Don't ya just love it?
....when a plan comes together!
Hopefully, by now you're read
that vast repository of the Great Lakes fishing education in all the articles
in Capt. John's Encyclopedia. If not? I do recommend doing
so, because that's what the following will cover. How to put into
action the experience you've gained is of vital importance.
Being flexible and going with the flow is a key ingredient in any
In this article, the focus is going concentrate mainly on spring Salmon fishing. In the ports where I've fished this generally means May and early June, because summer doesn't start until the later part of June.
The Spring Plan, or Lack Thereof
I've been asked countless times of what my game plan is when I leave the dock. The 1000 per cent absolute truth is that I don't have one! I let the conditions and boat traffic constantly adjust and dictate my strategy. It's my contention that Kings in Great Lakes are one of the spookiest critters you'll ever deal with.
Things that spook fish, like the smells from gasoline, or handling greasy donuts is not the shortest route to a full box of fish. I make a point to always take on fuel the evening before a morning trip and wash my hands before setting lines. I do not believe in adding commercial scents to any of my baits and actually think they work against you.
Things I Know......?
I might not know much, but what I do know, I know exceedingly well, Sounds like a convoluted statement......eh? Not really, it just the facts I've been able to determine over the past 36 years of pursing Great Lakes Salmon. Let's start with the whole recipe, which begins with the terminal tackle. The monofilament line I use on my rigger rods never tests between 15 and 20 pounds. I've found Ande clear to perform best aboard my boat. While this line won't work during the fish-hook water flea season in July and August, this pesky zoo plankton isn't around in the spring. The water is just to cold for the massive blooms I've witnessed in July, especially.
I do know super-line divers do not out-produce mono divers and wire divers aren't warranted unless you're seeking fish below 50 feet down. This statement applies to the early spring Salmon fishery, later in the summer when the Salmon go deep, you'll need the super braids and wire.
I do know the spring fish have a inclination towards the lesser profile the smaller sized spoons represent on Lake Michigan, especially!
I do know what I have in the water is the "good stuff" and if I'm not taking strikes it's probably not my lure selections. So, I don't stray much from my basic program.
The "Out" Program
I refer to surface side-planers, divers and drop weights as my out-program, because these lines other then lead core are the furthest distance away from my boat. Pay close attention to what your out-program is doing, because it's telling you where the fish are. Keeping in mind, it better to be slightly above them, then beneath where the fish can't see your offerings.
I've come to rely on exclusively for Slide Divers for all my spring season trolling. Why?.....they out produce Dipseys. Slide Diver teamed with 20 pound Flea Flicker is one deadly fish killing tool. The white Slide Diver seems to perform best for me on Lake Michigan, as of late. I play "arts and crafts" and put some crushed-ice glow tape on the top of it. Having a movable 20 to 30 foot lead behind the diver is much better then a static 8 to 10 foot lead off a Dipsey. Like I said, spring fish are spooky! Let me add, I've found increasing the lead length from the Slide Diver any further then 20 to 30 feet doesn't increase the success rate.
Lead Balls & Core are a fundamental part of the "out" program too. So, let's talk about these no brainer rods. 10 foot divers rods, and keeping with same vein, 10 foot diver rods also work fine for using one pound balls. These rods will produce just as many fish as rigger rods and the cost is a whole bunch less than a downrigger. My "out" program will produce more fish then the riggers on most days. Concentrate your efforts on these stealthy rods that do their damage out and away form your boat. The rewards are tremendous once you get the dropper rods and divers cooking.
My program with my lead ball drop-weights begins with a 20 to 30 feet lead behind a
one pound lead ball. I generally use a one pound ball rigged to stay
attached to a Pin Popper Release from Legendary Products. There's been some rumors floating around the DNR
dropping lead is littering and tickets might be issued. You can affix
the ball not to drop with a lanyard to the hole in the Pin Popper Release. Drop weights constantly search
up and down due to boat speed and turns, so don't over look this valuable tactic. Spring Kings are by and large, infrequently
deeper then 60 feet down in the areas where I fish and 20 to 40 feet is
more like the norm.
By using drop weights I've found that the presentation will be slightly following your rigger spread. Giving the fish a second probability to strike if they're to wary to accept your rigger baits. Incidentally, I use a ten foot diver rod, which provides sufficient clearance to the outside of my 5 foot Fishlander rigger arms. Lay drop weight rods horizontal and you're good to go. Same thing with your diver rods, laying them flat towards the water presents more working room then having them up in the air.
Lead Core has to be the perfect no-brainer way to fish, if I've ever seen one. Just drag half cores (5 colors), which will get to about 20 feet and full cores (10 colors) that will get down to around 35 to 40 feet, depending on your trolling speed. The leader length of mono is important, at least aboard my boat. I've found over the years, 60 to 110 feet of mono between your lure and core performs the best. I use 20 pound Ande clear and only 27 pound Kerplunk Cortland Lead Core.
While I know it sounds like I'm trying to
push Cortland products, I'm not! Cortland manufactures their own
lead core with a tight nylon weave. Cortland is an American Company
and the best part is, it's employee owned, So, turning a quality
product is what keeps them in business.
Rigging the Riggers
I run and believe in 3 rigger spread.
With five foot out-down riggers this gives me a 21 foot spread, or about
10 foot between each downrigger. This wide coverage
is a definite advantage when it comes to enticing skittish Salmon to whack
your lure. Each rigger line has a 6 foot
add-a-line anywhere's from 3 to 8 foot above the mainline lure.
Slider definition: Sliders can be called a add-a-line too. Under tournament rules a sliders are 6 foot long and are attached above the downrigger release. They can be fixed in position with a device like a small Offshore Release, or a rubber band half hitched to the mainline. Sliders can also be used above a diver like a Slide Diver, or Dipsy. A deadly overlooked tactic is to add a slide above a lead ball drop-weight rig too. Unless you're a tournament junkie, don't install sliders on divers, or drop weight rigs, because you're asking for more grief then it's worth!
What's My Line?
I don't use any super-lines, or wire
divers, because attaining depth is not the big deal, distance away from the
boat is. I've come to fall in love with Cortland's Flea Flicker line
for my divers and drop weights. The oval shape of this line provides
a better knife-like cut thru the water and tracks far superior when compared to any
My 20 pound test Ande Clear leaders are 60 to 100 feet from the lead core too. Once July and August roll around, I increase the pound test to 30 to better with stand the rigors of daily fishing.
The Main Course
When inviting the fish to feast, I set the
table with smaller lures for the most part. Stingers, size 1
Fishlanders, Northern King D-4s and mini-Streaks work best for me.
Larger, gaudy magnum sized spoon seldom produce as many strikes. As
a rule, you're fishing on the top 50 feet of the water column and the
additional flash and commotion from bulky sized
baits can actually work against you.
I tend to grab the undersized lures, because I don't want a large amount of hullabaloo downstairs. I don't want to be alarming the critters there's a bunch of fake junk being dragged thru the water in an un-natural manner.
I hardly ever pull attractors in spring. Why?.......because they limit your choices in speed. You gotta go slow with flashers, or dodgers to make them work to full efficiency. Slow can mean staying over unproductive water twice as long. Another over looked factor is that doing battle on a clean line minus attractors is easier for my charter guests. If the early season fish are below 50 feet, then I re-assess my thinking. Flexibility and not being "set in your ways" is something that's demanded, if you want to be successful. There is no rigid rule when it comes to loading the box.
Idiosyncrasies of Enticement Velocities
Thanks to the Thesaurus, I was able to come up with over-baked terminology
to cover something so important, it had to sound important. Want to
know three ways to catch spring fish? Boat speed, boat speed and
boat speed is the plain and simple answer. Get speed wrong and it
will be a long day, fraught with frustrations from lack of rodular
activity. Get speed right and you'll be cleaning too many fish and getting
back to the dock early with a limit catch.
Slow seems to work better for me when I'm
fishing in the southern part of Lake Michigan. If I knew the answer
to this, I'd be happy to share it with you, but I don't.
The in-depth study of boat speed in much more detail and please don't be to broke to pay attention to it. Case in point, I've watch far too many boats troll right pass me when we were on a hot streak with our nets dipping doubles and triples. You'd have thought, they'd have slowed their speed to match mine.