The Woodsman Magazine

Raking in a Bushel Basket of 'Eyes

 By Bob and Ginny Riege

The weather is starting to cool and the trees are full of color.  Many anglers look at this time of year as a close of the fishing season.  They are doing chores around the house and raking leaves is one of the many chores they have to do.  Personally, I think that it is time to get out on the water and do some raking on your own.  That’s right, head out to a river system with a partner or two and use a combination of drift fishing and slipping to rake in a bushel basket of walleyes this fall.

In many river systems especially in my home state of Minnesota anglers can use two rods while fishing.  All you have to imagine is two fisherman X two rods = four lines in the water.  Add a third member to the boat and now you have six lines in the water.  Visually, and practically, you and your partners are raking the depths for some fall walleyes.

Drifting is extremely popular with walleye fisherman.  Drifting is easy, just shut off the motor and let the wind or current do all the work.  The problem with drifting is that the wind won’t always be moving you at the speed or in the direction you wish to go.

One way that I have solved the problem with boat control is by using a sea anchor.  A sea anchor is a cone-shaped under water windsock, similar to those at airports that detect changes in wind direction. Drift Control sea anchors aid boat control in two ways.  First of all, they slow your drift in strong winds.  Secondly, you can use them to fine-tune subtle boat maneuvers in rough seas or heavy current.

Most anglers who fish large expansive lakes or rivers carry a sea anchor with them daily.  The rule is usually one sea anchor is adequate for most boats and conditions.  But, if you have a large boat and the sea anchor isn't doing it's job you may need a large one off the front cleat and a smaller one at the stern.

The second approach to fishing rivers is to use the slipping method.  Point the boat into the current and leave the engine idling.  The boat will still move downstream.  By motoring weakly against the current, you can slow down to meet the speed the lure is moving through the water.

It is very important when slipping to keep the bow pointed directly into the current.  If the bow turns at even a slightest angle to the current, the water will catch the bow and swing it sideways.  It’s a lot of work and takes some time and experience to master.  But slipping is deadly on river walleyes.

Equipment for raking in those walleyes, I believe starts with a good set of reels.  Your reel is what allows you to play fish in the current and you need good quality drag system that won’t let you down. 

Two reels that I think are great reels that won’t cost a ton of money, but give good dependable service are, the Shimano Stella spinning reel and the Shimano Calcutta reel.  Each of these reels have unique properties that I find useful while fishing for walleyes.

The Stella spinning reel is simply the fastest spinning system ever invented. This is the reel that I use when I am using two rods.  The reel allows me to convert one reel to a right hand retrieve and the other to left hand retrieve.  When I am drift fishing with a jig and minnow combination vertically, I can set the hook on the rod, put one rod between my legs and reel with the rod that has the strike on it.  I can bump the reel with my knees to pick up slack or engage the bail whenever I want to.  If I need to cast back out, it is a one handed method, trip the bale and cast to the target.  The Stella also has the front drag system that I really like.  Over the years some tackle companies have been going back to the rear of the reel to put the drag system on.  I like the drag on the front, it easier to control and it has larger washers in the drag system that makes it smoother. 

The second reel that I really like is the Shimano Calcutta.  This reel is a workhorse.  I use it for flipping, pitching, big jigs and crankbaits.  This is my go to reel when it is on a G-Loomis walleye series rod in a 6’6” medium action.

First check out the upstream lip and the downstream edge where current and slack water meet. Methodically checking out every foot of suspended fish holding water near a current break will pay the highest dividends.  These are the areas that will hold active fish.  If there is nothing doing at the these locations, give the dead water directly behind the obstruction a quick going over to entice any inactive fish which might be present.  Don’t waste a lot of time on one site just because it looks good.  Move on and come back later to check it out again.  If there is a secret to this style of fishing, it is finding active fish.

Vertical fishing (raking) also makes it easier to fish a small area, such as a brushpile, hump or other structure.  You can often cast to within 5 feet of such an area and not get hit, but put your lure in it and you immediately come up with a fish.

In most situations you should be able to get by with four jig sizes, usually fewer than that.  On most lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, you should almost always be able to get by with a selection of 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 ounce jigs.  True, in some rivers you will need heavier jigs and below a slip bobber a lighter one might work best, but day in and day out, on most waters, these four sizes will be completely adequate.  I use more 1/8-ounce size than any other, and lately I have been using more of the 1/16-ounce size. 

Use plastic bodies to slow the fall of the jig, to add bulk and visibility in stained and dirty water, and to add color.  I like to use a plastic body of one color with a jighead of another color. That provides contrast and also increases the chance of showing the fish the color they want.  Pink/ white and orange/ chartreuse are favorite color combinations.

There you have it!  A method that allows you to do some fall “raking” and instead of getting a bushel basket full of leaves you can now have a bushel basket of walleyes.

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