Your Guide to Winter Bass Fishing with Jigging Spoons and Blade Baits

Jigging Spoon Bass

Heavy metal jigging lures, including spoons and blade baits are among the best lures for catching bass in cold water – IF you know the right techniques!

There is a lot of fishless water in the winter. -Frank Scalish

Sounds like a gloomy outlook, but it’s not. In fact, the opposite is true, and understanding this aspect of winter bass fishing is key to tapping into what can be some of the fastest fishing action of the year. It also explains why Scalish really likes jigging spoons and blade baits, like a Heddon Sonar, during winter.

“Fishless water is a bad thing if that’s where you’re trying to fish,” said Scalish, a legendary Ohio angler and lure painter and former nationally touring bass pro. “But where you find them, you find a bunch of them, and the fishing can be really good!”

Winter bass often relate to shad and hold tight to bottom structure, and spoons and blade baits work wonderfully for winter bass fishing because you can work that zone precisely and imitate shad that are winter chilled or even dying in the cold water.

Read more

How to Catch Crappie with the Float & Fly Technique

Lee Pitts with Crappie

Learn the secrets of an approach that capitalizes on the crappie’s winter behavior and produces outstanding fishing this time of year.

Anglers often wonder how to catch crappie when the water gets cold and the fish start getting finicky. For Weiss Lake Guide Lee Pitts, that answer often comes in the form of the “float & fly” technique.

“Fly” in this technique’s name comes from the technique’s origin. Popularized as a winter bass tactic on clear mountain lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee, float-and-fly bass fishing is traditionally done with small hair jig, known regionally as a fly.

How to catch crappie with a float & fly essentially mirrors the bass anglers’ approach, except in types of areas fished, the even smaller size of the jig and the common use of soft plastics bodies on jigs. For Pitts, the perfect “fly” is a Bobby Garland Baby Shad or a 2-inch Slab Slayer on a 1/24-ounce Mo’ Glo Jighead and 6-pound-test line

Read more

How to Troll for Walleye with Crankbaits - 8 Top Late Season Tips

Lake Ontario Walleye

Targeting late season walleye can be brutally cold, but the fishing can be red-hot, which is why knowledgeable anglers continue to troll for walleye even after fall has realistically given way to winter’s grip.

By Jeff Samsel

 

Ice locks in many northern lakes, and winter winds deem the biggest waters unfishable some days. When and where you can get out, though, late-season walleye fishing can be outstanding, with trolling for walleye with crankbaits often yielding the best results and the strongest prospects for trophy fish.

Paul Castellano of Cast Adventures guides on the Lower Niagara River and lakes Ontario and Erie for a variety of sportfish species. Late in the year, when conditions get right near the mouth of Lower Niagara, he spends a lot of time trolling for walleye and connects clients with large numbers of trophy fish.

We asked Castellano for tips on how to successfully troll for walleye with crankbaits late in the year and continuing through the winter. Some tips are season specific. Others are important year-round.

  1. Pay Attention to Forage

You’ve heard it before, and not only about late-season walleye, but it is absolutely critical to this situation. Walleye generally aren’t relating to structure or cover this time of year. They suspend and follow food, primarily open water baitfish species.

Paying attention to forage becomes extra important when you’re talking about trolling a crankbait like a Bandit Walleye, a Smithwick Rogue or a Bomber Long A because these lures are designed to imitate baitfish.

The location and depths of schools of gizzard shad, alewives and shiners dictate not only where Castellano trolls, but also his trolling depth range and the sizes, shapes and colors of lures he fishes first.

  1. Look for Current

Current is critical to Castellano’s late season strategy because the baitfish just mentioned relate heavily to moving water. Beyond drawing baitfish, current positions both the bait and the walleye predictably and prompts the walleye to feed more actively.

The Lower Niagara and areas that are close enough to the mouths of the Niagara, Welland Canal and various smaller Lake Ontario tributaries to be significantly affected by current become very important late in the year.

  1. Consider Water Color

A change in water color in key areas signals the start of the best late-season walleye bite for Castellano and actually helps trigger the action. After heavy fall winds and resultant waves stir up Lake Erie – typically during late fall – the off colored water dumps into the Niagara and Welland Canal.

When the dark water finds its way to Lake Ontario, baitfish are drawn to the stained water, which is more readily warmed by the sun. The walleye move in for the buffet and feed more actively in the off-colored water, where they can ambush prey effectively.

Specifics vary by waterway, but anywhere wind, rainfall or current create stained areas adjacent to substantially clearer areas, the walleye tend to feed more actively in the stained water or along the edge than in the clear water.

  1. Slow Trolling Speeds

Speed is a critical factor any time you troll for walleye with crankbaits, and Castellano’s approach to speed always involves experimentation, altering speeds on a regular basis and paying careful attention to his precise speed every time a fish bites. “Speed is huge,” Castellano said, “and even a slight change of speeds can make all the difference.”

While patterning the most productive speed is an ever-present consideration, the major difference late in the season is that the range of trolling speeds Castellano works within is slower. The baitfish are naturally slowed in the cool water and slower trolling speeds offer a more natural match for the behavior of the forage – along with lessening the need for walleye to chase. Castellano will troll as slowly as 1 mph this time of year and will mostly work within a 1.3 to 1.6 mph range.

  1. Mix it Up

Because of quickly changing conditions from winter’s parade of cold fronts and due to the variety of baitfish species using areas, walleye can turn very picky late in the year, ignoring normally productive lures and devouring others. Castellano experiments with lures that offer a big range of shapes and swimming actions, as well as mixing up colors. He then pays careful attention to which lures get bit and continues to refine the pattern as the day progresses.

8 Great Crankbaits for Walleye Trolling

Bandit Walleye Deep

Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogue

Bomber 24A

Cotton Cordell Ripplin’ Red Fin

Bandit B-Rotan

Norman Deep Little N

Bomber 15A

Cotton Cordell Magnum Walleye Diver

Beyond experimenting with lures to find the right shape size and action, Castellano often varies leaders, especially after he has figured out the right lure. He runs braid on his reels and will go all braid for some lines and add a section of mono leader to others, having found this to slightly alter the running depth and action of the same lure. If the ones rigged one way start getting all the bites, that is important patterning information that can help him catch far more fish that day.

  1. Standardize Rods & Reels

As much as Castellano advocates changing speeds, baits, colors and other details to pattern fish, he is equally adamant about keeping certain controls constant in order to best see what is making the difference. He wants the same action for all of his rods so he can see differences in how baits are moving and detect subtle strikes. He also uses all line counter reels that have been carefully calibrated because knowing exactly how far back each crankbait is running is critical to efficient patterning, which is the key to catching most fish.

  1. Use Scent Sense

Castellano is a major advocate of adding gel or spray-on scent to crankbaits, and he considers this extra important through winter when cold fronts can make fish more tentative.

The scent serves a two-fold purpose for Castellano, with the most obvious being an attractant to make a crankbait seem more like food.

The second purpose, which he considers equally important, is to cover any negative unnatural scent that might be on his hands. While the walleyes don’t seem to be line shy during winter, which is something many people worry about, Castellano has found the smell of gasoline, sunscreen or a host of other impurities on the hands of someone who is handling crankbaits to have a major negative impact on fishing success.

  1. Handle With Care

Fish handling might not affect today’s fishing, but it affects things in the big picture when you’re catching big fish that are potentially important spawners.

“Late-season fish are very heavy because they’ve been gorging on so many baitfish,” Castellano said. “When they are held vertically, they can’t always support the weight of their bodies and it can cause dangerous tearing around the gills.”

Castellano said that walleye always need to be supported horizontally when they are being unhooked and for photos. He suggests measuring fish instead of weighing them, believing that offers a better gauge of quality anyway. If fish are to be weighed, he suggests using a scale with some type of cradle.

Ready to Go?

Please visit Lurenet.com for all these lure selections above and to view more how-to content.

Winter Crappie Fishing 101: Top Tips for Dock Fishing Crappie

winter crappie fishing

Crappies tend to gravitate toward deep structure in the winter months, and an excellent stronghold for them is manmade docks, which are prevalent on several bodies of water throughout the South and Midwest. These docks offer ample cover for winter crappie fishing and offer easy opportunities to simply drop small plastic lures down to them without the need for an expensive boat and accessories.

Why are docks good crappie holding structure in the winter? Man made docks often feature posts that root them to the lake or river floor and provide structure for crappie to relate to. Also, most docks have boat owners who like to fish, so it’s no science figuring out that they occasionally toss brush and other structure pieces out by their slips, along the points and other various spots along the docks.

How to find the right docks for winter crappie fishing

• This is the most important part of fishing docks, because if you aren’t around the crappie – how will you catch them?

• Try to identify docks with enough depth under them. Crappie tend to gravitate deeper over structure in the winter. A good rule of thumb is to find docks that maintain a depth of over 10 feet under them. You can find the depth by counting down a jig head to get approximate measurements.

• Look at a map or use Google Earth to find docks in a creek arm or adjacent to deep water. These typically hold the highest amounts of crappie.

• Most important rule: Always have permission to fish the docks you are on, ask the owner or marina in charge before stepping foot on a dock.

Once you have found an appropriate dock you can begin to look at the slips inside and around the dock to survey for any brush or structure laying underneath. A good tip is to find old docks that aren’t frequented and be aware of any indicators of sunken brush such as pieces of wood or pipes lying around the slips.

The right equipment for winter crappies

For this presentation you don’t necessarily need specialized equipment, just a short medium light action rod, light line and a small capacity spinning reel. Winter crappie fishing doesn’t have to be difficult.

Lurenet team pick: 6-foot medium light action rod, 1000 size spinning reel, 6- to 8-pound test line

For lures you can use a large variety of plastics, but I will narrow it down to the best three available.

1. Bobby Garland Baby Shad w/ Bobby Garland 1/16 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Monkey Milk, Threadfin Shad, Blue Ice) (Stained water – Lights out, Devils Grin, Black Hot Pink)

 

2. Bobby Garland 2” Slab Slayer w/ Bobby Garland 1/16 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Double Silver Rainbow, Blue Ice, Eclipse) (Stained water – Bone White Chart., Junebug Pearl Chart., Cajun Cricket)

 

3. Bobby Garland Slab Hunter w/ Bobby Garland 1/8 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Live Minnow, Threadfin Shad, Coppernose) (Stained water – Bluegrass, Cajun Cricket, Bone White Chart.)

 

These three options are primary picks for the dock fishing technique because they have a very subtle action, and when dropping straight down to suspended fish you need as real looking of an imitation as possible.

The first two picks are small options that appeal to crappie of all sizes, but the third pick is built for going after giant slab crappie that pass over smaller baits.

Our favorite dock fishing crappie techniques & locations

Now that you have identified the right dock to fish and gathered up the proper lures, it’s time to actually start winter crappie fishing! The technique used to dock fish is just like any standard brushpile fishing from a boat. You simply want to identify where to drop down and let your bait fall to the bottom. Once it is on the bottom, lift slightly and hold the bait steady to detect any bites. If the lure sits for a period of time with no bites slowly, begin to pull it up. I like to implore a few cranks of the reel handle and hold the bait steady at multiple zones in the water column. Often crappie will sit in a certain zone all over the dock.

Below are a few tips on finding the right places on the dock to drop your baits down. • Inside corners of slips (typical place for brush to be dropped)

• Outside corners of slips • Along walkways (look for signs of brush or cover)

• Under boat lifts

• Dock posts These are simple places to find on all docks, but always be creative and check multiple areas.

Almost anywhere that casts shade can be a primary spot for winter crappie fishing! Also, be sure to try multiple colors. I listed several above, but crappie are notorious sight feeders and love bright color patterns so don’t be afraid to try a wide variety. Often times bright patterns work well even in clear water, especially under the shade of docks.

Ready to go hit some docks? You find all the lures, jigs and accessories you need at Lurenet.com.

Be sure to use code MERRY15 for an extra 15 percent off your order!

5 Crappie Fishing Techniques for Cool Water

Crappie Fishing Techniques

Learn how to catch crappie during fall, when cooling water triggers excellent fishing action, and enjoy some of the best crappie fishing of the year.

“They’re under there – all the way back,” Terry Blankenship said with a smile as he watched his electronics. “I should be able to reach them through that hole.”

Blankenship, veteran Lake of the Ozarks crappie guide who reaches fish that are way under docks by “shooting” crappie jigs bow-and-arrow style under the docks and through gaps in the dock structure or between docks and boats, was pointing at a gap between floating sections that might have been the size of a dollar bill.

With the confidence of an NBA player draining a free throw, he knelt, drew, aimed and fired. The bait shot through the hole at the perfect angle to hit the water well under the dock before skipping all the way to the back. Almost immediately, Blankenship’s fluorescent line jumped and he set the hook with a quick downward snap. Soon after he was swinging a 1-1/2-pound crappie into the boat.

Shoot Docks

Blankenship uses many crappie fishing techniques, but shooting is his specialty, and fall is prime time for this innovative tactic. Crappie congregate under docks during fall, and the shooting technique allows you to put a jig in front of fish that cannot be reached any other way.

Big crappie relate heavily to shad during fall, and they feed well as the water gradually cools. The crappie don’t like fighting current in cool water, so Blankenship focuses fall efforts on docks in coves and creeks arms, as opposed to the main lake.

It takes a bit of practice to get the timing and aim right and know the amount of line to have out, but the basic shot isn’t really that hard. With a spinning reel bail flipped but your finger holding the line, pinch the bend of the hook (not the head or you might get jabbed!) and pull back to put a strong load in the rod. Aim and release the hook just before the line so the jig shoots forward.

Read more

Autumn Brown Trout

Autumn Brown Trout

Feeling a bit like I’d been placed in a jigsaw puzzle scene, I took a moment to take in the Crayola-bright treetops and their reflection the next pool upstream. Of course, I wasn’t just leaf-peeping. I needed to study that same pool and the shallow run it gave way to in order to strategize casts and a stealthy approach.

While brown trout do become a bit less wary at times during fall, they are still brown trout. Cautious and easily spooked. Because browns sometime abandon their deep dark lairs during fall, I decided to cast to the lower end of the pool and swim my lure through the shallow tail-out before I walked through it. That turned out to be the right choice, as the cast resulted in a modest-sized but spectacularly marked brown trout that hit in a nothing-looking, shallow spot.

Autumn delivers magical days on brown trout streams.

Read more

7 Tips to Make You a Better Inshore Angler

tidal creek

By Mikayla St Clair

When it comes to fishing, some of us started when we were little. Others have picked up the sport over time. Reeling in that big one comes from skill and a bit of luck, and specific types of fishing, such as inshore saltwater fishing, call for extra skills. If you want to boost your skillset, following these seven tips can make you a better inshore angler on your next fishing trip.

Know Tidal Movements

When inshore fishing, you need to understand how the tidal movements affect your target species. When the tide is incoming, oyster bars and mangroves become ideal spots for finding baitfish and gamefish. However, when the tide is going out, baitfish tend to drop back into passes and channels. You'll want to be in each area at the same time as the bait because actively feeding gamefish will follow the movements of their forage. Check local tide charts before heading out and track them with your phone while you are on the water.

Use Polarized Sunglasses

Ask veteran anglers, and they'll tell you that polarized sunglasses are an absolute must to stay on top of your game. These sunglasses are produced with a special lens technology that essentially works to cut through the glare created by the sun. This is perfect for being able to spot fish below the surface and to see bait and fish-holding features like oyster bars and grass beds. Just one look through polarized lenses and you'll be sold on getting a pair for your next inshore fishing trip.

Read more