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Quitting is for Quitters

Every year I try to get together with long time fishing friend, Kelley Cirks. Cirks is a great angler that spends a lot of time on the water in the Park Rapids area of Minnesota. Normally, when he calls to say the fish are biting, I can pretty much count on a sure thing. Of course, there is that word “normally.”

 It was early in the morning when I pulled into the driveway of Cirks’ residence. He had the boat hooked up and was clearly pumped about the prospects of a good day of bass fishing.


Kelley Cirks is all smiles as he finally lands a good fish on a very difficult day.

As we drove to the lake, he filled me in on the bite that had been taking place. With the spawn over and the fish recuperated, the bass had moved into the cabbage beds and were hungry and ready to eat. His hot baits had been the Salmo Hornet and PowerBait worm.

 Once at the lake, it took little time for us to land the boat and motor to a weed flat that was littered with clumps of cabbage. As we worked along through the weeds, we reminisced about big fish we had taken from this very location on previous outings.

 The conditions were ideal and at any moment I expected to tie into a bruiser that would get the morning started in a big way. It didn’t happen. For some reason, the fish that had been camped in this location a couple of days earlier had moved. Two futile hours and several weed beds later, we gave up on lake number one and loaded the boat.

 Lake number two was high on my list. The biggest bass of my life had come from this water as had several other five pound fish. We were both confident that this lake would be the ticket to success. An hour later, we had nothing but a few small fish to show for our efforts.

Although this northern is certainly not a trophy, when fishing is tough, it is still a fish.

 At this juncture, we realized we had hit an off day and needed to change things up. For some reason, the bass had gone negative and were not going to cooperate with a normal presentation.

 As is often the case when things go south, we downsized our rigs to something more along the snack size instead of the full meal deal. For me, that meant an eighth ounce Lip Stick jig and a five inch PowerBait finesse worm.

 By starting shallow and working our jigs down to the deep weed line, Cirks and I began to find a few fish. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was action. The finesse approach was obviously more appealing than our standard rigs.

 By the end of the outing, we at least had a couple of opportunities to get the camera out. We also had once again learned the value of not giving up.

 Too many times, anglers end a trip early because the fish are not cooperating. My advice is to be cautious about quitting too quickly.  When the fish get lockjaw, it is important to pare down your expectations but also to change your presentation strategies.   

 On this trip, Cirks and I were successful because of two factors. First, we downsized our presentation to something small and simple. Most importantly, we caught fish because we didn’t give up.

May 28, 2012 Posted by | Bass, Open Water Fishing | Leave a comment

Twitch Baits Are a Viable Option

It had been a couple of tough days for our group on Rainy Lake. For some reason, we couldn’t seem to zero in on an early summer pattern that would provide consistent walleye action for our anglers.

 In an act of desperation, I suggested to a couple of people that we should try something different. I thought perhaps there might still be some northern hanging in the shallow bays and we could target these fish for a morning instead of stubborn walleye.

 As we motored into a bay, I explained the concept we would be using to trigger our fish. We would be fishing suspending, shallow running jerk baits over the tops of the weeds. However, instead of a cast and retrieve approach, we would utilize a twitch and pause technique.

Twitch baits, such as Husky Jerks and Salmo Sting, can be very effective lures.

 The success of our morning operation surprised even me. I had no idea the size and quantity of the fish we would find in just that one bay.

 Since that Rainy Lake adventure from 15 years ago, I continue to be impressed with the fish catching ability of twitch baits. They aren’t a solution for every fishing outing, but they can be very productive in some situations.

 The key to successfully catching fish with this type of approach is to understand the presentation. Predator fish love the chance to target an easy meal. That is what live bait fishing and bobber fishing is all about. Fish hit a struggling minnow because it is food that is too easy to pass up.

 Twitch baits appeal to the instinct predator fish have of looking for an easy meal. With the twitch and stop retrieve, the lure is mimicking a struggling baitfish.

 The twitch of the retrieve is created by a rod snap that will make the lure jump erratically. When done properly with a good bait, the lure will dart from side to side with each twitch.

 As a general rule, I will make two to four twitches and then pause. The suspending lure will sit quietly in the water and not sink or rise to the surface. This is an important part of the appeal as many of the strikes come on the pause.

 On a recent trip with a couple of angling friends, we targeted walleye using twitch baits. On a previous outing, these two companions had discovered walleye lounging in a weed bed in 6-10 feet of water. By working our lures over the weeds, we were able to bring the walleye up to engulf our baits.

 I must admit, I am normally targeting bass and northern when working twitch baits. However, if walleye want to hit lures presented in this manner, I have no problem with that!

 As a general rule, I do not use a steel leader with this presentation unless the northern are causing a serious bite off problem. I also believe mono works better than the super braids on many days.

St. Cloud angler, ROger Bzdok, holds a nice walleye that hit a twitch bait fished over the top of weeds.

 As for the size and color, I like four to five inch suspending lures with dark tops and an orange stripe on their belly. Sometimes Clown is a good pattern. The Rapala Husky Jerk and the Salmo Sting are both good options.

 The perfect lure for catching fish in all situations does not exist. For that reason, it makes sense to be familiar with a variety of presentations. Under the right conditions, twitch baits can lead to some pretty awesome action.

May 28, 2012 Posted by | Bass, Open Water Fishing | Leave a comment

Target Weeds, Catch Bass

I remember the days when I really disliked weeds. I disliked the weeds

Largemouth bass love weeds. Successful anglers must learn how to target fish in the weeds.

hanging up on my lure, I disliked removing the weeds from my hooks and I disliked the frustration caused by fishing in the weeds.

 In those days, I rarely fished for largemouth bass. In those days I didn’t understand the importance of weeds as part of a lake’s ecosystem. In those days I was unable to grasp the relationship between fish and weed cover.

 However, those days are gone. I look at weeds differently now. I still dislike removing weeds from my lures, but I also realize weeds are a key component in my overall bass fishing success.

 It was a day on the lake last summer that really got me to thinking about how important weed growth is to fish location. My fishing partner and I had not targeted this particular lake for bass for years. We knew finding a location pattern was the first order of business.

 It didn’t take long for us to get an idea about where to start. After a cruise around the shoreline, we discovered that one section of the lake had a well defined growth of coontail that came close to the surface.

 Coontail is a weed that will create quite a large canopy as it matures during the summer months. This canopy effect is very attractive to fish as it creates overhead cover and plenty of hiding places underneath where the weeds attach to the lake bottom.

 The clusters of coontail were so thick in places that it was impossible to effectively get a jig through the weeds to where the fish were hanging out. This problem was easy to resolve. Because the weeds were clearly visible, we were able to work the edges and pockets and avoid the perils associated with the thickest clumps.

 Although we did our best to avoid hanging up in weeds, it happened. I got to clean plenty of coontail off of my lures that day. However, we also discovered that the rewards were great as we boated some very impressive fish.

 Being able to visually target weeds is not that unusual. Anglers that fish lily pads or bulrushes know how important it can be to see the areas that have the greatest potential.

 The inside weed line is another edge I have come to appreciate as a visual fishing location. Bass love this edge where the weeds end and shoreline sand and rubble begin. It is a major travel route for bass especially early in the year.

St. Cloud resident, Steve Taylor, with a weed oriented bass.

 When it comes to targeting bass that are relating to weeds, it is important to think about lures and equipment. Without weedless baits, anglers can’t expect to catch anything but frustration.

 I am a big fan of Texas rigged Power Worms. This combination of weedlessness and scent continues to be one of my most consistent producers.

 Jigworms are also big on my list of favorites. Northland Tackle makes Weed Weasels and Jungle Jigs that feature an eye forward profile that slides effectively through cover. The baitkeeper design keeps your plastic trailer in place.

 Line is also a consideration. If you are going to fish heavy cover, make sure you have a line that is tough enough to pull fish out of the weed growth. I have seen a lot of anglers lose fish because their line and rod were not tough enough for the job.

 Weeds can definitely be a pain for anglers. However, for those that want to successfully target largemouth bass, being able to tolerate the headaches caused by weeds becomes well worth the trouble.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Bass, Open Water Fishing | Leave a comment

Set the Table, Serve Them Steel

Finding the right pocket in the weeds can often produce some pretty impressive numbers for early season largemouths.

It was one of those perfect mornings. The wind was calm, the temperature was cool but comfortable and the bass season was open. The table was set for a great day on the water. The only thing left was to feed these bruisers some steel!

My fishing partner, Duane Osgood and I, have spent quite a number of hours together in a boat. We both relish the shallow water fishing that is associated with early season bass angling and usually put together an impressive catch during our outings.

Although we were not the first ones at the landing on this perfect bass fishing day, we were the first ones down an undeveloped shoreline on this noted bass lake. We were moving slowly to make sure we were hitting the open pockets on the inside weed line and were picking up a fish here and there.

I remember seeing the change in the weed structure while we were still some distance off. From what we could tell, there appeared to be short stretch of water where the weeds were not growing. This pocket held promise.

Osgood was the first to toss a chunk of plastic into the opening. Almost instantly, his PowerBait worm was inhaled by a giant largemouth. I quickly followed with a wacky rigged worm and also hit pay dirt.

The next hour was undoubtedly the best hour of bass fishing I have ever experienced. We caught a fish on nearly every single cast and most fish were 18 inches or larger. There were so many big bass in this small area there was little room left over for the water.

Eventually, the incredible bite ended and we were forced to continue up the shoreline. Although we still managed to catch scattered fish, it did not compare to the school we had worked over in the weed pocket.

As is usually the case, there were a couple of lessons to learn from this outing. The first lesson has to do with the inside weed line. This is often an ignored transition area that is found on many lakes. Because the inside weed line is associated with shallow water, many anglers do not pay enough attention to this location.

A second lesson that came from this outing was the need to fish irregularities and pockets in the weeds. Many times, the inside weed line is shallow enough that it is possible to actually see the edge. The subtle points and dips in the weeds will often hold fish. 

It is also important to have a variety of rigs primed and ready to go. I always have a wacky rigged rod and a Texas rigged plastic worm at my disposal. In addition to that, I have great success with the Northland Lip-Stick jig fished as a jig-worm combo. The bait holding collar on this jig makes it superior to others on the market.

Duare Osgood holds one of the many big bruisers we caught.

Twitch baits are also necessary for this early season shallow water bite. Osgood has given me a number of lessons on how to entice bass with a shallow running crankbait that is twitched on the retrieve.

Being able to cope with the weeds is often a concept that needs to be considered when rigging rods. Lure options must be compatible with working through and over the greenery.

Bass love the shallows for the first couple weeks of the season. Focusing your efforts on pockets and edges in good cover can definitely pay big dividends.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Bass, Open Water Fishing | Leave a comment