out spinning gear with finesse tactics around a harbor that was receiving high pressure form anglers.  We caught about 10 largemouth doing this in a short amount of time too, it was great.

Sunday was almost a day to forget, the wind blew terribly and forced us to areas of the river that were not productive.  We manage to squeeze out a few bass Sunday, including a nice largemouth on a spinnerbait.  A spinnerbait was  the key on Sunday, as the wind told me to start throwing it.  We also discovered a few new fishing areas on pool 4, that might come in handy on a return trip.  It is always fun to explore new water and catch a few fish.

All in all, a very nice trip with some good buddies, that included some great breakfast items and some awesome pizza in Pepin, Wisconsin.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Looking for the weekend

Playing with worms
The season has officially changed for me.  It's fall, and the tournament season is over, well, it's been over for me for a couple weeks.  However, I still find myself on Monday's during lunch time wondering when I will be fishing next.  It is always about looking at that next adventure, and those fish that I might catch.
 

The past two weekends I have made it out each Sunday.  Two weeks ago, with my two kids.  They did awesome as we spent about 3 hours fishing a farm pond.  They caught dozens of bluegills and crappies, and one bass, which made my son the "Bassmaster" of the day.  That made my day!

I also had the chance to fish with long-time friend Dave Jordan for bass on another body of water that afternoon.  We really found the bass lined up on the weedlines and willing to bite any bait that was presented slow, even swimjigs.

This past Sunday I met up with my buddy Ken Lunsford.  Ken and I have always been in contact with each other, because we have had ties with the same bass club.  We have never fished against one another but have shared the boat a few times this year.  We hit a lake and found a couple dozen bass willing to bite this weekend.  The bite was much tougher than the previous weekend, but we both knew that was coming, due to the HUGE cold front that passed through on Friday.  We did the most damage this day on crankbaits and again slow moving plastic baits and jigs.  It is always fun to catch a few bass for fun, and the past two weekends is just what the "fishing doctor" prescribed.

I hope to get out once every weekend until...well it's almost time to get out the ice fishing gear.  I had the boat out several time sin November last year, and hope to do the same this year.  I guess that decision will come on Mondays' during my lunch time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feeding frenzy is on its way


Crappies are a top target of fall anglers
             There is no doubt that fall is in the air; cool crisp breezes, nighttime temperatures dipping into the forties and fifties, and leaves are beginning to change colors.  If you haven’t noticed these things, you must be one of those people that are trying to hang on to summer as long as you can.  The signs are there, and fall is here.  These signs from Mother Nature also bring on some migrations that we cannot over look.  I am speaking of the panfish migration and the feeding frenzy that follows.
            
               As many of you know, I am a die-hard bass fisherman.  However, this time of year as the bass tournament trails wind down, my focus starts thinking about that panfish migration that occurs in area lakes.  Besides early May, the rest of September and a few weeks into October can be the best panfishing you can find all year long.  In Central Iowa, the crappies and bluegills go into a feeding frenzy, knowing that winter is just around the corner. 
                When we really start to dissect and try to understand fish, then this migration really becomes just a matter of eating.  All summer long bluegills and crappies have been feeding on insects, their larvae, small crayfish, minnows and other small fish.  As the weather cools the insects disappear, and the crayfish hibernate, leaving the panfish only one option to feed on.  I believe that this is the major factor of why panfish go into a long feeding pattern before the winter months, they know their time of eating a buffet all day long is almost gone.  This is one reason why fishing this time of year makes perfect sense.
                Another reason why panfish begin to feed is the water temperature.  Again, they know that winter is coming, and they know that the long days spent under the ice will result in little food.  Like a squirrel in October, they prepare for the long Iowa winter.  All fish are cold=-blooded creatures, so their bodies react to the water around them.  As they start feeling the cooler water temperatures they know that they should start to eat everything in site. 
                This mental state they have, to eat anything and everything, brings the panfish up shallow where there are sticks, rocks and weeds to find food in.  This is the main reason why people are very successful this time of year too.  Fish are much easier to catch when they are shallow, and fall is a time that they come back to the shorelines.    
For baits/tactics/and top fall fishing areas click HERE for the full article on the Times Republican Newspaper Wesite.
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bitter...and Sweet

Last weekend marked the end of my tournaments for the 2012 fishing season.  It is always bitter-sweet when the time comes each year to realize that I won't be competing in any more bass tournaments.  I will still, of course get out and go fishing, but tournaments and the competition have helped make me the angler I am today.

My tournament season was a good one, several top 5 finishes and a couple of wins, I organized about a dozen bass tournaments as well, and they went off without a hitch.  So all in all, a good tournament season.

Bitter, that the competitive fishing season is done.  The 10-hour days on the water, the adrenaline that kicks in on tournament morning, and all the friends I see out on the tournament trails.

Sweet, that there will be no more 3am drives to the lake, I will be able to just fish for "fun", looking ahead to next years' challenges and the ice fishing season.

I guess one more sweet thing about the season coming to an end was that it occurred on my favorite body of water, Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  I spent two days with good friend Don Henry chasing bass on the northern part of that pool both days.  We had to of caught around 80 or bass in two days, and I squeaked out the tournament win, and big bass.  Don and I also won the team portion of the event too.  The event was a small club tournament, but we couldn't have done much better, which I am proud to say.

It only took two keeper bass to win my last event of 2012,
but after driving 7 hours, and awake at 5:30am both
days, I was very pleased with the outcome.

Another bass tournament year is in the books, and after I make it out on the ice a dozen or so times fishing, then I will look forward to the 2013 bass fishing season.  Until then, it will be all about fishing for fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall is finally here

I think I speak for a lot of people in Central Iowa when I say I am welcoming this cooler weather.  It seemed like there were so many days that us outdoorsman were trapped inside air conditioning when we should have been out fishing the past two months.  I got out plenty of times, but would have floated the boat much more with out those 95-plus degree days.  I say, bring on the fall weather!
Fall is always bittersweet for me, as I know winter is coming, and the boat will be put away for the year.  However, on the other hand it means that ice fishing is around the corner.  This year, though, as of right now, I do not even want to think about putting the boat away yet.  Fall can be the best time of the year to catch fish.  Most anglers would say spring, but weather can really dominate spring flurries of fish biting, while the milder and timid weather changes in the fall can ignite great fishing for several weeks, not just several days as in the spring.  Another thing that you will see during the fall months is less fishing pressure.  There are a lot of outdoorsman/women who put there rods and reels away to get out the bow and arrows and firearms for the upcoming hunting seasons.  I hunt for a couple days for deer each year, but that is really about all the time I want to commit to hunting, I am all about the catching when it comes to fall. 

Fall can be an awesome time of the year to
fish for any species.  However, I like to target
bass, both green and brown.

As stated, fall can be the best times of year to catch fish.  Here are a few quick tips for your next time out on the water.  First, hit the rivers.  Small interior rivers are fantastic during this time of year.  Rivers will generally cool down quicker than lakes and this puts the fish into a feeding frenzy.  All species will seek out current seems to load up on minnows, and other prey during this time of year.  As for the Mississippi River, well if you ask me there is no better place to go after Labor Day in the entire state.
Another tip for you during the fall is to use bigger baits when the weather is favorable.  This time of year the fish are eating the largest prey they have all year long.  Minnows, shad, crawfish are all the biggest they will be, so make your baits large when the weather is favorable, and go to smaller offerings when cold fronts dominate the weather pattern.
I wish you the best this fall, and remember water safety, as the water cools, the more dangerous it is to fall in.  Use the buddy system, and always have a plan for when things could go wrong. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

3-Mile Lake

Today led my partner Doug and I to 3-Mile lake in Southwestern Iowa.  This was a the 4th tournament in the year-long series that we are competing in.  We stood in 3rd place before the tournament, which was in our goal range of placing in the top 3 once the season was finished. 

Last weekend we spent about 7 hours on the lake looking for any sign of bass that were concentrated, or at least using specific areas of the lake.  To put is nicely, we struggled, we only found three keeper bass, and only caught a few other short bass.  Leaving the lake I was defeated...until I got a call from a friend of mine that was fishing a tournament on 3-Mile that same day.  It was a struggle for almost everyone.  This made me feel a little better coming into today's event.

We were up at 2:30am to make the 2-hour drive to the lake, as we drove we figured out a plan to attack the lake.  We also knew that rain was in the forecast all day long in the area, which normally helps the anglers catch more fish.  Notice I said "normally"!!!

Our plan was a good one, the first stop we made, a shallow feeding flat and BOOM, Doug scores our first keeper bass.  We continue in this area, and BOOM, I hook up with our second keeper bass on a buzzbait.  Things are looking good!

We continue to fish around the same feeding flat, and finally give up.  We decide to head for a little deeper location, not too far away.  Zero...then we go a little bit deeper along a channel swing...Zero...we continue to hit some standing timber...Zero. 

It was time to refocus...and refocus we did.  We went to other areas in the lake that were similar to where we got a few bites early in the morning.  This was our saving grace for the day.  We hooked up on two more keepers on the day, and weighed in 3 keeper bass that were almost seven pounds. 

Fishing was tough, and I had mixed feelings as we put the boat back on the trailer.  I figured we had bombed and given up a lot of points towards our goal of the top three in the "Team of the Year" race.  Come to find out, many teams struggled, and we ended up in 6th place.  Not as bad as I had thought, and it might be just enough to save our season, it probably came down to one little decision that we made on the water today.  Belva Deer is the next stop in a few weeks to decide it all!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bruhsy Creek flop

The Tri-County Bass club held its 8th annual 4-man Bass Tournament this past Saturday.  I have been a member of this bass club since 1999 while living in Marshalltown.  It is a great bass club with a great group of guys. 

A few years ago, 2005 to be exact I came up with an idea to have a 4 person bass tournament.  Those of you that have heard of bass tournaments know that this is unusual, and I believe it was the first ever in the state of Iowa.  My friends and family have always said I have had some goofy ideas, and this was one of them I had back in 2005.  The tournament is just like any other bass tournament, except instead of having just one partner, you have your partner in your boat, PLUS two other people on your team in another boat.  Ideally you work together, call/text each other the "hot spots", or the "hot bait" of the day to compete against all the other teams.  It has been a fun tournament to compete in. 


A nice keeper I caught during a practice session prior to the
tournament using a Vexilar flasher and shakey head worm.
I have always teamed up with other club members, and also coordinate the event each year.  Last year, our team did our best ever, we placed 4th with 33.60# for 10 bass, and I also caught the big bass for the event at 5.20 pounds.  We got the big bass award ($500) and about $400 for our 4th place finish.  This year our team had high hopes as we fished the lake prior to the event, but had little success.


This year, as the title states was a flop.  None of our team members could really find those bass creatures on the day.  All four of us fished hard, and caught numerous bass throughout the day, but as a team we only weighed in 4 bass, out of 10 possible.  We just couldn't seem to find the keeper bass that day...a FLOP as I call it.  A flop it may be, but I am a better angler because of it, and I will get back out there soon...you can't let one bad event get you down for too long.

To close, I may sound like a Cubs fan for a few seconds, but "I guess there is always next year". 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A new lake for me

My bass club here in Marshalltown had an event this past weekend at Belva Deer Lake near Sigourney, Iowa.  I planned on fishing this event since the start of the year, for one reason, to check out a new lake.  I had never seen the lake before, only read comments and posts on the Internet about it.  It appeared to be a good bass lake, and I couldn't help myself, I "had" to enter.
I decided to practice for the event on Friday, the day before competition, which can be tricky, because you don't want to catch too many bass the day before the tournament.
A foggy tournament morning on Belva Deer Lake
I hit the lake with partner for the weekend, Eric.  We haven't fished together for 3 or 4 years, so it was nice to share my boat with him again.  We were on the lake about 5am Friday and I immediately went into my game plan for the day.  At the end of the day, some of my assumptions were correct, while others were simply all wrong.  I guess that is what practice is for!  We were off the lake about 1:30pm and headed back to the motel for a break and to get our rod and reels ready for the tournament.
Practice day on Friday turned out to be the
key to a top three finish.
Tournament day, up and on the lake at 5am once again.  My plan for the day was to use topwater baits early in the morning in some shallow areas that we found holding fish on Friday.  This worked out very well.  We caught about 25 bass using Pop-r baits.  I had a limit of 3 bass in less than an hour and my partner had a nice keeper too.  We then moved to some timber, which this lake is full of!  We had certain sections picked out to fish, but nothing came in the boat long enough to help us.  Onto the the next step, Carolina-rigging sunken islands.  This is a technique that can be deadly in the summer time.  Bass move up and down the water column looking for food, and this rig can cover a lot of water and offer a bait very slowly to a bass.  I was able to add some heavier fish to the my livewell with this technique, and my partner caught two keepers too.  He informed me that this was his first ever limit in a tournament, so hats off to him for that!  We spent the majority of the day Carolina-Rigging, however at the end of the day I made a move, which turned out to move me right to the top of the standings.  I was sitting with a little over 7 pounds with my three keepers.  My last move was to flip Hot Rod Baits tubes into trees standing in 6-11 feet of water.  This was by far our best depth of water on Friday.  It paid off, I caught my second biggest bass of the day with only 20 minutes remaining in the tournament.  I was able to upgrade to 7.70#, good enough for a 2nd place finish. 
Working hard on practice day led us to a great game plan on Saturday.  My plan worked out, and most importantly I learned a new lake to fish...like I needed any more lakes to occupy my time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hot June day on Pine Lakes

This past weekend I spent about 4 hours on the Pine Lakes with good friend Zach Maxfield.  I've known Zach since he was 9 years old.  I taught him 4th grade, and we have kept in touch ever since.  He is now in his twenties and has become a force to recon with on the local bass tournament trails.  I would like to say that I have been a mentor to him, teaching him as much as I can on the water and we have had some great times fishing and just talking about fishing.

It is always fun to fish with Zach, as he tends to fish much like me, and his equipment mirrors mine too!  Quantum rods and reels all the way!  We headed north to Pine Lakes near Eldora around 2:30pm.  We started on Upper Pine Lake and had some success, mostly on crankbaits.  We caught about 20 bass, but all of them were around the 12-inch mark.  We decided after about 2.5 hours to head down to Lower Pine Lake.  We packed up quick, loaded the boat on the trailer and had it floating on Lower Pine in about 10 minutes.
Back to work, trying to figure out what the bass wanted.  Right away Zach had his shallow crankbait working, hooking up on several small fish.  We caught about 15 total bass on this lake in about 2 hours.  We did switch things up a bit, and caught 2 nice solid keepers.  A 16 and 17-inch bass feel to a jig presentation around rock and wood.  I was using a Green/Pumpkin Jig with a Melon/Red Hot Rod Baits Jig Chunk attached.  This combo looks great in the water, you just have to see it!

A great quick day on the water with a good friend catching bass...sometimes things just work out!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Double up weekend

This past weekend was a greatly anticipated one, but a busy one for sure.  Two things were on the agenda, Saturday fish an "I-BASS" tournament with partner Doug Chaloupek, second, direct a Hot Rod Baits tournament at Brushy Creek on Sunday. 
Saturday morning started early...2:30AM as I made my way to Doug's house so we could get to West Lake for the 5AM blast-off of our tournament.  Doug and I did not do well in our last I-Bass event, so we needed a good one.  I practiced on the lake last weekend, which is my last BLOG entry.  It went well and thus the anticipation of the tournament was immense!  We finished the day in 2nd place and got 2nd big bass.  A cool $500 came our way for those accomplishments, thanks most in part to the 4.85# bass that Doug caught that day!  More importantly we made up some ground in the "Team of the Year" race, which is our overall goal.  Our plan was a good one, and we made some key on-lake decisions that led to our limit of 3 bass that weighed 11.50 pounds.
Myself and I-Bass partner Doug Chaloupek with our
limit of three bass that weighed 11.50#.

After collecting our money we were off on the road for another 90minute trip straight north to Brushy Creek.  I was not fishing this event, just directing the event.  I had 17 teams signed up for the 5:30am blast-off on Sunday.  Things went without a hitch, and the tournament was a big success.  My good friend Dave Jordan and his partner Don Peart won the Hot Rod Baits tournament with over 15 pounds and my good buddies Zach and Kelly Maxfield came in 2nd with over 15 pounds too.  It was great to see these guys have a great day and collect some money of their own.  After a quick cleanup of tournament materials, it was one more 90 minute trip home.  A busy weekend, but looking back...WELL worth it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

West Lake Osceola Practice

I had the chance to go scout out, or "practice" on my next tournament location on Memorial Day.  Dave Jordan was my partner for the day, and as usual we had a good time.

Our biggest fish of the day came on an Optimum Furbit Frog

My upcoming tournament at West Lake is a big one for my partner Doug and I.  We need a top 3 finish, as we struggled at our last series event failing to be in the top half. 
Those of you that have fished West Lake know that it can be feast or famine.  We had a good day on the lake and I think I know where the fish are living...for now.  This time of year can tough because the fish are done spawning and they can be in one foot of water or the deepest realms of the lakes. 
We caught around 25 bass for the day, and had 5 keepers, which is a good day anywhere.  What I really like about the day was the quality of the fish we caught.  The biggest of the day weighed in at 3.75#, we also caught a 3.50# and one that was 2.50#.  The other two were right around two pounds. 
As for the secret bait...well there wasn't one.  Here is a list of what we caught all our bass on; swim jig, Dirty Craw Hot Rod Baits Tube, Black/Red Tube, jig, spinnerbait, crankbaits and an Optimum Furbit Frog.  Needless to say, the Quantum rods and reels were busy!
If Doug and I can adjust to the bite next weekend, I think we will have a nice weigh-in.
On this day, I cannot close before saying, THANK YOU TO ALL who have, are or will serve our country.  This country may some some problems, but we all can wake up each day knowing we will be safe and we can work to make our dreams come true.  We couldn't do that without our armed forces.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Binge" Fishing

Every once in a while I find myself going fishing several days in a row.  I had that opportunity this past weekend.  I took Friday off to head up to Okoboji for a tournament I had on Saturday.  Two days on probably the best lake in Iowa, I was excited and a little apprehensive too.  I had never fished this body of water in the spring before, but was pretty sure my partner, Doug Chaloupek and I could catch a limit of 3 bass in the tournament.

Our practice day on Friday went well, we had three different areas on the lakes that we caught several bass in.  Two were close to each other while the other one was about a 15-minute boat ride away.  We had decided if we got some early bites in the two locations that were close, that is where we would spend the entire day.  Well, we spent the entire day there, as I put three keepers in the boat in less then 30 minutes.  So we had all day to upgrade our catch.  We did use all day to upgrade, catching about a dozen keepers that day.  We weighed in 3 keepers for about 8.50#, I figured that would put us in the middle of the pack...I was off, we ended up 15th out of 21 boats.  I have asked myself over and over this week...should we have gone to that "other spot" to try and catch a bigger bass?  I guess I will never know.  I do know that Doug and I fished a good tournament, and we stuck to our game plan.  We also picked up a lot of knowledge about that body of water in the spring months of the year.

That was the first two days, now for day three of fishing.  Before fishing however, I had a few things to do.  I was directing a tournament that day, the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series at Rock Creek Lake.  The tournament got started without a hitch, and then it was time for David Bowles and myself to go chase some crappies.  We grabbed some minnows and hit the lake in search of crappies.  16 boats were off to catch bass, and I was off to catch crappies...it was a little weird for me that was for sure.  It took a little while, but we found the crappies.  Once we found them, it was all about the catching!  We caught about 60-70 crappies in about 4 hours.  All were very shallow getting ready to spawn, we picked off the male crappies that hit our minnows one foot below our bobbers.  How relaxing was that...TOTALLY!  It reminded me to take advantage of the panfishing in the area and to go out fishing for them more often.  "Binge-Fishing" you should try it! 

Watching your bobber go down is sooooo fun, I need to do it more often.
This is a typical 9 inch crappie from Rock Creek Lake.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My biggest fish EVER

This past Saturday I was fishing at Brushy Creek Lake during a bass tournament.  The morning started very slow, until I got a small tap on my bass jig and trailer.  I set the hook and immediately tell my partner "this is a big fish!".  I gave my reel a couple turns to bring the fish away from the trees and it took off towards deeper water.  At that point I said, "this is no bass".  I was disappointed, but now my curiosity took over, was it a big walleye?  A big muskie?
It took me several tries to gill-grab him,
but mission accomplished!
I kept fighting the fish, and soon it showed itself, a BIG MUSKIE!  I quickly said, "get a camera" to my partner Doug.  I didn't know if we would see it again or not, so wanted a picture just in case.  I loosened the drag a bit on my QuantumPT Accurist reel and fought the fish for approximately 5 minutes.  Up and down, up and down it came.  It took about 4 or 5 tries, but finally I was able to get a hold of the giant fish and bring it on board. 

We clicked a few pictures for the memory, and to make some guesses as to how long it was.  It would have measured about 40-45 inches.  I soon got ahold of my friend Thomas Allen, who is a muskie fanatic, and asked how much a fish like that would weigh, he said anywhere in the range for 20-24 pounds.
A fish I will never forget.

Equipment used:

Rod- Quantum "Biffle Stick" 7-foot, 6-inches in length

Reel- Quantum Accurist PT

Line- 15 pound test Berkely Big Game

First tournament of 2012

I teamed up with fellow angler Doug Chaloupek yesterday to take on the bass at Brushy Creek.  I had a game plan form the weekend before, but you never know how that is going to play out a week later. 
We followed the game plan and had two nice keepers.  In the particular tournament we were fishing a team can weigh in three keepers, so we had to find one more to give ourselves a chance.  We made one last move in the final hour and it paid off for us.  We caught our last keeper on a shallow hump that completed our limit. 
To say the least, fishing was very hard today, probably the toughest day on this lake ever for me.  We ended up tied for 5th place out of 15 teams.  A good start towards our goal of being towards the top of the leader board at the end of the year.  There are 4 more tournaments left on this schedule, and if we can stay in the top five, we will be right in the mix of things at the end of the year.  I also want to thank Doug for catching a nice walleye...which will be my dinner tonight!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Anticipation

This Saturday marks my first bass tournament of the year, and to say I am ready is an understatement.  I "practiced" at Brushy Creek last weekend with friend, Ken Lunsford.  I have know Ken for years, and knew he was a good angler, but we have never went fishing together.  We have swapped dozens of stories over email and in conversations, and it felt like I knew exactly what kind of angler he was. 

Last weekend proved that to be just right about Ken, he is a good angler and a fun person to fish with.  He accompanied me to Brushy Creek in search of some clues as to where the bass were in the lake and just how far along they were on the spring bass schedule.  Well, it didn't take us both very long to figure out that Brushy Creek had a curve ball planned for us.  CLEAR, and that is an understatement.  We could the floor of the lake in 12 feet of water at times.  Neither of us planned on that or event figured it would be that clear.  We were also surprised at the few number of bass we caught.  I think the final number was around 7 or 8 bass.  Four of them being chunky keepers and topping out at 3.5 pounds.  The quality of fish were very nice to see, however the numbers shocked us. 

Ken helped me develop a plan for this weekend's tournament, will that plan work out?  There is only one way to find out...GO FISHING!

Somewhere on this map lives the winning bass for Saturday's tournament. 
I hope to find those fish and bring them to the weigh-in.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April Fool's Day

Made it out today with good buddy, Dave Jordan.  I had two goals today on the water; first and foremost, testing out my new MinnKota Fortrex 101, the second, getting some Pine Lake bass to bite.

All anglers in the Marshalltown area have been fishing Rock Creek, Union Grove, and Hickory Grove Lakes, no one had any information on the Pine Lakes.  Well, this made me curious, so off we headed to the north.  Dave and I decided to start on Lower Pine Lake, and give it an hour or so and if nothing was cooperating, we would pack up and travel a mile north to Upper Pine Lake.  We never left Lower Pine Lake, we figured them out.  It wasn't automatic, that is for sure.  We wasted, or shall I say experimented for about an hour before we started getting consistent bites. 

Basically, if you have a slow bait in less than 4 feet of water, you would get bites.  We caught many fish, including the biggest of the day, a 3.75# bass in less than 1 foot of water.  Fish were holding tight to the bank, laydown logs, and overhanging bushes.  In all we caught 9 keepers (15 + inchers) and 6 smaller ones on this short trip.  All bass came on jigs with bright blue Hot Rod Baits jig chunks or Hot Rod Baits tubes.  A great day for the Pine Lakes Chain, that is for sure. 

Now on to goal #1 for the day.  The installation of the 36-volt MinnKota was easier than I expected and I was able to do all the work the past few weeks.  Today was the test.  As a teacher during the week, I often struggle with grades for students and their work, however I can only give this trolling motor an A!!!  What a machine, we used it for a solid 5 hours, it is a trolling motor lake only, so it never had a break.  One thing I did learn, when you turn the dial up to the maximum power...you better have yourself planted!  I love it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring = BIG fish

I can only assume this nice weather is going to stay around awhile, and I am happy for that.  I have had a few chances to get out in boats and enjoy some early season bass fishing.  Each trip has been a great one.  Not only did the fish bite, but I have been out with three different fishing buddies already this year, and it is not even April.  Mother Nature has been very kind as of late, and it appears that she will continue to bless us with an early spring. 


Each spring most of the biggest bass in the state will be caught the first two months of the fishing year.  No one really knows why this is, but there are a couple hypotheses’ out there that could cause these big bass to bite each spring.
 
A friend of mine took his son out last weekend and
Owen caught the biggest bass of his life, over 5 pounds!

One reason big bass are caught in the spring is that 99% of bass in Iowa over three pounds are females.  That is a biological fact, so with that said, these big females are producing eggs during this time, and just like any mother, they have to eat more food to keep their bodies functioning.  The more food their bodies need, the more food they must eat to survive.  Another idea is that these big female bass are stocking up for their annual egg laying routine.  This is a very stressful time on the fish, although it only lasts a few hours.  These female fish know that their bodies are going to go through the hardest thing they will do all year, so they are planning ahead.  Another idea, one that I firmly believe in, is that the bigger game fish have less of a food source this time of year.  There are no small minnows, or small bluegills or small crappies to eat.  Another big food source bass have are crawdads and frogs/toads.  These creatures are still hibernating at this time of year.  So these bigger bass have to eat whenever they can in the spring, because their “meals” don’t come around much.  One last idea why these big bass are easy to catch this time of year (they don’t disappear in June/July/August/September) is that they have lost their memory or are not conditioned to the baits that we throw at them.  Not only with big female bass, but any bass after the long winter have not seen any lures in the water.  They have basically been left alone for four or five months.  Anything they have learned about baits or people causing commotion has been forgotten over the winter time.  I know one of these is not the only true reason, as I stated before, no one really knows except the bass, but one thing is certain, big bass bite in the spring time.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Boat on the WaTeR!

Today marked the first time for the boat to get wet this year.  The last time it was on the water was November 13th.  It had about a 4 month break, and it was time for the Ranger to get back on the water.  Dave Jordan, who seems to always be my guinea pig when taking my boat out for the first time graciously joined me again this year.  No matter how well you take care of your equipment, or how new it is, you just never know what that first time on the water will bring. 
We were in for a surprise today...the beginning of 2012 couldn't have started much BETTER!  The boat, motors, rods/reels all worked flawlessly for us yesterday.  As stated earlier in my blog, I spend quite a bit of time in the winter cleaning my reels and checking my rods for flaws.  I am glad I do this, because when you are working with a Quantum rod and reel that are tuned in just perfect...it just doesn't get any better than that.

The bass were killing the the Optimum sqimbait on the pause!
Dave and I headed to a private lake, yes I know that is kind of cheating, but it is an awesome place to take friends and family to catch some fish.  Yesterday was no different. 
We found the bass hitting crankbaits, jigs, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, Optimum Baits swimbaits, Hot Rod Baits BIG DADDIES and TUBES.  Color didn't seem to matter much of the afternoon, although size did, for the last half of our 5-hour fishing day the bass definitely wanted a smaller piece of plastic, like a tube bait.  Dave and I caught dozens of bass, and had a blast doing it!

The *new* bait from Hot Rod Baits,
 the Big Daddy got a good workout.
Most of Iowa had optimal conditions on Sunday, warm air much of the week, and a storm front coming in the next day, it doesn't get much better than that for springtime fishing.  One other reason for the bass cooperating so well, we found water temperatures in some shallow areas at 69.3 degrees...we normally see that in May.  Until next time, have fun with what you like to do!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is this March?

I am not sure what to make of Mother Nature lately.  She only gave us about 8 weekends of solid ice here in Central Iowa, the last few years we have been up around 15 weeks.  Now she throws us 70 and even 80 degree temperatures in the middle of March...I think she is up to something. 
I have been called an optimistic quite a few times in life, whether it's fishing, or just shooting the bull with my buddies, so I would classify myself as an optimistic.  However, lately I have found myself playing the other card, the one of a pessimistic.  I just have a bad feeling that April could see many days in the 30's and 40's.  I hope I am wrong (I don't say that much) but we have had it just a little too good lately. 

However, for now I am going to take full advantage of it.  I caught my first bass March 1st, and loaded the boat with a couple more dozen bass earlier this week.  Now, tomorrow, if things go right, hopefully I can add a few more bass to my total this year. 

Mother Nature...please prove me wrong!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Snowing?!?!?!

I spent most of today preparing several reels for the upcoming fishing season, and wouldn't you know it, snow was falling.  As most of you know, I prefer, and only use Quantum reels.  I have been so happy with this company the past 2 decades and have helped them to sell many more rods and reels.  They help me throughout the year by a sponsorship for gear, which is why I can own the best Quantum products that they make. 
Another reason I like Quantum reels so much, is that they are easy to work on and clean.  Here is a picture of one of the reels I tore down and completely oiled and greased up for the 2012 season.  42 parts in all on this particular model, but after doing several, the Quantums just go right back together. 
It feels good to have this big project done, and soon, hopefully very soon, I will have the sense of mind knowing that my Quantum reels are in top-notch working condition.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

In with a BANG!

Yes, March 1st and one bass on the board for me in this early open water season.  I was eager all day to go check a private pond and make a few casts with my new Quantum EXO rod and reel combo.  I pulled up at the pond and it was 90% vacant of ice...YES! 

First cast...smooth reel, the crankbait went flying towards the deeper water. 
Second cast...again, wow, really smooth, I retrieved the crankbait a little slower this time.
Third cast...I really like this new EXO rod and reel!!!  I stopped the crankbait a few times on this retrieve, and BOOM, first bass of the year, a nice chunky 2-pounder.

Back in the water he went, mission accomplished, and really amazed I caught anything.  Really nice to be outside casting, and it was really great I caught one today. 

This only gives me the urge to get back out real soon though...I hope Mother Nature cooperates with some decent weather.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A weekend without fish

Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time where I was not outdoors chasing fish.  This is the "in-between" time of the year, where the ice is not great, and the lakes are not open for fishing either.  Normally this time of year drives me crazy, but this year, I have not felt that mental strain yet. 
This past weekend, my wife, and two kids spent time back in Independence at my folks house, and it was a great way to unwind after a week of work.  Luckily for us, my older sister, younger sister and my brother Tim and his family were in town too, it was a small family reunion.  It was fun to say to least, playing cards with my parents, that didn't turn out very well for me...and watching my kids play with their cousins, aunts and uncles is always fun too.  Ranger and I even made it out sledding at my parents house, I think that was the last time, but it sure was FUN!
I started Hot Rod Baits in 2007, a small
company that sells plastic baits for
bass anglers.  All the colors are hand
picked by me and my friends, and
they sure do CATCH BASS!
Lately, I have been spending a lot time with Hot Rod Baits, getting things lined up for the busy fishing tackle season which is just around the corner.  There will be some new colors coming out this year and a whole new line of baits, called the Big Daddies.  I can't wait to get these into customers hands and see them catch bass this year with them.
As the forecasters are predicting temperatures in 50's all next week, I am hoping to get some time on the water soon.  However, for now, life is good!

Monday, February 20, 2012

One last time on the ICE...

I have been saying all week that this past Sunday was my last day on the ice for this ice season.  No matter what became of the day, good...bad, or ugly, I was calling it quits for the year.  Well, the day came and went quickly, as most fishing trips do for me.  However, it won't be forgotten that fast. 

This big 'gill hit in about 18 feet of water on top of a brushpile. 
9+ inches
I made arrangements to fish with Don Henry and Mark Anderson.  Don has visited Hickory Grove with me many times, but this was Mark's trip to the lake for the first time.  Mark is no rookie ice angler though, he can fish with the best of them. 

In short, we hit seven different brushpiles by 11:00am, not bad for 4 hours on the ice.  We would have made half that progress without our modern ice fishing tools though.  The GPS took us right to my brushpiles, the gas augers made quick work and we were dropping the Vexilars down twenty to thirty holes in no time.  Almost all the piles gave up some fish, bluegills were abundant this day, as most days are at Hickory Grove.

I really don't know how many fish we caught, but between the three of us we probably had our hands on at least 60 bluegills in the first four hours.  That is an estimate of course, but I would bet it is very close to the actual number.  To say the least it was a fun morning, and I think Mr. Anderson will be back to this lake.

The elusive Hickory Grove Crappie,
an 11-incher on the last day.
Mark had to head back home to Des Moines, but Don and I hit one more pile on our way back to the ramp...same story, the bluegills were cooperative.  After that slowed I said, let's try the other side of the lake for a while.  Don was more than ready, as usual.  We drove around the lake (the middle portion had about 20 acres of open water) and fished the west side.  The first two brushpiles...which are "guaranteed spots" came up with no fish on Vexilars.  Hmmm, well with this being my "last trip", I couldn't go out like this, being defeated at my last "guaranteed spot".  NOPE, that is not me, so we hiked over to my favorite spot on the lake, one that isn't know for a lot of fish, but the ones that are there, are normally bigger than average. 
BINGO, gill, after gill, after gill, and then a nice crappie to "ice" the day.  Now this was the way to end the year.  My last spot was a success and was a nice way to cap an interesting ice season.

The ice at Hickory Grove Lake is still pretty good, if you know where to trek, a lot of the lake would not be considered safe for ice fishing though (let me know if you need pointed in the right direction).  We had our safety gear, took the proper precautions and I had the knowledge of the ice conditions from being there last weekend too.  One last time...welllllll, YES, that was it, the Vexilars are put away, and the rods have been laid to rest until later this year...hopefully Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Late Season Ice

It is a sad week here in Central Iowa, as the ice is disappearing quickly.  It has been melting for quite some time actually, but the ice fishing season is coming to a close for us. 
                It is without a doubt, that I have not seen a winter like this for at least 10 years.  The past two winter seasons have provided safe ice all the way into March.  As I look at the extended forecast, I can only assume that I will be in my boat on area lakes the first part of March.  It has been a good ice fishing season for me and my friends, as we made it out every weekend after January 1st.  The water froze late this year, and never reached ten inches on area lakes.  Normally this time of year we would be drilling through 15 or more inches of ice.  I am just hoping to see four or five inches of ice this weekend to give it one more try. 
                Late season ice is never the best ice; first ice is always the best, as it is new and solid.  A lot of anglers in the area have only fished a few times this winter and have put all their ice fishing gear away.  I don’t blame them one bit.  I have been frustrated with the ice conditions all year long.  I guess Mother Nature really put it to us this year, but the last two winters have been long for ice fishing.  Either way, if you are still looking for ice this weekend in the area, you must use extreme caution.
                Caution is always taken early in the ice season, but as the season goes on, many people tend to forget those safety precautions.  My group of friends have not gone on the ice one time this year without all of our safety gear.  I can’t remember any winter like that, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Once again this weekend, all the safety gear will be with us, and at the ready if needed.  Hickory Grove has had good ice the longest of any area lake, and in parts of the lake the ice is still pretty good.  However, as with Hickory Grove, and any body of water/ice this time of year, the depths of ice can very A  LOT.  You must use a lot of caution as the ice has been shrinking and is becoming unsafe in many ponds and lakes in the area.
                It is always very tempting to “try one more time” at the end of ice season, however, I’ve grown past that.  I always plan one last trip, and then put everything away, this weekend is that time.  Am I guaranteed good ice…no, will I take every precaution for safety, yes.  I look forward to one last time on the ice this year with friends, but it is always bittersweet.  On one hand the ice season is gone…well at least for another nine months, but on the other hand the area lakes will be opening up and ready for shore angling or getting the boat out soon.
                I guess looking back on the ice fishing season I made it to a lot of different bodies of water, which is always fun.  I was able to fish a new farm pond and caught some really nice crappies and bluegills out of.  I had several great days on Hickory Grove catching bluegills, and made a trip up north to Clear Lake to catch dozens of yellow bass too.  I also had a blast catching largemouth bass this winter, by far the best winter I have ever had for catching bass.  It sure is fun to catch a two-pound bass on pole that is sixteen inches long!  Each winter I always look forward to competing in ice fishing tournaments too, but this year both events that I was going to fish have gotten canceled due to the bad ice conditions.  I guess I will be more eager to fish in them again next year.  
                Ice fishing isn’t all about finding and catching fish, it has deeper roots for me too.  Going out on the ice with friends and family to see if you can trick some fish into biting has been my Outdoor Ambition for over two decades now.  This year I was able to ice fish with many friends; Brian, David, Peter, Don, Chad, Mark and my son Ranger also.  In all my adventures on the ice this year, most days were fantastic with the way the fish cooperated, and there were a couple days where getting bites were tough or even rare, however having friends to joke and talk with always made the time fly by quickly.  I was once told by an old friend of mine that the hours a person spends fishing doesn’t count toward their lifespan, I sure hope that is true!
                As spring is around the corner, I guess I have to say good-bye to the ice, although it is about a month too early.  Maybe, just maybe it will warm up quickly and I can get the boat out very soon.  Ok, fine, I admit it, I’m addicted to fishing!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February...or is it?

My companions for the day, David Bowles, Brian Bowles, and Chad Pietig all had hopes of finding some good, "safe" ice in the Marshalltown area.  Well, as I often say there really is no "safe" ice, and today was definitely a day that required a lot of attention to safety. 

We started our travels south to Rock Creek.  We checked the east side of the lake, and saw nothing that we could even take one step on without breaking through.  Then we set out for the west side of the lake, same thing.  Rotten ice that couldn't support a small mammal, let alone 4 grown boys!  After a bit of disbelief, some unkind words towards Mother Nature, and we were off to try lake #2 for the day.

Did I mention that it was a blizzard at Rock Creek?  Huge snowflakes, as wet as a drop of rain were falling and covering our tracks as fast as we made them.  Again, more negatives were said about Mother Nature!

As we started our way north, back up to highway 30 to head west to Hickroy Grove, I pulled Weather.com up on my trusty BlackBerry.  It showed the whole southern half of the state covered in a snow storm.  Well, there goes any ice fishing to the south for the rest of the year.  We could always go to northern Iowa to ice fish, but in the beginning of February...are you kidding me???  With every mile we drove north, the snow seemed to disappear, it was quite a site really.  By the time we got to highway 30, things were all but dry.

We headed to Hickory Grove with high hopes, we were just there six days prior and had a great day catching bluegills.  The ice that day was about seven to eight inches in depth.  The ice couldn't have melted that fast...could it?  The Grove, as we call it did not disappoint, the ice was good in the location we picked, and not a sole was to be found on the lake.  We were the only ones brave enough, or stupid enough, depending how you look at this story to hit the ice this day.  We set up on a brushpile and immediately started catching fish.  All those harsh words towards Mother Nature just melted away after seeing fish after fish show up on the Vexilar screens.


First fish of the day for me, a nice
 Hickory Grove Bluegill.

We ended up hitting three brushpiles this day, two of them really paid off with nice bluegills, and even one of those elusive Hickory Grove Crappies made an appearance.  A great day, and a safe day was had on the 5 inches of "solid" ice that we found.  Keep in mind we had all of our safety gear with us, a plan for an emergency and we were all carrying our common sense cards this afternoon too. 




There are not many days on the ice left, unless Mother Natures blesses us with some real winter weather, and I mean some single-digit, frigid cold.  Come on Mother Nature, you can do it, please!!!

If you are venturing out looking for some ice, please remember to take other people with you, safety ropes, flotation devices and the willingness to say the ice is not safe.  Everyone needs to take EXTREME caution when ice fishing for the rest of the winter season. 

About a dozen nice bluegills will nice a nice
 meal for the Bowles' family.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunrise at Hickory Grove

January 29th found, David Bowles, Chad Pietig and I heading to Hickory Grove to chase some bluegills and try to find the elusive crappie in that lake.  We hit the lake right at sunrise...which is absolutely awesome in its own right.  With the help of Mr. GPS, we were on our first brushpile right away.  To our amazement we found about 8 inches of nice ice on the lake.  The bite was slow to say the least, until the sun popped over the horizon and lit things up, by that I mean lit the VEXILARS UP!  We all were catching nice gills and the occasional green sunfish.  The green sunfish were hanging deep down in the brush, as usual.  We wore that spot out, and kept several nicer gills for David's family to eat up.  We moved to brushpile number two for the day.  Again, by using the GPS this was done in no time and we had a dozen holes drilled and started fishing again.  More bluegills were caught but not as many.  Chad even found a few gills between the brushpiles as they were cruising around.  Off to brushpile number three for the day.  BOOM, once again the Vexilars were flickering and showing fish immediately.  This brush was in the deepest water of the day, right around 25 feet.  You guessed it, more bluegills.  Finally, we made our way to spot number four for the morning, this being a deep main lake drop-off.  Again, the gills were there and most of them were suspended in the near thirty feet of water.  Not typical of bluegills, but with our Vexilars they were quite easy to catch around the 12-14 feet area.


All colors of jigs seemed to work well today, which is not normally the case at Hickory Grove.  The fish that we found were fish that were working over brushpiles or on the steep drop-off looking for food.  We fished a total of about 4.5 hours, so we moved when the bite slowed down, which is key at this time of year.  You can catch so many more fish by being mobile than waiting in one area, especially when February is right around the corner.

A great day was had by all, even though the crappies avoided us.  In total we estimated at least 80 bluegills found their way up to the brisk air and sunlight that day.  A good morning no matter where you are fishing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plan "B"

                Last weekend was a great weekend to be outside.  Of course, on the top of my list of “things to do” was to go ice fishing.  I was invited to fish a private pond, and I thought I would share that experience with some fellow ice anglers.  Three friends and I met a buddy at Casey’s from Pleasant Hill and we were off to catch some big bluegills that this private pond is known for.  All five of us were excited about this opportunity as we traveled to the pond with high expectations. 
                With all our safety gear and fishing equipment, we walked toward some shallow water with weeds present, a perfect location for wintertime bluegills.  I started things off by drilling about 30 holes to locate the bluegills.  In just a few minutes all five of us had our Vexilars down the holes in search of that first fish of the day.  We could see fish movement under the ice with the Vexilar electronics, but they were very hesitant to bite.  We all thought, that it was going to be “one of those days” when you had to practically beg the fish the bite.  Well, it turns out that we were just fishing for wrong type of fish. 
                Soon, after a quick tackle adjustment from small jigs to the larger Salmo minnow imitation baits, we were catching fish.  They weren’t the big bluegills that we were expecting, but what we did end up catching were largemouth bass.  Every one of us were catching the bass, it had seemed like they took over this shallow part of the pond and they were keeping the bluegills out.  We did get a few nice bluegills mixed in, but we all had a blast catching those bass.  Most of them measured from fourteen inches to sixteen inches, which makes for an awesome fight on rods that are less than two-feet long.
Mark Anderson and I with two nice Black Crappies
                The action on the bass slowed down quite a bit, and I suggested we try some deeper water.  We walked the short distance to other side of the pond near the deepest water, about 20 feet.  This time Brian fired up the auger and popped about 30 holes.  Once again, five Vexilars went down the holes and the catching began immediately.  Most of us hooking up with a fish on our very first drop, and when we set the hook, we knew these weren’t bluegills, they were pulling too hard.  The first fish on the ice was a nice black crappie.  In crappie fashion, these fish came in suspended in the water column, almost exactly half way up.  All five of us had a blast catching these crappies, and once again in true crappie form they came through this deeper part of the pond in schools.  There were numerous times when two or three guys would be battling a crappie at one time.  Then, of course was the battle of whose is bigger began! 
                Some baits that were working well for the crappies were the standard, small ice fishing jigs, and color didn’t seem to matter.  Waxworms, spikes, or plastic tails caught these fish and they were not very picky.  This often happens, and spoils you when you fish a private location.  Rarely are they this cooperative in public lakes where they see every trick in the book every day.  One thing that I experimented with was some tungsten jigs.  Tungsten is a metal that is much more dense than lead and therefore it sinks at a faster rate.  This helped me to catch one fish, and get my bait back down the hole quickly before the school had time to move on.  I was able to catch three or four crappies from each school when others were getting one or two, and that tungsten jig really helped me do that.  If you haven’t tried tungsten ice fishing jigs, I highly recommend them, especially if you are fishing in water that is deeper than 10 feet.  
                Thinking back on that day of ice fishing, I can’t help but remember the smiles of group as we were catching the bass, and then the crappies.  Although it wasn’t what we were looking forward to that day, it won’t be a day that is forgotten anytime soon by my friends.  Our hopes of catching big bluegills had to wait until another day, but the bass and crappies that we did catch, were amazing!  Without making a move and changing techniques, the day could have been chalked up to another one of those days…when the fish weren’t biting.  Plan B saved our day and made an ice fishing memory that will last a long time. 
                Private ponds can be a blast to fish, but like I mentioned, they sure do spoil you.  To make yourself a better fisherman, try as many different lakes and ponds as you can.  With each trip, you are not only figuring out where the fish are living for that day, but also what techniques it takes to catch them.  Be safe on the ice, and always take friends with you to enjoy the adventure.