Friday, January 16, 2015

Stay Hungry

I have always been a competitive person, just ask my brother. I don't know that I have always had something to prove to others, I do think I have always had a lot to prove to myself. I never did well with most sports, I definitely didn't do well in school, but I thrived on the race track when I was racing cars, not always winning, but always right there.

More recently I found competitive ice fishing, and now that's an addiction, it really is. I feed off the anticipation, the game planning and preparation. I have not always found the same success on the ice as I did on the track, but maybe that's the drive I need.

I can't wait for Wednesday, the day Wayne and I take off to South Dakota for the next chance at collecting the coveted "Wood", the trophy they give out for first, second or third in the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) events. That will be the next chance to push myself. Look, I know it's just a silly ice fishing tournament, it's not saving the world, I get it, but it's my track now, that's my arena. Everyone has one, be it at work, in the gym or where ever you push yourself to be better, that's the ice for me.

So like the photo depicts, I'm hungry. I'm hungry for success, I'm hungry to prove to myself I can do it, I'm hungry to show you too, that i can do it. Sure it's fun, it has to be or it's not worth it, but it's a battle ground on game day, and I am ready to fight. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Thunderbird Lodge Partners with!

Please welcome our newest partner to the community, Thunderbird Lodge in Mitchell, South Dakota!

The Thunderbird has been gracious enough to offer 15% off your stay at the lodge for tournament anglers that mention the North American Ice Fishing Circuit when they book. Be sure to check out all the lodge has to offer including on-site laundry for drying clothes and a sauna and hot tub for warming up after a full day fishing in the elements!

Find the Thunderbird Lodge on Facebook here ----> Thunderbird Lodge

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Mental Element of Competition

No matter what level you compete on, from friendly bets to national tournaments, competitive ice fishing has a mental element. This element can be your best friend or worst enemy. From confidence to game planning, we must use our brains.

Going into a tournament, we all should be doing some homework. The mental game is already starting. As I study lake maps and read reports, my confidence is already building or failing. Confidence is a key element in fishing. It effects everything from effort to lure and bait selection. This past weekend, I fished a tournament on a lake that I have fun fished often for the last few seasons. In the past, we had no issues finding or catching crappie. Our confidence was so high, that we didn't even target crappie during our limited pre fishing time. Turns out the pattern changed. It took us too long to find fish. Or confidence killed us. Mental problems!

Planning is another essential. This year at the national championship, we had a clear plan on day one. When it didn't work as planned, we were desperate on day 2, and that translated to working negative fish, not catching them, but not adapting. That lead to a very poor finish. Mental issues.

So what is one to do? Learn from mistakes, for one. But more important, have a selective memory. Remember the party's of your mistakes that you need to learn from, but forget about the past poor results. Every tournament is a new day. Confidence, it can be your best friend! What we do all starts in your head, so we must controlor brains and use the mental aspect of the sport to our best advantage.

Preparing For a Tournament or Fishing Trip

When the first ice hits I starting marking on the calendar my trips and tournaments. I usually get down to the prep work as soon as possible. There is a huge list that usually starts with making a budget - gas, food, lodging, entry fees, mapping, more fishing supplies? That's all in consideration when making a budget, but what about the little things? The budget is something that can be saved up over time, but getting help from sponsors can help minimize the dollar amount you need to invest yourself.

I often get asked the question, "How much stuff do you really need to bring to go fishing?"  Mother nature can be a real bear, anything can and will break, so I bring extra everything. I'll have normal things like extra clothes, extra fishing equipment, and extra batteries for electronics, but the most useful item is a tool kit. My tool kit consists of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, I also carry a Flambeau tackle box full of nuts and bolts of many different sizes. We take along
augers, ATVs, and snowmobiles, lots of mechanical items that can fail. You never know when something catastrophic may happen.

When we get down to the final few days before leaving I find myself getting excited and spending lots of time on the Internet searching for any advice on the lake; I'm primarily looking for fishing information. Writing on forums is one way to communicate with the local fisherman who may give little tips or hot spots. I don't like to beg for info; I just simply tell them that I will be coming to the lake for a trip, you may be surprised at how welcoming most fisherman can be. The ultimate goal is to eliminate useless water before I even get there. Calling the local bait shops and DNR can be a big help too. You can conveniently go right on the DNR website and find just about anything from stocking info, water clarity and even a topographic lake map. Its amazing how much you can learn about a new body of water just by sitting on the couch.

My biggest tip I can give you is use the time you have before you leave wisely. One bad experience can be saved by being prepared. My favorite saying goes like this, 'Be prepared for the worst but expect the best'.

Good Luck, Stay Safe, and Tight Lines

Friday, December 12, 2014

Great Morning On The Ice

When I wake up with the day off and to do nothing but ice fish, I always hope it turns out to be a day like I had this morning. It originally started last spring when my girlfriend and I went out looking for crappies on a lake I regularly fish. I had plenty of places I wanted to try, and eventually we found a couple really good areas that produced some good fish. So this morning I decided to see if any fish were still in these same new spots. Lets put it this way, I only had a chance to checked one spot because this one was the money spot.

This particular lake has a very well known stump field that just gets pounded by the locals. When you find a spot away from the crowds that has fish they normally have no problem biting. This spot was a little different though; these fish didn't exactly jump out of the holes. I normally carry a case full of rods. By the time I used half of them trying to get bit, I realized I would need to step back and come up with a new plan. I took a break from jigging and really wanted to make a move because I knew I could go into the crowds and catch a few fish.

After deciding I would stick it out, I grabbed my Aqua-Vu Micro and checked out what was down there. My jaw almost dropped when I saw the size of the fish that were there. They were just not interested in anything I was using. I reached into my spoon box and grabbed out the smallest spoon I own. The Little Cecil is a tiny spoon that weights literally nothing compared to the tungsten jigs I usually use. My first drop down the hole after switching was amazing. It was like someone turned on a switch and made every fish hungry.

I sat in a spot the size of my living room for three hours hooking fish one after another. I couldn't find a reason and can't explain why these fish were still there. There were no weeds, no wood, literally nothing to hold these fish there. Did I put in time scouting? Yes. However, I also got lucky that there were fish here and I decided to stick it out. If it wasn't for my Aqua-Vu I never would have. My tip to everyone reading this is - never be afraid to leave the crowds, and also some summer spots can be just as good in the winter. Always keep an open mind.

Tight Lines All,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Resevior Mobility

Once the ice starts to form and become safe, we all have that same thought as ice 
anglers. “Remember when we did really well over in that bay?” Or something like that. I know 
I’ve been guilty of it. Time and time again we have this one track mind thought that we can go 
back to those same spots and have the same success. Sometimes it’s possible, but on 
reservoirs with moving water there can be multiple variables that can make a day on the water a 
little more tough. 

I always like to use the spot I used last year as a starting point. Lets face it, if it produced once it has to produce again, right? I’ve found out more times than not that spot has changed, or there isn’t the same quality as the last time I was there. There is always a reason, whether it be current, food, weather, or even pressure to name a few. The prior year spot makes a great starting point for creating a pattern. 

This last week I ventured out to a big reservoir in northern Wisconsin chasing crappies and bluegills. We started out in a small bay that we had history with in the past for holding good size and numbers of pan fish. It didn’t take us long to realize using our electronics and drilling a ton of holes that there weren’t fish in this area. It was then time to bring out the GPS and start our search for fish. 

For some reason I’ve found that they don’t go very far. After a couple hundred yard hike we found a funnel area from the main basin that these fish might use to enter the bay. After drilling numbers of holes and using teamwork my friends and I took turns drilling, using the cameras, and pulling our gear. We eventually found out the fish haven’t yet moved into the bay and were still staging in the deeper channel edges, once we found them it was game on. 

Staying mobile and putting in a little effort helped us turn around a bad day of sitting and waiting 
for fish to show up into catching some nice fish. Knowing where and how much current is moving plays a huge role in finding fish and staying safe. Pack light and stay mobile. Never be afraid to make a move if fish are acting
negative. It can turn a slow boring day into finding the schools that are hungry. -Wayne

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How I decide what to buy: Jigs

It seems that I see new colors and styles of jig every day. Glow, stripes, natural colors, metallic, horizontal, vertical...the choices are endless. So what kind of approach should one take?

First, I take stock of what I have. At this point in my career, I have most of the bases covered, at least in one example. But that's the first step, try to cover all the bases. Sometimes fish want horizontal or vertical, glow or not, bright paint or natural. From here, you figure out what your confidence baits are. Stock up on those as you are more likely to lose them.

My go to jig styles are horizontal tungsten jigs, in either the teardrop style or the round ball style. I like the teardrop for bait and compact plastics and the round ball style for elongated plastics, such as the J&S Ice Mite.

Color can be very tricky. So many choices. Glow or not? Honestly, most of my fishing is done with metallic colors, either gold or silver. These colors appear very natural under water and match a variety of colors of baits and plastics well. They are relative neutrals who appear darker or lighter depending on water conditions. I have a lot of confidence in them and feel it makes my choices easier.

So, first step, try and cover all your bases. Buy a variety of styles of jig in a variety of colors. One you find your confidence baits, stock up on styles similar to that. You are more apt to fish your confidence bait, so get it in sizes to fit most applications. The more confidence you have, the better you will fish.

Where to get jigs? Check out Rhyno Tackle for some nice custom painted lead and tungsten jigs located here in WI.
I also really like the Heavy Metal jigs from Sportsmens Direct A wide variety of metallic and custom paint colors here in a few styles. And the HT Enterprises Tungsten Marmooskas are top quality jigs as well!


Monday, December 1, 2014

A Thought About Panfish Harvest

As I sit here waiting for my potatoes to cook so I can enjoy them with yesterday's catch of fresh crappie and bluegill, I'm thinking about the harvest of panfish. Above is a photo of a limit I took home last year. One of the few limits. And it was taken from a lake that has an incredible population of crappie in that size range. But is it responsible?

Many anglers seem to judge their success by whether or not they 'took home a limit'. I think this needs to change. Panfish are susceptible to over harvest, just like any other fish. But they are truly delicious. So what do I think we should do?

First off, I think the mentality of a what's a keeper needs to change in the panfish world. Selective harvest has been preached for a long time when it comes to larger game fish, and it's now being enforced through ideas like slot limits in many places. However, for many panfish fishermen I see, the biggest fish are automatically harvested. We need to be letting the big fish go. They carry the best genetics and spawn the most successfully. If you want to eat some fish, keep the average sized fish.

Now that we are on to keeping fish, just how many do we need? Many lakes in my neck of the woods are quite small and cannot sustain high levels of harvest. As a cook and former chef who has served my fair share of fish fry, I can tell you the average serving of perch or panfish is 2 to 3 fish per person, plus sides, in the restaurant world. That means a 25 fish limit can feed 12 people. Very few need to feed that many, so keep a few less. Trust me, fish taste far better fresh anyways. If you want another meal, it's a great reason to go fishing, and maybe hit another lake.

Now, I like to have a few filets in the freezer for the warm months too. That's why I take a couple trips to large, productive water bodies every year. Large lakes and river systems can sustain far more harvest than small ones. So if you do want a couple extra fish, maybe try a large system where taking a limit isn't as detrimental. But still, keep in mind responsibility.

If we, as panfish anglers take these steps, I truly think we will see larger fish and better fishing in a lot of areas.