One lure can make a big difference
Night fishing for walleyes was just past peak the end of May in Lake Erie, but they could still be caught from Buffalo to Barcelona on stickbaits in the shallows. Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga invited me along for a trip since his regular fishing buddy was on a family vacation in the Outer Banks. I couldn’t wait as we made plans for the following Tuesday.
When Tuesday came, Rustowicz called and said to hold off. Winds were a little stronger than he would like to have seen. If the lake calmed a bit by 8 p.m., we would give it a go. It didn’t. We made plans for the following evening.
The next evening, I looked at my Wind Alert app and the winds were even stronger. However, the winds were out of the southeast and those would be offshore breezes for the area we intended to fish, attempting to work the waters off Sturgeon Point.
When I met Bob, it was apparent that many people were looking at the wind speeds and not the direction. The parking lot at the Sturgeon Point Marina was nearly empty. I could also see why Rustowicz was a bit apprehensive the day before. We were going to be fishing out of his 14-foot Starcraft.
Our focus was going to be 7 to 9 feet of water with small No. 11 Rapalas, 50 to 70 feet back behind the boat. Best speed was normally 1.8 to 2.1 mph. Bob would be using a chartreuse-colored lure and I would be using an orange-colored lure.
“The fish won’t hit until after 9 p.m.,” said Rustowicz. “That’s been the program here.”
Almost like clockwork, the first fish of the night hit his offering, 55 feet back. I was already at that distance. I grabbed the net and put the fish in the boat for my partner. One in the box. It was 9:15 p.m.
Ten minutes later, he had a second fish on, a chunky Lake Erie ‘eye. Less than 10 minutes after that, he had a third fish in the boat. I switched my lure to a chartreuse color, same as Bob’s. I was starting to think that he brought me along just to net the fish … and then I had a hit. I began to reel the fish in, and the weight disappeared. Was it off? No, it was small, possibly under the 15-inch minimum size. Back into the water it went.
Then I caught a second and a third, all with the same result – too small to keep. What was going on?
“Try my rod Bill,” said Rustowicz. “Sometimes the lure makes all the difference in the world.”
We switched rods. Bam! Almost immediately I had a hit and this one was putting up a decent fight. My first legal walleye was in the box. I put two more ‘eyes in the boat before Rustowicz had a swing and a miss. Then we doubled up. As I looked at the lure I was using, something was up with it. I showed Bob.
“That lure is just destroyed,” he said. “A piece is broken off the body and two of the treble hooks have each lost a point. Let me see if I can fix it.” He bent a few things and handed it back to me. “It should a good now.”
Ten minutes later, I had another walleye for the frying pan with the same lure. We ended up catching our limit of 12 Lake Erie walleyes by 11 p.m., and 10 of them on the one lure the fish seemed to prefer.
That lure made it out for one more trip with Bob before it was unusable and couldn’t be used any further. It’s not the first time I’ve ran into that type of a situation. On any given fishing trip, there are some days when one particular lure seems to work better than any other. Sometimes a second lure, identical to the first, will also catch fish. However, like our walleye trip this evening, it was one lure that was the workhorse.
Fishermen are notorious for buying fishing lures. I have tackle boxes and tackle boxes of spoons and plugs. More often than not, some lures work better on catching the fisherman than it does catching the fish. You never know when one will work, though, so I might have to pick up a few more those lures that worked so well for us. I can fit them in somewhere. I may need another tackle box.