Friday, September 28, 2012

It's a Father Son Thing

I've talked about this a few times now, My parents were separated by the time I was 4 years old, and my dad was never one to have a ton of money. So when he had my sister and I for the weekend he had to figure out a way to keep us occupied without going broke.. his idea.. Fishing

Each weekend we would spend saturday morning and afternoon sitting on an old railway bridge with a $2 pack of worms and a red bobber in search of perch, gills and of course bass. As I grew older my fishing prowess advanced past the standard worm and bobber stage, but like any grown fisherman I look back on my past and those days on the bridge with dad with great fondness.

Now that I am older, it is time to give back, or pay it forward, to use a catch phrase. I do this by planning an annual trip with my Dad as well as my 14 year old brother, who was not around when I was a child to enjoy these early father son trips.

This year marked our second annual father son weekend, and the weather did not exactly co-operate. It rained (hard) and the wind blew. These conditions land locked us, but did not stop us from getting out on the water for a couple of hard fought days. As in the past my dad made a routine stop for his bucket of worms (no longer $2) as well as a cup of coffee to keep him warm. We then hit up many local shoreline hot spots in search of active fish..

To keep things interesting we always have a mini competition, 1 pt for each fish caught,  and then arguments over the largest fish ( a scale would be handy here). Yes my dad caught more fish then I did, but my stubbornness to stick with artificial baits may have been my demise . My little brother on the other hand ended the weekend in last place, but his fishing ADD means he spends more time changing lures then actually fishing.

All in all we had a great time over the course of the weekend, picking on each other, eating pizza and talking fishing. Cant ask for a better time then that

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Top Water Baits Part 2: Poppin' and Chugging

Welcome to Part 2 in my series on the best of best when it comes to Top Water baits. As we discussed last time there are many different styles of bait and each has it's place in your arsenal depending on water and weather conditions,  these styles include: Frogs, BuzzBaits, Skitterpops, wake baits, Poppers, and Walking baits. Last week we looked into Walking Baits (found here) and for today we will be focusing on the slow gurgling fish enticing Poppers!

Over the past few years I have fallen into a bit of a routine when it comes to poppers, and I have been using two or three baits over and over again. These baits will be listed below, but I will also include a few newcomers to the market. Some of these new poppers are not yet tried and true, but they are too sweet to pass up.

Things to Look For: 

Poppers are the loud little brother to walking baits. They are designed to move slower then walking baits and thus can be used in windier conditions or in dirtier water. I find the most successful popping baits have the following three characteristics...
1) A Big Mouth! yes this seems obvious but if you are buying a popper with a small or shallow mouth you really are doing yourself a disservice. The larger/deeper mouth gives your bait the ability to really gurgle water and call fish in from long distance. If you can hear your bait, don't expect the fish to!
2) Tail Down presentation: Some poppers like the Chug bug are designed to sit flat in the water, personally I prefer my baits to sit with the bottom hook hanging down low under the water. This gives the fish a nice target and is more prone to catch fish swiping at the bait instead of in haling it. 

3) Shake your tail feathers!: I don't buy any popper that does not have feathers on the tail hook, period. This is a no brainier and kind of goes side by side with point 2 (above). These feathers are great for providing the fish with a nice juicy target and gives your bait a little extra movement even when paused 

Ok, now on to the baits (in no particular order)

1) Heddon Pop'n Image  

I keep two or three of these bad boys with me at all times. The color pictured here is my go to option (Tennessee Shad) and it works wonders over deeper water or if there is any chop at all. The Pop'n Image has a larger body profile then most poppers that helps to be be seen easily. It is equipped with a decent rattle and a small but deep mouth for great pop'n action.
These baits have a great paint job and life like scale reflection. I opt for this bait over other poppers when Im looking for longer casts or increase visibility. It is not the loudest popper in my arsenal but it gets the job done


2) Bill Lewis Spitfire

The Bill Lewis Spitfire may be my favorite top water popper in my collection (currently). With it's large wide mouth it moves more water then any popper I have tried to date. The Spitfire is equipped with a collection of mini ball bearings instead of one larger knockers and thus gives off a different but highly effective sound. This bait does not slit as low in the water as the Pop'n Image but it still provides a decent target with it's blood red hook and white tail feather.

I do wish the tail hook was a little larger, but overall I have no complaints on how this bait works day in and day out. I prefer to use the Spitfire on calmer days, it works well in clear water and in both sunny and shade conditions

Sorry guys, this is a hard to find bait and as far as Im aware it is not currently in production.

3) Storm Chug Bug

I think this bait is the only Storm lure in my entire fishing arsenal. The Chug bug is the longest of the poppers I carry and it walks the line between a popper and a walking bait.. yes you can do both at the same time. Equipped with the loudest rattle of all the poppers I own the Chug bug really calls the fish in. It has a wide down turned mouth that moves a lot of water and the long body makes sure it can easily be seen.

Im not a huge fan of the hooks that come with the chug bug out of the package, so I will usually switch them out.

Honorable Mentions:

I want to include three honourable mentions that may not be current staples in my arsenal but I expect they will replace one or more of thee above baits in years to come

The first honorable mention goes to the Rapala X-Pop (pictured at the top). It has a great body design with an ultra durable finish. It pops really well and casts like a bullet for a smaller bait. When paused the X-Pop sits ass down with jsut the baits nose above the water

The second honorable mention goes to the Deps Pule code, which was introduced at ICAST this year and I was not able to get my hands on one until after my tournament season came to an end. I love what I see from the bait and can see it as a replacement for my Heddon Pop'n Image baits very soon. It has the same large profile body, with loud internal rattle, but it sits better in the water and moves more water then the Pop'n Image

Last but not least we have the IMA Big Stick, this is not your everyday popper and may see limited to no action on the water some seasons. But, when looking for a big fish bait to add that kicker fish to your live well, there is no other popper that can compete with the monster that is the "Big Stick" (it's like the Chug Bug on steroids). I cant wati to bust some fall and spring smallies on this bait

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dobyns Tip of the Month: Frogging with the 735C

As discussed last month, Dobyns Rods will be posting a "tip of the month" column on their Facebook page each and every month. Im proud to report that this months article was written by none other then me!  The article talks in detail about the advantages of Frogging fishing with the Dobyns 735c rod.

If you have not checked it out yet, click on the below link.. and hit like!

Dobyns Facebook Tip of the Month

Friday, September 14, 2012

Canoe Fishing 101.. with a little help from my Radisson/Sportspal

Over the past 10 years, I have spent countless hours fishing from my Radison/Sportspal canoe, known by my friends and family as the "Tattooed Canoe" (due to the amount of stickers that cover it). Along the way I have caught my fair share of monster bass, and seen my fair share of amazing sunrises and sunsets. The peacefulness you experience while fishing from a canoe is unmatched, whether fishing along or with a friend, a canoe fishing trip is something you should experience at least once in your life.

Below you will find some tips and tricks I learned over the past decade, and hopefully they will aid and convince you to get out in a canoe

The Perfect Canoe & Gear for the Job

I have plunked my ass down in many a canoe over the years, but for my money the best fishing canoe on the market today is the Radisson (or Sportspal if you are buying it in Canada). These aluminum framed canoes are very light weight, my 12ft comes in just over 30lbs, and are nearly unsinkable. A foam "water wing" if you will surrounds the outside the canoe giving it extra buoyancy and preventing tipping. Inside the canoe is also lined with foam that not only provides you with a more comfortable ride, but also wicks up some of the water,  giving you have a dryer ride.

The version of a Radisson I purchased also comes with removable foam seats. These seats provide decent height, and cushiony feel. Two main perks to these seats other then being able to move them around would be that they have back support (I'm getting older) as well as dry storage spot in them, great for your keys

Other then its superior stability another fishing perk on the Raddison is the trolling motor mount. A fully removable and adjustable mount comes with your canoe, this mount easily holds a 30lb-40lb thrust trolling motor off to the side of the canoe. It supports the motors weight perfectly even when the canoe is empty. (See below pic of the trolling motor coming off the side of my canoe)

Additional gear that will add to your fishing from a canoe experience would be as follows:

Trolling Motor: I use a Minn Kota 30lb trust hand till trolling motor. It moves the canoe extremely well in most conditions. It is very durable and has lasted nearly 10 years. The only disadvantage to this size motor is that it does not come with a weed chopping blade, so you can expect to spend some time cleaning off the props

Fish Finder: If you are looking for all the perks of fishing from a standard bass boat, you are going to want to get yourself a fish finder. There are two ways you can go about this. First, and easiest is the Humminbrid Fish'n Buddy system. This fish finder is a removable wireless fish finder that will clamp on the side of your canoe. Just add batteries and your good to go. If you want something a bit more advanced, you can add a wired fish finder. The Raddisson Canoe is built to take one fairly easily, just attache the base to the front of the canoe and run the wires down each side. The biggest hassle with this is reattaching the transducer to the trolling motor for each trip.

Battery: Obviously if you are running a trolling motor and a fish finder, you are going to need a battery. Brands are not the main focus here, but gel is important. You need a leakproof spill proof battery, that is easy to lug around and knock-around

Getting to where you need to go:

Transporting a canoe to and from the lake is a breeze. Wether you drive a small car or a full size SUV canoes dont require a trailer unlike most boats (and some kayaks), all you need is some foam blocks and some straps. Throw it up on the roof, pull down, and away you go. I use a 3 strap system to ensure total security. I attach a front and rear strap, and then a centre strap that goes over the canoe and through the inside of the vehicle. Beleive me this one extra strap makes a big difference when traveling at higher speeds

Once on the water, one of the large perks of fishing from a canoe is its mobility and ability to get you into tight spots, small spaces and to slide over some of the thickest nastiest cover around. Canoes run quieter then most larger boats and will allow you to slip into the shallows as silent as a ninja to take these fish by surprise. Small trolling motors are just as quiet as a paddle so dont feel you need to paddle your way into the shallows

The light weight frame of my Radisson/Sportspal allows me to travel long distances fairly quickly with the aid of a trolling motor. When needed portaging is also super easy, weighing in at only 30lbs this canoe can be carried easily by 1 person or 2 to hop between lakes.

Fishing Solo or with a Partner:

How you load a canoe for fishing will really depend on where you are going and if you will be fishing solo or with a partner. Both of these have perks.. fishing solo gives  you the additional room needed to pack all the gear you may want to take with you, while fishing with a partner will give you some added weight in the front of the canoe which in turn provides you with better control on windy days.

The Below image depicts a typical set-up when Im fishing with a partner, rods are slid down the side with tips pointing out from the back of the canoe. The battery used for the trolling motor is placed central in the canoe to allow for perfect balance. On the opposite site of the canoe I place my tackle bag.  This is a down sized bag loaded with just the gear I need for that day. My canoe comes with foam backed seats that allow you to adjust how your sitting and provide comfort for those 8hr trips.

If fishing solo, I change the position of the rods so they are facing the front of the boat, both my tackle bag and the trolling motor battery are then moved to the front of the canoe for additional weight. A kneeling pad I use primarily for ice fishing is placed in the canoe in front of my seat to allow me to kneel for long periods of time and. Kneeling gives you more height in the canoe and more mobility when fighting a fish. (it is all about comfort)

Canoe Fishing Techniques:

There are certain fishing techniques that lend themselves to fishing from a canoe and other that are more difficult. Obviously from a sitting position baitcasting rods are harder to control/manoeuvre then a spinning rod. On average I travel with only 4 rods while in a canoe, 3 are usually spinning and 1 baitcaster. Here are the 4 techniques I find the easiest and most productive while in my canoe

Wacky or Texas Rigged Worms: It is super easy to fish soft plastic baits from your canoe, these light weight baits work well on spinning gear, and can be cast for long distance or skipped up under close by structure. I always have one rod rigged for soft plastics while in the canoe, and often it is my go to rod throughout the day.

It there is a lot of  submerged trees or timber, I will move to a slightly weighted bait (1/4oz or so) and I pull up over top of it (or on the edges) and drop my bait. Fish bury themselves deep in these trees so go get 'em

Top Water: I think I need to be more specific here, as not all topwater baits work well on spinning gear or from a seated position. I tend to use popping baits over walking baits while in the canoe, they are much easier to control and require less dexterity. Dont get me wrong you can fish walking baits from a canoe, but if you are looking for a nice relaxing day on the water, why frustrate yourself with a bait that may not work as well as you are use to.

CrankBaits (shallow): I dont spend much time with a crank bait on my line throughout the year, but when in my canoe I always have one tied on. They are great for covering water, and when it is time to move from spot to spot, they are fun to troll behind the boat while you are relocating. Again these shallow cranks and/or square-bills can be fished on spinning gear and will work well for covering water or picking apart structure. (I will give spinnerbaits an honourable mention here, as they are a bait I will change back and forth with a crank bait)

Frog Fishing: You had to know that this was going to be here,  this is the technique in which I will use my bait caster for its added power. A canoe gets me in nice and tight to pads and thick weed clumps, throwing frogs over this is just too big an opportunity to pass up. Getting use to frog style hook sets while sitting down can be a pain, but practise makes perfect. If you don't like the feel on a bait caster, move to your beefiest spinning rod, and hold on tight.

There you have it,  some quick tips and techniques for making your next canoe trip a successful one. Fishing from a canoe is a great relaxing way to fish, it gets you close to the water, and nature. Fishing from a canoe reminds me of being a kid at camp or the cottage, when fishing was meant worms and red/white bobbers. The fishing sure has changed, but not my enjoyment of it.

P.S: Hope you enjoyed the pics, these are pics from my sportspal over the past 10 years. As you can see we have had some success

Monday, September 10, 2012

Top Water Baits Part 1: Walking the Dog

Top water fishing is a way of life, I don't think I have ever come a across an angler anywhere that will argue with you about the high you get when while fishing top water, "the most exciting play in sports" as the ESPN sportscasters say.  When It comes to top water fishing  there are many different styles of bait you can look into, including: Frogs, BuzzBaits, Skitterpops, wake baits, Poppers, and of course Walking baits. Overtime we will touch on great baits in each of these categories, but for today we will be focusing on one of my personally favourite methods.. Walking Baits

Back in the day walking baits use to give anglers fits, there is a very specific rhythm you would need to get into to allow the bait to walk properly for any length of time. But as baits progressed and advanced, it became easier and easier to walk the dog, and catch fish. It you are someone who currently struggles with this, check out these three baits, the pretty much walk themselves

1) Live Target Walking Frog

The LT walking frog hit the market nearly two years ago, and has been a top producing bait in my arsenal ever since. It has a near flawless design that allows it to be walked perfectly by experienced anglers and novices alike. Even better then the walking action on this bait is it's "sit" when paused. The tail end of the frog sits nice and low in the water and lets that tail hook hand down to make sure even fish just swiping at it get a piece of that nasty treble.

Although available in two sizes and multiple colours, I prefer to work with the smaller version as I believe it gives off the perfect profile from below and can be walked a bit more erratic when needed. As for color choices, I like the natural green as well as the higher vis yellow but the bellies of all these frogs are white, so other then a small portion of the of side of the frog that will be visible when it sways, color should be not a driving factor in y our purchase decision.

There is nothing I can actually complain about when it comes to the Live  Target Walking frog, it has all the keys I believe a walking bait needs to make you successful, it walks, it sits, it rattles. Dont touch it, dont change it, just fish it

2) IMA Skimmer

This is a new bait for me this season. I was looking to add some variation to my walking bait arsenal and I liked the long slender profile that reminded me of my old Zara Spooks from Heddon.

The Skimmer is a violent walking bait that you can nearly make do circles right on the spot, and like the Live Target walker it sits extremely well in the water.. ass down with the crazy sharp hooks dangling down as the perfect target for any fish paying attention. Fitted with loud internal rattles this bait calls fish in better then the Live Target walking frog (which also has a rattle system)

Of the Walking baits I use, the Skimmer casts further and more accurately then the rest. It has a very long slender body and is weighted perfectly. It hits the water like an Olympic diver, and pops back up ready for the retrieve. In some situations the bait fish profile will out fish the wider frog profile, I think there is room in your arsenal for both the thicker LT Walking frog and a Skimmer

The movement on this bait is what really makes the biggest difference, the first two times I broke it out this season the guys I was fishing with actually stopped to watch it move, and then asked "what are you using". If a bait can catch an anglers attention like that, then you know it is doing something different then the rest

3) Heddon Zara Spook

Im going to wrap this up with a classic walking bait. The Zara Spook was the bait that introduced my to "walking the dog" and to this day I have a "retired spook" hanging on my wall. That bait caught so many fish that eventually the belly treble hook was pulled right off, forcing the bait into retirement. (ahh the memories)

The Spook is a great bait, but does slightly suffer from falling behind the times. It does not have a lot of the bells and whistles some of the newer baits on the market are equipped with. It has a lightweight metal frame that casts well, but not as well as the above baits. It does not have a rattle system and thus relies solely on its movement in the water to call fish in. This is ok for nice calm mornings on the water, but in wind or raining conditions, a rattle is a must .

I love the spook and still carry both the full size and Jr with me at all times. It takes a bit longer to learn to walk a spook then it will with the newer baits that pretty much walk when you breath on them, but all in all it is a quality bait that will put fish in your live well

Please note that the above discussion surrounds the "classic" spook. Heddon does make spooks with rattles as well as a swayback spook that walks easier.

Honorable Mention

Ok, this may sound odd, but Im going to give an honourable mention to a bait I have never used. When tournament fishing my partner and I have a 1-2 punch we like to start the day off on, He throws top water and I throw a spinnerbait. This year he transitioned over from the Live Target walking from to using the Strike King Sexy Dawg. Built very similar to a Heddon Zara Spook it has a very large profile thinning to the tail end, thus improving it's walking ability. The Sexy Dawg is also equipped with the loudest rattle I have ever heard in a walking bait. It casts well and I can attest that it catches fish.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

5 Lakes in 10 Days 2012: Photo Journal

There are many different events or trips that take place each  year, a few of them have become annual events or traditions, this trip is one of those things. Taking place the week prior to labour day my 10 day 5 Lake vacation usually includes 1 tournament (Limerick this year) and then a visit to  4 more lakes over the 10 day span.

yes, my wife puts up with a lot, and usually comes with me on most of these trips. Hitting the water just after 9am each day we fish until 3pm then head in for an afternoon nap, some dinner and then back on the lake from 6pm till dark (just before 9). This happens every day for 10 days straight. I use this time not only to relax but also to break in new baits, and also get back out into my canoe for a bit, the vessel I fished from the first half of my life.

Below are a collection of pics taken over the 10 Day 5 Lake span

Dobyns DX744 & War Eagle Screaming Eagle Spinnerbait

Dobyns 735c & Zoom UltraVibe Craw

Dobyns SS705C and a Cavatron Buzzbait

Dobyns SS704C and a Cavatron Buzzbait

                                         Dobyns SS704C and a Cavatron Buzzbait

Dobyns 736c & Deps Slither K

                                                        Dobyns 736c & Deps Slither K

Dobyns 703DXSF El Grande 5" Gila Monster

Dobyns 705CBRM, IMA Squarebill

Dobyns 705CBRM, IMA Squarebill

Dobyns DX703SF El Grande Lures 5" Gila Monster

                                                          Dobyns 705CBRM, IMA Squarebill

Dobyns 705CBRM, IMA Squarebill

Dobyns DX703SF El Grande Lures 5" Gila Monster

As always this trip was a blast, I fell into a funk using a few baits as they were clearly out producing the others. The Z-Hog by zoom was my go to bait for flipping at timber lay downs, and the Cavitron buzzbait was by far the most effective top water bait. although I did have issues with my buzzbait and lost multiple large smallmouth right at the boat

When it came to flipping pads and grass the fish were looking for a smaller bite and they ate up the 5" El Grande Gila Monster slightly weighted with an Elite Tungsten 1/4oz.

My frog of choice was the Deps Slither K, I put this bait on to give it a work out for an upcoming review on the Frog Pond, and it produced so well I used it all week long. The first 8 fish that blew up on this bait were hooked and landed, the first miss took place on a short strike close to the boat that surprised me and I'll take the blame for the miss as I did not give the fish time to take it

Im going to finish off this photo journal with a pic of my wife's smiling uncle. He loves to fish for smallmouth and he likes the jumps more the fight itself so it is always an adventure. Here he is with a beauty he hooked into on day 2 of my trip. This is a new personal best for him, caught from a canoe with no net handy, it was a great battle

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fear & Loathing: Limerick Lake

 Ok, I will admit that my vacation time has made me  little tardy with this post. The Limerick lake tournament took place on August 26th, and although we still did not cash a paycheck we did put forth one of our better performances this year.

before we get into my day, as always I need to give credit where credit is due.. the Limerick Lake tournament was won by the team of Bill Towes and Thomas Christopher. They brought in one of the seasons largest bags to date.. 18.54lbs and if winning was not enough they also took home big fish money fwith a 4.4lb largemouth.. small for limerick lake standards but still good for the cash

congrats Bill and Thomas

Second place went to Jeff Smale and Jeff Oxford (15.5lbs), this is the last event of the season for Jeff as the poor bastard is getting married on or just before the season finale on Paudash lake.. not a bad way to end your season (or single life), congrats guys

in third was Roman Mizuk and Brad Reeves, with a 14.7lb bag... nice smallies!

Special congrats go out to Brain Robinson and Rick Morgan, they placed 4th at the limerick lake event and although they just missed out on some hardware, they still cashed a cheque.. correct me if I'm wrong but that's two events in a row! congrats guys. (I believe Brian has cashed a paycheck on Limerick 3 of the last 4 years, I know because I split one with him)

As for Dustin and I, we had a pretty decent day, we boated dozens of fish and had our first 5 keepers in the live well by 10:50am. ( a record for this season)

The area we were fishing was fairly shallow and clear, we watched as many big fish cruised the area but few would pay attention to out baits. The top water bite was off, and so was the trusty spinner bait. We worked the shorelines and miles and miles of timber pulling off small fish after small fish. As things moved into the afternoon we were able to get a few better bites and swapped out 4 of our original 5 keepers. By 2am we had the weight that we would eventually end the day with.. 10.6 lbs good for 17th place.. ouch

This is not exactly where we thought we would be at this time last year, but hey there is still one 2-day event left to fish, and we still have a chance to get some cash and hardware.

here are some more great pics from the day on Limerick

Special thanx to Limerick lake lodge, they were a great host as always. If you are looking to fish Limerick and need a place to stay, be sure to check them out HERE

Up Next: Paudash Lake Sept 8/9