Bobbing for Echotails

     The game fish opener is only a week away, so I am still chasing panfish on the local lakes and streams here in WI.  The cold water temps are causing the crappies and bluegills to look for structure that warms up due to sun exposure.  The crappies in particular are stacking up next to break walls and bridge pilings.  Casting to these fish can be tricky since they are stacked vertically next to the structure.  Here is a quick tip to get your lure in front of the fish longer, at the correct depth, with every cast.
     What you need to make this work is an Echotail, a slip bobber, and the stop knots and beads to rig the bobber correctly.  Why an Echotail?  This blade bait allows you to get fish attracting action while it is standing still.  Also the ability to change the location that the line connects to the lure, makes it possible to go from subtle to wild action with a quick hole change. 
Knot Stop, Bead, Bobber
  1. Attach the Stop Knot to your line.
  2. Slide the bead onto the line to keep the knot from sliding into the bobber.
  3. Work line through the bobber.
  4. Attach the line to a clip, this allows the Echotail to move more freely.
  5. Clip on your favorite Echotail (I have been using the 1/10th of an ounce).
     Now you can adjust the lure depth by moving the knot up and down your line.  This idea isn't new, it has been used for years and works well to control lure depth to target suspended crappies.  To help better explain this idea I made up a quick video.
     Tight Lines.

Grand (Isle) Let Down

   
"Don't mistake who you are, with the results
 that you produce." -Les Brown

  About 6 months ago I was told by my kids and their grandparents that we were going on a trip.  That we were going down to New Orleans over spring break.  My dad brought it to my attention that we would only be an hour or so from the Gulf of Mexico and that he thought it would be pretty cool to try some of that "SHARK" fishing I talked so much about.  My mind started racing with images of my dad and I proudly kneeling behind a massive bull shark on the beach.  One that I caught, with his help of course.  It was gonna be an amazing moment, a once in a lifetime experience.
     So once the dates were set I started to plan the day of surf fishing.  I read everything I could get my hands about the gulf, the tides, and the shark migrations.  I knew about every pier, rock cropping, and shelf along the coast of Grand Isle, LA.  I spent hours on shark fishing forums comparing the locations and backgrounds of catch photos to what I found on Google Earth.  I had it all planned out, everything, I knew exactly where I was gonna drive my sand spike into the beach even though I was still drilling holes through the ice here in WI.  After a few months the trip finally came and suddenly I found myself standing on that beach, rods in hand, ready to make my dream a reality.
River Monster pose, rods in hand, looking out across the water.
Rocks=Big Sinkers
     I quickly made my way down the beach like a man possessed.  As my kids and parents trudged along behind me my son said "where do think we are going to fish?"  Right there I said, pointing at an exact spot in the sand that was only visible to my eyes.  You see even though this was my first time on this shore, I had already been there, multiple times.  I have been walking this beach in my mind, in my sleep, in my daydreams, for several months.  I already knew this place, actually I knew it quite well.  I stopped and started to drive the pvc spike into the sand to hold my big bait rod.  Once in place I sent my dad and son down the beach a ways to find me a rock that weighed about 10 pounds.  The current was strong here and I would need some descent weight to hold the bait on the bottom.  As they wandered away I pulled out my leaders and started rigging the bait.  Palomar knots to connect the mainline, simple overhand knots to attach the rocks to the leader as sinkers.  I had picked up some frozen mullet from the local bait shop.  Nice big mullets, musky sucker sized mullets.  The big 20/0 circle hook fit through them well and I was confident and ready.  
Frozen Mullet

     After giving my dad some instructions for the big Penn 14/0 reel I stripped down to my skibbies and started swimming the rock and bait out into the surf.  I can't put into the words what that feels like.  The adrenaline rush is surreal.  Something about swimming out into the water with a big bleeding piece of fish, knowing in your mind that you have a real possibility of meeting up with a shark is crazy.  I dropped the rock and the bait then turned back toward the shore.  It was at this point that I knew something was wrong.  My dad was on the beach talking to the game warden on duty.  He was waving his hands and giving the old hand slicing the neck signal.  "What's up?" I yelled, the warden explained to me that an endangered bird had taken up nesting on this side of the beach and that everything left of the pier was closed till the eggs hatched out.  I was devastated, all the time I had invested up to this point was wasted.  This was the spot!  The spot on the spot, the best spot.  I reeled in the bait and started looking down the beach.  I tried to stay positive as we loaded up the gear and headed for the other side of the fishing pier.  "Now what?" I asked my dad as we walked down the shoreline.  "Just have to pick another spot, no big deal" he said to me.  No big deal!  This changed everything, how was I supposed to just pick some other random spot?  We got over to the other side of the pier and I looked out into the water...was that a fin?  "Let's fish here" I said, and we started the whole process over.  Sand spike, rod, leader, rock, bait, swim out the bait, back to the beach.  I rigged up my surf rod with a 1/2 ounce Echotail and headed into the surf near where my kids were swimming, to try my hand at catching some other fish while my shark bait soaked in the water.  Suddenly my dad yelled, "Look! Look! Shark!!!"  I glanced over towards the bait and saw a big fin and tail break the surface of the water.  I Told my kids to maybe stay a little closer to shore and headed up the beach back to my rod.  I lit a cigarette and watched the rod, almost like I was trying to will it to catch that shark.  We waited, and waited but nothing happened.  I wandered over to my dad and he said, "How cool was that? We saw a shark!"  Yup, but I wasn't here to just see one, I was here to catch one.
  As I stood on that shoreline I noticed the weather was changing.  The temperature dropped and the wind picked up fast.  We checked the radar on the cellphone and sure enough a big storm was rolling in.  I looked off to the west and saw the lightning, now I will fish through almost anything.  I won't fish with lightning in the air.  I have seen what happens when you are the tallest thing in a low lying area.  Lightning hits the tallest thing, and I won't die for a fish, no fish is worth it.  We brought the lines in and  packed up the gear.  We closed the trunk just as the first raindrops started to fall on the windshield.  
     So that was the way it ended.  I FAILED.  I have fought with this fact for the last few days.  I can't deny it, in the end I failed to catch a shark.  I tried, I did my best, but that doesn't change the facts.  I did learn a lot from this experience though.  About tides, about weather, and the importance of not letting a change in your plans ruin your journey.  When you ask my dad about his day on that beach in Louisiana he talks about the water, the wind, and that shark.  He still tells people about my fishing.  He has no loss of faith in what I am trying to accomplish with it.  I guess I shouldn't either, after all we are going to Disney World next spring.  My research says we will only be an hour or so from the beach.

     Tight Lines.

Braid Stacking

     With the opener only 2 weeks away here in southeastern Wisconsin I have turned my attention to replacing line on my reels.  Now most of you know the trick of taking the braided line off your spool and reattaching it from the other end to get another season out of the line.  But what do you do with line that has seen to many seasons or is now to short to fill the spool?
Not enough line to go the distance.
     The saltwater community uses a technique called braid stacking.  They commonly use this to increase the line capacity of a reel.  The basic idea is simple, use smaller line at the bottom of the spool, then attach larger diameter line at the top of the spool.  Let's get started...
50 pound on Penn, 80 pound on Revo, 100 pound Big Game
     I started by emptying my Okumas spool and reeling the line onto my Penn.  Next I attached the 80 pound line from the Revo to the 50 pound line on the Penn using a Albright Knot.  This knot is nice and small, it moves freely through the levelwind and line guides.  For information on this knot see www.animated knots.com.  
Albright Knot
     Next I added the leftover 100 pound Trilene Big Game (Albright Knot).  Now I have a reel that would normally hold about 300 yards of line with over 600 yards of line on it.  I use this reel for trolling, sucker fishing for muskies, surf casting, and catfishing.  The best part of this system is that the line gets stronger as you reel.  I know that when the fish is in close and I am applying the most pressure that the strongest line is in the fight.  Give this idea a try, at the very least you can get a little more life out of that expensive line.
Braid Stacking, a great use for old line.
     Tight Lines.

Packing for Adventure

     Today at work while discussing my angling plans for my first trip to the State of Louisiana, a coworker asked how I even knew what to pack?  Well to be honest I don't really, I do know that I will be shorefishing in both freshwater and saltwater.  So after researching where I am going to fish and what I might run into while there I compiled this list.

Packing List for New Orleans/Grand Isle Lousiana:

12 foot medium heavy surf rod
7 foot heavy inshore spinning rod
7 foot medium 3 piece spinning rod
6 foot 50-100 pound line rod (shark fishing)
Penn Senator 14/0 reel (shark fishing)
Okuma Baitfeeder 90 with extra spool for braid/mono option
Okuma Baitfeeder 30 with extra spool for braid/mono option
2 large shark leaders (shark fishing)
1 medium shark castable leader (shark fishing)
2 surf spider weights (shark fishing)
Miscellaneous container with snaps, hooks, weights, etc.
Large Bobber (gar fishing)
Rod holders
Long Handle Pliers
Short Handle Pliers (belt sheath w/strap)
Lucid Fishing Lip Grippers
Measuring Tape
Freight Train Stand Up Fighting Harness
6, 8, 12 pound fluorocarbon line for leader making
10 Vibrations Tackle Echotails in 1/2 oz and 1 oz sizes ( they catch everything)
DOA Swimbait and Shrimp packages
10 pack of 1/4 oz. Saltwater Jigheads
Miscellaneous soft plastic frogs, swimbaits (Bog Baits)
Polarized Sunglasses
Rayjus Tournament Jersey (photos)
Spiderwire Backpack (everything fits minus the rods)

     This list should allow me to chase everything from bass to bull sharks.

     Tight Lines.




Tossing Tubes to the Weed Demons

   
     A few weeks ago I attended the Capital City Musky School.  I signed up for a class called muskies in the weeds.  The class was led by Dr. Ronald F. Schell a Lyme disease researcher at the University of Wisconsin.  I sat down in the auditorium expecting to hear about some new lure that was gonna revolutionize the way we fish in weeds.  He started the presentation by stating that he was a shore fisherman and that he had developed a rigging method for muskies in the weeds.  When the first slide came up on the screen I said to myself, "Tubes? they don't hold up in the weeds."  I have tried and tried to make them work in the past.  You see tubes are one of the greatest soft plastics you can use to fish for musky.  The tentacles wave and pulse like crazy, and their slender rounded head allows you to hop them along the bottom or even walk the dog.  The problem with tubes, even the ones built well, is that since they are hollow, once you start to skin hook them they fall apart.  Also they can be a real pain in the ass to keep in place on the hook.  Even with long shank EWG hooks they move all over the place. He came up with an ingenious homemade, weedless, bait securing,  device that is free to make and simple in design.  What followed changed the way I will forever look at tubes...Enjoy.
     To start building the rig we need to gather the supplies.  You'll need a BIG soft plastic tube (I prefer Bogs Monster Tube Worms).  An appropriate sized hook.  These are large tubes so you need bigger hooks 8/0-12/0 should do, just remember that EWG hooks will give you the best hooking percentage.  Then hit the recycle bin and track down a shampoo or laundry detergent bottle.
Tube, hook, and body wash bottle.
Grab an empty bottle, wife gets mad when you dump out a new bottle to build this.
     First, take and attach the tube to the hook in the standard Texas rigging style.  Be careful to get the point placement right the first time.
Bogs Monster Tube on a Picasso 12/0 EWG hook.
     Second, cut out a 5-6 inch strip of plastic narrower than the tube your using.  On one end cut a slit in the direction opposite of the hook eye.  For instance if your hook eye is horizontal make the slit vertical and vise versa.  At the other end make a hole for the point of the hook to pass through.  Push the eye of the hook through the slit.
Hook eye slid through the slit in plastic.
     Third, rotate the plastic strip up, or to the side depending on hook eye orientation.  This locks the plastic weed guard onto the hook.  It also prevents the tube from sliding up over the eye when casting or setting the hook.
Plastic weed guard secured to hook.
     Fourth, slide the hook point through the hole in the plastic.  The soft plastic of the bottle allows you to skin hook the guard, not the tube.  Now it will last much, much longer.
Skin hooking the plastic allows the tube to stay intact while fishing.
     Fifth, trim the ends and fine tune the fit.  The plastic stays in place if done right.  It keeps the tube locked to the hook, the weeds off the point, and it falls away easily when the fish strikes and you set the hook.
Secured and ready to give the muskies or bass a run for their money.
     This is just one of many ways you can modify the lures you use to optimize them for shore fishing.  Take the time to analyze what your lures are doing when you fish.  Their strengths and their weaknesses.  For me modifying lures so that I can use them in areas that other anglers can't, is a lot of fun.  So many anglers I have met spend all their time analyzing the fish they are chasing, but have no idea what the lure is doing in the water.  If you need to pick up some soft plastic tubes to try this in the weeds around your area you can get them at www.bogbaits.com.
     Bonus tip: If you want your tubes to float and don't have any floating tubes with you.  Put some small chunks of styrofoam in the hollow body of the tube and secure the last piece with some super glue.  The styrofoam will the keep the tube on the waters surface and it makes for a great top water jerk bait.
     Tight Lines.