Adventures on Pigeon Creek

Late summer has always been one of my favorite times of year to go creek fishing, and this year has been no exception. By this point in the year the water levels have dropped too far to be able to navigate in a kayak so bank fishing is the best option. My favorite way to approach fishing a creek is to put bait on two rods and a lure on the other.

I always like to fish a deep stretch right after some shallow rapids because these places tend to trap fish. I hiked my way to the first spot that had these features, and quickly hooked into a few fish. The first fish that fell for the inline spinner was a gorgeous little Shortnose Gar

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Not long after that I little Hybrid Striped Bass took the spinner. This one hit right on at the shade line from the trees.

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After that little fish the action slowed down, but I did managed to tempt a few Freshwater Drum with some nightcrawlers.

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I switched spots to a bend in the creek after about a half hour with out a bite. As soon as my bait touched the water an aggressive Longear Sunfish took my worm. This has to be one of the prettiest Longear Sunfish I have ever caught.

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At this point I was simply amazed I hadn’t hooked into any catfish so I moved further downstream to a well known log jam. I suspended my bait about a foot above a half ounce sinker and bounced this rig along the bottom with the current. This method quickly enticed a little Channel Catfish.

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At this point I was mostly out of bait and the temperature was reaching the upper 90’s so I decided to call it quits. I was proud of all the fish I caught, and I was especially excited to land a gar (it was been a few months since I’ve gotten one all the way to the bank to photograph). Hopefully I get a chance to fish Pigeon Creek again before the fall leaves make it too difficult to fish.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

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Exploring Yellowwood State Forest

This trip occurred on August 5th, 2016

Lately, I have been on the hunt for new places to fish. This led me to Yellowwood State Forest. My online research indicated that the famous Bluegill lake there had been destroyed by logging, but I wanted to see for myself. Old surveys suggested that this lake used to have Yellow Perch (a species I’ve always wanted to catch), so the 2-hour drive was pretty justifiable to me. I was also particularly curious about this lake because I couldn’t find any real information about it dated after 2011, so I figured it was time for someone to do a write up about how the fishing is. So on August 5th I got up way too early and drove my way up to the campground.

I started out fishing at the Jackson Creek trailhead and fished off the boat launch there. I quickly found some small Largemouth Bass sitting right off of an isolated grass patch.

 

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I then switched over to try to catch some panfish. It quickly became evident that all of the panfish close to the boat launch were very small, but the diversity in the species raised my hopes that I could find a Yellow Perch.

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I wasn’t catching anything new, so I drove over to the spillway on the south end of the lake to see what kind of fish inhabited that area. There were hundreds of small Bluegill in the spillway, so there were a few decent Largemouth Bass enjoying the easy prey.

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I could see a few other species in this area that I wanted to try to catch. The water was so clear I could see Black Crappie, Smallmouth Buffalo, Northern Hog Sucker and Common Carp. I was quickly able to tempt a crappie, but I couldn’t keep any bait in the water long enough to tempt any other species before the Bluegill would eat it.

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It was starting to get late, so I headed back to the campground to make sure everything was set up before it got dark. After I was all set up, I walked down to the lake to see if I could find any other fish. I ended up tempting a few small Largemouth Bass right off the weed line.

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Stocking reports said that this lake had a large population of Channel Catfish, so I cast out a few baits and waited as the sun went down. It didn’t take long before a catfish hit, but I couldn’t seem to find any of the bigger fish.

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But after the sun went down, a few of the bigger Shellcrackers went shallow and were biting right on the edge of the weed line.

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With that last fish, I decided to call it a night. But first thing in the morning, I started exploring the coves on the lake and found some Bluegill still on beds. It took some time, but I was finally able to tempt the biggest one to bite.

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I rented a jon boat so that I could paddle my way up the lake to where Jackson Creek flows in. There, I found a log jam that looked like it could hold some decent fish. I started by tossing a finesse worm, and immediately hooked into a large Redear Sunfish.

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I quickly caught a decent-sized Warmouth and a small Largemouth Bass.

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It became clear that this lake’s reputation of having big panfish was still pretty accurate. So I tied on a small jig and tipped it with small pieces of worms… and had an absolute blast catching these fish.

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After catching some nice Redear Sunfish, I realized how foolish I was for not bringing a cooler to keep a few. But then I got distracted by a couple of beautiful Longear Sunfish and started targeting them instead.

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I kept seeing a fish move around on the edge of the log jam, so I tossed a jig to it and a greedy Warmouth quickly gobbled it up.

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After a while, the wind started picking up so I paddled back to shore and found some more small Largemouth Bass sitting on any irregularities in the weed line.

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I also did a little bit of micro fishing before leaving. I was able to find what I think are Freckled Madtoms (or possibly a juvenile Yellow Bullhead) and some larger Blackstripe Topminnows.

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My final impressions of Yellowwood State Forest: there are still some nice panfish that can be found, but as far as I could see, there is no longer a population of Yellow Perch. I also wasn’t able to find any decent size bass, but this might have been more because I’m not a very confident deep water angler. The lake seems to have a decent number of catfish, but again I wasn’t able to find any decent size fish. Regardless, I had an absolute blast fishing this lake and I highly suggest giving it a try for yourself!

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

 

Fishing Adventures in Los Angeles

My work schedule finally freed up and I got the chance to fly out to Los Angeles to visit my girlfriend. This trip, we made sure that we made a little bit of time to go fishing. The first stop that we made was to explore Malibu Creek State Park. We had a lot of trouble finding information on whether or not they allowed fishing in the park, but after asking a park ranger, we quickly learned that the creek was off limits but fishing was allowed at a little lake in the park called Century Lake.IMG_4819

We hiked a little over a mile through some beautiful landscapes to discover this gorgeous little lake (which was actually deceptively deep).

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There wasn’t much shore access on the lake, but I found a little rock to fish off of and hooked my first fish (which promptly came unhooked just as I was trying to land it).

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But I continued tossing around my little jig and was happily rewarded with a lovely little bluegill.

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I worked my way down the bank and enjoyed the lovely scenery.

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I even found a second little bluegill right off of some submerged branches.

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Right as we were getting ready to leave, I saw a new target: some bigger bluegill starting to bed in the shallows.

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I danced jigs around their beds, and they would nibble but not fully take the lure. So I switched tactics. Instead of jigging the lure, I would set the jig right in the center of the bed and just let it sit there. The bluegill would swim over, stare at it, go nose down on it, nibble it, then get frustrated and actually bite the lure.

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With this lovely bluegill, we decided it was time to hike back and get some lunch.

 

We then went to Malibu Pier to see if we could catch any fish there. Luckily, there was a little shop at the end of the pier where I bought some 2 oz. lead weights and a package of frozen squid.

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We started on the sunny side of the pier near the deeper water, mostly because that was one of the only places where I had some decent room to play a fish if I caught a larger one. After watching everyone else around me hook a few fish, I finally got a bite and reeled up this little California Scorpionfish.

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We stayed put at that spot for another hour, but I didn’t manage to get another bite. In the last 30 minutes, we decided to move to the deepest (and shaded) part of the pier. Instead of dropping the bait straight down like I had been, I started casting it out as far as my light line would let me. I immediately hooked into my first ever California Lizardfish.

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Look at the chompers on this little guy!

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I continued fishing this spot and hooked into my first ever Barred Sand Bass. The other anglers at this spot kept hooking into Mackerel, but I just couldn’t manage to get one this time.

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The last place we went fishing at was the Santa Monica Pier. Once again, we stopped at a bait shop right at the end of the pier and purchased bait. I was hoping for squid, but the shop only had Anchovies left (which actually worked way better than squid). We set up on the end of the pier and before I was able to hook a fish, a Sea Lion swam up begging for bait.

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After he swam off, I was able to fish without the fear of him eating my catches and dropped my bait down. The first fish to bite on the Anchovies was a little Queenfish.

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This trip, I was determined to catch a Pacific Mackerel and decided that fishing directly on the bottom was not the solution. I quickly discovered that suspending my bait halfway up the water column resulted in the largest number of bites from Mackerel.

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After catching a few of these little guys, I switched back to fishing the bottom to try to get some other species. I found a little deep spot by a pier piling that held a large number of Kelp Bass.

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I even got my girlfriend to catch a fish, her first Barred Sand Bass.

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At this point, I wanted to just catch one last little fish before calling it a day, another little Barred Sand Bass.

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With this last little fish, my trip was coming to an end. It was a great adventure and I was lucky to have great company to spend it with me. I ended the trip with a total of 6 new species for my list and only a mild sunburn.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

Exploring Ferdinand State Forest

I’ve fished Ferdinand State Forest a few times when I was younger with my father, but these trips have always focused on catching Largemouth Bass and I’ve always wanted to know what else lives out in this park. So Friday after work I started packing up all of my fishing and camping gear so that I could leave first thing Saturday morning. When I go on trips like this I always like to set myself a goal to help keep me motivated, this trip I decided that my goal would be to catch 10 different species. Saturday morning I got up with the sun, packed the last of my food and jumped in my suv to start the drive. I got to the park before the ranger at the station did and was able to secure the best camping location in the whole park. After struggling with the tent for a half hour my campsite was set up and I unloaded the rods to do a little fishing.

I started by exploring the overflow creek from the lake and tried to target some of the gar that kept surfacing. After many failed hook sets I gave up on that quest and put on my rubber boots and started microfishing my way down the creek (well as close to microfishing as you can get with a size 22 hook). My efforts were quickly rewarded with a lovely Blackstripe Topminnow.

Blackstripe Top Minnow

At the next pool I was happy to find a large number of creek chubs.

After working through a good number of chubs I found what I think is a Striped Shiner

At this point I switched over to the top lake and took the canoe out to target a few evening largemouth. It didn’t take long to find a Largemouth Bass willing to hit a top water lure.

As sunset approached I set out to find some firewood and get dinner ready. I had hoped to fish for catfish once the sun had set, but after making supper I was surprisingly tired so I went ahead and settled down in my tent for the night.

Once again I woke up as the sun was just starting to come up, I decided to go back to the over flow creek and see if I could find a few more fish species before it got too hot. I started by jigging around the rocks and as I was hoping was able to tempt quite a few Warmouth.

I then started tossing the jig into some shallower water that was at the back end of the pool I was fishing was able to find a few very colorful Green Sunfish

But I had heard rumors of that this overflow was home to some crappie and I just couldn’t seem to tempt them. Then I had the idea to start casting as far up the inflow pipe as I could. Surprisingly I started catching a lot of bluegill from this spot.

After working through a lot of bluegill I was incredibly excited to hook into a small Black Crappie (I may or may not have cheered when I landed this fish).

I tossed out a rod with some cutbait with hopes of a gar again, but this time I was lucky enough to hook into what I think is a Yellow Bullhead (I honestly have the hardest time telling the bullheads apart)

After this fish I returned to jigging, I found a small submerged tree branch and tossed my jig into it. I was incredibly excited to see this little Redear Sunfish come out of it.

The last thing I wanted to include were a few of the strange catches I had as I was exploring the forest. The first is the very oddly colored Warmouth, at first I thought it was a rock bass but it appears to have the wrong number of spines on the anal fin.

And while I was micro fishing I was very surprised to catch a frog in between the tadpole and the froglet stage!

Micro Fishing Bluegrass FWA

To start this out, I know this is going to be a post that really only relates to a very small number of anglers and that this kind of fishing goes against the typical fishing mentality. The first thing you need to know is what micro fishing is: basically micro fishing is where you try to catch the smallest fish possible on a hook.

My go to setup for micro fishing is my 5 wt Redington fly rod and Mustad size 22 hooks. I tie the hook onto my fly line and tip the tiny hook with a very small piece of white soft plastic from old lures. This gives the fish a specific place on the hook to strike and increases the hook up ratio significantly.FOT9603

The easiest place to target micro fish on lakes seems to be at boat launches, since it provides safety from predatory fish in the deeper water. However, it seems that you have to work through a lot of average size panfish before you can start targeting the actual micro fish. The first fish you tend to catch in these spots are more aggressive, in my case Green Sunfish.

After the Green Sunfish got spooked from my spot the next aggressive fish started hitting my fly: Redear Sunfish.

The last species you have to worry about is the occasional Largemouth Bass that will come up into the shallower water.

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Now the fish actually start to become micro, the easiest small fish to start catching is the bluegill. The fry tend to stay in the shallows and are fairly aggressive and will fight each other over which gets to eat the fly first.

If you start fishing in the very shallowest part of the water you can catch some of the truly small species. I focused my attention on trying to catch my first Blackstripe Topminnow. Turns out they are very easy to catch once you have downsized your hook to a 22.
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The last species that I was able to find was the Western Mosquitofish. This is a very common fish to find in the shallows, however due to their very small mouth they are one of the more challenging micro fish that I have caught so far.WP_20160702_18_29_41_Pro

I know this post will seem strange to a lot of anglers since this goes completely against the “catch the biggest fish possible” mentality. But I find that micro fishing is incredibly relaxing and very intriguing when you are trying to figure out how to identify the fish that you catch.

So give it a try, I’d love to know what you think about this very different form of fishing.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

Sometimes It Is Numbers Over Size

I made a trip out to Scales Lake in Boonville Indiana with the intention of catching as many bass as I could. The park opens at 7 but because I am not the best at planning I arrive there at 8. After a little confusion renting a boat, I launched and made my first stop at the life guard stand. I know this spot gets a lot of pressure so instead of throwing a jig into it, I tossed a wacky worm and let it fall slowly and twitched it a few times. I pulled 3 little bass off this feature within the first few minutes of fishing.

The rest of the day I focused my attention fishing the coves this lake has. I saw few fish hitting top water in the shallows so I tied on a hollow body frog and started tossing it around. The fish weren’t confidently taking the lure, so I tied on a buzz frog and the bass started hitting it instantly. Out of curiosity I tied on a popping frog and the fish hit that as well.

As the day got hotter it be came apparent very quickly that they were not interested in top water any more. One of my favorite patterns to fish during the hottest days of summer is to fish a lizard that has its tail dyed chartreuse and fishing it right on the edge of thick hydrilla. The fish were unquestionably honed in on this pattern today. I fished them weightless and on Texas rigs and the fish seemed equally interested regardless of the weight.

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At this point it was about 94 degrees so I decided to call it a day. I caught 30 bass from the jon boat and the largest fish of the day was 15 inches. I have still yet to find a large bass in this lake, but today was a great day and I had an absolute blast.

Tight lines,

Isaac

Exploring Sugar Ridge

I like to think that I have fished a good number of lakes in this area, but before today I never had an opportunity to fish Sugar Ridge. I had always heard that the pits there didn’t have very good shore fishing and I had never tried taking the kayak out there. But today was different; a buddy and I planned to meet there and fish from his jon boat for the day.WP_20160530_17_08_36_ProI arrived before my friend did and got to choose the pit that we were fishing, so naturally I choose Arm Pit. My friend was being slow getting here so I started exploring around to try to find a spot to fish from the bank. Most of the spots accessible from the bank were very shallow and had lots a weeds. But I found a creek that was flowing out of the lake so I hiked out to it and started fishing it from the bank. As expected I found a lot of panfish in this creek and was able to catch them on worms, jigs and spinners. I was hoping to catch a bass out of this creek but I just couldn’t seem to find one. WP_20160530_13_33_16_ProWP_20160530_14_01_31_ProWP_20160530_13_42_46_ProWP_20160530_13_47_24_ProWP_20160530_14_25_13_ProAt this point my friend arrived and we tossed his jon boat in the lake and started fishing. We actually started fishing the lake beside Arm Pit, it was super clear and you could see bass all over it. These fish all seemed to be smart and we couldn’t tempt any of them to hit lures. We then dragged the boat over to Arm Pit and started fishing it. I fished a finesse worm rigged wacky style in this lake and targeted all of the submerged trees and any place that had a slow transition from shallow to the deeper water.WP_20160530_16_32_54_ProWP_20160530_15_51_50_ProWP_20160530_16_22_33_ProWP_20160530_16_22_52_ProWP_20160530_16_35_36_ProWP_20160530_16_41_43_ProAfter covering a lot of water we hooked into some nice fish and even managed to sight fish for a few cruising fish (I am such a sucker for seeing a fish hit a lure). The biggest fish of the day hit 4 lb even  and caught about 30 fish total.

I hope your Memorial Day was as good as mine,

Tight lines,

-Isaac

My Favorite Time Of Year

April has always been my favorite time of the year to go fishing. The water is slowly warming up and the fish are starting to hit more consistently. What I really love about this time of year is that the fish are hitting different patterns every day. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of figuring out what the fish are hitting on every time I go out. During the summer it is easy to get in the rut of tossing the same lures over and over again at the same spot that you caught a fish at last. But in the spring the fish will hit a lure one day and then be in a completely different part of the lake and honed in on a different pattern before you know it.

This is the time of year that I like to take out new baits and test out new tactics for Largemouth Bass. I have had days where I will fish a lake and get top water hits for hours, then come back the next day to find that none of the fish are in the shallows and then proceed to fish tube jigs and find quality fish all day. It is amazing how quickly the fish change how they are feeding, and what color they prefer. So far this year I have focused on a few lures: frogs, tube jigs, flukes, worms and crankbaits. With these five lures it is hard to find a situation where you can’t entice a few fish to strike. The pictures below show a few of the fish that I have been finding while exploring some new lakes with these tactics.

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The other nice part of this time of year is how easy it is to find Crappie. There are many lakes in my town that are strictly bank fishing, and unless the Crappie go shallow it is extremely hard to catch them. But with the fish being in the middle of spawn it is easy to find them; just find structure and slowly drag a small tube jig across it and before you know it a Crappie will attack it. I haven’t found the size Crappie I’m looking for yet, but I am finding the numbers each time I’m out.

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My last trip out I started to see the Bluegill and Redear Sunfish bedding up in the shallows, it is about time to break out the fly rod and start throwing some top water flies at these fish again. May is just starting and this is always when the fishing really starts to pick up in Indiana.

I hope your spring is treating you with just as many fish

-Isaac

Short, But Productive Sessions

Most of the time when I go fishing I like to make my trips as long as possible, but every now and again life works out to give you just an hour or two to go fishing. And this has been the case this last week, I ended getting two great sessions in that I had never expected to be able to do.

The first session I had was bank fishing on the Ohio River, I set up with the intention of catching as many types of fish as I could. On the drive to the river front I stopped and picked up some nightcrawlers (my preferred spring river bait). I set up one rod with a modified tight line set up: 1 oz sinker on the bottom, a dropper loop tied off 1 ft above with a 6 inch line to a size 2/0 hook. When the river is falling I like to suspend my bait just a few inches off the bottom of the river, I find it catches more fish and you snag your gear in the rocks less often. The other rod I tied a size 6 hook on with a few split shots to let it flow with the current.

I set up on the back side of a water discharge, this produces a nice deep eddy that constantly holds fish when the water is falling. This spot fished just as I hoped, the break from the current held all types of fish and successfully caught 5 different species of fish in an hour and a half session. I was incredibly excited to land a few Sauger, they tend to be a very difficult fish to track down from the bank and notoriously difficult to get a hook to hold in. I also caught my first Striped Bass for the year, it seems they started moving up the river earlier than usual this year. And my absolute favorite was a Smallmouth Buffalo that hit on the suspended worm, these fish give such a hard fight and I have such a hard time finding them in the river usually. Other than these fish I had a number of small Channel Catfish and Freshwater Drum which are always a fun fight on light line.

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Sauger

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Sauger

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Channel Catfish

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Freshwater Drum

 

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Smallmouth Buffalo

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Smallmouth Buffalo

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Striped Bass

 

 

My second session for this week was a happy coincidence, I finished biking with a group of friends and on my drive back I realized there was a public lake at this location. There were some storms starting to roll through, so I figured I would tie on a top water and try to catch a few more fish on the Lunkerhunt Pocket Frog. This lure has proven to be one of my most productive lures this spring, so many of these pressured fish have never seen a lure with this natural of an action and don’t hesitate to hit it. I hooked into 5 little bass and honestly that was about all I expected to catch.

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Largemouth bass that hit shallow beside a tree stump

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Largemouth Bass that hit working the frog out of a lay down

But then as I was working the lure off the other bank and slowly working the deep water in between the banks and fish swam up and popped the lure, but missed the hooks. So I gave the frog 2 quick twitches and that fish came right back up and hammered the frog. I set the hook hard and was immediately surprised as my drag started peeling out. I worked the fish in very carefully to keep it from wrapping up in any of the submerged trees, and then I slipped and fell into the lake…opps. But that was okay, it made landing the fish much easier. I lipped the fish and carefully crawled back up on the bank. My scale put him at 6 lb and 1 oz. The funny thing is before today I hadn’t caught a fish over 14 inches in this lake.

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Largemouth Bass that hit in open water

 

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6 lb 1 oz: My best at this lake

Soon after this fish the rain started pouring down and I made my way back to my car. So I guess the lesson from this past week has been to take full advantage of every little chance to fish that you can, because you never know when you will hook something great.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

 

Early Season Frog Fishing

I was at the tackle shop over the winter and saw Lunkerhunt’s Pocket Frog for the first time. I had zero hesitation purchasing it; I had been searching for a good small frog for quite a while. This frog had my favorite features: Moving legs, a small profile and double hooks.

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The reason I love small frogs like this is that it gives me the ability to fish them on monofilament line and still have a fairly decent hook up ratio. Since I don’t have any intentions of fishing a small frog on pads or heavy weeds I can get away with using a smaller and lighter line.

The temperatures finally warmed up to the mid 60’s for a few consecutive days and the bass have moved back into the shallows. The lake I planned to fish this in is heavily pressured, so the popular crankbaits and soft plastics are usually a bust. Top water is usually a safe bet in early spring, but the large number of fallen trees make it difficult to fish anything with exposed hooks. I tied on the Pocket Frog and started working the shallows, and it didn’t take more than a minute to have my first strike. I had set my drag too loose and the hook didn’t stick, so I adjusted my drag and kept working around the lake. The bite was consistent after that, reeling in one fish after another. I even managed to tempt fish up out of 10 ft deep pocket. It was clear that the fish had never seen this lure before and had zero hesitation striking at.

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In southern Indiana most people claim that frog season doesn’t start until late May or early June, but they ignore a simple fact: if you can hear frogs croaking, it is already frog season. Most people disregard frogs as a good tactic to fish weedless water, but they are missing a fantastic, underutilized bait. Most fish haven’t had this lure thrown at them, and lures that have very natural action like these entice the most aggressive bites in the spring.

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An average hour session fishing this lake with all the other lures in my tackle bag produces 6 fish, as you can see by the pictures I had no trouble surpassing that number with this lure. This is a new tactic for me, and it is one I will undoubtedly be using much more during the early spring.

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I encourage you to give this a try on pressured lakes, I was amazed with the results it produced for me.

As always, tight lines

-Isaac