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posted: 3/6/2010 12:01 AM

While spring remains on hold, plug away

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Early each morning my wife and I stare at the TV screen, waiting for words of encouragement from a person pretending to know what the coming days will bring in the way of air temperatures.

Never mind what the calendar on the refrigerator displays, because I usually forget what day it happens to be.

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So when the fortune telling reached our ears from the weather centers, I slammed my coffee cup on to the table and headed to the basement.

I found a tackle box with the older lures and then zeroed in on the veterans of countless battles and encounters. There they were - three brown, yellow and red ancient No. 600 Bomber crankbaits.

When these great lures were popular in the Midwest they weren't referred to as crankbaits, but just plain old plugs.

In 1968 I learned a whole bag of tricks from the late Buck Perry, the inventor of the spoon plug and the first angler to coin the word "structure."

I was taught how to speed-troll weed edges with spoon plugs to catch big fish. And when I settled in Minneapolis, Dan Carlson showed me how to substitute model No. 600 Bombers for spoon plugs.

As much as I detest trolling, I admit the technique is the fastest way to locate fish. An angler can cover more areas of a lake or river than by just pulling up to a spot or drifting.

Perry brought new insight to trollers. One famous statement attributed to him went something like this: "If they're not shallow, then the fish are deep, somewhere in the lake."

Even though the spoon plug scored big with many fishermen in the 1960s and '70s, the old Bomber lure users seemed content to take a back seat to the spoon pluggers.

Carlson was a master at trolling. He used his green box, the Lowrance Fish-Lo-K-Tor, to guide his hand on the tiller as he cruised the deep weedlines on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis. Every 50-yard pass produced bass and pike.

When I examined the old Bombers in my basement I noticed each one had a chipped front lip, as well as being covered with remnants of crusted weed or algae.

And then I had an idea. Why not use nothing but old lures during the entire soft-water season? So I spent a couple hours rummaging for the "senior citizens."

I discovered a good selection of top-water, diving, trolling and casting baits, which I laid out on a table. There was: a Shannon Twin Spinner; Heddon Lucky 13 and a Basser; a Heddon Hep (spinner); a Beetle Spin; my first, original balsa Rapala; a Helin Flatfish; one Lazy Ike; one Bass-O-Reno; a South Bend Super-Duper, and a Creek Chub Minnow.

Even at this early stage of March, I started imagining the fun I can expect to have with these old fish-catchers.

I cut my teeth on these gems with the guidance of my late father. He tutored me on the intricacies of crappie and smallmouth bass fishing with his beloved Super-Duper on the Peshtigo River.

It just made sense for me to drag out the relics and give them another whirl on the water.

After all, I'm sure there's no expiration date stamped on these great lures.

Key outdoors vote in Missouri

By a vote of 131-27, the Missouri House has approved a constitutional amendment that would require a four-sevenths majority (just more than 57 percent) to pass voter initiatives dealing with hunting, fishing, trapping or forestry.

Rep. Mike Dethrow (R-Alton) said hunting and fishing rights must be shielded from change by a simple majority.

Dismayed by spray: Authorities in and around Yellowstone National Park and other popular tourist destinations inhabited by grizzly bears are facing a growing environmental dilemma: What to do with hundreds of discarded and unused bear pepper spray cans left at visitor centers,  and inside dumpsters and trash cans?

For their senior capstone project, three Montana State University engineering students created a prototype machine that removes the irritating chemical, propellant, and crushes the can so it may be recycled.

Fighting for animals: Citizens in the country with the world's most extreme animal protection laws will go to the polls March 7 to decide if attorneys should be appointed by the state to defend animals in alleged abuse cases. Swiss Animal Protection landed the issue on the ballot by gathering the necessary 100,000 petition signatures for a nationwide vote. In 2008, Switzerland banned catch and release fishing on the premise it was inhumane.

Fishing report:

Fox Chain: Look to the back channels for some of the better crappie fishing on Channel Lake. The same holds true on Petite and Pistakee Lake.

Fox River: The stout-hearted are working the discharge areas in hopes of finding active smallmouth and walleyes.

Lake Delavan: Photographer Mike Seeling reports decent bluegill action as well as some pike activity in shallow water.

Lake Michigan: Perching has slowed somewhat in Chicago, but the trout bite is starting to get better, especially in Waukegan harbor. Some coho salmon reported caught right off Whiting, Indiana.

• Mike Jackson can be reached via e-mail at angler88@att.net, and you can catch his radio program 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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