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Friends in Low Places


Editor's note: John Kolinski is the Professional Walleye Trail's 2002 Angler 
of the Year and a 12-time championship qualifier during eight years as a pro 
angler on the PWT, RCL and Masters Walleye Circuits. His articles can be read in many Midwestern outdoor publications and at several web sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Normark/Storm Lures, MinnKota, Lindy Legendary Tackle, Flambeau, Tempress Rod Holders, Off-Shore Planer Boards, Berkley Trilene, Optima Batteries, and Panther.

It's late summer, and with few exceptions, the easy walleye bites are gone.
The spring run to spawning areas is ancient history. The postspawn window 
when walleyes spent much of their day gorging themselves in shallow water has 
closed. Early summer concentrations of fish on sand flats and along shoreline 
breaks have dissipated. Other biological factors are at work, too. 
Light penetration and water clarity drive fish deep for most of the day. So 
do water temperature and the availability of desireable forage.
As the temperature increases in a body of water, so does a walleye's need for 
sustenance. But roaming the shallows and chasing three-inch minnows, leeches 
or crawdads expends energy which, in turn, requires more food. It's a 
never-ending circle.
It's far more efficient for predators to follow larger baitfish like chubs, 
smelt and alewifes into the deeper, cooler water they prefer. And that's where 
a well-placed live-bait rig can do some serious damage when other anglers are 
beating the shorelines to a froth or trolling aimlessly in search of fish that 
never seem to stay in one area for very long.
In many late-summer situations on reservoirs, natural lakes and major river 
systems, the largest walleyes probably spend no more than a few minutes of an 
average day on a major feeding reconnaissance mission. And it probably occurs at times when the majority of anglers are dreaming about trophy fish rather 
than pursuing them. Instead, these fat, lazy walleyes spend most of their time lounging around  near areas where they might feed during those brief periods each day or night. They're hanging around in the deep water near main-lake points, weed lines, rockpiles, humps and creek channel edges. 
Typically, we're talking about water that's 20 to 40 feet deep, although I've 
experienced situations where walleyes could be caught as deep as 70 feet. 
That's why rigs are an ideal way to go. You can take them to any depth you 
want and by late summer we're dealing with negative or neutral fish that aren't 
eager to chase crankbaits or hammer a jig. They're likely to completely ignore 
a crankbait and while they might grab hold of a well-placed jig for a few 
seconds, they won't hesitate to drop it if they feel the slightest weight or 

John Kolinski shows off a fine Devils Lake Walleye
However, if you serve up the right snack, they will often eat it.Electronics are a critical element in finding these fish. You can waste a lot of time hoping to catch fish that you believe should be in a certain area. Your chances improve dramatically when you know the fish are present, and I count on my Lowrance LCX-19C color unit, which provides the power and resolution to single out a walleye lingering belly-to-the-bottom in 60 feet of water. In turn, I can work each fish individually, and that can pay big dividends over 
the course of a day. My MinnKota Genesis bow-mount electric motor makes working those fish easy. 
It enters and leaves the water electronically. If I find out that the fish I'm 
seeing are not the species I'm after, or I just plain can't get them to bite, I raise up the Genesis and idle along with the main engine until I find another candidate.
Bait consists primarily of large leeches, crawlers, shiners and chubs. 
Leeches and crawlers come into play when the water is less than 30 feet deep. Chubs and shiners are usually my first choice in any water deeper than that, 
although I've also had good success with them a bit shallower.Whatever the bait, it must be fresh and lively. And it's hard to beat a redtail chub for energy and fish appeal. In fact, redtails are almost like fishing with an alarm on the end of your line. When they sense danger (usually in the form of a walleye) they become extremely nervous and you will feel them tugging on your line in an attempt to escape. Invariably, a sharp thump will follow from a walleye that simply can't resist the wiggling appetizer.
Lindy Little Joes No-Snagg Rig Kits
Lindy Little Joe 
No Snagg Rig
I like to present my bait on a simple slip-sinker rig. I run a Lindy No-Snagg sinker up the line along with a glass bead to protect my knot, which is tied to a barrel swivel large enough to stop the sinker. Behind the barrel swivel 
is a 3- to 6-foot leader made of 10-pound Berkley Vanish. If the leader gets much longer than that, your bait may be able to swim out of the relatively small strike zone that comes with neutral or negative fish. Basically, it pays to 
put the bait right in the fish's face.Opinions vary regarding the value of color at depth. I know that when I'm on 
bodies of extremely clear water, I can easily see my lures 15 feet deep. It seems to me that a walleye can see some shades of color much deeper than that.In fact, I think color matters all the time. It's something different that can catch a fish's attention in a murky, dark world where everything else looks much the same
The two primary ways to add color to a live-bait rig are through the use of 
glass beads or colored hooks. If I'm using crawlers, I like to run a two-hook 
harness. For leeches, a single No. 4 hook will do. With 4- to 6-inch chubs, a 
No. 2 hook seems to hold them firmly and keep them alive for quite awhile when the hook is worked into the mouth and up through the top of the head.
Some anglers prefer to tail-hook their chubs and some hook them through the 
top of the back. Both catch their share of fish, also.If snags are a problem, I prefer a Lindy No-Snagg hook, which has a wire barb to protect it from hanging up.Using the right rod, reel and line can increase your catch dramatically. It's important to feel even the slightest bite so you can feed line when a fish hits. That's also why I go with slip-sinker rigs rather than bottom bouncers. I've found a 7-foot Berkley Series One spinning rod armed with an Abu Garcia Cardinal 502 reel spooled with 8-pound Berkley IronSilk abrasion-resistant line is just right.
Weather conditions don't seem to affect these deep-water fish much, although 
it is easier to stay on top of them when conditions are calm. That situation 
paid off for several of us during a tournament on Devil's Lake. When we marked a fish and were able to stay on top of it, it seemed like we eventually caught that fish.When the late-summer urge to go walleye fishing grabs you, break out the rigs and go deep. You might just find that you've got friends in low places, too.

E-mail John Kolinski

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