by Tom Sawvell, Mister Twister® Field Staff
Editor's Note: "Crappie Tom" Sawvell may be a recognized crappie expert in his home state of Minnesota, but when he goes to his cabin north of Duluth he ties on an FAT Tube and fishes for lake trout... BIG lake trout.
Lake trout are more accessible than most anglers think. Even during the hottest days of summer when we assume they are notoriously deep they can be caught from shore. Try a tube rig. It’s easy to fish and it can be very effective.
Here in Minnesota we are blessed with every kind of fish imaginable. Every degree of fishing skill can be enjoyed and, given the braggin’ rights to having 10,000+ lakes, we can fish anything from a puddle to near-ocean-sized waters. The lakes are one thing, but it is the fish themselves that most northern anglers focus on. One of these creatures, the lake trout, can test the mettle of even seasoned anglers.
Found primarily in deeper Minnesota waters north of Duluth, the Lake Trout is perhaps the least sought-after of all of the game fish on inland waters, but on Lake Superior they are the King and reign supreme. Here the anglers descend on the lake in everything from 14 foot fishing boats to launches of 35 feet and more. They lay assault on these wily fish using down-riggers and Dipsy Divers - nifty little devices that tie into the line between the lure and the rod to help get lures down deep where the fish hide, often fishing at depths of 175 feet over water approaching 300-600 feet deep. Lure choices are as vast as the array of boats launched.
As with any kind of angling, there are always a few who choose to fish from shore, even though Lake Trout are deep-water fish. Shore fishermen are frequently found along Lake Superior’s Minnesota shoreline between Duluth and the Canadian border Here, massive break walls jut well into the open lake terminating where water depths can exceed 100 feet. Designed as wind and wave breaks to create safe harborage, they are built with huge boulders. It is the deep water and the rock that makes these walls such a “normal” place to search for lake trout as they come in good numbers to search for food.
Bright lures, heavy enough to be cast long distances, like the Mepps Flying C are favorites along with other heavy spinners like the Mepps Flying C are favorites along with other heavy spinners like the Mepps LongCast. Spinners are a good choice because their flash and vibration attract fish. Another excellent choice that is often overlooked is the Tube lure. Tube lures are popular among bass fisherman who fish them vertically on a heavy jig.
Tubes, however, like the FAT Tube, can also be very effective trout lures. Fished on jigs upwards of 2 ounces, they get to the deeper water quickly and are less likely to be bothered by unseen currents. “Thump” them on the bottom and they stir-up small clouds of silt, giving the appearance of something feeding. Tubes fished on jigs offer additional bulk, something that is seldom a hindrance given that these fish eat smelt of large size and herring up to a pound. The addition of a tube also helps add color and visibility to the end of your line.
Fishing Tubes on jigheads, however, has it’s own problems. To begin with, the hooks found in most jigheads have a narrow gap. This creates hook-set problems that result in lost fish. Then there is the lead issue. Many fishermen have discovered fishing Tubes effectively has taken them right back to spinners.
A nifty and effective Tube lure rig can easily be made from spinner parts available almost anywhere. Begin with a 1/3 ounce brass spinner body. This gives you the weight you need for casting. In addition, a FAT tube will easily slip over a body this size without binding. Finish your rig with a standard spinner wire, two brass beads, and a number 1/0 wide-gap treble hook. Twist and eye in the tag end of the wire tight to the last bead. The end result looks like a spinner without a clevis or blade. Using a bit of spit on the eye end of the rig, slip on the tube and force the eye through its head. You will have to remove the rig from your line to replace a tube, but a single tube can last for hours.
Fishing this rig is simple. Cast as far as you can and when the tube hits the water, leave the bail open on the reel so the line can flow off the reel freely, allowing the bait to drop straight down in the water column and not tether back into the rubble found at the base of the breakwater. Once the line goes slack, it is on the bottom. Take up any slack and give the rod a sharp snap. This will jump the bait up off the bottom. Take in your slack line and continue your retrieve with a series of gentle pumps on the rod. This will give the bait an easy, effective swimming action A steady, slow retrieve can also produce, especially if a twitch or two included.
Strikes are hard. Hook-ups are immediate and require no hook-set, so, you can spend your time concentrating on important things, like, what color tube to use. Mister Twister® makes this easy. The FAT Tube is a 4” treasure loaded with scent. On bright days, use light colors. Salt & Pepper, Smokin’ Shad, and Chartreuse/Blue & Black Flake are solid colors that will produce well. When it’s overcast or raining, and during periods of low light - early morning and late evening - Black Neon, and Smoke/Red & Black Flake get my nod.
I use a 10’6” St. Croix Avid series rod, and a 400 series Shimano Sahara reel spooled with 8-pound-test line. A #3 ball-bearing swivel is tied to the end of the line for quick lure change.