Magazine Article by Capt. Bill Ruth
Published in the April, 2007 issue of Great Lakes Angler
K.I.S.S. for Shallow Browns
To catch these springtime bruisers, “Keep It Super Stealthy”.
By Bill Ruth
Our first trip of 2005, my father Jim Ruth and fishing buddy Jay Harmon and I had gotten up before sunrise and discovered a steady northwest wind and rain mixed with snow. We put on our rain gear and rubber boots and headed out of our home
Now fast-forward a year to April 2006. The same three guys head out of the same port. This time, conditions are much different. With the exception of a short rainstorm the day before, it had been clear and sunny with no wind for days. Nary a breeze puffs this morning under a starry sky. It is so cold that we scrape ice off the windshield and watch our step on the icy boat floor. The frigid temps are bearable, but the lake is flat and the colored water we had hoped for is scarce. We make the same hard right turn into wispy fog and shallow water and again set up in darkness. Fishing is tougher, but still we still boat a respectable 12 browns in the less than ideal conditions. That day we were in Super Stealth Mode.
When it comes to browns the stealthier the better. Let’s look at the little things that add up to Keeping It Super Stealthy.
Chances are that you have the makings of a super-stealth spread in your arsenal already. The program includes downriggers, but our primary deployment device is a set of old school, homemade planer boards, a.k.a. skis.
When water clarity is down, we run the big boards out just 50 to 75 feet out. If the water is fairly clear (and boat traffic is light) we run them out 125 feet or father to keep baits as far away from the noise and visual disturbance of the boat as possible.
I like to run the same colors to make my presentation look uniform to the fish. The idea is to mimic a school. In clear water, I’ll often start out with four black/silver Junior T-sticks set way back—as much as 250 feet back—on the boards. In cloudy water, orange or chartreuse work better and shorter leads are fine.
We use Laurvik planer board releases in high vis orange, which makes them easy to see. Our reels are SGA47LCA linecounters from Daiwa to keep track of how much line is out. After the bait is out behind the boat, put a few twists in the line and clip it into the release. Be sure to pull the excess loop all the way down towards the pinch pads. If you don’t, the loop may catch on the alligator clip when a fish hits. If that happens, you’ll probably lose both your lure and your fish. We usually run our first bait out until the release is just above the water. Send the second lure down the tether line to within about 10 feet of the first—any closer and you risk a tangle.
Next, the downriggers receive spoons. My springtime favorites are smaller spoons from companies such as Northern King, R&R, and Dreamweaver. The Mulatto pattern is a proven favorite first thing in the morning. Other favorite patterns of ours are Frogs, Natural Born Killers, Habaneros, and Orange Crush. The two stern riggers go down 5 to 8 feet depending on water depth. Keep an eye on your depth, as you can easily snag a downrigger weight on the bottom. It’s no fun having to pony up for a new downrigger weight because you weren’t paying attention. Stretch the spoons 40 to 50 feet back off the riggers. We always have our speed and temp probe in the water to keep track of trolling speed and isolate any big temperature breaks. We try to keep our trolling speed around 2.25-2.5 mph, and look for warmer water. In early April, lake temps can be in the mid to high 30’s. If you find an area of colored-up water with some warmer temps, stay on that piece of water and work it thoroughly. Places where streams dump into the lake are particularly good spots to look when conditions are tough.
To go into full , Super Stealth mode, you must pay attention to the little details. For example, we only run flat-black, ball-bearing swivels in size 1. The silver, chrome, or gloss black swivels just have too much flash. Coastlock style swivels are strong and reliable. Black downrigger weights also minimize visual distraction. Another little trick we do is paint the bottom half of our planer boards black. We keep the top half orange for safety’s sake. Another key part of a stealth presentation is light line. We run Berkley Big Game in 10-pound test. We add a leader of 10-pound test Seaguar Fluorocarbon for even more stealth. A small, flat black swivel attaches the fluorocarbon to the main line.
Some may think we go overboard, but we rig for silent running. We try to keep the noise on the boat to a minimum. We walk softly on the deck, keep our voices down, and keep the stereo off. I’m all about turning the Metallica up when we’re out deep chasing kings that are 100 feet down, but when it’s brown time, we opt for silence. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your presentation. If the stick baits aren’t working, change colors and brands. If that isn’t working, send out a two-color core with a spoon on it. If you don’t have a two-color core, send out a spoon on monofilament and attach a couple of split shot a few feet ahead of the spoon.
There are no hard and fast rules that you have to follow. Try new things, have fun, and go into Stealth or Super Stealth mode to help increase your brown trout take.
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