Search This Blog

Blog Archive

The Magic of First Ice.... Part 2

By Mark Romanack

Crappie are one of the author’s favorite fish to target on early ice. It
takes some work to find these fish, but once you locate them the action
can be red hot. These fish were caught using soft plastics designed
 especially for ice fishing. Anglers can also do well using live bait or
soft plastics and live bait combined.
Last week we took a look at how to find first ice crappie. This week we’re taking a deeper look into tactics for catching them.

Historically I’ve caught most of my early winter crappie on a small jig tipped with two or three wax worms, mousies or spikes. Bulking up the jig with lots of bait causes the jig to sink slower and more deliberately. Also, should I miss a fish, there is a very good chance the jig will still have bait on the hook and I just might get a second shot at that fish.

My jig of choice has for years been the Bait Rigs Panfish Cobra because it has an offset hook that readily allows me to pack on the bait. This jig is produced in four sizes including a No. 10, 12, 14 and 20 size.

The Magic of First Ice... Part 1

By Mark Romanack

Slab crappie like these are one of the rewards anglers can expect
when they target panfish on early ice. Sometimes hard to find, once
 these fish are located they are typically pretty willing to
bite and bite often.
The thing I like most about living in the ice belt is looking forward to the changing seasons. I think of these calendar events as fishing milestones. The changing of the seasons naturally rejuvenates our spirit and gives us the motivation and drive to get outside, stretch our legs and also to spend some time fishing.

One of the many seasonal milestones I look forward to is the magic of first ice. It’s on first ice that the best hard water action of the year takes place. This magic extends to a host of different species, but in my mind nothing beats targeting crappie in December.

I have a soft spot for crappie because this species is locally abundant. Within a 30 minute drive of my northern Michigan home, I can access half a dozen lakes that routinely produce limit catches of crappie on first ice. Over the years I’ve been blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with my family targeting these fish and making great memories.

Alternative Species

By Mark Romanack

While trolling with planer boards on Saginaw Bay the author caught
 this channel catfish. Not the target species for sure, but it’s important
 to note that catfish and walleye often feed in the same places and on
the same forages. The author view catching catfish as a good sign.
It would be wonderful if every time we as anglers hit the water, the fish would be cooperative. Truth is, for every trip that goes as planned, there are others that don’t exactly meet our expectations. Thankfully, as anglers we have a ace in the hole that can be simply summed up as “alternative species”.

I’ve long since lost track of how many times I set out to catch one species and instead found myself settling for another. For some setting out to catch walleye and only finding catfish, sheepshead or white bass may measure up as a failure. For me, every tug on the string is a good thing. Admittedly some bites are more noteworthy than others, but catching fish is a good thing even when the fish aren’t exactly the desired species.

Lead Core Lines Go High Tech

By Mark Romanack

Lead core line has been on the fishing scene a long time, but recently
new lead core lines produced with thinner braided and fused coatings
are starting to catch on among open water trollers.
Lead core line is a popular choice with a growing number of walleye, trout and salmon anglers. This sinking style fishing line has been around for decades and is made of a soft lead wire surrounded by a protective covering of Dacron. Useful for reaching significant depths, various lengths of lead core are commonly used either as flatlines for structure fishing or fished in combination with in-line boards like the famous Side-Planer by Off Shore Tackle when targeting suspended fish.

If you haven’t noticed lead core lines have experienced some rather important, yet subtle changes in recent years. The Dacron/Nylon products that have dominated this fishing line category for decades are now slowly being replaced by lead core lines featuring both Microdyneema and Spectra fiber coverings. Microdyneema is a fused line type and the same stuff Fireline is made of. Sprectra is a true braided line that is exceptionally strong and super thin in diameter. Commonly used when fishing diving planers Spectra braids are marketed under a number of popular line brands including Maxima, Vicious, SpiderWire, Power Pro and others.

Two Old Classics

By Mark Romanack with JP Bushey

These alewives were taken from the stomach of a lake trout. Not how
well the U20 Flatfish matches these baitfish in size and color. No doubt
 this is a big reason why the Flatfish is such a deadly bait on lake trout
 and other trout and salmon species.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Perhaps, but sometimes those “old school” tricks are all an angler needs to enjoy fishing success any angler would be envious of.

Ontario based Off Shore Tackle pro staffer JP Bushey and his father Larry Bushey have developed a lake trout trolling system that’s simple to master and deadly effective. This father/son fishing team target lake trout on the many rocky shoals of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, but their trolling methods will produce trout anywhere these fish are found hugging the bottom.

The foundation of this “Bushey Fishing Success Story” focuses on two classic fishing products that have helped generations of anglers be more successful on the water. Together the Bushey family uses these products to catch literally hundreds of trout every year!

Boat Launch Etiquette

By Mark Romanack with Captain Terry Kunnen

Even a big rig like this can be launched and loaded quickly with
a little practice.
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.

Tadpoles and Willowspoons

By Tony Puccio with Mark Romanack

Tony Puccio of Bait Rigs Tackle is one of the Author’s oldest friends and
also one of the best walleye anglers you’ll ever meet. Tony uses the Tadpole
 Diver produced by Off Shore Tackle to fish the Bait Rigs Tackle Willowspoon
 for open water walleye. The combination is made in heaven and gives open
 water trollers another option to toss at those big water walleye.
The Off Shore Tackle Tadpole Resettable Divers are seeing a lot of action among open water walleye trollers. Most of the guys using these divers are matching them up with traditional Colorado blade worm harnesses and beating up the open water walleye.

Another great terminal tackle option for the Tadpole Diver are small spoons like the Bait Rigs Walleye Willowspoon. This spoon comes in two sizes and is factory rigged with a single hook. Tie up a six foot leader of 12-15 pound test fluorocarbon line and tip the hook with half a nightcrawler. The Willowspoon fishes great behind a Tadpole Diver and gives walleye anglers another presentation to explore.

Willowspoons are so thin and lightweight they have great action at trolling speeds ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 MPH. Available in seven different colors, the No. 3 size in gold is my favorite for walleye.

Low and Slow Wins the Race for Late Season Walleye

By  Mark Romanack

To consistently catch open water walleye in the late fall the author uses 
his electric motor to troll from 1.5 to 1.2 MPH on average. Auto pilot 
motors like the MotorGuide Xi5 not only help anglers dial in the precise
 trolling speeds, these motors keep the boat moving on productive 
trolling passes that can be duplicated over and over again.
Late season walleye are interesting creatures. To catch these fish consistently you don’t have to launch in the pre-dawn. Those 5 a.m. curtain calls are pretty important during the dog days of summer, but in the fall walleye tend to bite low, slow and the best bite is often during the middle of the day.

Across the Great Lakes, fall walleye fishing peaks as water temperatures dip down. It’s a safe bet that some of the best open water walleye trolling of the year will take place in the month of November. In places like Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, Green Bay and Little Bay de Noc most of these fish are going to be suspending in the water column 20 to 40 feet down.

Calibrating Line Counter Reels

By Mark Romanack/Founder
Precision Trolling Data, LLC

Jake enjoys the fruits of our labor with this massive walleye caught
Precision Trolling crankbaits on Lake Erie. The depth data produced
by Precision Trolling Data would not be nearly as useful if it weren’t
for the author’s ability to “calibrate” all of his trolling reels and to
replicate trolling leads again and again.
Recently the question of calibrating line counter reels was forwarded to our Precision Trolling Data staff. The following is my answer and good information for anyone who trolls. 

I believe it was our Precision Trolling staff that popularized the idea of calibrating line counter reels more than 20 years ago when we started publishing our now famous “Dive Curve” data. Prior to that time no one had fully understood the need to calibrate line counter reels, because it wasn’t fully understood how lead length or the amount of line between the rod tip and the lure influenced lure diving ability. Our research first confirmed the relationship between both line diameter and lead length in regards to influencing the diving depth of crankbaits and other commonly trolled fishing hardware.

Salmon and Trout Savvy

By Mark Romanack

King salmon fishing in the Great Lakes has been up and down over the
years. This one came from Lake Ontario which is currently the hottest
salmon fishery among the five Great Lakes. Buzz Ramsey of Yakima
Bait caught this one using a Mag Lip plug.
Here in the Great Lakes salmon fishing is mostly about king salmon, with a little attention thrown in towards coho or silvers. Kings are the least expensive salmon to stock and the only pacific salmon that seemingly has any reasonable chance of natural reproduction here in the Great Lakes.

Because kings smolt at just six months of age, they can be raised in hatchery situations for far less money than it takes to raise a coho, steelhead or brown trout which smolt at approximately 18 months. Also, naturally reared kings suffer from less natural predation from osprey, otters, herons and bald eagles because they leave their natal rivers about a year earlier than other salmonids. 

American Made, the American Way??? Not Really

Life is good in America despite the fact a lot of manufactures have turned
their back on American labor in favor of producing goods that yield more
corporate profits. When consumes buy products based solely on price,
American made goods typically take it on the chin.
By Mark Romanack

As Americans we can be a fickle lot. Look at our track record when it comes to politics if you need evidence of our fence setting tendencies! We the blue bloods of the heartland are prone to promoting slogans like “Buy American”, but when we get to the cash register a whole new idealism is spawned. Excuse the continued pun, but as fishermen we often talk out one gill cover and then react differently out the other.

The “Buy American” axiom is just one good example of that truism. A lot of fishing tackle and marine accessories are made over seas, but if you look close there are a significant amount of companies based right here in the USA that pride themselves on designing, manufacturing and selling their products in the US of A.

Alternative to Line Counter Reels

No line counters, no problem. Baitcasting reels like this can be used for
 serious trolling chores with the tips outlines in this blog.
By Mark Romanack

I’ve made a career out of using and recommending line counter reels for trolling. No matter how you slice it, using a line counter reel is the most efficient way to monitor trolling leads and also to duplicate productive fishing patterns.

The problem with line counter reels is they are expensive, especially for the novice angler who fishes only a few times a year. It’s true that a line counter reel is the best option, it’s not the only option to consider.

An ordinary level-wind or baitcasting reel can be used for lots of trolling applications effectively. Depending on the trolling chore at hand, a baitcasting reel may or may not have adequate line capacity. For example, a typical bass style baitcasting reel has a line capacity of about 120 yards of 10-12 pound test monofilament line. A reel like this loaded with 20 pound test monofilament is not going to have the line capacity needed for say downrigger fishing.

Mark's Mailbag - Do I have to tune Rapala crankbaits?

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 October 3rd, Shawn wrote - 
Hi Mark, I Been told that Rapala's crankbaits don't have to be tuned. Is that true?

Mark replies - Shawn, all crankbaits need to be tuned, but Rapala baits tend to be water ready more than other brands on average. The balsa versions, i.e.: Shad Raps, Taildancers, original minnows are all spot on. The plastic baits, Husky Jerk, RS Shad Raps are also good, but need some tweaking from time to time. Any crankbait, even the ones that come tuned in the package will eventually get knocked out of tune and need adjustment. A pair of needle nose pliers is the tool for the job. Great question Shawn, thanks for writing.

Fresh Fish Made Easy

By Mark Romanack

The author isn’t completely giving up “fried fish”
but moving forward he’s going to open his
mindset to include grilling and steaming
fish more often.
Not long ago I had my annual check up at the doctor. Seems my cholesterol is a touch high and 50+ years of abuse is starting to take a toll. My doctor gave me a printed out diet to adhere to and to my horror “fried fish” wasn’t on the approved menu! What the heck??

Okay, if fried fish is no longer in my diet, what about grilling and steaming my favorite fish? Turns out, fish cooked without the luxury of a pan full of grease actually tastes good too! Amazing isn’t it?

Since I’m no stranger to the BBQ grill, cooking my fish over charcoal seemed like a logical place to make some overdue changes in my diet. It’s amazing what a fresh fillet coated with a little lemon pepper, a touch of margarine and lots of lemon or lime juice can taste so wonderful. 

I like to get my fire going then set my attention to washing and drying the fish fillet. Next I season to taste and place a couple sheets of aluminum foil directly over the fire. The fish goes on top of the foil and I squeeze on a liberal amount of lemon or lime juice.

The Smell of Money

By Mark Romanack

Zach Schoonover of Maxima Fishing line is a strong
advocate of cleaning lures before fishing and adding
 natural fish scents to his gear. Note the latex gloves
that Zach wears every time he goes fishing to
control unnatural scents in his fishing.
In the Romanack family when someone’s hands smell like fish, we jokingly say it’s the smell of money. Our clan has made a very comfortable living in the fishing industry and smelling like fish is a good thing when you fish for a living.

Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of things in fishing I couldn’t explain. For example, how many times have you been in a fishing boat while one guy is catching fish like crazy and no one else can get a bite? Seemingly unexplainable and frustrating instances like this take place in a fishing boat all the time.

On a recent trip to the west coast I may have finally realized something that could explain those frustrating days when fish are obviously around, but not necessarily biting everyone’s fishing lures. One of the cool things about being able to fish in many different places and with lots of talented anglers is the things I learn that ultimately make me question how I’m fishing.

Case in point. As fishermen lots of us believe that scent plays a role in how fish react to baits and lures. We also know from solid science research that certain scents and chemicals are proven to actually repel fish.

Mark's Mailbag - Does the distance of the rod above the water affect the diving depth of a crankbait?

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 Sept 20th, Lee wrote - "I was told that (the distance of the rod above the water does affect the diving depth of a crankbait) but I'm not sure it's true."

Mark replies - Lee,  The answer to your question is yes and no. It depends on how a person is trolling and with what accessory items. For example, if you’re trolling with a mast system that attaches a large planer board and tether line to a planer board mast, the lines closest to the boat are positioned several feet off the water surface. This indeed reduces the diving depth of the trailing crankbaits. I compensate by adding about 10% to 20% to the trolling lead in this situation.

If you were fishing an in-line planer board like the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer, the board and line are at the water level and the diving depth of the crankbait is not impacted even if the rods tips are positioned straight up in the air.

For flat line trolling situations, the higher the rod is positioned off the water, the shallower the bait will run. This ratio is about 1 to 1 or in other words if you raise the rod tip one foot, you are reducing the diving depth of the lure about the same. For flat line fishing, I recommend positioning your rod tips just a couple inches above the water.

Great question Lee, I hope my answer helps you catch a few more fish. Thanks for writing.

Downrigger Release Technology

By Mark Romanack

Off Shore Tackle is a Michigan based manufacturer who produces the
industry standard in line releases and other trolling aids.
These days downriggers have evolved into highly sophisticated electronically mastered trolling aids that cost thousands of dollars. Ironically, I still routinely see anglers using a two cent rubber band as their downrigger line release! 

Logic like that makes me scratch my head because the downrigger line release is the most important part of any downrigger set up. If the line release is too weak, not enough resistance is put upon the fish when it strikes and a lousy hook set results. More times than not, these fish shake off before they can be landed.

If the tension setting on the line release is too heavy, a fish may be hooked solidly but dragged along at depth because it’s impossible to trip the release from the surface.

Fishing 411 has Smooth Moves

Fishing 411 TV and Smooth Moves recently reached a marketing and advertising agreement. Smooth Moves is based in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota and is the producer of a highly popular spring/shock mechanical suspension system for boat seats. “Smooth Moves put the fun back into fishing,” says Mark Romanack, the host of Fishing 411 Television. “I’ve spent my entire life fishing and running in rough water conditions has taken a toll on my body. Smooth Moves suspensions are easily adjustable in height and also for anglers’ weights ranging from 100 to 300 pounds”. “Smooth Moves suspensions have a built-in slide and swivel 360 degrees,” added Romanack. “Not only does the Smooth Moves mechanism take the torture out of fishing in rough water, these suspensions can be easily mounted in any fishing boat in just a few minutes time.”

Smooth Moves produces two models including the Smooth Moves Ultra at a MSRP of $550.00 and the Smooth Moves Classic which retails for $450.00. Both of these spring/shock assisted suspensions turn rough water boating into a painless affair!

“The Fishing 411 team is very excited to be fishing and endorsing Smooth Moves” explains Romanack. “This winter interested fishermen can take a “test ride” by visiting the Fishing 411 Boat/Sport Show Display at the Ultimate Fishing Show in Novi, MI, the Outdoor-a-Rama Show in Detroit, the Ultimate Sport Show in Grand Rapids, MI and the Greater Niagara Sportfishing Expo in Niagara Falls, NY.

For more information, visit or and don’t forget to register for the free Fishing 411 weekly blog that’s always full of fishing and boating information.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mark Romanack, or Tammy Koller,

Fish Flash Owns the West... For good reason!

By Mark Romanack

The Big Al Fish Flash produced by Yakima Bait
 is hands down the flasher of choice on the west
 coast and this trend is starting to invade other
salmon fisheries.
Recently I had the great pleasure to fish the famed Buoy 10 region of the Columbia River for king salmon. My friends at Maxima Line and Yakima Bait hosted the trip and treated the Fishing 411 crew to some amazing salmon fishing west coast style. The Columbia receives one of the richest runs of salmon in North American and countless anglers from all over the nation converge here in August and September to experience the best sport salmon fishing found anywhere.

Before I even stepped into the boat I could see a trend that put a big smile on my face. Literally every angler walking down the dock, every captain getting his boat ready for clients and every anxious group of anglers at the boat launch had an unique flasher hanging from their fishing line called the Big Al Fish Flash.

Produced by Yakima Bait ( one of the largest tackle manufacturers in the USA, the Fish Flash is a triangle shaped flasher that spins on it’s own axis. Compared to other attractors, the Fish Flash puts out more strobes of light and moves through the water with zero drag or resistance.

A New Breed of Great Lakes Boats

By Mark Romanack

Travis White was nice enough to share this picture of his
 American Angler 202. This welded “V” hull is typical of the
trailerable boats popping up all across the Great Lakes. Travis
uses his to lead charter trips out to Stannard Rock in the middle of
Lake Superior! For more information on these adventure
 fishing trips visit
The times they are a changing. The traditional fiberglass deep V Cuddy Cabin style of fishing boat that once dominated on the Great Lakes severed a lot of captains well, but this style of boat and charter trip may have run its course. Larger “charter style” boats provide a lot of space and creature comforts, but these boats must also be slipped in a particular port. The owner and/or charter client is saddled with the necessity of fishing only one port all season long.

The Great Lakes recreational fishing resources are in turmoil. No one knows what the future holds for anglers who target species including lake trout, king salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon, steelhead and brown trout. The uncertainty of the Great Lakes fishery has some savvy anglers opting for smaller boats they can trailer to hot ports at peak times of year.

The American Sportfishing Association ICAST Convention

By Mark Romanack

The show floor of the iCAST convention allows professional
anglers and outdoor media to see the latest products offered
to the fishing industry.
Every year in the middle of July the American Sportfishing Association puts on a business convention aimed at industry insiders. Called the ICAST convention, this year the event was in Orlando, Florida and attracted the largest group of tackle manufacturers, tackle buyers, retail outlets, professional fishermen and outdoor media on record. It seems the state of the “Fishing Industry” is better than it has been in recent years and the future looks bright for America’s favorite pastime.

Historically this convention was mostly about hooking up manufacturers with tackle buyers from the nation’s most prominent retail outlets and chains. These days, most of the major buying of fishing tackle takes place months before the ICAST convention. Instead, ICAST has become a “marketing show” that focuses more on new products and getting the word out to the media. 

The Deep Weed Pike Bite

By Mark Romanack

The author loves to throw big buck tails like this Bait Rigs model shown here.
Double bladed bucktail baits designed for musky fishing are just as deadly on
trophy class northern pike.
Most of the information focusing on pike fishing zeros in on the post-spawn period when pike are in shallow weedy bays, readily spotted and aggressively feeding. Spoken as a person who has caught hundreds of trophy sized pike in shallow water, I can say the experience of sight fishing for these monsters is amazing. The problem is, this bite is short lived.

Ice out plays a major role in the post-spawn pike bite and there is literally no way to predict when ice out is going to occur from year to year. The only way to deal with this issue is to remain flexible in your fishing schedule and hit the water when the conditions are ideal.

Marrying Braid to Leader Material

By Mark Romanack

Toothy critters like this trophy class northern pike scream out for heavy
fluorocarbon line as leader material. The author normally casts 50-65
 pound test braid and terminates to a 80# test fluorocarbon leader for
 pike and musky fishing.
These days a growing number of anglers are choosing
 super braids as their line of choice. The low stretch and super sensitivity braid
 offers makes sense for a lot of fishing presentations like vertical jigging,
 casting jigs, live bait rigging and structure trolling.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome when fishing braid is figuring out what kind of leader material to use. While a few anglers recommend tying their lures directly to braided line, I typically recommend either a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. The advantage of using a leader is braid tends to be hard to break should you snag bottom and when braid does break it frays at the end, making it tricky to retie quickly.

What leader material makes the most sense depends on the species being targeted, the specific fishing conditions and also water clarity.

Keeping it Simple

By Mark Romanack

Gary Melvin, left and Tim Link recently joined the Fishing 411 crew in
filming an episode on Big Kaby Lake and Pine Portage Lodge. Located in
Ontario’s Algoma Country near Wawa, Ontario, this fishery
 is one of the finest walleye destinations in all of Ontario.
Sometimes the best fishing advice is to keep things simple. Recently on a “fly-in” fishing adventure to Big Kaby Lake and Pine Portage Lodge I was reminded that simple presentations often provide the most bites and the maximum amount of fishing pleasure.

Big Kaby Lake is by Ontario standards a shallow lake. The average depth is just 14 feet and Big Kaby is dotted with countless islands, back bays that support weed beds and a seemingly endless supply of 18-22 inch walleye.

Backtrolling 1/4 ounce Bait Rigs Odd’ ball jigs tipped with live minnows proved to be all the fishing savvy we needed to boat walleye after walleye after walleye. My guests Gary Melvin and Tim Link kept asking me what color jig would produce best. In all honesty that detail didn’t matter much. Regardless of the jig color, our group caught walleye almost at will.

Mark's Mailbag - Tadpole Resettable Diving Weights

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 June 8th, Mark replied to Travis concerning a question about Precision Trolling Data.  The following email exchange was prompted by Mark's original reply to Travis and discusses Offshore Tackle Tadpole Resettable Diving Weights.  The information is so good, we are sharing the email exchanges with the rest of our fans.

On June 8, Mark wrote: 

Travis, Your investment in the Precision Trolling Data app is indeed a good investment. Literally hundreds of lures and trolling devices have been tested and the respective diving depths documented using scuba diving methods to test, confirm and document every data point. Your first concern about trolling speed is a common one. Actually when trolling floating/diving style crankbaits trolling speed has little or no influence on how deep the lure actually runs. Most anglers mistakenly think that as they speed up the lure dives deeper because they can feel the bait working harder. Actually the bait is working harder and trying to dive deeper, but at the same time increased friction on the fishing line negates any additional depth. That stated we test our floating/diving crankbaits at about 2.0 to 2.5 MPH which is an average trolling speed.

A Good Fishing Trip is a Safe One: What You Need to Know About PFDs and Safety Gear

By Mark Romanack
Published in Algoma Country

The author takes inflatable life vests on every fishing trip. These vests are so
lightweight you hardly know you’re wearing a PFD.
It's an unfortunate but indisputable fact... fishermen are notorious for not wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) while fishing. When authorities ask anglers why they are not wearing their PFD, the most common reply is that most flotation vests are bulky and uncomfortable to wear. It's true that many PFD's are uncomfortable. Traditional Foam Type III flotation vests are long on function but short on comfort.

Anglers who own this style of traditional life vest often wear them while the boat is on plane and take them off to fish. This sets up a potentially disastrous situation.

According to both the US and Canadian Coast Guard, most drownings involving fishermen are the result of a person not wearing a personal flotation device or PFD for short. Mustang Survival is one of the leading manufacturers of PFD's and on their web page it states, "the best PFD is the one a person wears".  ...Read More

Safety on the Water

By Mark Romanack

Captain Jake is wearing a Mustang inflatable life
jacket. Inflatable life vests are lightweight,
comfortable to wear and they are the best insurance
you can have against drowning when
fishing from a boat.
According to both the US and Canadian Coast Guard, most drownings involving fishermen are the result of a person not wearing a personal flotation device or PFD for short. Mustang Survival one of the leading manufacturers of PFD’s and on their web page it states, “the best PFD is the one a person wears”.

It’s an unfortunate but indisputable fact... fishermen are notorious for not wearing a PFD while fishing. When authorities ask anglers why they are not wearing their PFD, the most common reply is that most flotation vests are bulky and uncomfortable to wear. It’s true that many PFD’s are uncomfortable. Traditional foam Type III flotation vests are long on function but short on comfort.

Anglers who own this style of traditional life vest often wear them while the boat is on plane and take them off to fish. This sets up a potentially disastrous situation.

A better option are the newer inflatable PFD’s that are designed to be low profile, lightweight and comfortable to wear. How an inflatable actually inflates depends on the technology designed into these PFD’s.

Mark's Mailbag - A 411 Fan's Thank You

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 July 9th, James writes:  Hello Mark and every one, I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do for the fishing industry and for all of us who simply can not get enough fishing in our lives. So thank You and God Bless you all. James

Mark Replies:  James, What a wonderful message. Thank you. The work we do is  a labor of love, but it certainly is work none-the-less. Having folks out there like you who appreciate what we do, makes the whole process rewarding and meaningful. Thanks again James for watching Fishing 411 and more importantly for taking a little time to contact us directly. I’m going to share this one on our web page if you don’t mind, because it’s folks like you that keep the Fishing 411 team always striving for better programming. I thank you and my staff thanks you as well.

Best fishes,

Mark Romanack
Fishing 411 TV, 411 Productions

Up Hill or Down Hill - “Which is the best direction to troll?

By Mark Romanack

In calm conditions like this it’s pretty easy to troll in any direction.
When the wind picks up however, it’s often easier to troll with the wind.
When I’m on the water trolling for walleye, trout, salmon or another species, I marvel at how often other boats seemingly breaking all the rules of common sense. Nowhere in the “trollers manual” does it state we must always troll downwind or upwind, but there are for sure times when doing so not only makes the most sense, it can make your time on the water a lot more productive and enjoyable.

Fishing “uphill”, into the waves or “downhill”, with the the wind is one of those topics anglers are constantly debating. Understanding the dynamics of trolling can make it easier to decide which is the best course of action.

Electric Motor Auto-Pilots

By Mark Romanack

Thanks to technology that allows NMEA 2000 and
touch screen sonar to be networked, it’s possible
now to control an electric motor using the touch
screen on a sonar unit.
A lot of cool new fishing products have hit the market in recent years. Among my favorites are the
latest generation of auto-pilot electric motors. For those of you who haven’t experienced one of these “trolling smart” electric motors, I can only say that once you go “auto-pilot” you will likely never use a traditional push-pull cable style motor again.

Auto-pilot electric motors provide anglers some important advantages. The ability to keep the boat moving on a particular course and desired speed tops that list.

Operating an auto-pilot electric motor is a simple three step process. First the angler needs to deploy the electric motor and determine the direction of travel at which he or she wants the boat to move.  Next the desired trolling speed needs to be set using the rheostat style speed controls. Once the boat is moving in the desired direction and speed, simply engage the auto-pilot button to lock the electric motor onto that compass heading.

The Mighty STX 2050

By Mark Romanack

The Starcraft exclusive Power-Trac hull allows the STX 2050 to handle
 rough water and also deliver amazing performance.
Google the phrase “multi-species fishing boats” and chances are you’ll see a photograph of the Starcraft STX 2050 front and center. The flag ship in the Starcraft line up of fishing boats, the STX 2050 is aluminum boat designed to handle waters large and small. Large enough to be sea worthy on the big pond, yet small enough to be easily trailered to any fishing destination, this icon is at home on any water.

Just a few of the species I have personally caught while fishing from the versatile STX hull include walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, musky, northern pike, lake trout, brook trout, king salmon, coho salmon, atlantic salmon, steelhead, crappie, channel catfish, bluegill and yellow perch! A catch record like that is a pretty good endorsement of the STX 2050, but it gets better.

Outboards of the Future

By Mark Romanack

This Evinrude E-Tec 135 H.O. is mounted on a Starcraft 176 Starfish.The Fishing 411team has conducted a series of test ride videos featuring all
the popular Starcraft, Smoker Craft, American Angler and Starweld fishing boats.
These days outboard engines come in two flavors including standard models and High Output or H.O. models. High Output outboards feature a special gear case (lower unit) that is beefed up to take the abuse of constant use, tournament tortures and the long hours of service often dished out by guides and professional anglers.

What a lot of anglers don’t know is that the gear cases provided on H.O. outboards are actually designed to provide more performance on the water. This performance is achieved by streamlining the shape of the gear case so it passes through the water with less friction. 

Everything you Never Wanted to Know About Tow Vehicles

By Mark Romanack

The author’s Starcraft STX 2050 is large enough that a 3/4 ton truck
is the logical choice as a tow vehicle.
If you love the outdoors, chances are pretty good there is a pick up truck or full sized SUV in your garage. Once categorized as “gas guzzlers” these collective towing vehicles are today a standard of the American way of life.

Americans work hard all week long so they can go play with their toys on the weekend. Getting those toys from point “A” to point “B” and there are no shortage of vehicles out there to pick from. This blog isn’t about promoting Dodge, Chevy or Ford, but rather to provide some hints on what makes for a suitable tow vehicle.

Mark's Mailbag - Common Questions at Precision Trolling Data, LLC

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

Travis writes:  I have just purchased the lifetime version of your precision trolling app. I was under the impression that along with all of the crankbaits listed that there would be more line diameter options as well as line types. Also, different options for trolling speed. I'm not sure what speed you based the data provided is. For the most part this should be a good investment, just wondering if any of the info I'm asking for is or will be provided. Thank you.

Mark Replies:  Travis,

Your purchase of the Precision Trolling Data app is indeed a good investment. Literally hundreds of lures and trolling devices have been tested and the respective diving depths documented by our team using scuba diving methods to test, confirm and document every data point. 

The A-B-C’s of In-Line Board Rigging

By Mark Romanack

Rigged appropriately planer boards like the popular
OR12 Side Planer can be used to catch just about
any species of fish including this nice
mess of crappie.
One of the reasons that in-line planer boards like the Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planer are so popular is these fishing aids can be rigged a variety of ways. The Fishing 411 team rigs our boards three different ways depending on the species we are targeting and the type of trolling on the docket.

One of the most popular and “classic” rigging methods for in-line boards involves using an OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip on the tow arm of the board and also a second OR16 mounted to a split ring at the back of the board. The OR16 has a small plastic pin in the middle of the rubber pads. When the line is placed behind the pin and the release closed, this rigging method virtually guarantees that the board is going to remain on the fishing line.

This is the rigging method I use most often when fishing lead core or copper line set ups that feature a pre-determined amount of sinking line and a monofilament backing. The lead core or copper line is deployed and the planer board is attached to the monofilament backing using both OR16 clips.

Getting the Most from Trout Spinners

By Mark Romanack

On a recent trip to Lake Nipigon in northwestern
Ontario the author’s son Jake caught this
magnificent brook trout casting a
Rooster Tail spinner.
Among those who covet trout fishing, most anglers agree that the in-line spinner is the “go to” bait for catching trout of all sizes and varieties. While the fly fishermen among us might put up a good argument that the Muddler Minnow is the most popular fly of all time, even the mighty Muddler Minnow hasn’t produced as many trout as popular spinners like the Yakima Rooster Tail, Mepps Aglia and Panther Martin.

Trout spinners bring to the table the unique combination of flash, vibration and a pulsating hackle that trumps just about any other lure type. Even better, spinners are easy to fish, they cast like a bullet and these lures are productive in large rivers, small streams, beaver ponds and natural lakes. About the only time a spinner won’t catch trout is when it’s owner leaves it in the tackle box in favor of some other Johnny-come-lately lure.

Spinners are produced using a wide variety of blade types, but the most popular among trout anglers are willow leaf, French blades and center spin blades. Of these three blade designs the willow leaf blade must be retrieved a little faster to get the blade rotating properly. Willow leaf spinners like the famous original Rooster Tail function best when fished at a moderate to fast retrieve speed or when fished in flowing water.

Staying Hooked Up

By Mark Romanack

Smiles like this can only occur when fish bite and stay hooked up. A little
hooking knowledge has helped the angler land countless fish like this over
the years and avoid that “kicked in the guts” feeling that happens
when a quality fish escapes!!
Anyone who fishes will understand the disappointment that comes when a big fish is hooked, but lost before it comes to net. Worse yet is when a fish is hooked and lost before the angler even lays eyes on the fish. Losing fish is part of fishing, but I can tell you that after 40 years of witnessing this event the sting isn’t any less!

Even the most devoted “catch and release” angler needs to lay hands on the fish to be happy. Fortunately there are things an angler can do to mitigate losing fish and suffering that “kicked in the guts” feeling that follows.

Vertical Jigging with Braid

By Mark Romanack

Spring time is vertical jigging time.
The author loves to jig for walleye and strongly
recommends that anglers use premium braided
lines to maximize their sensitivity and ability
to detect subtle strikes.
Vertical jigging for river run fish is one of the most technical presentations commonly used to target walleye. Boat control is a critical part of vertical jigging, but just as important is the fishing line an angler selects. Ultra thin, ultra low stretch and high visibility fishing lines are ideal for river jig fishing applications. A thin diameter and high visibility line has less drag in the water, making it easier to see and also to maintain a vertical presentation in fast moving current. Low stretch lines are more sensitive enabling the angler to detect bottom easier and also to feel subtle strikes. 

The ideal line for walleye jig fishing applications is 10# test eight strand braid such as Maxima’s High Visibility Braid. A 10# test line is plenty strong for walleye jig fishing applications, thin enough to make it efficient at staying vertical, yet this line can also be broken should the jig snag on bottom. Anglers that use too heavy a braided line run the risk of a jig snagging on bottom and a rod tip breaking or the reel bail failing before the line can be broken!

Walleye Hooks

By Mark Romanack

The author uses three primary hook types for
walleye fishing including Treble Hooks, Beak
 Hooks and Slow Death Hooks.
Recently at a sport show the question of fish hooks suitable for walleye fishing came up. Jake and I answered the question and pretty quick that lead to another question and another and another. It soon became obvious to me that not every angler understands the proper hooks for the popular walleye fishing presentations. In this blog we’re going to solve that problem and set anglers on a path to success.

An avid walleye angler is going to have need for several different kinds of hooks. The basic hook types an avid walleye angler will need includes an assortment of treble hooks, beak hooks and slow death hooks.

The factory treble hooks that come on many crankbaits are marginal in quality to say the least. Lots of anglers replace the factory hooks on their lures with after market premium quality hooks. After market hooks are superior not only in sharpness, but also in design. For example, wide bend style hooks like the Mustad Triple Grip and the Matzuo Sickle are good examples of hook types that hook and hold fish better than traditional round bend style hooks.

Powering High Definition Sonar and Video Units

By Mark Romanack
Sonar units help anglers target fish, like this nice Walleye caught on a jig.
Keeping your sonar running all-day requires a good battery.

Just about everyone who has used a high definition sonar unit or the newer underwater video machines has come to the conclusion these fishing tools are invaluable for finding fish, structure and fish holding cover. The problem with these units is they pull a lot of amp power and if you’re not prepared dead batteries are going to be the norm of the day!

In my boats I rig two cranking batteries in parallel to double the amp hours and keep the voltage at 12 volts. Typically I use two 750 cold cranking amp batteries for this work. If there isn’t room for two batteries, I opt for one 1000 CCA model. The extra amp hours virtually guarantees that I will have power not only to start my boat, but to power all my high end electronics.

Mark's Mailbag - Hooking up a Nightcrawler Harness

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 May 1, Brian writes:  What is the best way to hook a crawler on a spinner harness to prevent the crawler from spinning?

Hooking the crawler with the front hook in the tip of the nose and the
second hook in the collar of the crawler insures the bait will pull straight
in the water and no line twist problems will result. This rigging method
leaves a lot of crawler dangling without any hooks in it, but the extra tail
action seems to work well in triggering strikes.
Mark Replies:  Hooking up a crawler on a “walleye spinner rig” is easy, but you’re right if it is done wrong the rig will roll while trolling and lead to line twist. I use two hook harnesses and take the crawler in one hand and the front hook on my rig in the other. I push the hook point into the very tip of the crawler’s nose and then pop the hook through the crawler’s skin about 3/8 inch down from the tip of the crawler’s nose. The second hook is were folks get into trouble. If you put the second hook too far back in the crawler, the crawler will look like a “J” in the water and line twist becomes a problem. I simply pull the crawler straight and place my second hook just behind the crawler’s collar. This set up keeps the crawler pulling straight in line and eliminates any concerns with line twist. 

I like No. 2 beak style hooks for crawler harnesses. Great question and thanks for asking.

Best fishes,

Mark Romanack

Boards on the Beach

By Mark Romanack
The author is becoming a big fan of using Mini
Boards early in the year when fishing shallow
water or close to shore.

In the spring one fact about fishing holds true most of the time. When the main body of a lake is icy cold, the warmest available water is going to be the skinny depths found near shore. This simple, but profound fact of nature has helped guide me into countless brown trout, coho, lakers, brook trout, walleye and pike in the spring of the year.

Shallow water warms more quickly because the sun can penetrate the depths. Submerged rocks, wood and even organic material on the bottom does a good job of absorbing solar radiation and warming the surrounding water. On a bright sunny day, I’ve seen water temperature start out in the morning at around 36 degrees and spike above 50 degrees in the afternoon!

When the waters near shore warm quickly baitfish invade the shallows and predator fish are sure to follow.

Sinfully Simple

By Mark Romanack

In the spring bass can be sinfully simple to catch
by simply casting spinnerbaits from shore, piers,
while wading or from a boat cruising along the bank.
Few things associated with bass fishing are simple. Every popular fishing presentation seemingly has a dozen different lure brands, rods, reels and line combinations to consider. Digesting and applying all this information can literally take the fun out of fishing.

Fortunately, not all forms of fishing are complex or difficult to master. During May and June when the water is cool and fish favor the shallows, one simple lure and and even simpler presentation tops all other bass fishing techniques. This unique combination of lure and presentation is so deadly you can catch fish from a boat, casting from shore, wading the shallows or bobbing along in a float tube.

The common spinnerbait is not only an effective spring time lure, it’s about as easy to fish as anything equipped with a hook. Cast it to targets above and below the water and reel it back slowly. You can get fancy with the retrieve, but most of the time a slow and steady retrieve that brings the lure near good cover will trigger the most strikes.