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Sweetening the Pot by John McBride

A series of articles on adding bait to your flies to increase your catch rate.

Collecting for the Spring

Now is the time of year that all I hear from most fishermen is " all I can do now is tie my flies and wait till spring!" or " now all I can do is wait till first ice!"  Sound familiar??  Well now is the busy time for me, gathering bait and mapping new lakes. For Bluegill, Crappie, and Perch bait that keeps through the winter, cruise the back roads and watch the ditch line, and fence line for straight weed stalks with ball like growths on them. Goldenrod grubs are collected from these balls from the first frost till spring. Horse weed, and Ragweed are larger plants that also need to be checked, but these need to be checked usually in July, and August. When you see them, cut above and below these growths and place in a glass jar with a lid , that has about a dozen small nail holes in it.)


They need to be kept in a cool dry place, like the garage, shed, or even the basement. KEEP THEM AWAY FROM THE FURNACE!!.  They will keep in their stalk balls all winter, till they eat their way out in the spring, or till you inadvertently warm them up. Or you can cut them out of their ball to use them for fishing.
A day before you are ready to use them for fishing, cut into the ball with a sharp knife, and extract the grub that is inside. Place the grubs in a mix of half-and-half cornmeal and fine sawdust, in a bowl with a tight lid that has small holes punched in it. Plain cornmeal will work, but keep it dry! Now is the time to add your favorite fish attractant also.  For carrying the grubs, I use 35mm film containers that have holes punched in the lid. Snuff tins work well also. (they are mostly all plastic lidded now.)  Put enough meal mix in to cover them.  A hint for snuff tins and fishing, is to put lid on, heat a needle and poke a double hole in the lid, and also the side of the tin.  Now thread a strand of four pound test mono. through, and tie a loop.This way the lid will not blow away!


These grubs, like the Hickory nut grubs, will keep for months in the butter cubby-hole in your fridge door. I use these grubs and Hickory nut grubs all winter and they will out fish the spikes, and wax worms that you can buy almost every time!! Their scent and taste are very different, and with everyone feeding fish the same old bait, they seem to like the variety. I have not bought bait when fishing in my area, (or close enough to pack bait in a cooler for travel.) for thirty years!! My dad raises red worms for summer fishing, and we collect grubs for the winter. Use them with your flies, and get ready to start hauling them in!!


When you are ready to go fishing, take a sharp pocket knife and whittle down into the stalk ball till you find the grub.  Place in a half and half mix of corn meal and sawdust just like the hickory nut grubs I told you about before. These goldenrod, horse weed borers are tiny and great bait all year long!  Also if you have kids it will keep them busy watching for the worm balls out the window of your car. Then after you cut down to a grub in the ball, have them pull them out carefully. Their little fingers work better than our fat fingers any day!  Just another alternate bait to out fish your buddy with!

Mapping A Lake For Pike

Watch the lakes freeze for Pike!!  CHECK IT EVERYDAY!!  Pick a lake that is real accessible to you and try and get a topographical map of it.  Or troll around the break with the depth finder running and map it yourself. (A map inside a gallon Zip-Lok bag and a fine tipped dry markers works real well!)


Now as the ice comes on, watch for iceless pockets or unfrozen strips on the lake.   Mark these spots on your map,....PIKE!!   When the ice is gone and you are getting the boat around in the spring, take a water thermometer, (one that has the drop line so it gives you instant readings!!) and go trolling across these spots that you had marked in the winter. Drop your thermometer and take a reading.   If the water is colder than the rest you have found a cold water spring, and you have just found a top-of-the-line Pike spot!! 


Pike love these cold moving water springs during the summer!! Any incoming spring, or channel will produce Pike all spring, and fall. And when the hot days of summer come, and your buddy tells everyone "that the Pike quit biting because they are growing back their teeth," you can snicker to yourself because you know you can go catch pike in your cold water spring spots now.  (Isn't it great to out fish someone once and a while?)  With all the fishing traffic nowadays you need any edge you can get to catch those finicky fish.   They have seen every lure and bait you can buy, so why not try some old retro-techniques?
Tie a few, fish a lot!!