Winterizing Your Planer Boards

The Church Tackle Aresenal

The Church Tackle Aresenal


While some of you fine folks will be able to fish for a while longer, it was time for me to hang up the trolling gear and get ready for ice fishing.  Which means I will be working at the Cabela’s store in Dundee, Michigan the next three weekends.  Sadly, that being said, last Saturday’s trip out to Lake Erie was my last for 2016.  The motor’s are winterized, and the trolling rods are up in the rafters.  If you run planer boards though, here is a step that often gets overlooked.

You probably know this already, but if you want to add years of life to your trolling reels (baitcast and spinning reels too), you need to back off the tension of the drag of each reel.  The same principle can be applied to the tension spring on your planer board’s double action flag system.

Church Tackle TX-22

Church Tackle TX-22

This picture shows the backside of one of my TX-22 boards from Church Tackle with the flag kit.  Notice how I have the tension on the spring set to roughly the 5 o’clock position.  This is the normal setting I use when running my Deep Husky Jerks (size #12) from Rapala.

Church Tackle TX-22

Church Tackle TX-22

Now, notice how I have backed the tension off to the point where it now rests at the 3 o’clock position.  The tension on the spring is gone, and it is back to its original shape.  This allows for just enough tightness to hold the flag  until I am ready to start pulling cranks again in the spring!

Remember this little maintenance step, and you will add years of life to the spring, which means…you will be able to detect the smallest of bites the next time you hit the water!

Now, I almost hate to say it because this season was so much fun…..bring on the ice!

Copyright, 2016

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

Downriver Walleye Federation Seminar: January 16, 2017



As I was writing the headline for today’s announcement, I almost typed out 2016, another ice season, means another year is soon upon us.  That being said, I am glad to announce that I will be giving an ice fishing seminar on catching walleye through the ice, in front of the Downriver Walleye Federation during their annual meeting on January 16th (next year).


Both my parents are from the Downriver area, Ecorse and Wyandotte, so I grew up with fishing stories about the Detroit River, and my grandfathers handlining with old Victrola converted reels and ice fishing on Lake St. Clair.  On occasion, I still catch myself referring to walleye as pickerel, and if you reside in communities surrounding either side of the river, you just might also.

The meeting is open to the public and is located right off West Road in Trenton, MI…

Westfield Center
2700 Westfield Rd.
Trenton, MI 48183-2443

The first 100 members through the door will receive a gift bag, with the contents courtesy of the great companies I am proud to be associated with:  Clam Outdoors, Vexilar Marine Electronics, St. Croix Rods, Jiffy Ice Augers, Northland Tackle, Rapala, Daiwa, Sportsmen’s Direct and even though it’s an ice seminar, more information about the latest gear from Church Tackle for the upcoming spring trolling season, that will be here before we know it.

I am looking forward to another great night with some of the best walleye anglers in our state.  Remember, even if you aren’t a member, the meeting is open to the public, so come one, come all for a great evening of discussion revolving around catching more walleye through the ice!

Copyright, 2016


Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Product Reviews, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Ice Fishing at Cabela’s: Dundee, MI


If Thanksgiving can be hijacked by Christmas, then by that standard it is never too early to start talking about ice fishing.  That being said, the Cabela’s ice fishing catalog came in today’s mail with all the new gear available for this year.  From Clam shacks and suits, to the entire lineup from Vexilar, to my favorite St. Croix ice rods to the Rapala jigging baits to my favorite spoons from Northland Tackle and the Jiffy Augers that allow me cut through the ice with propane fueled power.


If you want to talk ice fishing and all the products that will help you out this season, or if you want to find that perfect present for the ice fishing type person in your life, here is the deal.  The first three weekends in December I will be hunkered down in the ice fishing section of the fishing and marine departments at our local Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan.  If you need a hand in picking out some gear, or just want to get some of the latest info about catching panfish, walleye and pike through the ice, you can find there on both Saturday and Sunday during those weekends.  See you there….


Copyright, 2016

Posted in Community News, Fishing Websites/Stores, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Northern Pike Fishing, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Seminars, Store visits, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

The Versatile Jigging Rapala


Have used them through the ice, and have even used them on the lake in the spring, but until last week up on the Saginaw River, I have never used Rapala’s Jigging Raps in the fall on a river system! We fished upriver one day, and then downriver the next, and Jigging Rapala’s in size #7 caught everything the river had to throw at us.  Walleye, sauger,  and even perch couldn’t resist the movement created by the darting glide baits.


I even broke out the new Flat Rap from Rapala, in a size #4.  While the #7 Jigging Rap weighs in at 5/8ths of an ounce and measures 2.75 inches in length, the Flat Rap packs a tighter punch so to speak.  Its weighs in at 9/16ths of an ounce in a 1.5″ body.  This means, after two days of rain prior to the tournament on Saturday that the smaller body was able to cut the current even better than its big cousin.  Touch is everything when it comes to jigging, and when coupled with my 6’8″ MXF snap jigging rods from St. Croix Rods, as soon as they lures hit bottom they were punched back up the water column, then allowed to do their controlled drop.  Both my Avid and Legend Tournament Walleye Series rods were a dream when coupled up with Fireline and fluorocarbon leaders.

When both baits were over fish, they would hit the baits at the bottom of their fall.  Literally waiting for them and then striking at the bait.  Wish I could tell you one color was better than the other, but the hits came on every color we dropped on them.  Pearl, blue/silver, metallic perch and orange all took some fish throughout the day on Saturday.

Whether fishing the river up in Saginaw or Bay City, or waiting for the ice, the best selection I have seen in the stores was on Sportsmen’s Direct‘s website, located off Lake St. Clair.  John and the crew have all the baits in stock now as they gear up for the ice fishing season.  I loaded up before the trip, and with the catch rate being better than the all the jigs I poured, I wish I got even more.

Copyright, 2016


Posted in Fishing Websites/Stores, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Walleye Jig Colors: where do the ideas come from?

There are lots of color choices when it comes to painting jigs.  You can choose the tried and true, or you can step out and come up with something original on your own.  In my case I look at what is already working throughout the whole year.  Meaning, I take my ideas a lot of times from lures, spinner blades, spoons and even the plastics that I use.

Prime example happened last night, I had all my powder paints from TJ’s Tackle out in the shop.  I had my lists of patterns that I was going to paint, and how many jigs for each color.  I had 30 jigs left over, by design for getting a creative.  While trying to come up with some ideas, I looked at my spinner blades for some inspiration.  I spied my best blade from the 2016 season, which also happened to be the best Deep Husky Jerk pattern for the last couple of years, Big Eye Custom Lure’s Lime Attack.

Big Eye Lime Attack

Big Eye Lime Attack

I chose the Bright Green and Hot Pink powder paints from TJ’s and fired up the heat gun and fluid beds. First I gave the body of my 5/8 ths ounce Walleye Jig made from a Do-It mold, a dip in the Bright Green.  Then in the 3 inch fluid cup, I gave it a Hot Pink back.  Is it a perfect match, maybe not.  Do I love the results, absolutely!  It’s just funky enough to work, and if you have seen some of the colors of the plastics that worked this year, it just might be the hot jig for me in two weekends for the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club’s Fall Classic.


I mentioned the colors of plastics, that is another source of inspiration for me when it comes to painting the jigs.  Last year, an 8.5 lb walleye came on a Blue Ice jig, and a Lunker City Ice Shad Fin-S Fish combination.  The Blue Ice worked pretty well, so this year, I came up with an Ice Shad, or White Ice pattern.  In this picture, I used the 3/4 oz round ball mold from Do-It.  Why a 3/4 ounce jig on the Saginaw River, where the current doesn’t even come close to matching the Detroit River in flow speed?  Because last year during the tournament we had a lot rain the night before, and the wind was hollowing out of the West/Northwest, which sped the river up.  Bad thing is, I left the 3/4 oz box of jigs at home…never again!

White Ice

White Ice

For this jig pattern, I used the White Pearl powder paint, and then used the Clear powder coat, which I have infused with Silver/Holographic flake to make my “ice” finishes  I tried the straight White powder, but like the way the Pearl came out better.  Then, as with all the jigs, they go into the jig clamps from TJ’s, to get a 20 minute bake at 350 degrees in my old college era toaster oven.  This process hardens the powder coat to the point where I can drop them on the shop’s cement floor, and the finish wont chip off.  And yes, I have dropped more than my fair share during the years, so whether you might be clumsy or fishing the Detroit River, it is worth taking this extra step!

Now, the only thing left to do is finish painting my 3/8 ths and 1/2 oz jigs, and get the St. Croix rods rigged up and ready to go.  Stay tune for news from pre-fishing and the tourney, I have a little VMC trick to pull in time for Halloween.

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Fishing Websites/Stores, Lure Making, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

New Gear from Clam Outdoors

Pulled back into the driveway right around 10:30 PM Saturday night after an 12 hour drive back from Rogers, Minnesota, the location of Clam Outdoors headquarters.  It was good to see old friends from the early ice tournament days that helped ignite the ice fishing revolution by constantly suggesting new improvements in the gear that leapfrogged the competition by years in development.   It’s hard to believe sometimes that I have been a member of the Ice Team and Clam staff for my 16th year, and to see the wonderment in the eyes of the new staff members, which is probably the same sense of awe I had when I walked out onto the ice for my first Trap Attack tournament.


Spent an amazing two full days in Rogers, and during those days we visited the headquarters of Vexilar Marine Electronics, Inc. (those that know, just say Vex) and did a walk through of Clam’s HQ on Thursday.  That night we had a really great meet and greet for all the staffers which was hosted by the owner of Clam.  On Friday, I went in early for the Ice Team portion of the day.  We talked about the development of the team, and although I wish it was possible to tell you, we had a sneak peek of potential new products for the 2017-2018 season.  In the afternoon we were joined by the group of Clam Pro Staff members and we filled our section of the warehouse with close to 350 people.

The highlight of the day is always centered around seeing and talking to old friends and meeting new ones.  Whether they work directly for Clam, old angling buddies or new product affiliations that have come on board.  Was proud to see Jiffy Augers join the team this year, as I am coming up on my fourth year working with this great ice company out of Wisconsin.  Naturally though, it was pretty exciting to see all the new gear available this year, as well as picking up our orders for the upcoming season.


I ventured into the hub market this year by purchasing the Clam/Jason Mitchell 5000 Thermal Hub.  Of course I had walleye in mind when looking through the catalog and seeing this fully thermal shack that has 9 foot across in any direction, of fishing space inside its walls.  For myself, I am seeing two purposes for using the JM 5000.  I like lots of room when walleye fishing on Lake Erie, so when I want to walk out when the fishing is close to shore, in the sled it goes with some minimal gear.  When fishing on the Ohio side where we might travel a lot of distance, will strap it inside my Voyager and use it as a cook shack for our mid-day meals.  Either way, will be out of the wind and cold inside a heated environment.


The hub was a breeze to set up by myself, and of course I already started to lay some gear out inside to see what the best way to fish would be with the available space.  On my list from last Friday included the Clam folding cooler chair and some gallon buckets.  Already had the round pack table, and insulated Clam bucket for my minnows.  Naturally I had to lay out one of my Vexilar FLX-28 flashers to see where my holes would go.


Although the grass is green, hoping it won’t be long before it is sitting on the ice soon, maybe within a couple of months!  The hub wasn’t the only thing on my list, but for now this peek will have to do, but wait to you see the new line of suits, which have been totally revamped for this season!  Some other tools of the trade too, but lets wait until my last walleye tournament of the season at the end of this month.  Until then, its time to start pouring some jigs!

Copyright, 2016

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

The Buck-Shot Perch Dropper Goes National…

…or worldwide even!  Northland Tackle liked my idea about combining the iconic ice fishing spoon, the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, with their Dropper Hooks.  Liked so much that they wanted me to do an article for their blog section of the website.


So thanks to the worldwide web, everyone can read the thought process that went into coming up with the concept for this spoon, chain and hook combination.  Click on the link below to read it for yourself.  Big thanks goes out to the Monroe Evening News for getting this ride started.

Buck-Shot Perch Dropper

It can used for the open water, and with Northland’s endless types, sizes and color combinations available, break them out through the ice as well.

Copyright, 2016

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

Rattlin’ Eyes Through the Ice

Would be willing to bet that most people when they read the title of this, that there first thought was of a spoon with a rattle chamber attached to the back.  You would be wrong, but it would have been a good guess regardless.  The baits I am talking about are often used in warm weather months, either jigged or with a cast and retrieve method when bass fishing.  They are in the class or category of the lipless crankbait.


In years past, I had used an 1ounce Rat L Trap to jig for pike through the ice.  Last year I learned a rough lesson in just how effective these baits can be on Lake Erie for catching walleye through a 10 inch hole.  I had been marking fish all day on my Vexilar, catching four, missing a couple with my Jigging Rapala’s.  My buddy Cliff had one on the ice and a very nice 13 inch perch.  Then a guy I just met that day set up near us.  He couldn’t find his previous holes, so I grabbed the Jiffy and drilled a pair for him and got back to fishing.  I marked one more fish which became disinterested, while our new friend whiffed on a couple, and then proceeded to get his limit of six in the last hour of daylight

Rapala Rattlin' Raps

Rapala Rattlin’ Raps


The difference between our approaches was noise in the form of very loud rattles coming from Rapala Rattlin’ Raps he was using.  I had some back at the house, little good they did me there.  Of course I had to order some more, like these two baits above in Silver and Chrome Blue.  I also looked at some different types as well.

Northland Rippin' Shads

Northland Rippin’ Shads

The Rippin’ Shads from Northland Tackle are back, and this time they added some color.  Before they discontinued the baits, they had a real image type scheme to them, and not a huge fan of natural looking lures.  With the reintroduction though, things are looking up.  Not as loud as the Raps, but pretty close.  And although it doesn’t say UV on the website, I am pretty sure they are.

Salmo Zippers

Salmo Zippers

The Salmo Zipper, a much better bait for Lake Erie than the lighter, bulb shaped Chubby Darter.  The Zipper also rattles, while it’s design cuts through the water.  When fishing Erie through the ice, chrome or silver finishes seem to be the best, but instead of putting all my eggs in one basket, I compromised when purchasing these two baits.  With one, I picked up both orange and chrome, and with the natural perch finish, I went with the main forage of big walleye.

Fat Vibe

Fat Vibe


The Fat Vibe from Savage Gear was the last of the lipless cranks that I picked up to try.  With all the baits I tried to stay in the 2 inch size range, and while most were around 3/8ths in weight, the Vibe was the heaviest at 1/2 an ounce.  The color selection was sort of limited for what I think the walleye in Lake Erie want, but did like the yellow lateral line on the Sexy Shad on the right.  Just enough of a twist in the silver/chrome baits that I do like on Erie.


Quick overview, and a few more tips.  I went with just about everything in the 2 inch range for sizes to get started.  Both the Raps and Rippin’ Shads weighed in at 3/8th of an ounce, and although the Fat Vibes were the heaviest, the Zippers were 3/8ths oz stuffed into a 1.75″ body.  Tip or not to tip with a minnow head is the next question.  Although you kill a little action and noise when tipping the belly hook, like my Jigging Rapala’s, I prefer the bait to have a little scent and that extra bit of a dangle type movement.

There are more baits to choose from if you decide to try the lipless crank, but for the dimensions and weights I wanted for the currents of Lake Erie, this is the formula I came up with.  Got the flash, the noise and in some cases, the glow to get some fish. Now we just need “momma” nature to cooperate and get this plan put into action!

Copyright, 2016


Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

The Best Spinner Blade of the 2016 Walleye Season

The best producing spinner blade the 2016 season is….you have to wait for the background story.


I work with some companies so I have their blades, I see a blade a like, so I get a dozen or so.  Then I have friends who have branched out, and I have some of their blades too.


From size #4 in a Colorado blade, to as big as a #8 Indiana blade, with willows and whiptails in between there is a fair selection to choose from when fishing Lake Erie.  I might choose a blade for its size and color depending on the time of the year or depth of the water, its clarity and the weather conditions up above.  An example would be a whiptail or large Indiana when the water is clear, I like to run these blades up high in the water column, targeting that space just above suspended walleye.


Some blades I get are inspired by spoons, or like this particular blade which was my best producer this year while pulling crawler harnesses, are inspired by color schemes on crankbaits.  The past three springs (I got to test early versions), my favorite Rapala Deep Husky Jerk color pattern was called Lime Attack, it’s a Lake Erie killer in clear water.  Since I like to tinker with things,  I started thinking this would be a great pattern on a Colorado blade when tying up my crawler harnesses.

I got a hold of Don from Big Eye Custom Lures in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Lime Attack is his pattern, so I inquired about getting a blade painted. I have a bunch of Big Eye blades, and too many DHJ cranks to count, AND  a few things that have been painted to my specs in the past.  I had the general description of what I wanted in my head, but because of past work and the communication built up for the past five years or so, I give Don some creative leeway when it comes to the final product.  This fall I will highlight some of the custom Rapala’s he has done when the late fall trolling bite develops.  But I digress, and most of you just want to see the blade I have been leading up to for the past four or five paragraphs.


Introducing Lime Attack in a Colorado blade.  I wanted that pink and green color to really pop on the front of the blade, so I asked for a white basecoat. That really worked out well, and originally I wanted the blades with just a copper back.  Double D got a little creative, and painted the backs with a pink anti-freeze coat. Its just a slightly different shade of pink because it went right over the metal blank, which gives it a little contrast to the color on the front side. On a good day, with the sunlight reaching through the water, it almost gives the spinning blade a pink glow as it is being pulled along.


My rule of thumb is whichever blade that was hot on the last trip, always gets rigged up on two rods the next time I go out onto Lake Erie.  That way I get four fresh blades rigged up to see what the walleye are in the mood for, while still giving that “hot blade” a chance to perform again.  From late May through July I was running the Lime Attack blades virtually almost non-stop.

Early in the spring, while skirting mudlines, I would run the LA’s on the clean water side of the line.  When the lake warmed up, I ran them up and down the water column.  Then, late in the season while the shiners were hatching and you could see clouds of minnows near the top of the water, I would run them about four foot down, right through the schools of bait.

I have been ribbing Don for two years that he doesn’t work enough, and I would spill the beans about my blade pattern to help increase the workload.  Finally this year, he just said to go ahead, so….today I am calling his bluff!  If you like the blade, get a hold of Don through the Big Eye website’s “contact page“.  While there check out the rest of the stock custom colors while on the website, the paint jobs are incredible, and they hold up forever.  For latest available products or new patterns and fishing reports, go to Facebook and like my “Fishing Michigan” page.  I share everything that Big Eye puts up,  and you might pick up a thing or two that will help you put more fish in the cooler.

Copyright, 2016

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

Ice Spoon Conversion for Perch Fishing



Tired of trying ice fishing rigs that are too light for open water perch fishing on the big lakes? Convert your heavier ice fishing spoons like Northland Tackle’s Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, with Northland ‘s dropper hooks! They come in treble hook or different sized single hook options.

When the lakes freeze back up, either put the trebles back on, or try them with the droppers on!

Copyright, 2016

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