Friday, July 20, 2007

Proper fish handling.

We just want to say that we do not advocate holding fish in this manner.




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Yes...there are fish in that photo.
We didn't see them either the first time. Don't feel bad.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Dynamic Duo...or just two guys with some free time. Whatever.

7-19-07


Topwater flies were hot. Big topwater stuff (salad spoon,chug bug, buzzbait) blanked. Charlie Megabait did awesome. Storm subwart did ok. Salmo bullhead was gettin' knocked around pretty good. Wacky rigged Senko did ok. 1/16oz Slider head jig with a Senko or an Ika did ok too.

Ken got somewhere around 10 (5&5) bass plus 4 10-12" hybrid greengills.. I got 8 smallies and 10 largemouth.
Ken has mastered topwater fly fishing at night. If you can pull that off you are a pretty damn good fly fisherman. So basically..Ken won because he was catching smallies on a 5wt flyrod at night using a topwater fly. BUT WAIT! It was my flyrod. So..um..yeah...I'll be taking .5 of each of those catches thank-you-very-much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ceasar Salad. Or was it tuna??

If we had to pick two lures this week they'd be:
1) The Lunker City Salad Spoon.
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We've featured this bait in many reports (see archives). It's really working overtime now. We're finding an incredible number of bass using the extreme shallows in just about every water we fish. Typically they are right in the vegetation or along the very edge, and nothing gets them out better than a Salad Spoon coupled with a 2/0 Gamakatsu Offset Worm Hook on 10# Fireline Crystal and a 7' Med/Hvy IM8 rod. (Yes...it's alot to remember. We know. Print it out and bring it with you when you go shopping for the ultimate Chicagoland Topwater Vegetation Fishing Set-Up.). Favorite bait colors are purple/green fleck, and black.
2) A white buzzbait. Both Mike and I throw white almost exclusively. BUT....Then again, Mike threw "Pinky Tuscadero" ( a pink friggin buzzbait.) and hammered some big fish sunday morning.

So, load up the backpack with Salad Spoons and white buzzbaits and catch some fish!
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Go get 'em, Tiger!
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Finally..the Pipestone Lake report, plus reviews.

OK..ok..it's been long enough. The Pipestone '07 report continues. I'll put up more info and pictures as I get them. All of us have been pretty busy since we got back. Everyone has pictures...some not uploaded yet..some that have not been sent to me yet because there's seemingly a lack of e-mail piture attaching knowledge (Steve. *cough *cough).
On the bright side though, Steve and Art are going back up there next week so we might as well wait for all of their pictures from both trips (June & July).

So..on with the show.
I've been asked about conditions, numbers of fish, how was everything, etc.
OK..here at Customfish.com we write honest reports. As in, VERY honest reports. If something is good we'll say it. If it's bad we'll say it. This report will be two fold. First a report on the trip itself. Second we'll be reviewing some of the baits we used.

The Trip: Based on the past 2 years Buzz and I had high expectations. Did we catch fish June 16-23, 2007? Yes. Was it as many as July 1-7, 2006 or September 1-7, 2005?...um...in a word..no. I'd say probably about 2/3. Now, don't go freaking out on me here. 2/3 of what we caught before is STILL more fish than you'll get on any other trip. Between Buzz and I we STILL caught hundreds of smallmouth bass. We STILL caught some good pike. And we STILL found muskie fishing to be incredibly easy on the entire chain.
Why was it only 2/3? 4 reasons. 1)Post spawn smallmouth bass. 2) A mayfly hatch. 3) At least 4 major cold fronts. 4)3+ days of rain and/or high winds.
While the fishing for smallmouth was rather easy, they weren't schooled up as we normally find them to be except for a few select areas. Mainly we were fishing tight to shore with soft plastic stick baits whacky rigged for the first 3-4 days and then topwater in the same spots the last 3 days. 99% of the fish caught were males, being much smaller than the females. The females were in a resting period. We looked for them adjacent to spawning grounds but they just wouldn't hit. There were NO fish using reefs that week. There were very limited amounts of bass actively using weedbeds. It was a week of throwing baits as close to shaore as you could get it and bringing it back to 10' of water.
Again, pike fishing was extremely easy. In fact they showed up in their usual pesky manner while smallie fishing a few times. Muskie did the same thing. I caught two, missed one, raised up probably 4 more (see previous post). The other guys each lost at least one that hit smallies. We had several 40"+ fish follow and even 4 bonified 50"+ fish..one of which Randy fought for quite a while after if nailed a 16" smallie and wouldn't let go.
Walleyes?? I don't remember catching one but i didn't target them either. I was on a smallie mission. I know a couple of the other guys ran into them while throwing baits for smallies, so I'm sure you could have done reasonably well targeting them exclusively.
So, to sum it up quickly we STILL caught more fish than any normal person would on any normal Canadian fishing trip. Maybe not quite as easily as previous years but given the conditions we still did pretty good with our group hitting a four digit number in total fish caught for the week. Pipestone Lodge was awesome as usual. Art & Jenny and the rest of the crew did another spectacular job. Anything we needed, we got. The food was top notch (best damn eggs benedict ever! And the grilled pork chops are 'da bomb'!). The boats ran like tops. The cabins were great. Everything matched up to the high expectations that we have. OK..ok..I'll give you ONE bad thing; I got bit by a spider. Oooooooh.. Other than that, it was all gold. Please click here to contact Art at Pipestone Lodge for any questions you may have about the camp.

OK..now it's time for LURE REVIEWS!! (insert applause)
Some lures did great..some sucked. Even in Canada, yes, some lures suck. Under optimum conditions all lures work. I know of pike that have been caught on a white sock (see www.taltsonbaypike.com). I have personally caught average size smallmouth bass on huge muskie baits just because the fish was "on" and would have hit a rock thrown at it. The making of a truly good bait is whether it will activate a fish into feeding when they really have no interest in feeding.
Here's a list of lures that sucked or blanked (we'll add to this as I get more reports):
TheChatterbait. I threw it last year and it blanked and I threw it this year and it blanked. We find the Chatterbait to be a good dark water lure but a horrible clear water lure. The waters of the Pipestone Chain are extremely clear and the combination of bone jarring vibration, huge flashy movement and alot of external hardware make it a pretty poor choice on most northern waters. It is a great bait in the murky waters of Chicagoland...but up there it never got looked at once...not once.
A black and silver Mepp's spinner. Natural squirrel tails and silver worked great. Put on black and you got blanked.
Yamamoto Hula Grubs and/or Ika. Blanked. They wouldn't even look at it. They wanted plastics but not those.
Wave Worm Tiki Stiks . The fish wanted a faster fall to any stick type plastic bait. Tiki Stiks fall slow and are almost neutrally bouyant..therefore they didn't fair too well. They caught some fish, but failed at a 10:1 ratio to faster falling sticks.
Storm Rattle Worm. Same thing. Blanked. They almost float instead of sink. We had to whacky rig the soft plastic stick baits and use no additional weight. The addition of addition weight seemed to really turn off the fish. Never got one fish on it...and I bought like 10 bags. Thanks Storm Tackle Co.
The Yamamoto Senko. Now, this one is tricky. It's a great bait that caught alot of fish. Actually...MOST of the fish. The problem is that you catch ONE fish per bait and it's ripped off. So, while it's a great bait it really hurts the pocket book to pay almost $5 for a bag of 10 and catch 10 fish for $5.

The good baits:
The Yamamoto Senko. Even thouogh we ran threw almost every Senko in camp, they worked! Pumpkinseed green, black, and bubblegum were the hot colors. 4" and 5" were the sizes that did the trick. Married up with a #8 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook rigged whacky style and you have one fantastic weapon. It rarely made it back to the boat.
Bass Pro Shops stick baits (Senko knock-offs). WAY better than the Senko for the simple fact that you can use one to catch several fish instead of just one fish. They are cheaper as well. And yes...later in this article I'm going to rip Bass Pro a new a-hole....just to be fair.
The Rapala X-Rap. Jerk-jerk-pause. Repeat. It didn't do as good as previous years but still managed to catch a fair amount of fish given the tough conditions.
Mepp's #4. This was a go-to bait for several days. Cast the shorelines with a #4 Mepps in natural/silver and you could catch fish all week. We have found that to be true in mid summer and late summer on Pipestone as well. A great must-have Pipestone bait. I even scored the first muskie of the trip within 10 minutes of throwing good 'ol #4. This lure accounted for literally hundreds of smallies on this trip.
Lucky Craft. Several Lucky Craft lures worked. Especially the Pointer Minnow in natural colors. Bring Lucky Craft lures. They cost alot (like..way too much) but they do catch fish. ALOT of fish. I'm not a big-money-bait guy but watching fellow Pipestoner and professional fisherman Randy Dunlap catch one after another on a Pointer minnow is a lesson everyone should get.
The Heddon Zara Puppy. My personal go-to bait (aka Wilson, Ret.). It got knocked around for the last 4 days consistantly. Buy 'em. Learn 'em. Use 'em. That's all I can say. If you have any questions about Zara Puppies, feel free to send me an email. (* CHANGE THE HOOKS. Heddon is using the absolute worst damn hooks on the market these days. They were using the Excalibur Rotating Trebles for a while but changed. Do yourself a favor. Dump the cheap hardware they have and change out to Excaliburs and you wont miss the fish that you would due to the worst-hooks-on-the-planet that they are currently using.
The Storm Chug Bug. Another go-to top producer that hit high numbers in the shallows for the last 4 days. Use small twitches. Don't go ripping it thru the water. Let it sit for several seconds and then give it a slight ripple of a twitch. Repeat that a few times and it'll get smacked. This lure was HOT HOT HOT for days and always is on Pipestone! A real winner. Mike had a blast watching smallies rocket up from 8' down to take this lure out.

Ok...There's a couple baits I would like to talk about in specific.
The first are products from fishinghuntingsupply.com . Their Furry Fish Baits that implement rabbit fur are something that I'll be keeping in my arsenal from now on. I STRONGLY urge you to go take a look at their site. They do NOT sell retail but instead rely on web based business. We at Customfish.com do business in much the same way and find it to be quite favorable when dealing with a company like the Furry Bait Company.
The wire baits have a particular interest to me and will be put thru their paces in the absolute pike-fishing test in late August on Great Slave Lake while fishing for pike up to 50" at Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge. That trip is either going to make or break those lures, where typically patrons will go thru 2 dozen spinners in a week and up to 20 Bulldawg muskie baits. From what I have seen by throwing Furry's wire arm spinnerbaits the action is incredible. Rabbit fur moves like a mad leech trailing in the water. The hooks are seemingly very strong and durable. What i really like about the baits is that they didn't skimp on the wire. They use a very heavy guage wire and heavy duty terminal on these baits. I look forward to putting these baits thru hell with a couple hundred pike in the 36"-50" range.
We did try a series of Furry Bait Co.'s at Pipestone Lake in Ontario for smallmouth and we found an absolute winner! Their line of plastic/rabbit fur hybrid baits turned into one of the best friggin' throw back baits I have ever tossed back at a smallie that missed/followed another lure.
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I can't think of a single smallie that I tossed a FBC 3" crawdad on a 1/8 oz Slider head jig that didn't hit it and take off running. It is now my go-to plastic when the bass just don't want to cooperate. I've tried these baits on my local high pressured river as well and it payed off quickly.
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The rabbit fur jigs look like a real winner as well. I didn't give them as much time as i wanted to because we were fishing rocks and boulder fields. After I lost the first one I thought I had better save these for a place near home where i can run them thru the gauntlet without getting snagged in rocks all day long. But..from what I've seen they have incredible action and married with some applied scent they should do quite well.
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Ok..what didn't I like about these baits? Scent. Or lack thereof. I tried these plastics 2 ways. The first was straight-up-brand-new. The scent is the typical plastic poured bait odor. The interest by the fish wasn't all that memorable. BUT..there's a quick cure, and that's method #2 that I used. Place the baits in a bag, pour in some salt, add whatever fish attracting scent you like, marinate overnight..and WHAMMO! You just got yourself a bag of nuclear powered plastic baits with undulating rabbit fur as a teaser!! Now..here's the really good part. The rabbit fur/hide absorbs the scent and salt and seemingly lasts forever. I have some that I used for 3 days and still leaked oily fish attractant. The combo of plastic, fur and scent was a no brainer and an absolute sure thing for smallies..even post spawn smallies. Here's another plus: On their website they sell fish attractant! I did not use their brand but I highly recommend that you add theirs (or your own favorite) to the baits a day before you throw. You won't be disappointed.

Another bait that we tried out was Cotton Cordell's new jointed Wally Diver by Pradco.
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Like I said before we had some baits that stood out, some that caught some fish, and some that just plain ol' sucked. The jointed Wally Divers were in the "caught fish...which is pretty good given the conditions". I'll be throwing these baits more and more this year. They look awesome. The action is right on target for what a walleye/smallie diver should be. The regular Wally Diver has been proven for decades and I think the new jointed model will follow suit. It worked for us during a post spawn cold-front mayfly-hatch and that says alot.

We also tried a Rebel Jumpin' Minnow by Pradco.
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At first glance they don't look quite as impressive as most walk-the-dog type surface baits. The finish is rather bland. The hooks should probably be changed out to Excalibur Rotating Trebles. BUT, they do have that certain little something as far as sound and action that makes them admirable. I had 2 in silver and black. HAD. Lemme explain. The first one was taken off the line by a monster smallmouth bass within the first few casts. The second one was taken off by a high 40's muskie within a few casts. So..while no fish were landed on that bait they were disposed of in quick fashion by 2 monster fish...thus making them a winner!


A few other baits caught some fish here and there as well. I'll add those in seperate reports as we think of them.

And last but not least: Hooks.
I have officially made an official decision and will now start officiating the official changing of all my hooks. Officially.
Excalibur Rotating Treble Hooks.
I changed a bunch of hooks out on baits recently and outfitted them with Excalibur Rotating Treble Hooks. I can't recommend these hooks enough. They are without a doubt the sharpest hooks I've used and they have an incredible hooking percentage. Due to the 6 degree bend in each hook they rotate upon hookset thus spinning the next hook on the treble into position as well. On a topwater bait I wouldn't use anything else. Wilson has always been outfitted with Excalibur Rotating Treble Hooks which has resulted in a 10:1 hooking ratio....and for any topwater bait 10:1 is extremely impressive.
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Before you go looking for them, phone first. I went to Bass Pro to get them and lo-and-behold they didn't carry them. Then again, Bass Pro Shops doesn't carry alot of stuff that we use. Oh..and the new Bolingbrook,IL Bass Pro Shop sucks. It has a nice bar, but the fishing department couldn't be darker and finding anyone who had an answer to a question was difficult at best. But like I said, they have a nice bar...if that's what you go to a fishing store for.
Hey..you guys just got a 2 for 1 review on that last one. You learned that Excalibur makes great hooks AND Bass Pro Shops in Bolingbrook is the most depressing store EVER.

So there you have it. The report is finally done.
On with the picture show from Mike's camera of our June trip to Pipestone Lake in Ontario. Enjoy.





Oh...and the fish are still biting around here. Throw Lunker City Salad Spoons, Heddon Zara Puppies and Storm Chug Bugs around shoreline vegetation and hold one.
Here's one of 35 bass in a 2 evening foray at El Salto Norte (yes, we have a new lake, people). I caught 35. I missed a few more and had another take apart 10lb Fireline Crystal. Which reminds me..I have to review that line next. It's great AND it sucks. Wait til ya read this one...
More later.
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Jamie with a 19.5" largemouth from Chicago waters caught on a black Lunker City Salad Spoon.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The retirement of a king.

The time has come and he agrees.
A place has been secured to enshrine the icon. I'll have to pick up a cedar case with a glass viewing window..kinda like for saints that I've seen in Italy. They used gold instead of cedar ofcourse, but I'm on a budget.
He deserves gold though.
Reminder to self: Rob a bank.
But I digress.
You remember the last time he was retired. A sad day. The saddest. He fell to his doom and met his end on rock..not even in water. That is a day I wish upon no man. His original shattered shell is still in my possesion forever kept safe in "The Tomb at Lago Casa."
Then one day a ritualistic service was held under the full moon at water's edge. A goat was killed. A grazing carp was fed. A musky was strung up to a tree. And a new King was born. Risen from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix. Just like The Terminator, only...well..ya know...plastic.
Version 2.0. And he was pissed. Starting slow and building like a tsunami, he gained momentum and left a winding path of shameful souls in his wake.
His year thus far has been peppered with trophy achievements including yet two more 20" smallmouth bass. His last fish was caught in the pristine waters of Shistose in Ontario after a 3 day foray of smallies the likes of which have never been seen. And that last fish was too close for comfort. A pike..an angry pike..and no leader. And even though the bastard pike who had been sent to slay the dragon by the smallies was conquered, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Every champion leaves the ring at some time. Until now there was only one with a perfect record of 48-0. Rocky Marciano. Now there are 2. The Rocky Marciano of fishing lures joins the ranks as one of the best of all time. Scars, cracks, and all. Still smiling. Still the King. Always being known as the undisputed Master of Disaster. The only lure that made mens' heads bow down as shoulders slumped and beers were picked up in lieu of fishing embarrassment handed out like Halloween candy to the masses.
Yes. The waters are safe now. The explosions have stopped. The trail of the dead ends here. And he is satisfied. As am I. For there will never be an equal.
Rest, o' weary soldiers. Your watery haunts are once again yours to claim. The best of the best has left the battle field. Flag waving high in the breeze as he leaves the minions to dispose of the carnage and meddle thru the refuse of what he left in his wake.

Wilson, You are the man. You've always been the man. You'll always BE the man. Rest, my friend. You earned it.

And yes...I'll always remember what you said. "Ceasar wasn't nuthin' but a bitch in a dress." Word, my man. Word.
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"Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?!" -General Zod in "Superman"-