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Late Summer Lake Walleye Tactics

As we transition toward the end of summer and into the early fall season, casting for big water walleye that roam the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario is something I encourage all walleye anglers to explore. This style of fishing is oftentimes over shadowed by the great trolling opportunities the fishery provides, yet when armed with the right equipment, this style of fishing is one of the most exciting ways to catch big water walleye.

Equipment

I use TFO’s Professional Walleye rods, PRO WC 764-1, 7’6″, Moderate power, fast action, rated for 6-12 lb. test and ¼ – ¾ oz. lures.   I pair this rod with a Daiwa Tatula 6.3:1 reel spooled with either 10 or 15 lb. Cortland Masterbraid braid, and on the business end I tie directly to a size 10 snap swivel and to that I attach a 5/8 oz. Walleye Wonder weight forward in-line spinner dressed with a 4- or 6-inch Zoom Trick Worm (green pumpkin w/chartreuse tail). The weight forward spinner comes with a size 3 gold Aberdeen hook, I replace that with a size 3/0 Trokar or Gamakatsu flipping hook, both hooks have bait keepers bonded on the hook shank which hold the trick worm in place on repeated casts and they provide excellent hooking properties.

A lot of folks ask me why the Zoom Trick worm instead of a natural night crawler.  To that I say, “Why not?!” In my assessment, the walleye sees the flash, they close in on the lure to get a closer look, then feel the thump of the rotating blade and ultimately the last thing they’ll do is bite it to see exactly what it is. When you look at a natural night crawler rigged on the back of a weight forward in-line spinner the worm is usually stretched out straight behind the blade as it comes through the water, the Zoom Trick worm looks much the same. The biggest difference is I can usually catch four or more walleye on the same Zoom Trick Worm before I need to replace it and I’m not worried about getting bait and keeping it fresh until it’s time to fish again.

The other lure that’s proven very productive over the past six years is the 2.5 squarebill. There are countless models available, but I prefer the Lucky Craft brand. These baits run true right out of the package and the 2.5 size does a fantastic job of matching the hatch regarding perch and panfish the walleye prefer.

What To Look For

I concentrate my efforts on main lake shoals and the offshore shoals in the back bay areas. The better shoals top out at 7-12 foot dropping off into the main basin and they need to have a decent mix of cobble rock and weed (preferably coontail or milfoil) find some eel grass mixed in and it’s even better.  In my experience, the cleaner the weeds are the best. Whenever I find an area with green slimly algae bloom smothering the primary weeds, I move on to the next area.

What I’ve found is the clean weeds play host to the grass shrimp, which draw in the panfish and perch and once they congregate on the weeds the walleye aren’t too far behind.  The other factor that seems to help (at least in the Eastern Basin on Lake Ontario) is the start of the fall salmon migration.  This salmon migration seems to trigger the walleye to vacate their open water feeding on alewives and move to shallower areas in search of the perch and these shoals are the first feeding areas they intercept as the move out of the deep open water.

Presentation

What works best for me is a steady retrieve. I’ll cast these lures out adjacent to the shoals along the weed edge and depending on depth (at least 6-7 ft. of open water above the weeds), I’ll sometimes present the lure across the very top of the shoal.

I have my best success casting adjacent to the shoals along the outside weed edges. Key to my success in these areas is making long casts, and the properties of the TFO Professional Walleye 7’6” rods make easy work of getting the lure well away from the boat.

I’m oftentimes asked about using a leader on the end of the Masterbraid. In my experience, when fishing the weight forward in-line spinner there seems to be no difference in using a leader- Vs- tying the masterbraid direct.  I’ve had days where a fluorocarbon leader in front of the 2.5 squarebill resulted in more strikes/hook-ups. I usually tie in a 36-40” section of Cortland’s Top Secret Fluorocarbon when I’m casting the 2.5 squarebill.

When selecting which lure to use, I generally start with the 2.5 squarebill and once I’ve caught a few fish on it, I’ll go back through the same area with the in-line weight forward spinner and pick off another fish or two. I’ve also had days where it didn’t matter which lure you cast first, but I just have great confidence in the 2.5 squarebill therefore I usually start with it.

Once an area slows, I move on to the next shoal. When walleye feed on or near the shoals, you’ll usually hit a two or more fish on your first pass through the area. When that occurs, make another pass through to see who else is willing to bite.  The other thing to remember is this, if conditions allow, make repeated casts to the same general area where you hooked the very first fish. Oftentimes these fish feed in groups and odds are the one you just caught has some buddies with him.

When casting the weight forward in-line spinner I’ve had days where the walleye will just nip the chartreuse tip off the tail of the worm and to remedy the bite offs, I borrowed a trick for the jig fisherman and put on a 3” stinger hook. This can turn those light biters or bites off into solid hook ups. I initially started with the stinger hooks from Northland Tackle, but found those hooks are a fine wire hook and can be flexed open by a good-sized walleye. I started making my own using a size 6 Gamakatsu round bend treble hook tied with Masterbraid, so far it’s working great.

Using the 2.5 squarebill is a simple presentation – cast it out and begin a steady retrieve. I’ve found these crankbaits dive around 5-7 ft. depending on the speed of retrieve and the diameter of line you use. I prefer Masterbraid for both applications (the 2.5 and weight forward in-line spinner) for two reasons: 1) It allows me to make super long casts in the gin clear waters of Lake Ontario and 2) The no stretch line provides excellent long distance hook sets. Remember all braids are no-stretch lines, therefore you want to allow a bit of slippage on your drag setting and trust the moderate power of the TFO Professional Walleye 7’6” rod.

Pro Tip: When you initially feel a tap on the lure do not set the hook, instead continue with the steady retrieve, and wait until you feel the weight of the fish to perform a moderate sweeping hookset raising the rod from the 9 to the 12 O’clock position. By waiting until you feel the weight of the fish, it allows the walleye to take the entire bait in its mouth and usually results in better strike to hook up ratios.

What you’ve just read has consistently produced late summer early fall walleye for me on the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario since 2015 and if you can find the similar conditions on the Great Lake nearest you it ought to produce there as well.

Good luck to you, harvest what you can reasonably eat, and release the rest to fight another day!

Blog written by TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney. You can find out more about Burnie and his guiding service in upstate New York at his website here.

Jigging For Giant Lake Trout

Growing up in Colorado means camping trips. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, thousands of families flock to the woods for an escape from the 9 to 5. My family was no different, and I attribute those experiences to building my incredible passion for fishing and the outdoors.
Every fisherman today remembers their first fish. Mine was nothing special. A rainbow trout on a stream casting a Pistol Pete fly behind a bubble. But it wasn’t about the first fish for me. The metal bell hung from the door of the tackle shop rang loudly behind me as I raced into the store in Granby, Colorado. I was roughly 6 years old and all I could focus my eyes on was the giant taxidermied lake trout above the cash register. I remember asking more than enough questions about how to catch them and what color power bait they liked. Needless to say, I had some learning to do.

Fast forward to today, it’s crazy to look back and realize just how far I was from actually catching one of these trophy fish. It’s not that you can’t catch them from shore. Some of the best fishing for lake trout is right at ice-out, when mackinaw (another name for lake trout) move up into the shallows to feed on rainbow trout and other shallow fish. It’s about the technique and tactics it takes to lure one of these prehistoric fish to take your bait. That fish mounted to the wall of the tackle store was roughly 42” long. That fish could easily have been 50 years old.

When we talk about jigging for lake trout – a standard practice in any lake holding this species – we usually think of white jigs, sturdy leaders, and hopefully sore arms. Once you start expanding your quiver while fishing for lakers, you realize they eat a lot of different things and it’s more about keeping them hooked than actually getting a bite. Lake trout have some of the hardest upper jaws you can imagine. You have to get a clean, strong hookset or you are going to lose fish. The first time guide Nate Zelinsky took me jigging he kept saying, “Everyone tells me they will give a hard hookset, but I have never seen it.”

That’s where he got creative to help clients close the deal on fish. Nate taught me a technique of cutting a Professional Walleye rod down from a 6’6” Medium jigging rod to a 5’ lake trout broomstick. The idea is that you are removing the most sensitive upper guides of the rod and therefore speeding up your hooksets by getting to the rod’s backbone sooner. An added benefit is that you are gaining massive power in your hooksets, especially when the bait is 60+ feet down.

The process is simple. You spool a 6’ or 6’ 6” Professional Walleye Medium action rod, and tighten down the drag on your spinning reel (you can use casting rods too). Grab the rod in one hand and the line in the other. Load the rod up by pulling on the line and get a good bend out of the top guides. Take note of where the rod starts to bend at the backbone and that’s just about the perfect spot to cut it. Use a Dremel tool so you don’t crack the blank and add a rod tip with some glue. Voilà. You now have made about the best laker rod you can imagine and I promise, it only hurts a little to cut the top off your brand new rod. It hurts less when you land a laker of a lifetime.

Earlier this year, we made it up for a day of lake trout jigging and were able to capitalize on one bite out of many takes we had that morning. I counted 13. Sometimes, you have to warm up your skills a bit after a long winter off the boat. Either way, it was the right fish and an amazing fight. Every time I shuffle one of these giants over the gunnel it takes me right back to Granby Tackle Store and helps awake the kid inside. I feel so blessed to be able to catch these fish and get an up-close look and feel of their power and beauty. Every fish goes back. When you hold one in your hand for the first time, I suspect it will be the same incredible experience I had. You know that fish had one heck of a journey to end up in your arms. It’s the respect for how magnificent they are and how many thrills they provide that helps you understand why we never take a trophy home. To have learned from masters of the craft like Nate Zelinsky and finally feel like I have some excellent skills and knowledge to apply in the future catching lake trout is a true honor. If you haven’t had the opportunity to fish for this amazing specimen, look into opportunities in your area or maybe think about a trip next time you are in my neck of the woods. You won’t regret trying it and it just might change your perspective of what a “big” fish really is.

Blog and video provided by TFO Ambassador Chris Edlin. You can find out more about Chris at his YouTube channel here.

 

Night Trolling for Big Walleye

Dusting off the trolling gear from a long winter’s nap is not for the faint of heart. Spring temps aren’t usually all that forgiving across most of the lower 48, but in Colorado, sitting a mile closer to the sun has some early season perks. Certainly, slathering on sunscreen again isn’t one of them. That’s part of the reason you can find me dropping the boat in the water just as the sun begins its trip around the other half of the world.

It’s no secret that the darkness brings on lots of advantages when you talk walleye fishing. But why? Well, as I tell most of my clients and friends, it’s all really because of the “tapetum lucidum.” Now before you think I’m some literary guru, it really just describes the way a walleye’s eyes are able to reflect light, like a cat. By definition, it’s “a layer of tissue in the eye, lying immediately behind the retina; it is a retroreflector. It reflects visible light back through the retina, increasing the light available to the photoreceptors.” This is what lends to the walleye’s incredible sight at night. 

When we put the boat in gear and head to our first spot there are a couple absolutes in my mind. We are going to use stick baits and we are going to fish them shallow. Long stick baits like Rogues, Rapala’s, and Bombers, all have earned a permanent spot in my tackle locker. Spring walleye, no matter what stage of the spawn, are not moving too quickly. The slow wobble of these stick baits produce more fish than a fast action crank at night, even though our reservoirs are filled with gizzard shad, which carry a smaller profile like a crankbait. Secondarily, the longer profile bait gives the walleye more to look at as they silhouette the bait above them while it tracks through the shallows.In general, I want to build a pattern and repeat that pattern. That is what trolling is all about.

My gear consists of the Professional Walleye 7’ Casting Rod in Medium action (PRO WC 704-1) paired up with a 20 size line counting reel. The 7’ rod allows me to be extremely mobile in my boat. By keeping 7’ rods, when I catch a fish on one planer board, I can simply reel that fish in and rotate all the rods on that side of the boat forward. Then I can easily re-release the bait and set that rod in the now empty last rod holder spot. All this without ever missing a beat on the troll and hopefully tagging a few more fish along with it. The 7’ rods also provide a fair amount of give for the big waves without pulsing or shooting the planer board at the top of the break, and enough power to reel in the board, bait, and potential 25+” walleye.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

Planer boards are a popular way to keep your baits separated and also target the fish that spook away from the boat. Typically, fish will spook out perpendicular to the boat’s direction of travel, making planer boards a good choice all around. You can make them easier to see in the dark with reflective tape and boat mounted LEDs, lights that mount to the board, or just a traditional headlamp. Albeit, you can just as easily catch fish with the proper amount of line out behind the boat. I would recommend, if you fish without boards, to go for a trolling rod instead of a casting rod. The new Professional Walleye 8’6” (PRO WTC 864-1T) or the 2 piece 10’ (PRO WTC 1004-2) Professional Walleye Trolling rods will serve the purpose of keeping your baits separated and providing a little more backbone for hooking fish when a planer board is not in use.

We typically fish anywhere from 1-6 feet below the surface and in depths of 6-30 feet. When we start to build a pattern, we want to try multiple colors, different styles of baits, and varying depths. We may set one bait back 15 feet from a planer board for a shallow run and the next one 30 feet back. If we find one depth is being favored we can quickly match that with the line counters. Then from there, we can dial in a color or action that is working well. Once we catch consistent fish on one single pattern, we switch everything to that exact depth and bait. At this point, we’ve built a fairly good pattern that might be tuned in further by direction or travel, speed (1.4 – 1.8 MPH), or location. 

All things considered, it’s usually not a bad way to spend a weekend night. It’s a bit colder than fishing under the giant solar heat lamp of day but arguably the best perk of braving the dark and chilly is the chance at a fish of a lifetime. A larger female sow walleye will lay roughly 500,000 eggs during the spawn. This expends tremendous amounts of energy, and after a bit of a resting period, the game is on to replenish the much needed nutrition lost during the event. Spring and fall are the best times to target these big fish but please remember how vital they can be to any ecosystem when just one fish produces so many eggs, only fractions of which will survive to become a catchable size. A picture will serve its purpose in securing a great memory and if you like something for the wall, today’s replicas are usually much better quality and a lot easier on the wallet than a traditional fish mount.

So embrace the dark or leave it, but if you haven’t tried it at least once, do. It’s harder to say yes to life’s little challenges as we get more comfortable in what we know. Seek discomfort, and you may just find the biggest walleye of your life hanging on at the end of your line.

 

Photo: Chris Edlin

Blog written by Colorado based TFO Ambassador Chris Edlin. You can find out more about Chris at his Youtube channel here.

Precision Trolling Tactics for Spring Walleye

Spring is an excellent time to catch some trophy walleye, and tactics such as precision trolling with TFO’s new Professional Walleye Trolling series is the ideal method and tool for this scenario. This week, we catch up with Ambassador Will Dykstra (who helped with the design and feedback of the new trolling rods), to discuss spring walleye fishing and how he’s rigging and using the Professional Walleye trolling rods.

TFO: Walleye season opener is coming up for some states, but you’ve already had a head start out west in Colorado. Can you talk about how you’ve been/are fishing for walleye this spring?

WD: This time of year, we’re looking at prespawn/spawn/post spawn fish – the post spawn bite is probably your best trophy bite of the whole year. Precision trolling with crankbaits and big stick baits with planer boards is the hot ticket. This method works especially well right now in Colorado, but will also work in just about every walleye fishery in the country. We also do a lot of night trolling during the spring with 4”-6” jerk baits so we can dial in on those plainer boards and get the fish in. My go-to rod is the new 8’6” Medium Professional Walleye Trolling rod.

PRO WTC 864-1T

When you’re precision trolling for fish right above structure or in the actual strike zone of fish – if it’s too high or too low, those fish aren’t going to take your bait. When you have planer boards that are surging because the rods tips can’t absorb the weight of the planer board, you’re going to spend a lot less time fishing the strike zone. For me, having the forgiving action on the 8’6’ trolling rods allows me to stay fishing in the zone the entire time with minimal planer board surge.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

TFO: What types of baits or lures do you typically use this time of year on your fisheries? Additionally, what type of line and reel setup are you using for precision trolling?

WD: Here in Colorado, we have mostly gizzard shad in our lakes, so we are primarily focused on trying to find the piles of gizzard shad and setting our baits to the current distance behind the boards to make sure we are fishing the strike zone.

I use 10 lb. monofilament line. Basically, every dive chart created for every lure was based off of 10 lb. monofilament line. I prefer to use the P-Line CXX X-Tra Strong series because of its durability. It’s also really important to have some kind of crosslock snap to get the best action out of the bait., and also the most consistent diving action of out the bait, too.

I use an Okuma Coldwater Line Counter for my trolling reel. It really doesn’t matter which line counter you use, but I’ve had some luck using this one particular one.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

TFO: Any other methods besides precision trolling that you like to do in the spring or late spring?

WD: Precision trolling at night is primarily what I am doing in the spring until the fish wrap up their post spawn timeframe. From there, I’m going to be transitioning to a lead core bite. The 10’ lead core rod (PRO WTC 1004-2) and also the 8’6” trolling rod are both of the rods that I’m pulling lead with.

PRO WTC 1004-2

It’s a little unconventional, but we’re pulling small swimbaits with a 3/8 ounce jighead with a 3.5” swim bait – and literally fishing 2-6” off the bottom. Pulling that lead core allows us to dial in on depth that well. We can adjust the line non-stop to where we are just ticking the bottom every 30 seconds to a minute.

If you’re dragging it through the mud or bouncing it off rocks, for whatever reason, it doesn’t trigger fish here like it does in other places like the Canadian Shield where bouncing crankbaits triggers everything – smallmouth, northern, musky, and walleye. For whatever reason, our western fish don’t want it digging up the mud.

Fishing smaller crankbaits and swimbaits 2”-4” off the bottom is the ticket here. Again, the nice think about the Professional Walleye Trolling rods – with the lead and the zero stretch that you have pulling lead core, you have a much more forgiving aspect that allows you to still bury those hooks into the fish.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

TFO: Why fish for walleye at night in the spring?

WD: They’re more active. They’re putting on the food bags once they’ve finished spawning, and they’re trying to gain that weight they lost during the spawn and get those calories back on. I’ve noticed that typically in the last full moon in April (April 26) is when the night bite starts to fade off, and our water temperatures start climbing into the high 50s. As soon as we start seeing 60 degree waters, we stop trolling. A lot of it has to do with vegetation growth. At that point, the fish will start setting up on their summer spots and we’ll switch to casting and jigging.

Stay tuned for Part ll for late spring/early summer walleye tactics…

Prespawn Smallmouth Tactics with Ben Nowak

Prespawn smallmouth to me is associated with constant movement. The prespawn period is typically when water temps are between mid 40 degrees to upper 50’s, with the “Magic Number” being around 60 degrees for smallmouth to be in full-blown spawn mode. Smallmouth in the prespawn are constantly in transition from deeper waters into staging areas and getting closer towards shallower flats where they will spawn. Smallmouth are unique in the fact that they tend to spawn in deeper water than largemouth and are more willing to be in open water areas near the main lake, as long as they can be protected from the elements; wind, waves, and current. The areas that I’m looking for during the prespawn are areas where fish can transition very easily. Fish want to have easy access between shallow and deeper water areas, especially during early to mid spring while they’re feeding up in the prespawn. Important factors such as weather, water color and temperatures are constantly changing, so being able to adjust to these variables is important for catching more smallmouth.

Ideal Water Temperatures

Typically the ideal prespawn water temperature for smallmouth is in the upper 40s to upper 50s – approximately 48-58 degrees. That’s really when I’m going to consider active prespawn smallmouth fishing. Mid April to mid May is a pretty good gauge for when fish seem to be fully in prespawn mode.

Transition, Contour & Structure

Finding transition points in depth and structure are where smallmouth can be found in early spring. Typically, these transitional staging areas are drops, points, or really any subtle structures on the bottom. Hard spots, or areas where there’s small contour off the edge of a hard drop are great holding spots. Smallmouth on northern lakes tend to set up on obvious contour changes, for example areas where there are steep drops near a main lake point can be very productive locations.

Photo: Ben Nowak

Setups

In order to adapt to the weather, water color and temperatures, and ever-changing moods of smallmouths, I’ll have a variety of baits tied on during the early spring to find smallmouth. The bait that I’ll choose will depend on the situation, fish mood, and water clarity. Having the ability to catch fish on a variety of baits is one of the most fun, but most challenging things during the spring.

1.) Jerkbait with the7’ Medium Cranking Tactical Bass (TAC LW 70CB-1)

The jerkbait is probably my number 1 bait for fishing the prespawn. Jerkbaits work especially well for the Northern lakes that I’m typically fishing this time of year. They catch fish that are both lethargic and don’t necessarily want to eat. A jerkbait elicits more of a reaction strike, but they’re also a really good bait to cover water with and just get really aggressive fish to come up and eat too.

The rod that I prefer to use is the 7’ Medium Cranking Tactical rod (TAC LW 70CB-1). The reason I like this rod is because the action is snappy enough that I can fish the jerkbait well, but when the fish bites, the rod has a deeper bend (more moderate action) to keep these big smallmouths hooked!

2.) Medium Crankbait with the 7’4 Medium Heavy Tactical Elite Bass (TLE LW 74CB-1)

I also really like a medium diving crankbait for covering water in the springtime. Using an 8-12 foot diving crankbait allows me to cover a lot of water to locate these big pods of smallmouth. Once I’ve located the school, I can also use the same bait to trigger fish to bite cast after cast. What I’m looking for when fishing a medium diving crankbait are mid depth contour changes, preferably with isolated cover on bottom. Grass, rock piles, or even subtle bottom composition changes can be the key to finding perfect prespawn smallmouth habitat!

3.) Hair Jig with the 7’6 Medium Light Professional Walleye (PRO WS 763-1)

One of the x-factors during the spring are warm sunny days with light wind. After a long winter under ice up here in the north, fish are seeking warmer water areas, so light wind days with high sun will warm the shallow waters quickly. On days where other techniques seem not to be effective, a small marabou hair jig can be a great way to target these shallow smallmouths that are sunning themselves in warming shallow water.

A big key when fishing a hair jig is the ability to make long casts to isolated targets. Similar to hunting, having a stealthy approach and being able to sneak up on fish is important, so having a longer rod with the right action to cast light baits is paramount. My rod of choice for a 3/32 ounce or ⅛ ounce hair jig is the 7’6” Medium Light Professional Walleye rod. This rod is long enough to allow me to make the long casts that I need, but also soft enough to handle these baits with ease.

When I’m fishing a hair jig, I’m looking for really obvious cover – big boulders, isolated dock posts, or any obvious isolated pieces of cover. My favorite approach to target this shallow cover is to throw the hair jig by these pieces of cover and use a very slow retrieve, just waiting for the rod to load up with a fat prespawn smallmouth.

4.) Swimbait with the 7’5 Heavy Tactical Elite Bass (TLE FS 756-1)

Last but not least is a soft plastic swimbait. Of all of the approaches, a 3.5” soft plastic swimbait is one of the most versatile baits that I will throw in the prespawn. This is a lure that you can do just about anything with, from slow rolling in deeper water to swimming high in the water column, a swimbait can be used in a variety of situations. When choosing swimbait colors, I keep things simple in the prespawn; white or shad based colors in clear water situations and darker green based colors when the water gets slightly off-colored or has a stain to it. With these two colors, you can approach a variety of water clarities with success.

With a swimbait, let the approach dictate the size jighead that you choose to use. For smallmouth around open water I’m typically using an open-hook jighead. This allows the best hookup to land ratio, and is my preferred method.

Although these are setups that I use for smallmouth in Michigan, you can use these same setups in other smallmouth fisheries and have success anywhere that smallmouth swim.

Key Takeaways

The biggest things to prespawn smallmouth fishing is covering water and finding where they are staging. A lot of times where there is one smallmouth in the prespawn, there tend to be many! Cover water until you find them and then slow down and pick them apart.

Blog written by Midland, Michigan based TFO Ambassador Ben Nowak. You can find out more about Ben by visiting and subscribing to his YouTube channel here or following him on social media here.

TFO Ambassador Bill Weidler Wins Big at St. Clair

Patience, focus, and a lot of praying paid off for TFO Ambassador Bill Weidler this past weekend.

Weidler won his first title at the YETI Bassmaster Elite Series at Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, Michigan with a four-day total of 86 pounds, 7 ounces – earning him $100,500 and nearly doubling his career earning with B.A.S.S. to $204,350.

We checked in with Bill after he had time to celebrate and found out about the big day, along with the TFO rod that helped him bring home the win.

How does it feel to win your first title?

It feels unbelievable! I’m looking forward to getting to Guntersville and try to ride this wave while it’s still going!

Had you fished St. Clair before? What helped you know how to adjust to that lake versus the lakes back home in Birmingham?

I had never fished St. Clair before. I had talked to some other anglers to get the feel and layout of the lake. I knew it was a flat bottom lake with very little contours. It was all grass driven with open areas around the grass. The key to it was finding the bare areas. If you found those, you could find fish.

I wanted to do some largemouth fishing, but I know it was going to be primarily smallmouth, so I needed to get comfortable with that. I came ready with my spinning gear and was focused on getting my drop shots far out and deep.

It so funny because some people refer to this win as a Cinderella or underdog story for me. Prior to this tournament, this year has been pretty rough. 90% of that has been attributed to mechanical and electrical problems. It was one thing after the other. I wasn’t fishing bad, I just couldn’t get four full days. I’d made sure this time to be careful with my boat/gear and not overdue it. It definitely paid off.

What TFO rods helped you at St. Clair?

The TFO Professional Walleye 7’6” Medium Light. My first event at Lake Oahe for smallmouth I was fishing a custom medium-heavy spinning rod. Every time I’d button up with a fish, I’d lose it. I talked to Jim Shulin, Sport Fishing Category Manager at TFO, about this rod and told him I needed TFO to make a similar, but longer (7’6″-7’8″) rod that would be a good for drop shots, but I also needed it to be softer. This way I would have plenty of leverage when I snap that hook set, and also the rod acts like a shock absorber for the bigger fish when they jump and shake their heads while fighting them on light line.

On the last day I went down to 6lb. line and needed a rod with a softer action and I went with the TFO Professional Walleye 7’6” Medium Light and that rod did not leave my hand!

What’s next for you?

The next tournament is at Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro, Alabama. It’s the last weekend of September. It’s basically a home lake for me about 1.5 hours from where I live. I grew up fishing it so I’ve got a game plan in mind. Last year I finished 27th, but I’m hoping to make it to the top 20.

For a tournament angler that has been in the scene for a while, what got you interested in fishing with TFO rods?

I signed on with TFO this year. I had heard many great things about their conventional rods as far as the action and design. I love them, haven’t had a problem with them, and that Professional Walleye 7’6” Medium Light did some work this past weekend – I promise!

 

TFO Pro Staffer COfishBRO Talks Professional Walleye

TFO Pro Staffer and Colorado based angler Chris Edlin loves to do two things: fishing and filming fishing videos for his Youtube channel – COfishBRO.

Chris has been fishing TFO fly rods for years now for trout on his local Colorado rivers, but he also spends a fair amount of his time on the water pursuing walleye and smallmouth using TFO’s conventional gear. Here’s a little bit more info from Chris…

My name is Chris Edlin and I started the YouTube channel COfishBro back in 2016 to focus on angling in Colorado.  

I primarily fish for walleye on the front-range out of my 1999 Ranger 620 but I often found myself in the winter time stripping a 5wt fly line for cutbows and browns on some of Colorado’s premier gold medal waters. 

Our channel focuses on fishing tactics and knowledge, as I always have believed the more you know about fish behavior the better you will be suited for targeting them on the water. 

I fished TFO fly rods for a number of years on the river for trout and always wanted to give the conventional side a try. The tactics I use for summer walleye are not very traditional and they require a powerful and ultra sensitive rod to get right.

 

The cadence is key, getting the proper stroke and rhythm to the retrieve is what causes these fish to bite while presenting a fairly heavy ice fishing lure called a Jigging Rap. The TFO Professional Walleye rods have been the best addition to my arsenal in presenting these baits.

Particularly, I prefer the 6′ 6″ Medium Fast Action. This rod has plenty of backbone when throwing a size 7 rap (5/8 ounce) and the fast tip makes the lure jump horizontally very erratically but staying consistently only a few inches off the bottom. That is key to staying in the strike zone and the whole idea behind this technique. These rods were built on sensitivity and that’s what shines through whether you are live bait rigging or hucking plastics on humps and ridges. These rods are built tough, and does it hurt to have a rod that looks as good as it performs? My clients don’t seem to mind!

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me via email or any of my socials. I’m constantly learning and find we as humans learn best when we gather each other’s perspectives. Listed here are a few other videos that are tailored towards education and simplifying your day on the water, whether the goal is to catch more fish or impress your friends. I hope to encourage you to become the best angler you can be because no matter how many fish we catch, it will never be enough! 

Here are some more videos and reviews from COfishBRO on TFO gear. Be sure to like and follow his channel to support a fellow TFO angler!

Casting Early Season Walleye Techniques with TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney

Walleye season in New York State opens on May 2nd; so we decided to have upstate New York TFO Ambassador and walleye expert Burnie Haney go over some tips and techniques to help you make the most of your walleye fishing season.

Burnie discusses what works best for him for Eastern Basin Lake Ontario walleye, but a lot of these skills can be applied towards walleye fishing tactics anywhere.

Casting Early Season Walleye

Depending of your approach and exactly where you are looking for walleye, it can be either feast or famine. However, one thing is for certain once you get dialed in it can also be non-stop rod action. Undoubtedly trolling will reign supreme in the larger bodies of water like the great lakes,, but if you have the patience and temperament for it, casting is a very productive method as well and for the purposes of this writing I’m going to focus on casting techniques with artificial lures only, the gear used, how I rig it and what areas to look for.

I make no guarantees these methods will produce 100% of the time, but I can say if you apply what you’re about to read I feel confident you too will put a few more walleye in the net this season, so let’s start off with gear.

Rods & Reels

For my spinning rod applications, I use the TFO Professional Walleye WS 704-1. This is a one-piece 7’ rod (fast action- medium power) rated for 6-12 lb. line and 1/4 – 3/4 oz. lures. With this rod, I can present jigs, jerkbaits, squarebills and finesse swimbaits. I usually run 8 lb. braid on this rod and depending on water conditions and sunlight penetration I’ll sometimes use a fluorocarbon leader of 36-48”. I use a size 20 or 30 spinning reel with this rod.

For my casting rod applications, I use the TFO Professional Walleye WC 764-1. This is a one piece 7’6” rod (fast action-medium power) rated for 6-12 lb. line and 1/4 -3/4 oz lures. With this rod I can present, jigs, squarebills & diving crank baits, swimbaits, in-line spinner rigs and finesse umbrella rigs. I fish 8-15 lb. braid on this rod and again I will use a fluorocarbon leader if conditions dictate. I usually have a Daiwa Tatula reel 6.3:1 on this rod, but sometimes I will drop down to a 5.4:1 depending on the exact presentation.

Line

When most folks talk about walleye fishing in gin clear water, you will oftentimes hear how you must use light line (4-6 lb. test), small hooks, leaches, worms, minnows, on a jig or a slip bobber. You will not hear me argue about that, but remember, we’re talking about artificial lures only and in most cases that’s horizontal moving baits. When fishing moving baits for these big water walleyes, I seem to do best fishing with braided line. I think in part that is due to the fact I’m making super long casts and braided line provides me the ability to get a hook point into the fish quickly as I feel the strike, while monofilament line impedes my ability for good hooksets at long distances. The other nice thing about braided line is it allows you to put more line on the spool which translates into longer smoother casts.

Just a tip – When you are spooling up with braid be sure to put about 10-12 yards of mono on the spool first because this helps prevent the braid from slipping on the spool. Also try to use mono that is smaller in diameter; it does two things for you: 1) Helps the braid lay flat on the spool; and 2) Prevents it from biting down into the grooves of mono below when under pressure.

Leader

Cortland’s Top Secret tippet is hard to beat. I like this stuff because it offers a line that’s approximately 1/2 the diameter of most other fluorocarbons out there. As an example, the diameter of their 12.9 lb. tippet is equal to 6 lb. mono. It’s a bit pricey, but then again you get what you pay for.

 

Spinning Rod Presentations

My first choice for early season walleye is either a jerkbait or a jig tipped with some Berkley Gulp or a Keitech Swimbait. The jerkbait is usually a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 or 100 in perch or baitfish colors and the jigs routinely replicate the same forage base, with the addition of a football head jig dressed with Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impact (to mimic a goby).

Jerkbaits are routinely fished in the 5 – 10 ft. zone adjacent to weed edges along shoals and rock rubble shorelines with the standard cast, crank it down three or four quick turns, let it sit (pause) for 5-10 seconds, reel up the slack line, give it one or two light taps, pause and repeat that cadence all the way back to the boat. If I notice walleye following the jerkbait back to the boat but not striking, then a follow up cast with the swimbait on a 1/8 or 3/16 oz jighead on a steady retrieve usually gets that fish to bite.

Another great technique for scrubbing up reluctant walleye that are holding tight on a rock rubble bottom is the football head jig. Here in Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario the round goby has become a staple in darn near every fish’s diet and walleye are no exception. To imitate this tasty nugget, I use a 3/8 or 1/2 oz. football head with a Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impact (Green Pumpkin or Tennessee Shad). I am looking in just a tad deeper in that 15 – 30 ft zone, still near or adjacent to rocky shoals and a hard bottom is a must. Cast it out, let it fall all the way to the bottom, reel up the slack line and move the bait by sweeping the rod across your front from 9 to 3 or vice versa or by employing a slow steady crank of the reel. The key element to this presentation is maintaining good bottom contact throughout the retrieve.

The bite’s not subtle and you will know without a doubt when they take it, but you must keep your rod in the proper position to set the hook. I’ve enjoyed my best success dragging the football head by avoiding vertical rod movements and employing the aforementioned horizontal rod movements which keeps me in good position to quickly snap the rod tip for a solid hook set at any point throughout the retrieve.

Casting Rod Presentations

I typically employ presentations more akin to power fishing for bass. I use squarebills & medium diving crankbaits, Keitech 3.3 or 3.8 Fat Swing Impact Swimbaits on 1/4 – 1/2 oz. jig heads depending on depth which is usually in the 5 -20 ft zone. The other techniques that serve me well are the umbrella rig and the weight forward in-line spinner both presentations can be fished from 7 – 20 ft with equal success and allow you to cover massive amounts of water as your search for the active biters.

I will fish all these presentations on the same line, 15 lb. Cortland Masterbraid tied direct to the lure except for the single swimbaits. For the single swimbaits I use a 36-48” section of the Top Secret tippet material connecting the braid to fluorocarbon with Lefty Kreh knot and I’m fishing those on a slower speed reel 5.5:1 when fishing in 10- 20 ft. The slower speed reel helps keep the swimbait in the slightly deeper strike zone.

The squarebills are exceptional and drawing and trigging strikes from walleye that are feeding in the 5 – 8 ft zone, again we’re targeting shoals on the main lake or looking at the mouths of creeks off of the mainlake with scattered weeds and rock rubble or rock humps nearby. The other lure that is a great search bait in the 7- 20 ft. zone is a weight forward in-line spinner, like an Erie Deerie or South Bend’s Walleye Wonder. Traditional walleye angling has you dressing them with a night crawler or minnow, but I’ve found using rubber worms works very well and my two top choices are the Zoom Trick Worm in 4” or 6” (green pumpkin or green pumpkin with a chartreuse tail) and the Gambler Floating Worm (bubblegum yellow). Why bubblegum/yellow because they hit it and they hit it hard.

Crazy as that sounds these rubber worms work great. Think of it this way, once you cast out and begin the retrieve the night crawler stretch out behind the spinner, well the rubber worms look just the same on the retrieve. Other than scent the only way a walleye can tell the difference is to bite it and that is exactly what happens. It is a lot easier to rig and I get four to five fish on each rubber worm before it is so torn up that I must replace it.

With the squarebill, the single swimbait and the weight forward in-line spinner I get the most bites employing a steady retrieve. If I find the fish aren’t holding over or near the rock rubble on the shoals, but they are positioned more toward slightly deeper open water adjacent to the shoals then I employ a countdown method with the weight forward in-line spinner or I use the umbrella rig or the medium diving crankbaits, again a steady retrieve works best for me.

For the open water umbrella rig presentation, I am dressing the rig with Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impacts on 1/8 & 1/4 oz. jigheads. Simply casting out, counting it down to the desired depth and employing a steady retrieve all the way back to the boat. I try to keep the presentation at the depth I saw the fish on the graph or just slightly higher. This presentation replicates a school of bait fish and while some anglers have mixed emotions about using a multi-hook presentation like this, I can say the umbrella rig is a great choice and often times overlooked presentation for walleye that are feeding on open water baitfish.

If you think what you just read sounds a bit like power fishing for bass, then you are right. I would also ask you to keep an open mind, because these big water walleyes are predators. They are not as shy or skittish as their inland lake or small river cousins, these fish roam in good numbers and when they move up on or near the shoals to feed, they do so with abandon.

The current New York State record walleye is 18 lb. 02 oz. and these Eastern Basin fish average between 4.5 – 8 lbs. with a solid 10 lb. (+) fish showing up on most daily trips.

Good luck out there, enjoy the fishery, take a few for the table and do not forget to free the fighter because it might just be that next record catch for some lucky angler.

Photos by Oliver Sutro

About The Author

Burnie Haney is a TFO Ambassador from upstate New York. He sits on the New York State Jefferson County Sports Fishery Advisory Board, serves as the Jefferson County Sportsman Representative to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation Region 6 Fish and Wildlife Management Board, he holds two International Game Fish Association (IGFA) line class records and one IGFA All Tackle Length record and he’s set three fly fishing line class records with the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin. You can find out more about Burnie here.

TFO Introduces the Professional Walleye Rods

With a premium on high sensitivity, the Professional Walleye series is designed specifically for pursuing this finicky and notoriously light biting fish. Beginning with the blanks, to the grips and the reel seats, everything is maximized for sensitivity and the series lengths, powers and actions are built around some of the most successful walleye techniques: jigging, rigging, cranking and trolling.

The super-fast actions, light weight and sensitivity of the WS 663-1 and WS 664-1 are perfect for anglers focused on jigging. The longer 7’0” and 7’6” rods are specifically for the sweeping hooksets of rigging. And the slower actions and light weight of the 7’0” and 7’6” casting rods make them ideal for anglers cranking and trolling.

The foundation of the Professional Walleye series are blanks designed with technique specific actions constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a non-glare gold fleck finish topped with Pac Bay Minima Stainless Steel SV guides. The series includes 9 models: 6 spinning in 6’0”-7’6” lengths in light to medium powers; and 3 casting in 7’0”–7’6” lengths in medium light to medium powers.

Componentry includes down-locking split graphite reel seats for maximum feel and transmission. All rods include premium cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings. Full cork grips are provided on all casting models and split cork grips are provided on spinning models. Priced at $99.95, every Professional Walleye series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we added the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

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