Target Walleye/Ice email

Biggest walleye of the year, Panfish locations now, Inline vs spinning reels

Today’s Top 5

Massive 16.8-lb Bay of Quinte FREAK caught!

We’ve shared a pile of seriously-impressive walleyes this year, but Rob Henry just blew ’em all out of the water with a ridonkulous 16.8-lb freak caught (and released!) outta the Bay of Quinte. We recommend sitting down for this one:

Fish was suspended over 150′ [!] and crushed a “yellow perch” Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk trolled at 1.7 mph. Had an 8′ leader of 20-lb Sufix fluorocarbon tied to the 30-lb Sufix braid main line.

The program: Running a 3-oz Snap Weight 100′ behind an Off Shore Tackle Planer Board…then another 100′ of line back to the bait.

> Rob: “We knew it was huge when it hit…it yanked the board back and we couldn’t move it for the longest time.

> “Couldn’t have done it without Daryl Ensoll and Jason Greentree…definitely a team effort: One guy reeling, one taking the snap weight and planer board off, the other moving rods and lines (so we didn’t cross any) and netting the monster!”

Get this: The fish was caught and released juuuust before the Lindner Media crew showed up to film with ’em. Swear those big ones know whether the camera is rolling or not (lol). Insane fish, fellas!

You know the interwebz Photoshop “fish police” are lovin’ that pic:

No it’s not “Photoshopped.” But yes it is a rather generous hold on a world-class gravel lizard. As always: Would still be 16.8 lbs if he held it behind his back….

Early-season hardwater panfish locations

Early-season panfish can be scattered and not “set up” yet. Sure you might pluck one here or there, but dialing-in that first reeeeally good bite can be frustrating….

Why we reached out to Ice Force pro Kee Kong to get the lowdown on his early-season (first month of the hard stuff) plan of attack for big pannies.

Full write-up on, few excerpts below:

> Kee: “I think my early-ice approach is a little unconventional compared to some guys, but getting away from the norm seems to pay off.”

Pay off is right:


Instead of drilling out entire weed flats, Kee focuses on sharper breaklines that butt up close to ’em. Less drilling = more fishing time. A lot of times ‘gills and crappies will be hanging close together in these areas. #2for1s

> “I really like the first or second break off weed flats in the 10-16′ range. The money spot is the break in between the weed flat and a basin. A lot of early-ice panfish are slowly transitioning to their mid-winter haunts, so this is a great ambush point.

> “A lot of guys will start right in the basin, but most of those fish haven’t moved deep if there’s still decent weed growth shallow.”

> “Even though I’m usually not fishing right in the weeds, the kind of growth matters. Cabbage is king, but in a lake with tons of it I’m looking for irregularities within — think milfoil or coontail.

> “Fishing this way is cool because as the season goes on you kind of get a feel for when the majority of the fish have vacated the shallow stuff and moved out into deeper basins.”


> “I run a 500-size Shimano Sienna paired with 3-lb Sufix Ice Magic mono…3-lb because it can handle bigger fish and saves time on having to re-tie.

> “Lighter tungsten jigs like a 1/32-oz VMC Tungsten Tubby Jig are my go-to for both crappies and ‘gills.”

Likes the smaller tungsten ‘cuz it’s 1) easier for fish to inhale, and 2) you can visually see “up-bites” better due to less pressure on the rod tip.

> “I like fishing plastics more than waxies or spikes early in the year because I’m in search mode…allows me to be waaaay more efficient.

> “My go-to plastic is a purple Dave’s Wedgee…super durable and has a nice subtle action.

> “Purple is the deal — not a ton of true purple plastics on the market — but it can represent a lot of different things (minnows, bugs, etc). Crushes in both clear and stained water.”

Gravel lizards of the week!

Love me some Manitoba greenbacks! Trent Tobie iced this one on a #6 Rapala Rippin’ Rap (firetiger) in the SE corner of “Big Windy” aka Lake Winnipeg. #Stout

Trevor Kraker crushed his new PB Lake of the Woods slaunch measuring a thique 31″ x 18″. He said:

> “Feel like a true Minnesotan now that I crossed that 30″ mark. Awesome to watch it kick off down the hole and live another day.”

Ya, sure, you betcha!

Ryan Ginter plucked this near-30″ slush melon outta Lake of the Prairies, Manitoba ripping a Savage Gear Fat Vibe (rattlebait) in 18’…she crushed it just 6′ below the ice:

Inline vs spinning reel debate.

We’ve come a long way from those wooden jiggle sticks your grandpappy used to use in the darkhouse…handlining in panish next to a wood-burning stove. Nothing wrong with that [!] but if you’re looking to up your game, there’s a pile of new options for hardwater reels.

So what’s best: Spinning gear or new-school inline reels? We picked the brains of a couple diehard ice-heads to get their scoop on the benefits of each. Full write-up on, few excerpts below:

Spinning gear

There’s a reason many old-school guys stick with spinning gear for big panfish: It’s worked for YEARS! Big-pannie wizard John Hoyer is one of those fellas who loves him some spinning gear on ice, so we tracked him down to get his take on it all:

> “Part of the reason I like spinning reels is the way I hold the rod…I pistol grip, so the longer stem of a spinning reel makes it easier to dial-in that snappy cadence I like.

> “Big bull ‘gills pull hard…having a quality drag is everything. I run a lot of the same high-end spinning reels — size 10 Abu Garcia Revos — I use in the summer [for panfish] on my ice rods.”

Bonus points for getting a reel you can use all year round….

A constant knock on spinning reels is line twist – Hoyer has a cheap and easy way to combat it:

> “I’ll change line A LOT throughout the winter, but I’ll just swap out 50′ or so at a time and connect ’em with a joiner knot.

> “A little thing I do is put a small piece of tape over the joiner knot so the line doesn’t get caught when dropping onto fish.”

Inline reels

Essentially the little brother of fly reels, inlines give ice-heads a big spool that spits line out end-over-end. Biggest plus is its ability to reduce line twist and memory…so your bait isn’t doing the “circle of death” and spooking off that 10″ bluegill.

Fish-head Adam Bartusek is a new-school ice junkie who exclusively rocks inline reels for panfish. What he had to say below:

> “Having jig control on the drop is big for me. On the inlines I use, you pull the line out…so if you see a suspended mark on the way down…can stop the jig on a dime.

> “On some of the pressured lakes I fish in the metro, dropping too fast passed fish can spook ’em…an inline slows me down in a good way.”

Old-school inlines rocked a 1:1 gear ratio, but a lot of new ones have beefed-up gear systems. Adam’s go-to — the Clam Ice Spooler Elite — has a 2:3:1 ratio. This is a huuuuge plus, especially if you’re fishing over deep water for BIG basin dwellers.

Adam also has a unique way of gripping his reels: He opts for a more over-the-top grip…keeping a finger on the blank at all times.

> “I use this grip 100% of the time for panfish…feels more balanced in my hand.”

More balance = better jig control for fooling big, smart panfish.

How ’bout that ride in?

Looks like someone drew the short straw….

Lol! That pic is the definition of this meme:


1. MN: We lost two more fishing brothers.

Their side-by-side broke through a pressure ridge on Fish Trap Lake. Dangit…makes me sick.

2. NY tryin’ to be the sauger capital?

Currently running a sauger conservation mgmt plan that’s goal is to:

> …Establish and maintain sauger populations in all suitable waters of native NY watersheds by 2030.

Have pumped over 17K fingerlings and 700K fry into Allegheny Rez from 2014-2018 and said:

> Sauger from all 5 years of stocking are present in the reservoir and fish from the first year of stocking are now reaching over 20″…. Possible sauger spawning activity was even observed in the river this past spring.

3. MN: Lake of the Woods reg changes comin’ Mar 1.

Winter regs will be reduced to match the current summer regs. Fish populations are still better than ever…just looking to protect the resource with the boost in hardwater fishing pressure.

4. MN: Leech Lake walleye regs loosening up.

> …New regulations (take effect May 11) will remove the 20-26″ protected slot and replace it with a regulation similar to the statewide regulation but with a 4-fish walleye limit, only 1 of which can be over 20″.

5. ND: Almost 200,000-lbs of pike speared last winter.

Dats a lotta slime! Said they had 28,138 pike speared with an average weight of 7 lbs. #GooGone

6. Merc drops another $10 mil on testing facility.

In Fond du Lac, WI.

> The 2-story NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) Technical Center adds close to 20,000 SqFt to the more than 2.5 million SqFt campus…gives the company the largest testing facility in the marine industry. Mercury has invested more than $1B [!] globally in expansion and R&D since 2008.

7. Anyone mount rattle reels on the floor?

Always been a wall-mount guy myself, but sounds like a floor mount may help keep the dog from getting tangled in the line or having false “dings” from that happy tail-wag.

Sure, blame it on the dog ‘cuz you don’t want to put anymore holes in the wall of your Yetti Fish House lol. Don’t blame you….

This Catch Cover Safety Cover has a built-in base to use with Rattlesnake Reels. Also can pick the whole unit up and move it out of the way when fighting a fish:

They sell Extra Wall Discs so you can swap out different accessories or slap ’em on the wall instead:

8. Maybe win a Vexilar FLX-12…

…by signing up for Hooked Magazine’s newsletter. Easy enough!

9. Apparently ONLINE sport shows are a thing?

Had never heard of one before. If you hate crowds, maybe this is your thing?

10. Ever fish with “hammered” spoons?

Hammered blades flash in different directions = looking like multiple baitfish:

Those ^ Freedom Tackle Hammered Minnow Spoons look awesome! Great dirty-water color on the left, and clear-water option on the right.

Let me know if you’ve tried ’em and how you did.

Tip of the Day

Yup, there’s a right and wrong way to hook ’em. Look for the flat end ‘cuz there’s a scent sack — between the eyes — you’ll wanna “pop” to get the juices flowin’:

Kathy Roberts has logged enough on-ice hours to be called a maggot expert…a label we all strive for lol! If you didn’t know, Kathy is Dave Genz’s daughter….

Meme of the Day

[music playing in the background] It’s the most wonderful time of the year:

Today’s ‘Eye Candy

Ryan Barker’s been on a big-slab beatdown in northern WI. Check this 16.25-incher he caught (and released) jigging a Northland Forage Minnow Spoon w/ minnow head on a large mud flat. Paper-mouth? More like cardboard-mouth!

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Who is Target Walleye/Ice
Target Walleye/Ice — walleye during open water and all species during hardwater — is brought to you by Al and Ron Lindner, Jim Kalkofen, Brett McComas and other diehard fish-nuts like you! #fishheads
Brett McComas is the main man for Target Walleye/Ice. He was discovered in Brainerd, MN after years of wondering how in the heck people break into the fishing biz. He’s in it now, but still can’t answer that question…. Brett is one of those guys who majored in marketing, only because there was no such thing as a “fishing degree” at the time…. Get him at

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