Story and Photos by Andrew Persson
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These days it’s easy to get swept up in the marketing overload that is the fishing industry. There seems to be an endless number of different rod, reel, tackle and bait companies that are constantly bombarding fisherman with the “latest and greatest” item that will drastically improve success on the ice. After years of new products it seems as though companies are continuously re-inventing the wheel and it’s time to get back to the basics when it comes to finding a spot and choosing a tactic while chasing that underwater gold.
Location. Location. Location. Now, this is already in the forefront of every fisherman’s mind but we’re going back to the basics, remember? Each lake is different in terms of depth, structure, and cover that fish will be in, but there will be some consistencies that can help an angler key in productive spots, especially the first few times fishing a new lake. On larger lakes, flats are always a great place to start when searching for walleyes, but don’t just drill a few holes in the middle of it and hope a couple fish come cruising by at some point in the day. Instead, focus efforts on the edges of the flat. Target in on places where the depth change is more or less dramatic than the rest of the flat, or try to pick a point or an inside turn that walleyes would want to use to feed. Honing in on specific spots out of a much larger area will save time and often increase the rate at which walleyes are brought through the ice. Another fantastic piece of structure to locate is a hump. Humps almost always hold a concentrated number of fish, and what fisherman doesn’t want that? Humps can be tricky however; sometimes fish will congregate on the very top of the underwater hill, and sometimes they will school at the base of it, and for that matter– anywhere in between. The key is to use an electronic flasher at various depths to see where most of the fish are, and then use that information to create an advantage for the fisherman instead of the elusive walleye.
Even when the perfect spot is found, it’s hard to catch fish if you’re using the incorrect bait. New designs and technology have created a vast array of baits that seem to even outnumber the anglers that use them. Every fishing aisle at the local sporting goods store will contain something “new and improved,” but that doesn’t mean it’s going to always catch more fish. With that said, there are plenty of fantastic jigs and lures to go around, but often times anglers need to remember one of the most tried and true methods of landing walleyes, the dead-stick. A hook, a sinker, and a bobber are all an angler needs to start becoming extremely successful on the hard-water. Simply take any color hook (pink is a personal favorite) and tip it with a minnow of choice, whether it be a fathead or any variety of shiner, and wait for the action to ensue. Simplicity is often an overlooked trait in our everyday lives and it’s time to bring back the ways of old to the icehouse.
A word of fair warning- walleye fishing can be painstakingly slow at times and patience is a must. A great way to tell if you are in the correct location is if you are catching perch consistently, that generally will indicate a spot where walleyes will be later in the evening. Just be patient and focus efforts on the primetime hours (early morning and late evening) and remember, more than anything else, keep it basic. Simplicity is your best friend on the lake.