Walleye here, and a lot of Perch over there

Box of Donuts/12 Walleye in the Box #LureLipstick #Enhanced

Walleye fishing has been so good this year that it has been hard to think of anything else this season. Whether you are out in front of Fermi, Stony Pointe, the River Raisin or down in the dumping grounds the limits have been easy to get.  The exciting thing about it all has been the numbers of perch being caught while trolling reminds me of what it was like two and three years ago.

Those two years were some of the best perch fishing in recent years and it is shaping up to be that kind of year again. Two years ago we were popping off 100 perch in a matter of a few hours compared to the five and six-hour grind we went through last year to get a two-man limit. So what does an angler have to do to get ready for the upcoming perch season?

Shameless plug time, you can attend the free perch fishing seminar that I will be giving on July 22 nd, at 6:30 at the Monroe County Library System’s Ida Branch. Located right behind the Fire Hall, it will be held in the Community Room.  There will be information on the types of rods, reels, line, and different types of perch rigs.  Electronics, locations on Lake Erie and even how to keep track of  your catch.

Two years ago we pounded the same spot five trips in a row, spaced out over several weeks and it produced every time.  Mind you, that I passed this spot onto several anglers and charter captains and it held up quite well.  Others fished the traditional spots off of Fermi II and the shipping channel buoys and did pretty good themselves.

Michigan 2-fly Rig

Three years ago I decided to get a little creative in the workshop and started making what I called the Michigan Two-Fly Rig.  I built the rig like the standard perch/crappie rig, but with only one arm to hold the fly snell.  The thought process was which hooks get hit on the most, and my answer to myself was the bottom two hooks. *The second hook gets attached to the eye of the weight.  The top hook on the standard two arm rig often gets ignored, which seemed like a waste of a good minnow. Then I took some holographic flashabou and #6 hooks and tied some “perch” flies.  Then it was game on while either tipping them with a live shiner or even drifting them without bait.

MegaMouth CatchCounter

Soon the anglers on Erie will be turning their attention from walleye and start targeting perch full time.  Knock on wood, but it does appear that the 2019 season is shaping up to be another banner year on the lake.  Just to stay on the right side of the law, do not leave the new Mega Mouth Catch Counter and always keep track of how many perch are the in the cooler.

Copyright, 2019

 

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Spinner Blades are HOT, utilize them to your best advantage

Church Tackle TX-22 Boards

 

Crankbaits are a great tool in any boat, but once the temperatures heat up I absolutely love to run crawler harnesses behind my planer boards from Church Tackle.  Over the years they have been so productive for not only catching big fish, but also putting the fish into the box in quick order. You can ask why they are my favorite presentation and my answer would be basically fourfold.

TX-22’s

One,  I hate dealing with multiple treble hooks, and those darn VMC hooks on my Rapala’s seem to get stuck everywhere.  Which of course is a good thing for not losing a fish, but can be problematic when all three tines are stuck in the fish. My second reason is that I am not dealing with 40, 75 or even 120 foot of line out behind the boards.  The longer it takes you to get the fish back to the boat, the more likely you are to lose that fish.  Last of all, while cranks during the summer are great search bait, you tend to cruise through a school without getting a second bite.  Much like burning a spinnerbait through the water in search of bass, trolling speeds this time of the year are at faster speeds.  Typically I will pull meat through the water column at 1.3 mph, which means while I am taking the hooks out of one fish, the other five rod presentations are still in that strike zone. Last of all, most big fish are lazy fish, specially when the water heats up, and they would prefer an easy meal versus having to work too hard for it.  This is the reason I usually say that running meat cashes checks versus running cranks or even that dirty word…spoons.

Confetti

Alright, those are reasons as to why I love pulling harnesses on Lake Erie for walleye, next up are the reasons why not all spinner blades perform the same. Anyone scratching your head yet?  Yes all blades spin around the axis around your leader line, but all blades were not created equally.  They come in different shapes and colors, and each unique blade performs a function somewhere in the water column.

All types of spinner blades will catch fish at any depth the fish happen to be, but you can fish smarter in order to maximize their effectiveness.  Is this scientifically a proven theory, heck no, remember now, I taught history once upon a time.  So in a way, this has been proven through historical data collected over decades on Lake Erie.

Following that brilliant defense of theory, the next step is to break down the water column into thirds.  Since most anglers are fishing outside of Brest Bay this time of year, let us just say for we will be fishing in 21 to 24 foot of water.  For each third, there is a spinner that will perform better than other types of blades.

Our top third of the lake will be either the first seven or eight foot of depth, which means you might be fishing as high as one to four feet below the surface. They are up high for a reason, walleye this close to the surface are doing one thing and that is actively feeding. You want a blade that will throw out the most amount of flash to get fish to come up and strike your presentation.  Thump or vibration doesn’t matter as much at these depths since they are putting on the food bags,  so you want the fish to see it most of all.  I call this the mass flash effect, and the best blade for this I have found is the willow blade.  Big blades, give the most flash, so number 6’s are great, #8’s are better, and if you cannot find them locally, running a pair of #4’s in tandem will do the job quite effectively.

The middle third is where you will find walleye in variety of feeding moods.  Most noticeably they will be searching for a meal, but you might run by a few that are just eating but not in full-blown chase mode.  At this depth, you still want some flash, but you want to add a little thump to the presentation.  To deal effectively with these fish there are two types of blades I prefer to run, the larger Indiana’s and whiptail blades.  While they are as long as a willow, these two spinners will produce some thump as well.  The big Indy’s, and I mean #8’s like a muskie spinner size, have the length, but at the end they have the rounded cup like a Colorado to create vibration.  The whips are long and lean like a willow, but because of their shape, they create a disturbance that fish love due to the bulging type of spin they produce.  Chomper blades are hard to find, but worth it since they act much like an Indiana blade due to their unique shape with that Colorado cup at the bottom.

The last seven to eight feet from the bottom of the lake is where you want to create the most noise and vibration.   One reason is the amount of light available for the fish to see, and those who hug the bottom are not usually the most active feeders.  To make a racket that either fish will strike at it out of pure meanness, or come running to investigate, I personally employ Colorado’s and hatchet or what some call tomahawk blades.  Both blades will stand up in comparison to the other blades that lay back over the beads.  This type of spin action is what creates the vibration that gets the walleye to swipe at when it goes by, or to come running for an easy crawler meal.

With a six rod spread, you can get two meals in each third of the water column, three anglers in the boat means you can do three.  Keep in mind I live in Michigan where we are allowed to fish three rods per person, so the amount of baits in the water could go up accordingly.  Point being, create a game plan that will make searching for walleye that much more effective.  Once you dial in which third of the column that fish that want to eat are in, the quicker you put limits in the box!

 

Copyright, 2019

 

 

 

 

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Not just for Perch Anymore, it’s MEGAmouth time!

First there was the original Catch Counter for keeping track of your perch, then the BigMouth Catch Counter for perch and bluegill, now there is the MegaMouth for literally  just about everything else!

MegaMouth CatchCounter

The next generation model from Tony Sebastiano, the owner of Catch Counter, really isn’t just for perch anymore.  With the new wider MEGA mouth design you can also fit silver bass, white perch, bull bluegills, huge crappie, of course perch and is the perfect size for those male walleye loaded in the Detroit River right now.  Don’t fish the river, you can still use the Mega out on Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and any where in the Midwest.

MEGA dimensions

Do you fish inland lakes and rivers in Ohio, Minnesota or out west? Then the Mega will be right up your alley for sauger and saugeye, too.  The versitility of the wider design is the beauty of it, well that and it’s original purpose which is to keep track of how many fish you have in the box.  That and you go from the hook, through the the funnel and right onto a big bag of ice.  This is my 3rd generation of Catch Counters that will be on the boat this year.  If the Mega is as good (and it will be, Tony doesn’t sell anything without extensive testing) the tradition of not miss counting a single fish will continue.  When I go to put them in the Tumble Drumms, if the counter says I have 100 perch in the cooler, then 100 go into the drums for taking those scales off.

Why putting on ice versus the livewell, because it is always a good thing to cool down your catch as soon as you can.  Here is a good anaology, it deer bow hunting season in the fall and it’s a bit warm out there.  You get that buck, but it is too hot to be able to hang the deer.  You throw a couple of bags of ice into the chest cavity to cool down the core temperature so you can get it to the processor or garage for cutting without having the meat spoil on you in meantime.  It is the same with your fish, you don’t want them cooking while you finish your limit.  It keeps your fish fresh, firm and ready to clean, remember, ice is nice!

Cooler Option

Bucket Option

DYI with 8.25 inch hole saw

You still have the original three options when picking out your Catch Counter.  Either get it with a cooler with everything pre-cut for you, or with the bucket version for those with smaller boats or if you want to run it out onto the ice for those tasty panfish.  Of course you can still get the head by itself and install your own if you have a bucket or cooler that’s already perfect for it.  Either use your own 8.25 inch hole saw, or this year you can get one on the website.  One stop shopping for everything Catch Counter….add your own fish!

Where to buy will be the next question someone will ask me.  Of course you can go right to the Catch Counter website, and one of my favorite fishing websites, FishUSA.  For local places to shop in Monroe, Port Clinton and Toledo, here is a list.

Jann’s NetCraft, Maumee, Ohio
1.800.638.2723-or see their catalog.

Domka Outdoors, Monroe, Michigan
419.968.0803

Fish USA, Fairview, Pennsylvania
814.616.2157 or see their catalog. Free Shipping!

Fisherman’s Cave, 7120 Summit St., Erie, Michigan
734.848.3935

Cullen Park Drive Thru and Bait, 4465 N Summit St. Toledo, Oh. 419-729-2248

Bassetts Hardware, Port Clinton and Catawba locations.

Fishermans Wharf, N. Madison St on the river, Port Clinton Ohio

Copyright, 2019

 

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

Lake Erie Trolling is in Full Gear

Church Tackle TX-22 Boards

In my book, it is never to early to leave the Detroit River.  Jigging is a blast, but I like the lake for that too.  Thursday it was time to bust out the St. Croix and Daiwa Sealine combinations to do some trolling with crankbaits behind the TX-22 Church Tackle Boards.

St. Croix Premier Glass

Once again, I think the weatherman job has to be the greatest ever.  Definitely sure that we never hit sixty degrees, and yet some where there is a person sitting behind their desk totally secure in there job security for at least another day. While the sun tried to pop out over Brest Bay, it never cracked the clouds.

First walleye to go in the box

We set up just outside the Bay in 24 foot of water and while the wind was blowing out of the East, we set up to do a trolling pass to the West.  My buddy Cliff was carefully watching what the Lowrance was showing on the screen and determined that most of the fish were hanging from the top to about 15 deep in the water column.  Since we had set the depths of the lures to cover each section of the water column.  Quickly I changed the amount of line behind the boards to run higher in the water.  It wasn’t long before the first walleye pulled back on the board’s Double Action Flag System.  Score one for the Rapala Deep Husky Jerks juiced up with some Lure Lipstick.

The Rapala Arsenal

Original and Jointed Deep Husky Jerks

The action got pretty hot once we went past Stoney Pointe and headed into the heart of Brest Bay.  In the span of five minutes, five of our Church boards were pulled back with walleye on the other end.  In an additional 10 minutes, we had three more fish in the box.

Cheeks

TX-22’s

 

When our first pass slowed down, we picked up the gear and made our way back to do another drift.  This time though, we didn’t go out as far, and started trolling in 22 foot of water.  Plenty of time to get the gear back in the water before we got back into that hot zone we encountered on the first pass.  All the boards were running straight and true,  the TX-22’s are a great board to run while running big cranks and even harnesses with up to 2 ounce weights.

As it happens so many times, you do great on your first pass and then mother nature waves her wand and changes things up on you.  During the first drift the wind was rolling straight out of the East.  By the time we got started on the second pass, she was blowing a little colder out of the Northeast.  We soon noticed that those active fish were now down lower than that 15 foot marker.  Here we go again, reeled up the lines and changed the depths of the cranks to run deeper.

Box of Donuts/12 Walleye in the Box #LureLipstick #Enhanced

Quickly we got three fish to get us to the 11 fish mark.  At that time we decided to run up to the rock wall by Sterling State Park for that big hen that would help us out in the Domka run “Spring Bash” big fish tournament.  No such luck, I pulled another walleye up on my green and pink Deep Husky Jerk #12.  I could have thrown it back, but with the weather changing and looking like it might rain, it was time to go in.

Finally used the walleye rack this year

While we were pulling the rest of the gear in, the Rapala’s took two more walleye that went back in the water to be caught another day.  The DHJ’s won the battle of the brands with a score of 5 to 9 for the final count.  At least on this day colors did not seem to matter as long as you had them running where the fish were in the water column.  All in all, it was a great day to leave the Detroit River and come back home to catch a couple of limits.  Best of all, we had a great dinner after the cleaning was done.

Side note:   I have never had a knife like the Church Tackle fillet knife when it comes to filleting the meat off the skin.  So sharp that it slides between the skin and meat like butter!

Church Tackle Fillet Knife

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

Dark, White or Bright, is the Question

Blue ice

 

I blame this great debate on bass fishing,  the anglers who target that species,  have wormed ( no pun intended) their philosophies into the walleye world.  Sometimes they work, but it is definitely not a golden rule for those chasing eyes.  Basically there are two areas of thought, and then I added a third based on my own personal experience.

Daiwa/St Croix/Deep Husky Jerk combination

Dark colors they say are a must when it comes to dirty water.  Do they work down below, yes they do, but this is one area which one can argue that there is a true crossover to the walleye world.  When exactly does this philosophy hold true for both sports, I would argue only while fishing up high in the water column.  When targeting largemouth bass this would translate to topwater fishing.  While trolling or casting walleye baits, then it work best while trolling up high or casting shallow baits like Rapala’s orginal floater and working the baits just below the surface.  In both instances the sun works to the angler’s advantage and highlights the body of the bait from a fish’s vision vantage point below the bait.  Conclusion written down in my journals from experience is that they work best up top in dirty water, but only works so far down below near the bottom of the water column.

White hair jig with glow green lateral lines.

White baits are something when it comes to walleye fishing that I believe has an unique niche.  When snap popping hair jigs they work best in areas of water that aren’t quite chocolate, but not that good clean blue water we love so much either.  The transition zone is the key to their success, whether you mix in a little pink, green, chartreuse or yellow into the mix, white is the key here.  Turn that over to crankbait side of fishing while trolling, and I firmly believe this is why any pattern of Wonderbread, Huckleberry or Eriedescent works so well.  It is the white base of the lure that makes it successful.

Wonderbread

 

Hot Pepper Pink Yellow Tail

 

Bright colors seem to have their time and place in almost every water condition.  Actually some can be considered both dark and bright at the same time.  Firetiger is a prime example.  Above you have a hot pepper pink with a yellow tail Wyandotte Worm from Mad Viking Tackle.  This color was HOT for me personally last weekend while fishing the Michigan Walleye Tour even on the Detroit River two weekends ago.

Keep in mind that the water was not exactly clean, but you could see about a foot down.  Everyone, but myself had caught fish in the boat early in the morning of the first day with some type of dark worm with a chartreuse tail.  I took a break from the Minn-Kota and started working my way though my worm box.  Up came out this pink and yellow combination.  To be honest, I am not exactly the bright pink kind, just not much faith in it when it comes to jigging.  It was different from what my crew was running though, but it also had the bright tail.  I dipped it in some Lure Lipstick plastic enhancer, combined it with some Angler’s Quest anti-freeze jigheads, with just the belly dipped in orange.  The next five fish in the net came on this rig.

Rapala Gold Flo Red Original Floater

We also noticed that the handliners around us were doing best on this Rapala Gold Flo. Red Original Floater.  They can call it a sort of red, but to the regular eye, we called it orange and gold.  So we rigged up some Atomic Ice forktail minnows and that worked as well after dipping in the enhancer tub that was on the boat.

Should you abandon those darker colors when it comes to jigging and trolling, absolutely not.  Why else would purple be such a popular color when it comes to catching walleye?  The lesson though is this, bright and white are 2/3 rds of the equation that should never be overlooked!

Copyright, 2019

Posted in Bass, Detroit River, Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Big Water Cranking 2019

It is that time of the year, time to pull some crankbaits behind the Church Tackle boards in search of some trophy sized walleye.  The weights go up as the fish are actively feeding after a  long winter.  In order to get them to bite you might have to throw out a range of lure options to entice them, to solve that issue, let’s just say I have a Rap for that.

Rapala DHJ-12 and JDHJ-12

 

Some of my favorite lures and sizes include Deep Shad Raps #9, which has a subtle wobble and works best in cleaner water. Deep Taildancers  in size #11, have a hard digging action and very loud rattles.  These baits work best this time of the year at slower speeds,  and then as the water warms, you can go a little faster.   Deep Husky Jerk  in size #12’s are my favorite this time of the year, they rattle and have that subtle wobble of the Deep Shad Rap. Deep Jointed Husky Jerks, also in size #12 both rattle and wobble, but have that unique tail action that the walleye love in the fall, but get extra duty in the spring.  If I want to run in shallow water or to employ snapweights, then I will break out the shallow Husky Jerks in size #14 and Original Floaters.  These baits work well up by the rocky beds the walleye love to spawn on or down deep just off the bottom in the flats.

Church Tackle

To speed up or slow down these lures you can troll in some slight and tight turns.  This tactic actually will serve three purposes to help the angler dial in on what the walleye want most.  Imagine you are running hot straight and normal, all the boards are running in line,  but you aren’t triggering any bites.  First up, you can slightly make a turn in either direction.  On the inside of that turn, your boards and presentations will slow down compared to the trolling speed you had been going with before the turn.  This can trigger a bite if the walleye want your baits at a slower speed.  On the reverse side of the boat, your boards will speed up, which can also trigger walleye to bite.  You can also do a tight turn to increase the deceleration on the inside boards, and radically speed up your outside boards. Those were the first two purposes, and then the third one is that now you have figured out what speed is enticing the eyes to bite your presentation.

The trick is while making your turns is that you do NOT want your boards on the inside of the turn to lay down.  This means they have come to a complete static stop.  Line lay down, which can cause a cluster tangle of epic proportions.  Always be aware of how your lines are running, in this case not the boards themselves, but the line going from the tip of your trolling rod to the board.  They can catch on flags, go under boards and quite possibly tangle all your boards at once.

Church Tackle TX-22’s

Another way to catch fish on that sped up tactic can happen in two ways.  One if you are driving your boat with a kicker or trolling plate on your main motor, simply put your motor in the neutral position.  The second method involves your electric trolling motor, it can be on the main engine or mounted on the bow, does not matter.  Simple dial down your speed for a moment or two, and then increase your speed to trigger the boards to race forward.  These two methods are both highly effective, without risking getting tangled up.

Church Tackle’s TX-007 and TX-005

Off the back of the boat, the TX-007 is the size of Stern Planer from Church Tackle that I like to run with the snapweights and inline weights.  These are the presentations that will target the bottom third  of the water column, or specifically one or two feet off the bottom of the lake.

Helsinki

I really like running this bigger size of shallow Husky Jerk, despite it being a shallow running bait in deep water near the bottom.  Its tight wobble and loud rattle bring fish in from a distance and this also makes it highly effective in stained water.  As I mentioned, the HJ-14 can pull double duty in shallow water to target fish that are feeding off the bottom.

Quick tip,  spring weather patterns usually involve some high winds periodically, which as a result can usually result there being a lot of debris early and weeds later in the water.  One way to combat this is place a removable split-shot in front of the bait for the weeds to catch on to keep the lures running true.  Since my crank trolling rods are eight foot long, and to give myself some room to fight the fish coming in, I place my split-shot six feet in front of the lure.  Personally I use the largest size, #2 which is 1/4 ounce.  Reason is two-fold, the largest size is more likely to catch the weeds before they slide down the line to foul up the lure.  The second reason is that the extra weight will help the lure get to deeper depths without letting out so much line behind the boards.  Less line, less chances of bad things happening,  it’s kind of golden rule in my trolling book.

Copyright, 2019

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

Perch Rods, which St. Croix is the right one for you

Not that a wake or after funeral luncheon is the best place to talk about fishing, but when it comes up, just go with it.  This happened to my dad last Monday while I was out fishing on the hardwater.  His first cousin’s husband had just passed away and after the funeral the family gathered to remember John and gain solace in the shared stories of his life.  John was a kind man and in the last few years I was able to get to know him a little better and I used to get him and Sally rigged up for fishing every species you could think of up the Manistique Lakes in the Upper near Curtis, Michigan.

It was during the wake that my name came up and the person in question knew me through my articles and loved the blog.  The conversation turned to perch fishing and how he always wanted to get a St. Croix for this specific application, but was wary of the price.  I must have been educating dad over the years without even realizing it because he said St. Croix rods come in wide price range.  Then I guess the man’s wife said you should get one.  You really have to love getting the green light to get the rod of your dreams!

Premier Spinning Series

I am going to attempt to help this person pick out the rod that will fit his wants, and maybe even the budget.  First up are two rods that are in the Premier spinning family with its five year warranty, a six-foot ultralight and a 6’6″ light action rod, which both retail for $130.00.  Match them up with a 6 lb braid and just wait for the bite, you can even feel fish bumping into the line. I really love these rods for my own personal use, in fact they are covered in scales and need a serious cleaning this year!

PS60ULF is the six-foot ultralight with a fast action.

PS66LF is the six-foot, six inch light rod, also with a fast action.

Avid Spinning Series

Next up are the same lengths and actions available in the Avid series of spinning rods.  There are some differences, but here are the main two, a better graphite mix with SCIII material for increased sensitivity, even more feel than the Premier’s that I love.  Then you have St. Croix’s unmatched lifetime warranty, always worth the investment.  These rods retail for $180 and 190.00. The models are AVS60ULF and AVS66LF.

Legend Elite Panfish series

Now, this one just might get somebody in trouble despite being given the green light. Introduced just this year, the Legend Elite Panfish Series.  Which begs the questions, do you really need to mention the price since the green light was given, or that goofy saying, “It is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”  Personally, I would stick with the first one, I have left women for the latter excuse.

I was thrilled with the announcement of this series to be honest, and when I saw what models were going to be available, I laser focused in on the LEP64LXF rod.  This rod also has the lifetime warranty, but jumps up to the SCV graphite only available in some of St. Croix’s very best rods and retails at $370.00.  At six-foot, four inches, this is a light action rod, with the same X-tra Fast tip that I have on my walleye jigging rods.  This combination of material, power and action means more fish coming up and going into the counter.  Quick explanation would be this, you feel the fish when they breath on your bait, and that extra fast tip means you are setting the hook before the perch even realize what just happened.   At least one will be in the boat this year, and knowing me since I do everything two-fisted, there will be a pair pounding the perch on Lake Erie.

 

Copyright, 2019

Posted in Lake Erie, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Hair Jig Evolution: 2019 Edition

Anti-Freeze

If you have been following me on Facebook, you have already seen some of my newest hair jig creations for fishing walleye on Lake Erie.  Interesting enough, just yesterday I was asked if I had ever written about tying jigs before.  Of course I have, but I wasn’t exactly sure when the first one was typed out for the blog.  Turns out it was in 2013, so for the past six years I have been tying my own and catching walleye with them.  I titled this piece Hair Jig Evolution, because look back, there really has been a step by step change since I started.

2013 Creations

Back then everything was pretty basic, pretty much the generic look that you could find in any local bait shop.  Your standard white, pink and white and some version of purple, they were easy to paint, and easy to tie.  Did they catch fish, absolutely and as always, it is far better to catch a walleye on something you created.

Copper Perch

Flo Red

Punisher

Silver Tip

Last year was the first major leap into what I coined as using “Core Technology” or the process of layering to give the jigs more body.  The difference being, those old jigs in 2013 still needed a live minnow or a plastic one to give it some depth of being life-like.  By wrapping in cores, each layer built the craft fur up to make it swim while being thumped off the lake bottom.  These jigs above were made for a good friend of mine who started fishing a local bass series on the Fox River Chain in Illinois.  First of all…stop laughing, yes I said bass, but actually these same sizes (1/8, 1/4 and 3/8ths ounce) can be used for pitching for walleye in some circumstances.  Many of these colors can pull double duty for both species.  Below are three pictures that demonstrate my core tech process with the Punisher hair jig I created.

Flashabou core layer

This first core layer was laid down with Flashabou.  It gives some flash that will help catch a walleye’s attention in clean water, but even in dirty water it benefits by adding depth to the lure’s body.

Blue Craft Fur

The next core layer is made with blue craft fur.  You will notice the color of the jig, which is black with blue flake powder paint from TJ’s Tackle.  This core helps with matching the body to the blue accents of the jig.

Punisher…final product

When going through each step in the core built process, you can plainly see the depth added to the body of the jig.  Granted, the body looks pretty big compared to the size of the jig.  When wet, the fur will lay back, but not hug the hook like a store-bought jig will.  Remember how I mentioned that the old jigs needed plastic or a live minnow to bulk up the baits?  These, with the hair trimmed about 2.5 to 3 inches behind the hook, can be fished without any additions to make them work. Still feel the need to add a live minnow to the bait, wet the jig quickly in the lake and then put the minnow on,  they will still catch fish, without burying the minnow in the air.

Super Glow Boy Girl

Blue Ice

Rear view of Blue Ice Jig

The next evolution came out of necessity. Point of history, did you know that the greatest leaps in surgery have come during times of war?  Or, in simple terms,  out of necessity.  For me, it was I wanted to created a hair jig to vertically fish for walleye on the Saginaw River last fall for a tournament.  Did I want to use the same Ultra Minnow head?  No, because I wanted to the head of the jig to dive on the drop, instead of horizontally fall.  For this reason I went with the Walleye Jig mold from Do-it, the one with the collar and barb.  I made up a bunch of different colors, but these two above are pretty unique.  The first was a super glow, where the first core is made with glow flashabou.   The second one is probably the hair jig I have had the most calls on, Blue Ice.  Notice the tail section with the Blue and Silver flashabou for accents.  This was a GREAT clean water jig up there when we could find pockets out of the main current.

Kermit

Pimp Daddy

Cat Dog

Bubblegum

White with orange, pink and green highlights

This last batch of once ounce hair jigs for Lake Erie, show the next step in the evolution in the core process.  It was also part inspiration and touching base with some of my earliest creations.  I looked at various plastics, jigs and crankbaits for ideas.  Pimp Daddy was inspired by a Fin-S minnow, which is a great dark water application.  Cat Dog, was my take on a crankbait, while Bubblegum is one of my favorite jig patterns from Northland.  Both can be fished in dirty and clean water.  Kermit and the white hair jigs  are your basic cloudy water baits, with just a bit of added flair to them.  Did I need to add orange, pink and green accents to the white, yes I did.  Ok, no, not really, will they catch fish as well as the original white hair jigs?  The answer is all day long, but remember this too, each one of these jigs are my own works of art.  Believe me, if you ever saw a drawing of mine, you would say they are my only works of art!

Remember this though, by building the cores, or layers, you can add more life-like depth to the hair jig you create or fish with. Whether you jig, pitch or twitch these baits, you can fish them naked, as is.  The best part of it all, you made it, and you caught fish on it!!!

 

Copyright, 2019

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

Walleye on the Bay

Clam Jason Mitchell Thermal X shanties

Saginaw Bay gives up it bounty on its own terms, and last weekend was no different.  With winds blowing 35+ miles per hour on Friday it was a no brainer to stay off the ice.  Yes, there were lots of people going out, but why chance it when the forecast for Saturday was perfect for staying on the bay all day long.

We hit the bay running Saturday morning with my two Jason Mitchell Thermal X shacks from Clam towed behind the Bearcat.  With one small four-foot crack to jump outside of the state park, there was deeper water ahead to check out.  At the first stop we only marked a couple of fish between us and it was off to the next spot.  At the second location there were quite a few more marks on the Vexilar’s, but still no takers and we moved once again, heading further east.  At this point we started changing up lures left and right.

Never go on the ice without my Nebulus

It was like the previous week when we fished the river, constantly changing up baits trying to get the fish dialed in.  One rod with something big or loud to draw fish in, and below it the second rod rigged with something smaller to give the walleye below an alternative.  That mid-day reputation of there being a tough bite on the bay continued until we made our final move to get set up at the fourth spot to get hunkered down for that late afternoon bite.

Vexilar FLX-20 with Glo-Ring

I used my Jiffy 46X-treme to drill our 10″ holes, this time cutting 12 inches of ice.  At one previous spot I was close to bottoming out the auger, the ice was that thick.  The STX blades on this auger are outstanding and it was drilling near the bottom just like when I first start cutting on the surface.  Start to finish,  this propane auger is a beast when it comes to Great Lake walleye fishing.

Leech Flutter Spoon

At five o’clock the light switch got flipped.  Just like the previous week on the river, Clam Pro Tackle’s Leech Flutter Spoon caught the first fish after missing the first bite attempt by a walleye.  I had tried the Glow Watermelon that worked last weekend earlier in the day, but I was working on the various colors and sizes throughout the day and at this point, I had a Glow Chartreuse Pink spoon on.  The Glo-Ring from Vexilar, what can I say about this additional tool, it simply makes charging lures easy, which helps increase catch rates.

St. Croix Avid Ice Rods

The first hit, and then first fish and second fish came on the Leech spoon. Before I could get it back down,  my second St. Croix Avid ice rod had popped for a third hit.  It happens to the best of us, and it happened to me.  You get the walleye out of the hole, it comes unbuttoned on the ice and wiggles its way back to the hole and down she went before I could get my hand around it.  I caught one more and my tourney partner Cliff caught three during this time period to give us a quick seven fish in 20 minutes before calling it quits for the evening.

After packing everything up in the Clam/Jason Mitchell Thermal X shacks, we headed back to the state park.  Following the track on the GPS, we got back to the crack we had crossed earlier in the morning.  Two sleds were eyeballing it to make sure it was safe.  One went across, then I crossed and then stopped.  Just wanted to make sure the third sled had made it safely across.  After he did, we all gave the thumbs up and continued on our way.  Never say sportsmanship is limited to the field,  it applies to all facets of life and certainly in the brotherhood of ice anglers today.

Once back to the home bunker, it was time to clean the fish.  The fish were semi-frozen of course and pretty cold to hold.  I busted out a pair of Vexilar’s latex gloves and that problem was solved.  If you are looking for an awesome fillet knife, take a serious look at the knife from Church Tackle, it is razor-sharp and takes the meat off the skin better than any knife I have ever used.

Quick product note:  This was the first time I had the Jason Mitchell Thermal X shanties                                          on the ice.  With the extra 50% insulation that Clam added to their                                            thermal shacks this year, I never felt the need to turn my heater on                                            until 4 pm.  Could have easily fished two people in the shacks, but                                              was awesome for using it as a one-man big water setup.

Copyright, 2019

 

 

Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

Rattle ’em High, Jig it Low

 

Walleye fishing through the ice on the Great Lakes is truly an experience of a lifetime.  Just in terms of quantity and quality, pick a lake and have at it.  Then throw in the chance for that 15 pound plus fish for the wall down on Lake Erie, the fishing on these waters is tough to beat. It’s no wonder that Lake Michigan, Saginaw Bay and Erie all have locations that lay claim to the walleye capital of world.  To be quite biased, it is Lake Erie by several pounds.

One of the presentations that has been working so well over the past few years is to rattle them high, then catch them low.  You will catch plenty of fish on the rattle baits like the Rattling Rapala, but the combination of baits allows you to fish two different approaches simultaneously. This will let you target two of the three types of feeding patterns walleye typically display.

Normally fishing two holes cut with my Jiffy propane auger, and then a smaller one in the middle for my Vexilar’s transducer.  This allows for double fisted jigging, meaning a rod combination in each hand without worrying about getting your ducer out of the hole.  With the handles adjusted for being able to reel with your opposite hand, you can quickly throw one combo to the back of the shack or out-of-the-way in your hub shelter while fighting a fish  with the other hand. You just want to get that presentation clear of any tangles while fighting the fish. The other way to make sure you are clear of any potential tangles is to make sure the of your bottom presentation is clear of the bottom of your fall with the top lure.

If you are not comfortable jigging with two rods at once,  here is a quick tip so you can still take advantage of what noise can do.  Rig up a second rod with your rattling lure and give it a good rip or jiggle now and then to make a racket.  Then set it down in a holder and go back to fishing the more subtle rig.

With the quick substitution of a lure here and there with either a snap or a pre-rigged combination, you can cover all three bases in which these popular fish typically feed.  I break them down into the “feeding frenzy”, the “I will eat if you stick it in my face” and the “tight-lipped, tick me off enough and will eat out of spite mode”.  It will not take you long to recognize what the mood the fish below are in.

The feeding frenzy is all about fun fishing, watch the walleye dart in and you just hope you don’t screw it up.  For this approach I like to place a rattling lipless bait like a Ripping Rap,Rippin’ Shad or Rattling Rapala,  up high in the water column.  On the big lakes, this would be about three to four feet off the bottom.  Then for my second bait a foot or 1.5′ off the bottom, either a swimming minnow like the Jigging Rap or high action spoon such as Clam’s Leech Flutter Spoon.  Nothing will slow these fish down and you have to wait to see which bait they will take first.

Clam Pro Tackle’s Leech Flutter Spoon

Sticking it in their face will drive the angler a bit crazy with anticipation, but more often than not, will lead to success.  In this scenario a rattling spoon with a mid-sized profile works well up high, with the non-rattling bait below. The second bait, could be a smaller Jigging Rap like a #3, or either a vertical or horizontal jig. Clam’s Blade Jig and Northland’s Fire Ball jig have worked best while using this approach. The old lift and fall method works best when the fish are in this mode of eating.  They come up to investigate the noise and hang around for a bit, but just not ready to commit.  Keep dropping the bait right in front of their nose on the fall and most of the time they will finally commit and strike.

The reluctant walleye that will eat of spite will make you work for your fish.  I don’t mean that aggressive snap jigging action, but meant get ready to put some time in to catch these fish.  I want a small Rattling Blade Spoon or Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon in the top spot to call the fish in, go as small as your body of water will allow when considering depth and any potential current below.  In the basement spot I want to downsize while thinking about the current below the ice, for this approach I break out the Drop XXL tungsten jigs from Clam tipped with a mid-sized emerald shiner.  I get the hook I want, but with a smaller profile which wont spook those finicky fish.  While you are doing a slight lift and fall with the spoon to call the fish in, either jiggle that tungsten a little while occasionally pounding the bottom to create a “dust cloud” that the fish will see and think there are tasty bugs down here.

Be prepared for some disappointment, these are the kind eaters that will follow your bait up six or 8 foot up the water column only to dart away at the last second.    Just don’t get too upset, you find a lot of fish like this when a front is coming in so keep the size of your presentations in mind when rigging your rods the night before.  Chances are in your favor though with this approach.

Employing noise from various rattle baits has drastically changed my catch rates when it comes to fishing for Michigan’s big water walleye.  It’s using a deer call in the woods, but you are calling in walleye with the rattles. Like the calls, they bring fish in to see what you have down there, literally drawing fish away from the holes around you.  They will either inhale it or take your more subtle presentation below almost every time.

Copyright, 2019

 

 

 

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