Up Down and Sideways –

Up Down and Sideways

Two Takes on Jigging Fall Muskies

By Rob Kimm and Pete Maina

From The Next Bite – ESOX Angler Magazine 2006 Fall Issue

Rob Kimm:

Anglers in general, and muskie anglers in particular, have an utterly unreasonable view of angling techniques. We see lures and the techniques used to present them as essentially progressive, a perpetual press of improvement over what was done before and how, and with what, to the point where if you aren’t careful, you can catch yourself looking back at the past wondering how they managed to catch a thing.
This belief in continual progress is, I suppose, an unspoken argument for the absurdities one sees from time to time: spinnerbait skirts made from space age carpet fibers, bucktails the size of wombats, super magnum plugs that weigh in at a pound and change, wiggly rubbertailed gee-gaws beyond number. It may even explain the khaki-clad sport I ran into on the water a few weeks back who asked if I might have a black Magic Marker in the boat so he could dull the finish on his blades just a bit. Shiny blades, apparently, are last year’s news.Muskie Released

Admitting this irrational view on lures is a roundabout means of apology for writing about something as mundane as jigs and jigging, when this inevitable innovation leaves so many other topics unexplored. The reality, though, is this: the fundamental building blocks of presentation haven’t changed, and wont. Speed, depth, color, and size, attraction, and triggering ability are still at the core of even the most innovative lures or methods of presenting them. The belief in progression is simply an example of endless variations on fairly basic themes, with varying degrees of success or failure. It’s a reason to slink through the tackle shops like grave robbers each spring, looking for the next new thing.

But jigging gets scant attention from the vast majority of muskie anglers. Perhaps it’s that assumption of progress that gets in the way. Because jigging is certainly nothing new when it comes to muskies.

Truth be told, jigging could rightly be called one of the first modern muskie techniques, tracing its roots back to the dawn of modern angling, when anglers like Tony Portincaso, a pair of young, energetic Chicago area anglers named Al and Ron Lindner, and a handful of others began fishing early version of today’s soft plastics on Deer, Bone, and a handful of other Polk County, Wisconsin lakes.

“Tony and a few other guys from the Rockford, Illinois area started using 5-inch Reaper for largemouth bass on those Polk County lakes,” says legendary angler and Lindner’s Angling Edge host Al Lindner. “Lo and behold, they started catching lots of muskies. That is truly where it began. At first they thought it was just a fall thing when the weeds were thin, but the system developed over time. We got bit off, so we added leaders, then graduated to bigger baitsthe 8-inch Reapers , fished on spinning gear with monofilament and fairly short wire leaders.” As the system evolved, jigs were not only lures but interpretive tools, used to probe weedlines and discover points, inside turns and rock piles that had previously been invisible. In experienced hands, a jig was—and is—as precise and informative about what lies beneath the water’s surface as the most sophisticated modern graph.Muskie Released

From Deer and Bone, Portincaso, the Lindners, and others, began to expand jigging into new territories. “It worked everywhere we tried it,”says Lindner. “There were guys on Pymatuning catching muskies on jigs like crazy; it worked in Minnesota too.” Publication of the technique in Fishing Facts magazine was a landmark in modern muskie fishing. “It really was a major breakthrough,” said Lindner. “This was still the ‘fish of 10,000 casts,’ and we were catching 3 to 5 a day. Guys wouldn’t believe it when we told them how many fish we were catching.

”Still, despite its long history, not to mention its effectiveness, jigging for muskies has seldom sustained more than isolated regional popularity. Though it has enjoyed a resurgence of late, due in large part to an excellent series of articles on the subject by In-Fisherman Editor-in-Chief Doug Stange, jigging is still overlooked by most muskie anglers. At best, it’s a cold front technique, and at worst it’s ignored altogether. “As far as a presentation system,” says Lindner, “it’s still under-utilized.”

Vertical jigging gets even less attention. Once again, outside isolated pockets scattered across the muskie’s range, vertical jigging for muskies is next to unheard of.

It’s a shame, really.

Jigging, you see, is—or can be—more than just a different presentation choice. Jigging can be a system for approaching angling situations where each aspect of presentation, each block, differs from more standard muskie tactics. There are few angling situations, especially in the cold water period of fall, to which jigging techniques can’t be applied effectively. There are some situations where nothing’s more efficient and effective.

What follows are two looks at jigging up fall muskies…



By Rob Kimm

From The Next Bite – ESOX Angler Magazine 2006 Fall Issue

I fish a fair numbers of hours nearly every week of the Minnesota muskie season. The odd trip to more exotic destinations aside, I spend much of this time on a fairly small number of favorite waters. Totaled up over the season, I’ve booked a lot of time on these lakes by the end of August. By the time fall rolls around, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s happening—which spots have been consistently good, and which, for whatever reason, have been stinkers this year, which techniques have been working and which ones, due to overuse by other anglers or changes in fish location and activity, haven’t done much.

Come fall, I’m in a pretty comfortable relationship with these lakes. Oh, day to day things change somewhat. Weather, fishing pressure, water conditions—these things can all stir up the mix now and then. But by and large, as things swing from summer into early fall, and on to the end of the season, life’s good. The kerfuffles, flubulations, the wherefores and why’s of why muskies do what they do and why the don’t do what they should, the hyperkinetic gotta get at ‘em-ness of early season, all long past. I’m ready to just go fish for the things. I will catch them, or I will not.

On these lakes, and on many of your favorites in the same part of the country (and I say this with certainty), one of the best ways to stay away from the ‘will not’ side of that equation is to fish jigs.

With so many more traditional fall tactics like jerkbaits, cast or trolled cranks, even live bait, jigs don’t often find a place in the arsenal for most fall muskie anglers. They should. Few baits better cover the range of location possibilities with less fuss, from fish deep on hard bottomed edges like points and reefs, to mid-depth flats where muskies prowl the remnants of summer’s weedbeds, to shallow sand, rock, or gravel bars. Fewer still cover the range of potential fish moods you’re likely to find in fall so thoroughly.

What’s great about jigs this time of year is they can be what you need them to be simply by changing the way they’re fished. Active fish on a shallow rock reef? Zip them along just under the surface, with just a pause now and then to trigger following fish. Fish parked on a deep weedline? Count them down so they’re just ticking the weed tops, and swim them in, wobbling and thumping along.

But hold on. Before we get too far into that part of the story, better talk about the jigs themselves a little bit first, as in, which ones I’m talking about, and which ones I’m not.

The Cobra Jig came about as a result of conversations between Steve Herbeck and I that began about 5 years ago, says Bait Rigs Tackle Co. co-owner Joe Puccio. When we looked at a lot of the jigs out there, all of them were lacking something, whether it was head design, weight distribution, hook design or quality. Steve recognized the need for a better tool what the world needed was a true muskie jig. It was something I d wanted to do for a while: build a muskie jig that was really a tool built for that purpose.

Developing the Esox Cobra Jig

Esox Cobra Jig Available in 4 Sizes

Esox Cobra Jig Available in 4 Sizes

The Esox Cobra Jig is a prime example of muskie and pike jigs evolving past plain ball or dart heads to purpose-built swimming jigs, with design features specifically crafted to optimize performance using horizontal presentations.
Key to the Esox Cobra Jig s performance is a unique head design, built on a modified Kahle Mustad UltraPoint hook. The wedge-shaped head places the center of balance of the head slightly farther back on the hook. Most jigs are a weight-forward design, says Puccio, which is great for a vertical presentation, but not necessarily for horizontal or semi-horizontal approaches. The Cobra head is a weight-center head. The weight is distributed so the bait stays horizontal on the retrieve, and when paused.

ESOX Cobra Shadtail Swimbait 6 Inch

ESOX Cobra Shadtail Swimbait 6 Inch

The weight-center design is complimented by a unique feature of the Cobra a concave rather than flat bottom on the jighead. Most jigs have no inherent action of their own, says Puccio. We wanted something that.

Many of the jigs currently being marketed as muskie jigs aren’t much more than outsized bass jigs. Bass jigs, big or not, aren’t muskie jigs. They have to do different things, and what makes a good muskie jig doesn’t necessarily make a good bass jig. Bass jigs often have hooks that just aren’t up to snuff for penetrating bony mouths. In many cases, the fiber weedguards are far too stiff, and frankly, they’re often not needed at all. Bulbous rounded jigheads are ideal for a well-balanced vertical fall, but poorly suited for the horizontal presentation most often used with muskies, where staying flat while swimming over and through modestly dense cabbage and coontail, or over sand and rocks, is a much more important capability than punching vertically through heavy vegetation.

The jig I’m looking at as I write this, an Esox Cobra head from Bait Rigs Tackle, is a good example of what a good muskie jig should be. The head is wedge-shaped with the hook eye at the very point to slide through weeds, pushing stalks away from the hook point. The balance is right for a horizontal retrieve, with the weight set back on the hook rather than centered under the line tie, so the bait falls horizontally, and rides slightly nose-up on the retrieve. A slight concave dish to the flat bottom of the head gives these jigs a subtle action of their own—a slight shimmy on a straight retrieve, and a gliding swim on the fall. A rubber skirt adds bulk and movement. The hook is a modified Kahle-style Mustad Ultrapoint. At 5/0, it’s not overly-large, and fairly light wire actually, but with a wide bite, and scary sharp. Many muskies that hit jigs will be hooked right in the top of the mouth, and a razor sharp but thinner diameter hook is easier to sink into a bony mouth than heavier hooks. There’s no weedguard on the standard Cobra, and often they’re not necessary anyhow. The wedge head is weed free enough— surprisingly so in fact—for most situations, especially in fall. Throughout spring and summer, I’ll generally use 1/2 or 3/4 ounce Cobras. In fall, 3/4 or 1 ounce models are a little more efficient.

Other jigs out there too of course. In heavy cover, particularly around rushes or for zipping over the tops of thick mid-depth weeds, Musky Mania’s Jig-A-Beast or the Lil’ Hustler Super Swim Jig have thick weedguards and solid hooks. Pat Smith’s Stick-um Jig is another fine option. In real thick stuff, Pat’s Sick-Um Stealth is tops. No weedguard on the Stealth, but rather a coil spring screw doohickey on the line tie for rigging plastic trailers Texas-style. There is weedless as in “doesn’t pick up weeds too bad” and there is weedless as in weedless. The Stick-Um Stealth is weedless.

Esox Cobra® MAGNUM Musky Jig

Esox Cobra® MAGNUM Musky Jig

The Bait Rigs Cobra Magnum is a monster jig, complete with an attachment for adding a stinger hook to the 10 inch grub or 9 inch shad trailer. These large profile baits are great for slow swimming, or as throwback lures once you’ve located a fish. Cobra Magnum heads also pair extremely well with giant Red October tube baits – a compact, fast-sinking package for casting in high winds and casting or vertical jigging deep breaks. It’s a combo I haven’t had a chance to use much yet, but by this fall, I will have used it quite a bit, I think.

Pair the jigheads with shad-style thumper plastics like a Lunker City Salt Shaker, or an Action Plastics 6-inch Shad. Earlier in the season, swimming tail grubs can work extremely well, especially Action Plastics Twin Tail Shrimp grubs used to slow the fall rate of jigs fished over shallow weeds. But in fall, thumpers get bit more. On Cobra jigs, shads can be rigged vertically, with the hook coming through the back of the bait, or flat, with the hook out the side. Vertically rigged shad wobble extremely well, fall slightly faster, and dart more on the drop. Rigged flat, the drop rate slows slightly, the wobble is less pronounced, and the bait has a somewhat bigger profile. On bullet-head jigs like the Jig-A-Beast, rig shads flat.

Finish the package with a leader. I prefer uncoated, stranded leaders in the 90 pound range. Others prefer single strand leaders. In either case, fix the wire directly to the jighead. Don’t mess with snaps. They just collect weeds and gunk.

So about the where and how of jigging in fall. During the transition from summer temperatures and locations through early fall, turnover, and the cold water post turnover period, muskies change locations several times. Often, different fish or groups of fish will be at different stages of this transition at once. Only in extreme late fall, just before freeze-up (and sometimes not even then) will you find even a slim majority of fish holding on the same types of structure, or at the same depths. Jigs shine this period of constant transition for lots of reasons, but foremost perhaps is their versatility when you need to probe several different depths and cover types quickly and efficiently.Take a typical flat on a mid-Mesotrophic muskie lake. You’ll have a shallow, inside weedline, maybe even a stretch of sand between the weedline and shore, the flat itself, covered with patchy clumps of remaining weeds, then the break itself, and the adjacent to structure confined open water beyond. Covering each of these options across the full range of depths and speeds with more traditional fall baits would generally mean switching lures multiple times. By comparison, the same jig can fish each piece of structure, at depths from a couple feet to, say, 15 to 18 feet, simply by adjusting the retrieve speed and how long they’re allowed to sink.

When I can, I prefer to work shallow first, then move outward. Backwards from most anglers I think, but that’s fine. I prefer this approach though because shallow water can be fished quickly, and if I’m finding fish shallow, I can fish several spots rapidly, making the most of a short day. Plus, in fall’s clear water, you can often see hits when fishing shallow, which I like simply because it’s fun. So I’ll begin at the shallow sand and inside weedline, with my boat a long cast length from shore. A long cast with a jig is a long cast. Fling them as far as you can. With today’s superlines, there’s no line stretch to contend with, so why not. I’ll begin reeling as soon as the jig lands, scooting it quickly over the sand and inside weedline, occasionally making a long cast in front of the boat to cover portions of the flat my boat is about to pass over.

After fishing the inside line to shore, the flat is next. Again, long casts, but count the jig down a few beats to run at mid-depth. Ideally, it’ll be ticking the tops of any remaining weeds. If I count down six seconds and don’t make weed contact, then next cast will be seven or eight seconds. Weed growth on flats is seldom uniform, so constant adjustments are necessary. As I fish the flat I’ll make note of where thicker stands of cabbage or coontail are. We’re talking a weed flat here, but the approach is the same over sand or gravel/rock flats. Run the jig mid-way down in the water column most often, although occasionally dropping them all the way to the bottom briefly doesn’t hurt. The outside break is a little different. I generally keep the boat 1/3 of a long cast length away from the break itself. Count the jig down, work it to the edge of the break, then let it drop down the weedline before bringing it back to the boat. Dropping it all the way to the bottom isn’t usually necessary. Active fish will most often be higher in the water column at least until very late in the year or unless the weather’s bad. If fish are tight to the bottom there are better ways to get jigs to them than casting—but that’s another article.

Retrieves with jigs aren’t complicated, which is part of the beauty of it all. You can catch a lot of fish just by holding your rod tip at about the 10 o’clock position and reeling steadily, pausing for a second or so every few feet to let the jig do a dive and glide briefly.

Retrieves with jigs aren’t complicated, which is part of the beauty of it all. You can catch a lot of fish just by holding your rod tip at about the 10 o’clock position and reeling steadily, pausing for a second or so every few feet to let the jig do a dive and glide briefly. Better though to work the jig a little more. Reel steadily, but nod the rod tip as you reel. Not a true lift/drop—you aren’t bass fishing—but rather a subtle, steady nod of 4 or 5 inches, performed with your wrist. Then pause periodically. Or: Start at 10 o’clock, reel as you lift the rod tip to 11:30, then drop the rod back to 10, reeling back down as your rod tip drops. The jig will rise and fall, doing a steady stutter-step shimmy, then briefly stall and swim down before scooting off again. The point is, do it how you want to from a mechanics standpoint, but make the jig lively. Attract fish, and trigger them. If you hang on weeds, a quick snap of the wrist will pop them off. Jigs figure-8 exceptionally well, but most fish hit during the retrieve. If you’re doing it right, the depth and direction changes that trigger fish at boat side with other lures occur multiple times during the retrieve.

Strikes on jigs nearly always occur as the bait drops. Muskies seem to take jigs by rushing them from behind or quartering behind, engulfing them, and turning. The feeling is a solid and satisfying whump. At times, the line will simply go slack as a muskie overtakes the jig and rushes forward. Most fish will be hooked either solidly in the corner of the mouth, or right in the roof of the mouth. Unhooking and releasing fish with jigs is a joy. Usually a firm twist with a pliers is all it takes. Few baits are more fish friendly.

Jigging muskies is a quiet game with a lot of how it’s done left in the angler’s hands. Doesn’t take a lot of effort, but rewards concentration and attention to details of presentation like depth, speed, and applying basic mechanical skills to trigger fish. Not complex, just versatile and effective. About right for fall, when all there’s left to do is go fishing.


By Pete Maina

From The Next Bite – ESOX Angler Magazine 2006 Fall Issue

I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways when it comes to fishing vertical for muskies.

Years back, a great friend and guide in my home area of Hayward, Wisconsin, Bill (Fuzzy) Shumway, created a sonar-style lure intended for muskies. I remember pondering the whole thing when he showed me the Fuzzy Duzzit while fishing together. I was one of the first to get a hold of one.

Just prior to this, I’d gotten to know a guy who very quietly (‘quiet’ is a rare trait these days, but I recall him telling me if I ever took his picture or mentioned his name publicly, there’d be no more friendship) caught more big fall muskies from area lakes than anyone. He was ahead of his time on bottom-hugging muskies and hard-to-soft bottom transitions.

Vertical is also perfect for small, precise spots of any kind. Smaller reefs, especially sharp edged ones, distinct holes and any deeper current breaks created by natural or wind-induced current are examples. Distinct holes can be a great fall target, especially on reservoirs, and are best fished vertically.

I recall some joy back then when I started to realize the potential in coupling his knowledge and Fuzzy’s new lure to fish an area body of water that was generally thought to be a tough fall lake. I found fish in different areas and on totally different structures from where most of the pressure was directed. It was a tough pattern to figure out on this water, since the forage didn’t expose itself on electronics well at all. And, it generally meant working the deep edges of very sharp, irregular breaklines. I quickly found the best way to fish these areas effectively was to fish them vertically.

But other than heavily-weighted live baits, I’d never had the tools for the job. To fish 15 feet deep or deeper, fish vertically, and still cover some water, requires specific stuff. Sure, jigs were around and used, but 3/4 or 1 ounce jigs don’t cut it here, unless you’re willing to accept moving at a snail’s pace. Apex predators are present in the lowest densities, and you have to cover some water to increase your odds of coming in contact with them. Waiting for them to come to you gets old (as you will, from boredom if nothing else).

The combination of a vertical presentations with good boat control is just flat effective, especially for fall muskies. Yet, since vertical isn’t nearly as glamorous as casting, it’s easy to simply forget how well it works, even when you should know better.

I was reminded, again, of the effectiveness of vertical jigging last fall while filming a muskie episode for The Next Bite television show. Huge northwest cold-front winds changed my plans quite drastically the first day of the shoot. I was limited to a sharp, western-shore rock break—only place I could hold the boat position well enough to effectively fish. None of our casting presentations were working, but I noticed the forage seemed to be tight to the bottom on the base of the break. I dug in the box for old Fuzzy. Three muskies were taken vertically while other presentations didn’t work all day. Later, a nice muskie on a Jake too, but remembering to think vertical turned what would have been one-fish day to a four-fish day. Big difference.

Certainly, how effective or appropriate the vertical jigging approach will be depends on the body of water and its make-up. It has to do with a combination of things, one of the most significant being the lake makeup mentioned above: sharp and irregular breaklines. If fish are holding tight, especially if at the base of the break, vertical presentations become the most efficient way to go. Sometimes, it can be the only way to go. If the fishery has bottom-hugging forage species as the predominant food source, you have the ultimate case for vertical approaches.Well, wait…Add in tough conditions, cold water and/or just fish with bad attitudes that just aren’t willing to exercise much for a meal. Nothing says “in your face” like vertical presentations. For fish not wanting to move for food, consider what an irregular, sharp breakline means for a normally very effective water-covering tool: trolling. Trolling becomes less and less efficient the more complex the cover gets, and the tighter fish are holding to it. If it’s really sharpbreaking, it can just be hard to place the right lures, at the right depth and coordinate that with boat control. Perfection is almost required—tough to pull off at 3+ miles per hour, in wind and waves. Suppose though you can do all of that perfectly. You can crash rock points effectively, and even cover very sharp edges, pretty well—as long as those steep breaks are fairly straight. Released Muskie

But, there’s simply nothing at all that you can do with sharp inside turns—often where the fish are under tough conditions. You really can’t hit them effectively trolling. Now, “can’t” is a big word. But where inside swings are fairly tight, and getting bit means triggering muskies at the base of the break—a muskie that’s backed in and parked perfectly at the base of the inside turn—it’s nearly impossible to get to that fish with a single trolling pass. Think about how things would work on a sharp edge: if your lure climbs up the edge prior to the inside turn area without fouling, once it blasts off on the other side, it’s likely 10 feet or more above the fish on a sharp-break. The majority of the time, that just won’t work—they aren’t going to move that far. Using multiple passes with lure depth adjustments and different angles, it becomes possible to get in the face of fish on inside turns, but the efficiency that is usually trolling’s advantage is completely lost.

The same efficiency problems exist when casting these areas. Especially in deeper water, sinking baits are a good tool, but letting them sink to get where they need to be is time consuming, and they often have to be fished slowly to keep them there. Deep divers can work too, but how much of their time is spent in the effective zone when targeting bottom-related fish? When there are sharp, twisting breaks, multiple casts in tight repetition are necessary to attempt to cover it. All things considered, the efficiency is lost here too.

Vertical is also perfect for small, precise spots of any kind. Smaller reefs, especially sharp edged ones, distinct holes and any deeper current breaks created by natural or wind-induced current are examples. Distinct holes can be a great fall target, especially on reservoirs, and are best fished vertically. Current breaks may be mid-channel hump, logs—whatever. Fish cribs are another fine example where fish may be tight, and here, trolling and casting become not only hard to do, but time-consuming and expensive. Though I have very little experience with it, standing timber is another place where a vertical presentation makes tons of sense.

When faced with situations like the one’s I’ve described, what I’ve found to ultimately be the most effective is precise boat control coupled with a combination of vertical and casting presentations. It pays to have help—two or three anglers are much more efficient that going solo. Basically, my usual method is to move the boat along the break, zig-zagging up and down the break as I move along it, making certain to cover the base of break, and occasionally creeping a little on to adjacent flats. Keep the idea of covering everything—the whole break, from lip to base—in mind all the time. At least one presentation should be vertical. Different casting presentations can be used to check the shallower zones, parallel edges, and for suspended fish.

By far the most important job here is boat control. Simple as that. The person in charge of the boat really has to be concentrating at all times, making certain that not only is there consideration for covering the different areas of a break for potential patterns, but also to control speed and movement to make certain no fish are passed by. It’s not easy when calm, and it’s even harder with gusty fall winds.

Anyone using a vertical presentation should be watching a graph at all times. It aids in keeping up with depth adjustments, and obviously you want to be watching for big marks. Truly, if there was ever an ultimate case for quality electronics for esox fishing, this is it. When precise boat control is made difficult by gusty winds, or if you feel two passes on a structure to be necessary to cover it thoroughly, plotter trails on a GPS unit are invaluable in making certain everything is covered. And, it’s simply a huge aide to have the large, color screen as on the unit I use, the Lowrance 111C, to really be able to best distinguish bottom-hugging fish. A split-screen with zoom on these units is frankly almost unfair when it comes to being able to see fish. (Of course you still have to make them bite…) It helps to distinguish forage, and bigger fish show up even better. While filming the episode of The Next Bite Television I mentioned earlier, I had just started filming a “tip” about vertical jigging when I glanced at my graph, saw a large mark, forgot all about the tip I was supposed to be doing, dropped Fuzzy down … one pump, drop …bang.

Jigging muskies is a quiet game with a lot of how it’s done left in the angler’s hands. Doesn’t take a lot of effort, but rewards concentration and attention to details of presentation like depth, speed, and applying basic mechanical skills to trigger fish.

These days the door is opening wider, as there are quite a few new options coming in lures specifically designed for vertical use. It really is, and it almost seems odd to say it these days, something quite new in tactics for esoxchasers. And it’s got me thinking all over again. In sharing the above story with Bill Shumway at a sport show over the wintermonths, he mentioned that he had been successful on the Fuzzy Duzzit as a “comeback” presentation on a big fish. He’d raised it, and returned again with other presentations, only raising the fish again. Since the fish was located on a break, he thought of his bait, tried the fish again, and caught it. How many times have you heard about coming back on a raised fish with a vertical jigging approach? Hmmmmm. Like Pearson says: thinking is just being thoughtful.


The Slo-Poke GrubMaster

Slo-Poke GrubMaster Jig

Slo-Poke GrubMaster Rigged on Grub available in the SS-75 kit


The Slo-Poke GrubMaster (The best Bass Jig that you’ve never heard of)


The invention of the Worlds best Smallmouth Bass Jig came about as have so many other products, because necessity is the mother of invention. In this case the need was for a jig that could swim naturally and horizontally in the water column while being compatible with a wide variety soft plastic lures. In the early 1990’s, I discovered that Smallmouth Bass in the Great Lakes would readily hit grub tails that swam horizontally. Yes, there were many lures that would attract these fish, but nothing was easier to use, more consistent throughout the seasons, and was more adaptable than a jig tipped with a soft plastic grub tail. Simply put, this presentation worked more effectively than anything else. The problem that existed was that standard weight-forward jigs, like ball jigs and power heads, didn’t fit the bill for “swimming” plastics horizontally. Someone needed to build a jig specifically suited to this application. That someone was Joe Puccio, co-owner of Bait Rigs Tackle and an expert jig designer. Joe saw the presentation that I was using and we immediately started designing a jig to suit the application.

Slo-Poke Grubmasters

Slo-Poke Grubmasters


Joe utilized the basic design of the original weight-centered Slo-Poke Jig™. The jig featured a forward eyelet with the lead distributed evenly along the entire length of the shank. With the eye in the front of the jig, rather than on the top, combined with a long thin body, now made it possible to insert the jig completely inside a plastic body. In addition to giving the bait a soft feel, the weight distribution was perfectly balanced, to keep the jig in a horizontal position. After several prototypes were produced and tested, the final version of the GrubMaster was introduced and it is the perfect jig for swimming plastics. The final design included a small keel at the rear of the shank that doubled as a keeper. This improved the jig’s ability to run in an upright position, keeping the hook out of snags and improving hook sets. Joe also added another innovative and important feature to the GrubMaster series, a color enhancing system. This system takes advantage of the jigs ability to be inserted completely inside a plastic body. By using some very brilliant colors on the GrubMaster, the jigs vibrant hues will shine through and combine with the translucent color of plastic bodies. This phenomena creates an all new approach to fine tuning colors to match the hatch or fine tune a bait fish pattern. The Bass angler now has the ability to combine and contrast jig color and plastics to create an infinite number of color patterns.


Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of the GrubMaster Jig as compared to conventional designs. As a professional guide I have observed that minnows and small fish are beyond a doubt the preferred choice of most game fish. Fishing catalogs will show pages of minnow imitating baits in all shapes, sizes, colors, and type. If you’ve ever closely watched a minnow swim through the water, it does so by wiggling its tail. Minnows are soft to the touch, and in most cases natural in color. Inserting a GrubMaster into a grub tail will do the very best job of imitating the action of a swimming minnow. The soft bodied GrubMaster has a natural bait fish feel and the tail wiggles behind the body with both flash and vibration. Contrasted this to a hard bodied crank bait, where the entire body wiggles instead of just the tail section. GrubMaster’s have a soft and natural feel when tipped with a plastic grub, tube, craw or lizard and exhibit a more natural subtle action. This is what triggers fish, especially under tough conditions! Another advantage of the GrubMaster is its versatility. Changing or fine tuning colors is as simple as matching both jig and grub to the preferred bait fish.
It is easier and cheaper than changing a crank bait, which may cost anywhere from $5.00 to as much as $20.00. The GrubMaster is also versatile in depth control. Adjustments in depth can be made in several ways. One method is to simply vary the weight of the jig. For shallow water, use light jigs in the 1/16 and 1/8 oz. range. For deeper water, use the 1/4 oz. version. When fishing river systems go with the heavier weights and long line the bait so it can tick the bottom and swim in the current. This method is deadly on Bass and Walleye. The other method of depth control is to vary the retrieve speed. The faster you reel, the higher it runs, a slower retrieve allows the bait to run deeper. A stop and go retrieve will allow the bait to run even deeper.

Crappie Grubmaster Jig

Crappie Grubmaster Jig


Let’s discuss the fundamentals for using the GrubMaster. Coined with the name, Insert Jig by In-Fisherman Magazine, the GrubMaster is very simple to rig. Simply insert the jig from the point of the hook, pushing the jig down the center of the plastic body and exiting at the rear. This places the entire jig body inside the plastic. No tying and untying for rigging or poking the eye through the body. There is one trick however. All plastics have a “seam” or center-line. Following the “seam” from entry to exit when putting the plastic on the jig. This will insure that the bait will run straight and true.

Presentation of the GrubMaster is simple. Most of the time I just throw it out and reel it in with a moderate retrieve speed. Increasing or decreasing reel speed will change the depth. GrubMaster’s work well on the bottom but must be “hopped” to achieve tail wiggle when using grubs. Because the GrubMaster is weight centered, plastics will fall horizontally, which attracts bites. Another choice is using tube bodies, which can be presented very slowly on the bottom. Using a lift and drag presentation works best. The GrubMaster’s forward eye allows it to slide up and over bottom structure, unlike conventional jigs, that tend to “shovel” into rocks and other snags. Less lost jigs and more fishing time makes sense!
Using a hybrid fishing line, such as Berkley Fireline, will improve “feel” of the lure and improve hook sets. Don’t forget the color enhancing feature of the GrubMaster. Use your imagination and experiment with colors.

The GrubMaster remains my favorite way to fish. It is also my “confidence bait” that I have the most faith in and the method I use most. My customers comment on how easy it is to use and how well it works. Many of my clients have taken this method to their home waters and have told me it works just as well there. I have caught Smallmouth, Largemouth, Walleye, Northern Pike, Brown Trout, and Salmon on GrubMasters. The GrubMaster is the ultimate presentation, no noisy blades, no diving bills, no finesse presentation. Just subtle fish catching action. My suggestion is to try the Grubmaster on your favorite fish, on your favorite lake or river. It will become your favorite lure too.Grubmasters Rigging with a Craw spider grub 4" tube and worm.

Gary Nault – Fishing Guide, Sturgeon Bay, WI

Muskie Jig Proclaimed World’s Best Pike Jig

Henk Rusman of Holland with a Monster

Henk Rusman of Holland with a Monster
Pike caught using a Esox Cobra Jig

One of Europe’s most respected Pike anglers, Henk Rusman of Holland, considers The Esox Cobra® Jig to be the Worlds best Pike jig. According to Henk, the Esox Cobra Jig excels in Dutch waters using a variety of plastic body baits. What follows is a translation taken from the Dutch magazine De Roofvis (The Predator Fish) of Henk’s field report using the Esox Cobra Jig. Field report by Henk Rusman An excellent presentation is to fish the Esox Cobra from the shallows into deeper water. That way it makes the nicest little jumps and won’t get stuck to the bottom so often.
To avoid getting stuck on the bottom, the choice of jig head is very important.

Round jig heads get stuck easier then flatted ones, but the best thing is to choose a so-called ‘ swimming’ jig head. And one of the best, if not the best for this type of fishing for me is the Esox Cobra. Because of the flatted bottom, this jig head seldom gets stuck. On top of that, this jig head stands almost upright on the bottom, which means that even mister Northern Pike can pick up your lure from the bottom. In contrary to many other jig heads, the Esox Cobra is made with an excellent and wide hook, on which even shad bodies and thick big grubs will find a place.

Esox Cobra Jig Available in 4 Sizes

Esox Cobra Jig Available in 4 Sizes

The Patented and Trademarked Esox Cobra is designed and manufactured in the USA by Bait Rigs Tackle Company. This jig head that is excellent for the Dutch waters. The Esox Cobra looks like a crossover between a Erie jig and a banana model. The name ‘Cobra’ gives a good idea of it’s shape. With the 1/2oz weight this is a nice model to hold big grub tails and shad bodies and the shape of it prevents the whole thing from bulleting down to the bottom. When you retrieve this combination with this jig head it will go somewhat “planing” through the water, so that it will go through the striking zone. The sturdy hook is upright to prevent sticking to the bottom.

Henk Rusman

Worms with a Twist

Worms with a twist. You may know them as corkscrew worms, snelled worms, molded worms, twisty worms or just plain, wacky worms. All of these nicknames refer to just one basic worm, the pre-rig worm. What makes these pre-rig worms unique is that they are designed and molded in such a way as to make them spin or corkscrew in the water when they are retrieved. They have their own unique fish catching action right out of the package, which you may or may not have seen before. The worms are generally used for Bass but can and will catch all species of fish, including Walleye, Northern Pike, White bass, Crappie and many others. Now let’s dive deeper into the world of a worm, that is so easy to fish, catches big fish, and will make a weekend angler seem like a “Pro”, that you will wonder why you haven’t tried using them before.


Bills Scented Worms

Pre Rigged Worms from Bill’s Scented Lures

Pre-rig worms are designed to spin or corkscrew in the water as mentioned before, but you might be asking yourself “what makes them spin by just retrieving them in the water”? Well the worms are molded in such a way as to have a kink or about an 80-degree bend in the upper portion in the worm closest to the pre tied loop. This bend or kink in the worm allows it to corkscrew in the water by just reeling it in slow. They come with 3 pre-tied hooks embedded in them. One hook is in the front, one in the middle, and one in the tail of the worm, which are all tied together. The line is usually 8, 10, or 12-pound test. Out of the nose of the worm, is the remaining line, which is usually 3-5 inches in length, which is then tied into a loop, to be used for a snap swivel so that it spins freely on the line. The hooks generally are between sizes 4 and 8 and come in weedless and non-weed less styles. These worms come in many, many different colors and a few sizes. 4 inch, 6 inch, 8 inch, and a big 11-inch size are the ones most commonly made. The most common ones that are used are the 6-inch and 8 inch sizes. Most of these worms also come with a scent molded right into the worm. Raspberry, black licorice, and Anise, are the main scents that are used. These scents give the worm an irresistible, fish catching ability that no fish can refuse. There are quite a few manufacturers of Pre-rigged worms, some of the most well known ones are Willy’s Worm from Innovative Sports Group (ISG), Bill’s Scented Lures, Ike-Con and Little Action Mac. Now that you know how the worm is made, let’s now take a look at how we rig it for different fishing situations.
Rigging the Worm

Rigging the pre-rigged worm is actually very simple. All you really need, is a high quality, ball bearing snap swivel and a few split shot sinkers for added weight, especially on days that are windy. I prefer a spinning rod with 6-8lb. Berkley Trilene XT green line, and a good quality ball bearing snap swivel, black in color to deter any fish seeing it, with a duo lock or snap lock and in sizes 1, 2, or 3. Use a high quality ball bearing swivel because the worm is made to twist and spin through the water and will kink up your line if one is not used. Some manufacturers that make high quality ball bearing swivels that I recommend are Sampo, Spro, Cabela’s and Berkley. All you need to do is open the snap swivel and place the loop end of line of the worm into it. Then close the swivel and you are now ready to fish!
Where to use Pre-Rig Worms
Docks Piers and Boathouses

One of the most well known places to use these worms is under docks, piers, and boathouses. Skipping these worms under this type of structure makes for an exciting way to fish. Here is an inside tip on how I personally fish it. What I generally like to do is have the swivel of the worm about 3 inches from the tip of my fishing rod, this enables me more control of the rig when I try to skip it under the pier or dock. I get as close as I can to the structure without spooking any fish, crouch down low and sidearm cast the worm under it. This may take several attempts to get it under the pier or dock, but once you do, hold on, because if there are fish underneath it, 9 times out of 10 they will smack it willingly and there will be no question about it. Now, let’s take a look how we can put these worms to good use on weed lines and weed beds.
Weed lines and Weed beds

It’s a no-brainer that fish use weed beds and weed lines as cover, to ambush their prey from. So what’s a better way to use the pre-rigged worm, than to use them on the structure that fish relate to most of the time? Weed beds provide cover, oxygen and most importantly, food for predator fish. A high percentage way to boat more fish with these pre-rig worms is to fish the deeper, inside, and shallower weed lines and edges. A good way to start fishing it is to cast out the rig and let it settle down to the bottom. Be sure to watch your line as it is settling, to make sure a fish hasn’t inhaled it on the way down towards the bottom. As the worm lies on the bottom, give the rod tip a quick “snap” and start reeling the rig back in. More times than not, you will have a strike at the initial first “snap” and start of the retrieve. I try to work the weed lines and edges first, then work my way into the weed bed itself. This enables me to precisely work the high percentage inside turns, points, and irregularities of the weed lines and edges first, without spooking any fish that may be in there. I will also fish parallel with the weed lines, so that the worm stays in the strike zone longer, thereby increasing my chances of hooking into a fish.
Wood Stumps and Snags

Fishing in wooded cover, can be a fisherman’s worst nightmare. There aren’t many lures that will enable a fisherman to get into those hard to reach snaggy places. Hooks on most lures, tend to snag deep into the wood, thus making it virtually impossible to get down into those areas where fish relate to for cover. The weed less variety (Shown at right) of Pre-Rigs are a godsend for those hard to reach places. On each of the 3 hooks on the pre-rig, there are small thin wire guards, that guard and protect the points and barbs of the hooks, so that it can be fished easily in those hard to reach places without snagging. Just fish it as you would a normal weedbed cast it out, retrieve, and hang on to your rod!
Advanced Pro Tips

Reading the above article will teach you how to fish with pre-rigged worms right out of the package. But if you want to add even more fish to your bag, use these advanced, tried and true tips that will make you an even better angler out on the water.
In the beginning of the article I mentioned that you should use a black ball bearing swivel, well that’s a good baseline to start out with, but on days that the sun is high and bright, you can actually catch more fish by using a chrome ball bearing swivel, which will enable more “flash” to the presentation and will attract more fish to it, thereby increasing the actual percentage of fish to your pre-rig worm.
When the sun is high and bright, the colors of clear metal flake, purple metal flake, blue metal flake, green metal flake, and red, white, and blue metal flake will increase your bag limits, because of the extra sparkle in the water as the worm is retrieved. It really throws off the shine when it is twisting through the water!
When fishing on weed beds and weed lines you will increase your catch by finding the small indentations or pockets, if you will, in the weed line. Fish tend to hold tight on these spots and are a gold mine, if you can locate them without spooking the fish that may be there, before getting a chance to fish it.
If the normal cast and retrieve system doesn’t seem to be working for some reason, whether it be a cold front, dirty water, or the fish are just “off”, instead, try quickly jerking the rod tip as you work it back in. Kind of like a jerkbait retrieve, but with smaller, tighter pulls of the rod tip. This makes the action of the worm very erratic and may turn on those harder to please fish.
These pre-rigged worms can also be used slow trolling for Walleyes. Just add a 1-2 ounce snap weight about 5-8 feet in front of the swivel and slow troll along points, rock bars and mud flats as you would a crankbait or spoon.
Now that you know what the Pre-rigged worm is, how to successfully fish it, and some key areas to look for when trying to find some fish, you can apply all of this knowledge out on the water and hopefully increase your catch of fish.

Best of luck and please practice C.P.R of the bigger female “spawner” fish.
Bill Lodi

Rippn-Lip Guide Service



Winterizing Your Rig

For many of you the fishing and boating season has come to a close. Many of us are waiting for that” Indian Summer” weather, for a few warm days on the water before we finally decide to put the rig away. When you make that final decision, there are some things that you need to do so you can avoid problems in the spring. If you follow this general guideline, I think you’ll be on your way to good start come springtime. I’ll take you through the steps I take. And I hope you will follow them as well.

The first thing I do is to put enough Stabil in my gas tank and then I fill up the tank. On the bottle of Stabil it will tell you how much to add so you have the correct mixture. I then head for home and put the garden hose into the flush out port and turn on the water, and start the engine. If your engine is not newer, you will need to get a pair of EARS to use to flush out your engine and supplies water to your engine while running it. You can purchase these ears at any marine dealer such as Heckels, or Amherst Marine, they both have websites and will answer any questions you may have as well.

I run the engine long enough to get the Stabil into the fuel system, and injectors and or the carburetors if that is what you have. I usually run mine 3-5 minutes. While your doing this, if you have a carburetor engine you need to FOG your engine at this time, as it will save you some time by doing it now. In your owners manual it will tell you what to do and how long to do it. I won’t try to tell you how I do mine, as it may not pertain to your engine so it is best to look in your owner’s manual for instructions. The new Technology motors require you to go to your dealer to have this done correctly, and you have a huge investment in your motor, so take it to them to have it done right.

After that is done, I check all the fuel lines and clamps for any signs of wear and to make sure there are no fuel leaks of any kind. I also check and clean the fuel filter and water separator. I also spray WD-40 on anything under the engine cover that my corrode. I also put a small amount of grease on the flywheel teeth and on the hinge cover latch. I then will pull the spark plugs and check and clean them and if need be, install new ones. While the spark plugs are out, I spray WD40 into the cylinders, and reinstall the spark plugs. I also look at the linkages, and cables, and grease them if they need it.

Next I will drain the lower unit in an oil pan by taking out the bottom plug first, then the top plug and let it drain until it stops. I check for the presence of any water in the oil, as this will tell me if I have a bad seal or gasket in the lower unit. When it is time to refill the lower unit, I use a pump, it just screws right into your lower unit, and works much better than trying to hold the oil bottle tight, and squeezing the oil out and having it run all over the place. You will know it is full when the oil starts to run out the top hole. When this happens put the top plug in and remove the pump hose, and screw in the plug for the lower unit. Wipe off any oil on the lower unit.

Next I will grease any fittings on the motor, and wipe off excess grease. I check the fluid level in the power trim and tilt unit. If it is low, add to the fill line. I also take the prop off, check the splines, and put a light coating of grease on the spline before putting the prop back on. Make sure you check your prop for nicks and cracks. If it needs fixing now is the time to get it done. If you find you need a prop, I want to suggest a Comprop. If you have never tried one or heard of one then you need to contact me, or check out there web site, as this is the only prop I will run. Its added protection for my lower unit. You’ll be amazed at the Boat Manufactures that put this prop on as OEM. Next check mounting bolts, and any of your electronic cables such as your locators and speed/temp cables to make sure they are connected securely to the boat. I will also take out the drain plug and clean any water intake filters for the live wells, and reinstall. Make sure you blow out your live well drains, and bilge pump line, as water left in a line can freeze and you will have a real problem come fishing season.

Next I will pull the wheel bearings, and the seals from the hubs. Before you reinstall the bearings, put in new seals in the hubs, don’t reuse the seals your just asking for trouble, and seals are not expensive. Next I will clean the bearings with a recommended solvent NEVER USE GASOLINE FOR A CLEANING SOLVENT! And dry them off and inspect them for wear. I also look at the spindles to check for wear and pitting. If pitting has started, you can use emery cloth to take out the pits and smooth the surface. If I see any amount of wear I replace the bearings and the races at the same time. Never put new bearings in and use the old races. Next I repack the bearings. I bought a bearing packer a long time ago at an auto supply store, and I don’t miss the mess of hand packing them. Adjust the bearings as to the manufactures specs. And reinstall your bearing buddies if you use them. If you don’t have them I suggest you get some, as this is the best way to put grease in your hub for bearing protection and to keep the water out. Make sure you don’t over fill the hubs with grease as the hubs will run hot, you don’t want that, and you don’t want to pop the rear bearing seal either. Just fill it until the spring-loaded surface comes to the front of the hub and a small amount of grease comes out. After you use your rig next spring, check your hubs again as I’m sure you will need to add some more grease. Next check your winch rope or strap to make sure it is in good shape. Put a small amount of grease on the gear teeth, don’t gob it on; just a small amount is all that is needed. Put a small amount of grease on the tongue hitch mount as well. Check your rollers if you have them and make sure they are all in good condition. If you find a crack in one replace it!

Okay, so the lubrication part is over with. Lower the motor to the run position for storage this will drain out any water left in it. Next I wash and wax the boat and trailer. I recommend a Marine wax, as it is designed to give you more protection than an auto type car wax can. I vacuum out the inside of the boat, including the live well, and I leave the live well covers open, and I Clean the windshield with warm soap and water. I then use this product from” Innovative Polishing Systems”. This stuff removes all the scratches from your polycarbonate windshield. I do mean” ALL” the scratches! It works on regular glass as well; it is a product you really need to get, as it is so versatile, just go to ipsglass.com, and order this product. If you’re like me you have tried to get those scratches out, and this product will do just that. It works great on jell-coat as well. Check it out! I also store the windshield in an old flannel sheet; this keeps it in great shape for the spring. I also use a vinyl cleaner on my seats and dash, and I remove the locators and store them in a dry place. I also wipe down my trolling motors with WD40 and make sure they are unplugged. I check all my antennas and either fold them down or push them down and out of the way. This pretty much takes care of the inside except for the batteries.

Next I remove the batteries. If you have not done so yet, get some cable ties and make your wiring neat and out of the way. If you have not labeled them yet I would do so before you remove them so you know where the wires go. You don’t want to wait until spring and try to figure out what wire goes where. Do it now and save some fuses. On the topic of batteries, there are some important things to talk about. New batteries are very expensive, and you want to take care of them. I used to replace my batteries every year and if I was lucky I might have gotten 2 yrs. Out of them. This was very costly, to me. One day while guiding, a client told me about a product called Thermoil. Well I got to tell you, I was skeptical about putting anything in my batteries. Over the years I have spent some money on products billed as the real thing for improving battery life. Well, I got to tell you this stuff really works. My client knew what he was talking about. This product is called Thermoil and you can go to their website and look them up if you don’t have a dealer in your area. It REALLY does work and now I can get 4 years out of my batteries, and that saves me money, and I like that. It is money well invested believe me, plus it is” Guaranteed or your money back.” We have the batteries out and charged so where do I store them? The old myth that you can’t put them on a concrete floor is just that! A MYTH! The new type batteries can be placed anywhere they’re not subject to high temperatures or freezing. I have found out that you do not need to have a trickle charger on them either. If you check and charge them once every other month this is enough charging, and I know this to be true. You want to make sure your battery posts are clean and put a light coat of dielectric grease on them. I mark a day on my calendar to charge the batteries, and that is the only time I will charge them.

So now we are ready to put the cover on the boat, but before you do this I recommend that you go to your boat dealer and get what is called mold and mildew bags, and put them in your boat. This will solve your problem of smell and extra cleaning in the spring. Make sure your cover is not torn and in good shape and that it has a snug fit .If you store it outdoors, I suggest you find a dealer that will shrink wrap it, I know Heckels Marine does this, and it is worth the cost to have it done if it stays outside. Well that covers your winterizing! Now it’s a waiting game counting the days until the ice goes out. If you have any questions on anything in this article you can e-mail me at either RiverRat@Fish-Wisconsin.com or River_Rat_54494@yahoo.com .  If you have any questions or would like to talk to me in person please contact me.

Thank You For Your Time,
Bob Koeshall, “The RiverRat”
Gone Fishing Guide Service

Trophy Bass in Wisconsin

When people think of a trophy Largemouth Bass, they pretty much assume that it should be in the magic “10 pound and above club”. When you hear of someone catching that 10 pound trophy, you have a vision of what lake that fish may have come from. Southern state lakes always seem to jump in your mind first. Lake Castaic, Okeechobee, Pickwick, Lanier, Table Rock, Dale Hollow, and the hundreds of others that I don’t have space to mention here, but you get the idea are the ones people think of first.
Well, “up” here in the Midwestern states, we also have a vision of what lakes a trophy bass may have come from, when that someone you know catches a 6 pound trophy. In Wisconsin, you have many prime waters that have great potential for trophy bass. In southern Wisconsin, some of the best ones are, Lake Geneva, Delavan, Lauderdale Chain, Whitewater, Eagle, Beulah, Okauchee, Pewaukee, Pine, Phantom, Big Cedar, and Big Muskego just to name a few. In Central and Western Wisconsin you have Lake Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa, Rock, Castle Rock, Petenwell, Wisconsin, Montello, Buffalo, Puckaway, Winnebago chain, Long, Arbutus, Onalaska, DuBay, and the list goes on and on. In northern Wisconsin there are a ton of lakes that can be listed, but a special few deserve mentioning. Manitowish Chain, Big St. Germain, Buckatabon, Caldron Falls Flowage, Little Arbor Vitae, Rice, Big McKenzie,
Bone, Day, and Deer lakes to name a handful of the best ones. We also can’t forget Lake Ripley where the state record 11 lb.3oz. Largemouth was caught in 1940, and guess what? The record is still standing today! Will that 60 year record ever be broken? I am sure it will, but time will tell. Lake Michigan, where this years 2000 Bassmasters Classic was held, out of Chicago Illinois, is another prime huge body of water. Who would have guessed that the Bassmasters Classic would be held on Lake Michigan? I never thought I would see that happen. And what a mess of great bass the pro’s brought in. Wow! Sturgeon and Chequamegon Bay’s are two other big named hotspots for trophy bass. Wisconsin’s Rivers also boast some of the best quality
bass fishing around. The Menomonee, Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Fox, Wolf, Black, and the Mighty Mississippi are a few of the best rivers to bag a trophy 6 pound bass.

Now that you have a list of lakes that have the potential for a trophy bass, here are some of the key structure areas to look for when fishing those lakes. Keep in mind that bass have specific travel routes that they use throughout the day. Bass also tend to feed at specific times of the day, but that can change with changing weather patterns, cold fronts, water clarity, fishing pressure, food availability, and so on. So keep that in mind when pursuing them.
Submergent Weedbeds

Submergent weedbeds go without saying. They hold more bass than any other type of structure. Hands down! Bass will either be cruising along, through, or sitting tight to submergent weedbeds. Weeds offer shade, food, and safety for the bass. They feel safe and secure when they are in the weeds. Up here in Wisconsin, unlike in the South, the number one predators of bass are Northern Pike and Musky. So a bass has to have that “cushion” of security feeling all of the time. Northern Pike and Musky are opportunistic feeders, which means they feed at any given moment, at any time of the day, and will try to eat fish that are as big as themselves. Bass have to always be on the lookout for predators.
The key types of submergent weeds and weedbeds to look for in Wisconsin’s lakes are those containing Coontail, Cabbage, Eurasian Milfoil, Lily pads, and Wild Rice. The most active Bass will hold on the edges of these weedbeds and are the most easy to entice into striking. A good “search” technique for the weededges, is to run a spinnerbait or a crankbait parallel with the weedbed. If there are any active bass on that particular weededge, they should smack your lure without thinking twice about it.

For bass that are tucked into the weeds, a few of these good local Wisconsin techniques should produce those bass for you. “Jiggy-Worming” is one of my favorite ways to fool bass into hitting. The way to rig a Jiggy-Worm, is to take a basic walleye jig usually starting with a 1/8oz. or a 1/4oz. of lead, and preferably with a wide gap hook. Then I take a 6 inch Berkley Power Worm (any color), cut off the first 2 inches of the head, and then thread it all the way up to the head of the jig. That’s it! You are now ready to fish with it. The way the Jiggy-Worm is fished
is pretty simple. You cast out the jig and let it settle down into the weeds, close your bail on your reel. Next reel in all of the slack so your line is tight, and then you “pop” up or “snap up” your rod tip which “jumps” the jig out of the weeds. Reel in any slack and let it settle back down in the weeds on a tight line. Repeat the process until you get a fish on, or it comes next to the boat ready for a new cast. Bass can hardly resist this technique and many times will strike the jig on the first “pop” that you make.
Another hot technique in Wisconsin is to use a modified Carolina rig. Instead of using an egg sinker which slides on the line in a Carolina Rig, just pinch on a large split shot or two, 12-20 inches above your hook and fish it faster than a Carolina Rig. The choice of baits stays the same. The way you fish this rig is to cast it out and close the bail. Start reeling before you think it will get into the weeds. Just reel it in slow and give it a “pop” or “snap” every few reel turns. Don’t let the sinker settle into the weeds or you will get hung up. This is a great way to catch bass that are schooled up tight to the weeds. Try these new techniques next time you are out and I am sure you will boat more bass.
Rock Piles

Another type of structure for bass are rock piles. Rocks attract bass because they feel secure when around them. Rock piles also hold various forms of food for the bass. Crayfish, worms, minnows, and baby panfish all use rock piles for cover and for feeding. The whole food chain can be found on rock piles. Active bass tend to slide up on top of the rock piles to feed. Less active bass will hang on the deeper edges of the rock pile. Active bass on rocks, can be caught using every technique that is available out there. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Carolina Rigs, Spoons, Jig and pigs, and Jiggy-Worms, are some of the few techniques that will catch bass on rocks. Burning a crankbait over the top of the rock pile is a very
productive way to find the more aggressive bass. While slow rolling a 1/2 oz. spinnerbait will entice the less aggressive bass on the deeper edges. Let’s take a look at another type of structure that bass use commonly. Docks and Piers.
Docks and Piers

A lot of people don’t think of docks and piers as structure, but they are. Docks and piers hold bass for the same reasons weeds and rocks do. For safety. And also to get out of the sun. It’s cooler under docks and piers. Bass prefer cooler water especially when the water temps climb into the high 80 degree marks. Bass will sit tight to docks and piers and wait for prey to swim by. The bass will ambush them and get an easy meal.
A fun way to fish for bass under docks and piers, is to use a pre-rigged worm. Pre-rigged worms come in an assortment of colors, scents, and sizes. A pre-rigged worm is a rubber worm that has 3 small, snell tied hooks imbedded in it’s body. The line comes out of it’s head and is tied into a loop. You then attach a snap swivel to the loop which allows the worm to spin freely in the water like a corkscrew. The way they are made is that they are poured into a mold, which has a slight bend in it. This is what makes the slight bend in the worm, which then makes the worm corkscrew in the water like it does. It’s very deadly! Bass can’t resist the corkscrewing action of a pre-rigged worm. On windy days, attach a split shot 12 inches above the worm. This helps in casting and also in detecting the hits. The
best way to fish these pre-rigs is to skip them under the docks and piers. The farther back you can skip them, the better. Let it settle to the bottom, and then start reeling it in slowly. That’s all there is to it. The actual hard part is learning how to skip them under the docks and piers. The best way is to have the worm almost touch your rod tip, and then crouch down low on your boat to make it easier to side cast it under there. Practice makes perfect.
Emergent vegetation

Vegetation is another key area to keep in mind when looking for bass. Lily pads, cattails, moss, and even Algae blooms are types of emergent vegetation. These topwater weeds provide cover and shade for the bass. Lily pads are a good example of providing shade and cover for bass. Lily pads are fun to fish, in that any time you have an opportunity to have a bass crash a surface bait is really exciting, and gets your heart pumping. Plastic rats, plastic frogs, Moss Boss’s, Mister Twister’s Prop Top, and other topwater lures work very well in emergent vegetation. Big bass will sometimes be in the middle of the weed piles or just on the edges of them.
Hopping a rubber frog from lily pad to lily pad is a great way to entice bass into striking. Algae blooms can be very difficult to fish because the algae clings to your line and lure, which can make the lure run untrue. After every cast it is a good idea to clean off the lure. But don’t let that stop you from fishing during an algae bloom, some of my biggest bass have been caught during an algae bloom.

Whether it’s a brush pile, submerged logs, stumps, or trees wood is a excellent key structure for bass, especially in the hot summer months. Wood also offers good cover and shade for bass. The most active fish will be found on the outer edges of the branches and tangles. Pitching jig and pigs, slow rolling small spinnerbaits, Jiggy-Worming, or tossing small weedless worms will work in the wood. Wood that has large branches and tangles tend to hold more fish than the ones that do not. Granted these are a lot more difficult to fish, but can be very well worth the extra
effort. Use heavier line and try to get the fish out of there as quick as you can, so that they don’t have a lot of time to tangle you up in there.

In Wisconsin, and in the entire Midwest region, the growing season is limited to 7 months a year for bass. Unlike in the Southern states where bass have almost 12 months to grow. The other 5 months in the Midwest, bass are under the ice in cold water, which stops all growing processes. Their bodies switch from the growing process, to just surviving the cold winter months. They become lethargic and only feed once every so often, unlike in the summer months where they will feed twice as much and grow twice as fast. That is why a 6 pound bass in Wisconsin is considered a true trophy. Trophy Bass are found all over the state of Wisconsin. Ten
pound bass are out there, but are a very exclusive limited resource. A 6 pound trophy bass, in Wisconsin, is a more attainable goal, and is looked upon by fisherman as a true Midwest trophy. Try some of these techniques, and I’m sure the odds will increase in your favor of catching a 6 pound trophy bass.
See you on the water!

Bill Lodi
Rippn-Lip Guide Service
Bill Lodi has over 20 years experience as a Bass, Walleye, and
Musky Fisherman. He hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, writes for several
E-Zines and other fine publications. He can be reached for questions and
comments by emailing him at Bill@Rippn-Lip.com


I wish I knew how many hours I’ve spent on the water trying to figure out how I was going to get the walleyes to bite. I’m sure that you’ve all been fishing at one time or another and you were having one of those very slow days that everyone dreads. There are lots of things that can be tried on a day like that but you have to decide if you’re going to make a drastic change or some kind of subtle change to try to get rid of the walleye lockjaw. Many times it may take something really simple to trigger a bite and sometimes you have to drop a rock on them to get any kind of response at all. Lets take a look at some different fishing methods that you could try in order to improve your chances at catching some fish.

A Grain of Sand

Most of the time it doesn’t take a rock but just a grain of sand to get a walleyes attention. There are many subtle changes that can be made to something as simple as a Lindy or Roach rig when fishing for walleyes and I’m going to give you some examples of changes that may work for you. If the fish aren’t responding to a plain rig, the first and easiest thing that I usually do to make a change is to add a colored bead above the hook or just change the color if there is already a bead there. My next step is usually to change the hook to a colored one and then of course I experiment with the color if I have to. This can be expanded even more by using a bead that contrasts to the colored hook or by using no bead at all. There are colored sinkers on the market that can be added but to be real honest I have never noticed any difference whether using a colored sinker or a plain one. Another real subtle change that a lot of people don’t really think about is to change your leader to fluorocarbon to really help your finesse approach. My personal choice is Berkley Vanish but there are others on the market that may be your preference and this small change can sometimes be the key to catching fish during a tough bite situation.

You can see that there are lots of easy and inexpensive things that can be done to something as simple as a rig. If we expand these simple ideas to a jig, we can add a colored bead ahead of the jig, add a tail, add a small piece of plastic from a tail to hold your live bait on the hook, change colors of the jig, the tail or any of the parts and the list goes on and on. Jigs are by far the easiest things to make changes to whether it be color, size, or the type of jig, all of the changes can be done usually by tying on a new jig or just changing the tail or the tail color.

Now lets take a look at what we could do to make some subtle changes to a crankbait that hopefully will help to trigger otherwise dormant walleyes into striking. I’ve looked into some guys tackle boxes and all of their lures have the lip or the head painted red. Obviously this might work some of the time but now they’ve lost their chance to change. If you talk nice to your wife she may give you an old bottle of red fingernail polish (or some other color if you prefer) that you can carry in your tackle box. It only takes seconds to get the bottle out and change some of your lures to a red head, red belly, a red lip or sometimes just a red dot where the gill would be is just enough to make a difference. Another trick is to have some colored treble hooks in your box (or make them using the fingernail polish) and change the front or rear hook to a colored hook to help give an even different look to your bait. These are just a few ideas that are small changes but can sometimes make a difference between having a great day fishing or just catching a few fish.

A Rock

Remember a grain of sand is a subtle change that might trigger the fish to bite. If you drop a rock you might scare the fish away or it may be the change needed to trigger them into biting. What I call a rock is any time I change from one type of fishing to an altogether different way. For instance if I’m jigging or rigging and I change to casting a crankbait or trolling, this is what I would call dropping a rock. You’re not doing anything subtle but you’re making a drastic change by using an altogether different method by changing both your lure and your presentation. There have been many times when the rock has been the answer to winning a tournament for me. To be successful you have to be able to convince yourself that change is the answer and then do it. Many of the small changes that I mentioned earlier can also be used to change the look of the lure after you’ve changed your presentation method.

Color changes as well as adding or taking away color on your lures are one of the easiest ways to alter your presentation. Whether you’re using crankbaits or live bait rigs and whether you’re casting or trolling you can use many of the subtle changes that I mentioned earlier to alter the color or action of your bait. Very often, people get in a rut and will only use their favorite bait and color because that’s the one that they’re comfortable with and have the most confidence in. It’s a great thing to have confidence in your bait but the thing that you must keep in mind is that there are many very simple ways to make changes to your baits that may mean the difference between catching fish and being skunked. Sometimes it may take only a grain of sand to get the fish to bite and sometimes it may take a rock. But many times change is good.


Walleye Willospoons

Walleye Willospoons

Walleye Willospoons By Bait Rigs Tackle

Have you ever used a WilloSpoon? If you ever ask someone that question I’m sure they’ll say “sure I used them a lot through the ice and they work good.” Hardly anyone will say they ever used them in the summer and if they have they only used them to vertical jig for perch or some other pan-fish. I’m going to tell you some of the ways that I use the WilloSpoons and how you too can use them to put more walleyes and other fish in the pan all year long.

My first experience using a WilloSpoon was one winter many years ago while fishing for Perch through the ice on lake Mille Lacs. I was busy catching Perch when all of a sudden I had a much bigger fish on the line and after a few minutes playing it I landed a Walleye that was over 8 pounds. After catching a few more smaller Walleyes the rest of the day I got to thinking that there might be something to these little spoons and maybe I should put some info in my notes for summer fishing and give them a try at that time. Being a Walleye tournament fisherman I always keep notes on things that happen when I catch Walleyes and I put that information in my computer to use later. It isn’t a bad idea for everyone to do something like this to keep track of their fishing success or lack of success whatever the case may be. In fact there are computer programs that you can buy for just this purpose.

When the next tournament season started I printed out all of my notes and as I was reading them the WilloSpoon notes popped up. It didn’t take long for me to start to think about how I could use them during tournaments. I decided to pick up a few more WilloSpoons to try if the conditions were right. The conditions are usually right if I’m not catching fish on anything else. As you might expect I didn’t even think about using them until a while later while prefishing and as usual I wasn’t catching any fish so I decided to try them behind a bottom bouncer for a while just for something different to do. As you might guess, nothing happened, but a while later when I was talking to a tournament fishing friend he told me about catching some Walleyes while casting WilloSpoons in shallow water. Now I just had to try them more often and I had to see for myself if there was really anything to these things.
They have a lot of things going for them if you really think about it. They come in a multitude of colors, they’re almost weightless and you can push them inside of a tube tail to make them a soft body. You can bait them with any kind of live bait as long as its small and if you don’t like the hook you can replace it with a treble or a colored hook or as you will read later in this article, there are secret special ways to use them with no hook at all and still catch fish.???

Now that I had all this good information it was time to try them and see how I could use them to catch fish. The first thing that I did was try casting them. I’ll tell you something, you soon find out that you have to use very light line and only cast down wind or you end up with them landing right in front of you in the water or if your not careful stuck in your forehead. I tried adding a small split shot a foot above the spoon and I changed the single hook to a #8 or 10 treble hook. Next I tried using a small minnow or leech , as you can see I was really grasping at straws to try to get these things heavy enough to cast. Several of these things seemed to help quite a bit and gave enough weight to cast and didn’t really bother the action any. I used this rig in some real shallow water when prefishing for a tournament on the Mississippi river and caught a fish in the 7 pound range as well as some smaller Sauger. This is definitely a shallow water rig because of the light weight although I would think you could try a heavier split shot for deeper water.

When using the WilloSpoon in deep water I found that dressing them with a small minnow or half a crawler and trolling them very slowly behind a bottom bouncer or snap weight was the most affective way next to vertical jigging. That is if you want to catch the fish on the WilloSpoon. If you want to use them as flashers to help catch fish with another lure here is another one of my brainstorm ideas that paid off and you might want to try. Take the hooks off about three WilloSpoons and replace them with small swivels. Now tie the WilloSpoons in line about 6 inches apart and about 2 feet ahead of a crankbait when trolling, you might be pleasantly surprised at the flash they produce and how they resemble baitfish swimming along. Of course you can use any number or color of WilloSpoon that you want or modify them any way that works for you.

Probably the way that WilloSpoons are most used is ice fishing. I must admit this was the only time that I used them for a lot of years. I still use them any time I go ice fishing for any kind of fish except Northern Pike. Not that they don’t work for Northerns but their sharp teeth will cut the line and you will loose lots of baits. When fishing in deep water I use about an 8 inch pencil sinker 6 or 7 inches above the WilloSpoon. By using this rig you will not tangle the WilloSpoon on the line like you will if you use split shot when lowering it into deep water. For shallow water applications you normally wont need any weight so the tangle problem is eliminated. There are many ways to dress the WilloSpoon with live bait. You can put ice fishing grubs on it, the head of a minnow or what I like is the tail end of the minnow. I remove the head of the minnow right behind the gills and then hook the body so the tail of the minnow is hanging and just kind of floating in the water when you jig it up and down. This is dynamite on Perch and Walleye through the ice and would probably work equally as well in the summer.

As you can see the WilloSpoon can be used throughout the year with good success. Of course the original Walleye WilloSpoon from Bait Rigs tackle will always provide the best results and the “fire” colors that are new this year are a great addition to the WilloSpoon line, it gives you more selection and makes them even more versatile. I’m really looking foreword to the coming tournament season when I’m sure that I’ll be using the WilloSpoon even more than I have in the past. Try em I think you’ll learn to like em too.

Panfish Willospoons

Panfish Willospoons

If you’re having trouble finding the WilloSpoons at your local sport shop, you can order them online from E-Bait.com in the Bait Rigs Tackle Store.

It will be well worth your while.

Walleye Willospoons are available in 2 sizes, Panfish Willospoons are recommended for Perch fishing.

Bill Reabe

Spinner Rigs for Walleyes

During this past winter, I visited with a lot of anglers on a wide variety of fishing topics. Sometimes these conversations concerned information that we already knew about fishing, while other times we explored new ideas and concepts that still needed proving. The one fact that I did learn was this. There are far too many anglers that have not yet learned the importance of spinning blades for walleyes.
My first experience with spinners took place when I was back in my youth. We would troll stretches of Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi River, with spinners in search of walleyes. We found that the dirtier the water was, the better the spinners worked. Believe me, in those days, Lake Pepin was really dirty!

Years later, when my family would travel around on camping trips, we again put spinners to use. It didn’t seem to matter much just where we fished, a live bait and spinner rig combination would always produce something.
However, it wasn’t until about ten years ago that I really started to get into spinner combos as an excellent system for picking up walleyes. It started on a hot day on Mille Lacs Lake, a walleye factory located in Central Minnesota. On this particular day, we found absolutely no active fish on the big flats that dot the middle of this lake. It wasn’t that fish weren’t there, they just wouldn’t hit a conventional live bait rig.
Eventually, my fishing partner pulled out a couple of bottom bouncers and said we were going to experiment with spinners. About this time, I was game for anything and readily followed his lead.
Once our

Walleye Pro-Bottombouncers Rigged

Walleye Pro-Bottombouncers Rigged

and spinner combos were rigged and baited with crawlers, we started our trolling presentation. At first I was certain we were moving way to fast to trigger these lethargic walleyes, and then my partner hooked the first fish of the day.
It wasn’t long before we had caught a fair number of really nice eyes. It also wasn’t long before our activity had attracted several other boats. I am sure they thought we were crazy trolling around for walleyes at breakneck speed, but we didn’t mind a bit. We were sticking lip and that was all that mattered to us.
Over the years I have gone to this bottom bouncer and spinner combination again and again and have really come to believe in it. One innovation that has made spinner blade fishing even better is the invention of the Hatchet Harness.
Last summer, on a Canadian trip, we hit a stretch of tough weather. The front that came through really shut down the walleyes we had going. The fish had not changed location, they just refused to touch a jig.
When I pulled out a couple of bait casting rods and started rigging up spinner rigs, the guy I was with thought I was crazy. When I tied on a big bladed Hatchet Harness, he was sure I was crazy. He couldn’t believe that strange looking blade could attract fish.
He soon changed his mind. He hadn’t finished threading on his crawler before I had a fish. Not only was it the first fish of the day, it was the biggest fish of the trip up to that point. He became a believer in a big hurry.
We fished this rock reef until our crawlers were gone and then switched over to Power worms. Although they didn’t produced as good as live bait, we still continued to catch our share of fish. The Power worms were tougher and you didn’t have to worry about checking your bait on a missed strike.
Spinner rigs aren’t my first option for walleyes, but they can be a good second choice. They seem to work best when you have scattered, lethargic fish. Walleyes are attracted to the thumping of the blade and the speed at which it moves.
Fish that are sniffing at slow moving bait will react to this fast moving spinner and hit it before it gets away. The speed doesn’t allow them time to think about it, they just react.
I have found crawlers to be the best bait for bottom bouncers and spinners. Leeches and minnows often twist when trolled at high speeds. Besides, by the time walleyes hit the lethargic summer period, crawlers are a great option anyway.
Walleye anglers need to take note of this style of fishing. It is easy and extremely effective. The biggest challenge most walleye anglers face is coming to believe that spinning blades really does trigger fish. Once you learn how well it works it will become a permanent part of your walleye strategy.

Copyright © 2000 by Jeff Snyder. All rights reserved.