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Robinson Reports: Slabbing Success

Though the weather has turned colder now, the fishing action has remained hot. The water temperatures have varied anywhere from 41 to 46 in the areas we’ve been fishing, but the fish have yet to slow down.

At the Tri County canal system, the saugers are gathered in somewhat predictable areas and definitely stocking up for winter. We found them in water from 12 to 30 foot deep. With the water temps down to 41 degrees, it’s safe to say the chilly weather out west brought us some mighty cold water. The fish did not seem to care. Saugers are like walleyes in that sometimes they can be picky about what you can catch them on. But this wasn’t the case for us, which was a nice change of pace. We caught them on jig/plastic combos, slab spoons and blade baits. The most interesting part of our day was that not one walleye was boated. Saugers typically relate to areas with current and are usually found deeper in holes than walleyes, but it was clear they had this area completely taken over.

Fall fishing is well known for being a great opportunity to catch trophy fish and this year has been no different. A variety of tactics will work, such as trolling crankbaits, casting crankbaits, even dragging live bait. But a real go-to this time of year is slabbing. Slabbing is using a variety of lead and metal spoons with a vertical jigging presentation to imitate dying bait fish. As these fish fall to the bottom, predators are there to feed on them. The biggest key, as stated before, is to find the fish using your sonar units. Once you’ve done that, the real fun can begin.

Slabbing is a tactic that’s very popular on area reservoirs like Harlan, McConaughy, Johnson, Elwood and Sherman. We have fished a few of these areas and had mixed results. Some days have been outstanding, while others have been a bit of a struggle. Fish locations in the fall do change by the day in some areas, and we’ve even seen them change by the hour. When we have found large pods of predators feeding on shad and alewives, we have done well on numbers of white bass, wipers, smallmouth bass, and walleyes. On the flip side, when the fish are difficult to locate, our success has been far less. To illustrate this point, earlier this week, two of us boated a drum, a crappie, 10 wipers up to 24″ and well over 50 white bass up to 16″. The very next day on the same water, two of us struggled to find 3 wipers and 9 white bass.

Another great way to catch fish in the fall is to fish at night, especially during periods related to a full moon. Night trolling can be very effective at times. Long lining stick baits such as Rapala Husky Jerks, Original Floating Rapalas, shallow Shad Raps, Smithwich Rogues and Storm Thundersticks are all great baits to start with. Throwing these same baits from the shore in shallow rocky areas may be an even better tactic to target trophy fish.

Now that we’ve had our first snow of the winter season, the water temps are sure to be near freezing in some areas. I’ve even heard reports of ice starting to form on some lakes. With time off around the upcoming holiday weekend, we hope that some of the weather will allow us to get on the water another day or two, and see if we’re able to put any more fish in the boat before it’s put away for the winter. We’ll see you out there.

Photo by Jeff Kurrus/NEBRASKAland Magazine
Photo by Jeff Kurrus/NEBRASKAland Magazine

About Brian Robinson

Brian Robinson is a lifelong resident of central Nebraska who has spent his entire life chasing fish of all kinds. Nearing 100 Master Angler awards for 13 different species, Brian spends most of his time fishing central Nebraska water, including the Tri County Canal system and associated waters.

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