Lake of the Woods is known as the Walleye Capitol of the World, but the fact of the matter is, Lake of the Woods has an extremely wide diversity of species covering all the different nooks and crannies of our 997,000 acres of water. This diversity brings fishermen and fisherwomen alike to our tremendous fishery each and every day from all corners of the globe, and each fall they come in droves to search for our mighty Northern Pike. As the vibrant colorful October transformation begins in northern Minnesota the Northern Pike begin to feed a little bit more aggressively, and this is an excellent time to start pulling plugs across the rock/sand edges to find those big “slimmers”. At this time they are starting gorging themselves on their favorite foods before the ice covers them for the winter, just as a Bear will feed before hibernation. The Northern Pike caught this time of year are big and fat and put up one heck of fight, so much so, you’ll be talking about it for years to come.
I started off trolling where most beginners’ start, with not knowing a thing, but by practicing and donating a ton of tackle, I now feel very confident while fishing the rocks with Rapalas and Reef Runners. One of my first teachers was Tom Briggs, the owner of the Wigwam Resort. Each and every time we went fishing I was able to learn a new thing or two, no matter what it was. Some of the things were so minuet in size, but started to make the biggest differences. One in particular was the equipment I was using, and how using the right equipment is so essential to get the best results. I now use 14 lb Crystal Fireline, which gives me good strength and great feel while I bounce off the sand/mud/rocks. When fishing for the mighty Northern Pike, you’ll also want to be using a steel leader, which help fight the ware and tare of the line hitting the rocks and most importantly the Northern Pike’s massive teeth and they are massive!
When trolling, there are a number of different calculations and figures that are published to help anglers learn the essentials. For example, the amount of line to let out, speed to travel, and particular plugs to use. Please don’t get frightened by this next statement, but I haven’t personally used any of those books. Trial and error is how I learn best and it has taught me quickly. I’ve been long lining and using lead core line consistently for over a year now and just recently purchased my first line counting reel. So where I’m going with this one is, you don’t need a line counter, and you don’t need the books to start trolling, but it does help.
I started line longing with TD-11 Rapalas and large Reef Runners. These will get down to 30 plus feet of water by letting out as much line as needed to get to the bottom. Remember, it matters how fast or how slow you are going, no matter how you want to look at it. When using lead core line I use the TD-9, TD-7 Rapalas and Little Rippers. The lead helps you get down to the bottom with less line when using smaller plugs. I travel about 2.25-2.75 mph while trolling, depending on conditions (wind/waves). Gradually, each and every time out I kept pressing the envelope, trying new things and easing my way on the rocks. One of my good friends John Heckelsmiller, a good “Iweegin”, loves to spend his summers on the best freshwater fishery in the world, Lake of the Woods, and he just happens to be a plug guy also. He started showing me some rocky shorelines and points that we could pull plugs on. He introduced me to the TD-9, TD-7 Rapalas and Little Rippers that we could fish in 8 to 20 feet of water and I’ve fallen head over heels for them. I believe by fishing the rocky shorelines, it gave me a better chance to get the feel without consistently snagging. Some shorelines rocks are not as jagged as some of our deep rock reefs in the bowl of Lake of the Woods. I believe tolling plugs is a great way to pick up larger Northern Pike, because the action is too much for the big daddy Northern to hold back. Instinct takes over and before you know it you’re hooked onto the biggest fish of your life…I love it!
As I started fishing the rock lines I had to learn how to feel the rocks, and there were plenty of snags to help in the education process. Don’t let that discourage you though, after a couple days of snags it gets better. The biggest thing that you need to remember is don’t keep tension on the line when you do snag up. Right away release your reel and as you are driving back to the point of the snag, reel up the slack. After you have driven past the snag, give it a few good jerks and “it should” pop right out. This has been the most effective way for me. If not, you’ve just donated another piece of tackle to the rocks and join the club that every fisherman belongs to.
Once you’ve practiced a bit and you get comfortable with your equipment, you’re ready for the rocks in the bowl of Lake of the Woods. Some of my favorite reef structures are Graceton, Knights and Bridges, but that’s just because I get to fish them all the time. North and Northwest of Rocky Point you will find a few more fantastic bowl reef structures. There are plenty of rocks from the shore to about 22 feet of water just north of Zipple Bay also. If you’re interested in fishing any reef structure or rocky shore line on Lake of the Woods, please read my blog (wigwamresortlow.blogspot.com). I frequently discuss my fishing locations and most of the time; I’m jumping from rock to rock. If you’re not getting the info you’re looking for, please shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]) and I’ll get you an answer to the best of my ability.
Fishing on Lake of the Woods this season has been a fisherman’s dream come true and many anglers have made Lake of the Woods their permanent vacation spot. This has helped many resorts and the community in a whole, and for that we thank everyone who has visited us. Come find out why so many have made Lake of the Woods their “permanent summer vacation spot”, and experience paradise without a passport on beautiful Lake of the Woods, the Walleye Capitol of the World.
In conclusion, I want to state this fact, like anything in life that’s great, it takes practice to make it perfect. So you’re going to have to get out there and do your homework on the rocks yourself. I’ve asked a million questions, but nothing has taught me better than just going out there and pushing the envelope. You will get better and very soon you’ll see the reason for all the excitement on Lake of the Woods…happy fishing and God Bless!
By Jean-Paul Tessier aka “Wigwam Fisherman”