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Sweating the Small Stuff
By Mark Leadens

Paying attention to details can pay big dividends, especially if you happen to be a walleye angler.  There are times when even the smallest detail makes the difference between a good catch and a good skunking.  Knowing that a small thing like a special lure, or a particular color, or certain type of live bait can make a difference keeps anglerslike me heading back to the bait shop to find an edge. 

While it might seem a little crazy to some, it’s putting an extra fish or two in the boat for someone else. Anglers that are doing the right things in the right places for the most part are going to catch their share of fish, but when things get tough or when old marble eyes gets a little fussy it’s paying attention to details that will win the day.  Understanding why walleyes are where they are is an extremely important detail and really should be explored, especially if you’re going to get the most out of a situation.  In most cases the answer can be found in the groceries, as walleyes are almost always led around by their stomachs.  Determining what type of food source the fish are relating to will go a long way towards uncovering productive details.  For example, walleyes foraging on schools of shiner minnows might be holding tight to a sandy shoreline early in the season, or suspended out over deep water later in the summer.  If perch are the target walleyes might be found foraging along weed edges early in the season, and may move to deeper main lake structure for most of the summer period,  and then head back to the weeds by early fall.  A forage base that consists of smelt or alewives may keep walleyes holed up miles away from anything considered “classic” walleye structure, and where they can be expected to be found suspended for most of the open water season. Once you’ve determined what they’re after it’s easier to get a handle on where the
might be found and you can start to uncover the smaller details.  Details like whether or not walleyes are holding tight to a break line, or over hard or soft bottom, or maybe stacked up along the transition line where soft meets hard is what you’re trying to find.  Concentrations are usually the key, but not always.  There are times when fish found spread out are the ones actively feeding, and those piled up in the heaviest concentrations are taking a nap.  That’s one of the details that needs to be determined and is done by spending some time working both situations.  The moral of the story is that fewer fish that bite are much better than a mother load with lock jaw.  Another detail involves a particular depth that holds most of the active fish.   Walleyes that are spread up and down a break may not all be active at the same time and there could easily be a certain depth where you catch most of the fish.  If you’re able to find that magic depth you can concentrate your time in the most productive water allowing 
you to maximize your opportunities. 
Once you’ve determined the forge, got a handle on location, and even found most of the biters, you can work on the tiniest details like lure color or bait type.  The teeny tiny details can turn a good catch into something that dreams are make of. 

On the other hand it might mean nothing more than an extra fish or two at the end of the day, but what if that extra fish happens to be a real trophy?  Tournament anglers get pretty well wrapped up in lure color as they know the right bait with the right color can turn into a big payday, and is why they have boxes full of different shapes, sizes, and colors of just about every  jig, crank bait, or spinner blade there is. Getting caught without the right gear can be embarrassing and painful, not to mention the financial implications. 

How walleyes respond with or without cloud cover is another seemingly minute detail that can actually make a difference.  You might find that a hot bite shuts down absent any cloud cover, or visa versa.  Or that they prefer a particular color when the sun is out and something completely different when the clouds take over. It’s all part of the program and you can easily see that sweating over the small stuff might be well worth effort. 

Mark Leadens

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