Why did I use that lure?

3 01 2015

A while back someone asked me one very simple question. Why did I use that lure?

Seems simple enough but it really got me thinking. Why do I really use Lure “A” and not Lure “B”? What is the logic behind the selection? Is there a science or is it just because I saw Lure “A” before Lure “B”? I really didn’t know how to approach this subject at first. After some careful consideration I think I figured out a way to best answer this without taking a gazillion year’s like that stupid computer in A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Before I begin though I need to lay down a few ground rules. Not so much rules but something to remember while reading this and taking in all the information. I am by no means an expert and there are a multitude of variations based solely on personal preference. This is what works for me and I will do my best to give an explanation as to why I choose A, B and C over X, Y and Z.

  1. This is for Handlining only. Some of the logic will apply to other methods but this is for my preferred method of walleye fishing.
  2. This is my opinion and like something else everybody has one. This is just something to think about and not some concrete, cast in stone, this is the only way, rule.
  3. I am not going to spend a lot of time on color. I am a firm believer that too many fishermen spend way to much time thinking about color. There are more important things to consider. You can run all the Clown Rapala’s you want but if your presentation isn’t right you are not going to catch much. Remember that!!
  4. Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, find what works for you and exploit it. If you’re catching fish don’t change because someone else says you have to do it his way. I can right a book on the bad advice and silly theories I have heard over the years. Now that I think about it that might not be a bad idea.

Now that I got that out of the way lets get started. I am going to break this down into 3 different categories, body baits or stick baits, pencil plugs and spoons

Body Baits/Stick Baits

Original Floating Rapala’s in sizes 5 to 13.

Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue’s (not the suspending lures).

Bomber Long “A”s.

Storm Thunder sticks in both regular and junior sizes.


Pencil Plugs


Wooden Pencil Plugs.

Nite Stalker Pencil Plugs.



Spoons, specifically Spike’s Spoons.


Each one has their time and place. Some of them I use all season long (Rapala’s), other’s only dirty water periods (Smithwick’s) and other’s only when the water temp hits a certain point (Spoons). Of course this varies on conditions but for the most part my reason for using them has held true over the years. So with that being said let’s get started.


Body Baits/Stick Baits


I use these types of lures more than anything else. From ice out to ice in my Rapala’s are always in my boat. This is the lure of choice for many handliners both in factory paint schemes and custom paint schemes. About the only time I don’t use them is when the White Bass run is in full swing or if the river is full of weeds. Once the ice is out and the boat is in the water I will run all Rapala’s, generally in sizes 9 through 13. I will run a 13 on my long lead, an 11 on my mid lead and a 9 on my kicker. All 3 will be in different contrasting colors. Usually this time of the year the walleye like them big. A walleye can eat a baitfish up to 1/3 of their size and I have seen plenty of 6 to 8 inch shad in their stomachs to back that up. The smaller sizes like a 5 or 7 will work and I know people that have great success with them. I just prefer the bigger lures, especially in the early Spring. The fish are big and they take a toll on equipment. Those tiny hooks on the smaller lure don’t hold up. This holds true for the Fall fishing as well. The walleye are storing up for the winter and they can be very aggressive and big. The gizzard shad start to move back into the lower river and the walleye are right behind them. The emerald shiners are still around but given a choice between one easy meal and having to chase hundreds of minnows I think the walleye are going to take the easy way out. Again though it is a rule of thumb, I still run 3 leads and I will vary the sizes on each one until I find what they want. During both the Spring and Fall I have run nothing but size 7 and 9 Rapala’s and had success on both. It all depends on the mood of the fish that day. During the summer I will run the smaller sizes during the daylight hours, especially on my long lead. I’ll run a size 9 on my long lead and a couple of spoons on the other. Unless of course the weeds are horrendous then the Rapala’s stay in the box. That lip catches every weed that floats downstream whereas the single hook on a spoon sheds most of them. Once night time rolls around though the spoons usually come off and it’s nothing but Rapala’s and usually in the bigger sizes. I want that big silhouette contrasting against the night sky. If I want some extra vibration I will run a Smithwick, Thunderstick or a Bomber. These lures are all plastic, hollow and usually contain rattles in them. That extra sound can prove to be a difference maker some nights, especially in stained or dirty water. I want to make it easy for a walleye to find my lure so if conditions dictate it I’ll take advantage of it. I will run the rattle lures during the day under dirty/stained water conditions. Again, it’s all about making it easier for the fish to find the bait. A walleye can’t eat what he can’t find.


As for colors my hands down, all time, go to, never fails me, greatest pattern ever is a #11 Bleeding Chartreuse Rapala, followed closely by a #11 GFR. I have more of these than any other factory paint scheme Rapala. They have been proven fish catchers under all conditions. Mostly because I will grab one of those before anything else. Confidence in a lure will do that. As for Custom Paint scheme’s it’s a Copper Crazy Tiger from Jim at Downriver Tackle. This pattern is deadly during the summer months. It has a copper body with purple stripes and it resembles the goby’s and immature smallmouth that are present in the lower river during the summer. These are of course just my preference, ask a dozen other fishermen and they will all come up with something else. It just shows that they all work and being on top of fish with the proper presentation is more important.


Pencil Plugs


Pencil plugs have been around since the early 1900’s. In the beginning many of them were hand made in the garages and shops (and secretly in a lot of shops of the Big 3) of local fishermen all around south east Michigan. They are a very basic design and hundreds of thousands of walleye have fallen victim to them. When compared to the action of a Rapala it is almost non-existent and one would wonder how it catches anything at all, but it does. That subtle action coupled with its large size can prove deadly to a walleye when the conditions are right. I start to run these once the White Bass show up. For some reason the White Bass really don’t like them whereas a Rapala they will attack without hesitation. Granted there are those nights when the White Bass will hit everything that moves but as a rule that subtle action doesn’t trigger a strike from a bass. A walleye on the other hand will still hit it. On more than one occasion I have caught my limit of walleye and only a dozen white bass while other fishermen running Rapala’s have caught a few walleye and a couple of hundred White Bass to go with them. Granted there are nights when the walleye don’t want anything to do with them but if the peak of the White Bass run is on I won’t run anything else.


Once the run is over and things return back to normal I will still use them during those summer evenings, especially when the weeds are bad. PP’s don’t collect the weeds as will as lipped body bait. The weeds will still get hung up on the hooks but it isn’t as bad. The weeds tend to miss them because of the angle at which the lure runs. It still happens but not with the frequency of the body baits. One other advantage is those hooks, all 3 of them. I can honestly say that when a walleye grabs a pencil plug chances are he is going to end up in the boat. They just don’t nip at the end of these lures, they hit it right in the center and get all those hooks in them. A walleye is lying on the bottom behind some kind of structure waiting for something to come overhead and when the pp comes along they go after it center mass. I don’t know why this doesn’t always happen with a Rapala but for some reason I don’t get a lot of light or short strikes with a pp. It may be because a pp floats higher and doesn’t dive like a Rapala thus allowing a walleye to be more lethargic about grabbing the bait. All I know is that on more than one occasion a pp caught walleye will have all 3 hooks in him.


The rule of thumb for color selection on a pencil plug is bright colors on clear nights, dark colors on cloudy nights and chrome during full moon periods. The main idea is contrast. A walleye is looking up for dinner, not down. On cloudy nights the man made lights reflect against the clouds and a darker lure creates a better silhouette. Clear nights or no moon periods don’t offer that reflection so bright colors or lures with an orange stripe on the belly are the norm. As for a full moon period I like to run chrome or pearl body baits. I really like fishing during a full moon. Give me a clear night with a full moon, nice west breeze to keep the weeds and bugs at bay and cool temps and I am in heaven. I have never tried them in the Fall but I don’t see why they wouldn’t work. I usually go back to the other body baits but maybe I will give the pencil plugs a try some evening in October.




Last but not least are the spoons. These are another niche lure that I use during the daylight hours after the White Bass run is over. Normally when the surface temps start to approach that 50 degree mark the spoon bite for walleye will start up. Problem is at those temps the White Bass run is starting to peak and it is impossible to get 3 leads with spoons down to the bottom before the White Bass will grab all 3 spoons. Now once they clear out, usually around the end of June, I will run spoons during the day all summer long. The river gets a second run of smaller walleye and they are in there feeding on the emerald shiners which are about the same size as a 1 to 1 ½ inch spoon.   Those first couple of weeks after the white bass run is over can be some of the best fishing all season. Lot’s of eater size walleye that will readily attack a spoon. Of course everything else has gone back to feeding and they all like spoons. Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Sheepshead, White Perch, White Bass, Channel Cats, Steelhead, Musky, they all grab them. Some days it can be an exercise in futility trying to get through everything else to get to a walleye but it does pay off. Just remember that in order for a spoon to be effective it has to really be kicking. Speed up the motor a notch and make that lure dance.


As for colors I have just about every possible color pattern there is but I generally stick to the same ones. Anything with chartreuse or orange in it. Just about every time I go out I can safely say that a certain chartreuse, orange and black spoon will be attached to a lead. I’ll also run different contrasting colors, sizes and shapes to see if one kind performs better than others. For the most part though I stick to the willow leaf style or the teardrop/daredevil style spoon. If I am fishing the CDN side I will run brass spoons because of all the goby’s on that side of the river. For some reason the Amherstburg Channel has a lot of Goby’s. The US side of the lower river has a lot more shiners so I will stick to the aluminum or tin spoons.


Well there you have it, my reasoning behind what lures I use and why. There are other lures that I did not mention that other handliners use and with great success. I just don’t use them for one reason or another. I don’t use spinners because I don’t like messing with live bait. I don’t own any Rabble Rousers because I have found that Smallmouth Bass like them better than walleye. As for flatfish I don’t use them because once they get fouled they tend to spin around in a big circle and tangle my leads. Everybody has their own personal preference though, they all work. My only suggestion is to find the ones that work for you and stick with them. If you are catching fish there is no need to change just because someone else tells you that you have to use X,Y,Z because he catches fish as well. There are other variables involved and past success does not guarantee future success.

Some of my Favorites

Some of my Favorites

Every lure I caught fish on one year.

Every lure I caught fish on one year.

Some of my more productive patterns.

Some of my more productive patterns.






A Year in a Life – January

12 01 2014

January is a tough month for me.  Season just finished up and April is still a couple of months away.  Ice fishing is always an option but not for me.  God told Noah to build an ark for a reason and it wasn’t so he could drag it out on the ice in case he fell through or got caught on an ice break.  I do not want to be one of those guys who get’s the expensive ride in the Coast Guard helicopter.  I can wait.  In the mean time there are other things to keep a die hard river rat occupied.  Specifically get my stuff organized for next season.

During a typical 8 or 9 month river walleye season I put my equipment through hell.  Every winter I pull everything out and give it a good going over.  Reels, shanks, weights, leaders, miscellaneous equipment and of course lures.  Lots and lots of lures.


Most years I don’t do much to my reels except give the aluminum a bit of a polish.  Their operation is pretty simple and there isn’t much that can go wrong.  Except for last year.  On one of my trips I got hung up pretty good and trashed a lot of wire.  I peeled the nylon coating off of about 30 feet in several places.  Normally I would just flip it around and put that part on the inside of the reel but I had already done that from a previous year.  Time to replace all of it.  It’s pretty easy to replace it, the only hard part is getting up to Andy’s to pick up a new spool of nylon coated #60 test Mason wire.  A couple of crimps and 211 revolutions later and I will be all set to go.

Shanks, Weights and Leaders

These items are more inventory than inspection.  If I haven’t used them they are still good, I just need to know if any more have to be made.  It is very frustrating to lose a shank and find out that was the last one in the box.  Leaders can be made on the boat pretty quickly but making a shank is a little more difficult and a weight is damn near impossible.  The shanks that are on the reel are removed and the clevises and snaps are recycled.  Same with the leaders.  All old nylon line is removed and the snaps recycled.  I won’t buy new line and make up new leaders until March.  I have always bee a firm believer in fresh line.  Granted it takes a lot to damage #30 Trilene XT but I’m not taking any chances.  I still want that wall hanger.  If I have to make any weights I’ll start poking around for scrap lead and copper tubing and make some up once it warms up some.  As of right now I have plenty to get me through the next few years.  Unless of course I take out a lot of newbies and they get donated to the lower channel river monster.  I do have to make up a few 2 pound weights for the St. Clair River but that can wait until March.

Lures, Lures, Lures

Where do I begin?  Over the years I have accumulated a butt load of lures.  Rapala’s, Spoons, Pencil Plugs, Night Stalkers, Bombers, Thundersticks, Stubbies, McGintys, Smithwicks, Spinners and a few Flat Fish just for good measure.  Well that’s it, no more purchases, at least for this year.  I need to save my money for an Alaska trip and if I can’t catch fish on what I have than I suck.  I did this back in 08 and 09 during the start of the recession.  I had to take two furlough days a month so my spending money went out the door.  I bought a handful of spoons then and that was it and guess what…..I still caught fish.  Apparently you don’t need the hottest color out there to catch fish.  The old reliables still work.  It also helps too that back in November I walked in to a clearance store that was selling brand new in the box size 9 and 11 Rapala’s for 4 bucks a piece.  Needless to say I bought every one they had, especially the Clown’s.

All my lures

Here they are, every walleye lure I own. I think.

So all that is left is to organize, consolidate, check and then put them back in the boat.  Easier said than done.  I still have a lot of boxes to go through and one box I need to do some work on.  The dividers on my spoon Plano box come loose so I need to glue them all in to place.  I’m tired of them coming out whenever I pull out a spoon.   Of course that means I have to pull all the spoons out of the box and keep them all separated until I can put them back.  I know when I do this I am going to wonder why I ever thought I would need so many different color patterns.  Sometimes I think these lure manufactures come up with new colors just to make me buy more.  Those Bastards……


The Miscellaneous Crap

There seems to be a never ending list of things I want to do to my equipment, especially my boat.  It seems like every time I am out I come up with some new idea on how to make things easier or more efficient.  Last year wasn’t any different.  I made new mounts for my reels but now they are too close to the side of the boat and the casing is rubbing up against the boat.  Need to fix that.  I also want to mount magnetic strips along the sides to hang lures.  Better to be on the side and out of the way instead of on the bottom of the boat.  I also have a couple of tubes I want to mount so that I have a place to put the weight when it comes in the boat.  Again, better to be out of the way instead of rolling around on the deck.  Need to come up with a new headlamp.  I keep trying different styles but they all have their drawbacks.  I’m sure I will come up with more as the winter months wear on.  It makes a nice diversion though until Spring gets here.  That and the fishing shows.




Pre, During but no Post tournament fishing

27 04 2013

Once again it was time for the yearly DWF Handlining tournament.  Last year the weather was warmer, the water was clearer and the White Bass numbered in the millions.  This year none of that applied.  It was cold, the water was dirty and the White Bass were in the hundreds.  I think the walleye were in fewer numbers than the bass.  For most it was a tough night.

My Dad came down a day early so we could fish some before the tournament.  We headed out Thursday night and hit the water around 6:30 pm.  My Dad hooked into his first fish of the night in the first 5 minutes and followed that up shortly afterwards with another one.  While I was helping him get that one netted I forgot about my lines and they got tangled up in the prop.  About 20 minutes later all was good and we were back to fishing.  We fished for about another hour and picked up a few more walleye.  Unfortunately we also caught a few White Bass.  This made no sense to me.  The water is around 46 degrees and yet they are here.  They have arrived earlier than last year and it was also warmer last year.  I just don’t get it. I’m still praying that the DNR will increase the creel limit on these things.

Once the sun set the temperature dropped as well.  The NW wind that was supposed to die down increased and my Dad was getting cold so we packed it in and headed home.  We had 5 walleye that ranged from 22 to 24 inches long so he was happy.  Besides, we had the following night and we figured we would catch a bunch more.  Little did I know that I couldn’t be any more wrong.

Friday night we started at 7:00 pm.  This time the wind was out of the south east, the temps were warmer but the water was still dirty.  I figured we would still catch some fish but I didn’t think it would take an hour.  This was going to be a long night.  We ended up with 3 walleye and they all came within a 20 minute period.  We stayed out until 10:00 pm but after awhile we both agreed that it was pointless and headed home.  I talked to a few other people on the water and most had only a couple of fish.  My friend Dave and his father and son had 7 and that was about the best I had heard anyone do.  Until the next day when we had the weigh-in and the winning team had caught 22 walleye, weighed 5 that was over 30 pound and one that was a 9 1/2 spawned out female.  At least someone had found the fish.

Oh well…..there’s always next year.

Only picture, didn't think a pic from the following day was worth the effort.

Only picture, didn’t think a pic from the following day was worth the effort.

Post Sandy, Early November, Edmund Fitzgerald Anniversary, Pre Veterans Day Walleye.

10 11 2012

I think I covered everything.

Well after almost 2 weeks of no fishing because of what “Sandy” did to Lake Huron all the way down to Erie I finally got out.  Morning fishing had been kind of rough but with the water being dirty I was optimistic.  Besides, I had things to do in the evening so I didn’t have much choice.  I started fishing around 7:45 am by the Catamaran.  The water was dirty but I could see my prop which for me isn’t too bad.  From what I had been hearing I expected it to be a lot worse.  Surface temps were also 43 degrees which was a big drop from the last time out.  This much of a drop might have caused a turnover on Lake St. Clair which might have added to the length of dirty water.  No matter, I was here now and determined to catch fish.

I set up with the same 3 lures I used last time out, a #11 Bleeding Blue Shad, #9 Bleeding Copper Flash and a #7 Bleeding Olive.  About 15 minutes in I had my first walleye on the #11.  He was barely hooked on the trailing hook.  10 minutes later I had another one on the same lure and he too was barely hooked.  When I first started I was the only boat out but by now a few bass fishermen showed up and started fishing the Edison discharge.  I stayed in my area and hooked another in a few minutes.  I didn’t think I was going to get this one in as I was being bounced around by the wake of a cabin cruiser that decided to do a doughnut around me.  This one was barely hooked as well and I lost him at the boat.  All it took was a split second of slack line and he was gone.  Oh well….it happens.

Since all 3 fish came on the #11 I decided to swap out the smaller lures for some bigger ones.  I put on a #11 Bleeding Chartreuse and a Smithwick Clown.  I was heading towards the discharge area and I noticed a lot of Gizzard Shad jumping out of the water.  There were a few Blue Herons staked out along the edge trying to pick off an easy meal.  A Bald Eagle also took up a roost on a nearby tree.  As I turned right and started to head east I picked up another fish.  Something didn’t feel right and it turned out to be a snagged shad.  After I turned him loose I headed back downstream and set up to make another run.  No sooner did my weight hit bottom when I had another fish on.  This turned out to be another walleye and he grabbed the Smithwick.  I made a loop back through the area but no other takers.  I fished until 10:00 am before I pulled lines and headed for home.  I would have liked to stay out a little longer but I had things to do at home.

Final tally was 3 kept and one lost.  Don’t know how much more I will be able to get out this year.  With the water being this dirty fishing after dark is out of the question.  Next weekend I will be up deer hunting so my next opportunity will be Thanksgiving weekend.

Water Clarity, you decide.

Dad’s Turn 10/21/12

22 10 2012

As expected my Dad hung around for another day so he could take advantage of the walleye fishing.  We went out at the same time I did the night before and it didn’t take long before we had 3 in the boat.  I started to think we were going to have an easy night but as the sun set so did the fish.  We fished for 2 more hours and only boated 2 more walleye.  It was still a nice night out.  It was windy at first but once it got dark the south west wind died done to nothing. 

Couple of things we noticed last night was there was a lot of activity before sunset from the gulls.  There were a fair number of them flying around and dive bombing the surface.  They weren’t really concentrated and we couldn’t see what they were going after.  We assumed they were chasing minnows but couldn’t get any physical proof.  When they do this in the Spring it’s becasue the Silver Bass are pushing the minnows up to the surface.  There is no mistaking that.  Another thing we noticed was that the water was starting to cloud up.  I could see the prop on my boat but the water is definitely getting a little dirtier.  That might explain why the fishing slowed down so much after dark.  Who knows?

So we started at 6 by Calf Island and finished up at 8:45 pm when both of my Dad’s leads got all tangled up.  He was trying to undo the mess when I told him to just wad it all up and toss it in the bucket.  I pulled my lines shortly after that.  I had 5 more fish to clean and we both needed to get some sleep.  I had to work and he had to make the long drive back to Oscoda in the morning.  I caught the first fish on a #9 Bleeding Copper Flash Rapala and my Dad caught the next two on a Clown Smithwick.  I ended up catching the last two, one on the Bleeding Copper Flash and the other on a #11 Fire Tiger Rapala.  Surface temp is still around 54 degrees and no flaoting weeds but there were plenty of them drifting by below the surface to foul the lures. 

No pictures tonight, I was in a hurry to get fish cleaned and get to bed.

4/27/12 Trenton Channel

28 04 2012

Location: Trenton Channel
Date/Time: 04/27/12 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Water Temp: 48 degrees
Water Clarity: Slightly stained
Weather: Overcast
Wind: S 10 mph
Water Depth: 13 feet
Presentation: Handlining 40/20/6, 30/15
Lures: #11 Bleeding Chartreuse, #11 Downriver Steel, #9 Clown, Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue

Tonight was my Dad’s last night in town so we headed out once again. Hit the launch around 7:00 pm and got ready. While I was parking the Jeep I made a quick scan of the lot to see who was out fishing. Saw Richard’s car and trailer so before we started fishing I was going to track him down. Didn’t take long and I found his boat. He already had one in the cooler along with the bracket he made for my GPS puck. He had also made up a shank jig for me. Just goes to show you that helping people catch fish can pay out in other ways. I saw Sparky’s boat as well so I gave him a quick call to see how he was doing. He had just got out himself and was still getting set up.

That was enough chit chatting, time to start fishing. Didn’t take long and I had the first one for the night. We continued to pick away at our two man limit for the next hour trading back and forth. At one point my Dad had one on that decided he needed to be on my side of the boat. He just passed the line over to me and I brought him in. Gotta love teamwork.

I had been running a #9 Blue Holographic on my kicker leader for the evening but it wasn’t producing so I decided to switch lures. I put on a #9 Clown and about a minute later I had a fish on. I love it when that happens. He must have been hungry because he swallowed the lure.

Yes my lure is in there.

Sparky was along side of me so of course he called to see what I caught him on. The next hour was pretty uneventful. Another friend, Mark Bodrie, pulled up next to me as well to see what was going on. As he was pulling away I hooked into a little 14 incher that I tossed back. I have been hearing about quite a few of those little fish being caught. They are from the 2010 hatch which should be in the 16 to 17 inch range by next year.

We continued fishing and talked to a few more fishermen along the way. Another Mark swung by to see how we were doing and then Leo drove over to get a status update as well. Mark hung around my area and Leo headed further downstream. I found out later that Leo had picked up a 2 man limit as well. By 9:00 pm we were up to 7 fish when my Dad hooked into another one. I pulled out the spot light to shine on the fish. I thought I saw 2 sets of eyes looking back at me but they disappeared. A few second later the fish was back on the surface and sure enough there were two walleye hooked on one lure. This time we were able to get both of them in the boat. I have never done this before and my Dad has done it twice now in the last 2 weeks. Shortly after that I landed #10 and we were headed back to the ramp around 9:30 pm. Not a bad night.  Talked to a few friends back at the ramp and it appears that everyone was catching fish.  This has been a phenomenal month of fishing.  I don’t think I have ever caught this many walleye in the month of April.

We ended up with 10 keepers between 16 ½ to 23 ½ inches long for a total combined weight of 25 pounds and 10 ounces. We threw back one small one and only caught 2 (actually Dad caught them) of the Fish That Shall Not Be Named.

Still trying to figure out how a jigger, fishing in 12 feet of water, could lose 100 feet of line when snagged.