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UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT WALLEYE PATTERNS

Walleye in Wood and Brush

5045378679_2afff95b5dIn many lakes drowned wood and brush are the main dominate cover that walleye rely on as a food source and shade from the sun. You will find scattered walleye around almost any type of submerged timber, stumps, logs, and trees that have eroded from shorelines. To increase your chances on finding a walleye hot spot of drowned wood and brush here’s a tip, deep water. The best wood is in or near deep water. A tree toppled off a steep river bank leading into deep water will hold more walleye than one laying in shallow water. Find a stump field flat next to an old river bed on a flowage and you’ll find a walleye magnet.

During early spring when the winter thaw occurs and high water floods rivers and flowages try shoreline brush and lay downs as this will harbor small baitfish and insects that walleyes feed on. As the water begins to drop walleye will move back to deeper water.

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

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Finesse fishing in wood and brush requires fine wire weed less hooks (size 6-8) on a split shot rig, brush guard jigs from 1/8 to 3/8 oz., both tipped with live bait. These presentations will increase your hooking percentage and eliminate snags. When fishing deep water try a slip bobber rig. Don’t be afraid to drop your bait into the thickest tangle of brush and logs, the larger walleyes are usually found where the cover is densest, you may lose a few rigs in the process but the rewards are well worth it.

Suspended Walleye
Locating and catching suspended walleye can be a difficult task. Finding suspended walleye requires the use of a graph or LCD (liquid crystal display) depth finder. Once fish are located you must present the bait or lure precisely at that depth. For Wawang Lake one of the easiest techniques to do this is a slip bobber rig set at the depth walleye are found. If walleyes are a few feet from the bottom rather than lowering the bait try floating the bait up off the bottom using a slip sinker rig with a floating jig head or a float attached to the leader. You can also Vertical jigging - 1catch walleyes off the bottom by jigging vertically with jigs, blade baits and tail spin jigs, just keep the line taut to feel the strikes.

On large bodies of water such as the main, deeper sections of Wawang Lake the most effective and popular presentation for suspended walleyes is trolling with artificial lures.


Why Walleye Suspend
Water Temperature: In deep clear lakes walleye  will seek deeper water after feeding to avoid sunlight. On stained lakes they often move more laterally than deeper if the water temperature stratifies into layers. By moving laterally they will maintain in the same temperature layer. Walleye that feed on reefs will suspend off the reef to rest, not to feed.

Forage
Walleye are typically known to relate to the bottom for feeding, this is especially true when they feed on immature insects, particularly mayfly nymphs that hatch on the bottom. But other favorite forage do not necessarily relate to the bottom such as open water baitfish like shad and ciscoes that can be found almost at any depth. At times walleye will be opportunistic feeders by ignoring their temperature and oxygen preferences for an easy meal by suspending in open water just below bait fish schools that dimple the surface.

Oxygen
During the summer on lakes that stratify, the deep water may lack sufficient oxygen which forces the walleyes to suspend or use shallow water cover such as weed beds.

Toxic Gas
In many cases walleyes will suspend to avoid high levels of toxic gases that accumulate near the bottom. This happens during the summer months on calm sunny days when the maximum amount of sunlight penetration promotes decomposition of organic bottom sediments releasing carbon dioxide and methane gas. This moves walleyes higher in the water column, as much as up to 10 feet. On windy days when the water is churning this prevents the gases to accumulate so the walleyes need not suspend.

Post Cold Front Walleye
It’s no question that the toughest time to catch any species including the walleye is after a cold front. Blue bird skies and cool temperatures follow the front’s passage. This results in the walleye tightly hugging the lake bottom or buried into the weeds. Their feeding window is very limited if at all. When they do feed it will be short. Depending on the cold front severity it may take a number of days of stable weather to resume normal fishing activity.

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When faced in this situation here are a few tips that may improve your success.

  • There are two key points for Cold Front Walleye Live Bait & Super Slow
  • Fish very early in the day or in the evening. Cold front walleyes are best active during low light periods or night.
  • Fish deeper during the day: (5-10 feet) than normal as increased sunlight from cold front clear skies will drive walleye deeper
  • Downsize live bait:  Walleye are in lethargic state during a cold front, small live bait will work better than larger ones. Use 2″ fatheads than 4″ red tail chubs

Downsize jigs:  Try a 1/16 oz rather than an 1/8oz tipped with live bait. A lighter jig will drop slower and gives the walleye extra time to strike. Retrieve very slowly. Walleyes will not hit fast moving baits during this period.Attach a stinger hook to the jig: Many times a walleye will just nip the bait and let it go, with a stinger hook you will hook a good percentage of these short striking walleyes.

Go light on line
Cold front walleye are line shy, use 8 lb. clear monofilament or fluorocarbon.

Try Weeds
Some walleye will bury into the weeds rather than seek deeper water. These walleye will also resume normal activity before the walleye  in deeper water.

Murky Water
On shallow water lakes than have murky water stirred by strong north winds that usually come after a cold front, try fishing mid-day and shallower. The water temperature is the warmest and the level of sunlight is not a factor due to the water clarity.

Clear Lakes
If you’re fishing a clear water lake with no luck move to a river or stained lake because they are not affected as bad as clear water

Clear Water Walleye

26" WALLEYE

26″ WALLEYE

Fishing walleye on clear water lakes (Visibility 10 feet or Greater) is quite the challenge. Walleye in clear water are easily spooked by sound or movements (boats). On sunny days they will retreat to depths of 30 plus feet only to move up shallow to feed during early morning and evening hours. On windy chop or overcast days they follow the same dawn dusk patterns but some feeding occurs during the day.

The best suggestion we can offer you for walleye fishing clear water lakes is to keep your set-up presentation in a stealth mode and again keep noise and boat movement to a minimum. If you’re anchored keep the boat as far away as possible from the targeted structure while casting. For trolling use inline planer boards to spread the fishing lines 50 feet away from the boat.

If you’re using a live bait set-up keep the hooks as small as possible and use ultralight 10# test line on slip bobbers and slip sinker rigs. Jigs also produce well on clear water lakes but stay with natural colors black, purple and brown. The same goes for artificial lures, match the hatch that resembles the baitfish, black & silver, black & gold, and perch finishes rather than hot fluorescent colors. Long slender bodied minnow type lures will be the best performer.

Dark Water Walleye:

  • Walleye fishing on stained or dark water tends to be more consistent than on clear water lakes. This type of water is also less affected by weather changes, especially cold fronts. With the lack of sunlight walleyes will stay shallow most of time and are easier to locate and catch. If the visibility is less than one foot try bright and noisy artificial lures which are easier for the walleye to detect. If you prefer live bait add a fluorescent attractor or spinner.
  • The best fishing times on dark water is mid-day between 10:00-5:00 rather than dawn and dusk. The night bite is likely to be poor. Sunny calm days will out-perform cloudy windy days. The best lures for dark waters are crank baits that vibrate and have rattle chambers and inline spinners in fluorescent colors. Jigs will also work surprisingly well even though they do not produce any sound. Use fluorescent and glow in the dark (phosphorescent) colors tipped with live bait.

On stained lakes with visibility of 3 feet or greater, live bait set-ups are a better choice than artificial lures. Add a brightly colored attractor or spinner to your live bait rigs to help attract fish.

Locations
With weed growth on dark water and stained lakes being very limited find the weed edges and cast perpendicular to the edge. Shallow reefs and rock humps will also hold fish regularly.

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Vertical Jigging for More Fish

vertical-jigging-1Vertical jigging can be an invaluable technique, especially when it is placed into the mix with trolling, casting and static-line methods. It can be another powerful weapon in the angler’s arsenal, but, unfortunately, it is perhaps not used as frequently as it should be.

The advocates of vertical jigging state that not only is it a fun-filled way to while away the hours, but it is also a highly productive way to fish. Many anglers dramatically increase their success rate when they begin to use a vertical jig.

In fact, in some locations, vertical jigging is not simply one of the beneficial tactics, but it is the most productive method of fishing for walleye. The advantages of vertical jigging are numerous. For example, it is widely accepted as a cost-effective technique. In addition, it only requires a small amount of physical exertion and, most importantly, it is a basic approach that can be adopted by anybody.

The success of vertical jigging is made possible through the accuracy of the technique. Rather than trolling wide expanses of water, it is required that the angler does a little research first. By establishing the structure of the lake or river that you are fishing in, you can locate the positions that are most likely to contain the walleye. Of course, if you have radar equipment, then you will find pinpointing the walleye spots even more easy, but this is not necessary and a comprehensive map of the water should be sufficient.

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There will be times when establishing the position of the fish leads you to the deep sections of the lake or river. If you are fishing for walleye in particularly deep waters, you may wish to consider using a partial glow head and spinner blade on your jig, as this is a great combination for deep fishing or trolling.

In terms of bait, when it comes to vertical jigging it really is a matter of choice. Any bait can be used, so, if you find that minnows, crawlers or leeches work best for you then, by all means, use any of those. Personal preference is such a large part of successful fishing.

More good news for beginners is that vertical jigging can allow for a margin of error. In other words, if you have let a walleye get away, but you know it is still under your boat, the vertical rig allows you to get right under the boat to try for a second chance. With many presentations, you may not expect to get a bite until the bait has reached the lakebed. However, with the vertical jig, you are just as likely to find success as the bait is on its way down. Subsequently, it is always a good idea to be prepared for those walleye.

Vertical jigging, or V-jigging as it is sometimes known, is an extremely enjoyable way to fish. It relies heavily on skill and technique, which is hugely satisfying for an angler. However, that does not mean to say that it is difficult to learn. Even beginners can take to vertical jigging and can be extremely successful with this method.

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Using Leeches & Worms + VIDEO

 LEECHES AND NIGHTCRAWLERS

DSCN0821Leeches 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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Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

As the adage goes, the weakest link between you and a fish falls squarely on the shoulders of your line. With a market saturated with choices, including monofilament, copolymer and braid, shedding some light on the latest to join the fraternity — fluorocarbon — will help you become a more informed, and successful angler.

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The Lowdown
Although not a newcomer to the fishing scene, the buzz about fluorocarbon line has exploded over the last couple of years. In terms of manufacturing, fluorocarbon is a polymer consisting of fluorine that has been chemically bonded with carbon. This chemical makeup has almost the same light refraction rate that water holds, or in laymen terms, it appears virtually invisible when in the water.

A fluorocarbon leader works great when chasing toothy critters, such as northern pike.

Fluorocarbon line has unique properties in comparison to monofilament, making it resistant to degradation from such outside sources as sunlight, gasoline, or DEET (a common component of insect repellant). As most anglers know, monofilament will break down when exposed to such substances — that’s not the case with fluorocarbon.

If those benefits weren’t enough, fluoro will not absorb water (another factor in line failure and degradation in monofilament), is denser than H20 so it sinks, has greater abrasion qualities, and is highly sensitive with a decrease in stretch.

Sound too good to be true? Those all are facts, although independent testers are beginning to question the claim of fluoro’s decreased stretch properties — the jury is still out on that one. For now, take the manufacturer’s word on it.

To achieve all of these benefits, however, make sure the line you purchase is 100 percent fluorocarbon. Not all of them on the market are 100 percent fluorocarbon so check on it before you purchase.

All in all, fluorocarbon brings some excellent advancements to the forefront of line development. Like anything, though, there are advantages and disadvantages. Here is the nitty-gritty on those.

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Best Uses For Fluorocarbon Line
T
he two most intriguing properties fluoro holds,  are its near invisibility and a significant resistance to abrasion. The advantages of invisible line are great — with clear water applications, finicky fish, and finesse presentations. Catch rates can increase significantly when faced with these tricky situations, and switching to a line such as fluorocarbon can see a dramatic upturn — especially where stealth is concerned.

With more anglers concentrating on abrasive structure areas (rocks, wood, docks, snags), using a tough line that can hold up better. Fluoro can bring the added benefit of toughness and resistance when facing these conditions.

Increased sensitivity — a factor that makes many anglers fall in love with braid — is also worth a look with fluoro. Presentations such as tossing crankbaits, jigging (especially deep-water and drop-shotting), and working soft stickbaits can be done more effectively with fluoro.

Clear water and finicky fish are ideal conditions for tossing crankbaits with fluorocarbon.

Fluorocarbon’s sinking properties also make it beneficial for those trying to gain extra depth when fishing certain lures, be it crankbaits or wacky worms, as well as ensuring that they sink at a faster rate of speed.

If the stretch claims are true, sinking the hooks into fish more quickly during certain situations (deep-water jigging comes to mind, as stretch can impede hook penetration), puts fluorocarbon out on top again.

The Downside To Fluorocarbon
The following situations are not necessarily disadvantages, but more so occasions where fluoro may not be the best choice.

If working slow moving topwater baits — think Pop R’s — fluoro’s ability to sink may impede both the action of your lure, as well as your efficiency in picking up line for wrist and arm movements.

Although many improvements have been made, fluorocarbon line does exhibit a greater stiffness and more of a memory than traditional lines. This can cause problems when using spinning gear (due to their small spools and the manner the line comes off), as well as on baitcast gear if braking systems are not properly adjusted. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Of course, expense has to be mentioned when dealing with any fishing product. Expect to pay significantly more for fluorocarbon line. Prices vary across the board, with some line economical and others high-priced.  Therefore, read specific reviews, heed positive reports, and ultimately make an informed decision before buying. Utilizing a backing on your reels, such as monofilament, to cut down on cost is definitely recommended.

IMG_0551 (300x400)Leader Material
Many folks also use fluorocarbon line as a leader material, as certain situations don’t warrant a full spool of fluoro.  Carolina rigs are another good choice for fluoro leaders, as are drop shots, walleye jigging, and when trolling or casting for toothy critters. Again, if it is only your offering that will benefit from the use of fluoro, then tying on a leader is the way to go.

Deep-water jigging is a great technique for utilizing fluorocarbon line.

Knots are a hotly-debated subject with fluoro line — tie one wrong or improperly, and line failure at the knot can certainly occur. Spending a little extra time getting that knot perfect can make all the difference. It’s definitely not as forgiving as mono, at least in knot strength.

Ask five anglers their preference and chances are you’ll get many different answers. Suggested knots to try are Uni to Uni, Blood, and Surgeons, although there are a host of others. Again, experiment and see which works best for you.

As for line to lure knots, Palomar and the Double Clinch seem to get the most play. Whichever you choose, lubricating the knot is paramount to decreasing the risk of failure, as well as ensuring that line doesn’t fall on top of other layers. Similar to doing your homework on the best line, investigate the best knots before heading out for the day.

As you can see from this overview, flurocarbon line can bring some specific perks to fishing. Although not advantageous to all situations you may encounter, I’d recommend introducing it to your arsenal this season in order to see what all the fuss is about.

Line will always remain the most crucial link between you and that trophy fish, so choose wisely.

 

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Drop that Anchor

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There are times when fishing for walleyes is like putting a candy bar on the coffee table in front of couch potato trying to go on a diet. He might not eat it right away, but wait an hour and that chocolate will be gone. Faster tactics like trolling or even slower approaches like rigging will not work all the time. Conditions may dictate where jigging in one spot or suspending live bait below a slip bobber is needed just to entice a bite. The longer a walleye looks, the harder it is for it to resist.

A cold front or just the cold-water periods of early spring and late fall are two examples when anchoring will work.There are times when you get on a spot, drift a rig, and won’t get any bites. But, you anchor, sit still, and bang, you get hit. The fish are there, but they’re probably in a negative or neutral mood. The bait just needs to be in their face a little longer.27

There are other times when anchoring will increase your odds, such as when you’re facing a stiff breeze or current and boat control becomes an issue. But, despite an anchor’s effectiveness, it’s likely that half the anglers reading this article don’t even have an anchor in their boats. Anchoring is often overlooked and it’s time to rethink that choice.

Anchoring with Style
Anchors come in two shapes important to walleye anglers. One is a Water Spike type (lightweight with sharp points), which digs in clay, mud or sandy bottoms. The other is a Navy anchor (heavy with 2 large claws), or a variation on the Navy theme made by Richter (heavy with multiple points). Navy and Richter are both good on gravel, rocks or boulders. Have the two different styles (Water Spike and Navy) on board which work for the different type of bottom conditions you may face.

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Smaller boats can get away with lighter weights, but err on the heavy side. They’re useless if they don’t keep you in place. Using 2 anchors at the same time can help. Have plenty of rope attached. If you don’t use enough, you will slip out of place and disturb the spot. About 150 feet of rope per anchor should do. Mark it every 10 feet. If you have to reset them if you slip, you’ll have an idea of how much to let out next time.

Drop anchors quietly
They can spook fish if you don’t.You can often get an idea of what type of tactic you are going to try on a given day before you even get to the water.The tip comes at the bait shop, and it’s free. Simply glance in the minnow tanks. Tightly-balled minnows are responding to the same high pressure, cold front which is impacting the fish in the lake. Anchoring might be the ticket that day. If minnows are swimming freely, then search tactics may come in play.

Wawang Lake - anchoringThe effectiveness of anchoring can change over the course of a single trip to the water, too. Walleyes that are active in low light may get lockjaw mid-day. Use an anchor as a tool to switch to slower tactics.

Anchoring is a spot-on-a spot tactic. You must be close to where walleyes are concentrated for it to work. Watch for fish on your sonar or stay close to some sort of structure.

But, you can ring the dinner bell even if walleyes aren’t directly below you. For example, there are times when two anglers jigging below the boat for a while have attracted curious perch to the area. At first, there might be nothing happening. Then, 20 minutes later you catch a perch. Then shortly after that, you boat a good walleye that has followed the forage fish to the spot.

The lesson learned – if action is slow enough that you are putting the anchor out, then give a spot some time. Twenty to thirty minutes is usually enough to tell if anything is going to happen.

Anchoring is a great way to approach “edges” where the depth changes or weedlines or treelines. Anchor one up on the top and the other down the drop. Check both depths.

Wawang Lake - AnchorsThe depth where anchors are effective can vary. You might want to anchor in a breeze so you can cast small jigs to wood or weed edges in shallow water near a point that holds fish.

Or, you may want to anchor to use slip bobbers to target a deep rock hump 40 feet down or more. In that case, anchor parallel to the waves and cast up wide with the weighted Thill Pro Series bobbers from Lindy. Let the breeze work the bait over the structure for you. Set the depth so your jig/bait is a foot off the bottom. The clearer the water, the higher you can get away with setting the rig.

Many anglers probably avoid anchors because of the work it takes to move to new spots. Well, not so fast. Change position in wind or current merely by moving the rope from the front of the boat to a cleat on either side. The motion of the water or wind swings you over new water to try. Letting out more rope does the same thing.

But, don’t stay in one area too long, try other places. If you’re so sure that the fish are there, fish the spot, come back later and try again. That walleye “couch potato” just might be ready to reach for the candy bar when you return.

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TIPS for Walleye Fishing

No matter what your preferred fishing technique is;  jigging spoons or trolling baits you’re bound to find a bit of knowledge here that will help up your walleye fishing skills for the upcoming season.

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TROLL DIRTY
Vertical jigging is probably the most productive technique for walleye fishing, but high winds or rains that dirty the water can put the fish off the jig bite. When water conditions change for the worse, try trolling near bottom. Use a three-way swivel and tie a sinker on a 6- to 12-inch dropper, or use a bottom-bouncing rig and trail a floating/diving minnow. Troll upstream and cross-current.

Three WayDOUBLE DOWN
Three-way swivels allow you to double your trolling offerings. Attach a deep-diving crankbait to a 2-to 3-foot leader tied to the bottom of the swivel. Then add to the top of the swivel a leader twice as long as the other and a floating/diving minnow-style bait or a light, thin spoon. When putting the baits out, drop the deep-diver in the water first and let it start diving before letting go of the second leader. This will keep them from tangling and ensure a proper presentation of both baits.

SINK SPOONS
Trolling spoons is an effective way to catch walleye, but getting them deep enough can be a challenge. Use the same techniques that big-water salmon anglers employ to attain appropriate depth—downriggers, snap weights, in-line sinkers, diving planers or lead-core line. Walleye are often gear shy, so increase the length of the leader off a lead-core line or the distance behind the cannonball on a downrigger. Fluorocarbon leaders will help, but be careful, as they have no stretch.

DOWNSIZE THE BAIT
One of the toughest times to catch walleye is during a significant mayfly hatch. To increase your odds, use what guides call a mayfly rig—a small spinner with a portion of a night crawler on a small hook. Cast the rig out and count it down, then retrieve it slowly, experimenting with depth until you find the strike zone; walleyes often hit mayflies as they’re on their way to the surface to emerge. Keep the rig small; mayfly larvae are rarely longer than an inch.

BE VERSATILE
The rule of thumb for jigging is to use minnows in cold water and night crawlers, leeches or soft-plastics as the water warms.   BUT you’re making a mistake if you don’t take all types of live bait with you. Although leeches and crawlers may be hard to find in the fall, they’ll sometimes out produce minnows in cold water, especially if it’s dirty. Other times, even in the heat of the summer, fish want minnows more than other offerings.

HIT THE WHOLE COLUMN
Walleye fishermen usually concentrate on the bottom, but often the most active fish are suspended in the water column. When trolling, vary the depth of your offerings by changing your diving bait or adding weight to your lines if trolling with spinner rigs. Sometimes the ‘eyes are out on the prowl, foraging on minnows or shad that are schooled somewhere between the top and bottom. Watch your depth finder for clues to their whereabouts and fish accordingly.

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JIG A PLUG
Spice up your jigging offering by substituting a chatter bait—such as a Rat-L-Trap—for a spoon. Cast it out, let it drop to the bottom, then yo-yo it back to the boat. Don’t snap it up as high as you would a spoon, as the hooks can foul on the line. Rattling baits fall more slowly than spoons, but you can fix that by adding a slip sinker to your line before you tie on the bait. The extra weight tightens the plug’s wobble on the fall.

WORK THE SHALLOWS
Most walleye anglers concentrate on moderate to deep water, but there are fish in shallow water that are generally ignored. This is especially true during periods of high water when the predators move shallow to forage. Jigs tipped with live bait produce in the weeds, often in water not much deeper than a walleye’s back. Jig spoons near cover. Night crawlers on harnesses with spinners work when cast around the edges and in cuts, but they’re tough to fish in thick stands of vegetation.

HEAD DEEP
One of the toughest bites walleye anglers face is immediately after a weather front passes. With a high, clear sky, the fish often sulk in the depths. The key is to concentrate on deep water structure and fish with live bait, either slowly trolling or drifting around humps and break lines, usually right where the bottom begins to flatten out.

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PLANE OUT
Planer boards that carry lures or bait away from the boat are especially important in ultra clear water. Anglers who troll many lines usually use large boards that are tethered to the boat, and they clip their lines to the tether line. Anglers in small boats can easily fish up to three lines per side with small in-line planers. The key is to set the far-running lines first and position those rods closest to the bow; set near-running lines last and toward the stern. Allow more line out before you attach the outside boards, so the baits trail farther behind the boat. That will let you reel in fish on an outside line without getting tangled.

LOWER A LEECH
Leeches are a terrific bait for walleyes, especially when presented on slip bobbers or jigs. To make them easier to grip, carry a rag or rub them against your pant leg to remove some of the slime. When hooking them, insert the point of the hook into their suction cup—this will let them swim freely instead of balling up on the hook. Keep the leeches in some sort of container in the live well to acclimate them to the lake temperature before you bait up.

LURK, DON’T JERK
Floating/diving minnow lures are known as “jerk baits” because they’re fished with a dramatic, erratic action. A quieter retrieve is often more productive for walleye, which tend to trail baits rather than simply lunging and striking. Neutrally buoyant baits are especially suited to walleye, as they sit still or rise ever so slowly when you stop working the bait. Walleyes take these lures during a pause in the action, so stop your retrieve often.

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GIVE ‘EM OPTIONS
When it comes to trolling with artificial lures, increase your odds by adding soft-plastic trailers to your crank baits. Use small twister-tail grubs or short plastic worms. Attach a 2- to 3-foot length of monofilament to the back hook of the crank baits, tie on a hook and attach the grub. Make sure the hook is exposed, and if you’re using a worm, run the hook through at least three quarters of the soft-plastic; that way you won’t miss short-striking fish. Don’t add any weight to the leader or you’ll interfere with the crank bait’s action. And use opposite colors when trailing crank baits—dark grubs with light-colored plugs and vice versa.

TRY A NO-SLIDE BAIT
When jigging with live bait, try adding a piece of plastic to the hook shank. A body from a grub or a section of plastic worm helps keep the bait on the aft end of the jig and prevents it from sliding up the hook shank. That way, when a walleye grabs the bait, it’ll also get ahold of the hook.

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Pike – Rods, Lures & Baits

Baitcaster_ComboCasting for northern pike should be done with a bait casting rod in the seven to eight foot range and fifty or sixty five pound test braided lines, like Power Pro or Tuf Line.  Carry spinning tackle in the same actions too. Seven strand wire and fluorocarbon leaders are obviously mandatory no matter what technique you’re using. In the spring you’ll be dealing with a lot of fish most days, and there’s almost always big ones to be had. A good leader that will hold up to a lot of abuse is very important. Use knotted Sea guar fluorocarbon in forty to sixty pound test. This stuff is durable, you can tie with it, and the average leader will outlast a wire one. Year in and year out, floating and suspending minnow baits are the go-to lure. Between about five and eight inches seems to be the best size range. In bad winds, larger, heavier, suspending baits like H12 Husky Jerk or Suspending Storm Thunder stick are easier to cast and control. When you’re working lures of this size in bad wind, braided line helps you control and feel the bait when it’s far from the boat and a big bow develops in your line. Plus, even little bumps or pops of your rod tip get transmitted right to the nose of the bait.

Floating minnow baits kind of fell out of vogue after everyone started making suspenders, but, baits that run high in the water and rise when you stop moving them can be magic at times. They’re tougher to cast in bad winds, but well worth the effort! Three of the best are:

  • Cordell’s Ripplin Redfin
  • Bomber Long A’s …… and the good old
  • #18 Original Floating Rapala.

Six to nine inch Suicks are great too, and like the #18 Rapala, they cast very well. You can use floaters and suspenders slowly, with lots of pauses, or fish them faster with more snapping and reeling.

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Jigging and trolling are two options that consistently produce early in the year also. If you’re not doing well casting, try weaving along spots with a baited spinner rig behind a bottom bouncer, like a Northland Rock Runner.

During many of our springs we see our guests get the biggest pike trolling, and usually within five or six feet of the surface. We’ve seen poor days turned around simply by putting down the casting rods and putting the boat in gear. Using a depth finder + GPS combo will revolutionize the way you fish. Your speed control will improve and so will you knowledge of spots and how thoroughly you work them. Add in a digital map chip and it’s almost unfair!  A popular brand to use is the Lowrance electronics with Navionics map chips.

If you really want to slow down and pick apart good spots, jigging through waypoints, icons and trails is also effective. In or near moving water especially, pike will hang out with the walleye and suckers around deep holes, little slack spots or behind humps and other structures. Locking these spots down on your plotter and working them with a plastic or hair jig is time-consuming, but it works.  Spots near current really stack up fish of all kinds. Once you mark up a few, you can return again and again and find fish.  As the spring runs of walleye and pike tapered off, jigging the humps and seams just outside the rivers can be really productive on bigger fish. Having a good sonar really helps eliminate any downtime spent looking for my spots.

Along with jigging, fishing live or dead baitfish can be the only thing that produces sometimes.  Many have had the best luck doing this in the worst weather, when pike aren’t moving around much and inactive in general.   Fishing ‘meat’ also requires extra attention to your rigging and technique to make sure fish aren’t deeply hooked and injured.

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