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Mark's Mailbag - Circle Hooks on Crawler Harnesses

Mark's Mailbag are occasional posts to the blog in response to questions people submit on the Fishing 411 website.  Mark personally responds to the question and when relevant, we repost his answer here.  If you have a question you would like to ask Mark, please visit us at

On December 25, 2014, John writes:  "Hi Mark. Merry Christmas to you and your family. The last few years I've enjoyed making my own harnesses . Have you ever tried circle hooks so you don't hook the smaller ones so deep? If so what size ?"

Circle Hook
Mark replies:  Circle hooks are a great invention, but they are designed for targeting powerful fish like saltwater species and larger freshwater species including musky, catfish, stripers, etc. When these powerful fish bite the circle hook is set without having to physically jerk the rod. Circle hooks are most often used in combination with live or cut bait.

It seems obvious that using a circle hook would work well for certain live bait fishing applications like fishing crawler harnesses for walleye. Actually, I find that circle hooks do not function well for walleye live bait fishing applications.

Walleye routinely bite so light that they don’t get “hooked” on the initial strike. Walleye also have the unnerving habit of sucking in a bait, only to blow it back out almost instantly. When using traditional “beak” style live bait hooks that have an

Saginaw River Winter Walleye

By Mark Romanack

The entire length of the Saginaw River harbors
walleye opportunities during the winter months.
When the weather is cold ice fishing dominates
and when the weather turns mild don’t hesitate
to break out a small boat and some jigging rods.
The Saginaw River walleye fishery has come a long ways since fish were first introduced in the early 1980’s. As a resident of Saginaw at the time, I remember how amazed folks were to see crowds of anglers trying their luck for walleye on the frozen river. The spectacle made the evening news, the front page of local papers and became the buzz at every coffee shop in town. Keep in mind that just 10 years earlier the Saginaw River was considered too polluted to support fish life!

In fact, during the 60’s and 70’s the Saginaw River resisted freezing even in the coldest weather. Pollution was out of control, but thanks to the Clean Water Act, things were about to get better.

The decades of the 80’s and 90’s witnessed great improvements in both the water quality and the fishing opportunities. Two decades down the road from the first fish plants, the Saginaw Bay drainage system has grown into one of the most popular walleye fishing destinations in the Midwest. Many say that the combined fishing opportunities of Saginaw Bay, the Saginaw River and her many tributary streams rivals even mighty Lake Erie!

Fine Tuning Tip Ups

By Mark Romanack

Walleye can be taken effectively using tip ups like the
disk model shown here.
It’s hard to beat the feeling when something at the end of of a fishing line makes its presence known. A tug on the end of the line is great, but this sensation isn’t the only way to make the most of ice fishing. The time honored tip up is another excellent way to target a wealth of fish species including trout, walleye, pike and burbot. 

A tip up doesn’t reward anglers with a sharp rap they can feel, but the colorful flag that pops up when a bite occurs is just as satisfying. The simple words “flag up” are enough to warm the cold fingers and toes of any angler.

Great Lakes Yelow Bellies

By Mark Romanack

Tony Puccio of Bait Rigs Tackle is one of the author’s perchin’
buddies. These slabs were taken on Lake Erie in Ontario waters.
When I was a kid, the Great Lakes were known better for yellow perch than they were trout or salmon. I’m dating myself a little, but I can remember countless Friday night fish fries that featured yellow perch. I can also remember when the cost of a quality perch dinner was something Dad could afford to order for the whole family.

The days of the affordable perch dinner may be gone, but the Great Lakes continue to produce yellow bellies you can catch yourself.

An Early Winter Bluegill Strategy

By Mark Romanack

Slab gills like this one take five to seven years to grow this big. Even
the best lakes can get seriously hurt when anglers over harvest
these misunderstood fish.
Monster whitetail bucks aren’t found living everywhere. The same is true of bruiser bluegills. Seemingly every lake in Michigan has a population of bluegill, but only select waters routinely produce the kind of bluegill anglers can brag about catching.

The first question becomes, why are so many seemingly good panfish lakes jam packed with stunted bluegills? The answer lies in the balance between predator and prey. Not enough predators in a particular body of water allow bluegills to breed and expand their populations uncontrolled. As the bluegill population grows, serious stress is placed on the lake’s ability to supply enough food for all those bluegills.

Pondering December Fishing Opportunities

By Mark Romanack

Weather dictates open water trolling opportunities in December.  In some
years the fishing at places like Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie can be red hot
and on others icy cold.
They say every dog has his day. Unfortunately, some months just don’t have as many “dog days” to offer as others. As for this ole dog, if I were making the calendar it would have two Aprils and two Octobers. To make up for this monthly double dipping, I’d do away with both December and March. Doing away with these marginal fishing months would maximize my fishing opportunities and eliminate that birthday thing I’ve been trying to ignore in recent years anyway!

Twice as many days in April would allow me the opportunity to get my fill of walleye action on the Detroit River, spring run browns at Manistee, coho salmon in St. Joe and even a few strokes on Great Lakes pike.

Trolling Speed, Going the Extra Mile

By Mark Romanack

Accurately controlling your speed when trolling is key to successfully
hauling in quality fish like this nice walleye caught by the author.
Every seasoned troller I know watches his or her trolling speed indicators like a hawk. It’s amazing how often even a subtle increase or decrease in trolling speed triggers fish strikes. The first step is getting the most from trolling speed is understanding how speed fluctuations as small as 1/10th of a MPH can and do make a difference. The next step is having the right equipment on board to take full advantage of controlling and just as important monitoring trolling speed.

Let’s start with the bad news regarding manipulating trolling speed. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of primary outboard motors and also kicker motors are not designed to deliver the subtle variations in trolling speed avid anglers covet. Most of these motors are equipped with a traditional “cable style” linkage throttle system. Cable throttle controls do not have the range of control required to dial in subtle changes in trolling speed. To gain speed control down to plus or minus 1/10th MPH requires an outboard with electronic throttle controls or some after market products.  

Why Extreme Coolers Make Sense

By Mark Romanack

Orca extreme coolers are 100% American made and built to
last a lifetime.
Looking for a unique gift for a special person who enjoys the outdoors? Extreme coolers like the fiberglass models produced by Orca represent one of those items every outdoorsman or woman would love to own.

A few things set Orca coolers apart from the competition. First and foremost these coolers are 100% American made, engineered to keep food cold up to a week and built to last a lifetime.  The thick wall construction and gasket sealing work together to keep ice days longer than conventional cooler designs.

Secondly, the anti-slide legs insures that the cooler stays put on whatever surface it sits on. This small but important feature makes the cooler not only functional for the intended purpose, but helps it double as a safe and stable boat seat.

From hunting to fishing to tailgating, an extreme cooler like the Orca
will be a gift any outdoorsman or woman will cherish.
Thirdly, the Orca cooler features heavy duty, highly functional and easily replaced hinge and rubber latches. The hinges and lid latches on conventional coolers are often broken before you get them out of the store!

Lastly, while the cost of extreme coolers is well.... a little extreme. The fact is, the savings in ice will more than pay for the cooler over time. In the meantime, your drinks, food, game and fish will stay far cooler than possible in an ordinary cooler. To put the extreme cooler concept in total perspective, ponder this fact. An Orca cooler is going to outlast your pickup truck that costs about 40K! Think about that for a minute, then go out and find yourself an Orca dealer.

Orca coolers are available in five sizes including 26, 40, 58, 75 and 140 quart sizes. For more information visit

Road Trip, Destination Fish City

By Mark Romanack

The Big Manistee River is Michigan’s premier steelhead fishing stream
in late fall and early winter.
Who among us hasn’t made a New Years resolution? Mostly we resolve about the less important things in life, like cutting back on our overeating, excessive drinking and smoking habits.  Unfortunately, the real important resolutions -- the need to fish and to fish more often -- get put on the back burner. This year address the important issues in your life and make a resolution to spend more time on the water and also to zero in on that preverbal “Fish City” where the big ones are as common as mosquito bites in June.

Mark Romanack and Fishing 411 TV Announce Marketing Agreement with Argo Amphibious ATV

Mark Romanack and 411 Productions announced today they have reached a marketing agreement with Argo Amphibious ATV vehicles. In continuous operation since 1967, Argo produces the world’s most unique amphibious vehicles capable of navigating water, mud, sand, deep snow, marsh, ice, steep grades and all while hauling more passengers and gear than any other ATV.

“Argo ATV’s are amazing machines,” says Mark Romanack, the host of Fishing 411 TV and owner of 411 Productions. “My 750 HDi can handle up to 1150 pounds of cargo and passengers while towing up to 1800 pounds! The Argo has power and traction you just can’t get in other ATV’s”

“My goal is to use the Argo to expand both our wilderness fishing and ice fishing filming adventures,” says Romanack. “Between filming opportunities this machine isn’t going to be sitting idle. I also plan to use the Argo for hauling firewood, plowing snow, doing landscaping work and on as many waterfowl hunting trips as my wife Mari and I can squeeze in.”

It’s no wonder the Argo is in wide use by search and rescue organizations, timber cruisers, utility companies, public safety officers and hard core outdoorsmen. The Argo will simply navigate rugged terrain quads and side by sides can’t.

For a better appreciation of what an Argo can do, visit and check out the many videos that show the Argo at work and play.

Watch for Mark’s 750 HDi in action on future episodes of Fishing 411 broadcast on the World Fishing Network and also on the Fishing 411 with Mark Romanack YouTube channel

Boat Launch Etiquette

By Mark Romanack
With Captain Terry Kunnen

Even a large boat like this 30’ model can be launched and loaded quickly
with a little advance organization.
The art of launching and loading a fishing boat may seem simple, but based on the number of disasters I witness every year, a good number of us could benefit by boning up on our boat launch etiquette! When everyone who visits a boat launch follows these simple “rules of the road” the process of getting in and out of the water becomes far less stressful. After all, fishing is supposed to be fun and no one wants to start or end their day on a sour note.

When you pull up to a boat launching facility have your launch fee ready to go. If you have the exact change the process goes much faster and allows the attendant to serve more anglers in less time.

Alaska or Bust

By Mark Romanack

The beauty of Alaska is something that every fisherman should experience
first hand at least once in their life.
About 10 years ago my niece got married on a cruise ship headed for Alaska. My wife Mari and I joined the celebration and enjoyed a wonderful week sight seeing the inland passage and much of the coastal beauty Alaska has to offer.

Our Alaska adventure was pretty cool (I gained 10 pounds), but we didn’t get to spend much time on land or enjoy the fishing that Alaska is famous for. Recently, Mari, my youngest son Jake and 411 videographer/editor Gabe VanWormer and myself traveled to Salmon Catcher Lodge to sample Alaska’s world class fishing.

When planning a trip to Alaska the first hurdle is figuring out what time of year to go. Different species run at different times of year, making it critical to plan well in advance. We opted for a late August trip to coincide with the silver salmon (coho) run and also to provide good fishing for pink salmon, rainbow trout and dolly varden.

Extreme Cold Water Trolling

By Mark Romanack

Walleye like these “eaters” can be trolled up in water as cold as 34 degrees!
Troll slowly and carry a big stick: Fishing stick that is. That’s the advice I’d give anyone who is interested in learning more about trolling in extremely cold water. Here in the Great Lakes region we’re blessed to have open water somewhere just about year around. Even after the marina slips are void of boats, a wealth of open water trolling opportunities await Michigan anglers. Late in the year and again early in the season Michigan has an abundance of cold water trolling opportunities for steelhead, salmon, walleye, trout and more.

Trolling in cold water comes with a different set of “rules” compared to the popular trolling tactics practiced. As water temperatures drop, the activity level of fish also levels off, making it necessary to modify popular trolling tactics to compensate for fish that are less active and harder to tempt into striking.

Nick DeShano of Off Shore Tackle caught this monster
“buck” steelhead trolling a crankbait behind an OR12
planer board in water just 35 degrees! Cold water often
produces some of the hottest fishing of the year if
you know how to go about fishing in icy cold water.
Before we venture into a discussion of how to troll in cold water, let’s identify what constitutes cold water. I personally identify cold water trolling as starting at about 50 degrees and pushing as cold as 34 to 36 degrees!

Most species of fish are pretty active in 50 degree water, but when the temperature drops below 40 even cold water species like trout and salmon start getting lethargic.

In the real estate business location plays large, but when it comes to cold water trolling location is only part of the puzzle. Being in the right spot is always important, but speed plays an increasingly larger role in fishing success once water temperatures dip below 50 degrees.

Slower than normal trolling speeds are absolutely essential to triggering cold water fish into striking trolled lures. When fishing in cold water a trolling speed of 2.0 MPH could be considered blistering fast. Trolling speeds of 1.5 MPH or even as slow as 1.0 MPH are often required to get a strike response this late in the season.

Trolling this slow presents a problem for some anglers. Most primary power outboard motors won’t troll slower than about 2.0 MPH. To get down below the 2.0 threshold requires incorporating an electric trolling motor or a small gasoline kicker motor.

Of these popular “trolling motor” options, I personally favor using a bow mounted electric trolling motor. The model I favor has a auto-pilot function that allows me to control the boat with either the foot control or a key fob that I hang around my neck. The key fob makes it easy for me to make adjustments to speed or trolling direction from any location in the boat.

Auto-pilot style electric motors also make it simple to maintain a trolling course without having to constantly steer the boat. Think of an auto-pilot electric motor is like having someone on board who is all time driver, freeing you up to set lines and manage the back of the boat!

The auto-pilot electric motor market has been dominated by a single brand until recently. Now both Minn Kota and MotorGuide offer similar electric motors ideal for slow speed trolling applications.

As handy as auto-pilot electric trolling motors are, they don’t work on all boat types. These motors are limited to a 60 inch shaft meaning they won’t function on deeper Great Lakes style trolling boats. In that case it’s best to use a small gasoline kicker motor for slow speed trolling applications.

This 13# plus walleye is one of the author’s personal
best. Most of the hundreds of 10 pound plus walleye
the author has taken in his career came from cold
water and the majority were caught trolling crankbaits.
One problem associated with slow trolling is many of the popular lures used for catching trout, salmon and walleye simply don’t have good action at slow speed. Spoons are a prime example of a trolling lure that tend to have the best action at speeds of 2.0 MPH and faster. Certainly there are exceptions in that some spoon models fish pretty good down to 1.5 MPH, but in general spoons rank poorly as trolling lures for extremely cold water.

Crankbaits are another problem area. The vast majority of crankbaits are designed to deliver a rather wide “side to side” wobbling action. In this case a wide wobble is too much of a good thing. High action baits just don’t produce well in cold water trolling situations most of the time and on most popular species. Instead, trolling in cold water calls for lures with a more subtle action.

In the crankbait category, slender minnow style baits tend to have a less pronounced wobble and a seductive roll or rocking action that seems to trigger the maximum number of strikes when trolling in cold water. Every major manufacturer of crankbaits produces lures in this category, but some of the most popular models include the Rapala Deep Husky Jerk, Storm Jr. ThunderStick, Reef Runner 800 Series, Smithwick Deep Rattlin’ Rogue. Berkley Flicker Minnow series and Rebel Spoonbill.

The jury certainly has mixed feelings about commercial scent products as they pertain to fishing, but most cold water anglers agree that scent seems to help trigger a few more strikes when trolling at super slow speeds.

Scent can come in the form of live bait, cut bait, tipping with soft plastics or simply spraying or dipping a hard lure in a scent product. Applying scent may not cause cold water fish to literally jump in the boat, but it most certainly helps to a degree.

Not long ago while filming an episode of Fishing 411 we were targeting brook trout in extremely cold water. My guest was Buzz Ramsey the trout and salmon fishing Guru. Buzz tipped his lures with pieces of scented soft plastic and I didn’t. I didn’t realize just how much the scent mattered until I finally was forced to follow suit and immediately started catching fish!

When applying spray on or other liquid scent products, it’s best to re-apply about every 20-30 minutes while trolling. Scented soft plastics put out a good scent trail for an hour or more before needing to be replaced or recharged.


Boards like these "Off Shore’s” dominate the open water cold water
trolling scene because they can be fished effectively at slow speeds.
For most board trolling applications the author favors in-line boards like the
famous Side-Planer by Off Shore Tackle. Rod trees like these from Cisco Fishing
Systems are the author’s preferred rod holders for board fishing applications. 
Not always, but often cold water trolling is associated with very clear water. At this time of year plankton in the water is at an all time low and water clarity often improves dramatically. Using planer boards to spread out trolling lures and to present baits out away from the boat is a clear advantage.

For slow trolling applications the most practical choice in planer boards are the in-line versions. Because these boards attach directly to the fishing line, trolling speed is not an issue.

A mast style planer board system that requires the use of planer board line clips simply can’t deliver consistently crisp releases at the slower trolling speeds practiced in cold water.

Late in the year trolling speeds certainly slow down, but fishing success doesn’t have to. By adapting to slower trolling speeds and lures that have good action at slow speeds, the Great Lakes angler can enjoy red hot action even when the weather isn’t.


Plug Wrapping, The Next Big Thing

Plug wrapping is in wide use along the Pacific
Northwest, but not a lot of anglers in the Great
Lakes have discovered this fishing tactic.
One of the things I like most about fishing is the game is constantly evolving. Just about the time an old dog like me thinks he has seen it all, something new comes down the pipe changing the playing field.

Because fishing is constantly evolving game and staying on top of these changes is my full time job, I take the sharing of fishing information very seriously. Nine years ago when my family made the decision to jump into the outdoor television arena, we knew going in that our TV program would be different from other shows and would put education first and foremost.

Specialty Jigs for Pike and Walleye

By Mark Romanack

Attractor jigs like this Bait Rigs Fin Spin do an excellent job of attracting
walleye especially in the stained to dirty water conditions often found
in rivers.
A jig is a jig is a jig...To a lot of anglers jigs aimed at walleye and pike fishing are all pretty much the same. To the elite 10% of the angling community that routinely catches 90% of the fish, special purpose jigs represent an edge in angling worth taking a closer look at. If walleye and pike fillets are what’s for dinner, then it’s important to learn a little about modern jig design and how these designs can help put more fish in the boat.

For those anglers targeting pike and walleye, special purpose jigs are as essential to the tackle list as a fishing rod, reel and line.

Be More Oganized On the Water

By Mark Romanack
Terry Kunnen of TKO Charters and Off Shore Tackle
is one of the most organized anglers I’ve ever met.
He packs an amazing amount of gear into his Lund 2025
and is ready for whatever fishing situation he encounters
on the water.

If anyone needs to be organized, it’s a fisherman. Name a hobby other than fishing that requires so many different pieces of gear and other essentials that must be somehow stored and organized? Most avid anglers have enough gear to fill a garage! Try fitting all that stuff into a fishing boat and still leaving some room to fish.
The problem with fishing tackle is you’ll only need it if you don’t take it. How many times have you had to stop at a bait shop to purchase something you already owned but left at home? Getting better organized is something every angler could benefit from. A few organizational tips makes it easier to lay your hands on essential gear and avoid having to choose what goes and what stays home. After all, an angler’s goal should be to take it all and let the fish decide what gear will be needed on any given day.

Casting Jigs for Walleye

Some lures like this Odd Ball jig are tailor made for walleye fishing.
by Mark Romanack

It’s hard to beat the subtle but distinctive feeling of a walleye slurping up a jig danced near bottom. Once an angler has mastered the art of casting jigs and detecting those not so obvious bites, most other fishing presentations pale by comparison.

To say I’ve had a little experience casting jigs for walleye would be an understatement. About 40 years ago I caught my first walleye on a jig and since that moment I’ve had a passion for refining a presentation that is my personal favorite way to catch fish. Casting jigs for walleye is appealing for a number of reasons, but mostly what makes this presentation special is it pits man against fish. The only way to win this match up consistently is to master the subtle, but critical skills associated with jig casting.

When Salmon Go Deep

By Mark Romanack
Monster kings like this one caught by the author are
exactly why a growing number of Great Lakes
anglers are using trolling methods designed to target
fish in deep water.

Both king and coho salmon are notorious for being found in deep water. Deep is a relative term, because what amounts to deep water in a fisherman’s mind and the depths that salmon call home are often fathoms apart!

King and coho salmon are most often caught in the Great Lakes from 40 to 100 feet below the surface. In part this is because modern fishing methods are limited to some extent to fishing this depth range. Ironically salmon are capable of surviving and thriving several hundred feet below the surface!

Attractor Trolling for Lake Trout

Massive lake trout like this 20 plus fish caught by
the author are most often caught trolling attractor
rigs in deep water. Summer time is the best time
to use attractors for lake trout.
Lake trout, or gray trout as many call them, aren’t trout at all! Actually lake trout are members of the char family and like all chars they require exceptionally cold and pollution free waters. Fortunately, Algoma Country has no shortage of world class lake trout fisheries.

Because lakers favor water colder than 50 degrees they are often found on or near bottom in deep water. Deep water fish are easy to find with the help of sonar and nothing catches more lake trout than a classic fishing set up known as the attractor rig.

The term “trolling attractors” is a generic way of organizing a host of trolling hardware designed to get the attention of trout and other species. Some of the common attractors in use to target lake trout include “dodgers”, “lake trolls or cowbells” and “fish flash”. All of these attractors come in various sizes and of course color options. No single trout attractor is the “go to” answer every day on the water and most good trout fishermen carry a selection of all three on board with them.

The best way to understand these attractors and how they work is to dive into a discussion of each and outline exactly how to rig and fish them.

Okuma’s New Dead Eye Rods

By Mark Romanack

The author gets to spend lots of quality time testing
out Okuma rods and reels. The new Dead Eye
series of walleye specific rods are among his
favorites for all things walleye fishing.
Being a member of the outdoor media has some perks. One of those is getting my hands on new products months and sometimes years before these goods go to market. Recently I was invited to help Okuma develop a new line of species specific rods aimed at the growing walleye market. Known as the Dead Eye series, these rods represent all the popular lengths, models and actions walleye fishermen covet.

Announcement - Mark Romanack Joins Orca Coolers Coveted Pro Staff

Orca Coolers is proud to announce that Mark Romanack of Fishing 411 TV is joining the coveted Team Orca Pro Staff. “Orca produces “extreme” coolers that are American made by individuals who share a passion for the outdoors,” says Romanack the Producer and Host of Fishing 411. “Designed to be the last cooler you’ll ever need to buy, Orca produces five different cooler sizes including 26, 40, 58, 75 and 140 quart models. My favorite size is the 26 quart model that is the ideal boat cooler for keeping snacks, drinks and bait fresh.”

Orca Coolers will become the official cooler of Fishing 411 and the “closed captioning” sponsor for 2015/16. Fishing 411 TV broadcasts on World Fishing Network during the first, second and third 150 broadcasts annually. Host and team leader Mark Romanack is a lifelong sportsman and one of America’s most published members of the outdoor media. The author of 15 books on fishing, Romanack has also written over 3,000 full length magazine feature articles and published literally 10’s of thousands of outdoor photographs in his 30+ year career as an outdoor communicator.

“Fishing 411 aims to help others better enjoy the outdoors and Orca Coolers produces products that every outdoor enthusiast will appreciate,” adds Romanack. To learn more about Orca Coolers visit or You can also follow Fishing411, Mark Romanack and Orca Coolers on Facebook.

Manistee River Steelhead

By Mark Romanack

The Great Lakes region has many excellent
steelhead streams, but the Big Manistee is the
 author’s favorite for many reasons.
The town of Manistee, Michigan is a sleepy little tourist village with a big maritime history. At one time Manistee was one of the busiest ports on the Great Lakes shipping out timber to serve a growing nation. Today, Manistee serves visitors who are looking to get away from a growing nation, relax and enjoy life’s finer moments.

The Manistee River enjoys one of the largest runs of steelhead of any river in the Great Lakes region. In part this is true due to an aggressive stocking program. The Manistee also attracts lots of steelhead because this river system is also the natal spawning waters of literally 10’s of thousands of king and coho salmon.

Alternative Walleye Trolling Tactics

By Mark Romanack

Captain Jake Romanack captains on both Lake Erie and
Lake Michigan. On Lake Erie his “go to” method for trolling
 up walleye are small spoons like the Wolverine Jr. Streak
fished on a floating Lurk Rundown Diver.
Most of the time when anglers are talking walleye trolling, they are talking crankbaits. The crankbait is king at certain times of year. Early in the spring and again later in the fall the diving minnow crankbait bite dominates the fishing scene on many walleye fisheries. Outside of these time frames, some alternative trolling methods are often required to get the job done.

Casting Crankbaits For Walleye

By Mark Romanack

Shad style crankbaits like this are deadly when casted to
shoreline structure, points, weed edges and other places
that walleye call home.
Casting crankbaits is perhaps the single most overlooked presentation for targeting walleye. It seems that when talk turns to crankbaits, most anglers are only interested in trolling. Casting these minnow imitating lures has some significant advantages over other lure types that are commonly casted.

One of the major reasons crankbaits shine as walleye casting lures is because no other lure type can be used to cover as much water as quickly. The name crankbait says it all. Cast them out and crank them back to the boat. This simple fishing presentation is amazingly effective at making long casts, covering water and also making contact with active fish.

Drop Shot Walleye

By Mark Romanack

The author’s buddy Dan LaFond poses with a very nice
walleye caught using a drop shot rig on a fly-in lake in Ontario.
Drop shot rigging is a wildly popular bass fishing presentation that just happens to work wonders on walleye too! I came upon this realization recently while fishing walleye at Kag Lake, a fly-in destination owned by Leuenberger’s Air Service out of Nakina, Ontario. My guest for the week was bass fishing pro Kendall Ulsh who helped me better understand how deadly effective drop shotting can be.

This particular trip fishing was outstanding and it didn't take long for my crew to catch enough walleye on traditional methods to put an episode of Fishing 411 TV in the can. With time on our hands, we started exploring other less orthodox methods of catching walleye and Kendall suggested trying drop shot rigging.

Five Can't Miss Fishing Baits

By Mark Romanack          

Salmo Hornet  in Gold Color
What’s hot and what’s not, is something on the minds of anglers everywhere. A lot of what fishing boils down to is having the right bait in the water. From the salmon angler who trolls spoons, to the guy who targets walleye with harnesses and everything in between, hot lures are something every angler should pay close attention to.

Precision Trolling Data Apps Soar to Great Heights

Back in 1989 when the concept of Precision Trolling and the proprietary Dive Curve was first conceived, the idea of instantly sharing critical fishing information with 10’s of thousands of avid anglers was little more than a pipe dream. Today that dream has been achieved thanks to the advent of the “smart phone” and the countless individuals who use these “personal devices” to organize and access all the important information in their lives.

The company currently known as Precision Trolling Data, LLC originated as Crankbaits In-Depth back in 1989. “Precision Trolling provides a rather unique service in the fishing industry,” says Mark Romanack the company founder and visionary. “Essentially we’re an independent company that tests popular crankbaits and other devices commonly used in trolling to document the depths these products achieve at various trolling speeds and lead lengths. In testing we closely control all the details including lead length, line diameter, line type and trolling speed so as to create “Dive Curve Charts” that are literally a road map to fishing success.”

Walleye Fishing with HammerTime Spinners

By Mark Romanack

The author's "go to" walleye spinner rig in
recent years has become the Hildebrandt
Hammertime Spinner.  Tied using fluorocarbon
line, premium hooks, premium blades, and
quick change clerics, this spinner rig is ideal
for bottom bouncer fishing applications.
To walleye fishermen, the bottom bouncer and spinner rig is affectionately referred to as the “money rig”. This common walleye presentation has won more money for more tournament anglers than all the other fishing presentations combined!

The question is - why is the bottom bouncer and spinner rig so effective and the answer is as simple as the fact this fishing method works just about everywhere walleye are found. From natural lakes, to the Great Lakes, reservoirs and even in rivers this “go to” structure fishing rig catches walleye day in and day out.

Boat Rigging Tips

By Mark Romanack

A fishing boat is a big investment and to get the most
performance and enjoyment from that investment requires
taking a serious approach to boat rigging.
Boat rigging is serious business. No matter if you’re rigging a new boat or making upgrades to a boat that’s stood the test of time, now is not the time to get penny wise and dollar foolish. Dollars spent on quality marine accessories will stand the test of time and deliver dependable service for years to come.

Getting The Most From Trolling Reels

By Mark Romanack

Mechanical line counters like this popular Okuma Cold Water
can be tremendous trolling aids in the hands of anglers who
understand how they function and how to get the most from them.
Most serious trollers have come to the conclusion that a line counter style trolling reel is the only practical way to monitor lead lengths or “feet back” numbers while trolling. The problem comes in when anglers expect their mechanical driven reels to perform “feet back” miracles!

Simply stated, a mechanical line counter reel is only as accurate as the angler who owns it and uses it properly. Trolling style line counter reels are gear driven devices that in the hands of a skilled fishermen can convert trolling from a pursuit of blind faith into literally a “fish harvesting” system.

Power Trolling for Pike

By Mark Romanack

Name a fish species that grows big, is exceptionally powerful, has an aggressive nature and is abundant throughout their natural range. The answer is the northern pike and while these fish have all these attributes and more, many anglers turn a blind eye towards the species. Not many anglers seem to recognize the value of pike, the stubborn fight these fish provide or the mild flavor of their firm and flaky flesh.

For those who do appreciate the pike, there are almost no limits to the places they can be fished or the recreational value this species provides. Found all across the Midwest, the Upper Great Lakes and in Canada, pike are out there just waiting to be appreciated.

Mini Boards, Less Really Is More

By Mark Romanack

Ever hear the adage that less is more? Sure, almost everyone appreciates a touch of minimalism when it can make our busy lives a little easier to navigate. In the world of sport fishing, less translates into simple and that’s almost always a good thing.

Admittedly, trolling in general can be a rather complex way to target fish. Most trolling presentations are laden down with lots of gear and also the knowledge of how best to put these products to work. That’s exactly why Off Shore Tackle’s new Mini Planer Board is so exciting.

New Tadpole Tricks

The author often uses Tadpole Divers rigged with
Big Al Fish Flash to target Great Lakes walleye.
By Mark Romanack

The Off Shore Tackle Tadpole Diver has quickly become a “go-to” product for targeting walleye, trout and salmon. Available in four sizes including the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and the Magnum, these non-toxic and non-directional divers are simple to use, ingenious in design and best of all they can be used as flat lines or fished in combination with planer boards. About the only time Tadpoles don’t work is when they sit in the tackle box!

One of the new ways of fishing Tadpole divers is by rigging them in combination with a popular attractor called a Big Al Fish Flash, produced by Yakima Bait Company. These attractors simply spin in the water giving off rapid bursts of light. The flashes generated by the Fish Flash mimic the natural pulsations of light that occur when baitfish are darting to escape predators.

Ivanhoe Lake’s Drive-To Monster Walleye

Summer time is one of the best times to target trophy walleye.
Photo credit: Mark Romanack
From "Editor's Note: In his newest article, Mark Romanack, host of "Fishing 411", offers some great advice and tips that you can use for catching walleye in Algoma Country. Mark uses his vast experience and knowledge to catch walleye at Red Pine Lodge, a drive-in fishing lodge on Ivanhoe Lake. For more information about walleye fishing trips in Algoma Country visit"

Located just off Highway 101 and a short drive east of Chapleau, Ontario awaits Ivanhoe Lake. Ivanhoe Lake has a rich sport fishing history and is well known among locals for being a "walleye factory" bulging at the banks with eating sized fish. What even the locals don't fully understand is Ivanhoe Lake also produces staggering numbers of trophy class walleye.

Generation Next, Great Lakes Fishing Boats

By Mark Romanack

The Phantom 222 and 202 Off Shore
For the countless fishermen who ply the Great Lakes in search of trout, salmon, steelhead and walleye, the times they are a changing. Ultra clear water, scattered pockets of game fish and a declining population of forage fish are forcing anglers to adopt new fishing methods and more mobile fishing strategies.

The Phantom 222 and 202 Off Shore models pictured here represent a whole new generation of open water fishing boats for Smoker Craft Marine.

Pikein' with Plastics

By Mark Romanack

About 20 years ago I started experimenting with soft plastics for fishing northern pike. Early on I spent most of my time dressing various jig types with a wealth of soft plastic bait sizes and designs. The early success I enjoyed catching pike on plastics convinced me to explore other ways of fishing plastics.

These days soft plastic baits have become deeply engrained in just about every pike fishing presentation in my bag of tricks. Early in the season or late, in cover or open water, casting or trolling, soft plastics are part of just about everything good in pike fishing.

One of the most basic and effective ways to incorporate soft plastics into pike fishing is by tipping traditional hard baits to add more action to these lures.Besides dressing a jig with soft plastics, there are countless other lures that benefit from the “tipping” process. Not only does tipping with soft plastic improve the action of many lures, it puts a scent stream in the water that further enhances the presentation. After market scents can be used on soft plastics that are not factory scent impregnated.

Fishing Tips for Catching Walleye on Esnagi Lake at Lodge 88

Want to catch walleye on Esnagi Lake in Algoma Country? Editor's Notes: Fishing 411 Host Mark Romanack shares his fishing tactics for catching walleye after his fly-in fishing trip to Lodge 88 on Esnagi Lake. For more information about fly-in fishing trips in Algoma Country visit

The dock at Lodge 88 on Esnagi Lake. Photo credit Mark Romanack.
Lodge 88 located in the heart of Algoma Country and on beautiful Esnagi Lake. Esnagi Lake is one of those fishing destinations that should be on every walleye angler's bucket list. Once you've fished Esnagi, it's not a question if you will return, but rather when.

Part of the outfitting service known as North to Adventure, ( the MacLachlan family has outfitting in their blood. This family business was established back in 1959 and continues to provide anglers with exceptional full service and remote wilderness fishing opportunities.

Greeting Ice Out with a Utility Boat

By Mark Romanack
Starcraft Freedom 180TL

In the dead of winter, avid anglers can think of little else beside ice out and the first opportunity of the year to fish open water. Even before the ice melts, many species are also in the mood for a change of pace. Spring spawners like walleye and pike are staging near spawning grounds weeks before the ice melts. Even fall spawners like lake trout and brook trout, sense that the sheets of ice are about to melt and better foraging opportunities are on the horizon.