Sock it to me

It is not often I catch Bob Izumi gushing over something that is fishing related. But Bob was animated after spending several days filming with his buddy, American fishing star Roland Martin.
Was it a new lure he’d discovered? A trophy-filled body of bass water? A tournament-winning technique? Nope, it was none of these things.
What impressed Bob so much was Martin’s boat positioning skills. Despite the wind and weather conditions on Florida’s giant Lake Okeechobee, Bob said Martin manoeuvred his big bass boat so silently, so quietly, and so precisely that he always was properly positioned to make the perfect flip, pitch, or cast.
Now, I’ve always considered Bob to be the Jacques Villeneuve of the boat-positioning world. So if Martin impressed him, I can’t imagine how good he must be.
Like most anglers, however, I know how important it is to be able to control your boat in blustery conditions. If you don’t believe it is imperative, think how many times you’ve said, or heard someone else say, how much you or they hate fishing in the wind.
But here is the irony. The Bob Izumis, Roland Martins, Kevin Van Dams, and Gary Parsons of the world love to fish in the waves. In fact, I don’t know how many times I thought I was going to go crazy listening to the electric motor on Bob’s boat spin wildly as the bow rocked in the whitecaps while the whirling prop was being yanked out of the water.
Instead of avoiding the breeziest portion of a lake, river, or reservoir, Bob and the others routinely seek it out. And it is where they often find the most actively feeding walleye, bass, muskies, pike, and panfish.
By the same token, of course, these same anglers rig their boats and carry the equipment necessary to tame the biggest blow. Things like four-stroke kicker outboards mounted on the transom, one or more heavy navy anchors with miles of rope attached, and the most powerful 24- and 36-volt electric trolling motors on the market.
On that note, I just wrapped up a feature for the May edition of Outdoor Canada Magazine on rigging the ultimate walleye boat. I spent several days on Table Rock Lake with PWT walleye champ Gary Parsons.
You can’t imagine how he hooks the deep cycle batteries to run his 74-pound thrust Minn Kota Genesis trolling motor. He has more power in his boat than the Marmion Lake Generating Station produces on a peak demand day.
But that is a story for another time.
I discovered something else, though, when I rummaged through Gary’s boat. He carries as many drift socks as he does fishing rods. And he considers them as essential as his rods and reels.
A drift sock, or sea anchor as some folks call them, looks like a miniature parachute with a hole in the middle or a fabric funnel. The same Minn Kota folks who make the famous electric trolling motors also make a wonderful drift sock.
It’s 34 inches deep and has a 22-inch wide mouth. When you attach it to your boat and toss it overboard, it traps water inside the fabric funnel so it billows out. But since the opening at the back is so much smaller than the front, the volume of water it collects and the drag it creates slows your boat to a crawl.
It steadies it as well, reducing the rocking motion. Even in whitecaps.
Indeed, it is absolutely amazing how effectively a drift sock will slow down the speed of your boat in a blow.
In fact, when the wind is really howling, it is often smart to tie off two wind socks from the same side of your boat—one off the bow cleat and the other off the stern. Then you can vertically jig while the boats around you are flying by, their owners cursing the wind.
While drift socks provide phenomenal boat control in and of themselves, they’re doubly important when you use them in conjunction with your bow-mounted electric trolling motor. The sock slows down your overall progress while you fine-tune your precise location and position using your electric trolling motor.
If you don’t have an electric motor up front, you can use your stern-mounted electric, kicker motor, or main outboard to accomplish the same degree of boat control.
In fact, many of today’s top walleye anglers, who back troll with four-stroke, tiller-handled outboards, attach a windsock to the bow and then backtroll along precise contours.
It is the ultimate in boat control because it not only slows down the boat but stops the bow from rocking in the waves, so the transom sits higher and you take in less water over the back—even when you use wave whackers.
If you never drift, troll, or fish for that matter, you still should carry at least one windsock in your boat in the event of an emergency. If your big motor stops running, and you find yourself drifting in rough water, you can tie it off the cleat at the front of the boat where you normally attach your anchor rope.
Your bow automatically will swing around and point itself into the wind and waves, preventing you from drifting broadside—with all the dangers that entails.

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