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Labour Day Walleye Bonanza

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Labour Day Walleye Bonanza

When you find walleye spread out along the bottom of the lake, using the slow death method is the ideal way to catch beautiful fish like this one that 12-year old Liam Whetter caught while fishing in Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country. • Credit: Gord Pyzer



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Labour Day weekend has come and gone but don't put away the fishing rods.& Especially not if you enjoy catching walleye, the most sought after fish in Northern Ontario.

And for good reason, too.

Walleye are found in a disproportionate number of the hundreds of thousands of lakes and rivers sprinkled like gold across the fish-filled northern half of the province.

Indeed, when you consider the names of just a handful of the star performers -- like Nipissing, Temagami, Lady Evelyn, Timiskaming, Horwood, Gowganda, Missinabie, Esnagami, Kabinakagami, Kenogamisis, Kagiagnagami, Lac des Mille Lacs, Wabigoon, Eagle, Lac Seul, Red, Rainy and Lake of the Woods -- whew -- you realize the list is endless.

And that is particularly good news because the secret right now isn't so much choosing one particular Northern Ontario walleye lake over another as much as it is matching your presentation to the mood of the fish.

Unlike earlier in the season, when the walleye were bunched up and concentrated in a few select areas, the entire lake system is now the fishes' oyster. As a result, you will find schools of walleye spread out over wide expanses of the lake bottom.

And this can mean only one thing: Slow Death.

The reason slow death is so effective at catching walleyes like this beauty that Liam Whetter caught in Lake of Woods is because it bridges the gap between slow presentations like Lindy rigging and fast methods like trolling crankbaits. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

If you've never tried fishing slow death before, you really should because it is such a simple and yet, efficient and effective method.

So simple, in fact, the entire program is built around nothing more complicated than your hook; although in fairness, not just any hook will work. The key is using either a #2 Tru-Turn Aberdeen hook, or one of the new Slow Death hooks with the unique 45-degree kink in the shank, made by companies like Mustad, Matzuo and VMC.

When you thread on a nightcrawler, it curves around the distorted shape of the hook so that when you pinch it off an inch or so behind the bend, and troll the rig behind a bottom bouncer at a moderate speed, your bait rotates in a corkscrew fashion enticing more and bigger walleye to bite than any other tactic you've ever tried before.

The reason slow death is so effective is because it bridges a gap between most of the walleye presentations we've been use to using. Lindy rigging, for example, is a slow spot-on-the-spot method. Ditto for pulling a live leech, nightcrawler or minnow slowly behind a bottom bouncer.

Spinner rigs, crawler harnesses and crankbaits, on the other hand, require you to troll along at speeds generally ranging between one and three mph.

Slow death, however, fills the divide providing you with an erratic, darting, fish-triggering action that walleye simply can't resist.

Of course, you need to keep your corkscrewing hook and crawler close to the bottom, and the best way to do that is by using a bottom bouncer equipped with stiff wire arms and a quality snap swivel so your leader doesn't twist.

As for the best bouncer weight to use, the decision is simple if you keep in mind the 10-foot rule. One-ounce bouncers are ideal in waters up to 10 feet deep, 2-ounce models are the ticket at the 20-foot level, while three-ounce weights work best to get down to 30 feet and deeper.

The leader you attach to the bouncer is also critical. I stick exclusively with eight- to 10-pound-test Maxima Ultragreen monofilament, and rarely use a leader longer than my outstretched arm, or between three and four feet. I've found that longer leaders are prone to picking up gunk off the bottom, and they also reduce the action imparted to the twirling worm.

Oh, yes, one final trick to keep in mind, before you take slow death into the Northern Ontario walleye stratosphere. When you tie your hook to the end of your leader, always leave a 1/8-inch tag. That way, when you thread on a nightcrawler and pull the nose over the eye of the hook, the tag end will catch inside the crawler and hold it firmly in place.

Shorelunch is a Northern Ontario tradition and Sandro Fragale is all smiles as he gets ready to prepare a meal fit for a king. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

I should mention, also, that most anglers favour 7- to 8-foot long, medium action, baitcasting outfits for slow-death presentations. Most, too, spool their reels either with 10- or 12-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon line or a 10-pound-test gel spun line like Sufix Fuse.

Once I am rigged, I like to prospect moderately deep, 20- to 30-foot flats using my Humminbird unit set on split screen to show both my GPS position on a map of the lake and the bottom (zoomed in four times). When I spot a school of spread out walleye, I like to motor upwind of the fish then lower down my MinnKota Fortrex so I can pull the slow death presentation at a speed ranging between .7 and 1 mph.

Unlike so many walleye techniques in which you meticulously feed line to fussy fish and wait, what I like about slow death is that anyone can do it. You simply drag the rig behind your boat, wait until you feel a fish, pause a split second while the walleye turns with the worm and then set.

Welcome to Northern Ontario -- around Labour Day weekend -- my favourite time of the year to catch walleye pulling slow death.

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

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