Whether you're planning on hitting the channel cats or spring fishing in Iowa for yellow bass, these are the top places you definitely won't want to miss.
Ice-out varies from north to south across the state, but whenever the ice goes off Coralville, Saylorville or other lakes with a gizzard shad forage base, channel catfish go on a feeding binge. Winter-killed shad drift with the wind to shallow south-facing bays, and swarms of channel cats feed in as little as 2 feet of water for several weeks after ice disappears.
Lake Geode, in Henry County in far southeast Iowa, is a good example of a small lake with shallow bays that warm quickly and attract largemouth bass on late-winter days that feel more like mid-spring. Work a plastic worm or jig-and-pig slowly over a dark-bottomed, south-facing shoreline to tempt bass sunbathing in the shallows.
Boats cluster below dams on the Mississippi River even on blustery, raw days. The pre-spawn run of walleyes is good reason to endure nasty weather.
Fishing for yellow bass near The Island at Clear Lake is an early spring tradition in north-central Iowa. Wade, or cast from a boat or shore to catch the feisty, delectable panfish on small jigs tipped with minnows
White bass make spawning runs on Iowa's major rivers in April. There is often a window of opportunity between ice-out/snowmelt and spring rains when rivers run relatively low and clear. Those are prime times to fish below the Scott Street Dam in Des Moines or the Power Dam in Iowa City to catch a stringer of whites on white twistertail jigs.
Years ago anglers stood shoulder to shoulder along the North Grade at Big Spirit Lake to catch bullheads each spring. Improvements in water quality have favored game fish and decreased the population of bullheads in Big Spirit — but there is still a good population of yellow-bellies, and their average size is "huge."
"We have the highest densities of crappies in (Lake Rathbun) I've seen in the 18 years I've been the management biologist here," said Mark Flammang. "The 2008 and 2010 floods produced monstrous year-classes. It takes five years for most crappies to reach 10 inches in Rathbun. Do the math, and you find out that 2014 should shape up to be a pretty darned good year for crappies at Rathbun."
Bluegills spawn in mid- to late May across Iowa, and Hawthorn Lake in Mahaska County is coming off a restoration that has a huge year-class of 8-inch and larger fish available to anglers. Fish the road grade, the shallows on either end of the dam, or the arm opposite the dam for spawning bluegills.
Largemouth bass are flourishing in Humeston Reservoir. The 40-acre lake north of Humeston in south-central Iowa is Flammang's "sleeper" lake when he wants to tangle with not only lots of bass, but lots of big bass.
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Suzuki's two new four-stroke, two-cylinder portable outboards have a compression reduction system for easier starting. The 20hp tiller model weighs 97 pounds the eletric-start model weighs 106 pounds. Single overhead cam, four-valve engine with Suzuki's Lean Burn Control and bat-tery-less electronic fuel injection. Built for running in skinny water, both motors come with five tilt pin positions and 15- or 20-inch shaft.
TACKLE TOTE VEST
If you wade when you fish, Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear designed a Tackle Tote Vest that to keep gear accessible but dry when you're standing in deeper waters. It's adjustable, sturdy, has lots of pockets and a modest pricetag.
Honda Marine's BF250 outboard is a 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 that uses varia-ble valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC). Programmed fuel injection delivers the precise amount of fuel and air to each cylinder for easy starts and instant throttle re-sponse. 20-, 25- and 30-inch shaft models.
FLEX 'N GO TACKLE SATCHEL
On-the-go anglers will find a lot to like in Plano's new Flex 'N Go Tack-le Satchel. It features adjustable built-in storage with a deep bin on one side and framework for the pair of swap-pable Plano 3600 StowAway boxes on the other, each Stowaway held with a flexible strap.
MSRP, Jacket $249.99-$269;
Cabela's Guidewear raingear now comes in four distinct series. Bass Angler (pictured) jackets and bibs are built with the tournament bass angler in mind. Xtreme parkas and bibs will help anglers fishing Northern lakes and rivers. Tidal jackets and pants offer lightweight, waterproof and breathable protection. River Runner jackets are perfect for wading anglers.
MSRP, $18.95 per pair.
The original Gear Grabbar is a unique way to hold lures and tools at the ready in boats. But the new Lure Hangar is a step beyond. This is a 12- by 16 1/2-inch plate,m ade to mount on your gunwhale, that holds 16 or more lures. There's enough room for a selection of jig, plugs, topwaters or whatever other baits you want to hang.
The new AV Micro is a complete underwater camera system that is the same size as a smart phone. On the boat or off the dock, use it to see where fish are hanging out. 3 1/2-inch diagonal display. Built-in rechargea-ble lithium ion batteries.
BERKLEY TRILENE XL
Berkley says they've improved a classic. New Trilene XL lines are now 10 percent stronger 20 percent more flexibility then they had been. Knot strength has also improved, said the company. Trilene XL has been around since 1972.
ABU GARCIA REVO SX
Abu Garcia's Revo SX baitcasting reel is now 25 percent lighter than before. The SX frame is crafted of a strong alloy while the handle sideplate are built with weight-reducing C6 carbon. Holds 145 yards of 12-pound mono.
SIMMS WEATHER GEAR
MSRP, jacket $349, bibs $299.
Simms designed its Contender Gore-Tex jacket and bibs for anglers who need reliability when they are motor-ing on the water at 70 mph in rain and wind. Waterproof and breathable. Cuffs are water tight and adjustable.
Anglers like their tools close by. And it's even better if it's connected to you so it doesn't go in the drink. T-Reign retractable gear tethers hold onto your pliers, hemostats or landing net. Several size options. Carabiner connects to D-ring, belt loop or strap, or use the stainless steel clip on belt or pack.