It’s one of the fundamental questions in fishing. Much like male baby boomers were faced with the question of “Ginger or Mary Ann,” many anglers have long been faced with that age-old query, “If you only had one lure to use what would it be?”
If You Only Had One Lure
Article after article has vigorously pursued this question trying to offer plausible answers, but it’s never really been settled. That is until now as Yakima Bait Company the makers of iconic brands like Hildebrandt, Poe’s, Rooster Tail, Timber Tiger, FlatFish, Spin-N-Glo and dozens of other well-known lures and brands, is working to prove their point.
Let’s Rewind to 2012
Rewind to 2012 and the sportfishing industry’s annual tradeshow, ICAST. That’s where the pro team from Yakima Bait made the rounds with the media and began looking for the nation’s ultimate multi-species destination. The idea was to prove that Yakima Bait’s Rooster Tail is the “world’s most versatile multi-species lure.”
The goal is to catch in a week’s time at one location as many different Lake Ontario fish species as possible using only a Rooster Tail spinner. The objective of that effort is to set the “Rooster Tail World Record” and capture it all on video.
But through the literally dozens of media outlets that were pitched, one rose above the rest. Ted Dobs of Lake Ontario Outdoors was so convincing in his praise of Lake Ontario that we had to make upstate New York and the “Golden Crescent” the place to go to prove at least part of our point.
“We have it all,” Ted started, “Salmon, steelhead, smallmouth and largemouth bass, brown lake trout, lakers, walleye, musky, pike, pickerel, all kinds of panfish. I’m confident you can get what you’re looking for at the Golden Crescent.”
Henderson Harbor and the Golden Crescent certainly don’t have the lock as the country’s best multi-species destination, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many that rival this area. We looked, and even in our home waters of the northwest, no other place has as many different Lake Ontario fish species as well-represented as Henderson Harbor and the surrounding waters of the eastern Lake Ontario region. Quantity and quality made for an ideal location for our purposes.
Ted hooked us up with Captain Bill Saiff III, a guide’s guide and son of legendary angler and TV fishing icon Bill Saiff Jr. Bill’s Westview Lodge at Henderson Harbor NY is the ideal fishing getaway in this area.
For guides of Bill’s caliber, our request was bordering on unreasonable. That is, our pursuit required him to abandon fishing the lures he knows and uses daily and with us fish only Yakima Bait Rooster Tail spinners. Bill didn’t blink. Right from the start he was onboard, a testament to his personal prowess, confidence, and deep understanding of the area’s fisheries.
Can we Fish Flashers?
“Can we fish flashers?” Bill asked. “Sure, just as long as fishing with a Yakima Bait Rooster Tail is on the business end of the line,” I answered. “We can troll, jig, or cast these spinners. Better yet, there are four different Rooster Tail types:
- The Original,
- and Super Rooster Tail.
That’s what makes this lure so versatile and effective. There are four different styles of fishing with a Rooster Tail in 10 different sizes and more than 200 different colors.”
In the six months leading up to our trip, we launched and completed a national promotion. Through the contest one person would be selected to join iconic salmon and steelhead pro, Buzz Ramsey, to fish Henderson Harbor NY for four days and help us set the “Rooster Tail World Record.” From those hundreds of contestants, Washington State resident and outdoor enthusiast Todd Pearson was selected to join Buzz for the trip of a lifetime.
Our Trip in Mid-September of 2013
In mid-September of 2013, we landed in Syracuse and our trip started. It was a homecoming of sorts for Buzz. In 1980 he towed a drift boat from Michigan with a friend and was credited as the first person to run the Salmon River. Buzz says there was someone else who’d made the float before him, but many locals believe otherwise.
New Methods of Fishing
On that storied week on the Salmon River, Buzz introduced several new methods of fishing to the area. Backtrolling plugs, diver/bait fishing and new drift fishing techniques all took hold after Buzz’s introduction of these west coast tactics to Pulaski. Buzz made several trips back to Pulaski through the 1980s, and now, 25 years later, he was back to fish the area.
“We launched right here (Altmar Bridge), the water was high and running hard but it looked perfect. In the first half mile of the river, we fished we landed 10 steelhead. It was terrific fishing, just about as good as you’ll find anywhere,” Buzz shared.
Our Assault on Lake Ontario: How It Was
We made the short hop from Pulaski to Henderson Harbor to find that several boxes of gear had arrived. It’s better to have too much than too little. We spent the next day getting our gear ready for our assault on Lake Ontario.
To be clear, every Rooster Tail we used can be readily purchased. There were no custom sizes or custom colors, but we came fully prepared and had literally hundreds of spinners to choose from.
With all the players in Henderson Harbor NY, Ted Dobbs from Lake Ontario Outdoors, Buzz, our camera crew, Todd, our contest winner, me, and of course, Bill Saiff, we’d agreed to divide and conquer. Buzz and Todd would be fishing from Saiff’s charter boat while I joined Ted Dobbs in his bass boat and worked other areas of the lake.
Over the next four days, our collection of spinners landed dozens of smallmouth bass, some largemouth, a couple of nice northerns and several smaller fish, pickerel, sunfish, bluegill, crappie and several lake trout. Rock bass, one of the targets, strangely had gone into hiding and were just nowhere to be found.
We found plenty of brown trout and walleye on our fishfinder. They are generally easy catches for Yakima Bait Rooster Tail spinners, but they were completely uncooperative in the few hours we spent trying to get them to bite. Smallmouth were especially receptive, but the lake’s northerns had a strong affinity for these spinners too.
When you cast Yakima Bait Rooster Tails all day, every day for four days straight, you learn a lot about how versatile and effective these spinners are across a broad spectrum of Lake Ontario fish species. At times we burned these spinners back to the boat, making long casts and starting the retrieve just as the ¼ ounce Yakima Bait Rooster Tail hit the water. Smallmouth, northerns and pickerel would come out of nowhere, crushing these spinners in an all-out ambush attack.
The Color that Paid Off in the Stained Water
One color that paid off in the stained water we fished was called “Clyde.” Only recently added to the line, this color is a hit around the country with its pink body and chartreuse blade that’s visible and highly effective in off-colored water. The standard finishes worked well in the clear water areas. Blacks, browns, reds and metallic finishes all caught fish.
We did particularly well at one point with small, light 1/24 ounce Rooster Tails in bright yellows and pinks alongside bridge abutments. We’d pitch spinners alongside the abutments, allowing them to flutter vertically. Bluegill and other sunfish would grab them on the fall as the line would change direction slowly, moving to one side or the other. For a couple of hours we sorted through one fish after the next trying to locate and catch as many different Lake Ontario fish species as possible.
When the fantastic brown trout fishing turned on it was lights-out fishing using ½ ounce Rooster Tails in a range of colors including black, fluorescent red, and glitter pink. These fish all came on the troll, some with flashers, some without.
What is the Advantage of Cast-and-Retrieve Lure?
The beauty of any cast-and-retrieve lure is that you can capably cover lots of water efficiently and effectively. In the case of the Yakima Bait Rooster Tail, one lure can fish a variety of depths as you cast and count the spinner down before starting your retrieve. This allows the spinner to drop into different zones throughout the water column.
A Little About the Yakima Bait Rooster Tail
Another hit was the Super Rooster Tail. A safety-pin styled spinnerbait, the Super Yakima Bait Rooster Tail is the bridge between an in-line spinner and full-sized spinnerbait. It’s unique profile and size makes it lethal for bass and panfish. We fished and caught fish on several different sizes and colors ranging from 1/8 ounce up to ½ ounce. White, black, chartreuse and rainbow all proved effective.
Conclusion of Our Trip to Henderson Harbor and Lake Ontario
For all of us, our trip to Henderson Harbor and Lake Ontario was an eye-opener. Its reputation as one of the nation’s top fisheries is well-deserved. The diversity, quality and hospitality are on-par with any “blue-ribbon” fishery found anywhere in North America. And thanks to this wonderful destination, we laid the groundwork for setting the “Rooster Tail World Record” with 8 species, which has since grown to over 30 and should eclipse 50 or more by fall of 2014.
Special thanks goes to Lake Ontario Outdoors for their support and guidance in putting our trip together, and certainly to master guide, Captain Bill Saiff III and his Henderson Harbor retreat, Westview Lodge. We landed with high expectations and they were exceeded. Thank you!
Original Article By Trey Carskadon
About The Author
Trey Carskadon is a full-time fishing professional from Tualatin, Oregon, just south of Portland. He’s worked as a fishing guide, tournament pro, TV show host (America’s Outdoor Journal), radio show host and outdoor writer. After his first trip to Lake Ontario, he’s vowed to return.