The opening of walleye season across the walleye belt is a time of great anticipation, when "opener" traditions among family and friends are once again enjoyed, and dormant friendships with bait shop owners are rekindled. Whether you push away from the dock at 12:01 am on the first day of the season, or take a more relaxed approach and fish strictly "bankers' hours" during opening weekend, it's likely that you will fish the same places you always fish, using the same presentations you've always used. And why not? It's worked in the past, and will hopefully work again. However, the 21st-century angler is not limited to fishing memories. We can step outside of our comfort zone, with the possibility of being rewarded with bigger and better catches than we typcially experience as the season opens.
Modern digital cartography and time-tested Side Imaging makes it easier to find walleyes than ever before. Use them to your advantage as you launch your boat in pursuit of the first walleyes of the new season.
Some anglers that pursue opening weekend walleyes enjoy fishing the same lake year after year, while others relish the challenge of finding fish on new lakes or rivers by taking their opener show on the road. Both groups of walleye chasers will benefit from the power of a new cartography offering from LakeMaster, called SmartStrike. These digital GPS map chips include an embedded, detailed search algorithm that will help identify key areas to focus your fishing efforts. SmartStrike, compatible with Humminbird ONIX and ION systems (and soon on HELIX), allows users to perform species-specific searches on LakeMaster HD lakes, with additional inputs including time of day, time of year, prevailing weather, water clarity, and a host of other walleye fishing variables. Here is an example of the SmartStrike setup menu, with a search designed to find opening weekend walleyes on Leech Lake in north central Minnesota.
SmartStrike results are displayed as an overlay on the LakeMaster digital depth contour map, with productive areas highlighted in purple. My SmartStrike search for opening weekend walleyes, during the day, on a cloudy, windy early season day (in other words, typical walleye opener conditions) provided these options on the southern half of Walker Bay. These purple areas definitely fit the pattern we would expect for walleyes that are several weeks after the spawn: on the edges of shoreline flats, right where those flats transition to deeper basin areas. Said another way, the powerful, species-specific search algorithms of SmartStrike are getting it right! If you are headed to Leech this spring, consider this a free tip! SmartStrike will provide benefits whether you are fishing a lake you know well (by highlighting hot-spots that only your "friends" know about), or an unfamiliar body of water, by giving you location options that are more reliable that bait shop gossip. If you are an ONIX or ION (or HELIX!) user, SmartStrike belongs in your map chip collection.
SmartStrike from LakeMaster highlighted the purple areas shown here as productive areas to check for season-opener walleyes on Leech Lake, for a cold, cloudy, and windy day: typical conditions that early season walleye anglers often face.