Inveterate walleye pro Mark Martin, for instance, has Muskegon Lake, a drowned river mouth connecting to Lake Michigan. Here, he grew up row-trolling at night with his father and grandfather, refining a pattern over ensuing decades with #13 Original Rapalas accented with reflective tape — nowadays eased along with an electric motor for quiet, deliberate stealth. In my case, I have Long Lake, across the road from my home in Traverse City, Michigan, where I’ve scored with ice-fishing spoons in August, whacked the biggest fish of the season in a foot of water while casting suspending Smithwick Rogues at night in November’s sideways snowstorms, and discovered the effectiveness of trolling hot-pink cranks even in water clarity exceeding 15 feet. Yes, we tend to do things a bit differently here in the Wolverine state.
Last summer, I got to check out In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) pro Todd Frank’s own private Oneida — that is, Lake Oneida, near “Frankenstein’s” home in upstate New York. That’s when and where I learned his well-refined prescription for trolling two planer boards and two magnum bottom bouncers for targeting (1) larger though fewer suspended walleyes, and (2) more plentiful but smaller deep dwellers — both at the same time.
Fact is, Oneida’s walleye fishing has recently been on fire. For one, Oneida’s in a boom cycle following a combination of cormorant control administered by the Feds and copious walleye stocking directed by the state. Then, too, there’s Frank’s proficiency in spotting not only bottom changes but also fish, with color electronics complemented by a two-board, two-bouncer system trolled on the fringe of the lake basin. Furthermore, as I later discovered, the program is anything but a one-lake wonder.
PANCAKES AND PING
True to summer patterns throughout walleye country, Oneida’s walleyes set up on the edge of the lake’s deep basin. An anomaly here, however, is the existence of iron-manganese formations called “pancakes” — patches of hard bottom that concentrate walleyes with their proximity to mud. You can see the difference between the two substrates on Lowrance’s color units: Harder is portrayed as a bottom display colored a hotter red; softer bottom is indicated by less pronounced oranges and yellows. “I’ve fished the pancakes all my life,” Frank says, “but the only way I found out for sure they were there was with the color graph.” At home on Long, unbeknownst to me until testing the X-104c last year, I found that most of my favorite spots from years past were endowed with the same thing, a transition from soft basin to harder bottom.
Likewise, detecting fish on high-powered electronics is a great technological leap forward, too. You can mark fish at trolling speeds, of course, and even with search mode at speeds in excess of 20 mph. (Turn ping speed and sensitivity to max, and the color-line setting to the 70-percent range: Fish show up in streaks of red despite the clutter that normally comes with the sensitivity cranked up high.) “Put the boat on plane and drive around till you find the fish,” Frank says.
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