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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
Opener on the Woods
By Phil Rolfe 

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

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 the
weather conditions you are dealing with. This gives you the clues to
location and presentations. 


Anyway, letís 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 donít
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 itís 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. Iíll work this rig from about 6 to 12 feet. 

For both the bouncer rig and  the long line, I use the St. Croix Avid
AC68MXF coupled with  10 LB. Trilene XL and spooled on an Ambassadeur
3000T reel. The reel comes with a flippiní 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, Iíll use a St. Croix 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 9í6Ē rod which has the
above features in spades. A high quality spinning reel spooled with 6
LB. 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 Pro Glass GC66ML
coupled with 10 LB. Trilene XL on a 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 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, donít 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 Canadian Camp, where his job
is put their guests on the best fishing spots absolutely free. You can
visit their web site at witchbay.com

Walleyes Heat Up in the Summer
By Phil Rolfe 

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 Shieldís 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
productive. The system is at peak production, forage hatches have long
since happened, the water temperatures are the most equal of any time of
year. Walleyes have many options available, and if you know these
choices then you are ahead of the game. 


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
or two here, then gone. 

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 and
relating to predictable structures. Fishing becomes very consistent. 

Letís 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.
Thereís round rocks,  from small to boulders. Then there is a good
amount of granite wall  rock with some broken pieces dotting the shore.
Of the two, the round rocks produce consistently the best, offering
crevices for the forage to hide in and cover for walleyes to shade and
ambush from. However check the wall rock as well, especially the subtle
points and cups along the shoreline. The granite walls seem to be better
early or late in the season. Likewise, the rock shorelines do not run in
straight lines, but are irregular with inside and outside turns, points,
gentle and steep drop offs. The fish will hold along these

The walleyes can be either shallow, mid, or deep(over 20í) 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
of the population shallow. Nonetheless, keep in mind that not all the
fish are doing the same thing at the same time. They are using all three
depth ranges. 

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 canít exclude the depths either. My biggest walleye of the year came
out of 27 feet. 

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 that
these certainly rank at the top of my list. 

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

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
Lowrance. 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 ďDangerĒ on my screen
and use caution in navigating them. Many of my ďDangersĒ are also some
of my best fishing spots. The only way you could get lost using this
unit is if you couldnít find the ďonĒ button. 

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
them in the GPS, but fish them as well. 


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. Iíll use the rig on shorelines, humps, and
flats. In the same fashion, Iíll use the rig with spinners, or with a
plain snell. Weather conditions and consequently fish behavior will
determine which setup Iíll use. The rig works best for medium to deeper
fish, which is what I devote most of my time to during the summer and
early fall. 

Letís say for example, a cold front has passed through, Iíll 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
good news is they are grouped and cacheable. However, if the fish are
not taking the bait, Iíll go to a plain snell and slow down. Experience
has shown me that walleyes will do little or no serious chasing in early
cold front conditions. 

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, Iíll throw out a
marker buoy and work these fish thoroughly with a vertical presentation
til the action subsides. Then, Iíll 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 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

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, Iíll use relatively
big blades, more weight than the slower presentation, and a heavier rod
such as a St.Croix PC66MF. Indiana blades (sizes 4-6) make a good choice
for this time of year. 

However, if the bite is really hot, Iíll 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
warmer water periods. One mistake many anglers make during this period
is working the bait to slow. Summer is a time for speed. 

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
spinner from being to close to the hooks. Granted, I am sure other pros
can offer theories like match the hatch or have some red in the
arrangement to emulate the look of flared gills, but for me I have not
been able to determine any significant differences. 

For blades, you canít 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 4ís through 6ís. 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 ďhot one.Ē 

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
of a small house. 

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

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
like the tips of points, or tucked tight on an inside turn. Wherever
fish are grouped and markable. 

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 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.
Donít get the wrong idea, there are some fish in the bays, just not
great numbers. 

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. 

I got my hand on some new Rapala Risto Raps and had good success with
them as well. Going to load up with these before I head north. 

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, Iíll 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 isnít 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. Donít die with a pattern or location that isnít producing.

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