The area that I like to fish is around the Bass Islands. There are
plenty of places that I can get out of the wind on those hard blowing days on
Erie and sometimes I can get into some trophy smallmouth fishing, that is
always a bonus.
The presentation is usually in the form of crankbaits like the Glass Shad Rap
or a Rapala Tail Dancer trolled along varying depths and speeds until I see a
cloud of baitfish on my Bottom Line depth finder. When I find the baitfish
slightly below and behind, I will find the monster walleyes. Keep track of the
depth at where the fish are, and you are set on a trolling pattern for Erie.
Many anglers like to use live bait when fishing for Erie walleyes as well.
Weight forward spinners have been used for many years and they are extremely
effective. I like to use Lindy Little Joe spinners on about a 4 foot snell
trolled behind a 2 to 3 ounce bottom bouncer. This allows me to move the live
bait up or down in the strike column when I discover the depth at which the
walleyes are feeding.
Moving just a short distance to the Sandusky and Maumee rivers in Ohio I like
to be there for the spawning run in the spring.
I like to long line these fish in the shallows, because they are spread out
over a large area. Walleyes can be found in shallow water at any time, but are
likely to be in there during low-light conditions, like dusk, dawn, cloudy
days and the no-light conditions of night. Sometimes they will be found
tightly grouped on shallow structure, but usually they are scattered.
A walleye may be taken here, another there and another 30 yards away. When the
fish are schooled, a casting approach is the best method of presentation. But
when they are scattered, trolling is by far the most effective.
When trolling the shallows, I use a Minnkota Maxxum bowmount 101 lbs. of
thrust system. This system gives me the power to tame the rough water or pound
through heavy vegetation, and take the pounding that day after day of hard
fishing delivers. This is an essential tool when trolling shallow water and
when want to be quiet. When trolling use floating Rapalas in the No. 7 or 9
size. Fish may be aggressive and will quickly respond to this larger-sized
If the fish are spooky, however, it is necessary to get the bait a great
distance behind the boat. Walleyes have a short memory and a boat going
overhead will make them wary, but a bait 75 to 100 feet behind will be real
The same approach of long lining can also be used not to far away is Sturgeon
Bay located off Lake Michigan near the town of Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin. Here
night fishing is probably the best for trophy walleyes. Crankbaits are the
lure of choice, but many fish are also taken with jigs and live bait rigs. The
additional bonus here is sometimes you hook into a salmon and that makes the
trip very memorable.
For the really serious angler who wants to catch the largest trophy walleye
the Rainy River on the border of Ontario and Minnesota is the place to be in
the early season. All the elements are there. Fish are congregated in the
river staging to make a move into Lake of the Woods and they are full of spawn
and heavy in weight. In fact, there are so many large walleyes in this
confined area that they are literally "stacked in there like cord wood".
Walleyes can be taken with a jig and minnow combination or crankbaits can be
trolled, the presentation is up to you. I prefer an 1/8 ounce Lindy Max-Gap
jig tipped with a redtail chub and believe me I have taken and released a
number of fish over the 10 lb. mark. The bonus fish here is the Sauger. These
underwater neighbors of the walleye are cousins and they grow large in the
Rainy River, not quite as large as the walleye, but fight and table fare they
are equal to their cousins.
Don't overlook area lakes, rivers, farm ponds, or creeks that run by your
house or are just down the road. Just spend time on or near the water. Trophy
walleyes can be loners or travel in schools according to size and sex. Next
time you hear people talking about big water and big fish, tell them you know
that searching for trophy walleyes can be almost anywhere.