Catching Brutes On Spinning Tackle…


Dale Voice of Cadillac, left and the author teamed up recently on West Grand Traverse Bay targeting lake trout on light tackle. Mark Romanack photo

September 01, 2013

Trout fishing in the Great Lakes usually spells downriggers, diving planers, wire line and other deep water trolling gear. Trolling with “heavy metal” has its place, but not everyone enjoys this fishing experience. For those that favor a “lighter” approach, laker trout can be targeted with jigs and other jigging lures right up until the season closes on the last day of September.

Light line jigging methods may not produce the numbers of trout that trolling does, but for those who enjoy a stubborn fight, it’s hard to beat the experience of catching these brutes on spinning tackle.

Trout Seasons

Lake trout season dates and creel limits vary by region. To stay on top of current regulations visit and click on the “fishing” menu. A copy of the Michigan Fishing Guide including trout and salmon regulations can be downloaded from this site. The fishing guide clearly maps out the lake trout regions of the state and what the respective creel limits and open seasons are in each region.

Super Lines Really Are Super

The introduction of the super lines changed the face of open water trout fishing almost overnight. Braided fishing lines made of Spectra fiber are exceptionally thin for their break strength, they feature near zero stretch, braid has enough body to lay on a spinning reel spool nicely and the abrasion resistance of this line type is exceptional.

All of these features make super braids the obvious choice for deep water trout jigging. The ultra thin and ultra low stretch characteristics of braided line allows anglers to jig even in deep water without sacrificing sensitivity or the ability to detect subtle bites.

Choosing A Braid Size

Super braids are so small in diameter, even heavy pound test lines are thin enough for most jig fishing applications. The average diameter of a 30 pound test braided line is equal to the diameter of eight pound test monofilament! A 20 pound test super braid is typically about the same diameter as six pound test monofilament, 15 pound test braids are about the diameter of four pound test monofilament and 10 pound braid is the diameter of two pound test monofilament.

Any of these line sizes could be used effectively for trout jigging. Determining which line diameter is best boils down to the water depth to be targeted and the average size of the trout likely to be caught.

For places like Stannard Rock out in Lake Superior where the average trout is close to 20 pounds and fish upwards of 40 are taken, it makes sense to spool up with at least 20 pound test braid. In Grand Traverse Bay where the lakers average only about five pounds, 15 or even 10 pound test braid are more than adequate.

It’s important to note that the linear break strength of super braids is higher than the rated pound test. For example, a 20 pound test braid is going to have a linear break strength closer to 25 pounds.

Braid Knots

About the only weakness of braided lines is knot strength. Ordinary fishing knots like the clinch knot or improved clinch knot will not hold in braids. Instead it’s best to use the polamar knot when tying braid directly to a snap or lure and to use the double uni knot when attaching braided line to a fluorocarbon leader.

Both of these popular knots can be learned by visiting an on-line site called . With the help of this site, anyone can master a wealth of useful fishing knots in minutes.

Clear Water Issues

Because lake trout are only found in clear waters, it’s a good idea to use low visibility braids if the braid is going to be tied directly to a snap or swivel. Adding an 18-24 inch fluorocarbon leader using the double uni knot provides an invisible connection from line to lure. Employing a short fluorocarbon leader doesn’t detract from the natural sensitivity of the super braid line and is the idea set up for fishing lures like jigs that are best tied directly to the fishing line.

Spinning Gear

Jigging up trout with spinning gear is a riot, but the average spinning outfit suited to walleye fishing isn’t up for the job. A medium action spinning rod will handle jigs and lures up to about 3/4 ounce. For larger baits, a medium/heavy or even heavy action rod is recommended.

Jigging Lures

Jigging lures suitable for deep water trout fishing include lead head jigs, jigging spoons and a host of jigging/swimming type lures including the Sand Kicker, Jigging Rapala and Nils Master. There are also trout fishing opportunities using blade baits in the larger sizes.

An assortment of jigs and lures ranging from 5/8 ounce to 1.5 ounce in size will get the job done in water ranging from 80 to 120 feet. Of these lure groups, jigs tend to be the most subtle presentation and are best suited to fishing when trout are inactive to neutral in their mood.

Jigging spoons and jigging/swimming lures tend to work better on more active fish. Blade baits are a different category all together. These lures have a lot of vibration that often triggers strikes even from fish that are reluctant to bite other baits.

Jigs are normally tipped with either soft plastics, live minnows or both. Minnow shaped soft plastic baits combine well with live bait.

Jigging/swimming lures can be fished clean or with a small minnow on the bottom treble hook. Jigging spoons readily accept a small minnow or minnow head on the treble hook.

Blade baits are the noteworthy artificial that functions best without the addition of live bait. The subtle vibration created by a blade bait is sacrificed when these lures are tipped with live bait.

Finding Summer Trout

Lake trout aren’t nicknamed the Dennison of the deep for nothing. Because lakers favor water temperatures ranging from 40 to 55 degrees, these fish are typically tied to deep water all summer long.

Lake trout are bottom creatures and these members of the char family are most often found on fast sloping structure. Any place the bottom tapers quickly to deep water becomes a trout highway. These kinds of places are easy to identify on a printed lake map or better yet on the mapping page of a GPS unit. Places where the contour lines are close together note rapidly changing depth areas.

Other great spots to search for summer trout are humps or submerged islands that are surrounded by deep water. Trout tend to concentrate on these spots because they can move up and down in the water column as the mood strikes them without leaving the security of the bottom.

The larger the sunken island, the more trout a spot is likely to attract and hold. By late summer the deeper humps that top out in water from 80-120 feet are going to attract the most trout.

A combo GPS mapping/sonar unit is the best way to both find the kinds of places trout are likely to favor and also to confirm the presence of fish. Spend some time cruising slowly over these bottom structures scanning for fish and dropping waypoints anyplace a cluster of fish are located near bottom. Then go back to these waypoints and fish them using an electric motor to position the boat directly over top of the fish.

The auto-pilot style electric motors equipped with “anchor” mode are especially useful for this style of fishing. Once a fish is hooked, simply hit the anchor button on the key fob and the boat will literally hover over the fish.

Generally a spot that produces one fish will cough up others. Unfortunately, even the most productive waypoint will soon go cold after producing a few fish. The savvy here is not to hesitate moving on when the action slows.

This style of run and gun fishing gets better as the season progresses and more waypoints that have produced fish in the past are accumulated. Once a few spots that routinely hold fish are discovered, it’s a rather simple process to set up a milk run that hits these high probability spots.

The good news is bottom structures that hold trout one day tend to hold fish again and again. The most productive spots can be counted on to produce fish year after year.

Hot Trout Spots

Lake trout are found in all the Great Lakes and a number of in-land fisheries. Some of the most popular jigging destinations include Stannard Rock in Lake Superior, Grand Island near Munising, both East and West Grand Traverse Bays, Lake Michigan at Frankfort, Higgins Lake and Crystal Lake.

Summing It Up

There is still plenty of time to enjoy some late summer lake trout jigging action. Armed with the right gear and the willingness to hunt for fish, lake trout jigging adds a whole new twist to fishing in Michigan.