With so many lures available to anglers today, it can sometimes be a challenge to best determine what lures we should use when pursuing our favorite species through the ice. Lipless crankbaits, a renown fish-catching lure type throughout the open water season, work incredibly well throughout the hardwater months in the Ice Belt. Yo-Zuri offers several sizes and patterns of lipless crankbaits that ice anglers can count on when chasing everything from panfish to predators.
Early ice starts right after there is enough ice to walk on lakes and lasts until about the third or fourth week of January. It is the time of the ice season where big, noisy baits work really well for walleyes and northern pike alike. The Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Vibe is a 2 3/8” deep-bodied lipless crankbait that rattles as it is ripped through the water column. The patented scale pattern adds an extra dimension of realism to its presentation so that even less aggressive fish might be tempted to strike. Going with ten pound test Dark Green SuperBraid, ten pound test Hybrid, or ten pound test T7 Fluorocarbon is recommended to avoid bite-offs as fish often take the entire lure in their mouths when they hit.
Early Ice Scenario
One of the best situations in which a larger lipless crankbait like the 3DR-X Vibe works well on early ice is in 8-10’ water with a sand/rock bottom adjacent to deep water. Finding areas with sparse weed patches can be even better as they may attract and even hold fish in some cases. Dropping the 3DR-X to the bottom and pounding it several times followed by quick 1-2’ rips upward can be a great way to draw fish in from afar. Once fish approach, it may be necessary to dial back the rips to a more subtle jigging movement interspersed with a quick, short twitch. The twitch with the 3DR-X Vibe is intended to simulate a wounded minnow and will often provoke a strike.
Once the ice thickens to 20” or more the bite windows can become much narrower each day, oftentimes requiring that fishing efforts be refined to dawn and dusk to maximize fish-catching potential. With the increased snow and ice that comes with mid-winter, it is often necessary to refine lure sizes and the cadence at which they are worked to get more finicky fish to bite. A 2 1/8” lipless crankbait like the Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe can be a great solution to mid-winter blues as it is a shorter and thinner profile lure that mimics minnows upon which the fish are feeding. Six pound test T7 Fluorocarbon or six pound test Hybrid lines offer the strength needed to land bigger fish while still allowing a more finesse-based presentation that is important to get finicky predators to bite.
A classic mid-winter scenario occurs on underwater humps. An area that comes up to 10’ of water but is surrounded by 20’+ of water is an area in which walleyes and northern pike cruise for unsuspecting prey during lowlight periods in mid-winter. Dropping the Rattl’N Vibe to bottom, letting it sit on the bottom of the structure for a few seconds, and then gently lifting it up to about 1’ off the bottom can be a great way to entice fish to bite. The subtler lift and fall presentation coupled with light jigging strokes when fish approach the Vibe uses the built-in rattle system to initiate clicks the fish can hear and then react with strikes. Luminescent patterns are especially productive this time of year because of their glow characteristic, making lures more easily seen when visibility is low.
Late ice is the time during the ice season when snow has begun to melt or has melted off the ice and back into the lake. This is a prime time to pursue large panfish using miniature lipless crankbaits. The Rattl’N Vibe Mini is a 1 5/8” miniature crank that big crappies cannot resist during late ice. If the lake being fished is commonly known for bass, northerns, or walleyes, then going with four pound Hybrid Ice is recommended. If the system being fished has predators, but they are not as pronounced, then the Mini works great with three pound Hybrid Ice line.
Late Ice Scenario
A classic late ice scenario for big crappies includes a combination of using the basin of the lake and shoreline structure. During midday using metallic, UV, or luminescent Rattl’N Vibe Minis over basin areas are solid considerations for initiating uphits. For example, if fish are located 15’ down in 25’ of water, then jigging a Black Silver Rattl’N Vibe Mini around 13-14’ just above the school is recommended. As the day progresses into the last hour of daylight, changing positions to old weedlines can be a fruitful approach. Even if the weeds are dead, they may be the only cover available, and big crappies will often congregate in and around them as the sun gets closer to setting. The same lure and patterns can be used in this area, but jigging rapidly in, around, and just outside of the weeds within 2-3’ of the bottom can be highly productive to lure big slabs out of hiding.
Whether you are in pursuit of predators or panfish, lipless crankbaits can be a highly effective lure style to use throughout the entirety of the ice season. Adding lipless cranks like the Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Vibe, Rattl’N Vibe, and Rattl’N Vibe Mini to your arsenal will increase your chance of catching some great fish on hardwater. Visit yo-zuri.com today to learn more about the different Vibes mentioned in this article.
Tight lines and have a safe ice season!
Many fish species can be found throughout the water column during the late summer period. Panfish and predator species alike can be caught at or near the surface of the water column, hunkered down in thick vegetation or cruising weedlines adjacent to steep drops, or suspended over deep basins during this time of year. Having a variety of hardbaits that cover each level of the water column during late summer can improve the odds of catching several fish species in one fishing trip.
With so much bug life and baitfish congregating at or near the surface of the water column, late summer can be a great time of year to chase largemouth and smallmouth bass and northern pike using poppers. The Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Popper is a smaller profile lure at 2 5/8” and 1/4 oz. that works well during lowlight periods of the day, when the wind is under 5 miles per hour, and when fish are extremely finicky. The Bone or Ghost Prism Frog are solid patterns when fished within open pockets formed by lily pads and when chasing fish hunkered down in weeds during the heat of the day. Yo-Zuri 20 lb test SuperBraid is a top line choice when using the 3DR-X Poppers in and around weeds as it is strong enough to hold large bass or pike when they dive for thick cover as is often the case after a strike.
While many walleyes will shift their focus to deep humps, rock piles, and deep flats during late summer, there are inevitably going to be fish that frequent structure in less than 12’ of water as well. Larger walleyes will hunt in and around large cabbage patches where small perch, bluegills, and other minnows seek cover. At 4 3/8” and 1/2 oz., the 3DB Jerkbait 110 Deep is a hardbait that stands out among smaller forage that gets the attention of large walleyes waiting for an easy meal to pass in front of them. The Bold Table Rock Shad is arguably one of the most versatile patterns when fishing for walleyes in weeds as it can be effectively fished in clear or tannic-stained water. Changing up the cadence used from fast twitches to simply pulling the Jerkbait forward a few inches at a time allows the Yo-Zuri “Wave Motion Technology” to maximize vibrations that walleyes cannot resist.
Although bluegills and crappies can be found in weeds and wood in late summer, this can also be a great time of year to pursue large schools of fish that suspend over deep water chasing smaller minnows and invertebrates. It is common to find marauding packs of panfish suspended 15-20’ down in 35’+ of water during this time of year. The Rattl’N Vibe, at 2 1/8” and 3/8 oz., is a large enough profile lure that sinks to suspended panfish quickly to maximize water covered effectively, but it is still small enough that big panfish will regularly eat it. Tying Yo-Zuri 6 lb test Hybrid line to the Vibe and then jigging, drifting, and trolling are all great options when pursuing suspended panfish. The Luminescent is a glow-based pattern that works regardless of water clarity and is an excellent choice early and late in the day when light is diminished.
The late summer period can be a great time to chase multiple species of fish in the same trip. Coupling Yo-Zuri lines with the 3DR-X Popper, 3DB Jerkbait 110 Deep, and Rattl’N Vibe can give you the opportunity to maximize results during your next multi-species trip on the water.
Tight lines and be safe!
- Mark Maule
The changing of the seasons oftentimes makes it is necessary to modify fishing approaches in order improve fish catching opportunities. Like with any other lure type, changing up topwater presentations from spring through fall can lead to catching more bass as they shift their focus toward different types of prey and forage eaten with each of these seasons. Yo-Zuri hardbaits are a great option to consider for these necessary seasonal changes as they offer a host of different topwater lures and patterns to fit whatever situation with which the fish present us.
The Yo-Zuri 3DB Pencil is one of my favorite springtime lures as the fish are getting aggressive and ready to feed heavily after being hunkered down by several months of winter. These Pencils are big enough to get a fish’s attention as they prepare for the upcoming spawn, and they can be worked slow enough in the case that some fish might be more lethargic during cold front conditions. If the water and/or air temperature is lower than 50 degrees, I like going with a straight twitch and pause retrieve while using a 4” Pencil. Moving the lure 1-2’ at a time slowly forward and then pausing for up to 10 seconds can be highly effective. The pause is the key because that is when many fish will either strike or position themselves right under the lure to strike it when it starts moving again. After air and water temperatures supersede 50 degrees, then it is time to go with the classic “walk-the-dog” style retrieve where the lure moves from side to side while using a 5” Pencil. Warmer surface temperatures in spring can mean more and bigger minnows swimming in schools near the surface or in shallower bays, and when that happens, the aggressive nature of the side-to-side movement can elicit strikes because of predators already looking up and feeding on bigger active minnows.
Once surface temperatures exceed the low 60s, we often see a significant increase in the amount of active bug life on the water. One specific insect that I look for during the summer months is dragonflies. When I see dragonflies, I switch from the Pencil to the Yo-Zuri 3DB Prop. The key to the Prop is that it has a plastic propeller which simulates the sound that a dragonfly makes when it is flapping its wings on top of the water. This lure can be used effectively from sunup to sundown, even when it is extremely sunny and calm, because of the presence of dragonflies. A general retrieve that I like to use is to cast the 3DB Prop parallel to emergent weeds that are adjacent to submergent vegetation and use a start-and-stop retrieve. I like to cast the lure, let it sit for 5-10 seconds so that fish can begin keying in on its silhouette right from the start of the cast, and then I go with anywhere from 1-4 cranks of the reel handle. The goal is to get the plastic prop to sound like a dragonfly’s wings flapping on the water, so sometimes reeling slower is necessary to make sure they can target the lure and eat it. Waiting to feel the fish’s weight during the strike will be paramount to improve the number of fish being hooked because simply going by sight might lead to pulling the lure away from the fish.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year to use topwaters as bass are hungry and feeding heavily in preparation for the upcoming long winter months ahead. The key to fall strategies for topwater lures is that I go by the first hard frost of the year versus when the calendar indicates the beginning of this season. Sometimes this happens in late August and sometimes it occurs in the at the end of September. My favorite way to pursue bass in the fall is with a Yo-Zuri 3DB Popper. I have found that using heavier line, like a 50 or even 65 lb braid, can be useful when tied directly to Poppers this time of year because I like to cast them right into any remaining emergent weed cover (even if it is dead due to frost) and retrieve it out over submergent weeds. Poppers work great in late fall as they offer a larger profile meal with little energy expenditure needed to chase them down. The Popper retrieve in fall is all about slowing things down and being patient. A cast usually entails letting the lure sit for up to 20 seconds or more after hitting the water, twitching the lure slowly 1-4 times so that it gurgles instead of splashes, and then pausing up to 20 seconds again. Using Poppers in late fall is often a case of the adage, “less is more,” when it comes to movement and noise on top of the water.
Being versatile with topwater hardbaits and adjusting the lure used based on the season can reap significant improvements in the numbers of fish that are landed. If you are looking for some exciting explosive bass action during the transitions from spring through fall, then casting an assortment of Yo-Zuri Pencils, Props, and Poppers is well worth your effort!
There is no better place in the world for consistently catching trophy sized Striped Bass from land than the Cape Cod Canal. The six-mile-long, man-made canal, is a land-based fisherman’s dream. There are multiple points of access, a sidewalk on each side of the canal for walking or biking and most important, boats are not allowed to fish in the canal! If you’ve never been to the canal before here are some tips to get you ready for your first trip.
The key timeframe is the end of May through early September. The fish migrate from the south and quality size fish will arrive sometime around the end of May. Some fish will push through and continue north, while others will stay through the summer, taking advantage of the bait that stays in the canal. At the end of August and through early September there is a push of fish heading south, “when the cows come home”. If you are making a special trip to the canal the key is to line up your trip with the “breaking tides” during June, July or August. The breaking tides are negative (or double negative) low tides that occur at or around sunrise. These tides trap bait in the canal and offer Stripers the ability to ambush prey, particularly on the surface. The best tide chart to use is the Army Core tide chart – https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portals/74/docs/Recreation/CCC/Brochures/2020TideTables.pdf . The negative tides are marked with a * or ** for double negative. The sun rises in the summer sometime around 4:30-5am so plan on being there early to get a spot in the dark.
Planning your trip
Once you have identified the dates for your trip there are a few key things to book. First would be a location to stay. There are several local hotels and campgrounds in the area but my first choice is an Airbnb rental. If your lucky you can find a rental directly on the canal for an affordable price. One addition that I would highly recommend is renting a bicycle for riding the path along the canal. There are a couple local companies that rent bikes with rod holders and baskets for your gear, specifically for fishing the canal. Having a bike is key for maximizing your chances of being in the right place at the right time. Be sure to grab a rental vehicle large enough to carry your fishing gear and bicycles. A lot of the guys fishing the canal wear waders so they can wade out to cast and to make landing big easier. I personally prefer water proof boots and comfortable pants over the waders. That combination makes riding the bike much easier. Whatever your choice, make sure that you have water proof footwear. You can choose to wear spikes on your boots but I haven’t found that to be necessary for most areas on the canal, although you do need to be careful with your footing especially at low tide.
The canal is a long-distance casting game and your gear needs to reflect that. I bring two rods (both 2 piece) for the canal:
1. 10-1/2 ft, 20-40lb class spinning rod, 1-4oz lures – This is the rod I use to throw swimming plugs or smaller topwaters.
2. 11ft, 30-60lb class spinning rod, 4-10oz lures – This is the rod I use to throw heavy swimbaits, heavy jigs and large topwaters.
On both rods I fish either a 200 or 250 size Van Staal but you can fish any comparable size spinning reel. The key is to not go overboard on line and leader size. On both rods I fish:
40lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid – http://yo-zuri.com/category/superbraid/
40LB TopKnot Fluorocarbon – http://yo-zuri.com/category/topknot/
If you are doing heavy jigging you can step up your leader size but in almost all cases 40lb is fine. If you want extra distance on casting you can drop your braid down to 30lb but for me 40lb is perfect. There are a lot of people fishing the canal and therefore I like to us white braid because I can see it easily and keep track of where my line is compared to the other anglers. On my rods I fish a 75lb prime snap by Spro, that allows me to quickly switch lures without having to re-tie.
Lures for the canal can be broke down into three categories: Topwaters, swimming plugs and heavy jigs/swimbaits. I will be the first to say, I am not dialed in to the jig/swimbait bite and they are most effect after dark. I focus my attention on topwaters and swimming plugs. The key with any lure for the canal is distance. There are a couple key lures by Yo-Zuri that fit this fishery:
a. Yo-Zuri Surface Cruiser (6-1/2”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/surface-cruiser-floating/
b. Yo-Zuri Mag Popper (5-1/4”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/mag-popper/
a. Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow Long Cast (6-3/4”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/hydro-minnow-lc/
b. Yo-Zuri Mag Darter (6-1/2”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/mag-darter/
c. Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitch Bait (5-1/4”) – http://www.yo-zuri.com/products/3d-inshore-twitchbait/
The Surface Cruiser has enough weight (2-1/2oz) and the stream lined shape to cast long distances but still floats, unlike many of the other topwaters thrown on the canal. That allows you to vary your retrieve while the other pencil poppers can only be fished fast or they sink. The Mag Popper, Mag Darter and Hydro Minnow LC have weight transfer systems to offer even greater casting distance, especially into the wind. That can make the difference between hooking up or just watching fish break outside your range. All of these plugs have 3X or 4X strength treble hooks and split rings that can handle bass up to 50 inches or more, even in the strong current of the canal.
The majority of the topwater lures thrown on the canal are pencil poppers, like the Surface Cruiser. However, a traditional style popper can be extremely effective as well. On my last trip I caught 20+ slot and schoolie size Stripers on the new Mag Popper. This is the best casting floating popper on the market period. It has a patented Magnetic Weight Transfer system that uses a sled that slams into the back of the bait during your cast and then locks back into place after landing. I fish the popper around slack tide and the first hour of the tide. I work it slower and more subtle for Striped Bass than I do for other species (Jacks, Tuna, Roosterfish). Letting it swing at the start of the tide, while working it slowly can be very effective. A big plus on the popper is it stays in the strike zone longer and many times you can hook up even if the fish misses the plug on the first strike.
Personally, I reserve throwing topwater plugs until I see fish actively breaking on the surface. Some guys will throw them all morning but for me I put in on the secondary rod and grab it when the opportunity appears. For the most part I fish a swimming plug and 75% of time the swimming plug I throw is the Hydro Minnow LC. That plug casts very well because its stream lined, weights 1-3/4oz and has a weight transfer that keeps it from tumbling in the wind. It has the swimming action, shape and size that perfectly mirrors the tinker mackerel in the canal. It’s a plug that I can make long casts to breaking fish with or that I can catch fish up close to the rock because it stays in the water all the way back to you. I always have this plug tied on a rod when fishing the canal and I’ve caught some of my largest Stripers when they aren’t actively feeding on top.
A new addition to fishing the canal for me is the Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Twitch Bait. This is a slow sinking lipless twitch bait that can be fished with a straight retrieve or slowed down and fished with a twitch and pause retrieve. This bait has a different (deeper) profile and you can vary the retrieve to get finicky fish to eat. In this bait I tend to throw the Bone pattern or the Peanut Bunker pattern.
There are many colors that will work on the canal but the two main patterns for plugs are Green Mackerel and Bone. Mackerel are the key forage for Striped Bass in the canal. Other prey is available, including Squid, Herring and Bunker, but Mackerel is the bait that fuels this fishery. When picking colors for my plugs I make sure to have at least a couple of each plug in a mackerel pattern. In 2019 the regular Green Mackerel pattern was the hot ticket for me. In 2020 the new Wacky Mackerel pattern (combination of Green Mack and Bone) was the go-to color for the bigger fish. For topwater plugs, I will once again fish the Green Mack patterns but I would also suggest having a few in the Bone pattern and a couple in an all Yellow school bus pattern. When throwing to breaking fish having a solid color, that is easy for them to see can be important.
Before I arrive, I research where the fish have been showing up on the canal. There are several forums, blogs and pod casts that report on the bite in the canal. I have personally had the most luck in the middle to west end of the canal. I will park at an access point close to where the fish have been and with the bike work that general area. The canal connects Buzzards Bay on the west end and Cape Cod Bay on the east end. Buzzards Bay is shallower than Cape Cod Bay and the water warms up faster. Therefore, most of the early season (May/June) fish tend to be caught on the middle to west end. One unique thing you will notice about the canal is the direction of the water and the tides are not lined up exactly. The water will change direction (from east to west or west to east) an hour before high tide and low tide. The key is to be in the right spot when the tide turns from west to east. I will typically be somewhere on the west end early in the morning and fish that location until the tide turns east towards Cape Cod Bay.
I am not a stationary fisherman. I grew up chasing fish down the beach or up and down the pier. So, when the tide turns east, I wait for a school of Striped Bass to push the mackerel through and I will jump on bike and follow them for several miles, picking away at fish as I go. I will catch a few, when they pass by, I jump on the bike and find an open spot farther east and repeat as I go. A lot of guys will won’t put in the effort to move, instead choosing to wait for the next school.
There are names for many of the famous spots along the canal and you can find a guide to that online. There are key spots like the Railroad track bridge, the radio tower and the state park on the east end that get larger crowds, but fish can be caught at any location along the canal.
One of the best ways to get outfitted for EVERYTHING you need to fish the canal, including information on where the bite has been, is to go to Red Top Sporting Goods or Canal Bait & Tackle. These are well stocked stores and the employees fish the canal on a regular basis. They are a great place to pick up a two piece rod, reel, line and all the lures and terminal tackle you need. Check out these stores, including their great section of Yo-Zuri products.
Red Top Sporting Goods
Address: 265 Main St, Buzzards Bay, MA 02532
Phone: (508) 759-3371
Canal Bait & Tackle
Address: 101 Cranberry Hwy, Sagamore, MA 02561
Phone: (508) 833-2996
The last thing I will say on the canal fishery is if you do visit please pick up after yourself and follow the local fishery laws. This is a one of a kind fishery, let’s keep it great for future generations!
Yo-Zuri Pro-Staff Brandon Cobb breaks down his Top 4 Finish at the BASS Elite Series event on Eufaula
• What was your plan coming into the tournament and did go as planned?
When it comes to tournament bass fishing you usually need to keep a completely open mind when going to a lake you are not familiar with. It is very hard to have a completely accurate theory on what the fish will be doing. With that being said, I knew this would be a primarily offshore tournament. So, I put all my eggs in one basket and devoted my entire practice to graphing for offshore fish. I found quite a few schools of fish and brush piles. The strange thing about the schools of bass at Lake Eufaula was their tendency to move. On most lakes I’m used to fishing offshore schools of fish they are always there; they just may not bite. On Eufaula, I had to idle the same spot 3-5 times a day and the fish would randomly be there at some point. I felt like I had a solid plan going into the tournament. After Idling for 30+ hours in the 3 days of practice I marked 9 schools of fish and nearly 100 brush piles. My plan in the tournament was to cover as much water as possible and make just a few casts to each key piece of structure.
• What was your pattern the first three days?
The fishing pressure during the tournament definitely repositioned the fish. Lake Eufaula had been highly pressured not just from our tournament but also the Toyota Series tournament the week before. The First two days of competition, I was able to rely heavily on the large offshore schools of bass I located. It was very challenging to get my timing and positioning right on these schools. I knew from practice the areas these fish would pull up on the ledges and feed but they would position differently every day. I had to idle with my Lowrance over every place to see where they were positioned at that exact moment.
I would mark the fish then be able to catch a few in a row before the school broke up and I had to find them again. Sometimes the ledge would have 5 fish and sometimes it would be 50+. It was just a timing thing. As the tournament progressed into days 3 and 4 the ledge fish became too pressured, so I shifted to more of a brush pile game. I would run as many brush piles as I could. The brush piles were solid fish but the bite was very slow. I usually only caught one or two fish before having to move to another pile.
• How did the weather change going into day 4 and how did that change your approach?
The final day of the tournament started very slowly for me. I fished many of my ledges and brush piles with limited success in the morning. However, around midday the weather the wind picked up somewhat to cause a little current to start moving through the lake. I decided to make a move back through the string of my most productive brush piles. The conditions had been basically calm for the past days. During the calm conditions I relied mostly on a more finesse approach with a worm and swimbait.
Reel: Abu Garcia STX Revo 7.3:1
Rod: Ark Rods Prototype Brandon Cobb Signature Rod 7’4″ MH
Line: 16 lb Top Knot Flouro
Bait: Zoom Mag U-Tale Redbug on a 1/2 oz shaky head
Reel: Abu Garcia STX Revo 7.3:1
Rod: Ark Rods Prototype Brandon Cobb Signature Series 7’4″ MH
Line: 16 lb Top Knot Fluoro
Bait: 1/2 oz greenfish tackle swim jig white with 3.8in Zoom Z-Swim swimbait (white)
Once I noticed the wind causing some water disturbance, I picked up the Yo-Zuri 3DS DD crankbait. I caught 20 lbs in that particular bite window in just a few brush piles. The crankbait excels in conditions with wind, clouds, or current.
• What made you decide to use the 3DS Crank Deep Diver in particular? What are some of the advantages of this bait over other deep diving crank baits in that depth range?
The 3DS DD has always been one of my staple offshore crankbaits. It is not an extremely deep diving crankbait but perfect for that mid-depth 10-12 feet of water. Most of the brush I targeted was in that exact depth of water making it the perfect option. The bill design allows it to plow through the brush easily with minimum hang ups. Retrieve speed is really key to fishing brush piles with crankbaits at nearly every lake. You need to be able to quickly plow the crankbait through the limbs to trigger the fish. The 3DS DD allows you to not slow down when the bait hits the first limb. This triggered the bass they may have really not been feeding.
Reel: Abu Garcia STX Revo 6.6:1
Rod: Ark Rods Prototype Brandon Cobb Signature Series 7’3″ M Fiberglass composite
Line: 12 lb Top Knot Fluoro
Bait: 3DS DD chart/blue (Available at https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Yo-Zuri_3DS_Series_Deep_Diving_Crankbaits/descpage-YZ3DDC.html)
• This was the first tournament coming off pandemic. Was there a different feel to this tournament compared to the typical Elite series event?
It really felt like the first tournament of the season. It also felt like it had a “bigger” feel than a lot of the other tournaments. It was really one of the first major bass tournaments, or really any kind of professional event, back at it. The pressure was a little higher because I felt like it was a necessity to get the season back on track. During mid-season it can often become a grind going from one lake to the next with little down time, but with the break I was more excited than ever to get back to competition.
The first and foremost thing we need to talk about here is safety, and that is NEVER give the ice more credit than what it is due. Make sure to have crazy amounts of caution when fishing the ice, the last thing you want is to break through and risk hypothermia. That being stated, always remember the buddy system: ice fishing is not something I suggest anyone do alone. If you do go somewhere alone, make sure there are other people in the area and you tell people where you are going. It is always a good idea to wear flotation clothing just for ice anglers, or perhaps what I do and wear a life jacket. I know they are big and bulky, but its better safe than sorry. The suggested ice thickness that everyone I know abides by is 4” to walk on, 6” for an ATV or snowmobile, and 12” for vehicles. Always have a spud with you to check the ice thickness.
This is one of my favorite times of year to fish because the best eating fish can be caught. Those include the Panfish, Bluegills, Yellow Perch, Walleye, and Crappie. Yes, I know you will have to brave some crazy elements to make this happen; but it is well worth it when you can get on a good pile of them. This time of year; however, the fish have to eat to generate some sort of heat. So if you drill your hole around them and have a hardbait that is UV with rattles, it’s typically not hard to get them to bite.
What to target:
This is where experience on the lake you are ice fishing really comes into play and so does a good depth finder and mapping system. I typically want to target some piece of structure and weed lines, and fishing the warmer months in open water is really the only way to find this. You can certainly find some solid weed lines and edges in 6-12 feet of water that are holding fish. This is because the chunk rocks in these areas hold healthier vegetation and heat, which the fish will relate to. Structure though, is where I find the better walleye and crappie. So it pays off to know the best areas of structure of transitions off flats.
This is where it gets a little bit tricky to justify when the best times to go are, because it is always cold. As much as I hate to say it for the anglers that do not like the cold, the night time is the best time to get out there. The last few hours of daylight in the day into the dusk/night fall hours have always seemed to be the best for me. I believe this is because the moon and gravity force become less at night allowing the fish to move around a little easier in the cold conditions.
What to take with you:
Flasher/sounder/camera- a combo of a flasher and camera is pretty much all you need. I’ve found that an LCD display sonar is great for larger fish generally, as you have history on the screen which you lose when you use a flasher which provides real-time feedback on fish and lure location, but there is no history.
GPS – ideally you’ve done your homework ‘ground-truthing’ spots during open water with your boat – the GPS is also great for new spots, and finding your way to safety if you’re in whiteout condition.
Gas powered Drill with 24” bit- This is for drilling your hole to drop your flasher/ camera and fishing out of.
Biggest Mistakes by Beginners:
Panfish – line too thick, and lure size too big for the size of the presentation and the species target.
Larger predators – for walleyes – fishing the wrong times of the day or targeting them in water considered to be less than optimal in depth, there are always exceptions to the rule here if you have some history to go off of. Very common today for people to use a braid and fluorocarbon leader – often the fluorocarbon will be added to a swivel if you’re using a rotating presentation. Because of dropping strait down, this will create line twists. Braid can be problematic in very cold temps – if you’re in a hut, you’re in business. Larger fluorocarbon requires a larger size spool to manage the stiffness of the line.
Yo-Zuri Product to Take:
-Hybrid line in 4lb test, this is definitely a style of fishing that you want the smallest diameter line you can get away with.
-8lb TopKnot Leader, this is something I like to use when fishing for bigger walleyes. I also think it helps the bait sink faster when I see a fish on my camera or flasher.
-NEW Rattl’N Vibe Mini, this is a bait designed specifically for ice fishing anglers. I definitely love the UV colors since I fish so much at night, but also my favorites are Firetiger, Gold with Black Back, and Hot Perch
-3DS Vibe, this is a bait I catch a lot of bigger walleyes on and it seems to have a great falling action through the water column. Usually the fish eat this bait on the initial drop.
Yo-Zuri hardbaits are the staple in every one of my tackle boxes. But, I especially rely on them when chasing after the big walleyes that we are notorious for in Canada. I really enjoy walleye fishing on the weekend because there are no two trips the same, and the walleye are very aggressive fish. It is always a great opportunity to hit the water and spend time with great fishing buddies and family.
For most of my life I have known the best way to catch walleye is by trolling. This is a pretty simple technique done by boat: tie on a Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Walleye DD, throw the bait behind the boat and drive at a steady slow pace. A critical element to being successful and a common question I hear a lot is, “what speed should I troll at?” this is dependent on the bait you are throwing and the depths you want to target. For me I prefer a really slow speed to help the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Walleye DD dive to a depth of 8-9 feet. This seems to be a perfect depth for this bait because it allows the bait to “dance”. When I say dance, I mean the bait is at a wide side-to-side wobbling action and is hunting!
The rod and reel is really not too much of a concern to me, but I have found that line is very important; remember you are dealing with tooth critters. For me if I am fishing open water I will run straight 14-20lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline 100% Fluorocarbon. The small the line the deeper depths the bait will go. However, if I am targeting areas that have a lot grass or I am running multiple rods behind the boat I will usually run 30lb Green SuperBraid with fluorocarbon leaders. The braid helps stay more abrasion resistant in the grass.
Finally the bait of choice, as I mentioned I throw the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Walleye DD most of the time. This is a great bait because it dives really well, has a great action, and the colors are exactly what walleye target. Walleye prefer the really dark or the really bright colors. They are a weird fish when it comes to the color selection and resemble nothing of the natural forage. The colors I like the most are Zombie and Midnight, but will sometimes mix it up with Acid Perch and Hot Tiger. All of the colors offered by Yo-Zuri however are a great choice; these are just the ones I reach for most.
Enjoy the waters and don’t forget to bring home fresh walleye for dinner, as walleye are one of the best freshwater eating fish there is!
Pennsylvania is known for a lot of things: cheese steaks, America’s independence, craft beer, and the Eagles. But did you know they are also known for world classic trout and walleye fishing? Wait what…….trout and walleye fishing? Absolutely! Now to keep your optimism alive, let us explain what we are talking about here.
Rese McGaughey has been on the Yo-Zuri Prostaff for a little over a year now. He is also a native to PA and knows a thing or two around the streams and rivers there to catch some of the biggest Trout, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye. Not only is he catching them, he is catching “megas”. Looking at Rese takes you a step back in time to what the old moonshiners looked like running in the mountains of the smokies; but no, he is not a relation to Popcorn Sutton. Don’t let the awesome red beard fool you, this guy knows what he is doing.
Rese is an expert at fishing the simple way; either in a kayak or in waders. You will not find much else in his fish arsenal because of one simple reason, it works! Studying his social media presence you will quickly see the size of the fish he is catching, how many of them he is landing, and how often he is on the water. And he is always offering up advice and will tell you the exact truth to how he is catching them.
“In the summer months I really spend more time in the kayak because I can cover a lot more water than when I am wading. I really enjoy targeting the big walleye when the water temperatures are in the high 70s and low 80s,” he says.
Now the key to how he is fishing is to down size, down size, down size…
“The 3DS Minnow in the smaller size or the Pin’s Minnow offer the perfect size baits to mimic the size baitfish we have in the local streams and rivers in Pennsylvania where I fish.”
Rese also adds that color is not too important but stick to something that looks more natural such as Peanut Bunker, Baby Bass, or Brown Trout.
“Small bait fish are very translucent, so you want that clearer color that looks like the water and matches the bottom colors as well,” Rese suggests.
“When I am fishing the best time is post-frontal and a lot of sunshine in the sky. This causes bait fishing to swim around a lot more which will attract aggressive fish,” says Rese.
Rod: Cousins casting rod (SSW 79M-T) 7’9, 12-20 lb, extra fast tip; and Lamiglas Mark Wilson Striper Trolling rod (XCC 795) 7’9, 12-25 lb.
Reel: Diawa reel with a line counter when fishing with multiple people this helps coordinate each others distances behind the boat.
Fishing Line and Hardware: Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline fluorocarbon in 20lb test with a Owner 79 lb Hyper Crosslock Snap (a snap-swivel will rob the lure of its action)
Lures: Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow 5 1/4″ in bone white, pink, chartreuse, blue, and others. This lure has a very tight fast wiggle and dives a few feet deeper than the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow LC. The Hydro LC is just as effective as the Crystal Minnow, however I use the Hydro LC when trolling in shallower water because it dives from 3-6 feet deep depending on how far behind the boat you are trolling it (130 ft versus 200 ft.) The Hydro LC also has a larger profile than the Crystal Minnow; I like to downsize the lure when the bite is tough. In the Crystal Minnow I prefer the colors: Bone, Florescent Pink, and Chartreuse. The Hydro Minnow LC I always have the best luck on Bone or Purple Black.
Fishing Technique/Application: Water in the river ranges from 48 degrees (winter/early spring) to 62 degrees (summer/fall, or further downriver). When I am fishing all of the above listed lures, I am trolling them upriver or downriver at speeds ranging from 2.5-3.5 mph, with my lure approximately 120-200 ft behind the boat depending on the depth of the hole I am trolling. Depending on what depth in the water column I am trying to fish, I will let out less line (i.e. 120 feet) to achieve a shallower depth, and more line (i.e. 200 feet) to achieve a deeper depth. Remember, you can also fish shallower or deeper in the water column by changing from the Crystal Minnow to the Hydro Minnow to the LC Minnow.
Another cool tip to note; to trigger reaction bites is to make the lures swim up or down in the water column by increasing or decreasing your troll speed. When using any floating lure, you can get it to swim down (or dive) by increasing your speed, and also get it to swim up by slowing down your troll speed. Sometimes doing this or trolling in a Z-pattern can trigger bites!!!
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you just don’t want to wake up or get out of bed? Of course! We have all had that experience at some time. During the immediate post spawn period, it can seem like the big bass in a lake have one of those mornings for an entire week. However, even when they are lethargic and not feeding heavily as can be the case in the immediate post spawn period, there are still some opportunities to “Wake” them up and get them to bite.
One of my favorite lures during this transitional phase is the Yo-Zuri 3DB Wake Bait. At 2.75”, this lure has a solid tight wobbling motion. Like other Yo-Zuri products, the 3DB Wake Bait has a rattle that can draw fish in from a long way off. The Yo-Zuri 3DB Wake Bait can be fished right beneath the surface leaving disrupted water behind it as it is reeled in, or it can be fished effectively up to about 1.5’ below the top of the water.
Using the 3DB Wake Bait during the post spawn can be especially effective early in the morning or late in the day when the sun is lower. Add some wind up to about 5 mph hour, and this lure can be cranked for bass on any given lake. The Prism Ayu is one of my favorite colors during the immediate post spawn for bass because it emulates the baitfish that the fish are feeding on or will be feeding on soon and elicits reaction strikes. Prism Ayu is a great pattern choice to use in clear water especially as bass will come to the surface from 15’ down to engulf this lure as the cadence is changed with every crank of the reel handle. Generally speaking, I start in 3-6’ of water when using the 3DB Wake Bait, and then work my way out deeper if necessary. Another alternative in cloudy conditions during the Bluegill spawn is the same size of Yo-Zuri Wakebait in the 3DR series is the Real Bluegill.
So if you are facing some cranky bass right after the post spawn that don’t seem to want to move, much less eat a bait, “Wake” them up with the Yo-Zuri 3B Wake Bait.