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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

Tornado Sirens and Lake Erie Perch

Although we go chased off the water by the tornado sirens and radio reports  of  a touchdown near Dundee, Michigan, we still managed to get into some perch on Sunday.  Cannot express enough the importance of having a marine radio on board, we stopped and told several boats on the way in that there was a storm on it way, and our phones didn’t send the warning alerts until we were back at the docks at Sterling State Park.  Early warnings are the best warnings.

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We managed to get a few here and there, but the action was never great in any spot we stopped to fish.  Fished off Stoney Point in 23 for, hit the pack near the River Raisin buoys, “called a friend” and tried 25 foot of water straight east of the Point, and before the sirens went off, hit the state line in 27 fow.  Tried everything too, Clam Speed Spoons, Tightline rigs and the traditional perch rigs.  Everything caught fish, but just never got into the numbers we wanted.  Don’t think it had anything to do with the types of things we tried, it just there was a too much competition down there, or the schools of perch just never concentrated in any one area.

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Although the Catch Counter never came close to that magical 100 for our two limits, we still caught enough to get a couple of batches to run through the Tumble Drumm scaler.  Besides the St. Croix rods, those two items have become two of our best perch tools.  With the scaler, I am saving $2 a pound scaling them myself and it more than has paid for itself just after a couple of trips.  In fact I have two to help speed up the process.  Fifty perch go in, and 30 min later I am slicing the meat off the bones.  When we picked up the bait at Jeff’s Bait and Tackle, it was good to see that they are carrying the Catch Counter heads that you can mount to either a cooler or bucket yourself.

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Will have to wait for next weekend to improve on yesterday’s fishing, but that’s half the fun.  Trying to decipher the information gathered and hit it again, and again if necessary.  When it comes to perching though, it doesn’t pay to sit in one spot.  Just like when trolling for walleye, keep moving till you really get into them.

 

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Lake Erie, Perch Fishing | Leave a comment

The Search for Pure Gas, Non Ethanol Fuel for All Engines

Well it has started early this year, got my first email from an ice fisherman who needs carb parts for their old gas powered ice auger.  Lets face it, as long as they continue to allow and increase the amount of ethanol that goes into our fuels, small engines and marine outboards are going to be paying the price.  Or, more distinctly, you will be paying the price, and the EPA under this administration just doesn’t care what it will cost you as long as it fits into their agenda.

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There is an alternative though, and that is for us, the anglers to find places that still sell non-ethanol fuels. As they say, there is an app for that.  Find a station or a marina near you, and save on future repair bills.  The price per gallon may be a dollar more than at the regular gas pumps, but to me its worth the price not to have a breakdown or auger failure while on a trip, or out on the ice!

If you have an I-phone:  Pure Gas

Or, if you have an Android phone:  Pure Gas

Side note:  These engines were designed to run on high octane gas, so make sure the source you find sells 90+ octane fuel.

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Fishing Websites/Stores, Ice Fishing, Ice Products | Leave a comment

Best Piece of Perch Fishing Equipment: the Catch Counter

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I have my perch rigs all made up, the St. Croix rods with fresh line on the reel’s spools, are ready to go.  My Clam insulated buckets are downstairs, fresh batteries in the bubbler.  Even got the net in the boat just in case a walleye hits the rigs, but perhaps the best piece of perch fishing equipment in the yellow belly arsenal is the  Big Mouth Catch Counter .

87 Gone are the days of using this style of clicker, and asking your buds in the boat, “Did you click that one?”  Then having to grab a bucket and recount the perch in the cooler, only to find not only was that fish missed, but five more as well didn’t get counted.  You do not want to go back to the dock and have your friendly neighborhood DNR officer write you a ticket because you went six over your limit.  Not a good thing, and could potentially be a very costly mistake.

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The newest version of the Catch Counter is the improved Big Mouth.  With the bigger diameter, the bigger perch slide down the hole easier.  It also works with crappie and bluegill.  So next time the DNR walks up to your boat asking how you did, you can read the counter and say accurately we just missed our limit by three fish, or hopefully after a good day on the water, we go our limit!

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Believe it or not, and I have put this to the test on several occasions, one bag of ice will last all day keeping your catch fresh until you get back to the cleaning station.  The perch you catch actually will insulate the ice.  I have to admit, this was my only real concern, and after fishing on days where the temps get up into the 90’s, not once have I come back home to put the perch into my Tumble Drumm scalers without there still being ice in the cooler.

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There are there options available, just the counter itself.  You can mount this to a bucket or cooler you already have.  If you have a smaller boat, you can optimize your room and get the bucket version, all pre-drilled.  The bucket is what I like to use for ice fishing too.  If you are fishing with multiple guys, or your state allows you to keep a large limit, then the cooler version is the one to get, like the bucket rig, this model is already pre-drilled when you just slide the Big Mouth into place and fasten.

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The Catch Counters are made in Ohio, and sold in the United States and Canada.  For more information, visit the website and read all about them.  If you have more questions, ask Tony Sebastiano, who invented the Catch Counter.  Email him at westbaykellys@yahoo.com or call;  419-367-6501 and feel free to let him know you read it here on Fishing Michigan and that Chuck sent you.  You will not regret having this tool in the boat.

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Perch Fishing | Leave a comment

Match Perch Rigs to the Conditions

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The question is, does it matter which type of perch rig you use?  The answer would be yes of course, just as certain crankbaits work better when water temps dictate their use, or certain spinner blades work best depending on the forage.  When it comes to fishing the Great Lakes, there were two main types of perch rig, and in the last five years a third has come into play, called the Tightline Rig.  It has its time and place, just as the two that still remain the most popular, all three will be discussed, and in my opinion, when is the best time to use them.

Since I already mentioned the Tightline Rig, it will be the first one discussed. Saying that the tightline perch rig cannot be used in all conditions is like saying that Deep Husky Jerks should only be used in cold water, they will of course catch fish all year-long, but I prefer fishing them in rough water conditions.  When the waves are 3 foot plus it becomes a bit harder to detect bites on traditional rigs, but since all three hooks are secured on the main line of the rig, the ability to detect bites in rough water is increased dramatically.

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The Spreader Rig just might be the most identified type of rig when it comes to perch fishing on the Great Lakes.  Like the tightline rig, you can use them all year-long, but they shine when drifting for perch.  The most common way to perch fish is to drop anchor and drop the rigs down and get to fishing.  If you want to find active schools of perch, or schools that hold bigger yellow bellies, then drifting is the technique you should be employing.  Then if you wish, you can go back, and drop anchor to where you caught those big fish.

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The best all around type of perch rig, is often referred to by another name, the Crappie Rig.  The funny thing to be honest is, I don’t know a soul that actually uses these rigs for crappie. Whether you use two or three hooks, the rig puts more perch in the cooler than all the rest combined in my boat. With the hook lears, or metal arms keeping the minnows away from the rigs main line, perch are enticed to bite without being spooked by the line. The top hook brings the fish in, while the bottom two lines catch most of the perch.  It used to be something to get a double hook up, but now that Michigan allows three hooks, there is nothing like getting three on at once.

As stated in each case, all three types of perch can be used all year-long.  Each rig has their time and place, as dictated by the fishing conditions and your mode of fishing. If you have all three in your boat, then you triple your chances no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

Copyright, 2016

 

Posted in Perch Fishing, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

The Art of the Turn (Walleye Trolling)

So you went to a walleye seminar about trolling on the Great Lakes, and one of the topics was on how to speed up your lures without racing your engine.  This is easy to do, and I am sure they explained to  you in some length about making a left or right turn in order to slow down the boards on one side, while speeding up the other side.  Then when you straighten out your troll, the boards on the slow side speed up, which often triggers walleye to bite.

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Sounds like a great concept, now just stop and think.  This is not a great concept for all situations.  First, lets talk about what does work best with this method.  Crankbaits work best, specifically those that float or suspend, like a Rapala original floater, jointed minnow, shallow or deep diving Husky Jerk.  If you stop all, or come close to killing the lures/board combination’s momentum, these baits will either rise up in the water column, or hover in a relatively stationary position.

Big Eye Custom Lures DHJ-12'S

Big Eye Custom Lures DHJ-12’S

Can you do this method while trolling crawler harnesses or even spoons while trolling for walleye, the answer is yes….sometimes.  A little background information first, a spinner rig or spoon needs something to drag the presentation down in the water column to where the walleye are.  A lead diving weight like Church Tackle’s Stingray will sink rapidly, a plastic diver like Luhr Jensen’s Jet Diver, will waffle down the column at a slower rate.  This works while anglers are targeting fish higher up in the water column.

Church Tackle's Stingray Diving Weight

Church Tackle’s Stingray Diving Weight

Luhr Jensen Jet Diver

Luhr Jensen Jet Diver

When it doesn’t work with the divers, is when you have more line out than the depth of the water below the boat.  If your turns are too drastic, then your presentation will go to the bottom of the lake and catch both weeds and zebra mussels thus killing any advantage you tried to create by making the turn in the first place.  Have no fear though, you can still do the turns, as long as your lures aren’t hugging the bottom of the lake, but you have to be aware of all the factors mentioned above.

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The reason I wrote today’s piece is that while we roll into mid-July, the walleye of the Great Lakes, specially Lake Erie and those found on Saginaw Bay, are hugging the bottom in search of cooler water and food sources.  There is little room for error, so unless running the types of cranks I already mentioned, keep in mind the program you are running on your troll.  Continue to use this method to great effectiveness throughout the year, or not, depending on your methods of putting more fish in the cooler.

Quick note:  If you want to speed up your lure presentation without making a turn, its quite easy, and virtually eliminates any risk.  You just need to have the clicker engaged on the trolling reels, hit the release on all the reels starting with your outside board rod first, then quickly the middle and inside board next.  After six or eight foot of line has been let out, close the release starting with the outside board, and then middle, and inside board.  Then watch all three of your boards race up into position, you trigger just as many strikes as if you were making those turns.

Copyright, 2016

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

Quick Way to Protect your Trolling Rod Tips

This is just a quick tip, but will add years to the life to eye on your rod that everyone refers to as the “tip”.

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You are out trolling, you get a walleye on the other end, and the fight begins.  Next comes the planer board being taken off the line, 43 feet left to go before the weight comes into sight. In short time,  the fish sees the boat and starts fighting,  you reel in a bit more line to help your buddy net the fish.  Then you realize that the snap attached to  your weight, or diver, is already up to the top eye.

For this story’s sake, lets just say, everything went well, and the fish went into the net.  Problem is though, if you have a ceramic eye, or even one made of an alloy, the damage may be done.  What happens is that the snap has started to wear a groove, or even nicked the material.  Down the road this will lead to damaged line as it comes in and out of the reel and at some point, you will lose gear and probably lose a fish as a result.

No matter how careful you are, everyone does it, myself included.  In the heat of the struggle, when netting the fish is the most important thing, its easy to lose track of some fundamentals. The round plastic fishing bead is the answer to that, in this case in 8 mm size is a fairly inexpensive solution to add years to the life of your trolling rod’s tip.  I prefer something bright in color, either a chartreuse green or transparent pink, not for the fish, but just as another reminder that the snap is getting close to the end. Ideally, you want some room for the fish to struggle with.

Simply place the 8 mm bead on your line, then attach either a snap, or snap and swivel combination.  The bead will act as a buffer, and protect your rod’s tip from any potential damage.  Will this throw off some diving charts, yes it will, but so what?!  My explanation is this, you see the fish on the graph, and then you let the line out to the desired depth to target those fish.  Walleye feed up, meaning they see their prey above them, not below them and if your presentation is just a little above them by a few inches, so be it.  It will not affect your catch rate once you factor in for the “bead allowance” and you will put just as many fish in the cooler.

I had to do a resupply recently, and went back to my old friends at D&B Fishing.  Darren and Kathy have everything fishing related and not just for walleye fishing.  You see them in their booth at all the state’s big fishing show’s, and they did a great job redoing their website since my last visit.  Where else can you pay a buck for 30 beads, or in my case, $6.10 for a 500 count package?  You will be hard pressed to find better prices anywhere on beads, or a better selection for that matter.

Copyright, 2016

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