Lodging food and more
High Seas Walleyes
By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
If you didn't know better, open-water trollers may look a little like
drunken sailors. What could they possibly be doing.... weaving this
and that with planer boards out to the sides of their boats seemingly
trolling nowhere without any rhyme or reason?
Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. A closer look reveals
that open-water trollers on the Great Lakes and large inland lakes
traveling along subtle breaklines that walleyes follow during their
seasonal migrations. The trollers know walleyes relate to certain areas
of a body of water at certain times for reasons that can be explained.
The fish are not scattered at random.
Sometimes structure is defined by a mere drop of a foot or two over
half mile. But, if you imagine yourself flying many miles above while
all the water is drained from the lake, you'd see that those contours
are really structure on a macro scale. And the walleyes use them. It's
all they have. They will be on the breaks or suspended nearby.
Understanding the importance of those tiny details and using them to
your advantage can lead to a more and bigger fish. Take for example,
Ted's basket of five fish weighing 53.2 pounds on Lake Erie during
2002 Professional Walleye Trail tournament last spring. The total stands
as a PWT one-day record.
Let's look at Lake Erie. What you learn there can be applied elsewhere.
Spring? Head west. Walleyes in Lake Erie congregate on the reefs in
Western Basin or travel up feeder rivers to spawn in March and April.
Look for hard bottom structure and incoming water or wave action that
supplies oxygen to eggs.
Walleyes start to move east once spawning is done. They filter through
passages between the Bass Islands during April and May. Try trolling
and around the islands until you determine the most productive channel.
The importance of finding the tiny points and turns along the breaklines
becomes clear when years of GPS coordinates that produced fish in the
past are overlaid on a map of the lake. The spots were fish are caught
are often on the breaks or close by. Knowing where they are and why
make finding walleyes predictable even in the biggest waters.
Big water, big advantages.
As overwhelming as it may seem at first, open-water trolling on large
bodies of water has its advantages. Its biggest strength lies in states
where anglers may use more than one rod each. Fishermen can spread
several lines out to the sides of the boat with planer boards. They
use a variety of lures or bottom bouncers and/or snap weights with
spinner rigs and live bait at different depths to sift large areas
water from side-to-side and top-to-bottom looking for active fish.
Jigging, meanwhile, covers only a tiny bit of water. Certainly, there
are times even on the Great Lakes or a vast inland lake or reservoir
that covers thousands of acres when a jig is right approach. Those
are when walleyes are concentrated and relating to bottom structure.
Cold fronts are often good times to jig.
But, open-water trolling is the method of choice when walleyes are
scattered over larger areas or flats. The odds of putting baits in
of active biters are higher when you're moving through the water from
mph to 3 mph.
Whether open-water trolling, jigging or rigging, structure is the key
finding fish on any body of water. Locate key points, reefs, underwater
humps and troughs by studying maps of the area. Enter GPS coordinates
your unit. Visit web sites devoted to the body of water you are
targeting. walleyesinc.com is a good starting point. Stop at local
bait shops and ask questions designed to determine exactly where
walleyes are in their annual migration. What depth have they been in
past few days? What methods have worked? What lures, what colors, what
boat speed? If spinners have been the top tactic, what blade sizes
colors have produced the biggest fish? Are they on the bottom? If not,
what size snap weights are being used with what combination of line
A general rule of thumb is - crankbaits work best under 50-degrees
spinner rigs work best over 50 degrees.
Whatever the method, the point is to sift the water column from top
bottom and side to side. If fish appear tight to the bottom early in
day, then seem to rise from the bottom as the morning progresses, it's
safe bet they're suspended and could be up high.
Line-counter reels are critical for open-water trolling. Make certain
they have the same amount of line, same pound test, on all of them.
Everything must be identical to return baits to the same location in
water column time and again. Eight-foot rods like the St. Croix GT80M
are perfect to troll boards in addition to helping absorb the fight
|A good sonar with side-finding, like Bottomline's NCC6500, is a must
for locating suspended walleyes.If running four rods, run two on bottom-bouncers
and two on snap
weights. Choose large #4- to #6 Colorado or Hatchet blades when targeting
big walleyes like the Great Lakes offer.
|Use a majority of metallic blades in sunlight and clear water or, a
majority of colorful
blades on cloudy days and murky water. X-Change clevises allow fast
blade changes.When crankbaits are the choice, refer to the book "Precision
Trolling" to figure out how much line to let out on each lure to cover
depth zones. The dive curves in the book are based on using 10-pound
line. Use super-braided line to get smaller baits down even deeper. Super
lines are also better when trolling shoreline breaks right behind the boat,
where floating debris may foul hooks.Check the lures often, especially
when the rod tip stops quivering from the wobble of the crankbait.
|Try using a combination of a crankbait and live bait. Add a piece of
nightcrawler to the front treble hook or a whole one to the back treble.
Check the bait next to the boat to make sure the live bait isn't spoiling
the action of the lure.Set one or two baits to run just above fish visible
on the sonar screen. Run one near the bottom and one high in the water
column to intercept walleyes cruising just under the surface.Don't use
the same baits on every line. Vary lure size, color and action. Let the
fish tell you what they want. Walleyes are like people. Some prefer Arby's,
some McDonald's, some the chicken at the Colonel's. Give walleyes a choice.
Every bite yields more information to help zero in on the right combination
to produce the biggest and most fish on any given day.
||Spread lines with planer boards. Start slow, about a half mile per
hour, with spinner rigs and increase your speed to 1.5 mph. Start at 1
mph with lures and speed up to 3 mph. Make S-turns to speed up outside
lines and slow down inside lines. If walleyes show a preference to outside
or inside lines, speed up or slow down to give them what they want. S-turns
also swing baits out and away from the structure to nab fish suspended
just off the breaklines.
Don't troll helter-skelter. Use the tools to focus on the structure,
matter how subtle, which hold fish. Success awaits you on the high