Reviewed by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

            In areas of Lake Erie where the major forage is emerald shiners, walleyes and other predators are particularly receptive to striking stick baits. Stick baits are also particularly productive in other areas of the Great Lakes in places or at times when smelt are available.

But stick baits by their nature are shallow running lures. Sure, there are deep diver stick baits such as Reef Runners or Jr. Thunder Sticks that will dive deeper than a straight Rapala or Rattlin’ Rogue but the action of the deep divers is completely different and often just won’t turn the trick.

There’s not a place on the Great Lakes where spoons aren’t the lure of choice at least at some times of the year. Spoons by their nature aren’t deep runners. Most of the Great Lakes trolling spoons are flutter type and can only be used with a weight, diver or downrigger to get them under the waves.

There are plenty of ways to present a spoon or stick bait deeper than it will dive on its own. Put a weight ahead of it, run it on a downrigger, wiggle it along using copper or leadcore line. All will work and depending on the situation may be the presentation of choice.

Another option, however, is using Stingray Divers from Church Tackle. These mini-divers come in three sizes and all of them will work with the size and type of lures normally used on the Great Lakes. The largest size will even pull six-inch, coho-sized dodger and fly combos. The smallest, #1 Stingray is black, the #2 is bright orange and the largest, #3 is chartreuse.

The larger two sizes have four holes in them. The front two holes are attachment places for the line to rod, the other two are attachment points for the leader. They come with snaps, but I don’t think they would run much different if the line or leader is tied direct. Connect line or leader in the different holes to make it troll shallower or deeper. Hook it to the lower connection points and the Stingray is mostly just an in-line sinker. Tie to the upper tow point with the main line and the upper leader connection hole to get the maximum dive.

Guessing the depth any sort of diver will achieve is better measured more by “rules of thumb” than by printed dive charts. Change the trolling speed, change the lure being trolled, change the diameter of the line, the type of line being used or vary the amount of line deployed and the trolling depth will change. Church “suggests,” however, the large Stingrays (size #3) will dive at a two to one “line length/depth achieved” ratio, the mid-mini (size #2) is three to one and figure four to one when using the mini-mini, size-one Stingray. It’s a starting point.

Stingrays are widely available in tackle shops, at on-line retailers or at

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