Do not copy, printout or reproduce material of any kind from this site without
Using Cut Bait in Michigan
or how you too can become
Manistee's Master Baiter!
Born out of desperation, my journey into the land of fishing with cut-bait has been a surprisingly rewarding trip. Mitigating circumstances forced to move into this unknown, because Manistee during the early summer of 2003 was not producing Kings in any significant numbers. I always knew the original Salmon trollers on the west coast preferred natural bait, over artificial lures. Now, I know why!
If you're anything like me, I was more then skeptical in the beginning. I had tried cut-bait off and on for 3 previous seasons with only limited results. My cut-bait program was lots of trial and error, as I tried to build a workable knowledge base. Breaking new ground by myself without any outside help was a daunting task!
Getting with the Program
In my 36 years of fishing the Great Lakes for Salmon and Trout the one thing that was over looked by the entire fleet from Lake Huron and Lake Michigan was the olfactory senses (ability to smell) of our quarry. Our entire fishery was predicated on fooling the fish into biting by using hues of colors way too numerous to
mention. Any artificial bait known to mankind made
out of hair, rubber, plastic, or metal came in a multitude of colors and
patterns. Last week's "hot color" often died and another
costly trip to the tackle store meant buying this week's new color that
was sure to wreck devastation on any fish swimming within a quarter of a
mile of your vessel! Sound familiar?......you bet it does!
I'm sure your overflowing tackle collection is a testament to this all to well known fact.
Dry Technical Content
A fishes olfaction is said to be the oldest sense in evolutionary terms. Salmon being an anadromous specie, meaning that it returns to it's birthing tributary to reproduce. Much investigation has been in trying to come up with a solution as to how a Salmon locates it's natal stream, or uses it's homing instinct.
Some have put forth the theory that the earth's magnetic alignments and minute electric current aids in their astonishing navigational skills. Some have even claimed the Salmon's olfactory perception is almost based on a supernatural rational, because of their keen ability to detect extreme negligible variances in one river from
The Biggest Secret?
The biggest secret is that there is no
secrets involved integrating cut-bait into your already existing attractor program. Especially, if you already know how to catch fish on dodgers and flashers. Moving to reel-bait is categorically no big deal! In fact, fishing bait with
flashers a whole lot easier then cracking the proper dodger, or spoon speed.
Have you've struggled in the past to fill up your fish box? Well, you can count that problem as solved when you switch to reel-bait. Just ask the fisher folks that attended my cut-bait seminars I held in August of 2003. Even the less experienced anglers pulled boxes of Salmon they never dreamed of! So, if your program is slightly off, the bait stuff will more then compensate. Click here for full-blown proof
The Hard Sell
Great Lakes fishermen are a stubborn lot, and in my opinion they'd rather imitate rather then innovate new ways to catch fish. I know this for a fact. Tried and true proven methods are hard to deviate from no matter who you are, including myself. Unless, you had a flagrant disregard for change, you would have never gravitated to the Hootchies everyone now proudly waves at the fish. Jerry Bechhold's product never grabbed much attention until about 1999, although the Fishcatcher had been around for many previous seasons. Keeping this in mind, Jerry Bechhold's Fishcatcher (Hootchie) was considered cutting edge technology in 1999. Evolution of techniques in harvesting Salmoniods from the Great Lakes in inevitable and cut-bait is new kid on the scene for now.
If you think that you'll try one cut-bait
rig, you're dead-set to go down the wrong path. You have to load your
spread with bait. I believe this provides a better scent signature
and draws fish into your spread. In know for a reel-fact in the
summer of 2003 most of the fish we took action from never were marked on
my Raytheon L750 graph. So, were these fish looking for a meal
before closing in on sight distance from my offerings? I'm pretty
sure they were, because of the doubles and triples we had during the
middle of the day (meaning straight up noon).
Capt John's "Reel Flashers"
I spent most the 2003 season into research and design for my new product to be introduced in 2004 called, Capt. John's "On-Line Reel-Flasher." I had fished with other rotating products and found a lot of room to improve on. While the existing products caught fish, I found a 3 to 1 advantage with my
prototypes. I bent the tail-fin in ever imaginable design, until I came up
Reel Cost Factors?
I've heard it said by a some, "I don't want to have to buy bait every time I go fishing." This is a cop-out coming from folks that have a major investment in a boat suitable for Great Lakes fishing. The few extra bucks I spend on bait is "no big deal" when I compare it to the 100k I have in a fishing inventory and boats. Besides, I'm not in the tackle stores every other day chasing some hard to find quirky lure. I figure in the 2 months that I concentrated my efforts on trolling with meat, I spent less than 10 bucks a day on meat. Now, what's 10 bucks a day when you compare it to 1 mile a gallon and gas costs better then 2 bucks at the marina pump?
In retrospect, I think that I saved more money on tackle this season, when compared to the past. I wasn't chasing "hot lure of the day" at every tackle store in town. What I had worked and I knew it from day one. Sure, my initial expenses were on the pricey side, but overall increased productivity more then compensated for this fact too!
Rigger Releasing Mechanism
My hardest adjustment with cut-herring was find the proper rigger release. Size 32 rubber bands which are normally deadly on tuna-sized Salmon were way too stiff. The fish would turn the herring strip as they swallowed it, then the line would become tangled in the crotch of the treble hook. When this happens the hook is pointed the wrong way and the angler will actually pull the hook out of the fish. I had this happen often when unprepared anglers were on a lark, not paying attention to the business end of my boat.
Size 16 rubber bands were to light and offered no
penetration of the hook into a hard mouthed King. I finally
settled on the Off Shore OR-8's. With the plastic pinch-pad 0R-8, I had to
rely on the angler in charge of the rod to bury the hook in the fish by
winding like hell and tightening up on the fish in a big hurry. The best way to
do this is to leave the rod in the holder and turbo-reel until the slack
is taken out of the line and the rod is bucking from the heavy pressure
an adult King will exert. Once you know the fish is there, remove the rod from the rodholder and get down to business. At a 100 feet down, my guess is
there's about 30 to 40 feet of slack line that has to be gathered in,
before you are on direct drive to even feel fish.
1. Be alert at all times.
Experiment and see what works best on your boat, because I feel I never fully conquered the rigger-release issue. It seemed the strike on cut-bait was different and the fish were less apt to rip, then chew. You must be quick to a rigger rod is the absolute best advice I can give. This is an adjustment, when compared to what I had what worked best from in the past. I did see several nibble type bites, like a perch pecking a worm, before the Salmon would engulf my chunk of fish meat.
Hot, Cold or Indifferent?
The biggest impact using reel-bait, it just didn't make any difference what-so-ever the water temperature we were pulling fish from. One morning in early August, I was north off Onekama and the surface was 51 to 49 degrees. Anything below 15 feet down was cold water, like 36 to 37 degrees. Guess what?.....it
didn't make one iota's difference to the Salmon, as we maintained a steady bite and came back with a healthy cooler.
I'm in the firm belief the cut-bait shines when it comes to neutral to negative fish, who normally wouldn't bite. In to past prying a bite from extremely cold, or warm water fish was like pulling hen's teeth, but not with bait. Why does bait work in warm, or cold water? I plain don't know, I just know for a reel-fact it does, as my fish boxes from the 2003 season can attest too!
Pros and Cons
In my line of thinking the worst thing about using meat for fish bait is remembering to get it out of the freezer, or refrigerator every morning. I cured my short memory (especially at 4:15am) by leaving a note next to my personals bag which I haul to the boat every day. If I forgot to get some bait out of the
freezer the night before, I'd set the package on the defroster and during my 15 minute ride into Manistee and the fillets generally thawed enough for use.
Proper Speeds......If There is Such a Thing?
Proper speed is an conundrum, because what the fish wanted at a faster clip yesterday, might have no bearing on results for today. In using bait during the 2003 season I took fish from 1 mph to over 3, and little just under 2 mph (1.5 to 1.8) is what I used most. Keeping in mind, slow speed does not spin a
large Coyote Flasher. So, in other words, a wide latitude of speeds were employed and they all worked just fine.
In all honesty, I never worked too hard on a diver program, because my simple 3 rigger spread was working remarkably well. In the past many seasons (before 2003), I relied on my divers more and more after the morning wore on. With bait, for the most part it only took from 7am to about 9am to pull 12 to 15 Kings (mostly on the riggers), which aboard my boat is a limit for the size of groups I generally run. Now, when I say 7am, I mean being on the water and dropping lines, not the "leaving the dock" time, which in most cases was 5:30am to 6:00am depending on the group of anglers and if it was weekday, or weekend. Weekends required a earlier leave time, because of the heavy traffic Manistee receives during "Tuna Wars" in August and the first part of September.
I never ran my wire divers and used Cortland's Spectron 35 pound super braid in the salt and pepper finish. I believe Cortland calls it black-spot, but I don't think the color makes any difference. One thing worthy of note, is that I had to let the fish chew on the bait. Making sure the line was being pulled against the drag,
before I wanted the diver pole removed from the rodholder. If we did miss a bite? The diver rod would have to be tripped, reeled in and reset after making sure the bait-rig hadn't been slid up the leader, which in most cases it was.
This info has been available to our private message board members since about December
I've enclosed a poll from early October 2003. I predict this poll to
Page 2 is reserved for the esteemed members
Do not copy, printout or reproduce material of any kind from this site without