This coming season I want to challenge you all to become better anglers. Visit some new places to go fishing, fishing for some different species that you might not normally target and take some kids with you on the water.
Fish New Water
As a professional bass tournament angler, obviously bass fishing is my focus much of the time. I get to travel all over the United States, competing in tournaments on all types of lakes and rivers for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. In the five years that I have been competing in these events, there have been some places where I have been out of my element and the fishing has been tough. Over the past couple of years I think my skills at breaking down a new body of water have improved and my results have been a lot more consistent. We only get three days to prefish before these FLW Tour events so it’s a short amount of time to figure out a new body of water. I generally follow a few rules when I visit new water to help me decide where to look for fish and choose my presentation.
Consider the time of year and the seasonal movements of the fish species that you’re targeting. As an example, we know that pike spawn in the spring, in shallow weed-filled bays so using that information we can set up to ice fish late in the season just outside of these bays and once the ice goes out we know that the largest number of big pike will be found in shallow water. This information helps us to decide where we should be fishing.
Knowing the forage of the fish species that you’re chasing can influence where to look as well. If you are looking to catch smallmouth bass you should know that they love to eat crayfish. One of top locations to find crayfish and smallmouths are on sand bottom areas with some boulders mixed in. Simply casting a brown coloured tube jig around these types of places will usually connect you with fish. Fishing new water will speed up the process of becoming a better angler because it forces you to make decisions on where to fish and opens your mind to new techniques.
Fish For New Species
One of the highlights of the 2016 fishing season for me was a trip I took back in September out to Lake Nipigon. Located about an hour east of Thunder Bay, Nipigon is a giant body of water that is home to the World Record brook trout. My good pal Sean McAughey and I hooked up with local angler Gord Ellis and we had a blast catching beautiful brook trout that are not available around where I live in the Kenora area. While I had caught stocked brook trout before, this would be my first time catching large, natural brookies and it was a blast.
The fish were relatively shallow and after a few hours on the water we could almost call our shots on where we would catch a fish. They were relating to shallow boulders and rocky points, very similar to the way that smallmouths do in the summer. It was a lot of fun and a trip that I would recommend to everybody! We stayed with Ray Rivard at Nipigon River Adventures and had a great time.
Fishing for a new species is good for all of us because it challenges us to fish with techniques that may be out of our comfort zone. Doing so will make you a better angler because you may look at your electronics differently, learn to tie a new knot or fish with a presentation that you have never used before. Many times, these new techniques that we learn can be applied to the fish species that we fish for most often as well. When we were catching the brook trout, Gord showed me a new way to fish with a slip bobber, simply in the way he put split shots on the line to sink a nightcrawler quickly where he put his cast. This same system will work great for walleyes on many bodies of water in NW Ontario and Manitoba.
Take A Kid Fishing
While I don’t have any children of my own, many of my friends do and it is tough for me to see how addicted some kids are to phones and video games today. When I was young, I wanted to study fishing magazines and maps and then go fishing. Lived for it! Whether you have your own kids or you have friends that have them, make plans to take kids fishing this coming season. Without anybody taking them, most kids will never get the opportunity to go in a boat and just go fishing. The reality is, fishing is not the cheapest hobby so often times kids just need someone to get them on the water and they will have a great time.
If you take kids out, try to fish in a manner that will keep them entertained. That might mean casting in a shallow weed filled bay for pike, or catching a bunch of small walleye or crappies when the bite is hot. If kids start to lose interest because the bite is tough one trick that has worked for me is to pull out an underwater camera like an Aqua-Vu, which they can drop over the side of the boat and watch for fish on the screen. In most places, fish are seen much more frequently than you would ever believe. It works great because the kids stay occupied and entertained and you can find some sweet spots by having them report on what they are seeing.
Take a chance and change things up this year on a few of your outings. Visit some new places to fish, heck there are over 70,000 bodies of water across the Sunset Country Region alone! If you have an opportunity to fish for a different species outside of your element, give it a shot! Finally, take kids fishing. Bring a bunch of snacks, get them on some fish and show them a good time. They will appreciate it and someday when you need someone to take you out, maybe they’ll return the favour.
ON THE ROAD WITH GUSSY
This column is coming straight from Texas as I gear up for stop number two of the 2017 FLW Tour. We got the season started the first week of February at Lake Guntersville, Alabama. While the fishing at Guntersville was super tough I was fortunate to grind out a five fish limit each day on my way to a 22nd place finish, which I was really happy about. I won some money and earned good points towards qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup. It’s nice to be back in the boat and get a break from winter for sure! I have a new boat this year, the 2075 Lund Pro-V Bass. It’s a big upgrade for me for the bass tournament fishing that I’m doing. The boat is fast, it has a huge amount of storage, tons of casting room and it’s rigged out with Humminbird electronics, the new Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor and an Atlas jack plate. There are a bunch of pictures of it on my social media pages.
Over the next few months I will be on the road a lot with tournaments in Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Maryland so I will be putting on the miles! In the meantime I’m looking forward to some March ice fishing around home on Lake of the Woods and maybe an ice out trip to the Rainy River to catch some big walleyes!