Ask The Captain 

Q: Iíve heard that trophy walleyes can be taken in the early spring, before spawning begins.   What are the best lures to use and can you name a few ďhot spotsĒ where I might find these big fish? 

Captain George Jumper Jr. responds: 

I have found that the really big walleyes (females) come into staging areas just outside the actual spawning areas real early.  Depending on water temperature, they could come in middle of March to middle of April.  A fisherman has to watch the ice on the Lake and the water temperature to

guess when.  That and a little luck will get you on the fish.  The best areas I have found are out in front of the Maumee River,  the big females lay on both sides of the shipping channel and I have taken some big ones down in the deeper water of the channel itself.  Turtle Creek and the Toussaint River have also provided me with big fish and lots of males.  I Have taken big fish in all three places.  I took two #10'ers in April 99 out in front of Turtle Creek about half way between A-Can and the Creek.  My best Lures have been Jig Heads with either green or chartreuse skirts, tipped with a minnow.  I also use a ice jigging Rapala in the two to three inch size.  One other one that has taken a lot of fish for me is the Sonar.  Any of these baits on a given day will catch a lot of walleyes. 

Captain Ermanson Responds: 

Some of the biggest Walleyes of the season get caught late March and early April in the Western basin of Lake Erie where these big fish gather to spawn. Vertical jigging in 20 to 30 ft. of water in proven areas accounts for a lot of big fish each year. Favorite lures include blade baits which flutter and vibrate when jigged like a yo-yo on the bottom. Also any heavy jigging spoon which can reach the bottom. Some of the better ones include Swedish Pimples and Castmasters. Tipping these spoons with lake shiners works best.  

The best known areas are just off of Marblehead lighthouse, the deep water just east of Green Island south to Catawba State Park and any of the deep water drop offs surrounding the reefs such as Round or Niagara reef. 

Captain Gary Hopp Responds:  

 Spawning normally begins as the ice clears from the lake.  Good catchesof the smaller males can be caught throughout the spawning season with a mixture of the larger females being common.  Under the right weather systems and water conditions, the large (normally spawed out) females will feed heavily.  In 1999, one of the best early spring days was April 2nd.  All large fish were caught and limits were being taken in just a few hours! 

The best area to fish is the extensive reef system North of the Port Clinton/ Davis Bessie power plant area.  Also, many large fish are taken North and Northwest of Kelley's Island. 

Q: Whatís the best technique for catching smallmouth bass off of the western basin reefs?   Which live and artificial baits do recommend? 

Captain George Jumper Jr. responds: 

 Small Mouth Bass love soft craws, their favorite food.  But sheepshead love them too, about as much as Small Mouth.  So I don't use them.  I have found that on a windless or light wind day I can drift over the reefs and cast jigs with tube baits in either chartruse or green.  If the winds kicking up pretty strong, I either put out a sock or anchor off the side of the reef.  Jigs and tube baits work great for Smallies on the reefs.  I work them on the bottom and just twitch them across the bottom.  The Small Mouth will take them right off the bottom, where the Walleye has to or prefers to get under the bait.  So you have to get the baits pretty high off the bottom for Walleye, but not bass.  The Bass fishing has been excellant on the reefs in the last couple of years.  I have taken quite a few in the #4 and #5 range.  Thats a lot of fun. 

Captain Gary Hopp Responds: 

  Live bait is always a favorite way to "catch" fish.  Smallmouth prefer softshell crayfish, spottail shiners and a shad like minnow we call bass minnows.  Use a slip sinker setup with a #2 or #4 hook.  You can anchor on spots and bottom fish or drift fish your bait over the spots.  If you like to use artificials, scented tube jigs are probably the preferred bait, followed by twister tail jigs and crank baits.  Fly rod fisherman are having good success using sinking lines and smaller flys with large eyes. 

The hot spots are many.  Almost any point, drop off or reef holds fish.  The area has many old wrecks that also have resident schools.  All around Pelee Island, Canada is a favorite area of the charter captain.  In Ohio, fish the Islands themselves, Kelly Shoal and West reef. 

Q: What length leader is best to use off of Dipsy Diverís?     If Iím marking fish near the bottom in 50í of water, how much line should I let out to get my lure to that depth? 

Captain Doug Stein Responds: 

  The best way to attack these fish is to use Fireline on the 3 setting run 90-110 back. To find fish this shallow, would be in the spring. I would  be more likely to use a 8ft flourocarbon leader at 14# test.  The most  productive is to use planner boards with3oz. of weght 150 ft back with stick baits or worm harnesses in the copper color.


Captain Gary Hopp Responds: 

  I use 8 and 8 1/2 foot rods and I set my leaders to be 8-12 feet from the end of the dipsy diver.  This allows the lure to work properly and yet allows the angler to easily put away the whole assembly when your done fishing.  Spoons seem to produce more fish than other lures.  Normally, each side of the boat will have 3 dipsy rods staggered at 60 feet, 50 feet and 40 feet out.  Over the top of these rods, we set lures off planer boards at 110 feet, 100 feet and 90 feet.  This prevents tangles and still gets up to 12 lines in the water.  Most of our Island area waters are 35 feet, or less, in depth.  With the above setup, we don't drag the bottom and cover fish all suspended depths.  To reach 50 feet, you would have to let out about 120 feet of line to hit bottom with a small spoon while trolling. 

Captain Ermansons Responds: 

On our charter boat in the summer we use a 17lb. test mono leader,about 6 to 8 ft. behind the Dipsy.  As far as getting to the bottom in 50 ft., there is a lot of variables such as trolling speed, Dipsy setting and type and test of the line your using.  We use on our boat 30 lb. test non stretch lines such as Berkley Gorilla braid or Cabela's Ripcord. Speeds most of the time are somewhere from 1.8 to 2.2 mph.  Using a 2 1/2 setting, 125 to 150 ft. will get you down close. 

Captain Eric Walline responds: 

The depth that a Dipsy Diver runs is related to several factors including boat speed, line diameter , type of line ( wire, mono, braided, etc. ), the setting on the diver and water temperature. A ball park rule of thumb is that a diver with a ring will run about 1/3 of the depth of the line that is out. For example, 75 feet of line = approximately 25 feet of depth. However, the ratio of running depth to line out is not constant due to the increase in drag that occurs when additional line is let out and also because of the denser water  present in deeper water. In situations where you want to be near the bottom to make a precise presentation, it is often desirable to let the Dipsy out until it lightly scrubs the bottom and then bring in some line to put the bait somewhat above the fish that have been marked on the graph. Another diver tactic is to periodically let out more line until a productive depth is found. Then use your line counter reel to replicate your presentation.  The amount of leader behind the Dipsy usually approximates the length of the rod so that it is possible to bring the fish into the net. However, there are  ways to rig a Dipsy where the leader length could be any distance you might choose. In this set-up, the diver is rigged  so it will slide back down the line when released by the strike of the fish. Commercially made " slide divers " are also now available.  Many people are uncomfortable with Dipsys because they aren't sure where they are running. The best advice I can give is to experiment until you are comfortable using them. They catch a lot of fish. 

Thank you Captains for responding to our readerís questions 

Walter Ermansons;
Trophy Charters
(440) 293-7249 
[email protected] 

Captain George Jumper Jr.
Rising Sun Charters
(937) 652-2412
[email protected] 

Captain Gary Hopp
Trophy Hunter Charter Services Inc.

[email protected] 

Captain Doug Stein
Dougís Charter Fishing
(716) 774-0077 
[email protected] 

Captain Eric Walline
Gold Coast Charters

(734) 429-0126 [email protected]