Gearing Up for the Opener (Part 1)
New and Trending Equipment to make this your best walleye season ever
Minneapolis, MN (April 16, 2020) – The walleye opener. It’s a rite of passage. For some families and lifetime chums, it’s angling’s springtime equivalent of deer camp. That Friday night potluck feast, followed by hours of comparing new lures, recalling openers of yesteryear, and maybe tossing back a few adult beverages. With all that’s going on throughout the world, this year’s walleye opener may look a little different, but it doesn’t mean the fun has to leave like air out of a party balloon. Even in this time of social distancing, tradition will continue and indelible memories will be made.
For a mighty swath of the country, the term “Walleye Opener” is foreign, as there’s never a closure; walleyes are always on the menu. Regardless of where you fish, the premium products on the following punch-list are sure to make your spring walleye fishing more successful.
Early-season walleye fishing often means fishing shallow where the water is warmer. Sand flats from 4’ to 12’ deep with grass concentrate both bait and post-spawn walleyes and are likely hot spots. When scouting such areas, use the SideVision feature on your sonar to check for bait and walleyes from a distance so you don’t spook the fish. Once you locate them, use your trolling motor and SideVision sonar to maintain your distance and cast to the fish with jigs or crankbaits.
Raymarine’s Element HV Series Sonar/GPS units are ideal tools in these applications. Powerful 1.2 MHz SideVision provides incredible detail, allowing anglers to clearly see structure, bait and walleyes in shallower target areas off to the side of the boat, while CHIRP sonar and 1.2 MHz DownVision provides excellent target separation and detail in the deeper water below the boat where bigger, post-spawn females may be resting.
With the transducer, mapping and a two-year factory warranty that’s automatically extended to three years upon product registration, Raymarine Element HV 7” retails for less than $700. That’s an incredible value given the unit’s 1.2MHz Hypervision capability, fast quadcore processor and seven total sonar channels – including RealVision 3D – from an included, all-in-one transducer. Anglers who want a larger screen are all-in on the 9” Element HV for less than $950, and a 12-inch model is also available. Learn more at http://www.raymarine.com/element-series/element-hv.html.
As most walleye pros will tell you, the most challenging aspect of the pursuit is just that: how and where to find ol’ marble eyes. Sonar can surely point you in the right direction, revealing general structure such as rocks, hardbottom transitions and vegetation. It also shows “fish” in a general sense. But in most walleye lakes, those fish might be bass, panfish, pike, suckers, drum or carp.
To know for sure you’re on walleyes as opposed to less desirable species, an underwater camera like an Aqua-Vu HD7i or 715C is the most valuable tool in your boat. Drop the optics and take a look at the underwater surroundings – not in a computer-generated image, but as the environment actually appears, as if viewed through a scuba mask. Complete with underwater optics, up to 125 feet of camera cable and a high definition LCD, an Aqua-Vu helps you better visualize the aquatic environment and reveals your target species like only your eyes can. To learn more about finding fish with an Aqua-Vu, check out www.aquavu.com.
It might seem like a paradox to say that the liveliest, most malleable soft plastics are also the most durable. But that’s the exact description of Z-Man’s ElaZetch—an advanced thermoplastic material with other out-of-this-world advantages. For anglers accustomed to continuously dipping into the bait bucket or grabbing yet another plastic tail—after another walleye or toothy pike shreds the offering – a super-soft yet tough ElaZtech bait can seem like a dream come true. The buoyancy of Z-Man’s baits also make them sit tail-up when paused or dragged along the bottom.
Offering everything from Scented Curly TailZ™ grubs to the Scented Jerk ShadZ™ and Scented PaddlerZ™ swimbait, each Z-Man’s ElaZtech bait often catches dozens of fish before it’s time to thread a new one onto your jighead (Z-Man makes jigs, too). And here’s a little secret: the more fish bite each bait, the better it gets. To stock up on amazing ElaZtech soft plastics, visit www.zmanfishing.com.
While a variety of presentations can yield success with early-season walleyes, it’s hard to beat 1/8-1/4-oz. jigs tipped with plastics or shiners. Such offerings can be worked vertically or cast and snap-jigged back to the boat.
Active jigging techniques create slack line, and that’s precisely when most walleyes strike the jig – on the fall. A sensitive rod is a must.
Serious walleye anglers who demand the highest levels of performance and sensitivity will want to check out the new Legend Xtreme series from St. Croix. The new Legend Xtremes feature all of St. Croix’s proprietary technologies, its most exotic and sensitive SCV and SCVI carbon blanks, an all-new Gen2 Xtreme-Skin Handle, and an exclusive Daiwa AGSTM carbon fiber guide train. The result is a rod that transmits energy from the line to the rod and, ultimately, to the hands like never before, allowing anglers to maintain ideal contact with structure and easily detect strikes – even on a slack line, in windy conditions or in deep water.
Three all-new Legend Xtreme spinning models are available, including a 6’8” medium power, extra-fast action rod (XFS68MXF), a 6’10” medium-light power, extra-fast action rod (XFS610MLXF), and a versatile 7’ medium power, fast action rod (XFS70MF). Learn more at https://stcroixrods.com/pages/legend-xtreme.
Cast it or troll it
Jig and minnow, jig and minnow, jig and minnow. For plenty of folks, that’s all they fish. And no knock on the proven combo, but if that’s your only trick, you’re missing fish, and big ones.
There’s another sect of walleye anglers that live and die by hard jerkbaits, aka stickbaits. And to be frank, they catch the real lunkers.
LIVETARGET’s Rainbow Smelt Jerkbaits are to outsized walleyes what turkey legs were to King Henry VIII. Although that iconoclastic comparison was never depicted in an actual painting, you can trust that LIVETARGET’s Rainbow Smelt is genuine.
The lifelike lure is a wicked casting tool, best fished in 10-feet of water or less. One effective technique is long casting the windward shore, boat held by anchor or trolling motor. The heavier the wind and waves, the tighter the bait – and walleyes – tend to be to the bank. Speaking of the bank, the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt is perfect for chucking from dryland at similar windblown shorelines, as well as in smaller rivers, which are prime targets in the spring.
The hardest of the hardcore will be on the water at midnight on the eve of the opener. Those same soldiers are apt to be seen creeping just offshore, visible only as red, green and white lights in slow motion. They’re trolling, and likely pulling stickbaits, kept behind the boats at great distances to not spook the fish, the trophies.
LIVETARGET’s Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait is available in Shallow (eight colors) and Deep-Diving (five colors) models, and in three sizes. The midsized (3-5/8”) Shallow Dive is perfectly fit for spring walleyes.