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Tempting BIG Fall Walleye

31" walleye - Mark HechtAs the leaves begin to drop and the temperature starts to cool, the walleye begins a migration to typical areas in search of food to fatten-up for the upcoming winter. Fall time is synonymous with trophy time as these fish display size, strength and a willingness to bite. Locating and tempting these lunker fish can be a rewarding experience by trying the following tactics and techniques for hot action on those cool days of autumn.

Finding the Fish
Cooler water temperatures signal an impulse in the walleye to “migrate” to areas that they typically frequented during the spring months. River mouths and inlets, shallow water weedlines and island breaks are just three locations that the walleye will call home for the fall months. One key aspect to keep in mind is that most fish will be found in water predominantly shallower than they occupy during the summer months. One reason for this shift is due to water temperature, mainly, a more comfortable level. Another reason is in part to the influx of baitfish that are calling the shallows home at this time of year. The walleye are gorging right now, leaving the shallows the best bet to appease their appetite.

Mud flats are another interesting option to seek out fall walleye you will have tremendous success fishing these “structure less” areas, as they seem to group up and hold large pods of feeding fish.

Nighttime is Right Time
If you are looking for an eventful time on the water with the possibility of some trophy ‘eyes, then book yourself a night shift at your the lake. Due to their light-sensitive eyes, the walleye will feed actively during this period of darkness and will head right up shallow to fill their bellies full. Search out an area that consists of mud, sand and green weeds and has close access to deeper water. Water depths can vary, but a rule of thumb is to start shallow (2 to 3 feet) and progressively move deeper until you connect with fish. Shallow running cranks are your best bet, especially thin minnow-style baits. BIG baits are the norm at this time of year, with 6-inches being a common length to throw. Remember, the fish you will catch are generally larger and are gorging on baitfish – this is no time for small 2 or 3-inch crankbaits.

Choosing baits that have rattles can be a definite plus as it will help the walleye hone in on your bait during the darkness. Bagley’s, Rebel and Wally Divers have all proven their merit while out on the water with an action and frequency that walleye jump all over.

Casting or trolling are two techniques that are both productive for nighttime walleye. If the area is a confined spot with a small feeding shelf or flat, casting is your best route to take. If the stretch is long and even with a prominent weedline along the edge, a trolling style will be best suited. Test the water at night this fall and see what’s lurking under the surface.

Live Bait Applications
Live bait can be a deadly application during the fall months due to the fact that it represents what the walleye are feeding on to the truest sense. Leeches and minnows are your two tops bets for connecting with fish at this time of year, and they will also last longest on the hook in the colder water.

Although there are many different types and styles of live bait rigs available to the angler, sticking to bottom bouncers and jigs will keep things simple and productive. Bottom bouncing shoals, breaklines and mud flats with a leech can be deadly at this time of year, and will also help in locating fish quickly and efficiently. Choose a rig with large, flashy spinners and add a jumbo leech for maximum effect. Drift or back troll this offering along any breaks or flats that might hold fish, paying close attention to your electronics for signs of schools of baitfish or walleye.

 

Jigging can be a tough tactic to beat during the fall as it presents your offering to the fish where most will be found – on or near the bottom. Pay attention to the word “most” – some will suspend in which case trolling or casting are the preferred method of attack. Larger size jigs in ¼ to ½ oz. sizes will cover most situations and keep your offering on the bottom. (Larger jig heads can also help during the blustery wind conditions that are often encountered during the fall months…) Tipping your jig with a minnow is your best bet, and choosing the largest and liveliest a definite plus when it comes to fall walleye. I often choose minnows between 4 and 6-inches long, most times erring on the larger size. Walleyes are feeding on perch, smelt, shad or a number of other “large” baitfish at this time, so it makes sense to give them something to really eat. Stinger hooks are a necessity during the fall due to the large bait and short bites. Adding a stinger will help your catch ratio increase in leaps and bounds.

Experimentation is the key to jigging techniques. Some days the fish may prefer a jig dragging on the bottom, while other days it may be a two-foot lift and pause. Generally a slow jigging motion is the preferred method due to the cooler water and decrease in metabolism in the fish. Trying different applications, as well as jig colours, will lead you on the path to success.

Test the waters this fall for wonderful walleye. If you’re looking for a trophy or two, this is the time of year that can surely cough them up.

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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 walleyes 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 hotspot 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 Walleyes:

Locating and catching suspended walleye can be a difficult task. Finding suspended walleyes 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 walleyes 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 - 1

catch 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 Walleyes Suspend

Water Temperature: In deep clear lakes walleyes 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. Walleyes that feed on reefs will suspend off the reef to rest, not to feed.

  • Forage:

Walleyes 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 walleyes 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 Walleyes 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 walleyes deeper
  • Downsize live bait:Walleyes 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 walleyes are line shy, use 8lb clear monofilament or fluorocarbon.

  • Try Weeds:

Some walleyes will bury into the weeds rather than seek deeper water. These walleyes will also resume normal activity before the walleyes 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 walleyes 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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Transition Fall Walleye

During the months of August/September, fish aren’t the only creatures in transition. As popular fish species like walleye prepare for the onslaught of winter, fishermen experience their own transitions.

Among anglers the most obvious change is that September apparently marks the end of the fishing season. No such ruling appears in print, but that doesn’t prevent countless boats from being winterized and shrink wrapped immediately following Labor Day. It’s almost as if a strange desire to hibernate takes a toll on some fishermen.

While many anglers suffer from a form of seasonal hibernation, others trade in their fishing rods for guns and bows. Ironically, the same weather transitions that seem to discourage anglers from fishing, cause walleye to bite like there is no tomorrow.

Walleye Transitions
Walleye start experiencing a number of transitions when the heat of summer begins to give way to cooling air and water temperatures. These transitions impact on where walleye are most likely to be found and what they are likely to be eating as the weather cools.

All summer long walleye feed actively, but the food resources consumed are quickly digested. With a metabolism rate that’s on overdrive, keeping those belly fires burning requires walleye to feed almost constantly.

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The summer is a time for walleye to thrive, but despite an abundance of food resources these fish do not enjoy the luxury of developing fat reserves. It’s not until fall when water temperatures cool and the fish’s metabolism rate slows a notch that walleye start to pack on the fat.

Beginning with the first cool days of September walleye instinctively know they must feed both often and on larger forages. Fortunately, larger forage is more readily available to walleye in the fall because baitfish species are nearing maturity. The timing of these important events works out perfectly. Selectively feeding on larger forage allows the walleye to become more efficient at consuming food energy. The end result is a major growth spurt complete with fat reserves.

Food energy stored as fat is critical to walleyes for a couple reasons. Fall is the time when the walleye’s body starts aggressively producing eggs and sperm that will be needed during the upcoming spring spawn. If walleye don’t go into the winter months with a cushion of fat reserves, the number of eggs produced can be seriously limited.

Secondly, with winter comes a declining forage base. Fat reserves and an even slower metabolism rate in winter allow walleye to survive with much less food than would be required in warmer water.

Other Transitions
The old saying make hay while the sun shines, applies double to walleye that are in transition from summer to fall feeding habits. As walleye feed aggressively on larger forage species, they take full advantage of these important food resources.

However, transitions in feeding habits aren’t the only change walleye encounter during the fall. Another transition takes place in the shape of seasonal migrations. During the fall walleye migrate towards productive feeding areas. Depending upon the body of water, these seasonal migrations can be as predictable as a subway route. A big part of these migrations and ultimately where walleyes turn up depends upon the forage species available.

 

Food related migrations most commonly occur in the Great Lakes and also in large reservoir systems. In natural lakes where food bonanzas are more rare these seasonal migrations are not as prevalent.

Walleyes living in reservoir systems are among the most predictable. Driven by the desire to feed, walleye that during the summer scatter throughout the reservoir, start to migrate upstream towards major dams or spillways. By early fall these fish commonly show up on main lake points near the upper reaches of the reservoir. Later in the fall these same fish push right up to the dam and spillway where they hunt for a variety of forage species that are attracted to the current.

Trolling crankbaits near the points is productive, but most of the walleye that stage on these points are caught rigging good sized sucker or chub minnows. Later in the fall when the fish concentrate below the dams, a jig and minnow combination is hard to beat.

In the Great Lakes fall walleye migrations tend to be towards major spawning reefs and shoals. For example, in Lake Erie each year adult walleye spawn in the Western Basin on scattered reefs or in tributary streams. After spawning adult fish migrate east to the Central and Eastern Basins where they feed on suspended forage species during the summer months. In the fall these same adult fish return to the Western Basin. As these schools of fish move westward, they tend to group up near river mouths, rock reefs, piers and islands where baitfish concentrate.

Fall fishing on Erie centers around crankbait trolling. Popular minnow baits like the Salmo Sting, Reef Runner Deep Diver and Rapala Deep Husky Jerk produce amazing numbers of big fish in the fall right up until freeze up. Great action takes place both day and night throughout the fall.

Pinpointing
Fish Movements:  Understanding seasonal transitions in walleye behavior and movement makes it much easier to predict the whereabouts of fish during the fall. The same places that walleye were found during the spawn and post-spawning season in the spring generally hold good numbers of walleye in the fall.

What kinds of baitfish are in the system will in part determine where these fish turn up. Bodies of water that have gizzard or threadfin shad and alewives will find that most of the baitfish population during the fall is found in shallow water and or near flowing water. These species of baitfish are attracted to warmer water. River mouths and dam spillways are prime places to fish crankbaits or a jig and minnow combination.

Smelt are another common walleye forage that has a different habitat preference. Smelt favor deep water and where smelt are found walleye also go deep. Most often smelt suspend over soft bottom areas in the main basin of the lake. To reach these fish anglers troll crankbaits using lengths of lead core line to achieve the deeper depths.

 

Bodies of water that have a lot of emerald shiners experience yet a different fall fishing opportunity. Emerald shiners thrive in clear waters and they also prefer to live in or near the surface film. The combination of clear water and surface loving bait sets up a situation where walleye are most vulnerable to specialized nighttime trolling tactics. Stickbaits like the Salmo Sting, Reef Runner Ripstick, Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and Dave’s Lures Nitro Shiner fished behind in-line planer boards produce many walleye under these circumstances.

In order to monitor the boards and also detect strikes, anglers must use small lights on the boards. This form of fishing not only produces trophy class walleye, but some fast action as well.

Summing It Up
Walleye during the fall are subjected to a number of transitions. Cooling water spells an end to the food factory they enjoyed all summer long, but it also causes their metabolism to slow down so the food they do find provides essential energy longer. As food naturally becomes more scarce, walleye respond by hunting more aggressively and by targeting a larger average sized prey. Walleye also respond by migrating to areas where hunting conditions are ideal.

Collectively these conditions concentrate walleye and that favors angling efforts. This annual fall phenomenon starts in September, builds in October and peaks in November. In many fisheries the action lasts right up until freeze up. While some anglers ponder the virtues of seasonal hibernation, those who target walleye in the fall are rewarded in many ways. Big fish, lots of fish and next to zero fishing pressure add up to a fishing transition any angler can adapt to.

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Bucktail Jigging For Weed Walleye

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When walleye head to the shade of the salad, or cruise along the edge of vegetation, a bucktail jig can be your greatest tool for seducing them to strike. Not only is the undulating hair a visual stimulant, but also the erratic cadence of the bait as it is ripped and jigged with vigor.  Working bucktails is a different game than with regular jigs, but the technique speaks for itself with the big results you’ll be rewarded with.

A standard bucktail jig is comprised of a lead head, with layers of bucktail tied and glued to the collar of the bait. Strands of tinsel are often interwoven, adding an additional aspect in terms of visual attraction. When moving, the hair forms a streamlined body, replicating a baitfish perfectly.   At rest the hair fans out, adding a different dimension in terms of appearance.  In comparison to a jig and plastic, the bucktail is far superior in terms of weedlessness, making them an excellent choice when the cover becomes thick and the walleye go into hiding.

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The Laws of Rip Jigging

Rip jigging is a specialized technique that can produce astounding results.   The premise is simple:  flip a bucktail jig out twenty feet or so.   Let it make contact with the bottom vegetation, then give a quick and sharp snap of the rod, breaking the jig free from the snag and sending it up and above the cover. Repeat process. Depending on the mood of the fish, rips can be positively violent or more controlled.   You will find that the warmer the weather, the more aggressive you can be.

Walleye are an opportunistic feeder. They will conceal themselves in the thickest of   cover, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting baitfish as it swims by. Ripping a bucktail jig through the salad will easily get their attention (due to the   commotion it causes) and make them commit to the speedy meal before it gets away. Depending on the mood of the fish, they will either smack it as it breaks free from the green stuff, or rise to engulf it as it slowly falls back down. This is one technique that has worked well is the fall period. Fish will raise their activity level and feedbag at this time, and when the wind howls and the fish move shallow, you can definitely get into a bunch of them – BIG ones too! In terms of tipping options for rip jigging – go the route of none.   Minnows and worms won’t last long with the constant weed contact, and due to the speed of the retrieve (and split second reaction time),  it doesn’t makes much of a difference in terms of catch rates.

Dunking For Fish

Although it may seem unsuitable dunking the weed pockets for walleye is a tried and true technique. Shallow water and expansive weed flats make up the playing field for this tactic, and a stout rod and bucktail jigs round out the arsenal. Pounding depths between four and 10-feet is your best option, and clear water is always your best bet. Work weed flats and clumps with the wind or an electric motor, lowering a heavy bucktail jig into every hole and edge you drift over.  Let it sink directly to bottom, and give it a few lifts and drops before moving on. (leave the bait in each hole for at least ten seconds before trying the next.) Walleye will bucktailsituate themselves on these edges, both inside and out, pouncing on any bait that free falls into their lair. Visually, this is a fun and exciting tactic to employ, as most fish are actually observed sucking up the bait in the blink of an eye, and quickly charging back into the weeds! A lightening quick hook set and medium-heavy rod is recommended if you hope to put a net under the belly of any of them. Tipping your jig with a minnow or worm is an excellent choice for this short-line tactic, as the fish has more time to be convinced to strike, and scent can be a contributing factor for that.

Swimming Them In When walleye are scattered over weed flats, and the vegetation is low and uniform in height, swimming a bucktail jig back to the boat can be a hot ticket. The rules are simple: cast your bait out and start reeling in, keeping your jig just above the weeds, and imparting the odd lift or two into your retrieve. This will allow you to cover large areas of water, and help you pick off those fish that are actively cruising while feeding. Your presentation will resemble a minnow making its way along bottom, and an easy meal in the eyes of our yellow predator.

Top Ten Tips For Bucktail Fishing

1.  For clear water conditions, match the hatch when it comes to colour. Murky water requires brighter hues.
2.  Braided line gets the nod for working bucktails in the weeds.
3.  Check line regularly throughout the course of the day.
4.  Apply ample amounts of scent to the hair of the bait.
5.  Choose high quality jigs that sport strong and laser sharp hooks.
6.  In rough conditions, choose brighter colours that will aid in attracting fish better.
7.  Lighter jigs work better for swimming, while heavier jigs work best for ripping and dunking.
8.  Heavy equipment is key. This is no place for ultralight combos or low diameter line.
9.  Watch for line movement or “bumps.” This can often signal a fish.
10.  Take note of where fish are found. Then search for other areas on the lake that are similar in make up.

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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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