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.