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Digital fishing: Think Outside of the Box to Catch
More Spring Walleyes
By Dr. Jason Halfen
The opening of walleye season
across the Walleye Belt is a time of great anticipation, when
"opener" traditions among family and friends are once again enjoyed,
and dormant friendships with bait shop owners are rekindled. Whether
you push away from the dock at 12:01 am on the first day of the
season, or take a more relaxed approach and fish strictly "bankers'
hours" during opening weekend, it's likely that you will fish the
same places you always fish, using the same presentations you've
always used. And why not? It's worked in the past, and will
hopefully work again.
However, the 21st-century angler is not limited to fishing memories.
We can step outside of our comfort zone, with the possibility of
being rewarded with bigger and better catches than we typically
experience as the season opens. Modern digital cartography and
time-tested Side Imaging makes it easier to find walleyes than ever
before. Use them to your advantage as you launch your boat in
pursuit of the first walleyes of the new season.
Some anglers that pursue opening weekend walleyes enjoy fishing the
same lake year after year, while others relish the challenge of
finding fish on new lakes or rivers by taking their opener show on
the road. Both groups of
walleye chasers will benefit from the power of a new cartography
offering from LakeMaster, called SmartStrike. These digital GPS map
chips include an embedded, detailed search algorithm that will help
identify key areas to focus your fishing efforts.
SmartStrike, compatible with Humminbird ONIX and ION systems, allows
users to perform species-specific searches on LakeMaster HD lakes,
with additional inputs including time of day, time of year,
prevailing weather, water clarity, and a host of other walleye
fishing variables. Here is an example of the SmartStrike setup menu,
with a search designed to find opening weekend walleyes on Leech
Lake in north central Minnesota.
SmartStrike results are displayed as an overlay on the LakeMaster
digital depth contour map, with productive areas highlighted in
purple. My SmartStrike search for opening weekend walleyes, during
the day, on a cloudy, windy early season day (in other words,
typical walleye opener conditions) provided these options on the
southern half of Walker Bay. These purple areas definitely fit the
pattern we would expect for walleyes that are several weeks after
the spawn: on the edges of shoreline flats, right where those flats
transition to deeper basin areas. Said another way, the powerful,
species-specific search algorithms of SmartStrike are getting it
right! If you are headed to Leech this spring, consider this a free
tip! SmartStrike will provide benefits whether you are fishing a
lake you know well (by highlighting hot-spots that only your
"friends" know about), or an unfamiliar body of water, by giving you
location options that are more reliable that bait shop gossip. If
you are an ONIX or ION user, SmartStrike belongs in your map chip
Whether you are fishing a time-tested location or a new hot-spot
identified by SmartStrike, recognize that opening weekend walleyes
will not be scattered randomly around those areas; they will always
be concentrated in particular spots, typically associated with
whatever cover might be present. The water is still cold at this
time of the year, so weed growth will be sparse. Now is the time to
focus on wood, especially trees that have fallen into the water and
extend into depths of 3-5 ft. Submerged stumps are an excellent
alternative if you are fishing a reservoir or flowage.
Rely on your Side Imaging system to find these early season walleye
concentrators. Here is an example of a structure trifecta of a dock,
some emerging lily pads, and a submerged stump that is holding a
collection of early season fish, likely walleyes or other game fish.
Crappies and bluegills are bunched up at this time of year, so when
using Side Imaging to find walleyes, bass or pike in cold water,
expect to see only a handful of fish returns at a time. Walleye
opener has finally arrived...enjoy!
Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates "The Technological Angler", a
media company dedicated to helping anglers learn to use their
onboard technology to find and catch more fish. Their first
full-length instructional video production, "The Technological
Angler, Volume 1: Success with Side Imaging", was the winner of the
2014 AGLOW awards-in-craft competition in the TV-fishing division.
"The Technological Angler, Volume 2: Integrated Technology" teaches
anglers to harness the power of 2D sonar, Side Imaging, Down
Imaging, 360 Imaging and the i-Pilot Link system, to find and catch
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