I ended last week’s report with a discussion about adjusting strategies to changing weather conditions. Well the strategies definitely were adjusted this week. The rain that began last week continued and built into a full-on monster rain event/cold front. We had guests this past week that ate every “shore lunch” at the lodge. Wind increased and temperatures plummeted through Monday and Tuesday as the rain gauge filled. Overnight temps fell into the mid-30s and by midweek, the surface temps on the main lake fell more than 20 degrees. More than 3 inches of rain fell, the lake level shot up over a foot, and it continues to rise each day.
This was the second game changing weather event of the fishing season. The result is that the smallmouth bass bite was put on “pause,” the pike bite evaporated, and the walleye bite was great, as long as you were comfortable hunting them between 8 ft. and 38 ft. of water. I was actually quite surprised by how good the walleye fishing was. It was never easy, and we never stacked a bunch of fish from just one or two spots, but the end results were great. For the week we had 47 walleyes over 27 in., including 8 – 28s, and 1 – 29. Volume was good with guide sheets averaging 35 – 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
There was no walleye pattern. The guides spread out and fished Spring, Transition, and Summer spots. They caught fish shallow and deep. They caught walleyes pulling big jigs with Gulp Alive plastics at speed and they caught them dead stickin’ with 1/8s and minnows. We usually came up with a general consensus for the day, but the pattern never lasted. Versatility was the key. We relied on high quality electronics and our knowledge of the area to key in on time specific bites and when that bite faded, we continued the search elsewhere.
We tried to be versatile with Bass and Pike as well, but the results were much less successful. Aside from one rogue 42 in. pike caught by Jim Layton, we were virtually shut down while casting for gators this week. When surface temps fall from 79 to 58, you know that there is little or no incentive for a big pike to be in the skinny water and all of our pike fisherman want to cast for shallow fish. Result: Tough week for pike fishing.
Bass fishing was OK, but I was expecting it to peak this week. The cold front and falling water temperatures actually reversed the progression of the bass spawning season and sent some fish back down out of the shallows. Tubes were less effective and surprisingly, small cranks and jigs and twister tails turned more fish than expected. We typically encounter this pattern more often during pre-spawn conditions. For the week we had 59 bass over 18 in., including 15 – 19s, and 1 – 20. Result: Bass fishing was OK, but both guests and guides expected better.
It always comes down to weather. If you were a repeat guest booked into the Wheel this week and you were hoping to catch big bass and/or big pike, then you were a little disappointed. Return guests that came up hoping to catch numbers and/or size for walleyes told us that they were quite surprised by how many big fish they caught, despite the tough conditions. Once again, guides were successful by changing their strategies and targets.