Lake Guri, Venezuela

An hour’s flight from Caracas, Venezuela, lies Guri Lake in the dense jungle highlands, home of the Peacock Bass; the bass with a “bad” reputation and especially a “bad” attitude. Your tropical adventure on the 2,000 square miles of impoundment, will challenge your fishing ability and tackle to the utmost. It is truly a bass angler’s fantasy with plenty of cover and plenty of action.

Lake Guri, VenezuelaAverage fish can weigh from 8 Ibs and grow upwards to 25 Ibs and more! One will often face other challenging fish as well; Piranha and Saber-Toothed Payara. These prehistoric fish can grow up to 30 Ibs.

Temperatures remain pretty constant year round and the fishing is good year round as well. Many of the camps have golf and tennis with first class lodging and air conditioning. Some of the upscale lodges even provide 18′ to 20′ Ranger Bass boats for traversing this expansive impoundment and what a luxury that is!

Tackle recommendations are like the big bass equivalent in the states with the use of medium heavy rods and reels packed with 20 to 25 lb line (be sure to bring extras). Suggested baits would be Spooks, Buzz Baits, Rattle Traps, Mepps Spinners and Crank Baits. Helpful tip: replace hooks and split rings on your baits beforehand with the heavy duty variety – standard hardware just does not hold up.

There are many well connected booking agencies and travel agents that can put you in touch with a camp to suit your needs and pocketbook. Many packages abound, so ask specific questions and tailor your adventure to your individual requirements.

Finally, do not forget your passport!

In most cases, bringing fish home or trophies to be mounted, can be a real hassle. Fish can be damaged or lost jumping from plane to plane, not to mention the aggravation of going through customs. Reproductions have really become the choice alternative, avoiding all the hassle and preserving the resource.

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Lake Norfork, Arkansas

This 22,000 acre reservoir is nestled in the Ozark Mountains, 10 miles southeast of Mountain Home. If it is big Crappies you are looking for and lots of them, then Norfork is your spot. The lake is curiously void of small crappies and with the advent of “fish attractors” (marked brushpiles), slab crappie angling has become a no brainer. In addition to the wonderful crappie fishery, Largemouth Bass abound as well as their cousin the Kentucky (spotted) Bass.

The Smallmouth fishing is fair as is the Walleye population, but another bonus fishery is the Hybrid Stripers which can reach up into the 20 to 25 lb. class.

Similarly, if all else fails and weather which can be unpredictable, being adverse at times, one can fall back on the world famous white river float trips just minutes away. This beautiful stretch of river is the home of hundreds of thousands of spunky Rainbow, Brook and Brown Trout. A day guided on this float trip can put a nice topping on your trip to Arkansas. We have found that April and May have been productive for almost all the species Norfork has to offer, especially as the water temperature reaches the low to mid 50′s. The key here is stability! Frontal conditions can be rough, but when weather is cooperative, fishing is unparalleled.

Secondarily, September through November can be a great time to seek out comfortable temperatures and excellent fishing conditions. Fish & Fiddle Resort is one of the finest facilities on Norfork and Roger and Joanne Boskus are the warmest of hosts.

They have many cottage packages which can include fireplaces, microwaves, 2 baths, central air, Weber grills and picnic table. They also have a heated indoor pool if fishing conditions require hydro-therapy. Call 1-800-929-4048 for your reservation requirements. Additionally, if you do not own a boat or choose not to tow it, they do rent bass boats with 90 H.P. motors for $75.00 a day, equipped with electric motors, live wells and fish finders. Average costs at Fish & Fiddle Resort can range from $50.00 to $75.00 per night (for 2 and add $6.00 extra per person) plus fishing licenses.

Depending on your quarry, rod and reel combos can be as diverse as the fishery. In a nut shell, Ultra Lites will handle your Crappie and White River needs. Teamed up with 4# line and a variety of small jigs and spinners, these insure great fun for everyone. For Bass, medium action rods and reels with 8 to 10f line will handle Largemouth, Spotteds and Smallmouth adequately.

Again, jigs, worms and spinners will round out your arsenal nicely. Stripers will require at least 10 to 12# line and rods with a bit more backbone. Zara Spooks, Red Fins and Bucktail Jigs will represent consistent baits to pursue these monsters.

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St. Joseph, Michigan

The St. Joe area in southwestern Michigan offers a year round fishery for trophy Steelhead and King Salmon. From January through April and then again in October through December, river run Rainbow Trout traverse the St. Joe River with sizes ranging from 8 to 20 Ibs (many in the 12 to 15 lb range). This trophy fishery lies 95 miles from downtown Chicago and offers the sportsman the opportunity to experience the kind of Steelhead fishing only available in British Columbia or Alaska. The best part of this unique fishery is the sportsman’s ability to fish under any weather condition.

Salmon fishing generally comes into its own in the fall and as the Rings come, so do the Lakers. At this time of year, you never know what will hit, but rest assured it will be big! In the summer months, charters exit the river and head out onto Lake Michigan where Salmon and Trout abound in the colder depths of the Great Lakes. This year round fishery is like no other in terms of the variety, numbers and quality of Salmon and Trout available to the trophy fisherman.

One guide, if not the top guide, is Ken Neidlinger of Silverking Charters. With 25 years of experience on the river and lake, Ken is most accomplished with his understanding of seasonal fish movements. With a 20′ heated river boat, six fishermen can easily and comfortably fish under the most adverse conditions. A 30′ cruiser will allow comfort and enjoyment on the big lake as parties of up to six search out schools of Coho Salmon, Kings, Brown Trout and Rainbows.For available dates and reservations, interested parties can call (312) 545-4044 or fax (312) 545-4045 for bookings with Ken.

Rates on the Silverking Charters are as follows: on the “Joe” River, $50.00 per hour (for up to 6 people) and on the “Big” Lake, $60.00 per hour (for up to 6 people). Special rates are available for Jumbo perch on Lake Michigan. All tackle is provided for and other than a Michigan fishing license ($5.00 per day) and/or lodging, there are no additional costs or gear to purchase. Taxidermy services are available through Superior Sport Fishing, so if you are one of many who is lucky enough to capture one of these Great Lake beauties, leave your catch with Ken and we will provide pick-up service for you.

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Lake Fork, Texas

Lake Fork is located about an hour drive south of Dallas and is considered the ultimate Bass Lake in North America. It has consistently produced trophy Bass over 10 Ibs. for the last 7 years. The state record is 18 Ibs. with several hundred low to mid teens caught every year. Texas wildlife has done a remarkable job monitoring and controlling this fishery with the introduction of the Florida strain Largemouth Bass, or Fl’s.

Best seasons for Bass hunting on Fork are Spring (February through April) and again in the Fall (September through November). Early and mid-Summer seasons are also productive, but temperatures can get very uncomfortable for the Angler, however, the fishing can still be good.

There are many guides working Fork out of many of the marinas sprinkled around this 30,000 acre reservoir. One in particular that we have enjoyed fishing with and had great success with is Dennis Canada. He fishes out of a 150 H.P. Ranger Bass boat and knows the “Honey Holes” as well as anyone. His style is friendly and comedic and he has an intensity for finding big Bass that is unequaled. He works out of Lake Fork Marina or one can call him direct at (903) 973-8739.

Stout tackle and heavy line are a definite requirement on Fork as at any spot on any given day or given cast, a Wall-Hanger may lurk. Medium heavy rods with a minimum 20#line is a must.

Preferably, American made rods designed for big fish will suffice. This is one fishery one does not want to compromise the quality of tackle being used. Reels with beefed-up drag systems, yet smooth as silk, will go a long way in landing your trophy without heartbreak.

Lures are dependent on the season, but some standards are Plastic Worm and Lizards, spinner Baits, Rattle Baits and Cranks, as well as Carolina Rigs which are extremely effective. The “hot” color on Fork is red, whether in plastics, cranks or baits, Pumpkin and shad are close seconds, but be sure your arsenal includes plenty of red.

Guide rates fall between $200.00 and $250.00 per day (for 2). This rate includes a full day, usually 6:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., so one generally get his money’s worth. Extras include buying lunch for the guide, motel costs ($35.00 – $45.00 per night) and Rent-A-Car from Dallas if flying in is the transportation of choice. As far as tipping is concerned, let judgment be your guide as to how the experience and your enjoyment of the day played out. Fishing licenses are a necessary expense, but worth the $15.00.

Catch and release is the order of the day on Fork. Though it is not the law, maintaining the trophy character of this fishery is a priority on everyone’s mind. Trophy reproductions are the viable alternative and at Superior Sport Fishing, we can help you expedite your trophy memories with just length and girth measurements and a good photo.

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Lake Michigan, Illinois

Short of going to Alaska or British Columbia, lies at Chicago’s doorstep, the greatest Coho and Chinook Salmon fishing in North America. This universally sought after species has attracted Anglers world wide, not only because of their rarity, but because of their sportiness and rich table fare.

Lake Michigan also provides as an added bonus, trophy Rainbow and Brown Trout potential for every charter member on any given day. This varied fishery has become the envy of Salmon and Trout aficionados, not only by their size, but by their quantities as well. This highly regarded sport fishery extends from April through August and serves Chicagoans and tourists with a day of fishing pleasure unequaled anywhere. Whether a family outing or reunion is to be accommodated, corporate parties, or a group of avid Salmon and/or Trout trophy hunters, fun will be had by all.

Illinois harbors many charter boats and captains, but depending on the season and water temperature which can be a most critical factor in the Salmon equation, certain geographic locations in the state can be better than others. Lodging can be made through the Chicago Chamber of Commerce by calling (312) 580-6900.Charter boats can be reserved with a date and a $200.00 deposit through Superior Sports Fishing by calling (312] 545-4044 or by faxing reservations and deposits to (312) 5454095.

All fishing tackle, baits and lures are provided. All the Angler is required to bring is rain gear, deck shoes, camera and an Illinois fishing license and Salmon/Trout stamp ($19.50) for the season or a one day fee of $10.00.

Rates for charter boats range from early season $300.00 per day to late season $380.00 per day (for parties of up to 6 people). Fish cleaning service is generally provided and these professional captains do a great job in preparing your catch for the table.

Professional taxidermy is provided for by Superior Sport Fishing in Chicago. Whether it be your actual catch or a reproduction, we can make arrangements to pick up your fish at the harbor and expedite your trophy for you the same day. If your fish is to be prepared to eat, take length and girth measurements before filleting or smoking and fax them to (312) 545-4045. Deposits can be submitted once dates have been confirmed.

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Lake Erie Walleyes

The best months on the “Best Walleye Lake in the World”, are April through early May and again through October for trophy potential – 26″ and up (6lbs to 101bs). Summer months are good for numbers of 2 to 4 pound fish. Generally, a good drift is required for best presentations with wind speeds from 5 to 20 mph.

Most Charter Captains do a good job of keeping clients on schools of active fish, but some are better than others. We recommend “Cleaver Charters” as they are probably the most consistent father and son captains on Erie. Call (419) 734-4767 for Reservations. They provide condominium accommodations on the Lake with all the amenities as well as cooking facilities.

Recommended tackle requires a 6 1/2′ – 7′ spinning rod by St. Croix. Most spinning reels will do as long as they hold 80 to 100 yards of 8# line. We use and recommend Shimano Symmetre or Stradic 2000 spinning reels.

For 90% of your time on the “Big Lake”, Erie Dearies are the lures of choice. Sizes should range from 5/8 to 3/4 ounce. Best colors are chartreuse, fluorescent green and on dark days, red and gold seem to be proven producers. A new bait on the market that has taken weight forward spinners to new heights is the Storm Pygmy in firetiger. The other 10% of the time, when the drift is non-existent, vertical jigging with 1/4 and 3/8 ounce jigs with Power Grubs or Fuzzy Grubs in green or chartreuse are the ticket. Eight pound line is the all round accepted test of choice. Berkley XL Green has a good history with big walleyes or if conditions are tough, one may need to down size to 6# Magnathin.

A full day of fishing runs about $100.00 including lodging, lunch, pop, bait and fish cleaning service (based on a party of 5-6). The boats are 27′ sport fishing crafts that will hold up to 6 fishermen comfortably.Ohio fishing licenses can be purchased for 3 days at a cost of $10.00. The only extra costs are breakfast and dinner with restaurants near by. Kitchen facilities are provided with coffee makers.

Taxidermy services are available throughout Port Clinton or Marblehead, Ohio for a trophy fish generally recognized from 28″ to 31″ or 81bs to 11LBS. For the discriminating fisherman, reproductions are an option for returned trophy fish to their haunts. Prices range from $275 to $295 for identical and authentic reproductions. Fax us length and girth dimensions and we will process your trophy with a 50% deposit.

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Walleyes are great fun and good eating.

Old Marble Eye has a lot going for it as one of America’s top sport fish. It’s the only fish I know which I can clean in our kitchen sink and not get static from my wife. No smell, it’s that fresh! Plus, the delightful flavor, no matter which recipe, is deemed tops among piscatorial pundits.

Although not rated as a battler or leaper, its other fine qualities made it so esteemed that its once limited northern range has been extended over the Midwest and South. It now delights devotees across southern Canada, over all of the Great Lakes area, throughout the Mississippi River drainage system, and over southeastern coastal states.

While the average size is two to four pounds, there has been a great comeback in Lake Erie’s once depleted walleye population and strings averaging over four to six pounds are commonplace. Monster walleyes upwards of 10 pounds are being caught in Washington’s Columbia River, Michigan’s Saginaw River and Bay, and the St. Lawrence River boundary waters. But, Greers Ferry Lake, in Arkansas, with a 22-pound, 11- ounce, world record registered on 10-pound line, probably will top the existing all-tackle record of 25 pounds taken from Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee.

When you think walleyes, think deep. This is where they spend 90 percent of their lives, for both spawning and feeding, smackdab on the bottom. So, choose lures which will nudge rocky habitat and the proper tackle for presenting them.

Spinning, spincasting, or baitcasting rods six to seven feet long with medium-light actions are ideal to meet the needs of casting or trolling. Reels should be filled with 10-pound test monofilament or cofilament such as Prime Plus. While wire leaders are not necessary, it is wise to frequently check your line for any nicks or fraying.

Lure selection is important and here are the favorites in my arsenal of more than a half century of refinement: leadhead jigs with soft plastic or hair bodies, both with and without spinners; deep-diving, slim-minnow lures in natural and metallic finishes; lipless vibrators; in-line spinners; and slab spoons. Surface lures rarely take walleyes.

Seek out rocky shores and points in lakes and deep holes below dams or riffles in streams, where water depths reach ten feet and beyond. And as you think deep, also think s-l-o-w. Bigger walleyes will not chase fast-moving lures, so retrieve them barely fast enough to animate them, and maintain a constant contact with bottom cover.

Make no more than 10 casts with any lure, then change so walleyes can tell you which lure they want. This keeps you from staying with one lure overly long. Move from spot to spot. If you have not contacted walleyes after a couple hours of probing shoreward spots, then you can assume the walleyes are on the move. Do likewise; begin trolling.

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Open Water Crappie Get The Angles Now

After the winter that was not on an ordinary track, you have to wonder what type of spring we have coming. Due to the fact that we have not had a harsh winter, you don’t know what to expect. Hopefully, spring will be early and warm. So, if that’s the case, now would be the time to start getting ready for the open water crappie season.

FINDING FISH IN THE SPRING

Crappie spend the majority of the time in winter in deep water, but, as spring is approaching, they start to make moves toward the shallower water bays. Crappie are one of the last fish in the spring season to spawn, so the move toward the shallows will not be right away. But one thing is for sure – ;the crappie is the first fish that everybody turns their attention to in the early, open-water season.

To find early spring crappie you will have to cover water. Late-winter/early-spring haunts of the crappie are deep holes to deep breaklines. The best and most effective way to find crappie in the spring is to use your electronics. Move your boat over the deep water holes and breaks looking for signs of fish to show up on your electronics. Electronics that you use for this will be your personal preference. My choice is either a Humminbird Pro Flasher or a Humminbird Paramount liquid crystal unit. Either unit will do a great job in finding fish, but use whatever unit you feel comfortable with. When you are using your electronics to find fish, look for fish that are located off the bottom. Fish or crappie that are located close to the bottom are generally inactive fish. Try to look for fish that are higher on the screen of your electronics display. These are the fish that you want to key-in on; these are active feeding fish.

KEEP MOVING, COVER WATER

Once you have located a school of fish with your electronics, now comes the time for some catching to take place. To find active feeding fish, I use somewhat of a trolling/vertical jigging presentation. For my equipment set up I use a Pinnacle spinning rod Tri Wing Ti662SPML teamed with a Pinnacle DLF30 reel. I spool this reel with four-pound Berkley XL line. On the business end of the line I will use a Freshwater Tackle 1/16-ounce Kwik-Set jig under normal conditions. If the wind is blowing or boat control is a problem, I will go to 1/8-ounce or bigger.

I will tip the Kwik-Set jig two different ways according to the mood of the fish. When the crappie are active and feeding, I will use a two-inch Toledo Tackle or a three-inch Double Tail Grub from Reaction Lures. Top trailer colors are chartreuse, white, and yellow. If the crappie are biting slow, or I am faced with cold-front conditions, I will tip the Kwik-Set jig with a crappie minnow instead. The minnow will give your presentation a scent factor that is natural. The scent factor plays a big part in your fishing if you are fishing in cold front conditions.

Once my lure setup is complete, it’s time to start fishing. The presentation I will start with is a trolling method incorporated with a vertical jigging presentation. I will lift the jig off the bottom about one- to 1 1/2-feet. I will keep moving slowly until good fish contact is made. If the fish show up well on my electronics, I will stay and fish this school of fish. If the fish do not look active, or the numbers are down, I will keep moving, looking for a better school of fish.

HOLD YOUR GROUND

Once a good school of fish is found, I will stay on top of these fish until they are shut off. To stay on these fish I will make use of my electronics and trolling motor. It is not uncommon for the school of crappie to move, so use your tools to stay with the fish. Once good fish contact is made, many times you may have to make presentation changes to get the jig to a certain depth if the crappie are suspended, and, in your times of fishing crappie, you know that this is not uncommon. In that situation I will go to a Freshwater Tackle Easy On Slip Bobber teamed with an Angle Jig. With this team you will have a deadly crappie fishing system.

The Easy On Slip Bobber is one of the best choices in a slip bobber system. With just a twist of the bobber you can put the bobber on or remove it from your line. The slip bobber will allow you to keep your bait at a set depth level where the fish are. Team the slip bobber with the Freshwater Tackle Angle Jig, and you have the deadliest crappie system known to man.

The Angle Jig is a small jig with a concave face that, when the jig is on a free fall, it looks so natural it should be outlawed. When the jig falls, it has a slight back-and-forth motion as a dying minnow fluttering its way to the bottom. The reason it is my number one cold front and suspending lure is the slow, natural fall as it travels through the water. If the fish are suspended or are shut down from a cold front, they will be very slow to bite a bait; you will have to keep the bait in front of them for an extended time to coax them to bite. The slip bobber rig will accomplish this with no problem. You will be able to see on your electronics at what depth the fish are at and set your bobber stop according to that depth.

Team that up with a slow fall of the angle jig tipped with a crappie minnow, and you can see how deadly of a system you have. One of the most common problems that people are faced with when the bite gets tough is that they are not using the proper equipment to make the bait and the presentation look as natural as possible.

For the slip bobber system you have to use the proper line size to make the jig fall look as natural as possible. If you use too big a line, the bait will not look natural as it falls through the water. I am a firm believer that you do not need line over four-pound test. If you use line that is bigger, you will not catch as many fish and, in severe cold front conditions, I will drop my line size to use two-pound test. If needed, I am also in favor of a limp line like Berkley XL instead of a stiff line because of the light bites during these cold front conditions. The fish may take the bait in its mouth, feel the resistance of the lure, and drop the bait before you even knew that the fish had the bait.

So, there you have some of the keys to getting some early, open-water crappie. Remember to make your bait look as natural as possible and use your electronics to help you cut down your fish-finding time. This is only the start of the open water fishing season, but it seems to be the best when it’s your first time out after a long winter. So, get to the lake and practice your open water crappie tactics.

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Where To Find Early Spring Largemouth

The anticipation of springtime to a fisherman is like the anticipation of Christmas morning to a child. As soon as the lakes shed their ice cove, adventurous souls begin their annual pilgrimages to behold the awakening of a new open water bass fishing season. It’s too bad that this enthusiasm can’t be equaled with a full livewell. During the earliest stages of spring, the water can still be very cold, which reveals a less-than-ideal fishing circumstance. Largemouth during this time are sluggish and unwilling to strike. For this reason, many early-spring fishing escapades begin with high hopes, but end with a causal “get-’em-next-time” attitude. The key to finding early spring bass often lies in one’s ability to find the warmest areas on a given lake or river. When you hit the chilly water this year, consider these hotspots of early spring. They’re guaranteed to put plenty of bigmouths in your boat.

ACTIVE CREEKS

Running creeks that enter a lake or river are one of the best areas to hit when the initial bass season begins. Shallow creek water warms quickly. As they enter a lake, they have the tendency to increase the proximal water temperatures adjacent to the confluence. This attracts fish to the area. Most active creeks are associated with impoundment-type lakes where the old creek channel forms a long finger section of the lake over the submerged channel. The back ends of these fingers attract bass very early in the year, especially after a heavy rain. But creeks are not limited to reservoirs. Creeks that enter a lake or river anywhere – even the smallest, most incidental trickles – can attract good numbers of spring bucketmouths.

Cold water bass are especially cover-oriented. Look for bass to be clinging tightly to any stumps, deadfalls, or beaver lodges associated with the creek vicinity. If the creek is large enough with a considerable amount of water flowing into the lake or river, look for bass to be right up in the stream itself feeding on minnows or crawfish. On lakes that have become too shallow due to siltation around the creek mouths, bass can be found situated reposed in the actual lake relating to the submerged channel. Use your flasher or graph to locate the channel and slowly bump a jig and pork combination or jigging spoon tipped with pork or plastic around breaks and cover associated with the channel.

RIPRAP

On sunny days in the early spring, largemouth can be found hanging around riprap. Rocks have the capability to absorb and hold heat from sunlight. As they warm, they have a tendency to raise the temperature of the water around them. Consider, for instance, a railroad trestle lined with dark-colored granite. On a sunny, 45-degree day in March, those rocks might be downright hot after being in the sun for a few hours. The heat that those rocks absorb warms the water coinciding in riprap areas considerably. Bass will flock to such a situation.

Look for isolated areas that have been lined with rocks to protect the shore from erosion. Riprap that is located inside a creek finger or sheltered, secondary lake bay is a high percentage area because these bays are shallow and may have already begun to warm. The presence of warm rocks enhances the already productive area. Riprap that occurs on the north side of a lake or bay is also productive as it is more likely to receive direct sunlight for more hours in the day. The more sun the rocks get exposed to, the warmer they become, and hence the warmer the waters become. Sea walls, wave breakers, and black-topped boat ramps or roads that enter the lake are other forms of riprap that also have application for the absorption of heat.

A productive way to attract springtime riprap is to position your boat away from the rocks and cast perpendicular to the bank. This allows you to find the depth at which the bass are using. On a clear, sunny day, bass may be shallow and holding tight to the rocks. On an overcast day, they may drop back and suspend off the riprap over deep water, or they may subsist at the point where the riprap meets the bottom of the lake. Begin by casting a slow-moving bait such as a suspending stickbait or big-bladed spinnerbait against the rocks and slowly retrieving with a stop-and-go pattern along the contour of the rocks. After you have isolated the depth the bass are relating to, you can concentrate on the strike zone by working a more specific bait like a Carolina-rigged lizard or jig and pig. Tube jigs, plastic worms, and grubs have also similar application when fishing riprap.

SHALLOW, BLACK-BOTTOMED BAYS

In lakes that have become silted in with dark, rich muck, largemouth will congregate very early in the backs of shallow bays. Often less than two-feet deep, these places attract bass the same way riprap does with absorbed heat. The dark bottom of the lake takes in sunlight and releases it slowly, which warms the proximal water. These muddy areas are also very fertile and have an abundant supply of food. Combined with warmer temperatures, black-bottomed bays can be prolific fisheries. Bass won’t necessarily spawn in such a silty area, but they will use black-bottomed bays as a pre-spawn feeding ground. If there’s a high, beating sun, the temperature of the bay may rise as much as two degrees in the course of the day. This puts bass in an aggressive mood.

Anglers can capitalize during this situation with faster-moving crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and jerkworms fished near the surface. Again focus your efforts on area cover such as docks, fallen trees and stumps. But especially look for these bays to be supporting the first vegetation growths of the year. Bass will congregate in small, isolated patches of weeds.

NORTHERN SHORES

Some natural lakes, ponds, and pits have none of the three areas mentioned. When this is the case, northern shorelines attract early spring bass. The principle behind the northern side of a lake is the warming trend caused by a prolonged exposure to the sun. It’s not that the direct sunlight will warm the whole northern end of a lake before other lake areas warm. Bass will rise out of the depths to feed and bask in the distributed light as it protrudes into the water. A northern shore may be no warmer than the southern shore, but bass will actually ascend to depths of sometimes less than eight feet to reach the nearest layer of undispersed sunlight. They will use this protruding sunshine to warm their cold-blooded bodies. In this instance, deep banks, bluffs, and near shore drop-offs are productive places to try. Clear, sunny days see linesiders suspending along such places. Suspending crankbaits, jigging spoons, and even live baits such as minnows are good choices for catching the sunbathing largemouth.

BOAT CHANNELS

On residential or recreational lakes, boat channels or canals can also attract bass early in the spring. These areas are usually condensed and shallow. They, too, warm faster than the main lake. During the cold, early portion of spring, pleasure boat traffic inside of residential channels is at a minimum. Bigmouths will use these areas for feeding and sometimes spawning. Much like the active creek situation, bass will hold on fallen trees, stumps, and beaver lodges. But also look for bass to be occupying boat docks, covered boat slips, and riprap associated with the channel.

FRESHETS

Early spring bass fishing, especially in the north, is a hit-or-miss affair. Weather plays a big role in the game of productive angling. You may have to contend with a long bout of cold weather that keeps the creek channels pretty cold. And the sun doesn’t always shine down to warm up other areas, but a freshet is always good no matter when it occurs. A freshet is a torrent of water brought on by the sudden onset of a heavy rainstorm. Although you can’ t pattern your trips around the randomness of rain, freshets deserve mention. Some of the most prolific springtime bass angling can be found within the confines of a murky rain-borne waterfall.

Early spring bass are attracted to those areas of a lake or river that warm the quickest. Find one of them on your favorite body of water, and you’ve undoubtedly found a place that sings with cold water potential. Fish slowly and bundle up. Some of the most enthusiastic fishing occurs with the onset of open water. Fishing the warmest areas of a lake will make sure your enthusiasm is met with plenty of bass.

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Catching Trophy Smallmouth

Guiding for smallmouth bass had enabled me to meet all types of anglers. Some people have limited ability while others are seasoned veterans. Most people fit somewhere in the middle. Often, the success rate depends on the ability of the individual client. One person is content with catching numbers of 12- to 15- inchers, while another is looking for one to put on his wall. Unfortunately, there are only a few places where you can catch numbers of smallmouth and have a shot at a trophy. During the past few seasons there was an increase in the numbers of fishermen in pursuit of big smallmouth.

This past year was an excellent year for big smallmouth. The largest one boated was a 23-incher that weighed in at 6-3/4 pounds. Along with that hawg, we managed to boat 42 smallmouth over 20 inches, with all but one being released. These big smallmouth were caught on a variety of baits and in different types of water. Out of the 42 fish, eight were caught on flowages including the 23-incher, 17 were caught on natural lakes and 17 were caught on the Menominee River. The key to my success was not just knowing where to fish, but fishing the right place at the right time. To catch big smallmouth consistently, you must consider both the time of year and prevailing weather conditions.

Spring is the one time of year where you can take big smallmouth in a variety of places. Clear, natural lakes are very productive in the early season. Smallmouth go on the prowl as they search out spawning areas. Most fishermen have no trouble finding action and an occasional big fish. The biggest mistake made by most of my clients is they use too small of baits. Medium-sized crankbaits and three-inch plastic grubs are great for 12- to 16-inch smallmouth but don’t expect to catch numbers of big smallmouth. If you are fishing a lake that has only a few big fish, this is fine. However, if you are fishing big fish water, use big baits even in spring. While guiding, we have to make the decision to go for number or big fish. It is possible to do both on some lakes, but it will mean changing your game plan. One Florence County lake we start hunting for hawgs and then switch to catching numbers. If conditions and timing are right, you can have the best of both worlds.

Location is also important when searching for big smallmouth. Smaller male fish will cruise the shorelines and relate to rubble and shoreline wood. However, the big hawgs will key out specific points and transition areas. These points will be close to deep water. Big smallmouth will move no further than need be. The best points will have transition areas where rock and rubble mixes with sparse weeds or downed wood. The more cover the greater the odds are that the point will hold a big smallmouth. If no distinct points are present, search the shorelines for wood rock transitions.

My first choice in baits when looking for a big smallmouth is suspending jerk baits like a Husky jerk. This bait has been responsible for putting more big smallmouth in my boat in clear water than all other baits combined. The best color patterns are blue/silver and silver. After I work the area with a Husky Jerk, I switch over to plastics. Plastics are most effective when the water temperature is below 60 degrees. A 1/18th ounce jig with a four- or five-inch Kalins Grub is tough to beat and easy to use. Black, smoke and motor oil are the preferred grub colors. This grub can be slowly worked along the rubble shorelines. If the action is slow, switch over to a 1/8-ounce Hyper Head Jig with a skirted twin-tailed grub. The grub can be worked weedless and you can finesse the grub over rocks and downed wood. When using plastics, it is essential to make the longest possible cast. Moving too close to the shoreline or point will spook large smallmouth. I use a Lamiglas 6-1/2 foot IMS 661 or a seven-foot IMS 703. Light line is also a must and use four-pound test as much as possible. If snags are a problem, I use eight-pound Berkley ultra-thin line which has a diameter of four-pound test line.

Stained water flowages can also be productive in spring. On many flowages this is the only time big smallmouth are vulnerable. Flowages have a variety of structure including rock, wood and weeds. Most of the year smallmouth can scatter and are tough to locate. Flowages also warm faster than natural lakes and will see active smallmouth a week or two earlier than natural lakes. Rock and rubble areas can see active smallmouth as early as the first week of May. Suspending jerk baits are again the top producing bait for big smallmouth. Fire tiger and orange crawdad are the top colors in stained water. When fishing a grub, stick with bright colors.

Once summer sets in, big smallmouth are tough to catch on both natural lakes and flowages. There are feeding periods early and late in the day but they can be tough to pattern. In summer, most of my big smallmouth are taken in rivers. Most river smallmouth become active about the time the action slows on a natural lake or flowage. The top producing areas for big river smallmouth are weed/rock transitions with access to deeper water. These areas will also have distinct current breaks including downed wood. The more elements present, the greater the odds the area will hold a trophy smallmouth. Smallmouth will find a variety of forage present in which to feed on.

Spinnerbaits are my first choice in summer baits. Use either a 1/4-ounce or 3/8-ounce spinnerbait and cast it as tight to the wood as possible. Both single blade and double blade spinners are productive. Single spin baits work best if the smallmouth are in the neutral mood. Smallmouth fishermen who prefer in-line spinners on rivers, usually catch smaller fish. At dusk, work the edge of the river grass with topwater baits. Big baits like a Zara Spook are deadly right at dusk. If smallmouth are holding in the deep water, crankbaits would be my first choice in baits. After you work the crankbait, then drop back and use a live crawler or leech. Live bait can be deadly on summer smallmouth.

Rivers continue to be productive for big smallmouth through fall. Late September and early October is prime time for a trophy. By early October the big smallmouth will stack up along feeder creek channels and along the edges of backwaters. Forage fish like shiners are also stacking up as they leave the shallows. Big spinnerbaits are again the top-producing bait. Spinnerbaits resemble suspending baitfish and will pose savage strikes. Suspending jerk baits are also effective. If artificials don’t produce, try a jig and shiner.

Once the water temperature drops below 55 degrees, catching big river smallmouth can be difficult. By late fall, those same clear-water lakes where you caught big fish in spring are again prime. Look for big smallmouth to stack up along shoreline points off steep rock dropoffs. Use your electronics to locate forage and smallmouth. The best presentation is a jig and redtail chub. If smallmouth are suspended, go to a slip bobber and set it slightly above the marked fish. Either drift or use your electric trolling motor to position yourselves over the school. Vertical jigging spoons can also be effective.

While catching big smallmouth is never easy, you can increase your odds. Make sure you fish the proper water at the best time of year.

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