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Photograph by Austin Anderson Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Fishing-Headquarters Magazine Volume 3. Issue 2 Num. 13

May & June 2013 Early Summer Edition

• The Baddest Panfish Out There . . . . . . . . . 13 About Fishing-Headquarters The Fishing-Headquarters began as a small homepage in 2005, featuring a collection of photos and YouTube fishing videos. It even featured a small contingency of misfits and rebellious anglers who were tired of the internet elitism and racism expressed by other websites built by uneducated nonangling entities towards specific groups of anglers and species of freshwater gamefish.

• Premiere Roughfish Waterways . . . . . . . . . 23 • Sight Fishing and Spawning Science . . . . . . 63 • Smallmouth Bass Lure Diversity . . . . . . . . 77

Formally established in January 2007, the FHQ was created for like-minded anglers to share the wealth of information, and enjoy the beauty in diverse fishing. This greatness as we presently know it is multi-species fishing.

• Biodegradable Topography . . . . . . . . . . . . 93

Designed and created by posessed and gravely obsessed angler, Andrew Ragas, the website has grown to a large world audience. Our basis as an online media platform is to drop the ego, and catch anything that swims and has fins.

• Tackle Crafting on a Musky Budget . . . . . . 123

• Musky Fly Fishing Questions Answered . . . 107

All fish are created as equals. Only to be pursued as opposites.

COVER STORY Important Biz Stuff http://www.fishing-headquarters.com info@fishing-headquarters.com telephone - 708. 256. 2201 Questions or Comments, and if interested in contributing or sponsoring, please contact Andrew Ragas at: andrew@fishing-headquarters.com Magazine layout and design by Ragas Media http://www.ragasmedia.com

Pictured on the Issue-13 cover is Erin Graham, wife of Fishing-Headquarters contributor David Graham. In this issue, David highlights the premier rough fish waterways throughout the United States - judged by himself and a private panel of close angling associates. Read about these undervalued monster fish of the US from page 23 to 63 and plan your 2013 fishing trips!


Fishing-Headquarters Issue-13 As I conclude the layout and editing of this latest issue, I sit here and think of how we are rapidly beginning a new season of summer fishing. During the months of May and June, I will be on the road and fishing throughout the northcountry for a total of five weeks. The planning stages of such travels leads to antsyness and sleepless nights. The excitement of post spawn walleyes, big bass, and season opener muskies is difficult for me to contain! Andrew Ragas

Editor In-Chief, Designer, and Owner.

2013 Issue Releases Upcoming Schedule

• Issue 14: July 8, 2013 • Issue 15: September 3, 2013 • Issue 16: December 2, 2013

Click to Subscribe

Likewise, our team of writers are experiencing the same good “dillemmas.” As guides, educators, and influential anglers, they too are planning upcoming trips and travels for the summer season for themselves and their clients. As we all make plans, we look forward to gathering another year’s worth of editorial material for the web, and this publication, and to eventually share it all again in future issues. Everything we do at Fishing-Headquarters centers on our love of multispecies fishing and the ongoing process of educating ourselves and to catch more fish. In order to accomplish this, we’ve released yet another diverse issue for you. In issue 13, we’re focusing on top predators such as muskies, and lesser known beasts which include alligator gar, monstrous catfish, and more. With great pleasure, I introduce to you issue 13 of Fishing-Headquarters Magazine. I would like to thank our team of writers, friends, and all contributors for allowing us to make this one again possible. Copyright © 2013 Fishing-Headquarters. All rights reserved. The usage of articles, excerpts, photographs, and any reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited.

I S S U E 13 F E A T U R E D W R I

Cory Allen

David Graham

Jim Gronaw


Contributed Photographs • Austin Anderson • Dawson Hefner • Donnie Hinkle • Jason Kintner • Jason Johonnesson • Todd Mauren • Musky Country Outfitters • Jacob Saylor • Henry Veggian • Frank Weilnhammer Issue 13 Editorial Staff • Paul Ragas Layout and Design By • Ragas Media Designs Sponsors and Advertising Partners • Bearpaw’s Handpoured Baits • CB’s Hawg Sauce • CAST Crew 312 • Cortland Line • Dragin Bait Company • Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle • Go-Pro Camera • Heartland Outdoors • Lazer Trokar Hooks • Midwest Digital Corp. • PivotHead Video Eyewear • Quantum Fishing • Ragas Media Designs • Stankx Bait Company • Time on the Water Outdoors

TERS AND CONTRIBUTORS

Josh B. Peacock

Andrew Ragas

Chris Willen


NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY TOPICS. Video Camera Sunglasses: Pivothead Eye Wear In partnership with Chicago based Midwest Digital Corp, FishingHeadquarters will exclusively wear Pivothead sunglasses for the 2013 season. Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear, is the first step in redefining True Point of View video and photography. Hands free, full 720 and 1080HD, in clear sharp quality. http://www.pivothead.com

Lazer Trokar, a Proud Partner for 2013 and Beyond! In December 2012, Fishing-Headquarters struck partnership with LazerTrokar Hooks, a brand of Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle. The Lazer TroKar hooks are not made like any other hook in the world. TroKar hooks use Surgically Sharpened Technology to grind and hone a three-sided symmetrical point that is scalpel sharp and capable of penetrating and withstanding the toughest membranes and cartilage. http://www.lazertrokar.com

Stankx Bait Company Releases NEW Baits for 2013. Kalamazoo, Michigan – It’s only March and our partners at Stankx Bait Company have released a number of new products. For the 2013 season, the Stankx institution has released a triad of new baits: A 6 inch drop shot slug; 3.5 inch jig trailer; 4.5 inch paddle tail swimbait. Owner and brew master, Travis Crosman, proved us wrong. It’s difficult predicting his next move, but we do know for fact there is obviously more to come during some point later this year. http://www.stankxbaitco.com

Cortland Line NEW Website for 2013. Cortland Line Company, one of the oldest manufacturers of premium braided fishing line and a comprehensive assortment of fishing equipment and apparel, is presently undergoing massive website renovations. Their new website will feature a more modern layout and design which will be released in spring 2013. http://www.cortlandline.com Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Smallmouth Bass on the Fly Wisconsin River, Oneida County


SOLUNAR CALENDAR May 2013

June 2013

This fishing forecast is based on solar and lunar influences that cycle daily. The chart shows each hour of the day. For instance the hours with the higher rating, and days shaded the darkest have a greater combination of solar and lunar influence and thus indicate the best times to fish. This chart is a general recommendation and all data has been compiled by Weather & Wildlife.

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LEADING OFF. Megafish Destinations for 2013. Places That Are Home To Those “Other Fish.” In this issue, David Graham takes readers on a virtual journey throughout the interior of the United States and its inland waters. Along with the aid of friends and accomplished megafish associates such as Jason Johonnesson, Dawson Hefner, and Austin Anderson, he highlights the different fisheries offering premier angling opportunites for those “other fish” such as gars, carps, buffalos, bowfins, and more. Turn to page-23 to begin your next fishing trip.

Photograph by Austin Anderson Fishing-Headquarters.com

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LEADING OFF.

Fly fishing for muskellunge has been burning through the angling circles like wildfire. Anglers transitioning from conventional gear to fly gear have many questions to ask. Chris Willen, guide at Musky Country Outfitters of Hayward Wisconsin, has the answers. Located on page-107 Photograph by Musky Country Outfitters Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas


Gronaw’s Gills

“The Baddest P Photographs by Jim Gronaw


Panfish Out There!� By Jim Gronaw


HYBRID BLUE GILLS

Photographs by Jim Gronaw Fishing-Headquarters.com

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By: Jim Gronaw

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

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ne of the cool things about fishing for panfish with today’s ultra and even micro-light gear is that it makes little fish seem big. This is especially great news for guys like me who catch mostly small fish anyway. Where as 50 years ago the panfisherman was limited to a cane pole and a can of worms, todays panfishers are appropriately suited with a wide range of tiny, sensitive rods and lines that test but even one pound in strength. Lure companies are producing many types and styles of lures specific to bluegill, crappie and perch fishing applications. Plastics have come a long way, as have hair jigs and tiny crankbaits. The fly fisherman was way ahead of the game with the dry fly and nymph patterns for bedding bluegill and such. Not only is this great sport, but it is challenging when larger panfish are in the mix. If there is a panfish out there that could be considered the strongest or the toughest, I would have to cast my vote for the hybrid sunfish. There are many natural occurring crosses from sunfish species, in many waters. The ‘hybrid sunfish’ that is most written about and stocked to provide quality fishing is the green sunfish/bluegill cross…a

lab creation that produces powerful, fast growing offspring that have powerhouse fighting abilities with an attitude. Hybrid sunfish are readily available from many hatcheries and even from Southern States stocking packages for farmponds. They grow quickly, topping out at about 12 inches and can weigh 2 pounds. They are popular for small lake owners who want quality panfishing fast. About 95% of all GSF x BG hybrids are male, which means subsequent reproduction is almost zero. There are male and female hybrid sunfish, with females becoming gravid in the spring, and any offspring from these fish are not as vibrant or durable as the original F-1, or ‘first generation’ hybrids. Stocking of hybrids can work every 5 to 7 years in most scenarios, as older

fish become diseased or die off or are caught and harvested for food. There are several things I like about hybs. For one, they are without question the strongest fighting panfish I have ever caught. Add to that the fact that they have brilliant coloration on their fins and flanks, looking almost as if it were something out of the Amazon. Third, these fish grow monstrous, with 10 to 12 inchers being common in good hybrid ponds. They are viciously aggressive and hit small lures with sledgehammer force and can easily run off 30 feet of drag on the initial run. On 2-pound test line and minigear they are a worthy challenge. The only downside to these fish is that most state agencies do not handle them nor do they stock them in public venues. Green sunfish and

Photographs by Jim Gronaw Fishing Headquarters | Page 16


HYBRID BLUE GILLS

Photographs by Jim Gronaw

bluegill waters do overlap, but there is almost zero natural hybridization of these two species in the wild. My experiences with these fish have occurred in private ponds in the Mason-Dixon area. A recent trip to a hybrid hotspot proved once again as to just how tough these fish are. Using a 1/64th ounce grass shrimp pattern hairjig, I casted around the shady side of a pier and found that the big crossbreeds couldn’t resist. They pounded the jig and streaked off on lengthy runs on 2-pound tackle with brutal surges. Surely, this could not be a ‘panfish’, could Fishing-Headquarters.com

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it? Naww… had to be at least a 3, maybe a 4, pound largemouth. But soon, a huge wide fish would appear, not that long but built like a Frisbee. Wow! Can I even get my hand around that fish? Is he gonna’ snap my two-pound mono? Check out those colors…amazing! Another neat thing about the hybrid sunfish is the color schemes and variations on individual fish. Most all will have either orange, yellow or white pectoral fins with bright tips on the spiny dorsal of the same color. Barring is not always apparent. Overall colors can

May / June, 2013

be from dark olive to turquoise to greenish yellow. Fin edging is a common trait, and the orange or yellow crescent on the eartab is also a giveaway. Some big old hybrids just get beat up and look like they have been through a war. Others don’t have a scale missing and are picture-perfect. All of them, to me, are beautiful. Despite the advantages to the GSF x BG hybrids, some pond owners prefer the common bluegill, as its successful spawning efforts will keep an ongoing food source for any ponds bass or channel catfish


Green sunfish and bluegill waters do overlap, but there is almost zero natural hybridization of these two species in the wild. Pond or lake owners wishing to stock their waters with the hybrid sunfish should research the options through various sources on the internet, as not all ponds are good candidates for these fish. No, they won’t overpopulate, but they can overwhelm other species with their nature. They respond well to pellet feeding and can usually attain harvestable size by the 3 or 4 th season in most waters. population. Most good hybrid ponds have very little else in the terms of other sunfish species, as the feeding aggressiveness of the hybrids just dominates those other species. In time, a pond that is yielding big hybrids will have only small bass, or perhaps a few holdover giant bass that have been in the system for a number of years. Pond or lake owners wishing to stock their waters with the hybrid sunfish should research the options through various sources on the internet, as not all ponds are good candidates for these fish. No, they won’t overpopulate, but they can overwhelm other species with

their nature. They respond well to pellet feeding and can usually attain harvestable size by the 3 or 4 th season in most waters. We have taken them as large as 12- inches long and approaching the 2 –pound mark. Again, they get my vote as the baddest panfish that swims. For more information click on Bob Lusk’s pondboss.com or contact local hatcheries that may supply them. Who knows…you might be doing battle with a huge sunfish sooner than you think!

Jim Gronaw is from Westminster, MD, is 60 years old and has been published over 600 times at the local, regional and national level – First published at the age of 17 in Fishing World. Licensed freshwater fishing guide for Maryland – Maker of RiverCritter Hair Jigs, featured several times in the In-Fisherman – Does a lot of seminar work during the winter off-season. You can read more of Jim’s work at BigBluegill.com, and throughout the Fishing-Headquarters website. Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing Headquarters | Page 18


HYBRID BLUE GILLS

Photographs by Jim Gronaw Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2013


“There are several things I like about hybs. For one, they are without question the strongest fighting panfish I have ever caught. Add to that the fact that they have brilliant coloration on their fins and flanks, looking almost as if it were something out of the Amazon. Third, these fish grow monstrous, with 10 to 12 inchers being common in good hybrid ponds. They are viciously aggressive and hit small lures with sledgehammer force and can easily run off 30 feet of drag on the initial run. On 2-pound test line and mini-gear they are a worthy challenge.�

- Jim Gronaw

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PREM ROUGH FISH

Photograph by Todd Mauren Fishing-Headquarters.com

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MIERE WATERWAYS By David Graham

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PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS

Longnose Gar

Donnie Hinkle is from LaGrange Georgia where he is a Longnose Gar Guide. He guides primarily on West Point Lake with rope lures. www.westpointlakegargrabbers.blogspot.com Photograph by Donnie Hinkle Fishing-Headquarters.com

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By: David Graham

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

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very angler dreams of that once in a lifetime “trophy”. And every angler has that one “spot” they hold near and dear to their heart which has, does, and will provide those trophies. We as angers can catch the same species over and over, but truthfully, the experience is always uniquely different. Just the same, no two bodies of water are identical and frankly, some are simply ‘better’. Perhaps there is no definitive answer as to what dictates which location is ‘best’, but some bodies of water simply yield more monsters than others. What I intend to present is a compilation of water bodies, both renown and remote, which have, do, and will more than likely yield trophy “rough fish”. To some extent, even the most seasoned multi-species angler is somewhat of a novice. The ‘boundless angler’ expands his time attempting to seek out and educate himself on the broader spectrum of species than say, a diehard bass fisherman. To master such a trade to the same degree as a truly proficient bass angler, however, would be impossible. There are simply too many species out there to possibly ‘master’ all of them, and thus, most accomplished multi-species anglers

are simply ‘masters’ of being moderately skilled in the pursuit of each unique species he pursues. Unfortunately, the avenue to success with less sought after species is narrow and uncharted. There are just not enough publications out there to cater to the interest of an open minded angler looking to get his start on fish like bowfin, suckers, etc. The first step to that pursuit is figuring out “where do I find them?” Education with the ‘lesser desired’ species is more often than not by trial and error or by experienced word of mouth.

to a far more open minded younger generation of anglers. Donnie Hinkle of LaGrange Georgia has found a way to draw profit off of the growing popularity of gar fishing with his own guide service.

West Point Lake, Georgia Longnose Gar

Hinkle has been fishing West Point Lake since it was impounded in 1975. West Point Lake is part of the Chattahoochee River along the Georgia and Alabama state line and

Photograph by Donnie Hinkle

Perhaps among the most grossly underappreciated, sporty members of the “roughfish” category are our gar species. Plentiful, big, mean, nasty, and most importantly willing to bite, the gar is among the most attainable species of roughfish to be pursued. Having extemporary history with the dinosaurs, this fish predates even the earliest human anglers by millions of years and thus, has fallen under the radar of sports fisherman longer than almost any other. Gar species, however, are growing in popularity and there seems to be a shift in perception amongst anglers thanks in part

was impounded for flood control reasons by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hinkle began fishing West Point Lake more than 10 years ago, primarily for Largemouth Bass. It was there that he first encountered Longnose Gar, and the frustrations that come with trying to catch them on conventional tackle. After spending countless hours on the losing end of a frustrating pursuit of the gar with bass tackle, Hinkle spent the winter months that year educating himself on the elusive quarry he had stumbled across on Fishing-Headquarters | Page 26


PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS West Point Lake. Hinkle, like many multi-species advocates, found that he had to reach out to others with the same passion for the first hand knowledge he sought. Over the course of the next 10 years, Hinkle perfected the art of capturing Longnose Gar by rod and line, and has keyed in on the seasonal habits of the gar in his area, particularly West Point Lake. His chosen method is an approach totally unique to gar anglers, the nylon rope lure. The rope lure is made up of fine twisted nylon rope unraveled such that it moves through the water with surprisingly natural fluid motion. The fine fibers of nylon eliminates the necessity of barbed metal hooks because the toothy bill of the Longnose Gar actually becomes entangled in the fiber itself. Today Hinkle spreads the knowledge he has gained through years of experience with his guide service on West Point Lake. His efforts to educate clients in a professional manner have helped to promote a truly unique, underappreciated fish, and has put West Point Lake on the map as a proven hot spot of big Longnose Gar.

Two southern fishermen stood out to me because of their unconventional way they catch their Longnose Gar. Terry Smith had a guide service on the Coosa River and the late Gar Man Jack on Lake Lanier, both used homemade nylon rope lures and both marketed their own designs.”

Later on I saw Terry Smith on the southern outdoors show “O’Neill Outside” with O’Neill Williams fishing for Gar with rope lures and I knew that was the technique I want to catch them with too.”

- Donnie Hinkle

Santee-Cooper Lake, South Carolina Despite the dramatic lack of information leading to the capture of gar by hook and line, anglers seeking to find these prehistoric monsters on the end of their line scarcely have to look far. Gar, specifically Longnose Gar, can be found in most all warm water river systems and lakes in the Eastern United States. West Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2013

Photograph by David Graham


Photograph by David Graham

Point Lake in Georgia is just one of many strongholds of these formidable sporty fish. The Santee Cooper system in South Carolina draws hundreds of thousands of anglers from all over the country every year to its world class bass fishing. The Santee Cooper is also one of our nation’s premier catfishing locations. Flying under the radar, however, is a very healthy population of Longnose Gar. The entire Santee Cooper lake and river system is packed with these sleek, prehistoric predators. Local or visiting anglers seeking to encounter their first Longnose Gar in South Carolina should focus on areas around the Santee Cooper like Wilson’s Landing – dam below Lake Marion, The Hatchery of Lake Moultrie, and Lawfalls Landing on Lake Marion. Because the surrounding areas of the Santee Cooper system is a popular fishing community, non-local anglers can stop by any of the plentiful local bait shops to pick up simple terminal tackle. Suspending bait store shiners below a float is an elementary method that seems to harvest Longnose Gar from the clear waters of the Santee

just fine. Because the Santee has relatively good clarity and shallow sandy flats, sight fishing for Longnose Gar is a viable and productive option.

Lake Champlain, NY

Longnose Gar, Bowfin, Carp Longnose Gar are not simply a warmwater southern species, however. They can be caught as far north as Quebec, infact, one of their true strongholds testifying to their propensity to live up ‘North’ is Lake Champlain. Champlain is a natural freshwater lake in North America located primarily within the borders of the United States, but partially situated across the US-Canadian border extending into provinces of Quebec. Champlain is surrounded by a plentiful fishing community which enjoys a plethora of some of North America’s most popular sporting fish. It is also a stronghold for some of the most popular “rough fish” species. A lake so popular amidst trophy fisherman, Champlain has its own legendary beast lurking within

its dark cold waters “Champ”. In 1609 Samuel de Champlain wrote that he had seen a ‘lake monster’ five feet long and as thick as a man’s thigh, with silver-gray scales a dagger could not penetrate. The alleged monster had 2.5 foot long jaws with sharp and dangerous teeth. The legend of ‘Champ’ has lasted the test of time, and the original story has morphed into a monstrous tale of man eating beasts. Perhaps what Samuel de Champlain truly saw was a prehistoric creature that predated this myth by millions of years, the Longnose Gar. More popular for its landlocked Salmon, Smallmouth Bass, and Walleye, Champlain also boasts water body records for Bowfin in excess of 14 pounds, Carp of 37 pounds, Freshwater Drum of 20 pounds, and Longnose Gar of 17 pounds. Longnose Gar are particularly popular among fly anglers on Champlain.

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PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS

Alligator Gar

Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Trinity River, Texas All gar species have undeniable sporting qualities, but the undisputed king of the gars is the Alligator Gar. The Alligator Gar is perhaps the heavyweight king of all fish in North America. It is a true giant that simply cannot be ignored any longer by the angling community and thanks to major exposure from National Geographic, Animal Planet, The History Channel and more, anglers are flocking from all over the world to capture Alligator Gar. The range of the Alligator Gar is small however. The true stronghold of trophy sized Alligator Gar remains almost exclusively in Eastern Texas rivers, particularly the Trinity. The Trinity River is one of the longest rivers in Texas, but is punctuated by limited access points. The Trinity River consistently yields the most impressive specimens of Alligator Gar each year. Because trophy Alligator Gar are so concentrated in remote East Texas river systems, non local anglers seeking to experience these fish often have to rely on the knowledge of local fisherman like Dawson Heffner. Dawson Heffner of Tyler Texas has found a way to take his passion for Alligator Gar fishing and make a living off of it. Dawson Heffner is a young, fit, and experienced local Angler with 150+lb gar to his credit. Heffner started drawing profit off of his passion for Alligator Gar through his guide service, Texas Magafish Adventures (www.texasmegafishadventures.com). He has been featured in publications such as US Carp Pro Magazine, and televised in educational formats produced by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Heffner has been fishing exclusively for Alligator Gar for more than 5 years. A

Photograph by Dawson Hefner

lifelong native of Texas, during his tenure as an Alligator Gar fisherman Heffner has developed a keen respect and impressive knowledge on this one of a kind species. Having been acquainted with Dawson Heffner in the gar fishing community for several years, I have personally benefitted from his expertise in my own gar fishing endeavors. Heffner can attest to the virtual necessity of assistance from more experienced local anglers. “The best Alligator Gar fishing is found in areas that are far from easy access,” he says. The Texas landscape surrounding the most rewarding stretches of the Trinity is unforgiving and not for the faint of heart. Traveling into the remote regions of East Texas river stretches without proper research or preparation is not just ignorant, it is dangerous. As an up and coming guide in a limited pool of truly knowledgeable local

gar anglers, Heffner is well known for his tenacity in pursuit of trophy Alligator Gar. Heffner boasts a noteworthy referential clientele list, all of which adamantly proclaim that he lives up to the notion, “Texas Tough”, working longer, harder, and more diligently than anyone to put his clients on the fish of a lifetime. “An alligator gar measuring over six feet is a trophy, and there is a good chance of landing one of these 100lb plus fish on each trip,” he says. 100 pound optimism is a terrifyingly exciting prospect, but simply put, Heffner has, and does walk the walk. Heffner has had most success along the Trinity River during the early spring pre-spawn months when Alligator Gar, like most fish, are fattening up in anticipation for spawn. During spawn, Alligator gar Fishing-Headquarters | Page 30


PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS

Photograph by David Graham

stay within close proximity to areas that afford access to different water levels. One must quickly learn to indentify these areas in the rare opportunity the Trinity’s murky water provides visual observation of it, or with electronic aid. Alligator Gar seek out submerged vegetation to deposit their eggs during spawn, because of this, if the rivers do not see seasonal floods allowing them access to flooded vegetation, Alligator Gar may not spawn at all. Springtime water conditions often fluctuate during the everchanging Texas weather patterns, making river conditions fraught with danger and nearly impossible to predict. Unpredictable weather means anglers like Heffner have to maintain constant surveillance on forecasts affecting water levels. Operating a motor propelled vessel through the Trinity River requires careful navigation around many hazards that lie above and below the murky waters. Heffner sometimes travels up to an hour across the obstacle laden waters to his preFishing-Headquarters.com

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ferred locations. The zero visibility conditions make it especially dangerous to boaters who simply cannot see what debris sits just below the surface. The Trinity, despite its tranquil name, is a very dangerous river system. With each flood, new vegetation, timber, and other debris begin to float downstream. Some debris, including large tree trunks, becomes lodged around trestles and bridges; some debris settles along the bottom of the river. Assistance of seasoned locals such as Heffner is extremely beneficial. Nevertheless, making long trips with a power boat along the Trinity engages the conscience like no other. Despite its muddy, cluttered shores, the Trinity has a stark beauty about it that cannot be compared. Long runs from put in points to isolated holes have no shortage of natural beauty. The shores of the Trinity have a vast array of wildlife such as various waterbirds, eagles, deer, and wild hogs. Heffner usually keys in on eddies in the current, or shallow flats

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adjacent to deep holes. Heffner typically looks for where depths taper from a starting depth of 6 feet. Heffner probes his preferred fishing locations by placing baits fixed to steal leaders, barrel swivels, and large trebble hooks. Because Heffner generally matches his bait size to the size fish inhabiting the waters he fishes, he may use bait as small as a bluegill, or as large as a 5lb common carp. Having made several trips to the Trinity River myself, I can attest to the necessity of assistance from locals. Though Alligator Gar are plentiful in the Trinity River, the truly massive specimens seem to be nearly inaccessible without proper resources.

Red River, Oklahoma

Alligator & Longnose Gar Only mere miles north of the headwaters of the Trinity River is the Red River. The Red River is the second-largest river basin in the southern Great Plains, and bor-


Photograph by Jason Kintner

ders Oklahoma and Texas. It is also home to a healthy population of large Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar. Perhaps most popular amongst catfisherman, stretches of the Red River within close proximity to Lake Texoma are inhabited by largely unspoiled populations of Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar. Because the Red River often runs very shallow during the drought season, isolated deep holes near rocky bluffs and sharp bends in the river are often packed with Gar. The Red River, however, does not have a great deal of access points for anglers who intend to use boats. Like the Trinity River, the Red River is a very muddy with little to no visibility is and is subject to major fluctuations in turbidity and water level. During the drought season it is often so shallow in some areas that boat use would be treacherous or impossible. Anglers looking to capitalize on the unspoiled populations of massive gar should utilize Google maps to seek out sharp bends and darker colored water indicating depth that is relatively close to the head and tailwaters of Lake Texoma. The Red

River is also home to some of the largest Longnose Gar in the country. In 2012 I captured a Longnose Gar exceeding 61 inches that weighed roughly 40 pounds. By any account this fish was tip toeing on the fine line of the record books. I can say without hesitation that there are absolutely World Record shattering class fish swimming in the Red. Other Locations South Texas and East Texas each have several other noteworthy locations for prime gar fishing. The Brazos River is the longest river in Texas, and the 11th longest river in the United States. Hot spots along the Brazos to key in on for trophy Alligator Gar are in the stretches close to Waco and further South around Houston. The Brazos has yielded Alligator Gar in excess of 200lb. The Sabine River bordering Texas from Louisiana also hosts a sufficient enough population of Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar that Dawson Heffner often brings his clients to it. Smaller rivers further south in Texas such as the Guada-

lupe River just outside of Victoria Texas also have very good populations of Alligator Gar. Alligator Gar do not just dwell in rivers. Alligator Gar are more than happy to venture into and sustain themselves in large body lakes. The Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers, Texas hosts some of the most popular Alligator Gar waters in Texas. Massive specimens have also been pulled from Lake Sam Rayburn, Lake Livingston, and Lake Texoma.

Bowfin Another notable prehistoric beast is the Bowfin. Perhaps even less understood or publicized than gar, the Bowfin possesses uncanny sporting qualities that should stimulate the senses of any angler seeking a first rate battle on rod and line. Most bass anglers across the Southeastern United States have encountered Bowfin some time in their life. Fishing-Headquarters | Page 32


PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS

Henry Veggian of Central North Carolina is an avid Bowfin angler and Author of the forthcoming book Welcome to Bowfin Country. He organizes the FOTY (Finner of the Year) event every year for the Bowfin Anglers Group, and has himself won it several times. Photograph by Henry Veggian

They may have known them as Mudfish, Grinnel, Dogfish, Choupique, or some other variation of conjured up slanderous nicknames. The Bowfin, like the gar, is a readily available and realistic option for inexperienced “rough fisherman”. Though their mapped range vastly covers most of the Eastern United States, intentionally finding Bowfin is not that easy. Unlike gar, Bowfin are lone wolves, and are not particularly fond of competition or company. They stay concealed in relative obscurity, typically preferring quiet, clear, backwater areas, lingering along the margins of aquatic vegetation, in undercut banks, and around branches and other submerged structures. Anglers seeking to find these fish should first map out these swampy backwaters Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Haw River, North Carolina Henry Veggian of North Carolina has been fishing for Bowfin for a decade. His tenure as an avid multi-species enthusiast with particular interest in Bowfin has made him a well recognized figure among the small but passionate core group of “Bowfin anglers”. Veggian is also the author of the forthcoming book “Welcome to Bowfin Country”. In addition, he organizes the FOTY (Finner of the year) events every year for the Bowfin Anglers Group, and has won the event several times himself. During his time, Veggian has developed a profound understanding of seasonal preferences in habitat and diet unique to the mighty Bowfin. Despite the monotonous, repetitive notion that

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Bowfin are a “slow water” fish, Veggian maintains that even the largest Bowfin are often caught along current lines. “I’ve caught the majority of my largest Bowfin along current lines,” Veggian admits. Bank lines of rivers and creek channels in lakes host underappreciated opportunity for anglers seeking a truly unique fighting machine in Bowfin. Some of Veggian’s favorite places to fish are “In central North Carolina, below the old dams on the Haw River north of where it becomes the Cape Fear. I use crankbaits, spinner baits and in-line spinners at those times, but with the exception of winter time, I look for them always along current lines.” To the frustration of anglers seeking preliminary knowledge on BowPhotographs by Andrew Ragas fin, general publications available


simply don’t suffice, and certainly don’t cater to the interest of anglers seeking knowledge from an angling perspective. We simply don’t know much about Bowfin behavior, but a new scientific study by a team of Cornell University fisheries biologists tracked Bowfin for two years across a large lake in upstate New York. The results confirmed what Veggian took mental note of during firsthand experience on the water. Bowfin do not merely sit by idly in the same general vicinity as the seasons change, in fact they do a great deal of traveling. Because of this, Veggian proactively combs the impoundment lakes of the Carolina Piedmont during the course of each fishing season for the seasonal migration of his prehistoric quarry. The primary water bodies comprising the Carolina Piedmont include Jordan Lake and Falls Lake, a duo of scarcely promoted –premiere Bowfin lakes. According to Veggian, during early springtime the Bowfin he targets tend to be most prolific in areas of current. As springtime transitions to the summer months the fish move shallower, seeking calmer, more stereotypical Bowfin territory. Veggian’s artificial patterns mimic the Bowfin’s preferred prey accordingly with these seasonal changes, often including soft plastic worms, lizards, and crayfish patterns. During the winter months in North Carolina, Veggian says Bowfin can become so lethargic sunning in the shallow water that you can practically reach out and touch them. Nevertheless, they can still be captured with slow moving patterns like jigs. Despite the Bowfin’s propensity to feed opportunistically on natural baits, Veggian fishes exclusively by artificial means. This adds a uniquely sporty experience to the

Photograph by David Graham

Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters | Page 34


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Photograph by David Graham

thrill of pursuing Bowfin. Conventional tackle typically used by Largemouth Bass and Walleye anglers works well for Bowfin, however, the Bowfin couples considerably more powerful jaw pressure with a set of gnarly teeth. They are also, without question, more powerful “pound for pound”. As a result, standard terminal tackle used by more popular predator species often winds up busted and broken at the end of a good day on the water catching Bowfin.

Santee-Cooper Lake, South Carolina A first option for ‘where to start’ might be looking towards where the largest specimens have been caught. The IGFA All Tackle World Record Bowfin was captured in South Carolina in 1980 from Forest Lake, Fishing-Headquarters.com

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exceeding 21 pounds. Forest Lake has since become a private residential body of water that is inaccessible to outside anglers. Nevertheless, the State of South Carolina is home to many preferred habitats of trophy class Bowfin that are overshadowed by equally impressive Largemouth Bass. In 2006 the record for the heaviest 4 fish weight total in Bassmasters tournament history was shattered on the Santee Cooper. The Santee Cooper is also home to a healthy population of trophy class Bowfin (30 inches being the standard). The Santee Cooper, which is a two lake system connecting Lake Marion to Lake Moultrie, hosts a plethora of opportunity for a multi-species enthusiast. With access points at every corner of the system, fisherman in this region do not have to work particularly hard to find the fish. Both Santee lakes are

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punctuated by murky backwaters with enough cypress trees, roots, and vegetation to make any Bowfin fishing excursion uniquely challenging and rewarding. Because both lakes are shallow with sandy bottom along the shoreline, sight fishing is a viable option, though Bowfin are very well camouflaged and will rarely compromise their position during daylight for the sight fishing approach to work well. The Santee Cooper is not the only South Carolina body of water with quality Bowfin fishing by any stretch. Only several miles from Lake Moultrie is the Goose Creek Reservoir. Anglers in the Charleston area of South Carolina with interest in catching Bowfin should absolutely consider this 600 acre impoundment located in lower Berkeley County. Popular among panfish and bass anglers, the Goose


Creek Reservoir is home to an outstanding population of Bowfin. The entire reservoir provides adequate weedy substrate along its shorelines to target these fish, but the narrow channel at the north end of the Reservoir is a prime funnel point hosting perhaps the best Bowfin fishing on the entire reservoir. Anglers may have the best results anchoring in the deeper portion of the channel and setting Carolina rigged shiners or cut bait along the shorelines of the channel.

Carp & Buffalo Lake Fork, Texas Perhaps among the nation’s central most hotspots for giant fish is Lake Fork. Lake Fork is the top bass lake in the state of Texas, and a premiere big bass lake renowned across the country. Jason Johonnesson, a well respected and recognized angler in the carp community, lives in Rowlett Texas and has been fishing this lake for years. In a recent conversation with Jason he explained the massive undertone of multi-species enthusiasts enjoying world class carp and buffalo fishing in the shadow of Lake Fork’s dominant bass fishing populous. Johonnesson explained, “Out of all the lakes in Texas, Lake Fork has 33 of the top 50 largest bass ever caught in Texas. That means that Lake Fork produces more big bass than all of the other lakes combined. That is an astonishing fact. Even though this datum is so incredible it tends to get lost in the periphery among tunnel vision bass anglers. Lake Fork isn’t

Photograph by Florian Laufer Fishing-Headquarters | Page 36


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The Quasi was 57 lb 12 oz. It was the lake record at the time. It has since been beaten a few times. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Jason Johonnesson


a big bass lake, it is a giant fish lake of many kinds of species.�-Johonnesson Among those lesser known and appreciated North American giants is the buffalo, more specifically the Smallmouth Buffalo. The Smallmouth Buffalo is often confused with Common Carp, which also inhabit Lake Fork. Despite the anatomical similarities, the two fish are not at all related. Buffalo eat mussels, crawfish, shad, bloodworms, insect larvae, and nearly anything else they can opportunistically feed on. Johonnesson, a seasoned buffalo angler, explains that this high protein diet has allowed the fish in Lake Fork to grow to enormous size. The current Lake Fork record is over 66 lb but the captures are getting even larger. Lake Fork is not only home to giant bass and buffalo however. It is also a premiere lake for carp fishermen. Common Carp in excess of 30lb are routinely pulled from its waters. Because of the truly massive buffalo and carp captured so often from Lake Fork, carp enthusiasts from all over the world flock to its shores by the thousands every year. The culture of carp fisherman is enormous, but largely unnoticed in North America. Nevertheless, massive carp fishing events draw interest from carp addicts from all over every year to Lake Fork. Lake Fork is also home to the now world famous Texas 44 Lake Fork Carp and Buffalo Challenge, hosted by Wild Carp Companies (www.wildcarpcompanies.com) and CarpPro magazine (www.carppro.net). In the past two years, the competition has brought world fame onto the lake, with anglers coming from all over the US and even as far as Hungary, Romania, Italy, South Africa, Canada, and the United Kingdom to fish

This smallmouth buffalo was 70 lb 8 oz and it is officially the largest fish ever caught, of any species, within the Austin city limits. January 15, 2008.

Photograph by Jason Johonnesson Fishing-Headquarters | Page 38


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Photograph by Austin Anderson

in the competition. With the help of the Lake Fork Sportsman Association, the tournament is also doing a huge part in promoting and introducing carp fishing to the mainly bass dominated area around Lake Fork. Lake Fork is much larger than typical European swims known for giant carp, it is 27,000 acres across the piney woods of East Texas. Perhaps one of the more familiar faces in the North American buffalo and carp scene is Austin Anderson. Anderson is a pro staffer with CarpPro Magazine, and in his young age, has accomplished some truly astonishing feats in his tenure as an angler. Anderson provided experienced knowledge from a truly outstanding angler’s perspective on the marvels of fishing Lake Fork in a recent conversation. Anderson has some of the most impressive buffalo and carp catches ever recorded to his name. Anderson has been fishing Lake

Fork for almost 3 years. Despite what may be perceived as a short tenure about the lake, Anderson is as widely recognized in the carp and buffalo community as anyone, logging as much time on the bank for carp and buffalo as the most established and dedicated anglers out there. Anderson’s boundless dedication to his passion for Lake Fork giants has not been in vain. Along with his partner Shane Hine, Anderson boasts a win of the Big Four Carp division of the Texas 44, a personal best Smallmouth Buffalo of 63lb 3oz; the IGFA junior world record Smallmouth Buffalo at 50lb 6oz; and most recently, a Common Carp of 36lb 10oz. The largest Buffalo and Common Carp captured in Lake Fork are an unbelievable 67lb 8oz and 40lb 4oz respectively. Lake Fork isn’t easy, however. The water is loaded with snags and the fish are extremely strong. “Fork

is loaded with natural cover, huge expanses of flooded timber and other structure. It’s literally a paradise for fisherman of any kind. You have to be prepared to put in hundreds of pounds of bait in order to keep the fish in your swim and the trips can be grueling sometimes due to the sheer numbers of fish that can possibly be banked on a session. Fork really is paradise for the big fish angler,” says Anderson. Anderson is a prime example of a growing trend amongst the next generation of anglers. He approaches the timeless sport of fishing with an open mind, constantly educating himself and others on a truly unique opportunity our native waters provide for enormous fish. Photograph by David Graham Austin Anderson can be contacted at austin1295@gmail.com

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PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS Lake Fork is a breeding grounds for giant fish in general. It holds the Texas state record for Bowfin, at nearly 18lb. Lake Fork also hosts outstanding catfishing opportunity, where a flathead catfish over 100lb was recently recorded. Johonnesson himself captured his first flathead ever from Lake Fork, a 50lb 4 oz. monster. According to Johonnesson, “I suspect that Lake Fork might have some of the best flathead fishing in the world yet anglers are focused mostly on bass.” Additionally, Johonnesson has fished for Alligator Gar, Longnose Gar, and Spotted Gar in the surrounding areas. Johonnesson claims that Lake Fork is an outstanding fishery for Spotted Gar. The Spotted Gar is the smallest of the 4 gar species, but perhaps the most elaborate. Named for obvious reasons, it is covered with large spots and mottling. Johonnesson himself has personally captured Spotted Gar from Lake Fork’s waters that unofficially shattered the current record. Aside from the giants that reside from within Lake Fork its self, its proximity to other great fishing locations makes it particularly special. Lake Fork is no more than an hour and a half from stretches of the Red River known to hold giant Alligator Gar, Longnose Gar, and catfish. It is no further away from Lake Texoma. Lake Texoma is a stronghold for some of the largest catfish ever caught in the United States, boasting a 121lb Blue Catfish caught in 2004 to its long line of massive catfish. Texoma is also home to trophy sized Freshwater Drum, which have been caught in Fishing-Headquarters.com

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excess of 30 lb from the lake, as well as trophy sized carp, buffalo, and gar. Lake Hawkins, a neighbor to Fork, has produced a 106 lb buffalo. Jason Johonesson expects that Lake Fork will surpass this size of buffalo one day.

So what makes Fork so special? Lake Fork has huge fish, simple as that. The nutrient rich waters are loaded with food and the large amounts of predator species help keep the numbers of carp and buffalo in check so they have the capacity to grow very large quite easily. Fork regularly produces carp over the 30lb mark and frequently produces buffalo in the 50lb and up range. The largest Buffalo and Common Carp captured are an unbelievable 67lb 8oz and 40lb 4oz respectively. Fork really is paradise for the big fish angler.”

- Austin Anderson

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Photograph by Austin Anderson Fishing-Headquarters | Page 42


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Photograph by Austin Anderson

Photograph by Austin Anderson Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Suckers

Contributed Photograph by Roughfish.com

Root River, Minnesota The buffalo species are not the lone representatives of the sucker family worth mentioning, not by a long shot. In fact, there are 80 different species of suckers globally. In the United States, some of the more popular sucker species among multi-species anglers are the redhorse variations, White Suckers, Northern Hogsuckers, just to name a few. Perhaps shunned due to outdated notions behind “bottom feeders” sucker species are more often targeted by anglers harvesting bait, ‘bowfishing’, or chucking spears. As a result, truly diehard sucker enthusiasts are extremely protective of their swims and scarcely associate outside of tight knit social groups with common interest in this unique species. These “bottom feeders”, however, possess outstanding sporting qualities. Unlike some of the larger, more difficult to locate species already profiled, many sucker Fishing-Headquarters.com

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species are just as accessible as any of the most popular game species in North America. The overwhelming majority of suckers have subterminal mouths, which means their mouths are located on the underside of their head. Suckers are well equipped for bottom grazing. Many suckers possess pharyngeal teeth, which act as a set of crushing teeth closer to the back of their throats. Suckers are most often found in clean rivers, but can and will thrive in most any freshwater environment. Their preferred diet consists of detritus, bottom dwelling organisms like mussels, snails, crustaceans, and immature aquatic insects. Anglers should rig accordingly. Most suckers will take a well presented nightcrawler bouncing or drifting along naturally in the current. Anything natural such as small crayfish or aquatic insect larvae, or artificial patterns resembling local forage creatures should produce

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fish. Many anglers using fly tackle may find some redhorse variants respond well to flies imitating mayfly and stonefly nymphs, as well as scud patterns and caddis pupae. Anglers should consider using circle hooks to avoid damaging the fleshly lips of the respective sucker which they are pursuing. To avoid a long winded explanation of the numerous species of suckers spanning across the country, a particular stronghold of numerous popular and sporty species of suckers exists. In Southeastern Minnesota, stretches of the Root River host some of the most outstanding sucker fishing in the country. The Root River is a tributary of the upper Mississippi which runs through 80 miles of Southeastern Minnesota. It is home to numerous species most familiar to avid river anglers such as: brook trout, , brown trout, rainbow trout, rock bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and crappie. Photographs by Andrew Ragas The Root is also home to numerous


species of suckers such as: shorthead redhorse, river redhorse, golden redhorse, silver redhorse, greater redhorse, black redhorse, northern hogsuckers, and white suckers. Cased by cascading rocky bluffs, the winding clear water trickling waters of the Root River is fraught with plentiful wildlife, making it an ideal destination for recreational kayakers and anglers alike. The Root River is comprised of four minor branches, plus the main stem. The North and Middle Branch which join the North Branch just outside of Chatfield are both fed by numerous warm and coldwater junction streams. Several of these streams, such as the Deer and Bear, are popular with more typical anglers seeking smallmouth bass. Other anglers flock to fine trouting waters like the Money Creek and Trout Run. Both of the branches hold good numbers of redhorse, White Suckers, Northern Hogsuckers, and more. To the delight of particularly outdoorsy anglers, both branches are relatively small, and shallow, al-

lowing anglers to wade into remote areas in a more natural approach to the species to pursue. Access to these areas is limited however. The North Branch, below Chatfield, has designated canoe routes with established campsites conveniently placed along its route providing kayak anglers the option of multiday float trips. The South Branch of the Root feeds out of Mystery Cave. Mystery Cave consists of over 13 miles of natural underground passages and is the longest network of caves in Minnesota. The South Branch is primarily trout water, with naturally reproducing brown trout in its upper section, and populations of browns and stocked rainbows below. It is at the Main Stem of the Root is perhaps the most ideal region for “roughfishing”. Nestled in ‘farm country’, small town communities, and winding through hardwood forests, Main Stem of the Root is ideal territory providing more access points for anglers seeking to intentionally pursue a plethora of

sucker species. The upper section of the Main Stem produces massive runs of Silver Redhorse, Mooneye, Hogsuckers, and many other species. Further downstream the species mix begins to transition as more typical river dwelling species are replaced with heavier bodied species like Freshwater Drum, carp, catfish, and Shovelnose Sturgeon. The Minnesota State record Golden Redhorse was captured from the Main Stem of the Root. In some of the Southern-most stretches of South Fork, multi-species enthusiasts can also encounter buffalo, gar, and Channel Catfish. For more than 10 years, groups of multi-species enthusiasts have met on the banks of the Root River in the annual “Root River Roundup”. An Photograph event hosted by members by David Graham of www.roughfish.com, this event is perhaps the most organized gathering of multi-species anglers of its sort. A multi-day camping, cookFishing-Headquarters | Page 46


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Photograph by Henry Veggian

ing, canoeing and fishing event promoting shared experiences, common interests, and cultural beckoning. The Root River Roundup, originally a simple gathering of a budding community of die hard rough-fish anglers has become the staple defining event of rough fish anglers from many different walks of life and corners of the United States, though its participants have scarcely changed and still primarily consists of open minded anglers who share the common interest of catching different species supplemented with friendly competition and prizes. Reports at the conclusion of this event are a great testament to the outstanding variables the Root River offers, particularly with sucker species. Anglers considering a trip to the Root River should refer to online Minnesota DNR River Guides which serve as a mapping source for canoeing and regulations. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Sturgeon Saint Croix River, Minnesota One of the more unique species of fish categorized as “rough fish� are the sturgeon species. There are some 26 different species of sturgeon. They are one of the oldest families of bony fish in existence, dating back hundreds of millions of years. Like the gar species and bowfin, for whatever reason sturgeon have fallen under the radar of recreational anglers. Despite the fact that some sturgeon can exceed well over 100lb and willingly take natural baits by hook and line, it is seldom that they are publicized by television programs or publications. Sturgeon can be found in na-

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tive, subtropical, temperate and sub-arctic rivers and lakes of North America. Most sturgeons are anadromous, meaning they travel up river systems to spawn. They will venture into river deltas and estuaries to feed, and can be followed seasonally by anglers seeking to capitalize on their movement into popular fishing waterways. Sturgeon are slow-growing and mature very late in life. They are especially vulnerable to man made threats including pollution, habitat loss and encroachment, and commercial exploitation. Because of this, most sturgeon are currently considered to be at risk of extinction. They are more critically endangered than any other group of species. There are few sturgeon species that exist naturally in the southern United States, and those that do are so critically endangered that the inPhotographs by Andrew Ragas tentional pursuit of those fish would


Photograph by Todd Mauren Fishing-Headquarters | Page 48


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Photographs by Todd Mauren

be practically futile. In the ‘Northern States’, however, there exists a species of sturgeon that occurs in the Mississippi River drainage basin south to Alabama and Mississippi. It occurs in the Great Lakes and east down the St. Lawrence River to the limits of fresh water. In the West it reaches Lake Winnipeg and the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers. The Lake Sturgeon is a realistic option for anglers seeking a truly unique experience pursuing a fish that can grow in excess of 9 feet long and 350lb. Its mapped, natural distribution can be dated back to large lakes formed as the glaciers retreated from North America at the end of the last ice age which were linked by what remains as some of North America’s greatest river systems. Like other sturgeon, the Lake Sturgeon has taste buds around its barbells near its prehensile ‘sucker like’ lips. The Lake Sturgeon will extend its trunk-like mouth downward to vacuum up its food, which is swallowed whole due to a lack of teeth. The diet of the sturgeon Fishing-Headquarters.com

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consists of insect larvae, worms and leeches, and other small organisms it finds in the mud. Lake Sturgeon will also opportunistically feed on other fish. Given that it is a large species which sustains itself by feeding on very small organisms, terminal tackle and bait selection for Lake Sturgeon provides a unique challenge. Todd Mauren of South Metro Minnesota is an extremely seasoned multi-species angler with nearly 100 different freshwater species captured by hook and line to his credit. Operating under the moniker “Dr Flathead” on the forums of popular roughfish outlet “www.roughfish.com” , Mauren is recognized as a particularly accomplished multi-species enthusiast. Fishing entirely for self fulfillment, Mauren possesses “professional” quality experience and knowledge in many areas of multi-species pursuit, including Lake Sturgeon. According to Mauren, every year on the St. Croix River in Minnesota there is a month and a half long season for Lake Sturgeon. This season usually opens around

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the beginning of September and extends through the middle of October. The fishery is mainly catch and release, but anglers can harvest a fish throughout the first month of the season with the purchase of a special Sturgeon stamp. Also the fish must be at least 60 inches to keep. “The St. Croix is an excellent Lake Sturgeon fishery. I have had the privilege of watching this fishery grow since I was young. Back then, a forty inch fish was a real nice one. Twenty years later, 60 inch fish are a common sight out there”-.Mauren Mauren boasts a personal best Lake Sturgeon of 59 inches, but has caught other specimens in the range of 57 inches. Lake Sturgeon are slow growing fish, really only growing an inch or two a year. To encounter a truly massive Lake Sturgeon in the range of 300lb would be a truly inspiring accomplishment. Sturgeon grow extremely slow, and can reach well over 100 years of age. To put into context how fragile these fish are, they do not even reach sexual maturityPhotographs until theirbythird decade Andrew Ragasof life. They are absolutely modern


Todd Mauren is from South Metro, MN. He frequents roughfish.com and catches sturgeon from the St. Croix River in Minnesota. day dinosaurs. According to Mauren, who has fished the waters of the St. Croix for many years, the main forage of interest to the Sturgeon on the St. Croix River is Gizzard Shad. Good baits are nightcrawler balls, cut suckers and shad. Mauren has had most success with Lake Sturgeon during the night time hours, but states that it is not uncommon to capture them during the day. “They like cold water. The bite usually gets better the farther into the season”-Mauren. Because Lake Sturgeon seem to bite best during cold weather conditions, they are very popular with ice fisherman. Good gear for Lake Sturgeon consists of: 7 foot Muskie rods (heavy). Abu-garcia 6500 series reels. Spinning gear is usually a 7 foot catfish style ugly stick and an Okuma Epixor 30 bait-feeder reel. For line, Mauren uses 20-30 lb mono, but many of people use really heavy line, like 80 lb PowerPro braided line. Mauren maintains that lighter capacity monofilament line will suffice, and high visibility florescent green aids for easy bite detection. Despite their tre-

mendous size, sturgeon are finicky biters. Rather than slamming a bait and ripping off with it, they will often hover above a bait, investigating and mouthing it. To avoid giving an unnatural feel to a presented bait, Mauren insists that anglers should consider leaving slack in the line and watching the actual lead line as a strike indicator. For terminal tackle, weight is usually 2 to 3 ounces no roll or bell style sinkers followed by a swivel; usually 12 inches from swivel to hook. Hooks are usually 3/O to 4/O circle or J hooks. As far as locations go, look for areas that attract bait. Current seams, deep holes, warm water discharges are all good places to start looking. In a nutshell, learn the local forage species and follow them.

to largely invasive populations of “Arkansas Blue Catfish” and Flatheads being introduced and flourishing, some anglers continue to scorn them for their voracious appetite on more favorable game species. Catfish in general remain a highly prized and recognizable species of fish worth targeting by rod and line. From farm ponds to the greatest rivers in the country, our native catfish species can be as plentiful as any other creature, and as large as a man. To stimulate the interest of ‘trophy hunters’, we’ll focus on the areas where the true beasts roam. Our two giants are the Blue catfish and the Flathead. The Blue is perhaps our largest species, reaching lengths in the range of 65 in, and upwards of 150lb. Their primary distribution, like many large fish is in the Mississippi River drainage. Their introduction into established fisheries such as the Santee Cooper, by David and JamesPhotograph River had madeGraham those locations some of the nation’s prePerhaps tipping in the favor of miere catfishing destinations. Measuring up to the mighty more popular game species notoriety are our nation’s three major cat- Blue is the Flathead catfish. Its fish species, the Blue, Flathead, and Fishing-Headquarters | Page 50 Channel catfish. Nevertheless, due

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Photograph by Jason Kintner Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Jason Kintner

range from the lower Great Lakes region to northern Mexico has been shifted to many different waterways across the country due to its wide spread introduction. As a result, they are considered an invasive species in many areas. Flatheads grow to a length of 61 in and in excess of 120lb. The world angling record flathead catfish was caught May 14, 1998, from Elk City Reservoir, Kansas, and weighed 123 lb 9 oz. A common element of flathead catfish location is submerged wood cover such as logs and rootwads which often collect at bends in rivers. A good flathead spot usually also includes relatively deep water compared to the rest of a particular section of river, a moderate amount of current, and access to plentiful baitfish such as river herring, shad, carp, drum, panfish, or suckers. Flathead catfishing often takes place at night either from a boat or from

shore once a catfisher has identified body of water. On Feb. 8, Leland a likely looking flathead spot. Selph of Cross, SC ran a trotline on Lake Moultrie and caught a blue catfish that tipped the scales at 136 Santee-Cooper Lake, pounds, 6 ounces and 56 inches in South Carolina length. The fish would have surPerhaps one of the most estab- passed the current 21-year-old state lished lake systems for catfishing record of 109 pounds, 4 ounces had is the Santee Cooper system. The it been angled with a rod and reel. construction of this trophy ‘one-two The Santee Cooper is also home to punch’ catfishery took a long time, the current world record Channel and the fishing fruits of its effort Catfish at 56 pounds! Combined, these two lakes were largely incidental. In 1939 workers began clearing a small area cover more than 160,000 acres. of trees in lower South Carolina for Efforts to clear the area of forests what would become two of the ar- during the construction of the lake eas largest lakes. What timber cut- means the floor of the Santee is litters intended to accomplish in their tered with stumps and felled timber, for big catfish. Catfish Photograph by David Graham efforts to construct a massive elec- ideal habitat are structure oriented. Anglers who tricity generating power source later became home to the best catfishing intend to find the fish should first opportunities in the state, possibly find the areas with a lot of structure. the country! To its credit, the Santee During spawn the fish move very has hoisted some of the consistently trophy class catfish of any standing

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PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS ervoir in Virginia. In 2011 an angler pulled a 143lb Blue from Kerr Reservoir, setting a new world record. Kerr Reservoir annually produces catfish in excess of 80 pounds, and has a previous state record of 109lb (which currently resides in the Bass Pro Shops aquarium in Ashland). Kerr Lake, commonly known as Bugg’s Island Lake, is a reservoir bordering North Carolina and Virginia, created by the John H. Kerr Dam. It is also the largest reservoir in Virginia. At its maximum capacity, it’s one of the largest reservoirs in the Southeastern United States.

Ohio River, Kentucky

Photograph by David Graham

shallow, straying away from deep water snags as they seek out their preferred spawning grounds. This offers anglers with less boat capacity opportunities from the shore or small watercraft. During the winter months, large catfish species retreat to the deepest points of the lake. During the ‘mid-season’, ie, waters in the 60 degree range, anglers can find great success seeking out structure in water levels between 10-15 feet. Most avid Santee catfish anglers maintain that natural forage species work best for bait, this typically consists of Sunfish and white perch. Using gamefish as bait is legal in South Carolina so long as they are captured within the Fishing-Headquarters.com

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limit (by hook and line). As a local angler in the Santee area, I have had personal success catching good numbers of quality sized Blue catfish and Flatheads sharing a common territory amidst shallow flats surrounded by stumps and submerged vegetation. Here I typically fish the nighttime hours in areas that I know hold good populations of forage species like small sunfish. I will typically set out up to 6 rods Carolina rigged with live bluegill on circle hooks.

Kerr Reservoir, Virginia Another great stronghold for truly massive catfish is the Kerr Res-

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Despite the benefits that come with lake fishing, most diehard catfish anglers head for the rivers during big catfish season. One of the premiere catfish rivers is without a doubt the Ohio River, particularly the region surrounding Henderson Kentucky. The Ohio is the largest tributary of the Mississippi, and among its most storied. For trophy anglers, it represents a landmark paradise with incomparable propensity to produce potential record sized fish. The Ohio River at Henderson produced the largest five-fish weight ever recorded (210.0 pounds) for the Cabela’s King Kat trail in 2011 and is perhaps the top river stretch for consistent numbers of trophy Blue catfish. A common starting point for anglers seeking to benefit from the Ohio River’s great catfishing might be the Pike Island Lock and Dam. The chambers of the lock lie on the


Photograph by Jason Kintner Fishing-Headquarters | Page 54


PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS Jason Kintner (Team MOJO Catfish) catches HUGE blue catfish from the Potomac River.

Photograph by Jason Kintner

West Virgina side of the Ohio River along WV Route 2, and just north of the Warwood district of Wheeling WV. The Ohio River is not just a stronghold for trophy Blue catfish, it is the breeding grounds of all great catfish. There are plenty of large Channel and Flathead catfish in its waters, but big Blues dominate here. Many anglers key in on the main stem of the Ohio River, drifting shad or other “small” fish species through areas in the rivers flowing current.

mightiest river in North America. It also harbors some of our nation’s most monstrous fish. The Mississippi River at Alton marks the major river confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri. That is, the joining point of the mightiest river with our longest river! This particular stretch of river has twice reached the promised land of fishing, producing the world record Blue catfish on two separate occasions, one of which exceeded 124 pounds. The Mississippi is not only a giant catfish river, however. It is a giant fish river where enormous flatMississippi River, Alton, IL heads have been recorded as well as an impressive record of giant speAptly nicknamed “Father of cies like a 157 pound Alligator Gar Waters”, the mighty Mississippi in 1944, a 48-pound buffalo, and a needs no introduction, it is the 57 pound sturgeon. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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At the Lock and dam just south of Route 67 the river is Illinois on one side, Missouri on the other. Occasionally anglers will hook into sturgeon at this location. The Alton side of the dam provides bank fishing opportunity where anglers still pull good numbers of quality sized blue catfish. In 2005 Tim Pruitt, 33, of Godfrey, Ill caught a 124 pound blue catfish from the Mississippi near Alton Lock and Dam. The fish, measuring 58 inches long and 44 inches around, at the time it was a new world record and is currently the largest catfish ever landed in Illinois. That fish outweighed the previous world-record Blue by just over 3 pounds. (That fish was caught in Lake Texoma, TX). Though launching ramps are found in virtu-


ally every town along the river in surrounding areas, access is very limited in the stretch below Alton, providing more isolated holes for trophy class fish. In July of 2010, a 130lb blue catfish was pulled from the neighboring areas of the Missouri River.

Potomac River, Maryland Widely considered “ the next big thing” in the world of catfishing is the Potomac River. The Potomac is a tidal fishery that runs straight through the heart of the nation’s capital. Nestled into the heart of the nation’s capital, the surrounding area of the Potomac are more often associated with museums and cherry blossoms, but the recent introduction of Blue catfish have put the area on the map for anglers seeking a different kind of thrill. In the 1980’s a flooded brood pond allowed a contained population Blue catfish, not native to the Potomac, to escape into the natural environment. The resulting affect is subject to polar perception. Whereas the Maryland DNR views Blue catfish as a treat to the fishery, big cat aficionados like Jason Kintner are reaping the benefits of what has become one of the premiere catfishing locations in the country. Kintner has ample experience with truly massive catfish, and boasts an outstanding fishing resume coupling quantity and size that would drop the jaw of even the most seasoned angler. Jason Kintner is the team captain of Team Mojo, a professionally sponsored competitive catfishing team. Lead by Kintner, team MOJO has tournament wins and Big Fish awards in Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia to bolster the already amazing accomplishments he has fishing rec-

reationally. Kintner is no stranger to large fish, boasting truly world class specimens of Blue Catfish in excess of 80lb, enormous Flatheads, and man sized Alligator Gar from the Trinity. I had the pleasure of exchanging words and gathering veteran knowledge from Kintner in a recent chain of email communication. Though Kintner has captured massive catfish from most established catfish rivers and lakes including the James, it is the Potomac that he is most excited about. Talking bait, Kintner stated that the main forage species in the Potomac is gizzard shad. During the months of March-May, the upper portions of the river are prime spawning grounds for Blueback Herring, American Shad, and Hickory Shad which make their annual spawn run from the oceans. During this opportune time, massive catfish engorge themselves on the virtual buffet of migrating species of herring. Kintner typically takes advantage of this opportunity during the nighttime because of the heavy boat traffic along the Potomac from pleasure boats, water taxis, and recreational boaters enjoying the DC area. Kintner suits up with 7-8 Medium/Heavy casting or spinning outfits with heavy braided or monofilament line (up to 80lb). Terminal tackle is a sinker slider with 8-14 oz sinkers above a barrel swivel. A 6/0 to 10/0 circle hook attached to a 12-18 leader completes a typical rig. To harvest bait Kintner normally uses the preferred dietary species straight from the source, capturing them with castnets. During the daylight hours, the shallower flats are warmed by the penetrating sunlight and the shad scatter out onto the flats to feed, not far behind them are the big Blues. For Kentner and

his crew an average day yields multiple fish in the 20-40lb class. That is average! “This is just how good this fishery is. 50 pound fish are common, with 60-80lb fish becoming more common every year.” In a particularly fruitful trip last fall Kintner spent a day on the water in which he caught nearly 1,000 pounds of fish in a single outing. During that trip innumerable fish under 30 pounds were caught, seven over 30, nine over 40, three over 50, and one fish exceeding 60 pounds! “We quite literally could not keep our lines in the water. It is not uncommon to have multiple hook ups, I have had up to 5 fish hooked up at the same time all over the 45lb mark!” Kintner Can be reached at the team MOJO Facebook page.

James River, Virginia No premiere lineup of top catfish locations would be complete without the James River. Though it has only known the fish for roughly 40 years, the populations of big Blues and Flatheads are established here in very healthy numbers. The James possesses unparalleled character among catfishing rivers, fed by a collection of clear trout streams in the mountains of western Virginia and ultimately dumping into the Fishing-Headquarters | Page 56


PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS

Photograph by Jason Kintner Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2013


Photograph by Jim Gronaw

Chesapeake Bay as a massive tidal river. Along the James River anglers key in on submerged rock structures for outstanding Flathead fishing. During the nighttime hours the fish spread out to hunt and scavenge. Anglers should prepare accordingly, first locating where the preferred baitfish reside. During the night time, anglers can take a ‘sit and wait’ approach in those areas. There is also an ‘interception period’ between the movements into and out of those feeding locations which typically takes place during dusk and dawn hours. Usually the fish begin moving around dusk, and that’s when the most fish will be active, then as night falls, the fish will roam their hunting grounds in search of a meal. This all takes place in around an hour, though in fewer numbers they do prowl readily throughout the night. Common baitfish in the James include: sunfish, bullheads, various minnow species, and small carp. The James River has produced catfish in excess of 100lb, with a best Blue catfish of 102 lbs 5 oz. These destinations only serve

as a mere glimpse into a multitude of unmentioned strongholds for “rough fish” of all kinds. Nevertheless, they should serve as starting points for any angler seeking to catch some of our nation’s biggest fish. Of the bodies of water profiled, 5 of the mentioned inhabitant fish species have been documented at over 100 pounds; a staggering statistic. Despite that fact, most of these profiled waterways are also promoted only as world class Bass fisheries! Our North American waters are a drastically underappreciated home to freshwater giants. On the global scale of freshwater monsters; Alligator Gar, large Sturgeon species, Blue and Flathead Catfish, and Buffalo are on the front lines of team America. Anglers seeking to pursue these beasts could greatly benefit interpersonally from “rough fish trophy hunters” like those listed in this article, who in their own endeavors as anglers, are leveling the playfield for those “other species” amidst an industry overrun with overhyped “mainstream” species! Fishing-Headquarters | Page 58


PREMIERE ROUGH FISH DESTINATIONS

Boundless Pursuit A non-species specific approach to angling by David Graham.

David Graham is an extreme multi-species angler and featured columnist for Fishing-Headquarters Magazine. Follow his monster fish adventures by visiting his blog:

http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/boundlesspursuit/ Photographs by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Fishing-Headquarters | Page 60


SIGHT F

And Spawning Scie By Josh B. Peacock

Contributed Photographs Fishing-Headquarters.com

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FISHING

ence Photograph by Josh B. Peacock

Fishing-Headquarters | Page 64


SPAWNING SCIENCE SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Josh B. Peacock Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2013


population that does not contribute to recruitment in a given year. Next, some of the issues concerning bed fishing are the following: Nest predation; Fish Energetics; Water Temperature; Displacement of Fish; Hooking Mortality; Delayed Mortality; Best Practices with Catch and Release; and your provincial or state fishing regulations and season. By: Josh B. Peacock One pet peeve of mine is a “higher Fishing-Headquarters Contributor than thou angler” saying he does not target spawning fish, then the next day I see him out there pounding the bank with a spinnerbait or topwater in the back of a pocket. Guess p here in the far North, what, just because you can’t see the when the water temperature begins fish sitting on a bed, doesn’t mean to rise (55°F +), the days are grow- you aren’t catching bed fish, it just ing in length (photoperiod) and the means you’re oblivious. If you’re lunar phase gets right (full moon or sitting out in 8-20 feet of water on a new moon). Additionally, the lilacs ledge catching pre-spawn fish now have bloomed, the snapping turtles that’s a different story. are laying eggs, and more importantly, bass are migrating into the shal- Spawning Studies lows to spawn. Whichever variable Nest Predation i.e.) Predators or suite of variables you might use to indicate that bass are doing the “hippidy-dippidy”, cue the Barry White, because it will soon be time for a little afternoon delight. For some, ethics comes into play, and it is a time to leave the bass alone for a while. For others it can be one of the most exciting times of the year to fish for trophy bass. Fishing becomes more like hunting, as you quietly stalk around in the shallows, and pass up smaller fish until you find a ‘shooter’. To quote Phil from the A&E Hit ‘Duck Dynasty’, you could slap me like a big ol’ bullfrog and say “Happy, Happy, Happy!” I love to sight fish, and I’m also a Fisheries Biologist. Here is a little science behind the spawn. On a given lake approximately 33 % of the Bass population spawns, that means that there is 67 % of the bass

U

taking advantage of a bass that has been taken off its nest by consuming fry or eggs while the fish is being fought to the boat, handled, and released is indeed an issue. Especially on lakes with invasive species like round gobies, and rusty crayfish, this problem is maximized even more so. Quantifying this phenomenon is a different story. In fact, if proper catch and release is practiced, a fish removed from its nest for a minute or two may not suffer any predation of its nest. On the other hand, a lake infested with rusty crayfish may result in a different story and in turn, that nest could suffer a different fate. Fish Energetics is another real issue at this time of year. The energy cost for a male bass to guard/defend its nest from predators is high. Consequently a fish that is angled off its nest is going to expend even more energy, include how long that fish is out of the water to remove hooks, factor in the air temperature,

Photograph by Josh B. Peacock Fishing-Headquarters | Page 66


SPAWNING SCIENCE SMALLMOUTHS Sight Fishing / Bed Fishing requires a great deal of patience, and a well trained eye. Often times spotting the bed is more important than spotting the fish, initially anyways, especially when there are water clarity issues. I’ve found that most of the anglers that ask me about bed fishing or how to find beds are doing a couple of simple things wrong. First they don’t know what exactly they are looking for, and second they are too far away from the bank to see what they need to. A perfect day to learn how to bed fish is a day with bright bluebird skies, zero wind, fully charged trolling motor batteries, a hat, and a quality pair of polarized sunglasses.

water temperature, hooking location, handling techniques, and you have a gamut of stressors for that fish. That being said, smallmouth and largemouth bass are hearty species, and if a fish is fought quickly, handled with care, and time out of the water is minimized, the energy expended may not be any more than the energy expended to defend its nest from a gang of yellow perch or crayfish. Therein lays the rub. Personally, I believe that if a bass angler is savvy to the best practices of catch and release, the impacts of angling during the spawning period can be Fishing-Headquarters.com

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minimal. Tournaments during this time frame can be problematic, as the displacement of fish for extended periods, leaves the nest vulnerable to predators, and the energy costs for that bass to return to its nesting site will be unequivocally high. If he does make it back, chances are it’s too late, and if he makes it back in time, he might not have the energy left to defend his nest properly, and nest abandonment will then occur. That being said, some outstanding fisheries with high concentrations of bass will be able to withstand these rigors (remember approximately only 33 % of the population is

May / June, 2013

spawning), and not all bass spawn at once. On top of that, recruitment is affected but that bass is still alive to spawn the following year. In some parts of Ontario, a catch and release season is open during the spawn, but you can’t possess large fish so there are no tournaments until July 1st. In southern parts of Ontario the season is completely closed. Different states and provinces have different regulations and seasons in place to effectively manage their fisheries. For the most part they are indeed effective at maintaining a sustainable fishery.


Photographs by Josh B. Peacock

Sight Fishing Techniques I think that’s enough Science for the day. Let’s get to the fun stuff. Sight Fishing / Bed Fishing requires a great deal of patience, and a well trained eye. Often times spotting the bed is more important than spotting the fish, initially anyways, especially when there are water clarity issues. I’ve found that most of the anglers that ask me about bed fishing or how to find beds are doing a couple of simple things wrong. First they don’t know what exactly they are looking for, and second they are too far away from the bank to see what they need to. A perfect day to learn how to bed fish is a day with

bright bluebird skies, zero wind, fully charged trolling motor batteries, a hat, and a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. So you’ve located an ideal bank, and you’ve spotted a few beds... now what? Think of a bed like a bull’s-eye, this is where stealth and accuracy can be crucial. The vast majority of the time I use a St.Croix Legend Tournament ‘Plastics’ Rod (Model: TBS71MF) or a Legend Elite Spinning rod (Model: LES70MF), light line (6 # test), and I actually pitch underhand to my targets like you would with a flippin’ stick. I want a nice soft, accurate entry. Upon your first pitch, you will learn nearly everything you

need to know about the bass in front of you. If he stays put, flares his gills, makes a sharp angry circle, or noses down on your bait, you’re in business! 9 times out of 10 if it’s a ‘fresh’ fish, he will nail it first cast... Oppositely, if he bolts immediately you’re in trouble, he’s either been caught before, you’re too close, you made a rough cast, he isn’t locked on yet, or it is late in the spawn. If the latter happens, here’s where the patience factor comes into play... First, if the fish bolts, keep an eye on him, see how far he goes, and pay attention to how long it takes for him to come back. Often times Fishing-Headquarters | Page 68


SPAWNING SCIENCE SMALLMOUTHS a fish will have a defined territory, or route that it will take when disturbed, and may also have a place close by that it will sit and hide out (usually a big boulder, or piece of wood). Take a few visual markers, mark it with a waypoint, and make a wide outside turn and set up shop. I honestly feel that you can catch 98100 % of bass that you see if you fol-

keep it on low, shut all your electronics off, and even your live wells in extreme cases. Better yet, if you can, buy yourself a couple of Blade Series Power-Poles! I just bought mine for the 2012 season and they are flat out amazing! Just recently I was fishing late spawn conditions, only a few fish were left on beds, but they were big ones! I would have

see the fish, it would cloud up again and I would be sitting there blind waiting for the next window of light. Eventually, I boated that skittish bass and I wound up winning our club tournament for that week. I caught my three biggest fish that day off of beds with my PowerPoles down. Nobody else that week caught a bed fish! Power-Poles have so many applications beyond sight fishing (but we will leave that for another article). Baits and Presentation Let’s get to catching these spooky devils. First, this is the rare time of the year where you will find half a dozen spinning rods on my front deck. In fact the front deck of my Skeeter will often look like a war zone at the end of a good day of sight fishing. My top 4 choices for catching bedders are the following:

1. A wacky worm.

Photograph by Josh B. Peacock

low these steps carefully. First off, relax, be patient, and keep off the bed as far as possible, you want to be able to see the bed and hopefully the fish but not so close as to spook him. Next, let the fish settle down. One of the worst things you can do is make a whole bunch of noisy, sloppy casts before the fish is set back up. Keep boat noise to a minimum, walk lightly, don’t bang rod lockers, Plano trays etc, stay off the trolling motor as much as possible, Fishing-Headquarters.com

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My favorite are Venom Salty Slings, Wave Worm Tiki Sticks, or the Yamamoto senko, rigged with a Lazer Trokar TK120 4/0 Magworm Hook. Don’t get too hung up on color, I usually have a natural colored one, and a god-awful bright one. These baits are best rigged weightless, that slow shimmying fall gets them more often than not. If they ignore that, I like to have a smaller 3 or 4 inch finesse version to follow up from the standard size.

NEVER caught a couple of key fish that day without my Power-Poles. I sat on one fish in particular for close to 45 minutes. Conditions were tough, the wind was messing up my line of sight, and a bunch of clouds were making it tough to see. With my Power-Poles down, I was able to wait patiently in place, stay off the trolling motor, and stare up into the sky waiting for a group of clouds to 2. The drop shot. pass, when the sun would peak out, I like about a 10-14 inch leader I would pitch back in where I could

May / June, 2013


Peacock’s Picks:

Rockpile Lures Marabou Jig Hand-tied, black, 1/16oz head

Drop Shot; Venom Dropshot Minnow Rigged with Lazer Trokar TK150

Shakey Head; Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm Rigged with 1/8oz Screwlock Jig

Wacky Worm; Venom Salty Sling Rigged with Lazer Trokar TK120

Fishing-Headquarters | Page 70


SPAWNING SCIENCE SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Josh B. Peacock

with a Venom Dropshot Minnow, or a Waveworms tikidrop, rigged with a Lazer Trokar TK150 Dropshot Hook. The St.Croix Legend Tournament Dropshot/Finesse Spinning rod (Model: TBS610MLXF) is ideal for this technique as the soft tip allows you to shake the bait in place, and the medium light power keeps that small Lazer Trokar hook were it should be, and absorbs those powerful boat-side surges that big smallmouth are notorious for. The best part about this technique is that you can virtually keep the bait suspended in the bed indefinitely, and sit there and shake the bait until the bass finally gives in. This method has caught me more skittish bass than any other tactic, and catches them when they ignore everything else! The take is almost always subFishing-Headquarters.com

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tle, most of the time you’re better off just to line watch, as they tend to inhale it and just gently swim off.

4. Black hand-tied marabou hair jig.

A lot of my Canadian tournament buddies will be angry at me for mentioning this, although the I like a 1/8 oz screw lock ver- proverbial cat has been out of the sion jig head with a straight shank bag now for a few years. In fact 4’0 hook, 90 degree line tie; I pair many Canadian anglers were going this with a Venom Due Drop Worm, down to the northern United States or a Reaction Innovations Flirt for tournaments that coincided with Worm 4.95. My favorite colors are the spawn, and they were flat out green pumpkin and red flake, and a smoking the field. This bait falls ulnatural smoke color. This is prob- tra slow, breathes and undulates in ably my favorite bed bait because the water, and best mimics a small you can fish it fast, shake it in place, leach or bug. This thing catches and it’s heavy enough to sink quick- some of the most negative fish out ly. Bass seem to hit the shakey head there, and the applications are enda lot harder than any of the other less with smallmouth. Most of my baits I use, it seems to make them tournament buddies hand-tie their mad, and I like that! own. I get my good buddy Ron Achilles from Rockpile Lures to

3. The shakey head.

May / June, 2013


tie them for me. He uses a small 1/16 oz head with a tiny 1/0 Venom Black Nickel 90 degree jig hook, black thread, and black marabou. In conclusion, start with the shakey head or senko. If those don’t work, switch it up to a drop shot rig. Then if that doesn’t work throw in the hair. Maybe next time you should take a better look, because chances are you’ve been staring at a rock, shadow, piece of wood, or your flat out hallucinating! I know there have been many nights after long sight fishing tournament days where I’ve closed my eyes and all I can see are bass beds everywhere. My girlfriend has elbowed me for talking in my sleep, whispering, “That’s a good one”, “There’s a Bed!”, or “Don’t move!” Josh Peacock, 28, has a diverse background in everything fishing. He cut his teeth at just 16 years old as a fishing guide on Lake of the Woods. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries Management from Lake Superior State University. His current ‘9 to 5 job’ is a Fisheries Biologist. And if that wasn’t enough, all of his vacation days are dedicated to, and coincide with bass tournaments. Boasting a list of top 10 tournament finishes in prominent Canadian Bass Tournaments; Josh is always a threat, and downright scary when the ‘long rod’, and flippin’ & pitchin’ bite comes into play. In 2013 he is fishing the FLW circuit as co-angler.

Photograph by Josh B. Peacock Fishing-Headquarters | Page 72


SPAWNING SCIENCE SMALLMOUTHS

Personally, I believe that if a bass angler is savvy to the best practices of catch and release, the impacts of angling during the spawning period can be minimal. Tournaments during this time frame can be problematic, as the displacement of fish for extended periods, leaves the nest vulnerable to predators, and the energy costs for that bass to return to its nesting site will be unequivocally high. If he does make it back, chances are it’s too late, and if he makes it back in time, he might not have the energy left to defend his nest properly, and nest abandonment will then occur. That being said, some outstanding fisheries with high concentrations of bass will be able to withstand these rigors (remember approximately only 33 % of the population is spawning), and not all bass spawn at once. On top of that, recruitment is affected but that bass is still alive to spawn the following year. In some parts of Ontario, a catch and release season is open during the spawn, but you can’t possess large fish so there are no tournaments until July 1st. In southern parts of Ontario the season is completely closed. Different states and provinces have different regulations and seasons in place to effectively manage their fisheries. For the most part they are indeed effective at maintaining a sustainable fishery. Photograph by Josh B. Peacock Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Fishing-Headquarters | Page 74


“When you’re up against fish, fishermen and everything Mother Nature can throw your way, you want every edge you can get. You want the Ultimate hook. You want TroKar.” - Brent Chapman, 2012 Angler of the Year

the world’s first surgically sharpened hook Featuring a wicked point that is so sharp, it penetrates twice as fast as anything else out there. LazerTrokar.com

EAGLE CLAW FISHING TACKLE

Denver, co


TUBE JIG

JERKBAIT

Stankx Bait Company DD Tube

Rapala X-Rap

T

Photograph by Jacob Saylor

SWIMMING GRUB Kalin’s Lunker Grub

DROP SHOT

Strike King Dream Shot

SOFT SWI

Storm WildE


SPINNERBAIT

Terminator Super Stainless

CRANKBAIT Rapala DT 6

JIG

Terminator Pro Series

DIVERSIFIED SMALLMOUTH BASS LURE SELECTIONS

IMBAIT

Eye Perch

By Andrew Ragas

SKIRTED GRUB

Chompers Twin Tail Grub

LIVEBAIT

Wild Minnows


SMALLMOUTH BASS BAITS

If you’ve located the fish, try these ten smallmouth bass methods for 2013. A diversified lure selection will not only make you a more versatile angler, but allow you to catch more fish.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

tate their locations and influence their feeding habits. As readers first open these pages in early May, smallmouth bass throughout the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest regions are anywhere in pre-spawn to spawning mode. Meanwhile, down south or depending on how warm the spring season has been up to this point wherever you live, smallmouth bass could already be entrenched in By: Andrew Ragas Editor In-Chief their summer patterns. andrew@fishing-headquarters.com As any observant and scientific-minded angler can conclude, the success you have with your favorite lures and technique-specific methods depends on conditions, rime patterns and favor- locations, and environments. On ite lures can be revisited each year, the lakes and rivers you fish, what especially as the environment and are the some of your favorite methbehaviors of smallmouth bass dic- ods to catch big fish throughout the

P

Fishing-Headquarters.com

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the year? Create the list, put it all together, look at it, and then apply to your situation. To cover all of the smallmouth bass waters and habitats I fish, my starting lineup features 10 trustworthy lures (in no particular order) for big bass action in any condition, location, and environment. Tube Jig Wildly considered to be the most popular smallmouth bass lure of all time, the tube is versatile to be fished as a representation of the bottom dwelling crawfish and goby or suspending pelagic baitfish. My favorite way to fish the tube is by jig, preferably with an exposed football


head, or with a 1/16 oz to 3/8 oz jig insert. In some scenarios such as snags and heavy cover, I may even fish the tube Texas rigged. The aisles of tackle shops and storefronts of online stores are inundated with tubes in all shapes, sizes, colors and scent types, and are produced by most major soft plastics brands. I’ve learned that tube selection is dictated by color matching the prey as well as blending in with the environment (ie. dark bottoms suggest dark colored tubes, vice-versa). My favorites to date are Strike King’s Pro Model and Coffee

Strike King Coffee Tube

Tubes, and Stankx Bait Company’s D.D. Tubez. Both brands offer numerous color schemes that are the most naturalistic and accurate representations of popular smallmouth fare. Throughout this year’s fishing season, I encourage you to take the time to observe crayfish behavior and baitfish mannerisms, and it will open up your fishing possibilities with the tube. Jerkbaits (soft & hard) I classify jerkbaits by two

types: Softbait and hardbait. I fish both styles differently depending upon what conditions and feeding moods dictate. I use soft jerkbaits for less aggressive fish (finesse and sight fishing), and hard jerkbaits for active aggressive fish and as a reactionary bait during coldfront and cold water periods. Soft jerkbaits in the “fluke” style rigged weedless and weightless with a LazerTrokar TK100 are my favorites for sight fishing and when fish are in the shallows. I also like to fish them deeper with Carolina rigs and while drift fishing, as well as jigging for suspenders. On rivers, soft jerkbaits shine for their weedless rigging capabilities, enticing action, and baitfish representation. The best soft jerkbait brands Fishing-Headquarters | Page 80


SMALLMOUTH BASS BAITS Hardbaits such as the Rapala X-Rap in bright fluorescent colors are a year-round staple. I catch smallmouths with such proficiency on hard jerkbaits from ice-out until ice-up, primarily on lakes and reservoirs.

Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Rapala X-Rap 08

Zoom Super Fluke Jr. I’ve used are Zoom (fluke and super fluke jr) per fluke jr), and Trigger-X for their flexibility and lifelike action. Meanwhile, hardbaits such as the Rapala X-Rap, Husky Jerk, and Matzuo Minnow in both natural and bright fluorescent colors are a yearround staple. I catch smallmouths with such proficiency on hard jerkbaits from ice-out until ice-up, primarily on lakes and reservoirs. In terms of retrieve and lure action, the versatility of a jerkbait is unrivaled as success can be had from a bad reactionary bite to the best feeding frenzy imaginable. Style of retrieve seriously triggers the strike and influences the success of your fishing! Spinnerbait (anything white) The smallmouth spinnerbait is the one in my box that reaches the right depth, is retrieved at the right speed, and pumps out the right amounts of flash and vibration to entice strikes. When the spinnerbait puzzle is properly connected, the reward is big fish. In order for it to work at its best, the spinnerbait must possess the three qualities of speed, vibration, and detail. As a power fisherman, the majority of the smallmouths I catch are victims of reeling with 7.0:1 or greater

gear ratio casting reels. I retrieve quickly to cover distance and to impart vibration. With my quick retrieves, the curious, aggressive natured smallmouth bass never gets a clean look at the lure. For rivers, I prefer the thump of single or double Colorado, Oklahoma, or Indiana blade. Meanwhile, for lakes I predominantly use willow blades for speed and power. In my opinion, color matters for smallmouths when matching the hatch and dealing with water clarity. I like natural imitations of forage or else the opposite, something gaudy and obnoxious that can be seen from distance. With realism and unnatural colors in mind, it pays to carry a variety of styles, colors, and skirts. I predominantly carry a large supply

assorted 3/8 oz to ½ oz sizes in single Colorado, double Colorado, and willow blade models in all types of color. Favorites are Terminator T2 and Strike King Pro Model. White is a universal color, quite possibly my most popular color selection on every river and lake I fish. Any variation of white seems to stand out well to smallmouth bass. Crankbait (craw pattern) Smallmouths love crayfish and no hard bodied artificial lure represents a scurrying crayfish better than a crankbait. All of my cranking for smallmouths takes place in depths shallower than 15 feet, and the technique must always be associated with structure. In order to

Terminator T2 Spinnerbait Fishing-Headquarters | Page 82


SMALLMOUTH BASS BAITS

Rapala DT 6 bang the bottom, graze the tops of rocks or burn across the sandbar, a shallow running crankbait such as the Rapala DT 4 and Crankin’ Rap (with rattle chamber) works exceptionally well in the shallows of lakes and all river environments I’ve fished. Meanwhile, the DT 6 and Clackin’ Rap associate best with depths of 5 to 15 feet. Beyond 15 feet, I rarely ever fish crankbaits for smallmouths. When I do, however, I switch to baitfish colors and profiles for obvious reasons. For these cranky smallmouths, the color selection doesn’t get easier than a handful of reds, browns, oranges and yellows.

ates a very naturalistic presentation. On lakes I usually fish 1/8 oz to 1/2 oz jigs (Booyah, Terminator) with casting gear. On rivers I predominantly fish smaller profile jigs (Strike King Bitsy Bugs) with spinning gear. Unlike largemouth bass fishing, I’ve learned there is no particular reason for smallmouth anglers to use heavy flipping sticks and gear that is overkill with the jig. For these fish, light line is usually key. It usually imparts greater lure action and sensitivity for successful hook sets. Another jig type to consider

Jigs (casting and swimming) My smallmouth jigs are categorized by two types: The standard brushguard jig, and swim jig. Specialty jigs such as these have become popular in recent years for their technique-specific applications and big fish appeal. I fish a lot of rock infested lakes and reservoirs. I also wade and float a number of different rivers. Brushguard jigs are available in a variety of weights and a number of different styles. They are primarily designed to represent crayfish. The detail and color schemes of some brands creFishing-Headquarters.com

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for smallmouth bass is the swim jig. I’ve only recently added this into my angling portfolio and am still learning how to successfully catch smallmouths with it. Based on the results of good friends and my Heartland Outdoors Magazine colleague, Jonn Graham, who is the swim jig maestro and owner of Warrior Jigs, it is a lure that seemingly catches big bass from every lake and river fished. Swimming Grub I learned to catch my first smallmouth bass with the swimming grub and this is a tactic I still heavily rely on for year-round success for not only action, but big fish. Tie on a 3 to 5 inch grub, rig it with your jig head of choice, and cast it out. Instead of allowing the grub to work its way down into the rocks, it’s best fished with a predominant slow swimming retrieve and occasional bottom grazing. Swimming the grub is a deadly finessed-down search bait, as well as a bait for enticing bites once fish are located. As you move along the shoreline, or cover the entire sand bar or rock flat, it is possible to cover the same amount of water that you would if you were fishing a spinnerbait. But instead, you are using a more subtle presentation. With the swimming grub, matching the hatch is critical for success. Be sure the size and appearance of forage (crayfish and baitfish) matches the size of the grub. Make sure the grub is compatible with the water clarity being fished. The simplicity of the swimming grub is what makes it work so well. The ac-


Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters | Page 84


SMALLMOUTH BASS BAITS Kalins 5” Lunker Grub

tion of a curly tail grub such as the Kalins brand is plenty to entice a strike whether you are fishing lakes, rivers, creeks, or any waters inhabited by smallmouth bass. Drop Shot Believe it or not, drop shotting is a technique that I seldom use. I’ve made the mistake of stereotyping it as a boring rig that is best used for

catching deep suspended fish with your electronics because that’s all I’ve ever used it for. However, after watching countless episodes of Dave Mercer’s Facts of Fishing and Jonathan VanDam on various other television shows, I came to the conclusion that the drop shot rig is truly a must-have in every bass angler’s bag of tricks. Unlike that boring vertical concept I was accustomed to using and mag-

nificently failing with, these guys and everyone else I’ve observed fish the drop shot differently. As you would with the concept of “power shotting,” they actually cast it, and slowly retrieve it like an ordinary lure by keeping the dropper weight glued to the bottom. Throughout 2013, the drop shot is one style of fishing I am committed to learning and using. I feel it will work outrageously well during the post-spawn when fish are on their shallow water feeds or in a negative mood. If considering doing the same, I recommend trying the new Strike King Dream Shots, or the Stankx Bait Company DS Slugz and fishing them with LazerTrokar TK150’s, and asking owner Travis

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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detailed to represent baitfish and other prey fish. I recommend checking out the Storm WidEye series of swimbaits. They come in packs of three to five in pre-rigged models and accurately represent the real thing. I cannot tell you the amount of smallmouth bass I’ve caught with Crosman to make you any custom migrations. color. As you may be aware, many the shiner and yellow perch colors. swimbaits are expensive, flamboy- Other soft swimbaits worth considSoft Swimbait ant, and really unnecessary for bass eration are the less realistic YUM fishing. Smallmouth bass swim- money minnows which are availSoft swimbaits catch small- baits thankfully aren’t. Some of the able with specialized hooks, and mouth bass as well as they do open best swimbaits I’ve used are quite water largemouth bass. However, I simple, affordable, and very well don’t fish my swimbaits for smallies anywhere in or near open water. It’s always done while casting for structure and cover-oriented fish, and during the summertime and fall periods when fish are using the weedlines to ambush perch and other baitfish during their seasonal Storm WildEye Sculpin

Strike King Dream Shot

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SMALLMOUTH BASS BAITS

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the Swankx Swimbait, the newest release from Stankx Bait Company that can be custom poured to match any color and baitfish known to live in the wild.

Chompers Skirted Twin Tail 5”

Hula Grub Since 2009, the skirted twin tail grub, regarded as “hula grub,” has accounted for more big smallmouth bass in my boat than anything else besides the X-Rap. Best fished with a weighted weedless hook (around rocks and cover - a must for rivers), or football jig (for deep fish), it is a deadly bait that represents crayfish. Nowadays, there are a lot of soft plastics brands that produce their own versions of the hula grub. Without question, my favorite is the Chompers skirted twin tail. They run on the expensive side of this lure category, $5.99-$7.99, but are durable, overloaded with scented garlic goodness, and reek so bad that smallmouth laugh at us by how bad they smell to us. Over the winter I learned a new trick from my friend and fellow smallmouth junkie, Johnny Amato. He recommends saving the used and torn up baits, placing them back into the original smelly packaging, and infusing them again with a combination of homemade garlic and coffee extract. He then lets them cook inside the bag for a few weeks. This combination, he says, reinvigorates the busted baits to performing again, regardless of their deformities. Meanwhile, other successful brands to try are YUM Gonzo Grubs, which are a scaled down version but loaded on salt, and the small local Chicago independent Dragin Bait Company which specializes in custom colors and offer a finesse model.

Live Bait

ly-caught and trapped prey fish, or store-bought bait fish, matching the Most bass anglers will cringe hatch has never been as easy like at the concept of fishing with live this for catching smallmouth bass. bait, let alone the thought of ever using it. Putting the ego aside, fishing with live bait is an excellent option for catching smallmouth bass. I was introduced to bass fishing at a young age by strictly live bait fishing. Until I learned how to successfully fish with artificial Understanding the characterislures, it was the most effective way tics of lures and the physics of why I’ve ever fished. To this day I still they work the way they do requires utilize live bait techniques when observation, experimentation, and presented with the right opportuni- time on the water. The task of unties for them. Fishing with live bait derstanding fish behavior allows us and the success that can be had with to locate the presentation and reit isn’t a secret. When the fishing fine it with proper techniques and becomes difficult during the cold specific lures like these in order to water period anglers frequently turn cater to the needs of the fish. For to jigging and rigging for bass with serious smallmouth anglers, findlive minnows such as redtail chubs ing the right lineup and diversified and juvenile perch (where legal). combination of lures is purely a proLikewise, live bait such as a whole cess of elimination. Before finally nightcrawler or big jumbo leech matching the right lures to the right can be the big ticket to warm water spots and location of fish, periods glory. of unproductive fishing may be exWhen bass are active partici- perienced. But you will be a better pants during the toughest of condi- bass angler for it. A diversified lure tions and are still interested in feed- selection will not only make you a ing, fishing with live bait on either more versatile angler, but will allow a jig, slip bobber rig, or livebait rig you to catch more fish season after can be a very exciting and refresh- season. ing break from fast paced lures and the ‘run and gun’ mentality that most serious bass anglers have. With the Fishing-Headquarters | Page 88 different options of using natural-


SMALLMOUTH BASS BAITS Understanding the characteristics of lures and the physics of why they work the way they do requires observation, experimentation, and time on the water. The task of understanding fish behavior allows us to locate the presentation and refine it with proper techniques and specific lures like these in order to cater to the needs of the fish. For serious smallmouth anglers, finding the right lineup and diversified combination of lures is purely a process of elimination. Before finally matching the right lures to the right spots and location of fish, periods of unproductive fishing may be experienced. But you will be a better bass angler for it. A diversified lure selection will not only make you a more versatile angler, but will allow you to catch more fish season after season.

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Biodegradable

Top Photograph by Cory Allen

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pography Learning to fish laydowns is one of the fundamental lessons of feshwater fishing. An angler casting the shoreline comes to a tree that has fallen into the water. It’s been undercut by years of erosion. Now its root system sticks up like a tombstone, and its trunk extends beneath the water. Several feet out, waterlogged branches break the surface like fingers from a groping hand. These woody skeletons are every man’s structure, and every predator’s ambush point. The angler positions his boat near the tree, and then lobs in his crankbait. As the bait begins its descent, it disappears in a boiling commotion. The angler reacts quickly, setting the hook and steering a hefty muskie clear of its limbs.

By Cory Allen

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BIODEGRADABLE TOPOGRAPHY

By: Cory Allen

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

I

Consider the Following

n life, trees are the very essence of existence embodied. They harness sunlight to produce oxygen that we breathe, provide nutrients to the soil they’ve borrowed from when they fall and decay, and their structure itself serves as residence for nearly any imaginable form of terrestrial life. Hell, their presence is synonymous with water, Fishing-Headquarters.com

as if they are a bridge between the two worlds. An oasis in the desert is nearly always accentuated by the shade of a palm....yet in angling, I say to thee.... The only good tree IS A DEAD ONE! Why this macabre perspective of the deciduous and confierous? Because while trees serve the land in life, they best wait upon the water in death.

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A tree growing on the shore may occasionally provide shade or “low hanging fruit” in the form of falling catalpas or other invertebrates as gifts to aquatic organisms. If a tree falls into the water, it’s nature’s way of creating ancillary topography. Here’s an example of how acutely refined this process is, which is something I see all the time when fishing reservoirs. The best trees to

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fish consistently are ones defined by their angle of descent, with vertically standing being relevant based upon location. I’m talking laydowns here; a tree that has fallen and lays from the shore at a 30 degree angle or less more often than not is less productive than a 45 or more. Why is this so? It’s elementary. The tree is simply laying against the topography I.e structure already present...a sloping shallow bank makes a smaller degree sloping tree. A more steeply sloping bank creates a more steeply sloping tree. The greater the angle a tree has to it, the more relevant it is to creating an ecosystem and this to an angler seeking to interact with one because it serves more of a role to the aquatic environment. The most interesting of these instances is the laydown that nearly does a headstand. This is a situation resulting from shoreline erosion against a vertical bank, which is of course belying of deep water di-


Contributed Photograph

rectly off the shoreline...inherently featureless through natural topography. So what does nature do? It lets the wind and waves erode away the lower support structure so that eventually the trees anchored to this precipice give way and fall directly below...virtually creating static, allnatural, biodegradable topography and forming an entirely new ecosystem that provides a direct path from shallow water to deep water. Voila... insta-fish. So in this vein, let’s go so far as to say that there is nothing inherently attractive about a tree to a fish. Anytime someone says “Oh the Muskies are in the trees today!” I immediately hold up my imaginary binoculars and say “Well, I see a pileated pickerel up there in the woods...and there’s a walleyed warbler...but nope, no Muskies...” Yeah, a little smart ass, but you know the old chestnut about truth and jest... and surely do I jest to execute many Photograph by Cory Allen

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BIODEGRADABLE TOPOGRAPHY an exposé. Now it goes without question that yes, trees to varying degrees, provide habitat and thus angling opportunity for many species of pursuit including muskellunge, but only in understanding why can we begin to understand and eliminate unproductive trees and focus on the ones upon which “money grows on.” Believe it or not, as a guide, money DOES Grow on a few of the trees I frequent, long after they’ve gone the way of the Dodo bird. In essence, every tree should be treated not as an exclusive entity but as an ancillary topography. Not structure. Structure is something that is static and holds water, by the very definition of the man who

coined the term, E.L. Buck Perry. Ironically though, it is structure that defines the productivity of wood in the water. The approach to fishing trees should be no different than that which is used to fish “structure”... points, bars, saddles, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera....cover the top, cover the sides, and as always circumcise the tip. I won’t insult your intelligence or impede your creativity by telling you HOW to do it. Hopefully by simply illuminating the natural role of trees in water as a post mortem biosphere should be enough to change your perspective on how and where and why to fish them. So when the next Arbor Day

rolls around, make up a t-shirt that says “The Only Good Tree Is a Dead Tree!” Neither Tree huggers or Greenpeace supporters may understand it, but you sure will. The best jokes are the inside ones, anyway.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Cory Allen

Wide sweeping glide baits like the unrivaled Manta Hang 10 search through the upper tier of timber like a reconnaissance drone seeking a target to tag, while head-shaking, teeth chattering square lipped cranks like Riverrun Les Chubbie whittle wood down through the deeper tracts of forest like an old Kentucky coal miner on crack.

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BIODEGRADABLE TOPOGRAPHY

“The Only Good Tree Is a Dead Tree!” - Cory Allen

Photographs by Frank Weilnhammer Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas

The most interesting of these instances is the laydown that nearly does a headstand. This is a situation resulting from shoreline erosion against a vertical bank, which is of course belying of deep water directly off the shoreline...inherently featureless through natural topography. So what does nature do? It lets the wind and waves erode away the lower support structure so that eventually the trees anchored to this precipice give way and fall directly below...virtually creating static, all-natural, biodegradable topography and forming an entirely new ecosystem that provides a direct path from shallow water to deep water. Voila...insta-fish.

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BIODEGRADABLE TOPOGRAPHY This is Mark Cook. He’s holding a 50” + Tennessee musky caught with yours truly, Cory Allen, on Melton Hill with Stone’s Throw Adventures....his largest to date by far. Biodegradable topography was used in order to locate this fish, and entice it with a glide bait.

Photograph by Cory Allen Fishing-Headquarters.com

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BIODEGRADABLE TOPOGRAPHY

Cory Allen, 27, of Cookeville, Tennessee is the founder and lead guide of Stone’s Throw Adventures. As a member of the Jackson Kayak Fishing Team, Cory’s specialty is muskellunge by both kayak and boat. Allen’s team of guides fish the waters throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, guiding on a year-round basis, and offer their clients a wide variety of boat and wading trips for all species of gamefish.

http://www.stonesthrowadventures.com/

Photograph by Cory Allen Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Musky Fl

Where do I start?

Fly fishing for muskellunge has been burning through the Anglers transitioning from conventional gear to fly gear Chris Willen, guide at Musky Country Outfitters of Hayw

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ly Fishing By Chris Willen

e angling circles like wildfire. have many questions to ask. ward Wisconsin, has the answers.

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MUSKY COUNTRY OUTFITTERS

The major question asked is how does a musky fisherman get started fly fishing.

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By: Chris Willen

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

B

reak fly fishing down to the basics and it’s easier than you may think. You are never going to be able to cover water as proficiently as casting big bucktails, ripping large plastics, chucking topwaters, or trolling. Therefore with fly fishing, the objective is to break down your body of water into the high percentage areas and focus all of your efforts there. Choose four or five spots that you have either seen muskies or caught them from and spend the day picking those spots apart with flies. In all likelihood, the muskies you are looking for have rarely ever seen a fly before. If you buy into the conditioning of fish you could trigger that really big girl to come out and play the game; at least that’s what you need to keep telling yourself when you are casting your big ten weight fly rod all day and your arm feels like it might just fall off. Make sure that you put that fly into every cut of that weed line and around that whole brush pile you’re targeting. I can’t stress that enough. Make three or four casts into that area before moving on to the next set of fan casts. Musky fishing is very visual. With fly fishing, it’s much more of

a “sight bite” for the fish. Unlike a double-10 bucktail that kicks out a world of vibration down the fishes lateral line, flies don’t impart such characteristics. Thus you want to make sure that muskies have the opportunity to be mistaken that the fly is an afternoon snack. With your standard casting gear you are a good distance away from the area you’re fishing. Long distance casting is not easily done with flies, at least not in the beginning. Eventually you will learn to cast for distance, but its not entirely needed or advised as hookup ratios will go downhill with so much line out. The key to hooking up with muskies is a “strip set” technique, pointing your rod directly at the fish and stripping that line in until it’s as tight as possible. At this point of the presentation you really need to hammer down a couple more big strips to make sure that hook is set to the bend. Then you can raise the rod and let them battle that big 9 foot spring. My suggestion for you is to forget you even have a reel on your rod. The moment you start trying to get that fish you have worked so hard for on the reel, it will be gone. For landing the fish, you are better off stripping the fish to boatside and worrying about all the line once the fish is in your cradle or net. Fur and Feathers Over the years, many different flies have been invented and created by anglers for muskies. I primarily use deer hair pattern (Primo Tail) based off Brad Bohen’s Optic Minnow pattern and Buford pattern. The Buford has a cut deer hair head and has action very similar to a glide bait that most musky anglers Fishing-Headquarters | Page 110


MUSKY COUNTRY OUTFITTERS

Brad Bohen’s Optic Minnow

Buford Minnow (firetiger)

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Photographs by Chris Willen

Optic Minnow (bleeding perch)

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MUSKY COUNTRY OUTFITTERS

Nick Granato’s Ghetto Tramp

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are familiar with. The optic has a little more of a streamlined retrieve getting most of its action from the back hook kicking back and forth. Another I use is Matt Grajewski’s, of Michigan. He has a pattern called the Slippery Pete which has a real nice action. It’s a good panfish imitator that hangs well on the pause with a very slow sink. Lastly another I use is Eli Berants, of Great Lakes Fly. He incorporated a rubber skirt into one of his fly patterns called the Optimus Swine. If you have fished bass jigs in the vicinity of muskies, you’ve most likely been bitten off before. There’s something about rubber skirts that muskies can’t resist. For this, Nick Granato of Utah (flyobsession.com) has an interesting pattern called the Ghetto Tramp which he ties a popper head into the shank of the hook and it darts all over the place when you strip it in. It’s very erratic, much like the kicking action of a crankbait. Part of the excitement in fly fishing is being creative and tying your own flies. But if you haven’t tied before or have time for it, you can find a couple of these patterns for sale through rainysflies. com, greatlakesfly.com or muskycountryoutfitters.com.

Matt Grajewski’s Slippery Pete

Lines and Leader Materials Next, you will need to familiarize yourself with the different types of fly lines. The major line types are sinking, intermediate, and floating. Most likely you will only need a sinking line to present large streamer flies. Musky flies are typically a little bulky in order to get the necessary water push that musky love so much. Therefore sinking line helps present them deeper in the water column. Sinking line usually imparts

Photograph by Chris Willen Fishing-Headquarters | Page 114


MUSKY COUNTRY OUTFITTERS

Photographs by Chris Willen

the best action out of your fly. But as with any type of fishing some things work better for certain situations than others. When working weeds it helps to use line that won’t sink quickly or get hung up in all that cabbage. That’s where your intermediate lines come into play. They sink very slowly, depending on how fast you retrieve they plunge within the first few feet of the water column. Floating line mainly comes into play when casting big surface poppers or sliders. With most big foam style poppers you can get away with using an intermediate line, which will save you some money and it gives the fly a good loud pop because it does drag Fishing-Headquarters.com

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the popper down just a bit. As far as leader material is concerned its very simple. You can get away with a level leader style if you would like. That is just a straight piece of 30-40 lb fluorocarbon or monofilament from your fly line. When fishing a lot of structure, I like to tie in a piece of 16 to 20 lb “break tippet” so if I do get hung on something I can pull it straight up and it will break, hopefully, and wont damage my fly line. Losing your flies sucks, but breaking your fly line is worse, as they aren’t cheap. From your leader you will need what is called a bite guard. This is what flies are tied to. Some fly anglers use fluorocarbon while

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others use wire. I prefer to use wire as it leads to fewer bite offs. Fly fishing is not like gear fishing where muskies seldom get to the leader as they are just chomping on rubber, hard plastic or the wire of your bucktail. Flies are neutrally buoyant, therefore when a muskie strikes it will suck it in to the leader and you have them hooked where they are chewing on your leader. If you’re going to use fluorocarbon I suggest 80-120 lb test, but you will get bitten off at some point, guaranteed. To avoid heartbreaking blows I like using Tyger Leader. It’s a coated tie-able fishing wire. 40 or 50 lb has worked very well for me and I have never seen a musky bite


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MUSKY COUNTRY OUTFITTERS Predator Fly tying is another art that Chris has become well acquainted with during his time with MCO. When he’s not on the water you can find him at the tying desk keeping the guides stocked with flies or completing custom orders. Every fly that comes out of the vice has much thought and time behind it and nothing makes him happier than seeing one of them lodged in a big toothy critter’s mouth. Always learning and innovating, Chris has elevated his tying skills to a professional level and is the primary tier of Primo Tail brand predator flies.

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through wire….yet. Tyger Leader is very easy to work with and the only thing you will need to bring with is a good pair of wire cutters or dykes to cut through the wire. I use a perfection loop to attach the flies but you can tie on a snap if you so choose. An Expensive Fly Rod and Reel is not needed to catch muskies. We repeat, NOT NEEDED! When it comes to fly rod selection, you don’t need to spend $800 or more. Spending an outrageous amount simply is not needed. Fly fishing for muskies isn’t some super delicate presentation towards uberselective fish like trout. All that’s required is a rod that can handle the load of big lines, bigger flies, and even bigger fish. I suggest a 10 to 12 weight rod depending on how big of fly you’re throwing. Make sure the rod can handle figure-eights. Yes, even in musky fly fishing it’s very important to do your figure-eights as you would with conventional gear. Your fly rod should have a solid backbone and durability. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, one of the best rods I have found for this is the Beulah Blue Water Series 10/11 weight. It’s available with two tip sections in case you drop the fly into your rod and the price doesn’t make you want to throw up on your computer. It also handles big muskies better than most other rods I have used over the years. Once you are geared up, outfitted with an assortment of flies, and have practiced the mechanics of casting and stripping, the only obstacle you have to overcome is actually going fishing. Muskies aren’t magically easier to catch because you are using a fly rod. They are still known as the fish of 10,000 casts, so keep casting away. Who knows.

You might catch one within the first hour of fishing, or it may take hours and hours and hours of chasing the elusive musky before you get to feel the thrill of fighting one on a fly rod. When you do it will all be worth it and you will see what the hubbub is all about. Or if fly fishing isn’t for you, maybe after you get one you will call it a one-and-done, and eventually decide you would rather go back to fishing conventional gear and only use the fly rod in certain applications of your musky fishing. In any case the fly rod will be one more thing to add to your arsenal of chasing one of the best freshwater game fish there is. A lifelong, self-proclaimed fishing addict, from northeastern Illinois’ Lake County, Chris Willen has been fishing since he was three years old. Chris has spent the last five years focused primarily on pursuing Muskies. His introduction to the Musky Country Outfitters team exposed him to the world of river musky and fly rods kicking his quest for knowledge into overdrive. In the relatively short span of a couple seasons Chris has become a world-class fly angler and he can’t wait to share his knowledge with anyone willing to listen. Chris’ passion for fishing and dream of making fishing a fulltime career drove him to put the lakes of Illinois behind him and head to the big woods of northern Wisconsin to work with Musky Country Outfitters. He has spent the last three seasons under the influence of the MCO crew that he now considers his extended family. Hundreds of days on the water have honed his skill to a remarkable level for someone so recently converted to the fly game.

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MUSKY COUNTRY OUTFITTERS

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Musky Country Outfitters is the ongoing, collaborated effort of numerous lives that revolve around fly fishing. MCO guides are motivated by the opportunity to be on the water as much as possible, and offer anglers the chance to experience the vast warmwater resources of the Hayward, Wisconsin area and the surrounding region by hunting for the freshwater predators that have evolved there. Under the guidance of dedicated professionals fortunate enough to be in touch with the fishery on a daily basis, MCO guides strive to provide visiting anglers with the advantages that only come with in-depth day-to-day knowledge of this complex native fishery.

www.muskycountryoutfitters.com Fishing-Headquarters | Page 120


In the era of economic recession, musky anglers are exposed to the cost effective strategies of building their own lures. Tackle crafting not only saves our bank accounts, but its creativity aspect helps us catch more muskies. By Andrew Ragas

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CRAFTING

On A Musky Budget Fishing-Headquarters | Page 124


TACKLE CRAFTING ON A MUSKY BUDGET

lunge anglers, the average cost of catching a fish on the artificial lure is far from affordable. Many of today’s lures commonly run at prices between $10 to $30 dollars. At the high end I can fill my boat with gas. As online tackle shops and manufacturers have taken control of the economics within the musky fishing industry, the outlets for purchasing lure components and custom buildBy: Andrew Ragas Editor In-Chief ing tools are providing budget conandrew@fishing-headquarters.com scientious anglers with affordable and creative alternatives for catching fish. Having started muskie fishing as a sophomore in high school, I he cost of catching fish never imagined having a collection can be as affordable or expensive of over 200 different baits. How I as the angler makes it. For muskel- was able to afford so many $10 to

T

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$20 lures at a young age up until now is difficult to understand. In recent years, other obligations of higher priority have gotten in the way of my spending sprees for fishing tackle. These circumstances have led me to search for alternatives to save money and use my creativity to catch fish. Custom Tackle Running Rampant Presently, the musky fishing world is saturated with custom lure builders specializing in hardbait and bucktail production. These individuals build for their own personal use and sell commercially for high profits. The cost of custom made is


Photograph by Andrew Ragas

considerably higher than the costs for mass produced lures. The theme behind custom creations is that they catch fish well. Maybe, but they catch the wallets of anglers even better. Having walked the aisles at several musky tradeshows throughout the winter months, and making my weekly summer visits to Rollie & Helen’s Musky Shop, bucktails are without question the most popular musky lure of all time. Due to popularity, they’ve become one of the most popular lures of choice for custom builders. They are the quickest to build, the cheapest to assemble, and offer the most diversified selections in lure components and styles. As most mass produced bucktails of high quality cost more than $15, with at least half the price

dedicated just to labor, building them yourself will save money. I’ve found that building these same lures myself with my own selected parts and components runs 50% or more off the cost for any mass produced lure. For these reasons, I stumbled upon the enjoyment and creativity of custom lure building. I started this hobby during the summer of 2012, and presently build my own flashabou bucktails for personal use. This allows me to save money and catch more fish. I grew tired of spending money on products with an inflated price which only keep getting more expensive. For the average price of one mass produced lure, I can build myself two or three of the same type.

Benefits of Custom Building There are several benefits to building my own bucktails. The primary benefit is the creativity aspect. This enables me to test my imagination and artistic abilities with hopes it leads to more follows and put more muskies in the boat. The creativity of custom building encompasses the selection of lure style, color combinations, blade size and type, skirt material, and quality of components and terminal tackle. By custom building, I am exposed to an infinite world of custom color combinations that most manufacturers have ignored. I am also subjected to testing my own knowledge of muskies and the color spectrum, and utiFishing-Headquarters | Page 126


TACKLE CRAFTING ON A MUSKY BUDGET Pictured is the Musky Prostitute. At just under 2 ounces, it features two magnum Colorado blades (size 8), and a hand tied flashabou skirt, predominantly gold and crystal flash with orange highlights. This particular build was made to resemble a combination of redhorse sucker or walleye. It features a 5/0 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp treble hook.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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lizing science and past experiences in order to match the lures I build to the environments and conditions they will be fished in. Musky bucktails are available in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and styles. They are predominantly constructed by hand, either free-hand or with the aid of a heavy-duty fly tying vise. The tying vise is only necessary if tying your own flashabou, bucktail, or silicone skirts. However, it makes the entire construction process of the lure far quicker and easier on the hands. Tools such as needle nose and spilt ring pliers, crimpers, and wire cutters are necessary for the lure’s formation and construction. Pre-cut stainless wire between .050 and .060 diameter is the focal point of the lure as all parts and components involved in the lure are built around this frame. My niche has become flashabou bucktails with size 7 and 8 blades in the double bladed versions because I predominantly fish lures of this type. For my lure production, components such as magnum Colorado blades in polished brass, copper or nickel and painted versions have become a favorite. So have flashabou skirts, brass and nickel beads, 3/0 to 6/0 treble hooks, 3/4 oz. bodies, and 1/2 oz. weights that allow for a weight-forward design a casting system. When selecting my components, I choose quality over quantity. By the time my lure is built, $5 to $7 was spent on its parts and assembly. The only part that didn’t cost was my time. That’s a substantial savings! LOTW Success My first bucktail prototypes were put to the test during an August, 2012 trip to the Northwest Angle of

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TACKLE CRAFTING ON A MUSKY BUDGET The availability of lure building parts and components is abundant through retailers and online distributors. Many dedicated anglers fail to realize this. Most musky lure building enthusiasts turn to Thorne Brothers and Rollie & Helen’s Musky Shop for their custom lure building needs. Both sell a diverse selection of parts, components, tools and other accessories for every project imaginable. Likewise, some anglers also turn to specialty online outlets such as Jann’s Netcraft and Hagen’s Fishing Components for their own parts and components. Finally, for those who build for both personal use and commercially, Worth Company which is based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin is a source for bulk ordering (mass orders suggested) and distributorship to factory and independent manufacturers. Many mass produced lures are made with the same exact components supplied by all of these retailers and distributors.

Photograph by Brian Malack

Lake of the Woods, Ontario. On this first ever LOTW trip, I joined my friend Brian Malack as we fished its fertile musky populated waters for a week. The fishing for everyone in our group of ten anglers was challenging. Only five of us boated muskies. And I, the rookie who had never fished LOTW before, caught the most muskies of the group. Six of my eight fish boated came on my custom bucktail, a double-8 metallic pink Colorado bladed lure with gold flashabou skirt. I turned to this lure after the first 8 hours of my first day of fishing was unproductive. Our morning guided trip with the legendary Doug Johnson ended prematurely within two hours due to engine failure on both his 250 Optimax and 10 horse kicker engine. That afternoon and evening as Brian and I went fishing ourselves, I couldn’t get any followers with any of the recommended Fishing-Headquarters.com

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lures to use. It was desperation, curiosity, and confidence in my own creation that led me to use it for the majority of this trip. Within the first few casts, a 42 incher was boated. The next day a 43”, and throughout the week four others followed suit as well. I was able to raise several high 40” and a few lazy 50” fish to boatside. A number of factors led to this custom lure success. First, that week’s pattern was quickly established as muskies were using shallow windblown reefs during the midday and afternoon hours to feed on walleyes. A gold flashabou skirt such as my lure worked to perfection in matching the hatch. Second, the popular LOTW color combination of black/nickel failed to produce. Switching over to a color combination fish likely have never seen before surely helped. As challenging of a week it was, I attribute

May / June, 2013

my creativity for saving the trip. Although Lake of the Woods is loaded with muskies, I was able to replicate similar success with other various custom bucktails of the same design on the Wisconsin waters I fished for the remainder of the year. I’ve learned that creativity can work just about anywhere there’s muskies! The Costs of Custom Building The availability of lure building parts and components is abundant through retailers and online distributors. Many dedicated anglers fail to realize this. Most musky lure building enthusiasts turn to Thorne Brothers and Rollie & Helen’s Musky Shop for their custom lure building needs. Both sell a diverse selection of parts, components, tools and other accessories for every project imaginable. Likewise, some anglers also turn to specialty online


outlets such as Jann’s Netcraft and Hagen’s Fishing Components for their own parts and components. Finally, for those who build for both personal use and commercially, Worth Company which is based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin is a source for bulk ordering (mass orders suggested) and distributorship to factory and independent manufacturers. Many mass produced lures are made with the same exact components supplied by all of these retailers and distributors. The cost to build your own lure depends on the price of components. A typical double bladed bucktail I build with magnum #8 blades and flashabou skirt usually runs between the range of $5 to $7. Smaller lures such as a single bladed bucktail with a fur or flashabou tail and #4 to #6 blade will obviously cost less. Meanwhile, substantially larger lures such as the popular double-ten (cowgirl style) with magnum #10 blades, tandem hooks and oversized

skirt will cost substantially more due to the need for larger and more heavy-duty components. For an overall price breakdown of a typical lure I build, the average prices from my suppliers are as follows: Two #8 magnum Colorado blades, painted or unpainted, $.50$1.00 each; 12 to 18 inch stainless steel wire in .050-.060 diameter, $.50-$1.00 each; A handful of brass or nickel beads, $.10 each; 5/0 or 6/0 Mustad or Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp treble hook, $1.00 each; 3/4oz solid brass body and 1/2oz weight, $1.00 and .$25 each; Pre-tied flashabou skirt or self-tied flashabou skirt, $2.99 avg each. Do the math. It’s an unbelievable savings in comparison to what you can buy from the manufacturer. For those of you who are interested in attempting to lure build in 2013, I advise you not to spend time building for the sake of learning a new hobby and having a cooler and more diversified looking

tackle box with lures of overblown proportions. The objective of such DIY projects is not only to catch more muskies, but to build yourself functioning lures according to your angling style and fishing strengths. Build your lures to the best interests of muskies, your budget, and the specifications dictated by your rods and reels. As your first custom lure is assembled, have confidence that it will get bit within the first few casts. If and whenever it gets struck, nothing feels as rewarding as landing that first muskie on a new lure color it’s seldom seen before. End Notes: By the end of his 2012 fishing season, roughly half of the 31 muskies Andrew caught fell to the custom colored showgirl concepts with double 8 blades. His versions are called “Musky Prostitutes” and are not for commercial sale. Fishing-Headquarters | Page 130


TACKLE CRAFTING ON A MUSKY BUDGET My first bucktail prototypes were put to the test during an August, 2012 trip to the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods, Ontario. On this first ever LOTW trip, I joined my friend Brian Malack as we fished its fertile musky populated waters for a week. The fishing for everyone in our group of ten anglers was challenging. Only five of us boated muskies. And I, the rookie who had never fished LOTW before, caught the most muskies of the group. Six of my eight fish boated came on my custom bucktail, a double-8 metallic pink Colorado bladed lure with gold flashabou skirt.

Photograph by Brian Malack Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2013


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TACKLE CRAFTING ON A MUSKY BUDGET For those of you who are interested in attempting to lure build in 2013, I advise you not to spend time building for the sake of learning a new hobby and having a cooler and more diversified looking tackle box with lures of overblown proportions. The objective of such DIY projects is not only to catch more muskies, but to build yourself functioning lures according to your angling style and fishing strengths. Build your lures to the best interests of muskies, your budget, and the specifications dictated by your rods and reels. As your first custom lure is assembled, have confidence that it will get bit within the first few casts. If and whenever it gets struck, nothing feels as rewarding as landing that first muskie on a new lure color it’s seldom seen before.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2013


Fishing-Headquarters | Page 136


Photograph by Kenny Lookingbill

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