Outdoor Corner with Tony Klein

Tony Shows off his Big Catch!

April is the month when many ice fisherman are packing away their gear for the summer and pulling out all the soft water equipment for inspection.  I, like many, look forward to this!  On my list are reel maintenance, rod repairs, tackle inventory, and the all-important list of supplies that I “must have” before opener.  Every year fishing rods are the bulk of my spend, I like to fine tuning a particular presentation or upgrading a rod with the latest and greatest technology.  Every fisherman has their own way of fishing Walleye, but there are a few tried and true methods for early season.  Some of the rod manufacturers even classify rods according to technique, making it even easier to select a new sword.  Here are my three favorites and biggest producers:

Jigging – Definitely my favorite method for catching walleyes, there is just something about a jig and a minnow that gets me going.  Bait the hook, drop it down, couple bounces off the bottom, and BAAM!  Set the hook like you mean it and the fight is on!  That does sound a bit easy but there are some features in a good rod that will increase your odds of hooking up and staying hooked up.  With jigging rods, you get what you pay for, so spend extra for these rods and less on others.  (We’ll discuss those in a second)

My Pick – St. Croix Legend Tournament, 6’3 Medium Light, Extra Fast, $235.

Note: This rod is not the most expensive or the cheapest, but it does give you all the advantages needed vertical jigging or rip jigging.  Want to spend more?  St. Croix Legend Extreme, 6’3” Medium Light, Extra Fast, $395.

Live Bait Rigging – Some also know this as “Lindy Rigging,” made famous by the Linder brothers.  A typical setup includes a ¼- ¾ oz. slip sinker and a snell with 1-3 hooks and maybe a spinner with beads.  This rig is trolled between 0.5 and 1 mph just off the bottom in the strike zone.  The key to live bait rigging is allowing the fish enough time to eat the bait but not letting it know there’s a rod on the other end about to take her for a ride.  This means you want a longer rod with slower action, quite the opposite of a jigging rod.  In fact, jigging rods are terrible for live bait rigging.  The idea is that the fish can take the bait while you watch your rod load up, essentially setting the hook for you.  The hook set is a slow sweeping motion towards the front of the boat (or back if you are back trolling).  Some fisherman like to feed line out to the fish before loading up the rod and setting the hook.  Either way, a slower action, lighter power rod is usually best.

My Pick – Fenwick EliteTech Walleye, 7’2” Medium Light Fast, $150.

Note: If you were to spend less money on a rod, this is the area to do it.  Any medium light rod at 7’ will be just fine, be sure to test the rod power before you buy it, some might be better in a medium power depending on manufacturer.

Bottom Bouncing – Bottom bouncing is similar to live bait rigging in that you typically use a snell with some hooks and a spinner.  The main difference in presentation is that you can troll faster or get much deeper.  On some lakes, covering ground to find fish is required.  If this is the case, bottom bouncers are a good option.  You can get the same live bait rig down to the strike zone, and go between 1-2 mph, covering more water faster to find the fish.  With this method, I like a 1 – 2 oz. bouncer and a more powerful rod.  When moving this fast, fish are hooked quickly or get off quickly.  Rod length for this situation is more of a preference, with smaller boats a smaller rod would be fine.  In larger boats I like a little longer rod.  With heavier bottom bouncers you need the extra stiffness to effectively set the hook, especially at higher speeds.  I also prefer a casting rod for this situation, it’s much easier to put more line out quickly.

My Pick – Fenwick Eagle Casting, 7’ Medium Heavy, Fast, $70.

Note: These rods are a bargain and can be reused as a trolling rod with crank baits.

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Dale Klein

Dale Klein is the president and owner of Parallel Technologies. He has more than two decades of experience in technology and business leadership. He transformed Parallel Technologies from a cabling services company into a high-growth technology company by helping clients with their reliable data center and intelligent building strategies.