Walleye fishing can be a chess match it seems, at times. If you don’t know what I mean, come and fish the north end of Lake Oahe in North Dakota in the early fall. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fishing and I love every minute of it. But when the temps start dropping dramatically in the fall, anything can happen…
When late September approaches in my neighborhood, that can only mean one thing…walleye tournament time! We have a fall classic that closes out our tourney season, and this is one I don’t miss all too often. In 2 weeks of steady prefishing throughout the month of September, I wasn’t finding consistent fish in all the usual areas of the system. But one thing did hold true, the underwater forests were thick with fish. And in Lake Oahe, that can mean holding grounds for BIG fish. After many attempts at trolling for walleyes over the trees, we weren’t getting enough bites to balance the amount of crankbaits we were losing. In a 2 mile pull, we may lose 5-7 lures doing it. It was frustrating. We tried everything…..or so we throught.
Years back, a PWT tournament was won on Lake Oahe where the anglers were pulling bass spinnerbaits through the timber. It was an unusual tactic when you first think of it, but it obviously paid off. So I started some research into fishing walleyes in the trees on Google and found a good video from Keith Kavajecz. He explained running leadcore with 3/4 to 1 oz spinnerbaits in the trees. So I went to my nearest tackle store, Dakota Tackle, and purchased a dozen in that size.
Then, a friend Mike Peluso, who had the same idea, was ordering 2 oz spinnerbaits from a company out of Ohio. I did some research and sure enough, the large 2 ounce spinnerbaits were available from Venom Lures in a variety of colors. I stocked up on the usual 3 (white, blue, and chartreuse), and had the walleye spinnerbaits shipped out ASAP to my place in time for the tournament.
Fast forward to prefishing…
In the first hour of fishing walleye spinnerbaits in the trees, it worked. We found a flooded tree row that was about 2 miles long and maybe 300 feet wide at spots. It was 33 to 36 feet deep, with most of it between 34-35. As you can see in the pics I took of the graph, the fish were thick in there. It looked like our graph was in Display Mode the whole time….crazy. The first 10 minutes we had them out, the rod bent over and up came a 27″ walleye. Not 15 minutes later and BOOM….and yet a walleye bigger then the last made it to the boat. Was this really happening???
We left the spot for tourney day and moved on, with oodles of confidence that pulling leadcore with spinnerbaits for walleyes would be the plan for Saturday morning.
Here’s the walleye gear we used:
- 2 x 10.6 foot Scheels Trolling Rods
- 2 x 7 foot Daiwa Trolling Rods
- Suffix 832 Leadcore – 18 lb test
- 15 pound Flourocarbon leader
- 2 oz Venom Spinnerbaits (tied direct)
We found that 18 lb test leadcore with a 2 ounce spinnerbait started to tip the tops of the trees with only 80 feet of line out. If you wanted to get them DEEP in the trees, we ran them as far as 125 feet out.
The optimal pulling speed seemed to be around 1.5 mph, and most action during prefishing came on chartreuse. We did lose around a lure or 2 a pass, so it wasn’t bulletproof…but close! The lures constantly pull on the rod as they pull through the trees. This causes the lure to slow down then speed up, causing a reaction strike. The double willow blade action made a lot of noise and called in fish.
Overall, I highly recommend this setup if you’re finding big marks in the trees in your lake, river, or reservoir. Expect to lose some baits, so order accordingly.
Good fishing everyone!