Mark Davis beefs up marker buoys with an 80-pound mono main line, a twisted wire leader wrapped with electrical tape and 1 1/2 pounds of lead. The resulting beast is immune to sharp zebra mussel shells and stays put in the roughest waters. Both help him pick apart structure and catch brutes like this 5-plus Erie smallmouth.
When you’re fishing off-shore structure on big water, a marker buoy is your best friend. Sure, you use your GPS to find the structure and your sonar to pinpoint the key spots, but that low-tech piece of plastic and cord is what really lets you fish a spot well.
That thought lacks punch out of context, but it hits you like a truck when you’re on your fifth 5-plus-pound smallmouth of the day and you see your boat mate lipping a 6-12.
That guy was Shakespeare’s Mark Davis, and we were fishing the wholly unnatural smallmouths of Lake Erie off Buffalo, New York. Only minutes had passed since we’d motored up to a boulder- pocked reef, marked the high spot on the upwind end and began a controlled drift, dragging goby-pattern tubes along bottom. We used the marker to keep our bearings on the critical structure, and it paid off with several fish between 4 and 7 pounds!
Using markers in this way is nothing too extraordinary, but this was no ordinary buoy. On Erie, zebra mussels hug countless square miles of bottom, and their shell’s sharp edges reduce standard buoy cord to something like wet Kleenex in short order. Ours, however, stayed anchored rock-solid on the tip of the reef.
Davis had zebra-proofed it by trashing the original cord and re-spooling with 80-pound mono. He attached the line to a 3-foot, doubled over section of twisted 60- pound wire with a Bimini. Davis then haywire twisted the wire to the top eye of a 1-pound weight, and attached four 2-ounce pencil weights to the bottom eye with heavy-duty snap swivels. Finally, he wrapped the wire and both connections with electrical tape.
The heavy weight pins the buoy to bottom quickly, and the smaller weights serve as a kind of grappling hook. The tape-coated wire bears the brunt of the mussels’ assault. Davis also uses a large buoy to keep the wire and line off the bottom as much as possible.