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On any given day on the lake, you need to make decisions about which lures you will run and how you will deliver them to the fish. The number of rods you run will often dictate what presentations you will use. And the number of rods you use depends on the number of people on your craft, local laws and how your boat is rigged. Assuming your boat is rigged to handle enough rods for as many people you can comfortably fish, you only need to worry about how many people are on board. Most people fish with at least one other person, so let’s start with a two person set up in Michigan waters where three rods are allowed per fisherman. Choosing location is another article unto itself, so let’s just say you know where to go to find fish. Not knowing what the fish prefer at the onset of your trip, it’s best to start with a variety. I normally run riggers, leadcore and divers so I start with equal or near equal parts of each. With two people on board, I would start with two rods on riggers, one diver per side and one leadcore on a board on each side. The graph shows me there are fish 30-80 down. I often prefer my riggers as my deepest setting simply because it’s easiest to get riggers deep over other presentations. The starboard rigger heads down to 85’ with a fixed slider up 10’, so I now have lures at 85 and 75. The port rigger heads down 55 with a slider at 45. Now I add in the divers. I would adjust the port diver to a #1 setting and have it target the space between the riggers, so about 65’. I would keep the starboard diver higher than any of the rigger baits, so I would set it on a #3 setting and target 35’ or so. Leadcore goes in the water next and the top of the water column is still pretty open, so I would choose at least a 3 color to look for active surface fish and then pick a core based on where the most activity is on the graph. Normally if the fish appear in the 30-80 range, right in the middle is good, so 55’ or so and an 11 color fits the bill well. This is a 6 rod spread that effectively covers the water column from 15-85 feet of water.
The selections I listed above are a good way to start out. But as you fish during the year, some things will become evident to you. Fish will prefer certain presentations on certain days and at different times of the day. In the morning the riggers might be hot and maybe the low divers. As the day progresses, the outside divers and core might take off. Another day, fish may prefer core all day. The point is, you need to be able to adapt as you fish. Taking the above spread as an example, if an hour goes by and you have 4 fish in the boat and all of them came on the riggers and deep leadcore, then by all means, adjust your high diver down deeper and yank the 3 color and add a 13-20 color instead. There might be days when the riggers are hot all day and the core is dead,. Well, pull the core and send down more riggers or add stackers to your riggers instead of core if that is the case. Just keep in mind when you are pulling rods or moving them around, that changing one rod affectsother rods some days. If your middle rigger set at 55’ is hot and you bring your deep rigger up next to it, sometimes they both go dead. Or if you have a hot diver and set another diver to the same depth, they may both go dead. There are days when it just doesn’t matter what you do and everything catches fish, but you need to pay attention to the reaction of the fish when you move around the presentations. The above spread covers a wide range of depths but doesn’t overload any one spot in the water. The separation will allow you to find the fish, but once you hone in, you don’t normally screw up a productive rod.
As you add more people to your boat, it is pretty easy to add rods to this spread. If you have three people on board, just add one of each presentation. I would start by adding a leadcore. I would keep the 3 color and add an 8 and change the 11 to a 13. Those three cores cover a lot of water. Then the riggers would get moved around a tad. I would keep the starboard at 85’ but move the slider to 79’. The port rigger would get run down to 65’ with a slider at 59’ and a stacker at 53’ and a slider at 47’. The port low diver would target 72’ deep and the port high diver would target 23’. The starboard diver would target 44’. The 3 and 13 color would run on the starboard side, while the 8 color ran alone on the port side. Basically, with the 9 rod spread, we are condensing the attack and starting to get close to doubling up a particular depth, but maintaining separation in the 3D aspect of the spread. Again, when a depth or presentation gets hot, adjust, but be careful not to overload a specific spot in the spread.
When four anglers are aboard, things get real fun. Add two of everything. The starboard rigger goes to 90’ with slider at 84’, stacker at 78’ and slider at 72’. The port rigger goes to 66’ with slider at 60’, stacker at 54’ and slider at 48’. the starboard high diver is set to target 22’ while the deep starboard diver heads down to 57’. The port high diver is set to target 32’ while the deep port heads down to 75’. The starboard cores are 3 and 11 colors and the port cores are 6 and 15 colors. Condense and adjust as necessary.
All of the above spreads are starting points designed to cover the maximum amount of water without overloading a particular spot in the spread. I normally use braid divers, riggers and leadcore, but wire divers, copper, 1# balls can all be substituted to complete your spread. Next time you are on the water, try starting with these spreads, adjust as the fish and the conditions dictate, and see how your cooler looks at the end of the day.