…and more fish are staging to come into the river. With the cold temps coming this week, the fishing should only get better until the ice takes hold.
Obviously I just got home from the Saginaw River where I fished the Fall Brawl Tournament put on by the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club, the same great folks that put on the Michigan Walleye Tour. My partner and I headed up Wednesday afternoon for Bay City, got the gear unpacked and the boat rigged for a long day of jigging on the river while looking for fish. If you ever hit a new lake for ice fishing, think of it as drilling a bunch of holes looking for fish, but a whole lot easier on the back.
We did a lot of driving, and checking out the fishfinder to see what was below us. A lot of zig-zagging was involved trying to cover the most ground, as quickly as we could since we were only going to be prefishing for two days. Found some spots on the screen where the fish were just stacked up bottom to top. We also found some good spots void of any marks at all. We used just about everything in the arsenal and even caught this big ol’ shovelhead while checking out a reliable spot upriver. Unfortunately this flathead catfish was all we found, but it was a fun ten minute fight by both of us and it came unhooked easy and never left the water.
Thursday started out with a thud, not literally…just a small setback, found two holes in the old Crestliner just below the water line. Nothing a little JB Weld didn’t fix, and with an hour to wait for the mixture to take a set, I rigged the boat up for trolling the flats and the main channel down from the mouth of the river. On went the Traxstech Planer Board Caddy for holding my Church Tackle planer boards. Grabbed my six St. Croix telescoping rods, and for this tourney I had my older set of Daiwa trolling reels rigged up with mono for trolling cranks.
The goal was to ride an edge along the flat right were it dropped off and fish both sides of it. One side of the boat was rigged up with shallower running baits like Rapala‘s Jointed Deep Husky Jerks and big Shad Raps, those would ride up on the flats. Then I would set my boards to take deeper lures like the standard Deep Husk Jerks to ride the shelf down about 15 foot. With all this thinking in mind, nothing came of it, the fish we marked Thursday weren’t there on Friday, so we did some more jigging the rest of the day.
Friday night before a tourney is always a work night, I picked out the trolling lures and got them on the rods with the lure wraps. You have to have some semblance of secrecy while at the launch, but we probably had close to the same lures on as some other boats. On the St. Croix Avids and Legend Tournament Walleye Series rods went on the jigs, most rigged with Fin-S Fish, but with the warmer water, also put on some Wyandotte Worms. I should have added another jig, but will touch on that later.
Saturday morning rolls around and we hook up with the other boats for the captain’s meeting at the Bangor boat launch near Independence Bridge and WW II ship, the Edson. Saw some friends and talked some strategy with another boat we decided to team up with to save some time prefishing to check out different areas. Everybody puts their boats in the river and we take off for our fishing spots at 8:00 AM on the dot.
A good chunk of the boats headed for our starting spot, but we were boat #3 in line and #1 and #2 peel off early and we get to our spot first. The fish are there and still stacked up like we saw while prefishing. We start our drift with the trolling motor just letting us slip back along the edge of a drop off.
This is where I have to veer off course for a bit and explain some of the technology I was using in the bow while operating the electric motor. The Terrova from Min-Kota is equipped with universal sonar, which means I can hook up a number of different types of electronic devices to it to see what is below the motor. My choice, based on my ice fishing experience was my Vexilar FL-22 HD, you can actually run any type of Vex you want like the FLX-28, 20, 12…etc. I just love the 22, and know how to read it the best based upon my experience with it.
Back to fishing, seeing lots of fish both on the graph and Vexilar. A couple more boats come and start doing the same drift and it wasn’t long before we started seeing guys grab their nets while we aren’t catching. With the help of the Vex, it was easy to see right away that the walleye were not interested in what we were putting down. I could see them come in, take a long and then zip back down to the bottom.
We left the spot, went upriver and got rigged for trolling a combination of Rapala cranks. Going with the current we were making about two miles per hour. Set out the TX-22’s with the Double Action Flay System from Church Tackle and worked our way down to the power plant. Unfortunately without a bite.
Went back to vertical jigging by the water intake at the old section of the plant without a bite there either. Luckily my partner Cliff wanted to change-up lures and I tied on a Jigging Rapala. We went back upriver and fished a break wall. Soon into that drift, Cliff hooks a fish and it goes in the net. I set the motor on anchor, and tie a couple on myself. Finished that drift, and went back to the starting spot and soon I hooked into one too. Unfortunately we only managed a couple of bites, but no hard takers and that was that, time to head back to the launch for the weigh-in.
Learned some valuable lessons, found some more spots to fish, it’s a growing process. Always tie on one Jigging Rap as your go to presentation until the fish tell you differently, a very good lesson to be sure. All this and some more information has already been written down in my log book for the Saginaw River. Now next year, I can just go back and read all that information again to refresh my memory!
Huge shout out to the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club for putting on the event, cannot wait to go back next spring!