I'm really getting stoked for the opening of walleye this year. The weather to date should have these fish peaking come the traditional Southern Ontario Kawarthas' opener on the second Saturday in May. When that morning comes, I'll be trailering my new Ranger 520 to Old Faithful-Rice Lake in Bewedly, Ontario.
Rice is the # 1 walleye lake within 1.5 hours of Toronto in my opinion and it never ceases to amaze me that it just keeps on producing very nice walleye for anglers willing to put a little effort in. Don't get me wrong, it gets busy out there for sure. Yet I believe technique & location are the key to tapping into numerous 4-5 pound fish-which the majority you will undoubtedly release to spawn again.
Hungry walleye dispersing from spawning areas will seldom refuse a perch-coloured bucktail jig ripped along emerging weedbeds near river-mouths, rocky shorelines, shallow reefs & islands. Shallow, fertile lakes are the number one choice for patterning walleye this way, Water that is relatively clear and is less than ten feet deep is ideal. With limited forage base available until insect hatches start to occur in mid June, young-of-year baitfish become a large part of the diet for Mrs. Walleye.
The below map indicates an area known as "Walleye Alley" on Rice Lake between the two red dots and is about 2 miles long. It has great potential for early weedlines with harder bottom areas and access to deep water and is a favourite area to rip up some big ‘eyes.
Rip jigging is best performed with a 6 foot medium heavy spinning rod, 10 pound high-abraision, low stretch line and a 2000 series reel. I tie my own bucktail jigs on 1/4 oz to ¾ oz bananna head jigs with 2/0-3/0 Owner hooks in them.
I use about 1 part of yellow or chartreuse dyed bucktail for every 3 parts black bucktail. Painted eyeballs are great in a contrasting colour to the black bananna head. Total length of presentation is 3-4 inches usually. They are great fish catchers for the money.
I like to locate irregular shaped weed beds in about 5-8feet of water and keep my boat parallel to the weedline. Good polarized sunglasses are worth their weight in gold at this point. I cast out about 50-60 feet ahead of the boat parallel to the weedline and allow the jig to free fall to the bottom. Perform this with rod in about the 9 o'clock position. Be aware of any ticks, thumps, or line jumping at this point- hooksets are FREE-use them! Reel line slowly and shake the rod tip until you feel weed, then, quickly snap you rod to the12 o' clock position and drop the rod tip back towards 9 o'clock as you reel and slack line that you created with the snap. You should be able to repeat this 4-5 times back to the boat. Some of the hits may be on the fall of the jig, but more often then not, the Walleye sucks up the bucktail and as you go to snap back, you have solid weight on the end of the line. GAME ON!! It's a reflex reaction bite you are trying to trigger so this is not a place for finesse tactics. Enjoy the ripping and see you out there.
Mark Tarnawczyk is the holder of two Canadian Live Release Records in Atlantic Salmon & Brown Trout. Check National Fish Registry - Live Release Rcordse Mark has participated in all types of competitive fishing events across North America over the last 15 years with several wins & numerous Top 10 finishes.