\We all go fishing for many reasons, high amongst them, simply the opportunity to be outdoors with a buddy. It’s fun to make the drive to the lake, play with new equipment or get ready for a tournament but at the end of the day the experience is always improved when we catch fish. The more the better right? The following eight tips are guaranteed to help you catch more fish this summer so read on!
Braided Line and Leaders
The use of braided line continues to gain popularity every year for good reason. Its zero-stretch properties have greatly increased sensitivity to feel bites and bottom type, it has a long life span and it’s tough. I use Power Pro on ALL of my spinning rods and on some of my baitcasting outfits. In most situations, it pays to learn how to tie on a fluorocarbon leader so that you have an invisible link to the fish. Fluorocarbon is also more resistant than braid against abrasions under water, its tough stuff, which makes it good for use with baits that you are dragging on the bottom or when you’re fishing around hard cover like docks. I like the simple blood knot to attach my leaders, but the improved cinch and Albright knots always test well in knot competitions, though they are a little more advanced to tie.
The only time I don’t use a leader and tie my braid directly to my bait is when I’m fishing in heavy weeds. Braid has the ability to cut through weeds much better so when I’m fishing something like a topwater frog in the lily pads, I like to tie direct. Same thing when you’re tying your line to a wire leader for predator fishing. If you aren’t using braid yet, try some and learn how to tie on a fluorocarbon leader, you will catch more fish!
Match Your Rod to Your Hook
All too often, especially on my guide trips I see folks that are not using the right rod for the lure they want to use. More often than not, they have large lures or jigs with heavy hooks tied on to spinning rods because they are scared to use a baitcasting outfit. Matching a heavy baitcasting rod to the heavy hook is needed to pull bass like this out of cover. It’s important to match the rod strength to the size of the hook or lure that you are using because if the rod is to light you will have a tough time driving the hook home past the barb.
If you aren’t comfortable using a baitcasting outfit I urge you to try. Reels like the Shimano Curado are affordable yet they are very easy to cast. I have taught ten year old kids to use them in minutes.
If you’re using a light wire hook like a Slow-Death style for walleye, then you want to use a light action, soft rod so you don’t tear the hook out of the fish’s mouth. You don’t need to have 20 rods to have success fishing but it’s good to have some variety so that you can fish with every lure in your tackle box effectively.
Let Your Electronics Do the Work
Years of guiding on Lake of the Woods has proven to me many times that in a day of walleye fishing in the central section of the lake, if the boat doesn’t catch at least 100 walleyes, then you didn’t really have that great of a day. I’m talking fish of all sizes, many small ones, some good eaters and a few big ones mixed in. A school of whitefish suspended near a hump reveals a likely spot to catch a fall musky). The secret is to stay on top of fish all day long and you’ll catch a bunch. I rely on my electronics so much that I usually won’t let me clients drop their bait in the water until we see multiple fish show up on the Humminbird. When we do, we all drop our lines down and usually there is a double or triple hooked up.
Play with your sonar until you get confidence in it so that you can see fish, see your jig when you’re fishing under the boat and learn to tell the different between bottom types. I assure you that you will catch more fish!
Take Advantage of New Technology
Beyond letting the sonar tell you where to fish, take advantage of the new mapping available from companies like LakeMaster. This image, from the Sioux Narrows area on Lake of the Woods, shows in much greater detail than the old, traditional map how this point is laid out. A sample of the LakeMaster cartography on Lake of the Woods Using this mapping technology, you speed up the process of driving over the small flats, drops or high spots, places where walleyes or any other fish, might be. It certainly helps me break down a new body of water for the FLW Tour events that I travel to on lakes that I have never fished before. Though the north end of Lake of the Woods is not yet finished, the southern half of the lake is mapped in high detail like this, as is all of Rainy Lake. It is a game changer.
Weather Nice? Get Out in the Boat!
One of the best ways to find success when you go fishing is to go when the weather is perfect. These perfect days don’t happen very often so when we get them, do all that you can to get out in the boat.
Smallmouth bass really get fired up on those hot, flat days in July and August and they get shallow. The same can be said for walleye and musky. I think that crayfish get a lot more active, crawling around on the rocks and that gets the smallmouths and some of these other species roaming around looking for food.
One of the best days I had last year was on Rainy Lake when I filmed a TV show with bass pro Scott Martin for his program The Scott Martin Challenge. It was a beautiful August day and we boated a bunch of four pound plus smallies on top waters and tubes. Good weather seldom hurts the bite for any species that we have in Sunset Country so pay attention to the forecast and watch for those nice days!
Match the Hatch
Anytime you can match your lure to the forage that the fish are keyed in on, you’re going to improve your odds of hooking up. Of course there are exceptions when certain lures that look nothing like anything natural will drive reaction strikes but usually natural presentations are best, especially in the clear water that can be found in most waters in NW Ontario. Brian McNanney Lake Trout and Soft Plastic Minnow Baits. Lake trout on Lake of the Woods primarily eat smelt and cisco so four to six inch soft plastic minnow baits are tough to beat. Brian McNanney and I learned that late last season on a lake trout outing where we boated a couple dozen fish in a few hours while filming a segment for my TV program Fishing with Gussy. Match the hatch and you’ll catch more fish!
Big Baits Catch Big Fish
Sure, this rule has its exceptions but if you want to catch a truly big fish, sometimes all it takes is tying on an oversized lure. On some of the southern reservoirs that I have fished FLW Tour events on over the past few years, places like Lake Chickamauga and Kentucky Lake, where shad are the main forage, anglers have caught massive limits of fish on oversized eight inch spoons that are two or three ounces in weight.
My buddy Mike Reid is one of the best musky anglers I know and on an outing last fall he boated the biggest musky I have ever had my hands on, throwing a giant 14” soft plastic swimbait. We even captured that fish on film and it was the star of one of the season four episodes of Fishing with Gussy. Of course, the exception is using micro sized baits to catch big fish. I have probably won more money in Ontario bass tournaments by catching big smallmouths with small 1/16 oz. marabou jigs than any other lure. Let the fish tell you what they want.
Ditch the Live Bait
Sure, there are certainly days when live bait will be the answer to putting fish in the boat, especially on those days following a cold front when fish are in a bad mood. Most days though across Sunset Country, you can catch walleyes, bass, pike, crappies, lake trout and musky better on artificial baits than you can on live bait. The secret is to use your artificial lures to create reaction strikes from fish. With soft plastic minnow imitators the key is to fish them faster and more aggressively than you would live bait – don’t give the fish a chance to inspect your offering. Most of the biggest walleye I have ever caught have come on soft plastics, they just seem to select for bigger fish on many days. Give them a try this season!