Thank You

Creating Sport Fish Michigan has been a tremendously rewarding journey, and to see it come together has been awesome and humbling. Sport Fish Michigan started out as a way to attract attention from search engines for my Traverse City Bass Guide Service and Manistee River Salmon Guide Service businesses. It has since grown to be so much more – a network of the top Charter Captains and Guides in the state, and I could not be more proud.

Sport Fish Michigan, or SFM as I call it, now features some of the top Guides and charters around Michigan, all of whom I know personally. As SFM began to grow out of its humble web beginnings, I added friends of mine that were Captains and Guides, with the idea that we would share referrals to each other. We’re still small, but strong. And we are growing!

SFM features Guides and Captains that specialize in almost every species that anglers want to target here in Michigan. King salmon, coho salmon, atlantic salmon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, steelhead trout, brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, walleye, lake trout, perch, muskies, pike, panfish, and even some less commonly targeted species like carp, gar, catfish, and burbot!

All of these species thrill anglers of all ages! Not only do our Captains and Guides know how to target an angler’s species of choice, we have built a network that can facilitate an angler catching their preferred species using the techniques that they prefer. Casting artificial baits, vertical jigging, fly fishing, trolling, or casting live bait—SFM’s Captains and Guides have the knowledge and the boats to accommodate just about anything a customer could want.

Michigan is blessed with an incredible number of lakes, rivers, and streams, and most of these are clear bodies of water that were glacially formed. With such a variety of fish species to choose from, and with such a vast choice of waters to fish in, it can be hard to narrow down which guide to choose. All guides look good on a web site full of pictures. My intent with SFM was to create a top-notch referral service that would take the guesswork out of who to book on certain bodies of water.

Sport Fish Michigan is now even a sponsor of the very popular national television show, Hook N’ Look, hosted by renowned bass professional and retired tournament angler, Kim Stricker. Sport Fish Michigan is even sponsoring a local Traverse City high school bass team, encouraging the sport of bass fishing and the youths that enjoy fishing.

Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine had their annual Red Hot Best poll a few months back, and this year saw a couple of new categories, including the best Charter Boat Captain. The list of nominees and write-in candidates grew to an impressive length, as northern Michigan has world-class fisheries. There are lots of area guides and charters to choose from. I was lucky enough to be one of those nominated, and it was exciting to learn a month or so ago that I was one of the 3 top voted for in this new category. With the June issue on newsstands, it is an absolute thrill to finally let the cat out of the bag! Of the top 3 spots, I am actually the only Charter Boat Captain that offers fishing trips! That was a shock to me, considering how many well-established fishing charters there are in northern Michigan.

Hats off to Chien Nowland of the Nauti-Cat for garnering the top spot in this category, and to Chris West of the Ugly Anne up in Mackinaw City as well. Chien and Chris are both terrific operators of water cruises, taking customers sight seeing and sunset cruising in style. It is, without doubt, a tremendous honor and source of pride to be in the top 3, and especially to be the only fishing charter Captain.

I would like to sincerely thank all of those who voted in the Red Hot Best poll. Thank you to each and every one of my customers who have fished with me or one of my esteemed Sport Fish Michigan Captains and guides over the years, making each trip special and memorable. Many photos from our trips grace the web sites that make up Sport Fish Michigan. I would also like to thank my other Sport Fish Michigan Captains and Guides, and those that have helped us along the way. This honor isn’t just for me—it’s for all of us. We did it together. Thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and for working together to make something great!


Recognition – at last!

Recognition – at last! And every bit of it deserved!

Bassmaster Magazine and Bassmaster.com, the publications of B.A.S.S. just published the 2014 listings of the 100 hottest fisheries on the planet, and it feels like redemption for those of us that fish Grand Traverse Bays. Coming in at number 9 on the list of best fisheries, Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay even topped last year’s champ: Lake St. Clair. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Last year’s list lumped the entirety of Lake Michigan together, glazing over the very distinct bass fisheries that different areas of the lake have to offer. This year, two of the top ten spots went to Lake Michigan bass fisheries. This distinction provides Lake Michigan with the recognition it deserves. Five of the six Michigan lakes named are in northern Michigan, with Lake St. Clair as the only exception. With 5 of the top 100 best bass fisheries on the planet here in northern Michigan, it’s hard to not feel proud as punch to be a bass guide based in Traverse City!

This is exciting news to everybody who loves northern Michigan, and has been highlighted on several radio news broadcasts, as well as on the 9 & 10 Television News. On their May 1st Hook and Hunting segment, 9 & 10 News asked me for my thoughts on what this means to the Traverse City area, and what makes fishing on Grand Traverse Bay so special.

Naturally, the answers running through my mind were many, but with a limited segment, time only allowed for the boiling down to the “best of.” Here are some of my thoughts on the Bays ranking number 9, and what it means to northern Michigan:

  • With water clarity approaching 40 feet much of the year, and an average water clarity around 30 feet in the summer, the Bays resemble waters of the Caribbean. Watching fish swim is often easy to do, and sight casting to cruising fish is something that we can commonly do throughout the year.
  • Burt Lake, Mullet Lake, Thunder Bay, Lake Charlevoix, and Grand Traverse Bays are the 5 lakes located in northern Michigan. Lake St. Clair is the only lake in southern Michigan on the list. All of these fisheries boast phenomenal smallmouth bass fishing, and St. Clair also has a fantastic largemouth fishery.
  • Both water clarity and world-class fishing are what national television fishing shows are looking for, and northern Michigan delivers! With well-known television shows like Hook N’ Look, Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show, The Bass Pros, One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby, Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine all regulars, the area has certainly drawn its share of big-time anglers. Babe Winkleman has also filmed his long-time show here, as well.
  • The additional attention brought to the area will help the local economy, through increased bookings for guides such as my own Traverse City Bass Guide Service and Sport Fish Michigan. It will also help other area businesses like hotels, gas stations, fishing license revenues, restaurants, etc.
  • The area is very family friendly, and there are lots to do to entertain the troops when the fishing day is done. Then again, with such good fishing, I’m not sure how somebody could get enough!
  • Wineries, microbreweries, beaches, hiking trails, canoe and kayak rentals, sightseeing, and many other activities are sure to keep families and individuals busy. Choosing what to do is the easy part. Having to choose what not to do is probably the difficult part.
  • Even though Bassmaster ranked Grand Traverse Bay as the number 9 bass fishery on the planet, northern Michigan boasts other spectacular fisheries as well. The entire Great Lakes salmon fishery began just to the south of Traverse City, near the town of Frankfort on the Platte River. The Platte still has a world-class coho salmon fishery, and the king salmon fishing around Frankfort is stellar. Steelhead fishing on the area rivers is a favored past-time of countless anglers. Rainbow and brown trout are also highly sought-after species. In fact, the recent world record brown trout was caught on the Manistee River, just to the south of Traverse City. Lake trout, whitefish, walleye, perch, smelt, and even muskies fill out the impressive list of great angling opportunities in the area, regardless of the preferred method for fishing- be it casting, fly fishing, jigging or trolling.
  • With so many wonderful options in the area, Michigan is a fisherman’s paradise, not just during the warm summer months, but year-round!

No coffee needed!

It’s a pleasure fishing with customers who book with Traverse City Bass Guide Service. I enjoy meeting new people and sharing in their special day on the water as we fish for smallmouth bass on the beautiful world-class waters of Grand Traverse Bays. Occasionally, opportunities that don’t involve bass fishing present themselves that I love to pass along to my customers.

Such an opportunity presented itself several days ago when there was a hard north wind for a couple of days in northern Michigan. Late summer typically means that salmon will make their way close to river mouths where they will run upstream to spawn. A hard north wind will often stack the salmon up in thick numbers, making them easy for boats not outfitted for trolling, such as a bass boat, to use techniques other than trolling to cast to, and catch, these awesomely powerful fish.

In Traverse City, the Boardman River empties into West Bay. Adjacent to this river mouth is deep water, known as "the hole." Salmon congregate in large numbers in the hole, bringing with them a set of opportunities for catching them that doesn’t have to mean trolling from a large charter boat. While trolling this is a terrific technique enjoyed by many, others prefer a more hands-on approach. I am definitely one of those-enjoying the challenge and adrenaline rush of catching salmon with rod and reel in-hand.

A few days prior to my bass trip with a couple of new customers, when I typically contact my customers, I knew that there would be an opportunity to vertical jig for king salmon in "the hole." My customer, Michael, seeking a thrill for himself and for his son, readily agreed that targeting salmon would be an interesting alternative to bass fishing. We agreed to meet in the pre-dawn hours, getting out early trying to hopefully take advantage of the first light bite.

Early morning fishing requires caffeine if you’re me. In fact, for me, every day requires coffee-especially if you own a coffee company, which I do. Deep Blue Coffee Company supplies coffee to Traverse City Bass for its customers to enjoy during their trip, often eliminating a customer’s suffering through hotel coffee. They get to show up at the boat ramp, and I’ll have a great cup of coffee waiting for them.

This day, I somehow forgot the coffee carafe, and sent my customer a text that I had dropped the ball and forgotten the coffee. "No worries," he said, "I don’t drink that much coffee anyway." Nevertheless, I felt terrible about my oversight.

We launched the boat in the pre-dawn darkness, and headed down towards the hole in hopes of being able to hook up with some salmon by jigging Jonah Jigs, which were designed specifically for vertical jigging salmon. Armed with my G.Loomis jigging rods, we were rigged and ready for business! After showing my customer and his 13-year-old son the proper techniques for jigging, we began our day by looking for schools of salmon on my sonar. Bingo, there they were!!! "OK, drop guys!" By dropping our Jonah Jigs to the bottom and reeling up to the depth that the salmon were holding in I knew that we were in a good position to hopefully get bit in short order.

It wasn’t long before I felt the telltale aggressive jolt from a salmon, but didn’t hook up. Shortly after my bite, Michael also got a bite, stopping his heart for a moment. "You weren’t kidding when you said that this was an aggressive bite!" Now we were on to something. No sooner had he finished sharing his experience about the sensation of the bite, he was hooked up, with drag peeling off of my Shimano reel. "Holy **Bleep**!" he shouted, "NO COFFEE NEEDED!!! THIS IS AWESOME!" After a 5-minute battle full of drag pulling and powerful thrashing on the surface, our king salmon was in the net, coming aboard for some photos. Perfectly hooked right in the jaw.

I’m pleased to say that we were able to boat 4 salmon, out of the 7 that we hooked up with. We had numerous other bites, including a dandy lake trout that Michael’s son, Justin landed. The entire time, Michael kept saying how exciting it was to catch a salmon with a technique that allowed him to feel the bite and fight the fish all on his own. It was a fantastic morning of fishing, and the added benefit was that they were able to take their catch home, something that we don’t allow when we bass fish. As a guide, it’s gratifying knowing that my customers had a day that far exceeded their expectations. And to be able to take advantage of a unique set of opportunities made it all that much more special. We can’t always jig for salmon, but when the circumstances present themselves…. Good things can happen!


Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. An incredible amount, really! At Sport Fish Michigan, we are extremely blessed and lucky. We get to do what we love—we get to fish for a living, taking people out on the water for a memorable fishing adventure in the form of guide trips and charters, and we get to experience these memories with our customers as they happen. Not only this, but we are fortunate to be booked almost every single day of our seasons. And no bluffing here—we have tremendous customers!

From our Traverse City Bass Guide Service, Manistee River Salmon Guide Service, Wolfe Outfitters and on behalf of the others at our statewide network of the top Captains and guides, please accept our very heartfelt THANK YOU. Thank you for a wonderful season. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for helping to make our jobs a pleasure. Thank you for making our fishing seasons wildly successful yet again. Thank you for being such loyal customers, and thank you for your continued support and interest in our services. We look forward to having you aboard our boats next year, and wish you all the best until we have the pleasure of fishing together again.

The weather forecast for Thanksgiving looks like it’s going to be close to 60 degrees and sunny. Perfect for a day of fun fishing. And if that happens—I’ll be even more thankful.

Yup, it’s a bruiser carp from Grand Traverse Bay. And what a fun fight!!!


Putting the Gear Away for the Winter

It’s that time of year again. For us northern anglers, mid-November is the time where our bass fishing is winding down, and we start thinking about putting the gear away for an all-too-long winter. Many of us are thinking of tree stands and the deer rut, which here in the Traverse City, Michigan area, is in full swing.

My guide season with Traverse City Bass Guide Service is now finished for the year, and I am extremely thankful to all of my terrific customers for another busy, booked and fun season out on the Grand Traverse Bays and area inland lakes. We caught a lot of smallmouth (many of which were truly huge), shared a lot of stories and laughs and every single one of my customers was a pleasure to have aboard. I mean it—I’m not just being nice. Being booked almost every single day of the 5+ month long season is certainly something that I am thankful for this coming Thanksgiving. On another note, I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next week already! Yikes!

I’ve written about it before, but one of the most important things for my customer’s on-going success and me is equipment that is in perfect working order. I take the reels off of my rods, and carefully spin each reel to make sure that it is as smooth as possible. I visually inspect each reel, looking for dust, grime, sand and whatever else that might hinder a reel’s smooth operation. My equipment should never be the reason why things don’t go our way on the water, and this reel inspection is something that has become routine for me at the close of each season.

I sort each reel into one of 3 categories. Those that are in clean, smooth working order (likely those that only saw action a couple of times, spending the vast bulk of the season in my Ranger Z-520’s big rod locker); those that need a little light cleaning that I can do in my shop; and those that need some repair or more in-depth maintenance. Using exclusively Shimano reels, to me, means that I have fewer hassles in general, but also being on their guide/pro staff means that I have the luxury of using newer equipment than many. Despite this, I still try to take the best care of my equipment that I can.

For those that need more maintenance than I can do easily in my shop, I send them out to a qualified reel repair company, and set down to do the task of cleaning and lubricating the ones that I can do myself. Once this simple task is done, I always make sure that I leave the drag on each reel very loose. I don’t want excess tension on the drag, which will put undue pressure and wear and tear. This will also help prevent a “sticky” drag, where certain portions of the drag stick. I want each reel’s drag to be silky smooth, with no hesitations or sticky spots. By loosening the drag between fishing seasons, I can help to ensure this.

Of course, remember to tighten those drags when you do get out on the water next spring! There are few other great ways to start a string of four letter words than by trying to set the hook on a trophy bass in the spring only to find that the drag wasn’t set! Trust me on this!!!


“Hook N’ Look”

It was a distinct pleasure to have Traverse City Bass Guide Service film a television show this past week. Conditions were extremely tough, but we figured out a way to make something work. Kim Stricker and his son, Danny, came up to film for their show “Hook N’ Look” with me at Traverse City Bass. I’ve known Kim for a couple years, and we chatted for a while earlier this year at the East Bay boat launch in Traverse City. At the time, we discussed possibly filming a fall show, highlighting the aggressive nature of fall smallies by doing a spinnerbait show highlighting the Tour Grade spinnerbaits made by Strike King.

It was truly wonderful to welcome my friend back up to northern Michigan to film for his show. We had already delayed the shoot by several days due to bad weather, and unfortunately this time, it looked as if we were going to have to just shut up and fish (and film).

Naturally, all of the best planning in the world can’t account for Mother Nature’s ultimate decisions. Cold, windy, rainy conditions meant we were going to be filming in cold, windy, rainy, rough weather. I was pumped—I knew there would be some fish up in the mid shallows, and with the wind, this was going to be perfect for a Strike King spinnerbait show.

A few days prior, I contacted one of my other Sport Fish Michigan Captains to operate my own bass boat, which would function as the camera chase boat. Captain Kyle Buck drove up from Muskegon to be my camera boat driver. There were a couple of closer choices that I could have used within my network of Sport Fish Michigan network of Captains and Guides, but Kyle has a long history with foot-controlled trolling motors, and operating bass boats. Prior to becoming a licensed Captain, Kyle fished nationally in bass tournaments.

Originally scheduled for a 2 day shoot, yet hoping to accomplish everything in 1 day, we all met for breakfast on day one and talked strategy, weather, and shot the breeze for a while, letting the sun get up to warm things a bit. It was a chilly 37 degrees when we met that morning. Again, the best laid plans are sometimes ignored by Mother Nature. Our 2-day shoot turned into a 3-day shoot, as we fought the weather tooth and nail, trying to get the shots and video needed.

Having great outdoor gear is important, and for a time like this, it’s just as crucial. Not wanting to look like a total marshmallow or the Michelin Man, I opted for my Simms Fishing Products long underwear underneath regular clothes and my Simms Pro Dry bibs and parka. And naturally, I wore my Traverse City Bass hooded sweatshirt for good luck!

Kim and Danny Stricker setting up a shot to highlight Deep Blue Coffee Company’s coffee prior to launching our boats.

Danny Stricker about to jump into the water to film the underwater portions of Hook N’ Look.

Battling the wind and the waves in the Traverse City area trying to film the underwater segments for Hook N’ Look, which airs on the Outdoor Channel.


Michigan This Morning

What an incredibly busy month we have had this past month. Fishing every day, and flip flopping between my two guide services, Manistee River Salmon Guide Service fishing for king salmon on the Big Manistee River and my Traverse City Bass Guide Service guiding on Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. We have attracted some media attention, which is always welcome.

We filmed 6 small 2-minute segments with “Michigan This Morning”, a local morning show. During the filming, we highlighted both my coffee company, Deep Blue Coffee Company, and my 3 guide services. Despite beautiful weather conditions on the Manistee River, we struggled to get bites casting crank baits for the king salmon lurking in the deep holes. Bring out the cameras, and the fish get shy! Typical stage fright on the part of the fish, I’m guessing.

Not to make excuses, here, things were set up a little bit against us. For casting crank baits, we as anglers and guides rely on a couple of things to help us. First, we need plenty of fish in the system to really make the crank bait bite shine. Lots of fish makes the salmon even more territorial, and we did not have a lot of salmon in the deep holes that day. Secondly, due to the filming, we needed lots of light to allow the high definition cameras to do their best. The ultimate crank bait bite occurs the first half hour prior to first light through the first hour after sunrise. For this morning show, we were taping live, so we didn’t even get onto the river until 9am! Not an early start at all.

On the day, we filmed with my Wolfe Outfitters head guide, Matt Dunn, and Kalin Franks, the host of the “Michigan This Morning” show. Stephanie Adkins did all of the camera work, as well played producer. It was a great experience to pull in to the parking lot at Bear Creek, one of the launches where we have Federal permits, and have all of the other boats already well on their way, leaving the parking lot and ramp empty for us to film.

Kalin started out by interviewing me, introducing Deep Blue Coffee, talking a bit about the coffee company prior to launching our boat. We chatted about how I got into the coffee business, and what I offer my fishing customers each morning with my coffee.

After launching the boat, we ran to a few different spots, where I showed Kalin and Stephanie how we cast crank baits to the king salmon that inhabit the Big Manistee River in the fall. We did a few more interview segments to fill out the segment times, discussing everything from casting basics to cured egg presentations, to the great fisheries we enjoy in northern Michigan. Despite not having a good bite to really showcase, we had a terrific time fishing with Kalin and Stephanie. We shared stories and laughed a lot—much of which is probably good not to have captured on film! Thanks Kalin, Stephanie, Matt and “Michigan This Morning”.

And last but not least, it was fun and interesting to watch the segments the next day. I used my DVR to record the segments, since I was out on another guide trip, and watched the “Michigan This Morning” show that evening with my parents and wife. Exciting to see it all come together.

Kalin Franks introducing Deep Blue Coffee.

Kalin and I discussing the finer points of cured salmon eggs for bait.

Plugging the Deep Blue Signature Blend; the Cottage Morning and Great Lakes Blends.


Nice hat!

Reed Wawrzynek from New York State, with a lake trout he caught while fishing with Captain Andy Odette, out of the port of Frankfort. Another Sport Fish Michigan Captain scores for his customers again! Lots of lakers, steelhead trout and salmon were caught on this trip. Nice Traverse City Bass Guide Service trucker hat, Reed!