Hot New Trolling Tactic…
It was amazing our last four adult king salmon came on copper wire while divers and riggers were ignored. “I’ve been to this rodeo before,” I told myself, when copper fishing line is the deadliest tactic going for Great Lakes monster kings; better than lead core, wire divers, downriggers, high divers and more. More importantly, the strategy is fast gaining a reputation as a productive fish catching method across the Great Lakes by savvy anglers in search of a variety of species; Coho, lake trout, browns, steelies and big water walleyes. Copper wire can be used with attractors and flies, plugs, stick baits or spoons. Is your goal to catch more and bigger fish? Then, listen up, I have fantastic news.
Copper wire can be used in spring summer or fall, in deep or shallow water, from a large charter vessel to small fishing boat, you don’t need a special line counter reel, rod with rollers or special guides and they work best when trolled behind a planer board. Try copper in Erie or Saginaw Bay and spoons will catch limits. Heck, you can run anything off copper including crawler harnesses.
I’ve spent over 50 years reporting on Michigan fishing tactics that work. My goal is to beat pro fishermen and other members in the media to the hot scoop. I like to travel across Michigan, learn new tactics and report the news to readers. Of course I test the tactic first to make certain the technique catches fish. In fact, my goal is to not just catch any fish. I like big ol’ monsters of the deep, beer belly browns big as a football, fifteen pound plus chromer steelies and kings that smash your lure, rip line off the drag like a runaway freight train and tip the scales well over twenty pounds. I can tell if I’ve hit on a hot new technique if my cooler is full and my arms are aching and body is trembling from fighting fish. I have just one thing to say about trolling copper….WOW!
Boards Work Best
While copper lines place lures far behind your boat, they simply work best when carried boat side using in-line planer boards. Just ask Captain Gregg Mariuz, who runs 5 charter boards on Lake Michigan near Holland; he has a reputation as one of the top copper dogs on the big water. “We typically run 4 coppers a side on our boats using in-line boards. Our typical setup focuses on stacking the vertical strike zone with as many rods as possible. For example, if riggers or divers produce strikes down 50, we would put out 150, 200, 250, 300 ft copper rigs on each side. This way we have lures running 30, 40, 50 and 60 ft down. We do not run the same depth copper next to each other, rather favoring at least 10 ft water spacing between lines.”
The strategy is simple: attach lure, let out all copper to backing, snap line to inline board and let it run far boat side. Even when trolling the 90-140 ft depths, the deep diving copper will get you in the strike zone without expensive downriggers.
My board of choice is the Church TX-22 Special rigged with Vice Clip and tow arm. The Vice Clip is mounted facing the board and holds wire lines tight as a gator’s jaw. They are available at local tackle shops or at www.churchtackle.com. The clip is coated with a space age material that grabs line and holds it tight without damaging the fishing line.
Captain Mariuz explains, “Setting a copper rod is easy, just let lure and leader out, and allow all the copper to run through the guides until you can snap the board on the backing. Next give the rig enough line so the board runs far from the boat, away from engine noise, boat shadow and electronics. Make sure to leave enough spacing between boards to allow fish to move in and out of spread without having to make an immediate decision on lures rushing by to closely. Wide spacing 30-40 ft. between boards plus 10 ft. vertical differential allows fish a long look at offerings and gets more strikes.”
Copper Wire Sources
You might find some at local shops, Gander Mtn., Jay’s, and Captain Chuck’s in Ludington, Bass Pro Shops or Cabala’s. However, there is a new website, www.coppertrollingwire.com., or call (616)836-5736 and talk to Captain Greg Mariuz from Blood Run Tackle Co. and you can purchase 5000 ft or 1000 ft. spools along with 300 ft of fluorocarbon 30 and 40 lb. leader line. Copper comes in two sizes 45 or 32 lb. test. After testing several lines, the Lake Michigan based Profishient Charters team gives the nod to the new Super Copper from Blood Run Tackle Co… Super copper is a series of copper strands coated with nickel. This makes the line more user friendly, has less kinks, no twist, and eliminates excessive kinking or back spooling when playing out copper line. Mariuz and the boys at Profishient Charters have found after on-the-water Great Lakes testing on 5 charter boats that the 32 lb. Super Copper is the best choice because of its fishing capabilities, smaller diameter and user friendly qualities.
When asked which Super Copper is best Mariuz replied, “The heavier 45 lb. copper begins to shine when fishing 100plus depths with 500-900 ft copper segments. Most fishermen think the heavier 45 lb will sink better than the lighter 32lb and there will be much less line to pull in. Not true. The difference is insignificant and you see little change between the two lines in most trolling. The 32 lb is easier on rod and reels, dives to equivalent depths, is more flexible to reel in and we run only the 32 lb on all our rods unless we want to get extra deep, over 120 ft down. More importantly it catches fish like dynamite and some of Michigan’s top charter boats are making the switch from lead core, which requires more line.”
How Deep Is The Lure?
Success comes easy if you know how much line to let out to reach a certain depth. For instance, most trollers use 300 ft of Super Copper to reach about 65 ft and 500 ft will get you down 100 ft.
Last September when the kings moved into skinny water I rigged two rods, one with 100 ft of copper to get me down 20 ft and another with 50 ft. to reach 10 feet down. First pass around the Frankfort pier and I had a double and big mature kings ripped line from the reel. I boated equal number of fish on each rod, all in less than 30 ft of water.
Next, I moved to Ludington and tested the copper lines in Pere Marquette Lake. The 20 ft. rod was on fire and I caught fish during the middle of the day when downrigger-shy fish would spook from other boats. My Church boards were getting ripped backwards as big fish shark attacked the deadly presentation.
Grand Haven was a cake walk, I ran twin Super Copper at 20 ft and slammed kings and Coho stacked outside the pier head. I had a riot testing the new tactic, trolling without expensive downriggers or Dipsy rods and still had a two-man limit of silvery salmon at lightning speed.
The distance the lure is behind the boat, trolling speed and current will determine the depth lures will reach. So, how do you know what depth Super Copper lines will go? Easy, just take time from you busy fishing schedule to copy the Depth Charts from the Website
Just a warning to fishermen when running long lines using copper in heavy boat traffic; you need to stay sharp, watch your turns and anticipate tangles before other trollers run into your lines. Oh sure, you can expect to pull lines for sailboaters because they think they have right of way and do not understand fishing. Nothing gives me boat rage like a blow-boater waving hello after running over my fishing lines and cutting off lures. One way to avoid tangles is to reel the copper from the side of the boat and run it down the shoot. In trolling traffic you need a fisherman to watch and maintain lines on each side of the boat. If you are trolling from a small boat, like my 18 ft. Lund, you can plan on plenty of reeling and line pulling to make way for larger vessels.
Stewie’s Fishing Lesson
Once in a blue moon I bump paths with fellow Michigan anglers that have knowledge that is super useful. This was the case with Pentwater’s Jeff Stewart who got me hooked on copper fishing lines. He was kind enough to send copper line samples and more importantly share with me his philosophy regarding the lethal approach to trolling only copper provides. He was kind enough to teach me how to tie knots, recommend reels that work best and trolling tricks that turned me into a copper fishing junkie. Thanks, Stewie! Now I have plenty of rods rigged with Super Copper for a variety of depths and fishing situations.
How Do Ya Tie Knots With Copper?
Perhaps the best knot to use is an Albright which requires line tying patience and skill. I have neither and opted to attach my 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader to copper by using an ant size barrel swivel. My choice is the Blackbird steelhead swivel. Just tie a clinch knot for the mono on one end and slip the copper through the other hole and twist the tag end around the main copper. Next slide a piece of shrink wrap tubing over the copper twists and heat the shrink rubber until it melts and tightens around the copper. The knots and small barrel swivel will go through your guides at lightning speed and through the reel arbor without hanging up. I’ve never had a swivel break.
If you need instruction on the Albright knot go to www.coppertrollingwire.com and click on knots.
Free Copper Line
A trip to Grand Haven last summer proved productive when I hooked someone’s copper line. Apparently a salmon broke the backing and swam away with a Dreamweaver silver plug, leader, 300 ft. of copper and backing. I hooked the copper, brought the fish in by hand and got fresh salmon to boot. Hell of a deal and the kicker is, I spooled the free copper line on a reel and it has become my deadliest deep water rig. Funny how fate can lead you down a productive path.
Most fishermen know about fluorocarbon fishing line engineered for strength and virtually invisible to see in water. However, most fluorocarbon fishing line is a combination of fluorocarbon and monofilament or some other material. True fluorocarbon leader material is not the same as fishing line. It does not stretch; it sinks and is completely invisible under water. Fluorocarbon leader material also has far less memory and this means it will keep your leader deeper and line straight.
Finding true fluorocarbon in Michigan is difficult, especially in the 30-40 lb. strengths needed for big water trolling. Once again 300 ft spools are available for $29.99 at www.coppertrollingwire.com or call (616)836-5736.
How To Rig It
Setting up a copper wire rod/reel combo is relatively easy. If you want to get down 20 feet you put backing on a Daiwa LC27 or 47 size level wind reel, attach backing to Super Copper and reel 100 ft. of copper on the reel. Next, tie 30 ft of fluorocarbon 30# leader line to the copper. Mariuz recommends, “A cheap and easy way to measure the exact amount of copper and leader is to purchase an inexpensive line counter that snaps on your rod like those made by Shakespeare or Cabala’s.”
If your goal is to get lures down 90 ft. you will need a level wind reel with a large line capacity to hold 450 ft. of copper, plus leader and backing. I use an Okuma Convector 45D when running long lines and also have a Daiwa 47 filled to capacity with enough copper to get below 50 ft. depths.
Most captains prefer a long rod for running copper off inline planer boards. My choice is a Daiwa Heartland series. Last fall when fish were in the skinny water I used my Ugly Sticks, Model BWS110070, 7 ft. medium action walleye rods with Daiwa 27LC reels spooled with 100 ft. of copper and had a picnic landing big king salmon on the light walleye rod/reel combo.
Captain Mariuz feels, “The most important aspect of a quality copper rod is big stainless steel guides like those on the Shimano Talora rods we use on Profishient Charters. Graphite or ceramic eye inserts will groove and begin to cut strands of the copper. Small guides can cause your knots to hang up. A strong backbone rod will enable you to lift and pull boards far from the side of the boa away from other lines.”
My trick is to have several reels filled with copper wire and I switch them depending on the depth where you get the most strikes. Sometimes fish are deep and I use the Okuma with 300-450 ft of copper. Other times the fish are in the upper 30 ft and I go with the Daiwa 27 reels complete with 100 ft. of Super Copper to take lures 20 ft. deep. Captain Mariuz explains, “We have over 50 copper reels rigged and ready to go at any time to cover any water depth for our clients. Our goal is to catch fish not take fishermen for a boat ride. I would not be caught dead without a couple 150s, 300s or 450s even if I was trolling from a Jon boat!”
“Our favorite setups for copper rigs are the Shimano Talora Copper Rods with large stainless guides. Hands down the best rod with best backbone for pulling long copper rigs off boards. We do use Shimano Tekota 800 series reels but have begun switching over to the Daiwa Saltist 50HA with its super hi speed 6:4:1 gear ratio, the fastest retrieve on the market. These reels smoke long coppers in fast!” explains Captain Gregg Mariuz when asked about rod/reel combos for copper.
Putting It All Together
The idea behind copper wire is to give you a presentation far from the disturbances of the boat and a presentation that helps you catch more fish. Once you have downriggers, snap weights or divers set you can run inline planer boards pulling copper to the far outside of your spread. There will be days when the copper wire lines catch a fish or two and other days when the presentation is absolutely on fire and fish can not refuse the finesse fishing strategy. Hopefully, your experiences will be similar to mine and copper wire will fast become your number one trolling tactic.
When a mature king hits a lure trolled behind copper he is in for a real surprise. Unlike a downrigger the wire offers no slack line and the hook set is immediate. Monster fish are fooled into gulping the lure and solid strikes are the norm but fighting a big fish is certainly a thrill. With copper you go toe-to-toe with them, you can feel their power through the wire, every head turn, body twist and your arm vibrates with electric energy of a hard fighting fish on the end of wire line. But the 30# leader and 32# Super Copper will give you the strength to boat 20 lb. fish with ease. Some days you feel like leaving downriggers and divers on shore as the copper wire works its magic and keeps you dancing in the back of the boat.
You see, there is more to this story than meets the eye. Somehow, copper wire offers lures a special action that fish simply can not resist. Wire moves up and down in the water column as you change speed or turn, it makes presentations come alive, translates electric energy to lures and fish respond by smacking baits like piranha after fresh meat.
Are you ready to feel the fight of angry fish on a long line, dance in the back of the boat fighting and netting limit catches? If so, I guarantee you can count on Super Copper wire supplying top notch Great Lakes trolling action!