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Spring Walleyes:Gearing Up and Jigging Walleyes

By Dale Helgeson - April 1, 2007

The snow is starting to melt from the warm sun which is starting to set later in the day. Even though the lakes are still frozen you know the rivers will be opening up soon. The anticipation every year to get out and fish for some early season walleyes is always high. Getting out the boat and grabbing my favorite rods is always a high point of the year. What to do to prepare for that day before it gets here will greatly improve your success.

Boat Checklist
Make sure your boat is ready to go well before you even think about putting it in the water. During the cold winter months make sure the general maintenance is done and everything is in good working order.

  • Make sure to change lower unit lube
  • Check for any signs of stress crack or damage to the hull
  • Tighten all screws and bolts as they do vibrate loose for use
  • Check the seats for wear
  • Check steering system
  • Check rod holders
  • Check motor mounts
  • Change spark plugs
  • Check prop for damage or dings and have repaired
  • Check electric motor including prop
  • Check electrical system
  • Graphs and other electronic devices
  • Electronic ignitions
  • Accessory power
Trailer Checklist
Trailers are often overlooked when gearing up for the season. Many of these things can easily be done before the boat is put away for the winter to save time come spring.

  • Check tires for wear
  • Grease bearings
  • Check electrical system
  • Check tongue for damage
  • Check tongue lock
  • Check frame for damage
Rods and Reels
Many people don't pay attention to the rods and reels they use. They are very important and will last a lot longer with general maintenance.
  • Lube all reels
  • Check for wear on the spools and guides
  • Check your rods for damaged guides or reel seats
  • Change your line at least once a year as line will degrade even just sitting on the reel
  • Check the handle to make sure they are not damaged
This is another area of neglect by many fishermen. If you take the time to keep up on the maintenance it will not take that long come springtime.
  • Check crank baits for chipped or cracked bills
  • Check O'rings for damage
  • Check crank bait body for damage
  • Sharpen hooks on all jigs and treble hooks and if treble hooks are worn or bent replace them (I replace mine with Daiichi Bleeding bait hooks for the added attraction of the red color and sharpness of their hooks)
  • Check plastics for damage, wear or dry rotting (throw away any used or damaged plastics)
Many people don't put a lot of thought into their clothing. This is very important especially in the spring as the weather changes often and fast.

Here are some things that I take with me.

  • Warm socks (Black Mountain socks are very warm and comfortable) these socks can be worn in warm or cold weather
  • Thermal Underwear when the weather is below 50(Black Mountain has a new product on the market that is both warm and comfortable as well)
  • Boots ( I take my pack boots if it going to be 45 and below and my Thinsulate hunting boots from 45-60, and hiking boots if it is above 60)
  • Coats and pants(I use my Vexilar ice fishing suit if it is under 45, Yamaha wind jacket with polar fleece liner from 45-60 usually with a sweatshirt, and sweatshirt or windbreaker above 60)
  • Rain Suit (keep a quality rain suit in your boat so it is always handy if you have the storage space. Otherwise at least keep it in your vehicle so you can go and get it if inclement weather is moving in).
  • Hand wear (I try to use as little hand wear as possible especially when jigging. I will often time just use batting gloves and make sure I have warmer gloves accessible to put on if my hands get cold.
  • Make sure to use a quality hat as well whether it be a stocking cap in cold weather or a baseball cap to shield you from the sun.
"If you have a map that you will be fishing take it out and make a plan of where you would like to fish."

Physical and Mental Preparation
Many people think this is done by just waking up in the morning and going out. For many people that may be true but doesn't make it correct. Being a tournament angler you approach even fun days out on the water differently. The mental approach to fishing is critical for success. Start the night before by getting a good night sleep. Have a good breakfast to get nutrients that will be needed for mental and physical sharpness. Clear your head from work or other things that may distract you while fishing. Distractions in your mind will cause more lost fish than anything else. Make sure to have a positive attitude. Confidence in your abilities will increase your success. When times are slow don't get down try to change what you are doing whether it be just changing colors, varying speed or switching techniques entirely. Keep a positive attitude the fish will come. To prepare physically exercise is important. The better your physical condition the more time you will be able to spend on the water. You will be less tired and fatigue less than someone who doesn't exercise. Your reflexes will be sharper as well as you coordination and balance. Spring fishing relies primarily on feel. The best spring jiggers are the ones that can feel bites the best. Keeping yourself physically fit will increase your sensitivity. Thus put more fish in the boat. Try to do stretching exercises as well as a cardio program.

Get Ready To Fish
Now that you and your equipment are ready, make a plan before you hit the water. You need to know where you will be going and which techniques you will be using. If you have a map that you will be fishing take it out and make a plan of where you would like to fish. Research the area before you get there. Call local bait shops and ask them how the fishing has been, what they are using to catch fish and times they are open so you can stop in, the day of fishing and get bait and any new information. Go to online sites for fishing reports, they are great resources of local fishing reports. Once your plan is complete get ready to head out on the water with confidence as you have done your work to have a safe and productive outing.

Author Dale Helgeson
Dale Helgeson
Dale Helgeson is owner and operator of The Outdoor Experience Guide Service focusing on lakes in southeastern Wisconsin. Dale is a professional fisherman fishings the MWC walleye fishing circuits as well as writing articles for Lake-Link and Southeast Wisconsin Outdoor Guide among others. Dale is sponsored by these fine sponsors: Geneva Cabinet Company, Action Marine, DR Plastics, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Black Mountain Socks, RAM Mounts, Frabill, Pflueger Rods and Reels, Dave’s Kaboom Lures,, Kick’n Walleye Scents, Minn Kota, Strikemaster Augers, Mapping Specialists, Vexilar, Guest Pro Chargers, PowerPro Lines, KINeSYS Sunscreen, NPAA 872. His Pro Staffs include: Daiichi Hooks, XTools, FinTech Tackle Company, Off Shore Tackle, Navionics, Jammin Jigs/Bad Dog Lures
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