We all have our favorite spots, our favorite lures, and our favorite techniques. Why? Because they have always seemed to provide the results we are looking for. That favorite scum frog seems to work best for you on top of the weeds for bass. That favorite flicker shad lure seemed to always pull in big walleye. That far corner of the pond with lots of snagging branches around always holds the lunkers. This past weekend turned out to be about proving that everything changes.
My weekend started off at 7 am Saturday, on Crandalls Beach, on Big Spirit Lake. I met up with Dave Isom of Sioux City, at the beach, and met up on the ice with Rich Dublinske of Milford, about 200 yards out to the east of the beach. By the time we get out to where Rich was setup, he was already pulling in dink walleyes and jumbo perch using Stan’s custom tungsten jigs tipped with waxies. I rig up the same way and Dave rigs up a trusty pilky. There was no bottom structure out there, just 21 feet of water, so the trick was to jig to bring them in.
After awhile of trying different tungsten jigs, I switched over to the pilky, hoping to have better success. Jigging with the pilky just didn’t seem to bring them in for me as well. Where was I falling short, while Dave and Rich were having success? I have jigged with both lures before and had excellent success, but I wasn’t bringing them in. Was it because I didn’t have an underwater camera? Was it because I was using a different lure? Was it because I was 15 feet away from either one of these guys? No. I was a victim of habit.
I was a victim of habit by not trying different jig techniques. These guys were occasionally bouncing their jigs on the bottom, creating a stir of the bottom sediments, attracting the fish. Plenty of perch were around, but my jigging didn’t attract them like the occasional stir from bottom bouncing.
It was getting around noon, and my buddies Blake Van Peursem and Seth Christensen, both of Sioux City, were not having any success as well, so we decide to hit Little Millers Bay on West Lake Okoboji. They haven’t had the joy of sight fishing on West, so it was time to try our hand on some panfish and northern. After setting up the shacks and drilling some holes, we rig our setups with proven colors of Fiska jigs tipped with waxies, as well as deadsticking a chub for northern. Jigging seemed to bring the blue gills in, but nothing was getting them to take the bait. A look around on the ice and similar results all around. Why were we not pulling these blue gills in like I have in the past?
I asked a pair of guys that were leaving with a bucket of blue gills what lures they were using. Black Fiska tipped with waxie. Ok, time to switch out lures and fish on! After another hour, I found out lure color was not the key to their success at all. Why was I still failing? I failed because I was a victim of habit! I tend to like to wad my waxie all on the hook, not leaving anything hang off just in case the nibblers want to rob my hooks from a distance. The key to their success was only hooking the first quarter of the waxies, leaving the rest to stick out and act like a whip when jigging. They also doubled up on waxies at times, putting one on the hook fully and then the other sticking out like a tail. So once again I was a victim of habit. Lesson learned.
Fast forward to 6am Sunday, on the east side of Storm Lake with Dave Sanders in his permanent ice shack. Normal protocol on Storm Lake while fishing for walleye is to tip a hook with a minnow, add a split shot weight, and set it 6 to 12 inches from the bottom on a slip bobber. It does work, it does work well indeed. Once in awhile you have to pull on the line to aggravate the minnow to get some action to attract the walleyes, but it is a simple deadstick technique that provides positive results.
But as we all know, deadsticking can be quite boring, since all you really do is wait. So to pass the time, I decided to see if I could jig for any panfish or walleyes with my ultra light rod equipped with a spring bobber. Tipped my tungsten Fiska with a waxie and jigging I went. After an hour of jigging with waxies, I asked Dave if there were any kind of panfish action on the lake, and his reply was “why would you want to fish for anything other than walleye?”. This brought out a chuckle but also some skepticism of available panfish in the area, so I swapped out the Fiska for a glow red Northland buck-shot rattle spoon, tipped with a small minnow to keep the presentation size down.
Lets just say that using a 24 inch ultra light with spring bobber rigging, putting a 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a minnow is one extreme to the other. Jigging this heavy setup on the ultra light was like driving a Ford LTD with bad shocks, just floating over every bump, or in my case the jigging up and down like it was on a bungee cord. This was the first time I have tried anything like this, but I didn’t want to change my deadstick from a method that has proven results, and I wanted walleye on my dinner plate!
Jigging this setup was fun, it felt awkward, but alot more enjoyable than watching a deadstick. Then came the first hit, it felt like my floating Ford LTD hit a brick wall! And since I was using the ultra light, super yank hookset made it even more enjoyable, there is nothing like yanking the rod 3 feet in the air and feeling the tug of the hookset. The ultra light also made the fight so much better in my opinion. Every time a walleye hit that lure, it felt like a dead stop on my jigging technique. Super yank hookset and a good fight brought a smile to my face every time. Even had one being sketchy on the flasher, and got him to chase the lure up the water column 2 feet before he took it. Purely amazing.
While the bite wasn’t the greatest all day, I would have to say I did pretty well. Dave had 3 come off at the hole on deadstick techniques (he only fished from 6 to 11), I had 1 success on deadstick and 2 come off at the hole on the deadstick (1 due to the hook coming off the line). But my ultra light jigging brought in 8, with only one failed hookset. While most were dinks, 3 were keepers. The shacks in the area were lucky to get one or 2 walleye that day. Victim of habit no more!