Wes Bender is a legend on the hundreds of rainbow trout creeks, streams and rivers that flow into Lake Superior along its rugged north shore. The maker of the exquisite Superior Floats, Bender says that because spring weather is so unpredictable, water temperature is the controlling factor. “I have had great days fishing in the sun, and just as much success two days later fishing in a blizzard,” he says. “The key is rising water temperatures.”
Bender’s favourite method for catching acrobatic rainbows is with a 13-foot float rod and custom River’s Edge centrepin reel, although he notes you can catch just as many trout with a 10-foot spinning rod and reel.
“I use one of my custom floats (above) and an eight-millimetre acrylic bead for bait,” Bender says. “I have a plethora of colours, but my favourite is chartreuse. I run it as close to the bottom as I can, weighting my line so it gets down quickly and stays out in front of everything else.” That way, he says, his bait is the first thing a trout ever sees (see “Weight the bait” below).
While Bender doesn’t have a preferred depth because he’s constantly wading the river, moving upstream or down, he says his ideal water is always fast—and, of course, filled with willing rainbows.
Bonus tip: Weight the bait
The key to catching trout under a float is making sure your bait is the first thing a fish sees drifting with the current. The way to make that happen is by using what Superior Floats maker Wes Bender calls a “shot line”—an 18- to 24-inch length of fluorocarbon that’s slightly lighter than his main line. He typically uses 14-pound-test monofilament for the main line, followed by a 24-inch, 10-pound shot line and a 12-inch, eight-pound leader, with each segment connected by a swivel. Bender then attaches an array of splitshot to the shot line, starting with large shot at the top and progressively smaller shot as he goes down the shot line. That way, the current will push the bait downstream in a forward arc, always out in front of everything else.