Whether you are stocking up on tackle for the season, seeking vintage collectibles, or just looking for bargains; fishing flea markets offer one stop shopping for all fishermen. As we ease into spring, we ease out of the fishing flea market season. These are two good shows that close out the season here in the Mid-Atlantic region.
April 3rd: St. Joseph’s College, John A. Danzi Athletic Center, 155 West Roe Blvd., Patchogue, NY
April 10: Cape May Elementary School, 921 Laffayette St, Cape May, NJ
Over the years, I have noticed the majority of the crappies I’ve caught exceeding two pounds have fallen for just a handful of lures. In no particular order, these are my top producers of large crappies. They are not lures that will fill a cooler every day, but they are lures that will fill your memories with images of monster crappies.
1. Thin minnow plugs – Rapalas, Rogues, Rebels, etc. We are talking bass size now – not the size that you would usually consider panfish bait. Select models in the 4 1/2 to 5 inch range. Vary your retrieves. Sometimes slow and steady is all it takes. Other times a twitching retrieve gets more strikes. This kind of bait can also be trolled with great success.
2. Soft jerkbaits – Hawg Shads, Bass Assassins, even stick worms can fit in this category. Texas rig them without weight. Use a slow, stop and go twitch retrieve to appeal to a crappie’s fondness for weak and dying minnows. The dart and glide action of a weightless soft plastic mimics this perfectly. And again, we are talking about bass size baits around the 5 inch mark.
4. Bunny Leech pike fly – This is the one that started the wheels turning. Many years ago while pursuing pike and bass with the long rod, quality crappies started appearing among my catches. The undulating rabbit strip, and stop and go action are irresistable to big crappies. Now, I’m not suggesting you take up flyfishing just to use this lure/fly. I am suggesting that if you are already a flyrodder, try a 5 to 6 inch rabbit strip leech on your favorite crappie lake. You will be pleased with the results.
What do all of these lures have in common? Size and shape is the most obvious. Consider lures with a 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inch length along with a narrow profile. Although they dwarf typical crappie lures, we are not looking for typical crappies. We are targeting the biggest in the lake.
This is not the usual configuration for a “keeper” an hook, but this is the most secure small plastic rigging I have tried. It far outperforms glue or pegging. It holds up to repeated casting, strikes, and all kinds of rough handling. I first thought of this for surf teasers, but have since used it for trolling rigs (more on that another time), and even casting with a flyrod – all with great success.
Slip a keeper over the point of the hook, clip end first.
Slide the keeper so the clip goes beyond the eye.
Pull the keeper back so the clip goes through the eye. This may take a little bending of the keeper.
Thread the hawg Shad or other soft plastic onto the hook to the correct point for a straight final presentation.
Screw the bait onto the keeper by turning and applying light pressure. This may feel a bit awkward as you have to bend the tail of the plastic around the hook point with each turn.
When it’s screwed on all the way the bait should lay straight and ready to fish.
Is your favorite lake still frozen? You can either go stare at your ice hole, or find some open water. I’ll take the latter.
Tip 1: Be mobile. Sometimes a small change in elevation or latitude is all it takes to go from ice to open water. For the past couple of weeks I’ve done just that – driven south and then fished the warmest water I could find within those areas.
Tip 2: Pick a water that warms first. I know I alluded to that in Tip 1, but it is worth stating twice. The first waters to lose their ice will offer the first opportunities for openwater success. From there, find a pattern that you can repeat on other waters as they thaw and warm.
Tip 3: Be willing to use a combination of live bait and artificials. Some days your artificials will outfish the livies, and sometimes it’s the opposite. When possible, use them simultaneously on two different rods to cover more water and recognize a pattern.
Tip 4: Be flexible on your target species. Choose waters with multiple species of gamefish or large panfish. Bass and crappies, bass and perch, bass and pike are all great early season combos.
Want to catch more fish, and reduce your impact on the environment, and save money at the same time? Use o-rings when you wacky rig.
Each of your stickbaits will last longer. This directly helps your tackle budget. With each bait lasting longer, you’ll also spend more time fishing and less rigging. Baits rarely come off the hook on a strike or a head shaking jump, therefore, fewer baits are accidentally introduced into the environment. It’s cheaper, more efficient, and greener. If you’re not doing it already, it’s worth a look.
Here’s a step by step intro to o-rings and wacky rigging.
Spearing fish through the ice is not a common practice in most of the US. In fact, in many places it would be illegal and/or impossible to try. For those unfamiliar with the process, here are the basics. The sport takes place inside an ice shanty or darkhouse. The darkness affords a clear view beneath the ice. A large hole is cut in the ice – much larger than a little, round tip-up hole. The decoy is a hookless lure suspended through the hole to attract predatory fish within range of a spear. Although I’ve never done it myself, I’d imagine the decoy also helps gage distance and size of the fish. When suitable quarry, usually a large pike, comes within range, it is harvested with the thrust of a spear.
The spearing process is interesting, but that’s only half of the story. The other half is the artistry and craftsmanship. Handcarved from wood and heavily weighted with lead, each “fish” is carefully crafted for the correct balance and appearance to attract predators beneath the ice. Some are made by fishermen who carve, some by artists who fish, and some come from craftsmen inbetween. No matter the origin, each is an expression of creativity and ingenuity.
Decoys made by noted carvers may fetch hundreds or even thousands of dollars from collectors, but that is not the best measurement of value. The true value lies where form and function are partners, and is measured on a sliding scale of satisfaction rather than dollars and cents. That satisfaction can be reaped by the the fisherman, the collector, or the carver himself.
Fishbelly Hawg Shads in 3.5 or 2.8 inch sizes are about as good as it gets when it comes to minnow imitating drop shot baits. The right size, great action, and unbeatable colors set them apart from the competition.
A size 2 Gamikatsu Drop Shot hook is my “go to” hook for drop shot rigs. I’ve used other hooks with great success as well, but consider the “Gami” the best of the bunch.
Keeping your movements short and subtle will entice more strikes than a exaggerated jigging motion. Jiggling the rod tip a few inches on a semi tight line works best. Try to use the weight as an anchor and just shake the line and lure for the most natural movement.
No need to haul back hard on a drop shot strike. Just reel down tight and sweep the rod firmly and steadily until you’ve got a good bend in the rod. The sharp exposed point of a little drop shot hook plants easily and stays planted.
At one time my passion for collecting antique fishing tackle rivaled my passion for fishing itself. Times change; interests change, often in a circular path. My once prized collection is now better described as wall ornaments and a box in the basement. Time to find new homes for some and repurpose others.
Finding new homes – a couple Deckers on their way to another collector.
Repurposing – these rough condition, rotary head topwaters will move from the bottom of the collector hierarchy to the top of the experimentation hierarchy in 2016.
What could be more appropriate for an intitial entry than a tutorial on rigging one of the most versatile baits in your fishing arsenal? Here is a step by step guide to rigging the Hawg Shad – the king of soft jerkbaits. For the demontsration, we are using a 5″ Hawg Shad and a 3/0 EWG hook.
In its basic form of an EWG hook and no weight, the Hawg Shad will dart and glide like a distressed baitfish. The near weedless rigging allows the angler to probe fish holding cover with little fear. This simple rig is one of the deadliest shallow water presenations for smallmouth, largemouth, northern snakeheads, pike, musky, and just about any other gamefish you can think of.