by: Tim Lesmeister
On this year’s Minnesota Fishing Opener, Outdoor News Managing Editor Rob Drieslein and I were broadcasting the Outdoor News Radio show live from the Lakeland Broadcasting Studios in Willmar. We had contacted anglers all over the state of Minnesota to discover how the fish were biting and what they were biting on. A common thread during the broadcast was that everyone was using the trustworthy jig and minnow as their go-to bait.
I understand this phenomenon. Having fished all over the world, I conclude that certain techniques work well on certain bodies of water in certain regions and anglers want to catch fish so they use what often works best. I’ve heard it hundreds of times: Jigs are a great lure for opening day in Minnesota. But is it worth trying something else to see if it works better?
Jay Coleman guided Cynthya Porter and Josh Huff on this opener on Long Lake, and when they got to their spot, he handed them a rod with a slip-bobber and a leech. They caught a nice walleye, some huge bass, and even some bullheads. When Josh decided to try his luck with some crankbaits, they didn’t work. Would a jig and minnow have worked better? Not according to Coleman. He fished this lake a lot and knew from experience the slip-bobber was the trick.
When fishing steelhead on the Rogue River a few years back, I tied on a bright orange yarn fly about six inches above a 1/4-ounce Ugly-Bug jig. The guide wasn’t happy about me using my own tackle, but when I started catching steelhead he didn’t hesitate to dig into my tackle box to change flies.
In Alaska on the Kenai River, you see the guides tying on flesh flies to cast, bead rigs to drift, and they pull plugs (running a crankbait in the current). Some years ago I decided to try some tube jigs in the current seams, and I pounded the rainbows. I’ve also incorporated sonar in the boat – which is very rare on the Kenai – and this year I’m going to fine-tune a bottom-bouncer presentation.
When I spent a year in England in the late 1990s, I fished a lot of small lakes and ponds. The locals used live-bait (ledger) rigs tipped with nightcrawlers, boilies (hard dough balls), and even lunch meat to fish for carp.
One day I set up on the banks of a pond and sent out a hook threaded with canned sweet corn. In five minutes, I was reeling in a fish. It went like this for four hours, just non-stop action. It wasn’t long before everyone else on the banks of this pond was coming over to see what I was using. Green Giant Niblets. It worked!
So I guess other tactics work – sometimes. And sometimes they don’t. You can always use what the locals deem their favorite presentation, or you can experiment. Something might just work better.