In Part 2 of Spring River Tactics, we will look at some tips on
presentation, techniques, and tackle to use.
Jigs, rigs, trolling crankbaits on monofilament
and leadcore -- all are tactics, which work great for
catching walleyes and saugers in rivers. Everyone has
a favorite approach including 2009 FLW Walleye League Angler of the Year John
"J.B." Balla. But like all good anglers, he's
practiced several techniques so he can adjust to conditions. The result
shows in his consistent ability to arrive at tournament weigh-ins with a good
basket of fish.
Balla's bread and butter tactic is trolling with
three-way rigs. He likes their versatility.
"I can slide upstream slower (than slip jigging downstream). I can move
through a little eddy, along a current break and have a bait
in their faces longer.
"In clearer water, I can go faster, the speed of a slow walk on
shore," he continued. "I can add a thumper jig (use enough weight to stay on
the bottom with about a 45-degree angle between line and water's surface) to an
8- to 10-inch dropper with a 4-foot leader to a floating, shallow running crankbait, or a single hook, or a floating jig head.
"In dirty water, I can slow down to a crawl," he added. "I can add
color or noise with beads or a glass rattle tube inside plastic baits or small
propellers. In Illinois
(where two hooks per line are legal), I can switch to a pencil weight on the
dropper and use two floating jig heads and vary their colors. Rigs are deadly."
Tip: If you use the double floating jig head rig, tie one to the line
leaving a foot or more tag line and tie the second one to that. Balla
missed strikes when he used to tie the second floater to a line tied to the
hook shank of the first.
He uses a St. Croix Legend Tournament Walleye Rod, model TWC 70MM. A baitcaster reel lets him let out more line to stay on the
bottom simply by pushing a bottom.
Try Trolling Upstream
Trolling upstream on the Mississippi
with the gasoline kicker and a double crankbait
set-up sometimes out-fishes three-ways, he's found. A 3- to 5-ounce bell sinker
is attached to the dropper. A 3- to 5-foot leader goes to a crankbait
clip for the first floating lure. A foot leader is then tied to the rear
split ring of the front lure and leads to a crankbait
clip for the second lure. Use shallow running, short billed crankbaits.
Mix up colors. The clips make changing easy. Try brighter colors, such as fire
tiger, orange and chartreuse in dirty water and cloudy days. Go with
darker colors on sunny days and clearer water.
Minn Kota's new I Pilot accessory, which is
available on Terrova's and some Power Drive trolling motors, allows Balla
to lock in a trolling path that's producing. From then on, the motor will
steer itself along the same line over and over while he's free to focus on
fishing. The motor also allows him to hover in place, such as a virtual
anchor even in moving water. This feature is called Spot Lock.
Three-way rigs are also great for fishing the front side of wingdams. Simply position the boat upstream, let the rigs
go back to the face of the dam, and slide the boat from side to side to check
out different parts of the dam. If it's high water, try inside closer to
shore. Low water? Try nearer the tip where
there's some current.
Balla likes trolling leadcore line when the
river is at normal pool or lower and when debris in the water is scarce. Use medium-action
rods and spool 18-pound leadcore on large
line-counter reels that enable baits to be returned to the effective
depth. Try different depths until a fish is caught. Peel back the
Dacron sheath, remove about 3 inches of leadcore, tie on a small #12 barrel swivel, a 3- to 10-foot
fluorocarbon leader, a crankbait snap, and the
Many Benefits To Leadcore
Leadcore lets you use bigger baits, such as
Shad Raps, Shadlings, or Wally Divers, so the fish
that hammer them tend to be big ones. Leadcore
also lets you move along at 2 mph and faster to cover more water. A good
plan is to run from river bend to river bend and use leadcore to check each
one for fish. You can always slow down with other tactics to catch more
fish once a school is found. Leadcore is very speed
sensitive. It runs deeper at slow speeds and shallower at faster speeds
due to water resistance. A GPS is a great tool for speed control.
Jigs are an old river standby for good reason -- they work! To
slip downstream with the current, choose a jig heavy enough, normally 1/8- to
3/8-ounce -- to maintain bottom contact and keep the line straight below the
boat while it moves with the current. Braided line increases sensitivity to
feel strikes and improves hook sets. He uses the St. Croix TWS 63 MXF walleye
Jigs come into play during pre-spawn. Balla pitches stretches of
rip-rap where warmer water can draw big females. He uses the slightly longer
St. Croix TWS 68 MXF for this purpose.
Balla also drags jigs downstream on the Mississippi along current breaks during the
post-spawn period. Again, staying on the bottom is key.
Drag and lift the bait as you move.
Balla dresses jigs with modern, scented plastic baits rather than live
minnows. Plastic comes in far more colors than real shiners, the
artificial scent permeates the water, and he doesn't have to get his fingers wet
in a bait bucket in 30-degree weather.
Get current. Throughout the walleye and sauger
range, rivers are the places to be in springtime. You might just experience the
best fishing you'll have all year.
For a fine assortment of Fishing gear, click here.
Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson write a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Ted has many fishing achievements, including a victory at the FLW Walleye Tour event on the Mississippi River at Red Wing, Minn.,
May 6-9, 2009, the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later.
(Ted's sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle Rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu and Nautamatic TR 1.)