Like every other angler, I am very skilled at storing fishing events in my memory bank. I keep thinking that one of these days the memory vault will be full, but it hasn’t happened yet.
When it comes to retrieving memories, some are easier to find than others. One event that often crosses my mind taught me a lesson on the relationship between proper equipment and utilizing electronics. Let me explain.
It was several years ago that I found myself fishing a deep basin crappie bite on a cold morning during the early ice period. The fish were willing biters but were such roamers it was hard to keep up with them. They also changed depth according to their location in the basin.
After drilling many holes, I attempted to follow them and was somewhat successful as I pulled out a fish every now and then. Even though my success wasn’t impressive, I did eventually attract another group of anglers that rode in on four-wheelers.
They were very courteous and drilled their own holes instead of using mine. They also had a couple of Vexilars and soon located fish. The problem was they were using bobbers and not tightlining.
I watched their frustration mount as they kept adjusting the depth of the float to match the level of the fish. About the time they got the float set, the fish were gone. In the meantime, I continued to pop a few more slaps which only added to their misery.
I was sure they would eventually see the madness in their method and get rid of the bobbers, but they didn’t. Instead, they insisted on fishing with floats even if it meant not catching anything.
There are times when working a float system for crappie is ideal. However, there are also times when a float presentation simply is not as efficient as a tightline presentation.
A lot of it comes back to the use of electronics. A Vexilar is a really important tool for locating winter fish. However, it is also a tool for keeping your bait in front of the fish after you find them.
A classic example of this happened to me last winter. I was fishing for photo caliber crappie with photographer, Brad Veenstra. The fish we were targeting were about 40 feet down in 50 feet of water. I was watching my Vexilar when I noticed a heavy red line come onto the screen at 30 feet.
Since I was tightlining, all I had to do was turn the crank a few times and I had my bait in front of this red mark. A second later, I had very respectable fish on the line.
The two-pound-test Berkley Micro Ice did its job and allowed me to land a
very plump walleye. Without utilizing quality electronics and fishing a bobberless tightline presentation, this is a fish I probably would never have caught.
Those that fish with electronics know how important they are to winter success. They allow anglers to read depth, bottom consistency and locate fish. However, they also allow anglers to match up their bait to the exact depth the fish are at.
Being able to keep your lure in the fish zone is what winter fishing is all about. Choosing the best presentation for the conditions will maximize your success.
I received a call from hunting enthusiast, Brian Corrigan, inviting me to join him for an early morning goose shoot. Since there are few things I enjoy as much as Canada goose hunting, I arranged my schedule to accommodate the offer.
In making the final preparations, I was told I didn’t have to bring my layout blind as we would be hunting from a pit. That was good news. I have hunted out of pits before and have found them to be a very efficient means of concealment.
Darkness still gripped the world as we drove across the bean stubble to the pit. I could see at once that it was a well devised contraption. The sides were lined with tongue and groove and there was sitting room for three or four hunters.
The pit lay east and west which meant the best hunting winds would be from the north or south. Our wind was from the east so Corrigan and I made an adjustment to our spread. Instead of making the normal “U” shaped pattern we did a modified “J” with the birds approaching left to right in front of us.
The first birds of the day slid off to our west and never really gave us a look. However, the single that followed this flock was more than willing. It was a gravy shot.
A short time later, we had a group of a dozen swing through the decoys. The targets weren’t great, but we did manage to pull one bird out of the flock.
And then the wait began. We watched several distant flocks settle into fields but could not get anything else to give us a look. Finally, a fair sized number of birds appeared on the horizon and headed our way.
As is often the case, most of the birds bypassed our setup to look at something else. However, there were five that peeled out to take a closer look. One came right in and we let it land. The other four were less certain about the situation, but once their buddy was on the ground, they didn’t want to be left behind.
It is funny how quickly it can be over. One moment you are four birds short of a limit and the next you are casing your shotgun.
Pit hunting definitely has some advantages over other means of concealment. Pressured birds get wary of the layout blind profile and learn to avoid them. These same birds that want nothing to do with layout blinds will not hesitate to come into a spread when hunters are concealed in a pit.
There are problems associated with pit hunting. The inability to move the pit according to the wind is an issue. Instead, hunters need to vary their spread to accommodate the wind direction.
Pits are not mobile. You can’t pick up a pit and move it to a different field. Nor can you easily convince a land owner to let you dig one. Unless it is someone you know really well, pits will not be allowed.
Occasionally, I have had been able to reduce the layout blind profile by digging a shallow trench for the blind. It doesn’t take much to alter the look and improve your chances. Using very low profile blinds will also help.
Geese get wary after being heavily hunted. They definitely learn what layout blinds are all about and stay away from them. However, pits allow a different approach that can improve late season success.
- Pressured Geese? Adjust Your Tactics
- Family Ties Are Strong
- Searching for Roosters Brings Rewards
- Tough Day? Try Downsizing
- Many Lakes, Many Fish
- Rainy Lake Walleyes
- Adjusting to the Unexpected
- Target Disconnected Bays for Spring Panfish Action
- Quitting is for Quitters
- Nomadic Walleye and Big Water
- Twitch Baits Are a Viable Option
- Target Weeds, Catch Bass