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The Edge of Darkness

Editor's note:
John Kolinski is the 2002 Professional Walleye Trail Angler of the Year,
last year's Illinois River RCL winner and a 13-time championship
qualifier on the PWT, RCL and Masters Walleye Circuit. His articles can
be read in numerous Midwestern outdoor publications and several web
sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, Lowrance
Electronics, Normark/Storm Lures, MinnKota, Lindy Legendary Tackle,
Flambeau, Tempress Rod Holders, Off-Shore Planer Boards, Berkley Trilene,
Optima Batteries and Panther Marine.

The true stars of the walleye angling world aren't the personalities who spend the most time in front of the camera.  Most anglers would far prefer to see their leading ladies thrashing the water alongside the boat wrapped in nothing but a fish net. Unfortunately, the idols of our affection (double-digit walleyes) tend to limit their exposure to cameo appearances. 
The biggest fish in any pond don't grow to legendary proportions by being reckless and readily accessible. They do so by living a mysterious,reclusive life that only makes them that much more desireable. As the saying goes, that which we cannot have is that which we desire the most.  However, under the surface of those great expanses of water there's a soap opera going on. It's all about relationships, lust, power and greed.
It's a world that many anglers never see. It's the edge of darkness.  Follow along as we take a look at four familiar scenes. They show how our heroes (double-digit walleyes) managed to become matinee idols, but they also provide some insight that might just help you get more than a passing glance at one of our sport's biggest stars. 
Ima Streetwalker 
Ima is a 34-inch walleye that lives in the exceptionally clear water of leech lake in northern Minnesota. She's broken many hearts in May and November, but is seldom seen the rest of the year.  Ima lives on a three~story estate on a remote reef that experiences moderate fishing pressure. Anglers often catch smaller members of Ima's family and staff while working the edges and the top of the reef on days when there's at least a ripple on the water, but hardly ever encounter
Ima or her adult friends.  The reason is simple. Ima only comes out to play during 10w~light periods. The rest of the day, she can either be found stretched out in
the nearby deep~water mud home or maintaining her girlish figure by exercising her fins while hanging in the middle of the nearby water column like a sunbathing starlet.  The best way to get up close and personal with Ima is to fish the hour
before sunrise and the hour or so after sunset when her wanton lust for food overcomes her otherwise shy personality. Occasionally, greed can get the best of Ima, too. Even though her tummy is full, she's been known to snap at a tantalizing red~tail chub or leech dangling before her when she's avoiding her fans. 
Rod Benda 
Rod is an unusual specimen. He's a male walleye that has lived for approximately 15 years in a smaller lake that doesn't feature elaborate rockpile condominiums or multi-level reefs.  This lake isn't as clear as Ima's home water, but Rod still tends to avoid shallow water during daylight hours. Some say it's because the light hurts his sensitive eyes. Others insist it's simply his nature.  However, as our soap opera unfolds, we discover that Rod has a character flaw. He's on a power trip, and every night he cruises a nearby flat looking for trouble. He can be caught in the act by an angler armed with a big crankbait such as a Rapala Husky Jerk, a Storm Thundercrank or a Storm Thunderstick.  Rod also exhibits tendencies of greed. Occasionally, when there's a bit of wind and some cloud cover, he'll continue his evening rampage a bit after sun-up, making him accessible to a few more anglers sneaky enough to slip into his lair without spooking him.  Like Ima, Rod goes one of two directions when he's not on the prowl. He can either be found suspended over the open water or resting along the bottom of the first deep breakline. 
Sleeparound Sally 
Sally seldom spends more than one night in the same place. She's a walleye of the world who loves the open spaces. It's served her well for years, and because of the miles she covers, she's still a looker after years and years of her nomadic existence. 
John Kolinski holding a nice walleye As much as anything, Sally is a free spirit. She lacks the natural caution that keeps smaller walleyes hiding in the weeds and rocks. She knows she can handle herself and is in little, if any, danger no matter where she ventures.  Sally isn't on a schedule. She travels with a gang of big walleyes, and
there is always plenty of food nearby. When she's hungry, she simply
eats, whether it's the middle of the night or the middle of the day. 
It's not impossible to catch up to Sally.
She has developed some tendencies over the years, like suspending in the depths adjacent to major points and mid-lake humps. Once an angler knows where to look, he or she can isolate Sally through the use of quality electronics like
Lowrance's X-19 sonar unit.  You might just get Sally to come aboard with a flashy crankbait or a seductive spinner and crawler rig. And once you've found her and her friends, lock in the coordinates on your Lowrance Global Map 6000 so you can return later. There's always a reason walleyes show up in certain
areas.  These scenes are intended to help demonstrate why some walleyes grow big and why they become so difficult to catch except for the spring when they
are motivated by the need to spawn and the fall when their lives become
consumed with putting on weight for the winter months.  I'm a firm believer that big walleyes can be caught from shallow water year-round during periods of low or no light. 
MinnKota Maxxum 101 bow mount trolling moto4r
Minnkota 101
When fishing these areas, be quiet. I use my Optima-powered MinnKota trolling motor to get close, and long casts to get to the fish. Most large fish that move up shallow to feed, abandon the area at the first sign of sunlight or traffic. It's probably going to take a tempting live-bait presentation in deep water to catch them during the day when
they aren't actively searching for food. It's like a bowl of ice cream. If somebody slides it past you on the table, you probably won't act upon
it. But if it comes to rest directly in front of you, you might just take a bite or two. 
Lowrance X-15MT
Lowrance’s new X-15
Electronics are invaluable. Unless the fish are suspended within a few feet of the surface and move away from my Triton 215X as I approach, they will show up on my Lowrance sonar unit. Then I can determine a depth at which I want to fish whether I'm trolling crankbaits or spinner rigs or putting live bait in their faces with a line-counter reel.  Experience has also taught me that while smaller fish feel safer hiding
among rocks and weeds, fish lose that fear as they grow larger.
That expands the world in which they can live considerably.  If there's one exception to the big-fish story line, it's when a front is moving in. Big walleyes seem to know that they won't be eating regularly for a day or two, and they make up for it by going on a binge as the front arrives that can make them susceptible for more than the night- time hours. 
If you are hoping to catch numbers of big fish this time of year, it's probably not going to happen. But you can entice the occasional trophy to bite by putting together a game plan that takes into consideration their mood, location and tendencies.  It's the edge of darkness. Catch an episode near you. s of any open-water situation together.

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