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Category Archives: Fishing TIPS

Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

 There are three times during the open-water period that can be considered prime for big pike.

Each of these windows of opportunity lasts from 10 to 14 days and is key for large-sized northern because during this time, the bigger fish of this species are more concentrated in the shallower water. Here’s where they can be found easily and caught with lures that allow anglers to cover some ground in their search. Once these big pike head to the cool depths where they spread out and suspend, finding and catching them requires tremendous amounts of luck. It’s better to time your fishing for big pike to these three periods to take advantage of factors that give the edge to the angler instead of the pike.

  1. The first period is right after ice-out, which can be a problem in many areas where the season is closed on inland waters.
  2. The second period is as the shallows warm, when the big pike transition from shallow water to deep water.
  3. The third is right before a water body turns over in the fall, when big northern will move up into shallow water after spending summer in the depths.

Right after ice-out, you find huge northern pike in the spawning areas.  These will be shallow weed-choked bays in the lake, and weedy backwater bays up the river.

Little northern aren’t hard to find and catch, but the big pike are a challenge and they put up one heck of a fight.  When you hook into a really nice pike, you can’t make any mistakes.

Don’t let the cold water temperatures right after ice-out deter you from using an approach that allows you to cover some ground. This is the perfect time to be tying on a spinner bait because it’s a lure that works well in shallow vegetation.

The pike move up into whatever vegetation is still standing from the previous year — and any newly emerging weed growth that can often be found in very shallow depths.   Use a 3/4-ounce spinner bait with a large Colorado blade.  This lure casts a long way and can be retrieved slowly, if that’s what’s necessary. You can also burn it a little faster just below the surface in the real shallow water.

pike2

Some of the pike will have already spawned, more than likely while ice still covered the surface. Others are still spawning or are preparing to.  Occasionally you may catch a big pike and you can tell is post-spawn, most of the really big pike after the ice has just gone out are still fat with eggs and just on the verge of spawning.    All trophy fish are released back to Wawang Lake.

It’s the transition period when the shallow shoreline regions are warming and the big northern are moving into the deeper, cooler water when most anglers get their first shot at big pike. This period usually falls into a two-week time frame a couple of weeks after the traditional opener. Anglers who can be on the water at this time can capitalize on big fish that are still in reaching distance for a spinner bait or crank bait.

It’s no secret that big pike like the colder water.  You will seldom find the bigger pike in the shallower regions in the lake during the summer months, because the water temperatures there are just too warm for their liking. If you miss this transition period, you’ll likely be into fall before you get another chance at a really big pike, because those bigger fish get hard to come by when they disappear into the depths.

This is a good time to get out Spoon plugs.  Any lake that has a well-defined deep weed line is a perfect candidate for Spoon plugs.

The Spoon plug is a lure that was promoted years ago by famous angler Buck Perry, and is a staple of many diehard big-pike anglers. It allows an angler to troll a weed line or break line precisely at speeds of 1 to 4 mph.

You can cover some ground and find out where those pike are, although during the transition, it’s more important to have your lure in the right place than worrying about the speed.   Those Spoon plugs will get the lure to the right depth and stay on the weed line, no matter what speed I find triggers the bite.

So how does an angler know when the transition starts and ends? Water temperature signals the start.  When the surface temperature hits about 67 degrees, you know it’s going to start pushing those fish out.  This could be early June during some years and early July in others. The weather is the biggest determinant in when this transition period occurs.

You can tell it’s over when the fish quit the bite.  You’ll have a week where the weed line and shallow rock piles are producing big pike with some consistency, then one day you go out there and they’re gone.

The pre-turnover period is when those big pike come out of the deep water as the shallow water cools, just prior to the lake rolling over.

Turnover is a tough time to call, which is why the guys who can get out on a body of water often generally hit this time just right. If you miss it, then there is a period for a couple of weeks after turnover when the fishing is tough all over a lake. It’s just luck and timing.

The big pike will be roaming over the tops of the vegetation, you’ll just want to be ticking the tops of the cabbage, coontail or milfoil with that spinner bait, and if the blade is just a nice slow thump, that’s perfect.

Back troll slowly over the vegetation, with only about 25 to 35 feet of line out — the line from the reel at a 45-degree angle toward the lure and the spinner bait right above the vegetation. By wearing a good pair of polarized glasses, an angler can watch the bait as it dances in and around the stalks and branches. As the boat moves from shallower to deeper water, drop the rod tip or lets out a little more line until the lure starts ticking weeds again.

If seeing an opening in the weeds, drop the rod tip and let the lure settle in.  It’s amazing how often you see the big pike react to the spinner bait and come out of a big pile of milfoil or coontail and attack that lure.

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These big pike are the top predators in a lake and they fear nothing at this point.   You’ll see them swim right into the prop wash to hit a spinner bait or spoon as it’s trolled out from the boat.

Back trolling allows more depth control.   It’s easier to get the speed down and work a depth more thoroughly when backing the boat.   If the pike are deeper switch to crank baits or Spoon plugs, then front-troll. But when pulling spinner baits over the tops of the weeds, back troll.

Open-water season in northern Ontario lasts about 28 weeks or so and the time frame for quality big-pike fishing is between five and six weeks, so it’s imperative that you be on the water for these peak times.   Those big pike don’t give you many opportunities, so you need to take advantage of every one.

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Vertical Jigging for More Fish

vertical-jigging-1Vertical jigging can be an invaluable technique, especially when it is placed into the mix with trolling, casting and static-line methods. It can be another powerful weapon in the angler’s arsenal, but, unfortunately, it is perhaps not used as frequently as it should be.

The advocates of vertical jigging state that not only is it a fun-filled way to while away the hours, but it is also a highly productive way to fish. Many anglers dramatically increase their success rate when they begin to use a vertical jig.

In fact, in some locations, vertical jigging is not simply one of the beneficial tactics, but it is the most productive method of fishing for walleye. The advantages of vertical jigging are numerous. For example, it is widely accepted as a cost-effective technique. In addition, it only requires a small amount of physical exertion and, most importantly, it is a basic approach that can be adopted by anybody.

The success of vertical jigging is made possible through the accuracy of the technique. Rather than trolling wide expanses of water, it is required that the angler does a little research first. By establishing the structure of the lake or river that you are fishing in, you can locate the positions that are most likely to contain the walleye. Of course, if you have radar equipment, then you will find pinpointing the walleye spots even more easy, but this is not necessary and a comprehensive map of the water should be sufficient.

vertical

There will be times when establishing the position of the fish leads you to the deep sections of the lake or river. If you are fishing for walleye in particularly deep waters, you may wish to consider using a partial glow head and spinner blade on your jig, as this is a great combination for deep fishing or trolling.

In terms of bait, when it comes to vertical jigging it really is a matter of choice. Any bait can be used, so, if you find that minnows, crawlers or leeches work best for you then, by all means, use any of those. Personal preference is such a large part of successful fishing.

More good news for beginners is that vertical jigging can allow for a margin of error. In other words, if you have let a walleye get away, but you know it is still under your boat, the vertical rig allows you to get right under the boat to try for a second chance. With many presentations, you may not expect to get a bite until the bait has reached the lakebed. However, with the vertical jig, you are just as likely to find success as the bait is on its way down. Subsequently, it is always a good idea to be prepared for those walleye.

Vertical jigging, or V-jigging as it is sometimes known, is an extremely enjoyable way to fish. It relies heavily on skill and technique, which is hugely satisfying for an angler. However, that does not mean to say that it is difficult to learn. Even beginners can take to vertical jigging and can be extremely successful with this method.

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Important Boating Tools

Boating demands a certain amount of gear for safety reasons, and to be ready for emergency repairs. To ensure you’re well prepared for the season, here are some essential boating tools and gear you should own.
boat-trailering

Towing Tools

You should always carry a towing kit for roadside repairs. It should include extra trailer light bulbs and fuses, a spare tire, jack, chocks, and tools.

towing_kitFrequently check trailer tires for wear. Top up air pressure and lubricate wheel bearings on a regular basis; having a grease gun and portable air compressor makes quick work of these duties. When leaving home or the launch, fasten tie-down and winch straps to the boat and inspect them regularly for wear (carry spares too in your kit). Lastly, secure items, such as oars and gas tanks, so they don’t move during travel.

Keep a tire pressure gauge in your boat and check your trailer and vehicle tires regularly for proper inflation.

Safety Gear
An important element of boat organization is proper safety equipment placement. A fire extinguisher is useless buried beneath a pile of items; it should always be within reach. It’s the same for PFDs and other safety gear, such as flares, whistles, throw ropes, etc. Also, learn to neatly loop rope to avoid tangles. Always check state safetyand national requirements for mandatory boating accessories based on the size of vessel or water you’re fishing.

Other Essential Supplies
Piggybacking on the above safety items, I also recommend storing the following in your boat: first-aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, spare sunglasses, various medications (to handle allergies, motion sickness, headaches, etc.), an emergency hook remover kit, a few water bottles and snacks, such as nuts and granola or energy bars. I keep these in various Ziploc-style bags stored within a sealed, plastic tote for extra water protection. Label plastic totes with permanent black marker for quick identification.

 

A Proper Supply Of Boat Tools
Just like safety items, you should also carry a tool kit (screwdriver, ratchet sets, pliers, etc.) for any on-the-water repairs you might need to perform. I carry a spare prop, pins, spark plugs, and oil for my main motor and the first two items in this list for my electric one.

I also have a small plastic tote for miscellaneous items that have served me well over the years. It contains electrical tape, a knife, zip ties, plastic bags, a spare flashlight and batteries, absorbent towel, and plenty of spare fuses. Jumper cables are also good to have in case you need to boost your boat’s cranking battery. In the past two years I’ve seen this happen three times, all in different boats. This happens more than many of us would like to admit, so spend the $20 and keep “jumpers” in your boat.

C-R-toolsHave Release Tools At The Ready

When practicing catch and release, having the proper tools within reach is critical to getting fish back in the water quickly with minimal stress. Plus, the faster you can properly land and release a fish, the sooner you can catch another one! This begins by keeping your net easily accessible. Next, have a designated spot, compartment, or holder for pliers, hemostats, a hook disgorger, jaw spreaders, line cutters, scissors, and scale. Also, keep a golf or utility towel within reach to dry off hands afterwards; this prevents fingers from getting chilled in cold weather. You can buy mounts to hold these items.

Be sure to replenish supplies throughout the season. Carrying the above tools will ensure you’re prepared for a variety of minor and more serious boating situations.

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Weather and Fishing

weatherThe earth consists of two pressurized environments (Air & Water). Sensible weather, the day-to-day weather that we experience everyday is one of many factors that affects fishing as well as our daily lives. Weather changes are caused by atmospheric changes in pressure (barometric pressure) driven by the fast moving river of air called the jet stream located at about 30,000 feet in the atmosphere!

A basic rule is that rising air (falling pressure) produces clouds and even the possibility of rain and snow. Sinking air (rising pressure) means clouds and precipitation development is suppressed, and usually brings clear skies and fair weather. Weather conditions do impact the catch rate indirectly of the species you are pursuing, and will depend on various interdependent factors such as: availability of fish, water depth, temperature, clarity, wind, and barometric pressure (The measurement of weight of the atmosphere above us)

Water Systems are pressurized environments. Water is much heavier than air. A cubic foot of air weighs 1/12 pound (lb). A cubic foot of fresh water weighs 62.4 lbs and a cubic foot of sea water weighs 64 lbs. Water pressure, like air pressure, is a function of weight; the deeper one goes the greater the surrounding water pressure. Therefore, the direct effects of changing barometric pressure (air) is greater on fresh shallow water species than deeper lakes or oceans where the depth of the water inhabited by deep water species makes the air pressure variations insignificant.

Air pressure and other variables:

imagesCAQSKW9DThe air that surrounds the earth is constantly placing pressure on the earth’s surface. As the jet stream drives the large areas of high and low pressure on the surface of the earth, these large pressure systems then in turn, drive the large-scale wind flows at the surface levels. As air inherently wants to move from higher to lower pressure (the reason why air wants to escape a bike tire and not vice versa) it will converge in a counter clockwise manner around low pressure, and diverge in a clockwise manner around high pressure. This is because the Earth is rotating and the Coriolis force (the deflection to the right of one’s motion on large special scales) results in the observed surface winds. These resulting surface wind flows create weather fronts, which are distinct boundaries from say cold-dry Canadian air, and warm-moist Gulf of Mexico air. There are three basic types of fronts: Cold, Warm, and Stationary.

Typically, low pressure is the “parent” system for these frontal systems, with cold fronts often extending from the center of low pressure and orientated to the south and west of the low center. Warm fronts often extend from the low center and are positioned to the east and north of the low center. When a warm front passes, pressure still tends to fall as the warm front is often out ahead of the low, meanwhile, when a cold front passes, pressure tends to rise because the low center has already passed, and high pressure is building. Understanding a front’s make up and the weather they bring is key to predicting weather events.

Cold Fronts: (High Pressure)

cold_front

As a cold front passes the air pressure tends to rise (air sinks) as colder and drier air typically resides behind a cold front, which is more dense than warm-moist air, this can be recognized by clearing skies after inclement weather. Also, you may notice strong northerly winds after a cold front passes. This is because of the clockwise wind flow around higher pressure, coupled with a large change in pressure between the relatively close area of lower pressure, and the impending area of higher pressure. These abrupt weather changes disturb the environment, and most game fish will seek deeper water and or cover becoming inactive. The cold front effect on fishing lasts 1-2 days before another front moves in or the weather stabilizes.

If your fishing in a cold front here’s a few suggestions: If possible fish small darker water located on the small section known as Small Wawang, and if fishing the clear, deep part of Wawang Lake then it’s advisable to go deeper than 25′. Live bait is the preferred choice with a slow presentation; vertical jigging or slip bobbers are the best. Fish near the bottom or in weeds, around cribs and rock piles. As cold fronts bring lower air temperatures reducing the water temperature fish during midday when the water is the warmest.

Warm Fronts: (Low Pressure)

imagesCANYF207When a warm front approaches the air pressure is low, warm, moist air is rising and moving counterclockwise toward the center, creating less pressure. Because of this, a barometer usually shows falling pressure as a storm system approaches. Fish sense the drop in air pressure and become active, some fishery biologists attribute the increase of feeding behavior from atmospheric reduction in pressure that affects their air bladder another opinion is fish use vision as a primary feeding sense, as a storm hits with heavy winds this churns the water making it cloudy and more difficult to feed.

Here are some fishing tips during a low-pressure front: Cloud cover and rain is associated with low-pressure fronts, these reduce sunlight causing fish to move higher in the water column. Use surface and shallow running lures over weed beds, weed edges, and over open water if schools of baitfish are found. Faster retrieves are recommended, as fish are active. If storms become intense with thunder and lighting fish will become less active or “spooked” by these conditions and move to deeper water. From a safety point you should never fish during a lighting storm. Lighting may strike many miles from the center of the storm. Take shelter upon an approaching storm fishing rods make ideal lighting conductors.

Stationary Fronts:imagesCAQ8FKX7

A stationary front is a weather boundary between two different air masses (fronts) in which neither is strong enough to replace the other. They tend to remain essentially in the same area for extended periods of time. A wide variety of weather can be found in a stationary front ranging from sunny and fair to cloudy and even prolonged rain. Stationary fronts can focus lift in the atmosphere and can actually help develop areas of low pressure along them. This process results in the stationary front morphing into a warm front on the east side of the newly developed low and a cold front on the west side. This means that even stationary fronts can change with time and should be monitored for future implications on your luck out on the water.

Fishing during a stationary front rates good to excellent. Barometric pressure remains stable for an extended period of time. Fish develop a comfort level and a feeding pattern. Find the pattern of the specie your pursuing and your catching fish. Most fishing presentations work during this period. Best Fishing Times (Solunar – Moon Phase Tables) are based on using stable weather conditions.

imagesCA38RWSQWind & Clouds:

As the wind related proverb says “When the wind is east the fish bite the least, when the wind is west the fish bite the best.” Wind is an influential factor in fishing behavior as it stirs the food chain, provides oxygen and cover from the sun with wave action. Constant wind blowing from the same direction over days will migrate game fish on the windy shoreline to feed on baitfish. Water temperatures will increase also as the surface water is pushed by the wind. This is especially helpful in Spring and Fall seasons as the angler seeks the warmest water. Westerly and Southern winds are proven to produce the best fishing results as the proverb states. Clouds and cloudy conditions have similar effects as wind by reducing sunlight on and near the surface. Light sensitive fish will become more active, a combination of light wind (chop) and cloud cover condition is excellent for surface lures.

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Jigging For Walleye Tips

walleye_habitatUsing jigs can be very productive but too many anglers aren’t fishing them correctly. Just starters, understand that you won’t always feel the thump of a walleye when it strikes a jig.

Guys expect that sure bite or hit. Many times you don’t feel it. So often you  drop the jig down and it stops. Maybe you’ll just feel some extra weight.

Concentrate on your rod, and don’t wait too long to set the hook.

The right rod helps here. When jigging, use a 6-foot, 8-inch or 7-foot rod when jigging with a light-action and fast tip. This really helps increase the number of bites he detects, which translates into more fish.

Use a short shank jig for live bait and a long shank jig when combining that live bait with a dressing. The latter can be plastic, Gulp, or maribou. If you face a tougher bite, use less bulk and movement in the water. Don’t vibrate your offering as much. Listen to the fish to extrapolate their mood, then up size or downsize properly.

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Under most conditions, avoid stinger hooks. If you’re missing strikes, however, and want to try a stinger, use it properly. Just let it free-fall behind the lure.

You get fewer bites with a stinger, so if you’re missing fish, drop that rod tip first, and let them take it.

As for jigging actions, think beyond just lift-drop. That’s fine if it’s producing, but often just holding it at one depth, say 3 inches off bottom, is enough. Let that minnow work and if you want to get creative, try quiver jigging (gyrating the rod ahead of the reel), snap-jigging, dragging, or just casting and retrieving jigs.

Also, use a heavy enough jig to contact bottom, but not so heavy that fish blow it out. Vertical jigging should offer just the right weight to tick the bottom.

And if you feel a bite, set the hook hard. Really swing that rod tip up.  Always tie your jigs directly to the line. Suspend it periodically out of the water and let it unravel to eliminate line twist and tangling.

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The Weed Warrior

silver-minnow1Whether it’s submerged weeds like cabbage, floating varieties such as lily pads, or emergent plants like reeds, bulrushes, or even flooded terrestrials, pike instinctively gravitate to vegetative cover. When conditions are right, the green zone becomes a gridiron to do battle with toothy weed beasts.

Shrewd pike anglers are adept at using lures and techniques to find and extract fish from these sorts of weed-filled areas. While you can often do well skirting the edges, at times there is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and digging them out of the heavy stuff. It’s of little surprise then, that weedlessness is a quality shared by many top pike lures (and lure modifications) of our time.

The Johnson Silver Minnow, introduced in the 1920s, remains a consistent producer of weed pike. Northland Tackle’s new Live-Forage Weedless Spoon, with realistic baitfish-image patterns, and the Daredevle Feathered Weedless spoon, are other options of similar design.

Many have written about exchanging treble hooks for single hooks on spoons, which reduces fouling while still permitting efficient hook-sets. Vegetation that gets hung on the hook typically can be ripped free during the retrieve with a few quick snaps of the rod tip, or on a subsequent snap-cast. Add a texposed softbait trailer for more weed proofing.

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The weedless qualities of many popular bass lures have led them to serve double-duty for pike. When Blue Fox introduced the Roland Martin series spinnerbait, fitted with a then oversized #7 blade, it was an instant favorite for big pike. Today, an expanded range of pike spinnerbaits is available, including the Lindy M&G and Northland Bionic Bucktail spinnerbaits, among many others.

Jigs built for flipping and swimming are another class of weapons for weed pike. Versions of this once exclusive bass bait are now widely available and in larger sizes crossing over to pike. In this category are the J-mac and Lil’ Hustler jigs. Northland’s Jungle Jig, tipped with a plastic trailer, is another good producer for weed pike. Oversize jigs like the J-mac also work well paired with a reaper, lizard, or swimbait, adding unique action, increasing profile, and slowing sink rate.

Anyone who has fished weedless surface frogs can attest to their effectiveness at attracting and hooking pike. While pike tend to damage the softer varieties after a catch or two, newer designs such as the SPRO Bronzeye Pop Frog and Tru Tungsten Mad Maxx are harder than most and put many pike in the boat before needing to be replaced or repaired.

Upsized hollow-bodied swimbaits are among the most recent weed-resistant tools being applied to extract pike from sloppy places. Many varieties run weedless when rigged texposed on an oversized worm hook. Try a Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait, Yum Money Minnow, or Z-Man SwimmerZ. The Fat Minnow by Basstrix, rigged on a Mustad Ultra Lock (38105), is a personal favorite.

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When flying north to trophy pike waters, knowledgeable anglers pack a selection of soft-plastic stickbaits and wide-gap hooks. Effective weedless alternatives when slow is key, Bait Rigs’ Reaper Tail or a 9-inch Yum Dinger can be cast easily on unweighted hooks and worked in and along weedy haunts. Where there’s room to swim in vegetation pockets or through stalks, try texposing an oversized curlytail grub, like a Kalin’s 5-inch Lunker Grub on an unweighted wide-gap hook. The seductive slow swim can be irresistible to pike holding in the greenery.

To improve the longevity of soft plastics, consider using screw locks, which can be clipped to the eye of the hook or threaded onto the hook shaft. These modifications can be applied to in-line spinners as well. For especially dense or stubborn vegetation, clip on a hook with a wireguard like the Mustad W3551, making your favorite spoon or spinner weedless.

It’s not a question of whether you’ll find pike in the weeds, but rather when. Productive people have an uncanny ability to turn challenges into opportunity. Snakes in the grass need not carry a negative connotation, providing you’re equipped with the right tools for overcoming salady situations.

Lure Classics

Snagless In-line

The Snagless Sally made by Hildebrandt is a classic for combing weeds for bass and pike. “The Snagless Sally is one of the most weedless spinner-based lures I’ve ever used,” says In-Fisherman Managing Editor Rob Neumann. “It works well through submerged weeds, but also through floating plants and emergents like lilies, reeds, and rice.” Sally features a single hook with a wire hook-guard and vinyl skirt. “You also can add a plastic or pork trailer, but that’s often not necessary,” he says. Originally available in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes, the Snagless Sally lineup has been expanded to include 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-ounce sizes, giving pike (and muskie) anglers more options.

Tackle Tip

  • Pegging Plastics

Soft-plastic flukes and stickbaits like Lunker City Slug-Gos and Yum Dingers can be hot tickets to pike in weedy water. Rigged on wide-gap hook, these slow sinkers can be walked, snapped, and paused in midwater to trigger vicious strikes. In-Fisherman John Kolbeck passed along his solutions for rigging these plastics. He was fishing for pike in shallow weedy areas and around fallen timber with Slug-Gos, walking the dog about a foot under water and crawling baits over patches of dead reeds. He connected the hook to a loop in the wire leader to maximize bait action.The problem was that the lure would slide down the hook shank into the hook-bend, preventing solid hook-sets. The first attempt was to peg the lure to the eye of the hook, but this kept the lure from swinging freely on the leader loop. Kolbeck offers three solutions:1. Thread the nose of the lure onto the hook. Double over a short piece of rubber band and thread onto the hook before inserting the hook into the body of the lure. Slide the rubber band piece up past the bait-keeper bend of the hook an tight against the nose of the lure.2. Rig the lure onto the hook, being sure not to cover the hookeye. Insert a toothpick into the bait at a 90-degree angle just in front of the bait-keeper bend in the hook and trim the toothpick ends. 3.  Starting with about a 2-inch section of pipe cleaner, strip about 1/4 inch of the fuzzy material from one end. Attach the bare-wire end to the hookeye, being sure not to foul the loose leader connection. Wrap the fuzzy end of the pipe cleaner around the shank of the hook just above the bait-keeper bend. This option allows you to add a bit of color as well.

Tackle Tip

  • Spoon Modification

Exchanging the treble hook for a single hook on a spoon can make it more weedless. And whatever weeds the hook picks up often can be ripped free with a few sharp snaps of the rod. Lonnie King switches out for single siwash-style hooks where single barbless hooks are mandatory, as is the case in some trophy pike waters in Canada. The Eagle Claw 84 is another good hook option.King suggests installing the hook so its point is on the concave (top) side of the spoon when retrieved. You can also rig a soft plastic trailer texposed to make it even more weedless, and for adding customized actions and profiles. To keep the trailer from slipping down the hook shank, use a clip-on screw-lock like the Tru-Turn HitchHiker ­(ttiblakemore.com), Bass Pro Shops XPS Keeper Spring (basspro.com), or Clinch Spring from First Mate Lures (firstmatelures.com).You can also add an extra split ring, extending the connection and allowing the hook to move more freely.   Use the Fastach Clip from Stringease Tackle ­(stringease.com), which extends the distance between hook and lure and makes hook changes quick and easy.

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Understanding Your REEL

Fishing Reel Features: In selecting the right reel for your style of fishing there are literally thousands of different reels on the market today to choose from. For the less experienced angler this can be somewhat confusing. Before we compare the features of fishing reels here are some pointers that will help you determine a list of requirements for the best type of reel to use.

  • First, what kind of fish will you be catching?
  • What is the average size, and angling technique?
  • Will you be casting lures using live bait or trolling.
  • What pound test line is best suited for the fishing application.

These answers will narrow down your search and aid in purchasing the proper reel.  As a general guideline the lighter the line and smaller the game fish the best reel choice for the novice anglers and children is a spin cast reel. For the more proficient caster using the same set-up a spinning reel is best. As the targeted species gets larger requiring heavier line and lures a conventional reel or bait caster will be the better choice.

For the best performance from your reel, the reel must be balanced with your rod. If you use a reel that weighs too much for the rod it will feel butt heavy. You will have problems casting and it will take away the sensitivity from the rod tip in feeling a fish strike. Conversely, a reel that is too light for a rod will make it feel tip heavy, by fishing for a length of time your wrist will tire by trying to hold the rod upward.  For a properly balanced outfit hold the rod with the reel attached on the fore grip (the handle above the reel) by using a few fingers, the rod should sway back and forth and stay somewhat horizontal not completely moving forward or backward, if not change reel sizes or rod length to achieve a balanced outfit.

baitcastingreel

Listed below are the features and components that make up fishing reels, many of them are universal and found on all types of reels, these descriptions will help you identify and understand the ideal reel for your angling needs.

Anti-Reverse: The anti-reverse function on fishing reels is so the handle does not turn backwards when the line is pulled from the reel as the drag is used. Spinning reels have an anti-reverse on/off lever that will allow the angler the choice of engaging the drag or back reeling when fighting a fish. Most bait casting reels today have anti reverse as a standard feature. High quality reels that feature the number of bearings on models followed with a single number such as 7+1 indicates a anti reverse bearing which with tighter machining tolerances provides the angler with a “no play in handle” giving the angler complete control during stop and go retrieves and solid hook sets. For larger game fish some bait casting and trolling reels use a additional anti reverse gear along with the bearing this adds security if the bearing cannot handle the strain of hard running fish.

Ball Bearings: All conventional fishing reels contain either ball bearings or bushings built within the reel to operate the spool smoothly. It is the generally thought that the greater amount of bearings in a reel the smoother the operation and the higher the cost. But one must consider that the amount of bearings does not necessarily mean that the reel is smoother than others with less. Reel companies only list the total number of bearings for the reel, not the type or quality of the bearings. In other words a 2 ball bearing reel machined with tight tolerances and high quality factory sealed stainless steel bearings will perform longer and smoother than a reel with 6 ball bearings made of brass. The deciding factor when it comes to purchasing a new reel should not be limited to just the number of bearings but the overall performance, (smooth cranking, machining & bearing qualities) as comparing to other reels in determining which is the smoothest.

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Casting Controls: (Bait casting) All quality bait casting reels come with built in casting control systems that help determine how fast the spool is spinning when casting. These systems are centrifugal and magnetic, depending on the model some have one some have both and are either externally adjustable or internal. The centrifugal casting control is located on the reel handle side and his adjusted by turning the knob forward or backward. The magnetic control braking system is located on the other side with a numbered position dial to increase or decrease the amount of magnetic force applied to the spool. This is the fine tuning feature found on more expensive reels that works with a internal transfer braking mechanism, at the beginning of a cast (with the increased RPM‘s) this mechanism rotates out towards the braking magnets to slow the spool which helps reduce backlashing. While no bait casting reel is considered backlash free even with all of the casting features to help control the spool casting speed. It is still advisable to apply light thumb pressure on the spool in order to prevent a backlash.

Drag: All types of fishing reels have a drag system. The drag feature is a tension setting applied to the spool of the reel, think of it as a clutch or line braking system. The drag uses a set of multiple disc washers that compress when pressure is increased or relaxed when decreased. The concept of the drag is letting the line unwind in a controlled manner off the reel when a fish pulls so hard that the line is in danger of breaking. The drag should be set tight enough for a hook set, but loose enough to come off of the fishing reel easily.

Bait casting/Trolling/Spin cast reels use a star-shaped wheel located on the reel handle called a star drag, adjustments are made by turning the wheel to the proper tension. Spinning reels have two types of drags – front drag and a rear drag. Front drags are generally smoother than a rear drag. The front drag features larger, multiple disc drag washers on the spool that offer a higher level of performance and durability. The rear drag uses applied pressure on the drive shaft. Rear drag spinning reels may offer convenience and ease of use, but they normally don’t stand up to big fish and demanding conditions like front drag reel models. Lever drags are a available feature on high end (expensive) trolling and bait casting reels. Lever drags allows the tension to be adjusted in more precise smaller increments which supplies a smoother fish fighting performance.

As a rule always check your drag before your first cast.  Pull the line with your hand, if you have a decent amount of resistance, you should be fine. In cases where you hook a exceptional sized fish the drag should be adjusted (increased) as you feel the size of the fish. Another tip to reduce reel maintenance; when storing your reels for an extended amount of time, back off the drag tension setting. Leaving drag settings tight will cause the drag washers to become flat reducing the tension ability.

Gear Ratios: All reel manufactures list the gear ratio on their products. The gear ratio refers to how many revolutions the spool of the reel makes per one complete turn of the reel handle. For instance a high speed reel with a 6:1 ratio will make 6 revolutions versus a low speed reel at 3:1 with 3 revolutions per each turn of the reel handle. Generally low speed reels are best suited for lures that require a slow presentation and greater cranking power such as crank baits for walleye and pike, and large baits. High speed reels are better for working lures quickly when the angler seeks speed for “burning” buck tails, spinner baits, and lipless crank baits. Reels with the range of 5.1 are the best compromise if purchasing a single reel. Another alternative is a two speed reel that the angler can shift from high speed to low speed with a simple push or pull of a button.

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Level Wind: Found on most bait casting and trolling reels as the name implies, the level wind feature automatically places the line evenly or level across on the spool upon retrieving the line. On low profile and smaller round bait casting reels the line guide will remain in its’ position when casting, on larger round bait casting reels the line guide will follow the line when casting. This offers the angler the convenience of not manually guiding the line on the spool, which if not properly done will usually pile up in the center of the spool. Line Capacity: Printed on the reel or its package is a guideline of the amount of fishing line that the spool of the reel will hold. This chart is based on the use of monofilament line and will look like this: 8/(175) 10/(155) 12/(130) the first number is the lb test followed by the amount of yards. This indicates the line rating set by the manufacturer for 8-12 lb test line to work correctly without either stressing parts or making it difficult to use.

By varying the pound test line on the reel such as placing 40lb on a reel rated for 8lb-12lb will give you an inadequate amount of line due to the increased line thickness making the reel difficult to cast as well as increasing the stress and eventual failure on the drag (By setting the drag too tight) With the advent of new fishing lines with increased lb test and reduced diameters we still recommend that you follow guideline placed on the reel by the reel company. Line Counters: This reel feature is found exclusively on trolling reels. It allows a reference by which anglers can consistently return a bait to the same depth or distance from the boat when flat line trolling or rigging (Downriggers, Dipsey Divers and Trolling Boards) There are two types of reel line counters, Analog and Digital. Analog line counters resemble car odometers, clicking off numbers as the spool revolves. Digital line counters provide the same line usage reading as the analog but can also be programmed for differences in line thickness accounting for impressive accuracy. Line counters are also very useful on how much line is left on your reel after a fish makes a run.

On / Off Free Spool Lever: On trolling reels there is a simple on/off lever that when switched on engages the reel for retrieving the line, when switched off it is in free spool allowing the angler to let the line run off the reel using a bait or lure. Always keep your thumb on the free spool to control the amount of line released to prevent a backlash.

Reel Housings and Frames: Most reel housings and frames are constructed of either aluminum (die-cast or forged) or graphite.   Each of these materials has its advantages and disadvantages, reels made of anodized aluminum are generally stronger and more durable than the graphite models, however, they are heavier. Graphite-bodied reels are light and corrosion resistant, yet they normally don’t offer the same strength and durability as die-cast or forged aluminum fishing reels. Due to the nature of a spinning reel’s design, their bodies are composed of multiple pieces. Many conventional bait casting reels are also constructed in the same fashion; however, some manufacturers have introduced one-piece graphite frames. This design increases the overall integrity and strength of the reel, while maintaining the lighter weight.

Spools: When selecting a reel the material type and design of the spool should be a point of consideration. There are two common materials used, machined anodized aluminum and graphite. Of the two the anodized aluminum spool offers greater strength and durability than graphite spools, which can break or crack under torque. On many bait casting aluminum spools holes have been drilled in to reduce the weight while increasing casting distance. For big water heavy duty fishing large bait casting and trolling spools are made from metal, using bronze or stainless steel that will offer the strength and capacity required for specialty lines such as heavy dacron or wire used for trolling. Spinning reels today feature a “skirted” spool that overlaps the reel frame, preventing the line to become entangled with in the reel housing. Other skirted spinning reel spool options offers a choice of a standard spool, or a shallower, elongated “long cast” spool design. In theory, the newer long-cast spool design allows for reduced line friction, resulting in greater casting distance.

Fishing Rods: Fishing Rods have evolved over the years, from the early days using natural materials with fixed fishing lines such as sticks, bamboo and cane poles to rods using steel or fiberglass to the rods of today using graphite or composites of graphite, fiberglass, boron and carbon. With this development of the rod materials came the specialty rods, rods designed for a fishing technique or lure such as jigging, jerk bait, worm, pitching, flipping, crank baits, trolling, top water etc… the specialty rods are a specific tool, used and developed by tournament and pro anglers, for the recreational angler the catch rate will not increase based on having a specialty rod or rods, but place a specialty rod in the hands of an experienced fisherman in presenting a certain bait or lure and with their knowledge of fishing it will give them the edge in catching more fish.

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As the old cliché states: “You get what you pay for” For the recreational angler we recommend spending as much as your budget allows, the better the rod the more sensitive it will be, the more responsive it will be, you will be able to cast farther feel structure, rocks, weeds and the most important feel fish strikes. Part of being a better angler is the ability to place your lure/bait exactly where you want it, often as quietly as possible, and a good rod will definitely help you accomplish this. With the numerous rod selections available today here’s a few suggested basic rod buying tips that will cover multiple fishing presentations.

5‘-6″-6‘-0″ Spin cast Rod Power: Light Action: Soft Lure Weight Test Line Rating 4lb-8lb Fishing: Perch and Walleye.  Spooled with 6lb test. Good combo set-up for children and novice anglers for easy casting and bobber fishing.

7‘-0″ Spinning Rod Power: Light Action: Soft Lure Weight 1/32 – 1/8oz Test line rating 4lb-6lb Fishing: Perch and Walleye spooled with 4lb test monofilament for Float(Bobbers) with live-bait, small jigs and light lures 1/16-1/8oz.

7’-0″ Spinning Rod Power: Medium Light-Medium Action: Moderate Lure Weight 1/8 – 3/8oz Test Line rating 8lb-12lb Fishing: Walleye spooled with 8lb test monofilament for live bait and soft plastic bottom rigs, jigs, tubes and mid weight lures 1/8-3/8oz.

6’-6″-7’-0″ Bait casting Rod Power: Medium-Medium Heavy Action: Fast Lure Weight 3/8 – 1 oz Test line rating 10lb-17lb Fishing:   Northern Pike spooled with 12lb-15lb test monofilament with a leader primarily for heavier artificial lures 3/8-1oz (spoons, crank baits, inline spinners, spinner baits, top water)

Length: 7’-0″ Type: Bait casting Rod Power: Extra Heavy Action: Fast Lure Weight: 1-3oz Test line rating: 25lb + Fishing: Northern Pike spooled with 50lb-80lb braided line with a leader for presenting heavy lures 1oz and up  inline spinners, spinner baits, jerk baits, gliders, crank baits, top water) Rod Materials: Fiberglass: Fiberglass rods have been popular since the 1950’s taking over the era of steel rods, in terms of performance and features fiberglass does lack the sensitivity of the newer rods today made from graphite and weighs more, but is noted for its toughness and soft/moderate action. Some anglers use fiberglass when fishing crank baits for the slow action and pike anglers use fiberglass in cold weather for quick strike rig sucker fishing where the rod sensitivity is not required but the toughness (setting the hook especially in very cold weather and not breaking the rod) is needed. Fiberglass is also a very good choice for children starting out in fishing where durability is an issue.

Graphite: Graphite rod building started in the 1970’s and has continued to this day. Most all quality rods today are built using graphite and have become the preferred choice for rod blank builders. The benefits of graphite rods are many, they’re extremely light, sensitive and flexible, which is vital for light biting fish, along with being strong and powerful to handle larger game fish.

In marketing graphite rods a few common terms have been developed to associate the quality of the rod. The first is “modulus graphite rating”, graphite comes in what looks like sheets of cloth. The cloth is measured to determine the amount and stiffness to weight of modulus fibers. If your shopping for a new rod don’t base your decision solely on the modulus rating, the higher the rating the better the rod. For high performance rods the combination of fiber strength, resin toughness with the amount of fiber, resin and cross-scrim construction (overlapping layers to achieve exceptional strength and action) are more important than the modulus count or rating. Rods with high graphite modulus ratings tend to be brittle and need to have a secondary chemical added on the blank to increase the strain/strength rate. This is called a composite blank. The other term that rod companies use to identify a blank style is IM with a following number such as IM6 or 7 and currently up to 10. The IM rated rods are not regulated by industry standards or an indication of quality but rather a trade name for particular graphite produced by the Hexcel Corporation. Since some rod companies use the IM designation ratings to refer to their rod blanks that are not supplied by Hexcel, at least you can compare the rods built by the same manufacturer, being assured that the higher the IM ranking the higher the graphite quality of the rod.

Rod Ratings: Action / Power Action refers to the flex characteristics of a rod, in other words how much the rod bends when you put pressure on the tip and how far the rod flexes. Action ranges from extra fast where just the tip flexes to slow or softer where the majority of the rod flexes. Fast action rods are the best choice when the fishing technique requires the sensitivity of feeling light biting fish or when fishing for large game fish in heavy cover and weeds where the key is to setting the hook fast with just a snap of the wrist moving the fish’s head up and away. For instance, fast action light rods are used for jigs, soft plastic worms or twitching minnow/shad shaped crank baits for walleye. Heavier fast action rods are used for Pike in burning buck tails, walking top water lures or a cadence retrieve on gliders and jerk baits. The moderate action rod is the most common choice due to the versatility of fishing applications, in casting a moderate action rod it will bend for about half of its length which will provide more casting distance and still have the capability for an adequate hook set. Ideal for slip bobbers/floats live bait for walleye fishing because the fish is less likely to feel resistance from the soft tip and drop the bait, along with reaction lures such as crank baits, spinner baits and spoons for bass and pike where the slower action will not pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth. Slow or Soft Action rods will bend starting in the lower third using nearly the entire rod providing the most flexibility. Because of this parabolic action the angler is using the rod as a shock absorber in fighting the fish, this allows the use of very light line. These rods are used for perch especially for the paper thin mouths on fish so the hook is not ripped clear on hook sets.

Power: A rod’s power describes how much a rod will flex under a load also referred as a rod’s “backbone”. The thickness and type of rod material will determine this, power ratings are usually described as:

  • Heavy
  • medium heavy
  • medium
  • light, etc.

Some rod companies use a numerical system:

  • 1-10 with 1=Ultralight-10= Extra Heavy

The rod’s power rating is closely related to the suggested line strength. It is important to follow the line test guideline limits printed on the rod since a heavy power rod will snap light lines too easily and heavy lines can snap a light rod. Another factor to consider is the fishing presentation for pike in weeds and cover will require a strong power rod using heavier line, on open water where hard to see light line is used for walleye use a lighter power rod. Quite often anglers get confused with rod power ratings and action. As an example the power rating is listed on the rod, the flex of the rod is considered the action.

Rod Line Guides: These are the circular loops affixed to the rod and run the length of the rod blank, The concept is simple, keeping the line from touching the rod, this offers a smooth surface for the line to pass over. The technology of rod guide designs has improved dramatically over the years from the old metal guides and the classic agate inserts of earlier rods.

Most of the new guides today are made of two parts:

  • A metal frame (stainless) attached to the rod blank and some form of an insert (inner ring) using Ceramic, Alconite, Silicon Carbide or Hardloy.
  • Some rods use line guides made of all stainless steel wire instead of inserts, these guides are lighter reducing the overall rod weight, but they are not as smooth as rods using inserts.

The newest line guide introduced is made from titanium wire, which will spring back even if they’re bent flat unlike the stainless guide that will break. The overall purpose of the rod line guides manufactured today is to provide less friction along with reducing the line fray and wear in the guides during the cast. Less friction means longer casts and less heat, and heat definitely doesn’t help when it comes to fishing lines. The total amount of line guides on a rod are an important feature as well, the higher amount of guides the better, as they ensure distance on the cast, and when fighting a fish the energy/ stress on the rod is dispersed though out the entire rod blank. Depending of the rod power rating line guides are available in two different styles, single and double foot. Single foot guide’s adds less weight on the rod and help retain sensitivity, these are used for mainly ultra – light to medium power rods. The double foot line guides are used when sensitivity is not required but strength is as they are wrapped twice on the rod blank. These are found on heavy to extra heavy power rods used for larger game fish.

Handle / Reel Seats: The combination of a quality rod handle and reel seat are as important as the rod blank itself. The reel seat is where the reel is attached to the rod and constructed of graphite and aluminum or both. Graphite is lighter and more sensitive, while aluminum is stronger. Some reel seats offer a cutout that allows direct finger contact on the rod blank for greater sensitivity. The rod handle is also referred to as “grips” and are located below and above the reel seat. Cork is the preferred choice on rod handles as it is lightweight, durable, and transmits rod vibrations even when wet better than synthetic materials using EVA foam. There are varying grades of cork based on the rod’s cost, the higher the rod price the better quality of cork used. Another alternative is cork tape to achieve the look of cork. Composite cork is made by combining a mixture of cork particles and resin, this combination is more durable than using straight cork.

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