Fishy Facts: Smallmouth Bass

You all remember that one younger kid on the playground, that no matter how hard they tried they could not get out of the shadow of their “big brother”? Yeah. Sometimes I wonder if that is how smallmouth bass feel when compared to largemouth bass. Think about it, largemouth bass has made modern fishing tournaments what it is. Look at any associate’s polo at your local Bass Pro Shops and that is definitely not a smallmouth embroidered on their shirt. So what’s the deal? Are they not as good as the largemouth? Does everyone expect the smallmouth to go to community college while the largemouth gets in on a full ride scholarship? Nay says I! The smallmouth bass is one of the most fun fish to catch and should be respected just as much as the largemouth bass. So that’s why this month it is the star of our Fishy Facts blog.

The smallmouth bass is a freshwater fish, considered a member of the sunfish family. Its true home is with the other black basses (including the largemouth). They are a prized sport-fish due to their strength and intriguing patterns. They can grow up to 27 inches and weight close to 12 pounds.

Because many anglers enjoy these fish, they have been stocked in non-native areas for game. Anglers have many nicknames for these fish including: smallmouth, smallie, bareback bass, brown bass, bronzeback, brownie and bronze bass. These fish are usually brown with red eyes, an upper jaw that extends to the middle of the eye and has dark vertical bands.

These fish prefer clearer waters than the largemouth live in. The kinds of water they live in can actually have an effect on their coloring or shape. In rivers they tend to be darker and more narrow while in sandy water areas these fish can be more yellow in color. They can stand cooler waters than the largemouth, but are more sensitive to changes. These fish can be affected easily by pollution and are a standard species monitored when checking the health of an ecosystem.

These fish are carnivorous and like to eat smaller fish, crayfish and insects. Fishing for smallmouth bass has a range of techniques. Almost anything can serve as a good lure, just keep it moving. Smallmouth bass tend to chase their prey rather than ambush them. But don’t retrieve your bait too quickly as it can tire the fish and turn them off. Fly-fishing for these feisty fish is growing in popularity and is quite fun.

Now just to clarify a statement at the beginning, smallmouth bass are sometimes allowed in the creel for professional tournaments. But they do not nearly get as much publicity from these kinds of events that the largemouth bass will.

While they are edible, think about if you really want to keep one. It is not that they are vulnerable as a species but always consider catch and release. As long as you got a picture with your prize, it might not need to end up on your dinner plate.

“Catch” ya later! Speaking of catch, look at what our very own Cole caught himself a while back!


Former Finned-Friends:


Northern Pike

Rainbow Trout

Largemouth Bass

Peacock Bass






Bull Shark



Fall Walleye Fishing

Fishing for small fish like crappie and sunfish might be fun for the kids but sometimes having a little adult fishing is just what is needed. This is where fishing for walleye comes into play. These fish grow large in the temperate waterways and lakes here locally, and are great fish to fight on a line. But the best thing about walleye is definitely their meat. This firm, white and mild tasting meat is perfect for everything from a fillet to a grilled medallion. Here are some tips and tricks for catching the walleye of the year.

The first thing many people who fish for walleye will notice is their mouth full of teeth, this is due to their place as one of the apex predators in the waters. On the other hand there is another feature of the walleye that fishermen need to look at in order to get a sense of how they hunt. This is the eyes, walleye have big and often times oversized looking eyes. Given this fact walleye are very susceptible to changes in light, particularly increases in light. So when fishing for walleye it is good to time the day around what fish you are looking for. If you are spending the entire day on the water fishing, try out walleye fishing in the early morning, in the evenings, on cloudy days, or days when wind puts chop in the water. During other times of day, or when the conditions are not right it is probably safe to try catching other fish in the area. When the light is right or the conditions are right for walleye fishing it is often a good idea to use a Strike King® Pro-Model® Walleye Crankbait, throwing this bait across an area with a lot of bait fish and cranking it steadily will give the action that the walleye can’t resist giving a rapid strike.

Strike King

Another solution to getting the walleye to bite is to simply go trolling with a specific rig set up for walleye. This is usually a crankbait or a bottom bouncer with a live night crawler or minnow strung through the hooks. A good crankbait for this is the Bass Pro Shops® XPS® Nitro Shad Dancer Crankbait, this lure has the shine of a shad while also having the action of an injured shad. This along with a wiggling minnow or night crawler in the hooks will be irresistible to the walleye in the direct area.

Nitro Shad

If trolling is not the best thing for a fisherman then using the wind to propel the boat through the water is another idea for the new walleye fisherman. While the wind is pushing the boat drop a jig along the bottom for the walleye to get a shot at. One of the jigs of choice would be the ERC Jig-A-Beast Swim Jig, accept remove the minnow attachment on the bottom and replace it by running the hook through a Bass Pro Shops Double-Dipped Tube. This combination is great for getting the action the walleye are looking for in the choppy water during the day.


Being out on the lake during the fall is always a great experience no matter what the occasion is. Making this experience more fun by adding a fun fishing trip with big fish and a catch that might just bite you back is always a plus. Not to mention that once the walleye are caught they make one of the best meals where fish are concerned. We hope these tips and tricks have been helpful in catching these great fish! MMake sure to check out anothe blog post, "How Weather Patterns Affect Fishing here: As always happy hunting and good luck! 


What's a Planer Board?

By: Jerry Costabile

Planer boards have been a part of many anglers arsenal for a long time. Salmon and trout anglers have been using boards for many years on the Great Lakes. Planer boards do so many good things when a trolling presentation is called for. They enable an angler to get lines and baits out away from the boat, which prevents spooking the fish. Boards can be used with all types of line presentations; mono, braid, wire, copper, lead core. They all are used in today’s fishing, and boards help anglers expand their trolling spread.

 Boards also make it so much easier to get multiple lines in the water. We can experiment with different colors, running depths, and shapes. This helps us determine what the fish are looking for on that particular day. No doubt about it, planer boards will help us catch more walleyes and salmon and trout.

 But, more and more we're learning that planer boards will help us catch other species of fish, fish that we probably wouldn't have caught without the use of boards. Anglers in some areas are learning that perch are very susceptible to a lure behind a board. So are white bass and striped bass in the regions where striped bass live.

I have a friend who put in a good amount of time chasing crappies with planer boards. In many of the lakes that he fishes, the crappies suspend. Sometimes they're eight feet down over twenty feet of water, and they're relating to baitfish. They're very spread out and it would take a lot of time to find them by casting. You can cover much more water by trolling, but if you troll over the top of them when they're only a few feet down, you spook them. By using planer boards and getting the bait away from the boat, you catch them instead of spook them.

Same thing is true for white bass. In some lakes in the summer, anglers watch for the gulls to start diving at shad on the surface. The shad are on the surface because the white bass are feeding on them there. When you see the gulls, you hurry to the spot and start casting. With boards however, you don't need to wait for the gulls, you just keep trolling searching for the bass. Very, very effective way to catch them! That Hornet does a great job on white bass also.

 There are several manufactures of planer boards and they all do what they are designed for, catching fish. There are different sizes for different applications, from mini’s to magnum’s.

In fishing, much of the time tools are created for one thing and we find they work equally well, even better sometimes, for something else. Planer boards are one of those tools. If you want to catch more fish more of the time, make planer boards part of your fishing arsenal.






Grades are In and the Grade is a Z8!

By: Andrew D. Buss

Every moment on the water, and before every cast, I assess the potential for success in regards to water depth, clarity, structure, lure selection, and countless other factors. On top of being a competitive angler, my day job is to teach middle school students reading and writing. Again, assessment is my job. A theme in the classroom is I do not give grades, rather, students earn grades. Today I have a grade to share with you: the 2014 Nitro Z8 earns an A+.

She arrived Memorial Day weekend with a number of accessories: Mercury Pro XS 250, Humminbird 1199, Humminbird 999, Minn Kota Fortrex 112, a pair of 12 foot Minn Kota Talons, Hot Foot, and a Loc-R-Bar. During these short months, I have put it all to the test by beating the snot out of it. Wear and tear from small Northern Indiana inland lakes is admittedly minimal, but throw in several hundred miles on Lake Michigan, two weeks on Minnesota’s 112,000 acre Leech Lake, and a week on New York’s 254,000 acre Lake Champlain has officially broken her in.


One look at the EL20A color scheme and one must admit she brings sexy to bass boats. It took only a few weeks to lose count on how many comments I received from non-fishermen: thumbs up from passersby, admirers at convenience stores, even people at stop lights rolling down their window to express their admiration. The artists at Nitro earned their paycheck.

My previous boat was a 20 foot Skeeter. Before that, I owned a 19 foot Triton. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the Z8’s performance compared with the Skeeter, but I was wrong. My first time on the water was with fellow angler Steve Prange, who is a long time Ranger owner. He had ample experience in my Skeeter and a 2013 Ranger. As we broke the motor in, he was the first to exclaim the Z8’s ride, hole shot, top speed, and ease of performance surpasses any boat he has ridden. On top of that, his admiration of the sheer size - seating and casting space - was equally as flattering.

The first real test came on southern Lake Michigan in early June. Weather forecasters had predicted five mile per hour winds out of the south. They were wrong. Instead flags were flat as a pancake with winds out of the north. This did not stop me from venturing out, and after a few miles, waves between 6-8 feet high battered the Z8 and I. Spray saturated me and dropping down several feet between waves jolted my body, but the boat was not impressed. She rode through the waves with ease.


During the Lake Michigan Big Bass Bash in late June, fish were hard to come by. As a result I ran nearly 120 miles across the lake in search of cooperating fish. My persistence paid off with a top 5 finish, but the success belongs to the Z8. Never before was running that kind of mileage an option for me. At the end of the day, the 68 gallon tank was only half empty.

Immediately from this tournament I headed to Leech Lake in northern Minnesota for vacation. Out of character for June, we were bombarded with stiff winds for nearly our entire stay. Not a problem. Despite consistent four and five foot waves, we were able to navigate safely across the entire lake. We drifted for walleye amongst the waves and ran 20 miles to protected bays to chase musky and bass.

Finally, participating in the B.A.S.S. Northern Open on Lake Champlain is a daunting and intimidating experience. Champlain is ranked #10 as the roughest body of water in America by Bassmaster Magazine. The sheer size is astonishing, but add persistent strong winds and waves ranging from four to eight feet in height, well, now it’s not just a matter of catching fish, but survival. Thanks to the Z8, neither were ever concerns. The Humminbird electronics and Fortrex trolling motor allowed me to locate schools of smallmouth bass to finish 23 out of a field of 180, while the Mercury was reliable, and the boat kept me in control and safe. During day one of competition, over 20 teams returned late due to the waves, but not me.

If you are serious about your boating or fishing, line yourself up with the best. Line yourself up with Nitro.


To Good To Be True! The Savage 3D Trout Swim Bait

Are you looking for the perfect bait? Well look no further than the Savage Gear 3D Trout Swim Bait.

The 3D trout swim bait comes in 5",7", & 8". Its comes in two colors, a light and dark trout. The light colored trout is good for early spring when the water is clearer. The dark colored trout is great to use in the summer & fall when the water is a darker color. The swim bait has 3D technology, which gives the bait a life-like presentation when going through the water. It also has the perfect trout-like appearance. The 3D swim bait comes with quality hooks. The lure has a slot for a glass rattle. This slot comes in handy for when you're reeling in your bait. The tail will make a rattling sound that will attract the fish. With a price range of $6.99 - $12.99 its the perfect price for great bait. This trout swim bait is the perfect bait for Bass, Pike, Wiper, Walleye & more!


Colorado Walleye Fever

The Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic ended today. I had the opportunity to meet a ton of great people and was blessed to give a few seminars at both the Denver and Colorado Springs stores. For those of you who braved the weather the first couple weekends I would like to give you a thumbs up and just say "Thank You" for visiting us at both locations.

One of my seminars was titled Jerk Baits "the night bite". I have given this in the past and it is a type of fishing that I lose sleep over and over again and again. With the full moon rising up from the East I thought I need to be out tonight. I was out last night with a few friends and after a long weekend at the Bass Pro Shops my body was telling me to take a break.

I did however manage to get out more than a few time as the Spring classic was going on. I tell folks that if you have never been out during the full moon phases starting in February thru December you could be missing out on a photo fish of a lifetime here in Colorado. I get out as much as I can this time of year and yes, I throw Jerk baits. Bass Pro XPS Nitro Minnows, Smithwick rattlin' rogues both in suspending versions are my lures of choice. I like a clown color and a black gold orange belly color. Firetiger and chartreuse are good to have in your arsenal also.

The key to fishing at night and being successful is to do your homework before the sun goes down and find a rocky point  that will allow you to cast parallel to the shore. The walleye like rocks to spawn on and are very active when the sun goes down. The full moon triggers them to move up. I like to make a long cast and try a slow retrieve mix in a few small twitches or a jerk - jerk pause and just let the bait sit there up to thirty seconds and jerk it down again keeping the same cadence all the way back to shore. When the fish hit it on the pause you feel a tick in the reel when they hit the slow steady retrieve they crush it. Set the hook.

Any body of water that has walleyes and saugeyes in it will produce if you put your time in. The smaller bodies of water heat up earlier and produce first then the bigger deeper reservoirs follow. You can always catch walleyes at night but early spring and late fall can produce giants.

Last week when I was giving my seminar on the night bite I told the folks I had been out catching walleyes already but I haven't landed anything worth a" CPR" Catch, Photo and Release picture yet and I hoped it would happen during the full moon phase. I went out a few days ago dressed for the wind and cold temps. I had to remember to put new batteries in my headlamp and after many No's from some of my diehard night fishing buddies I had a taker and we headed out to the reservoir at 1 am.

I worked the rocks pretty good and I finally hooked a nice one only to lose her in a bush close to shore. It didn't break my spirits but I wanted to land her since she felt heavy. I always wonder how they can manage to pull free from three treble hooks in a jerk bait but they do. It was a good hour later when I felt the tick and set the hook on the32' walleye big walleyereviving walleyereleasing walleye biggest walleye I have caught to date so far. This fish fought good and I knew she was a giant when she came to the surface. I had truly been blessed with this fish a 32'' fatty.

I always dream of a fish like this one and finally it was on the end of my line. I practice what I preach and after a few photos I gave her a kiss and let her go so someone else can have the same opportunity I just had. I wanted to share some photos with all of you and to let you know that there are giant walleyes in Colorado. 

Give it a try. that feelings and thoughts you have after you catch a few isn't a's just Colorado walleye fever.

                                                                                     Best of Luck,

                                                                                                            Sam Heckman / Pro Staff






A Classic Sign of Spring

A Classic Sign of spring

By: Jerry Costabile

On February 28th, the weather here in the Midwest will start to get warmer, even if it’s cold outside. From February 28th until March 16th, the Gurnee, Illinois Bass Pro Shops will be having their annual “Spring Classic”. This is the start of spring for many of us fishermen and fisherwomen. This the time to forget about the cold and snow that we have been battling all winter and get inside the store where the air is filled with fishing!

It starts with the very big sales ad, 44 pages! I can’t believe the great pricing and unbelievable deals that are going to be featured from front to back. From lures to Tracker Boats, there is something for everyone! The promotions are first class from BASSMASTER University, Daily specials on March 7th & 8th and 14th $ 15th, also, The Next Generation weekend for the kids on March 15th & 16th. Check this out, from February 28th until March 5th you will be able to trade in your old reel and get up to $100 off of the purchase of a new reel and from March 7th until March 11th, you can get the same deal with your old rods! All of the trade in rods and reels are donated to charities and youth groups and organizations. If you need a way to justify buying a new rod and reel, here you go, tell them it’s for a good cause!

There will be seminars every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the Classic. Speakers from pro fishermen talking about fishing for bass, muskies, salmon, walleyes and more! There will be fried fish sampling on March 8th, and if you are in the market for new fishing electronics, you won’t believe this, buy a qualifying unit and you will get the following: First, Triple Rewards Points, second, FREE Standard Power Pros Accessory Installation, and third, a FREE three year Gear Guard Protection Plan! This includes Lowrance, Hummingbird, Garmin, Motorguide, and Minn Kota. Plus, between March 6th and 12th, you can receive up to $100 in Bass Pro Shops Bonus Bucks!

If you are in the market for a 9.9 motor, for the Classic you can get a Mercury 9.9 FourStroke motor and receive an additional $500 after special price reduction or get a $500 Bass Pro Shops Gift Card!

If you need to forget about winter and get into spring, come out to the 2014 Spring Classic and experience the biggest fishing event ever!


Spring Fishing with Flicker Shad


With warmer weather rolling in Walleye anglers are hitting the water and the new Berkley Flicker Shad is helping them catch more fish.  The Flicker Shad is a minnow imitating lure that can be cast or trolled.  Trolling is by far the most popular technique for Walleye fishermen when using the Flicker Shad.  The bait has a tight, subtle action that is very effective with the cooler water temperatures now in the area.  These baits also have rattles, and many of the color patterns that are standard are perfect Walleye colors.   Bass Pro Shops has four sizes and a very large selection of colors to choose from, 11 of these colors are Bass Pro Shops exclusives selected by Walleye pro Gary Parsons. 

berkley flikr shad


Studies have shown Walleye will target small Shad even if they have larger forage available.  Therefore, this has made the Flicker Shad one of the most productive baits of our time.  With top of the line components you get a bait that will run correctly out of the package,  featuring strong hook attatchments and a wide range of colors.   On sale now for $3.97, and continuing through the Spring Fishing Classic,  plus an additional rebate available from Berkley, make the Flicker Shad a must have lure for springtime fishing.  Stop by our Fishing Department and see one of our dedicated Associates to help you stock up on all your Walleye Fishing needs.



Additional information on the colors and sizes available in the Flicker Shad, as well as all of the details on the many Berkley rebates, can be found at, or by calling us at the Sevierville, TN location.  We look forward to seeing you during our upcoming Spring Fishing Classic, February 28 – March 16.

flikr shad



Good fishing,


Jonathan Dyke

Fishing Team Lead


Walleyes in Skinny Water

By Chris Grocholski
Fishing Lead
Bass Pro Shops Altoona

Growing up in northeast Iowa, I was faced with no lakes, or any big water for that matter, to fish. What we had were small rivers to spend our days fishing in. Small towns, like Elkader, Eldorado, and Clermont, and small rivers, like the Turkey, Volga, and the Cedar Rivers, provided lots of opportunities to catch walleyes while wading down the river or in a small boat.  Many summer days were spent with a zip lock bag full of 4” plastic worms/grubs, a small tackle box full of jigheads, and occasionally a small crankbait

What makes these rivers such a challenge and also rewarding? The rivers are never the same from year to year.  When the snow starts to melt, and the spring rains come, so does flooding and many instances of major flooding. Many times, this will change the complete look of a small river and, in some cases, completely change the river's course!

Places/Things to Look For

Some of the easiest places to look for, when trying to catch walleye in smaller rivers, are bridges and dams. Most likely, those are going to have the deepest water available for fish for quite some distance and the fish will tend to congregate there. However, keep in mind that “deeper” might only be 2 or 3 feet deeper. 

If you are on a particular river that does not have any dams or bridges, the next areas that you should be looking for are places that have sharp bends in the river. A bend will usually have an area close to the shore that has significantly more water than the rest of the area. Currents hitting the bank causes the bank to have a steep drop and any sediment coming up stream does not have a chance to Chris Grocholskisettle. Depending on the amount of current, these areas may be as long as a half mile or can be as small as just a few feet, but all have the potential of holding walleye. This picture of me holding a nice 17-inch walleye came on a bend area that was no more than five or six feet wide, and about 15-feet long, but the fish was in five feet of water, and I was standing in about one foot of water.

Another area that I like to concentrate on are rip rap shore lines and steep rock facings with any current on them. The big key to what I look for is water depth of five feet or, again, the deepest water available. If the shore has any irregularities to it, that is definitely a bonus as well...things like indentations, points, a change in rock type, etc. Anything that will divert current will have a good chance to hold fish; the stronger the current the better, because those irregularities are almost a guarantee to hold fish and will cause a larger eddy with the more current in the area.

What Baits?

My #1 choice for walleye in smaller rivers is a combination of 4” ring worm and a jighead. However, things like three- or four-inch Chris Grocholskitwister tails, small shad body baits, and even a fluke-style minnow are all good choices as well. I also, on occasion, will choose a suspending Rapala stick minnow or also a small vibrating rattle trap-style bait, as well. Jighead weights will be from a 1/16 to a 3/16 oz., but most occasions will call for the 1/8 oz. The key to jighead selection is to keep it the smallest that you can get away with, to make the bait look the most natural, but at the same time keeping in close contact to the bottom. I will sometimes go up a lure size to make a change in the way the bait looks in  the water, but not even change the jighead size, for example. Switching from a smaller 3 inch twister tail grub to a 5 inch grub will give your bait a bit more buoyancy in the water and also a bigger profile. This is a go-to presentation in the fall when fish are looking for a larger meal going into the winter season.

Questions? Please post them here or on our Facebook page and I will answer them!  Don't forget about the Spring Fishing Classic Local Tips and Seminars sessions on March 8 and 9! We'll be on hand to answer questions then, too!


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The Spring Fishing Classic 2014 Seminar Schedule!

Please join us for the Spring Fishing Classic 2014!

******     February 28 - March 16  -  It's 3 weeks of fun/education and yes, even sales!     ******


On Friday, Feb 28, we'll have 3 (count them THREE) National Pros with seminars!
Pros will be in the store 5pm -close (9pm) on the 28th.


Captain Dale Stroschein


Just a handful of the covers in which Capt Dale Strochein has been featured.


Prior to chartering full time and maintaining his resort, Dale fished competitively on the Professional Walleye Trail for 12 years-each year qualifying for the national championship. He was the only angler to hold Big Fish records simultaneously for both the PWT and NAWA circuits.


These represent just a handful of the covers that have featured Captain Dale Strochein!








Casey Scanlon

Casey Scanlon Champion Trophy


Competing since  he was a teen - at age 15 he won his first club tournament! Casey Scanlon went on to plave 1st place in the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Central Open #2

Follow this link to Casey's articles on fishing lowland grass resevoirs.


Casey Scanlon B.A.S.S. numbers







Chase Parsons

Chase Parsons with FLW trophy


Chase boasts a number of Pro Walleye Tour (PWT) top-tens, Rookie of the Year honors in 2005 and a tournament win at Lake Oahe, S.D. in 2011.


Chase Parsons at winning check presentation.

Professional walleye fisherman Chase Parsons is presented with the $50,000 cash prize for winning the FLW National Guard walleye tournament on Lake Oahe in South Dakota.

March  1st & 2nd Seminars


Jim Crowley

Jim Crowley conducting fish tank demonstration at East Peoria Bass Pro Shops.

 We've got Jim Crowely of Hook & Hunt for the entire weekend! You don't want to be late for his 3:00 seminar - he's starting out with a short video of out-takes from his show.

 Jim Crowley, Hook & Hunt





The following Seminar and Tank Demonstrations will be held on both Saturday and Sunday:

11:00 Tank Demo: How to use lures to haul in the big ones.

1:00 Bass Class 101 - The Spring Connection

3:00 Tank Demo: How to use lures to haul in the big ones.


Local Pros Weekend      March 7 - 9

Seminars: Friday 7pm
Saturday and Sunday: Seminars will begin at 11am each day

1st 25 seminar attendees to attend a Saturday or Sunday (3/8 & 3/9) Seminar will receive a SFC tumbler!


March 7  

  7pm Flipping and Pitching for Bass
Saturday   March 8 & 9   
& Sunday     11am Locating Bass in New Waters
  1pm Topwater Techniques for Bass
  2pm Spinning Reel Tactics for Bass
  3pm Does the Color of Your Bass Lure Matter?
  4pm Become a Smallmouth Specialist
  5pm Choosing the Right Soft Plastics for Bass


"Thinking Like a Fish"      Workshops for Kids!  March 15 & 16 at 2:30 & 4:30    




We'll be teaching kids what causes a fish to think like a fish, and that alone, will give them insight to become the best fisher people they can be!

We'll cover topics such as where do they live, what do they eat and where you might best them hanging out.


We'll also cover fishing equipment and safety!


Women's Beginning Fishing  Workshop!      March 15 at 3pm  Jim Crowely conducting seminar at Bass Pro Shops, East Peoria


Join JIM CROWLEY for our new seminar that designed just for the ladies!

We’ll teach you about spin casters and bait casters, fishing line, knots,  lures and worms. The workshop will be followed by a question and answer time. Your instructor will make sure to hang out in the fishing department so he’ll be available in case you want more help before or after the seminar!

Giveaways: 1st 50 seminar attendees to attend will receive a SFC tumbler.
Drawing: Ladyfish spinning rod/reel combo


Jim will also be delivering tank demonstrations on both days!

Join us on Facebook to stay up to date on this and other events.
Bass Pro Shops, East Peoria, IL



From The Shack - Ice Fishing In Alberta

It’s that wonderful time of year where the sidewalks are slippery, pipes are freezing, and everyone is looking forward to the next Chinook in a vain hopeing that the 6 inches of ice on the neighbors sidewalk may actually disappear. BUT, some of us, will be outside, slipping and sliding like goofs to get in a little bit of ice fishing.

My first attempt ice fishing with my father was a bit of a gong show. Neither of us had been ice fishing in years,  I had a vague idea of what was needed. Some form of hook and line (possibly bait if permitted), a rod or tip up (though at the time the only tip– up I remembered using was two pieces of a hockey stick nailed into a cross that fit over the hole) and uneven chairs sitting on the ice, in snow pants, getting cold quite quickly. My dad pulled out a 40 year old hand auger, that he swore drilled through the ice like butter– then again anything is faster than hacking away with an axe right? Well maybe anything with the exception of that old ice auger.  If you’re ever in Bass Pro Shops, Rocky View you can see that auger in our antique display (sometimes they don't make them like they used to for a reason.).

With much trial and error, sometimes forgetting half the gear at home, and after coming away skunked more times then I’d like to admit, we managed to get the hang of it and pulled out a few really nice sized fish.

Things I’ve learned:

· Have a sharp auger– a hand auger will do as long as the blade is sharp. To be fair the 40 year old hand auger drilled through a little over 5 feet of ice in about 5 minutes...Although after the first hole, someone with a gas auger felt sorry for us and came and drilled us a couple holes in mere seconds.

· Research where you’re going– the internet is a plethora of information. If your going somewhere you have never been, a topographic map and hints of where people are catching will always help.

· Look for ice reports!!! I cannot stress this one enough, I always do a little poking around to try and find out ice thickness before I go out. If someone had to belly crawl to get off the ice because it was so thin, you wont catch me anywhere near that lake. 6-12” is usually when I will walk out onto the lake, no amount of fishing is worth falling into the freezing water; keeping a pair of ice picks in your pocket just in case is also highly advisable.

· Test the ice– when you walk out, drill a test hole to see for yourself how thick the ice is. Never drive out unless you’re sure the ice is thick enough: Insurance will not cover your vehicle if it goes through the ice, and you have to pay to get it out (not cheap) and you can be fined just to add monetary injury to your  already insulted ego.  Remember just because you see a small car on the ice does not mean it is thick enough for your truck.

This year the ice froze funny, lots of snow too soon. In a lot of places there’s a good foot of slush on top on the ice,  In some cases flood water, it’s really easy to get stuck and even if you’re walking, falling into the slush means cold ice water in the boots.  To put it into perspective, we got an Argo stuck in the slush (full story upon request)  If that can get stuck, so can your vehicle.


 · Know  The species in the lake, and what you want to target– For perch, small jigs with maggots or meal worms are always the ticket, if you think the hook is small, it’s probably not small enough. Pike– rattle baits, or smelts/minnows. Walleye-jigs with worms/ minnows/small smelt,bucktail jigs. Burbot– jigs with smelts/raw meat/Anything stinky, jigging lures, and my personal preference buzz bombs with a bit of bait. White fish– Wire worms with a couple maggots on hook.. Trout-Small jigging lures or jigs with or without bait.

· Extra clothes– if you fall in, at least you’ll have something dry to change into.

· People food– even if you’re planning to fry up some fish on the ice bring something anyways, just in case you don't catch anything.

· And the last, and my favorite part, take good company. My favorite thing about ice fishing is going out and spending time with my dad.  So go outside, and enjoy winter, because we live in Canada and have plenty of it!!!!!


2014 Spring Fishing Classic at Cincinnati Bass Pro Shops

2014 Spring Fishing Classic

The 2014 Spring Fishing Classic is full of great FREE activities for the whole family, and it will kick off this year on Friday February 28th with our reel trade-in. Bring in a used reel and trade it in for a discount on a new reel from the 28th until March 5th. We will, in turn, donate these trade-ins to local organizations in need of fishing equipment. From March 7th to 11th we will have the same offer for your used rods.

We will also have a sweepstakes that will start on Friday that will give you the chance to win a 2104 Nitro Z7 and a chance to fish with Elite Series Angler Edwin Evers, and this sweepstakes will run from the 28th through March 16th.

We will also have our National Pro Staff members in on Friday night giving FREE seminars and meeting and greeting our customers. At 7pm, Mark Brumbaugh, National Walleye Tour Angler/9-Time Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) Champion will be here to talk about Lake Erie Walleye Fishing. At 8pm, we will welcome Dave Mercer, Host of “Facts of Fishing” TY Show, and Bassmaster Elite Series Emcee who will be giving you the “Facts of Fishing”

The weekend of March 7-9 will bring members of our Pro Staff and local professionals and experts to give a host of FREE workshops. The first 25 people to attend each seminar Saturday and Sunday will receive a Free Fishing Classic Mug (must be 18 or older). Here is the weekend schedule:

Friday March 7

7pm – Flipping and Pitching For Bass

Saturday March 8

11am – Locating Bass In New Waters

1pm – Topwater Techniques for Bass

2pm – Spinning Reel Tactics For Bass

3pm – Does the Color of Your Bass Lure Matter?

4pm – Become a Smallmouth Specialist

5pm – Choosing the Right Soft Plastics for Bass

Sunday March 9

11am – Locating Bass In New Waters

1pm – Topwater Techniques for Bass

2pm – Spinning Reel Tactics for Bass

3pm – Does the Color of Your Bass Lure Matter?

4pm – Become a Smallmouth Specialist

5pm – Choosing the Right Soft Plastics for Bass

The last weekend March 15/16 will be our Next Generation Weekend for the kids, with an added twist of a Women’s Fishing Workshop as well. Here are the Next Generation events we have on tap:

Noon to 5pm: Catch and Release Pond and Free Photo Opportunity – Both Saturday and Sunday

1pm to 4:30pm – Free Wood Fish Craft Magnet – Both Saturday and Sunday

2:30 & 4:30 pm – “Thinking Like a Fish” Kids Workshops – both Saturday and Sunday

3pm – Women’s Beginning Fishing Workshop – Saturday only 

The first 150 kids each day to participate in our activities will receive a free Bass Pro Shops Tackle Box. The first 50 women to attend our Women’s Workshop will receive a FREE Bass Pro Shops Mug



Spring Fishing Classic 2014 Line Up

The world's greatest fishing event is back!

February 28-March 16, 2014

Spring Fishing Classic - Bass Pro Shops Altoona


  • Great savings on the equipment you need!
  • Free seminars from the pros
  • Next Generation Weekend with Catch and Release Pond
  • Free Kids' Fishing Workshop
  • Daily Specials
  • Reel and Rod Trade-Ins
  • Bonus Bucks


First weekend - March 1

Join us to welcome our national pros during Bassmaster University!

1 p.m. - Win Stevens - Missouri B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Angler - Using Your Humminbird Electronics

2. p.m. - Chase Parsons - Host "the Next Bite" TV show and Walleye Tournament Champion - Walleyes 2014

3 p.m. - Casey Scanlon - Bassmaster Elite Series Pro - Jig Fishing

Bassmaster University - Bass Pro Shops Altoona

Second Weekend - March 7, 8 and 9

Local Pro Fishing Tips and Seminars!Bass Pro Shops Altoona Pro Staff - Kary Ray and Lance Baker

March 7 - 7 p.m. - Flipping and Pitching for Bass

March 8 and 9th - (Featuring our Pro Staff Kary Ray and Lance Baker)

11:00 a.m. - Locating Bass in New Waters -  Pro Staff Seminar
1:00 p.m. - Topwater Techniques for Bass
2:00 p.m. - Spinning Reel Tactics for Bass  - Pro Staff Seminar
3:00 p.m. - Does the Color of Your Bass Lure Matter?
4:00 p.m. - Become a Smallmouth Specialist - Pro Staff Seminar
5:00 p.m. - Choosing the Right Soft Plastics for Bass


Third Weekend - March 15 & 16

Free Kids' Fishing Workshop - Bass Pro Shops Altoona

Next Generation Weekend!

  • Noon-5 p.m. Free Catch and Release Pond in our new, larger indoor pond stocked with live fish!
  • Free 4x6 photo with a Keep America Fishing Certificate.
  • 2:30 and 4:30 - Free Kids' Fishing workshops
  • Free Kids' Craft - 1-4:30 p.m. both days - Keepsake magnet fish craft (while supplies last).


Watch for details on specific events and specials in future blogs!


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Fishy Facts: Northern Pike

Hmm… would you look at that? It appears to be Fishy Fact: 30. Which of course means it is time for another fishy fact. This month let us cover one of those toothy bad boys of freshwater: Northern Pike.

The northern pike is an apex predator in their ecosystem. The veracity with which they attack their prey makes them an awesome fighter when hooked. They also grow to relatively large size, which means the bigger the fish the bigger the fight.

The pike got their name due to the resemblance their structure has compared to the pole-weapon commonly used during the Medieval Period. This pointed structured helps them cut through water and they use impressive bursts of speed to run down their prey.

They are usually an olive green with some yellow and white along the belly. They also tend to have a number of dark spots on their bodies. They look a lot like the muskellunge, but have their differences. The northern pike has a number of sensory pores on their head and along the underside of their lower jaw.

Typical prey of the northern pike include: fish, leeches, insects, amphibians, small mammals and even birds. There are pictures of cute little ducklings swimming along as a hungry northern pike salivates below in the water. Pretty accurate, honestly. Northern pike tend to be solitary predators.

Along with being solitary they tend to stay in the same waters. Their homing sense is very strong, and will keep them in the same area for years. They tend to breed in the spring. In summer they stay closer to vegetation than when it is winter.

Typically fishermen will pitch assorted baits and lures in a semi-fast fashion to try and attract the bite from the northern pike. When I was in Canada it was common to switch to pitching for pike instead of jigging for walleye to break the boredom. If we didn’t feel like pitching, it went to trolling. Plugs, jerk baits, inline spinners, soft baits and spoons tend to be the most effective lures used for pike. Many like to use something with some shine that will glint in the water to attract any possible pike nearby. Ice fishing for these large predators is also popular, just be careful being in that close of proximity to something that strong with that many teeth.

Many fishermen will overlook pike as an edible catch. This is due to the high amount of bones in their long, slender bodies. This makes it very hard to get meat off the fish, which is why many do not spend the time cleaning them. If one were to take the time to learn a little trick for cleaning pike they would also learn just how delicious they are. Pike is a common fish consumed in Europe.

Now because pike are as strong and toothy as mentioned above, fishermen either are very careful when handling them or just club them. When I went fishing for them there were two rules, watch the teeth and don’t drop the net. I was able to follow the first rule but may have forgotten the second. In fact, the story of me is dropping the net right after Uncle Scot said not to is one of his favorites. It took us quite the time to get the fish out, but when we finally did it was worth the effort!

Nice, right? PS- Uncle Scot caught that, I just look too cool with my sideburns.

Pikes Picnickin’ with Prickly Pear Paws! Giddy-Up!!

Former Fishy Facts:

Rainbow Trout

Largemouth Bass

Peacock Bass




Tips for Walleye Fishing

Some of the most elusive of fish in a fresh water lake tend to be some of the most tasty and fun to catch. This is very true when fishing for walleye. Knowing the areas where they frequent, their habits, and good rigs for catching them is important to a successful walleye fishing trip.

The first way to increase the chances of catching a walleye is to know their seasonal patterns. During the summer months, walleye tend to stay in areas where the water is cooler and the oxygen levels are higher. This means they tend to hang out in deep pools where tributaries flow into a lake. Another great place to find ‘eyes  in the summertime is just off rocky points where the bottom suddenly drops off into colder and much deeper water.  Remember that summer walleye are somewhat lethargic during the day.  As evening approaches they tend to start moving around more and looking for minnows closer to the surface of the water.

In the fall, walleye tend to be a little shallower in the water column and will usually position themselves just off weed beds where they hunt for minnows. They are still mostly active during the evening and night hours.

When spring rolls around, walleye tend to be in river currents or along the shore where they will spawn in sand beds. Pre-spawn they will hang a little deeper, while post-spawn walleye will stay around these areas to protect their eggs. This protective instinct makes them excessively aggressive and very fun to fish.

Summer can be one of the hardest times to catch walleye. A good way to get down deep to the walleye with a jig is to use a three way swivel. To the first swivel, attach your lead line. From the next swivel, attach a 1/16oz lead weight on a few inches of line. From the final swivel, attach about 3 feet of line then either a jig or a Rapala brand minnow. A bait that works well for this is the Rapala Original Floating Minnow. This has the action for this rig and works very well. A great way to use this rig is to throw it over a school of bait fish and aggressively reel it across the school. It is alright to troll over the school once or twice but after that the action of the boat will scare the walleye and they will stop feeding. In the spring, an effective way to run a walleye rig is to take a 1/16oz lead weight 2 to 3 feet up from where the bait is tied on. Hold the lead weight in place with a split shot. Then a great lure to use is the Rapala Husky Jerk Minnow. You can use the same technique as summer. To get the best result, throw over a spawning area and rapidly retrieve to get good solid strikes on the lures.

Husky Jerk

The search for walleye is always hard but the results of a successful fishing trip is one of the best tasting fish of all time. While knowing the areas where the walleye are usually located, the best baits and the techniques that work a fishing trip for walleye oftentimes becomes a fishing trip for whatever can be caught. Get everthing you need at Bass Pro Shops to catch walleye! As always, good luck and happy fishing!



American Gizzard Shad in Fox Chain O' Lakes

American Gizzard Shad in Fox Chain O’ Lakes

Gizzard shad are native to central and eastern United States mainly in warm low gradient rivers and streams as well as reservoirs, lakes and ponds. Shad are filter feeders; they prefer warm nutrient rich waters. Their range is temperature limited. Die offs usually occur when the water temperature drops below 37oF. Shad can extend their range during a string of warm years; the Illinois DNR collected its first sample of gizzard shad in the Fox Chain O’ Lakes in 2007. These shad migrated up the Fox River over fish ladders and dams in order to make it to the Chain.  Lakes that receive flood waters from the Des Plaines River can also have them.

The gizzard shad is a deep bodied fish that is laterally compressed (nearly flat when lying on their side). The dorsal fin has 10 to 12 rays and the last one extends back towards a deeply forked tail. The gizzard shad has silvery blue-green to gray coloration on its back and the sides are silvery with no lateral line. The mouth is small, with the lower jaw slightly shorter than the upper jaw. The mouth does not extend back past the gizzard shad’s large eyes. Like most shad, juveniles and young adults have a dark spot behind the gill plate. This spot is faint or disappears completely in larger, older fish. The belly tapers to a point where the scales fold over forming a saw like appearance.

While most shad live for 3-5 years, some have been documented to live past 10 years. They reach maturity in 2-3 years and females can produce 40,000 to 450,000 eggs. Spawning takes place during the middle of spring to early summer and usually occurs in the evening. The preferred spawning temperature is between 60oF and 70oF.  Male and female shad congregate along the shallow sandy or gravel areas where eggs are released and fertilized. Once the eggs hatch they are on their own since there is no parental care from the parents. The success of the shad fry correlates with the abundance of zooplankton along with stable water level and warmer temperatures.    Drastic changes in water level and temperature can decrease the survival rate of the fry. Once they reach the juvenile stage, they grow rapidly by feeding mostly on phytoplankton and zooplankton. At this stage they develop a gizzard and begin filter feeding for food. Sediment and sand are also ingested by the gizzard shad that helps it to digest food in its muscular gizzard; this is where the fish got its name.

Fishermen on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes have been seeing large schools of shad swimming in the shallow weedy bays. While they are rarely caught with the traditional hook and line, most anglers inadvertently snag shad with their hook or lure while targeting game fish. Gizzard shad provide an abundant food source for bass and walleye, but they may compete with bluegill, crappies and other young of the year game-fish for food. Shad have rapid growth rates, often growing to 5.5 inches in length during their first year. This provides a smaller window of opportunity for bass and walleyes which are gape limited and can only feed effectively on shad up to 6”. The lakes and rivers in southern states have an over abundance of adult shad measuring 8” or larger due to lack of predators. Fortunately, the Chain has a healthy population of muskies, which are capable of feeding on adult shad. Muskies have benefited from this new food source which is not only abundant but it’s easier for them to catch than bluegills and perch. The less energy a fish spend chasing its prey the more energy it saves on growing.

Muskie appears to have gained between 1 and 2 pounds per fish since gizzard shad showed up.  Males are about 1 pound heavier and females are about 2 pounds heavier for older mature fish.  A 45" female musky in 2006 weighed about 27.7 pounds and a 45" female in 2012 weighed about 29.9 pounds.  –Frank Jakubicek, IDNR

Gizzard shad can alter the size and density structure of a fishery. They may stunt the bluegill population through common food competition or by reducing the predation pressure which allows for higher recruitment which leads to stunted population. Bass may grow larger due to having more food available for them to eat but their fry may have to compete for food.  At this point it is hard to predict what the overall outcome of the gizzard shad will be on the fishery. At least for now, it gives fishermen hope that the shad will help produce record size game fish in the Fox Chain O’ Lakes in the near future.








Musky Bite Is On!



Every time I leave the launch on Lake St Clair, I can’t stop to wonder why more people don’t take advantage of Great Lakes largest predator.  St Clair’s enormous ecosystem produces trophies that would put the most experienced anglers in awe. Yet, the fishing pressure is unbelievably lite. I’ve been fortunate to be able to spend the past twenty years decoding the annual patterns these fish follow.


Trolling for Musky is a high demand sport that requires a run and gun approach. To be proficient you must be able to adapt with the changing conditions. The fish are ambush predators which feed where there next meal hangs out. Finding their forage will certainly put you one step closer to your quarry.


The flowing waters of the St Clair River have carved a very unique under water landscape. The swirling currents have created large flats with sporadic points and slight drops which ultimately descend to the channel that divides the US and Canada.


A GPS incorporated with Navionics is by far the most important piece of equipment for a musky hunter. I’ve found that if I’m marking forage fish in the top half of the water column, their on the feed. This situation will have the predators on the move as well. Marking these areas and trolling thru in different directions will produce fish which are on the hunt. Thru-out time you will create a database for future use.



Early in the season the immense weed beds are beat down from the long winter and have just begun to regrow. The Musky are in the post spawn and hungry. The majority of their diet consists of sheep head, smallmouth, walleye, perch and any other creature that swims. These weary fish congregate on the breaks where the weeds and cover are thickest.


As the summer progresses the underwater weeds can literally reach the surface in thirteen to sixteen feet of water, limiting the area that can be trolled effectively. Luckily, musky have a bad habit of hunting the edges of the lush green under water forests and the channels that dissect the 275,000 acre body of water


Understanding wind direction in correlation with lake currents will keep your lines free from floating weeds which have been torn from their roots from wind, weather, and props. This important factor will determine where you may fish on any given day.


A variety of lures are needed to cover a muskies vast environment. Running multiple lines with large offerings requires lures that track well at fast speeds and others that can handle the turbulent prop wash. I’ve found that on my boat ten rods work well, but at times, I’ll only run six when floating weeds create issues.



Every rod on the boat suits a purpose. In good conditions,  each side of my rig consists of  three lines running off big plainer boards, one down rod out the side, and one in the prop wash, covering no less than 40 yards of water at any time and up to a hundred when conditions allow. The goal is to cover as much ground as possible, literally raking large expanses of water.    


Recently I had the opportunity to field test a few new lure designs produced by Bass Pro Shops. The XPS Deal Sealer Buck Tail has a two blade design which helps slice and clear unwanted weeds. The bait has an ounce of lead incorporated in the design that helps keep them down at high speeds.


Running the buck tails off the plainer boards with a four ounce inline weight and a five foot leader proved to be a lethal tactic for pulling fish out of the foliage that nearly reaches the surface. These musky magnets will draw fish right in the wash as well. The only modification is using a heavier weight to help get the attractive offering into the strike zone.


The second lure was the Off Shore saltwater Down Under. These deep diving crank baits track extremely well at any speed and can be used to reach any depth needed. They can be run off the boards letting the amount of line out dictate how deep they run.



The Down Under is a solid lure that adapts to any position on the boat, Weather it’s in the prop wash, on the planers, or on the outside rods. They dredge with powerful Accuracy pulling any hungry or inquisitive fish right to their capture in the net.


When the crank bait bite is on, the Rapala Super Shad Rap series is a go to lure as well.  Muskellunge have a hard time resisting this well-built lure. They track well in any rod holder, and really put fish on deck. Every trip I have several ripping through the water behind the boards.



Years of caught fish and marked way-points have created my map to success but running the right lures, with the right presentation, in the right location, can put anyone on the fish. Lake St Clair at this point in time, has the healthiest population of Musky that I have seen in the last twenty years. If musky intrigue you, now is the time to enter the sport!


Dave Lee

Bass Pro Hunting Staff


Bust a Rap’ Scatter Style!

And by Rap’ I mean a Rapala of course. And by bust I mean cast. And by scatter style I mean their new line of Scatter Rap baits. So maybe in retrospect (great word) I could have titled this blog differently, but eh.

If you haven’t seen anything about these bad boys yet, start like I did with their commercial.

If that commercial had its own Facebook page… I’d like it.

Anyways that commercial wasn’t too far from the truth. We had a similar experience when we got our very first shipment of these baits in-store. (We do a better job of securing our taxidermy though so they could not be used as weaponry… corporate policy.)

What is the big deal though? They look like pretty much every other bait out there. Just maybe a little bit of a different lip? Well that little difference goes a long way in changing how the baits swim. That curved lip gives the lures a zigzag pattern.

As fishermen know, fish get used to the same presentation after time. Just look at a pro-fisherman’s boat, they have an arsenal of fishing poles rigged up to rival any action movie’s armory-suit up scene! This change in retrieval pattern is sure to surprise and entice some of those stubborn lock-jawed fish.

Now these baits come in four different styles: shad, minnow, crank and countdown. They come in a variety of colors/patterns and depths. (I’m sure Kerry will be picking up some in that blue/chrome color he loves so much.)

I know some of you will probably just wait for another company to start making similar baits, but Fun Fact #1627 there is a patent pending on this innovation so don’t count on seeing it anywhere else anytime soon.

So whether it is a lunker largemouth or wise-old walleye that you just haven’t been able to net, try throwing one of these Scatter Raps at them. It may be the simple switch that will get you the catch of your life. Corn-Huskin’ Coyotes! Giddy-Up!

Looking for a little more in-depth explanation of this new line of lures? Check out their infomercial here.


Savoring the Moment Forever

There is NOTHING like watching a child catch a fish for the first time...and there's nothing quite like bringing in a monster fish for the first time.First Largemouth Lately, we've had a many Facebook fans posting their fishing photos...young and old...and we LOVE it! 

Did you know you can keep that excitement going with a little recognition through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources? The Iowa DNR has two great programs to encourage new young anglers and recognize the fishermen and women who catch the big ones!

First Fish

The First Fish Program lets kids get a big "hooray" from the DNR for their first fish!  They'll receive a certificate with the fish details and a photo on it (photo provided by you). Check out some of the recent First Fish celebrants at

Lance Queck - Master Angler - 27" Freshwater Drum - Spirit Lake, iowa

Master Angler

The DNR also recognizes the big memorable catches in Iowa through the Master Angler Program. The fish can be released and still qualify, but a witness has to verify the size of the fish. If it looks like it might be a state record, then a DNR official has to verify it. There are some length stipulations for the more than 40 species that are available.

For more information on the two programs and how to enter your little one's first...or your older one's monster...visit the DNR's web page at

Lance Queck - Master Angler - 27" Freshwater Drum - Spirit Lake, Iowa


Where can you find them and how big do they need to be? (Provided from the Iowa DNR web site)

Largemouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Belva Deer, Keokuk County – use top-water baits close to shore or in shallow water. 
  • Lake Geode, Henry County – use top-water baits in the upper arm and back of coves or crankbaits along the dam and weed lines. 
  • Farm Ponds – about any bass bait will work.   A rubber worm with little weight fished slowly along weed lines are especially effective.  Make sure to get landowner permission before entering. 
  • Lake Sugema, Van Buren County – use crankbaits along jetty, dam and shoreline riprap.  Frog imitation baits fished in and among vegetation is effective. 
  • Diamond Lake, Poweshiek County – use crankbaits or top-waters around brush piles, or rubber worms tossed into structure. 
  • Three Mile Lake, Union County – use a weedless spinner, crawler or jig through the flooded trees. 
  • West Lake Osceola, Clarke County - use a weedless spinner, crawler or jig through the flooded trees.

Channel Catfish (30 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Geode, Henry County – fish in shallow water in the morning or evening using chicken liver under a bobber. Structure also holds fish and drainage areas after a significant rain should be targeted.
  • Lake Belva Deer, Keokuk County – fish the jetties, fish habitat sites and upper end of the lake after a heavy rain.  Use a bobber in the timber and jetties. 
  • Lake of the Hills, Scott County – use shad guts under a bobber to keep the bait above the thermocline.
  • Crawford Pond, Washington County – fish the eastern shoreline and the weed line.
  • Mississippi River Pool 19, Burlington to Keokuk – fish the Burlington Island complex of cuts and side channels, Montrose riprap banks and mouths of small creeks. 
  • Pleasant Creek Lake, Linn County – use cut bait throughout the lake. 
  • Three Mile Lake, Union County – use sunfish or cut bait fished near the bottom during twilight or during the dark, in less than eight feet of water during the hottest of July and August.
  • West Lake Osceola, Clarke County - use sunfish or cut bait fished near the bottom during twilight or during the dark, in less than eight feet of water during the hottest of July and August.
  • Silver Lake, Dickinson County – fish in the evening or after dark with cut bait on the bottom near downed trees.

Sunfish (Bluegills, 10 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Belva Deer, Keokuk County – drift fish with typical bluegill baits above the thermocline.  Target the contour of the creek beds.
  • Lake Geode, Henry County – drift fish and vertical jig the drop-offs. Use dark colored baits when the water is clear or bright colored baits if the water is stained.
  • Farm Ponds – use typical bluegill baits and target weedy or woody habitat. Often a worm and a bobber works best.
  • White Oak and Shagbark ponds, Shimek State Forest, Lee County – use any bluegill baits around structure.
  • Lake Sugema, Van Buren County – move often and target timber areas as well as underwater structure, and drift fishing.
  • Briggs Woods Lake, Hamilton County – use a piece of night crawler on a number 8 hook and fish along the weed line.
  • Yellow Smoke Lake, Crawford County – use a 1/32 ounce to 1/64 ounce black hair jig tipped with a wax worm and fish near submerged trees or just above the thermocline.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – vertical jig with a number 8 hook and split shot over deep rock piles with a leech or crayfish.

Sunfish (Redear, 11 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Anita, Cass County – redear are snail eaters so look for submerged vegetation and use a 1/32 ounce or 1/64 ounce black feather jig.
  • Lake Ahquabi, Warren County - fish near the bottom in open pockets of the dense submerged vegetation, using 1/32 ounce or 1/64 ounce black feather jig. 

Sunfish (Warmouth, 7 inches to qualify)

  • Mississippi River – fish the backwaters and around wing dams and closing structures, riprap and other rocky habitat.
  • Conklin Fish Farm, Cass County – make sure to check closely because warmouth look similar to green sunfish.

Sunfish (Pumpkinseed, 9 inches to qualify)

Smallmouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)

  • Wapsipinicon River, Linn and Jones County – use crankbaits, spinners, twister tails or live crawfish below low head dams through the fall.
  • Des Moines River, Polk County – fish eddies, woody debris and deep holes from Birdland Marina to Saylorville, with jigs, crankbaits and spinners.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – fish deep rock piles with a live bait rig with either chubs or crayfish.

White Bass (17 inches to qualify)

  • Mississippi River Pool 19 - in the late summer white bass like open water and Lake Cooper offers excellent fishing.
  • Pleasant Creek Lake, Linn County – use top-water or subsurface lures and look for jumping shad and fishing seagulls.
  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – use shad colored crankbaits trolled or cast along rocky shorelines, from the Mehaffey Bridge to the dam is best.
  • Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – use a top–water lure at inlet areas, like the footbridge, in early morning or at sunset.  Watch the surface for activity.

Hybrid Striped Bass (Palmetto Bass) (24 inches to qualify)

  • Mississippi River Lock and Dam 15 in Sylvan Slough and below Lock and Dam 19 are the top places to catch wipers, but they can be caught below most of the lock and dams.
  • Lake Macbride, Johnson County – use top-water and subsurface baits or troll shad colored crankbaits.
  • Saylorville Reservoir, Polk County – troll large crankbaits under schools of gizzard shad or fish below the Saylorville spillway.
  • Three Mile Lake, Union County – use a small crankbait or medium sized spinner near rocky or gravel areas at twilight. Any shoreline could hold fish, but the dam and east shore near the dam are the most popular.
  • Lake Manawa, Pottawattamie County – fish the east shore around boat docks near inflow tube using twister tails and crankbaits.

Brook Trout (15 inches to qualify)

  • Trout River and Trout Run, Winneshiek County – use a variety of live bait and artificial lures.

Rainbow Trout (18 inches to qualify)

  • All catchable stocked trout streams receive an equal number of brood stock rainbow trout. A variety of live bait and artificial lures will work.

Brown Trout (18 inches to qualify)

  • Spring Branch Creek, Ensign Hollow and the Upper Maquoketa River – fish the bank hides or large downed trees.
  • The Catch and Release areas on French Creek and the downstream portion of Waterloo Creek are restricted to artificial lures only and fish must be released. A photo and witnessed length are necessary for an award. Midsummer has abundant hatches of aquatic and terrestrial insects and water levels tend to be stable.

Flathead Catfish (35 inches to qualify)

  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – fish with live bullheads, green sunfish or chubs on the flats.
  • Mississippi River Pool 16 and 18 – fish in the area where rivers drain into the Mississippi with a variety of live baits.
  • Des Moines River, Central Iowa – use ditty poles with green sunfish, bullheads or large bait.
  • Larger Southwest Iowa Rivers – fish areas just upstream from log jams or fallen trees with live sunfish or bullheads during the evening and after dark.

Black Crappie and White Crappie (14 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Rathbun, Appanoose County – target submerged timber and other woody structure with a jig and minnow combo fished vertically or with a slow retrieve.
  • Lake Macbride, Johnson County – drift fish with a jig, a minnow or a jig and minnow under a bobber.

Walleye (26 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Rathbun, Appanoose County – fish submerged points and humps, troll crankbaits or drift fish live baits.
  • Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County – troll crankbaits over the artificial weed beds on the north shore.
  • Storm Lake, Buena Vista County – troll crankbaits, Lindy rigs or 1/4 ounce jigs with a twister tail around the dredge cuts or rock piles.
  • North Raccoon River, Sac, Carroll and Green counties – cast 1/4 ounce jigs tipped with a 3-inch fire tiger colored twister in eddies, current seams and scour holes.

Yellow Perch (12 inches to qualify)

  • Mississippi River Pools 9 to 13 – fish the vegetation in backwaters with a minnow under a bobber or switch to a crawler long the lower portions of wing dams.

Muskellunge (45 inches to qualify)

  • Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County – troll rock reefs or cast docks with muskie sized crankbaits.
  • Brushy Creek Lake, Webster County – cast near any rock piles, weed lines, jetties, dam face with bucktails, crankbaits or top-water lures.
  • Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – cast weed lines with large in-line spinners.

Northern Pike (35 inches to qualify)

  • Mississippi River - target where tributaries enter the Mississippi River where pike will take refuge in the cooler water. Use medium to heavy weight gear and live bait with a steel leader or daredevil spoons. 

Freshwater Drum (25 inches to qualify)

  • Mississippi River – fish the lock and dam tail waters and immediately below wing dams. Drum prefer quiet water and rocky areas.  Use live crayfish. Drum will hit twice – the first strike kills the crayfish, the second they swallow it.
  • Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – drift fish a life bait rig tipped with a crayfish, minnow or nightcrawler in 20 to 22 feet of water.

Yellow Bass (10 inches to qualify)

  • Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County – vertical jig or drift with a small jig tipped with a piece of night crawler or cut bait near the reefs, artificial weed beds or dredge cuts.
  • Arrowhead Lake, Sac County – drift the length of the lake with a small, brightly colored jig tipped with a small piece of bait.
  • East Okoboji Lake, Dickinson – cast 1/32 ounce hair jigs tipped with a piece of night crawler at any of the bridges.

Rock Bass (8 inches to qualify)

  • Turkey River, Howard and Fayette County – fish deeper water in rocky areas when the water is clear and stable with live bait or minnow imitating lures.
  • Cedar River, Mitchell and Floyd County – fish deeper water in rocky areas when the water is clear and stable with live bait or minnow imitating lures.

Bullheads (15 inches to qualify)

  • Lake Anita, Cass County – use a nightcrawler on the bottom.
  • Twelve Mile Lake, Union County – use night crawlers or a small chunk of liver on the bottom in three to five feet of water. Avoid areas with a lot of rooted vegetation.

Common Carp (32 inches to qualify)

  • Three Mile Lake, Union County – use nightcrawlers or dough balls on the bottom in two to six feet of water at the upper end of the lake. Carp are most active during the evening and twilight hours.
  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – bow fishing and fishing in the upper ends of the reservoir above I-380
  • Pollmiller Lake, Lee County – fish worms or prepared carp baits.

Slam Some Sunfish

I have been very fortunate in the adventures I have gotten to go on. I cherish my memories of: largemouth bass at my uncle’s farm pond in Arkansas, fly-fishing for trout in Lee’s Ferry, tearing into tuna out of San Diego, slaying walleye and northern pike in Canada and even fly-fishing for mako shark! But some of my favorite times fishing have been the absolute simplest. I’m talking about pan-fishing.

Pan-fish are a wide variety of different species. They usually include: bluegill, sunfish (the whole assortment of colors/variations they come in), pumpkinseed, crappie and perch. Other fish are considered pan-fish, but these are the most common.

It doesn’t take much to get into some pan-fish. Really the basics are basic. (Keeping things simple is half the fun of fishing.)

Besides a fishing pole with line you will need:

Hooks & Sinkers

Bobbers &  Bait!

Now a whole slew of baits work for these guys. Worms, mealworms, crickets, corn, bread and more will get them biting. Just like trout, you’ll want to have a few of these baits on hand. And here is another half-the-fun little fact, a number of the baits listed above come in a can!

That’s right! Just pop the top and dig in! Fisher’s Choice™ offers: wax worms, crickets, shrimp and superworms (pictured above). I like that you can reseal the top and keep these around for quick fishing excursions. I have no idea how well shrimp would work, but why not give it a whirl? Trying out new baits is more than likely half the fun of fishing.

Now beyond bait you can get into a whole slew of lures to catch them. Jigs, small crank-baits, spinners, etc. A lot of company sell little kits specifically for pan-fishing and will have a variety of tackle included. This way if you get tired of watching a bobber you can switch it up to something a little more active.

There is usually a local lake where one can catch these frisky fish. Once the bite gets going, it is a blast! It is just pure simple fun. A good friend and I were lucky enough to hit up a little pond before a wedding one day. He pulled out a few respectable bass and one really nice catfish, while I spent my time slamming some sunfish. Roughly twenty-seven fell victim to my angling abilities. Toss ‘em back for the next fisherman or keep a few to fry up at home. Just remember that having fun is half the fun. Great Horny Toads!