Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'll be fishing the Madison, WI event!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Look Back

I think if you speak with most tournament ice anglers, they will have stories of growing up in the ice belt, setting tip-ups up for pike and sitting in a converted camper trailer with their fathers, grandfather or uncles jigging and listening to fish tales. My story, is not quite the same, although I did ice fish as a young child, it was certainly not often enough to play a major role in my current positions.

Growing up in the city of Sheboygan, and being heavily involved in Boy Scouts and Church, we didn't have a ton of time to do “nothing” and go fishing. Our weekends were a bit structured, we had lots to fit into a weekend generally, or at least it seemed that way as a young boy. We would have scouting events on Saturdays, or that may have been the day that the house work had to get done cause we were busy doing scouting activities during the week nights. We had Sunday school and Church each and every Sunday morning, we didn't miss many, especially not for ice fishing.

Fortunately I had a grandfather who could persuade my Dad into letting us go out with him now and then, just for a few hours, quite possibly because we as kids would get cold and bored if it were any longer. Grandpa would take us out, we would set up tip-ups and we would attempt to jig for pan fish. I recall a day on Elkhart Lake when we did catch a nice northern pike, I believe it was the same day there was a gentleman spearing Carp next to a small outlet of the lake. It's funny the things you remember from some childhood events.

I remember a day out on a lake near Montello, WI with my Grandfather and my Great-Great Uncle, we set up not far from shore, and I learned I was entirely to impatient as a child to ice fish for pan fish. It makes me chuckle thinking about watching my Great-Great Uncle Richard as he would catch fish after fish, and unless you watched him closely, you would not even know it. He could set the hook, reel in the fish, unhook it and place it in the pale he sat on in one smooth quick movement. In the World Ice Fishing Championships, this is called sneaky catching, in 1988, it was just how Richard did it. No electronics, no gas auger, no fancy tungsten jigs or plastic baits. 28” Medium action rod, Schooley reel, same line he had on for 10 years, a simple teardrop jig and a wax worm, he could have made the USA Ice Fishing Team, no doubt about it, Uncle Richard was GOOD! I learned you could look down the holes and see the fish that day, not that it would help me to catch fish that day, but it was entertaining.

Fast forward to March of 2010, my Grandfather and I ventured out onto Summit Lake in Wisconsin, hoping to find out what the crowd was catching. That day became one of the most successful and fun ice fishing memories I have shared with my Grandpa. Nearly a limit of crappies sized just right for the frying pan, no doubt we would have had caught a limit if given another hour or so. I still remember what it was that got them to bite, besides drilling 45-50 holes in a small area and jumping around from hole to hole, a chartreuse piece of plastic and a horizontal jig. Simple, and quite effective that day, we even got a sunburn.

I can't help but look back and give thanks to Uncle Richard, my Grandfather and my Dad for making sure I had a little time on the ice, for planting that seed. We didn't have the big converted camper, and we were not out every weekend but the time we shared, the memories we made and the little things I learned have added to my wonderful experiences on ice. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Out of State Success

The weekend of January 26th-27th, 2013 will forever be on my mind. It was a sad and happy weekend all at the same time. I traveled to Iowa with friend Aaron Berg to fish the Recycled Fish Hardwater Open on Big Creek Lake just north of Des Moines, Iowa.

Saturday the 26th, we lost a great young man to the dangerous waters of Lake Superior, Jim Hudson. Jim and I worked together briefly as Ice Team members in 2007-2010. He has been a guest on Outdoors Radio with Dan Small and I many times in the last 5 years and he was respected as a world class fisherman and ambassador for the industry. I can’t say I knew Jim personally, I never met his wife who everyone adores as well, I never had the chance to fish with him, but he always had an open invitation for me. Jim can be seen on a bunch of fishing shows, both local and national, he was a published outdoor writer and was a top team member with Clam Corporation. Jim will surely be missed by all who knew him, knew of him, watched him or listened to him. Contributions to a memorial fund can be made by clicking HERE.

With the thought of Jim on everyone’s mind, Sunday morning it was time to fish a tournament. The weather was not kind to us that day, a dreary damp morning with freezing rain showers lasting for most of the day. The wind would pick up now and then, usually just as the rain would let up and we began to think it wasn’t “too bad”.

We had spent the previous 3 days, Thursday-Saturday, pre-fishing across the entire lake, eliminating water, checking the abundant brush piles and the deep water creek channel on the south end of the lake. While pre-fishing, we had stumbled into fish in 40 feet of water all the way up to 7 feet of water, mostly bluegills, averaging 7-8 ½”. A few white crappies were found in the 40 feet of water but seemed reluctant to bite consistently. By Saturday mid-day we began to narrow our search to “deeper” water brush piles for the crappies and the “mid” level piles for gills. We quiet often would drill over a brush pile and simply camera it to see what lay beneath. The Aqua-Vu Micro was really a great tool for this for a couple of reasons. Number one, it is very portable, it’s always in the pocket of my jacket, if we felt we wanted to look at something it was always there. The other advantage we had using the Micro over a full size camera is we were much less obvious. Even from a distance you can see someone holding a full size camera, with a ¼” thick cord running down the hole. With the Micro, it looks like you are checking your phone; it’s so small that it does not give away what you are doing to everyone that can see you.

We looked for holes that had been drilled out recently in places we had not seen people. Many of those places were brush piles that were not on the DNR map, and they were not nearly as pressured as the DNR marked piles either. We did our best to cover our tracks; one way was avoiding the small piles of snow that were formed on the ice. You could basically follow the tracks of a snowmobile or ATV across the lake by looking at the snow mounds. If we wanted to avoid being followed, we avoided driving across the snow. I have snow chains on my ATV, those also marked the ice, again creating a bread crumb trail for others to follow, if we wanted to throw off others or avoid being followed we would send Aaron, who’s ATV did not have chains over to an area to check.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around we knew our game plan and had back-up plans ready to go. The goal was to hit a brush pile in 30 feet of water, one that we had noticed had not been touched in many days besides by us. Then we wanted to head out to a brush pile in 17 feet of water, again an area that was not touched other than by us. We had two other spots we could have used to gather our fish, we used one of them.

When the tournament began at 8am we were alone on the brush pile we wanted, and within 14 minutes we had 6 crappies and 5 bluegills in the bucket, if the tournament would have ended at 8:15 we would have already had our maximum 10 fish (5 Crappie-5 Bluegill).

We fished that spot for about a half hour, until basically there were no other actively eating fish on it. We then moved out to where our #2 spot was located. It was occupied by another team, so on to #3. It had not been touched that morning and what we were about to experience will stick with me forever.

We open up the crib, drilling a series of holes within 8 feet of each other, Aaron was first to start fishing as I put away the auger. I didn’t have a chance to touch a fishing rod for about the first 5-6 minutes we were there. All I was doing was removing the transducer and landing fish for Aaron. Fishing was hot! I finally had a chance to start fishing and we proceeded to catch every fish but one that we will register at the end of the day. Nearly every 7th or 8th fish we caught was an upgrade from the next. Plus there were bluegill AND crappie on this crib, and while pre-fishing it we were only aware of the bluegills.

The day continued and we moved around a few other places, not really sure what to do at that point knowing we had a great bucket of fish, and that we would most likely be unsuccessful at upgrading from what we have.

At 1pm we weighed in, having upgraded one fish between the hours of 10am and 1pm, we knew we were going to have a relatively heavy bucket, at least for the lake were fishing. Our big fish was weighed first, 1.05#, a crappie and we won big fish; the rest of the bucket was then added to the scale. The total was 7.30#, a .73# average weight of each fish. It was the heaviest average I have ever had at a tournament.

We won, we went to Iowa to experience something different, spend time with friends and make new ones, with the hope we would at least do “well” and we come out and win. What a feeling.

Success never comes alone, I must thank Cory Yarmuth for the Lakemaster chip hook-up and Steve Burkart for the additional mapping. As always all of my great sponsors played a major role as well.

I have to thank Rod and Laura Woten for their generous hospitality, Aaron for putting up with me in the truck and on the ice all week and of course my Wife for letting me follow my passion. THANK YOU EILEEN!

The other 24 teams were all great, Teeg and Ben ran a very nice tournament, and Aaron and I fully intend to come back to defend the title. - Jeff

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On Ice Presentation Adjustments

I get the opportunity to fish a lot of new bodies of water every winter.One factor in fishing new water is fine tuning your presentation on the ice, as you fish. When you fish a home body of water that you know well, you learn what works and what doesn't and can quickly change until you find what the fish want on a given day. When you walk on to a new body of water, you're almost fishing blind, so how do I approach it?

Starting Out

When I first start fishing, I try to use the largest presentation I think will work. This offers a couple advantages. Larger, heavier jigs get down faster, allowing you to fish faster, cover more water, and find fish. Larger presentations also tend to target the larger and/or more active fish.Larger jigs also have larger hooks, which means they hold plastics better and have more hook gap, allowing for higher hookup percentages.

However, whats larger for a bluegill may be smallish for a crappies, and whats large for a crappie may be unappealing to a bluegill. If I am targeting crappies, I will often start with a jig in the 5 to 6mm range, with hook sizes of #12 or #10. I team this with an IceMite Magnum from J&S Custom Jigs.

If I am targeting bluegills, my start bait is usually a little smaller. I tend to use jigs in the 4mm size range, with hooks in the size #14 or size #12 range. To stay with the large theme, though, I often team these with a GoJo from J&S. This plastic is about an inch long, but has a main body with twin legs off the side (kind of looks like a cricket) and offers a large profile.

Color can also be an important factor. If the water is clear, I often start with darker colors, ie reds, browns, purples, and blacks. In stained or dirty water, I use brighter colors, ie white, glow, hot pink, or chartreuse. My first color choices are often those that I have a lot of confidence in.

Fine Tuning

As the day goes on, I learn about the lake, and adapt my presentation to try and become more efficient in catching fish.

If the fish are looking at the larger presentations but not eating it, there is a sequence that I use. First, I change the colors of my plastics, staying with the same size range. Sometimes, its just a matter of fine tuning the color to get them to bite.

If I'm getting short bites, or if fish are actively approaching the bait but not taking, it may be time to move smaller, but stay with the same colors. If I was using an IceMite Magnum, I will go to a regular IceMite. If the GoJo isnt working, I will go to the slimmer profiled IceMite. If I was using the IceMite, I would go down to an IceMite Jr. Adapt, adapt, adapt.

Same for jig size. If I'm not catching fish on the larger jig, go smaller. The smaller, lighter jigs are easier for the fish to take reliably, but fish slower. Sometimes it takes jigs in the 2.5 to 3mm class with tiny size #18 and #16 hooks just to garner a bite.

Sometimes, its other factors that prompt a change. For instance, I may land on aggressive crappies that will readily take a magnum sized presentation. But as the day progresses, they may drift deeper. Now, a larger presentation has more water resistance, therefore falls slower. Sometimes this means I cannot get to a fish before he moves away. In this situation, I may use a smaller plastic tail simply to get down even faster.

Finally, bait versus plastic. I will almost always start with plastic, and run through my size and color options before I switch to live bait. I don't like having to check my jig after every missed fish and constantly be re-baiting. But, again, if it takes meat to get fish, then I give them meat!

The moral of this article is always be willing to adapt. What may work early in the morning may not get as many fish later in the day. Don't be afraid to change things up, even just a small tweak, to get things going.

Good luck out there!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Just fishing 1-10-13

Just a couple fish caught yesterday. The hot color was purple. Don't forget to try plastics, often they will out-fish grubs and live bait.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lake Menomin- Kids Winter Jam!

Midwest Extreme Outdoors is a youth focus group actively working to get kids exposed to the outdoors through various activities. This is the ice fishing clinic they have coming up next weekend.

I have been asked to speak at the event. I look forward to helping make the event a success!