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TROLLING TACTICS FOR WALLEYE FISHING

Scenario: Warm, misty overcast evening in August. Mid lake rock humps topping out in the 16 to 22 foot range.

hump1Usually, by late August many walleyes in deep clear lakes begin to leave their summer home ranges,suspended over deep open water, and migrate onto nearby rock and gravel humps. More often than not, the best humps top off at a range near the lake’s thermocline. For example, if a lake typically thermoclines at 22 feet, humps in the 18 to 22 foot range are most apt to hold fish, while shallower cropping structures will be less productive.

When these mid lake humps are small, one can usually do quite well jig fishing them, but more so these humps tend to be large. This is when board trolling a spread of crawler harnessed spinner rigs anchored to bottom bouncing weights off planer boards is the key way to catch them. This is precisely the situation Joe is faced with in this segment. The mid lake rock/gravel structure is very large with a number of smaller “spines” topping out in the 14 to 18 foot range; however, most of the rock/gravel structure is much deeper at 22 to 26 feet.

The small spines are holding the fish, but they are somewhat difficult to stay on top of and pinpoint precisely in open water. This problem is easily solved by repeated trolling passes using this board/bottom bouncer/crawler harness system. Trolling ever so slowly, once any bottom contact is made, you can literally drag an armada of tempting tidbits across these spots and find these small groups of walleyes that are utilizing these spines.

imagesCAMIT1B6The rigging trick here is to set out just enough line below the planer board so it will catch, or better termed “tick”, the top of these spines, yet not get hung up. The best way to accomplish this is by staying as vertical as possible with your set up. Using a larger weight, in the 2 ounce class, in order to stay as vertical as possible, let out just a tad more line than the spine depth tops. For example, measuring out around 20 feet of line between board and the bottom bouncer (Rock Runner) weight is nearly a perfect setting for 16 to 18 foot humps. It might require a bit more line length in strong winds and big waves, but not in soft winds and slow trolls.

ff-graph1Troll very slowly across these humps; just fast enough to activate the spinner and keep the spinner/crawler harness suspended off the bottom. Watch the board closely and you will notice when the Rock Runner weight is touching bottom. It will make the board bounce back. This is a key time to watch for a strike. Strikes, by the way, will respond on the board by the board jerking back in a tug-like fashion. Within a few seconds, the weight of the fish will then start to drag the board out of its original position destroying its side ways angle, and placing it more directly behind the boat. Then, it’s simply a matter of crankin’ the fish in and re rigging.

imagesCAV15KW1Throwing a floating marker off a reef after a fish is caught is a good idea for reference, as is punching in the coordinates on your GPS system. As soon as you get a strike, before pulling the rod from the rod holder, immediately reach for a floating marker and pitch it over the side. Also, heave the marker just past the outside of the planer board that’s showing the strike. This places you as close to the exact location of the strike as possible. All return trolling passes can then be made precisely close by the actual spot where the strike occurred.

Summer trolling reefs with bottom bouncers, spinner harnesses and a crawler rigged off planer boards is a super hot tactic. It is especially good over large mid lake reef structures that may be more difficult to fish by casting and jig fishing. At the very least, this system enables you to cover a great deal of water very efficiently, and quickly eliminates the dead sections of a large reef. You can then refish the spot more slowly with finesse jig fishing presentations if you wish. 

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MORE PIKE – Three Spoon Techniques

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Getting out-fished by someone in your boat is a humbling experience, but when that someone is your spouse or child, a jaw can get awful tight. At least you’re not alone, as many experience the same lack of luck catching watching someone else catch 3-4 pike to your one.   Sometimes it’s hard to figure it out. You can be fishing in all the right spots such as; wide, flat, shallow bays and fish with all the right lures but what can give one person an edge over another?   What are they doing that we weren’t?   Obviously something was going on under the surface that you might not be paying attention to.

 

Give the “pause concept” a try.  Many pike will follow lures, then turn off as they near the boat.  This is a common occurrence with post-spawn pike that hadn’t really started to feed yet    Whenever you stop reeling for a short while the lure it then flutters down, but more importantly, the tapered spoons would backup toward the pike. Most pike were lazily following in a straight retrieved spoon, and would spook to the side as the lure neared the boat. But when the retrieve was halted, (and as we further discovered) the rod tip dropped back towards the spoon, the lure would flutter backwards from 18-inches to 4-feet, right back into a following pikes face. And if there is a best way to trigger a following pike cruising behind a lure into striking, the in their face approach is tops.

 

The distance a lure will flutter backwards is determined by the style of the spoon, depth of the water, and how the falling, flat spoon planes as it sinks. Try this next to the boat. Have 5-6 feet of line between the lure and rod tip. Move the spoon through the water parallel to the boat’s side, then stop and drop the rod tip back towards the lure. This gives the lure some line so it can back up the maximum distance. Clear shallow water will give you the best view of how the drop-back works. The best drop-back spoons I’ve used are the size 6 Lindy Gator Spoon, Eppinger TrollDevle, and the 1-ounce standard Dardevle.

     45 inch northern                   

The Drop-Back technique is a great way to trigger following pike.

Summary: Whenever casting spoons for pike, especially if conditions are tough, try dropping the lure back several times on each retrieve. This is a good technique to practice whenever casting a spoon.  

 

Jig-Trolling Spoons P2

When normally confronted by a big weed bed with lots of potentially good-looking water, trolling usually allows for quickly checking it over.   Run bucktails, big spinnerbaits, or shallow-running jerkbaits over the top, and deeper-diving jerkbaits and crankbaits along the edge. Fifteen minutes of trying some of those techniques can quickly show if they are a waste of time or not.   Here is what a potential problem could be. Weed growth is very inconsistent, sometimes it comes to the surface, other times it could be 3-4 feet below. Lures that ran at a specific, near-surface depth level would constantly foul up in the erratic growth. Another option would be is to run a spinnerbait or buzz-bait across the surface. But what can tossed this plan for a loop, is the hundreds of dark, shadowy weed pockets that exist throughout the vegetation. And due to the bright sky conditions, light winds and fairly clear water, you can sense that pike are holding in those weedy lairs. But there has to be a way of rooting them out. If the weed bed is smaller, you could jig fish it with plastic-bodied lizards, reapers, big double twister tails, Sassy Shads, or other types of soft-bodied “creatures.” At least these presentations will penetrate down into the weeds, and the single hook on the jig would allow to snap and rip through any clinging vegetation.

 

An excellent lure is a Johnson Silver Minnow, but instead of casting with it – troll with varying speeds in a lazy S pattern. This prevents the lure from following the boat’s path. When turning toward the lure it would sink into the weeds, but as the boat swung the other way the lure would be on the outside of the turn, going faster and swimming out of the weeds. This method works like a charm, as the spoon was actually being jigged down into the weeds, then pulled out, while the boat was constantly moving over new waters in the search for pike. Many have had excellent success with this technique, rooting many pike out of weedy cover that would not come up for a high-running, more horizontal presentation. But there are certain things that must be done for maximum success.

 

The plated hook on a Silver Minnow is dull and must be sharpened along the sides and tip with a fine grain file. South Bend makes a great one. Adjust the weed guard so it lines up with the hooks tip and extends out a little past it. If the hook point and weed guard aren’t in a straight line, you’ll grab a lot more weeds. Don’t adjust the wire weed guard too far out from the point or it will be too hard to set. Adjust the setting according to the density of the vegetation.

43 INCH NORTHERN PIKE

Trolling silver minnows gives you a great way to cover massive weed beds
and to get down into the vegetation.

Most hook-ups on larger fish occurred after quickly gunning the motor to pick up line as the hook is being set. As the technique evolved , here’s what works best.:

  • Use no-stretch super line such as Berkley WhipLash or FireLine.
  • Don’t use a shorter rod or one that doesn’t have backbone.
  • A Heavy “bucktail rod” that’s at least 6 foot 9 inches, or a sturdy flippin’ stick are recommended for maximum hook-setting power.
  • Longer rods give you a long, sweeping hook-set that picks up slack line, they also keep the lure a little farther from the boat, plus they aid in controlling and playing pike.

Dress the Silver Minnow with pork or plastic. A dressing’s length and bulk will alter how fast or slow the spoon will wiggle or sink. Be careful not to use a soft plastic dressing that slides up on the hooks shank every time a sharp forward rip is executed to clear weeds. Gluing some plastics to several spoons with a “Krazy” glue can solve this problem. The standard silver-colored “Silver Minnow” is a must, but gold, perch and fire tiger can also be hot, especially when the water has some color, or darker skies exist.

 

Summary: When faced with lots of weeds, trolling can help to quickly find the pike. But be careful not to go too fast in a straight line. A soft zigzag pattern allows the lures to constantly sink down and be pulled out of the weed clumps. It’s this “jigging action” that roots out the big ones!

 

Flutter Spoons

When game fish are aggressive, fishing fast and horizontal is often the best way to cover water and catch the maximum amount of fish. But as the action starts to decrease, slower speeds and lures that fall, flutter or pause usually become more productive. A slower falling lure may also be more effective on suspended fish, or those holding tight to cover, as it gives them a little more time to zero in on the presentation.

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Wafer-thin “flutter spoons” like those used for trolling salmon and trout are
slow falling with a lot of flash that trigger non-aggressive pike.

Anyone with basic pike fishing experience knows that spoons are tops for these toothy predators, and we’ve already discussed two deadly tactics. But the ultimate “tease” technique, the tactic that temps even the most tight-jawed pike into hitting a spoon, is the one that gives us the slowest, falling, most tantalizing action. This involves casting with super-light weight flutter spoons, those wafer thin spoons that are usually trolled in deeper water for trout or salmon while using weights or planer devices to get them down. Before going out and trying to cast these spoons on baitcasting gear spooled with heavy line, three words of advice-don’t try it:

  • They are best fished with long-handle spinning rods that are at least 6 1/2 to 7 feet long, and a reel full of soft 10-14 lb. test mono such as Trilene XL, or better still 14-20 lb. test FireLine.
  • Two handed “snap casts” are recommended, where a right-handed caster pulls the butt section of the rod sharply towards his body with the left hand, while the right hand fires out the cast. This tactic increases rod speed to give extra casting distance.
  • Look at a South Bend System 9 IM6 graphite spinning rod I designed (P-246) to get an idea of the type rod to use. A ball-bearing, wide-spool spinning reel with a tapered spool works best.

Flutter spoons have a lot of flash and movement with a minimal amount of forward or drop speed. You can slow the frantic fluttering action down a bit by adding a plastic or pork trailer, but I rarely do. These spoons won’t let you cover a lot of territory, but they are deadly under certain situations. One of them is when sight fishing for pike. Although this may sound easy it’s not. In stained waters only slight shadows or dark spots on the bottom may be noted. In clear water the fish can more easily be seen, but a cast made too close will usually send them bolting away. Always cast at least 10-15 feet past the pike, and not directly over it. If the fish is moving, cast well in front. Even if you lead the pike too far, let the spoon sit on the bottom until the fish is within 5-8 feet. The lift up and allow the spoon to flutter downward.

Sometimes the pike may just watch the lure sink, and nose up to within inches of the lure. Short little jiggles or soft “pops” will usually provoke a strike. A flutter spoon can also be rigged on a follow-up rod. When a pike follows in a faster-moving, more horizontal presentation then turns off, a flutter spoon can be blind cast in the direction the fish headed. Let it sink 5-6 seconds pull it upward, then repeat. This slow-falling, crippled action is often different enough to trigger a response. Flutter spoons also work well when allowed to sink into larger holes in a weed bed, or into the shaded areas between higher clumps. Let the light lureP5 slowly flutter down into the pocket a few feet, or down between the clumps, then left the rod to pull it back out. These thin spoons sink much slower than a conventional spoon, and have a wilder, flashing action. This attracts pike and gives them plenty of time to react to the slow falling lure.

When fishing flutter spoons around P5weeds, use one with a large single hook, and put the hook on so the point faces the inside or cupped side of the spoon. This rigging will give you the minimum amount of weed snags and make releasing pike easy. With a little practice this single hook spoon can be cast over thick vegetation and skittered across the top, periodically stopping the retrieve so the lure flutters down into holes or along edges. The trick to avoid hanging weeds is to halt the lures flight just before it hits the water by engaging the reel and lifting the rod tip.

Wire leaders should be used with all the spoon techniques discussed. Always use a quality ball-bearing snap-swivel to the lure. A size 4 Berkley Cross-Loc snap swivel is ideal. When casting a spoon, either with the drop-back technique or with a flutter spoon, a 12-inch leader is perfect. When trolling with the Silver Minnow, where a lot of pulling and ripping of weeds is going on, a 3-foot leader is better as it will slice through the vegetation and won’t weaken. Put these 3 techniques in your pike-fishing bag of tricks and watch your catches soar!

 

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Working the Boat for Walleye

Wawang Lake boatingPresentation is a key component when chasing walleye. If your lure or bait is not positioned at the correct angle, depth or speed, your chances for success are greatly diminished.

Boat control is your greatest asset when it comes to presenting your bait accurately, yet it is a skill that requires the necessary equipment, as well as time spent on the water practicing. Follow these tactics to better your boat positioning, and reap the rewards of more walleye in the net.

Nick-Wed-5-25-2016-26.5inchWalleye

 

The Art of Trolling
The majority of anglers troll in a forward motion, which is an excellent option if the boat is rigged with a small horsepower outboard, or if the fish are in an aggressive mode. The problem lies in the fact that larger outboards tend to troll too quickly, causing baits to run untrue, and generally far too fast for walleye. Back trolling allows the boat to troll at slower speeds (upwards of 30%), while also producing enhanced cornering and greater control. The slower speeds enable anglers to toss lighter lures, creating a finesse factor for finicky fish.

A tiller motor is the preferred style of engine when back trolling, as steering in reverse is best accomplished from the rear of the boat. If large waves continually get you wet, affixing splash guards to the transom can be a quick and easy solution.

For those without a tiller or small kicker motor, a trolling plate can be attached to the big engine to slow things down. These plates act like a brake when positioned vertically, and as a stabilizer when up. Trolling plates are designed for forward trolling only, and are an excellent option to significantly decrease speed.

When fish require an ultra slow presentation, an electric motor can be your greatest asset. Position the speed on the lowest setting, and work the water inch by inch. This is an excellent technique for working large weed flats, or when following the contours of a weed line. Not only will your speed be turtle pace, but will also be whisper quiet, lessening the chance of spooking any fish along the way.

IMG_4059

Using the Wind and Waves to Your Advantage
The wind can be your greatest gift when it comes to boat control, but knowing how to work with it is the name of the game.

Drifting with the wind can be an excellent tactic when covering large expansive flats, or as an alternative to spooking fish in very shallow water. Drifting can cover water quickly, and can often be your best bet when waves and wind are on the heavy side of things.

Use your outboard motor as a rudder. This will allow you to make slight alterations to your course while drifting along. It is also important to evenly balance your boat in regards to weight. When weight is distributed correctly, a boat will drift better, especially when battling high winds.

If the drift rate becomes too quick for your desired presentation, use a drift sock (or a combination), to slow things down. These socks take up little room in the boat, and are worth their weight in gold when the wind really howls. Experimenting is key for working drift socks correctly, as the style and draft of boat, size of sock and strength of wind all factor in. Two from the stern, one from the stern, or a combination of bow and stern are recommended areas for placement. If utilizing the bow and stern, choose a larger sock for the bow, as the wind will push this area more easily than the stern.

Marker Buoys
Marker buoys are one of the most underutilized tools in fishing today. If truth were known, they may be one of the most beneficial.

These inexpensive “beacons” allow you to determine where your boat should be positioned, keeping you on the correct course in terms of structure and fish.

Used in conjunction with sonar or GPS, marker buoys allow you to keep in direct contact with marked fish or previously productive areas. They are also helpful in plotting irregular weedlines, or the tops of humps or points.

Always toss one out when a fish is caught, as where there is one often equates to more. By doing so, you will be able to pound the area thoroughly, while hopefully scraping up an additional fish or two.

There are three main styles of markers, including the Barbell, H-Style and Stand-Up. The latter is an excellent choice when dealing with high and rolling waves, and is also the best choice for night fishing. Keep a few on board and get into the habit of using them – they will definitely pay off.

Anchors
When precise, stationary boat placement is necessary, an anchor will often be your best friend. Certain situations may arise in the walleye game when staying directly on top of structure or fish is paramount for success. Small and isolated humps, breaklines and points are such scenarios.

Richter Navy Anchor - Wawang LakeThere are a multitude of anchors on the market, yet the amount of rope you let out will often be the deciding factor in terms of staying put. It is imperative to use enough rope in order to get the needed angle for an anchor to bite and hold steady. Go with a rope at least three times longer than the greatest depth you will be targeting. This will cover all of the bases. Weight is a primary consideration, but is not the deciding factor. Your local marina will be best able to recommend the correct weight and style of anchor to complement your boat and style of fishing.

If you still deal with drifting when anchored, try the two weight system – an anchor off the bow and one from the stern. This should hold you tight.

Boat control is an important consideration when targeting walleye. These fish can be finicky when it comes to speed and bait placement, meaning the more accurately you can offer them what they want, the better your chances for success. Keep a close eye on your boat control this season – the fish may not thank you, but the landing net certainly will.

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Fall PIKE Fishing

31The Ontario archery hunting season will be open mid-September and it’s a tortuous time of year, because the urge to hunt is so strong after a long off-season. Yet, while the bush beckons the hunters, Wawang Lake is still here – promising what is arguably the best fishing of the whole year!

That’s because the cool autumn months before winter are prime days to catch fish, and BIG fish, in generous quantities. Why? Because fish feed more voraciously during the fall than any other time of year. They instinctively know that winter’s coming, marking a cold-water period of low activity. So, predator fish bulk up for winter by packing in as much eating as they can. This time also coincides with the fall spawn of baitfish.

Basically, the baitfish school-up to move into the spawning grounds and the predator fish follow them.

One such predator in the mix of the fall bite is the magnificent Northern Pike.  As anyone who knows Wawang Lake – it’s stuffed with these jaw, snapping monsters! Our pike hunters love the way they look, strike and fight. They have the attitude of a pitbull on steroids! Even a 3-4 pounder can give any angler a thrill. Add twenty pounds and you have a serious freshwater battle on your hands.

One of the best ways to catch a bunch of pike in the fall is by trolling and covering a lot of water. Before hitting the water, have a game plan. Study the Wawang Lake map of the lake and identify the steep breaks where shallow water drops off into deep structure. These are potential hotspots.

If the shallows in these spots are weedy, look for weedlines that are still green. Weeds that have already laid down and are beginning to decay do not hold fish like they did in the summertime. Fish like GREEN weeds, for the leafy cover they provide, and dying weeds don’t offer the same concealment. On a particular weedline, the top fish-holding locations are points and inside turns. These are key ambush areas at any time of year, including fall.

If the lake has no green living weeds, then other types of cover are your next best bet. Rocks are ALWAYS dynamite areas to target big pike, particularly if they’re out on a nice point. Add wind ripping into or over that point, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for big gators laying in wait. The wind creates current that pushes bait into the point, where opportunistic feeders are always hanging around After determining which weedlines, rocks, points, etc. that you intend to target, the next decision to make is lure selection. During the fall, northern pike like to eat big meals. So opt for baits that have a large profile.
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Lure suggestions to start with: ·

  • a big jerkbait like a 9-inch Suick in Firetiger, Perch or Red/White – always clipped to a steel leader. ·
  • 10″ Swimming Joe (Bucher) baits in firetiger, perch, or walleye – a proven overall best
  • Other proven performers are big spoons, paddle-tailed swim baits and bucktails. ·
  • If picking up stray weeds is a problem, troll a jumbo spinnerbait or weedless spoon like a Johnson Silver Minnow.   ·
  • Add a large twist-tail grub body to the shank hook on spinnerbaits and Silver Minnows, to increase the size of the bait’s profile, enhance vibration and for a splash of color.

Once you get on a weedline depth (typically 10-15 feet), watch your sonar and stay on that contour. Pike aren’t afraid to hit a fast-moving bait, so I usually begin with a troll speed of about 2.5 miles per hour. If that doesn’t get results, try slower or faster speeds – even up to around 5 miles per hour even.

Leave your rod holders at home when trolling for pike, because you’ll get a lot more bites if you continually work the lure with quick, hard jerks; steady pull-and-drop movements; and erratic twitching. Pike will routinely follow behind a bait, and the instant it “pauses” it often triggers an aggressive strike!

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Fast trolling regularly results in an immediate hook-up, especially if you’re using no-stretch braided line instead of monofilament. However, we prefer braid for trollling, because the line transmits the wobble of the lure to your hand and lets you know if the bait is running properly or whether you’ve picked up a stray weed.

The fall trolling pattern for northern pike can provide you with some of the most action-packed fishing of the year. Handle the fish with care and release them healthy so they go into the winter months stress-free. And don’t be afraid to keep a couple of 3-4 pounders for the dinner table. Pike is an amazing fish to eat, especially if you de-bone it to remove those nuisance “Y” bones. Or, leave the bones in and opt for pickling instead. The pickling process turns the bones to mush, and there’s a better than pickled northern pike!

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Bucktail Jigging For Weed Walleye

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When walleye head to the shade of the salad, or cruise along the edge of vegetation, a bucktail jig can be your greatest tool for seducing them to strike. Not only is the undulating hair a visual stimulant, but also the erratic cadence of the bait as it is ripped and jigged with vigor.  Working bucktails is a different game than with regular jigs, but the technique speaks for itself with the big results you’ll be rewarded with.

A standard bucktail jig is comprised of a lead head, with layers of bucktail tied and glued to the collar of the bait. Strands of tinsel are often interwoven, adding an additional aspect in terms of visual attraction. When moving, the hair forms a streamlined body, replicating a baitfish perfectly.   At rest the hair fans out, adding a different dimension in terms of appearance.  In comparison to a jig and plastic, the bucktail is far superior in terms of weedlessness, making them an excellent choice when the cover becomes thick and the walleye go into hiding.

The Laws of Rip Jigging

Rip jigging is a specialized technique that can produce astounding results.   The premise is simple:  flip a bucktail jig out twenty feet or so.   Let it make contact with the bottom vegetation, then give a quick and sharp snap of the rod, breaking the jig free from the snag and sending it up and above the cover. Repeat process. Depending on the mood of the fish, rips can be positively violent or more controlled.   You will find that the warmer the weather, the more aggressive you can be.

Walleye are an opportunistic feeder. They will conceal themselves in the thickest of   cover, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting baitfish as it swims by. Ripping a bucktail jig through the salad will easily get their attention (due to the   commotion it causes) and make them commit to the speedy meal before it gets away. Depending on the mood of the fish, they will either smack it as it breaks free from the green stuff, or rise to engulf it as it slowly falls back down. This is one technique that has worked well is the fall period. Fish will raise their activity level and feedbag at this time, and when the wind howls and the fish move shallow, you can definitely get into a bunch of them – BIG ones too! In terms of tipping options for rip jigging – go the route of none.   Minnows and worms won’t last long with the constant weed contact, and due to the speed of the retrieve (and split second reaction time),  it doesn’t makes much of a difference in terms of catch rates.

Dunking For Fish

Although it may seem unsuitable dunking the weed pockets for walleye is a tried and true technique. Shallow water and expansive weed flats make up the playing field for this tactic, and a stout rod and bucktail jigs round out the arsenal. Pounding depths between four and 10-feet is your best option, and clear water is always your best bet. Work weed flats and clumps with the wind or an electric motor, lowering a heavy bucktail jig into every hole and edge you drift over.  Let it sink directly to bottom, and give it a few lifts and drops before moving on. (leave the bait in each hole for at least ten seconds before trying the next.) Walleye will bucktailsituate themselves on these edges, both inside and out, pouncing on any bait that free falls into their lair. Visually, this is a fun and exciting tactic to employ, as most fish are actually observed sucking up the bait in the blink of an eye, and quickly charging back into the weeds! A lightening quick hook set and medium-heavy rod is recommended if you hope to put a net under the belly of any of them. Tipping your jig with a minnow or worm is an excellent choice for this short-line tactic, as the fish has more time to be convinced to strike, and scent can be a contributing factor for that.

Swimming Them In When walleye are scattered over weed flats, and the vegetation is low and uniform in height, swimming a bucktail jig back to the boat can be a hot ticket. The rules are simple: cast your bait out and start reeling in, keeping your jig just above the weeds, and imparting the odd lift or two into your retrieve. This will allow you to cover large areas of water, and help you pick off those fish that are actively cruising while feeding. Your presentation will resemble a minnow making its way along bottom, and an easy meal in the eyes of our yellow predator.

Top Ten Tips For Bucktail Fishing

1.  For clear water conditions, match the hatch when it comes to colour. Murky water requires brighter hues.
2.  Braided line gets the nod for working bucktails in the weeds.
3.  Check line regularly throughout the course of the day.
4.  Apply ample amounts of scent to the hair of the bait.
5.  Choose high quality jigs that sport strong and laser sharp hooks.
6.  In rough conditions, choose brighter colours that will aid in attracting fish better.
7.  Lighter jigs work better for swimming, while heavier jigs work best for ripping and dunking.
8.  Heavy equipment is key. This is no place for ultralight combos or low diameter line.
9.  Watch for line movement or “bumps.” This can often signal a fish.
10.  Take note of where fish are found. Then search for other areas on the lake that are similar in make up.

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Rigging with Live Bait For Walleye

Rigging with live bait for walleye during the peak summer season will put more fish on than any other combination types.

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If there is one solid piece of advice we could give you when it comes to catching more walleyes in the peak of summer, its “push the envelope” … push the fish to their limit. You want to be as aggressive as possible to cover water but still be able to get fish to bite! This is “fishing with an attitude”; a mindset that you’re going to find out just exactly what the absolute best presentation is going to be to trigger the most bites on a given day.

In many parts of “walleye country”, summertime means “live bait rigging time”, and over the years anglers have been conditioned to slow down and methodically finesse fish during these dog-day walleyes. Modern day walleye fishermen however are looking for the cutting edge of angling techniques and we think when it comes to live bait rigging, there is a new-age philosophy that is moving to the fore-front. No longer are we tied to the notions that “rigging” only means light line, small hooks and an ultra-finesse presentation. This is a good scenario for “pushing the envelope” of what a walleye will tolerate in a live bait presentation; Putting your offering in front of as many fish in a day as possible and still do it in a manner that will trigger bites from less-than-active walleyes. Make no mistake; we are breaking down barriers here. We honestly believe this will change the way you view live bait rigging forever.

berkleysensationWhen we approach a summer time situation where the walleye bite is leaning toward a live bait presentation, the first piece of gear we reach for is the bottom bouncer set-up. A six and a half to seven foot, medium action baitcasting outfit spooled with 10 or 12 pound Berkley Trilene Sensation, or if fishing deeper water (say deeper than 30 feet) we’ll spool up the bottom bouncer reel with 10 pound test Berkley FireLine. The small diameter and no-stretch of FireLine gives you much more “feel” when fishing deeper water. On to that we’ll have tied a bottom bouncer (depending on the depth of water being targeting this may be anywhere from one ounce to three ounces) rigged with a three to four foot leader of and plain bait hook.

The leader is usually made of 6 pound test line, like Berkley Trilene Sensation, or 10 pound test Berkley Professional Grade 100% Fluorocarbon. The hook size will depend on the bait I’m fishing with. For crawlers and leeches it will be a size 4 Mustad Ultra Point Double Wide Bait Hook model 10548R (red). For larger minnows I’ll go with the same hook in a size 1 or 1/0. This is an ideal hook to use for live bait because it is a fine wire hook making it very light which helps give the bait a very natural presentation. Also, as the hook’s name implies, it has a very wide gap, giving you the best chance of getting a good hook-up when the fish takes the bait. We realize this is a far cry from the ultra-finesse spinning outfit and light line most guys would use for live bait fishing. But then we’re not out to coax a few biters. We’re out to catch as many quality walleyes as possible.

That’s not to say that you’d want to hit the water at mach speed with this presentation, at least not to start off with. As always, your plan should be to first of all locate what you believe to be a fishable school of walleyes utilizing your electronics. Summer time walleyes, ones that are typically good targets for live bait rigging, are usually set up on structure and in water deeper than fifteen feet. That makes them good candidates for spotting with electronics. Once you feel you’re on a good bunch of fish, will work bottom bouncer live bait rig slowly (typical speed with the bowmount trolling motor will be about .4 mph) through the area to try to trigger a bite. This will tell you a couple of things. It will tell you for sure whether or not you’re fishing walleyes, and if in fact they are in fact walleyes, then you have a good idea of the type of structure and depth to key in on in other areas of the lake.

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Now is when the “plan” kicks into gear. For ever we’ve heard from accomplished “riggers” that you move slowly along structure until you contact fish and then you “hover” on the school to pick off the biters. That’s not the way this plan works … not at all.

Once walleyes are contacted, you want to start pushing the envelope. Start increasing the speed of the presentation. Not by leaps and bounds, but in small increments. Where you first caught a fish going .4 mph, now kick it up to .5 mph, then .6 mph, and then maybe even .7, .8 mph or faster! The object is to test the walleyes and see just how fast you can present that live bait rig and still get them to bite it. The advantage here is that by dialing in on that “presentation speed threshold” you can cover more water and put your bait in front of more fish over the course of a day than any other rigger on the water.

10gradeA modification to this tactic that has gained great popularity over the past couple of seasons is Slow Death Rigging. The set-up is virtually the same; a leader of 10 pound test Berkley Professional Grade 100% Fluorocarbon, but in this rigging we use a very specialized hook. The Mustad Slow Death Hook model 33862 (available in Red, Bronze or Gold and in 2 sizes, #2 and #4) is an Aberdeen style hook with a unique bend to it that when rigged with a half crawler threaded over the hook, imparts a seductive and deadly spinning action to the bait that fish often find irresistible.

Of course, choosing the right bait is always a key to rigging success. It never ceases to amaze us how finicky walleyes are very often more apt to chomp a large bait like a Creek Chub or Sucker rather than nibble a smaller offering like a leech. This is especially true when fishing large western reservoirs, but we’ve seen it in many natural lakes as well. It seems anglers are conditioned to under estimate the appetite of walleyes in a neutral or even a negative mood. There are lots of times though that crawlers and/or leeches will be the best bait choice. But the biggest mistake we see made in the summer is to use inferior bait; bait that’s not lively or otherwise sub-standard. If you’re going to be serious about your walleye live bait fishing, you need to get serious about your bait. Learn how to pick out the best bait available and take good care of it out on the water. Frabill for instance makes all kinds of great bait-care products and these are well worth the investment if you want to be a successful live bait walleye fisherman.

Will this approach work for every live bait rigging situation? No. There will always be a time and place for the ultra-slow and finesse type of rigging, particularly when you are faced with fishing very heavily pressured lakes, gin clear water, and severe cold-front scenarios. But those circumstances are really more the exception than the rule. Be skeptical if you want. Stick with the typical slip sinker, light line rigging methods if it suits you. We are sure you’ll still catch fish. Just don’t get annoyed at the anglers out there “rigging with attitude” as they cruise past you on their way to their Next Bite.

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Fall Fishing for MONSTER Northern Pike

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Catch one big northern pike and you fall in love with these magnificent predators. Their willingness to chase and crush baits is amazing. The fight for which they’re capable is thrilling. It’s no wonder that in Europe where pike reach epic sizes, they’re commonly referred to as “water wolves.”

In addition to all the reasons northern pike are revered for their aggressiveness and tough attitude, they’re also wonderful table fare when they’re in that 3-4 pound class. With a little practice in removing the pesky Y-bones, you’re left with a fresh, flaky fillet that’s tough to beat and northern pike are best to eat right after being caught. They just don’t seem to freeze as well as walleyes or perch.

All summer long, northern pike are among the easiest fish to catch. This is due to their voracious appetite and the fact that pike are keen impulse strikers. I believe they’ll lash out at a bait for the sole purpose of doing it harm. They’re just plain MEAN!

During the warm summer months, you’ll find them predominantly hunting anywhere where there’s weed growth. But as summer surrenders to autumn and the water temperatures cool, things change. The weeds begin dying, and when they do they actually become noxious to fish. The first weeds to go are typically in shallow areas with muddy bottoms. The weeds that hold out the longest are usually related to hard bottom.

When fishing in the fall, if you find weed growth that hasn’t laid down yet and it’s still green, then it will continue to hold fish. Baitfish, perch, walleye, and you guessed it: pike. But as these last holdouts of vegetation finally wane, the pike will change their haunts.

This time of year happens to coincide with the fall turnover. This is the period when a lake’s thermocline disappears. The warm upper water cools with air temperature and ultimately trades places with the once cooler water below the thermocline. Pre-turnover fishing is great. During the turnover, fish generally get negative. But after the turnover is complete and the lake stabilizes, pike fishing gets good again. But don’t look for weedline fish anymore. Instead, search for cover in the form of rocky reefs, points, saddles and edges where flats fall away into deeper water.

A great way to locate fish in the fall is by trolling big crankbaits, swimbaits, spoons or inline spinners. If you pop a couple of fish trolling, pay attention to your sonar and lake map to get a reading of the depth and bottom constitution that’s holding fish. This will help you identify other spots on the lake that match those conditions.

Now trolling is great, but most popular is catching pike on the cast. So once you figure out a location and bait that gets results, start to work these areas by casting. Boat control and casting direction is essential here. You’ll want to position your boat on structure that allows you to cast down the line on productive water, thereby keeping your bait in the strike zone for the longest possible time.

Remember that northern pike are notorious for chasing baits and have no problem smacking a lure right by the side of the boat. So on every cast, keep the retrieve going all the way back to the boat. If you see a pike following but not chomping, give the bait a slight pause or a sudden twitch. Sometimes that change in the action will flip the bite switch in a fish.

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If a giant follows but doesn’t eat, you can try this trick too. Have a second rod set up with a quick-strike rig hooked to a big sucker minnow in your livewell or bait bucket. If a jumbo pike follows and gives up, you can be sure that he’s still very close to the boat. Set down your casting rod, pick up the quick-strike rig and pitch that minnow to the last place you saw the fish. Very often, the introduction of a live minnow will be just the thing that fish wants.

Fall is a fantastic time to be on the water. You’ll have the lake all to yourself and no shortage of hungry pike just waiting to pounce. After just one memorable battle with a big water wolf, you’ll fall for autumn pike too.

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