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Monthly Archives: September 2014

FISHING SPOONS

The good old reliable spoon.  You may have one in your tackle box faded and worn over time.

The good old reliable spoon. You may have one in your tackle box faded and worn over time and possibly a little rusty after sitting in your tackle box for years.

The metal fishing spoon lure was believed to be first used back in the 1840’s. Spoons are a simple design, an oblong shape, concave on one side that catches water producing a wobble and light reflecting flash imitating a fleeing or crippled bait fish. Because spoons appeal mainly to the sense of sight they work best on clear or lightly stained water conditions.

The long standing popularity of spoons results from ease of use as a fish usually will hook itself when it grabs a spoon. Spoons work best for larger predators such as northern pike and walleye that are our main fish species on Wawang Lake. The action of a spoon is based on it’s shape and thickness. A long spoon will display a wider side to side wobble than a shorter spoon. A deep concave spoon will also produce a wider wobble than a flatter spoon. Thin spoons used for trolling have an erratic wobble compared to thick spoons but thick spoons have advantages as well, the extra weight casts better, sinks faster and will run deeper than thinner spoons.

There are five types of spoons:
Casting, trolling, weedless, jigging and the surface spoon.

Spoons are stamped, forged or molded from brass, copper, steel, lead, plastic or wood. Most are painted on one side with a polished metallic surface on at other side to reflect the sunlight making the spoon visible. Some spoons have a hammered or rippled finish that transmits light in multiple directions such as baitfish scales scatter light.

When casting or trolling a spoon the speed is critical for success, if fished too slow or too fast the spoon will not wobble properly, you should experiment to find the precise speed for each spoon to perform its best. When casting a spoon anglers will cast 10 to 20 feet beyond the area they believe the fish are and retrieve through the strike zone. For flat line trolling from behind a boat the speed and amount of line out should be the main consideration, as well as in using depth control rigging such as downriggers and dipsey divers.

rattle_spoon Rod Action with Spoons
Dependent on the species you’re targeting, small spoons for stream trout, larger spoons for bass, pike and salmon or vertical jigging for walleyes the preferred choice when casting/jigging spoons is a stiff tipped fast action rod. Ultra sensitive, soft action rods are not recommended as they do not telegraph the fish strike as quickly a fast action rod will accomplish. Your success in using spoons is to immediately set the hook upon feeling a fish bite.

Spoons & Leaders
Anglers using casting, weedless or trolling spoons should attach their lines via a leader with a ball bearing swivel and snap or a combination snap ball bearing swivel.This allows freedom of movement for the spoon and will keep the fishing line twist to a minimum. For surface and jigging spoons the best is to tie directly to the eyelet or snap. Both will work better without too much play at the lure line connection.

pike1Spoon Attractors
The main fish attracting component on a spoon is the flash, some spoons have additional attractors placed on the spoon or are added by the angler, they are: Clickers: Two small willow spinners on split rings located the end of spoon for vibration and noise. Flippers: A small oblong piece of plastic (red or yellow) for added color attached on the split ring and hook. Trailers: For added color and profile Feathers / Tied Tail / Soft Plastic or Pork Rind.

Spoon Colors
If you ever had the opportunity to open Grand Pa’s old metal tackle box it would be safe to say you would find quite a few of the traditional red and white casting spoons that where popular back in the 1940’s – 50’s. Following the same path as crank bait lure companies spoon manufactures have over the years introduced hundreds of new colors patterns and finishes using prism, holographic, glow and glitter all to enhance  vibrant colors and flash of spoons.

In selecting spoon colors to build your tackle assortment, the choices can be overwhelming but some colors have been tried and true over the years. For casting spoons in clear or slighty stained water the classic colors of red and white with nickel back, black and white with nickel back, yellow five of diamonds in red with brass back, and combinations of nickel/silver – gold/brass are your best bet. On stained or darker water use, firetiger with brass back or orange/yellow and nickel combinations.

For trolling spoons on Wawang Lake the universal best color is all silver or gold with including combinations of red/white, yellow or green hues to mimic the forage of perch or herring.  Listed below is a reference guide to help you identify the common types of spoons and how they are used:

Traditional Casting Spoons

CASTING

Stamped metal casting spoons are also known as Traditional or Canadian spoons. All display the distinctive back and forth wobble action as they run underwater based on their oval shaped cupped bodies. Casting spoon sizes range from ultra light 1/36 ounce for panfish up to over 3 ounces for big muskies, pike and lake trout. The most popular sizes are 1/4-3/4 ounce used for bass, walleyes and pike. All casting spoons have either a treble or a single (siwash) hook attached with a spilt ring which allows the hook to swing freely as the spoon wobbles.

Trolling Spoons

TROLLING
Trolling spoons are much thinner and lighter than casting spoons, a typical 3″ trolling spoon only weighs about a 1/8 ounce which makes them too light for casting.. They are designed to be fished using a depth control trolling system such as off a downrigger or diving plane. With the wide fluttering action they are an excellent lure choice for walleyes.

Weedless Spoons

WEEDLESS
When fishing in thick cover, aquatic weeds, wood and logs, you can’t beat using a weedless spoon to provoke a fish strike. Most feature a single hook design welded on the body with a wire guard to prevent most snags. Experiment with different retrieve methods. Try twitching and pausing letting the spoon settle into open holes. Or straight retrieve over and through the cover. Tip the hook with a trailer for added attraction using a soft plastic grub or pork rind. Weedless spoons come in 1/4 ounce up to 1-1/8 ounce.

Surface Spoons

SURFACE
When conditions are right during the summer months, large predator fish like pike will take refuge in thick cover. This is an ideal situation for using surface spoons. When cast over heavy matted vegetation the spoon floats with the hook riding upward avoiding being caught up on snags. Most surface spoons are made from plastic’s with a few in wood with having an added attractor, mainly rubber skirts. When fishing surface spoons point the rod tip directly at the spoon whether you’re retrieving straight or using a jerk pause method. Upon a fish strike, never set the hook until you feel the pressure of the fish, then set the hook. As with all surface lures fish have a tendency to miss the lure, keep the lure moving even if the fish misses usually they will come back to strike again.

Jigging Spoons

JIGGING
When you locate a deep water school of fish such as walleye on your electronics, one of the best presentations to reach them is vertically jigging. Jigging spoons are made of metal or tungsten, are flat, thick and heavy and flash when jigged. They are designed to get down quickly reaching the deep water holding fish. When fishing jigging spoons all of the action is applied by the angler using short jerks to encourage strikes, but keep in mind many strikes happen on the fall of the jigging spoon as well. Keep a watch on your line as it falls, if it stops or twitches set the hook. The best tackle for jigging spoons is low stretch line of 12-20 lbs with a medium to medium heavy fast action rod.

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FISHING PERSPECTIVE

Looking for a great fishing lake that’s away from it all?  Then look no farther than Wawang Lake Resort and get back to nature where it’s never changed!

perspective

Join us for some OUTSTANDING Fishing

WAWANG LAKE RESORT

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Bucktail Jigging For Weed Walleye

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When walleye head to the shade of the salad, or cruise along the edge of vegetation, a bucktail jig can be your greatest tool for seducing them to strike. Not only is the undulating hair a visual stimulant, but also the erratic cadence of the bait as it is ripped and jigged with vigor.  Working bucktails is a different game than with regular jigs, but the technique speaks for itself with the big results you’ll be rewarded with.

2A standard bucktail jig is comprised of a lead head, with layers of bucktail tied and glued to the collar of the bait. Strands of tinsel are often interwoven, adding an additional aspect in terms of visual attraction. When moving, the hair forms a streamlined body, replicating a baitfish perfectly.   At rest the hair fans out, adding a different dimension in terms of appearance.  In comparison to a jig and plastic, the bucktail is far superior in terms of weedlessness, making them an excellent choice when the cover becomes thick and the walleye go into hiding.

The Laws of Rip Jigging

Rip jigging is a specialized technique that can produce astounding results.   The premise is simple:  flip a bucktail jig out twenty feet or so.   Let it make contact with the bottom vegetation, then give a quick and sharp snap of the rod, breaking the jig free from the snag and sending it up and above the cover. Repeat process. Depending on the mood of the fish, rips can be positively violent or more controlled.   You will find that the warmer the weather, the more aggressive you can be.RiverWalleye0916_GulpGrub

Walleye are an opportunistic feeder. They will conceal themselves in the thickest of   cover, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting baitfish as it swims by. Ripping a bucktail jig through the salad will easily get their attention (due to the   commotion it causes) and make them commit to the speedy meal before it gets away. Depending on the mood of the fish, they will either smack it as it breaks free from the green stuff, or rise to engulf it as it slowly falls back down. This is one technique that has worked well is the fall period. Fish will raise their activity level and feedbag at this time, and when the wind howls and the fish move shallow, you can definitely get into a bunch of them – BIG ones too! In terms of tipping options for rip jigging – go the route of none.   Minnows and worms won’t last long with the constant weed contact, and due to the speed of the retrieve (and split second reaction time),  it doesn’t makes much of a difference in terms of catch rates.

Dunking For Fish

Although it may seem unsuitable dunking the weed pockets for walleye is a tried and true technique. Shallow water and expansive weed flats make up the playing field for this tactic, and a stout rod and bucktail jigs round out the arsenal. Pounding depths between four and 10-feet is your best option, and clear water is always your best bet. Work weed flats and clumps with the wind or an electric motor, lowering a heavy bucktail jig into every hole and edge you drift over.  Let it sink directly to bottom, and give it a few lifts and drops before moving on. (leave the bait in each hole for at least ten seconds before trying the next.) Walleye will bucktailsituate themselves on these edges, both inside and out, pouncing on any bait that free falls into their lair. Visually, this is a fun and exciting tactic to employ, as most fish are actually observed sucking up the bait in the blink of an eye, and quickly charging back into the weeds! A lightening quick hook set and medium-heavy rod is recommended if you hope to put a net under the belly of any of them. Tipping your jig with a minnow or worm is an excellent choice for this short-line tactic, as the fish has more time to be convinced to strike, and scent can be a contributing factor for that.

Swimming Them In When walleye are scattered over weed flats, and the vegetation is low and uniform in height, swimming a bucktail jig back to the boat can be a hot ticket. The rules are simple: cast your bait out and start reeling in, keeping your jig just above the weeds, and imparting the odd lift or two into your retrieve. This will allow you to cover large areas of water, and help you pick off those fish that are actively cruising while feeding. Your presentation will resemble a minnow making its way along bottom, and an easy meal in the eyes of our yellow predator.

Top Ten Tips For Bucktail Fishing

1.  For clear water conditions, match the hatch when it comes to colour. Murky water requires brighter hues.
2.  Braided line gets the nod for working bucktails in the weeds.
3.  Check line regularly throughout the course of the day.
4.  Apply ample amounts of scent to the hair of the bait.
5.  Choose high quality jigs that sport strong and laser sharp hooks.
6.  In rough conditions, choose brighter colours that will aid in attracting fish better.
7.  Lighter jigs work better for swimming, while heavier jigs work best for ripping and dunking.
8.  Heavy equipment is key. This is no place for ultralight combos or low diameter line.
9.  Watch for line movement or “bumps.” This can often signal a fish.
10.  Take note of where fish are found. Then search for other areas on the lake that are similar in make up.

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MOON PHASES – SOLUNAR PERIODS

super-moon-2011-tim-mccord-entiat-wash

Full Moon or Dark Moon? Major and minor solunar periods? Which is best? Does any of this moon mumbo jumbo make any real sense nor does it actually work? These are legitimate questions asked by thousands of anglers each year, and they deserve concrete answers backed up by some bonafide data. Yet as much as pro anglers endorse the effectiveness of moon charts and outdoor publications of every niche’ continue to print them, rarely does either source validate these solunar claims with data.

It’s not hard to find a solunar table of some kind. Nearly every fishing publication today publishes some kind of monthly solunar table, moon chart, activity calendar, action graph, or other similar version. All of these tables, charts, and calendars claim to predict daily feeding activity of fish with accordinance to moon and solar influences. Yet, so many other anglers, rarely find any consistent correlation with most of these references.

The real secret, to solar/lunar influences on a daily basis was nothing more than knowing when the sun and moon rose and set on a 24 hour basis. That’s right, it was simply a matter of knowing, to the minute, when the sun came up and went down, and when the moon came up and went down each and every day. Our fishing log revealed without question that more fish were active during a 90 moon_from_earthminute window surrounding each one of these four daily influences.

Most of the solar/lunar charts, tables, and graphs you see depicted in today’s publications do NOT reveal nor coincide with these four vital factors:

  1. sun rise
  2. sun set
  3. moon rise
  4. moon set.

Yet it doesn’t take an astrologist to figure out how important the rise and set of both the sun and moon has to be.

It’s certainly no secret that feeding movements of both fish and game have been traditionally accepted as key during dawn and dusk — this correlates with sun rise and sun set. Moon rise and set is a bit more tricky to key in on though since they can often occur at mid-day or midnight. Overcast weather can also make it impossible to see a moon rise or set, and of course a dark/new moon is not visible to begin with. This information is readily available in several national weather publications.

Carol

 The other “super secret” is the predictable frequency of big fish catches during the peak moon phases of full and moon.  Specifically, a lot more big northern pike and walleye were taken right on the actual scheduled calendar day of both the full or new (dark) moon peak, and continued for a three to five day stretch afterwards. In other words, if the full moon peak is on July 2nd, July 2nd thru 7th have great potential for trophies.

Backing up a bit, the four daily factors previously discussed

  • (the rise and set of both the sun and moon) inside each one of these predictable monthly moon peaks
  • (four days on the back side of the full or new moon) further nails it down.

In other words, you want to plan your fishing trips to hit the peak of the full or new moon. Then you want to be fishing on your favorite big fish spots during the daily rise and set of both the sun and moon.

Finally, a third factor that really adds impact to this entire solunar secret is that unpredictable third influence is local weather. Whenever a local weather change coincides with the daily rise or set of either the sun or moon, during a peak monthly moon period, BIG things happen in bunches. BIG things meaning BIG FISH. For example, a severe summer T-storm right at sunset, and just before moon rise during the new moon period and it’s almost a sure bet that you  could land a big pike or the year’s biggest catch of a lunker walleye.  Or just as good – sit by a steep rocky shoreline with some spawning ciscoes right at the start of a storm in the just after sunrise and right before moon set during a full moon period. Big pike and big walleyes, will be snappin’.

Could there be a fourth factor? Absolutely. In fact, there might even be a 5th or 6th. However, an easy-to-detect 4th factor of influence that adds even more impact to an already good situation is a change in the photo period, or laymen’s terms — a change in season. 120403111607Photo periodism is actually the measured ratio of daylight to darkness. The most drastic changes in the photo period occur in the spring and fall, but mini-differences are detected inside all seasons which are quickly detected thru their eyes and transmitted to their pituitary gland. The responses to these changes in the photoperiod trigger sexual responses such as reproduction and the development of eggs. This, in turn, also triggers increased movement and feeding binges by normally less active trophy fish.

The simple rise and set of both the sun and moon has far more impact than any other daily sun or moon position. That is, bar none, the single most important daily triggering factor of both fish and game.

Monthly peaks in both the full and new moon are a second factor definitely worth considering. When fish of all sizes are feeding infrequently due to a prolonged streak of bad local weather conditions, that small “window” of three to four days right after the actual moon peaks, full or new, may be the only time that the largest fish of any species is truly catchable. Fishing during the daily rise or set of the sun and moon during these key monthly moon phases is paramount.

Weather is also a legitimate third factor, and helps to elevate the impact of the daily rise and set of the sun or moon. It further elevates the entire realm of big fish possibilities when all three factors happen at relatively the same time. A changing weather pattern combined with a good monthly moon phase and rise or set of either sun or moon can activate some major movement from big fish. If all of these things happen during a good photoperiod, LOOK OUT! This is when the biggest fish of the year are generally caught. If you’re serious about taking such a fish,   start really paying attention to the real scoop on moon phases.   The simple rise and set of both the sun and moon has far more impact than any other daily sun or moon position. That is the single most important daily triggering factor of both fish and game.

45 inch northern

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Fall Time at Wawang Lake

Take a little time to enjoy our fall colors at Wawang Lake…….

 

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Pike – Locations & Tackle

Seasonal patterns, habitat preferences, tackle selection — understanding these basics will help you connect with more pike over the course of a season.

While pike fishing isn’t an exact science, there are some basic tactics and skills that will put more fish in your boat.

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The northern pike — or “water wolf” in some circles — is a predatory fish that holds a healthy appetite, both for chowing down and battling tough. Pike can reach formidable weights, but even those relatively small in size are capable of torrid line peels and acrobatic jumps.

Fishing for northern pike is certainly not a science, but there are some basic tactics and skills involved that will ultimately lead to more fish — both on the end of your line and in the boat. Here are some suggestions for those that want in on the action.

Equipment Considerations – THINK BIG

Wawang_Pike_RodsWhen chasing northern pike, the equipment one chooses can often be paramount to the success one achieves. Beefy tackle is definitely recommended, and bait cast combos get the nod all the way.

A standard pike rod would be a 7′ medium-heavy action stick. This should cover most of the bases, although if the baits you throw are hefty (and the fish grow big in your waters), you may want to upgrade that stick to a heavy-action model.

Try to choose a rod with a lot of backbone throughout the bottom half, but with some limberness towards the top. This will ensure better casting capabilities, but with the toughness to back up a hard-fighting fish.

Bait cast reels should be dependable and tough, with a silky-smooth drag. A gear ratio of 6.3:1 or 7.0:1 is most definitely preferred, as this will allow you to burn buck tails or spinner baits back to the boat in an effortless manner.

Line choices are simple — mono-filament or braid. If going the route of mono, choose a strength of at least twenty-pound test. For braid, the standard is a minimum of fifty-pound. Regardless of which you prefer, a leader is a must when attaching main line to lure. Wire leaders between a foot and eighteen-inches in length will cover all bases and can be purchased in either wire versions or heavy fluorocarbon styles (80lbs +). The length of your leader should be longer when trolling as opposed to casting. By religiously using a leader, the chances of teeth and gill rakers slicing through your line are dramatically reduced, leading to more fish and fewer lost lures.

Careful handling and a quick release helps ensure fish live to fight another day.

Spring Locations
Northern pike spawn during the early spring in shallow water, often when ice still coats the lake. The period directly after ice out can often be your best bet for catching large fish, as the majority of post spawners will linger in this skinny water for some time, regaining energy and replenishing lost body fat. Most shallow back bays will yield the greatest concentrations of fish, and many can be sight fished.

As fish make their way out of the shallows, they will begin to stage on the first structure point they can locate. This can take the form of emergent weed beds, points, or the first drop-off situated in the main body of water. Finding these prized gems can often be easy, as working your boat outwards from the bay will have you stumbling upon the prime real estate quite easily.

Summertime Patterns
The summer months will see a definite switch in pike locational patterns, starting with a flurry of activity in healthy weed beds and lines. Finding the green stuff near points and shoals can bring about positive results, as the “hunter-instinct” in this fish will see them patrolling the edges actively.

As the water warms and the season progresses, large fish will begin their descent to the more favorable conditions that can be found in deeper water. Many of these pike will roam in a nomadic manner, intercepting bait schools as they travel freely and unimpeded. Pike anglers may scratch their heads at this time of year, but covering a lot of water in order to connect with fish is often part and parcel of this puzzle.

Small to medium-sized northern pike will still call the weed areas home and can often be counted on for rousing games of tug-of-war when the big girls have seemingly disappeared from the radar.

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Fall Tactics
As the water cools and the leaves change color, pike will again begin to move throughout the water system. In many cases, they will return to the same weed beds they occupied initially after leaving the shallows back in the spring.

Slow tapering flats holding a mixture of vegetation will be your best bet, while the healthiest remaining weeds should get your most attention. Some fish will still roam the depths, so don’t overlook a wide variety of water when searching for the water wolf.

Selecting lures for pike fishing isn’t tough; lure choices are quite universal.

Stocking the Tackle Box
Outfitting your box for pike fishing is not a tough chore. Lure choices are quite universal, and having a small selection of baits at your disposal will not break the bank. Make your choices from the following list, and be prepared to hang on tight to that rod.

Spoons
Spoons have been a standard on the pike scene for years, and for good reason. Simply put — this bait is guaranteed to put fish in the boat. There’s something intoxicating in the wobbling and flash of a spoon that drives a northern mad, and they will often strike these pieces of metal with reckless abandon.

Choose spoons in the 4 to 5-inch size, and give the nod to white/red, silver, yellow, and gold hues. A slow, lazy retrieve will often work best, with occasional pauses and flutters to catch the curiosity of any following fish.

Nancy Shemon - Ely, MN C&R this 45" northern pike caught at Wawang Lake

Nancy Shemon – Ely, MN C&R this 45″ northern pike caught at Wawang Lake

Spinner baits and Buck tails
Over sized bass spinner baits account for a lot of pike. Their body and hook design allows for an almost weedless presentation, which can work wonders when the fish are up tight to cover and in the shallows. White and chartreuse are two colors that top the list, with orange and black also being effective. Go with willow leaf or large Colorado blades for maximum flash and vibration, in either silver or gold colors.

Four to six-inch musky buck tails can really get the attention of pike, and work equally as well for both of these predator species. Their large profile, fast speed, and flashy blades make for an easy, yet effective bait to throw. Choose contrasting body and blade variations, sticking closely with the colors suggested above. Straight retrieves work best with these lures, with high-speed cranking or bulging being two of my favorite ways to fish this bait.

Jerk Baits
Minnow-shaped crank baits represent a pike’s favorite prey and can often trigger strikes when other baits fail. A five or six-inch floating or suspending crank twitched back to the boat is all that’s needed for your retrieve. Fire tiger, silver, blue, perch and baby bass are all proven colors, and utilizing baits with rattle chambers will make them even more attractive. Experiment with diving depths, and keep in mind to always run your bait higher in the water column than the actual level of the fish.

Top Waters
In terms of excitement, nothing can compare with the surface strike of a northern pike. Over sized buzz baits, walk-the-dog style lures (think Super Spook), and large prop-baits will all bring a feeding frenzy to the top.

Predominantly thought of as a shallow water lure, tossing top waters over weed beds, off points, and along rock and weed shoals can bring about positive results. Slow and steady is often the key to action.

Slug-Gos and Senkos are two popular soft plastic sticks, and both work well when targeting northern pike. Primarily used during the spring and early summer months, the tantalizing fall and wiggle of these baits can trigger some pretty hefty strikes. Often thrown to finicky fish, or those that have been spotted lurking in the skinny water, a soft plastic stick can fool even the most wary of fish.

Six-inch baits are a good choice with white, chartreuse, and pink being optimum colors. Rig these baits wacky (through the belly) or Tex-posed (through the nose) with a 4/0 worm hook.

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MORE BOTTOM BOUNCING TIPS

Bouncing – A Little Trick
RR-Slip-Bouncer-CardAs the water temperatures rise to (some of the highest levels of the year) the fish’s metabolism is really mounting and they will chase baits to a much greater degree than any other time. At this time you can really slam some nice fish and do it quickly. Add two 2 ounce bouncers and run a willow leaf blade. Here we are not going to worry too much about following contour but more relevantly described as being in a depth range. The reason fish are occupying more of the water column is because the temperature is more equally distributed. Some will be deep, some shallow and some in between.  Run this method in about ten feet of water. You are probably wondering about why so much weight, because you’re going to crank up the speed.   Remember that speed and weight determine line angle. We want to be able to feel the bottom and we don’t want to get hung up by having too much line angle. The fish will really hit on this type of presentation and you can nail some real beauties too.  Speed or the lack of it can provoke strikes.   In the summer, fast is better as a rule. The key here is speed, being relatively shallow (especially in stained water), and not worrying about the exact depth. You will be amazed on the amount of territory you can cover working your bouncer like this.

Bouncing – Another Trick
Target the fish that have laterally suspended off a hump. A fish has two choices when moving off a hump, move down or move out.   Most move out, rather than down. However most fisherman move down that could prove unproductive. This is regarding the deep water humps, something in the 20′ range for example. Anyway, when you are bouncing a hump or a shoreline and you come to the end or the drop off to deep water, just hold your bouncer at the same level you did when bouncing the hump and tool around out over deep water. You will be amazed at the fish you will catch suspended, they usually run fairly good size and hit like a ton of bricks. So just run right off the edge and hold the bouncer at the same level as the hump. Make a figure eight type of maneuver with your boat, and then go back on the hump and repeat. It is good to mark the edge of the drop off with a marker.


Bouncing – In the Spring
northland-fishing-a-bottom-bouncerSpringtime is a time of change from hard water to cold water to warmer water. At first when the water is very cold, just after ice out, the fish are deep because it is warmer and more consistent. However, as water warms as opener arrives, the eyes have moved shallow to eat, spawn, rest, and eat again.   Now in the early morning as the water has been cooling, they may be a little deeper, but as the sun warms it up they will be shallower.   What is shallow, this would be around ten feet to as little as six inches. Using bottom bouncers in the spring, it was the best way to find constantly moving fish.

Fish will hold to a spot as long as there is food. However, once that diminishes, they are on the move again. The best way to find them quickly is to pull a bouncer. Use Colorado’s (medium to small) for this. For weight, something in the 1 oz range works nice. Fish the flats and points and hit the bays, the shorelines between bays and key on fish holding spots. The main shorelines are the ticket as the off shore humps are not going yet. That happens a little later on. Once fish are found, you can crank them or jig them or just keep bouncing. This works so much better than randomly checking areas with a jig which is way just slow.   Use live bait the rest of the season as well. However, live bait is a personal preference and we don’t discount the successes of artificial baits. They all can work well. Leeches can be iffy in the early spring because they have a tendency to curl and a little trick is to step on them to make them run straight in the cold water. Minnows are great, use one hook snell’s with a stinger (if needed).

Late spring in Canada is June, which is summer in the lower 48 states. However, it still can be brisk up Ontario. Fish start along the shorelines and move to the center of the lake as the water warms up. So the first humps to get action are the ones closest to the main shorelines. Check these as the shoreline action begins to tail off. The water should be in the mid sixty degree range and the walleye will really be turned on.

Bouncing In the Summer
As the water warms up even more, and the water temp becomes more equal from surface down into the depths, the fish have more options for food and comfort, and safety of course. It is this time of year that the fish have moved to their summer haunts. The majority have now moved from the main lake shorelines and utilizing the off shore humps, flats and island shorelines. However, a few will still be along the main lake shorelines and bays.  Find the 20+ depths to be quite important at this time of year. Not to say that some won’t be shallower, but the bulk of the population will be deeper most of the time. However, it depends on the forage base. Walleye will be feeding on whatever is easiest, so if they are keying on shallow bait fish, then they will be 222Page2_GregHargraves_pitch-361x430shallow.  However, this is more of an exception then a rule.  Some years, a shallow bite will be stronger than other years, and some years it seems that they are all shallow. You can actually site fish them with cranks or light jigs. But once again, this is the exception. Work the main lake shorelines and off shore islands. Especially the ones with round rock about basketball size as opposed to hard granite shorelines. These round rock shorelines give the forage places to hide and the eyes are there –  looking for them. With a bouncer, you can quickly cover ground and locate the active fish. Then work that area. Speed can be increased as the fish are now willing to chase a bait, and it will trigger inactive fish in many cases. Speed will be more productive than going slow. Slow is for early season and late fall.

Flats – the Walleye Secret Structure
One of the most common areas that are almost completely overlooked by anglers are flats. One of the best spots can be a long flat surrounded by deep water. Sometimes they appear to be featureless, yet from the beginning of summer until fall, these spot hold an abundance of walleye. As an example check for islands that hold a lot of gulls.

Anyway spots like that can be very productive. There is almost always fish on them. Flats are never totally devoid of structure, they just look that way. But there are little depressions, troughs, a boulder here and there, maybe a clump of weeds. Usually soft bottom, they also hold all kinds of bugs and worms which the eyes will root out. Flats are easy to find, they are the areas on the map where the break lines are spread quite a bit a part as compared to the sharp breaks where the break lines are close together. Ideally fish flats in the 15-20 foot range. Once you find one of these flats, it is almost certain that you will have it all to yourself.

Now, how is a jig guy going to cover a flat?  He’s not. You might think that some anglers over doing the bottom bouncer presentation.   You are right, it’s the best search tool for walleye.  However, jigs, spinner rigs, and cranks all play apart in obtaining the best success. There is a time for each and fisherman who only fishes on way is only playing with half the cards and will be consistently out fished by a versatile angler who uses all methods.

 

Bouncing – When doesn’t it Work
Bottom bouncing will not work well when you are fishing very shallow or need a horizontal presentation. You are better off fishing with jigs or crank baits in those circumstances. Jigging can work better when the fish are tightly grouped on a piece of structure, like an inside turn for example. Of course, the bouncer is probably what found them for you to begin with. Bouncing is not the way to go on very small humps, however very small humps don’t hold many fish anyhow.

 
One might say that bouncing is about as exciting as watching ice melt. However, catching fish is very exciting and bouncing allows for catching.   It was very rewarding and makes a remarkable difference to any fishing trip.  Remember to be versatile, keep it simple, and have fun!

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Strategies for Lazy Walleye

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They’re there. You know they’re there. In deeper water, you can see them on your fish finder. Or, in shallow water too skinny to move your boat over the fish without spooking them, you simply know from past experience they’re around. Perhaps some subtle bumps or nudges — but no hook-ups — indicate walleyes are present but just not biting. Or at least just not biting anything that moves. Here’s a simple solution. Don’t move your bait. In other words, bring out your dead.

Dead sticking — which basically means tossing a jig out, letting it sink to bottom, and then not moving it for a l-o-n-g time, equates to a war of patience and nerves between your giant-size genius brain on one end of the line and a walleye’s peanut-size brain, staring at the other. Guess who has the advantage?  Definitely not you!   In such conditions, accept some simple facts.

First, walleyes react according to instinct, not thinking. If weather and water and fishing pressure combine and conspire to shut off the bite, amazingly, they’re often all that way.  There’s no way you will get all your fishing buddies to all agree on exhibiting the same mood, based of course upon their superior intellect.

Second, because walleyes are reacting (or not reactive!) in negative fashion, you not only can’t outthink them, but you likely won’t be able to razzle-dazzle them with your array of fancy tackle and gadgets. So your best bet is to stick a food item in their faces and outwait them, hoping to trigger some form of subtle response through sheer time exposure rather than clever tactics.

What comes to mind?   Well, a slip bobber suspending a lively leech just off bottom is a likely candidate, drifted slowly and subtly through prospective spots. So too would be a split shot rig, with you casting a nose-hooked night-crawler on target, letting it descend to bottom, and allowing it to sit there, wiggling enticingly, with walleyes gathered ’round, eyeballing the worm. Occasionally, you could lift the rod tip a few feet to slide the rig a bit closer to the boat, take up slack, and then set the rod down again, waiting for the rod tip to bend, indicating a strike. Pretty darn patient, especially since both tactics would require first anchoring the boat.

27 (3)Are there any slightly more mobile and fractionally more aggressive tactics that might cover a teeny bit more water, especially up in the shallows? Enter dead sticking with a lightweight 1/8-ounce jig, tipped with minnow, half-crawler or leech. Or perhaps even a scented plastic tail (ala bass tactics) although the lack of motion inherent with this system definitely favors live bait in some form, due to its natural lively appearance, scent and taste, even when fished in place.

A DEADLY APPROACH To dead stick a small jig, you needn’t do much different that your normal lift-drop jigging retrieve back to the boat. Except, of course, for the excruciatingly long pauses between lifts of the rod tip. The key is having the confidence to believe a walleye is out there looking at your bait at all times, and to let it sit and soak and tease and tempt and turn that aggravation and exasperation back against the fish, letting the extended pause work in your advantage to eventually fool the walleye into closing the gap, flaring its gills and lightly sucking in the jig. You likely won’t feel much. It might be a tap, but more likely just a sudden slight weight on the end of the line. Tighten up slack while lowering your rod tip to horizontal — if it isn’t already there — and then sweep set the hook.   Thus you should try to minimize slack at all times without tempting yourself to unnecessarily jiggle and wiggle the jig.

25.5 (2)Remember, the extended pause with the jig anchoring the wriggling live bait to the bottom is key to getting bites. The nice thing about dead sticking is that you don’t have to anchor, at least on a calm day. Rather, use your electric trolling motor to creep along, then stop or hover, and make a series of fan casts across a general area to test for the presence of fish. Hopefully, you’ve already established that they’re nearby, because this isn’t a method to be used to locate fish, due to the limited amount of water you’re able to cover. But if you can force yourself into the mode of 30-second pauses between subtle lift-drops of the rod tip, making each cast last at least two or three minutes, then you’re in the dead zone.

The perfect tactic for tempting reluctant biters spread across shallow rock or gravel flats within or adjoining spawning areas; sparse sand grass flats emerging from sandy bottoms; rocky or wood-lined reservoir shorelines where walleyes move shallow to feed aggressively in windy conditions and may linger inactive when the weather turns calm; or basically anytime walleyes are up shallow, skittish and not responding to presentations that move. Turn the tables. Fish lures so slowly that they’re virtually motionless. Bring out your dead.

OTHER DEADLY APPROACHES Think about it. Are you fishing through walleyes that aren’t biting? (It’s a terrible thought, isn’t it?) But is there a nagging feeling at the nape of your neck that your offerings are going unappreciated?

Tone things down, speed wise and action wise. Instead of buzzing along a drop-off with a bottom bouncer, spinner and crawler, switch to a bouncer and plain snell, and creep and crawl along, barely moving, even pausing occasionally. Ultraslow movement requires short lines, with the bouncer barely ticking or slightly suspended above bottom, to prevent it from toppling over at rest. Consider using an upright floating bouncer like the Today’s Tackle Foam Walker, which stands up at rest.

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Extend the principle to other presentations. Casting neutrally buoyant minnow-imitating crank baits isn’t that far unrelated from dead sticking; you pull, then p-a-u-s-e, before pulling again, letting the bait hang there before a walleye’s eyes. The suspense kills them. A three-way rig lets a floating jig head or simple live bait snell hang in place before a river ‘eye. A drop shot rig suspends a live bait or plastic tail above bottom in lakes and reservoirs. Lack of movement is often a key trigger for catching reluctant walleyes, which brings about a closing thought.  Chances are that by this stage in life, however, you’ve been shut down enough times to learn that smooth opening lines don’t guarantee a favorable response and, in fact, can be counter productive. Sometimes, you just have to sit down and do nothing but look good in order to attract attention.

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Bottom Bouncing Techniques

Baitcaster_ComboThere is one rod and reel set up that some anglers swear by and say works better than any of the other type of equipment – the bait caster.  Then there are anglers who swear by other types of equipment and use them very well, but accordingly to the bait caster operator, those other anglers have to work much harder to accomplish the same productivity.

A bait caster with a flipping switch will allow you to meter out line by engaging the thumb bar and thumbing out the line, when bottom contact has been made, release the thumb bar and the reel automatically engages in the static position – or simply put the spool is locked up. This allows for one hand operation and helpful when bouncing all day. It helps you from getting tired too. The drag should be set at medium strong tension, you can pull out line, but too not easily.

A recommended rod is the St. Croix PC 66M. This rod is 6’6” with medium action and a fast tip. Pull 1 ½ to 2 oz of lead because the depths worked in the summer will be in the 20′ range. That is the home of summer walleye. Sure you may find them deeper, or shallower, but they spend most of their time in that 20’range.   Remember not all medium rod actions are created equal. This rod has fast tip and plenty of backbone. If you are going to try another rod, hang a two ounce bouncer off the tip and shake the rod up and down. It will be obvious if the rod is too whippy and this you don’t want.trilene xt  You want to see a little bit of bend but not a bow in the rod.  The drag of the spinner and the line will add further weight to the tip.   There are many types of line out there but one to consider using would be 10 # Trilene XT.  It’s tough and it stands up under abrasive conditions but try to stay away from the no stretch hi-tech lines.  There is no give with those types, so the rod has to handle all the shock.   A lot of ripped lips and lost fish is the outcome and we don’t want that.

There are excellent anglers who use a spinning rod and reel for the bottom bouncing presentation, but with bouncing it’s harder to operate spin cast reels than the bait casting setup.  However, if this is your choice of equipment here is a few tips to remember.

  • The rod should have a fast tip and enough backbone to handle the 2 oz.
  • The medium sized spinning reels work good, don’t go to small otherwise you won’t be able to put enough line on the reel and will be quickly adding new line.
  • The best way to let line out is to definitely not let the rig free fall. All this will accomplish is to put twist in the line and create a jumbo mess between the line and the rig. Line needs to be metered out.   Let four or five loops come out from the reel and then interject your finger against the spool. This will stop the descent, pause for a second, and then do the same thing until you find the bottom.
  • A controlled descent is the only way. Even though this rig isn’t the easiest setup it is do-able, it is workable, and for those who only have one type of rod, it can be done.

Bouncers, Snell’s & Blades

walgrthrMost of the lakes in northwestern Ontario are rocky bottoms generally and if you drag a bouncer you are going to get hung up, or, if pulling a Snell that is too long and consequently rides too low, same thing will happen.  A preferred type is the Lite Bite setup by Quick Change because the line runs through a weight snap and allows you to feed line out on lazy fish.  Similar to the way line goes through a Lindy Rig weight. The bouncer is straightforward with a single wire strand with lead half way down.  Be sure to carry weights from 1/2 oz. to 2 oz., lighter for shallower fishing and heavier for 20+ depths.

Snells in the 30″ range works best but a little more difficult in clearer waters.  The bouncing style used is to run the bouncer a foot off the bottom and then bounce it on the bottom to a cadence.   The snell should be approximately 30”  and should ride lower than the bouncer; it’s right in the fish zone then.  Snells with either two or three hooks are most preferred. Hooks placed about 2.5 inches apart seem to hook up good. Of course, a Quick Change clevis is a must in order to change blades often and eventually finding the hot blade for catching.

DEEP CUP NEON COLORS FLUORESCENTSnell test is 14 pounds, but can vary with your preference but always high quality mono, never Spider Wire.  For beads, use 4 or 5mm in a variety of colors.   Use a stacker bead with one bead ahead of it next to the clevis it’s easy to assemble and works just as well.

For blades carry a mixture of Colorado’s, Indiana’s, and willows—with equal amounts of each in small, medium (most), and large sizes.  Hammered colors worked best in nickel (silver), brass, gold, and copper. Plus, a mixture of the other colors.   Have a few darks for the dark days.   Use Colorado’s early in the season until the fish get warmed up and begin hitting.  Colorado’s are the preference of most blades. As the waters warms, speed up and use the slider———–the Indiana. Then during the warmest water of the season, run the fast ball—the willows.    Always remember to keep things simple and you’ll be sure to catch fish.

Bouncing is really a simple presentation, there is just a few important techniques that we’ll go over, and after one trip to Canada, you will have it down pat. Your fishing will never be the same, guaranteed and your fishing catching confidence will grow tremendously.

Bottom Bouncing – The Technique
Begin with 1 oz. of bouncer weight for every ten feet of depth fishing. Unless, there are special circumstances, such as running extra fast, then run heavier weights; sometimes two 2 oz. attached to the weight snap. You can attach more than one bouncer to a weight snap if you need to run heavier set ups.  For instance you have marked fish in 20’, which is a depth range that most common for summer fishing and where the walleye will be.   A good setup would be a 2 oz. bouncers a willow leaf. The fish will almost knock the rod out of your hands.

Be sure to have approximately a 40 degree line angle going into the water. Gives the best hook set and best bottom control. With too little line angle you won’t get a good hook set, and with too much angle you won’t get good bottom control, except a lot of snags.  Neither is desirable.  What determines line angle?   Bouncer weight and boat speed.

bottombouncerrigwhiteWith this type of set up use night-crawlers, leeches or minnow but many swear by crawlers in this instance. The new plastic worms or gulp will work too.  However, they won’t be as productive compared to fresh healthy live bait, but still good to use in a pinch.

In letting the line out, press the thumb bar and while keeping your thumb on the spool controlling the rate of decent, meter out the line until the rig makes contact with the bottom. Another key point here, if you let the rig free fall, you will get line twist and possibly a big mess besides and in some cases the rig will be rendered useless. So let the line out steady and slow.

Ok, you are on the bottom. Engage the reel, and lift up the rod tip up a foot. In a couple of seconds bounce the bottom. If you don’t feel the bottom, let out more line, not too much just enough to find the bottom. Engage the reel again and lift the rod tip up foot. Then bounce the bottom to a cadence, don’t drag it. The Snell will ride lower than the weight but will be in the prime fish zone and above the snags. Once you feel that tug, drop your rod tip back towards the fish and then slam it forward – setting the hook, hard.

If you get snagged, it is best to go back directly over the snag and rip straight up, it should come out fairly easily every time. If you try to rip it out from an angle, you will seldom get it loose.

When going through a school of fish and not catching, try changing blades, styles or both. Don’t hesitate to change blades. However, you can never underestimate a hammered finish blade that will outdo the other colors most of the time.  Once you master the techniques of bottom bouncing you will catch more fish than when jig fishing. Actually the best setup is using the bouncer to find them and if they are grouped switch over to jigging, otherwise stay with the bouncer. It is the best search tool on the Canadian Shield lakes to find and catch walleye.  It will transform an amateur into a pro very quickly.

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Tips: How To Work Three Top Pike Baits

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Topwater Lures

Many species are a blast to catch using topwater lures, but northern pike frequently charge baits with an unbridled aggression that is simply fascinating. The ever willing participants, pike are often eager to take a bait off the water’s surface because the presentation appears to them to be an easy meal.Here are three preferred topwater baits and tips on using them for pike.

Cigar, Or Walk-The-Dog, Lures

An all-time favorite topwater for pike is a walk-the-dog bait, such as Heddon’s Zara Spook or Rapala’s Skitter Walk.

Rapala-Skitter-Walk

Best fished with a stout baitcasting rod, you must impart a side-to-side swimming motion to the bait. Do this by twitching the rod tip down, then immediately raising it again. This causes the bait to jerk to the side. Raising the rod gives the lure slack line to pull as it glides. After a split-second pause, start another twitch to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other direction.   Continuous twitching results in side-to-side surface motion that causes a lot of commotion. The sight is often too much for pike to pass up.

TopRaider

A Topraider is a trophy-hunting topwater prop lure.

To share some tips on using these baits, one effective   tactic is mixing up the tempo of the twitches throughout the retrieve.   Slowing it down or speeding it up often triggers hits. If a fish swipes at a bait, but misses it you can often get a pike to hit again. One method is prolonging the pause between twitches. After some practice you can get the bait to dance in the strike zone for a while. This conveys an injured and disoriented fish. Pike will often return to hit again with this tactic.

Another option is continuing the retrieve and then casting back over the area again.   I’ve lost count of the number of pike I’ve got on a follow-up cast after they missed the bait the first time.

Prop Baits

imagesCARRGNJF

This pike hit a prop bait worked over a river weedbed

These baits are easy to work. Simply cast out and reel it   in on a steady retrieve. The lure’s metallic tail spins as you pull it through the water. This prop appendage creates a plopping sound and leaves a wake on the surface. The steady rhythm and straight path make it easy for pike to hone in on. A word of advice when working these lures: don’t retrieve them too quickly. The best tempo is often a pace just fast enough for the blades to be continuously turning.

An alternative to a steady retrieve with these lures is   using a twitch-pause pattern. This is particularly effective for lures with blades in the front as well as on the rear. The metallic sputtering caused by the twitch is extremely effective at attracting pike.

Buzzbaits

BUZZBAITS
Unlike the above lures, which often feature treble-hook clad models, buzzbaits are a single-hook lure. The up facing hook point makes a fairly weedless presentation. Buzzbaits have either metal or plastic blades   attached at one end of a wire form, which has a dressed hook at the lower end. These lures excel at fishing the shallow, weedy haunts pike frequently inhabit. I’ll cast them on the edge of lily pad bays, among sparsely growing rice or reed areas, and sunken wood zones. In fact, anywhere you think might hold pike are good places to cast buzzbaits. Bring it in on a fairly steady retrieve, but keep in mind twitches in the rod tip or changing the bait’s direction can trigger strikes.

43 INCH NORTHERN PIKE

When targeting pike with topwaters, remember that calm to slight ripple conditions are best. Don’t be afraid to try topwaters in small waves though because big fish often hunt in the turmoil caused by waves, and will still take surface lures. Pike are always surveying their habitat for easy meals; often, a topwater is one of the best lures to portray vulnerability. Not to mention that watching a northern hit a surface lure always gets the adrenaline flowing!

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