|A trophy hunter friend of
mine once said, " Catching big fish is not all that difficult, just
fish big fish waters, and fish em when they're bitin'. So simple, yet
The Lake of the Woods fits
the bill as a legitimate big fish water. Okay, we have got the water, now
when is the best time?
Normally I would answer by
saying hands down that July is the best time for trophy walleye action,
and that August is the second best month. I am not considering late fall
in this discussion as many of the lodges are shut down for the season.
I know, I know, what about
June? Isn’t that the best month to fish walleye in Canada?
If you talk to resort owners
up north, they would tell you that they wish all months were like June
for bookings. But what does bookings have to do with catching fish.
True, June, especially later
in the month, can be very good. On certain other waters, especially where
there are incoming streams and rivers, June can be dynamite. On the Lake
of the Woods, early June, as was the case the last two years, was only
mediocre. Water temperatures had not warmed to sufficient levels to kick
in the great action the Woods is noted for.
This year, which is a month
ahead of last year; and three weeks ahead of normal, makes June a good
bet as well for consistently good numbers and trophy potential. Opener,
which is the third Saturday in May, should be equivalent to mid June conditions
if the weather patterns hold up.
Some of the best early action
will take place along the main shorelines and shallow bays adjacent to
those main lake shorelines. The shorelines should be worked with bottom
bouncers and spinner rigs. For this early presentation, I will be moving
slower than the power presentations of summer. My rod of choice here is
a TC70LM by St. Croix; this rod has a fast, reactive tip, which is ideal
for this finesse presentation. Even though I said I would be moving slower
than the hot summer action, bouncing is still much faster for covering
water than most all other methods.
I will use smaller blades,
starting with the hammered nickels, brass, and golds in number three sizes.
The bouncer will be 1 1/2 to 2 ounce Lite Bites, heavier in strong winds.
My reel setup will be an Ambassadeur T3000C spooled with ten pound Trilene
XT. The T3000C has a flippin switch, which is a necessity for precise bottom
control and snag avoidance. This reel because of its smoothness and accurate
adjustment capabilities has become my baitcaster choice as well.
As the fish move along the
shorelines, they will stop in the shallow bays to munch down on spawning
baitfish. The fish will be shallow during this period more than most any
other time of the year, so working the shorelines both rocky and weedy
is a good bet. Pitching light weight jigs with plastics or live bait is
a good presentation, but I also find that throwing smaller crankbaits such
as Rapala’s Shad Raps in SR05 and SR07 or smaller Husky Jerks is a good
bet, as well.
You need rods that will maximize
casting distance for these light baits. For the jigs, I use a LS70ML, which
is a medium light actioned fast tipped rod spooled with 6 pound Trilene
XL. For light crankbaits, I use the St. Croix Pro Glass GC66ML coupled
with the T3000C baitcaster. This is the only setup whereas I have been
able to baitcast a number seven Shad Rap let alone a number five. The precision
and distance amaze me with this rig.
As conditions continue to
warm, the fish will start moving to shoreline flats of islands in the closest
proximity to the main shorelines. They will also start to use humps that
are near these islands. A bouncer is still my main weapon. Bouncing is
my search tool, however, when I find a pod of fish on a point or inside
turn, I will stop and vertical jig them. Vertical jigging works the best
when the fish are concentrated in a small area.
Cranking or pitching the
shallow shorelines and humps is a good bet as well. I like to work this
in the afternoons or on cloudy over cast days. The fish are less concerned
with bays but will use open water shallows for the remainder of the season.
Shallow fish are active fish, and most of the time bigger. The major part
of the population will be at around twenty feet; there will be some half
way up, and some very shallow. There is always some continually moving
up and down.
Please bear in mind that
at least two thirds if not more of the trophies came from water less than
eight feet. The big numbers came from the twenty-foot range. You decide
what you want. How about both? Work shallow and deep, and in between.
This transition process finally
evolves into the full-blown summer patterns. The eyes have moved from the
shorelines and near shoreline islands to the main lake islands and humps.
The best structures hold the best fish. When you catch fish, always ponder,
"Why are they here?"
Since the ice melted, there
has been a continual transition process. Now the water temperatures are
the most even that they will be all year (with the exception of the hard
water period). The patterns are predictable. The females have regrouped
after the rigors of spawning and the recovery period. Large groups of fish
are traveling together. The bite is good.
I use the same presentations
that I started the season with. However, I now because of the walleye’s
high metabolism, speed becomes an issue. I now use power bottom bouncing
method as well as the finesse style. This is merely moving quicker and
using the right equipment to accomplish this. Best accomplished with a
stiffer rod, St. Croix ‘s PC66M which is a medium action, heavier bouncers
to maintain the correct line angle and Indiana and Willow Leaf blades as
opposed to the slower Colorado’s. Bigger blades get the nod especially
during periods of steady weather. We could be using as big as a number
six or seven Indiana. The fish will tell you.
However, during extreme cold
fronts, downsize your blades to the spring sizes or use just a plain snell.
Once again, the fish will tell you.
Moreover, bigger cranks are
the ticket as well. The forage has grown and the fish want bigger mouthfuls.
Also, speed up your retrieve, they will now chase a bait, whereas in the
spring they wouldn’t move far for a meal.
Weather is one of the major
influences on the quality of the fishing. This year could be a real dandy.
This year is going to work for your benefit, so take advantage of your
good fortune--a longer, better fishing season on the Woods.
All right, so when is the
best time to go to the Woods, looks like June, July, or August. Of course
if you can’t make that, then September or October will work. The reality
is there is no bad time to fish the Woods.