Capt. Cliff's 2004 Season Report
Cliff fishes the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan
As promised here are some of my thoughts on the “Reel Flasher” with the cut bait combination, I have been fishing since mid July.
My boat went in the water on April 9th and I caught a small Coho as I was trolling from the boat hoist back to my slip. That was technically my first trip and lasted about 30 minutes. Since then, I have taken a total of 42 more trips through last Friday, September 25th, 2004. The fish count to date stands at 351. I started running the cut bait program on July 11th. The following is a breakdown of BC (Before cut bait) and AD (After)
BC: 21 Trips
AD: 22 Trips
Total of 43 Trips
This is pretty amazing data. Although, I did not keep weight data, I can tell you that the poundage more than tripled with the new program. Not every fish since Mid July was on the flasher/cut bait setup, but the vast majority were. The King number is the most dramatic. While the net percentage increases, first half to second half, was respectable, the King increase was dramatic.
I have caught all species except a Brown on cut bait, including a nice 12 pound Steelhead that took a blue, yellow Dolphin Reel Flasher, back 240 feet on a pound ball rig last week. When I finally got him up, he came out of the water at least 2 feet with the pound ball, flasher and all. He stayed hooked to the dual hooks and boated shortly after his failed leap for freedom. I have never gotten a Steelhead that deep, go figure.
I hardly ever run more than six rods with the cut bait program. My standard six rod setup is 2 riggers on the corners with 30# Ande mono, 2 30# wire dipsey rods and two lead core rods. Depending on where the fish seem to be in the water column, I adjust from there. If they seem to be deeper, I add a pound ball to the back of a full core on one side or pull the second core and run the pound ball, lead core rig down the chute. There have been several trips where this rig down the chute has been incredibly hot. I also run a pound ball, wire rig down the shoot instead of the lead sometimes. I have found that running the Reel Flasher on any more than two riggers invites tangles. For me the combination of the two riggers, 2 wire Dipsey’s and either lead core or # ball has been the best way to go.
Another observation was that the wire Dipsey is a red hot combination on lots of days and spaces much better away from the corner riggers than trying to run four riggers. One change for next year will be longer dipsey rods. I am currently running 7’ Shimano Tallus roller rods. I love the rods, but with 5-6 feet of leader from the dipsey to flasher, a 13” flasher and a 52” Twinkie rig, you need a 10’ rod to efficiently get the fish close enough to the back of the boat to net properly.
My best action has been in 120 to 140 fow and also out 175 to 200 fow. I always start with the riggers down 80 with a 15’ lead from the ball and 90 down with an 18’ lead from the ball. One dipsey goes out 120 and the other at 170 in addition to the two full cores on boards. I then adjust from there depending on what the fish are doing.
Another twist, if the fish are acting finicky, is to run a whole herring without a flasher or Twinkie, clean off the port rigger as the deepest setup, with two colors of core and a 35’ mono leader. This puts it about 80’ back and runs about 10’ below the ball. On the right days this produces the biggest Kings. I have also used a J-Plug in this configuration as well and had great results.
I have run mostly at 2.3 mph to 3.1 measured on the GPS, depending on wind and currents. The best indicators however, have been downrigger angle and bend in the dipsey rods. I also have a Fish Hawk that I put out on the corner rigger but like a lot of other people, it tends to give erratic readings at times. I continue to struggle with tweaks to try and make it more stable. If things get slow for a while, I speed up and slow down to see if I can prompt a hit. Many times this works. Also on turns, especially with the lead core can trigger a strike.
For me, it has been all about green and black, with red and yellow accents. Far and away the stud flasher for me has been lemon lime. It is religiously the first bait in the water off the starboard rigger, down 80 feet, 15 feet back. Any shade of green 3 Fly Rig has worked. The green frog, green glow and when the sun is up, green chrome have been the best. I have not had a trip where that has not gotten hit before I can get the other rods in. On several trips it has been hit with in seconds of being down. It’s gotten to the point where I tell people, “watch this line, it will be the first to go” and it has not let me down yet. The next rod in the water is always a Green/Yellow Dolphin with the same combination of green flies. This always goes down 90’ and 18’ back. Next go the wire dipseys. On early morning runs, without a doubt, the Black Mamba with a red 3 fly rig, is a close second to the lemon lime for fast hits. I usually set this back 120 and adjust from there. The other dipsey gets the King Kobra with a Green Frog 3 Fly Rig back 170. This rig has taken some vicious hits from big Kings. The Krimson King Kobra has also done very well and gets worked into both the dipsey and rigger program. The lead core usually gets blue-yellow Dolphin with a custom Twinkie I tied. It has a blue/green Twinkie with yellow beads and a blue/green head. I tied double snelled red hooks to this combination. This has been a killer meat rig for me on all the Dolphin flashers, but especially the Blue Yellow Dolphin flasher.
As the sun gets higher the first change I make, is to trade out green glows with green 3 Fly Rigs. If the Black Mamba slows down, in goes the Secret weapon with chartreuse Twinkie. This has been very hot as well, generally higher, about 120 to 140 out on the counter. If the cores slow down, I add a pound ball to the Green-Yellow Dolphin core and run that down the shoot and pull the other core.
One of the great advantages you have with your products is the way you have used your experience to get a unique combination of tape, paint and plastic colors that really work. Not just in your area, but over here as well. I can’t tell you how many people have seen my success and asked for advice and pointers on how they can improve their catch. I have one guy on my dock that back in July had gotten skunked on a trip or two and was catching very few fish in general. He came by my boat in frustration one day after I had taken a group out and we had a limit of really nice fish. Half joking, he offered to sell all the fishing gear on his boat to anyone who would offer. He is a really nice guy, so I sat him down and told him about what I was doing and how it was working for me. He went out and ordered what I told him to and on his first trip, dramatically improved his catch and his whole attitude changed. I then took he and a couple of other folks from adjoining slips out for a half a day trip. This was the following weekend after I got back from your seminar. We caught fish right away after most of them had be struggling, thinking it was just an off year on their boats. I attached a picture of the group. Just this last week Jeff, the one who had been so down on himself, came up to me and thanked me for turning his whole summer around. There are at least a dozen boats in my immediate area that have caught on and are now including your Reel Flashers and cut bait in there arsenal.
Based on my experience and the color combinations I have tried, here is my ranking of what has been the best for me. It would be interesting to see if it matches up to the feedback you have been getting from others
Flasher Best 3 Fly Rig Combo
1. Lemon-Lime Green Glow, Green Chrome, Green Frog
2. Black Mamba Red Clear Head
3. Blue-Yellow Dolphin Green Glow, Green Chrome, Green Frog
4. Secret Weapon, Chartreuse
5. King Kobra Green Frog, Kelly Green
6. Tri-Color Dolphin Green Glow, Green Chrome, Green Frog
7. Krimson King Kobra Red Clear Head
8. Wild Blue Yellow Dolphin Green Glow, Green Chrome, Green Frog
9. Yellowtail Glow Chartreuse, Green Glow, Green Frog, Kelly Green
10. Blue Racer Blue, Kelly Green
11. Double Glow White
12. Green Blade Kelly Green, White
These are the ones that have worked for me and one’s that I have tried. I am sure the others work as well, but with these colors and flies you can’t go wrong.
Hooks and Head end of rig
I spent a ton of time on this subject this year. One thing I know is that the standard Twinkie out of the package has less than a 50% hook rate for whatever reason. I started taking just the plastic line guard off. This on its own helped. The standard hooks then got replaced with Gamakatsu EWG #2 hooks. These worked great to stick fish and improved things dramatically. The problem with these hooks is that they didn’t hold up to bigger fish and the repeated pressure with multiple vicious strikes. They bend way too easily and I a couple of times big Kings just straightened them out. You then published the dual hook idea with a stinger. Great move in the direction of perfecting the art. I have now standardized on VMC #2 round bend hooks spaced about an inch and a half apart. Tricky to tie but deadly. They are not available in red, so I use the Daichi Red #2’s when I want to mix things up a bit.
You’re thought on adding a split ring, in concept, is a great idea. In practice it ended up as a point of failure not worth the trouble for me. I went through a two week process of finding solid vs. split rings in the right size, thinking the split ring was causing failure. I found the solid rings and still had break offs at the
ring. The problem is the thin nature of the snap, the ring and 40# Ande line, plus big Kings. Even though the design makes sense and would be great, at the end of the day did not stand up to the constant pounding of the fish. The reality of this set up is that it invites huge hits from big fish and you have to be prepared to tie new rigs often. After a little practice
you can construct the 3 Fly Rig
in close to the same time as tying a fly.
I have been fishing for Salmon in Lake Michigan since 1992. I have continued to learn and adapt to new techniques as I come across them. Every year I pick up a thing or two that makes me a better fisherman. I can honestly say that this year has been the most significant year of the last 12. Spending time on your web site to get lots of meaningful tips has been something I have enjoyed over the last couple of years. Watching you evolve a great idea from last year into a business this year has been fascinating. You must be very proud. Attending the seminar in July was a special treat for me and I thank you very much for adding so much to my fishing experience.
"First off, I need to thank Cliff in a giant way for sharing his season long results with us. I had the opportunity to fish with Cliff last summer and found his grand company to be a definite plus for our morning on the water. I found his report to be fascinating and informative!".............Capt. John
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