A native Nebraskan, I made my home in Minnesota, beckoned by its 10,000 lakes and the desire to fish them all. But despite having lived Up North for more than a dozen years, I’m still a bit of an odd duck, compared to fellow Minnesota sportsmen.
For one, I’m a bass man in a walleye world. Although I was raised a multi-species angler, fishing bass, walleyes, crappies and pike, at some point I caught Bass Fever and have been servant to that master ever since.
Ice fishing -- Gotta Be Born Into It?
Secondly, I was born without the Ice Fishing Gene. Sure, I get it – winter is long, cabin fever sets in and we fellas need an escape. But its just not ingrained behavior, genetic programming, for me to scratch that itch by sitting on a bucket over a hole in the ice. While I’m a bonafide fishing fanatic, ice fishing generally lacks several of my favorite angling aspects – casting to high-percentage targets, teeth-clattering hooksets, and -- most important -- the chance to land an acrobatic, line-stripping bass.
That’s not to say I retire from rod & reel all winter, hibernating like a crayfish only to show my head again in the Spring. No, I’ll make the rounds of a few ice houses to be sure, checking in on friends and family members who’ve got the Ice Bug, perhaps showing up in time to get in on a hot walleye or pike bite. But more often than not, you’ll find me in chest waders, up past my hips in the Mississippi River casting tubes for winter smallmouths.
"Hot-pond” Open-Water Winter Bassin’
Two winters ago,Twin Cities-area bass bloggers and tournament anglers Rich Lindgren and Josh Douglas turned me on to “hot-pond” winter bassin’ and – much to my wife’s chagrin – I’ve become a die-hard year-round angler. To enjoy year-round open-water bassin’ in a state that boasts hard water five months of the year, you need to find a lake or river warmed by a power plant – a so called “hot pond.”
Living in a major metropolitan area like the Twin Cities, numerous such “hot pond” areas exist. My favorite is on the Mississippi River about an hour northwest of The Cities. Since Josh and Rich introduced me to this stretch of river when I shot this video with them, I’ve been trudging the banks every chance I can get since, refining my tactics and making notes on what spots produce best in what conditions. Check out this photo album of highlights from several excursions to my hot spot.
Weather Not Fit For Man Or Beast
This particular spot is no secret, however, so I’ve enjoyed my best days of fishing on weekdays in weather not fit for man or beast. On nice, warm days in the 30s, especially on weekends, you’ll most likely be elbow-to-elbow with live-bait anglers and the smallmouths will turn up their noses at your soft-plastic offerings, scented or not. (I’m an artificial-bait angler 99 percent of the time.)
So I cash in vacation days in the worst weather possible, bundling in layers from head to toe and heading to the river. The conditions during one of my best outings last season were daunting, to say the least: 3-degree air temperature with 20-mile-per-hour wind gusts and a 15-below windchill.
Posted below this blog is the video I recorded that day. Watch ‘til the end and you’ll see a 4-plus-pound smallie, which I caught on tape just moments before my then-brand-new Sony HDR FX7 video camera caught a wind gust and blew over on its tripod into the river. You can actually see the image the camera is capturing begin to tilt just before it fades to black.
The good news? I had purchased the three-year Fix-For-Free-Virtually-Anything-That-Goes-Wrong warranty, so I did not have to pay for the repairs.
The bad news? I was so freaked out at the time about possibly ruining the camera and worried that the warranty might not cover dumping it into a nearly frozen river that I abandoned what might have been a legendary bite – in about 7 consecutive casts, I’d caught and landed five 3- to 4-pound smallies. Who knows what ensuing casts would have yielded? The thought haunts me to this day.
Still, all things considered, I don’t regret setting up the camera on the tripod in the river that day, and I will long enjoy re-living that bite.
That said, I don’t set up the HDR FX7 in the water any more – I’ve got a waterproof GoPro HERO now to get footage from that point-of-view.
It would be one thing to destroy another camera that cost months to save up for – but ruining another potential Bite of a Lifetime?
That’d be inexcusable.
You can contact North American Fishing Club Social Media Editor “Web Guy Greg” Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter at lazy_ike, or friend him on Facebook at Web Guy Greg. He’s also the editor behind most of the posts on the Fishing Club’s Facebook page and the tweets at @NAFishClub.