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Maine Biologists Say 'No' to Proposed Ban of Soft Plastic Baits

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will not recommend that use of soft plastic baits be banned in the state’s waters. That doesn't mean the legislature can't ignore the agency and go ahead with the ban, but the agency's stance is encouraging.

In a report presented yesterday to the state’s legislators, the agency said the following:

“Requiring the sale and use of only biodegradable SPLs (soft plastic baits) is currently not a solution. There is currently no standard national or international definition for what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic” and SPLs specifically. Based on the information presented in this report, the Department does not recommend any legislation at this time.”

Instead, it appears that emphasis will be on education, encouraging anglers to properly dispose of used baits to minimize impacts to fish and fisheries.

That’s the right course of action, and I applaud Inland Fisheries for its efforts on this issue. (The entire report eventually will be posted on its website.)

No question that anglers should do a better job of cleaning up after themselves, but a ban of plastic baits, as proposed last year in the Maine legislature, was not the proper response. It would have been impossible to enforce and likely would have hurt the state’s economy because of reduced tourism. Additionally, while some individual fish do eat discarded baits, no evidence exists that populations are being harmed as a consequence.

A particularly interesting finding by the agency was that baits advertised as 100 percent biodegradable show no signs of degradation after one week, one month, or even eight months. “The SPL retained the same observable physical characteristics and elasticity of a new, identical SPL,” the report said.

Learn more here.

Here is the originally proposed bill.

And here is an earlier post at Activist Angler.


Why We Fish 'a Must Read . . . '

"A particularly inspiring success once again by Robert Montgomery . Delves into the psychic nature of outdoorsmen and conservationists with the fervent penmanship one can only get from having experienced it.

"A must read from cover to cover which will hold you spellbound from page to page. Excellent work by an excellent author !!! 5 star without a doubt." --- Amazon review of Why We Fish by Carl Wengenroth at The Anglers Lodge on Lake Amistad. 


Artificial Baits are Tools of the Trade; Use Them Appropriately

I caught this 12-4 largemouth on my confidence bait--- a lipless crankbait--- at Lake Guerrero. That bait is a Cordell Spot, by the way.

I wrote the following article a few years ago for young anglers. It was published in Junior Bassmaster. By the way, a lipless crankbait is my “confidence” bait for when fishing is tough, but a topwater is my favorite when the bass are cooperative.

Like you and me, the pros have favorite baits. But in fishing many waters under a variety of conditions, they’ve discovered that those favorites aren’t always the best choices for catching bass.

With that discovery, each has learned to view baits as his “tools” of the angling trade. If he wants to catch bass--- and win tournaments--- he must use those tools appropriately.

And just as he wouldn’t use a saw to pound a nail, he wouldn’t throw a topwater over clear, deep water on a calm, sunny day, no matter how much he enjoys fishing topwaters. (Of course, there always are exceptions to the rules, and that's especially true in fishing.)

Listed below are five types of baits that the pros keep in their “tool” boxes, as well as information on how and when they use them. Follow their lead and you, too, will catch more fish.


Depending on where you live, this bait can produce during all seasons for you, even winter. But overall, it works best when fished on windy and/or cloudy days, or in murky water.

That’s because this “tool” mostly is intended to provoke instinct strikes. In other words, its flash and vibration stimulate bass into biting without getting a close look.

You need less vibration in clearer water because the bait is easier to see. In fact, too much might even frighten the bass. Blades shaped like willow leaves are the best choice.

In stained and muddy water, and at night, you need more vibration. Round-shape Colorado blades are preferred then.

The Indiana blade provides an “in between” option.

Mostly, spinnerbaits are fished through and around shallow cover, such as brush, stumps, and rocks. They also can be fished along edges and in openings of grass and pads.

Pros vary their retrieves from fast to slow until they figure out what speed the bass prefer. They might add a plastic or pork trailer to tease less aggressive fish into biting.

They’ve also learned that spinnerbaits can be great tools for deep water. They “slow-roll” them along the bottom, pulling them just fast enough to make the blades turn.  And they drop them vertically around places such as standing timber. This allows large blades to spin, or “helicopter,” as the baits fall. Helicoptering is a good technique for bass in cold water.


For most anglers, no bait is more fun to throw and catch fish with than the topwater. That’s because you often see the bass coming for your bait and because you both see and feel the bite, which sometimes can be explosive.

As with the spinnerbait, clouds and/or wind can keep bass banging topwaters all day, from late spring, after bass have spawned, into late fall.  More likely, though, the bite will be early and late, when the sun is low.

Shallow, shoreline cover is the most likely spot to throw a topwater. And, if you keep close watch, you often can see feeding fish in such places. If possible, cast your bait past the action and retrieve it into the lively water.

Topwaters also will draw bass up from deep water, especially in clear lakes and reservoirs. Points, humps, and dropoffs are good places to look for suspending bass that are willing to rise for a bait.

Also, look for bass crashing shad on top during summer and fall. Throw a topwater into the middle of the frenzy and you almost are guaranteed a bite.

But which topwater should you throw? Here are some general guidelines: a floating minnow bait, such as a Rapala, in clear, shallow water; a popper, such as a Pop-R,  over  submerged grass beds; a prop bait, such as a Torpedo,  in choppy water, and a stickbait, such as a Spook, over points, humps, and flats.


If you throw a crankbait, you are going to get hung up, especially if you fish it properly. That’s because it carries two sets of treble hooks. And that’s because one of the best techniques is to bounce it off rocks and wood as you retrieve it.

The erratic action and the quick flash when it swerves attract hungry bass.

“Crankbaits can be fished year around,” says pro Mike Auten. “But no matter when or where you use them, the key is deflection--- hitting cover or structure with the lure and triggering a reaction strike. It’s something I try for on every cast.”

Most crankbaits are fished in 15 feet of water or less, but some, such as Mann’s 30+ and Bomber’s Fat Free Shad, will dive much deeper. The key is to match your crankbait to the depth of water you want to fish. That’s because you want your crankbait to hit bottom, except when you’re fishing over underwater grass beds or the bass are suspended.

 In general, baits with long, straight bills swim deeper, while those that angle downward are more shallow-running.

On the other hand, lipless crankbaits will work at just about any depth. A steady retrieve with these vibrating baits will catch fish. But the pros like to vary their retrieves, ranging from “burning” it to crawling it on bottom to “ripping” it off ledges.

I caught this largemouth in early spring on a YUM Dinger stickbait.


This next generation of plastics began with Lunker City’s Slug-Go more than 25 years ago. From soft jerkbaits, or “flukes,” with fluttering action, they’ve evolved into stickworms, or “Senkos,” with little--- but irresistible--- movement on the fall.

Both are most effective in clear to slightly stained water, while rattles can be added to help attract bass in murkier lakes.

Early spring, when bass first start moving into shallows, is one of the best times to use flukes. They are especially effective around grass beds and brush. Most often, they are fished Texas style, while smaller versions also can be Carolina rigged.

Make certain that the hook is straight in the bait or the fluke will not move as intended.

Senkos will work in early spring as well, but they are at their best during summer, to catch bass prowling shorelines, as well as suspended in timber or along steep rock walls. They can be rigged Texas style or wacky, with the hook through the middle of the bait.

The key to catching bass on both baits is to fish them slowly. Especially with the Senko, many bites come on the fall. You often will see the movement of the line instead of feel it.


No other bait catches more bass than this versatile soft plastic, which comes in hundreds of colors and dozens of sizes and shapes. You can fish it shallow or deep. You can crawl it, bounce it, or swim it.

In general, though, this slow-moving bait is not good to start with if your time is limited. Rather it is a good choice once you have located bass with a faster-moving spinnerbait or crankbait.

Worms of 6 to 8 inches most often are used for fishing points and brushpiles. But smaller versions usually are best for throwing to pre-spawn bass in the shallows and for enticing lethargic bass during hot, summer days. Ten-inch baits are good options for night fishing.

For clear water during the day, natural colors such as the watermelon and pumpkin shades are preferred. If the water has a little stain, a chartreuse tail will help attract bass. For stained water, cloudy days, or at night, go with dark shades, such as red shad, Junebug, black, and purple.

In fishing worms, experiment with size, color, and retrieve until you figure out what the bass want.



Indiana Moves to Reduce Pollution of Lake Michigan

Guide Dale Stroschein fights a Lake Michigan smallmouth. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Anglers, environmentalists and many others are pleased with a recent decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to reduce pollution of Lake Michigan and its fisheries.

A stricter IDEM permit requires BP’s Whiting oil refinery, just outside Chicago, to lower its mercury discharges from 23 parts per trillion to 8.75.

“We are pleased the agency responded to our recommendation by strengthening the mercury requirements and requiring BP to submit and update its stormwater plan,” said Lyman Welch of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Still, we are disappointed that IDEM did not go as far as we’d hoped to protect the waters of the Great Lakes.”

At BP, meanwhile, spokesman Scott Dean said that new technologies for pollution reduction are promising.

“BP is committed to protecting Lake Michigan and we are cautiously optimistic that our recent investment in new water treatment equipment will further reduce the Whiting Refinery mercury discharge,” Dean said. “Having said that, the mercury limit in the revised permit has decreased by more than half and the refinery needs to gain experience operating the new equipment before we will know if the refinery can successfully and consistently meet this revised limit.”

The company has almost completed a $3.8 billion expansion that will make it a top processor of heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sand deposits. Following announcement of construction in 2007, IDEM allowed BP to increase its discharge of mercury, ammonia, and suspended solids.

Public outrage over that decision convinced BP to abide by stricter standards for ammonia and dissolved solids. But Indiana allowed an exemption for mercury as the company worked on technology to scrub its waste of that pollutant.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Book Provides 'Charming, Nostalgic Look' at Reasons We Fish 

"Montgomery's book is a charming, nostalgic look at the reasons we fish. It poses a question that every reader can immediately relate to and provide personal examples. The anglers who provided essays were obviously touched by the question and find solace and relaxation each time they grab fishing gear and go to the water's edge. Very interesting and readable book for all ages." ---- Five-star review at Amazon