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Steve Foss

How-to guide for 'loopers

69 posts in this topic

I wrote this a couple years back, and it's about the season when people start asking questions about the topic, so I thought I'd sticky it to the top of the page. Feel free to add your different experiences or other techniques and tactics I haven't touched on.

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Here’s a quick course on loopers the way I do it. Others do things slightly differently, and there’s lots of room for difference and experimentation, but these are the basic shore angler looper techniques. Thought I’d run through the whole thing all in one post, so it’s all there instead of scattered piecemeal throughout the board.

Rods: 8 to 10 foot spinning rods, light action that’s appropriate for 4 to 8 lb line. Stiff butt and fast tip are good. You can use shorter rods, but long rods mean longer casts and more shock resistance when you’re fighting a fish. The also keep your line off the waves that break near shore, which can pull your rig into rocks if your rod’s too short. You can find affordable rods from $40 to $80.

Reels: Spinning reels. I use the inexpensive 4000 series Shimano reels, which have smooth enough drags and a big spool. Big spool also means longer casts since each revolution contains more line on a big spool compared to a small one. These reels run about $30.

Line: Maxima 6 lb, with a 6 lb fluorocarbon leader about three feet long. I use fluoro on the live bait slip rigs because it’s one more advantage against sometimes finicky trout. Whatever your main line is, whether mono or braid, it MUST be abrasion resistant. Standard soft lines will get chewed up on the rocks when a fish runs.

Rigging: There are two basic live bait rigs, the slip rig and the bobber rig. The slip rig is just like a walleye slip sinker rig, except the sinker is a slinky (how to make them later). On main line, slip on the sinker, then tie a barrel or ball-bearing swivel, then 3 feet or so of fluorocarbon, then a small strong hook, a No. 8 or 10. You bait them with floating spawn sacks (you can buy them or make them) or a night crawler hooked once or twice and injected with air so it floats. Some guys add a twist of green or red yarn as an attractor, but that’s never made a difference for me. However, it’s all what you’re confident in, and experimenting is part of fishing. You hook the spawn bag by passing the hook through the fabric gathered in a knot. It’ll never cast off the hook if properly hooked. The other rig is a slip-bobber. The bobber of choice is a custom made weighted bobber that casts a mile, is available at Duluth tackle stores and is called a Ross bobber. I don’t use fluorocarbon on this rig because I tie it like a standard slip bobber, with the knot first (no bead needed, since the bobber has one built in). Tie a looper bug on the end (small weighted jig especially made for this. Cheap and in all the Duluth tackle stores). Tip the looper bug with a couple waxies. The bobber slides all the way down to the bug before you cast, which is another reason you can cast a mile with them. I set mine from 3 to 5 feet deep. The bugs come in all colors, with black and purple being the standards and most commonly used. But some days bright colors are better. Don’t worry if the bobber drifts back in close to shore. Lots of fish come only 30 feet offshore, not just from farther out. A note on bobber color: Black is best in many situations. If the sun is out, North Shore anglers are staring into it, and it’s low in winter, so black shows up really well in silhouette. I like the blaze orange on days when color shows up easily. Get a couple of each and see which color works best for you. Some folks chuck spoons for loopers in winter/early spring and catch some, but with the water so cold I think your odds of catching them are better with the bait/bobber rigs.

Rod holders: I use 2-foot-long PVC pipe in 1.5 inch diameter and buy steel dowel from the hardware store, cutting it about 3 feet long. Using black electrical tape, wrap it around and around, fastening the rod to the outside of the PVC with about 2 feet sticking out. You can drive these into the pebble/sand beaches using a handy rock (watching out you don’t shatter the PVC), or you can use bigger stones to make a pile and anchor the shaft. With these holders and the 8.5-foot rods I use, the tip of your line stands over 10 feet off the ground, keeping it out of the close-in breakers. But standard 7-foot walleye spinning rods with the lower-capacity reels work OK. You can’t cast quite as far and it’s a bit harder to keep the line off the waves, but plenty of guys who don’t want to shell out for new rods/reels do it that way, and they catch fish too.

Slinky sinkers: I make them by buying nylon hockey laces, some shot in bulk and some big split shot sinkers, as well as some snap swivels. You’ll need a lighter, too. Cut the hockey lace into about 3-inch lengths. Burn one end with the lighter to seal it. Stuff in shot (I used No. 8 shot), as much as you think you want. Then put in a couple big split shot and work them down in, which will pack the shot nicely. Then trim and burn the open end, flattening it with your fingers when it cools a bit. Then open the snap swivel and stick it through the flattened end beyond the melt, through the lace and back out the other side. Fasten. There you go, a slinky, and way cheaper than you can buy them. Mine averaged about 2 inches long. Not sure how much weight, but you’ll lose far fewer slinky rigs than with standard sinkers.

Some other notes: Half my catch was loopers, half coho. The season picks up in January and continues to get better, especially around the rivers, right up through the April spawn. You can set the hook hard on loopers, which usually take in the whole bait right away, but cohos bite more gently, a rat-a-tat-tat kind of thing, and I’d hook them by slowly tightening up the line and reeling in. No need to set, because the hooks are sharp. If you set it on a coho bite you’ll often pull it right out of the fish’s mouth. I have one stiffer rod that I used for the spawn bag rigs (which stay on the hook no matter what) and the bobber rigs. Made for really long casts. My softer rod I used for the crawler rig, which needs the softer touch while casting. And you won’t get it out that far, but it won’t matter. At least half my fish came on the crawler. Use patience when fighting and landing these fish. A 9-pound looper on 6 lb line is a lot of fun and a lot of fight. No net needed. As the fish tires, you can ease it right up on shore, allowing the waves to help push the fish in. Of course, if you’re on a rock shelf instead of a beach you’ll probably want a net.

Good luck.

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Here is a tip I would like to add from personal experience. On overcast or windy days especially early in the AM, the fish are not always out there at the end of one of those howitzer kind of casts. I sat there one day fishing way out there, and a guy walks up and casts 30 - 40 feet and promptly smacks a looper, I thought what a fluke, 10 minutes later he gets another. Well I may not be a rocket scientist, but the light bulb did come on and I lightened up the weight and started fishing a lot closer, and sure enough the fish were in pretty tight to shore.

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Yeah, nothing drives a looper guy quite as crazy as when he's gunning those casts way out there only to have someone lob a crawler 30 or 40 feet out and land fish. That's why I liked the two-rod deal. One goes way out and the one with the crawler stays in close.

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Last looper question before I actually give it a try... When you're using the bobber rig, do you recommend using a leader of any kind?

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I never did. One reason the rig casts so far is that I rigged it with a slip knot and bead, and the bobber rode all the way down to the bug on the cast. That way there was no foot or two of line trailing out behind and catching wind. You can peg looper bobbers so they don't slide, but I never did that unless it was cold enough that water buildup would freeze on the line and prevent the slip bobber operation. In cold like that, I'd peg my bobber and just not get casts quite as long. But, as already stated, there are many days when you don't have to gun it a mile to catch loopers.

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Im just beginning to fish for loopers and have a couple questions. Would you recommend using a whole crawler or a half a crawler? Do the cohos ever bite on the crawlers? Do you have to use the fluroucarbon leader when bait rigging? What are some methods for keeping the crawler off the bottom besides blowing it up? Does anyone just use a marshmallow ahead of it or one of the floaters you would put on a lindy rig to keep it off the bottom? Thanks in advance for the help.

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I always used a whole crawler (though I liked the short, stocky ones best) and hooked it twice before blowing it up.

Cohos bite very well on crawlers.

I used a fluorocarbon leader (6 lb test) when using the slip rigs on the bottom with spawn bags or crawlers, but did not use it for slip-bobber rigging because I wanted the bobber to ride all the way down to the looper bug when I cast. I don't have any evidence that loopers or cohos bite more readily when there's a fluorocarbon leader, it just seemed like a smart thing to do for trout in clear water, and, since I've never loopered without them on the slip rigs, I have nothing else to compare it with. I will say that I got bit just fine with no fluorocarbon on the bobber rig, so I doubt fluorocarbon is really a big deal. Although a small spool only costs a few bucks, and since you have a swivel before the leader you've got to tie on some length of some type of line anyway, and why not make it a so-called "invisible" line?

To keep the crawler off the bottom without a blower, you can put a mini marshmallow on the hook with it, but I always felt the most natural presentation was best, and a worm blower only costs a couple bucks. Or a person can go dumpster diving or just check the gutters in downtown Duluth. Plenty of used hypodermic needles there, and the crawler's going to die anyway. Well, sorry, it just occurred to me. crazy.gif

I never liked a floating jighead because it's just not very natural looking, and cohos in particular have smaller mouths. Not that it wouldn't work, necessarily, just that I've never tried it. I just always head great luck with a worm blower. You only need to pop it lightly in one or two places to get the worm off the bottom. No need to blow it up like a balloon.

Good luck, and have a great time. grin.gif

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I've always been a mini marshmallow guy, preferably the pink ones:) Use them on the shore and up on the trout lakes, and I think my hookup rate is as good as any. I also like the shorter crawlers, and I still give em' a shot of air, just in case the mallow comes off. Straight 6 lb trilene for me, although I guess fluro can't hurt.

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I know this much: after snorkeling around the river mouths last summer picking up tackle, I'll definitely be using a fluorocarbon leader. Regular mono stood out in the clear water of Lake Superior--I could spot it a long way off.

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I guess Ill be using a flurpcarbon leader. Im planning on going out the first weekend of April. Will the fish still be biting then? Ill try to find a worm blower at the bait shop otherwise itll be miny marshmallows. Thanks for the tips.

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What would be the best springtime bait? A crawler or a looper bug or spawn under a bobber?

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Better than a worm blower is just a needle like a diabetic would use. Smaller needle works better in my opinion.

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Wally, there is no best springtime bait. Try them all and let the fish tell you what they want. It can change from day to day. That's why having the flexibility of multiple bait presentations of two rods is such a benefit for loopering.

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I remember back about 15 yrs ago the guys that could get their hands on Wiggler(stone fly nymphs) use to just kill em.

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I prefer to peg the bobber rather than use the slip tie as you would with a traditional slip float. With freezing morning temps the line might not slide through the float stem or sometimes the bug just doesn't pull hard enough to get that line to go through. Either way you'll only be fishing as deep as your bobber. With the peg you have reassurance that your bug is at the right depth every time with no worries of the stop knot moving or catching on the eye of the rod and whipping off your rig. I have noticed no restriction of casting distance by pegging as opposed to the slip bobber rig. With the peg just watch your rig throughout the cast and be careful of your line wrapping around the bobber stem. As far as baits in relation to weather/temps I feel that a bug/waxie combo is a better option now and as the water warms a few degrees spawn and crawlers will increasingly get more bites then they would with the present conditions. Usually can't go wrong ever with a bug under a bobber though.

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Just a quick note about those little orange pegs for your bobbers. Be sure to remove them carefully, especially if it's cold out. They have a tendency to break off inside the bobber. If this happens, you can bring them home and drill them out. I have had to do this more than once. Anyone know of a good site for tying knots? I need to work on my yarn flies. They are pretty ugly. Good luck on the big pond!

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Carry a piece of metal hanger with if you're using the pegs. If you break a peg remove the yellow cap from the top of the bobber stem and use the hanger piece to push out the peg. I wouldn't suggest doing this without retying afterwards. Stock up on pegs too.

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Quote:

Carry a piece of metal hanger with if you're using the pegs. If you break a peg remove the yellow cap from the top of the bobber stem and use the hanger piece to push out the peg. I wouldn't suggest doing this without retying afterwards. Stock up on pegs too.


I'm not quite sure of the setup on those bobbers, but would a cheap cribbage board plastic peg do the trick? if what you are using is made of wood about toothpick size, this could be a good alternative. On a side note, I have been meaning to get up there for loopers for a longggggg time, but never have. Maybe this will be the year smile.gif

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Cribbage pegs may work but Im thinking they are a bit too thin. Fishermans Corner had tons of the pegs last time I was up there. Marine General may have some now but were out a few months back.

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Stupid question maybe?....from a Michigan man.

What the heck is a looper?

Sounds like my steelhead rig to me.

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Kamloops strain of rainbow trout. Originally from British Columbia, if I'm remembering right, and stocked in L.S. as a put-grow-and-take fishery.

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You mean they dont have loopers in Michigan? Im just a beginning looper fisherman myself so im not an expert on them either but I think they are closely related to the Steelhead. THey are a strain of Lake run rainbows that come back to the streams to spawn just like a steelhead.

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They do stock a few loopers in parts of lake michigan, they don't clip them like they do here. They also stock arlees and a variety of other rainbow and steelhead strains, and most people just refer to them all as "steelhead" over there.

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Quote:

You mean they dont have loopers in Michigan? Im just a beginning looper fisherman myself so im not an expert on them either but I think they are closely related to the Steelhead. THey are a strain of Lake run rainbows that come back to the streams to spawn just like a steelhead.


We may have them....but they're called skamania steelhead...if they're the same one's. They're a summer run steelhead with a peak run around July. They were originally planted in S. Lk. Mich. by Indiana and then Michigan got involved and the two states began to swap chinook smolts for skamania smolts. Never heard them called loopers though. Must just be a regional thing. I assume you guys call them loopers because they are anadromous and basically make a loop every year; meaning they are lake run for most of the year but travel inland to spawn, then return back to the big water.....hence making a big loop!

Look them up!

UPDATE: I just looked into it. Basically what you are fishing is a steelhead, but the stain is called a Kamloop rainbow. Go to Yahoo and type in "looper steelhead", there's some good info there. Try "skamania steelhead" too. Interesting read on both of them.

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They're called Kamloops ('loopers) because the strain came from Kamloops, B.C. It's a different strain than the skamania strain, though they are both rainbow trout. Kamloops on Lake Superior's North Shore are a spring-run fish.

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