ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — As a fishing educator and TV show host, one of my goals is to help people find and catch more fish. With that in mind, I am constantly researching and experimenting with new fishing equipment and cutting edge fishing techniques, as well as staying on the lookout for good bites that materialize across the Midwest.
This process has revealed some suggestions that I think can be useful for other anglers looking to up their game this fishing season.
See the fish, catch the fish!
For years, hardcore anglers, walleye anglers in particular, used their “down looking” sonar units to search for “marks” on those units’ screens that indicated what appeared to be walleyes below. When found, a marker buoy was pitched near the marks and the fishing began.
That process still works and produces lots of fish — though marker buoys have been replaced with electronic marks on a GPS screen. To really be in the game now, however, anglers may need to take advantage of the various sonar technologies available that look off to the sides and around the boat. Many of today’s top tournament anglers are catching money-winning fish using these technologies.
I must admit that I am still learning this game, but found it enlightening in recent seasons to see cover and fish out away from my boat, pitch baits to them, and actually catch them at times. Simply put, the underwater world and its potential for producing fish is a lot bigger than what we used to see when we focused mostly on what was below the boat and ignoring, or maybe better said not knowing, what was around the boat!
Fish the Ned Rig
Much of my bass fishing when guiding over the years involved throwing what were then called “jig-worms.” These were 4-to-7 inch plastic worm style baits threaded on light (often 1/16- to 1/8-ounce) jig heads. We’d slowly work down deep weed lines in good bass lakes casting and slowly working the baits along those weed edges.
Several years ago, smaller plastics fished on similar jigs came to the forefront known as Ned Rigs. These baits are often in the 2.5-to-3 inch size range making for a much smaller, more finesse style bait. And, they work! Clearer waters and increased bass fishing pressure on many lakes appear to be, in fact, ideal conditions for fishing them.
The past two summers a bunch of largemouth and smallmouth bass have fallen victim to Ned Ochos and Rage Ned Cut-R Worms fished on 1/8-ounce jigs by my guide clients. This year, a new Rage Ned Craw is available that I can’t wait to try as well.
If you like feeling the tug of a fish pulling back, a Ned Rig fished on the deep weed line will probably produce bass, northern pike, panfish, and maybe even a walleye or two!
For whatever reason (I suspect clearer waters to be the cause), smallmouth bass populations have expanded and exploded in many lakes. That’s a good thing because smallmouth bass are extreme fighters and acrobats that are flat out fun to catch.
Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota has developed into one of the premier smallmouth lakes in the world. There are, however, expanding populations in a bunch of other lakes, both big and small, all across the Midwest. The good news is that a stop at a local bait shop may be all it takes to find lakes with good smallmouth fishing as it seems anglers are more willing to share details about their good smallmouth catches than they are to give up where the good walleyes are being caught, or details on big crappies!
Mike Frisch hosts the "Fishing the Midwest" TV series. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” information!