I did three days up there for opener last year and the fishing was amazing with several big walleyes caught.
With Jimbo, it's alway's vertical jigging with some slip bobbering thrown in. We always anchor up too. We never drift. Last year we had good luck vertical jigging and slip bobbering live and frozen spottail shiners, they weren't very big, about 1.5"-2" long, but they worked great. I was eager to give my new 9 foot Shimano Clarus jigging rod (with medium fast tip) a real workout too; I bought it last year specifically for vertical jigging those LOTW walleyes. The rod was coupled with my brand new Pfleuger President reel spooled with 8lb. Gamma copolymer and a short shank red/glow Fireball jig on the business end....Now I am ready to catch walleyes!
Monday me and Jim tried one spot in 17 FOW and caught some small walleyes which we didn't care for, so we tried 24 FOW and started catching some nicer fish in the 15-22" class then went in for dinner. For the evening Jim's son Dallas came with us. We anchored up shallow closer to the gap in 16 FOW to catch the walleyes as they moved shallower to feed at night, and we did good there. Dallas caught 23" and 25" walleyes on a slip bobber while me and Jim caught more in that 14-19" class vertical jigging.
The next day me and Jim (Dallas went home) tried a spot by Pine island where some boats were stacked up, but we didn't catch a thing. Jim heard of a spot four miles out in 28 FOW for a good mid-day bite, so we decided to give it a try. The walleyes were there, out in the middle of nowhere it seemed, and they were eager to bite.
At this point I was having a real tough time hooking up; plenty of bites, but few fish. I soon solved the problem. Here's the situation. With those LOTW walleyes you have to get you're presentation right on the bottom...I mean a half an inch! They don't want to chase anything, and they don't like a whole lot of movement either. What I would do is let it sit very close to the bottom for 30-45 seconds, then either shake the tip up and down or snap the tip once or twice, being careful not to get the jig up too high. Then when I got a bite I let 'em take it for quite some time. Like at least 30 seconds, and then when you thought you let 'em have it long enough, let 'em have it some more. The reason I struggled getting hookups was the minnows we were using this year were quite a bit longer than the ones we used last year, hence they didn't work well on the short shank fireball jig....I always seemed to set the hook too early. I decided try tie on a long shank hook then asked Jimbo how he hooked up his minnows; he taught me to go through the mouth out the gillplate and hook it transversely through the back. It looked really funky...
...but Jim always catches fish like crazy so I gave it a try, and instantly my hookups percentage increased! I also found that by loading the rod tip after getting a bite made the walleye more reluctant to let go, so that helped too. (I encountered yet another problem-line twist. It took me awhile to figure out that it was due to the newfangled way of hooking the minnow onto the jig. It helicoptored as it came up from the lake bottom. I had to tie on a barrel swivel followed by a 3 foot section of the Gamma then the jig and the line twist stopped.)
So anyway, we caught walleyes and saugers too, one after another for three hours in 28 FOW before the bite died down. We went in, had dinner and fished the shallow evening spot where we caught even more walleyes.
Jim went home wednesday morning and I fished by myself in my little red boat for the next two days. I discovered that by six in the afternoon the walleyes moved shallower, they came through in a wave at 18 FOW, then I would move up to 16 FOW once that things quieted down at 18 FOW. And that was the pattern for the rest of my trip up there...shallow for the morn, then deep, then shallow, then shallower. I used my GPS to get to established areas of active fish depending on time of day. Wednesday it was fairly quiet and I caught only 20 walleyes, one being 26" @ 18 FOW. Thursday I caught 42 walleyes, the most active spot being at 16 FOW from 7 to 8 pm. I figure that the four days I was up there we caught at least a couple hundred walleyes. They weren't as big as last year, probably due to the fact of a much earlier ice out this year, but many decent eater walleyes nonetheless.
Here's the pictures I took of the Lake of the Woods portion of my trip (I hit a lake on the way home for big bluegills that was dynamite, so there is much more to come!)
Walleyes look so cool close up!
These next three pictures are of the 26" walleye I caught. The first picture was all washed out so I did some photo editing to give it some color...
By the way, the weather was beautiful all week long, with sunny to partly cloudy skies, and mild winds for the most part. You couldn't ask for more perfect weather; well, we could have benefited from a bit more wind though, to produce a "walleye chop", but regardless, the fishing was still really good. Just about the time the sun got close to the horizon the warm colors dancing on the water was just beyond description. These snapshots don't do it justice...
The plan was, I would fish monday through thursday at LOTW, and then hit a Bemidji area lake on the way home for some large panfish. Andy told me of a lake I should try, so I researched it and studied the lakemap and thought that I had a good chance of getting into some good fish.
I left the cabin around 5AM in the morn and arrived at the lake around 7ish. The lake was 4 miles long, and I thought I would to try the far end of the lake, thinking it would not be as pressured as the south end where the launch was. I got all four of my panfish rigs all ready to go and started searching. I started fishing a deep hole, but that didn't produce so I started working the shallows, starting out a couple hundred feet from shore and working my way in. I didn't get anything except a pike bite off and a perch, so I started working the shoreline, casting in with T.H.E. jig under a float.
After working the shoreline for fifteen minutes I made my way onto new ground. I cast toward shore and instantly my float pops. I set the hook and fish on. It was a huge bluegill over 9 inches long! Was it just a fluke? I casted out again and BAM! another big bluegill! Wow, I was amazed at how fat and tall these gills were. I continued to fish there catching at least twenty gills, not much under 9 inches with a couple close to the 10 inch mark. And the fought hard! I discovered they were concentrated in that one area relating to some emergent lily pads.
Once things died down there I started working the shore again and found another active spot a hundred yards away with the same results, big, fat bluegills! I even popped a couple crappies, although they weren't too big. Again, the fish were relating to some emergent lily pads. That spot wasn't as good as the last, so I worked my way down some more and found an area, almost a small point, that held lots of big bluegills with some crappies mixed it. By this time the fish were active enough to take my tight line offerings of Charlie Brewer Slider tails. I caught a 10 inch bluegill at that spot too! I had a chance use my 9' Shimano Clarus rod with a Tica UL reel and it was a blast catching big gills on it. Very versatile rod.
After 2-3 hours of great panfishing they seemed to disappear from those spots. I tried a few other spots but couldn't connect. I had my fun with huge bluegills, now I wanted to find some slab crappies and was drawn to a little backwater bay that had some murky water. By now it's getting late in the day, probably five o'clock, and the sky is starting to darken with what, a storm? I started working the shore with the Slider, catching the occasional bull bluegill, when I cast parallel to the shore but out about 30-40 feet from shore...BAM! crappie! It wasn't a slab, but were they in here thick? I cast again BAM! another crappie. Now I know I am onto something. I cast to the same spot and continued to catch more crappies, but they were not big. I decided to switch up to a white 2" Berkley Power minnow to see if I could get some bigger ones to bite and sure enough on my first offering the crappie was bigger than any I caught thus far, about 10". The Power Minnow was the ticket to catching bigger crappies. So the crappie fishing was really good there catching one after another in the 10-11" class when I look back and see the clouds looking even more threatening. I got to nine crappies in my keeper basket and I decided to head back to the launch, even though there was still 2-3 hours of sunlight left. I didn't want to get caught on the lake in a lightning storm. It turns out those clouds were just that. No storm! DANG IT I missed out on some great crappie action, wondering how many monster crappies I COULD have caught! Oh well, it was still a magical day with all those big gills...
This pumkinseed was very colorful, large and tall!
T.H.E jig at work! It was the only one I had, the smallest made me thinks...
The variations of colors and patterns on all the bluegills I caught was very interesting. Check out the orange on the breast of this gill...
I love the green texture in the background here!
10" monster bluegill! Never caught one that big on open water