Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Ending Summer with a Bang

I was able to fish the Mississippi River for three days this past weekend.  This was in preparation for the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series final tournament of the season.  As you probably know, I am a school teacher, so this was a great way to end my summer break.  Having three days to fish one of the best bass fisheries in the Midwest is always a treat, and it certainly didn't disappoint this time around.

Dan Sweeney and I teamed up for this event at Pool 9 out of Lansing, Iowa.  We were able to fish Friday and Saturday to try and find the best quality of bass we could.  The river was a bit lower than normal, but the water quality was fantastic everywhere we fished.  We were greeted by clean water and a mild to low flow from the Mighty Mississippi.  Typical summer patterns on the river were holding true, bass were hanging on the wing dams, points and weeds where current was present.  Our practice fishing time led us to four areas that we planned to hit during the tournament hours on Sunday, we were feeling pretty good about this, as all four were within 5 miles of each other. 

Popular baits for us were bladed jigs, Texas-Rigged Hot Rod Baits Tubes with a Reins tungsten weight, swim jigs and an IMA Lures Little Stik, a topwater walking bait.  Having the proper Quantum rod/reel combo is very important for each of these baits.  With their wide selection of rods and reels it is so easy to get the perfect combo for any bait. These different baits were key in the many areas we fished, but come tournament day, it came down to one bait.  We caught all our keeper bass on the IMA Little Stik.  It was an amazing day of topwater action.  We ended up staying in our first area all day, never having to move around.  Shallow water next to a deeper channel was the key area for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.  The smallmouth were using the shallow water to feed and the largemouth were traveling the deeper channel.  

At the end of the day, we had three smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass to complete our limit.  Our best five bass weighed 15.26 pounds, good enough for 2nd place in this event.  We were very pleased with our weight and finishing second against this group of anglers is an accomplishment. Catching so many bass on topwater baits throughout the entire day may never happen again, however I will always remember what we learned this past weekend about the behaviors of bass on the Mississippi River, and as always, I can't wait to get the boat back there to look for more beautiful river bass.
The IMA Little Stik is a walking bait
that is 5.5 inches long and weighs an ounce

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Indee Bass Club July Tournament on the Wapsi

The Indee Bass Club held their third event of the year for students in the Independence Community.  It was a beautiful night on the Wapsipinicon River in Independence on July 12th for the event.  The temperatures were in the low eighties and the 14 anglers were ready to hit the water.  At this annual event, students are partnered up with other club members randomly as well as a random captain (adult in the boat) to enjoy a night of fishing.  This format allows anglers to make new friends within the club, as well as learn new tips and tricks from adults in the community.  This is the only event all year that Captains are allowed to fish and count their bass towards the team weigh-in, giving students a first-hand look at how others fish, more experienced anglers fish.  Students and captains had four hours to try and bring in three keeper bass from the Wapsi.  With the water slightly rising with the recent storms, the bass were biting!

All boats reported catch fish, which is the best news after any youth tournament.  Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleyes, and northern pike were all reported being caught on the Wapsi on that evening by the 14 student anglers.  Popular baits to fool the bass on this night included; crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits, Texas-Rigged plastics, wacky rigs and ned rigs. Coming in at fifth place was the team of Cal Sweeney and TeJay Ratchford, them and their captain Dan Sweeney were able to bring in one keeper bass that weighed 1.30 pounds.  In Fourth place as the team of Jackson Beatty and Ben Anderson, these kids and their captain Jackson Toale brought in a limit of three smallmouth bass that weighed 3.62 pounds.  In third place was the pair of Carter Eddy and Hunter Weepie, along with their captain Shane Beatty.  They brought in three keepers that weighed 4.03 pounds.  In the Runner-Up spot was the captain Dave Wilson and the pair of Ranger Reed and Gable Eddy.  They brought in two big keepers weighing 4.88 pounds.  The Wapsi Scramble Champions weighed in 6.35 pounds.  The championship duo of Carter Cameron and Will Clark, along with their captain Todd Reed brought in three smallmouth bass for the victory.  Colton Cameron also brought in the big bass of the event, that smallmouth weighed 2.36 pounds.   

The top three teams walked away with trophies and Scheels gift cards for their accomplishments.  Colton won a gift pack from Hank’s Bait and Tackle in Waterloo for bringing in the big bass.  All anglers came away winners as they enjoyed a beautiful night on the Wapsi learning more about the great sport of bass fishing.  The club enjoyed some pizza after the weigh-in, and each angler also received fishing gear randomly given away because of our generous sponsors.  The 2023 Indee Bass Club  sponsors include; Colony Heating/Plumbing and AC, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, BankIowa, Cy & Charley’s, Tim Reed State Farm Agency, Klever Concrete, Rick Wendling Memorial, Shay’s Minn Kota, SCHEELS, Hank’s Bait and Tackle, Quantum Rods/Reels, The Rod Glove, X-Zone Lures, and Hot Rod Baits.  The Indee Bass Club is a free club for all students in grades 7-12 in the Independence Schools, including St. John’s.  The club is run by volunteer coach Todd Reed, along with many helpers to make things run smoothly, Keith Donnelly, Garry Anderson, Randy Toale and Dan Sweeney are all key parts to this organization.  You can find more information by searching out the Indee Bass Club on Google, Facebook and Instagram.



Tuesday, July 18, 2023

What's in My Tacklebox

This BIG smallmouth couldn't resist
a Hot Rod Baits Tube in the
Dirty Craw color.

Summertime fishing is in full swing, and you change up your baits you will be catching a lot of bass during these hot months.  

The Iowa Sportsman Article: Summer 2023

What’s in My Tackle Box? Bass Fishing Edition

Bass fishing in the state of Iowa can take you to many diverse locations without traveling very far. This may complicate things when thinking about all the different types of lures you must have to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass. I have been chasing these creatures around the state for three decades and have learned a lot of lessons along the way. When loading up a tacklebox for a trip, it is vital to have a little bit of everything. Here is what you need for a successful day of bass fishing:

Fast Baits: Spinnerbaits and Bladed jigs are a must for all bass anglers. These cover water quickly and can be used around wood and sparse weeds that will be starting to grow this time of year. Crankbaits are a great tool as well. Have a variety of depths when you pack things up. Shallow running crankbaits all the way to 15 feet will cover most applications in any river or lake. Colors of these baits should include white, crawfish and chartreuse colors. Last, but not least is a swim jig. This can be fished around all types of cover and can be worked through and on top of grass mats.

Slow baits: Jigs are a go to bait this time of year, my personal favorite is a Wig’s Jig in the black and blue flash color. Texas-rigged plastic baits are a must for any bass angler. There are literally hundreds of plastic style baits imitating all sorts of different creatures. Keep it simple and have some crawfish imitators and some 4-inch Hot Rod Baits tubes. These two styles of baits will catch you plenty of bass. Colors to have are the typical crawfish colors, black/blue combos and bluegill patterns.

Trailers: Each tackle box needs to have a few plastic trailers for the baits mentioned above. Jig chunks, twister tails, paddle tails and minnow style plastics will dress up the jigs, spinnerbaits, swimjigs and bladed jigs. White and natural colors to match your color preferences will be needed.

Topwater Baits: I must admit that this one is the hardest for me to narrow down, I love topwater baits, and there are so many good ones out there to use. Each and every time I hit the water this time of year it is a must to have a good array of topwater baits. No matter if you are on a lake or river system, these can provide you with the most fun of any day on the water. The easiest topwater bait to use for bass is a buzzbait. Black, white and chartreuse are all good colors to use. In clear water situations a bluegill pattern can be great as well. Poppers are the next topwater bait that everyone should have in their tacklebox. These come in every color under the rainbow, the action of the popper is more important than the paint job most days. I stick to the white colors and bluegill patterns for these. Walking baits like the IMA Big Stick are by far the most challenging lure to use for the angler. Once you master the “walking” action with your rod sweeps, you will fall in love with this lure. Lastly, the hollow bodied frog. If you are fishing around a lot of weeds and or docks, this bait is by far the most exciting bait to put on your line. This floating lure will float on top of weeds and can be skipped under docks to entice those fish hiding along the poles. My favorite is the Optimum Baits Furbit frog, there are a lot of color choices, and they are built with a 6/O hook, helping to keep those fish on the line as you reel them in through the weeds.

The above-mentioned baits may seem like a lot to some anglers and not very many to other anglers. This is a quick rundown of the baits that are overall successful this time of year, and will work for a pond, river or any lake in the state of Iowa. There are many, many other types of baits out there to catch bass, but I never go fishing without these mainstays, they will help you catch more bass this time of year. As always, experiment with colors, sizes and retrieval speeds as you fish. Sooner or later, the bass will tell you what they want on a particular day, and when you find out what they like, get the camera ready for some awesome Catch/Photo/Release pictures!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Indee Bass Club travels to Pleasant Creek Lake


Pleasant Creek Lake CHAMPS

The Indee Bass Club members voted on areas to fish for 2023 and Pleasant Creek Lake, near Palo made the cut once again.  This event began at 6:30am, which gave anglers about six hours to chase down as many bass as possible.  The two-angler teams are in a boat with their adult captain, the goal is to catch five keeper bass.  

The morning started out very nice, the sky was overcast, a mild breeze and the bass were biting.  Anglers searched the entire lake looking for their limit of bass, a goal that many anglers were able to accomplish.  

Colton Cameron and Carter Eddy were once again the winners of the event.  They were able to bring five keeper bass to the scale that weighed 10.85 pounds.  Carter also caught the Big Bass of the event, a largemouth that weighed 3.24 pounds.  Coming in second place was EJ Miller and Owen Latwesen.  They caught five largemouth that weighed 9.64 pounds.  In third place was Jackson Beatty and Gable Eddy, they had five keepers that weighed 8.27 pounds.  In fourth place was Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron, they had five keepers weighing 7.32 pounds.  The anglers able to catch their limit reported catching fish on a variety of baits; chatterbaits, crankbaits, topwater baits, stick baits, spinnerbaits, swimjigs and Texas rigged plastics.  In fifth place was Cal Sweeney and Hunter Sherwood, they had three keeper bass that weighed 4.63 pounds.  In sixth place was Hunter Weepie, he had three bass that weighed 3.75 pounds.  In seventh place was Wyatt Mether and Carson Hanaway, they had three bass that weighed 3.31 pounds.  A total of 17 students participated in this event, all of which received awards and fishing gear.  

The Indee Bass Club is a free club run by volunteers.  This is possible by the great support of sponsors, they include; BankIowa, Klever Concrete, Colony Heating/Plumbing/AC, Tim Reed State Farm Agency, Buchanan County Wildlife Association,  Rick Wendling Memorial, Cy & Charley's, Shay's Minn Kota, Scheels of Cedar Falls, Hank's Bait and Tackle of Waterloo, The Rod Glove, X-Zone Lures, Hot Rod Baits, and Quantum Rods and Reels.  All Independence students, including St. John students are able to participate in the club events.  For more information on the Indee Bass Club, check them out on Google, Facebook and Instagram.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Summertime Panfish

When the weather is hot, the panfishing can be hot too, if you know where to locate fish in your nearby lake.  Hot summer days with a mild breeze are great days to get outside and enjoy some panfishing.  This can easily be done with a boat or small craft like a kayak or canoe.  These hot days of summer place panfish in certain locations throughout lakes that you can pattern from one area to another, keeping you busy on these hot Iowa summer days.

Panfishing in the summer can be done with a variety of techniques and baits. It is a time of year when you do have to experiment to know exactly what the fish want and where they are located. Here are a few “can’t miss” strategies as you begin to look for summer panfish.

Locations: Panfish live in all lakes here in Iowa, of course some lakes may thrive with bluegills while others may have a great population of crappies. These two panfish, typically the most sought after here in Iowa, live together throughout the year. Oftentimes when you find one species the other isn’t too far away. For the most part, these creatures are eating the same food as one another and cruising the lakes for their next meal. The food source this time of year can be a variety of creatures. Panfish will feed on microorganisms, first year fry, baitfish, bugs and crawdads. Basically, if it moves in the water and they can fit it in their mouth, they will eat it. With that in mind, as anglers we need to think where do these creatures spend their day, when you find the food, you will find the panfish. In most lakes there are three specific things to look for to find your next meal of panfish. The first being brushpiles, these are magnets for the bait that panfish eat. Brushpiles give the small creatures a place to hide, and in turn make an excellent place for panfish to come and grab their next meal. There are times where you can anchor down around a brushpile and cast to it for hours picking up fish after fish. Another great location are weed lines. Summer in Iowa always creates a lot of weed cover, ponds, small lakes, and big lakes typically will have submerged weeds and weeds on top of the water too. I always try to find some of the deeper weeds in the lake. They may be close to an old creek channel or at the mouth of a cove. I have seen in many cases that the bigger panifish will be closest to the deepest water. Lastly, and the most difficult area to find panfish is the open basin of the lake. Fish will roam during these hot months swimming over the deepest parts of the lakes looking for a meal. In most cases there is no rhyme or reason for their location, they are simply swimming, however staying close to channel swings and or flooded timber should increase your chances. Do not fish too deep in the basins, if a thermocline is present the panfish will not be active below it. These three distinct locations have always been a great place to start looking for summertime panfish, some are better than others on specific lakes, give them a try on your favorite panfish waters this summer.

Techniques: Catching panfish does not take a lot of fancy gear. Keeping things simple is a great way to chase after these fish. One cannot write about summer panfish without mention of a slip bobber. This technique has caught more panfish over the years than anything else combined. A bobber, when used to its fullest potential, can be deadly on panfish. Over the years I have found a bobber to not only zone in on a specific depth of water, but to use it as a trolling device. Once you cast it out, you can reel it in at any speed to control that deepest depth the bait will run. Some days a slow steady retrieve will have the panfish going crazy. Anchoring down and “trolling” your bobber slowly all around the structure or basin that you are is very effective this time of year. Casting and retrieving your favorite jig or small spinner is great too. Trolling the deep basin is a tried and true way to catch fish in the summer. If possible use the trolling motor instead of the gas motor to sneak up on the fish. On windy days, use the wind to your advantage by setting up a controlled drift. Use the wind to move you, and your trolling motor sparingly to adjust speed and direction. As with any fishing day, change up your colors and sizes of plastics, as it can make a big difference. Live minnows are hard to beat when searching out crappies, make sure you have some way to keep them alive during these hot months, they won’t last long without a plan. Small worms are a bluegill’s favorite meal, always have some ready to tempt them.

Fish Care: When catching fish in the summer months it is important to keep the care of the fish in mind. If you are going to catch and release for the day, have your camera ready for a few pictures. When the water temperature warms above seventy degrees, fish cannot be out of the water very long and survive another day. If you are going to keep some fish for eating it is important to care for them as well. It is best to keep the fish alive up to the point of cleaning it this time of year. If you cannot do that, then it is vital you get the fish in a cooler with ice. Chilling the fish while they are alive will preserve the meat and make those filets taste better than ever.

Panfish are a fun fish to chase, even when the weather may tell you to stay at home in the air conditioning. They are great to go after when kids or older adults are involved in the fishing trip. By concentrating on certain structures and cover in the lake you should be able to quickly find some hungry fish. The many techniques to try to catch these fish will have anglers interested and hopefully bringing in their fair share of fish for the day.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Iowa High School Bass Team Championship

 The 2023 Iowa High School Bass Team Championship keeps growing.  This year there was a record setting 49 boats entered in the event.  With only a $20 entry fee per boat, and working with sponsors I was able to give away OVER $3,000 worth of prizes.

SCHEELS of Cedar Falls~~The Rod Glove~~X-Zone Lures~~Quantum Rods/Reels

Check out the story filmed by John Campbell of KCRG-TV-9 below:

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Indee Bass Club Kicks off the 2023 Year

 The Indee Bass Club held its first tournament of the year on the Wapsi River on May 3rd.  This event took place on a Wednesday evening and the weather couldn't have been any better.  Sunny skies and nice springtime temperatures made the night a beautiful one for fishing.  Eighteen anglers set out to catch as many legal bass as they could and bring back their five largest to the scales.  Although the weather on this day was picture perfect, the weather in the weeks prior to the tournament was not the typical spring weather the bass are used to.  Extremely warm temperatures and then a big cold front had the bass in unusual places and not willing to feed up as they typically do this time of year.  That did not stop the members of the Indee Bass Club though, as spirits were high when they were released to begin the event.

As sun was setting and the boats were coming back to the dock to weigh in their catch for the night the chatter around the parking lot wasn't as jovial as when they started.  Reports of bass being caught were on the low side.  Walleye and Northern Pike kept a few anglers busy, but the goal was to bring in five keeper bass.  The Wapsi River has a length limit on bass species, they must be 12-inches to keep.  That was also the regulation for the event.  No team was able to bring in a limit of five bass, which is very unusual for the Wapsi River.  However, as in any bass tournament, someone always finds some fish to weigh-in.  In first place tonight was the team of Colton Cameron and Carter Eddy.  They had three bass that weighed 5.36#, they were captained by former club member Cyrus Butters.  In second place was Gable Eddy and Zach Sidles, they had two bass that weighed 4.25#, their captain was former bass club member Jackson Toale.  In third place was EJ Miller and Owen Latwesen, they had four keeper bass that weighed 4.08#, captained by Brian Miller.  In fourth place was Ranger Reed and Carter Cameron, they had one keeper bass weighing in at 2.17#, captained by Todd Reed.  In fifth place was Christian Simmons and Carson Hanaway, they had one bass that weighed 1.09#, captained by Dave Wilson.  Big Bass honors went to Gable Eddy, he brought in a big smallmouth bass that weighed 3.35#.  Others involved in the event were not able to bring a keeper bass to the weigh-in.  

All anglers were treated with Subway sandwiches, chips and drinks at the weigh-in, provided by Tim Reed State Farm Agency.  Needless to say, they were hungry and very appreciative of our sponsor helping out!  The Indee Bass Club is a free club to any student in grades 7-12 at the Independence schools, including St. John's.  This is made possible by the awesome companies that support the club.  They include Colony Heating/Plumbing/AC, BankIowa, Klever Concrete, Tim Reed State Farm Agency, Cy and Charley's, Rick Wendling Memorial, Shay's Minn Kota, Hank's Bait and Tackle, SCHEELS, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Quantum Rods/Reels, The Rod Glove, X-Zone Lures, and the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  You can find the Indee Bass Club on Facebook, Instagram, and their website.  The next club event is June 24th at Pleasant Creek Lake.  


Monday, April 10, 2023

Early Spring Bass Fishing

 April is always a great month to get on the water and explore the new fishing season.  The first few times out I keep it pretty simple, when targeting largemouth bass I stay shallow and have a Wig's Jig tied on along with an IMA Lures shallow crank bait.  Two rods...that's it.  Once the water temperature hits 55 degrees, then it is time to add a few more to the deck.  If I am looking for smallbass I incorporate four different baits.  A medium diving IMA Lures crankbait, an IMA Lures Flit jerkbait, drop-shot rig, and a Texas-rigged Hot Rod Baits tube.  These baits have done very well for me in the past, and in the first few weeks of the open water season, this is all I need.  Sure, other baits will catch fish, there is no arguing there, however for over 90% of the bass I catch early in the season, these baits trick them.  Either way, I have them tied to a Quantum Rod and Reel.  The durability and 5-year warranty on these products cannot be beat, click the link to find your next combo.

Spring bass fishing can be feast for famine this time of year, and I don't' think there is a rhyme or reason behind it most of the time.  I have had great days fishing in cloudy weather with 20mph winds and I have done well on sunny 60-degrees days too.  The more times spring rolls around I really think it has more to do with stability in the weather.  IF we get several days in a row of similar temperatures overnight and daytime highs, the fish really seem to feed up.  When we have 70s for a day and then 50s for a few days and then back to a 70 degree day, I feel as though the fish get a little confused.  Either way, if I have some free time in April and May, I'm hitting the water!

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The First Casts to OPEN Water

I hate to see ice fishing go away each spring, but that feeling disappears pretty quickly after that first catch out of the boat.  That first catch turned out to be a largemouth bass, which is pretty typical for me.  I love getting into shallow backwaters soon after the ice and trying to find where those largies are feeding up after the long winter.  April 1st was the first day floating on the water, as usual there weren't a lot of bass caught, but 4 in the boat in a few hours felt pretty good.  The big one for the day was a bit over 3 pounds, so all in all it was a good first day out.  

The rivers are high right now, and the lakes are still pretty cold, who knows what the next time will bring! 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Good Bye Ice Season

 The 2022/2023 ice fishing season was another great one.  I was able to get out a few times with some kids,  many times with my ice buddies and squeezed in a few over night trips too.  We covered a lot of lakes throughout the season and hit the Mississippi River a few days also.  As I write this, there is still ice available to fish in the Okoboji area, but with the waters thawed and the rivers flowing it is time to shift to the boats.  We didn't try too many new locations this winter, but one that we did try will see us again next winter.  5 Island lake, known for its large population of Yellow Bass was a great trip.  Yellows are a favorite of mine to chase, and this lake seems to be full of them.  We had a group of six of us there for a couple of days and we will certainly be visiting there again next season.  The yellow bass are not the large size like found in Clear Lake, but most of them are of cleaning size and they have that yellow bass attitude, which I love.  Clear Lake continues to put out some great fish during late ice times.  Walleyes, crappies and BIG Yellow Bass make the trip worth it every time.  The smaller lakes that dot Eastern Iowa still perform for short trips, and I keep trying a few new ones each year.  As this closes out the ice season, I have already booked our annual early ice trip to the Okoboji Lake system, perhaps the best fishery in the state.  Time to get the gear all charged up and safely put away until November. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

4 Steps You Will Want to do Soon

I LOVE Catching fish, and enjoying many meals of my catches throughout the year.  This simple recipe has become one of my favorites.  I typically use Yellow Bass, but Bluegills and smaller crappies work well too.

Step 1: Bake fillets for 12 mins at 350 degrees

Step 2: Break up the fillets with forks into shredded pieces

Step 3: Add your favorite TACO Seasoning

Step 4: EAT UP!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The "Magical" Yellow Perch

The Yellow Perch is chased all around the upper states of the US threw the ice.  The characteristics of these fish make them fun to chase down, they look gorgeous and are pretty tasty too.  These unique fish live in quite a few Iowa lakes and are thriving in the Upper Mississippi River Pools along the NE State border.  Finding these fish are the hard part during the winter months.  Long walks to out of the way backwater areas are the first step, but that just begins the quest.  Once you get to a perch location, your walking has only just started.  If you want to have a successful day on the ice for perch, you have to put in the miles.  Perch move.  No matter if you are in Iowa, South Dakota, or Minnesota, if you are expecting a good day of perch fishing, a lot of walking is what you will need to do.  Perch move.  It is highly unlikely that you will land on a school of perch and not have to move around to stay with them.  My experiences have shown that needing to find several school of perch each time out is necessary.  My favorite baits are spoons for these fish.  You can drop down quickly on the fish, and the treble hook no doubt helps hooking up too.  I like a 36-inch rod, my favorites are the Clam Dead Meat series.  These are set up very well for a variety of spoons, and the length is key to hole-hopping quickly.  Never sitting down or kneeling on the ice keeps you moving and will get you more perch.  Perch move.  A good, quality reel is vital for these fish, I use a variety of Quantum reels in the "15 size".  The Smoke model is by far the best, while the Throttle and Drive work well too.  The larger spool helps with line management, and allows the baits to fall faster.  Being able to move quick is key, packing light is part of staying of mobile, a couple of rods rigged up, auger, Vexilar and your food/drink for the day is all you need.  Too many items will slow you down, the perch will not slow down.  Perch move!  

I love these fish, they are fun to chase down, and at times impossible to chase down.  If every fishing trip was perfect, I think the allure of the fish would die.  The chase...I love the chase.  Stay dry my friends, another month of frozen water left...hopefully.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Time for FRESH Line

There is no doubt that the mid-winter blues are here for us.  The easy bites and eager fish are no longer so cooperative on the ice.  The recent rain, then heavy snow pac on most of Iowa's lakes has caused the slowdown to increase the typical mid-winter blues.  I am not sure of the exact science, but sunlight surely does play into it.  The fish, typically are more lethargic this time of year than any other time.  As ice anglers we need to do everything possible to get bite possible this time of year.  Smaller jigs and live bait offerings are a good place to start, but over the past few years I have noticed a big difference after changing line on my finesse rods.  

Fresh line does two major things this time of year.  First, you will immediately notice the or spin of your lure will almost disappeared.  This is crucial this time of year when panfish will look and study your bait.  This can be seen first hand when sight fishing, or when using a camera to study the fish.  When your jig is spinning...which is not a natural thing for microorganisms to do, the fish will simply back away.  Secondly, your line will now be "less curly".  New line, no matter what reel you use will always have some memory, this is worst with a spinning reel.  The coils in the line will give an advantage to the light biting fish.  When there are coils in your line, you loose a lot of sensitivity and direct contact with your jig.  When fish are slow and picky, you want total control over your jig and you want the utmost contact with your jig.   My favorite ice line for panfish is 2lb test line.

If you are experiencing the mid-winter blues, get to your Scheels and grab some new line.  Soon you will be catching more fish through this tough winter slow-down.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Don't Overlook Your Reels for Ice Fishing

It's all fun and games...until someone loses a fish!  All too often those "big ones" get away when we are ice fishing.  Most of the time while on the ice, people across the state are fishing for panfish.  This allows anglers to use two or three pound test line.  By doing so you can manage your line much better, keep it flowing off your reels more easily, and stay under the radar of detection from the fish.  All these are great reasons to use small diameter line during the winter, and in most cases is necessary to have a good day of fishing during the cold weather months.  However, there will come a time when a hungry bass, walleye, catfish or pike takes your panfish offering.  All too often this battle is lost very quickly and the larger species of fish is swimming away with your lure.  

This unfortunate event can be the result of many things; weak spot in your line, sharp toothed creatures, a bad knot, or a drag malfunction.  The more and more I tangle with larger fish (mostly a non-target species) the more I believe that it is the latter that will cause heartache or success.  A well manufactured drag system set properly can bring in fish much larger than your line specifications will indicate.  I was reminded of this once again this past weekend while perch fishing.  My Vexilar lit up bright white and without a hesitation a rather large Northern Pike decided that she like my jigging spoon and was going to eat it.  The fight was on, about half way through the battle, as she was stripping drag for the third of fourth time, I said to my friends watching, "I'm sure glad I hooked this fish with this rod and reel".  Of the three ice fishing combos I had brought along that day, the one I was using has the best reel on it.  The drag is smooth and it was working wonderfully.  The pike made run after run, and finally it had to give up.  I won this battle with two-pound test line and the Quantum Smoke S3 reel.  It has the smoothest drag I know, and on that day it was put to the test!  When choosing your next spinning reel, check out the drag components, it is pretty simple, the more parts or discs in the drag assembly, the smoother the drag will be. 

Quantum Smoke S3  Size 15
Ice anglers take a lot of pride in their rods, but we often forget out the reels we choose.  I have seen anglers pay $40-$150 for an ice rod but then get a $25 reel to pair with it.  Take a look around your ice combos when you get a chance, perhaps your next upgrade should be on some reels, not the newest, latest, greatest rod.  Good fishing to you, hope you find this helpful, and you have the chance to catch your next BIG ONE!