Illinois hunting and fishing

Eric Olson from Evinrude BRP often catches large walleyes each season by pulling floating Rapalas behind planer boards high in the water column.

High-riding walleyes

March 11, 2011 at 08:56 AM

Editors Note: The Author, Eric Olson is a professional walleye angler on the FLW Walleye Tour.  Olson recently won the FLW Lake Oahe Tournament and is regarded as one of the most consistent walleye anglers on the tour.

By Eric Olson

Many lakes, reservoirs and rivers have the classic rip rap, rocky shoreline and gravel bar spots that hold a lot of walleyes come spring.  Male walleyes in particular will arrive early on these locations and stay late giving a fairly long window to pattern these fish.  From our experiences, the bigger females can be mixed in but become more hit and miss during this spawning period.  The males seem to outnumber the females on many days where an angler just has to go through a number of fish to catch a large female.

During the spawn and immediately after, the larger female fish can seem like the minority as the males often are still extremely aggressive.  Note however that not all the females spawn on the same day and this effort is often staggered throughout the lake.  On many areas we fish, much of the activity early in the year can really pick up at night.  Many fish are caught in shallow water where we typically troll stick baits like the classic original floating Rapala and newer bait we have also caught a lot of fish with are the new Flat Raps.  The night trolling game follows the KISS formula, keep it simple stupid.  Often, I focus on just keeping one rod per angler in the water and I am usually able to drive the boat right over the fish.

Even in three or four feet of water, boat noise and displacement doesn’t seem to be a big issue for these fish. When I am doing this kind of trolling, a spinning rod and reel can often work better than a traditional line counter reel and trolling rod. If you want to mark how much line to let out, you can mark the line with a bobber stop but this isn’t rocket science, as long as you are close. and not running so deep that you are hitting debris and getting fouled up the fish will generally find it.  If anything I like to run the baits a little high so the fish can see the sillouette.  In three feet of water you don’t have to let out much line.  Great areas for this type
of trolling include long sections of rip rap and road embankments where numbers of fish pile up.  Most of the focus when fishing at night is simply controlling the boat.

Over the past few years, my position at Evinrude has had me involved in the development and testing of Evinrude’s new 15 horse power kicker motor that today is so popular.  Our after dark trolling appointments were really beneficial for our testing because everything is more difficult in the dark. Noise and vibration becomes a bigger issue.  The Prop and gear assembly in the lower unit not to mention idle quality can become an issue if an angler has to fight and concentrate to control the speed.  We were able to really perfect and tweke this motor for trolling during some of these conditions.

During the day, these locations often really slow down for us but it is possible to still pick off odd fish on these spots during the day following the same program.  What we have found however is that we can still comb through these locations during the day and alter our approach a little to catch more fish. During the day, I have had tremendous luck trolling crankbaits through these locations using planer boards but the details are different.  I have caught a surprising number of fish and big fish in particular by trolling off the break over deeper water in these same locations with the same shallow running crankbaits by attaching them to boards.