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Blog Entries posted by rps

  1. rps
    White River Walleye on Worm Harnesses

    In 1919, Norman Rockwell painted two covers for successive issues of a magazine called The Country Gentleman. The images are now in the public domain.

    The Fishing Trip

    The Catch

    Even Norman Rockwell knew worms catch the fish.

    Why many people avoid using worms and insist on artificial baits would make an excellent topic for a psycho-social doctoral thesis. I won’t be writing that. Instead, this article is intended as a primer for fishing worm harnesses in Tablerock and the other White River impoundments. What I will share comes from fellow walleye fishermen who have showed me a number of tricks. In particular, I want to thank Chuck Etheredge of Holiday Island, Arkansas. Chuck holds the Holiday Island Marina walleye record at 14.5 pounds, and he is the one who taught me about his harnesses for brush fishing crawlers.

    The Bait

    Nightcrawlers are one of nature’s perfect animals. They aerate the soil, they help break down leaves and other dead matter to soil, and they are so valuable to growing plants that people buy them to put in their gardens.

    While brown trout guides below Bull Shoals dam say they use red worms because they are “more natural looking in the water,” the real reason is stocker rainbows that can’t and won’t leave the nightcrawlers alone.

    In the last several years nightcrawlers have become a major farmed and/or harvested crop. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and even Walmarts sell them. Typically, the containers are Styrofoam or cardboard and are filled with potting soil or mulch. I buy at several locations and find the overall quality quite good. However, I always check the contents before I leave the store. Temperature or stock rotation disasters do happen.

    Next important tip: As soon as you get home, place the worm boxes in the refrigerator and keep them there until the fishing trip. Crawlers will last several weeks if left alone in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. If you are not the cook, label the boxes “worms” to avoid screams and other domestic difficulties.

    On the day I intend to use the crawlers, I pack the boxes in an ice chest with ice. The ice will not freeze them in their containers and will keep them cool and lively. Once I am in the boat and ready to fish, I put some ice and lake water in a flat bottom plastic bowl and add four or five crawlers. The ice water plumps them up and washes the dirt off so your boat floor stays cleaner. In addition, you will be in and out of your cooler less often. When the ice melts, merely add another piece or two.

    An alternative I recently learned was to bathe a day’s worth of crawlers at once, then place them in the now empty Styrofoam containers with ice.

    In the event you wish to buy crawlers in bulk, they are available from several mail order sources, including Cabelas. Several chapters of the classic book, Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers, cover the long term care and feeding of nightcrawlers.

    The Worm Harness

    A worm harness is nothing more than one or more hooks combined with one or more devices to attract fish. The early Crème worm was a rubber worm on a primitive worm harness. I caught my first lunker bass on this rig.

    Literally hundreds of commercial harness makers exist and a Ebay search for worm harness or crawler harness will prove it. Cabelas and Bass Pro each carry more than one brand and several varieties for each brand. The sheer number intimidates anglers seeking to try a new method. How can you know which ones work best?

    For those wanting instant gratification, the “norm” consists of two small hooks, size 2, 4, or 6, snelled on 10 to 20 pound test line. Above the hooks, you will find 3 to 8 beads, and in front of that a size 3 Colorado or Indiana blade. The entire harness will run on a single three to four foot strand of line with a swivel or loop at the end opposite the hooks.

    Harness Blades

    Variations abound including those with single hooks; Smile, Dakota, or Willow blades; and even what appears to be a wedding band in the build.

    To help understand the reason for blade choices I’ve built a chart:

    Blade Type
    Normal Size
    Easiest to spin; an offset propeller; relies on flash/ color
    Clear waters
    Medium and Large
    Easy to spin; mostly flash
    Imitates shad well
    #4 and 5
    Easy to spin; resembles either a double willow or a cutout Indiana
    Often painted
    Medium and Large
    A cross between a willow and a Colorado
    Combines thump and flash
    # 3, 4, and maybe 5
    Requires more speed to spin but thumps
    Great for stained or muddy water
    # 3 and 4


    A variety of harness colors will work. I suppose you could catch a walleye on anything if you fished long enough with a crawler attached. However, the purpose of the harness is to attract the walleye to find the worm. Certain colors and styles tend to work consistently.

    As a side note, the common forage of walleyes in our chain of lakes explains the color choices. Walleye in the White River chain primarily feed on shad and bluegill. As yellow perch, common walleye forage in the North, become more prolific in Bull Shoals, the color choices for that lake may change somewhat.

    Bodies with chartreuse, red, green, pink, and white are the most commonly used. I own a box of plastic beads I bought from Cabelas for tying traditional harnesses. It contains no less than 24 different shades that are variations on all of the above except white. Traditional harnesses frequently use more than one of these colors.

    Common blade colors include silver, copper, and air brushed or painted blades using the color palate listed above. While I have had some success with half silver/half gold blades, harnesses with solid gold blades have never proven successful for me. Again, the yellow perch in Bull Shoals may change that.

    Copper Colorado Blade/Pink Float Beads

    Silver/Yellow/Red Colorado Blade/Chartreuse Float Beads

    Silver Willow Blade/Firetiger Float Beads

    Painted Colorado Blade/White Float Beads (Wonderbread)


    In a previous article, Trolling for Table Rock Walleye, I wrote extensively about where and how to locate walleye. I urge you to read or re-read that article for location information.

    Depth and speed are the other variables that combine with location to determine whether you have success. Fishermen successfully use harnesses for fish holding as shallow as 6 or 8 feet. The harnesses are equally successful on the Great Lakes at 45 feet behind downriggers. For the White River lakes I do not advise downriggers. Instead, those who target walleyes use three way rigs or bottom bouncers.

    A three way rig utilizes a three way swivel. The main line attaches to one ring, 12 to 24 inches of line with a bell sinker at the end attaches to the second ring. The third ring holds the harness line.

    Those who use this rig do so because they can quickly change the amount of weight or adjust the height off bottom. I suggest any who use this rig make sure that the strongest of the three lines is the main line to the reel. The second strongest should be the line to the harness. The weight line should be weaker than either of the others.

    The alternative to a three way rig is a bottom bouncer.

    The main line attaches at the junction of the “L.” The harness line attaches to the swivel at the end of the unweighted arm. As the boat moves forward the weighted arm tip brushes the bottom while the harness follows behind the weight and somewhat above it.

    Bottom bouncers come in a variety of weights, ranging from ½ ounce to 4 ounces. What size to use? Traditionalists will tell you to use 1 ounce for every 10 feet of depth you will be fishing. That advice is accurate and useful under normal circumstances, especially when combined with the traditional advice on speed and how much line should be out.

    If you search the internet for articles on using harnesses and bottom bouncers, almost all will tell you the ideal configuration will have the main line running from the boat to the bouncer at a 45 degrees or less. Those articles also suggest the bouncer should only “bounce” from time to time. These articles are absolutely correct, and professional walleye fishermen use these “rules of thumb” every tournament.

    The last element of traditional harness fishing is the speed. Most days a speed of .8 mph to 1.4 mph will be the most effective. Be aware the type of blade can change the effective speed. A Willow spins far more easily than a Colorado. A Smile blade can spin with even less speed. You should go at least fast enough to spin the blade.

    However, the ultimate decision maker on speed will be the fish. Sluggish fish may want a slow presentation. If so the weight will be less and the blade choice would be a Smile or Willow. On other days, hot water fish may need a fast speed to trigger bites. In that case a heavier weight and more line may be needed to reach the depth desired.

    Chuck’s Secret Method

    Careful readers may have noticed the pictures of my harnesses above are different from what they see in stores or some of the sketches I have drawn and inserted. The differences are only a part of the “secret” method Chuck Etheredge taught me two years ago. His method is an adaptation of the traditional ways; one that is designed for the highland reservoirs with submerged timber, brush, stumps, car size rocks, and house foundations.

    Chuck wanted a harness that was less likely to sink when the bottom bouncer stalled because it hit a rock or limb. To that end he substituted floats for the sinking beads. If you put one of his rigs in the water and lay the bouncer on the bottom, the blade slides down to the weight, but the floats, hook, and worm stay up.

    He also experimented to see if he could avoid exposed hooks. He took from the bass fishermen the idea of Texas rigging the worm. Yes, it is a soft, real nightcrawler, but the embedded hook had to help a little. In addition, one hook point instead of two equaled half as many hang points. He found a worm hook in size 1 or 1/0 was every bit as good as the traditional two small hooks in sticking fish.

    Last, to keep the float beads and blade from pushing the worm down into a wad, he made another innovation. He uses a bobber stop to hold the beads in place.

    In addition to changing the harness, Chuck defies conventional wisdom as to bottom bouncer weight. He intentionally uses about half the weight considered standard. At 20 feet he will use one ounce. At thirty feet he will have on a 1.5 or 2 ounce bouncer. To reach the bottom, this means he must have out considerably more line. The change in angle between the boat and the bait is exactly the reason for his unorthodoxy. He believes the “flatter” angle aids in pulling the rig up and over limbs and logs.

    The combination of differences works for Chuck. On more than occasion I have watched him fish snag filled flats and timbered channel edges with his worm harnesses. Yes he will sometimes hang up, but far less often than anyone would expect. And while he is at it, he catches fish.

    The first time he showed me his ways, he tried to explain his uncanny success at staying free from hangs. In my words, he does it like this. When he feels the line begin to rub over a limb, he does not jerk. He waits until the line between the limb and harness shortens. As this happens, braid line will sing or vibrate. Quite often the rod tip will feel heavier. Just when he feels the bouncer arm contact the limb, he lifts the rod in a high arc to pop the rig and harness over the limb. He then lets the bouncer fall back to the bottom. Many bites happen on that drop.

    Please note that Chuck’s method requires the angler to hold the rod and feel for the key moment. This is different from those who put the harness rod in a holder.


    Every article about a fishing method should include a few pictures to vouch for the method and the author.

    A Table Rock Limit from 2010 when Chuck showed me his secrets

    Three from June of 2011

    My personal best, 13.75 pounds, July 8, 2011, on one of Chuck’s style harnesses.

  2. rps
    Let's consider fishing boats. We can reserve the discussion of runabouts, ski rigs, and personal water craft for some later time.

    Here in the Ozarks we are familiar with purpose built boats. The classic White River jon boat and similar float boats are examples of craft built for a particular purpose.

    Today, the jon boat concept has altered to include a motor mount, swivel chairs, and a beam that allows a falling angler at least a chance of landing in the boat.

    Other purpose built boats thrive in the Ozarks. Many people float the Buffalo, War Eagle, and Kings, to name a few examples, in canoes and kayaks. Inevitably, purpose built boats from other locations come to the Ozarks. Like thousands of others, they often stayed. You see drift boats from the West coast every day on the White River.

    Other boats we see often now days are mutations of older ideas. Look below at the 1950 and 1985 Skeeters.

    The V hull has also evolved. A couple of years ago I was at Bull Shoals during the PWT and was blown away by the V hull rigs those competitors used.

    So, to start the discussion, let us exclude fishing guides: not from the discussion, but from the considerations below. Why? Because boat decisions by fishing guides are based upon different considerations than personal buying choices. They may have three jumbo size novices to fish in a heavy chop. That requires a vastly different boat than even the 1985 Skeeter shown above. Besides, customers paying $300 or more per day expect the guide to have the "best" equipment.

    For similar reasons, let us exclude the top tier professionals. Many of them don't buy their boats. The boat at no or low cost is one form of sponsorship. The boat and motor manufacturers supply the biggest and baddest rigs to showcase their wares. Others buy the hot rigs as one way to acquire a more lucrative "skin" i.e. a sponsor whose name is blazoned on everything. Regardless, boat choices are driven by considerations other than purpose, size, and speed alone.

    Once those groups are excluded, there remains a very large and interesting group of us out here buying boats. Some of us fish tournaments. Some of us don't.

    Answer the following questions, to yourself, and then reflect on the answers.

    1. How many hours per year are you actually in your boat and on the water?
    2. How often do you fish alone?
    3. How many hours per year do others spend in your boat and on the water?
    4. How much did the boat, motor, trailer, and accessories cost you?
    5. Multiply the hours number by ten and divide that number into the total cost for BMT and accessories. Is the result less than $10?
    6. Recalculate the cost of the boat by adding slip rental, tag, taxes, insurance, gasoline, lubricant, and maintenance. Divide by ten years worth of hours again. Is the result less than $20?
    7. How fast will your boat travel at WOT?
    8. When the lake is calm, do you ever travel at less than WOT?
    9. How long is the lake you fish most frequently?
    10. When was the last time you traveled more than 20 miles on the water in one day of fishing for any reason other than you wanted to try something different?
    11. If the answer to number 10 was yes, why?
    12. If the answer to number 11 was a tournament, why?
    13. Other than the fact your boat handles like a pig with only 150 HP, why did you buy the 225HP (or larger)?
    14. Is your boat longer than 18 feet?
    15. If the answer to number 14 is yes, why?
    16. If your answer to number 15 is survival on the Lake of the Ozarks, we understand. If not, please explain your answer to number 13 to us as if we were six year olds.
    17. If your boat weighed half as much as yours, what would a reasonable power package be?
    18. Is there a boat with near the length of yours and half the weight?

    P.S. Some of my answers to the above questions are justifiable only by using manly retorts like, "Because I can!" and "Because I want to!" I just thought that in light of $4.00 gas this summer, we might want to rethink what we drive. BTW, the Supreme in the picture was mine. I sold it for a much larger boat.
  3. rps


    Rumor has it that fools up North take two foot long, fairy wands out on ice and dabble something called pimples up and down through holes for walleye. That's just wrong. I once read an extended debate on a walleye message board over exactly how many and what size chartreuse and fluorescent red beads needed to be arranged in what order on a crawler harness to catch walleye. Bear in mind, these were grown men arguing over worm fishing. However, the true depths of walleye madness are the men who knowingly put their bare legs in bogs full of leaches to attract and capture bait for walleye. This article is not about freezing, bait fishing or being bait. This article is intended as a primer for walleye trolling in our White River system.

    Walleye thrive in four of the five upper White River lakes, although natural reproduction is limited in most. Both Missouri and Arkansas regularly stock walleye to supplement any natural reproduction in these lakes, and both impose 18 inch minimum length limits to protect the species from overharvest. The abundant shad within the lakes of the system help numerous specimens to exceed that length. Walleye to 30 inches are captured every year and larger fish are known to occur.


    The first step is to remember some basics about the fish. Walleye are large, toothy perch. They are predatory, nomadic, and tend to loosely school. Their eyes, for which they are named, enable them to hunt well in low light. Although they will gleefully feed on worms, frogs, crawdads, and even leeches, their primary forage in our river system are shad and sunfishes. The key to finding and catching walleyes is their forage.

    Both shad and bluegill spawn in the Spring, at or near the full moon, when the water reaches the upper sixties and seventies. During that time period, the walleye will be holding outside of the shallows during the day and will move in during the low light. Mature threadfin shad are almost exactly the same size as number 5 and 7 Shad Raps. Mature sunfish, like bluegill and redear, are larger but have the same profile as Rapala's Dives To series. These baits, trolled along spawning banks such as rip rap and hard gravel and sand surfaces will pay off. The shad actually spawn in the extreme shallows and are usually visible during the key time. Sunfishes typically spawn in 3 to 10 feet of water. Because of the shallow depths, some fishermen use planer boards to place lines nearer the bank than the boat and avoid spooking fish.

    After the shad spawn, the walleye will be as scattered as the shad. For a period of four to six weeks in May and early June, the most reliable means of finding walleye is to watch early each morning for explosions as white bass or small black bass forage over flats. These will mark locations of scattered shad, often near the edge of the flat where it rolls into a channel. More often than not, these locations will be an inside bends of the channel. Baits trolled a foot or two above the bottom of the flats will be the most frequently successful. Be aware that walleye will sometimes suspend at the depth of the flat but will locate out over the channel. Trolling patterns should include this open water as well as the flat. In normal years at the upper end of Table Rock (Big M to Holiday Island) the usual depth for the described flat trolling will be 15 to 25 feet during the day. At dawn, dusk, and on cloudy days, the fish may move shallower.

    During June a different pattern will begin to develop. Walleye will begin to suspend in trees, especially where the timber is at or near the channel edges. The key to this pattern developing is the formation of the summer thermocline. As more and more of the bait and small fish begin to hold at its fixed depth, the pattern will continue to improve. Although counter intuitive, trolling is an effective way to take advantage of this pattern. The ideal location is where the tops of the remaining trees are at or just shallower than the depth the fish are holding. Almost as good is visible flooded timber sitting on a channel edge with only a few scattered trees standing in the channel itself.

    After the thermocline drops deeper than flat depths, the walleye may well continue to hold on some flats if the flat is brushy and has ambush/shelter locations in that brush. This pattern usually exists adjacent to a creek or river channel which cuts through the flat. As an example from the upper end of Table Rock, one such flat is 16 to 20 feet deep in normal late summers. The river channel is 30 to 32 feet. Once the thermocline is deeper than 32 feet, the productive area is up on the brushy flat. Where this pattern exists, the most productive trolling usually involves plowing a trolled crankbait along the bottom, often at speeds faster than one would expect.

    A final location tip is also a late summer/early fall, deep thermocline pattern. The best description for this pattern is "broken bluff." Look for a location where an outside bend bluff is interrupted by a creek entrance. Troll at or slightly above the thermocline depth parallel to the bluff and continue the troll from where the bluff ends through the creek mouth and on to where the bluff begins once more. Shad schools often hold suspended at the junction of the creek and river channels. Where they do, the walleye will cruise.

    Once October temperatures begin to chill the water and the thermocline weakens, these location patterns slowly disappear.


    Depth and speed are the two variables that must be combined with location for trolling success. Tackle and equipment choices should be based upon controlling depth and speed.

    The speeds most frequently effective for walleye are 1.5 to 2.8 miles per hour. The lower speed is where the angler counts on bites from feeding fish. At the higher end of the speed range, the bites are commonly reaction strikes. Instinct compels the fish to attack before the quick bait escapes. Depending on water temperature, the two causes for bites overlap somewhere in the middle. A GPS, handheld or integrated into the sonar unit, is invaluable for walleye trolling. The tool allows the fisherman to repeat any speed which has provoked a strike. It also enables a thorough testing of different speeds.

    One method to reduce the time spent looking for the right speed is to maintain a set speed with the boat, but change the bait speed. Pull forward on the rod, hold at the forward point for a few moments, and then allow the bait to stall by dropping the rod back. Strikes may occur on the pull forward, on the pause and slow down, or at the restart of the normal speed. On some outings, the only success may be on speed changes. In tree top trolling, many of the strikes happen when the bait temporarily hangs on a limb and then pulls free with a sudden acceleration.

    Another speed variable is the lure's best speed for action. Before deploying any bait, test run the bait at various speeds within view from the boat. Not only can you verify the bait is tracking straight, but also you can find the speed at which the bait has the desired action. Select the bait based upon the anticipated speed range you will use.

    Depth of the lure can be controlled by weight or by the dive curve of the bait. One alternative, especially useful on large lakes without timber like the Great Lakes, is the downrigger. The large cannon ball weight is sunk to a set depth on a wire line. The lure is clipped to run some feet behind the cannonball. The strike pulls the bait from the clip and the fish is landed directly. The depth control is precise with this system. Unfortunately, in impoundments such as Table Rock, the presence of submerged timber renders downriggers problematical. He who chooses to downrig in Table Rock limits himself to fewer fish holding locations.

    Another alternative used elsewhere to control depth is to use snap weights. Lead weights are clipped to the line as it is released. By using predetermined weights and clipping at measured points, the depth of any lure can be controlled. With snap weights, the weight stays on after the strike and is removed as the line is recovered at the boat. When fishing alone, this recovery can become quite tricky. The snap weight system is not timber friendly, although it does outperform the downrigger system in marginal areas.

    The weighting system used most effectively on Table Rock is lead core line. Lead core line is made by covering a thin wire of lead (or a politically correct metal) with a braided sheath of nylon or dacron line. The color of the sheath changes every ten yards. Thus fishermen ask one another how many colors they had out. The weight in the line adds sink to the lure, and the longer the length of lead core out the greater depth added. Most sources state that each color adds five feet of depth to the lure's dive curve. This depth is speed dependent: speed up and the added sink reduces; slow down and the depth increases. The advantage of lead core lies in the ability to troll lures such as #5 Shadraps and floating minnows like Rapalas at depths they would otherwise never reach.

    Field testing by reliable comrades has developed a formula which appears to be accurate at 2 MPH. Allow 5 feet of depth for each color plus add half the expected dive depth for the length of line out.

    The usual lead core rig is a larger level wind reel on a moderately flexible rod. Typically, fishermen will spool a Dacron braid on the reel then attach five or more colors of lead core line. A monofilament leader is then placed at the end of the lead core. The usual method for attaching to lead core line is to strip an amount of the wire from the braided sheath and then tie the lines with the empty braid.

    Lead core avoids many of the disadvantages of snap weights and downriggers. However, it does require dedication of an entire rod and reel rig to the method. In addition, anglers must become accustomed to planning trolling passes and course changes which allow for line which sinks when it slows.

    The fact that so many weight alternatives exist suggests fishermen have not been satisfied with the alternative – long line trolling. However, developments in the last decade have reinvented the method and increased its effectiveness.


    Long line trolling requires some specialized equipment, but that special equipment is not necessarily expensive.

    The trolling rod can be any length, but most anglers find 6'6" to 7'6" the easiest to use. The rod should be medium power and have a moderate action. The medium/moderate action is more forgiving on the strike, during the typical walleye headshakes, and at the lunge walleyes always make at the boat. This avoids ripping the bait from the fish, an especially critical factor if you use low stretch braided line.

    Many fishermen use Ugly Stick's, as they possess the desired action and are inexpensive and durable. Other alternatives include the Shimano Voltaeus or the Falcon HD series. I use an older Shimano Compre I bought to fish for large Brown trout as one rod and a Falcon HD for the other. I have an Ugly Stick as a spare for guests.

    The reel selection depends on the line choice, so let's discuss lines first. As stated earlier, depth control can be critical so the line choice makes a difference. The larger the diameter of line, the more that water pressure pushes the line, and the lure, toward the surface. The depth a standard Wiggle Wart reaches on 15 pound test monofilament with 100 feet out will be only half as deep as the same lure on 10 pound braid that has 2 pound diameter (known as 10/2).

    When long line trolling, 100 to 200 feet of line out becomes common. Braid not only shortens the length of line needed to reach a depth, it also increases the feel transmitted to the rod tip. Based upon these factors and experience, I strongly suggest using braid. However, not all braids are equal. Certain brands exhibit a greater tendency to fray; others snap at midline too frequently. While the different brands all have fans, I suggest you choose from Power Pro, Suffix, and Berkley's Fireline. Each brand is of excellent quality. Furthermore, I suggest 10/2 or 15/4 pound test. Personally, I use the Power Pro 10/2 line exclusively.

    Choice of line not only affects the depth of the bait. It also determines the type of reel to be used. As the amount of line out determines depth, knowing that amount becomes important.

    Old school fishermen rely upon linecounter reels. These reels have gears which flip a displayed number for every "x" spool revolutions. When properly filled with line, the number of revolutions to flip a number is roughly equal to one foot. By letting out 150 "feet" of line with a line counter reel, the fisherman can determine a rough depth for the lure and can return the lure to that same depth time and again.
    An alternative to the linecounter reels is to use metered line. The line is colored with a different color for every 25 feet of line. In that way, six colors are equal to 150 feet. Both Suffix and Power Pro make metered braid. Power Pro's is a 10/2 line and Suffix's is a 10/4 line. By using metered line the fisherman can avoid buying a bulky linecounter reel.

    If you opt for a linecounter reel rod and reel combination, the Daiwa Sealine series enjoys the best reputation, although the expense of the Shimano linecounter may explain why it has so few fans.

    If you choose to use a metered braid, any ordinary casting reel with a smooth drag may be used. I use a Shimano Citica on one rod and an Okuma Serrano on the other. Both were reels I replaced on bass rods with upgraded casting reels.

    A final piece of equipment remains for discussion.

    Some years ago Mark Romanack and several others performed research by sending a diver down to observe the actual depth achieved by various crank baits when trolled on specific lines. The result of that research was a book titled Precision Trolling, also known as the Troller's Bible. The book is now in its 9th or 10th edition and printed on Tyvek to make it more water resistant. Go to fishing411.com to view the information and acquire a copy. This tool will save you time and money in presenting the baits at the right depth and speed.

    Naturally, the research that Mark and his colleagues did has variables. The line diameter, the lure size, and, in the case of lead core trolling, the boat speed all affect the lure depth. You will need to experiment with your actual presentation and learn to adjust his dive curve graphs to your reality. For example, I know my choice of 10/2 Power Pro means I get an additional foot or two below his maximum depth of Wiggle Warts. Regardless, the book is worth it!

    The method, once you are equipped, becomes simple. Move to the depth slightly shallower than what you expect to work. Begin to troll the areas you have selected, using the baits and enough line to troll the bait at the target depths. Move out to greater depths when you do not find success. Once you are 10 feet deeper than your start, move back to shallower than you started and try that. Sometimes they are shallower than you expect. Twice this last year, I caught very large (10+ pounds) fish only after I moved to shallower depths after starting and moving out from my starting depth.


    If you troll Table Rock, or any of the White River reservoirs besides Tanneycomo, you will hang up. It is not a matter of "might" but "will." The Corps of Engineers cleared some areas, but even the cleared flats boast stumps, fence lines, and brushy stick ups from submerged gullies. After more than 60 years under water, creek channel edges, bluffs, and the old river channels still have cedars and some hardwood trees. To complicate matters, on the flats, walleyes tend to congregate at the changes. The places where the flat humps, bumps, dips, or drops to the deeps will produce best. And those changes are the most likely to have snags. Based upon these inevitable facts, some walleye fishermen simply don't troll lures. However, the fish are there and if you intend to catch them you will need to put those lures at risk.

    Uttering those brave words does not mean I enjoy losing lures. Instead, it means I have sought compromises. I have tried to find the most effective lures among those I can buy inexpensively. I have factored in the CHF as well. CHF is the comparative hang factor. The ugly truth is that some lures hang more easily than others. The newish Bandit walleye lure is an outstanding example. It catches fish. However, its triple hook arrangement means it hangs more frequently than the Reef Runner against which it competes. The Bandit has a higher CHF than the Reef Runner without an appreciable difference in FCA (fish catching ability). If you compare the price versus the CHF and then factor in the FCA, the Reef Runner is the winner.

    All of the following comments are the result of my field experience and subjective comparisons of the FCA to the CHF, with expense considered. You are welcome to experiment and reach your own conclusions. I do ask you share what you learn.

    First, all Rapala baits work really well. The only problem is their expense. 6 to 8 dollars per bait is expensive. Berkley Flicker Shads are an alternative to Shad Raps. Storm Thunder Cranks works as well or better than Tail Dancers. Bomber Fat Free Shads substitute very well for for DT's.

    Second, buy the Cabela's Reef Runner knockoff and spend half as much.

    Third, even though Normark (Rapala) now owns Storm, the company's original series lures remain among the best at catching walleyes. The Wiggle Wart, Hot N Tot, and Thundercrank excel as inexpensive walleye lures. Just be sure you buy the original series and not the variations introduced by Normark to reduce costs of manufacture.

    Size and color are additional keys. White with blue or purple, silver and silver with black and blue, Firetiger, and bone are all good. 2 to 4 inches baits are great. Do not be afraid to go larger than 4 inches. 5 to 10 pound walleye are accustomed to feeding on gizzard shad to 10 inches and bluegill from hand size to hogs.

    I hope this will help those who wish to enjoy the excellent walleye fishing available here in the Ozarks.
  4. rps
    Every once in a while I attempt to finish a writing to a publisher standards. What follows is one of those attempts.

    Growing Up

    The year I was five, my mother and father started looking for a new house. Danni was three; Amanda was one. The place we lived wasn’t large enough. I remember riding around with them as they looked. One place we looked was a corn field just off South Lewis. It was over a mile outside the Tulsa city limits. The next summer mother and father moved us to a new house on the new street in that corn field. We were not the first family in the addition; we were the second. Several other houses were under construction. The new addition was popular. Lewis was, and still is, a major North-South street in Tulsa.

    For my first birthday in the new house, I got my first bike. Father spent the time needed to teach me to ride, and then the parents set the rules. I could go anywhere on the bike, provided I did not cross Lewis, 51st or 61st Streets. Joe Creek diagonally cut the section of land within those limits and made the fourth boundary. I was expected to behave and to be back for dinner time.

    Their rules left me nearly 320 acres to explore and terrorize. About half, mostly to the North, was housing. To the South the land was more rural with two farmhouses, barns, sheds, and fields. Along the creek, scrub oak, grapevine, and underbrush formed a forest. This became my world. Their boundaries were really not a limit I felt. Jeff Cope and I built forts, caught snakes, and did boy things. The scar on his forehead marked the time I jumped from a ledge to catch a branch. The branch broke and smacked him square in the face. As time passed, I became obsessed with fishing the creek. I charted the numbers of perch and catfish I caught.

    As I grew older, the cornfields began to disappear. New houses popped up in their place. To fish unspoiled creek, I had to go farther each year. Eventually, I had to go under the bridges where Joe Creek crossed Lewis and 61st Street. Each bridge had a path along which I could walk or push the bike. I do not remember how it happened, but, eventually, my parents found out I was fishing on the wrong side of Lewis. My father had an incredible temper. It didn’t come out often, but it was scary beyond belief. I explained that I had not broken the rules. I never crossed Lewis or 61st; I went under them. My mother laughed, but that only made Father madder yet. That was not a good evening.

    Not long after that, my parents sat me down and set new rules for me. I was allowed beyond both 61st to the South and Lewis to the West. However, I had to check with one of them before I went; if I was on my bike, I had to walk it across; no aimless wandering; and all of the other rules about behaving applied double. My new kingdom seemed boundless again. I was grown up. From my old home, Joe Creek meanders South and East for six miles before it enters the Arkansas River. I fished every hole in the river. My parents understood.

    When Tommy Meason got knocked down on Lewis by a car, I was afraid they would change the rules. He was a kid who lived two houses up the street from us. He wasn’t with me when he got hit, but I was sure it would make Mother uneasy. That night mother and father talked about it at the dinner table. When Father asked how Tommy was, mother told him he would be fine: “Betty said he’s just like his father, and he landed on his head so he wasn’t hurt.” From then on, when I checked with mother before I left, she would tell me, “Be careful crossing Lewis.” She expected an answer, too.

    After I turned 16, I passed my driver’s test and got my license. I did not have a car and when I drove I used my mother’s Rambler American station wagon. It was clearly the slowest and ugliest car driven by anyone I knew. However, it was better than nothing as it moved the boundaries farther still. I was grown. The new rules: I had to ask permission and the parents had to know where I was going and why. Each time as she handed me the keys, she continued her habit from before and warned me of Lewis.

    Mother and father insisted they drive me to college for my first year. Once we unloaded and unpacked, father was impatient to be on the road. On the other hand, mother had a prepared speech she needed to give. Father waited while she lectured, “Write. Study. Don’t drink too much. Be careful crossing Lewis.”

    Sometime after I was at school, mother and I began to talk by phone late at night after father went to bed. We covered many topics and little was out of bounds. My two favorite dirty jokes of all time are ones she told me during talks. I didn’t realize it at the time, but somewhere I really had grown up.

    During the fall break of my senior year, I took Nancy home with me. Mother and I had a late nighter during that visit and she eventually asked about Nancy. I talked about this, about that, and about how I admired Nancy. Mother always read me better than I read myself. At the end of the talk about Nancy, she concluded with an enigmatic, “Well, be careful crossing Lewis.”

    After graduate school, Nancy and I moved back to Tulsa. We went to work; we had children; we went about living, all at that impossible pace only young people can maintain. Every month or two mother and I would stay up late and talk. Some times those talks became a way for me to talk about frustrations and worries, or ask advice. My mother offered advice whether I asked or not, often from the “Get over it” school of tough love. Sometimes she made constructive suggestions. From time to time a gleam would come to her eye and she would use her phrase.

    When mother got the cancer, it seemed like she was confined to bed and on heavy drugs the next week. I will always admire the unflinching, honest way she faced her own death, but near the end we never knew if we were talking to her or the drugs. Sister Danni came up from Houston and stayed at the house. Every day I visited father in his nursing home and mother at home. I cannot fathom how Danni endured.

    On my last visit before the night she died, mother didn’t say anything. I sat for a while, musing. When I rose to leave, she tried to say something. I could not hear her. I bent down and she tried again, “Be careful crossing Lewis.” I told her I would and left.

    It was sometime later that I finally figured out, given the circumstances, the answer I should have given was, “You, too, mom.”
  5. rps
    In 2008 I managed to hook myself while topwater fishing alone. Below is the original post I put up the next day on the Ozark Anglers forum.

    OK. I apologize in advance for the bad typing.

    I went out after the rain around 4:30 PM. The wife was at the Green Forest high school graduation - she teaches there - and I figured the rain and cloud cover would have the fish shallow.

    Turns out I was right. The fish were shallow. Between 4:30 and 7:30 I caught 7 LM. 20, 18, 15, 15, 17.5, 12, 19.5 inches. Estimate best five were more than 18 pounds but less than 19. All came on a customized original size, silver black Zara spook. Best day in many many many trips.

    After I netted the last fish, I was dreaming of more as I tried to unhook the fish. Of course the bait tangled in the net, so I tried to unhook the bait from the net first. Then I could unhook and measure the fish. The fish flopped hard. Suddenly, the 2x Gamakatsu Round Bend #2 treble I installed on the bait was buried in my right index finger near the first joint. Shucks. Darn. Golly. Fish flopped again and another barb caught the life jacket I was wearing. Double darn.

    I used my left hand (Did I mention I am very right handed?) to slide my pants knife out of my pocket and somehow opened the thing one handed with my left hand. I then sawed my bait out of my life jacket.

    Next I concentrated on unhooking the bait from the net. Every time the fish flopped, I explained in a calm voice how her efforts were counter productive. If she would lie still, I promised to release her as quickly as I could. Have you ever noticed that females don't listen?

    After forever, I got the bait out of the net. I bit the line to take the rod out of the equation. My dentist will just have to understand.

    Down to her and me, I used my needle nose to get her loose. I did measure her, as well as I could with a Zara Spook in my hand, before I turned her loose.

    Resigned to quitting before the bite ended, I used my left hand to pull and secure the trolling motor, turned the key in my boat, and headed home. As I approached the slip at Holiday Island, new difficulties appeared. The boat I have is not responsive at slow speed. The slip I have requires a dogleg left at the last minute. I was excited and hurting. Things went awry.

    I put the boat in neutral and went forward to keep the bow from slamming onto the right post of my slip. I used my left hand and arm since my right was occupied. The boat kissed the slip post soundly.

    Ok. So there I was in the water. I had my left hand on the gunnel and grabbed for the dock with my right. Shucks. Darn. Golly. The right the hand was still full of hooks. That didn't work well.

    Somehow I got the boat in the slip. Next I had to try and figure how to get in the boat or up on the dock with only one hand. That was a job for trained professionals. Don't try it at home, kids.

    It took nearly twice as long as usual to tie off the boat, plug in the air pump and raise the boat, put the rods in my carrier, plug in the battery charger, and do all those other right handed things.

    Then I walked up to the car. Just as I got there, my slip neighbor pulled up. Where was he when I needed help in the water? He was headed out and wanted to know if they were biting. He didn't even ask why I was standing there dripping lake water with a Zara Spook in my right hand. I will call tomorrow and apologize for telling him jigs at 20'.

    I drove to the emergency room in my stick shift car. Pause for a moment and think about cars. Besides the stick shift, try to imagine putting on your seat belt and turning the car on with a fist full of Zara Spook.

    I walked in the ER door, lake water draining onto their nice clean floor, and walked up to the counter. Without looking up, the person at the counter slapped a clip board with a form in front of me and said, "Fill that out." I explained to her, in that same calm voice I used with the fish, that she was being insensitive and uncaring. After all, how would she feel if I had had a farm accident and was carrying my own severed arm?

    I must not have impressed the counter lady. She stuck me in a little cold room. Thirty shivering minutes later this teenager in scrubs wanders in. I started to tell him I didn't need my bedpan changed, but he introduced himself as the doctor.

    Young Doctor Kildare thought my story was the best he had heard in forever. Several times he had to stop trying to take care of my hand because he was laughing so hard. Do you suppose the hours they keep make them punchy?

    I got home around 10:30.

    The wife, without looking up, said "How was your fishing trip?

    A very good friend who has published 5 or 6 books, Larry Yadon, read the story and suggested I turn it into a Field and Stream type story. Over the space of several months, with his help, I reworded the story.

    What follows is the revised version.

    Shucks. Darn. Golly

    I love to fish topwater baits, and beyond argument, the Zara Spook is my favorite. Bass don’t bite them. They explode on them, crush them, or create sudden, trashcan sized whirlpools to suck them under. You can never predict or anticipate a hit. You must have icy nerve control not to set the hook too soon. I spend hours custom painting Spooks; changing the standard hooks for expensive, black steel, oversize, acid sharpened trebles; and tying on white and red feathers. I prefer the four and a half inch original size and would rather “walk the dog” than fish any other way. As with all obsessions, there are occasional consequences.

    Late last May we had a fierce, but brief, afternoon thundershower just as I let my eighth graders out. As I drove home the storm cleared. Nancy, my wife, was not due for some time. She had to attend graduation at the high school where she taught. I decided to go fishing. I’ve often had luck following showers.

    I was right. The fish were shallow and active. Almost immediately I hooked a good largemouth on one of my Spooks. In the next three hours I caught six more keepers. The best five would have weighed more than eighteen pounds. It was my best day in many trips. Better yet, one of my custom Spooks accounted for them all.

    When I landed the seventh fish, it was nearly as large as the first, almost five pounds. Naturally the bait tangled in the net. A Zara Spook always tangles in the net. I reached to untangle it. As I worked to free the fish and bait from the net, the bass flopped hard and buried the Size 2, Round Bend, UltraPoint, Gamakatsu directly and deeply into the first joint of my right index finger. Shucks. Darn. Golly. I bent close to the fish and net to get a better look at the damage. Before I could react, the fish flopped harder still and hooked the other treble in my life jacket. Faster than I can explain it, the fish, the net, the life jacket and I were now all hooked on the same Zara Spook.

    By the time my nerves settled enough to begin solving the problems, my finger was truly hurting. I remarked my displeasure another time and began to sort things out. I disconnected the rod and reel by biting the line. My dentist would just have to understand. Then I snaked my left hand into my right pants pocket for my knife. My left hand has zero coordination, but I somehow got the knife out and opened with one hand. Sawing the bait from the life jacket was next. In the mean time, the fish flopped and wanted loose. Between expressions of discomfort, I tried to explain to her that she was not helping. Have you noticed that females often do not listen?

    I was tempted to use the knife on the net as well, but the good nets with long handles and rubberized netting cost more than I wanted to spend twice. I did not want to cut it up just to get loose. After several minutes of fumbling, left hand work, the bait came free from the webbing.

    Now we were free from the net, but the fish and I shared the same treble. To free fish you normally just jerk the hook backwards. That meant I would be jerking a honking large hook buried in my hand. I had to find a better way. I decided I needed my pliers. Where were they? They weren’t in the holder I had specifically installed on the boat to hold them. Oh - they were on the front boat deck where I used them on the previous fish. The upset and flopping fish and I went forward to retrieve them. I reminded the fish of our earlier discussion.

    Pliers in hand, I tried several approaches. All seemed to drive the hook more firmly into my finger joint. The only solution was to hold the spook in my right hand and jerk the hook from the fish at the same time and in the same direction as I moved the Spook. At first, the fish refused to lie still enough. Yet more discussion. Eventually, after several painful attempts, I got the fish, the pliers, and hand jerk coordinated and yanked the bait from the fish. I put her back in the lake. Good riddance.

    Now free of everything else, I looked more closely at the finger. The point was embedded straight down into the joint. The push through method wasn’t going to work without professional help. There was more daylight and the fish were biting, but my day was ended and I wasn’t happy.

    As the boat approached my slip at the marina, new problems became obvious. My boat is not very responsive at slow speed. Docking the boat requires a last instant dog leg left with a simultaneous wheel turn and throttle adjustment. That evening I was hurting and one handed. I cut the motor and turned the wheel. It was clear the boat would hit the post at the side of my slip. I scurried forward to fend off the collision. I reached across my body with my left hand and pushed. The boat still kissed the post soundly - too soundly.

    The water was chilly but surprisingly warm for May. I was glad I hadn’t taken my life vest off when I was hooked to it. Instinctively, I reached for the dock and the boat rail with each hand.

    Shucks. Double Darn.

    The right one was still impaled. Hanging left handed from the boat rail, I kicked until I could maneuver the boat in the slip. Next I slithered and leveraged myself up the dock cross beams until I was out of the water.

    It took nearly twice as long as usual to tie off the boat, plug in the air pump and raise the boat, load the rods in my carrier, plug in the battery charger, and do all those other right handed things. I sloshed up to the truck. Just as I arrived, Bill, the guy with the slip next to me drove up. Where was he when I was in the water? As he got out, he asked me if the fish were biting. He didn’t ask about the wet clothes or the Zara Spook in my hand. He only asked what they were hitting. I later called and apologized for telling him they were taking jigs at twenty feet.

    Once I was in the truck, the challenges just kept coming. The engineers who designed manual transmission cars and trucks did not envision my predicament. Drivers use their right hands to put on their seatbelts. The key switch is on the right hand side of the steering column. The shifter is made for right hands. Each of these facts does not allow for a big hook deep in your finger and a bulky plastic lure dangling from that hook.

    The hospital was only about ten miles away, but those ten miles were hilly, two lane miles with stops, starts, and downshifts. The distance seemed much longer that evening.

    Still wet and dripping, I entered the hospital emergency room. I waded to the counter and started to speak to the lady engrossed in her bodice ripper novel. Without looking up, she slapped a clipboard on the rail in front of me. “Fill that out.” No hello. No “How may I help you?” Just “Fill that out.” I explained to her that I couldn’t, “Fill that out.” My hand was full of hooks. Using the same calm, controlled voice I had used with the fish, I asked her if farm accident amputees had to “Fill that out.”

    My new, unimpressed hospital friend arranged a small, cold room for me. Thirty shivering minutes later, a teenager in scrubs came in the room. My first impulse was to tell him I didn’t need a bed pan change. It turned out he was the doctor.

    He looked at my hand and asked if I had caught a big one.

    Then he wanted to know how I managed to set the hook so well.

    Next he wanted to know why I was all wet. Every time I answered him, he burst into laughter.

    He shot my finger full of lidocaine, backed the hook up and pushed the black steel through. Smugly, he clipped the barb off and backed the bend out. When he finished, he wrapped the wound with gauze and slipped a condom over it, “to keep it dry until you get home.” Then he started cackling again. I’m sure the hours doctors spend on duty must make them punchy.

    I took my precious, customized Spook, now short a hook, with me when I left.

    Driving home was much more comfortable, but it was nearly ten thirty before I walked in my door.

    Without looking up, my wife asked, “Did you enjoy the fishing?"

    Sometime later I was able to submit the piece to an editor and it was published in January of 2011 in the Water N Woods Magazine. A copy is viewable online.

    I know I am no Patrick McManus, but I was very proud of the finished piece.
  6. rps
    The ugly guy in the picture is me. This is my first attempt at putting together any kind of web page or blog. The kids I teach are veterans of My Space, but I am not.

    I intend to add pictures, comments, and stories you might find interesting. Be forewarned I have a quirky sense of humor. I fish out of Holiday Island and the entries will focus on what I see up here. Those of you who stay in the dam area may find it interesting to learn what it is like to fish a lake less than 60 feet deep.

    By the way, the large walleye I am holding with another was the second largest one I caught in 2007. The one I am hiding behind is a 2011 fish that weighed 13.75 pounds and measured 32 inches.

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