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Targeting BIG Pike

Big pike are  predators and also not pushovers. Being at the top of the food chain they can muscle their way into the prime real estate on any water system. Northern pike, especially big ones, inhabit the structures on a water system that best meet a variety of criteria, including access to food, shelter, ambushing opportunities, water temperature, and oxygen levels.

Prime areas that often meet these criteria for large pike after they’ve spawned in the shallows are points, humps and saddles. Here’s a refresher on these time-honored pike structures.

Points
Points are a piece of structure that juts out into deep water off of shore or an island. They range in shapes and sizes but ultimately points extend into and are surrounded by deeper water. The variation they provide compared to the uniform surrounding shoreline and underwater contours, along with fast access to deep water, make them attractive to pike.

Northern move on points to feed, whether on walleye, perch, bass, or any other species they can get their mouths on. Wind-blown points attract big pike as the turmoil created by waves often stimulates feeding activity as prey become disoriented. Pike are active all day, but morning and evening are particularly good times to try points. When choosing points consider that the larger the structure the more fish it’s likely to hold.

hump1Humps
A hump is an uprising in the bottom depth with a considerable area. They’re also often referred to as bars or sunken islands. The same fish-attraction structural qualities of points also make humps a common place to find northern. Mid-lake humps are particularly productive for trophy pike during summer and autumn. On large, deep lakes northern often inhabit cool, deep water where they’ll follow and feed on schools of whitefish and lake herring.

Humps often attract deep-water pike as both resting and foraging areas. Shallow humps, that peak around 10- to 15 feet often have weed growth, which will attract all sizes of pike. Deeper, rocky humps that top out around 20- to 35 feet appeal to big, deep-water fish.

saddleSaddles
A saddle is best described as follows: Picture yourself holding a rubber band in two hands so it’s straight. Move your hands together and the band drops — there’s your saddle. Your thumbs and forefingers represent either humps or islands, which could vary in size and shape, and the bends in the band are the sloping, connected points that join these two land masses. Sometimes these slopes are relatively uniform, as in the rubber band example, while in other instances one side may extend farther or drop faster than the other.

In addition to the reasons listed above for points and humps, there are a few other benefits to saddles. The first is they tend to be fairly sizeable structures giving them the potential to hold multiple big fish. Add to this the fact that saddles contain a variety of different depths plus plenty of physical features all wrapped up in one interconnected formation, and it’s no wonder they’re a pike paradise and typically known as big fish spots.

Structure Details
When fishing points, humps and saddles, paying attention to the finer details in the layout of these areas will catch you more and bigger pike. You want to find additional features that will concentrate fish. These zones are often referred to as “the spot on the spot” and represent prime real estate for fish. Small fingers, which could be described as miniature points, and inside bends on any of these three spots have a tendency to attract fish and funnel their movements. Focusing on deep weed walls is wise as pike will hunt along these edges. Rock piles also attract fish.

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The next time you’re pursuing a fishing map, keep points, humps and saddles in mind. These structures regularly hold quality northern pike throughout the year after fish have spawned. Fish them thoroughly and don’t be afraid to hit the same structure multiple times in a day to better your chances at intercepting a big pike feeding.

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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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Big Tube Jigs For Autumn Pike

# 1 choice of lure for Lahrman Group 6/2013

Wawang Lake is the # 1 choice for the Lahrman Group – Chicago (area), IL

There are few a shorter days and cooling water are signals to northern pike that autumn has arrived. During fall, these sleek predators will feed heartily to pack on energy reserves to help them etter ways to catch pike in cold water than using big profile jigs, and giant tubes are particularly productive baits.

Pike Locations From Early Fall To Ice Up
Fall is very much a time of transition. At the start of autumn, pike will still relate to healthy weeds, but as shallow plants die look for northern in deeper vegetation zones. Tributaries and the mouths of feeder streams on rivers are also good late-season spots as baitfish stage in these areas. Sharp breaks where walleyes hold will also attract pike, which will eat walleyes any chance they get. Rock-gravel reefs and points adjacent to deep water are good whitefish and cisco (lake herring) spawning grounds. These two prey species spawn between October and November, so these structures make prime late-fall pike spots.Current areas also attract pike year-round. As an example, on lakes the narrows between shore and an island often has wind-induced current traveling through it. This pushes in baitfish and pike follow.   Northern wait in ambush in current breaks, such as eddies, outwash holes, and deep pools.

An autumn-sized bait. Pictured here is WaterWolf Lures's 7-inch Gator Tube with a 9/0, 1-ounce jig head.

An autumn-sized bait. Pictured here is WaterWolf Lures’s 7-inch Gator Tube with a 9/0, 1-ounce jig head.

Basic Tube Jigs Tips
Big tube jigs between 5- and 7 inches are a supreme autumn bait. The bait’s thickness also appeals to northern stocking up on calories. When pike are sluggish as a result of cold water these baits also have just enough action to get fish interested. Their multi-filament appendages wave at the slightest movement and are deadly at triggering bites when pike are sluggish. Tubes are outstanding lures to work on swimming retrieves. Pumping the rod tip during the retrieve will add either a side-to-side twitch or an up-and-down bob to the tube depending on its rigging.

When fishing tubes near the bottom, be alert and keep a feel on the bait at all times as it sinks. Tubes fall in a shimmy or a spiral that imitates a dying fish and pike often strike during the initial drop. Once on the bottom, you can use either a lazy, lift-drop swim or a drag-pause retrieve.

Hooking Followers Fall fish can be lazy and follows are common. The best scenario is spotting an aggressive fish a distance from the boat. In this case, try speeding up the retrieve or adding some snaps. This imitates escape-moves and sometimes triggers bites. If the fish appears lazy, slow the retrieve slightly. If working the bait along the bottom, add pauses or experiment with the length of drags. Slow twitches that impart an escape-like dart to tubes can also evoke strikes. If you spot a following pike close to the boat while your jig is traveling upwards, letting out line so the jig falls is your best option.

Tackle useTips Rig tube jigs using a long-shank jig head. Large baits featuring a wide body cavity will accommodate a range of jig-head styles. Also, adding a stinger treble hook on a wire leader to large 7-inch tubes can help with hook-up rates when pike bite short.

pikeBig tubes demand heavy gear.  Use heavy-power bait cast outfits. For deep-water applications, use rods at least 7 feet, and most preferred is a 7-1/2’ for better line control when drifting and moving line for deep-water hook sets.

This autumn try casting tube jigs around deep weed edges and rocky structures. This non-traditional tactic is a great way to boat bragging-size northern pike.

 

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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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Which is Best – Live Bait or Lure?

It’s one of fishing’s most common questions – what’s the best choice: real bait or artificial lures? In reality, there’s NO one-size-fits-all answer to this timeless dilemma. Each approach to catching fish has its particular strengths and weaknesses, and each one is better suited to different conditions, environments, target species, and levels of angler competence. Let’s look at the pros and cons of real bait versus counterfeit offerings!

Learning the Ropes Having said that, there’s no question that the very best, most consistently successful anglers are almost always those who cut their fishing teeth using natural baits. Bait fishing teaches us the absolute basics of the sport, including what food items fish prefer to eat, where fish expect to find those food items, and how and when fish prey upon them. Whether you remain a dedicated bait fisher for life or go on to try lures or even fly fishing, understanding these fundamental basics of the sport will stand you in great stead.

Better still, finding, gathering, or catching your own bait rather than buying it from a shop magnifies all these important lessons. Bait collecting teaches an angler a great deal about where the food items fish prey upon live, how they behave, and what they look like. If you ever move on to try lure, these lessons will prove to be invaluable…and even if you don’t, catching your own bait will definitely save you lots of money!

Hunting Versus Trapping  In many ways, fishing with lures is akin to hunting, while bait fishing is more like trapping. In other words, the bait fisher sets out his or her “traps” (baited hooks) and waits for the prey to stumble upon them. In contrast, a lure fisher can cover more water in less time. Like a hunter using a rifle or bow, the lure caster or troller actively seeks out the prey, and his or her lures are effectively bullets and arrows.

Clearly, these two subtly different approaches will have varying levels of appeal for different anglers and comparative strengths and weaknesses under changing conditions. There’s no overall “best” method, simply better choices on the day.

When Using Bait is Best:

  • At night
  • When instructing new chums or kids
  • When the water is muddy or discolored
  • When it’s very cold (especially while ice fishing!)
  • When targeting vegetarian and omnivorous species
  • When catching a meal is absolutely paramount!

When Using Lures is Best

  • In most catch-and-release fisheries
  • Where undersized and non-target “nuisance fish” are abundant
  • In clearer water
  • In warmer weather
  • For aggressive, predatory fish
  • On waters designated “artificial only” or “fly and lure only”

The Best Features of Bait

  • Bait is extremely effective at fooling most fish.
  • Bait is usually cheap (free if you catch your own!).
  • You can cast out a bait, set your rod down, and wait for the fish to come to you!
  • Leftover bait can be returned to its natural environment or taken home and frozen for future use.
  • Many fish hook themselves when they eat bait; thus, knowing exactly when to strike is less critical.
  • Bait appeals to an extraordinary range of fish species in most aquatic environments, and you will nearly always catch something on bait!

The Downfalls of Using Bait

  • Most bait needs refrigeration or a water-circulating live well to maintain freshness.
  • Finding and catching bait can be a dirty, difficult, and even potentially hazardous task.
  • Most bait smells! Your hands, clothes, and gear will also become smelly when you go bait fishing.
  • Bait is non-discriminatory; it often attracts under-sized fish and non-target species.
  • Bait fishing is less spontaneous, and it usually requires at least some planning.
  • Using bait often results in deeply hooked fish that can’t be easily released with a high chance of survival.

The Best Features of Lures

  • Lures are simply fun to use! Catching a fish on a lure always seems especially satisfying.
  • Lure fishing is an active, engaging pursuit, and you can cover a lot more water with a lure.
  • Lures tend to catch slightly larger fish on average and attract less unwanted by-catch.
  • Lures nearly always hook fish in the jaws, lips, or mouth, facilitating easier, safer catch and release.
  • Lure collecting can become at least as addictive (and pleasurable) as lure fishing!

The Downfalls of Using Lures

  • Most good lures are expensive, and some are very expensive!
  • Many lures are easily snagged on obstacles such as rocks, trees, or strands of water weed.
  • Lure fishing demands constant motion, such casting and retrieving or trolling from a moving boat.
  • Many species of fish are much less responsive to lures than they are to bait.
  • Lure fishing generally demands better-quality tackle and a higher degree of skill than bait fishing.
  • Lure collecting can become at least as addictive (and expensive) as lure fishing!

And the Winner Is…
In the final analysis, there can be no overall winner in the bait-versus-lures contest. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and each will dominate under certain conditions or on a particular day. Smart (and successful) anglers will strive to be adept at both forms of fishing!

 

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Does Lure Color Matter Underwater?

Most anglers have a favorite lure and swear that their choice will out-perform all other offerings. But just how important is color when it comes to lure selection? Well, according to science, not very important at all!

Water progressively absorbs or blocks light of different wavelengths, meaning that colors effectively “vanish” one after another as “white” sunlight travels through the water column. The overall intensity or brightness of visible light also diminishes rapidly underwater.

Because this absorption is greater for longer wavelengths (the red end of the spectrum) than for shorter wavelengths (the blue end of the spectrum), perceived colors are rapidly altered with increasing depth or distance through the water.


The precise rate at which this loss of color occurs varies depending on the intensity of the sunlight, whether the sun is directly overhead or low on the horizon, the amount of cloud cover, as well as the clarity and color of the water itself, and the presence of any suspended matter such as weed or plankton. Even in very clear ocean currents far from shore, less than 25 percent of available sunlight hitting the sea’s surface will penetrate much beyond 30 feet or so. By the time we reach a depth of 300 feet, the remaining light may be as little as 0.5 percent of that available on the surface. In other words, it’s a pretty gloomy place down there! In freshwater lakes and rivers, this loss of light with depth is even more dramatic.

As already mentioned, red is the first color visible to our eyes to disappear, and is typically gone within 15 or 20 feet of the surface. much less in turbid water. Orange disappears next, then yellow, green, and purple. Blues penetrate deepest of all, both the tones visible to our human eyes and also the shorter, ultra-violet wavelength many fish can see.

This phenomenon has a profound impact on the way things look to us, and also to fish underwater.

  • White objects will appear bluish or gray underwater, and the darkness of that blue/gray appearance increases rapidly with depth.
  • Red objects will begin to look dark brown or even black within a few meters of the surface.
  • Down at 40 or 50 feet, even in very clear water, the world appears to be composed entirely of shades of gray, blue, and black.

It’s worth stressing that this loss or alteration of visible colors occurs in both the vertical and the horizontal or diagonal planes. So, 40 feet of vertical depth has roughly the same impact on light waves and color perception as 40 feet of horizontal or diagonal separation between object and observer. In other words, a red lure may look black when viewed at a depth of 40 feet, but it will also appear black, or at the least brown or very dark grey, when viewed from the side at a distance of 40 feet, even if it’s traveling right up in the surface layer.

At face value, this phenomenon of light and color loss underwater ridicules the importance of color in lures anywhere beyond shallow, ultra-clear scenarios, yet anglers the world over will continue to argue that one color is better than another, even in deep-water jigging. The funny thing is, if you ask half a dozen fishers for their opinion on the most effective lure color, you’re likely to receive six different answers. Perhaps it’s time we moved color to the bottom of the list of criteria when choosing a lure, and placed far greater emphasis on the size, action, profile, and speed of our offerings.

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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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