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Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Fishing-Headquarters Magazine Volume 2. Issue 2 Num. 8

March & April, 2012 Spring Edition

• Ice Out Crappies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 About the Fishing-Headquarters The Fishing-Headquarters began as a small homepage 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 towards specific groups of anglers and species of freshwater gamefish. 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.

• Lake Trout Jigging Revealed . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 • The Inline Spinner Renaissance . . . . . . . . . . 41 • Conquering Frontal Conditions . . . . . . . . . . 59 • Lake Michigan Smallmouth Bass . . . . . . . . . . 69 • Muskie on the Fly: Part II . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

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. 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-8 cover is Fishing-Headquarters contributor, Todd Wendorf. In this issue, Todd profiles the fast and furious early spring fishing for Lake Michigan lake trout. He and Wisconsin guide, Eric Haataja, discuss jigging techniques, locations, and the state of this world class fishery. If April showers bring May flowers, then the March thaw definitely brings lake trout as evidenced by this piece. Turn to page 25 to read about lake trout.


Fishing-Headquarters Issue-8 Another spring fishing season is upon us and that means one thing, and one thing only: Cabin fever is over! Put the ice fishing equipment away in storage, and get your boats ready. The open water is calling.

Andrew Ragas

Editor In-Chief, Designer, and Owner.

2012 Issue Releases Remaining Schedule

• Issue 9: May 1, 2012 • Issue 10: July 1, 2012 • Issue 11: September 1, 2012 • Issue 12: December 1, 2012

Click to Subscribe

Thank you for reading our eighth issue of Fishing-Headquarters Magazine. We would like to thank our friends, anglers, and team of writers and website bloggers who have dedicated themselves to provide and contribute their knowledge, experiences, and content into this publication. Without their assistance, nothing like this would be possible. We don’t do it for the pay, or bragging rights, and neither for egos or affiliation. Our objective is to learn, share, educate, and communicate. It’s to spread the word, make contacts and connections, gain exposure that hopefully leads to future jobs (for some anyways), and to be players in the realm of fishing. We essentially do this for the love of the game and to share our stories with an engaged audience. Now that we are well into our second season, we are actively searching for more advertisers, sponsors, and assistance for not only the current year, but also for next year. Help is always needed and without it who knows how much longer we can do this. If interested in partnering up with our 2-year-old publication, PLEASE contact us today!

Copyright © 2012 Fishing-Headquarters. All rights reserved. The usage of articles, excerpts, photographs, and any reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited.

ISSUE 8 FEATURED WRIT

Jim Gronaw

Chris Loveless

Drew Price


Contributed Photographs • Matt Coppolino • Tom Harris • Capt. Eric Haataja • Tom Harris • Tom O’Malley • Dan Sims • Capt. Ralph Steiger • Frank Weilnhammer Issue 8 Editorial Staff • Paul Ragas Layout and Design By • Ragas Media Designs Sponsors and Advertising Partners • Bearpaw’s Handpoured Baits • CB’s Hawg Sauce • Cortland Line • Go-Pro Camera • Heartland Outdoors • MC Custom Rods Inc. • Quantum Fishing • Ragas Media Designs • Sims Spinners Inc. • Solar Bat Eye Wear • Stankx Bait Company • Time on the Water Outdoors • TightLinz

Todd Wendorf

TERS AND CONTRIBUTORS

Andrew Ragas

Todd Wendorf


NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY TOPICS. New Website Developed for Stankx Bait Company. Our partners at Stankx Bait Company have re-designed their website and remade their entire product line for the 2012 season. Customers can order five bags and get one for free. In addition, Stankx is offering free shipping on all orders $50 or more. New products, plastic formulas, schemes and color styles have been added. http://www.stankxbaitco.com

Sims Spinners introduces the Alabama Rig: The first of its kind available in Chicago! On February 11th, at Chicago’s Tinley Park Fishing Show, Sims Spinners debuted the much-acclaimed Alabama Rig. Named “The Dream Catcher,”, this version of the A-Rig weighs 1/3 oz. and is sold “unrigged” for customers to use according to regulations (where allowed). Hand-made and custom crafted, Dream Catchers are available in five color styles for $19.99. http://www.sims-spinners.com

Fishing-Headquarters Announces Partnership with Solar Bat Sunglasses. In February, 2012, Fishing-Headquarters signed a partnership agreement with Solar Bat. Located in Brazil, Indiana, Solar Bat designs the ultimate performance eye protection and specialty eyewear for sports enthusiasts and fishermen. Fishing-Headquarters readers and members receive a 10% discount per each order, and free shipping & handling on all orders over $40.00 by using promotional code ARAGAS on every order. http://www.solarbat.com

TightLinz: Daily Deals for Fishermen. Fishermen like to buy the latest and greatest products nearly as much as we like to go fishing. And, everyone likes to get a good deal. Thanks to a new website, www.tightlinz.com, Fishing-Headquarters members and readers can score up to 70 percent off on all fishingrelated purchases. Sign up for daily deals. When you sign up, include that you were invited by andrew@fishing-headquarters.com Register :: http://www.tightlinz.com Fishing-Headquarters.com

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March / April, 2012

Smallmouth Bass on the Fly Wisconsin River, Oneida County


SOLUNAR CALENDAR March 2012

April 2012

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.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Walleye Run Another spring season is quickly approaching and there is no better way to begin the open water season than to run with infinite amounts of fish during their seasonal spawning migrations. The Maumee River is legendary and well known within the Great Lakes region as walleyes by the thousands migrate from Lake Erie into this river system to spawn. According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the annual walleye run up the Maumee River is one of the largest river migrations occurring amongst any freshwater sport fish east of the Mississippi River. For up to two months, anglers by the hundreds enjoy catching their daily walleye limits by fishing concentrated fish spawning sites shoulder-to-shoulder. Peak spawning occurs anytime from March through April when water temperatures are in the range of 42 to 55 degrees. However, best activity frequently occurs the last week of March through the first week of April. Visit our past issue from March/April 2011 to read more about this once-a-year event. http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/ magazine/spring2011.html Fishing-Headquarters | Page 8


LEADING OFF. Big City Fishing Who says you can’t enjoy good fishing in the heart of downtown Chicago? On warm spring afternoons, the lakefront is where it’s all at. Turn to page 69 to learn more.

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 10


IC Photograph by Jim Gronaw Fishing-Headquarters.com

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CECrappies OUT By Jim Gronaw

Alright, let’s set the stage…the wind is a little stronger than you’d like and the temperatures could be a bit better than the 40 degree F reading when you left the house. Your fingers are starting to get just a little bit numb from the stinging blast that blows in every now and then. There’s a decent ‘bow’ in your line as you try to make contact with the 1/16th ounce jig that you hope will entice a big crappie. Your eyes begin to water as you think about warm coffee or maybe you should have slept in. Then, that bow in the line makes a little jump and you some how manage to set the hook to a weighty fish that puts a big arc in your ultralight rod. Easing the fish in, you see that you have what you want…it’s a slab crappie well over a foot in length!

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ICE OUT CRAPPIES Classic shot of a 2 lb. 4 oz. 15.5 inch Piney Run slab that was released.

Photograph by Jim Gronaw Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Gearing Up

By: Jim Gronaw

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

A

s you ease the fish boat ward you see that it is just barely hooked and in danger of escape. Reaching down, you try to grab the slippery critter as it cartwheels for freedom. Thinking it is hooked well enough, you try to lift the plump crappie over the side of the boat by grabbing the line and giving it the heave-ho. Just as it seems that the fish will clear the gunwale, it falls off and remains motionless in the water for a few seconds, as if to show you just how big and broad it is and that your last, desperate swipe at it with your free hand will surely be in vain. Just out of reach, the slab flips its’ tail and quickly disappears to the depths where it came from. Welcome, my friend, to the world of cold weather crappie fishing. That is actually just one scenario of the cold weather crappie gig. Hopefully, you won’t loose too many fish like that, but it does happen. More often, you can expect some better weather conditions, warmer temperatures and cooperative fish. In truth, some of the best crappie fishing of the season occurs just after ice out. Here’s a game plan for cashing in on some slabs this early spring before the spawn.

Although ultra-light rods from 5 to 6 feet have been the panfishing standard for many years, an increasing number of panfishers are opting for the longer rods that tape 8 to 11 feet for longer casts and better leverage when hoisting slabs out of brush or away from man-made wooden structures. Crappies can hunker down tight to them during the cold. We use B&M crappie poles from 9 to 11 feet and Bass Pro Shops Wally Marshall Crappie Rods that go 8 to 9 feet and are able to make longer cast into the wind and gain more sensitivity from the soft tips of these rods. We use medium size spinning reels with a good drag system and spool with either Stren or Trilene limp, castable monos in 4

or 6 pound strengths. I tend to favor the fluorescent blue line as it aids in strike indication for these old eyes of mine. If you are doing close quarter work or vertical jigging, then you can do just fine with the shorter ultra lights. But for distance casting from the bank or pulling slabs from the wood, we like the longer rods. Lure selection can be pretty simple this time of year with a heavy nod going to 1/16 or 1/8 ounce leadheads jigs of the round or shad dart style head and in various colors. This is the only time of year that I tend to favor jigs heavier than the 1/16 ounce because fish are often deeper and the extra weight of them helps to keep the bow out of your line during windy conditions or when crappies are deep, which they often are during the cold. On

Photograph by Jim Gronaw Fishing Headquarters | Page 16


ICE OUT CRAPPIES warmer, sunny days you may find fish higher in the water column. Colors can be critical, so it pays to have some variety in your arsenal. We do well with chartreuse, lime green, white, pink or shad patterned plastics like Panfish Assassins, Bass Pro Stubby Butts, or any variety of tubes and twisters that run from 1.5 to 2.5 inches long. There are days when one particular color seems to get all the attention, so it pays to experiment. To hook more soft biting slabs, open up the gap of the hook on your jig so that it is wider than the standard ‘j’ shape as it was purchased from the store. Cold weather crappies often hit lightly and don’t hold on very long and the open gap enables better hooksets. Sometimes, you’ll need to cast farther or go deeper with the small jigs. That’s when we pinch on removable split-shot to adapt to the situation.

Bass Assassin Panfish Assassin

Bass Pro Shops Stubby Butt

Luck-E-Strike Crappie Tube

Locations For sure, crappies tend to maintain their love for wood structures throughout the season. Even in early spring and late winter, big fish will favor brush, fallen trees, bridge supports and docks. Slow, patient and methodical fishing in these areas will usually yield fish in the cold, as jigs placed close to these structures will get their attention. You must be willing to lose some lures to get to the slabs, or ‘boys’, as I like to call them. An overlooked option for cold crappie would be concrete or riprap areas that are exposed to the sunlight during much of the day. These structures heat up enough to draw crappies and other game. And, shadows from these forms can ofFishing-Headquarters.com

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ten provide ambush points for fish. Check ‘em out! Timing can be the key for a hot bite in the early spring. If a few days of balmy weather occurs, then I’d say it’s time to try for some slabs. These fish are somewhat sensitive to barometric changes and oncoming warm fronts in the late winter or early spring can put the odds in your favor to cash in on some of the ‘boys’. A couple of hours before an oncoming cold front can also turn them on. Be ready to make a move, if you can, according to the weather. lantic region, waters that can be productive in the cold would include Liberty Reservoir bridges and

March / April, 2012

Marabou Crappie Jig fallen trees, Marburg Lake (near Hanover, PA.) bridges and up-lake flats, Pinchot Lake (near Rossville, PA.) brushpiles and isolated fallen wood, and many Delmarva millponds and spillways that often go overlooked during the cold. Bigger and more famous lakes suchas 9,000 acre Lake Anna and 50,000 acre Kerr Lake in Virginia are year round crappie factories that annually cough up three pounders. This year, after the snow flies and the ice melts, make an effort to cash in on some cold-water crappies. Who knows? Maybe you’ll hook up with a few of the ‘boys’.


Crappies tend to maintain their love for wood structures throughout the season. Even in early spring and late winter, big fish will favor brush, fallen trees, bridge supports and docks. Slow, patient and methodical fishing in these areas will usually yield fish in the cold, as jigs placed close to these structures will get their attention. You must be willing to lose some lures to get to the slabs, or ‘boys’, as I like to call them.

Photograph by Jim Gronaw Fishing Headquarters | Page 18


ICE OUT CRAPPIES Timing can be the key for a hot bite in the early spring. If a few days of balmy weather occurs, then I’d say it’s time to try for some slabs. These fish are somewhat sensitive to barometric changes and oncoming warm fronts in the late winter or early spring can put the odds in your favor to cash in on some of the ‘boys’.

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Photograph by Jim Gronaw Fishing-Headquarters | Page 20


ICE OUT CRAPPIES

Crappie and the Jig Box. Lure selection can be pretty simple this time of year with a heavy nod going to 1/16 or 1/8 ounce leadheads jigs of the round or shad dart style head and in various colors. This is the only time of year that I tend to favor jigs heavier than the 1/16 ounce because fish are often deeper and the extra weight of them helps to keep the bow out of your line during windy conditions or when crappies are deep, which they often are during the cold. On warmer, sunny days you may find fish higher in the water column. Colors can be critical, so it pays to have some variety in your arsenal. We do well with chartreuse, lime green, white, pink or shad patterned plastics like Panfish Assassins, Bass Pro Stubby Butts, or any variety of tubes and twisters that run from 1.5 to 2.5 inches long.

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March / April, 2012


Photograph by Jim Gronaw Fishing-Headquarters | Page 22


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If April showers bring May flowers ‌ Then what does the March thaw bring?

LAKE T

Jigging Works Gr

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By Todd Wendorf

TROUT

reat For The Lake

Photograph by Eric Haataja Fishing-Headquarters | Page 26


LAKE TROUT JIGGING

By: Todd Wendorf

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

D

epending on where you live the “warmer” weather of March can mean anything from late ice crappies to pre-spawn walleyes to migrating steelhead. In about any location in the upper Midwest it means it’s time to grab a rod and reel and find something to fish for. The problem is … in many locations lakes are still covered with ice, rivers are high and muddy, and many fish species are still out of season. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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As an angler who gets a bad dose of spring fever by the end of February, I have a hard time sitting and waiting for ice and mud to go away, or for the first Saturday in May to come around. As a result, I have to get my fishing “fix” by early March or I’m going to be really hard to live with and my wonderful wife certainly doesn’t deserve that! So for her sake, I’ve just got to hit the water somehow, somewhere. I absolutely love fishing for steelhead and brown trout in the Lake Michigan tributaries in spring, but early March can be very frustrating because it’s transition time. River conditions are difficult, spring run fish may not be in yet, and making a 2 hour drive at 4:00 a.m. to find the wrong conditions can be very aggravating. Fortunately, a few years ago, a friend of mind recommended that I try something different. “Give spring lakers a try,” he said. “They’re a blast catching on jigs and walleye gear.” Once assured that my friend had not been

March / April, 2012

drinking, I asked a few more questions and decided it might be a good idea to pursue. The Spring Alternative For most folks, lake trout fishing means deep water, heavy lines, trolling spoons on down riggers, and Canada. To a small group of anglers it now also means shallow water, light lines, jigs, and the western basin of Lake Michigan along the Wisconsin coastline. To those who have tried it first hand, it also means a catching fish that bite like a walleye but fight like a small Volkswagen. So how does one go about learning this fishery? Some anglers would undoubtedly prefer to spend hours searching for fish on their own and may even eventually be rewarded with a nice catch of fish. I took a shortcut and hired one of the best guides in the country to teach me how to do it. Eric Haataja of Big Fish Guide Service and the co-host


Photograph by Eric Haataja

of the new fishing television show “Big Fish 365” took me out a few years ago and provided me with a ton of good information and a couple of sore forearms by the time the day was done. What I’ll try to do over the next few pages is try to pass that information along to you as well as I can. I also visited with Eric a few days ago and received an update on his techniques and the current state of the fishery. When, Where, and How Like most other Great Lakes species, lake trout are very temperature conscious. In general they prefer colder water than their cousins in the salmonoid family, with temperatures ranging from 35 to 48 degrees. Conditions are such in the spring that the come close enough to the shoreline that anglers can reach them in 20 to 40 feet of water. Cool water, combined with an abundance of forage in the form of gobies and gizzard shad, provide everything hungry lake trout are looking for; comfortable tempera-

ture and a smorgasbord of desired baitfish right in front of their noses. The key, of course, like it is with all salmonoids, is to find the baitfish. The boulder lined breakwalls of the harbors, in addition with the food rich waters of the tributaries emptying into the lake at the harbor mouths, mean gobies. Tons of them! In March and early April, gobies will lead to lake trout. Locate the harbor mouths, search the current edges and nearby boulders, and your going to find fish. “I’ve caught spring lakers up and down the Wisconsin shoreline, from ports in Racine to Milwaukee, to Port Washington to Two Rivers,” says Haataja. “I’ve even caught them as far north as Sturgeon Bay. They tend to gather near harbor mouths and along rocky breakwalls and near shore humps … anywhere that gobies can be found.” Lakers don’t generally “slash feed” like salmon will. In other words, they won’t follow a large school of alewife and slash through it grabbing unexpecting prey. “You need to rely on your electronics

searching for these fish,” Haataja added. “They tend to hug the bottom in search of food. Once you find them, jig the lower half of the water column. They won’t generally feed higher because their prey lives near the bottom.” Tools of the Trade In terms of equipment, a good medium action 7’ graphite rod matched up with 15 lb. test braid and a 10 lb. test fluorocarbon leader will give you the sensitivity to feel the bite and the backbone to set the hook and land the fish. Northland’s “Big Eye” jigs in ¼ to ½ ounce and pearl or chartreuse 4” Gulp Minnows or 5” Gulp Jerk Shad are the bait of choice. But don’t be afraid to experiment a little. I’m looking forward to trying Stankx Baits 4.75” Flukez in “shadtastic” this spring. Jigging spoons can also produce under the right condition. You’ll want a good, large net that will allow you to keep the fish Fishing-Headquarters | Page 28


LAKE TROUT JIGGING

GEARING UP FOR LAKE TROUT

Assorted Northland Big Eye Jigs Berkley Jerk Shad

Berkley GULP! Minnow

Berkley 5� GULP! Jerk Shad

Stankx Bait Company Flukez

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March / April, 2012


in the water while unhooking it to avoiding injury to the fish. I highly recommend Frabil’s new “Conservation Series” as it’s designed to limit injury to the fish prior to releasing it. The Future of the Fishery Lake Trout are a beautiful, hard fighting fish that can grow to large sizes. Because of their desire to feed on gobies near the shorelines up and down the state, they are also very vulnerable. In Wisconsin the fish are protected by a closed season from October 31 to March 1, but anglers also need to understand the uniqueness of the fish they’re pursuing during the open season. “Conservation is the key to growing monster lake trout and establishing a significant population near shore. These fish can live 50 to 60 years and can grow to 40 lbs or more” says Haataja. “Being so close to the shoreline in the spring makes them very susceptible to harvest. We have a world class fishery with these lake trout. Maintaining this fishery means releasing these beautiful fish to live another day.” Your Next Step? Lake trout season in Wisconsin opens within days of the release of this issue of Fishing-Headquarters magazine. Cabin fever probably started for you some time ago. The itch to fish is most likely driving you crazy. I’d strongly encourage you to scratch it by getting out on the water as soon as possible. If you want to experience this amazing fishery for the first time, I’d also encourage you to give Eric Haataja a call and book a trip with him. He’ll provide all of the equipment, put you on the fish, and teach you more about catching

Like most other Great Lakes species, lake trout are very temperature conscious. In general they prefer colder water than their cousins in the salmonoid family, with temperatures ranging from 35 to 48 degrees. Conditions are such in the spring that the come close enough to the shoreline that anglers can reach them in 20 to 40 feet of water.

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters | Page 30


LAKE TROUT JIGGING

Photograph by Eric Haataja

“Conservation is the key to growing monster lake trout and establishing a significant population near shore. These fish can live 50 to 60 years and can grow to 40 lbs or more” says Haataja. “Being so close to the shoreline in the spring makes them very susceptible to harvest. We have a world class fishery with these lake trout.” lake trout in one day than I could in a complete volume of magazines. Prepare yourself for battle when heading out to the harbor mouths. I wasn’t kidding when I said they fight like a small Volkswagen. During my trip with Eric, I was fortunate enough to tie into an 18 lb. monster that took well over a half hour to land. There’s no promise that you’ll get a fish that big. Instead, the odds are decent that you’ll land one much bigger than that! Enjoy this amazing fishery, and Photograph by Joe… Bucher as always let them go so they can grow!

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Wisconsin Big Fish is one of the best and most respected Wisconsin fishing guide and charter services in the Midwest. Eric Haataja offers numerous types of fishing trips with an emphasis on catching “Big Fish” throughout Wisconsin. If interested in scheduling a trip with Eric Haataja, you can reach him at (414) 546-4627, or visit him online at www.wibigfish.com

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Photograph by Eric Haataja Fishing-Headquarters | Page 32


LAKE TROUT JIGGING

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For most folks, lake trout fishing means deep water, heavy lines, trolling spoons on down riggers, and Canada. To a small group of anglers it now also means shallow water, light lines, jigs, and the western basin of Lake Michigan along the Wisconsin coastline. Pictured is Big Fish 365 co-host, Lee Tauchen with an early spring laker that was enticed on the jig. You can visit Lee at

www.leetauchen.com

Photograph by Eric Haataja

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LAKE TROUT JIGGING You’ll want a good, large net that will allow you to keep the fish in the water while unhooking it to avoiding injury to it. I highly recommend Frabil’s new “Conservation Series” as it’s designed to limit injury to the fish prior to releasing it.

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Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing Headquarters | Page 36


LAKE TROUT JIGGING

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Todd Wendorf grew up in Northern Wisconsin and now calls McFarland, WI home. He is an avid bass fisherman who specializes in shore fishing, wading, float tubing, and kayak fishing. When not chasing Largemouth he focuses on Steelhead and Brown Trout in Southeastern Wisconsin harbors and tributaries. Read more about Todd’s fishing by visiting him online at:

http://needtofishmore.blogspot.com/

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Photograph by Tom Harris Fishing-Headquarters.com

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BY ANDREW RAGAS

In-line Spinner

Renaissance

The effectiveness of artificial lures should never be questioned. Inline spinners have successfully lured fish into biting for over 100 years. For most anglers, fishing with inlines is not a foreign technique. But to some, it is an unknown concept. They are a lure category that is underrated, often forgotten about, and left ignored in the tackle box.


INLINE SPINNERS

By: Andrew Ragas Editor In-Chief

andrew@fishing-headquarters.com

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ith the advent of new lure concepts, and the technological advances in manufacturing, design, and mass production, it’s no wonder why certain lures have taken the back seat in the boats of many anglers. Inline spinners are one of them. Most lures available nowadays are so high-tech with flamboyant colors, realistic images, and enticing smells that they’re too hard to ignore. Often times, however, they catch the anglers rather than the fish themselves. Far too few baits and lures these days remain productive under the simplistic design properties and triggering effects that inline spinners have.

Pictured is Tom Harris with an early season 50 inch Minnesota muskie. Fish was caught while trolling with an inline spinner.

bass, salmon and trout. For those of you who have never clipped on an inline spinner to your rod and reel, they are a family of fishing lures that have a metallic shaped blade, weighted body, and dressed treble hook attached to the wire of the lure. As the lure is in Inlines 101 motion, the blade spins several rotations per second creating varying There is no type of lure sold degrees of flash and vibration that in such quantity with international serve as the triggering effect. acclaim as the inline spinner. Its origins and history are unknown, The Triggering Effects but it has been a perennially popular freshwater lure for all species of Inline spinners are producfish such as muskies, northern pike, tive fish producers for a multitude Fishing-Headquarters.com

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March / April, 2012

Photograph by Tom Harris

of reasons. While their uniqueness and simplicity can be analyzed with great detail, there are four predominant qualities within the lure that entice fish. These qualities are the following: Blades: The blade is central to the effectiveness of the spinner. Not only because of the visual appearance and illusion it produces when retrieved, but because it generates a great amount of vibration that is detected by the sensory organs of fish. In my opinion, the blade is the most significant component of the lure, and the allure of the entire pre-


sentation. The unique design feature of the inline enables the blade to pump and push through water, producing a tremendous amount of flash and attraction. Blades are available in different styles from size 0 brook trout and panfish models to giant size 10 muskie and massive gamefish size. In addition to size, blades also come in different styles, and each performs differently from the other. The most common blade types are Indiana, Colorado, and willow. For instance, Indiana blades are accommodating of fast, streamlined retrieves when a speed presentation is required. Colorado blades are best served with a power and pound approach when vibration and larger profile is necessary, including bulging the surface. Meanwhile, willow blades are often utilized for slower presentations and when fishing deeper water. Last but not least, blades come in an overwhelmingly large variety of colors and patterns. Most are commonly polished and painted to offer a metallic color and finish. Some are simply powder coated to emit bright and stunning colors. In addition, others are even printed with holographic designs for imitating fish scales and natural prey through sunlight reflection. Weight: The second key feature of spinners is their weight. Most inlines today are produced with a weight-forward design. This is an important feature because their heavy weight and compact, balanced design makes them effortless to cast. The weight of spinners ultimately plays a big role in being able to retrieve at different depths of the water column. Most lures are available in weights from 1/32 ounce to several ounces.

Anatomy of In-Line Spinner Model: Sims Spinners #5 Single Stainless Steel Shaft

Blade

Solid Brass Body

Treble Hook

Hand-tied Dressing

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INLINE SPINNERS

Mepps Aglia #3 French Blade - Undressed

Speed of Retrieve: Another key to fishing with inlines is the speed at which these lures can be retrieved. The general consensus is the faster the better, but preferably the speed that enables you to cover vast amounts of water with a perfectly streamlined retrieve is best. Factors such as blade design, weight, and surface area are all related to how the lure is retrieved. A spinner does not begin working properly until it is being retrieved. For example, if a spinner is fished too slowly, the blade may rotate erratically, or it may not even rotate at all. Meanwhile, if it is retrieved too quickly, the blade won’t catch water, may catch the body or hooks, and definitely won’t catch fish. The speed of retrieve is also dependent on your rod and reel. To attain fast and powerful speeds, reels with high gear ratios have been developed just for this style of fishing. In order to maximize speed and proper presentation, it is important to factor your gear into the equation. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Dressing and Tails: Depending on personal preference of bait profile and action, the treble hook can either be dressed or not. By itself, the lure’s flash and vibration may serve as the only attractors. However, anytime you add a modification to a lure, its action and appearance changes, and the presentation alters. Traditional hook dressings are available in several different colors, and are comprised of hair or fur such as marabou and squirrel tail. Nowadays, however, flashy artificial materials such as flashabou are increasingly popular as they add a fluttering flash in luminous, multicolored, or solid flash colors, increasing the complete flash profile of the lure. In my opinion, flashabou entices more strikes and followers rather than conventional marabou and hair. Many anglers believe that a dressed treble presents following fish a target that follows the flashy blade ahead of it and that it may entice more strikes than a bare treble

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hook. For this reason, anglers often add soft plastic trailers to the hook to add even greater attraction. The most common trailers are curly tail grubs and reaper tail plastics. The speed of retrieve is always dependent on the blade size and design, but trailers change the appearance, profile, action, and dynamics of the inline spinner. The Big Two . . . . Maybe Three If you were to walk into a tackle shop and look around in the spinner aisle, you may be overwhelmed by the number of different spinners and available brands. To my knowledge, there are two major spinner brands that strictly cater to the needs of multi-species anglers. They are Mepps and Blue Fox. Mepps is the pioneer of inline spinners, and quite possibly the most popular lure brand in the entire world. Invented in 1938 by French engineer, Andrew Meulnart, it didn’t take long for Mepps to revolutionize the fishing tackle industry. It’s


difficult to imagine being in a tackle shop that does not carry a stock of Mepps inlines. But for those of you who have never used one, they are high quality spinners that are available in all shapes, sizes, colors, and profiles for a multitude of freshwater gamefish from trout to muskies. As successful as they are, Mepps isn’t called “World’s Number-1 Lure” for nothing. Since day-1, they have sold millions of lures to anglers around the world. Meanwhile, Blue Fox spinners, currently owned by the Rapala brand, are another very high quality lure that utilizes different blade styles than Mepps. What makes these spinners unique is the concept of the “vibrax” body system which allows the entire tail of the spinner to rotate an entire 360 degrees while retrieved. By enabling the tail to rotate 360 degrees, the lure generates a triggering effect for fish which helps them take notice of the spinner pumping through water. Just like the Mepps brand, several Blue Fox spinners are designed for specific applications from the classic vibrax and flash for salmon and trout, to the musky buck. In addition, there is good potential for a possible third company to include on the list; the ever-growing, little-known and Chicago-based Sims Spinners. Established in 2010, this two year old company already rivals the big name brands and has even enjoyed days of outfishing the competition. This company strives to build durable, affordable, custom, and innovative hand crafted inline spinners by offering anglers multiple blade designs and patterns, and never-before seen color schemes. Unlike the major companies, what sets Sims Spinners apart is how they conduct their business through personal interaction with customers

Mepps Aglia #3 - Dressed

Blue Fox Original Vibrax

Sims Spinners #5 Single

for the basis of establishing longterm relationships, and catering to the needs of the anglers using their product. It’s rare to have such great service in the fishing industry like this. Sims Spinners are proven winners and have become my personal weapons of choice for all freshwater gamefish. Besides these three companies, I can also give recognition to Pant-

her Martin and Roostertail but they are dominant within the trout and salmon markets. I can also mention the dozens of companies who have revolutionized the sport of musky fishing with the production of unique bucktails and flashabou spinners, but that might be better served for another time. Fishing-Headquarters | Page 46


INLINE SPINNERS Musky Spinners

Blue Fox Musky Buck

Musky Mayhem Showgirl

Mepps Musky Killer

Buchertail 700 Multispecies Weapons of Choice An inline spinner merely represents a suggestion of something for fish to eat rather than an imitation of it. Through flashy appearance and rapid movement, it triggers fish to feed through retrieve speed, pulsating blade rotation, and lateral movement. It commonly emits a reactionary strike from fish. It may not be the best lure to use in most circumstances, but when fished in the appropriate place along with the proper size, it is a lure that will catch most species of fish. Most inline spinners are used for casting. They are uncomplicated to use, and in most sizes they consistently hook fish. Below I outline certain scenarios and techniques that are applied to some of my favorite species of gamefish. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Muskies: Without question, bucktails (oversized inline spinners) are the most popular style of musky lure. They catch records, and they catch incredible amounts of fish. They are fished successfully in lakes and rivers. Their spinning blade and wiggling tail fascinate more muskies than any other lure. Bucktails are my favorite musky bait because strikes tend to be aggressive, follows are frequent, they are excellent search lures and enable anglers to cover lots of water, and they are easy to fish with. I have caught more muskies on bucktails or on some type of variations of them than any other lure. In order to better understand bucktails, you must realize that each type of lure style is a tool for fishing different depths in the water column as well as habitats. Also, each blade style is unique in flash and vibra-

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tion, and each color combination has an extraordinary affect on fish to the point that there is never a wrong color to use. Bucktails are available in several different brands and styles. The most common types are single and double bladed models that come in size 5-6-7-8-9-10 blades. Some may be single hook while others are tandem. They can be fished with or without plastic trailers, and most popular bucktails are made with marabou, hair, and flashabou. Some of my all time favorites are Mepps Musky Killers, Musky Mayhem Showgirls, Sims Spinners in the double-6 and 7 models, Blue Fox Musky Bucks, Buchertails, and Esox Assault Tackle’s Inline Spinners.


I have caught more muskies on bucktails or on some type of variations of them than any other lure. In order to better understand bucktails, you must realize that each type of lure style is a tool for fishing different depths in the water column as well as habitats. Pictured is a Northern Wisconsin 40 incher that took a Mepps Musky Killer at boatside.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 48


INLINE SPINNERS

Photograph courtesy Sims Spinners

Inline spinners are excellent year round lures for pike, but some of the best fishing can be experienced in spring, early summer, and fall when water temperatures are cooler and fish are most aggressive.

Northern Pike Spinners Sims Spinners #5 Single

Blue Fox Super Vibrax

Buchertail 500

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Northern Pike: A number of lures have been designed to trigger the pike’s naturally bad attitude. Many of these lures have been around for years, and the inline spinner is no exception. Just like they are for muskies, inline spinners and bucktails are extremely popular for northern pike, and my favorite when fishing weed oriented lakes and rivers. When targeting northern pike, I tend to use spinners with number 4, 5, and 6 blades. Whether the lure is single or double bladed doesn’t make a difference. When trophy hunting, I am also unafraid to use oversized lures. My favorite pike spinners are Mepps Aglias with no. 4 and 5 blades, Mepps Musky Killers, Buchertail 500’s, Blue Fox Vibrax Musky Bucks, and Sims Spinners no. 5 and 6 singles and doubles. Inline spinners are excellent year round lures for pike, but some of the best fishing can be experienced in spring, early summer, and fall when water temperatures are cooler and fish are most aggressive. When conditions are optimal and a feeding frenzy is encountered, 50 to 100 fish days can be had. Amazingly, these events have happened to me before and I didn’t have to go to Canada or fish an unpressured lake to do it!

Mepps Aglia #5

Photograph courtesy Sims Spinners Fishing-Headquarters | Page 50


INLINE SPINNERS Largemouth Bass: Inline spinners are forgotten, underrated lures amongst bass anglers. If you were to ask any angler what his first artificial lure was when he began bass fishing at a young age, the answer will likely be an inline spinner. Although old fashioned in comparison to many of today’s modern bass fishing lures, inline spinners still catch largemouth bass with excellent results. Although inline spinners hold more angling records than all other lures combined, few bass anglers would even consider using one as a tournament weapon. For reasons unknown, I can only think that they aren’t glamorous enough. Like spinnerbaits, inline spinners can be successfully fished just about anywhere bass live. However, most of my inline spinner fishing takes place in the shallows, in depths less than 8 feet, and almost always around weedbeds and wood. As an alternative lure to the spinnerbait, inline spinners are perfect for pre-spawn and summer pattern fishing, especially when fish are displaying a reactionary bite. They also work under different circumstances too. Oftentimes, fish become so accustomed to being bombarded by spinnerbaits that inlines actually excel in pressure situations, including cold fronts, and post-frontal conditions. For largemouths, I frequently use no. 3, 4, and 5 Mepps Aglias, along with no. 5 Sims Spinners. For all situations, I usually try my best to match the hatch to the available forage species. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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March / April, 2012

Photograph courtesy Sims Spinners

Mepps Aglia #5 - Dressed


Like spinnerbaits, inline spinners can be successfully fished just about anywhere bass live. However, most of my inline spinner fishing takes place in the shallows, in depths less than 8 feet, and almost always around weedbeds and wood.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 52


INLINE SPINNERS Smallmouth Bass: Fishermen have long known that inline spinners are a traditional favorite for river smallmouth bass. In fact, it’s how I even began to fish for them in the first place; by wading rivers with inlines. Fished in cool running rivers and streams, or large deep lakes, inline spinners are dynamic lures spring through fall. Smallmouth fishing in the Upper Midwest is often associated with rivers or streams, reservoirs and natural lakes. In rivers and streams, an inline spinner is hard to beat when burned through the seams of current, past boulders, and downed timber. Oftentimes, fish will hold above, next to, or behind this structure to opportunistically ambush prey such as crayfish and baitfish. In most situations, Mepps Aglias and Sims Spinners with no. 4 and 5 blades in an assortment of colors are excellent choices for catching fish. Anglers who fish lakes on the other hand will find the same inline spinner choices to be outstanding for shallow structure smallmouths during the spring and summer months when feeding sprees and insect hatches are taking place. In addition, you may even be surprised while musky fishing and you could end up catching a number of smallmouth bass by surprise on oversize bucktails. It happens more often than you think. Now That You Remember Due to their varied applications and overwhelming number of sizes and models, it’s difficult to note the proper tackle that is best suited for Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas

In rivers and streams, an inline spinner is hard to beat when burned through the seams of current, past boulders, and downed timber. fishing with inline spinners. Since inline spinners are a lure category that can be applied to fishing for any and all species of fish, the best course of action is to use a rod and reel that is suited for the particular species of fish you are fishing for. One thing I must stress with inline spinners is that it is always necessary to use a snap swivel to counter the tendency of the rotating blade which ultimately leads to line twist. Some spinners such as the Blue Fox vibrax are very good at resisting line twist, but it is a serious problem that degrades their performance. Also, if fishing for large predatory fish such as muskies and northern pike, it is just as important to use wire, titanium, or fluorocar-

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bon leaders to prevent breakoffs. The versatility of inline spinners is amazing. Its neglect from anglers is staggering. This is a lure category that appeals to so many different species of fish and has withstood the test of time; an experiment that many other lures have failed in. For decades, the concept of the inline spinner has remained unchanged and it still catches fish with the same frequency as it did decades ago. Despite its simplistic nature and ease of use, it is such a basic lure that still works a good game with fish.


Inline spinners are a traditional favorite for river smallmouth bass. In fact, it’s how I even began to fish for them in the first place; by wading rivers with inlines. Fished in cool running rivers and streams, or large deep lakes, inline spinners are dynamic lures spring through fall.

Photograph by David Graham

Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters | Page 54


INLINE SPINNERS

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Suicidal Smallmouths When fishing for muskies, you may run into a surprise on more than one occasion. Instead of the mighty muskie, you could end up consistently catching a number of smallmouth bass with oversize bucktails. In the north country, this happens more often than you think. Could this be a future article for 2012? . . . . Perhaps. . . . . . If more fish like this are brought into the boat, then we may be onto something unique. Until then, we’ll keep you posted on this interesting smallmouth bass development.

Photograph by Frank Weilnhammer Fishing-Headquarters | Page 56


FRONTAL CURING THE COM

By: Chris Loveless

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

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L FISHING MON COLD FRONT

Many articles have been written about cold fronts and their adverse effects on fishing. One thing most anglers do know is that changing weather most definitely changes fishing success. By Chris Loveless

Photograph by Frank Weilnhammer Fishing-Headquarters | Page 60


FRONTAL FISHING

Fishing-Headquarters Photo

So where do bass go during a sudden cold front in the spring? This time of year bass move to a variety of locations based on the exact body of water to prepare to spawn so we cannot set an exact pattern that will work everywhere.

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ew situations can be more disheartening than a cold front creeping up on a fishing trip that has been planned in the spring. You have read reports and the bite has been great since the fish have begun to feed heavily. Then a front comes in and dooms your trip since bass don’t feed during cold fronts. That is not the case. If you know how bass respond to these fronts you can actually use them to your advantage and have some of the best fishing of the year. In order to understand how bass relate to a cold front and what they do to adapt to changing conditions, you need to know what a cold Fishing-Headquarters.com

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front is and how it changes the environment under water. A cold front is an edge of a cold mass of air that is coming in contact with a warm mass of air. This cold air is denser than the warm air and wedges itself under the warm air. The warm air moving upward creating a drop in pressure and can change the temperature up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If enough moisture is present in the air, it will rain. All these changes seem like they would have a dramatic effect on bass but they have ways to adjust and adapt to their ever changing environment. Understanding the swim bladder of a fish is essential to fishing during changing conditions. The swim bladder is a gas filled bag that the fish uses to help remain at neu-

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tral buoyancy in the water under all conditions. To put it simply, bass adapt to their ever changing environment if given some time. It’s this ability to adapt that allows me to believe that fish will keep feeding and remain “catchable” during a front. Since bass adjust, and therefore continue to feed during fronts, all you need to do is find them. Bass relate to structure. Structure is defined as a break in the environment among an otherwise uniform area. It does not matter what the weather is like, fish are always relating to some kind of structure. This structure could be anything. It could be vertical in the water column or horizontal. Most people focus on logs, rocks, or weeds. If that is all you


look at you will miss fish though. You need to factor in points, dropoffs, humps, and transitions in the composition of the bottom of the body of water as well. Bass are ambush predators and these areas all play to their advantage under the right conditions.

In order to understand how bass relate to a cold front and what they do to adapt to changing conditions, you need to know what a cold front is and how it changes the environment under water.

Curing the Cold So where do bass go during a sudden cold front in the spring? This time of year bass move to a variety of locations based on the exact body of water to prepare to spawn so we cannot set an exact pattern that will work everywhere. However, there are some key concepts to keep in mind that will produce fish. In most cases bass will not remain shallow during a cold front. Deeper points and humps almost always hold bass during a sudden cold front in the spring. These areas are more stable than the shallow spawning flats. Because of that, they provide shelter for fish retreating from changing temperatures. I like to throw swim jigs and lipless crankbaits to cover water and find where the fish have moved during this time of year. If it is late enough in the season, and there is substantial weed growth, bass may retreat to the cover created by the weeds. Areas with weeds hold temperature better than open water and this stability helps fish to quickly adjust. Since they are in spawning mode this time of year, bass will almost always come right back to the shallow waters as the weather. Therefore if it’s the tail end of a front, it is never a bad idea to check on some of your most productive shallow spots. If it is late enough in the spawn, fish may move off their beds and not return during a severe cold front. Bass are in feeding mode during the spring

Photograph by Frank Weilnhammer Fishing-Headquarters | Page 62


FRONTAL FISHING Coldfront Cranks

Rapala Clackin’ Rap Strike King KVD Square Bill

Luck-E-Strike RC STX Jerkbait

Swim Jigs

Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig Terminator Swim Jig Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Chris Loveless

and depending on what phase of the spawn your area is in the fish could end up moving anywhere or hold tight to beds. Find them and you will catch them. The biggest bass I have seen caught to date was during a spring cold front ripping a lipless crankbait in 40 degree weather. All it takes is putting enough time on the water and figuring out where the fish have moved. Thinking Beyond Spring Outside of spring bass are much more predictable during fronts. During the summer season, bass move into the thickest and heaviest cover available to hide out until the front passes. This is the time to pitch a jig and cover every inch of water possible. When there is not much weed growth on your body of water, deep depressions or timber are textbook places to find bass during a sum-

mertime cold front. The fall is easiest to pattern during cold fronts. During the fall, fish are already moving deeper due to cooling temperatures and do not move much during a cold front. Whether it’s a cold front or not, fishing deep holes and suspended works well. The best way to find fish during a fall front is to follow the baitfish. Shad, Bluegill, or whatever else the forage in your lake is, the bass will relate to them. A pod of baitfish is structure and should be treated as so and worked thoroughly. In the end it is important to note that bass adjust during a cold front and so should you. You may need to fish different areas than normal but the fish will eat when you find them. Some of the best days on the water can be had during a cold front because bass will stack up together in cover and allow you to focus on presentation in a big school of fish

rather than move to different places after every fish. So go grab some new raingear and get out next time a front moves in. The bass will be biting. Like everything else in fishing, you just have to get out there and find them. Chris Loveless is an avid Bass and muskie fisherman from Chicago, IL. In November, 2011, he joined the FishingHeadquarters as a blogger and contributor. You can read more of his work at his Fishing-Headquarters blog, “The Suburban Angler.� http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/suburbanangler/

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FRONTAL FISHING The fall is easiest to pattern during cold fronts. During the fall, fish are already moving deeper due to cooling temperatures and do not move much during a cold front. Whether it’s a cold front or not, fishing deep holes and suspended works well. The best way to find fish during a fall front is to follow the baitfish. Shad, Bluegill, or whatever else the forage in your lake is, the bass will relate to them. A pod of baitfish is structure and should be treated as so and worked thoroughly. Pictured is Fishing-Headquarters Contributor, Bryan Blazek, with a 6 pound largemouth bass caught on a swim jig during a late fall cold front.

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Photograph by Chris Loveless Fishing-Headquarters | Page 66


CITY LIMITS S

Photograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger Fishing-Headquarters.com

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SMALLMOUTH Chicago’s portion of Lake Michigan offers world class smallmouth bass opportunities in spring and early summer.

Smallmouth bass are arguably one of the most fun and sporting fish to catch, and personally one of my favorites. Amongst the most popular fishing destinations found in the state of Illinois, and regarded as one of the best in the entire Midwest region, the southern basin of Lake Michigan offers world class fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass. By Andrew Ragas

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 70


CHICAGO SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger Fishing-Headquarters.com

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From 1969 through 1985, approximately 101,706 juvenile smallmouth bass were sporadically stocked in a few select sites around Chicago. Years later during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it became evident to state biologists and anglers that these limited stockings had generated into small, selfsustainable populations, and resurBy: Andrew Ragas rected the native smallmouth bass Editor In-Chief fishery. andrew@fishing-headquarters.com Since then, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has supplemented these original ancestors with additional stockings that were dispersed along much of the mallmouth bass are argu- lakefront. These efforts have conseably one of the most fun and sport- quently resulted in a self-sustaining ing fish to catch, and personally one world class fishery right in the heart of my favorites. They are historically native to most rivers and streams in Illinois. Within the last quarter century their self-sustaining populations have been established in some of our inland bodies of water to offer additional angling opportunities. Amongst the most popular fishing destinations found throughout our state, and regarded as one of the best in the entire Midwest region, the southern basin of Lake Michigan offers world class fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass. The big lake, in particular, is no stranger to the re-establishment of fish species and population restorations. Historically speaking, smallmouth bass are native to several confined regions of Lake Michigan, but very few of them were found in the southern basin of Lake Michigan prior to 1996. Their once-limited populations in Illinois waters inhabited the restricted off-shore reefs and shoal areas for several years before heavy stocking efforts began taking place within Chicago’s city limits.

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of Chicago and the surrounding southern basin of Lake Michigan. Presently the populations are thriving, with stocking having being discontinued more than a decade ago. Southern Lake Michigan is notoriously known as a shallow water environment with very little natural structure and a bottom composition of nothing more than sand. However, as local municipalities and industries began to gradually develop the shoreline by constructing parks, piers, beaches, boat slips, and break walls, the coast was transformed into ideal smallmouth bass habitat. Today’s habitat and favorite angling areas are all man-made, comprised of rocky rip-rap and boulders lining the shorelines, breakwalls,

Photograph by Matt Coppolino Fishing-Headquarters | Page 72


CHICAGO SMALLMOUTHS

Fishing-Headquarters Photo

Today’s habitat and favorite angling areas are all man-made, comprised of rocky rip-rap and boulders lining the shorelines, breakwalls, rock reefs, harbors and additional boat slips. rock reefs, harbors and additional boat slips. Almost immediately, smallmouth bass began utilizing these areas claiming the territory as their own. Smallmouth Locations Smallmouth bass are caught from several near-shore and offshore areas of Lake Michigan. Most anglers who fish the Chicago area of the lake fish from shore and harbor hop, while others work by boat and comb the break walls. Throughout the spring and summer months, when most of the fish are shallow and active, the fishing peaks. One angler in particular who Fishing-Headquarters.com

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has made a name for himself by fishing Lake Michigan since his formative years is Captain Ralph Steiger. Steiger, 27, of Hammond, IN, guides and charters the southern basin of Lake Michigan on a yearround basis out of his 2011 model Crestliner Tournament 202WT, and suggests that the smallmouth bass fishing is as good as it can be from spring through summer. According to Captain Steiger, who has guided for six years, the early spring through summer period is comprised of several movements, and stages, all of which are related to the spawn. He suggests a few key depth ranges for anglers to concentrate on.

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“In the early spring, as water temperatures are between 45 to 55 degrees and get warmer, I tend to look for fish in deeper water, anywhere from 12 to 25 ft. Then as spring progresses into summer, water temperatures warm, and the fish move in for the spawn, they can hold as shallow as 4 feet. On average I would say an 8 to 12 ft. depth range is perfect.” As far as structure and habitat locations are concerned, one of Captain Steiger’s favorite focal points is transition areas. Examples are sharp drop-offs where rock and sand meet. Captain Steiger states, “Smallmouth early in the year use these sharper contours and the rock/


Photograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger Fishing-Headquarters | Page 74


CHICAGO SMALLMOUTHS sand bottom prior to invading the shallows. As the summer season arrives it is important to work these same areas but to concentrate your efforts in shallower water.” Captain Steiger points out that rock and steel walls will both frequently hold fish but in order to have success, anglers must experiment in order to find which is best for the given time of year. In addition, warm water discharges may hold numbers of fish but due to heavy recreational pressure these areas can be a feast or famine.

Lake Michigan Forage Species

In addition to spawning, most of the smallmouth population will also be utilizing the shallow water taking advantage of the abundant food sources. Luckily for them, there is no shortage of good available habitat. On Lake Michigan, in particular, it seems as if anywhere there are rocks placed, fish will be present. In order to rear a healthy fishery that possesses both numbers and sizes of fish, there needs to be a diverse and abundant available food source. Lake Michigan’s smallmouth bass have several options that they use at different times of the year. As the seasons change, different prey species become more available, and turn into the preferred dinner menu item. One of the most abundant and frequent spring and summer forage species is the invasive round goby. These small, 2 to 4 inch bottomdwelling fish lack a swim bladder and are always confined to the lake’s bottom, utilizing the same rock habitat as the smallmouth. Several tackle manufacturers have created goby imitation tubes and plastics to match the hatch. When fished properly, the goby imitating plastic is deadly. One of Captain Steiger’s allPhotograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger around favorites is the Poor Boy’s Erie Darter, a simple do-nothing Following the spawn, Captain Steiger notes that “Fishing can become type of flapper-tail plastic that is difficult during the few weeks after, but once the fish resume in a sum- best served on a jig to hop and drag mer pattern they become easier to catch again.” He adds, “The best areas along the bottom. “The presence of to target are going to have sharp drop-offs, usually with large rocks. It is gobies is like having a 24 hour bufimportant that you don’t move far off from the areas in which fish were fet in front of them,” he claims. spawning, but just look for the sharper and deeper shorelines.” For Captain Steiger and many Fishing-Headquarters.com

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The Goby Connection One of the most abundant and frequent spring and summer forage species is the invasive round goby. These small, 2 to 4 inch bottom-dwelling fish lack a swim bladder and are always confined to the lake’s bottom, utilizing the same rock habitat as the smallmouth. Several tackle manufacturers have created goby imitation tubes and plastics to match the hatch. When fished properly, the goby imitating plastic is deadly.

Darter Tails

Poor Boys Dixie Darter

Poor Boys Erie Darter

Tubes

Stankx Bait Company Gobi Wan Tube

Strike King Pro Model Tube

Grubs

Kalin’s Lunker Grubs Fishing-Headquarters | Page 76


CHICAGO SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger

Smallmouth bass are native to several confined regions of Lake Michigan, but very few of them were found in the southern basin of Lake Michigan prior to 1996. of his clients, Poor Boy’s Erie Darters are his baits of choice most of the time. For instance, “They are easy to fish, don’t cost a lot (which is good for the numerous snags), and work great.” Captain Steiger interestingly notes, “There are several goby imitators out there and some of them work while others don’t. It seems like the more detail the bait companies put into copying a goby the worse they work. Certain companies are investing too much time into cosmetics and not enough time into recreating the movement of a goby.” When fishing the Poor Boy Darter, Captain Steiger warns “It’s appearance underwater isn’t too overwhelming with action. Fished best when rigged with a 1/8 oz. to 3/8 oz. jig head, it is meant to be Fishing-Headquarters.com

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fished and hopped along the bottom without much action.” He believes that for these reasons singlehandedly, the Darter works so well and imitates the real thing. For the allaround plastics approach, some of the more popular color choices for Lake Michigan are brown, green pumpkin, smoke, purple, and red with variations of these colors mixed together with gold or black flecks. Gearing Up Captain Steiger claims that due to the several forage options for smallmouth bass, it is important to match the hatch accordingly. “In early spring mimic shad, shiners, smelt and alewives. In later spring thru early fall mimic gobies. In later fall both patterns can work at any

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time. Keep it simple and you will catch fish.” As far as gear and tackle is concerned, medium light to medium heavy action rods between the lengths of 6 ½ to 7 ½ ft. are preferred. 8 to 10 lb. main line is standard but due to the zebra mussel infestations and razor-sharp abrasive conditions it is important to use 10 to 15 lb. fluorocarbon leader material to help prevent line frays and break-offs. Chicago Landmarks Essentially, smallmouth bass are caught all along Chicago’s lakefront and extending all the way down to Northern Indiana. Some popular areas for smallmouth bass angling in the Chicago area are


around several of the city’s landmarks. All of the downtown harbors offer shoreline and boat access to fish, including the Chicago River, as does the area surrounding Navy Pier and the treatment plant, and the museum campus. However, for Captain Steiger, “Some of the best areas to fish out of are East Chicago Marina, Hammond Marina, or Burnham Harbor. There are plenty of fish around these locations whether you go from shore or boat.” Nowadays, most of the smallmouth bass caught range in size from 10 to 14 inches, but there are significant numbers of larger fish out there. Bass in the 2 pound range are most common, while 3 pounders aren’t too far behind. There are also 4 and 5 pound fish available throughout the warm weather months, including the 5 lb. 12 oz. brute that was caught and released by Captain Steiger a few years ago. It is possible that the next state record is out there somewhere. With great angling comes conservation-minded principles that help elevate the fishing to world class proportions. In 1998, a mandatory catch and release program, which still exists, was enacted so that smallmouth bass populations can grow and expand to the high levels that we have today. With state record size fish being caught and released within six years of the rule being established, changes were made in 2004 to accommodate the possible harvest of the next state record size fish. However, nearly everything goes back, and catch & release is widely followed regardless of circumstances. These days, the smallmouth bass fishing on Lake Michigan is better than ever. To help keep it that way, it is important to handle fish carefully and to practice catch-and-release as if it

Photograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger

were a religion. During an era in which state enforcement is few and far between, Captain Steiger and majority of the city’s harbor hoppers serve as stewards of the lake, and help promote and mandate the conservation required to sustain a high class fishery. Steiger stresses, “Something that most common anglers don’t realize is that the DNR doesn’t stock any of these fish because they are all naturally reproducing. For every fish people keep another will never be stocked to replace it. It is critical that catch and release be used 100% of the time. We have a great thing happening here and if we don’t protect it we have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Captain Ralph Steiger specializes in guide charter trips on Lake Michigan for smallmouth bass, salmon and trout, and perch from Chicago, Illinois to Hammond, Indiana. To book your trip, you may reach him at (219) 688-3593, or at ralphish00@aol.com Visit him online at http://www.captainsteiger.com

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CHICAGO SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Capt. Ralph Steiger Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Tom O’Malley Fishing-Headquarters | Page 80


CHICAGO SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Smallmouth bass are caught from several near-shore and off-shore areas of Lake Michigan. Most anglers who fish the Chicago area of the lake fish from shore and harbor hop, while others work by boat and comb the break walls. Throughout the spring and summer months, when most of the fish are shallow and active, the fishing peaks.

Captain Ralph Steiger specializes in guide charter trips on Lake Michigan for smallmouth bass, salmon and trout, and perch from Chicago, Illinois to Hammond, Indiana. To book your trip, you may reach him at (219) 688-3593, or at ralphish00@aol.com. Visit him online at http://www.captainsteiger.com


Visit our archives to read Musky on the Fly Part 1 http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/magazine/ fall2011.html << Click Link

By: Drew Price

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

MUSKY ON

Dialing in muskies is never an easy task with any gear but there are definitely a more than few advantages to using a fly rod. In recent years it has become much more popular. Part 1 of this article dug into gear choices, casting, leaders and other nuts and bolts. For part 2, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to put the boat in the water. Photograph by Drew Price Fishing-Headquarters.com

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PART 2

N THE FLY S

peaking of which, boats are a necessity to fish muskies. It is not common to find musky water that can easily be fished via wading. Even if you do find water like that you can fish with your feet on the ground you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be able to cover the water as efficiently as you will in a watercraft. There are a lot of options for fly anglers out there. Many of us prefer people powered boats but I do have to admit that it is really nice to motor back to the launch at the end of a long day on the water. Personal preference comes into

play for sure. One thing that motorless boats do provide is a great deal of stealth. Canoes, kayaks and driftboats are very quiet and can let you get quite close to fish. The vast majority of the musky fishing I have done has been out of canoes and I have been able to sight fish muskies on more than a few occasions because of how close we were able to get to the fish. No matter what kind of watercraft you choose there are some basic rules you will want to follow when using a fly in a boat. First and foremost is to keep it clean and organized. There are times that this is easier said than done but it makes

a huge difference. You are going to be casting a whole lot of line out and the more things that it can get caught up on the more trouble you will have making those casts efficiently. A good boat bag will help you keep your gear in one place and organized. I have lost tools and flies because as I let a double haul fly the line caught something that was on the deck and it flipped overboard. Check all the places and things that are part of the boat to make sure they wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t cause trouble too. Sometimes a seam of silicone in a spot where a line can get caught will save it from Fishing-Headquarters | Page 86


MUSKIE ON THE FLY

Photograph by Drew Price

getting caught up (and might keep it from getting damaged- which really sucks when you have spent $80 on a fly line…). One trick that I learned from a Lefty Kreh article that can help in a boat that has a lot of gear or a lot of things that the line could get caught on is to use something to cover it up. He suggested a small tarp but what I found was a mesh decoy bag that I cut the seams on. If you sew in some weights along the edges it will stay in place and keep the line from catching. Make sure that your boat is a good stable platform to stand in. Casting a 10 weight rod from a sitting position is a sure way to have some severe shoulder pain at the end of the day. And I can promise you that you won’t be making a lot of really long casts as well. My choice has been a wide beam flat bottom canoe with pontoons. I have done very well with this set up. Drift boats are a great choice too. Guide Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Brad Bohen has been using them for many years and his success rate is fantastic. There are some great, stable kayaks on the market these days too. Jackson Kayaks new Coosa is a great example of a very stable ‘yak with a lot of storage capacity. No matter what boat you use, get comfortable with it. Know how it paddles or rides and make sure you know its benefits and limitations. Getting into a big musky in a boat you don’t know well can make landing the fish a bit more tricky. That goes with anyone you fish with. Any time in the boat will be well spent once you get into the fish of a lifetime.

to chase things and they can really move so it pays to be able to burn that fly back to the boat. Don’t think that you might be moving the fly too fast for the fish- you can’t move it that fast! There really are two different methods of stripping the fly in fast. The method I am most familiar with is just a single hand strip. Reach up to the stripping guide and strip 3+ feet of line in at a time and keep doing it as fast as you can. You will be tossing the line out behind you very quickly. It takes a while to get used to this kind of stripping and it can tire you out until you get used to it. It has proven itself to be very effective. The other method of retrieval Retrieving From Watercraft is to use two hands. After the cast you put the rod into your arm pit Once you are out on the water and do a hand over hand retrieve of in a boat you are comfortable with the line. This is Brad Bohen’s preand are making those 80 foot dou- ferred method. It is very fast if you ble hauls, how do you retrieve that have it dialed in. Brad puts it this fly back to the boat? Muskies love way “Certainly there are times the

March / April, 2012


One thing that motorless boats do provide is a great deal of stealth. Canoes, kayaks and driftboats are very quiet and can let you get quite close to fish. The vast majority of the musky fishing I have done has been out of canoes and I have been able to sight fish muskies on more than a few occasions because of how close we were able to get to the fish. Photograph by Drew Price

musky need a ‘burn’ speed to get them to commit. You can strip a fly faster than anyone can reel a bait if you practice...” Will you always need to move the fly really fast to get that take? No. But it needs to be in your bag of tricks if you are chasing water wolves. The speed of your retrieve is going to depend on a number of factors like water temperature, the fly you are using and the aggressiveness of the fish that day. Warm water temps generally mean that you are going to want to keep that fly moving pretty quickly. Cold temps will mean you slow it down. Some flies have better action if they move slow while others are really meant to be on the move. This will take some time to figure out. One thing for sure is this- if you get a fish to follow, DO NOT slow the fly down. That is one sure way to make sure that a fish does not commit. Consider what a natural prey item will do if the biggest, baddest fish in the neighborhood starts chasing it. Will

it slow down? Quite the opposite, it will try to get away as fast as it can. At the very least maintain the same retrieve or speed it up. A great trick with a follow is to change the direction of the fly quickly if you can. That will often induce a strike. The very end of the retrieve can often be the most exciting. Bohen puts it best “I live for the last ten feet of every cast!!”. Muskies will follow right up to the boat. This is the make or break moment in a musky trip. Will it take or not? Sometimes you will end up looking a huge girl right in the eyes just before she sinks into the depths. But there are things you can do to persuade a fish to take in those last moments. First thing is to bring that fly right back to the rod tip. “I see no point in casting only to pick up ten feet out to recast... you have to come all the way back as deep as you can...each and every time!” Bohen states. The classic figure 8 is one of the many things you can try when the fish is right there. That can tempt a strike from a hot

fish. Sometimes pulling it right out of the water will do it to. I like to make a huge sweep with the rod as fast as I can in a different angle from the direction I was retrieving it. Will these work every time? No, but the percentages are a whole lot better than doing nothing. Sometimes a ‘lunge will drift down to the bottom near the boat right after a the fly exits the water. My trick in this situation is to put the fly back near the fish and let it sink to the bottom. I then “hop” it along the bottom in front of the fish. When the fish shows interest in the fly I sweep with the rod to make it move really quickly. That is when the fish hammer the fly. Reacting With Strikes When the fly is in the water you need to be completely focused on it and what is happening around it. Not just now and then, EVERY Fishing-Headquarters | Page 88


MUSKIE ON THE FLY

Photograph by Drew Price Fishing-Headquarters.com

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time the fly is in the water. The focus on what is going on in the water and what you are doing is vital to your success as a musky fly angler. That mental state is far more important than the equipment that an angler is using. Bohen has a lot of clients in his boat over the course of a year and had this to say “I’ll take a 100% focused angler casting the ‘wrong’ set up over a 75% focused angler all dialed in! Think that one over...” Muskies can be very frustrating fish at times and being in that zone definitely improves your odds dramatically. You have to be ready to react to what the fish is going to do when the fly is in the water. If you aren’t paying attention to that you are through. Getting the fish to take the fly is just the first part of the equation. Now you have to set the hook so it stays put. Muskellunge have a very bony mouth and a good hook set can be pretty tough to accomplish if you haven’t set yourself up to do it right. A couple of things will help with this from the start. Always keep your line tight and be in control of it. If you have slack in your line while you retrieve you are giving an advantage to the fish. If a fish takes when there is slack it can give them a fraction of a second before you set the hook. It may not seem like much but it can make a huge difference in something that happens in the flash of an eye. One of the best ways to eliminate slack is to keep your rod tip in the water. Depending on the angle that the rod is at, if your tip is off the water a foot you could have 3 or 4 feet of slack. That will not help you get a good hook set. If your line is tight and a fish grabs the fly, even if you don’t react the fish might hook itself. That is much less likely if you have any slack. A good take from a musky is not something

you want to screw up- get rid of the slack! The Hook Set There are two basic strikes that you should be familiar withthe standard hook set and the strip strike. A standard hook set is just quickly lifting the rod off the water to drive the hook home. Some people lift straight back while others like to

standard hook set will. If you are using the two handed retrieve then the strip set is a critical part of the game. Bohen puts it this way “two handed retrieve really sets you up for great strip-setting when you get a take” When you feel the weight of the fish on the line you need to set the hook hard. You really want the hook to get a good hold in that fish’s mouth. Waiting to feel that weight

Photograph by Drew Price

set to one side or the other. With a standard hook set it is imperative to have the fly line under your fingers before setting. If you don’t then you won’t get a proper hook set because there will not be enough tension on the line. A strip strike is different. Here you are setting the hook like you were stripping the line in. It is a very sharp tug on the line which accomplishes pretty much the same thing as a standard hook set. One of the big advantages to the strip set is that if the fish misses the fly and you set, the fly will still be in the strike zone, not pulled away like a

can be a tough thing at times but it does make a huge difference, especially with top water flies. I learned that lesson early in my musky fishing career. I was working a Dahlberg Diver between the bank and a branch that was in the water at a 45 degree angle. A nice musky in the mid 40 inch range (a very nice fish for this river) crashed out of the water. I immediately set the hook which pulled the fly away from where the fish landed. The musky jumped up to attack from above. I had set the Fishing-Headquarters | Page 90


MUSKIE ON THE FLY

hook well before the fish had come and fast. Big flies are what you need to near the fly. It was a very valuable toss at muskies. There may be times and painful lesson to learn. that they will take something 4-6 inches long, but for the most part Fur and Feathers a big musky wants a big meal. ReAnother critical piece in the member these are fish that are camusky puzzle is what is at the end pable of eating something 2/3 their of the line, leader and bite tippet- own body length. Muskrats, ducks, the fly itself. Good musky flies start turtles and even (allegedly) a toy with high quality sharp hooks. A poodle have been on the menu so good chemically sharpened hook flies 10 to 14 inches long are not out will penetrate a musky’s mouth of the question. This is why the 10 quickly and efficiently. They also weight rod is needed. Huge flies will tend to stay sharper longer. But a get the job done. There are two basharp hook does not always stay sic categories of flies to use- streamsharp. Routinely check your hook ers and topwater. point after casting. If the hook does Streamer flies are a staple of not quickly penetrate your thumb- musky fishing. They represent baitnail then it may need sharpening. fish which make up the bulk of a Learn how to properly sharpen a musky’s diet. There are a wide vahook with a file to help maintain riety of streamers available using the point that will penetrate deep natural and synthetic materials (or a Fishing-Headquarters.com

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March / April, 2012

combination of both). A well crafted streamer fly has a big profile in the water but will collapse during the cast to allow it to toss better. I have had great success over the years with variations of the Clouser Half and Half and Lefty’s Deceiver. Both of these flies have a great profile to them which likely accounts for their long time popularity. I have a real preference for weighted flies as well. I like the jigging motion that they provide and more importantly so do the fish. Other patterns make good use of flared deer hair heads to move a lot of water and articulation to provide even greater movement. Plentiful flash also helps attract attention from ‘lunge. Topwater flies may be one of the most thrilling ways to chase muskies. When a musky takes a fly from the surface it is rarely subtle. This is


Photograph by Drew Price

Brad Bohen’s Primo Tails

where their predatory instinct really takes over and they can be downright scary. I have watched a couple of squirrels swim across musky rivers and I marveled at their testicular fortitude. Big saltwater and purpose designed musky poppers create a lot of commotion to focus the interest of ol’ Esox. Big pops can get a big crash. Divers and sliders are also

seem that topwater flies are mostly for use during warmer weather, they will work in very well in water that is over 50 degrees. Muskies do seem to have a real interest in things going on on top of the water column. Good musky flies are not cheap. They use a lot of material and take a long time to tie. Don’t be surprised to spend $20 or more per fly for some of the better flies out there. Brad Bohen should be launching his Primo Tail PredaMusky Country Outfitters Photograph tor Flies line soon. Another good source producing some excellent very popular and with good reason. flies is Vermont Fly Guys. I have Divers are really multipurpose flies. known Ken Capsey for years and Like their name suggests, they start can attest to the quality of his flies. off on the surface and dive down They definitely get a lot of attention underneath when stripped but then from pike and musky. float back to the top. Theses flies are favorites among many musky fly anglers. Divers can really shine when they are used with a sinking line and Fishing-Headquarters | Page 92 allowed to submerge. While it might


MUSKIE ON THE FLY

Photograph by Drew Price Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Big flies are what you need to toss at muskies. There may be times that they will take something 4-6 inches long, but for the most part a big musky wants a big meal. Remember these are fish that are capable of eating something 2/3 their own body length. Muskrats, ducks, turtles and even (allegedly) a toy poodle have been on the menu so flies 10 to 14 inches long are not out of the question. This is why the 10 weight rod is needed. Huge flies will get the job done. There are two basic categories of flies to use- streamers and topwater.

Fishing-Headquarters | Page 94


MUSKIE ON THE FLY Drew Price is an avid multi-species angler who resides in Montpelier, Vermont, and contributes to an array of online publications and is a writer for Orvis News. Frequently referred as a “Fish Geek”, Drew spends a lot of time crawling around trout streams but is just as comfortable in his canoes on large rivers or wetland areas. Drew fly fishes for everything from sunfish and muskies to king salmon and brook trout. If he had a soft spot for any group of fish it is the oddballs that most people don’t think of as fly rod targets such as bowfin, longnose gar, freshwater drum, suckers and carp. To read more about Drew Price and his angling pursuits, or to schedule a guide trip, you may visit him online at:

http://www.drewpriceonthefly.com/

Photograph by Drew Price Fishing-Headquarters.com

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PART 3, THE FINAL CHAPTER, WILL APPEAR IN OUR EARLY SUMMER ISSUE.

Fishing-Headquarters | Page 96


Photograph by Kenny Lookingbill

Photo courtesy, Jim Gronaw.


THE FINAL WORD.

ADVERTISE WITH FISHING HEADQUARTERS. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not desperate, although acquiring real day jobs involving catching fish for a living would be nice. We just want to earn some benefits from our hours invested, and we would like to reward our designers and contributors for their damn good work. We want to compensate our contributors by offering them your gear and products, and promotional fishing trips for future showcasing and articles. All for your advertisement. Half a million website visits per year / 5,000+ individual E-Mag readers. Please help us so that we can help YOU! Fishing-Headquarters.com

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March / April, 2012


Fishing-Headquarters.com has evolved into an excellent and informative online resource for multi-species fishing in North America. We offer our several hundred members an interactive and multi-media website that allows the free exchange and promotion of fishing and all that encompasses it. Our website was established on January 1, 2007. Since our inception, we have drawn nearly 600 registered members and attracted several thousands of visitors who read and browse on a daily basis. In addition, we have reached yearly website page views of 5 million, and our homepage receives half a million visits per each calendar year. Among Google and other popular search engines, when searching for â&#x20AC;&#x153;Multi Species Fishingâ&#x20AC;? and other related keywords, we are ranked among the top ten of all searches. This proves how we are continuously growing, and becoming more popular in the realm of sport fishing. Click Image to read copy of our 2012 Media Kit.

Need more information? http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/mediakit.html

Please contact us at:

info@fishing-headquarters.com

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May / June 2012

Early Summer Issue

• Tube Trick Smallmouths • The Real Secret to Drop Shotting • Muskie on the Fly - Part 3 • River Muskies • America’s Monster Fish Destinations • Plus More!

Expected Release Date: May 1, 2012.

SUBSCRIBE CLICK ICON BELOW

Tube Trick Smallmouth Bass: Jacob Saylor poses with a preview of what’s to come in our upcoming issue. For article and photo submissions and advertising, contact us at:

info@fishing-headquarters.com

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

Fishing-Headquarters Magazine  

Volume 2, Issue 2, Number 8 of Fishing-Headquarters Magazine :: March & April, 2012 :: Spring Issue.

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