“The Goddamn DNR” scoffs Harve Presnell’s character Albert Soady (The Movie Im’s talking bout is ‘Escanaba in da Moonlight’ for dose of you dat don’t know nut’in). Game Wardens (Conservation and DNR Officers being modern ancestors) have been around the Great Lakes Region since 1887. Give or take. The irony of this often-times thankless, and hugely criticized profession is of course that they are only really appreciated in metropolitan buffer zones where a state park is the last thing you see just before the burgeoning lights of the City.
The fact is we have the DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to thank for managing and making widely available the lakes and navigable waterways as we know them. These lakes are yours. They’re mine too. Shit, they’re everyone’s. Our Natural Resources are owned by no one. Available to everyone. Their access and enjoyment are shared mutually amongst us all. This is precisely what makes Sportfishing so attractive and evermore enticing.
Bought an annual fishing license to fish a Charter for a day? Buy a rod & reel combo after an eventful outing with a buddy? Maybe it was Grandpa who taught you, but now you’re looking to take those skills into the 21st century. Feeling bewildered, maybe a little dismayed over what reel, line, leader, and terminal tackle to use? Not to mention the vast assortment of lures there are to choose from. Relax, we’ve got you covered (more on that in a bit).
What Anglers know is that Fishing is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much money you have or have spent. There are more State and World record fish taken by novices than there are by ‘Fishermen’ who consider themselves Pros. Below you’ll find some general guidelines to follow. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of any one particular species/topic.
Here’s our attempt to avoid those trivial details and get you set up to land your next wall-mounter. Remember, bigger/heavier gear is not always better when it comes to fishing. If If the HangryBrand team has learned anything it’s that heavy leader material will restrict lure action; just like heavier backing means less line on your reel; just like heavier rod/reel combos become more difficult to transport and less forgiving (as in you want the rod tip to help fight the fish).
- Braid – Great for Baitcasting reels and backing behind Mono for trolling-style setups. The small diameter ensures you’ll have plenty of line when your reel starts humming. +/-50lb is as good a place to start as any. Equally good for backing and for ripping monster bass from the deep depths of a summer honey hole.
- Notes: Forget spider-wire. It was novel once, but modern braid is more forgiving and easier to use.
- Monofilament – Has really good flexibility and is great for use as pre-leader backing with Spincasting reels and Level-wind reels used for trolling setups. Berkley Big game is hard to beat in both quality and cost. +/-20lb is a good place to start for larger game (10lb for Surf fishing Steelhead; and 6lb for Crappie, Summer Panfish or Perch).
- Fluorocarbon – The best use of Fluoro is as leader material. Known for its abrasion resistance, Fly-fishing Anglers have been tossing Fluoro tippet at log-jams for years. We recommend 3’ to 6’ of Fluoro leader in almost every application ranging from ice fishing (2-4lb test); to Walleye trolling (+/-14lb test); to Surf-fishing (8-15lb test); to Big Lake trolling (20-30lb test); to prop-wash trolling for Musky (30+ lb test).
- Terminal Tackle:
- Snap Swivels – We don’t know anyone who uses the old Eagle-claw style snap-swivels anymore. They just don’t hold up under the weight of heavy fish like the Duo-lock snap swivels do. Again, match the size of your swivel to the pound test of your line, lure, and target species. As a general rule your terminal tackle will always be a heavier lb test than the line you’re using.
- Barrel Swivels – @Bloodruntackle has a nice selection of black, micro barrel swivels.
- Split Rings – most, if not all lures will be accompanied with hooks and split rings. The latter because split rings are very inexpensive. If you’re ever in the mood to swap out the shiny stainless steel kind for something more subtle we recommend Black SS Split Rings. They’re a good quality, Carbon-black finish alternative.
- Hooks - When not using a lure and instead using a bare hook (presumably to affix live or artificial bait to) we recommend the Gammie Octopus circle hook. Match the size of the hook to the size of your target species’ mouth (i.e. pan fish such as Bluegill have very small mouths so using a size +/- #8 as compared to Crappie which have larger mouths, and as compared to Smallmouth Bass, then finally Largemouth Bass which are larger yet and where a size # 5/0 isn’t uncommon)
- Trolling Lures [By Speeds]:
- Slow troll (+/- 1mph)
- We’re not the biggest fans of slow trolling. We recommend 2+ mph and covering twice as much open water in the same amount of time. Species like Walleye and lake trout have their preferred holes they hold up in and the way to find them (and the apex predators that are feeding on them for that matter) is to cover a lot of lake. If you insist on slow-trolling that’s fine, we recommend a Custom RIFT style spoon on the end of short copper lines. Unlike Trolling spoons, RIFT Spoons can produce good action at slower speeds. Paired with Copper (which creates vibration down through the lure) and RIFT spoons are deadly.
- Stay away from the Yakima Mag-lip style lures (or anything that is buoyant and has a tendency to float for that matter). They have decent action, but if you want to vary your speeds at all, those style lures have a tendency to flip upside down and float to the surface (which can really interrupt your day, especially if you’re running multiple lines, think tangles).
- Lots of Anglers swear by slow trolling with Crawler-harnesses (as in live bait, Night Crawlers, spinner-blade, and double-hook set). If this is your game, cool. One hint that will significantly cut down on the mess created by earth worm dirt and debris is that worms breathe through their skin and therefore cannot drown (contrary to popular belief). So toss your live bait in a jar of water and leave the topsoil and worm castings at home.
- Moderate Troll by depth (+/- 2.2mph)
- There are a whole host of lures you can run at these speeds. By far the most versatile are the Custom RIFT and traditional Trolling-style spoons (Quality spoons are made from brass and/or Brass plated in nickel. They’re also made from heavier gauge metal than a flutter-style spoon, but still lighter than a casting-style spoon). They come in a range of sizes, 4.250” being among the most popular size for King Salmon and 3.625” for Steelhead (go smaller for walleye in the 2.303”, 2.593”, and 3.506” and trout and larger for Coho salmon and Pike/Musky all the way up to 4.688” and even 5.500”). Used in conjunction with Copper or Leadcore line; Downriggers with Flashers; Dipsy divers with Dodgers and snubbers; or snap weights, Trolling-style spoons can be really deadly. Plugs, Flies, and Meat Rigs all have their place to vary your spread, but none as versatile as the Spoon.
- Fast troll for Select species
- For speeds north of 3mph you’re really talking Musky and Saltwater applications like Mahi and Tuna. Other than natural bait, for these breakneck speeds the most prolific (and expensive) lures are going to be handmade (if not hand-carved) plugs and those made from impact plastics. Specifically designed and weighted to attain high speed lure action without spinning out or dragging across the surface water.
- The other option is to use a pair of spoons found in our Old School 7-in-1 application lure Tin Pack. Two spoons, trolled in a Jointed orientation can tolerate higher speeds without the drawback of spinning out or loosing the lure action spoons are known for.
- Other Trolling lures include the following:
- Rapala’s Original Floating 11s (We run these along with the 3.625” and 3.780” spoons, both are killer for Spring Browns and Laker Trout since you can troll them 100’+ behind your planer boards and they will only dive 3-5’ deep). Hint: keep them on your farthest planer board out.
- Berkley’s Flicker Shads are great for the 5’ to 8’ range (#7s are deadly for Walleye, Smallmouth, and everything else under the sun).
- Rapala’s Husky Jerk (HJ) and Deep Husky Jerk (DHJ) series, available in slightly larger sizes than flicker shads, are great for trolling deeper (think 8-12’) for summer Walleye, Catfish, and Freshwater Drum.
- Bandits too. Run them 25-40’ back behind boards in the spring for Walleye and you won’t be disappointed. They’re great for getting down past the 12’ water column mark.
- Note: Custom painted Flicker Shads, Husky Jerks, and Bandits have really gained notoriety in recent years.
- Casting Lures [By Species]: Again. The Old School 7-in-1 lure is designed to Pop, Pitch, Flip, or Flutter from riverbanks, docks, or piers the same as all the rest on our list below. Furthermore, by doubling spoons (placing them back to back and attaching them together by using two split-rings you’re doubling your weight and thereby casting distance, and creating lure ‘chatter,’ i.e. vibration)
- Brook Trout/Rainbow/Brown – Mepps spinners are hard to beat for action in tight quarters. Smaller spoons work really well too.
- Also, ‘Brown Trout - Michi Gami Series Tin Pack.’
- Steelhead (off the pier) – When you’re not using spawn bags, HangryBrand 3.50” or 3.63” doubled spoons or Little Cleos with their long cast ability get the job done.
- Check out the ‘Steelhead - Michi Gami Series Tin Pack.’
- Walleye – Crankbaits are a good standby if you’re casting. Also great for walleye are sizes 2.30”, 2.60”, and 3.50” spoons.
- See also our ‘Walleye - Michi Gami Series Tin Pack.’
- Bass – Thousands of articles have been written on this topic: a.) because Bass fishing is the NASCAR of the water, and b.) because Bass, like Pike and Pickerel, bite anything and bite all day. A somewhat under-rated lure for Bass fishing is again, the spoon. Match the Hatch color patterns and unrivaled action make HangryBrand ‘Bass - Michi Gami Series Tin Pack’; Hangry Bastard Bass'in Spoons; or Hangry Bastard Bass’in Spoons are hard to beat during any outing.
- Pike – Use Spinnerbaits or HangryBrand’s ‘Pike & Pickerel - Michi Gami Series Tin Pack’ spoons (buy a half-dozen though because your Dad, brother, Uncle, cousin are all going to want one of these gems).
A Fishing Charter, Sportfishing service (Lake, River, Salmon, Walleye, Perch, Trout, Musky, etc…) is a great way to get into the sport of fishing and equally a great way to hone your skills if you already know a thing or two about it.
Happy fish and Tight lines. Welcome to the Evolution,
Article written by Mike Hiller