Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Hot Rod Baits BASS SERIES Stop #1- Mississippi River

Pool 9 Champs: Brett Rudy/Drew Berquist

June 18th: The first stop on the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series landed the 17 teams on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River near Lansing, Iowa.  The water conditions, like most of the time on the big river were changing.  Recently the river was several feet high, and leading up to the event was dropped to around the 9.5ft level, leaving it about a foot higher than normal.  The pool was definitely dirtier than expected when anglers made their way to practice.  Weed growth on the river has not taken off with the recent high water levels leaving the current to flow and disrupt the banks and bottom of the river creating the less than typical cleaner water.  Recent thunderstorms also were around the area midweek causing areas around creek to become turbid as well.  With all this facing the anglers, anticipation of who would catch the biggest five biggest bass amongst the competitors ran high.  A lot of money, bragging rights, and valuable Team of the Year points were on the line and many anglers made the most of their time on the water.

Tournament day greeted the anglers with cool weather, fifty degrees made the morning prep and ride to the first locations a cold one.  However, that didn't last long as the sun popped out and started warming things quickly that day.  It was a great day fish, mild winds all day long and no precipitation.  Anglers had 8.5 hours to find the biggest five bass that they could before bringing them in to the 2:00pm weigh in.  In fifth place at the event was the father/son team of Travis and Cyrus Butters.  They had 4 smallmouth and 1 largemouth bass that weighed 12.29#.  Fourth Place went to Kevin Christensen and Keith Donnelly, they had 1 smallmouth and 4 largemouth bass weighing 13.26#.  Reaching third place was Todd Reed and Dan Sweeney; they caught 2 smallmouth and 3 largemouth that weighed 14.35#.  In the Runner-up spot was Justin Heim and Andrew Paulsen, they had 5 smallmouth weighing in at 15.01#, they also had the Big Bass for the event, a beautiful smallie that weighed 3.25#.  The Champs; Brett Rudy and Drew Berquist had 2 smallmouth and 3 largemouth bass that weighed 15.13#.  It really shows the caliber of anglers in this series with those big weights at the top of the leader board under challenging river conditions.

  • A quick data summary of the weigh-in: 
  • 59 total bass weighed in, average of 3.5 per boat.
  • 32 Largemouth Bass and 27 Smallmouth Bass
  • 144.28 Pounds of fish weighed in and released alive, which averaged 2.45# per bass
  • It took an average of of 2.46# per bass to get "in the money"

Congrats to all the anglers who found fish during this event, especially the 10 teams that weighed in a limit of 5 bass.  The next event is at 12-Mile Lake in the middle of July.  This event will decide the Team of the Year due to the first event being canceled due to weather at Spirit Lake. 

Complete results can be found on the website here:  June 18, 2022: Pool 9 Results

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Do BIGGER Baits Catch Bigger Fish?

 


There are many myths always being talked about in the world of fishing.  One of them that has always intrigued me is the "bigger baits" concept.  Touring pros, guides and anglers at the top of their game often preach about how bigger baits will catch you bigger fish.  I will side with this hypothesis most of the time, however as any angler knows, on those really tough fishing days, finesse baits must be used to get a bite.  I love experimenting with new baits, different styles and colors.  The past few years I have really started to experiment with bigger baits.  IMA Lures is a company that makes all types of crankbaits and topwater lures.  They have become my go-to hard topwater bait for many reasons; the designs are unique, the colors are spot-on for any situation and the hooks are razor sharp.  They are worth looking into if you have scrolled through their website.

This spring I have been experimenting with the "bigger baits = bigger bass" hypothesis.   One bait in particular that I have put a lot of casts into is the IMA Little Stick 135.  It is a 5.5 inch topwater walking bait, that spits water.  This large bait, weighing in at 1 ounce have caught my biggest fish each and every time on the water this spring when being used.  The action it provides is like no other bait I have ever seen.  The color selection is fantastic, three treble hooks including the back one wrapped in feathers and the hookup to landing ratio has been 100%, which is pretty rare with topwater baits.  This bait is large, needless to say with the title to this blog, and it sure catches the bigger fish.  

One thing to keep in mind with larger baits is your rod/reel/line setup.  When I first experimented with this big bait last year, my setup was not correct at all, it was very hard to throw with accuracy and get a lot of distance from it.  As mentioned it weighs in at an once, you need a to keep that in mind, typical bass baits are 1/4oz or 3/8oz.  This spring I have found the perfect the setup for this bait.  A Quantum SmokeX combo in the 7foot 2inch Med/Hvy Power with a Fast tip.  I spool the Quantum SmokeX baitcast reel with 15 pound monofilament line.  This whole setup seems to fit the bait perfectly, it helps me to make long, accurate casts, the line is very durable, and allows some stretch for those violent bass attacks on the bait.  

Can I say for sure that bigger baits will always catch you bigger fish...no, have I seen it make a difference up against regular sized bass baits, YES it sure has a more than one occasion this spring.  Enjoy the water, and as always let me know if you have any questions on the items talked about on this blog.

Quantum SmokeX Combo


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Take a Kid Fishing

Fishing is in full swing, and there is nothing better than a special fishing trip with a child.  It doesn’t matter if the child is 5 years old or 15 years old, that child has dreams of catching fish and having a good time with a special person.  I have had the chance to take dozens of kids fishing in the past decade, and a few adults that don’t get out much too, both are very satisfying and fun.  No matter the age, you will need to take certain steps to ensure you are introducing them properly to the sport of fishing. 

         To have an enjoyable time fishing with a youngster you need to focus on certain things that probably aren’t important on a regular fishing trip with an adult buddy.  Whether you choose a niece/nephew, grandchild, neighbor or your son or daughter, these simple steps will help you both have a good time fishing. 

The first thing you need to do is homework.  I know school will be out in about a month or so, but rarely does luck lead to catching fish.  There are certain reasons why fish are in certain locations.  A good place to do some research is the bait shop.  They speak with dozens of anglers each week and tend to know what species is biting and baits that work bestt.  Another good resource is the DNR website.  Each
Thursday they offer up tips and areas that are doing the best for fishing action.  Probably the best way to get some information is to talk with someone that you know that fishes often.  They might be able to give tips and even share a secret spot with you.  By doing some research, hopefully you will decide on the best place to go fishing.  Keep in mind that in the summer months, it is best to fish during the morning and evening hours, leaving out the middle part of the day. 

        

        The second thing to consider when taking children fishing is to make it a short trip.  There are plenty of lakes and ponds in all parts of the state that you will be able to catch some fish at.  Don’t overlook those public ponds inside the city limits, they often hold a lot of scrappy fish, perfect for kids.  Long rides in vehicles have never been a favorite of kids, so you wouldn’t want to start your fishing trip with one.  Try to make the entire experience around three or four hours.  You will be able to keep them active and excited about fishing for that length of time, if you stay out too long, they may never want to go again.

         Next, kids just want to catch fish.  Of course everyone wants to catch that huge fish every time they go fishing, but that doesn’t happen very often.  When it comes down to enjoying yourself, it is all about the catching.  If you and the child are catching fish they will soon forget about that dream of landing a huge one.  Make every effort to help the child catch fish, even if you might have to set the hook and let them reel it in.  Their entire goal is to catch fish, help them in any way to achieve that.

         This might be the most important part of a kid’s day on the lake or river; snacks and drinks!  Have plenty of these ready, they make for a great distraction if the fish aren’t biting very well. Anyway, who doesn’t like Pringles and a pop while fishing?

         Kids like to learn things, especially what they enjoy, so make the trip educational.  Teach the kids the proper terms of the tackle you are using, names of fish, what to call the bait or lures, and even explain to them what types of structure you are fishing.  The more they know the more they may become interested in fishing and a chance to make it a hobby in their future.

         When taking a child with you on a fishing trip, try and make it as positive as you can.  You know they will get snags, you know they will spill their pop or juice and need another one, you know they will ask at least 20 questions and you know that they will probably get a hook in you.  When these things happen, handle them as best you can and keep the mood light.  When the child does something good, make sure and tell them.  Whether it be a good cast or putting the worm on their hook just right, kids love to be told they are doing something right.  It will make them feel good and give them the confidence they need to try again and do it right.

         A day fishing with a youngster can be more than catching fish.  Make it a total outdoor experience.  Look for nature around the body of water that you are fishing and point it out to the child.  Things that could be pointed out are birds, small mammals and amphibians like turtles and frogs.  Kids will enjoy looking at the nature around them and allow them to concentrate on something other than their bobber for a while.  By taking a look at your surroundings you and the child will make it a true outdoor experience.

         Everyone loves a good picture; so don’t forget to take a camera.  Hopefully you will get a great shot of that youngster holding up their catch.  This will make for a great memory and might be treasured for a long time by them.  When taking outdoor pictures near water, make sure the camera is pointing away from the sun, water in the background will only make the picture look better.

         Finally, the most important thing is to take the proper safety precautions.  Sunscreen and a hat should be worn to protect the skin.  If out on a boat, all children under 14 years of age must wear a life jacket at all times, this might be a good idea if you are fishing on a bank that is close to the water too.  Safety should always be on your mind when taking a child near water, so keep them in sight throughout the day.

         Have fun out there and get a kid fishing as much as you can!

Monday, May 9, 2022

2022 Iowa High School Bass Team Championship Recap

For the fourth year in a row The Iowa High School Bass Team Championship, presented by SCHEELS took place in Eastern Iowa.  I was able to work some great companies to offer students from across the state a chance to compete in a bass tournament with some huge prizes.  The entry fee to this championship event is only $20 per boat, while we were able to give away a little more than $2,200 worth or fishing gear and trophies.  This event began with an idea I had, "Give any student in the state a tournament that they can fish, even if their school doesn't have a bass club."  It is open to any student in the state.  Here is the annual summary of this youth event:

May 7th, 2022 was a beautiful day at Pleasant Creek Lake for the 32 boats and 62 students to try and claim the top honors.  The event was started in 2019, Washington High School won that event, in 2020 it was Marion High School, and in 2021 Washington High School won again.  In 2022 there would be a different Champion.  On a slightly breezy day, winds out of the East at about 15mph, with temperatures in 60s and 70s it was the best Saturday of the entire spring season.  Mother Nature really allowed the kids to enjoy themselves and focus on fishing.  The results were very mixed, and this no doubt had to do with the weird spring we have been having.  Water temperatures on the main lake were hanging around 55 degrees, which is ideal, however those temperatures shot up in the two days prior to the event.  

1st Place Boat- Cedar Falls Tigers

I believe the bass really have not had the time to adjust to the warming temps and made for a tougher fishing day than it would appear.  Of the 32 boats that competed, 18 of them weighed fish in.  Only the top five teams were able to catch a limit of 5 bass, they included; 2 teams from ADM HS, Independence, Cedar Falls and Benton Community.  The team of Gavin and Kael from the Cedar Falls Tigers came away with the top honors on the day.  They weighed in 10.32# of largemouth bass to take first place.  Isaac and Kyler of ADM took second place with 9.25#, third place went to Wyatt of Benton Community with 8.65#.  Forth place went to Independence, which weighed in at 7.63#.  Rounding out the top 5 were Shay and Torin from ADM which had 6.81 pounds.   The Big Bass of the event went to Jarret and Kyler of MFL-Mar-Mac, they caught a 4.40# Smallmouth Bass.


In the "Team Championship", which includes the best two boats from each school,  ADM (Adel-DeSoto-Minburn) walked away with the 2022 championship as two of their boats placed in the top five individually.  Their combined team weight was 16.06#.  Second place was the team of Cedar Falls, they weighed in 13.69#.  The team that placed second in 2021 came away with third place this year; Independence had a team weight of 11.83#.  

2022 Team Champions: The ADM Tigers (Adel-DeSoto-Minburn)

The weather was great, a lot of fish weighed in, and over $2,000 worth of fishing equipment and prizes were handed to the next generation of bass anglers...what a great day!  Thank you sponsors for making this event possible: Scheels of Cedar Falls, Quantum Rods/Reels, Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, The Rod Glove, X-Zone Lures, and Cliff Keen Athletics.  

Please visit the event website for more details and check out all pictures on the Facebook page

Plans are already being made for the May 13th, 2023 event, stay tuned...

Morning Start with 32 boats




Saturday, April 30, 2022

New Year = New Rod/Reel Combo

Every few years, the engineers at Quantum come out with a new design to capture consumers and offer yet another great line of products.  2022 has brought a new line of SMOKE X Series rods and reels to the market.  So far I have been able to the use 7-foot model in Med/Hvy power.  This combo has been awesome for pitching jigs and Texas-Rigs in shallow water, it also worked well with a swinghead jig.  The rod has a fast action, so I also believe that I may tie on some heavy braid and use it as a frog rod or large swimbait rod too.  The reel comes in four different gear ratios, so you could use this for any type of lure you wish, with 9 bearings it is smooth and making long casts is not a problem.  The EVA foam handles are great and I like the new hook hanger they used on these rods too.  So far this has been a great combo, and what might be the best thing about it is the price tag.  You can purchase these directly from the Quantum website for $200, yes, both the ROD and the REEL!  A few years ago, Quantum also introduced an industry first, offering a 5-year Warranty on certain models of rods and reels.  Yes, the SMOKE-X does fall under that category, so buy with confidence from a company that stands behind their product for 5 years. 

If you have any questions about this line of Quantum products or what type of rod/reel you should purchase, just get a hold of me.  I can guide you through the process with a few easy questions and get you set up with the right kind of rod and reel for the type of fishing you want to do.

5 Year Warranty on SMOKE X Rods and Reels


Monday, April 25, 2022

April Indee Bass Club Event (Youth)

INDEE BASS CLUB

The year kicked off with a great start for the Indee Bass Club on April 24th.  Twenty-Four students braved the 30+ mph winds and temperatures in the forties to chase down some Wapsi River bass.  Adding to the curveball Mother Nature provided with the weather, the Wapsi River in Independence was also on the rise and parts were getting a little muddy.  Muddy water is never good for a consistent fishing bite, so the young anglers would have to make every cast and every minute count on this day.

With all the negative attributes going on with the Wapsi River, one positive was the water temperature.  The weather has been unusually cold, yet the water temperature still remained over fifty-degrees, while one team reported a reading of 58.8 on their temperature gauge at one point during the day.  With the warmer water temperatures, the bass were hungry and the ones that were weighed in, and later released back into the river, were very healthy and chunky!  The goal for this bass tournament was to bring five keeper (12 inches or more) bass to the scales for each boat.  Two anglers were set in each boat along with an adult captain to drive the boat and keep everyone safe on the water while learning the sport of bass fishing. Only two boats were able to catch their five bass, which is typical this time of year, especially up against the weather and river conditions.  

The results varied a lot on this particular day on the Wapsi, while seven teams were able to bring bass to the scales, five were not able to.  As with any tournament, anglers had to adjust and make use of their time on the water.  Almost all boats reported catching fish, including some nice walleyes and northern pike, however smallmouth and largemouth bass were the only fish anglers could weigh in at the event.  Here are the results, as well as angler reports on how they caught their bass;

7th Place- Jackson Beatty and Gable Eddy were able to bring a smallmouth bass to the scales by using a Ned Rig, it weighed in at 1.02#.  Shane Beatty was the captain of this pair of 7th graders.

6th Place- Cal Sweeney and Remy Ressler caught the third biggest bass of the entire event, a beautiful largemouth bass that weighed 2.43#.  Remy reported, "I was throwing a big square bill crankbait, cast after cast and finally when I was reeling it back from going along a fallen tree, the bass ate it right at the boat!"  The captain of this team was Dan Sweeney.

April Wapsi Champs: Dalton Hoover and Jackson Toale

5th Place- Cam Wilson and Hunter Patton came in with two smallmouth bass that weighed a total of 2.65#.  They reported catching both keepers on a Hot Rod Baits Tube using a Texas-Rig.  Their captain was Dave Wilson.

4th Place- Kegan Postel and Jackson Wolf caught two largemouth bass that weighed 3.45#.  Kegan said that they found some areas of the river that were out of the wind, had three feet of water and some laydown logs.  The fish were caught pitching Texas-Rigged Hot Rod Baits Big Craws and tubes.

3rd Place- A pair of Seniors, Teegan McEnany and Caleb Weber grabbed third place with five smallmouth bass that weighed 6.27#.  All their bites were in current, and all the fish bit on a Ned-Rig bait.  Their captain was Keith Corkery.

2nd Place- The eighth grade duo of Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron found themselves in second place with a weight of 7.99#.  They weighed in four largemouth bass, including the second largest of the whole event, weighing 2.52#.  All the bass were caught on spinnerbaits.  Captaining this pair was Todd Reed.

Runner-Up: Carter Cameron and Ranger Reed

1st Place- Jackson Toale and Dalton Hoover, both Seniors captured yet another win on the Wapsi River.  This pair had four largemough bass and one smallmouth bass that weighed in at 13.01#, which is a new club record for a tournament.  Jackson also caught the "Hank's Bait and Tackle" Big Bass of the tournament award, it weighed 3.65#.  He earned a trophy and a large tackle pack from Hank's Live Bait and Tackle in Waterloo.  Randy Toale was the captain of this pair.  

The top three teams earned trophies and Scheels awards of gift cards, hats and rod sleeves, all donated by Scheels of Cedar Falls.  After the awards were passed out each student was able to go home with some type of prize through a random drawing.  Rods, Reels, baits, line and many other items purchased or donated by the sponsors of the club; Colony Plumbing/Heating/Air Conditioning, Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Quantum Rods and Reels, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, The Rod Glove, Hot Rod Baits Bass Series, X-Zone Lures, Scheels of Cedar Falls, and Hank's Live Bait and Tackle of Waterloo.  To cap off the night, Jim and Cheryl Reed donated a meal of pizza for all the anglers and captains that took part in the tournament.  A huge thanks to all our sponsors for making this such a great event for the kids of Independence.  The club is open to any student in grades 7th-12th.  You can find more pictures and information about the club on their website, Facebook, or Instagram pages.  Coach Reed can be contacted by email with any questions or sponsor inquiries: treedbass@yahoo.com

Monday, April 11, 2022

WIND = BASS

To all those Math people out there, this seems like a pretty easy equation...almost too easy.  It is a bit of an exaggeration, but it holds true more in the spring than any other time of the year.  This time of year the wind can be vicious for days on end, keeping a lot of anglers at home.  With a few adjustments in tackle and some determination you can get out there on those windy days and still chase those bass.  

I have always stated that the wind effects the anglers far more than the wind effects the fish.  Waves and moving water are a part of life for fish, however anglers often think that throwing baits to them and controlling a boat is too difficult on these windy, spring days.  A few minor tweaks can help anglers deal with the wind, and still catch bass.  

1) Mental- Get over it, and get after them.  It's windy, USE the wind to your favor.  Get to any rock covered bank in the strongest wind and catch those feeding fish.  The wind will create feeding opportunities, bass will seek out rocky banks such as jetties, dams, and any other rocky shoreline to visually feed.  These windy areas will have cleaner water and be full of food for bass.

This GREEN dial will allow you fish under heavy
winds.  Free mode is set for no wind, turn it up
as the wind increases.  DO NOT adjust the tension
knob near the reel handle on windy days.
2) Lure Selection- cast and retrieve baits, heavier baits will obviously be easier to cast.  My April favorites are a spinnerbait and crankbait.

3) Spinning reel- a spinning reel will not backlash, perhaps a good choice for some on windy days

4) Baitcast Adjustment- All Quantum baitcasters have 2 adjustments on them to manually dial in for every situation and lure weight.  Adjust the magnetic braking system with each type of bait to make those long casts without backlashing. (see pic)

5) Boat control- Turn the speed down.  This may be contradicting, but when the wind is constantly blowing, find the speed for your trolling motor that compensates for the wind and keep it there.  Applying constant trolling motor power is far better than fast, then nothing, then fast, then nothing.  Slow and steady catches fish in the wind.

As you can see, these are not huge makeovers to any bass angler.  Thinking about the situation, accepting, not complaining about the wind is the first thing to overcome.  Some minor adjustments in baits and perhaps to your baitcaster and you too can be catching fish this spring.  Stay at it, and remember to CPR this time of year so those beautiful bass can spawn!

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

When 13 Days feels like FOREVER

Thirteen days is not a very long time in the scope of a year, however for someone like me who fishes all months of the year it was a long time.  Ice fishing ended for me on March 20th at Clear Lake, and I was not able to get the boat on the water until April 2nd.  I just couldn't stand it anymore, the forecast called for a possibility of rain but I was willing to take a chance on it.  I grabbed my typical early spring Quantum Combos and hit the river.  A jig rod, Texas-Rig craw, crankbait and spinnerbait all made the cut for the boat.  I decided to try some areas for largemouth bass, as they are a little more predictable this time of year.  I wasn't expecting too many bites, but the chance at stretching some line was something I couldn't resist anymore.  

I started the day throwing a jig and the Texas-rigged craw bait with no luck.  I turned to the Ima Lures crankbait and started to get some bites, including a largemouth over three pounds.  Wow, did he have my heart racing!  

The feeling never gets old and for a brief moment I was all alone, fishing, and acting like a kid again.  I guess that is what always brings me back to fishing, and why I miss it so much, even if it is for a week or two.  

Enjoy the spring, we have had terrible weather thus far, but hopefully Mother Nature will put a few nice days together so many more people can get out and enjoy nature.  Please do everyone a favor and practice CPR, Catch-Photo-Release, especially in the spring season.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The "NEW" Clear Lake

This past ice fishing season was one of the best in recent years for me.  I was able to explore four new areas that I have never iced fished and came away with some good days on those bodies of water.  If you have followed me at all during ice fishing season you know that Clear Lake is not new to me, I have fished up there for a decade or so, but until recently it seems like a new lake to me and many ice anglers around the state.

Clear Lake has gone through a biological shift in the past couple of years.  There are not days of 100's of yellow bass being caught and harvested anymore.  Going to Clear Lake to chase down Yellow Bass on the snowmachine was my favorite thing to do just a few years ago, this year and last were quite different.  I did chase the Yellow Bass for one weekend, during the annual Yellow Bass Bonanza tournament, and David Gissel and I ended up winning that event, however things were not like they were in the past.  Clear Lake has changed and if anglers change their modes and tactics they can still love to fish Clear Lake too.  

I took two more trips to Clear Lake after the tournament, however it wasn't to chase down a bucket of Yellow Bass.  The biosphere, or makeup of the lake is transforming, and has been for a few years.  Does this make it a bad place to fish?  No, if you are willing to change with the times and broaden your scope of the lake, you can have some awesome days of pulling in fish too.  Crappies, white bass, and walleyes now rule the lake and are well worth the trip.  With the new lineup of species to fish ,tactics and baits have become a total over haul for me.  Spikes and minnow heads now rule the bait selection, as well as larger jigs and spoons for all three of the above mentioned species.  Yellow bass still provide some cut bait on the spoons when available.  I am not a biologist, however the biggest change to this lake seems to be the weed growth in the "Big Lake".  Weeds are a fishes friend for so many reasons; cover for young, ambush points, cover for adults, and a constant food source.  The crappies and walleyes have thrived with this new addition to Clear Lake.  To be successful you must fish the weeds, in the weeds, around the weeds and above the weeds will have aggressive fish chasing down your bait.

Each time when visiting Clear Lake after the Yellow Bass Bonanza I had 3-5 other people fishing with me.  I am a huge proponent in "party" fishing at this lake, the flats are vast and even the steep drop-offs are huge.  Covering water is so important at this lake, and there is no doubt that the more Vexilars you have down the holes the more fish you will find and catch.  Party Fishing is a great way to hunt down the "new" roaming species that now dominate Clear Lake.  While chasing Yellow Bass the last couple of years we have stumbled across some great crappies, white bass, and walleyes.  Never did I think I would visit Clear Lake to catch these species but the time is now, and next winter will only be better for these three species.  

If you were disappointed with Clear Lake or saw way too many negative posts on social media about the lake this winter...put it on your list for next winter.  Do not fish it like you have in the past for yellow bass, yet go at it with a fresh look for Crappies, Walleyes and White Bass, all three make great table fare and will have your drag singing!

Several 13+ inch crappies were found and released back to Clear Lake.
Keep the lake great by doing the same and following the DNR walleye slot law.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

New Fish Taco Recipe

Fish Tacos are a great way to enjoy the fish you caught.  It is one of my favorite way to prepare them for sure.  Recently I tried a small batch of fillets for my son and I differently from previous times.  Most people will fry the fillets in batter and oil, then place them in the taco and top them with your favorite toppings.  I did not want to fry just a few fillets in the house on this particular day so I tried something new, and it has become a new favorite.  

As you will see, this is very simple to do and is a great way to enjoy tacos with the fish you have caught.  I really enjoyed this way of eating the fish and it had the same consistency of a chicken taco or burrito.  I used walleye fillets this time around, but I know from previous recipes that bluegills and crappies would be great too.



BAKED FISH TACOS

Take about a pound of fish fillets and bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Place fillets in a mixing bowl, with two forks stir the fillets so that they flake apart into small pieces. 

Add your favorite Taco seasoning packet and required water, just as you would do with beef or chicken.

Scoop onto a taco shell/burrito and top with your typical taco dressings.


The baked fillets mixed with your favorite taco seasoning


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

We WON the 2022 Clear Lake Yellow Bass Bonanza

 This annual event is one that has lasted the test of time.  In the world of ice fishing, tournaments come and go just as the ice freezes and melts away in the spring, this one has stood the test of time.  I believe this was the 10th year in existence of the event held by the folks at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle and owner Kevan Paul.  The past couple of years attendance at this event has dwindled for numerous reasons, however the competition of the event has not faltered.   This year 41 teams put up the entry fee for an all-out Yellow Bass brawl on Clear Lake.  

My partner, David Gissel and I took off to Clear Lake early Saturday morning to look over the vast area of Clear Lake for the first time this year.  We immediately started to find a few yellow bass in the "big lake" area.  We quickly searched the water column from 5 feet deep out to about 9 feet deep.  We marked four good areas, some holding the giant 11+ inch yellow bass that Clear Lake grows.  One of those areas had a swarm of fish on it, we knew we had found something special because the other 3 areas did not have many fish, but the quality was much better.  We ended the day on the "little lake" searching areas that had fish in the previous years.  To my surprise we never saw anything that sparked our attention.  As 3pm rolled around we were off the lake per the tournament rules.  We prepared our rods, reels and baits for the next morning and made sure we had everything charging before we grabbed some dinner.

The morning of the tournament is always a little nerve-racking, the juices were flowing and the both of us could not wait to get our baits in the water at our first spot that contained the most numbers of yellow bass we found on Saturday.  As we drove to our first spot I was pleasantly surprised with no other team being there and nobody following behind us.  It was ours for the taking.  David quickly popped about a dozen holes as I grabbed the Vexilar FLX30 and Jason Mitchell DeadMeat Rod/Quantum Drive reel to begin fishing.  After looking at the first three holes and seeing no movement, I got a little nervous.  However, it was the forth hole that the Vexilar was alive with fish.  I quickly settled in and started to put some yellows on the ice.  The fish were hungry and a jigging spoon was what they wanted.  The both of us spent the next two hours catching fish and drilling more holes to stay on top of fresh fish.  On this particular weekend the yellows were buried in the weeds.  Having the Vexilar FLX30 turned to Medium power at the 180 frequency made all the difference in seeing the fish.  The medium power cut enough of the clutter to show me the active fish and how they were reacting to my jigging cadence.  We ended up with over 30 yellow bass at this first stop, most over the 9-inch mark with a few giants well over 10 inches.  We decided to go try our other areas that had some bigger fish, but not as plentiful.  Over the next hour or so we picked up a few bigger yellow bass to make our limit of 25 a good one.  


I have fished this event eight times, all the way back to when there were over 300 teams at the event.  I knew that today would be another top five finish.  I was a bit surprised that when everyone was done at the scales that we ended up on top with 13.64 pounds of yellow bass.  Friends Chad Angell and Josh Sansgaard were right behind us with 11.58 pounds.  The third place team of Minor/Gavin brought in a total of 5.94 pounds.  It was quite a surprise to end up on top, it was also quite a payday; including prizes valuing around $3,000 for us.  It was one of those rare tournaments that the plan that we had actually came together better than we had hoped.  

The event organizer is probably going to take this event in another direction for 2023.  I hope it isn't the last Yellow Bass tournament at Clear Lake, but if it is, myself and my two partners have had a heck of ride the past eight years.  We have tallied seven top 20 finishes and three in the top 5.  It was awesome to share this event with two great anglers and two great friends; Jacy Large and David Gissel.



Thursday, February 17, 2022

The "SPOT" on the Spot


It is not common in the world of fishing when anglers find that perfect "spot".  When you do, it is often called the "spot on the spot" and it is an amazing day.  Typically, a general area where fish are living or actively feeding, anglers will reel them in with consistency.  Most anglers are happy with this as it makes for a great day on the water or the ice.   However, a recent trip to the ice proved to be one of those unique opportunities to fish on "the spot".   

I was fishing with four other anglers on this particular weekend.  Saturday was a great day of hole drilling and hole hopping, scooping up nice bluegills and the occasional crappie.  While hopping around from hole to hole I noticed a three-foot difference in depth at a few holes.  Most holes were reading 24 feet of water on the Vexilar, while a few had 27 feet of water.  In this 1/2-acre area I also noticed a buildup of fish on the ice around these deeper holes.  I decided to drill out the area with a dozen or so holes and started to picture in my mind what the floor of the lake actually looked like.  I referenced three different contour maps of this area, but they did not note any significant difference in bottom contours.  I/we, from fishing and drilling were able to find an old creek channel that these fish were constantly cruising in.  That three-foot drop in depth was the perfect highway for these fish, and we had found it.  We zeroed in on a 50-foot stretch of the channel that afternoon and our rate of catch increased.   Jigs and spoons worked very well all day for us, for the best times of the day, no bait was needed on the spoon, making for repeated catches.  Hole hopping requires some special tools that I would like to mention.  Utilizing a 36-inch Dead Meat Rod and the Quantum Drive size 10 spinning reel made for moving to one hole to another and dropping down quickly a simple/effortless task.

That night we discussed our plan for the next morning, which had the temps well below zero for the real feel.  Two guys went to try some shallower water that morning and the remaining three of us settled in our shacks for a 3-hole approach.  We found the spot on the spot the day before and I knew that the fish would be there.  I drilled 3 holes, one for each of us on the channel that morning.  The three of us had constant action of bluegills and crappies for the next four hours, and it didn't take long for the others to follow suit.  We kept a few meals to be cleaned and released many more back to the lake that morning.  It was one of those rare instances that we had found "the spot on the spot" that led to catch after catch.  What a great weekend of panfishing it made for the five of us, and a few meals in the freezer of some delicious panfish to boot.  



Wednesday, February 2, 2022

2021 Indee Bass Club Awards Banquet













The Indee Bass Club held its first ever awards banquet in the 6 years of existence on January 30th.  Coaches Todd Reed and Keith Donnelly greeted the students, parents and family members with snacks and refreshments.  It was a night to celebrate many things that occurred over the past fishing season as well as how the club came to be. 
Back in the winter of 2016 two students were working on a class project on how to improve the school.  Jackson Toale and Keegan Postel came up with the idea of starting a bass club.  After talking with several High School staff, they were sent to their current coach, Todd Reed.  The club was off and running by the next spring and anglers took to the water in the first ever Indee Bass Club event in April of 2017.  The idea from a class project sure has gained speed over the years, as a result Jackson and Keegan were given Co-Founders plaques for their efforts.  
Many other awards were given out this night too.  In each bass fishing tournament anglers are allowed to bring in a "limit" of bass.  That limit is set by the tournament rules and can vary from event to event.  Typically it is five bass that anglers are hoping to catch and bring to the scales to weigh in and then release back to the river or lake.  It is the ultimate each day of a tournament.  This year there were 16 students that were part of catching a limit, they include; EJ Miller, Sam Hamilton, Caleb Weber, Justin Schmadeke, Hunter Patton, Gable Eddy, Jackson Wolf, Cam Wilson, Remy Ressler, Dalton Hoover, Teegan McEnany, Carter Cameron, Cal Sweeney, Ranger Reed and Jackson Toale.  At each event the Big Bass Award is given out.  However, at the awards banquet the biggest bass of 2021 was awarded.  This 3.07# smallmouth bass was caught by Gable Eddy on the Wapsipinicon river.  Lastly, was the first ever Angler of the Year awards.  Like other sports, the angler of the year is accomplished by catching bass and accumulating points at each event.  Ten points are given for a first place finish, nine points for a second place finish, eight points for a third place finish and so on all the way down to one point.  Coming in at the 3rd Place spot was 8th Grader McAllister Sweeney with 28 points.  Ranger Reed, another 8th Grader took the Runner-Up spot in the Angler of the Year race with 31 points.  Senior Jackson Toale was crowned the 2021 Angler of the Year, he accumulated 35 points over the four tournaments.  Complete results and pictures can be seen on the club website, just search Indee Bass Club. 
Jackson Toale / Ranger Reed / Cal Sweeney

The night was a great night to celebrate the anglers, families and sponsors that make this club possible.   Sponsors for the Indee Bass Club include; Colony Heating/Plumbing/Air Conditioning, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Bank Iowa, Klever Concrete, Hank's Bait and Tackle, Scheels of Cedar Falls, Quantum Rods and Reels, The Rod Glove, and Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  All these sponsors help create an atmosphere that students can learn about the outdoors, learn and follow DNR laws, water safety, how to be stewards of our waters and land, and of course the chance to enjoy a great day in the outdoors fishing.  What a great way to end the 2021 fishing season, and I think all involved are excited about the upcoming 2022 Indee Bass Club Season.  You can find the Indee Bass Club on Facebook, Instagram and our club website.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Mid-Winter Blues? This will fix it

This article appears in the February 2022 Issue of The Iowa Sportsman Magazine

As the crisp and frigid air chills your body, snow covers the landscape as far as you can see, the sight is somewhat magical on this late January/early February day.  However, as you drive to your ice fishing destination that beautiful sight reminds you that you are smack-dab in the middle of the “winter blues”.  The winter blues occur each winter when ice fishing becomes the most difficult of the season.  As anglers venture through this part of the winter they must change things up to be able to continue having success on the ice.  Here are a few things that I focus on more during this challenging time:
Change #1- This is a great time in the ice fishing season to change your line.  Line is a critical part of any ice fishing set up, and people that fish a lot will tell you that it is as important or more important than the reel you use.  Fresh line will increase the sensitivity of your presentation.  Anglers will be able to detect bites much better with new line as it will not be coiled and have memory from past days on the ice.  If panfish are your target, two-pound test line is plenty, if you are chasing walleyes and bass with larger baits, then a six-pound test line on your reel would be a good choice for those species.  

Change #2-  When fish become lethargic, like they do every winter during this time, it is time to finesse them.  Using smaller baits will definitely increase the number of bites you will get and in turn help you catch more fish.  Small jigs such as 2mm tungsten or tiny lead jigs are a good start.  You also have to change the way you bait your jig too.  During this time, I may only use one euro larvae (also known as spikes) or a part of a waxworm.  Some ice fishing plastics have great scent, and can be terrific to lure in more fish.  However, in this mid-winter slump you must trim those plastics to entice your next bite.  A lot of ice fishing plastics are way too large to trick a panfish during this time, a quick trim before you slide it on the jig will have you catching more fish.

Change #3-  Fish have been under the ice for a couple of months now.  Hundreds if not thousands of anglers have been walking and riding around on the ice trying to find the next best spot to fish.  Many areas, also known as community spots have been beaten up with hundreds of holes, popular brush piles rank very high on this list of old holes and high pressure.  All this commotion and constant action on and below the ice will make the fish cautious.  This time of year, like no other, is the time to venture away from the crowds.  Even on the smallest of lakes scattered throughout Iowa, there are good areas to fish that may not have a hole drilled on them.  Sometimes just going 20-40 yards away from the popular fishing areas can land you on some fresh fish that have not been pressured. These fish will be more apt to like your baits and bite.  Finding small areas away from the poplar crowded areas have resulted in many good days during this mid-season lull.

Change #4- Like mentioned in the last paragraph, anglers are subject to repeat themselves and go to similar areas time after time.  In this mid-season lull for fish, it is time again to open the lake map up once again.  Fish become lethargic this time of year due to oxygen levels which is most likely caused by snow cover.  Fish still need to follow their prey to eat, they must survive.  In doing so, many times during the mid-winter fish will gather around tight contour lines.  When looking at a contour map you want to find the lines that are tight to each other.  These lines represent a steep drop in the lake bottom.  These areas, also referred to as “drops” are great for fish because they can explore many different depths of water by only adjusting their swim bladders, using little to no energy.  These drops also become the highways of fish during the winter.  They can travel up and down them and follow them to explore different areas of the lake while maintaining quick access to deep and shallow water.  The Iowa DNR has maps on their website and their phone app.  Another great app is the Navionics Mapping, which uses your GPS on your phone to pinpoint exactly where you are.  There is a cost to this app, but it is worth every penny.  Look to the contours for your next “out of the way” ice fishing spot.

Change #5- Be mobile.  It can be crucial to move around the lake this time of year.  Finding those out of the normal places, fresh fish that haven’t been pressured for two months and getting your bait in front of as many fish as possible a day will increase your catch.  This can be a lot of work, especially if there is snow on the ice.  Many ice anglers like to sit and wait for the fish to come to them.  Some days this works, while most days it does not.  You will give yourself the best chance during any ice fishing trip, especially one this time of year, if you try many different areas.  Make sure and include structure; like drops, points, brush piles and weeds in your search.  These are the typical places where fish will live, however figuring out the depth that they prefer that day will include a lot of holes in the ice.

Adaptation is a part of survival, fish this time of year are in survival mode.  They need proper oxygen, a constant food source and safety from predators.  These 5 changes will allow you to track down hungry fish and be successful catching in the toughest time of the year to ice fish.  As always, please stay safe on the ice, travel with a partner and have safety equipment like a rope, flotation device and ice picks if anything terrible may occur.  

Sunday, January 16, 2022

SPOONING Time

 That past two weekends have been fantastic bites on the ice.  It is a great time of year to brave the elements and hunt down fish, there is no better tool than a spoon to do so.  Moving quickly from one hole to another and dropping your offering to those lines on the Vexilar will soon have your favorite pole bent.   Perch and crappies tend to roam, working together with some friends can really make a big difference.  By working together and covering a lot of area will keep those moving fish under you.  Dropping spoons quickly down the water column and jigging up some fish will keep your team happy.  There have been days that no bait is needed on the spoon, however adjustments are a big part of fishing and you let the fish tell you what they want.  After catching a few fish from the school, any species of fish will get wary of the situation.  When this occurs tipping that spoon with a few spikes or mashing a waxworm on the treble hook will get you a few extra bites.  

When hunting fish down with spoons the right rod and reel combo are a must, here is one combo that has been very successful for me the past few years.

Moving and Grooving with Spoons Rod/Reel Setup:

Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Rod in the 36inch model, paired with a size 10 Quantum Drive reel

This combo lets you hop from hole to hole and drop the spoon very quickly to get those roaming fish. 

 


Enjoy these great fishing days, the winter "lull" is around the corner!