I've been fishing for walleye for a long time. Better than 50 years! And I thought I had seen it all.
Heck, I can remember as a kid, growing up in southern Ontario in the early 1960s, when the first Rapala balsa
bait hit the shores of North America. The
lures created such an uproar that the fortunate few who owned them were
"renting" them out on a daily basis.
I can remember too, not many years after that, when, now,
good friends Al and Ron Lindner were young bucks, starting up a new fishing
company (Lindy Little Joe) and they began traipsing across the continent
teaching anglers how to catch more and bigger walleye using techniques that no
one else had ever considered.
I recall too, each of the new trendy ways that emerged to
catch walleye. Snap jigging bucktails
and soft plastics in the weeds. Slip
bobbering live bait in the wind. Casting
Shad Raps onto shallow wind blown reefs and hard rock structures. Trolling crankbaits with segmented lead core
line. Using planer boards in clear water
lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Three-way-rigging. Slow Death trolling. The list goes on and on.
Which brings us to the last couple of weeks. Over the past half century of walleye fishing
I have not seen anything that compares to what is happening right now. I mean the walleyes are on fire. And it is not just the numbers of fish we've
been catching - 80, 90, 100 or more a day, but the size as well. Just so many 7, 8 and 9 pound fish it has
It started about two weeks ago, while I was practising for
the LUND Angler Young Angler International Walleye Championship here on Lake of the Woods.
This is a phenomenal event where the regional winners from
AYA regional tournaments from across North America meet in Kenora, Ontario
for a one-day, winner take all championship event.
Only this contest is like no other.
The teams are comprised of an adult angler and two young
anglers under the age of 17 years old.
They're guided by a local LUND pro
staffer who runs the boat - Lake of the Woods
is one million acres in size with 14,000 islands, so you don't learn the lay of
the land overnight - but doesn't fish.
The one day Championship, with the first place prize of an
all expense paid trip for four to Disney World (second prize is a fly-in
fishing trip to an exotic Canadian fishing resort) is also run on a
catch/measure/photograph and release basis.
The teams, then turn in their scorecards at the end of the
day and the lengths of the best 6 walleye are converted into pounds. It is the very same format used by the
professional walleye anglers on the AIM tournament circuit and let me tell you,
it is so cool, so exciting and so conservation-minded.
and AIM folks are so far ahead of the rest of the tournament world with this
format that it is crazy. Quite simply
"they walk the talk" when it comes to sound conservation principles,
good ethics and sportsmanship!
The other neat thing about the catch-measure-photograph and
release format is that teams can "weigh in" their best six walleyes,
even on a lake like Lake of the Woods that has a "one over 18-inch"
size limit. It doesn't matter when all
the walleyes are immediately released after having their pictures taken.
So what were the results?
Good buddy John Butts, from Dryden, who was fishing with his
7 year old son Aidan and Aidan's 8 year old buddy Luke Turcotte weighed in a 6
walleye limit that weighed 46.61 pounds.
That is almost an 8-pound walleye average. Are you kidding me!
(Young angler Luke Turcotte gets some help from John Butts to hold up his 28-inch walleye before carefully letting it go.)
I had the great fortune to be paired up with Scott Allen and
Tyler LaDuron from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Scott's son Paul, who was also a member of the team couldn't
make the LUND Championship. He is the
star quarterback for his high school football team and the coach wouldn't let
him miss a key pre-season game.
Tyler, who is such a great kid I wanted to call his parents and ask if I could adopt him, caught a gorgeous 27-inch walleye at the first spot we stopped, and then Scotty
quickly followed it with 25-incher. And
that is the way it went for the rest of the day. It was one walleye after another, only we got
stuck in a rut for a while catching 19- and 20-inchers. I kid you not, at least twice during the day,
our sonar screen lit up with a massive school of walleyes right below the
So I said to the boys, "It is your call. We can sit here and catch nice 19 and 20-inch
walleyes until the cows come home, or we can move and look for bigger
Scott, laughed and reminded me a couple of times that the #1
rule in tournament fishing is
that "you don't leave fish to go looking for fish". Neverthless, we pulled up the electric
trolling motor and left behind huge schools of walleyes.
At weigh in, we were sitting in the "hot seat"
leading the tournament after about 1/3rd of the field had weighed in, but in
the end our smaller three 19- and 20-inchers killed us. Still, it was a phenomenal time.
(Scott, Tyler and I enjoyed our stay in the hot seat.)
Then, mid-week I met up with buddy Tom VanLeeuwen from Winnipeg. Tom's daughter and son-in-law who live in New Zealand are
visiting and I needed a couple of "models" for a photo shoot for a upcoming
walleye magazine feature I am working on.
So, Tom, Dean and I headed out on the water.
Nothing had changed.
Just about everywhere we went our sonar units lit up like Christmas
trees, marking schools of nice walleyes below our boats. I couldn't tell you how many walleyes we caught
(including a giant bonus smallmouth I landed by "mistake"). Eighty, 90, who knows, maybe 100 or
more. It was insane.
Ditto, the next day when I went back out by myself.
Al Paterson, who owns Reel Bait Tackle and makes the amazing
Fergie Spoon had sent me some absolutely gorgeous new prototypes he is about to
introduce to the market - you won't believe these things when you see them -
and I wanted to test them on the fish.
Again, it was non-stop, toe-to-toe walleye action. Drop down the Fergie spoon, pump it up and
down a couple of times, pause, and wham!
What can I say, it has been that kind of week.
And by the way, if you see me out on the water in the next
day or so, by all means come by and say, "hi". Just don't pinch me, because if this is a
dream, I don't ever want to wake up!