Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Written For Outdoor Gazette
November 5, 2007

Finding The Bite
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

Fishing can be a frustrating cumulation of the days events at times. I have myself experience days where no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to get a hook in a fish. I can see fish on the graph and feel the hits, but connecting with one is the problem. Time after time I will bring back just the head of the minnow or a chewed up version of my previous presentation, but no fish. Then, when I finally do connect with a walleye, it gets off just prior to netting. So I continue to fish with a skunk in my pocket and building frustration. That is until a sheepshead gets ahold of my hook. I fight the fish believing I’ve ended the walleye drought just to end up back at square zero. Fortunately due to the amount of time I am able to spend on the water, most of those days are gone and I am usually just witness to these events. In fact, if things are going well, I’m usually the one adding a few coals to the burning embers by catching my limit of walleyes while my boat mate struggles to catch a fish. I hold back my wit as best I can, knowing not to tempt fate. Well don’t despair. There are things you can do to “change your luck”.

First is trying to determine what “action” is producing the most bites. Subtle shakes or hovers just above bottom might be what is working for your fishing partner or people in other boats around you. A slow drop might be best or quick hop might do the trick. You may even have to let the walleye “chew” a bit this time of year. The harder hits can sometimes be smaller fish with the bigger fish not as ready to engulf your bait. Fish can be moody based on sun, wind, boat traffic and barometric pressure just to name a few variables. Concentrate on your presentation first, then look to more options if your catch rate doesn’t increase.

Second, try changing jig color, weight or even go to something with a plain hook. I’ve always got some Lindy rigs ready to go for just that reason. This is a great option for light biting fish. For use in the river I keep the snel quite short, just 6 - 8 inches from the weight. Another set up I’ve done well with is a “drop shot” rig. Basically it is a hook tied on the line a specific length above a split shot or even a jig. Use a palomar knot to tie the hook on the line and leave plenty of “tag end” for the jig or weight. In some situations I’ve use a small bell sinker held on the line by a tiny split shot. This is a situation when anglers should bulk up their line a bit and go to 8 - 10 pound test, especially if using a two hook option with a jig as the bottom weight. One advantage to this rig is, at times, the fish will be very specific as to what hook they hit. Truth is, sometimes the walleye WANT to hit stuff up off the bottom a few inches. That is why I always make sure to use the hovering presentation I mentioned earlier. It’s a tactic taught to me by one of the best jig fishermen that ever lived. Not only does it present the bait in what is often a preferred strike zone, but it keeps the hook off the bottom and out of some of the snaggier areas. As with anything, it doesn’t always work, but there are times when it’s the best way to catch the fish.

Don’t forget to consider your selection of minnow size or bait. Sometimes a curly tail or “hair” jig is what is needed to produce a more aggressive strike. Sometimes a small piece of night crawler is what you need and if you’re lucky, you might have a few “Fat & Sassy” leeches left over in the bedding box. Sometimes the smaller minnows in the bucket are best and sometimes it’s the biggest shiner in the pail that is what you need. If available, I always bring both fat heads and shiners. Believe me, sometimes there is a major preference. GULP can also be the preferred bait, especially in situations where the fish want a more aggressive jigging action. I’ve fished in groups of boats all s l o w l y working the bottom in ultra cold water, switched to GULP and an aggressive “hop”, and lit up the place.

Another overlooked method that can greatly improve your catch rate is to switch rods. I have three jig rods in my boat just for this reason. Believe it or not, there is a big difference in the feel of a 6 foot jig rod and one that is 6 1/2 feet long. If I’m up on the bow controlling the boat I prefer my 6 foot “medium-fast” Fenwick Techna from Berkley. It’s very light and made form the same material bullet proof vests are made of. I use a small light weight reel to maximize feel. I like the 6 foot size but know of highly accomplished anglers who use 5’9” rods for their light weight jigging. When I get to the Wisconsin River where I use a bit heavier jigs, I like my 6 1/2 foot “medium-fast” Techna better. The longer rod allows for a longer hook set which can make a difference in the heavier current or when pitching the drop offs and eddie currents. I also like the longer rod when I’m in the back of the boat, which can waggle more then the front when drifting in the wind and current common in fall fishing. The term “medium-fast” is the action of the rod. Medium as far as over all weight and strength and “fast” for the action of the rod tip. Meaning a fast transition to power. A medium “light” rod would have the same ability to handle the fight but have a much softer tip, or transition to power. The third rod I have in my box is 6’3” “medium-light” Fenwick HMG/AV which has a much softer tip then the Techna’s. The softer tip can be good for two reasons. Sometimes it can help accentuate the hit, especially for those not as practiced or who don’t like to finger the line while jigging. It can also be a benefit when you have to give the fish time to completely grab the minnow. When in a negative mood, a walleye will pick up your bait and drop it at the first sign of pressure. The stiff rod tip of the Techna doesn’t allow for as much “play” as a rod with a light action tip. Wait too long or try to quickly, and it’s back to the boat for another minnow. With the right rod, the experienced angler can feel for the right amount of pressure and apply the hook set. Sometimes, that can make all the difference in the world.

Of course, luck gets a certain amount of credit in my boat and some days every dog just has a little more sunshine on his hat. I’ve experience both ends of that myself. But, with plenty of good fishing on the horizon, the chance to turn the worm is just the next fishing trip away. Crappie, white bass and walleye are biting well on the Wolf River. Walleye action is very good all over Wisconsin’s River Country’s, so get out and enjoy some of the best fishing of the year.

For more information on topics such as this and the areas great fall fishing, make sure to check out Doc’s Wolf River Country.Com Joel “Doc” Kunz is a freelance outdoor writer / photographer published weekly by Outdoor Gazette. His work is also seen in many other Wisconsin and Midwest publications. He is a recent READERS CHOICE award winner and a member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. His is a Pro Team member of Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Motorguide & Lindy Little Joe.


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