Pounding a small area meant first place for this “out-of-towner.”
Few things are more challenging than catching finicky fish in depths of 40 feet and less, but that’s the situation that faced Capt. Arnie Arredondo when he and his tournament crew aboard the charter boat Phoenix won the Schu’s Summer Challenge on Lake Michigan out of St. Joseph, Michigan last May.
To take first place, the captain, who was visiting from his home port of Kenosha, Wisconsin, used a spread of seven copper lines on Church Walleye Boards and two Cannon bottom-tracking downriggers for the nine lines the tournament allowed.
“I found the best fish in 33 to 41 feet of water and couldn’t catch them on divers, so we put out four coppers on one side and three coppers on the other, plus two downriggers—Cannons with Bottom Track—keeping one five feet off the bottom and the other seven feet off.”
Spoons—mostly Dreamweaver Super Slims with the exception of one Stinger Stingray on a downrigger—were the order of the two-day tournament. He had them on eight of nine rods. The exception was a Dreamweaver Spin Doctor with bait on the deepest, inside copper.
To make things even more challenging, the fish Arredondo targeted seemed confined to a stretch less than two miles long, so he did a lot of nearly 180-degree turns with his 36-foot Tiara, constantly pounding the area.
“We found bottom a few times, but we worked together when turning to keep the inside, deepest coppers moving so they didn’t hit bottom. Plus, the deepest, a segment of 140 feet of copper, had the plastic Spin Doctor on it, which didn’t sink real fast.”
To make the turn, a crewmember was in charge of bringing that Spin Doctor/bait line right in so the board was out of the water.
A crewmember was also in charge of reeling in the line outside of the spinny, which was a 100-foot stretch of copper. This line wasn’t reeled in all the way, just enough to keep it moving during the turn. It got set back out as soon as the boat straightened, and the flasher/bait combo got a different Church Board and was moved to the other side of the boat—always the shore side.
“I just had one of those feelings that I wanted the one bait rod on the shallow side of the boat,” the affable Arrendondo revealed. “I hardly ever use bait, but one of my friends from the St. Joe area convinced me I should run at least one for this tournament. It caught two fish on the first day and one fish on the second, so it was well worth having in the water.”
Arredondo said the wind had been blowing from the south, so he fished north of where the St. Joseph River comes into the lake, finding slightly greener water there.
It turned out that in the dirtiest water, gold spoons worked best; he even special-ordered some Super Slim gold blanks with no other adornments from Dreamweaver and ran one on a 75-foot copper the whole time. A Watermelon pattern Super Slim on a gold blank run behind 100 feet of copper was also productive.
With the wind creating a northerly current, Arredondo kept the big boat’s ground speed at as much as 3.6 mph over ground heading north. When he turned south he slowed his boat to 2.6 to 2.7 mph.
Arredondo’s spread was nearly symmetrical.
Farthest outside boards had 35 feet of copper, next boards in had 75 feet, followed by two more boards with 100 feet and then the single 140 copper set-up.
High lines took identical Green Dolphin-pattern UV Super Slims; the 75-footers had a Mixed Veggies Super Slim on one side and the special straight gold Super Slim on the other. The 100-footers had a glowing Shiznit Super Slim on one side and the Watermelon Super Slim on a gold blank on the other.
The downriggers, each set straight out to the side had a Stinger Stingray spoon in the Jager Bomb pattern running 7 feet off the bottom and stretched back 30 feet and a Lemon Ice Super Slim set 40 feet back and run 5 feet off bottom.
Allowed to catch 15 and weigh 12 fish each day, the Phoenix crew found the high lines with the Green Dolphin UV to be most productive on their way to 15 fish the first day. Second day, the fish didn’t show a preference, with almost all of the lines catching just one or two fish as the Phoenix managed just 11 fish.
Although Capt. Arnie Arredondo doesn’t hesitate to run 12-pound test on downriggers when stealth is needed in clear water, his rigger rods at St. Joe were spooled with 20-pound test mono because the water was dirty enough.
Arredondo’s copper was 45-pound test from Blood Run. Leaders were 35 to 40 feet long, 20-pound test Blood Run Fluorocarbon.
Boards were standard Church Walleye Boards.
Cannon Downriggers featured Bottom Track
The Spread, port to starboard:
- Green Dolphin UV Super Slim UV; 35 feet copper.
- Mixed Veggie UV Super Slim; 75 feet copper.
- Shiznit Super Slim; 100 feet copper
- Spin Doctor, blue/double crushed glow, Strong Mirage Meat Rig and herring strip; 140 feet copper.
- Jager Bomb Stinger Stingray; 30 feet behind downrigger ball set 7 feet from bottom.
- Lemon Ice Super Slim; 40 feet behind downrigger ball set 5 feet from bottom.
- Watermelon on gold blank Super Slim; 100 feet copper.
- Plain gold Super Slim; 75 feet copper.
- Green Dolphin UV Super Slim; 35 feet copper.
- Written by Dave Mull