Anglers are always looking for an edge when it comes to catching more and bigger fish. The amount of information out there is a bit overwhelming but if you watch and read enough of it, much of it overlaps.
Over the years I have tried to become creative when looking at ways to fish big soft plastic. When I had my television show, The Complete Angler, we spent a lot of time in remote locations. While it was great experience, one had to learn to pack with purpose. Loading up soft plastics was a quick, easy, and light way to go. Berkley was also a major sponsor of mine during the 15 years I had the show and they made the best soft plastic on the market.
Many of the lodges and locations I went to had big lake trout, pike, and walleye. I learned over the years several ways to catch fish using these baits, but one I really liked involved slow trolling with Magnum Power Grubs.
One of my favourite episodes came at Wellesley Lake and Kluane Wilderness Lodge in the Yukon Territories. I had some extra time on my hands, so I decided to head out one afternoon with my cameraman and backtroll with these saltwater grubs.
I found the lake trout on a huge sand flat, along the edge of the main lake basin, in 54 feet of water. These are a key areas when lake trout are looking for food. Sure enough, in the first five minutes I hooked into a beast. An afternoon later with my arms sore and many fish landed we had what we needed.
They key was slow trolling, just keeping the heavy jig just off the bottom. I would let it touch occasionally, then slowly sweep the rod tip forward. As I dropped it back at the same speed back, bingo, fish on!
Boat control, along with the correct speed is critical. Sometimes I will do this back-trolling with my tiller boat when it’s windy because you need a speed of one to one point four miles an hour to make this effective. If you go too slow, you might get snagged, go too fast then your lure lifts out of the strike zone. If you have a console and a kicker, that works as does a front or back troll motor. After some practice you will learn how make the presentation right.
This is a great time of the year to use this presentation, when the fish are bit scattered in deeper water. You can cover water and fine tune location at the same time. I would recommend though looking to find fish first on your electronics. There are days that they are tight to bottom and difficult to pinpoint. I will admit this presentation works better when the fish are in an aggressive mood and are willing to chase.
For years I would troll for suspended pike on Shoal Lake, either with crankbaits or big swimbaits. While I caught plenty of big pike, walleye would show up as well. That’s when I decided to expand my walleye catching arsenal to include these when ever I could.
When I choose a rod to use, I base it on two things. If I am using a heavy jig or crankbait, it will be a level wind line counter reel, an eight and half foot rod with medium action. When jigging with these big swimbaits, I switch over to a 7′ 2″ medium action spinning rod with good backbone. I like 12 pound Crystal Fireline with a 12 pound fluorocarbon leader for the line counter reel. That will also work on my spinning reel, but make sure you match the reel with a rod, a bigger capacity spool that can give you better leverage.
WHEN TO TROLL AND WHEN TO HOLD
A few years back, when we headed to Tobin Lake for our annual fall trip, the walleye were stacked up in a current edge near deep water. The question was, what was going to be the most effective method to catch them?
It was a tight area to fish, so we spot locked. The current was ripping and the three of us in the boat that day were scrambling to find a jig heavy enough to get to down to the fish.
Friend Boyd Holmen saved the day on that occasion, producing some nice 1 ½ ounce swim bait jig heads. We quickly rigged up plastic on them to rip down where the fish were. It was a spectacular day of fishing, probably our best on this reservoir. Since that day I never leave home without ¾ to 2-ounce jigs in a variety of shapes.
When I returned the next year, fully expecting a repeat, the fish were long gone. I was disappointed since we had stocked up all year on the lures needed to catch those fish.
Eventually we found the fish along the main lake drop off, a typical spot for the walleye and pike in this reservoir during the summer and fall. Which got me thinking, why can’t we troll these big swimbaits? This is a perfect set up to do that and it works well. If you haven’t yet, give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.