Target Walleye/Ice email

Cane poles win derby, Rigging with mono vs fluoro, WTHeck are willow cats

Hey fish-heads! This is the only Target Walleye of the week — hope you had a great 4th and are getting some hooksets in!! Will also have just 1 Target Walleye email next week because we’ll be at ICAST (the fishing biz trade show) in Orlando. Will have a bunch of new stuff coming your way from the show floor!

Today’s Top 5

Lake Winnebago AIM won using…cane poles?

That’s what this AIM press release said about how Chad Wiskow and Josh Wallace sacked up 29.30 lbs to take home the ‘dubyah’ and an $8K payday:

Though the “cane poles” appear to have reels and eyelets on ’em in the pics? Call me old fashioned, but I was picturing something more like this — which does catch walleyes (video) on that system:

Either way it’s a seriously impressive win considering they beat out the 2nd place team by over 10 lbs! Here’s what the write-up said about their winning pattern:

> …with 16′, 14′ and 10′ cane poles…leeches and ‘crawlers on Viper Slither Rigs, slow death hooks, and Northland Butterfly Rigs on bottom-bouncers…both up and down current at 0.8-0.9 mph. It’s a setup often used on the Wolf River above Winneconne and the entire Winnebago system. Half their hits were on crawlers, and the other half on leeches.

> Wiskow: “We knew some [big females] were finally filtering back down from their spawn. With water temps staying as cold as they have it was hard to get the bigger fish to go. Usually they’re snapping pretty good…but everything was so lethargic. With the bigger fish you have to give it slow or you won’t be getting those bites.

> “There’s a lot of fish in the lake, and I had to find those still migrating back down. Had my partner go down and check the south end of the lake…he found a pile of fish, but nothing that’s going to win the tournament.

> “I figured I’d go up and bump around the [cane] beds. We must have fished 40 different beds in 2 days and caught 2 fish. So I said ‘Josh, you know what, I’ll go back and check a spot where there if there are big fish filtering through they’ll stop to bulk up.

> That meant the Wolf, and a spot upriver from Winneconne he had filed away in his memory banks…a small trough between 2 flats with lots of stones, weed patches and branches…perfect walleye ambush feeding spots.

> Wiskow: “It’s a spot that’s very out in the open, one where you’re watching tournament boats just drive by. We made 2 passes [prefishing] and pulled 3 over 20” and lost 2 others. So I said, let’s get outta here. Saturday we left it alone, and continued to fish more cane beds.

On game-day:

> Wiskow: “I don’t think we went 20′ and we popped a 13.25-incher, and I said ‘I hope these fish didn’t get that little here.’ But we went another 50′ and popped a 24.5″ and I said we’ll just have to grind ’em out here all day. We started back up again and popped a double 23.5”. We lost 8 fish up there that were all good fish.

> “…kept upgrading slowly throughout the day, and lost another couple of good fish, and got to the point where our 19.75” fish was the smallest. Then, one cane pole popped. When she rolled on the surface and dove back down, Josh scooped it in the net, and put our last 24-incher in the boat. It was 1:25 pm and we headed back to the dock.

> “I looked at Josh and said, ‘I’ve been fishing this system over 20 years and you just don’t tumble into fish of this quality every day. If this doesn’t seal the deal, I’m still going to hang my hat high and feel good.

> “I added the card up and looked back at Josh and said, ‘there’s a little more here than I thought. At that point, I said if it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be.’ And, it was.”

WTHeck is a willow cat?

“Willow cats” (AKA madtoms, willocats, whatever you wanna call ’em) are little bullhead lookin’ buggers that walleyes love to hate, in a reeeeally hungry way. Here’s what they look like thanks to a WalleyeFIRST shot I found floatin’ around the interwebz:

Would say “willow cats” are probably most commonly used in stretches of the Mississippi River (check yer local regs!) and fished around wingdams. Ted Peck is one of those river rats who’s ballsy enough to use the toxic little buggers (more on that below). Lots more info in the full Ted Peck write-up here, but a few fishy excerpts below:

> Ted: “Wingdams [man-made] are placed perpendicular to the current to funnel water, helping the Corps of Engineers fulfill their Congress-mandated mission (1878) of maintaining a channel for navigation. …initially built from willow mats and ‘one man rocks’. They’re typically placed in runs of 3, 5 or 7.

> “…fishing USUALLY picks up first on the wingdam furthest downstream. …not all wingdams are created equal…[some have] a significant low spot or a [larger] pile of rocks….

> “With a typical wingdam bite, holding your boat at the 8′ contour upstream from the rocks will put your bait in front of fish and generally keep you safe. Time on the water is the best way to read a wingdam’s fish potential on any given day.

> “If flow has it looking ‘fishy’ I usually confirm this with a quick trolling pass above the wingdam with a search bait like the Bill Lewis MR-6, then Spot-Lock and cast above the sweet spot….

> “When river levels first start dropping to the point where they attract active fish, probe the water just downstream from the rocks. The structure breaks current flow, attracts bait and fish when it just takes too much effort to stage upstream.

> “By far the best way to catch ’em is fishing a little bullhead critter called the willocat on a modified Lindy Rig — with an egg sinker and long-shank #4 Aberdeen hook 18″ below a barrel swivel.

> “Walleyes HATE willocats! The relationship is like a crow/owl thing. Walleyes will flat-out attack ’em even if they aren’t hungry. Willocats are also very durable bait…can usually catch at least 2 eyes per bait (thanks to the Aberdeen hook).

> “The downside is willocats are expensive — about $24/dozen. Most guides can’t afford to furnish this bait — especially in a truly brutal [flooded] 2019. Willocats are also incredibly toxic. Get horned and the pain is excruciating and will last for hours.

> “Most folks use leather gloves when hooking willocats through the lips to fish. Captain Hook’s Bait in Genoa, WI is the only place on the river which sells a plastic scoop called the “minnow cinch.” The willocat slides down the scoop and gets held in place long enough to hook it up.

> “Why would any walleye chaser use $2-per-minnow bait which is profoundly toxic? Because it works! We would use baby rattlesnakes which had to be hooked near the tail and baited up in total darkness if they worked.”

Speaking of willow cats…

Here’s a couple o’ big willow-cat eaters from the last week:

Matt Hogan (@mhogan05) stuck this THICK Mississippi River 29.75-incher out of a deep back-channel hole. #SecretSpot

Zack Ansell (@zansell_55) caught this 27″ rock melon “riggin’ slimy stingers” (aka willow cats) on the Mississippi River:

Possible world-record muskie came outta Mille Lacs…

Wrassled in by DNR biologists during a spring electrofishing [walleye] survey. The freak o’ nature measured a staggering 61.5″ [!] and was quickly released after a couple snaps:

Carl Klimah, Mille Lacs Band DNR fisheries manager:

> “We didn’t have a large enough scale on board to weigh [it]. A fish like this can weigh between 55- to 75-lb, but we’ll never know for sure. We can say that it was huge fish and hope that someone catches it again so we know.”

Impressive fish! But I did see one ever more bigger-er down in the SE corner of Mille Lacs, near Johnson’s Portside:

Case you’re wondering:

> The world record for a hooked muskie is 60-1/4″ caught in Hayward, WI in 1949. The [MN] state record is 56-7/8″ caught on Pelican Lake in 2016. The state record using a fly rod measured 57″, caught on Mille Lacs Lake in 2015.

Fish-ink Friday is here.

Been awhile since we’ve done a #FishInkFriday, so here we go. Kids – don’t try this at home….

What do you get when you cross a fishing enthusiast and a tattoo artist? You get @og_zygocite knockin’ this one out…of the park:

Check what @mizzkittylightning said about the permanent Father’s Day gift she gave her old man:

> My dad has always been an avid fisherman, so we gave him his favorite Rapala lure [a “firetiger” color #11 Jointed Rapala] with the “day he got snagged” AKA my folk’s anniversary date!

Now he’ll never lose his favorite bait, and has zero excuses ’bout forgetting such an important date (lol). Bonus points for the loop knot:

Never underestimate the power of a curly-tail grub. @theonetrickpony shot:

Now James Reamer has two StrikeMaster Lazer Mags — that’s dedication dude!!

This @knoteyetattoo piece looks real enough to automatically put Kev over his limit on Mille Lacs Lake, without even wetting a line….

Ever seen Al’s Jigging Rap neck tat? Tough to spot under those collared shirts:

Lol just kidding…but you know he does always have one with him.


1. ND: Zeebz found themselves a new home.

In Lake Ashtabula, and the first time they’ve been documented in a NoDak lake…but were found in the Red River in 2015.

Unfortunately with the way they spread, it’s probably the first of many lakes that will get a case of the zeebz…. We now have ’em in 180+ lakes ‘cross the border in MN.

2. MN: Boat registration fee increase…

…going to invasive species prevention.

> The 3-yr watercraft registration is increasing from $5 to $10.60. This is the first increase in the AIS registration surcharges since 1993. Watercraft owners will pay the increased fee when registering new watercraft, or when the registrations on existing watercraft come up for renewal.

> The increased fee will provide an increase of $880K per year for the DNR’s invasive species program for fiscal years 2020-21.

3. Yo-Zuri’s droppin’ a smaller Rattl’n Vibe.

Will be a tasty 1-5/8″ (3/16-oz) size for you ice-heads. 12 different colors, 4 of which are UV and designed specifically for ice fishing:

Has a “downward shimmy, swimming action on the fall and a really tight wobble action on the rip.” Some more info in this vid just posted today:

4. ND: Krieger/Ellingson win Lake Sakakawea AIM.

5. What Lowrance says about its new trolling motor.

> …unique Ghost design makes it the quietest trolling motor on the market. The key to its silent operation is a specially developed brushless motor that’s 30% quieter than today’s top-selling trolling motor — all without emitting electromagnetic interference, which keeps your sonar view clear from onscreen clutter.

6. IA: Zeebz found in Crystal Lake.

Ironic considering zebra mussels should make the lake even more crystal clear.

7. ND: Bighead carp caught in James River.

> “High water levels in the James River this year have facilitated their movements upstream, providing an opportunity for them to enter the state from the SD portions.”

8. SD: Dead carp washing up on Lake Andes.

9. IL: Survey says…no Asian carp in Chicago waterways.


10. MN: Downrigger walleyes on Lake of the Woods (video).

Never done it, but want to. Though I think you could catch walleyes on ANYTHING at a place like Lake of the Woods.

11. MN: DNR wants Lake Vermilion muskie scales…

…to help biologists estimate the number of adult muskies in the lake and “provide a better understanding of muskie movement and behavior.”

12. MN still trying to understand invasive starry stonewort.

And how to stop the spread, or at least keep it in check.

13. WA’s got new regs out.

14. I’ve never been on a fly-in fishing trip…

…but after watching this Manitoba vid I’m gonna have to change that:

Headline of the Day

What is killing the walleye of Otter Tail County?

Wow…. Does anyone hate muskies — or the DNR — more than this guy??? Not even sure what to say after reading this write up besides:

Tip of the Day

Mono vs fluoro when rigging for walleyes.

Don’t forget: Mono floats! There’s times when that can help keep your bait out of snags and in a walleye’s face. Here’s how/when/why Joel Nelson runs mono for rigging walleyes:

Joel’s really likin’ the new-ish Sufix Advance Mono ‘cuz it has half as much stretch as most others — stuff is legit!

Quote of the Day

“Don’t fish memories…especially when the water temp and calendar don’t line up.”

– That’s full-time guide Brad Hawthorne talkin’ about using the water temp — and not the calendar — to dictate where the fish will be. Especially true on a cooler, late-ice out years like we’re in the middle of right now. The bug hatches have just finally got those fish moving out to their deep-water dorm rooms:

Today’s ‘Eye Candy

Shout out to Marc Tremblay’s (@wallyfishing_marc) bud who’s hoisting up two handfuls of razorback! Believe he caught it running Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Walleye Deep Divers on the outside edge (10-13′) of all that flooded wood. Congrats bud!

Second Dose of ‘Eye Candy

Here’s another ridonkulous 28.5″ yeller-belly TW fan Derrek Leapaldt snatched through the ice — with a #5 “chrome blue” Rapala Rippin’ Rap — on Pelican Lake near Devils Lake, ND. #DoWant

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