Making the big lake a little smaller, dialing in the numbers and selecting the right bait are what I would suggest, are steps to take, in preparing to compete in your next Lake Erie walleye tournament.
The sheer size of Lake Erie can overwhelm a newcomer to the lake. For a tournament angler the strategy in preparing for the upcoming tournament is in determining where the right tournament fish are located. Unlike bass fishing near structure, nomad walleye are constantly repositioned beneath the Lake Erie swells. Not only will walleye move in any direction a compass can point, but also up and down through the water column.
Arriving at the port a few days before the tournament should be with one thing in mind. To find productive water is of upmost importance. To do that properly requires a plan that will help manage your time and space to scope out different sections of the lake. Make the big lake a little smaller by breaking it down into smaller sections. Those sections will be many miles apart so planning your approach to cover as many sections as possible is where your time management skills come into play. Keep to a schedule knowing that catching a boat load of fish isn’t the need; hence your time is less fishing and more exploring. Catch a fish or two and then move. Be sure to add a couple of unconventional areas to the list of sections of the lake to visit. They may not even need to get a line wet to know it’s not going to work out. If you do find that unique spot, that is completely unconventional, it can pay big dividends, it may win you the tournament.
Your judgment of what are the more productive areas will come from what you see on your SONAR, paying close attention to what might be different in your “picture” as you scan and troll one section to the next. Write all these things down or use your cell phone to snap a photo on the SONAR screen along with your position shown on the plotter.
On the Ontario side of Lake Erie, you should be aware of the location commercial fisherman are deploying nets. Keep an eye out for the red and black flags that mark the ends of the nets and steer clear. Not only is fishing usually poor in the area for obvious reasons, but the nets pose a risk to navigation and loss of gear if entangled in a net.
Big Fish Friday can be your chance to dial in the numbers after determining your top sections of the Lake the days before. You may want to leave your best section of the Lake to tournament day, but you do need some fish to work, so you can refine your presentation. Keep an eye on where you see fish suspended in the water column. Guess the right number of colours on Leadcores and the numbers on line counters to run divers down into that depth zone. Start with some variety in your numbers and get ready to dial in on the right numbers when the fish respond. The first walleye bite is an anomaly, two bites is an indication, and three bites show a pattern. Duplicate the numbers, but always keep a small portion of the spread to test other numbers. Numbers will change over the course of the day. In the clear water of Lake Erie’s Eastern and Central Basins, walleyes will move up and down in the water column based on conditions. “Low light eyes up near the sky, midday eyes down to the bottom they ply”.
Selecting the right bait is simplified for you when you consider LIVETARGET offers the most adaptable line of Lake Erie walleye trolling baits on the market. If you troll 1.5 mph or all the up to 3.5 mph, LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt series of baits catch Lake Erie Walleye. The deep diving banana baits are awesome for slow trolling, the deep diving jerkbaits are an excellent mid speed bait in the 2 -3 mph range. The shallow banana baits can run slow but will equally catch Walleye up to 3 mph. If a speedy troll is your game, the shallow Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait will track a straight line.
Pull LIVETARGET hardbaits using monofilament line for shallow sets, use snap weights to target depths between 20 and 35 feet, use Leadcore line from anything between 15 to 60 feet down and behind directional divers or downriggers from 20 feet down to as deep as you like. Shallow diving Jerkbaits behind directional divers, shallow and deep divers on monofilament and leadcore, the presentation options are numerous.
True to the LIVETARGET name, the rainbow smelt series of finishes are the most lifelike Lake Erie baitfish looking colours available in a hardbait. In sunny conditions the silver/blue, silver/black or overcast conditions tie on a gold/black or silver/bronze.
In this year’s Lake Erie tournament walleye fishing consider eliminating unproductive water by making the big lake a little smaller, dial in the numbers to present your baits in the zone, and simplify the task of selecting the right bait by looking no further than the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt series.