Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tackle Storage - Protect Your Investment

Tackle Storage - Protect Your Investment

Have you purchased a fishing lure lately? If so, you know there are more styles and colors than ever before and they are not cheap. With lures like the Rapala Tail Dancer going for $10 a piece and more it is extremely important to keep these lures in excellent shape. It doesn't matter if you fish once a year or 100 times a year, you want to make sure your lure is in excellent condition. It can be the difference in catching a fish of a lifetime or ending the day with a big fat zero.

Protect Your Gear

I have been using Plano Storage Boxes as long as I can remember. Using a quality box is more important than ever. The Plano 3700 Series Pro Latch box pictured below has over $300 in Rapala Tail Dancers.

Water Is Not Your Friend

The most important thing you can do is keep water out of your storage boxes. Water that gets trapped in  storage boxes will rust hooks and split rings. To make sure there is no water in your boxes open the box and run your finger on the inside of the top. If you feel any moisture leave the lid open until the moisture evaporates. This will not take long if the box is exposed to sun light. Make sure the box is placed in a secure area where the box will not be stepped on or tipped over. I always check the boxes at the end of the day to make sure there is no condensation in the box.

Tips to Keep Water Out
  • Inspect and replace boxes that have cracks or broken latches.
  • If bait has been in the water, shake off excess water before placing in box.
  • Don't leave boxes open in the boat - water will not get in when the box is closed.  
  • Don't leave boxes on the floor - stepping on a box that was left on the boat floor has ruined a lot of boxes and lures. It is even worse if the box is open when it is stepped on!
  • When stowing in a boat compartment make sure the box is free in clear from the latch - I recently ruined a box by not paying attention to where I placed the box.

Other Options

I have so many Plano boxes that I can't justify replacing them as they work just fine and last forever, as long as I don't puncture a hole in them. However, moving forward I will be buying their Hydro Flo boxes. The boxes are made with small holes so water will flow through the box. You can check these out here:

Plano has everything you will need to protect and organize your gear. In addition they have waterproof cases to protect electronics or anything else that needs to stay dry. You can check out their entire product line on their website

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sturgeon Bay NWT Re-cap

Day 1

My Day 1 Co-angler was Billy Ditto from Leaf River, IL which is only 25 miles from my hometown. He fished one tournament as a Co-angler last year and has been hooked ever since. I was hoping I could give him a tournament that he would remember.

I usually don’t sleep well the night before a tournament and this was no exception. With the fish moving around like they had been along with isolated storms in the area I knew it might be difficult to find them. Knowing that these were the “right fish” made me even more anxious.

I headed to the area I had found the day before. The water temperature was the same as was the wind but the fish were gone. I knew there was a reason I didn’t sleep well. I went to another area that was good earlier in the week and made one pass with no luck.

I went back to where I was the day before and drove around for about a half hour going about 20 MPH looking for fish. Finally I marked a few on the screen and set up for a pass. Almost immediately we caught a 22” when another rod went. I helped get the board off of that rod while Billy fought the fish. Unfortunately, that was a sheepshead. I thought long and hard about throwing that fish back in. 

Once you keep your 6th fish you cannot cull and you are done for the day. This was not the type of fish I was catching nor was it going to win the tournament but I decided to keep it hoping it would be the smallest of the day.

The pod of fish was much smaller than the day before so it didn’t take long and we were no longer marking fish. We packed up and made another pass. Almost immediately the board on the same rod that caught the 22” walleye went back. Billy fought the fish perfectly and there was not doubt it was a big walleye as the fish came slowly in. Just before I reached for the snap weight the fish came off. I was extremely surprised to see that the fish broke the line above the hooks. The only thing I can think of was I didn’t check the line after catching the 22 incher and it must have nicked the line. I am sure it was the size of fish I had been catching between 27 and 28 inches. We were disappointed but we had plenty of time left in the day.

Unfortunately, a storm moved in and we only were able to catch one more fish. The fish moved down in the water column. All of my adjustments were for not and we headed back to the weigh-in.

Day 2

I drew Bill Ball as a Co-angler on day 2. Bill is an accomplished angler with a couple of MWC wins to his credit. Bill was going into day 2 in ninth place. I fished myself out of the tournament on day 1. My day 2 goal was to keep Bill in the top 10.

I made the long run south again and I spent 20 minutes looking for the school of fish I had been fishing. I couldn't find them so I went to another area that I had caught them earlier in the week. I marked fish so we set up made our first pass. It didn't take long before we boated a 27 incher. We put that rod back out and had another fish take a board back but it was gone by the time we got to the rod. I thought we were going to have a good day but that was the end of the action.

I was marking fish but I just couldn't get them to bite. It turns out day 2 was tougher for all but that was no consolation.

Bill Finishes 14th

Despite only catching one 7 pound fish Bill only dropped 5 places and finished 14th. That helped my spirits a little bit but if we just could have caught one more he would have finished in the top 10. Bill was a blast to fish with and he brought some awesome venison sausage! 

Fools Gold

My plan all along was to fish the northern portion of the boundaries. I even stayed in Fish Creek to be closer to the northern water. I ended up only fishing one full day up north. Once I caught those nice fish over the mud down south I made the decision to go all in down south. I didn't have the confidence that I could find fish up north alone. It turned out that the majority of the top 10 was fishing north. If I would have spent more time up there pre-fishing would I have had a better outcome. I will never know but I am disappointed I didn't follow my initial plan.

The fishing on the mud flats in the south can be so easy it is like fools gold. I feel for it two years ago and I had the same result, BAD! It is not uncommon to catch 30 pounds one day and a fraction of that the next. I noticed many others fishing the same area had a similar fate. However, there were some that were able to make the proper adjustments and did well. 

The lesson I learned is anybody can catch them when the bite is "on". Hopefully I will learn from the experience and have a better outcome next time.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

NWT Sturgeon Bay Pre-Fishing Recap

I had high hopes for the NWT Sturgeon Bay tournament. I was fishing alone and with the tournament boundaries stretching from the southern end of Door County all the way to Death's Door on the northern tip. That meant I had to cover a lot of water as efficiently as possible. My plan was to stay north and hope the fish had migrated to their late summer home.

Day 1

The final day of the AIM tournament was underway out of Oconto. Despite the forecast for 3-5 ft. waves with some to 8 ft. I decided to go north and stay out of the way of the AIM anglers. This turned out to be a mistake as I did not get much accomplished. I marked a lot of bait and some fish but did not catch a fish.

Day 2

Because I wasn't on a team it was really important that I had someone with me so I could get more lines out which allowed me to experiment with colors, depths, presentations etc. I had a friend of mine from Madison, Scott, with me on Saturday and Sunday and on Sunday we added the son of a co-worker of Scott's. Richard will be a freshman at UW Superior where he says he is majoring in Walleyes and Whitetails.  We put Richard through Walleyes 101 on the bay.

We went south and found plenty of drum but no walleyes. Part of majoring in Walleyes is dealing with sheepshead so we made Richard reel in everyone! He didn't seem to mind but we need to find walleye's. After a few stops we started marking fish and caught one 18" walleye. We set up a little deeper and then it was on.

We were pulling crawler harnesses and were able to identify colors with the biggest fish coming on a certain depth. The depth we targeted was just above the fish we were marking. Although the other baits did catch fish I felt like I was honing in on a pattern.

Our best 5 were all over 27" with the exception of one 26-1/2. I have fished this area before and fishing can seem so easy and the next day is another story so I hoped to find something up north but at least I had a spot with big fish. I slept pretty good Sunday night.

Day 3

I fished with an old co-worker of mine and we went north. I was surprised to find water temp in the low 70's. Due to changing winds temperatures in the southern bay were all over the place, when we found the warmer water we found the walleyes. 

The wind was perfect as I checked areas I caught fish last Labor Day weekend. There is a ton of structure and I covered as much as I could. I did mark a fair amount of bait and a few fish but nothing like I did down south. We lost 2 fish that I think were nice walleyes but the rest were sheepshead. I decided to spend the afternoon between Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor with nothing to show for the effort. In retrospect I wish I would have stayed north of Egg Harbor.

Day 4

A small craft advisory was issued for the bay. Winds were out of the NW at 20-30 MPH with gusts higher. I wasn't going to fish but the thought of sitting around the hotel all day got the best of me. I only fished from 9 to 2 and I was happy I had one fish on. I never felt unsafe, thanks to my Lund but the conditions were not the best. I didn't accomplish anything fishing wise but it beat sitting around the hotel.

Day 5

I wanted to fish north so bad but I chickened out. I wasn't confident that I could put something together up north especially when the fishing was so easy on Sunday. I decided to go all in on the south bite and would spend the next two days trying to hone in the pattern.

One of my favorite things about fishing tournaments is you get to meet some great people. I shared the boat with one of my co-anglers from last year, Sargeant Richard Wright who serves in the National Guard. Rich is character and we have a similar sense of humor. It also helps he brings beef jerky!

We tried a couple of different spots but the water temps were colder than I liked. I headed over to where I was on Sunday and there was nothing there. Just like years past these fish move. There is no structure and the fish roam around chasing bait fish. Once you found the bait you would see the walleyes with them. In some cases you could see where the walleyes were feeding as the bait fish were scattered instead of in a ball. When we found that we usually hooked up.

Just like Sunday, once we found them the bite was awesome. We had a double of 28's and just after taking a picture we had another one on of that size or slightly bigger that got off. I made Sargeant Rich drop and give me 20 for dumping that one. You hate to lose a fish like that but we knew what was there and we were happy!

Even better we were catching are fish quite a ways from other boats. I don't like fishing in big groups and it is always my goal is to find fish away from the crowds. Normally I don't net fish during pre-fishing if I can help it but because we were fishing away from everyone I was able to put the Frabill to use! 

Day 6

I fished the last day of pre-fishing with Rich and Mark Michael, the owner of EZEE Steps. We only had until 2 O'clock so my goal was to hone the pattern and get ready for Friday. We went where the fish were on Sunday, nothing. Next we went where Rich and I got into them, we marked fish but not like the day before. We caught a 28" and a 25" when we moved shallower but I was getting nervous. 

I decided to move to another area. About two miles later I was going about 30 MPH when I noticed a couple of blips on my locator. I slowed down and noticed there were quite a few marks and some bait fish. We set up and made a pass. We caught one big catfish and a drum but I knew there were walleyes in there. We made another pass and we caught two good walleyes. That made me feel better for the tournament. It was clear that fish were moving and all I had to do was spend the time to find them on the electronics and go from there.

I will post the tournament re-cap later in the week. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

NWT Red Wing Re-cap


I arrived in Red Wing on Saturday, April 20 to begin pre-fishing for the first ever National Walleye Tour tournament. I had this tournament circled on the calendar and was looking forward to catching post-spawn walleyes. In a normal year the majority of the spawn would be finished and water temps would be in the lower 50's. Not this year, water temperatures were in the upper 30's and most fish had not spawned. That meant a total change in plans.

With mother nature being a few weeks behind schedule I was confident that most fish would be caught from Red Wing to the dam. The Minnesota Tournament Trail was having two one day tournaments on Saturday and Sunday. I did my best to stay out of their way as I concentrated on spots where I have caught fish over the years. I did pick up two fish over 26 inches along with a couple just over 21 inches but overall fishing was slow. The MTT results showed the same with the exception of some big limits being caught pitching jigs. I didn't want to take any of the tournament anglers spots so I waited until later in the week to try my luck.

Secret Spots

There really aren't any secret spots in Red Wing as tournaments have exposed winning patterns and locations over the years. However, I always try to find a spot that is away from the other anglers. This strategy has served me well in my last two FLW tournaments in Red Wing. The biggest problem with these out of the way spots is they often do not hold as many fish. There is a reason that you will see 50-100 boats in a small area, it is because there are a lot of fish there. 

I spent Monday in Pool 3 knowing that not a lot of anglers would lock through the dam during the tournament. Despite 37 degree water temperatures I did manage to find a couple of nice fish. One was a 27" spawned out female and the other was a good male that was milting. I was betting on the water warming up and filling up with post spawn walleyes. Well, it was a good thought but rain and snow raised the water and kept the water temperature low which killed those spots. I did check them again on Wednesday but it was obvious that they were not going to come into play.


Community Spots

I woke up Tuesday to 3-4" of wet snow. I am used to fishing in nasty conditions but snow on April 23? This is getting ridicules!

I, and I think everyone fishing the NWT, knew there was a good bite going on up by the dam pitching jigs. With 126 boats in the field I would have to get a low number in order to get one of these spots. I started at the bottom end of the rocks which are about 1/4 mile long. On my fourth cast I caught one over 8 pounds. I started working my way up river and caught a 25 inch male and lost a nice fish. To make a long story short I caught 6 walleyes in about 1 -1/2 hours with the smallest being 21 inches and my best 5 weighing close to 25 lbs. This does not count several that got off including two that I thought were monsters. Wow, no wonder everyone in the MTT tournaments was fishing there.

I left that area and spent half of the day pitching jigs in areas that have been good in the past with no luck. I was able to catch a few 21" plus males in a community spot which had me feeling pretty good. I was amazed at the fish I was catching as I did not catch a walleye smaller than 20" pre-fishing.

Open the Flood Gates

On Wednesday I checked one of the community spots and promptly caught a 21" male right on a way point. I did my best to hide it from other boats and headed to the next spot. As I checked my spots I noticed the current was a little different and also noticed I wasn't catching any fish. I knew the water was supposed to come up a little but I didn't think enough to change the bite. I was also noticing a lot more grass, leaves and wood floating in the water. I headed up river and sure enough all of the DAM gates were open. Uh Oh!

I have fished Red Wing a lot in March and April. Any time they open the gates it takes a few days before fishing improves. The bite generally gets better once the river crests and starts to recede. This was not going to happen this week so I had better find something and soon as the tournament starts on Friday!

Hope is not a Strategy

I began checking every spot I could think of hoping that fish would either be there or they would be filtering into those spots in the next few days. With the high water there were current seams everywhere and I tried as many of them as I could find. I ended up finding this 27" pre-spawn female at the end of the day on Wednesday.

That beauty gave me hope but I did not catch a fish on Thursday and I could only hope that fish would filter into spots where I have traditionally caught them. As I went to the rules meeting on Thursday I couldn't help but wonder if I was missing something. I guess I would find out soon enough!

Day 1

I ended up with boat #22 and headed up to pitch jigs to the rocks. I wasn't the only one with this strategy as there were boats lined up from top to bottom. I drew a great Co-Angler who actually guides so I felt confident if there were fish in shallow we would catch them. I ended up with a spot near the down river side of the rocks. We fished them hard for about 2 hours. No walleyes but several smallmouth bass, up to 3 pounds, got our heart rates going. We also did not see any fish caught so we went to plan B. I finally caught a fish on, I think, plan F and that would be the only fish we caught. We did lose a nice fish where I caught the 27 incher on Wednesday but he was only on for a short time.

Misery Loves Company

I wasn't the only one that struggled as a third of the field did not catch a fish and there were a lot of ones and two's. The leader was pitching jigs too but on the upper end of the rocks. I at least felt better that I had not missed the bite.

Day 2

Winning was no longer an option, however, cashing a check was certainly attainable as I was only 2-1/2 pounds out of the money. Normally I would say there was no pressure except my co-angler was in 3rd place after day 1. For those that are not familiar with the format co-anglers are randomly selected to be with a pro. The pro and the co-angler team to weigh there best 5 fish. On day 2 the pro fishes with a different randomly selected co-angler for day 2. The co-angler adds up the weights from the two days with two different pros. This meant my co-angler, Larry Oleson, was in the hunt to win the Co-angler side of the tournament and the pressure was on me to put him on some fish!

We tried the rocks again with the same results. We headed down river to the spot I lost a fish the day before and immediately caught a 17 inch male walleye. Not a monster but in this tournament five of those would be great. We fished that spot for the next 2-1/2 hours with nothing to show for it so it was scramble time. I hit all of my spots with nothing to show for the efforts until 12:45 when I boated a 17" sauger. We wore that spot out and had one really nice fish on. It was so nice I am not sure if it was a walleye. I had him on for about thirty seconds then he was gone. With the water being so cold I had to fish slow. When you are fishing crank baits slow sometimes it is hard to keep them buttoned up.

With only an hour to go and only 4 pounds in the boat I decided to go back to the rocks. I knew if we caught one fish I would have a chance to get into the money and that would ensure a good finish for Ole. With about 1/2 hour to go I felt one swimming with my plastic or at least I thought I did. I reeled in my ringer worm and something ate the tail. Are you kidding me? In most cases shallow river walleye's clobber that jig. I may have been taking the jig away from the fish and he just grabbed the tail or he might have been just a little finicky. I see that a lot when I vertical jig with plastics, in that case I usually change the color or the style of the bait but I rarely see it when I am pitching jigs shallow. Whatever it was it never was on the hook so I will never know what it was. I am satisfied that I got a fish to bite in a big fish spot, I just wasn't able to execute.

Day 2 turned out to be another tough day for the field and my two day weight of 5.94 pounds was good enough for 63rd out of 126. Just over 10 pounds was all that was needed to get into the money. Normally I am frustrated after a mediocre finish. I can't say that I am with this one. It was a very tough bite and I gave myself a chance. I didn't cash a check but I learned a ton. What I am most proud of his the measly 4.0 pounds we caught on Saturday was good enough for my co-angler, Ole, to finish 3rd! The disappointing part is if we would have caught one more two pound fish he would have one the Co-angler side. With the bite as tough as it was he was very happy with third!

I will not be fishing Lake Erie but I will be fishing the NWT Sturgeon Bay in July. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 MWC IL River Re-cap

The 2013 tournament fishing season got off to a cold start for myself in more ways than one. The sandals that I wore in 2012 were replaced by layers of clothes, hats, gloves and pack boots. Unseasonably cold weather along with high winds made for an interesting start to the year.


One of the reasons I look forward to the MWC IL River opener is it means I am usually breaking in a new boat. This year I went with the Lund Pro-V 1975 with a Mercury Verado 225. I dropped it in the water for the first time the week before, March 16, the tournament started. I absolutely love this boat as it is not too big and yet not to small.

The boat ran beautifully and am I ever glad I went with the full windshield. The weather was horrible all week with several days that did not get above 32 degrees. There were two days that the wind chill was below zero degrees when I went on the water with winds of 20-30 MPH and gusts that were even higher. To say the least it was miserable but the full windshield allowed for as comfortable of a ride as I could get.

The river had dropped about 5 feet and was at flood stage with water temperatures of around 40 degrees. The first two days of pre-fishing I was able to find some male saugers that were willing to cooperate. It took me a little while to slow down enough to get them to bite but I adjusted and was starting to put together a pattern. Now I had to find where the female saugers were hiding.

The weather took a turn for the worse on Tuesday and Wednesday. There were only 10-15 boats that fished those days and after a few hours of no luck I was wondering why I was fishing in 30 mile an hour winds with temperatures below freezing.  On Tuesday I checked out some areas south of Hennepin but all I found were asian carp and dirty water as you can see in the picture below.

I kept checking spots and I was rewarded for sticking it out. I found a down river area that was holding nice fish, tournament winning fish. I ended up catching 10 fish on Tuesday in two passes, all females. 

Thursday the weather was a little nicer and most of the field was back on the water. I continued to look for additional spots and caught a couple of nice fish at the clam beds and then headed up to the Peru Flats. I made one pass and caught 4 nice females and 1 male. I thought I had this thing figured out. I was trolling rapala's really slow upstream. What was encouraging is I started to catch them on the number 9 floaters when earlier in the week I was only catching them on number 5's. I thought they were getting more aggressive and the bite would be on for the weekend!

There was a lot of grumbling about how bad the bite was. I was feeling pretty good as I had put in the time all week when many stayed in bed. I gained even more confidence when Shooter joined me Friday morning. We went to my down river spot and we caught two 19 inchers in less than 20 minutes. The two pictures below weren't the best as we were trying to keep these fish out of sight from other boats but I can assure you they were both nice, 19 inch females.

We were able to keep the first fish out of sight. However, a boat saw us catch the second fish. I get a kick out of some of these guys. As soon as the boat saw we had a fish he immediately changed course and got right next to our boat watching our every move. He got so close our rods were almost touching as we both trolled up river. I probably should have said something but I decided to ignore his bad etiquette. I guess that is what he had to do seeing as he didn't want to fish in the cold on Tuesday and Wednesday. We headed up river and were only able to catch one more fish. The water got real dirty but I was confident that it would clear up over night and we would be fine.

Tournament - Day 1

The weather actually was pretty nice as we made our run down river. There were 25-30 boats fishing the stretch of river we targeted. We saw a couple of fish caught trolling early but it became apparent early that the jig bite was picking up. We made three passes with no fish and saw maybe 10 fish caught with most caught jigging. The river had been slowly dropping all week and visibility was better than it had been all week. In my opinion I thought there should have been more fish caught so I assumed that the fish had left so we headed up to the Peru Flats. I was a little nervous but I thought for sure that we could catch fish on the flats.

Wrong again, that is what I get for thinking. We made two long passes with no luck. Even more concerning was the fact that we didn't see a fish caught and there were a ton of boats fishing the same area. Uh-Oh, scramble time. I decided to head back down river, at least we saw fish caught there. We tried trolling with no luck and only saw one more fish caught, jigging. We then switched over to vertical jigging and went to work. We tried numerous spots and we did not get a single bite. 

Our day was over and for the first time, other than 2007 when only 4 fish were caught out of 200 boats, we didn't weigh a fish. I felt a little better that nearly half of the field zeroed and there was only one or two limits caught with a measly 8 pounds plus winning. Wow! I knew the bite was tough but I never expected to see numbers like that!

Tournament - Day 2

We decided to head down river again but this time we were committed to jigging. It was clear that the pattern I was on had all but died and the jig bite was the answer. On our first drift down river Shooter hooked into a 16-1/2 incher. That was the only fish we saw caught there and around 10:00 we headed up river and started hopping spots. We did not get another bite until we got to the upper end of the flats. We caught several small fish and I caught 16 and a 17-1/2" sauger on consecutive drifts and that was it for the day. 

We ended up finishing in the middle of the pack with 3 fish that weighed 5-07 pounds. There were more fish caught on day 2 and the winners jigged up a nice limit to end with a little over 18 pounds. 

In the end I stuck to my trolling pattern too long. The river dropped and cleared up which pulled the fish off of the flats and into the middle of the channel. I don't think the bite was better on day 2 than day 1. I just think it took the field a while to find where the fish had moved. Looking back I should have got the jig rods out sooner and headed into the middle of the channel. Unfortunately, Monday morning quarterbacking doesn't work. I can only learn from the experience and apply what I learned the next time I experience a similar situation.

Next stop is my favorite, Red Wing, MN, on the Mississippi River for the Cabelas National Walleye Tour at the end of April. Updates to follow!