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LUNKERHUNT BLOG

4 Tips for Finding and Catching Early Season Crappie

By David MacDonald, Founder Lunkerhunt

Spring is a great time for crappie fishing, but catching crappie can be tricky. If you’re new to crappie fishing or are looking for a refresher, the following four early season crappie tips should help you land more spring slabs.

 

Tip 1: Locating crappie

Focus on the north end of the lake or body of water you are fishing. Look for dead end boat canals, enclosed bays, cuts, sheltered boat marinas, or coves. Really, you should search anywhere on the north end of the lake that will trap water and allow it to heat up. These areas will have the least amount of current and will heat up first. The warmer temperatures will stimulate insect activity, attract minnows and other baitfish, and in turn, attract crappie.

The crappie will not be alone. Largemouth bass and sunfish also follow a similar seasonal transition.

 

Tip 2: Navigating water temperatures

Aside from affecting baitfish and insects, water temperatures will also affect oxygen levels, and vegetation growth. How temperatures will affect oxygen and vegetation—as well as their resident crappie population—depends on the specific body of water. Each body of water is different. Current, water depth, composition, size, etc., are also contributing factors.

As a general rule, when water temperatures approach 50 degrees, crappie start moving toward their shallow spawning areas. They move from their wintering areas in or close to main lake basins into the shallows to spawn. During this migration, they will follow close to transition areas and will stay close to forage, for example, minnows and insects. Their movements are very similar in nature to that of largemouth bass.

Along the way, crappie will often stage in 12 feet of water or less around stumps, brush, or weeds. If they are not in the previously mentioned sheltered areas, work your way directly out of the sheltered area you are in and fish around any stumps, brush piles, weeds, or cover you can find until you reach the 12-foot depth range. Once you catch a crappie slow down and cover water.  Where there is one fish, there are usually more.

 

Tip3: Tools and techniques

When searching for crappie, a slip bobber set up is hard to beat. It is a great system for finding fish and can be executed as quickly or as slowly as you like.  A simple slip bobber rig consists of a slip bobber, a bobber stop, and a lure. The lure is usually a micro jig and a minnow, grub, or insect imitating soft plastic lure that is usually from 1.5 inches to 3 inches in length. Weights will vary based on conditions such as wind and water depth, however 1/16 Oz to 1/8 Oz jig sizes are commonly used.

To get your lure into the strike zone, all you have to do is slide the bobber stop up and down the line to achieve your desired depth. When the bobber stop hits the eye of the bobber, it will prevent your lure from sinking further. The bobber will then work as a strike indicator. The bobber will be pulled under the surface or act erratically when a fish strikes the lure.

When adjusting the depth of your lure, you want to try to keep it 1/3 to halfway down the water column. Crappie feed looking up. In most instances, you want to keep your lure slightly above them.

After adjusting the depth for your lure using the bobber stop you are ready to fish. Simply cast the slip bobber out and let it settle. Once your lure has achieved its depth slowly swim it back to you by lifting and dropping your rod tip to yo-yo the lure and reel the bobber in a few feet at a time. Make sure to let your lure settle after each move.  Do not be afraid to let it sit for up to a minute.  Sometimes little or no movement will trigger less active fish to strike. Continue this cast and retrieve method and cover as much water as possible until you get a strike and locate a school. Once you find one crappie, you often find many.

 

Tip 4: Cover water

When you do catch a crappie, slow down and cover the water in the area thoroughly. Play around with the depth of your lure and fan cast the area until you dial them in. Before you know it, you could be catching a fish on every cast.

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Late Season Perch

By David MacDonald, Founder Lunkerhunt

No matter the season, perch fishing can be a lot of fun and the rewards can be plentiful. Late season perch are no exception. They can be found in large groups and can become aggressive, eating almost anything you put in front of them. Perch are also known for their tasty fillets. What are the secrets to catching late season perch, and what do you need to know before heading out on your perch fishing trip.

 

Successful perch fishing

Find the fish before fishing. The key to successful perch fishing, as well as the fast and furious action associated with it is to find the fish before you start fishing. Let’s face it. You can be using the best baits in the world but if you’re not fishing where the fish are, you will not be catching.

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Electronics are key. Having a good fish finder (electronics) is key to finding fish in the fall. There are a bunch of great electronics on the market. Ideally the fish finder you choose will enable you to detect fish and baitfish. It will also have settings that will help you determine the bottom consistency, whether hard/rocky, soft, weedy, etc.

If you are new to using electronics:

  • First, get comfortable finding fish or baitfish using your electronics.
  • Once you’re comfortable locating and catching fish, start playing around with your settings to understand bottom structure and how different bottom densities such as a hard bottom or soft bottom will look on your screen.

Paying attention to other factors such as cover, bottom formations, depth, and current (if present) will help you develop patterns that will enable you to locate fish in other areas of the lake if your school moves or the action dies down.

 

Watch out for possession limits. Perch travel in schools so if you catch one, chances are you’ll catch many. Perch possession limits on most bodies of water are can make perch fishing worthwhile, too. Before heading out make sure you know the possession limits of the zone you are fishing, as limits can be caught in a hurry.

Be mindful of weather conditions. Be sure to know the conditions you will be fishing. If on the ice, make sure to test the thickness before venturing too far and always be prepared for what Mother Nature throws at you.

Follow the school. Perch travel in schools throughout the day and are relatively easy to locate. They’ll appear as a cloud rising a few feet off the bottom. Pods or clouds of baitfish will also often indicate perch are nearby. Baitfish are usually higher off bottom and more often than not you will see perch or other gamefish either under the baitfish or cutting through it. The Baitfish will appear as dots and the perch and other gamefish will appear as arcs, “hooks,” or thick lines that are passing through the baitfish.

Catch the fish. When looking for perch, search for sand with rock or areas with a hard bottom. Slowly idle through the area and locate a drop, flat, or piece of structure that you think may hold perch.

Start idling in 6′ to 8′ of water and then zig zag. Go out to 20’ and then back to 6′ again until you find fish. Keep a close eye on your fish finder for a pod or cloud described previously. If you don’t spot fish, extend the limits of your idling. Go deeper or shallower depending on conditions.

When you have located a school of perch or baitfish, set a waypoint using your electronics. If you do not have this feature on your fish finder, you can also toss a marker buoy into the water to identify where you saw the school and back away so you are not spooking the school while you are fishing for them.

After setting your mark, either hold in the area using your trolling motor or drop an anchor.

Most successful late season perch techniques involve presentations that are within a few feet of the bottom. More often than not, this is where the perch will be. Drop shoting and vertical jigging with ball heads are two great perch presentations. Small soft plastics, micro spoons, or minnows are usually deadly this time of year.

 

Perch fishing gear

Artificial plastics that are 1.5 inches to 3 inches like Lunkerhunt Bait Jar series and Bento Baits are very effective for perch fishing year-round.

If the bite is hot go to a larger 3″ bait to appeal to the larger fish in the school. If the bite is slow scale down to a 1.5″ bait or switch to live bait.

Bottom line: In summary, fall perch fishing can be fast and furious. It can also be very easy and super productive with 50+ fish days being common. It’s a great way to get new anglers hooked on the sport due to the excitement and relentless action. It will also yield some tasty results.

 

Catching Lunker Walleye in the Fall

Catching Lunker Walleye in the Fall

When the season’s first cold snap hits, most anglers have packed away their boats in exchange for the comfort of their living rooms or their tree stands. For those of you that don’t watch football or prefer fishing over hunting, this is good news.

Why? Because that leaves more room on the water for you to catch lunker walleye!

 

Fall walleye

The fall can be a very productive time of year for catching lunker walleye and more often than not, you’ll have the lake, reservoir, or river all to yourself. Another benefit to fall walleye is that the feedbag is usually on. When you find walleye, they’ll likely be aggressive.

However, locating fall walleye can be a challenge. Keep in mind that they are no longer in their summer patterns. They’ve left their shallower summer time haunts for oxygen rich locations created by cooler temperatures and shorter days.

The following tips will help you increase your chances of cashing in on some walleye gold from Thanksgiving through to ice up.

 

Fish behavior and the colder temperatures

First, it’s important to understand how the shorter and colder days will impact fish behavior. As the temperatures drop in the fall, so do water temperatures. This causes weed growth to die off and in most walleye waters, the annual fall turnover to occur. Fall turnover happens at different times on different lakes.

There are many factors that affect fall turnover, including but not limited to:

  • Outside temperature,
  • Water depth,
  • Wind, and
  • Current

Most smaller, shallower lakes will turn faster than deeper lakes. So what is the fall turnover and what has it got to do with fishing? Without getting too scientific, the cold air makes the oxygen rich top layer (epilimnion) of the water column heavier and causes it to sink. The sinking oxygen rich water then passes to the bottom of water column (hypolimnion) which is below the thermocline.

The changing water conditions during the turnover causes weed growth to die off and enable fish that were previously limited to shallower locations due to oxygen levels to move to deeper water or scatter.

The bottom line…walleye will have less cover to hide in, which may make it easier to spot them on your fish finder. However the abundance of oxygen levels provides them with a larger environment to prowl as they fatten up for winter and the impending spawn.

 

Where to find walleye

The fall turnover creates deep, stable habitats that both walleye and baitfish prefer. Where you find baitfish, you will often find walleye. Don’t be surprised to catch other gamefish species in the process. Walleye aren’t the only species putting on the feedbag.

Fall walleye will start to head toward their spring locations. The key is to pay attention to current when trying to figure out where fish are holding.

Walleye will spend the coldest months in relatively deep water, near the places they’ll be spawning in the spring. Key areas to look for when fishing fall walleye include deep narrows below current areas. Walleye must funnel through these narrows in order to get to their spring spawning habitat. Finding current breaks within and around the narrows is key to finding fall walleye. In order to stop in a location, walleye require an opportunity to get out of the current. If some sort of current break is not available, keep moving until you find one.

Fall walleye are making their way into the rivers because they are looking for food. Watch your electronics and do not sit in one spot. The key is to move around until you find fish and or bait. When you get bit or see signs of activity on your electronics you can slow down and fish more methodically. Often, when you find them, fish will be stacked up.

 

Fall fishing techniques

Vertical jigging is the go-to technique when fishing fall walleye. Be sure to use the lightest weight possible and to play with various jigging presentations until the fish tell you what they want. If the fish are active an aggressive jigging action can be critical. If fish are more lethargic or biting short try using a slower more subtle approach.

 

Bait selection

Play around with different baits in the fall. Knowing that the fish are bulking up in preparation of winter and the upcoming spawn, do not be afraid to show a larger presentation. The fall season is trophy walleye time and big baits often equal big fish!

 

 

Northern Bass – The Fall Brawl

By David MacDonald Founder of Lunkerhunt

Summer may be ending, but that doesn’t mean your fishing season has to end, too. In fact, fall fishing can offer some of the best action of the season. If you’re already starting to pack away your gear, stop!

As the daylight hours shorten and weather temperatures drop, both largemouth and smallmouth bass will put on the feedbag in an attempt to get ready for the leaner winter months ahead.

 

Location, location

The key to catching northern bass in the fall is to understand that they’ve likely moved from their summertime locations. Each season is different and summers may run long or short, depending on where you live. The trick to successful fall fishing lies in understanding where to look as bass migrate to their winter time locations.

It is important to note that not all fish will move to their winter time locations at the same time. They could be foraging just off shore on the rocky slopes, or taking a break on transition areas.

The following are a couple of suggestions for locating early to late fall largemouth:

 

Where northern bass can be found in the fall

 

Early fall

 

Bass will cruise along rocky, sloping shorelines that lead into deep lake points. Swim jigs, bladed jigs, jerkbaits, and crankbaits are great tools to look for actively feeding cruisers. Look for baitfish or signs of forage as you search the shoreline.

 

Remember: fish are on the feed, and forage is the key to locating bass.

 

If you see that forage is present in a certain area or signs that bass are eating crawfish, you can change things up a bit and throw tubes and Lunker Sticks in the area.

 

Secondary points and troughs are another great place to look for largemouth in the fall. They are good staging areas that hold fish that are making their way out to deeper water. You can fish these areas like you would fish the sloping banks, by using reaction baits as well as soft plastics.

 

Late fall

 

Aside from the cold mornings you may have to endure, it can be tricky to find largemouth bass late in the fall. When you do find them, however, they’re often large and are usually not alone.

 

When the largemouth move to the final stages of the fall transition and set up deep, you can flip and dunk any deep weed that you can find. Look for healthy weeds near or on a main lake point that lead to a bay where they will spawn in the spring.

 

When everyone else has packed it in for the season and are at home watching football, throw on a few extra layers of clothing and hit the lake. It could result in some of the best bass fishing of the season.

 

Healthy Cover = Summertime Largemouth

By David MacDonald Founder of Lunkerhunt

During late summer, largemouth bass can be found in both shallow and deep water. Mother Nature will play a big role in where they locate and how they are feeding. Water levels, water temperatures, and oxygen play a major factor. So if some largemouth bass go deep and some shallow, how can you find the most fish and catch them.

The real trick to finding largemouth bass in the summer is to find healthy cover.

What is cover?

Cover is a physical object that is separate from the bottom contour of the lake or reservoir you are fishing, such as

  • Weed beds,
  • Lily pads,
  • Stumps,
  • Docs,
  • Fallen trees, or
  • Overhanging trees.

Cover can include virtually anything that’s not a part of the lake bottom that creates an ambush point or hiding place for bass.

 

Fishing cover

Although cover can include many things, not all cover is created equal. Look for cover that is healthy (i.e., oxygen rich) that provides a lot of shade. Healthy vegetation will provide oxygen and so will current. Look for either or both of these oxygen creators in and around cover.

When fishing cover, look for shadows, dark holes, or rock openings—anything that provides bass with an ambush point that will also provide security and a comfortable place to hang out.

Keep in mind that bass do not have eyelids. When the sun is high and bright, they are looking to shade themselves from the sun.

If you find cover or a mix of different types of cover holding forage such as crawfish, bluegill, shad or frogs you are in the right place. Match your presentation to what you are seeing and you should start catching fish in no time.

 

Forage and presentation tips

Crawfish: Flipping Jigs, Flipping Tubes, Creature baits (weighted and unweighted depending on the depth of the cover), and crankbaits

Blue Gill and Shad: Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and swim jigs. Flipping heavy weed beds using bluegill colors can also represent small Blue Gill darting through cover. The key is to match your patterns to the baitfish you are mimicking.

Frogs: Your frog choice should match the conditions you are fishing. For sparse cover or cover with openings, I really like to fish Lunker Frogs and Popping Frogs. When bass are active, you can make long casts with the Lunker Frog using frequent pauses during your retrieve. When fishing a Popping Frog, cast to cover areas that you think are holding bass and work the Popping frog with quick twitches on slack line so it hangs in the strike zone longer and calls fish in.

 

Bottom line

Fishing cover is a great way to catch largemouth bass as well as most other freshwater predators. If you are looking to consistently catch bass, take a close look at the cover you are fishing after you catch a fish. Pay attention to the little details in and around the cover you are fishing, and make note of:

  • Where the fish were located.
  • The depth.
  • Whether there is current or forage.
  • The structure make up beneath the cover. Is it a rocky bottom or sandy bottom?

Using the information in this blog post, you can try to replicate your success by finding and fishing similar conditions in other parts of the lake. You may have put together a pattern and unlocked some of the best fishing the season has to offer. If you catch a bass off of a premium piece of cover make sure to revisit it at different times of the day or on future outings. The biggest, most dominant bass in the area will often take control of a prime piece of cover.

 

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Photo Credit: Mikey Sabadic (@island_life_252)

 

Spend More Time Catching and Less Time Fishing

By David MacDonald, Lunkerhunt Founder

As the founder of Lunkerhunt, one of the most common questions I get asked is how to fish in new bodies of water. Navigating a new body of water can be intimidating—but with a little pre-work and conscious planning for your time on the water, you’ll do a lot more catching and a lot less fishing.

Here are some tips for how to plan for a day on a new body of water.

 

  1. Research

This comes down to brass tacks, which means researching ahead of time. You need to understand the fish you’re targeting to ensure you’re maximizing your time on the water. In addition, every body of water is unique. Different lakes and rivers have unique typographies and bottom structures, so you want learn about the characteristics of the body of water you’re fishing, such as

  • Boat ramp locations,
  • Water depth,
  • Current,
  • Structure, and Channels

After a bit of online research, you’ll usually find a tidbit or two that will help you understand areas of the lake that have most or all of the conditions you’re looking for. These locations are referred to as “high percentage areas,” which are areas that are most likely to hold the target fish species.

You want to focus on these high percentage areas and understand ahead of time the fish biology and seasonal patterns of the species you’re looking for.

 

  1. Understand where the fish are.

Let’s face it. You can make the best lures and use the best equipment, but if you’re not fishing where the fish are, you won’t catch fish.

Doing a Google search of the water you’ll be fishing will often produce tournament reports, board posts, articles, and videos of other anglers’ experiences. I highly recommend taking the random information with a grain of salt; however, sometimes a short search can help identify productive areas as well as productive fishing techniques. For US anglers there is also a website called bassgold.com that has developed a database of previous tournament wins and finishes that anglers can use to help put productive fishing patterns together.

My preference is to always go back to the science of it and fish biology. I believe knowing fish patterns and preferences is the true key to catching fish. You should locate areas based on the species’ preferred habitat. You want to know their preferred water temperatures, or how water temperatures and weather influence them, their preferred structure or cover, and key forage for the water you’re fishing.

 

  1. Increase your productivity on the water.

That means you want to keep your lure in the water as much as possible. If your bait is not in the water you cannot catch fish.

 

  1. Map it out.

After you figure out what you think the fish are doing or where they’ll be, look at hydrographic maps on your electronic device or go online to find maps that you can study to find as many high percentage areas as possible.

During your fishing day, spend your time focusing on parts of the lake that have the largest amount of high percentage areas. Your goal should be to spend less time driving around and more time fishing. The real hardcore anglers will even consider sun direction and will plan their time on the water based on how the elements will affect the areas they plan to fish throughout the day.

There are many great tools available on line to help preplan, such as

  • Google Earth.
  • Navionic Maps available through nationalprostaff.com. This is a website geared to professional anglers and aspiring pros, where you can view Navionic Charts that show water depths, rivers, essentially information about different bodies of water and how they set up. Hydrographic maps allow you to focus on the right location based on the biology of the fish. For example, walleye are a cold water species that tend to relate to deeper water. Hydrographic maps show the water depth as well as lake contours, so if the area of the lake you want to fish is shallow with no current, you will know after a quick review that there probably aren’t many, if any, walleye in the area of the lake you wanted to fish.
  • Your local Game and Fish Department. This is a great source of information. You can call or email them to find out more details about the body of water, such as net survey reports, and electrostatic shocking results, stocking reports, etc. They will also often be able to provide you with information about lake forage.

 

  1. Lure and equipment selection.

Rely on your research. Choose baits that match the forage and use baits that will work in a variety of environments.

I like to use lures that can be fished in a broad range of conditions and will enable me to dissect the water column. If you’ve researched high percentage areas and lake details properly, fish will quickly show themselves by biting or following. If you’re getting follows but not bites, you can make some adjustments to patterns or weights or lure styles to generate strikes.

For example, when bass fishing, I like to use a Texas rigged Swim Bento because they are weedless. They can be fished in heavy cover, sparse cover, open water, deep, or shallow. I can quickly move though high percentage areas with them and if fish are present, they will bite or will show themselves by following the bait. When either of these things happen, I know that I’m where the fish are and I adjust according to weather and the bass behavior to get more fish in the boat.

At the end of the day, a little preparation and planning will make your time on the water more productive. If proper planning enables you to get 200 more casts in a day, that is 200 more chances at catching a fish and will often be the difference between a good day and a great day on the water.

Lunkerhunt’ing Spawning Bass

By David MacDonald, Lunkerhunt Founder

Not all fish spawn at the same time. So you need to understand where they are during their different spawn phases so you’ll increase your chances of success—and if you understand what the bass are doing, you can catch some of the biggest fish of the season.

The spawn is mainly determined by water temperatures and highly influenced by moon phases. At the time of writing, the spawn is over in most of the southern states right now and is just starting up along the Great Lakes.

This past March, I went bass fishing with my colleague, Jesse Bleeman in Lake Fork, Texas. Lake Fork is known as one of the best trophy bass lakes in the US, so we were excited to fish there. We had a great time and caught a lot of fish! The biggest of the trip was 9 plus which is a trophy in most places. But during our trip, I quickly realized that some our biggest fish would not have been caught if we were not aware of the different spawn stages. We would have focused on the obvious bedding fish and would have missed out on the larger bass that we were catching in the pre-spawn phase.

There are three main spawn phases. I’ll provide a brief overview of each phase, what you can expect, and some tips for fishing at each phase. For those of you in the South that are out of the spawn, you can keep these stages and techniques in mind for next season.

Phase 1: Pre-spawn

The pre-spawn phase occurs just as spring is emerging. This is when bass are most catchable. At the pre-spawn phase, the bass slowly start to move towards shallower water by following the structural changes underneath the water. These could be drop offs, long tapering points, and underwater channels. The water is cold during this phase, usually falling at 58 degrees or lower. The bass will stage in these deeper areas while they wait for the shallow water to become warmer. Sometimes the bass will stack up in these pre-spawn locations waiting for the water to warm up. If you catch one don’t leave. Fish around. There could be more.

Tips for fishing pre-spawning bass: A prominent food source for pre-spawn fish relating to structure is crawfish. Working tubes, jigs, and other soft plastics along structure this time of year can be very productive. Lunkerhunt’s Squarebill crankbaits and lipless cranks in crawfish patterns like the Lunkerhunt Fillet and swimbaits like the Swim Bento are also good lures for pre-spawn.

Phase 2: The spawn

When water temperatures hit 58 degrees or higher bass move to the shallows to spawn. As the water temperatures get warmer, the bass will bed deeper. So don’t focus your attention solely to the shallows. Look a little farther from the bank. Spotting the beds can be tricky, depending on water clarity, wind conditions, and how deep into the water they are.

Depending on the stage of the spawn you may see a single buck, a pair of fish, or the female rolling and dropping eggs (the final stage of the spawn before the female leaves the bed). Once the female rolls and drops the eggs, she moves onto the post-spawn location. If you are fishing for big fish and see males guarding nests. Move onto post-spawn patterns.

Bass don’t feed during the spawn. Instead, they’re guarding their nests and territory. So catching in the spawn means threatening the nest in order to get a rection strike.

There are a lot of activities that go on during the spawn stage, so I’ve provided a very simple overview here. However, the way you would fish in this situation would be the same.

Tips for fishing spawning bass: Drop-shotting, Texas Rigging soft plastics, and swim baits.

Phase 3: Post-spawn

After spawning, females will move slightly deeper into the water to recuperate. During the post-spawn phase, it can be difficult to catch bass, but it’s not impossible.

Tips for fishing post-spawn female bass: Working surface baits tight to docks and pilings as well as trees outside of spawning bays can be a good way to catch post-spawn females that are feeding up. If they are not eating aggressively, slowly working soft plastics around the same cover can also produce good results.

Surface baits like small poppers that generate a lot of action without too much movement and weedless rigged soft plastics like Lunker Sticks or drop shotting Limit Worms using super light weights can also be effective.

Bottom line: Knowing which spawn stage bass are at will make your fishing more successful and will help you catch big fish!

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