April 13, 2012 by Kyle Wood
RED WING, Minn. - With the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour preparing to kick the 2012 season off on the mighty Mississippi River there is one noticeable difference. What happened to all of the water? With the surprising lack of snow and ice throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin it has left water levels below average for this time of year.
On the river low water means low current which is vital in positioning the fish on certain types of structure. It's as if the river has become a whole different animal. Normally most guys would be targeting backwater areas where the fish would spawn and then slide to deeper water to recover. But low water means most of the prime areas are not accessible.
"It takes most of the backwaters out of the game," said Mercury pro Perry Good, "I think with the water down it will bring the lake more into play."
Going into the tournament the bite has been tough due to a few key factors. With the recent full moon and warm weather preceding it, many of the fish have spawned out. Match that with the cold front that has hung around this week and it's no wonder the fishing has been difficult. The water is also fairly clear by river standards, throwing another unusual element at the anglers.
Lake Pepin has also seen high numbers of recreational fishermen spending more time on the water. The mild winter put anglers on the river much earlier this year leading to increased pressure.
With the bite changing from day to day along with the river conditions it should make things interesting come tournament time. A slight warming trend is predicted for next week which could be what it takes to get these fish feeding.
"It's a matter of time; things are changing so fast," said pro Dusty Minke of Forest Lake, Minn.
Water temperatures are averaging around 52 degrees, though warmer water can be found. Add that in with the majority of fish in postspawn mode, and walleyes can be found all over - meaning multiple presentations and adjustments could be key.
"I've got 40 rods rigged," Minke stated. "It's not unlikely to see guys doing four to five different presentations in one day."
The way the tournament is setting up should allow for any presentation to produce fish - from trolling Fireline with crankbaits, to dragging 3-way rigs, to vertically employing a plain-old jig and minnow. Having fish in different stages of the spawn should allow anglers to play to their respective strengths.
While the low water has changed many areas, some of the usual battle grounds should still play a role. Don't be surprised to see good bags come out of Buffalo Slough or Katrina as these commonly produce good fish, especially the bigger females. What remains to been seen is how the fish will set up for anglers in the lake. Some anglers do remain confident that Pepin will produce a lot of fish. In years past, Pepin has always been the ticket for a check but rarely has the quality needed to win a three-day event.
As far as weights for this tournament go, Minke believes 14- to 16-pound days should be average. What about weights to win? Compared to normal years the weights could be slightly lower, though Good still thinks 60 pounds for three days (or more) will take home the prize.