W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Boat Control in the Spring
By Sam Anderson
Boat control can be defined as; the location and speed of a trolled lure is largely dependent on how you maneuver the boat that pulls it, and how you counteract elements that affect your speed and direction especially wind and current.
Some effects of wind are understood quite well. Wind roughs up the surface of water and stirs up the bottom silt, reducing light penetration. Several predator species, especially walleyes, turn on when light levels are lowered. Wave and wind action actually flush out forage species from timber and weeds that makes them prone to perdition.
Anchoring is the easiest way to keep a boat steady enough for fishing in moderately choppy water. Starting well upwind of where you want to fish, throw out a big anchor on a long line. Short lines don't let the anchor bite well enough, so the motion of the boat will drag the anchor along until you are downwind from where you want to be. A boat on a long line tends to swing like a pendulum, so it's smart to toss out a second anchor to hold your transom steady. Remember that in very high waves, an anchored boat doesn't have the full freedom to ride the crests, and so you face the danger of being swamped.
Wind complicates boat control. Sometimes wind complicates boat control so much that it kills it. Even walleye anglers might find that they have to switch to front trolling when waves and winds get high. The front end of a boat is designed to ride up and over trouble, the back end is not. On big, windy lakes, many anglers use large, seaworthy boats with big trolling motors like a Motorguide 775 Beast, attached to the front, or a kicker motor, like my Mercury 9.9 4-stroke motor on the transom.
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 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.
This spring as you venture out think about how you can use these
techniques to your advantage and I know that you will have more fun
fishing in the wind than you did before if you practice some boat
control. Let me know how you are doing this spring at
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