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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
Witch Bay Camp
As I See It!
Lake of the Woods Walleyes

By Phil Rolfe

Looking back on summer,  where I spent from mid May to the end of September on the  Lake of the Woods as walleye professional at Witch Bay Camp, much was learned, many puzzles were solved, and many new questions have replaced the old ones. 

My job at Witch Bay Camp is to put our guests on the best fishing spots and share with them, the presentations that produce. Steve and Gail Hockett, owners of Witch Bay Camp, had the foresight to realize that the Woods is a vast water and can be intimidating to new faces. In order to provide the best possible fishing vacations for their guests, they would put them on fish, and put them on fish absolutely free. Thatís where I come in. Thatís my job.  Success is measured by what our guests catch-a simple yardstick. 

However, it would not only necessary to put our guests on fish, but to provide the insight to presentations that would allow them to succeed once the first  was accomplished. Does no good to fish the right locations without the right presentations. 

I find that for most part, that the majority anglers use one presentation for walleyes. That may jigging, it may be trolling, may be slip bobbers. I also found that most anglers use one method of boat control, whether it be back trolling, anchoring, drifting, or working from the bow. 

Additionally, I found that their rod, reels, and tackle all centered around their favorite presentations. Very little equipment was available for other methods. 

I also found that many anglers were new, I mean completely new to the walleye game and had picked Lake of the Woods as there choice to break in. Upon questioning them, they selected our camp because we offered a bonafide walleye program to help them through the hurdles of walleyeism (new word, please add to your vocabulary). Working with first time walleye anglers is a blast, their excitement and eagerness to learn is contagious. 

The problem was how to best convey the techniques needed to become successful at walleyes under all conditions on the Woods.  Whether it be cold fronts, may fly hatches, or what ever adversity mother nature decided to offer up. 

After some pondering, the answer came as clear and crisp as a frosty morning. I would teach the methods that had been so highly successful for me over the years on the Lake of the Woods, and other Canadian waters. 

In Canada,  where I spend the majority of my fishing time, especially the central and northern sectors of the Woods, and  where I now spend all my fishing time,  certain presentations have proven to be so successful, that changing made no sense whatsoever. 

In fact the idea of changing to other methods suggested  that results would suffer both in size and numbers. Being a walleye educator for the last six years, a central theme has remained paramount: find them fast and catch them quick. 

Consequently, through years of experience, I have come to rely on three basic types of presentations for fishing walleyes on Canadian Shield lakes. I have found these methods to work on the various patterns that I fish from spring to fall. I use nothing else ever, these methods cover it all. Whether it be shallow, medium or deep situations; flats, points,
underwater humps, weed beds, or shoreline breaks-these methods cover all walleye situations on the Woods. 

In my mind to fish walleyes successfully on the Lake of the Woods or other Canadian Shield lakes, you need to understand and develop expertise in those three methods; rigging, jigging, and crankbaiting. Thatís it, thatís all you need to win the Lake of the Woods walleye game. 

If you used just one of these methods you could expect certain levels of success, two would be much better, but the three covers it all. Numbers and trophies can be yours, and yours consistently. I relate the use of just one method similar to a mechanic doing a tune-up with a crescent wrench. Could be done, but going to be alot more work and frustration. 

So as the walleye bell rang for opener on the Woods,  I new that I would share with our guests the methods that had produced so well me in the past. Methods that could be effectively worked whether a person used their own boat or one of our well equipped camp boats. 

One problem I knew would surface consistently, very few of our guests would have the right equipment to meet the three presentation requirements. Well, jigs would be no problem, most walleye anglers have them, and crankbaits, too. The rigs, a horse of a different color. 

The solutions came quite easily, Gregg Parley of Lite-Bite and I had developed a rigging system several years ago and we would make it available at camp for those guests who needed it. Rich Belanger of ST. CROIX FISHING RODS. answered the rod problem by implementing a demo program with Witch Bay camp as the test run. They furnished us with the exact models we use in our everyday teachings. Now this fine program is available through the St. Croix dealer network. 

Anyway, letís talk some more about these presentations, and where and when we use them. Keep in mind that this is a series of articles, and each presentation will be covered in more depth over the next few months. 

Jigging, the presentation of most walleye anglers, is quite productive throughout the season from opener to ice-up. Just like any method, it has itís strong seasons and tends to be less effective in others. We use jigging for working humps, points, and shoreline structure. Jigs are used both horizontally and vertically. 

I find jigging particularly effective for working shallow, medium, and deep. However, thereís a catch, I do not use jigs if I am having trouble marking fish on the points or humps (water deeper than ten feet). I hate fishing blind. 

However, when you are cruising a hump and the sonar lights up like a Christmas tree. Time to throughout a marker buoy and go to town. 

Shallow presentations, fishing specific structures, the sonar is only effective for showing depth of the boat. Jigging blind is the only way to go, and can be awesome. 

Letís move on to crankbaiting. I use this term for most all hard baits that require turning the reel handle to retrieve. This is extremely productive in the mid post spawn to late
summer. Key spots are shorelines of islands, weed edges, and my favorite for big eyes, off shore humps that top off just below the surface to about eight foot. 

I spend a portion of every day crankbaiting. A very high percentage of our really big eyes come from this method. My experience is that if you are going to catch an eye on a shallow hump, itíll be a big one. Enough said. 

Finally, thereís rigging. By far and away the most productive method in my opinion during the majority of the fishing season. Rigging can be productive from opener (depends on spring weather) to close up in late September. 

Mark Brumbaugh, a top money winner on the PWT, was in camp last year for two weeks. I never saw Mark use anything else but a rig, specifically a finesse spinner rig. Furthermore, spinners and bouncers won four of the PWT tournaments this year. For many top tournament anglers, when conditions permit, it is the rig of choice. By the way, Mark will be back with us next year. 

The rig is used for flats, shoreline food shelves, humps, points, and weed lines. You can cover water faster and more thoroughly than with any other presentation-bar none. I teach two types of rigging: power rigging and finesse rigging. 

Rigging is best accomplished from the bow of the boat, but can also be drifted or backtrolled. In other words, from any boat configuration, no limitations.

There are other presentations, and many work well, especially in the right situations. But for my money itís rigs, jigs, and crankbaits. The more systematic you become, the greater
success you will enjoy. Just think about the great golfers on tour, these guys are masters at being systematic, yet still being versatile. Doing what the situation calls for. 

I saw one severe limitation that seemed to restrict the success of many bow mounters. Rather than mount a sonar unit on the front of the boat and attach it to the power head of their electric motor, they would use the sonar from the counsel which was mounted on a swivel mount.  Then by turning around they could see what depth they were in. In my
mind, this is a bad deal. First if you donít get severe neck and back pain, the lack of fishing precision ought to be the clincher. Also, the counsel mounted unit has itís transducer on the transom, allowing you to see fish that you have already passed. Alot of good that does. Finally, precise boat position is virtually unavailable with this configuration.

In addition to dealing  more with these methods, weíll be covering such other topics as boat rigging, the use of sonars and GPS, and one of my favorites---How to Fish a Million Acres with No Map or Compass in upcoming issues.

About the author:
Phil Rolfe is a feature writer for Midwest Outdoors, and walleye professional at Witch Bay Camp. You can find out about Witch Bayís unique program by contacting them at
807-468-5262 or visit their web site at http://www.fishinfo.com/witchbay. Phil will be doing a fishing report from the Lake of the Woods this summer in Midwest Outdoors.

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