By Rick Windham Outside Columnist
I had the chance to cross the Sandhills last week. Recent rains have turned the hills green and they are beautiful. What a unique geological feature we have in Nebraska. Hopefully the rains continue so the grass can get tall and feed all the cattle I saw.
Let’s talk fishing now. If you want to fish something that hits a lure like a freight train and works like a torpedo, then the wiper might be what you’re looking for. This hybrid bass is not a natural species. It is produced by crossing a male white bass with a female striped bass. It’s also one of my favorite summer fish.
Hybrid windshield wipers are most often identified by the broken side stripes along the sides of the body. He also has a noticeably shorter, thicker, and deeper body, essentially a football shape. This body style creates a very muscular and strong fighting fish!
Pound for pound, the wiper is one of the most difficult to fight freshwater fish that you may be lucky enough to get tangled up with. They are open water predators and normally swim in large schools. Anglers can often tell when wipers are feeding by observing birds. When you see gulls, terns, and pelicans diving somewhere on the surface, chances are a shoal of wipers is attacking the shad and pushing it to the surface. Going to this location and casting a lure that looks like a shad into the fray is a good way to catch one of these fish.
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Catching windshield wipers does not require any specialized materials or equipment. You probably have everything you need. Any style of reel spooled with a 12-20 pound test line will work well and I prefer a medium action rod. Note: Make sure your brake is properly adjusted and working properly. The wipers hit hard and fast and easily break a line if the drag isn’t set correctly and doesn’t work properly.
For bait or lures, wipers are opportunistic. For my first forays into wiper fishing, I like to use large minnows mounted under a slip-bobber. Any place where you find water flowing in a lake or reservoir is a good place to try this technique. For wiper fishing in the summer, I like to drift or troll larger floating lures with little or no dipping lip. From May to August, the wipers form large shoals and skim the edges of underwater bumps, ridges, and creek channels. They will also feed above flats in deep water. I also use a large jig of bucktail (up to ½ ounce), the more colorful the better.
I will also use floating lures with little or no sinking lip. I will drag them behind a heavy weight to bring it to the depth I want. I set up long fins or trolling patterns that cut through as much bottom material as my sonar can find. I will also throw big bucktails against the concrete walls of exit structures or bridge pilings. I’m going to drop my jig straight down these structures all the way down to find where the wipers can fit. One of the most overlooked fishing techniques is surface fishing. Dawn and dusk are good times to cast large surface lures. My best fishing seems to be at dusk, just when I see yard fires going on around a lake.
Windshield wipers were first stocked in Bluestem Lake in Nebraska in 1979. They were later introduced to Branched Oak, Conestoga, and Stagecoach lakes. Since then wipers have been introduced to Lake McConaughy, Elwood, Johnson, Medicine Creek, Red Willow, Swanson, Sutherland, Harlan County, Gallagher, Midway, Plum Creek and many other water bodies.
Windshield wipers are also a real challenge for fly fishing enthusiasts. Their power makes them a real trophy for lightweight fly rods. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to catch a snook or a bonefish on a saltwater flat, get tangled up with a 5+ pound wiper on the end of a fly rod of 5 to 6 weights. You will get the idea.
You don’t have to travel too far from North Platte to find wiper fishing. Lake Maloney has a few wipers, Lake McConaughy, Elwood Reservoir and Red Willow are the best spots on my list. Windshield wipers can be a big challenge this summer. Get ready and try it.
Anyone who regularly fishes from the shore needs a rod holder. A rod holder keeps your rod in place and out of the way so it doesn’t get stepped on. It positions your rod so it’s easier to see and allows the rod tip to have the action and play it was designed for.
I can’t take credit for the design of the rod holder I use. An old fishing buddy, Chuck Forsgren, formerly of Lincoln, showed me the design maybe 20 years ago. I’ve been using them ever since.
The rod holder is made from PVC plastic pipe. I use 3 inch diameter pipe, cut into 18 inch 2 foot sections. At one end I use a miter box to cut a 45 degree angle at the end. It is the end that is driven into the ground. The 45 degree mitered edge comes to a point and makes it easier to sink into the ground.
What I like about this design is that it works well in mud and sandbanks. Being hollow, the ground inside the tube provides more surface friction and seems to hold better than single-point stakes. Another advantage I have discovered about this design is that it works well in the riprap we have along much of the canal banks in this country. Try to get a steel rod holder to do this.
The plastic can be worked into the cracks between the rocks and is almost “grabbed” by the rough edges. For a design as simple as it is and easy to make, this works very well.
Perhaps best of all is the cost. All you need to make this type of rod holder is a piece of pipe and a hacksaw. If you have to “buy” the pipe, it will cost you less than $20 to make a few. I admit; I bought a new pipe to make rod holders for fishing buddies, but most of the time I pick up a piece here and there in a dumpster at a construction site.
If you’re a skeet shooter, take note: The Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club is hosting the 10th Annual Jim Conley Shoot, June 17, 18, and 19. The registration fee is $47. This is a National Skeet Shooting Association registered event. There’s a lot more information on this than I have room for in this column, so look for more information in my Thursday column. In the meantime, you can call Tom Englehart at 308-520-7391 for full details on costs, refunds, and more.