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Fall Cranks for Walleye
by: Captain Lance Valentine
Fall…if you are a walleye fisherman you thoughts turn to cooling water
temps, falling leaves and trophy walleye schooled up and hungry! The fall is one of my favorite times to chase walleye, especially giants. Fish are feeding heavily for winter, fish are usually in groups of several dozen or more fish, and fish are usually suspended in open water making them easy to find on our Lowrance HDS sonar units and fall walleye LOVE crankbaits.  Crankbaits account for more trophy fall walleye than any other method of fishing, especially in the Great Lakes region where I live and guide. But what crankbaits are best? In general, here are a few characteristics to look for when picking out productive cold water crankbaits.  
Look for long, skinny baits in the 4-8” range. Choose lures that have a good action, even at slow speeds. Having multiple sizes, shapes and styles is important, since each one has a unique profile, action, sound and diving angle that can make one better than all the others on a given day.  For ease of filling a tackle box, break fall walleye crankbaits into 3 categories:
1) Deep Divers (Nose Down Runners)—lures that run “nosedown” usually achieve target depth with less line out and have a“wide” tail action, even at slow speeds. Wide bills and line ties placed away from the lure body create a superb action that cold water walleye like. Some examples of Deep Divers include Reef Runner 300, 600, 800 series, Smithwick Top 20's, Bandit Deep Walleye Cranks and Rapala Tail Dancers (I like the TDD series in size 9 or 11).
 
2) Deep Divers (Flat Runners)deep diving lures that run “flat”
have a tendency to need more line to reach a specific depth and have
more of a “roll” action than a wide tail action. These baits work great at slow to medium speeds and the faster you go the “tighter” and faster the action
becomes, a trigger some days, especially in clear, calm water. Some “flat” runners to include in your tackle box are Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (size 12 and 14) and Smithwick Deep Rattlin Rogues and Smithwick Perfect 10's.    
3) Shallow Diverssince most fall walleye in open water are caught at depths of 15-
40’, many anglers neglect to stock some shallow diving crankbaits, and this can be a huge mistake. Some days a shallow diving lure will out fish a deeper diving lure because of the difference in action. Because of the smaller bill surface on shallow divers they have a wider tail action like deep divers but combine it with a tight roll. Most shallow divers need some sort of weight to achieve the desired depth and my favorite in fall is a 2 oz. inline weight about 4’ above the lure.
Some shallow divers to stock up on include the ReefRunner 700 and 900 series and no tackle box for fall walleye is complete without a few Smithwick Perfect 10's. 
I am a detailed record keeper, and over the past 10 seasons or so I have collected and analyzed LOTS of data from my boat and the boats of angling friends. From all that data and hundreds of hours of on the water experience, some patterns concerning lure color have emerged. Here are some guidelines that we know work:

...continue reading "Fall Crankbaits Options"

Fish Arches • Where do they come from?

by Captain Lance Valentine
In the 2 decades I have been teaching sonar use and interpretation, the misunderstanding of fish “arches” is still the biggest issue most sonar users have, and it is probably the biggest reason that most anglers do not trust or fully understand what they are seeing on their screens.  We’ve all seen the beautiful ads-a sonar screen full of fish arches.  Although you may often see perfect, full arches on your sonar, don’t despair if you can’t.  The geometry of making a fish arch is simple, but must be completely satisfied before a fish arch will appear on your display.

Let’s go back a few years to high school geometry class.  Remember Pythagoras’ theorem?  The one that says that in a right triangle the hypotenuse will be longer than its opposite leg?  Don’t remember?  Maybe this will help you understand.

The distance from the tip of the triangle (transducer) to the outside point (A) is longer than the distance from the transducer to the bottom of the cone on a straight line (B).  What does this have to do with sonar and fish arches?  Believe it or not it has everything to do with fish arches.

Picture
Before we can get to how fish arches are actually made, realize that for a fish arch to form movement must occur relative to the fish and the cone angle.  For a perfect fish arch to occur, the fish must move completely through the entire diameter of the cone.  A fish that swims into the cone and remains there will show up as a solid line at the same depth.  Only as the fish is exiting the cone will an arch form.  A fish that only swims through only part of the cone will also not show up as a fish arch.  A fish must move completely through the entire diameter of the cone for an arch to be formed!

Picture

Now let’s imagine a fish setting still in the lake.  Our boat approaches the suspended walleye.  As the fish first hits the edge of the transducer’s cone, the display shows this contact (A in the illustration).  At this point the fish is the farthest it can be from the center of the cone and still be inside the cone.  As the boat continues forward, the fish gets closer and closer to the center of the cone, until at a single instant the fish is directly in the center of the cone (B in the illustration).  Now the boat continues further forward, causing the fish to get further and further from the center of the cone until the point where the fish is no longer in the cone at all (C in the illustration).

Notice how geometry affects the picture on our sonar display.  As the fish enters the cone, swims to the direct center, then goes out the other side, the distance the fish is from the center of the transducer creates a perfect arch.  Even though the fish’s depth never changes, the distance from the transducer does-further away at the cone’s edges and closest in the direct center.

With this is mind it’s important to remember a few key points.  The true depth of a fish shown on the sonar is the shallowest part of the arch plus about 1 foot!  Remember our transducer is about 1 foot under water making the distance to the transducer less than the distance from the fish to the waterline.  Also note that the length of the arch only tells us how long the fish stayed in the cone and has no correlation to the size of the fish.

Picture

So how do we tell how big a fish is?  The larger a target is the stronger the return will be, which the unit displays as a thick mark.  The larger a fish is the thicker the mark will be.  Determine a fishes’ size by the number of vertical pixels a target turns on.  A short, thick mark is a bigger fish than a long, thin mark!  Today’s color units also make it easy to identify a large versus a smaller fish.  By using different colors for varying intensity of returns, big fish will be seen as a different color than smaller targets.  I like to use Palette 1 on my Lowrance units, which shows bigger fish as yellow.

Picture

Now the most important part about fish arches.  If a fish does not move completely across the entire diameter of the transducer cone there will be NO fish arch.  That’s right no fish arch.  But you will see what is probably the most common way of seeing fish on a sonar display-a half arch (see picture below).
This is exactly what it sounds like-half of a full fish arch.  These half arches occur when a fish skirts the edge of the cone or moves through only part of the transducer cone.
Now that you understand the geometry of a fish arch, imagine a boat traveling 30 mph across the lake and a walleye slowly cruising at 15 feet deep.  How probable is it that these two moving objects-the 5-foot diameter transducer cone and the walleye-will pass perfectly enough to create a fish arch?

Hopefully the above picture looks familiar.  Now you know how fish arches are made-and why they sometimes don’t show up even when there are fish in the cone.  Start looking for half arches, learn how to tell the difference between game and bait fish and you will be surprised at what you start to see.

Keep an eye open for many more detailed articles on how sonar/GPS and other functions work by visiting www.walleye101.com.  If you need to learn how to best interpret your sonar unit, be sure to check out our popular DVD “Sonar Interpretation”.  This DVD covers all aspects of sonar setup, features, interpretation and tips and tricks for traditional 2D sonar and SideScan and DownScan sonar regardless of what brand you are using.  You can order the DVD or download the seminar at http://walleye101.com/electronics_dvd_s.

Trailer and tire tips for carefree traveling
by: Captain Lance Valentine

As I was headed up to the lake to do a charter last Saturday morning I passed seven (7!) boats on the side of the road with flat trailer tires.  Now, flats happen to everyone, no matter how careful you are, but these boats had been left on the side of the road overnight.  By not being prepared the owners made a simple inconvenience into perhaps a weekend or vacation ruining problem.  Here are a few tips regarding boat trailers and trailer tires to help you prevent and be ready for a trailer tire issue.

  • Buy the right trailer---When I was selling boats, I always encouraged my customers to buy a bigger trailer or at least bigger tires. Most boat packages come with the minimum trailer for the boat it holds.  Ask your dealer about upgrading to a larger trailer or tires that will carry a heavy load.  Think about this.  There are 8760 hours in a year.  If you fish 8 hours a day for 100 days a year you have fished 800 hours which means your boat is still on the trailer for almost 8000 hour a year!!!  Don’t skimp on your trailer. A fully rigged fishing boat weighs a LOT more than the boat by itself.  Be sure your trailer and tires can handle the weight of your gear.
  • Don’t overload the trailer---I see it every weekend…boats on trailers loaded with furniture, bikes, lumber etc. Your boat trailer is NOT designed for the extra weight.  Carrying more than the weight limit for your trailer and tires is unsafe and asking for a problem.
  • Carry a spare---only one of the boats I passed that morning had a spare tire, which is unthinkable to me. For the past 15 seasons I have been driving a boat  with a dual axle trailer and have always carried TWO spares.  My thinking being that if I run over something to ruin one tire, it probably ruined both!  Check your spare often and be sure it is inflated properly.
  • Check the bearings---launching and loaded play havoc on trailer bearings. Using a commercial bearing saver on your hub is a great idea, but they still need to be checked before and after every trip, and should be checked by a professional every season.  After trailering for any distance, bearings may be warm but should not be hot to the touch.
  • Have the proper jack and lug wrench---head outside when you have a few free minutes. Now try to jack your boat up with your car jack and check the lug wrench in the car on the trailer lugs…betting you might have trouble changing a trailer tire with these tools!  I carry a 6 ton bottle jack for my trailer and have a ½” ratchet with extension and socket for my trailer lugs.  They work for my trailer and are a lot easier to get to than digging out the car jack.
  • Inflate properly---according to a friend in the tire business, under inflated trailer tires are the number ONE cause of failure, flats and blow outs. Always check the pressure in all the tires before a trip including the spare(s).
  • Keep them moving---another tip from my friend, if your trailer sits in the same spot for more than 3 weeks, take it for a short drive or use jack stands to get the tires off the ground. Sitting in one place for an extended period, especially if your tires are at maximum load, will damage trailer tires and sometimes cause a “flat” spot on the tire.  Simply taking the trailer for a quick spin than re-parking it will help.  Tires off the ground for long term storage will eliminate a lot of issues.
  • Watch your speed---most trailer tires are rated for 65 mph or slower speeds. If you don’t need to drive faster with your trailer, be safe and slow down a little.
  • They don’t last forever---even when not used often, trailer tires do not have the same life expectancy as regular car tires. At about 5 seasons, even if you only trailer a few times a year, it may be time to replace the tires.  Treads can “peel” off; rotting from sitting and overloading all cause trailer tires to have a shorter life than regular tires do.

I hope these tips help you have a safe and trouble free fishing season.  Spend a few minutes checking your trailer tires every time you hook up the trailer.  Preventing a problem at home is much easier than fixing a problem on the road.
Lance Valentine is a full time fishing guide on the Great Lakes, as well as a fishing educator.  As the founder of Lance Valentine’s Walleye 101, he has shared his passion for teaching fishing since 1997.  You can find more info from Lance including articles, charter dates, seminar schedule and custom tackle at www.walleye101.com.

Trolling setup-which lures go where
by Lance Valentine

Trolling setup is a topic that gets heavily discussed every spring as angler prepare to head out for some open water trolling.  The most asked question we get is “do you run your shallowest or deepest lures on the outside of your spread?”  The answer is quite detailed and has a few variables.  Let’s discuss how and why to set the proper trolling spread.

First, we need to determine if we are trolling with lures that “float” at rest and dive when trolled (unweighted crankbaits) or are we using some sort of weight (inline, tadpole, snap weight) or diving device (tadpole, dipsey, jet etc.) since the setup for each will be different.  In this article, we will cover setting a spread using crankbaits with NO weight added, the most common way to run them.  Before we can talk about setting a spread, we need to establish a few “rules” that crankbait trolling is effected by

.Crankbaits achieve their depth by “pulling” line under the surface

  • All things being equal, the more line you let out the deeper a crankbait will dive. Each bait has a “max” depth it can reach and at some point the lure will actually dive shallower with more line let out
  • Line has a VERY significant amount of drag in the water
  • MOST of the line you let out is actually on the SURFACE! The crankbait only pulls a small percentage of the line down below the water.

So, with those rules in mind, let’s discuss setting a spread of crankbaits.  Most anglers start by putting the shallowest bait on the outside of the spread (see pic) for several reasons.  One, is the perception that fish are “spooked” to the side of the boat (another topic for later discussion) and two, that if you catch a fish on the shallow line, you can simply pull it over the deeper lines and not get tangled.  But this is actually backwards thinking!  Remember, most of the line you are letting out to achieve deeper depths on the middle and inside board is actually FLOATING on the surface, which will make it easy for the lure and fish on the outside board to catch the line and cause a tangle, and most often a lost fish!

Knowing that most of the line we let out is on the surface should make it easier to understand that running the LONGEST lead on the outside is much more efficient and results in significantly less tangles.  I do this every day with inexperienced anglers, running 3 or 4 Off-Shore inline planer boards per side and have very few tangles without ever having to reel in or move one of the other boards.  The longer lead simply comes over the top of the shorter leads and makes it easy to get the fish in without tangles.  With this setup it is also very easy to get the outside lure reset back to the outside without a tangle or having to move the remaining boards.  Simply let the lure back out straight behind the boat, snap on your Off-Shore Inline planer board, free spool the board straight behind the boat to the amount of line you want to run the board to the side (I run 100’ to outside, 75’ to middle and 50’ to inside) then engage the reel and let the board carry the lure back to its original position.

Remember, this setup is for floating crankbaits with NO weight attached to the line.  Hope this helps you catch more fish, have less tangles and have more fun while trolling this season!  In future articles I will cover the best way to set spreads with weighted lines, divers and some advanced techniques for being a more efficient open water troller!

Lance

Walleye in Dirty Water…
by: Captain Lance Valentine

If you have ever tried to catch walleye in dirty water you know what a challenge it can be.  In cold water periods, dirty water can be warmer and loaded with fish that will fill the sonar screen, but we still can’t get bit, no matter what we try.

Remember, walleye are primarily sight feeders and need to “see” their prey before they will strike, which makes walleye in dirty water a tough challenge.  Sometimes dirty water is all we can find, and as anglers we need to find ways to maximize the fish we catch under dirty conditions.  Here are some things that have helped me catch fish in dirty water over the years.

  • Pay attention to SOUND: Walleye have a very acute lateral line that can pick up low frequency vibrations from a good distance. While low frequency sound will attract walleye in all conditions, my experience shows it is crucial to dirty water success.  When trolling, add crankbaits to your spread with low frequency sound, made by a bait containing a small number of large bearings in the body cavity.  The low “thud-thud” made by a single large bearing travels a long distance through the water, and can help walleye zero in on your bait from afar and get close enough to find your lures in dirty water.  When jigging large jigs, up to 1.5 ounces, can be the key, even in shallow water.  The constant “thump, thump” of a heavy jig on the bottom will send out vibrations to help walleye find your bait, even in dirty water.  If you are trolling spinners, be sure to upsize your blades and use more Colorado styles than anything else to get maximum vibration from your blades.
  • Pay attention to COLOR: Walleye have eyes that see better in the yellow/orange/green spectrum and studies show that they can see fluorescent shades better than non-fluorescent ones.  In dirty water, I pay attention to color and contrast on my lures. Fluorescent orange, yellow and reds are some of my favorites.  I have also had great success on dark purple and blackbodied baits, especially those with contrasting spots or stripes of fluorescent colors.  Another of my favorites is a copper colored lure with orange, purple, or chartreuse belly and accents.  Remember, bright colors and contrast are important in dirty water.
  • Pay attention to SPEED: I have caught walleye in cold, dirty water going zero and trolling up to 2.5 mph.  If they are hungry, you can’t go too fast for walleye to catch your bait.  But, in dirty water pay attention to keeping a CONSTANT speed.  In dirty water, baits are hard to see and catch, and changes in speed make it even harder for walleye to find your bait.  Find the best speed for the day, and keep in constant for better results.  I also eliminate turns from my trolling when the water is dirty.
  • Pay attention to LURE DEPTH:  While walleye will often come 10-
    15’ to crush a lure in clear water, in dirty water your presentation needs to be much more precise.  When you find a productive depth for your lures, keep them there!  Sometimes a difference of only 1-3’ of running depth can mean a good catch or nothing!  If the water is dirty and the sun is out, don’t be afraid to run your baits in the top 4-6’ of the water, even over deep water.  You may be surprised how many walleyes are using the effect of the sun to see their prey better!

Dirty water walleye can be challenging……try some of these tricks next time you are faced with dirty water, and your fishing success should increase!

Tight Lines!

Lance

The Secret of the bead…
by: Captain Lance Valentine

One of the most common questions I get when doing trolling seminars is "how do you rig your trolling rods".  I use a method that keeps me efficient, makes it easy to know what is on each rod, and allows me versatility in my rigging.  I call it "The Secret of the Bead".  Here's how it works.  First, I calibrate my line counter reels.  Then, I use a bead on my line between the rod tip and the rest of my setup (see pic below).   After the bead, I tie on a crankbait snap, then attach a leader to the snap.  The leader has a high-quality ball bearing swivel at one end and a crankbait snap at the other.

new-bead-secret

 

 

So what does the bead do?  Well, it does many things, but here are just a few:

  • Keeps my clients from reeling in too far when landing a fish
  • Keeps debris off my lure (floating weeds, cottonwood etc.)
  • Helps me see when a fish is getting close to the surface for netting
  • Allows for easy adding/deleting of weights or divers
  • Helps keep track of what lures are in the water
  • Helps keep my rods organized and makes it easy to identify what rods need maintenance.

The first 3 are pretty easy to understand, but number 4 is where the bead rigging makes me a much more efficient angler.  By allowing me to quickly add or remove inline weights, Tadpoles, Diver Discs or other devices, I can fish the same rod regardless of what lure I am using and how I want to fish it.  In an instant I can go from running flat line crankbaits to running spoons behind a Tadpole weight, then quickly switch back again!

So how do number 5 and 6 work?  This is the TRUE beauty of “the bead”.  By putting different colored beads on each rod, it is easy to keep them straight…I have a “red” rod, a “blue” rod, a “purple” rod; you get the idea.  Now to make the real beareel-with-taped magic happen, I wrap a few wraps of electrical tape just above the handle of each rod, using the same color tape as the bead!

I have fished with lots of anglers who number their rod holders to identify what lures are in the water.  The problem with that system is that when you start moving rods around to change lures, juggle lines, bring in boards etc. the rods can get moved to a different rod holder position and now no one knows what lures are where.

By identifying what is in the water by the “color” of the rod, we can move rods anywhere and the “blue” rod has the same lure, lure color, distance back, etc. no matter what holder it gets moved to.  An invaluable piece of info when running 6-10 lines on a charter boat!

I carry a dry erase board in the boat (or use a piece of notebook paper) to keep my lure spread straight and to make it easy to quickly look at my spread and make a decision on changing lures, colors, depths etc. based on the conditions.  Each rod is identified the COLOR of the bead and the tape.

Identifying rods this way also works great if you need to fix one, recalibrate the line or any other maintenance issues.  I just make a note on my dry erase board, in my phone, or in a notebook.  So when I see “red rod lost 100 feet of line” in my notes I know the red rod needs to have line added and be recalibrated.  Easy!

Try the “bead”…..a very helpful piece of the trolling puzzle!

Fall river walleye fishing is starting to heat up in the Detroit, St. Clair and Saginaw Rivers and location is a key to good catches....Here is a post I just made in response to a question on the Walleye 101 Public Forum Facebook page that covers river locations.....the post also covers some of the information we cover in our "Walleye in Rivers" seminars.

Alright! Let's talk river location! Was thinking about sleeping in a little today, but saw this post and had to get to the office and start some quick research......

This is a spot I used to fish alot, but don't much anymore for really no reason other than I tend to stay in the Wyandotte area most trips. Went back to my old waypoint files and, SURPRISE! found lots of waypoints in the circles I have added....but there was definitely a difference between when each area became better....

First, this is an EXCELLENT example of a great river location...lots of options in one small area. We have a "passing area" in the yellow circle, a "holding area" in the blue circle and a "barrier" in the red circle...the 3 main types of river areas I look for.

The yellow circle area concentrates fish when they are moving upmerbler-map-new and down river (Passing area). Using the steep breaklines as a guide, fish can easily move between parts of the river, using the break as a highway. The waypoints I have in this box
prove this out. The fishing here is usually really good or non-existent, and there is a tendency for good fishing to be concentrated in a small time window, proving to me that is fish are moving through here we catch them and if they are not moving we do not.

The blue circle is a large flat (Holding Area) of slower current, where fish will spread out, live comfortably, chase a little bait and just "chill"..Again waypoints and catch records show this. When this area is good, fish are scattered throughout the circle (although there are 3 distinct "tight" concentrations of waypoints in this area). At a quick first glance of my records, this area seems to be most productive in a S or SW wind and stable weather patterns, which is pretty typical of fish on flats....

The red circle is the upstream side of a point (barrier), and is a textbook river spot. Remember, fish will move to the upstream side of a barrier (point, hump, rock etc) when they are actively feeding to take advantage of the slack current and prime "ambush" location the upstream side of a barrier creates...perfect location for active, feeding walleye! Again, my waypoints in this circle are tight and concentrated into small windows of time (from about 20 minutes to 90 minutes) showing that fish move here to actively feed, then relocate, probably to the hole upstream or the flat downstream, or use the steep break to move up or down river...

I LOVE spots like this...everything a walleye needs in a small area. Add the close proximity to the big lake and you have a winner...Thanks for posting Ron!!!