Decided to take off from work early and head out to the family pond yesterday to see if it was ready for some holes. I stopped at home and grabbed some gear and the pooch. I arrived at the pond a few minutes later and walked out with the auger a little ways. I punched a hole….looked good…..hand in the hole…..about 5 inches! Wow! I moved out further and punched another hole. Same result! One more to be sure. It was game on! I set up on the first hole and was greeted by several marks all the way through the water column. First drop……Bang! Crappie came up through the hole. The pond is on it’s fifth year now and the fish are starting to get pretty nice….but not huge. 8 – 9 inch crappies are pretty common. I drilled 3 more holes and found fish in all of them.
Baby Gill Pattern
They really bit well for me when I put on an 8 My Bait Tungsten Baby Gill Pattern and a J and S Custom Jigs Black Ice Mite.
It was so nice getting out on the ice. This is 1 week earlier than last year. I never thought I would be out earlier than Thanksgiving. Crazy! This doesn’t mean the ice is safe. The pond was safe but lakes are probably not safe. Not all water freezes the same. Be careful out there. I’m heading out again for a few hours today. I’ll try to post more photo’s. Phone got cold yesterday and died. I’ll do a better job today.
So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here. A lot of things have happened in the last year. I added another boy to the family in April, I just moved our family to a new house. I’ve been making ice jigs like crazy at night and I hope to get out on the ice Friday or Saturday…..wife permitting. Many of you have asked me why I’m not posting on here and my answer is…… I’m too busy. I have been posting more frequently on Facebook and encourage you all to come over and like my page. 8 My Bait! This is my new jig business but I will be posting my stories as well. So, that’s the news! Come over to Facebook to see more. I will still try to post here this winter as time allows.
I like Jelly BEANS!!!!!
What a season! What a winter! One of the longest seasons that I’ve ever been a part of. With as cold as some of these days have been, I haven’t always felt like going out. Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe. The weather hasn’t been my best ally this season. The ups and downs have been extreme. I’ve caught a few of the swings right and missed any a few. I’ve continued to be very busy making and selling jigs in my spare time. That would explain the lack of posting this season. It’s been a tough balance. I never expected sales to increase over winter on open water jigs. I expected a big drop off in sales of open water jigs. This would allow me to make a few of my own ice jigs and sell a few. I really enjoy making the jigs. It’s a conflict of interest with my sponsor, Custom Jigs and Spins however but I have always wanted to make my own ICE jigs. So, I did it. This is what I came up with. The Jelly Bean Jig!
So, what’s so exciting about this jig? Not too much, but there are a few differences over what you find in the stores. I pour and paint these all by hand. They use a #10 Mustad hook. I have always been a fan of heavy baits and that explains my love for Tungsten jigs. I just found that the Tungsten is very limited in shapes. I really like the gill pill but wanted a really heavy one. So, I made a shape similar to it but different enough to be unique. It has a rounded bottom instead. It causes it to swim down in a circular motion….kind of like a jigging wrap but in a tighter circle. I also angled the hook back inside the jig head to open the hook gap a little more. It has a good feel to it. I can fish in deep water and maintain good contact with the jig. I use nothing but plastics with them so it works out well. The other difference with them is that I use Powder Paints on them. Most ice jigs are not powder painted. I then cure them in an oven. This makes the paint have a reaction and it binds with the lead. I then hand paint the eyes and other details on the body. Then I dip them in a UV Blast clear coating that seals it and protects it even more. They are virtually chip proof. I took one in pliers and smashed it before the paint cracked. TUFF!
With the amount of time I have to put into making these, I don’t see myself making any next season. I’m just too busy. I have a few hundred made up and I’m selling them on EBAY. Contact me through this site or buy them on EBAY if you want them. Do they work?
You didn’t know Crappies Like JELLY BEANS!!!?
Another weekend of early ice is behind me. This Friday and Saturday I spent time at ICE BLAST II down in the charming small town of Sigourney. This event is an invite only event put on by Tom Moore. Tom is one heck of a nice guy. I’m not just saying that because he invited me. I’m saying that because I mean it. He is a Fisheries Biologist that has a true passion for the outdoors. He is so driven by his love of the land. You don’t meet many like him. Tom has done a lot for the area around him. Lake Belva Deer, yeah he had a lot to do with that. It was his baby. It’s a gem of a lake that has a lot in-store for the future. He manages several ponds in the area as well. That was our groups focus for the weekend.
Dinner is served!
Our first day goal was to get enough meat for a fish fry. Mission accomplished! We had a hay-day! The morning was perfect. Not much wind and when the sun came out from behind the clouds it felt like a fernace. The fish were every where and the were biting. We had a large number of fat and sassy gills coming up to join the party. Most were 9 to 10 inches with a few over 10. A crappie would surprise us now and then. It was nice to have an easy bite with such quality fish. We fished in the pond basin over 20 to 22 feet of water. The fish came through at 12 to 18 feet. We had a major high pressure on us. I didn’t expect it to be this easy. I was fishing a Custom Jigs and Spins Chekai Tungsten jig tipped with a pink and white finesse plastic tail. I had a number 8 plastic that I bit in half to make smaller for the gills. Check out the pics…..that says it all! Fish Fry…..? CHECK!
We decided to hit another pond. It would be a small pond that is catch and release only. Large crappies and large gills would be the target. As all of you know I have an interest in pond management. Tom, as I would learn, has some very interesting management techniques. He likes his crappies and he likes them BIG! Several of the ponds he manages have large crappies in them. I’ve always seen them as very difficult to manage. Usually they end up stunted and over populated. He uses them in many of his ponds as a top predator. Just like a bass would be put in for this. He uses larger adult crappies from other ponds and puts them in. Big crappies are cannibals and will eat all species. They are very different from the 8-10” crappies. I’ve never seen this done on so many small ponds before…but he’s doing it. The area around Sigourney has one of the largest populations of ponds in Iowa. It’s nice having all of this at his disposal. He has the freedom to move the fish around where they are needed and remove the fish if they get over populated. Good problem to have. Back to the fishing….It was early afternoon and the wind kicked up between 20 and 30 miles an hour. It was getting nasty fast. The fish at this pond were very negative. We managed a few nice crappies and a few big gills. I would say the weather got us.
Big Mama Paper Mouth!
Day two we went back to the first pond. John Campbell came down to join us. He wanted some footage for the news and his new show that plays on Sundays at 10:30 am. It was nice talking with him about things since he retired. This added some more entertainment value to the day. You will notice in this post that I don’t have many pictures. It wasn’t because of the lack of nice fish. It was all because of the people I fished with. I’m usually not a big fan of larger group fishing….but these guys were simply the best to be around. I was entertained by great stories and joking around all day long. It never got old. It was relaxing. My intensity subsided on this weekend trip to somewhere in Iowa. Pictures just didn’t seem to be that important after a while. I just enjoyed it. After a little filming on this pond we decided to hit a big fish pond. We took the caravan to the next pond out in the middle of a field. When we got there the wind came up and it was brutal. The snow started to fall and blow sideways. What happened? The wind switched to the northwest. We popped some holes and the fishing began inspite of it all. John Campbell began to roll the tape and we did what we could. The fishing was tough. We managed some nice crappies like the dandy 14 incher pictured. Some bigger bass made for some excitement. I started to feel some confidence in this spot when the group decided they couldn’t take the wind any longer. So, we pulled up and moved out.
Here’s looking at you kid!
The next property we hit had two ponds. We dropped a few guys off to fish for some eater crappies and we went to a tiny pond for some bigger crappies. This pond was probably less than half an acre. We popped a few holes and started to fish. It wasn’t long before Tom had one up on the ice. Nice! This was a new one on me. I’ve heard of fish right under the ice but I’ve never experienced it. Here it was. The fish were coming through 2 to 3 feet below our feet. I loved this way of fishing. Landing 12 to 14 inch crappies right under your feet is pretty cool. I now know the difference between surface clutter and fish right below the ice.
Plastics and pan’s!
We ended the day a little early. Everyone was sick of sitting out in this bone chilling wind. We had our evening fish fry while we watched the Colts come back to win against the Chiefs. It was fun but you could tell everyone was pretty tired out. Crazy couple of days. 6 ponds in a day and a half. Each one was it’s own adventure. Thanks again TOM! What a great event!
HE ATE THE WHOLE THING!
Just a couple of parting things to share. You guys that want to go fish Belva Deer and want a place to stay. Check out the Belva Deer Inn. It’s about 5 minutes from the Lake and is squeaky clean, comfortable and quiet. It also has a great HEATED fish cleaning house. It has water and a fish grinder. One of the best set ups I’ve ever seen. I also had some of the best licorice I’ve ever had. It was old fashioned licorice that was to die for. I got it at the H & M just up the street a ways. Oh, it’s sold out right now. What’s up next? Dangerous weather that ‘s going to keep me home. I’ll be joining Tom again next Friday I imagine for another round then I plan on doing some local fishing for a spell. I wonder if we will be hitting midwinter slump early this year? Only one way to find out!
What a year! I have never ice fished this much this early in the year. The weather has been relentless, bone chilling cold fronts. It looks like this trend is going to continue into the new year. Ice is here to stay. Last week I got the opportunity to fish a 30 acre private lake in Illinois. I was joined by a few other members of the Custom Jigs and Spins team. What makes this lake so special is that the lake is managed by Nate Herman. Who is Nate Herman? He is a very talented guy indeed. He is known across the United States as one of the best pond and lake management consultants. He runs a company named, Herman Brothers. They offer electro shocking, fish stocking, management plans and sell are wide variety of tools you need to create your own perfect fishery.
GO CHEKAI! GO!
Our CJS team hit the ice at 7:30. About 25 other anglers took part in this open lake fishing extravaganza. Nate had hand-drawn maps of the lake showing locations to fish. He explained what to try for enticing his monster boon and crockett gills in to biting. We made our way out to a channel with trees. We drilled several holes around the area and set up. I hooked up right away but lost the fish before I could see it. Dang! I felt kind of tired after a 3 hour drive. I needed to get focused and snap out of it. I dropped my black chekai jig tipped with a purple finesse plastic back down into the gin clear water below. The water was so clear, with 20 feet of visibility. Sight fishing with a tent was an option. After a few seconds a red mark showed itself on my Humminbird. The mark moved up as I continued to do quick quivers to vibrate the plastic tail. It didn’t take more than that. I noticed a slight change in the cadence of my rod tip. I set the hook. The fight was on. My line started moving in a circular direction in my hole. Only one fish fights like that…..gills! After a well fought battle the gillzilla came top side! Wow! This was going to be a very special day.
Nate Herman with his Kitty Cats!
The gills weren’t the only attraction of the day. Off in the distance a pack of folks had formed. Every few minutes a chorus of hoots and hollers could be heard. I could see a pile of large fish starting to accumulate on the ice. I didn’t take part in the great catfish harvest, but it was fun to watch. 38 catfish were harvested in about a 5 hour span. We dropped a camera down and saw hundreds of catfish piled on the bottom. Nate sees catfish as a great food source. They are easy to manage and fun to catch.
What a Haul!
Another surprise came when Bob Gillespie hooked into something very big. It ended up being this amazing 4 pound small mouth bass! What a fish!
Bob with a Monster Smally!
This day was an absolute blast! Nate is an amazing host. He had a wonderful spread of food waiting for everyone for lunch. First class all the way. Fishing with Bob, Walt, Carl and Chef Todd was very entertaining to say the least. The biggest gill of the day was a monster 1 pound 8 ounce, 12 inch Goliath Gill. Nate really knows what to do. If you have a lake or pond and want to have a management plan to meet your personal goals…..contact this guy!
Biggest of the DAY!
This weekend I will be fishing Ice Blast II. This is a private fishing event down in Sigourney. Should be another beyond belief experience! I will have a big report on this shortly after the 3 day event.
See you on the ice….. Keep warm!
Gill BAIT! CJS!
As crazy as it may seem….I’m already getting a little tired of fishing ponds. While they are great and hold amazing fish, I crave bigger waters. So, when my Dad called me one day while I was at work….well, you know. Yeah, it was time to head North to the Mississippi. As usual I awoke before the alarm went off, 4:28. I crawled out of bed and got ready to roll. I hit the street by 4:45 and was on my way. On my way up I ran different scenarios through my head. How to attack the location and what to use first. I always try to make a game plan and adjust from there. Weather forecast was highs near 40 with a 10 – 20 mile south wind. The day prior had dropped 4 to 5 inches of fluffy snow.
Breakfast of Champions!
When I arrived my Dad greater me at the door. I said HI! I HAVE TO GO TO THE CAN….REALLY BAD! So, after I did my duty, we talked briefly about what to do. He had a wonderful hamburger and egg sandwich waiting to go and a cup of joe. It don’t get any better. We got in our vehicles and set out North. We arrived at our spot after a nice 30 minute drive. Not too many people out yet. Turns out there wouldn’t be many out.
We walked out to the spot we would start fishing. I fired up the gas auger and dropped an arc of holes across the area. I like to hole hop a lot on locations with little structure. I dropped my transducer down my first hole. The Humminbird came to life. I dropped down to a sluggish mark. Nope. I went to the next hole and dropped down. Another sluggish mark watched my jig and came up with it about 2 feet. Then back to the bottom. I don’t like working fish very long at first. I like searching to find active fish. I tried more holes and caught a crappie and a few small bluegills. Not looking the best. I decided to set up 2 tip downs. When it’s slow I like using tip downs. They not only catch nice fish but they help locate fish. I set them up and move them if nothing is happening with them. I can cover 3 times the space as I could with just a rod.
Perch…..it’s what’s for DINNER!
I would keep moving and catching a fish from time to time…but nothing great. A gill hear and there with a bunch of dink gills and crappies mixed in. The bite I had noticed was very light. Even the bigger gills hit like a dink. It was tough sledding. I made several adjustments through the day. I ended up catching most of my fish on a Chekai Tungsten jig with spikes or finess plastics in the purple flake. The tip downs did a lot of business as well. I have never caught so many large mouth bass in one day through the ice. I stopped counting at 20 keepers. Easily 30 bass for the day and most keepers. They were a lot of fun to catch. Largest was around 3+ mark. I also caught a 4 1/2 pound norther on the tip down. That was a fun fight. Once again the perch were the star of the show. I managed six of them between 9 and 13+ inches. I had to make haste when they came through. The tungsten by Custom Jigs and Spins was the key to getting back down to the fish quickly. You have to keep food around for the perch to stay.
It takes all kinds!
All in all, it was a good day. As you can see from my RED face in the pic with the perch….I got wind burned. It was really rough for about 4 hours. Snow was covering my holes and blowing up in my eyes.. That’s Ice Fishing for you. That’s why I love it!
First Snow…First SLAB!
I always feel like a kid again when first snow falls. I want to go out and play! I got the okay from the boss to go out for a bit. I grabbed my things and went. I went to a pond that was well protected from the wind. It’s tucked in nice down in a valley. I came down the hill to the pond. It was covered in snow and waiting for me to punch some holes in it. I started along shore to be safe. I drilled a hole. 5 inches…..NICE! I went out a little further and tried another. 5 inches. I would repeat this as I walked out. The ice was nice and clear under the snow….and uniform. Very good and very safe. I set things up and got my rod case. I spent a good part of the evening prior rigging all my rods with new line and a new reel. I bought a new 6061 reel and was looking forward to trying it out. I pulled it out of the Otter Case and dropped down a Custom Jigs and Spins Gill pill tipped with plastic. I watched my flasher as marks came up from the bottom. They stopped below the jig and waited. I was in the basin area of the pond. It is only a 10′ deep pond. I messed with the fish for a bit. Then a large mark came into view halfway up in the water column. I brought the jig up and the mark followed. I continued to bring the jig up slowly and the fish closed on it. Bang! I set the hook. I started to reel. The drag was set a little too loose. I was reeling but not taking any line up. I quickly made an adjustment to the drag. That was better. The fight was on. It was a big fish for sure. Finally after a good fight a head appeared in the hole. WOW! I reached down and pulled the fish to the ice. Nice start to this outing.
Pretty Day…Pretty Fish!
Not much else would happen though. I would end up with another one that looked identical and released them both after photos. A lot of 3 to 4 inch bluegills inhabit this pond as well. I had enough of them after an hour. I decided to go try our family pond again before going home. The fish bit well up until the storm started to let up. Come on Lakes FREEZE!!!! Might have to do some Lake scouting tomorrow.
Only 2….but WOW!
Thanksgiving is here and now gone. I usually start thinking about ice fishing by now…but not actually going. Today we went to the in-laws for lunch. I wondered how much ice would be on the family farm pond by now. After having a couple of beers while deep fat frying a turkey and some talk about ice fishing and jigs with the father-in-law, we went in and ate our Thanksgiving Day feast. As we ate I started thinking about how much I needed to get ready if the ice was safe enough to go out on. I could see the pond out the window. The ice was crystal clear and fresh. Hmm…..Nah, this is Thanksgiving it couldn’t be possible. After stuff my self and watching a little football, we packed the kids up and went home. I started getting my clothes out and gathering a few things. I did actually have my batteries charged and ready for my flashers. We got the kids down for a much needed nap. Kind of sounded good to me…but the itch to fish won in the end. I went out to the garage and got my stuff out. No new line, no new blades for the auger, jigs and plastic everywhere. Geezzzzzz. Where’s my scooper….? Yeah, this was a first. Never before have I NOT been ready for Ice. Once I had everything loaded I was out the drive and on the road for a short 5 minute drive to the pond.
I arrived at the pond and grabbed the auger. I stepped out on the transparent slab before me. I could see the clay and tiny strands of green life clinging to it. I walked out over shallow water and turned the auger. The sound of blade grabbing ice was a welcome friend. It took several turns and then punched through. I stuck my hand down the hole and grabbed the ice. Much to my surprise it was 4.5 to 5 inches thick. I walked out a little further and drilled again. Same results. I would work my way out checking the thickness for uniformity. No, change in thickness. WOW! Ice fishing on Thanksgiving! Yeah, that’s a first for me. It just didn’t feel right….but I went ahead and did it any way.
With the cold front and the high pressure, the bite was pretty tough. I used a Custom Jigs & Spins Chekai Tungsten Jig tipped with a Glow Brite/Blue Finesse Plastics. It caught several fish but the bite was pretty light. I caught a lot of fish but not as many as on a good day. Size wasn’t the best either. I did manage a few nice gills and my first small mouth bass through the ice. The bigger fish seemed to be hiding today. It should only get better from here on out. I think I will be getting together with Luke this weekend and we will be hitting a public lake and maybe a pond. We will have to see how the ice is. Just remember to be safe out there. The wind was a beast during freeze up. Ice thickness could vary a lot on some locations.
Wow, I’m horrible. My last post was in July and I didn’t even follow-up on it…… I promise to make up for it this ice season. I have a lot planned this season and I hope the ice will be around long enough. So, back to where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. Most of my time was spent making home made tackle this summer and fall. Mitchell Meyers and I really got into making jigs this past year and a half. While he was away for a summer internship in New Jersey, I decided to start selling some of my jigs on Ebay. I now have an EBAY Store and I’m selling jigs. It’s very time consuming to do but I really like doing it. All the jigs are hand poured, powder painted, cured, detailed, then seal coated with UV Blast. These are some very tough jigs. I don’t charge enough for the time I put into them…..It’s a labor of love and that’s Ebay for ya. I’ve also started a Facebook page for the business. I use this “business” term loosely. It’s very small but I couldn’t handle much more. Oh, it’s called 8 My Bait. Check it out on Facebook or on Ebay if you would like. Don’t forget to LIKE 8 My Bait. My Jigs are well made and they hook up great!
8 My Bait!
How about fishing? Not much to report on my end. I didn’t get out much since I was making and selling so many jigs. MacBride was pretty dead…and really dirty this fall. I managed a few crappies, a wiper and walleye…but nothing to get excited about. I made it to a couple of smaller lakes that are showing promise. They will be early go to lakes for me this season. One is loaded with cookie-cutter 11″ black crappie. They are over weight for the length. I fished our pond a bit here and there through summer and fall. The wipers are reaching the 17 inch class now. Man are they a blast on light tackle and top water. Our small mouth bass that we introduced last fall have reached the 12″ mark and look like footballs. Walleye are coming on strong as well with 15″ reports. Should be a fun ice season this year. Bigger is always better. Last year was fun but this year will be killer.
Ice Jigs too!
My regular fall trip to the Mississippi River didn’t happen. The warm weather diving right into the cold made it tough. I was waiting for the right day and it never came. I regret not going. My Dad reported some good days but nothing amazing. I guess that’s one more day of vacation to use on the ice this year. That will make two of my Dad’s Egg Hamburgers…..YES!!!
As good as it gets!
How about Ice equipment and tackle? I’m excited to try out some new reels. I bought this seasons Black Betty 6061. It’s black and silver now….dang. I liked the gold Hawkeye colors. I also picked up another reel at the end of the season last year . Another multiplier fly reel Sportsmans Direct had. Why not. It feels cheap but light. I think it will do just fine. It looks like Fraibil has an upgrade to the original 241 reel. Looks nice…..I’ll probably bite on it. 261 reel now, with a smaller price tag of $39.99. For rods I’m probably going to be fine this season. I still love the Thorne Bros. Rods. I’d like to add another Quiverstick but I think I’ll wait another year. Companies are really hitting the ice hard this season. New tackle and accessories galore. The market is tapped now. Full product lines of tackle from just about every company you can think of. Even Clam got on board in a big way this season. I don’t really see anything ground breaking….but more options. Electronics continue to improve in power and portability. It looks like the Micro AquaVu could make cameras less annoying. I love them but I hate the added weight and bulk of them. These small and skinny cameras could be the ticket. The new Wi-Fi to Smart Phone technology is very interesting as well. I can see some major benefits when trying to pinpoint perch on the river…..hmmm…….
Time For Bed…..
I’m looking forward to fishing with Mitchell Meyers again on his gem of a pond. I’ll be reconnecting with Luke Haugland this season as we will be teaming up for Custom Jigs and Spins. Look for a lot of video this season as we enter that realm. Pond fishing galore. Expect to see some of the biggest panfish Iowa has to offer through the ice. I imagine there will be some surprises along the way. That’s about all for now. I think that brings us up to date. Now we just need some cold weather to get this thing kicked off.
This will be a great event for you pond owners. Seriously, if you have any questions about ponds, you won’t get a better panel of people to ask. Bob Lusk, is the editor of Pond Boss Magazine and a Bass GU-RU. Nate Herman of Herman Brothers Lake and Land Management is on the cutting edge of lake management. He is a super nice guy and is an outside the box thinker. He has been consulting on our pond as we go along. Dr. Bruce Condello, editor of Bigbluegill.com will also be there. A very popular website for you panfish freaks….like myself to get great info.
Tonight at 7:00 there will be an Electro Shocking on Swan Lake. Hands on! I can’t wait. Fish fry, portable ponds with catfish for the kids to catch. Saturday several topics will be covered by the panel. Should be very informative. I’ll be there tonight for sure!