Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The art of trolling and a beautiful lure for it

Paul Stowick with giant Red Lake pike
Bow Narrows angler Paul Stowick hoists a giant northern pike that he caught and released on Red Lake.
Paul has been coming to camp for a long time, usually twice each summer, so he knows a great deal about fishing here.
I have recognized for years that he excels at the way he fishes which is trolling. Just as other anglers have perfected techniques like jigging, back-trolling walleye spinners or casting, Paul is an artist at trolling artificials.
I think other anglers who are in camp the same time as Paul would be surprised to know that he and his group usually catch as many walleye without live bait as these others do with it. They also catch lots of northern pike and lots of big ones to boot.
How do they do it? I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't until last summer that I paid close attention. My eureka moment came while listening to anglers talk in the fish house as our outside worker, Ben Godin, and Paul were cleaning fish. Paul likes to clean his own fish! Anyway, anglers would come in to leave fish in their tubs for Ben and would pass on information about how they were catching walleyes. Most of the anglers told how well they had done using a worm or leech on a particular colour spinner or jig at a specific depth. All of these anglers are what I would call walleye experts, at the top of their games, and they had all caught lots of walleye that day.
Rapala Shallow Shad Rap
When they left, I asked Paul how he and his wife, Kathy, had done. They obviously had caught fish since Paul was now washing up after cleaning some for supper. Paul told me the number, I forget exactly what it was, but basically it was identical to what the bait fishermen had done that day.  And they had caught them all on one particular model of Rapala, the Shallow Shad Rap.
Paul pointed out that he and his group have used almost nothing else but this lure for years. They have them in virtually every colour, including ones that are no longer made. They use them in two sizes: the SSR07 about 90 per cent of the time and the SSR09 the rest.
The SSR07 is seven centimeters long (2.8 inches plus the lip) and the SSR09 is nine centimeters (about 3.5 inches). The 07 dives about six feet deep and the 09 goes about nine.
Paul said he particularly likes the Shallow Shad Rap because of its tiny L-shaped lip. It is far better at not catching weeds than other crankbaits, he said. That got my attention. I love to fish for walleye without bait. I guess I'm just too lazy to have to bother with skewering a worm or leech or minnow on a hook. I like to just open the tackle box and start fishing!
So, not long after Paul and Kathy returned home, I picked up a Shallow Shad Rap 07 and went out one evening in a known walleye location that has sparse weeds. Just like Paul, I trolled frontwards which is more enjoyable, I find. Unlike back-trolling with walleye spinners, when front trolling you are looking ahead, at least when you are running the outboard. You troll at the lowest speed on the outboard but because you are traveling frontward, this is faster than back-trolling.
As Paul suggested, I used a reel with one of the new fusion lines, Fireline Crystal. These lines, as well as braided, have more "feel" than does monofilament.
I hadn't gone far when I felt the first weed. I reeled up and had not hooked it! I let my line out and hit another weed, again I reeled up and nothing. This went on until eventually, I remembered Paul's advice: don't set the hook on the weed and just let the boat's motion pull the lure through it. When you are past the weed and you can still feel the vibration of the lure, you know it came through cleanly. So I pulled through and, BAM! A walleye! Then another and another until I had caught eight in about an hour. Actually I probably caught the eight in about 30 minutes because I wasted the first half-hour continually checking for weeds.
Sometimes you do catch weeds, or course, and there is nothing to do but reel them in and clean your hook. But at least half the time the lure comes through cleanly.
My guess is the small lip doesn't stick out far enough to hook a lot of weeds and the lure itself has a tight shimmy instead of an exaggerated wobble that lets the lure come straight through the hole the lip made through the weeds. Whatever, it works!
During our Family Week when we are closed except for my family, I used the same lure to land a 40-inch northern pike, again by trolling for walleye. I ended up with one of the trebles hooked into my leg.
Paul said he likes to pinch the barbs down. You still catch the fish but the hooks are easier to take out, of the fish, and yourself.

I spent the summer learning to troll. I caught a lot of fish on the Shallow Shad until about the first of August when I did better on a small Cotton Cordell crankbait with about an inch-long lip. It dove to about 12 feet and I think the walleye were moving to deeper water at the time. I don't know the model of Cotton Cordell it was because none was stated on the package. They were just on sale at Tru Hardware in Red Lake. They worked great for a couple of weeks and then the walleye went deeper still.
Both of these baits float when not being pulled and that is a great aid when trolling them. When you feel your lure hit a rock, you can give the line slack and it floats above the obstruction.

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