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Search for Trophy Walleyes
By Perry Good
The hunt for trophy walleyes begins in April and will continue
all the way through the summer. The planning can start anytime, but
now is the time to get that boat hooked-up and on the way to some real
fishing hotspots. From about the beginning of April to the middle
of May I like to head over to Lake Erie. Lake Erie's Western Basin
is the place that I like to start. The basin is shallow only about
35 feet in depth and the walleyes move up into the shallow water in the
spring of the year. It's not uncommon to catch a couple hundred walleyes
a day trolling crankbaits on segmented lead core line or using a bottom
bouncer to take your monofilament and live bait offerings down to the walleyes.
The walleyes in Erie travel in large suspended schools and when you find
them you will have your hands full of reeling in large walleyes from 7
to 12 pounds. This is trophy walleye fishing at its best.
The area that I like to fish is around the Bass Islands. There
are plenty of places that I can get out of the wind on those hard blowing
days on Erie and sometimes I can get into some trophy smallmouth fishing,
that is always a bonus.
The presentation is usually in the form of crankbaits like the
Risto Rap or a Shad Rap trolled along varying depth and speed until you
see a cloud of bait fish on your depth finder. When you find the
bait fish slightly below and behind, you will find the monster walleyes.
Keep track of the depth at where the fish are, and you are set on a trolling
pattern for Erie.
Many anglers like to use live bait when fishing for Erie walleyes as
well. Weight forward spinners have been used for many years and they
are extremely effective. I like to use
Rainbow spinners on about a 4 foot snell trolled behind a 2 to 3 ounce
bottom bouncer. This allows me to move the live bait up or down in
the strike column when I discover the depth at which the walleyes are feeding.
Moving just a short distance to the Sandusky and Maumee rivers in Ohio
I like to be there for the spawning run in the spring. I like to
long line these fish in the shallows, because they are spread out over
a large area. Walleyes can be found in shallow water at any time,
but are likely to be in there during low-light conditions, like dusk, dawn,
cloudy days and the no-light conditions of night. Sometimes they
will be found tightly grouped on shallow structure, but usually they are
A walleye may be taken here, another there and another 30 yards away.
When the fish are schooled, a casting approach is the best method of presentation.
But when they are scattered, trolling is by far the most effective.
When trolling the shallows, use a Pinpoint trolling system. These
are great because I don't have to rely on what depth I am at and if the
wind is blowing and I am landing a fish the trolling motor takes over and
steers me on my course. This is an essential tool when fishing in
no-light situations. When trolling use floating Rapalas
in the No. 7 or 9 size. Fish may be aggressive and will quickly
respond to this larger-sized bait.
If the fish are spooky, however, it is necessary to get the bait a
great distance behind the boat. Walleyes have a short memory and
a boat going overhead will make them wary, but a bait 75 to 100 feet behind
will be real attractive.
Moving over to Sturgeon Bay located off Lake Michigan near the town
of Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin the same approach of long lining can also
be used. Here night fishing is probably the best for trophy walleyes.
Crankbaits are the lure of choice, but many fish are also taken with jigs
and live bait rigs. The additional bonus here is sometimes you hook
into a salmon and that makes this trip very memorable.
For the really serious angler who wants to catch the largest trophy
walleye the Rainy River on the border of Ontario and Minnesota is the place
to be in the early season. All the elements are there. Fish
are congregated in the river staging to make a move into Lake of the Woods
and they are full of spawn and heavy in weight. In fact, there are
so many large walleyes in this confined area that they are literally "stacked
in there like cord wood". Walleyes can be taken with a jig and minnow
combination or crankbaits can be trolled the presentation is up to you.
I prefer an 1/8 ounce Fireball jig tipped with a redtail chub and
believe me I have taken and released a number of fish over the 10 lb. mark.
The bonus fish here is the Sauger. These underwater neighbors of
the walleye are cousins and they grow large in the Rainy River, not quite
as large as the walleye, but fight and table fare are equal to their cousins.
As long as we are close to Lake of the Woods a place that I discovered
a number of years ago is Witch Bay Camp located outside of Kenora
and let me tell you it is a walleye heaven. Lake of the Woods offers
excellent fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, norther pike and muskie.
Seasonal opportunities exist for crappie and jumbo perch as well.
Walleye according to the Walleye Assessment Manager of the Ministry of
Natural Resources, "the walleye population is in the best condition of
the last twenty five years". Last year, Vickie Tennant of Coal Valley,
IL. caught three trophies within 36 hours. This is the resort that
I take my family to when I am not out chasing walleyes on the tournament
trail. That is right, I fish when I have a vacation and my vacation
is going to be at Witch Bay Camp.
But, one last area to look seriously at are the lakes, rivers,
farm ponds, or creeks that run by your house or are just down the road.
Just spend time on or near the water. The more you practice and spend
time in the great outdoors with your friends and families the happier and
more relaxed you will become. When planning for that dream vacation
include all the members of the family. Time spent with your kids
and spouse will be as memorable as an exploding bass hitting a top water
plug, or the soft pull of the black crappie as the sun sets on another
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