“Nipper Madness” can strike at any time near bridge pilings, reefs and wrecks, or while drifting the passes or fishing the channels. These are times when a “Homeboy" spreader can be real handy. If you’ve fished for perch on the Great Lakes, as I did with my dad and uncles, you’re probably familiar with the spreader rigs specifically designed to present two of even three baited hooks at once.
The conventional Great Lakes spreader rig is made up of galvanized or stainless steel wire that is rigid and allows several mono leaders' hooks to be dressed with minnows, worms, waxworms, maggots, and such. The spreader is generally used to drift or drop fish on schooling panfish, so hooks are on the small size—number 1-2-3 or in that neighborhood—that suits the small maw; panfish that aren’t leader shy. All this hardware may not be too glamorous but it fills the bill when mobs of nibblers are in a mad competitive chew, swarming for a shot at the bite-sized tasty morsels.
Crappie fisherman and blue gill and cichlid anglers may already be familiar with variations of the spreader rigs. There is a neat application for the spreader presentation if you're a sheepshead angler, bridge hopper, or looking for oversized baits before your run offshore. When I and my cadre of old-timey pals are waiting out weather—or just looking to run for fun—we’ll grab a bag of frozen shrimp and check out the action off one of the many bridges and docks that line Estero Bay or one of the local marinas: it's a sheepshead, snapper, or grunt hunt. We get a kick outa kiddy fishing and generally come up with a nice mess of pan-handlers for a midafternoon fish sandwich fry-up. We’ll pick em up the few “Iwo Jima Eddies” and “Korean Snowbirds” that are still kicking and don’t have or want a boat ride, for some easy-boy early morning bridge angling, the original “Wounded Warrior” outings. Uh Rah, Gunny!
The tiny kit required to make up and fish the “Homeboy Spreader” couldn’t be simpler: 10–15 lb. fluorocarbon or, better yet, mono leader and # 1–2 light wire circle hooks. The spreader “makins” consist of a swivel—not a necessity—and a spool of 40–50–80 lb. wire trace for the body of the spreader, whatever's handy! You’ll want about a half-ounce slip-style egg sinker. I like the egg sinker arrangement. It requires no extra knots; just lace the egg sinker on the main line or search leader; couldn’t be easier! Or you can run the wire trace through the swivel and then run the wire ends through the egg sinkers, Apply a twist to keep both in place. Then splay the ends out, away from each other, to make the hook loops.
Here are the steps to make a spreader rig.
1. Choose your wire; about 40–50–80 lb. trace is right, stiff but still manageable.
2. You’ll need a fishing pliers, or facsimile, to cut lengths and aid in forming the haywire twist and loops for attaching the mono hook leaders.
3. A section of wire trace around 18 inches in length will allow you enough material to form your haywire loops easily.
4. You can start in the middle of the wire and form up the swivel attachment loop with or without the egg sinker. It’s up to you
5. Bend the wire ends and form your hook loops. Leave enough material to clip or haywire twist the tag ends of the finished loops, one at each end of the spreader. (To make the loops easier, use a pencil or any small diameter stick as an aid. Place the stick in the bend of the wire and then use your pliers to help start your loop twist.)
6. Tie on your hook and leader segments; about 8–10 inches of leader will suffice, just so the hooks don’t tangle on the drop.
A note on presentation: Feather the line as you drop the baited spreader. This will prevent any tangling as the rig sinks. The egg sinker weight-forward style will require a few cranks of the reel to get the bait off the bottom, allowing the baited hooks to drift in the current. This technique is very effective around pilings or anywhere there are current breaks, the usual home to sheepies, snapper, and other panfish cousins. Don’t be surprised if you snag a few reds, black drum, whiting, and all sorts of other good stuff!
Capt. Ron Kowalyk; 239-267-9312