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Monthly Archives: July 2017

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.

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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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Get the Most Out of Your Crankbaits

How to Get the Most out of Your Crankbaits There is perhaps no lure more versatile than a crankbait. This style of lure will catch fish of all species in all seasons, whether you’re casting or trolling.

What’s a Crankbait?
Any fish that routinely eats smaller fish can be targeted with crankbaits. A lure with a plastic lip that causes a bait to dive underwater can be classified as a crankbait. The depth ranges vary from just below the surface down to 20 feet or even deeper. To simplify things, crankbaits can be grouped into four major categories:

Squarebills and Shallow Divers
The shallowest-diving crankbaits – including the popular squarebill crankbaits – work best around shallow cover. Ideal places to throw shallow crankbaits are around rocks, docks, submerged wood, and shallow grass lines. The key with shallow-diving crankbaits is to fish them with no regard to getting them hung up. While this may seem crazy for a lure that has two treble hooks attached, shallow-divers actually do not hang up often if you reel them in fast enough. When a lure deflects off a hard object, it is often the best time to catch a fish, as it causes a reaction from the fish as the lure changes direction. The body and lip of the crankbait will absorb the impact, causing the deflection, and the hooks will rarely penetrate the cover at high speeds.

Medium Divers
Medium-diving crankbaits work well in water that is shallower than 10 feet, even when they dive deeper than the water’s depth. A crankbait that dives 10 feet, for example, will be excellent in shallower water, as it will dig into the bottom and cause a disturbance. Like shallow-diving crankbaits, a deflection also triggers strikes, and a short pause after a deflection often results in a strike.

Deep Divers
A deep crankbait works well for fishing off shore structures like rock piles, creek channels, and ledges. It takes more effort to get these crankbaits down deep and to make them stay there. Like the shallower styles, bottom contact is important, and any deflection or change in the retrieve will trigger a bite.


Spring
In most cases, the warmer the water is, the faster you want to crank your reel handle. A steady stop-and-go retrieve will also work in all seasons. Shallow crankbaits are perfect for springtime, as many of the largest fish in the lake will begin to enter shallow water in preparation for spawning. A red crankbait used with a fast retrieve will dive into the bottom and will look like a scurrying crawfish.

Summer
As the water temperature heats up, so does the metabolism of predatory fish. This is a time of year when you can crank as fast as you want to and fish deeper than you would in other seasons. A deep-diving crankbait is the top choice when fishing off shore structures.

Fall
Fall is arguably the best season to use crankbaits. This is when the baitfish become most active and the predatory fish begin to chase them. In lakes that have shad, a white or shad-pattern crankbait with a fast retrieve is the best lure to use to cover water until you locate a concentration of fish.

Winter
Winter is time to use a flat-sided crankbait that produces a tight wobbling action. A crankbait with a wider wobble does not work as well in colder temperatures, so flat-sided crankbaits are the top choice when fished with a slow and steady retrieve.


Line Type, Size, and Diameter
Selecting fishing line is one of the most overlooked aspects of crankbait fishing. Line size and diameter greatly affect how deep your baits will dive and what action they will have. Simply put, the thinner the diameter is, the deeper a bait will dive.

In addition to the line diameter, the type of line will affect the diving depths of your crankbaits. Monofilament and braid will float, and fluorocarbon will sink. Braided line will also have the least stretch, making it the least attractive option for crankbait fishing. The lack of stretch will tend to pull hooks out of the mouth of a fish, resulting in more lost fish.

Monofilament and fluorocarbon are the top choices for crankbaits. Monofilament is ideal for shallow crankbaits, especially when you are fishing around grass, as it will not hang up as often as the sinking fluorocarbon.

Fluorocarbon is a great all-around line for crankbait fishing; it has minimal stretch, and the sinking properties will allow a crankbait to dive deeper.


Cranking Gear
Crankbaits need rods and reels specifically designed for the technique to get the most out of your lures.

A reel should be able to handle a large amount of line to get a better casting distance, and it should also have a slower gear ratio. A 5.4:1 or similar gear ratio works well for all crankbaits because of two major factors: it forces anglers to fish the baits slower, and it allows for more power during the retrieve.

Crankbait rods should be long to allow for increased casting distance and to get to the maximum diving depth. A rod that is longer than seven feet is ideal, and up to eight feet is not too long.

The rod action is another key factor, as having a rod with some give is best to allow the bait to dive deep without being held back or impeded by the rod. A good medium-heavy rod with a moderate action has a perfect balance of backbone and flexibility. Fiberglass composite rods are popular, as they provide the balance needed for casting and cranking.

Modifying Hooks
The practice of swapping treble hooks is important as hooks become dull, but changing a hook style or size can have a big impact on a crankbait’s action and dive. Each treble hook style will vary in thickness and weight, causing a lure to dive shallower or deeper. The drastic change could also negatively affect how the crankbait was designed to run, giving it little or no action. With that in mind, it is best to change out hooks for similar sizes, styles, and even the same brand to avoid affecting your bait’s action.

Tuning Your Crankbait
Making sure that your crankbait is always running straight is a priority. If not, it could be due to a defective lure, damage from an errant cast, or simply catching too many fish! The solution to fixing a straying crankbait is very easy: tune it! Needle-nose pliers will allow you to slightly adjust the line tie to the opposite direction of where you want your crankbait to run. Simply put, if your crankbait is running to the left, turn the line tie to the right.

Crankbaits are among the top-producing lures for any species that eats smaller baitfish and crayfish. They allow an angler to quickly cover water and will be appealing to any fish that is in a feeding mood. They will even tempt those that are not hungry. By following these steps, you will be sure to get the most out of your crankbaits.

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Understanding – Wood & Weeds

Wood and Weeds
Underwater World of Freshwater Fish

Drowned wood, lay downs, brush plies composed of fir, pine, oak and maple typically lasts for years. By contrast birch, aspen and poplar provide cover for two to three years before decomposing to remnants. Drowned wood is terrific cover. The more complex the branches below the surface the better for fish. More branches more cover for a game fish to ambush prey. Finding “good” drowned wood means finding good  walleye fishing.     

Weeds and weed line edges are important throughout the fishing season as they (along with gravel bottoms) are used for spawning in spring; shelter, cover and foraging in summer/fall and feeding in winter for all game fish.  When fishing the weeds always keep in mind the “cover within cover” principle – weed points, edges, deep weed lines, transitions from one weed species to the next, channels, clumps and inside turns among others.

Types of Weeds
The presence of aquatic plants is one of the best indicators of whether a lake or a stream will be a good producer of fish. Most aquatic life which fish feed upon requires these plants for food. Plants also provide a fishery with protective cover and life-giving oxygen. Aquatic plants are classified into floating, emergent, submerged and algae varieties as each type has slightly different features.

Floating
Underwater World of Freshwater Fish Floating plants are not rooted and are free to move about the water’s surface. The main habitat for floating plants are backwater areas on rivers and streams where the current slackens and protected bays on lakes and flowages. In limited water movement area’s floating plants can be mixed in with other emergent and submerged plants forming what is commonly called “slop” by creating a surface mat that attracts largemouth bass, in deeper waters slop will hold northern pike and muskie. Fishing slop is extremely fun when the fish are on and you have the right set-up and lures. Fishing the slop requires heavy tackle and line to horse the fish out of cover. Baitcasting reels spooled with low stretch 17lb to 30lb test line, rods rated heavy with fast action are recommended. Lure choices include weedless soft plastics, worms and lizards using heavy sinkers to penetrate the thick vegetation, top water frog and rat imitations are excellent for surface slop fishing, there is nothing more exciting when a bass explodes on one of these. The common North American native floating plants are Duckweed, Bladderwort and Watermeal.

Emergent
An emergent plant are a rooted shallow water plant found along shorelines areas, which grows in the water but the stems stand above the surface. All emergent plants flower which allows the reproductive process through pollination by wind or by flying insects. Emergent plants provide an important function on the water’s edge that creates a network root system which resists erosion, where wave action and water flow might undercut banks and a barrier for shoreline sediment. These plants create habitat and food supply for many species of insect, fish, bird, and mammal. The most common North American emergent plants are Lily Pads, Bulrushes and Cattails.

White Water Lily Pads
Underwater World of Freshwater Fish
The lily pad is a perennial flat leafed flowering rooted plant that grows in groups. For the most part they are found along shallower waters in sandy or soft bottomed areas. In clear water that can grow up to six to eight feet. The lily pad leaves are more rounded than heart shaped, bright green from 6-12 inches in diameter with a slit about the 1/3 of the leaf. The leaves float on the surface, the flower grow on separate stalks displaying brilliant white petals with a yellow center and are very fragrant. The flower opens each morning and closes as the sun goes down. A favorite habitat for largemouth bass. However many other species such as northern pike and muskies can be found in the lily pads as well. 

Bulrushes
Underwater World of Freshwater Fish

There are several species of bulrushes known as reeds and pencil reeds. Bulrushes are perennial rooted grass-like plants and can grow to 10 feet tall in shallow water or in moist soils. Reeds generally grow on firm bottoms, bulrush grows in softer mud bottoms. The bulrush brownish flowers appears just below the tip of the stem. Reeds and bulrush provides excellent fish habitat and spawning areas for northern pike and, in early spring, provide nesting cover for largemouth bass and bluegills. Bulrushes attract marsh birds and songbirds. Seeds of bulrushes are consumed by ducks and other birds.

Cattails
Underwater World of Freshwater Fish
Cattails are found in marshes, ditches, shorelines, shallow areas of lakes, ponds, and slow streams, quiet water up to 4 feet deep. They have slightly twisted rounded leaves, and can grow to 5 or 10 feet in height. Cattails are easily identified by their fuzzy brown cigar shaped flower (called the catkin) near the top of the stalk. Cattails spread rapidly when the catkin releases the seeds blowing in the wind or floating on the water’s surface. The cattail habitat helps stabilize marshy borders of lakes and ponds; helps protect shorelines from wave erosion; northern pike may spawn along shore behind the cattail fringe; provides cover and nesting sites for waterfowl and marsh birds such as the red-winged blackbird, stalks and roots are eaten by muskrats and beavers.

 

 

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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Fishing, Fishing TIPS, Structure, weeds

 

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Transition Walleye – Between Patterns

Although rivers get a ton of attention in the early part of the walleye fishing season, there is an army of anglers that concentrate their efforts fishing natural lakes and mid-sized reservoirs this time of year. The challenge for these dedicated souls is that finding walleyes right now can be tough. The walleye are in transition; it’s not really spring, and it’s not yet summer? It’s a time when we say the walleye are “in the middle of the road”, meaning they are between patterns. They’ve finished their spawning ritual, but haven’t set-up on classic summer habitat. It’s a pattern (or lack of one) that many walleye anglers struggle with every season. You can catch fish during this period … you can even have great catches … but the walleye tend to be “here today – gone tomorrow”, making consistent success iffy at best. The key to catching these “middle of the road” fish is to concentrate on structural edges.

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 Fishing Points with Break Lines  A point extends out from the shoreline and slopes gradually down and into deeper water. It is a good place to fish. But a point with a quick drop-off or one that doesn’t extend into deeper water isn’t a good fishing place.

  • The sloping-out formation of a point creates a break line.
  • A break line draws fish from deeper water to shallow water in search of food.
  • Fish the tip of the point and the corners of the point (the part that curves back into the shore).

Your browser does not support inline frames or is currently configured not to display inline frames. Other than the rare scenario where you are dealing with ultra-clear water, walleye won’t be found on deep structure, nor do they tend to be really shallow right now. Look for these transitional walleye somewhere in between … in that eight to twenty foot range … usually relating to the primary break closest to their spawning areas; the primary break defined as the first major drop off from shore. For instance, if the shore tapers off to say ten feet, then drops into fifteen, that’s the primary break for that area. Now that sounds simple enough, but it’s where they are located on the break that’s the trick. They may be on the bottom edge, the top edge, someplace in between, on the flat adjacent to the top edge or even suspended just off the break.

If the weather has been stable, and conditions prime for the fish to be active and feeding, look for them to be near the top edge of the break. That’s not to say they’ll be right on the edge, but they won’t be far from it. They could be cruising the adjoining flat chasing schools of minnows, but they won’t be far from the edge. A flat with sporadic or newly emerging weed growth makes the situation even better. In fact, weeds on the flat create a different set of edges that attract the fish this time of year. These edges offer travel routes as well as ambush points for feeding fish. On Wawang Lake, you’ll begin noticing better catch rates early and late in the day … probably because the walleye are sitting tight to the primary break during mid-day, and moving on to the flat to feed during low-light periods.

So what’s the best way to catch these “middle of the road walleyes”? That’s a tough one … the problem being that May can be a time when virtually every tactic in your arsenal will catch fish under the right circumstances. That may make it sound easy, but the key here is “under the right circumstances”. Picking the right presentation for the given situation when you have so many options can play mind-games with the best of anglers.

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Let’s look at a couple scenarios to give you some insight into how to approach fishing this time of the season. It’s a perfect, calm and sunny spring day. You’ve found a primary drop off that goes from eight feet down to twelve off a large flat with scattered weeds along the top edge. The break runs pretty well defined for about a hundred yards, so you start off working along it with bottom bouncers and spinners. Things aren’t looking very promising for the first fifty yards, then “bang” … you catch a nice sixteen incher. Thinking you’re on to something you continue on. Another thirty yards you go untouched and then “bang” … another decent fish. You could go all day like that but you decide to turn around and go back through the area. This time you pay close attention to your electronics, and notice that the spots those fish came from were two small hard-bottom points that jut out into deeper water. These irregularities in the break are classic fish holding structures. While you could keep trolling back and forth with the spinners, and probably pick up a few more fish, you’ll risk spooking those fish off and be forced to start looking all over again. A better plan of attack would be to put away the bouncer rod, pick up a jig stick and try pitching small jigs tipped with a minnow or an artificial like a Berkley GULP! 3 inch Minnow or PowerBait Ripple Shad to those isolated spots on the break.

Wawang Walleye Katy

For the next scenario, the primary break runs across the entire mouth of a large bay … several hundred yards wide, dropping off from fifteen to twenty feet off the edge. The flat is covered with scattered rock piles, clam beds, and sparse newly emergent weed growth. There’s a fair “walleye chop”, and it’s an overcast day. With the low-light conditions and the deeper flat, it’s a good bet that the walleye will be up and roaming. This would be a great time to pull out the trolling rods and concentrate your efforts pulling crankbaits over the flat just inside the edge of the break. While there’s little need to spread lines out too far (remember, the walleye are likely to be close to the edge of the drop), we’ve found that it never hurts in a situation like this to run one line out on an Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer so that it’s running well up on the flat. It’s amazing how many times that has accounted for a bonus fish or two in the course of a day. Keep your crankbait selection simple … you’re still dealing with fairly cool water temps, so stick with moderate action lures like Berkley Flicker Shads.

Of course that’s just two scenarios out of dozens that you may encounter during this transition period. And this “middle of the road” deal doesn’t come in to play on every body of walleye water …

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The Complete Pike Arsenal

7Some of us like to target pike. From the time the ice melts until the lakes freeze over again, we’re out on the water slinging heavy metal on big-diameter rods fishing all day for just a couple of bites. We might also be pushing that bow-mount electric motor to the edge of its specifications in vegetation so thick on the surface it’s hard to believe there are loads of pike hiding around the sparse stalks just a few feet down.

Pike ambush their prey, which means cover, in the form of vegetation, is a good place to find them. Wherever there is a big weedy flat, there will be pike.

During the early season, you cannot beat a spinnerbait for pike. When the fish are aggressive, you can use up to a 1-ounce lure with a big willow-leaf or Indiana-style blade. When the pike bite requires some finesse, a 1/2-ounce lure with a Colorado-style blade is the best option.

With a willow-leaf or Indiana blade, you must maintain speed for the lure to produce enough flash to attract pike. The Colorado blade is the slow, precise option. When you quit reeling and drop the tip on a Colorado-bladed spinnerbait, the lure flutters down, creating a helicopter effect and floating the skirted leadhead right into a pocket or along the edge of a weed line.

Crankbaits are deadly for pike, but when combined with a heavy wire leader with big snaps, there is a definite impediment to the lure’s action. There is a remedy for this situation. It’s called Tyger Leader. Tyger Leader (www.tygerleader.com) is a stainless steel knottable leader that you can tie directly to the lure. A 5-, 10-, even a 15-pound-test is a small enough diameter to allow the crankbait to run true to form.

booyah_super_shad_spinnerbaitStart with a small barrel swivel on the line from the reel. Tie the Tyger Leader to the swivel. Use a piece about a foot long and you’re covered. But if you’re like me, changing lures every half hour, start with 18 to 20 inches, and by the end of the day you’re left with about 6 inches. You can tie the crankbait directly to the leader and it will run straight and wobble just like it’s been tied to the braided line from the reel.

Some pike anglers swear by spoons. Spoons can generate some solid bites, but there are days when pike will just follow the lure and not hit it. When this is the case, thread three 2-inch scented grub tails onto a treble hook. The fluttering tail with the added scent turns those followers into biters.

If you are a spoon expert, try the 1 1/2-ounce Sebile Onduspoon – they are loaded with rattles and have a unique action when used with a steady retrieve. Pike seem to love them, so be sure to use a wire leader because they will inhale them.

Pike love plastic worms. Those reaper tails and brush-hog bodies that are found by the gross in bass anglers’ boxes are deadly, but pike anglers haven’t figured it out yet.  A favorite plastic presentations for pike consists of a No. 4/0 weighted worm hook tipped with a Gulp!  Crazy Legs Jerk Shad. You don’t rig this with the hook weed less like you would if fishing for bass. No, you make sure the hook is exposed.

spoonsUse a 1/16-ounce weighted hook so the drop is slow. With the plastic body you can cast this rig some distance, but the goal is to just pitch it into pockets in the weeds and let it sink for a few seconds. Then, using a twitch-and-stop retrieve, bring it back to the boat.

Those old grizzled pike anglers with multiple scars on their hands from getting too close to a big pike’s gill rakers prefer to use minnows — big sucker minnows. These anglers anchor at a favorite spot and watch those bobbers swim around as the big suckers try to submerge into the vegetation.

That’s the secret. You want the minnow struggling to escape, so position the hook below the bobber so the bait is a few inches above the vegetation.

There are tricks to get the minnow to attract even more pike. Some anglers trim fins. Take a nip off one of the side fins and the minnow will swim in an erratic circle. Knock off half the tail fin and the minnow really struggles to stay upright. A struggling minnow is an enticement pike cannot resist. That’s why it’s important to keep the bait fresh as well. After a half hour, replace the minnow with a fresh one, although if the fish are biting, you may go through a few suckers in that amount of time.

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Other items found in the complete pike arsenal are a mouth spreader and long-nosed pliers. The prevalent mouth spreaders are wire springs that wrench the pike’s jaw open and cut right through their mouth. Toss it out. Berkley developed a new mouth spreader that has a low impact on pike. The pliers, of course, come into play when the pike’s mouth is spread open. You can see by the sheer numbers of teeth that it would be a really stupid idea to reach into that cavernous jaw and dislodge the hooks with your bare hand.

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Walleye Lures and Baits

To get a fish to bite, you need to know how, where, whe­n, and what it eats.

1 Dave

 

Walleye are most active in morning and evening. They feed on small yellow perch, small northern pike, lake herring, other small bait fish and you can often find them around schools of these smaller fish. They eat a lot, they’re aggressive, and they’re not picky, which is good news for you. Because walleye eat by sucking in water around their prey, you’ll probably want to try smaller bait.

Look for walleye around submerged rocks, weedy flats, bars or other underwater barriers in the lakes.  Wawang Lake is known for all these types of great structure.

Many predators like such obstructio­ns, which help them ambush their food. Walleye locate their prey by sight, which means you’re not likely to find them in sunny waters; they retreat coyly to the shadows or the darker depths, often in groups. walleye’s strong vision also means you’ll have better luck with brightly colored lures, and you might even want to experiment with different colors.

­In the case of walleye, to seek out their location, you’ll also need to consider the time of year. Walleye like water between 55 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and they move to follow it. In spring and fall, you’ll find them in the shallows of lakes. In summer, they’ll be a bit deeper — though you’re not likely to find them in very deep waters (more than 50 feet).

Now that you know those basics, let’s find out how you can choose the right baits and lures.

Types of Walleye Fishing Lures

Nature-Jigs-1-WhiteLures are designed to mimic a fish’s natural prey, so think about­ walleye’s eating patterns and food. Lures that move quickly will attract these aggressive hunters. Additionally, lures should be similar in size to the smaller prey fish.

If you’re fishing with a jig head, choose the jig head based on water depth — the deeper the water, the heavier the head. For deeper walleye fishing, you’ll want a jig head of about ½ ounce. In shallower waters, you can go as light as a 1/8-ounce jig head. If conditions are rough or windy, a heavier jig can help.

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Depending on the time of year, you may want something that sticks close to the bottom, like a small but heavy jig (with a lead head) or a crank bait.   If you go with a crank bait, again, choose one that mimics walleye’s natural prey — narrow, and between three and five inches long.

In various fishing conditions, you might want to try:

  • High-action lures:  designed to go deep (especially in warmer months)
  • Crank baits:  such as shad raps, jointed shad raps, or glass shad raps (with built-in rattles)
  • A balsa lure: such as a rapala
  • Live bait jigs: (for casting or trolling at the beginning of the fall season)
  • A #3 or #4 spinner
  • Trolling crank baits with more subtle action (better for the colder months

Finally, you can key your color choice to the sort of water you’ll be fishing. Use brighter colors for weedy or muddy waters.

Obviously, your bait depends on your choice of lure, as well as the fishing conditions. Read on.

Types of Walleye Fishing Baits

182Remember that walleye’s behavior and location chan­ges seasonally — so, the b­ait that worked so well at the beginning of September might not be the best one for May. Come prepared to try a few different kinds of baits, and remember that every angler works by trial and error.

When the weather is cold, you may find the best results with live bait. In cold water, walleye are sluggish. The movement of live bait will likely be most effective at stimulating them to bite. Walleye are more aggressive in warmer weather, and that can sometimes let you get away with plastic bait, especially plastic worms.   But many anglers swear by minnows year-round.

If you’re using a live bait jig, try minnows, worms, leeches or red tail chub. With a spinner, try a piece of worm.

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One approach you may want to explore is coordinating your bait fish to whatever is schooling in the water. If you see a school of perch, for example, walleye are probably feeding close by, so use a perch colored lure tipped with live bait. Then let your jig drop a few feet at a time, the better to imitate the movement of the bait fish.   Obviously, this requires a bit more observation, flexibility and patience on your part. But isn’t that why you go fishing in the first place?

WEATHER TIP
Try to time your walleye fishing expedition so that it’s not coming right after a particularly cold snap. You can often have good luck during the turnover — the time when the weather is getting colder — because walleye follow their food into shallower waters, and often into less protected areas. But a particularly cold snap changes a lake’s temperature patterns so dramatically that it tends to put walleye into hiding until they’ve adjusted. Gradual changes are likely to offer better fishing

How To Cook Walleye
Now that you know how walleye eat, it’s time to learn how you can eat walleye. Walleye makes for a delicious meal, and depending on the preparation, it can be quite healthful as well. Try grilling walleye with fruit chutney, horseradish or pesto for a low-fat entrée. You can also bake, broil, fry, smoke or blacken walleye. Walleye is flavorful on its own, so you don’t need to do anything elaborate or complicated. 

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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.

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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