Many paddlers heading into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the next week or two will eat fish every day. Walleyes, lake trout and northern pike are among primary delicacies available to BWCAW visitors, with smallmouth bass thrown in as an option as needed.
Most canoeists who paddle the area bring too much of everything, fishing gear included. Because I prefer to cross portages as few times as possible, with as little on my back as possible, I pack lightly. But I never shortchange myself in the fishing department.
My must-haves on boundary waters trips include:
• Two rods, both of which are in rod cases except when fishing. Preventing breakage is the obvious reason for the cases. But staying organized on portages is as important.
• Two reels, both spooled with new line, with extra spools, also carrying new line. I also carry replacement line.
• Jigs in sizes ⅛ (quantity 6), ¼ (12), ⅜ (12) and ½ (6) colored chartreuse, white and black. And because early season boundary waters fishing often is in fast water, I’ll bring along a half-dozen small swivels and attach them 2 feet or so from the jig. This prevents line twisting in fast water and while retrieving. Also, Twister Tails and various fake baits such as Gulp! or Trigger X.
• Five of Diamonds spoons, quantity 4, varying sizes, with leaders, for trout trolling.
• Lindy Rigs or other live bait rigs, with sliding sinkers and spinners. Mostly I use these with freeze-dried minnows at campsites. Tip: Cast the bait to nearby deep water, allowing it to sit on the bottom. Secure your rod and open the bail of your spinning reel. Wait for a laker to strike and run.
• Chartreuse No. 5 Shad Raps (quantity 4). Vary the size, color and brand to suit your preference, but No. 5s always have produced for me. Paddle slower or faster to vary lure depth. Leaders will help prevent lure loss and facilitate quick lure changing.
• Floating stick or crank baits (perch color) to take smallmouth bass. Also a couple of poppers to take smallies on the surface, and two Fat Rap-style baits.
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