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Daily Archives: June 20, 2014

EARLY SUMMER WALLEYE

The prettiest fish in the world is a walleye pulled from Wawang Lake. They seem to have a rich, caramel color unmatched by any other region in North America. Maybe it’s because of the dark water in many of Ontario’s thousands of Canadian shield lakes. Or maybe it’s simply an extension of the colorful personality you find in Ontario’s places, people and attitude.

Here’s a proven approach to filling your live well and memories with golden walleyes!

Shallow Thinking

In early summer, the walleyes have just finished spawning. So you’ll find them near their spawning grounds which are ideally hard-bottom bays with lots of gravel and some current. The current can be from inflowing rivers and creeks, or from wind/wave action off points and within pinch-points. Study a good lake map, ask questions and spend some time searching for potential hot-spot bays. A solid game plan pays dividends.

An ideal shallow bay will be between 4-8 feet deep with a feeder creek and a hard sandy bottom. If rubble and some weeds are mixed in, even better!   Begin fishing with a “search bait” presentation to cover a lot of water and find active fish. Trolling with a ½ ounce bottom bouncer and a 5-foot snell with a spinner rig and live bait is a great search bait strategy.

6Active Fish Found

After you zero in on reef, flat, saddle or point that’s holding active fish, you can switch tactics to improve your catch rate. At this point grab a medium-action jigging rod with a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jig and 6-10 pound monofilament line. Tip the jig with a leech, minnow or half a crawler.  The best colors vary but in Wawang Lake are orange, pink, chartreuse, silver & gold.  The brighter colors always perform better in stained water.

Experiment with plastic bodied jigs, hair jigs and “naked” jigs too and find out what the fish are responding to. Use jigs with an attached fluttering blade. In addition to providing some extra flash and vibration, the blade slows down the rate that the jig falls.  Active fish like to hit that jig on the drop, so if you slow it down it’ll stay in the strike zone longer.

If the fish aren’t hitting your jig when you pitch it and let it fall, try dragging it instead. Start with a very slow, steady drag with gentle jigging. But don’t be afraid to throw in some snap-jigging too. Sometimes that aggressive “snap” incites a reflex bite from a walleye that you wouldn’t get with a gentle ‘pop.”

Clustered Fish & Bobbers

When it seems you get a bite at a particular spot on a big, featureless flat are and for whatever reason, the walleyes are really bunched up in that small area try this on them:

  • Eliminate the commotion of trolling over them – backed off and slowly lowered an anchor.
  • Bring out the slip bobber rods and presented small feather jigs with leeches beneath the floats.

You will hammer ‘em!   And there’s not much that matches the excitement of watching a bobber go down and knowing it’s a big ‘eye doing it. Using floats is also a great idea if the bottom is really rugged and causing a lot of hang-ups and broken lines. So give slip-bobbering a try if the fish and conditions dictate it.

The first step in experiencing the best walleye fishing in the world is planning the trip.  Check out our Wawang Blog that has many articles on how to fish our lake along with techniques, presentations, what lures and baits work best.  It’s all there on the blog – great fishing tips that will help you catch even more fish!

 Bonus!

While fishing early summer walleyes, Ontario will surprise you with some fringe benefits… namely an abundance of “accidental” fish you’ll catch including large pike. It’s not uncommon to catch a monster northern pike while fishing for walleye.    I don’t know about you, but I love it when that happens!

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Tips: How To Work Three Top Pike Baits

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Topwater Lures

Many species are a blast to catch using topwater lures, but northern pike frequently charge baits with an unbridled aggression that is simply fascinating. The ever willing participants, pike are often eager to take a bait off the water’s surface because the presentation appears to them to be an easy meal.Here are three preferred topwater baits and tips on using them for pike.

Cigar, Or Walk-The-Dog, Lures

An all-time favorite topwater for pike is a walk-the-dog bait, such as Heddon’s Zara Spook or Rapala’s Skitter Walk.

Rapala-Skitter-Walk

Best fished with a stout baitcasting rod, you must impart a side-to-side swimming motion to the bait. Do this by twitching the rod tip down, then immediately raising it again. This causes the bait to jerk to the side. Raising the rod gives the lure slack line to pull as it glides. After a split-second pause, start another twitch to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other direction.   Continuous twitching results in side-to-side surface motion that causes a lot of commotion. The sight is often too much for pike to pass up.

TopRaider

A Topraider is a trophy-hunting topwater prop lure.

To share some tips on using these baits, one effective   tactic is mixing up the tempo of the twitches throughout the retrieve.   Slowing it down or speeding it up often triggers hits. If a fish swipes at a bait, but misses it you can often get a pike to hit again. One method is prolonging the pause between twitches. After some practice you can get the bait to dance in the strike zone for a while. This conveys an injured and disoriented fish. Pike will often return to hit again with this tactic.

Another option is continuing the retrieve and then casting back over the area again.   I’ve lost count of the number of pike I’ve got on a follow-up cast after they missed the bait the first time.

Prop Baits

imagesCARRGNJF

This pike hit a prop bait worked over a river weedbed

These baits are easy to work. Simply cast out and reel it   in on a steady retrieve. The lure’s metallic tail spins as you pull it through the water. This prop appendage creates a plopping sound and leaves a wake on the surface. The steady rhythm and straight path make it easy for pike to hone in on. A word of advice when working these lures: don’t retrieve them too quickly. The best tempo is often a pace just fast enough for the blades to be continuously turning.

An alternative to a steady retrieve with these lures is   using a twitch-pause pattern. This is particularly effective for lures with blades in the front as well as on the rear. The metallic sputtering caused by the twitch is extremely effective at attracting pike.

Buzzbaits

BUZZBAITS
Unlike the above lures, which often feature treble-hook clad models, buzzbaits are a single-hook lure. The up facing hook point makes a fairly weedless presentation. Buzzbaits have either metal or plastic blades   attached at one end of a wire form, which has a dressed hook at the lower end. These lures excel at fishing the shallow, weedy haunts pike frequently inhabit. I’ll cast them on the edge of lily pad bays, among sparsely growing rice or reed areas, and sunken wood zones. In fact, anywhere you think might hold pike are good places to cast buzzbaits. Bring it in on a fairly steady retrieve, but keep in mind twitches in the rod tip or changing the bait’s direction can trigger strikes.

43 INCH NORTHERN PIKE

When targeting pike with topwaters, remember that calm to slight ripple conditions are best. Don’t be afraid to try topwaters in small waves though because big fish often hunt in the turmoil caused by waves, and will still take surface lures. Pike are always surveying their habitat for easy meals; often, a topwater is one of the best lures to portray vulnerability. Not to mention that watching a northern hit a surface lure always gets the adrenaline flowing!

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