Ice Fishing

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Article by Eddie White. Photo credit: Chris Gebert

For some of us, ice fishing is what we wait all year to do. When the ice starts to recede, anxiety sets in as one realizes it will be many months before the hard water is back. The wait can seem like forever!

In the south eastern part of the state, we tend to luck out on early ice. Just after Thanksgiving, Tongue River Reservoir typically has enough ice on the south end that one can venture out and get into the early ice frenzy the crappie seem to go into. What an exciting time to be the first on the ice, ripping slab lips.

SAFETY: This article by no means, condones jeopardizing safety. As tempting as early ice is, it is always important to put safety first. A few items that should be utilized when stepping on first ice, or any ice for that matter are as follows: a heavy spud bar (always have one and hit the ice prior to taking a step). Ice picks (the type that simply go around your neck, so you can grab on to them and safely get out of the water). A self inflating life jacket (once it hits the water it inflates, stopping the wearer from going too far under). Be aware of quickly changing ice conditions, and always let someone know when and where you are going, having a partner is a good idea as well.

BAIT: The first thing always brought along are minnows, generally in the 2 to 3 inch size. I have come to notice that during first ice, the larger minnows catch the bigger slabs. Popping heads is also a great way to tip a jig. Simply use your thumb and pop the head off a fresh minnow, hook it through the lips, and you are ready to go. Finally, maggots are always great to have on hand, just in case they are finicky and not looking for bigger baits.

LURES: PK Flutter fish are an absolute in my arsenal. I have caught more fish on a 1/8th ounce glow, then any other jig I have dropped down a hole. I will also bring a 1/8th aspirin head jig, made by Gates Custom Jigs, for live minnows or maggots. I will run the hook through the nose of the minnow to assure its liveness. For maggots, I will use up to 5, depending on what the fish tell me they want. There are thousands of ice jigs out there, I tend to travel light, mainly using only those I am confident with, but always trying one or two new each time.

ELECTRONICS: When I first started with electronics, I had an old Lowrance boat fish finder, that had the circle flasher on it. I used it for years and absolutely loved it. For many years prior, I fished with no electronics. In those days, I always dropped to the bottom, counting on the way down to have an idea of the depth I was in. I would begin by reeling just up off the bottom, counting how many times I jigged, how long I would stop. This gave me an idea of what type of presentation the fish wanted. I would continue with one reel crank, pause and jig. This would go on till I either had my bait all the way to the top of the hole, or when I would get a bite. I would then start over. Going to the bottom, if I caught a fish five cranks up, I would begin reeling 5 cranks, and so forth.

TIME: Just before dawn we are typically set up and ready. For early ice, we are generally not fishing any deeper than 15 feet of water. At first light, the action seems to be fast and furious, and can last for a few minutes before the sun hits the horizon, the bite will again be fast and furious. This frenzy is often a lot shorter than the morning bite. But stick around, anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour into dark, the slabs will once again feed for hours. Coming in waves, we will set up a couple lanterns, as they are attracted to light, and fish till they tell us they are done for the night.

Photo Credit: Chris Gebert

Fish Wake Baits This Spring

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Mike Iaconelli
Mike Iaconelli

Wake baits are seriously underfished. I really don’t know why because they are super good in the early spring and the late fall. The forage is up in the water column. That means the bass are up, too. Wake baits are an obvious choice.

My idea of a wake bait is any lure that runs right under the surface on down to about a foot or thereabouts. Hundreds of lures fall into that category, but my favorites are the Rapala DT Fat Crankbait, the Rapala BX Balsa Waking Minnow and the Storm Waking Crank.

All three baits give you a wide choice of sizes, profiles and colors. Lures in the DT Fat Crankbait series look almost like hardboiled eggs. The ones in the BX Balsa Waking minnow series are long and slender. The Storm baits are somewhere in between the two. They’re more like a traditional crankbait.

Rapala DT Fat Crankbait
Rapala DT Fat Crankbait
Rapala BX Balsa Waking Minnow
Rapala BX Balsa Waking Minnow

As far a color is concerned I can’t recommend any specific one. The thing you want to do here is pay close attention to what the forge looks like in your reservoir, lake or river and match it as close as you possibly can — size, color, shape. Wake baits are designed to mimic the real thing. The closer you get to that the more fish you’ll catch.

Storm Waking Crank
Storm Waking Crank

Finding a place to fish them is about as simple as it gets in this sport. They’ll work anywhere as long as they’re swimming over cover. My favorite place is over grass, but I also like to swim them over laydowns that extend out into the water a ways.

One thing here: Don’t think of wake baits as shallow water tools. If the water’s clear, bass will move up a longways to get to them, sometimes 20 feet or more.

Wake baits are treble hook lures so you’ll want to throw them on a crankbait rod. My favorite is a 7 foot, 3 inch, Abu Garcia “Ike” Series Delay Casting Rod.

“Ike” Series Delay Casting Rod
“Ike” Series Delay Casting Rod

I mount an Abu Garcia casting reel, medium speed, to it. Any of the reels in the REVO Series around 6.6:1 will do you a good job. Avoid using high-speed reels. They have a tendency to make you retrieve the bait too fast. All that does is run it over the top of the fish.

Berkley Trilene Professional Grade Braid
Berkley Trilene Professional Grade Braid
Berkley Trilene Sensation Professional Grade
Berkley Trilene Sensation Professional Grade

My line is either monofilament or braid in something between 14 and 20-pound-test depending upon where I’m fishing and how big the fish are that I’m going to catch. My mono is Berkley Trilene Sensation Professional Grade. My braid is Berkley Trilene Professional Grade Braid.

Make sure you fish wake baits this spring. They’ll catch bass, and because they run right on top, the fight is spectacular.

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Winter Bass Fishing Tips: How To Catch MORE Bass In The Snow

Winter Bass Fishing Tips: How To Catch MORE Bass In The Snow thumbnail

“Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

-Sammy Cahn

I have never heard bass anglers actually sing these lyrics of a popular Christmas song, but I could understand if they did. Winter fishing tips can go along way. Often times the bite can actually be fantastic on reservoirs where northern-strain largemouth live, especially if it’s the first snowstorm of winter. Fair-weather fishermen stay home on snowy days, but hard-core anglers know it’s worth the trouble to bear the wet and cold because snow seems to activate those bass.

A snowstorm affects northern-strain largemouth the same way a rainstorm does during the warmer months. It is a low-pressure system featuring clouds that darken the skies and turn on bass.

Winter Fishing Tips: Snowstorms

winter bass fishing tips

A variety of fast-moving lures work in this situation; even buzz baits if the water temperature is still in the 50-degree range. The key is to run the buzzer as slow as possible but still fast enough to keep it on the surface. Other lures that produce in snowy conditions are spinnerbaits, crankbaits and suspending stickbaits. However, don’t rule out slow-moving baits such as jigs tipped with plastic chunks.

The weather before a snowstorm can affect how bass react when it snows. Bass turn on in the snow if it has been warm for a while and then a drastic weather change leads to the snowstorm. However, if snow arrives after a long cold spell and the water temperature is already cold, then big bass, in particular, hug the bottom.

Winter Bass Fishing Tips: Time of

winter bass fishing tips

Time of year and water temperature play key roles in how snowstorms affect fishing. Usually, the fishing is better during late autumn snow than in the spring. In the fall or early winter, the main lake is still pretty warm so falling water temperatures have less of an impact on the fish. Spring snows have the opposite effect as they knock the water temperature so low that it shuts off the fish. In the spring, the main lake is cold and the most active fish are in the warmer, shallower pockets, so when the snow and cold hits, the water temperature in the shallows drops quickly and bass turn lethargic.

Water clarity determines where you should fish on snowy days. As the weather gets wetter and colder, the action tends to slow down on the upper ends of reservoirs where the water is stained or dirty. So when it snows, try clearer water in the middle and lower ends of the lake.

Winter Grub Fishing: A Classic Bait That Always Crushes

Winter Grub Fishing: A Classic Bait That Always Crushes thumbnail

When the weather outside is frightful, but a fire inside is so delightful, some anglers still brave the cold because they know the bass are biting. Winter grub fishing can be a quick way to fill the boat when faced with winter lockjaw.
Relying on your electronics will help you find wintertime bass in deep water. While keeping a vigil on your electronics, look for any sort of fish activity, whether it’s bass or baitfish. When you locate a big pod of baitfish on your depthfinder, you can mill around the area until you find the edge of the school. It is usually easier to catch bass by presenting your lure on the edge of the baitfish school rather than making presentations into the thick of the baitfish pod.

Winter Grub Fishing: Where To Fish A Grub

winter grub fishing

When you locate bass in deep water, you can catch aggressive fish on a jigging spoon. However, as the water gets colder and the fish become more sluggish try switching to a single-tail plastic grub for your vertical jigging presentation. It seems like the colder the water, the less action bass want on a bait so the subtle grub produces better than the spoon.

A 3 1/2- or 4-inch plastic grub like the Zoom Fat Albert attached to a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce darter jighead works best for fishing deep. The darter jighead matches up best with the grub because it falls faster than a ball-type jighead. Productive grub colors are smoke with black flake, salt-and-pepper and pearl with black flake.

Spinning gear works best for grub tricks. Match your grub with a 6 1/2-foot medium action rod and a spinning reel filled with 6-pound fluorocarbon line. For the coldest days, use monofilament line, which coils less than fluorocarbon in frigid temperatures.

Winter Grub Fishing: Finding The Right Action

winter grub fishing

The mood of the fish dictates how to present your grub. A lot of times the fish like it sitting dead still and other times they want you to jiggle it like a crappie jig. If you see fish on your depthfinder screen rising up to look at the bait but the fish drops back down, raise your lure a couple of feet to coax the fish into another look. If this fails to produce, reel in the lure and you can usually trigger a strike on the next drop by slowly reeling up the grub if you see a bass coming close to the lure.

Rather than watch bass being caught on television this winter, grab some grubs and go deep to experience your own bass action on a clear-water lake.

Sonars Basics: How To See Fish

This quick trick is the difference between seeing all the fish under the boat and never knowing they were there. Sonar isn’t self explanatory but with a single adjustment you can change that for good! Tim explains how to change sensitivity and what to look for on your screen. Whether you’re using top of the line gear or just an entry level unit, this information will help you see more fish.

The key to sonar is understanding sensitivity. Sensitivity that is set too high becomes so cluttered you can’t see the fish through the mess. Conversely if sensitivity is set too low you’ll spend all day staring at a blank screen. Finding that perfect balance requires adjustment but once you’ve dialed it in you’ll know every time a fish passes below the boat.

If you’re looking for a quality unit, here are our favorites at a variety of price points, starting with the units we use ourselves.

Our Units…

Humminbird Solix 15: http://bit.ly/2Hazsej

Humminbird Solix 12: http://bit.ly/2AE2YDB

Hummbird Units…

Helix 9: http://bit.ly/2GmFXui

Helix 5 G2 Sonar: http://bit.ly/2TNndFW

Lowrance Units…

HDS-16 Carbon: http://bit.ly/2sjMhsR

HDS-12 LIVE: http://bit.ly/2RTL21K

Hook 2 9 Series: http://bit.ly/2kBj3l8

Garmin…

GPSMap Sonar: http://bit.ly/2IYlkB8

Striker Plus: http://bit.ly/2skseug

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Need Apparel? Tacticalbassin Gear is in stock! Get your hats, hoodies, and sunshirts by emailing Tacticalbassinapparel@gmail.com

Sonar Website.jpg

City Bass are Still Bass

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skyline - central park
Central Park, New York City

It never fails. Break out the cameras and a cold front will blow through. That’s one of the few guarantees in life.

Naturally, that’s what happened when I fished with Joe Sancho in Central Park in New York. The bite started off really slow. Then it got tough. Nothing we were throwing seemed to interest them. But, we had a show to film so we needed to do something. That something turned out to be soaking a jig.

Here’s the deal: bass are bass regardless of where they live. The ponds in Central Park have some cover just like waters everywhere else. There are bushes that overhang the bank, tree limbs that fall into the water and even big pieces of trash that the bass can hide under.

Ike’s Mini Flipping Jigs
Ike’s Mini Flipping Jigs

We decided to target those fish with Ike’s Mini Flipping Jigs. They’re made by Missile Jigs. We used conventional stuff — 3/8-ounce weight in black and blue. We added a small Berkley Powerbait Chigger Craw, one that I cut down, to give the jig a little more bulk and add to its realistic appearance.

You’ll notice that with a lot of the lighter techniques I use I cut down my plastics. That’s so they match the size and weight of my lure. It’s easy to do, especially with creature baits. Just snip off a little of the body and maybe shorten the tentacles or arms. A small pair of scissors will work or, in an emergency, you can use your teeth. Be careful with scented baits, though. They can be really nasty in your mouth. Believe me. I know.

Our decision to use Mini Flipping Jigs was no accident. The skirt on those little critters is made up of very fine, thin strings of material. It’s a true custom, fine cut. That skirt will give the lure a little movement even when everything else is perfectly still. That’s really important as you’ll see in the next couple of paragraphs.

Berkley PowerBait Crazy Leg Chigger Craw
Berkley PowerBait Crazy Leg Chigger Craw

Soaking a jig is sort of like dead sticking except that it’s different. What I mean by that is that you throw the jig out, let it fall to the bottom and then count to 10, slowly. What happens is that the skirt material will continue to move ever so slightly even when the body of the jig is sitting still.

After your 10 count has passed move your rod tip just a little — less than an inch — and repeat the process all over again. If that doesn’t produce a bite, you reel everything in and cast to another part of the cover.

This is different from dead sticking in that you don’t let the lure sit motionless. You take advantage of the slight movement the jig’s skirt gives you. That may seem like nothing to us but it makes the jig look alive to the bass.

They’re predators. Even when they’re not actively feeding they’ll attack something that looks alive but vulnerable.

Don’t be afraid to try soaking a jig this year. It’s a really good technique when things get tough.

Kayak Stability Versus Standability

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Kayak stability has been a talked about feature for as long as I can remember. Few of the early kayaks (think 1990s) were much wider than 27 inches and anglers, myself included were worried about flipping from a hefty hookset.

Blake Russell in his Jackson Mayfly. Photo credit: Ashley Russell Kayak Standability stability
Blake Russell in his Jackson Mayfly. Photo credit: Ashley Russell

The question of kayak stability is still prevalent today, however, new anglers aren’t looking for just stability, they want standability. Isn’t stability the same thing? Not necessarily. I see it as the comparison of a square to a rectangle. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. Kayaks that have standability also have stability but not all kayaks with stability have standability.

So what is the big difference?

Kayak Stability

Stability indicates a kayak’s performance in conditions when an external force, be it the paddler, weather condition, or other boaters apply force to the hull. I’ll drop the sciency jazz for a second. Basically, if you can stay upright setting the hook, getting bombarded by a wake boat, or navigating a crosswind, a kayak would be deemed stable.

Eugene Mora Radar Kayak stability standability
Eugene Mora fishing from the Wilderness Systems Radar 135. Photo credit: Diane Nieto

Stability often depends on the design of the hull (the side that’s in the water) and the width of the kayak. Additional factors that come into play are the seat height at which a paddler or pedaler sits, the square inches of a hull that make contact with the water, catamaran style hull designs, and percent of weight capacity that is utilized. Not all weight capacity is rated the same way so be sure to demo a kayak if possible with gear to see how it rides.

When people ask “Is this kayak stable?”, sometimes they are talking about stability but more often than not, they really want to know about standability.

Kayak Standability

Starting around 2012, marketers of fishing kayaks realized that pictures of people standing in kayaks sold more kayaks than people sitting and fishing in kayaks. Standability became a huge thing in the market and the rush to wider kayaks started. The term stability took on a new meaning. The old standard stability started to mean “Can I stand up and fish in this kayak?”.

Kayak Stability Standability
Emiliano Chappell sight fishing on a Kaku Voodoo. Photo Credit: Andrew Cameron of Next Fish

For standability in a kayak, you have to start with stability. You should also look at how the kayak is load balanced. A cheaper kayak may have the seat too far forward or too far back. This causes the kayak to become imbalanced especially when standing because you stand in front of the seat. Ideally, the deck will be clear for at least 12 inches in front of the seat. This allows you to adjust your weight as needed to take on waves if standing and casting. This also helps you to not trip when making foot adjustments.

Stand assist straps, side rails, or pull up bars are often an option for kayaks that have standability in mind. They can often be added to other models of kayaks but if the manufacturer doesn’t offer one of these as a brand-specific solution, it might not be though of as a standing and fishing kayak.

One More Thing on Standing

One more GIANT thing about standing in a kayak exists that I need to address. Just because a tiny gymnast looking person can stand in a kayak doesn’t mean a Defensive Lineman for Alabama can. Individual ability can improve with practice but weight, what part of the body the weight is carried, height, and inner ear conditions all play a big role in the ability of an individual to stand in a kayak. A 41-inch wide kayak has a better chance for more people to be able to stand than a 29-inch wide kayak.

Kayak stability standability Randy Newton Photo by Tim Kiusalaas
Randy Newton in a Wilderness Systems Radar 115. Photo credit: Tim Kiusalaas

Final Thoughts on Stability and Standability

Ultimately the best way to decide if you can stand in a kayak is to demo, in warm weather, in shallow water. However, if that is not available, I would think long and hard about trying to stand in kayaks that are less than 33 inches wide. A few exceptions exist to that rule but for the most part, it’s a good guideline. Please understand fishing styles and locations differ. Things like tides, waves, boat traffic, and current can greatly affect standability.

 

 

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Pending World Record Catfish!

Tim was using 6 lb line and a spinning rod when this giant catfish bit! The fight lasted over an hour with so many drag screaming runs we lost track. Come along and watch the entire fight play out! The fish has been submitted for the Channel Catfish All-Tackle Length Record and is currently pending.

One of the most exciting aspects of fishing is that you never know what’s going to bite. Tim was throwing a Neko Rig for bass on light tackle. He was searching for smallmouth when the big cat surprised him.

Quality tackle made all the difference in this fight! There is no doubt that lesser gear would have failed under the strain of the battle. Below is a breakdown of the gear Tim was using when he subdued this monster.

Rod/Reel Combo…

Rod- G Loomis NRX 852S JWR: http://bit.ly/2dX9zjv

Reel- Shimano Exsence 3000: http://bit.ly/2iMtscV

Line- 12 lb Sunline Braid: http://bit.ly/2tn8EzQ

Leader- 6 lb Sunline Sniper: http://bit.ly/2p7fxju

The Bait…

Lure- 5″ Yamamoto Senko: http://bit.ly/2axAmNS

Weight- Swagger Tackle Tungsten Pagoda: http://bit.ly/2iGNSFW

Keeper- G7 Protect Tubes: http://bit.ly/2PWEkUs

Hook- Owner Mosquito Light 1/0: http://bit.ly/2zQVKx3

Camera Used: http://bit.ly/2RsLpjB

Scale Used: http://bit.ly/2f7QgQ9

________________________________________________________________

Need Apparel? Tacticalbassin Gear is in stock! Get your hats, hoodies, and sunshirts by emailing Tacticalbassinapparel@gmail.com

Catfish web.jpg

Fishing Smallmouth In The Winter: Tactics To Catching Cold Water Bass

Fishing Smallmouth In The Winter: Tactics To Catching Cold Water Bass thumbnail

Wintertime smallmouth fishing can be a challenge as bass push out to deep water when winter winds start spitting snow and the thermometer nudges the freezing mark. While smallmouth tend to stay deeper than their largemouth cousins most of the year, brown bass dwell in some of their deepest sanctuaries in the dead of winter. Finding these deep fish requires map reading skills and good electronics. The fish practically sit on the bottom and are sometimes inactive so you really have to fine tune your electronics to find them.

On Southern waters such as the chain of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lakes, smallmouth usually congregate at depths of 25 to 35 feet along breaklines where you can rely on vertical presentations to trick these bottom-hugging bass. Keeping a constant vigil on your electronics will help you stay on top of the breakline and keep your lure in the strike zone the whole time.

On highland reservoirs, you can catch deep smallmouth with a horizontal presentation by casting to channel swings. Here are some vertical and horizontal presentations to try for deep wintertime smallmouth.

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter: Vertical Tactics

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter

Dropping a 3/4-ounce nickel hammered jigging spoon to the bottom and popping it off the lake floor is a productive wintertime smallmouth tactic.
As the spoon drops to the bottom, scan your graph for bass streaking up to the lure. Once your spoon reaches the bottom, work the lure in a subtle fashion. Just pop your rod tip maybe 2 to 3 inches, which is moving that spoon from about 1 foot to 18 inches off the bottom.

If smallmouth ignore the spoon switch to a drop-shot rig with a 4-inch finesse worm and hold that bait dead still on the bottom.

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter: Horizontal Presentations

Fishing For Smallmouth Bass In Winter

Jigs and tube baits are top choices for smallmouth when the fish are deeper than 25 feet along the channel swings. Position your boat a slight distance from the channel swing and cast your lure to the structure. Let the lure fall to the bottom and slowly move it along the lake’s floor. The key to this presentation is keeping in constant contact with the bottom and making subtle hops or shakes with your rod.

Smallmouth on the channel swings are usually feeding on crawfish or shad so select a 1/2-ounce casting jig tipped with a large plastic chunk in green pumpkin hues or a gray shad tube bait on a 1/4-ounce tube jighead to imitate the forage.

Lures are tools

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Kayak Combat!

I know you hear all the time that lures are nothing more than tools. The thing is, though, it’s true. And nowhere was that more obvious than in our filming of the .

It was early fall so the bass were in a transition mode. We launched our big BassCat with the Hobie kayak onboard. When we got to a backwater area we dropped the kayak into the water and went on back into a place that wasn’t accessible any other way. It was basically a perfect spot for what we wanted.

There was a mixture of hydrilla and coontail that was still bright green. That mattered because most of the vegetation was starting to turn brown. The green growth — it was slightly submerged — was a magnet for small baitfish. And, in the fall when you find baitfish you find bass.

Molix Lover buzzbait
Molix Lover

We needed a bait that matched the hatch and that we could get down into the grass. But it also had to be a bait that wouldn’t foul on every cast. Our choice was obvious — a Molix Lover.

What made our choice so simple was that the Lover is just about the right size for fall baitfish and, at the same time, its design allows it to work through grass without fouling or hanging globs and strings of grass every time we brought it out of the grass. When that happens you’ve pretty much wasted a cast or, at the very least, not gotten what you should have out of it.

The blade on a Molix Lover is fixed so it kind of works like a windshield wiper. It moves back and forth and as it does that it brushes most of the vegetation off to the side.

That feature was critical because we wanted to cast our lure out, let it fall into the grass, pull it back out with an upward motion and then feather it back down into the grass. You can’t do that with most vibrating jigs. They’ll hang in the grass and once that happens they don’t vibrate properly.

Molix Lover
Molix Lover

Our choice was a 3/8-ounce size in black and blue. We used a Berkley Havoc Rocket Craw as a trailer. I cut it down about an inch in length and removed the pincers. That gave me the size and action I needed.

We were in a kayak so we were close to the water. I wanted a longer rod to make sure I got a solid hookset. My choice was a 7 foot, 6 inch, medium-heavy spinning rod with a fair amount of tip from Abu Garcia. I mounted a 30 size Premier reel to it and spooled it with 15-pound-test Berkley braid. I used a 2 foot fluorocarbon leader. (Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon)

The experience doing this show was phenomenal. Being right down on the water with the fish was something I’ll always treasure. Watch the film a couple of times and you’ll see what I’m talking about and why I’m becoming addicted to kayak fishing.

At the professional level nothing replaces a top-quality full-size bass boat like a BassCat. But for other situations nothing replaces the access to unfished waters and the outdoors experience a Hobie kayak gives you. Try it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.