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Fishing, Hunting and Outdoor Blog for Stories, Tips and Reviews

Fishing, Hunting and Outdoor Blog for Stories Tips and Reviews from Outdoor Men and Women.


Some of the Best Ice Fishing Road Trips in the U.S.A.

Troy Thomas

In case you’re something like me, you’ve got some friends who make up your middle aged ice fishing crew. You’re likely hitting the handful of lakes and ponds over and over. Your own home game is dialed, no doubt, so maybe it’s time to take the crew on the road. Making plans a D.I.Y. getaway in the coldest months actually comes with greater logistics than a summer journey.

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Five U.S. Tailwaters to Fly Fish in the Winter Months

Troy Thomas

One of the reasons I love fly fishing is as it’s a year round undertaking. Even throughout the coldest months of the year you can discover actively feeding fish, and also you don’t have to race to the water hours earlier than dawn for the fine action. Still, too many anglers put up their waders and stash their rods when wintry weather arrives.

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Wilderness Walleye Trip Destinations

Troy Thomas

Canada’s wilderness walleye waters lay along the Canadian Shield, an area of nearly 2 million square miles that turned into the first a part of the North American Continent to upward thrust above sea level. Historical glaciers, erosion and other herbaltactics have left the topography, lakes and rivers we see today.

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The Reasons You’re Not Catching Big Striped Bass in the Surf

Troy Thomas

Of all the qualities that make the striped bass one of the country’s premier game fish—including its tremendous strength, its regal purple sheen and stately black stripes, and its ability to grow to large sizes—perhaps the best is the striper’s tendency to feed close to shore.

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How to Catch Trout in Eddies

Troy Thomas


Pools can be as small as a bathtub in streams, and as big as a small lake in large rivers. But they all share similar characteristics. The three prime fish-holding areas in pools are the head of the pool where water enters, the tail of the pool where water begins to speed up as it enters the pool exit, and the main current flows in the body of the pool.

Because pools can contain the widest variety of feed options, the techniques for fishing them are wide. The two major issues to be dealt with are placing the fly or lure at the right depth, and dealing with slower and often swirling currents.

Fishing pools - where water exits and enters

The places where water enters and exits a pool are called ‘heads’ (entry) and ‘tails’ (exits). These areas can be fished either by upstream or downstream methods.

Nymphing upstream in heads and tails

Use a fly-line or spinning with a bubble-float, cast up into the faster water and allow the fly to sink as it floats into the deeper water as the current slows, or at the tail cast into the slower water and allow the fly to drift in to the faster water. Allow the fly to lift on the end of the drift before picking it up for re-casting.

Depth control is important, and allowance must be made for the fact that depth will vary as the pool deepens (head) or shallows (tail). Too much weight and the fly will sink correctly in the faster water, but plummet to the bottom when the flow slows. If anything, err on the side of being too light, but be prepared to adjust the weight of the nymph or nymphs to get it right.

Line control can be tricky when fishing pools, because there can be slack water between the angler and the fly. More tricky still is back eddies between the angler and the fly. The only way of overcoming this is constant mending of the line, both up and downstream. You may well have to face the fact that on big rivers and big pools the volume of water, and the size of the eddies, may preclude fishing using upstream methods.

Fishing downstream in head and tail water

Use the traditional downstream method. Cast across the faster water and allow the fly to sink, then swing across the current and down into the pool. Retrieve with a twitching, irregular action.

Choose a line that will give you the best depth control. This can range from a floating line with a long leader, through slow sinkers and right down to fast sinking shooting-heads. The key to line choice is achieving the maximum lure action at the correct fishing depth. I find that wet flies with plenty of in-built action work best. Try Woolly Buggers, or any of the marabou flies. Big Glo-Bugs work well too - especially on a short leader, with a very fast sinking line.

Choice of lure when spin-fishing will again be governed by the weight required to achieve the best depth control. Lead-head jigs work well here. The soft-plastic tails provide good action with minimal action applied by the angler. If you carry a range of head sizes and weights, adjustments can be made quickly.

Fishing pools - the main body

The main body of the pool will usually contain the deepest water, with the slowest currents. And once again where your lure is, is the prime factor.

This water can be successfully fished using nymph, dry fly, downstream and spinning techniques. The key is to ensure that whatever fly or lure is being used, it is being fished at the correct depth.

Very often pools are formed where there is a distinct change in the direction of the stream or river, especially where the flow meets a steep bank or cliff. In this situation there may be quite strong, but narrow, currents running alongside the bank or cliff. These are prime fish-holding areas. Drifting a fly down through these fast current areas is often one of the most successful forms of trout fishing. But it can be the most difficult.

The currents pushing up against the cliff or bank push back-eddies out across the pool. So maintaining the fly in the main current without the line pulling the fly away is often a problem.

One way of overcoming this is to get into a position as directly below the main flow as possible and cast directly up-current. Anything you can do to reduce the angle will help. Another method is to hold the rod tip as high as possible to have the least amount of fly-line on the water as possible.

Most of the time we think of a river as having an upstream and downstream in terms of water direction. In other words, water flow is pretty much constant, in terms of direction. But this is not so.

Even when water is travelling apparently straight downstream in a river of uniform shaped banks, what is happening underwater might not be the same as what appears on the surface. Very often underwater features may alter the direction of the water, and therefore the direction a fish is facing.

In fact the way, or direction, a fish is facing can provide a clue as to where to cast in order to have the fly or lure pass in front of the trout's nose. If the trout is lying at an angle to the apparent current flow, then, if you were nymphing, the fly might best be cast to one side of directly upstream.

Just Like Water: The Case for Bad Beer

Troy Thomas


By: David Coggins

One of my most beloved angling traditions is the lunchtime beer. The midpoint of a float trip is largely an excuse to open a can of Miller Lite. If the morning has been a good one, then it’s a well-earned celebration. If the fishing has been off, then it’s a commiseration with your own bad luck–and just as well-deserved. Churchill said, “In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.” He was referring to vintage champagne and would have morally disapproved of light beer, but the sentiment endures.

I’m irrationally partial to Miller Lite, which on its best day can be considered an above-average, average beer. “What does that possibly mean?” the microbrew IPA aficionado wonders. “Why would you ever settle for mass-market indifference?” the artisanal advocate wants to know. Well, we all have our standards and they are defined by circumstance. On an airplane, I don’t want to watch a refined French film; I prefer a comedy or anything Michael Mann’s made that I’ve already seen five times. On a road trip, I’ll take pretzels over an esoteric dried Japanese seaweed. And when I’m out fishing, all I want is a light beer that appears to have misspelled its own name.

Is its taste, if it has one, close to water? It probably is. In fact, it definitely is, and that’s perfectly fine, even part of its appeal. Anything heavier is liable to put you in the mood for a nap. You want something right out of the cooler, bracingly cold. (This is when those high-end coolers really prove their worth.) You might even drink half of it in one go (something that wouldn’t happen anywhere else).

These issues are definitely regional. I know Olympia partisans in Washington, Coors retro-activists in Colorado. For me, growing up spending summers in Wisconsin, the beer of choice was, and continues to be, Leinenkugel’s, which was from nearby Chippewa Falls. It has a peculiar taste (hoppy with a hint of stale cardboard), and this is the beer of lakeshores and cookouts. The intensity of my feelings for Leinenkugel’s was not clear to me until an East Coast friend tried it and raised his eyebrow in a way I felt unduly dismissive. It turned out that partisans like me could denigrate this beer, this holy water, but outsiders could not!

Taste is of course personal, but beer, as much as anything else, is connected to occasion and location. You drink a beer at baseball games, or in a certain season, in a certain climate. I don’t want my fishing beer to be so good it’s distracting. With these beers, that’s definitely not the case. What I drink in my city life, a dry Riesling or white Burgundy, is not the answer on a trout stream. No, it has to be beer. And it has to be bad beer. So often, fly fishing is about elevated traditions, precision, and presentation. When you step off the water, however, sometimes the right answer is to aim just low enough.

David Coggins is the author of Men and Manners and the New York Times best-selling Men and Style. He has written about travel, fly fishing, design, and drinking for numerous publications, including Esquire, Robb Report, the Financial Times, and Bloomberg Pursuits. He lives in New York.

Wrecking Ball White Bass

Troy Thomas


I wish I could say this “wrecking ball” discovery was the result of testing a cutting-edge angling hypothesis. In truth, it came about by happenstance. It was fortunate that I had enough fishing sense to see value when value presented itself.

The concept is simple, involving an “outside the box” use of downrigging equipment to locate pelagic freshwater fish like white bass, hybrid striped bass, and even stripers that are in a neutral, bottom-hugging mode, where they can be caught with vertical tactics. By “outside the box” I mean that instead of attaching a line with lure or bait to the downrigger ball via a release clip, there’s no bait, lure, no line, or clip involved.

Discovery Downriggers

I’ve been a full-time fishing guide for 11 years, working several central-Texas reservoirs near Austin that are under 13,000 acres in size. I guide year-round, and typically conduct about 185 trips per season, each focused on catch-and-release angling for white bass and hybrid stripers.

One afternoon, between my morning and afternoon trips, I was getting gear squared away before my clients were due to arrive. I’d recently restrung my ‘riggers with braided line in lieu of the braided metal cable that comes standard with downriggers. I noticed that the line was unevenly spooled on my starboard ‘rigger, so I lowered the weight so I could manually guide the line onto the spool evenly.

I was in about 33 feet of water, drifting slowly along a flat on Belton Lake. As I hit the “Up” button on the Cannon Digi-Troll 10 TS, the 12-pound ball rose off bottom as I guided line onto the spool. I glimpsed at my sonar unit and saw that not only had the ball risen off bottom, but that what looked like a school of white bass had chased it up.

Amazed, I immediately lowered the ball back down and watched same scenario play out. As the ball rose, the white bass rose about 12 to 14 feet off of bottom in pursuit, then turned and headed back to bottom. I repeated this twice more before the fish no longer responded. I used my trolling motor to go back over the area, probing the bottom with a slab spoon. I immediately hooked a nice white bass, then another, then another, verifying fish species.

The White Bass Fishing Tactic

I couldn’t wait to test this “wrecking ball” concept and started fine-tuning it. To appreciate why it works on freshwater pelagics like white bass, consider the nature of these fish. They patrol offshore areas in large numbers, often generally relating to deep structure where they feed on shad. Schools work together to herd, and trap the baitfish against a bank, into a cove, or toward the surface, then feed heavily but briefly.

I recalled many occasions when bottom-hugging white bass would pull up off bottom and rise to the level of my downrigger ball, trailing it for several yards before breaking off the chase. I knew fish that responded to the ball would hit lures quickly dropped to them. But I never realized how deadly the system could be.

I now run a single ball 5 to 6 feet off bottom in areas I suspect may hold fish, keeping an eye on sonar. Speed matters. I don’t exceed 2.9 mph in water over 68°F, and slow to between 1.9 and 2.6 mph in water 50°F to 68°F.  Once water temperatures drop below 50°F, I don’t find fish willing to rise off bottom or chase.

I’ve placed my downriggers farther toward the bow on my port and starboard gunwales than normal to keep both downrigger balls visible on sonar. Using a standard 83/200-kHz skimmer-type transducer with a 22-degree cone angle on my Lowrance HDS-12 Gen3 unit, I can steer the boat with one hand and raise and lower the downrigger ball to follow the contour of the bottom with the other, watching for fish rising toward the ball. I tend to use my starboard ‘rigger primarily because the transducer is just starboard of my lower unit, so that ball stays in the cone a bit better than the port-side ball does.

Catching Chasers

Once fish reveal themselves, I put the motor in neutral and raise the ball as quickly as possible. If you leave it in the water, fish continue to follow it, and the school spreads out instead of remaining tightly grouped. For vertical jigging, I want them to remain as tightly grouped as possible.

Using my remote, I put my Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor on “Spot Lock” above the fish. I keep my trolling motor deployed as soon as I lower my downrigger ball to quickly respond. At times the school moves quickly enough to avoid you. But if you backtrack to where fish first followed the ball, you should be successful 80 percent of the time.

It’s critical to get lures down quickly. One trick is to watch the foamy bubble trail behind the boat. Instead of tossing a marker buoy, which takes time and is a snagging hazard, or using i-Pilot, I pick out one foamy bubble patch and use it as a temporary buoy, watching it and my sonar until I see fish. Once I spot the school, I press “Spot Lock” and drop slab spoons.

I’ve developed a technique I call “easing,” which involves a 3/4-ounce slab anchoring a tandem rig. My favorite is a white or silver holographic Model 180 spoon made by Bryon Nolan of Redneck Fish’n in Altus, Oklahoma. I use it with the Hazy Eye Shad tandem rig, which is designed to eliminate break-offs and tangles experienced with most tandem rigs.

I attach a slab to a snap on the end of the Hazy Eye Shad rig. Once the boat is still and my line is hanging plumb vertical, I drop it to the bottom with my rod tip 6 to 8 inches above the surface. I keep my free hand on the bail and close it the instant the rig contacts bottom.

With the slab on bottom, I ease my rod tip steadily and smoothly from its position just above the surface up to the 11-o’clock position in a 5-second time span. If not grabbed by a fish, I let the rig fall back to bottom on a semi-slack line. Ninety percent of the strikes and nearly all hookups occur as you raise the rig. The easing tactic is much more effective than traditional snap-jigging.

If fish don’t respond in the first 3 to 5 eases, the school generally has departed. I stay put only another two minutes or so to see if the commotion of jigging will draw fish. If nothing happens, I do an expanding spiral sonar sweep to relocate them. If not successful, I go back to the wrecking ball.

I use Penn Slammer 260 spinning reels on Abu Garcia Veritas 6-foot 9-inch medium-light rods with 30-pound-test Sufix 832 braid in neon lime, terminated with a VMC #2 Touch Lok snap. The Hazy Eye Shad rig is tied with 30-pound fluorocarbon and also terminates with a VMC #2 Touch Lok snap to which the slab is attached.

If a tandem rig is not your style, I suggest a 3/8-ounce slab with a Hazy Eye Stinger Hook affixed to the line tie. In this situation, I use neon lime 30-pound Sufix 832 as my mainline, a VMC #2 snap on the end of a 24-inch fluorocarbon leader of 20-pound test. For a single spoon, I use a longer and lighter 7-foot Fenwick Eagle EA70ML-MFS with the Penn Slammer 260.

Doubling Up

Once a fish grabs either the slab or the teaser on the Hazy Eye Shad rig, you have two options. You can reel in the hooked fish and get back to fishing while the school remains below. Or you can shoot for a double, hooking one fish on the slab and another on the Hazy Eye Shad teaser fly. To consistently double up, don’t move the first fish far away from its school.

The instant I know I have a fish on either lure, I keep pressure on the fish without raising the rod any further (if possible) or barely raising the rod. If you wind the reel, you’re going too far, too fast. Once the hooked fish swims erratically near its schoolmates with either the slab or the teaser fly dangling free, another fish typically responds in 6 to 7 seconds. You often won’t feel the strike of the second fish, just an increase in the load on the rod. If another fish doesn’t bite in 7 or 8 seconds, reel it in and try again.

Sit Still

You can reap the benefits of the wrecking ball approach—catching many active fish until they lose interest, if you sit still. Fish locate prey and one another both by sight and by detecting vibrations using their lateral line. When the first fish is hooked, it flashes and struggles and puts off sights and vibrations that excite nearby fish. Hooked fish often regurgitate what they’ve recently eaten, and may defecate as a stress response. When regurgitated food and feces fall toward the bottom, a third component—scent is introduced, thus further triggering active feeding. If an angler moves about with the trolling motor or drifts, they fail to capitalize on this triggering element of the program. But if you remain atop the school, action continues.

Staying still has never been easier than with the introduction of self-positioning trolling motors. I recently installed a 2017 model Minn Kota 36-volt, 112-pound thrust Ulterra trolling motor. Once the Spot-Lock button is pushed, the motor works to steer and power itself to stay exactly atop the prescribed location. This newest generation is amazingly precise, rarely allowing one’s line to hang any way but plumb vertical beneath the boat. And they lock on position much more quickly than did first-generation motors.

It also has the capability to move to the left, right, forward, or rearward in 5-foot increments, in case you were a bit off when you hit Spot-Lock, or if your side-scanning sonar reveals fish holding to the side. Lacking this modern technology, tossing out a marker buoy and holding the boat near it with a trolling motor is a workable alternative. You catch more fish if you capitalize on taking more fish from the schools you’ve worked to find by fishing from a fixed position above them, taking advantage of the domino effect first begun by the frantic activity of the first fish you hook in the area.

Seasonal Fish Timing

Wrecking-ball fishing is most effective when fish are holding near bottom in large numbers. In the southeastern and southwestern U.S., this typically occurs from mid-October through April. In Texas, the thermocline typically forms in late May and breaks down in mid-October. The cool months from mid-October until the spawning run in mid-March to mid-April are the best time for this technique.

Once water warms, the thermocline forms and the fish’s metabolism is at a seasonal peak through the summer. They’re often suspended and too transient for this tactic to work as well. Even hot-water fish holding near the bottom at depths shallower than the thermocline tend to be too transient for this tactic to work as well as it does during the cooler months.

Downrigger Rigging?

Anglers sometimes ask, “If fish respond to the downrigger ball so well, why not attach a lure to the release clip on the ball and let the downrigger work as it was intended?” My answer is that you catch only a few fish as you pass over the school instead of potentially catching dozens by sitting atop an active school. Even if you’re an expert downrigger, by the time it takes to stop the boat, reel in and unhook fish, turn around, reset lines, and  make another pass at that school, they’re likely long gone.

Downriggers used in the conventional fashion are certainly not obsolete. I consider them the go-to technique during warmer months, especially when dealing with fish suspended above the thermocline. Tricked out with 3-armed umbrella rigs and Luhr-Jensen Pet Spoons, downriggers are ready to do business when the heat is on.

White Bass Fishing Location

No matter how effective the wrecking ball tactic is, it only works if fish are nearby. You can’t drop a downrigger ball anywhere, watch sonar, and expect fish to come flooding off the bottom. You must find classic cool-water fish-holding topographic features, generally in 22 to 45 feet of water here Texas. Broad humps, long and slow-tapering points, and breaklines at the edges of deep flats are prime real estate. The wrecking ball tactic helps to quickly eliminate unproductive portions of these productive features.

The post Wrecking Ball White Bass appeared first on In-Fisherman.

The Worst (Funniest) Hunting Products Ever Seen

Troy Thomas

If I were in a more curmudgeonly frame of mind, I could name anything that makes hunting easier or is higher tech that didn’t exist when I was younger: ATVs, trail cameras, cell phones, for instance. But, I can see how ATVs are a godsend to deer hunters; that trail cameras must be a lot of fun; and personally, since I am as bad as any teenager with my phone in the field, who am I to criticize them? Cell phones are a blessing for those of us with short attention spans when we have to sit patiently and wait for game. I know I used to do it before cell phones, but it was really boring.

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Visions of an Angling Artist

Troy Thomas


By: Phil Monahan

A few years ago, we featured the artwork of Sarah Lauridsen, a Vermonter who is both an avid fly-fisher and artist. Today, out of the blue, she emailed me the brook-trout painting above, which blew me away. This time of year, the brookies are decked out in their spawning finery, and Sarah’s painting nails the colors. As you can see from the paintings below, she’s a master of colors and texture.

See more of her work her at:

“Rainbow Trout in Water.” Acrylic on canvas. 48″ X 24″

“Rainbow Trout in Water.” Acrylic on canvas. 48″ X 24″

“Tarpon Cheek.” Acrylic on canvas. 30″ X 15″

“Tarpon Cheek.” Acrylic on canvas. 30″ X 15″

Bass Fishing Myths

Troy Thomas


By: Steve Quinn

The late Al Houser, former director of the Oklahoma Fisheries Research Lab, made a comment that’s stuck in my head for 30 years. “The problem isn’t that anglers are ignorant,” he lamented, “it’s that they know so many things that just ain’t so.”

Every angler group has its widely held fallacies, perhaps none more than bass anglers. That’s perhaps surprising, given the volume of research directed at black bass. Moreover, superbly skilled professional anglers often offer commentary on fishing and fishery management topics. Yet, despite their talents and big winnings, many pro anglers are as guilty as anyone else of clinging to myths. Here’s a selection of firmly held beliefs that just ain’t so.

Bass Become Dormant in Cold Water

With the fall season approaching, we’ll undoubtedly hear how bass fishing will be bountiful, since fish stock up prior to their long winter of inactivity. No doubt fall is a fine time to fish, and big fish seem more active. But this shift has as much to do with altered habitat and prey movements as with bass seeking their last meal in months.

As poikilothermic animals (blood the same temperature as environment), the metabolic systems of fish adjust to temperature changes to maintain life in the same conditions they’ve evolved in. Members of the sunfish family undergo physiological changes in chemical balances and size of the heart that prepare them for cold. Relative movement of bass declines and digestion slows, but bass bite well in northern waters as lakes approach the freezing point.

Largemouths strike lures jigged below a hole in the ice and eat large suckers and shiners set on tip-ups. In northeastern states, many of the biggest bass caught each year come through the ice.

Few North Country anglers target bass on frozen lakes, and that may be a good thing from a conservation standpoint. According to Roger Hugill, Minnesota DNR fishery biologist, a contingent of ice anglers sought to block catch and-release regulations on a local lake. The reason, they argued, was that winter was the best time to catch the bass they liked to bake, those juicy 5-pounders!

Physiological models suggest that at 40°F bass need consume only about one third as much food to maintain nutrition as they do at 70°F. Preyfish abundance is lowest in winter as well. But bass still eat. In some systems, particularly rivers, bass tend to be sedentary during winter, mostly because critical habitat is limited at that time. In lakes and reservoirs, however, underwater cameras show bass cruising along shallow and deep, often approaching the camera for a better look.

Bass Strike Red Hooks Cause They Resemble Blood

Manufacturers have rushed to capitalize on the latest craze by offering lures with red hooks, red sinkers and blades, red line, even red reel spools. I’ve heard pros state in seminars that red hooks or a red highlight can attract extra bites by stimulating the blood of a baitfish, gills, or perhaps a crawfish.

Studies of bass vision indicate they detect red easily, and can discriminate among shades. No research shows, however, any instinctive attraction to it. While anglers might reason that blood is red, bleeding baitfish are vulnerable to attack, so fish should attack objects with red markings; bass don’t think like that. They lack the neurological processes to come to any conclusion.

Bass are capable of quickly learning to bite what brings a reward, ignore what brings no benefit, and avoid dangerous stimuli. But the idea that bass can associate reddish markings on baitfish with red on artificial lures is far-fetched, according to what we know about their learning process.

Myth #3: A Bass is a Bass…

While most knowledgeable anglers recognize the differences in behavior, habitat, and prey choice between largemouth and smallmouth bass, many accept the adage that largemouths behave similarly everywhere you find them.

This phrase may boost an angler’s confidence when fishing a new body of water but is biologically groundless. The largemouth is generally considered a single species divided into two subspecies, Florida and northern largemouth. But further genetic studies show variation in the DNA of fish even from nearby watersheds within the same state. And differences in diet, water color, and cover type also make bass from different lakes behave differently.

In some, topwater lures work all summer while they zero in other lakes. Night-fishing is fine some places and a waste of time elsewhere. Lure color preferences can be pronounced as well, and feeding and spawning behavior can also vary.

Local experts and guides are tuned to bass behavior and can teach visitors their tricks. For this reason, tournament anglers often hire a guide or consult renowned locals when researching for an upcoming tournament.

Modern Livewells Make Fish Care Easy

Gene Gilliland is a veteran bass biologist at the Oklahoma Fishery Research Lab in Norman, an epicenter of U.S. bassin’ fervor. Moreover, he’s an accomplished tournament fisherman and fishing industry analyst. For nearly 20 years, he’s been trying to teach tournament anglers to take better care of their catch. In 2002, he and Dr. Hal Schramm published Keeping Bass Alive: A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers.

Too bad so many avid bassers don’t like to read, and have for years failed to heed valuable advice that promises to add bonus ounces to tournament tallies and at the same time save bass from delayed mortality. “When I give seminars on this topic,” Gilliland says, “I still get the comment, ‘Well, how am I supposed to know how much air a bass needs?’

“Too many anglers simply put their catch in a livewell, turn the switch to auto, and forget about them until weigh-in time. While that amount of aeration may be sufficient for a modest catch in cool water, limits of bass weighing in the teens are oxygen-deprived in 80°F+ water. Anglers need to take measures to improve conditions: Run aerators constantly to add fresh water; add ice to lower livewell temperatures 5°F to 8°F; or run pure oxygen into the well.”

While today’s bass boats are longer and heavier, many models have not substantially increased livewell volume. Some manufacturers are to be commended, however, for taking fish care seriously, sacrificing a bit of storage and adding aeration features that work.

Deficiencies in livewell design and angler behavior were evident when Bassmaster Elite pros sacked limits of huge bass at Lake Falcon this spring, and both immediate and delayed mortality ran high. TV coverage of tournaments often exposes pros depositing their first fish in a dry livewell, then turning on the pump. That’s beyond poor handling practice, and less experienced anglers might copy them.

You Need a Big, Fast Boat to Fish Efficiently

Boat manufacturers and the pro anglers they sponsor sometimes seem to imply that the craft makes the angler. In fact, it is the angler’s craft, as in being crafty, rather than boat choice that prevails. As in past times, many of the best bass fishermen still use small, underpowered boats.

Small boats are suited to small waters where giant bass dwell, from Florida to Iowa to California. Full-sized bass boats can’t get into key shallow zones and have trouble maneuvering through dense timber or vegetation. When they do, the commotion often spooks lunkers.

Even on large waters, small, slow boats force anglers to slow down and concentrate on the fish and its environment, always a boon to good catching. Witness the many huge bass taken by shorebound anglers up to their elbows in the bass’ environment.

Big, fast boats are way cool and mighty comfortable, allowing us to haul untold hundreds of bass baits, few of which get used in a year, let alone in a day. Even in tournament competition, I know anglers who always score high, yet fish from small boats that make them the last guy to a given spot.

Tournaments Harm Bass Populations

Despite booming bass fisheries in recent decades, this myth refuses to die. Anglers and managers opposed to tournaments, for one reason or another, propagate the idea that excessive mortality hurts fishing quality. In defense of competition, one need only check the weights caught at waters fished incessantly by tournament competitors for decades—Grand Lake, Oklahoma; Kentucky Lake, Kentucky; Lake Seminole, Georgia-Alabama; Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota; and Sam Rayburn, Texas, to name but a few. Catches today typically are as good as they’ve ever been.

Rayburn hosts more than 300 tournaments a year and has done so for decades. More than half the anglers there participate in tournaments, according to a recent analysis by biologists with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.* That tagging study found tournament mortality contributed from 1 to 16 percent of total annual mortality of the largemouth population, while non-tournament catch-and-release fishing were 2 to 17 percent of the total, and angler harvest (nontournament) comprised 16 to 38 percent of annual bass mortality.

Fishing pressure doubtless makes bass harder to catch, but blame cannot be placed solely on competitive anglers. All who wield a rod contribute. Social issues have always been with us, and we can only hope that etiquette, fair play, and sportsmanship prevail on the water.

Bass Abandon Areas Treated With Herbicides

I’m generally as opposed to herbicide treatments as the next avid basser. I’ve seen habitat damage from chemical applications and am concerned about disease breakouts. But in some situations, treatments may be necessary for navigation and recreation, and even for the health of bass populations. Excessively thick plant growth limits bass feeding and cuts the abundance of key preyfish like shad.

Scientific evidence suggests that bass are not negatively affected by correct application of herbicides. Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Mark Bain and Suzanne Boltz of Auburn University tracked largemouths as herbicides were applied to their home areas on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.** Fish didn’t evacuate as the chemicals were applied or as plants dwindled, and collections of bass in treated and untreated areas were similar.

Recently, other Auburn researchers studied the reaction of bass to plant reduction by herbicides at another waterway where treatments have been controversial, Lake Seminole on the Georgia-Florida border. The Corps of Engineers treated the Spring Creek arm with fluridone at 6 parts per billion, which reduces hydrilla but is tolerated by most native plants. There, treatments didn’t change bass behavior in the short term but, as plants dwindled, bass moved into deeper water and switched habitat from hydrilla flats to standing timber.

Removal of hydrilla in smaller, shallower coves in another creek arm had contrasting results. Instead of moving deeper, bass moved shallower into floating and emergent vegetation that represented the best habitat once hydrilla dwindled. In both cases, however, changes in fishing strategy would be required to maintain catch rates. During summer, stable environments typically offer the most consistent fishing, and habitat changes may temporarily reduce catchability.

In a final experiment, the scientists applied herbicide directly on nesting bass and water onto others, as a control. Bass didn’t abandon nests, and reproduction in treated areas was similar to that in untreated ones. Vegetation removal should be viewed as a last resort by lake managers, but careful treatments in limited areas should not harm bass fisheries. Fishing pressure makes bass more difficult to catch, and studies show tournaments don’t substantially increase mortality.

The article" “10 Biggest Bass Fishing Myths” appeared first on In-Fisherman.

Multispecies Systems That Catch Fall Pike

Troy Thomas

Even when I drive to a pike heaven like Rainy Lake, a Canadian Shield lake on the Minnesota-Northwest Ontario border, I usually begin with tactics that allow me to test the waters for the happening fish of the moment. Could be pike, but could also be walleyes, and at times smallmouth bass. Then I tinker from there, switching tactics to more accurately target whichever species is hot and happening.

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When (and How) to Introduce Your Kid to Outdoor Sports

Troy Thomas

Kids also do best when they’re allowed to explore, instead of being cajoled into ever more challenging situations. “Too many parents approach sports with a fixed mindset, saying, We’ve got to get to the end of this trail,’” says Paul Dreyer, CEO of Avid4 Adventure, which instructs kids ages three and up at camps in Colorado and California.

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Top Five Fly-Casting Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Troy Thomas

Photo by Sandy Hays

Photo by Sandy Hays

By: Zach Matthews

Fly-casting is not easy. Like any skill worth knowing, casting expertise takes a long time to develop—in some cases years. The good news is that anglers pretty much make the same mistakes, and that means your casting flaws have probably already been tackled by someone before. Of all the ways we casters foul up the presentation of our flies, these five stand out. They are the most common, and the fixes for them offer you the biggest results once you make the necessary tweaks to your stroke.


The Dreaded Tailing Loop

All fly casts unroll in a “loop,” which has a top leg and a bottom leg. Normally, these loops stay open, like a stretched-out letter C, with the bend unrolling toward the target. The legs of the loop do not cross.

“Tailing loops” occur when the top leg of the loop drops below the bottom leg as the cast unrolls, making a closed loop. As the cast unrolls, this closed loop often tangles when the top leg of the loop tries to turn over and gets snagged on the bottom leg of the loop. Tailing loops are the true cause of what we euphemistically call “wind knots.”

Normally, when the angler pushes the rod forward into the forward stroke, the tip top guide of the rod will track a straight, horizontal line a few feet above the angler’s shoulder. Tailing loops form when the tip top guide instead dips down in the middle of the forward stroke, forming a U-shaped or “concave” path as the angler pushes the rod forward. When the tip top guide drops, it drags the top leg of the loop down with it, imparting the classic tailing loop shape. Two things actually cause the tip top to drop: “punch” and “creep.”

“Punch” occurs when the angler gets excited and hammers his rod forward, often holding the rod upright like the angler was delivering a punch with a closed fist. The sudden application of forward power flexes the rod into a bend, which pulls the tip-top guide downwards—a problem exacerbated by the angler’s death grip holding the rod high in the sky. When the angler finishes his forward stroke and releases the pressure, the rod rebounds, springing the tip top skywards and creating the U-shaped path. The fix for “punching” anglers is to settle down. Focus on applying power evenly as the rod strokes forward, with the greatest power applied right before the rod comes to a stop. Be sure to rotate the wrist into the forward stroke, pointing the thumb a few feet above the target. The easiest way to practice this fix is to try to throw the slowest loops you can. “Punchy” anglers often cast as hard as they can in a misguided effort to get the fly out there.

“Creep” is a little more insidious. The proper way to make a backcast is to accelerate the hand backwards, then stop and keep the hand fully extended at the back of the cast until the backcast finishes unrolling. That way, when the angler starts his forward cast, his rod will be in position to immediately “catch” all the energy of the backcast and convert it into “load” or power for the forward cast. An angler who “creeps” is unknowingly allowing his rod hand to drift forward while his backcast is still unrolling behind him. When the tip top guide drifts forward, the rod ends up being held vertically, like an antenna on an old truck. As soon as the backcast finishes unrolling, the rod catches that force as a hard jolt. This jolt flexes the rod and drags the tip top guide downward into the classic U-shaped path, just as the angler tries to make his forward cast.

The fix for creeping anglers is twofold: first, get a friend to record your cast on video, shot from the side. Creeping anglers rarely believe they are doing anything wrong (denial is the first stage in any recovery, after all). Second, open your stance up a little bit and stand slightly sideways, so you can turn your head and look behind you. Wait for the visual cue of seeing the backcast finish unrolling and mentally note the sensation of the rod when it receives the backcast load. Only then start your forward stroke. Done properly, the load on the tip top guide will remain consistent as you push forward, preventing the U-shape and, ultimately, the tailing loop. Once you are very familiar with the sensation of the rod receiving the backcast load, you can square your stance back up, if that is more comfortable.


Front and Back Fly Fishing Casts Out of Plane

An angler once asked me to diagnose the reason why he could never get his cast out beyond forty feet, even though he knew how to double haul. We went to a field, laid a long rope on the grass in a straight line, and I stood in front of him at seventy feet while he casted straight at me. Within seconds I knew the problem. The angler’s backcast was out of plane with the forecast, meaning his backcast loop was shooting out to the side (by a significant amount). Out of plane casts sloppily spray force all over the place, swinging the rod sideways like a golf club, instead of loading it in a straight, clean bend, like a bow and arrow.

I asked the angler to open his stance up so he could turn his head behind him, and focus on keeping the backcast loop directly over the rope, which made a nice straight line into the distance. He did so, and on his very next cast he shot his yarn fly right over my shoulder, adding thirty feet to his cast with one simple change.

Out-of-plane casts are easy to diagnose because they cause the fly to kick sideways when the casts turns over. If your fly is consistently landing with a 90-degree bend in your leader, your casts are out of plane. Turn your head and pick out a spot directly behind you, opposite your target, and line up the front and back casts. This fix is usually as simple as recognizing the issue, and most anglers can correct it right away.


Double Hauling from Your Hip

Most anglers over-estimate the advantages of the double haul and underestimate the drawbacks of out-of-plane casting. Nonetheless, the double haul is the key to both control on windy days and to true distance casts over eighty feet. Learning the double haul is a step on the path to becoming a complete angler, but too many of us learn the technique badly.

The most common double-hauling error is hauling from the hip, rather than from the base of the rod. Properly, the double haul should begin with your hands close together and the line hand near the butt of your rod. As the rod moves into the backcast stroke, the line hand should haul down a few inches—then return to the butt of the rod, in some cases moving back up by the angler’s head. This is the part many anglers neglect; instead, they correctly haul away from the rod, but then let their line hand drift down by their hip, dragging feet of slack across their chests as they wait for the backcast to finish unrolling. When the time comes for the forward haul, they are mostly pulling on slack, and their line hands have nowhere further to go anyway.

The key to the proper forward haul is to let the backcast draw your line hand along with it as it shoots backwards, thus pulling your hand into position back up by the butt of the rod. If the haul into your forward cast starts with a tight, short length of line and your hands start out close together, the amount of force you can generate will be massively increased. Your hauls will be more effective—especially in punching into wind, and as an added bonus, your hauling hand won’t be trying to pull your rod sideways and thus out of plane.


Failing to Shoot Line

Almost every angler knows the concept of shooting line, but a surprising number of us think this fundamental casting technique is only for distance casting. Shooting line—allowing a weight-forward line’s head to tug the thin running line out through the guides as the cast unrolls forward—will not only make you more accurate, but will also leave you less tired. Shooting line dampens the effects of turnover, softening the forces that cause the fly to slap the water as it unrolls and making for a more delicate (and quieter) presentation. In distance-casting or saltwater applications, shooting line is absolutely necessary, as few anglers can “carry” eighty feet or more of line in the air.

A lot of anglers avoid shooting line because they dislike having tangles of running line at their feet. You can correct this with some basic line management. First, always keep your running line wet; in a boat you can throw down a wet towel or splash some water onto the floor or line tray. Wet running line is less apt to snag itself and form a knot. Second, always stretch your running line when you first pull it from the reel. Simply grab two points of the line a few feet apart and gently pull it like you were pulling out a piece of taffy. Work your way down the line until it is all stretched. Finally, stack your line in an orderly pile. Running line tangles when loops at two different parts of the line cross over each other. This forces the nearer loop to slide out from under the further loop as you shoot out line, often resulting in a knot.

To prevent this, stack the line from the back of the line to front as you lay it down. This means the most distant part of the line (the part that actually contacts the reel) should be laid on the ground first, with loops closer to the tip of the line stacked, in order, on top. If you make a habit of this as you retrieve line, the line will almost always shoot cleanly, because the front-most part of the running line will always be at the top of your pile.


Crashing Casts

There comes a point in every angler’s life when he decides to try for the big cast, throwing the fly as far as he possibly can. Most of the time, this attempt fails, because the fly fails to turn over and “crashes” while the line is still formed into a loop, instead of unrolling all the way to the fly.

Two things cause fly casts to crash: first, the cast lacks sufficient power to turn over the fly. Second, the shooting line can overrun a wind-resistant fly, even when the power to turn over the cast might have been there.

If you lack sufficient power to deliver that fly as far as you want to deliver it, you may not have enough rod. Five weights wilt when you ask them to throw huge saltwater flies at huge saltwater distances. Often though, the problem is not your gear, but you. Seeing a cast crash out should prompt you to review your checklist of casting errors to see if any of them might be monkeying with your delivery. Are you throwing a tailing loop? Are your front and back casts in plane? Are you hauling from the hip? Ultimately, all of us could stand to get better at these fundamentals – even the best casters in the world. You can make an old fly line into your “grass line” and practice with it in any open area. Just tie a piece of yarn to the end to serve as a practice fly.

Practice on the lawn is a great long term cure for crashing casts, but it won’t solve the problem right now, and that’s where the final tip comes in. Sometimes you just need the added inertia of the cast hitting the end of the line to force the last bit of energy into the fly and cause it to turn over. Some anglers practice what they call a “triple haul,” imparting a small tug to the line just as the fly turns over to make sure the cast straightens out. This is difficult to do when you’re shooting lots of line, because you may not keep your hand on the running line as it flies through the guides. However, you can duplicate the effect by tucking a loop of line (from the section nearest your reel) into your pocket or under the belt of your waders. As the cast finishes unrolling it will tighten up against the loop you tucked away, plucking it free but giving just enough tug to help the cast straighten out.

This article first appeared in Orvis News

Most Famous Big Game Hunters That Ever Were

Troy Thomas

In the annals of big game hunting history, there are a lot of very famous names out there. But some hunters just left a bigger mark on history than others.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most famous big game hunters to ever live and exactly what made them into the legendary outdoor figures they are today.

This was not an easy list to narrow down, as there are many big names in hunting. In the end, we went by some of the most recognizable, both in name and action.

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Wenonah and Northstar Sue Feds Over Boundary Waters Mining Company

Troy Thomas

Borrowing a page from Patagonia, which recently filed a lawsuit against President Trump as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other members of the federal government to protect Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, Wenonah Canoe recently took a similar approach to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).

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Catching Late Summer Pike on Live Bait

Troy Thomas

When it comes to a natural presentation for pike, nothing rivals livebait rigging. Even under adverse water or weather conditions, lockjawed pike can be coaxed into eating a well-placed sucker or chub. These baits react instinctively to the presence of nearby predators. They swim harder and dart about in search of an escape route. This behavior gets the attention of pike and triggers strikes in a manner that lures can’t duplicate.

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Worst Night in the Woods - Camping Horror Stories

Troy Thomas

In the woods, the night works like a megaphone, magnifying small sounds into big sounds and big into bigger. And there are so many things that can go bump in the night, from bears to thunder booms. However, night frights can make for frightfully good stories. With nods to well-known works of literature, here are some of those stories.

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Trolling for Walleye During Summer

Troy Thomas

Trolling for walleye is one of the most effective ways to find and trigger them in July and August. From the Canadian Shield to big rivers, prairie potholes, and the Great Lakes, pulling a variety of presentations helps cover water in search of active, catchable fish at a time when walleyes are scattered and forage is abundant.

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