Family Fishing Fundamentals

Tips and tricks for amateur anglers.
 
Fishing is a great way to get outdoors and spend quality time with the family. But if you’re brand new to the sport, where do you begin? What kind of rod or reel is best for me? What kind of lures should I look for? What kind of safety concerns should I be aware of?
 
To make things a little easier, let’s start with the basics: the rod and reel. As the sport of fishing progresses, so do the advances in equipment, and that means a plethora of choices. To make things easy, fishing tackle companies make combo kits, which include a rod and reel sold together. This means you can match your child’s age with a set instead of having to match separate pieces.
 
“Combos take the guesswork out and pair the correct rod and reel for you,” explained Ken Staudinger of Pure Fishing. “For example, Shakespeare Crusader combo comes with a rod, reel and line, making it less stressful to get the family geared up and enjoy more time fishing.”
 
With the rod and reel out of the way, next it might be a good idea to find the right lures and hooks. Are you fishing off a dock or pier in shallower water? Then keep your eyes peeled for some floating or shallow-water lures. The package will tell you what type of water it’s best for. Fishing on Lake Michigan in some deeper water? Then a diver might be best for you.
 
For the little ones who might not make it a full day of fishing but still want to pull some lunkers out of the water, artificial bait products can be incredibly effective. While they don’t quite replace live baits, they’re another option that kids like.
 
“Artificial bait alternatives such as Berkley Gulp! Alive small jars can be intriguing to kids,” Staudinger explained. “However, live bait like worms, minnows and crickets might be the most exciting thing to a child until they can reel in their first fish.”
 
The most important consideration when getting the family out on the lake is safety. Fishing requires a lot of sharp objects, so mom or dad needs to be extra careful when their children are handling hooks and lures.
 
“It is very easy to hook someone during a cast if you are not paying attention,” Staudinger said. “The Shakespeare Hide-A-Hook system is an excellent and safe setup for children as it hides the hook point in the bobber when casting.”
 
Having the right essentials is key in making sure you and your family make the most of what the lake has to offer. With combo kit options and lures from Pure Fishing, it’s never been easier to get outdoors with the entire family.
 
-Hook, Line & Sinker
 
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Herding Cats

Catfish are fun to catch, remain active in summer’s heat, and make a great meal.
 
When I was only about four feet tall or so, my dad and I caught a mess of bullhead catfish on barbecued chicken – leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. I’ve also caught bullheads and other varieties of catfish on worms, grubs, chicken livers, dip bait and cheese. The common element that seems to characterize can’t-miss catfish bait is odor. While catfish can’t see well, they have an excellent sense of smell and the barbels near the mouth, which resemble a cat’s whiskers and give the species its common name, enable catfish to taste and smell food. That makes them easy to catch. And because they like warm water, they can provide a lot of summer fishing fun.
 
Bullhead Catfish
 
Bullheads are the smallest member of the catfish family found in our lakes and rivers, and they’re also the most common. There are several varieties of bullhead and most are around 10-inches long when fully grown. But they’re fun to catch, putting up a fairly good fight, and they are excellent table fare, fried with a cornmeal crust or blackened. You can catch them in the shallows of most lakes feeding near the bottom all summer long. I’ve caught a mess of them at noon on a hot day, when other fish just weren’t interested.
 
Channel Catfish
 
Channel cats aren’t much bigger than bullheads and are also quite abundant. Like bullheads, they’ll eat almost anything, but natural baits seem best. Small panfish cut into 1-inch pieces work well as do minnows or nightcrawlers. Fresh or frozen shrimp are said to work well. Dunham’s has a selection of baits that are sure to attract the channel cats. Berkley Powerbait chunks in liver, blood or fish scent are irresistible to any variety of catfish. Dip bait is among the most popular for catfish angling, particularly in summer months. Dunham’s carries Uncle Josh dip bits in rotten shad and liver. Also available are tube baits in the same delectable rotten shad and liver flavors.
 
When fishing for catfish, it’s important that you fish just off the bottom of the lake or stream. That’s where the cats will be searching for food.
 
Monster Catfish
 
Catfish angling gets serious when you go after the blue and flathead catfish. These big boys can grow to over 100 pounds, and 25- to 50-pound specimens are reasonably common in a lot of the nation’s river systems and lakes. While they can be found in some smaller lakes, they’re most prevalent in the big lakes. Like other members of the catfish family, they like warm water, so they’re a good species to go after when other fish are lying low in the midsummer heat.
 
Like their smaller relatives, big cats will happily feast on a variety of live bait, including minnows, crawfish, worms, chicken livers, cut-up panfish or man-made stink baits. Again, the preserved baits and dip baits available at Dunham’s are a sure way to attract the big cats.
 
Trotline Angling
 
Many catfish anglers set trotlines at night to catch a mess of cats. The trotline is a long piece of sturdy fishing line with multiple hooks attached to secondary drop lines that branch off the main line. Each hook is baited with some nasty bit that the cats will love. One end is tied to a tree limb or some other sturdy spot on shore. The other line is weighted and dropped into the water. A float can be attached to the anchor end via a piece of line long enough to reach the surface with the anchor on the bottom. An empty plastic gallon-size milk or detergent bottle works well. On streams with trees on both sides, a trotline can be strung between two trees. When I was a teenager I watched some older anglers bait and set their trotlines in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks. They were using massive hooks and baiting them with cottonseed cakes. They set the trotline at dusk and hauled in some mighty big blue cats in the morning.
 
Catfish Gear
 
Dunham’s can provide everything you need to put together a trotline, but most of us like to take our fish on rod and reel. Dunham’s offers a wide variety of heavy-duty rods and reels that are perfect for catfish angling. The Shakespeare Ugly Stik is a favorite of many cat fishermen.
 
Jim Burrows of Pure Fishing says the Shakespeare Ugly Stik rods and combos are tough enough to land the biggest cats, and Dunham’s has a wide selection of this gear. He also recommends loading your reel with Berkley Trilene Big Cat Monofilament line in 20 lb., 30 lb., and 40 lb. weight. Another good choice that you’ll find at Dunham’s is SpiderWire Stealth Braid line.
 
A great way to get your feet wet in catfish angling is with the South Bend Ready to Fish Catfish Combo. This all-you-need kit includes a rod and reel, along with a tackle box and some bait that is sure to make any cat sit up and take notice.
 
-Hook, Line & Sinker
 
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Where the Summer Bass Play

Those Lunker Bass Aren’t Taking Summer Off. They’re just vacationing in a different part of the lake.
 
It’s summer, and the world is taking it easy. The cicadas sing, dawn comes early, and the warm sun feels good on your skin. However, the bass that you hope to catch might not be as fond of summer as the rest of us.
 
Your big bass may be lollygagging in the deep water, lazily avoiding the warm shallows. The bass probably move into somewhat shallower water, say 10- to 20-feet deep to feed, but they’ll be scarce near shore. Unless of course, they’re hiding in the shade of some underwater weeds.
 
If you’re fishing a man-made lake with underwater structures, count on the bass to huddle near submerged trees or areas that have an uneven lake bottom, such as an underwater gully or creek bed. Fishing in the right place at the right time is key to success when it comes to angling for bass.
 
Fishing the Deep with Crankbaits
 
While knowing where to find the fish is important, having the correct equipment is also essential. If the bass are congregating in the deep, you’ll have to use bait intended for deep-water fishing. Today, that most often means deep-diving crankbaits. Matt Jensen of Rapala says the Rapala DT crankbait helped win the BassMaster Classic. “It dives to the specified depth and stays there,” he said. “The DT06 dives to six feet and stays there for the entire retrieve. It’s easy to target fish and be more consistent with a crank bait.”
 
Of course Rapala makes crankbaits that run much deeper. The DT Metal 20, for example, will run at 20 feet of depth and can be easily cast 150 feet, enabling a long retrieve in the target zone. As with any lure, you may have to try several different colors before you find a crankbait the fish hunger for.
 
Scott Ingram of Bomber Lure Co. tells us that their line of crankbaits includes a lot of choices for the bass fisherman. Bomber’s Fat Free Shad® crankbait has won millions of dollars in prize money and comes in both rattling and silent models. It even includes a new version that can dive to 19 feet and work those deep holes in the middle of the lake. Dunham’s stocks a wide variety of Bomber baits.
 
It Looks Like Dinner
 
When bass do migrate to shallow water, they usually head for the weed beds. Find a hole in the weed bed and drop your bait there. A bass could be lurking under those weeds, and it might fall head over heels for a nice, fat plastic worm – a long-time favorite for summer bass fishing. The Matzuo plastic worms you’ll find at Dunham’s come with a free pack of worm hooks.
 
Jim Burrows of purefishing wrote to remind us that Dunham’s carries a number of baits from the Berkley Gulp!® line of live-looking dinner entrees, including night crawlers, minnows, shrimp and more – all with a long history of success on Bass fishing waters. When choosing a worm to tempt a big bass, remember that it doesn’t have to be of the same hue as a real worm. A bright red plastic nightcrawler can look like the perfect meal to our fishy friends.
 
Rods and Reels
 
While bait is what attracts fish, a good rod and reel can help ensure you won’t lose the lunker after hooking it. Dunham’s offers some great rods and reels from all the top manufacturers. For big bass, a rod of 6- to 7-feet in length is ideal. The South Bend Shredder is a top choice of pro fishermen. With multi-layer construction, Shredder rods will bend but not break. Abu Garcia rods are also highly favored by bass fisherman. Dunham’s carries the Vengeance, Vendetta and Villain models from that maker, as well as Abu Garcia bait casting reels. And check out the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Rods as well. How can you go wrong with a rod called “Ugly Stik?”
 
If you’re new to bass fishing and just want to dip your bait in the water to see how it feels, you might want to look at the South Bend R2F Bass combo. It has everything you need to get started immediately, including rod, reel, and even a tackle box with some lures inside that are sure to tempt Mr. (or Mrs.) bass. Speaking of combos, you’ll also find some nice bait-casting combo outfits from Abu Garcia at Dunham’s. In other words, Dunham’s has a lot of gear from which to choose, and there are a lot of bass out there just waiting for you.
 
-Hook, Line & Sinker
 
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