The Essential Fishing Handbook
August 2, 2020
When I read a book I have the habit of highlighting certain passages I find interesting or useful. After I finish the book I’ll type up those passages and put them into a note on my phone. I’ll keep them to comb through every so often so that I remember what that certain book was about. That’s what these are. So if I ever end up lending you a book, these are the sections that I’ve highlighted in that book. Enjoy!
Some notes in this post have been added from additional sources outside of this book.
- Spinfishermen and baitcasters can throw a line with greater distance and accuracy by leaving half a rod’s length of line hanging from the rod tip when casting.
Clear fluorocarbon line is less visible to fish than nylon monofilament of the same size.
- Fish the transitions, which is to say the mouths of tributaries, as well as bankside slicks and along the edges of big pools
- The trick is to drift along a transition in weed height or density, trailing the worm behind the boat and using as little weight as possible and a quarter-size float so the fish won’t feel resistance when it takes the bait. Full sun scatters largemouths and emboldens panfish, which rip apart floating crawlers
- The trailer will always go in the opposite direction to the tow vehicle
- Boat trailer lights can burn out when the hot bulbs are submerged in water.
- Disconnect the trailer’s electrical wiring plug from the vehicle and let the bulbs cool as you load gear into the boat before launching
- The biggest mistake most people make is holding the rod tip a few inches above the water. The rod tip belongs on the water’s surface when you’re retrieving.
- In clear water, after about 20-30 seconds give the bait a gentle twitch, that’s enough to bring a strike
- When it’s after dark and you hear the strike, you won’t know if the fish just knocked the lure or pulled it under. Despite what your instincts tell you, don’t set. Reel just enough line to pick up any slack and then sweep the rod up slowly.
- Heavy-cover fishing requires a strong line 20-25 pound test mono.
- There is often a burst of good fishing on Northern lakes about three weeks after ice-out when surface water reaches 39 degrees. At this temperature, water reaches its greatest density and sinks to the bottom, oxygenating the lake at all levels; fish throughout the lake are activated by the extra oxygen
- Straddling the kayak will give you leverage and better balance.
- Holding the rod in one hand, grab the back of the fish head, just behind gill plates
- Instead of searching the entire area, focus on one small zone at a time. Tunnel vision is actually a good thing when you’re contemplating where to place that next cast
- The motion of schooling fish reveals the eir locations
- Polarized sunglasses are a must. Try to position yourself so the sun makes a spotlight on the water
- Practice looking through the water column–not fixing your gaze on the surface or the bottom
- Work a jerkbait with a jerk-jerk-pause-jerk-pause cadence. Strikes come during the brief pauses, and there won’t be any guesswork
- Crank crankbaits slowly as they come through the structure, and pause every time it pops over a limb
- Some people believe that night fishing with a black light and fluorescent line will actually make any angler a better daytime soft-plastic fisherman because the nighttime system makes the take so visual
- Most strikes are going to come on the initial drop. If not, hop and swim the worm back through the limbs of a tree
- The thickest limbs tend to hold the biggest bass
- Fishing standing trees is best when the sun shines. The light drives bass into the shade beneath the branches. Cast to the shaded sides of trees and limbs to get strikes
- That said, if a monster comes in shallow, it’s there for one reason only–a fast meal. You won’t have light taps and half-hearted strikes.
- Plastics lures may cast farther, but nothing beats the sexy wobble of a balsa wood crankbait, especially early in the season.
- Run a 1/2 ounce lipless rattle bait over gravel and rock bottoms near the mouths of creeks. Make regular bottom contact. Sunny banks are generally more productive, as rocks trap heat.
- Tick the top of the vegetation with your lure to mimic baitfish fleeing the cover.
- A crank that dives no deeper than 1 foot is ideal where grass grows up within inches of the surface
- In early spring oxygen is confined to the surface layer, so most prey are in depths of less than 10 feet
- A spinnerbait is the first choice for wet springtime bass fishing
- Rig the shallower tip-ups, those at 5 and 10 feet, with the biggest baits, like a shiner, because the fish at these depths will be hunting. The deeper sets get smaller baits, as these fish may be less active.
- Ice is generally said to be thick enough for walking and fishing at 4 inches.
- Safe ice sounds solid and dull when thumped. Rotting ice creaks or feels spongy. A single hard jab will usually break through the ice less than 3 inches thick.
- A light, smooth snap fares better than a sudden jerk. Add a circular motion to give the lure an erratic movement, which the walleye interprets as a bait in distress
- look for shallow water that has deeper water nearby.”
- These areas essentially give bass the best of both worlds—access to a shallow feeding area and the security of deeper water in which they can suspend. With very little exertion, they’re able to have everything they need to survive in a single, compact area.
- you need to be in shallow water when the sun is out.”
- When the clouds come in, a lot of the bass will instantly slide back into deeper water
- The wind is not your friend this time of year.
- The windblown banks of a pond will often be four to five degrees cooler than the calmer side. Every fish in the pond (bass, bluegill, crappie, shad, etc.) wants to be in the warmest water it can possibly be in the winter, calmer water is warmer water.
- If you insist on using lures even in winter, select ones that have either hair or feathers attached. This will help maintain action in the cold water. Also, select artificial bait that has the potential to catch multiple species of fish and reduce your lure size
- The fly reel has three basic purposes: to store line and backing, to provide a smooth drag against a running fish, and to balance rod weight and leverage.
- Fly anglers strip line from the reel and let it pay out during the back-and-forth motion called “false casting”. In the past, fly reels have served largely as line-storage devices with simple mechanical drags
- Some smaller reels have click-pawl drags, while reels for large fish sport strong cork and composite disc braking systems.
- When it comes to fly fishing, the reel won’t gain you distance, and what’s tied to the end of the line doesn’t matter. What you’re actually casting is the line, and the fly you choose simply makes it more or less difficult to cast that line properly
- A sink-tip line is ideal for fishing water in the 5-10 depth range
- Even if they need to fish a wet fly or nymph below the surface, most fly anglers don’t fish areas deeper than 6 feet or so.
- When swinging a fly below the surface, keep an eye on the point where the fly line meets the water and watch for ticks and stops.
- The biggest trout hold in deep water, a situation that calls for heavily weighted flies, but you need to get deep with as little weight as possible. To do this, use the parachute cast, which produces enough slack to let the fly sink unhindered by drag
- Instead of setting the hook when you see a fish take your fly, wait until you see your leader move
Make a standard overhead cast, aiming for a point about 10 feet above the water.
Stop your forward stroke around the 12 o’clock position.
As the line passes overhead, snap the rod forward to the 10 o’clock position
Instead of straightening out, the fly line will hinge toward the water, dropping the fly and leader vertically onto the surface
- Mending the line – keeping the fly line upstream of the dry fly. If the fly line gets downstream, it will grab the current and cause the fly to drag
- Fly rods are long for a reason. When you start the mend, lift the rod tip just high enough to pick the fly line off the water, but not so high you disturb the leader. With the rod tip straight, upswing it across your face from downstream to upstream. Gently lay down your line to the upstream side of your fly or indicator. In faster water, “kick” that rod over with more force.
- An unweighted fly moves more naturally than a weighted one
- If it’s jumbo fish you’re after, search around weed beds, humps, and brush piles in 5 to 10 feet of water.
- When bluegills are on or near spawning beds in early spring, set your bobber to fish shallow with only 2 or 3 feet of line, holding your bait a few inches off the bottom. Later in summer, when bigger bluegills have moved to offshore bottom humps 10 to 12 feet deep, slide your bobber stop up the line to fish the same terminal gear at those depths.
- A 1/16-1/32 ounce jig tipped with a waxworm is the proven standard. A plain painted ball head jig will do, but dressed jigs with marabou, tinsel, or duck-feather skirts slow the fall rate and provide an added attraction
- When water temps reach the low to mid-50s in spring, bluegills move out of their deep-water haunts and cling to cover in mid-depth waters near favored spawning grounds
- Find the closest area of deep water, and search for nearby cover in those depths. That’s likely where the bluegills will be.
- To fish cover that’s visible from the surface of the water, stay several feet away from your target and make a slow, controlled drop with the cane pole. Alternatively, you can get right on top of the submerged cover in open water and fish it vertically with the short spinning rod.
- Ease the jig into the water and slowly lower it, keeping the line taut. Bluegills may hold at any depth alongside the cover, and they often hit as the jig is falling. When you get a bite, note how deep you’ve lowered your jig; The next bit will likely be around the same depth. Tighten the line to set the hook at even the slightest peck.
- Suspend the jig for a minute or two at the depth where the bluegills are striking.
- Set your slip bobber shallow to fish a frisky 3-inch live shiner along shoreline structure. When you come to some deeper structure off a shoreline point, it takes only a few seconds to adjust your bobber stop and fish the same shiner 10 feet deeper and right on the money.
- Try casting a buzzbait at the mouth of the creek and in a 50-foot circle in front of the mouth in the main pond. If that doesn’t produce, work the channel edges with a weighted Texas-rigged plastics worm
- The key is to spot something that looks different. A big rock, a solitary stump, a small point, and a stock fence extending into the water all potentially harbor bass. Work such spots first with a floating stick bait in short twitches and long pauses. Follow up with a slowly retrieved plastic worm.
- Some bass will suspend at mid-depths at the center of a pond
- Experiment with retrieve speeds and allow the lure to sink to varying depths with each new cast
- Pitch Texas-rigged plastic worms, lipless crankbaits, and diving stick baits parallel to the edge of the dam
- Fallen trees extending into the water attract bass. Make repetitive casts with a lightly weighted plastic worm. Work it slowly through the branches and around the trunk
- Many farm ponds have a section of the bank that’s been trampled by watering cattle. Schools of minnows are attracted when cattle stir the bottom
- Walk or stand in tree-shaded areas, if possible, instead of being out in the sun. This makes you less visible to fish, which also tend to lurk along shaded shorelines
- For lunker bass, try using a 7.5-foot baitcaster and 20-pound monofilament, and cast a jointed Red Finn across a tributary point, gravel bar, or hump. With the rod tip at 10 o’clock, reel just fast enough to make the tail slosh back and forth, throwing a wake across the surface
- Bass rely less on vision and more on sound and vibration when hunting for their next meal
- One method that works well for bass anglers is bumping off of stumps and rocks. This technique creates a knocking sound that gets the fish’s attention and often prompts a strike.
- Shorten the space between the bait and the tag end, where you hang the split shot, to 4 inches or less
- Bass will often attack the soft plastic as it falls through the water. If the bait hits the bottom without a strike, shake the rod to give the worm some enticing action. After a few shakes, gently retrieve the bait, then cast to your next target
- Work a shad-color suspending jerkbait parallel to the outer edges of the docks. Let bait hover for 3 seconds between twitches. Use a black and blue skirted jig matched with a pork-rind trailer. Swim it a few feet beneath the surface along the dock edges to imitate a bluegill. Or hop it along the bottom to mimic a crayfish
- Steep structures allow sluggish early-spring bass to make major depth changes without swimming long distances
- Bass will suspend around the trees, warming themselves in the sun, and then move into the shade to ambush prey
- In lakes that have a good deal of residential development on or around them, wood pilings or concrete blocks often line the banks to prevent erosion. Bass readily cruise these vertical walls looking for shad and crayfish
- The biggest smallmouths in any lake head for the shorelines as soon as the sun sets because crayfish that have been hiding all day begin to stir, and the bass can grab an easy meal.
- A spade-dug 4-inch garden worm is the right size; For bass walleyes, and Steelhead, you’ll probably find that a fat nightcrawler will be a better choice
- Wild Rainbow Trout are particularly prized for their brute fights and aerial acrobatics on the line
- Alaska is still considered by many to be rainbow mecca, especially in such rivers like the Kenai
- Hooking one isn’t difficult, they fall to salmon egg sacks, salmon egg flies, streamer flies swung in the current, or crankbaits
- Rainbows stage off creek mouths prior to spring spawning. Hit these spots with streamers, spinners, salmon eggs, or egg flies. Try the first quarter-mile of the creek too.
- Work dragonfly nymph patterns just above the dead weeds, or bottom-fish with waxworms and hellgrammites
- Downed wood is a magnet for insects, trout, and bait (such as minnows and nightcrawlers). Fish it with shallow-running stick baits or a Wooll Bugger on the fly rod.
- From shore, cast out into open water past the new growth of reeds or rushes. Use a strip-and-pause retrieve with a damsel nymph, gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, Prince nymph, or leech streamer on the fly rod.
- Anglers casting wet flies should post across and slightly upstream of the fish for drifts that keep the leader, tippet, and any split shot outside the trout’s view
- Put the fly 2 feet in front of the fish a tighter cast will spook it. A longer cast could require too much mending to stay drag-free
- A trout sees the surface of the water in a circular window centered above its head; the radius of the circle is roughly equal to the depth of the fish. A trout holding a foot down won’t see your dry fly until it’s 12 inches away
- Long, slender crankbaits with large diving bills work well. In stained water, try hot pink or orange. On sunny days, use metallics, and in clear water, try white or pearl.
- Casting spinner rigs allows you to fish for a walleye in areas you can’t target when trolling. On a straight retrieve, the spinner’s oscillating blade clears a path for the hook and bait.
- String six beads above the hook and add a No. 5 Colorado blade.
- Cover a weedbed by casting into thin spots, particularly those along and just into the outer edge, and into clearings. Bring it back straight and methodically, to halfway through the water column.
- Many anglers consider June to be an unparalleled time for walleye fishing.
- Weeds come up, lending protective cover and shade, and the walleyes take notice–and residence
- Certain weeds are better than others. True broadleaf cabbage establishes in 6 to 12 feet
- Walleyes prefer forest-like stands, but if those are not an option, a fistful of plants in a pasture of single weeds can draw them in like a magnet. Coontail is another gem, with its lattice of Christmas-green whorls
- Nothing outshines the high-and-minnow rig here
- Weed-dwelling walleyes are aggressive fish
- Walleye are the largest members of the perch family
- Walleyes have exceptional night vision and frequently hunt after dark, making nighttime trolling with crankbaits highly effective. If trolling isn’t your game, you can cast twitch baits or bounce the bottom with leeches
- Walleyes have keen hearing as well as eyesight, which can make them extra-sensitive to engine noise. Pro tip: You’re most likely to catch the biggest fish in a given area first, as the jumbos are the first to spook.
- Pros rely on 1/8 to 3/8 ounce standup jigs to catch these fish.
- Tip the hook with a 5-6 inch sucker minnow. Work the jig with a slow lift-drop action. Fish the jig vertically 10 to 30 feet deep on spinning tackle and 10-pound monofilament
- When you feel a hit, lift the rod straight into the air to set.
- Look for walleyes in lakes and reservoirs during mid-fall in water 25 to 45 feet deep where dropoffs of 60 feet or more are close by. Until ice up, you’ll get good results with a basic Lindy rig – a walking sinker and a leader with a hook – with a live 4-7 inch chub.
- You’ll need a 1-ounce weight to maintain bottom contact at these depths if there’s any wind at all.
- Once you feel a bite, let it run for 20 seconds, reel up the slack, and make a sweeping hookset.
- They are also notoriously sensitive and spooky, so long casts and realistic bait presentations are critical.
- Large pike can get line-shy. You need a wire leader.
- Use bait that sinks slowly to work different depths. Swimbaits can be particularly deadly in the fall.
- Let your bait sink well into the water column then use slow, twitchy retrieves. Also, look for transitions where clean water meets dirty water, and probe the clean edges.
- White, yellow, and characters are ideal pike lure colors, probably because they resemble the belly of a struggling food fish
- Make a long cast. Bring a gurgling prop bait back with a steady retrieve, holding the rod tip low
- If you see a muskie following don’t stop the retrieve–speed it up. When the lure is about 10 feet from the boat, release the reel’s spool and make a figure L or 8
- Don’t react to what you see, but wait until you feel the weight of the fish. Then come up and to one side with the rod tip–hard. Your drag should be screwed down so tight that you can hardly pull the line out. Once you know you have a solid hookset, back off the drag to let fish run.
- Finish every retrieve with a figure 8
- Muskies are “The fish of 10,000 casts”
- Most anglers simply cast and retrieve tube jigs
- Crappies gravitate to areas with plenty of structure, with rockpiles, brush piles, and weedlines being some of their favorites
- Most of the time fishing around deeper structure is a better bet
- Yellow perch remain highly aggressive all winter long and are often easier to coax into feeding during the cold season than species such as crappies and bluegills
- Tiny soft plastic jigs, little spoons, and small live minnows or maggots are popular baits and lures for targeting perch through the ice. In open water, these fish will take a swing at a number of lures, including small in-line spinners and slender stick baits
- When angling for big perch a dress jig with a minnow and tip hook with a 2-3 inch shiner or fathead. Key in on rocky points and reefs in the lake’s main basin, particularly the edges where the boulders transition to gravel.
- Anchor over the perch and drop a jig straight to the bottom. Snap jig up a foot and let it hang just above the bottom for 10-15 seconds before the next snap
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