By: Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
Do you believe everything your buddies tell you? Talk about a loaded question! The answer is probably, “It depends!” As summer starts to wind down, they might tell you that you can’t catch any fish this time of year. While the bite may be tough, it doesn’t mean that the fish won’t bite. Just bring out the trolling rods and prove them wrong!
One of the most overlooked areas for trolling this time of year is the 50-100 yard basin next to offshore structure. In these areas we tend to look for sunken humps that top out from 10 to 25 feet. While the fish are occasionally on top of these humps, they are normally found off the structure in the extended sand and mud bottom areas.
Before wetting a line, cruise around the area you are targeting with your Mercury Verado while watching your Lowrance HDS for spots that could be holding fish. Using the StructureScan feature with side view, look for transition areas with scattered rock turning to mud. The fish you mark will either be suspended or relating to bottom.
The depth at which you will find fish will vary. While some days they are shallow, on other days they can be up to forty feet deep. Don’t just look for “walleye arcs” on your Lowrance HDS. If you see a cloud of bait fish on your screen, this can be a giveaway that walleyes are in the area!
If it gets rough and windy, try fishing the shallow structure itself. Since most structures are smaller, the trolling passes won’t be as long as the passes you would make when trolling pure basin fish.
Once you are ready to start fishing, spread out your lines to cover water. Begin by trolling in the shallowest area that you are marking fish, and then move out. We will often run two of the new Bass Pro Shops 9’6” telescopic Walleye Angler Trolling rods with planer boards off each side of the boat. We also run lead core off the back to keep the baits at or close to bottom. If we are following a contour that has a lot of sharp turns we won’t use any planer boards at all and just fish the lead core.
When trolling with lead core, you will want to use an 8’ 6” to 10’ rod that is strong enough to handle the weight of the lead, but with a forgiving tip to help fight the fish. Adjust your speed to adjust the depth of the lures. Speed up to raise the lures and slow down to drop them deeper. We like to use 18# lead core with a 10# FireLine leader. You should be able to feel the lure vibrating and ticking bottom. If it stops vibrating, check the lure as it may have picked up debris.
If the structure is small, you can use a snap weight somewhere between 2 and 3 ounces to get to the desired depth instead of lead core. Precision Trolling Data has just put out new data on their app, which is available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, to help you get your bait in the strike zone. The data was collected for 16 of the most popular walleye crankbaits using the Off Shore Snap Weight, specifically the 2oz.Guppy Weight.
The initial data was gathered with a 50-foot leader of 10# Berkley Trilene XT (which is considered the most popular trolling line on the market, especially for open water) with a 2 oz. Snap Weight attached. This method has been dubbed the “50 Plus 2” method. Tests were done at two speeds – 1.5mph and 2.5mph and tested with varying droppers out to 100 feet.
To use this data, open the Precision Trolling App and select the type of line of “10# Berkley XT / 50ft Leader 2oz Snap Weight”. Then select the speed you are trolling and the depth you would like the bait to run. The app will then tell you the total amount of line to let out (leader + dropper).
You can run the lure right behind the boat (make sure the rod tip is close to the water surface) or attach it to an Off Shore inline planer board to send the setup out to the side of the boat. It is important to remember that the board will not affect the depth the lure is diving, no matter how far out from the side of the boat you run the board.
When it comes to lures, this bite is best with crankbaits, such as Berkley Flicker Minnows which mimic a natural presentation. This is also a great opportunity to use the new Berkley Jointed Flicker Shads, which give off a high degree of action! They come in 28 colors, including patterns with bright “fire” tails and glitter tails. This new bait and the traditional Flicker Shad now come with Fusion 19 hooks. These hooks are thin to keep the great action of the bait, but have a strong tensile strength and are super sharp!
After you connect with fish, repeat the plot trail of your trolling path until the fish move. By using the combination of your kicker motor to propel the boat and the Xi5 bow mount trolling motor to steer the boat, you will stay on a very precise trail. If it appears that the fish are in a transition area and tightly packed, don’t be afraid to stop and fish them with a Moonshine Shiver Minnow or Johnson Thin Fisher.
The coolest thing about this pattern is you never know what will be on the other end of the line. Don’t be surprised if your Next Bite is a northern or musky, in addition to the walleyes you will catch!