Buggy Blades for the Mayfly Hatch

Its that time of the year and the feeding frenzy has started out on Lake Erie.  The bug bite is in full gear and the mayflies are covering every building in eastern Monroe area.  The old timers would say that the fishing is over until the hatch ends, these days we know it is game on and you just have to find where the fish flies are in the water column.

I definitely have my favorite colors that have proven to work year after year. Golds and coppers, anything that imitates or matches the hatch.

Anti-Freeze Patterns

Anti-freeze patterns are also a good choice when the water is clear.

Weapon Rig

Tossing Weapons or mayfly rigs is a blast and one of the few opportunities for big water walleye anglers to do a little casting and catching.

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Line Poundage + Lure Weight = CONFUSION

So last night I get the 911 call about a broken rod and what does all the scribbling on the rods mean.  It is actually a pretty good question and not the first time someone has asked about it.  In this particular case it was a trolling rod from one of the big box stores and they no longer are making the seven foot rod that was damaged during a wave versus sitting on it type accident.

First off let’s tackle the line rating written on the side of this seven footer.  It was a medium heavy rod and was rated between 10 and 20 lb test monofilament line.  If you are worried about sticking to the 10 lb test rating that is used for the trolling guides for lure depth,  there isn’t a problem.  If you want to go with a bigger diameter line, no issue here either, so what if your lure runs slightly above a fish’s head, they feed up, not down anyway.  This means due to the configuration of where the eyes are on a walleye’s head, they look up, not down.

Church Tackle

Now for the lure weight rating located on the side of the rod, this has nothing to do with how much weight you are pulling while trolling.  Example would be the weight of my Church Tackle Planer Boards, nor the drag of the lure and board combined.  On my St. Croix Premier Glass Trolling rods, the lure weight is 2 oz, this actually means if I was so inclined I could cast up to a 2 ounce lure without snapping the tip off the rod.  What is actually more important is that the rod is rated as Medium Moderate action.  This means due to the moderate action it will take a bend without breaking while trolling.  A fast tip, or even extra fast action would not be good in this scenario.

Now my buddy’s friend will have the problem of trying to match up the action of his old rod while trying to buy a new replacement.  First issue will be trying to find a rod in the same length, because it was probably discontinued due to the fact that longer rods are more desirable which lead to poor sales.  Next problem will be that no two rods from one model to the next are going to be identical when trying to match up different brands.

Quick suggestion would be if you find a trolling rod you really like, go back to the retailer right away and purchase a few extras for emergencies type situations.   Typically these rods are not going to break the bank and usually can be found for $35.00 or less.  When purchased with a reel in combination deal, don’t be discouraged, they are almost, always sold separately in house.

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Braid vs Monofilament


Somebody asked this the other day, so here is a quick take on when to use braid, and when to use monofilament lines.

Lake Erie Eyes


Trolling and casting are the main times to use mono types of line.  The reasoning is that monofilament will stretch to a certain point, thus not allowing the hooks to get ripped out of a fish’s mouth.  Is it true, yes to a certain extent, specially when casting for walleye.  When it comes to trolling, mono also will provide a sort of balance between the strike and hook-up.  This really is true when long lining behind the boat with the rod in hand even though the rod tip will provide some cushion.  This is less true when it comes to running planer boards because the board will act as a snubber of sorts.  What is a snubber?  It is a salmon and trout tool that works as a shock absorber when a lure is hit by the fish.

X-rated Nugget

What casting takes place on Lake Erie?  Long before trolling ruled the scene, people would drift their boats and cast numerous types of lures in order to catch walleye.  One of my favorites was called the Nugget, but we called them Golden Nuggets because that was the finish most commonly used.  Of course the tried and true Erie Dearie is still being used today, but I loved those Nuggets back in the day.  Lately the Weapon, or mayfly rig has been king when it comes to casting for walleye on the big water.  Basically a Carolina Rig these baits can be counted down in water column and then retrieved or dragged along the bottom to catch fish.

Jigging, and rigging falls solely under the category of running braided lines. Non-stretch lines rule this type of fishing because the hookset while vertical jigging is everything.  Braid will help you cut the current while on the bite will drive the hook home.  When rigging with plastics or livebait, the line will allow you take up any slack quickly and ensuring the hook gets buried on the bite.  How does rigging apply to walleye on Erie,  this inland lake application has more use on the big lake than you think.  In the spring it can be applied to popping hair jigs off the bottom when drifting the boat over a flat or numerous dumping grounds here in Michigan waters.  This could also be applied to dragging weights on the bottom with a floating rig or short crawler harness.


Copyright, 2018


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Insane Walleye Week on Lake Erie: Pt2

Lake Erie Eyes

Why am I doing a two-part post today?  Had to take a break after the first article to get the pups out for a walk, call it being on “Beagle Time”.  A little coffee and breakfast didn’t hurt either after getting out again this morning before the winds picked up. Also, after the captain left to run some charters back in his neck of the woods, it has been time to get out and do some of my own fishing.

Saturday was a little choppy and we would have smaller boats from time to time, drop in behind us to help smooth out their ride going out to where they were going to start fishing.   After previously fishing 22 to 24 foot of water on earlier trips, we started out a couple of feet deeper to look for some larger fish.  Spoiler alert, not so much, but the action was literally insane.

TX-22’s in the chop

We had just let the sixth board out on the Daiwa’s when we had a fish on.  Literally for the next 28 minutes we never had all six boards out again at the same time.  Again we were pulling meat through the column with a variety of blades and sizes.  Northland colorado’s and Big Eye Custom Lures deep cups and willow blades in every color you could imagine.

I like a heavier weight, my general rule of thumb is the less line out behind the board, the less chance of something getting snagged up.  Now there are times you need to go deeper and will need more line out, but honestly right now, the earlier you start, the higher up in the water column the fish are.  If they are up high, then you know they are actively feeding and the fishing is better.  As the hours progress through the morning and early afternoon, they tend to go deep, and you need to hit the bottom half of the water column to stay on top of those active fish.

Stingray Diving Weights

When I said heavier weight, I am talking about leaving the #1’s in the box and choosing to use the #2 Stingrays.  I ran them 10, 15 and 20 feet behind my TX-22’s and every targeted depth produced fish.  I prefer to make my own spinner rigs, mostly because I use three hooks in case I am using plastics.

Plastics for walleye?  Yes and it really works great when the swipers, which is my word for a combination of white perch and silver bass, will “swipe” the meat right off your hooks.  When I use the Zoom 6″ Trick Worms enhanced with Lure Lipstick, my baits stay on the hook and they hardly ever snag the body of these junk fish.  There is nothing worse than thinking you have a good walleye on the line and then find out it is just a white perch coming in sideways.

Northland Butterfly Blades

This mornings quick trip was successful even while not trolling.  It was a drift trip with a pair of TX-005 Stern Planers from Church Tackle off the back and casting weapons off the sides.  You could use the -007 Stern Planers if you have them already, but if you have the right tool for the job, you go with it!  The Butterfly blades from Northland are perfect for drifting because they spin at such a slow speed and if you buy the blades separately, you can turn them into a Weapon.  The size #2 blade is perfect for this application. Its a Lake Erie thing with a single hook using basically a Carolina Rig and employing just a snippet of a crawler for flavor.  Never heard of the Weapon, then look up Mayfly Rig, same thing.

Today’s catch with Church Tackle’s Stern Planer

What was today like, kind of windy again and it took a whole 10 more minutes to catch our 12 fish.  The fishing on Erie is literally insane and there doesn’t seem to be slow down in the near feature. Now it is time to take a few days off and get caught up on the weeds in the garden, get the grass cut again and get the rods organized for the tourney this weekend!

Copyright, 2018

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Insane Walleye Week on Lake Erie: Pt 1

Right now the fishing on Lake Erie is some of the best fishing to be found anywhere where walleye are found swimming.  After working with fellow Church Tackle and Northland Tackle staff member Captain Ken Clark from Fishmas Charters for three days, Saturday was my time to get out on the water and I even snuck out for a quick trip this morning!  Patterns for all the trips were basically the same, while I went a little deeper looking for some bigger walleye.

Fishmas Charter Haul

Now we often joke around within Church Tackle  circles by saying, “WWKCD”  which translated means, “What would Ken Clark Do?”  Here is the skinny on what works for Ken day in and day out.  To use the phrase I use most often after the spring bite is over, “Dragging Meat”  is the key.  The captain buys 1500 nightcrawlers at a time, and uses them in conjunction with Northland’s Crawler Hauler series of spinner rigs.

Stingray Diving Weights

He uses primarily #1 Stingray Weights from Church Tackle to get his harness down to where the fish are.  He also runs the smallest board you could think of using, the venerable TX-12 planer board from Church.  With the smaller weights, the captain is targeting the top 2/3 rds of the water column first thing in the morning.  Not that he doesn’t overlook where the bigger fish might be lurking by dropping down some #3 weights on what he calls his down rods, for normal folks those would be like your bottom bouncer rods. FYI, you can get the weights painted or unpainted, if you purchase the painted versions, they are color coated per size for easier identification when reaching into your weight box.  I sort of blitzed the good folks at Frank’s Great Outdoors a few years ago when I first wrote about the Stingray’s.  They were swamped with calls from anglers looking for the weights, but have no fear, they have plenty in stock now.

Fishmas Catch w/ TX-12’s

If you are looking for walleye information, it will be a good bet you can find Ken’s white  Lund Pro-V through the month of July at the fishing cleaning station at the Sterling State Park boat launch.  To get a private tutorial, you can book a charter with the captain by checking out his website:  Fishmas Charters

Stay tuned for Part #2!

Copyright, 2018


Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

High Energy Cranking

Now that the cool spring temps are in the past, its time to start looking ahead towards the dog days of summer.  Instead of pulling crankbaits at low speeds hovering around the 1 mile per hour to 1.3 mph range, its time to start pulling the baits a bit faster through the water. Where the early months of spring saw deep running husky jerks being primarily used, warmer water requires baits with a little more action.

Jointed Deep Husky Jerk.

One of my favorite baits for the summer months came out onto the market a few years ago, the Jointed Deep Husky Jerk from Rapala.  What better bait to attract walleye from a distance than one that moves a lot and rattles through the water column.  If jointed lures rule the waters while casting from Luna Pier in October and November, why not use that same tactic while pulling boards. Actually I like running these baits when the fish are higher in the water column based upon the current dive charts available.  Ideally I like running these baits from eight to 16 ft down, at speeds ranging from 1.5 through 2.2 mph.

Deep Taildancer

The TDD-11,  the biggest of the Deep Taildancers just might be one of the best kept secrets on Lake Erie, even though the secret, to some extent has been out for a few years now.  Even one size down, the TDD-9 is gaining some traction and starting to fill up a few tackle boxes.  The #11’s are used best in deeper water, anything over 14 fow and down to 40 foot.  Not that the crank will reach that far down in regards to the dive charts, but when fishing that depth, walleye will tend to suspend in the water column.  The #9’s are most effective in 20 fow or less, but can be used in deeper water for suspended fish.  Both sizes dig through the water with some high energy tail action.

Rattle Tot

Everyone knows how well the original Storm Hot n Tots worked on Lake Erie, but to snag a page from walleye anglers on Saginaw Bay,  the Rattle Tot was the favorite version on the bay.  This slightly larger version of the Hot n Tot, has the same wiggle, wide-ranging side to side action while incorporating, as the name suggests, rattles to draw walleye in from a distance.  Another bait that works best for targeting suspended walleye, this one is best used in 25 foot or less and at speeds up to 2.5 mph.

While most of the anglers that fished Lake Erie in the earlier days were using the Hot n Tot, perhaps it was no mistake that a lot of the charters were running the Storm Wiggle Warts back then.  These baits required no tuning, and unlike the original Tots, these baits which are roughly the same size, had another factor to be considered.  They made noise, lots of noise due to their built-in rattle system.

The noise factor is what separates these baits from those other high energy lures, like spoons for an example.  While both types can cover water at higher speeds than my favorite lure the crawler harness, only the crankbaits have rattles which gives them a decided edge over running spoons.

Copyright, 2018


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

Saginaw Bay Walleye Club’s Spring Fling Tournament

Once again, it was a great weekend in Bay City, Michigan for some walleye fishing thanks to the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club and their Spring Fling tourney that they hold every year.  Got up there Thursday night and settled in before starting to pre-fish on Friday.  With the weather predictions we knew it was going to be a day in the river.

The weather predictions held true and we were blown off the river before noon by winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour. Fortunately for us, we caught some nice fish under a couple of the bridges before that happened, with the best results being under the Veterans Bridge, but we also caught a few under the Independence Bridge.

Saturday was tourney day and we ground out a fifth place finish trolling a combination of crankbaits and crawler harnesses. Eight came on the cranks, seven of which came on Rapala DHJ-12’s, and then three came on crawler harnesses running in the bottom of the water column.  Personal first happened during the tourney, I caught my first tagged walleye on Saginaw Bay.  Kind of cool I must say, now I know what the big deal is when my friends get a tagged duck.


Copyright, 2018

Posted in Saginaw Bay, Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Rattlin’ Hair Jigs? YES PLEASE

Yesterday I was doing a podcast for the Mike Avery’s Outdoor Magazine for Lure Lipstick live from Jeff’s Bait and Tackle by Sterling State Park.  After we taped everything, I started talking to the owner Eric about an idea I had. On the counter there are a couple of trays of these jigs with built-in skids for lack of a better description, in which Eric had attached twin rattle chambers.  He had given me two jigs to try out, and while I was busy this spring tying hair jigs, I started looking at those really loud rattle chambers a little closer.

You might see where this is going already, but just in case, it’s going to provide me with a nice article to share with you.

That’s right, rattling hair jigs!  These things are just as loud as any crankbait in my arsenal and they have a slip on collar that will go over your jig’s hook and can be slid up the shank. The only drawback is that the collar on the ultra minnow jigs was already filled while tying the hair on.  But not to worry, when used with a split tail minnow like those Jeff’s has in the shop from Lure Lipstick, the plastic forces the chambers far enough forward to stay clear of interfering with the hook.  If you must and this is fine by the way, you can even secure the collar by placing just a dab of crazy glue to hold it in place.

You need to push the hair back over the head of the jig before slipping on the rattle’s collar and then it just flows back over chambers.

Eric liked the idea so much that the rattle chambers are now going to be available for sale in the store, with three in each package.  These will definitely enhance your catch rates while dragging hair along the bottom!  Best part is they are REALLY LOUD and you can reuse them over and over again, unless you did the crazy glue trick.

Copyright, 2018


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

Layering Hair Jigs

When the weather outside is frightful, which translated means after three days of east winds all the docks on the west side of Lake Erie are flooded out and as I look outside, Mother Nature has turned the landscape into a snow globe once again, you find something fishy to keep yourself busy.  I pulled out some jigs that I had already painted for a tourney coming up and broke out the vices and fly materials and got back into tying some hair jigs. The next tip, is something that I have developed over the last few months that will add body to the traditional walleye hair jig.

I have explained in the past that many of my walleye ideas for lures and approaches are often taken from other realms in the fishing world, but like the old BASF commercials, I just made them better.  As in this case,  better by adapting them with my own twist and applying the concept to walleye fishing.  If imitation is the oldest form of flattery, the picture above is a twist on a Detroit River favorite for handlining, the fluorescent red and gold floater. In this case I took some Disco Gold powder paint from TJ’s Tackle and painted the body of the jig, then applied some Blaze Orange paint over the back of the jig.

Never mind the black and tan blob in the background for a minute, will get to my “helper” in a bit. Last month I was talking to a bass guy who said he was doing something similar with the walleye hair jigs, but was using marabou for his bass lures.  The problem was that once the feathers get wet, there wasn’t too much body left and the material wasn’t pulsating with the applied rod action in the water anymore.

While doing this Disco Copper and Candy Green crawfish jig for another bass fishing friend in Illinois, I stumbled on an idea that seems to work pretty well, even if it was unintended. My issue at hand was how to incorporate the two colors on the jig into the body of the bait.  It would have looked silly to make up the belly of section of the hair with one type of synthetic material and then make the back out of another. To solve the cosmetic issue, I created a collar with the copper material, which is Krystal Flash, and then layered the outer ring with Medium Olive craft fur.  In doing so, the problem of having a limp, wet fur body was solved.


Fur and feathers soak up water, but synthetics like Krystal Flash and Flashabou do not. Case in point, this Black with Blue Flake jig head.  I made my first collared layer with Rainbow Flashabou.

Then to incorporate the blue from the jig’s paint,  the next layer was made with a thin veil of blue craft fur.

Lastly, one more layer of black craft fur is tied on to give it that continuity with the paint on the jig.  Each layer starting with the synthetic flashabou, or if you like the krystal flash, gives body to the overall appearance of the jig and more importantly does not soak up the water.  Also, each layer will stiffen up the presentation while giving the illusion that there is something alive swimming through the water to the fish you are trying to catch.

If you want to recreate this concept, you will have to do it yourself.  With the time involved and if you were ever to see something like this hand tied in a bait shop, it would probably cost at least six dollars retail or $3.00 more than the standard walleye hair jig.  All the materials, including the fly tying tools can be purchased at either Cabela’s, Janns Netcraft or your favorite websites like TJ’s Tackle. Is it worth it, by all means yes! Besides half the fun of catching walleye is with something you created yourself!  If you must, you can also apply the concept to catching more bass also.  I would insert the smiley face here, but might offend some family and friends who chase large and smallmouth.

Finally my helper during this whole project, Kit Kat.  Of all the pets roaming the shop, she is the most affectionate and wants to be a part of everything.  This means literally getting in my face while I am wrapping the thread around the material.  She probably has a couple drops of Loon cement on her back this morning, and if during the process I could not find the synthetics I was looking for, she was keeping them warm for me like a mother hen.  That is the personal touch which comes with writing a blog, the end.

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

Gearing Up for the Detroit River: Handlining Tip

Handlining a river system is a learned skill, but it can be done with a small amount of practice to get the basics down pat. Handlining without a reel, that makes things a little more difficult.

A&S Reel mounted on a Traxstech Universal Mount


One way to make sure your reel stays secure, hardwire the reel to the mount. With a short piece of coated wire, and two crimps and a few tools, you gurantee, no matter what, your reels stay with the mount. In this case, using an Universal Mount for my Traxtech system and A&S handline reels.

Now, for example’s sake, you are out fishing and your partner on the opposite side of the boat has got a monster on the line. What do you do? He or she needs help, it is the fish that just might cash a check! One idea is to feed your reel enough line to clear your weight from getting snagged and the wrap it around something while you help out.  Works great, but you run the risk if kinking your main line.

Traxtech Planner Board Caddy with Church Tackle Lock Jaw Clip


Even while handlining, I will leave my Planer Board Caddy’s from Traxtech mounted on the boat. One reason is that having all my tools and fish towels right at hand is, well handy and accessable. The second, because I use a loop made with a zip tie, where attached is a Lock Jaw Clip from Church Tackle. Now jump back to the previously mentioned scenario. This time you feed your wire  into the reel, clear the obstructions below, and clamp the wire down with the clip, and help your partner catch that fisk!

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Detroit River, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment