Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Early-summer angling – a multi-species paradise

Spring is slowly fading to summer. Water temperatures are rising, and overall weather conditions are starting to become more consistent. For the multi-species angler, this is arguably one of the best times of year to hit the water. 

There are a lot of fish in shallow water right now, because many different species are in various stages of spawn and post-spawn activity. Weeds are starting to grow up, and new weed growth is sure to attract a wide assortment of fish species. It may sound overly simple, but fish just love weeds. Walleyes, bass, bluegills, and crappies are all primary targets right now. 

This is one of those periods when you may intend to target a specific species, but those expectations may completely change by the end of the day. With so many fish shallow, you don’t necessarily know what you’ll find, and it’s important to be adaptable. I can think of plenty of situations in which I set out in search of bass or walleyes but ended up finding a huge colony of bluegills or a mega-pod of crappies.  

With multi-species success in mind, it’s critical to have a variety of rods, reels, and tackle readily accessible. Regardless of what I’m targeting, there’s a handful of specific setups that I always have on deck this time of year. 

In terms of bass, there are two presentations that always have a place in my boat. The Ned rig has been making waves in the bass world for several years now – and for good reason. During this timeframe, this rig is a great choice for many lakes in the Midwest. 

While it’s touted as a finesse bass-fishing technique, this lure catches both bass and walleyes. Not to mention, I’ve also caught my fair share of plus-sized bluegills and crappies on it. A 1⁄16- or 1⁄8-ounce rig head will cover most scenarios. 

It’s also hard to discount the effectiveness of a simple soft-plastic swimbait. Boot-tail options paired with a 1⁄8-ounce jig head can be fished at nearly any depth you’ll encounter this time of year. They’re not only great for bass, but they’ll also catch pretty much anything that swims. A medium power, fast-action rod in the 7-foot range is my ideal tool for both of these techniques.   

When it comes to more walleye-specific setups, snap-jigging hair jigs and plastics is still the deal right now. This is when this technique is really at its peak. Weeds are still relatively limited, and I focus on areas in less than 15 feet of water. Unlike live bait options, I fish these baits pretty aggressively, so a 1⁄4-ounce jig is preferred. 

Because I’m fishing on the fast side, I rely on both the VMC Moontail and VMC Mooneye. In terms of plastics presentations, the Big Bite Baits Slim Minnow was made with the snap-jig fisherman in mind. Its minnow-like profile and slim body cause it to fall quickly. These presentations are fished with a rip or snap, a slack line fall, and a repeat. St. Croix’s Snap Jig models (6-foot, 8-inch medium power, extra-fast action) were specifically developed for these techniques. 

You never know when you’ll come across the mother lode of bluegills or crappies, which is why I always carry a few panfish weapons in my arsenal. My rod of choice for all things panfish is a 7-foot, light-power, extra-fast action in St. Croix’s Panfish or Legend Elite Panfish lineups. These rods are sort of a do-it-all type of stick when it comes to panfish.

I employ an assortment of small jigs and plastics to cover most scenarios. It never hurts to carry some small leeches or worms, either. We’ve all met those giant bluegills that seem to refuse artificials. 

This is a great time to be a multi-species angler. You may have a goal of catching a specific species on a given day, but remember to keep an open mind. Sometimes our best days on the water can happen by accident. Have the right tools at the ready and adapt to what the conditions present.

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