Slams are often overrated, especially if you take them too seriously. But there’s something to be said for setting a goal and testing yourself—all in the name of fun, of course. Here are a handful of summer fishing slams that don’t require plane tickets or deep pockets. Just be sure to check regulations before rigging up.
1. Midwest: The Great Lakes Slam
Species: Lake and brown trout, chinook and coho salmon, steelhead
Where: Ludington, Michigan
Tackle: Orange spoons, black bombers, alewives, herring strips
Why: There are few places in the country, or the world, where you’ll have a better shot at so large a variety of species in a single summer day.
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How: Glen Buehner of Raptor Charters, no stranger to slams, says water between 45 and 55 feet holds browns in the summer. Once you’ve got your brown, start multitasking. Buehner trolls high lines, between 8 and 10 feet of water, for steelhead and simultaneously trolls deeper for salmon, maintaining a speed of between 2.5 and 4 mph, slowing when he locates a bite. If lakers aren’t suspended, the “mud chickens” will be right on the bottom in 100 feet or more of water.
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2. Southeast: The Bream Slam
Species: Bluegills, redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, spotted sunfish
Where: Suwannee River, Florida
Tackle: Grasshoppers, worms, small weighted curly-tail jigs, spider flies
Why: ‘Cause you can complete this Tom Sawyer-style with a cane pole and crickets. And that’s cool.
How: Get dirty and bust out the bugs. We’re talking crickets, grass shrimp, and worms. Target the outflow from creeks and shady, foliage-covered riverbanks. If you want more of a challenge, throw a popping bug, small spider fly, or even a nymph on a lightweight flyfishing outfit. Look for submerged vegetation (which you can find on the upper reaches of the Suwannee), which attracts more aquatic insects for sunnies to suck down. Spotted sunfish are the prize attraction here.
3. South: The Texas Trash Slam
Species: Alligator gar, channel or flathead catfish, smallmouth buffalo, bowfin, pickerel
Where: Trinity River, Texas
Tackle: Live perch, cut carp or sucker meat, spinnerbaits, weedless soft-plastics
Why: They’re big and ugly and fun, and you can brag about your bag at the bar to the next guy who talks trash about his permit, bonefish, and tarpon trip.
How: Start by targeting giant flathead catfish on the river. These beasts are suckers for a live yellow perch. Lake Conroe on the river will give you a shot at channel cats to 30-plus pounds. Next, go for gator gar. Fish a healthy slab of cut bait near the bottom. Smallmouth buffalo can be found in larger pools and depressions, where they forage for algae and crustaceans. Run a spinnerbait through shallow bays for bowfin. Twitch it to mimic a dying baitfish and expect pickerel to pursue it, particularly after a heavy rain.
4. West: The Montana Trout Slam
Species: Brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and cutbow trout
Where: Missoula, Montana
Tackle: San Juan worms, stoneflies, salmonflies, small spoons, or any of these lures
Why: Rivers like the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, and Clark Fork are temples to those who are ever tempted by trout.
How: Start with brown trout on Rock Creek outside Missoula. Look for big bugs coming off midmorning at this time of year. Skip the dry flies and tie on a San Juan worm. The upper portion near Philipsburg is likely to hold the most cutthroats, your next target. Browns and rainbows are more common in the lower section. Next, hit the Bitterroot. In mid-July, stoneflies and green drakes will be coming off in abundance, and you’ll have a shot at rainbows and cutthroats. With the remaining daylight, hit the Clark Fork River for a shot at a cutbow to seal the slam.
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