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Itâ€™s funny how you can have a fishing boat, large or small, and it works pretty well for catching fish, but then you add a new piece of gear and SHA-ZAM! It really works better than ever. Like a 19-foot Patriot boat I had long ago. It wasnâ€™t a fishing boat until I got some new Bertâ€™s Custom Tackle rod holders. Or the Raymarine autopilot that made a 30-foot Dorado into a dream fishing machine. I figured out how to troll my 21-foot Starcraft with the main 175 Merc and trolling bags to slow it down, but it really became a delight to fish out of when I started using the Minn Kota Autopilot trolling motor mounted on the bow to steer. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and of course Iâ€™d heard about how these bowmounts worked well for this sort of duty, but never really needed to try it until my wife took the wheel one time on Lake Ontario. Itâ€™s largely true that the trolling motor saved my marriage. The latest add-on to my current boat, a 14-foot Hobie Pro Angler, might not seem significant, but man is it ever. It an Anchor Wizard anchoring system and it immediately made fishing out of my pedal-powered kayak a whole lot easier. Iâ€™ve had my Hobie for about four years, and itâ€™s rigged pretty nicely. It has a little Humminbird 385 electronics unit that features GPS mapping and sonar. I added a stand-up bar that makes it easy to stand and fish and several Scotty rod holders for trolling. Itâ€™s tricked out, but for me, boat controlâ€”especially in windâ€”was really challenging. The first largemouth I caught out of it was about three-pounds and actually towed me into lily pads. So wind blows it around like a leaf on the waterâ€™s surface. The Anchor Wizard changed all that. My old friend Jeff Wenzel is doing some marketing for Anchor Wizard and needed a kayak to test out a new kayak model, so I was lucky enough to have the first one ever made installed on the Hobie. We screwed down the two main components on my yak yesterday at the ramp on Corey Lake in southern Michigan. It consists of a pivoting tube with a base you put on the bow, and a one-hand crank placed at a reachable place on the gunwale. The whole shebang took less than a half hour to install, and Iâ€™m extremely inept with all manner of tools. We added a 5-pound anchor purchased at Dunhamâ€™s in Three Rivers. The A.W. allowed me to work breaklines and stretches of lily pads with ease in the strong west wind. All I had to do was drop anchor, make a half crank to stop the anchor line from paying out, fish, loosen the crank a half turn to let the wind push me back, fish and repeat. Then I easily cranked in the anchor so it stowed in the tube, pedaled to a new location, loosened the handle to drop the anchor again, tightened and started fishing. Not quite as easy as a bowmount trolling motor, but darn efficient. So now Iâ€™m in trouble. My boat fits in the back of my pickup--it's still there from yesterday--and public access signs to all sorts of lakes line the roads within a 20 mile radius of Paw Paw. I am fired up to explore! Just when my wife was getting used to me hanging around home when I canâ€™t get out on Lake Michigan.
Southern Lake Michigan hasnâ€™t been the best of places to catch perch this summer, although thatâ€™s starting to change. Word from Adam Pyle at Pyles Porthole in South Haven is the perch are finally in from wherever theyâ€™ve been spending their summer vacation, and there are starting to be some goodâ€”if sporadicâ€”reports from places like Michigan City, Indiana and St. Joseph, Michigan. Uncle Bud with one of 10 nice perch he caught Tuesday, September 4. Last Thursday at New Buffalo, Michigan, I trolled for salmon with Bud Roche (everybodyâ€™s Uncle Bud) and James Clark, a friend of his who first mates on a head boat Bud fishes on during the winter inFlorida. We trolled Budâ€™s favored spread of meat rigs and flasher/flies out of his 22-foot Grady White, â€œThe Uncle Bud,â€ struggling to get four bites and land two fish. After a long day, we idled up the Galien River towards the public ramp in tandem with an older bow rider carrying three guys and several spinning rods, obviously perchers. Bud engaged them in conversation and soon learned theyâ€™d each caught a limit of 35 nice perch in 40 feet of water up towards Warren Dunes State Park, several miles north of New Buff. They said theyâ€™d each caught about a hundred, weeding through lots of small fish. And after a telephone call from Bud Monday night, thatâ€™s where we were yesterday, along with Hoosier angler Charlie Lentine, in Budâ€™s dedicated perch boat, a 20-foot Grady-White center console, â€œThe Uncle Bud Two,â€ searching for elusive schools. And searching and searching. Bud isnâ€™t one to fish memories, picking a waypoint where he caught fish before and setting up there again. He uses his sonar unit to see schools of fish and fishes them. If theyâ€™re not the fish heâ€™s looking for, heâ€™s moving to find another school after just a few minutes. That was yesterdayâ€™s lesson. We spent around four hours looking. First spot where he saw fish turned out to be a big school of gobiesâ€”we caught several in just 10 minutesâ€”and it was up anchor and move again. Second spot, all we caught were perch more appropriate for the home aquarium than a frying pan, so it was moving on again, in shallow to 15- and 16-foot depths, out to 40-plus feet. Still none in the cooler. Finally, after nearly four hours of this, within sight of Tower Hill, Bud saw something he liked in 19 feet of water, and a legitimate keeper yellow-belly about 10 inches long ate the top minnow of my two-hook rig. We circled back out and anchored, and in the next couple of hours, weeded through maybe 70 fish to keep 20. The fish ate minnows and small frozen crayfish, seeming to prefer the minnows. Bud with three rods in the back of the boat equaled Charlie and me in the front of the boat. He caught 10, I caught four using two rods and Charlie caught six with his noodle rod. Charlie, who fishes inland a lot for panfish, said he had plenty of fillets in his freezer and donated his six to me, which will make for a nice meal tonight. A few basics: Lively minnow work way better than dead ones, an aerator in the bucket helps keep them kicking. Bud swears by 6- and 4-pound fluorocarbon leaders and braided no stretch line. Number 4, 6 and 8 hooks all work, but Bud prefers No. 4s, believing they catch fewer small fish and are easier to remove from keepers. Use enough weight to keep the rig on the bottom. One good tip: When he saw a school on the electronics, Bud tossed a marker buoy overboard to mark it, then positioned the boat so that when the anchor was lowered (my main duty yesterday), wind and current would bring the boat back to that precise spot. Seems like South Haven is the place to go, and weâ€™ll update whatâ€™s happening there in tomorrowâ€™s BLOG. In the meantime, you can contact Pyles Porthole to find out where perch are snapping at 269-637-1849. For a New Buffalo report, call Captain Cookâ€™s at 269-469-4510.