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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
Witch Bay Camp
Lake of the Woods Walleye
No Summertime Blues Here

By Phil Rolfe

Summertime is when many anglers go fishing, however, it is considered to be less than prime time in most areas. This is not the case on the Canadian Shieldís premier water, the Lake of the Woods. Here, summer is as good as it gets! 

Lodge owners up north of the border wish all booking months equaled June, by far the busiest month for Canadian fishing. Granted, June can produce some great fishing, but it can also be sporadic, especially in the early part when the weather can change dramatically from to day to day. 

For my money, the best period to fish the Woods is from late June through the end of September. The weather is usually the best and most consistent of the year. Fishing patterns are identifiable and productive. The system is at peak production, forage hatches have long since happened, the water temperatures are the most equal of any time of year. Walleyes have many options available, and if you know these choices then you are ahead of the game. 


After spawning in the spring, the fish enter the post spawn period for a  time. This period is a gradual progression with the fish filtering towards their summer haunts, where they will spend more time than any other period excluding the frozen water period. 

As I said, the progression is a gradual one, with the walleyes moving along the main and island shorelines gradually dispersing throughout the system. Shallow shoreline flats, near island or shore humps, and warm water bays can be key stopping points. Spring fish are wanderers, a day or two here, then gone. 

As the sun rises higher in the sky, the heat gradually warms the waters and the eco system moves towards full tilt. Consequently, walleyes have more food options.
Even though many fish still use the shallows, mid and deep water patterns open up. Additionally,  females are regrouping and relating to predictable structures. Fishing becomes very consistent. 

Letís look at some of my favorite locations on the northern part of the Woods. My favorite is the rocky shorelines of islands. Most all of this section of the Woods is rocky, which is either one of two basic types. Thereís round rocks,  from small to boulders. Then there is a good amount of granite wall  rock with some broken pieces dotting the shore. Of the two, the round rocks produce consistently the best, offering crevices for the forage to hide in and cover for walleyes to shade and ambush from. However check the wall rock as well, especially the subtle points and cups along the shoreline.The granite walls seem to be better early or late in the season. Likewise, the rock shorelines do not run in straight lines, but are irregular with inside and outside turns, points, gentle and steep drop offs. The fish will hold along these irregularities.

The walleyes can be either shallow, mid, or deep(over 20í) along these structures. The biggest numbers of fish seem to hold at the deeper ranges but depending on weather conditions, good numbers can be shallower or mid depths, as well. An overcast windy day could move part of the population shallow. Nonetheless, keep in mind that not all the fish are doing the same thing at the same time. They are using all three depth ranges. 

Number two on my list is off shore humps that top off from just above the surface down to about twenty feet. One common feature of the better humps is that they have ledges or stairways which provide entry points up to the structure. Humps with shear drop offs are not near as productive because of the lack of holding stations at various depths. 

The fish that come off the tops of the shallower humps seem to be bigger although less in numbers than the deeper humps. A very high percentage of the really big fish come from less than eight feet, but then again, you canít exclude the depths either. My biggest walleye of the year came out of 27 feet. 

And finally, mid to deep flats, rank high on my list. Many anglers think of these as structureless, but yet they often hold massive amounts of active fish. Scattered over these flats are small rock piles, scattered boulders, one or two foot depressions, and scattered weed patches. Flats are the most overlooked hot spots in walleye fishing, consequently,  you usually have them all to yourself. 

Granted there are many patterns, but my experience has proven to me that these certainly rank at the top of my list. 

Using a good map such as the Ministry of Fisheries 6212 chart for our area will reveal potentially good spots to try. Water shallower than twelve feet is denoted by blue shading and very easy to recognize on the map. I am particularly impressed with the accuracy of this map. It shows everything. Properly used, not only can you find good fishing spots,  but keep your boat off the rocks as well. Fishing Hot Spots also produces  fine maps of the Woods. 

The great part about summer patterns is that in a very high percentage of locations you can use your sonar to mark fish. The exception being the shallow fish which you must fish to find. Keep this in mind though, say you are fishing an area that past experience has shown holds fish and you are not marking any. Fish it anyway. Many times a weather change will put the walleyes belly to the bottom and unrecognizable on your screen. 

As the walleye pro at Witch Bay Camp, I now spend all of my fishing time on the Woods. I find the use of a GPS a necessity not only for marking fishing spots and routes, but denoting serious hazards to navigation as well. One unit for this water really stands out, the Lowrance Electronics the walleye pro's choiceGlobal Map 2000 by Lowrance. Available as an option for this unit is a map reader coupled with a C-Map cartridge (Lake of the Woods-North), it shows basically the same

information as the map. I mark the hazards as ďDangerĒ on my screen and use caution in navigating them. Many of my ďDangersĒ are also some of my best fishing spots. The only way you could get lost using this unit is if you couldnít find the ďonĒ button. 

At Witch Bay Camp , my chief responsibility is to put our guests on the best fishing spots---absolutely free. It would poor public relations for me to lead a caravan of boats over a hazardous rock pile. I need to know where the obstacles are. In fact when I go to a new area, I search out the off shore reefs that may eliminate my lower unit, and not only put them in the GPS, but fish them as well. 


I use three basic presentations whether it be spring, summer, or fall. They are rigs, jigs, and crankbaits. Over the years, I have simplified, and narrowed my arsenal to what works best for me. Furthermore, with these methods, I can work shallow, medium and deep. 

During the summer, I will use a bottom bouncer and a rig at least seventy percent of the time. Iíll use the rig on shorelines, humps, and flats. In the same fashion, Iíll use the rig with spinners, or with a plain snell. Weather conditions and consequently fish behavior will determine which setup Iíll use. The rig works best for medium to deeper fish, which is what I devote most of my time to during the summer and early fall. 

Letís say for example, a cold front has passed through, Iíll downsize my spinner and work basically the same areas that produced pre frontal. I often work slightly deeper and pay more attention to inside and outside turns. Cold front fish like to tuck in cover on two or three sides, the good news is they are grouped and cacheable. However, if the fish are not taking the bait, Iíll go to a plain snell and slow down. Experience has shown me that walleyes will do little or no serious chasing in early cold front conditions. 

To go on, as I said earlier,  post frontal fish are more tightly grouped and when found, I find a jig very productive, in fact the most productive for taking grouped fish. Along this vein, Iíll throw out a marker buoy and work these fish thoroughly with a vertical presentation til the action subsides. Then, Iíll move on with the rig and find a new pod of fish and repeat the process. Relate to it like this, find them with a bouncer and pick them off with a jig. The two go hand in hand. 

My rod for the post frontal bouncing is a ST. CROIX Tidemaster 76LM which is a 7í6Ē fairly lightweight rod with an extremely fast tip. Using lighter bouncer weights, and moving much slower, I am able to detect the lightest of bites. 

Accordingly, during consistent steady weather periods, I find that speed not only  allows me to cover water, but adds an extra trigger to the already lethal spinner rig. For this presentation, Iíll use relatively big blades, more weight than the slower presentation, and a

heavier rod such as a ST. CROIX PC66M. Indiana blades (sizes 4-6) make a good choice for this time of year. 

However, if the bite is really hot, Iíll go to a willow leaf,  and up my bow mount to near maximum, add more bouncer weight (usually three ounces), and really fly. The eyes will really whack this bait. Opposed to colder periods, the walleyes will chase baits aggressively during the warmer water periods. One mistake many anglers make during this period is working the bait to slow. Summer is a time for speed. 

Bottom bouncing is a whole book or at least several articles to do it justice. It has become the rig of choice when conditions permit for many of the top touring pros. It has been my rig of choice for over eight years. However, I have in a few rare instances seen when it was not the answer. 

Here are some basics about the rig. I use a thirty inch snell, either with blades or plain, rigged with three #4 hooks, spaced two and one half inches apart, tipped with a big stretched crawler. For the spinner set up, I use a Quick Change  clevis placed behind (nearest the rod tip) five or six 5mm beads. A favorite bead color arrangement for me is alternating red and green. I have no earth shaking theories on beads, they all seem to work fairly good. Basically, I feel they keep the spinner from being to close to the hooks. Granted, I am sure other pros can offer theories like match the hatch or have some red in the arrangement to emulate the look of flared gills, but for me I have not been able to determine any significant differences. 

For blades, you canít go wrong with hammered nickel, brass, gold or colors such as orange, fuscia, purple, chartreuse, white, and black I carry three styles, mainly Colorados and Indianas, but also willow leafs. A variety of sizes to cover all situations is necessary, with more of the bigger sizes such as 4ís through 6ís. The fish will tell you what they want. It is a good idea for everyone in the boat to start with a different color and then go to the ďhot one.Ē 

As I said earlier, the rig and jig go hand in hand. However there are times when a jig is the best way to fly. One these occasions is when the sonar lights up like a Christmas tree while cruising a mid to deep hump. Especially if the crest of the hump is on the small side, about the size of a small house. 

Vertical jigging can be the hot ticket here. Pick them off one at time. Mark one, fish it, catch it, and move to the next mark. Works great. However, the downside is that for the most part my sonar lights up only rarely. 

The point is that when fish are concentrated and markable, you have the perfect situation to vertical jig. Now this could be like the on the hump I just mentioned, or other locations

like the tips of points, or tucked tight on an inside turn. Wherever fish are grouped and markable. 

For vertical jigging in this manner, I use a relatively short rod, keeping the jig closer to the boat and in the transducer cone, such as a ST. CROIX PS60M. For reels, I like the Shimano Solstace 2000 with the rear drag and the fighting lever which quickly allows you to increase or decrease the amount of resistance. A premium six pound test works great in this situation. 

Finally, but no less important is throwing artificials. This is a big fish presentation best worked on off shore shallow humps. I find that it works great on humps that top off near the surface down to about eight feet. Granted it also works well on weedlines and along rock shorelines, but the Woods in our area is mostly rock, the weeds are in the bays and I find the bulk of the population to be using main lake structures. Donít get the wrong idea, there are some fish in the bays, just not great numbers. 

I will work a variety of baits for this presentation such as Rapala the lures of choice Husky Jerks, smaller spinner baits, and Shad Raps. My experience has shown that aRapala the lures of choice # 9 Shad Rap to be a top producer. Even though the # 9 will run about ten feet deep, casting it to much shallower water is no problem. Just nurse it out from the shallows, always ticking the bottom, keeping an ever delicate hand so as not to plant itself in the rocks. With practice, you will learn to quickly feel when the bait starts to become lodged, do not pull,  but let the line go slack, and the bait should float up. 

I got my hand on some new Rapala the lures of choiceRapala Risto Raps and had good success with them as well. Going to load up with these before I head north. 

As I have said, this is a big fish pattern, not a numbers game. Generally, I have found  that there will be a few fish of quality or a really big sow, or none at all. This is the reason, Iíll devote some part of each day to working this pattern. Furthermore, catching walleyes casting is as good as it gets. 

Remember there are no absolutes in walleye fishing, there are only guidelines. These methods and presentations have worked for me, and have risen to the top of my arsenal because of their results. 

 But, to conclude, I would like to leave you with these thoughts that I always keep in mind. If what you are doing isnít working, try something else. If you are fishing shallow and not getting any action, fish deeper. The point I want to make is that you have to be versatile and creative. Donít die with 

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