How to Fish Church Tackle’s Stern Planer’s


Both the TX-007 (top) and the TX-005 (bottom) Stern Planers from Church Tackle have become such useful weapons in my spread of boards while fishing for walleye.  Recently I was asked how do I use them, or to put in better terms, “How do they fish?”  Actually my method has evolved a bit since the first time I dropped a -007 into the water off the back of the boat.


When I started using the -007’s a few years ago, my philosophy was that my stiffer planer board rods were too rigid for the stern planers.  I had a set of four downrigger rods all rigged up, and started using those in the back rod holders for them.  The DR rods were perfect for telegraphing the action of the planers, and would tug violently when a fish would first get on the presented bait.


Problem was this, with a third guy in the boat, and being able to run 9 rods it became a big harder to pay attention to the side planers and the stern units at the same time.  If a silver bass or white perch got on the line, they would still jerk the rod tip, but they tend to settle down a bit, and eventually just get dragged along for the ride.  Us anglers, if we didn’t catch the initial bite were none the wiser.


With some thought, I fixed this issue, not with the rods, but with my Daiwa linecounter reels and working with the modified circle hooks that are used on crawler harnesses.  Staying with the hooks for just a second, I will explain that philosophy.  It doesn’t matter with the VMC treble hooks that come on my Rapala and Storm crankbaits, once hooked, the fish are hooked.  Its when using the crawler harnesses and looking at the what is basically a circle hook with a wider bend.  My solution was to set the stern planers to the desired distance behind the boat, turn on the clicker on the reel, and back the drag off to where the line friction on the spool was held on by the clicker.  When a fish hits, the clicker screams with the line going out.  No more worrying about watching the rod react to the bite, issue resolved.  Only question left was how to react to a fish being on, I will say this, never, ever try to set the hook. You can lose up to 50% of the fish that strike your crawler harness.  This is also where that modified circle style of hook comes into play, you simply tighten up the drag and let the hook and the fish do the work for you.  The more the fish struggles against the tension, the deeper the hook works itself in.


You can also read more about Church Tackle’s Stern Planers with these previously written pieces,  click on the link and learn more!

Planer Board 101: an introduction to the basics

Going to Church on a Saturday, Church Tackle that is!

New from Church Tackle for 2015

Drifting for Big Water Walleye

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Church Tackle’s New Stingray

Church Tackle from Sodus, Michigan keeps introducing product in mid-season to keep things fresh.  Last year it was the TX-005 Stern Planer, the little brother to the TX-007 which I have been using since they came out a few years ago.  That same season they introduced the flag kit for the venerable TX-12 mini-planer.  This year they have introduced a new diving weight called the Stingray.


The weights come in three sizes to match not only fishing conditions, but more importantly, where the fish are located in the water column.  For an example, the fish are up high in the column, but you still want to get enough line out behind your board so not to spook the walleye below.  Use the .7 ounce size to get the job done, at a rough rate of 1ft down for every three feet of line let out at 1.2 mph, 15 foot of line would put your presentation at a five foot depth.  Use the heavier weights accordingly, and if you want to fish a down rod, leave the clumsy bottom bouncers at home and use the 2.7 ounce weight.


I got the chance to see the diving weights in action last week while fishing with the clients of Captain Ken Clark of Fishmas Charters. I have known Capt. Ken since last October when we were paired up to fish the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club’s Fall Memorial Classic tournament on the Saginaw River.  He was fun to fish with then, and I picked up a few tricks using the Stingray’s while fishing together last week.  We left Sterling State Park  the first day at six o’clock and once we hit the Michigan/Ohio line, he pointed the bow west and made our first run using Northland Tackle Crawler Hauler spinner rigs behind the weights. From ten foot down to 33 ft, we put 17 fish in the live well on the first pass.


The next day we even boated an a steelhead on one of the Stingray/Northland combinations.  I have never caught one on Erie, but I know it is not uncommon for the walleye anglers who pull spoons to catch one here and there, but rarely this late in the year. It was also the first time I had ever heard of one being caught on a crawler harness.  It makes sense though, some of the color patterns of Northland blades are very close to patterns painted on the bigger trout spoons.


I like the design of the Stingrays for several reasons.  First off they sort of remind me of the smaller diving discs, but since they aren’t made of plastic you won’t have the holes worn out after a solid season’s worth of use.  The second reason is that they take a big bite out of the water,  the 3:1 ratio of line let out, to depth is very accurate at normal running speeds for spinner rigs, but they could also just as easily be used for pulling spoons if that is your main method of netting walleye.  The final thing I like about the design is in the unique shape of the Stingrays compared to a disk.  You will notice that the back half of the weight is left open to form a tail, and unlike a disc, when you are fighting a fish you don’t have that extra drag while reeling in.  This makes it easier to reel up, but since the fish is being pulled smoothly through the water, they don’t start fighting until they see the boat and then its game on.  It reminds me of the types of plastic divers that have a trip device to make fighting the fish easier, but without all the extra hardware, a very nice feature engineered into making the diving weight.

These have been released to retail stores according to Captain Ken, but I haven’t been able to find them online yet.  Ask your local store that carries Church Tackle products and have them ordered in.  A great example would be Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood, Michigan, Frank’s has a huge selection of Church products.

Copyright, 2016



Posted in Product Reviews, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekend: June 11 & 12th (side warning)

free fishing weekend_summer

Michigan’s second free fishing weekend is soon, this weekend in fact.  Below are all the details.  Here is my own warning for those fishing Lake Erie Saturday and Sunday,  make sure you are in Michigan waters if you only have a Michigan ID.  This is the weekend that the Ohio DNR loves to drive their boats up and check for Ohio licenses.  Since the state lines were drawn like a drunken sailor after the Toledo Border War, before Michigan was even a state, they catch quite a few people each year.

So enjoy your weekend of fishing across our great state, but if you are fishing Lake Erie, make sure you have your Ohio license!


Michigan’s Free Fishing Weekends: An annual tradition

Summer Free Fishing Weekend graphic

Two days twice a year, families and friends can enjoy one of Michigan’s premiere outdoor activities, Michigan Fishing, for FREE!

The 2016 Free Fishing Weekends are scheduled for this winter: February 13 & 14 and this summer: June 11 & 12.

All fishing license fees will be waived for two days. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish. All fishing regulations will still apply.

For many, the annual Free Fishing Weekend has become a tradition – a time to get together and have some fishing fun. While some may find time to reflect while fishing, there are no limits to variations on a great theme! Experienced anglers who offer a child or young adult the chance to take their first fishing trip can provide a rewarding experience for all. People who fish tend to understand the natural aquatic network of plants and animals that help to sustain fish as well as the regulations that govern fishing in Michigan.

Research shows that young people today do not have access to fishing opportunities that were enjoyed by generations before them. Some of the reasons: living in urban or suburban areas where fishing access is not readily available, competition for time by an ever-increasing schedule of special activities, and too little time for unstructured leisure.

Michigan offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world, with more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

So grab a rod and your family and friends, and let’s go fishing!

Copyright, 2016

Posted in DNR Updates | Leave a comment

One of those Red Hot Days on Erie


This past Saturday was one of those days where  you could do nothing wrong, the “hooking” was so good, we actually had to take two rods out of the water!  Every time we turned around there was another fish on at the end of the line.  Where they the keepers we were looking for, not even close would be the correct answer.  We literally went through 60 some walleye before we got the 12 legal sized fish we needed for the cooler.

Unfortunately with less than a week to go, they were not the tournament fish we will need for this Saturday’s Detroit Beach Boat Club tourney.  We were bringing back so many 6 to 14.5 inch walleye and one even slipped through the mesh in my Beckman net.  If anything, we learned where not to go on Saturday.

This is a sign of how many fish were in the water, I took two of the rods out of the water because we couldn’t keep up with the boards going off.  I was getting calls that I couldn’t answer, and never even sat down for roughly two hours straight.  They would hit as the Walleye Boards from Church Tackle were going back, and they would hit as soon as I shut the spool off and the boards started their race to get into a trolling position.  I should have switched up to my fake worms, but looking back, there really wasn’t much time to think about alternative plans.


Unlike last Saturday where we were seeing some mayfly husks on the water, the only thing floating on Saturday were weeds east of Stoney Pointe.  We did mark several bait balls with some pretty good hook marks in the middle of them.  If I was to give an educated guess, there are so many year classes swimming around, there won’t be too many mayflies reaching the surface this year.

Here was the program, everything mayfly related color pattern was catching fish.  My seasonal bug favorite is an old Fishlander spinner blade, in copper Confusion.  Unlike other brands that have a purple dot thrown in, these older blades have chartreuse, orange and pink dots.  I usually don’t buy into the colors of beads, but have had so much success with matching those colors of this particular blade, that I have been doing it for years, and its become a must in my program.  Other blades that caught fish were Big Eye Custom Lures’ “Halloween” with its unique orange side, and Northland Tackle’s Golden Shiner.  The odd color in the mix that didn’t mix with matching the hatch, was Northland’s Pink Dace.  Maybe because pink is always a good color, or the fact that the whole bubblegum backed blades have become a thing the last couple of years on Lake Erie.  Either way, they will be in the mix when rigging the rods for next Saturday.

Speed varied, between 1.3 and 1.5 mph.  We tried to kick it up a notch to keep the smaller fish off the rigs, but that didn’t matter one bit.  They just kept whacking the boards back and burying the flags.  Who would have thought that I would have been complaining about catching over sixty walleye in one day, but I must admit, I was whupped by the time we put that 12th walleye in the well.  Using Bass Pro’s 2 ounce fish weights, we were running most of the baits 26 foot behind the boards, in 28 ft down to 23 foot of water.  For the most part we had a Southeast to East wind and for the sake of steering, we went with wave patterns.

I have mentioned those fish weights from BPS before, and was told that they weren’t in the Auburn Hills store.  I have talked to some of my contacts, and unfortunately they have been discontinued.  But, they may be come back at some point.  I also called corporate HQ, and every single store in their system is sold out of the 1 and 2 ounce.  The only sizes left are the 1/2 and 3 ounce on their website.  I even called Franks Great Outdoors because they sold them as well, but they are also out of stock.  Guess its time to call Rednek Outfitters!

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

The Annual Detroit Beach Boat Club Walleye Tourney: June 11, 2016

Its almost that time of the year again, the Annual DBBC Walleye Tourney will be in a few weeks, on June 11, 2016.


This is really a great local walleye tournament, besides the fact that it is our ONLY local tourney in the area.  The price is right at only $25, and to keep things close, there is a slot limit of only one fish over 25 inches in length for the five you weigh-in.  There is a big walleye contest, as well as one for the biggest sheepshead to be weighed in.

There is the link provided on the Michigan Sportsman forum, but there are the particulars:

$25 per person in the boat

You must turn your entry fees in by June 9th, upstairs at club’s bar.

6am to 3pm, must be back by three to weigh in the fish, and you can dock at the club.

Five fish can be brought to the scales, but only one can be over 25 inches in length

Big Walleye and Sheepshead contest/cash prize for each category.

When you drop off your entry fee, it is helpful if you put the money in an envelope.  On the envelope, write down the members of your team, team name if you wish, and a contact number.

Any further questions, you can call Kurt Raschke at 734-497-8605.

Come down for a nice time, talk to the other anglers about fishing and good luck to all.

Copyright, 2016



Posted in Community News, Lake Erie, Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Saturday on Brest Bay: back to dragging meat

IMG_3813Monday funday again, and a good time to look back at a pretty good day fishing this past Saturday.  After watching my brother’s house for a couple of days, watching his four neurotic dogs, and making sure my niece’s two new guinea pigs survived, I was ready to hit the water. Loaded up my neighbor Cliff’s new boat, and we headed for the bait shop.  Jeff’s Bait and Tackle had some really nice looking crawler’s, and since I already had the crawler harnesses tied on, we moved on to Sterling State Park to launch the boat.

After leaving the dock, we ran into Captain Ken Clark of Fishmas Charter’s coming in with some happy clients.  Have known Ken for a little under a year now, and we are both on staff with Church Tackle and Northland Tackle.  He had fished on the south side of #1 and #2 buoys, and I let him know that I was running up to the Pointe and would report in later.


We set up in 24 feet of water, and with the wind blowing the waves to set up a  Northeast to Southwest drift back towards the bay, that was the tack we took for our first drift.  Before we had four rods in the water, Cliff pulled in a short 14 incher, and then I brought  two more fish to the boat.  Five minutes, three hookups, you would think we were rolling in the eyes.  For that first drift we did, catching three more legal sized walleye on a combination of Big Eye Custom Lure #6 spinner blades.  Really no pattern to report; pinks, purples and a combination of white patterns all caught fish during the day.


Pulled up the gear and went back for another pass after catching five white perch in a row.  Went back along the same track, and Erie being Erie, didn’t catch a single fish.  We did everything the same; ran the two ounce Bass Pro fish weights at the same depths, and kept the speeds right in the same zone at 1.2-1.4 mph.  After not catching, we picked up gear, I ran the harness lines to check for nicks in the line, because you never want to lose a fish because your harness is wore out.  And to be honest, I hate losing good blades because I was too lazy to make sure the gear wasn’t in good shape.



Although the skies were overcast most of the day, my thought process was that the fish had gone out to deeper water as the day progressed.  As the sun comes up on most warm days, I have found that the walleye seem to progress out to deeper water to find their comfort zone.  Saturday was not normal so I didn’t worry about it, wrong, should have followed my hunch right away.  We set up in 26 fow and our drift  would take us towards the river channel.  You would think the strategy was going to quickly pay off when we landed our first walleye shortly after getting all six rods in the water.


Not so much though, it was a grind to get six more fish in the boat, but we were catching.  We did lose a nice one at the boat that had some weight to it.  You can almost always tell its a walleye because they will come in smoothly, like dragging a weight, but if they stay down, its probably and eye.  The second tell tale sign is that they don’t go crazy until we what we call, “seeing the boat.”  That is when the thrashing starts, since my rigs are tied to 7 foot in length they usually go nuts when I can see the weight.  If they are head shaking before that, 90% of the time its usually a sheepshead.

Quick Note: Whether my blades come from Big Eye or Northland Tackle, I hand tie all my own gear.  My general rule of thumb is that I want my harnesses to be as long as my rod will allow.  There are two factors when considering the length of the rig versus the rod,  first off is total length, which is simple enough.  The second is the action of the rod, and although my Premier Glass trolling rods are a medium/moderate action, they don’t have a lot of bend to them.  All this means is that I can tie my rigs a little bit longer, and for those big spooky walleye, it keeps the meat away from the lead weight, even if it does look like a fish.  If I was using a softer glass rod, say a downrigger rod for an example, which has a lot of give/bend to the rod, I would tie the rigs 5 to 6 foot in length, depending on the length of those rods. It is all about being to handle the rod with a fish on, and being able to get the net into position.


Finally we got our 12th fish to finish off our two man limit for the day.  It was also our biggest fish of the day coming in at 7.75 pounds.  Thought we had the winning weight for the walleye contest at Jeff’s Bait. We get to the bait shop feeling a little confident, which always seems to be a bad thing when it comes to fishing.  Case in point, the winning weight was 8.8 lbs, over a pound more than we had. As they say, that’s fishing.

Copyright, 2016



Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

For Sale: 46 Reef Runner 800’s


Selling 46 Reef Runner 800’s for $230.00, most have never seen the water, and thinning out my tackle box.  These are both stock and custom colors.  Cant ship, but will meet up near Sterling State Park, Monroe, MI.  Email me at if interested. SOLD

Posted in For Sale, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

The Pencil Plug: A Detroit River Classic

When the handliners first started pulling wire with their homemade Victrola reels in the 1930’s and ’40’s, there was a pencil plug at the end of the line more often than not.  Whether bought at the local shop, or hand carved in a garage, pencil plugs were the lure of choice. Were has the pencil plug gone?

I have a couple dozen left in the basement, both the longer version that was well known, and the rarer, stubbier, river rat version.  Hand carved, hand painted, these classics will probably never see the water.  They are a treasure, and although I don’t collect a lot of tackle, these and my grandfather’s reel are the highlight of what I do have.  Ok those and my Little Cleo’s with the dancing girl on the back proving that the old spoons did indeed, wiggle! But, I digress.


Although you will be hard pressed to find any of the antique wooden pencil plugs, the folks at Sportsmen’s Direct are keeping the tradition alive by introducing their own Pencil Plug in 16 various colors.  Included are three versions (clear, chrome and gold), produced just for those who like to paint their own lures, or have a favorite custom guy.  The 13 painted lures include some river favorites like Wonderbread, Clown and Firetiger.

If you pull wire on the Detroit River, there are two ways you can get these lures.  You can order online on their website,   Or if you are more like me, and want to see the lures for yourself, head for the western banks of Lake St. Clair and check them out first hand on Jefferson Ave in their new expanded showroom.  Look for John on the weekends, my old tournament ice fishing partner, he’s the owner, or Justin the manager who I have known for 15 years.  Good service, good price, and better yet, great selection for not only the Detroit River, but for Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River too.

Copyright, 2016



Posted in Store visits, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Getting a Naked UV Jig Coat

With another river tourney on the schedule this weekend, I went up into jig lab and came up with some more ultraviolet  paint schemes for my 5/8ths ounce jigs. Whether UV finishes are effective or not when it comes to walleye is yet to be determined, the Detroit River offered little proof either way, I do like the look of these jigs.  The UV Clear from TJ’s Tackle makes the bring colors really pop, and a slight blue hue to the clean (freshly poured) sections of the jigs.  This “Naked” finish makes the bottom of the jigs, in my opinion, look more like a minnow in the water.


Starting on the left side of the picture above; (Top Left) is what I call a Mackerel pattern, (Bottom Left) is a fresh poured jig just clear coated with UV, (Top Right) is a Naked Pink Lemonade pattern, and these next two came out really well.  Middle Right is what I dubbed Sprite, because it has a lemon/lime look, and on the Bottom Right is Maui Waui, because it was inspired by one of my favorite spinner blades.


In this picture, on the Left are  Hot Pink and Bright Green Naked’s were inspired by an ice finish one of my friends came up with.  Liked his idea so much, decided to make a few of my own with UV coats.  The Top Right, is a Purple Pirate scheme, and then on the Bottom Right, I did a Naked Clown finish.

I used a combination of “candy” powder paints and traditional colors to come up with these jig colors.  At first I thought using the candy paints would be the way to go with the UV Clear, but really liked the end results of these traditional colors also.  In fact, there are three more combinations I would like to try before the tourney on Saturday, so will see what I can come up with when time is starting to run out on the preparation for this tournament.

Copyright, 2016


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

Great Time at the Local 3000 Walleye Tourney

Well, it’s just another typical Monday after fishing all weekend, my back is sore as ….you know what I mean.  Before getting into all the details, we had a bumpy ride from Brest Bay back to the Lake Erie Metro Park for the three o’clock weigh-in.  It was a little closer to the time limited than we wanted to be because right before we picked up the boards, we went through a school of silver bass and tangled up four lines at once.  To say the least it was crazy!


The run down from the metro park was golden, flat water and an easy 35 mph in my buddy Cliff’s new boat with a 115 Mercury on the back.  We set up just north of Stoney Pointe and made a pass southwest for a perfect clip of the rocks off the pointe.  In order to dial in the program quicker we ran one side of the boat with the Rapala DHJ-12’s targeting the top half of the water column, with the other side going for the lower half of water.  It wasn’t long before the first fish hit a Glass Purple Perch at 100 ft back of my Church Tackle TX-22.  There was some debris in the water, so after checking some of the lines, we added a few more GPP’s at the same 100′ depths and started picking up more fish.


On the second pass we added some additional spring type colors, Glass Pink Clown took some fish, and my favorite spring pattern, Lime Attack by Big Eye Custom Lures out of Green Bay.  Don does a phenomenal job with his paints and they are practically chip/peel proof.  As it turned out, I set that one a little deeper since nothing running above 100 ft back was getting fish.  I pushed it down to 140 foot and picked up out biggest fish of the day before the boat had issues with the trolling motor.

We still landed a few more fish to finish 8 out of 9 for the day to finish up near 18 lbs.  A respectful weight for not having pre-fished down here at all, and we still had a blast.  Until that is, right at the end we went through a school of silver bass and four of the six boards started popping back.  Ended up with a few tangles which ate up a bunch of time that we need to get back to the park.

Had a great time at the weigh-in.  Finished fourth or fifth (at that point, does it matter if you aren’t in the top three lol), watched a couple of buddies from Ida take 3rd place, met some more nice people from Local 3000, and the bonus….they fed us fresh walleye!


Quick product tip, I always wanted a tourney weigh-in bag.  After much discussion with tourney guys, charter captains, and even Adrian College’s bass fishing team, I went with Bass Mafia’s Body Bag, its a 26 x 26 inch bag that passed with flying colors.  I liked the handles and there were not leaks in its initial time being used.

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment