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Crankbaits and Swimbaits for Early Season Action

Crankbaits and swimbaits can be ideal for early season game fish.

I am not exactly sure when I first started to realize that crankbaits and swimbaits are pretty good lures for early season game fish. What I do know is I never seem to use them often enough.

 If I am going walleye fishing, my favorite early season presentation is definitely a live bait rig and shiner minnow. I have lots of faith in this combination and it usually does not let me down. However, I use the word “usually” because this presentation is not foolproof.

 It was just last spring when I found myself at a loss over what to do next. I had worked several of my early season walleye hangouts with live bait rigs and had yet to boat a walleye or any other fish for that matter. Something was wrong.

 The hours I had available were ticking away and I knew I had to do something different. Instead of continuing to work the depths, I pulled out a box of crankbaits and headed for the shallow food flats.

 Over the years, I have had pretty consistent success working the shallow flats during the low light periods of the day. However, my mid day success has been somewhat limited. Still, if the fish weren’t deep, they had to be somewhere.

 I was only a few casts into the tactic switch when I had my first hit. The fish turned out to be a northern and not a walleye, but I was encouraged and figured the walleye had to be somewhere close by.

 I caught several more northern before I hit my first walleye of the day. It wasn’t a monster but I was moving in the right direction. Crankbaits in the shallows were producing action.

 It was early June and I decided to make a short run to a nearby lake. The weeds were coming up nicely and the bass were moving out of the shallows to some of the mid-depth weed structure. It seemed like a perfect day to experiment with some cast and retrieve lures.

 It was a Mimic Minnow that got the morning started. This swimbait with its paddle tail drew lots of attention. Largemouth bass and northern kept me adequately entertained.

 There are a lot of combinations on the store shelves that will produce action during this early season period. Flicker Shads, Salmo Hornets and Mimic Minnows are some of my favorites.

 Depending on my mood and size of the lure, I will use both baitcasting rigs and spinning reels. Spinning combos are usually hard to beat.

Berkley's Flicker Shad, Salmo's Hornet and Northland's Mimic Minnow are all quality baits for most game fish species.

 Because this shallow presentation attracts a variety of fish species, a person can never be sure what will hit next. For this reason I frequently utilize a short, very lightweight, black steel leader. It doesn’t interfere much with the catching ability of my lures, but it sure does save on losing them to toothy critters.

 The retrieve can also be important. There are times when I will use a straight retrieve, but I usually find myself varying the speed a little. If the weeds aren’t too thick, a dead stop once in a while doesn’t hurt, either.

 Like everyone else, I have my favorite methods and presentations for fishing. However, I keep learning the lesson that crankbaits and swimbaits are effective game fish options that we sometimes forget to use.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Open Water Fishing, Walleye | Leave a comment

Lessers Can Mean More

A couple of geese shot over a mixed spread of lessers and standard decoys.

I am sure there are plenty of Canada goose hunters that are in a similar position to mine. They have the desire to occasionally work with a big spread but just don’t have the carrying capacity to handle a heavy load.

For example, my goose trailer is not really a goose trailer. It is my four-wheeler trailer with sides and a canvas top. It is less than ideal in some ways but certainly fits my storage issues and gets the job done.

 There are days when even my makeshift goose trailer is more than I want to haul around. This is especially true if I am hunting by myself or if the fields are so wet that I am afraid of getting stuck.

 When this happens, I am forced to use the decoys I can carry in the back of my truck. If I am stuffing full body, feet attached decoys in the back, I won’t be taking many along. However, if I am smart and incorporating lesser Canadas into the spread, it is a whole different story.

 My first lesser geese were added to the collection a number of years ago. It was shortly after the fully flocked decoys hit the market and I felt inclined to give them a try. I was also intrigued by the size of the lesser Canada decoys and thought a mix might be nice.

 The first half dozen ended up right in front of the blinds in the landing pocket. They worked so well that the next season I was in the market for some more. After shopping around for fully flocked lessers I settled on Dakota Decoys (available from

 In an effort to learn more about the use of lesser geese mixed in with standard Canadas, I talked with Brain Cahalan from Goose and Duck Smackers Guide Service. Cahalan has been in the guide business for nine years and has a lot more knowledge about the mix of big and little geese than I do.

 Although Cahalan utilizes lessers all fall, he really likes them for the early season hunt. During this time, young geese are considerably smaller than the mature adults. By mixing the lessers in with the standard full bodies, he is able to create a situation where the small decoys and big decoys look like normal family groupings.

 Cahalan also likes them later in the season. He feels that lessers, EPP birds and larger resident Canadas are all around at the same time. A mix of sizes in the spread duplicates what is happening in the real world.

 In addition to the natural look lessers give a set, Cahalan mentioned that they move on motion stakes more easily than larger, heavier decoys. The compact storage feature of lessers was also appreciated by Cahalan. Even guides have space issues to deal with.

 Chad Allen, CEO of Barrels Up internet shopping site, also had some interesting

Mixing lessers and standard decoys together gives a spread a very natural look.

thoughts to share about lesser decoys. Allen said in the past year there has been an increase in the number of lesser decoys they have been selling. He felt hunters were learning that lessers not only solved storage issues, they actually enhanced the spread.

 Throughout the season, I continue to put the bulk of my fully flocked lessers close to the blinds. These are the decoys that the incoming geese are concentrating on and the ones that will reduce the concern over the unusual appearance of the layout blinds. I want the landing zone to look as inviting as possible.

 In short, lesser decoys have proven to add to my goose hunting success. They allow for greater flexibility when fighting storage issues and also create a very realistic appearance in my spread.  

 In other words, lessers can mean more.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Hunting | Leave a comment