Even though many of you reading this report south of the Canadian border have been experiencing severe summer heat, we have yet to see a day above 90 at the Wheel this year. This week in particular was beautiful with high temps in the mid to upper 70s and then cooling off at night.
Walleye fishing was good this week, despite the fact that there is still a very clear separation between different groups of walleyes utilizing starkly different types of structure and depth zones. It was not uncommon to hear reports of walleyes caught from 3 ft. and from 33 ft. in the same boat on the same day. There are still some walleyes shallow in the weeds and there also some that are out on main lake, deep water rock and sand. The rest are in between or suspended. In general, we did find more big fish trending deeper.
For the week, we caught and released 47 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 1 – 29, and 1 – 30. Volume varied greatly. Some days we averaged well above 40 over 18 in. per boat, but on days with flat calm afternoons, we dropped off to an average of 25.
With the walleyes so spread out, we relied on “the program” to hunt down each day’s best option for a successful bite. “The program” is to fish it all with a rapid series of experiments that apply a variety of presentations to target different groups of walleyes in an array of depth zones and habitats. It sounds like a hot mess on paper, but here is an example of how a day plan works….
Spot 1 – targeting big fish on deep water sand. Presentation – Pulling big gulp at speed. Scan the sand break, note the depth of arcs and bait fish – tie on ¾ oz jigs with Big Berkley Gulp plastics and make a first pass at 1.2 mph zig zagging between 20 and 30 ft.
Possible result: 1 walleye over 24” and 2 slots in 40 minutes – move on.
Other possible result: 5 walleyes with 2 slots, 1 – 22, 1 – 24, and 1 – 26 – do it again.
Spot 2 – check the weed bite. Dragging ¼ oz. jigs in front of the windblown weed beds in 10 – 14 ft. of water with minnows.
Possible result: 2 eaters, and 1 slot in – 30 minute pass – move on.
Other possible result: 4 small ones, 5 slots, 1 – 22, and 1 – 25 in 30 minutes – do it again.
Spot 3 – check for negative to neutral fish on mid depth rock. Scan with sonar. Locate arcs. Drop down ¼ oz jigs with minnow and see if those fish will rise up to check out baits.
Possible result: 2 – 3 walleyes rise up to check out baits and fade back down only to rise back up again. Option – down size to 1/8s and slow down.
Other possible result: catch 4 slots and 3 on the sheet in an hour and do it again.
Analyze results. Monitor weather changes. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The point is that as much as we would love to have a magic bullet or a secret bait, the real answer to the question on most days is hard work and a systematic, disciplined approach attached to time and results. It is tough and if you miss just one tiny detail, even the most seasoned guide can miss the hot bite. The great equalizer is shared information. Even when you have completed 15 different walleye experiments to perfection and failed to find a good result, you know that when you get back to the lodge and meet at the round table, several of your buddies will have figured it out and some will have had spectacular results. You take that information and move on, because tomorrow is another day and the board is wiped clean.
We did spend a bit of time chasing gators and the results were just O.K. For the week we found good volume, but only 4 over 37 with 1 – 38 and 1 – 40.
Years and years ago, I was a “Product Specialist” and Aquarium Biologist at the first big Cabela’s retail store in Sidney, NE. This was the day and time of the late night and fishing show ads for the “Banjo Minnow.” I would have to talk to 40 – 60 people each day and explain to guests that there is no secret lure, there is no magic bait, and there is no short cut. Consistent success is most often correlated to hard work, research, and disciplined experimentation.
That same message consistently resonates through our current nightly round table meetings, especially when the walleyes are dramatically dispersed.