Bottom Dragging for Perch: A new method in an age old game
Ice anglers continue to refine or adapt tackle and techniques to fill a wide spectrum of situations that dictate adapted presentations. The traditional ice fishing presentation is a vertical affair where the lure or bait is brought to life by jigging. Winter anglers are beginning to discover, however that a presentation through a hole in the ice doesnít have to be vertical. More and more ice fishermen are discovering the art of bottom dragging.
No doubt that bottom dragging is a technique that has been used for years by a handful of winter fishermen. The technique was a little known technique however before the Perch Patrol Guide Service from Devils Lake, North Dakota began to gain national attention for cutting edge techniques and tactics for pulling extremely temperamental jumbo perch out of relatively deep water.
The Perch Patrol Guide Service has a staff of six professional guides that handles an incredible number of customers each winter. Each guide spends well over a hundred days on the ice each winter and are considered to be the Top Guns of the industry. The influence these guys have had on the entire industry is amazing. The Perch Patrol took reading a Vexilar to a superseded level, amazing both customers and onlookers in their ability to identify fish tucked tight to the bottom in deep water. Some of the first to recognize the signal from a fish located within the actual bottom signal. The Perch Patrol staff were some of the first to publicly recognize bottom movement as an indication of belly scraping fish moving into the cone angle.
The amazing ability of these winter anglers to visualize and recognize what is going on so far below spawned the perfection of a technique that continues to baffle the casual ice angler. Bottom dragging is a method of presenting a hook horizontally by dragging the lure across the mud. The technique is achieved by using either a spoon or swimming lure like a jigging Rapala. The treble hook is removed from the lure and a dropper of about five to twelve inches is added where a finesse type micro jig or hook is jammed full of maggots, a wax worm, perch eye (where legal) or minnow head.
The dropper rig is sent rapidly down to the bottom in free spool. The more inhibited the lure can fall through the water, the further away from the hole the lure gets before it finally settles into the mud. The rig gets further away from the hole as the depth of the water increases. When the lure touches down, a puff of mud alerts fish of its presence. The lure now serves as a weight and the dropper serves much like a live bait rig (an ice fishermenís version of a Lindy Rig). The rig is worked back across the bottom ever so slowly back towards the center of the hole.
As the rig is drug directly below the hole, the lure begins to rise from the bottom and this is often when a pick up is initially felt. The distance between the lure and the dropper gives an angler room to look into the bottom signal on the Vexilar for movement indicating a jumbo perch as the lure begins to get lifted off the bottom. When the lure begins to separate from the mud on the bottom, jiggling the lure suddenly turns the lure into an attracter as the dropper dances down below in the mud.
No bottom movement revealing a perch or extra weight that would indicate a perch has sampled the offering? Lift the presentation high off the bottom and repeat the process again.
What makes this dropper rig presentation so effective? Simple, on so many fisheries that are noted for producing jumbo panfish, the basin bottom is a biologically rich place for a fish to live. The lake bottom often hosts a rich variety of terrestrial insect nymphs and a host of other invertebrates panfish feed on. In the case of Devils Lake where the Perch Patrol resides, the lake bottom is covered with freshwater shrimp or scuds.
So often, basin fish get conditioned to tipping up to feed on this plate of invertebrates. According to the captain of the Perch Patrol Guide Service and Ice Team Power Stick, Zippy Dahl, perch on mud flats can get so accustomed to looking down that they sometimes donít look anywhere else if that is where the food is. We watched how these perch tip up and feed off the bottom with the use of underwater cameras, Zippy goes on, that gave us a better understanding of what was happening down below.
I got to witness bottom dragging last winter first hand while fishing Devils Lake with the Perch Patrol. Zippy and fellow Perch Patrol guide, Jason Mitchell put on a clinic. The pair honed in on a hot spot and started pulling perch into their pickups in rapid fashion. Customers of the guide service were hustled in so tight to the pair that you could hardly walk between the shelters. Onlookers began drilling in on the pair, trying to get in on the flurry of action. Neither, Zippy or Jason could move their pickups if they wanted to, they were boxed completely in.
While Zippy and Jason continued to reel in plump jumbo perch, onlookers including myself just scratched our heads. Neither fish nor the lure was visible on the Vexilar to the casual angler not familiar to such a technique. As if the two anglers were fishing in the twilight zone, actually watching their lure and fish within the bottom reading on the flashers mounted right to the dashes of their pickups. Suddenly the gig was up; the duo tangled each otherís lines. Figuring the distance of about ten feet between the two, these guys were sending their lures up to five feet to the side of the hole. Pretty amazing to see in action!
While the Perch Patrol often prefers high quality graphite jigging sticks and use the Dave Genz Signature Series Ice Rods by Berkley themselves for most ice fishing applications, a forgiving fiberglass rod with a limber tip is often used for the bottom dragging technique. This technique is very comparable to live bait rigging during the summer, explains Zippy, you want a rod with a limber and forgiving tip for this kind of presentation.
As the Perch Patrol continues to influence national media and share their knowledge with countless customers, bottom dragging should continue to gain popularity as a bona fide way to trigger perch or other panfish that are very bottom orientated on lake basins. The ice is no longer the limit amongst todayís ice fishermen.
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Ted Savic contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.chum-bucket.com.
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