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Categorized | Outdoors

Fishing for big fish


Eric Payne with a 28 inch Sheephead caught on an ultra violet crawler harness rig.

Eric Payne with a 28 inch Sheephead caught on an ultra violet crawler harness rig.

by Jack Payne


Four rods were set in the rod holders and the speed was set for 1.2 mph on the trolling motor. We had the graph turned on and we were doing our best in hugging the breakline. On Lake Mac in Holland this normally meant staying around 8-14 feet of water.

Our goal, running two baits over the flat and two baits over the deeper water. Lake Michigan had just flipped over. Whenever the big lake drops rapidly in the water temperature schools of baitfish move into the connecting waters. Following the baitfish are walleye, Sheephead, catfish and on occasion, a musky.

Before you turn your nose up at a Sheephead, you really need to catch one. Our best night this year we landed 180 pounds of Sheephead in 2.5 hours. This is a ton of action with a bunch of big fish. They hit hard, tear up your tackle and are just plain fun to fight.

Now we are not targeting just Sheephead. Walleye are the primary target but action is a must. Its like an angler’s buffet table. A bit of everything please.

Trolling is our preferred method. While we use planner boards for a couple of the rods, they are not required. Running boards provide a way to get more rods into the water with the minimal of potential tangles.

With boards, any size boat can easily run six rods, even more if you like. We find that 4 or 5 rods is plenty for two anglers. When you run into a school of catfish or Sheephead more than one rod will go off.

When the big lake flips over, the best connecting waters will have suspended fish. If the big lake temperatures are steady or fairly warm then the best action on the connecting waters is evenly split between bottom hugging fish and suspended fish.

With the bottom hugging fish you should use a bottom bouncer or a three-way wolf river rig. You need a sinker in the three quarter to one-ounce range, maybe slightly heavier on some days. We run the lines with the sinker straight back or on the back outside rod holders.

What we are finding as our most productive fish catching bait is the Ultra Violet crawler harness rigs from Stopper Lures. These rigs throw off much more flash in the dingy waters that we are fishing and also work better in the deeper depths.

Add a fat night crawler and be ready to catch fish. There are two ways to deal with a messy crawler. One is dumping out the crawlers from the store package into a worm bedding mixture. This is easier on the hands and in keeping the boat clean. Second, and this is my favorite way, placing the crawlers into a container of ice cubes and water. I use the Crawler Can for this method. On the first method we use the Rippin Lips container with ice on the outside. Ice fattens up the crawler!

You can also run the Ultra Violet Rigs with a board and an inline sinker. We use a rubber core sinker 2-3 feet above the harness rigs. A quarter ounce or three eighth ounce sinker works great.

We also throw out a few crank baits. Most often it is either a Shad Rap or a Lindy River Rocker. We run these baits without any weight and as a high line. The wide wobble of these baits works great in the stained water.

Trolling any of the connecting waters to Lake Michigan is a blast!

For more info, visit Jackpaynejr.com or facebook outdoors in michigan


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