Posted on

Best lures and techniques to catch crappie

Best lures and techniques to catch crappie

Crappie are one of the most popular freshwater fish to catch because they are so abundant and they taste great.  There are 2 types of crappies: black and white.  Black and white crappie share most of the same waters, however, black crappie are most abundant in northern lakes that are cool with a gravel or sand bottom.  White crappie are common in reservoirs, lakes, and rivers.  They tolerate darker water than black crappie and they thrive in southern lakes with soft or hard bottoms.  Both species live in rivers and streams, however, black crappie prefer calmer water and they also tolerate a higher salt content, which is why they are common in estuaries.

Where to find crappie???

Crappie are definitely more popular in lakes than rivers.  In lakes, you will really only find them shallow early in the spring, then crappie move out towards deeper water.  Crappie love wood and they can also be found around weeds too.  Crappie are known for schooling out over open water which makes fishing difficult until you can find them.  You may find these fish 20 to 40 feet down from summer through fall out over open water.

Bobbers?

bobbersBobbers or floats are great when crappie are in the shallows. When crappie move into the shallows in the spring, you can find crappie in as little as a couple feet of water.  Using a bobber is a great way to present a lively minnow or jig to crappie in the shallows.

 

 

line-3

doublejigrig

Double Jig  

The double jig rig is probably most popular among crappie anglers, but anglers use this rig for many other fish as well.  Saltwater anglers use a double jig rig with just a plain jig head and they will add live bait or soft plastics.  Panfish anglers like to target perch, bluegill, rock bass and other types of panfish that will school up over deeper water in the summer months.

 

 

 

 

 

line-3

dropshotrigThe drop shot rig is a very popular rig for a variety of fishing situations.  Whether you are fishing deep, shallow, around cover, with live bait, soft plastics, for bass, panfish or huge saltwater fish, the drop shot rig will work in most situations.  The main line is tied to the hook and you want to leave some extra line after you tie the knot so you can tie that line to the sinker.  If you want to keep your bait 1 foot off the bottom, make sure to leave a little over 12 inches of extra line from when you tie the hook to the line.  This way, you’ll have about 12 inches of line left over to tie to the sinker.

 

 

 

saltwater-jigheadsJigheads are key to rigging the many different soft plastics that anglers use for crappie.  Anglers also use jigheads with live minnows, pieces of leeches and worms.  Jigheads are so basic, but essential to catching crappie. I prefer grub tails or tube jigs.

 

line-3

slipbobberrigThe Slip Bobber Rig is the way to go if you are looking to fish deeper water, but still use a float.  You can find slip bobber rigs in most bait & tackle shops.  Once you learn how to use them, you’ll agree that they are fairly easy to set up.  In this rig, the bobber slides freely until it hits the bobber stop.  You will set the bobber stop at the depth that you would like to fish your bait.  For example, you may be fishing a deep weed edge and you see that most of the fish are suspended about 15 feet down.  By setting the bobber stop at 15 feet, the line will slide through the bobber and your bait will be positioned exactly where the fish are positioned.  Fishing with slip bobbers is popular among freshwater and saltwater anglers, but it is probably most popular with crappie and walleye anglers. I also love it for bluegill.

Posted on

Dead Sticking Technique for catching bass

Heddon Chug'N Spook Jr-Blk Shiner X953602

Dead sticking is a do-nothing technique where you don’t move your bait.  Some anglers think of wacky worms as a dead sticking technique, but it really isn’t because the bait is moving through the water column as you are sitting there doing nothing.  This is a technique that works very well with a variety of baits such as soft plastics, some hard baits and flies.  When using topwater lures, give your lure a couple twitches and then just pause it for 20 to 30 seconds.  This would be a dead sticking technique.  Use a jig and soft plastic bait and just hold it over the side of the boat over deeper water for smallmouth bass.  This is another dead sticking technique that works.  When using topwater lures and hard jerkbaits, you can use a twitch and pause technique and pause the bait for much longer when the bite is finicky.  This will usually result in some of the bigger bass of your day if you are patient enough to fish this way.

When using soft plastics, the worms, creature baits and lizards are best if they are loaded with scent or float just off the bottom.  With largemouth bass, you can get a lot of quality bites by working your bait along a productive area and then just killing the bait (stopping it).  Just wait there and see what happens.  Most anglers don’t have the patience to fish this way, but once you get bit by a 4, 5, 6 or even 7 pound largemouth bass or bigger, you may try this technique a little more often.

The reason why dead sticking works well is that there are good amounts of bass that aren’t in an aggressive mood and if they get a chance to look at the bait for a while and it looks like something they would eat, there’s a good chance they will eat it.  At times, anglers are pulling their baits out of the strike zone way too quickly so they miss a lot of fish.  Dead sticking will pick up many of those inactive fish, but the problem is that you’re not going to cover much water, which may result in less fish overall on the day.  Pick your spots and times for dead sticking and it can be a nice way to catch a few more big largemouth bass.

Posted on

What are the favorite topwater lures for largemouth bass

Fishing with topwater lures is by far the most exciting way to fish for largemouth bass.
Whether you target bass with a frog, torpedo, buzzbait or any other type of topwater lure, the strikes above the surface are just flat out awesome.  At times you can catch some largemouth with a topwater lure during cold water conditions, but for the most part, you’re going to be looking for water temperatures above 60 degress and the better bite is almost always during light conditions when fishing with topwater lures.  In the late spring, summer and early fall, there is usually a very good topwater bite at night as well on most bodies of water.

line-3
Best Fishing Tips for Topwater Largemouth Bass Fishing
line-3

Low Light Conditions are Best

There are exceptions, but for the most part, the better topwater bite is almost always during low light conditions.  Early morning, evening and the night time are best.

Twitch, Twitch, Pause

If you want to consistently catch largemouth bass with a topwater lure, learn how to twitch the bait a couple of times and then pause the bait.  This technique is by far the best technique for consistently catching bass on the surface.

Frogs are Awesome

It’s tough to beat a frog.  Learn how to fish with them and you’ll catch a ton of bass.

Different Types of Topwater Lures
line-3

buzzbaitsBuzzbaits are one of the most exciting topwater lures to use because the explosions can be absolutely incredible. This is a lure that attracts aggressive bass and it works very well during the early morning and evening hours. I like white or chartreuse.

line-3

chuggers-poppersChuggers – Poppers are very popular among topwater bass anglers.  These lures can be retrieved with a quick twitch and stop motion when bass are aggressive.  When bass are less aggressive, a stop and go retrieve with longer pauses will get plenty of bites.

line-3

crawlers-topwaterTopwater Crawlers can be very productive during daytime hours, but this is one of the best topwater lures for night fishing. Bass can easily follow this lure’s slow and steady retrieve at night.  Don’t be surprised if you get some hits right next to shore or the boat.

line-3

propbaitsPropbaits are some of the most exciting topwater lures for bass fishing.  You can use a steady wind-in retrieve or a twitch and pause technique.  The twitch and pause technique tends to work much better as most bass will hit the lure on the pause.

line-3

stickbaitsTopwater Stickbaits provide an exciting walk-the-dog motion along the top of the water.  This retrieve mixed in with a pause will draw aggressive bass from far to see what is causing all of the commotion.  Bass will attack stickbaits very aggressively. I love silver and black.

line-3

topwater-frogsFrogs work great for fishing over lily pads or a variety of different weeds.  The morning and evenings are great times to fish topwater frogs, but you can go into some heavy cover during the middle of the day and get some bass to come up for these lures.  

line-3

topwater-miceMice work great for fishing over lily pads or a variety of different weeds.  The morning and evenings are great times to fish topwater mice, but you can go into some heavy cover during the middle of the day and get some bass to come up for these lures.

 

Posted on

Find and Catch Fall Bass

For many anglers, it doesn’t get much better than a day on the water in the fall. The leaves change colors, the deer and turkeys begin to move; and the crisp clean air wipes away all memories of the oppressive summer heat. Although fall weather conditions are ideal for fishing, the onset of autumn can sometimes be a little harder on the catching, as fall fish movements can be tough to track.

Falling water temperatures, turnover, and baitfish migrations can shatter reliable summer patterns and cause bass to scatter – a recipe for feast or famine fishing. Fortunately, though, when it comes to the tricky tracking of fall fish movements, a little knowledge goes a long way.

We chatted up some of the best minds in the sport and got the scoop on fall fish movements that will hopefully result in a lot more days feasting this fall.

Where They Go

fall fish movemements

To find bass in the fall, you only need to have one word in your brain; baitfish. By late summer, they have congregated in massive schools and become the dominant food source for bass in most reservoirs. Because there are more baitfish packed in to tighter areas, there is also a lot more dead water between them. In the fall, if you’re not seeing baitfish flipping on the surface or on your locator, you’re probably going to strike out. As the water temperature drops, the schools of bait move toward the backs of creeks. To find them, try idling secondary points, the last steep drops in creek arms, and bluff walls off the main lake. Once you mark some baitfish, start fishing. Fall fish movements are a top-down approach, as once you find those baitfish you should be right on some predators.

How To Catch Them

crankbaits

Once you’ve located the bait, the most effective  way to catch bass is to use shad imitators like walk-the-dog topwaters, jerkbaits, swimbaits, and crankbaits. The good news – bass around bait are generally aggressive, so you just need to get something in their strike zone and make them react. Don’t be afraid to move your baits really quickly either – there is lots of surface feeding activity in the fall.

Posted on

Catching Crappie in the Heat of the Summer

Catch Summer Slab Crappie

Tactics for Catching Crappies in Hot Summer Weather

Remember how awesome the fishing was last month? Crappies were spawning, bunched in the shallows thicker than fleas on a hound. You were catching slabs off stake beds and brushpiles in every bay, cove, and flat. Then suddenly, just like somebody pulled the plug, it was over. Now you’re figuring it’s time to stash the crappie tackle until next spring.

Hold on. Even though the spawning bonanza has passed, there’s still plenty of great crappie action out there if you change your tactics. After the spawn, crappies follow submerged creek channels out of reservoir tributary arms toward the main body of the lake. Although they’re unlikely to be packed together now as they were during the spawn, they’re still in predictable places and respond eagerly to live bait and lure presentations. Here’s how to find these summer hangouts.

June

TROLL CRANKBAITS When lake temperatures reach about 75 degrees, postspawn crappies will be scattered along the first dropoff they encounter adjacent to their bedding areas—12 to 18 feet deep is typical. These fish will be suspending now rather than holding tight to the bottom, so your best approach is to cover a lot of water by slow-trolling small crankbaits like the Bandit 100 and Bomber Model A. Target the deep ends of gravel flats, major points at tributary mouths, and creek-channel drops [figure 1]. First scan these areas with your sonar and put marker buoys along channels and ditches to chart your route. Using soft-action baitcasting rods and 8-pound abrasion-resistant line, troll between 1.5 and 2.5 mph in a lazy S pattern, alternately sweeping the open water over the channel and banging bottom on top of the drop with your lures. When a fish strikes, don’t grab the rod and set the hook—crappies aren’t called “paper-mouths” for nothing, and a hard hookset may rip out the hook. Instead, pick up the rod and just start reeling. The strike is usually sufficient to bury the hook. Don’t forget to take along a plug knocker to retrieve crankbaits that hang up in brushy cover.

July

PROBE CHANNEL COVER With the lake now topping 80 degrees, crappies will most often be hanging around deep creek and river channels. Look for them to be suspending near, or holding tight to, stumps, brushpiles, and flooded standing timber adjacent to channels in 20 to 30 feet of water. Mark channel drops with buoys, then probe for crappies using a Kentucky rig [figure 2]. Use cheap 30-pound mono as leaders off of the main line. The stiff, springy leaders will keep the two lures from tangling. A bow-mounted sonar with the transducer attached to the trolling motor will help you stay on target. Lower the sinker straight down into bottom cover and s-l-o-w-l-y reel it up, repeating as you progress along the channel [figure 3]. July crappies often suspend in a tower formation, and this presentation will catch fish from 30 to 10 feet deep.

August

DRAG OFFSHORE HUMPS Even though the lake temperature may exceed 90 degrees now, you can still catch crappies by keying on offshore humps (submerged islands). Target those no shallower than 15 feet on top, especially if they rise out of deep water near a flowing channel. Crappies gravitate to the peak of the hump to feed on baitfish when current is being generated from the upstream dam, then drop back to suspend off its deep sides once the turbines shut down.

Idle over the structure, marking it with buoys. Move to open water, let out about 40 feet of line with a Kentucky rig on the business end, and head back to the spot with your trolling motor, dragging the rig behind your boat. When you move across the hump and feel the sinker hit bottom, speed up slightly; if you haven’t felt the sinker drag for several seconds, slow down until you do.

Crappies suspending in hot water can be maddeningly slow to bite. When you spot a school on your sonar, you may have to approach it from several different directions to entice a strike. A sudden change of speed can also trigger a bite. As the rig passes near the school, either speed up your trolling motor to quicken the presentation, or kill it so the rig sinks. Find the right combination, and you can get two hookups at once.

Follow the Forecast:

Muggy

Minnows fade quickly in the heat, so switch to tube baits. Look for towers of suspending fish at dropoffs down to 30 feet and probe them vertically with a Kentucky rig.

Windy

Wave action creates cloudy water perfect for ambushes, and crappies emerge from channels to prey on bait feeding on windblown plankton. Head to banks with nearby dropoffs and slowly swim a small white or chartreuse twister jig.

High Pressure

Under clear skies, crappies retreat from piercing UV light in brushy cover near channel drops. Fish straight down into the thick stuff with a Kentucky rig.

Dropping Pressure

Before a storm, crappies school up to bird-dog wandering baitfish. Make multiple passes over channel drops until you find them on your graph, then troll crankbaits or slow- drift jigs through the school. —DON WIRTH

Posted on

Flathead Catfish Bait Options

Flathead Catfish Bait Options

by Dan Anderson   |  

Knowing when and where to use a variety of live, dead, and artificial baits is one key to catching more and bigger flatheads.

If you were to cater a gourmet meal for a convention of flathead catfish, the menu might center around a lively 6-inch green sunfish presented on a 5/0 hook. Other entrees might include feisty bluegills, bullheads, or creek chubs served on sliprigs constructed with 12-inch leaders. Appetizers such as a writhing ball of river worms on an 8/0 hook, a lip-hooked waterdog, or a juicy section of a large sucker also would be welcome. Dessert could be a back-hooked mudpuppy or a crankbait trolled through a school of gizzard shad.

This menu is courtesy of some of America’s leading flathead catfish bait anglers. All of these experts agree that green sunfish, where legal, are the premier bait for flatheads. “Green sunfish are tough, and they constantly fight the hook, which produces lots of vibration,” says Denny Halgren, who guides flathead-loving clients on the Rock River near his home in Dixon, Illinois.

Jigging sunfish—Unlike most flathead anglers, Halgren fishes almost exclusively during daylight hours and aggressively jigs his sunfish to antagonize inactive flatheads into attacking his baits. He anchors his boat above a hole, baits with a 5- to 6-inch green sunfish back-hooked on a 5/0 or 6/0 Tru-Turn Catfish Hook, then casts at a 45-degree angle to the back of the boat. He uses a 2- to 4-ounce slipsinker pegged 10 to 24 inches above the hook with a lead shot.

Slow currents allow for less weight and longer leaders; stronger currents require more weight and shorter leaders. Halgren’s clients cast a similarly rigged sunfish off the other side of the boat at a 45-degree angle. The current and a jigging motion moves the baits downstream into the daytime resting hole of the resident flathead. A slow, methodical lifting-and-dropping action moves the sunfish into the hole, then works it back to the boat.

“During the day, these flatheads aren’t in feeding mode,” Halgren says, “so I show them the bait, then take it away, over and over again. We may work a bait through the same hole 15 or 20 times in an hour, but eventually the fish will grab the bait.”

Jigging for big flatheads requires specialized tackle. Halgren uses Pro Cat II graphite catfish rods developed and marketed by Aurora Sports in Elmhurst, Illinois. “I use 20-pound Stren line and those Pro Cat rods to give me the sensitivity to feel exactly what my bait is doing as I jig it, ” Halgren says. “Twenty-pound line is strong enough to handle a big flathead. It’s not necessary to horse him back to the boat. All you have to do is hold him when you set the hook, keep him from getting back into the snag, then use the current and steady pressure to guide him away from cover so you can work him back to the boat.”

Other sunfish tactics—Live green sunfish also are the preferred bait of Gene Murray, a well-known catfish angler from southeastern Iowa, who has lived on the banks of the lower Iowa River for over 30 years. Murray, who has fished with Halgren, agrees that Halgren’s jigging technique can be deadly—under certain conditions. “Most of these rivers have a soft bottom littered with debris, so jigging tends to produce lots of snags,” Murray says. “I agree with Halgren that green sunfish are a top bait, if you can get them, but I also have a lot of luck with 6- to 8-inch bullheads.

“My fishing partner Craig Whittaker is a little more adventurous and will put anything that’s legal on his hook, just to see if a flathead will take it,” Murray adds. “He’s used small sheepshead, carp minnows, crawdads, chubs and has caught flatheads on all of them. But I usually catch more and bigger flatheads by using proven baits like green sunfish or bullheads. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m also a better fishermen than he is.”

While Murray and Whittaker enjoy long discussions about who is the better angler, they agree that they have discovered a way to dramatically increase their catch rates for flatheads. Iowa regulations allow two hooks per rod, so Murray and Whittaker use either a 3-way swivel or a Kentucky-style twisted-monofilament leader rig to put a chunk of fresh cutbait—usually a small shad or herring fillet—on the same rig with a live sunfish, bullhead, or chub. “Rigs with both cutbait and livebait almost always get bit before a rig with two livebaits, ” Murray says. “I think the flavor of the cutbait draws the cats’ attention, but they almost always take the livebait once they get close enough to see it.”

Waterdogs and mudpuppies produce big flatheads in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, particularly when flipped or pitched into heavy cover.

The trouble with mudpuppies—Murray admits that while his favorite bait for flatheads is live green sunfish, his dream bait, when he can find them, is mudpuppies. Mudpuppies are the larval stage of salamanders; they’re only available during certain seasons and usually difficult to find. “I grew up with an old river rat who knew a spot where we could seine mudpuppies,” Murray recalls. “We’d bait bank lines with those mudpuppies and catch lots of channel catfish; we’d also find broken lines and straightened hooks where big flatheads had broken off. The only problem with mudpuppies is that every fish species in the river likes them too.”

Great gobs of worms—Virgil Agee, of Chamois, Missouri, has a favorite bait for flatheads that deals with the problem of bait thieves. He uses river worms, a sluggish, blackish-purple-brown worm found along riverbanks from Oklahoma to the Carolina coast. “I don’t know any other name for them except river worms,” Agee says. “I dig them in sand or gravel areas along the river bank. They’re about a quarter inch in diameter and up to a foot long. They’re slow-moving, tough-skinned, and their slime kind of glows in the dark. Sometimes I dig for hours to get a dozen, and other times it’s possible to get three dozen in 15 minutes.”

Gobs of nightcrawlers or river worms have long been a favorite bait option for many veteran flathead anglers.

Three dozen river worms equates to about three “baits” for Agee. He threads a baseball-size gob of river worms onto an 8/0 or 10/0 hook below a pegged slip sinker, then casts the slow-writhing mass into a prime flathead lair. “Little fish start working on the tips of the worms, but those river worms are so tough that small fish can’t do much more than nip off the ends, ” Agee says. “All the juice and activity attracts larger fish that in turn eventually attract the big boy in charge of that particular hole.

“Those little “shakers” will keep that wad of worms bouncing from the minute you toss it in the water, ” Agee adds. “But be patient and ignore all that shaking, even if you leave it out there for an hour or more. Have faith that the river worms are tough enough that the small fish won’t clean the hook. Just leave it out there, and when all the shaking stops, it’s time to start paying attention. Something has scared away all the little fish, and it’s probably a big flathead. Flatheads don’t mess around with river worms—they just up and grab the wad, so be ready to set the hook as soon as you detect a steady pull.”

Eels, dead or alive—Ed Davis of Fayetteville, North Carolina, hasn’t boated any 100-pound flatheads, but in the past three years he has caught more than 100 flatheads in the 40- to 70-pound range from the Cape Fear River. Davis fished for flatheads all across the United States during a 21-year military career. He baits his line with green sunfish where they’re legal, and eels whenever possible. “I’ve often fished with two rigs, one baited with live sunfish and the other tipped with 6- to 8-inch chunks of a ­1-inch-diameter eel,” Davis says. “The chunks of eel always outfish the live sunfish.

“Live 6- to 8-inch eels are good, too, but they’re hard to fish because they crawl into holes and get you snagged a lot. Live eels can be kept alive for months if they’re kept on ice,” Davis says. “They go dormant as soon as they’re chilled, then they perk right up as soon as you put them into warm water. The secret is to prevent them from burrowing through the crushed ice and to the melt water at the bottom of the container where they’ll drown.”

Bully for bullheads, too—Davis also is fond of baiting with bullheads. He usually hooks an 8- or 9-inch bullhead through the back near the tail, so the bait is off-balance and must constantly fight to stay level. “Bullheads are tough, they put a lot of vibration in the water, and they’re easy to find,” Davis says. “Anyone who doesn’t fish with bullheads for flatheads is handicapping himself, particularly in states where sunfish aren’t legal and eels aren’t available.”

Fresh cut portions of an oily baitfish like shad, sucker, or herring may at times outproduce livebait.

The cutbait crusaders—Ryan Wassink of Hull, Iowa, and his brother Vaughn frequently cross the Minnesota border to fish the bait-restricted Minnesota River. Last year they caught and released 102 flatheads from the Minnesota that weighed up to 50 pounds. The Wassinks have developed an aggressive approach to catching flatheads with cutbait. “We buy 8- to 12-inch suckers from bait shops and cut them into halves or thirds, ” Ryan says. “For flatheads, I like to use the gut section, but Vaughn likes to use the heads. We save the tail sections for channel cats.”

The Wassinks put the juicy chunks of fresh sucker flesh on a 4/0 or 5/0 Kahle hook with a 12-inch leader. An appropriate-sized sliding egg sinker above a swivel keeps the chunk of sucker on the bottom. “The secret is to keep moving, ” Wassink says. “If we’re fishing during the day, we’ll hit 40 or 50 snags in an afternoon. We average about 5 minutes per snag. It has to be a really hot-looking spot for us to spend more than 15 minutes in one spot.”

The Wassinks have learned that the older the snag, the more attractive to flatheads. “We look for the old snags that have so much debris in them that grass and weeds are growing out the top, ” Ryan adds. “It doesn’t have to be deep—four feet of water under a snag might hold a nice flathead if sunlight can’t penetrate the snag during daylight hours.”

Artificial offerings—While most flathead anglers swear that lively livebaits or fresh cutbaits are the only sure-fire way to catch flatheads, Eric Anderson of Phoenix, Arizona, disagrees. “I’ve taken lots of flatheads on crankbaits, ” Anderson says. “In Horseshoe Reservoir, we clobbered flatheads that were suspended 12 feet down over 30 feet of water, following schools of shad. We caught them on #9 Shad Raps; that’s 15- to 20-pound flatheads on spinning rigs spooled with 8-pound line.”

Anderson says his goal when trolling is to trigger impulse strikes from aggressive flatheads already bent on feeding. Crankbait color doesn’t seem to make a big difference in murky water. “Thump or vibration is what matters,” Anderson adds. “Flatheads live in dirty water, and they depend on vibration to find food.”

No time to debate about bait when the action’s this hot.

The waterdog option—While Anderson has had success trolling crankbaits for flatheads, 9-inch waterdogs pitched into nooks and crannies along shoreline cover also have been deadly flathead bait. “I thump a waterdog on the head to kill it,” he says, “then hook it through both lips. They’re too active and hard to control when they’re alive. I pitch them into nooks and crannies along the shoreline as if pitchin’ for bass. I can give dead waterdogs enough action on the retrieve so flatheads think they’re alive.

Anderson agreed with our other experts that no single bait will catch flatheads in every situation. Weather, water temperature, water levels, time of day, and a dozen other factors all influence the sometimes finicky taste buds of flatheads. But flatheads find certain baits difficult to resist. If green sunfish aren’t legal in your waters, then bullheads, river worms, mudpuppies, eels, or fresh chunks of cutbait definitely should be on the menu.

Posted on

Stock trout secrets

HOW TO CATCH STOCKED TROUT

Roger

Catching stocked trout is a fun way to spend a morning and afternoon.  Even better when you’re catching fish! This article will discuss little known facts about the habits of stocked trout. Understanding the habits of the fish you are trying to catch will help you catch them.  Important highlights are what trout eat, what triggers them to strike a lure, at what depth they swim at, how they react when freshly planted and how they behave after some time has passed. Knowing these facts will help you catch stocked trout.

What do stocked trout eat?
Stocked trout are accustomed to eating brown food pellets. They don’t generally know to eat anything else. If you cut open the stomach of a stocked trout it is very likely that you will find things like brown leaves, parts of acorns, and bits of twigs. The one thing in common to all of these stomach contents is that they are brown and arrived in the water after having been blown into it. Quite likely the twig or bit of leaf floated in the wind and splashed down on the water. This matches the feeding pattern of stocked trout: they are accustomed to brown pellets splashing down over them. For trout, during the first couple weeks after having been planted in a lake, food is something brown that splashes into the water.

Trout identify food with patterns
This leads to an important point about how trout (and most fish) identify food. Fish identify food by matching patterns. A pattern can be the size of the bait or lure, the color of the bait or lure, the way the bait/lure was presented to them (for example, by a splashdown or a “fleeing”  motion that triggers an instinctual chase response). These are all patterns. Understanding that trout identify food by their pattern will help you in your selection of lure and the way it is presented. Always keep this in mind: trout are looking for patterns.

An interesting pattern is their association of food with brown things thrown at them by humans. This is why freshly stocked trout do not shy away from humans the way wild trout do.  This is also why sometimes freshly stocked trout can easily be caught by casting a dropshot plastic worm at a school of trout. The dropshot artificial worm gives the presentation the trout associate with food (a human casting food at them), combined with the instinctual trigger of a fleeing bait. Fish, like many other animals, have an instinctual trigger to chase down something that is fleeing. Casting a dropshotted three inch plastic worm can work insanely well for catching freshly stocked trout. I have even caught stocked trout by quickly jigging back a slip sinker rigged PowerBait worm.

Stocked brown trout & brook trout
Patterns can also work against you. For example, even though a worm is brown and is generally considered food, a freshly stocked rainbow trout will sometimes not recognize it as food,  probably because it isn’t splashing down. It takes time for them to figure it out.

This isn’t true for stocked brown trout and brook trout.  Brown trout & brook trout respond better to the instinctual trigger of a fleeing bait that is presented by an inline spinner, minow shaped lure or a casting spoon.  Brown trout also more readily associate a worm with food than a stocked rainbow trout. A meal worm or a hook laden with squirming little worms will trigger an enthusiastic lunge from a brown trout or a brook trout. On the other hand, brown trout and brook trout aren’t easily caught with artificial worms or trout dough. If trout dough or artificial worms stop working, switch out to lures with a fleeing bait action, especially if all those around you that are using dough and artificial worms suddenly stop catching.

Freshly planted trout
Notice how I keep repeating the phrase, freshly planted? When you read that phrase, please take it to mean that what I’m writing doesn’t necessarily hold true for trout that have been planted a month or more previously. A rainbow trout that has been in the lake or river for a few weeks will respond to real food like a worm.

How stocked trout behave
Freshly stocked trout tend to swim in schools.  If you are at a stocked reservoir, pond or river and see schools of trout swimming by, odds are that the lake has recently been recently stocked. Schooling is a behavior that comes from habit. Trout are raised in long oval shaped pools about two feet high. There is an artificial current in it and they tend to swim in circles, often counter clockwise.  There is also netting above their pools to prevent birds of prey from swooping down on them.

The above is important information to know. It explains the behavior of trout after they’re planted. Stocked trout tend to keep close to shore, perhaps seeking the comfort of the edge they had been used to from being in the pool.  They also tend to prefer swimming about eighteen inches from the surface or eighteen inches from the bottom. This means that if you are going to float a fishing fly or other bait under a bobber, rigging the lure about eighteen inches below the bobber is a good start. This is true when the temperature of the water is optimal. When it starts to get warmer or time passes, trout tend to hover about eighteen inches to two feet above the bottom of the lake, often just a short cast from shore. If you’re fishing a sliding slip sinker rig and are not sure at what depth the trout are holding at, start at twelve inches for one pole and eighteen inches for another pole. Then gradually increase the length up to about two feet.

The thing about trout swimming counter clockwise is also important, particularly to anglers who are trolling bait. If you want to trigger an instinctual chase response, try circling your boat or kayak in a counter clockwise direction, that way your lure will pass them from behind. If you are drifting bait with a current, particularly in a river, then the natural movement is casting upstream and allowing the bait to float and tumble downstream to where the stocked fish are holding.

How stocked trout behave after time has passed
After time has passed, rainbow trout begin to regain instinctual behavior such as shyness, staying close to the bottom, feeding on insects and relating to structure. Examples of structures that fish seek are steep drops from shallow to deep, boulders, underwater trees, underwater currents, breaks in currents that create an area of calm water, shade etc. After time has passed, a rainbow trout will be able to be caught with lures with lively action and live bait.  Stocked brook trout and brown trout consistently respond to movement, the action of a lure, as well as to the size.

What flies to use when fishing for stocked trout
For fly fishing, flies such as the Cove Pheasant Tail, brown Wooly Bugger, natural colored Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear fly, AP (All Purpose) Emerger and other similar nymph type flies will take trout. I think it’s because, combined with the way they are presented in stillwater (i.e. lakes and ponds) they resemble the general profile of trout food. Both the Cove Pheasant Tail fishing fly and the AP Emerger are well regarded flies for stillwater, with the Cove having been created specifically for stocked trout in reservoirs. In my opinion it’s no coincidence they resemble in color, size and presentation the general profile of trout pellets splashing down, particularly when two or three flies are tied in tandem.

What stickbait lures to use to catch stocked trout
Minnow shaped lures from two inches to just over three inches work well for catching stocked brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. Two to two and a half inches is the general sweet spot. Color is generally important insofar as a calling attention to itself. There are situations when bright colors might spook fish, such as in clear water, but in general colors such as firetiger, white, pink, transluscent pink,  gold and transluscent gold will all work well. If I had to pick just two minnow shaped lures, a two and half inch lure in firetiger and transluscent pink would be my choice for stocked trout. But really it’s the action, the depth, and the speed that catches the fish. The lure color mostly serves just to catch the trouts attention. Rapala and Mirashads by Owner work well trolled in reservoir lakes. Rapala minnow shaped lures and DynamicLures HD Trout work well in rivers and brooks. These aren’t the only good brands. There are many. Those are just two of my favorites, one well known and the other better known in Colorado than elsewhere.

Spoons work great on stillwater
The Thomas Buoyant in gold is a popular color, particularly for brown trout. Kastmasters and Johnson Splinter spoons in the 1/4 ounce size work well too. Gold is a good color to use when the sun is out.  Not so good when the skies are overcast because there is no sunshine to create a fish attracting flash.  In overcast weather and less then crystal clear water switch to a brighter flourescent color such as Firetiger.  The only reservation I have with the Kastmasters is that I (and many other anglers) have experienced lost fish due to fish shaking off. This happens often with Kastmasters and if you don’t believe me search your favorite fishing forum and see how many anglers complain about this problem. I prefer to switch the treble hooks out for something reliable like an Owner Stinger 36  treble hook (ST-36BC). There are many other high quality hooks, so don’t obsess about it. The important thing is to not get the extra strong type hooks because they are thicker and this could lead to a more difficult hook set. The thinner the diameter of the hook, the easier it cuts.

Inline spinners
Inline spinners work well in moving water. They work in stillwater too. The way they work is through the vibrations sent out by the spinning blade. It’s felt by the fish’s lateral line, a line down the middle of their sides that they use to locate prey. Examples of inline spinners are the Panther Martin lures, Mepps, Blue Fox, and the Rooster Tail. The first three feature a kind of blade that spins nicely on slow retrieves, which will allow you to get down close to the bottom where the trout are often holding. The shape of the Rooster Tail blade makes it ideal for burning it back to shore, i.e. reeling it in quickly to work the top part of the water column, for fish that are holding eighteen inches from the top. In fact, the Rooster Tail blade doesn’t spin as well if you reel it in slowly.  Don’t obsess on colors. Gold blade, nickel blade, copper blade, firetiger/fluourescent colored blades, and black blades all work well. The body can be pretty much anything. I know many anglers swear by certain colors and I agree that for different water conditions the color may be more visible. When I choose to use an inline spinner, I usually choose it by the blade color. That’s just me. But you’ll save a lot of money and spend more time fishing if you avoid obsessing over colors.

What color PowerBait Dough?
There are many colors to choose from. Just keep in mind that White is a color that can be seen regardless of depth, regardless of how sunny or overcast the weather and without regard to whether the water is clear or murky. if you can only choose one color, white is the best color to choose because of how visible it is- and getting your bait noticed is one of the important keys to catching fish with dough since dough does not have fish attracting action. Other colors can be useful too, such as fluorescents for overcast days and pretty much anything for clear water. Perhaps just as important as color is how light your hook is (will it float when smeared in trout dough?), making sure your bait ball isn’t too big, floating it at the right depth and casting it not too far from shore (although sometimes a long cast is necessary). These are rigged using a slip sinker rig.

PowerBait Mice Tails
These are worm shaped rubbery lures that have a round “head” in a contrasting color. White, pink, and orange are top fish catching colors for me. Haven’t had the need to experiment with brown but that might be a good color, ha! Feel free to experiment finding your own best colors. These are also fished using a slip sinker rig. That said, anything fished with a slip sinker rig can also be rigged without a leader line and simply crimping on a split shot so that  you can quickly change fishing depth. The downside of the split shot is line twist which can end up causing birds nests at your spinning reel, as well as the theoretical creation of a weak spot where the split shot is crimped, although that has not been a problem for me.

If you have any questions please email them to me or write them in the comments. I would be more than happy to write a post anwering your questions!

Have a great time catching fish!

Roger

Posted on

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

How important is retrieve speed in cold water? Some anglers may tell you that they fish just as fast in winter as they do in spring. However, most successful cold water anglers will tell you that slowing down the presentation is the best. Biologist and experienced anglers agree that bass will not chase a lure in water much colder than 50 degrees. An exception to this would be after bass move up shallow after a few warm days, and after a front has brought warm rain. As a rule of thumb it is best to slow down your presentation during the winter months.Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and TacticsA grub can be one of the most effective bass lures for cold water. A 4 inch curly tail grub on a 1/4 ounce jig head can be all that is needed. Target steep chunk-rock banks with as much as 45 degree slope. Bass prefer these areas because they can make extreme depth changes up and down the water column to feed without using conserved energy. Cast to the shallow edge of the steep bank and then allow the grub to sink, raising the rod tip as the bait reaches the bottom to lift the grub. Anglers are successful when repeating this technique until the grub is back to the boat. Bass often bite when the grub is on the fall, so be ready to set the hook.

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

If it is a trophy bass you’re hoping to catch during the winter, it is important to learn weather patterns. Timing your fishing trips when there is a break in the cold temperatures can help. Fronts usually bring warm rain as the temperature is rising and the barometric pressure is changing and this can be one of the most productive times to fish. A warm front in conjunction with a barometric change will cause bass to feed as the bait will migrate to the warmest areas usually in the back of creeks, then they will move out to the mouth as the water cools back down following the front. One degree in water temperature can make a huge difference. Fishing with cold water lures like a jig and trailer on the shaded banks just might land that trophy you’re looking for.

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

During the winter months you may read a lot of articles about jigs and spinnerbaits and how to use them for cold water bass. Both lures do well as the jig and the spinnerbait are similar in design and use similar techniques when fishing them. The difference between the two is the spinner blade and the wire it’s attached to. However, The Punisher Head Spinner is a hybrid innovation between the two and features chip resistant paint job, a Sampo ball bearing swivel to enable the blade to spin easily at any retrieve speed. Backed with a sharp hook, the Head Spinner will hook and hold any bass that bites. The Head Spinner works well when fished over deep cover like brush piles, around standing cover like bridge pilings and standing timber, and along weed edges. You can use the Head Spinner with all of your favorite soft plastics or rig it with a skirt for a unique look. Use the Punisher Head Spinner with any single or double tail grub or the Super Fluke or Super Fluke Jr. as a trailer. In winter, as the water temperature falls into the middle to low 50’s, try pitching these innovative jigs to the wooden cover and work it the same way you would a jig. Allow it to fall while maintaining a tight line as it bounces off the limbs shimmering and fluttering on the way down. Watch for subtle line movement and be ready to set the hook.

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

In winter as the water temperatures continues to drop and the lake turns, bass feed aggressively. Sensing that winter is close, and their metabolism will slow down bass prepare by feeding heavily on the big baits when the water temperature is in the 50s. This can be a great time to throw a soft plastic swim-bait. Concentrate in the 4- to 10-foot range near docks and remaining grass and broken mats. Under blue skies, a few days into a cold front fish deeper with a weighted swim-bait on the bottom like fishing a jig. Concentrate like a rock-pile or drop off by slowly crawling and hopping the bait across the structure. Baits like these by FishHouse Lures can quickly entice a cold water bite in winter.

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

A soft plastic worm worked very slowly can be one of the most effective winter bass fishing techniques. By simply allowing the worm to lie motionless on targeted structure or “dead sticking” the worm and then “shaking” the rod tip occasionally can prevail. This technique will often trigger a strike. Using a bait injected with a quality bass attracting such as Attack Pak has with the Juiced Up X10 formula can be rewarding during the cold winter months.

Winter Bass Fishing Lures, Tips and Tactics

Bass jigs with crawfish trailer worked slowly across bottom structure and cover like rocks and wood can be a good tactic in winter. Cast the jig and allow it to settle a moment before starting your retrieve. Bass often grab the bait from the bottom. However, many strikes occur as the jig is on the fall. Fish the jig slowly, avoiding the temptation to retrieve the jigs quickly. Twitch and hop the bait along slowly, enticing the bass to take the bait.

These are more angler approved and tested methods for a cold water bass bite. Although winter fishing is somewhat limited there are many techniques suited for bass fishing in the cold water

Posted on

Bass lures you need in winter

8 Lures You Need in Your Winter Bass Fishing Box

 My most productive non-ice fishing lures for winter time bass fishing You’re scraping ice off the windshield, as the truck sputters and grumpily tries to warm its interior. Breathing in exhaust fumes as cold chills pulse down your spine as you hook the trailer to the hitch. The nose begins what will be a full …

My most productive non-ice fishing lures for winter time bass fishing

You’re scraping ice off the windshield, as the truck sputters and grumpily tries to warm its interior. Breathing in exhaust fumes as cold chills pulse down your spine as you hook the trailer to the hitch. The nose begins what will be a full day trickle as your ears already burn from the frost trying to adhear to your lobes. The allure of big lumbering sluggish bass in icy cold water fills your brain as you scramble to the cab of the truck. It’s winter time, and surprisingly some bass anglers hate it.

To an extent, all anglers probably fall victim to “rut fishing” at some point throughout the year, and winter can be the worst time to be in a rut about how you approach your fishing. A few simple facts will hopefully give you better perspective and hopefully some tips on tackle will make your quest to catch bass a little easier this winter.

First, bass don’t need to feed every day. There metabolisms slow to a crawl and they don’t need as much coal for their furnace so to speak. So they don’t have to eat as much or as often. That makes smaller baits a good option or extremely slow moving big baits that they don’t need to run down to satisfy a week’s worth of food requirements.

Second, bass group up and spend a good portion of their winter motionless. They populate an area that has food and deep water nearby and hover there until early spring. So spend time looking for deep concentrations of bait, cover and bass and realize fish use the smallest percentage of the lake of any other time of the year.

Now for the good news. Bass do eat in the winter. They stay near the bait because they need to eat. Also, they stay with their friends, so if one bass isn’t eating today, chances are a buddy right next to him is. They are very keyed into shad this time of year and the shad can be struggling to stay alive if the water temperatures are dipping into the low 40s. So while they are looking for those injured dying shad, they won’t pass up a slow crawling craw right in their face either. They are still opportunists and will seek to eat whatever they can in close proximity.

Having addressed their “tendencies,” here are my 8 choices for targeting and catching sluggish cold water bass and some tips on how to make them more effective.

Jerkbait for winter bass

Deep suspending jerkbaits

I spent a lot of time watching shad die in the winter when I fished on clear water fisheries like Table Rock and Beaver Lakes in the Ozark Mountains. These shad would kick and pause, flutter and float and sometimes sink slowly out of sight. I’ve incorporated mimicking this kick-and-float behavior into chasing winter bass with deep diving suspending jerkbaits. A Lucky Craft Staysee, a SPRO McRip, Megbass Ito Vision 110+1 and a Jackall DD Squirrel all do a great job of twitching and jerking in water 8-12 feet deep. The sound, flash and water displacement in clear water can all lead big bass out of deep haunts to grab a quick easy meal.

Tip: I sometimes weight my jerkbaits so they will slowly sink. When I know I’m fishing for bass deeper than 10 feet over much deeper water, I actually like for my jerkbait to mimic those shad I saw dying for many years on other fisheries. I will add lead golfers tape or a few extra split rings to make my deep suspending jerkbaits slowly sink after a rip or pull so they look like a shad struggling to stay afloat.

Steel Shad blade bait

Blade bait

A blade bait is a dynamite lure for stair-stepping down steep 45 degree banks into the zones bass are holding. Where a spoon derives its action after the hop or pull as it flutters on the fall, a blade bait attracts on the actual rip and drop.

Tip: I will fish a blade bait like a lipless rattling bait and just slowly wind it along, hoping it bumps a rock or two. I think the subtle vibration, couple with the clinking and clacking over rocks, draws those deep bass in for a closer look and the slow crawl is easy for them to run down.

Jigging spoon

Jigging spoon

A jigging spoon has been a staple over the years for deep wintering fish. It looks like nothing, but it casts like a rock, gets to the bottom and into the strike zone with blazing speed and can be worked in place easily on a vertical presentation with a simple snap and fall on slack line.

Tip: Slack is critical so learn to drop or cast the spoon and watch your line as it falls. Think it stopped too early, reel up fast and set the hook. See your line jump, set the hook. I often cast out a few yards from the boat and hop it around to cover a small circular area where I think the bass are holding and being out away from the boat helps me watch my slack a little easier as well.

how to fish a tail spinner

Tail spinner

Another deep small hunk of lead with some flash, a tail spinner has been a hot ticket in Texas lake in colder years. The ability to hop it, wind it, pump it and work it various ways both near the bottom and up in the strike zone make this simple tear drop lure a dynamite presentation.

Tip: I use a lighter one a lot of the time to get a slower fall in the winter. I think a lighter weight really lets the blade work and you can keep the bait in their strike zone for a much longer period on each cast, which is critical in the winter.

how to fish fish head spins

Under spins with shad tails

When you are fishing deep flats, a lure you can cast and wind slowly along the bottom or up off the bottom if you find the bass suspended can be the ticket. Something like a Sworming Hornet or a Buckeye SuSpin with a small swimbait or shad tail like the Optimum Opti Shad or Basstrix can easily mimic a shad in cold water that might have a slight stain to it.

Tip: Super glue is your friend. Super glue the swim tail to the head and you can fish all day with one tail and head, well at least for a lot more fish than you would otherwise. And a pumping and stop and go retrieve can also trigger bass who might slowly lumber behind but never strike.

how to fish rage tail grub

Grub

A grub is such a simple and old faithful lure, that many anglers totally forget about them. Fact is, this bait really shines when the water is ultra cold. I’ve caught bass in water below 40 degrees on a grub and 1/4 ounce jighead. When bass suspend in vertical cover, a grub can be a dynamite lure to catch those otherwise stationary bass. Wind it slowly and methodically and most bites will just feel like a little pressure as you wind it.

Tip: Small diameter line helps keep the lure down and swimming steady through the water. The lure doesn’t weigh much so heavier line causes it to rise too much. I like some of the new grubs like the Strike King Rage Tail grub or Zoom Fat Albert that put out a lot of vibration.

how to fish a casting jig

Casting jig

One of my favorite ways to catch smallmouths this time of year, is casting to 45 degree banks and steep points and bluffs with a casting jig. Something like a Cumberland Pro Lures Pro Caster or a Stan Sloan’s Booza Bug are ideal for this technique. I will tip the jigs with a Zoom Chunk or Zoom Super Chunk Jr.–something with flat appendages that undulate more than twist and thump.

Tip: I’m normally fishing this on fairly open rocky banks with occasional stumps or laydowns. So I will opt for very light line like 10 to 12 pound fluorocarbon. The lighter line gives the bait better depth control and I think the fish look at a jig this time of year longer than other times of the year before biting. So I want to stack the deck in my favor with very natural presentations, trimmed skirts, natural chunk  colors to give the bass a real meal looking profile.

Drop Shot Berkley Twitch Tail Minnow

Drop shot

I’ve definitely built up a lot of confidence with a drop shot over the last decade. And I just smile when I hear guys tell me bass won’t bite plastics in cold water. They will bite the right plastic. Especially if presented in a very realistic manner. The bass are often tight to the bottom so I will keep my leader lengths fairly short and I will let the drop shot sit for long periods. I still want to butt it up against a rock or a stump and work it painfully slow around an isolated object. But sometimes just barely flicking the tail is all the action it needs.