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Fishing Articles by Bob Riege
Headin’ South for ‘Eyes
By Bob Riege
Winter has its icy grip on the Upper Midwest. Most of us have our boats on our trailers and if "cabin fever" has set in all we need to do is pull it out of the garage hook it up and we can be headin' south for some great walleye fishing.
How far south, you might ask? Well if you could draw a imaginary line through Little Rock, Nashville and Atlanta you could pretty much define the southern limit of the walleye range. But is seems that those lakes lying closest to that boundary are the ones that produce the biggest fish.
Many fishermen heading south will probably fish deep water for walleyes and that can be a big mistake. Most of the walleyes in these southern lakes are shallow. Any short, hard bottom point may hold walleyes on a given day. But reservoirs or lakes 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 this saddle area is connected to a prospective point all the better, because it is a fish magnet.
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.
One type of structure that is over looked by many anglers is floating structure. Oh sure there is the buoy and maybe a swimming platform that fish are attracted to, but more specifically there are mud lines. Mud lines can be formed when the wind comes up on those warm days or they may be formed as another stream or river flows into an existing one. The confluence of the two rivers meeting will also form a mud line.
All mud lines are not created equal at least in terms of angling potential. An angler should look for secondary structure contained in the mud line such as vegetation, boulders, and submerged brush. This secondary will hold baitfish and eventually the larger fish will follow the mud line until it provides food or an advantageous ambush point. Mud lines are a great structure to fish in because the angler can fish them quickly. If you fish an area and you don't have a fish within 10 to 15 minutes move on to another location. My father, who loved to troll, would work over a mud line and if nothing was active he would be on to another spot.
Lure selection in the form of crankbaits should appeal to the fish senses. They should be big lures that displace water and give off vibration, or rattle and they should be flashy with bright metallic finishes. A great choice here would be the Storm Thunderstick. It has all the ingredients for fishing mud lines, color, flash and vibration.
If you are looking for trophy walleye fishing then Greers Ferry in Arkansas is the place to be. Early in the winter concentrate your fishing at the mouth of feeder creeks, especially in the early evening hours. Troll your #7 and #9 Shad Raps parallel to the deltas formed by these creeks.
To slow down your lure presentation use a little jig tipped with a minnow. But don't get stuck in a slow pattern. Utilize extremes. Rip the jig back to the boat on one retrieve, and then work the jig slow, bouncing it along the bottom on the next retrieve. My favorite jig in this situation is a 1/4 ounce Fuzzy Grub jig tipped with a minnow. I prefer the Fuzzy Grub because it is round and I can easily attach a stinger hook to the minnow and up my chances of catching a finicky walleye. When in doubt if you have contact with the bottom, increase the size of your jig and minnow. You might get hung up more, but you might also have a wallhanger on your hands.
There are literally dozens of healthy walleye fisheries in the large flood-control and hydro-electrical lakes of the South. Such lakes are Cumberland Lake in Kentucky; Stockton, Truman and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri; Greers Ferry, Bull Shoals and Norfork in Arkansas.
The editors of this column probably won't allow me space enough to tell
you of all my favorite lakes, or rivers. Just spend time on or near the
water. The more you practice and spend time in the great outdoors with
your friends and families the happier and more relaxed you will become.
When planning for that dream vacation include all the members of the
family. Time spent with your kids and spouse will be as memorable as an
exploding bass hitting a top water plug, or the soft pull of the walleye
as the sun sets on another Southern lake.
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Since August 1, 1998