Ontario offers more out-of-this-world fishing opportunities for the walleye angler than any other place on earth.
In fact, there are so many great walleye fisheries in Ontario that the sheer volume creates a perplexing dilemma. Dare I say, "problem", especially for walleye anglers who have set their sights on catching the personal trophy of a lifetime.
With so many choices, where do you go and what do you throw?
Fortunately, the "where to go" part of the question is the easiest one to answer. Simply touch base with the Northern Ontario regional tourism office in the geographic area of your interest. The entire north is divided into 3 zones and you can take your pick from among thousands of lodges, resorts, provincial parks and campgrounds.
Now, if only the "how-to" part of the question was as easy to answer. Although, the more I think about it -- it is -- so long as you keep one thing in mind.
The tactics you use to catch a number of walleyes are not the best techniques to use to catch the biggest fish in the lake.
Indeed, there is nothing I enjoy doing more than taking out folks who have never before caught a lot of fish and watching them land 30, 40, 50 or more walleyes a day. It never hurts, either, to pull up on a remote pine-studded island and cook shore lunch over a crackling wood fire.
Talk about "finger-lickin' good"!
But those walleye "number days" nearly always involve using relatively small lures -- jigs, rigs and spinners -- tipped with live bait. And it is rarely how we go about dredging up double-digit walleyes.
Indeed, if there was ever a time to put into action the big-baits-catch-big-fish game plan, this is it.
As a matter of fact, it is what buddy Tom Van Leeuwen and I did on Friday to indulge our big walleye addiction. Tom and I landed more than two dozen walleyes in the 24- to 27-inch range, weighing 5 to 7 pounds apiece, with our biggest being a 28-inch brute that tipped the scales at over 8 pounds. That is not bad considering we didn't launch the boat until 10:00 o'clock in the morning and we pulled it back out at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon.
And get this: Tom was genuinely surprised we didn't land a 10-pound plus, double-digit trophy, given how many fish we spotted on the sonar screen and put into the net.
The secret, as always when you're targeting big, bold, bodacious brutes, was casting the big baits necessary to attract and trigger the goliaths. Not little, itty, bitty, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce jigs, or tiny rigs tipped with live bait.
As a matter of fact, the lightest jig we tied on all day was a full 1/2-ounce saltwater brute moulded around a stout 3/0 hook. The biggest jigs, on the other hand, were twice that heavy. We tipped them with five and six-inch-long soft plastic Trigger X Swimbaits, X-Zone Swammers, Mister Twister Sassy Shads and Berkley Split Belly Swimbaits and Flat Back Shad.
Riding shotgun, tied to a bunch of other walleye sticks we had laying on the casting platform, were large #11 Rapala Clackin' Minnow crankbaits, #10 and #12 X-Raps and the hot new lipless Rippin' Rap, which is sometimes so good for big walleyes, it deserves a future blog all for itself.
Still, the key is offering big walleyes a worthwhile meal.
Just remember, however, that it is critical to rig your soft plastic swimbaits properly by skewering them onto the beefy jigs so that they are hanging perfectly straight. You'll reduce their efficiency and effectiveness significantly -- and hence the number of big walleye bites -- if you rig them the least bit crooked, bent or humped over.
Still, I hear the doubters thinking: isn't a 1/2-ounce or 3/4-ounce jig and 6-inch swimbait way too big for walleyes? Trust me, it is not, as you'll discover when you see how many small 'eyes you also catch on the combination.
Just be sure to deliver the bigger than typical walleye baits using the right rod, reel and line combination. To that end, you can't go wrong using a 7- to 7 1/2-foot long, moderately heavy action spinning rod, teamed up with a 3000 series reel spooled with a 14-pound test braided line like Fireline, Nanoline or Sufix 832. By the way, I always add a two-foot-long leader using a 15-pound test Maxima fluorocarbon line.
The balanced combination of rod, reel and line let you keep the bulky bait close to the bottom where most big walleyes tread.
Just as importantly, the beefy pairing forces you to fish the lure much more quickly than most folks are accustomed to fishing for walleye. Did I mention, we routinely retrieve these lures in only 10, 12, 15 feet of water -- all the way down to 30 feet.
In these relatively shallow situations, the heavy thumping jig and swimbait combination forces you to pick up the pace, raising your rod tip as you swim the lure along, keeping it within a foot of the bottom, then dipping it briefly while you reel in line. And it is this slight hesitation between manoeuvres that causes the lure to stutter and fall, triggering every big, bold, bodacious Ontario walleye that is following to devour it.