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Walleyes Forever - Pro Fishing Page

Chub-a-dub-dub

By BILL LEONARD
- Walleye pro from Iowa

Sometimes in fishing, you have to get real.

Put away the crankbaits. Stash the jigs. Leave the plastics at home.

When late fall arrives, one of the most effective ways to catch walleyes doesn't come bubble-packaged or in a fancy box. It isn't painted in holographic patterns or eye-catching colors. And it doesn't perform in exactly the same manner every time it's put into action.

Live bait, and chubs in particular, are an excellent way to target big walleyes late in the open-water season. They are lively and durable, and usually too much for old marble-eyes to resist.

There are several species of true chubs. My favorite is the creek chub, also known to many as the blue chub. Redtail chubs are another favorite bait of walleye anglers in the know.

Avoid sucker chubs. They may take an occasional fish, but they are no substitute for the real thing. They are also sissies when compared to the hardy creek chub. In fact, I've pulled creek chubs from the water to check them after a bite and found them covered with teeth marks and their skin peeled back. Yet when I put them back in the water, they are as lively as they were to start the day.

Finding good creek chubs is part of the fun. A few bait shops stock them, but at a premium price. You can expect to pay from $6 or $8 to as much as $10 or $12 for a dozen chubs in assorted sizes. And often, they are suckers and not true creekies or blues.

It's a much better alternative to go out and catch your own. They can be found in most creeks and some drainage ditches. If public access isn't available to the stream, andowners will generally grant permission.

The best locations seem to be the small pools below a rapids or riffle. Approach these areas quietly to avoid spooking your prey and focus on the cuts or grassy areas along the bank that provide cover. My presentation is simple - a No. 10 teardrop ice-fishing lure tipped with a tiny piece of Berkley Power Bait on 2-pound Berkley Fireline under an ice-fishing bobber.

Pinch down the barbs on your hook to limit any damage to your catch and facilitate the safe release of chubs larger than about six inches, which aren't usually desireable bait, but are critical to maintaining a creek's chub population.

If you don't get a bite within the first few seconds, relocate. Chubs are frequently concentrated in a small area. You know you've found a hotspot when the bobber hits the water and the creekies hit it before they find the bait. Once you find the right area, you can put $50 worth of chubs in your bucket in short order.

Two words of warning to potential chub-fishers: Most creek chubbing takes place in farmland pastures, and it's been my experience that bulls don't appreciate visits from anglers. Secondly, always throw some grass over the top of your pail or use a bucket with a lid because chubs will jump out if given the chance.

The best chubs are from 3 to 5 inches long, although I have found occasion to fish chubs as large as 10 inches on certain bodies of water when I'm targeting extremely big walleyes.

Once I hit the water, I usually fish breaklines or points, often as deep as 30 to 35 feet on the lakes in my area. On other bodies of water, the fish may be even deeper.

I use my PinPoint trolling motor to keep my Ranger on the structure I'm fishing. I try to keep a 45-degree angle in my line and I keep a close eye on my Lowrance sonar unit. Pick up the bait and lower it back down every few feet to make sure you are in contact with the bottom.

Boat control is critical, and windy conditions sometimes call for a two-motor approach. I've found that if I put my Mercury kicker into gear at idle speed and use the PinPoint for direction, I can creep along on a precise course and fish effectively. Buoy markers can be very handy, too, for getting you back onto a productive pass.

My basic chubbing rig consists of a Lindy No-Snagg sinker on an X-Change clevis that allows me to change weights as necessary. At the end of the line (I prefer Berkley's 6/2 high visibility green Fireline because it lets me watch my line at all times), I attach a snap. And to the snap goes a two-foot leader of 6- or 8-pound Berkley Vanish with a 1/0 bait hook. Sometimes, I add a red bead for color. If weeds are a concern or I want more color, I'll add a line float to the snell.

One of the tricks to successful chub fishing is knowing when to set the hook. My basic rule of thumb is that when I'm using smaller chubs, like 3-inchers, I'll lower the rod tip toward the fish and then set the hook.

If I'm using larger creekies, I immediately free-spool my reel and let the fish go. A lot of times, I think the fish takes the chub sideways in its mouth for a short distance, then stops to turn it around and eat it. After the second run, take the slack out of your line until you feel resistence and make a sweeping hookset. When I'm fishing very large chubs, such as 8- to 10-inchers, I usually let the fish go for three or four minutes before trying to hook up.

Sometimes, the fish are extremely aggressive or you may want to release everything you catch. Then you can set the hook immediately.

Equipment is fairly simple. I use a Fenwick Techna AV rod at least 6 œ feet in length in medium to medium-light action with an Abu-Garcia Ambassador 2005 reel, which features a flipping switch that makes it easy to let a fish run with the bait. The rod provides the sensitivity required to let me know what my chub is doing in the water and a soft but quick tip that lets a walleye take the chub without feeling any immediate resistence but also allows for solid hook-ups when I set the hook.

One thing that makes chub fishing so much fun is their reaction when a walleye is closing in. They literally get nervous and begin wriggling desperately. When I feel that happening, I know a bite is likely imminent.

When the day's fishing is done, I store my chubs in a cooler when I want to keep them for extended periods or in the livewell of my boat for shorter durations. You can keep three dozen or so chubs alive and well for three to four weeks with a little tender-loving care.

The key is not water temperature, but oxygen. I use Aqua Innovations' Magnum oxygenator system. Keep it clean and replace 2-3 gallons of water every third day. Unlike some aerators, the Magnum system releases oxygen in a fine mist of tiny bubbles that look like smoke in the water. It's allowed me to keep my chubbies fresh and lively for up to two months.

Reality, it's been said, leaves a lot to the imagination. Give chub fishing a try. It's tough to beat the real thing.

Bill Leonard is a professional walleye fisherman from Estherville, Iowa. He is a 14-time championship qualifier on the Professional Walleye Trail, RCL and Masters Walleye Circuits with 27 career top 10 tournament finishes. He is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Mercury/Motorguide, Berkley, Lindy Legendary Tackle, Off-Shore planer boards, Aqua Innovations, EnTycer Spinners and Soo Sports. Leonard's articles can be found at several fishing-related web sites and in a number of outdoor publications.

Copyright, 2005, Bill Leonard

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