Thursday, December 26, 2019

Okoboji Lake Area

Iowa's prettiest fish: The Pumpkinseed
The Great Lakes of Iowa is truly a destination for all ice anglers in the Midwest.  It is a four hour drive for me, but I try to get here a couple of times each ice season.  While the fishing isn't always as planned, the multitude of lakes gives you many options to try.
This year a group of seven us took to the lake to figure things out and enjoy the thick ice of the Okoboji Chain of lakes.  The first day there we Emerson Bay, this location is known for its nice bluegills.  We were able to find many of these nicer gills along with many other species too; black crappie, perch, walleye, northern pike, and pumpkin seeds were caught that day too.  It was a good first day after driving all morning to get there.  

Just a typical Okoboji Sunrise
As we planned for the next day we were all excited to try for some perch on Spirit Lake.  A member of our group did well the day before in the same general area, so we were anxious to get there.  We all caught some perch in the big basin of Spirit and a few bigger walleyes were caught too.  It didn't
disappoint, but it wasn't as good as the day before.  We decide to move to the northern part of Spirit Lake and fish some shallow water for panfish.  This had everyone moving about, popping holes and catch fish.  It is amazing the ground you can cover when working as a team, we all were using the Vexilar FLX-28 units.  These units are made for hopping around the lake and trying numerous holes within a seconds of each other.  The instant feedback is a must for the shallow, weedy water that we were in.  Jigs and spoons were working on this day, I really think the key was using your Vexilar to find the active pods of weeds where the fish were swimming by.  They were hungry and willing to bite when surrounded by weeds.  As the sun set we were all a bit eager to get off the ice to clean some fish and eat like kings.  Perch fillets were the menu that night, we all ate our share and maybe a little more, it's hard to beat fresh fish, especially after a day of catching them.
A surprise 22-inch Walleye in 6 feet of water

The next day we decided to try and find some yellows on East Lake Okoboji, the entire morning of searching only came up with small perch.  We spent the last afternoon of the trip back in the weeds of Spirit Lake.  It was much of the same as the previous day, which none of us minded at all!  It was a great way to end the day, and the trip; gills, crappies, and perch were all present and dozens went back into the lake for another day.  

A big thanks for everyone fishing on this trip, although the entire group had never fished all together, we worked very well as a group helping each other move around and find fish for all.  I always hate leaving Okoboji, not only because of the 4-hour drive home, but the simple fact that a fisherie of this magnitude does not exist anywhere else in the state...if you haven't been there...GET THERE!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

First Ice of 2019-20 season

Mother nature just wouldn't let the ice grow this winter, this might be the latest "first day" in the past decade...nevertheless when ice fishing safety comes first and December 12th was that first day.  I headed out to a local public area and found the ice very nice.  Numerous fish were caught, including the typical three species of gills, crappie and bass. 

It is always a bit magical to walk on the ice, drill those first few holes and watch the Vexilar light up...a feeling that still gets my blood pumping!  Here's to a great ice season, be careful out there!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Fish GUMBO Recipe

I really enjoy fried fish, it is hard to beat a bluegill sandwich smothered with coleslaw.  However, a person can only have so much of the good stuff.  Over the past few years I have shared a few recipes on here that have turned out really well.  A few days ago I tried something a little different once again.  Fish Gumbo; to the side you can see all the ingredients that you will need, and your favorite fillets of course.  I always use Yellow Bass fillets when cooking them into a recipe, they have more "fishy" flavor than a crappie, perch or bluegill and I feel as though that fishy flavor helps create a unique taste after being cooked.  You can use any fillets you like or have around in freezer.  This is very simple and you can have a hot bowl of soup in about 30 minutes. 

How to make Fish Gumbo:
Ingredients needed- 
Bear Creek Gumbo Soup Mix
1 Can of Corn
1 Can of Green Beans
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
16 pieces of fish (8 fish)

~Place fish fillets on tray and cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (Toaster Oven works great)

~When fillets are baked place them on a plate and break them up using a fork to desired size

~Follow the directions on the soup bag

~Add the fillet pieces to the large pot when you add the contents of the bag

~Continue to follow the directions on the bag until finished

This turned out great, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Understanding your Electronics on the ICE

Ice fishing shows in Iowa are in full swing, I was sent to Clear Lake Bait and Tackle last weekend to give a seminar on using flashers to catch more fish through the ice.  No matter where I end up speaking about how to maximize the use of a flasher a few tips always create the loudest buzz.

Below you will see the most common thing I get asked while doing shows at the beginning of winter.  This graphic shows the math behind the lines on your flasher.  We need to train our minds that the colors are not just the "size" of fish, as a lot of anglers assume.  The graphic shows how the colors can create a mental picture for us as we decipher what our flasher is telling us.  Use the colors to present the baits at the appropriate depths, never go to a GREEN or YELLOW line, always fish above it.  Also, always go after the RED lines, those fish are right beneath you and it also tells you at what depth the fish are moving through your water column.  Note, the crappies are swimming all at the same depth, however the lines on the Vexilar will appear deeper as they are farther away from the ice-ducer.  This is the reason why we need fish above the yellow and green lines.

Many great videos can be found on the Vexilar website:

Have fun, be safe and enjoy the upcoming ice might be here before many think!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Change with the Weather to Catch MORE Fall Bass

Fall has arrived here in Iowa. There have been many signs of this for quite some time; shorter days, crisp morning air, the turning of the leaves and the mysterious fog that settles in over lakes and ponds. Everything around us is changing, and we have to change our fishing strategies to continue to catch fish.
Lakes: No matter if you are fishing a 100-acre lake, 8,000-acre lake or a small pond the fish will have the same general tendencies. Bass, crappies, bluegills must search out their prey to survive. Gone are the days where we need to look closely for the thermocline and plan our day around that. The water in lakes and ponds this time of year is pretty uniform and the fish will use all depths to find food. This fact alone can be troublesome as to where to start looking. As a general rule of thumb, if the water temperature is still above 50-degrees fish will be feeding shallow, and by shallow I mean a foot deep. It is all about the prey, and those small fish, minnows and crawdads that these species love to eat will still be shallow. Crawdads will go dormant around that 50-degree mark, but other prey will continue to stay shallow. Shallow coves that have quick access to deep water are always on the top of the list of places to try. If the main lake creek channel swings in towards a shallow cove, that makes an excellent stop for fish to feed up in the shallows. Coves that have distinct creek channels feeding them is also a great place to fish. Add some brushpiles, rockpiles or standing trees and this makes things even better. Looking at lake maps and studying them before your trip can help you plan your day to focus in on these starting places. Most gamefish are sight feeders, fall offers very few daylight hours, this is to the anglers’ advantage. Although fish don’t need as much food to survive during the cooler months, they still need to feed during a smaller window of time. Take full advantage of this and use those sunlight hours for your fishing adventures, and one of the best things about fall fishing, no need to get on the lake at dawn, it is best to let the sun warm the lake up, sleep in and fish the middle of the day. (Don’t forget your radio to listen to that football game!)
Rivers: There is no better time of the year to fish a river than right now. The rivers in Iowa seem to get rejuvenated during the month of September and get prime in the month of October. No matter if you are talking about the Mighty Mississippi or a small interior river which flow through most counties in the state, now is the time to hit them. When I am not fishing with my children or relatives I fish for bass, however in the fall it seems that every bass fishing excursions turns into a multi-species day. Rivers are notorious for being full of many species of gamefish; walleyes, pike, smallmouth, and largemouth are the most popular and it is quite common to catch some of each on a trip to a river this time of year. I think that is one reason why people enjoy fishing rivers so much, you just never know what you might set the hook on. Besides catching a variety of fish on the rivers right now, numbers can be fantastic as well. This is caused by Mother Nature, typically in the fall rivers will be at their lowest flow, or river height. This concentrates the fish into smaller areas where food is present. This is true for panfish too. There is just not a lot of extra water to search out these fish. The low flow also helps the water to clean and provide a steady current for fish. Typically in the fall fish will be near current and even smack in the hardest current the river has to offer. It is all about the food source. Anglers need to focus on slight or secondary currents during this time to find those large groups of fish that may offer the memory or a lifetime. Secondary current isn’t the swiftest flow in the area, but it isn’t calm water either.
Finding what current the fish want and then duplicating that will have you catching a lot of fish this month. When fishing those small rivers/streams it come down to outside bends and inside bends that control the current. Once you solve the mystery of that, then that pattern can be repeated up the stream as far as you go. Take  close note to sandbars at this time as well too. These offer a current break for prey and thus any gamefish could be lurking on the backside of a sandbar awaiting its next meal. Same goes for rivers as lakes, no need to get up with the sun, let the sun warm the rivers and keep that bait in the water.
Fall is my favorite time of year, and there is little doubt that the fishing is the main reason for this. The crisp air, the calm flow of a river, the steam rising up on a lake or pond, October is a magical month and I hope you all find a bit of that magic this year!

The full article appears in the October issue of "The Iowa Sportsman" Magazine.

Monday, September 9, 2019

September Indee Bass Club Tournament

The last tournament of the 2019 calendar year took place this past Saturday on the Wapsi River here in Independence.  Eighteen students signed up for the event to test their fishing skills against the smallmouth and largemouth bass of the area.  When the event was scheduled all the coaches were just hoping for good was perfect weather for a September event.  Partly sunny skies greeted the anglers all morning, the event took place from 8am-Noon, and not a drop of rain fell from the sky.  Nine boat captains made this event possible, as each pair or team of students is in a boat with an adult to operate the boat as well as teach the students as much as possible about the sport of bass fishing.  Captains included; Chad Postel, Randy Toale, Kevin Sidles, Karter Wendling, Guy Stacy, Chad O'Brien, Sean Stephenson, Todd Reed and Brian Miller.
Of those nine boats 5 of them were able to bring keeper bass to the live weigh-in on the banks of the Wapsi River.  Students can travel all along the river in search for the bass with their captains and cast whatever artificial baits they can at the fish trying to trick them into biting.  Reports of rock bass, crappie, northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass being caught all throughout the day made it fun for the students involved.  Although the Wapsi river gives up a lot of fish species, it is largemouth and smallmouth bass that the anglers can weigh in.  As with any tournament throughout the state one team always seems to be around more fish than others and on this day it was Dalton Hoover and Jackson Toale.  They had five keeper bass that weighed 12.95#, a new Indee Bass Club record!  Jackson also had the biggest bass of the day that weighed in at 2.99#.   Congrats to those kids as they caught some true Wapsi River giants!  Second place went to Jackson Wolf and Zack Sidles, they had two keeper bass that totaled 3.65#.  In third place was Gabe Campbell and Zach Jimmerson with 2.79#.  Fourth place went to Scott Faust weighing in two nice smallmouth for 2.75# and rounding out the top five was Teegan McEnany and Caleb Weber with one largemouth bass that weighed 1.79#.
s only
The top two teams and big bass winner earned wooden plaques for their efforts and bonus prizes donated by Scheels of Cedar Falls and Hank's Bait and Tackle in Waterloo.  Just two of the fine club sponsors.  Prizes valued at over $600 were also given out to students at the tournament in a random drawing, these were provided by the other sponsors of the bass club; The Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Quantum Rods/Reels, The Rod Glove and private anonymous donors.  The weigh-in facility was once again donated by the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, and a big thank you to the weigh-in helpers of Kevin Jimmerson and Sean Stephenson.
As you can see the Indee Bass Club is helped along by community support and volunteers throughout the year.  Volunteer coaches/organizers include; Garry Anderson, Keith Donnelly and Todd Reed.  For more information about the club find them online at their website or Facebook page by searching "Indee Bass Club".

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Night of Two Giants

When living in the Marshalltown area I started the Wednesday Night Fishing League.  We would travel to local lakes and have a friendly competition amongst friends to see who could catch the largest three bass in a span of 3-4 hours.  It was fun and always a challenge to get those three keeper bites in that short of time.  That league grew to having 20 or so boats at each event at its busiest times and many memories and friends were made throughout the years.  For the past 3+ years of living here in Independence I have often thought of that league and how fun it was to see my fishing friends throughout the week after work...I missed those times. 
The first bite of the night!
The past few weeks this feeling was rekindled a bit by fishing the Lake Delhi Weeknight Bass Shootouts.  These take place every other Tuesday and have fished the past two events with Keith Donnelly.  A few key things; first it is nice to just show up and fish a tournament, not having to "run the show", secondly no matter how long the event is I still get "that feeling" when chasing bass, and thirdly, I will be fishing more of these events next year.  It is a good break in the week to go and chase some bass.  Delhi is a great location as you can cover a lot of ground in the boat, and it has a good population of bass of all sizes.  A limit isn't a guarantee, and size always matters on this lake. 
A couple weeks ago we made it our first Delhi Weeknight Shootout and came in with a decent limit of just under six pounds.  I knew this would put us in the mix, and it did as we ended up 3rd place out of 18 teams with a nice cash prize.  While that night was great to get back in the swing of things, this past Tuesday night will be one that I won't forget for a long time. 
Lake Delhi is known for a couple of things here in NE Iowa, huge beautiful lake homes and it being a really busy lake.  However, the fishing has always been pretty good too, before the huge flood and now after the dam has been repaired it remains good.  I have fished tournaments on lake Delhi for many years before the tragic flood of July, 2010.  Many of the same areas that bass loved before the flood, the bass still love almost a decade later.  While some things have changed, the lake is back to its full magic of being a busy lake for jet skies and water skiers, and a good place to do some bass fishing. 
Onto the tournament...this particular night we had from 5pm-7:45pm to fish.  The goal each time is to get 3 keeper bass at least 12 inches in length...the bigger the better.  Keith and I had a good plan, similar to our first event there a few weeks ago, but it included a plan B also.  In each of the tournaments I have ever fished on this lake it always comes down to getting that one big bite.  It isn't easy on this lake as it is a river system and bass just don't live as long on river systems as they do in lakes.  If you don't have that one big bite, then you better have all your keepers be around that 1.75#-2.00# mark to be around the top of the leaderboard.  The first twenty minutes were a struggle, Keith caught a couple really small bass, then BOOM, my first bite of the night, a 4.25# largemouth.  In all my times of fishing here, this was my best ever on the lake, I was amazed by this specimen.  In the livewell she went and we kept looking.  We picked up a couple more fish and had our limit of three keeper bass by the time the event was half over.  We kept fishing hard, using Hot Rod Baits tube baits and Wig's Jigs and chunks around rocks, wood and docks.  Pitching to this heavy cover is no easy task, however the QuantumPT Heavy, 7'6" Signature Series Rod and AccuristPT high speed reel made things much easier.  We were able to upgrade on these baits, as well as a swimjig.  With about 30 minutes remaining the great night of fishing turned into the unforgettable night with one bite.  My line made a slight movement to the right...that was all it was, and I laid back into the hookset.  The fish came out of about 10 feet of water and flashed just below the surface before diving back down into the deeper water.  We both saw it and knew it was yet another big bass.  Keith dipped the net into the water and we had our second huge bass of the night...we were both shocked to see it.  A quick picture of this one, which I knew was bigger than the previous bass, and into the livewell it went.  We kept fishing and headed to the weigh-in as confident as I have ever been going to a weigh-in.  What a beautiful lake, beautiful fish and a night to always remember.  As an added bonus we did win the tournament with 11.02# and the biggest fish weighed 4.90# on the scale, this sent us home with nice payday after our workday.

A big shoutout to all my sponsors for 2019: The Iowa Sportsman Magazine/Website, Bill's Pizza, Vexilar, Optimum Baits, Hot Rod Baits, Quantum Rods/Reels and Cliff Keen Athletic Wear.

A 4.30# and a 4.90# caught in a 3-hour weeknight tournament. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

When was the last time you changed your line?

Fall is in the air and the fishing is going to get better and better as the days go by.  For many anglers around the state, no matter what you like to fish for you may not be ready for the fall season.  How you ask?  Your line.  As the title states, how long ago did you put line on your reels?  If you want to get the most out of your reels and lures, fresh line is an important part of that want.  Keeping enough line on your reel is the most important thing you can do to maximize casts and efficiency of your reel.  Here are a few tips to save you a bunch of money in your life and to keep your Quantum Reels in the best working order it possibly can be in. (note: this information can be used with baitcasting and spinning reels)
This reel is in desperate need of line.  I can see by how empty the spool looks and my technique of coloring the line.
Can you see the darker or black line showing through?  This is telling me that I am getting close to my "backing line".
This gives me a visual after a long cast that I will need some new line soon.

Backing is line that is put on your reels and never taken off.  You shouldn't/won't use the bottom half of your line ever.
I color the top 2 or 3 foot of line with a black permanent marker and then tie my fresh line with an overhand knot to it.
The "black backing" never comes off my reels, thus saving me 100's of yards of line each year.
This also saves me a lot of money as I only use half the amount of line, and I know it is always fresh.
One last advantage, I can re-line a reel in matter of just a minute or so and not lose fishing time.
Another common mistake of anglers is not filling their spools to the maximum capacity.
The more full your spool is; the better it is going to perform.
Notice how the new line is 1mm or 2mm from the top of the spool, this will allow maximum casting distances and allow your reel to work at the proper gear ratio.
An "empty" spool is a BAD spool!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Last Stop on the 2019 Hot Rod Baits Bass Series: Pool 9

The Optimum Baits Furbit Frog
buried in the mouth of our biggest bass.
Today marked the last tournament of the 3-event series in the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  The first two events were on Lake Sugema and Brushy Creek Lake, the last being on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  Brian Bowles and I decided to spend two days looking around the immense pool for just the right location to get us into the top 5, a goal that we always make for ourselves.  In those two days the QuantumPT rods and reels along with the trolling motor got quite a workout.  We spent nearly 20 hours in the two days covering as much water as we could.  We found several areas where fish were feeding, but mostly on the small side.  We figured that 12# would be a good target to hit our "top 5" goal.
Tournament day was upon us and off to our first spot in the southern part of Pool 9  We caught a couple dozen of bass in this spot,  but only 3 keepers and they weren't very big.  Off to the next 2 areas that were similar to the first one; rocky structure near the main channel current.  These areas did not put any more keepers in the boat.  Off to our 4th area, the area that I had the most hope for.  This was a shallow weedy area off a side slough that had a lot of current flowing.  What made this area good was the fresh green weeds that were growing.  Coontail, eel grass, lilypads, wild rice, and duckwork.  It was full of green weeds and plenty of bait too.  We quickly put the Optimum Baits Furbit Frog to work using 65# braided line on a Quantum SmokePT Freak reel and Quantum Smoke 7'0" Medium Heavy rod.  This setup is idea for fishing a frog bait, it casts the baits very well, and has the backbone to yank any fish out of the heaviest cover.  We ended up pulling four quality bass from this grassy area to boost our limit near that 12 pound target weight.  We tried a few other areas as we made our way back north to the weigh-in but we couldn't get rid of our two smallest bass.  In the end this held us out of the top 5, finishing in 7th our of 17 teams.  We had 11.89#, with 5th place weighing in 12.39.  It was a great day of fishing for Brian and I, but the lack of bringing in 6 quality bass compared to the 4 that we had just didn't get us towards the top enough.  This was a disappointment as we won at this particular venue last year, but as we all should know, "You never step in the same river twice." ~Mark Twain

Sunday, July 14, 2019

First Tournament on the Mississippi River for 2019

This weekend was the annual Cedar Valley Bassmaster Kenny Thompson Memorial tournament out of Prairie Du Chein, Wisconsin.  This event is open to any member of the Cedar Valley Bassmaster club past or present.  This club is where I got started fishing bass tournaments.  Kenny was the fearless leader of the club back then and was for many, many years.  This event brings together anglers who have had the pleasure of fishing with Kenny in past years and always brings back good memories of times fishing with him.  What an honor to have this event for Kenny each year and I hope Eric Johnston keeps this going.
This year I partnered up with Randy Toale to compete in the event.  A total of 23 teams participated, all looking for those 5 big bass to weigh in.  Randy and I both decided to take Friday and look around the river to see what we could find.  We focused our efforts completely in Pool 9 as the pool was in better shape than Pool 10.  The water level was 12.3ft on Friday and scheduled to drop a few inches come Saturday.  The weather was HOT...and HOT on both days which had us going to the boat cooler often to stay hydrated.  The plan on Friday was to cover as much water as possible in the lower half of Pool 9, about 15 miles of river.  Obviously we hit some areas that I have done well in the past with similar water levels and some new water that I have not fished before as well.  To our surprise and delight almost every area that we tried on Friday, we caught keeper bass (14 inches).  A wide variety of baits were working too, the Mississippi River was in great shape and the bass were hungry.  We were able to come up with a solid plan that would put us in 5 different areas on Pool 9 for the tournament day.  It was a long day on the water but the bass were cooperative and we were having a great time.
We knew the water was supposed to drop over night, and sure enough it did.  We didn't think it would affect the areas we were in, the bass should still be biting.  Plan A was to hit a shallow area full of green weeds that had some current and plenty of bait.  The bass were loving the Optimum Baits Furbit Frogs on Friday and I couldn't wait to get back at them.  However, Plan A was not anything like it was supposed to be.  It did yield 3 keepers, but they were under two pounds.  We gave up on that and went to our second spot.  We caught several bass here on Friday, the size was not the greatest but we decided we couldn't drive past it without giving it a try.  We tried crankbaits, swimjigs, tubes and big craws, small fish and not very many.  The wind change definitely moved these fish around and the keepers were gone.  Off to Plan B, hit as many areas with current as possible to find feeding fish.  The water temperature was hanging around eighty degrees and the bass were on the chew.  Current points on the main channel and off-sloughs were holding fish on Friday and this was Plan B.  Plan B saved our day as the bass were still using these areas to ambush food.  Crawfish seemed like the choice of food as many fish had them sticking out of their throats when we caught them.  The fast baits like the crankbait and swimjig did not pan out on this day like they were on Friday.  We had to make adjustments in our presentations to get the keepers to bite on tournament day.  Hot Rod Baits Tubes and BigCraws along with a Wig's Jig brought in all the keepers that we weighed in.  The QuantumPT flippin rods with all the all new Accurst S3 PT high speed reel were the perfect combination to get those bass to bite and get them in the boat. Using a high speed reel when the current is rolling is a must to keep up with the fleeing bass.  We knew we had between 12.5 and 13 pounds, and it "put us in the game".  The weight was good, and would get us towards the top but I didn't think we would finish as high as did.  As more and more teams weighed in we realized we were much closer to the top than we first thought.  As friends and old friends talked with us we came to the conclusion that fishing was much more difficult today than it was on Friday, it wasn't just us, it was the bass.  Their mood changed over night and the fishing was different.  We made the right decisions and the adjustments throughout the tournament day.  It was a pleasure to fish with Randy as moved through the tough day.  We just kept fishing and let the bass tell us what they wanted.  When in doubt, always listen to the bass!  We ended up going through about 15 keepers to weigh our best 5 bass.  Our limit weighed 12.97# which was good enough for 3rd place and a nice check.
The Mississippi River is an amazing place, and this weekend helped me to remember that once again.
The combos and baits that we used to get in the top 3

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Indee Bass Club July Wapsi Tournament

Twenty-One students took to the Wapsi at the July Indee Bass Club Tournament

I have been looking forward to this event ever since the school year ended.  As the coach of the Indee HS Bass Club  I knew that this date on the calendar could be the perfect storm of hungry smallies and largemouth taking to their usual summer haunts.  It should have been perfect...but it wasn't.  Fishing was not easy on the Wapsi River and I knew in the back of my mind that it was going to be a grind for the kids.  Of course, the kids didn't mind as it was all smiles as they loaded into 12 different boats captained by adults from the Independence area.  Of the twelve boats, seven of them were able to bring bass to the weigh-in.  On a tough, slightly dirty Wapsi, that was pretty darn good for these kids!  Students ranging from 7th graders to students that just graduated from Independence High School were in attendance.  It seemed fitting as the boats were loaded back onto the trailers that the only two seniors fishing on this night were the only team claiming to have a limit to weigh in.  Karter Wendling and Connor Joblinske did bring 5 bass to the weigh in and walked away as champions in their last ever Indee Bass Club tournament.  Their limit weighed 8.54# and they also had the big bass weighing in at 2.42#.  CalebW came in at second place with three keepers that weighed 5.22#.  JustinS and HunterP came in third with 2 keepers weighing 3.05#.
Plaques were given to the top two teams and the big bass winner KarterW.  Along with those the winning team received Scheels tackle packs, and Karter also claimed the Hank's Bait and Tackle Big Bass Prize bag filled with all kinds of fishing tackle and gear.  The club also uses sponsorship money to purchase gear for kids at random drawings.  Nine lucky kids were drawn for new rods and reels, tackle, Rod Gloves and other fishing gear.  All in all over $500 worth of fishing gear was given away this night at the event. 
It is an honor to facilitate this club and get things organized for the kids, and kudos to all the captains that have volunteered in the past!  The sponsors located at the bottom of the page are the reason why the kids get treated to new gear and giveaways.  The club has come a long way in the first three years of existence, I hope the fishing community and the community of Independence can keep it rolling for the youth of our town.
Seniors WIN at their last HS Bass Tournament

Complete results and more pics can found on the Indee High School Bass Club Website and their Facebook Page.

2019 Club Sponsors

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series at Brushy Creek Lake

Saturday was the second stop for the series, the first was at Lake Sugema.  I had a 10th place finish at Sugema and was looking forward to this event since the ride home from Sugema.  Brushy Creek is a lake that I have fished dozens of times in all months of the year.  On the calendar, this lake should have been smashing with post-spawn bass.  In easy terms, the bass should have been on a good bite...should have been.  It is quite clear that Mother Nature has either lost her calendar, or simply does not care anymore for this state.  It has been quite a spring here in Iowa, and only the last couple days have actually felt like summer.  This has no doubt played a part in the weird and tough bite at this lake.  With tournaments at this lake each and every weekend as well as every Wednesday night it gets plenty of pressure, but has always been able to rebound and keep producing big healthy bags of largemouth bass.  This was taking place at Brushy earlier in the year, but the past 3 weekends the weights have tanked severely, and the numbers of keepers have tanked as well.
I was able to take a look around on the lake on Wednesday.  It was a solo trip and I tried to cover as much water as possible, looking at all the old stomping grounds.  I hadn't seen the lake for about three years, the only real change I saw was the water clarity was extremely clearer than I remembered.  A good thing for the lake no doubt.  Deep, shallow, mid-range, fast baits, slow baits, and the kitchen sink was was tried during this experimentation day.  A few fish were caught including two decent keepers...not what I was expecting but not really shocked either by the stories and reports I had heard from other anglers.  Onto the tournament we go.  Brian Bowles joined me for this event early on Friday to take one last look around the lake and try to form a game plan that would put us toward the top.  We did a lot of looking and some fishing on this day.  By the time we left the lake we knew it was going to be an old fashion grind the next day.  The kind of events that really drive some anglers crazy.  We knew it was going to be like this and we were mentally prepared to go the entire day with a few bites.
Tournament day came and the "Reel-Feel" was predicted to be over 100 degrees, perfect, just one more obstacle to overcome on an already tough day of fishing.  That is why boats have coolers and that's why you wear the proper clothing on these hot, sunny days.  I was glad I packed my Cliff Keen Athletic Fishing Gear, it made the hot temperatures much easier to deal with.  Our plan for the day was simple; frogs and punching Hot Rod Baits Big Craws in the best looking grass we could find.  We knew we could catch some fish using these techniques as long as we stuck to the plan.  We hit our first area and connected with a keeper in the first ten minutes.  The Optimum Baits Furbit Frog in the Bluegill color brought 2 of our 5 keepers in the boat.  After the bass would strike at the frog, the punching rod came out and cleaned them up.  They couldn't resist a sunfish Big Craw dropped down in front of them.  It is a great 1-2 combo that has worked many times and prevailed today as well.  Both key baits were rigged on QuantumPT Rod and Reels.  The new Quantum EnergyPT reel with the flippin switch paired with a heavy QuantumPT rod  was great for the punching rod, and the high speed QuantumPT Smoke Speed Freak reel paired with a MedHvy QuantumPT rod was the trick for the frog.
Our plan was a good one, but we came up one bass short today of our 6 fish limit.  You simply can't do that against this type of competition.  We had a plan, and it was a plan that would have had us in the top 5, but it wasn't meant to be today.  We only had 7 bites on this day, and we boated 6 of them.  That is a great ratio when fishing the techniques we did.  No regrets, and we both felt as though if we had to do it all over again today, we wouldn't change a thing.  We weighed in 9.77# with the winners having 12.24#.  Close, but on a day when only 4 teams weighed a 6 bass limit, we came up in 7th place.  On to the next adventure chasing that next fish.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Iowa Post-Spawn

What a spring is has been...cold, colder, rain, more rain, a little warmth, cold, more rain pretty much sums up the month of May.  May has always been my favorite month to fish for bass, but this May had to be one of the worst ever for that.  Rivers were out of control, many lakes are clouded, or dirty, however there is always fish to be caught.  This past weekend took me to a smaller Iowa lake  that covers about 150 acres.  It is known for some HUGE bass and I haven't bass fished it for over a decade.  With the Mississippi River still really high and the local Wapsi not cleaning up as fast as I thought, it was time to give the lake another try to see if we could catch one of those famous BIG BASS.  David Gissel and I scoured the shallows looking for what we thought might be the tail end of the spawn.  We saw dozens upon dozens of bluegills and crappies cruising the shallows and just a few largemouth bass.  The bass wanted nothing to do with our offerings and only chased them for awhile before turning back and returning to where they were first located.  This was a neat ritual to see in the clean water at first, but became very annoying as we couldn't catch those fish...they were not feeding and they made it quite obvious.  This led us to believe that the bass were in the post-spawn mood/habitats.  We decided to head to deeper water near some brush.  Immediately we picked up a couple nice keeper bass.  Texas Rigged tubes, and stick baits were casted out and brought back slowly for these bites.  However, it seemed as though only a couple fish lived there.  We decided to try some deeper shorelines and keep our baits in the deeper water.  We picked up a few more bass doing this.  Fast retrieved baits never caught a fish today, which was a surprise to the both of us.  Another rig that worked well was a Hot Rod Baits Big Craw rigged on swing-head jig.  I was able to work this bait ever-so slowly through and around the deeper brushpiles scattered on the lake bottom, it even produced our biggest fish of the day.  This rig has become more and more of a go-to rig for me in the last few years for covering water at a slow pace while maintaining bottom contact.  You can fish it faster than a jig or Carolina Rig and it seems to get more bites too.  I throw this 1/2ounce rig on a 7'2" G-Force Quantum R
The Biggest of the day
od with a QuantumPT Vapor Reel
in the 6.3:1 speed ratio.  I experimented with several rods and reel ratios and this one covers all the important aspects for me.  I can cast it long distances with the Med/Hvy rod and Vapor reel, and the extra fast action tip of the rod gives me the sensitivity to feel the bottom content and the strength to set the hook.  It is a fantastic combo for this set up.

It was a day of decisions and surprises for us today.  We had the spawn on our minds and picking fish off beds, but they simply were not there.  This was a classic day of letting the fish tell you where they are and what they want to eat.  We made the right decisions to make it a good day of fishing, even though neither of us caught that lake monster we were hoping for.
Close-up of the SWING-HEAD Jig

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Stop #1

The Optimum Baits Opti Shad
brings in a BIG ONE
This year Brian Bowles and I will be participating in this series once again.  It is a three event series, all-in format against 16 other teams.  At each of the three events teams earn points for their finishes to compete for the Team of the Year honors.  With only three events, there is no room for a major slip-up.  The first event of the year seems to always be the most difficult for us in the past few years.  With a full day of practice on Saturday, good May weather and a plan of attack we were pretty sure this wouldn't be the case this year.  Well, that didn't last long, I got a call Friday from my partner saying he had injured his ribs and was hurting pretty bad.  He was going to call me Saturday morning with an update.  I knew this wasn't good news...but went on to practice bright and early on Lake Sugema as I had planned anyway.  A few hours into the day I contacted Brian, and he was hurting pretty bad, trying to loosen things up.  He didn't have a definitive answer, and we left it as I needed to know his plans by noon.  The call...which I almost expected came in, Brian was out for the Sunday tournament.  I immediately started to think about who could come and fish with me for Sunday.  It is a 3-hour trip from Independence, and I really didn't want to trouble someone that much with such short notice.  So I started to think of other friends...Randy.  Randy Ellison has fished the series in the past and I knew he lived within an hour of the lake.  I made the call...and he was able to come and fish Sunday.  Talk about a roller coaster of a practice day...and that doesn't even cover the fishing! 

I made the most of the practice day in between the storms that came and went throughout most of the day.  I only set the hook 2 times that day, one was the fish you see above, a 21+ incher and then a 12-inch bass.  I knew I couldn't set the hook too many times, especially being a man down.  I felt at the end of the day I did eliminate quite a bit of water, and had two different baits that the bass were liking.  One of those baits was the Optimum Baits Opti Shad.  This 6 inch swimbait with a paddle tail fished on an irregular retrieve was getting quite a few bites, as did the Hot Rod Baits Tube rigged Texas-style.  It is always nice to end the day knowing a few bites that the bass were biting on. 

A little about the rigging of these two very different baits; first the Texas-rig.  I like a 3/0 EWG hook for pitching tubes, and a 1/4oz sinker was necessary on this day due to the swirling winds.  The Opti Shad was rigged with no weight and a 5/0 EWG hook.  These baits are very dense, making them easy to throw long distances even without any additional weight.  I do this to provide more natural movement from the bait itself.  It flutters, kicks, wobbles, darts in a variety of patterns that drive fish crazy.  I always throw this bait on a seven foot QuantumPT rod with a SmokePT baitcasting reel.  Between the QuantumPT combo and the high quality Optimum Bait swimbait it makes a dynamic pair...a pair that big fish like!  With these two baits and the trusty Black and Blue Wig's Jig I felt ready for Sunday.

Sundays weather was very much like Saturday, storms in and out, wind direction changes and rain on and off.  Not the best time to hit a lake post-spawn but that is what tournaments are for, testing yourself under Mother Nature's schedule, not your own schedule.  Randy and I started off on the on main lake and hit some keepers right away, the Opti Shad, tube and chatterbait all put keepers in the livewell.  We ended up culling a fish or two by around 10am.  We had our biggest fish in the livewell, a 4.00# caught on the Opti Shad along with two other nicer keepers, but still had 3 fish around that  two pound mark...not what we were hoping for.  We made the move to the west part of the lake and continued to fish main lake and some points.  The old channel breaks were hit and ended up on the west side of the silt dam.  We covered a lot of water, the Minn Kota got quite a workout on this day.  At the end of the day we both knew that we didn't have what it was going to take to win on this "big fish" lake, but we gave it our all and didn't hold anything back. 

The scale tipped us in at 14.46# for our limit of 6 bass.  We did have the 2nd biggest fish of the event with the 4.00# bass.  That weight placed us in 10th, definitely not where we wanted to end up, but almost every team was able to bring in a limit on this day.  It was great fishing with Randy, it had been a couple years since we shared a boat.  I hope it isn't that long in between trips this time.  It is quite obvious he loves the sport and this chance meeting saved my weekend for sure, so thanks to friends and the sport of bass fishing...I love it for so many reasons!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Iowa High School State Team Bass Championship

One simple thought...turned into quite an event.  That thought was, "What if any student in the state would be able to sign up to fish a bass tournament to represent their school?  How many would attend?"  That thought came to fruition when the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series created the first annual Team Bass Championship that took place Saturday at Pleasant Creek Lake near Palo, IA.  I have enjoyed seeing the Indee Bass Club take off, but I knew there was much more interest around the state to fish bass tournaments, but schools didn't have a bass club.  This event would allow any student in the state to join the event and fish a tournament with a huge prize pot.  SCHEELS in Cedar Falls stepped up as the Title Sponsor for this event, allowing us to create beautiful trophies for the kids to enjoy for years down the road.  Quantum Rods and Reels made the large prize purse a reality, Cliff Keen Athletic Wear provided high quality dri-fit shirts for purchase, Hot Rod Baits, Wig's Jigs, and The Rod Glove all gave items for the students as well.  Without the generosity of these companies, this event would have not been possible.  Also a big shout-out to tournament directors Todd Reed and Keith Donnelly, tournament staff Rick Wendling, Dave Dost and Darrin Isaacson for making things run smoothly.
Over $1,500 in merchandise given away, including AWESOME trophies from CJ's Trophies in Oelwein, IA

Pleasant Creek Lake was chosen for the event.  This lake recently had a make-over and according to DNR fish surveys has plenty of bass to go around.  The lake is beautiful, clear water, rocky shorelines, brushpiles, rockpiles and plenty of shallow weeds.  This is certainly going to be a good lake for years to come.

So how many students did show up for this event...56 students from ten different school districts signed up for the event.  Independence, Alburnett, Starmont, North Linn, MLF/MarMac, West Des Moines Valley, West Delaware, Washington, Sumner/Fredricksburg, and Center Point-Urbana all were excited to get things going.  Four students make up a team along with two captains manning the
two boat teams.  Each team could work together to find the bass, catch them and bring them to the live weigh-in.  The weather was not a typical May Saturday, temperatures were in the fifties, and drizzle fell throughout much of the tournament.  Spring here in Iowa this year has been like no other.  The environment dictates every move of fish and on this day the bass were not very cooperative.  Only three teams were able to bring in a bass over the 12-inch length limit.  Those three teams and many random drawing teams took home over $1,500 worth of prizes and trophies.  Dispite the bad weather and the poor fishing, kids were leaving with smiles on their faces.  I hope to see many of them back for the 2020 event.

Here are the results:

1st Place and Big Bass: Washington High School- 3.14#
2nd Place: MFL/MarMac- 2.92#

3rd Place: Center Point-Urbana

1st Place: QuantumPT Accurist Combos

Big Bass Winner also received numerous items from The Rod Glove, Hot Rod Baits and Wig's Jigs.

2nd Place: Quantum Throttle Combos

3rd Place: Quantum Drive and Pulse Reels

The Next Generation

Add caption
I once again had the opportunity to speak at Fish Iowa this year in the Independence community.  Each year 5th graders at the local schools learn about fishing, the environment and how they can preserve it and protect it for years to come.  The kids get treated to an all-day field trip to the outdoors to see various programs from the Iowa DNR.  It is an awesome program and am proud to be a part of it.  I was asked once again to be the "fishing instructor".  I help the kids learn more about rods, reels, types of casting and the many different lures you can use.  It was great to field the many questions kids had about fishing and the local Wapsi River.  Throughout the day about 120 kids made their way to my station to pick up a few facts about fishing and how it can be much more than just a worm and bobber.  The more kids are involved in outdoor activities the better, and I hope I shared my passion with a few up and coming bass anglers on this day! 

Tools of the trade: Old and New school
Quantum, IMA Crankbaits,
and Hot Rod Baits

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Indee Bass Club High School April Club Tournament

To sum things up...AMAZING!  That is the brief sentiments after this tournament, however the longer version is available as you keep reading.  The first club tournament of the year was scheduled for Saturday, the weather scheduled for that day was a high temperature of 39 degrees, several inches of snow and wind gusts up to 30 mph.  These variables take all the fun out of fishing and it simply isn't worth the battle.  Team coaches, Keith Donnelly, Garry Anderson and I decided to not host the tournament on Saturday and look at other options.  Postponing to another weekend was possible, but you never know about the river levels in spring.  A quick call to the DNR and we were able to switch the tournament permit to Sunday afternoon, which promised to have temperatures in the 50's.  Mother Nature tried to stop us, but we found another way.  Sunday afternoon it was, and it was one for the record books...literally.
This team found the only two
willing smallmouth bass to bite on this day.

Twenty-Seven students to the water at 3pm for the 4-hour tournament.  The goal for the 2-person teams was to catch five keeper bass on the Wapsi here in Independence.  This is never an easy thing to do on the Wapsi, especially a day after a blizzard.  Fourteen boats and captains took to the Wapsi to see what they could catch, and ten boats came in with fish to be weighed.  This was very surprising considering the conditions and the large number of boats on the body of water.  The have made huge progress on the basics of casting and pitching baits, and I think the big weigh-in is proof of that.  Many baits were working on this day, spinnerbaits, jigs, tubes, swimjigs and crankbaits were all reported as catching fish, including several Northern Pike, which is always a nice surprise at the end of your line.  The weather held out for us, temperatures were in the forties at the end of the tournament, but the winds weren't too gusty.  Things worked out for the best. 

As for the fish catches...the students set several records on this day.  The club has been in existence for three years now, and this was the seventh tournament held by the club.  Today, the club set the record for most kids in attendance at 27, the most teams to weigh in at an event at 10, and the most bass weighed in at 21.  Today, the largest bass ever to cross the scales at a club event occurred, Caleb brought in a 3.72# largemouth bass.  That was of course the biggest bass of the event which gave him the Hank's Bait and Tackle "Big Bass Award".  This prize pack included a variety of baits and lures from this tackle shop located in Waterloo.  Overall, the results were far past what I had imagined the Wapsi River was capable of producing, it has been a weird spring, but I guess the day after a snowstorm is a good day to go bass fishing.   One limit of five bass was brought to the scales today weighing in just over eight pounds.  That earned the team of Jackson and Dalton the SCHEELS Tournament Winner Tackle Packs.  A huge thanks to the 14 captains that provided boats and their mentorship, an invaluable part of this club.  The club also gave away 5 rod and reel combos to random club members.  A big thanks to Quantum Fishing for their support!  Full results can be seen on the club website HERE.

The Indee Bass Club is thankful for all their sponsors, please support them if you can!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Time Bass Fishing- PODCAST

Recently, I had the opportunity to share some insight on locating and catching spring bass.  Click on over to The Sportsmen's Nation to hear those thoughts:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

It has begun!

First fish of the year, 3.19# on a
Wigs Jig and Hot Rod Baits Chunk
The 2019 OPEN WATER season has started here in NE Iowa.  I was able to get out on the Wapsi River for a few hours today and look around.  It always amazes me how rivers change from one year to another.  Some things always stay the same, but there are always things that Mother Nature changes.  It is one thing I love about rivers and the one thing I dislike about rivers.  moving around on the Wapsi River in Buchanan County hasn't been easy the past decade, and this spring has already shown me that is isn't going to get any easier.   It will be difficult to navigate around the sandbars, but the current will hopefully carve out a place for boats to enjoy the water and fish that swim in them.  On this day, we were after largemouth bass.  This time of the year on interior rivers is best time to catch a giant.  We went looking and ended up with three bass over 3#, one just missed 4# at 3.91 pounds.  It was a good short trip and both Keith and I caught some bass.  A win-win for early April, it sure was a good feeling to really set the hook with the long rods!

Monday, March 25, 2019

OK, truly the last time

A couple buckets of BIG
Clear Lake Yellows

This time I am for real, this past weekend was the last day on the ice for me this season.  March 23rd, the second latest I have ever ice fished, last year I was able to ice fish into April.  Clear Lake was our choice on this day, knowing the ice was good and a chance to catch some yellows was all I needed to pack the gear in the truck and head north one last time.  It is always a long ride home, thinking back over the year and already looking forward to next year.  It was a good day on Clear Lake, and the yellows did not disappoint.

There were four of us in the group on Saturday which always makes things easier when trying to track down the yellows.  We made quick moves at first after a few smaller perch and a couple nice crappies.  Once we found an area that the yellows were cruising through we made smaller moves to try and stay on the hungry fish.  The day was beautiful, temps were in the high forties with a light breeze and plenty of fish to keep us busy between telling stories.  On this particular day at Clear Lake the yellows seemed to be very close to and in the weeds.  We found a nice big patch of eel grass that the fish were relating to, no doubt chasing bugs and worms, and caught most of our fish there.  Time of day did not seem to matter as they bit pretty consistently through the noon hour and into the early afternoon.
Hoping from hole to hole with my bucket system and Vexilar FLX-28 helps me to stay on the move and see if active fish are below me or not.  If not, it is a quick move to the next hole.  Something that I am getting more and more comfortable with is the 36-inch Jason Mitchell Meat Stick paired with the Quantum Throttle.  The length of the rod and smoothness of the reel make for easy work hopping around and dropping down to jig for another yellow.  Spoons seemed to be the best option on this day, several colors were working well, silver, gold, green, and my white/yellow Reins Tungsten Spoon.  I am really looking forward to using these more this summer and next winter.  A great spoon with a quick fall and flutter action.

That is a wrap on the ice season...I really do mean it this time.  It is once again time to transition to the boats for my next fishing adventures.  It was a great ice season, and I am looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Last Time for the Winter

There is always "one last time" at the end of the season, and this past Sunday was that for the ice fishing season.  David Gissel and I decided to make it a full day and try to hit three different lakes for three different species.  We headed south to our crappie lake and started popping holes around some brushpiles.  We started seeing fish immediately on the Vexilars, we just had to find the right baits that they wanted.  Jigs with plastics started to get some fish immediately and soon David started to pull the crappies up with spoons.  It was more of a bet here at the right time to get the fish to bite.  The crappies were on the move and no matter what we tried they were in and out very quickly.  We hopped around the lake hitting the deep basin, and several brushpiles, along with adjacent drop-offs.  All areas gave up some keeper crappies but the locations nearest the brushpiles were definitely the
best on this day.  After about 30 keepers we were off to the next lake in search of some big bluegills. 

This lake had the potential, but nothing panned out.  We hit many different structures, deep and shallow water, nothing...and nothing.  We struck out and didn't want to spend anymore time on this last day of ice fishing searching.  We had decided to head for lake #3 on the day in search of some Yellow Bass and a to try a new jigging spoon.

The REINS Spoon in the 2 and 3.5 gram model
I was looking forward to the third lake as I had a new jigging spoon I wanted to try out.  Reins fishing came out with a tungsten jigging spoon this year in multiple sizes, large enough for open water bass and small enough for panfish too.  I had a feeling they were going to be great for the fast-action yellow bass.  Yellow Bass are always fun to chase, and when I say chase that is exactly what it is.  You have to drill, and drill, and drill to chase them down.  We did find a pattern pretty quickly as looked at the piles of fish on the ice.  All the fish were in a straight line, all in 11-12 feet of water.  They were cruising this contour up and down the lake.  The Palputin Spoon from Reins was the ticket.  They performed to my expectations and then some.  The quality of hook that comes standard with these spoons is like nothing I have ever seen before in the world of ice fishing.  When you set the hook on a fish, there was no coming off.  These are the real deal, and when you see a mark on the on the Vexilar while hole hopping these spoons get down to the fish fast!  It went perfect with my favorite rod/reel of the year, the Quantum Throttle and a 36-inch Jason Mitchell Meat Stick has been a go-to combo all year long for hole hopping.  It was perfect on this day too.

Will this be the last day on the ice, probably?  The next weekend is pretty busy and traveling several hours north to get on safe ice just isn't in the cards. It was a great day on the ice, and a perfect way to remember the year on the ice!