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Opening Day Walleye Tips From The Pros

Walleye guide, Nicholas Werner hooked these Bay of Quinte beauties trolling #12 Husky Jerks and Big Eye Custom Lures spinner rigs at speeds up to 2.1 mph
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Opening Day Walleye Tips From The Pros

Where to Fish, and what to use, as another walleye Season opens in Northern Ontario

Five of Ontario's Top walleye pros all weigh in on where to fish, and with what lures and presentations to rely on, with walleye season opening in Northern Ontario.

If you're a walleye angler, the third Saturday in May is the special day you've been looking forward to with so much anticipation.  It is the opening of another walleye season in Northern Ontario, but with so many lakes and rivers to choose among, where do you start your search?  And upon what lures and presentations do you rely?

With these questions in mind, I probed five of Ontario's top walleye pros for their insights.

"I'll be on the Wabigoon chain of lakes on Saturday," says Dryden, Ontario-based John Butts, the second Canadian angler ever to win a Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) tournament. "I'll be looking for shallow bays close to spawning areas.  The best one have creeks flowing into them. I'll also be targeting transition channels between lakes."

To catch the walleyes enjoying the early spring warm water, Butts says he'll cast and drag light 1/32- and 1/16-ounce jigs, but his "go to" presentation is trolling unweighted spinners using his MinnKota Terrova bow-mounted electric motor set run at .8 to 1 mph.

"Basically, I am flat line trolling single hook spinners tipped with small fathead minnows," says Butts. "It is my favourite way to fish in the spring because it is such an effective search method when fish are scattered shallow. If the water is clear I will use an Offshore Planer Board to get the spinner away from the boat."

Dryden, Ontario walleye pro John Butts, shown here with son, Aidan, says he’ll be looking for shallow bays close to spawning areas this weekend.

Over in the Northeastern part of province, walleye pro David Reid says he will opening the season on Kenogamissi Lake. Like Butts, Reid will be zeroing in on shallow flats and shorelines that have either wood or rocks lying on mostly sand bottoms.  He says these areas warm up quickly and attract bait fish.

"I like to cast either a ReelBait Flasher jig tipped with a minnow or a Lazyman Hook with a four-inch, soft plastic, Angler's Choice Wally MinR that I rig weedless so I can swim it over top the wood and weeds.

"I'll be also be casting a Kamooki SmartFish or SmartCraw in these same areas, retrieving it like a crank bait across the shallow flats or slowly down the break lines.  

"I'll target water as shallow as six inches, early in the morning and again at dusk, concentrating on the first drop off during the day."

Working our way into the central and southern parts of the province, Dave Chong says it is a toss up between Balsam Lake and Rice Lake in the Kawarthas, as for his early season walleye pick. Rice Lake is more prolific, he says, but the special slot regulation on Balsam Lake has allowed the walleyes to flourish.

Ontario walleye guide Dave Chong guided guest Rob Lee to these beautiful walleyes that he caught ripping bucktail jigs through shallow clumps of weeds.

"After the walleyes spawn," says Chong, "I look for any weed growth that I can find.  The fish rest in it and use it to ambush their prey.  Most of the vegetation is curly leaf pondweed, but if you can find milfoil, it is gold."

To catch the walleyes wedged into the weeds, Chong relies on a single presentation.  A "Big Jim" bucktail jig.

"Ripping a bucktail jig triggers reaction strikes from walleye at this time of the year," says Chong.  "Just pitch it out a short distance away from the boat and let it drop into an opening in the weeds.  Then, rip it up and let it fall back down."

There is no question where Nicholas Werner, owner of Werner's Angling Adventures spends his early season walleye fishing.    

"About 38 feet from my back door, on the world famous Bay of Quinte," chuckles the personable Kingfisher Boat pro. "Hundreds of thousands of migratory Lake Ontario walleye fill the bay every fall and spend the winter here preparing for the spring spawn. It makes for some very lucrative angling on opening weekend."

Werner focuses his attention on the areas where the Trent and Napanee Rivers spill into the big bay, as well as constricted areas that concentrate the fish, such as Massassauga Point and Telegraph Narrows. 

"I'll keep the boat out over the deeper water and channels, adjacent to spawning areas, and follow the walleyes as they migrate back out into Lake Ontario.

"If I'm in the river mouths or the neck-down areas, I'll use a chartreuse or white ReelBait flasher jig tipped with either two minnows or a big crawler. My secret is to gob on a whole crawler the way a six-year-old would do it. It's just a yummy, juicy mess that the walleyes can't resist.

"If the fish have already moved deeper, however, I'll long-line troll a custom painted DHJ-12 Husky Jerk or spinner harness. Big Eye Custom Lures produces some of the hottest walleye patterns on the Great Lakes today with the The Grinch and Maniac colour schemes being my two top performers. I start trolling fast, up to 2.1 mph, and I'll only slow down if I'm not getting bites."

Walleye ace, Pete Garnier says the shallow water walleye bite can be lights out good during the first few weeks of the season.

Like, Werner, there is no secret where you'll find Pete Garnier at this time of the year. With the annual Canada/US Walleye Tournament on Sturgeon Lake only days away – it runs this year from May 27th to 29th – Garnier will be gunning for another win.

"I generally find the fish extremely shallow, in three to five feet of water, as the most active fish flood the weedy areas feeding heavily after the spawn. It can be totally lights-out-fishing for the first few weeks of the season, until the water temperature climbs into the upper 60s. Consistent weather is the key and it produces some truly incredible fishing.

"Covering water quickly with a Beetle Spin, small square-bill crankbait or lipless crankbait are ideal methods to locate active schools of walleye.  But when I find them, my hands-down, go-to lure of choice is a bucktail hair jig."

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