Bucket List Ice Fishing Destinations

Bucket List Ice Fishing Destinations

Had the chance to fish Grand Traverse Bay this past weekend for perch and had a blast!  Between three guys we caught a bucketful of fish.  Walked a long way, drilled a ton of holes, and finally found fish.  As a good fishing mentor friend always says: catching them isn't hard, it's finding them.  The Strikemaster/Milwaukee Drill performed flawlessly.  Probably drilled 50+ holes to find fish.

Key to catching them was spoons.  My go to was the VMC Tingler (1/16 and 1/8 oz).  Tipped with a minnow head.

The other bucket list location was another local area lake near Traverse City.  We fished walleyes with tip ups and caught 6 eyes.  Lots of perch devils messed with our minnows.  We tended out tip ups constantly and we still had a difficult time keeping minnows on our hooks. 

Overall, it was a great day of fishing with some great guys!

Great Fall Walleyes

If you are anything like me, you look forward to the shortening days and the changing of leaf colors that so beautifully marks the fall season.  And the reason we love this time of year so much is that the fish put the feedback on in preparation for a long winter's slowdown.  

October marks some of the best fishing of the year for us.  We love targeting walleyes, smallies, and perch on some of our favorite northern Michigan inland lakes.  This year was no different. We ended up catching hundreds of walleyes, perch, and smallies.  This year we played with lots of nuances and made some awesome discoveries:

1.  Fish leeches even when you can't buy them in bait shops in Michigan. We caught tons of gorgeous fish on leeches fished under slip bobbers.  Some call it cheating, we call it incredibly fun.

2.  Downsized plastics and jigheads.  Did best this fall on an 1/8oz jighead and a 2 3/4" or 3" plastic.  Go to's continue to be Charlie Brewer's 3" Slider Grub.  Pick some up here.  Love the Old Fart Lure's walleye jig that Carl and I designed.  We have a new design out for fishing under slip bobbers.  You can see those here.

3.  Rod choice can have huge effect on success.  I have been so impressed by the FavoriteUSA Summit in the 6'10" L version.  I threw this with like 6lb Gamma Torque with a 8lb Gamma Edge flouro leader and whacked the fish.  This rod is so sweet and sensitive that you would swear you could feel the fish breathe on your jig.

4.  Don't be afraid to fish shallow.  We caught a lot of fish in 4-6' of water.  You will hear this over and over again - start shallow because fish that are up there are there for a reason - to feed!

5.  Boat control is the name of the game!  I will never regret spending the money on my Minn Kota Talons or on my trolling motor.  Boat positioning and control helped us catch tons of fish and made the fishing fun for me as well as my clients.

6.  Play the wind.  The more you can make wind your friend, the more fish you will catch.  We played the wind anytime we could and found that wind regularly concentrates bait and fish in certain locations.  But to the play the wind effectively, you need the aforementioned ability to control the boat.

We are no where close to putting the boat away for the winter with some of the best fishing still in front of us.  We had a great fall and want to thank all of our clients for a great fall season!

We'd love to hear what you've learned this season!  Feel free to comment if you get a chance!

The Key to Slip Bobber Fishing for Walleyes

A new study correlates catching fish and smiling!

There are lots of tricks out there for slip bobbering for 'eyes.  And I will concede on many details of terminal tackle except one:  the business end (i.e. hook).  

Slip bobber fishing shines the brightest for me in the late summer and early fall, when fish tend to be a little on the lethargic side.  They may not chase a jig snapped in their face, but they have a hard time passing up a leech, wiggling right in front of their translucent eyes.

My favorite way to present the leech is under a float.  And my favorite business end is a 1/32 oz jig head.  The problem up til recent was finding a jighead with a hook worth fishing.  Enters Old Fart Lures Carl Meinke.  Carl designed a 1/32 oz jighead with a super quality 1/0 Mustad hook.  Last week I got a chance to test the business end out and the results were super impressive!  Since then, we had another group out who pummeled the walleyes on this jighead.

We caught lots of walleyes on these jigs and the hook up ratio was awesome (not even sure if we dumped one fish!!!).  I had him paint them citrus shad which is my go to color for jig heads.  I like to fish them 18-24" off bottom.  And I like to fish them aggressively.  I pitch the float and jig/leech out and let it sit for a moment.  If nothings going on, I sweep lift the rod up and let the jig/leech settle again.  We are constantly moving and searching.  When we find a pod of fish, we drop the Talons or hit the anchor button on my Xi5 trolling motor and sit on them for a bit.

Some might lift their nose in disgust of bobber fishing, but I don't care how accomplished of a fisherman you are, there's nothing like watching that float slowly descend beneath the surface of the water.  Make sure the business end is an OFL 1/32 oz jighead and you'll increase your hook up and catch rate under a slip float!

Motorguide Xi5 Masters the Wind and the Waves

The forecast was calling for 15-20mph NNW winds.  Usually when fishermen see that forecast, they cringe.  I see that and I think, "we're in for a great day on the water!"   We started off a recent trip with these exact conditions.  

On the first pass through a fishy area, we just drifted and cast - nothing...we were moving way to fast.  We motored back up and this time I locked in on an area that has produced fish in the past.  I pointed the boat into the wind and hit the anchor button on my Motorguide Xi5.  We locked onto the spot and proceeded to pummel the fish.  Three of us caught fish pitching leeches on slip bobbers. One guy threw a jerkbait out the back of the boat.  We literally stayed on this exact spot for over an hour.  The client throwing the jerkbait almost caught his limit.  The rest of us landed several nice walleyes.  And most of the credit went to having the right equipment to match the conditions!

The guys were amazed at how well my trolling motor did in those conditions.  The winds picked up and yet we stood our ground.  And we continued to catch fish.  After we wore that spot out a bit I took the trolling motor off the anchor mode and we would slip backwards 10-15 yards and we "anchored" again.  We proceeded to catch fish.  If we didn't get bit relatively quickly, we would slip again, until we had covered the entire area.  

This trolling motor is worth every penny I paid for it!  The reality is that an actual anchor wouldn't have been able to hold us in that wind.  At the end of the day, clients are juiced about the time they had on the water.  And I am thankful that I didn't have to try and "hold us" with my foot on the pedal.

The Motorguide Xi5 has not only made us more successful, but it has also made our time on the water that much more enjoyable!

Houghton Lake Heating Up

We had trips on Houghton Lake May 14-16 and the fishing was pretty fantastic.  Gills on cranks and plastics, walleyes on plastics, bass and pike chomping everything.  We found more walleyes up shallow in 3-5 fow on sand this spring.  We have moved the Charlie Brewer Slider Grub into our hall of fame.  This plastic has become such a consistent fish catcher.  Everything eats them, making them a great search bait on Houghton and Leelanau.  

We fished a lot of 55-63 degree water temperature.  The general movement of the fish seems to be the first breaks and as the water and season moves along, the fish move out to the weed humps and off shore weed points and turns.

The panfish make the same moves.  We found gills and crappies up shallow in the beginning of the season and as we finished our spring season on Houghton, we found lots of quality fish in the same areas where the walleyes were - off shore humps and weed points.

Houghton continues to impress us as a fishery.  Can't wait to fish it again next spring!

How do you tackle the challenge of the Mayfly Hatch?

Honestly, I'm not really sure.  But I can speak into a strategy for tackling the prehatch.  As the water temps begin to rise in the spring (55-65 degrees, and probably even a bit before this), wigglers (the nymph stage of the mayfly) begin to move.

Interestingly enough, we see wigglers in the stomachs of walleyes almost all year long on Lake Leelanau.  We are starting to believe that many walleyes in Lake Leelanau and probably other lakes, make wigglers their primary forage.  Why?  Because wigglers are easy to catch.  The walleye doesn't have to exert much energy to consume a stomach full of these invertebrates.  What does that mean to the fisherman?  I have a couple of working theories...

1.  Walleyes aren't always excited about bigger and faster presentations on some lakes.  For example, the Rapala rippin rap didn't catch a walleye on my boat this spring.  On some lakes, a 5" jerkbait takes fish while on other lakes, the jerkbait isn't as effective for 'eyes.

2.  The Charlie Brewer 3" Slider Grub shines in the middle of fish feeding on wigglers, especially in pumpkin black flake and green pumpkin and green pumpkin black tail.  The way the fish hit these jigs is what we describe as "grabbing them."  There isn't a pronounced thump.  As you lift the bait, you feel what I describe as something that feels "spongy."  As you lift, the fish often gets hooked in the top of the mouth (but not real deep).

Key in this scenario is to do what a friend of mine turned me onto years ago - fish Fluorocarbon instead of braid.  Fluoro like the Gamma Edge Fluoro in 8lb test has just a little "give" to it that allows you to hook a walleye when they are just "grabbing" the bait.

3.  You want a rod with a little give in it.  I just recently tested the 6'10" light Summit FavoriteUSA spinning rod and loved it work this application.  Paired with an 1/8oz jighead from Old Fart Lures and you're set.

4.  You're heard the phrase "hook sets are free"?  If you feel anything, give the rod a quick lift and then start reeling.

5.  Lastly, fish areas where you think the water is warming more quickly or where you suspect wigglers to be hatching and active.  We had some really cool experiences this past couple of weeks where we found walleyes very shallow.  Many times we caught fish in 2-5 feet of water.  You have to train yourself to look shallow for fish, especially if wind is blowing into a spot or if the water has a little color or has been stirred up.

We love the learning aspect of fishing...make it your goal to learn something new everytime you are out.  Try something different.  Experiment.  Hope my theories will help you put more fish in the boat!  

A Great Walleye Opener?

Ten days before the walleye opener, the weather in northern Michigan was looking great.  Highs were predicted in the low 70's and I was thinking that this might be the first opener where I wouldn't have to wear long underwear.  Within twenty four hours, the forecast shifted to low to mid 50's with the chance of rain!  That's Michigan for you!

In spite of the change in forecast, we had a great opener.  We caught a bunch of walleyes, crappies, bass, and pike.  Most of our fish came on the Charlie Brewer Slider.  If you have ever read my posts, this bait has been amazing for us.  The fish absolutely love them.  We fish them on a 1/8, 3/16, or 1/4 oz Old Fart Lures Walleye jighead - usually favoring brighter colors.  

We had a youngster on the boat who needed to catch some fish too so when we started to catch big gills on the 3" slider grubs, we put the Talons down and decided that we were going to make at least part of the walleye opener the bluegill opener as well!  Caught some really nice fish both on plastics and on crankbaits.  Yes - you read that correctly - crankbaits!  These little rapalas have been so much fun because the fish really smoke 'em and a big gill puts up a huge fight.

Water temps were between 53-55 degrees.  We covered a lot of water - fishing from west to east and north to south.  Learned a lot of new spots and had a blast!  The fishing is only going to get better as the weather warms!  Hope your opener was a success as well!

What I learned at the Sport Shows this year about my Garmin GPSMAP® 7610xsv!

I don't know how you work as a guy, but I'm way better with hands on learning than reading a manual.  So I love to either call Garmin's customer service or talk to other Garmin experts about the questions I have about my units.  I learned so much from talking to Bob and Mark (two Garmin experts at the show).  Here's a couple of quick details that may help you as you master your Garmins:

1.  Biggest way to save your battery with your units is to turn down the backlight.  The backlight is the culprit for a drained battery.

2.  Using Quickdraw to map new water or to cross check the mapping software you have is super easy. You can insert an SD card and record all the data too!

3.  My Garmin's are the best technology on the market!

4.  Panoptix is super easy to use.  You can point your panoptix straight down and use it to vertical jig or drop shot with!

What I love to do is write down all the questions that I have and have the experts show me how to better use these incredible instruments.  Garmin's customer service is also excellent so you don't have to wait til next year to get your questions answered - just give them a call!


Detroit River Treat

Got invited to fish yesterday with a guy that I met once before at the Okuma fishing booth.  His name is Brian Buist and he is a phenomenal charter captain.  He runs 2B Caught Charters (www.2bcaughtcharters.com) and does a phenomenal job.  We learned a ton from him about the Detroit River (probably our greatest take away was developing confidence!).

Water temps were 45 degrees under sunny skies.  Water clarity was a bit off.  Ended up catching 26 legal 'eyes.  We left the water at 3pm just when the bite was getting hot.  Fished the lower half of the river.

A Visit to the Detroit (River) Zoo

Fished the Detroit River yesterday.  Water temps just cracking the 40 degree mark (40.45 on the Garmin).  Got a huge help from our friend, Mitch (I owe you, man!).  He pointed us in the right direction to find cleaner water and willing biters.  Early was key - we planned on being out at 6am (ended up fishing by 6:40).  Wind was blowing 20mph into our faces and the current was moving steadily the opposite direction.  

Keys for the day were staying vertical.  Needed 1oz Old Fart Lures Ultimate walleye jig (beautiful, aerodynamic design).  Best color was Carl's Antifreeze creation.  We found the worm to be the most effective plastic - our go to was the Charlie Brewer 4in. straight tail worm (what is known as the original slider worm).  Magical color was watermelon/red/black/gold.

We thought we left the river with a three man limit, only to find our livewell with 14 when we got back to the house.  We caught the perfect eaters: 16-20 inch males.  It seemed like the more we moved away from the zoo, the more fish we found.  Bite was really over by 10am. We found it super helpful to tie a 3 foot fluoro leader (Gamma 10lb Edge).  Leader out fished tying straight to braid 5:1.  Oh ya, one more thing. Buy minnows and make sure you have stingers.  Most of our fish were caught on stingers.  

Water Temps Matter

We finally got out and did a little bass fishing the other day.  We didn't light them up, but we had a lot of fun and we had them dialed in as we were finishing our time on the water.  One thing that stood out to me was watching the water temps on my Garmin GPSMap 7610's.  Most of the lake was right around 46 degrees, but we found a spot with water flowing into the lake where the temps read almost 50.  In our minds, we might not make much of a couple degrees, but that can make or break a day on the water. We caught fish on soft plastics, jerkbaits, and rattle baits.  All the bass looked super healthy.  We couldn't keep the northerns off our baits (interesting to see the northerns still dropping eggs!).  

It's huge to pay attention to water temps all year long, but especially during cold water periods.  

How do you prepare for the ShowSpan Ultimate Sports Show in Grand Rapids?

All the above pics were new experiences/techniques that we applied in 2016!

I like to write something about what I've been thinking about as I prepare to go to a fishing show like the one that's happening this weekend.  A little preparation and thinking before you go could make a huge difference in what you take away from the show.  Here are a couple of quick thoughts to consider before you go:

1.  Check out which seminar speakers you want to go and learn from.  Last year (and this year) we want to learn as much as we can about fishing the Detroit River (our nemesis).  So our plan is to check out Lance Valentine's Detroit River Seminar (Walleye101.com).  Even if you've heard Lance before, you might be able to glean a few nuggets from listening to him again.  Well worth the time!

2.  After checking out Lance's seminar, you're going to need the right stuff to fish the river.  Head over to Old Fart Lures booth and check out the finest jigheads on the market!  Carl has some new designs this year that will ensure more hook ups on the river.  What sets OFL's jigs apart from all other are craftsmanship, quality, attention to detail, and the custom nature of all that Carl does with all of his creations (oldfartlures.com).  Get over to Old Fart Lures early to get the best selection of both river jigs as well as tons of bass jigs and walleye casting jigs.

3.  If you're planning a destination fishing trip in the future, begin your research this weekend.  I don't have a lot to offer you in the way of advice here, but what I would say is maybe narrow down an area or a species that you want to target before you get to the show.  This will help focus your search at the show, making a daunting task a little more doable.  

4.  Make this the year you make tons of progress in learning how to fish for a specific kind of fish or learn a technique you've never used before.  The show could be a great place to book a guide that could help you move to the next level in your fishing pursuit.  I would love to offer my services toward that goal - www.nofishleftbehindmichigan and www.nofishleftbehind.com for more information about what we do.  Again, before you hit the show, think through your budget and what your goals for 2017 are and move in that direction at the show!

Hope you have a great time!  I'll be there to help the MSU Fishing Club and Okuma on Friday and Old Fart Lures on Saturday.  Love to connect with you there!