As another walleye fishing season wraps up, there are still a few that have not met their goal of breaking that magical "10 pound" barrier. While most walleye lakes have the potential of yielding a 10 pounder, you can greatly up your odds of realizing your goal by planning ahead, and placing yourself on those bodies of water that hold numbers of trophy walleyes at a time of the year that they can be most easily caught.
For some of you there may still be time yet this season, for others, a bit of planning toward next season is your best shot. Either way, now’s a good time to get out your vacation planner and follow along as we outline our "Top Picks for Tens".
Spring walleye fishing usually means concentrating on rivers. When it comes to planning a trip for trophy walleyes, a few river systems stand out above and beyond the rest. During the month of April the Fox River in Wisconsin is the place to be for mammoth walleyes. These fish migrate into the river from the Bay of Green Bay, stop at dam in DePere, Wisconsin and become vulnerable to springtime trophy walleye hunters.
This type of fishing is a statistics game. Even on trophy class waters, you’ll catch numerous small to medium sized walleyes in your search for that "fish of a lifetime". Vertical jigging is without a doubt the most effective presentation, and a lead-head jig tipped with a minnow is the most deadly offering on any of these rivers. The size of jig will vary depending on current, wind and depth with 1/8 to 3/8 ounce sizes being the most popular. Spring walleyes can occasionally be finicky so it is always a good idea to improve your odds by adding a stinger hook to your jig.
Summer months are not normally thought of as trophy time, but on the right bodies of water you can connect with some real giants. For a scenic and rustic summer walleye getaway, go west to Montana’s Fort Peck Reservoir. This massive Missouri River impoundment stretches over some of the upper great plain’s most rugged and breath-taking terrain and yields not only numbers of 10 pound-plus walleyes, but tons of monster northern pike as well. Working points and flats with bottom bouncer/spinner combinations tipped with nightcrawlers are a high percentage approach for hooking these prodigious prairie predators.
As summer slips into the month of August, a true Great Lakes sleeper awakens … Green Bay on Lake Michigan’s west side. Oh, everyone knew the walleyes were here. After all they show up every spring in the Fox River, but most locals felt that once the walleyes returned to the clear waters of the bay, night fishing was the only method of harvesting these fish.
Over the past few years the local fishermen were proven wrong as several walleye tournaments held out of Green Bay have shown. Impressive catches of 3 to 10 pound walleyes were the rule rather than the exception. While spinners and crawlers behind bottom bouncers or trolled using Off Shore Tackle Snap Weights along with planer board presentations, proved to be highly effective, don’t hit the water without a good supply of your favorite crankbaits as they too are very effective on these "Bay" walleyes.
September signals autumn’s approach and the opportunities for wall-hangin’ walleyes in the northern reaches of central Canada come into play. Tobin Lake on the Saskatchewan River near the town of Nipawin, Saskatchewan has consistently yielded the Provincial Record Walleye year after year. This is a fragile fishery and due primarily to heavy fishing pressure over the past several years, big walleye numbers are down. However, this is still no doubt one of the best places to go for a chance at a real trophy specimen. More hawgs are caught from the "river" section of Tobin than the lake itself with live bait rigging, jigging and bottom bouncer spinner combinations worked along the channel edges producing well.
November can be a bone-chilling time to chase big walleyes in the U.P. of Michigan, especially when the winds howl from the north. It’s here on Bay de Noc, on the northern most end of Lake Michigan, that we cut our teeth on catching large walleyes. Although this area has received a great deal of pressure over the years, it still produces lots of big fish every year. Open-water style trolling techniques rule here, with subtle action crankbaits like ThunderSticks trolled behind Off Shore Tackle Side Planer boards accounting for most of the successful catches. Night fishing is a religion up here, so be prepared to loose a little sleep if you’re looking to get in on the best bite.
Of course there are many other great walleye waters that are big fish producers. Southern impoundments have come on strong in popularity over the past few years but few offer more potential than Bull Shoals in Arkansas. This jewel of the Ozarks has long been a prime destination for bass anglers, but the walleye fishing here is some of the best the south has to offer. Spring and fall are both good times to target the big ones here.
The Winnipeg River, as it flows into Lake Winnipeg, is another favorite destination for walleye trophy hunters. These are really gorgeous fish, often called "Emerald Eyes" due to their unique green coloration. The fall season is a favorite among walleye anglers on these waters.
There you have it. A great game plan if you’re setting your sites on landing that 10 pound-plus walleye this year. Granted, there are plenty of other waters that harbor tens, such as the Columbia River, North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea, Lake Erie and Ontario’s Lac Seul just to name a few. Plan smart, rig yourself right, and set your goals high. With a little research, you’re sure to find a trophy walleye destination near you.