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Switching To Braids

If you’re wondering how tough super braid lines are, this 100+ pound lake sturgeon was landed by Dale Voice (Right) using 10 pound test (2 pound diameter) Maxima Braid 8 fishing line! The fight lasted nearly 40 minutes and Dale didn’t even need to re-tie after landing and releasing this brute.
Mark Romanack

A growing number of anglers are making the switch to super braid lines. When these lines were first introduced, niche fishing situations got the braid hype. For example, vertical jigging in rivers for walleye is a contact style of fishing that is much easier to master with zero stretch super braid lines. Flippin’ jigs into heavy cover for bass is another situation that clearly favors super braid lines.
Gradually over time more and more anglers experimented with using super braids. Today super braids make up more than half of the line offerings available to anglers and braid can no longer be considered a “niche fishing” product. The truth is many anglers are using braid for the majority of their fishing applications.
From walleye to redfish and everything in between, super braids have taken over in the jig casting category. Thin diameter and super low stretch means that anglers can make long casts and feel even the most subtle of bites. Ideal for fishing with live bait and soft plastics, the Fishing 411 crew uses 10 # test high visibility braids like the bright yellow Braid 8 produced by Maxima and terminates using a three foot leader of fluorocarbon line.
These toothy critters have a reputation for tearing up tackle. For casting spoons, bucktails, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater plugs the Fishing 411 crew recommends spooling up with 50 to 65 pound test braid and terminating using18 to 24 inches of 65 to 80 pound test fluorocarbon.
The diving planer has filled an important niche in Great Lakes trolling for over four decades. Super braid lines are ideally suited to fishing divers in combination with line counter style reels. The Fishing 411 crew fishes 40 pound test braid for trout and salmon diver fishing, but many anglers favor 50 and even 65 pound test. Because braids are far thinner for the break strength than monofilament lines, it’s practical and often advisable to use larger break strengths.
Across the Great Lakes a growing number of trout, salmon and even walleye anglers fish sinking lines including lead core, copper line and the new weighted steel lines. All of these products are typically fished as a segment between a fluorocarbon leader and a super braid backing. The thin diameter of super braid makes it the ideal backing line because sinking lines take up a lot of spool space. Good choices for braid backing range from 20 to 50 pound test depending on the application.
Using super braid lines has become mainstream among serious
 anglers. Pictured here Captain Terry Kunnen of TKO Charters
 has rigged his Off Shore Side-Planer board with an
OR18 Snapper Release that is designed to hold firmly the slick
 surface of super braid and fused fishing lines.

Historically planer board trolling has been dominated by monofilament lines. Today a growing number of anglers are using super braids for board trolling. This is especially true among crankbait trollers who use the ultra thin characteristics of braid to achieve significantly more diving depth from their favorite lures. Lines ranging from 10 to 30 pound test represent the majority of braid users.
Anglers who do a lot of trolling often consult the widely popular Precision Trolling Data phone apps to determine how deep their favorite lures dive. This game changing app provides anglers with critical depth data based on both 10 pound test monofilament and also 10/4 braided line.
What many anglers don’t realize is line diameter plays a critical role in how deep lures like crankbaits dive when trolled. By simply using ultra thin super braid lines, lures can be fished up to 30% deeper than similar break strength monofilaments. It’s also important to note that another strategy for braid trolling is to pick a braid that is the same diameter as 10 pound test monofilament. Most 10 pound test monofilament lines are about .013 in diameter which matches the diameter of 40 pound test super braid. Knowing this anglers can spool up with 40 pound test super braid and use the same Dive Curve data provided on the PTD apps for 10 pound test monofilament.
For walleye jigging, especially vertical jigging applications,
the Fishing 411 crew always recommends fishing
 with super braid lines. Pictured here Jake has opted
for high visibility Maxima Braid 8 and is terminating by tying
 in about 24 inches of 12 pound test fluorocarbon line as a leader.

Many anglers don’t make a distinction between braided and fused fishing lines. Both are super thin in diameter and both have near zero stretch. The biggest difference between these line types is the shape of the line itself. Braids are created by twisting fibers together to form a line that is nearly round in shape and with similar handling characteristics to monofilament.
Fused lines on the other hand are flat in shape and the line surface is very slippery. Special knots are required when using fused lines, but the real disadvantage is these lines don’t load evenly onto reel spools, making it impossible for reel drag systems to function properly.
The braid fishing applications outlined here are just a few of the ways modern anglers are using low stretch and thin diameter super braids. Braids were once viewed as a “niche fishing” product, but today these lines are about as mainstream as it gets. No matter what species an angler is after and among most angling presentations, super braids have won over the support of anglers nationwide.
It’s true that braided lines cost as much as three times more than monofilament lines, but the longevity of braids makes these lines a good deal any way an angler slices it. Braids are here to stay and literally every time on the water we’re finding new and better ways to let braided lines help us land more fish.

Spinner Trolling For Trout

As Jake Romanack video tapes the action, Buzz Ramsey explains how to use in-line spinners like the Rooster Tail from Yakima for open water trolling applications.

Mark Romanack

Spinners are a category of lures that covers a lot of ground. If you’re a bass fisherman the word “spinner” usually refers to a spinnerbait. The walleye enthusiast’s idea of a “spinner” is actually a nightcrawler harness. Talk to a musky guy about “spinners” and he’s going to be thinking bucktails!
Among trout fishermen the term “spinner” focuses squarely on in-line spinners like the famous Rooster Tail from Yakima. These weighted spinners are designed for casting and nationwide they produce more trout than just about every other lure group combined!
No one denies that in-line spinners are deadly when casted for all species of trout and salmon. But wait a minute.... What about trolling spinners for trout and salmon?
If in-line spinners work so well for casting applications, it stands to reason they would also be good trolling lures. The truth is in-line spinners are good trolling lures, but not one fisherman in 50 has even thought of giving these baits a try in their trolling arsenal.
Recently while fishing brown trout near Milwaukee, Wisconsin with legendary angler Buzz Ramsey we were enjoying exceptional action trolling the Yakima Mag Lip crankbait in combination with planer boards. Mag Lip is a deep diving bait and it works wonders for targeting trout and salmon suspended well below the surface.
While trolling I notice Buzz was busy rigging up another line. Those who haven’t had the pleasure of fishing with Buzz Ramsey need to understand that part of what makes Buzz such a great angler is he is always changing things up. Never satisfied, Buzz is working the gear from daylight till dark.
Buzz rigged up a simple three way swivel set up with a 12 inch dropper line to a two ounce sinker and a five foot leader terminated with a small round nosed snap. About 12 inches up the leader Buzz also tied in a small ball bearing swivel.
After completing the rig, Buzz looked at me and asked, “got any Rooster Tail Spinners?” Normally I don’t carry my supply of in-line spinners when trolling, but on this particular day I did have a small box on board with a handful of Rooster Tails I normally use to cast for trout.
Buzz picked out a 1/4 ounce version with a brown body and gold hammered blade. He attached the Rooster Tail to the round nosed snap on his three way rig, lowered it to the bottom and placed the rod in a saddle rod holder near the back of the boat.
Before Buzz could even explain his logic, the rod bucked, doubled over and moments later Buzz stood holding a beautiful brown trout smiling from ear to ear. It was one of those “I told you so” moments but in this case the bait hadn’t been fishing long enough for Buzz to even explain his methodology.
The long story shortened for the purposes of this blog, that single three-way rig with a small brown Rooster Tail ended up catching several more browns before the day was over. The experience opened my eyes and made it abundantly clear that spinners can be trolled in the right situations.
Spinners are normally considered casting baits,
 but properly rigged they can be deadly
 trolling lures as well.

Trolling in-line spinners is a good presentation especially when trolling slowly for early season fish. It’s also a good idea to add a ball bearing swivel into the leader to eliminate line twist issues.
Because the in-line spinners sink on it’s own, smaller 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 ounce sizes are ideal for trolling applications. Three way rigs like the one described in this blog are best fished as flat lines straight out the back of the boat. One of these three-way rigs on either side of the boat can and often does produce bonus fish trolling with traditional lures and planer boards would not have yielded.
Because spinners have their own natural flash and vibration, they work well in combination with attractors like the popular Big Al Fish Flash. When using a flasher in front of a spinner a six to seven foot leader is best in clear water. For murky water conditions the flasher can be rigged four or five feet ahead of the spinner.
Trolling with in-line spinners is another presentation to keep in your fishing “bag of tricks”. Not many anglers have tried it, but trolling with Rooster Tails has me convinced.

Live Bait For Fall Bass

Bruiser smallmouth like this can be readily caught using slip sinker rigs baited with large minnows in the fall.


Mark Romanack

Among bass fishermen you don’t hear a lot of talk centering on live bait tactics. In some places of the deep south anglers use large shiners to target trophy bass. In the Western Basin of Lake Erie a lot of bait shops sell “bass shiners” for anglers who prefer to fish with bait. These noteworthy exceptions are worth mentioning, but for the most part if bass anglers are using live bait, they are keeping it quiet.
It’s perfectly “legal” and “moral” to use live bait for bass. Most anglers just prefer the challenge of catching these fish using artificial lures. Most of the year, bass can be caught readily on a host of artificial lures including crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwater plugs and an endless list of soft plastics. As fall approaches however, a live minnow becomes one of the best ways to consistently catch adult bass.
Most any species of minnow will work, but the real secret to fishing bass in the fall with live bait is selecting larger than normal minnows. As water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, both smallmouth and largemouth bass are triggered into selectively feeding on larger forage fish. Focusing their efforts on larger prey helps bass pack on food reserves for the coming “cold water period” in which bass will feed, but more sparingly than during the rest of the year.
The normal three inch shiner minnow will certainly get the attention of any nearby bass, but larger four, five and even six inch shiners, chubs and sucker minnows are going to consistently produce more bites and bigger fish.
Bass bite well in cold water, but it often
takes live bait to get these fish charged up.
These minnows can be fished effectively a number of ways, but slip sinker rigging is hands down the most efficient means of fishing minnows, on bottom structure and near fish holding cover. The classic “Carolina Rig” baited with a live minnow instead of soft plastics is the ideal set up for fall bass.
Fishing with larger minnows calls for a larger than normal weight and hook. A 1/2, 3/4 or one ounce egg sinker and a No. 1/0 beak hook is good choice. Hook the live minnow through both lips and lower the bait to bottom. Use the electric motor to slowly drag this rig along bottom focusing efforts on weed edges, break-lines and submerged reefs.
This simple live bait rig is exceptionally deadly on trophy largemouth and smallmouth bass, but that’s not all. This rig is also going to produce bonus walleye and northern pike.
This live bait presentation starts producing good results when the water temperature gets to about 50 degrees and will continue to reward right up until the ice locks up the open water fishing for another season.

The Ultimate Trout Spinner

Mark Romanack

The original Rooster Tail spinner is available in thousands of retailers nationwide. Widely considered the “go to” lure among anglers who cast for trout, you can’t go wrong if you tie on a Rooster Tail.
For every fish there is a lure that becomes synonymous with catching that fish. For walleye it’s the leadhead jig, for bass it’s the spinnerbait, for pike the casting spoon and the list goes on and on.
When it comes to catching all species of trout, it’s the in-line spinner that tops almost everyones list as the “go to” lure for consistent action. Among the in-line spinner category there are dozens of noteworthy examples, but the legendary Rooster Tail Spinner from Yakima is the first to come to the lips of countless anglers nationwide.
Yakima sells more in-line spinners that their competitors combined. The reason is few other manufacturers have made such a commitment to producing as many versions, sizes and color patterns as Yakima. Besides the original Rooster Tail, Yakima also produces the Rooster Tail in a prop blade, the Super Rooster Tail, Rooster Tail Minnow, Sonic Rooster Tail and Vibric Rooster Tail. Yakima didn’t stop here and the Vibric is also available in the SST version for salmon and steelhead anglers. A musky sized version of the Rooster Tail called the Huskie Tail is also available.

The author casts Rooster Tail Spinners often when targeting brook trout
 like this great specimen from Lake Nipigon  in Western Ontario.
The Vibric Spinner pictured here casts like a bullet
and the blade rotates at the slowest possible retrieve speeds.
The Rooster Tail family of spinners is the most extensive offering provided by any manufacturer. Available in a host of sizes including 1/24, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4 and even one ounce sizes, the Rooster Tail also comes in hundreds of colors, blade finishes and UV color options. Collectively, it’s easy to see why the Rooster Tail family of in-line spinners has dominated not just the trout fishing market, but anglers who target just about everything that swims. That’s the beauty of the Rooster Tail. It was designed with trout and salmon in mind, but this spinner catches bass, walleye, pike, musky, striper and a host of panfish species.
For the angler who’s shopping for one bait that works well on a multitude of species, the Rooster Tail is an easy choice. The biggest problem is going to be settling on a version, size and color pattern!

Modify Those Plugs

          By:  Mark Romanack
Josh Crabtree a Yakima Bait pro staffer from Michigan loves to modify his Mag Lip plugs for maximum performance.

           Not many anglers are as enamored with crankbaits or what many anglers simply call “plugs” as I am. For more than 20 years I’ve spent a significant amount of my “on the water” time both fishing with and testing the diving depths of these hard baits for our Precision Trolling Data apps.
            The reason I have so much faith in crankbait fishing is I’ve witnessed time and time again how effective these lures are in catching all sorts of fish. Also, I’ve also come to the conclusion that when I can catch fish on plugs, chances are they are going to be bigger fish than I might have otherwise caught on live baits or soft plastics.
            Out of the package a lot of crankbaits are fish catching machines. That’s cool, but in many cases crankbaits or plugs can be improved upon by tweaking them in various ways. Adding a personal touch to your fishing lures with the intent to modify/improve the performance isn’t exactly new. Cave fisherman probably did the same thing to his fishing lures to impress cave woman with his fishing skills.
            No matter what color or finish a lure has, there is a pretty good chance that an angler out there is going to be dissatisfied. One of the easiest and most effective ways to alter the finish of plugs is by using various color Sharpie pens to customize the look. Recently while steelhead fishing with my buddy Josh Crabtree, I was amazed to see he had “touched up” literally all of his Mag Lip plugs. Mostly Josh adds key colors at key locations like creating red bills and tails or uses black to create ladder back designs, eyes, etc.
            Josh’s finished baits aren’t exactly works of artistic design, but they catch fish and often they catch fish better than the factory versions. A Sharpie adds color that resists washing off amazingly well, making them not only functional, but pretty darn cost effective as well.
This pink salmon fell to a 4.5 MagLip wrapped with a strip of
anchovy. Modifying plugs is a great way to get the most out
of these hard baits.

            In many cases it makes sense to remove one or more of the hooks on a crankbait. In some places hook restrictions mandate that fishing lures only have one hook. Normally a treble hook is considered one hook, so plugs that have two or more treble hooks can be modified to make them “legal” fishing lures by simply removing one of the hooks.
            In this case, removing the belly hook is the logical choice. Not only does removing the belly hook not usually harm the lure’s action, it can actually make the bait a better mouse trap in terms of hooking and holding fish.
            With only one hook on a bait, a struggling fish can’t leverage the lure out of its mouth as easily. Problems with the baits snagging are also reduced when only one tail treble hook is used.
            Lots of anglers like to replace the factory hooks on their plugs with larger hooks. Generally speaking a larger hook will stick fish and hold them better in most fishing situations. However, it’s important to tread lightly when replacing treble hooks on plugs. It’s safe to go up one hook size, but that is about it. Using too large a hook can destroy the lure’s nature action.
            Replacing the factory treble hooks on plugs with single Siwash hooks is also a popular option. A single hook snags less and has the benefit of making it much harder for a hooked fish to throw the bait. The best way to add a Siwash hook to a crankbait is to add a small swivel to the split ring, then add a second split ring to the Siwash hook and connect them. This rigging option allows the hook full freedom of movement and makes it very difficult for hooked fish to shake the hook and escape.
This 3.0 Mag Lip was modified by removing the belly hook.
This fish was taken by fishing a rocky bottom and
removing the belly hook helps to reduce troublesome snags.

            Most crankbaits come factory equipped with round bend style treble hooks. Replacing the factory OEM hooks with round bend style trebles is another way to insure the fish that bite are hooked and landed.
            Mustad started this trend with their popular Triple Grip hook, but now Eagle Claw and Matzuo also have similar wide bend treble hooks on the market. All of these tend to hook and hold fish better than conventional round bend hooks.
            Any crankbait that catches fish is going to catch more fish if it is treated with a quality fishing scent. Adding scent to lures not only helps to attract fish, but it also works to conceal unnatural odors like human scent.
            The trick when using fishing scents is to start with a lure that is free of any foreign odors first. Plugs can be cleaned using dish soap like Lemon Fresh Joy to rid them of any odors, prior to adding the fish scent of choice.
            Not all fishing scents are created equal. Some are made of natural forage fish and fish oils and others are more like perfume than fish attracting scents. I like natural fish scents and oils that set up a appealing and natural scent trail in the water.
            One of the leaders in the production of fishing scents is west coast based Pro-Cure. They produce some of the finest fishing scents, oils and other fish attractants on the market. The Super Gel product Pro-Cure produces is produced using a host of natural forage species including herring, alewives, crayfish, smelt and many others. Even better this gel is not water soluble so it sticks and stays on lures much longer.
            No matter how attractive a fishing scent might be, it’s useless if it washes off the bait quickly.
            Another popular way of customizing plugs and also adding a scent stream to these wobbling lures is a practice known as plug wrapping. Plug wrapping involves using a thin slice of anchovy or herring and attaching it to the bottom of popular plugs like the Flat Fish and Mag Lip. The strip of meat is held in place using a few wraps of stretchy thread.
            Plug wraps work great, but must be replaced about every 30 to 40 minutes.

Mod            Plugs are amazing fish catching lures. By modifying these baits in various ways they become even more productive fish catching tools.