Creating the Erie Whistler and Thumper Jigs

April 15th, 2014

Welcome to the creative mind that is me. I love to take existing ideas and making them better, or at least adapt them to walleye fishing. I played with Alabama Rigs a couple of years ago, that same year I started tying up my own Lake Erie style hair jigs.  I jazzed them up by adding different layers of colors and caught some nice fish.


Last year I looked at two of Northland Tackle’s signature jigs, the Whistler and Thumper Jigs. I love these two jigs because they are not just your typical walleye jig, but they add another dimension to the presentation….flash and vibration.  The Whistler has a prop behind the lead head that spins on the drop, and the Thumper has a small Indiana blade that flashes on a small swivel under the jig.

Whistler Jig

Whistler Jig


Thumper Jig

Thumper Jig


I chose two sizes in the Whistler, the 1/2 and 3/4 ounce, and then on the Thumper Jig I went with the biggest size, the 3/8th oz. The Whistler has more drag because of the prop, and although you want a slow drifting action while fishing,  you still want to keep the jig at a roughly 45′ angle, much like you achieve by adjusting the weights on bottom bouncers while driving live bait rigs.  Now because of that I didn’t want to go any lighter with the Whistler’s, but because the Thumper has less drag I could use the heaviest jig in the series when the wind is barely moving the boat along on a drift.


The trick with tying the craft fur (hair) onto the Whistler is the bead behind the prop.  You need to secure it tightly to the plastic sleeve that is placed on the hook shank by Northland. You do this because you want to leave a space to allow the prop to continue to spin freely.  It is easy to do, just do some wraps on the sleeve, secure it with some head cement, and then do some double wraps around the bead, pull back tight against the plastic and put another series of wraps on the shank to secure the bead.  This also allows you to form a barrier or stopping point for your wraps once you start applying the hair. If the plastic sleeve does not allow you enough space to do it correctly, carefully take a sharp knife or utility knife and go around the shank and trim a piece off.

Erie Whistler

Erie Whistler





Erie Thumpers

Erie Thumpers


If you want to get fancy like my pink and white one, you can take a silver Whistler Jig, and some jig lacquer. Dip the head into the paint, then hang and let it dry until no longer tacky. The silver base allows the lacquer paint to really pick up a shine when the light hits it. Not that it is necessary, but you can go a step further by applying some stick-on 3D eyes to the head. It dresses it up, but that is up to the individual. I think the fish strike at the baits mostly as a reactionary impulse to the vibration created by the prop, or the Indiana blade on the Thumpers.


I love these spinnerbait style storage boxes from Plano for all my hair jigs for two reasons.  The first because they have a locking rack top that snaps down and secures the jigs so they don’t become a hairy tangled mess. Secondly is because the jigs are actually hanging,  it allows any water from a wet jig to drip down off the jig and preventing the hooks from rusting. Also inside the box I keep some of the silica packs that absorb moisture out of the air to add another layer of rust prevention.

Now I have two things to  suggest that you can do to preserve and increase the effectiveness of these new hair jigs. First off, Lake Erie is full of zebra mussels which can destroy a jig’s paint job, so I apply two coats of CS Seal-Coat to provide a hard protective layer for the paint. I suggest you let them dry between coats for the best results. The waiting is the hard part, because once I get started on a project, I don’t want to stop until I have completed it.



To increase the effectiveness on the jigs, have a good supply of Northland Tackle’s Sting’r Hooks on hand. You will need the slip on style and the length will depend on your presentation.  If you are one of those fisherman who prefer to fish a hair jig without a live minnow or plastic minnow, I suggest the two inch variety. If you are fishing with a live bait presentation, or the plastic minnows available to buy, then definitely go with the 3-inch ones.


On a non-walleye topic, I also had some smaller Thumper Jigs laying around the shop last night, so I tied some hair on them as well and am thinking crappie all the way.  Either jigging,  drifting or trolling along under a float. Sounds like a good time to try them out will be when my brother and I take my niece out panfishing in Irish Hills this spring.



Copyright, 2014





Time to Get into the Spring of Things: Big Eye Spring Baits

April 7th, 2014

Tis that time of the year, despite the snow and ice hanging on by a thread under the pine trees, it is time to gear up for spring walleye fishing on the Great Lakes. I have hauled the shanties upstairs and lugged the tackle bags full of cranks downstairs.  Jigging boxes are ready to get tuned up, and there will be many nights of snelling crawler harnesses in the near future.

Big Eye Custom Lures Deep Husky Jerks

Big Eye Custom Lures Deep Husky Jerks


One of the things I will be doing is putting an order in with some more Big Eye Custom Lures.  I have one or five patterns that I want to get this year. The standard colors on the website produce some really nice fish like this 12 lber caught on a Purple Craw.

Purple Craw

Purple Craw


I had to get this color last year, and six of them too, Redhead Wonderbread, and this year will be load up with another half dozen of Chartreuse head Wonderbread.  They are both Lake Erie staples in both the spring and fall when rigging up the St. Croix’s.


The bad thing, or really good thing is you look at it with the right frame of mind, Big Eye added Willow Blades this year.


There are three things I really like about these willows, first off they come in gold blades.  Gold is just starting to get really hard to find and it works on Erie.  Second thing I like about willows is running them up high in the water column, they give the fish a bigger profile to see.  I also like running them over deep water suspended roughly halfway down. They tend to call fish in from the bottom with their longer size.

Finally the last thing I want to get is some #4 blades for drifting and dragging spinner rigs down on the bottom.  Often when the sun is high, the fish are low, so get down with them and mix it up in their strike zone! Besides, Big Eye added a hot new “Blossom” pattern, which means I will need to get some #6′s in those too.


Those and a few more baits that I already picked up at the Ultimate Fishing Show in Novi, and the MI-OH Sportfishing show here in Monroe, I will be plenty busy getting ready for the first trolling bites of the 2014 Season

Copyright, 2014







The EZ (store) Concept Applied to Planer Boards

March 26th, 2014


It may not look like it, but spring is technically here, and mother nature should start acting accordingly before you know it. She better, I spent the better part of two days hauling the ice fishing gear upstairs and started getting the open water walleye gear in order.  One of the first things I did was put on the new for 2014, EZ Store tow arm clips from Church Tackle. This year I will be running the TX-22 boards, so that was one of the first projects to get done before snelling all those crawler harnesses with Big Eye Custom Lures new spinner blades.  Will show the new blades off in an article coming soon,will call it a “What’s New for 2014″ kind of thing.

Why convert the standard board’s tow arm to the EZ-Store clips?  Because dealing with tow arms is more than cumbersome, they poke out, get snagged on everything and in general …. are a pain in the arse!  With a slight twist of a screwdriver the tow arms now come off quickly and can easily be put back together and installation is a breeze!


The EZ-Store’s can also be installed on the Walleye Boards, but I put them on the TX-22′s.  The nice thing about the -22′s is that you can quickly reverse the boards to ride on either side of the boat.  When putting the clips on the boards, the first thing you need to do is separate your boards by port (left) and starboard (right) like in the picture above.


First put on the back plate.  It is a simple process; make sure you have the lock nut placed underneath squarely, then drive in the two screws. Take the cover plate that will secure the tow arm, and place a washer on a small bolt, and screw the bolt into the lock nut.  Leave some slack.

IMG_20140323_184554_905 Once installed, slide the tow arm that comes with the board into the newly created slot. Then tighten the bolt down, it forms a vise like clamp, and holds the tow arm securely.  You can slide the arm out with relative ease.


You can see in the picture that the Double Action Flag Kits have already been installed.  You can either set them up for having the flag go up with a fish on, or the flag go down when a fish hits your bait.  I prefer the flag to ride in an upright position and then have it go down with a fish on.  The main reason is that the board is easier to see, not only for myself in bigger waves, but for other boats to see my boards and lines as well.  Nothing is worse than having a boat coming straight in your direction, not see your lines and cutting what could amount to the loss of $100 dollars or more worth of equipment.

To see a video of the TX-22, EZ-Store and the Planer Board Double Action Flag Kits, check out these video available on

Copyright, 2014




Church Tackle’s TX-007 Stern Planer, with a Rattle Modification

March 24th, 2014

stern planer prototype2


Church Tackle made a big splash in 2013 with the introduction of their TX-007 Stern Planer. The -007 allows anglers to target fish that you are seeing below the boat with your fish finder.  No longer is bracketing the sides of the boat with boards your only option.  The stern planer allows you to drift your baits back, far away from the noise of the engine and the shadow of your boat.

stern planer diagram

A good friend and fellow Church Pro Staffer, Steve Berry made an early observation that proved quite effective.  He thought of making it a rattling planer.  I converted a couple of them and started catching fish right away last season.


Making your -007 into a Rattlin’ Stern Planer is quite simple.  Church designed the planer with a small plug to add water for balancing the buoyancy while in the water. Easier to detect bites, ride better in the water…etc.  Just remove that small plug and add 12 to 15 BB’s, and then put the plug back into the rear of the planer.  I used a spoon to work around the plug when removing it, so as to not damage the plug.


For easier identification  I take a black Sharpie permanent marker and write a letter ”R” for rattling on the back of the planers I have modified.  Yes it is pretty easy to tell that you have modified an TX-007 when you pick it up, but when you have a few together, the “R” just makes it easy to just grab it and attach it to your line.  In the picture below, you will also see the hole where the plug goes back in after you have placed the BB’s inside.


Once you are done with the BB’s and put the plug back into the planer, you are ready to fish.  When you have a fish on the other end, the rattling noise increases and actually makes it easier to detect the bites.  When using the rattling -007′s, the type of rod you choose to fish with can also help detect these bites and that is why I choose to fish with a softer downrigger rod.  The rod will telegraph the action of a fish on the other end of the line.


With a season of using the Rattlin’ TX-007 Stern Planers in the books, the experiment was a big success.  Four out of every six fish we caught came on the rattlers versus the unmodified  stern planers.  A new thought just occurred to me, looking back, that was all in what could be called deep water, 20 ft or deeper.  It could be that in the shallower water, say 14 to 16 foot of water, during the spring bite, that the rattlers could possibly spook fish.  Good thing I have an equal number of each and should not have to worry!

Edit Note:  I was just asked where you can buy the TX-007′s online and in retail stores…

I believe they are available at Franks Great Outdoors, but are not listed on the website, call ahead if you are in the area.  The reverse goes with Cabela’s, they are available online, but not sure if they are in the Dundee or other Michigan stores yet.

Copyright, 2014

One Last Good Weekend on the Ice?

March 20th, 2014

It could be, the temps are going to be falling pretty far at night over the weekend.  Will it be enough to save the ice around Monroe, probably not I am thinking.  At least I would not say it is safe and go for it, but if you want to hit the ice one last time, Irish Hills might be the place to be Saturday and Sunday.



You might not need a shanty, but it is nice to take the chill off in case its damp outside.  My last time out was brutal, and that was just last Sunday!  Mother Nature is a fickle beast, so as always, it is better to be prepared!


If crappie are your target, bring some minnows with you.  It seems like the spikes and waxworms are still very effective when it comes to bluegill, but the crappie have gone into full spring mode and taking nothing but minnows right now. If the action is slow, break out the bobbers.  Remember, you are allowed three rods in Michigan, so why not give yourself two more chances to fill the bucket!


Slip bobbers can work best, but it doesn’t hurt to use the snap-on kind as it doesn’t matter if they freeze up or not.  Just hand line the fish up the hole, its a great method. You don’t have to worry about the slip knot sliding on you or the bead freezing up.

Copyright, 2014

Late Ice can be the BEST Ice, but….

March 18th, 2014

… your step!


Even though late season ice fishing can be incredibly hot, it like the early season is also the most dangerous time you can be out on the hard water.  That is why I carry the Jiffy Deluxe Mille Lacs Ice Chisel, or what is commonly called a spud here in Michigan.  Although many consider how much an item weighs when they go ice fishing, trying to keep it down to minimum when walking or dragging equipment, here is a case of heavier is better.  Yes, there are cheaper and lighter weight spuds on the market, but when walking on the ice you want as much weight as possible when checking the ice in front of you.  A lighter weight spud might barely go into rotten ice, but the heavier Deluxe model will give you a true indication of just how safe the ice is in front of you.

Also if you are braving the big water for one last trip, this spud can save your life in another way.  Imagine riding your quad, side by side, or snowmobile and your heading out or heading back to shore and you come up to a crack in the ice.  Take the extra few minutes, get off your machine of choice, and use the chisel to check the ice on both sides of the crack for thickness before crossing!  Also, once you do that, please do not “slow roll” your machine over the cracks, get a decent start and have some momentum built up when you cross over it.  Even though you checked it, it is far better to be safe, than sorry.

Copyright, 2014

St. Croix Ice Fishing Rods on Sale

March 10th, 2014

If you just want to get into the sport next year because all your buddies were popping big fish, just started ice fishing this past season and want more equipment, or want to find an ice fishing rod to fit a need…then St. Croix Rods has a sale for  you.


Not only are there Premiers on sale, but Legend Ice Rods are sale too. Supplies are limited so do not hesitate or they will be gone.

Copyright, 2014

The Importance of GPS in the Sport of Ice Fishing

March 9th, 2014

After spending the last couple of weeks fulfilling commitments, it was time to get back on the ice yesterday.  Luckily it was a little moist in the morning so I rethought the whole, “Lets drag the gear out in the sled” idea and brought the Clam Voyager TCX thermal trap instead. What was supposed to be a sunny, 35′ degree day, was nothing but that. Wet, then windy and snowy, and in the end…so glad the sled stayed home.  I will say this though, it takes a Great Lake like Erie, to make the biggest flip-over shanty look small.

It also takes a Great Lake like Erie to have the opportunity to stress the importance of having a GPS with you while you are ice fishing.


Sure we think that having a GPS is a “nifty” tool to mark spots where you have caught fish, and with more expensive detailed units, even locate structure under the ice. These are all great tools to use on inland lakes to help you to catch fish on a return visit, or even locate fish when hitting the lake for the first time. BUT, when you are the big water, and you are traveling not a mile here and there, but dozens of miles, your GPS becomes not just a tool, but a potential lifesaver.

To set the circumstances of yesterday’s trip; it starts out wet, foggy and overcast.  The day progresses to turn into heavy wind and snow conditions, with little visibility over a half mile to 3/4ths of a mile.  You see West Sister Island,  you don’t see it.  Land becomes enveloped in fog then snow, and without a GPS you have no idea where you are on the ice in relation to your launching point.  Then lets throw in several cracks on the ice, granted ice conditions on the lake have been great, but throw in a wind shift, then the cracks become a little wider, and your buddy on the quad doesn’t feel comfortable crossing them any more.

You drive miles to find a good crossing, you already cannot see land, but now another variable is thrown into the mix and you are even more off track than before.  Then you realize that nobody is the crew has a GPS, and yes, you should go out with multiple anglers, not just for safety sake, but it makes the experience that much more enjoyable.  Now to get back on track…GET  a GPS!  A $100 unit is plenty, like my old Camo, Garmin Etrex will do the job. you just have to get back to shore and your launch point safely.


You cannot trust your phones, I learned that yesterday too.  I overheard a couple of anglers, and one said his phone was down to 20% power.  If your phone has ever been that low before, you know that the juice will run out before long. Make sure you either have a unit hardwired into your choice of machine or if you are using a handheld unit, a couple of spare AA batteries will take up the least amount of room on your trip, and could be the most essential thing you bring with you out onto the ice.

Whether on the quad or snowmobile, I can use my HDS-5m chartplotting unit on either machine. But, I always have my little GPS with me for a backup, smaller than most wallets, you can always find room in a pocket somewhere. Redundancy is not really a bad thing in this circumstance, and will help you adapt,  no matter what the conditions on the ice!

Copyright, 2014

Monroe Bite: Started HOT, but cooled off quickly

February 27th, 2014

Went out to the state park yesterday, and yes, before anyone asks….IT WAS COLD.  I even broke out the Fish Trap Pro and the Coleman BlackCat heater!  Was on the ice before anyone else and drilled my first hole around 7:30 am.  It started out promising with lots of fish on the Vexilar FLX-28 and a nice 10 inch crappie coming up the hole.



In fact I had several nice fish come up early in the morning, all caught with a combination of plastic and meat.  Several on Clam’s Dingle Drop jig in gold.





Meanwhile, those crappie were mixed in with a TON of small bluegills, and managed to pull 3 decent sized pumpkinseeds and got two more with a guy who had enough around noon. I don’t blame him, the fishing slowed quite a bit after that, but was still interesting. Lots of bass hanging around and some of them are hungry enough to take a small bait.  This one came unbuttoned right at the top of the hole, but since it was six inches, didn’t have time to get turned around, so with a little help of the ice scoop, back down he went.


Sidenote:  There is over 20 inches of ice everywhere, both young and old are hitting the ice heavy this year. If you see someone with a hand auger, if you are out there and have a power auger, be a sportsman and offer to drill some holes for them.  If they say no, not a big deal…but make an effort to keep them fishing and supporting the sport!

Copyright: 2014

St. Croix Rods and Bass Pro Shops: Auburn Hills, March 1st and 2nd

February 25th, 2014

Are you looking for a new rod for the 2014 season? Want to get out of the house before the next snow storm hits? Need some advice on getting the right rod for your next big trip? You want to jig the Detroit River or down on Lake Erie’s reefs and want the right rod to get the job done? You have heard about the St. Croix advantage, and always wanted the best rods made in the United States?  Then this weekend is the right time to visit the Bass Pro Shop store at the Great Lakes Crossing store in Auburn Hills, MI.!


Bass Pro Shops

I will be at BPS this weekend to help kick-off the Spring Fishing Classic, from 9 to 4 on Saturday, and 10 to 5 on Sunday!  Best part of being up there is working with customers who are looking for the right rod to get the job done. You might want to give jigging a shot this year, or even getting the boat rigged up for trolling, Bass Pro has the right St. Croix’s in stock to help you put more fish in the boat.


Of course if you have any questions about fishing, I will be glad to help out the best I can. Church Tackle Planer Boards, Northland Tackle, Rapala Lures, Matzuo Hooks and Daiwa Reels, just ask away!  From the youngest kid, to the oldest pro, we can get you hooked up with the right gear.

Copyright, 2014