Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Jig vs Texas Rig

When it comes to getting bass out of cover, especially wood, these two baits are by far at the top of any bass anglers list.  Which one is better?  When should I pitch which one?  What about color?  These are great questions that are asked of me very often.  Let me take a minute to break down what I have learned to be the best answers to these questions.


What is better, a jig or a Texas-rigged plastic?
~ Both of these baits are great to use for bass.  Bass won't always chase fast moving baits like crankbaits or bladed jigs, so you have to slow down at times.  To say one is better than the other for catching bass is impossible.  I will say this though, the jig over a long period of time will attract bigger bass.  I am not saying you won't catch big bass with a Texas-rigged plastic, but over a long testing period the jig will produce bigger bass.  On the flip side, a plastic craw, worm or tube will tend to get you more bites in a day of fishing for bass.

When should I pitch a jig or a Texas-rig?
~ Again, these baits are both designed to fish around a specific type of cover, weeds and wood being the most common.  I have found that a Texas-rig can be pitched in the tightest of areas a little better than a jig.  When I am pitching into the heaviest of trees and laydowns I will often "peg" my bullet sinker allowing me to have even better control over my bait.  Another variable that helps me choose which one to throw is the amount of bites I am getting.  If I am getting a lot of bites and catching some bass on a Texas-rig, I will switch and try a jig to see if any bigger fish are around.  The opposite is also true, when I am fishing a jig and not getting many bites, I will switch to a plastic, typically a tube bait on a Texas-rig to see if I can get some more bites.


What color is best?
~ This is a day by day and even a minute by minute decision.  Color should be depicted by the color of the water you are currently fishing.  Simple and an easy thing to remember is this; if the water is dirty you will want dark colors such as black and blue.  If the water is clear then use more natural colors such as green pumpkin and shad colors.

Conclusion:
~At almost all times when scouting or fishing a tournament, I will have both of these high percentage baits tied up on different rods ready to go at any moment.  Some days a Texas-Rigged Tube will out produce a jig, while on most days the jig will catch the biggest bass of the day.  As always, experiment and let the fish tell you what they want.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Weeds...Weeds Everywhere

As the weather warms around the state, not only does the grass in our yards take off, but so does the aquatic grass in ponds, lakes and rivers.  Some anglers do their best to avoid fisheries that have a lot of the aquatic vegetation or grass, I however, look forward to a lake or river section looking green. 

Green weeds offer fish of every species a great place to hide and capture their next meal.  Bass certainly love the weeds that grow in lakes and rivers, making it a favorite target of mine in these hot summer months. 

Too many times anglers are using baits to catch bass on the wrong rod/reel setup.  There is not a rule book of combos that need to be followed and can vary from angler to angler, however having some guidelines when spooling up for your favorite baits is a good way to double check to see if you are on the right path to catching more bass. 

You cannot tackle bass hanging around weeds with your typical bass fishing gear, it takes some specialized gear.  Here are some key rod/reel combos and my 3 favorite baits to tackle bass swimming amongst the weeds.  Please contact me by the email link on the side of the site if you have any further questions, I will be glad to help.

===================
1- Frog:
Rod- Med/Hvy, Extra Fast tip
~My Choice: Quantum Smoke 7ft MedHvy xfast tip
Reel- High speed reel in the 7.0:1 or higher gear ratio
~My Choice: Quantum Smoke S3 8.1:1 speed
Line- 50+ pounds braided line
~My Choice: 65# Power Pro Braid
Bait- hollow body dual-hook frog
~My Choice: OptimumBaits Furbit Frog
===================
2- Swim Jig:
Rod- Medium, fast tip
~My Choice: Quantum Special Issue 7ft Medium Fast tip
Reel- anything in the "6" gear ratio
~My Choice: Quantum Tour S3 6.1:1 gear ratio
Line- 30# Braid
~My Choice: 30# Power Pro Spectra
Bait- 1/4 or 3/8oz swim jig
~My Choice: Custom, Hand-tied Bill Lowen or Brovarny 1/4oz swim jig
===================
3- Texas-Rigged Tube (rigged to punch through heavy grass)
Rod- Heavy, xfast tip
~My Choice: Quantum Tour 7ft 6in Heavy xFast tip
Reel- something with over a 7.0:1 gear ratio
~My Choice: Quantum Energy Flippin Switch 7.0:1 gear ratio
Line- 40# or more braid
~My Choice: 50# Power Pro
Bait- 1oz Tungsten bullet weight, 4/O EWG hook, tube
~My Choice: 1oz Reins Tungsten bullet weight, 4/O EWG hook, Hot Rod Baits tube

These three baits will do you very well when you are faced with weeds in your local fishing spot.  They will work on the smallest of ponds, and biggest of rivers across the state.  Don't be afraid of weeds and grass, just get a few baits that you have confidence in and use them to their fullest potential.  You won't be disappointed.



Monday, May 18, 2020

My Best 5 Largemouth Bass Tips

Entire article can only be seen in The Iowa Sportsman Magazine:

The largemouth bass, the most familiar fish in the country lives all around us.  No matter if you fish a farm pond, a local river, county park, one of the 100’s man-made lakes around Iowa, or the Mighty Mississippi River, the largemouth bass is waiting for you.  Typically we all got hooked on bullheads, or bluegills as a young outdoor person, but I bet most of us can remember that first big bass that we caught.  If you are like me, you can remember the exact details.  That day, way back in the 80’s hooked me for life on chasing these beautiful fish all around Iowa.  I was about ten years old and fishing a farm pond with my dad.  The bass, at the time, was the biggest fish I had ever caught in my young life.  It measured just over 18 inches and the old ZEBCO scale marked it just over 2.50 pounds.  It was a monster in my eyes, and the largemouth bass and I have had a serious relationship from that day on.
Fast forward about 30 years, four boats later, hundreds of days on the water, a few dozen rod/reel combos, hundreds of lost baits and countless numbers of bass caught...like all of us, I have learned a few things.  Here are my top 5 tips and tricks that have kept me busy catching these green fish all over Iowa.

#5- Go Small:  To consistently catch bass all over the state anglers must be willing to go small with their baits.  Some of my favorites include a 4-inch ring worm on a shaky head and a 5 inch stick bait.  When the bite gets tough and the usual bass baits aren’t catching them it is time to bring out the small stuff.  One common time this occurs is when the barometric pressure is high or you have one of those blue skies, no wind kind of days.  Those are two common times when bass just don’t want to chase around fast baits and you must slow down and give them an appetizer.  Spring and winter cold fronts can be other times when going small will end up getting a few baits when other baits will not.  The shaky head can be fished like a jig, try different speeds, but slow is typically what these lethargic bass will like.  The stick bait can be rigged a number of ways depending on what cover you are around.  Texas-rigged for heavy cover, t-boning the stick weighless for those windless days and if needed adding a split shot a foot above the stick to move it around more quickly.  Again, when the bass turn negative, it is time to go small.

Braided line and an Optimum Baits Furbit Frog
make frog fishing a deadly combination.
#4- Topwater Baits: If you are a bass angler I know you have a dozen or so of these, perhaps many more.  Too many anglers think that these can only be used in the first and last hour of the day.  This is something that you need to forget from this point on.  It is true that using them in low light conditions will help get more strikes.  Other times that topwaters shine are ANYTIME!  Buzzbaits are great whenever it is cloudy out, and if you are fishing in the rain, you should be fishing a buzzbait.  In my opinion there are only two different kinds of buzzbaits; a white one or a black one.  Keep this bait simple on your next purchase and as long as it is one of those two colors you picked out a good one!  Buzzbaits and prop baits work well in areas with current all day long.  When fish are congregated in current areas, they are hungry and they are feeding, they will smash a topwater bait.  If fishing clear waters with structure like wood and docks is your cup of tea, then a Pop-R should be tied on your rod during the warm season months.  Pop-R baits work well to slowly present a bait to fish feeding around structures.  Try to match the hatch on the colors of baits, as the fish will often have plenty of time to examine your bait before blasting it.  It is vital to try many different cadences of a Pop-R when fishing it.  Some days the bass will want it to sit still for up to twenty or thirty seconds.  It is a patience tester, but it can be very rewarding.  Lastly, and my favorite way to fish is to throw a hollow body frog.  These can be fished every minute of the day and are best on top and around the weeds.  Many people do not like to fish around weeds, this is a huge mistake.  Weeds have everything a bass needs; shade, high oxygen levels, and food.  Frog fishing is a book in itself, but a few quick tips; make sure your frog has big hooks and you are using braided line.  I have used just about every brand of frog, one rises to the top, the Optimum Baits Furbit Frog.  It has a dual 6/O hook and is everything you need in a frog.









Thursday, May 14, 2020

Eastern Iowa 5-Hour Challenge

Small lake, middle of May with a overnight temps in the 20's.  I didn't know what to expect on this day, but things turned out for the better.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

1st Attempt at Video in the Boat

As I do each and every spring, I try to hit smaller lakes to take advantage of the warmer water they provide, and the chance at catching a giant.  Some of the smallest lakes in the state hold the biggest largemouth bass in the state.  This time I traveled to an old "stompin' ground" that I frequented many times when I lived in Marshalltown.  It had been 4 years since I have seen this lake, but not much had changed. 

Well...as the title suggests let's get to the first video, which captured some cool fish catches.  I hope I can do a few more of these throughout the year.

Friday, April 24, 2020

The Fish Mystery

With the COVID-19 shutting down schools across the state, I have had more time to fish this month.  I have used this extra time to try and follow bass through the local river I live on, the Wapsipinicon River.  I have had my successes but a few days left me shaking my head all the way home.
One in particular I still can't get over.  Last Sunday evening I decided to chase some smallmouth.  I caught them well on two popular areas of the river that anglers frequent often.  I tried many baits, but with water temperatures in low 50's I only got bites on an IMA Lures Jerkbait and a wacky-rigged stickbait.  Alternating the baits kept bass coming the in boat throughout the few hours on the river.  A good day for the Wapsi in April.  Fast-forward just 3 days, same time of day, same water clarity and same water temperature.  The weather did cool down Monday and Tuesday but a warm front pushed through Wednesday.  I decided to do the same exact thing I did three days ago, I figured why not, it was a good day on the water and I can learn about the smallmouth, which is something of a mystery to me.  I hate to say it, but it is still a mystery, as I threw the same baits and others at the two locations with smallmouth caught literally half the size they were three days ago.  I did not go away from the two areas to keep "my study" the same, however I did try adjacent deeper holes, and shallow flats with no success.  It is like the better smallmouth had disappeared...I know they didn't but it is just another day that those brown fish fooled me.  It won't be the last, but I also know that I will knock them good again too!  Fishing...it is what makes you get out there and try again.

The biggest for the trip: 2.88# Smallmouth

Saturday, April 4, 2020

EASY TO DO: Re-lining Your Reels

Spring is the time to get fresh line on your reels, if you haven't done so yet you are in luck.  The following video will walk you through the method I use to re-line reels throughout the year.  It is easy, quick, and will save you some money in the end.  Works with spinning reels and baitcasting reels. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

"Long Stick" Time

This spring has been one to remember for a lot of reasons, mostly negative, like NO baseball, NO late ice, No regular work schedules and the world being affected by the Coronavirus.  In our household we are doing our best by staying home, only visiting the grocery store once a week.  However, April can be the best time of year to catch your biggest bass of the entire year.  I have made it out a few times, but haven't hooked into that big one yet.  I have had a lot of time to organize the boats, tackle boxes and get the Quantum Rods and Reels ready to go. 

I am often asked, "What do you like the best, ice fishing or regular fishing?"  My simple answer has always been BOTH.  However, the enjoy of finding some fish and then catching them is always the purest enjoyment for me, hopefully that will always stick with me and I am able to do both for decades to come.  No matter if I am floating in one of my boats, or drilling holes in the ice, it is always about that next bite.

Get out and enjoy if you can, keep things simple and do your part to be safe and those loved ones at home.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fish Cakes- Bake or Fry

To say the least, this past week or two have changed a lot of habits for people in Iowa.  The Corona-Virus has hit and is rapidly spreading, causing Iowans to stay home to slow the spread of the virus.  To no surprise people are making/cooking more of their own food, thus the purpose of this update on my blog.  In the past ten days or so I have been asked by three different friends about the fish cakes recipe I had published a few years ago.  I decided to do another post about this recipe that was originally found in The Iowa Sportsman Magazine.  Each month they highlight wild game recipes, each that I have tried have been great, just another reason to subscribe to the only made for Iowa outdoors magazine.

I have updated a few things that made these cakes even easier to cook, including a baked and fried version.

The recipe calls for bluegills, but I have substituted Yellow Bass in, and they are awesome as well.

The Iowa Sportsman Magazine Recipe



INGREDIENTS:
12 Bluegills/Yellow Bass- filleted 
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 Egg- separate yolk from white
2/3 cup Milk
1 Tbsp butter, melted
Lemon or Tarter Sauce to flavor


A few notes about the process; I just placed the 24 fillets in a casserole dish after spraying with PAM and baked for about 25 minutes (these can also be baked in a toaster oven).  Flaking them is as simple as taking a fork and stirring the baked fillets into small pieces.  Try to drain or soak up unnecessary water from the fillets before you put them into the ingredient mixture.  Having the burner set a little above "medium" seemed to fry them the best on the stove top.  Make sure and flatten the cakes so the middle cooks thoroughly.  Not much oil is need in the fry pan.  This made 7 cakes like you see in the picture, large enough for a couple really hungry people or 3 if there are other items to eat.

BAKED VERSION: spread cakes thin and place in an over/toaster oven for about 25 minutes on 350 degrees.  This is a healthier choice without the added oil needed in the frying process.
I hope you enjoy this recipe from "The Iowa Sportsman Magazine".

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Last Ice Day

The "Crew" with one last pile of fish for the year.
Yesterday marked the last day on the ice for me this season.  What I thought was going to be a long ice season, maybe creeping into the last week of March was taken care of by several 50+ degree days, high winds and nighttime temperatures that were well above freezing throughout Iowa.  It had to end sometime, and I am not one to chase ice to the northern states, it is time for the boats to come out.
The last remaining ice happened to be on Clear Lake this year.  A lake that had a rough season, with many smaller perch being caught and the Yellow Bass that were spread out and not schooled as they once were in past years.  The yellow bass are typically the calling for anglers to visit the lake, but this was only my second time there this year, the other being the YBB ice fishing event.  It was the only chance to hit the ice one more time and I was looking forward to it all week long.
A few friends made the trip there on Saturday, and the bite was awesome for them in the big lake.  My crew and I decided to try the big lake for ourselves on Sunday and it did not disappoint.  The ice had definitely seen better days, but at no time did I feel uncomfortable about the situation.  The top layer of ice was very strong and we enjoyed the day hopping around the big lake chasing down the yellows.  Fishing for yellow bass is an exciting species to ice fish.  You have to be mobile, and with this, packing light helps you achieve that.  Most days, the more you move the more fish you will catch.  They are very nomadic fish, and anglers that want a bucket full of them have to be mobile as well.  A small sled with a bucket, K-Drill, Vexilar FLX-28, Dead Meat Rod with a Quantum Drive Reel and a small box of jigs and spoons was all that made the trip.  This keeps fishing simple, and keeps the angler on the move.  Everything about today was the hunt, and the lighter you pack the more you will hunt.  We landed on two different large, hungry schools this day.  When the fish are below you swarming, it is so important to keep them fired up.  Having a reel with a smooth drag and large spool to drop back down is key, the Quantum Drive in the size 10 model is perfect.  Another tool, or spoon I have come accustomed to using on Yellow Bass is the Reins Tungsten spoon.  I have no doubt that the tools I choose on the ice help me to have successful days.
Reins Palpuntin Spoon, made of
tungsten to get back down
to the schooling fish.



It was an awesome day of catching fish, mostly on a spoon as the schools of large fish were eating.  Everyone caught plenty to take a bucket of fish home to eat, which by the way was about 50 per five-gallon bucket.  The meat on these big yellows are fantastic, especially when you find the larger sized schools.  I have caught a lot of yellows out of the Clear Lake in the past decade or so, but I do not recall a day when I/the group had caught so many fish over ten inches. Typically I do not measure yellow bass, but the day after cleaning session was different this time.  Due to "The Virus" my kids were helpers as I cleaned the fish.  They used a Frabill E-Z Crappie Checker measuring tool to help research the Clear Lake population.  This tool, if you have never tried one is a fool-proof way to measure fish quickly and safely.  Of the 50 fish I had in the bucket, 42 of them were 10-inches or larger.  An amazing year-class of fish.  I did have my eyes set on one particular Yellow Bass I caught this day, I quickly measured it while on the ice at just over 12 inches but wanted a more accurate measurement.  After a day sitting in the bucket it still measured right at 12 inches, no doubt my largest Yellow Bass ever.  Needless to say, it was a great way to end the year!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Deep Water Ice

Today was the day that another check mark was made on my to-do list this winter.  I had not fished through the ice on Brushy Creek for about five years.  In the past the Team Extreme Ice Tournament Trail visited this lake each year, so I got used to fishing it a few weeks each ice season.  I had good memories of the lake, and the endless possibilities that it holds.  Popular ice fishing species in this lake include bluegills, crappies, perch and walleyes.
This lake stays under the radar as a top lake in Iowa to ice fish.  It holds nice sized fish for the all the species I listed, but they don't come easy.  This lake is full, and I mean FULL of structure.  Trees all over the lake, rock piles, points, creek channels, long and deep coves as well as a huge main lake area.  It was quite overwhelming when I began to ice fish, even though I had a good understanding of the lake from bass fishing.  It is a large lake for Iowan's standards, and then all the structure! 
Myself and three friends took the trip west to see how the lake was doing after a half of decade.  I remember the lake having some very nice crappie, decent bluegills and always heard of nice walleyes being caught too, although I had never.  The lake did not disappoint on this day, and it was a good reunion.  The four of us found a really nice little school of bluegills on a main lake point, several different schools of perch, topping out about ten inches, and we followed a school of crappie around from most of the afternoon.  Catching those suspended crappies on the Vexilar FLX28 is quite a treat.  It truly is like a video game!  It was a great day of getting some fish for a meal and practicing catch and release.  The quality of bluegills, in the one school anyway were very nice, nothing like I had experienced in year past.  The crappies that we found in about forty feet of water were not the great quality that I remember, but were good keepers.  Having a smooth reel like the Quantum Drive made getting up and down to the deep crappies an easy task.  I relied heavy on the smooth drag system to bring the fish up slowly, which was necessary for keeping them alive to release.  The larger perch were a nice surprise that added to our cleaning tables. 
I doubt that I will get back to the lake this winter, but I think we will making that trip once again next season.

A nice mess of keepers for the four of us to share

Monday, February 17, 2020

Lake Cornelia Yellow Bass Crash

Lake Cornelia is another lake in Iowa that had fallen from popular places to fish.  The culprit...Yellow Bass.  As short as 5 years ago this lake produced panfish for the taking and provided anglers a nice place to fish year-round.  This is not the case anymore.  This lake is just one of the new problems Yellow Bass have created around the state.  For those of you that do not know, yellow bass can and will destroy smaller lakes that they end up in.  At no time should anyone, for any reason put yellow bass into any body of water.  Anglers can help curb the spread of yellow bass by enjoying a meal of them after you catch them.  They are good to eat, and they fight like crazy when you try to drag them up a 6-inch ice hole.  They have become one of my favorite fish to hunt down during the ice fishing season, and recently they brought me to the Lake Cornelia Yellow Bass Crash.

Check out Central Iowa IceSticks
on Facebook for more info
This ice tournament was put together by Randy Bieghler of the Des Moines area.  The events has no doubt raised awareness about the dangers of yellow bass in smaller Iowa lakes.  February 16th marked the third of such events at this lake put on by the Central Iowa Icesticks group.  This event was like no other ice tournament I have ever participated in, as the goal was to catch as many yellow bass as possible.  Typically ice tournaments have a set amount of fish to bring in, however this was a race against time and all the yellow bass in Lake Cornelia we could find.  David Gissel and I set out to the deeper part of the lake, like 90% of everyone in the event.  We started drilling and immediately located schools of fish on the Vexilars.  They were not shy, and we started to catch yellow after yellow.  We quickly realized there were two distinct sizes of yellows in this lake, small and micro size.  The typical yellow bass baits worked, as these fish were hungry and have a lot of competition to get their daily allowance of food.  Jigs, spoons, it didn't really seem to matter, it also didn't seem to matter where we drilled holes.  In each new group of holes we drilled we found yellows of both sizes.  We continued moving and caching the whole day.  As mentioned, it was a race to see how many yellows you could catch.  I stuck to the same combo all day long, a Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Stick with a Quantum Drive reel.  This combo is ideal for moving and chasing yellows.  The line flows off the size 10 reel to quickly get your bait back down to the active yellows.  Another key to this setup is the large eyelets on the rod, they do not ice up as badly as other rods with smaller eyelets.  It is an awesome combo, especially for hunting yellow bass.  We were able to fill two 5-gallon buckets full of yellow bass, we had no idea on how many we had, and we certainly didn't count.  We weighed in 49.78# of fish, which got us 2nd place.  It was a great way to spend the day, although the size of fish were small it was fun to chase them.  Several kids also participated in the event, and thanks to the sponsors each child walked away with about $50 in merchandise.

The tournament as a whole weighed in just over 498 pounds of yellow bass.  The final count by the Central Iowa Icesticks was 5,621 yellow bass removed from the lake during this 5 hour tournament.  Quite a feat by the teams that participated, although it is a small dent in the population it brought awareness of the troubling yellow bass in small Iowa lakes and helped to get almost of 6,000 of them out of the lake.  Well done Randy on an effort to help improve the panfish populations at Lake Cornelia.

So, what happened to the near 500 pounds of fish, they were all given to the SOAR Raptor organization.  They will use the fish to feed the many birds they keep and rehabilitate.  You could say this event was a success all around.   

Monday, February 10, 2020

2020 Yellow Bass Bonanza

Iowa's largest tournament over much of the past decade has occurred at Clear Lake in the month of February.  As the world of ice fishing has expanded over the past ten years, anglers from all over the Midwest come to Clear Lake to chase the famous Yellow Bass through the ice.  This year the attendance was down to about 190 two person teams, but still the biggest event by far.  The population of larger yellow bass in Clear Lake is definitely down, so I assume many teams took a break from attending this event.  In past few years the number of teams has been over 300.  No matter the number of teams the group at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle put on quite a show.  It all kicks off at the Saturday evening Yellow Bass Bonanza Bash.  All anglers are treated to a meal and dessert, each year I am amazed at the quality of food they provide.  It is great to see anglers from all over the state and catch up guys I only see once or twice a year.  Thousands of dollars of prizes are given away and the rules are discussed the for event the following day. 

Sunday morning was an anxious one for me, although this is a fun event with a good friend, our time on Saturday was limited to only three hours of fishing due to a main gas line break on my snowmachine.  It is a good thing that my partner, Jacy Large is a "can fix everything" kind of guy.  We located a new hose in Mason City and managed to find some yellow bass...the only problem was that we found one area that had them, not multiple.  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!  I set the GPS track to our waypoint and at 9am we were off.  As I followed the line to our starting position I knew that catching the limit of 30 yellow bass would not come easy today, and if a team could catch 30 yellows, no matter the size would end up towards the top.  Our goal each year is to make the top 25, this year was going to be tough.  We rolled up on our spot and I began to drill holes, as I was drilling hole #3, Jacy was already pulling up the first yellow bass of the day!  A big sigh of relief fell over me as I knew at at least a few were still around.  As I walked a few paces to drill hole number 4 I asked Jacy how many he could see on Vexilar, he response was, "a lot more than that one".  I began to drill hole #4 and as I completed the hole my drill snapped in half at the chuck.  I was in udder disbelief.  Our auger, our only auger was broken...with only 4 holes.  Talk about high and then coming to a crashing low.  There was only one thing I could do...I grabbed my Vexilar and spoon rod and started fishing.  Jacy and I had about 15 yellows on the ice in the first few minutes and then they calmed down.  In the past, this is when I would get the auger and drill another 10-15 holes, but not today.  We grinded it out in those four holes picking one up every now and again.  Luckily a near-by team cut some holes around us only a few yards away.  Once they fished those holes and left to another location we moved over there.  More yellows were waiting for us.  We ended up getting on another flow of fish and they were cooperating.  It was certainly a blessing, and a good lesson to always bring two augers!

We ended up catching about 50 yellow bass and 5 white bass on the day in those dozen or so holes.  We weighed in 8 really nice yellows, all in that 10-11 inch range and the other 22 were yellows that were measuring around that 6-7 inch mark.  As for what was working to catch those fish; locating and reacting to the fish on the Vexilar is key each and every time out on the ice.  I was using a 36in Jason Mitchell Dead Meat stick paired up with a Quantum Drive reel.  A gold Kastmaster spoon or the Clear Lake Bait and Tackle Special Edition Pinhead Minnow were the only two baits I threw at them. 

Looking back at the event, he jumped several hurdles but just kept on fishing.  With the cards we were dealt (and not bringing a 2nd auger) we were both thrilled to end up in the top 25, as we set out to do each year.  As they handed out prizes to teams we both realized that our weight of 8.97# was going to be a lot closer to the top than we expected.  We ended up in 9th place this year, a nice plaque for the wall, and as fate would have it...a new Nils Auger.  A great weekend in the end, and already looking forward to hitting the ice next weekend!
Our biggest for the event: just over 10.5 inches
 and weighed right at .70 pounds


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Shack or Not?

Dropping baits with the Quantum Drive and Jason Mitchell
Dead Meat Stick all while watching the Vexilar,
a great way to spend the day.
When ice fishing comes into a normal conversation between "non-ice anglers" the topic of sitting in a shack all day.  I quickly choose to educate or at least tell them my beliefs on what an ice shack is for.  I explain that I might be in an ice shack 1 or 2 times a year, and prefer to stay outside and roam around to fish.  There are many anglers that love the comforts of a shack and they certainly do have their place.  Just a day ago I found myself venturing onto the ice when the high temperature was 3 degrees, along with 25+ mph winds.  It was the only day of the weekend that I could fish, so I really had no choice, I had to fish!

I packed up my 1-man shack and headed out to the lake to see if the fish could still be found under these tough conditions.  The team of four anglers took to the ice and quickly started to dissect a small flat next to the main lake drop-off.  We quickly started to pick up some fish but I noticed I was missing a lot more bites than the typical yellow bass outing.  When fishing under these severe conditions everything becomes harder.  Whether it is the temperatures affecting our bodies, line flexibility or the wind tricking our bite sensor.  Either way these all will hurt your fish count at the end of the day.  Although we were catching fish, I knew taking cover might give us the advantage.  By taking shelter in the shacks we were able to warm up our extremities, give our line a much needed warm-up and most importantly helped us gain the advantage to seeing the bites on our rods.  More fish catches immediately started to occur.  It wasn't an accident or a coincidence, it was simply getting an advantage over the elements to catch more fish.  After the bite cooled down in that area, we hiked to a different part of the lake that was protected from the harsh wind.  We were able to hop around much easier and stay mobile in this area, continuing to pick up more fish to finish the day.

So far that has been the only hour of the winter that has found me in a shack.  I prefer to move around and cover a lot of territory.  There is no right or wrong way to ice fish, as long as you are having fun and enjoying the outdoors, you are doing thins right.  Fish on my friends and do things the way you like, in the end it is you against fish, and I hope you have a great time doing it.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Northern Iowa Ice

Typically this time of year anglers can pick and choose whatever lake they wish and go have a good time fishing on the ice.  This year is far from that.  Many lakes throughout the state don't have a bit of ice on them, some have portions of ice while most of the lakes in Iowa are not even close to safe ice.  It has been a weird year for ice anglers, as many people have had to cover a lot of miles to travel to Northern Iowa to find safe ice.  Some lakes north of Hwy 20 have survived the several warm spells we have had in Iowa, and are providing great panfish action.  

Recently I fished one of these lakes on two different occasions.  Each time a friend and I hit the lake from around noon until dark.  Almost the same exact times and almost exactly a week a part.  I have fished this lake over the past several years a few times each year.  Each time has yielded almost exact results.  I am not complaining, as each time some real nice bluegills have been caught with a few crappies mixed in as a surprise.  

Each time while visiting this lake the fish have seemed to be tight lipped.  Yes, they can be tricked by using 1 or 2 pound test line, small jigs, and spring bobbers while jumping around 100 or more holes with the Vexilar... but each time I ask myself why?  Why are these fish, at this particular lake, always seem to be in a negative mood in the past 4 years?  Mother Nature has many secrets, and I guess this anomaly is one of them.  I am not sure if the fish will ever be regular fish in this lake, but when that day happens it will most likely be my best day of bluegill fishing ever.  Until then, I will continue to do my best to trick these nice gills into biting.