The Vexilar Advantage for Big Lake Walleyes


Was out on Brest Bay over the weekend, using my Vexilar in this three hole arrangement.  Had my two 10 inch holes drilled with my Jiffy Pro4 auger set up for jigging with two rods, while in the middle of the two, I drilled a smaller hole and put my Vexilar transducer down it.  With this setup I am able to read both jigs at the same time, and can tell which one the fish are most interested in.  By this rigging, I can tell right away which lures I should be using.


Think of it as trolling with multiple crankbaits, you can quickly find out which ones the walleye like the best.  In a short amount of time, you can soon have all the boards running the  same baits, and you increase your catch rate.  The same concept applies when jigging through the ice.  Also, added bonus….no more fighting the fish while at the same time trying to get the ducer out of the hole to avoid line tangles in the cable, and a lost trophy.


Now here is where a Vexilar will beat a LCD sonar unit every time, without fail.  Whether using a spoon, blade or swimbait,  in just about every instance you are tipping that lure with either a whole minnow or just the head section.  It adds “flavor” or scent to your presentation.  Often if you see you have been rejected by a walleye, its time to bring up your bait to make sure that minnow is still on the hook.  More often than not after being shot down, you find that the minnow has been lost through the jigging process. It happens, sometimes they come off, it’s the nature of the beast.


This is the cool part to avoid fishing “baitless”, when you drop your presentation down the hole.  By using a Vexilar flasher versus a LCD unit, you can actually see your minnow on the lure.  It does not matter if you are using a spoon or swimbait, whole minnow or tipping with a minnow head!  You simply cannot see that with a LCD, the signal you get back is just a blob representing the lure and minnow/head. Why is this, because the signal from the Vexilar is real-time, you have heard it before, its one of the advantages of using a flasher from Vex.  On a LCD, the signal you get back does not separate the two and you don’t get the full picture.


When it comes to choosing a unit that best suits you for the style of ice fishing you do, the aisle with the Vexilar’s is where you need to go. After 15 years of fishing with a Vexilar on every trip, you will understand after your first time out, why I never go ice fishing without one in the Clam shanty.  Hands down, without fail, these units will make you a better ice angler!

Copyright, 2016

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

Cleaning Jig Eyes: the easy way


I placed an order the other day for some new jigs, which got me thinking about all the jigs, and blade baits I either bought or made last year.  There is nothing worse than pulling a jig out of the box and realizing you cannot tie on because the eye is full of paint.  Often the “eye-busters” are a hard fit around the eye, and do not get the job done.  I decided Tuesday night would be my “maintenance” night.  I walked up into my fishing workshop upstairs in the shop and brought down my rotary tool and drill bits.


I was going through the jigs the other night before placing my order, because I didn’t want to order something I already had a bunch of.  Starting with the 3/8ths oz. box, I cleaned out every eye, and worked my way up to the 1 oz. box.  I also cleaned some blade baits I had made with my Do-It Mold.  Don’t be too critical of those paint jobs, still working on perfecting my technique.

I went through about 2,500 jigs in about 1.5 to two hours, and learned a couple of things during the process.  First off its wise to have a few extra bits, they do wear out.  Secondly, the jigs painted with vinyl paint tend to leave a ring around the bit, and last of all, even though the powder painted jigs were cured, using a rotary tool is the only way to clean out these jigs!


Although using Seal-Coat, or some other type of jig clear coat is not a must, I would regret not passing on one more tidbit of information.  There are some jigs that just fit a niche application, and are specially made by one company or another.  Maybe you buy a larger number of jigs from a small company to make it through a whole season.  These jigs are typically spray painted for ease/quickness during the manufacturing process. They also tend to chip or dust off during high-speed travel.  Ice or open water, doesn’t matter. When making a purchase like this, once they arrive or I bring them home from the store, I simply take a small brush, and give each one a quick coat of clear.  Make sure you give them a chance to dry for a night at room temperature so they don’t stick together!  Call it preventative maintenance or what you will, but it will protect the paint for years to come.

Copyright, 2016

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

Navionics + and Ice Fishing

Now that the ice fishing is finally into full swing across the ice belt, it is time to break down one of the keys to any successful fishing trip.  Of all the equipment an angler can use to his advantage, perhaps the most important tool in the arsenal is a map of the lake. In years gone by, this meant busting out an old and antiquated paper map and studying all the structure a lake might have in order to find the best fishing grounds.  The problem was, most of those maps were based on surveys done in the 1930’s.

In this modern era of lake maps, imagine this, they have an app for that.  The app version of Navionics is great for several reasons;  you can study the lake anywhere, for people who walk to their favorite fishing spot, their phone becomes their handheld GPS device, and when you disembark from your snowmobile or ATV, you can walk right up to the structure  you want to target.  A year ago though, I was looking for something different, the perfect “chip”, which is really a memory card, for using with my boat’s GPS unit, while traveling across the ice.


I am a researcher when it comes to buying fishing equipment, and when the fishing centers around tournaments, I check out websites and even call the different companies direct to get answers for my questions. Not only would my new chip need to cover walleye tournaments around my home state of Michigan,  but it would have to travel with me across the ice belt.  From Michigan to Minnesota and every state in between, I was looking for my best options.

IMG_20150130_095957988When I narrowed down my choices, I even made another round of phone calls.  Navionics actually remembered my previous call, and their customer service representative walked me through my final choice.  The Navionics + chip was my very best option for my wants.  Instead of buying several regional cards, this chip allows me to zero in on a lake I am going to fish, download that information from their website to the SD card, and then move to a new area, and get that information as well.  Whether I am fishing the championship on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota, or my home waters of Lake Erie, my bases are covered.


Now, here is the kicker, this is not a one and done purchase.  Throughout the first year after buying the Navionics + card,  I can go back to the website and refresh my data.  This means I can get the latest information available for my selections and get even more details that have been added to the data base since I bought the card.  Not only that, if one of the tournament circuits adds a new lake to the upcoming schedule, that information is also available for me to download to the chip.  Prime example happened for me last October when I was gearing up to fish a tournament on the Saginaw River, the tourney boundaries had been extended, and I was able to get that new information and be ready to fish with total confidence in the details on my lake, or in this case, river map.


Not done though, Navionics gives another option for this card.  I can extend my ability to add more information for another year.  If I get an invite to ice fish in Nebraska, on Devils Lake, or in New England, I simply go back to the website, and add more lakes to the SD card, while it is also giving me an update on the freshest data available for the lakes already on the chip!


As they say, there is an app for that.  Well, when it comes to fishing and mounting my GPS, it turns out there is a RAM mount for that.  Depending on the conditions of the lake, I can either mount it to the Arctic Cat sled, my ATV or back on the boat when the ice goes away. Three different mounts, same arm, same base, and my GPS/Nav+ combination is ready to go, no matter which platform I am fishing from.



If you are serious about your fishing, summer or winter, I have to say that the Navionics + chip was my best option, and know it work out for you, as well.  The apps are great, but the phones are a little hard to read while going 30-50 mph across a lake.  When you put them together though, you have the best of both worlds.


Copyright, 2016


Posted in Electronics, Fishing Maps, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

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


Ok its time for the annual Ultimate Fishing Show in Novi, Michigan,  and due to scheduling conflicts the last couple of years, this is my first time back in a while!  I love this show, it has everything a walleye guy like me could ask for and more, including the BIG Church Tackle booth where you get to see everything the company puts out, including this year’s new Mini Lock-Jaw snap!

200-0I already have been using the bigger version for my heavier 4 and 6 oz snap weights.  The Lock-Jaw simply put, locks on and never slips off!  The new mini size will be perfect for using my smaller weights.


Church also had two new products that came out late in the season last year, the TX-005 Stern Planer, which is the little brother to the TX-007 that I like so much. Plus a flag system for the TX-12 Mini Planer that just makes this board even more versatile.


The -007 is perfect for trolling heavier weights, bigger crankbaits and divers of all sizes.  It’s great for running my presentations right over the top of the walleye that I am seeing on the graph.  It adds another tool to the arsenal for putting more fish in the box.


You can see there is quite a bit difference in size, can you still troll with the TX-005…definitely!  I already got to try them out in the Upper Peninsula for inland lake walleye, but since they came out late in the season last year, it was past the prime trolling on Lake Erie.  Drifting can be a lot of fun on the big water, and I really like to match up my trolling gear with the baits that I will be running at the time.  The perfect combination is going to be with some of my #4 Colorado blades from Big Eye Custom Lures, Spin-in-Glows and Smile Blades and no heavier than a 1 oz trolling weight.


The venerable TX-12 Mini Planer got a facelift of sorts last year as well, well at least an accessory.


It’s very own flag system was introduced the same time as the TX-005 last year.  Although the board itself is easy to read whether you have a fish on or not, the flag system will now allow you to take that skill to the next level.  The one thing that the flags tell you is when your bait is being played with, you might want to speed up or slow down the boat’s speed to get a more serious bite.  Also, with the flag, it will tell you when to check more often to see if you still have a worm on your rig.  This set up is great for trolling smaller weights or cranks, or under the right wind conditions, drifting even.


These are all in addition to the already existing bigger boards in the line-up when it comes to walleye fishing.


When it comes to running weights and bigger divers, the original Walleye Board is my choice.  The adjustable keel weight makes this board an all season favorite.  When the flags go down, it’s a easy pace back to the boat to see what is at the other end!


The TX-22 is the best balanced board I have ever seen, spring or fall, I run the -22’s with my Rapala crankbaits.  Right away this board is floating in an upright position, and doesn’t sink with a big fish on the other end.  Once the crank bite is over in the spring this board works great with 2 oz or smaller weights and smaller divers like Jet Diver #20’s.  Will run these up to the first week of June usually before following the big walleye out to deeper water in Ohio and Canada.


When it comes to walleye fishing on the big water or inland lakes, and even river systems, Church Tackle has a board to get the job done.  See the full line up this weekend at the Ultimate Fishing Show in Novi this weekend.  Look for Captain Dan Hassevoort’s boat in the middle of the booth.  It is the same boat that he uses in tourneys and when running trips for his Angler One Charters.  There will be Church Tackle displays all around, with the guys that use them to answer any questions you might have to get you running the best board that suits your style of fishing!

Copyright, 2016




Posted in Community News, Fishing Websites/Stores, Product Reviews, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

TJ’s Tackle at the Ultimate Fishing Show in Novi, Michigan



With the weather like it was five or six years ago, my thoughts are turning to the open water bite for 2016 already.  With that in mind, I am already thinking about pouring jigs and blade baits for the Detroit River, Saginaw River and Lake Erie walleye spring bites.  The best paint for these areas with their unique conditions, without a doubt is powder paint.  Which means for me, its time to make my list and check it twice for reloading on my powder paint supplies from TJ’s Tackle.


Although I can order anytime on line by going to their website (, its nice to be able to see the new products for 2016 in person.  The easiest way for me to do it is by attending the Ultimate Fishing Show this upcoming weekend at the Suburban Marketplace in Novi, MI.  Luckily for me, there are no conflicts this year and I can get up there for the first time in a couple of years.  I just found out that there are three new custom colors being introduced;  Flash Pink, Disco Copper and my personal Lake Erie favorite, John Deere Green!


I actually called the guys up a few years ago and started mixing my own formula to produce JD green, and last year they worked on perfecting their own mix.  Through the work involved, in 2016 it will be available for the public to purchase.  Originally used for hair jigs, it makes a pretty good color when painting blade baits also.


Speaking of the blade baits, although not a bad bait for either river, they get most of their use on Lake Erie.  Nothing beats up these baits worse than the zebra mussels found on the lake bottom.  While most commercially painted lures lose their paint in less than a day, powder painted blade jigs will last a whole lot longer than a single day of fishing!




I have to admit though, my favorite lure on Lake Erie is the hair jig.  It means usually that the water is fairly clear, more often than not the blade baits work best in dirty water due to the vibration calling the fish in. Not only that though, as one of my best friends from our school days called it a “project”.  She is right, it is kind of a craft project, for walleye fisherman that is.  I do get caught up in the many hair combinations, the fun of making each lure, and when it comes to get them wet, the catching aspect of the whole process.  For at least myself, nothing is better than catching a big walleye, than catching it on a lure I made/created myself. Through every step; pouring and painting the jigs, creating the hair combinations, then tying that onto the jig, you too can say, “I made that!”



Although the paint is what brings you onto TJ’s Tackle’s website, there is every thing you need to make the painting process complete.  Well except the curious cat in the top picture, Cali gets in a lot of my pictures somehow.  From the fluid beds to cups, air brush kits, to the jig racks below, its all on the website, and to see for yourself on display (and in use), at every show the guys go to.

It is just one of the reasons that the price of admission is worth paying when going to the Ultimate Fishing Show.  So tonight, at least this guy will be going through his paint supplies, make myself a list of new and old items to reload on,  check it twice, or even thrice, and have it ready when I hit their booth at the show this weekend.

Copyright, 2016


Posted in Do-It-Yourself | Leave a comment

Pre-Wrap Your Ice Rods



I love having a Tennessee handle when it comes to my ice fishing rods.  For me its all about the placement of the reel and what feels the best for me.  That said, there are some of the reels that I use with both my panfish and walleye rods.  If you have ever taken the tape off of a cork handle, then you know why I hate to see little chunks of cork come off with the tape.

I fixed this by putting a one layer wrap of masking tape on the cork, and over the past 10 years on some of those rods,  have been using the electrical tape over the top of that base layer.  It works great, no more worrying about destroying the handle.


Copyright, 2015

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Panfish Fishing | Leave a comment

Jigging Rap Storage Idea

Bouncing all over Lake Erie last winter did a number on some of the equipment, most notably some of my lures.  My spoons lost rattles and my Rapala Jigging Raps had some fins pop off.  This year on my checklist of things to get done was to either look up a better storage system or come up with something on my own.  Of course I “Googled” and saw some ideas including this one in which I finished last night.


I took the same case that is sold with a foam insert for trolling spoons, but made my own insert out of soft foam that I had up in the shop.  The only difference, I saved half the money by doing it myself, and increased the number of lures that I can insert over the original 66 slots of the spoon box.


I took four, 1/2 inch pieces of foam, cut, trimmed and finally glued them together.  I didn’t want the super glue fumes to react with the plastic, so I let it dry over night. Last night I took this over sized steak knife and started cutting my slits as I inserted each lure in one at time.


I included in the case the most used sizes in my arsenal, #3, #5 and #7 Jigging Raps.  I also included #3 and #5 Jigging Shad Raps.  I had a lot of success with the latter last winter, so where I go fishing, they go with me! Later on I am going to do something similar with my #9 Jigging Raps since they are used all year long.


If you are going to fish with the most effective lure through the ice on Lake Erie, you might as well protect  your investment.  Being the crafty type when it comes to fishing, just makes the whole project that much more fun to do.  After it is all said and done, you can sit back and say,  “I did that.”

Copyright, 2015

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

Our Ice Rods are Short….


…and not just because of the cold!

17" St. Croix Legend Silver

17″ St. Croix Legend Silver


It’s the age old question, does size matter?  And for this article, smaller can be much, much better!  The guys in Wisconsin or even Western Michigan love their long rods, some as long as five foot.  They have their time and place in some shallow water applications, but more often than not, short rods are preferred.


Two foot is as long as you want to get when it comes to panfishing in the great outdoors, and by this I mean fishing outside of your shanty.  It used to be that if you mentioned 16 or 17 inch rods, sight fishing would come to mind first.  But for me and other guys that hole hop, these are fast becoming the size of choice.


Do you get a better jigging action with a short rod versus a long one, maybe is the best answer I can give you.  That depends more on the type of lure you are using.  Consider this though, once you get out of your shanty you are exposed to the elements.  I don’t mean the cold though, it’s all about the wind conditions.



Longer rods, even those that are 22 to 24 inches in length, move your rod tip further away from your body.  Your body, clothing, and your bucket for that matter, act as a shield against the wind.  *Quick sidenote, it’s always best to fish with your back into the wind, shanty too for that matter. When you want a tight line, with or without a spring, the wind is your worst enemy.  The wind can catch your line, and blow it to the point where it can become bowed when using light panfish jigs. Am I giving away a secret, maybe, but I am definitely sharing information that gets used in one of my seminars.


So, in conclusion, short rods can be your best friend when chasing panfish on and off the tournament circuit.  Easier to protect against the wind, which equals better line control.  Meaning, just one more step to putting more fish on the ice.

Copyright, 2015



Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing | Leave a comment

Ice Fishing Machines, keep your ride ready…

…for the start of each season!


There were seasons where I would start my quad or snowmobile at home and never have a problem loading it up on the trailer before heading off to the next ice fishing destination or tournament.  Once I got there and the machine would spend its first night out in the extreme cold, well lets just say that is not the time that you want to find out you have a weak battery!


After two years in a row, I learned my lesson.  The next step was to go out and buy a couple of battery tenders to combat the problem.  They stay plugged in practically the whole time in between seasons, and last year when I was gearing up for the ice season, both batteries registered a hair over 13 volts.  No more going hundreds of miles, then having to search for and spend over $100 to keep fishing.


So even in extreme conditions like the picture above from a Ludington tourney a few years back, I have faith my battery is going to turn the motor over, every time!  I call it cheap insurance, for roughly $30.00 each, these tenders are exactly what the doctor ordered.  They keep ready to fish, winter after winter, and that is good in my book!

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products | Leave a comment

Creating Your Own Bucket Rod Storage System


Its closing in on tournament time for me, in a couple of weeks will be heading off to Minnesota for the North American Ice Fishing Circuit, or a little bit less of a mouthful, the NAIFC. Over the years I have gone through several ice rod ideas as far as what works best for me and the style of fishing I do, the one constant has been my bucket rod holders.  I just reorganized for the first time in six years, and I am pretty happy with the results.

Spinning Bucket

Spinning Bucket


One of my buckets is set up for rod combinations that have spinning reels on them.  Why spinning reels?  Because there are certain applications where I think spinning combinations work best. Best example would be fishing in deep water where I want to get down to where the fish are fast.  Yes, spinning reels have, or better yet, will add line twist to your overall presentation.  What I do is this, let the bait free fall until about 10 feet above to where I see them on the Vexilar.  At this point its time to close the bail on the reel, and hand strip the line out of the tip of your rod down to where the fish are.  What this does is allow you to work out some of the spin before reaching the fish.  What little is left can be controlled by the jigging action.  A good pounding of the rod tip will stop your bait from spinning if your line is not completely twisted.

For shallow water bites, its hard to beat the Schooley reel.

Schooley Bucket

Schooley Bucket

By reorganizing my rod holders, I was able to add three more for a total of 12 in the bucket.  Not only did I add, but organized them in a better system overall.  The four to $5.00 Schooley reel is the original tightline reel in ice fishing. Combined this with my first bucket, and I am hitting the ice with 22 to 23 rods rigged and ready to roll.

Any 5 gallon bucket will do, and you need to get some 1 and 1/4 inch PVC tubing.  Most hardware type stores carry it for something like 6 bucks per 10 foot sections.  Measure, and cut per roughly 5 inch sections.  For an accurate measurement, you can message me on Facebook, or email me at

1.25 inch PVC

1.25 inch PVC

From there, you need to notch a reel slot into the PVC, and I used a rotary tool to clean it up.  A drill press works best for making your holes.  Also, drill down below in order to fit a screwdriver through to bolt in the holder to the side.  Drill a smaller hole on the backside, just match up the small drill bit with the bolt you will use for mounting to the side of the bucket.  You can mount in a bucket holder, or combine your bucket with a milk crate fastened to  your machine.

Whether you fish with two dozen rods, or a half-dozen, this bucket style rig is the best for heading out on the ice!

Copyright, 2015

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