Marcum LX-7 Gain Settings

Anthony V. asks:

Hi Joel sorry to bug you had a question about the new lx7 lithium combo. In the settings do you know what the difference between sonar 1 and sonar 2 are ? I could not find it anywhere. Thanks

Each gain option on the LX-6, LX-7, or LX-9 represents a different gain curve, 1 shifts things less sensitive. Use it with a huge lure or target rich environment, super, super hard bottom, tons of signals dual returns, things like that. Gain 2 is a more normal curve assumed with most of the rest of Marcum products.

Good luck! Joel

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Flasher Upgrade - Which One?

Bobby K. asks:

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Hey Joel,

In the market to upgrade flasher. Looking at the LX5i vs the new M5. Is the only difference the brushless technology in the M5? Is the brushless tech worth the $150 extra? Looking to put the one I decide on on the new shuttle. 

Thanks

Bobby

Thanks for the question Bobby - The primary difference on the M5 is brushless tech, but colors are better defined and brighter yet through a patented design called the "light pipe."  Detectable to the avg. angler?  Yes, but moreso in a side by side comparison.  Staying ahead of the tech curve is a philosophical question mostly.  You’re always going to pay more to be on the cutting edge, but depending on your view, it may or may not be worth it.  What I can tell you about the M5 is that there’ll be less antiquated parts to worry about in years to come, as some of those parts are getting as hard to find as an 8-track tape player. 

How to Fish a Lake with No Contour Map?

Andrew H. asks:

Good morning Joel,
I have several new lakes I want to try fishing but the kicker is there’s no lake map. My question is how do you approach a new lake that has no lake map?
Thanks, Andrew

This is a great question, and something I'm faced with anytime I fish something off the beaten path.  Over the years, I've found a few ways of getting at that problem, though it does involve some digital reconnaissance as well as some on-lake interpretation.

From a digital perspective, here are just some of the resources I utilize:

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  • MN DNR Recreation Compass - useful resource for just looking around and understanding how/where to navigate to
  • MN Landview - online GIS platform to compare multiple natural resources layers, aerial photos, etc.
  • MN Lakefinder - even when there's not a lake depth map, the other tabs, like "water quality" databases can provide very useful information.  For example, on this lake, though there's no depth map, I know that max depth is sampled at 13 feet, making me comfortable that it can withstand winterkills and maintain a fish population.  Not to mention, I know it's likely a shallow depression with little in the way of offshore structure:

After sleuthing what database information I can, I next look to aerial photos, primarily with Google Earth.  Comparing historically different dates of photography is ultra helpful, especially in larger water bodies with no map that also contain offshore structure.  This is especially useful in remote areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  Compare these two dates of photos, with the second showing you just how shallow and boggy a portion of this lake really is.  Only look at one date, and you'd be misled:

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From here, I turn to elevation information from the shoreline.  Often, shoreline features are great indicators of what's going on beneath the water surface as well.  For this resource in MN, I utilize LiDAR elevation information, which may or may not be available where you fish:

MN TOPO - LiDAR Elevation Website - For example, on the below lake, you've got a pretty good idea of where the steepest breaks will be based just on shoreline elevation.

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On The Water - From here, you need to use your electronics, plenty of holes, and a good amount of determination to mentally map the lake bottom.  Always in the back of your brain be conceptualizing how a lake bottom looks like while you push on.  Let your focus first guide understanding of the structure, or lack thereof, and what it's doing to fish you mark.  People rush to the fishing part too quickly without fully understanding what's going on below.  A bit of time working on the front end, usually translates to better catching on the backside. 

Fishing these bodies of water constitutes some of the best fishing, and most fun I have annually.  Of course we strike out constantly, but finding a gem of your own makes it worthwhile.

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What Kind of Line for Panfish and Walleyes?

Photo Credit - Ben Larson - In-Depth Media Productions

Photo Credit - Ben Larson - In-Depth Media Productions

Chad S. writes:

I have a couple poles just for panfish and some that i use for walleye and panfish sometimes. What is the best line to use for panfish and is there a certain line that you would recommend for both walleye and also be used for panfish ? Do you prefer braid over mono and what brand do you normally use?

Thanks for the question Chad - I've been using the Sufix Invisiline Fluorocarbon for a few years now, and like what it has to offer.  Previously I was using the Ice Magic, and liked it too, but found the Invisiline had such similar properties while also having more transparency being a Fluorocarbon line.  

Unlike many Fluoro's I've tried, this stuff isn't brittle, and doesn't fray/split like some others I've tried over the years.  The best part too is that it remains manageable and relatively memory-free for much longer than traditional fluorocarbons.

As for braid, it's tough to use except in a permanent house, but there's a few situations when fishing deep when it's key.  I fished with JJ Malvitz and Tony Roach a few winters ago for whitefish in Green Bay where the 832 Ice Braid was the cornerstone of the whole program.

Joel  

Go-To Jigs and Plastics for Panfish

Neil R. asks:

Joel,
What are your go to jigs and plastics for panfish throughout the ice season?
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Hi Neil – This is a tough question, as there are many baits I’ll use over the course of a winter in different situations.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of catching a few and seeing what they’re coughing up, or other times, my selection is based solely on size and color of the bait, especially when clarity is poor.  Still, I’m just like other anglers, where I have my own bias when it comes to tendencies and go-to’s.  I’ll detail a few that are clear winners no matter where I’ve gone.

Horizontal:

·         Tungsten Tubby – 1/16 oz and 1/32 oz – Pair up sizes with confidence colors of your own, but no matter where I go, this is typically the #1 jig I use as the backbone of the presentation.  It hangs more at a 45 degree angle, yet dances horizontally much like a minnow.  The head-up and tail-down presentation works well, as I’ve seen many fish on underwater camera comfortable in approaching it from below. 

Vertical

·         Waxy Jig – This bait gets little outward press, but is the best vertical presentation I show to panfish annually.  I love mixing it up and giving them a bait that hangs differently.  Those small details are often what helps you in turning a good day into a great day. 

Plastics

·         Mustache Worm – I’ve been a huge fan of this design since its inception.  I run twin tails for crappies, and pull one off for most bluegill situations, but I can rig these things in incredible variations.  I prefer the bigger ones for gills and crappies both, and really appreciate the flexibility it gives any presentation.

·         Wax Tail – This is a great design when grubs are the order of the day.  Often, when friends are doing well on bait, I can do as well or better with this plastic, as it has the bulk needed on the hook shank with some attracting movement in the tail-section.  The biggest sizes on any jig are great for trophy crappies!

·         Nymph – This is a quality design for the big waters where mayfly’s are present.  Perch love these things, especially in the buggy colors, but also in the white and glow colors at night.  When you’re catching perch that are spitting up bugs all around the hole, this is a go-to.

Newbies with Promise

Here’s a few plastics I’ve run with some success thus far, but I’m going to be doing more testing on them this year. 

2017 VMC Tungsten Lineup – I’ve used the Probe Jig as a bloodworm imitator with some success for gills fishing it right on bottom, and I’m super intrigued with the Crayfish Jig for all kinds of applications, especially perch and even walleye.  This season will be another fun winter of experimenting to see what the new baits can do and how they stack up to time-honored and true favorites!

Joel

What is Trophic Status, and How Does It Affect Fishing?

David K. asks:

Hey Joel I was wondering what the differences are between a lakes trophic status and how that affects the fishery as far as being eutrophic, mesotrophic and so on and so forth.

Hi David – there’s some really great book resources to learn more on this, I’m thinking specifically from a Limnology course in my past.  Of course there are some online sources as well, and this was the first hit on Google.

Without getting too detailed regarding the science, and focusing more on the fishing and fishery aspect, remember these are general guidelines helpful for discussing similarities among lakes of similar type.  Consider trophic status as an indicator, among other things, of fertility.  Eutrophic lakes are highly fertile, often dominated by shallow weed growth, and thus extremely productive systems.  They can be prone to winterkill because of their shallow nature, and can also be warmer bodies of water in general.  Bass and panfish communities tend to be the dominant species groups here, but many more species can exist depending on other factors.  Oligotrophic lakes on the other end of the spectrum are rock-controlled, deep-water, and minimally fertile lakes.  You’ll find these in Canadian shield areas, with their gamefish species composition being often consisting of lake trout, pike, and walleye.  Mesotrophic lakes describe a very large swath in the middle, often with sand and gravel controlled middle-depth features.  A large host of species can live here.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources goes a bit further in regards to classifying their fisheries by specific chemical and physical characteristics.  They divide the lakes in Minnesota into 43 distinct classes that help serve to compare sampling averages and general population statistics among other lakes within the same class.  Spend any time in the MN DNR Lakefinder App, and you’ll discover that many of the same walleye lakes well-known to hold quality populations or trophy fish, often are of a handful of lake class numbers.  The same is true for other species throughout the state.  Without giving up too many secrets, I’ll leave it up to you to do the research to discover which ones are which, but these are just a few hints to finding similar lakes that produce compared to lakes of a known quantity. 

Joel

Where to Find Bluegills - Early Ice Weedbed Questions

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Colby K. asks:

Joel, I love watching you fish in lakes up by the Bemidji area. I have a flasher, underwater camera and lakemaster, and like to target lakes people don't fish. What is the best way to utilize weeds to find bluegills? And if you find alive weeds do you like them near drop offs? Or what can I look for topographically for gills in December? Any help is great thank you!

Well Colby, those are some big topics, but I’ll do my best to give you my take on early season weeds and gills.  I think you’re wise to focus on these locations right out of the gate, as I’ve had some poor fishing in traditional spots and community winter panfish holes during the first few weeks of the season. 

As far as topo map locations, I think most of the spots I favor are pretty easy to find.  They typically involve some sort of inside turn pushing up from deep water into the shallows, especially where the shallows lead into another neckdown, lake, or other expansive flat and shallow water environment.  I’m a firm believer that these locations act as funnels, channeling fish movements through a pinch-down area and helping you to simply get more looks from more fish.  Other spots would include major points, or mid-lake humps that have weeds as well.

For better or worse however, the quality and species of the weeds can trump location, with good standing cabbage and/or coontail in the afore-mentioned locations being a premium.  Good weedbeds will hold a few fish in almost any location, just like good structural depth elements will.  Combining the two is what you’re after.

This job is made easier with a great underwater camera like the Recon, as a portable hand-held panfish camera is simply made for such scenarios.  Often, especially mid-day, panfish will hunker down tight to the weeds, so finding small pockets, hard edges, and their overall location within the weeds is of the utmost importance.  They do this in lakes with formidable predator populations, and you’ll likely catch a few bass and pike in the process.  That said, a few feet too far away, and you’d think there’s not a fish in the lake.  Small moves can pay huge dividends here, and don’t be afraid to drill plenty of holes. 

Of course, all lakes aren’t created equal when it comes to panfish in the weeds.  Some lakes simply don’t have the quality weedgrowth of the proper species at depth, and others have such large amounts of predators, that finding them in weeds is a difficult process.  In these situations, or with the lack of weedy success, don’t be afraid to push directly out from those areas into the 15-25 foot depths to see if they’re suspended near bottom.  I would consider these more typical midwinter locations, but don’t be afraid to try them if you’re not getting bit. 

I hope this shortens the search, and good luck!

Joel

Which Marcum? LX-7 or the New M5?

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Josh K. asks:

Hey Joel. I'm switching to marcum this year and know you run them. I fish a lot in South Eastern ND for perch and walleye in usually less than 10' of water. I'm torn between the M5 and LX7. Van you give me some pros and cons of each. Always ran vex so looking for any info. Would be much appreciated. Thanks

Hi Josh - I think much of it depends on personal preference at that point, though I think there's a few ways to break them down. The LX-7 has the bigger screen, digital output, and nearly infinite levels of customization when looking at the graph as open-water scrolling mode, flasher display, and/or vertical display. There's alot of fish catching power in tuning in a unit to your own tendencies and preferences.  If you know you like a bigger screen, then for many people that's all it takes.  People have discussed the shallow water performance, and my experiences have been that when using proper depth range settings, you'll have no issues.    

In regards to the new Marcum M5, you've got something that looks much more similar to the Vexilar you're switching from, so that amount of familiarity is nice for a lot of anglers. If you really enjoy the circular style flasher display, have known and loved it for years, and don't see yourself using the other features of the LX-7, then I wouldn't hesitate to go M5.  It'll save you some money and you'll get an upgrade from your Vex.

Now here's the important part! - Whatever you do, go Lithium.  You can get either model on the new Lithium platform for not that much more money.  The increase in run-time, speedy charging, and more than 30% weight savings makes it a no-brainer for the serious hole hopper and ice-angler like yourself.  

It's been more than a decade since I've switched out for good on my electronics, but I'm looking to use the Lithium M5 as my primary unit this year instead of the trusty LX-5 I've always used.  

Get the Lithium LX-7, or the Lithium M5 and don't look back!

Joel

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