Riege: My Town

Published 11:37 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012


The radio station the other day was playing My Town, by Montgomery Gentry. I was caught up in the lyrics of the song and of course I thought that many of the statements were true. But, more importantly as a walleye angler, I thought that we sometimes don’t realize that the walleye lives in “Their Town.” The analogy might seem strange, but if you stop and think about where the walleye lives, and where they go, you might be surprised to find them in a My Town of their very own.

People often mistakenly go on a lake and look at it as a big fish bowl, but fish only hold in certain areas. So the key is to locate areas where walleyes live on a seasonal basis. Many fishermen are tying to cover too much water too fast and aren’t spending enough time in specific areas that hold fish. I always pick 3 or 4 spots that look good on a map and concentrate on them.

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For example, a sunken island may have a series of spots where the bottom changes from one type to another. Transitional zones might be changes from hard to soft, or sand to rock. These zones are just subtle changes and they could be a very narrow band on a specific piece of structure. Often a point or inside bend is present, too. Most anglers tend to fish the whole structure. Concentrate your efforts on the 2 or 3 key spots rather than fishing a whole flat or a whole sunken island.

When checking a potential spot, I run at a certain depth and then look for baitfish. If I get too deep I turn in to shallower structure. And, when it gets too shallow I will turn out to deeper water. By following this simply piece of advice you will find points and inside bends on a specific structure. Plus, my depthfinder will locate these transitional areas that are either hard or soft. This is just as magical as the points or inside turns that you discovered while making passes over them.

Many anglers think of rocks, sand, drop-offs, and deep water when walleye fishing. But walleye chasers are missing some good fishing if they aren’t poking around in the weeds when they’re after walleyes, especially during the summer months. Walleyes will make extensive use of weed clumps if they’re available, and often the fish that are in the weeds are looking for a meal, making them susceptible to any type of offering.

Fish are wary. This helps them survive and can also make them difficult to catch. They utilize their excellent senses of vision and hearing, detect motion with unerring accuracy using their lateral line, and also use their sense of smell. Therefore, a cautious approach is required of an angler.

Many times anglers get caught up in a certain type of fishing. These people might retrieve a jig the same way or troll a crankbait at one speed. Also many anglers use pre-tied live bait rigs with a standard snell when the fish are 3 feet off the bottom. The standard snell length might be placing the bait below the feeding fish. Or they may be casting a #7 Shad Rap that runs 7 to 8 feet deep to fish that are 10 feet down. That means that the fish have to be super active for them to come up after the bait. I always determine where the fish are positioned in relationship to the bottom and what depth my bait is running. I try to find a presentation that will put bait right in front of the fish’s nose and make it easy for the fish to locate the bait or lure.

When the particular structure is shallow don’t hesitate to use the slip bobber method. Attach a 1/8 ounce Fuzz-E- Grub and a minnow to your Thill slip bobber rig and allow the waves and wind to do the vertical jigging for you. If those walleyes are biting short, attach a stinger hook to your jig.

Vertical jigging is very popular, and the key to fishing a jig vertically in current, is boat control. Work these areas over with a controlled drift. The control comes from positioning your boat sideways into the current and using your trolling motors or a “drift sock” to slow down your drift and your presentation.

The importance to fishing walleyes is versatility in your approach. Many anglers will stick to one type of method. Some anglers believe that more walleyes are caught on jigs or spinners. While other anglers will swear by the tried and true methods of crawling crankbaits over endless structure. After watching, listening, and reading other anglers I decided that I should always vary my approach. There are a lot of little things in fishing that make a big difference. You might say to yourself after a day on the water: Why didn’t I try spinners today? Why didn’t I move shallower or deeper? Versatility is such a key. Not only knowing how to use a rig, how to use a jig, or how to use a crankbait, but also knowing all the things that makeup those families of lures. You have to know how to trigger the fish in their town.