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Cranking Spring Sauger
Daniel Vinovich

 The wind was strong out of the north, the kind of wind that cuts right through you.  Small groups of fishermen lingered around the ramp trying to decide if it was worth going out or rescheduling the day’s Sauger trip for another time.  I, on the other hand, was looking forward to the day’s trip, knowing that the river was running clear and somewhat swift.  It was not the most ideal condition for jigging up some spring Sauger, but a troller’s dream.  The north wind would slow the forward progress of the boat to almost a crawl, thus, letting me slip in and out on the flats , letting the current swim the cranks into every nook and cranny that river had to offer.  I knew the wind would pile the fishermen who were jigging up in a few spots that offered some protection from the wind.   This was good because it would leave the flats without much boat traffic.

 At about 8:30, my client pulled into the ramp.  As he unloaded his gear, I gave a quick holler.  “Leave them jiggin’ rods in the truck.  You won’t be needing them today.”  A puzzled look came over his face as he put the rods back into his truck.  “Grab your coffee, and let’s hit the water.”  He backed my Tracker down the ramp.  As the 225 Merc hit the water, it sprang to life with a low growl.  We secured the load and headed up river towards Spring Valley.  We passed several smaller boats on the way up.  I motioned to him to look at the small John boat that had just taken a good one over the bow.  “I sure am glad we are in a 20 footer today,” I said.  I laid my Targa down just after we passed the bridge at Hennipen.  We idled up and over towards shore as I explained the day’s game plan.  We would be trolling small stick baits on 3-way swivels, using the state’s law of three trolling rods per person to its full extent.  I told him I would explain the technique and the order the rods go out as he would be a intricate part of this day.  Otherwise, we would have a mess to rival all messes.  

We unwrapped a rod and clipped on the first weight.  I showed him the setup.  “It is a fairly full proof setup if you stick with it,” I told him.  The trolling rig consisted of a number 7 3-way swivel.  To this, a 7 foot snell of 10 pound test was tied on to the swivel, and a small Bass Pro Shops Floating Minnow crank bait was added.  To the other end of the swivel, an 18 inch piece of 10 pound mono was tied with a number 5 snap.  I explained we would be using 3 different size weights on each of the 3 sets of rods.  The different size weights would enable us to stagger the amount of line out as to keep tangled messes to a minimum.  Since the water was rolling pretty good, we used slightly heavier weights than usual to keep the baits from coming off the bottom.  The first set of rods to be set were the back rods, or the rods closest to the motor.  These rods would be set out first with about 2 ounces of lead on them and 2 Bass Pro Shops minnow cranks.  You put them in the rod holders and thumb the line out until they hit bottom.  After they hit, use a count of 10 before you lock down the spools.  The second set of rods to be set were the middle rods.  We snapped on a 2 1/2 ounce weight on them along with two Rebel 2 1/2 inch holographic minnow baits.  The same drop was duplicated as the first rods, except a count of 6 was used instead of 10.  The last rods to be set were the front ones.  These were slightly different rods than the first ones we set.  We were using 8 foot 6 inch Bass Pro Shops trolling rods on the back of the boat.  These rods have a medium heavy action.   The front rods have a medium light action, otherwise, known as a dead stick.  The choice of rod action can be clarified quite easily.  We were using 10 pound fire line on the reel, which is a no stretch super line.  The back rods have a lot more line out to absorb the shock of the strike, while the front rods need to have more give to the rod because the lines are set almost directly under the boat.  We snapped on 3 ounces of weight to the front rods and Baby Thunder Sticks for the cranks.  The same pattern was used to set out the front rods except no additional count was needed before locking down the spools.  With the rods set, we started upstream, slipping in and out of different depths.  As we trolled, I explained what we were trying to accomplish with the set up we were running.  

The back rods were running at about 100 feet back with The Bass Pro baits on them, one silver black and one clown.  This bait has a wide rolling action to it.  The middle rods were running back about 60 feet.  These rods have the Rebel minnow cranks on them.  They are a smaller bait with a little tighter action, a holographic Rainbow Trout and a holographic Brown Trout pattern on them.  The front rods were running just under the stern of the boat and had  red hot tiger and fire tiger Baby Thunder sticks on them.  Now all we had to do was let the fish tell us what color patterns, actions and depth they were holding.  By using multiple rods with different baits, we could accomplish this in an orderly fashion. 

 It was not long before one of the back rods went off.  Fish on.  I handed the rod to my client, and told him to bring the fish up directly behind the boat as not to tangle any of the other rods.  A nice, fat Sauger was in the net.  He hit the Bass Pro bait in the clown pattern.  With the rod reset, we continued upstream.  Another fish was added to the live well before we moved to the next flat.  Up river, we repeated our trolling pattern, making the necessary adjustments as we fished.  By noon, we had a pretty solid pattern going.  Fish were coming off all six rods.  We had even taken a few big fish off CD5 Walleye divers and Offshore Tackle Snap Weights.  By attaching a 1 ounce snap weight to the line about 10 feet in front of a diving crankbait, you can also fish diving cranks with the 3-way system.  Just be sure to run them out the back of the boat.  The amount of line to let out on them is easy.  You lock the spools when you feel the bait just ticking bottom.   

 Late that afternoon, the fishing slowed, but not before we had put a couple nice limits in the boat, along with a 20 pound carp that just had made a mess of the lines before he gave up the ghost.  We finished out our last fish on the clam beds.  With the sun starting to set, we trailered the boat and stowed the rods.  My client looked a little worn out.  A mixture of the cold and wind had taken its toll on him.  I started up the hill on my way home thinking I would not see him again.  At the top of the hill, he motioned for me to stop.  After I rolled down the window, he caught me by surprise when he asked if I had an opening next Thursday.  I looked at my book and said I was open on Thursday.  He said write me down for the day,  my son has got to try this.  Another jig fisherman converted to the ways of the troller.  

For guided trips you can call 309-347-1728 or by sending e-mail at trolling@mtco.com.  Predator Guide Service is a multi-species guide service fishing several central Illinois lakes and rivers for muskie, striper, small mouth, and walleye e-mail me at .trolling@mtco.com

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