As March draws near here in the North country, I have one thing on my mind; spring lake trout on Lake Champlain. Ice out triggers the insanity of open water trolling in 15 feet of water or less. During these early spring months most of our lake trout are pulled out of water between 7-15 feet where they are feeding heavily on baitfish. Many of my personal best fish for the year are caught during this two-month long season. March through early May lake trout are easy to target with simple gear, and quality swim baits such as ours. This is the only time of year I have found one can target lake trout without utilizing expensive equipment and downriggers. All you need to start is a boat, swimbaits, and a few rods.
My first experience with Lakers was out of a 13-foot canoe rigged with oars for trolling, and cheap lightweight spinning rods. (if you want one heck of a fight lightweight gear is the way to go!) You could regularly find a little red canoe and young kid rowing a mile offshore alone amidst the 20 or so other “big” boats. Every fish pulled was hard earned, and always a head turner for other boats trolling around me. During these few years I had fantastic success and learned a great deal. Every year is different, though a few patterns always hold true with these hungry spring Lakers. Some of these things include bait colors, water temp, speed, water clarity, and depth. With these patterns I have designed River Rat brand baits specifically to target these highly sought-after fish. Some of my fall back patterns include the Golden Ticket, Alewife, Fang, Patriot, and Fire Tiger.
When developing a pattern and finding that first Laker of the day I will typically run a mix of shallow and deep divers as well as an array of my fall back colors. Once a pattern develops of what the fish want that day, I will start to switch over a few baits that are similar in color and depth range. Don’t switch them all though! We have caught many fish on a lure that does not follow the typical pattern for that day. This way of fishing is most effective when you can run 4 or more poles at one time. With my team we typically run 4-6 poles. This tactic is great for quickly finding what baits to use that day, and increasing the overall fish landed. Last year my goal was to prove my exclusively River Rat baits, and it was a major success. With the new baits we boated more fish than ever before! During the spring 2019 season it was not uncommon to boat 7-8 fish in a 4-hour trip.
River Rat baits were designed out of a passion for the fish we chase, a majority of which live to swim another day. Baits designed on years of hard-earned experience and knowledge. I now fish year-round out of a 14-foot boat equipped with a 25HP outboard. This has led to some calling us crazy, others call us insane; they may be right but a passion for the outdoors drives us out into some of the worst conditions the Lake Champlain has to offer. River Rat Custom Outdoors is very excited to share our knowledge and patterns with you all for the 2020 fishing season. I also hope we can provide weekly tips and tricks for you all throughout the season.
Its time to start getting excited for open water and monster lake trout!