With borrowed waders snugly clamped to my legs, I trudged along into a strong head wind along the shores of the Mighty Mississippi. Early January in Minnesota is a great time to fish for smallmouth...right? Right.
Rocks. I slipped on rocks. I lost a newly purchased finesse jig on a rock. And I caught a few fearsome smallmouth bass off of these rocks. I love rocks.
I was very fortunate this day to get out with a friend and fellow BASS Member, Dan, for a morning of great bass fishing. I sought Dan's guidance, as he has spent much more time than me on this stretch of river. I stepped where he stepped, nearly made casts to where he cast, and tried to follow suit with the tackle I was using. My personal gear consisted of a 6'6" spinning rod and reel with 6 lb Seaguar fluorocarbon. As I mentioned, I was casting a 1/8th finesse jig with a round head with a 3" Strike King Rodent trailer. It seemed I was snagging less than Dan with a round jig versus his football head jig. After I lost this finesse jig to a hungry rock, I dabbled with a tube jig and I was snagged up almost every cast.
Our presentation was very basic. Cast and let the jig bounce along the rocks with the current. We had to constantly pop our jig while it was rolling along to hop, skip and jump between and off the rocks. The smallmouth bit very light on a few occasions, and I was fooled a few times thinking I caught a rock until it was trying to shake its way free.The fights were tough, a mix of smallie genetics and a constant current. Awesome.
My largest fish of the day was about 3.5 pounds on the smallmouth, thumpin' richter scale. Dan caught a nice 19" bass that we estimated to be around 4 pounds. It was great to catch bass with open water fishing tackle as floating chunks of ice cruised down the middle of the river and the shores were lined with a layer of snow. Just think, the week before I was fishing on 14" of ice on Lake of the Woods. Minnesota can be awesome.
Great colors on Carl's Smallmouth Bass
There are two reasons why I would change or modify a lure; one, to change the presentation by changing the color or action of the lure, and two, to correct a manufacturer's defect. By changing the color, action, or sound a lure makes, one is able to take a standard lure and change it to fit their needs and applications. With regards to correcting a manufacturer's defect, I am talking about fixing a bait so it will run true with the correct "wobble" or action. Most baits are just fine out of the box, but sometimes they need a little "tweaking" in order for them to perform most effectively.
Below are a few examples of some basic lure modifications that I use to modify my lure presentations.
1.) Trimming the skirt and weedguard on my jigs. I typically thin out the standard weedguard by cutting about half of the guard off. There is still protection left to ward off weeds, and the thin guard allows for better hooksets in my opinion. I will also shorten the skirt to about even with the bottom of the hook. This will create a smaller profile so when the fish attacks the bait, they will most likely strike the hook instead of the excess skirt.
2.) Add a rattle inside a floating frog. When I bring a frog across an area thick with lily pads, I sometimes like to add a rattle to add more sound so the fish can locate the frog easier. I will use a small rattle that can be bought at a tackle shop and insert it into the frog where the hooks pertrude.
3.) Use dye to add color to my plastics, jig skirts, and crankbaits. Sometimes just adding a bit of color to the tail or end of the skirt will entice more bites. There are many different ways to apply color. There are dyes that worms and skirts can be dipped in, paint to be used with a brush, or markers that will work just as well.
These are just a few simples modifications to try. It is said that bass can become conditioned to the same lures being thrown over and over, so trying a few easy changes can potentially put more bass in your boat and a more enjoyable time on the water.
A hot summer day is one of my favorite times to be out on the lake. The bass can be somewhat predictable as they feel the heat and search out areas of the lake to provide them a break from the heat. I love fishing lilypads and docks, so these areas are where I begin my search.
When I pull up to a dock, I like to start on the shady side of the dock. I typically will start with a fast moving lure such as a spinnerbait, and then move to such baits as a jig or a wacky-rigged worm as I figure out the most effective presentation. I want to be as efficient as possible, so if I find fish on the shady side of a dock, I will only fish the shady side of the next dock, and so on. I like to focus on the dock posts, as these are potential ambush areas for the bass. I also try to put my bait in the hardest to reach place under a dock using a "skip' cast. Typically, these hard to reach places will hold the fish that the other anglers cannot reach or didn't attempt to reach. If this means I might get hung up a little bit, so be it, as I know I will eventually catch that hiding lunker. The best docks or rows of docks are those adjacent to deeper water. The fish will migrate from deeper weedlines to shallow water throughout the day, so find a few docks that have deeper water nearby.
When I head to the lilypads, my go-to bait is a frog. Fishing a frog can be some of the most exciting fishing around. I typically try to make my frog seem as real as possible. I hop him from pad to pad and I will stop him and shake him a bit in the open water between pads. My suggestion is to use braided line. I typically use 50 pound braid so I can rip the bass through the vegetation. The key to catching a bass on a frog is to wait about 2 seconds once the fish takes the frog down from the surface. This will allow the fish to get the frog in its mouth and ready for a strong hookset. Two seconds can feel like a long time when you see a bass explode on your bait, but trust me, taking a pause will increase your hookup ratios dramatically. If a bass misses your frog and it is left there on the surface, I follow up with either a repeat cast with the frog or I try throwing some sort of jig to penetrate beneath the pads. Often the bass will not have moved far and will strike again with that follow up cast.
The next time you are out on the water during one of these hot summer days, head to areas on the lake that will provide shade for those lunker bass. As the sun rises and moves in the sky, check back on the docks you hit and cast towards the new shaded area. Good luck and bring lots of water and sunscreen!