There really aren’t a lot of places where walleye angling starts out good and keeps getting better through July and August and even into September. Lake of the Woods is one such place and is a real jewel and why it might be a good idea to schedule a trip to this northern most border water. Lots of pole bending is what we’re talking about and includes fish of every size; from the smallest sauger to monster ‘eyes and everything in between. Although the action can be red hot it isn’t everywhere and there are some things to look for as well as some specialized equipment needed to be effective.
The predominant summer pattern is trolling basin areas with crankbaits and is super effective way to cover water and put fish in the boat. There is more than one way to get it done but hands down the top method includes the use of downriggers to get the baits running at the right depth. You can do the same thing with leadcore line or even by attaching snap weights to your line ahead of the lure but downriggers like my Cannon Mag10s are fast, and are the quickest way to get a bait down and running right at a specific speed. They have an electric motor that lowers and raises a lead ball attached to a steel cable. The ball has a release attached to the tail end which is pinched on the line ahead of the lure. You can vary the length of line you put out but fifty feet or so is a good place to start. From there you release line from your reel while the ball is being lowered to the desired depth, realizing that your crankbait will run deeper than the depth of the ball. It’s a bit of a guessing game and takes a little tinkering to get to the right running depth but with slight adjustments up or down you’ll soon know if you have it right. Once you get the ball down you then reel up the slack until the line gets fairly tight and the rod starts to load up to the point that the line almost pulls out of the release. You will pull it out the first time or two but with the speed of the Mag10’s you can be re-attached and back down in seconds. At that point it’s a matter of trolling through what seems like endless schools of fish while waiting for the rods to snap up after a fish has pulled the line loose from the release. If you’ve trolled long enough without any lines tripping there’s a good chance you’re fowled with small fish, little sauger that are basically everywhere. They’ll hook up and drag along and you won’t even know they’re there until you do a bait check. A key to identifying the small stuff is to attach the release shallow, so it barely holds the resistance of the crankbait without completely letting go.
A trip last August out of Baudette, Minnesota found us north and west of Pine Island in approximately 30 feet of water and there were groups of boats working basin fish in several different directions. The groups can give you a good idea of where to start but finding fish that you can have to yourself can be more productive and more fulfilling. Although we started our trip out where friends had been successful just the day before; it didn’t take long to figure out that there was fish almost everywhere. My Humminbird 1197 was marking fish constantly and we were never out of good solid marks. The thing is even though we were constantly marking the fish they weren’t always biting and it took some moves to find the biters. A move of a couple miles that put us closer to the Canadian border paid off big time and the result could be best described as shooting fish in a barrel. It didn’t take long to fill out with beautiful walleyes that were just under the protected slot as well as a few in the twenty four to twenty six inch range that were released. We were also able to get our saugers which ran from fifteen to seventeen inches.
The most productive baits tend to run small and include #5 Shad Raps, Glass Raps, and Jointed Shad Raps in a variety of colors. Chrome, blue, firetiger as well as several other patterns all produced and seemed to change in relationship to the sun being out or behind the clouds so don’t be afraid to change it up if they aren’t popping.
Lake of the Woods is an incredible fishery that continues to be good year after year. Even with all of the pressure it receives the numbers and size remains fairly constant and why it’s a top summer time destination. See you on the water.