Thursday, May 2, 2013

NWT Red Wing Re-cap


I arrived in Red Wing on Saturday, April 20 to begin pre-fishing for the first ever National Walleye Tour tournament. I had this tournament circled on the calendar and was looking forward to catching post-spawn walleyes. In a normal year the majority of the spawn would be finished and water temps would be in the lower 50's. Not this year, water temperatures were in the upper 30's and most fish had not spawned. That meant a total change in plans.

With mother nature being a few weeks behind schedule I was confident that most fish would be caught from Red Wing to the dam. The Minnesota Tournament Trail was having two one day tournaments on Saturday and Sunday. I did my best to stay out of their way as I concentrated on spots where I have caught fish over the years. I did pick up two fish over 26 inches along with a couple just over 21 inches but overall fishing was slow. The MTT results showed the same with the exception of some big limits being caught pitching jigs. I didn't want to take any of the tournament anglers spots so I waited until later in the week to try my luck.

Secret Spots

There really aren't any secret spots in Red Wing as tournaments have exposed winning patterns and locations over the years. However, I always try to find a spot that is away from the other anglers. This strategy has served me well in my last two FLW tournaments in Red Wing. The biggest problem with these out of the way spots is they often do not hold as many fish. There is a reason that you will see 50-100 boats in a small area, it is because there are a lot of fish there. 

I spent Monday in Pool 3 knowing that not a lot of anglers would lock through the dam during the tournament. Despite 37 degree water temperatures I did manage to find a couple of nice fish. One was a 27" spawned out female and the other was a good male that was milting. I was betting on the water warming up and filling up with post spawn walleyes. Well, it was a good thought but rain and snow raised the water and kept the water temperature low which killed those spots. I did check them again on Wednesday but it was obvious that they were not going to come into play.


Community Spots

I woke up Tuesday to 3-4" of wet snow. I am used to fishing in nasty conditions but snow on April 23? This is getting ridicules!

I, and I think everyone fishing the NWT, knew there was a good bite going on up by the dam pitching jigs. With 126 boats in the field I would have to get a low number in order to get one of these spots. I started at the bottom end of the rocks which are about 1/4 mile long. On my fourth cast I caught one over 8 pounds. I started working my way up river and caught a 25 inch male and lost a nice fish. To make a long story short I caught 6 walleyes in about 1 -1/2 hours with the smallest being 21 inches and my best 5 weighing close to 25 lbs. This does not count several that got off including two that I thought were monsters. Wow, no wonder everyone in the MTT tournaments was fishing there.

I left that area and spent half of the day pitching jigs in areas that have been good in the past with no luck. I was able to catch a few 21" plus males in a community spot which had me feeling pretty good. I was amazed at the fish I was catching as I did not catch a walleye smaller than 20" pre-fishing.

Open the Flood Gates

On Wednesday I checked one of the community spots and promptly caught a 21" male right on a way point. I did my best to hide it from other boats and headed to the next spot. As I checked my spots I noticed the current was a little different and also noticed I wasn't catching any fish. I knew the water was supposed to come up a little but I didn't think enough to change the bite. I was also noticing a lot more grass, leaves and wood floating in the water. I headed up river and sure enough all of the DAM gates were open. Uh Oh!

I have fished Red Wing a lot in March and April. Any time they open the gates it takes a few days before fishing improves. The bite generally gets better once the river crests and starts to recede. This was not going to happen this week so I had better find something and soon as the tournament starts on Friday!

Hope is not a Strategy

I began checking every spot I could think of hoping that fish would either be there or they would be filtering into those spots in the next few days. With the high water there were current seams everywhere and I tried as many of them as I could find. I ended up finding this 27" pre-spawn female at the end of the day on Wednesday.

That beauty gave me hope but I did not catch a fish on Thursday and I could only hope that fish would filter into spots where I have traditionally caught them. As I went to the rules meeting on Thursday I couldn't help but wonder if I was missing something. I guess I would find out soon enough!

Day 1

I ended up with boat #22 and headed up to pitch jigs to the rocks. I wasn't the only one with this strategy as there were boats lined up from top to bottom. I drew a great Co-Angler who actually guides so I felt confident if there were fish in shallow we would catch them. I ended up with a spot near the down river side of the rocks. We fished them hard for about 2 hours. No walleyes but several smallmouth bass, up to 3 pounds, got our heart rates going. We also did not see any fish caught so we went to plan B. I finally caught a fish on, I think, plan F and that would be the only fish we caught. We did lose a nice fish where I caught the 27 incher on Wednesday but he was only on for a short time.

Misery Loves Company

I wasn't the only one that struggled as a third of the field did not catch a fish and there were a lot of ones and two's. The leader was pitching jigs too but on the upper end of the rocks. I at least felt better that I had not missed the bite.

Day 2

Winning was no longer an option, however, cashing a check was certainly attainable as I was only 2-1/2 pounds out of the money. Normally I would say there was no pressure except my co-angler was in 3rd place after day 1. For those that are not familiar with the format co-anglers are randomly selected to be with a pro. The pro and the co-angler team to weigh there best 5 fish. On day 2 the pro fishes with a different randomly selected co-angler for day 2. The co-angler adds up the weights from the two days with two different pros. This meant my co-angler, Larry Oleson, was in the hunt to win the Co-angler side of the tournament and the pressure was on me to put him on some fish!

We tried the rocks again with the same results. We headed down river to the spot I lost a fish the day before and immediately caught a 17 inch male walleye. Not a monster but in this tournament five of those would be great. We fished that spot for the next 2-1/2 hours with nothing to show for it so it was scramble time. I hit all of my spots with nothing to show for the efforts until 12:45 when I boated a 17" sauger. We wore that spot out and had one really nice fish on. It was so nice I am not sure if it was a walleye. I had him on for about thirty seconds then he was gone. With the water being so cold I had to fish slow. When you are fishing crank baits slow sometimes it is hard to keep them buttoned up.

With only an hour to go and only 4 pounds in the boat I decided to go back to the rocks. I knew if we caught one fish I would have a chance to get into the money and that would ensure a good finish for Ole. With about 1/2 hour to go I felt one swimming with my plastic or at least I thought I did. I reeled in my ringer worm and something ate the tail. Are you kidding me? In most cases shallow river walleye's clobber that jig. I may have been taking the jig away from the fish and he just grabbed the tail or he might have been just a little finicky. I see that a lot when I vertical jig with plastics, in that case I usually change the color or the style of the bait but I rarely see it when I am pitching jigs shallow. Whatever it was it never was on the hook so I will never know what it was. I am satisfied that I got a fish to bite in a big fish spot, I just wasn't able to execute.

Day 2 turned out to be another tough day for the field and my two day weight of 5.94 pounds was good enough for 63rd out of 126. Just over 10 pounds was all that was needed to get into the money. Normally I am frustrated after a mediocre finish. I can't say that I am with this one. It was a very tough bite and I gave myself a chance. I didn't cash a check but I learned a ton. What I am most proud of his the measly 4.0 pounds we caught on Saturday was good enough for my co-angler, Ole, to finish 3rd! The disappointing part is if we would have caught one more two pound fish he would have one the Co-angler side. With the bite as tough as it was he was very happy with third!

I will not be fishing Lake Erie but I will be fishing the NWT Sturgeon Bay in July. Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment