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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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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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Fishing Walleye When it’s Sunny


hot-thermometerWhere to Find the Walleye?

Hot, penetrating sunshine and the sensitive eyes of the walleye can make for a frustrating and energy-draining day out on the water for the enthusiastic angler. Fish become scarce during these trying times and without the proper locations or techniques needed to find and catch these fish, a fisherman can quickly get depressed.

Green, healthy weeds, a handful of jigs and a technique called “dunking” are all that are needed to find success during these “dog days” of summer.

During the days of summer when the humidity and sun become scorching hot, the intuitive walleye will begin his retreat and search for cooler climates for a more comfortable existence. Although common knowledge tells us that walleye and rocks are the perfect pair, the green vegetation that is on Wawang Lake is also a preferred habitat for a walleye seeking shelter. Shallow areas are the number one choice for patterning walleye this way, and plays host to weed-wandering walleye. Water that is relatively clear and is less than ten feet deep are the most ideal characteristics to target for certain success.

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Green weeds lure walleye in for a number of reasons. They provide a cooler environment, shade from the sun, oxygen, safety and comfort and an abundant food source with an added ambush point for attack. When you put all of these pluses together, you get a sure-fire plan for putting walleye in the boat.

weed diagramWhen the sun is beating down, there will be certain weeds and areas that will draw fish in more than others.  Look for the greenest, most lush vegetation that you can find. These weeds can take the form of coon tail, milfoil or a variety of other species, but they must have a base or openings for the walleye to lurk under and through. Also, try to pinpoint weed areas that are relatively close to deeper water. Walleye feel safer when deeper water is in the vicinity as it provides an escape route – the shallow weed flat, in turn, provides an ideal feeding shelf. One last thing to keep an eye out for is isolated weed clumps in the area you are fishing. Huge expanses of vegetation will hold good numbers of fish, but isolated weed clumps provide a hiding area in a vast space of “coverless” water that roaming fish happen to stumble upon and call home.

  
 

Dunk till you Drop
Dunking is a close-range fishing technique that involves lowering your lure vertically down from your boat into a weed pocket. The maximum amount of line you will use in most situations is ten feet, so be prepared to for some excitement when Mr. Walleye takes a fast swipe at your jig.

There are two ways to approach a weed pocket for dunking – drifting and by using your electric motor. If the winds are calm and you are fishing a large expanse of weeds, simply allow your boat to drift with the breeze and dunk all of the pockets that you can as your boat slowly drifts over them.

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Weight Centered Jigs – WC

These jigs are commonly referred to as swimmer heads or slow fall jigs, have come of age as the preferred jig when used for casting, drifting or long lining over bottom. We recognize this family of jigs as having its weight distributed evenly along the length of the hook. The characteristics we are looking for in W.C. jigs, is their ability to both SWIM and FALL with the hook in a horizontal position. To gain a better perspective, view the illustration of the Slo-Poke Jig shown in this article. There are several distinct advantages to be gained with the use of weight centered jigs in horizontal presentations.

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One major advantage of the W.C. jig is its inherent slow fall characteristics. Unlike W.F. jigs, like a ball head, that plunge rapidly head first, W.C. jigs fall more slowly. This phenomena occurs because the W.C. jig falls in a horizontal position, acting like a parachute, as it displaces more water on the fall. This all-important feature allows the bait to stay in the strike zone longer, making it easier for fish to target, pursue and inhale the bait. Actual tests comparing a 1/8 oz Slo-Poke Jig and a 1/8 oz ball head jig, identically rigged, showed the W.C. Slo-Poke falling 30% slower. This slow fall characteristic pays big dividends in shallow water or when working over weeds, wood or rock structure.

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Another major advantage of W.C. jigs is that they provide positive hook sets. Because W.C. jigs swim and fall with the hook in a horizontal position, hook sets are almost always found in the roof of the mouth. This sweet spot is the best possible place to hook and hold a fish. Positive hook sets are of utmost importance to tournament anglers or anyone who wants to hook and hold big fish. I prefer the Slo-Poke Jig because it excels in its hook setting ability. The Slo-Poke’s perfect balance and inline eye puts 100% of the hook setting force directly at the point of the hook where it’s most needed.

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Weight centered jigs also provide an edge over W.F. jigs when used for long lining over bottom. This deadly big fish technique, calls for swimming, or dragging a jig over bottom a good distance behind the boat. While this technique can be accomplished with W.F. jigs the price to be paid is a significant loss of hardware and valuable fishing time spent tying on replacement jigs. Weight Centered jigs, like the improved flat bottomed Slo-Pokes, glide and drag horizontally along the bottom when long lined and are relatively snag resistant in the process. Slo-Poke jigs tend to walk up over bottom as opposed to W.F. jigs that wedge themselves into structure. This is a perfect example of the importance of understanding how weight distribution affects the performance of a jig. A simple way to evaluate how jigs perform is to observe what they do when you drag a jig in shallow water.

This is the long and short of the basic knowledge required in making the right choice when it comes to jig selection. Whether you’re a Pro or an aspiring amateur, having the right tool for the right job will make you a better fisherman.

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Weight Forward Jigs: WF

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Weight Forward Jigs, most commonly referred to as lead heads or ball jigs have been with us for decades.  These classic W.F. jigs are by far the most used and abused jig in the industry. A common error that anglers make is casting ball style jigs into weed, wood and rock structure, losing one jig after the other as if there were no better alternative. REMEMBER THIS:  Ball jigs are not designed for casting.  All W.F. jigs, including ball heads, power heads and the alike were designed to do one thing well and that’s vertical jigging. Granted, you can pound a nail with a screw driver, but using a ball jig for anything other than up and down is to severely limit your effectiveness as a jigger.

A personal favorite Weight Forward Jig is the Odd’Ball Jig from Bait Rigs Tackle Co. This performance W.F. jig has a counter balanced head that produces a unique teeter totter action when vertically jigged. Additionally, this head design will standup on bottom.  Some prefer a one, two punch of vertical jigging and a standup presentation over bottom.
VertStand

Regardless of your choice of W.F. jig, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses inherent to this design. It is important to note that the major strength of W.F. jigs is that they hang in a horizontal position at rest. To gain a better picture in your mind see the illustration of the Odd’Ball Jig.  Note that the long portion of the hook shank will come to rest in a horizontal position. This places the hook point in the ideal position for bait inhalation and hook setting. Conversely the W.F. jigs biggest weakness is that it plunges head first on the fall, placing the hook point in a vertical position. This is a very poor position for hook setting. What happen here is you feel the fish, he feels you, but you don’t have a good point of contact with the hook. The end result is you roll the jig in the fishes mouth and if your lucky, rip some lips on the way out. Unfortunately, as we all know, fish love to hit jigs on the fall and this is another major reason why W.F. jigs should be avoided for cast and retrieve presentations.moddballart

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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.

TwoToneJigsGuys 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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SPRING SECRETS – Spawning Walleye

28 (5)There’s a great reason to look forward to the spring with ice melting and rivers running. About 80 to 90 percent of the walleye across the country move from main lakes into the rivers to spawn. Unlike during the summer when trolling for big fish can be hit or miss, big walleye become more catchable when they migrate upstream with the masses.

These fish can often be monsters, which is exciting. You’ve got a better shot at the ten pounders as well as numbers of fish during the spring pre-spawn run.

Rain and melting snow will fill rivers at various times and produced strong current. Fast-moving water draws walleye upstream to spawning areas like a magnet.

The smaller part of the lake can also be a blessing because hills protect you from the cold winds that may continue to blow hard in late April and May when the spawn takes place.

As good as all that sounds, high water and spring fishing present their own problems. But, attention to detail and modifying presentations to meet conditions can overcome the obstacles.

Locating Fish

Finding walleye during the spawning run isn’t always easy. It may seem simple to look at a map and predict where walleye will spawn – on hard-bottom areas of gravel and sand as far upstream as they can go until it stops.

After laying their eggs, females start back to the main lake while males wait near spawning areas for late-arriving females. When convinced the spawning run is over, males head to normal areas too.  As a result, walleye are constantly on the move in the small part of the lake. Anglers must be, too, if they want a chance to connect with one of these monster walleye. Still, you’ll often see boats hovering at spots that produce for a while long after the bulk of the fish have passed by.

You really have to be mobile when it comes to fishing spring fish as they won’t hold in one area. That’s the problem. Many anglers get too hung up on one spot.  Do not overlook the seams of slower water where current from feeder creeks or inlets. Water can be clearer there, which is an important detail when high water can dirty the main section of the lake.

Run and gun until walleye are located. Spring fishing can often result in “pack fishing”, where several boats crowd onto the same spot. But, walleye will eventually respond to fishing pressure by moving away or shutting down their activity. Don’t be afraid to go your own way. Being a loner can pay big dividends.

LINDY MAX GAP JIGSpring Tactics

Anglers can often “over-think” their approach to fishing. Big catches can be had by using a keep-it-simple philosophy while paying attention to details that others overlook. A jig and minnow combination can accomplish the task of catching multiple fish while having a chance at the trophy we all like to brag about.

Vertical jigging while slipping with the current is an extremely productive and enjoyable technique. Instead of waiting for fish to come to you, you can go to them. You never know what’s in store for you.

While most people might stick with monofilament, try using 10 pound test (2 pound dia.) Power Pro braided line. This switch to braided line can transform your jig into an extra “eye” beneath the water. Its sensitivity telegraphs the type of bottom content that lies below, whether gravel, sand or mud. Its sensitivity also helps detect light bites common in cold water, an edge that can be critical when water is high. Power Pro’s thinner diameter cuts through the water and permits use of lighter jigs.

With fast-moving current, it can be important to fine-tune your presentation by adding a small number 12 barrel swivel in line to prevent line twist. If you don’t use a swivel, you’re likely to feel a “thump” and set the hook, only to miss the walleye. In that case, it’s likely the jig was spinning and the hook was pointed away at the crucial moment when the fish attacked the bait. A Lindy Max Gap jig, with its custom, super sharp hook, can also help you catch more fish.

From the barrel swivel, try adding a two-foot Gamma fluorocarbon leader to the lightest jig that will reach the bottom and allow you to stay vertical as the boat moves downstream with the current. If your bait isn’t on the bottom, you aren’t in the walleye’s strike zone. The angler in the back of the boat usually must step up a jig size or stay as close to the front of the boat as possible to stay on the bottom.

Color of your jig can always be a key factor. Think about how many times you’ve been in a pack of boats and everyone seems to be netting walleye. Then, suddenly, the action stops. The fish quit taking the Chartreuse or orange jigs that everyone is using. Most anglers will assume conditions changed and the bite is off. Or, the fish moved away. These anglers will stick with the same jig, stay in the same place and hope for the best. Make the assumption that the active fish have been caught. More walleye probably lurk below, but they are the more inactive ones. Rather than trying to trigger a feeding strike, try changing colors, change your jigging motion, and go for a reaction bite. Even try something off of your normal color chart.

It can be amazing that the simple things you can do that will make a difference. You might only get one or two more, but by the end of the day that can work out to a lot of fish.

Anglers often have one mind-set. If they aren’t catching fish on chartreuse, they often believe that the fish aren’t biting. But, change is big. Try using blue, pinks, purples’ just something different. Techni-Glo colors can be hot as well. Try adding a plastic body like a Munchies Thumpin’ Grub tail.

In addition, try switching your live bait choice from the standard minnow to a leech or half a night-crawler. This typically happens a little later in the spring and when temperatures warm up.

Anglers also overlook the importance of scent, a factor that can be important when the water is cold. Jigs with hair, like Fuzz-E-Grubs, hold scent longer than jigs without it. There are a ton of commercial scent products to add to your jig.

Still not working? Fishermen also have the option of taking off the jig, adding a clip and snapping on a blade bait, like a Heddon Sonar. The vibration can help hungry fish locate it or trigger a reaction bite from inactive fish. Rip it hard three times and follow it down each time, then rip it half way and let it drop until it’s just off the bottom, then hold it there.

Anchors Away

High water can sometimes create boat control problems and springtime cold fronts can sometimes turn action sour. Anchoring can help.

3 WAYHave you gone back to the spot where slipping with jigs was producing for you the day before and you get stymied first thing in the morning? Did they move overnight or are they still there and just less interested than they were the day before? One way to find out is to anchor upstream from the spot and cast or work a Wolf River rig slowly on the bottom. Use a 3-way swivel with a short dropper and a sinker heavy enough to stay on bottom, a 3-foot leader to a simple hook, orange bead and a minnow. This can be a deadly technique during cold fronts on the river.

Instead of a 3-way, you can also use a jig as well, but use enough weight so the jig returns to the same exact spot every time you pump, pump, pump it so fast you wonder how a fish could hit it. The goal is to entice reaction bites. Follow the jig back down each time you snap it. Put your 3-way rig on the bottom and put the rod in a rod holder. Jig a jig on other rig ready to go. However, you are only permitted to have one rod fishing in Ontario.

The same tactic works if walleye simply moved closer to the bank on sharp turns to escape strong current. Some fish will go right into the trees, so position your boat right next to them and anchor.

After the walleye have spawned, food becomes more important as they begin moving back downstream to the main lake. As a result, walleye can be caught first thing in the morning by trolling crank baits on shallow flats. Don’t waste time. If they are there, you’ll catch them right away.

Capitalize on the action as long as it lasts. Boat traffic and sunlight will push them deeper soon.

Got cabin fever? Fishing is the cure.

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