Friday, November 30, 2007
Reflections from Hawk Lake.
A twice yearly chronicle.
SOFT PLASTIC LURES – ANOTHER LOOK
There can be no doubt that the fortunes of soft plastic fishing lures have been ascendant for much of the past 10 years or so. These lures as a class have taken much of the bass fishing world – both largemouth and smallmouth bass – by storm. Tournaments have been won, professional fishing careers have been enhanced and countless anglers like you and me have seen their fishing become much more productive through the use of this class of lures.
Some go so far as to consider soft plastics a panacea, an answer to every question, a piscatorial slam dunk.
The truth is that lures, all techniques and all equipment have their respective places and uses. Some things work much of the time. Almost all things work some of the time. Nothing works well all the time. If one set of anything worked all the time, we would not be met with all the confusing array of things each time we visit Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, etc. If fact, these places depend on all the loose ends that represent the plethora of fishing lures, tackle and accessories available today. The only ones wishing for the one set scenario has to be our wives!!
Soft plastic lures are subject to the above limitations just like every other lure. Sure they work great. But they are not answers to an angler’s prayer. We see this all being played out in all the time in Canada. Once upon a time, we all thought that jig worms or grubs were the best thing since the invention of cheeseburgers. Could'nt hope to catch a fish without them. We could say the same thing about in-line spinners, crankbaits, you name it. Then the Senko craze hit. I/we became true believers. We all swooned into our beer mugs at the very mention of the name. We were looked upon with pity by wives, family and non-fishing acquaintances as we talked about these things with wide open and crazy looking eyes. These funny looking things must have surely fallen from heaven just as the manna had of old.
As things turned out, Senko's had their limitations. They do not work all the time. Fish often strike short with them. Other times they swallow them. If you make a habit of biting them off to dress them up, they have enough salt to give you high blood pressure. They have service life of 0.2 nanoseconds. If a fish so much as looks at them they rip off the hook. You go through them like crazy. All of this must be very gratifying to one Mr. Yamamoto.
Next came the Smallie Beaver. These sort of resemble a cross between a crayfish and something from Star Wars. Just like the Senko, these had their time in the spot light. For a while they caught fish like nothing else, or so we convinced ourselves.
What I am trying to say is this: all things have their time. Fish do become educated to any lure, however. Then something else takes their place. The most recent renditions look very odd indeed. They sort of remind me of something you read about and see in National Geographic about the odd little creatures on the deep ocean floor! These , too will have their time under the sun before sliding into oblivion.
One of the most important shortcomings possessed by all soft plastic lures is that they can be hard on the fish who ingest them, whether it be off the bottom or off our hooks. It is quite common to catch smallmouth which have one or more soft plastic lures lodged in its throat. Evidently, these fish had not been able throw these lures. I have also seen fish with problems at the other end. These fish were lucky as we were able to extract the offending objects with little difficulty. There is no doubt that these fish may well have been lost without our intervention on their behalf (we did bill Medicaid).
What is the answer to this? Shall we stop using soft plastic lures in general. In my opinion, the answer is no. All fishing techniques and lures have the capability to kill fish. However, we can minimize greatly the damage. With respect to soft plastics, the salvation comes in the way in which we rig them, specifically in the hooks we use.One approach would be to use a little drop of fishing glue on whatever hook we happen to be using just prior to threading the lure onto the hook. Even better would be to use one of the specialty hooks developed to deal with this problem. Gamakatsu now makes a worm hook designed to be used to skipping lures under docks and such. It come is all the normal sizes. These tend to hold lures better than regular hooks. When used with fish glue, one really sees a reduction in plastic lures torn off hooks by fish. An even better way was shown me by fishing friend Larry Johnson. Larry introduced me to Owner brand worm hooks with a sort of cork screw wire near the eye which really hold tight to the lure. No need for glue here. These hooks represent a quantum leap with respect to keeping our soft plastic lures from littering the bottoms of our lakes as well as preventing fish from ingesting these lures off our hooks.
Remember, the strength of any lure, or any technique lies not with that which is inherent with that lure or technique. The strength lies in our brain intelligently applying those lures and techniques to the task at hand under the circumstances we encounter. One final thought, remember that a fish has a brain less than the size of a dime. Checkmate!
THE LINE ON LINES (FISHING LINES, THAT IS)
One of the greatest blessings about my time at the Lodge, besides the obvious things such as the guests/friends, the beauty of the surroundings and the fishing; is the many things that I learn from almost everyone who visits Hawk Lake Lodge. This knowledge concerns many different areas, but none more than of all subjects concerning fishing. The reason is simple. I get to observe and listen to many different people about widely variable subjects and conditions almost every day of the season. The resulting information is predominantly positive – as in things that I should do differently, things that I should adopt into my personal angling repertoire. There are also negative things that I see, pitfalls to be avoided. One of these positive /negative issues is the whole subject of fishing lines. Specifically, what line to use or to avoid in different situations frequently presents itself as an issue.
While this may seem like a little thing, I am convinced that the little things done correctly and taken in aggregate separate the average angler from the exceptional angler. Let’s dedicate this article to both sides – positive and negative – of fishing lines leading us all to some conclusions which might make us all better anglers.
All fishing consists of is the proper introduction of two parties – the fish and the fisherman. If we put the angler and his rod on one side and the hook and the fish on the other, the only link to effect this introduction is the line.
To do its job, a fishing line must therefore efficiently and quickly transfer the energy from arm and rod to hook and fish, also know as the hook set. The key word is “efficiently”. A number of things can detract from this efficiency. Someone could mishandle his/her line – called slack, which takes away this efficiency. The line itself can also destroy this efficiency because it breaks or stretches too much, transferring little to no force to the hook set and the fish. It is in this act of setting the hook quickly and efficiently that I see the number one mistake that most anglers make. Many times the source of the problem can be traced to using the wrong fishing line.
How, then, do we insure this vital connection, this hook set? (1) Choose the proper line for the task at hand, and (2) maintain a balance between rod, hook and line.
What is the proper line? Naturally, there exists a divergence of opinion here. But lets return to the idea of efficiency to shed light on this question. To successfully and consistently hook fish the line we choose must quickly transfer the energy transmitted to our fishing rod from our arm to the hook and then to the fish all without breaking or stretching too much. Stretch takes away from quickness and force of a hook set much as if we are late setting the hook. This is easy to see. If we push slowly against a wall with a hammer, say with 20 pounds of force, nothing much happens to the wall. Why? The force is applied slowly over a period of time. Take that same wall and the same hammer with the same 20 pounds of force and apply that force in a quick blow and the hammer puts a hole in the wall. The difference is in a quick and efficient transfer of force to the wall. The same principle applies to setting the hook when fishing. Catching a fish means putting a hook through the mouth of the fish.
Which line to choose then? All monofilament, co-polymer or fluorocarbon type fishing lines inherently have stretch. We can manage that stretch by choosing heavier lines of these types. Instead of 4 or 6 pound test lines, use at least 8 and preferably 10 or even 12 pound test lines. Stretch is greatly reduced. Hook sets are much quicker. More energy gets to the hook and is not lost in stretching out your fishing line. Line break offs are greatly reduced. Most proficient anglers I know adopt this approach. This is especially true if you prefer to use light to medium light power fishing rods. Heavier line transmits more energy in any situation.
Someone may say at this point that heavier lines are more visible to the fish. I can only answer yes, in most instances. If fish are put off by heavier line (I have not observed this at Hawk), then use fluorocarbon lines. These closely match the refraction index of water and so are much less visible to the fish.
What’s more is that yet another option remains, which may be the best choice for many of us. This option is braided fishing line. Braids work very well with light spinning rods. This is because braids offer virtually no stretch. Whatever smaller level of power a light rod may offer, all of its gets to the mouth of the fish and is not lost to stretch. Braids also feature no memory, no coiling off spinning reels, and offer unparalleled sensitivity. Braids are also very strong. A 6 pound diameter braided line will be around 30 pound test. Ten pound test braid will be the same diameter as 2 pound test regular line. Braids are unaffected by the sunlight and can last for multiple years. No matter how far you cast or how far back you troll, the hook set will be as strong as if you were right at the boat. Braids are opaque, so the possibility exists that the fish may shy away from them. I have not seen this. If this is a concern a monofilament or preferably a fluorocarbon leader can easily be attached. Should you buy the Power Pro brand of braid, a little booklet comes with each spool showing how to tie all the required knots for attaching leaders.
Give the subject of fishing lines a thought. This little subject could make a world of difference in your fishing.
FALL 2007 NEWSLETTER – ITEMS OF INTEREST
We would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our guests and friends who shared the beauty of Hawk Lake Lodge with us in 2007. We sincerely trust that you all enjoyed your visit here as much as we enjoyed being your host.
Some of you may know this already. This past season has truly high- lighted the great fishery that we have at Hawk Lake Lodge. For 2007, not one but three Catch and Release world record book entries were made. For walleye, the line class (12 pound test I believe) and overall world records were established here. This walleye crowded the 20 pound mark in weight. This specimen was caught in late June on Hawk Lake. Another line class world record was set (14 pound test) in late season for smallmouth bass in the above- mentioned record book. This specimen was caught on Bass Lake. This fish was over 24 inches in length and weighed around 8 pounds. We must remind ourselves that while the other record book (catch and kill) may contain fish that may be larger than those caught here, the fish caught here are still swimming these waters! I do not know about you, but this gives me a thrill to know that each of us still have chances to hook into fish of this caliber.
Other news worthy items include the launching of our new website and the future posting of future Newsletters, beginning with Fall 2007, on the website. From now on all, Newsletters will be available there for your review at any time. Newsletters will no longer be sent out via the post. Please be sure to let us know what you think about the new website. We consider this a work in progress that has not yet arrived at its final form.
By now most of us already know that the US Dollar has been greatly weakened relative to a number of foreign currencies, including the Canadian Dollar. The value of the Canadian Dollar has a huge impact upon all Americans doing business in Canada. This is especially true concerning American fishing lodges operating in Canada. Lodges that largely do business with US fishermen charge their rates for the most part in US Dollars. However, operating in Canada, the vast majority of operating costs are incurred in Canadian Dollars. Whereas, just a few short years ago, one US Dollar would yield 1.3 to 1.5 Canadian dollars; the US Dollar is currently trading at around 0.98 Canadian Dollars. The bottom line is that the US Dollar buys a lot less Canadian Dollars. This means that operating expenses have soared not only because costs of things have gone up steadily but also because you need more US Dollars to buy everything in Canada.
Lodges are doing many things to compensate for this. Charging in Canadian Dollars might help with further erosion's in value but do nothing to help the current situation and are a pain for US citizens to pay the bills in. Others are radically changing their business plans deleting anything that might drop their exposure to costs paid for in Canadian Dollars. Others are charging steep price increases in attempt to generate what they need to remain solvent. We are taking a different approach. We are adopting an approach that will maintain the best possible combination of minimum price increases and traditional Hawk Lake services. This will maintain the best combination of price and value. By supporting each other, we will make it through this difficult time.
For those of you who already hold dates, the deposit letters should be in your hands by the time you read these words. For those of you who do not yet hold dates, we urge you to contact us at your earliest convenience. This will insure you the dates of your choice.
The airline industry continues to grapple with the changes which are currently confronting them. While no changes are expected with respect to Northwest Airlines, there are rumors to the effect that a merger may be in the offing between Delta and United Airlines. At present, there is no certainty that this merger would take place at all. However, if it was to take place, it is possible that service and/or connections might be enhanced for those of you who currently fly United to Winnipeg.
At present, we have no information regarding rates for 2008 from either Northwest or United. Should we come into the possession of any information to this effect, we will be sure to let you know on the website. For the present, check out http://www.nwa.com/ , call your favorite travel agent or call Prelude Travel at 800-561-8907.
We look forward to a great 2008 season. We can’t wait to welcome everyone again to Hawk Lake Lodge this season.