Q: Big swimbaits get a lot of press for catching big bass. But lately I've seen a lot more smaller swimbaits. Do these catch big bass, too?
Member Mark Serlaph
Kings Mountain, North Carolina
A: Absolutely, and in fact, I prefer to throw a smaller swimbait. About a year-and-a-half ago, Strike King came out with the King Shad, a 4-inch, jointed hard swimbait that's become one of the most important lures in my box. It's the exact size and shape of a shad, and is an excellent option for scouring water in search of fish, or for targeting bigger bites once you pin down a group.
What I like most about smaller swimbaits is that they’re easier to fish fast. The King Shad, for example, can be burned back to the boat--heck, I've even trolled it 15 mph and it wouldn't roll.
If you're not confident with giant swimbaits, or if you like to fish fast, I suggest you give the little guys a try.
Q: Does the color of tackle like live bait rig weights, bottom bouncers and Dipsy Divers affect catch rates for walleyes?
Member Rich Kershbaum
Greece, New York
A: I look at any technique first from a location perspective. I start with depth, structure and location, because if you don't put your lure where the fish are, you aren't going to catch anything, regardless of what color sinker you're using.
When you're on the fish, it helps to experiment. Let's say there are two to four anglers in the boat. Put a colored bottom-bouncer on one of the rods, or have somebody switch out to different-colored sinkers. The same would go for trolling big water, where some people swear that black Dipsys in clear water far outperform those in other colors.
Again, the bigger key is to put the bait, in the right spot.
Q: I know all about the spawning habits of sunfish and crappies in my area, but I’m not so familiar with those of perch. When do they spawn?
Member John Maloney
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
A. You can catch jumbo perch when they spawn in late winter or early spring, but the window of opportunity is much shorter than with crappies or sunfish, which is why the perch spawn is so seldom talked about. They don't build nests or care for their young, but you'll know a perch spawn has happened if you see long strings of eggs deposited on shallow grass, rocks or wood.
The exact time at which perch spawn varies greatly, and is determined by the combination of photoperiod (length of daylight) and water temperature—typically from the mid-40s to the mid-50s. Factoring in photoperiod, the spawn in New York might be in March, while in the Upper Midwest it could be in May. In both cases, shortly after ice-out. Farther south, it could happen as early as late February.