Outside Chance: Opening day walleye and pike fishing

 by Jack Payne


We are four weeks out until the traditional opener for pike and walleye fishing. Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and Detroit River are open, but for those of us on the west side of the state, we wait and plan.

I sat down with Justin Stattory, a guide up near Muskegon way and owner of Limitless Fishing Charters.net. We talked about our experiences on opening day for pike and walleye. Hopefully the following tips will help you out.,

First up, I love rivers,” said Stattory. One of his favorites is the Grand River. Lucky for me I fall between the Grand and the Kalamazoo River.  Look for the deeper holes! Most anglers fish a basic rig on the river. For some it might be a split shot and a single hook. Others, a rotating death style hook with a piece of crawler. There are two more options that many anglers miss out on.

One of my favorite search rigs is a walleye spinner such as the Glitter Blade Rig or the Pro Flash Rig from Stopper Lures. Both of these spinners throw off nice flash and can be worked slowly. Slow is the key and this is the time to use the smaller blades.

“My crawlers are removed from the bedding and washed, then placed into a small cooler with ice,” said Stattory. Add just enough water to cover all of the crawlers.
The ice water will plump up the crawlers and your boat will stay clean. On the single hook baits I would suggest using half a crawler. When I return home I place the left over crawlers into a separate container for a few days and make sure that they are doing well. No need to dump them in with a large container of crawlers and have them die.

Stattory likes to creep along at speeds of .3 to .5 mph during the first 4 weeks of the season. On the river one must match the speed of the current or drift with the current. On inland lakes use your trolling motor and monitor the speed.

“Inland lakes I search out the warmest water and look for any type of new weed growth,” said Stattory. Often times this might be on the north shoreline of the lake. Your best depths will vary between 5 and 15 feet. On lakes like the Muskegon or White Lake, fishing near the mouths of the river can pay off nicely. Lakes like Gun Lake I would suggest targeting the edges of the new cabbage weeds. The weeds might be only a foot tall.

Besides spinners or a single hook, Justin loves jigs. Last season on his boat they caught more walleyes on the river with jigs than with a standard rig. He suggests jigs in the 3/3 to 1/2 ounce size, maybe less in slow current. He also adds a plastic body and a leech. He likes the extra scent thrown off from the leech.

We use a lot of the Two- Tone colored jig heads from Stopper Lures with half a crawler or a leech. I also dab on a bit of scent from Pro Cure Scent. I like removing my human scent best as possible.

“I troll the breaklines bordering new weed growth and slip out over the deeper water targeting suspended pike in the early season,” said Stattory.

He further stated that they catch a lot of pike suspended over 20 or 30 feet of water and only down 6-15 feet. One trick: rev it up. Justin will crank the speeds up to 1.5 mph.

Last tip, carry a Carlisle Slip Float. A slip float with a lively sucker minnow is deadly on a pike and a leech or minnow works wonders on a walleye. Fish the same areas as mentioned and slip floats are great for the entire family. I recall many days where a slip float put the majority of early season pike and walleye into the boat for us.