Aren’t Those For Bass?

Trolling with Hawg Shads

Very often we, as fishermen, fall into a target species, marketing pigeonhole. A particular lure is marketed or gains notoriety for one type of fishing, and we resist trying it for other types of fishing.  I’ve heard it over and over at fishing expos, “Is this a saltwater lure?”, or “Isn’t that a bass lure?’ Just because the label implies one thing, doesn’t mean it is not equally applicable for another presentation.

Fish don’t read labels or watch TV. They eat smaller fish – that’s mostly what they do. With that in mind, here is an excellent multi-species trolling rig using a lure better known as a dropshot offering for bass.

A double of Hawg Shad rainbows.

Start with either a 3.5″ or 2.8″ Hawg Shad and rig as described in the March 2016 post: “Keeper Rigging Small Plastics”. The supple plastic and remarkable color patterns make the Hawg Shad the perfect choice for this rig.

Connect the “Keeper Rigged” Hawg Shad to a wobbler with 10 to 20 inches of mono or fluorocarbon. The wobbler has no hooks. It functions as an attractor and enhancer for the hook bait. The shorter the leader, the more aggressively your Hawg Shad will move. Conversely, longer leaders create a more subtle action.

Different brands go by different names such as; Wobbler, Wabbler, or Flasher. I’ve been using the F1 Flasher from Williams. It’s an eliptical spoon that measures about 2.75″ long.
I like to add a ball bearing swivel on each end of the spoon to reduce possible line twist.

This is a slow trolling rig. It is ideal for electric motor, row, or paddle trolling. You want a side to side swing action – not a spin. The wobble and swing makes the Hawg Shad dart from side to side like a fleeing minnow. The wobbler adds extra flash and vibration as well as imparting the action to the Hawg Shad.

Small Landlock on the Hawg Shad

Bass also like a trolled Hawg Shad…

…and so do chain pickerel, the ever-present bonus fish.



Those Brown Boots

I am one of those people who is caught up in the Alaskan reality TV craze – among other reality themes. If someone came out with a show about gold alligators in Alaska, I’d never leave my livingroom. Anyway, I wondered what the deal is with those brown boots that everyone in Alaska appears to wear.

I finally had to google it. I typed “brown boots” into the search bar. Before I could type any more “Alaska” self-propagated. What do you know? They really are a part of Alaskan culture. It’s not just a clever product placement scheme. They are called Xtratufs; made from neoprene rubber by Honeywell International, Inc. .

A little more googling and I found references to non-marking soles, good traction on wet surfaces, comfort, and durability. My interest increased. Now, I own a pair myself.

I have had mine for just over a year. I can honestly say I have no complaints. They are extremely comfortable. I don’t wear them for any kind of extreme activities, or haven’t yet. I wear them mostly for fishing from boats or brief shoreline excursions. Throw in the occasional snow shovelling or wet weather yard work job. It’s been a light duty year, but they have held up fine so far, with vertually no signs of wear & tear.

Comfort is what has impressed me the most. I think a good portion of the comfort comes from the pliability of the boots overall and especially in the uppers. The foot of the boot flexes easily with my own foot in a nearly sneaker-like way. The uppers are so flexible, I don’t even feel them on my calves. Picture rubber boots that are just stiff enough to stand up on their own. That’s the Xtratufs.

The soft uppers flex with your movement and do not irritate your calves.

Although Xtratufs do come in an insulated model, mine are uninsulated. Their warmth is directly proportional to your socks – the colder the day; the heavier the sock. For winter fishing, I use thick 78% Merino wool socks marketed as a hiking, hunting, and work socks. These have worked well for me during the coldest part of the open water season. My feet stay comfortable down to about 25 F in a passive activity; even lower in an active pursuit. I was wearing them the other day while trolling at about 20 F. I had to periodically do toe calisthenics, flexing and stretching, to keep my feet comfortable. Apparently, 20 degrees was a little under the temperature limit on my feet.

78% Merino Woll, 20% Nylon, 2% Lycra

I’ve always thought rubber boots were about the goofiest looking footwear a man can wear, and that’s coming from a guy who owns Crocs. The functionality of Xtratufs have broken that barrier for me. I wear my brown boots regularly, and I wear them proudly.

Chain Pickerel: The Ever-present Bonus Fish

They take a backseat to many gamefish, but I for one think chain pickerel deserve a little more credit than they get. They are willing biters, good fighters (we’re talking pound for pound, not inch for inch), and present in a wide range of waters and habitats. They just have a way of showing up on your line no matter what your target species may be.

On many lakes, you can’t pursue largemouth bass in shallow cover without combing though numbers of chain pickerel, but that’s the obvious encounter. The species/habitat overlap is nearly 100% in that case. Although I don’t turn up my nose at any pickerel, the pickerel that I appreciate the most are the deep water bonus picks – the ones that take lures meant for open water species. These are suspended fish living out over water that would cover a five story building.


You might be looking for this…
…and catch this. That’s fine with me.

Reason #1, it’s always an unexpected appearance. Who doesn’t love a surprise, especially in a colorful. green & yellow wrapper?

Reason #2, the deep water pickerel are always sizable; generally ranging from 2 to 5 pounds or even more. Bigger is better.

Reason #3, the fight quality is underrated. There’s no confusing a skinny 16 incher from the pads with a four pounder from the depths. Sure, the fight might include a period of that “wet sock” dead weight act, just like largemouth often do, but full grown specimens will show their athleticism with head shakes and short drag peeling bursts as well. The one in the pic at the top even gave a full bodied jump that would make a rainbow trout jealous.

Sharp teeth and copious amounts of slime will keep the chain pickerel way down on the general popularity scale. Most folks are just too squeamish. While everyone may not share my affinity for the species, I think we can all appreciate them as a predator and a gamefish.


Snell a Hook in 6 Easy Steps


1. Cut your desired length of line for the snell.

2. Push the line through the eye toward the point. make this about as long as the hook shank.

3. Wrap the long section of line around both the hook shank and the short length of line about eight times.

4. Pinch the line wraps to hold them in place and push the end of the long section of line through the eye toward the hook point.
5. Snug the wraps up toward the eye.

6. Moisten the knot and pull the long section of line hard to set the snell.

Opportunities in Disguise

Fishing is a funny activity – funny peculiar, not funny haha. Although it is a game of problem solving, we often handcuff ourselves with misconceptions or hesitations. It’s usually a fixation on a certain lure, or bait, or “spot” that holds us back.

A 25 pound flathead from a southern honey hole.

Years ago, I took a road trip to fish with a guide “down south” for flathead catfish. I learned a lot that day. I have returned to that same water a few times guideless, and always had success. More importantly, I always enjoyed the process. Simultaneously, I had been curious about a population of flatheads closer to home, but I never wet a line.

Why did I drive hours past flatheads to catch flatheads? The only answer I can give is; I didn’t know where to start, or so I thought. I had handcuffed myself with hesitation. I had confidence, but only in one spot.

Well, I finally took the first step. I picked a likely stretch of river, took what I had learned fishing for “southern” flatheads, and made a few adjustments to fit this “northern” river. We had reasonable success right out of the blocks. That first step has opened a whole new fishery to my disposal – a new local species, a new water, and new set of fishing puzzles to solve.

This single digit cat broke the flathead ice for us.
This 16# was big fish of the day and a good way to close the first outing on new water.

Don’t Squander the Opportunity

This is my constant self reminder. Whether it be an opportunity that presents itself on the water or an opportunity to get on the water at a unique time or place – take it! It’s easy to not do something, but not doing something is never rewarding. Don’t say to yourself later, I could have caught this if I tried or I could have fished there if I made the time.

This is a text book example. Family travel was taking us through prime catfishing waters. We could just pass through and save time, or with a little preparation and planning, we could make some great memories with a morning on the water. We took the latter.

A meager start, but we were on the board early.
Preparation gave us options. A change of spots increased both size and numbers.
A solid flathead to cap off the morning.

Quality vs Quantity

As I get my gear together for an outing with a good friend on very challenging trout water, I began thinking about this. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of big fish equals success. To some that may always be the case, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I admit, at times I follow that equation too. When I really stop and think about why I spend time fishing it’s not as cut and dried as pounds and ounces.

This diminutive smallmouth double was cause for great rejoicing.

Quantity is generally the initial goal, but often it’s the peripheral details that make a fishing trip rewarding. Seeing a mink on the shore could be the highlight of the day. An unexpected species or a particularly colorful example of a common species could be the day’s trophy. Big fish are great, but other factors frequently outweigh the largest fish.

The colors of this pumpkinseed would rival the residents of a tropical coal reef.
This little rainbow was a pleasant surprise when collecting sunfish for bait.