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Tag Archives: Bait fish

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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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.

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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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Fall PIKE Fishing

31The Ontario archery hunting season will be open mid-September and it’s a tortuous time of year, because the urge to hunt is so strong after a long off-season. Yet, while the bush beckons the hunters, Wawang Lake is still here – promising what is arguably the best fishing of the whole year!

That’s because the cool autumn months before winter are prime days to catch fish, and BIG fish, in generous quantities. Why? Because fish feed more voraciously during the fall than any other time of year. They instinctively know that winter’s coming, marking a cold-water period of low activity. So, predator fish bulk up for winter by packing in as much eating as they can. This time also coincides with the fall spawn of baitfish.

Basically, the baitfish school-up to move into the spawning grounds and the predator fish follow them.

One such predator in the mix of the fall bite is the magnificent Northern Pike.  As anyone who knows Wawang Lake – it’s stuffed with these jaw, snapping monsters! Our pike hunters love the way they look, strike and fight. They have the attitude of a pitbull on steroids! Even a 3-4 pounder can give any angler a thrill. Add twenty pounds and you have a serious freshwater battle on your hands.

One of the best ways to catch a bunch of pike in the fall is by trolling and covering a lot of water. Before hitting the water, have a game plan. Study the Wawang Lake map of the lake and identify the steep breaks where shallow water drops off into deep structure. These are potential hotspots.

If the shallows in these spots are weedy, look for weedlines that are still green. Weeds that have already laid down and are beginning to decay do not hold fish like they did in the summertime. Fish like GREEN weeds, for the leafy cover they provide, and dying weeds don’t offer the same concealment. On a particular weedline, the top fish-holding locations are points and inside turns. These are key ambush areas at any time of year, including fall.

If the lake has no green living weeds, then other types of cover are your next best bet. Rocks are ALWAYS dynamite areas to target big pike, particularly if they’re out on a nice point. Add wind ripping into or over that point, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for big gators laying in wait. The wind creates current that pushes bait into the point, where opportunistic feeders are always hanging around After determining which weedlines, rocks, points, etc. that you intend to target, the next decision to make is lure selection. During the fall, northern pike like to eat big meals. So opt for baits that have a large profile.
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Lure suggestions to start with: ·

  • a big jerkbait like a 9-inch Suick in Firetiger, Perch or Red/White – always clipped to a steel leader. ·
  • 10″ Swimming Joe (Bucher) baits in firetiger, perch, or walleye – a proven overall best
  • Other proven performers are big spoons, paddle-tailed swim baits and bucktails. ·
  • If picking up stray weeds is a problem, troll a jumbo spinnerbait or weedless spoon like a Johnson Silver Minnow.   ·
  • Add a large twist-tail grub body to the shank hook on spinnerbaits and Silver Minnows, to increase the size of the bait’s profile, enhance vibration and for a splash of color.

Once you get on a weedline depth (typically 10-15 feet), watch your sonar and stay on that contour. Pike aren’t afraid to hit a fast-moving bait, so I usually begin with a troll speed of about 2.5 miles per hour. If that doesn’t get results, try slower or faster speeds – even up to around 5 miles per hour even.

Leave your rod holders at home when trolling for pike, because you’ll get a lot more bites if you continually work the lure with quick, hard jerks; steady pull-and-drop movements; and erratic twitching. Pike will routinely follow behind a bait, and the instant it “pauses” it often triggers an aggressive strike!

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Fast trolling regularly results in an immediate hook-up, especially if you’re using no-stretch braided line instead of monofilament. However, we prefer braid for trollling, because the line transmits the wobble of the lure to your hand and lets you know if the bait is running properly or whether you’ve picked up a stray weed.

The fall trolling pattern for northern pike can provide you with some of the most action-packed fishing of the year. Handle the fish with care and release them healthy so they go into the winter months stress-free. And don’t be afraid to keep a couple of 3-4 pounders for the dinner table. Pike is an amazing fish to eat, especially if you de-bone it to remove those nuisance “Y” bones. Or, leave the bones in and opt for pickling instead. The pickling process turns the bones to mush, and there’s a better than pickled northern pike!

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Pike – Locations & Tackle

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

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

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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Bucktail Jigging For Weed Walleye

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

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.

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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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Which is Best – Live Bait or Lure?

It’s one of fishing’s most common questions – what’s the best choice: real bait or artificial lures? In reality, there’s NO one-size-fits-all answer to this timeless dilemma. Each approach to catching fish has its particular strengths and weaknesses, and each one is better suited to different conditions, environments, target species, and levels of angler competence. Let’s look at the pros and cons of real bait versus counterfeit offerings!

Learning the Ropes Having said that, there’s no question that the very best, most consistently successful anglers are almost always those who cut their fishing teeth using natural baits. Bait fishing teaches us the absolute basics of the sport, including what food items fish prefer to eat, where fish expect to find those food items, and how and when fish prey upon them. Whether you remain a dedicated bait fisher for life or go on to try lures or even fly fishing, understanding these fundamental basics of the sport will stand you in great stead.

Better still, finding, gathering, or catching your own bait rather than buying it from a shop magnifies all these important lessons. Bait collecting teaches an angler a great deal about where the food items fish prey upon live, how they behave, and what they look like. If you ever move on to try lure, these lessons will prove to be invaluable…and even if you don’t, catching your own bait will definitely save you lots of money!

Hunting Versus Trapping  In many ways, fishing with lures is akin to hunting, while bait fishing is more like trapping. In other words, the bait fisher sets out his or her “traps” (baited hooks) and waits for the prey to stumble upon them. In contrast, a lure fisher can cover more water in less time. Like a hunter using a rifle or bow, the lure caster or troller actively seeks out the prey, and his or her lures are effectively bullets and arrows.

Clearly, these two subtly different approaches will have varying levels of appeal for different anglers and comparative strengths and weaknesses under changing conditions. There’s no overall “best” method, simply better choices on the day.

When Using Bait is Best:

  • At night
  • When instructing new chums or kids
  • When the water is muddy or discolored
  • When it’s very cold (especially while ice fishing!)
  • When targeting vegetarian and omnivorous species
  • When catching a meal is absolutely paramount!

When Using Lures is Best

  • In most catch-and-release fisheries
  • Where undersized and non-target “nuisance fish” are abundant
  • In clearer water
  • In warmer weather
  • For aggressive, predatory fish
  • On waters designated “artificial only” or “fly and lure only”

The Best Features of Bait

  • Bait is extremely effective at fooling most fish.
  • Bait is usually cheap (free if you catch your own!).
  • You can cast out a bait, set your rod down, and wait for the fish to come to you!
  • Leftover bait can be returned to its natural environment or taken home and frozen for future use.
  • Many fish hook themselves when they eat bait; thus, knowing exactly when to strike is less critical.
  • Bait appeals to an extraordinary range of fish species in most aquatic environments, and you will nearly always catch something on bait!

The Downfalls of Using Bait

  • Most bait needs refrigeration or a water-circulating live well to maintain freshness.
  • Finding and catching bait can be a dirty, difficult, and even potentially hazardous task.
  • Most bait smells! Your hands, clothes, and gear will also become smelly when you go bait fishing.
  • Bait is non-discriminatory; it often attracts under-sized fish and non-target species.
  • Bait fishing is less spontaneous, and it usually requires at least some planning.
  • Using bait often results in deeply hooked fish that can’t be easily released with a high chance of survival.

The Best Features of Lures

  • Lures are simply fun to use! Catching a fish on a lure always seems especially satisfying.
  • Lure fishing is an active, engaging pursuit, and you can cover a lot more water with a lure.
  • Lures tend to catch slightly larger fish on average and attract less unwanted by-catch.
  • Lures nearly always hook fish in the jaws, lips, or mouth, facilitating easier, safer catch and release.
  • Lure collecting can become at least as addictive (and pleasurable) as lure fishing!

The Downfalls of Using Lures

  • Most good lures are expensive, and some are very expensive!
  • Many lures are easily snagged on obstacles such as rocks, trees, or strands of water weed.
  • Lure fishing demands constant motion, such casting and retrieving or trolling from a moving boat.
  • Many species of fish are much less responsive to lures than they are to bait.
  • Lure fishing generally demands better-quality tackle and a higher degree of skill than bait fishing.
  • Lure collecting can become at least as addictive (and expensive) as lure fishing!

And the Winner Is…
In the final analysis, there can be no overall winner in the bait-versus-lures contest. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and each will dominate under certain conditions or on a particular day. Smart (and successful) anglers will strive to be adept at both forms of fishing!

 

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