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When The Cold Sends Fish Deep, Get Vertical
by Daniel Vinovich

Getting Vertical sounds cool doesn’t it?  It kind of sounds like something you would hear on a ski slope or on the X-games.  Just think how cool your kids will think you are when they hear you say, “We’re hitting the water and going vertical.”  Just hearing that makes me want to fire up my 225 Mercury Outboard Motors The Water Calls. and start jumping barge waves.  My mind says yes, but my body says no more doctor bills.  Webster defines vertical as, “Directly overhead, or in the zenith; upright or perpendicular.”  That sounds a lot safer than what my son talks about at the dinner table after a day on his skateboard.

Getting vertical is by far the best way to get on a school of fish that have been pushed deep with the arrival of winter or following a cold front.  Schools of walleye and other game fish tend to seek out the deepest holes in any lake or river when the water temperatures fall quickly or as winter approaches.  Along with the fish seeking out deeper water, their metabolism starts slowing, often causing them to become lethargic and almost to the point of not feeding at all.  When this happens, your presentations must follow suit. Get deep and get slow.  The best way to accomplish this is to stay right on top of them until you find out what they want.  Think of it like ice fishing without ice.  You locate fish, drill a hole, and present small jigs and spoons very slowly to entice a hit.  Although it sounds simple, mother nature will make sure you are fighting a 20 mile per hour wind and a 7 mile per hour current, thus, making it next to impossible to put a 1/4 ounce jig down in 25 feet of water.  Now I said next to impossible, not impossible!  Boat control is the key to making a good vertical presentation a great fish catching tool.  The key word here is control.  Lets see what Webster has to say on that word. “To have under command; to regulate to check”.  Unlike the ice, the boat is always moving.  Whether from the current or wind gusts, you are not going to stay vertical unless you keep the boat in check. To do this, you must first have the proper equipment.  You will need a good set of electronics such as a Lowrance Electronics the walleye pro's choice X-75 or X-85.  These units, when equipped with a trolling motor transducer, work quickly to update you on depth and where the school is holding.  The second piece of equipment you will need is a good electric trolling motor.  I see hundreds of boats on the water each year, and for some reason, they have the biggest power plant they can get on back, but an undersized electric on the bow.  Now I cannot figure that one out since 95% of their time spent out fishing is in the bow on the electric motor.  I guess what I am trying to say is get the biggest electric trolling motor you can afford, even if it means you have to drop a couple of horses off the back to do it.  This is great.  I have a good trolling motor and good electronics.  Now I know I am forgetting something.  Oh well, lets get on the water.  “The wind is picking up, as is the current, and I am having a hard time keeping vertical.  Turn up the speed on the trolling motor,” my fishing companion says from the back of the boat.  “It is up,” I said.  I know what I forgot, a good set of batteries and charger.  Don’t laugh.  I have seen even the most seasoned veterans go dead in the water.  All of the best electric powered equipment in the world is not worth a hoot without the juice to keep it running.  Be sure to have your batteries checked before every season and, by heavens sake, invest in a good charger.  I have been using a good one for the last couple of years.  It is made by Charge Tech, a company out of California.  The nice thing about their chargers is that they have an LED read out on the charger that enables you to monitor the batteries’ status throughout its charging phase.  It also comes with a feature which enables me to keep it plugged in without fear of boiling my batteries so I don’t have to keeping charging over the hard water times.  You can look at their full line of chargers at www.chargetek.com or by calling {805}278-4925 to ask for a free catalog. 

Vertical jigging is done by using your trolling motor to offset the wind and current.  In a lake, it is fairly simple since wind is the major element to contend with.  Here is a little tip to remember.  When you are running and spot fish on your electronics, they are behind you in your path of travel. Electronics can only process information sent from the transducer so fast.  So slow down and back track your trail until you see them again  before throwing your marker.  The first marker works as a reference.  Be prepared to toss another when the first fish is boated.  Now lets go one step tougher and throw in a nice cross current to an already windy day similar to that found on a river.  River fishermen call vertical presentations, slipping the current.  Slipping is a technique in which you run upstream of the school and position your boat in the path as to pass over the top of the stationary school.  This is done by pointing the bow of your boat into the wind and matching the current speed.  I mark a school of fish using a visual reference point on the shore, such as a bridge, water tower, or maybe a fallen tree, along with the specific depth the fish were holding on my electronics.  This sounds quite primitive with the electronics available to today’s fishermen, but I guarantee it is quite effective.  With a little practice, you too can fish one of the deadliest presentations known to the walleye world.  So hey dude, I’m going vertical.

See ya’ on the water!
E-mail Dan at trolling@mtco.com

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