Five Different Drop Shot Fishing Rods and Techniques

I recently received an inquiry from an angler about to purchase his first dropshot rod and was looking for advice on whether he could use a regular rod, or would need something more specific. I had to stop myself several times from pounding out a quick reply, and after reflecting more thoroughly on the question, I realized there’s no one answer.

I personally have and use five different rods for dropshotting. Each is different, and each was adopted over time to address specific needs. And, I’m not even talking about power-shotting large plastics, which is simply a different style of flip-pitching baits. Let me explain.

Dropshot rods mostly all have one thing in common, and that’s a soft tip. Matched up with a strong lower 2/3’s of the blank, and that’s pretty much it. The soft tip is there so you can check for bites without necessarily lifting your dropshot weight off the bottom and pulling the bait away from the target. It also allows fish to engage your bait without the fish detecting artificial or un-due resistance. All of this is based on a stationary bait presentation, which is not always the case.

Dragging dropshot baits behind the boat is never a great idea, but sometimes it’s the only way. Specifically, I’m thinking about rivers with current and being swept along in a boat. Trying to maintain a stationary position is impossible, which is why you instead execute a sort of controlled drift while keeping your line as near vertical as possible. Detecting the difference between bites and what you’re drifting over is crucial. Hard flat featureless bottom and you’re probably wasting your time. Rocks, transitions, drops, etc. are different and often present ambush points for fish. This is when a more typical spinning rod comes into play. Again, a good stiff bottom 2/3’s, but a more typical extra-fast tip found on your worm and jig rods. Heavier weights like ½ or ¾ might also mean going medium-heavy power. Thus, drifting deep over transitioning bottom can be accomplished with any decent spinning rod with the power and action needed to manage lighter 10-15lb braid, heavier dropshot weights and stronger river fish – often Smallmouth Bass.

Dropshotting for Largemouth bass is different than dropshotting for Smallmouth. Largies like a bit of action, which means you can either swing the bait out, let it sink, then work it back to the boat. Or, if fishing beds, target your bed and then apply action to the bait without pulling it out of the strike zone.

Both these styles of fishing can be done with either a medium or medium-action casting or spinning rod that has an extra fast tip. Since you aren’t dead-sticking the bait so much as imparting action, the rod doesn’t need to have an especially soft tip. You will be fishing near structure though, so a rod with sufficient power to control hooked fish is important.

In both the above examples I’m not suggesting fast or moderate action rods as this isn’t a reaction bite that fish slam. It’s more often a lazy bite, or something opportunistic as the baits just right there taunting them. You will need a rod suited to setting thinner gage wire hooks, but setting hooks never-the-less.

Lawrence showing his catch of a walleye to Moby

Lawrence showing his catch of a walleye to Moby

Smallmouth prefer presentations that are as close to still as possible. This is when a true dropshot rod comes into play with its far softer tip section. The rod allows you to check for soft bites without imparting sudden or strong action to the bait. You’re simply checking for wait. No resistance — let it sit. Smallmouth quite often even chew on your bait without your even knowing, for how long, who knows, but the fact that they experience no artificial resistance to their meal choice is important. This style of motionless or dead-sticking presentation is when the true dropshot rods come into play. A good solid backbone for driving home thin wire hooks, and a soft tip for subtle bite detection.

Walleye, on the other hand, are masters at stripping minnows off hooks. When they feel the metal of the hook, they simply back off, clamp down and tug, and off comes your minnow. Dropshotting for Walleye involves one of two approaches, either you leave a tremendous amount of slack in your line so unsuspecting Walleye can slurp in your entire minnow or worm under zero resistance, or you maintain just the barest of tension on the line needed to execute snappy hooksets. My preference in both cases is an extra fast medium-light spinning rod that has a fast rate of recovery. No sloppy tip needed for this sort of fishing, just good line watching focus on the part of the angler. Step up to a medium action rod with a similar action and you can go to a double hook dropshot system, more commonly known as a pickerel rig.

Power-shotting is simply moving your pegged weight from in front of the bait to the tag end of the line. Some even separate the bait from the weight with as much as 3-5 feet. It’s a technique meant to suspend large plastics just below surface cover, or at the very least, above thicker weed growth at the bottom when fish are feeling a little neutral and require some enticing. Either way, flipping rods are still the best option given the size of weights and plastics, and the proximity to heavy cover.

Lastly, what follows is my own version of presenting stick baits wacky style in and around heavy cover. It takes a 6’, 6” or 7’ extra-fast medium-heavy rod; either spinning or casting. 40lb to 50lb braid is recommended along with a 12lb floral leader. The idea is to use a 1/8 or 3/16 oz. pencil weight about 18” below your wacky presentation. The technique entails long casts over shallow submerged weed and then stopping the bait from sinking completely down into the weeds by establishing pressure on the line after the weight has had a chance to make contact with the weeds. By maintaining only the slightest pressure on the line so the weight doesn’t pull free, you can suspend your bait just above the submerged weed tops and keep it in the strike zone longer. Bites can be both aggressive and passive so focus on line movement is essential.

There you go, five – O.K. six, techniques that each call for slightly different styles of rods, and only one references the traditional dropshot spinning rod known for their incredibly soft upper 1/3 tip section. I hope I haven’t blurred the lines too much, but let’s face it; every new fishing technique is little more than a re-imagining of something old, so keep on experimenting and adjusting to fit ever-changing circumstances.

Fishing Rod Actions and Powers Demystified

As an angler without sight, understanding rod characteristics is extremely important. Just as my white cane conveys information by extending my reach, like a fishing rod, it also serves many other purposes. The following is a breakdown of the characteristics that make different rods better suited for accomplishing specific goals.

Six Functions:

Fishing rods perform six basic functions:

  1. Extend the angler’s arm to launch baits further and more accurately;
  2. Position and manipulate baits to impart action to simulate actual pray;
  3. Visually indicate through movement of the rod tip that a fish has contacted the bait;
  4. Transmit tactile information conveyed by the fishing line down the rods blank to the hand;
  5. Leverage for setting hooks quickly and effectively; and,
  6. Controlling the movement and ultimate capture of hooked fish.

All of the six above functions demand different characteristics in how a rod performs, which is why the design, formulation and building of fishing rods has become a highly evolved form of engineering.

The Perfect Rod

With so much choice it’s becoming quite the challenge to select a fishing rod. Never mind the best rod, or a rod that will meet all your needs, I’m talking selecting a rod that will match the specific fishing style and species of fish you want to target. There probably exists a single rod that could meet many of the fishing applications you plan to pursue, but as with all professions, there exists different specialty tools for a reason.

Technique Specific Rods

Rod manufacturers have capitalized on the different techniques and fish species pursued by recreational and sport anglers to introduce to the market rods for every conceivable application. These manufacturer recommendations can take the guess work out of selecting the right rod, but that doesn’t mean a technique-specific rod can’t be used for more than one purpose. They are a great idea when your local tackle store has plenty of each technique-specific rod in stock, but what happens if they are sold out or never bothered ordering the rod you traveled to the store to try first-hand? Consider the following when combing through your existing rods prior to going out and buying yet another stick to add to your collection.

Rod Power

Lawrence and Moby fishing on the Ranger 620

Lawrence and Moby fishing on the Ranger 620

Power ranges from ultralight all the way up to extra heavy. This refers to the ability of the rod’s blank to lift dead weight. If you’re planning on swinging Bass into the boat weighing up to 6-8 lbs, you want a rod that will be able to perform the job without it bending all the way through to the handle. The rod should curve comfortably under the load you expect to lift and still leave room for a bit more when that trophy fish makes that sudden lunge.

Keep in mind that these power ranges are repeated as you move up the fish ladder. A medium-heavy Bass rod has little in common with a similarly ranked rod designed for fighting Muskie, just as a medium saltwater jigging rod has nothing in common with a medium-powered jig-fishing rod meant for Walleye.

Manufacturers repeat these power ratings throughout their various species-specific rod designs because, if they didn’t, we would have everything from ultra-ultra-light all the way up to extra-extra-extra-heavy, making rod selection even more confusing. Assess a rod’s power according to the size of fish you expect to catch. Don’t get too concerned over the species-specific marketing used by manufacturers to sell rods.

Thankfully, different manufacturers use similar ratings to avoid adding even more confusion when comparing brands. I won’t get into the different proprietary materials, formulations and processes used by manufacturers to differentiate themselves from their competition, but let’s just agree that cheap rods are cheap for a reason, and expensive rods are generally made with the very best. Thus, you are likely to get the most for your money by selecting something in the middle price range $100 to $200).

So why is selecting the correct power relevant? It has to do as much with avoiding breakage to under-powered rods when stressed beyond their tolerance, as it does with the rod’s ability to control fish during the capture process. Under-powered rods are unable to make a significant enough impression on a fish to be able to turn their heads back towards the boat, dock or shore. Rods bent to their maximum have nothing left to aid anglers to land trophies, and put the onus 100% on the reel’s drag.

No doubt, fighting fish with light tackle can be both exhilarating and challenging, but can also overly tire fish to the point of either experiencing heart failure, or unable to recover after the release. Not a big issue if you plan to eat everything you catch, but how often is that the case?

Alternatively, too strong a rod will result in lost fish. We’ve all hooked fish that manage to wrap the line around a solid object and then use their brute strength to simply yank the hook from their mouth. Fish will do the same thing when being played on rods that are vastly over-powered. . The rod should flex at least half way down the blank. Even when catching fish in heavy cover at short distances, you want the rod to give a bit to absorb a fish’s thrusts while you lift and swing the fish out from thick cover and into the boat.

Rod Action

The action of a rod references the degree of taper throughout a rod’s blank or shaft. Moderate action rods bend almost uniformly or parabolically throughout their entire length. Extra fast rods taper much more aggressively in the top third giving the rod a stiffer bottom two thirds in relation to their much softer tip area. Moderate fast and fast are two additional intermediate categories that further differentiate moderate rods from extra fast. Knowing which of the four possible actions to use for different fishing applications will both simplify rod selection, and increase your catch rate.

Moderate Actions

Moderate action rods are generally used when trolling with downriggers. The ability of the rod to bend almost 180 degrees when the line is clipped to the downrigger allows the rod to quickly pick up slack the moment a fish bites causing the line to be released from the downrigger’s line clip. Moderate rods also prevent powerful fish from using their significant strength and aerobatic skills to shake free of hooks, such as when playing Salmon or Steelhead in rivers.

Moderate action rods offer little control over fish, and are commonly used when fishing vast open bodies of water, or rivers where it’s possible for anglers to follow their fleeing fish either up or down stream. They also provide anglers with a more fight-like experience since the bend in the rod means the angler has to pull just as hard as the fish at the other end of their line to narrow the gap, if not harder. Finally, charter guides often select more moderate rod actions for their less skilled paying customers to both lessen the chance of hooks being pulled, and to accentuate the fish fight; leaving customers with an inflated impression of a fish’s actual power.

Moderate-Fast Actions

Moderate-fast rods have much of the uniform bend that moderate rods offer, with slightly more stiffness in the bottom half of the rod. Their purpose is to give anglers the bend needed to effectively use smaller hooks such as those commonly found on crankbaits to catch big fish. They provide enough bend to prevent a fish’s powerful lunges and headshakes from straightening out fine-wire hooks or pulling them from their mouths. The slightly stiffer lower blank section gives the angler sufficient control over where a fish wants to go, by allowing the angler to use the rod as a lever.

The problem with moderate or moderate-fast rods is that they have little ability to transmit the feel of the bite all the way along the rod to the handle. The Bend in the rod absorbs sensations being telegraphed up the line much like springs on a car’s suspension. These are great rods for retrieving crankbaits where fish pretty much hook themselves, but far less effective when an angler needs to detect subtle bites and execute powerful hook sets to sink home stronger single prong hooks.

At the other end of the equation are fast and extra fast rods. These are rods designed more for both telegraphing tactile information to the angler’s hands, and for imparting lightning fast hook sets before fish spit the bait. So what’s the difference between the two?

Fast Action

Fast action rods have actions that are better suited to fishing reaction style baits with larger hooks, the exception being crankbaits with fine-wire hooks. Buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, frogs, spoons, spinners, and swimming jigs, to name a few. The idea being the bait is in continuous forward movement causing pursuing fish to first attempt to injure their pray prior to taking the bait into their mouth to be consumed. The rod needs to bend enough to convince fish that they are in fact impacting the forward momentum of their pray, and that the bait doesn’t possess bionic strength. The fish has to be able to come up from behind, grab the bait and turn back towards their home base.

Fast action rods allow fish to turn 90 degrees to the angler before the angler sets the hook. If the rod is too fast and doesn’t allow this turn to occur, setting hooks is made near impossible since the hook set simply pulls the fish towards the angler before the fish’s body is turned and water resistance can be employed to execute an effective hook set. Without this resistance the fish simply glides forward until it realizes its mistake and releases the bait from its mouth. Setting stronger hooks made from thicker wire requires that fish be positioned at a right angle to the angler so water resistance generated by the fish’s body braces the fish while the hook is being set.

Extra-Fast Actions

Extra-fast rods have slightly thicker blanks 2/3 the way up the blank, and then taper quite quickly at the tip. The rationale behind the thicker blanks is to provide the angler with more instantaneous hook-setting and responsive fish handling abilities.

The thinner more flexible tip on an extra fast rod does two things. One, it works as a visual indicator to the angler that subtle activity is taking place at the end of their line, and two, it prevents fish from sensing an unnatural resistance to the bait when tasting, smelling or feeling with their heads and mouths.

People commonly assume the tip on extra fast rods are better at telegraphing tactile information to the rod hand. True, they are better at doing this than moderate or moderate fast rods, but in reality, their thinner more sensitive tips visually display more than they transfer.

Extra Fast action rods excel at fishing when the presentation calls for slowing things down and fishing more vertically then horizontally. Dropshotting, jigging and most live bait presentations are best accomplished when using extra-fast rods.

Whereas fast action rods excel at setting hooks on fish that are engaged in pursuing moving baits, extra-fast action rods are better suited for hook sets when fishing vertical presentations. Being positioned above fish means they are already positioned at right angles to the angler eliminating the need to allow time for the fish to turn, such as when fish are pursuing baits presented more horizontally.

One or Two Piece

Two piece rods possess a joint section where the rod overlaps. This slightly stiffer area of the rod is commonly believed to reduce a rod’s effectiveness by as much as 10% due to the lack of uniformity in the rod’s bend. This is more problematic with shorter rods then with longer fly rods that commonly possess three such over-lapping connecting sections.

If not properly assembled, two-piece rods can separate under load, twist causing line friction, or break at the joint. However, when properly assembled two-piece rods work quite effectively, and have the added convenience of being able to fit more easily into a vehicle for transport, which reduces the chance of breakage.


Much can be written about different rod grip styles and handle materials. Synthetic materials often out-last natural corks, both because of rough handling and rod holders on boats, but cork just feels so much nicer to the hand. Graphite rapped handles are the lightest and transmit tactile information the best. Rods with wrapped graphite handles also cost the most, with cork coming in a close second. However, on cold wet days there’s no beating cork for warmth and grip.


Lawrence's mother standing on the edge of a river fishing with the boys using bamboo rods

Lawrence’s mother standing on the edge of a river fishing with the boys using bamboo rods

Lighter rods mean less fatigue to anglers throughout the course of the day. Of course, this is irrelevant when using rod holders. What’s more important is the balance of a rod once you have attached the reel. With reels getting lighter and lighter rods are having a hard time keeping up. A properly balanced rod and reel should possess a tipping point just ahead of where the reel attaches to the rod. The further up the tipping point, the less comfortable the combination is to use. The muscles in the arm shouldn’t be fighting to hold a rod tip up as this only interferes with the hand’s ability to feel incoming tactile transmissions being sent up the line and down the blank to the handle. Thus, don’t always reach for the lightest reel on the market when selecting a new winch for your lever.

Lure and Line Ratings

What strength line to use with a rod has to do with the application for which you intend to use the selected rod and reel. Think of the size of fish you intend to catch, the conditions you plan to fish in, and choose the line, rod and reel accordingly. The outfit should feel properly balanced in your hand, cast comfortably, and properly control the fish you’re targeting. The reel you selected for the rod should have sufficient capacity to store, retrieve and play out under drag the line you’ve chosen without breaking or binding the line, or even worse, getting spooled.

Lure ratings are slightly more complicated. It comes down to the tip of the rod. The tip should bend slightly after you tie on a bait. Not enough bend and there will be little control in casting accuracy and distance. Too much weight and the rod’s tip will be bent fully, making it difficult for the rod to cast accurately. At most, the rod should engage no more than half way down the blank during the cast.

Once the bait is in the water and slack line taken up, the rod’s tip should still have sufficient room to easily bend either up or down without engaging the power range of the rod. This will allow fish to move in any direction after grasping the bait in their mouths without immediately feeling resistance, but still change the feeling of pressure in the rod’s handle by increasing or decreasing the bend in the rod’s tip. It will also allow the tip to perform to its maximum potential as a visual bite indicator.

Being able to quickly apply personal experience and knowledge when assessing a rod’s characteristics means no longer having to look at the specifications and marketing claims of the manufacturer. By applying the information found in this article you will be better able to select rods that will appropriately meet your specific needs. Who knows, it may just help you keep the number of rods in your boat, garage and basement from expanding into a regular forest.

Catching Largemouth Bass for Christmas

The 2015 winter season just never seemed to be in any great hurry to come. With only five days to go until Bass season closed, my buddy Dave Steen and I decided to give it one more try before he put the boat away.

It was December 10 and, of course, the docs had already been pulled. It meant my having to hold Dave’s Ranger off the rocks while he went and parked his truck. It worked great up until the rope slipped off the foot of his trolling motor and the wind began blowing the Ranger out into the lake. I had no choice but to wade in after it. The water temps were 38 degrees and I only had the one pair of socks and shoes, didn’t stop me though.

We found a nice stretch of moderate depth water just outside of a large bay that held fish, and boy did it hold fish. Largies from 2-3 lbs were ready and willing to snack one more time. Over the next five hours we moved around a bit, caught a bunch of fish, and then called it quits with just enough time to get Dave’s boat to the marina where it was scheduled to be put to bed for the winter. Drop-shot and blade baits were the answer. Nothing to radical, just enough action to peek their interest.

Great, if not a bit chilly, day on the water for sure. We could have kept the boat out for another week (LOL).

Talking Tackle Depth Whisperer

This past winter I received an email from one of the founders of Talking Tackle depth Whisperer. This led to our talking by phone and my hearing again a not too uncommon story about the potential benefits of having a talking depth sounder aboard a boat. These guys decided enough talk, and did something about it.

The product they invented is one of the best examples of audio technology being applied to a fish finder that I’ve come across in the past eight years. The voice is pleasant, the controls are simple to understand, and the technology is relatively easy to install. I now use the talker on my HobieCat, Porta-Boat and Ranger fisherman and love it. The nice thing is, so do my fishing buddies.

The technology features:

  • Weather and water resistant
  • Easily mounted nearly anywhere on boat with DUAL-LOCK tape (provided)
  • Cable provided for connection to 12 volt cigarette lighter plug
  • Power-on/processor-active indicator
  • 3.5 mm audio output port for connection to alternative speaker devices
  • Volume adjustable too easy to hear 85 decibel output
  • Verbal output menu selection system
  • Customizable time interval between VERBAL depth announcements
  • Customizable VERBAL Shallow Water Alert and Bottom Structure Alert
  • VERBAL Low Boat Battery Alarm
  • Tracks Bottom up to 450 feet

Yes, you read correctly, this device will even tell you if your cranking battery is starting to run low – how cool is that.

For more information about this technology I strongly suggest you visit their website where you can see and hear it function for yourself.

Anchors up, Lawrence

Renegade Pro-Am

This year’s annual Renegade pro-am bass tournament was held once again on Mississippi Lake in Carlton Place, Ontario, and it was my good fortune to be invited back to fish with one of their amazing professionals. My guest Renegade pro aboard the Ranger 620 was Corey Gaffney, one half of the famed Gaffney brother team that dominated routinely throughout the Renegade tournament series up until Spencer Gaffney’s career progression within the fishing industry transported him to southern Ontario bringing to an end this dynamic dual, for now.

Corey Gaffney started his professional fishing career at the age of 19, and over the next nine seasons he’s proven that he’s more than capable of competing in Ontario’s premier bass series. A competitive hockey enthusiast, Corey grew up fishing Mississippi Lake, which contributed to his second place finish the day prior to the pro-am. Corey and his new partner Trever brought in a bag of five Bass weighing over 18 lbs – three of the Bass tipping the scales at just over 4.5 lb each.

Corey’s Mississippi Lake game plan for our own pro-am competition was to focus on Smallmouth Bass first, and then go looking for a kicker Largemouth to put us over the top. Weather conditions had changed dramatically throughout the night.  Instead of bright sun, we were facing a day of dark clouds, high winds and heavy rain which, you guessed it, was exactly what we experienced up until one hour after the weigh-in concluded.

The 7: a.m. blast-off started with an exhilarating run down the lake at just over 60 mph. We  began by drifting flats of 6-10 feet in depth which had emerging weed growth, a mixture of sand and rock, and 71 degree water temperatures. Corey started off with a top-water bait and, in the interest of trying something different,  I was burning spinnerbaits. As the wind picked up Corey changed over to jerk baits and later a spinner bait as well. All proved effective but, to our surprise, we caught only Largemouth Bass, as well as numerous Northern Pike    in the 3-6 lb range. (If this had been a Pike tournament we would have clinched first prize for sure.)

Even though my Ranger is equipped with driver and bow mounted Lowrance sonar systems, I discovered later that morning that Corey hadn’t bothered to turn either of the HD units on. Upon my pointing out this slight oversight, Corey said he knew the lake more than well enough to run “blind”, although he did regret not having access to his waypoints.  In the end, he didn’t seem to experience any difficulty finding our targets.

Our largest Bass of the day, a 3.5 Largemouth, came on a white / chartreuse double-willow Jackle spinner bait. Hard baits and toads also performed well. With the fish on the move we had little choice but to stick to search baits.

After watching me retrieve my toad, Corey recommended I keep it on the surface where Bass had less opportunity to observe that my bait was an imitation. I pointed out that I had caught Bass in the past fishing toads sub-surface, but Corey felt larger more experienced fish would be less likely to strike a sub-surface toad as they would have more opportunity to reject the bait. He also suggested I could eliminate having to reel quickly to raise the toad to the surface after each cast by stopping the cast just prior to splash-down so that the retrieve could commence instantly. It worked. On my very next cast I caught a decent keeper.

Corey truly has the competitive spirit. I don’t think he stopped fishing once the entire seven hours we were on the boat other than to pilot the Ranger. His work ethic paid off. With ten minutes to go, not only did I catch another Bass that culled, on his last pitch for the day Corey produced our second largest Bass of the day. Not quite the kicker we were looking for, but enough to assure our finishing well into the top half of the field.

Weights of the 25 competitive pro-am teams ranged from 8 lbs all the way up to 16. However, only two fish were caught over 4 lbs, and the vast majority of the bags were between 11 and 13 lbs. everyone caught plenty of fish which meant a lot of smiling faces. A Shimano spinning outfit, $50 gift certificate from a local fishing tackle store called Paddle Tales, a bag full of goodies from Berkley, and a complimentary BBQ all helped broaden those smiles even further. Lowrance Elite sonar systems for the top three amateurs rounded off the prize package. The Renegade pros donated their boats, time and gas, and can take pride in the fact that they introduced 25 new potential tournament fishers to the competitive sport of Bass fishing.

Big thanks to Corey Gaffney for agreeing to join me aboard the Ranger for the day. Even though we got more than wet from the rain, we both enjoyed the stable ride the 620 Fisherman provided – not to mention the more than ample power of the 250 HO Evinrude E-Tec. I’d also like to acknowledge all the Renegade pros, shoreline volunteers and event organizers for putting on another incredible event. And, it goes without saying, having Big Jim on Stage as the MC is certainly an event highlight.

Truck Camping with My New Ford 150 and Four Wheels Hawk

Loading a camper on to the back of a pickup and having the ability to then tow a boat to ones favorite lake opens up an entire new realm of possibilities. Now, instead of contemplating a trip to a distant lake for a day of fishing, knowing full-well there’s going to be two good long drives involved, it’s now possible to stay for that evening bite and catch the early morning bite the next day – sweet!

Guys seem to grasp the opportunities truck campers represent instinctually. Women understand the premise, but would seem to view truck campers as a barrier between their planned household improvements and the man in their life they’ve associated with many of the heavier tasks on the list. However, this doesn’t explain my six-year old son’s fascination with my new Hawk Four Wheel Truck Camper now occupying the 6-foot 6-inch box of our new Ford 150.

Researching the ideal truck camper took some time. Four Wheel Campers isn’t the only manufacturer of pop-up slide-in truck campers, but they certainly produce the lightest ones on the market. Their use of aluminum gives my Hawk model a weight of 1,100 lbs. On the truck the top of the camper is only a mere 10-inches above the roof of my Ford, resulting in only very minor additional wind resistance.

My goal was to avoid having to purchase a ¾ ton pickup or heavier. Gas engines in the heavier rated pickups on the market today offer less than ideal fuel economy, and their diesel counterparts are far over-rated for the job. I don’t need to pull 20,000 lbs, nor do I need to carry 7,000 lbs of weight.

Ford offers two options on their ½ ton line of pickups that clinched the deal for me. First, a heavy payload option that boosted the capacity of an F150 to 2,330 lbs, and two, a heavy duty tow package that gives me 11,300 lbs of towing capability. All this in a half-ton pickup that has as its power-plant the now famous Ford Eco-Boost 6-cylinder engine.

The numbers break down as 1,100 lbs for the camper, 400 lbs for the weight of the tongue of my boat trailer, 204 lbs of fuel, 400 lbs of passengers (2 guys), another 80 lbs of dog, leaving me 146 lbs surplus payload capacity. Fishing gear is in the boat, which weighs about 4,500 lbs including trailer, motor and batteries. Add another 500 lbs of gas and gear in the boat, and the total weight of the trailer still leaves me 6,300 lbs of room to accommodate all the weight being carried in the truck. All said, I still have around 4,000 lbs of left-over towing / hauling capacity. The Ford handles it all beautifully!

Setting up the Hawk camper takes under a minute, Release six clips around the outside, step into the camper and push out the rear and front walls – done.

A double full-length bed over the cab can be extended to queen size, while the comfortable couch down below tumbles into a second double bed in fewer than five seconds, and it’s capable of sleeping people up to 6’5”.

Across from the couch is a fully equipped galley. A 3 cubic-foot fridge / freezer, gas furnace, 2-burner cook stove, stainless steel sink with a 20 gallon fresh water supply, and all manner of storage. The roof came with an electric exhaust fan on the inside, and a set of roof racks on the top capable of easily holding   three kayaks.

Another nice touch was the Arctic Pack that gave an extra interior liner to boost the internal warmth and dampen sound. Ample windows that fully open and a screen door ensure plenty of light and fresh air accesses the interior, while the windows in the rear door and front of the camper provide the driver with a view behind the truck.

Cargo hauling needs are addressed in several basic ways. The Super crew configuration of the truck means with the rear seats flipped up, there’s tons of space for gear and dog. Even with the seats down my dog has more than enough space to stretch out on the floor. I’ve never experienced a pickup with such a large rear seating area before. The floor in the camper can also accommodate plenty of gear and can be fully accessed even with the roof in the lowered position. Finally, The cab-over design means that my fishing rods longer than 6’6” in length have a safe and secure home in the camper by simply resting the butts of the rods behind the couch’s back rest, and their tips on the upper bunk. Rods of up to 10 feet can easily be accommodated.

Altogether this truck / camper package still represents a sizable chunk of space. Manually extending over-sized camper mirrors from Ford on the front doors provide the driver with excellent views behind the truck, and the camper itself only sticks out past the sides of the truck by no more than two inches. It extends past the rear of the truck’s box about the same, which allows the rear step-up bumper of the truck to be used as a step to enter and exit the camper. The hawk came with a separate set of fold-able steps, but these only become necessary when accommodating children.

Designers of the Hawk also allowed for storage of a portable toilet. I admit, that my knowledge of these systems was fairly rudimentary up until recently, giving me many misconceptions of the potential mess and stink portable toilets represent. However, after exploring the many different options for sale at my near-by Sail outdoor store, I began to feel a lot better about meeting the call of nature.

The unit I purchased for around $100 includes a 4.5 gallon water tank in the top half that can be pumped into the bowl of the toilet prior to usage. A very comfortable seat at a more than satisfactory height accommodates even my 6’3” frame. Once one has completed their absolution’s, a simple tug on the release handle sends all bowl contents into the second tank below where it remains sealed off from the rest of the toilet, and more importantly, the general environment. To empty the holding tank one need only separate the top portion from the bottom by disengaging two clasps, and then carry the lower sealed unit to any nearby toilet. Attach the included dump spout to the drain hole after removing the cover, (the spout is cleverly stored in a recessed area in the bottom), open the air valve, and dump. Modern flush toilets will flush automatically as the level in the bowl rises so one need not watch closely the emptying process, but can judge by feel alone when the tank is empty. A swish inside the tank with some fresh water afterwards isn’t a bad idea.

While the hawk offers everything one needs to stay high and dry and out of the bugs, bringing along some camp chairs and a kitchen tent isn’t a bad idea when contemplating longer than quick over-night stays. In my case however, it’s more important to be able to break camp and get on with launching the boat in as short a time as possible. It means more time in the morning to take advantage of that early morning bite on the water, instead of spending valuable time rolling up tents and storing gear. The roof of my Hawk can be lowered and stowed in less than a minute, and one need not even store the bedding.

So far I’ve had about a half-dozen people back my boat down boat launches, and no one seems to mind the camper. I ask, but they all recognize that once you’re behind the wheel you can’t really see the camper, so it doesn’t factor into the reversing process. The hawk’s light weight also means it poses no potential threat to the Ford to become mired in the soft bottom of un-paved launches. Four wheel drive helps keep everything well in hand too.

Fishing and now camping alongside my favorite lakes and rivers has made it possible for me to develop an even stronger personal bond with nature. Listening to the sounds of birds, frogs and other wildlife while safely tucked away inside my Hawk is a great way to relax, and means I’m in a far better frame of mind when I start off each day in the boat compared to my usual feelings of fatigue and anxiousness to get started fishing when I arrive at the launch after a long drive in the morning. It really has made a big difference in my mental preparedness on tournament days.

Blind Fishing Kayak Up-Date

Without doubt, HobieCat’s Mirage drive system for their kayaks has made a huge difference in my fishing and overall navigational ability on the water. Because I depend on my non-visual senses for all things in life, having my hands free to feel what’s taking place both above and below the water is crucial.

The Mirage system allows me to keep one hand on my fishing rod at all times to feel the bite, and the other on the rudder control. My sense of touch allows me to detect even the faintest bites, and my talking technologies and listening skills keep me on course. The fact that the Mirage drive makes virtually no noise also allows me to hear even the slightest sounds around me. It all adds up to be Zen-like perfection on the water.

The 2013 year was supposed to start with a blind kayak fishing adventure. Jenda Paddle Sports generously provided the use of 10 fully equipped HobieCat kayaks with Mirage drives, and HumanWare provided the talking GPS systems. I had waterproof tactile maps made for the ten blind competitors, and we had four shadow boats ready to assist with the measuring, photographing and release of the Northern Pike on the water. The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather. 70 km/h winds and whitecaps that lasted all day meant way too many fish stories were told while we hunkered down in the cabins.

Jenda Paddle Sport’s 2-day kayak fishing derby on the Rideau River was a lot of fun. The weather more than cooperated making for a very enjoyable couple days. No doubt, sharing the river with powerboats and cruisers keeps my senses honed, and in close proximity to my fishing partner. A carefully placed small bell on his kayak let me know where he was at all times, or at least until the bell fell overboard.

Catching and releasing a number of decent sized Bass and Walleye certainly added zest to my kayak fishing tournament experience, but sadly, none of my fish earned me top spot. The excellent hospitality provided by Jason Kirby and his wife more than made up for my finishing out of the money.

A humorous tale worth repeating involved a TV shoot I was featuring in for CTV’s news at 6:  for their “amazing People” segment. I was selected for the feature because of my water stewardship initiatives, and I thought what better way to demonstrate sustainable fishing than to showcase my fishing aboard my HobieCat Revolution kayak.

After the on-shore interview component was wrapped up, we moved on to the water. The host and videographer aboard my buddy’s boat, and me aboard my Hobie. We weren’t out on the lake five minutes before the heavy cloud cover let loose with a torrent of rain. Water being a problem for several of my talking navigation aids, I quickly stored the devices below deck and fell back to my human senses to navigate by. However, the rain was falling so hard that the sound made it almost impossible for me to hear. Never mind, I thought, I’ll just keep moving along and casting my lure. Well, I guess my homing instinct was working pretty well because not ten minutes later I t-boned my buddies boat. He told me after that he warned the videographer that a collision was immanent, but the grip insisted they not move as he was relishing the footage he was recording of me face-on. Of course, no one wanted to call out a warning and have their voice spoil the shot.

No damage was done to either boat or yak, and we all had a good laugh. Secretly, I was just glad I found them as I had no idea which way led back to the launch. The segment has been in rotation on CTV’s website and over their networks for over six months, and culminated with a gala dinner and award ceremony on February 22, 2014.

As far as organizing another blind kayak fishing tournament in 2014, I think not. I’ve found a better way to teach fellow blind people to fish by partnering with the CNIB’s Lake Joseph Centre. Starting last summer, we now offer daily fishing adventures out of their central Ontario facility located in the Muskoka’s. I’ll be up there myself again this spring to train-the-trainers, and again in the summer to head up a week of fishing instruction for deaf/ blind adults.

With water temperatures now finally having risen above 60 f. I’ve dusted off the Hobie and prepared my kit. A welcome new addition to my electronics this year is a “Talking Tackle Depth Whisperer” made in the U.S.

With its pleasant female voice and control settings, I think the device will go far towards improving my fish capture rate.


Paddles up,

Lawrence Gunther

2014 Spring Update

While January offers me plenty of opportunities to ice fish, February is show season and pretty much every weekend has me exhibiting and speaking at outdoor shows. Shows this year included the 4-day Ottawa Boat and Sportsman Show, the 4-day Toronto sportsman Show, and the 2-day Toronto People in Motion show. In total over the ten days over 155,000 people visited the three shows.


I’ve also been busy giving seminars at conferences, fishing club meetings, derbies and tournaments, and during in-store events.  . Demand for delivering key-note addresses also continues to build.

Blue Fish Canada:

The fish stewardship charity I founded in 2012, “Blue Fish Canada”, has received several considerable grants this year. Ozilles Marina on the Ottawa River stepped up in a big way, and I can’t say thanks enough to Yves for his tremendous support. The Pietrie Island Ice Fishing Association also generously donated the proceeds’ of their ice fishing tournament, and Tides Canada and the Fresh Water Alliance awarded Blue Fish a very generous grant.

Blue fish volunteers were able to assemble and distribute just over 1,000 free shoreline clean-up kits and stewardship guides. More program activities are being planned, including a joint venture with the Ottawa Valley South Bass Masters and their hosting the 2014 Ontario B.A.S.S qualifiers. I’m also participating on the planning committee for the National Fresh Water Rally scheduled for October in Ottawa, and have a media event planned to help launch the event.

Blue Fish Radio:

Blue Fish Radio continues to gain popularity. I’m continuing to host semi-weekly episodes of the program, which has been picked up by Reno Viola’s WRVO internet radio program. Twenty-two 30-minute episodes have been broadcast to date.

Public Media:

I’ve been profiled on a number of TV networks again including Rogers and CTV twice. The Toronto Star and Ottawa Sun newspapers published good-sized pieces. Lund Boats also included an excellent information piece on my work with the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre for the blind in their spring magazine / catalogue.

Social Media:

Lures and Tours publications has generously stepped up with a commitment to feature my initiatives in their social media and hard-copy publications. T.J. from Ontario Fishing Network also continues to host and distribute related content over the web. Websites now include:

In Store Appearances:

I worked an evening at the Sail Outdoor store in Ottawa on behalf of Muskie Canada. Plano/Frabill also had me helping out throughout May at the launch of the new “pro Fishing Sections” in many of the Canadian tire Stores located in Ontario. I managed to work six stores over five days. I enjoy hanging out in the fishing section of a store under any circumstance, but to be compensated to talk fishing is a real bonus.

Articles Published:

My articles published under the Feel the Bite tag line continue to be published in Ontario Fishing Network, Outdoors Unlimited, Yamamoto Inside Line, and other magazines and websites.


My 90-minute documentary is near finished after not quite four years, and should be released in 2014. Making a movie is far more resource intensive then filming video for TV? Sound production involves four stages of production alone.


TV opportunities are growing in number. Several discussions are now underway, but it often seems to be the case that “hurry up and wait” are the only two speeds this industry knows.


As of June 21 2014 I’ll have fished in six fishing tournaments – can’t wait until Bass season opens. Results include two 2nd place finishes, a 4th, one big fish finish, and longest total length of Musky captured.


I’m being featured as part of a 24-month travelling exhibition throughout Canada called “It’s An Honour!” for my having received the Meritorious Service Medal from Canada’s Governor General. The interactive exhibit is visiting towns throughout Canada that have populations of below 50,000 with the exception of a 4-day visit in Ottawa over Canada Day.


Orleans Boat World, Ranger boats and Evinrude Outboards have come to my assistance once again and have up-dated my ride. Sticking with the Ranger 620 Fisherman powered with an E-TEC 250 HO. Ran this same combination last year and I love it!

Four Wheel Campers Canada has assisted by topping my new Ford 150 pickup with one of their pop-up truck campers. With the roof down it only sticks up 10 inches above the truck’s roof, and when expanded I’m easily able to walk around inside. It has two large comfortable beds and a fully equipped kitchen. Weighing only 1,100 pounds, I leave it on the truck full time and have experienced only very minor fuel usage increases – thank you Eco-Boost.

Action Car and Truck Accessories has generously stepped up with some add-ons for the Ford. My priorities for the truck right now include a backup camera and obstacle detection sensors on all four corners of the vehicle. Don’t worry, I have no plans on driving. I’ll wait until I get one of those new Google self driving cars – do you think one could pull my boat?

New Shimano Rods and reels continue to astonish me with their continuous evolution, as with their Power Pro fishing line and Jackle Baits.

Scotty, Plano, Frabill, Minn Kota, Lowrance, Trokar, Salus Marine, HumanWare, Berts Custom Tackle, all lend their support to keeping my various endeavours fluid. Eukanuba pet foods has been a key sponsor for the past six years, but news of PnG’s recent sale of their pet food division to Mars has raised concern over this relationship’s future.

Summer / Fall:

Stay tuned for reports of up-coming activities including a 24-hour fish-a-thon as part of the national fresh water rally planned for Ottawa this coming October.

Aquatic Adventures along the Gulf of Mexico

In April of 2014 my wife Anne, our two youngest children ages 6 and 8, myself and my guide dog Moby along with our 3lb Yorky, traveled down the east coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Our accommodations were a 34-foot ultra-light travel trailer that we towed with our V6-powered half-ton truck.  The entire trip lasted just over three weeks and covered roughly 7,000 kilometers. Before we could get underway however, I first had to dig and salt the trailer free from the mountain of snow that covered and surrounded our portable shelter.

Our first stop was Sarasota Florida where we jumped directly into a series of aquatic exploration activities. The 10-acre fishing pond with fishing dock located on the grounds of our first campground featured a large sign warning against feeding the Alligators on penalty of $5,000. My son and I scoped out the banks of the pond, and after determining the coast to be clear, hurried on to the fishing dock to give the fishing a try using his 3-foot ice rod. He caught the biggest Sunfish I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding. It was a Red Eared Sunfish that was as big as a dinner plate. I had to hand-bomb it in in the end as his rod just didn’t have the guts to lift it the ten feet to where we stood. He hooked it on a yellow fuzzy-grub. It may have been the size of a dinner plate, but we set her free anyway. Wish I had my camera….

The next day’s field trip to Miakka State Park had us on a 100-acre lake that scientists claim is home to over 1,000 Alligators. We weren’t disappointed. Lots of reptilians of all sizes sunning themselves on shore in groups of up to 15 at a time. We also witnessed a rare day-time viewing of a large male gulping down a good-sized 20-inch fish that he caught in a mid-lake weed bed. The air boat tour of the lake was excellent, and we learned a lot about Alligator nesting, feeding and aggression behaviours – turns out they are poor runners on land because of their soft under-bellies. Interestingly enough, on offer at the park’s restaurant was alligator stew.

Still in Sarasota we took a half-day pontoon boat cruise on to the Gulf to explore the islands and tidal grass flats. The 28-foot pontoon we were on held 20 visitors, the operator, and a biologist from the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

First stop was a small island where we explored the plant and island life forms. The second stop was on a tidal flat where each of us was equipped with dip nets on 5-foot poles. The biologist collected a sample of the numerous various life forms we gathered and placed them in a bucket for examination and explanation later back aboard the boat. Critters included Needle Fish and Starfish.

This foot-soaking, hands-on adventure was the real-deal and worth every penny. To catch and hold such a variety of sea life convinced my daughter that her ambition in life is to become a marine biologist.

Next stop was Fort Myers where we took a long walk to collect sea shells on barefoot beach, fed turtles living in the small pond behind our campsite, and spent a day aboard a 100-foot head boat fishing off shore with 80 others. A variety of pan-sized fish were caught, and my wife matched me fish-for-fish.

On several occasions while at the rail fishing aboard the headboat, a shortish elderly gentleman would appear at my side to offer assistance with rebaiting, untangling lines or unhooking fish. I was usually managing fine. I just assumed he was one of the deck hands. It wasn’t until we were disembarking that my wife identified the individual as the captain. While disembarking our diminutive captain noticed my white stick and commented that he hadn’t been aware I couldn’t see, to which I replied that I didn’t know he could drive a boat. The crew had a good laugh and so did the captain as we shook hands warmly and I thanked him for the great day. My 16-inch Black Spot narrowly missed out on winning the big fish pot.

Our next stop was Islamorada — the fishing capital of the world. This key is about half way between Miami and Key West. We had two events scheduled for our stay. The first being a visit to the Theater by the Sea, and the second involved my spending a day on a flats boat with a local guide to explore the back waters. Dinners at several dock-side restaurants, hand-feeding 5-foot Tarpon off the docks and a visit to Earnest Hemmingway’s fishing boat housed inside the local Bass Pro Shop all served to make our short visit at this key even more memorable.

The Theater by the Sea is one of the first ever aquariums to open in the United States and has been around for over 70 years. It includes a large man-made lake formed by flooding a former quarry. The stone taken from this pit was used to create the numerous causeways that now link the various islands together making it possible to drive from Miami to Key West.

My wife and daughter signed up to swim with the dolphins while my son and I stayed on shore under the shade and watched. My son had just turned six, was still learning to swim, and didn’t feel comfortable being used by the dolphins as a human beach ball. Our turn would come later. My wife and daughter on the other hand received kisses, rubbed bellies, splashed, danced and were taken for tows while holding on to dorsal fins. My son and I opted for the dolphin encounter, where we also received kisses, rubbed Dolphin bellies, played fetch, and received gifts of small leaves retrieved for us by the 800 lb Dolphin using its remarkably small mouth.

Stormy, our big male Dolphin had no issue with me feeling his face as I searched his snout with my hands for my gift. There’s no actual nose opening on their snout, (there nasal opening is located on top of their heads), so it’s understandable how Dolphins can kill sharks by ramming their under-bellies with their blunt snouts. It’s like a hard bony club.

My day aboard a 16-foot flats boat with David Denkers for a day of backwater fishing went as well as I hoped, with the exception of missing out on catching a grand slam (Permit, Bone and Tarpon) by one species. To read about this adventure and see the pics, visit my story called…

From Islamorada we set off still further south for Key West. We camped just a bit north of the city on a narrow piece of land that separated the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite was directly on the beach under the Coconut trees, which is a mixed blessing. Sure there’s shade, but there’s also coconuts from acorn size all the way up to full-sized nuts that can do actual damage when they drop out of the trees, and they do, right on to the picnic table where my kids and wife were painting seashells.

A short walk from our campground was an old unused bridge spanning one of the countless channels that connect the Atlantic to the Golf. It made for an excellent place to spend late afternoons fishing. The water would be so clear my wife and kids could see the different fish as they passed under the bridge. One minute the water would be empty of life, and the next instant everyone would be getting bit. The occasional large 4-foot-plus fish passing below would trigger screams of amazement, but unfortunately, not screams from our fishing reel drags.

Key West itself was quite touristy. We did tour Hemingway’s home and take a dip in the ocean off the beach, but probably the highlight was our dinner in a small out door cafe.

Chickens roam free everywhere in Key West, including chicks and roosters alike. My wife was amazed and shocked to witness live chickens mount neighbouring but empty beautifully set tables to perch inside the empty wine glasses. The restaurant staff would replace the wine glasses that were knocked over, but not those that served as perches and remained standing.

Chickens and chicks weaved there way between the tables, and even though the signs said not to feed the birds, there were plenty of patrons who did, which would eventually lead to the offending guests being overwhelmed by pushy chickens. Inevitably, restaurant staff would have to herd the more aggressive birds away from the table where the earlier amused and now slightly shaken dinner guests would quietly but quickly finished their meals.

A small thing I found disturbing in Key West was the amount and variety of sea coral on sale at the various gift shops. With an endless parade of monster cruise ships docking in the harbour, the shops seemed to be moving large amounts of specimens that ranged in price from $20, all the way up to $100 for specimens that easily measured 20-inches in circumference. I thought it was illegal to harvest coral.

From Key West we travelled six hours north back up the U.S. #1 highway, past Miami and Lake Okeechobee, and our final destination, Fort Wilderness at Disney World. By far the nicest campground we ever had the pleasure of visiting. Tons of privacy, trees, amenities, and a 5-day rest from driving for my wife.

We visited all the major theme parks, but by far our favorite were Animal Kingdom, where the kids participated in a park-wide treasure hunt focussed exclusively on identifying and learning about the many wild birds and animals that make this Kingdom their home. Each of the over-thirty locations we searched out on the hunt had a Disney staff member on hand to administer a test on what the kids had learned and to apply the stamps after answering the five questions correctly. The associated theme rides designed more to educate and thrill than scare were highlights, as was the amazing afternoon parade of actors, acrobats, puppeteers and folk-art inspired representations of various birds and animals.

The highlight for me was the “Land” exhibit located within the Epcot theme park. There was an amazing gondola ride along water courses that snaked their way through huge experimental greenhouses where all manner of crops were being grown. An accompanying narrative of the agricultural issues facing the planet provided an unflinching explanation of what was needed if the world was to continue to feed itself sustainably for future generations. Afterwards, the lunch counter had on offer the various organic vegetables and farmed animals grown on site. An amazing set of monstrous aquariums were also included as part of another more Disneyesque ride with biologists standing by to answer questions about the various manatees, sharks and  other sea animals swimming lazily in their huge tanks. Some of the more thrill oriented rides had lines that discouraged us from sampling, but most offered virtually instant access. In all, there were five rides / theatrical offerings that we enjoyed thoroughly in the one exhibit building called “Land”.

Our final and least enjoyable experience with water took place on our way home. The weather was overcast and drizzly, but nothing extreme when we pulled into a Walmart parking lot in North Carolina to over-night. I was therefore shocked and relieved the next morning when I heard on the radio that not one but two tornados touched down in that very state destroying over 200 homes while we slept innocently in our ultra-light weight travel trailer among a cluster of big trucks. With one more big push we arrived safe and sound at our home in Ottawa at midnight that night. When we left there was still over four feet of snow on the ground, and when we returned it was gone.  Still cool, but spring had finally sprung.

Feeling Around for Some Bay of Quinte Beauties

With Scott Campbell doing the driving and taking the photos, the two of us set off for the Bay of Quinte to meet up with the Quinte Ice Fishing Team. I wanted to feel for myself the magnificent Walleyes that fishers routinely pluck out from under the ice. We met up with Jeff Chisholm and his partner Paul McTaggart at 5:30 on a Saturday morning at a Tim Horton’s in Bellville on December 28, 2013, along with several other of the Team’s guests for the day.

While waiting for my turn to be transported on to the ice at the launch sight, I spoke with a local who showed up that morning specifically to observe where the Quinte Ice Fishing Team planned to fish that day. Even though both Jeff and Paul deliberately set off from the launch in false directions prior to extinguishing their tail lights and changing courses for the intended destination, by no means did we end up with a chunk of Bay ice to ourselves. They had us positioned over 12-inches of ice and 19-feet of water with all holes drilled by 6:30.

Jeff and Paul tested baits constantly and circulated among the four of us guests to pass on information about which baits and techniques were icing fish. From 6:30 to 9:30, the bite can be quite hot, and in spite of the four of us losing five Walleye sub-surface, we managed to successfully ice ten or so decent Walleye measuring between 16 and 25 inches.

An extreme low pressure system had moved in the day before bringing temperatures up to just above zero. Sudden barometric shifts such as this always result in neutral fish, but given that we were on the ice within three weeks of its forming, there was still plenty of action to be had. Strikes were most often sudden and aggressive, but the occasional Walleye had to be finessed into biting – the longest “cat-and-mouse” game lasted 12 minutes and lured the fish 4-feet off the bottom.

Throughout the 11 hours on the ice, Jeff or Paul would be firing up either a BBQ or deep fryer making sure we were well fed. If it wasn’t hot sausages, it was fresh buns stuffed with Walleye smothered in tartar sauce. The Team also made sure everyone had access to the hottest artificial baits and an ample supply of live minnows, and was quick to offer up fresh propane tanks and 12V batteries when the need arose. Between the food, drinks, supplies and tips, none of us had anyone to blame but ourselves if more than an hour past without a fish.

As big as the Bay of Quinte is, even 20 feet can make the difference between catching fish or not. However, with Paul and Jeff constantly scouting, it wasn’t long before anyone of us four guests found ourselves being shifted over to a more productive location. It’s this sort of constant attentiveness to the fishing needs of the guests that keep people coming back to the Prince Edward county area year-after-year even if it means driving from as far away as London, which was the case of the Ice Team’s other two guests.

Hot baits were flutter-type spoons with rattles in a chartreuse colour. Dead-sticking live bait is rarely a productive method on the Bay during the winter, for whatever reason, resulting in seasoned pros such as Jeff having developed a two-handed “double-barrelled” approach to jigging. One rod is rigged with a “call” type bait, such as lipless rattle baits, and the second has a vertical presentation tipped with a full minnow.

Cadence for the baits generally consists of a 6-inch snap up of the rod tip using the wrist, with as much as a 3-second pause between snaps during which the bait is pulsed. When a fish is marked on the sonar, the “teaser” style bait is reeled up, and if this doesn’t result in a strike, the Walleye is then left with a single target to focus on. The 2-handed method takes some coordinating, especially when reeling up, but will increase your odds significantly given the amount Walleye move around under the ice. It would seem that Quinte Walleye never cease patrolling the thousands of acres of the Bay’s nearly featureless bottom.

In spite of The Bay of Quinte being part of Lake Ontario, wind patterns pushing the open water on the lake either towards or away from the Bay result in currents being established under the ice. These currents and slack water areas influence exactly where the Walleye will or will not be at any specific time in the winter. These currents can also produce dangerous ice conditions as they ware ice away from underneath – a hazard that’s difficult to detect visually from above. Having guides who spend almost every winter day on the ice keeping you safe can make a lot of sense if you’re from away.

After several seasons of relatively pour ice conditions, all indicators would seem to suggest this year’s ice fishing on the Bay of Quinte will be excellent. What little snow there was on top had pretty much melted and soaked into the more porous ice below during the weekend we were there. With the return of the extreme cold that followed, solid ice should be around for some time to come.

At the end of the day, Scott and I left for Ottawa with five decent eater-sized fish. No truly large Walleyes were kept, but just knowing they are there will keep bringing us and others back year-after-year. A big thanks to Jeff and Paul for the great day on the ice, and to Scott for applying his driving and photographic talents, not to mention his “blow-by-blow” colour commentary as he verbalized the action being revealed on my Lowrance elite Five Ice Machine.

Not being able to see the display on the fish finder myself, I fish hard all day just like everyone else did prior to sounders coming on to the scene. I still manage to catch roughly the same numbers of fish as others. It would seem the primary benefit of using fish finders on the ice is keeping fishers focussed on their fishing. Having said that, these sounders really come into play later in February when the Walleye stop feeding and the only way to elicit a strike is to tease them as if you were using a ball of string to provoke a big-old lazy house cat to pounce.