Target Walleye/Ice email

Special early-season walleye issue!

Only one Target Walleye/Ice email this week, but it’s’ a doozy! No fluff or junk, just straight early-season walleye beef:

If you’re getting this Target Walleye/Ice email for the first time, a friend probably signed you up!

Today’s Top 5

How the pros find (and catch) river walleyes.

> Some of the first open-water walleye fishing opportunities occur on river systems (Wolf River, Missouri River, Mississippi River and Rainy River). Each system can be somewhat unique…but how fish relate to current seems universal.

> Incoming tributaries/culverts are prime locations…the current is often warmer and [might have] washout holes, channels and current seams where fish rest.

> If you can see your prop, the fish won’t have any problem finding your presentation. If you can only see a few inches into the water, look for cleaner water upstream from the incoming tributary.

> Soft-plastics and hair usually outfish bait — they keep you in the water longer. When you miss a fish with a jig/minnow and the fish steals the minnow, you’re done.

> Kalin’s Sizmic Grubs work well in moderate current, while the more-streamlined profiles of Kalin’s Jerk Minnow JRs work better in stronger current.> When slipping the current, the old rule of thumb was to keep the boat the same speed as the jig getting swept down river…keeping your line vertical. But there’s times when dragging jigs upstream or downstream can be downright deadly

> These dragging tactics shine in less than 10′ where there’s moderate to slow current. Lighten up the jig and give it a good cast upstream. Let the current carry your jig downstream, dragging it back to the boat.

> The other method is slowly dragging the jig upstream. Cast behind the boat and use your trolling motor to crawl upstream. Want the jig to occasionally tick bottom.

Wanna see that jig-draggin’ in action? Jason and Chris Granrud wallop the Rainy River pigs in this video. I was a few miles upstream when they were filming and can confirm it was a tough bite — was shocked to see how dang well they did. #Hammers

> When it comes to early-season river walleyes, most anglers don’t put in enough time working holes. Sure you can drift through a hole, but you’re better off taking some time and working it from different angles.

> When vertical jigging is key, use your electric motor to slip the current. The key is to adjust your [trolling] motor speed and jig weight to keep your line vertical on the downstream slip through holes. It presents the bait more naturally.

> Keeps an eye out for in-flowing water like feeder creeks and storm drainage. That current attracts food and the walleyes follow — like on the Rainy River and the creeks around Clementson during spring high water.

> A lot of times just below where the water’s dumping in there’s a wash-out hole that can produce a heck of a bite. Walleyes will lay there waiting for food.

> For 90% of early-season river situations, I fish a 1/4- to 1/2-oz VMC Neon Moon Eye Jigs with live bait, or a plastic minnow, paddletail or ringworm. The key is a long-shank jig that lets me double-hook the minnow or thread the most amount of plastic. Try to keep your jigs as light as possible, depending on the current.

> When early-season walleyes are neutral to negative, turn to a less-aggressive approach in eddies, along seams and the edges of calm water in a little shallower water. I’ll keep one rod rigged with 4- to 6-lb neutrally-buoyant Sufix Elite Mono and a light 1/32-, 1/16- or 1/8-oz jig and minnow.

More deets on how Neustrom fishes holes, eddies, mud lines and more in the full write-up.

> In my river experience, 90% of the big fish are caught in 10′ or less. I’ll pull Dubuque rigs in 6-15′, but I prefer to pitch plastics in shallow water.

> You’ve gotta get out of the fast current. The big fish aren’t there. Don’t be scared to cast into the wood and sticks. Walleyes feel safe there — they’ll even spawn in there. Boggles my mind that you have guys in $50K boats who cringe at losing a bait. Burn through jigs if you have to.

> Vibration is the deal during low visibility, so you have to rip aggressively to let walleyes know the bait is there.

> When water temps are 40-50 degrees I like pitching a BFishN Tackle Ringworm to find fish, then size-up to a Moxi on a 3/16-oz H20 Precision Jig. Beefier-profile plastics just do better on big fish this time of year. Stick to fluorescents and the occasional dark pattern for dirty water…natural colors like ‘oystershell’ for clear water.

> It depends on the day, but I usually cast upstream and lift the jig off bottom, reel in slack, and keep the line tight as the current sweeps the jig. Then repeat when the jig hits bottom or lightly shake the rod tip as I reel in slow.

> You might catch a fish as your jig and plastic moves right in the front of the boat, but don’t cast back to where you got bit. Pitch right back to the exact spot where the jig hit the water before you got bit. That’s where I see guys messing up.

Josh talks WAY MORE Mississippi River ‘eye goodness here.

4. Travis Sorokie:

Gas up the boats, there’s open-water walleyes to be had! A popular Midwest stretch of water is the Mississippi River’s Pool 4. How you catch ’em depends if you wanna go for quality or quantity — here’s walleye-nut Travis Sorokie’s favorite techniques:

Spin jig tipped with a minnow

> You’re going to catch a lot of fish with this rig, but it’s much better for numbers than for big fish. It’s also not ideal when it’s really, really cold out: Dipping your hands in and out of the minnow bucket isn’t ideal in the dead of winter. Despite its downsides, this is probably the best way to catch a BUNCH of fish out on the river.

Travis’ favorite: Northland Fire-Ball Spin Jig.

Paddletail minnow on a 3/8-oz jig

> Great for larger walleyes and saugers. Experiment with colors and depth ranges until you’ve dialed-in the bite. If the paddletail bite is going well, consider switching to the Dubuque Rig to further refine your approach: Running two baits on one rig allows you to experiment with more shapes and colors.

Blade baits

> Although they aren’t talked about nearly as much, blade baits can be very effective out on Pool 4. Your best bet is going to be a 1/4-oz bait fished on a standard Rapala Jigging Rap rod/reel setup. When the fish get going on the blade bite, hold on tight because it can be a fantastic bite.

More deets from Travis in this AnglingBuzz video:

Speakin’ of the Dubuque rig….

Maybe you’ve heard about it lately, so what exactly is it? It’s a rig designed to be slowly pulled upstream — especially when the water’s running high, fast and dirty — and it’s all centered around one of those 3-way swivels you never thought you’d use.

Full breakdown from The Technological Angler here, few excerpts below:

> Attach your mainline to one eye of the swivel. To the 2nd and 3rd eyes, attach mono leaders with two different lengths: a “short” leader about 12″, and a “long” leader that’s 24-30″. We will use these mono leaders to connect two baits to the rig.

> Tie a heavy jig (1/2- to 3/4-oz) to the long leader, and dress that jig with a bulky soft-plastic like a 4″ ringworm or a Moxi from B-Fish-N tackle. Tie a light jig (1/16-oz) to the short leader, and dress that jig with a low-pro soft-plastic like a shortened ringworm or a small Fluke-style bait.

> Start moving upstream at a speed of 0.5-0.8 mph, allowing the heavier jig to contact the bottom during a series of lifts and drops — with enough line out to allow the heavy jig to remain in contact with the bottom on the drop.

> Most bites occur on the bottom jig in high-flow areas while the top bait is typically best under low-flow conditions or cleaner water.

> Common mods include using a much longer leader for the “upper” bait — connecting that leader to a long-shank live bait hook/minnow.

> Another variation is to attach a small floating Rapala to this elongated leader — allowing the heavy jig at the bottom of the rig to pull this crankbait down to depth.

As with everything, make sure it’s legal where you’re fishing. Here in the ‘Land of 10,000 Laws’ you can only fish the Dubuque rig on select border-waters.

Guess how many eggs a female walleye lays??

Short answer: A bunch.

Long answer:

> “Female walleye will lay 50K to 60K eggs for every 2.2 lbs of their body weight. This means that a 5-lb fish could lay up to 300K eggs. A 10-lbr will produce over 500K! [#EggCannons]

> “Walleye are broadcast spawners, which means that the females drop their eggs out on the bottom and the males come along later to fertilize the eggs. The parents abandon their offspring and provide no protection for the little ones.

> “Only about 5-20% of the eggs actually hatch, and approximately 1 of every 10K survive to adulthood…why it’s important it is to release pre-spawn female walleye.”

Matt Foley approves of this message:

Finesse-trolling stickbaits for early-season ‘eyes.

The last few years, Ross Robertson has been targeting overlooked Lake Erie GIANTS by finesse-trolling stickbaits — with snap-weights — using planer boards. Full tip on, few excerpts below:

> For whatever reason our big walleyes have been deeper the past couple years. Most of my biggest fish come right on the bottom in 20-30′ — adjacent to spawning areas — on hard-to-soft-bottom transitions.

> In the past we wouldn’t have even targeted these fish because they’re neutral, so we’d go after the suspended fish.

> Pull your cranks like you’d pull spinners. Don’t run your kicker — use your electric. I’m trolling with the Minn Kota Ulterra on the bow, running a max of 0.8-1.2 mph with slight turns and bouncing in the chop.

> Think about the precision a good leadcore fisherman has with increasing speed to rise over a hump or decreasing to go down the back. Same deal with this approach.

> I see guys dropping giant lead, and that’s just a recipe for snags. With a 1-oz snap-weight (or less) at slow speed, I can pull baits 2-4′ above the fish. Every once in awhile I’ll shut off the motor to stall the planer boards for a few seconds, letting the bait stall, suspend or drop a little bit.

> A lot of times, stalling your boards is the big-fish ticket. A Rapala Husky Jerk will perfectly suspend and the fish hate that. Another bait that’s really rocking is the Reef Runner 800, which I wouldn’t normally use until later in the season — it’s perfect for getting down right into their faces

> Muddy water has a lot of junk fish and a poor strike zone. Gin-clear water is often a few degrees colder and serves more as a fish highway. But chalky water? Game on!

Devils Lake pre-spawn walleyes.

Some great pre-spawn tips from Jason Feldner. Talking about Devils Lake ‘cuz it’s one of the few places the walleye season is open during pre-spawn and spawn. Excerpts below, full tip here:

> Male walleyes are the first to show up shallow when the water begins to climb into the low- to mid-40s. In the early morning and late afternoon twilight periods you’ll catch fat females too.

> Water temp is the big thing. Unlike post-spawn fish, the wind doesn’t factor in as much during pre-spawn. A lot of times I’ll find the fish out of the wind if the water temp is 2-3 degrees higher than the rest of the lake.

> Another thing I’m always looking for is south-facing structure along northern shorelines as it warms the quickest. Shallow points, roadbeds and other rocky areas in depths ranging from 1-8′ are usually best.

> I cast out, and as soon as the bait hits the water I close my bail, keeping my rod tip at 75 degrees. The line will be tight, but as soon as the bait hits bottom it goes slack.

> Reel down to tighten the slack, lift the rod to 75 degrees again and hold it right there. When you bring rod tip back to that spot, the jig sails back to the bottom. Most times they smoke it right before the bait hits bottom.

Jason also talks about afternoon crankin and finesse Lindy-riggin’ here.

Win these Okuma walleye setups!

Have a shot at winning 2 new Okuma rod + reel packages worth $350-ish! Jigging- and trolling-specific setups that are a great add to any walleye nut’s arsenal. Same deal: Enter your email addy, then share the link to earn more points toward a win. Good luck!!

1. Okuma jigging setup.

Deadeye Jigging Rod — 6’6″ ML fast taper (DE-S-661-MLFT):

> These technique-specific walleye rods feature the finest IM-8 graphite blank material and split cork grips for handling.

Inspira spinning reel — 30-size blue (ISX-30B):

> Torsion control armor design and constructed of C-40X carbon make the reels extremely rigid and lightweight, also reduce twist and torque keeping all internal parts perfectly aligned.

2. Okuma open-water trolling/planer board setup.

Deadeye Trolling Rod — 7’10” M telescopic (DE-C-7101M-T):

> Great economical trolling rods packed full of features. Tubular glass blanks provide ultimate durability and the best actions in these trolling rods.

Coldwater low-profile line-counter (CW-354D):

> Marries all the benefits of our low-profile platform (ergonomics, full aluminum frame, 24-lbs of drag, thumb bar spool release) to a precision line-counter.

Today’s ‘Eye Candy

Forrest Leitch stuffed this 30.5-inch egg cannon last spring on the U.S. side of the Rainy River with a 1/2-oz gold glitter jig and a BFishN Tackle Moxie. #Stout

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