Monday, December 20, 2021

Maximize your FLASHER this winter on the ICE



The flasher...the oldest electronic fish finder known to anglers.  It is also the most durable, reliable and fastest resource we have on the water too.  The signal is instant with no need to digitalize the signal.  It is by far the best tool to catch fish on the ice.  Hundreds of thousands of anglers will grab their flasher and head to the ice this winter in the Midwest hoping to enjoy a winter day on their favorite slab of ice.  I have been grabbing my Vexilar flasher since 1999 to enjoy my time on the ice.  It seems like forever ago when my then girlfriend, now wife of 18 years, gave me an FL8 for Christmas.  I loved ice fishing, mostly sight fishing on the river backwaters, but that FL8 really showed me what I was missing.  The simplicity of the machine was amazing back then, and it is still today.  However, Vexilar, like all other electronic companies have fine tuned their products to make them better with many upgrades over the last few decades.  Last year Vexilar introduced the FLX30BB, and of course it is better than previous options.  If you want an in-depth look at the FLX-30BB click HERE for a past blog entry on that topic.

Back to the basics, how to maximize your flasher this winter; each fall and winter I get to visit stores and bait shops around my area to help consumers with purchases and educate people on usage of flashers.  Each year a few things always dominate the conversations and seminars.  If you can remember and use these two different pieces of knowledge on the ice, you will catch more fish in 2022.

Tip #1- Know what you are looking at:  This graphic sums things up pretty well.  The lines on your flasher are not random, each and every one of them have meaning, our brain has to determine what they are communicating with us.  


The biggest thing to remember from this graphic is that there are NO FISH deeper than eight feet of water.  Red is the key color to zone in on, this is the indicator that the fish is directly below you.  Yellow and Green are off to the side, thus the return "ping" from the transducer is longer and shows up deeper than eight feet.

=======================================

TIP #2-
When using a Vexilar to search out fish or structure beneath the ice be sure to use it to its full potential.  First, turn up the gain to at least "2".  Second swirl the transducer (gently and slowly) around the hole to see any fish or brush in the water column.  This is often know as "stirring the hole".  Lastly, know how much you are looking at under the ice, see the graphic below to understand just how much your Vexilar is telling you.  With some simple math you can maximize your efforts in drilling the holes where they are needed.

This chart tells us that when we use a 12-degree cone we can see a 2.2 foot diameter circle below us.


In summary, a Vexilar is a tool that we need to use properly.  We can use it as basic as we want, however if you have an FL18, FL20, FL22, FLX 20, FLX28 or FLX30BB you have a lot of options that you can dive into to make you a better angler on the ice.  Enjoy the ice, release as many fish as you can and be sure to enjoy a few fish on the table with friends and family this winter season!



Monday, December 6, 2021

Bass Fishing in December?


I am not sure if any of my boats have ever floated in December in search of bass.  This past Friday was a perfect opportunity for a trip to see what the bass were up to in December.  All week long there was a huge warming trend, temps were in the sixties for many days and in the forties at night.  I had a feeling that shallow lakes were on the warm and in turn would kick up the appetite of the largemouth bass.  That was my hypotheses, and the only way I could know for sure was to drop the boat in and go find out.  

In prepping for the adventure, I loaded the boat with the following rod combos; Texas Rigged Tube, Shallow Crankbait, Jerkbait, Ned Rig, and a Drop-Shot.  I figured these five combos would cover all depths of the water and I could present baits at all speeds for the fish to chase.  My second cast told me all I needed for the next few hours on the water, a nice keeper bass inhaled the shallow diving crankbait.  For the next few hours the only bites I had were on that shallow crankbait.  I choose a bluegill pattern for the IMA Lures crankbait because if they were chasing baitfish, bluegills would be there choice of prey.  I tried other baits, and perhaps in other areas of the lake they could have worked, I only focused on large shallow bay where the water temperature was 44 degrees, the warmest I could find.  I was catching bass from the boat and the calendar said December, that is rare and it was a great bite.  I am continued to be impressed by the new Quantum Accurist Crankbait combo.  It isn't a high priced rod/reel combo, but it preforms like one.  For only $150 you can pick up a great combo to throw shallow running crankbaits.  The rod has 8 guides, which is plenty for the seven foot overall length.  The reel is the time tested Accurist model with a 6.3:1 gear ratio.  This rod is not a one size fits every crankbait, not at all, no crankbait rod is.  This is ideal for shallow running crankbaits and medium runners when target casting.  The short butt section of the rod makes it ideal to cast around docks, laydown logs, weeds and any other cover the bass may be hiding in or around.  

Rarely in the world of fishing does a plan come together, especially in December from the boat.  On this day a hunch on the warm weather trend led me to make some decisions to allow me to enjoy some great largemouth bass fishing.  It was awesome, but I am ready for ice fishing!!!


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

If you ICE FISH, you have to read this!

 It's December 1st...it's ICE FISHING time!  I wish this was true this year, temperatures today reached 57 degrees and all I can do is shake my head.  I still have a boat ready to hit the water, but I would rather be drilling holes in the ice right now.  It is Iowa, so each Monday you look at the forecast and think, I wonder how much this will change in the next few days?  Either way, I hope things cool down and we are on the ice chasing fish in the next couple of weeks.  Either way, anglers that do ice fish need to be taking steps right now to be ready to hit the ice and the make the most of it this year.  Check out my recent article from the Iowa Sportsman Magazine to be ready for the frozen water!

Throughout my 30+ years of ice fishing, this simple activity has gone through some major changes in equipment.  The activity is quite simple; drill a hole in the ice, drop down your bait, wait for a bite.  How you do those different tasks is all up to what type of ice angler you choose to be.  I know some people who love to set up an ice shack and sit on the same few holes all day.  This works for the most part and you can literally wear a sweatshirt all day long when running a small heater.  Comfort fishing, as I call it, is a great way to relax, talk with friends and hopefully catch some fish for a meal.  Mobile anglers seem to be always on the move trying to hit the perfect spot on the lake to haul in fish after fish.  Both are fun, and both are a great way to spend a day outdoors in the middle of an Iowa winter.  As this ice season creeps up on us, check your equipment for these “Must Have’s” before the ice really settles in.

~Ice Auger- this may seem quite obvious, but perhaps it is time for an upgrade.  There are many options when it comes to drilling a hole in the ice.  If you are still drilling with a hand auger, I would suggest getting a gas, propane, electric or cordless drill auger bit.  Having a powered auger will allow you to drill many more holes throughout the day and that should equate to more fish.  Most of the ice fishing season, the ice remains fifteen inches or less, this is ideal for a light-weight cordless drill auger.  Many people have a brushless cordless drill laying around, all you need is an ice cutting bit.  There are many on the market for less than $200, a favorite of mine is the K-Drill, it is made mostly of aluminum and plastic and is very light weight.  It attaches to any half-inch drill and will cut dozens of holes with one battery.  Another great feature of the K-Drill is the blades are sharpened for free by the company for life.  That brings me to my next point, no matter what auger you do have, get those blades sharpened or purchase new ones for the season, sharp blades make all the difference.

~Rod/Reel Selection- Ice anglers often have a large selection of rods and reels, often times more than their summertime collection.  This is not necessary, however having these four setups will allow you to fish for any species under any condition here in Iowa.  The first combo you will need is a jigging rod for smaller jigs, 3mm in size and smaller.  This rod (22-26 inches) must have a very soft tip or a spring bobber to detect the lightest of bites.  When using a rod without a spring bobber to work your jig, make sure the weight of the jig “loads” or pulls down on the rod tip just a bit.  This will help you see the bites.  I prefer to pair these rods with a smooth spinning reel with an excellent drag system, like the Quantum Drive in the size 10.  Rod #2- Same as the first one but with less flex at the tip for 4mm and above jigs.  Rod #3- Spoon rod.  This is a rod that gets overlooked by many anglers, but when paired with the right spoon it can be deadly with crappies, gills, perch and yellow bass.  Spoons are great for the anglers on the move, they can call fish in from a long distance for their next meal.  When jumping around from one hole to another, using a longer rod can make you more efficient.  I prefer to use a 36-inch Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Stick for this presentation.  The sensitive, hi-visual tip is perfect for any panfish spoon.  It is a must have when jumping around to different holes and jigging spoons.  Rod #4- A finesse rod is critical for those days that the fish are looking at your bait but will not bite.  This combo should have a large spool on it to minimize line twist, the old Schooley reels are perfect for this.  The rod itself should have a spring bobber at the tip to not only jig ultra small jigs, but to detect the smallest of bites.

~GPS- When most people think of this the first thing that comes to mind is a lot of money.  This cannot be further from the truth.  Technology is out there and you have this device on your phone.  All smartphones have a built in GPS system, all you need to do is get the Navionics App.  It costs $10 and is worth way more than that!  It has built-in lake and river maps to all the popular lakes in Iowa, big and small.  It has detailed contour maps of the lake bottoms and includes some fishing structures to try around the state as well.  You can mark your own hotspots on this app too, so you can return to them time and time again.

~Clothing- If you are cold, or your feet are wet, no fish will make things fun.  Waterproof boots and weather-tight clothing are a must for ice anglers.  Even if you plan to fish in a shack, you may have a lot of time out in the elements setting things up, moving around during the day, and getting back to shore at the end.  Spend wisely and layer up on those cold days.

~Electronics- Last but probably the most important is having some type of electronics to tell you if fish are nearby.  The Vexilar flasher is by far the most common unit you will see helping anglers catch fish.  There are many models to choose from, starting around the $250 mark.  Using a flasher is very simple and will last you for decades.  A flasher will not only tell you when you may get a bite, but more importantly it tells you to move on when no fish are present.  It can also tell you if your jig is something the fish like or if they are just looking.  No ice angler is complete without the use of electronics, if you do not have one yet, you are missing out!


Ice fishing has brought me so many memories; from drilling a few holes on the backwaters of the river with my dad while in middle school, to the many weekend trips with fellow ice friends each year.  It is a great hobby I have learned so much about and have come to appreciate the times on the ice.  The friendships and time outdoors are priceless during the Iowa winters, and the fresh fish frys are always fantastic too!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

November = Fish Transition


October always brings one of the best bass fishing bites to the state of Iowa, especially on the river systems.  The cooler water and shorter days had the bass feeding up for the long winter ahead.  I always look forward to October fishing and the first part of the November, then the slow down begins.  Late November has its ups and downs, typically with temperature and that in turn has the fish a little confused too.  This November has been no different, cooler temps, windy days and shorter days all make fishing that much harder.  As the month of November moves forward, the number of bites gets lower.  This was no surprise to me on this trip, there are some patterns in fishing that no matter what you do, Mother Nature has the final say.  With water temperatures in the high 30s the bass were lethargic.  Dragging small worms along the bottom was the only way to get a few bites on this day.  One thing is for sure though, the month of November brings out the big fish, especially the big BROWN BASS.  Catching this beauty alone made the trip well worth it mixed in with some smaller ones.  Another great trip to the outdoors in final days of open water fishing.  If the water is flowing the boat will be floating, but to tell the truth after Thanksgiving my attention turns towards the frozen water.  Perhaps a few more fish from the boat is yet to come, but if not the month of November was one to remember.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

2021 Fall Fishing in FULL Swing

This beautiful 3# Smallmouth couldn't 
resist a medium diving crankbait.
 October is here and so is the last of the bass fishing season.  The water has cooled to around 60 degrees in most places here in NE Iowa and that has the fish eating up.  It has been really good, but it hasn't gotten to the "GREAT" bite just yet.  It seems as though the bass take a look at the leaves on surrounding trees, because when the trees are a mix of yellow and orange they go nuts!  

The more I am in nature and the older I get, I realize that so many things are connected.  The leaf colors, water temperatures, movement of bait, it all is a mad equation that Mother Nature has created for us anglers to enjoy this time of year.  I hope you get out and enjoy the next month on the water.  Shore fishing can be dynamite this time of year on rivers if you don't have access to a kayak or boat.  Typically moving baits are best to cover a lot of water, such as; crankbaits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and topwater lures.  As the days get closer to November it will be time to take things slow with plastics, jigs, jerkbaits and tubes.  As always, let the fish tell you what they want, if you are not getting bites, change baits and change locations often this time of year.  

Get out there and soak it up, you know I will be!

Monday, October 4, 2021

October Indee Bass Club Tournament*** New CLUB Record

Scheels Delhi Champions: Jackson and Dalton

 The Indee Bass Club held its final tournament of the year on October 3rd at Lake Delhi.  The club, which is organized and ran by Todd Reed, Keith Donnelly, and Garry Anderson is free to any student in the Independence area in grades 7-12.  Events are set up throughout the year where students can compete in bass tournaments while learning from adults that are running the boats.  The club has a great lineup of sponsors which makes these experiences free for all kids; they include Klever Concrete, Bank Iowa, The Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Colony Plumbing/Heating/AC, Scheels in Cedar Falls, Hank's Live Bait and Tackle in Waterloo, Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, Strike King Lures, Quantum Rods/Reels, and The Rod Glove.

Lake Delhi, which has both smallmouth and largemouth bass was the site of the last club event for 2021.  Fourteen students made the trip on a beautiful fall afternoon.  Temperatures ranged from sixty to seventy degrees and was mostly cloudy for the entire event, making for ideal conditions for bass fishing.  As the coach for the club I knew a lot of bass would be caught on this day for a variety of reasons, which is the goal each and every time I schedule events.  Lake Delhi was a great day, and in fact set a new club record; most bass weighed in at an event: 26 bass!  It was great to see every team weigh in fish, this was only the second time this has occurred in the sixteen events that the Indee Bass Club has held over the past five seasons.  

Scheels 2nd Place: Justin and Huner

The champions at Lake Delhi for 2021 were Jackson Toale and Dalton Hoover.  They brought in a limit of 5 keeper bass that weighed 7.72#.  This was the eighth club tournament that this duo has won together.  Their day started off slow, after fishing for about 45 minutes without getting a bite, they came along a stretch of docks that allowed them to catch four keepers all while Texas-Rigging Hot Rod Baits Tubes.  Shortly after that they reported getting their fifth keeper and kept catching them throughout the tournament.  Their great day of fishing earned them trophies and Scheels hats and gift cards.  In second place was Justin Schmadeke and Hunter Patton.  They brought in a limit of bass that weighed 6.65# while skipping docks, Justin also caught the Hank's Bait and Tackle Big Bass of the event that weighed 2.63#, a huge smallmouth for the lake.  Justin reported catching that giant on a green pumpkin/purple flake Senko bait on a rocky point.  Second place took home trophies and Scheels hats and gift cards.  In third place was the young partnership of Cal Sweeney and Remy Ressler.  They had a limit of 5 bass that weighed 6.19#, earning them trophies and Rod Gloves.  In fourth place was Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron, they had a limit that weighed 4.97#.  In fifth place was Jackson Beatty and Gable Eddy, they caught 3 keepers that weighed 2.65#.  Sixth place went to Teegan McEnany and Jackson Wolf, they had two keepers that weighed 2.56#.  Fishing their first ever tournament was Carter Dauth and Walker Kresser, they brought a keeper to the scale that weighed 1.06#.  A huge thank you to the boat captains; Randy Toale, Paul Schmadeke, Dan Sweeney, Todd Reed, Landry Jones, Adam Farmer, and Mike Heims.



It was a great day in the outdoors for these kids, and thanks to the sponsors over $800 in prizes were given away to keep these kids enjoying this great sport of fishing.  At the conclusion of the live weigh-in Jim Klever, an avid fisherman and owner of Klever Concrete greeted the anglers, boat captains and fans attending with a grill out of hot dogs, brats, chips and pop.  What a great way to end the competition season!


To find out more information about the Indee Bass Club, search "Indee Bass Club" on Google, Facebook and Instagram.

2021 SPONSORS
2021 SPONSORS


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fall Topwater- My favorite pick

 

September and into October bass typically "feed up" on baitfish.  This gives anglers one last chance to target bass using topwater baits.  Normally baits like buzzbaits, pop-r baits and walking baits are reserved for early mornings and evening hours.  However, during the cooler days bass will strike these baits all day long.  Sandbars, rocky banks, points and bluff banks can all be good places for bass to trap shad, minnows or other baitfish.  

There are many baits to choose from this time of year to intice a topwater bite, but my favorite has become a walking bait made by IMA Lures, the Skimmer.  This is slim bodied bait with two treble hooks and walks across the water at any speed you like.  You can move this slender bait very quickly or glide it slowly on your favorite structure.  Any walking bait take a bit of time and the right rod/reel combo to get the proper action, but it is a quick learn.  If you haven't tried a walking bait for fall bass, I highly recommend it!

Rod/Reel Specifics:

Rod: 7 foot Quantum Smoke, Medium action/Fast tip

Reel: Smoke Reel 6.1:1 Gear Ratio  30# Braided line or 15-20# Mono (Both have worked well)

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Slow Days of Summer...NO WAY!

 The lakes and rivers always get a little less busy as August rolls around.  I am sure there are numerous reasons why people don't spend their days on the water, most likely the heat and humidity.  However, the month of August can be as good or better than any other month if you plan carefully.  Here are a few things to keep you catching fish when the weather is HOT!


1~ Get to the rivers; rivers have current and most species of fish will not be too far away from a steady flow of it on a river system.  This is the main reason I do not visit many lakes in late July and August.  Rivers are a solid bet for keeping your rod bent.

2~ Weeds; oxygen levels can plummet this time of year, but if weeds are present the level of oxygen will be just fine for all species.  Gills/crappies/perch as well as bass and pike will hang around the green weeds on the hottest of days.  Live bait on bobbers are ket to the panfish, while weedless baits like frogs, swimjigs and Texas-Rigged plastics will work well for the larger fish.

3~ TOPWATER Baits; Bass and Pike both love coming to the surface this time of year to crash your baits. Some of my favorites include poppers, frogs, and walking baits.

4~ Early & Late; there is no other time of the year that is as important as right now to get out when the sun is coming out and fish while the sun is going down.  All species will be more active and trust me, so will you!

Get out and enjoy the warm months...winter is only 3 months away!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

July Indee Bass Club Summer Scramble

 

The Wapsi River was the site of the July tournament for the Indee Bass Club.  The temperatures were hot, the current was steady and the bass were hungry.  Ten students took part in this special event that partnered students and captains together by a random draw.  This format was to enhance learning for the club members by fishing with different individuals and sharing information, techniques and fishing strategies.  By the outcome of the event it was obvious that the format worked.  All 5 teams recorded a three bass limit on the night and all students reported catching some bass.  
The winning team of Senior Jackson Toale, 7th grader Gabel Eddy and their captain Rick Wendling found many fish on the Wapsi, their three biggest keepers weighed 8. 42#.  That included the 3.07# smallmouth bass that Gable caught, which was the biggest of the tournament.  Second place team consisted of Senior Teegan McEnany and 8th Grader Cal Sweeney.  Them and their captain Dave Wilson were able to being in 7.38#.  Rounding out the top three was Cam Wilson and Jackson Beatty, captained by Todd Reed.  They weighed in 5.31# of bass.
It was a very successful night for anglers of all ages, and the captains enjoyed the night as well.  All students were able to take home prizes thanks to the clubs great sponsors: Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Coloney Plumbing/Heating/Air Conditioning, Scheels of Cedar Falls, Hank's Bait and Tackle of Waterloo, The Rod Glove, Hot Rod Baits, Quantum Rods and Reels, and Strike King Lure Company.
 


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Swim-jigging

Having lived all my life in Iowa and battled bass throughout the summer months, when picking one lure to tie on to find bass, the swimjig gets the nod.  Sure, I use a lot of different baits during the summer months, but when it comes to finding bass in lakes or rivers the swimjig has become my favorite in the past decade.  

The swimjig is a very simple lure to use, when using one you need to remember that.  Many people want to make it more complicated than it is.  It is simply a quiet, no flash spinnerbait.  It is a bait that can be casted a long distance or pitched to very specific cover.  This is one reason why I love the swimjig.  Another reason is the simple way to size the lure.  When choosing a trailer fro your swimjig you are dictating the size of your bait.  A small 3-inch twister tail creates a very small profile, while a double tail twister makes it look much bigger.  I favorite trailer of mine to choose is an Optimum Baits Double Diamond swim bait.  This gives the swimjig a large or small profile depending on the length, but it adds a slight vibration with the tail and gives the swimjig a distinct wobble when pulled through the water.   

Here are a few other key things to make this bait a superb search bait:

SwimJig Brand: Bill Lowen Signature Series, hand tied by myself.  There are many, many good brands of swimjigs on the market!

Size: 3/16, 1/4 or 3/8oz

Color: varies with water clarity and bait fish

Rod/Reel Setup: 7ft Quantum Smoke Rod Medium Power with Fast Action/Smoke Reel 6.1:1 ratio

Line: 35# braided line with a Palomar Knot

I like to use braided line with this bait at all times.  I have found out that the overall catch ratio is much better than using mono or flouro.  Braid also is mandatory around weeds where fish are hiding this time of year.  

If you prefer to use mono/flouro for your line, then you will want to use a Med/Hvy Rod with a fast tip, this is will help with keeping fish on with the stretch of the line.

Both 1/4oz jigs: size adjustments made with plastic trailer

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Iowa Sportsman- Iowa's Bass Fishing


The Iowa Sportsman Magazine: July 2021 Issue

That thump on the end of the line can be ferocious at times and the jumps in the air so acrobatical, only one fish in Iowa has those characteristics; the bass.  Bass fishing in Iowa can be had in all corners of the state, ponds, lakes, rivers and large reservoirs all provide good bass fishing.  Largemouth bass can be found in all ninety-nine counties while the Smallmouth bass can be found in rivers in and in a few select lakes.  If you are after a Spotted Bass then you must head to Lake MacBride, the only lake that offers them in Iowa in large numbers.  Chasing bass all over Iowa can be a lifetime pursuit that many of us share.  The fact that they live all over the state and can be caught with so many different lures are reasons why it has become so popular in the last few decades. 


Top Baits: Bass are notorious for eating a variety of baits.  Live bait works well, however there are thousands of artificial baits on the market that work as good or better.  The most popular bait to catch bass are soft plastics.  These include craws, tubes, sticks, worms, swimbaits, minnow baits and creature type baits.  They come in all different sizes and colors from hundreds of different companies.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to soft plastic baits for bass.  Most anglers have their favorites and tend to stick with them, only trying something new when their favorites are failing them.  Rigging these plastic baits can make or break your day.  Some baits can be rigged weightless, there are Texas-Rigs, Carolina Rigs, Shaky Heads, swingheads, Tokyo rigs, and drop-shots to name a few of the popular bass rigging techniques.  Each serves their purpose and most have prime areas and times to rig them.  If you are looking for a simple, yet highly effective rig for all times of the year then the Texas-Rig is for you.  A bullet sinker and a 3/O extra-wide gap (EWG) hook is all you need to make your favorite plastic bait to come to life.  

Another top bait, typically a summer bait are topwater lures.  Buzzbaits, popping baits, walking baits, frogs and the Whopper Plopper are all very productive no matter where you are chasing your next bass bite.  These are best in the first 3 hours and last 3 hours of sunlight.  They are also fantastic on rainy/cloudy days.  


Top Destinations:  Iowa is full of great bass fishing opportunities.  Narrowing it down to one part of the state or “the best” place to catch bass is impossible.  I have had the opportunity to travel to all four corners of this state chasing bass, have friends scattered around the state and stay current with bass tournament results.  Bass are everywhere!  I will break this portion down into groups, one for the smallmouth bass and one for the largemouth bass, as they are very different creatures.  Smallmouth Bass: Two very large and distinct areas come to the forefront when thinking about the brown bass, West Lake Okoboji and Pools 9 and 10 of the Mississippi River.  These two areas are known for their huge limits of smallmouth bass.  The two river pools will definitely have you catching more smallies if that is what you are in to.  With these two large areas out of the way, next up are the interior rivers scattered all over the state.  No matter where you live within an hour or so you have some great smallmouth fishing in a nearby interior river.  These do not have to be large and most can be waded through to find fishing areas.  Kayaks or small jonboats make great vessels to travel these small rivers in search of a big brown bass.  Largemouth Bass: The largemouth bass inhabits every public lake/pond/river in the state.  They are not very hard to find, however like any species finding the big ones is the hard part.  As for the northeast part of the state, the river is king.  Pools 9/10/11/12 of the Mississippi River all have large numbers of largemouth bass, and some real river giants too.  The warmer the water, the more current they will live in.  Typically your biggest fish during a day of summer fishing on the big river will find you reeling it in near heavy current. The northwest part of the state belongs to West Lake Okoboji and Brushy Creek Lake.  Both of these lakes offer an abundance of weeds which helps these green bass grow very large.  Both lakes have massive numbers of bass and trophies too.  The southwest corner of the state belongs to an entire county.  Union County, home of Creston, Iowa has three different lakes that have been pumping out bass for many years.  Twelve-Mile Lake, Three-Mile Lake and Green Valley Lake should be on your list if you are looking for a trip that is all about the Largemouth Bass.  Southeastern Iowa has many different places to search for largemouth bass, many county parks, state made lakes and the Mississippi River.  One lake in particular always rises to the top in this part of the state for numbers of bass and some real giants; Lake Sugema.  This lake is about 600 acres but seems much larger than that with all the standing trees. No matter where you live in the state, there are bass near you, largemouth or smallmouth.


Iowa bass fishing...it has been a part of my life for over 30 years, and I hope another 30 in the future.  Iowa may not have 10 pounders to chase like California or Texas, but we have some great opportunities, many of them are very close to where we live.  There are a few months of the year left, make it your mission to try a brand new lake, this is something I have done for the past ten years or so and have really enjoyed it.  Seeing different water and figuring out where those bass live will make you a better bass angler, and in the end that is what we are all after.  Please use “Catch Photo Release” CPR on our Iowa bass so the next angler and generation can benefit from your generosity.

For full article, please check out www.iowasportsman.com


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Indee High School Bass Club June Big Woods Tournament

 

Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron are
the Big Woods Lake Champions

The members of the Indee HS Bass Club voted on several places to fish tournaments this year this past winter.  Big Woods Lake in Cedar Falls received enough votes to send the club there for the June tournament.  Eighteen students signed up for the event along with the 8 captains that helped run the boats.  There is no entry or membership fee for the students to participate.  A huge thanks to the sponsors of the club who are responsible for allowing over $800 worth of prizes to be handed out to all the students that fished on this day.  Bank Iowa, Colony Plumbing/Heating and Cooling, The Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Klever Concrete, Scheels of Cedar Falls, Hank's Bait and Tackle of Waterloo, Quantum Rods and Reels, The Rod Glove, Strike King Lures, and the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series are all proud sponsors of the club.  

Many bodies of water around Northeastern Iowa have had big temperature swings during this unusual spring.  Big Woods Lake was no different, the water temperature rose nine degrees in one week prior to the event.  This seemed to get the fish moving a little bit and many anglers were able to bring bass to the weigh-in.  Even though the lake was new to almost all the kids and most of the captains it was the second best weigh-in for the bass club since its beginning in 2017.  The nine teams brought 21 bass to the weigh-in.  In first place was a pair of 7th graders; Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron had a limit, or 5 keeper bass, that weighed 7.20#, there captain was Todd Reed.  In second place was Cam Wilson and Zach Sidles with 4 keeper bass that weighed 6.65# including the Big Bass of the tournament by Zach that weighed 2.70#, they were captained by Dave Wilson.  In third place was Kegan Postel and his captain Landry Jones.  Kegan had 4 keeper bass that weighed 6.45#.  Forth place belonged to Caleb Weber and Teegan McEnany, they had the only other limit of bass which weighed 5.57#.  In fifth place was Jackson Toale and Dalton Hoover, their captain was Randy Toale and weighed in one keeper weighing 1.49#.  Sixth place was secured by Justin Schmadeke and Hunter Patton, captained by Paul Schmadeke, they had one keeper weighing 1.26#.  Seventh place went to Cal Sweeney and Remy Ressler with one keeper weighing 1.08#, their captain was Dan Sweeney.  

All teams reported catching bass, and some even caught some walleyes and northern pike.  The winning team of Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron tried many different lures, but they caught all their keepers using two baits; a spinnerbait and a wacky-rigged stick bait.  Other students reported catching bass on buzzbaits, crankbaits, soft plastic baits and chatterbaits.  The tournament was another big success for the club, a big thanks to the parents and captains that helped with the weigh-in so we could release the bass back into the lake quickly and safely.   More information about the Indee Bass Club can be found on their Facebook page and their website. LINK

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Stop #1 on the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series

 Lake Okoboji was the opening stop on the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series for this year.  I absolutely love this lake during every season of the year, I wish it was much closer to home.  Spring time bass fishing on the Okoboji chain of lakes is hard to beat in this state, and perhaps all of the Midwest.  The really unique thing about this lake system is that no matter what kind of bass angler you are, or what strengths you may have you can put them to use here.  When most people think of bass fishing on Lake Okoboji they think of 15 feet of clear water and fishing deep.  That can be the case, but there is a lot more to the Okoboji chain of lakes than that.

Friday, my partner Brian Bowles and I decided to fish West Lake Okoboji, the biggest of the five lakes and by far the lake with the most clarity.  We found hungry bass hanging on the main lake docks as well as the canal systems which are shallow with water much dingier than West Lake.  The size was good, but it wasn't great.  The next day we focused on some areas of the three small lakes in this system; Upper Gar, Lower Gar and Minnewashta.  These lakes look much more like the lakes scattered around the state and even resemble the waters of river systems too.  If you do not like the clear water, these are the places to focus in on.  We fished pretty quick through these, but found some good quality bass roaming and hitting baits.  

On our way back to the cabin we discussed our game plan for the next day, as the tournament director there is no extra time in the morning so planning ahead is vital for a good start to the day.  We were going to focus on West Lake Okoboji for a limit of fish and then go to Upper Gar and Minnewashta to try and upgrade our limit of six bass.  The plan seemed simple, but with 21 boats in the event and several other club tournaments going on we knew it would be a challenge.

Tournament day rolled around and the derby got started without a hitch.  Our plan was clicking along and we caught our 14# limit pretty quickly on main lake areas, mostly using drop-shot and a wacky-rigged stick baits in various Hot Rod Baits colors.  We decided to head to the smaller lakes and try to upgrade, we knew we would need at least a 3-pound average to be even close to the top 5.  We used several reaction baits in these lakes but a homemade bladed jig seemed to be what they wanted.  We caught our biggest fish, 4.08# and three other big ones to upgrade to 18.28# for our 6 keepers.  With weeds and dock poles present I choose to throw the bladed jig on 30# braided line on a Quantum Smoke combo.  I like the 7ft model with a Medium action to allow a little give when leaning into the fish with braid.  It works very well for me as I can feel every pole, pieces of grass and the vibration from the blade.  We felt good as we packed things up to take care of the weigh-in, we met our expectations for the day and we never lost any fish.  Although we fell short of the Top 5, we weren't very far off with an average keeper weighing 3.04#.  What a great system of lakes to go fishing on, get there if you have never been there!

As a whole the event really showed what the Okoboji Chain of Lakes has to offer bass anglers.  Here are what the top five teams were able to bring to the scales:

Place Anglers                         #BassBig BassWeightAVG Bass
1 King-King**6.70** 31.045.17#
2 Halverson-Halverson5.32 24.67  4.11#
3 Ehlers-Wirtz5.39 22.29 3.72#
4 Heim-Paulson4.75 21.09  3.52#
5 Steffen-Northway 20.68 3.45#

Monday, May 10, 2021

2021 Iowa High School Bass Team Championship

 There are many opportunities for kids these days to get in boats and have a full experience in a bass tournament.  Most of these opportunities are for students that join a club, or are part of a high school club.  However, this event which debuted in 2019 is open for any student in Iowa.  This years event included students from West Delaware HS, Center-Point Urbana HS, Benton Community HS, Cedar Rapids Prairie HS, Solon HS, Independence HS, Waukee HS, SE Warren HS, Washington HS, and ADM HS.  40 students participated with their 20 captains in this event held at Pleasant Creek Lake near Palo.  

Scheels of Cedar Falls was once again the Title Sponsor for the event, along with others including; Quantum Fishing, The Rod Glove, X-Zone Lures, Cliff Keen Athletic Clothing, and Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  Students placing high in the event were able to take home over $1,500 in fishing gear and trophies.



May 8th greeted anglers with a huge cold front to Eastern Iowa which included a little frost on the morning of the event.  Mother Nature didn't stop there, she added an easterly wind from 10-15mph wind for most of the event.  Some anglers reported catching dozens of bass per boat and it seemed like all sorts and styles of baits were catching bass.  A total of 62 bass made their way to the weigh-in scale for this event, an all-time record for this annual tournament.  Every boat but one was able to weigh fish in!

The anglers of John, Kole, Charlie and Noah were able to bring in 10 keeper bass that weighed 17.08# to claim the 2021 Championship for Washington High School.  This school also won in 2019, with Marion as the winner from 2020.  John also weighed in the biggest bass of the event; it weighed 4.18 pounds.  In second place on the "Team" competition was the team of Remy, Grady, EJ, and Sam from Independence.  They weighed in 8 bass that weighed 11.54 pounds. 

The individual tournament Top 5 are as follows:

  • 1- Washington HS- 9.78#
  • 2- Solon HS- 8.65#
  • 3- Center-Point Urbana- 8.57#
  • 4- Independence HS- 8.38#
  • 5- Washington HS- 7.30#

Complete standings of this event can be found on the event website: Iowa High School Bass Team Championship



It is an honor to be able to work with sponsors, especially the Title Sponsor of this event; Scheels of Cedar Falls to bring this event to Eastern Iowa.  This event allows any student in the state of Iowa a chance to compete and participate in a professionally run event for only $10 an angler.

Congrats to all the students that fished this event, I hope we can do it again next year!  












Thursday, April 29, 2021

Spring = WIND

 Spring time in Iowa is purely a mystery.  I have been in a boat in early February, and other years I have been ice fishing in the first of week of April.  There is one thing, no matter what year it is, we can always count on here in Iowa...WIND.  

Whether you fish from shore or a boat, the wind can be your friend.  The wind will push bait to the windblown banks and the bass will follow.  When winds blow 20+ mph it does limit most anglers in their bait selection.  When the wind blows that much some baits just won't be efficient.  My favorites when these conditions hit are dragging jigs, spinnerbaits and crankbaits.  With these three baits I feel that I can cover the water column effectively and offer many different colors at the same time.  

Besides a 3-punch strategy of baits, it is vital to have the right rod and reel combos working for you.  One of the many reasons I like Quantum reels is that they are so easy and quick to adjust to changing conditions.  A quick click or two on the magnetic controls on the sideplate and I am ready to for any wind that Mother nature throws at me.  

Hit the windy banks this spring and you will find more bass!  



Sunday, April 25, 2021

Indee Bass Club April Tournament on the Wapsi

1st Place: EJ and Sam with 10.95#
 The Wapsi River near Independence has been in excellent shape all spring long.  The river has not been over three feet high all spring which is very rare, allowing students and adults to enjoy a lot of fishing this month.  That is the good Mother Nature can give, but then she deals three straight days of below freezing temperatures the week before the first youth event of the year, NOT NICE Mother Nature.  

The water temperatures were in the mid-upper 50s the weekend before the Indee Bass Club tournament, those same waters were showing 48-49 degrees during the tournament on April 24th.  One thing bass do not like in the spring is a massive decline in water temperature, and that is exactly what the club members were up against.

Saturday morning saw temperatures right at 45 degrees at the 7am blast-off, chilly no doubt.  As the morning progressed to the noon weigh-in the wind picked up and the real-feel never really felt any warmer than 45 degrees.  To say the least the kids had to battle the cold weather, wind and a river full of bass that were not in the mood to eat.

One thing I have learned in my 25+ years of fishing bass tournaments is that someone always finds some active fish, today was no different as 15 students battled the weather and the Wapsi Bass.  Two different teams were still able to bring a tournament limit of 5 bass to the scales.  EJ Miller and Sam Hamilton brought 5 nice smallmouth bass to the scale that weighed 10.95#, including the Big Bass of the event by EJ that weighed 2.29 pounds.  Their captain was Brian Miller.  They were able to find a school of smallmouth bass feeding in once general location on the Wapsi for the victory.  EJ reported that a Texas-Rigged Craw was the hot bait for the day.  Randy Toale was the captain for Jackson Toale and Dalton Hoover, they too had 5 keeper bass and placed 2nd with 6.00#.  In 3rd place was a pair of 7th graders; Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron had two keeper largemouth bass for 2.59#, the captain was Todd Reed.  Fourth place went to another Junior High team of Cal Sweeney and Remy Ressler.  They had two keeper largemouth bass that weighed 2.38#, their captain was Dan Sweeney.  Fifth place went to Zach Sidles with captain Landry Jones, Zach caught one nice largemouth that weighed 1.86#.  Kegan Postel and Jackson Wold teamed up for sixth place with one chunky largemouth that weighed 1.81 pounds.  In 7th place was Caleb Weber, Teegan McEnany and their captain Keith Corkery with one largemouth that weighed just under a pound.  The weigh-in went smoothly for Coach Todd Reed and his volunteers Randy Toale and Dan Sweeney.  All bass were released back to the Wapsi to be caught another day.  The weather was cruel, the students were cold, but seven teams were able to bring bass to scales to be weighed in, congratulations to all that braved the weather and caught some Wapsi Bass.

A huge thanks goes out to the club sponsors; Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Scheels in Cedar Falls, Hank's Bait and Tackle, Quantum Rods and Reels, The Rod Glove, Strike King and Hot Rod Baits.  With the contributions of these sponsors over $700 of prizes and fishing gear were given away to students at this event, nobody went home empty handed.  The next event for the Indee Bass Club is an away event at Big Woods Lake near Cedar Falls.  You can find out more about this youth club on Facebook, Instagram and their WEBSITE LINK.




Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Pitching to Perfection

Pitching is by far one of the most popular way to fish for largemouth bass.  No matter what tournament report you read, TV show you see, or YouTube series you may watch, Pitching is a staple in the world of bass fishing.  Recently I visited a lake for the first time this year after a huge cold front.  I had two rods on the deck, one rigged with a jig and the other a Texas-Rigged Tube.  Both of these are my favorite things to pitch into cover and along rocky shorelines.  I have used the same rod/reel type for this presentation going on about 10 years.  It is effective and it simply works for so many different situations.  

ROD: Quantum 7ft 2in Medium/Hvy Power with a Fast action tip

REEL: Quantum Energy with a 7+:1 Gear Ratio

BAIT: Hot Rod Baits 4-inch Tube

LINE: 15# Monofilament

The fast action tip allows me to make long and more precise pitches into cover such as limbs and laydown logs.  It also works well to skip baits under trees and docks.  The fast ratio reel allows me to pick up line quickly for a new pitch or when that bass starts to run at the boat.  This either saves me time or allows me to catch a couple more fish each time out.  

If you are pitching baits and missing fish, or fish are coming off after the hookset, don't be afraid to change things up.  This Quantum combo has worked for many years in a variety of models for me, however each person fishes a bit different from the next guy.  Mix things up and I hope you can get a "Pitchin' Combo" that serves you as well as this one has for me.





Sunday, March 28, 2021

COLD Start to the Year

 The weather in Iowa just warm up, but looking into the long forecast that should change by the next blog update.  Today was only the second time out on Wapsi this year, but the largemouth didn't disappoint.  With the water temperature at 48-degrees, I knew it would be another "pitchin" day.  The water clarity on this body of water is really clear right now, so I went with a custom Wig's Jig in green pumpkin with a green pumpkin jig chunk on it.  I rigged the jig chunk in a compact way to decrease the profile of the bait in hopes of enticing more bass to bite.  Pitching and making long casts to the shoreline, laydown trees, and points proved to be what the bass wanted.  A perfect combo for this is the Quantum Special Issue 7'6in Med/Hvy Rod paired with a Quantum Tour High Speed Reel.  The bass remain lethargic in this part of the river, not much of a bite to detect, but like march bass fishing every bass I caught was a solid keeper.  Get out there and enjoy it if you can, you never know if that "big one" will be the next bite.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

The 1st Time on the Open Water

13 days is a long time...without fishing!  In the whole scheme of things not really, but I am always a bit sad when the ice gear is put away for the year.  However it didn't take long before I was able to get the boat out and enjoy some fishing with the long rods.  Like the past several years, the Wapsi River was quick to thaw and made it simple and easy to enjoy an afternoon casting for bass.  Typical for early season bass, the bites were not numerous but they were quality fish.  It felt good to make long casts with the Quantum Rods and Reels, and to pitch a jig up against a log, and that first hookset...it produced!  A few bass were had on this first time out, all on slower baits including Wig's Jigs and Hot Rod Baits tubes.   Water temperature was hanging between 44-47 degrees, making for some very light bites.  A great first outing, everything worked as it should and some nice healthy bass hooked and released. 



Monday, March 8, 2021

The Last time for 2021?


 

Brushy Creek was a lake I have not visited this year yet, so it was time, as our time for ice fishing was winding down.  Brushy Creek is one of the deepest lakes in the state, and is also full of wood, standing timber, and brushpiles.  It is a fish factory!  

Warmer weather has hit Iowa this past week and the shorelines are starting to disappear.  The first 4 areas that we tried to access the lake were not going to allow us.  The shore had melted away and we couldn't get to the safer ice out in the middle.  Our fifth and final try we found a good access point that allowed us a place to walk right out onto the lake.  With all the safety gear in tote, three of us walked to our first destination.  As we walked I had my eyes on the Navionics GPS app on my phone.  I noticed a spot too good to walk over, so we stopped and gave it a try.  A wooded area that was just a little ways from a deep creek channel.  After a quick search with the Vexilars, we had found numerous holes will fish movement.  We started pulling up gills and crappies pretty regularly for the first couple of hours.  I even got tot angle with the large bass in the picture, it measured 17.5 inches.  It was great fighting that fish on a 36-inch rod with the Quantum Throttle reel.  I fully believe that without a reel that had such a smooth drag, I would never have seen that bass, let alone catch it.  That was the highlight of the afternoon/evening as we tried a lot of different areas but never found a huge school of fish.   Gills, crappies, bass and couple of perch made their way topside to the ice, and we kept about a dozen panfish for a meal.  



Will this be the last time...I sure hope not, but as I glance at the forecast for tomorrow, the high is set for 65 degrees and the low for the day is 49 degrees.  Be safe out there friends as the ice slowly melts away. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

SW Iowa Ice Fishing

 The last weekend of February took me to Southwest Iowa, a place where I have never iced fished before.  3-Mile lake was the destination for a weekend getaway.  I have fished on the boat for bass on numerous occasions here, but have never drilled a hole.  I always find it interesting and intriguing at the same time when I visit a lake after being on it in a boat.  Things are so different while ice fishing, and while scouting for fish.  At no other time of the year do I have my nose pinned to contours map than on the ice.  This particular trip was no different.

3-Mile lake is known for its big bluegills during this time of year, as well as the plentiful population of walleyes that seem to swim all over the lake.  These were the main targets for the trip.  With the bite being very good this winter in the area, it was a busy place.  With crowds congregating near the channel cuts, I found myself getting away from them a bit in the larger flats adjacent to the channel.  A large 19-20 foot flat is where our group did most of the damage, just off the 28-foot creek channel.  Stumps and old trees litter this lake, and it seemed the best flurry of bites were in holes that held some of that cover.  With temperatures in the forties and fifties, hole-hopping with a 36-inch Jason Mitchell Dead Meat stick with the Quantum Drive reel was the way to put a lot of fish on the ice.  Bouncing around from hole to hole with the Vexilar FLX30 made it easy to pick out brush from the fish.  I fond myself rotating between a couple different colors of the Reins Palpuntin Tungsten spoon loaded with spikes.  These spoons have caught me so many panfish this year, the slim tungsten design sinks like a rock to get back down to the school, and you won't find another spoon with as sharp of a hook.  Bluegills were roaming the flat most of the day and a few crappies came to visit too.  A half dozen nice, keeper walleyes couldn't resist the spoon either.  

It was an enjoyable trip with a lot of holes cut with a lot of fish caught.  



Monday, February 22, 2021

The Long Walk... Worth Every Step?

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

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

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