Mike Frisch: Go big to catch bigger fish
Recently, we filmed a late-winter crappie fishing episode for Fishing the Midwest TV. Our goal was to catch crappies 12 inches long and bigger, and one of the modifications we made to reach that goal was fishing jigging spoons rather than smaller jigs.
Our catch numbers decreased from previous days, but we met our goal as several bigger “slabs” came topside during the shoot. This experience has me thinking about ways this same strategy can be used to catch bigger fish during the open water fishing season too.
Tournament walleye anglers across the Midwest have been relying on bigger minnows when tournament fishing to put their “overs” (walleyes measuring over 20 inches) in the boat.
Several veteran tourney anglers I know rely on jigs and “regular” minnows, often shiners, to catch their slot fish (those under 20 inches). When over-sized fish become the target, they often switch to slip-sinker, live-bait rigs and bait them with redtail chubs or creek chubs in the 6-inch range, or even bigger.
Knowing this was working for several of my tournament fishing buddies, I had a dozen big creek chubs along late last summer on another TV shoot in northern Minnesota. A partner and I were fortunate to land on a bunch of 18-23-inch fish on our first spot and caught several in fairly short order pulling nightcrawlers on bottom bouncer rigs.
When the bite slowed, we broke out the live-bait rigging rods and baited up with big chubs. The first pass through the fish, a fat walleye pushing 26 inches ate a chub and ended up being the shoot’s star!
This philosophy will often put bigger largemouth bass in the boat too.
Small plastic worms fished on tiny jig heads have taken the bass world by storm recently. Ned rigs, jigworms, and shaky heads are names often given this presentation. Regardless the name, clearer waters and increased fishing pressure on lots of lakes have made these finesse offerings the norm, rather than the exception, for many anglers.
However, when it comes to enticing bigger fish, a bigger, skirted jig tipped with some sort of trailer, the classic “jig-n-pig” set-up, is still an effective method.
Yet again on another filming adventure last summer, a partner and I had put a couple dozen bass in the boat using Ned rigs. Wanting to upgrade the size of the fish caught, we traded our finesse spinning rod/reel and light line combos for heavier baitcasting rigs baited with big jigs and plastic trailers fished on heavy line.
Once again, our overall fish numbers went down a bit, but the size of fish caught definitely went up. On one particular weedy point, we put several bass in the 3-4 pound range in the boat in short order. This same point had produced only a handful of 13- and 14-inch fish earlier in the day. But, the bigger fish definitely showed themselves when we traded the 1/16-ounce jigs and tiny worms from earlier for 1/2-ounce Hack Attack Jigs tipped with Rage Craws.
We made short pitches to the heaviest weeds on the point with these baits and often got hit on the jig’s initial drop. If no biters appeared on the original fall, we’d aggressively hop the jig a time or two and then reel back in and make another pitch.
The big fish, on this day at least, certainly preferred the bigger baits fished aggressively over the slowly fished finesse offerings.
Big baits don’t always produce big fish. However, bigger lures certainly still merit a place in your tackle box.
And, as always, remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s School of Fish. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.