I arrived in Walker, MN with high hopes. I was not fishing on a team, luckily Co-Angler Sargeant Rich was able to join me to pre-fish. With almost 103,000 acres and 195 miles of shoreline the extra rod in the boat was welcomed! Having never fished Leech I used my research to come up with a game plan to target "unders" and "overs".
Leech Lake has a slot limit where all fish between 20" and 26" must be released. My task was to find spots where I could catch a limit of "unders" as close to 20" as possible along with spots where I could catch fish over 26". The first couple of days we caught a lot of fish with most being in the protected slot.
There was one spot in particular that was just loaded with slot fish. There were also 19" walleyes mixed in and they were fat!
We ended up getting a strong pattern fishing in 5'-7' of water. I was jigging and Rich was long lining a leech. From Saturday through Wednesday the jig bite was on fire. On Wednesday the leech bite started to improve. Leech Lake is known to be wind driven. My number one spot had the perfect wind the first two times I was there. This had me concerned if conditions changed. I tried it again in the middle of the day with high sun and flat calm conditions. It didn't matter that place was loaded with fish. Now I needed a couple of back up spots just in case.
I had a nice crank bait bite going on until Wednesday. As you can see from the photo above the walleyes were eating my Taildancer's. Unfortunately, when I checked the area on Thursday I didn't mark any fish and there was a huge mayfly hatch. I worked the area pretty good with no luck and I ruled out that area. I did find a couple of backup spots on main lake reefs. When the wind was blowing in the bite was easy. It was a bit tougher when the wind laid down.
I focused on Walker Bay to find my overs. I found a couple of points that had fish and didn't have the heavy fishing pressure that the humps had. My game plan was set. I would start in Walker Bay, try for an "over", then head to main spot. I thought I would have to go through 20-30 fish to catch the right ones. With the size I was catching I thought I could weigh between 12 and 13 pounds just with "unders". I was feeling pretty good as you can see in my interview with WalleyeFirst WalleyeFirst Roy Vivian.
I started in Walker Bay and I was able to get to my spot. There were two other boats working the same area but there was plenty of room and the fish were there. We were using the largest red tail chubs we could get our hands on. We had three fish pick our chubs but we just couldn't get them to commit. It was like they were just playing with the chubs, killing them in the process. It was agonizing to see them on the screen and yet not get them to go. We stayed there for two hours, which in retrospect, was probably an hour too long.
I was still feeling confident as we made our run to my primary spot. There was no wind but that did not concern me as that was all in my plan. We get there and see a huge slick of mayfly shells. Uh oh! The spot I thought I was going to catch 20-30 fish was dead. We pounded the area and my co-angler caught the only walleye which was a 22" slot fish. I thought I could get them to bite but I was wrong. After talking to a few friends when there is a big mayfly hatch in shallow water it makes for a really tough bite. We stayed until about 12:30 with the skunk still in the boat!
I was due back at 3 so we had to get on some fish quick. I went to my backup spot on the mid-lake reefs. I was marking fish but they were reluctant to bite. We were able to get a fish here and there ending up with 3 little squirts that weighed 4.31 pounds. We just ran out of time. Had I got there a little earlier we would have at least got our limit. So much for the optimism I showed in that WalleyeFirst interview!
My plan was the same as Day 1 with the exception of only spending one hour in Walker Bay and an hour less at my primary spot. Due to the slot limit I knew I had a chance to cash a check but I would need an over. I started in Walker Bay and there was a boat on my primary area. I am sure he saw what I did and hovered over those fish. He didn't hook up and neither did I so I left around 8.
We get to my primary spot and barely start when my co-angler hooked up with what appeared to be a slot fish. Much to our surprise it was only 19-1/4" but it looked like it swallowed a football! The fish weighed a hair over 3 pounds which is hard to believe but I wasn't going to complain. It is a shock that fish had room for a leech in it's stomach as it was just full of mayflies. Knowing five of these would get me back in the game I pounded the area. We caught one more 17" walleye that was outside of my primary area. My co-angler was in 9th place, to keep him in the top 10 I had to get close to 10 pounds so we headed to the main lake reefs.
Just like the day before we picked up a fish here and there. One skinny 19 incher along with a 16" and 17" walleye. The last one came at 1:30 so we headed back to Walker Bay to get that over! We got to that area and there were 5 boats. The wind was perfect so I tried my best to maneuver around with out getting in the way of others. Right off the bat I had one on that felt like an "over". I don't think I have been so disappointed catching a 23" walleye. I immediately had another fish. As I was fighting it my co-angler was reeling in his chub when he got bit. Mine ended up being a northern and we never saw the other fish. After that it was crickets. I did see an over caught which validated that they were there and I gave myself a chance.
I weighed 9.77 pounds on Day 2 which was the 25th best weight for the day. Not bad considering we didn't have an over. The good news is my co-angler, David Walker, moved up a spot and finished 8th. That made me feel great! I ended up 63rd out of 125 Leech Lake Results and only 3.86 pounds out of the money. Again a subpar day 1 was the difference. With that being said I fished a new body of water, put together a good game plan and I gave myself a chance. I can't ask for too much more. I will learn from my mistakes and apply them to future situations. Green Bay is next!