We’ve all had those moments while fishing where we simply can’t believe what just happened. Maybe it was watching a larger fish latch onto a smaller fish that you were reeling in or the time you put on the ugliest lure in your tackle box and caught the biggest fish of your life. Of course, it is always fun to watch someone fight a huge fish and when it comes to the surface it turns out to be an old shoe!
Chances are if you fish small lakes for walleyes you have your “go to” spots, but there are probably a lot of areas that are holding fish that you have passed by for years not even knowing it. By learning how to dissect a lake, we guarantee you will add another one of those “I can’t believe it” moments to your memory bank when you start catching fish in a spot you never thought to try.
Beginning with opening weekend, through the next three weeks after, one of the easiest ways to find new places where fish congregate is to pull up the map of the lake on your Lowrance. During this time of year, you will want to pinpoint areas that are six feet or less on or near shorelines. This is done by going to “Depth Highlighting” on your unit and setting the maximum to six feet. This will shade in all the areas that are six feet and under, giving you a quick visual of all these spots on the lake. In addition to working shorelines and back bays, you can check out sunken humps, but only if they are close to shore.
The purpose of this is to be able to easily identify places to hit while trying to cover the entire lake looking for fish. You will hit each of these areas with a 1-2 punch. The first punch you will throw is casting a #6 Berkley Flicker Shad and letting it slowly bounce bottom as you reel it back in. The #6 Flicker Shad is neutrally buoyant and made with casting in mind. If there are active fish in the area they will smack the bait!
To get the most casting power, you will want to use a one-piece Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler 7′ Medium Light rod with an extra fast tip (Model WY70MLLXFS) If you prefer longer rods, you can go up to a 7’6″ model. Pair the rod with a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris spinning reel (Model JMS10) which is made for delivering long casts. By spooling the reel with gray or green 8lb. or 10lb. Berkley NanoFil you will be able to cast a mile! Ok, maybe not a mile, but quite a distance! Since this line is also very sensitive, it will telegraph if there is debris stuck on the hooks or if a fish takes a swipe at the bait.
You will want to move through the targeted areas quickly, trying to get the first bite. Once you find one fish, put the MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor into “Anchor” mode to hold the boat in place while you continue casting to search for more fish. You can move a few feet in either direction by hitting the “jog” button.
When you stop getting bites on the Flicker Shad, it is time to mop up the area by hitting them with the second punch. This is the time to bring out the jig and artificial tail to get a few bonus fish! We like to have two rods ready to go. One with a 1/16 oz. Bass Pro Shops XPS jig and the other with a Berkley Snap Jig, which is new to the market this year. Both jigs have different actions to try to entice a bite. The Bass Pro Shops XPS Walleye Jigs have a “semi-stand-up” design. This means that as the jig sits on the bottom, the hook is angled up, putting it in perfect position for a fish to inhale the offering and increasing your odds of getting a hook-up. The Berkley Snap Jig has a “V” shaped fin that gives it a gliding action on the fall and a darting action when snapped.
Both jigs are dynamite when paired with a 2 1/2-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow. Work the bait by letting the jig drop down to bottom, then hold the rod still and let the jig swim back to you. Keep repeating this cadence all the way back to the boat. If you move up to an 1/8 oz. jig, use a 3-inch Gulp! Minnow or Berkley PowerBait Twitchtail Minnow. One of the neat things about the Twitchtail Minnow is no matter how hard you try, the tail never stops moving! Just cast it out and do a slow lift and hold as you retrieve it. If you are fishing in tannic water, go with the Clear Golden Shiner color. In clear water we like to use Watermelon Pearl for a natural looking bait.
Once you have thoroughly covered the initial area where you caught fish, don’t be afraid to move 100 feet in either direction in case there is a large school in the area. This approach is very similar to what bass fishermen do to dissect a spot they believe is holding fish, by showing them several presentations to see which one gets the best reaction. After you have exhausted an area, check the map you highlighted on your Lowrance for the next place to hit. It’s not uncommon to be able to cover an entire lake in half a day. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get your Next Bite with how many fish you will find!