Walleyes in Precarious and Particular Places
Walleyes in Precarious and Particular Places
By Noel Vick
By Bruce Mosher
Walleyes and whales could never coexist. Well, first there’s that saltwater to freshwater issue, and then the fact that whales breathe air through a blowhole and walleyes take oxygen aquatically, through gills. Granted, both species spend time in wide open spaces – whales sucking plankton through their baleen and walleyes sucking flesh through their choppers – but their timecards differ considerably. Whales are always at sea. Walleyes are only sometimes at sea; structure is equally as important to the crowned kings of freshwater fishes.
Walleyes are as committed to formations such as reefs and timber as they are to the basin. And in the spring, walleyes can be particularly attached to structure.
From an angler’s viewpoint, though, structure can introduce dilemmas. Many of the finest, most fishy spots are the hardest to access. They’re saturated in snags. Walleyes adore rocks, but they’re a deathtrap for sinkers and hooks. Emerging greens, such as cabbage and coontail, are a favorite hangout for springtime walleyes. But unfortunately, vegetation goes out of its way to snare passing hooks. And forget about operating amongst emergent weeds, such as maiden cane and hardstem bulrushes – they’re completely merciless.
Professional walleye angler Johnny Candle and fishing guides Kevin Neve and Jason Hodos understand walleyes in the willows all too well. They carve livings on North Dakota’s Devils Lake. The lake, as you might know, is a flooded entanglement of timber and shrubbery, not to mention accented with submerged homes and roadways. Devils Lake is swollen with walleyes, though, so anglers aim to tame it.
To counterbalance the inherent disadvantage, guys like Candle, Neve, and Hodos must be deft at working amid the wood. And one of the surest techniques is also the most elementary, so long as you’re rigged correctly and working it right.
They bobber-fish; take a morsel of bait, fix it beneath a float, and place it in a pocket.
Sound easy? Ain’t always so, though. Each cast must be positioned with guidance-system accuracy, because even near-misses result in losses and mandatory reties. And if it’s rough and the wind’s flapping into the timber, an anchor won’t do. These boys are adept at tying up to a tree and gaining the perfect angle.
They don’t throw conventional bobbers, either, because run-of-the-mill floats are useless in a headwind and inaccurate with a tailwind. Rather, Candle, Keve and Hodos rely on the Wave Buster Bobber by Today’s Tackle. The pencil-style, foam bobber features a 1/8th ounce weight on its keel, which not only bolsters casting distance, but also reduces its drifting speed in the open water.
Speaking of ‘eyes in more reachable venues, I have a special spot that I fish with my family each spring. It’s a shallow sandy point with scattered weed pockets; walleyes cover it like a tarp. The fish don’t like being driven over, though. That sends ‘em fleeing, as is evidenced by the collapse in the bite if we accidentally drift or troll over “the spot.” So to eliminate the spooking-factor, we cast bobbers.
We attack in one of two ways, too. In a stiff gale, I’ll anchor upwind and simply drift bobbers back across the hot zone. Casting isn’t requisite, either. I blanket more water by sliding the bobber in at boatside and letting Mother Nature slowly take it away. However, a typical balsa float drifts too briskly in this scenario, but not the Wave Buster Bobber. The attached, submerged weight combats the wind and whitecaps.
In a more manageable wind, we’ll anchor alongside the target with the bow pointed into the breeze, cast upwind of the spot, and let the waves walk the bobber across the target and past the stern. From above, the bobber’s path looks like a wide pendulum swing.
Sometimes, we’ll narrow down center-stage to a 6 or 8 yard area. A little clump of cabbage or heap of rubble might be the glue that binds. In such cases, I reposition the boat nearer the spot and give everyone choice access in a downwind direction.
The Wave Buster Bobber is calculated to work with a 1/16th or 1/8th ounce jig – or sinker and plain hook – without any modification. I’m a supporter of jigs versus hooks on slip-bobbers, too. The jig furnishes attractiveness and hooking power in a single tool; less margin of error and tangling potential as well.
Lately, glow jigs have been the hot ticket. I especially like the red and green Glo-Ball Jigs from Northland Tackle. Unless otherwise directed, I set the jig inside a foot of the bottom because walleyes usually ride super-low in the spring.
On the subject of glow, the foam body of the Wave Buster is the perfect match for colored, glow-in-the-dark light sticks. The tiny devices can be pressed into the head of the bobber, instantly converting it into a night-fishing tool. And we’re all familiar with the walleye’s inclination to feed under cover of darkness.
As for bait, I’m adamant about carrying both leeches and minnows. I let the local bait shop owner guide my choice in minnows. With leeches, I dump ‘em in a Leech Tamer and stick the mesh bag in the livewell or lake-temperature water for 4 to 5 hours before fishing. That acclimates the leeches and abolishes the “balling-up” predicament associated with using leeches in the spring.
Effective hook-setting is another important component in slip-bobber fishing. Pencil-style floats like the Wave Buster submerge with slight resistance, so it’s unusual to see one do anything other than vanish. When it disappears, I point the rod tip to where the bobber used to be, take up the slack, feel for “weight” or movement, and set with a decisive sweep. More often than not, that walleye’s heading home, to me.
Being constructed of foam, it’s easy to modify a Wave Buster to meet special circumstances, too. In a gentle wind to dead calm, I’ll sometimes trim an inch or so off the bobber, especially if I’m using a lighter 1/16th ounce jig. Even more can be clipped if you want the bobber just peeking above the surface, further minimizing resistance to a selective walleye; or if you’re scaling back to a 1/32nd ounce jig, possibly fishing for crappies.
I save those chunks of foam as well, and not because I’m a packrat. They have legitimate utility. I use them as floats for live bait rigging.
Never consider a spot too formidable to fish. There are ways to address those walleyes; whales if you’re whaling. And more often than not, a surgically planted slip-bobber is the precise device for reaching walleyes in precarious places.
The Wave Buster Bobber and other products from Today’s Tackle are available at finer sporting goods stores and bait shops. You can also visit their website at www.todaystackle.com.