The Minnesota Walleye Opener was this past weekend, although the weather on opening day (Saturday) was a bit brutal, cold and windy, Sunday made up for it. A true holiday weekend in the state of MN. I’m sure there were some who did well, others who didn’t and yet others who may have had the walleye of their lives on the line. Thinking about that last statement is what made me write the following to hopefully lend a helping hand…
Everyone wants to catch a big fish, that is what we go fishing for. It seems like almost everyone has their moment with at least one gargantuan fish and blows it. From personal experience and talking with others, it seems that big fish always seem to hit at the most unexpected time. They grab your lure, let you fight them close enough to the boat so you can see them and get really nervous, and then throw the lure back in your face. It is almost like a game to them…we try to catch them, they try to break our hearts.
This past winter when I was doing research on a fishing book, one of the sections was on catching trophy fish. I called a lot of the most successful trophy anglers in the country and asked them what they do to be successful. In one way or another, everyone said the same thing – you’ve got to put every thought and action toward one thing, hooking a trophy.
That is good advice, but difficult to do. These trophy anglers sometimes forsake home, family, and normal lifestyles to be on the water continuously. They know big fish are not usually found in groups and will fish for days before getting one hit. They disdainfully pass up schools of fast biting medium-sized fish and move on. When they do finially hook onto a big one they are like machines, for they have rehearsed the scene many times. Skillfully they land the fish, admire it, perhaps take a few quick photographs and then usually carefully release it back into the water. They often show little emotion, take a moment of rest, discuss why that particular fish was there, and then it’s back to fishing. That is how you really increase your chances of a trophy fish.
Even though these trophy anglers account for most fish in the record books, they miss out on a lot of the fun of fishing. My recommendation is to slow down and enjoy fishing a little more, the big ones will come if you fish intelligently and get out on the water as much as you can. But when the big one hits, be ready, it may be the last one for a few years.
Though it pains me to say it, the two biggest walleyes I have ever hooked got away. Both probably would have weighed well into the ‘teens. One was lost because I didn’t check my line after catching a few other walleyes. The line had been nicked and frayed by their teeth. I fought the big fish right up to the boat and with just a flick of it’s head, it broke the line right above the jig. No matter how fast the fish are biting, check your line after each fish. If the line is nicked or worn, snip off the line and retie. The other lost trophy was a result of a tight drag. Many excellent walleye anglers still preach to crank the reel drag as tight as you can and then back reel on the fish when it runs. If the fish runs real fast, they will let the reel handle spin crazily and slap against their hands to prevent a backlash. That may work on smaller fish, but on big fish you are just asking for trouble. I had fought this particular walleye up to the boat and was ready to net it when it decided to head for bottom again. It took off with a burst of speed, not typical of a walleye, and I couldn’t back reel fast enough. With a sick heart I reeled in a broken line. Since then, I still back reel but still leave my drag set so if they want line, they can pull it out.
Now I have caught several trophy class fish since then, but none can ever make up for those two. I learned how to handle trophy fish the hard way. I hope you will read this and land your big fish, rather than just be able to tell people about it, like I am.
Posted by Jeff Howard on May 16, 2011
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