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In The Outdoors: Get the Most Out of Your Electronics with Tightline Presentations

Being able to quickly change my bait to match the level of the fish helped me hook this walleye. (PHOTO: Brad Veenstra)

Like every other angler, I am very skilled at storing fishing events in my memory bank. I keep thinking that one of these days the memory vault will be full, but it hasn’t happened yet.

When it comes to retrieving memories, some are easier to find than others. One event that often crosses my mind taught me a lesson on the relationship between proper equipment and utilizing electronics. Let me explain.

It was several years ago that I found myself fishing a deep basin crappie bite on a cold morning during the early ice period. The fish were willing biters but were such roamers it was hard to keep up with them. They also changed depth according to their location in the basin.

After drilling many holes, I attempted to follow them and was somewhat successful as I pulled out a fish every now and then. Even though my success wasn’t impressive, I did eventually attract another group of anglers that rode in on four-wheelers.

They were very courteous and drilled their own holes instead of using mine. They also had a couple of Vexilars and soon located fish. The problem was they were using bobbers and not tightlining.

I watched their frustration mount as they kept adjusting the depth of the float to match the level of the fish. About the time they got the float set, the fish were gone. In the meantime, I continued to pop a few more slaps which only added to their misery.

I was sure they would eventually see the madness in their method and get rid of the bobbers, but they didn’t. Instead, they insisted on fishing with floats even if it meant not catching anything.

There are times when working a float system for crappie is ideal. However, there are also times when a float presentation simply is not as efficient as a tightline presentation.

Quality electronics not only show fish, they also help us keep the bait in the fish zone. (PHOTO: Jerry Carlson)

A lot of it comes back to the use of electronics. A Vexilar is a really important tool for locating winter fish. However, it is also a tool for keeping your bait in front of the fish after you find them.

A classic example of this happened to me last winter. I was fishing for photo caliber crappie with photographer, Brad Veenstra. The fish we were targeting were about 40 feet down in 50 feet of water. I was watching my Vexilar when I noticed a heavy red line come onto the screen at 30 feet.

Since I was tightlining, all I had to do was turn the crank a few times and I had my bait in front of this red mark. A second later, I had very respectable fish on the line.

The two-pound-test Berkley Micro Ice did its job and allowed me to land a very plump walleye. Without utilizing quality electronics and fishing a bobberless tightline presentation, this is a fish I probably would never have caught.

Those that fish with electronics know how important they are to winter success. They allow anglers to read depth, bottom consistency and locate fish. However, they also allow anglers to match up their bait to the exact depth the fish are at.

Being able to keep your lure in the fish zone is what winter fishing is all about. Choosing the best presentation for the conditions will maximize your success.

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