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Opener on the Woods
Phil Rolfe walleye fishing pro
By Phil Rolfe
Phil Rolfe is the walleye pro at Witch Bay Camp, where his job is put their guests on the best fishing spots absolutely free. You can visit their web site at witchbay.com

Opener on the Woods, and in Northwestern Ontario, is on the third Saturday in May. This could be considered late Spring in the Midwest,but in Ontario is equates to more like mid Spring. Then again, as has been the case last year, it was more like early summer. The year before it was like very early Spring. The weather is the barometer, not the calendar. 

In a normal year, walleyes should have spawned in most locals, and be in post spawn. Northern pike have also spawned, and smallmouth will be in early pre spawn. However, all three species will have three things in common, they will be shallow, aggressive, and feeding heavily. 

This situation is pinnacled during steady warming trends where the water temperatures are rising gradually every day. However, when a strong cold front comes rolling through and surface temperatures go into a decline,so does the fishing. The fish will move deeper, to get to a more
consistent and stable environment. 

Keep in mind that this situation is an exception rather than a rule. But in odd ball years it could be more prevalent. You have to determine theweather conditions you are dealing with. This gives you the clues to location and presentations. 


Anyway, let’s start with location in a normal year. The walleyes and northerns have spawned, the bass are in the pre spawn but are on a feeding binge. Bays will be the premier location. These areas are shallower, and usually have soft bottoms and consequently warm up much quicker. They hold the bait fish, will draw the perch in to spawn, and the big three will be right behind them. 

The absolute best areas to find early season walleye are the bays near known spawning grounds. They will visit them first, and then keep moving as the need arises. They could be at the points of the mouth, along the sides or way to the back. Just depends where the forage is and where the
fish are in their migration process.  You have check to find out. 

As the season progresses, the bays closer to the summer haunts will become more productive. Logically speaking, the walleyes will keep moving all the time and you need to be versatile in your efforts to locate them. The northerns and bass tend to stay more at home, and don’t migrate as much. 

First areas to check in the bays, are the mouths which create points on both sides. I like to work these areas relatively quick. Starting out in the main lake and moving around the corner and down the sides of the bay to the back end. This covers the mid shallow and deep shallow areas from
6 to about 12 feet. 

While doing this, I am always keeping my eyes shallow for cover options such as boulders, reeds, downed timber, and year old vegetation. If the slightly deeper water produces, I will take as many fish as I can and then check these shallower areas to pluck a few more. You have a
legitimate shot at a trophy here, so give it it’s due. 

Now areas that combine two or more cover options can be absolute dynamite. Say you have reeds near shore and  boulders out a little deeper; throw in a downed pine and you have the ingredient for a big number spot. 

Lastly, the area in the middle of nowhere should be checked. These are the flats that make up the majority of the bay. Fish using these areas will be hot fish. They will be actively feeding and aggressive. 


For the mouth of bays, I like to pull a quick rig such as a bottom bouncer and spinner rig or long line a Shad Rap. The objective here is to cover water relatively thoroughly and move quickly. I will usually start just outside the mouth along the main shoreline and move around
the point. I’ll work this rig from about 6 to 12 feet. 

For both the bouncer rig and  the long line, I use the ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. Avid AC68MXF coupled with Berkley Power Baits Fish wont let go 10 LB. Trilene XL and spooled on an Abu Garcia the choice of Walleye Champions Ambassadeur 3000T reel. The reel comes with a flippin’ switch and works for each application. The rod is extremely sensitive but still has the muscle
needed . 

If no takers, then I will pitch light jigs up real shallow, say 1 to 6 feet. For the jigs, I’ll use a ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. Legend  LS70ML. This rod casts those light jigs a long distance, and is sensitive enough to detect the lightest pick ups, plus it has the back bone to handle big fish. I am also playing with the new LST96ML2, which is a 9’6” rod which has the above features in spades. A high quality spinning reel spooled with Berkley Power Baits Fish wont let go 6LB. Trilene . This presentation should be worked slowly with built in pauses. For the jigs, a twister tail with a piece of crawler  has produced very well. 

I will also throw crank baits here such as the Floating Rapala or the Husky Jerk. For the light baits, I use a ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. Pro Glass GC66ML coupled with 10 LB. Berkley Power Baits Fish wont let go Trilene XL on a Abu Garcia the choice of Walleye Champions 3000T Ambassadeur. This rig will handle the lightest of baits and yield long casts with pin point

For heavier baits, such as the Rapala Husky Jerk, I prefer the ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. GC66M which has a stiffer action, but still has the forgiveness to prevent ripped lips. 

These rigs work for all situations you will encounter while thoroughly working the various structures of the bay.  Keeping in mind, that you must start with slow presentations and  work faster as you go. The more fish you take, then you have to work back to slower presentations. The reason for this is the most active fish will take first. Near the end of the bite, you will be dealing with less aggressive fish. 

Not only will these methods take walleye, but northerns and smallmouth as well. So early in the season, don’t overlook the bays. In fact, as was the case last year, the bays held good numbers up into early July.  However, as the season progresses, the bays tend to thin out in numbers;
giving way to the main lake. 

Phil Rolfe is the walleye pro at Witch Bay Camp, where his job is put their guests on the best fishing spots absolutely free. You can visit their web site at witchbay.com


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