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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Livewell Q&A #2

I have recently been suffering from a bit of writer’s block, so I thought I would throw it to Twitter to see if people had some questions they would like answered. The responses varied greatly from serious/insightful, to downright ludicrous. Luckily this week, the queries were more of the serious nature. I will try to do my best to answer them to the best of my abilities, hopefully you find some information that you can use on the water, as well as a little humor. Do you have a question you would like answered? Ridiculous or not, send it to me via Twitter: @dropshotbob or for questions that cannot be contained by 140 characters, by email at

What's the best way to learn how to use a baitcaster reel?
If you are new to using a baitcaster, now is definitely the time to do so. Unlike back when I was younger, the technology available in these reels is absurd. Back in the day when I was young (it wasn’t THAT long ago), I was struck by how many of the pro fisherman were using baitcasters. As a simple Minnesota kid who grew up fishing panfish, with bass as a fun afterthought, I somehow knew that if I got myself a baitcaster setup I could catch the same sized fish as the guys I saw on the Bassmaster trail on TV. When you are young and don’t know any better, you don’t realize that the reels you can afford are a far shout from what the pros are using.

Anyways, I am 14 and finally saved up from mowing lawns around the neighborhood to take my bike the two mile ride to, what I think was a Kmart at the time, to purchase a $26 baitcasting combo made by Shakespeare. Now what I am going to say here is not a knock at the company that made this setup, but an example of how far the technology has come. This reel was the most horseshit thing I have ever used in my life. You could say, that it might have been just a newbie trying a baitcaster for the first time, but you would be wrong. I still have this reel, and it is still a colossal piece of carp.

Flash forward not even two decades and one of the cheapest offerings from Shimano offers: “With 6.5:1 gear Ratio this reel is designed to fish many different style lures from Worms, Jigs, Spinnerbaits, and fast moving Crankbaits. For fishing those baits Caenan is packed with 6 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for smooth fishing. Casting this reel is amazing with its VBS braking system and comes with Shimano’s Lo-Mass Spool for easy start up inertia making casting even the lightest baits easy.” I don’t think the most high-end offerings back when I bought my first baitcaster had half of these features.

Back to the original question, first find a baitcaster reel or combo in your price range, then it is all about practice. The first step with a baitcaster is setting the tension knob. When you are starting out, this should be tightened to the point that whatever you have on your line is barely falling down when you hold the rod up and press the casting lever. The anti-backlash magnet, if it is on the reel, should be set at its maximum. Then practice your casting in your yard. Yes, it seems weird, but you will get over the fact that your neighbors think you are weird in a few days. Decrease the anti-backlash as you gain confidence with the reel, and then the tension knob.

Now that you have it on the water, there are two very important things to know when fishing with someone else or around other boats. The first is how to pick out a backlash, which can be found by searching Youtube for videos like this: Backlash The second trick, is six simple words that you need to memorize. No matter how long have you used baitcasters, you will end up backlashing them at the most inopportune times, be it excitement or carelessness, just be ready with the quip, “First day with the new reel.”

I just like to bobber fish. What's the best way to catch fish on a bobber?
Wow, this is the most vague question of all. This is the fishing question equivalent of, “What is the best way to cook a steak?” The proper way for me to answer this question is, it all depends. Granted you will get that with a lot of questions you ask involving fishing. This is mostly due to fisherman being very knowledgeable about a certain species and has nothing to do with that fact that we pull a lot of this stuff out of our ass as we go.

Well, since I put this question out there as a panfisherman myself, I will answer it for panfish. It all depends… In all seriousness, I wrote an article about this a few years ago that can be read here: Panfish Bobber Basics While it may seem when you walk down the fishing aisle at your local sporting goods retailer, that there are entirely too many options available, I guarantee you that they all have a specific use.

Not trying to be too vague I will sum it up with, you need to have 3 different bobber types for panfish. 1. A round foam float. Weighted or un-weighted is entirely up to you. Weighted floats cast further, un-weighted are more sensitive. What isn’t up for debate is that when you are fishing shallow aggressive fish, the popping sound these floats make will draw fish in from a distance. 2. Slip bobbers. This can range from a Thill center float, to your standard slip bobber dependent on what your plans with the float may be. These work great as they allow you to fish shallow to as deep as you could want. 3. A Static position bobber. This is summed up as a bobber that is pegged to one position. While one of the round foam floats would meet this definition, I like to think of this category as the stealth bobber. A Thill shy-bite or one of the slip bobbers with the spring at the bottom are great for this. They excel in shallow, clear water as they do not spook fish are very sensitive to bites.

Bobbers are a great way to suspend a bait in front of fish without sitting over the top of them and risk spooking them with the shadow of your boat. I use them often as there is no end to the tinkering you can do with a bobber setup, plus there is nothing better than watching one slowly disappear beneath the waves.

How do you usually fish the Lindy Watsit jig for ‘gills? Vertical jigging, under a bobber, or tight lining?
Bluegills are at the same time the easiest fish in the world to catch, and the most finicky. The Watsit grub evens up the score for fisherman. The times they are downright suicidal and are willing to hit anything in the water (including the moles on my back when swimming) anything you put out will work, however, when they get picky (which can happen at almost a moment’s notice) the Watsit grub really shines.

Generally, I fish the Watsit as a slow-fall bait. I pair it with a jighead that will allow the fall rate I want depending on how shallow I am fishing it. A 1/64, 1/32, or 1/16 ounce jig matched with one will offer drastically different fall rates. But the plethora of ways this bait can be fished opens up a whole new level of opportunities. For sunfish, I tend to cast more than anything else with the Watsit. While this technique works great, when the fish shut down a little, I will also try variations such as floating them under a bobber for shallow fish or drop-shotting them in deeper water. When the sunfish are deeper, dropshotting can be deadly for the big bluegills, though many other species of sunfish (specifically green sunfish and pumpkinseeds) tend to stay shallow in the weeds throughout the open water period.

Since I am without a boat right now, where are some of the best public access fishing spots in central Mn?
Being somewhat new to the Central Minnesota area, I was at first disheartened by the lack of shore fishing spots. My brother went to SCSU and often complained of the lack of fishing opportunities in the area. I soon learned that there was a ton of locations in the area I could hit without having to bring the boat. What my brother did not understand, is that most (not all) of the shore fishing spots in the area are river-based. Your species preference may have to change if you only want to fish from shore, but there are a lot of fish that are more than willing to put a bend in your fishing rod if you aren’t picky.

Without a doubt, one of the best areas to hit is the entire Sauk River Chain, this includes the entire Horseshoe Chain of lakes. While it may seem as though much of the area is locked up by private owners, one just has to drive down any of the county roads in the area to see that there are plenty of areas available for anglers. Whether it be road right-of-ways, or a plot of public land adjacent to part of the waterway, there is always a willing catfish, walleye, or other fish ready to put on a good fight.

Coming in a close second is the Mississippi River. There is no shortage of places to toss out a line along its banks. That being said, I would concentrate on the dams in the area, which are plentiful. Beneath the University Dam and the Sartell Dam, there are no shortage of species of fish to catch. The only inhibitor is the flow of the current, the higher the flow, the less likely you are to catch fish.

Preferred/best line? For panfish, walleyes, northerns? Trolling v jigging or casting?
In the modern day and age, there are a multitude of line options available. For me, however, there are two line options I use: Superlines and Copolymers. Superlines are what I have rigged up for bass, northerns, and muskies. Copolymers are for everything else. Trolling vs jigging it doesnt matter to me, it is all species dependent.

Trolling and casting for bass and muskies, I like to use 85 pound braid, while for bass, I will only use 50. Panfish, I use 4 pound copoly year round. Walleye, well who cares, walleyes are worthless bottom feeders that dont fight.

What are some good artificial lures/baits for targeting panfish during spring and summer?
For openwater panfish, there are two types of artificials I like to use: plastics and crankbaits. Plastics are for when I need to slow my presentation down and crankbaits are for when I am searching for fish.
There are so many plastics available on the market now that it can be a bit of a task in itself just trying to pick out a few to try. However, if you focus on two aspects of panfish plastics It can make your search a little easier, these are color and size. As far as color goes, I tend towards bright colors when I am fishing in dark water or plan to fish at dawn or dusk. Natural colors are for clear water and when it is bright out. Size is dependent on a few different things. One, is what kind of panfish do you plan to target. Obviously crappies have larger mouths than sunfish, and green sunfish have larger mouths than bluegills, so you want your offering to match. The other way to narrow your choice down is time of year. Fish are much less likely to bite a larger offering early in the year due to their metabolisms being slower. My favorite is the Lindy Watsit grub because I can get sizes from 2.5” and smaller and they have colors that can match almost any forage.

Crankbaits also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but luckily, there aren't a million for panfish. I group these into 3 different categories. 1. Topwaters, these are scaled down versions of bass topwaters that are deadly on sunfish throughout the open water period. 2. Peanut baits, likewise, these are scaled down versions of bass crankbaits and are great for searching slightly deeper water (4-10ft) for panfish. 3. Stickbaits, these are also miniature versions of the larger stickbaits that walleye and smallmouth fisherman use. They are good for covering a lot of shallow water over the tops of emerging weeds (1-5ft). Rebel Lure company and Bomber make a ton of offerings in all three of these categories.

Do you ever troll for panfish? I've heard it can be effective, but never have tried it
Trolling for panfish can be very effective, especially when the fish are spread out. This technique allows you to cover a lot of water with both your bait and your sonar. If you keep marking fish, but cannot get them to commit, change up what you are trolling with.
When they are aggressive, crankbaits work very well, but plastics and lindy rigs are also very effective. I like to slow troll plastics over suspended fish and will use the spinner for fish that are hugging the bottom. Let the fish tell you what they want.

Thanks for the questions everyone, keep 'em coming. Hope to make this a weekly/biweekly thing, but I need your questions to keep it going. I will draw questions from a hat for this week's prize and the winner will be notified via DM on Twitter.

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