Category Archives: Walleye and Sauger

What Is Power Rigging for Walleyes and Why Should I Try It?


Tips from Tony Roach
from The Fishing Wire

Nearly fifty years after the inception of the modern live-bait rig—what’s today known simply as the ‘Roach Rig’—its sheer effectiveness still raises eyebrows and turns heads. Take a vigorously squirming minnow, nightcrawler or leech, and couple it with a hook, leader and sliding sinker and you’re fishing the deadliest walleye presentation of all time. Get a natural, lively bait to the bottom, and just start creeping your way along fruitful structure. Sooner or later, a walleye is going to eat. It’s just that simple.

Well, sort of. During the same fifty years, a number of nice little developments have transformed a serviceable bait delivery vehicle into a precision live-bait system. The walking sinker evolved into the Quick-Change Roach Sinker. The bottom bouncer transmogrified into the Northland Slip Bouncer. Live bait care tools, like those by Frabill, now ensure a healthy supply of critters. All the while, hooks, lines, and electronics have advanced almost beyond comprehension.

Which is where “power rigging” enters the equation. It’s old school rigging (light and easy) meets heavy metal bottom bouncing (head-banging fast), plus a dash of new wave tackle and tactics. Developed by ace guide Tony Roach, this hybrid live bait system is indeed, as he calls it, “Roach rigging on steroids.”

“Power rigging lets me maintain a natural live bait presentation, while triggering fish with a bit more speed,” states Roach. “Sort of like rip jigging, the presentation induces a reactionary response, while the live bait closes the deal. Early in the season, you’re moving slow with rigs and jigs, presenting bait to fish on a definite ‘feeding bite’; show ‘em a tempting morsel, keep it in front of their snouts, and they’re going to eat. Later on, as water warms, and the food supply expands, walleyes can turn a little tricky—a slight boost in speed is often all it takes to get fish to go.

“What I really like about the power program is that I can work quickly along a lengthy edge or over a vast flat, moving .9- to 1.2-mph,” he continues. “I can still put natural bait in front of them, but I can show my wares to a lot more active fish. What I also like is that the more boats there are working a spot slowly with rigs, the better. I can cruise right along and mow down the active biters.”From a lake-wide perspective, Roach’s power spots aren’t secrets. “This approach works on nearly any classic late summer and fall walleye location. Rock points, weed edges, transition areas, mudflats—anywhere you can drag a standard walking sinker and live bait, you can power rig,” he asserts.

“It’s really sort of a hybrid between slow-down rigging and dragging spinners on three-ways. I’ll start doing this pretty early in the summer—right after those initial insect hatches— and stick with it on and off through late summer into early fall. Once surface temps hit 60-degrees or so, it’s time to break out the power rigs. Then again in August and September, it really shines as water begins to cool a bit.“Those days when everyone is either creeping along with a standard rig or bottom bouncing at a good clip–especially on flat calm days–that’s when I’ll break out the power rigs.

”Roach’s power program employs a straight wire bottom bouncer, such as the Northland Slip Bouncer, coupled with a super long leader—up to 15-feet for coverless flats— tied with 8-pound test Berkley XT. At slower speeds he typically rigs a live ribbon leech, small shiner or chub on a single #6 or #4 hook. If Roach is pulling crawlers, it usually means he’s moving a bit faster, employing a dual hook harness. For added attraction, he occasionally adds a single fluorescent bead, or a single 00 flicker spinner. Often, too, especially with longer snells or near vegetation, he likes to add a Rainbow Float, 1 to 8-inches above the hook. “You can pin the float in place using a rubber Snubber Stop,” he asserts. Keeping the float well above the hook holds the entire leader off bottom, rather than just the bait itself.

While the hook, float and live bait power the presentation, the Slip-Bouncer drives. Unlike the standard R-bend bottom bouncers, Slip-Bouncers are composed of a single straight wire shaft with an open eyelet on top, which lets you feed line freely to biting fish—no resistance. The 5-inch wire “feeler” transmits bottom types like a stethoscope, while a slide-on weight system yields rapid adjustments to varying depths, speeds and currents. Another advantage: tickled over soft silt, mud or sand, these needle-like weights disturb very little bottom substrate, an occurrence that often spooks walleyes.

“Slip Bouncers are a gem—something every angler should add to their bag of rigging tricks,” Roach says.“Power rigging is ideal for inexperienced anglers and old pros alike. If I’ve got beginners in my boat, I can just set soft-tipped 8-1/2- foot trolling rods, like my Mr. Walleye SuperPros, in rod holders, and let them load up and set themselves. If we start missing fish, we simply hold rods and delay our hooksets. Drop the rod tip back toward a biting fish, feel for solid weight, and give a nice long sweep. Once you get things dialed in, you’ll hook every biter. It’s a pretty forgiving system.

“Really, power rigging can be the answer on any given summer day. Right in the middle of a classic ‘slow-down’ rigging bite, you can really put on a clinic. But the power program shines later on, too, when everyone else is moving faster, pulling standard spinner rigs. In both cases, the system can really make you a hero on those tougher flat calm day bites. Tell you what, any method that saves my hide on tough guide days is okay in my book.”

Livebait Spinner Rigs for Summer Walleyes


By Northland Pro Eric Brandriet
from The Fishing Wire

There are countless presentations that anglers use to catch walleyes throughout the open-water walleye season.  Angler strengths and confidence often steer their preference, and in South Dakota a livebait rig pulled behind a traditional bottom bouncer probably tops them all.  Very simple, yet effective livebait spinner rigs can entice the weariest of eyes!

After spawn concludes and water temps increase, walleyes transition off shorelines and shallow areas to weedlines and mid-lake structures.  While other presentations can be effective, spinner rigs become the summer norm allowing anglers to cover large areas of water with varying baits, at various speeds, often producing some of the best walleye angling of the year.

Even though spinner rigs are often seen as simple, they have not avoided evolution through the years.  As a young angler, I saw 2-3 hook harnesses with solid colored #3 Colorado Blades topping the options.  Today’s multi-colored blades on snells, with a variety of hook types, was the farthest from my dreams.

It has been no secret that many walleyes have succumbed to the Northland Tackle Butterfly Blades after their introduction last year.  Butterfly Blades brought spinner blades to an all new level due to their weight or lack of, color variations and sonic-like vibrations.   Endless versatility with the ability to troll at speeds as low as 0.25 mph, use hook variations of choice and catch everything from panfish to pike have made them my favorite. Northland Tackle has now introduced the NEW Butterfly Blade Float’n Harness and the Butterfly Wing-Nut Blade Rig.  I quickly realized after a couple of trolling passes that these just uncovered even more trolling options.

The Butterfly Blade Float’n Harness quickly proved very effective trolled over emerging weeds and rocky areas.  Its ability to avoid snags (weeds/rocks) but remain in the strike zone made this a favorite.   The 12 NEW colors in two different blade sizes will give us options complimenting forage and water/weather conditions.The Butterfly Wing-Nut Blade Rig without a doubt became my favorite enticing almost every species of fish.  The small blade produces a slightly more erratic action unmatched by any other blade.  This unmatched action coupled with three hook configurations (2-Hook, 1-Hook and Super Death) only add to versatility allowing this harness to be tipped with your choice of minnows, crawlers or leeches.

There are characteristics that allow these blades to stand alone and simply will put more fish in your boat.  Their composition (polycarbonate) allows less line sagging when trolled at slow speeds, on turns or while drifting.   The action and vibration is atypical of standard metal blades and this action and vibration attracts fish of all species.  The unique color blade options and two sizes of Float’n Harnesses allow matching the size profile preferred by fish on any given day.

I was born and raised in Northeastern South Dakota. Currently living on Big Stone Lake, also with a property on Lake Oahe, I’ve quickly realized I’m surrounded by “walleye” country! Spinner harnesses are a fishing backbone on many bodies of water as they can be fished easily by anglers of all ages with success, great for a guide like me.  The NEW Northland Tackle Butterfly Blade Float’n Harnesses and Butterfly Wing-Nut Blades have definitely earned space in my stowaways.

Fool Summer Walleyes with These Tips from Northland Fishing Tackle


Nearly 50 years after the inception of the modern live-bait rig—what’s today known simply as the ‘Roach Rig’—its sheer effectiveness still raises eyebrows and turns heads. Take a vigorously squirming minnow, nightcrawler or leech and couple it with a hook, leader and sliding sinker and you’re fishing the deadliest walleye presentation of all time. Get a natural, lively bait to the bottom, and just start creeping your way along fruitful structure. Sooner or later, a walleye is going to eat. It’s just that simple.

Well, sort of. During the same 50 years, a number of nice little developments have transformed a serviceable bait delivery vehicle into a precision live-bait system. The walking sinker evolved into the Quick-Change Roach Sinker. The bottom bouncer transmogrified into the Northland Slip Bouncer. Live bait care tools, like those by Frabill, now ensure a healthy supply of critters. All the while, hooks, lines, and electronics have advanced almost beyond comprehension.

Which is where “power rigging” enters the equation. It’s old school rigging (light and easy) meets heavy metal bottom bouncing (head-banging fast), plus a dash of new wave tackle and tactics. Developed by ace guide Tony Roach, this hybrid live bait system is indeed, as he calls it, “Roach rigging on steroids.”

“Power rigging lets me maintain a natural live bait presentation, while triggering fish with a bit more speed,” states Roach. “Sort of like rip jigging, the presentation induces a reactionary response, while the live bait closes the deal. Early in the season, you’re moving slow with rigs and jigs, presenting bait to fish on a definite ‘feeding bite’; show ‘em a tempting morsel, keep it in front of their snouts, and they’re going to eat. Later on, as water warms, and the food supply expands, walleyes can turn a little tricky—a slight boost in speed is often all it takes to get fish to go.

“What I really like about the power program is that I can work quickly along a lengthy edge or over a vast flat, moving .9- to 1.2-mph,” he continues. “I can still put natural bait in front of them, but I can show my wares to a lot more active fish. What I also like is that the more boats there are working a spot slowly with rigs, the better. I can cruise right along and mow down the active biters.”From a lake-wide perspective, Roach’s power spots aren’t secrets. “This approach works on nearly any classic late summer and fall walleye location. Rock points, weed edges, transition areas, mudflats—anywhere you can drag a standard walking sinker and live bait, you can power rig,” he asserts.“It’s really sort of a hybrid between slow-down rigging and dragging spinners on three-ways. I’ll start doing this pretty early in the summer—right after those initial insect hatches— and stick with it on and off through late summer into early fall. Once surface temps hit 60-degrees or so, it’s time to break out the power rigs. Then again in August and September, it really shines as water begins to cool a bit.“

Those days when everyone is either creeping along with a standard rig or bottom bouncing at a good clip–especially on flat calm days–that’s when I’ll break out the power rigs.”Roach’s power program employs a straight wire bottom bouncer, such as the Northland Slip Bouncer, coupled with a super long leader—up to 15-feet for coverless flats— tied with 8-pound test Berkley XT. At slower speeds he typically rigs a live ribbon leech, small shiner or chub on a single #6 or #4 hook. If Roach is pulling crawlers, it usually means he’s moving a bit faster, employing a dual hook harness. For added attraction, he occasionally adds a single fluorescent bead, or a single 00 flicker spinner. Often, too, especially with longer snells or near vegetation, he likes to add a Rainbow Float, 1 to 8-inches above the hook. “You can pin the float in place using a rubber Snubber Stop,” he asserts. Keeping the float well above the hook holds the entire leader off bottom, rather than just the bait itself.

While the hook, float and live bait power the presentation, the Slip-Bouncer drives. Unlike the standard R-bend bottom bouncers, Slip-Bouncers are composed of a single straight wire shaft with an open eyelet on top, which lets you feed line freely to biting fish—no resistance. The 5-inch wire “feeler” transmits bottom types like a stethoscope, while a slide-on weight system yields rapid adjustments to varying depths, speeds and currents. Another advantage: tickled over soft silt, mud or sand, these needle-like weights disturb very little bottom substrate, an occurrence that often spooks walleyes.

“Slip Bouncers are a gem—something every angler should add to their bag of rigging tricks,” Roach says.“Power rigging is ideal for inexperienced anglers and old pros alike. If I’ve got beginners in my boat, I can just set soft-tipped 8-1/2- foot trolling rods, like my Mr. Walleye SuperPros, in rod holders, and let them load up and set themselves. If we start missing fish, we simply hold rods and delay our hooksets. Drop the rod tip back toward a biting fish, feel for solid weight, and give a nice long sweep. Once you get things dialed in, you’ll hook every biter. It’s a pretty forgiving system.“Really, power rigging can be the answer on any given summer day. Right in the middle of a classic ‘slow-down’ rigging bite, you can really put on a clinic. But the power program shines later on, too, when everyone else is moving faster, pulling standard spinner rigs. In both cases, the system can really make you a hero on those tougher flat calm day bites. Tell you what, any method that saves my hide on tough guide days is okay in my book.”

How To Catch Walleye In the Weeds

WALLEYES IN THE WEEDS

from The Fishing Wire

Walleyes in the Weeds

Fishing aquatic vegetation is second nature to bass anglers, but the green stuff is just as crucial for walleye fishing. They use weedlines as travel routes and know that grass holds plenty of forage, making them the perfect place to search for their next meal.

A trio of Wisconsin guides, Josh Teigen, Troy Peterson, and Jeff Evans, search out weeds in the late spring and early summer months. They have different approaches to fishing them, but they all work and help them and their clients catch some of their biggest walleyes of the year.

Slip Bobbers on Weedlines

Iron River, Wisconsin’s, Jeff Evans guides clients on various lakes for walleye from the May opener through the entire fishing season. Many tactics work when targeting grass on inland lakes for Evans, but he says a slip bobber rig with a minnow or leech is hard to beat.

“After the walleye spawn, they recover in deep water and then head to the weeds,” says Evans. “As the new weed beds emerge, the walleye will follow the green, new growth and you can find these areas on your side imaging. They’ll follow the edge as new grass grows and later in the year it might be in 15 to 20-feet of water on clear lakes, but only 8 to 12-feet of water on more stained lakes.”

According to Evans, the bite typically lasts until the 4th of July, when many walleye switch gears to mud basins, reefs and points. “Some years, the bite can go all summer long and into the fall months,” he says. “My theory is that it has to do with water temperatures. If it gets into the 70s too early, they’ll get out deeper quicker, but they stick around if it’s a gradual rise.”

Evans likes to rig up his clients with a 7-foot medium-light spinning rod and a quality reel spooled with 30 lb Seaguar Smackdown Flash Green braid with a leader of 10 lb Gold Label fluorocarbon. On the business end, it’s generally a slip bobber set to the desired depth with a slip knot and a ¼-ounce egg sinker. He then rigs a barrel swivel with an 18-inch leader of Gold Label with either a #1 Octopus hook or 1/16-ounce jighead used to rig the leech or minnow.

“The medium-light rod is helpful because people tend to overset the hook with a slip bobber when they see it go down and you want a little flex,” he said. “I like the bobber set so that it barely floats in the water to detect light bites. Smackdown has been the perfect braided line because it holds the slip knot very well, where with some braids, it will slip. Gold Label has been excellent because it’s limp, strong, and invisible to walleye that are notoriously line shy.”

Teigen’s Ripping Approach

Josh Tiegen fishes many of the same waters as Evans, from inland lakes on the Eau Claire and Pike Lake chains to Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior to the Hayward area lakes. He uses the same approach everywhere he goes for walleye in the weeds: rip the bait free from grass.

“I always tell my clients that if you are not getting grass on your bait once in a while, you are fishing it too fast or not around enough grass,” he says. “If you are getting grass on your bait every time, it’s moving too slowly. Ideally, it should be one out of every five casts that you come back with grass, the key is just to be ticking it and if you rip it free when you feel the grass, that’s where many of the bites occur.”

Teigen chooses hard jerkbaits, soft jerkbaits, and a spoon as his top weapons for walleye around vegetation.

“A 5-inch Kalin’s Jerk Minnow on a ¼-ounce darter head jig is great for fishing the weeds and the darter head does a good job coming through it,” says Teigen. “I also like a 3/8-ounce gold Acme Kastmaster spoon for fishing the edges and a Livingston Jerkmaster jerkbait for fishing along the edge or over top of the grass.”

For the Jerk Minnow and Kastmaster, he opts for a 7-foot medium-light spinning reel with a fast speed spinning reel, and for the jerkbait, he goes up to a medium-action rod. For all three, he fishes them with 20 lb Seaguar Smackdown Flash Green braid with a leader of 12 lb Gold Label.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=MnrgG6boLpk%3Ffeature%3Doembed%26wmode%3Dopaque

“The high visibility green color is the way to go because we are ripping these baits free from the grass and you’ll see your line jump even when you don’t feel the bite with your rod,” he says. “Using braid is important because you need to make hard pops with the rod to free the bait from grass and you need the zero stretch. I’ll use a 3 to 4-foot leader of Gold Label and as spooky as these walleye can be, the invisibility of the line makes a big difference in getting more bites.”

Fishing for walleye this way is one of Teigen’s favorites, starting at the end of May and into the summer months; plus, it’s a way to fool some of the biggest walleye in the lake.

“Many walleye guys troll and it’s too hard for them to fish around grass effectively because you are always hanging up, so not as many people are fishing for them this way,” he says. “Plus, it seems like my biggest walleyes of the year always come from the weeds. I’ve seen that the bigger ones gravitate there instead of the rock and mud.”

Dippin’ for Walleye

Early in the year, guide and tournament angler, Troy Peterson, breaks out specialized gear for a unique way to target walleye, dipping emerging grass with leeches and nightcrawlers on a 1/16 or 3/32-ounce jighead. He likes the leeches for the movement they create on the jighead and nightcrawlers for the added scent, but they are both solid choices.

“It’s all about finding the greenest weeds you can find, whether they are cane beds or rice paddies that have been brown all winter and are just starting to turn green as they grow again,” says Peterson. “The new sprouts have fresh oxygen and gather minnows and the walleye are there for them in really shallow water, mostly 3 to 5-feet of water. It starts in mid-May and usually goes until the first week of June. Then when the carp start spawning and causing a commotion and stirring bottom in June, it’s the same bite in the same places as the walleye are there to feed on stirred up crustaceans.”

Stealth is key with this approach and Peterson uses his bow-mount trolling motor to slowly move along the grass line, dipping his bait into the holes and edges of the new grass. The rod of choice used by “dippers” is generally over 10-feet long, with custom 12 and 14-foot medium-light spinning rods a common choice.

“Some even use cane poles because there is no casting; you simply drop the bait in and let it fall to the bottom before moving to the next one,” he says. “It’s a highly visual technique and you wait until your line starts to move when one gets it. We use 10 lb Seaguar Smackdown Flash Green braid with a leader of 6 or 8 lb Gold Label fluorocarbon because they both have tiny diameters and the bright green braid helps you detect bites.”

Peterson uses this approach throughout the Winnebago Chain of Lakes and says it’s usually the way to win all of the early season walleye derbies there. “It’s a big fish technique, but the trick is to stay stealthy,” he says. “That’s why we use the long rods to stay away from the fish. It’s better than using a slip bobber because that can spook fish this shallow.”

You can fish for walleyes in vegetation with many approaches, but it’s apparent that it’s the place to be early in the year as new growth is just starting after a long cold winter. These three methods for targeting them have all proven to be excellent for early season walleye in the weeds.

Seaguar Smackdown braid is available in high visibility Flash Green and low visibility Stealth Gray. It is available in 150-yards spools in sizes ranging from 10 to 65 lb test.

Coming Soon — 300 yard spools of Smackdown braid

Seaguar Gold Label fluorocarbon leader is available in twenty five-yard spools in 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 & 12 lb test for fresh water use, complementing the 15, 20, 25, 30, 40 , 50 , 60 and 80 lb. test leaders available for saltwater. Coming Soon — 50 yard spools of Gold Label

How and Where to Catch Midwest Walleyes

The walleye may be the Midwest’s  most popular, albeit often hard-to-catch, game fish. It is known for not only having great-tasting fillets, but also for growing big and providing anglers a fishing challenge.

Despite its reputation for being hard to catch, at certain times of the year walleyes can be taken by both boat and bank anglers with average skills.

Joe Rydell, a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s northwest district, said we are in the midst of one time to target walleyes. In April, Nebraska’s walleyes are spawning, or getting ready to, so the population becomes concentrated in shallow water.If you do not have success now, however, try it a little later.

“The best month to catch them in is probably going to be toward the end of May and into June, when these fish are coming off of spawning. They’ve had ample time to rest and, at that time of year, they’re really concentrating on feeding,” Rydell said.Especially for anglers seeking big walleyes, fall also can be good fishing for the species.As with most fish and game, knowing what those toothy walleyes want lends clues to when and where you will find them.

“They’re a predator fish. So, first of all, before you figure out what kind of habitat you’re going to search, you’ve got to figure out what they’re going to be eating in that water body,” Rydell said. “They’ll be hanging around that food source. In some lakes, that may entail a good rock bottom, or rock structures. In other lakes that are more vegetated, they may be along the weedline. In lakes that have a combination of both, it could be some woody debris or rock structures that are intermixed among those weed beds. At certain times of the year, even though they’re big fish, they may be concentrating on a bug hatch.

”Daryl Bauer, Game and Parks fisheries outreach manager, said a variety of artificial and live baits are effective.“Casting jigs and crankbaits, still-fishing or drifting live bait rigs, and trolling crankbaits or live-bait rigs can all be successful techniques for catching walleyes from Nebraska waters,” Bauer said. “However, I would tell you that more walleyes have been caught from Nebraska waters drifting or trolling a bottom-bouncer and live-bait rig of some type, usually a spinner and nightcrawler, than any other presentation.

”Anglers should consider the species’ name when choosing a time of day to fish. The walleye is so named for its pearlescent eye that features a reflective layer of pigment to seek prey in low light or murky water conditions.“Fishing more of the crepuscular period, your sunrise and sunset, are better times to catch them,” Rydell said. “Maybe even fishing in the dark a little bit.”Bauer said the time of day should dictate your approach.

“Walleye anglers spend so much time trying to finesse walleyes, often small walleyes, into nibbling on some live-bait presentation because they are fishing for relatively inactive fish during bright midday conditions,” he said. “If you fish during low-light periods, early and late in the day, after dark, cloudy, gloomy days, or when the wind blows, you will find an entirely different fish — a fish that is the apex, top-of-the-food-chain predator that they really are. They have a mouth full of sharp teeth for a reason, and during prime times they are mobile, agile and hostile.”In Nebraska, serious walleye anglers often look to the west and central parts of the state.

“The best habitats for walleyes are large bodies of water, large rivers, large natural lakes and large reservoirs,” Bauer said. “In Nebraska, that means our large reservoirs, primarily irrigation reservoirs in the central and western parts of the state, are our best walleye habitats. Walleyes are a cool-water fish, a predator, primarily an open-water predator. They thrive in those larger water bodies that have an abundance of open-water baitfish.”

Rydell said surveys show Winters Creek Lake on the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge near Scottsbluff to have the highest density of walleyes in Game and Parks’ northwestern district with a substantial population of fish between 17-19 inches. Nearby Lake Minatare is down a little from previous years, but still has a sizable population of 17- to 20-inch fish.Those seeking big walleyes in the west, Rydell said, should look to Whitney Reservoir in Dawes County and Merritt Reservoir near Valentine.Box Butte Reservoir, another Dawes County destination, is also on Rydell’s list of solid opportunities.“Box Butte is kind of coming on with a nice walleye population,” he said. “We have a year-class that, last year, was about 13½ inches that should be about 15 this year. With pike numbers down in that lake, and that year class coming on, it will be one that should produce some nice walleye fishing in the future.

”Nebraska’s walleye population gets considerable help from the Game and Parks’ fisheries staff, who collect eggs and milt from walleyes early in the year at Merritt Reservoir, Sherman Reservoir and sometimes Lake McConaughy. Fertilized eggs are taken to Nebraska State Fish Hatcheries, usually Calamus and North Platte, for hatching and rearing. It’s a much more effective approach to growing walleye populations than what happens naturally.

How long the fish stay in the hatchery depends on the habitat and other factors of their destination. They can be released as 4-day-old fry, fingerlings, or sometimes 8-inch advanced fingerlings.“Depending on the water body, all of those walleye stocking strategies have proven successful in Nebraska waters,” Bauer said. “In some waters fry stocking is successful and very inexpensive. In other waters fingerling stockings are most successful. The advanced fingerling stockings are most intensive and most expensive but have been relatively successful in smaller water bodies that are too small to be ideal walleye habitats. In those smaller water bodies the advanced fingerling stockings offer anglers an opportunity to catch a walleye or two from those waters once in a while.

The minimum requirement for walleyes in Nebraska’s lakes is 15 inches and only one over 22 may be kept. Special regulations exist at Merritt, Sherman, Calamus, Elwood, Harlan County and Branched Oak.A walleye of 28 inches or 8 pounds qualifies for a Nebraska Master Angler award. The state’s walleye record is a 16-pound, 2-ounce specimen caught at Lake McConaughy by Herbert Cutshall of Ogallala in 1971. Records indicate he caught it on a Storm ThinFin crankbait.Whatever the approach, as long as anglers are mindful of regulations and recommendations regarding the coronavirus issue, it may be time to target Nebraska’s big tasty, toothy predator fish of the dark.

From the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Secrets of the Ice Hunters – Hooking, Fighting and Landing Trophy Walleye

Secrets of the Ice Hunters

Frabill pro Dale Stroschein’s system of hooking, fighting and landing trophy walleyes and deep whitefish starts with the proper ice rods

from The Fishing Wire

Plano, IL – Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Famer, Dale Stroschein, is an analytical guy; he has to be. Through his Wacky Walleye Guide Service, Stroschein leads hundreds of ice anglers each year to thousands of walleyes and whitefish, perfecting basic principles through unending trial and error.

He calls it completing the process: the act of getting fish to strike, fighting them and ultimately leading them safely through the hole. This last step is where Stroschein often sees inexperienced anglers struggle, especially where large fish are involved.

“In open water fishing, we have the greatest device ever created to complete the process – the Frabill landing net,” says Stroschein, who has the big fish gene in his DNA.

While competing on the nation’s largest walleye circuits throughout the 1980’s, Stroschein earned a title no angler has ever duplicated; Big Fish Awards for the largest walleyes caught during competition on both the PWT and MWC tours. Indeed, Frabill landing nets helped Stroschein complete the process on both monster fish. “But, on ice, we don’t have that luxury,” he points out.

Following such open-water accolades, Stroschein took hold of yet another title – one of the walleye world’s greatest – when he landed the all-tackle ice fishing world record, a behemoth weighing thirteen and three-quarter pounds. The fish was brought to hand using the big fish techniques perfected over years of guiding clients on and around his home water of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Thankfully, this system is easily duplicated, and starts with the proper ice rod.

As a lead pro and designer on the Frabill ice team, Stroschein has developed a duo of rods perfectly suited to hooking, fighting and landing the giant walleyes and whitefish he and his clients pursue.

The core walleye stick in Stroschein’s arsenal is a 27″ medium action that fishes comfortably within an ice shelter. “You have to put forth an effort to become a good ice angler,” says Stroschein, who points to mobility as one of the most important elements to consistent success in tracking down and catching roaming schools of walleyes. “Today, you really have to go to the fish with a mobile shelter to be successful every day, and a shorter rod is more practical for fishing in a shelter.” Through countless hours of testing within the confines of one-man shanties, Stroschein settled on the 27″ length of his namesake Frabill Ice Hunter walleye rod to allow anglers to fully set the hook without contacting the shelter’s roof.

Even with the advent of superlines in ice fishing, Stroschein continues to rely on monofilament for the bulk of his walleye fishing, as the line simply generates more bites and better hook-ups. “The biggest thing is that you make a very aggressive hook set with a firm rod,” he adds. “Mono holds up to that initial stress very well, and plays well with the shorter, medium-power rod to get big fish up through the hole.”

The rules change when Stroschein turns to chasing whitefish, often in depths approaching 90 feet. Here, the experienced pro moves to Berkley Fireline with a fluorocarbon leader to presents tiny jigs with live bait trailers. Of course, the analytical Stroschein has worked with Frabill to design the ideal rod for this scenario, too.

“The 30″ Ice Hunter whitefish rod has a positive locking reel seat, which is important, but the biggest attribute to completing the system is the rod’s tip,” he says.

In order to detect light bites in deep water, Stroschein demanded a rod with a bright, blaze-orange coloration at its highly sensitive tip. “It’s like a spring bobber without the headaches,” he says. “A live bait angler can detect subtle bites on a pause in the jigging stroke.”

The medium-light power allows for smooth hook sets on delicate fish, but delivers enough backbone to drive the hook home in deep water when using superlines. And the rod’s sensitivity is unparalleled; it has to be. “Whitefish are one of the most difficult fish, ever, to catch,” Stroschein confirms. “The bite is nothing more than a slight change in pressure.”

On average, Stroschein’s Wacky Walleye guide service outfits a minimum of 25 anglers per day, every day of the ice fishing season around Door County, Wisconsin. All clients are outfitted with Frabill rods, enabling each to complete the system Dale Stroschein has worked over 30 years to develop: present, hook, fight, land, repeat.

WALLEYES UNDER THE ICE

FIRST BREAK WALLEYES UNDER THE ICE

By Joel Nelson for Northland Tackle

from The Fishing Wire

First Break Walleyes Under the Ice

It’s been a few years, but I’ve always been a big fan of full-moon fall trolling on the big lakes. What thermocline may have kept bait and ‘eyes out deeper all summer, gave way to incredible shallow water fishing come late October and November. What surprised me however, was just how many anglers had that full-moon fever bite going, and never re-connected with it come first ice. Those same fish didn’t make vast moves or change their feeding patterns too much. They were just under a few inches of ice now.

It’s that same mentality you need to take with you to the lake come first ice walleyes, especially from a location perspective. You’ll have plenty of time to pound off-shore reefs, deep mud, gravel bars, and rock piles. Early ice is the time for fishing right off of shore, just below or on the “first break.” By that, I mean simply that you should look for the first appreciable steep drop from shore, which could bottom out anywhere from 5 to 15 FOW. First ice walleyes love to cruise the bottom of these edges in search of food, and when you’ve got some weed cover, substrate change, or other features to target, the spot is all that much better.

Large, main-lake points are favorites no matter where you go, to focus feeding attention of hungry ‘eyes. They’re also angler magnets, so if you’re fishing pressured bodies of water, understand that you don’t always need to be on a prominent piece of structure to get it done. More and more, I’m looking for small areas of interest. A living-room sized patch of rock that doesn’t show up on the contour map, a quality weed-bed that’s more dense than the surrounding area, or even some hard-pan sand vs. nearby mud or muck. Often, that’s all it takes to gather some near-shore walleyes once the lakes freeze over.

Where most anglers miss out on the shallow water walleye bite, is that they fish it the way they would mid-winter walleyes in deeper parts of the lake. They ice troll across the shallow flats, scaring the very fish they seek. With fall trolling, we learned that there were nights where hundreds of feet of line behind the boat was what it took to get bit. The same walleyes that don’t love hanging tight in your main-motor wash, don’t appreciate lots of hole drilling and overhead traffic.

First Break Walleyes

For that reason, it’s best to have a few dead-set approaches. While there are a few ways to skin that walleye, the two I employ are tip-ups and deadstick rods. Tip-ups for early ice eyes are a mainstay and have been around for forever, so there’s not much new under the sun here. Select some quality fluorocarbon line in or around 10lb test, select a good light wire live-bait hook, and rig up a small sucker or preferably shiner pegged with a sinker above the hook a few inches. Put that sinker closer to the bait if a lively sucker, or further for less lively minnow species. Set your tip-up on a very “light-trip” setting, preferably not under the notch unless needed for wind’s-sake. Then you wait.

Tip-ups are great, but do have their problems. Namely, fighting a fish hand-over-hand, especially if it’s a trophy. Dead-stick rods on simple rod-holders have been a great solution to that problem and more, while offering several advantages over the standard tip-up scenario. Why a specialized rod for this type of fishing? Mostly because a dead-stick is unlike any other ice rod. The action is extremely slow for half or better of the length of the rod, offering bite-detection and minnow-monitoring convenience. Then, a hard-wall on the blank that goes straight to very stiff backbone – perfect for setting the hook.

While dead-stick rods may tangle, any issues are usually seen quickly and above ice, rather than the below-water snarls that can happen on a tip-up without you knowing about it. More importantly, a quality dead-stick will telegraph every movement of the minnow, all while offering you immediate clues both during and after the bite. Set the rod in the holder, and watch your bait or several baits go to work.

Sometimes the fish will grab the bait and sit right below the hole, which is easily seen on a deadstick as it very slowly loads. That’s far less visible and harder to manage a hookset when that happens on a tip-up. I highly recommend bait-feeder reel designs for these rods, as with the flip of a switch, free-spool is offered to running walleyes. These quick runs are easy to detect for either tip-ups or dead-sticks, but the hookset and fight are usually superior on a dead-stick-setup.

First Break Walleyes

Usually, I’ll either jig on the deeper side of the break and watch a deadstick rod right on it, or many times, simply put out the max number of lines I’m allowed in dead-sticks and wait. As with most things walleye, the bite is best early and late, but cloudy days can make for spurts of great fishing throughout. It’s a really fun way to fish if you’ve got a group of friends, as you can cover a long section of break, all while enjoying each other’s company until a rod goes off.

Just make sure to tend the set, just as you would a tip-up. Extreme cold weather doesn’t bode well for this type of fishing, but the good news is that first ice is typically pretty mild after that first blast of cold that locks everything up. Check your baits, make sure the hole isn’t icing up too badly, and more than anything, resist the urge to drill too many holes and stomp around throughout the day. These fish are sensitive to noise, as you may only be targeting them in 5-8FOW.

Especially when your panfish lakes aren’t locked up well, or you’ve got good walkable ice near-shore but not the whole way out, this is the way to go. Setup a few hours before dark, stake out your spot, and wait until some rods start bending or flags start flying.

Side-Imaging for the Walleye Crowd


By Joel Nelson, Northland Fishing Tackle
from The Fishing Wire


Walleye-anglers are a traditional bunch in-general.  New techniques and technologies are directly compared to known commodities, and rightly so.  There’s no use making things more difficult than they need to be, yet sometimes along the way what’s learned is in and of itself valuable.  I find that to be especially true in the case of side-imaging electronics for walleye fishing.

So often, structural anglers are used to locating a spot of interest via high definition contours, then picking those locations apart with traditional down-sonar in an effort to locate fish, catch them, and store location (GPS) information in order to return to that spot someday down the road.  Lest we forget, at one time this technology was also new, though its adoption was rapid among the ranks of professionals and casual anglers alike.  Still, I’ve heard it mentioned in even upper echelons of walleye nerdery that side-imaging is only for “bass-guys.”

A staple among tournament bass anglers these days is side-imaging runs that map both structural elements, and individual fish to target.  At last year’s Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year tournament on Mille Lacs, dozens of complete strangers to the fishery pulled 60lb. bags of smallmouth bass during the 3-day competition, most of them leaning heavily on using their side-imaging to locate large boulders and individual bass off them.  This very application, while being a classic use of the technology, is not a reason to classify it as a “bass-only” benefit.

Shallow water walleyes can be found throughout the warm-water months during big wind events, even in clear water.  That same clarity provides a solid reason to consider side-imaging on your next electronics purchase, as walleyes rarely tolerate overhead boat traffic in clear-water shallows.  The imaging becomes your eyes up shallow, allowing you to stay back off of the fish, and put a multitude of presentations to them without pushing them around and killing the bite.  Shallow fish are typically feeding, so these are the fish you’re looking to target anyway.

While side-imaging proves very valuable for any species relating to shallow structural elements, the same also holds over the depths.  It’s a common misconception that side-imaging isn’t useful at the same depths we’re typically targeting walleyes.  On a recent trip to Grand Rapids, MN, I used my Lowrance Carbon-12 to image an underwater point I’ve fished often, both during open-water and through the ice.  While I knew there was an 8-foot rock-pile along the shallow lip of it, I didn’t give credit to that rockpile and how it affected walleye movements out and away from it.  All of our bites came off the pile some distance in 14-18FOW, as fish staged there before dark awaiting the low-light evening assault on those shallow rocks.  Not surprisingly, immediately out from the pile was a hard-bottom, rock-free shelf.  It was noticeably different from the surrounding break, and drew the majority of those fish.  Once I knew what I was looking for, I could find it on the down-sonar, but it literally jumped out at me on the side-imaging.

An even deeper application can be found on the famed mud flats of Mille Lacs, where savy anglers for many years have known that not all parts of all flats are mud.  There is a surprising amount of rock and gravel in certain locations, though most are in small out of the way places along the edge of the flats.  With a good chop, and the resultant screen display of your sonar showing a “wavy” bottom, it’s difficult to detect the tell-tale signs of rough or un-even rock bottom.  These locations, being different from surrounding substrate for at times, miles, almost always have fish on them or nearby.

Perhaps the best way to introduce yourself to the technology is to image an area you already know, preferably if you know it holds fish.  So often as walleye anglers we stumble onto a mere piece of the puzzle.  We catch fish on one side of a reef for a short period of time in late afternoon, without realizing that we only intercepted fish in a 30 minute window making their way out of the depths and up to structure to feed.  Even if we know fish are likely to be up top and actively eating, we know not what locations have the largest boulders, the most pronounced feeding shelves, or what areas are too weed-choked to effectively fish in low-light.  All of those answers can be gleaned from a quick pass or two around the structure of interest.

Take this technology for a spin on a few locations you’ve fished for years, and be amazed at the depth and level of information it offers you.  Consider it the best real-time map that’s offered today, and get used to seeing and interpreting what information in the plan direction really means to your fishing, rather than just the profile depth direction we’re so used to seeing in the sonar of old.

See more like this at www.northlandtackle.com.

How Deep is Too Deep for Walleye Release?

Deep Walleye
How deep can you catch a walleye and release it?
By Northland Pro Joel Nelson
from The Fishing Wire

Walleyes spend the better part of their summer season in deep water.  Provided there’s enough oxygen at depth, they happily enjoy cooler water temperatures and the bevy of bugs and other bait that congregate on deep structure.  Older fish in certain lakes, learn to key in on larger bait stock. 

That could mean ciscoes and whitefish, or suckers and even bullheads or rough fish depending on where you’re fishing.  That still puts them deep, maybe coming up occasionally to feed before sinking back down.Depth however is a relative term, depending on the lake you’re fishing.  On Minnesota’s Upper Red Lake, 10 feet of water and deeper is considered quite deep. 

The same is true in the prairie pothole region where there’s plenty of great little walleye holes that never make even 20 feet.  Then again, there’s great walleye lakes like Vermillion, where walleyes can be found in excess of 50 feet of water.  Of course, your favorite walleye lake may be at either end, or anywhere in between.

While the depth of walleyes may be relative to the system in which they live, their ability to survive summer capture at those various depths is not.  Most fish caught in 30+ feet of water will likely die as the result if water temps are at their peak. 

Brandon Eder, Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor for the MN DNR’s Waterville Office confirmed this in a recent conversation while adding, “No matter how slowly you reel in fish from that depth, there’s still likely going to be some trauma.

” Throughout the walleye-belt then, there’s plenty of catch and release fishing that might as well be catch and kill.  Not that there’s anything wrong with eating a walleye either.  I love ‘em, and prepare them a bunch of different ways.  However, there are plenty of lakes that mandate release of walleyes a certain size, and anglers should know some ins and outs of how depth can affect the release of walleyes during the summer. 

Eder suggests, “Be prepared to keep your first 6 fish regardless of size (depending on the regs) and then quit or go shallow.

”There’s a pile of factors that influence walleye mortality, with depth of capture being only one of them.  Hooking method, or how deeply into its mouth a walleye eats the bait is a big influence, as is the use of live bait vs. artificial baits, but those are often related.  Water temperature is another factor, and warmer temps see fish that simply don’t release as well and survive.  It’s why catch and release walleye tournaments aren’t held as often in the deep summer, and why you should consider eating the fish you catch when water temps are the hottest of the year. 

Extended or prolonged handling of a fish outside of the water is yet another factor that affects mortality.

Many of those factors an angler can directly influence, especially in the summer as you can’t control the water temp.  Without switching away from live-bait, circle hooks vs “J”-hooks, and pinching down all barbs, what’s a catch and release angler to do?  The answer is to change the depth at which you’re fishing, and to know what depths are likely lethal, and which are not.

Barotrauma is a big word with a relatively simple meaning, especially as it pertains to walleyes caught at depth.  It affects all living things, but with walleyes swimming rapidly from deep water, it refers to physical injuries caused by water pressure.  Quick ascent means a swelling air bladder, which can push their stomachs out, bulge their eyes, and ultimately cause deadly injury.  Releasing those fish at the surface, in extremely warm water may make the angler feel good as they swim away, but may not lead to survival.

One solution to the problem of fish barotrauma has been “fizzing” – the act of releasing that pressure with an accurately placed hypodermic needle into the swim bladder of the fish.  Of course, “accurately” is the key, as stabbing a fish with a needle indiscriminately, can further exacerbate the problem. 

Eder says, “I don’t like the idea of anglers running around poking walleye with needles.  It’s hard to get the right spot in perfect conditions and even tougher in rain, wind, or after dark.”Another solution in the form of re-compression devices may pose some freshwater promise, as they have gained greater acceptance in coastal areas.  These tools can simply be an inverted barbless hook secured to a line with a weight that takes the fish to bottom and releases it with a sharp snap of the line, or a jaw clamp that releases similarly.  The general idea of both being that the fish quickly gets back down to a depth that allows air bladder pressures to recede, and ultimately supports its survival. 

For rockfish specifically, studies have shown 80%+ survival rates.  While I’m not aware of any similar research on walleyes, the decompression devices show greater efficacy overall.

Of course, you could always just limit your fishing north of 30 feet, or make sure that you are legally able to take and eat fish of any size for the lake that you’re fishing.  If a limit is what you’re after in those depths, stop fishing once you’ve hit it.  Eder also mentions, “If you are on fish over 20″ you should leave so you don’t kill more than your 1 over 20″.” 

All of which means that if you’re putting the hurt on big fish deep, consider switching tactics, locations, and potentially lakes.  Focus early and late when fish are more active shallow.  Break out some slip-bobbers and camp out on a rock pile, or drag some spinners or rigs along a weedline.

There’s lots of ways to get your ‘eyes, but this summer when temperatures climb, do your best to respect the resource by going easy on those deep fish.

Walleye and the High Action Plug Bite

By Mark Romanack for Yakima Baits
from The Fish
ing Wire

In recent times crankbaits have ruled the roost on the Great Lakes and other bodies of water popular with walleye fishermen. Population explosions fueled by unprecedented high water levels and several successful spawning year classes have countless fisheries literally crawling with catchable fish.

Natural reproduction can be a fleeting gift, but fortunately for those who enjoy targeting walleye, the fish Gods have shined brightly on these fisheries. To say recent fishing success for walleye has been excellent is an understatement. Limit catches have been the norm, and anglers who have historically targeted walleye using traditional methods like nightcrawler harnesses are putting away the “meat” in favor of trolling with less labor intensive crankbaits.

TRADITIONAL CRANKBAITS
Crankbaits have always been a popular and productive choice for walleye. In the past, most anglers have depended heavily on traditional minnow style crankbaits early and also late in the year when the water temperature is cool to cold. It’s clear to see that crankbaits fished in combination with planer boards have become the fast track to limit catches.

CRANKBAITS OF A DIFFERENT FLAVOR
Most anglers would agree that a handful of popular minnow diving crankbaits dominate on the walleye scene. Slowly anglers are discovering there are other noteworthy baits worth exploring.In the Western Basin of Lake Erie where white perch and white bass often get in the way of catching walleye, charter captains have quietly turned to a different class of crankbait to save the day.

“When I was in high school and my college years, I worked as a first mate for several charters working out of the Western Basin,” says Jake Romanack, co-host of Fishing 411 TV. “As soon as the water temperature warmed up to about 60 degrees abundant populations of white bass and white perch feed so aggressively it becomes challenging to keep these non-target species off the lines long enough to catch walleyes. A typical Lake Erie walleye charter runs 12 to 15 lines and it wasn’t uncommon for every line to be dragging a white perch or silver bass!”

“You haven’t experienced frustration until you’ve worked the back of a charter boat in 85 degree heat, setting lines as fast as humanly possible only to catch a handful of walleye mixed into bucket loads of non-target fish,” explains Romanack. “Increasing trolling speed and switching to high action crankbaits was the solution to this annual problem.”

The only practical way to avoid silver bass and white perch is to troll fast enough to mitigate how many of these undesirable fish are caught while trolling for walleye. “Only a handful of crankbaits are up to the challenge when it comes to high speed trolling,” adds Romanack. “The problem is that charter captains stack so many lines per side of the boat, a bait has to run perfectly true in the water or adjoining lures will wander and foul each other.”

A NEW CLASS OF WOBBLER
These days a new class of high action wobblers are finding success on Erie and many other fisheries coast to coast. The Yakima Bait Company Mag Lip was designed by Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame angler Buzz Ramsey as a wobbling plug aimed at the salmon, steelhead and trout markets. The Mag Lip is a banana-shaped lure that features a built-in “skip beat” action.

“It only took a few years and the Mag Lip was dominating plug sales among steelhead, salmon and trout fishermen on the West Coast,” says Buzz Ramsey. “Word about the Mag Lip and how many fish it catches quickly spread to the Great Lakes. The demand for more sizes and colors of Mag Lip soon reached a fever pace.”

Currently Mag Lip is available in seven different sizes and over four dozen different factory standard colors. Many retailers are also offering their own “custom color” options that continue to feed the growing demand.“It has taken a few years, but walleye anglers have finally discovered that Mag Lip is deadly effective when trolling at high speeds and in warm water conditions,” says Captain Eric Hirzel of Erie Gold Walleye Charters. “I first used the 3.5 size of Mag Lip on spring salmon trolling trips at Lake Michigan. I was so impressed with the Mag Lip, I started using the 3.5 and 3.0 sizes on my Lake Erie walleye charters.

”Mag Lip is the perfect niche lure for a number of reasons. Each lure is perfectly tuned and runs true right out of the package. Mag Lip features a wide wobble, loud rattle and aggressive action, but these baits can also tolerate trolling speeds up to 4.0 MPH without blowing out. The “skip beat” or hunting action of the Mag Lip generates explosive strikes and these baits come in a host of productive color options.

“Most of the factory colors on Mag Lip are admittedly trout and salmon colors,” says Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 TV. “Our staff has worked closely with Yakima Bait to introduce several new “walleye specific” colors that are going to be popular on Erie and Saginaw Bay. “Our crew has had had the opportunity to fish these new colors in the spring and summer of 2019 and they are lights out for walleye. Our favorites include Metallic Silver Clown, Metallic Silver FireTiger, Metallic Gold/Black Red Lip and Rosemary.

”Other factory standard colors that produce consistent results on walleye include Metallic Silver Rainbow Trout, Mad Man, Grinch, Double Trouble, Metallic Gold/Flame, Keeper, Metallic Perch and Metallic Gold Green Pirate.

“The first thing I noticed about Mag Lip is fish T-bone them,” says Captain Hirzel. “When walleye hit most crankbaits they tend to be hooked on the back hook. With the Mag Lip a majority of the fish are hooked on the front treble or they have the bait right down their throat.

”Buzz Ramsey says that it’s the unique hunting action of the Mag Lip that causes fish to react with explosive strikes. “Most crankbaits have a rhythmic and consistent action,” says Ramsey “Crankbaits with a hunting action tease fish into biting. Think of it like playing with a cat using a ball and string. Eventually the cat can’t stand it anymore and pounces. The same thing happens when fishing with Mag Lip.”Mag Lip has great action at a wide variety of speeds, but the skip beat action is more distinctive at faster trolling speeds.

“On Lake Erie we did best trolling 3.5 Mag Lip at between 2.2 and 3.0 MPH,” says Jake Romanack who recently filmed a TV episode focusing on the virtues of high action crankbaits. “Walleye pounded the Mag Lip and it was a struggle just to keep our legal number of lines in the water!”

THE FINAL WORD
The good news is that walleye populations on Lake Erie and countless other fisheries nationwide are at epic levels. The future looks bright for these fisheries despite heavy fishing pressure.

Crankbait trolling is obviously not the only way anglers can catch open water walleye, but it’s clear that no other fishing method is as consistently productive as board trolling with crankbaits.

It’s true that minnow/diver style crankbaits are the baits most walleye anglers have faith in, but these days high action plugs like the Yakima Bait Mag Lip are delivering impressive catches. For those who haven’t tried fishing high action plugs, in the late spring and throughout the summer when water temperatures are warm, it’s hard to beat these loud and proud crankbaits.

See them at www.yakimabait.com.