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Early Season Walleye Jigging Tactics

Jigging for Walleye

Using jigs can be very productive but too many anglers aren’t fishing them correctly. Just starters, understand that you won’t always feel the thump of a walleye when it strikes a jig.

Guys expect that sure bite or hit. Many times you don’t feel it. So often you  drop the jig down and it stops. Maybe you’ll just feel some extra weight.

Concentrate on your rod, and don’t wait too long to set the hook.

The right rod helps here. When jigging, use a 6-foot, 8-inch or 7-foot rod when jigging with a light-action and fast tip. This really helps increase the number of bites he detects, which translates into more fish.

Use a short shank jig for live bait and a long shank jig when combining that live bait with a dressing. The latter can be plastic, Gulp, or maribou. If you face a tougher bite, use less bulk and movement in the water. Don’t vibrate your offering as much. Listen to the fish to extrapolate their mood, then up size or downsize properly.

Under most conditions, avoid stinger hooks. If you’re missing strikes, however, and want to try a stinger, use it properly. Just let it free-fall behind the lure.4595-fireballs

You get fewer bites with a stinger, so if you’re missing fish, drop that rod tip first, and let them take it.

As for jigging actions, think beyond just lift-drop. That’s fine if it’s producing, but often just holding it at one depth, say 3 inches off bottom, is enough. Let that minnow work.

If you want to get creative, try quiver jigging (gyrating the rod ahead of the reel), snap-jigging, dragging, or just casting and retrieving jigs.

Also, use a heavy enough jig to contact bottom, but not so heavy that fish blow it out. Vertical jigging should offer just the right weight to tick the bottom.

And if you feel a bite, set the hook hard. Really swing that rod tip up.  Always tie your jigs directly to the line. Suspend it periodically out of the water and let it unravel to eliminate line twist and tangling.

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HOW TO CATCH TROPHY WALLEYE

10502351_10152072813107581_4752768024700747013_n 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.

10491182_10152064839082581_1250644696202537939_nSummer

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.

31" walleye - Mark Hecht

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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TIPS TO CATCHING SPRING WALLEYE

 30.5 inch wawang lake walleye
If hooking a big walleye is the plan then Wawang Lake is where you want to go whether it’s spring, summer or fall . While walleye are rather active and generally numbers are much easier to find during the spring, but catching BIG trophy sized walleye happens all season long.  Catching these big guys still takes some tactics to reel them in. If the plan is to drop a line, hook a fish and go home happy within a few minutes, the outcome could be disappointment.

Although springtime is the favorite for walleye fishing, anglers need to keep a few things in mind. Everything from actual weather conditions to location and bait can impact the outcome of a fishing trip. The trick is really gauging the action carefully before picking a spot to stay at.    Walleyes like water between 55 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and they move to follow it. In spring you’ll find them in the shallows of lakes and fall they will move into shallower water depending on light and wave activity.

Location Matters in The Spring

imagesCA9GUKSFWhen the waters are thawing, but haven’t turned warm just yet, the shallows are generally the place to go. Anglers often quickly find a few key spots that work very well in the spring months.

It’s important to keep in mind that changing weather patterns can affect where walleye happen to be on a particular day or night. Many anglers swear by very shallow, night fishing to catch walleye during the cooler spring days but this is not always true. Slightly warmer, less windy days might find them a little further out though.

Some places to seek them out include:

  • Shallow points and mid-depths. While walleye are known to move into deeper waters when the temperatures heat up, early spring won’t generally find them there yet. Look along sunken islands and in mid- to rather shallow points by boat. If electronics do not turn up fish action, move on.
  • On-shore/wading. Many anglers find they are better off leaving the boat at home for springtime fishing, especially in the early days of spring. The fish are often found in very shallow waters that can be fished from shore or from piers.
  • Picking The Right Equipment. Having the right bait and equipment cannot be stressed enough when walleye is the catch of choice. These fish have changing preferences. What they enjoy in the hotter summer months is not necessarily what they’ll bite in the spring. Some of the suggested bait and tackle recommendations for springtime angling include:
  • Tackle. Rigs with live bait and live bait with slip bobbers are generally the preferred means for catching walleye during the spring months. Keep in mind if it’s early spring, walleye are getting ready to move to their spawning grounds, so they’re ready to eat.
  • Bait. Walleye tend to gravitate well toward minnows and night crawlers during the early spring months. In some areas, they might prefer noshing on insect larvae like during a mayfly hatch. For this reason, some anglers swear by using marabou jigs and other similar lures.

Walleye Wawang Lake

Spring is typically the one of best times of year to hook a winning walleye, but that doesn’t mean the prospect will always be easy.

The temperatures this time of year, especially in early spring, can be brutal on anglers. Exercising a bit of patience, finding the right spots and paying heed to weather patterns can make a difference.

Remember, the landscape can change from day to day. On cooler days (or nights), they are often found very close to shore, but mid-level areas might hold them when the temperatures start to turn up just a bit.

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Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

 There are three times during the open-water period that can be considered prime for big pike.

 big pike

Each of these windows of opportunity lasts from 10 to 14 days and is key for large-sized northern because during this time, the bigger fish of this species are more concentrated in the shallower water. Here’s where they can be found easily and caught with lures that allow anglers to cover some ground in their search. Once these big pike head to the cool depths where they spread out and suspend, finding and catching them requires tremendous amounts of luck. It’s better to time your fishing for big pike to these three periods to take advantage of factors that give the edge to the angler instead of the pike.

  1. The first period is right after ice-out, which can be a problem in many areas where the season is closed on inland waters.
  2. The second period is as the shallows warm, when the big pike transition from shallow water to deep water.
  3. The third is right before a water body turns over in the fall, when big northern will move up into shallow water after spending summer in the depths.

Right after ice-out, you find huge northern pike in the spawning areas.  These will be shallow weed-choked bays in the lake, and weedy backwater bays up the river.

Little northern aren’t hard to find and catch, but the big pike are a challenge and they put up one heck of a fight.  When you hook into a really nice pike, you can’t make any mistakes.

Don’t let the cold water temperatures right after ice-out deter you from using an approach that allows you to cover some ground. This is the perfect time to be tying on a spinner bait because it’s a lure that works well in shallow vegetation.

The pike move up into whatever vegetation is still standing from the previous year — and any newly emerging weed growth that can often be found in very shallow depths.   Use a 3/4-ounce spinner bait with a large Colorado blade.  This lure casts a long way and can be retrieved slowly, if that’s what’s necessary. You can also burn it a little faster just below the surface in the real shallow water.

Wawang_pike_lures

Some of the pike will have already spawned, more than likely while ice still covered the surface. Others are still spawning or are preparing to.  Occasionally you may catch a big pike and you can tell is post-spawn, most of the really big pike after the ice has just gone out are still fat with eggs and just on the verge of spawning.    All trophy fish are released back to Wawang Lake.

It’s the transition period when the shallow shoreline regions are warming and the big northern are moving into the deeper, cooler water when most anglers get their first shot at big pike. This period usually falls into a two-week time frame a couple of weeks after the traditional opener. Anglers who can be on the water at this time can capitalize on big fish that are still in reaching distance for a spinner bait or crank bait.

It’s no secret that big pike like the colder water.  You will seldom find the bigger pike in the shallower regions in the lake during the summer months, because the water temperatures there are just too warm for their liking. If you miss this transition period, you’ll likely be into fall before you get another chance at a really big pike, because those bigger fish get hard to come by when they disappear into the depths.

This is a good time to get out Spoon plugs.  Any lake that has a well-defined deep weed line is a perfect candidate for Spoon plugs.

Wawang pike 46.5

The Spoon plug is a lure that was promoted years ago by famous angler Buck Perry, and is a staple of many diehard big-pike anglers. It allows an angler to troll a weed line or break line precisely at speeds of 1 to 4 mph.

You can cover some ground and find out where those pike are, although during the transition, it’s more important to have your lure in the right place than worrying about the speed.   Those Spoon plugs will get the lure to the right depth and stay on the weed line, no matter what speed I find triggers the bite.

So how does an angler know when the transition starts and ends? Water temperature signals the start.  When the surface temperature hits about 67 degrees, you know it’s going to start pushing those fish out.  This could be early June during some years and early July in others. The weather is the biggest determinant in when this transition period occurs.

You can tell it’s over when the fish quit the bite.  You’ll have a week where the weed line and shallow rock piles are producing big pike with some consistency, then one day you go out there and they’re gone.

Screen shot 2012-01-14 at 23_06_51

The pre-turnover period is when those big pike come out of the deep water as the shallow water cools, just prior to the lake rolling over.

Turnover is a tough time to call, which is why the guys who can get out on a body of water often generally hit this time just right. If you miss it, then there is a period for a couple of weeks after turnover when the fishing is tough all over a lake. It’s just luck and timing.

The big pike will be roaming over the tops of the vegetation, you’ll just want to be ticking the tops of the cabbage, coontail or milfoil with that spinner bait, and if the blade is just a nice slow thump, that’s perfect.

Back troll slowly over the vegetation, with only about 25 to 35 feet of line out — the line from the reel at a 45-degree angle toward the lure and the spinner bait right above the vegetation. By wearing a good pair of polarized glasses, an angler can watch the bait as it dances in and around the stalks and branches. As the boat moves from shallower to deeper water, drop the rod tip or lets out a little more line until the lure starts ticking weeds again.

If seeing an opening in the weeds, drop the rod tip and let the lure settle in.  It’s amazing how often you see the big pike react to the spinner bait and come out of a big pile of milfoil or coontail and attack that lure.

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These big pike are the top predators in a lake and they fear nothing at this point.   You’ll see them swim right into the prop wash to hit a spinner bait or spoon as it’s trolled out from the boat.

Back trolling allows more depth control.   It’s easier to get the speed down and work a depth more thoroughly when backing the boat.   If the pike are deeper switch to crank baits or Spoon plugs, then front-troll. But when pulling spinner baits over the tops of the weeds, back troll.

Open-water season in northern Ontario lasts about 28 weeks or so and the time frame for quality big-pike fishing is between five and six weeks, so it’s imperative that you be on the water for these peak times.   Those big pike don’t give you many opportunities, so you need to take advantage of every one ’em.

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Using Leeches & Worms + VIDEO

 LEECHES AND NIGHTCRAWLERS

walleye_catchLeeches and night-crawlers are favorite foods of the walleye because they are natural offerings in most waters and walleye are accustomed to feeding on them.

When presented properly they are irresistible. A stretched out, wiggling leech bouncing  along just over the bottom of a gravel bar or weed bed, will make even the most finicky walleye take a second look, turn around and zero in on target,   mouth open and taste buds tingling.

Hook the sucker end of the leech to the first hook of a spinner rig and place the tail section on the last hook. Place it in the water and pull it at the same speed you are   going to troll or retrieve at and look for the size, movement and or roll of the leech. It should run straight not roll up into a nondescript little ball; this does not attract walleye. When you have the leech trailing the way you want it’s time to add a few light split shots to get it down to the desired depth. By placing the split shot about eighteen inches to two feet in front of the hook you should be within six inches of bottom with the leech as you troll or retrieve, and you won’t have to run a whole lot of line out behind the boat.

Night-crawlers are attached to your spinner rigs in the same way. Again, make sure they are stretched out along the rig so they trail out on the retrieve. Choose the   largest and fattest worms available.

COLOUR

The spinner rig can be purchased at a local tackle shop and comes in many variations of size and  colors.

A simple rule to remember when faced with color choices is: bright days + clear water = silver spinner is a very good choice.  Darker water or cloudy days try a fluorescent or gold spinner are other good choices

The beads most often used are red with white, or yellow; try mixing the colors until you come up with the pattern that works best for you.

SPEED.

Try slow trolling or retrieving the leech at a fairly fast pace at first to take advantage of more aggressive fish.   Remember that you should troll according the weather system.

Meaning:
Bright, clear day:  troll slow or even jig
Cloudy, rainy day:  Troll faster and a willow leaf blade is a very good choice

A rate of about half again the normal trolling speed usually works well.  Keep track of where the fish are hitting and come back over these same spots again but a little slower this time to take   advantage of the less aggressive fish. Remember that it is not always the larger fish that are most aggressive and by fishing back you can add considerably to your stringer.

CASTING

Having reached the place you are going to fish, maybe a shoal or weed bed that you have had some luck on before, try fan casting. Start at a right angle to where you are standing facing the water. Throw the first cast to the right and keep working  to the left until you have gone in a complete arch to the other end. This will allow you to cover every bit of the water facing you. Now move down until you are at the edge of the spot you covered last and start the same procedure over again. When you have worked your way to the end of the area that you wanted to fish, you will have covered the area correctly.

Inlets are a good place to practice this pattern of casting, especially early season as the walleye are quite often in this area looking for small, early baitfish or crustaceans. By fan casting you can cover this entire area of water.

The above methods have consistently proven to be successful for opening season walleye.   So get your live bait and be ready for a fun day on the lake.

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Northern Pike Handling, Filleting & Take the ‘Y’ Bones Out

catch
When it comes to caring for Pike that you plan to use at home, the first and probably most important step in assuring a quality meal is to keep the fish fresh prior to cleaning.   Compared to other popular game fish, the flesh of Northern Pike is among the most likely to deteriorate if care is not taken to keep the fish fresh right up to the cleaning table.   When you plan to save some for the table, one great approach is to wait until later in your fishing trip before you start saving fish to take home.

After filleting it’s best to freeze your filets properly for transportation back home from the lodge.  All your hard work out on the lake could be confiscated by a game warden for the following reasons:

  • frozen in one big blob is considered ‘unidentifiable’
  • failure to keep one square inch patch of skin on the filet
  • packaged improperly (the correct procedure is one fish per package, layed out flat – side by side)

Keeping fish frozen during your stay allows for easy transportation all the way home.  Frozen fish takes the place of ice, however, midway you may want to check the cooler to inspect your filets and add fish accordingly as this could  make a difference at the dinner table.

Another key factor in preparing gourmet meals using Northern Pike is to avoid saving Pike in the freezer for periods of time.  Pike flesh contains a particular Amino Acid that breaks down fairly quickly while fish are stored in the freezer too long. So even if you’ve taken great care to keep the fish fresh up to this point, you could be disappointed when you pull out a package of fish that you’ve been saving for that special occasion.  Because Pike are not well suited for long-term storage, at the simple rule of thumb is Pike are to be eaten within a couple of weeks. 

Removing the “Y” bones from Pike fillets is part of the mystery that has kept lots of otherwise willing anglers away from using these fish in recipes and removing these small bones is really easy! Even the smallest Pike can be easily de-boned by anyone who can fillet a Walleye or most any other fish. In fact, even the term “Y” bone is a misnomer because this so called “Y” bone really isn’t much different than the strip of bones that you’d remove from a Walleye or any other fish caught in our waters. It just happens to be sandwiched into the grain of the fillet where it is protected from “frying out”. 

This is one of those times when it would be easier to do the job than it is to describe how to do it, but look at the picture of the finished fillets and you’ll get a good idea of how to follow these instructions.

npBegin by filleting the fish and removing the rib bones as you would a Walleye or most other freshwater fish. Once you have taken the fillet, study it for a minute. Take a look at the centerline that divides the fillet horizontally and notice the row of light bones visible halfway between this centerline and the top (fishes back) of the fillet. You will be making one cut on each side of this row of bones. You’ll also see that the flesh has a “grain” much like the grain of a nice oak board. The “Y” bones run with this grain and you can use this grain as a directional guide when making your cuts.

COMPLETE DIAGRAM BELOW:

Cut 1:
Start by making a cut just above this row of bones that you can see (and feel). This first cut will be shallow (about ¼ inch) and it is perpendicular to the fillet. This simple, straight cut is used mostly as an access cut to get your knife into position for the next step. Using the tip of your fillet knife, you’ll be able to feel the edge of your knife contact the bones at the inside corner of this “L”  where the bones turn toward the top of the fillet. When you feel the knife contacting those bones, take care not to cut through them.

Cut 2:
Turn the edge of your knife toward the top of the fillet at about a 45-degree angle and follow this edge. You’ll be able to see the bones as you gently slip your knife-edge along this edge. Stop the cut before you reach the top edge of the fillet.

Cut 3:
This is the finishing touch. Start this cut below the row of bones on the side nearest the centerline and simply follow the same angle that you used to make cut 2. As the edge of your knife moves toward the top of the fillet, you’ll begin to feel this strip of bones peeling away from the rest of the fillet. Trim along these edges as needed to remove the strip and voila, you’re finished.

ybone


So There you have it, all you need is a little faith in yourself, a fairly good fillet knife and a little practice. You will soon learn that there is really no trick at all and before long your family and friends will be standing in line at dinner time waiting to sample your newest Pike recipe.

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Posted by on December 17, 2018 in Fishing, Northern Pike, pike

 

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Deep Water Walleye Fishing

DSCN0898When you catch a big Walleye, big meaning over 6-pounds, there is a 95% chance that it’s a female. The big females generally only go into the shallows in the spring where they are up along the shore, in rivers or over sandbars, which are their favorite places to spawn. The smaller males seem to stay in the 2 to 15 foot range all year. The bigger females tend to go deeper then 15 feet. When fishing deep for big mid-summer/ early fall walleye fish between 20 and 40 feet deep.

Why do the big females go deep? There are several explanations depending on the size of the lake and how far north the lake is.

1) Bigger females have a larger air bladder, which makes them hyper sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure. Being deeper makes the adjustment a little easier when the weather changes.LOTM-rapala-ice-jig

2) Bigger females spend too much energy chasing small bait fish that are found in shallow water. The bigger bait fish that are found is shallow water like perch etc., are hard to swallow as they have defensive spins in their fins. Lake Chub, Whitefish, Lake Herring  are all found in abundance down deep AND this food source is abundant in Wawang Lake. They are easier to swallow and more rewarding when considering the amount of energy needed to catch them. These deep water bait fish, especially Whitefish, have more oil in their meat thus more calories.

3) A walleye metabolism speeds up in shallow warm water. As a result, the bigger they get, the more food they need to maintain their weight. If the food is not there, they go to deeper cold water so their metabolism slows down. The dangerous thing about this is there is a fine threshold between eating more or conserving energy. If a big Walleye gets to the point where they can not find enough food to maintain their weight, they do get smaller, then they die. As soon as a Walleye gets to the point where they are starting to weaken from lack of food energy, they do not have the energy to catch bait fish and starve to death.

4) In smaller northern lakes, there is a larger population of Pike regularly attack walleye and bigger slower moving females are an easy target. This is another reason why they go deep right after they spawn.

 

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Some Types of Lures to Use on the Big Lake:

When you are Walleye fishing on big water like Wawang Lake, the walleye tend to stay suspended along with the schools of bait fish. Lets say you were on a big  part of the lake, , the best thing to do is troll until you come across a deeper school of bait fish and then keep trolling over the bait school.

These schools of bait-fish can be 15 to 40 feet deep and the walleye will be there too. The most popular lures are the Rapala Husky Jerks and the Rattlin’ Fat
Raps.
–> 10 to 20 feet deep – Regular Husky Jerks
–> 20 to 40 feet deep – Down Deep Husky Jerk or Down Deep Rattlin’ Fat Rap

Just troll around and use your depth finder to spot schools of fish. To determine how deep you are, the Regular Husky Jerks go down about 1 foot for every 10 feet of line out. The Down Deep Rapalas go down about 3 feet for every 10 feet of line out. So using a Down Deep Rapala, getting down 30 feet deep means you need 100 feet of line out. This is just a general estimate. The speed of your troll will affect how deep the lures will go.

3-Way Swivel Rig:

 

The best way to fish down deep for Walleye is with 10-pound test line and a 3-way swivel rig. This technique is also excellent for other fish that are right on bottom in the 20 to 60-feet of water.

You need 8 to 10 pound test because thicker line has too much friction with the water and it will be hard to find the bottom. You also need a 1-oz or 2-oz weight, a 3-way swivel and a lure that does not sink. Use an Original floating Rapala, Junior Thunderstick, Countdown Rapala or a worm harness with small spinner blades and a big fat worm.

This rig is smaller than the standard type; You need a 3-foot lead line from the 3-way swivel to the sinker. Then you need a 5 or 6-foot lead line to your lure.  Get a strait slow troll going and slowly let out line until your sinker hits the bottom. Then reel up a foot and wait.. Keep those lines tight!

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