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Choosing Tackle for Lake Erie’s Most Popular Game Fish

Choosing Tackle for Lake Erie’s Most Popular Game Fish

A spread of fishing tackle used on Lake Erie

Learn about proper gear selection with fishing experts for lake Erie’s most popular game fish the walleye, steelhead, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass.

Lake Erie offers a wide diversity in exciting game fish from the popular walleye to the hard fighting smallmouth bass. Here are proven tackle and methods used by seasoned anglers of lake Erie.

Tackle for Walleye Fishing Lake Erie

It’s truly amazing that we have a lake filled with the tastiest freshwater fish to swim right at our fingertips! Lake Erie is the walleye capital of the world, and for excellent reason. With a projected 95 million walleyes in our Great Lake, there is plenty for the taking, and they are hungry! 

What may be just as exciting as eating beautiful golden walleye nuggets is going out on the lake and filling the cooler with friends and family. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just a beginner, Lake Erie gives you a chance to fill your freezer. A very simple and incredibly effective way to target walleyes is to run a “dipsy”. 

An angler shows two large Walleye caught on Lake Erie

Dipsy Divers are a diving device that helps your bait reach a targeted water depth. A dipsy is also known as a “directional diver”. It has a weight on the bottom that can be slid to either the port or starboard side of the boat. It has 3 settings and helps with getting your bait and dipsy to plane away from the boat. Many anglers have great success using just 2 dipsy divers in rod holders on their boat. It allows even the casual boater to be able to capitalize on this amazing walleye fishing. Small spoons like a Dreamweaver WD and Michigan Stinger Scorpions are great options for catching walleyes! Worm harnesses and small shallow crankbaits such as Storm Jr. Thundersticks are also killers behind dipsys. 

Line is the most important part of the whole setup. It is possible to run a dipsy on straight mono, but I do not recommend it. Get a reel spooled up with 30# PowerPro Braid and you will be set. Braid has no stretch so it allows your dipsy to be tripped much easier. Off the backside of your diver (the part that goes to the lure) use an 8-foot piece of 20# fluorocarbon and attach a swivel, then your bait. 

Having a trolling reel in either a 20 or 30 size is standard for walleye fishing, and having an 8-foot or longer Medium power rod is what I recommend to my customers in the pro shop. At FishUSA we have Okuma Great Lakes Trolling Combos that are perfect for the beginner angler! Get that reel spooled up, and you’re ready for a great time on the water! 

Tackle Option for Steelhead on Lake Erie

Steelhead fishing around our Great Lakes is about as good as it gets. Every fall, our local Great Lake Tributaries get filled with Steelhead. Steelhead are lake-run Rainbow Trout that spend the majority of their lives in the lake, but make their way up the streams connecting to the lake to spawn. Steelhead are arguably the greatest sportfish of Lake Erie. They’re well known for being hard fighting, acrobatic, and absolutely beautiful. People from all over the world come to our streams for a hand at steelhead. 

Steelhead fishing is a great way to enjoy nature. There are tons of rivers and stream miles open to the public for fishing and wading. And you only need some entry-level gear to get into it. A basic float setup is key to start learning the water! A 9’ noodle rod is a perfect rod for our streams. Pair that up with your favorite spinning reel and some 6-pound clear monofilament and you’re set. Wearing a good pair of polarized sunglasses is also key to being able to see the deeper runs in the stream where fish are going to be holding.

Catching a steelhead on Lake Erie

Amish outfitters make a weighted float that is referred to as a “twitching” float by a lot of anglers. They are absolutely perfect for twitching small jigs throughout the hole. The float is heavy and allows you to cast it easily when using a small jig. Black marabou or bucktail jigs are deadly for steelhead. I love to tip a black jig with a couple of juicy waxworms. White and olive jigs are also a great option for steelies keying in on minnows. 

The most popular bait for steelhead is going to be egg sacks. Egg sacks are my favorite way to catch steelhead. Most local bait shops sell egg sacks in a variety of colors. Float fishing with eggs is a deadly way to target steelhead. Add a bit of split shot

on your leader, under your float, and make as natural a drift as possible. Steelhead run from late September to late April and even into May. This allows a lot of time to be on the stream targeting these hard-fighting beasts! 

Tackles Selection for Largemouth Bass on Lake Erie

The largemouth bass is undoubtedly the most popular gamefish on the planet. They have a wide distribution, bite a variety of lures with aggression, and fight hard. On Lake Erie though, they’re often overshadowed by the many other incredible species we have inhabiting our Great Lake. This has led to Lake Erie being one of the most underrated largemouth bass fisheries in the country in my opinion. Especially in Ohio waters, where they are plentiful in all marinas, bays, and other protected areas along the coast and easily accessible from the shore.

Anglers show largemouth bass caught on lake Erie

You’re not going to catch a behemoth 7+lb largemouth in Lake Erie simply because they don’t get that big, but the possibility to catch dozens of fish in the 1-5lb range in a day is very likely. Largemouth love to set up on the many rocky points and jetties at the mouths of rivers, bays, or marinas. The key is they can ambush prey on these points when the wind and current allow them to set up properly, but still have easy access to protected water when things get ugly on the big water.

When largemouth are set up on these points, there’s a variety of baits you can catch them. When the wind is present, it’s hard to beat a spinnerbait or a soft swimbait rigged on a jig head. These can both be thrown on a 7’ Medium Heavy action casting rod paired with a casting reel spooled up with 15lb fluorocarbon. When the wind calms down, you’ll have to slow down and change your presentation up a bit. Pick up a 7’ medium action spinning rod with a 3000 size spinning reel spooled up with some 8lb fluorocarbon and start pitching a ned rig and a drop shot around the rocks. Drag it slow and wait for that “tick” on the line! Largemouth also inhabit the many grassy areas in Lake Erie’s backwaters. For fishing in these areas, pick up a texas-rigged worm or a jig and drag it around in the grass. My recommendations for all of these items are listed and linked below! These recommendations are more beginner-focused setups that won’t break the bank. fishusa.com offers a large variety of all of these products, so feel free to browse!

Tackle for Smallmouth Bass Fishing on Lake Erie

You can’t have a discussion about the best smallmouth fisheries in the world and not mention Lake Erie. Our Great Lake is booming with giant smallmouth; and pound for pound, this beautiful bass might be the strongest fish out there. Smallmouth can be quite an angling adversary as well, constantly moving from place to place without warning, leaving anglers puzzled about their whereabouts. When you do come across them though, they may readily and aggressively bite a variety of lures.

A smallmouth bass caught on Lake Erie

In the spring months before smallmouth begin to spawn, jerkbaitsswimbaits, and crankbaits are extremely effective. As the water warms and smallmouth begin to go deeper to their offshore summertime haunts, ned rigs, drop shots, and tube jigs begin to shine.

There are rods and reels designed specifically to fish each of these baits, but the beginner smallmouth fisherman doesn’t need to feel overwhelmed. To start out, get a 7’ Medium Light action spinning rod, a 3000-size spinning reel, spool it up with some 10lb braided line and an 8lb fluorocarbon leader and you’re ready to go!

Finding smallmouth in the vastness of Lake Erie can be a daunting task, but don’t overcomplicate things to start. Get a few of the baits linked below at fishUSA.com, head to the lake, and give it a shot! 

Skip the guesswork and get your free Lake Erie Gamefish Tackle List here: https://go.powderhook.com/gamefishgearlist

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