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Category Archives: Trophy Fishing

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.

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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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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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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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Fall Fishing for MONSTER Northern Pike

Catch one big northern pike and you fall in love with these magnificent predators. Their willingness to chase and crush baits is amazing. The fight for which they’re capable is thrilling. It’s no wonder that in Europe where pike reach epic sizes, they’re commonly referred to as “water wolves.”

In addition to all the reasons northern pike are revered for their aggressiveness and tough attitude, they’re also wonderful table fare when they’re in that 3-4 pound class. With a little practice in removing the pesky Y-bones, you’re left with a fresh, flaky fillet that’s tough to beat and northern pike are best to eat right after being caught. They just don’t seem to freeze as well as walleyes or perch.

All summer long, northern pike are among the easiest fish to catch. This is due to their voracious appetite and the fact that pike are keen impulse strikers. I believe they’ll lash out at a bait for the sole purpose of doing it harm. They’re just plain MEAN!

During the warm summer months, you’ll find them predominantly hunting anywhere where there’s weed growth. But as summer surrenders to autumn and the water temperatures cool, things change. The weeds begin dying, and when they do they actually become noxious to fish. The first weeds to go are typically in shallow areas with muddy bottoms. The weeds that hold out the longest are usually related to hard bottom.

When fishing in the fall, if you find weed growth that hasn’t laid down yet and it’s still green, then it will continue to hold fish. Baitfish, perch, walleye, and you guessed it: pike. But as these last holdouts of vegetation finally wane, the pike will change their haunts.

This time of year happens to coincide with the fall turnover. This is the period when a lake’s thermocline disappears. The warm upper water cools with air temperature and ultimately trades places with the once cooler water below the thermocline. Pre-turnover fishing is great. During the turnover, fish generally get negative. But after the turnover is complete and the lake stabilizes, pike fishing gets good again. But don’t look for weedline fish anymore. Instead, search for cover in the form of rocky reefs, points, saddles and edges where flats fall away into deeper water.

A great way to locate fish in the fall is by trolling big crankbaits, swimbaits, spoons or inline spinners. If you pop a couple of fish trolling, pay attention to your sonar and lake map to get a reading of the depth and bottom constitution that’s holding fish. This will help you identify other spots on the lake that match those conditions.

Now trolling is great, but most popular is catching pike on the cast. So once you figure out a location and bait that gets results, start to work these areas by casting. Boat control and casting direction is essential here. You’ll want to position your boat on structure that allows you to cast down the line on productive water, thereby keeping your bait in the strike zone for the longest possible time.

pike2Remember that northern pike are notorious for chasing baits and have no problem smacking a lure right by the side of the boat. So on every cast, keep the retrieve going all the way back to the boat. If you see a pike following but not chomping, give the bait a slight pause or a sudden twitch. Sometimes that change in the action will flip the bite switch in a fish.

If a giant follows but doesn’t eat, you can try this trick too. Have a second rod set up with a quick-strike rig hooked to a big sucker minnow in your livewell or bait bucket. If a jumbo pike follows and gives up, you can be sure that he’s still very close to the boat. Set down your casting rod, pick up the quick-strike rig and pitch that minnow to the last place you saw the fish. Very often, the introduction of a live minnow will be just the thing that fish wants.

Fall is a fantastic time to be on the water. You’ll have the lake all to yourself and no shortage of hungry pike just waiting to pounce. After just one memorable battle with a big water wolf, you’ll fall for autumn pike too.

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Tempting BIG Fall Walleye

31" walleye - Mark HechtAs the leaves begin to drop and the temperature starts to cool, the walleye begins a migration to typical areas in search of food to fatten-up for the upcoming winter. Fall time is synonymous with trophy time as these fish display size, strength and a willingness to bite. Locating and tempting these lunker fish can be a rewarding experience by trying the following tactics and techniques for hot action on those cool days of autumn.

Finding the Fish
Cooler water temperatures signal an impulse in the walleye to “migrate” to areas that they typically frequented during the spring months. River mouths and inlets, shallow water weedlines and island breaks are just three locations that the walleye will call home for the fall months. One key aspect to keep in mind is that most fish will be found in water predominantly shallower than they occupy during the summer months. One reason for this shift is due to water temperature, mainly, a more comfortable level. Another reason is in part to the influx of baitfish that are calling the shallows home at this time of year. The walleye are gorging right now, leaving the shallows the best bet to appease their appetite.

Mud flats are another interesting option to seek out fall walleye you will have tremendous success fishing these “structure less” areas, as they seem to group up and hold large pods of feeding fish.

Nighttime is Right Time
If you are looking for an eventful time on the water with the possibility of some trophy ‘eyes, then book yourself a night shift at your the lake. Due to their light-sensitive eyes, the walleye will feed actively during this period of darkness and will head right up shallow to fill their bellies full. Search out an area that consists of mud, sand and green weeds and has close access to deeper water. Water depths can vary, but a rule of thumb is to start shallow (2 to 3 feet) and progressively move deeper until you connect with fish. Shallow running cranks are your best bet, especially thin minnow-style baits. BIG baits are the norm at this time of year, with 6-inches being a common length to throw. Remember, the fish you will catch are generally larger and are gorging on baitfish – this is no time for small 2 or 3-inch crankbaits.

Choosing baits that have rattles can be a definite plus as it will help the walleye hone in on your bait during the darkness. Bagley’s, Rebel and Wally Divers have all proven their merit while out on the water with an action and frequency that walleye jump all over.

Casting or trolling are two techniques that are both productive for nighttime walleye. If the area is a confined spot with a small feeding shelf or flat, casting is your best route to take. If the stretch is long and even with a prominent weedline along the edge, a trolling style will be best suited. Test the water at night this fall and see what’s lurking under the surface.

Live Bait Applications
Live bait can be a deadly application during the fall months due to the fact that it represents what the walleye are feeding on to the truest sense. Leeches and minnows are your two tops bets for connecting with fish at this time of year, and they will also last longest on the hook in the colder water.

Although there are many different types and styles of live bait rigs available to the angler, sticking to bottom bouncers and jigs will keep things simple and productive. Bottom bouncing shoals, breaklines and mud flats with a leech can be deadly at this time of year, and will also help in locating fish quickly and efficiently. Choose a rig with large, flashy spinners and add a jumbo leech for maximum effect. Drift or back troll this offering along any breaks or flats that might hold fish, paying close attention to your electronics for signs of schools of baitfish or walleye.

 

Jigging can be a tough tactic to beat during the fall as it presents your offering to the fish where most will be found – on or near the bottom. Pay attention to the word “most” – some will suspend in which case trolling or casting are the preferred method of attack. Larger size jigs in ¼ to ½ oz. sizes will cover most situations and keep your offering on the bottom. (Larger jig heads can also help during the blustery wind conditions that are often encountered during the fall months…) Tipping your jig with a minnow is your best bet, and choosing the largest and liveliest a definite plus when it comes to fall walleye. I often choose minnows between 4 and 6-inches long, most times erring on the larger size. Walleyes are feeding on perch, smelt, shad or a number of other “large” baitfish at this time, so it makes sense to give them something to really eat. Stinger hooks are a necessity during the fall due to the large bait and short bites. Adding a stinger will help your catch ratio increase in leaps and bounds.

Experimentation is the key to jigging techniques. Some days the fish may prefer a jig dragging on the bottom, while other days it may be a two-foot lift and pause. Generally a slow jigging motion is the preferred method due to the cooler water and decrease in metabolism in the fish. Trying different applications, as well as jig colours, will lead you on the path to success.

Test the waters this fall for wonderful walleye. If you’re looking for a trophy or two, this is the time of year that can surely cough them up.

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TROLLING TACTICS FOR WALLEYE FISHING

Scenario: Warm, misty overcast evening in August. Mid lake rock humps topping out in the 16 to 22 foot range.

Usually, by late August many walleyes in deep clear lakes begin to leave their summer home ranges,suspended over deep open water, and migrate onto nearby rock and gravel humps. More often than not, the best humps top off at a range near the lake’s thermocline. For example, if a lake typically thermoclines at 22 feet, humps in the 18 to 22 foot range are most apt to hold fish, while shallower cropping structures will be less productive.

hump1

When these mid lake humps are small, one can usually do quite well jig fishing them, but more so these humps tend to be large. This is when board trolling a spread of crawler harnessed spinner rigs anchored to bottom bouncing weights off planer boards is the key way to catch them. This is precisely the situation Joe is faced with in this segment. The mid lake rock/gravel structure is very large with a number of smaller “spines” topping out in the 14 to 18 foot range; however, most of the rock/gravel structure is much deeper at 22 to 26 feet.

The small spines are holding the fish, but they are somewhat difficult to stay on top of and pinpoint precisely in open water. This problem is easily solved by repeated trolling passes using this board/bottom bouncer/crawler harness system. Trolling ever so slowly, once any bottom contact is made, you can literally drag an armada of tempting tidbits across these spots and find these small groups of walleyes that are utilizing these spines.

imagesCAMIT1B6The rigging trick here is to set out just enough line below the planer board so it will catch, or better termed “tick”, the top of these spines, yet not get hung up. The best way to accomplish this is by staying as vertical as possible with your set up. Using a larger weight, in the 2 ounce class, in order to stay as vertical as possible, let out just a tad more line than the spine depth tops. For example, measuring out around 20 feet of line between board and the bottom bouncer (Rock Runner) weight is nearly a perfect setting for 16 to 18 foot humps. It might require a bit more line length in strong winds and big waves, but not in soft winds and slow trolls.

ff-graph1Troll very slowly across these humps; just fast enough to activate the spinner and keep the spinner/crawler harness suspended off the bottom. Watch the board closely and you will notice when the Rock Runner weight is touching bottom. It will make the board bounce back. This is a key time to watch for a strike. Strikes, by the way, will respond on the board by the board jerking back in a tug-like fashion. Within a few seconds, the weight of the fish will then start to drag the board out of its original position destroying its side ways angle, and placing it more directly behind the boat. Then, it’s simply a matter of crankin’ the fish in and re rigging.

Throwing a floating marker off a reef after a fish is caught is a good idea for reference, as is punching in the coordinates on your GPS system. As soon as you get a strike, before pulling the rod from the rod holder, immediately reach for a floating marker and pitch it over the side. Also, heave the marker just past the outside of the planer board that’s showing the strike. This places you as close to the exact location of the strike as possible. All return trolling passes can then be made precisely close by the actual spot where the strike occurred.

Summer trolling reefs with bottom bouncers, spinner harnesses and a crawler rigged off planer boards is a super hot tactic. It is especially good over large mid lake reef structures that may be more difficult to fish by casting and jig fishing. At the very least, this system enables you to cover a great deal of water very efficiently, and quickly eliminates the dead sections of a large reef. You can then refish the spot more slowly with finesse jig fishing presentations if you wish.

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MORE PIKE – Three Spoon Techniques

Getting out-fished by someone in your boat is a humbling experience, but when that someone is your spouse or child, a jaw can get awful tight. At least you’re not alone, as many experience the same lack of luck catching watching someone else catch 3-4 pike to your one.   Sometimes it’s hard to figure it out. You can be fishing in all the right spots such as; wide, flat, shallow bays and fish with all the right lures but what can give one person an edge over another?   What are they doing that we weren’t?   Obviously something was going on under the surface that you might not be paying attention to.

Give the “pause concept” a try.  Many pike will follow lures, then turn off as they near the boat.  This is a common occurrence with post-spawn pike that hadn’t really started to feed yet    Whenever you stop reeling for a short while the lure it then flutters down, but more importantly, the tapered spoons would backup toward the pike. Most pike were lazily following in a straight retrieved spoon, and would spook to the side as the lure neared the boat. But when the retrieve was halted, (and as we further discovered) the rod tip dropped back towards the spoon, the lure would flutter backwards from 18-inches to 4-feet, right back into a following pikes face. And if there is a best way to trigger a following pike cruising behind a lure into striking, the in their face approach is tops.

The distance a lure will flutter backwards is determined by the style of the spoon, depth of the water, and how the falling, flat spoon planes as it sinks. Try this next to the boat. Have 5-6 feet of line between the lure and rod tip. Move the spoon through the water parallel to the boat’s side, then stop and drop the rod tip back towards the lure. This gives the lure some line so it can back up the maximum distance. Clear shallow water will give you the best view of how the drop-back works. The best drop-back spoons I’ve used are the size 6 Lindy Gator Spoon, Eppinger TrollDevle, and the 1-ounce standard Dardevle.

                        

The Drop-Back technique is a great way to trigger following pike.

Summary: Whenever casting spoons for pike, especially if conditions are tough, try dropping the lure back several times on each retrieve. This is a good technique to practice whenever casting a spoon.  

Jig-Trolling Spoons P2

When normally confronted by a big weed bed with lots of potentially good-looking water, trolling usually allows for quickly checking it over.   Run bucktails, big spinnerbaits, or shallow-running jerkbaits over the top, and deeper-diving jerkbaits and crankbaits along the edge. Fifteen minutes of trying some of those techniques can quickly show if they are a waste of time or not.   Here is what a potential problem could be. Weed growth is very inconsistent, sometimes it comes to the surface, other times it could be 3-4 feet below. Lures that ran at a specific, near-surface depth level would constantly foul up in the erratic growth. Another option would be is to run a spinnerbait or buzz-bait across the surface. But what can tossed this plan for a loop, is the hundreds of dark, shadowy weed pockets that exist throughout the vegetation. And due to the bright sky conditions, light winds and fairly clear water, you can sense that pike are holding in those weedy lairs. But there has to be a way of rooting them out. If the weed bed is smaller, you could jig fish it with plastic-bodied lizards, reapers, big double twister tails, Sassy Shads, or other types of soft-bodied “creatures.” At least these presentations will penetrate down into the weeds, and the single hook on the jig would allow to snap and rip through any clinging vegetation.

An excellent lure is a Johnson Silver Minnow, but instead of casting with it – troll with varying speeds in a lazy S pattern. This prevents the lure from following the boat’s path. When turning toward the lure it would sink into the weeds, but as the boat swung the other way the lure would be on the outside of the turn, going faster and swimming out of the weeds. This method works like a charm, as the spoon was actually being jigged down into the weeds, then pulled out, while the boat was constantly moving over new waters in the search for pike. Many have had excellent success with this technique, rooting many pike out of weedy cover that would not come up for a high-running, more horizontal presentation. But there are certain things that must be done for maximum success.

The plated hook on a Silver Minnow is dull and must be sharpened along the sides and tip with a fine grain file. South Bend makes a great one. Adjust the weed guard so it lines up with the hooks tip and extends out a little past it. If the hook point and weed guard aren’t in a straight line, you’ll grab a lot more weeds. Don’t adjust the wire weed guard too far out from the point or it will be too hard to set. Adjust the setting according to the density of the vegetation.

Trolling silver minnows gives you a great way to cover massive weed beds
and to get down into the vegetation.

Most hook-ups on larger fish occurred after quickly gunning the motor to pick up line as the hook is being set. As the technique evolved , here’s what works best.:

  • Use no-stretch super line such as Berkley WhipLash or FireLine.
  • Don’t use a shorter rod or one that doesn’t have backbone.
  • A Heavy “bucktail rod” that’s at least 6 foot 9 inches, or a sturdy flippin’ stick are recommended for maximum hook-setting power.
  • Longer rods give you a long, sweeping hook-set that picks up slack line, they also keep the lure a little farther from the boat, plus they aid in controlling and playing pike.

Dress the Silver Minnow with pork or plastic. A dressing’s length and bulk will alter how fast or slow the spoon will wiggle or sink. Be careful not to use a soft plastic dressing that slides up on the hooks shank every time a sharp forward rip is executed to clear weeds. Gluing some plastics to several spoons with a “Krazy” glue can solve this problem. The standard silver-colored “Silver Minnow” is a must, but gold, perch and fire tiger can also be hot, especially when the water has some color, or darker skies exist.

Summary: When faced with lots of weeds, trolling can help to quickly find the pike. But be careful not to go too fast in a straight line. A soft zigzag pattern allows the lures to constantly sink down and be pulled out of the weed clumps. It’s this “jigging action” that roots out the big ones!

Flutter Spoons

When game fish are aggressive, fishing fast and horizontal is often the best way to cover water and catch the maximum amount of fish. But as the action starts to decrease, slower speeds and lures that fall, flutter or pause usually become more productive. A slower falling lure may also be more effective on suspended fish, or those holding tight to cover, as it gives them a little more time to zero in on the presentation.

 P4
Wafer-thin “flutter spoons” like those used for trolling salmon and trout are
slow falling with a lot of flash that trigger non-aggressive pike.

 

Anyone with basic pike fishing experience knows that spoons are tops for these toothy predators, and we’ve already discussed two deadly tactics. But the ultimate “tease” technique, the tactic that temps even the most tight-jawed pike into hitting a spoon, is the one that gives us the slowest, falling, most tantalizing action. This involves casting with super-light weight flutter spoons, those wafer thin spoons that are usually trolled in deeper water for trout or salmon while using weights or planer devices to get them down. Before going out and trying to cast these spoons on baitcasting gear spooled with heavy line, three words of advice-don’t try it:

  • They are best fished with long-handle spinning rods that are at least 6 1/2 to 7 feet long, and a reel full of soft 10-14 lb. test mono such as Trilene XL, or better still 14-20 lb. test FireLine.
  • Two handed “snap casts” are recommended, where a right-handed caster pulls the butt section of the rod sharply towards his body with the left hand, while the right hand fires out the cast. This tactic increases rod speed to give extra casting distance.P5
  • Look at a South Bend System 9 IM6 graphite spinning rod I designed (P-246) to get an idea of the type rod to use. A ball-bearing, wide-spool spinning reel with a tapered spool works best.

Flutter spoons have a lot of flash and movement with a minimal amount of forward or drop speed. You can slow the frantic fluttering action down a bit by adding a plastic or pork trailer, but I rarely do. These spoons won’t let you cover a lot of territory, but they are deadly under certain situations. One of them is when sight fishing for pike. Although this may sound easy it’s not. In stained waters only slight shadows or dark spots on the bottom may be noted. In clear water the fish can more easily be seen, but a cast made too close will usually send them bolting away. Always cast at least 10-15 feet past the pike, and not directly over it. If the fish is moving, cast well in front. Even if you lead the pike too far, let the spoon sit on the bottom until the fish is within 5-8 feet. The lift up and allow the spoon to flutter downward.

Sometimes the pike may just watch the lure sink, and nose up to within inches of the lure. Short little jiggles or soft “pops” will usually provoke a strike. A flutter spoon can also be rigged on a follow-up rod. When a pike follows in a faster-moving, more horizontal presentation then turns off, a flutter spoon can be blind cast in the direction the fish headed. Let it sink 5-6 seconds pull it upward, then repeat. This slow-falling, crippled action is often different enough to trigger a response. Flutter spoons also work well when allowed to sink into larger holes in a weed bed, or into the shaded areas between higher clumps. Let the light lureP5 slowly flutter down into the pocket a few feet, or down between the clumps, then left the rod to pull it back out. These thin spoons sink much slower than a conventional spoon, and have a wilder, flashing action. This attracts pike and gives them plenty of time to react to the slow falling lure.

When fishing flutter spoons around weeds, use one with a large single hook, and put the hook on so the point faces the inside or cupped side of the spoon. This rigging will give you the minimum amount of weed snags and make releasing pike easy. With a little practice this single hook spoon can be cast over thick vegetation and skittered across the top, periodically stopping the retrieve so the lure flutters down into holes or along edges. The trick to avoid hanging weeds is to halt the lures flight just before it hits the water by engaging the reel and lifting the rod tip.

Wire leaders should be used with all the spoon techniques discussed. Always use a quality ball-bearing snap-swivel to the lure. A size 4 Berkley Cross-Loc snap swivel is ideal. When casting a spoon, either with the drop-back technique or with a flutter spoon, a 12-inch leader is perfect. When trolling with the Silver Minnow, where a lot of pulling and ripping of weeds is going on, a 3-foot leader is better as it will slice through the vegetation and won’t weaken. Put these 3 techniques in your pike-fishing bag of tricks and watch your catches soar!

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