By: Brad Qualley
In the walleye world things are starting to move fast. In part one we talked about fishing just after ice out and spawning walleye. In this article we will be going over what you should be doing now that the spawn is over.
In this article we will be focusing basins. The fish have now moved out of their spawning locations as the spawn is over. I just got done fishing a Colorado Walleye Association tournament that landed on April 22nd and 23rd. The water temperature for this lake was in the mid to high 50’s. There were 52 teams that fished this tournament and teams were catching fish using many different techniques. Even though teams were having success with various presentations there was one that I will focus on that most of the top teams were doing and gave me and All Eyes pro staff Mitch Petersen a check on day one and a top ten overall finish.
On our pre-fish day our goal, just like everyone else, was to find a pattern that was consistent to help give us a plan on day one of the tournament. Like I said this was a pre-fish day so we started off pitching 5″ plastic grub tail jigs in the shallows and on subtle breaks. When I talk shallow I am in the 8 foot range pitching up to shore and working the jig back. This is a typical early season tactic that we use to start out our pre-fish day as we have found a lot of fish in shallow water in the early morning hours. One thing to remember when fishing shallow is that your electronics will not mark a bunch of fish. Typically I trust my Lowrance but in the shallow water you need to remember that your cone pattern from your transducer is small so you are not scanning a bunch of water just what’s under your boat. We tried pitching for a bit and couldn’t get anything to go. During pre-fishing you are gathering as much information as possible so finding things that don’t work is as important as finding what works. We then moved into the 16 foot range and marked scattered fish but no bait fish. We put on blade baits and Rapala jig n raps and worked those fish. We didn’t have any success so we moved onto plan C.
I mentioned we will be focusing on basins but why? We were fishing Cherry Creek which is a lake in the Denver, Colorado metro. As you can imagine this lake gets a ton of pressure. To describe the lake, it is well under 1000 surface acres and is relatively shallow. There are spots in the lake that will go down into the 30 foot range but there is a large basin in the middle of the lake that is in the 20 to 24 foot range. Once we were on plan C we noticed that there were bait fish out in the basin and several good marks throughout the entire basin area. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say to your self, well maybe we should try here. We noticed that many fish were belly to the bottom and several that were raised up a few feet in this area. The fish on the bottom typically are in a negative bite mode and you will need a reaction strike to get them to go. The fish that are raised up a bit are your more active fish and are on the prowl for a meal. So this is what we did and when talking to several teams after the tournament they were doing a lot of the same things.
Plan C worked and we started catching fish immediately. We started trolling lead core lines behind our boat at a speed of 2mph. We started off with our go to crank baits being Berkley Flicker Shad #5 Silver and #5 Fire Tiger. We used lead core because this is a Denver Metro lake and the fish are a bit gun shy so we wanted our baits well behind the boat and able to get down in that 20-24 foot zone. This was about three colors out out give or take a 1/2 color, you want it deep enough to just tick the bottom every once and a while. We used a twenty-five foot 10lb mono leader attached to our lead core using a “Smith knot”. If you haven’t used lead core and are not sure how to attach mono to your lead core take a look at the “Smith knot” Vlog from our cherry creek tournament on the alleyesonfishing website. This knot is super simple and really holds up well and goes through your guides and onto your reel without any problem at all.
Now that we were on fish we need to fine tune our presentation to see what is giving us our best catch rate. Again we were trolling at 2mph. This seems fast but its a starting point. Once all four lines were in the water we started trolling the basin making large S turns. S turns are crucial when starting out for sure. You will need to focus on what lines are getting the most hook ups. An S turn example would be when trolling in a straight line you turn you boat slightly to the starboard (right). The lines on the starboard side will now slow down and your port side (left) will speed up. You will then straighten out and make a slight turn to the port side, again slowing down the port side lines and speeding up your starboard side lures. You will soon notice that one side will be picking up fish more consistent that the other. For us it was the slower side. With that information we now know that 2mph was too fast, so we dialed it down to 1.7mph and straight trolled for a bit. We were now consistently picking up fish on all four lines. Now it is time to dial it in even more. The #5 flicker shad Fire tiger was definitely producing more than the silver Flicker shad. We continued to keep two #5 Fire tigers out but then started going through crankbait after crankbait to see if there was another bait that was out producing the Fire tiger. We used a multitude of crankbaits ranging from #4 to #11 and nothing seemed to produce like the Fire tiger Flicker shad but there was a close second. In second place was a Flicker shad #5 red / black. We now have a pattern that was producing fish at a rate of one every fifteen minutes consistent throughout the day. We did notice that the fire tiger was doing better when we had more sun and red / black was doing better with cloud cover.
Now it was tournament time. The day started off with snow at boat check in, then rain for about three hours and then sunny and warm. Crazy day on the water but we had a plan so we went with the information we learned from our pre-fish day. As you can imagine with rain you have cloud cover so we went with three Flicker shad #5 Fire tigers and one #5 red/black Flicker shad trolling at 1.7 mph. Instantly we started catching fish on the Fire tiger and continued to catch fish every fifteen minutes for the next three hours until the sun came out. We noticed that once the sun came out there was a period of time that we didn’t get anything. We started second guessing our pattern and had talks about changing it up but we decided that our pattern had been working so we were going to give it a full hour of sun before we scratched Plan C. Well it wasn’t five minutes later and we caught our first keeper (18″ minimum at Cherry Creek). This fish went 19 1/2 so we were feeling better about day. The red / black Flicker shad was now the go to bait and the Fire tiger completely shut down. We now switched it up and put our two red / blacks, one Silver #5 Flicker shad and one #5 Fire Tiger. We continued to fish the remaining four hours of the tournament and #5 Fire tiger got one more short fish and the dark crank baits caught the rest. We then called it a day and went to weigh in and ended up cashing a check for an 8th place finish.
Day two started off with sun and it was sunny all day. With that information you can guess what we started off with. The exact same thing we finished with on day one. Again we caught most of our fish on the red / black and silver and only three fish for the entire day on the Fire Tiger. We ended the day at the weigh station again and after it was all said and done we finished 10th overall.
These articles are on what you should be doing now. As you can see during this time of year we have three things that we go to when we are starting off for the day. The first is pitching jigs shallow, second working reaction baits just off of the shallow water and then lead core trolling. When going after the illusive walleye you need to be versatile and find out what is working and pay attention to the little things like speed, lighting condition and bait selection. By working through these steps you will find yourself catching more fish. It has been my pleasure to share with you this information and l look forward to leading you to the next level of fishing.