A Shore Thing: Rapidly Landing Walleye
Imagine landing a dozen dark gold bullion-coloured walleyes in the three-to-six-pound range in rapid succession and seeing several others—one in excess of 10 pounds—follow in with their noses on your bait.
To make the scenario even more surreal, picture this: it's high noon. You relax in the blazing hot sun on a gorgeous pine-infused island under an azure blue sky, and you're in the middle of a picture-postcard lake as flat as a pancake in Northern Ontario, after wolfing down a scrumptious shore lunch.
If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes or, better yet, slid six of the beauties up on the bank, I would not have believed it.
But last week, it unfolded just the way I described when the Kamooki Lure Company folks invited me to join them on a photoshoot on Northwestern Ontario's magnificent Lake of the Woods.
Talk about sticking to the script.
Well, actually, come to think of it, it wasn't according to the script, because if buddy Jordan Thompson hadn't picked up a rod and made a nonchalant cast off the end of the point, we'd never have known there was so much gold swimming beneath the surface off the end of the point.
Indeed, I am betting that many times you and your friends have stopped to eat a shore lunch, or to stretch your legs while out fishing in Northern Ontario and then, before you stepped back into the boat, have made a cast or two from shore.
I know I've done it many times, and I have often been rewarded with a surprise tug or two on the end of the line. But this was ridiculous.
While the rest of us were loosening our belt buckles and stretching out on the bedrock to take a short nap, Jordan and grandson Liam picked up their spinning rods and started casting off the rocky point. They were hoping to catch a bonus bass or two that might be hunkered down in the warm, shady water, also taking a snooze.
"Oh my gosh, look at the size of the walleye!" Jordan shouted, pointing to the water in front of his toes that were dangling at the edge.
"It is easily 28 inches long," confirmed Liam, who has caught plenty of double-digit walleyes in his young budding Sunset Country fishing career. "Maybe bigger."
Trust me—that was all Cameron Tait, Kamran Sheik and I needed to hear. We scampered to the boats like kids with big grins on our faces, grabbed our fishing rods, and started firing outcasts.
And we weren't disappointed.
Letting our Smartfish and Smartcraw lipless crankbaits settle to the bottom, we lifted them up a foot or two, smartly enough that we could feel them vibrate, then paused and let them settle back down to the bottom.
That is when a hefty, gold and black-coloured high-noon walleye usually devoured it.
It was the Northern Ontario equivalent of the Shootout at the OK Corral, and it highlighted a fishing fact that is crucial to almost every presentation: the angle of your retrieve can often make or break your presentation.
To emphasize the principle, it is important to mention that prior to stopping for lunch we had made several casts with the same lures to the shoreline of the island around which we would shortly pull up and enjoy lunch. But like most anglers, we were casting into the shallows and then retrieving our lures back out into deep water.
It is the same presentation the fish have seen many times before and it is possible they have become conditioned to it. More likely, however, the walleyes were positioned in the shallow shady water so they could look out and monitor the main lake. So, when we were casting from our boats, our baits were likely landing behind them and then swimming out. And given that they were relaxing in the shady cover, they were reluctant to give chase.
Not so, however, when we were casting from shore.
Then, we fired our baits out into 20 feet or more of water and swam our lures back into the shallows. So, the big walleyes watched their every move and grew excited by the approaching dinner.
And here is something even more interesting.
As we began catching the fish, we were able to excite the school and fire them up to the point that I caught five gorgeous mid-summer 'eyes on five successive casts.
Understand what I am saying?
With one-quarter of a million dollars of boats and motors tied up to shore, we were able to enjoy 20 minutes of unbelievable, non-stop, lights-out walleye action at mid-day, under a scorching sun, in flat, calm conditions.
Making it a glorious shore thing in Northern Ontario.