The Best Perch Rods for Lake Erie

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The best perch rods are the ones you have the most confidence in, basically meaning what works best for you, is the best perch rod.  For me, I have a couple of St. Croix rods that work the best for me, and have confidence in both of them.  My first rod was a six-foot ultra light Premier,  loved that rod.  My second rod was a bit of a step-up, a 6’6″ Avid, light action spinning rod.

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In my opinion, the longer the rod is serves two things, one you get some additional backbone and the 2nd being that you keep the ultra light sensitivity at the tip of the rod. I haven’t quite talked myself into a seven-foot, Legend Elite rod yet, but am really close to doing it, maybe next year!

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Next in order to get the most out of your new perch rod, you need three things to complete the deal.  First off, you need a good quality spinning reel.  You don’t need to break the bank on this choice, depending on the brand, something in the $50 to 90 dollar range will do nicely.  My thought on this is to buy the rod first, then take it in to your local fishing hole and get a reel that gives you the most balance, and comfort with the rod. A Daiwa Exceler would be a great choice in the 1500 or 2000 size.  Good quality reel, that has a good drag in case you hook something bigger than a perch.

Secondly, you have the rod, and now the reel, time to spool the reel up.  In order to get the most of this rig, you must use a braid! Mono, in this case, just will not get the job done. In order to get the most out of  your perch rod, the use of braid will enable everything happening below to be telegraphed up the non-stretch line back to the rod, and ultimately your hand. The stretchy mono, just doesn’t do it as well. For this application,  what you will want to use is a line with a rating between 6 and 10 lbs. test.

Last of all, is the weight  you will be using.  You might have thought I would say the perch rig itself, but honestly those are pretty generic.  I enjoy making my own rigs, but you can get some pretty good ones at the bait shop.  Why then is the weight the key for this last installment of information.  Think of your whole set-up as an archery bow.  Your rod is the bow, the line is your string, and you drawing back is your weight at the end of the line.  In order to get that “twang”, the weight must be heavy enough to draw your braided line tight when you lift up on your rod.  It is crucial to keep contact with the bottom to get the most sensitivity out of the gear, without over doing it. Too heavy of a weight, and then your start to counter all the good things you have purchased to make the best perch set-up you can.

Due to the changing conditions on Lake Erie, I have a selection of weights that keep on the lake floor.  Three quarters of an ounce, 1 oz, and 1.5 ounce weights will do the job nicely.  If it’s a calm flat day, use your 3/4 oz weights, if you have some two foot waves, then I use the 1 oz weights, anything more than 2 ft. then the conditions will call for the 1.5’s at the bottom of your rig.

Through all of this info, it starts with the right rod. You won’t go wrong with a St. Croix, after all, as the motto says, they are, “The Best Rods on Earth”!

Copyright, 2015

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Who Makes the Best Crawler Harness?

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The question posed today was this, “Who makes the best crawler harness?”.   The answer to the question is an easy one, and many anglers will say the same thing, I do!  Not to say, those many will say that I do, but as individuals, they will be saying the same thing about themselves.

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Why is that, because by making your own rigs, you can make them to your specifications.  I use the parts I like best, like Big Eye Custom Lures Colorado and Willow blades for an example.  I trust their quality, performance, and most importantly, past results!  I buy the beads that work for me, and I choose to use folded clevises because I don’t have faith that the quick change plastic ones will hold my blades on.  Faith is a huge part in this, if you lack confidence in your rig, then you have lost half the battle already.

Confidence, you have to have it, and that’s why I choose 20 lb test for tying up my rigs.  I know 20 lb will hold up to trolling on Lake Erie, but every time I bring a harness back to the boat, I check it for any nicks before putting it back in the water…just in case.  I also trust the hooks I use, and I make mine with three hooks, because for me, two hooks are not enough.  First I snell two, #2 sized hooks, and then tie on a #1.  I like the #1 because often the fish will bite at the spinner blade, and also works best for me when using plastic worms when the time calls for it.

Trust, I believe in my 8ft St. Croix trolling rods, after all, they are the “Best Rods on Earth”.  But because they are 8 foot in length, I can tie my rigs a lot longer than most people.  I firmly believe that you should make your rigs as long as your rod can handle, so when considering the length, the bend of the rod with a fish on, I make my harnesses roughly 7 to 7.5 ft in total length.  Get them far away from your weight or diving device, less chance of spooking a good sized walleye, that is why I believe in my own hand tied rigs.

Believe, if you truly believe in your rig, then good things will come.  If you have confidence, and you trust your components, the belief part will come naturally.  So to answer the question for today, who makes the best crawler harness,  my answer stands….I do!  And if you make  your rigs, then you will be saying you do too!

Copyright, 2015

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Drifting for Big Water Walleye

You want to try your hand at catching walleye on the Great Lakes, but your boat might be too small, or its not rigged yet for trolling….no problem!  You have many options available, and they all produce almost, or on some days, as good as the fancy trolling set-ups.  Drifting for walleye is a highly effective approach, and a lot of fun, as well.

You can break out the old standards like your vintage golden nuggets, or classic Erie Deeries, but you can do better than that, and honestly it won’t cost you as much either.  I should have added casting to the mix to go along with drifting, but even with the vaunted Weapon Rig, you can drift and put a lot of walleye in the box.

If you are going to cast the weapons, here is what you will need:

(1) egg sinkers, in weights of 3/8th, 1/2, and 3/4 ounce.  I prefer casting with my casting St. Croix rod, so I like the 3/4 oz., but if you have a spinning rod, you might personally like the 3/8ths or 1/2 oz sinkers more.

(2) 5 mm beads in various colors to match up to your blades.

Big Eye Custom Lures

Big Eye Custom Lures

(3) although traditionally made with #3 size blades, don’t be overly concerned if you want a #4 spinner blade on your rig.  In fact, I prefer the #4’s because I can get more color options in my blades.  If I want to run my favorite Big Eye Custom Lures blade that has been killing fish in the #6 size while trolling, the website has the exact selection in #4’s as well.

(4) #4 octopus hooks, will leave the brand of hook up too you, way too many good ones out there to get into that discussion, but to name a few; Matzuo, Mustad and Gamakatsu all make good hooks.  You can be traditional and use one hook, but if you decide to run the #4 blades, you might want to run two #4’s or even a #4 octopus with a #10 treble hook.

If you want to run, or should say, “drag” a drift rig, here is what you will need for that set-up:

(1) bottom bouncers, in a selection of 1, 1.5 or 2 ounce weights.  Some may say they use a 3/4 oz. BB, but for me they are too light in most all big water situations when considering depth and wind.  Leave the .75’s for the inland lakes.

(2) #4 blades, preferably Colorado’s, they make a nice thump in the water to call the fish in.  Don’t overlook  the Smile Blade from Mack’s Lures, these light weight mylar “wings” spin in the slowest of wind conditions.

(3) 5 mm beads, again various color options, and yes….you can run these with the smile blades, without getting the stack beads or “ring” in the middle.

(4) the hooks are the same as the weapon rig, just use either two #4’s, or a #4 with a #10 treble.

Spinning rod and reel set-ups are perfectly fine, that’s what makes these rigs so appealing to anglers just getting started, you don’t need all the gear. A 6’6″ or 7′, medium light or medium action rod will do nicely. For casting I break out my trusty St. Croix Premier 7′ Medium casting rod, have had it so long, yes I could upgrade, but just love it.  When it comes to drifting with a spinning outfit, it is hard to be beat my 7ft medium light Avid. You will want the reels rigged up with a braid, specially when drifting, 8 to 15 lb test will fit the bill, and if you already have 20 lb on spooled up, the small diameter of the line will let you fish with that line too.

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Now, if you want to get a little more advanced, here is how you can get dialed in.  Start with a Daiwa SC 17 LC3B reel,  this little version of the big water trolling reel is perfect for all baitcast rods you might already have.  Now you break out the newest tools available from Church Tackle and things really start clicking!  The new TX-005 Stern Planer works so well you would think it was made for the drifters!

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The smaller version of the TX-007 that I use when trolling, -005 allows you to reach out and touch the walleye you are seeing on your graph.  Set your depth, attach the stern planer, and let it out behind the boat.  With no motor running in the background, they could have called this the “Stealth” planer!

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

The Catch Counter, almost Perch Season again!

I saw what was trending today on the blog search type thing, and apparently great minds do think alike because I was just thinking about perch fishing last night, and breaking out my Catch Counter to keep track of all the fish as they come into the boat.

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This is the first article I ever wrote about the Catch Counter, three years ago.

The Original Catch Counter

Last year.

Introducing the Big Mouth Version.

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Converting to a bucket rig, for ice fishing and for use in smaller boats.

You really have three options when looking to purchase the Catch Counter.  The first one is just to get the head.  This works if you have some tools necessary to get the job done, and either a cooler or bucket you don’t mind putting a hole in its lid.

Second option is to order the cooler and head together.  Catch Counter does all the work for you before they ship it out, meaning….everything is pre-drilled and ready for you to install.  That is part is extremely simple.  Then if you want to make a bucket rig like I did in the Winter Conversion article, just trace out your hole by using the head as your template and go from there.  A bag of ice will last all day, even with a big hole in the lid!

Your third option is to get the bucket mounted Big Mouth Catch Counter.  If you have a small boat, this is a great option.  Later if you want to make it more versatile, you can convert it over to a cooler.  With the right tools, it might take you some extra time vs. ordering the cooler option, but you can get the job done.

Read the articles, and enjoy the information, and if you like them for perch, bluegill or crappie fishing, check out the website:

CatchCounter.com

Copyright, 2015

 

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Fishing Websites/Stores, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay | Leave a comment

New from Church Tackle for 2015

A couple of years ago when Church Tackle came out with the TX-007 Stern Planer, I started thinking about what it might be like to fish smaller sizes in the Upper Peninsula’s inland lakes.  Pike, crappie and even bass fishing could have uses for different sizes.  I contacted Church about the idea, they were way ahead of me and for the past three years I have been sitting on pics of planers in different lengths.  Now though, Church Tackle has introduced their latest release of the highly successful planer, the TX-005 Stern Planer!

TX-005 Stern Planer

TX-005 Stern Planer

 

Also, in addition to the launch of the -005, Church is releasing a flag kit for the TX-12 Mini Planer.  This is literally a HUGE thing, at least in my opinion.  Not only is this going to be big with the panfish guys when it comes to crappie fishing, but with using a flag kit with this smaller board, there are several new applications when it comes to walleye fishing!

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Now sense my panfishing starts through the ice, and ends in the spring when taking my niece out crappie fishing, just think walleye applications with the new flag system on the Mini-Planer.  Inland fisherman should be drooling right now, specially in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada.  You get all the benefits of running a Walleye Board or TX-22, equipped with a flag system, but in a much smaller profile.  Stealth mode in shallow water bite times!  Running small Glass Shad Raps, and regular Shad Raps, deep or shallow lips.  All kinds of small baits that excel on the inland lakes, but are just too tiny for the Great Lakes will really shine while being pulled behind the TX-12 and the smaller TX-005, as well!

Now, think big water walleye.  You aren’t a troller, you enjoy drifting and saving a little gas money at the same time.  When the wind is right, you can put trolling motor up, or shut down the kicker and drift with the wind like the old days.  Only difference is now  you are getting a wider spread, and getting your lines away from the boat too.   Bust out those 1 oz keel weights or bottom bouncers and rig them with some #4 Colorado blades, Smile Blades, anything that will spin at slower speeds on a consistent basis.  Remember, the wind has to be right in order to push the boat along at a good clip, but if you are going to fast, throw out the drift bags and slow your troll down.

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Panfish Fishing, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

The Willow Blade

After the Colorado blade, the willow blade just might give the Indiana blade a run for its money when it comes to 2nd place amongst all walleye spinner blades.  During the early part of the 21st century, as far as I can remember, it started with Fishlander’s Hedgehog blade, a willow blade with serrated edges.

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After the company went out of business, it wasn’t long though before the void was filled by a variety of companies.  Small wonder that today I get my willows from Big Eye Custom Lures, out of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Don does all my custom work from Colorado’s to Deep Husky Jerks, and has a NICE color selection in his lineup of willows with gold blades.  It is nice to have gold in your back pocket when the walleye are screaming for it right now.

Big Eye Custom Lures

Big Eye Custom Lures

This is time period during the season that I love to run willow blades.  The elongated body allows my presentations to have what I call, the “max flash” factor.  The water is warm(er), and the mayflies are hatching.  Whether you are targeting the feeding fish on the bottom, or those over deep water that are actively feeding in the middle of the water column as the bugs rise to the surface, willow blades call the fish in.  Run the baits above their heads, and they come hunting!

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Product Reviews, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Fishing Out of Brest Bay: 6/16/2015

June on Lake Erie, the month for putting eaters in the freezer!  The trend over the years continued on Tuesday as we got our 12 keeper sized walleye, all ranging from 16 to 22 inches.  The future also looks bright as we boated five throwbacks, including one beautiful 7inch eye.

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Early in the morning we caught most of the fish on Big Eye Custom Lure’s Angelfish and Mudpuppy.  Copper blades with combinations of pink and purple on the front.  As the morning progressed though, we noticed more mayfly rising to the surface, so we switched out some of the less productive blades in order to match the hatch. We kept some purple out there, but put on some Halloween blades from Big Eye, and went old school on the rest of the St. Croix trolling rods by rigging up some classic Fishlander Gold Muffin (gold back) and copper Confusion blades.  When bugs are in the water, Confusion has been a VERY productive blade over the past decade.

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Confusion

 

We caught five keepers on the first pass, traveling north to southeast from 22.5 fow in front of Stoney Pointe, and then picking up after we hit the state line.  Had a slight wind shift on the start of the second pass, lost a nice one at the boat, and boating two more before we started a 3rd drift.  This one started from the state line back in towards the park, as the wind had shifted again, this time we traveled on an east to west drift.  My neighbor and I reeled in our last five fish on this tack, and called it a day by 2:00 pm.

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Recently I was asked what kind of gear we use, so here is a breakdown of the programs we run.

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We use St. Croix Premier 8ft glass trolling rods, with Daiwa SC 27 LCA’s on them. When running harnesses this time of the year, 2 oz Bass Pro fish style weights take the harnesses down to where the fish are.  In this case on Tuesday, we started at 24 to 32 feet of line, behind the Church Tackle Walleye Boards at roughly 1.5mph.

It seemed that the walleye were actively feeding near the bottom as the mayflies came out of the lake floor.  we kept them as far down as we could without scraping up zebra mussels.  We changed the running depths of the weights to 28 to 32 ft back of the boards and strictly targeted the actively feeding fish.

 

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Crawler Harness Basics: making your own

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You need five things, or in my case, six things in order to tie your own crawler harnesses. (1) hooks (2) 6 mm beads (3) size 5 or 6 Colorado blades and (4) #2 clevis, (5) 20 lb mono or fluorocarbon), these are the basics you need to have.  I add a sixth item due to the speed tying method I use while snelling my hook, and that item is Flex Loc head cement from Larva Lace.  You can find this particular item at most fly shops or order it directly from Hagen’s. I will touch base on this item again when I get to knot tying.

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1.  The hooks:  this is really up for debate, some like myself want three hooks, others want only 2 for their harnesses.  Even when you break it down for the two hook rig, there is debate between the two, #2 octopus style hooks or a combination of #1 or #2 for your front hook, and then tie either a #8 or #10 treble hook.  This my rig, a #1 octopus hook in the front, and then two, #2 octopuses trailing.  The reasoning is this, why have two hooks 3.5 or four inches apart, when I can work in three hooks in five inches of line.  Nothing irks me more when the flag goes back on my Church Tackle boards, and I bring in the harness to find that my crawler has been bit in half, completely missing the hooks.

Tying is where the Flex Loc comes into play.  I take one of the #2 hooks, run one end of line through the eye of the hook.  Then taking the line in front, I pull it back behind the eye, and begin speed wrapping it back to the hook’s bend.  After 10 or so wraps, I take the end of the wrapped line, run it through the eye, and then pull it out and tight.  I have several foam blocks that I place the rig in once completed, and when I am done for the night, I take an inexpensive brush and dab on the Flex Loc and let it dry.  It holds my wraps in place, and even though I am taking this extra step in the process, it is still faster than many other style of snelling the hooks.

(2) 6 mm beads:  Whether you use a #5 or 6 sized blade, the 6 mm beads will work best for your rig. If you want to tie a smaller blade, like a #4, then downsize to 5 mm beads.  For trolling though, specifically the Great Lakes, a #5 or #6 is the most common size used.  When you use a five, then you will need six beads, plus the one in front.  For a #6 blade, then 7 beads, plus the one in front of the clevis.

(3) The blades:  as mentioned above, #5 and #6 blades are the most commonly used blades.  You can get into the whiptails, bigger Indiana’s and Colorado blades, plus a few other shapes, but these are the two most commonly used sizes.

(4) The clevis:  Most commonly used is the folded metal clevis is size 2.  Now, if you go the quick change plastic route, get the large size.  Any blades bigger than the above mentioned Colorado’s, then pick up some #3 clevises, they will save your line from getting nicked and the rig getting cut.

(5)  The line:  most commonly used is 20 lb test, either in a clear mono, or fluorocarbon.  I know some locals who fish 25lb test, and I know a few pro’s that drop down to 17lb test.  My St. Croix trolling rods are 8 foot long, so I start out with 7 ft of line, tie my rig and then put a double loop knot on the opposite end.  By the time the process is completed my rigs are roughly 78 inches in length.  Although I shoot for a stealth approach with weights and divers, I still want distance between the meat and the item used to achieve my desired trolling depth.

If your rod is a 7 footer for an example then I would take a piece of 66 inch line, and you should have roughly a five foot rig by the time you are done. Same goes for longer rods, like a 9 foot one, I personally could go with an 8 ft piece of line.  Like the line’s length, much can be up for some tinkering, but all the basics mentioned hold true.

Copyright, 2015

 

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Old School Tournament Scale

Recently I was talking to a young angler who fishes bass tourneys on Lake St. Clair.  He was fairly certain that forgetting his electric scale cost him in a tournament this year.  I asked him, why didn’t you break out the balance beam?  The response I got was classic, “I have got to get one of those.”

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It never occurred to me that any angler, at any tournament level, wouldn’t have one of these in the boat.  For $15 or less, coupled with measuring tape/sticker that you can usually pick up free at any show or bait shop, and you can get by in a pinch. Whether you forget the digital scale, or even say that your batteries went dead, with these two items or a measuring board, you can determine length on the fly, and if you have two fish that have the same length, the beam will determine quickly which fish goes in the live well or back in the water.

Its nothing fancy, but after Googling, they do cost slightly more than 15 bills. The one I have from Bass Pro, now costs 20 bucks, which in the grand scheme of things is still pretty good insurance.  Who knows, you might be able to make one that could be just as functional.

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Bass, Do-It-Yourself, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Cranking with a Little Weight

The Hot n Tot and Wiggle Wart are two of my favorite classic Lake Erie walleye programs to run. As the water gets warmer, and the walleye transition out to deeper waters, that equates to a lot of line going out of my Daiwa reels while using these baits.  If there is a way I can eliminate some of that line in between my lure presentation and my Church Walleye Boards, I will find a way to make it work, and this idea has worked really well over the years.

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Little secret out of Monroe, Michigan, has been the use of bottom bouncers along with these two classic walleye lures. Perhaps it started here on the waters off Brest Bay, perhaps someone picked up the idea from another locale, but as the saying goes, “I heard it here first.”  Over the years I fine tuned the presentation with the use of inline/keel style weights.  First with Bass Pro Shop’s 2 ounce Fish Inline Weight, and when I wanted a heavier presentation, I picked up some custom painted  3 oz Rednek Outfitter weights to try out.

 

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All the smaller baits get used with this set-up, and some of these colors  you just cannot find anymore, but that doesn’t mean they ever stopped catching fish.  Original Storm Deep Jr. Thundersticks to classic Tots, gold Shad Raps, DHJ-10’s and some of my favorite original Warts find new life with this presentation. New baits like the sized 11 Scatter Rap Minnow also get extended use into the season after the spring bite when used with the inline weights.

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Can you use bigger lures with this rig, the answer is a resounding yes!  Deep Taildancers (TDD-11’s) and DHJ-12 Husky Jerks shine when rig like this, but there is a fine line for when I run them.  In deep 30+ feet of water, is when I put the snapweights away for the most part, and then use the inlines.  Shallow running baits can also be used with this rig.

Speaking of the rig, here is a breakdown of the progam.  My St. Croix trolling rods are 8 ft long, so I make my leaders roughly 7 foot long.  I tend to stretch them out a few more inches though, so call it 7.5 ft.  As long as the net can get to the fish, I will make the leads as long as the St. Croix’s allow.  Attach one end of the line to the inline weight, and then put a small duolock snap at the other end and clip on your crank.

From there, I let the line out of my Daiwa reels, while loosely following the dive charts available to the public. I say this because none of the charts for the weights were calibrated at 2+mph, which is the speed at which these smaller cranks operate best at.  They also never had to factor in that the bait running behind them would actually be pulling the weight down in the water column versus a crawler harness for example that trails behind the weight.

Finally I attach my Church Tackle Walleye Boards and let 60 to 120 feet of line out from the Daiwa’s.  I have found that the Walleye Boards are the most versatile boards available to anglers.  With the sliding lead keel, they can be used in multiple approaches to walleye fishing.  When you look at this particular rig, with the weight and lure digging through the water, this board is handles it well.  With the adjusting lever for the dual action flag system at the 6 0’clock position, I know exactly when I have a bite.

Can you still use bottom bouncers if you have them, yes you can catch fish.  If you want to catch more though, then try the inline method with the fish style weights.  A less bulky presentation, more effective when considering dive charts, this rig just catches more fish.  In shallower water, if you must,  you can even use 1 oz variations to get the job done, as well.

Copyright, 2015

 

 

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment