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Learn to fish the weeds to bring in more

Thirty five years ago a couple of buddies and I made a camping and fishing trip to Turtle Lake just north of Bemidji. We ended up making that annual trip for several years. We planned at that time that we would probably make that trip together every year for the rest of our lives. We had all been bit by the fishing bug, and loved to share the addiction to fishing together.

Of course life changes quickly when you are young and plans change. Careers, relationships, family responsibilities, and moves changed those plans. This was "back in the day" when finding free camping sites on a lake to squat on for a few days was no problem. Boats and motors were small and traveling the lake took time and was all part of the adventure. Figuring out the lake and where and how to catch fish was a welcome challenge.

During one of those very early trips, we were fishing for several days in brutal heat, bright sun, and no wind. Battling the conditions while camping was difficult and the bite was a challenge. We bumped into an "old-timer" on the lake at one of the fishing spots just in time to see him hoist his full stringer into the boat (no live wells in those days. You dragged your fish around on a stringer hanging off the side of the boat). We were amazed at his success as we had been struggling, but still catching more than most. He was in shallower water than we were fishing. We had been having our success fishing tight to the outside edges of weed lines. We complemented him on his success and asked him his secret. He said, "There is always fish in them weeds boys, ya just gotta fish 'em outta there."

Lots of things in life will change, but fish in the weeds isn't one of them. Learning how to "fish 'em outta there" is the trick. Weedless jigs were invented to help solve this problem. Casting and trolling spinners or crank baits over the tops of the weeds has also become part of the solution. Using light jigs and "ripping" through or over the tops of the weeds can be an effective way of extracting fish from their cover. Some clever angler invented the slip float strategy that can help pry fish out of the deep cover of weeds.

For riggers, lighter sinkers designed to resist getting caught in weeds have helped reduce the frustration that fishing in weeds can cause. Bass fishermen have learned how to punch through the thickest weeds buy using heavy weights, and with the development of the superlines, they can pull fish from the heaviest cover.

If you want to catch more fish, you would serve yourself well learning how to fish in the weeds. Practice the techniques others have already developed. Be creative and figure out what works for you. Many of the above mentioned techniques came from anglers figuring out what worked for them that others learned to copy. Figuring out how to extract these "weed fish" and tweaking the techniques to fit your style is all part of the fun of this fishing thing we do. Maybe you can be the next one to invent a new jig, lure, or strategy for getting fish out of the weeds.

By the way, looking back, that "old-timer" was probably about my age now -- not really so old. One of the "fishing addict" buddies I made those early trips with has been a long time Mississippi River fishing guide. He and I have had a chance over the years to share many memorable fishing experiences. Fishing is an awesome memory maker!

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)