The River Monster Approach

      I am a River Monsters addict!!!  For those of you haven't heard of it, River Monsters is a television series found on the Animal Planet channel.  The host Jeremy Wade travels the globe in search of some of the "deadliest" or as I see it most amazing fish species found in rivers.  I started fishing 4 years ago as a byproduct of seeing that program.  While viewing the program I started to notice something that was uncommon among the fisherman I have met on the shores here in Wisconsin.  What I noticed was that rather than having dedicated combos like bass and musky fisherman, he used different combinations of reels and rods to accomplish his angling.  I soon realized that if I adapted this idea I could chase a multitude of different species without having to own and maintain a large amount of gear.
     So what do I mean?  How about we take a look at the 6 reels and 8 rods I currently own and how by swapping them around I can chase almost anything that swims.  The starting point when I roll through this approach in my head is what line do I need to get the job done.  Once I know what line is needed, I choose the reel, then I choose the rod that will best suit the fishing at hand.  I normally the choose the rod based on line rating, hookset power, and the ability to flex and protect the line while I am fighting a fish.  The whole process is surprisingly thought provoking when you figure in time of year, the species, and the fact that I pursue some types of fish weekly and others only when on vacation.
     First lets take a look at light line or ultralight fishing.  The reel I use for this type of fishing is a Fishing 13 Black Betty.  I keep this reel spooled up with 2 pound test line.  This light of line is usually reserved for fishing off of breakwalls, docks, and ice fishing for bluegill and perch in less than 10 feet of water.  The combinations are simple, a St Croix legend ice light rod and a St Croix Triumph ulralight rod.  The ice rod allows for extremely fast bite detection  and the ultralight rod affords great line protection when the odd walleye or bass takes up the bait and gives the 2 pound test a real workout.
     The next reel expands on the idea.  The Okuma Avenger Baitfeeder reel is an amazing and often overlooked reel.  The 3000 size reel is priced right, comes with 2 spools so you can always have two different lines at your disposal.   They feature a baitfeeder system with a second drag located on the rear of the reel that allows your quarry to pick up the bait and run with little to no resistance.  This second drag is fully adjustable and with the flick of a switch you are able to engage the larger main spool drag and fight the fish.  No hassles and brilliantly designed.  I keep this reel spooled up with 20 pound braid on the milled spool and with 8 pound fluorocarbon line on the cast spool.  Using these two line styles allows the rod collection to work to there potential.  First up is the medium heavy ice rod.  With the braided line I can chase large pike and catfish through the ice.  Spooled up with the fluorocarbon I have an almost invisible line for catching large brown trout and lake trout in crystal clear water.  On the light St Croix ice rod the fluorocarbon line lets me jig for perch.  When the reel is on the ultralight St Croix Triumph rod the fluorocarbon line lets me cast small jigs farther so that now the walleyes and hybrid strippers are accessible.  Throw on the spool with the braid and switch the reel over to the 15-50 pound line rated Heavy Hooker surf rod by Stingray Tackle and I can long cast swimbaits or jigs for salmon, brown trout, and any number of surf species when I am on vacation.  The possibilities are almost endless when trying to catch small to medium size fish.

     The reel I use day in and day out is the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Winch.  This reel is geared low and has 35 pounds of drag.   I keep 80 pound braid on this reel all the time.  It can cast lures up to 1 pound over and over again with no issues.  As well as force large fish to come to shore quickly almost guaranteeing a healthy release.  Most of the spring you will find this reel attached to my St Croix Mojo Musky rod.  This rod is an extra heavy 3-8oz lure rod.  It's heavy enough to ensure a strong hookset and sensitive enough that I can feel the difference between weeds and rocks when retrieving my lure.  When the water heats up I switch to the medium heavy camo snakehead rod.  The only way I enjoy bass fishing is with frog lures and that means a rod with a sensitive tip and alot of backbone.  The braided line has no stretch, floats, and cuts through the weeds you commonly encounter when fishing the shoreline of small forgotten ponds.  Put this reel on the Heavy Hooker surf rod and you can blast a topwater lure another 50 yards out into the water and give that musky a really long time to follow that lure and hopefully commit.  This same reel on the 50-80 pound shark rod allows you to wrestle up the biggest of  sturgeon when the season is open.  It also makes for a mean cranking reel on the medium heavy ice rod when jigging for pike out in the cold.
     Next up is an Okuma Avenger Baitfeeder in the largest 9500 size.  On the milled spool I have 55 pound braided line and on the cast spool I have 20 pound monofilament line.  The reel has the same dual drag system as its smaller counterpart, but with a crazy amount of line capacity, and 35 pounds of drag.  I have used this reel in tons of conditions and it has never let me down.  I put the braided line on and pair it with a heavy St Croix tidemaster spinning rod for musky fishing.  Switch the monofilament spool onto the reel and big channel catfish and tarpon don't stand a chance.  On vacation I found that this reel on the Heavy Hooker surf rod was a true jack of all trades.  With the monofilament line on  I was able to cast small lures to catch pompano, ladyfish, and other bait.  Then at night the braided line allowed me to cast my bait pass the breakers and target blacktip sharks as they came close to shore looking for an easy meal.  The reel will also be able to be used in the future for deep water jigging off shore on the oil rigs for yellow fin tuna. This winter I plan to use it on the medium heavy ice rod to give me a chance at those giant 30 pound german brown trout that frequent the milwaukee harbor.  The baitfeeder feature should allow me to set the rod down on the ice and let the trout take the bait without taking my rod with it.  

      The Penn 330gt is probably my most under utilized reel.  I keep it in my backpack most of the time as a backup musky reel.  It has a huge line capacity for its compact size and is constantly getting line changes based on what I am fishing for at the time.  The clicker on this reel is loud...really loud.  When salmon fishing over the harbor walls with swivel rigs I load it with 12 pound monofilament and put it on the medium heavy snakehead rod.  The soft tip protects the line when those crazy fish run and the backbone lets me turn them before they make it to the current and inevitably free themselves.  The reel casts well and allows me to use 20 pound monofilament on the Heavy Hooker surf rod targeting channel catfish from the bank.  This summer it will be loaded with 80 pound braid uni knotted to 100 pound monofilament.  With that line setup and the 50-80 pound shark rod it should be a perfect setup for trophy size Texas alligator gar.  It already serves as a great reel for sucker fishing for musky and flathead catfish so the heavier line and roller tip should make quick work of those toothy dinosaurs.  A truly versatile reel that will work in a variety of situations day in and day out.
     The last reel only has one rod that it is used with, the 50-80 pound shark rod.  It is the only reel that was bought with one type of fish in mind and one rod that could handle it.  The reel is a Penn 14/0, loaded up with 1,100 yards of 100 pound monofilament it was purchased solely to shark fish from shore.  This setup is to heavy to be used for anything you can find in Wisconsin as the reel itself weighs 10 pounds and requires a fighting belt to use correctly.  Still it did the job and will be used again in the future when the opportunity presents itself.  Maybe for tiger sharks in the Florida keys.
     Hopefully I have explained the idea well enough.  This approach has proven very succesful and is the reason that I very rarely have to purchase any new gear and now almost never end up in any tackle shops in my area.  The idea came from watching to many episodes of River Monsters and turned itself into a very reasonable way to downsize the tackle I owned without having to give up any future opportunites to fish for new species in new locations. My long term goal of becoming a true adventure fisherman on a budget has shown that owning the right gear, not all the gear is the only way I can be up for anything that the angling world can throw at me.  Maybe this process will work for you?  At the very least it will help explain to my buddies what goes through my head when I think about fishing.  
     Until next time, Tight Lines!!!


Salmon Rigs, as Promised

     In my last post I promised to reveal the rigs used to catch salmon and brown trout.  Port Washington salmon fishing is unlike any other type of angling I've done.  It is done with 7-9 foot medium light weight to medium weight rods, 2500 size reels, and 6-12 pound fluorocarbon line.  You can't use the standard slip bobber setup because the fishing is shoulder to shoulder and the current coming out of the power plant discharge is constantly changing.  It involves not casting, but simply dropping your line twenty feet to the water directly below you.  The action is fast with more fish lost than landed.
     The first rig and most common is what I would call a 3 way swivel rig.  Bass fisherman would recognize it as a drop shot rig variant.  It involves a 3 way swivel tied to the main line.  A weight tied to a seperate piece of fluorocarbon line 6-10 inches long.  With a final section of fluorocarbon line 12-18 inches in length attached to a #6 or #8 hook depending on personal preference.  All the knots in this setup are improved clinch knots otherwise known as Trilene knots.  The obvious advantage of this rig is that your spawn sac stays free floating in the water column.  The negative is that it takes 5 knots to complete.  Those knots are a nightmare to tie on a cold fall morning.  This rig would not work with 4 boys constantly tangling in the line of those around them.
     The 2nd rig I tried was much simpler to tie.  It is the standard bottom rig most of us are accustomed to.  I myself have used this rig in different situations from catfishing in the local lake to targeting large blacktip sharks from the Florida shoreline.  This rigging uses 3 knots to complete.  First you put a weight slide on the mainline (I prefer the ones made by Team Catfish).  Then you add a bead or rubber bumper to protect your knot from the force of the weight slide hitting it.  Then attach your mainline to a swivel via a palomar knot.  Use a Trilene knot to attach 18-24 inches of fluorocarbon line to the other end of the swivel, then another Trilene knot to attach the hook. I have noticed a few issues with this specific setup.  First off if the weight gets snagged you may have to cut your mainline loosing the whole rig.  The other problem is if the swivel isn't pulled tight to the slide the fish may grab the spawn sac and rip it before you even notice the pick up.  I still needed something easier to tie that would put me into direct contact with my mainline.
     The 3rd setup proved the quickest to rig.  Now let me start by saying that I was lucky to have a few left over packs of #8 hook snells in my tackle bag.  These snells have a manufactured loop on one end.  The way I tied the rig allowed me to take advantage of this feature.  The mainline is tied to the weight with a palomar knot.  Then pass the hook through the weight, then through the loop on the snell.  Pull the rig tight and you have a rig that is tied with only one knot.  Since the snell is attached directly to the weight it stays in contact with the mainline.  This allows you to feel the slightest pickup of the spawn sac.  The biggest advantage is as long as your mainline is stronger than the snell line, if the hook breaks off you only have to loop another snell onto the weight and you are fishing again.  Genius!!!  The only disadvantage I have found with this setup is that you need a good quality hook or it will straighten on heavy fish.
     Hope this post explains the rigs used to fish Port Washington and why I needed to change from the common setup to keep those 4 boys fishing.  The fall migration is terrific and I hope at some point all of you get the opportunity to experience it first hand.
Tight Lines!!!

Hi my name is Israel, and I have ETS

I have seen it before, actually I see it all the time.  Fishing gear tucked into corners and left to rot, replaced with new gear, better gear, the must have gear.  Most of us suffer from ETS (Excessive Tackle Syndrome), myself included.  We all started with whatever we had.  Maybe loaned from a friend, or handed down from family.  Guess what?  We caught fish with it.  We did just fine, we laughed, smiled, and maybe bragged a little.  I started 4 years ago with a Zebco 33, you may have too.  They are inexpensive combos and probably account for more fish caught than any other reel and rod combo in history.
So what happened?  One day I bought a magazine, maybe you met a new fishing buddy and before you new it the gear you had wasn't good enough.  I almost felt an addictive need to get a new rod and reel combo (lots of combos).  Something better, something that could handle bigger lures, something that would catch bigger fish!!!  So I bought my first baitcaster because the pros used them.  Those guys had sponsors, they got paid to fish.  Obviously they would know what was best for me right?
I was buying gear left and right.  I wasn't actually catching more fish or bigger fish, but I looked good.  I was a fisherman, I started bragging about the gear.  I wasn't bragging about the fish I caught.  I was actually proud of the gear I owned, the price of the gear I owned.  The outrageous amount of gear I owned!  My buddies were too, we always talked about what we were buying next.  How much better we would be if we just owned a certain reel or maybe a new lure.  It was sad really, but we were so caught up in it we didn't see it happening.

It was around this time that I was introduced to musky fishing.  Now up until then I could go out everyday and catch a fish.  Maybe not monsters but something.  This type of fishing was different...hard.  I went a year and a half before I caught one.  I broke cheap rod after cheap rod and went through 5 different reels.  Don't believe me ask my fishing buddies.  

So this begs the question, when should we upgrade?  For me it was when I realized that the gear I could get cheaply would not hold up to the rigors of casting the heavy lures required to catch that musky.  For you maybe it was a different species you were pursuing or the need to change lures quickly in your first tournament.  Whatever the reason at some point most anglers see a genuine need to buy better gear.  Not just acquire every piece of gear they can get their hands on.  What reasons do you use to upgrade?  Need?  Want?  Everybody is different, definitely no judgement here.

Tight Lines!!!

Frustrated from Shore


         I spend a ridiculous amount of time chasing trophy fish (Seriously, I primarily chase muskies).  I get lots of questions from people that catch “whatever is biting” as to how I manage to find fish so big when I don’t even own a boat.  I call it the Shorebound Hero method (hence the name of the blog).  The idea came to me after finding out that the 2nd boat I had purchased needed significant work done.  Now as a father of 2 and husband of 1, I didn’t have the money.  So I started fishing from shore only to feel bad every time I saw a boat leave the dock.  I was losing the battle in my head before I even casted a line.  I couldn’t carry all my gear, the high end combos I had to own were getting damaged, I had to battle with other anglers for limited spots on crowded urban lakes, I didn’t believe I could cast a line out far enough to find fish, the list went on and on.  As I liked to say it wasn’t my fault, I needed a boat.  Truth is I was the problem.  I was so caught up in the articles, advertising, and hoopla that I almost gave up because I just didn’t have the money to go fishing effectively.  Then I started to watch videos of guys on the internet landing monster sharks from the beach, huge trout and salmon from harbor walls, bloated bluegills through the ice, and giant muskies from docks.  Suddenly my excuses were gone and I started making mental and physical notes of what I was seeing.  My mindset changed, I started to see the advantage in fishing from shore.   I learned that most of what I read in the magazines each month wasn’t directed at me, that lures and bait selection weren’t usually picked based on how well they cast from the bank.  That the 7 pound largemouth in the local pond would have to be chased differently than the one in 25 feet of water in the middle of the lake.  I realized that I was fishing from SHORE and my approach would have to be significantly different.  The stuff I was doing seemed crazy to my fishing buddies at the time, but they were fishing from boats.  Soon it started to pay off, don’t get me wrong I still have a lot to learn.  But I am having success, on a budget, from shore.
The next few posts will lay out some of the "crazy" ideas I have learned over the last few years. 

Such as:
  •       The progression of the “new” fisherman (Material Possessions i.e. Excessive Tackle).
  •       How to beat your brain, when it comes to targeting trophy fish.
  •      How to downsize tackle selections effectively.
  •      What I mean by the River Monster approach.
  •      How to stay mobile so that you are covering water as effectively as a boat owner.
  •      Why saltwater rods and rigging ideas can be a game changer in freshwater fishing.
  •       Adapting these ideas to make your boat fishing easier when the opportunity presents itself.
  •       Most importantly how to not become a snob when you get that big fish you’ve been chasing.
      Here's to your next giant...Tight Lines!