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Category Archives: Fishing

How to Fish During the Cold Fronts

 

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We’ve all had to face it at one time or another – waking up on the day of your fishing trip to a chill in the air and bluebird skies to boot. What you are experiencing is the passing of a cold front, a weather occurrence that can shut down fish, and cause severe headaches for an angler. Fishing will be tough – there’s no two ways about it – but it is possible to put some fins in the boat if you are prepared to alter your delivery.

Try these techniques the next time you face a cold front and watch your catch rate increase dramatically.

What is a Cold Front?
A common definition of a cold front is as follows: “A narrow zone of transition between relatively cold, dense air that is advancing and relatively warm, less dense air that is retreating.”

cold_frontA cold front actually takes a day or so before the drop in temperature sets in and the skies become blue. This typically shows itself in the form of high winds, rainy weather or thunderstorms. It’s those kinds of days where all hell breaks loose, as the approaching front is causing a disturbance as the differing masses come together.

As the cold front approaches, fishing can be excellent. Fish become wired and active, feeding up a storm and hitting baits with ferocious strength. Even the fish know that once the front passes, they will take on a neutral or negative mood, and will develop a case of lockjaw for a couple of days. So, they feed heavily in preparation of this ‘dormant’ stage.

If you can get out on the water as a front approaches, I would certainly suggest it. Enjoy it while you can, because within a day or so, things will be much different.
Post cold front conditions vary greatly from the actual cold front. Clear blue skies, calm winds and colder temperatures are the norm, and not the exception. The change in pressure and temperature seems to shut down the fish, causing them to retreat to heavier cover, sulk on the bottom structure and become extremely inactive.

woods and weedsWhere To Find Fish
After a cold front has passed, fish stage in predictable areas of a lake. Don’t expect fish to be moving around much, nor, will there be much activity in the open water shallows.

For northern pike, thick vegetation or heavy cover are good places to start. Most fish under these circumstances will snuggle into the security of some sort of structure, content to sit still and wait out the prospect of changing weather.  The thicker the cover you can find, the better your chances of having fish present.

Depending on the type of lake, walleye will either seek out a thick weed bed and position themselves smack dab in the middle, or if rocks and boulders are concerned, they will sit right on bottom, remaining primarily motionless.

No matter what the species, seeking out the shelter and comfort of thick vegetation or other structure is a likely scenario. Remaining in a neutral or negative mood is a given

Downsize Your Lures
Although a northern pike may have no trouble hitting a ten-inch lure during a ‘normal’ day of fishing, he certainly won’t be as forthcoming after a front has moved through. Scale back on the size of the lures you are tossing, downgrading to finesse style baits for a better reaction. Since you are downsizing your lures, lowering the thickness of your line is also a good idea. Not only will get more of a lifelike action with your baits, but also less likelihood of scaring away line-shy fish.
Lightweight lures and line are most certainly in, and will often be the only thing that gets the attention of a heavyweight.

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S-l-o-w Things Down
When fish are inactive, the last thing they want to do is chase down a fast moving buzzbait, or a spinnerbait cranked at a lightning fast tempo. They just won’t exert the energy, nor do they have the initiative to do so.

Work your baits in a ‘slow motion’ mentality. Even if it seems excruciatingly painful to be fishing a worm or tube with nary a movement, continue to stick with it. If anything, slow it down even more. Dead sticking a bait is a great technique that can bring positive results.

Think Vertical Instead of Horizontal
A neutral fish has a small strike zone or feeding window. What this means is, unless a lure comes within six-inches or a foot to a fish’s snout, he will not be willing, or convinced to strike it. The closer you can get to the strike zone, the better your chances for success.

Vertical baits work well in this situation because they can spend more time in the strike zone, as opposed to a horizontal bait moving through relatively quickly.

Switch to Live Bait
When the fish are finicky, switching to God’s lures is the way to go – you guessed it, live bait. Minnows, worms or leeches will all work well, and will play on a fish’s natural prey attitudes and preference.
Slip floats, live bait rigs and tipped jigs all have a time and place, and post cold front conditions are definitely one of them.

Scent It Up
If live bait isn’t available to you, making your artificials smell and taste like the real thing is the next best thing to do. Go with tried and true scents, including crawdad, shad and worm. Any extra second you can get a fish to bite and hold on, is an extra second you can get those hooks into him.

Cold fronts don’t have to be the kiss of death in fishing. Although the fish may of changed locations, and be reluctant to hit baits, it doesn’t mean they are uncatchable. All it usually takes is a change of tactics to get into some fish again.

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Rigging with Live Bait For Walleye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Swimbaits for Walleye

If you’re looking to land big walleye and prefer casting over trolling, swimbaits are one of the best baits going to accomplish this goal. When other anglers are working small, twister tail jigs with a vertical finesse approach, casting a swimbait can boat you plenty of fish. This season give yourself an advantage, integrating swimbaits into your walleye repertoire. Here’s what you need to know about these productive baits.

sbThere are two main varieties of swimbaits popular with walleye anglers. One style is unrigged bodies teamed with darter, bullet or shad style jig heads anywhere from ¼- to ½-ounces. Examples include Berkley’s PowerBait Hand Pour Swim Shad, YUM’s G-Shad or Samurai Shad, Mister Twister Sassy Shad, and Northland’s Mimic Minnow Shad. For the best action these baits must be rigged straight. Adding a drop of soft-bait glue to the head of the bait before pushing the plastic tight to the jig head keeps bodies properly rigged, even after landing a few fish.

Another type of swimbait style doesn’t require rigging. They feature soft-plastic bodies poured around an internal lead head and hook. Examples include Storm’s WildEye Swim Shad, YUM’s Sweet Cheeks, Northland’s Slurpies Swim Shad, and Berkley’s PowerBait Swim Bait. These style of swimbaits come pre-rigged in packs. Simply tie them on and start fishing.

The Anatomy of a Swimbait
Typical swimbaits for walleye range in size from three to six inches. Compared to thin twister tail grubs, swimbaits provide a more robust profile resembling a hearty meal as opposed to a small morsel. From head to tail, swimbaits offer a level of realism few baits can duplicate. Even the most natural paint job on a crankbait can’t hide the fact it’s a hard-bait; swimbaits squish in a walleye’s mouth like a soft candy. Many are often juiced up with fish attractant or scent, encouraging fish to hold on once they grab a bait. The natural colour patterns on swimbaits help anglers “match the hatch”, which is important in clear water systems. Bright colour patterns are available as well for turbid water or during low-light conditions. Internal holographic materials are standard in many swimbaits, producing an iridescent lustre for added attraction.
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Tempting Tails

Paddletails are predominant on swimbaits. During retrieves these wide appendages wobble, moving water and putting out plenty of vibrations. The flat sides reflect light as the tail wiggles, mimicking the flicker from swimming baitfish. Regardless of the speed, paddletails add a no-nonsense walleye-attracting action to swimbaits. Curly or flat, tapered tails are the other options available on baits. Their design delivers a tighter, seductive saunter to baits in comparison to paddletails.

Fish Them on Flats
Although there are no wrong places to cast swimbaits, there are spots where they are more effective than others. Flats are one such area. Swimbaits excel at covering water when searching for walleyes. This makes them a prime bait for flats whether comprised of rocks, sand, or mud. I often use a 3/8-ounce swimbait with a casting outfit spooled with 30-pound test superline on flats. The rod’s power lets me cast them a considerable distance to cover large flats without getting fatigued.

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Work them in Weeds
Walleye relate to weeds for shade, but more importantly they’re there for food. Whether ambushing perch or gorging on various aquatic insects, walleye are often willing to bite when you find them in weeds. The up-facing hook on swimbaits makes them ideal for skimming over the top of weeds.

You also can’t go wrong casting a swimbait along the edge of a weedline near a drop off. Concentrate on the edge but make occasional tosses to deeper water. Use the castability of the bait to your advantage and work the entire area until you start contacting fish. Walleye may be in the weeds, but they may also be hanging off the break waiting to invade the underwater forest come dusk. Be on the look out for bays, points, cuts, and old stream beds. These ones concentrate walleye and serve as route ways for their daily migrations.

Don’t Overlook the Classics
Although flats and weed areas are two top spots to cast swimbaits, there are many other classic walleye areas where these baits produce fish. In essence, anywhere you’d consider working a jig and grub can be dynamite for swimbaits. Rocky structures such as reefs, humps and points are prime locations. In most instances reeling baits in a foot or so off bottom will catch fish on these zones. Yet, like weed edges, make occasional casts to the surrounding deeper water.

Swimbaits are taking the angling world by storm for a variety of species. If your walleye tackle box doesn’t have a space reserved for swimbaits, you’re missing out on an effective presentation. Give swimbaits a dip this season and put more head-turning walleye in your boat.

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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Fishing, Fishing TIPS, Walleye Fishing

 

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

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.

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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.

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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.

ENJOY YOUR NEXT FEED OF PIKE!

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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Fishing, Northern Pike, pike

 

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Walleye and Bobbers

Across Ontario, the popularity of fishing for walleye rates hands-down as the most sought after and favorite game fish. The techniques for catching these critters may be well-known and elementary, and include the ever popular jigging, trolling and bottom bouncing.  But how many anglers routinely pack floats, split shot and live bait, searching out precise structure to drift their offerings across? Certainly the minority, but hopefully more will come on board after recognizing the success this technique can bring.

The Basics of Bobbering
We all received our start in fishing courtesy of a bobber. The days were simple back then, but the set up always caught fish. Times have changed, and the use of slip-bobbers (or floats) has put a new twist in the live bait game, and the fish-catching powers certainly have continued and increased.

Sliding Slip Bobber RigUtilizing a float and live bait allows an angler to present their morsel of food to walleye at the precise depth that fish may be found. For the most part, the desired depth would be just off bottom – a favorite hangout for these structure hugging fish.

Slip floats are designed to move freely up and down your line, as the chamber of the float is hollow. By threading your line through the float itself, it is simply a matter of attaching a live bait hook, as well as split shot above the metal to weight your presentation down. A bobber stop is then placed above your float at the desired depth you wish to target. These bobber stops (whether they be small rubber pellets or vinyl tie knots) will pass easily through your line guides and onto your reel itself. Therefore, casting “normally” – without twenty-feet of line hanging from your rod tip – can easily be achieved.

A bobber stop should slide easily up and down your line, but should stay set at the desired depth you wish to fish. Many bobber stops come rated for certain pound-test line, so pay careful attention to this when making your purchase.

An Octopus hook is the most commonly used with this set up, although Circle hooks are also very effective. Hooks will generally range from No. 4’s to No. 8’s, with the 4’s being most effective for large minnows, and the smaller sizes for leeches and night crawlers. Another alternative to a regular hook is a standard jig head. Depending on depth or bobber floatation, a 1/64th to 1/8oz. style would work well, offering the fish a horizontal presentation as opposed to a vertical one, as well as the option to provide color.

As far as baits are concerned, minnows, leeches and crawlers are the cream of the crop (check local regulations to see what is legal). Minnows work great in the spring and fall, with leeches and worms throughout summer. Working all three baits on a given day can be an excellent study for what produces best on different bodies of water.

Finding a Float
Standard floats will cover most situations you come across, but variations in style and design do have their advantages.

Fat-bodied floats are a breeze to cast and will ride waves well, however they do require more effort to pull under. They also blow around more easily with the wind.

Pencil floats, those that have a thinner profile, offer the least resistance – so they cast further, drift along more slowly and work best for light biters.

Tall, oversized floats will get pushed along a drift quickly, and can be useful when trying to cover large expanses of water.

There are also lighted floats that are specifically meant for night fishing or low-light conditions.

It’s suggested to outfit your box with a variety of floats, as this will enable you to fish in various situations most effectively. Acknowledging wind speed, distance, current and bait will help in deciding on the right float. Larger bait, especially big lively minnows, will require an upgrade in float size. Leeches or worms, which don’t offer as much of a pull, can be worked with downsized floats.

 

Weighting your line correctly is also paramount when slip-bobbering. When a fish sucks in your bait, you need that slight movement to register immediately on top. Adding the correct weight to your line will ensure that your float goes under with nary a hesitation.

Place split shot in 8 to 12-inch increments from the hook, starting with a smaller size and gradually getting larger. This placement will keep your line vertical through the water, while your bait will appear more natural toward the hook end.

Location is Key
Walleye are renowned for the structure they habitate on, and for the most part it is the hard stuff. Rock will generally hold walleye, with vegetation also being popular depending on the chosen lakes makeup.

Slip floats are an excellent choice when working rock shoals, humps, points and flats. By using your electronics to ascertain a depth, your bobber stop should be placed to present your bait 6 to 12-inches off bottom. Although walleye may suspend at times, for the most part, they will be right on bottom, hugging the structure. If your float sits flat on the surface, your bait is laying on bottom. Adjust the bobber stop until the float sits perfect in the water.

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It is crucial to get the correct depth when slip-bobbering. If the bait is too high in the water column, the fish will pass it over. Too low and you’ll be snagging on bottom.

Whether you want to cover a larger area, or concentrate on a small dissection of structure, will often depend on the area you choose to fish. Small humps are best worked in a stationary manner. Large flats, on the other hand, should be drifted more vigorously in order to search and find fish.

Rods and Line
Although most “regular” rods will work for slip-bobbering, this technique can be improved with a bit of tinkering. Seven to eight-foot spinning rods may seem long, but the added length can vastly improve casting distance, as well as hook sets and the playing of fish. I prefer to partner this up with a quality spinning reel, sporting a smooth drag. As far as line is concerned, six or eight-pound test mono is an excellent choice for the main section. A fluorocarbon leader is a good choice down below, as it will complement the natural presentation you are trying to convey.

Drifting your bait to eager walleye is an excellent technique that is greatly under utilized. The next time you hit your favorite shoal or hump, come toting floats and live bait – there’s nothing like seeing your bobber going under to ignite some passion in the fishing game.

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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Fishing

 

Jigging Up Walleye

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Walleyes are much harder to pattern in fall than in summer because most lakes stratify during the summer months, forming distinct temperature layers. The shallow water is usually too warm for walleyes and the deep water often lacks sufficient oxygen, so the walleyes hang out in the middle, where optimum temperature and oxygen levels exist. But that all changes in fall, when the temperature of the shallows drops to that of the depths and the entire lake circulates, resulting in adequate oxygen from top to bottom. Now the fish can go anywhere they want to find a meal.

On lakes with low water clarity, you can find fall walleyes only a few feet deep. At the same time, walleyes in a clear lake might be 40 feet deep or more.   No matter the depth, late summer and fall jigging can produce some of the year’s best walleye fishing, especially for trophy-caliber fish. Here’s a quick rundown of the equipment and techniques needed for success in both shallow and deep water.

Shallow-Water Jigging
Fall walleyes are in the shallows for only one reason: to eat. When you find them shallow, they’re aggressive and will often respond better to an intense jigging action than to a subtle one. That’s why rip-jigging (also known as snap-jigging) works so well.

WORK IT RIGHT: When rip-jigging, you work the jig with sharp jerks and then throw slack into the line so the jig plummets. The jig never hits bottom, however, because you make another jerk just before it touches.

Most rip-jigging is done as you slowly troll at about 1 mph, but you can also do it while drifting or still-fishing.

With a little practice, you’ll discover how hard to rip and how long to pause after throwing slack, so that you

keep the jig moving erratically while almost, but not quite, touching bottom. The most difficult aspect of rip-jigging is getting used to the fact that you might not feel the usual tap or twitch that signals a bite because of the slack in the line. It doesn’t really matter, though, because you’ll set the hook with the next rip.

Like any other fishing presentation, rip-jigging doesn’t work all the time. There will be days when the fish are in a less aggressive mood and prefer a slower, more subtle jigging action. Experiment with different motions and let the fish tell you what they want.

When the walleye are fussy, slowly drop your rod tip and let the jig fall back to the bottom and rest for a second or two. To catch these picky fish, I like to tip my jig with live bait, usually a minnow when the water is cold (less than 50º F or 10ºC), a leech when it’s tepid (52ºF to 68ºF or 11ºC to 20ºC) and half a crawler when it’s hot (warmer than 68ºF or 20ºC). But that rule is meant to be broken-bring all three baits and let the fish decide what they want to eat.

trilene xtGEAR: To snap the jig with minimal effort and take up slack line when setting the hook, you’ll need a fairly long rod. A 7-foot, fast-tip spinning outfit is ideal. Spool up with an abrasion-resistant line such as 8- to 10-pound-test Trilene XT. Lighter or softer line won’t stand up to the sharp ripping action. Even tough line might fray from abrasion on the guides, so it pays to check your line often and respool when necessary. Because you’re usually fishing depths of 10 feet or less, a 1/8-ounce jig should be sufficient, but if there’s a strong wind or heavy current, you might have to step up to a 1/4-ounce jig. Tip the jig with a 3- to 4-inch minnow and hook it through the mouth and out the top of the head.


Deepwater Jigging
Once the lake de-stratifies and surface temperatures drop to around 50 degrees, baitfish will head to the warmth of deeper water, and walleyes will follow. In gin-clear lakes, you might find them as deep as 70 feet, but 30 to 45 feet is normal. Any kind of structure with a firm, rocky bottom might hold walleyes in late fall, but big, rocky main-lake humps offer your best fishing.

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WORK IT RIGHT:  Rarely are walleyes super-aggressive in cold water, so a slow jigging presentation works best. A jig-minnow combo fished with short 2- to 4-inch hops will usually do the trick, but there are times when a slow drag with no hopping action is better.

Many anglers make the mistake of using a jig that’s too heavy. They’ll tie on a 3/4- to 1-ounce jig, thinking they need that much weight to get down in the deep water. But a heavy jig sinks too fast, resulting in fewer strikes. The idea is to use the lightest jig you can, taking into consideration water depth and wind conditions.

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In calm weather, a 1/4-ounce jig will easily get down to 35 feet, but on a windy day you’ll have to add another 1/8 to 1/4 ounce to stay down. When fishing deep water, it’s important to keep your line vertical. If you’re dragging too much line, you won’t feel the strikes.

GEAR:   A sensitive rod is a must for jigging deep water walleyes. I use a G.Loomis GLX 722, which has the extra-fast action necessary to detect the slight nudge that often signals a deep water walleye bite. Mono simply has too much stretch for fishing this deep; use no-stretch line, like 6- to 10-pound-test Fire line, to help you detect light bites and get a firm hook set. Splice on 10 feet of mono or fluorocarbon leader to reduce line visibility and dampen the sharp jigging action that you get with no-stretch line. Late-fall walleyes generally hold in tight schools and don’t move much, so once you find a pod of fish, chances are they’ll hang around that area through the rest of the fall.

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Working the Boat for Walleye

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

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

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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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