By (Shooting Time)

The tarsal glands on a whitetail deer secrete a powerful identifying odor used by deer all year. Deer unfamiliar with each other will sniff each others tarsal glands to get to know one another. Their powerful 300 million nasal scent receptors store this information in their brain which can recall it in the future for identifying purposes.

Tarsal glands tell important factors like sex, age, health and dominance. The hairs on the tarsal gland are very dense and limit the amount of scent they release. The very strong pheromone containing scent is released when a deer urinates on their glands (rub-urinates) or when a deer enters a fight or flight mood swing. The most dominant whitetail bucks will have darker tarsal glands.

tarsal glands

Using tarsal glands as an attractant

Tarsal glands can be used all year as an attractant because they peak a deer’s curiosity. Tarsals will bring in deer of any shape and size but if used properly, they could entice that trophy of a lifetime to walk within range of your stand.

Doe tarsals will attract other does and bucks all season. Remember, its the real thing and when someone new is in their house, their curiosity will lure them in. During the rut phases, the tarsal glands of bucks, mixed with or without tarsal glands of does, can do wonders.

While pursuing bucks who are establishing dominancy, use a smaller less dominant bucks tarsal glands to lure in the king of the block. If you obtain a local dominant buck’s tarsal glands and use them in his home area, this may backfire and scare off other challenging buck who knew who he was. I mean, who would go out of their way to go a round or two with Mike Tyson!

If you can acquire a dominant buck’s tarsal glands from another area though then you are in business. The local dominant buck will pick up the strong odor, instantly know there’s a challenger, and come to the scent to settle the score. Success!!

Removing a deer’s tarsal glands

The quicker you can take a harvested deer’s tarsal glands and get them to the refrigerator or freezer the better off you will be. There are bacteria in a deer’s tarsal gland which is proven to cause illnesses in humans so use rubber gloves while handling tarsal glands. With a sharp knife, skin around the gland and remove the entire gland before field dressing. Take the tarsal glands, put them in a zip lock bag, mark it with the deer’s information (sex, estimated age, dominance level) and store it in the freezer or refrigerator.

tarsal glands deer hunting

It is normally good practice to use the tarsal glands when the weather is cooler. The glands will spoil, so after use, they should be put back in their bag and back into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible. To prevent spoiling, when thawing out frozen tarsal glands, thaw them out in a refrigerator.

The tarsal glands will typically last for a couple weeks with the right care. Use your nose to determine if they are past due or not. If the tarsal glands dry up, dip them quickly in water to bring their moisture level back up.

How to use the tarsal glands in the field

There are two methods that we will describe for using the tarsal glands in the field. They can be used individually or together to create the environment the hunter requires. One method is hanging the actual tarsal gland in a tree and the other method is using the “tarsal juice.”

Hanging the tarsal gland in a tree

The tarsal gland on a deer is normally only 12-18 inches off the ground so that is the most logical place to put it. Wedge the tarsal gland in the crotch of a sapling or branch. If one isn’t present at that level you can put it higher. Just as long as the wind can hit it. Try to install it so the scent will carried by a cross wind to the deer’s anticipated location. This can get tricky; you want the deer to smell the tarsal glands, not you, so choose a location wisely.

*Just a reminder – Never leave your tarsal glands or any scents in the field while you are not hunting. This is a bad practice and only educates deer.

Using “tarsal juice”

To make and use tarsal juice, you will need the following:

– scissors
– 6-8 ounces of bottled water
– a small spray bottle
– a fine strainer or coffee filter

1. Take the scissors and cut and keep the tarsal glands fine dense hair. If you have a really sharp knife, you can “shave” the hair off as well.

tarsal gland hairtarsal deer hair

2. Warm up (not too hot, slightly above luke warm) the 6-8 ounces of bottled water.

3. Put the tarsal hair into the warm water for 30 minutes. The water will draw the oils from the tarsal hair.

tarsal juice

4. Pour the mixture through a strainer or coffee filter and bottle the fresh “tarsal juice.”

tarsal juice filter

5. Pour the tarsal gland juice into a spray bottle. You should be able to fill up two 2 ounce spray bottles and still have 3-4 ounces left over. With the left over juice we advise freezing it in a breast milk freezer bag. Mark the date you made the juice and what kind of deer it was on the containers.

deer tarsal juicedeer hunting tarsal juice freezer bag

The tarsal juice and be used a variety ways in the field. It can be used on a drag rag, on a scent wick, sprayed onto licking branches, sprayed onto scrapes, or just misted into the air when the time is right. Our favorite dispenser is a 2 ounce spray bottle found at many local convenience stores

Stock trout secrets



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!


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.





Keeping a sharp edge on your blade is important for your own safety. Compensating for a dull edge by applying additional force to finish a cut is where serious injuries can occur. If the knife blade is unexpectedly freed from what you are cutting, there is often an ongoing momentum that can slash you.

When you sharpen a Buck Knife properly it will perform the way it was meant to. Never sharpen your knife on a power-driven grinding wheel not specifically designed for that purpose. You could burn the temper from your blade making the edge brittle and prone to chips or cracks. This also voids the warranty. The first step to knife sharpening is to pick a sharpener.


Once you decide which type of sharpener is best for you, please check out the following instructions. If you are uncomfortable sharpening a blade yourself, we do offer Sharpening Services. Buck does not offer sharpening to serrated edges.

Sharpening is really two processes: Grinding and honing. Grinding is simply the removal of metal. Honing is a precision abrasion process in which a relatively small amount of material is removed from the surface by the means of abrasive stones. Once you have the right shape, usually using a more aggressive grit, you then switch to a finer grit to hone the edge.

Print Knife Sharpening Instructions (PDF) 

Al Buck (1910-1991) had a great tip using a felt pen for people struggling to master sharpening by hand. He would tell people there were only three things to remember when sharpening: “Always cut into the stone, never drag your knife edge back over the stone and always maintain your angle.”

To use Al’s method, take a black felt pen and shade in the bevel of the knife. Then take two strokes on the stone and examine the edge. If you have maintained the proper angle then all the black will be gone. If you see black on the top of the edge it means you are holding the back of the knife too far from the stone. If there is black on the bottom of the edge but the top is clean then you are laying the knife too flat on the stone and you need to raise it a bit. Repaint the edge and try it again. Once you discover what the right angle looks like then just maintain that.



See Buck’s line of EdgeTek Sharpeners

You should inspect the condition of the blade by looking down the length of the edge. Look for nicks or flat spots that will reflect light.

• If the blade is nicked or extremely dull, start with Stage 1 (Use a Coarse Grit Stone).
• If the blade is only somewhat dull or just needs a touch-up, start with Stage 2 or Stage 3.


This stage is called the “rough cut.” To remove inconsistencies in the blade edge and take the edge from a round “U” to a strong “V”, begin with a coarse grit sharpener. Buck’s EdgeTek steels or stones will do the trick, as well as the EdgeTek Honing Stone.

We recommend doing 5 strokes per side and then evaluate the grind you are creating and adjust your angle or stroke as you deem necessary to get a consistent width bevel on both sides.

Hold the Correct Grind Angle (Fig. 1, 1a)Ideally, you want to follow the same grind and edge angle (the bevel) as when the blade was new.
The angle on a Buck Knife is set based upon how we feel the knife will be used. Heavy use needs a strong and blunt “V” while skinning or filleting would need a deeper but more vulnerable “V”. We tend to grind to 13-16 degrees per side (see illustrations). If you match the existing edge angle and hold the knife against the stone to cut evenly across the edge grind, you will produce an edge with a similar angle.

A good rule of thumb is to hold the blade so the back of it is about one blade width up from flat on the stone.

Stroke the Blade Across the Sharpener with Even Control (Fig. 2, 3)

Too much pressure can crush or remove the grit from a diamond sharpener and will fatigue the user. It can also force deeper micro serrations on the edge, which are harder to remove in a subsequent process and can even break off the burr, creating new flat spots on the edge.

Your stroke can be straight or circular, from “hilt to tip” OR “tip to hilt,” whichever is more comfortable. If you’re using a small portable sharpener, stroke the blade in nearly a straight direction. Remember to always cut into the stone and never pull or drag your edge backwards. The blade edge should face in the same direction as your stroke. So, you’re essentially moving the metal away from the edge. We recommend the circular stroke as it helps you maintain your angle instead of having to find it every time you lift the knife from the stone.

Maintain Contact with the Sharpener
As you work the length of the edge (from hilt to tip), do not let the tip of the blade skip off the end of the sharpener. This can cause a rounded tip or long sharpening scratches across the blade.

Alternate Blade Sides Equally
Do the same number of strokes on each side of the blade. We recommend 5 strokes per side and evaluate, but if you do 15-20 strokes on one side, do 15-20 on the other side. Don’t alternate sides with each stroke as this makes it more difficult to maintain your angle or find a burr.

Circular Sharpening (Fig. 4, 4a)

This method is perfectly valid and aids in holding a consistent angle.
Keep the blade on the surface and use an easy, clockwise motion with the edge facing right, until the desired sharpness is achieved. It is ideal to achieve the original factory edge.
Turn the blade over. Use an easy, counter-clockwise motion with the edge facing left. Try to spend the same amount of time on each side and evaluate.

Work the “Nicks” Separately 

If there is a small nick on the edge, work the area around the nick evenly, side-to-side. Once the nick is gone, go back to working the entire length of the edge. If there is a large nick on the edge that does not not interfere with your work, you may want to prolong the life of your knife and leave the nick.

A final process inspection is to lightly (and we stress lightly) run the knife over a finger nail. If your sharpening has made it to teh edge you will feel the micro serrations catching. If you are not done, the unsharpened sections of your edge will slide with no drag.

Inspect the “Evenness” of Your Edge
You should have an even edge angle “bevel” on both sides.

Once you feel a consistent drag from hilt to tip move on to Stage 2.


If you have just completed Stage 1, pat or wipe your knife dry. Be careful-the burr can cut just like a sharpened edge. Now you’re ready to work the edge.

To simply sharpen dull blades and remove rough scratches begin here.

Diamond Sharpeners can be used dry or wet. Use water or water-based honing fluid, not petroleum based oil as a lubricant. Natural Sharpening Stones can also be used dry or wet, but we recommend wet. Use water, water-based honing fluid or petroleum-based honing oil.

Sharpen the edge, following the same steps as in Stage 1

You can achieve a good, sharp edge and finish at this stage without going on to Stage 3. Hone with light, single strokes, side-to-side, until you feel no burr on either side. To fine-tune the edge or smooth “sharpening scratches,” skip this step and go directly to Stage 3.


Stage 3 removes any remaining burr and puts a burnish on the blade edge.

Using sharpening fluid
Natural Sharpening Stones should be used wet. Sharpening will require some clean up, so be generous with the honing fluid.

Use the same stroking motion as described in Stage 1. Repeat until scratches from the previous grit stone are gone. You should still feel a burr, but it should be smaller and finer.

Use light, single strokes side-to-side. Make one stroke from hilt to tip, then turn the knife to the other side and stroke once from hilt to tip. Repeat until there is no burr. This will final set the edge.

Repeat Several Times
You shouldn’t feel any micro serrations on the edge, from hilt to tip. The knife should be razor sharp at this point. If the knife fails to cut as expected, you may need to go back to Stage 2. And remember don’t apply too much pressure.

To watch the experts sharpen with EdgeTek steels click here or click on the image of Chuck Buck below.

Chuck Buck using Buck EdgeTek Sharpener


Serrated blades hold their cutting ability long after a straight edged blade will go dull, however they are much more difficult to sharpen. A flat stone or steel will grind off your serrations therefore we recommend a tapered or cylindrical fine diamond steel or ceramic for this job. Each separate serration much be sharpened individually.

Serrated blades have a grind on one side of the blade. Only sharpen the grind side of the blade. Hold the sharpener at the angle that matches the original edge angle. Hold the knife with the edge away from you and the serrated side of the edge facing up. Set the tapered diamond sharpener in a serration so that you fill the indentation. Draw the sharpener towards the edge.

The goal in sharpening a serration is to maintain the ramp of the serration right to the edge. You do not want to create an edge bevel. Therefore we once again recommend the trusty felt pen trick. Paint the serration to be sharpened and follow your process. Evaluate if you are removing all the black. It should not take more than 5-8 strokes to resharpen if your angle was correct. Rotate or spin the sharpener as you go for the most even, consistent sharpening.

Recreating the “Initial Sharpness” on a serrated knife is difficult even if you use a tapered sharpener. But you can expect to get a “serviceable” edge. A serrated blade is more easily distorted through sharpening than a straight blade edge. So, don’t sharpen unless dull spots are truly visible.

While very similar in process to a serrated blade, a gut hook is ground on both sides of the blade. Use a Diamond Taper Sharpener or a Diamond Pocket Sharpener. Both are excellent tools for sharpening gut hooks.
Do not try to fill the entire width of the gut hook with the wide end of the sharpener. This will enlarge the gut hook curve and distort the cutting edge.
Put the pointed, narrow end of the sharpener up against the open end of the gut hook. The narrow, pointed end of the sharpener should face in toward the thickness of the blade, away from the edge of the gut hook. Match the angle of the sharpener to the original edge angle. This will maintain the correct sharpening angle and prevent you from getting cut by the blade tip. Hold the same angle when sharpening each side of the gut hook.
In a forward and sideways motion, stroke the sharpener from one side of the gut hook to the other. Spin the sharpener as you go. As with sharpening a blade edge, the objective is to start at the edge and stroke away from the edge.
Don’t Overdo It
Restrain from over-sharpening or putting too much pressure on the tool. Alternate sides and check your progress often.


To sharpen fishhooks and other small, pointed objects, use Buck’s portable EdgeTek Fishing Flipstik They have a straight-line “fishhook groove.” Do not use a flat sharpening stone.
Place the fishhook in the groove, and push hook toward the end of the sharpener away from the handle. Being a small, thin object, you’ll want to check progress frequently. A few strokes may be all you need. Do not use pressure when stroking.

You can use the fishhook groove to sharpen other fine point objects like darts and needles, too.

Source: Buck Knives

Knife Care



Please don’t throw, pound, pry or chop with a knife. It’s not safe and if you damage the knife using it that way, it may void the warranty. Strong impact or twisting can also damage your knife, or worse, cause an injury. If you have a locking blade, always check that the locking mechanism has secured the blade open before you use it.



  • Buck knives are built to last. Cleaning and caring for your knife will maintain performance and enhance the life your knife.
  • Keep your knife dry; that means the entire knife, not just the blade.
  • Keep your knife clean, particularly moving parts and locking devices.
  • Keep your knife oiled; especially pivot points and the blade. Oil at least twice a year.
  • Keep your knife sharp; a sharp blade is safer than a dull one.
  • Don’t try to repair a damaged knife yourself. Send it to us and we’ll do our best to make it good as new.
  • Store your knife in a dry place.



That includes the blade, pivot points and locking mechanism. It’s best not to immerse the knife in liquid. But if you do, be sure to dry your knife thoroughly. Spray cleaners are a good alternative. Clean and oil your knife regularly to avoid sticky residues, light surface oxidation and the beginnings of rust. Always lubricate your knife after cleaning, we recommend using Wax Lubricant. It will lubricate, seal and protect your knife from surface oxidation and corrosion from moisture.



Clean Streak is completely residue-free. It’s an excellent metal cleaner that’s easy to use. Simply spray and wipe. No rinsing or immersion in liquid required.

Metal Brite is a polish. It removes surface oxidation, rust, tarnish and sticky residues while leaving a protective coating.

You can also use chemical solvents like Acetone, nail polish remover, MEK, alcohol and paint thinner to clean the blade. Keep in mind that these solvents can damage some Buck handles.

Don’t use harsh detergents that contain chlorine like washing machine powders. They can speed up corrosion of the metal.


If you find the metal has a blue, grey or black color, it is a sign of oxidation and a precursor of rust.

Stainless steel, which is what Buck uses, does not discolor easily. If you do notice a change in the color of the metal, clean it immediately. It’s a sign of rust waiting to happen.

Discoloration is common to non-stainless steel. But regular cleaning will keep the metal from rusting.


Rust is reddish-brown in color and will eat pits into your blade and contaminate what you cut. Light rust can be cleaned and removed with oil. Heavier rust requires more abrasive action.

We recommend Metal Brite, an excellent polish for removing rust. You can also use some solvents or a plastic cleaning pad.

Drift fishing for Crappie

Drift Fishing for Crappie

Drift Fishing For Crappie: A Productive Way To Catch Some Big Crappie 
Equipment You Will Need:
Trolling motor
Marker buoys
Spinning Tackle
Crappie rigs
Marker buoys

Best Location To Drift Fish
The Hardest part about catching crappie while drift fishing is locating the schools.  You will need a topographical map of the area, and should have a good depth finder.  You can pick the topographical map up at the local bait store. (It’s advisable to go there to get the latest fishing report anyway.) Crappie school in open water and if you can find the schools, you can catch a good batch of crappie. 
   Also it has been my experience , the crappie you catch in open water while drift fishing seem to be bigger. The first step you should do before you get out on the water is locate the deepest part of body of water you are fishing on from your topographical map, this will be your starting point. You will be fishing the break areas on the bottom surface.    To Locate a break area, look for changes in depth on your depth finder. Any break deep to shallow, or shallow to deep are good spots to drift. Try to avoid any flat bottom surface areas. You will just waist your time in these areas.How to Set Your Drift for Crappie Fishing
Locate the wind’s direction and set you boat in position to drift along the break (change in bottom depth).  Make sure your boat drifts along the deeper side of the break. You will use your trolling motor to keep your drift in position along the deep side of the break. If you don’t have a trolling motor, you’ll have to use you boat motor to get back in position, (this can spook the fish, thats why a trolling motor is recommended).  The Depth finder will be your guide to stay along the deep side of the break, and to locate the fish.

   Set up a weighted crappie rig to just touch bottom with sinker position, your baits about 18 to 24 inches off the bottom.  As you drift, watch the rod tip.  It will bounce up and down slightly as the weight drags along the bottom.  If the tip of the rod remains still, the sinker is not in contact with the bottom.  When you catch the first fish drop one of your marker buoys to mark the spot.

   Continue to drift until another fish is caught or about 75 yards, then drop another buoy. This marks your drift location for a return drift or anchor position.  Drift about 50 more yards past the second buoy then start up your boat motor and go around the buoys approximately 75yards away.  Now move your boat back in position for another drift. 

   Normally the school will be concentrated in one area.  Keep working the spot until you get no more bites.  If you’re lucky, you can catch your limit and a short time.

You can use this technique on any body of water, so have fun and good luck!


Trolling for Crappie

Trolling for Crappie

“The nice thing about having a boat is that you can troll to find the crappie schools.  Some fishermen spend all day trolling whether they catch any crappie or not.  I would like to show you a way to troll for crappie and actually catch fish.  Once you start catching crappie, stop your trolling and start having fun reeling in your catch.”
Equipment you will need:

–Trolling motor:  that will go as slow as physically possible.
–Jigs:  that have a red head and a white or yellow body.

The jigs should have a variety of different weights.  The weight of the jig will determine how deep you are trolling.  You want to have a variety of crappie rigs trolling at the same time and at a variety of different depths.  This is called a “shotgun effect”.

Where to Start Trolling:
Crappie love structure so you want to start trolling near rock points, known stump areas and known sunken wreak areas.  Think of anywhere a crappie could hide as a predator and dart out and return after catching his prey.  I would start by identifying areas on a topographical map.  This is a excellent way to create a game plan to start your fishing trip.

Initial Trolling for Crappie Set up:
   You can start your slow-troll using live bait .  Hook the minnow through the bottom and to top of his mouth. (this will prevent the minnow from drowning)  Use ½ oz or 3/4 oz weight on the end of the line.

Once you catch the first fish stop the boat!

Know the secret tip to identify exactly where that school is located.  Use the crappie you just caught and use him as a scout fish to find that school of hungry crappie:
1.  Run a hook thru the back of the crappie and make sure its not to deep so you don’t kill the crappie by mistake.  The hook needs to be attached to about 10ft of line with a bobber on the other end of the line.
2.   Let your scout fish lead you to the main crappie school.  Just follow the floating bobber.
3.  VERY IMPORTANT   Stay far enough behind your scout fish so you cannot be seen by the schooled crappie.
4.   When he gets back to his home and all his buddies in the school and probably his favorite structure area, cast your line into the area from a safe distance. (If you spook the fish you will have to start all over again in a different area.
5.  Keep fishing the general area until you fish it out.  If you don’t have enough fish, start the trolling for crappie exercise all over again at a different spot.
6.   You would be surprised how many fishermen never do step 6 and it is probably one of the most important step for future fishing trips.  Mark the spot on your topographical map . If you have a GPS  enter the coordinates immediately so you do not forget.  Remember…you want to learn from every fishing trip.
7.   If you want to get real technical, put a dot for every fish that was caught at this location.  And if you want to get even more technical, record the weather conditions .
Store this tip in your crappie fishing arsenal, then the next time you go out fishing you can plan your trip using this trolling for crappie fish technique.  Make sure you check with your local department of natural resources before you use a scout fish to make sure it is legal in your state.  GOOD FISHING AND GOOD LUCK!


Crappie in Rivers

Crappie in Rivers

“While schools of crappie tend to congregate in shallow lake areas, river crappie fishing can also produce a great catch if you know what you’re doing. By following several tips, river crappie fishing, especially in the spring during spawning season, can offer a world of success, both in size and quantity of crappie caught. What should you do if you prefer to river crappie fishing to lakes? Here are some tips to finding the most and biggest slabs available.”
   First of all, when river crappie fishing, remember that this breed of fish don’t typically challenge the main flow of the river like larger, heavier fish. Instead, they will use eddies, slack water, and heavy cover to help them break the current and work their way upstream. These will be the best areas of the river in which to fish. Also, spawning occurs outside the current in areas that warm to between 66 and 70 degrees more quickly. Especially search through vertical cover that grows up from the river bottom above the surface, as this is a great place for crappie to stop and be held.If you are in a slower moving river, crappie fishing is best in areas of brush and stumps, as these are the best holding areas for fish passing through. The actual nomadic movement of the pre-spawning season begins as the waters warm to about 62 degrees and becomes a bit muddy because silty water provides a quicker swim than clear waters.

One excellent way that you can take advantage of river crappie fishing is to search the tailwaters below the river dams. After moving up river, crappie will congregate in such areas and remain still for a while, offering an excellent opportunity for a huge turnout. The best rigs to take advantage of such waters are usually arranged from a combination of a jig and a minnow, using a leadhead that is heavy enough to get down into the current. Look in areas of heavy cover and structures that break the current, such as lock walls or sandbar edges.

Realize that, when river crappie fishing, you are not likely to have a hard bite. Soft strikes are common, especially among pre-spawn crappie, and you frequently will notice only that your line goes slack or that something doesn’t feel right. Often, you may wonder if you’ve only snagged on a leaf or stick, but be prepared to reel in anyway, as this is quite probably a catch. Make note of how deep that sinker was as you bring in the line, since it is also quite likely there is an entire small school of crappie here.

Pre Spawn Crappie

Pre Spawn Crappie

“In early spring when the water temperature reaches the mid 50s, the crappie will go into their pre spawn mode. To find crappies this time of year look for the warmest sections of the lake. Generally shallow areas on the north side of the lake in the backs of protected coves.”
   The ideal spawning areas will consist of a sandy or semi soft bottom. If the bottom is hard, it is difficult for the crappie to fan out a proper nest. If the bottom is soft such as a soft muck it will not hold the shape of the nest very well and will be difficult to keep the nest clean. The best spawning areas will also be in close proximity to cover such as tree stumps, brush piles, fallen logs, or standing timber.

Another consideration is wind. Crappie prefer to spawn in areas protected from excessive wind and wave action. Extended periods of high winds and cold weather will force the crappie to move out of the shallows and back out to deeper water. , usually they will move to the first drop off or edges of the creek channels.

Crappie tend to spawn in the same areas as largemouth bass. The bass will spawn before the crappie so if you find an area in which the bass are spawning. Move out to the first deep-water drop off and scan the area with your electronics. Once you find a concentration of suspended crappie cast past the school with a 1/16-ounce jig on 4-lb test line. Count down as the jig sinks to the same depth as you found the crappie. Once your jig reaches the depth they are holding begin your retrieve through the suspended crappie. It is better to keep your jig slightly above them then below them. Crappie have a tendency to feed up rather then down.

Another strategy is to position your boat directly above the crappie. Lower your jig down while counting until your offering is directly above the fish and hold it there with very little movement.
In the early stages of the crappie’s pre spawn movement, they are not very aggressive. However, they will take a jig presented directly in front of them but will not chase the bait. Once you catch the first crappie make note of the depth you caught the fish. Then repeat the count down until you reach the same depth where the first fish was caught.

When a fish is caught, play the fish for a few seconds at the depth it hit. This will sometimes trigger the competitive instinct in other crappie and they will become more aggressive. A bobber setup can also be effective at keeping your bait at the right depth, however only when the crappie are holding at 8’ or less. Any deeper then 8’ and the bobber setup will be ineffective. Crappie tend to bite very softly at this time of year.

As the weather warms, the crappie will start their movement to the shallows. The shallower they are holding the more aggressive they will become. Move your boat shallow in a position where as not to cast your shadow on the area you are fishing. I like to use a 10’ – 12’ rod when the crappie are holding in 3’ to 4’ of water. Lower jig down into the cover or along the side of stumps. Hold there for a while and if you do not get a bite lift the rod, move a little and lower it back down. Fish the piece of cover from all sides and very thoroughly.

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