Recently I traveled to Orlando, FL to attend the ICAST fishing show where much of the new fishing tackle, accessories, and other fishing equipment for the upcoming year is introduced. With clear water as the result of zebra mussel infestations becoming more and more prominent in many of the waters I fish for bass across the Midwest, I kept a keen eye out for lures and other equipment that I feel will help me combat clear waters when bassin’.
Lure manufacturers seem very in tune to the advantages of tungsten, as opposed to lead, as the main component in jigs and other lures. For example, tungsten jigs, heavier in weight than their similarly physical-sized lead counterparts, have been very, very popular amongst panfish anglers, particularly in the winter when panfish really take a liking to small baits. Tungsten jigs shine in winter when the water often clears even more meaning smaller, less intrusive sized baits seem to work better. Plus, the cold of winter also means less aggressive feeders, again making small offerings often more appealing to fish.
Open water lure manufacturers have caught on to the ice fishing trend toward tungsten lures with more and more offerings available each year. Skirted bass jigs tipped with high action plastics have been a big part of my fishing arsenal for years. However, when fishing clearer waters recently, being able to downsize the profile of these baits has often meant more and even bigger bites. At ICAST, Strike King, a powerhouse in the bass lure making game, introduced a skirted jig with a heavy wire hook. Called the Tour Grade Compact Tungsten Casting Jig this new lure really caught my attention. Why? Because the jig head itself is made of tungsten making for a more compact presentation than similar weighing lead jigs. Plus, the jig retains weight for long casts, and because tungsten is extremely hard, this jig will be more sensitive than its lead counterparts too!
To make things even better, Strike King added to their Rage line of soft baits with a Rage Scounbug that is a compact 3 ½” size crawfish imitator that promises to be the perfect trailer for the new tungsten casting jig. Plus, the new jigs and bugs come in all the “bassy” colors as well.
Traditional skirted jigs have been catching bass for decades. Bladed jigs are much newer to the fishing scene and have been winning lots of bass tournaments the past several years too. And, as you can guess, having smaller profiled offerings in this lure category makes sense for clearing waters too. As if on cue, the Tour Grade Tungsten Thunder Cricket was introduced to the fishing public at ICAST too. Designed to be a finesse-sized bladed jig that casts well, this bait promises superior action and features a super-strong hook as well. Though I haven’t thrown it yet, I can’t wait to cast it to clear water largemouth bass in waters across the Midwest. Plus, it ought to be a homerun for smallmouth bass as well!
Lure designs are changing by the day and so are sonar technologies. Much has been made recently about forward facing sonar. This technology allows anglers to see fish in real time ahead of the boat. In clear water that means we can see fish and cast to them before they might even know we are there! The current forward-facing sonars from manufacturers offer some sort of mount that is attached to the trolling motor shaft meaning the view seen on the sonar screen is consistent with the movements of the trolling motor shaft. The problem becomes that when in “anchor mode” where the trolling motor operates independently to hold the boat in place, the forward view the angler desires might not be visible because the trolling motor is rotating to hold the boat in place. At ICAST, I spent lots of time in the booth of the RITE-HITE Turret, which is a motorized mount that runs independently of the movements of the trolling motor and can be controlled by a hand-held remote or a foot control. I took the leap into the forward-facing sonar world this season, love the technology, but have struggled with not always being able to “see” where I want to “see,” particularly when “anchored.” I sampled the Turret a bunch at ICAST, and it certainly is the answer to my struggles. I will have one in my boat in the not-too-distant future!
Fishing’s future across the Midwest seems to involve clear water. Fortunately, the people who build the products we rely on to catch fish are “in tune” to this trend. I’m excited to add the items outlined above to my angling arsenal and am sure there are more things on the horizon to combat clear water and the challenges presented by it.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the ZEBCO School of Fish. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.