the Great Lakes ever more popular for bass anglers thanks to some of
the best bass fishing ever, a popular topic for anglers just venturing
out and a good refresher for those already with experience, is advice
on how to safely handle all that big water.
the lure of fantastic fishing, the Great Lakes are no place to venture
onto unprepared. They can be dangerous to careless anglers, but the
prepared and cautious angler can enjoy some of the best smallmouth
fishing in particular the world has to offer.
some great advice for any Great Lakes angler to read from three big
water veterans. They should make your fishing trips safer and memorable
for all the right reasons.
touring professional angler Kim Stricker, in his 22nd season on
national tours, has learned a few things about big water. Hailing from
Howell Michigan, Kim has extensive Great Lakes experience including a
win in the first BASS event on his home waters of Lake St. Clair. Along
with all the other big water he fishes around the country on tour,
he’s well qualified to say a thing or two about the subject.
to the fish is critical when competing on the national circuits, so Kim
starts with a quality bass boat. “We’re fishing
more big water and making longer runs, which played a big part in my
choosing the Ranger 521 – a good blend of big boat to handle
big water while still allowing me to work my way between docks and back
into the timber on the many reservoirs we visit,” says Kim.
“I love my 521.”
the Great Lakes and other big water will inevitably lead to a
rough water situation. These experts say respect for the water and
help make you safer while fishing and boating the big water, especially
if things do turn nasty.
is a key to success on big water. “I carry a cell phone and a
hand-held VHF radio (in case of no cellular signal). I also have a
cigarette plug adapter cord for the radio so dead batteries
don’t stop me,” he adds. “Additionally, I
always wear my life vest when the big motor is running, tournament or
not. During the cold water periods, I keep the life vest on even when
fishing if I’m by myself.”
Michigan federation member and 2002 Classic Champion Mark Modrak
agrees. “In the spring, I wear the life jacket while fishing
alone,” he says. “Sixty
percent of male drowning deaths occur because they fall out of the boat
without their life jacket on.” Mark always wears his life
jacket and kill switch when driving the big motor.
also seconds the need for a cell phone and hand-held VHF radio. He
prefers the portable radio because he can take it with him in other
angler’s boats. In his own boat, he carries dry clothes and a
towel in large sturdy plastic baggies in case he gets wet.
most important thing to me is believing the equipment I use is safe
since I plan on fishing the Great Lakes a lot. That’s my
biggest factor in deciding what boat to buy. I don’t
necessarily buy the biggest bass boat, but one that fits my driving
style,” states Mark. “I also run with a Hot Foot
foot throttle with a trim switch on the steering wheel so I can keep
both hands on the wheel. If you go out of the boat, the Hot Foot spring
will bring the motor back to idle in case the kill switch
as running the boat in big water, Mark has a great confidence in his
521 Ranger Boat, but says, “it depends on the type of
tournament. If a lot is on the line, then I try to manage the waves. I
may find somewhere else to fish if my spot requires I run with a
following sea that is cresting. Although I may try tacking the waves
and taking my time if it will get me there.”
involves running the waves at an angle. You tack left for a while, then
cut back and tack right for a while. You end up running a long zigzag
pattern instead of running directly into or with big waves.
veteran and Lake Erie phenom Steve Clapper adds, “Take your
time and keep your nose up. You’ll bust up something if you
hurry. You don’t want to beat your equipment to
puts a lot of time into preparing his big Ranger 522 for running the
‘inland sea’ he spends so much
“When I know it’s going to be rough, I’ll
put three separate straps on my trolling motor along with the bounce
buster,” he says. “You’ve definitely got
to have a boat and equipment that holds together.” Clapper
also believes that his bigger 250 horsepower motor helps power his boat
through the big stuff and balance out his boat better.
Clapper, 2007 FLW Chevy Open Lake Erie champion, is a recognized expert
on safe boating and fishing large lakes. Clapper is a long time
trendsetter in safety and open water strategy.
carries all the Coast Guard required safety gear and includes a GPS and
compass. “I wear my SOSpenders life jacket all day regardless
of the time of year when it’s rough, or when I’m
alone. One thing I don’t have that I’d like to add
for safety is a ladder,” he mentions. For the cold-water
fishing he does, Steve also wears a flotation suit.
supports our other experts in carrying a cell phone and hand-held VHF
radio. He also
carries a good Danforth anchor on the end of 200 feet of rope attached
by a four-foot chain. He adds an eighteen pound mushroom anchor at the
front of the chain. “You can ride out some pretty big waves
if you have to with a good anchor and enough rope by anchoring with
your bow into the waves,” Clapper notes.
started and turned around before. I’ve got the respect for
it.” Clapper says, “I do have a lot of faith in my
driving ability, but it’s not worth putting
someone’s life in danger. The main thing when you get caught
in the big waves is don’t panic.”
adds, “It’s important to watch the
weather” when planning to fish big water.
“Don’t write off the day too quick though. I watch
the isobars. Maybe it’s going to be a really bad morning, but
the isobars are spreading out which indicates it may be a decent run
back in later. If the isobars are staying close together, it will
probably stay windy.”
it looks like it will stay real rough, I try to work the calmer side of
the lake I’m on,” says Stricker, “if I
have a choice. Otherwise, I’ll try to run the troughs at an
angle and keep the bow up. I don’t try to go too fast. I
think a hydraulic jack plate is real important for the big lakes. You
can drop the engine down deeper and trim out a little more without
blowing out the prop. I use a four blade prop to help keep a better
grip on the water too.”
lot has to do with your partner, especially in draw
tournaments,” states Modrak. “If he is really
uncomfortable or nervous about the conditions, it may not be wise to
run.” Modrak concludes with, “Overlooked by some
anglers on the Great Lakes, if the weather changes, the same run can
take a lot more time – doubling or tripling when it really
gets blowing. Also, on some Great Lakes areas, Saginaw Bay in
particular, you have to watch shallow water. If the wind blows up
shallow water, you can easily bottom out your motor in the troughs. You
could stall out and get in trouble.”
these experts advice and you too can enjoy the great fishing in the
Great Lakes and other big water safely. Just respect the water and come
prepared with dependable equipment and the appropriate safety tools.
You’ll gain experience and confidence, hopefully while
lots of those big bass out there.
Great Lakes smallies like Bob Benavides' Saginaw Bay whopper wait for
you as long as
you can get to them and back safely.