UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Ohio River

Back to basics for early-season walleyes

Not all summer walleyes move to open water. BP pro Jason Przekurat loves to use slip-bobber rigs to exploit walleyes in heavy wood cover.

Across the northern walleye belt fishing season is now in full swing. Early season brings some of the best action of the year, as hungry 'eyes that spent the winter with little to eat now feast on abundant young-of-the-year baitfish. Catching walleyes isn't complicated this time of year. The same methods and presentations that worked for your grandfather still work today. Here's a refresher on some of the basics. Jigs Whether tipped with a minnow, leech, night crawler or plastic imitation, the leadhead jig is synonymous with walleye fishing. While a plain hook is even more basic and, in some situations, might work better, jigs sink faster and allow for precise bottom contact, which is where walleyes are found more often than not. The best colors vary from day to day and place to place, but chartreuse, green and orangeJigs are good choices to start. Weedless jigs in conical shapes can slither through heavy cover without hanging up. Jigs can be fished vertically or horizontally in the water column, can be used to cover water quickly by snap jigging or fan-casting, or can be fished ultraslow under a slip-bobber. Live-bait rig Another opening-day standby, the live-bait rig merely separates the weight from the hook via a snell, the length of which varies from as little as 3 feet to 8 feet or more, depending on water clarity and fishing pressure. If the water is very clear and/or fishing pressure is heavy, longer snells are better. Live-bait riggingLive-bait rigs work well during slow and negative bites. With leeches, use a No. 8 or No. 10 hook; crawlers require a No. 6 or No. 4; and minnows work well with a No. 4 or No. 2, depending on the size of the minnow. Slip-sinkers come in all sizes and shapes, but a good all-around choice is a 3/8-ounce barrel-shaped sinker, which can be fished effectively from 10 feet down to about 20 feet. Go lighter in shallower water and heavier in deeper water. Bobber rigs Bobber rigs, especially the slip styles, rank with live-bait rigs when it comes to prevalence in the opening-day arsenal. Both work well in cold water, when walleyes can be sluggish. But with a bobber you can slow your presentation to a dead stop, which is sometimes necessary to get walleyes to bite. Slip-bobber rigPerhaps you've heard the analogy to a doughnut on a table. You might look at it for 10 minutes without making a move. Then you succumb to temptation and take a bite. That's how a bobber rig works on a finicky walleye. Dozens of different bobber styles are available, including lighted models for night fishing. Use them with plain hooks or leadhead jigs tipped with live bait. But when using leeches or night crawlers, make sure the water is warm enough for them to swim. Crankbaits There isn't a crankbait in the world a walleye won't chase under the right circumstances, but the most popular opening-day bait is probably the No. 11 floating Rapala, for walleyes often are in water 8 feet or less on opening day. But no matter at what depth the fish are hanging, a crankbait can reach them. Dive charts are available that show how deep many popular crankbaits run. Some anglers fish shallow-running crankbaits in deep water by running them behind bottom bouncers or three-way rigs. Profile is important when choosing a crankbait. It's usually best to choose a crankbait that imitates the primary forage fish. Yet for reasons unknown, walleyes in one lake will prefer stout crankbaits while walleyes in another lake prefer slender styles, even though the forage base would indicate otherwise. Trolling crankbaits is always good in low-light, when walleyes are aggressive. Casting crankbaits to windswept shorelines is another good opening-day technique. As tournament fishing has proven, you can't go wrong running crankbaits for walleyes.Assorted crankbaits Tips from the pros Here are other tips from today's top walleye pros on what works best on the opener. "If you fish the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Minnesota, which is open year round, add leadcore to your choices. Rivers anywhere call for three-way rigs with gumdrop floaters or original Raps. And often a spinner minnow or spinner crawler is gangbusters because nobody is using them yet." - Scott Fairbairn, Hager City, Wis., five-time top-10 finisher on the FLW Walleye Tour. "Pulling cranks is always good in the evenings or at night, but the problem is that many areas get too crowded for a good trolling run. I've done real well long-lining a leech or crawler in 8 to 15 feet on the opener. The key is to get your bait far away from the boat." - Perry Good, Brainerd, Minn., sixth-place finisher at 2009 Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie. "A jig and plastic combination lets you cover water a lot faster than a jig and minnow." - Jason Przekurat, Stevens Point, Wis., winner of 2007 Walleye Tour event on Mississippi River and two-time FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year. "Shore fishing in many areas is more productive early in the season than fishing out of a boat, especially at night." - Pete Harsh, Sauk Centre, Minn., 2008 FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year. "A jig and minnow fished on newly emerging weeds can be the best bite of the year." - Tom Keenan, Hatley, Wis., winner of 2003 Walleye Tour event on the Mississippi River and 2006 FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year. "A lot of people overlook the more aggressive presentations, but I've found them to be very effective on the opener. A lot of fish are willing to hit faster-moving baits, and typically you'll be doing this where a lot of others aren't fishing." - Jimmy Bell, Ham Lake, Minn., who's fished 23 FLW tournaments since 2003. "Make sure to fish where the fish are, which on the opener means the warmest water in the lake. Wind-blown rock piles and gravel shorelines are almost always good." - Gary Roach, Merrifield, Minn., who's fished 20 FLW tournaments since 2000. "I always prefer a jig and minnow on opening day. You can anchor and fan cast, drift along with a drift sock, snap jig or pitch to shorelines. Vertical jigging in the current below dams is always good, too." - Ted Takasaki, East Gull Lake, Minn., who has four top-10 finishes on the FLW Walleye Tour.

Tags: tech-tackle-reviews  vince-meyer 

/tips/2015-06-04-pros-preferred-ledge-rods

Pros’ Preferred Ledge Rods

We quizzed four of the best offshore anglers around on the rod that they get the most out of and why they like it. If you need a new rod and have ledges on the brain, these four are worth your consideration. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-05-23-the-next-big-ledge-bait

The Next Big Ledge Bait

If you’re a ledge fisherman, go buy another Plano tackle tray, because the list of baits that you need to have in your arsenal has grown once again. Ledge maestro Ben Parker, who developed the Nichols Lures Magnum Spoon and unveiled it to the fishing world at the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour finale on Kentucky Lake, has drummed up another big hit for offshore anglers – “big” being the key word. The new Nichols MBP Swimbait (MBP stands for Magnum Ben Parker) is a jumbo swimbait that already helped FLW pros cash checks on the Tennessee River ledges at this month’s Rayovac FLW Series tournament on Kentucky Lake. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-12-08-sebile-action-first-star-shiner

Sebile Action First Star Shiner

It’s no secret that one of the best baits you can throw at lethargic bass in chilly water is a suspending jerkbait. Just in time for this year’s prespawn brawl, here is a new twist on the darting, diving minnow imitator that’s sure to put a twinkle in the bass’ eye without putting a big dent in your tackle budget. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-11-25-magnum-rods-for-jumbo-plugs

Magnum Rods for Jumbo Plugs

With the magnum crankbait craze spreading in 2014, it makes sense that rod companies would start building rods specifically for fishing jumbo plugs. We analyzed three tournament-worthy rods built for launching crankbaits ranging from standard deep-divers such as the Strike King 6XD up to today’s true jumbo plugs like the Strike King 10XD. Here’s how they fared. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-09-04-tackle-review-strike-pro-big-bubba

Tackle Review: Strike Pro Big Bubba

Here’s a one-of-a-kind square-bill that crankbait junkies might want to think about adding to their shallow-water arsenal. I’m hesitant to call the Big Bubba new because Strike Pro actually unveiled it awhile back. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-07-16-icast-trends-big-and-bold

ICAST Trends: Big and Bold

Gizzard shad are nothing new; nor is the notion that bass like to eat them. However, the recent heroics with a Magnum Spoon by Jason Lambert, Clent Davis, Randy Haynes and others at Kentucky Lake have focused a spotlight on a point reflected in several of the new products debuted at ICAST. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-07-09-tackle-review-z-man-diezel-minnowz

Tackle Review: Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ

With a name like DieZel, I expected the MinnowZ from Z-Man to be one rough customer. What I didn’t expect was something tough enough to catch several dozen bass and still not need replacing. Then I remembered the nifty 4-inch swimbait is manufactured using ElaZtech, a super-soft, yet incredibly strong material that has made a name for itself as one of the most pliable and durable soft plastics used in the fresh- and saltwater fishing industries. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-05-05-tackle-review-gambler-burner-worm

Tackle Review: Gambler Burner Worm

Just when you thought the soft-plastic worm market couldn’t get any fatter, Florida-based Gambler introduces a heavyweight surface swimmer that is designed to perform significantly better than others with a paddle-tail caboose. It’s called the Burner Worm, but it does way more than the name implies. To hear Walmart FLW Tour pros JT Kenney and Jim Tutt tell it, Gambler’s newest soft plastic is perfect for buzzing on top or crawled beneath the surface without ever missing a beat. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-04-30-tackle-review-strike-king-tour-grade-rage-blade-

Tackle Review: Strike King Tour Grade Rage Blade

There’s a new bladed swim jig in town from Strike King, and this one is sure to shake things up once the bass fishing masses catch on to some big changes it brings to the table. Not only does it rattle your rod tip and attract violent strikes from afar, it helps solve a couple of nagging problems inherent in a posse of its predecessors – poor hookup ratios and frustrating hangups. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-04-29-fishing-cybertools-

Fishing cybertools

When you’re fishing with an old-school bass angler, nothing will sour his face faster than seeing you slip a smartphone out of your pocket to peek at your email. As understandable as that attitude is, no one can rightly deny that today’s phones provide a tremendous amount of useful stuff. Such a device can be as valuable as your graph or a good landing net. In fact, your phone is more like a toolbox than a tool because each app serves a separate function. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-03-21-jerkbait-guide

Jerkbait guide

Take in an early spring tournament on just about any fishery, and you’ll see dozens of anglers jerking, twitching and snapping a bevy of slender minnow-shaped jerkbaits. Yet the same select and relatively small group of anglers usually cashes the bulk of the checks on many lakes during the spring. Somehow, they manage to set themselves apart. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-11-24-a-crankbait-dives-to-new-depths-

A crankbait ‘Dives-To’ new depths

For some reason, crankbaits overtook other lures this year in the speck of cyberspace inside my head that is my attention span. My wife gets annoyed that I can’t hear other words when I’m singularly focused on one task or noise. The problem is compounded when it involves something to do with fishing. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-11-18-running-the-yamaha-sho-v-max-250-la-

Running the Yamaha SHO V Max 250 LA

Waking up Tuesday to rain at 6 a.m. didn’t dampen the excitement of testing the new Yamaha outboards. The air was cool but not cold, and the rain was spitting and misting on the 45-minute drive to the test facility in Bridgeport, Ala. A quick safety meeting got everyone on the same page, and then a rundown of the SHO outboard came next. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-11-17-sneak-peak-new-yamaha-v-max-sho

Sneak peak: New Yamaha V MAX SHO

Game changer? It’s definitely going to be a drool inducer. We were invited to an early viewing of the new four-stroke outboards from Yamaha. Monday we were only privy to images of the new outboards, and Tuesday we’ll actually get to put them through their paces on several different boats. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-09-28-product-of-the-year-trilene-100-fluorocarbon

Product of the Year: Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon

Approximately one decade ago the Yamamoto Senko hit the market and transformed the bass-fishing industry. A few years later the shaky head and finesse worm had a similar effect. In 2005 Bryan Thrift introduced the ChatterBait, and in 2007 Jay Yelas won the FLW Tour Angler of the Year by throwing an under-the-radar swimbait. This season, no singular bait stood out. Instead, a fluorocarbon line was the product with the most profound impact. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-09-10-the-art-and-science-of-blade-baiting

The art and science of blade baiting

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/tips/2009-07-27-topwater-poppers

Topwater poppers

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/news/2009-07-25-fifteen-good-bass-a-season-makes

Fifteen good bass a season makes

TRENTON, Mich. – For Chip Harrison, salvation came in the form of a smallmouth bass. READ MORE »

/news/2009-07-25-high-school-senior-wins-co-angler-title-on-detroit-river

High school senior wins co-angler title on Detroit River

TRENTON, Mich. — Cade Laufenberg skipped football camp to fish in a tournament this week. The 17-year-old high school senior expected to take a lot of heat from his buddies when he got home to Stoddard, Wis. READ MORE »

/news/2009-07-25-high-winds-hamper-day-three-of-stren-series-tournament

High winds hamper day three of Stren Series tournament

TRENTON, Mich. -- The winds of fate have forced the hand to be played by the anglers who launched this morning for the final round of the Stren Series Central Division tournament on the Detroit River. READ MORE »