I made the trek back to Fort Frances last weekend and had the urge to hit the ice as it had been nearly a month since wetting a line due to a busy schedule.
The temperatures were favorable, hovering right around freezing with little to no wind forecasted.
Walleyes were going to be our primary target with a little bit of crappies sprinkled in depending on the walleye bite. I spoke with a few friends who had been fishing recently and the reports were favorable. Fishing had been relatively consistent and 30 feet of water seemed the be the magic number.
We headed out Friday afternoon to a spot that has produced in the past. I always start my quest for walleyes where I left them in the fall during open water which has paid off countless times. The evening bite on Rainy Lake can be magical, so we typically stick it out until dark...that last half hour or so is prime.
We set up on an offshore hump that tops out at 22 feet and drops to 60 feet in the main basin. I have a Humminbird mounted to the handlebars of my Arctic Cat Bearcat which makes finding structure effortless. I started drilling at the top of the reef and worked my way out to deeper water, quitting when the Vexilar FLX-28 read 37 feet.
I typically set up my dead stick bait first, just because if I don’t, I usually won’t. My first drop was in 32 feet and you know you’re in for a good day when an arc rises 2 feet off bottom and inhales a tail hooked Northland RZ jig. To my surprise, a dandy small mouth came topside and was released after a quick photo.
We ended up having a great evening and iced several walleyes as the night wore on. The walleyes were negative, but some couldn’t resist the jig/minnow combo.
We tried crappies for a few hours Saturday morning without success, so we concentrated our efforts on walleyes. The crappies were there, but were extremely finicky. That’s the beauty of Rainy Lake, if one species isn’t going, there are always other options.
We fished the remainder of the weekend and fine-tuned our pattern. It occurred to me as fish after fish came in to look and not bite. Would I keep throwing the same bait at a following bass? Absolutely not. Change it up. So, I rigged a few rods...Northland Glo-Shot Spoons, RZ jig/minnow and Puppet Minnows. Every time I put a new lure down the hole, I’d catch one or 2 quick fish. As soon as I had lookers and no takers, change it up. All I can say is it worked like magic.
In 3 weeks or so, the bite will be so hot it won’t matter what you drop, but on those tough days, versatility is key. Admittedly, it’s not easy putting down your favorite confidence bait but sometimes ya just gotta listen to the fish.