Cutting Big Water Down to Size
by Norb Wallock
Finding walleyes on big water can be a real challenge; So much so that
it may scare many anglers away. It’s easy to understand why, especially
when you consider all of the options. Questions come to mind like; Just
where do you start? And how do you start? Do you rig, jig, crank or bounce?
Do you fish
deep, shallow, or somewhere in-between ? With so much water to cover
and so little time, there is no way you can do it all. Rather than trying
to cope with more than you can handle, anglers might be better servedby
taking a smaller slice, and concentrating their efforts on an amount that’s
much more manageable. A promising “slice” would include some shallow water,
some deep, and a little in between. The shallowportion of your slice should
contain good shallow structure like rock and gravel bars, reefs, and shorelines.
The mid section of your slice should include some flats, break lines, and
off shore bars and humps, depending upon what’s available. The deeper portion
of your slice might hold a deeper hump or two, or may be nothing more than
an open water basin. If you can, try to choose a slice that has all of
the above in relatively close proximity. By working within a restricted
area, you can save valuable time when you’re looking for fish, or have
to make major move.
When sizing up your “slice”, there are some factors that need to be
considered, including seasonal movements, ( like during the spawning period),
water temperatures, clarity, and the available forage base. The spawning
cycle is a dominant factor in bringing walleyes shallow, early in the season.
The need to
breed draws walleyes to rocks, gravel, and incoming creeks and rivers,
all of which will be located in relatively shallow water Shortly after
the spawn, walleyes begin to satisfy another very basic need, which will
ultimately determine where they can be found during the rest of the open
water season, and that’s the need to feed. If you can find what they‘re
feeding on, you will find the walleyes, period. Food sources can
range from perch to minnows and baitfish like shiners, shad, alewives,
smelt and whitefish, to name a few, depending on the specific body of water.
Walleyes will chow down on what’s
available, but show a preference for the soft finned varieties. A presence
of smelt, whitefish, or alewives, indicates a high probability that walleyes
will spend a good deal of time suspended, as these baitfish varieties spend
most of their lives suspended, out in the middle of nowhere. Another important
factor is water temperature, which can have an effect on seasonal movements
and patterns. Early in the season, look for the warmest water to hold the
most active fish. As the season progresses and water temps push in into
the low sixties and beyond, there’s generally a shallow to deep water migration,
but not always. An exception would be darker water, which can keep walleyes
shallow for most of the open water season. Clearer water means more options,
and walleyes can be found in many different places, all at the same time.
A couple of tools available to today’s angler that can help cut big water
down to size, is a good map and a
Global Positioning System. Good map’s, like those available from the
folks at Hot Spots, can provide a wealth of information, and are usually
superior to those that can be gotten through government sources. By combining
a good map and a G.P.S., you can greatly reduce the time spent looking
for specific areas, and let you spend more time fishing.
While the standard G.P.S. has given anglers a huge increase in accuracy
(especially over the previous Loran C units), a new type of G.P.S.
that utilizes the Wide Area Augmentation System, or W.A.S.S., has proven
to be superior, and delivers an unmatched level of accuracy. W.A.S.S. was
developed by Raytheon for the F.A.A., and produces accuracy to within three
less than nine feet. Anglers can also benefit from the new super accurate
signal, as Raymarine has built several units equipped to receive the W.A.S.S.
signal. Units like the Raychart 425, have W.A.S.S.capabilities, combined
with another major advancement; Navionics.Navionics allows users to display
a high quality Hotspot’s Hot Map, which shows depth and contour lines,
as well as underwater structure, and indicates exactly where you are in
relation to it all. This function is a huge advantage, and will greatly
reduce and even eliminate the confusion factor, as you will always know
what structure you might be on, where you’re positioned, and just where
you’re headed. Once you’ve decided where you want to fish, how you fish
is the next consideration. Certain presentationsmay be more effective at
certain times of the year, and can lend themselves to specific situations.
Jigs and rigs are considered top early season producers, and are excellent
choices when you have fish concentrated in
specific areas, like on a point or hump. However, rigging and jigging
may be much too slow when faced with thousands of acres of fishable water.
In that case, a quicker approach may be the answer, like trolling with
As you start to understand seasonal movements and locations, you can
then use that knowledge to exploremore than a slice. In fact, you may reach
the point where you can look at the whole pie and capitalize on peak conditions,
tremendously increasing your overall success rate. The thing is, you have
to crawl before you can walk, and taking just a slice will help you do
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