In talking about gearing up for spring fishing the last few weeks, I have spurred quite a few people to write about things that I didn’t explain clearly enough. All of the questions have been good ones, and I will try to answer them. The questions have been on the subjects of rods, reels and line.
In selecting a rod and reel, you’ll have to make the decision between open-faced spinning and the traditional baitcasting setup. The closed-face spin cast reels are great for kids and beginners because they don’t tangle, but they really don’t cast very far and their drag systems aren’t very good, so stay away from that arrangement.
Spinning reels cast a mile, and the accuracy is average for most anglers who practice sufficiently. They are pretty easy to use and snag and snarl minimally.
Baitcasting reels need to be properly set to avoid tangles. Tangles on baitcasters (called “birds' nests”) are total nightmares, so the reels have to be tuned for the bait you are using, and practice is a must. After a little practice with a baitcaster, you will be able to cast and hit a target consistently. Your casts may be a little shorter than you can make with a spinning reel, but you’ll be able to put the bait exactly where you want it.
One thing to realize is that baitcasters are used for heavier line, and spinning reels are used with light line. That is the main factor in deciding which one to use as far as I am concerned.
Make sure that you match the rod to the reel. The sizes should pair up well for your intended purpose. The rod’s action needs to match what you are fishing for and the style in which you are fishing. Bass fishing requires a more sensitive, stiff rod to feel the bottom and the bites yet still have enough backbone to fight the fish.
Walleyes and panfish can be caught better with rods that have a little more flex. You don’t need to set the hook as hard, and you don’t want to pull the hook out of the mouth of a fish.
Now that you’ve chosen a rod and reel, you need to head to the tackle shop to have the reel filled with fresh line. If you use monofilament line, do this twice a season. For other lines, once a year is enough.
Which line to use? Mono is the traditional line. You shouldn’t use mono spinning line on a baitcaster or vice versa. There is a big difference. For example, Trilene XT is baitcaster line, while Trilene XL is for spinning reels.
The next choice would be superlines, like Power Pro or NanoFil or Fireline. These are tough and are thinner than monofilament lines in the same test strength. There are no clear superlines, so they are generally not as invisible to fish as the mono lines. Now that some of the manufacturers are making white superlines, I have changed to those. You need to have a small amount of mono put on a reel before laying down superline. This causes the line not to slip.
Superlines are the perfect choice for hunting big fish. You can use a high test weight line that is thin enough that it is hard for the fish to see. Superlines are hard to break so you can have more confidence if you tie up with a bruiser.
The biggest problem with superlines is using them when you are trolling. If you snag a rock or log while trolling and the superline doesn’t break, what is going to give? That is correct, sir. You will now have turned your one-piece rod into a two-piece model unintentionally.
Fluorocarbon line is another choice, albeit an expensive one. Fluoro is tough and totally invisible. The drawback is its high price. Learn how to tie a back-to-back uni-knot and tie a piece of fluoro to your superline as a leader. The leader should be 6 inches shorter than the length of your rod.
That should cover most of your questions. Now get out there and put it into practice. Good luck!
Northern Illinois fishing report: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “Nothing cools the water down faster than a nice spring snow like we had earlier in the week! The ten-day forecast looks like we should return to normal spring-like weather. I would look for bass, bluegill and crappie in shallow dark bottom areas on the north sides of the lakes. If there are downed trees or docks, these will cause the water near them to heat up faster, so fish close to the structure. Walleye can be caught at the dams on a jig and minnow combo. I am also getting reports of trout being caught at the Hollows (Lake Atwood). Use a wax worm on a small jig or ice spoon.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.
Helping the monarch: Did you know that the beautiful monarch butterfly is the state insect? It is, and the population has declined, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is looking for help in bringing the number of graceful monarchs back to normal standards.
The monarch is dependent on the milkweed family of native plants, and the IDNR asks people with enough land to cultivate patches of the various species of milkweed to give the monarchs a place to breed and grow.
“Forty years ago, Illinois schoolchildren convinced the Illinois General Assembly to adopt the monarch butterfly as Illinois’ state insect,” said IDNR director Marc Miller. “Help us honor that legacy by working with us to conserve habitat for the monarch, and make our state parks and backyards safe harbors for these amazing, long-distance travelers.”
Like birds, the monarchs travel south for their winters. The monarchs actually head for Mexico and it takes them four generations to complete the journey.
To help the monarchs, include milkweed and native flowering plants in your landscaping and don’t mow or spray herbicide on milkweed patches.
Conservation officer trainee exams: Written exams for the position of Illinois Conservation Police Officer Trainee will be held May 5 through 9 at approved Central Management Services testing centers. The test will be used to form a list of eligible candidates from which trainees may be chosen for future police academy training.
Before taking the test, you’ll need to submit a completed CMS 100 Application to Department of Central Management Services, Examining and Counseling, Room 500, Stratton Office Building, 401 S. Spring Street, Springfield, IL 62706. All qualified applicants will be given the opportunity to take the written exam. If you are unable to mail the CMS 100, you may contact a testing center and take a completed CMS 100 to the testing facility for review before taking the exam. A list of required qualifications can be found online at dnr.state.il.us/law3/career.htm.
• Steve Sarley covers the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at email@example.com.