Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tip - Storing Crankbaits

Are you tired of pulling out your favorite crankbait or jerkbait out of a compartment of your tacklebox only to find that all of the crankbaits are hooked together with your favorite one and exit the box at the same time?  Then, you spend another fifteen minutes to separate and restack them back in your box because they no longer fit as the tangled mess, and you still haven't tied your favorite one on the line?
When bass like this are on the crankbaits, don't waste time separating a tangled mess while you could be fishing.  And, if you take Bass Junky's tip to heart, using quality hooks will ensure that you land rather than lose fish like this.
Well now I have a tip for you!  Remove all of the treble hooks from your crankbaits.  And, while your at it, buy quality replacement hooks, premium extra sticky sharp hooks for reasons detailed in Bass Junky's latest blog post, Switchin out your trebles..a must?.  Place the hooks in a compartment or separate box and put them on after you remove your crankbait from the box.
Now you can avoid this tangled mess and store as many crankbaits or jerkbaits as you like in one box.
 You'll need a pair of split ring pliers to remove all the hooks, and also they help to put the hooks back on.  Carry them with you in your tackle bag or box.  If you forget them, you can always use a spinnerbait blade to open the split ring in an emergency. 
Split ring pliers like these come in handy even on the boat.
The only thing that you'll have to remember if you use this tip is to not forget to bring your hooks, unless all you want to do is practice getting bites!

What advantages does this tip give you?  Well, as Bass Junky noted, premium hooks mean more hookups and less chance of losing fish.  And with this tip, you won't have to purchase two hooks for every lure.  Just keep a dozen of each size that you need in your box, and switch them out between baits as necessary.  You won't lose all of your crankbaits in one day, but you may lose a couple.  Even then, you should still have plenty of hooks.

If you're like me, you probably stuff as many crankbaits that will physically fit into your box without breaking the lid.  With this tip, even using an entire compartment for hooks, you can actually fit more crankbaits in your box than before.  And, when you take your favorite out, it's not tangled with ten other crankbaits.
Now you can stuff your box full of crankbaits and never worry about a tangled cluster of crankbait mess to separate.
You may ask, "Doesn't it take a lot of time to add the treble hooks"?  My response would be, a lot less time than untangling a mess of crankbaits and restocking them back in your box.  Once you get the hang of using the pliers, which may take all but a few minutes of working with them, then you should be able to add the hooks back to the lure in less than a minute.

Oh yeah, before I forget, leave the split rings on the lures.  They're small and can be dropped and lost easily if you separate them.  You may have to change out old rusty ones eventually, but that's an easy task especially if you've already removed the hooks.

You may ask, what if I'm shore fishing or wading and can't do this in the field?  Simply add the hooks to the lures that you want to fish with prior to your trip.  I've used medical tape on the hooks before, so when it's not practical to use this trip, that's a good alternative.

Another variation of this tip would be to leave just one of your favorites in each tackle box compartment with hooks rather than remove them all.  That way, if you're in a hurry to change baits on the water, you have your favorites already rigged up.

In summary, spend less time untangling, more time fishing, and use quality premium hooks to stick and land more big fish.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What's the Buzz?

I had a small window of time after work last night to put in about an hour at best to fish at a local lake.  It sure didn't feel like a typical March day much less the first official day of Spring.  My plan was to fish from shore for a few quick bites and hopefully for some willing largemouth bass.  It was warm, muggy, buggy, with frogs and toads hopping out in front of me like deer crossing the road in front of your car at night as I hurried along a path to my fishing spot.  I had a hard time stepping around and over them in an attempt to avoid making frog or toad path pizzas.

I would have been in heaven if I had experienced that in my youthful life.  I loved to collect frogs, toads, and salamanders as a kid.  I had some pretty awesome terrariums throughout my life.  Amphibians are for the most part easy to keep, easy to feed, and become quite tame after a while.  I cringe at the thought of using them for bait because, well, they're my buddies.  However, I don't frown on other anglers using them, it's just my taste in fishing.

So, here I am fishing my cold weather early spring patterns, tossing worms and working them slowly through the water column without any bites, working dropoffs near shallow water but in the deeper holes.  There was a fair amount of panfish surface activity, so perhaps that approach wasn't the right way to go.

I decided to work the parallel to shore, wondering if the fish were up against the bank in the shallows in ambush of Kermit the Frog going for an evening swim.  I could work the dropoff and a good portion of adjacent shoreline doing that.  I had a bite and missed it, most likely a youthful bass or yellow perch, with not much weight to it.  But it was a clue that the bass were in shallow.  A couple casts later, and I had a good pickup, and set the hook into a chunky fourteen inch largemouth bass.
A chunky fourteen inch bass like this one fell for my plastic worm.  But I wanted bigger...something different.
But maybe I needed something different.  I just had a good feeling about it, frogs and toads hopping about, panfish surface activity everywhere, bugs in the air, warm temperatures and that evening calm on the lake... the lake was calling out to me for topwater. 

Luckily, I decided to pack my buzzbaits with me.  So, I dug one out and tied it on.  After several casts out to deeper woody cover without a bite, I decided to again work the shallow banks, casting parallel just inside the dropoff for my last hurrah before dark.

On my first cast doing that, with the lure heading towards me about ten feet away, the water erupted.  I hooked a good fish near the bank that was probably in the three pound range.  I gloated, and hooted and hollered to my buddy laughing that I hooked a bass in March on a buzzbait.  I wanted to land that fish badly, but it had other ideas, throwing the hook as I bellowed my frustration across the lake, scaring the geese that had landed just minutes before that were now cruising on the mid lake surface.  It just goes to show, that just as you can't count your chickens before they hatch, you can't count the bass before you land them.
I was spoiled, a few days earlier, I boated this 21.5" fat largemouth on a lipless crankbait.  I wondered if big sows like this were cruising the shorelines looking to eat Kermit the Frog.
It would have been my first ever bass landed on a buzzbait in March in Maryland, but instead, became my first ever bass hooked on a buzzbait in March in Maryland.  Heck, there have been years that I was still ice fishing during this time of year much less tossing topwater lures for largemouth.

This could be a trend!  More warmth on the way the next three days.  Time to break out the topwater!  Oh what fun we could have!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fish All Day for One Bite?

Doesn't sound very productive, does it?  Many have written about musky being the fish of 10,000 casts, including me.  But even if it was only 1,000 casts, tossing lures that weigh as much as my cat all day long will make that 999th cast a work of torture.  My signature on a local musky forum now reads, "You know what's amazing about musky fishing?  You cast your butt off all day long, to the point of physical exhaustion, and, in a matter of seconds, one measly bite either makes your day or sends you home skunked." 

Ain't it the truth?

I fished hard the other day and my shoulders simply ache...still.  Where is my bottle of Advil?  Is it worth it, such pain, for one fish or maybe two if you're lucky?  Most anglers would not think so, but there are some hard core musky anglers out there that will tell you that it most certainly is. 

And I agree.
I wound up nearly throwing out my rotator cuff tossing huge lures all day for what?  My personal best musky, 39.5 inches long, that's what!  Was it worth it?  Heck yeah!
I lobbed a heavy glider all day long, that when it hit the water upon a cast, other nearby boaters or people walking the bank were ducking for cover, wondering if the sky was falling.  How many of you can state that they've tossed lures that actually create a wake when they land?  Or, would a better term be a Tsunami?

Gliders are somewhat like subsurface Zara Spooks, that, with twitches of the rod tip, alternating with half reel cranks, creating a series of pulls on the lure combined with alternate periods of slack line that basically send the lure into a zig zag retrieve.  If the lure is as big as my cat, you can imagine that even that takes a toll on your musculature, much less casting the daggone things.
Gliders, like these made by Anthony Ashby, are great for triggering aggressive musky strikes.  Be ready at all times for that one bite.
I did raise one fish earlier in the day, one that rolled on my glider but missed.  It's stuff like that, action, that not only gives you confidence but keeps you going.  It's actually almost heart stopping at times.

Here's the deal though; you may cast for hours on end, maybe days, without even a follow or a fish visually interested in your offering.  But, you're fishing for that one fish, that one bite, and you'd better make it count when it happens.  You need to be ready at all times.

Ed Lewandoski shared an experience he had, "The trip in January 2010 that Ken and I made to the New River.  We drove five hours the night prior to fishing, and an equal distance to look forward to afterwards.  We only saw one fish, Ken's personal best 45 inches and change (that he landed).  It would have been a whole 'nuther ride if it wasn't for that fish!"

It pretty much sums it up.  You can't fall asleep and go through the motions.  You need to follow up on each cast, alert and in tune with what your lure is doing.  Finish the cast with a figure eight, or a wide sweeping "L", some sort of direction change to provoke a strike from a chasing musky.  Don't be lazy on anything.

As Ed notes on the topic, "Are you ready for that big fish on every cast?  There are some that say, 'Hey, I'm tired.  I can't be ready on every cast/retrieve.'  I guess it's a game of odds.  The higher the number of casts/retrieves you are totally set on will improve your odds.  If one random BIG fish is going to test you over ten trips, which retrieve will it be on??  Will it be there on the first 20 where you are so into it that nothing distracts you?  Or will it be in that eighth hour, after you have had NO action all day?  The one where your body is out of position to set the hook properly?  Or, your rod is pointed in the wrong direction so if you do set the hook, you won't get much power out of it?"
Ed Lewandosky with his personal best 45 1/2 inch musky.  Fish like this might only give you one chance, so take advantage of it and make it count!  This fish was so sweet that I had to share it again with you!
You have a chance at the fish that could make or break your trip, or a fish of a lifetime, and all you may get is that one chance.  Don't blow it.

The other day, fortunately, I found a "hot fish", one that boiled on one of my lures on one cast, striking but missing.  Then, a few casts later, he rolled on it twice.  Then, another cast later, he rolled on it again, missing, only to nail my lure a couple twitches later.  Having a "hot fish" keeps you on your toes.  Your adrenaline is high, and you're alert, ready for that strike.

But there are times that border boring, as if you're simply beating the water with your log sized lures.  Those are the times that you need to be alert, so be ready to set that hook at any moment, properly.  the fish could strike at any time, on any given cast.  You need to be ready to perform a figure eight to draw a strike possibly, and once you hook up, to fight the fish carefully and land it cleanly.

It's hard work, casting the big stuff all day long.  You don't want all of your efforts to go for not, do you?    Now really, I'm only a rookie at this musky thing, so I have yet to experience the dejected feeling that you'd get when missing your only chance on the day, but I'm sure that I will.  After all, I'm human.  I can tell you, because of my own drive to fend of the skunk monster, the very one that I detest more than anything while fishing, that I can imagine how I'd feel if that happened to me.  I'll try and learn from other people's lessons rather than learn the hard way.

You may only get one chance.  And when you do, and it pays off, it's well worth it.  And it could turn your trip from one to forget to one that you'll never forget.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tip - Hands Free Shore Fishing

If fishing from shore, and you have access to enough shoreline to move about freely to find fish, here are a couple tips that will save your back and give you more fishing time.  Most anglers will carry multiple rods to either offer different presentations when fishing for the same species, or to fish for two different species.  If you like to move around to find fish, constantly putting down your extra rod or tackle box gets old real fast, causing back aches in old fellows like me, and it wastes time.  After a while, you might be content to stay on one spot longer than you'd like simply because you don't feel like bending over to pick up your stuff and move.

So, since mobility is important to find and catch more fish, you have to be innovative to gear up to be mobile.  Here are a few tips to help.

1)     Wear a fishing vest to stow the tackle that you might need for the day.  Some of them have a large back pocket for extra gear or even a lunch.  I pack mine full of everything that I might need for a day.  The amount that you can carry is limited to the number of vest pockets that you have and the strength of your back.  You can carry a lot of stuff like me and be prepared for anything, or you can go as light as you wish.  That's a personal preference.

2)     Use a fanny pack or some system to pack water or more gear that won't fit in your vest.  I currently have one that has two water bottle holders and I'll stuff the main compartment with more tackle.  I carry my spinnerbaits in a soft tackle pack that I can clip to my belt or wear with a strap over my shoulder.
Notice the vest packed with tackle and the rod clipped to my vest behind me.  This enables me to fish hands free without having to bend over to put stuff down and pick it up all day long, maximizing my mobility.  I also have a water bottle and spinnerbait pouch clipped to my belt.  Here I am tossing spinnerbaits with my baitcasting rod, but have a plastic worm rigged on my extra rod clipped to my back for a back up presentation.  My brother Kyle, fishing behind me, found a way to attach and carry his extra rod on his fanny pack.
3)     Attach a clip large enough to fit around your rod blank below the bottom guide to the loop on the back of the neck of your vest.  That way, you can carry an extra rod for a separate presentation.  Make sure that they clip is easy enough to open and close to enable you to access the rod easily without removing your vest.
 A couple things to note when doing this, watch out for trees and don't forget that you have a rod clipped to your back.  All you have to do to get around a tree is to reach around and grab your rod blank, and pull it over your shoulder horizontally to get around tree branches.

Now, when shore fishing, you too can be mobile and catch more fish.  Try my tips above or come up with your own way to be mobile.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Save Money on Braided Line

Everyone knows that superlines like braid, fused lines like Fireline, or molecularly linked Nanofil, are much more expensive than monofilament and fluorocarbon lines.  But the advantages are that superlines last much longer, are much more durable in most situations, have much stronger breaking strength than other lines, are much more sensitive, have no memory, and have no stretch for rock solid hook sets.  If you are fishing for species that don't make long runs when hooked, here's a tip that will save you money and stretch out the cost of these no superlines.

Don't put it all on one reel spool!  Fill them all!
Suppose you just purchased a new spool of braided line.  When spooling up your new line, don't empty your old spool of monofilament or old fluorocarbon lines.  Rather, peel off about half 50 to 75 yards of line and leave the rest on as backing for your new braided line.  That way, depending on the diameter of the line and spool size that you're filling, you can fill several reel spools of line and stretch your fishing dollars.

You will lose some line inevitably from changing lures and other reasons, so when your spool gets a little low, peel off the braid and wrap it around an empty Coke bottle or something, and add some backing to replace the amount of braid that you lost, then reconnect your braid and spool it back on.  Voila, you now have a full spool again.

I like to add new line each season, but with braid, you should be able to get more life out of your line depending on how much you fish.  So, here's another tip within a tip.  Instead of trashing your old braid, tie off the end to a fence post (or something outside) and pull off the braid by walking.  When your braid is out of your spool and rod, clip it off from the backing.  Walk back to the fence post and reconnect the other end of your braid that was once your most used end to the backing.  Then, reel it back on.  The end that was once connected to your backing is now the end that you tie your lures on, and is just as good as newly spooled braid.  Since I've been doing this, I've been changing my superlines out every other year.

How does this save money?  If you assume that 150 yards gives you two spools using 75 yards, then switch the ends as described above, you actually get four spools of line out of your 150 yard purchase.

This is the first of a series of fishing tips posts.  I will be posting periodic fishing tips and will index them on a separate page.  If you check back and have missed my tips posts, rather than scrolling through old posts, check the fishing tips index page and click on the ones that interest you.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Skunk Monster

Excitement about the anticipation of catching fish peaks prior to a fishing trip for just about every angler.  In my case, I stay up late organizing tackle, sharpening hooks, checking line and changing it if need be, doing everything I can to get ready for my upcoming trip.  I look forward to each trip as if it's the trip of a lifetime.  After all that, I can't sleep as I lay there thinking about the the upcoming adventure. 

When it comes to fishing, people do so for varying reasons.  Some anglers are just plain happy to get out, to relax, to be with friends.  Not me, although each trip worth the effort, and as the saying goes, it beats work, there's nothing like catching fish.  But when I venture out on my fishing trips, I plan to catch fish.  Don't get me wrong, I value everything there is about a fishing trip, the serenity and peace, fishing with friends, the beauty that God gave us, but catching fish is what's always on my mind.  It's an obsession.

So, what happens when things don't quite work out?  There are many factors that can influence the outcome of your fishing trip, weather, mechanical problems, personal problems, tackle problems, just about anything can turn the most well prepared fishing trip into a giant zero.  Getting blanked, not catching a single fish, striking out, what ever you call it, can happen to any angler.  I call it being attacked by the skunk monster.

For me, it happens so infrequently that when it does, I literally ache inside until my next trip.  That said, the same excitement and anticipation dominates my mind set prior to the next trip and the cycle begins anew.  I probably only get skunked about every five years or so.  My current streak of catching at least one fish lasted about five years, and it ended yesterday.

I was attacked brutally by the skunk monster.  The skunk monster has extreme powers, many claim that those powers are supernatural to humble even the most accomplished angler.  I don't consider myself in that category, but I still hate the monster.

Earlier in the week, as I put in for leave in advance of yesterdays trip, and maybe before that when my good fishing friend, Bob, began planning for our trip, the skunk monster was whipping up a whopper of a low pressure system and began pushing it our way.  The day prior to our trip, inches of rain dropped in a very short amount of time, leaving drivers stranded on local roads and causing just about every small stream to flood over their banks, dumping a gazillion gallons of water into the river that we had planned to fish.

Bob and I had planned to fish for walleye and musky.  Mostly, I wanted to target musky and he was looking forward to mostly catching walleye.  The plan was to take his seven year old son, Carson, along and maybe give him his first chance at catching his first walleye.  Prior to the storm, the river stages had been very stable and the river ran clear, with temperatures rising slowly from our mild winter.  The musky and walleye most likely would be on a feeding binge.  Local fishing reports indicated that might be the case, so we were very excited.
Prior to our trip, the river had been very stable and the water very clear.  But it wouldn't last.  The location above isn't where we fished, but it is one of my favorite scenic views.
Mr. skunk monster had other plans.  Not only did he dump a bunch of rain all around our region, he also whipped up some pretty stiff winds.  When we launched at one of our favorite spots, the river was still in pretty good shape.  The water clarity wasn't all that bad, with the river still a bit green, but you could see the sediment building up and the flow was stronger than normal.  After we launched and fished a little while, you could see the river rising, creating small pools of water behind trees where it was dry just an hour earlier.

At the time of the launch, the winds weren't really all that bad.  You could easily fish a jig for walleye and control the boat.  But that didn't last.  Not even an hour after we launched, the skunk monster unleashed the power of his sustained 15 to 20 mile per hour winds with gusts well over 30.  On top of that, he unleashed the winds from down river pushing against the current, ricocheting off the cliffs along the river, making boat control nearly impossible much less giving the angler the ability to feel the bottom when jig fishing.

At one point, we saw something moving rapidly from the Western shore of the river towards the center of the river, as if an animal of some sort was trying to cross.  The object moved across the wind and strong current in such a way that we thought it might have been an otter or beaver.  But, it was a log, shaped in such a way that the current pulled it one way, and the wind created an opposing force, moving the object in a totally different direction.  Weird is all I can say.

Such conditions make it tough to control the boat, and I have to give Bob a lot of credit yesterday, because he did everything in his power to keep me in a position to catch fish, while still trying to fish himself, and also give his son a chance to catch something.

Early on in the trip, Bob managed to hook up and land a decent beautifully colored walleye.  Not long after that, at our next spot, I had my only chance of the day.  I had a bite that I didn't convert.  It was the only bite that I would feel all day long.
My friend Bob with the only fish of the day, with his son Carson looking on all smiles.  Bob avoided the skunk monster, but Carson and I fell victim!
Let me tell you something about Bob's boy, Carson.  At seven years old, he did a fine job casting and working his lure.  Most kids at that age lose interest fast unless there's a lot of action, and even then sometimes they'd rather do something else.  Not Carson.  He fished the majority of the time knowing that he could catch his first walleye ever, and he was determined.  He's going to be some kind of angler when he gets older.  At seven years old, he's very analytical.  He watches, listens, and learns.

Early in the trip, I was casting a huge musky lure, a soft plastic bait called a Bulldawg while Carson looked on.  Like most musky anglers, I worked my "Dawg" back to the boat until I had about a foot and a half of line out, plunged my rod tip a foot or two under the water, and directed the lure in a large wide figure eight pattern hoping that a musky had followed it or was lurking under the boat as they often do.  Sometimes musky will strike in that situation, and you never know when.  I pulled out my lure only to see Carson working his four inch twister tail in a figure eight pattern.  You go boy!!!!

The river rose rapidly and soon changed from a green color with about a foot and a half visibility, to murky, to muddy, in a matter of a few hours.  The window of opportunity shrank rapidly for me.

Musky fishing has an inherent risk when it comes to the skunk monster.  The skunk monster thrives on the backs of musky anglers world wide.  They don't call musky the fish of ten thousand casts without a good reason.  And the skunk monster is to blame!  Or is he? 

Fishing huge musky lures like these custom made gliders
won't chase away the skunk monster, but will give you a
much better chance at catching muskies than smaller baits.
It was my choice to only fish for muskies, and I knew the risk.  Musky fishing, as I noted in my previous post, is my newest fishing addiction.  Even in the best of conditions, fishing the best musky holding water, using the right lures and tackle, there's no guarantee that you'll get a musky to bite much less land one.  So, I have to be honest.  My skunk yesterday was mosly me.  And it's OK.

I'm learning about musky fishing, and to become good at it, I have to leave the tackle behind that would tempt me to fish for other more willing species.  I can expect the skunk monster to attack me more often in the future.  I can also expect that, if I stick with it, I'll also catch more musky than I have in all of my years of fishing combined this year.  Well, at least I hope so!