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Monthly Archives: February 2016

NORTHERN PIKE – SPRING TACTICS

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Northern pike is one of the most aggressive predators swimming in North American waters. Typically known for their aggressive nature, fast paced fight, and large size, they are an incredibly popular game fish, particularly in the  Canada. Although pike can be caught all year round on a variety of lures and presentations, one of the most exciting times to fish pike is immediately after ice out every spring. Compared to many other species, pike remain fairly active even in cold water. This, coupled with the fact that they have just finished spawning and are beginning to feed aggressively, makes them a terrific choice for an early spring target.

Spring pike offers an angler many techniques and presentations that allow for a variety of angling methods. Your choice of tackle largely depends on your technique. Typically, lighter pike presentations can easy be accomplished with medium to medium-heavy action spinning gear, whereas heavier presentations require medium-heavy casting or even flipping rods. Your presentation is largely dictated by the location of the fish, and the water temperature. There are times where the fish are very shallow and you can easily sight-fish them and target individual fish, and there are times where whether conditions force those fish into the adjacent deep water.

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Sight fishing is by far the most enjoyable, and it requires stealth and sometimes patience to coax the fish into biting. When sight fishing, a good set of polarized glasses is a must have item. You’ll also want to be as quiet as possible while moving in the boat, and be sure to use an electric trolling motor to approach the spot. Soft plastics really shine at this time, because it can be fished fast or slow, and really resembles an injured baitfish. Swim baits in the 5-7″ range rigged weedless work well and can be swam in front of the fish, or you can hop and pause it across the bottom. Medium sized Bulldawgs are another good option, particularly the shallow models. If you find fish in the shallows and they are more aggressive, then try smaller buck tails or spinner baits. Inline, French, or willow leaf blades seem to work better than larger Colorado blades. The subtle vibration and flash are all it takes to close the deal on aggressive pike. Shallow running crank baits can also be used with great success, particularly suspending models. Use them like a twitch bait and include many long pauses in the retrieve. Baits like X-Raps work great for this presentation.   Another great option is to fish a sucker minnow on a quick-strike rig under a bobber. Simply cast it out to areas holding the pike and set the hook as soon as the bobber is pulled under. You really don’t want to give the fish any time to swallow the hook, an immediate hook set will typically land the hooks in the mouth, not in the gills or throat.

As far as tackle in these shallow water situations, spinning tackle is ideal for the spinners and crank baits, but you’ll want to throw the plastics and the bobbers with a bait casting or heavy flipping rod. These baits are typically heavier and require a heavier rod to get a proper hook set. If you’re in or around areas that hold post-spawn pike and you’re not finding them shallow, don’t be discouraged. Chances are the pike are still in the immediate area, however some variable has caused them to slide deeper. Perhaps a cold front moved in, or a strong wind has pushed the baitfish out over deeper water.

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Regardless, you have to pay attention to the deeper adjacent water. Deeper water pike fishing can be a little trickier because you have to determine exactly what depth the fish are holding in. Typically, deeper pike are not that aggressive this time of year, and so slower finesse presentations are usually needed. Luckily, many of the same tackle options for shallow water also work in deeper water, just with a few modifications. Plastics are hands down a favorite technique for deeper water. Bull dawgs and Tiger Tubes can be used as a jig or cast out and hopped slowly back to the boat. This has accounted for some of the largest fish in our annual photo albums.

Slowing down and paying attention is critical as these fish rarely slam your bait. Rather, you’re looking for a small tick on the line and when you feel it, set the hook hard. Braided line is a must in this situation. Crank baits also work well, but sinking or “countdown” models are best unless you want to modify your shallow running models to sink deeper. Again, fishing as close to the bottom as possible is what you’re aiming to do. Let it hit the bottom and give it a solid rip to stir up the bottom and dart the bait forward. Finally, spinner baits can be slow-rolled across the bottom, however it’s far less success in this technique than the others.

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So now that you know how to catch the fish, where do you start looking for them in the first place? Well, pike spawn immediately after ice out in roughly 36 degree water temperature. They seek out shallow areas with emergent vegetation. Areas with an incoming creek are even better as it will typically be a little warmer and therefore hold more baitfish, and more active pike. Often these areas will have a mix of mud or sand, rock, timber, and generally dead weeds. Many times you’ll see baitfish or other species spawning in these areas following the pike spawn. Naturally, some fish will stick around while others will move out of the bays. Fishing smart, knowing the pike’s movements, and experimenting with baits will no doubt provide you with an exciting start to your open water season!

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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.

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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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Asian Steamed Walleye

Looking to liven up your fresh walleye dinner with a taste of the exotic? Try a succulent whole fish steamed with some of the fantastic flavours of Asia.

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cloves cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2-pund walleye, gutted and scaled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • almonds, slivered (lightly toasted in a dry frying pan)
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces

Preparation

  • In a wok, mix water, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, green onion, and a dash of salt. Bring to simmer and place bamboo steamer over wok.
  • Make four 1/2-inch-inch-deep cuts through the skin on both sides of the walleye. Season inside of fish with salt and pepper, then place in steamer and cover. Steam for about 15 minutes, or until flesh flakes.
  • Topping: Heat oil and soy sauce until very hot then drizzle over fish, making skin crispy. Top with almonds and green onion.
  • Server on a platter with steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables; red peppers, onions, and sugar snap peas make a great combination.
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Fishing Reel Differences

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Essential Cranks for Walleye Fishing

If you need help with what to buy for trolling or casting cranks for walleye, this should help.   Crank baits are to walleye fisherman what shoes are to women. We may not need as many as we have, but we have to have them just the same. While the latest fancy finish or popular color can steal our attention, serious walleye anglers know that having a selection of cranks in various diving depths, floaters, suspenders and profiles is more important as you fish in different parts of the country or as conditions change throughout the season on your favorite lake or river.

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Here is a selection of go-to cranks for walleye recommended by professionals and guides that you should have in your walleye tackle regardless of where you fish.


Reef Runner 800
When the first Reef Runner hit the shelves in the mid-90s, it was an instant hit. The hump design that helps move more water over its back and provide a hunting action made it an instant and lasting favorite of walleye trollers. The hundreds of wacky named color options probably didn’t hurt its appeal either. The addition of the “Bare Naked” series a few years ago has caused yet another trend with transparent bodies and a copper colored prism insert.
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The 800’s ability to be trolled nearly 30 feet unassisted and effective trolling speeds of .8 to 3.5mph make it a bait that can be used nearly year around. The aggressive hunting nature and design of the bait does require it to be tuned more frequently than other baits, so check it frequently.

The Deep Little Ripper is a smaller version of the 800 that excels when a smaller presentation or less diving depth is required.


Berkley Flicker Shad
A plastic shad body crank, the Berkley Flicker Shad excels when cast or trolled. A weight-transfer system makes it possible to cast this bait easily on spinning tackle. It has seen a lot of time on the tournament trail being cast at wing dams, trolled unassisted, or on leadcore lines.
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Many serious anglers believe the unique pitch of the rattle is why it seems to out fish many similar type lures. As the popularity has grown, so have the sizes and colors available, currently 5 sizes and more than 20 colors.


Smithwick Roque
A unique bait that has a roll unlike any other stick bait. Most pros will tell you it’s not a bait they carry year around, but when they are working you want one on every rod. Offered in several sizes as well as floating and suspending versions, this bait is a go-to for walleye anglers in cold water. The much louder than normal rattles have also made it a go to choice in off-colored to dirty water where walleyes can more easily locate the bait.
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A conservative offering of colors, anglers are custom painting them more and more each year. But be warned, much like a Reef Runner, the Rogue can be temperamental with tuning and too much extra paint or clear coat can permanently affect their action.


Rapala Husky Jerk
A very versatile bait that just seems to run well right out of the box, all models of the Husky Jerk are suspending models, which isn’t unique. What makes it special is they truly suspend and do not just rise more slowly than a floater like most baits that claim to suspend.
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Available in five sizes of shallow divers that see plenty of action from walleye anglers, but it’s actually the two deep diving models that can be found in the boxes of all tournament walleye pros. Like most of the baits in a “go-to” list, we include it because of it’s versatility. A very effective lure in cold water with its suspending qualities, it also excels when trolled at speeds in excess of 2mph during the summer months.


Rapala Shad Rap
So popular when they were first released, that you literally couldn’t buy them. You could only rent them from tackle shops. The original model is made from balsa and has no rattles and until recently was only available in a relatively small sampling of colors.
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Much like the Flicker Shad, the popularity of the Shad Rap is due to it seemingly working on almost any waterway and effectiveness both casted and trolled. The balsa bait’s lightweight can however make it more challenging to cast in windy conditions. When this becomes the case look at some of its newer cousins constructed from plastic.


Rapala Original Floater
One of the oldest and simplest lures on the market, it still catches fish. Walleye Pro’s use them behind bottom bouncers, 3-way rigs, leadcore line and easily the most used hand-lining lure of all time. Much like the original Shad Rap, it is constructed of balsa and features no rattles.
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The smaller No. 3 to No. 11 sizes excel in the aforementioned applications, whereas the larger No. 13 and No. 18 are go to lures for flat line or split shot trolling at night.

Originally only available in just a few simple colors, the assortment has broadened. Much like the Roque be careful when custom painting that you don’t add to much weight to throw off the subtle wobble the balsa creates.


Reef Runner Ripstick
The same body as the 800 series Reef Runner, this stick bait version features three hook hangers and smaller No. 6 trebles. The unique banana style body gives off a hunting style action, but with a much more subtle action due to the V shaped lip.
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This very unique shaped lip also allows this bait to get down nearly 12 feet when trolled on mono, much deeper than any other stick bait on the market. This puts the Ripstick in its own category. Having a stickbait that can get down where only deep divers could previously with a subtle action can be a huge advantage when walleyes are in a neutral to negative mood.

The Little Ripper is a smaller version that works well behind diving discs, jet divers or where a smaller and shallower diving presentation is needed.

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We don’t suggest that these are the ONLY baits that will work, they are versatile and effective enough that carrying a good assortment of sizes and colors will allow you to catch fish more days than not. At some point you realize you can only carry so many lures with you and these are the ones that spend the most time in professional anglers and guides boats.

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Fishing Gear Checklist

Here’s a checklist of things you’ll want to bring on your next fishing adventure.

Tackle And Gear

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__ Rods: spinning, casting, trolling

__ Reels: Spooled with line

__ Extra line: fluorocarbon leader, monofilament, or superbraid

__ Tackle bag or tackle box

__ Hardbaits: crankbaits and minnowbaits

__ Spinnerbaits and inline spinners

__ Soft-plastics: grubs, tubes, jerkbaits, worms, lizards

__ Topwaters: poppers, walk-the-dogs, plastic frogs, buzzbaits

__ Bass hooks: offset shank for Texas-rigging, wide gap for wacky rigging

__ Bass flipping jigs

__ Walleye hooks for livebait: octopus

__ Circle hooks for catfish and pike

__ Bait hooks of various sizes

__ Various sized spoons

__ Sinkers: split shots, walking, egg

__ Leaders, snaps and swivels

__ Jig heads: ball, darter, tube

__ Bucktail or feather jigs

__ Worm harnesses and livebait rigs

__ Fish scent

__ Bobbers: slip, fixed, and illuminated for night fishing and bobber stops

__ Planner boards

__ Fishing net

__ Live bait: worms, minnows, leeches, and carrying containers (e.g., minnow bucket)

__ Valid fishing license and state regulations

__ Scale/ruler

__ Headlamp with extra batteries and bulbs

Clothing

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__ Rain gear: jacket, pants and hat

__ Neoprene gloves or waterproof mittens

__ Waterproof footwear: hiking boots or rubber boots

__ Running shoes or sandals

__ Hats: ball cap, wide-brim, or wool

Clothing: Tops And Bottoms

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__ Moisture-wicking thermal underwear (if fishing in cold weather)

__ Sports bras

__ Moisture-wicking socks

__ Fleece mid-layer shirt and pants

__ Hooded sweater

__ Fleece vest

__ Pile or wool pants

__ Convertible zip-off pants

__ Lightweight shorts

__ Quick-drying swimsuit and towel

__ Moisture-wicking T-shirt and long-sleeve shirt

__ Gear bag to carry extra clothing

General Boating Gear

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__ Rod holders

__ Pliers: needle-nose, split ring

__ Fish hook remover/extractor

__ Boat tools: spark plug wrench, pliers, standard wrench

__ Spare tire and jack

__ Life jackets

__ Paddle

__ Bailer or manual bilge

__ Flashlight with fresh batteries

__ Signaling device: horn, whistle, flares

__ Throw rope

__ Bowline

__ Boat fenders

__ Boat trailer tie-downs

__ Fire extinguisher

__ Spare oil

__ Spare spark plugs and fuses

__ Full tank of gas

__ Fish finder

__ GPS Unit

__ Weather radio

__ Hydrographic navigation maps and road maps

__ Map marking pen

__ All-weather pen and notebook

__ Trolling motor and charged battery

__ Duct and electrical tape

Other Items

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__ Sunscreen

__ Lip balm

__ Sunglasses

__ Bug repellant

__ First Aid/Medical Kit

__ Matches in a waterproof container

__ Biodegradable soap

__ Personal Medicine: eyewash, aspirin, lotion, etc.

__ Other personal toiletry items

__ Water

__ Tape measure

__ Camera

__ Cooler for lunch and drinks with ice packs

__ Thermos for coffee

__ Fillet knife and zippered plastic bags

__ Binoculars

__ Waterproof wrist watch

__ Emergency contact phone numbers

__ Cash, credit card, and phone calling card

__ Driver’s license and vehicle and boat insurance

__ Health insurance information or card

__ Travel alarm clock

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HOW TO CATCH TROPHY WALLEYE

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All dedicated walleye anglers seek to catch a 10+ lb. walleye, considered by many, a once-in-a-lifetime prize catch. To accomplish this task one must recognize the variety of waters that yield big walleye, using the proper fishing presentations and fishing the best times of the year which increase your chances of landing that trophy walleye.

Walleyes in the North tend to have a much longer life span even though their growth rates are not as high as in the South, but the North still produces many more walleye of 10 lb. plus.

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Large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and head for deeper water. This why only 2 of 1000 walleyes reach this magic 10 pound size.   Our guides know this and use big fish strategies that result in catching many huge walleyes annually.

Big Water Big Walleye:
When considering trophy walleye waters big is best, a large body of water (5000 acres+) like Wawang Lake is more likely to support big walleye populations than smaller lakes (500-1000 acres). Competition for food, living space and angling pressure reduces the possibility on smaller waters for walleyes to achieve trophy status.

Large lakes provide an abundance of usable forage (minnows and lake herring), open space and due to large size angling pressure is reduced.Wawang NEW Map

Best Times to Catch Trophy Walleye:
There are four major periods during the year when the odds increase to catch a trophy walleye, however we will only describe three of them since Wawang Lake has no winter fishing pressure:

Spring
Pre Spawn: During the pre-spawn period, large numbers of big females stage into a relatively small area. Although they are not feeding aggressively, you may be able to catch a fish or two due to the sheer numbers present. The pre spawn bite is good until spawning begins.


Summer
Post Spawn: A few weeks after spawning the big females recover from and start to bite again but finding them is difficult as they are scattered. You may catch an occasional large walleye, but seldom more than one. Your chances of finding a concentration of big walleyes are much better after they have settled into their typical deeper water summer locations. The best fishing begins about five to six weeks after spawning and generally lasts two to three weeks.

Fall
Late-fall: Fishing is unpredictable, the toughest part is to locate the walleye, but if you do find them a high percentage will be big. The majority of large walleyes caught in late fall are females. Their feeding for the development of eggs for the spring spawn, females must consume more food than males, up to six times more according to feeding studies.

Winter
Wawang Lake has no winter pressure (fishing) and therefore our fisheries remains healthy with strong genetics and lineage.

In waters that stratify, after the fall turnover is completed the depths are warmer than the shallows. Big walleyes may swim into shallow water for short feeding sprees in the evening, but during the day they may be found as deep as 50 feet. Although difficult to find, they form tight schools, so you may be able to catch several from the same area.

 

Trophy Walleye Presentations:
Locating big walleyes is half the equation and other half is the proper fishing presentation. Here are a few tips to help you land big walleyes.

The first and most common mistake made by anglers is noise, whether it be dropping the anchor on top of the fish, running the outboard over the spot you wish to fish or dropping anything in the boat while fishing.

  • For position fishing, idle or use an electric trolling motor past the spot you’re fishing and set your anchor at a distance, let the wind drift you over the spot.
  • For trolling use inline planer boards that spread the fishing lines off to the side of your boat.  Remember large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and move.

Most often large female walleyes will relate to a piece of structure similar to the smaller males, but will hang 10 to 15 feet deeper this is attributed to a walleye’s increasing sensitivity to light as it grows older. In addition, bigger walleyes prefer cooler water, and they can usually find it by moving deeper.

Increase your chances for big walleyes by fishing in the shallows during low-light periods, especially in spring and fall.  If the water is very clear, or if there is a great deal of boat traffic, big walleyes will feed almost exclusively at night. During the daytime they prefer relatively deep water, deeper than the areas where you typically find smaller walleyes.

In deep northern lakes, the shallow water temperature stays cool enough for big walleyes through the summer. If the walleyes can find boulders or other shallow-water cover to provide shade from the sun they may spend the summer at depths of 10 feet or less. In these lakes, most anglers fish too deep.

Increase the size your live bait or lures, they maybe too small to interest a trophy walleye. Many times large walleyes are caught on musky/pike baits in the 6″ – 8″ range. Larger baits will draw far fewer strikes than small ones, and

most anglers are not willing to fish all day for one or two opportunities.  But if you are intent on catching a trophy that is the price you must pay.

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Big walleyes are extremely cautious, especially in clear water. You don’t need to over-rig your set-up. They’re more likely to take a bait using a size 6 hook using 6-8lb test line than 12-17lb test with a 1/0 or bigger hook. A small hook will allow the walleye to swallow the bait without feeling anything unusual and will not pull-out or break. Most large walleyes are caught away from snags and take your time to bring the fish in allowing the rod, reel and drag to do its job.

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