Minnesota has more professional walleye anglers than any other state. So why not gain knowledge from the guys who make a living by catching marble-eyes? (June 2006)
Marty Glorvigen says to fish the deepest part of the lake and the adjacent deep weedlines in June. Walleyes use these areas to herd baitfish and then feed on them at the base of the weeds.
Photo by Ron Hustvedt Jr.
Minnesota is a walleye-crazy state. We made it our official state fish. We even put anglers on our state quarter, and they are undoubtedly in pursuit of walleyes. Walleyes are the reason that hundreds of thousands of anglers go out for the walleye opener in all kinds of weather. We even fish through the ice for them. We collectively spend millions of dollars on gear to catch marble-eyes. Bazillions of hours are spent in pursuit of them.
Some folks even make a living off catching walleyes. Of all the professional anglers who fish the Professional Walleye Trail tournament circuit, there are more Minnesotans than any other state. Julie Meister, PWT tournament coordinator, said 48 of the pros are from Minnesota, while Wisconsin comes in second with 36, and Michigan takes third with 28.
With walleyes on our brains, it is no wonder Minnesota has produced so many top walleye anglers. We sat down with a "lucky 13" of them and asked them to share with us their nuggets of knowledge.
Marty has a world walleye rank of 49, which puts him among the best of the best. He lives on Trout Lake, which is a classic northern Minnesota walleye lake, but his tip can be used on any walleye water statewide.
"When you get into June, one of the places I focus on is the deepest part of the lake and the adjacent deep weedlines. This is by far the premium part of the lake where the food chain is most active this time of year. Walleyes use these areas to push bait into the bank and feed on them at the base of the weeds. It's close to where all of their food sources are at this time of the year. It's like their refrigerator.
"Everybody has a favorite competence technique they are well schooled at, and walleyes can be caught in these locations whether you are a rigger, jigger, crankbait caster or troller," Marty continued. "I particularly like to throw rattle-type baits at the weed pockets no matter wherever I happen to be across Minnesota.
"Find the area where the break happens relatively fast, as close to a 45-degree angle as you can find. If you are on a southern Minnesota lake where it doesn't get too deep and structure is very subtle, you might be on an area where it jumps from 4 feet to 7 feet. On my lake, one of my favorite locations is where the deep-water weeds are at 18 feet, and then it drops to 80 feet. It's all relative."
Additional information about Marty can be found on his Web site at www.geminisportmarketing.com.
For anybody who pays attention to walleye fishing, this man needs no introduction. His official nickname is "Mr. Walleye," and he is a walleye fishing machine that the pros admire. Thankfully, he's also one of the nicest people around. These days, his focus is on fishing rods.
"A mistake I see a lot of anglers making today is they don't match their fishing rod to the style of fishing they are doing," Gary said. "A lot of them miss walleyes because they had a fishing rod that was too stiff, too soft, too short or too long.
"Basically, the deeper you are fishing, the longer a fishing rod you want for a good hookset. A longer rod is more flexible and provides better leverage. Walleyes are finicky in June, so I use a 7-footer for bobber-fishing and deep rigging. If you are long-line trolling, running boards or lead-core fishing, you want a longer rod in the 8-foot range.
"Another mistake I see comes with live-bait rigging," Gary continued. "You want a rod flexible enough so when a walleye grabs your lure and starts pulling, you can keep pressure on while retaining flexibility. The secret is to let the rod go back as the walleye picks it up, but don't set the hook right away. They will usually move the bait in their mouth just right, and then grab it again. That's when you set the hook."
Perry has a PWT Championship to his name, among other major wins. The Brainerd resident is the world's 33rd-ranked walleye angler, and is the only fisherman to qualify for every PWT and RCL championship.
"A lot of Minnesotans don't look in the weeds for walleyes, which I find amazing because in the tournaments over the years, that can be the only place we find them," Perry said. "My rule of thumb is if the lake has stocked walleyes, fish the weeds. Stocked walleyes are raised in weed-filled rearing ponds and they think it's home.
"One of my favorite lakes is Gull Lake near Brainerd. There's natural reproduction, but it's also stocked, meaning there are walleyes in the weeds. When I first moved up here, I was fishing the Camp Confidence Classic with Tony Dean and we fished the weeds with 4-inch plastic worms. My first cast yielded a 7-pound walleye!
"These weed walleyes are not afraid to go shallow in stained-water lakes and even in the river," Perry continued. "I won a tournament in Red Wing in 2 feet of water in the weeds catching 7-pounders. It worked on Mille Lacs in 2001 when I won the Wave Wackers by sight-fishing walleyes in the cabbage beds.
"Plastic worms, weedless jigs or regular mushroom jigs ripped through the weeds with Fireline are the best tactics for catching these weed walleyes no matter what body of water you are fishing on."
Steve spends more than 200 days a year in pursuit of walleyes, both as a guide and tournament angler. He frequently posts articles on www.in-depthangling.com, and the Champlain resident really loves fishing the Minnesota portion of the Mississippi River from the headwaters on down.
"Whether you are trolling or casting crankbaits, wing dams are the best location this time of the year," Steve said. "I like to cast a Bomber 5A or Grappler Shad up on the wing dam and reel down the top of the wing dam. Everybody says they fish wing dams, but I hardly see anybody there in the summertime. Lakes are not the only place to catch walleyes in the summertime.
"When I show this pattern to my customers, they are amazed at how aggressively these walleyes hit the crankbait. These wing dams will hold walleyes as shallow as 2 feet or as deep as 7 feet. Just make sure to bang the crankbait down the upcurrent side. Use an anch
or or bow-mounted motor to keep the boat in position. The water is usually stained in the summer, so I use lures with rattles, and I love chartreuse, though dark black and purple also work."
Additional information about Steve can be found on his Web site at www.stevedezurik.com.
A member of the famed Nisswa Professional Guides League, Rich is a Top 200 World Walleye Pro with 17 top 10 tournament finishes. His tip is something he said our grandfathers used exclusively but has been lost on more "modern" anglers.
"When the summer heat warms the water to its peak temperatures, usually in the high 70s, baitfish move from their preferred weedy locations into the cooler waters of the lake, making them easier to target," Rich said. "One of my favorite techniques is to troll the outside of these weeds, which around the Brainerd Lakes Area is usually 15 to 20 feet deep. This system is as easy as tying on a No. 7 Shad Rap, letting out 100 feet of line, and cruising back and forth on this outside edge. Varying your speed will help you connect.
"Another system is to use a No. 4 or No. 5 Shad Rap with three colors of lead-core fishing line out to get the crankbait to where the fish are holding," continued Rich. "For the leader, I use 14-pound-test Berkley FireLine. Speed control is critical and will be the key to consistent hookups. There is not a magic number, but once you catch one, you know how fast to go."
Additional information about Rich Boggs can be found online at www.nisswaguides.com.
Mark has almost 30 years of guiding experience in northern Minnesota, and is an accomplished tournament trail pro. His world walleye ranking is No. 32, and he will be trying to improve on that number this year by fishing in the PWT Super Pro series.
"A lot of the lakes in northern Minnesota like Bemidji, Cass, Leech and many smaller lakes contain depths of 50 to 100 feet or more, making for a lot of water to cover," Mark said. "Beginning in late May and lasting through the summer, walleyes in these deep lakes are very comfortable living at depths from 20 to 40 feet, and they are still very catchable.
"A quality graph is critical for finding these fish and the structures they relate to. I'll position myself on a portion of the lake that contains a sandbar, rockpile or flat with access to deep water, and then use my Lowrance to pinpoint their location along the dropoff.
"Tightly schooled walleyes can be caught with a soft-plastic-tipped jig," continued Mark. "Boat control is critical, especially when jigging, so keep on top of them even if they move. If walleyes are scattered, control drift or back troll a Roach Rig tipped with live bait along the edge of the breakline. If walleyes are suspended, lengthen the leader of your Roach Rig by 8 to 12 feet and use a juicy air-injected crawler. Don't be afraid to experiment with all the variables to get the bait directly in front of the walleyes. It is worth it because these suspended fish are oftentimes the biggest ones!"
Additional information about Mark Christianson can be found online at www.leechlakeguides.com.
Jon has only been fishing the national walleye tournaments for a few years, but he is ranked among the top 200 and closing in on the top 100. June is his favorite open-water month, and Mille Lacs is the lake of choice for his tip.
"June is a time of transition, and the potential for limits of 'eaters' as well as trophy walleyes is at a peak," Jon said. "An enormous number of fish begin showing up on the midlake mud flats in early June, but they usually rest for a few days before actively feeding. I like to target the flats closest to the shoreline and then move farther out as the month progresses.
"My preferred rig -- a medium-sized leech on a No. 8 hook with an 8- to 10-foot snell -- is no secret. I would guess that 80 percent of Mille Lacs mud flat anglers are using this or something very similar. The trick is to work this rig with the subtleties that will trigger the most bites. I find the most important aspect of my presentation to be variation of speed.
"If I am fishing the soft bottom on top of the flats, I keep my rig a foot off bottom, occasionally accelerating it by moving my rod tip forward," continued the Crystal resident. "If I'm working the hard-bottomed edges just off the flats, I constantly start and stop my bait by setting the sinker on the bottom and then lifting it up a foot. Don't do that on top, because you'll create a huge cloud of silt."
John is a lot like most Minnesota walleye anglers in that he has too many other commitments to attempt a career as a professional angler. As the owner of an engineering company, the tournament trail lifestyle is not possible. Nevertheless, the Elk River resident is an excellent walleye angler and a promotional angler for Yum soft-plastic baits.
"Last summer, I had some great luck on Winnibigoshish and Mille Lacs by plastic worm rigging for walleyes on midlake structure," John said. "I was out there with a few guys who insisted on using live bait, and I outfished them two to one. What made it even better is the fish they were catching were subtle biters, while mine crushed the bait like a smallmouth.
"We were fishing the mud and gravel because the walleyes were very scattered," he continued. "I spinner-rigged a Houdini worm on a two-hook crawler harness because the fish seemed to like the extra action put out by its fat little tail. I like to tie my own rigs, and use 8- to 10-pound fluorocarbon line. Be sure to space the hooks 2 1/2 inches apart. My favorite spinner color in these lakes is gold, and I've had great luck lately with a hammered hatchet blade. I run the spinner so the bottom edge is at the plastic crawler, keeping the hook free for a good hookset. Use a ball-bearing swivel to attach the 4- to 5-foot leader to your line."
Anyone who has ever heard of the Minnesota Walleye Trail has heard of Jim Miller. The Sherburne resident and his brother are the owners and operators of the tournament, and are also guides in southern Minnesota.
"I'm from down along the Iowa border where the lakes are all cereal bowls and all the basic walleye fishing techniques still work," Jim said. "People think it's nothing but bullheads and cornfields down here, but there are plenty of walleyes. The walleyes down here are not highly pressured and they don't see many lures, so they haven't gotten sick of the same presentations like the walleyes farther north.
"My tip is for all those anglers who drive north for walleyes is to head the same distance south for some absolutely fantastic walleye fishing. We live in Martin County where there are about 80 lakes, most of which have walleyes, and all of which are hardly fished. I don't need to run up north to have a great day of walleye action."
For more information on Jim Miller, check out www.polebender.com.
Southern Minnesota is where Brett King calls home, and most of his walleye fishing is on the Mississippi River near Red Wing. His other favorite spot is on Mille Lacs. He spends much of his time crisscrossing the country as a pro on both the PWT and RCL tournament circuit, and is just shy of being in the top 100 of the world walleye ranking.
"When you are Lindy Rigging, a lot of variables make a big difference in your catch," Brett said. "Leader length, hook color and sinker weight all play a big role.
"Something I've found that can make a big difference, that I do not see many anglers do, is give the rig some subtle actions while drifting or back trolling. One way I achieve this is by weighting my rig just right so that my sinker is hovering just above the bottom. I then make a stabbing motion with my rod tip toward the water surface, which does something the walleyes find hard to resist. The first thing is that it creates a stop-and-go motion, enticing a strike from a following walleye.
"The second thing is that it allows me to continuously check contact with the bottom when the sinker drops back. I use this method on inland lakes from the opener and into the fall from 4 feet deep in the weeds out to 35 feet on the mud flats."
For more info on Brett King, go to www.smoothmovesseatmounts.com.
Arguably one of Minnesota's most well-known angling personalities, Terry has 45 years of fishing and tournament experience. On the radio, television and at various seminars around the country, Terry reaches an audience of over 300 million each year. He spends over 150 days a year on the water.
"There's a lot that's been said about finding walleyes in the weeds over the years, but I still don't think enough anglers go into those locations after them," Terry said. "Just remember, if you are fishing alongside the weeds, you are not fishing for weed walleyes.
"Some of the best lakes for finding walleyes in the weeds are in the southwest metro. Prior, Spring, Marion, Waconia, Minnetonka and the Faribault-area lakes are my first choices. The weeds are not the only locations for walleyes on these lakes, but they are an untapped location.
"The best locations are where cabbage or coontail are near deep water," Terry continued. "In midsummer, sunken islands are ideal. Use lipless crankbaits, run shallow-diving crankbaits over the tops of these areas or go into the weeds with plastic worms to catch those walleyes."
Tim is a full-time fishing guide in the Brainerd Lakes Area, where the competition is tough. Tim is a guide for "Walleye Dan" Eigen.
"It's pretty common knowledge around these parts that night-fishing on Mille Lacs is about the best you can get anywhere in the world," Tim said. "It always surprises me, however, when I hear people say they have never fished it. If you know it's good, then why aren't you trying it?
"There's a ban on fishing after 10 p.m. that lasts into mid-June, but it's worth it to fish any time of the month you can get up here. If you are fishing while the ban is on, cast a No. 5 Shad Rap around 10 feet deep and move shallower as the clock ticks closer to 10 p.m., then get off the lake.
"Once the ban is over, a lighted slip-bobber is great after sunset. As a rule of thumb, fish the reefs in the early part of the month and the flats later on in the month. My favorite location is 8-Mile Flat by far, but don't let that limit your choice. There's plenty of water out there."
For more information on Tim Hanske, go to www.walleyedan.com.
Kirk is one of the Lake Minnetonka guides and a successful walleye tournament angler. He pre-fishes tournament lakes all over the place, but loves to dip a line in metro lakes -- particularly Minnetonka.
"Lake Minnetonka is a great place for walleyes, but every bay is different and needs to be fished according to the unique conditions," Kirk said. "The upper and lower lakes are two drastic differences, one with stained water and the other with clearer water. Brown's Bay and Smith Bay are two clearwater locations I like, while Cook's Bay and the Upper Lake are good darker-water locations. The weed edge along inside turns of the underwater shoreline structure is the place to target these fish.
"I like to pull leeches or crawlers on spinners starting in 8 to 16 feet and going out from there depending on the weed edge. Do not hesitate to try night-fishing on Minnetonka because the traffic is significantly less, but the walleyes are still biting."
For more information on Kirk, go to www.lakeminnetonkaguides.com.
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That's a wealth of knowledge, folks. Be sure to use it to your advantage this season!