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A Walleye Opener for the Ages

A Reel Bait Flasher jig tipped with a minnow was one of the hot ticket items for catching walleyes in Northern Ontario this past weekend • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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A Walleye Opener for the Ages

Epic Opening of Walleye in Northern Ontario

2016 Walleye Season in Northern Ontario can only be described as one for the ages. It perfect time to try some other methods and presentations for walleye fishing.

What more can you say about the opening of the walleye season in Northern Ontario this past Saturday, other than it was epic. One for the ages. 

Buddy Angelo Viola, the host of the Outdoor Journal Radio Show, tied me up in the morning as we talked about early season walleye tricks, tactics and techniques, so I wasn't able to launch the boat before 10:30 am.  But it didn't matter. Grandson Liam hoisted the first walleye into the boat within a couple of minutes of us deploying the bow-mounted electric trolling motor and from that point on it was non-stop, lights out, action.

In less than 90 minutes of fishing, my daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Jay Whetter, and grandsons Liam and Campbell and I ran through more than six dozen minnows, leeches and crawlers as we caught and released more than 50 walleyes up to 26 inches in length. 

A 1/4-ounce ReelBait Flasher jig proved to be the weapon of choice, which brings me to the subject of the day. We could have parked the boat over the walleyes and vertically jigged them until we literally ran out of bait. But when the bite is this good, it always pays – I kid you not – to stop using your favourite presentation and try some other method.

Take the time this season to learn a new technique when the fish are biting, and you’ll fast track your confidence to a new level

Now, I know what you're thinking – Pyzer's finally flipped his lid. When the walleye are biting this outrageously well, why in the world would you not take advantage of it? 

Well, I'll tell you why.

It is because you may never again be given this unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fast-track your confidence in learning a new technique. 

Put a new arrow in your walleye quiver.

Case in point: two of the best tactics ever developed for catching bigger than normal walleyes are casting lipless crankbaits like the Kamooki Smartfish and swimbaits like the 5-inch Bass Magnet Shift 'R Shad and X-Zone Swammer. Ditto, flinging a Rapala X-Rap to the windy side of a shallow shoal or rocky shoreline.

Most walleye anglers have heard or read about the tactics, but few have attempted to understand them properly. Indeed, the only time most of us tie on a new lure and attempt to learn a new presentation is when our favourite method has failed us.  Which is precisely the wrong time to do it.

Understand what I am saying? 

Campbell Whetter (on the left) landed this “bonus” northern pike while swimming a soft plastic Shift ‘R Shad for walleyes

If you are not catching fish with your favourite "go-to" walleye presentation – be it a jig, rig or spinner – why in the world would you assume you are going to catch them with something you've never before sampled?

It is why the time to try the newfangled method that you've been hearing so much about it right now when the walleyes in Northern Ontario are biting the light fantastic.

And that is what we did on the weekend with startling results.

Now, confession time: Liam is in love with casting Kamooki Smartfish, so as soon as we realized we were sitting over a walleye mother lode he tied one on the end of his rod. 

With the fish stacked up in 12 to 15 feet of water, it didn't take long for the half-ounce lure to plummet to the bottom. That is when he lifted his tip rod smartly, from the 9:00 position to the 11:00 position so that he could feel the lipless crankbait wobble side to side. He subsequently fished it this way back to the boat, keeping his bait within a few inches of the bottom at all times. 

And he wailed away on much bigger than average Waldos. 

Jay, on the other hand, had never before ripped a minnow bait for walleyes, so this proved to be the perfect time and place to fire out an X-Rap. 

When Liam Whetter started casting a Kamooki Smartfish on the weekend, the size of the walleyes he caught increased noticeably

What more can I say? 

When the day was done, Jay had landed the biggest walleye using a technique that he had never before tried. More importantly, by catching and releasing a score of walleyes with the lure, he gained supreme confidence in the bait and the proper way to fish it so that the next time he is faced with a jerkbait bite, he'll be able to pick up the lure and fish it successfully.

Campbell and I, meanwhile, teamed up to land the biggest fish of the day, a gorgeous northern pike that ate the soft plastic Shift 'R Shad I was swimming on a half-ounce jighead. For a split second, I thought I'd snagged a rock, but when the snag slowly started swimming out to deeper water, I passed the rod to Campbell and he fought it like a pro. 

Now, guess what lure has become his new favourite?

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