Open Water 2017

February 21, 2017 by  

What a mild winter in the Midwest so far! Rain is falling, so today I’m thinking more about open water then I am ice-fishing. I’m sure there are a couple more ice-fishing trips in my near future, but as I go through some new open water stuff that I received recently, I’m looking forward to the following.

The rain is melting the snow and the rivers are already starting to produce fish. Northern pike can be the first to start eating, but walleyes are the target of many early season river anglers. Jigs are outstanding walleye-catchers in the spring. Something to keep in mind is that the most natural presentation is to cast quartering the current and allow your jig to move downstream. Yes, you’ll get some snags, but you’ll also almost always catch more fish if you practice this presentation trick.

Largemouth Bass Early Season

Early season largemouth bass from shallow water will provide action soon. Mike Frisch has caught thousands of these guys and still gets excited when one inhales his bait.

Back in the day when I had more time to fish at this time of year, I used kind of a unique presentation for early season walleyes. I suspended a sixteenth or eighth ounce jig tipped with a minnow below a slip-bobber. This was most effective in areas that were consistent, or at least fairly consistent, in water depth. I fished a lot of areas that were three to five feet deep, so I set the bobber stop so the jig was about a foot off the bottom. I still got some snags, but not as many, and I caught a lot of walleyes with this presentation. A sixteenth ounce Fire-Ball jig is very, very effective for this presentation.

Today I’m using a lot more plastic for walleyes year ‘round.  The plastic provides several advantages.

Plastic baits come in a variety of colors, and there are times when color is critical.

Plastic is durable: you can catch more fish on a piece of plastic than you can a single minnow.

Plastic in convenient: no minnow buckets to get tangled in your line.

Last of all, plastic allows us to fish downstream effectively. If you’re in a situation where a quartering cast isn’t practical or possible, you can cast downstream and slowly swim the bait back upstream, but you can hold it in place by slowly lifting and dropping your rod tip. This will give the walleye plenty of time to look at and eat your bait. Impulse Swim’N Grubs in the three-inch size are the plastic of choice among many very successful early season walleye-chasers.

The next phase of the open water season takes place when the water is a little warmer. It involves going after largemouth bass in shallow water. Bass fishing in the Midwest isn’t as popular as walleye fishing, but provides lots of action and excitement for those that get into it.

Harkening back to “The Day” again, we used to throw spinnerbaits in and around the reeds early in the season, and this technique still produces. We now also throw lots of swim-jigs for early season bass. They’re just as weedless as spinnerbaits, and bass seem to like them better is many situations. A Jungle Jig tipped with a trailer is a good example of a swim-jig.

Ok, back to reality. There’s still some ice-fishing to do, but open water is closer than we might think.

To see all the newest episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing related tips, and fishing articles from the past, go to fishingthemidwest.com.


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