Category Archives: Walleye and Sauger

What Are Ten Tricks For Walleye?

Ten Top Tricks for Walleyes

By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wire

Nice Walleye

Nice Walleye

Few species put grins on anglers’ faces like the wonderful walleye. (Photo by Bill Lindner)

Every walleye angler worth his or her salt has one. You know, that sneaky trick up the sleeve that always gets rods thumping with action. Cold fronts, Jet Ski conventions, breathless summer days, or August blizzards (it could happen); the conditions are almost beside the point. You want a plan of action that works for walleyes, especially when the going gets tough and you’re fresh out of fish-catching ideas. Consider . . .

1) Deadsticking a Minnow

Big frisky minnows like creek chubs or golden shiners appeal to walleyes on basic, animalistic levels. It’s why anglers often rig an extra rod or two for minnow duty, placing them in rod holders while they cast with more active presentations. A long, soft spinning combo, such as a 7’6″ St. Croix Legend Tournament Walleye rod, outfitted with a slip-sinker rig allows the minnow to struggle freely, while a #1 circle hook safely self-hooks fish, even if you’re not paying attention. Always exciting to suddenly realize one of your rods is folded over and pounding under the weight of a big ‘eye.

2) Working the Weeds

Particularly in stocked walleye waters, submerged vegetation provides these white-tailed predators with prime habitat: cover, oxygen and a ready-made supply of food. When it comes to walleye weeds, variety matters. Preferred plant species include large leaf pondweed (cabbage), elodea, chara, and coontail, with patchy, intermingled forests usually providing the most favorable environs.

Crankbaits and jigs can score within deep or sparse vegetation, while 3/8- to ¾-ounce jigs dressed with specialized soft plastics, such as BFishn Tackle’s 4-inch Moxi and Paddle Tail yield wonderful results, often throughout the summer. Cast and simply do a nice steady retrieve, and hang on for arm-wrenching strikes.

3) Make a Map

High tech has become a big part of the walleye game, and one of the neatest new developments allows angling adventurers to create their own custom contour maps on previously uncharted water. Imagine the advantages of possessing the only depth map in existence of your local river or favorite backwoods lake? Discovering that sweet little sunken island no one knew existed?

Make your own map

Make your own map

DIY map making programs uncover potentially new hotspots on previously uncharted walleye waters. (Photo courtesy of Humminbird)

Humminbird offers Auto Chart Live, specialized mapping software that couples GPS waypoints with corresponding depth to instantly build never-before-seen contours on your chosen waterbody. Lowrance also offers Insight Genesis, a DIY map program requiring computer processing in addition to on-water reconnaissance.

4) Drop a Bomb

Previously deployed primarily by ice anglers, heavy jigging-style lures such as the Jigging Rapala and Custom Jigs & Spins’ RPM Minnow (new for fall 2016) have become new classic walleye lures, especially in open water. The anvil-like weight of these compact baitfish imitators allows them to be cast or jigged in deeper water, giving the angler complete contact and control. A simple snap, drop, pause presentation makes the lure dart, glide and stop on a dime—moves that have lately scored boatloads of big ‘eyes all season long, winter notwithstanding.

5) Fish . . . Nowhere

Keep your live bait healthy

Keep your live bait healthy

Presentation propaganda aside, a nice frisky minnow remains the most reliable producer of big ‘eyes ever created. Frabill’s 6-gallon AquaLife Bait Station holds a heavy helping of large minnow. (Photo courtesy of Frabill)

Walleyes like structure, right? Not always. With apologies to Buck Perry, the truth is, walleyes go where the food goes. In many lakes and reservoirs, that means featureless open water. From late spring through summer, some of the biggest walleyes in many waters (not just the Great Lakes) suspend 10 to 25 feet down over much deeper water. Sonar and surface-feeding birds help unearth schools of pelagic bait—ciscoes, shad, smelt, alewives, and shiners. Baitfish clouds also point to the presence of predators. Trolling baitfish imitating cranks or casting with spoons can each produce a surprising quantity of outsize ‘eyes.

6) Find the ‘Cline

One of the most overlooked fish-finding factors is oxygen and an aquatic phenomenon known as the thermocline. This thin layer of water can be a walleye-holding goldmine. The thermocline is the region offering a precipitous change in dissolved oxygen levels. Below the thermocline, oxygen may be too scarce to sustain fish life. But above is an ample supply for healthy fish activity.

Easiest way to find the ‘cline is to drop an underwater camera armed with a depth and temperature probe, such as the Aqua-Vu 760cz. When the temp starts dropping fast—often going from the 70s to upper 50s within several feet— you’ve hit it. You can also ID the ‘cline with a well-tuned sonar, which may display the thermocline as a continuously line of “clutter.” Focus on or just above these depths, especially along structural intersections, and you’re likely to put on a walleye-catching clinic.

7) ‘Yak a Small River

Another delightfully overlooked option, small rivers can offer ideal walleye habitat that often see scant few hooks all summer. Constant current means walleyes are always actively feeding somewhere. And a fishing kayak, such as Old Town Predator XL, can be the perfect way to float a sizeable stretch, surveying some alluring flora and fauna and sampling some potentially amazing fishing.

Fish from a Kayak

Fish from a Kayak

Kayaks, small rivers a walleyes present a fascinating fishing combination. (Photo courtesy of Old Town)

Grab a medium-action spinning rod and a small box of tackle; small minnowbaits and ¼- and 3/8-ounce jigheads alongside packs of your favorite softbait. Among masses of super twisters and a profusion of paddletails, BFishn’s 4-inch Ringworm has become a go-to option among seasoned river rats. Swim lures through shallow riffles above deep holes, or jig behind any type of current break—from downed logs to boulders to inside bends of small points.

8) Go “Video Fishing”

Use an underwater camera

Use an underwater camera

An underwater camera with water temperature and depth readouts offers the best way to quickly find the thermocline, and in turn, walleyes. (Photo courtesy of Aqua-Vu)

Many modern depth finders allow anglers to observe their lures as they’re worked below the boat, and show fish reacting to and biting them, right on screen. Humminbird units offer a special “jigging mode” that auto-selects a specific ping pattern for easily observing vertical bait presentations. Other units can be tuned to operate with narrower cone angles to help display

small lures and fish below the boat. For vertical jigging suspended walleyes or fish in tight clusters in deep water, this sort of interactive fishing can become addictively fun, and is often an effective way to gauge fish activity and response to different lures.

9) Pitch a Cork

Folks tend to write bobber fishing off as simplistic, juvenile, and only effective for sunfish. Actually, a slip float rigged above a lively ribbon leech is among the deadliest of all walleye presentations. And it is simple, which is the other part of its charm. With the addition of a stop knot, you can deliver bait to any depth, or keep it hovering enticingly above snaggy rock or vegetation. In wind, slip-bobber fishing while anchored near a rocky point can yield remarkable results. And at night, a lighted cork has been known to produce many a walleye monster.

10) The Carp Cure

Some days, the walleyes just don’t want to bite. Other times, they seem as scarce as Sasquatch. No problem. There’s always something biting. Why not carp? Blimp-size carp thrive in many top walleye waters, as do channel catfish and bowfin—two more freshwater rogues with lots to love. These unconventional sportfish like to bite, pull like freight trains and can be caught with simple rigs and tackle; often the same stuff you use for walleyes. Many times, the opportunity for pure fishing fun is but a cast away—swimming right before your eyeballs.

How Can I Catch Pre Spawn Walleye In Rivers?

Catching Pre-spawn Walleyes in Northern Rivers

Changing water conditions demand versatile presentations

Dr. Jason Halfen,

The first stretch of consistently warm weather in the spring melts the snow in our yards, gets the sap moving in the maples, and brings anglers and their boats out of hibernation. The lure of an early spring trophy walleye draws an increasing number of boats to large rivers that host significant migrations of walleyes and sauger from downstream lakes, reservoirs, or riverine areas.

Two nice prespawn river walleye

Two nice prespawn river walleye

Photo by Jason Halfen

While fish numbers in spawning areas will slowly increase during this time of year, it’s important to recognize that the spawn may be several weeks away; dictated by factors such as water temperature and moon phase. Consistent fishing at this time of year demands attention to detail, and a willingness to adapt to changing water conditions.

While the weather is warming and becoming consistently more pleasant, water conditions are changing in a wide variety of ways. As water flows will slowly begin to increase, that increase in flow will bring with it a decrease in water clarity and a decrease, yes a decrease, in water temperature. Fishing in cold, dirty water is very different from fishing in the cold, clear waters of late winter.

River rookies are often caught off-guard by the fact that water temperatures always fall before they begin their long march to summer highs. The reason for this dip is simple: melting snow generates large volumes of ice-cold water. As that snowmelt travels under the receding snowpack and over still-frozen ground, it carries those cold temperatures into the streams and creeks that feed larger, walleye-laden rivers.

The first week of March features typical late-winter temperatures in the low 30s. Warm spring weather slowly increases the water temperatures, until the icy cold snowmelt hits the main stem of the river, causing water temps to crash back down. The water will stay cold until most of the snow is gone, allowing the soils to warm and either absorb the snowmelt, or transfer the soil’s heat to the spring runoff.

Image of walleye holding on sand

Image of walleye holding on sand

You can see an excellent example of walleyes relating to sand dunes in this Humminbird Side Imaging screen capture.

Pre-spawn walleyes respond to this burst of icy cold water in predictable ways. First of all, recognize that the fish don’t move (or, don’t move very far). Biology and instinct has driven them to position on or very near spawning areas, and those biological urges have not disappeared. Unless the dip in water temperatures is also accompanied by an unusual, dramatic increase in water flow, the fish will typically not reposition within the river. That’s the good news: if you knew where the fish were in late winter, then you know where to focus your efforts when the water temperatures dip again.

I use my Humminbird Side Imaging system to find large concentrations of pre-spawn fish, often associated with mid-depth sand dunes that provide feeding opportunities as well as areas protected from the increasing current.

Another tool that we find very effective for finding fish at this time of the year is our Aqua-Vu underwater camera. In these cold, clear waters of very early spring, fish can be relatively easy to find with traditional sonar or high-frequency imaging techniques, so separating the undesirable fish (like shad, sheephead, suckers, etc.) from our target species is important for fishing with high efficiency. The Aqua-Vu Micro 5 camera system is incredibly lightweight and portable, has a long-life lithium ion batter, and features outstanding optics for excellent image quality in the relatively clear river water.

Here is an example of how we use Aqua-Vu cameras to find early spring walleyes.

Although the fish have not moved, their feeding habits are certainly impacted by the drop in water temperatures. Fish that may have been willing to crack a ringworm or run down a crankbait just a week or two earlier will now be significantly less active. Catching such fish with consistency can take one of two approaches.

First, during the day, consider a very “old school” approach of a jig/minnow combo, or even a simply live bait rig with a 4″ leader and enough weight to maintain bottom contact in the current. When fishing jigs, we prefer H2O Precision Jigs from B-Fish-N Tackle. These jigs feature strong, long shank hooks, outstanding paint jobs that resist chipping on rocks or mussel beds, and weights that are molded right into the head to make jig selection easy. Under low light, we will switch back to light (1/16 and 3/32 oz) jigs and B-Fish-N Tackle ringworms, and fish these soft plastics very slowly, dragging them on long lines behind the boat.

Good walleye river catch

Good walleye river catch

Photo by Jason Halfen

The flush of cold snowmelt marks the beginning of the true “pre-spawn” period for me. Fish will be gathering in large numbers in traditional spawning areas, and will gradually start feeding more aggressively as water temperatures rebound. As water clarity begins to decline, the bite will gradually shift to being stronger during the day.

Charge up your batteries, dust off your jig box, and join us at the river for some improving, early spring walleye action.

Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates “The Technological Angler”, a media company dedicated to helping anglers learn to use their onboard technology to find and catch more fish. Their first full-length instructional video production, “The Technological Angler, Volume 1: Success with Side Imaging”, was the winner of the 2014 AGLOW awards-in-craft competition in the TV-fishing division.

“The Technological Angler, Volume 2: Integrated Technology” teaches anglers to harness the power of 2D sonar, Side Imaging, Down Imaging, 360 Imaging and the i-Pilot Link system, to find and catch more fish.

What Is Your Summer Go-To Bait?

Pros Throw Go-To Baits All Summer
from The Fishing Wire

If you could only fish a handful of baits this summer, what would they be? We asked Bassmaster pro Ott Defoe and walleye guide Tom Neustrom, neither of whom hesitated before rattling off a short list of go-to lures.

Rapala and VMC Lures make many go-to baits

Rapala and VMC Lures make many go-to baits

Rapala and VMC offer an assortment of lures ideal for probing the depths during the heat of summer

A Freshwater Hall of Fame Legendary Guide, Neustrom primarily targets walleyes in Minnesota. His top summer baits are the Rapala Scatter Rap, Rapala Husky Jerk, VMC Moon Eye Jig and Rapala Glass Shad Rap.

The 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, DeFoe hails from rural Knoxville, Tennessee. As a Bassmaster Elite Series and Bassmaster Open tournament competitor, he targets bass all across the country. His top summer baits are a Rapala DT-10, Rapala DT-16, Terminator Pro Series Jig and a VMC Shaky Head Jig.

“With those four baits, man, you should be able to catch a fish anywhere you go,” DeFoe says.

Scatter Rap

Several baits in the Scatter Rap family are in Neustrom’s regular rotation. Built on classic Rapala balsa body shapes, Scatter Raps derive their name and signature sweeping action from an innovative, patent-pending, curved Scatter Lip™.

“I love the Scatter Rap,” Neustrom says. “It’s a great bait with great action, especially when you change the cadence on your retrieve, which changes the action of the bait.”

A Scatter Rap is often a go-to bait

A Scatter Rap is often a go-to bait

The Scatter Rap Shad has a unique, erratic action, and dives 5 to 8 feet.

Featuring what’s best described as evasive action, baits in the Scatter Rap family perfectly mimic a spooked baitfish fleeing attack, moving from one side to the next, triggering reactive bites.

When Neustrom wants to get Scatter action deeper than a Scatter Rap Shad’s 5- to 8-foot diving depth, he’ll cast a Scatter Rap Countdown, which will sink to whatever depth he wants to fish it. To get it to depth, he simply counts it down, “just like the names says.”

“I like to count ‘one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two,’ and when it do that, I usually get about two- to two-and-a-half feet per ‘one-thousand,'” Neustrom explains. “If you get to ‘five-one-thousand,’ you’re usually down ten feet.”

Once he gets the Scatter Rap Countdown to the strike zone, he slow rolls it back to the boat. “Just lift your rod and reel, pull it back, lift it again, pull it back,” Neustrom explains. “That gives you that erratic action in deeper water.”

Husky Jerk

Neustrom is “really partial to Husky Jerks,” he says. “I’ve caught a lot of smallmouths and walleyes on that bait.”

A natural-looking minnow profile and neutral buoyancy make the Husky Jerk practically irresistible to gamefish. Intermittently pausing the bait on the retrieve is key.

“You just stop reeling that bait and just let it sit there for a couple seconds and then start to reel again,” Neustrom explains. “It’s a great triggering action.”

VMC Moon Eye Jig

When he’s vertical jigging or pitching for walleyes with live minnows, Neustrom will often thread them on a VMC Moon Eye Jig, which features a very effective bait-keeper. “That bait keeper will keep even live bait on the hook, even better than just a straight hook.”

Glass Shad Rap

When trolling for walleyes, Neustrom favors Shad Raps, Scatter Rap Shads and Glass Shad Raps. He ties on the latter in clear water and when he’s needs a little extra running depth.

“I seem to get a little bit better depth with the Glass Rap than a regular Shad Rap,” he says.

His go-to size is a No. 5, which will run 12 1/2 to 14 feet at 2 to 2.5 mph, with 105 feet of Sufix 832 Advanced Superline braid out. His favorite colors are Glass Blue Shad and Glass Perch.

“They just work really, really good in these northern-tier lakes,” he says. “They outproduce a lot of other baits.”

DT-10 and DT-16

Throughout the summer, you’ll find both Rapala DT-10’s and DT-16’s tied on rods on DeFoe’s boat deck.

“Any time the fish are out offshore on deeper structure, as they often are in the summer months, one of those two baits is going to reach the range those fish are in,” he says.

Terminator Pro Series Jig

Not all summer bass live deep. “There’s always fish that live shallow in the summer time,” DeFoe says. “Even when it’s very, very hot.”

Ott Defoe's go-to bait

Ott Defoe’s go-to bait

Elite Pro Ott DeFoe relies on a variety of lures to score despite hot weather.

Flipping a Terminator Pro Series Jig in shallow water is among DeFoe’s favorite ways to catch summer bass. “Those fish, when they want to bite something, a lot of times, they want a big meal,” he explains. “You can put a big trailer on the back of that jig to give you a large profile.”

Featuring a unique head design, the Terminator Pro Series Jig is much more versatile than most jigs – it’s not just for shallow presentations. “You can cast that jig deep too,” Defoe explains. “You can basically do anything you want to do with it.”

Custom jig-skirt colors, color-matched brush guards, a single rattle and a heavy VMC® Black Nickel hook further differentiate the Terminator Pro Series Jig from other cookie-cutter jigs that all pretty much look the same.

VMC Shaky Head

When the going gets tough, DeFoe’s going to break out the spinning tackle and toss a green-pumpkin finesse worm on a VMC Shaky Head Jig.

“When times are tough and you need to get a bite, you can tie on that combination and catch one,” he advises.

Can A Hummingbird 360 Help Me Catch Walleye?

Walleye Pros Crack Code With Humminbird® 360 Imaging™
Epiphany, experimentation and verification with technology results in tournament win
from The Fishing Wire

EUFAULA, Ala. (May 13, 2014) – Water bodies and the fisheries they contain are dynamic systems, changing over time. A good example is famed Minnesota walleye fishery Mille Lacs, which has been the focus of a heated debate over the past several years.

Yet, whatever side of the debate you line up on, one thing is certain, changing fisheries require new and innovative approaches to catching fish.

Case in point, the recent success of tournament walleye anglers Jon Thelen and Mike Christensen, who took first place and lapped the field at the Minnesota Tournament Trail event held on Mille Lacs.

“Since the introduction of zebra mussels into Mille Lacs, the water clarity has steadily increased to eight feet or more. As a result, walleye behavior has changed on many different levels, forcing us to adapt,” says Jon Thelen.

But Thelen is quick to admit that he and Christensen spent four hours during pre-fishing scratching their heads trying to figure out where the fish were.

“Experience told me that given the water temperature and conditions, walleyes should have been sitting on top of rock piles in 17-23 feet of water. But, idling with the big motor over textbook spots on my LakeMaster map and using 2D sonar to find fish, they just weren’t there. I knew there was something strange going on.”

That’s when Thelen and Christensen wondered if the fish were pushing off the structure when they passed over it. “So, I deployed the 360 Imaging unit on my transom and started looking at these same areas without motoring over the top with the big motor. The fish were there clear as day – and right up on top of the rock piles.”

But Thelen didn’t stop there. He wanted proof that the boat was spooking fish off the rocks.

“We experimented with it. I trolled right over the top and we literally watched the walleyes scatter off to the sides – and leave the structure – on the 360 screen. Just proves that you can spook fish over clear, deep waters.”

The rest of the pre-fishing day was spent moving from rock pile to rock pile, looking for fish on 360. If they saw fish, they’d throw out slip bobber rigs, wait for confirmation, and then move on, dropping waypoints on their LakeMaster map for tournament time.

“During pre-fishing, I was able to move the 360 cursor to see exactly how many feet and in what direction the fish were. I like to keep the range at about 100 feet. Unlike the pro bass guys, who are running Bow 360 and moving forward, we may be anchored or positioned sideways in relation to the structure, but because of the directional GPS antenna, I’m able to know exactly where the structure and fish are in relation to my boat and scroll to them. It may be 35 feet off the bow to the right and I know exactly where to cast to those fish – and that’s exactly how we did it.”

From pre-fishing epiphany, experimentation and verification, the team put their findings to the ultimate test a couple days later during the tournament.

“We knew that during the tournament all we had to do was to anchor upwind of these rock piles and throw our floats over the top,” says Thelen.

“When the lake went glass calm on game day, I had a pretty good feeling. We rolled into our first spot and on the second cast we had a keeper in the box. The next two hours we caught a dozen fish, tanked our four fish limit and weighed in by 10:30 a.m.”

Although the fish behavior had changed, the presentation was kept classic: a 1/32-ounce pink and white Lindy jig head tipped with a leech under a Thill slip float.

“Without 360, I never would have been able to verify that the walleyes were sitting up on those rock piles. It saved hours of what may have been fruitless searching.”

At the end of the day, tournament check in hand, Thelen says he learned a valuable lesson running 360 Imaging on Mille Lacs.

“The lake went flat and everybody kept fishing the way they always fish. Could’ve easily been us. It’s undeniable proof that the way we fished just a couple years ago may not work today. Water clarity has increased and fish have gotten spookier. So, you have to adapt. We verified that fish were still on top of the same kind humps we’ve always hunted; we simply had to distance ourselves from the structure and play the stealth game. I know we were the only anglers using 360 Imaging in the tournament and it paid dividends.”

Boat Console
(1) Humminbird 1199ci HD SI – 360 screen to Amber #1 color palette. “This color allows me to see all the rocks and really pick up the white streaks I know are fish. I run everything on factory default. It’s pretty doggone close to perfect.”

Boat Bow
(1) Humminbird 859 Combo – Split-screen view of LakeMaster mapping and 2D sonar. Often set to DualBeam 83/200 kHz setting for vertical jigging.

Minn Kota 12-Foot Talon Shallow Water Anchor

Minn Kota Terrova iPilot Link 112

Humminbird LakeMaster Minnesota Digital GPS Map Card, Version 5

For more information visit, contact Humminbird, 678 Humminbird Lane, Eufaula, AL 36027, or call 800-633-1468.

About Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson Outdoors and consists of the Humminbird®, Minn Kota® and Cannon® brands. Humminbird® is a leading global innovator and manufacturer of marine electronics products including fishfinders, multifunction displays, autopilots, ice flashers, and premium cartography products. Minn Kota® is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric trolling motors, as well as offers a complete line of shallow water anchors, battery chargers and marine accessories. Cannon® is the leader in controlled-depth fishing and includes a full line of downrigger products and accessories.

What Is the Down and Out Technique for Walleye?

Down and Out Technique catcches walleye

Skarlis and Lahr give up their tournament-winning methods for finding “hidden” walleye

Press Release
By Mitch Eeagan

Nice tournament walleye

Nice tournament walleye

Professional fishing tournament twosome Tommy Skarlis and Jeff Lahr are no strangers to catching walleyes from fast-flowing waters, including the Mississippi River in Hastings, Minnesota. In fact, it was in this area—within the fish-laden Pools 2 and 3—that the band from Iowa took top honors at the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s “Artificial Challenge” May 2-3, 2014.

But the bite did not come easy.

The fact was their 35-pound 8-ounce total two-day sack consisted of only six fish; with only two landed the second day.

Had it not been for the duo using high-quality electronics to locate specific-spots where the post-spawn females were laying, figuring out fish wanted lures pulled one way and one only, as well as using rods that aided in identify bites that would normally gone undetected, the tournament teammates would never have taken the podium.

Think outside the cone

Unable to pre-fish much before the derby, Skarlis and Lahr were depending on two choice areas where they had found fish a few years before with an Aqua-Vu underwater camera.

“After spawning, big hen walleyes tend to belly up to bottom right on the steep drop-offs leading to the main river channel. Unfortunately, it’s this type of area that a one-dimensional sonar’s “ping” often misses the mark (fish on bottom on sharp banks being just outside the cone-shaped signal),” says Skarlis. “Without an Aqua-Vu underwater camera, or Humminbird with two-dimensional Side Imaging, anglers would never realize those fish were there.”

Use a good depthfinder to find walleye

Use a good depthfinder to find walleye

On this particular trip, Skarlis and Lahr were able to verify the walleyes were still there with Humminbird Side Imaging; the fish lying tight to bottom showing up clearly on the 1199’s unit’s large screen.

But confirming the location of the fish wasn’t enough; the lethargic post-spawners were still not willing to eat, but rather had to be coaxed into biting.

Slowly I pulled…

The pair discovered they had to employ very specific procedures to produce strikes. And then after all that, the bites were so subtle they could’ve been easily be missed.

The winning way? Pulling 7- to 12-MM long, slender-shaped stickbaits upstream at a crawl. However, only when the lures were swimming down the bank and out towards the main river bed, not up the break or along it, did walleyes respond.

Not wanting to waste time, Skarlis used his bow-mounted Minn Kota Fortrex to quickly pull the 3-ounce bottom-bouncer rigs with stickbaits up the steep breaks in 16- to 22-feet of water, and then reduce their speed to a creep at one-half-mile-per-hour. The slower speed was necessary to get the walleyes to commit.

Humminbird electronics are responsible for divulging the whereabouts of countless walleyes for tournament pros, guides and the everday angler. Photo by Bill Lindner Photography

A secondary technique took fish when the stickbait bite slowed. When the cranks quit, Skarlis and Lahr vertical jigged down and out along the same sharp breaks with 1/2-ounce jigs tipped with soft plastics.

“While most anglers use the lightest jigs they can get away with, Lahr and I often use heavier jigs, up to 3/4 ounce, as they displace more water and the fish are able to pick up the vibration through their lateral lines. Using larger jigs is doubly important in such stained water,” notes Skarlis.

Jig tied up and deployed, the anglers found the best technique was employing no action all, literally just holding the bait up off bottom a few inches and working it down the bank.

Feeling odd

No matter the technique, there were never any arm-jarring strikes. In fact, the bite was quite the contrary.

“Most anglers feel the spit, not the hit, and by that time it’s too late to set the hook,” states Skarlis.

“St. Croix’s LegendXtreme rods were one of the biggest factors in the win. The fish would bite light and swim along with the lure. If anything felt “odd”, anything at all, we’d set the hook and sure enough there was a fish.

Both anglers used St. Croix’s 7-foot medium, fast-action Legend Xtreme rods for jigging, and the medium-heavy, fast-action model for pulling stickbaits. However, when the technique called for heavier applications yet, the 7’1” medium-heavy, fast, Legend Tournament Bass rods were pulled from the rod locker.

“There are three reasons the Legend Xtreme is a superior rod,” claims Skarlis. “The blank is ultra-sensitive, of course, as well as light, so there’s no arm fatigue when fishing it all day. And the rods micro guides cut down on wind drag, keeping the tip from blowing around, creating even greater sensitivity. And because of its perfect backbone, they have the ability to hold fish on the hook once stuck.”

Down and out

Looking to land more post-spawn walleyes from rivers? Heed the down-and-out technique Skarlis and Lahr used to land a winning weight from the Mississippi. Use the newest electronics to locate fish hidden from standard sonar, and no matter the method employed, use sticks that telegraph even slight bites.

St Croix walleye rods

St Croix walleye rods

St. Croix Rod’s Legend Tournament Walleye (pictured) and Legend Tournament Bass are staple sticks in the boats of many professional anglers and guides.

Mitch Eeagan is an outdoor writer who lives and survives off the land within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s cedar swamps.

New World Record Walleye?

Bay of Quinte C&R Walleye Pending World-Record Certification

Pending Workd Record Walleye

Pending Workd Record Walleye

By Jim Edlund
from The Fishing Wire

I received the news via Ma Bell. Not Facebook. Not Twitter. Just a simple phone call with intel that a big fish had been caught on Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte. In turn, that led to a conversation with the angler, who was explicit the information be kept hush-hush until the paperwork was in process.

Personally, my next move was to call Emmett Brown, Jr., executive director of the Hayward, Wisconsin-based Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. At the time of my first call in early February, Brown hadn’t received the angler’s paperwork. Then, about a week later, on Tuesday, February 18th, Brown called me back and confirmed that the organization had received his application, that “everything appeared in order,” and the giant Bay of Quinte walleye was indeed “pending verification as a new Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame C&R walleye, ice fishing, world record.”

The current Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame World Record, Division #4 – Ice Fishing, Catch and Release, Longest (only) Pole/Line, Walleye, is currently occupied by two 34-inchers in a tie. On January 22, 2011, angler Jay Millar caught and released a sag-bellied 34-inch walleye reportedly full of eggs, the weight of which will never be known due to a frozen scale. Later that year, on December 22, 2011, angler Jay Manwell caught and released a fish of the same length on Last Mountain Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada.

“On January 9th, 2014, guide Grant McAllister iced a new personal best and potential world-record catch and release (through the ice) walleye on Ontario’s Bay of Quinte. The fish measured 35.3-inches and weighed 14 lbs 10 ounces.” Photo courtesy of Grant McAllister

Still, this fish is bigger. So, if everything checks out in the next few weeks, including notarized statements from witnesses, there will be a new name atop the big fish ledger for largest walleye ever caught and released through the ice.

That name is Grant McAllister.

No weekend warrior, McAllister is a former guide, seminar speaker, fishing promoter and walleye pro with experience on numerous tournament trails, including the Northern Ontario Walleye Trail, Tournament Trail and Quinte Fishing Series.

In other words, the catch was no fluke, as is the case with many record fish. It is the result of what McAllister confesses has been a severe form of “big walleye tunnel vision” over the past half decade.

The Big Fish Story

“In 2008 I owned an insurance brokerage firm in Toronto, Ontario, went through a transition in life, and decided I was going to pursue my dream,” says McAllister. “I was sick and tired of regrets. I hatched the idea of starting a guide company on the Bay of Quinte and we were on the water 200 to 250 days a year between open and hard water. That taught me a lot. Since, I’ve made it my life mission to find and catch big walleyes. I study the fish technically, theoretically and practically.”

On Thursday, January 9th, 2014, McAllister was on the ice at 6:30 a.m. with good friends Keith Mallette, Rob Rizzuto and Cezar Spirala, owner of Springwood Cottages & Resort, “in hopes of keeping up with what seemed to be a good bite over the last couple of days.” The conditions were -9 Celsius (16 Fahrenheit) with westerly 10km/hr winds shifting to the south.

Record Walleye Lure

Record Walleye Lure

“McAllister’s fish was caught on a 3/8-ounce PK Lures Spoon in Firetiger Glow, the top hook removed.” Photo courtesy of PK Lures

“We were on the eastern end of the Bay of Quinte fishing one of my big fish spots, set up over 29 feet in pursuit of big fish. Within five minutes of set up, the first of many loud yells filled the air, ‘Fish on!’ My Marcum LX9 lit up like a Christmas tree and the fish were on fire. By 11:30am we had landed 19 and missed a bunch more. My PK Spoon looked liked it had been through a war,” says McAllister.

He says the bite then slowed but he knew from hundreds of trips that fish would start moving through again around 1 pm.

“A common mistake most anglers make on Quinte is only fishing mornings and evenings. But I’ve caught all my big Quinte fish between the hours of 1:00 to 2:30 pm, when everybody’s off the ice having lunch or whatever. I concentrate on high-percentage areas like break lines and wait for those one, two, three, four big marks you’ll see on your flasher during mid-day.”

McAllister continues: “At approximately 1:47pm I marked a small bar on my flasher 16 feet down. I reeled up quickly and began trying to coax the fish into biting. Shortly after I reeled up, this fish became very interested and the mark kept getting bigger and bigger. From the size of the mark on my LX9 and from years of experience on the Bay, I knew she was a trophy. Within seconds, the fish crushed my PK, I set the hook, my WhiteOut rod buckled and there was nothing but dead weight! I knew this could possibly be ‘The One’ I’d been chasing for so long. I screamed out to my friend Cezar that I needed help and he was there in a flash.”

He says that after a brief but “rather hefty” fight, the “beast was on the ice” and the rest of his group stood around slack-jawed, dumbfounded by the walleye’s size.

“My personal best to date was 14-pounds 7-ounces and 33.25 inches, but just by looking at this one I knew she was bigger. Cezar, being prepared as always, broke out the measuring tape and scale. She measured 35.3 inches long and weighed a whopping 14-pounds 10-ounces! This all happened in under a minute, minute and a half, and the fish was quickly let go without issue. What a day! Things couldn’t be any better as we landed 25 fish and I had broken my personal best! It’s a day we wouldn’t soon forget.”

McAllister says he didn’t think much about the giant walleye other than it was his new personal best. He posted a photo of the fish to Facebook with the brief status update “The pigs are biting!”

“I’d never really followed the records, didn’t even know the Freshwater Hall of Fame recognized live releases.”

Fast forward to January 29th, 2014, and the subject of his recent big fish came up when traveling back up to the Bay with his friend Jules.

“Jules asked to see pictures and asked me about the walleye’s stats. He looked at it and without hesitation told me I needed to get the fish registered. He was confident it was a new live release record. I was completely unaware. So I did some research and discovered that Jules was in fact correct. So, on February 3rd, 2014, I chatted with fellow walleye pro Tim Geni, whom I had become friends with on Facebook several weeks prior. He and I were having a Facebook chat about my catch and what lures I was using when it all went down. After sharing my experience, he was also adamant that I enter the fish, as a former world-record holder for C&R ice walleye himself. Tim has been instrumental in all facets of this process and a great support to me as I attempt to add this crowning jewel to my fishing career.”

Winning Spot

Using the Navionics app on his smartphone, McAllister says he found the fish in a “big mud bowl,” that’s often “loaded with food,” from perch to gizzard shad, alewives, ciscoes, and whitefish.

“It’s basically a staging area where these big walleyes start their migration up to rivers. You’ll find walleyes cruising through, some resting and others actively feeding there because it’s loaded with perch and also intermittent schools of shad and other forage that move through.”

Cat and a String

McAllister’s approach to catching big fish is a one-two punch of calling them in and seducing them to bite with two vastly different jigging cadences.

“I’m a huge advocate of understanding jig cadence. After a lot of trial and error, my typical cadence involves two high lifts of the PK Spoon four or five feet, three short lifts of a foot, then three or four bangs on the bottom. Then repeat. Since I’m really ripping it, I go through a lot of minnows, something most guys don’t do. But it’s huge in drawing these big fish in. Then, once I have them on the flasher, it’s like teasing a cat with a string.”

The ‘cat on a string’ program is very much a finesse game, the goal being to get the walleye to slowly rise in the water column until it has no choice but to eat the bait.

“The Marcum LX-9 allows me to get within a ¼ inch target ID separation, so I put the spoon right on top of the walleye’s head, and slowly bring the fish higher and the higher off the bottom, sometimes six, seven, eight, nine feet before they strike. I’m just shaking that spoon trying to get wiggle out of the minnow. Once you get it in your sights or on your zoom, those fish are going after the minnow and absolutely crush the bait.”

But he says this particular fish came into the sights on his electronics without exhaustive play. “It cruised in 16 feet down over 29 feet of water and pretty much just crushed the spoon.”

“There are a lot of suspended fish in the system. The ones we’re catching are the migratory fish that are chasing fish, so my suspicion is that they’re targeting on the schools of gizzard shad. I saw the mark, reeled up to it, and within seconds the fish just destroyed it. It was special, man.”

He adds that the 2013-2014 hardwater season on Quinte has been amazing. “I’ve caught 12 fish over 10 pounds this winter and all but one have come off a 3/8-ounce PK Spoon in original shad or firetiger glow with a 2-inch dace or chub hooked through from the bottom of the mouth up through the head.”

When asked if the thinks even bigger walleyes reside in Quinte, McAllister answers emphatically, “Yes!”

“There are 15s, 16s, 17s, 18s, and even bigger. I’m convinced the next IGFA world record will come out of Ontario, trumping anything in Arkansas or the Columbia River out west. It’s one of the Great Lakes and has giant fish nobody’s ever seen. And there’s no lack of big, fatty food. No doubt, there are some monsters that would absolutely dwarf this fish. And I’m going to figure out how to catch them.”

Gear used:
Rod: 29-inch medium-action 13 Fishing WhiteOut
Reel: Shimano Sienna 2500
Main Line: 10-pound Berkley Fireline
Leader Line: 48 inches of 10-pound Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon
Lure: PK Lures Spoon, 3/8-ounce, Firetiger Glow, tipped with a full minnow
Electronics: MarCum LX9

Can I Use Ice Fishing Jigs to Win Open Water Walleye Tourneys?

Anglers use Ice Fishing Jigs to Win Open Water Walleye Tourneys
from The Fishing Wire

Use ice jigs for walleye

Use ice jigs for walleye

When Al Lindner spilled the beans on a hush-hush tactic for boating open-water walleyes with an ice-fishing lure, the Rapala Jigging Rap, he noted that a Canadian walleye pro had already won two tournaments with it.

Two years later, the hardwater hardbait brought tournament hardware to an American open-water angler, Rapala pro Chris Gilman. In September, Gilman hoisted a Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Championship trophy after enjoying an epic Jigging Rap bite on North Dakota’s Devils Lake.

“It was almost magical,” says Gilman, an FLW Walleye Championship winner and FLW Walleye Angler of the Year. “As fast as my partner and I could get the Jigging Raps down, we had one on.”

Sounds like the success Lindner predicted for the open-water Jigging Rap pattern in 2011.

“You land a fish, you get it off, you drop that bait down again and you can go bam, bam, bam! – Get two, three, four fish as fast as you can drop it,” Lindner says in this “Angling Edge” TV episode, [] in which he and Gary “Mac” McEnelly demonstrate how to effectively fish the pattern. “You can’t do that with a live-bait rig.”

So fast and furious were big walleyes crushing Gilman’s Jigging Raps on the final day of the NWT championship, he and his partner fished for less than 20 minutes on their magic spot before heading back to the dock with a 22.26-pound limit that would win the tournament.

“We got there around 8:00 and had a limit by about 8:20,” Gilman recalls.

He found the winning school of fish in about 16 feet of water in a channel in East Devils lake. “We dropped right onto of a school of big ones,” he says.

On the first day of the tournament, Gilman caught most of his fish casting Rapala Glass Shad Raps. “But when the wind slowed down and my shallow fish turned finicky, the Jigging Raps were the answer,” he says.

A Masters Walleye Circuit tournament was won on Jigging Raps at Devils Lake about a month before the NWT, and “most guys heard the news and came prepared to try Jigging raps,” Gilman says. “I have had a lot of success with them in the past, but this is really the first time I fished a tournament with them.”

He started the third and final day of the tournament in second place, after catching a 16.10-pound limit on Day 2, mostly on Jigging Raps that he vertically jigged around a rock hump that topped out at about 25 feet.

“I could troll around the hump and pick off the active fish,” Gilman explains. He snaps the Jigging Rap off the bottom “pretty aggressively,” about a foot and a half up and down, he says. “It draws the fishes’ attention and they are triggered to bite.”

Gilman favors bigger Jigging Raps, which are available in four sizes. As he does most often, he was fishing 7/8th oz. No. 9’s in the NWT championship.

“The fish are not afraid of the size and the heavier weight allowed me to move around while still staying relatively vertical,” he says. He could troll as quickly as half a mile an hour “without much of a problem,” he says.

In Gilman’s experience, a Jigging Rap’s weight and action is more important than its color pattern. “Color does not seem to matter as much with the Jigging Raps, as with crankbaits,” he says. “It is the action that triggers the strike, not the color.”

Gilman throws Jigging Raps on 20-pound-test Sufix 832 braid attached by a barrel swivel to a 12-inch, 20-pound-test Sufix fluorocarbon leader. He uses a 6-foot, 3-inch medium-action spinning rod with an extra-fast tip.

Gilman weighed 55.91 pounds of walleye to win the NWT championship by a 0.05-pound margin over an angler fishing a similar pattern – his roommate, Josh Vanderweide.

“He was also fishing Jigging’ Raps, but his spot was 25 miles from mine,” Gilman says.

Open-Water Jigging Rap How-To’s

In the 2011 open-water Jigging Rap demonstration, Lindner positions his boat on the deep edge of a contour line and followed it. Using a foot-operated bow-mounted electric motor, he trolls forward at 7/10 to 1 mph, casting from the bow to a deep weed edge in about 15 to 16 feet and worked his bait over a gravel-sand bottom to about 21 to 22 feet. In the back of the boat, McEnelly drags his bait a short distance behind the boat, the line descending at a 60-degree angle to the water surface.

“We’re covering a lot of depth patterns at one time,” Lindner explains. “You cover so much water so fast with this bait, way more than you could ever, ever do with a live-bait rig.”

When fished through the ice as they were designed, Jigging Raps require a vertical pump-and-swim motion. An open-water presentation, however, requires a horizontal triggering action.

“You sweep the rod tip, and the heavy lure shoots forward like a panicked baitfish before plunging back to the bottom,” McEnelly explains. The action elicits an aggressive reaction from walleyes.

“They see it jump off the bottom, dart to the side, fall in front of their face, and they go ‘Gulp!’ They eat it!” Lindner says. “Whether you’re casting, vertical Jigging, or dragging, it is a triggering bite.”

Do not let the Jigging Rap pause very long on the bottom, McEnelly says. “As soon as you feel that bait hit the bottom, pick up again and keep it moving.”

When And Where?

On the spring day Lindner and McEnelly demonstrate the Jigging Rap bite in the video, water temps are about 63 degrees and the bite is fantastic for both size and numbers. The bite is effective all summer as well and into the late fall. “There’s a large window of time when this technique is very effective,” McEnelly says

It’s not effective, though, over soft, silty bottoms or big boulders fields. Fished over sand and gravel bottoms, however, 40- to 60-fish days can be expected, even “in the middle of summer when everyone else is dragging live-bait rigs with leeches and night crawlers and red-tailed chubs and sitting on schools of fish and catching two, three four fish,” Lindner says. “And you come through the exact same school and catch 12, 15, 20.

“It’s an amazing thing when that bite is on – how effective this bait is. …” Lindner says. “Jigging Raps in open water – it isn’t only for ice fishing.”

New Converts?

Although it was two years ago that Lindner said “the secret is out” about the open-water Jigging Rap walleye bite, not much about it was mentioned in the media until Gilman’s NWT win this fall. But as word of the win spreads – and word of the Jigging Rap bite behind it – perhaps Al’s 2011 assessment of his fishing partner, McEnelly, will soon extend to the larger walleye world: “I have a new convert to the Jigging’ Rap Brigade!” Count Chris Gilman among the converted.

Can I Catch Walleye No One Else Can Catch?

Walleye No One Else Can Catch
from The Fishing Wire

Two factors greatly impact walleye fishing success, yet most walleye anglers don’t even consider them.

Steve Pennaz of “Lake Commandos” TV says targeting walleye in weeds can produce big fish missed by other anglers

The first is fishing pressure and it is more intense than anglers realize. Last year, anglers invested 3.05 million hours of fishing effort on Minnesota’s 128,000-acre Lake Mille Lacs. The impact of this much pressure can’t be ignored; it pushes walleye off classic structure and secondary spots often become “A list” fish-catching locations.

Secondly, many lakes across the walleye belt are aging, and their fertility levels are increasing. In some lakes light penetration is too low to support weed growth beyond 7-8 feet of depth. Vegetation draws biodiversity, from micro-invertebrates to baitfish, and that draws in walleye. Drop an Aqua-Vu® underwater camera and the number of walleye in the jungle is surprising.

“When you take a step back and look at the big picture,” said long-time Yamaha pro and ‘Lake Commandos’ television host Steve Pennaz, “it makes perfect sense why we should be spending more time targeting walleye in weeds. Walleye love structure, but they’re also an adaptive animal that utilize weeds often to feed and rest.”

Steve with fat walleye

Steve with fat walleye

Seek out secondary structure, advises Pennaz, and you may come up with fish like this.

So why do so few anglers chase weed walleye? Pennaz believes that many still cling to walleye lore dating back 50 years or more.

“When you revisit the 1960s,” said Pennaz, “two advancements changed walleye fishing forever. The first was sonar. It seems silly today that a dial and flashing light could be considered revolutionary, but ‘the flasher’ opened vast new areas of unexplored water.

“The development of spinning tackle that performed well with monofilament was also huge. For a generation of anglers forced to rely on heavy black Dacron® braid it was a massive move forward. Millions of Mitchell® 300 spinning reels were sold and anglers filled them with monofilament lines made by tackle pioneer Berkley® Bedell.

“Top walleye anglers of the day used these new tools to make amazing catches, typically using light lines, small hooks and live bait. Unfortunately, there are still anglers today who believe the only way to catch walleye is by using finesse rigs and live bait. It wasn’t true then and it’s not true today. In fact, artificial lures routinely out-fish live bait for walleye, which is great because artificials make catching weed-loving walleye easier,” said Pennaz.

Walleye & Salad

Use Jigs

Use Jigs

An assortment of jigs and soft plastics do the job on walleyes over scattered weeds.

Walleye are not ambush feeders like bass so they prefer sparser areas of weed growth or weed edges.

Summer/early fall fish are active so fishing larger baits is effective. Both cranks and spinner rigs work well when trolled along the deep weed edge.

“Trolling weed edges is tough to beat in summer/early fall … if you can avoid pesky panfish,” said Pennaz. “Live baits like leeches and crawlers are usually mauled in short order making it difficult to keep your presentation in the strike zone.

“Several years ago I made the switch from live crawlers to Gulp!® worms when fishing a weed edge with a bottom bouncer/spinner rig and have been thrilled by the results,” said Pennaz. “The bait is tough enough to withstand panfish attacks and walleye love ’em. My favorite is the 4-inch model; its subtle paddle tail swims realistically even at slow speeds.”

Jig worms are also deadly on weed walleye.

“A bass fishing friend told me about all the walleye he was catching on jig worms when targeting weed line bass,” he said. “At first I thought he was joking, but it soon became clear he wasn’t.

“I typically fish a 4- to 6-inch worm on an 1/8 or 1/4-ounce mushroom head jig. Long casts parallel to the weed line are best. In most waters, this technique produces both walleye and bass,” said Pennaz.

Swimbait Walleye

Swimbait Walleye

Swimbaits can also be effective for walleye in the right place and at the right time.

In early spring, shallow flats hold a lot of walleye, particularly when located near prime spawning areas.

Light jigs in the 1/16- to 1/8-ounce range are ideal, particularly when paired with a durable soft bait. A swimming grub or 3-inch swimbait is tough to beat on windy days, and when more finesse is required, Pennaz recommends switching to presentations like a 3- or 4-inch Berkley® Power Minnow, Gulp!® Minnow or Twitchtail Minnow fished bare.

“If you absolutely must fish live bait for confidence reasons,” said Pennaz, “tip the jig with an inch-long piece of nightcrawler.”

“Target flats in the 2-6-foot range and cover a ton of water as the fish are typically scattered.”

Cranks are also deadly. The best walleye cranks cast well on spinning gear and have a tight wobble. Pennaz’s favorite crankbait is the #5 Flicker Shad in black/gold; he’ll upsize to a #7 when fishing deeper. In both cases he throws the cranks on 8-pound Nanofil® for maximum casting distance and sensitivity… you’ll know immediately if the bait is fouled.

As summer approaches, walleye move to mid-depth weeds; 4-8 feet is typical in highly stained waters, 8-15 feet in clear waters.

How Can I Catch First Freeze Walleye?

First-Freeze Walleyes On Featureless Lakes

by Daniel Quade
from The Fishing Wire

A shout echoes unanswered across the barren icepack of Minnesota’s massive Upper Red Lake. It’s hardly a call for help, much less a greeting. It’s veteran walleye guide Jonny Petrowske, proving a point about getting away from the crowd to corral first-ice ‘eyes.

“If I yell at the top of my lungs and no one hears me, I’m far enough away from other anglers,” he grins.

Catch big walleye

Catch big walleye

Guide Jonny Petrowske says the trick is to find the fish, then not spook them, to produce whoppers like this.

Petrowske says that even aggressive walleyes get skittish when clamorous hordes of winter warriors overrun the ice. Since the only reply to his thunderous vociferations was the raspy, disapproving cackle of a raven drifting overhead, it appears we’re good to go.

We’re targeting early winter walleyes shortly after the mighty lake’s surface has solidified. Shallow and relatively featureless, Upper Red is typical of many fisheries that are first to freeze, and first to offer a chance at hardwater walleyes.

“It’s largely devoid of structure,” Petrowske said, “so the walleyes are nomadic, wandering vast flats looking for food.”

Catching them calls for two things, he says, finding the fish, and then not spooking them once we do.

“Since there’s nothing tying them to small area, they won’t tolerate the sound of your feet shuffling around above their heads.”

With nearly 50,000 acres at our disposal on the state-managed section of Upper Red, we have an intimidating amount of territory to cover. Petrowske quickly narrows it down to forage-rich shallows within a mile of shore.

“Depending on the lake, such areas offer walleyes everything from emerald shiners and young-of-the-year yellow perch to frogs and other forage,” he says. “Water depths of 4- to 8-feet are ideal. On lakes with slow-tapering bottoms, the search area may stretch a mile or more from the bank.”

Beginning far from shore over the deepest part of our chosen hunting grounds, Petrowske punches a string of holes spaced at 1/8-mile intervals all the way back to the shallows. At each stop, he augers a pair of portals to the underwater world 6- to 7-feet apart to allow for fishing two presentations simultaneously. Since silence is golden, he drills all of the holes in one fell swoop, which gives all spots except the last drop zone time to quiet down.

After deftly skimming away the slush from our first hole, Petrowske pulls out a 28-inch ice rod spooled with 6-lb-test, high-visibility monofilament. A study in compromise, the blank is medium-action.

“If the rod is too stiff, your jigging motions can get herky-jerky,” he says. “If it’s too soft and you exert a lot of energy bending the rod, the bait barely moves.”

Use small lures for big walleye

Use small lures for big walleye

Lindy Darters and other small lures do the job on walleyes under the ice.

A small ant swivel links the mainline to an 18-inch, 6-lb fluorocarbon leader. The swivel fights twist, while the fluoro battles abrasion and is less visible to the fish. At the end of the line he ties a Lindy Darter, a hard-bodied rattler that’s raucous on the uptake and swims on the fall.

“Not all noise is bad,” admits Petrowske. “Walleyes are curious and often check out something that sounds like a meal. And, since we’re focused on scattered fish, the ability to call them in is key when fishing a vast, featureless lake like this.”

Although the fertile water is decidedly less than gin clear, he opts for natural lure colors that mimic the lake’s forage base. Natural Perch is his favorite, but Yellow Perch and various shiner patterns are good, too. On cloudy or snowy days, brighter patterns with a touch of chartreuse get the nod.

With a plop Petrowske’s Darter drops into the ice water and quickly swims to bottom on a slack line. After tightening the tether, he twitches the rodtip several times to tap-dance the bait on bottom, generating slight puffs of sediment. Next, he raises the lure 6 inches and pauses. He says that this pause often triggers a strike.

If it doesn’t, he begins phase two. Gently swim the lure up a foot, just fast enough to lightly engage the rattles, let it fall, then lift again.

If you’ve never fished a Darter before, he recommends practicing various lifts and drops within sight of the surface. Such swimming lessons are invaluable for learning how different jig-strokes affect the lure.

Petrowske’s final performance before pulling up stakes starts off wildly animated.

“I rip the heck out of it,” he laughs, explaining that the routine includes three or four sharp lifts of 12 to 18 inches, followed by a pause. “If that fails, but I think there are fish around, I slowly jiggle the lure upward until I can see it in the hole, then open the bail so it swims off to the side and crashes like a B-52.”

After the lure touches down, he reels slowly, crawling it along bottom.

“When it gets directly beneath the hole, I raise it 6 inches and pause,” he says. He credits this “reset” maneuver to fellow guide Jon Thelen, who developed it to turn watchful ‘eyes into biters. “If that doesn’t do it, I head to the next pair of holes.”

When Petrowske pinpoints a pod of active fish, he deploys a set-line in the second pre-drilled hole. The rig consists of a lively minnow tail-hooked on a jig or jigging spoon and suspended 8 to 12 inches off bottom beneath a bobber.

“Lindy’s Rattl’n Flyer Spoon, Frostee and Frostee Spoon are my favorite lures,” he says, noting that slip-floats with large metal grommets, such as members of Thill’s Pro Series lineup, limit ice buildup.

Strung with 4-pound Silver Thread Trout Line or AN40, the bobber rod tempts hungry ‘eyes that were lured in by Petrowske’s jigging theatrics, but not tempted enough to strike. It’s one more ploy in his bag of tricks for taking first-freeze walleyes in shallow, featureless lakes.

What Is Slip Bobber Fishing For Walleye?

Wobble Bobbin’ Slip Bobber Fishing for Walleyes

by Daniel Quade
from The Fishing Wire

Complex presentations get plenty of press these days, but few walleye tactics are as deadly-or as easy to fish-as the simple slip-bobber rig. With a well-balanced float, you can efficiently and precisely suspend mouthwatering live bait in front of hungry ‘eyes. Plus, you know exactly when a fish has inhaled your bait.

Guide Mike Christensen

Guide Mike Christensen

Guide Mike Christensen at Minnesota’s Mille Lacs knows where the big walleyes live.

Veteran guide Mike Christensen is a believer. Big time. From his home base out of historic Hunter Winfield’s Resort on the scenic south shores of Minnesota’s mighty Mille Lacs Lake, the jovial yet dead-serious walleye hunter launches literally hundreds of missions onto the fabled fishery with one goal in mind: connect clients with the big lake’s walleye bounty.

His success rate is epic, and one of his favorite presentations throughout much of the season is, you guessed it, a slip-float rig.

When wind whips the surface, a Thill Pro Series Slip Float rules the waves. He favors the size XXL version, a 1-incher that’s easy to see bobbing amidst the whitecaps. But when the wind dies and surface flattens, he deploys a new secret weapon that livens up his bait in spite of the lull-Thill’s Wobble Bobber.

Fresh on the walleye scene this season, the pear-shaped float rocks back and forth with the slightest ripple or twitch of the rodtip. “It’s ideal for calmer conditions,” he says. “If it’s absolutely dead flat, you can impart action to your bait just by shaking the rod.”

Thanks to an aerodynamic profile and slick internal weighting system, the Wobble Bobber also grabs serious air when slung from standard spinning tackle. Such long-casting properties are perfect for keeping your distance when targeting nervous ‘eyes roaming the shallows. Long casts also make it easy to thoroughly cover a reef or other structure from an anchored position-without moving the boat-and are a huge plus for the shore patrol.

Wobble Bobber

Wobble Bobber

When wind dies and bait action is minimal, a Wobble Bobber can liven up the bite.

Christensen says the Wobble Bobber is lethal for skinny water walleyes that are patrolling weeds, shallow rockpiles and boulders, or holding on the edge of steep breaks. “I use it in deep water situations as well,” he adds.

When it comes to the deep game, one of the classics is a pattern Christensen and fellow Mille Lacs guide Jon Thelen fondly call “road hunting.” At its core, the tactic involves cruising the tops and slow-tapering edges of promising reefs, mud flats, gravel bars and other promising areas at slow speeds, watching the sonar for signs of active fish hovering a foot or so off bottom.

“These are the biters,” says Christensen. “Bottom-huggers may eat if you park on top of them and wait it out, but we’d rather catch five aggressive walleyes in the time it takes to coax one less-active fish into eating.”

Proper sonar settings are crucial to distinguishing walleyes from clouds of baitfish or insects, as well as smaller fish such as perch. “I set the chart speed, sensitivity and color on my Humminbird sonar so suspended walleyes are identified by yellow highlights inside the arc,” Thelen explains. “On bottom, low-riding fish will have a bluish halo on the sides, while rocks won’t.”

Whether it’s calm or windy, Christensen likes the Wobble Bobber for road hunting because of its ability to deploy 20 to 30 feet of line more quickly than many conventional floats. “It has brass grommets at both ends, so line slides through it fast,” he says. “This is important with this presentation, because you want the bait in the strike zone before an aggressive fish moves off or settles back to bottom.”

His standard road-hunting rig includes a 7½- to 8½-foot spinning outfit. “A rod with a long, sensitive tip is key to good hooksets,” he says, explaining that when a fish pulls the float under water, the limber tip lets you reel up slack until you feel the weight of the fish on the line. “Otherwise, anglers have a tendency to set too soon. And when you try setting the hook before getting all the slack out of the line, you miss the fish.”

Christensen spools with 8-pound green monofilament mainline. After threading on an adjustable bobber stop, he slides on the Wobble Bobber and then ties a swivel to the business end, followed by a four-foot length of the same line. (Note: Christensen says that doubling the line makes it easier to thread through the Wobble Bobber.) A split shot large enough to balance the bobber is pinched on a foot or so beneath the swivel. “This reduces the chances of the rig tangling on the cast or the drop,” he notes.

Leeches are great walleye bait

Leeches are great walleye bait

Live leeches, hard to handle, are among walleyes’ favorite foods.

Another 24 to 30 inches below the shot, he adds a 1/32-ounce Lindy Jig. The leadhead sports a sturdy hook that’s large enough to hold a jumbo leech or half ‘crawler, yet is light enough to rise and fall seductively with the waves, or action imparted by the bobber.

Jigs also offer a more lifelike profile than plain hooks, he adds. “Hooks hang vertical, but I want a horizontal profile, which mimics the natural look of swimming prey,” he explains. While leeches are Christensen’s go-to bait, nightcrawlers often get the nod during bug hatches. “Hook them through the nose and pinch the crawler off halfway down,” he says.

To set the stop, he clips a Thill depth finder to the jig and drops it to bottom. “Set the bobber stop so the jig rides a foot above the fish-not a foot above the bottom,” he continues. “This is important, because active fish are looking up, and they’re far more likely to move up to hit the bait than they are to move down.”

Rigged and ready, Christensen idles over flat-topped feeding structures and gradually tapering edges along their sides. “Steep drops are tough to road hunt, because you have to change the depth of the jig,” he says.

Once a fish is marked, he flips the float directly behind the boat’s transom and pays out line so the jig can quickly reach the fish. “Let the boat drift away, to avoid spooking the fish,” he adds. “If it’s calm, twitch the cork to give the jig a little action.”

If nothing happens within a few minutes, Christensen reels in and moves on. “If they’re going to hit, they do it pretty fast,” he says. “On a good day, about one out of two to three drops results in a fish, so don’t waste time if the fish moves away or decides it’s not in the mood.”