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Giant Northern Ontario Walleyes

Author Gord Pyzer with a typical Northern Ontario walleye that devoured a heavy jig and soft plastic swimbait.

I've been spending the past few weeks with my nose to the grindstone, hard at work, catching giant Northern Ontario walleyes and preparing for an upcoming feature in the 2014 In-Fisherman Walleye Guide.

Okay, so it's a stretch calling it "work", but the size of the fish is no exaggeration. I'm talking about walleyes in the seven-, eight-, nine- and ten-pound plus class. And not just one or two big fish either.

It is all part of an amazing pattern that a couple of friends and I have been refining over the past year and the results have been simply stunning.

Of course, having Northern Ontario as your playground doesn't hurt matters any, as there are unquestionably more and better walleye fisheries here -- along with easy access and every accommodation option you can imagine -- than anywhere else on earth.

northern ontario walleyeWhat 11-year-old wouldn't be proud to catch a braggin' size walleye like this one that Liam Whetter hooked while fishing in Northern Ontario? (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

'Eye Candy

How we're catching the giant walleyes, though, is an interesting story because we're vertically jigging big swimbaits over the side of the boat. And the fish aren't just "hitting" our lures, they're wolfing them down. In fact, most of the time we can't see the lure in fishes' mouths when we finally net them, they're devouring the baits so voraciously.

I've written about the genesis of the pattern, casting four-, five- and six-inch soft plastic swimbaits pinned to heavy jigheads and retrieving them aggressively, many times in the past. The fact of the matter is, In-Fisherman Editor-in-Chief and good friend, Doug Stange, pioneered the presentation.

The combination of the big jig and soft plastic bait forces you to swim the lure aggressively, while keeping it within a foot or so of the bottom.

The big offering also compels you to constantly interrupt the flow of your retrieve with frequent pauses, as you lift up your rod tip and retrieve line, and it is during these short pauses that most of the walleyes hit.

Indeed, over time, we've noticed that nearly every walleye has hit our lures after we've "popped" it off the bottom at the beginning of the retrieve or during one of the frequent suspensions.

We've also determined that we can significantly increase the number of hookups if we simply accelerate the speed of the initial "pop" up off the bottom, and "pull" after each pause. So much so, in fact, that we've now eliminated the long cast altogether.

child with walleyeCatching walleyes in Northern Ontario is often, well, child's play! (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

In other words, whenever we mark a school of walleyes on our sonar, we sit over the top of the fish, using our electric trolling motor to keep us properly positioned, while we drop down a heavy-headed swimbait and vertically jig it.

And while a number of soft plastics have proven to work well, two, in particular, have been standouts -- the X-Zone Swammer and Bass Magnet Shift'r Shad.

My "go-to" jig, on the other hand, has been a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce Freedom Lure Hydra minnow head.

As far as the ideal rod and reel to use, I am still relying on the same medium and medium-heavy action, 6'10"- to 7-foot Shimano Cumara spinning rods, spooled with 14-pound test Fireline, Nanofil or Sufix Fuse, tipped with a two to a three-foot length of 14- to 17-pound test fluorocarbon leader that I have long employed when casting. Only now, I am simply dropping the bait over the side of the boat.

The key is to let it fall to the bottom, at which point you simply tighten up on your line and pop the lure up once, to catch fishes' attention. It should come to rest about a foot or so off the bottom. Now, pause for a second or two, and then smartly pull the bait up one foot, fast enough that you can feel it wobble sideways and kick its tail. Then, let it settle back down to the starting point and repeat the procedure.

It is a dead-simple technique with only two potential pitfalls.

Vertically jigging soft plastic swimbaits for walleye is a great way to catch the makings of a fine Northern Ontario shore lunch, as Liam Whetter and Ryley Stephani proved recently while fishing on Lake of the Woods. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

The first is thinking that you can lighten up on the weight of your jig now that you're fishing vertically because you can't. The problem with using a lighter head is that you can't snap the bait off the bottom aggressively enough after the initial drop. And when you subsequently pull, pause and flutter the swimbait, you can't make it wobble and tail-kick the way it needs to swim. For these reasons, a 3/4-ounce jig has become the weight I use to start most days.

And the second pitfall? Not fishing in Northern Ontario, or what I like to call it, walleye wonderland!

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