DNR STOCKS LARGER MUSKIES IN LAKE WEBSTER
On May 19, biologists released 1,500 muskies into Lake Webster that were 12-14 inches long. Normally, the fish would have been part of a group stocked last October when they were 8-10 inches long.
Instead, the 1,500 fish were held at the Fawn River State Hatchery in Orland over winter and fed minnows. The minnows were purchased from a commercial source and paid for by the Hoosier Muskie Hunters.
By stocking larger muskies in spring, biologists hope to overcome factors that reduced muskie survival in recent years.
“We’ve seen a big drop in muskie fishing at Webster during the past 10 years,” said Jed Pearson, DNR biologist. “Holding half of the muskies we stock each year for a longer period in the hatchery should help reverse the trend.”
To compare survival of the larger spring-stocked muskies, each fingerling was tagged with a transponder before release. A similar group of 1,500 smaller muskies scheduled to be stocked this fall also will be tagged.
“The tags will allow us to test which group survives better,” Pearson said. “If the spring-stocked muskies win out, we’ll probably switch the stockings at Webster entirely to the spring.”
Pearson said studies in Iowa proved spring-stocked muskies survive better than muskies stocked in the fall because more food and cover are available during summer than winter. Larger fingerlings can also avoid more predators.
Muskies were first stocked into Lake Webster in 1981. By the mid-1990s, the lake developed into a fishing hotspot that attracted muskie anglers from throughout the Midwest.
As muskie fishing interest increased, so did muskie numbers. By 2005, biologists estimated 5,000 adult muskies were present in the lake. That year anglers spent 65,000 hours fishing for the species.
In a move to improve stocking efficiency, the length of time muskie fingerlings were fed minnows before release was shortened to 30 days. As a result, the fingerlings were smaller and less robust.
Additionally, weed control altered muskie habitat and reduced the amount of cover where fingerlings could hide.
Pearson also thinks the large population of adult muskies preyed on the newly stocked fingerlings.
Because of these changes, survival of stocked fingerlings took a nosedive. Eventually the number of adult muskies dropped too.
In 2005, anglers caught 2,200 muskies. Last year, they caught 560. Fishing efforts directed at muskies dropped by 50 percent over the same period.
“We estimate there are now fewer than 500 muskies in the lake,” Pearson said. “That’s a huge decline from the 5,000 we had 10 years ago. We’re hoping the switch to a spring-stocking program will get the number back up somewhere in the middle.”
Muskie anglers hope so too.
MUSKIE RANGE EXPANDING IN NORTHERN INDIANA
The list of northern Indiana waters where muskies can now be found continues to expand — a trend DNR biologists say is not necessarily a good thing.
Although muskie fingerlings are stocked each year into eight lakes in the region to provide muskie fishing, muskies are now showing up in waters where no DNR stockings or legally permitted private stockings have occurred.
Not all lakes are suitable for muskies, a large predatory sport fish. The DNR stocks them in lakes with an overabundance of forage fish, such as gizzard shad. In lakes where forage fish aren’t abundant, muskies could outcompete native sport fish such as largemouth bass and Northern pike for food.
“Our biggest concern is that some fish may find suitable spawning habitat, reproduce, and eventually compete with other fish,” said Jeremy Price, northern Indiana fisheries supervisor. “So far muskie reproduction has been limited in Indiana. We would like to keep them where they are.”
In March biologists captured a 37-inch muskie in Lake Wawasee in Kosciusko County while sampling for Northern pike.
Last month an angler caught a 46-inch muskie at Simonton Lake in Elkhart County.
Another muskie was spotted moving through the South Bend fish ladder on the St. Joseph River near the Bodine State Fish Hatchery in Mishawaka. Hatchery personnel say this is a rare occurrence.
So where are these muskies coming from?
“There are two possibilities,” Price said. “Some may be moving from waters where stockings occur and others may be the result of illegal transfers by fishermen.”
Given the number of muskies now present in the St. Joseph River, Price thinks the bulk of them may be coming from Skinner Lake in Noble County at the headwaters of the Elkhart River. Skinner is a lake that the DNR stocks with muskies.
The muskie, or muskies, now in Lake Wawasee also may have come from Skinner Lake.
“Wawasee drains through Turkey Creek into the Elkhart River, so a fish may be able to swim downstream out of Skinner, make a left turn, and then back upstream to Wawasee,” Price said. “It’s possible but not likely.”
Instead Price thinks muskies may be caught by anglers in nearby Webster, Tippecanoe or Barbee lakes, hauled in a livewell, and then released into Wawasee. The DNR has stocked Webster, Tippecanoe and Barbee lakes with muskies for several decades.
A separation between watersheds, however, does not allow fish to swim directly from these lakes to Wawasee.
Likewise, the outlet of Simonton Lake is small and not conducive to fish migration.
Transferring fish from one lake or stream to another is illegal in Indiana. The regulation is designed to prevent introductions of fish that may have adverse effects on the native fish population.
Price says a variety of other fish species are showing up in waters where they could only get there by illegal stockings.
Behind the TTBC Win: Matt Herren Talks Money Bass Patterns
Humminbird®/Minn Kota® pro Matt Herren stays flexible, wins first big tournament in nine years
Racine, WI (May 25, 2016): In the past 14 years Alabama-based BASS Elite pro Matt Herren has qualified for five Bassmaster Classics and six FLW Cups, but hasn’t taken first since the 2007 Wal-Mart FLW Series BP Eastern on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle.
“It’s been a grind. I’ve had a string of seconds and thirds. Just wasn’t my time until now,” says the battle-weary Herren.
But everything fell into place for the Alabama-based pro at the 2016 Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) on Lake Ray Roberts this past weekend, where Herren demonstrated flexibility despite changing water levels and weather conditions. On Day 1 Herren weighed 19-8; 15-0 on Day 2; and 17-4 on Day 3. He edged out second place finisher Bryan Thrift by a mere eight ounces and took home $100,000.
Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.
“I won’t lie, it was a tough tournament. It was difficult to stay consistent, which was the key to winning. Guys had 12 and 13 pound days mixed in with 19 pound bags.”
He continues: “Practice was cloudy and windy, and there was a lot of frontal stuff going on. Wasn’t until the afternoon of practice Day 2 that I started figuring out what the bass were doing. We finally got a little sun and that’s when the fish showed up. I had three or four bites that afternoon, and I was really focused on what’s going to happen. I knew conditions were changing rapidly and the key to winning would be staying flexible,” says Herren.
Bark at the Moon
Based on water temperature and moon phase, Herren had a good idea bass would be shallow. In his words, it was simply a matter of figuring out “where, when and how.”
“You’d think May in Texas would have bass in post-spawn and moving out. But we had a full moon, and on the first day of practice the water temperature was 68 degrees, so I knew there would be bluegills and shad spawning; tail-end of the crawfish spawn, too. So, the primary food sources were shallow, despite falling water and everything else. Bass only have two things in their lives that are a must: they’re gonna spawn and they’re gonna eat. Knowing that 90% of their food source is in 10’ or less makes it easy lock in depth zones.”
At that point, the tournament began to set up perfectly for the shallow-water ace. “Everybody thinks shallow is 2’ deep, but to me it’s 15’ to the bank. I love fishing visible patterns like wood and rock. If I can see something and duplicate it, you’re stepping right into my wheelhouse. It’s like being a fast ball hitter standing at the plate – don’t throw me a fast ball ‘cause I’m gonna hit it,” laughs Herren.
Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.
Matt on Mapping
But Herren’s visual style of fishing is more than just chunk and winding or flipping to cover.
“When I say ‘see something’ that also means being able to dial in on a particular place or contour on my Humminbird Lakemaster mapping, which could be a certain contour along a channel or whatever. So, it’s visual with my eyes above water, and it’s visual on my mapping. I’m using my mapping all the time, even shallow. I look at contours, breaks, inside turns, outside turns, and all kinds of stuff. The Lakemaster Depth Highlight feature allows me to eliminate 90% of the water on a lake from the get-go, speeding up my pre-fishing a hundred-fold.”
Case in point, how Herren locked in his plan on Lake Ray Roberts.
Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.
“One of the keys to winning the TTBC was recognizing that the lake was falling drastically. The lake started out 2’ high, but by Day 3 was only 6 inches high, so I had to go into my Humminbird ONIX and HELIX units and adjust the Water Level Offset feature, which redrew the entire map for me. I realized the fish were pulling out of the shallow brush and the willows and into what they call ‘drains’ in Texas—what we’d call creeks everywhere else. The bigger bass started to leave the willows in the 2’-4’ drains and pull out to the 7’-8’ original creekbeds on flats. Lakemaster had every single drain marked, and I could go straight to them, pinpoint the salt cedars, and that’s right where the bigger bass were.”
Developing a Pattern
In terms of developing a pattern, Herren says all he needs is a first bite and a confirmation bite. After that, he studies contours on his HELIX 10 SI GPS, asking himself questions: Is it a main creek? A pocket? Main lake? Then he sets his sights at duplicating those bites by seeking out similar structure, contours and cover.
“Let me put it to you this way: the main difference between pro and college football is the speed of the game. Same thing at the level I fish. Just look at how fast these guys can take one or two bites and turn it into a 20 pound limit. We ask ourselves the ‘why’ questions after every bite. My computer is constantly analyzing information, and I’m using my eyes, my electronics, every tool I have available, and it’s a constant equation, analyzing, calculating, spitting out information to instantly readjust,” says Herren.
Based on his Ray Roberts calculations, that meant employing two primary presentations: flipping 5/8 oz. Santone M-Series jigs and Reactions Innovations Twerk trailers (both in watermelon red) in willows and salt cedars on Day 1 and 2, and running shad-colored PH Custom Lures 2.0 cranks along rip-rap on Day 3.
Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.
Boat Control: This Ain’t Russian Roulette
But to make every cast count, he says boat control was critical, especially in the willows and cedars.
“The wind was really pushing the willows around. Add tight quarters and the fact I was I trying to pitch 20’ back into a spot the size of a coffee cup, and boat control really comes into play. All I had to do was tap the Minn Kota Talon foot switch twice and lock that boat down to make absolutely precise presentations. And that’s the difference in catching them or not. This ain’t Russian roulette. Those bass are sitting in specific places, and I’ve got to be able to put my bait right there. Without the Minn Kota Fortrex 112 to put the boat there and the Talon shallow water anchors to lock it down, none of that happens. I typically log about 200 hours on my outboard engine so there’s probably ten times that on my trolling motor at the end of the year. That’s incredible. No internal failures. No cable failures. Nothing. And I’m rough on it. You could plant acres on the fields I’ve tilled up in two feet of water this year.”
Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.
But it was Herren’s ability to adapt that ultimately won the 2016 TTBC.
“My primary cedar pattern died on Day 3. It got cloudy and the wind changed direction, which really messed with me. But I made the key decision early to go with what was happening and fish some different water. Instead of wasting the morning, I did something else. Turned out a smart decision because I caught 16 pounds by 10 am cranking bridge points.”
While Herren now assumes the TTBC mantle, everyone involved in the Fourth Annual Toyota Texas Bass Classic emerged a winner. Proceeds raised from the TTBC help underwrite Texas Parks & Wildlife Department youth fishing, Community Fishing Lakes (CFL) and other fisheries projects throughout the state. To date, the tournament has donated $2.25 million to the TPWD. To learn more, visit http://www.toyotatexasfest.com/.
By Austin Spain
You hear people say it all the time. When flipping heavy cover, use big line, crawdad baits and a super heavy rod. Well, I am going to share my experience that proves this technique wrong. Okay, maybe not wrong, but I can show that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Recently, I was pre-fishing with a pretty good Indiana stick. We were flipping bushes and fishing heavy cover on Indiana's largest lake and the fish were spawning, or just coming off the nest and relating to cover. So he pulled out his 25lb. test, a Sweet Beaver, and his 7'6" heavy action rod - I did the opposite. I started fishing with my 6'9" MH RPM Custom spinning rod with 10lb. test and a Yamamoto Senko.
While he flipped deep into the flooded bushes, I targeted the outside edges of the bushes and open pockets between bushes. I used a very simple technique; cast, let it sink, and move on to the next pocket. I was able to cover a lot of water and quickly I had a fish in the boat, then a second, and before my friend landed a single fish, I had a limit that probably would have went 13-14lbs.
This continued throughout the day, and I would have culled up to have 18-19lbs. in my best five. So why did I use this tactic? It’s just my way of fishing. We were fishing a deep, stained lake in southern Indiana and I am used to fishing the shallow, clear lakes of northern Indiana. While most would have hunkered down and went deep into the cover, I did what I had confidence in, and that is finesse fishing. I went back to the same lake the next weekend, pulled out the same tactics and fished the same way for a small club event. I fished light and finesse while the locals went big. I won the club event with 16.10lbs., while 2nd place had 6.8lbs.
It doesn't matter what lake you’re on, which state, or the weather conditions. If you’re not fishing your strengths, then you’re not fishing to your full potential. That is not to say that you can’t learn new techniques or new ways to catch fish. But during a tournament, I would suggest always doing what you have the most confidence in, even if it goes against the grain of what everyone else might be doing.
KVD’s Comeback: In His Own Words
How Humminbird pro Kevin VanDam cracked Toledo Bend’s big bass code
Eufaula, AL (May 17, 2016) - Bass fishing is a lot like any sport. Fall into a slump and critics crawl out of the woodwork. And with today’s multitude of media, there are way too many opinions flying around – most of all the realm of social media, where everyone’s an expert.
But the squawk boxes are it’s a little quieter this week for Kevin VanDam as bass fishing’s icon commanded a wire-to-wire win at the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite on Louisiana’s Toledo Bend, ending a five-year drought between major wins.
With the world watching, the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion and seven-time AOY weighed a whopping 96-2 four-day total, eclipsing second place by nearly eight pounds. The $100,000 brings VanDam’s career winnings to just shy of $6 million.
For Kevin, this win was personal. It was a long and torturous road filled with late nights, early mornings, miles of travel, and weeks of being away from home. But there was one thing that didn’t change, his Iron-forged perseverance.
We sat down and talked with Kevin about how it all happened and how it feels to be back on top. Here’s a peek inside the boat and the mind of someone who could be angling’s greatest of all-time.
How did you feel going into the event?
KVD: I didn’t know what to expect going into the first day. Practice was really windy, which made it hard to fish offshore, but I got a few bites, so I knew I’d get to fish how I like. I spent a lot of time studying the new Toledo Bend LakeMaster map on my HELIX 10 and just graphing with Side Imaging, Down Imaging and 2D Sonar.
What kind of offshore structure was key?
KVD: Bass were in transition from post-spawn to summer structure, which on Toledo means deeper ledges, humps and spots close to creek channels or the main river channel itself. The water was also really high, so they were pulling some water and the current through the lake moved these bass to outside points. So I tried to find areas like these outside large spawning flats that would hold a large concentration of fish.
What role did mapping play?
KVD: It played a big role. I know the Humminbird LakeMaster guys surveyed Toledo Bend when the water was low and basically destroyed two boats and a bunch of props to get the very best detail possible. That says a lot. So I knew every Humminbird pro was going to have an advantage over the competition. The Toledo Bend map on the new LakeMaster Mid-South States card version 3 is almost overwhelming because there’s so much detail. I fished around Housen in Six Mile, two major creeks in the lower end of the lake, and it was stunning what that map revealed. But it’s the same thing with LakeMaster HD maps everywhere I go, from Kentucky Lake to Guntersville. Sam Rayburn, too. There are no more secrets. For me, it’s actually kind of bittersweet, because now everybody can see the same things that I used to have to work so hard to find. But it’s going to help a lot of anglers become better fishermen.
If you don’t have LakeMaster you’re at a huge disadvantage.
How deep were the bass?
KVD: I had some spots where fish were as shallow as 15’ or as deep as 30’. One of the biggest fish I caught was on a 28’ hump. So, the big thing for me was zooming in and out when I got to these areas. On a 500-foot scale mapping with LakeMaster, you get a great view of everything that’s in the region – how the spot you’re looking at lays out and what’s surrounding it and how fish might funnel to it. But it’s also critical to zoom into the 50-foot scale so you can get the precise line and cast off the ends of these points, especially after I graphed them. Once I had that plot trail I’d use it as a line to make my cast.
Besides mapping, what technologies helped you dial in fish?
KVD: Because there was so much timber and structure, I used a lot of 2D SONAR and Down Imaging in split-screen view. Being able to see both images side-by-side allowed me to discern the different types of fish, was the key. There are so many baitfish, white bass, and yellow bass in Toledo Bend that a critical part is being able to tell what’s what on your electronics.
When they weren’t pulling water, the bass were setting up on or just outside points and ledges and hanging close to the bottom. The white bass were a lot higher up and farther off the drops. The largemouths would be one or two feet off the bottom and I could actually see them on my Humminbird, turn around, make a cast and catch ‘em. And that’s what I found in practice and was able to expand on during the tournament.
Tell us about your winning crankbait program.
KVD: I like to fish crankbaits during post-spawn because I can be very efficient—not only can I cover a lot of water, I can tell the difference between hard and soft bottom. If I’m in 15’ to 20’, I’m going to throw a Strike King 6XD; if I’m in that 19’ to 24’, I like the 8XD; if I’m anywhere from 20’ to 30’ zone, the 10XD is the way to go, especially if you’re trying to target big fish on Toledo. The whole family of baits allows me to cover the 15’ to 30’ zone really well.
I have a cranking system that I worked with Quantum to develop that includes 7’ 10” or 7’ 11” medium-heavy or heavy- action composite cranking rods and my signature 5.3:1 gear ratio reel for power. Depending on the crankbait, I use 12- to 17 lb. fluorocarbon.
Speaking of big fish, tell us about your 8-11 from Day 3.
KVD: I reeled my crankbait down over a hump that topped out at 28’, and I got hung up in brush. As soon as I popped it free that fish bit it. I set the hook, loaded up, and I knew it was a big one. It immediately swam into a tree top, so I just kept pressure on it, eventually getting it to swim out of the tree. Once the fish was inside the boat I was so excited that I jerked the hook out of the fish and into my hand! I had the fish in one hand and had to cull a little pound and half fish and put that big one in the live well with a Strike King 10XD 2/O Mustad treble stuck in my hand. Fortunately, I had a camera guy pretty close and walked him through the procedure for the painless hook removal and it worked like a charm.
Following your win, how do you feel about the rest of the season?
KVD: I’ve had an up and down season to this point. I had a couple good events to start off and was in good shape, but I’ve had a couple really bad days, too, the last at Wheeler. To have a great event here at Toledo Bend, unarguably the best bass lake in the country, really makes it special. I could not have done it without my Humminbird units and LakeMaster mapping. It’s a one-two punch with the Side Imaging, Down Imaging, and the LakeMaster map that is second to none. I’m proud to be with a company that understands the importance of investing in accurate mapping.
"...In bass, thanks to all those bass tournaments, there has been a tremendous amount of money invested in understanding catch and release. And what they did find were two things. One is that bass bit at different rates - certain bass, based on certain aspects of their metabolism, bit differently. So the long question people have had is, "Can you kill all of the biters?," and the 'biters' being those fish that bite your hook and then you kill and take home. If you catch all the biters, you're not going to have anything left to fish for except for the 'non-biters.' Well, there's some truth to that, though that's very simple because every fish has to be a biter at some point in its life, because you got to eat to grow...So what they did find in bass is this. Those bass that had really slow metabolisms, that were not very bold...they would bite and be hooked, but then it would take them a long time to be caught again on the same lure. In fact, it could be several weeks to even months, and sometimes they just didn't bite again at all. Now again, you understand all the challenges with doing this research, but it was pretty convincing evidence that those fish that were not very bold, that had that slow metabolism, they probably don't need as much food. They probably don't have to take so many risks to get the food, so they were more skeptical in terms of biting again. Now, on the other hand, those fish that had really fast metabolisms, those fish that needed to eat 10 crawdads a day to keep their shit going, those fish would bite again right away, within a day or two."
- John McMillan, fish researcher
Excerpted from an interview with April Vokey
Chances are, at some point, you might have wondered what, if any, are the differences between those short spools of fluorocarbon leader line and the larger traditional spools of fluorocarbon main lines? According to the folks at Seaguar, they are as follows:
Strength – While both are strong and will withstand the lb. test listed, leader is stronger over shorter lengths and is not designed to be a long, main line product. The main lines are designed to take the impact load over a much longer distance, transferred throughout the line.
Double Structure Technology – Our FC, FP, GM, and FX leader lines are all Double Structure (2 to 80 lb.), a Seaguar exclusive process that injects two different molten resins through a special die. The resins are extruded as one solid piece. The harder, inside resin contributes to the tensile strength, while the softer, outside resin creates greater knot strength. Our current main lines are single structure with the exception of TATSU, which is constructed like leader material and can be used as such.
Price – Leader is more difficult to produce because of double structure and the resins involved, therefore main line is less expensive and leader line costs more.
Resins – The resins in our main line are different than the resins in our leaders.
KVD shares tech tips to find and catch early-season bass
What’s your early-season gameplan? Return to the same spots and do the same things you've done year in, year out? Whether fishing with family, trying to set a new personal best, or working our way up a tournament leaderboard, reducing the time it takes to find and catch fish is paramount. Seldom is that accomplished by a "fishing a memory.” A better approach is to pay close attention to weather and water conditions, adjusting where and how you fish.
This month we discuss the topic with four-time Bassmaster Classic Champion and seven-time AOY Kevin VanDam, a man with an almost machine-like ability to cover water fast, find, and catch bass. A champion on many levels, KVD shares his thoughts on early-season bass and how to utilize electronics that will make for perfect advice for everyone behind the scenes who outfit anglers or rig their rides.
“A lot of people get hung up fishing spots where they caught fish in the past and it’s the wrong time of year, the wrong conditions,” says VanDam. “If I don’t see something positive on a spot in 10 minutes, I’m typically gone. You can’t catch fish there where they’re not. The most important factor in successfully catching fish is finding them. Location is key.”
Q. What can anglers do right now to find early-season bass?
KVD: Monitor the weather, not necessarily the water temperature. Warming or cooling patterns will give you a guideline for what areas of the lake to study ahead of time. Also look at lake topography, which will determine if bass are earlier or later in that spring process than they might be in another body of water. This can help you choose the right lake to fish. Like choosing a shallower lake vs. a deep, clear lake. Shallower, stained waters warm quicker and the fish start that spring process sooner than they do in deep, clear waters.
Q. What are your key early-season presentations?
KVD: This time of year I like techniques that are going to be really efficient for the depth, terrain, cover, and water quality where I’m fishing, so I’m using moving lures: spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, swim jigs, and crankbaits.
Q. What’s the next step after picking a lake?
KVD: I try to think about areas utilized by bigger populations of bass. Spawning areas may be in large bays, large flats, or other shallow water. Look closely at northerly banks, shores or bays. If there’s a cooling pattern I look for structural features that are close to those areas, like a deep break or a channel swing that comes close to a large spawning bay or flat. The predominant sun in the south is going to warm those areas first. And if it’s a full-on warming trend, then bass may be all the way back in those spawning areas.
Turn on your Humminbird and study the LakeMaster chart before you even hit the water. I like to use the Depth Highlight feature. Early-season I’m looking at 10 feet and under. I’ll highlight everything five feet and shallower in red and five to 10 feet in green. That makes the big flats and spawning areas really stick out on your map. And it’s great for highland-type reservoirs like Table Rock or Dale Hollow where the flats are much smaller. If you can find one little flat area and there’s deep water all around that area, boy, that one little stretch can be a goldmine! Depth Highlight makes those areas stand out. Eliminates a lot of searching.
KVD: I use Lake Level Offset to adjust the map. If it’s a reservoir that’s drawn down, you can dial in the true depth relationship on your map and then highlight whatever zone you want. I want my map to be as accurate to depth scale as I possibly can. LakeMaster makes it easy. Look at Grand Lake; the Grand Lake Authority has an app that gives you the current lake level right on your phone, so can easily adjust your LakeMaster offset to be current with it. Or adjust it to what you’re seeing consistently on your 2D SONAR.
There’s also the safety issue. Like Florida lakes with treacherous shallow-water areas. Using Lake Level Offset is a simple thing that you can do to make sure your map is spot-on for safe travel. Why guess? You’re crazy not to use Lake Level Offset all the time.
Q. Any other tips for using LakeMaster maps and GPS more efficiently?
KVD: I run my units Course Up; some people prefer North Up. I love the responsiveness of the map and GPS. And the accuracy is a matter of feet! I can put myself right on top of the same brush pile or I can know I’m 30 feet from it to make the perfect cast.
Use the Casting Rings feature, which I worked closely with Humminbird engineers to develop, to help you make perfect casts. Turn on Casting Rings and you now have distance and direction orientation on your LakeMaster map screen anytime you drop a waypoint on a piece of cover, a school of fish, a stump or any other target. This tells me I’m a specified distance from it to make the perfect cast. Again, it’s about efficiency. This is another reason 360 Imaging is awesome. It’s a real-time, updated casting ring that continually shows your position and relationship to the target.
Just making a cast and hitting the ledge with a crankbait is okay, but I’ve found that if I can get a precise distance, so my crankbait releases off the ledge and starts off the bottom toward the boat, bass can be triggered into biting. You have to know your precise distance from that target zone to be able to do that. That’s where the casting rings and 360 really help you.
Q. Are you using AutoChart Live?
KVD: I have and it’s a game-changer. If you go to Kentucky Lake and look at your LakeMaster chip, it’s amazing. But even there, there are places that you could improve on the map. And for anglers in regions of the country with a lot of smaller unmapped waters – like the North – you can now create your own map. For example, my parents live on a small, private lake that hadn’t been mapped. So I used AutoChart Live to make one. But on a lot of the big lakes that I fish tournaments on, you just don’t have time to re-write an entire map. But you dang sure can for certain areas that you’re fishing. So, the next level of mapping accuracy is creating your own maps for areas that haven’t been mapped. And it’s easy to use: basically turn on your Humminbird, hit a button, and fish while it’s mapping and working for you. You can get as extensive as you want, doing transects like LakeMaster surveyors do, or you can go out and just fish and slowly build the map at the pace that you fish those areas. Plus, you’re building it in real-time, right on your HELIX or ONIX. No uploading. That’s the other thing—your data is kept private.
Q. What about SmartStrike?
KVD: Humminbird’s SmartStrike is a great pre-fishing tool. Enter your various criteria like season, weather conditions, etc. and it’ll automatically highlight high-probability areas of the lake to fish. Used to be an ONIX-specific feature, but now it’s available for the HELIX 9, 10 and 12 with a free software update and card purchase, which is amazing. Then, once you get on the water, you can use SmartStrike to narrow it down even more. It’s kind of like having your own guide or local knowledge.
Q. How are you using Side Imaging on a day-to-day basis?
KVD: The depth of the water, type of cover, and structure all determines how I use my Side Imaging. Typically, I have my SI set to look 50 feet left and right in the Amber 2 color palette, which is best for my eyes and helps me read nuances in bottom composition. If I’m looking for isolated large objects, I may got out as far as a 100 feet. The closer the range, the better the detail, the better the target separation, the better you can see individual bass, cover and structural elements. As a general rule, if I’m idling along at 5 mph or less, I’ve got my Side Imaging on to mark brushpiles and other cover. Especially during early-season, I love to Side Image around docks. You can find really interesting pieces of cover: old lawn chairs and other stuff that has blown off of docks, or intentionally-place brushpiles, Christmas trees – all stuff good for holding fish. Side Imaging is probably the most significant development in my fishing career. Instead of just seeing a small area right underneath the boat, you can look off each side.
Q. When are you running 360?
KVD: It really depends on the depth, cover and terrain on the lake where I’m fishing. That determines how much or how little I’ll use 360. If I’m flipping grass mats, I’m probably not going to use it. But if I’m trying to follow an underwater grass line, it’s absolutely critical. Or if I’m in the back of a pocket on a highland reservoir, it can be key for finding brush piles and other cover you might not find otherwise. 360 is another great tool. One HELIX 10 on my bow is dedicated solely to 360, which I’m running a lot of the time.
KVD: I have four units on my boat: a HELIX 10 and ONIX 10 at the console and two HELIX 12 CHIRP units on the bow, all networked together, so if I drop a waypoint on a brush top on my console unit I can see it on any of my units. That’s a really great feature. You definitely want to have your bow and console unit(s) networked together.
At the console, I have a HELIX 10 dedicated to mapping, which I run in full-screen LakeMaster map or split screen to view a large area and a very focused-in area. The ONIX 10 is used for Side Imaging, Down Imaging and SONAR.
On the bow, one of my HELIX 12 units is used solely for 360 Imaging when I’m on the trolling motor. The other one typically runs SONAR and my LakeMaster map in split screen.
The ONIX 10 SI and DI units have the absolute finest imaging I’ve ever seen. But I fell in love with HELIX for two primary reasons: the flush, flat screen and the improvement in brightness of the actual screen itself. I’m super impressed. I started using them last fall and have to say that in real-world applications the imaging is pretty darn close to ONIX.
The thing that I’m really proud of is the tremendous value that Humminbird has put into the HELIX Series. It is an incredible, detailed and quality picture at an amazing price. It’s an amazing value across the line! It’s incredible. For the features you get, the quality and size of the screen – and the price – it’s amazing.
The other thing is ease of use. There are a lot of anglers who have experience with an 898, 999 or 1199, and the great thing about the HELIX is the menu system is very similar to what we already know.
And just the improvement in the screen as far as visibility and brightness goes. It’s stunning! What I love about the new HELIX is it has the best screen brightness for any light condition – and a simple operating system with all the features that I need with uncompromised reliability. They’re just bullet-proof.
This likely goes back to the late 1960s or perhaps early 1970s. Taken from some short video clips they filmed, the one and only Buck Perry, along with Don and Marge Nichols, and Terry O'Malley with bass they caught from Cataract Lake, a place they used to come down and visit to hang out, fish and film. Buck and his crew made a big pass through the state in 1968, mapping all the major reservoirs of the time including Monroe, Geist, Morse, Huntington, Salamonie and Prairie Cr. The effort was to support a large training program in the state, but a lightning strike a couple years later destroyed all the maps and related paperwork, along with a large part of his manufacturing facility.
Lots of internet forum chatter on the subject of fishing lines, especially comparisons between fluorocarbon and nylon/copoly monofilaments, so I thought I'd revisit this study from several years back that I haven't seen anyone else mention yet. Results are from a test carried out by the German Standards Organization (TUV). The results were pretty interesting and confirmed some of what we’ve heard and/or read before concerning various research on fishing lines. There were a few new things though readers might find intriguing.
They tested 10 different brands of line based upon near equivalent diameters of .0098″, or what would most likely be considered 8 pound test in our country. These included many brands I had not heard of, or at least ones that aren’t readily available here, but there were some recognizable lines such as Trilene XL and Tectan. Highlights from the study included the following:
As for the testing, their basis in reasoning was that while lines are labeled by manufacturers based upon dry breaking strength, in actual fishing conditions you are almost always using a line with some degree of water absorption. Therefore, they soaked the lines for 2 hours before testing to show what they believe better reflects "actual" breaking strength on the water, and to demonstrate the degree to which the physical properties of monofilament change (degrade) with that absorption.
They did not test breaking strength of dry lines, but there are numerous other test results on the Net showing those, and they reflect a breaking strength typically much more than the stated/labeled strength. One of the points they (German study) were trying to make in the article is that with some lines, it is not unusual to lose as much as 45-50% strength (both rated and/or actual) due to the affects of water absorption.