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Survival Trapping and Fishing

Survival Trapping and Fishing – A Numbers Game

March 15, 2013 by sensible survival

As I have stated in a previous post, it is difficult to survive in the wild by only gathering wild plants.  Unless you can gather nuts or mature seeds it is hard to come up with enough protein to survive.  You will almost certainly have to turn to animal protein to meet your body’s needs.

Hunting, in most instances, is one of the least efficient ways to gather animal protein.  If you are hunting, that’s all you can do; and you will probably have only one chance to either succeed or fail.  Fishing with a pole in your hand presents the same problem.  You must remain totally occupied with this one task, and you will either catch fish or you won’t.

Traps and trotlines offer multiple chances for success at the same time, and they will work for you while you take care of other tasks or even while you sleep.  The thing about trapping and trotlining is that they are both a numbers game.  If you just set out one trap you might as well go hunting.  If you just set out one hook you might as well stand on the bank and fish.  The idea is to set out as many hooks and traps as possible so that you can maximize your chances of securing food.

Let’s talk about fishing first.  It takes considerable cordage to set out a trotline.  If you have fifty feet of para-cord you could cut off ten feet, remove the outer sheath, and have seven, ten foot long pieces of 50lb. test nylon to cut up into drop lines.  If you don’t have any fish hooks, you can make fifteen or twenty gorge hooks in a fairly short time.  If you don’t have any cordage, then I would abandon the idea of a traditional trotline.  It would take hours and hours to twist up enough cordage to make such a line.  If you have to make your own cordage, then I would recommend that you go with drop lines.  A drop line is just a short piece of cordage with a baited hook and weight.  Locate an area where low trees and /or bushes hang out over the water, and tie a drop lines to various branches.  This won’t get you out into deep water like a trot line stretched across the river, but it will get hooks into the water.  You will have to turn up grubs, earthworms, and other insects or larvae to bait your hooks the first time, but if you make a catch you can use fish entrails for subsequent baiting.

Traps can be time consuming to make, but just one trap does not have much chance of securing food.  I think that I would set out fishing lines first, then gather materials to make traps around the fire at night.  The figure 4 deadfall and the rolling snare are both pretty easy to make.  The real time consumption comes when you are selecting locations for your traps and preparing the sets.  I would try and set at least ten good traps, and twenty would be better.  The more you set, the better your chance of making a catch.  If you set baited traps you will have to forage for the initial bait, but once you catch the first animal you can use entrails for subsequent traps.

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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.

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Best Fishing Tips for Topwater Largemouth Bass Fishing
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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

 

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What are the best rigs for Large Mouth Bass

Best Rigs for Catching Largemouth Bass
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Shaky Head Jigs

shaky head jigsShaky head jigs are known as great rigs for shaking baits along the bottom, however, you can use this rig to replace the Texas rig or the Florida rig.  It’s an unbelievable way to rig a variety of soft plastics.

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Wacky Rig

wackyrigThe wacky rig is so popular.  For most anglers, it is their number one rig for catching largemouth bass.  You can rig it wacky style weightless, on a finesse jig or on a drop shot rig and they all work great.

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Drop Shot Rig

drop shot rig finesse wormThe drop shot rig is not as popular as it should be among largemouth bass anglers.  You can use this rig to fish around all types of cover, in shallow water and in deeper water.  You can rig so many different soft plastics on this rig.

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Florida Rig  /  Texas Rig

floridarigMost anglers think of the Texas rig as the go to rig for using soft plastics, but the Florida rig is actually better.  The Florida rig is the same thing with one modification.  The weight will actually screw into the bait, which keeps the bait and the weight connected together. However, there are some baits that look great with the bait not connected, so the Texas rig then would be better.  You can always peg the weight with the Texas rig too to get the same result as the Florida rig.

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Umbrella Rigs

umbrella-rigsThey may not be legal everywhere or popular everywhere, but it’s hard to deny them.  This rig is probably the best big fish, schooling bait for fishing in deeper water.

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Carolina Rig

carolina rig curly tail wormThe Carolina rig is still one of those awesome rigs that just keeps catching bass.  Use it in deeper water and you have a super effective rig.  In shallow water, it’s not as good, but still can be productive depending how you want to use it.

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Neko Rig

neko-rig-imageThe Neko rig is so unique.  Many anglers still haven’t heard of it, but it’s an awesome rig.  You have to take a look at how it looks under water to appreciate what this rig can do.

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Underspins

underspinsUnder spins are great for covering water with curly tail grubs, swimming worms, curly tail worms or minnow baits.  Retrieve them slow and steady and you’ll catch some bass.

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Scrounger Jighead

scrounger jigheadsThe scrounger jighead is amazing and a lot of anglers still don’t know about it.  This jighead turns many baits into amazing swimbaits and you can fish shallow water very effectively with them.

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Bass Tournament Advice

Have you ever noticed whether it be Club Tournaments, Divisional Tournaments, and even the Pro Tournaments, usually you will see a hand full of the same anglers consistently “In-The-Money” most of the time? Then while you’re driving home after fishing some of these tournaments without much success you ask yourself, “What are these anglers doing so different than me?”
There are many different reasons these anglers consistently “Cash-In” or “Place in the money”. I hope I can help you with some insight on what keeps these anglers successful when it comes to tournament fishing.
Bass Tournament fishing is a very competitive sport in a multi-billion dollar industry. More and more anglers every day are joining the ranks of the Tournament competitors. With all these new competitors joining the established ones, the competition seems to be getting tougher and tougher, making it harder to stay on top, or consistently be “In-The-Money”.
I have outlined several tactics you can use to give you the edge over a good portion of the participants. These can stack the cards in your favor when it comes to tournament preparation.

Understanding Bass

The better that an angler can understand his or her quarry the better or more successful he or she will be at catching it. The most important factors when bass fishing is understanding how a bass reacts to changing conditions and how they use their senses (taste, feel, sight, smell, etc.). There is much to learn about bass, especially when you have to consider water clarity and depth, water temperature and oxygen content, vegetation, seasons, daily conditions, barometric pressure changes, weather fronts, available forage, colors, structure and there’s more!
The first rule of thumb to ALWAYS keep in mind is that bass need three elements to survive:

  1. FOOD
  2. OXYGEN
  3. COVER

Understanding these elements and relating them to some of the situations or conditions listed above should help prepare you for the “Pre-Fishing” period of a tournament. This is the start of putting a “Game-Plan” together.

Familiarize Yourself With the Tournament Waters

This can be done by first obtaining a map of the waters you will be fishing. By understanding how to read a map and relate it to bass fishing you can just about “Pre-Fish” any body of water before launching the boat. Just by knowing where the structures are (channels, drops, humps, shallows, flats, depth, points, etc) and by understanding how bass relate to the seasons, daily conditions, and water temperatures, you should be able to eliminate large amounts of water. Understanding the long list of factors I outlined previously, you should be able to key on the areas where bass relate.
Another way to get familiarized with the water is to hire guides or charters. Depending on expenses I would recommend hiring at least two different guides or charters on any given body of water. That way you can take the best of the two days to help find areas and patterns. Being a licensed guide as well as a bass angling instructor, I need to let the truth be known that there are very poor and very good guides on just about every body of water that holds large-scale bass tournaments; buyer beware.
Another way to learn the lake is to “fly the water.” Go to a nearby municipal or county airport and find a pilot to fly you over the tournament waters. This doesn’t cost very much (normally), but you’d be amazed of what you can see from the air that you can’t see while sitting on the water.

Color & Bait Patterns

Probably one of the best ways to learn the color and bait patterns of any given body of water would be to visit as many bait and tackle retailers in the area as possible. Peruse the shelves to see what baits and colors are the best sellers. If you visit several of these retailers you should be able to get a very good idea of what colors and baits to use, based on the average of all these different places combined.

Watch The Locals

One of the best ways I’ve found some great Honey Holes in the past is just by observing the locals. While you are on the water and see a boat sitting in one spot for a while, just move off in a distance and watch. Remember some of these locals have fished these waters all their life and are not sitting in areas just to eat lunch!
In the morning before you hit the water, try to find the local diner where most of the locals go eat breakfast. Many times I’ve found some great information just by eating at the same place at the same time, and by sitting as close as possible. Many anglers like to brag! Just by sitting and minding my own, you can’t help but over-hear these locals talking between themselves about the 10-pounder they caught off of Truman’s Point using a Spook and so on.

Putting A Game Plan Together

Putting a game plan together for a tournament and sticking to it can make or break most of the anglers in the field. The biggest problem many anglers have is not sticking to a game plan.
Several years ago, I had the great pleasure and company of Shaw Grisby Jr. and his Father (Pops) over at my home for dinner. That evening, I asked Shaw’s father (A truly great and knowledgeable man) why he thought most anglers can’t seem to stay consistent in tournaments, to which he replied, “They always leave the fish!”
To put another way, if you are in an area where there are fish, WHY LEAVE? Give a spot time. The biggest part of pre-fishing is locating fish right? So don’t just give a spot a few minutes then leave. I’ve sat on certain spots for a couple of hours without a bite, then all of a sudden they turn on and I’ve caught limits. I just had to wait them out.
When making your game plan, select an area where you won’t have to run miles and miles to secondary spots. Try to keep at least three or four alternate spots within a few minutes of each other.
As I mentioned before, being a Pro Bass Instructor, I’ve had several students in the past who attended my 3-day Bass Fishing School that just wanted to learn how to “Pre-Fish” a tournament. By teaching them a better understanding of bass behavior and showing them such things as how to put game plans together, different techniques and patterns, color selection, what proper equipment to use, and how to locate bass, these former students are now consistent money winners.
I hope that this article will help you in all your future tournaments and make you a more consistent angler. If you have any questions on any of the material I’ve covered, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the information below. Until next time!
Take Care & God Bless!
“The Bass Coach” Roger Lee Brown

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Top Ten Fishing Tips for Your Next Fishing Tournament

Ten Tournament Tips

Ten Tournament Tips What does it take to have a successful tournament? It’s more than fishing techniques or strategies. Find out inside.

 10 easy steps to courteous tournaments
Tournament Tips and Tactics
  1. Respect everyone on the lake. Water encroachment is not a good practice whether the other boat’s owner is entered in the tournament or not. Allow the distance required by the tournament rules to all other boats in your vicinity. Don’t leave others awash in your wake as you leave or enter an area. Slow down well before nearing another boat.
  2. Have your boat ready to launch before getting to the ramp. Don’t keep others waiting while you get rods and other equipment out of your tow vehicle, or while you do repairs on motor, etc. Launch quickly and do not use the headlights on your tow vehicle when backing in, use parking lights so that you don’t blind everyone waiting to launch.
  3. When loading up at the end of the day move quickly and get out of the way of others trying to load their boats. Do your final tie-downs, etc. out of the way of the ramp.
  4. Don’t litter. Leave areas around the ramp and the lake as clean as possible, cleaner than you found them if you have the time. Leave no mark where you have been and others will appreciate it.
  5. Control excess alcohol consumption. Drunken, rude behavior is shameful and reflects on all other anglers. This type of behavior does not represent the majority of sportsmen.
  6. Don’t let winning prizes or money be the only reason you are there. Your rights are only as great as the others using the lake. Keep the fun in fishing and don’t think that because you are entered in a tournament your rights are more important than someone not competing.
  7. Work hard to keep your fish alive and healthy. Leaving dead or dying fish on the side of the lake shows a lack of respect for the future and the fish. Others who see this have a right to assume the worst.
  8. Be aware of local and state laws, and abide by them. Buoys that carry signs warning you not to make a wake should be observed. Consider taking a boating safety course to educate yourself.
  9. Abide by the unwritten rules of sportsmanship at all times. Don’t do anything to anyone else that you would not want done to yourself.
  10. Most importantly, don’t think because someone else does something to you that it’s fair to do it to someone else. Rudeness breeds more rudeness whereas an offer of friendship and respect is easier on your blood pressure and allows you to make many new friends. Use your common sense and the manners your mother taught you. Maintain a good image among all other anglers, you represent a very visible group and as such have a responsibility to demonstrate the best, not the worst of our natures.

Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness

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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.

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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

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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.

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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