I had a chance to discuss Lake Erie fishing with Morgan Trojner, who works for LIVETARGET Lures. What I noticed about Morgan was that he was catching a lot of big Smallmouth Bass on Lake Erie out of a relatively small boat for such a big body of water. In this interview, Morgan shares his strategies to fishing Lake Erie from his Crestliner, thoughts about safety on the water and his favorite baits for catching big Lake Erie Smallmouth Bass.
What areas of Lake Erie do you fish?
I mainly fish the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie. Being from the Niagara Region of Ontario, I am fortunate to have to have this awesome fishery right in my backyard.
The Eastern Basin is home to some of the biggest Smallmouth and is arguably the best location in Ontario and United States for trophy fish. This area has a strong population of bait fish in addition to extensive stretches of rocky shorelines and drop offs leading to excellent offshore structure. These conditions make a perfect recipe for giant fish. I also fish Long Point / Turkey Point in the summer months but more for Largemouth.
What boat are you using to take on Lake Erie?
I currently fish out of a Crestliner Kodiak 167 with a 50hp Mercury. Although this is far from a “big water boat”, it gets me out on the water and home safely. Having a smaller boat, I am always conscious of weather conditions before heading out.
The key feature on my boat is good electronics. Having side imaging is a must on these bigger bodies of water to help rule out “dead water” faster.
What are some of your keys for reading your electronics on the lake?
Knowing how to read your electronics is key when fishing on Lake Erie. The first thing I will do is find structure on the GPS portion of my unit. With 1 foot contour lines available, these spots are fairly easy to find.
Once you find structure you feel fish would be holding on based on the time of year, idle over it and find the “spot on the spot”. I am looking for soft to hard bottom transitions, boulders, ledges or any irregularity as these areas are generally going to hold food for Smallmouth to feed on.
Safety is always a concern on Lake Erie. How do you approach a day on the water from a safety perspective?
Absolutely. I am always sure to check different sources for weather reports and always try to fish with a partner. Wearing a PFD or float suit in colder weather is a must along with having functional bilge pumps and a cell phone.
Always be aware of the conditions as the wind could suddenly pickup causing big waves and an uncomfortable ride back to the dock. Having a backup plan in mind if this happens is encouraged.
You work with LIVETARGET Lures. What is your job for them?
I am on the Sales and Marketing team at LIVETARGET headquarters. I run our social media channels, work trade shows, handle communication with channel partners inlcuidng consumers, customers, sales representatives, and media partners. Plus, I do any other sales or marketing projects.
The best part about working in the fishing industry is getting to talk fishing all day, meeting pros and having the inside edge on new products.
What are your favorite LIVETARGET baits when fishing for Lake Erie smallmouth?
My favourite LIVETARGET lures for Smallmouth on Lake Erie are our Goby, Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait,Yearling Jerkbait, Threadfin Shad Magnum Crankbait, HFC Crawfish Crankbait, and the entire Yellow Perch family. I am excited to fish our new Swimbait Series this year especially the Gizzard Shad, Trout, Golden Shiner, and Yellow Perch. These lures all shine in the spring especially the Jerkbaits and Crankbaits.
The key to fishing the Goby is to maintain bottom contact. Gobies can make up to 70% of a Smallmouths diet and they reside right on the bottom so I always have one rod in my boat rigged with this bait. As far as cranking, cover water and again having bottom contact is key to success.
Beyond LIVETARGET, what are some of your favorite go-to baits on Erie?
In the summer when the bite gets tough, a drop shot is tough to beat. Then when they fish move deep again the the fall, a blade bait or jigging spoon is excellent as generally these fish will be feeding on giant schools of baitfish.
For next year, I am going to let you only fish one rod and reel combination, one type and size of line, and one bait all year on Erie for smallmouth. Breakdown your choices for us.
This is a tough one for sure! I would have to go with a 7’1″ St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Spinning Rod with a Shimano Stradic 2500 spooled with 15lb. braid to a 12lb. fluorocarbon leader.
As mentioned earlier, the Goby makes up a large portion of a Smallmouth’s diet so I would have to choose a LIVETARGET Goby with a paddle tail in either the 605 Natural or 607 Brown/Pumpkin in the 90 (3/4oz) size. This is a very versatile bait as it can be dragged along bottom in deep water or reeled back like a swimbait.
What are the most important pieces of advice you have for anyone fishing Erie for the first time?
Cover water, be confident in your electronics and don’t give up. Fishing big bodies of water can be frustrating but when you find fish the reward will be worth your time and effort.
Thank you so much Morgan for sharing this great information. As Morgan has shared, Lake Erie is a fantastic fishery but can also be a dangerous one. Have fun and be careful on the water!
You can follow Morgan on Instagram to keep up with his Lake Erie success.