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Walleyes: Taking Control

Whether we’re talking about making money in business or catching a limit of fish, keys to success include such things as preparation, focus, and execution.

In fishing, preparation, focus and execution all involve being in control. While there are those lucky dogs who occasionally drift their way to big limits of fish, more frequently the fisherman who pays attention to his boat control enjoys consistent success.

Let’s focus on boat control for a wide number of walleye presentations and discuss why your best walleye fishing can be done with a bowmount trolling motor.

While some diehard backtrollers refuse to even put a bowmount on their boat, they are becoming the exception among the walleye anglers across the nation. And please note that we’re not knocking the anglers who prefer tiller-style boats. We’re just pointing out that whether you have a console or a tiller, some of your best fishing will be done by controlling the boat from the front deck. Here’s why and how to do it best.

Probably the main reason the bow platform is the best place for most walleye fishing is accuracy–especially when you’re live bait rigging, jigging or fishing with bottom bouncers. A foot control bowmount gives you instant ability to move the front tip of the boat, and your lines, in any direction. The key word there is “instant.” With an eye on your depth finder and a touch of your foot on the control, you can instantly turn, staying over the exact contour that’s holding fish.

A second reason the bowmount outfishes tiller control is that (in states and provinces where it’s legal) you can hold and fish two rods at the same time. That’s impossible to do when you have to have one hand on a tiller control. Controlling the boat with your foot also leaves your hands free to retie or put on fresh bait while your foot keeps you in position.

Now, most backtrollers will tell you that they have an advantage over bowmount anglers in high wind and big waves. And, at the extreme, that might be true as they can ride over or bash their transoms through really big waves using their main gas outboard in reverse. But even in three- and four-foot waves, the proficient bowmount angler has more control. When a big waves slams the back of a transom, it moves the boat. The bowmount angler, facing the wave, can slide up and over it without losing ground, staying right over the fish and structure.

Fishing in bigger waves with a bowmount is really extreme fishing. It’s on the edge and a whole lot of fun. Let’s look at how to use the bowmount in extreme conditions as well as other walleye situations.

In big waves, if you’re moving backwards and can’t stay on the structure, tighten down the tension on your kicker outboard or point your main motor straight ahead and put it in forward gear. The slight thrust of the gas outboard will compensate for the wind; you control your direction with the bowmount electric.

No matter what size the waves, when you fish with a bottom bouncer and need to keep moving to keep the spinner spinning, it’s best to put your electric motor on “continuous on” –we set our Minn Kota 48 All Terrain bowmounts at about 30 percent power–and simply steer on the structure. In low wind conditions, with the motor set to “continuous”, you can point the boat where you want to go, leave it running and move around your boat to get tackle or fresh bait. With rods in rod holders, you never stop fishing.

In river situations where you are vertical jigging, the bowmount is mainly compensating for the wind. It’s best to set the motor on high and use short bursts to keep your line vertical and your boat going the same speed as the current.

The same setting usually applies to deep live bait rigging with a slip sinker set-up like the Northland Roach Rig. Since you want the bait close to what your electronics show below the boat, it’s usually best to use short bursts of the trolling motor to maintain your position.

One last point about bowmount fishing is that when doing it effectively, your front platform becomes the boat’s command center. In other words, it’s helpful to have good electronics up there to show you depth, position, bottom structure and what water you’ve covered. We use a “windows” function on the Lowrance LMS 350A with GPS. Windows allows us to construct a screen that shows a digital depth reading, a small plotter screen to track the water we’ve covered and even add an electronic icon when we catch a fish. Plus, the whole right half of the screen is like a conventional depth finder and shows us the bottom contour and fish arcs.

With the LMS 350A and other units we use a transducer mounted to the bottom of the trolling motor that shoots a relatively narrow, 20-degree cone angle, showing us the bottom directly beneath our boat. This narrow cone angle is necessary so we don’t see too much of the bottom. If the cone were wider, it would be more difficult to see sharp breaks in the bottom depth.

So, take control of your fishing. Get up in front of your boat and experience the pinpoint control you can accomplish. Using precise control with a bowmount motor will put your bait where a walleye is likely to eat it.

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