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Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Just Truck'n for Summer Reservoir Eyes
By Sam Anderson
Hot, humid weather in August or September makes one think that if they could only hitch up the boat and jump into the truck fishing will be better in large deep reservoirs in the west.
A reservoir is defined as an impoundment of water held back by a man made structure such as a dam for a variety of uses. For a fisherman it means a chance to fish some really deep waters and to have an opportunity to catch a trophy walleye.
Most fish are opportunity feeders. They select food from a variety of choices in the aquatic community. When an abundance of a particularly choice food is available, they often specialize.
With either natural bait or artificial lures, the presentation must be realistic. It should appear that the offering is part of the normal food chain. Hunger is certainly a major motivating factor, but fish also respond as predators and strike something that moves. At times, they even exhibit antagonistic behavior when biting an intruder to drive it away.
In deciding where to fish, consider the season, water temperature, oxygen, and the type of structure. Try to determine where the natural food supply is located. Once an area is selected, look for transitional zones or edges as well as other significant features, such as a sloping point or the outer fringes of a weedbed. Putting the puzzle pieces together becomes a mental exercise.
When the wind blows on Oahe, Sakakawea, Fort Peck, and even Devils Lake the waves pounding ashore loosen the soil and form a mud line. Walleyes like to use this mud line as an umbrella allowing them to feed in water as shallow as two or three feet deep. On calm days, however, they prefer rock or shale on a sharp breaking, extended point. On some days you may find the fish holding just below the first lip of a drop off. Some days they are deeper. Thus, stair step drop offs add to the attractiveness of a point, and on different days you may find fish on any ledge down into 50 or more feet of water. The point is, walleyes often prefer structural elements that allow them the most possible options regardless of the weather. These are high percentage spots.
Any short, hard bottom point may hold walleyes on a given day. But reservoirs like Oahe and Sakakawea have hundreds of short, hard bottom points. You are better off passing up the short points and stopping when you find a long point with several kinds of fish attracting features. A good point might have a stair step ledge on one side, scattered rock on top and shale bed lining the other side. The point's shallow inside turn may be soft bottomed, while the deeper outside turn might break off into another smaller, hard bottom point. Such an area is almost certain to hold walleyes.
The same principle applies to sunken islands, many points, stair step ledges, and a variety of bottom conditions are generally better than a smooth, gradually breaking sand hump. I might also mention that an already good island is made all the better by the presence of a saddle. This saddle is a dip between two higher spots of land. If the saddle is connected to a prospective point all the better.
Don't forget to check out some other productive areas such as roadbeds, riprap, creek channels, stump fields, or isolated rock piles, bars and rockslides.
Suspended fish are also common, and there are ways to take them. Downrigging is an overlooked presentation option that's dynamite on these fish. When you are running across the lake, it's a good idea to watch your depthfinder for schools of baitfish.
The presentation of choice is a spinner. Color can be very important. My five favorite colors for fishing reservoirs are fluorescent orange or red, chartreuse, green, nickel and gold. Expect to find definite preferences on certain reservoirs. However, don't get hung up on one specific color. Keep switching colors until someone finds the hot color of that particular day. I use the Lindy X Change blades to make this easier as well as selecting a blade size.
Blade size can also be an important consideration. Many of my biggest fish have come on a #4 blade, which is slightly larger than the standard #3 blade found on most commercially tied spinners.
While many fishermen prefer Indiana or Colorado blades, some also like the willow leaf design. The Colorado blade seems to spin at slower speeds than the others and big blades spin easier than small ones. On those rare days when the fish are finicky and a slower trolling speed is necessary, you are better off going with a # 4 Colorado blade to get blade rotation at reduced speed.
For weight, use X Change bottom bouncers or snap weights. I prefer to use the bottom bouncer because I grew up using them. They are really designed for reservoir fishing, because the long wire finger keeps the spinners out of the shale and rocks that will snag you up. The L shape of the bottom bouncer gives the cam action you need as the probe or finger hinges on a rock crevice and gives the impression that the bait is speeding up and slowing down. This pause surge pause method of presentation has captured a lot of walleyes in reservoirs.
Spinning gear is certainly adequate, but bait casting gear filled with 12 to 17 lb. monofilament XL line is perfect. The baitcaster gives you more flexibility for forward spinner trolling than spinning gear does. Leave the free spool button depressed and place your thumb on the line. If you snag up at a fast trolling speed, you can easily give line. Set the drag loosely and pump the fish to the boat, using you thumb to maintain constant pressure.
Walleyes are tenacious fighters, and a big fish will make several quick runs at the boat. So, you must be able to give line in a hurry. I prefer to use a Quantum bait casting rod. I prefer to use a 7' to 7' 6" allows me to use my rod holders and gives me the sweeping hooksets needed to get those reservoir walleyes on the line. In most of the reservoirs you can use two rods and one of my rods will be a dead stick. The dead stick will have all the hardware of the one that I hold except the reel will be engaged and it will signal a strike by bowing towards the water.
Therefore, this summer don't waste time on the neighboring lake, hook up the boat and jump in the truck. The reservoirs are vast and the walleyes are waiting. For more information about this technique or other walleye tips look me up on the web at www.samanderson.com.
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