Take Control of Walleyes
By Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
While current and wind can make for a great bite, they can also be a nightmare for trying to position the boat. Being in complete control when we are chasing walleyes hasn’t always been easy. This type of fishing was very tiring and hands-on in the past. It meant putting the anchor out and then having to toss it out again for a slight adjustment. It meant having a foot on the pedal of the bow mount trolling motor at all times and constantly making adjustments to the speed of the kicker motor. There were even days we had two drift socks out and still couldn’t go slow enough for our presentation to work!
The design of your boat can impact how well you can control it in adverse conditions. There are two things to look at when you are purchasing a boat. First, it should sit level in the water, so wind will affect the whole boat, not just one part of it, like the bow. This is really dependent on boat design, like tank placement, battery placement, floatation and hull design. The only way to see if a boat sits level is to see it on the water.
It is also important to have a boat with a good keel, which will help it track better in the water. When we are trolling sideways in the wind, or into the wind, the boat will not wander as much because the keel will keep tracking and hold the boat on course. You can often tell how well a boat tracks by running it backward and turning. If the boat just slips backward and doesn’t follow the engine, it probably won’t track well. If the boat follows the engine and can make quick turns going backward, it means that the boat does track well.
Advances in technology have really changed the walleye game when it comes to boat control, making it easier to position our boat. They also keep us from not becoming as fatigued as we would have been in the past after a long day on the water.
One of our favorite boat control features is the Anchor Mode on our MotorGuide Xi5 bow mount trolling motor. This comes in handy when we are casting jigs or Shiver Minnows. Instead of having to put out an anchor, with the click of a button the motor will act as the anchor and hold us in place while we work a spot over. Not only does this eliminate the splash and commotion that is usually associated with a traditional anchor, but also we can easily position the boat right where we want it to be.
If we are working a shoreline or bridge pillar, a feature that works great in conjunction with Anchor Mode is “Jogging”. Again, with the touch of a button, we can move in five-foot increments, forward, backward or sideway. The motor will then re-anchor. If we want to move 10 feet over, we just click twice.
You can also connect your Lowrance HDS sonar/GPS units to the Xi5 by using MotorGuide Gateway. The Gateway is a cord that uses the NMEA Network port so you can control your trolling motor right from your Lowrance unit. This allows you to tell the trolling motor to anchor on a specific waypoint, or you can move the cursor to a spot on the map and the motor will go there.
Another great boat control feature is “Heading Lock”, which can also be found on the Xi5. We like to use this when we are pulling Slow Death rigs or spinner rigs on bottom bouncers. When fishing this way, it is important to keep your bait moving. If you make a sharp turn or slow down too much, the bait will fall to the bottom.
This is where Heading Lock comes in. We just point the motor in the direction we want it to go! The motor does all the work to keep us on course at the desired speed. If we want to move deeper or shallower, we just click a button to turn the motor in the new direction. As it starts to head in the new direction, the motor will actually straighten itself out, cutting boat control in half! Not to mention that the turns are very smooth, so your baits won’t drop to bottom.
Another piece of equipment that can make boat control easier is a Power-Pole. It is an apparatus that mounts on the transom of the boat on the opposite side of the kicker motor. When we are fishing in less than 8’ of water, we can press a button to drop the Power-Pole down, which will anchor us in place. When we are in more than 8’ of water, we rely on the MotorGuide Xi5 bow mount trolling motor with Anchor Mode that we mentioned earlier.
If you have a Power-Pole on your boat, you definitely want to get the Drift Paddle attachment. The Drift Paddle attaches to the spike on the Power-Pole and can be used to create drag. If we are trolling open water in early summer using spinners, and the wind is up to about 15 to 20 mph, as we troll with the wind, it becomes difficult to maintain a good slow speed for the spinners because the wind is pushing us. With the Drift Paddle attached to the Power-Pole, we simply deploy it into the water creating drag that helps slow down our trolling speed.
We can even control the amount of drag it creates by how far down into the water we lower the paddle. If we deploy it only half way it slows us down a little. By deploying it all the way down into the water we have actually been able to slow the boat down as much as a mile to a mile and quarter when trolling with our big engines.
Another advantage of using the Drift Paddle in this scenario is that with the paddle down, it dramatically decreases the “surge” effect the waves have on the boat as we troll. That’s a big deal, especially when trolling spinners, as the surges can affect how the spinners are running, and in dingy water can make it difficult for the fish to track down your bait. By eliminating or at least lessening the surging, the spinners run truer and therefore are more effective.
The Drift Paddle is also useful when doing a controlled drift. It has seven quick-change positions that cover a full 180 degrees, allowing us to set the paddle at any angle we need to help the boat drift on the path we want it to.
We can control the boat’s path from the bow mount trolling motor. When we need to move in or out on a break, the Drift Paddle easily cuts through the water making positioning so much easier than having to drag a drift sock. By drifting with the paddle off the back and steering with our bow mount trolling motor up front, we have excellent control of the boat! By incorporating technology into fishing, you can have a less stressful day on the water and take control of your Next Bite!