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'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!