Archive for category Fishing Articles

Shallow Water Fishing

Largemouth from the Dock

Shallow water fishing can mean many things to different guys. Depending on the body of water, area of the country, species or fish, or fishing style determines what is shallow water fishing. In this article I am considering shallow water to be under 8 feet of water. Throughout this article I will discuss the importance of stealth, methods of anchoring, and times of year to fish shallow. This article is not so much a lure selection or species specific based article, but more of a general why you should try fishing this depth and what will make you more successful.

First, let us talk about the importance of being stealthy. One of the problems most shallow water fisherman have is that they make too much noise and spook the fish. Some of you are saying fish down have ears. You are correct in assuming that, however, what you need to know is that every noise sends out vibration. There are good vibration and bad otherwise none of our lures would have rattles built-in or attached. Let’s start with out outboard motor. As a rule of thumb, I recommend not running your outboard motor in shallow water that you intend to fish. Shut the motor down 50-100 yards before the area you intend to fish. From there use your electric motor to approach the spot. These motors are essential in shallow water fishing. These motors are relatively inexpensive and can be found in most sporting goods shops. Boat noise is another issue. This is a bigger issue if your boat doesn’t have carpeting. Remember your noise you make will transmit through the hull of the boat. Some other noise makers are anchors, radios, depth finders, and talking loud.

Next, we should discuss the options that we have when it comes to anchoring your boat. When you get onto a school of fish in shallow water often the best thing you can do to ensure you keep catching fish without disturbing them is to anchor the boat in place. By doing this you will eliminate the need to use both the electric motor or your outboard motor. First, there is the convention anchor and rope. This method will work at almost any depth depending on the length of your rope. Anchors can be bought in various sizes and shapes. Anchors can be made easily by using a coffee can and pouring concrete into it. This system is probably the most inexpensive method of anchoring your boat. Simple and easy as this method seems you should consider a few negatives. Depending on the bottom type the anchor may never hold. If the anchor doesn’t hold you in place then it will drag acrossed the bottom creating noise and muddy water conditions. If you are using an anchor set it in the water slowly by lowering the anchor straight now. That is the quietest and most subtle way to use an anchor.

Another anchoring method is to use a hydralic or electronic anchoring system. Multiple companies now make a system that pushes a fiberglass rod down into the ground. These systems are very efficient and stealthy ways to anchor. With the push of a buttom or flip of a switch the anchor will lower to the bottom. Most of these systems will anchor boats in water up to 8 feet. The most common area to mount this system is by the outboard motor. If the water is shallow enough waves will not effect the effectiveness of the product because it will constantly adjust to hold you in place. Obviously, there is only so much one of the products can take in the wind and rain, but in those cases shallow water typically isn’t your best fishing option. The only downfalls of these products is that you pay a premium price for the product and they are big and bulky.

Dig-In Bow Mount

My favorite way to anchor my boat is with a Dig IN Shallow Water Anchor. This is a very simple but effective system that has recently been release to the market. The aluminum bracket comes in a bow or transum mount. The bow mount works well with the bow mounted trolling motor because once you position the boat you slide the 8-12′ fiberglass rod through the bracket and push it into the ground. The stren mount works better if you have two people on the boat, or if you have a transum mounted trolling motor or no trolling motor. Both of these mounts are very quiet and inexpensive when compared to the hydralic anchors. The other advantage of the Dig-In system is that the fiberglass rod also doubles as a push pole.

The question that I get the most about shallow water fishing is, when can or when should I fish shallow? My answer to that question is answered by asking more questions. What species, what area of the country are you in, what type of fishery are you fishing, and what is the water clearity and lake conditions. The spawn is the time of year for any species that they majority of the fish will be shallow. During the prespawn fish will be feeding in shallow and during the spawn they will be positioned on their nests in shallow water. However, there are always some amount of fish in shallow water. Typically, these fish are feeding and active so catching them can be easier than finding deep structure. However, the size of the fish isn’t always that great. Targeting shallow weeds, laydowns, docks, and rocks and be effective areas to look for fish any time of year. The two worst times of year to fish shallow are in the dead heat of summer, and the winter months. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t fish shallow, but more productive water can be found. The type of fishery will make a difference as well. River fish tend to stay in shallow current for most of the year. Only in the winter will they retreat. Ponds and smaller lakes often don’t offer deep water so your best bet is to fish in the early morning or late evening. Lake conditions tell me whether I am going to focus on shallow water or not. The water temperature will help you determine if the fish will be shallow. That being said evening is 40 degree and 90 degree water temperatures I have caught fish in less that 1 foot of water.

Success in fishing is all about getting out there on any given day and finding where the fish are located. Too many times have I determined before I went to the lake that the fish will be acting one way and they are in a completely different depth or feeding pattern. Since that is the case more often than not I usually start shallow covering water, flipping and pitching until I have exhausted those options. Typically, I will always find some concentration of shallow fish.

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West Penn Bass Hunters

2010 West Penn Bass Hunters Banquet

This year the West Penn Bass Hunters are looking for new members. I have been a member of the club since 2006 and can honestly say that I wish I would have found the club sooner. It is full of a great bunch of guys that just enjoy fishing and tournament fishing. We are a club with varying skill level. There are several members that have barely fished, and several other anglers that have fished bigger circuits such as the Bassmaster Weekend Series, BFL, and ABA. Everybody shares information on tackle, how they caught fish, and new lakes and rivers to fish.

The club fishes a 14 tournament schedule. When I tell people that they usually bail on the club. However, we only take you best 7 finishes for the end of the year standings. The system we use is a points based system. 30 points for 1st, 29 for 2nd, 28 for 3rd and so on down to 1 point. Anyone showing up for the tournament at least gets 1 point. Lunker is a bonus 2 points. So the highest point total that you can get in one event is 32 points. For a complete schedule of club tournaments see our website calendar.

Club dues for the year are split up into two halves. January through the end of June cost $20, and from July through the end of the year cost $20. If you are a member there is a free banquet for you at the end of the fishing season. This year we went to the North Park Lounge Deckhouse. West Penn Bass Hunters club is not affiliated with the Federation Nation or the TBF so there are no extra dues.

For more club information you can email me at leo@fishpittsburgh.com or call Hank Lach (club president) at 412-897-6165. Good luck fishing.

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Bass Fishing Technique – Pitching

Anyone who has ever spent any time fishing with me knows that I love to flip and pitch for bass. I would venture to say that it is my favorite way to fish. Even though I feel that there is no bad way to fish because lets face it the old saying a “bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work” is diffidently true. In this article, I am going to discuss the ins and outs of pitching. Throughout the article I will touch on the best conditions to use this technique, best types of cover, some of my favorite lures, and several tricks to help you catch more bass. Pitching is a method used to fish heavy cover at a close distance. It is usually done with a baitcaster and heavy line, jigs, and soft plastics. Short underhand tosses to the cover by disengaging the reel and thumbing the spool to pin point distances.

Let’s start by talking about the best pitching conditions. There are three factors that I watch to tell me if pitching is the correct technique to make you successful on the water. First, take into consideration the time of year in which you are fishing. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Pre-spawn, Spawn, or Post-spawn all have their own set of circumstances that can make or break a flipping day. My two favorite seasons to flip are spring and fall. With fish feeding to get ready to spawn during the pre-spawn in the early spring flipping can really be beneficial to anglers. Fish often use lay downs as cover in the spring because the shallow water warms faster. The structure also acts as an ambush point for bass. Flipping in the fall can be unbelievable. This is true for a couple reasons. First, most anglers choose to fish aggressively for active fish in the fall. Leaving most of the right kind of cover to the pitchers. The other reason is that when bass are feeding in the fall they tend to travel a lot. Lay downs and other types of cover are used as temporary homes until they regain their energy to go gorge themselves once again. Summer can be promising for guys who like to flip as well. However, typically you will need to be pitching areas that are creating shade and cooler water temperatures. A couple examples of these are boat docks, lily pads, mat weeds, and bushes. The winter months are very difficult to use pitching as a technique. The biggest reason why is that most bass suspend during the winter months. If you are going to be successful this time of year pitching you have to slow down and present the lure at a much slower pace.

Now we should talk about the spawn cycle. The spawn is not a on or off situation that most anglers think. Actually, it is the exact opposite because not all the bass in a body of water spawn during the same time. Yes there will be a peek time where it seems like every fish on the lake is spawning, but that is simply not the case. In fact, the spawn usually occurs over the period of one and a half months. Most of the time in Pennsylvania the pre-spawn will kick in during early April. I have seen the Spawn kick off as early as the last week of April and last through mid June. Then the post spawn tends to last approximately one month. The pre-spawn can be a great time for catching a great number of fish because fish are feeding hard. The size of the bass will very greatly because males will be making beds (which are typically smaller) and the females will be moving shallow as well. During the spawn you will have the best opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime pitching. Those big females will be in shallow, but very inactive. Chances are that you will catch the male that is guarding the bed and not the female, but you will get you share of females to bite. Post-spawn pitching will probably produce the best numbers of fish, but they will be the smallest fish. Usually, there will be a great deal of males protecting beds and in shallow, and male fish tend to feed strong during the post spawn. I recommend using another technique if you are after big fish during this time.

The second factor that will let me know if the conditions are right to flip would be the weather. Everyday that I am on the water I am going to take some time to flip, but there are certain weather conditions that are better than others. Time of year will greatly affect things no matter what the weather is like. However, sunny, warm, and relatively calm winds produce the best results for me. Being sunny and warm fish tend to find shady cool areas to live. They will back up under lay downs, hide under lily pads, get in stumps, bushes, and under docks. Calm winds are a plus because when it is windy it can be very difficult to be accurate and keep your boat positioned correctly. Rainy conditions can be very good for pitching as well. If it is raining or has rained recently, find a tributary and start fishing the cover on the bank. Bass are opportunist and when it rains it washes worms and other bugs into the water. One of my favorite situations is when I am going to a lake that has received a lot of water and has flooded a couple of feet. Even if the water has only came up one foot the pitching and shallow cover bite will be at full swing.

The third condition that will tell us if we should flip or not to flip is the water color and flow rate. As I have stated previously I love fishing a lake that has received a bunch of rain and raised the lake level. However, if the color of the water is what we call “chocolate milk” or is muddy pitching can be very difficult. These conditions can also lead to a high flow rate of water, which will only give you a slight amount of time in the strike zone. Water that is stained or slight stained is probably my favorite. In my opinion these conditions are when you can see you lure up to 2 feet below the water surface. Under these conditions you can be relaxed because the fish probably will not be able to see the boat, yet you will be making very precise cast to where the fish is sitting allowing them ample time to see, smell and eat the lure. Clear water usually means that pitching will work, but you will have to worry about boat position, spooking the fish, making exact casts, and using fluorocarbon and lighter fishing line. I will talk more about fishing line later in the article.

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If you hear someone say that they were catching bass pitching and think you are going to just go out and catch a bunch of fish tight on cover you might find that it isn’t as easy as you though. Mainly because you can pitch a variety of structure such as bushes, boat docks, lay downs, stumps, metal structure, lily pads, mat weeds, or debris build up. Finding which type of cover the bass are using is the key to getting bites. The first thing I will tell you is that you have to pay attention to the details. Getting one bite and paying attention to the exact location of the fish will allow you to be more successful on that day. For example, I was fishing at Pymatuning Lake last year with Jon Parker and we spent all morning throwing spinnerbaits and trying to get a pitching bite. It took us until the afternoon to realize that the fish were holding on the deepest Y in the lay downs. The fish were holding in 3 feet of water and the fish felt more comfortable in the Y or the main tree trunk. We had only caught 5 fishing until 2 pm in the afternoon and from 2 to 6 pm we boat 25 fish. Most of the fish we caught were quality fish as well. Pay attention to if the fish are coming off the tree truck, small branches, at the root base, if the tree is old, or if it has leave or buds on the branches.

Although, we are not allowed, in Pennsylvania, to fish docks by pitching soft plastics or jigs can be very productive fishing areas for many species. Dock fishing is just like fishing lay downs. Paying attention to the depth of the dock, type of construction materials, and if there is weed growth under the dock will mean the difference in getting more strikes. Some fishermen prefer to fish wooden docks over metal docks. Personally, I have had equal success fishing both types of docks. I tend to have more success fishing docks when it is sunny and in the middle of the day. That is not to say I don’t catch fish in docks during rainy or overcast conditions. Usually, the fish in overcast conditions will position themselves towards the outside of the docks, and sunny conditions they will be up under the dock in the shade.

In my opinion the most difficult type of structure to pitch are bushes. Bushes amplify the challenge of getting your lure into position and getting the fish out of the bush once you hook-up. There are a couple of things you can do to make fishing bushes easier. As you approach the bush examine it to find the part of the bush that is has less branches and resistance to get the lure in. When pitching soft plastics make sure that you peg your weight. Making sure that your weight can’t slide up and down the line is essential. A slightly heavier weight jig or bullet weight will make a difference as well. Some pro anglers will pitch and flip no less than a ¾ oz. weight. As far as getting fish out of the bushes you need to remember two things. First, you need to pay attention to the type of line you are using. Braided line is my number one line for flipping bushes. Usually, I try not to use braided line when I can, but if need be I will go to it to help my landing ratio. Second, goes back to flipping into the easiest entry. If it goes in easy it will come out easy.

Pitching lily pads and mat weeds are very similar. Fish are in these in areas for a couple of reasons. First, there is more oxygen in these areas. Because of the oxygen fish will stay in these areas the majority of the day until they want to feed. Baitfish spend a lot of time is these areas for the plankton creating food for predatory fish as well. The other reason that bass and other fish stay in the lily pads or mat weeds is that the water temperature tends to be lower than the rest of the lake. This is a great summer pattern that can lead to some big bags at Presque Isle Bay and Lake Arthur. Pegging weights and using P-Line Spectrex IV Braided Line or heavy flourocarbon line will help make you more successful. Usually, I use 65# braided line and 20# flourocarbon. When I flip mat weeds and lily pads I always use heavy weights and heavy jigs. Most guys I talk to think heavy weights are ½ oz., but ½ oz is actually the lightest weight I use. Most of the time I am pitching 1 to 1 ½ oz jigs and mostly 1 oz weights with soft plastics.

There are many lures that you can use and can have success with. Like any other style of fishing you have to match the forage in the lake. Some of my favorite lures to pitch are jigs. Although the weight may very from ¼ oz to 1 ½ oz depending on the structure, I only use a couple of colors. My two main colors are black & blue and green pumpkin. Sometimes you will need to add some chartreuse, orange, red, or purple strands of skirting to help entice bites. The best jigs trailers that I have found are Berkley Chigger Chunk. These chunks that the know powerbait scent and great movement. If I am catching good-sized fish I will change my trailer to a 4″ Berkley Chigger Craw to add bulk to the bait. Using colored lure dye and markers you can customize your jigs without changing trailers and skirts.

There are many great soft plastic lures to use under different circumstances. I have already mentioned one of my favorite lures, the Berkley Chigger Craw. Beaver baits have become my favorite all around bait for pitching. They come in multiple sizes and in many colors. If I were restricted to one to use, I would pick a small beaver lure in a green pumpkin color. This lure will work in every type of cover, in most conditions, and at most bodies of water. Some other lures that I recommend include: ribbon tail worms, tubes, stick worms (Texas rigged or wacky rigged), creature baits, and lizards. All soft plastics have there time and place and it is our job as fishermen to determine which lures work best for the conditions which we are fishing.

Next time your favorite body of water, try pitching some heavy cover. Remember to pay attention to the details and take into consideration the time of year and the spawn cycle if it pertains. Also, keep in mind that there is no place that you should try to pitch a lure into. Fish only need inches of water to survive and heavy cover makes them feel save in that shallow water.

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How to Rig Soft Plastic Swimbaits

By Craig Toerien

Before I go any further I would like to let you know that 4″ and 5″ Hollow Swimbaits have caught quality Blue Fish, Redfish, Sea Trout, Striped Bass, Walleye, Lake Trout, Musky, Pike, Pickerel, Smallmouth, Largemouth and Kentucky aka Spotted Bass.

The word swimbait conjures up images of giant hunks of wood or hard plastic shaped like a trout and armed with multiple sets of treble hooks. They look cool, often weigh a ton and cost a small fortune. Those big intimidating ones are a category unto themselves however there are several others all of which have different capabilities and applications. There have been many innovations since the early 1990’s with an explosion of natural looking, ultra realistic hard and soft models swimbaits to choose from.

My focus today is the Hollow Swimbait which made a big splash on the bass circuit starting in 2007.  Sure it had been used for years before secretly and with great success, but when a big time pro wins a major tournament or two or three with the same bait, that secret gets out in a hurry!

Why is the Hollow Swimbait so popular?

Three simple reasons:

  1. versatility
  2. value
  3. effectiveness

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It is unmatched by conventional hard Swimbaits because it can be fished through almost any kind of cover, around any kind of structure, at any depth, from early spring through late into fall. Another benefit to a soft swimbait over a hard swimbait is you won’t need special rods or reels to effectively cast them. Use a bait caster with 12-18 lb line coupled with a 7′ medium heavy rod action. As a result hollow swimbait have become a favorite of angles in all regions of the country for the last 3 years.

Hollow Swimbaits are made of soft plastic just like the worms and tube baits which most anglers already use. It is essentially a tube shaped like a bait fish with a paddle tale.

Largemouth, smallmouth and Spotted or Kentucky Bass are proverbial “pigs” when it comes to eating habits as many of us have experience by hooking fish half the size of our lure. A 12oz bass will attack it just as readily as a 12 pound lunker. Bass spend a large part of the fishing season, either in or close to some kind of cover or shallow water structure that is less than 10 feet deep. This would include a variety of live vegetation, fallen timber, stump fields, boulder flats, docks, sand bars and points.

There are several ways to rig a hollow swimbait, each allowing the angler to effectively cover open water structure and varying types of cover.

Regardless of which rigging technique you use, please pay extremely close attention and take you time making sure the any time your hook enters or exits the bait it is precisely centered. If entering the nose go in dead center, out the back or through the belly dead center.  If you fail to do this your swimbait will not track correctly, it will roll on its side or helicopter. Consider this, if your car’s alignment isn’t right it won’t perform as it should and if your lure is not rigged straight it won’t have a desirable performance either.

Weedless:

Weightless – You will be able to find several hooks for targeting fish in weeds and other vegetation. If you want to keep the bait at or near the surface with a slower more deliberate retrieve use and unweighted EWG style hook and rig Texas style like a worm (Owner Wide Gap Plus 6/0 are best). This is my preferred shallow technique covering weed flats and boulder flats and shallow stump fields.

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Texas Rig -You can add a tungsten bullet shaped weight on your line so that it rest against the nose of the bait if you want get deeper.

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Weighted Hook – Another popular hook style is a weighted EWG or a nose screw lock hook. These hooks have varying amounts of lead molded onto the hook shank.  Increasing the amount of weight will allow you to fish the bait at a faster speed or great depth if that’s what the fish want. This is a great way to hit deeper weed edges, ledges and submerged structure.

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Exposed hooks:

When fishing more open water areas with little or no snags you can go with exposed hook rigging. Insert weighted hooks like jigs as seen in the photos or use a new innovative product made by KSH called the Original Bait Weight. This weight gets inserted through the belly of the bait and pushed as far forward towards the head as possible, then pushed up through the top of the head. The opposite end of weight has a split ring to attach a treble hook.

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Wacky rigging:

If you have caught a few fish and damaged the nose of your swimbait don’t throw it out. Cut off the paddle tail section and rig the middle diction of the bait with a circle or octopus hook, add split shot and you have a great wacky style bait. Throwing this around docks, flooded trees or at bass busting shad on top and you have a very realistic dying shad presentation.

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I cannot comment on the effectiveness of the soft plastic swimbaits that you might have purchased and tried to use in the past. I can only advise you t make sure that you look for a thin body and soft plastic consistency. I would recommend my Hippo Tackle Hollow Core Tube Swimbaits, Berkley’s Hollow Belly Swimbaits or the original Basstrix Swimbaits. The rest are thick, tough and lack the required action to be effective.

The last tip I can give you is to spend more than 10 minutes throwing these baits adjusting your retrieve depth. Tie one on fish it for at least 40 minutes each time you hit the water, it will be well worth your time and effort.

Special thanks to Craig Toerien from Hippo Tackle for sharing his knowledge of  soft plastic swimbaits with everyone here at FishPittsburgh.

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FLW Forrest Wood Cup!

FLW_1For the second time in our city’s history we are about to host a national championship in competitive bass fishing!  In the summer of the 2005 Pittsburgh hosted the Bassmaster Classic.  This week we will be hosting the Forrest Wood Cup!  The Forrest Wood Cup is the national championship for the FLW Tour and Series.  There will be 77 professional fisherman bidding to be the number 1 fisherman in the world and win the largest top prize to date.  The winner will recieve a total of $1,000,000.00!  Needless to say these guys are going to lay it all on the line this week.

HOW DO THEY QUALIFY?

There are several ways for professional fisherman to qualify to compete in this years Forrest Wood Cup.  I would like to start by saying that there is no easy way to qualify for this tournament.  No matter what path that the anglers took they had to compete against hundreds and sometimes thousands of competitors to get to this point.  The most qualifying positions come from the FLW Tour.  Based on the end of the year points standings 40 professional fisherman qualify for the tournament.  There were also 20 anglers that qualified through the FLW Series BP Eastern.  Another 10 anglers qualified through the FLW Series National Guard Western.  The bulk of the qualifiers come from those 3 circuits.  The top angler in each of the 5 Stren Series circuits also qualify.  The 2 hardest was to qualify is by winning the BFL All-American and the TBF National Championship.  Those 2 qualifiers have to compete against more anglers than any other qualifier to get into the Forrest Wood Cup.

WHERE ARE THEY FISHING?

Mon_riverThey are fishing the 3 rivers of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  On the Allegheny River the competitors are allowed to head as far up river as the sixth lock.  The sixth lock is located just above the in downtown Kittanning Pennsylvania.  The locks are very time consuming and leave little time to fish so look for most guys to lock less than 3 times.  As for the Ohio River the competitors are allowed down stream as far as the Montgomery Locks and Dam.  The Monongahela River will open open to fishing up to and including the Youghiogheny River.  Chances are that most competitors will fish multiple rivers during the competition.

FAMILY FUN ZONE

Located at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the Family Fun Zone and Outdoor Show will offer something for everyone in your family at this event.  For the kids there will be games, simulators, and a trout pond.  That doesn’t mean that big kids can’t have fun doing those as well.  Other features include:  meeting professional anglers, demonstrations from vendors and the anglers, and food.  This is a true family environment so please be curtious.  For specific times and events, please check on the FLW Outdoors website (www.flwoutdoors.com).

LIVE WEIGH-INS!

If you have never experience a live weigh-in at any level you are in for a real treat.  Even if you have never fished you will be impressed by the bags of fish that are brought to the scales (alive) and later released back to the rivers.  Live weigh-ins  will occur Thursday-Sunday at the Mellon Arena.  Once again for more details please check out the FLW Outdoors Website and for specific times.  If all of that isn’t enough to bring you out to all of the championship festivities then perhaps the free concert performed by Eric Church will help bring you to the final day weigh-in.

I would like to take a minute to wish all of the competitors the best of luck in this years Forrest Wood Cup.  There are many talented professional all competing on multiple water ways that most are not conditioned to fish.  Now I would like to wish our hometown professional angler Dave Lefebre a special good luck.  This is as close as you can come to having home field advantage in this sport and I am sure that he plans to capitolize on his oppurtuning.  Dave grew up fishing our local waters and still live in Western Pennsylvania with his family.  Show your support and let him know that we are in his corner at the weigh-ins this week.

If you plan to follow the anglers in your boat remember a couple of things so that you don’t interfer with their chances of catching fish.  First, give them enough room to make their casts.  Second, stay behind them.  Don’t get out infront of their boat trying to get a look at what they are doing or how they are doing it.  Bring a set of binoculars to help you see instead.  Another thing to remember is to shut your sonars, combustion engines, and radios off.  Our rivers can be difficult enough to fish without adding other bad elements into the equation.  Finally, ask them if you are in there way or what direction they are heading so they you aren’t in their way.  They will appreciate that more than anything and after the days competition has concluded, will be more than happy to answer questions and sign autographs for you.  This is the only sports which you can be in the field of play with the professional athletes, so let’s remember that we can have an impact on the outcome of the tournament.  Now, go have fun and share a special memory with your family and friends.

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Weightless for Big Bass?

Some people believe that weightless rigs only work occassionally or for small bass.  A weightless rig has an endless amount of applications for bass and other species.  I have caught just about every species you can imagine using weightless applications.  Using this rig may seem very simple and easy to use, but for tournament fishermen it can be very difficult because of how slow you must fish using this technique.  In the following I will discuss how to use weightless applications on different bodies of water, times to use the technique, and some lures to get you started.

The big question is when should you try to fish weightless fishing rigs?  There is no define answer to that question, however, here are a couple of factors to think about.  First, what stage of the spawn or time of year is it.  Weightless fishing can be very effective during the spawn while the fish are on beds, or in the post spawn because most fish are suspended and very inactive.  Fish during the post spawn typically are looking for an easy meal, and one that floats right infront of them is about the easiest targets for them.  Late spring through the summer months seem to be the best times for these lures.  That is not to say that they wont work in the fall and winter months though.  Second you should consider the fishing pressure that your body of water recieves.  One of the easiest ways to catch fish on lakes or rivers that have an extreme amount of fishing or boating pressure is to go weightless.  Another factor to consider is the water clearity of your body of water.  You can fish a weighless lure in 20′ of water if the water is clear.  If you are fishing muddy water then I typically don’t use this technique.  Water current should also be considered because if there in a current then it will give the lure a more lifelike action.  Time of day truly makes no difference other than lure choice.  In the morning and evening you will typically get more baitfish lures to work, but in the middle of the day stick worms work very well. 

Chautauqua Smallmouth #2

Chautauqua Smallmouth

What bodies of water should we use weightless techniques?  My answer to that is lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds.  I know that doesn’t narrow it down, but there are certain factors to consider.  The most important factor is the water clearity of the body of water.  For example, this spring/early summer I was fishing at Lake Chautauqua in New York and the water clearity was around 8 feet.  Because of that a stick worm and small minnow immation lure I was able to catch a bunch of 3 and 4 pound smallmouth.  I tried to use the same lures at pymatuning lake, but I was unsuccessful mainly because the water clearity was around 1 foot or less.  The two main places to fish a weightless rig in lakes boat docks and weeds.  This doesn’t mean that you should skip throwing at stumps, bushes, and laydowns as well.  In rivers and streams you should fish weightless in certain areas.  My best area to go weightless is in shallow fast moving water.  The bait will never be more natural than in the current floating down stream.  Leave the lure on slack line and watch the line to see if it jumps or stops moving.  The next place you should try is a boat docks.  Once the sun comes up, these floating pieces of structure can be unbelievable.  Two other places to try this style is on the rivers are metals break or retaining walls were fish suspend and by floating barges that are tied to shore.  The more industrial pools of the river will have more of this type of structure to fish.  Ponds are a place where you can always use a weighless rig and catch fish.  Ponds rarely have water that is stained badly, so a stick worm is a safe bet.

I hear a lot of guys always asking each other way lures to fish weightless.  They are actually asking the wrong question.  The true question should be what soft plastic lure can’t be used weightless.  My answer to that question is that there isn’t a lure that I won’t throw weightless under the right conditions.  Probably my favorite lure would be stick worms in varies sizes and colors.  On the Allegheny, Ohio, and Mon. Rivers in Western PA I tend to use 3-4″ green pumpkin or pumpkinseed lures.  Not all brands are created equally because the colors are slightly different or their fall rates are different.  On lakes I tend to go with 5″ stick baits.  Color selection is a lot of trial and error.  For pond fishing I try to match the size of the bluegill that are in the pond.  Some other lures to consider are fluke or minnow immitators, tubes for top water, floating worms for top water, and frog for top water.  There are always more lures that will be successful if you just take the time to fish slow.  One item that most guys over look is the type of line which they are using.  If you want the worm to fall faster go with a 6-10 lb. flourocarbon line.  Monofilament and braided lines float so they will be better with top water presentations. 

The secret to fishing weightless is being patient and working the lures very slowly.  If you are looking for surface strikes you can speed up some, but the best action is typically on the fall.  Crappie and Walleye fishermen tend to make good weightless presentations because they are used to fishing slowly.  For myself it took a lot of practice and wasted time on the water to realize that fishing this way can be really beneficial to a bass fishermen.   Remember to experiment as you fish this style.  Some color, size, structure, or species is always willing to eat a slow presentation.  Good luck.

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Lifetime Fishing Partner

Growing up throughout my childhood there were two people that were greatly responsible for my love of fishing and the outdoors.  My father did everything he could as I grew up to get me to the lake and woods as much as he could.  It wasn’t always easy for a guy running his own company,6-25-08 1st place raising 2 daughter and me, and still making time for my mother.  But somehow he managed to teach me some life lessons that I will never forget, and for that I am truly grateful. 

There are many pictures of me fishing when I was 3 years old in the local lakes, streams and rivers.  At age 6 my dad took me to Canada to fish for Northern Pike and Walleye.  Growing up we made 2 weekend long fishing trips a year to Pymatuning and Kinzua.  All of these memories, I will never forget and I know that he would either. 

Mom & Bayliee

Mom' Newest Catch

My mother also dererves a good deal of credit for my passion as well.  When I was in grade school and middle school she would take me to the local park where I would sit and fish for bluegill and bass for hours while she would watch smiling the entire time because she new I had a great passion for the sport at a young age.  Between the two of them they taught me how to respect outdoors.  Always cleaning up my tackle, line, and garbage after I was finished fishing.  Depending on the species we were fishing for they showed me that catch and release was important, and how to handle fish properly.  Although, my fishing knowledge has grown way further than I could have ever imagined, those basics that they taught me still stick with me today.

Because of our love of the outdoors, we have remained very close even though I have grown and moved out on my own.  My father and I remain life long fishing partner, which will never change.  To this day we fish bass tournament together and enjoy fishing for other species just for fun. 

For all of you parents out there, please teach your children to love and respect the outdoors.  Even if you don’t have previous knowledge of the outdoors whether it be fishing or any other activity the memories and bond you make with you kids will stick with them for a lifetime.  I know that I appreciate and cherish those memories and look forward to making many more of them.  So remember this father’s day

In one final thought, I would like to thank my parents for their support, teachings, and time that they spent with me.  If it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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Picking the Right Spinnerbait

Variety of Spinnerbaits

Variety of Spinnerbaits

Sometimes the most basic lures really aren’t so basic.  We often feel that when we buy a lure we can take it out of the package and go to a body of water and catch fish on it.  You may be able to catch fish on spinnerbaits straight from the package, but there are many modifications that will allow the lure to work under any conditions.  With so many options it is hard to narrow down which lures to take to the water.  Today we are going to talk about how to narrow down the selection process and eliminate taking a heavy  box of too many lures.  In the following we will talk about different techniques, skirt colors and sizes, blade shape, color, and size, and some lure tuning tips.

 

It is hard to find a place to start when deciding to talk about spinnerbaits.  Let’s start with one of the two most important parts to the spinnerbait.  The most interchangeable part to a spinnerbait is its blades.  There are many shapes, sizes, colors and textures in which we can choose from.  Some of the common blades styles that we can find regularly are the Willow Leaf, Indiana, and Colorado blades.  

Willow Leaf, Colorado, & Indiana Blades

Willow Leaf, Colorado, & Indiana Blades

These different blades should all be utilized for what they types of fishing conditions they best fit.  The willow leaf blade is great for clear what fast retrieves.  Because of the long slender shape of the blade it disperses very little what, but still puts off a great deal of flash which allows you to cover water faster.  The Colorado blade is a round blade that is good when the water is stained or muddy.  Because the Colorado blade is round it displaces more water and causes a greater vibration.  Due to the low visibility of the water vibration because very important because the fish are no longer seeing what they are attacking.  The Indiana blade is basically a hybrid between the Colorado and willow leaf blades.  Indiana blades are elongated round blades which disperse a good amount of what, but can still be used to cover a lot of water.  This blade is great for waking near the surface for aggressive bass, pike, and muskie.  All of these blades come in common sizes of size one through size six.  The bigger the number means that the blade gets bigger.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t half sizes or larger sizes.  These are simply the most common stock blades which come on prepackaged lures.  Spinnerbait blades come in many colors as well.  The two most common colors are silver and gold.  However, there are painted blades for special conditions.  For example, I like to use white blades when I fish the river for smallmouth bass.  I just think it gives me an edge on everyone else that is throwing a spinnerbait because not everyone is changing out blades.

 

Next, we should talk about the second most important part of the spinnerbait, which is the skirt.  Stock skirts on spinnerbait may be limited in color because company can only afford to mass produce so many colors.  Remember that you can always buy pre-made skirts from many companies that you can replace the stock skirt with a new skirt. skirts1You can also build your own skirts by buying precut lengths of skirt material or bulk material.  There are two main options when making skirts, which are rubber and silicon.  I have no preference between the two because I feel that both have their advantage at certain times.  Skirts shouldn’t be picked just because you have a hunch.  You have to do a little research about the baitfish and natural forage of the body of water that you are fishing.  For example, if the primary baitfish is gizzard shad then you should pick a white color and not a fire tiger color.  Since you are matching the color of the baitfish, be sure to cut the skirting to match the size or your baitfish.  If the shad are four or five inches long then a bigger skirts is necessary, but if they are two to three inch baitfish then it is necessary to cut the skirt down.  By matching the skirt color and size to the baitfish you will up your catch rate.  

Now let us talk about the different techniques that you can use to make spinnerbaits work for you.  Every angler starting out thinks that all you have to do is cast it out and reel it in.  Even though you can fish a spinnerbait that way it will be a lot more successful if you make the lure do certain things. 

The first technique is called slow rolling.  Slow rolling is basically casting out and reeling in at a very slow pace.  This technique can be used in the shallow weeds during the pre spawn or it can be use on ledges, creek channels, and brush piles to gain strikes during the post spawn and summer months.  Since slow rolling is done mostly in deep water, when fishing a Western Pennsylvanian lake you should be using a ½ to ¾ oz. lure to keep the lure in contact with the bottom or structure.  Making contact is crucial to catching fish because that is what is going to trigger your strikes.

Burning is another technique that can be very effective.  This technique is when you are reeling the lure in so fast that it never drops one foot below the surface.  The water conditions have to be right in order for this technique to work though.  First the water has to be very clear so fish will come from a distance to strike.  It also helps it the sun is shinny, but that isn’t a must.  Burning is very effective when fishing for clear water smallmouth bass and hybrid striper.  I have been told that muskie and pike can be taken on this technique as well.  When you are burning your bait try doing a short pause letting the lure fall slightly and then start burning again.  That will trigger a great deal of strikes when fish are following the lure.

Yo-Yoing is the last technique that I am going to talk about.  This technique can be used any time of year, in any water condition, and at just about any depth.  When using this technique you want to make long casts and let the lure sink to the bottom before you start putting the lure in motion.  Once the lure hits bottom reel the slack line and place your rod at the nine o’clock position.  Then raise your rod to the twelve o’clock position and let the lure fall back to the bottom.  Continue this retrieve until the lure is back at the boat.  You will have to let the fish determine how fast you are able to work the lure.  Sometimes you will be able to use a ¾ oz. spinnerbait and work it extremely fast and other times you might want a 3/8 oz. spinnerbait and slow way down.  I personally prefer the slower approach when fishing in weed beds. 

When fishing a spinnerbait you will have to make some minor adjustments or tune your bait as you fish with it.  The first thing you want to check is that the wire of the bait lines up with your hook and remains straight the length of the wire.  If it isn’t simple bend it back into shape with you hands or needle nose pliers.  Also, you can cut the wire length down to make the lure seem smaller and faster.  This will help if you are getting short strikes because the blades are going to be closer to the hook.  You can also squeeze the wire together placing a smaller gap between the hook and the blades doing the same thing.  On the other hand you can spread them apart to make the lure slower and larger.  Maybe the greatest improvement you can add to your spinnerbait is a trailer hook.  This will just about eliminate short strikes and make them hook ups.  You can add a soft plastic trailer to you lure to give more action and a bigger target for the fish to eat.  Remember to play with you blade and skirt sizes as well to match the baitfish. 

When you are getting ready to head to the lake this year with your box of spinnerbaits remember a few simple things.  Most importantly you need to match the size and color of the local baitfish.  Also, you don’t need to take a bunch of spinnerbaits, but you need a couple in each size so that you can change blade sizes and skirts size and color as you fish.  Try multiple techniques, pauses, jerks and speeds until you find the correct retrieve for the conditions and day.  Good luck to all and remember to have fun.

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Fishing for Lake Arthur Hybrid Striper

Hybrid Striper

Hybrid Striper

For years my friends and family have chased the elusive hybrid striper around Lake Arthur.  The attraction to striper fishing begins with their slamming hits and powerful fast fight.  Most anglers agree that these fish are one of the hardest fighting fish that swim in freshwater.  In the following I will discuss some techniques, lures, and possible locations to get you started in chasing these beautiful creatures. 

Let’s start with some general information about hybrid stripers.  First, hybrid stripers are unable to naturally reproduce.  That is the reason that the creel limits set by the PA Fish Commission is 2 fish at 20″.  They are a good tasting fish and you only will need 1 or 2 to make a meal for a family.  I recommend keeping hybrid stripers to eat in the spring when the water is colder,  the fish is less fatty, and has a better taste.

Next, let’s talk about weather conditions and locations on the lake.  The best weather conditions and locations to fish on the lake depend on the time of year.  In the spring, I look for days with a slight wind and lots of sun.  During this time I am looking for active baitfish.  Since the sun makes the baitfish get active and spawn these conditions are ideal for catching hybrid striper.  Watch for vicious surface action in the schools of baitfish and move in slowly, being careful not to spook the bait and striper.  During the summer, the cooler overcast days tend to be the best.  However, if you are able to fish during the night then you should consider fishing those hot humid nights.  These fish are cold water creatures and with feed when the surface temperature cools down.  During the fall, I fish much like I do in the spring.  Looking for those days with the sun and slight wind.  No matter what time of year I am fishing for Lake Arthur hybrid striper I fish the same types of areas.  For me, there is no where better than fishing a roadbed.  I would say that I catch about 75% of my stripers on the roadbeds.  You will find sweet spots that they always seem to hold or come up to feed on them.  Other areas to try are hard bottom rocky shorelines, wind blown points, the creek channel, both bridges, and the areas by the islands.  If you can combine any of those areas into one spot then more than likely you will find the targeted striper.

Now let’s talk about the different techniques that can be used to catch hybrid stripers.  I try to basically break down striper fishing into 2 categories.  First, you can troll for them.  This may be the most productive and more consistent of the 2 styles.  The time of year will determine how deep you want to troll.  Sometimes you will be in less than 4 feet of water, and other times you will need to troll in 20 feet of water.  Once you catch a hybrid trolling make a couple passes through the same area because these fish are pack hunters.  Don’t be surprised if multiple hook ups happen at the same time.  The other method I use is casting and covering water using an electric motor.  This is my favorite style because you really get an aggressive strike and once you find them you are  going to get a bunch of hits and hook ups.  Remember that once you find the fish you want to work your trolling motor as little as possible because these fish are spooked easily.

The next bit of information is what most anglers consider sacred information that I have acquired from experience and from other anglers.  When fishing in the spring I have a few favorite lures.  Soft and hard jerkbaits work extremely well.  Some specific brands lures include zoom flukes, case sinking minnows, bass assassins, rapala xrap and original striper-lures2floater, bomber long A, and strike king wild shiner.  I also like to use spinnerbaits varying in size.  Personally, I have caught more striper on a strike king mini king spinnerbait than any other lure in my box.  Remember when picking a spinnerbait, buzzbait, or swimming jig to match the baitfish size and color (white or shad colored) the best you can.  In the summer you will generally get them on the same lures, but you may need the deep diving version unless you are night fishing.  Another lure you may want to try in the summer is a rapala shad rap.  It gets down a little deeper than most jerkbaits.  As far as live bait goes I would stick to shiners or I would try to catch some alewives. 

This is a species that everyone can enjoy catching, so remember to share your experiences with a friend, child, or a family member.  Have fun and good luck!

 

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WHEN THE ICE COMES OFF

It is the most exciting time of the year! The local lakes, rivers and streams are all thawing and the ice is coming off. We all have a few months of stored up fishing energy that we want to put to good use. Before we rush out to the bone chilling water temperatures here are a few things to remember.

Before you leave home, you should check the tire pressure of your trailer tires. While you are checking the tires, you might want to consider checking your bearings and pack them in grease. Also, you will want to check you trailer lights. I know that I usually have to replace light bulbs throughout the year and I usually start my year with new lights. Depending on what you had done before or during winter on your boats motor you may want to have it tuned, or at least buy a spare set of spark plugs.

Here are a couple personal rules that I follow and live by. When fishing from a boat in water less than 50 degrees I always wear my life jacket while the gas motor is running. The kill switch should always be attached to you as well. This should be practiced even with small engines. While fishing rough water with these cold water temperatures I find myself reaching for my life jacket. The life jacket may restrict or limit your motion, but if you end up in the lake or river these devices will be the main reason you survive. Tournament anglers and recreational fishermen alike should always be concerned with safety first.

Now we can talk fishing. That stored up energy that I talked about.

It can be a killer. You want to fish fast aggressive and cover water. If that is your plan then you might want to give the water a couple of weeks. You are going to have to work slow and be very patient. You are only going to get a few strikes and you may never even feel them. My lures of choice are suspending lures. Hard bodied jerkbaits and shad baits that suspend are my go to baits. The fish will range in depths from 3 feet to 15 feet depending on the lake and species of fish. Don’t expect your fish to have a bunch of hooks in its mouth either. More than likely it will barely be hooked. Fight your fish slow and make sure to keep good tension, but don’t put too much pressure on the hooks.

 

I hope your first trip to the water is a successful one.

 

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