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Cold Water Trolling for Walleye and Sauger
By Charlie “Turk” Gierke
If it is not the clumsiest looking walleye fishing presentation, I do not know what is, but make no mistake, a three way rig done right catches fish, especially this time of year when the water temperature is in the forties. Also called the Wolf River rig, it is versatile as it can be cast or trolled.
Here I will discuss the basic trolling three way rig, it starts by tying your line from the reel to a three way swivel, and then cut a 4 to 8 foot leader, tie one end of the leader to a floating crankbait and the other end to the three way swivel. Then cut another piece of line 12 to 24 inches long, tie one end to the swivel and the other to a weight. There are tackle/line and length variations.
The variables are line type, super line or monofilament, how heavy a weight, how big the lure, how long for the leader or dropper to the weight. All pertinent questions and all matter. Usually I go by the rule of four to one on leader length to dropper length (this ratio helps keep the lure near the bottom and yet mainly snag free), i.e. four foot leader to one foot dropper. Eight foot leader to a two foot dropper. When first employed this feels like a clumsy rig, at least until your first nice walleye pops the bait. I mention clumsy here because of the tackle used, a gaudy swivel, a dangling 2 ounce weight and a crankbait trailing behind. There are days a long leader is needed to turn more bites, this is when an eight foot leader would be used. Though many days a shorter four or five foot leader catches the fish.
Line. I use either six pound test Suffix Elite monofilament on the leader and dropper. For the line on the reel I use Suffix 832 superline 10 or 20 pound test. For bite detection many anglers prefer superline on the reel especially when fishing deep in the fall, 25+ feet. I do like the forgiveness of monofilament and use mono on the reel during a walleye bite where the fish are just nipping at the rear treble hook. For rods I use a Limit Creek LCC69MHF, and for reels I like Diawa or Okuma line counters.
Weights. Keep the weight just above bottom, and the amount of lead to use is based on: how fast you will troll, if there is current, and how deep the walleyes are. The deeper, more current, and faster boat speed all require more weight. In most cases weight choices from two to four ounces will work. Also I must mention, to stay near the bottom and yet avoid snags when trolling it is preferable to keep the line at a 45 to 60 degree angle (as a reference 90 degrees would be a perfectly straight up and down vertical and zero degrees is your line exactly parallel to the water surface).
Boat speed. Once the water temp dips below 45 going faster than 1.5mph is too fast. When the water temp is 32 or 33 degrees, a speed of .02 to .05 mph, then a boat hover in place fighting the current, then troll forward again at that snails pace is the speed you need. In short boat speed is water temp dependent.
Lures. I have found Rapala original floaters F05, F07, and F09 are your best bets to landing fish. These stickbait minnow imitators are from two to four inches in length, wobble slow, and catch fish. Jointed lures and shallow diving shad styles also work, though the benchmark is the thin and straight floating stick bait. Larger lures do not always mean bigger fish, many times the smaller the lure you can get away with is best, on the other hand I feel in the deep that a larger lure is easier for the fish to find.
I use this technique guiding on rivers, but this is not a river specific technique, it is a fact if the eyes are deep, three ways trolled along the breakline in lakes catches fish.
Casting. I mentioned that this presentation can be cast, this is a river tactic I use when I have fish pin pointed and they are holding in the current. Here I anchor in the current, cast out a three way rig, though with a leader of 10" to 12" and a leader of 2' to 3'. Also livebait not cranks. Position the boat upstream from the walleye about a medium cast length away, cast and bottom fish. The current will pull the leader downstream with the weight on the bottom, and just barely keep the bait (mainly minnows) off the bottom. Make sure you keep your line fairly tight between rod tip and the weight with no line sag or line belly. I have done excellent using this technique, and heroic weights have been landed this way in early spring Mississippi River tournaments.
Though it looks like a joke of a presentation, facts are facts, if the eyes are deep on either lake or river three ways trolled along the bottom of a breakline catch fish. The time is right to three way up walleye gold.
The author operates Croixsippi Guide Service and has won eight St. Croix River walleye tournaments (www.croixsippi.com).
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Moments of Doubt
When Reality Comes Full Circle
By Gary Rehbein
The spray of cold water flew over the bow and counsel of our boat pelting us in the face as my fishing partner and I made our way through rough water on the morning of the Excel Bass Team Tournament of Champions. The water was getting really big and it was happening quick! It made for a dicey situation, then it got much worse.
We had a significant amount of water come over the bow of our boat and it soaked us completely! Our wet weather gear was no match for the rough water, heavy winds, and the poor choice we made this morning to challenge the monster winds as we crossed Leech Lake to get to our preferred fishing location.
This past weekend I encountered a situation that helped me reflect on what it means to be at risk of harm by not being totally aware of my choices and surroundings. I was working on a fall bass fishing article and changed my topic because of the impact this recent event had on my life. Here is the story:
I was competing in my last fishing tournament of the year on Leech Lake near Walker, MN. This was the tournament of champions (TOC) for the Excel Bass Team circuit. We arrived at Horseshoe Bay Lodge at 6:15 am with great anticipation for the upcoming day. We had a tremendous prefishing excursion and were very optimistic about our chances of cashing a check at the end of the weekend. Viewing the weather forecasts for the last few day had put little doubt in our game plan, but we had talked about a plan (B) if adverse weather was going to hinder our first choice.
After putting the boat in the water, I stood on the dock and watched the flag pole for nearly fifteen minutes. It would rise and fall with the wind and then for a few moments it would sit completely still. In the back of my head I thought it might not be as bad as the predicted 17 mph winds out of the Southeast. Any wind on a large body of water like this makes fishing tough, especially when it is blowing directly were you would like to be fishing.
Making conversation with the other groups of tournament anglers my heart sank a little. Reports had been out that the wind would be in the 20’s with gust in the 30’s. Well, I stated to myself, “Looks like plan B.” Plan (B) was an area I had only fished once, but I had good success during that outing. I knew it was going to be a hard day on the water; however, I excepted the fact that we would need to wait it out to fully get a picture of what the day was going to hold.
Me and my partner made our way down to the docks after the morning tournament rules meeting. Chatting on the way, we decided that we should play it safe and stay out of the windy stuff. We lined up for blast off and when we made our way by the tournament director we put the throttle down and took off toward the calm side of the lake.
When I put the trolling motor down on our first spot, It hit me hard. The water had dropped nearly 20 degrees in five days. I was shocked! I made cast after cast with no luck. We made a move to another location and we finally put one in the box. It was a decent fish, but not what we needed to win. About an hour later, we had one more, this one was much small, but it will keep. More time had past and the frustration set in on me and my partner, but we knew where our big fish were.
My partner felt my frustration, then he stated, “Are we fishing for first! We need to go.” Fishing for second place was not on option when $7,000 separated 1st place ($10,000) from 2nd ($3,000). From the beginning of the year our goals was to be in a position to win the TOC. We strapped down everything tightly, put all the equipment in storage compartments, then we fired up the big motor and off we went.
We were more that half way there and it was not that bad, thinking we may have gotten lucky we relaxed a little. No sooner than that thought had crossed my mind, I changed my assessment. Our relaxed attitude was quickly replaced with disappointment and fear. Big water and waves were upon us and we took in lots of water, at times it came up to our ankles!
As it was, we made it back to Horseshoe Bay Lodge. With our heads down we put the boat on the trailer and talked with the tournament director about our decision to drop out of the tournament. I like taking on challenges, but for us to continue was silly at this point. We got dried off and made our way home. Thinking about this compelled me to write this article.
Safely is a huge issue when participating in outdoor activities, whether it's fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, or mountain climbing. Assessing the risks is a fundamental approach that should take priority. I continued to think of the major areas of concern that should always be addresses.
You should always: wear your personal floatation device (PDF) when boating, this includes when you are out chasing waterfowl. Every year you will read about the hunters that did not make it home when they went to the duck blind one morning. One should be diligent with safety when using firearms, whether you are target shooting or hunting. Ice fishing is around the corner and you should consider the ice conditions before you go out wondering around looking for you prime first ice locations.
I am not trying to put a damper on your outdoor adventures, I just want everyone to enjoy their outdoor experiences safely. The reality of the issue is that individuals head to the lakes, fields, woods, and marshes every year and do not make it home to their families. My reality moment hit me as hard as the water that landed in my lap. Be safe this year and ones to follow.
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Attitude Adjustment Needed
By Dennis Foster
An attitude adjustment is in order here for a good number of you. It is high time you evolve from the boring, albeit predictable anglers you have let yourselves become.
What I normally write about and try to convey concerning fishing is typically educational in nature. I attempt to pass along what I have learned from others, personal observation, and most significantly-from trying about every darn thing imaginable in order to get the confounding creatures to bite…consistently. This boils down to the mechanics of angling. Where we actually fish and how we manipulate whatever we send down below in our efforts to entice them. Couple this with some basic insight as to understanding why and what the fish are doing based on calendar periods and various weather patterns and you have at least have a base of knowledge in which to begin your hunt for whatever species tickles your fancy on any given day.
Now this is all good and fine and some may even say makes for some interesting reading; but how many of you actually break from exactly what you have been doing for years? Yeah you say, “It kind of makes sense what this guy is saying, but what I do generally works too and why stray too far from what I know and am accustomed to?”
Why you say? Because generally works is not good enough. There is an awful lot of room between generally and always. Meaning that you are having a number of trips where you catch little to no fish. If you have any sense of pride, let alone purpose at all, you should be aggressively seeking ways in which to catch fish on every single outing. I know this may be nearly impossible…but a worthy goal nonetheless. Let’s face facts here, the aesthetics of fishing can be great if the weather cooperates and it is nice just to get outdoors and enjoy Mother Nature. But I am not afraid to admit it and neither should you, I go fishing to catch fish-plain and simple. I’m greedy in that sense and have no stage of denial. I choose to meet this addiction head on. Meaning I always strive to catch more and bigger fish.
If I just wanted to be outdoors and enjoy the scenery, I could do so with much less expense and effort by simply sitting on the patio or deck of a good resort overlooking the water and enjoy the same surroundings with the added bonus of having some significantly enhanced scenery in the form of a pretty waitress bringing me cocktails as needed…or not. I will be the judge of that one.
There is plenty of time for this kind of activity once you have actually got your butt out and actually caught some fish. In order to do so consistently, you need to become a more well rounded fisherman and maybe-just maybe-apply some on the new tactics you hear so much about in all the magazines and TV shows you just can’t do without. An attitude adjustment is in order here for a good number of you. It is high time you evolve from the boring, albeit predictable anglers you have let yourselves become. Predictable in this sense is not a good thing as I can predict you can become a much better angler if you would just open your mind up to the possibilities.
Isn’t that what drew most of us to fishing in the first place? The wondering and anticipation about what was going to happen. Would the bobber go down or not? Same concept with trying new methods, as you are anticipating if that smart-alecky writer actually knows what he is talking about as you await your first bite while trying the newfangled methods he insists you must try.
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