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Paul Nelson: A variety of sinkers can be used to help catch walleyes

Historically, July boasts the highest average temperature in the Bemidji area but this year August is turning out to be the warmest month of the summer.

Surface water temperatures are holding in the mid to upper 70s in most lakes. Algae blooms caused by warm water temperatures and excess nutrients in the lakes have reduced water clarity in most lakes to less than two feet.

Red Lake has been the hottest lake for walleyes all summer. Leech Lake has been better on the days with a little wind and Winnie has been improving for anglers willing to keep moving until they find a bar or hump holding the “keeper-size” walleyes.

The reduced visibility currently affecting the Bemidji area lakes makes it harder for the fish to see so many anglers add spinners to their live-bait rigs to help the fish locate and target their presentations.

The type and weight of the sinker anglers use on their spinner rigs depends on how fast they are trolling and how deep they are fishing.

Standard bottom bouncer sinkers are the safety-pin style weights that typically come in weights ranging from three-quarter ounce to two ounces and they are usually sufficient for most applications in the Bemidji area.

There are some bottom bouncers that come in sizes heavier than two ounces but those are usually designed for fishing in deep rivers with heavier current.

There are also the wire sinkers that come is similar sizes as bottom bouncers that slide onto the line instead of being in a fixed position.

Both types of bottom bouncer sinkers usually come in several colors and also in plain lead. Sometimes the colored sinkers can make a big difference in the number of bites anglers get so it is worth the effort to experiment.

Most anglers use night crawlers when they use spinner rigs with bottom bouncers. Anglers can thread the night crawler on a “slow-death” or “crawler hauler” style hook or they can use the pre-packaged rigs with two hooks to string out the night crawlers.

Anglers can also use one or two leeches (walleyes can’t count) on their spinner rigs or they can use scented plastic night crawlers as an alternate presentation.

Anglers can use a wide range of rods for bottom bouncers as long as the rods can handle the weight of the sinker. Most anglers use a 7 to 12-foot bait-casting rod, which can put in a rod holder while trolling.

When a walleye hits, anglers can give the reel a couple of turns before they take the rod out of the rod holder to be sure the line stays tight. A slow and steady retrieve without pumping the rod usually works best and leaving the motor engaged allows the other rods to have a chance at catching a second walleye out of the pod of fish.

Anglers can mark the pods they see and make and return passes through the fish or they can change presentations and put a live-bait rig through the fish once the bite on the spinner rigs slows.

Trolling crankbaits is another summer pattern option for anglers fishing walleyes. Anglers can use lures designed to reach a specific depth or they can use lead-core line on rods with line-counter reels to target fish located deeper than lures can reach without adding weight to the line.

Crankbaits should be set to run at or slightly above the level of the fish. Walleyes typically feed on suspended fish from below so they are more likely to move up to a bait than they are to go down to a bait traveling below them.

Lures that keep making contact with the bottom tend to collect weeds so most anglers let out the lead core line until they bump the bottom and then reel back a few turns to keep the lure just above the bottom.

Targeting walleyes suspended further off the bottom will take more experimentation to get the lures running at the proper depth. Line counter reels make the job easier because they allow anglers to know exactly how much line they let out.

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.