We went to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for a fishing adventure on Lake Michigan with Plano and Frabill.
We were invited out to Lake Michigan by our friends over at Plano and Frabill Fishing to join a content summit based around a new series of products, and put them to the test in one of America's finest fisheries.
My first opportunity to fish this area couldn't be passed up, so I quickly and graciously accepted and started to envision what sort of experience I'd gotten myself into.
I didn't anticipate how incredible it would turn out to be.
The team planned to put me out on a boat for two solid days with Dale Strochein, along with his top fishing guides in the Sturgeon Bay area, to check out the new Plano Edge Boxes and the Trophy Haul Series from Frabill. There would be break out sessions to learn the ins and outs of the new gear, and plenty of time on the water to try my hand at some bucket list fishing.
I boarded a plane in Austin, Texas headed to Lake Michigan. While on the 2-1/2 hour jog to Chicago, I was getting more and more anxious about being so far up north away from my late summer Texas largemouth tactics.
From Chicago, I did what most cross country travelers do, and took a 30-minute plane hop to Green Bay, then jumped in a 45-minute car ride towards fish camp.
The word "camp" should be taken lightly here because we were in an all-out fishing paradise at the Sand Bay Beach Resort. The place is owned and operated by Karen and Dale Strochein, who were the kindest hosts you could ask for. They immediately made me feel at home, despite the miles I'd put between me and my real residence.
The night of arrival we gathered together, ran through the gear we'd be using, and headed off to bed. It was the last night of sleep I'd get before fishing Wisconsin for the first time.
The Necessities of Sturgeon Bay Fishing
We threw lightweight mono on 5-6 foot medium action spinning rods for most of the trip. The water in this lake is so clear, you have to go as light as possible unless you're dredging the bottom for musky.
Even on the first outing, I could see this would be a sport fishing trip to remember, because we had some tackle organization tricks up our sleeves.
The Wisconsin Fishing Guide Tactics
The day one tactic was to test the waters and find the fish. We ventured all around the bay in search of spots mentioned by guides in the area that held fish.
We mostly pulled up to spots that had a 12-15 foot drop off and threw deep diving crankbaits. The baits resembled the gobies we were catching and it seemed like the pike and freshwater drums loved to hammer these slimy little fellas.
On this first day, I caught my first northern pike and it pulled drag, cut up my hands, and provided an unbelievable memory I won't forget.
You can take a look at my first pike ever below, but I want to point out the importance of the net in this particular memory.
To put a tally on the day, the Frabill Trophy Haul Series nets scooped up three pike, 30+ gobies, and at least 10 freshwater drums.
A calm pike is a great pike. The first pike I caught here is just like all the ones you've surely hooked on to: it was fully loaded with teeth.
The Trophy Haul Net we were using has a rubberized coating on the netting to provide the fish with a comfortable landing area. In return for the added feature, the fish loses less slime and remains calmer through the landing process.
If I couldn't have had the net to easily handle this fish I'm sure I would have had a few more red stains on that pretty white shirt they gave me.
On day two we took off with information from all the other crews and aimed to hammer down on the smallmouth bass.
I was pumped because we were going with a tactic I love using in Texas, the shakey head.
In Lake Michigan the lure looked a little different; it was put together with a half-sphere Berkley jig head and a half-sized Senko worm. We threw it on similar fish-holding 12-15 foot rock ridges by pointing the eyes of the rod at the lures and reeling one round every few seconds.
This tactic holds several northern records for smallmouth bass fishing. Needless to say I was pumped. We took in four or five hefty smallies in the rough northern-blown waters of the lake, and complemented with a bald eagle sighting. See? I told you this was an unforgettable trip!
We ran into some adventure later that day with some real sketchy situations on rough water, but got some full smiles from smallmouths. The fishing report said it might be touchy, but I wasn't expecting what we encountered. Here's a clip showing how rowdy the ride got at certain points.
The Take-Aways from Door County, One of the Best Fishing Spots You Can Find
Flying up from Texas and staying at one of the world-class fishing destinations our country offers was one of the best weeks of my life. Even Johny Morris himself has shaken head-guide Dale Strochein's hand in respect for his work. I felt like I was in a prime location of fishing history, past and future.
I got to venture out of the Texas heat and cool off in the Midwest by catching my first ever northern pike, goby, and smallmouth. That alone made it awesome.
The products we used were unbelievable and left me thinking about the advances in the fishing industry as a whole has made in the past few years. It's a great time to be an angler, and getting to take advantage of those advancements is the best part.
We are in a great position as fishermen and women in this country. We get to enjoy the outdoors with the knowledge that we're on the forefront of the greatest era in the overall fishing experience.
Let's just leave it at this: if you're ever around Wisconsin and looking for a fishing trip of a lifetime, call Dale and Karen at Sand Bay Beach Resort and use their guide service. You'll remember it forever.