Thursday, January 24, 2013

Use Common Scents When Ice Fishing

OK, I'll come clean.  I'm not talking about ice safety, although it's a topic for another day.  I'm talking about the use of scent on your fishing lures to further sweeten your lures, to tempt finicky fish to bite while jigging for panfish through the ice.  I'll talk about a few that I use during this post, but I'm not endorsing those particular products.  There are others out there that are probably well worth using.  The point is, use them when the bite is tough.
Use common Smelly Jelly, to put more panfish like this slab crappie on the ice.  This one was caught on the open water, but Smelly Jelly resulted in more bites than when we didn't use it on this trip.
Most ice anglers that jig for panfish tip their lures with some sort of bait.  Waxworms, maggots (commonly called spikes), mousees, perch eyes, or belly meat are commonly added to jigs to sweeten the offering.  The panfish are not actively feeding on these baits under the ice until you introduce them.  In other words, schools of maggots aren't down there swimming around.  So, why do they work?  Scent and taste.

It's no secret that taste and scent are closely related senses, especially to fish.  Sweetening your jigs with these baits will not only draw strikes, but keep them hanging on.  So, when things get tough, obviously, toting these baits on the ice with you is a good idea.  I always carry a container of spikes and waxworms with me on the ice.

However, over the past ten years or so, soft plastics have become increasingly popular for targeting panfish through the ice.  One advantage to using soft plastics is that you don't have to stop fishing to add bait to your jig during a hot bite, and the soft plastics last through a lot more fish than a maggot or waxworm.

I personally started using them over twenty years ago, dropping Bass Pro Shops one inch Squirmin' Grubs down the hole for willing perch, crappie, bluegills and bass.  Later, the now famous Ratso and Shrimpo lures iced many a pannie for me on the ice.  But as good as these lures are, there are times when fish won't touch them.
Soft plastics like these have become popular fished through the ice.  The blue and green ones in the center of the picture are Ratsos, and the two below that are the Bass Pro Shops Squirmin' Grubs.  But sometimes these just aren't good enough by themselves to draw strikes.  A little bait or scent added to sweeten them up might draw strikes or get them to hold on longer when they do.
One way to sweeten them up is to add bait, but another way is to dab some Smelly Jelly, Fish Formula, or Bang on them.  These aren't the only scents that work.  Some people make their own concoctions, and one common theme seems to involve anise oil.  Garlic is also a quite popular additive.

Many years ago, some soft plastic manufacturers discovered that they could add scent to the lures during their production or packaging.  It was as simple as adding salt or liquid scents in the package, but other companies, like Berkley, added scent to their plastic formula with their invention of Powerbait.  Other lure manufacturers mixed salt, garlic and other additives in their plastic formulas.

Even more recently, specialized formulas were not only mixed into the plastic formula, but also added to the packaging, storing them in jars and literally soaking the soft plastics in their secret formula.  Berkley Gulp, Gulp Alive products, Yum soft plastics, and Trigger X have produced complex scented and productive soft plastics.
The plastics to the left are Berkley Powerbait, to the right are Gulp and Gulp Alive products.  All are scented and will draw strikes or get panfish to hang on.  The company claims that these lures outproduce live bait.  I don't think that's always true, but there are times when it seems that way.
More Berkley Powerbait and Gulp products.  I always bring these on the ice with me.  There are times when these outproduce everything else.

Gene Mueller, retired Washington Times Newspaper outdoor columnist and outdoors blogger praised the use of Smelly Jelly just about every winter in his fishing reports, touting the advantage given to anglers that chose to use it.  Gene is also likes using the Berkley Gulp and Powerbait products.  My memory isn't what it used to be, but I'd say the odds are pretty good that it was his newspaper fishing reports that turned me on to using scent in my younger fishing days, and I've been using it ever since.  If I had to sum up what I learned from Gene about the use of scent in two words?  It works.  By the way, be sure to visit Gene's wonderful blog, Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting.
Gene Mueller showing us the benefit of using Smelly Jelly, his favorite fishing scent.  Nice slab, huh?  
So if these scents make a difference on the softwater, it stands to reason that they should make a difference on the hardwater too, right?   I think that these scents not only cover our human scent, or scents that give off a negative reaction to fish, like tobacco and gasoline, but actually attract them in some cases.  And, they seem to cause fish to hang on to soft plastic lures longer, and even ingest them.  So, they must taste good to the fish too.
These were just a few of the nice yellow perch and pickerel that I caught during my first use of Berkley Gulp on the ice several years ago.  Since then, I've not only used their soft plastics, but have also dipped my other soft plastic lures in their Gulp Alive scent to sweeten my offerings.
Bluegills like this one will chomp on jigs with soft plastic trailers sweetened with scent as well as jigs tipped with waxworms or maggots.
I'm not saying that these products are the answer all the time when fishing is tough, but it doesn't hurt to give them a try.  There are times when they could turn your day around on the ice.  Success while using them will give you added confidence in the use of soft plastics through the ice at the very least, and could put more fish on the ice and into your frying pan.  So, please use some "common scents!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fat Boy's 2012 Year in Review

Happy New Year Everyone!  

I hope that 2013 brings you the best outdoor experiences possible.  For me, my hopes to have an even better fishing year are promising.  In fact, I can pretty much say that for all of my outdoors activities.  One way to jump start my fishing year would be to have some ice to fish on in 2013 since we were ice free last year.  The upcoming winter forecasts are promising, and ice is building as I type this.  While I wait for ice, it's also a good time to reflect on 2012.

Now that I look back, about the only things that didn't happen for me are that I didn't get to ice fish, and I didn't put some deer meat in the freezer.  Fortunately, my 2012-2013 hunting season is still open, and I have late archery opportunities ahead.  Other than that, I had some great fishing times with some great people.  I have been fortunate to have some great fishing buddies, some that I've fished with for many years, some that I've recently been fishing with, and some that I have yet to fish with.
I managed to meet and fish with some guys for the first time.  Here, Jeremy Tyson (foreground) and Ed Lewandoski on a recent outing.  Not only are they awesome and knowledgeable anglers, but nice people too.  I'm looking forward to fishing with them in the future.
I'm going to keep the typing to a minimum here, and trust me, my diarrhea of the keyboard is tough for me to control.  So, this post will be picture heavy with a few captions.  Hope you enjoy the pictures.
I had the pleasure of fishing with Bob Franko a couple weeks ago.  Bob is a fishing guide on the Susquehanna and will definitely put his clients on fish, whether it's smallmouth, walleye, or musky fishing.   I have his website linked in the right hand column. 

I've had the pleasure of fishing with Shawn Reardon (right) this year a couple times.  He's another fanatic angler and a really good guy.  Pictured left is Mike Schiffbauer.  I haven't fished with Mike, but probably will some day.  He's another top notch fisherman.

Blast from the past.  Here's my friend, Rodger Moran, that took up fishing not long ago.  I haven't seen Rodger for several years.  He didn't used to fish, and we lost touch.  But he found me on a fishing forum after recently taking up fishing, and we've had some fun fishing this year.  Now he's hooked on this addicting habit!  Good to see you again Rodg.
Here's my friend Bob with his eight year old fishing prodigy son and fishing buddy, Carson.  Any fishing buddy of his is a fishing buddy of mine.  Carson landed his biggest bass on a trip this fall.  Nice fish Carson!  This was a banner year for Bob too.  He also purchased a new boat, the boat of his dreams, a Riverpro LoPro.  I now own his old boat!
Of course, I can't leave out my best bud, Howard Boltz.  We've been fishing together since the 80's, and this year was a great year for both of us.  We've caught a lot of nice fish over the years.  Here, Howard sports a chunky largemouth caught while fishing out of his boat this year.  I look forward to many more trips in 2013 with Howard.
A new fishing pal, Rocky Droneburg, shown here with a fat largemouth bass.  Rocky and I fished a couple times together in 2012.  I hope to get out with him again on the water.  What a great guy, and a heck of an angler too!
Here's my friend Dave Roberts sporting a fat largemouth that he caught this past spring while he fished out of his boat.  Dave and I have had some great spring fishing trips.   This year, I hope to have him as a guest on my boat, since our favorite lake together is my home water.  Now I have a craft to invite him to fish out of.
I had the pleasure of fishing with Steve Pilkerton (left) this fall.  Also pictured are Rocky and Tony Ashby.   Steve is a very analytical angler, much like myself.  We didn't figure the fish out that day, but it was fun trying to put together a pattern.  I hope to fish with all of these guys in 2013.
Here's my friend, Steve Kelley, who also had a monumental year.  He purchased the boat of his dreams, and it paid off for him.  In this picture, he proudly shows us what I think is his personal best largemouth bass.  I was honored to be fishing with him out of his new boat on that day.  What a historic moment for both of us.
My friend, Rusty Dillon, with a largemouth bass caught last year.  Rusty loves to fish.  I hope to have him out for some fishing in 2013 where he'd have a chance at a personal best bass.
I had the pleasure of fishing with my friend, Mark McWilliams this past year several times.  Here he is fishing out of his boat with a nice Smith Mountain Lake smallmouth bass.  Mark and I had some great trips together.  I need to get him out on my boat in 2013 for some different species.  How about some walleye fishing Mark?
Here's a picture of my friend, Gene Mueller.  I have yet to fish with him.  In fact, I have yet to meet him in person.  I actually met him on-line as a result of this blog.  He's a great guy, and I've already learned a lot from him about writing and fishing.  Thanks Gene.  Here's to a great 2013 and meeting and fishing with you some day in person!
Here's my buddy Jim Cumming, also a guest author on a couple wonderful Fat Boy Outdoors posts.  If you like small stream fishing, you need to check them out.  Jim and I learned a lot together over the years both on and off the water.  I haven't fished with him for some time now.  We're planning a trip on the ice soon to fish together.  I look forward to that very much.
To read Jim's fishing articles, here are the links:

Small Stream Magic...Going with the Flow
Small Streams...Arctic Style

Please take the time to read these outstanding articles.  I'm sure that Jim would be happy to hear if you enjoyed them or not, so please post a comment at the end of each post providing him with your feedback.

Two other people are interested in fishing with me in 2013, my wife and daughter.  I really look forward to those trips.  I nearly fell out of my chair when my wife told me that she wanted to go fishing with me!  Those pictures and experiences will be subject for future posts, hopefully in 2013.
I purchased this boat from my friend, Bob, in the summer of 2012.  I had so much fun taking "her" out and have already had some memorable fishing trips.  2013 looks to be a very promising fishing year.
So you may have noticed what was most important to me in 2012, and what will also be the case in 2013.  The basic theme of this post is that my family and friends are most important to me, more than the fishing or outdoors activities that I do.  Those activities are a means of enjoyment and fun, for sure, but sharing those experiences are what it's all about.

That said, I've caught some great fish this year with help of my fishing buddies.  I'd say that, without them, I may not have caught most of my bigger fish this year.  Here's a recap of some of the best fish that I've caught in 2013.
Here's my first snakehead ever, a 36 inch toothy nasty looking beast!
I caught a ton of nice bass this year.  Here's one of my biggest in 2013, a fat Tidal Potomac largemouth.
Here's another nice fat bass caught this past spring.  I caught so many nice bass this year, it was hard to choose which pics I liked most.   These last two I guess are my favorite ones.
How about this slob yellow perch?  I hope to get a bunch of these on the ice this year.
Here's a nice chain pickerel.  I caught a bunch of gator chainsides this year.  These guys are like mini muskies!
This isn't a very big striper, but it was fun catching lots of them like this in 2012.  I hope to get some sow stripers in 2013.  Until I get one of those, there are plenty of ones this size to keep me entertained.
Well, there you have it.  A Fat Boy's Outdoors year in review.  Here's to a wonderful 2013 and a Happy New Year to all of you.  Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope that you enjoyed my work on here.