Man to Man, Guide to GuideBy Tom Neustrom - March 1, 2012
This past November, veteran walleye chasers Mark Brumbaugh, Tony Roach and I had the opportunity to track walleyes in Arkansas. We were like three giddy kids, knowing the potential and possibilities that lurked in Lake Ouachita. Trailering down, our big Lund Pro-V's became our navigational chariots. But before embarking, we did what all intuitive anglers should - we got a pep talk and mini seminar from a deeply entrenched local.
When vertically fishing spoons at a multitude of depths, it's essential to get better feel and control by using a high-sensitivity braid. Suffix 832 is the choice of many, including Jerry, as it lays comfortably on the spool and transmits feel better than anything else in the bait shop. We all agreed that attaching a section of fluorocarbon leader - 18 to 24 inches - with an InvisaSwivels softens the hookset while eliminating line twist, too.
Mark and I barraged Jerry with questions about what other techniques could turn these southern walleyes. Being a lifelong student himself, Jerry said he experiments with presentations learned from walleye articles and tricks picked up from customers from the north. Two of his mainstay presentations, when not jigging vertically, are running bottom-bouncers with spinners and fresh kept crawlers from a Frabill Crawler Crib; and jig fishing with minnow-imitating plastics, like Trigger X Action baits. Jerry states that all three have their place in his arsenal depending on time of year and fish preferences, which we all know can change by the day.
With so much timber and brush on the bottom of Lake Ouachita, and other neighboring reservoirs, the bottom-bouncer and crawler combo makes for a nasty, snag-stopping trolling pattern that Mark and I are intimately familiar with. We shared some insider information with Jerry on color selection and blade sizes, as well as trolling speeds. Mark expanded the conversation, talking about the trolling-board techniques that he is so well known for. We talked about jig presentations and Jerry let us know he preferred jig fishing early in the season for walleyes over and around points, creek arms, and sunken islands near shoreline breaks. And there's the nearly certain probability of catching bonus largemouth and spotted bass, with the occasional bruising striper.
Slip-bobber fishing was a relatively new approach for Jerry, and teacher turned student when the discussion came up. We fish small jigs opposed to plain hooks; incorporate attracting beads and even a touch of hair or feather on a jig. Livebait was strongly endorsed by both Mark and I, tipping with a half of crawler, whole shiner minnow, or plump leech - leeches being Greek down this way. (We promised Jerry to find him a source for big black Minnesota leeches.)
Sharing information with one of the best walleye guides in the South was incredibly rewarding. We all learned from each other on his 'Arkansas Campus of Fishology.' But most of all, Mark and I came away with an experience we will not forget and made friends with southern guide who is equally as passionate about walleyes. Editor's Note: Special thanks to Mountain Harbor Resort on Arkansas' Lake Ouachita for providing top-flight lodging along with some serious home cooking. Visit www.mountainharborresort.com. Call 501-282-6104 to book a boat with the amazing Jerry Bean.