Time to stop trolling
When fishing typical Canadian Shield lakes, what’s the most efficient, effective and effortless way to catch lake trout during the summer months? Believe it or not, the answer is vertical jigging, the same method you’d use through the ice, complete with the identical lines, lures and presentations.
Now, I know this is going to raise some eyebrows. And it’s not meant to diminish the advantages of controlled-depth fishing with downriggers or trolling with wire line, planer boards and segmented lead core. Those are terrific trout techniques. In fact, I used a downrigger to catch my two biggest lake trout: twin 40-pound leviathans. And I love the precision made possible with metal line.
But remember, I said “efficient, effective and effortless.” Downrigging requires a hefty upfront investment in a boat, motor, downriggers, sonar and GPS, not to mention specialized rods and reels. Ditto the paraphernalia for lead core and wire line. On the flipside, you can vertical jig for lake trout with your favourite bass and walleye tackle, and it doesn’t matter what you fish from: canoe, kayak, car topper, bass boat or family runabout.
So, do I have downriggers on my boat? You bet. And I’d never give up my line-counting wire and lead-core reels. But many—dare I say most—summer days I can catch as many or more lake trout simply jigging a four-inch white tube jig, soft-plastic swimbait or lipless crankbait on my bass and walleye rods. And you can, too.
Where to Fish: Vertical jigging is perfectly suited to catching lake trout in the summer because the fish concentrate in and around well-defined locations that are easy to find—if you know what to look for. Start by identifying any bottom structure that’s solid, firm and different from its surroundings, such as long, protruding underwater points, boulder-strewn reefs, sunken shoals and isolated rock piles.
Next, add in a good helping of confined open space. It may sound contradictory, but “confined open space” is how I describe the main lake area immediately adjacent to the structure—its zone of influence, you might say. Essentially, the structure serves as the rendezvous point for the lake trout that cruise the area, especially the ones suspended off the edges, in the confined open water.
After finding suitable bottom structure with confined open space, most anglers stop searching and start fishing. But you can take your detective work one step further and find the sweet spots on the spot—pinch points. These are the canyons, valleys, gullies, box draws and ambush sites that lake trout use to corral, confuse and consume baitfish.
Think of the classic Hollywood western, with cowboys chasing their foes into the dead end of a high-walled canyon, where there’s no chance of escape. That’s precisely how lake trout use structure, confined open space and pinch points in Canadian Shield lakes to funnel, herd and corral schools of pelagic, open-water roaming ciscoes, smelt and shiners (see “Laker magnet: The pinch point”).
After trapping their prey, the lake trout feed on the confused baitfish, often creating feeding frenzies. And that’s one of the reasons why I call them pinch points—they’re so good, when you find them and start fishing, you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s not a dream.
What to Fish: Once you know where to find open-water lake trout, catching them is a piece of cake. It’s often no more difficult than dropping a tube jig, swimbait, grub or lipless crankbait over the side of the boat. These are the very same lures you would use for lakers in the winter or to catch walleye, bass and northern pike in the summer. If you want to pare back your tackle selection to the absolute bare minimum, in fact, you could do worse than fishing the entire season with a four-inch white, scented Berkley Power, Mr. Twister Exude or Trigger X tube over
a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce cylindrical lead head.
This article was originally published on May 2, 2012
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