Towed bait gets 'eyes
Written by The Toledo Blade   
Sunday, 23 April 2006 03:02

If you don't believe that, spend a day on the lake with Toledo's Ross Robertson and his buddy, Steve Velte of Belleville, Mich. They might show you more bragging-size fish in a day than you'll see via casting all summer.

Six pounds, seven pounds, eight pounds, 10 pounds, 12 pounds. We were only averaging a fish an hour - it was a slow morning - but each walleye that size is liable to keep your attention and interest alive for an hour. It is the stuff of tournament wins, if done consistently.

You can tell Robertson and Velte have fished together. Their gear is in tip-top shape, everything in its place, and they work with machine-like precision in selecting lures, rigging rods, side-planer boards and the like.

"We're like two peas in a pod when we get in a boat," said Velte. They don't like wasting time tripping over out-of-place gear or carelessly tangled equipment.

So far this spring, Robertson noted, there has been no consistent successful color pattern for the long, minnowlike plastic crankbaits so popular in colder, "early" water. "The [water] clarity and sky conditions have been unstable," Robertson noted.

"You have a real good day, then the wind blows and muddies up the water and you have to go looking for clear water. There are not many guys out there trolling [because] the jig-bite has been so good."

Among baits, he typically runs Deep Husky Jerks and Rattlin' Rogues in colder water, "but so far Reef Runners and RipSticks have been the deal." Color patterns have included pink lemonade and chrome/blue. Some of the walleye he has been taking have been in the 12-pound class.

"The fish were definitely spawned out. We have an 11-pounder that was spawned out two weeks ago. We're seeing a godawful number of huge marks two, three feet off the bottom. But they're just not ready to feed yet." That was a week ago.

He and Velte trolled at about 1 to 1 1/2 mph, running the lures 60 to 80 feet back of the boards. Velte's 21-footer is equipped with a stern-mounted electric motor. It is bolted to the cavitation plate. The anglers say it definitely is a step forward in trolling techniques.

"It gives much more control. It's a huge deal for us," said Velte. "It's nice when gas is $3 a gallon, too."

As the water warms, Robertson will try switching to trolling spinners and worm harnesses. But, "we'll pull cranks as long as we can because the fish tend to be bigger."

To which Velte, a dyed-in-the-wool spinner/harness man, adds: "In all honesty if I was fishing [alone] right now, I'd be pulling spinners." He admits, though, that "right now the spinner bite is real, real slow. You get five to eight bites [in a trip], so you better make them count."

With spinners, Velte added, "basically what you're doing is controlled drifting." For this tactic he crawls along at just 0.8 to 1.2 mph.

We trolled plastic on the west side of Kelleys Island last Friday, this after Velte and Robertson had chased all over the western basin the day before looking for fish. A Reef Runner in purple demon pattern, trolled on an outside board, fooled the first walleye, one of several six and seven-pounders. "Good fish to have in the first half-hour," said Velte.

Added Robertson: "These fish up here are just really going to take off in the next week or so. Every day they're moving up [in the water column] a little bit, and they're getting over being tired from their spawning."

As the morning went on, fish size went up, the last two being 10 to 12-plus pounds. But that was last week. Despite the nice morning's haul, Robertson said he does not favor the Kelleys area.

"I don't like fishing here if I don't have to. It gets tough. It's inconsistent. It's a staging ground for leaving. Maybe the fish are going to Cleveland tomorrow." He admits to being a west-of-the-islands boy.

Last Saturday, he added for emphasis, the trolling action was better west of the Bass Islands, in the vicinity of A-Can, B-Can and C-Can and north of Niagara Reef. Kelleys again had a good grade of fish, but the catching was slow. As slow as a trolling boat, that is.

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Fishing report - Walleye fishing potential for the weekend remains excellent, whether you aim to fish the Maumee River or western Lake Erie.

Recent higher flows in the Maumee have brought yet another run of unspawned female fish into the popular rapids and beyond, and action should be fine through the weekend as water levels slowly recede - any strong rains notwithstanding.

Gary Lowry at Maumee Tackle said that possibilities for both walleye and white bass should stay strong into the foreseeable future. Walleye also are being taken at upstream sites above the Maumee-Perrysburg rapids area, at Van Tassel Public Access and Waterville, for example.

Chris Martin at River Lures in Grand Rapids also reports that crappie activity also has resumed, with fish to 13 inches being taken at North and South Turkeyfoot areas above the Grand Rapids Dam, and at the marina in Mary Jane Thurston State Park.

On the Sandusky River at downtown Fremont, a super run of white bass already has crowded the area between the bridges downtown, though water was murky but flow normal yesterday, according to Bernie Whitt at Angler Supply.

White bass also were strong at the popular sand docks area below downtown.

On western Lake Erie, jig-and-minnow tactics continue to produce well from Maumee Bay to Port Clinton in most near-shore areas that are not too muddy.

 
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