Feb 17th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Feb 17th, 2010 at 12:00 AM
There are times when fishing for walleyes is like putting a candy bar on the coffee table in front of couch potato trying to go on a diet. He might not eat it right away, but wait an hour and that chocolate will be gone.
Faster tactics like trolling or even slower approaches like rigging will not work all the time. Conditions may dictate where jigging in one spot or suspending live bait below a slip bobber is needed just to entice a bite. The longer a walleye looks, the harder it is for it to resist.
A cold front or just the cold-water periods of early spring and late fall are two examples when anchoring will work.
There are times when you get on a spot, drift a rig, and won’t get any bites. But, you anchor, sit still, and bang, you get hit. The fish are there, but they’re probably in a negative or neutral mood. The bait just needs to be in their face a little longer.
There are other times when anchoring will increase your odds, such as when you’re facing a stiff breeze or current and boat control becomes an issue. But, despite an anchor’s effectiveness, it’s likely that half the anglers reading this article don’t even have an anchor in their boats. Anchoring is often overlooked and it’s time to rethink that choice.
Anchoring with Style
Anchors come in two shapes important to walleye anglers. One is a Water Spike type (lightweight with sharp points), which digs in clay, mud or sandy bottoms. The other is a Navy anchor (heavy with 2 large claws), or a variation on the Navy theme made by Richter (heavy with multiple points). Navy and Richter are both good on gravel, rocks or boulders. Have the two different styles (Water Spike and Navy) on board which work for the different type of bottom conditions you may face.
Buy big. An 18 to 20 foot boat needs a 26 or even 28 pound anchor. Smaller boats can get away with lighter weights, but err on the heavy side. They’re useless if they don’t keep you in place. Using 2 anchors at the same time can help.
Have plenty of rope attached. If you don’t use enough, you will slip out of place and disturb the spot. About 150 feet of rope per anchor should do. Mark it every 10 feet. If you have to reset them if you slip, you’ll have an idea of how much to let out next time.
Drop anchors quietly. They can spook fish if you don’t.
You can often get an idea of what type of tactic you are going to try on a given day before you even get to the water. The tip comes at the bait shop, and it’s free. Simply glance in the minnow tanks. Tightly-balled minnows are responding to the same high pressure, cold front which is impacting the fish in the lake. Anchoring might be the ticket that day. If minnows are swimming freely, then search tactics may come in play.
The effectiveness of anchoring can change over the course of a single trip to the water, too. Walleyes that are active in low light may get lockjaw mid-day. Use an anchor as a tool to switch to slower tactics.
Anchoring is a spot-on-a spot tactic. You must be close to where walleyes are concentrated for it to work. Watch for fish on your sonar or stay close to some sort of structure.
But, you can ring the dinner bell even if walleyes aren’t directly below you. For example, there are times when two anglers jigging below the boat for a while have attracted curious perch to the area. At first, there might be nothing happening. Then, 20 minutes later you catch a perch. Then shortly after that, you boat a good walleye that has followed the forage fish to the spot.
The lesson learned – if action is slow enough that you are putting the anchor out, then give a spot some time. Twenty to thirty minutes is usually enough to tell if anything is going to happen.
Anchoring is a great way to approach “edges” where the depth changes or weedlines or treelines. Anchor one up on the top and the other down the drop. Check both depths.
At spots like Devil’s Lake, anchoring can be done right at the edge of submerged tree lines.
The depth where anchors are effective can vary. You might want to anchor in a breeze so you can cast small jigs to wood or weed edges in shallow water near a point that holds fish.
Or, you may want to anchor to use slip bobbers to target a deep rock hump 40 feet down or more. In that case, anchor parallel to the waves and cast up wide with the weighted Thill Pro Series bobbers from Lindy. Let the breeze work the bait over the structure for you. Set the depth so your jig/bait is a foot off the bottom. The clearer the water, the higher you can get away with setting the rig.
Anchors also help in rivers where there is current. Anglers have learned to hold themselves in one place with anchors at spots like the Rainy River, the Missouri River, as well as the Winnipeg River.
There was a time when Ted fished a tournament on the Missouri River in high winds of 30+ mph. He was working rigs on the tip of a point for hours without a bite (it was so windy that moving anywhere else was impossible) until his batteries were exhausted. He knew there were fish around, so he threw an anchor on the point… it slipped. Threw it again… it slipped. Threw it one more time… and it held. Once stationary and allowing some jigs and rigs to sit on the bottom, they produced a quick limit in 45 minutes and a 3rd place finish. The anchor was anything but unlucky that day.
Anchors are put to good use in rivers like the Mississippi. Rather than fighting the river with an electric trolling motor, use an anchor above the wingdams to cast crankbaits or live bait on three-way rigs at the base of the dam where active walleyes will stage to ambush forage which the river brings to them.
Many anglers probably avoid anchors because of the work it takes to move to new spots. Well, not so fast. Change position in wind or current merely by moving the rope from the front of the boat to a cleat on either side. The motion of the water or wind swings you over new water to try. Letting out more rope does the same thing.
But, don’t stay in one area so long that the post office starts to deliver your mail there. Try other places. If you’re so sure that the fish are there, fish the spot, come back later and try again. That walleye “couch potato” just might be ready to reach for the candy bar when you return.