Editors Note- Les Zacny has had an incredible career as a tournament angler competing in the CHEVY/MARINER BASS TOUR as well as various walleye tournaments. Noteworthy accomplishments are; winning the "Phenix Open Bass Tournament/98, winning the Chevy/Mariner Sparrow Lake tournament, qualifying for team Canada to compete in the Chevy/Mariner Pro- Am for 1999 on lake Erie and Qualifying to compete in the 1998 Chevy Mariner "Classic" on lake Simcoe (the "Classic" is a tournament in which the best anglers of the season face off-Les placed 8th). Bass is not Less only game last season he also won 6 walleye tournaments. As you can see Les Zacny is an accomplished angler and has some great techniques for Quinte walleye. His personal best walleye is an 11lber. caught in Telegraph Narrows while jigging. This was one of a double header the other a 10lber. Les was really open and has some great walleye techniques to share.
Good day everyone, Im going to talk about walleye fishing and a few of my favorites ways to catch them. But before I go into that I want to just talk a little about the walleye. Whenever Im after a particular species of fish I like to think about whats unique about this fish. What are its unique characteristics? The reason for this is it helps us focus when considering strategies.
When we think of the walleye the first unique feature that springs to mind in everyone is the "eyes". Most know this fish has big marble shaped eyes that sit on top of the head. In addition most anglers know these eyes are built to take whatever light is available in the environment and magnify it. Kind of like "infra-red" vision. But another feature of this fish to consider is the "shape". This fish is shaped like a torpedo and one thing torpedos dont do well is turn quick and thats the same with a walleye. Thats why when a walleye bites you dont often see your line go sideways like with a bass. It usually bites and keeps on moving forward. This forward movement is driven by another feature the "tail". The tail is big and the walleye uses it to generate a lot of power quickly. Having a big tail fin can come in handy when chasing forage fish such as alewife, shiners, smelt and shad in open water.
When walleye fishing theres number of strategies I use. First off is trolling, which can be done with crankbaits or livebait. Which ever you prefer the idea with trolling is you are presenting a lure that represents some type of forage fish like those I just mentioned. All of these baitfish have a long and slim profile. Your crankbait or livebait offering should mimic this as much as possible. Spinners tipped with worms should not have the worm balled up on the hook, the worm should be hooked just at the tip and allow the tail to trail behind. In regards to crankbaits, I like to use balsam wood cranks with that "long slim profile" and to help this crank get down I add splitshot 12"inches up from the crank.
The second strategy I use and is very common one all over North America, is driftfishing. Its a very simple technique to use and all you need is a slip sinker, 2-way swivel, a bead and livebait. First thing to do is thread the slip sinker onto your line followed by the bead. Then attach the 2-way swivel, attached to the other end of the swivel is a 2 feet of line and your hooked tipped with livebait. The Bead protects the knot from wear and tear caused by the sinker. This is a great technique to use with wind. Go to the area you want to fish then position your boat so that the wind will drift your boat over the area. Then cast out and drift. Its important to keep your bait on the bottom while keeping a tight line, pump the rod once in a while. When a walleye bites its going to feel "mushy". Reel up your line while dropping you tip down then once your tip is down use a "sweep set" to hook the fish.
Moving on to jigging, there are three styles I use and I let the fish mood dictate which I will use. The first style of jig fishing I call "skittering". This is best used for "inactive" fish. Cast out your jig, reel up the slack and slowly skitter it, three to four inches at a time, back to the boat. The fish are inactive and so the bait is going to be very subtle not much movement or action.
The next style is called "hopping". This is best used on "neutral" fish. After you have cast your jig out and its settled on bottom then lift the rod three to four inches then repeat after your jig touches bottom. Establish a rhythm. The trick to this style is keeping your line tight as the jig falls. Walleye tend to hit on the fall so keeping your line tight will allow you to feel the hit but you wont always feel the hit sometimes the fish will just be there.
The last jigging style is called "snap or rip jigging" and is best for "active" fish. This technique has netted more big walleye for me that any other. For this style I like to use bucktail/deer hair jigs. The hair on deer is hollow and very buoyant. When a bucktail jig is sitting on bottom the fur spreads out or balls up. When you rip it, the fur then falls tight to the jig so, it looks like a fleeing minnow during the rip. To rip jig cast out and when the jig hits the bottom give the rod a good rip and then as the jig falls reel up the slack to keep the line tight. Once the jig hits bottom give it another "rip" always keeping the line tight as the jig is falling. The key to the bite here is the line goes slack on the fall. The line goes slack because the walleye swims up to it and, as I mentioned earlier, keeps moving forward after it has taken the bait in its mouth. Thats why I cant emphasize enough keeping your line tight.
Just a brief word about rod choice for these jigging techniques, "skittering" and "hopping" a 66" rod with a sensitive tip and good sweepset hooking power is my choice. "Ripping" is different since you are constantly ripping fast the line had a tendency to wrap around the tip of the rod so to avoid this I use a 5"6" stiff rod.
With the Bay of Quinte and the change thats happened there over the last few years its important to pay attention to structure. It used to be you could fish anywhere near structure and catch fish but thats all changed so now you really have to pay attention to weedlines, rockpiles and drop-offs. Track the deep side of the weedline. and fish there. Look for the drop-offs specially those that go from 8 to 20 feet. Use livebait and fish closer to bottom. In terms of spots my favorites are the humps by the lighthouse in Telegraph Narrows, the Deseronto Bridge and Picton Bay.
One other thing about Quinte not related to walleye is the smallmouth bass fishing. I was fishing the Chevy/Mariner Bass Tournament out of Belleville last summer and the smallmouth fishing is fantastic! Quinte has great numbers of smallmouth and I really look forward to a few years from now, as the smallmouth fishery develops, the bass fishing there will be hot.