If you are following Dock Talk 365, you already read the first part of our interview with Tyler Ickes. This one is just as great. We cover the Juniata River, smallmouth bass fishing and the Lowrance Elite 5.
The Juniata River is a great smallmouth fishery but has had its ups and downs as a fishery. How would you describe the state of fishing on the River?
As of this year I have become slightly worried about the state of the Juniata River. In recent years the fishing was phenomenal. It is still very good but this year has been a little slower especially for catching larger smallmouth bass.
In past years’ experience we have had 200+ fish days between two of us and it was nothing to catch several fish each day 16-20 inches. This year it was hard to come by a 16 inch fish somedays and we were plagued by the large numbers of 12-14 inch fish.
Water quality, water levels, and the prediction that the impairments occurring on the Susquehanna River may be moving into the Juniata River are definitely sources of concern. My biggest concern is the knowledge of the fishermen and women on the Juniata River. I am aware of a lot of people keeping 18-20 inch and bigger smallmouth on the River. This is not healthy management for the river. Those larger fish are the ones we depend on when it comes to spawn time.
Most of your larger fish are going to be female fish and keeping these is just taking away from the future population because if these fish are not there to spawn then the spring hatch is not going to be good. If people want to keep fish to eat I would recommend keeping those 12-14 inch fish. This size range definitely makes of the bulk of the smallmouth population on the river. The keeper size for the river is 12 inches and keeping more of these smaller fish is going to allow other fish to get bigger.
The larger the population of small fish there is the less food density there is going to be available for the larger fish and the other growing smallmouth. It is important to understand the management of fisheries and keeping larger fish is not the answer. If you want a strong trophy fishery it is important to remove more of the small fish so others have a chance to grow to their potential.
You like fishing the Rapala X-Rap. Why do you like fishing this bait for river smallmouth and what are your tips for fishing it?
When fishing the Juniata River my go to bait is definitely a jerkbait. jerkbaits will catch fish during anytime of the year on the river. The jerkbait has proven to be a very effective lure to use when fishing for smallmouth. Using a reaction strike lure is very effective in the river. These smallmouth are fighting current every day of their life and they have to be quick to react when it comes to eating bait in this current.
During the summer months I use a Rapala X-rap Xr8 in natural colors. This size of X-rap is most effective because the baitfish from the spring are still growing and not very big. Throwing a bigger jerkbait during the summer will catch fish but is not nearly as effective as the smaller jerkbaits.
The Rapala X-rap series gives you a variety of sizes to choose from. During the spring and fall months I like to switch to a larger size jerkbait as these fish are feeding on large baitfish to feed up for the spawn or winter. When fishing a jerkbait the most common mistake I see when taking people out is that they fish it like a crankbait.
The most important thing to remember when using a jerkebait is that the only time you are reeling is to reel in some slack. The action of the jerkbait is properly produced when you are twitching or jerking your rod tip, NOT when you are reeling. After each jerk your bait should suspend in one spot until it is jerked or twitch again.
It is also important to leave a little bit of slack in your line when preparing to twitch or jerk the bait. Leaving a little slack in the line is going to give your jerkbait the greatest action. Cadence is important when fish a jerkbait as well. The pause in between jerks and the number of time you twitch it can be the difference between catching fish or not catching them. Work a variety of cadences until you find one that works and then try to reproduce that cadence each cast.
The last tip for using a jerkbait is the type of line you are using. Fluorocarbon line is definitely the line type you want to use. Unlike monofilament, fluorocarbon is hard for fish to see, sensitive, sinks, more abrasive, and has less stretch. These are all important when fishing a jerkbait in clear water for smallmouth. Personally I recommend spooling you reels with a light pound braid (10-15 lbs) and attaching a fluorocarbon leader. Attaching a leader to the braid helps reduce line twist, gives you more sensitivity, and has been more effective getting a better hook set than using straight fluorocarbon.
Out of all the species you catch, what is your favorite to fish for and why?
Out of all the fish I fish for the river smallmouth is by far my favorite. Their willingness to bite is definitely one of their greatest qualities. Fishing the Juniata River for smallmouth definitely spoils you when it comes to catching numbers of fish.
Next, the power of these fish is unbelievable. They are so strong from fighting current every day of their lives. I don’t know how many times I have hooked a river smallmouth and said this is a big one then finally get it in and it is like a 13-14 inch fish. Every time you set the hook it is like hooking a 4 pounder in the lake. The fight when you hook one of these fish is something to experience and make sure you have your drag set right because when they hit a jerkbait they crush it. If your drag is too tight there is a chance you will break straight off when one of these big river smallmouth crushes it.
How have you liked your Lowrance Elite 5 HDI on your kayak this year?
The Lowrance Elite 5 HDI is a great unit to put on a kayak. I would recommend something little bigger for a boat but this unit would work. The Elite 5 is about the perfect size for a kayak and provides you with some of the high end qualities of the large units used on bass boats. The Elite 5 HDI has the chartplotter so you have the GPS view of the body of water you are on and you can mark waypoints. The hybrid dual imaging allows you to have two visuals of the structure beneath you.
The regular sonar picks of fish and baitfish well and is very easy to read. The down imaging then gives you a better look at the structure beneath you, and when working the sonar and down imaging split screen on the unit it provides you with some great detail as to where the fish are and what cover they are holding too. I would highly recommend this unit to anyone looking for a unit to put onto a kayak.
I told you it was a great 2nd part. Thank you Tyler for all the great info. You can follow him on Instagram.