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Gregg Kizewski

Dallas, Wis.

The Sneak Boat

Going in to the 2012 fishing season, I knew I was going to be spending much more time on the water. Between guide trips, pre-fishing for tournaments and fun fishing, my schedule told me I would be on the water 4 to 5 days a week. That being said, the forecast for gas prices of $4.00 a gallon, was a huge concern for me.

On an average day of pre-fishing in my boat with a 250 HP outboard, I burn 10 to 20 gallons of gas – by far the biggest expense incurred for me in the sport of fishing. On tournament day or when guiding, it is hard to ignore the fact that time is money, and that the speed at which you get to a fishing spot will net you more time fishing in an 8 hour day. But I did feel that I needed an alternative for pre-fishing and fun fishing. I was determined to get a second boat that could take the edge off of my pre-fishing budget.

When I started shopping, my criterion was simple:

  1. The boat needed to be a flat bottom or modified V – I spend my fair share of time on the river, and a flat bottom is the best choice for running the backwater – I also enjoy deer hunting via boat and an occasional duck hunt was on my agenda as well. The boat needed to be in the 16’ category and have a wide enough beam to be stable.
  2. I didn’t need to go 70+ miles an hour, but one of my requirements was that I wanted to be able to see 30 mph. My research told me that if I wanted to touch 30 mph loaded in a 16’ boat, I needed an outboard that was in the 40 hp range.
  3. I wanted a low maintenance outboard that was quiet, so what I really wanted was a 4 stroke motor. I have always hated the mess and expense (now $40 a gallon) that comes with 2 stroke oil.
  4. Finally, I wanted warranty on the boat and the outboard. Modern day outboards typically have a 3 year warranty, but typically there are incentives during certain times of the year in which you can add 2 to 3 years of warranty for little or no cost. Because I wanted a warranty, I was going to shop for new boats.

After shopping for a few weeks, I settled on a 16’ flat with a modified-V bow – it was equipped with a 40 hp 4 stroke motor. This combo with me, 4 batteries, a full livewell and 150 lbs of miscellaneous fishing gear, is a 30 mph boat. It is plenty fast to get me off the water fast during inclement weather, yet it is a gas miser!

It didn’t take me but a week to find out all of the benefits of having a second boat like this. It would be remiss to not touch on each of those benefits that I learned in my first year of running this boat:

  • Fuel economy – on my maiden voyage, I pre-fished for a tournament on the Holcombe flowage. I fished for 14 hours and covered the whole lake. Some of this time was spent side-imaging, but most of my time was spent running and gunning. It had been so long since I had a boat with a 6 gallon gas tank I didn’t know what to think. I had never owned a smaller 4 stroke motor. Throughout the day, I kept looking at the gas gauge on the tank and it was moving. I actually un-strapped the tank so I could shake it and tip it, but the gauge wasn’t lying – it was full. At the end of the day, I stopped to top off the tank and it took 1.61 gallons of gas – wow!! On a day that I would have burned 15 gallons of gas ($60 worth) in the big boat – I just put in $6.44 in gas – an 89% gas savings! What I learned though the summer, is even if a person fished 6 times a month, the fuel savings alone, MORE than makes the boat payment! It was a no brainer for me!
  • Learning new water – I installed RAM mounts, transducers, antenna receiver and power cables on my flat so I could use the same Humminbirds on the flat as I did on the big boat. When I would pull the boat off the trailer in the morning, I would immediately clear the current route. If I ran areas I was not familiar with, especially the backwater of the Mississippi River, I could save a track at any given point. With the big boat it would take so much more time to idle around and store a track – I have put the big boat on a sand bar or hit rocks far too many times in my life. This flat broadened my horizons in regards to finding new water.
  • Dodging the GPS pirates – the truth is, that in today’s environment, a big, shiny bass or walleye boat is an easy target to follow around to fishing spots. The flat bottom is a subtle approach to pre-fishing. In olive drab green or camouflage boat, you can just go out and do your thing with out being followed like the Pied Piper. Stealth is one of the most important factors in today’s competitive fishing.
  • Fun fishing – I like to take advantage of the February and March walleye bite on the river. With the glass boat I didn’t get out anywhere near as often as I would have liked. Something about ice chunks bouncing off the boat always made me sick. The flat almost welcomes the thought of not only have ice graze the boat, but you can skim over new ice with ease.
  • Maintenance – besides being extremely quiet, the new 4 stroke motors are so easy to take care of that it is ridiculous. Most manufacturers require 1 oil change per 100 hours of use. For most anglers that is 1 oil change a year!
  • Easy towing – you use less gas in your tow vehicle pulling 1,000 lbs behind you than towing a big boat. I get 15 mpg in the hauler towing the flat, and 11 mpg towing the big boat!

I have touched on only a few of the benefits of a second boat. Your imagination is the only limitation. I have friends that run tournaments in older glass boats. To save hours on the big motor and stretch the life out of their glass boat, they only run that boat on tournament day. All of their pre-fishing and fun fishing is from a flat bottom. It is pretty hard to argue that logic as well!

Once you do the math on your fishing expenses and recognize the other benefits of running a second boat, the decision is pretty simple. If you fish more than a couple of times a month, the boat payment is less than your savings – and that is the financial benefit of a flat! It truly can take your game to another level!

 

Spring Patterns for Largemouth Bass in Northern Lakes

Two of the keys to success when fishing for largemouth bass in any lake, are:

A. Determining what seasonal pattern you will be faced with.
B. The location of the highest percentage spots to fish during that seasonal
pattern.

In the upper Midwest, on both natural lakes and reservoirs, the largemouth bass will begin their migration toward shallow water almost immediately after ice out. The purpose of this migration is twofold - feeding and eventually spawning. If you can locate the best shallow areas, you will be able to follow the fish throughout the spring, and into post-spawn.

My usual research routine starts in the off-season. I like to purchase no less than two different brands of lake maps for each body of water on my tournament schedule. You will find that the detail of maps vary from manufacturer to manufacturer depending on their mapping source, but most information is good information and I will take all I can get! Typically any tournament I have from ice out through the end of May, I can classify as pre-spawn.

I will carefully study these maps, paying particular attention to bays that have shallow flats (under 8’ of water) in the northern section of the lake. Ideally, bays with an expansive flat in the northwest portion of the lake will captivate my interest. These bays will see more sunlight and are at least somewhat protected from prevailing winds. I will highlight as many of these flats as possible on my maps, and will check most of them when pre-fishing.

Some of the characteristics that will make a flat special, include:

Defined point/points at the mouth of the bay.
Secondary points within the bay.
A creek channel.
Deep drop-offs or ledges outside the flat.
Inside turns.
Submergent or emergent vegetation.
Stumps or brush-piles.
Rocks or riprap.

When actually on the lake, a surface temperature gauge is a must for determining not a particular temperature, but some of the warmest water you can find. Often you will find the main lake more than 5 degrees colder than a bay. When I start checking the bays I had highlighted on the maps during pre-work, I will start fishing in the warmest areas first and these will most often be dark bottom bays.

Nine times out of ten I will circle the flat within the bay to see the actual layout in comparison to the maps. Then I will zigzag through the flat with the trolling motor on high and throw a swim jig or a spinner-bait. I am doing two things in this process - trying to get bit, and scanning the water looking for baitfish, pan fish and bass.

If I start getting hits or catching fish on the flat, I will begin to refine the pattern. Is the activity I am experiencing coming off of stumps, brush piles, new weed growth or perhaps rocks? When I determine if there is some specific cover or structure on the flat that is producing fish, I slow down and work every similar spot on the flat thoroughly.

If I cannot get the fish to bite, and the flat is void of any visible baitfish or game fish, I will not abandon the area. It is very possible that by late morning or early afternoon this flat could be loaded with fish due to warming water throughout the day. To quantify the productivity of an area you need to move deeper by working your way out of the bay, fishing the secondary points, creek channels, inside turns, ledges and drop-offs (indicated in the map where several contour lines get very close to each other or touch), and then finally the main lake points at the mouth of the bay. A largemouth bass will use all of these types of structure as “stopping points” on their path to and from the flat.

Baits that work well for me for these pre-spawn deeper presentations, are weighted suspending jerk baits, a Super K football jig with a twin tail grub, a 3/4 or 1 ounce Super K Plunking jig, Carolina rigs, shakey head worms, a drop-shot rigs, or spider-grubs.

Fishing in this manner allows me to find where the fish are in terms of their migration to the flat. When you begin catching fish, be sure to document, at least mentally, the time of day, weather condition and surface temperature because this may be replicated in similar areas of the lake.

The important part of spring and pre-spawn fishing is your adaptability. If you are catching fish and they turn off, it is time to adapt to the situation. If you are catching fish on the flat and the bite slows, think about your surroundings. Did cloud cover take the heat of the sun out of the equation? Did the wind pick up or shift and push cold main lake water into the flat? If that is the case, these fish are not necessarily negative, but may have moved closer to the deeper water or structure that they use on their migration highways within the bay.

Conversely, if you are catching fish in the deeper structure areas and they turn off, it is just as likely that the flat is warming enough that it has become inviting to the whole food chain, bass included, and you need to follow those fish shallower.

A lot is said about “fishing the moment”. Never is this phrase more obvious as in the springtime during the pre-spawn on our northern lakes. Your success hinges on your versatility in fishing techniques and your ability to think through the situations that may arise.

If you follow the premise outlined above, I am 100% confident you WILL find pre-spawn fish. If you learn to adapt to the movement and mood of these fish, you can catch them all day long!

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