Walleyes Heat up in the
Summertime is when many anglers go fishing, however, it is considered to be less than prime time in most areas. This is not the case on the Canadian Shield’s premier water, the Lake of the Woods. Here, summer is as good as it gets!
For my money, the best period to fish the Woods is from late June through
the end of September. The weather is usually the best and most consistent
of the year. Fishing patterns are identifiable and
After spawning in the spring, the fish enter the post spawn period for a time. This period is a gradual progression with the fish filtering towards their summer haunts, where they will spend more time than any other period excluding the frozen water period.
As I said, the progression is a gradual one, with the walleyes moving
along the main and island shorelines gradually dispersing throughout the
system. Shallow shoreline flats, near island or shore humps, and warm water
bays can be key stopping points. Spring fish are wanderers, a day
As the sun rises higher in the sky, the heat gradually warms the waters
and the eco system moves towards full tilt. Consequently, walleyes have
more food options. Even though many fish still use the shallows; mid and
deep water patterns open up, as well. Additionally, females are regrouping
Let’s look at some of my favorite locations on the northern part of
the Woods. My favorite is the rocky shorelines of islands. Most all of
this section of the Woods is rocky, which is either one of two basic types.
The walleyes can be either shallow, mid, or deep(over 20’) along these
structures. The biggest numbers of fish seem to hold at the deeper ranges
but depending on weather conditions, good numbers can be shallower or mid
depths, as well. An overcast windy day could move part
Number two on my list is off shore humps that top off from just above the surface down to about twenty feet. One common feature of the better humps is that they have ledges or stairways which provide entry points up to the structure. Humps with shear drop offs are not near as productive because of the lack of holding stations at various depths.
The fish that come off the tops of the shallower humps seem to be bigger
although less in numbers than the deeper humps. A very high percentage
of the really big fish come from less than eight feet, but then again,
you can’t exclude the depths either. My biggest walleye of the year came
And finally, mid to deep flats, rank high on my list. Many anglers think of these as structureless, but yet they often hold massive amounts of active fish. Scattered over these flats are small rock piles, scattered boulders, one or two foot depressions, and scattered weed patches. Flats are the most overlooked hot spots in walleye fishing, consequently, you usually have them all to yourself.
Granted there are many patterns, but my experience has proven to me
Using a good map such as the Ministry of Fisheries 6212 chart for our area will reveal potentially good spots to try. Water shallower than twelve feet is denoted by blue shading and very easy to recognize on the map. I am particularly impressed with the accuracy of this map. It shows everything. Properly used, not only can you find good fishing spots, but keep your boat off the rocks as well. Fishing Hot Spots also produces fine maps of the Woods.
The great part about summer patterns is that in a very high percentage of locations you can use your sonar to mark fish. The exception being the shallow fish which you must fish to find. Keep this in mind though, say you are fishing an area that past experience has shown holds fish and you are not marking any. Fish it anyway. Many times a weather change will put the walleyes belly to the bottom and unrecognizable on your screen.
As the walleye pro at Witch Bay Camp, I now spend all of my fishing
time on the Woods. I find the use of a GPS a necessity not only for marking
fishing spots and routes, but denoting serious hazards to navigation as
well. One unit for this water really stands out, the Global Map 2000 by .
Available as an option for this unit is a map reader coupled with a C-Map
cartridge (Lake of the Woods-North), it shows basically the same information
as the map. I mark the hazards as “Danger” on my screen and use caution
in navigating them. Many of my “Dangers” are also some
At Witch Bay Camp, my chief responsibility is to put our guests on the
best fishing spots---absolutely free. It would poor public relations for
me to lead a caravan of boats over a hazardous rock pile. I need to know
where the obstacles are. In fact when I go to a new area, I search out
the off shore reefs that may eliminate my lower unit, and not only put
I use three basic presentations whether it be spring, summer, or fall. They are rigs, jigs, and crankbaits. Over the years, I have simplified, and narrowed my arsenal to what works best for me. Furthermore, with these methods, I can work shallow, medium and deep.
During the summer, I will use a bottom bouncer and a rig at least seventy
percent of the time. I’ll use the rig on shorelines, humps, and flats.
In the same fashion, I’ll use the rig with spinners, or with a
Let’s say for example, a cold front has passed through, I’ll downsize
my spinner and work basically the same areas that produced pre frontal.
I often work slightly deeper and pay more attention to inside and outside
turns. Cold front fish like to tuck in cover on two or three sides, the
To go on, as I said earlier, post frontal fish are more tightly grouped and when found, I find a jig very productive, in fact the most productive for taking grouped fish. Along this vein, I’ll throw out a marker buoy and work these fish thoroughly with a vertical presentation til the action subsides. Then, I’ll move on with the rig and find a new pod of fish and repeat the process. Relate to it like this, find them with a bouncer and pick them off with a jig. The two go hand in hand.
My rod for the post frontal bouncing is a ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. Avid AC68MXF which is a lightweight rod with an extremely fast tip. Using lighter bouncer weights, and moving much slower, I am able to detect the lightest of bites.
Accordingly, during consistent steady weather periods, I find that speed not only allows me to cover water, but adds an extra trigger to the already lethal spinner rig. For this presentation, I’ll use relatively big blades, more weight than the slower presentation, and a heavier rod such as a ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. PC66MF. Indiana blades (sizes 4-6) make a good choice for this time of year.
However, if the bite is really hot, I’ll go to a willow leaf,
and up my bow mount to near maximum, add more bouncer weight (usually three
ounces), and really fly. The eyes will really whack this bait. Opposed
to colder periods, the walleyes will chase baits aggressively during the
Bottom bouncing is a whole book or at least several articles to do it
justice. It has become the rig of choice when conditions permit for many
of the top touring pros. It has been my rig of choice for over eight years.
However, I have in a few rare instances seen when it was not the
Here are some basics about the rig. I use a thirty inch snell, either
with blades or plain, rigged with three #4 hooks, spaced two and one half
inches apart, tipped with a big stretched crawler. For the spinner set
up, I use a Quick Change clevis placed behind (nearest the rod tip)
five or six 5mm beads. A favorite bead color arrangement for me is alternating
red and green. I have no earth shaking theories on beads, they all seem
to work fairly good. Basically, I feel they keep the
For blades, you can’t go wrong with hammered nickel, brass, gold or colors such as orange, fuscia, purple, chartreuse, white, and black I carry three styles, mainly Colorados and Indianas, but also willow leafs. A variety of sizes to cover all situations is necessary, with more of the bigger sizes such as 4’s through 6’s. The fish will tell you what they want. It is a good idea for everyone in the boat to start with a different color and then go to the “hot one.”
As I said earlier, the rig and jig go hand in hand. However there are
times when a jig is the best way to fly. One these occasions is when the
sonar lights up like a Christmas tree while cruising a mid to deep hump.
Especially if the crest of the hump is on the small side, about the size
Vertical jigging can be the hot ticket here. Pick them off one at time. Mark one, fish it, catch it, and move to the next mark. Works great. However, the downside is that for the most part my sonar lights up only rarely.
The point is that when fish are concentrated and markable, you have
the perfect situation to vertical jig. Now this could be like the on the
hump I just mentioned, or other locations
For vertical jigging in this manner, I use a relatively short rod, keeping the jig closer to the boat and in the transducer cone, such as a ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. PS60MF. For reels, I like the Shimano Solstace 2000 with the rear drag and the fighting lever which quickly allows you to increase or decrease the amount of resistance. A premium six pound test works great in this situation.
Finally, but no less important is throwing artificials. This is a big
fish presentation best worked on off shore shallow humps. I find that it
works great on humps that top off near the surface down to about eight
feet. Granted it also works well on weedlines and along rock shorelines,
but the Woods in our area is mostly rock, the weeds are in the bays and
I find the bulk of the population to be using main lake structures. Don’t
get the wrong idea, there are some fish in the bays, just not
I will work a variety of baits for this presentation such as Husky Jerks, smaller spinner baits, and Shad Raps. My experience has shown that a # 9 Shad Rap to be a top producer. Even though the # 9 will run about ten feet deep, casting it to much shallower water is no problem. Just nurse it out from the shallows, always ticking the bottom, keeping an ever delicate hand so as not to plant itself in the rocks. With practice, you will learn to quickly feel when the bait starts to become lodged, do not pull, but let the line go slack, and the bait should float up.
As I have said, this is a big fish pattern, not a numbers game. Generally, I have found that there will be a few fish of quality or a really big sow, or none at all. This is the reason, I’ll devote some part of each day to working this pattern. Furthermore, catching walleyes casting is as good as it gets.
Remember there are no absolutes in walleye fishing, there are only guidelines. These methods and presentations have worked for me, and have risen to the top of my arsenal because of their results.
But, to conclude, I would like to leave you with these thoughts that I always keep in mind. If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else. If you are fishing shallow and not getting any action, fish deeper. The point I want to make is that you have to be versatile and creative. Don’t die with a pattern or location that isn’t producing.
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