Snow is falling outside as I sit writing this in mid-October.
This sudden weather change makes now a good time to reflect back on the just-completed open-water season and note experiences from this year that may be helpful next season.
The past season was one of the more inconsistent walleye seasons for me, and I’m not sure why. Guide clients and I experienced some outstanding days, but unlike past seasons, the consistently good mid-June and into July bite never fully took hold. We would have one good day, and without any noticeable weather change, struggle the next.
While the walleye bite was frustrating at times, it reminded me of how lucky I am to live in the Alexandria area of central Minnesota because there are lots of other fishing options available. For example, I fished summer crappies more than ever this year with good success. Plus, largemouth bass became the focal point for me in mid-July and that bite was simply outstanding. We caught good numbers of fish on most trips and several big bass as well.
This need to be adaptable and switch targeted fish species to produce consistent fishing successes is not new to me, but it certainly was reinforced during the past season. A completely new lesson, however, involved clear water and fishing line choices.
I’ve become a believer that zebra mussels and the resulting clear water they cause makes the use of low visibility fishing lines important. The thought being that fish can see colored fishing lines in very clear water and may spook from attached lures.
In June, I spent three days in the boat with Wally Marshall, aka Mr. Crappie, and learned he doesn’t believe that theory. Marshall lives in Texas and has made a career as one of the country’s foremost crappie authorities.
Marshall and I fished a variety of Wally’s signature series soft baits with very good success, which was somewhat expected. However, contrary to my expectations, we used Mr. Crappie hi-vis monofilament line on our reels. Marshall was adamant that the crappies wouldn’t care about the line color. In fact, he said he believed some fish would be attracted to the bright line. All I can say is we caught plenty of crappies in very clear water during Wally’s time in Minnesota. And, I used the line on several subsequent successful crappie outings too.
Another lesson reinforced to me this season was the need to stay versatile with my fishing techniques when fishing conditions change.
A bass tournament on the Le Homme Dieu Chain of Lakes near Alexandria in September drew my fishing attention for several days leading up to the actual event. During those pre-fishing days, slowly presented soft plastics and jig-n-pig type presentations were producing numbers of sizeable largemouth bass.
Tournament day, however, saw unstable weather with winds over 30 miles-per hour. The day also saw, at least for my partner and me, the disappearance of our good “slow” baits bite. Realizing that we needed to cover more water and try to trigger bites, we made a mid-day switch to casting crankbaits and turned a very slow fishing day into a pretty good day. We didn’t cash a check, but we did finish in the tournament field’s top half.
That day reminded me of a walleye tournament lesson from years ago. After my dad and I had a disappointing tournament finish, Dad made a comment I’ll never forget. He said something to the effect of “sometimes you get so caught up in trying to make fish bite the way you want them to bite, or the way they have been biting, that you forget that things change and what worked yesterday might not work today.”
Good advice 25 years ago, and as we learned in September, and still good advice today.
The summer of 2020 saw good catches, good fun, and more fishing lessons learned, or re-learned. I hope you had a good season too and we’ll see you on the ice.
As always, remember to include a youngster in those ice fishing trips!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest to see more fishing tips and view recent TV episodes as well.