Tag Archives: Maki Plastics

11-23-14 – Early Start To The Season!

Everyone looks forward to early ice but early ice isn’t always easy to gauge when it will happen. This past Sunday, I hit the road early with a few buddies in search of safe ice. With a week of cold, we knew there was a good chance that something would have locked up solid. Throughout the course of the day we checked nine different ponds, three of which were strong enough to hold us up safely.

The first pond we ventured out was was a warm water pond with nice milfoil patches. We covered about 2/3 of the water in no time with just spud bars and an underwater camera. While everything looked good, we couldn’t locate any fish. With super clear ice and a lot of surface noise, we figured we were just pushing the fish around because of the noise we were making. As a secondary method, we tried removing creepers after verifying a constant thickness throughout and sneaking around hoping that the fish had settled. No such luck. Instead we packed it up and continued looking.

A few ponds later, we were able to creep out on a medium sized trout pond. The ice was super clear which kept us on edge. We got over enough water to catch fish, but the whole situation didn’t seem worth it so we kept on looking.

As we kept heading, we finally struck gold. A medium sized, shallow pond with a mix of cold and warm water fish. The only problem was none of us had ever fished anywhere in the area. We took the time to check the entire body of water with the spud bars and vexilar for depth.. About 45 minutes later we were drilling holes and prepping our poles for first drop. We drilled better than half of the fishable water our and started fishing.

Within only a few holes, the fish were marking well but not biting. After a few dropped fish, we really focused. Maybe 15 minutes into fishing, I landed my first fish of the winter; a 4″ crappie! Good start and another body of water with crappie added to the list. As the day wore on, we honed in on our presentation and found that orange and white were the key colors. As for cadence, small pulses or dead sticking produced the most bites. We caught a good mix of crappie and perch. One pike made it to the surface but snapped the line at the last second.

As dark approached, the ice had melted a bit and some standing water was present. We decided that we had pushed our first day on the ice to its limits and it was time to head home. What a great to start to another season!

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4-13-14 – Boats Are Out

The first day in the boat for the season started early. There was a clear shot to the fishing spot from the launch with ice in most directions still anchored to shore. Once the Hydro Glow was submersed, the lines got wet. The water was was cold and it was pouring rain. Still had to try though.With another hour till sunrise, the bite wasn’t proving too good. Although I missed two good bites under the light, it wasn’t until after the sun was up that the first fish made it’s way into the boat.

Throughout the course of the day, I tried big plastics, small plastics, and live minnows. The bite was light and most bites came at the boat on a long cast. It didn’t seem to matter was was tied on as long as it was moving slow with long pauses. Most of the bites came while the bait was completely motionless. The muddy water most likely had the fish tracking the bait for quite a while.

Around 11am, the rain let up and the fishing came to a dead end. Fishing until 3pm yielded no more bites and with that long of a stretch, it was apparent that it was time to head home.

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2-8-14 – Round 3 VSHTS

Saturday Febuary 8th brought us to round 3 of the Vermont Sportsman Hardwater Tounament Series at Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain.  Conditions weren’t ideal at all, with temps in the teens and a wind chill around zero.  Besides the weather, the bay was going to present it’s own challenges.  The portion of Mallets Bay where this event was held, had ample room for fishermen to move around and fish plenty of water, but the fish seemed to be located on one particular weed bed which meant the fishing was going to be close quarters.

At 6 am, we were given the go ahead to start drilling holes and use our electronics but no lines in the water until 6:30.  Most of the 36 fishermen all headed for that one weed bed and started drilling their holes.  In hind sight, I think we drilled all the fish out of that area,  as we started fishing the action was slow.  Those that made slight adjustments in location were able to stumble upon the larger groups of fish that had been drilled out at first light.  Dylan made a slight but significant move east and was able to connect on nice crappie that ultimately won him big fish for the day.  Funny part was it was the same hole that his crappie came from yesterday! The bite was tough to say the least for the better part of the day.  The fish were scattered and easily spooked when we would punch a few new holes.

Towards the end of the day, Dylan figured out that the crappie were suspending about half way down the water column and they were cruising, which means you didn’t always mark them on your electronics. Jigging at four feet would often bring a cruising crappie in and make them bite.  This was a major adjustment made, as we had been fishing in the weeds for the better part of the event.

At the weigh-in Dylan checked in his 6 fish limit with two seeds, two crappie, one bluegill, and a perch giving him a weight of 3.68 pounds and good enough for first place along with his big fish prize.  Bobby struggled all day to say the least not catching any crappies and weighing in a limit of seeds and dink perch for a weight of 1.78 lbs.  At the end of the day, the win for Dylan was a major boost in the points moving him up to first place from 6th.  Bobby’s weight caused his to drop a few positions down to 6th from third but he’s still in the hunt.  The final points event for the season will take place at Laphams Bay in Shoreham on Febuary 22nd.  It’s going to be a shoot out!

1-3-14 – Looking For The Crappie

I had a few hours to kill one Saturday so I decided to go check on the crappies in a pond that has had our numbers lately.  The weather was cold with a high of the day reaching 9 above but with the wind chill it was hovering right around zero.  I have had one good day in search of crappies on this pond, which was last winter right around this time of the year so my hopes were up.

I made my way out to a point and drilled out my grid of holes working from 8 feet of water all the way out to 20.  I knew that the fish were going to be mostly dormant but I was hoping by covering a lot of water I would be able to find them balled up somewhere.  The pond has very little shoreline contour and the spot I chose was one of the only points that had a sharp break with weeds on the inside falling off into an inside turn of the deep basin.  It’s didn’t take long to mark some fish on my FLX-28 Vexilar released this year.

I started deep and began picking up mostly Yellow Perch.  I know that the crappie run with the pumkinseed in this pond so once I found them I was hoping I would find the crappie.  Usually the target depth is 18 feet but all I was find in the deeper water was perch.  I cut a new grid of holes along the shoreline headed towards a natural pinch point working along the edge of the weed bed.  The closer I got to the pinch point the more pumkinseeds I was catching, I knew that I had to be getting close.  I drilled and drilled and fished using my T7 custom rod and my Maki Plastics for four hours and was never able to find the crappie.  Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t, every venture out is still a learning experience.

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1-26-13 – Cold Day To Be A Crappie

Having been tied up with other responsibilities for the past two weekends and not able to fish I was excited to get back on the ice.  I decided to make a day trip to a spot 2 hours away.  We arrived at our location with decent conditions.  The mercury was finally above zero for the first time in five days, and the wind at this point wasn’t an issue.  I loaded my shack and made the 80 yard walk to where I would be fishing for the day.

I drilled out an area, shallow to deep.  It’s always a good idea to cut your holes first thing, one it will save you time later and two, it will spook the fish only once if the fish are sensitive to sound.  I started fishing the deep hole to begin with.  The vex was marking fish in 16 feet of water all through the water column.  First drop produced a small crappie, second drop, small crappie.  One thing that I have noticed about this spot is that these fish school in relation to size most of the time.  If you’re catching small fish you’re in a nursery school of fish.  I made a move to the next hole working my way out of the deeper water up towards the shallower shelf.  Right off the bat I hooked into a heavier fish, bass.  OK; well now I know the bass are set up waiting for those small crappie to make a mistake, I made another move, this time more drastic.  I found ten feet of water, fish were stacked on the bottom four feet.  First drop was a beautiful 13″ crappie.  Next few fish were all decent in size, bigger than before.  We continued to work the 10 foot range and were able to produce several decent fish through out the course of the next few hours.

As the morning went on the wind picked up and it became difficult to fish outside of our shacks.  As the sun went higher the fish slid shallower.  This is something we have noticed before while fishing setbacks off the main river.  The fish tend to seek out more cover even if it means going shallower when deep holes are present.  Large weed flats are great places to find active fish during high light conditions.  Another important thing to note was that the fish were not tolerating a presentation for long.  I was constantly changing my jigging cadence and my Maki Plastic to keep the fish interested.  These plastics teamed with a Bentley gold colored tungsten jig worked well for both the deep and shallow water applications we used today.

All in all it was a good day, unfortunately I wasn’t able to “fish” the way I wanted to as was confined to my shack for comfort.  It was a good day learning a few new tricks and applying some older ones to be successful.

1-6-13 – Crowded Day On The River

We’ve all had the days when we arrive at our favorite fishing spot and realize that we have it all to ourselves, on this day that wouldn’t be the case.  We arrived at one of our favorite spots greeted by calm skies with little to no breeze and temps in the 20’s, perfect day to be on the ice.  Unfortunately, the recent cold temperatures had given the tip up fishermen enough confidence to haul out the hard sides and set up shop for the season.  A few members of our group were able to arrive at day break and punched out an area as a way of “claiming” a spot.

The morning bite was hot, everything was right, the water was coming in, we had overcast skies, fish were active.  We spent the first couple of hours chasing the school’s of pumpkinseed, bluegill, and crappie along the edge of the main channel adjacent to the thickest weed line.   Early ice at it’s best however;  Early ice also means everybody and their brother is itching to get out.  The amount of tip ups in the ice was off the charts.  This is not a big setback and every inch of the channel was spoken for.  We were not able to fish our spots the way we normally would have.

A lot of people also brought on another dilemma.  Noise.  Once the morning had gone and the activity picked up we noticed that the fish were gone, well at least we thought so, we actually ended up learning a lot about this particular spot on this day.  We found that instead of running to deeper water when levels dropped and noise picked up, that the fish actually moved shallow and found the thickest weed patches to surround themselves with.  This made it a little more difficult using the electronic but we were able to pull some nice bluegill and pumpkinseed out of the thickest weeds while the sun was at it’s peek.  Fortunately for us the fish stayed close and slid only 20-30 yards away from the “area” we had settled in.

As the sun got lower in the ski and the commotion let down, we noticed that the fish slowly worked themselves out of the weeds and back towards the edge of the channel.  The fishing was fast times, chasing the feeding fish up and down the banks. Moving to stay on fresh and active fish, the rest of the night stayed successful with a stead increase towards dark.

The bite for the last 45 minutes consisted of mainly bluegill and crappie; favoring more heavily towards crappie. As we worked through the rows of holes we found that the fish were attacking our jigs as they worked down the water column. Anywhere for 2-5′ below the ice was stacked with crappie and occasionally a bluegill as you neared the weed edge. It was the time when we could do no wrong. The fish weren’t pick as long as it was moving.

A run like that was the best possible way to end a nice long day on the ice!

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12-24-12 – Crappie Eve Crappie

With ice forming slowly in Vermont, it’s a risk going out alone. Luckily, we had a crew of four for this trip to a new body of water. Prepared with rope, picks, and floatation devices, we felt the odds were on our side. Knowing the general contour of the body of water, we started our search deep. It didn’t take long to find some fish on the flasher that mimicked the pattern that a crappie will normally follow. They were suspending over deeper water and on the move.

As we started fishing, the fish that we were pulling through the hole ran on average 8-9″. It was a pod of all crappie with a few shiners mixed in. We fished all plastics without ever putting a single maggot on for the day. The keys to catching fish were Maki Plastics and Micro Spoons and Jigs. We fished the Spiiki and Maki from Maki Plastics with red being the best color and the STB Grub by Micro Spoons in the Sunrise color.

As we picked through the fish looking for some of the better sized specimens we managed to pull a few that hit the 12″+ mark. We also hit a new size class that incorporated some of the smallest crappie we had ever seen! With fish in the 3-4″ range our rods weren’t bending much…

Seeing fish like this put a new spin on what we thought we had previously known about crappie in our area. Usually a fish after it’s first year will be about 6″. With the slow growth that comes in the winter, it is hard to imagine that these fish will put on another 2-3″ over the next few months when they will hit their one year mark in the spring. Maybe there was a late spawn or even a second spawn. The underwater world always keeps us guessing!

Check out some of our footage from our trip on our YouTube page in the Christmas Eve Crappie video!

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Rigging Plastics

We have had several requests on how to rig plastics for both hard and soft water conditions. I took some time today to quantify my plastics stock and snap some photos of presentations possibilities. Just because this is how we do it doesn’t mean it is right. There are times when fish will eat a bare hook and others when the presentation has to be tweaked just right or else they won’t even touch it. The best strategy is never to settle in a groove. By constantly adjusting color, angle, and size you can keep the fish guessing and possibly find a better option.

One of my biggest problems with jigs is the length of the hook shank. The shorter the shank is the easier the plastic will fall(or rip) off. I began fishing plastics on Diamond Jigs and Gill pills. Both are made by Custom Jigs and Spins. These hooks offer long hook shanks and come in various sizes and colors. I prefer using size 10 and 12 but have both 8 and 14 in my boxes. I like smaller presentations for hardwater because in general the search image for a fish is locked in on small bites. During the spring, summer, and fall months a slightly larger bait is nice because the baits are a bit larger.

I begin the majority of my days on the water using a presentation that allows my plastic to be as straight as possible.

To set up your bait straight, you run the hook through the tip of the bait and then thread it through the center of the body. I like to go a length equal to the length of the straight hook shank. It may take a few tries but I like to snug the plastic right up to the base of the jig. Many micro ice fishing plastics are thin and require hooks with a slim shank.

The bait style below provides the fisherman with several options on how to fish it. Because the body on the plastic is so small it important to hook it right through the middle to prevent it from being easily ripped off.

When the fish bite is very light, I like to rig this bait with the middle tail facing upward. The tail is just long enough to fold over under the water pressure when jigged. Drives the fish nuts!

As with any other bait, it can also be rigged horizontally and is normally equally effective.

A good option for rigging plastics is on sickle hooks. Some companies are starting to sell jigs equipped with these hooks. You can find some on Sportsmans Direct. Because of the multiple angles on these hooks, you are able to adjust how your plastic is set. At times, you can entice more fish to bite by setting the plastic in a slightly more vertical mode than plain horizontal. Another benefit to these hooks is they are less likely to be spit as you are reeling the fish in because of the angle. It wedges in better because of its sharper bend.

Another good option for fishing plastics through the ice is on a dropper chain below a Hali or some other kind of flasher. If you don’t like using a chain, you could tie up your own mono leader. The plastic below is the equivalent to a “senko” but for perch.

Many times during the summer months I find that bass get accustomed to a weedless rigged straight worm. So what do I do under these conditions? Well I rig it “whacky” of course. This method means simply to hook the bait directly through the center. When in action, the bait flaps and creates quite a disturbance.

It is still possible, even with a larger bait, to rig it horizontally. The bite will determine which strategy I use for the day. When running a larger bait below the Hali, I will often tie on my own hook in larger size for a better hook up percentage.

Sometimes I fish baits that are much larger than what I can match up with any hook size I have. In these cases I will still rig the bait in a horizontal position but I will hook more towards the center than through the head like I normally would. This method comes in handy when the fish are biting the tail of a bait as it puts the hook closer to their mouth. Below, is a good example of the options on rigging a larger bait.

This is a plain horizontal rigging. Works well when the fish are committed to biting. I have had luck using this bait during the summer months for trout in streams as it resembles a stonefly.

By hooking the bait more towards the center, you bulk up the head of the bait and put the hook closer to the fish. This has been a very effective method in deep water situations such as the glory hole.

Probably my most productive bait this winter was anything vertical by Caty Jigs. I used willows, tears, rodents, and rockers with great success. I went through phases where I like using maggots but the majority of the time I was running plastics.

I did find that the fish were more picky as to how the bait was positioned on the hook when rigged on a vertical jig. It needed to be perfectly horizontal or else the bite was slower and only the really aggressive fish bit.

Lately, through the open water, the two baits below have been the most productive options in my box. Rigged just how you see, they have caught just about every fish within the past two weeks. Quite possibly the best colors as well.

When I open up my tackle box for plastics, the majority of what I own is made by Maki Plastics. The selection below offer just about every option you could need for both hard and soft water. Although I have just about every bait pictured below, I find myself using mainly a few. As a starter kit, I would suggest purchasing: Maki, Jamei, Spiini, Guppi, Spiiki, and Mini Draggi.

Don’t be afraid to tip your baits with a maggot! Sometimes the fish want a combo of both.

Searching For Ice Out Crappies

So the end of the ice season has come for most of us, and for many areas in the country the search for pre spawn and spawning crappies has already come and gone.  Here in the northeast, ice out on our lakes and ponds usually happens towards the end of March to mid April.  With ice out, surface temps rise and the crappie start thinking about the next life cycle; the spawn.  Crappie typically spawn in shallow sheltered water.  Small cuts or setbacks off the main lakes are great places to look.  These spots may not be fishable in the summer though.  They have enough fishable water in the spring due to run off and rising water levels on the lake.  At this point, the water levels flood shoreline brush making ideal spots for giant crappies to lay up in and spawn.  I have caught fish in as little as 6″ of water.  Ideal depths to look for are flats in the 4′-6′ range.  Shelter and cover are key components to be mindful of.  Crappie are lazy, they will look for the warmest water closest to their deep winter basin’s and weed flats.  Brush and other structure also create great habitat for spawning and are sheltered from the wind and spring time chop on the lake.

Pay very close attention to the surface temp.  Crappies will start searching for spawning locations when the water starts to consistently hold in the low to mid 40’s, however they won’t actually start to spawn until it reaches the 60’s but it’s not unusual to see them spawning in the upper 50’s.  One degree in temperature change  can make all the difference in the world. Creeks and culverts flowing into the main lake are also great areas to be aware of.  The afternoon bite is typically better since the daytime air temps have warmed the water up.  Run-off water is warmer than the main lake temp creating another hot spot for ice out crappies.  We use our Navionics to find cut backs and flowages on the lake when in search mode.  Once we find them, we cast small jigs tipped with minnow under a bobber or a small micro plastics by Maki Plastics.  Cast to the brush and pop the bobber back in.

My spring time Crappie Fishing setup consists of a 7′-9′ noodle rod.  I like the 7′ Eagle Claw and the 9′ Ultra Lite  Rod made by Riversider.  For shallow water I like to use the fixed Thill bobber made by Lindy.  Under that I am usually running tungsten jigs from Bentley.

Good luck out there searching, the fishing is going to get good real soon!

Cut Back Spring Crappies from Lake Champlain

Searched out River Crappie

3-14-12 – The Glory Hole Still Has It!

We got on the road this morning at 5:30am headed to the glory hole on the Connecticut River. We went out there hoping that the ice would be safe enough for us to get on. We figured the ice off shore over deep water would be fine. When we got there it didn’t look good but we looked around. We found a few planks from past trips and were on. A few turns of the the hand auger and we were pushing 18″ of good ice! Because the shores were bad we packed light so we could walk through the woods to get on. We had buckets, flashers, rods, and a power auger.

We punched holes and started catching fish. It didn’t take long to get into the crappie but they didn’t have much size. Past trips had similar results. The slab crappie turn on randomly throughout the day even though there are frequently big reds cruising around. After a few fish were caught Mark hooked into a decent pike. Maybe 25″ but a good fight at that. It broke the line as it came out of the hole so we got lucky!

As we fished down the line of holes it was apparent that the fish were else where. We kept working the deep channel and the edges where the depth rose up into the teens. This seemed to be a good depth for the morning bite. Mark pulled quite a few quality fish out of the shallows. The one below was his first true jumbo of the day. It was pushing 13″. In the most recent of trips we haven’t caught fish like this but we didn’t spent much time looking around I guess because they were there in full force today!

Shortly after the sun was up, I had my meal worth of fish in the bucket. That’s all I wanted to take and I released them for the rest of the day for the most part.

As the day passed by, we caught numerous fish; upwards of the 200 mark with a few limits worth in the 11-13″ range if we were keeping them. I was releasing some dandy fish that I would have been happy to have had my bucket for a meal if I didn’t have a enough for the summer in the freezer already. Probably one of the more memorable moments of this season happened today. I had an issue today with a mink stealing fish right out of my bucket. I got a short video of his first trip out starting with it hidden right in the bucket! Click here to check it out (sorry for the sideways view). I figured a little animal like that would feast on a 13″ crappie for a day, right? Nope, I was wrong. I left my bucket where it was and he crept back out and stole another! What a jerk. I then realized I should hang onto what I had left and the mink spent quite a bit of time on the ice looking for fish that were possible left behind. Too bad we were on the ball today!

Here are the fish that Mark took home for supper tonight. Looks like a good meal to me!

Mark at the end of the day with a nice pair of crappie. Both of us were fishing tungsten jigs today because of the deep water and the fish were deeper than usual. We normally get them between 6-8′ down but today was closer to 11-13′ with the bigger ones slightly higher. Maki Plastics increased the size of the fish greatly today. We were able to weed out a few but not all of the chips that are abundant in the glory hole.

The ice was melting pretty good today. This was just after a short time!