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Most anglers have a favorite lure and swear that their choice will out-perform all other offerings. But just how important is color when it comes to lure selection? Well, according to science, not very important at all!
Water progressively absorbs or blocks light of different wavelengths, meaning that colors effectively “vanish” one after another as “white” sunlight travels through the water column. The overall intensity or brightness of visible light also diminishes rapidly underwater.
Because this absorption is greater for longer wavelengths (the red end of the spectrum) than for shorter wavelengths (the blue end of the spectrum), perceived colors are rapidly altered with increasing depth or distance through the water.
The precise rate at which this loss of color occurs varies depending on the intensity of the sunlight, whether the sun is directly overhead or low on the horizon, the amount of cloud cover, as well as the clarity and color of the water itself, and the presence of any suspended matter such as weed or plankton. Even in very clear ocean currents far from shore, less than 25 percent of available sunlight hitting the sea’s surface will penetrate much beyond 30 feet or so. By the time we reach a depth of 300 feet, the remaining light may be as little as 0.5 percent of that available on the surface. In other words, it’s a pretty gloomy place down there! In freshwater lakes and rivers, this loss of light with depth is even more dramatic.
As already mentioned, red is the first color visible to our eyes to disappear, and is typically gone within 15 or 20 feet of the surface. much less in turbid water. Orange disappears next, then yellow, green, and purple. Blues penetrate deepest of all, both the tones visible to our human eyes and also the shorter, ultra-violet wavelength many fish can see.
This phenomenon has a profound impact on the way things look to us, and also to fish underwater.
- White objects will appear bluish or gray underwater, and the darkness of that blue/gray appearance increases rapidly with depth.
- Red objects will begin to look dark brown or even black within a few meters of the surface.
- Down at 40 or 50 feet, even in very clear water, the world appears to be composed entirely of shades of gray, blue, and black.
It’s worth stressing that this loss or alteration of visible colors occurs in both the vertical and the horizontal or diagonal planes. So, 40 feet of vertical depth has roughly the same impact on light waves and color perception as 40 feet of horizontal or diagonal separation between object and observer. In other words, a red lure may look black when viewed at a depth of 40 feet, but it will also appear black, or at the least brown or very dark grey, when viewed from the side at a distance of 40 feet, even if it’s traveling right up in the surface layer.
At face value, this phenomenon of light and color loss underwater ridicules the importance of color in lures anywhere beyond shallow, ultra-clear scenarios, yet anglers the world over will continue to argue that one color is better than another, even in deep-water jigging. The funny thing is, if you ask half a dozen fishers for their opinion on the most effective lure color, you’re likely to receive six different answers. Perhaps it’s time we moved color to the bottom of the list of criteria when choosing a lure, and placed far greater emphasis on the size, action, profile, and speed of our offerings.
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How to Get the Most out of Your Crankbaits There is perhaps no lure more versatile than a crankbait. This style of lure will catch fish of all species in all seasons, whether you’re casting or trolling.
What’s a Crankbait?
Any fish that routinely eats smaller fish can be targeted with crankbaits. A lure with a plastic lip that causes a bait to dive underwater can be classified as a crankbait. The depth ranges vary from just below the surface down to 20 feet or even deeper. To simplify things, crankbaits can be grouped into four major categories:
Squarebills and Shallow Divers
The shallowest-diving crankbaits – including the popular squarebill crankbaits – work best around shallow cover. Ideal places to throw shallow crankbaits are around rocks, docks, submerged wood, and shallow grass lines. The key with shallow-diving crankbaits is to fish them with no regard to getting them hung up. While this may seem crazy for a lure that has two treble hooks attached, shallow-divers actually do not hang up often if you reel them in fast enough. When a lure deflects off a hard object, it is often the best time to catch a fish, as it causes a reaction from the fish as the lure changes direction. The body and lip of the crankbait will absorb the impact, causing the deflection, and the hooks will rarely penetrate the cover at high speeds.
Medium-diving crankbaits work well in water that is shallower than 10 feet, even when they dive deeper than the water’s depth. A crankbait that dives 10 feet, for example, will be excellent in shallower water, as it will dig into the bottom and cause a disturbance. Like shallow-diving crankbaits, a deflection also triggers strikes, and a short pause after a deflection often results in a strike.
A deep crankbait works well for fishing off shore structures like rock piles, creek channels, and ledges. It takes more effort to get these crankbaits down deep and to make them stay there. Like the shallower styles, bottom contact is important, and any deflection or change in the retrieve will trigger a bite.
In most cases, the warmer the water is, the faster you want to crank your reel handle. A steady stop-and-go retrieve will also work in all seasons. Shallow crankbaits are perfect for springtime, as many of the largest fish in the lake will begin to enter shallow water in preparation for spawning. A red crankbait used with a fast retrieve will dive into the bottom and will look like a scurrying crawfish.
As the water temperature heats up, so does the metabolism of predatory fish. This is a time of year when you can crank as fast as you want to and fish deeper than you would in other seasons. A deep-diving crankbait is the top choice when fishing off shore structures.
Fall is arguably the best season to use crankbaits. This is when the baitfish become most active and the predatory fish begin to chase them. In lakes that have shad, a white or shad-pattern crankbait with a fast retrieve is the best lure to use to cover water until you locate a concentration of fish.
Winter is time to use a flat-sided crankbait that produces a tight wobbling action. A crankbait with a wider wobble does not work as well in colder temperatures, so flat-sided crankbaits are the top choice when fished with a slow and steady retrieve.
Line Type, Size, and Diameter
Selecting fishing line is one of the most overlooked aspects of crankbait fishing. Line size and diameter greatly affect how deep your baits will dive and what action they will have. Simply put, the thinner the diameter is, the deeper a bait will dive.
In addition to the line diameter, the type of line will affect the diving depths of your crankbaits. Monofilament and braid will float, and fluorocarbon will sink. Braided line will also have the least stretch, making it the least attractive option for crankbait fishing. The lack of stretch will tend to pull hooks out of the mouth of a fish, resulting in more lost fish.
Monofilament and fluorocarbon are the top choices for crankbaits. Monofilament is ideal for shallow crankbaits, especially when you are fishing around grass, as it will not hang up as often as the sinking fluorocarbon.
Fluorocarbon is a great all-around line for crankbait fishing; it has minimal stretch, and the sinking properties will allow a crankbait to dive deeper.
Crankbaits need rods and reels specifically designed for the technique to get the most out of your lures.
A reel should be able to handle a large amount of line to get a better casting distance, and it should also have a slower gear ratio. A 5.4:1 or similar gear ratio works well for all crankbaits because of two major factors: it forces anglers to fish the baits slower, and it allows for more power during the retrieve.
Crankbait rods should be long to allow for increased casting distance and to get to the maximum diving depth. A rod that is longer than seven feet is ideal, and up to eight feet is not too long.
The rod action is another key factor, as having a rod with some give is best to allow the bait to dive deep without being held back or impeded by the rod. A good medium-heavy rod with a moderate action has a perfect balance of backbone and flexibility. Fiberglass composite rods are popular, as they provide the balance needed for casting and cranking.
The practice of swapping treble hooks is important as hooks become dull, but changing a hook style or size can have a big impact on a crankbait’s action and dive. Each treble hook style will vary in thickness and weight, causing a lure to dive shallower or deeper. The drastic change could also negatively affect how the crankbait was designed to run, giving it little or no action. With that in mind, it is best to change out hooks for similar sizes, styles, and even the same brand to avoid affecting your bait’s action.
Tuning Your Crankbait
Making sure that your crankbait is always running straight is a priority. If not, it could be due to a defective lure, damage from an errant cast, or simply catching too many fish! The solution to fixing a straying crankbait is very easy: tune it! Needle-nose pliers will allow you to slightly adjust the line tie to the opposite direction of where you want your crankbait to run. Simply put, if your crankbait is running to the left, turn the line tie to the right.
Crankbaits are among the top-producing lures for any species that eats smaller baitfish and crayfish. They allow an angler to quickly cover water and will be appealing to any fish that is in a feeding mood. They will even tempt those that are not hungry. By following these steps, you will be sure to get the most out of your crankbaits.
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Some of us like to target pike. From the time the ice melts until the lakes freeze over again, we’re out on the water slinging heavy metal on big-diameter rods fishing all day for just a couple of bites. We might also be pushing that bow-mount electric motor to the edge of its specifications in vegetation so thick on the surface it’s hard to believe there are loads of pike hiding around the sparse stalks just a few feet down.
Pike ambush their prey, which means cover, in the form of vegetation, is a good place to find them. Wherever there is a big weedy flat, there will be pike.
During the early season, you cannot beat a spinnerbait for pike. When the fish are aggressive, you can use up to a 1-ounce lure with a big willow-leaf or Indiana-style blade. When the pike bite requires some finesse, a 1/2-ounce lure with a Colorado-style blade is the best option.
With a willow-leaf or Indiana blade, you must maintain speed for the lure to produce enough flash to attract pike. The Colorado blade is the slow, precise option. When you quit reeling and drop the tip on a Colorado-bladed spinnerbait, the lure flutters down, creating a helicopter effect and floating the skirted leadhead right into a pocket or along the edge of a weed line.
Crankbaits are deadly for pike, but when combined with a heavy wire leader with big snaps, there is a definite impediment to the lure’s action. There is a remedy for this situation. It’s called Tyger Leader. Tyger Leader (www.tygerleader.com) is a stainless steel knottable leader that you can tie directly to the lure. A 5-, 10-, even a 15-pound-test is a small enough diameter to allow the crankbait to run true to form.
Start with a small barrel swivel on the line from the reel. Tie the Tyger Leader to the swivel. Use a piece about a foot long and you’re covered. But if you’re like me, changing lures every half hour, start with 18 to 20 inches, and by the end of the day you’re left with about 6 inches. You can tie the crankbait directly to the leader and it will run straight and wobble just like it’s been tied to the braided line from the reel.
Some pike anglers swear by spoons. Spoons can generate some solid bites, but there are days when pike will just follow the lure and not hit it. When this is the case, thread three 2-inch scented grub tails onto a treble hook. The fluttering tail with the added scent turns those followers into biters.
If you are a spoon expert, try the 1 1/2-ounce Sebile Onduspoon – they are loaded with rattles and have a unique action when used with a steady retrieve. Pike seem to love them, so be sure to use a wire leader because they will inhale them.
Pike love plastic worms. Those reaper tails and brush-hog bodies that are found by the gross in bass anglers’ boxes are deadly, but pike anglers haven’t figured it out yet. A favorite plastic presentations for pike consists of a No. 4/0 weighted worm hook tipped with a Gulp! Crazy Legs Jerk Shad. You don’t rig this with the hook weed less like you would if fishing for bass. No, you make sure the hook is exposed.
Use a 1/16-ounce weighted hook so the drop is slow. With the plastic body you can cast this rig some distance, but the goal is to just pitch it into pockets in the weeds and let it sink for a few seconds. Then, using a twitch-and-stop retrieve, bring it back to the boat.
Those old grizzled pike anglers with multiple scars on their hands from getting too close to a big pike’s gill rakers prefer to use minnows — big sucker minnows. These anglers anchor at a favorite spot and watch those bobbers swim around as the big suckers try to submerge into the vegetation.
That’s the secret. You want the minnow struggling to escape, so position the hook below the bobber so the bait is a few inches above the vegetation.
There are tricks to get the minnow to attract even more pike. Some anglers trim fins. Take a nip off one of the side fins and the minnow will swim in an erratic circle. Knock off half the tail fin and the minnow really struggles to stay upright. A struggling minnow is an enticement pike cannot resist. That’s why it’s important to keep the bait fresh as well. After a half hour, replace the minnow with a fresh one, although if the fish are biting, you may go through a few suckers in that amount of time.
Other items found in the complete pike arsenal are a mouth spreader and long-nosed pliers. The prevalent mouth spreaders are wire springs that wrench the pike’s jaw open and cut right through their mouth. Toss it out. Berkley developed a new mouth spreader that has a low impact on pike. The pliers, of course, come into play when the pike’s mouth is spread open. You can see by the sheer numbers of teeth that it would be a really stupid idea to reach into that cavernous jaw and dislodge the hooks with your bare hand.
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There is a corner where the big bucktailed spinnerbaits are hanging, surrounded by a mix of both deep-diving and shallow-diving crankbaits in all the popular color patterns. There are a few spoons mingling with the big wooden and plastic minnow imitators, but one-fourth of the box is laden with big jigs next to packages of big plastic bodies. There are even a number of pre-tied wire leaders sitting on top some 3/4- and 1-ounce egg sinkers. The leaders are sporting 2/0 hooks secured directly to the stranded wire, with a ball-bearing swivel secured to the other end.
Sometimes you just need to think outside of the box when you’re chasing pike
Jigs work well for a vertical presentation as well. When pike are just off the bottom at the base of a weedy flat or point, get right over them with the boat and just drop the jig straight down – twitch the jig and keep it moving, but when you’re fishing vertically like that, you can target those deep pike you see on the sonar.
To get right into the vegetation, take a pre-tied leaders and rig the plastic worm up Texas style and fish it just like for bass. Use a cone sinker above the swivel for this so you can get it through the weeds easily and just move that worm through the weeds. Pike like vegetation and you can dig them out of it with this big plastic worm rigged weedless.”
Those pre-tied leaders also work well with live bait it’s no different than a live-bait rig you would use for a walleye except that you have a stranded-wire leader and a bigger — much bigger — hook.
Live-bait rig for pike works best along a sparse weedline or just out from the vegetation where there is little vegetation to get snagged on and if you’re working in heavy cover with live bait, you’re pretty much stuck using a bobber, but when you can work an edge, this live-bait rig is the best option.
Live-bait rigging for pike and jigging for them with plastics are both techniques more prone to a walleye or bass angler’s game plan. These are probably techniques that only get used under unusual circumstances, right? Actually, the standard lures are going to catch fish, no doubt about that. But when you’re on a body of water and the weather has created some tough fishing conditions, these non-traditional techniques should be your go-to options. It’s just that anglers are so used to the standard presentations that they don’t think about trying something different.
Like a swim bait? Bass fishermen love swim baits, but pike fishermen still haven’t discovered how good these work. Tie a piece of colored yarn to the eye of that treble hook, and you’ve added a splash of color and made the lure a little different, maybe more attractive to a pike.
Scenario: It was early season, and the pike were still up in the backwater vegetation and shallows, we had been dragging spinnerbaits and shallow-diving crankbaits through the cabbage and tree branches, and all we caught were a few small northerns. You could see these schools of minnows busting out of the water around you and we were casting to this forage because we figured something was trying to eat it, but we couldn’t get the fish to bite.
After a few frustrating hours, we started digging for something different and discovered a package of 4-inch Slurpies’ Swim Shads we had picked up at the bait shop to try. We tied one on.
Turn out that was the right move, every time some minnows would break the surface we would cast right to the boil. That lure wouldn’t sink a foot and a big pike had grabbed it. We tried crankbaits and spinnerbaits, but it was the swim bait that the pike wanted. Needless to say we used them a lot since then, and they’re something different that the pike haven’t seen a lot, and that lure triggers bites. For working over the tops of a big weedbed, you can’t beat a swim bait.”
So, are the spinnerbaits and crankbaits in the tackle box becoming obsolete? Hardly, those lures still catch plenty of pike, but we also learned a few tricks to spice them up.
Considering what we might do to a spinnerbait that has had a few pike chase it to the boat and fail to grab it. We pulled off the plastic skirt and replace it with a scented body, like a Berkley Power Hawg or a 7-inch Gulp Turtleback Worm. This way, not only did we get some additional squirm action, but we also got the benefit of the scent.
But you can’t doctor the crankbaits without messing up the action, right? Sure you can. Just take a piece of thin red yarn and tie it to the eye of the back treble hook. That little dash of color, and pike really trigger on that red, won’t affect the action of the lure at all, and it works. But don’t limit yourself to just red. Sometimes green or orange or even blue might be the color that does the trick.
Does the yarn trick also work for spoons, too? You bet it does. Tie a piece of colored yarn to the eye of that treble hook, and you’ve added a splash of color and made the lure a little different, maybe more attractive to a pike. Sometimes we’ll take a Johnson Silver Minnow and thread a grubtail on the hook. That adds some scent, too. It’s a little added enticement that can make a big difference to the outcome of your fishing day.
What about the old “minnow-under-a-bobber” presentation that is a fixture in a pike angler’s repertoire? There isn’t any thinking outside the box for that technique, is there? That’s why we carry that scissors. Clip one of the side fins or trim off the tail on that sucker or shiner you’re dangling under the bobber, and you get a struggling minnow instead of one that is just happily sitting there. Pike can’t resist a minnow that’s struggling.
What differentiates the anglers who catch fish and the ones who don’t is the fine line between those who are using presentations that they were told to use and hope for a bite, and those who think outside the box to create a bite. Success is always thinking outside that hefty tackle box with all those lures and gadgets — which eventually lead to catching fish!
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Nothing is better than catching fish all day on the lake and then thinking of how to prepare your fresh caught fish for the evening meal, once back at camp.
You’re in for a yummy treat with this fish
dish for sure!
4 pcs. 6/8 oz. portions fresh walleye (or pike) fillets (about 2#)
1/4 cup melted butter
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. chopped parsley
1/4 t. dill, rosemary or marjoram, crumbled
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. coarsely ground pepper
Directions first be sure to remove bones.
Line broiled pan with foil and place the fillets on the rack. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Combine remaining ingredients and use to baste the fish. Place the broiler pan 4 inches from heat and broil, allowing 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness. Do not turn the fish. Baste several times during cooking. Makes 4 servings.
“No angler merely watches nature in a passive way.
He enters into its very existence.”
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It all begins with a day on the lake when the northern pike have kicked up a good bite. A couple four to five pound northern and you’ll have yourself a delectable meal of fresh caught fish and nothing better than northern pike from Wawang Lake.
4 lbs. northern pike fillets, de-boned, cooked and chopped
4 Potatoes, boiled, mashed
2 Eggs, beaten
8 Green Onions, chopped
Salt & Pepper
1/2 Green Pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Flour
Spray Oil for frying
Mix ingredients well and shape into patties. Dip the patties into the flour and fry until browned in a non-stick fry pan sprayed with oil. Great meal with fresh caught fish or left over fish too.
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