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Tag Archives: Bait fish

Pike – Locations & Tackle

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

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

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

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

Equipment Considerations – THINK BIG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHASING THE ‘EYES’

 

31" walleye - Mark HechtMore people want to know how to catch walleye than any other game fish.  Also known as pickerel, they are often difficult to locate and land. The challenge they present makes fishing them successfully an angling accomplishment.  Yet, for the novice angler finding a lake that has a fisheries management program will without a doubt help you get on those walleye quicker.  So Wawang Lake is where you’ll want to begin.

So it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve when you head out on the water this season. Early season walleye are best located in shallow waters as they are not long out of spawning and are looking to stock up on feed to replace what was lost as they were preoccupied during the spawn. Shoals with gravel are excellent places to start looking, especially near the drop off to deeper water.

walleye schoolQuite often you will be able to visually spot them in these areas as the water is generally clearer and the walleye will stand out against the gravel bottom. In the water you are fishing, look for the edges of weed beds with a change in depth. This can be in a narrows were the deeper part of the water slopes up toward the bank, or on a bend off a point on the inside of the turn near a sand bar, walleye will be on the edge of these areas. The current is slower here and is a good place for harboring bait and acts like a snack table for feeding fish.

Sunken islands in the lake work well as do old break lines, humps and reefs. If you search the water that you will be fishing in, you should not have too much trouble locating these types of spots.  At Wawang Lake we provide a detailed, contour map of the lake that gets our guests started in the right direction almost immediately.  Supper isn’t too far behind.

Several types of baits work well for walleye. Favorites are crank-baits. Rapalas (straight or jointed) (floating or sinking) (suspending or rattle types). Next are the walleye divers, which imitate baitfish so accurately that walleye can’t resist them if presented properly.

illustration
Start using these baits with a stop motion, jerking the bait through the water instead of steady retrieves. Suspending lures are fished in the same manner, letting them sink to the bottom and then start jerking softly about a foot or so at a time. This allows the bait to sink slowly again to a predetermined depth before being tugged forward and up again. This motion represents smaller food chain species chasing and feeding which will attract larger fish and cause them to feed on the smaller fish.
Vertical jigging - 1
If fishing is more what you are after rather than angling try using minnows or leeches. Keep the leech stretched out as long as you can without ripping it.  Use a pickerel rig and hook a second hook to each. Do this by placing the second hook over the barb on the first hook and letting it trail.

Now you can hook the leech on the first hook and pull the tail down over the second hook. A bigger leech is more inviting than a small rounded one. Be sure not to have more than four hooks in total on your rig!

For trolling spinners or jigs with a larger hook use minnows and choose a medium to large minnow. Hook through the mouth, then out the gill, turn the hook then hook through the top of the head just infront of the doral fin.   This allows the minnow to swim freely and walleye often will mouth the bait, turning it and playing with it before swallowing it. Watch closely for light taps on your rod or float, and be prepared to set the hook at this point.

3 WAY

If trolling or cast retrieving is your preference then try using a three-way swivel on your line with the bait trailing, and the center swivel used to attach the weight. Do this by tying on about one foot of lighter line to the bottom eye of the swivel. The lighter line will break off easier in the event of a snag, saving the rest of the line. I use about four feet of line from the swivel to the bait, giving the bait lots of freedom to move side to side or up and down when retrieving the cast or trolling.

walleye_catch

 

The foregoing methods are pretty much fail safe, but it remains that walleye are as challenging to fish as they are good to eat. So the best advice is to get out there and try it for yourself. Enjoy the day and the fishing will fall into place!

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Bucktail Jigging For Weed Walleye

 3fbabdf5_hooks

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

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

The Laws of Rip Jigging

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

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

Dunking For Fish

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

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

Top Ten Tips For Bucktail Fishing

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

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CHASING THE ‘EYES’

 

31" walleye - Mark HechtMore people want to know how to catch walleye than any other game fish.  Also known as pickerel, they are often difficult to locate and land. The challenge they present makes fishing them successfully an angling accomplishment.  Yet, for the novice angler finding a lake that has a fisheries management program will without a doubt help you get on those walleye quicker.  So Wawang Lake is where you’ll want to begin.

So it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve when you head out on the water this season. Early season walleye are best located in shallow waters as they are not long out of spawning and are looking to stock up on feed to replace what was lost as they were preoccupied during the spawn. Shoals with gravel are excellent places to start looking, especially near the drop off to deeper water.

walleye schoolQuite often you will be able to visually spot them in these areas as the water is generally clearer and the walleye will stand out against the gravel bottom. In the water you are fishing, look for the edges of weed beds with a change in depth. This can be in a narrows were the deeper part of the water slopes up toward the bank, or on a bend off a point on the inside of the turn near a sand bar, walleye will be on the edge of these areas. The current is slower here and is a good place for harboring bait and acts like a snack table for feeding fish.

Sunken islands in the lake work well as do old break lines, humps and reefs. If you search the water that you will be fishing in, you should not have too much trouble locating these types of spots.  At Wawang Lake we provide a detailed, contour map of the lake that gets our guests started in the right direction almost immediately.  Supper isn’t too far behind.

Several types of baits work well for walleye. Favorites are crank-baits. Rapalas (straight or jointed) (floating or sinking) (suspending or rattle types). Next are the walleye divers, which imitate baitfish so accurately that walleye can’t resist them if presented properly.

illustration
Start using these baits with a stop motion, jerking the bait through the water instead of steady retrieves. Suspending lures are fished in the same manner, letting them sink to the bottom and then start jerking softly about a foot or so at a time. This allows the bait to sink slowly again to a predetermined depth before being tugged forward and up again. This motion represents smaller food chain species chasing and feeding which will attract larger fish and cause them to feed on the smaller fish.
Vertical jigging - 1
If fishing is more what you are after rather than angling try using minnows or leeches. Keep the leech stretched out as long as you can without ripping it.  Use a pickerel rig and hook a second hook to each. Do this by placing the second hook over the barb on the first hook and letting it trail.

Now you can hook the leech on the first hook and pull the tail down over the second hook. A bigger leech is more inviting than a small rounded one. Be sure not to have more than four hooks in total on your rig!

For trolling spinners or jigs with a larger hook use minnows and choose a medium to large minnow. Hook through the mouth, then out the gill, turn the hook then hook through the top of the head just infront of the doral fin.   This allows the minnow to swim freely and walleye often will mouth the bait, turning it and playing with it before swallowing it. Watch closely for light taps on your rod or float, and be prepared to set the hook at this point.

3 WAY

If trolling or cast retrieving is your preference then try using a three-way swivel on your line with the bait trailing, and the center swivel used to attach the weight. Do this by tying on about one foot of lighter line to the bottom eye of the swivel. The lighter line will break off easier in the event of a snag, saving the rest of the line. I use about four feet of line from the swivel to the bait, giving the bait lots of freedom to move side to side or up and down when retrieving the cast or trolling.

walleye_catch

The foregoing methods are pretty much fail safe, but it remains that walleye are as challenging to fish as they are good to eat. So the best advice is to get out there and try it for yourself. Enjoy the day and the fishing will fall into place!

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Walleye Lures and Baits

To get a fish to bite, you need to know how, where, whe­n, and what it eats.

1 Dave

 

Walleye are most active in morning and evening. They feed on small yellow perch, small northern pike, lake herring, other small bait fish and you can often find them around schools of these smaller fish. They eat a lot, they’re aggressive, and they’re not picky, which is good news for you. Because walleye eat by sucking in water around their prey, you’ll probably want to try smaller bait.

Look for walleye around submerged rocks, weedy flats, bars or other underwater barriers in the lakes.  Wawang Lake is known for all these types of great structure.

Many predators like such obstructio­ns, which help them ambush their food. Walleye locate their prey by sight, which means you’re not likely to find them in sunny waters; they retreat coyly to the shadows or the darker depths, often in groups. walleye’s strong vision also means you’ll have better luck with brightly colored lures, and you might even want to experiment with different colors.

­In the case of walleye, to seek out their location, you’ll also need to consider the time of year. Walleye like water between 55 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and they move to follow it. In spring and fall, you’ll find them in the shallows of lakes. In summer, they’ll be a bit deeper — though you’re not likely to find them in very deep waters (more than 50 feet).

Now that you know those basics, let’s find out how you can choose the right baits and lures.

Types of Walleye Fishing Lures

Nature-Jigs-1-WhiteLures are designed to mimic a fish’s natural prey, so think about­ walleye’s eating patterns and food. Lures that move quickly will attract these aggressive hunters. Additionally, lures should be similar in size to the smaller prey fish.

If you’re fishing with a jig head, choose the jig head based on water depth — the deeper the water, the heavier the head. For deeper walleye fishing, you’ll want a jig head of about ½ ounce. In shallower waters, you can go as light as a 1/8-ounce jig head. If conditions are rough or windy, a heavier jig can help.

26.5

Depending on the time of year, you may want something that sticks close to the bottom, like a small but heavy jig (with a lead head) or a crank bait.   If you go with a crank bait, again, choose one that mimics walleye’s natural prey — narrow, and between three and five inches long.

In various fishing conditions, you might want to try:

  • High-action lures:  designed to go deep (especially in warmer months)
  • Crank baits:  such as shad raps, jointed shad raps, or glass shad raps (with built-in rattles)
  • A balsa lure: such as a rapala
  • Live bait jigs: (for casting or trolling at the beginning of the fall season)
  • A #3 or #4 spinner
  • Trolling crank baits with more subtle action (better for the colder months

Finally, you can key your color choice to the sort of water you’ll be fishing. Use brighter colors for weedy or muddy waters.

Obviously, your bait depends on your choice of lure, as well as the fishing conditions. Read on.

Types of Walleye Fishing Baits

182Remember that walleye’s behavior and location chan­ges seasonally — so, the b­ait that worked so well at the beginning of September might not be the best one for May. Come prepared to try a few different kinds of baits, and remember that every angler works by trial and error.

When the weather is cold, you may find the best results with live bait. In cold water, walleye are sluggish. The movement of live bait will likely be most effective at stimulating them to bite. Walleye are more aggressive in warmer weather, and that can sometimes let you get away with plastic bait, especially plastic worms.   But many anglers swear by minnows year-round.

If you’re using a live bait jig, try minnows, worms, leeches or red tail chub. With a spinner, try a piece of worm.

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One approach you may want to explore is coordinating your bait fish to whatever is schooling in the water. If you see a school of perch, for example, walleye are probably feeding close by, so use a perch colored lure tipped with live bait. Then let your jig drop a few feet at a time, the better to imitate the movement of the bait fish.   Obviously, this requires a bit more observation, flexibility and patience on your part. But isn’t that why you go fishing in the first place?

WEATHER TIP
Try to time your walleye fishing expedition so that it’s not coming right after a particularly cold snap. You can often have good luck during the turnover — the time when the weather is getting colder — because walleye follow their food into shallower waters, and often into less protected areas. But a particularly cold snap changes a lake’s temperature patterns so dramatically that it tends to put walleye into hiding until they’ve adjusted. Gradual changes are likely to offer better fishing

How To Cook Walleye
Now that you know how walleye eat, it’s time to learn how you can eat walleye. Walleye makes for a delicious meal, and depending on the preparation, it can be quite healthful as well. Try grilling walleye with fruit chutney, horseradish or pesto for a low-fat entrée. You can also bake, broil, fry, smoke or blacken walleye. Walleye is flavorful on its own, so you don’t need to do anything elaborate or complicated. 

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How to HOOK a MINNOW

Many of you have probably fished for walleye using live minnows and found that they didn’t stay on the hook for long or died fairly quickly. Let’s see if we can fix these problems.

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SHARP HOOKS……
First of all you want to make sure the hooks that you are using are not too large for the minnow, and secondly, that they are sharp. A small hone or sometimes a good nail file will touch up the points on hooks enough to penetrate a minnow or a walleyes mouth without a problem. Placing the hook against the top of a fingernail will tell you if it is sharp. If it seems to stick to the nail under its own weight, then the hook is sharp. Hook sizes 2/0 3/0 and 4/0 are preferred choices.

SPINNER RIG, single hook……
182Spinner rigs can be used for live minnow presentation if you hook the minnow in the mouth, out through the gill and then turn the hook back around through the top of the minnows back just in front of the dorsal fin, but, be sure not to break the backbone of the minnow. This allows the minnow to look natural in the water and still get oxygen through the gills. When trolled or retrieved it will not be as apt to pull off the hook. Being in a natural position in the water the walleye have a better chance of taking it as part of its feed. Some make their own rigs for this type of fishing, use only one hook on the rig and experiment with different colored beads. A #5 blade is my choice to start with and if it works well, leave it, otherwise go to a bit larger blade. Use a different color bead at the hook, usually yellow or green.

castingThis seems to entice the walleye a little more and usually results in a good hook set. If the area you are fishing supports a good concentration of walleye, then try using a simple rig consisting of a small bell sinker on bottom ¼ or 3/8 oz. and two hooks set about eight inches apart on the line. Place the first hook within two inches of bottom and the second about eight inches above the first. Tip both with a medium size live minnow as suggested as above. Keep a snug line or use a float, but keep in mind that walleye will usually bite softly. A small amount of movement on the float or rod tip is your cue to set the hook. Do this by dropping the rod tip slightly and waiting for one more little tug on the line, then set the hook. This method works well from a boat while sitting over a hole inhabited by walleye. Also, you can practice a slow retrieve to cover just a bit more water.

Another productive method is to use only one hook and a live minnow, with a small sinker about one foot above the hook, allowing the minnow to float up, just off bottom. This is a favorite for just plain lazy cast and retrieve. Dont try to get too much distance on the cast as you will tear the minnow off the hook with the fast flicking motion of the rod. A slow retrieve works best and the minnow brings a lot of curious walleye to the bait.

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Slow down and enjoy……
Not everybody enjoys the hectic pace of covering an entire lake or at fast speed looking for constant action and throwing hooks at the rate of lightning flashes. So on your next trip out on the lake, slow down, relax and thoroughly enjoy the fishing time. That’s what it’s all about!

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FISHING PLUGS & CRANK BAITS

                     Fishing with Surface Lures, Minnow Baits, Crankbaits & Creatures

plugsThe word “Plug” was used many years ago to describe a lure that was hand carved from a block of wood, but most modern-day plugs are made from hollow plastic or molded plastic. Many avid anglers still consider wooden plugs the best lure having better action than similar ones made from plastic. A few lure manufacturers still use wood in making lure bodies, mainly balsa, some hardwoods and pine.

Most plugs replicate some type of bait fish but some types of plugs resemble mice, crayfish, insects, frogs, and snakes that fish prey on. Plugs attract fish by their action and flash, producing sounds that draws the attention of game fish. It may be the vibration of a minnow bait swimming through the water, or the splash pop and gurgle of a surface plug or just the sound of hooks clicking the lure body. Many new plastic plugs today have internal chambers filled with shot producing a rattling sound that attracts fish.

There are two category of plugs Surface (Topwater) and Subsurface (Diving).
Listed below is a reference guide to help you identify the common types of plugs and how they are used:

Surface Lures: (Topwater)
There is nothing more exciting to see a fish strike a surface lure. Surface lures work especially well when fish are shallow and the water temperature is 60 degrees or warmer. The water should be relatively calm otherwise the fish do not notice the action. The best hours to fish surface lures are generally early in the morning and at dusk into the evening. But there has been fish caught on surface lures in the middle of the day. For lure colors a very good universal color is black, it works well on all water types clear, stained or dark. Black provides the best silhouette against the sky as the fish looks upward towards the water surface. Other colors will work as well dependent on the forage in the water system such as Orange/Yellow for Perch, Green/White for Frogs, and White/Blue/Chrome for Shad and Shiners.

plugs2

CRAWLERS

Crawlers
Crawlers produce a plopping/gurgling sound, used on calm water with a steady slow retrieve. (Left) This crawler, also known as a creeper, has wings mounted on the side that will swim across the water. (Right) A large face plate will make this crawler body move back and forth producing a wake on the surface.

chuggers

CHUGGERS


Chuggers
Chuggers have an indented cup on the face of the lure, it catches water when the lure is jerked over the surface producing a popping/chugging sound.  .

center rotating blade

CENTER ROTATING BLADE

Center Rotating Blade

Commonly know as a Globe, this has been a favorite surface lure for pike anglers for many years. The center blade rotates upon the retrieve producing a bubble trail.

rotating tail

ROTATING TAIL

Rotating Tail

The tail section rotates creating a plopping noise from the blade attached. The tail rotating lures works well on calm water to slight chop. Commonly used for fishing northern pike.

surface wobbler

SURFACE WOBBLER

Surface Wobbler

The jointed surface wobbler creates a clicking sound as the lure rocks back and forth when retrieved,  and the tail prop adds a wake. Work this lure slow on calm water in the evening.

Propeller

PROPELLER

Propeller

The propeller lure has props on the nose and tail or on the tail, this topwater lure is versatile, run it slow with a straight retrieve, pop it using a stop and go method, or buzz it across the water to trigger aggressive feeding fish. Excellent lure for new anglers to experience top water fishing. Also know as Propbait or Topper Bait.

Stickbait

STICKBAIT

Stickbait

The stickbait has no lip or propellers, they also have no built-in wobble. The angler must supply lure action through a series of short sharp cadence pulls upon the retrieve creating the side to side action known as “walk the dog” on the surface. Also known as torpedo lure.

Flaptail

FLAPTAIL

Flaptail

The flaptail rocks back and forth while the brass blade on the tail slaps the water with a plopping sound. The retrieve is very slow allowing the bait to work. Used on calm water.


Subsurface Plugs (Diving, Floating, Sinking)
There are two categories of subsurface plugs, both have floating or sinking models. The first are diving lures that dive with attached plastic/metal lips or dive based on the lure body design such as cupped, pointed head or a flattened curved forehead, all have a side to side wiggle action as they travel through the water, these are commonly known as crankbaits. The second group of plugs refer to the action of the lure provided by the angler in the retrieve. These are classified as gliders, jerkbaits and twitch baits, the action of the each lure is achieved through a series of cadence pulls, strong jerks, or short stop and go techniques.

Diving lures will catch fish in any type of water calm or rough any time of the day. In selecting lures with a lip attached to the nose of the lure the angle of lip will determine the running depth of the lure, for instance a deep running lure will have an elongated lip attached approximately 90 degrees horizontal from the nose which acts as a diving plane forcing the lure downward. Mid range divers will have a lip set at a 45 degree angle. Shallow running lures will have lip placed vertically off of the nose creating a water resistance forcing the lure to run shallow.

Diving lures will run at depths from just under the surface at 1 foot to 20 feet or greater. All lure companies provide the running/diving depth of each lure on their box or packaging. It is wise to have a few of each to cover the fishing situations you could encounter. The deep runners are classified as 10 feet plus, mid range 5-10 feet and shallow are 1-3 feet.

Floating Minnow (Crankbait)

FLOATING MINNOW (CRANKBAIT)

Floating Minnow (Crankbait)

This is the most popular type and the most versatile crank bait lure designed to imitate a thin bodied bait fish. For shallow lures running at 1-3 feet as a floater this will maintain the shallow depth. Anglers who use midrange running lures have a few more options. In casting the angler can pop the lure along the surface or crank it a few feet down to 5 to 8 feet with a straight retrieve. For trolling using a midrange lip off of downrigger or lead core line the lure will maintain the set depth. When casting deep running lures this allows the angler to bounce lures off of deep structure (bottom bouncing) such as rocks or wood without getting snagged by letting the lure just float up after making contact.

Floating Shad-Perch crankbait

FLOATING SHAD/PERCH (CRANKBAIT)

Floating Shad/Perch (Crankbait)

Similar to the floating minnow style with a diving lip. These lures imitate the forage of shad and perch with a wider or fatter body style. Made from balsa wood and hollow plastic with and without internal chambers filled with shot to produce a loud rattle.

Floating Lipless (Crankbait)

FLOATING LIPESS (CRANKBAIT)

Floating Lipless (Crankbait)

The series of lures shown above have been made for many years, timed tested and still today catch many fish. The lure body design to dive is based on a cupped, or a flattened curved forehead all have a side to side wobble action as they travel through the water.

Vibrating (Crankbait)

VIBRATING (CRANKBAIT)

Vibrating (Crankbait)

These thin bodied lures do not have a diving lip and are attached to the line with the eye on top of the head, resulting in a tight wiggle. All vibrating lures have internal chambers filled with shot to produce a loud rattle. Most are sinking models but some do float at rest.

Sinking (Crankbait)

SINKING (CRANKBAIT)

Sinking (Crankbait)

Also known as a countdown this lure is weighted to sink horizontally. When fish suspend over 10 feet at a specific depth the sinking lure is a very good option to use. The angler simply cast the lure and count’s down at a rate of 1 foot per second to the specified depth and retrieves the lure. The sinking lure uses a midrange lip to maintain the depth until the end of the retrieve.

Neutrally Buoyant (Crankbait)

NEUTRALLY BUOYANT (CRANKBAIT)

Neutrally Buoyant (Crankbait)

Also referred as a suspending lure or a jerk bait. The lure is designed using an internal weight system or a weighted tape to achieve neutral buoyancy. The presentation is an erratic jerk pause type of retrieve, when stopped the lure will remain suspended and motionless in the water. Very good lure for finicky fish that follows and don’t bite.

Floating (Trolling Plugs)

FLOATING (TROLLING PLUGS)

Floating (Trolling Plugs)

These are designed and used primarily for trolling as they are relatively too light to cast. Generally most trolling plugs float at rest and dive based on the flattened forehead that creates a wide erratic wobble through the water. To achieve the depth required for a successful controlled trolling depth anglers use an online diving plane (Dipsey Diver) or attached to a line release on a downrigger.

Floating (Jerkbait)

FLOATING (JERKBAIT)

Floating (Jerkbait)

These are large elongated plugs intended for fishing pike. They float at rest and dive when given a strong jerk or pull than float upward to the surface. Many have a metal tail that can be bent to change the action and depth setting.

Sinking (Gliders & Twitch)

SINKING (GLIDERS & TWITCH)

Sinking (Gliders & Twitch)

Gliders and Twitch baits are lipless and sink, the action of each lure is in part provided by the angler. The Twitch bait (Top) is retrieved with a series of short taps of the rod or twitches which gives the lure an erratic motion, up down side to side action. The Glider (Bottom) is retrieved using timed cadence short pulls causing the lure to glide side to side or an underwater walk the dog action creating a dart and flash of the lure.

Creatures

CREATURES

Creatures

Freshwater game fish are predatory by nature there also opportunistic and will take advantage of any food source presented to them to fill their feeding needs. Other than bait fish they will also feed on crawfish, frogs, water snakes, swimming rodents, amphibians and insects. The above photo shows lures that imitate each type.

Lure Colors
Crankbaits are available in a spectrum of colors and finishes, painted, foil, chrome, prism, glass, photo and holographic finishes. In building your lure assortment the best is to mimic the dominant forage in the waters your fishing. Here’s a simple guideline of basic successful colors:

Open Water Suspended Forage: Shad, Shiners, Cisco’s, Alewives, Smelt
Black, Green, Blue, Purple top with Silver sides
Black top with White sides
All Silver Chrome or White

Structure Orientated Forage: Perch, Suckers, Crawfish, Minnows
Black top with Gold sides  (Sucker)
Black top with Silver sides (Minnow)
Black top with Orange sides (Perch-Crawfish)
Black top with Green sides with Bars (Perch)
Brown top Orange or Red sides (Crawfish)

Fluorescent Colors
For dark, stained or muddy waters the hot colors work effective, here’s a few top producers.
Dark Green top Chartreuse sides orange belly ( Fire tiger )
Blue top Chartreuse sides orange belly ( Parrot )
Orange top & sides Chartreuse belly (Hot Tiger )
Red Head Chartreuse Body ( Clown )

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