- TIPS -
Click on Topic
Find more Tips in our ARTICLES
back to top
Bass are primarily sight feeders so the murkier the water, the shallower Bass may be feeding.
In murky water, light penetration is only a few feet, so work the surface and the shallows.
Bass also have good color vision, and get interested in objects that move.
LARGEMOUTH BASS (Micropterus salmoides) may be the most sought- after gamefish in the country.
You will find them actively feeding when water temperatures are between
65 - 75 (72). Largemouth Bass relate strongly to cover such as stumps, logs, brush, weeds and boat docks. They also relate to structure features such as points,
rocks, drop-offs, flats, cuts and creek channels.
Try using dark colored lures in muddy water and light colors in clear water. Look for spots other anglers might overlook and try varying the speed of your retrieve.
SMALLMOUTH BASS (Micropterus dolomieu) will move into shallow bays once water temps reaches 55.
Smallmouth prefer a different world than their Largemouth cousins, Smallmouth tend toward rocky formations, logs, shoals and debris.
Smallmouth have an active feeding range of 60 -70 (67). Some good artificial baits for smallmouth are surface plugs, spinners, streamers and wet flies.
And good live baits are crawdads, minnows and worms.
DURING SPRING: It's Never Too Early To Think BASS Fishing.
In early spring, the sun casts its most intense energy onto the North shores, and since fish are attracted to the warmest waters, you should concentrate here.
Fish will not be real active during early spring, so do not make the mistake of fishing too fast.
Once water temps reach 50-55, Bass will start moving into staging areas at the 5-8 foot deep breaks and many times in or near sheltered coves.
At temps of 55-60 they will be in pre-spawn near cover closer to shore searching for spawn beds.
When water temps go into the 60s, they will be ready for egg-laying in shallow coves as shallow as 2-4 feet..
During early spring focus your fishing along the most protected banks with the calmest waters.
I find jigs with pork to be a good lure during this pre-spawn period. Once the spawn is over (post-spawn), I prefer a spinnerbait or topwater lures.
A large spinnerbait will match the bait fish size this time of year. The spinnerbaits are good during high water conditions with some stain. Fish them
over flooded brush & grass and try experimenting by mixing blade sizes, colors and shapes.
Many times the same locations you found fish during pre-spawn, you will find them during post-spawn.
When Bass are found in shallow cover, a Jerkbait casted over this area, given a couple of jerks to get it down, then let to set and twitched and another jerk will being strikes.
DURING SUMMER: Good BASS fishing times can be early or late and try topwater baits or buzz baits,
and check our Fishing Calendar for the best times each day for most fish activity.
For that topwater bait, try using a Slow to medium-steady retrieve instead of fast erratic action, experiment to find what works best.
Also, try waiting 20-30 seconds after splashdown to start retrieve of top water bait.
Another successful approach for Bass is to cast a plastic worm at cover like Timber & Weeds.
If you prefer spinner baits, switch to smaller blades during summer forage fish are predominately smaller this time of year.
During summer when temps hit 80, bass will often move into deeper water to escape sunlight or may hide in shade of docks and laydowns.
Bass many times will be under the thickest weed mates or will also move into shallows to feed at night.
When they are under these weeds mates, this is a great time to use scum frog type baits across tops of this scum..
The key this time of year is finding the Bass. Look for drop-offs and slopes with structure out in the lake such as humps and ends or points.
Once you find the fish and their depth, a deep-running crankbait is a good choice. So, the trick is to know how deep your
crankbaits will run. REMEMBER, always cast past the area you plan to fish so the crankbait will have time to reach the strike
zone instead of passing it up.
You hear much advice directing you to "work the weedlines". Well, the weedline term refers to both
submerged and/or above-water weed beds. The "outside edge" is the side of the weeds facing deep water.
The "inside edge" faces shore. Curves or U shapes along weedlines indicate changes in bottom structure and
are always worth a try!
If the lake you fish is fairly Clear, pick deeper weedlines. If muddy or stained, the fish may be shallow.
If you fish shallow water & over weeds, hook minnow through the outer edge of the back or tail or fish on the weed mates with a scum frog for real fun.
If fishing deep, hook minnows through both lips from bottom.
This is one of the most relaxing types of fishing and Catfish have a wide range of sizes and areas of feeding which makes it hard to suggest one tackle combination.
The Catfish is a powerful fish that live in areas of heavy cover and snags so just match your gear to size fish you expect to catch and for the conditions.
Catfish are bottom feeders so it is best to use enough weight to keep your bait near bottom.
Catfish only see shades of light and dark, but have great sense of smell cause their body is covered from head to tail with external taste buds,
so I guess this makes them swimming tongues.
Along with their exceptional senses of smell and taste, they have good vision, plus acute senses of feeling & hearing.
The Catfish, with its streamlined shape and feeding strategies enable it to thrive in current. They can also adapt to a wide variety of
other waters. So, when fishing rivers, try directly below the dam and upstream ends of outside bends that can both generally provide the best daytime catfishing. But don't overlook places that catfish rest
while feeding in nearby fast water. This includes ends of wingwalls, downstream side of boulders etc. and shoreline rip-rap.
As for lakes, catfish will be found on flats near deep water, inside bends along drop-offs, in flooded timber and near mouths of incoming creeks or rivers.
Catfish eat day or night, they seem to feed best just as the sun cracks the horizon for 1-2 hours and will feed heavily as storm front approaches until
it passes and then start again 2-days later back to normal.
So, monitor the weather for fronts, then be ready to hit the water when a combination of falling barometric reading and south to east winds that indicate weather changes ahead.
Try Catfishing near channels, stumps, brushpiles, log drifts, undercut banks, dense timber and any place of shelter any time of day.
Shad would be a good bait choice during summer because it is natural to the catfish's environment. Shad are sometimes hard to find at bait shops, so try
a Drift Net pulled behind your boat around piers & dams for live shad. You will find them hard to
keep alive. And if all this doesn't work, Try chicken livers, stink baits(such as cheese), dip baits such as Hoss´s Hawg Bait can be real effective or an ol' night crawler is sure to catch you a catfish.
Channel catfish or Flathead, well the channel catfish has a deeply forked tail and the flathead catfish does not.
Blue catfish feed mainly at night by moving in shallow from deep water to feed on baitfish and crawfish. They can grow to more than 100 pounds.
Slow drifting is a great way to cover lots of water or using a float to hold bait just off bottom is a good presentation for dip baits in areas with little current.
Not much gear is needed for catfish fishing, so keeping it simple will be better for you. (ALSO CHECK THE SHORE FISHING SECTION)
back to top
PANFISH Also known as FUNFISH that include Bluegills, Crappie, Sunfish and Rock Bass.
Panfish are plentiful species and easily caught from shore and found shallower during spring.
They can be found in or near weeds, grasses, rip-rap, around docks and most man-made structures. During the winter months, they will be deeper in 15 -20 foot near remaining weedlines or along drop-offs.
Do Not make the mistake of using over-sized tackle when fishing for panfish. We recommend using spinning gear with 4-pound or 6-pound line, do Not use huge bobbers
and do Not use big snap swivels.
Bluegills have small mouths and have some of the best eyesight of all fish, and have good color vision.
Bluegills will spawn when the water temperature reaches 70 to 72 degrees. The males build nests and find females to mate with in shallows.
After the spawn and as waters warm, they will go to deeper water up to 15 feet.
Crappie will spawn in water temps of 62-66.
DURING SPRING: Look for CRAPPIE first and followed by BLUEGILL to start moving in from their winter hide outs
into the 5 foot water depths when water temps are around 50-55 degrees.
They will be found holding in and around brush or timber, so jig vertically or cast & retrieve slowly with yellow, chartreuse or white jigs with minnow or twistertail.
Once you find the cover (brush pile) anchor upwind and just to the side of your target.
REMEMBER, crappie look upward to feed, so position your bait just above the fish. And during Spring, Carppie are on the move, so you should keep moving.
As Bluegills move shallow near spawning areas or beds, they can be spooked easily, be sure to be quit, stay back and set small float to about 2 feet.
Also, during this period of spawn, these fish are easier to find & catch, so be careful not to destroy the population.
The Bigger PANFISH (Crappie and Bluegill) will be in deeper water during the warm daytime hours close to weeds,
and anywhere there is green vegetation.
If you catch small ones next to vegetation, move out a little, cause the bull gills should be on the outskirts.
So, look for shoreline with drop-offs. If you are only catching small fish, work out a bit deeper even 12 -18 foot.
BLUEGILLS will bite on a variety of different baits. Tip a small jig with wax worms just over
the hook barb so their body is more horizontal. With this presentation, the fish are more likely to bite.
Since Bluegills are primarily sight feeders, a moving bait will many times product better catches when fishing in murky water.
Also try using a slip bobber to suspend the bait just above the fish or to get down to deeper water. Adjust to stop up or down till you find the fish.
It is not necessary to buy bobber stops, you can tie some dental floss on your line
as a bobber stop and it will go through the rod guides with no problem. The floss can also easily be slid up or down your line to desired depth.
An excellent way to catch CRAPPIES (Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus) is slow trolling. Rig two jigs or live minnows 18" - 24" apart at 8-16 feet deep,
then Slow drift or use your trolling motor to ease your way near flats, points, drop-offs, brushpiles and bridges. If you catch fish, go
over area again and you will usually catch more of these schooling fish.
Also troll small crankbaits over deep, ledges, channels or brush where crappie are suspended during warm weather.
Or find deeper brushpiles in 10 - 20 foot off points, drop-offs or ledges adjacent to channels and vertical fish a minnow.
Remember, when Crappie fishing, depth is important. Since they look upward to feed, fish 1-2 feet above them. By taking
fish from the top of the school, others will be less spooked.
back to top
Stripers are anadromous fish, meaning they can live in either salt water or fresh water, just as salmon do.
Stripers go after schools of baitfish, a key is to look for shad or minnows popping out of the water or where flocks birds are feeding on
the water´s surface. This will mainly take place early morning or near sundown. A good year-around bait is live shad.
And areas near dams are hybrid hot-spots and tailwaters are another great spot to seek out sripers..
DURING SPRING: Stripers will strike large live minnows because they are hungry from winter.
Make sure your live bait is alive and lively cause the bigger fish are not stupid. Trolling large minnow type rattle baits will catch
striper, but many large fish are caught with live baits.
Best baits are any shad imitators either casting (if water temp. is 45-50)or trolling to depth of fish. If fish are holding
tight to cover, try vertical jigging. Also, a splashy agitator which mimics a fleeing baitfish will product strikes.
back to top
There are several different species of Trout, but for us in Central Illinois the most common would be the hatchery stocked rainbow and/or brown trout thanks the IDNR´s Catchable Trout Program each spring and fall.
These stocked fish tend to school up along drop-offs and during spring and fall, trout can be caught even in the middle of the day feeding up in the shallows.
When Trout fishing, focus your efforts on areas where the most water passes in a concentrated area. Check for boulders
that form "chutes" of water, or where a log against a bank creates a "funnel" of water.
The riffles below these spots are prime trout-feeding locations as well as slack water areas behind objects.
Spinning gear works best with 4# to 8# line and we use 6# for better casting of the little baits.
Lures would be small spoons, small inline spinners and bait rigs. Some of the most effective baits are Berkley´s Power Baits and Nuggets for trout.
Covering a trout's eyes very lightly with your hand will often cause the trout to stop struggling while you remove the hook.
back to top
and PIKE(Esox lucius)
Amount the largest and most aggressive game fish in Illinois. They have similar habits and are many time
mistaken for one another.
The Muskie has more pointed tail tips and the bands or bars run up & down from back to belly while the Pike has more rounded tail tips with spots that run from front to tail.
Muskie will spawn at water temperatures between 49 - 60 (55) while Pike will spawn early with water temperatures between 34 - 40 (37).
As for gear, we would recommend a stout rod, heavy baitcasting reel with 25 - 30 pound line and by all means a wire leader ahead of your bait for these toothy citters.
When selecting a lure, think big, stickbaits, jerkbaits, bucktail spinners and big topwater baits.
DURING SPRING try casting in water 10 foot or less around weeds or rocks or areas or incoming water.
DURING SUMMER try trolling main lake weedlines in 15 - 20 foot range and they can be found on flats with deep water nearby.
Pike can be caught using large suckers on a jig or under a bobber when they are feeding in shallow water during summer.
Walleye have a reflective shield in back of their eyes tapetum luidum which
helps them see, be active and feed in very low light conditions.
Walleye actively feed at water temperatures between 55 - 70 (62).
Walleye tend to travel near the bottom in areas with some current but not too much current and relate to weedlines, breaks along flat, sandbars and rock edges.
So get your bait down to them with a jigs which may be the most popular method. Tipping your jig with live bait adds scent, taste and a bit of bulk.
Walleye lightly suck in the bait, so be aware for light taps. If you have problem hooking walleye which seem to get parts of your
minnows or crawler, add a stinger hook to the tail. Hooking minnow through mouth and out top of head works good. If you use
leeches, hook them through the sucker and they will be lively all day. The bottom bouncer type weight rigs work good
to keep bait down and out of trouble in rock. Just use enough weight to keep it on bottom. Also, if hang-ups are a problem use a 3-way and
on the weighted end, place a split-shot and if it hangs you can pull free and only lose the low cost shot...I LIKE IT
When selecting a jig, use one heavy enough to keep bouncing along the bottom while maintaining a near vertical presentation.
One other great presentation in deep water is jigging spoons which we really prefer in late summer through fall.
As many other walleye anglers, we find live minnows, nightcrawlers and leeches to be great baits and very effective.
As for gear, we prefer spinning gear with 6 to 8 pound lines for most all but when using a jigging spoon in deep water for which I switch to a baitcaster with 8 to 10 pound line.
SPRING and FALL
These cool season hotspots include dams, wingdams, underwater obstructions, irregular riprap banks, weed beds,
side pockets, banks eddies and any current breaks. Other good spots to fish during spring & fall are feeder streams in water depths from 5 to 15 feet.
If you try crankbaits in spring, use colors of silver and chartreuse.
Look for walleye around mid-river sandbar drop-offs, depressions and off flats in deeper water depths of 20 - 45 feet.
After a rain, feeder streams can hold walleye during summer.
Since walleye are a schooling fish, if you find one you have a good chance of catching more.
When walleye seem sluggish, try smaller jigs which fall slower allowing sluggish walleye more time to respond.
And Trolling crankbaits often produce more fish when walleye are reasonably active and good summer colors like crawfish hues of rust, orange and gold.
back to top
WHITE BASS(Morone chrysops)
Lots of people bank-fish for White Bass along the shore but
a boat provides more mobility to move from school to school rather than waiting for them to come to you.
Use a medium-light to medium spinning rod, 6-pound line and a small eighth-ounce to three-eighth-ounce jig depending on the current, add
a minnow and as water warms you can switch to blade baits.
Try hard-bottomed, sandy areas, especially on river bends, the mouth of tributaries and areas with large chunks of rock on the
shoreline for best results. If the water level of a river is dropping, move deeper to locate fish along the channel break.
DURING SPRING: Look for White Bass to be far up feeder creeks & rivers leading into
large impoundments. They concentrate before spawning making them easier to catch. Use live minnows, jigs, lipless crankbaits & spoons.
Since WHITE BASS chase shad, look for shad spurting from the water and cast into middle with
shad color spinners, spoons & crankbaits. This can also offer some of the best topwater action for summer time White Bass.
Look for junctions of two rivers, creek mouth, or tailwater channels just below locks where they release water
which stirs up baitfish.
Tube jigs (black/chartreuse or black/blue) 1 1/2 hour before sunset and/or after sunrise is best.
Jigs white or chartreuse with white twisters or minnows work good.
back to top
N ever put a hook into the eye of a guide. Metal ones can be scratched and brittle ceramic ones can be broken. Damaged eyes translate
into damaged line and lost fish. If you must secure a hook to a guide, use the foot.--Danny Hicks.
WET WARNING You will shorten the life of your tackle if you put it away wet. It pays to let it air dry
before stashing it away.
Tie lines on your reels with this knot from the Fly Fishermen..
It holds good with less slipping.
WHILE fishing on Bull Shoals Lake, we were given a tip to help get our jig out of a snag.
back to top
Bob told us to attach a large bell sinker to a paper clip, hang it on your line, let it slide down,
and the bell sinker knocks the jig loose. COOL
For additional tips, check out MONTHLY TIPS on our Home page.
BANK or SHORE FISHING: I spent many early years shore fishing and still do today when time arises.
Spring is a great time to fish from shore since fish tend to relate to the inside edges of grass and weeds more this time of year.
Therefore, they are in the shallower portions of lake around vegetation or any irregularities.
These fish are getting ready to go on their beds and are feeding up since they may not eat for several days.
So, you see you bank fishermen are in a good position to cast along shore or use a long crappie pole to fish these good areas.
ALSO remember, smaller lakes or pond waters warm faster and can hold some of the best early season fishing.
For additional tips, check out MONTHLY TIPS on our Home page.
back to top
Find more Tips in our ARTICLES