Riege: Dead sticking walleyes on the river

Published 6:51 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Living in Minnesota and fishing on the Mississippi River, I have always had the opportunity to use two rods while fishing for walleyes. Other states like South Dakota and Wisconsin have similar rules in areas that have a high population of fish. Running a boat and fishing with two rods sometimes can get a little cumbersome, therefore, rod holders were invented and the beginning of the dead stick.

Have you ever put down a rod to net a fish for your buddy only to find that your rod is being pulled into the water? How about the time that the fish were biting so slowly that you decided it was time to have that sandwich in your cooler? Did you see the tip of the rod bend and vibrate like it had a dozen fish fighting to jump on your hook? Well this also is one of the reasons that the dead stick is so effective for walleye fishing.

Most walleye anglers would agree that it is often times more fun and exciting to feel the fish before you set the hook. This allows you to play out line or take in slack to have a penetrating hook set. Walleye anglers have rods designed for jigging and pitching so sensitive that you can feel a feather on the end of the line.

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The dead stick rod is comprised of a bait casting tackle that is used for bottom bouncers and three way rigging. Casting reels allow quicker depth adjustments. Just hit the thumb bar to follow sharp drop-offs. One handed operation frees the other hand to work the tiller or a sandwich.

For rod holding I prefer a rod 7 to 7 1/2 foot rod with a slightly softer action that it gives to the fish and won’t alert them before the rod can be reached. This rod should be rated to handle 10 to 17 pound test line, with 12 pound test the optimum choice.

So why does a dead stick work so well? It might be as simple as not having anyone tending the store theory. That is to say that when an angler hangs onto a rod they sometimes have to move the bait or lure in an unnatural manner. They may jerk the bait away from a walleye that is looking at the offering and is undecided at the moment. Or, the angler might decide that handling his bait often or checking to see if he/she has any bite marks on the bait. This takes it not only out of the fish zone, but also allows more human scent exposure to the bait.

The dead stick makes the presentation in a natural manner as the boat is blown from the structure the bait moves at the same rate. The bait surges, pauses, and surges again. This gives the walleye ample time to look at the bait and to decide if it something they want to eat. The dead stick also permits a walleye to hold onto the bait before there is an unnatural reaction from the angler. The walleye can move with the bait and ingest the bait before the angler sets the hook.

So, this summer if you are in an area that allows more than one pole or if you want to enjoy that sandwich give the dead stick method a try and you might be amazed at the walleyes that come into your boat.