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How to Catch More Trophy Walleye During Early Ice W/ Bryan Bogdan

In mid-November, I kicked off my ice season at Wekusko Falls Lodge. Located in the heart of Manitoba, Wekusko Falls is home to some of the best trophy walleye fishing in North America.

Not only did I have the chance to hook into some incredible fish, but I was also able to share some time on the ice with owner and pro angler Bryan Bogdan. Bryan’s knowledge is incredible, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn from him and share that knowledge with all of you.

Below are his 5 best tips for catching more trophy walleye during early ice.

1. FIND THE RIGHT LOCATION (WARMER WATER)

Of course, the number one factor for success when on the water (either hard or open) is location. You can’t catch trophy fish if the trophy fish aren’t there. However, understanding what defines the right location is key. Bryan broke it down into one simple identifier – find the warmer water. This is important because fish are cold-blooded species, meaning their appetite and behavior is correlated with the environment around them.

First ice I always target midwater structure or structure near deep water – that’s pivotal. Because as the water is cold in the fall, those fish are going to depths in order to try to get to warm water. Or I go into the shallow bays that are a little bit stained, because that stained water will absorb heat from the sun – and keeps it naturally warmer” – Bryan

Therefore when breaking down a lake for first ice, we recommend you find areas of warmer water… aka:

  • Shallow Bays
  • Mid-Lake Structure

2. SLOW DOWN THE FALL RATE

Slow Falling Spoons Trophy Walleye
Use Slow Falling Spoons During Early Ice

Next is understanding lure presentation and it’s importance in catch rate this time of year. As previously mentioned, metabolisms are slow and fish can almost seem to be in “shock” from experiencing the rapid change to cold temperatures that accompany early ice. Therefore, slower presentations are a must.

“People don’t understand how much fall rate can affect the bite.”

The fall rate is essentially how fast the lure falls. Bryan specifically recommends spoons such as the Tingler, by VMC thanks to its shape and slow presentation.

“…something that is flat, that has lots of flutter and has a real slow fall…:

In general, look for a lure that is flat or built with a bend in it. If the fish are really aggressive you can get away with using more traditional spoons such as the rattle spoon. However, during those early ice periods – it’s important to try to slow it down first.

Recommended Lures:

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3. DOWNSIZE (BIG BAITS DON’T ALWAYS EQUAL TROPHY FISH)

Downsizing Baits to Catch More Trophy Walleye
Wekusko Falls Walleye Caught by Downsizing

If you aren’t finding that adjusting the fall rate is effective, then consider downsizing your lures.

“I will go right down to 1/4 oz stuff. It’s amazing when you go small how many big fish you can connect on”

In fact, Bryan specifically mentions how big baits don’t always mean big fish. During early ice periods (or days when fish simply don’t bite) having something much smaller and slower can be the ticket to success.

4. FRESH BAIT IS A MUST

Horizontal Bait for Trophy Walleye
Horizontal Bait is Key on a Deadstick

Fresh bait doesn’t just apply to only live minnows. In northern Manitoba, where you can only use dead bait – we learned the value of keeping it fresh. By regularly replacing disintegrating and rotting minnows, we found we could catch walleye tenfold.

“You need to have fresh bait because these fish are in total shock – the metabolism has slowed down since they are in such cold water now. If that bait isn’t fresh they just don’t want it”.

When we were at Weksusko, we always kept an extra container of fresh minnows by our side out on the ice. Whether you are using live, dead, or fake bait – always take time to check your presentation. You want to make sure it’s fresh, orientated correctly, and simply still there. Doing this alone will improve your catch rate.

5. DEADSTICK FOR BIG ‘EYES

Trophy Walleye Caught on a Dead Stick
Early Ice Trophy Walleye Caught at Wekusko Falls

Of course, having a deadstick is no secret to most anglers. However, what many don’t understand is just how valuable it can be – even when limited to using only dead bait.

It’s important for two big reasons:

  • Two lines in the water are better than one
  • It’s a completely different type of presentation (sometimes not moving can be the best weapon)

When fish are in metabolic shock, and the bite can be tough, sometimes the best weapon you have is your deadstick.

“So many people think that the deadstick has to be done with live bait… {even with deadbait} If you let that bait sit there completely horizontal the fish will attack it.”

We, of course, experienced this first hand where a large majority of our fish came from the deadstick, including our largest fish. We were only using a small spoon and dead shiner (placed horizontally). It was that simple.

THE ULTIMATE FISHING EXPERIENCE

If you need any evidence that these tips work – then check out the video above. For nearly a week straight we setup in dirty bays or mid-lake humps where we absolutely hammered the walleye. Many times, a dead minnow on a dead stick was the ticket.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience world-class walleye fishing then be sure to learn more about Wekusko Falls here.

Interested in more fishing tips and tricks? Then be sure to check out walleye fishing:


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