Mark Brumbaugh’s Walleye Tactics
Nov 11th, 2013 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Nov 11th, 2013 at 12:00 AM
This article offers a rare glimpse into pro angler Mark Brumbaugh’s bag of tricks when it comes to catching walleyes. When asked, he provided a laundry list of tactics that he might use on any given day. He also added a few tips that have led to his success and multiple professional walleye tour victories.
Tactic # 1: Vertical Jigging. Mark does this in rivers or lakes. Number One tip is to always use as light a jig as possible to maintain contact with the bottom. Number two is to use flame green 6/2 FireLine (6-pound test and 2-pound diameter) to cut the water and stay vertical.
Tactic # 2: Pitching Jigs. Everything relates to watching the line. “More bites are visual than feel,” he said. “You can see when the jig hits bottom and when a fish hits.” He added that with clear line, anglers miss the sight bites. Flame green 6/2 FireLine on a 6 ½ foot ML Elite Tech Fenwick rod is what he uses for the first two tactics. “This outfit has accounted for walleyes to 30 inches, pike to 40 inches and muskies to 45 inches,” he said. About the flame green line, he added, “Yes, I tie direct. If line was that critical, walleyes wouldn’t ever get caught in gill nets.”
Tactic # 3: Jigging in Weeds. Simple, yet very productive for Mark is when he needs to slow the drop, he bulks up the jig with plastic. Fish close to the boat.
Tactic # 4: Jigs & Plastic: “I use Ripple Shads in 3 and 4 inch lengths (they have the paddle tail) in weeds and anywhere I’d use live bait,” he said. Tip – “I am more aggressive than with bait, and move it fast enough so I can feel the tail vibrating. I snap the rod tip about 2 to 3 feet and follow the jig back to the bottom with a tight line,” he said.
Tactic # 5: Deep Water Jigging: When on Lake of the Woods or where he jigs 20 to 40 feet deep, Mark uses jigs from 3/8ths to 3/4ths of an ounce. His tip is to use the same Ripple Tails, but don’t start until marking fish.
Tactic # 6: Rigging: He continues to use the 6/2 FireLine, but on a 7-foot ML rod. His leader for leeches or crawlers is 4-pound Trilene XL (up to 14-feet long); 8-pound for chubs since he moves faster and can be more aggressive when fighting big walleyes.
Tactic # 7: Slip-Bobbers: He uses 6-pound XL, unless fishing Devils Lake when he rigs with 10/4 FireLine.
Tactic # 8: Open Water Crankbait Trolling: This is one of Mark’s premier methods, and he offered a number of tips.
Tip # 1-“I get more fish in the boat with 10-pound XT. When hooked on the back hook, and with steady pressure, I can land them. Mono stretches and forgives; I like it,” he said.
Tip # 2 – “Always, before sending a crankbait out, check to make sure it’s running true; if not, tune it,” he said.
Tip # 3 – Check hooks. “Sharp is one thing, but if they’re bent out, change ’em, especially on the hot baits,” he said.
Tip # 4 – “Look for the highest suspended fish on your Lowrance electronics and fish above them,” he said. If he spots fish at 30 feet, he runs his cranks at about 25. If the fish are at 15 feet, he runs at 13 feet.
Tip # 5 – “Spool all trolling reels with the same line and the same amount. Then take the time to measure the line on each reel. Not all line-counters count the same distance,” he said. Depending on reels, 100-feet of line as measured by a tape might be off 10 feet or more on the line counter. “This is why one rod has all the action. The others are out of the fish-zone,” he said. If they’re off, know that amount and adjust.
Tactic # 9: Structure or Contour Trolling: Mark prefers FireLine, but will use leadcore if he needs to get smaller lures down. He trolls along structure or criss-crosses points when looking for fish, trying to determine where they are and depths. “If you’re not losing cranks, you’re probably not catching fish. Bang bottom!” he said. Tip: Follow GPS mapping and make passes at key depths. Let the fish and your sonar tell you what’s happening. “If you can trigger them with cranks, they’ll generally be bigger,” he added.
Tactic # 10: Trolling and Marking Fish, But No Biters – Bottom Bouncers: If he sees fish that he thinks are walleyes, but they’re not cooperating on cranks, he returns and runs bottom bouncers and spinners through them. For bouncers, he rigs with SpiderWire Stealth in tracer yellow (15-pound test; 4-pound diameter). A flippin’ reel like the Silver Max by Abu makes bouncing easier. Speeds are .9 to 1.3 mph.
Tactic # 11: Casting Cranks & Jerk Baits: Mark prefers 8/3 FireLine on his 7-foot ML rigging rod. His best days are the nastiest, and he concentrates on windy shorelines or weeds with wind blowing in. If shallow, Husky Jerks get the nod. If on fast breaks or deeper water, Flicker Shads from # 4 to # 9 are his ticket. “I retrieve slow until I hit weeds or rocks, and pick only high-percentage spots like points and tips of weeds for the most active fish,” he said.
Tactic # 12: Board Trolling: He rigs all boards with Off Shore OR 16 clips and uses the tattle flags to tell him when light-biters are messing around. His best tip for boards deals with taking boards off lines. “Never allow line slack. Keep line tension the same all the time. I sometimes speed up just a little when removing boards to keep tension on the fish,” he said.
Tactic # 13: Trolling Spinners: Gear is 10-pound mono with Off Shore snap weights in waves. He places these 30 to 50 feet ahead of the spinner. In calm conditions, he runs an inline Guppy weight ahead of the spinner for more action. Speed is a factor, and .9 to 1.5 mph works best in most situations. However, he continually changes directions to speed up or slow down the respective outside or inside lines. This changes speeds of the lures while maintaining boat speed.
Mark fishes from coast to coast and in Canada. Like all anglers, he would rather catch them on a “favorite” tactic, but is ready to adapt on a moment’s notice. And that moment comes from experience, the weather and the walleyes. “It’s amazing how many times my preconceived ideas do a 180 when I get to a spot,” he said.
He lives in Ohio, and counts as sponsors these companies: Lund Boats, Mercury, Fenwick, Berkley, Off-Shore Tackle, Pflueger, MotorGuide, Reef Runner, Glyde Ryde seats, Navionics, Lowrance and Optima batteries. His website is markbrumbaugh.com, and he can be reached at [email protected]
Author’s Note: The status of the walleye tournament world with a vision for the future will be explored throughout this series. Industry leaders, observers, participants (past and present), sponsors, professional and amateur anglers, host communities, marine and tackle manufacturers, and tournament organizers will share their wisdom and insights.