Archive for March 2016



A courser exploration of the social media these days provides traveling anglers a sorry commentary on safety from criminals. Recently this came home for an acquaintance.

He was planning to fish a tournament at a lake far from home. Not usually thinking of a criminal stealing from his boat, he left some tackle in it during a stopover.  In the morning all of his rods were gone and he had to skip the tournament and return home.

Why does this happen. After counseling criminals for some 30 years I feel uniquely equipped to provide an insight into the way they think.

Stealing from travelers provides the criminal with a certain amount of safety from prosecution. Think about it.

You are a criminal in need of money for drugs or just in need of money. If you rob from a local store, commit a burglary or mug a local, you are likely to be recognized and capture is more likely.  However if the victim is a stranger that chance of being caught is much less.

From the thief’s point of view, what happens is someone catches you?

You prosecution is less likely if the victim is not in court. If they live a long way away the chance of their coming back to the area just to prosecute you is almost non-existent.  End result all the thief is out is come court appearances.

Sophisticated thieves know this and they look for vehicles with out of state license plates.

If you want to protect your equipment, lock it up or take it into your motel room with you. It is inconvenient but not as much as buying new equipment and missing your fishing opportunity.

Another precaution is to park your vehicle in well-lighted areas and ask the motel desk the location of their security cameras. You can bet the thief knows what areas the cameras cover.

If you have items such as fish locaters or other items on the deck that are liable to theft, it is a good idea to mount them on removable mounts. Take them inside or store them out of sight in your locked vehicle or dry storage.

Place locks on anything you value. I learned the hard way by delaying the installation of locks on a new boat I lost an outboard motor to thieves.  I should have known better but like so many I never gave it a thought.  The boat was sitting less than 10-feet from where I was sleeping.


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As the boat glides silently into the cove, bass can be seen hovering over the bare spots on the bottom. With the water temperatures in the low 60’s, the fish have begun to spawn and are at their most vulnerable.  Anglers look forward to this time of the year for some fast bass catching action.  But, should they?

Perhaps no other aspect of bass fishing is more controversial than that of fishing for spawning bass. Does it hurt the species?  Is it fair?  Can it hurt individual fish?

The answer to all three of these questions could be yes. But, it does not have to if the angler acts in a responsible manner.  Spawning bass are a resource that can be used but should not be abused during the spawn.

The majority of anglers support fishing during the spawn. They give two reasons for their opinions: They favor a mandatory catch and release season during the spawn; and that spawning bass would be caught, often accidentally by anglers targeting other species such as crappie.

Each spring the mating ritual of the largemouth bass begins as soon as water temperatures begin to rise. Male bass move into shallow protected areas to clear out a nest about 2 to 3 feet in diameter.  Here he waits for a receptive female to come along.


When the females begin to move into the area, the males herd them into the nesting area by nudging them along. The female will lay the eggs and the male then fertilizes them.  She returns to deeper water and the male stays to guard the nest until the young are born.  He will stay there for a few days after they hatch and then he too moves off to deeper water.  This is the spawn.

What does all this mean to the angler? It is possible to catch these bass as they are not difficult to aggravate into taking a lure presented in the general area of the nest.  The males, which are smaller than the females, will very aggressively defend the nest site from anything they perceive as an invader.  The angler with a pair of polarized sunglasses can usually pick out the shape of fish on the bed.  With a little practice he can learn to tell the males from the females.

In addition to their size being a key to the sex of the fish, their behavior will tell one which sex is involved. The larger female will almost always be accompanied by the smaller male, while the male will guard the nest alone if necessary.

If the males swim away from the nest when the lure is cast into the area, he has not established his territory. He will be hard to catch.  If he has established his territory, he will attach the lure in defense of the bed.  He may only attack the lure if it lands in a certain part of the bed.  The key for the angler is to find that part.

These male fish can be caught off the bed, released quickly and unhurt, they will return to the bed. They will continue to be aggressive and will hit other baits presented to them.

The females on the bed can also be caught. They must be released immediately.  If unhurt and not worn out from a long battle, the female will return to the bed and continue her egg laying in 3 or 4 minutes.

The important key is in setting the hook immediately. It should be set as soon as a bite is felt.  This prevents the fish from taking the hook deeper than just the lip.  Lip hooking prevents injury.  Once hooked, the fish must be landed and released as quickly as possible so as to not exhaust it.  Stress is the enemy of spawning fish.

Fishing for spawning bass can be an interesting and educational aspect of bassin’. It is important for the angler to understand the biology of the fish and the way it fits into nature.  If done properly, the angler poses no threat to the survival of the species or of any individual fish.  He can enjoy catching a lot of fish and still allow them to reproduce for the future of the sport.


Jeff's favorite lure is the Tandem Ghost Minnow.

Jeff’s favorite lure is the Tandem Ghost Minnow.

Determined to make lemonade out of lemons, I recently sat down with outdoor writer Jeff Samsel at the Southeastern Outdoor Writers Association meeting in GA. Injured in a fall the previous week, my mobility was very limited due to a sprained ankle.

Jeff is fond of fishing small streams. An interest we share.  He establishes a pattern according to conditions.  By paying attention to what induces fish to strike he uses the river to his advantage.  “Current attracts both trout and smallmouth bass,” explains Jeff.  The fish will stage behind a rock and grab food as it floats past them.  In such a case Jeff casts upstream to make the lure float in the same manner.

In cooler water Jeff likes subsurface fishing with small crankbaits. He twitches the lure making it have a slow wiggle.

In the warmer water conditions his fishing is more topwater and other surface lures. Here is often uses cricket and small crayfish imitations.

Jeff’s rod choice is an ultra-light rod spooled with 4-popund or 2-pound line.

Casting to shoreline structure and vegetation, he twitches the lure. Once the lure gets about 10-feet away from the shore he switches to a steady retrieve in the current back to him.

For subsurface fishing Jeff is well-known for using 32nd ounce hair jigs he makes himself.  His favorites are ones he ties himself using black hair from his dog.  In some of them he adds some metal flash.  Both his hair jigs and some of the grub lures he uses are about 1 ½ inches in length.

One of his favorite crankbaits is the Rebel “tandem ghost minnow.”




Lake of Egypt provides plenty of early season crappie action.

Located about 10 minutes south of Marion, IL, it provides challenges for the crappie angler.

Local anglers fish for crappie all year if there is no ice on the lake. A power cooling lake ice is somewhat of a rarity.  It is a matter of knowing what type of cover the fish relate to under specific weather conditions.

On Lake of Egypt, the water temperatures are warmer than other lakes in the area. It is a cooling lake for the power plant turbines.  The fish relate to structure but it is different structure than is usually found in crappie lakes.  The lake has a variety of structure and vegetation from creek channels, rip rap, fallen timber, stumps, roadbeds and weed flats.

This 2,300-acre lake has 93 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 52 feet and an average depth of 19 feet.

When the crappies of Lake of Egypt are deep, finding them can be very tough. Casting jigs tipped with minnows to the outer edge of the weed lines in search of crappie suspended there is the most popular pattern.  A favorite rig is to suspend a jig about 2 1/2-feet beneath a float.  Then mooch the jig back to the boat in deeper water.

The fish tend to relate to wood if they can find it in deeper water. Anglers find suspended fish over wood in 12 to 18-feet of water.  Locating wood is problematic.  The lake they are usually conceals it beneath the surface.

Egypt is a lake with many necks and coves. Points at the main lake coves often have brush and will hold fish in spring.  To stay on fish in deeper water you need electronics to stay on fish and to get a minnow down to the right depth.

Local anglers sometimes use light line, seldom exceeding 4-pounds test. They lose less tackle with the light line but catch more fish with 2 pound test.  Resident anglers like to cast Road Runners with re heads and white bodies in the 1/16th and 1/32nd sizes.  They also have good luck with hot pink jigs and occasionally fishing a minnow below a float on the weed lines.

A staple of crappie fishing, the jig and minnow combo is also popular on this lake. It can be cast to weed lines and jerked slowly back to the boat or dropped vertically into the crappie’s strike zone.

Water temperature effects the location of the fish. The power plant at the north end affects the water temperature of that portion of the lake.  A north wind will usually push the warmer water over the weed beds.

Most anglers begin their day on the lake at the discharge and work south. The warm water attracts bait fish and the crappies follow.  If the power plant is down, the fishing slows.  If the water temperature is in the 50’s the fish will be in a transition period.  If they are not yet in the weed lines one can look for rocky breaklines and woody areas on the east side of the lake.  Sunny coves on the north end of the lake are also a good place to look for fish.  The best fishing seems to come in the early morning and late afternoon.

When fish are deep the crappie rig of sinker on the line below two hooks can be deadly at locating the proper strike zone for feeding fish. On warmer days one can switch to a wood pattern.

In spring frontal systems pass through southern Illinois. They are full-fledged cold fronts that blast down from Canada to collide with moist warm air masses pushing up from the south.  This combination can cause severe thunderstorms and accompanying lightening.  Anglers need to pay attention to these conditions, as they can be deadly.

Fish are more “catchable” just prior to the passing of one of these cold fronts.




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Each spring, white bass move to staging areas and then into their favorite spawning areas of lakes and rivers. The exact dates of the white bass action are dependant upon water temperature and levels in the main lake.

Carlyle Lake in IL offers some of the best white bass fishing in terms of quantity and quality. The fish average 2/3 pounds in size and there are good quantities available.

Located on the Kaskaskia River near Carlyle, Illinois, the lake is 50 miles due east of St. Louis in Fayette, Bond and Clinton counties.  It is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir that contains some 26,000 acres of water.

White bass are a cousin of the saltwater striped bass and as such have much of the savage instinct of their brethren. They will hit light tackle and give the angler more than he can handle.

Following the warm rains of April, these water tigers go on a feeding frenzy that will last into June. White bass become more active as the water temperature rises above 50 degrees.

The average size taken by anglers tends to run about 3/4 of a pound with some taken over two pounds.

Catching white bass is easy, finding them is the tough part. Pre‑spawn fish position themselves on sand bars and gravel banks in fast water.  During the spawn, they make runs into the major feeder streams looking for suitable gravel beds.  After the spawn, they head down stream into creek channels or roam out into the main body of water.

If the fish are not in the spawning stages, then a good pattern is to troll over the sunken islands and humps with small crank baits. The presence of feeding gulls is a good sign white bass are present.  Look for shad clouds on your electronics.  The schools of white bass are usually near by.  Often they are on the deeper side of the islands or flats.  They wait to ambush some hapless shad that might swim past.

White bass are an active fish that feeds constantly. Whites prefer to spend their time in water deeper than 10 feet but will often move into shallows to feed.  Their favorite meal is shad.  A sure sign of white bass presence is water that appears to be boiling.  The shad breaking the surface to out run the bass gives the surface the appearance of boiling water

Often sauger will travel with the white bass in spring. White bass anglers often take a sauger or two.

When feeding on the surface, concentrations of seagulls pinpoint the location. At close range you find them by spotting the splashing water.  Feeding fish breaking the surface causes the appearance.  At times the fish will stay up for ten to fifteen minutes.  More often they will feed for only a minute or two and then dive back down.  Usually they surface again a hundred yards or so away.


As the water warms a good location to find fish is out on the main lake. If the water cools then check creek mouths or the flats.  In-line spinners and jig/minnow combinations are a good choice when fishing rip rap areas.

Early morning and late evening hours are best for finding white bass. When they are actively feeding they will strike in the heat of the day.  Position your boat in the general area of the feeding and wait for the white bass to rise.  If you want to get out of the direct sunlight, there are bridges under which you can anchor to wait for the action.


Light tackle is a must for these fish. Small crankbaits, spinners and jigs are good with line in the four‑ to eight‑pound test range.  Small tube jigs tipped with a minnow or a plastic grub.  Plastics with contrasting dark and light colors work well.  White plastics are popular.

Lures can be double-rigged for more action. A pod of fish will often yield multiple strikes.

Astute anglers notice the size of the bait fish and match the lure to them. Angling success tends to be dependant on year hatches.  A year with incredible numbers can help carry the population over lean years.  The best fishing is likely to be about two years after a large year hatch.


Posted 03/18/2016 by Donald Gasaway in Misc.


Frog Hair 2

Fly line is one piece of an angler’s gear most often neglected when it comes to maintenance. It still needs periodic cleaning.  Dirty or cracked fly line affects the angler’s ability to cast for distance and accuracy.

The amount of friction between the line and the guides of the rod affects the cast. The slightest crack in the line or dirt on it slows the cast.  New slick line performs better older ones.

Most fly line makers coat them with a PVC plastic coating containing chemicals to keep it from drying out and becoming brittle. Ultra-violet rays and heat speed the aging process of the line.  Do not expose the rod and reel in the vehicle to either of these situations by leaving them in a vehicle.  Take care to avoid getting sunscreen, insect repellent and any other aerosols on the line, as they will also decrease its life.

Dirt form the deck of the boat, outside of the boat or from the shore is the main source of grime on a fly line. Whatever is dissolves in the water as well as algae also sticks to fly line.

It is important to clean you fly line regularly with warm water and mild soap. This is easiest done by spooling if off the reel into a bucket of warm soapy water, then wipe and dry with a clean soft cloth.  Finally you can apply a fine coat of quality fly line dressing with a cloth.

If the line becomes very dirty there are available fly line cleaning pads made with super-fine abrasives of lines that are very dirty. These pads strip off the micro-grime without damaging the line.



Tackle Box Assortment 0001

“Duffer” is a colloquial or slang term for a mediocre or poor golfer. The term can be derogatory, but often isn’t. If you say, for example, “most of the golfers who play this course are duffers,” there’s nothing really insulting about that. After all, for most courses the majority of golfers on it will be mediocre to poor players (higher handicappers). And there’s nothing wrong with that!

I am a duffer when it comes to fishing. I did not seriously take it up until later in life.  I have fished with some great anglers but the largemouth bass is still out of my class.  Granted I sometimes hook a nice one but most get away.  Basically I just do not put enough effort into it.  Besides I tend to get sidetracked viewing the nature all around me and do not react to the bite in time.

Still I have studied the sport and the tackle used. Here are basics for pre-spawn tackle.

Deciding what lure to throw at pre-spawn largemouth bass can be a testy proposition. It does not have to be with a little advance planning.  Do not wait until you are out on the water before selecting your tackle.

Try to recall just which lures produced for you last year. Here are some suggestions.

Lures come in several types such as jigs, spinner baits, crankbaits and plastic worms. The jigs and spinner baits generally are any color as long as it is either white or chartreuse.  Maybe a combination of the two colors is acceptable.

For crankbaits stick to the shallow running ones, either lipless or square billed. Usually shad imitations are best.

Plastics include worms, Senkos and the large soft plastics like flukes. The best flukes are pearl or white in color.

Shakey heads with a plastic worm in green pumpkin or blue are good. Both colors work well with Senkos.

A small tackle box containing snaps, O-rings, and treble hooks of a variety of colors in sizes 8 through 2/0 cover a variety of problems that can develop on the water. Pliers, needle-nosed and split-ringed come in handy.  There are some pliers that fill both those requirements.



It is always difficult to find big crappie when moving into the post-spawn period. They are usually scattered all about the lake. Recently a conversation with TJ Stallings, the man in charge of Marketing and Crazy Ideas for TTI-Blakemore Fishing Group, shed some interesting light.

Stallings, a student of fish activity, explains post-spawn crappie break up into small clusters of fish and move around very actively. That is why they are difficult to pattern. The two commonalities of their behavior are that they relate to submerged structure and are easily spooked.

On a crappie-fishing excursion in Alabama, our discussion turned to some anecdotes that seemed confusing. Two anglers fishing side by side in the same boat have a completely different experience. A person on the left gets no bites while the person fishing on the right catches nice big fish one right after another. The anglers are sitting, and are fishing, just inches apart. The pair actually moves the boat to allow the non-catching angler to fish the same spot.

Both anglers use the same tackle and bait, a jig and minnow combination.

“Where is the sun,” asks Stallings. “A Crappie reacts to shadows and other factors over looked by most anglers.” He goes on to explain some of the factors and an education in “crappie catching” follows.

Our intrepid anglers had placed the front of the boat right over a stake bed but the sun was behind them. It cast a shadow over the area fished by one man but not the other. The area in the shadow did not produce fish.

Stallings goes on to explain the necessity of silent running when approaching a brush pile or stake bed. It is a common understanding among crappie anglers that one does not approach such areas with the big motor running. However, TJ also cuts his trolling motor and drifts into his fishing area. He always approaches with the sun in his face to avoid casting a shadow on the area he plans to fish. Stallings uses a “brush grabber” to hook on to any brush instead of an anchor. It is a metal clamp that looks like the ones used to jump start a vehicle except this one attaches to a rope. The rope attaches to one of the boat cleats and holds the boat in place. The clamp attaches to a stationary object like a tree, bush or other stick up.

He also goes to extremes to fish silently. “I turn off the pumps in the live well and bait well too,” explains TJ. He only leaves them off until the bigger fish begin to bite. “You can turn them back on then as it does not seem to be a distraction when they begin biting.”

Another part of his silent running is to not talk or move around in the boat until the fish begin to bite. “I don’t talk to my partner or to any of the other boats nearby.”

Moving around is important in post-spawn crappie fishing. Because the fish are scattered, it is a good idea to only fish for about 15 minutes in any non-productive area. It is a run and gun type of experience. If fish quit biting in a single location, move on. You can always come back to the area later and it may produce more action.


Before moving on be sure that you have probed the entire area as fish may be only a few inches away from your bait and not take it. Nevertheless, if you move it to a location they like better, the fish will take it.

Post-spawn crappies are finicky. However, it you are quiet and watch the shadows success can be yours.


BWKid 0001

To many the idea of fishing a fee pond is like fishing a swimming pool. To them it is not even fishing.  To others fee fishing is a necessary addition to their fishing scene.  Who is correct?

To some a fish raised in a hatchery on a diet of commercial food is no challenge. Still others find it difficult to catch these same fish.

Fee lakes and ponds provide a place for new anglers to learn the skills necessary to take up the sport. Others use such areas to sharpen skills and develop successful patterns.  It also can be a confidence builder to the novice.

Such lakes are popular with residents of larger metropolitan areas who might otherwise not be able to finds a place to fish close to home.

A close cousin of the pay lakes are those stocked by fish and wildlife agencies. These can be in forest preserves, parks, reservoirs and private ponds.  The fish usually come from commercial hatcheries or state owned facilities.  Some come from the same hatcheries that sell to fee ponds.

Regardless of the type of fishery involved, stocked lakes are good locations to involve youngsters. Kids lose interest if they do not catch fish.  Most of these lakes contain species such as trout, catfish and bluegills.  In most states the daily fishing areas do not require a fishing license.

The quality of this fishing experience is dependent upon the management of the water. Some can be more challenging because some areas practice catch and release.  They seem smarter the second time around.

Those who want to learn from the experience of this fishing need to stop and examine the surroundings. Where did the fish come from?  Why was he there?  What bait or lure di he prefer?  What is it about the bottom of the pond, vegetation, structure or water clarity that attracted the fish to this spot?

Establish a pattern you can use again in similar situations. These patterns work well in non-fee lakes as they do in fee lakes.  Fee lakes are often subject to intense fishing pressure.  Fish react differently under such circumstances.  Once one learns what to expect in these conditions it is easy to transfer the skills to other bodies of water.

By downsizing lures one might not catch a lunker but he will catch more fish. The more fish caught the more learning that takes place.

Do not copy the tactics of those around you. Be different.  Experiment and compare your success with theirs. Fish under pressure in one area will sooner or later move.  That move might bring them to your area.  If others are throwing the same lures, then change yours and offer something different.  Just because others are not catching fish does not mean the fish are not present.

Experiment with a variety of colors. Perhaps others are throwing the wrong color for the fish on that particular day.  The more a fish sees a particular color or shape of lure the less likely he is to attack it.  A change in size, color and shape may be just what it takes to make a fish strike.  Practice in heavily fished fee lakes can allow the angler to develop faith in a given theory.

Check out the heavy weed beds and learn how to fish them without always hanging up. On the other side look for areas without a lot of structure and learn to fish it effectively.

Fee lake fishing is not the same as big water angling. Skills developed where you know fish are present not only help to develop those skills but also to promote your faith in your skills.

People in large metropolitan areas cannot always get away to wilderness lakes and rivers. But time spent at a stocked lake is the next best thing.  Success in fishing comes from experience.  Go fishing as often as possible and try new things.


big hill 49

Bass respond to habitat conditions in small lakes the same way they do in larger ones. But, they have to do so more quickly.  Conditions in small lakes change more quickly than they do in larger lakes.

In response to summer sunlight the water will warm more quickly. This is especially true of those lakes with a black bottom.  A spurt of warm weather brings the water temperature up.

On the other side if a cold front moves through the bass seem to get lock-jaw. They just quit attacking your presentations.  Fish react to negative fishing conditions just as they do to positive ones.

The following seven tips may aid you small lake fishing.

  1. Ease along the bank, targeting specific structure. Some attractive spots to consider are where a bush hangs over the water providing a shadow cast on the water. Use a couple of casts to probe visible holes.
  2. Approach fishing areas quietly with a minimal amount of shadow cast on the water. Bank anglers need to be careful not to show their outline against the sky, or cast a shadow on the water.
  3. Look for weeds as they produce oxygen, supply cover and attract food sources.
  4. Work the edges, pockets and clusters of weeds thoroughly. Cast into them as well as around the edges.
  5.  Do not overlook distinct shoreline objects such as drop-offs, points and feeder creeks. Single fish often relate to them. Anything made of wood is promising to produce bass. Stumps, brush and fallen trees are favored over open water. It there are numerous such locations so much the better.
  6. The same tackle you use for larger lakes works well on smaller one as well. You might have to downsize the lures. If a 6-inch worm is your go to bait on larger lakes then a 4-inch worm might be advisable on small lakes.
  7.  Lures of every type from jigs, worms, spinners, buzz baits, stickbait to crankbaits are effective. It is helpful to learn the movement of nature. Make your minnow bait imitate the real thing. A lure must look alive, frightened and catchable to the fish. Becoming familiar with small bodies of water provides a laboratory for testing tackle and techniques. They provide an opportunity to test ideas to determine what works and what does not work. You can cover small bodies of water thoroughly in less time, thus increasing the effectiveness of putting your lure in front of fish. Most such lakes can be completely in less than 6 hours.
  8.  Learn to use a jig or worm around structure, open holes or any change in the structure of the lake habitat. What catches fish is the attracting and triggering qualities of a lure.  You must draw bass to bait and then something in the movement gets him to eat it.  In choosing a lure, a bright color will attract a bass as he feeds primarily by sight.  In stained water the addition of sound does the same thing.


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