It was a nice sunny day in the middle of August 1984. I was trolling for Salmon on Lake Michigan. A couple of forty pound fish had been taken earlier in the week. I was marking hundreds of fish on the sonar, no strikes. Has this ever had this happen to you? Did you just figure they were not biting that day? Frustrated, I hooked up my underwater camera on a downrigger and dropped it down. I watched in shock as big fish after big fish aggressively approached my spoons and not one strike! The closer they got to the lure, the more spooky they appeared. Eventually they just swam away. I went home skunked, again.
It took me weeks to make sense of what I had witnessed. Finally, I realized that it was not because I was going the wrong speed or direction. It was not that I had the wrong color spoon, and certainly not because they were not hungry. It was because the trolling spoons I was using were not real enough, not natural enough. They did not even look like fish. I realized that Salmon use instinctive caution when hunting. They know exactly what their food should look and act like and will not strike if something does not look natural. I some how knew their had to be a way to make a lure that looked and acted like what the ate every day. How would I do that? What would it look like? What kind of action should it have? Where would I possibly begin?
I started by researching books, fishing magazines, TV shows, and watching underwater Salmon videos. I subscribed to WFN World Fishing Network on cable, 24 hours a day fishing from around the world. I watched every Salmon show I could find, from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest. I began comparing the two, I noticed that West Coast fishermen almost always used Herring and Anchovies (live bait), not spoons or plugs like Great Lakes fishermen did, even though they have always been available to them. More importantly, they could catch as many salmon with four lines, as we could catch with twelve lines, using spoons and plugs. I watched Charley White’s video “In Search Of The Ultimate Lure” filmed out of Vancouver B.C. over and over. It was awesome. Then it hit me, they have always known something we did not. If properly done, nothing out fishes live bait! Most West Coast Salmon experts said a Whole Herring Rig would catch more Salmon than cut plug Herring or strips, but was the most difficult to master. I knew right then I had to figure out how to make a lure work like a Whole Herring Rig.
To Be Continued: