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Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Fishing-Headquarters Magazine Volume 2. Issue 3 Num. 9

May and June, 2012 Early Summer Edition

• The Misconceptions of Asian Carp . . . . . . . 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.

• Natural Lakes Channel Cats . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 • Wading Small Rivers For Crappies . . . . . . 37 • Drop Shot Like It’s Hot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

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.

• Tube Trick Smallmouth Bass . . . . . . . . . . . 63

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.

• Southern Comfort Buffaloes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95

• Small Rivers, Early Season Muskies . . . . . . . 79

• The Bluegill Spoon Connection . . . . . . . . . . 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-9 cover is Fishing-Headquarters contributor, Adam Glickman. In this issue, Adam shares his river fishing experiences and techniques, and explains why small rivers and streams have some of the best fishing musky country has to offer. Don’t let the small rivers of Wisconsin and Minnesota deceive you. Chances are, several of them are home to populations of muskies. Turn to page 79 to learn about river muskies.


Fishing-Headquarters Issue-9 Being chief designer and editor of this online publication is an influential responsibility. Oftentimes, I receive e-mails, inquiries, and requests about contributions for our upcoming issues. I’m commonly asked,“What would you like for me to contribute? What do you want me to specifically write about?” Frequently, I will respond in ways asking them what their inspirations, and interests are. For instance, what knowledge do you have on certain subjects that others might not have? Andrew Ragas

Editor In-Chief, Designer, and Owner.

2012 Issue Releases Remaining Schedule

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

Click to Subscribe

When we boil it down to what it takes to become a contributor to FHQ, it’s the same levels of interest, engagement, and enthusiasm that makes readers want to turn our pages: Fishing is our calling, and not just an extracurricular activity. It’s no secret that ALL who have contributed stories during the lifetime of FHQ, beginning from issue-1 in late 2010 up until now, are all inspired, enthusiastic anglers who excel in their particular crafts and offer credibility, resourcefulness and expert information. Possessing all of the aforementioned qualities will, without question, get your names, faces, and knowledge into this still-growing publication. It is my pleasure and inspiration to give you a ninth issue of FHQ 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. Copyright © 2012 Fishing-Headquarters. All rights reserved. The usage of articles, excerpts, photographs, and any reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited.

ISSUE 9 FEATURED WRIT

Adam Glickman

David Graham

Kenny Lookingbill


Contributed Photographs • Issom Beituni • Thad Cook • David Graham • Jacob Saylor • Frank Weilnhammer Issue 9 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 • Dragin Bait Company • 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

Chris Loveless

Bill Modica

Todd Wendorf


NEWS AND NOTEWORTHY TOPICS. Stankx Bait Company releases new bait: The Hero Our partners at Stankx Bait Company have a brand spanking new lure that can be found nowhere else in the world. The Hero is 3.75 inches of hand poured deliciousness that features color matching Stankx Scent ball technology, a concave rear for perfect rigging and hooks sets with a round ball jig. Swim it, pitch it, rig it on a jig, there is no wrong way fish this craw. http://www.stankxbaitco.com

Sims Spinners introduces the Alabama Rig: The first of its kind available in Chicago! This winter, 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 Dragin Bait Company. CHICAGO - Fishing Headquarters has announced a partnership with local manufacturer, Dragin Bait Company. Established in 2011, and based in Forest Park, IL, Dragin Bait Company strives to create the best quality soft plastic baits at an affordable price for all fishermen. Owned and operated by Andrew Theisse, Dragin Baits are unique creations from bait design and molds, to plastic formula and injections. http://www.draginbaits.com

Cortland Line Company launches new website for 2012. New for 2012, Cortland Line Company has launched a new website that places more emphasis on their lines for fly fishing, sport fishing, and industrial hobby. More visually engaging than ever before, and with awesome photography too, Cortland showcases their current lineup of lines that are available at retailers for the 2012 season. http://www.cortlandline.com Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Smallmouth Bass on the Fly Wisconsin River, Oneida County


SOLUNAR CALENDAR May 2012

June 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.

Monster Fish with David Graham April 15 thru 18, 2012, David Graham and his older brother, Travis, went on a monster fish expedition to the Red River, which borders Oklahoma and Texas. Famed for the best alligator gar fishing in the country, one of their primary goals in the next year or two to land a truly massive Alligator Gar.. David doesn’t just mean a respectable 130-150 lb fish.. He means the gator gar closer to 200 pounds.

Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Pictured is a 100 pound alligator gar caught during their epic trip. Click to read this Monster Fish report: http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/boundlesspursuit/2012/04/18/monsterfish-april-15-18/ Fishing-Headquarters | Page 8


LEADING OFF.

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Not much of a steelhead run for spring 2012. . . . . Did the run really ever start for the Great Lakes region? Many of us are unsure. And given the lack of satisfactory reports, it makes us wonder if there even was such a traditional yearly run. According to Fishing-Headquarters forum member, Issom Beituni, who shot this underwater photo, the 2012 run was completely messed up. What usually begins in March and lasts well into April didn’t even make it to the first week of April. In comparison to 2011, fish were running up the tributaries little by little each week. With the unseasonably warm weather experienced during these months, the run was weak, and only lasted days rather than weeks. Well folks, here’s to the run next spring in 2013 if you can wait.... You can visit Issom’s fishing blog at the following link:

http://hoosier-fly-guy.blogspot.com/

Photograph by Issom Beituni Fishing-Headquarters | Page 10


ASIAN CARP MISCONCEPTIONS

ASIAN CARP MIS Part 2 of The Fishing Headquarters Investigative Series Combating the Asian Carp. Part 1 Published Issue 7, Winter 2012. >>

http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/magazine/winter2012.html Photograph by Kenny Lookingbill Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Asian carp are the most infamous aquatic invasive species of all time. As a result, there are many fallacies and conspiracy theories about these fish among the general public. Because of my profession as an aquatic ecologist, I have heard endless stories about this group of fish. Not limited to, but consisting of Photograph by Nate Tessler the following. . . . . . Kenny Lookingbill

SCONCEPTIONS species slowly migrating their way northward, and soon could be causing many problems because they feed on mussels. They would be especially detrimental in Illinois, because many of the Illinois mussel species are threatened or endangered due to habitat degradation. Black carp could hamper our statewide rehabilitation efforts to restore native mussel populations such as Species Identification By: Kenny Lookingbill the reintroduction of the northern Fishing-Headquarters Contributor There are five species of Asian riffleshell in Eastern Illinois. carp which include common carp, Silver and bighead carp were grass carp, the lesser known black originally brought over to the Unitcarp, silver carp, and bighead carp ed States as a biological cleansing uch stories include the gov- - the last two being the species caus- tool to improve water quality for ernment dropping them into the Il- ing the most problems in the Illinois catfish aquaculture ponds constructlinois River via helicopter; Various River. Fishing Fishing-Headquarters Headquarters | Page | Page 1414 Black carp for instance are a DNR’s stocking them in hopes of producing a sport fishery; Eating all the eggs of gamefish species, or even eating gamefish themselves. Then there is the big question of what happens if they make it into Lake Michigan. This crisis then falls on “fish people” like me to try and keep these rumors from proliferating even further.

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ASIAN CARP MISCONCEPTIONS There are five species of Asian carp which include common carp, grass carp, the lesser known black carp, silver carp, and bighead carp - the last two being the species causing the most problems in the Illinois River. Silver and bighead carp were originally brought over to the United States as a biological cleansing tool to improve water quality for catfish aquaculture ponds constructed in the floodplains of the lower Mississippi River Valley in states such as Mississippi and Arkansas.

ed in the floodplains of the lower Mississippi River Valley in states such as Mississippi and Arkansas. However, in the floods of the 1970’s these ponds were inundated and the fish escaped. They have spread northward ever since and were first reported in the Illinois River around 1993 by commercial fishermen. They remained off the general public’s radar until around 2000 when they began spawning successfully and rapidly, and their populations grew exponentially. Soon after, there were reports of fish jumping into boats. These fish were becoming a danger to boaters on the river, and it was only then as the public then began to take notice. Many people have blamed Asian carp for the decline of our Fishing-Headquarters.com

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various sport fisheries of the Illinois River. In truth, sportfish had been declining in the river long before the Asian carp had established themselves. The decline in sportfish can be attributed to the loss of viable spawning and overwintering habitat. The Illinois River was historically one of the most productive fisheries on the continent. However, as a result of the various commercial transformations, the river has undergone man-made alterations such as channelization, and the construction of levees and dams. Consequently, the fluvial dynamics of the river have completely changed. Interestingly enough, the sauger fishery in the Peoria to Spring Valley stretch of the Illinois River is still world class. However, some of the effects

May / June, 2012

of the carp are not as visible. Plankton On The Decline Silver and bighead carp feed voraciously on phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are at the base of all aquatic food chains. All species of fish depend on these resources at some point in their lives. Baitfish such as gizzard shad are planktivores and feed on plankton for their entire lives. Commercial species including paddlefish, which are already heavily pressured and threatened just about everywhere in the United States, have also suffered from unnecessary competition from the invasive carp. Also, young of the year sportfish depend on zooplankton early on in their lives


Photograph courtesy Shedd Aquarium - Chicago, IL

before moving on to larger prey as they grow. This being said, the Illinois River is still very productive in the lower trophic levels. This may be what is sustaining native fish populations, and unfortunately, also creates the perfect storm for fish like Asian carp. Peak production of zooplankton occurs during the spring season in the floodplains and this is very convenient for young-of-year sportfish. However if the region experiences several drought years in a row, floodplains become limited and many Asian carp overpopulate these types of habitats. This could possibly lead to less food sources for native fish in these nurseries, and result in lower recruitment of young of the year sportfish. Are The Great Lakes in Peril?

Knowing all of this information, the question to ask now is what happens if they get into the Great Lakes? There is no way of knowing the answer to this and is a very controversial subject. As of now, there is an electric barrier in the Sanitary Ship Canal, a Chicago waterway. All signs are indicating it is effective as a deterrent. Over the past few years, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has received millions of dollars in funding, and they hand this money out the form of grants for various projects that universities in Illinois do to further learn more about the fish and possible modes that can be used to prevent further range expansion. To date, the best solution that has been presented for completely stopping the Asian carp invasion

has been presented for completely stopping the Asian carp invasion is to fill in the shipping canal. Unfortunately, the shipping companies have rejected this idea because they rely on the waterway for transporting goods. If closure were to happen, these companies would lose millions of dollars. Therefore, scientists have been forced to devise other alternatives. It is widely speculated that the salmon fishery in Lake Michigan could collapse if Asian carp make their way in, but there is no evidence to support that. Furthermore, there have been studies conducted for predicting how successful Asian carp could be if they expand their range into the Great Lakes. Studies have shown that the general water chemistry of Fishing Headquarters | Page 16


ASIAN CARP MISCONCEPTIONS

Photograph by Kenny Lookingbill

Many people have blamed Asian carp for the decline of our various sport fisheries of the Illinois River. In truth, sportfish had been declining in the river long before the Asian carp had established themselves. The decline in sportfish is attributed to the loss of viable spawning and overwintering habitat. the Great Lakes is very different than the Illinois River and spawning success would be very limited. Egg hatching is greatly reduced in softer water like that of Lake Michigan. In addition, increases in current flow are important spawning cues for Asian Carp. There would obviously be no flood pulses like the Illinois River system in a large lake. The larger problem might be if they make their way into other prominent fisheries such as many of the streams that run into the Great Lakes. There are also other important fisheries upstream on the Mississippi River such as Eastern Wisconsin’s Lake Pepin, and the Saint Croix River. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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While fisheries biologists work toward solutions to prevent range expansion and the control of existing populations, there are things that, you, the avid fishermen can do to help. Lobby your local lawmakers to fight for the Illinois Department of Resources to continue to get money so that they can keep their doors open and continue to manage the great fisheries that the state of Illinois houses. Keep yourself educated about other invasive species such as the spiny waterflea and zebra mussels, and educate other anglers about these nuisance species. In addition, report new sightings of invasive species to local conservation offices. Last but not least, fol-

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low regulations regarding the transport of bait and emptying livewells. With the help of anglers, it may be possible prevent further range expansions of several of our waters invasive species. Want to learn more about Asian Carp? Visit Kenny Lookingbill’s blog, titled, TROPHY HUNTING, and follow all of his aquatic ecology field reports as well as fishing reports. http://www.fishing-headquarters/ trophyhunting/


Photograph by Thad Cook

Asian Carp Takeover Map - United States

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ASIAN CARP MISCONCEPTIONS

Paddlefish Struggling to Survive The American Paddlefish can be found in the slow flowing waters of the Mississippi River drainage system. These fish are very closely related to the Sturgeon family and may grow up to five feet and weigh in at around 100 pounds. The Paddlefish feeds mostly on zooplankton, which are the primary food sources for the invasive asian carp species. These species have greatly reduced the zooplankton population which is the main food source for the Paddlefish.

Photograph by Kenny Lookingbill Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Todd Wendorf

WHISKERED Natural Lakes C Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Todd Wendorf

DChannel WARRIORS Catfish Fishing-Headquarters | Page 26


NATURAL LAKES CHANNEL CATS

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters.com

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“I think I’ve fallen in love,” he said. “Ok … with who?” I responded. “Not who … what?” “OK … with what?” I asked again. “Catfish.”

By: Todd Wendorf

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

Ten minutes later I started to feel guilty about hanging up on him so I called him back:

“Tell me about it,” I tried again. “I was out with another buddy on Saturday and we got 9 channel cats in 3 hours. The biggest was 14 lbs and we got them all in less than 3’ of water” e have a dilemma. “Prairie du Sac?” With the unusually early, warm “Nope.” spring, the normal fishing patterns “Prairie du Chien?” are all screwed up. Steelhead season began and ended very early in March. Lake Michigan spring run browns and lake trout have come and gone. So what’s a guy to do? Well, we could bite the bullet and chase some panfish around, but that’s just not in my make-up. As soon as some lab develops a 5 lb bluegill strain … I’ll dedicate time to them. Until then, I’ll only catch gills by accident. We could venture into one of the local walleye yielding rivers and bump elbows with everyone else there, but … no thanks! Or I suppose we could try to get our 14’ boats on Lake Michigan and chase walleyes or salmon. Sorry, but that’s just not for this old guy who values his ability to breathe. So what do we do during spring in Wisconsin? Fortunately, that question was answered for me about a month ago when a fishing buddy called me up to “share an idea.” I could tell by the giggle in his voice this wasn’t just an idea … he had already tried it out and couldn’t wait to tell me about it. Here’s a little taste of our conversation:

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“Nope.” “OK, where?” I just had to know. “Madison.” This time he called me back. “Seriously! We caught them 15 minutes from your house … on the Madison chain … and we didn’t get out there until 9:00 am.” When he told me I could sleep in and still catch 14 lb fish that aren’t spelled CARP I decided I had to try them out. I gathered a little more information from him and the following Saturday, accompanied by my beautiful bride, I proceeded to land the two largest cats I had ever seen in my life.

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters | Page 28


NATURAL LAKES CHANNEL CATS

Photograph by Todd Wendorf

Channel catfish have millions on taste buds on their heads and barbels, but due to their advanced lateral lines they are also VERY attracted to sound when feeding in shallow water. NOT Expert Advice! After this rather amazing start to my catfishing endeavor I’d like to share a few things with you that I’ve learned over the past few weeks that may benefit you if you’re crazy enough to give it a try this spring, and later in summer. First of all, this is very simple, relaxing fishing. It took me one trip to realize that this form of fishing was just made for enjoying an adult beverage while doing it (as long as you’re of age and not driving the boat/car, of course). Our technique is to find the warmest water you can near a river inlet and soak night crawlers under a float. Once you find the right location … you sit and wait. When you’ve given it an adFishing-Headquarters.com

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equate amount of time … you forget to catch anything on either, but I trust about moving and just wait some my sources. And to be honest with more. And enjoy another beverage. you, I think you’d actually have better luck throwing rattling crank baits than soaking stink bait. Channel catStill Not Expert, fish have millions on taste buds on But More Advanced Advice their heads and barbels, but due to If you wish to give advanced their advanced lateral lines they are catfishing a try, here are a few things also VERY attracted to sound when I’ve picked up from the numerous feeding in shallow water. One ararticles and videos I’ve watched ticle I read even suggested tossing rocks at your floats on occasion over the past month or so. When fishing channel cats in to attract them while they roam. I inland lakes, don’t think like you’re haven’t gone that far yet! Load up a sturdy rod (I prefer on a stinky river. As I said earlier, we found lively night crawlers to be 7’, medium action spinning rods) the most effective bait early in the with 15-20 pound braided line and year. Others swear by cut bait (fresh an 18” flouro/mono leader. Tie on bluegills filleted and cut into quar- a 2/0 circle hook and set a “Rocket ters) and/or chicken liver (see Wal- Bobber” at about 6” off of the botMart’s meat department). I have yet tom. Then toss the rig as far from the

May / June, 2012


This is very simple, relaxing fishing. It took me one trip to realize that this form of fishing was just made for enjoying an adult beverage while doing it (as long as you’re of age and not driving the boat/car, of course). Our technique is to find the warmest water you can near a river inlet and soak night crawlers under a float. Once you find the right location ‌ you sit and wait.

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters | Page 30


NATURAL LAKES CHANNEL CATS

When fishing channel cats in inland lakes, don’t think like you’re on a stinky river. As I said earlier, we found lively night crawlers to be the most effective bait early in the year. Others swear by cut bait (fresh bluegills filleted and cut into quarters) and/or chicken liver (see Wal-Mart’s meat department). boat as you can … into the warmest water you can find. When you have all your rods out … crack a cold one open. (Hint: You may want to hold off on sharing a bag of chips with your buddies if you chose to try stinkbait and they forget their fishing towel). Keep in mind that mud warms faster than rock or sand (bottom content), that the water flowing out of a river tends to be warmer than the stuff in the main lake, that wind blows warm surface water into a shoreline, and that water temperatures tend to peak during mid-afternoons. If you’re heading out on a cooler day … sleep in an extra hour, have a nice breakfast, read the newspaper, stock the cooler, and Photograph by Joe Bucher THEN head to the lake. There’s no need to hurry at all. Mixed Bag Fishing-Headquarters.com

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One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most with this new hobby is the fact that I can take my wife, kids, and fishing novices out and have a great time. By fishing with crawlers we’ve found there are very few dull moments. We’ve caught white bass, yellow bass, sheepshead, bluegill, bass, and carp … all on the same day and in the same spot. They all seek out warm water in spring … so find a warm spot and let them come to you. Remember, know your regulations! If a species of fish is caught out of season it must be released immediately and without harm. The last few times I’ve been out the water has been too cool for catfish (spring finally arrived), but I’ve had an absolute blast watching the float go down and guessing what’s on the other end of the line. The carp I’ve tangled with had all kinds of images running through my head … from monster catfish to big

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pike or a bruiser muskie. Unfortunately, when the lips surfaced I was very disappointed but had a blast catching them none the less. Don’t Be So Serious My new love for catfishing has taught me two very important lessons. First of all, don’t forget to take the leftover stink bait out of your boat before you cover it. That’s just NOT a pleasant thing to discover the next time out. And secondly, enjoy yourself and don’t worry about the angler stereotypes or what others say or think. They’re probably just jealous of you. Channel catfish are an awesome game fish. Some of the countrys best fishermen enjoy chasing them, and they are more than happy to share their knowledge with you through magazine articles and television shows. I’m not exactly one of them, but I’m really glad I


had this opportunity, and encourage you to give it try. If experiencing a lull in fishing, grab your fishing rods, a can of

crawlers, a few beverages … and that if you want catch another … jump in your boat for an afternoon you need to give that first one a big of fun. And if you get one of these kiss for good luck! whiskered warriors, don’t forget

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters | Page 32


NATURAL LAKES CHANNEL CATS

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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/

Photograph by Todd Wendorf Fishing-Headquarters | Page 34


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For crappies, the first thing that comes to mind are lakes and impoundments. But what about wading and fishing the smaller rivers and streams? Andrew Ragas

Wade Small Rive Fishing-Headquarters.com

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ers for Crappies Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing Headquarters | Page 38


WADE FISHING CRAPPIES

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters.com

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By: Andrew Ragas Editor In-Chief

andrew@fishing-headquarters.com

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hen it comes to crappie fishing, lakes and reservoirs are the most frequented destinations for serious anglers. However, many of them fail to realize that small streams and river systems offer excellent fishing opportunities as well. Rather than fish for crappies by boat on the pressured waters as most do, I often go in a different direction. I wade and fish the smaller rivers and streams. As tolerable of flowing water and migratory as schooling crappies are in reservoirs, it should not be a surprise to anyone that crappies also inhabit smaller rivers and streams. What’s most surprising of all is that anglers seldom wade for crappies in these accessible waters. While rivers and creeks throughout the upper Midwest usually teem with more sought after fish species such as bass, walleyes and catfish, crappies are often the second class citizens. Why is that? I know the fishing opportunities for them are underutilized, and the fisheries are never fully taken advantage of. When I’m not traveling to fish up north or somewhere else throughout the upper Midwest, I fish locally,

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

west of the urban sprawl of Chicago in Northern Illinois. In this region, the lakes and reservoirs are limited in number, but the smaller, low gradient and habitat plentiful rivers and creeks are not. I take what I can get, and crappies from smaller rivers throughout the spring and summer months in the Northern Illinois region is one of them. Determining Productive Streams It’s possible that fishable populations of crappies inhabit most river systems. However, certain rivers and streams offer better fishing opportunities than others. In my opinion, there are some important factors which make a stream productive for fishing. The most important ones leading to good crappie fishing are the rate of stream flow (or lack of one), water clarity, depth, and habitat. Unlike larger, heavier fish species that roam the current and use it to their advantage for feeding and migrating, crappies are a species not built for challenging the flows of a stream. They are nomadic schooling fish that are wildly successful

at avoiding current. The best wade fishing I’ve experienced has taken place on small to mid-size rivers with low gradient current. These streams have consistently slow speeds of current and bottom areas entirely comprised with silt, sand, muck, compressed bottom materials, and occasional areas of rock. Low gradient streams usually experience warmer summertime water temperatures that can reach highs of up to 90 degrees. These streams often hold warm water fish species such as largemouth bass and sunfish, along with crappies, as well as northern pike, catfish, carp, suckers and a number of minnow species. Due to the reduced amounts of current in these streams, all species of fish are able to use much of the water column for feeding and migrating. Most low gradient streams in the south typically have poor water clarity due to siltation and mud runoff from fluctuations in water level. These streams are more ideal for white crappies which are tolerant of such conditions, and better adapted to rivers and warmer water temperFishing Headquarters | Page 40


WADE FISHING CRAPPIES

The best wade fishing I’ve experienced has taken place on small to mid-size rivers with low gradient current. These streams have consistently slow speeds of current and bottom areas entirely comprised with silt, sand, muck, compressed bottom materials, and occasional areas of rock. Low gradient streams usually experience warmer summertime water temperatures that can reach highs of up to 90 degrees. These streams often hold warm water fish species atures. However, up here, low gradient streams lack the current flow which would impact water clarity and degrade underwater visibility. Due to a low gradient stream’s lack of current, and barring any frequent flooding, water clarity usually remains good for much of the year. This is a benefit to black crappies which prefer water conditions with good visibility and use it to their advantage for feeding. Just like stream flow and water clarity, depth is also another important factor worth considering. Good crappie streams have more stretches of consistently deeper pools rather than shallow stretches of dead, unproductive water. Keeping in mind that these streams are very wader friendly, average depths are 2 to 4 feet, with the deepest pools reaching depths of 5 to 7 feet. Long stretches of depth, and large pools allow the schooling crappie to comfortably migrate and feed. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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On low gradient streams, slack water areas such as eddies and heavy cover is at a premium. On slow moving rivers like these, crappie fishing is best in areas of brush, stumps, laydowns, log jams, and deeper pools with nearby vegetation. These are often the best holding areas for fish. They are also the most obvious areas where the heavy cover loving crappies are likely to be found on any low gradient river. Wading to Crappies Anglers who wade rivers for crappies are almost certain to have their most successful fishing take place near submerged structures, as well as shoreline cover that drops into slightly deeper water. When not schooling, crappies are always attached to some form of cover or piece of underwater structure. During spring and summer, begin your wading by fishing around

May / June, 2012

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

bridges, deep holes, downed wood, brush piles, and slack water areas. Usually these areas can be accessible from the shoreline and shallower water. The key to stream crappies is wood and cover, but all of the highlighted areas will hold crappies to an extent at various times throughout the day. In order to determine exact locations and the potential for fish, you will obviously have to spend time in the water to do some exploring and investigating on your own. Not only is cover important for crappies, but so is the presence of baitfish. If crappies aren’t migrating due to seasonal circumstances or for refuge, they are on the move for feeding and trailing schools of baitfish. These minnow species will utilize the same wooded and deeper water locations themselves just like crappies do. Wherever you have located the presence of baitfish in areas with good crappie habitat, there


Photograph by Andrew Ragas

Anglers who wade rivers for crappies are almost certain to have their most successful fishing take place near submerged structures, as well as shoreline cover that drops into slightly deeper water. When not schooling, crappies are always attached to some form of cover or piece of underwater structure. is good chance fish will be present somewhere nearby. When crappies are located, they can be found at almost any depth of the water column. When baitfish are present, they will feed throughout the day with noticeable feeding peaks during the morning and evening hours. My best fishing has often taken place during low light hours such as the afternoons of overcast days, evenings, and sunset. During their peak periods of feeding, crappies will move into their ambushing and feeding areas for perhaps an hour or so, and will then disperse. When located, fish will usually be caught within 5 to 10 minutes. However, when none are located, it is best to wade on towards the next closest area that is likely to hold fish. It is not easy to predict when crappies will be at any exact location at any given time. However, they can be somewhat predictable once located and a pattern is figured out.

The secret to consistently catching crappies is to stay mobile and fish on the move. If success isn’t had at one area, try another because just as crappies move freely in streams, the angler should do the same. Wade and navigate your way through the water with graceful, careful steps with hopes that fish aren’t spooked by your presence. Catching Crappies Keep in mind that when wading your small river for crappies, you are not likely to receive a hard bite. Soft strikes are frequent, and the most common ones will be in the form of a single rapid thump. It’s difficult to explain a crappie’s style of strike, but oftentimes you may wonder if what hit your lure is only a snagged leaf or stick. Whatever it is, be prepared to reel it in anyways, as it is most likely a crappie. A slip bobber with a small hair jig or minnow might be the best method for some anglers, especially

those who have patience or are shore bound and not in the water. But for river wading, the best I’ve found is a 1/16 ounce jig and plastic swimming grub. Hair jigs and small slip bobber rigs with minnows will work, but the wading style of crappie fishing requires mobility for finding fish, and accurate casting for catching them. For these reasons, the jig and plastic is best. It is a simplistic form of fishing requiring very little skill, but it is exceptionally effective for all situations. The reason two and three inch grubs work so well is due to the baitfish factor. When retrieved through the current, deeper pools, and wooded areas with a slow swimming retrieve, it resembles the shape and profile of a fleeing minnow. This is an irresistible presentation for the ambushing crappie. Best of all, this lure combination comes fairly cheap. Due to the plethora of Fishing Headquarters | Page 42


WADE FISHING CRAPPIES

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

snags encountered in wooded river habitats, fishing the jig and plastic is an affordable, cost-effective presentation. Color selections and style of plastic play an important role in my fishing. I always use natural, realistic colors. My most frequently used colors are motor oil, pearl white, smoke, green pumpkin, clear purple, pumpkin with chartreuse tail, and clear pepper. Sometimes it pays to experiment with different colors. Some favorite soft plastic twister tail grubs that are available in two and three inch sizes with soft tails for maximized action are Producto Spring Grubs, Bass Pro Shops Spring Grubs, YUM Wooly Curltails, Berkley Realistix grubs, and the original Berkley Powerbait grubs. For wade fishing crappies, my Fishing-Headquarters.com

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favorite rod for all applications and scenarios is a medium light, fast action spinning rod. Crappies can inhale and exhale baits in a fraction of a second. That is why a light action rod with sensitive tip is important for detecting bites. I frequently wade with two rods at a time; one is a six foot rod and the other is a slightly longer six and a half foot rod. Both serve the same functions and are paired with size 20 Quantum Catalyst reels with 6lb. Cortland Endurance monofilament line. These are my multi-purpose creek and small water rods. They work perfectly not only for crappies but other species of fish which are frequently caught. Although wading small rivers for crappies is unconventional and sounds unusual, rivers and streams produce great catches of fish for an-

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glers who know how to properly fish them. During the spring and summer months, low gradient rivers and streams can offer a world of success for crappies of quantity and size. With the concept of catch and release obviously being employed, let me ask you this question relating to crappies: Would you prefer to fish a pressured lake or reservoir that is over fished and over harvested? Or would you rather be one of the few and rare anglers who wades a seldom fished stream that likely somewhere has an untapped, unpressured resource? If you are one of the rare crappie anglers who prefers wading small rivers over fishing lakes by boat, I congratulate you on the choice you’ve made.


Crappie Minnow Grubs

Berkley Realistix 3 inch Minnow Grubs

Producto Spring Grub YUM Wooly Curltail

Bass Pro Shops Spring Grub Fishing-Headquarters | Page 44


WADE FISHING CRAPPIES

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On low gradient streams, slack water areas such as eddies and heavy cover is at a premium. On slow moving rivers like these, crappie fishing is best in areas of brush, stumps, laydowns, log jams, and deeper pools with nearby vegetation. These are often the best holding areas for fish. They are also the most obvious areas where the heavy cover loving crappies are likely to be found on any low gradient river.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 46


WADE FISHING CRAPPIES

Anglers who wade rivers for crappies are almost certain to have their most successful fishing take place near submerged structures, as well as shoreline cover that drops into slightly deeper water. When not schooling, crappies are always attached to some form of cover or piece of underwater structure. During spring and summer, begin your wading by fishing around bridges, deep holes, downed wood, brush piles, and slack water areas. Usually these areas can be accessible from the shoreline and shallower water. The key to stream crappies is wood and cover, but all of the highlighted areas will hold crappies to an extent at various times throughout the day. In order to determine exact locations and the potential for fish, you will obviously have to spend time in the water to do some exploring and investigating on your own.

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 48


WADE FISHING CRAPPIES As tolerable of flowing water and migratory as schooling crappies are in reservoirs, it should not be a surprise to anyone that crappies also inhabit smaller rivers and streams. What’s most surprising of all is that anglers seldom wade for crappies in these accessible waters. While rivers and creeks throughout the upper Midwest usually teem with more sought after fish species such as bass, walleyes and catfish, crappies are often the second class citizens. Why is that? I know the fishing opportunities for them are underutilized, and the fisheries are never fully taken advantage of.

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 50


H

DROP SHOT LIKE IT’S

Anyone who has ever been out fishing with me for a day knows th

Chris L

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HOT!

here is one set-up I always have by my side‌. my drop shot rod.

Loveless Photograph by Chris Loveless Fishing-Headquarters | Page 54


DROP SHOT BASS

By: Chris Loveless

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

T

Drop Shot Rods

raditionally drop shot fishing is a technique used to vertically jig plastic baits such as worm or minnow imitations over fish in deep water. However, I use a drop shot rig in any body of water, everyFishing-Headquarters.com

where, all year long. Last year my first bass came on a drop shot rig in February, and my last bass came on a drop shot rig on December 31st, just hours before the New Year. In my opinion, there is no better technique to fish any body of water. The drop shot works not only well for bass but all species of fish. If you have a plastic worm, you can drop shot and catch fish in almost any conditions.

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When it comes to proper rod selection, most anglers will say a light spinning rod with a fast tip is best in the traditional drop shot method. When you can have the bait up to 100” below the boat, yes a light sensitive rod is best. But for

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most scenarios and settings, I have used medium-light to mediumheavy rods from extra-fast to moderate action, and have had success on each set-up. For multi-purpose drop shotting, I recommend a medium-light fast action rod between the lengths of 6’9”-7’3” long. This length and action allows for the best compromise between sensitivity and castability since I hardly ever just drop shot vertically below a boat. It is important to be able to feel exactly what your weight is doing on the bottom but most times a strike will just result in extra weight on the rod. Most bites will not be detected as a tick but rather as a subtle pull on the bait. As long as you have a moderate-fast rod you will notice the strike in less than 20” of water. Many fishermen have even begun to


Photograph by Chris Loveless

fish with baitcasting set-ups when a little more power is needed to hoist fish out of cover or to keep them from running into cover once they bite. Terminal Tackle Selection Once you have a rod selected, pair it with one of your reels spooled with 6-10 lb line, and then all you need is an assortment of hooks and weights. To set up the rig, tie a drop shot with a circle or octopus hook in a size #1 or #2 to your line as you normally would. I have used up to size #6/0 to create a weedless drop shot but I tend to stick with a #2. There are even hooks that come with swivels attached on the ends of the hook eye to reduce line twist. A Palomar knot seems to work best but more important than the knot itself is that you need to leave

a tag end remaining when you are done tying the knot anywhere from 6”-24” depending on what depth you want to suspend your plastic. Always tie the knot by threading the line through the eye of the hook with the barb sticking up instead of facing the ground. This will assist in keeping the hook upright when dropshotting and lead to more hookups when a fish strikes. After tying the knot if you put the tag end back through the top of the eye of the hook again it will further insure that gap in the hook will face upwards in the water. Then take the tag end and thread it through the clamp on a drop shot weight and you are set to fish. For the sinker, I prefer an actual drop shot weight because it easily pinches to the line. If snags are encountered, or if it ever gets caught between rocks and other debris, it

can be easily snapped off and you will not lose the hook and plastic. When fishing areas that do not have many snags, tying a bullet weight or egg sinker to the tag end can create the same effect, and might create more contact with the bottom giving you a better feel for what you are doing. When choosing a weight, always use the smallest you can get away with and yet still remain in contact with the bottom. I use ¼-3/8 oz weights for most applications. Besides using just a weight, if the water is really stained or you know the fish are very active, thread a glass bead on to the tag end of the rig. The bead calls fish in with the noise that is created when bouncing the rig along bottom. This whole process of tying a hook and attaching a weight only takes a minute. Fishing-Headquarters | Page 56


DROP SHOT BASS Traditionally drop shot fishing is a technique used to vertically jig plastic baits such as worm or minnow imitations over fish in deep water. However, Loveless use a drop shot rig in any body of water, everywhere, all year long.

Photograph by Chris Loveless Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Drop Shot Like It’s Hot When ready to fish, you can hook just about any soft plastic bait you have to the rig. Nose-hooking plastics is the most common method but wacky rigging a worm is popular as well. I fish straight worms most of time, both nose-hooked and wacky, from 4.5”-8” depending on the temperature. The only time I downsize is during fronts. Besides straight worms, tubes are also very productive drop shot baits and stick worms have quickly become one of my summertime drop shot favorites. When choosing a plastic to drop shot, always try to choose something that will resist sinking and remain neutrally buoyant in the water if you do not have anything that will float. You can stay in one spot longer and work the rig slower, and not have to worry about keeping it from

sinking when you do not shake it. There really is no wrong way to rig a plastic on a drop shot rig. Just hook it and shake it, drop it, drag it, and make it dance under the water. That’s why I fish this way so much. Taking a worm, minnow, or craw imitation and shaking it right in front of a fish for a few seconds will always work. Predatory instincts kick in when it looks like injured prey directly in a fish and they will always eat. From down south in Florida to the northern border of Minnesota, dropshotting is the ultimate finesse technique and will work in the best conditions as well as during the worst fronts. I encourage you to drop shot the next time you hit the water.

Chris Loveless is an avid Bass and muskie fisherman from Chicago, IL. In November, 2011, he joined the Fishing-Headquarters as a blogger and contributor. You can read more of his work at his Fishing-Headquarters blog, “The Suburban Angler.” http://www.fishingheadquarters.com/ suburbanangler/

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DROP SHOT BASS There really is no wrong way to rig a plastic on a drop shot rig. Just hook it and shake it, drop it, drag it, and make it dance under the water. That’s why I fish this way so much. Taking a worm, minnow, or craw imitation and shaking it right in front of a fish for a few seconds will always work. Predatory instincts kick in when it looks like injured prey directly in a fish and they will always eat. From down south in Florida to the northern border of Minnesota, dropshotting is the ultimate finesse technique and will work in the best conditions as well as during the worst fronts. I encourage you to drop shot the next time you hit the water.

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Photograph by Chris Loveless Fishing-Headquarters | Page 60


TUBE TRICK SM TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters.com

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MALLMOUTHS Go tubing when the spring shallow water bite gets tough. Stankx Bait Company D.D. Tubez

Andrew Ragas

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 64


TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters.com

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By: Andrew Ragas Editor In-Chief

andrew@fishing-headquarters.com

T

he spring fishing season and its weather inconsistencies often resembles the shape of a roller coaster that is full of inclines and declines. For instance, there are periods of warmth which lead to good fishing, periods of cold which lead to miserable fishing, and never a consistent happy medium that is somewhere in between that represents satisfactory fishing. Record the results in the form of a bar graph and you will see what I am talking about. Spring weather stinks. It’s rare to have a weather-perfect spring fishing season. When it comes to locating and catching shallow water smallmouth bass from our natural lakes, cold weather that prevents warming water temperatures and stalls the early season movements and shallow water spawning of fish often bewilders anglers. This happens all too frequently in our northern waters of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, the Great Lakes, and Ontario, Canada. Unless you are fishing a warm spring paradise, in which consistently warm weather lasting several days leads to easy fish predictability and their presence in shallow water,

Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters | Page 66


TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS

Tube jigs are a match made in heaven for smallmouths. Perfectly representing the preferred choice of crayfish and other bottom dwelling prey, the tube jig has been catching smallmouth bass for a number of years. Finally, after learning the hard way, tubes have made their way into my arsenal for successful early season smallmouth fishing. big spring smallmouth bass are otherwise difficult to find, and sometimes harder to entice. Last May, for example, my fishing partner and I had experienced this dilemma on a favorite trophy smallmouth lake of ours in Northern Wisconsin. Unlike previous spring seasons during the months of May and early June, in which the days get warmer and the fishing is usually excellent, the entire 2011 spring season was an extremely difficult period for several bass anglers including ourselves. A cold winter season in the North Country had extended itself into early May, resulting in a late iceout and cold season opener. Consequently, this gave way to a very cold and unusual spring catch and release bass season. It was the third week of May. According to my yearly trip records and catch statistics, the second week of May until the first week of June for the north is traditionally the best Fishing-Headquarters.com

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time of the year to catch and release the largest bass of the entire season from hundreds of lakes. The particular lake we fished is a large, 1,000plus acre lake with deep, clear water. It is often overlooked for its excellent numbers of smallmouth bass in the three to six pound range. During a normal spring, trophy smallmouth bass by the dozens depart their wintering areas and head to the lake’s shallow bays and spawning flats. To date, our most successful method of fishing this venue during spring in the pre and post spawn periods is by employing sight fishing tactics in its shallow clear water with soft plastic stickbaits and craw imitators. This practice is deadly, and probably should be illegal when the majority of the lake’s smallmouth population invades the shallows for spawn. But unfortunately, this was not the case during our outing as the unexpected was encountered.

May / June, 2012

In over 90 minutes of patrolling the lake’s known spawning flats and shallow springtime smallmouth locations, fish were nowhere to be found. What my fishing partner and I had on our hands was a problem. Water temperatures were only a brisk 48 to 51 degrees, a full ten degrees below normal for this particular time of year. Forgetting the fact that it was warm and sunny out, the epic shallow water bites from previous years would be unthinkable to occur on days like this. What to do next was our initial thought. When in doubt, allow your instincts and boat’s electronics to take over and dictate your next plan of attack. If fish aren’t found shallow, then they will be found deep, or somewhere in between as we quickly found out. When shallow fails, look deeper


Photograph by Andrew Ragas

We motored across the lake to a known main lake spawning flat with a nearby wintering area, the lake’s largest. We then concentrated on the deep water surrounding the shallow flat by using our electronics. This specific area was a long, shallow rock bar that extended 50 yards out from a main lake point. Its shallowest water was two feet deep, and its edges gradually dropped off into multiple ledges: The first a primary ledge with rocks at 15 feet, and the secondary ledge with gravel at 25 feet before bottoming out into the wintering hole with mud at 45 feet. This is a classic area for holding cold water fish. I put aside my shallow water finesse equipment in favor of the big guns. A seven foot, four inch medium heavy Quantum Superlite rod and Energy reel spooled with 8lb line and a fluorocarbon leader. A seven foot medium heavy rod with 8lb line is standard fare for my tube fishing. Rigged was a 4

inch Stankx Bait Company tube in “purple haze” color with a 3/16 oz. Owner Wide Gap tube insert. I told my partner to dig through my tube box to experiment with colors and for him to do the exact same. “Trust me on this one, for we have nothing to lose,” I said. Keep in mind this is something I have never tried on this lake before, but a technique I had confidence in. He rigged up with a pumpkin/red fleck tube of the same brand. With the boat parked near the secondary shelf at the 25 foot level, with precise boat control aided by the trolling motor, I flung my tube out just beyond the 15 foot primary shelf where it landed near the shallow rocks. As it landed, I let the tube jig sit lifeless. I waited several seconds before slowly dragging it down towards the first shelf, rotating my reel about once every ten seconds. It was painful for me to stay patient, but it would eventually pay off. As the tube crawled ten feet deeper

r from first shelf to the second, mister smallmouth gobbled it up. I felt weight and set the hook. From the depths and to the boat came a four pounder. A renewed sense of confidence had infected our boat, and the patience was finally paying off. Moments later, I set the hook on another fish, a similar sized three and a half pounder. The games were just beginning, and a pattern was happily coming to form. My partner, an observant angler without much experience fishing deep water with tubes, had followed my lead and finally hooked himself into a whale of a smallmouth. As he slowly played the fish up from 25 feet down, two anglers in a bass boat slowly idled their way past us, observing his fight. As the 21 inch smallmouth came into the net, the frustrated driver of the boat looked on, and yelled, “Any idea where the fish are at? I cannot beFishing-Headquarters | Page 68


TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

During these prolonged cold spring conditions, the term of “fishing too slow” does not apply. With tube jigs, you want to fish them as slow and meticulously as humanly possible. lieve we’re not finding them shallow. At this time last year, the shallows were all loaded!” I could tell they were desperately struggling. “Go deeper,” I responded. It only made sense because the water was still too cold for any shallow water fishing as we obviously found out. For the remainder of the outing, my partner and I fished the drop-offs and ledges of other similar main lake flats with nearby wintering holes. Another half dozen sizeable pre-spawn smallmouth bass in the three to four pound range were caught before our satisfying conclusion. Tube Tricks Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Fishing bottom oriented baits for smallmouth bass is an often overlooked spring tactic. Anglers usually turn to the fast, reactionary strike approach of jerkbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits before rapidly slowing down the pace to meticulously fish with plastics such as the tube. Often times, during the cold misery of spring, anglers fail to slow themselves to the pace of cold water smallmouths. I have been guilty of this crime several times. But luckily I came to my senses to find out the tube jig is a perfect choice for this, especially when fish are beginning to transition, and water temperatures are below 55 degrees. Consistency with early season bass requires knowledge with

May / June, 2012

a wide variety of presentations. The classic tube jig is one of them. It’s no secret that tube jigs are popular choices for smallmouth bass. The reason for this lies in the fact that crayfish are favorite natural forage species, as are gobies and other bottom dwelling prey fish which tubes also represent. During these prolonged cold spring conditions, the term of “fishing too slow” does not apply. With tube jigs, you want to fish them as slow and meticulously as humanly possible. In early spring, the secret is to fish tubes as slowly as possible, to dead stick periodically, and to keep bottom contact at all times. Give the tube a twitch and hop every now


and then, but maintaining bottom contact is most important. I often employ the dragging retrieve, which most closely resembles the behavior of a live crayfish that is scurrying along the bottom. When working the drop-offs of a shallow spawning flat and its nearby deep water, patience will be taken to the limit and tested. Tubes make so much sense in these deeper cold water conditions. It’s a perfect storm because as smallmouths are transitioning from the wintering depths to the shallow water of the flat, crayfish also follow suit. Anything resembling crayfish is a guaranteed meal for smallmouth bass, and tubes are the ideal representation. Best of all, they can be worked at all depths. Regardless of your retrieve and manner of jigging, it is extremely important to pay close attention to your line for any movement or hits, and the rod tip for feeling out the bottom and all of its cavities and crevices between rocks and gravel. In my experience, smallmouth bass can spit out a tube just as quickly as they suck them up. Thus concentration, patience, and fast reflexes with a strong hook set are crucial for success. Tube Styles and Rigging Tubes are available in a number of sizes, styles, and vast array of colors. They may be rigged in several ways such as Texas rigged, weightless, or with an insert style jig head which is my preferred method for all scenarios. The insert style jig head is the most ideal rig method for most situations. For deeper water fishing, it is the best and most trusted method I’ve found. Popular jig brands for tube inserts are Bite Me Verti-

Spring Smallmouth Tubes

Strike King Pro Model Tube

YUM F2 Tube

Strike King Coffee Tube

Berkley Powerbait Tube

YUM Craw Tube

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TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS cal Eye Tube Jigs (available with rattles and without), and Owner Jigs tube inserts which feature a wide gap hook and maximum hook point exposure. Within the last year, I’ve added a new jig brand to the arsenal, and they are KustomKicker Jigs, a new favorite of mine. Produced by a small independent manufacturer in Northern Michigan, they are quite possibly the strongest, sharpest, and most unbreakable surgically sharpened hooks I’ve ever used. When inserting the jig into tube body, the narrow head of the jig is completely pushed up against the head of the tube, through the hollow body of the bait. When inserted, the eye of the jig is then pushed through the head of the tube where you may tie directly to the tube. As far as jig sizes are concerned, I base my weights according to tube size/thickness, and depths I am fishing. Since salt impregnation is standard on the tubes produced by most companies (Strike King, Venom, YUM), extra weight is added, which improves sinking rate. Almost always, I can get away with using the lightest jigs possible. I often use jig inserts weighing anywhere from 1/8 oz to ¼ oz as most depths can be successfully covered from the shallow spawning flat, along the dropoff and ledges, all the way down to the winter hole. If you perform a Google search for “tube jigs,” your search results will be littered and polluted by dozens of brands, and hundreds of styles. To some anglers, the style and design of a tube might not make any difference. But to me, tubes have a lot of differences and there Fishing-Headquarters.com

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are some factors that separate good tubes from just ordinary tubes. What I look for in a quality smallmouth tube is its plastic formula, its level of salt and additive impregnation, availability of colors and attention to detail, and durability. A few brands meet all these requirements for my preferred tubes, and they are made by Strike King,

early season smallmouth fishing. When it comes to fishing for smallmouth bass during the cold misery of spring, don’t make the frequently common mistake of relying on shallow water spawning flats as I have, and other anglers do. If fish aren’t present, and springtime water temperatures are colder than usual for the particular date, alter your ap-

Photograph by Jacob Saylor

YUM, and Stankx Bait Company. In my opinion, color seems to have less of an impact or significance than the size, profile, and scent of the tube.

proach and allow your instincts and boat’s technology to take over and dictate your next plan. There is no reason to be stubborn if fish aren’t around. Remember, if shallow water Conclusion futilities are experienced during the anticipated time when smallmouths Tube jigs are a match made in are supposed to be shallow, don’t heaven for smallmouths. Perfectly give up at that point. The fish are to representing the preferred choice of be found somewhere in the lake. At crayfish and other bottom dwelling this point, there is nowhere else for prey, the tube jig has been catch- you to go but to look deeper. ing smallmouth bass for a number of years. Finally, after learning the hard way, tubes have made their way into my arsenal for successful

May / June, 2012


Tubes are available in a number of sizes, styles, and vast array of colors. They may be rigged in several ways such as Texas rigged, weightless, or with an insert style jig head which is my preferred method for all scenarios. The insert style jig head is the most ideal rig method for most situations. For deeper water fishing, it is the best and most trusted method I’ve found.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 72


TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS

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My partner, an observant angler without much experience fishing deep water with tubes, had followed my lead and finally hooked himself into a whale of a smallmouth. As he slowly played the fish up from 25 feet down, two anglers in a bass boat slowly idled their way past us, observing his fight. As the 21 inch smallmouth came into the net, the frustrated driver of the boat looked on, and yelled, “Any idea where the fish are at? I cannot believe we’re not finding them shallow. At this time last year, the shallows were all loaded!” I could tell they were desperately struggling. “Go deeper,” I responded. It only made sense because the water was still too cold for any shallow water fishing as we obviously found out.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 74


TUBE TRICK SMALLMOUTHS Fishing bottom oriented baits for smallmouth bass is an often overlooked spring tactic. Anglers usually turn to the fast, reactionary strike approach of jerkbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits before rapidly slowing down the pace to meticulously fish with plastics such as the tube. Often times, during the cold misery of spring, anglers fail to slow themselves to the pace of cold water smallmouths. I have been guilty of this crime several times. But luckily I came to my senses to find out the tube jig is a perfect choice for this, especially when fish are beginning to transition, and water temperatures are below 55 degrees.

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Photograph by Jacob Saylor Fishing-Headquarters | Page 76


Think Small For

Early S

Photograph by Adam Glickman Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Season Muskies Small rivers and streams have some of the best fishing that musky country has to offer. Adam Glickman

Photograph by Andrew Ragas

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RIVER MUSKIES Photograph by Adam Glickman

I choose streams that best suit my needs. If I want to wade, walk the shores, and sneak up on muskies on foot; I choose smaller streams and rivers that are shallow enough for me to walk through. If I have to get out onto shore, the land around must be somewhat traversable.

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By: Adam Glickman

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

I

stood knee deep in the small river with its root beer colored water rolling around my legs. My casting target was the eddy behind a large boulder. The current all around was swift, so I lead my mark upstream and cast beyond the boulder. I kept my rod tip up to keep my line from dragging in the rushing water and began my cadence. The topwater plug came to life and slid smoothly back and forth across the surface. I adjusted the speed of the lure so its angled path would run directly into the sheltered water created by the large current obstruction. As the lure hit the current seam of the eddy, the water’s directional change caused a stutter in its rhythmic motion, but as soon as it recovered a nice musky swung on the plug with perfect timing. The lure was T-boned in its jaws, and a firm hookset kept it from making the complete whirl it would have normally used to achieve proper predatory speed in the confines of the eddy. After a brief but spectacular battle in the shallow fast water, the musky’s lower jaw made it into my boga grip. I fish small rivers and streams for muskies year round, but I concentrate on them very heavily in May and June because their fish

are often very concentrated in certain areas and they are also less impacted by tough weather conditions common to the early part of the season. The action can be excellent, but effective tactics are very specialized. Those wanting to try this must take certain factors into consideration. Choosing the right river to fish is very important. Properly accessing and navigating the chosen river is very important for success and safety. Techniques must be tailored to properly present lures to a moving, often shallow, and usually obstruction filled environment. Also, certain tools and methods will be needed to effectively and safely land, handle, and release muskies at close quarters. Choosing Water Excellent musky streams exist all through the Midwest, out to the east coast, and as far into the south as Tennessee and North Carolina. Historically, Wisconsin contained the most natural musky waters in the muskies’ original home range. The watersheds of the northern tier of Wisconsin are a maze of branch-

ing main rivers and tributaries that are still filled with muskies today. Nearly all warm water streams and rivers of the region have fishable populations of muskies. Some stretches of these rivers are very large, others are often less than 10 yards across, while the rest run the gamut between the two extremes. Some of these rivers are well known musky producers and receive a decent amount of fishing pressure. Others have populations that are largely unknown and are little pressured by anglers. Finding such waters is as easy as looking at a map to find tributaries of larger well known musky rivers. The next step is driving to some of those tributaries for a visual inspection. If they look good (current, holes, structure, etc.) they probably are good, especially if they have a decent amount of water 3’ deep or deeper. In early May, muskies are often using such tributaries for reproduction. After that, they remain to intercept their sucker forage base as they reproduce immediately after. White and redhorse suckers usually spawn just days after muskies, and have already entered such areas. Muskies

Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 82


RIVER MUSKIES

Excellent musky streams exist all through the Midwest, out to the east coast, and as far into the south as Tennessee and North Carolina. Historically, Wisconsin contained the most natural musky waters in the muskies’ original home range. The watersheds of the northern tier of Wisconsin are a maze of branching main rivers and tributaries that are still filled with muskies today. Nearly all warm water streams and rivers of the region have fishable populations of muskies. will also use the same tributaries to escape turbulence during periods of high water throughout the season. The key is to never underestimate the muskies’ ability to move into small water. It is amazing to see how large fish use such tiny water, and watching them acquire a large lure on a short cast in a little area is nothing short of phenomenal. I also never overlook small tail waters below dams on known musky lakes and reservoirs. Early in the season, muskies that have wound up in these systems are often stacked up below such obstructions. Through stocking efforts, the muskies’ home range has spread like wildfire over the past 20 years. Some rivers have been stocked intentionally while others have been established incidentally. Outside of the glacial regions of Wisconsin and Minnesota, there are fewer natural lakes but many reservoirs of all sizes that have been stocked with muskies. Below their dams, almost Fishing-Headquarters.com

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inevitably, populations of muskies exist. As long as the streams are more than a trickle and have water flow all year, muskies can survive in them. Dams with open spillways allow the most muskies through and create more potential in the river below. Tributaries of musky lakes and reservoirs also have great potential. They often hold fish early in the season. They also usually have better water quality if things heat up and the muskies need a more oxygenated refuge. The forage connection draws muskies into these areas as well. Muskies move in and out of these systems freely from the larger water body they flow into. Sometimes there may be none, but when conditions are right, it can be gang busters. Time on the water will help to predict feast or famine on individual waters. I choose streams that best suit my needs. If I want to wade, walk the shores, and sneak up on musk-

May / June, 2012

ies on foot; I choose smaller streams and rivers that are shallow enough for me to walk through. If I have to get out onto shore, the land around must be somewhat traversable. This means not all shear cliffs, swamps, or heavy underbrush. If the water gets too deep and I can’t get out on shore, it is time to turn back. Sometimes, back tracking and finding a land route around works, but it gets to be a lot of work and I have to closely examine if the juice is worth the squeeze. If I want to fish a river that I can’t walk I use a small jon boat. Canoes will work for those who don’t mind fishing from a seated position. Some of the new fishing kayaks are designed for anglers to stand in at times and are great for accessing tough to reach water. Tennessee musky guide, Cory Allen, is a member of the Jackson Kayaks pro staff, and he fishes and guides muskies extensively from these versatile watercraft. Allen fishes regularly from his larger boat,


Photograph by Andrew Ragas

a Tuffy Esox, but when he needs to find less pressured muskies in skinny hard to access rivers, his kayaks get the nod. Corey is also pioneering night fishing kayak tactics for muskies, which he says is a great summertime tactic and an ultimate rush. Once one becomes accustomed to the kayak, standing to fish in models specifically designed for fishing is not a problem. The Coosa and Big Tuna Kayaks from Jackson are specifically designed for the modern kayak angler. Allen prefers these models because they handle like a dream and turn on a dime. Access and Navigation The main reason these streams have such good action is because there is little fishing pressure due to the fact that they are impossible to access with the large comfortable boats that most musky fishermen have grown accustomed to. Most anglers simply bypass such water, because they are too much work to fish. For those who don’t mind

extra work and like to get up close and personal with the water, these streams are overlooked treasures. Accessing small musky country rivers and streams can be tricky at best. The best ones rarely have paved ramps. Often, a roadside drag down or primitive landing is as good as it gets. A legitimate spot to park is also a very overlooked bonus. Often I find myself using the public right of way that exists on the land around road bridges. These areas usually have OK parking and there aren’t any trespassing issues. Bridges are great foot fishing accesses, but I also often find myself pulling and pushing small water craft up and down such embankments. It can be rough but often it pays off. If I am covering long stretches of river, I usually fish with a friend and bring two vehicles. When in a boat, it is usually impossible to go back upstream, and when fishing on foot it gets too exhausting to walk back after covering miles of stream and rough terrain. Parking one ve-

hicle at an insertion point and one at an extraction point is the way to go. If I am close to a town with a cab service and I know that I will have cell phone reception, I will often call for a ride back to my vehicle if I am alone or if it is less expensive to call a cab than to bring a second vehicle. Once on the water, navigating streams and rivers takes special consideration whether on foot or in a boat. Currents are powerful even in small rivers and streams. If caution is not used, both water craft and anglers alike can get swept along and knocked against boulders and logs. As a rule, when wading, I don’t get in past my waist. When in my jon boat, I always carry a heavy river anchor. If things get going too fast and look like they are going to get too rough, I throw it out quick to stop (or at least slow down) and allow myself time to think of a solid game plan. In very shallow water, I often get out and walk my boat Fishing-Headquarters | Page 84


RIVER MUSKIES

My favorite stream musky lures are Zara Spooks, #14 Husky Jerks, Bride of Creepensteines, Jackpots, Docs, Humpers, Whopper Ploppers, Top Raiders, Manta Hang 10’s, Bobbie Baits, and Magnum Shad Raps. Photograph by Adam Glickman Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2012


down stream. This slows it down, Small River Lure offers more control, and allows the boat to draft a little less water and clear more shallow obstructions. If I am unsure if there are dangerous elevation changes (which cause rapids) in a particular stretch of river, I hike it and fish it on foot first for scouting purposes. The last Rapala Husky Jerk #14 thing I want is to be several miles down stream in my jon boat unable to safely proceed. Hauling everything back up stream or portaging such gear is arduous at best if not physically impossible. Of course, canoes and especially kayaks offer Rapala Super Shad Rap the option of handling rough water much more effectively and safely. They also portage with far greater ease if the terrain surrounding the area is conducive to a portage. Presentation Consideration

Selection

Poe’s Jackpot

A wide range of lures will work on small rivers and streams. In fact, all will have their time and place, but practicality plays a huge role. Some lures are just not practical when fishing heavy structure and shallow moving water at close quarters. Lures don’t have to be small Heddon Zara Spook by any means, but I try to keep my selections to a half pound or under. Considering the lures available to modern musky anglers, I am in no way being facetious when making such a statement. Anything over a half pound is almost always going to be a fast sinking lure which is counter productive in shallower water. Such lures will also enter the water with way too much noise, River2Sea Whopper Plopper which is also unacceptable more often than not in small environments. Stealth plays a large role when fishing small rivers and streams, which is a huge reason fly anglers do so well when fishing muskies in such environments.

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RIVER MUSKIES

Large bass lures also work well for stream muskies. They enter the water quietly and often best match the available forage. At the top of my small lure list are Zara Spooks and #14 Husky Jerks, but bass sized spinner baits have an excellent profile, great sound signature, and work very well through heavy structure. Again, every individual environment will be different and experimentation is the best way to find the most successful pattern. The water is small but the lures don’t have to be. Often, the muskies key in on larger standard size musky lures. Again, the key to success is letting the fish dictate what is best. Buoyant lures are much easier to use and snag much less, but sinking lures such as bucktails can be excellent and when used properly, snag very little as well. At the end of a cast using bucktails, the reel should be engaged and taking in line just beFishing-Headquarters.com

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fore the lure hits the water to ensure that it stays just under the surface of the water at all times. Surface lures are usually the least problematic, are often extremely effective, and take some spectacular strikes. Buoyant lipped minnow baits are extremely versatile and effective. My personal favorites though are buoyant to neutrally buoyant jerkbaits, both gliders and divers. For me it almost always comes down to the choice of which jerkbait or surface lure I am going to use. These lures work the best for me and I enjoy fishing them. That does not mean that there aren’t other excellent options or that other anglers will experience the same results. I am a stead fast believer that certain lures just work better for certain anglers. I am not necessarily a religious man, but I do believe in faith. If one believes in something enough, often it will be so. In other words, confidence lures are key.

May / June, 2012

In small rivers, muskies often hold tight to cover, and therefore lures should be worked as close to cover as possible without snagging or breaking lures on rocks and wood. I like to use the current as much as possible. For instance, I will cast upstream and use the current to sweep my lure along through an eddy or along the edge of a fallen tree, log jam, or weed line. Contact with shallow obstructions is in inevitable, therefore diligent hook sharpening will result in more landed muskies. I usually run my lures with the current, or across the current quartering upstream. However, I will often make casts down current and work my lure against or mostly against the current. Some people don’t like this, stating that it looks unnatural, but I counter such arguments by simply stating that all river fish swim up current as well. In my


Photograph by Adam Glickman Photograph by Andrew Ragas

opinion, forage struggling against current looks like an easy meal. Lures that imitate this make a vulnerable and tempting target. Also, working against the current allows me to do cool things like swinging a Manta Hang 10 near a piece of structure for as long as I want. The end game of such a tactic is taunting a tough musky into coming out and taking a swing. It is amazing how long it can take sometimes. The tactic takes patients, but it can pay off big especially near known musky haunts and key structural elements. Plus, it is very cool to see when it works. When fishing on foot I like to walk upstream, especially when fishing an exceptionally narrow river. This avoids sending clouds of sediment and debris into the water that is yet to be fished. When drifting down stream in my jon boat or whatever I am fishing out of, I use my anchor frequently. This way, I can stop to fish a key area more

thoroughly. I quietly and gently anchor along side a hole or prime structural element and cover it completely, or I anchor well above it and get out of my boat and sneak up by foot on shore if I think the area will be spooked out easily. Of course, commando style is only possible if bank and/or water conditions allow. Sometimes such areas are just not accessible on foot. Landing and Handling When fishing out of my jon boat, I just bring my standard huge musky net. It takes up a lot of room but it is worth it. If I am going to get out of my boat to fish or if I am fishing on foot period, I bring my Boga Grip model 130. The Boga is light and easy to carry and locks securely around the lower jaw of a musky. I tie a light rope to its handle so I can let the landed musky lie completely in the water while I get my release tools out and unhook the fish. It

is the same principal as letting the musky sit in the water in the net bag during the same process. When releasing muskies, I try to find slack or at least slower water. If this is not an option, I never hold the musky with its nose pointing with the current, this can effectively drown the fish. If possible, I hold its nose into the current for a few seconds before letting it go. If this is not possible, I just make sure the fish is upright and let it go to drift with the current. This works just fine, especially if the fish hasn’t been played to exhaustion. Whether a small river has had a musky population for thousands of years or just five years, chances are it does not get a whole lot of fishing pressure. Adding small rivers to my repertoire of waters has greatly increased my seasonal productivity and overall musky fishing enjoyment. Fishing-Headquarters | Page 88


RIVER MUSKIES Whether a small river has had a musky population for thousands of years or just five years, chances are it does not get a whole lot of fishing pressure. This lack of attention however is not due to lack of potential. Adding small rivers to my repertoire of waters has greatly increased my seasonal productivity and overall musky fishing enjoyment. Anybody can experience the same if they pay close attention to the finer points of stream musky fishing.

Adam’s Honest Musky Adam Glickman, 30, has musky fished since 12. Born and raised in Northern WI, but currently residing west of Minneapolis in MN, he fishes heavily in WI and MN, and travels the country in search of quality fisheries whenever he can. Adam is a field editor with MUSKIE Magazine, and has put hundreds of muskies in the bottom of the net. Visit Adam’s website dedicated to musky fishing information, education, and multimedia at:

http://www.honestmusky.com Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2012


Photograph by Adam Glickman Fishing-Headquarters | Page 90


RIVER MUSKIES

The main reason these streams have such good action is because there is little fishing pressure due to the fact that they are impossible to access with the large comfortable boats that most musky fishermen have grown accustomed to. Most anglers simply bypass such water, because they are too much work to fish. For those who don’t mind extra work and like to get up close and personal with the water, these streams are overlooked treasures. Accessing small musky country rivers and streams can be tricky at best. The best ones rarely have paved ramps. Often, a roadside drag down or primitive landing is as good as it gets. A legitimate spot to park is also a very overlooked bonus

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas Fishing-Headquarters | Page 92


Southern

It is a strange paradox that some of North America’s toughest, largest fighting fish are frequently the least popular among many anglers. One fish species in particular, the buffalo fish, has been cast aside as little more than worthless, bottom-feeding carp. There are several species of buffalo, including the smallmouth, bigmouth, and the black buffalo.

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n Comfort Buffalo Fish David Graham

Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters | Page 96


NORTH AMERICAN BUFFALO FISH

The hardy North American buffalo species has, for the most part, been cast aside as little more than worthless, bottom-feeding carp. There are several species of buffalo, including the smallmouth, bigmouth, and the black buffalo. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by David Graham


By: David Graham

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

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new career opportunity led to my recent relocation from coastal South Carolina to the hot, spacious terrain of South Texas. This ‘westward trek’ rekindled childhood memories of fishing the local creeks of northeast Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas with my brothers and Dad. The 20+ hour drive to Corpus Christi – in a rental van jammed with scant furnishings but as much fishing gear as it would hold - I had ample time to ponder the bountiful variety of Texas-sized freshwater oddities awaiting me. Smallmouth buffalo were of particular interest, since this is a fish I enjoyed catching during my early adolescence in Arkansas. It is a strange paradox that some of North America’s toughest, largest fighting fish are frequently the least popular among many anglers. American anglers typically count the best freshwater ‘big fish’ to be musky, pike, large catfish, sturgeon, or even the mysterious alligator gar. One fish species – the North American buffalo – has largely failed to escape the shadow of obscurity, despite its propensity to exceed 70plus pounds. The hardy North American

Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters | Page 98


NORTH AMERICAN BUFFALO FISH

The most abundant variation of the buffalo species is probably the smallmouth, which are prevalent in many Midwest rivers and lakes. They can be bound in the larger tributaries of the Mississippi, as far West as Montana and as far East as West Virginia. The species can also be found in the Gulf slope drainages from Texas to Alabama and just about everywhere in between. buffalo species has, for the most part, been cast aside as little more than worthless, bottom-feeding carp. There are several species of buffalo, including the smallmouth, bigmouth, and the black buffalo. Buffalo are a robust species of large-scaled suckerfish with a body structure similar to common carp. Buffalo and carp have long been confused or categorized together by anglers. Buffalo, however, are a North American native fish which has simply grown to resemble its non-native twin as a result of convergent evolution. The two species are not related. There are several fundamental differences between buffalo and carp, the key one being that the buffalo lack barbels (whiskers, to some). Common carp, while resembling buffalo, sport definitive barbels. Additionally, buffalo are generally a bluish-grey or tea color with large Fishing-Headquarters.com

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scales and a prominent lateral line. They never present the bronzy gold or yellow color of a common carp. Buffalo always have a dark, bluish colored caudal fin unlike common carp which sport the orange colored tails. Buffalo - smallmouth in particular – have much more dramatic, downturned ‘sucker-like’ mouths than the common carp, and also possess large, dark, saucer-like eyes. Smallmouth Buffalo The most abundant variation of the buffalo species is probably the smallmouth, which are prevalent in many Midwest rivers and lakes. They can be bound in the larger tributaries of the Mississippi, as far West as Montana and as far East as West Virginia. The species can also be found in the Gulf slope drainages from Texas to Alabama and just about everywhere in between.

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Anglers in pursuit of buffalo should focus on larger pools, or depressions in larger rivers with low but steady current flow. Buffalo prefer a habitat with abundant aquatic vegetation, or gravel-rock bottom areas where they can easily forage for their primary diet of small crustaceans and larvae. Buffalo are primarily bottom feeders, hence their primary diet is insect larvae, algae, and detritus which they ‘vacuum’ off the bottom, beneath gravel and out of aquatic weeds. Smallmouth buffalo can and have grown as large as 100 pounds. This presents a particular challenge to anglers trying to land this strong, broad-shouldered fish that also happens to have peculiarly delicate, fleshy lips. Buffalo and common carp have similar feeding habits and can be caught on basically the same type of equipment. A simple internet search yields an abundant variety of


Photograph by David Graham

dough bait recipes, but landing a buffalo can be as simple as stringing a night crawler to a small J hook on a Carolina rig and drifting over a riffle. Monster Fish Expedition My brother and I recently spent a few days fishing on the Red River, which splits South East Oklahoma and North East Texas. My primary goal during that trip was to capture a trophy-sized Alligator Gar. However, the prospect of pursuing smallmouth buffalo just made the trip better. I visited the same stretch of river in 2011 when my brother and I captured my first true specimensized alligator gar (6’9, 140lb). During that trip I had observed numerous smallmouth buffalo surfacing and cruising the shallow flats of the shoreline with their bulky backs exposed. At that time I did not have the materials to capture the fish, but several weeks ago I made it a point

to pursue smallmouth buffalo. Aside from the smallmouth buffalo’s excellent sporting quality, they make exceptionally good bait for alligator gar and are likely a primary food source for the gar exceeding 100 pounds in the Red River. Our bait of choice for these buffalo was not elaborate. In fact it was a method I had been introduced to by Kirk Kirkland, the most well established alligator gar guide you will find. The bait we chose was formulated Creep Pellets which are actually livestock and horse feed. We used brightly-colored rubber bands to secure our hooks to the pellets. I have always had a hunch that buffalo likely rely more heavily on their vision and sense of smell than with the use of barbells like common carp. The Buffalo’s large eyes and nostrils are evidence enough that they possess a keen sense of smell and sight. I have no scientific evidence backing this notion, but the colored rubber bands

seem to work. Catching Buffalo Fish The challenging aspect of capturing buffalo on rod and reel is that, while they may exceed 70 pounds, they are very investigative in their bites. It has been my experience that a buffalo will more often nuzzle, lip, and gently mouth a presented bait item as opposed to grabbing and making off with it. This is why maintaining a set-up of multiple rods requires keen focus and attention; even the slightest vibration of the rod tip could mean that a truly massive fish is interested in the bait. Additionally, fishing for Buffalo is a very relaxing and leisurely activity. We basically chose a calm eddy pocket along the river’s shore where the current flow calmed, and observed several buffalo surfacing. Fishing-Headquarters | Page 100


NORTH AMERICAN BUFFALO FISH

Photograph by David Graham

Our bait of choice for these buffalo was not elaborate. In fact it was a method I had been introduced to by Kirk Kirkland, the most well established alligator gar guide you will find. The bait we chose was formulated Creep Pellets which are actually livestock and horse feed. I set up 4 rods and placed each one – Carolina rigged with creep pellets – on bank sticks. The action was fast, and required an experienced hand to know the difference between a casual bump of the line and a legitimate bite. Hooking a large buffalo requires a great deal of finesse. Though these fish can grow to immense proportions, smallmouth buffalo have particularly small, fleshy mouths. This, in conjunction with their meticulous investigation of a bait, challenges the angler to use very small hooks that are well-concealed within the bait. Playing in a potential 40-pound fish on a J hook made for panfish requires anglers to pay vigilant attention to their line drag once the fish is hooked. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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The smallmouth buffalo’s fighting style is unmistakable. They fight with raw power, scarcely change direction, headshake, or break the surface. They simply choose one direction and charge away, and defy the angler by presenting a steady pressure which places great strain on the line and hook if not carefully compensated for with proper drag pressure. During my aforementioned Red River trip, we managed to capture several quality fish. Although they were not the big bruisers exceeding 40 pounds, they were just the right size to use as bait for a massive alligator gar! Having tangled with even the smaller specimens, it is hard to grasp the fact that a fish capable of

May / June, 2012

growing to nearly 100 pounds, and with such disproportionally powerful shoulders, could fall into such obscurity in the angling society. Fishing for buffalo presents anglers with an opportunity to come face to face with one of North America’s true “monster fish”. There is truly a sense of pride in realizing these fish are not a non-native import, but a strictly American based species with undeniable sporting qualities.


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

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

http://www.fishing-headquarters.com/boundlesspursuit/ Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters | Page 102


NORTH AMERICAN BUFFALO FISH Aside from the smallmouth buffalo’s excellent sporting quality, they make exceptionally good bait for alligator gar and are likely a primary food source for the gar exceeding 100 pounds in the Red River. We used brightly-colored rubber bands to secure our hooks to the pellets. I have always had a hunch that buffalo likely rely more heavily on their vision and sense of smell than with the use of barbells like common carp. The Buffalo’s large eyes and nostrils are evidence enough that they possess a keen sense of smell and sight. I have no scientific evidence backing this notion, but the colored rubber bands seem to work.

Photograph by David Graham

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Photograph by David Graham

Photograph by David Graham Fishing-Headquarters | Page 104


Photograph by Kenny Lookingbill

Photo courtesy, Jim Gronaw.


BLUEGILL SPOON

CON

Photograph by Bill Modica Fishing-Headquarters.com

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NNECTION It was a warm sunny afternoon back in the summer of 1997. The morning bluegill bite had ended hours before, and my traditional offerings of small jigs tipped with bits of night crawlers that had worked so well for me earlier in the day, was now drawing a blank. In hopes of catching more fish, I decided to sift through a small and somewhat unorganized tackle box looking for the answer. And there it was. A small tarnished old spoon with the hook nearly rusted off. Well after a quick tune-up and hook replacement, I dressed the new hook with an old tattered grub body. The madness that ensued shortly thereafter, has forever changed the way I fish for bluegills.

Bill Modica

Photograph by Bill Modica

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BLUEGILL SPOONS

Photograph by Bill Modica Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2012


By: Bill Modica

Fishing-Headquarters Contributor

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oday’s spoon manufacturers offer an array of spoons that are suitable for panfish, and are also available in a variety of patterns and sizes to accommodate water depth ranges from as shallow as 3ft, to as deep as 35 ft. All spoons are not created equal; some spoons acquire their distinct wobble and fluttering abilities thru a concave/convex design, whereas other spoons achieve similar attributes by using a tapered bevel. This innovative design and science that was invented decades ago, is still highly productive today. Most anglers have experienced a spoon in some way, shape, or form, whether it be trolling, jigging, or casting. The vertical and horizontal presentation options a spoon offers are truly unique within its design..... the latter will be covered here. When presented horizontally, each different spoon type will exhibit its own unique kind of swimming action and drop rate. Choosing the right spoon to target fish in specific depth ranges, that coincide with seasonal fish locations is the rule. I’d like to focus on a few of the most productive spoons I’ve encountered over the last several years. Bay de Noc’s Swedish Pimple in the 1/10th, 1/5th, and 1/4 oz sizes. Due

to their size availability and slender design, this style of spoon has been the most effective spoon in the deepest of water holding panfish. The 1/12th and 1/8th oz Acme Kastmaster spoons. Because of this lures overall size and drop rate, it has proven to be an ideal choice when panfish are suspending in the water column over deep water. When surface temperatures reach 55 degrees and above, these spoon types really shine. But during cold water periods (45-52 degrees), the spoon of choice would be the Blue Fox flash rattlin’ spoon in the 1/16th and 1/8th oz sizes. This spoon design has a larger profile which utilizes the added buoyancy of a 2 bead rattle chamber and is also available in a number of attractive glow and holographic patterns.

The Delivery System 7-8’ Medium light graphite rods, and wide spool or long cast reels work very well for this method of horizontal presentation. The 7’6” HML series rods from Cabelas, coupled with Pflueger Supreme 8035MG reels have been favorites of mine over the years, and are spooled with Berkley’s Fireline Crystal in 1lb dia./4lb and 2lb dia./6lb tests. Braided line is a critical component to this package, the sensitivity and no-stretch qualities of braided line in this scenario are key when it comes to bite detection and positive hook sets when working deep within the water column. A small barrel swivel and an 18-24” Florocarbon leader of equivalent test, along with a small cross lock snap at the spoon

Panfish Spoon Types

Bay de Noc Swedish Pimple

Acme Kastmaster Spoon

Blue Fox Flash Rattlin’ Spoon

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BLUEGILL SPOONS

Photograph by Bill Modica

During cold water periods (45-52 degrees), the spoon of choice would be the Blue Fox flash rattlin’ spoon in the 1/16th and 1/8th oz sizes. This spoon design has a larger profile which utilizes the added buoyancy of a 2 bead rattle chamber and is also available in a number of attractive glow and holographic patterns. connection completes this rigging. Most spoons are factory rigged, packaged with a treble hook, and are quite appropriate when fished vertically, however single hooks are ideal in this situation, and are used to employ small plastic tubes, grubs, and in some cases live bait. Some but not all manufacturers include an additional single hook with their product. When faced with installing or replacing single hooks, be sure to attach the hook thru the split ring so that the hook point rides up. Mustad’s Oshaugnessy Sproat hook, and Eagle Claws L210 in the #8 and #6 size offers a slightly enlarged hook eye to accommodate split rings, and are good alternatives for spoons unequipped with single hooks. Split Fishing-Headquarters.com

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rings are a part of every spoon package and are primarily used at the line and hook connection ends of the spoon. Although rare, line fouling can occur when using a line connection split ring. To prevent this, I omit the use of the top split ring and favor the use of a small cross lock snap. This also makes for quick spoon changes when exploring different depths, and experimenting with multiple color patterns. Flappers...those little plastic colored attractors that are provided with some spoons have their place. More often than not, these attractors are rigged on the bottom riding side of the spoon (bevelled or convex side of spoon). In vertical applications of the spoon, this placement

May / June, 2012

is correct. However, when applying the spoon in a horizontal presentation, attractors should be placed on the top riding side of the spoon (flat or concave side of spoon)...this rigging affects the swimming qualities of the spoon and is equally as important as the process of swaping out the treble hook for the single hook. The single hook point should always ride up. This specific spoon application is not weedless, but when used in the presence of healthy green weeds, it could be considered as weed friendly. Presentation and tipping Spoons cover lots of water and


are great search tools when presented horizontally. Long casts are optimal when using this system, and are essential to contacting fish that are suspending or are positioned near the bottom in deep water. Many natural lakes of the Midwest have been impacted by the invasion of zebra mussels. The enhanced water clarity and light penetration caused by the constant filtering of these mussels has allowed deeper than normal weedlines to exist and over the years has pushed fish significantly deeper. When targeting fish in deep water, spoon choice is paramount. Spoon sizes of 1/5 to 1/4 oz can offer depth control in water from 2535ft when presented on 1lb diameter braids. And although even deeper, catchable fish have been contacted using this method, they are not targeted due to their un-releasable status when taken from such depths. When fishing suspended fish, after the cast, allow the lure to drop on a tight line while counting the lure down. Strikes will often occur on the drop, ultimately revealing the depth and location of suspended fish. November 2nd 2008, colleagues and I were anchored well off of a deep weed edge in 19 feet of water on a large clear natural lake in Southeastern Wisconsin. Surface temperatures were in the low 50’s and the sonar had confirmed the presence of suspended fish at different depths. Casting into 17 ft, our 1/16-1/8 oz spoons barely fell to a seven count before being attacked by smaller panfish. Discipline and patience was required to allow the spoon to fall through the top layer of small active fish while ignoring initial strikes until the spoon reached a twelve count, where dozens of large bluegills were positioned. Shallow, slightly stained dishpan lakes with

Photograph by Bill Modica Fishing-Headquarters | Page 112


BLUEGILL SPOONS

Flappers...those little plastic colored attractors that are provided with some spoons have their place. When applying the spoon in a horizontal presentation, attractors should be placed on the top riding side of the spoon (flat or concave side of spoon)...this rigging affects the swimming qualities of the spoon and is equally as important as the process of swaping out the treble hook for the single hook. The single hook point should always ride up. a maximum depth of 15 feet or less offer some of the best early season spoon fishing options. Pre-spawn panfish seeking warmer water invade the shallows and eagerly accept horizontal spoon presentations in 3-8 feet of water. This requires the use of the smaller and lighter spoons. Shorelines that are affected by wind are home to warmer surface temps early in the season, and become even more productive when a little wood or cover is present. Consecutive days of consistent wind can concentrate panfish in these areas and become prime targets for spoon fishing. Earlier this year in mid March, my partners and I contacted more than 1,000 shallow, shoreline oriented panfish within the first 5 weeks of open water, with surface temperatures that ranged from 47-54 degrees while using 1/10th, 1/12th, and 1/16th oz spoons. The cadence of this retrieve in most water columns is the same, Fishing-Headquarters.com

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once the lure has reached the bottom or level of suspension, twitch or snap the spoon and begin a slow swimming retrieve with frequent pauses, or a fluttering back of the spoon followed by a twitch or snap of the lure to continue the presentation. This pause and fluttering back of the spoon is the absolute trigger that causes most bites to occur. Short bites will happen with this presentation but most interested parties almost always come back. Variations to this retrieve are worthy of experimentaion especially when working shallow areas near cover and newly emerging weed growth. My approach to deep, late summer fish involves a series of defined controlled drifts...keep in mind we are casting, or chucking the spoon, and because we are targeting the deepest fish, I allow the spoon to free fall to within 10 ft of bottom before engaging the reel

May / June, 2012

and starting the retrieve. Deep water presentations involve patience and dedication when panfish are poPhotograph Kenny Lookingbill sitioned near thebybottom and spread out over deep flats. Targeting these fish can be challenging as well as rewarding. Long down wind casts while using light braided line can typically yield 3040 yrd casts when probing deep expanses of water with 1/4 oz spoons. Control at depths to 35ft can only be achieved with the lightest diameter braids. With more than 100 ft of line out, these lines are capable of telegraphing the lightest tap, in the deepest of water and are crucial to implementing this methodology in the abyss. Tweaking a spoons drop rate may be necessary in order to trigger neutral to inactive fish that are suspending within the water column, and can be easily achieved by changing the size of the tipping. Photo courtesy, Jim Gronaw. Small panfish tubes are my favor-


Photograph by Bill Modica Photograph by Bill Modica

ite for tipping spoons. Berkley’s 1” power bait panfish tubes and Bass Pro Shops 1 1/2” Squirmin’ squirts displace a fair amount of water when rigged on spoons, and produce a slower drop rate without sacrificing the swimming action of the spoon. Southern Pro’s Lit’l Hustler crappie tubes are also extremely effective when tipping spoons, as this tiny 1” tube bait is a perfect fit for the 1/10 to 1/5 oz models. Venom lures also makes an extremely durable 1 1/2” solid bodied crappie tube bait thats hard to beat once the skirt has been trimmed back. Gluing these trailers in place will prevent frequent skirt adjustments during an aggressive bite, and will dramatically lengthen the life of the tube. I anchor these plastics to the hook with the use of Berkley’s angler?s super glue. Deep, clear bodies of water typically involve the use of live bait tipping. Crawler chunks, redworms, waxworms, spikes, and Berkley’s Gulp maggots, all work well when skewered onto the single hook.

Photograph by Bill Modica

Fishing-Headquarters | Page 114


BLUEGILL SPOONS Today’s spoon manufacturers offer an array of spoons that are suitable for panfish, and are also available in a variety of patterns and sizes to accommodate water depth ranges from as shallow as 3ft, to as deep as 35 ft. All spoons are not created equal; some spoons acquire their distinct wobble and fluttering abilities thru a concave/convex design, whereas other spoons achieve similar attributes by using a tapered bevel. This innovative design and science that was invented decades ago, is still highly productive today. Most anglers have experienced a spoon in some way, shape, or form, whether it be trolling, jigging, or casting. The vertical and horizontal presentation options a spoon offers are truly unique within its design.....the latter will be covered here.

Photograph by Bill Modica Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2012


When tipping with live bait, remove tube and devote the entire hook to live bait. Combining tubes and live baits in this scenario will severely unbalance the lure, impart its swimming and fluttering action, and ultimately render the spoon into a lifeless chunk of metal. Always use live bait as a replacement for plastics, rather than an addition to. Spoon enthusiast Doug Rorer of Stillwater, MN used his fly tying skills to customize a series of spoon flies using the Mustad Sproat hook, and the Swedish Pimple spoon. The prototypes I tested worked amazingly well and unquestionably offer another avenue to effective baitless spoon rigging. The big bite, and why it works

Compared to the finesse approach that many anglers pursue when targeting bluegills and other panfish, this horizontal spoon presentation may be considered by many as the other end of the spectrum. This loud, large, and aggressive presentation triggers the same fish that finesse anglers target with ultra-light equipment and microscopic jigs. Big Bluegills seem to have an undying love for injured minnows and the lures that resemble them. Fish that are attracted to this lure do not “mouth” the bait; they simply attack and engulf it. These spoons are definitely a large package and should in no way be considered “small offerings” as the 1/10 oz model fully rigged measures in

at 2”, and the 1/4 oz spoon hits the tape at more than 3”. Because of the spoons unusually large profile, incidental catches of bass, pike, and walleye are quite common when using this system. Since discovering the horizontal triggering qualities of this presentation, it now makes up 97% of my tactical approach when panfishing.After working this system with great success for several years on countless bodies of water, it is apparent that this presentation triggers reaction strikes from active, neutral, and even inactive fish. Some of the strikes I’ve encountered using spoons have been subtle, but most are violent and quite vicious. From March thru November in the midwest, spoons have been proven to be top producers.

Photograph by Bill Modica

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BLUEGILL SPOONS Bill Modica, of Antioch, IL, is a freelance writer, avid fisherman, and spoon fishing enthusiast. Known as “Musky Mod� to those within the angling community, you can often find Bill fishing for big panfish on the lakes throughout the Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin region. And when not fishing, Bill spends time educating his fellow fishermen about big panfish, and spoon fishing at Big Bluegill.com

http://bigbluegill.com/profile/MuskyMod http://www.youtube.com/user/muskymod?feature=mhee

Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 2012


Photograph by Bill Modica Fishing-Headquarters | Page 118


THE FINAL WORD.

ADVERTISE WITH FISHING HEADQUARTERS. We’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 let us help YOU, so that we can help ourselves! Fishing-Headquarters.com

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May / June, 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 “Multi Species Fishing� 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:

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July / August, 2012

Summer Issue • Swim Jig Bass • Downsizing Muskies • Trash Fish Truths • Side Imaging Wingdam Walleyes • King Salmon Jerks • Plus More!

Expected Release Date: July 2, 2012.

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Photograph by David Graham

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Volume 2, Issue 3, Number 9 of Fishing-Headquarters Magazine :: May & June, 2012 :: Early Summer Issue.

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