W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Breaking up is Hard to Do
By Sam Anderson
An breakline edge is where gravel turns to sand, mud meets rock, drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches, or bottle necks between two different land masses, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtered through a rock causeway.
The breakline edge of a specific structure is a great place to start looking for spring walleyes. These edges form breaks, which almost act like barriers to hold fish a little longer to feed before they move on. These are physical boundaries between shallow food producing areas and deep water areas of the lake. Here schools of active walleyes meet concentrations of food and often this is a prime fishing area.
By fishing the breakline edges of weeds, drop-offs and structure like rocks, you will increase your chances of finding a funnel point where fish concentrate. These spots vary but are based on factors like: water temperature, availability of baitfish, oxygen, light level, structure and schooling tendencies.
Don't just find the first drop-off and start trolling along it down the lake. Begin by looking for and locating fish to determine productive depths and how fish are oriented to structure. Locate prominent areas like points, humps, weededges--typical feeding and holding areas for walleyes. Then search the edges with electronics, noting irregularities in the drop-off and sections that attract fish. Once walleyes are spotted, match your presentation to their depth and location.
Ideally, slowly backtroll with a transom electric motor (or bowmount electric on larger boats), maneuvering along the edges of structure, following contours with your baits.
Move slow enough to keep your lines as vertical as possible to maximize control and sense of feel. You want your bait below the boat in the transducer cone, where you can simultaneously see both fish and the bottom. If the wind kicks up, backtroll with your tiller outboard if necessary, or use a combo of a big console engine with one or two sea anchors to maintain boat control. The ability to maintain bottom contact, sense of feel, and interpret changes in bottom conditions is paramount to success.
Lift and hold your sinker slightly off bottom most of the time, keeping the bait near bottom without risking snags. Dip the sinker down every few seconds to reconfirm that it's near bottom and to feel for changes, such as transitions from rock to sand or mud. Deep fish like to lie along changes in bottom composition where the harder bottom of a drop-off joins the softer bottom of the basin, often as deep as 30 to 50 feet in spring. Pay particular attention to such changes along prominent points that gather walleyes.
Don't hurry if you see fish on your electronics. Hover in limited areas, working and reworking fish. Backtroll upwind, control drift downwind, saturating the area with lively livebait. Change the direction of your trolling path if necessary, moving up and down the drop-off rather than back and forth along it. Show the fish something different than other rigs in the area. Patience is key. If fish are aggressive, they'll bang a minnow right away. If not, it's not unusual to spend several minutes letting the minnow wiggle in their faces before triggering a bite. The biggest mistake is to breeze through good spots too quickly. Give 'em as much time as necessary to get a response.
Boat control is key. Boat movement positions the bait. What you do on the surface is mirrored by what occurs below. One of the easiest and most rudimentary forms of boat control known as the controlled drift. Instead of drifting across the center of the lake, the boat is carried along a drop off that roughly parallels the direction of the wind. The fisherman keeps his eyes on the depthfinder and, when the boat is blown in too shallow or out too deep, he nudges it back into fish territory with the kicker outboard or a trolling motor.
As many anglers know, fish are usually most active near the windblown shore, but probably presenting a bait to them can prove a trial. Anchoring limits you to a single spot when the fish may be someplace else or spread along the breakline, and short wind drifts have you motoring, casting and reeling most of the time
The speed and direction of a drift can be modified in other ways, too. Try cocking the outboard in different angles while you drift. Standing up in the boat increases your "Sail area" and drift speed, while fishing low decreases them (which is usually preferable). Drifting is a good way to catch a trophy because even the craftiest fish can not hear you coming.
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 that one Drift Control sea anchor is adequate for most boats and conditions. But, if you have a large boat and the sea anchor isn't doing its job you may need your large one off the front cleat and a smaller one at the stern.
When fishing alone in a console boat in heavy winds, I troll headlong into the wind with a sea anchor tied at the bow of the boat. By letting out about 8 feet of rope, the bag trails next to the console. I can yank it out of the water with a safety cord if I need to without getting out of my seat and I never lose control of the boat.
That maybe all right if you want to slow down your presentation, but control is still very important and you have to be able to control your presentation if you want the fish to bite. One way that I approach control is by tying a sea anchor at the bow of the boat and then backtrolling along a contour depth. By tying a Drift Control sea anchor at the bow of the boat it will hold the bow down and reduces splashing for backtrolling into the wind. This control will even allow me to swim a 1/16 ounce Fuzzy Grub over the rocks and keep my boat pointed in the direction I want to go, rather than the way the wind wants to push me. Drift Control, sea anchors are good safety devices, too. If you're caught in heavy waves with a dead motor, a sea anchor will keep the boat's bow pointed into the waves.
I know winning at a tournament level means that you are probably going to have to control the wind. That starts with using the biggest, most powerful trolling motor on the market, that, is a Motorguide 775 Beast. This model has the most thrust and is built to take the roughest water that Mother Nature can dish out. Get a good battery, too, such as the Trolling Thunder. It would be miserable to find an active school of walleyes only to have the battery become weaker and weaker and eventually being blown away from the spot with a dead battery. A tool of river anglers, slipping helps manage the current for fishing. Actually the technique involves nothing more than using the kicker outboard, or electric motor or any other means of propulsion to slow the drift of a boat. The boat still moves downstream, but not as fast as the current. It's a little like walking slowly up a down escalator, or not quite keeping up with a treadmill.
The amount of power provided in relation to the force of the current determines your speed. On a lazy river, a slow and constant reverse thrust from your electric motor will allow you an extra cast or two as you drift past riverbank ambush points. In a boiling flow, you might have to buck up the Mercury kicker outboard to get the same result. The amount of slip increases as you power up to oppose the current. When the two forces are equal, you are effectively stalled on the river.
I like to use slipping when live bait fishing a river. My favorite spots are long, deep runs with a good current pushing through. By alternately stalling in the current, slipping backward and powering forward, I can move my baits over every inch of the river bottom.
Slipping is not the only method of boat control in a river. Many anglers cast a jig and minnow or night crawler up stream, the use their electric motors to hurry their boats downstream slightly faster than the current. Because the baits are being dragged downs stream, almost no weight is needed to keep them near bottom. Long stretches of river can be searched for schools of fish by this method.
Fishing breaklines is hard to do, but I am sure that you can master
these techniques to help you stay in contact with the fish. If you
would like to stay in contact with me you can drop me a line on the web,
at: www.samanderson.com and we can discuss fishing breaklines this
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Since August 1, 1998