DEADLY DIPSY DIVERS
From Rogers City to Grand Haven they trigger savage strikes from trout and salmon
July 01, 2007
From Rogers City to Grand Haven, Great Lakes trollers are finding that Dipsy Divers are one of the top producers for trout and salmon. When it comes to kings, those black-jawed denizens of the deep, few other presentations will induce more savage strikes and guarantee a full fish box at the end of the day.
What makes them so deadly?
How can you rig Dipsies for your boat so that they attract more fish and provide action packed fishing outings?
First, there are several divers on the market that will catch trout and salmon: Slide Divers, Jet Divers and more. I've fished them all, caught plenty of fish and in their own way each product is a winner. My choice is the Luhr Jensen Dipsy Diver in the largest size made and for good reason. I've got a strategy with this diver that simply creates more strikes and puts fish in the box, period. Here's why.
Why do they catch so many fish?
I believe it is because they run far to the side of the boat, away from the boat's shadow, noise from the motor, far from downrigger wires and loud prop wash. With the introduction of zebra mussels, Great Lakes waterways are becoming even more clear and wary trout and salmon are becoming increasingly boat-shy. Divers send presentations far boat side and wary fish feel comfortable slamming presentations that are away from intruding water craft. More importantly, Divers act as attractors to draw feeding fish that are on the prowl for an easy meal and will quickly investigate trolled lures that pass through their territory.
Divers can be trolled from any watercraft from tiny aluminum boats to large fishing vessels, even sailboats. All you need is a Dipsy rod, level wind reel with line counter and a rod holder and you are in business. Divers are relatively inexpensive when compared to downriggers, take up little space and on most days will catch 80% of your fish. Oh sure, when salmon are found deep in summer, say below 100 ft., downriggers are the way to go. Large charter boats generally troll four Dipsy Divers, two on each side. The outside divers are set on #3 to get them as far as possible from the boat. Outside divers will account for the vast majority of strikes. When salmon see the spread they usually come from the side of the boat and the outside diver is the first presentation to capture their attention. Active fish waste little time honing in on the diver/lure and they will smack the first presentation they see. The inside divers are set on #1 or #2 and placed closer to the boat. This setting keeps lines from tangling with the outside Dipsy.
Divers attract and catch fish because they give the trailing lure excellent action. When the boat makes turns the diver will increase speed, travel up or down and entice trailing fish to slam the hook. One of my old trolling tricks for fish interested in a spoon is to place the silvery metal close to a diver, say 4-6 ft. Drop this offering in the water and you will be amazed at how the Dipsy gives the spoon unbelievable action, much more wobble and flash than lures trolled behind downriggers. My favorite spoon for kings is a green/black Pro King placed 4ft. behind the diver. This same presentation is hot for Erie walleyes when trolling the western basin for big water monster 'eyes. As for steelies, give me an orange/silver spoon placed relatively tight to a Dipsy and you better have a shock absorber on the line because Skamania go nuts over the fast wobbling presentation.
Some fishermen like to place divers down the middle or set rods high in the air. Instead, I prefer to place divers as far to the side of the boat as possible. My rod tips are barely above the water when Dipsy rods are set and I use rod holders that are far forward of other lines, with holders facing sideways, parallel to the lake surface. This keeps as much line in the water as possible and allows plenty of room behind the boat to set other lines or net fish. In addition, rods placed on the far side of the boat, close to the water, get the Dipsy as far away from the craft as possible. The farther lures trail boat side, the better and the more strikes you will get, period.
This might sound crazy, but when the kings are in and they are hammering diver presentations, I often only run 2 Dipsy rods. That's it, no spoons or plugs, no downrigger or wire lines and I'll frequently catch my limit while boats trolling multiple lines are fouling lines, working to get more lures in the water and losing fish that wrap in their maze of fishing lines. I try to keep it simple, yet effective. Here's my strategy.
Kings are absolutely nuts about flies trolled behind attractors. My all-time most effective attractor is a white Fishcatcher with crush glow tape, number two is green Fishcatcher with crush glow tape and my third is Dreamweaver Spindoctor attractor chrome with blue tape. I use 10'6" Eagle Claw Dipsy rods and I place the attractor 10 feet behind the attractor. Behind the attractor I attach a fly. Not just any fly but I'm partial to Magna Dyne Horseflies, Stinger fly, Howie fly and lately my fly source is on line at T.J's Tackle.com.
I must admit that being from East Lansing I'm partial to green (Go Spartans!) but truth is kings love green flies. Just about any combination of green will get them snapping, green/white, green/blue dolphin, green/chartreuse, green with tinsel, they all work. For the last couple of years my number one green color is Green Krinkle, followed by Seaweed, although Howie makes a fly with green/gold and blue that is absolutely hot.
Years ago I learned a trick from Ludington Charter Captains that has helped me to catch thousands of fish. I simply replace the 40# mono on most flies with 50# fluorocarbon line. The heavy line prevents break offs and lost fish. It also gives the fly more action because of the stiffness of the leader. By using fluorocarbon, fish don't pay any attention to the mono and they keep their attention on the flashing fly. Sure, I use several green beads above the hook; usually I'll dress up the look with a glow bead or two. Heck, on some of my hottest flies I've painted black eyes on the glow beads using 3D paint made by Scribbles, available in 1 oz. bottles at Michael's Craft shops. The hook is snelled to the line to avoid line breaks from salmon that twist and turn when hooked.
I love the new Dipsy colors but my top producer is a large Dipsy hand painted fluorescent lime green. I use the same paint road crews use to mark pavement. I don't like a diver that loses its effectiveness because it slips on the screw and the adjustment slips out of the #3 position. My remedy is to use marine Goop to permanently glue the diver into the position I want. I set the release so I can easily pop the diver but not so loose that wave action causes the diver to trip.
I'm so sold on attractors and flies that if fish are snappin' I'll pull my other lines and run just flies behind attractors and Dipsies. Of course a quality line counter reel is needed for this brand of fishing in order to determine the exact distance divers should be set behind the boat. Catch one fish and you now know the exact footage distance to place the outfit to increase chances of more strikes. It seems that the combination of whipping attractors behind a Dipsy will draw fish like a magnet to check the fly. Once they get close enough to see the darting action of the fly it is pretty much all over for them except the netting part. Attractors make the fly dart from side to side, in a whip-like motion that absolutely drives salmon crazy. They can not resist striking the fly which must look like a squid or baitfish gone wild.
I've seen anglers catch salmon using a variety of leader lengths. My prescription is simple; if fish want fast action the distance from attractor to fly is around 18-20', if they want it slower try 20-24' leaders. My normal distance that catches most salmon is exactly 22". There are days when exactness can make the difference between catching big' ole salmon or going home empty handed. This point is best made by the following anecdote.
David Payne, who is one of my stream steelheading buddies, decided to meet me for an outing on Lake Michigan. It was midweek; few empty boat trailers were in the parking lot as we headed for the drop-off at the point, found 7 miles north of the Ludington light. The lake was flat calm, as I set just 2 Dipsy rods and sat back to relax. My Daiwa line counter reels said attractors were placed 125 ft. from the boat. We trolled for an hour and took only one smallish king. That's when I noticed fish on the graph that looked like they had gone deeper in the midday bright sun. So, I let out more line until the counters read 175. POW! The rod bent double and Dave was into a big fish. I pulled the other diver, turned the boat and we were quickly fighting a big silvery king in the crystal clear water. We could see the beautiful fish 30 ft. down, twisting, turning and making short sprints in an effort to shake the hook. Soon it came to net and we iced our second fish. Both fish came on Green Crinkle flies set 22" behind a white/crush glow Fishcatcher. That was the hot combination and in less than two hours we had out limit if big Chinook. When we reached port a large craft docked next to it. Dave asked if they enjoyed the beautiful calm seas and hot fishing. "Heck no!" replied the captain," we have been out since dawn and only have two fish to show for our hard work." Dave asked if they were using Dipsy Divers and the captain said, "No, but he was thinking about trying them." Dave and I looked at each other in disbelief at the sight of a large vessel loaded with GPS, electronic fish locators, downriggers, hundreds of spoons and plugs but no Dipsies.
Offshore fishing is exacting. While fuel prices might be out of control, the cost of a couple divers can save you hours of trolling; because you will quickly catch your limit. One thing is certain, when a 20-pound king slams a Dipsy rod and rips line from the reel like a runaway freight train. The excitement certainly pumps up your adrenaline!n