Walleyes are creatures of the night. Anglers take advantage of walleyes’ famous feature by pursuing them well after dark, and into the early hours of the morning. It’s a fun way to fish if you know what you’re doing – and you stay safe – with the stars, the quiet and the calming waters producing walleyes from the darkness.
But the night-bite isn’t about serenity. It’s about active walleyes that might not have cooperated during the day but are suddenly willing to bite behind the dark of night.
And while a variety of approaches will work, from lighted slip bobbers to trolling cranks, going subtle will often add numbers to your overnight haul – in particular, in early spring when water temperatures are in the mid-50s or lower and walleyes haven’t quite turned on yet. If the fish aren’t biting during the day, you can’t exactly expect them to go wild at night with big plugs or fast-moving crankbaits.
But if you’re able to drop a leech and let it sit right in front of ’eyes, you’re odds improve. Enter a live bait rig. And for the sake of striving to learn new tricks and techniques, enter the custom-made live bait rigging approach of longtime walleye guide Ivan Burandt.
Burandt, who started guiding on Minnesota’s famed Mille Lacs Lake when Jimmy Carter was in the Oval Office, has one goal in mind at night: Subtlety. To achieve this, he trades out your standard rigging pole for a 9-foot long, ultra sensitive graphite rod. “You want to be able to feel the moment that walleye picks up the bait, even if all it does is flare its gills,” he explains.
For line, Burandt uses 6-pound Berkley XT, with an 8-foot long leader of 4-pound mono. “Even at night, I’ve found the smaller diameter line the better,” he says. Hence the other reason for the nine-foot long pole: To absorb some of the walleye’s fight and prevent line breaking.
The sultan of stealth drops his live bait rig – hooked with a lively leech – down to the bottom, lifts it up three to six inches, then holds it perfectly still. He hovers over a spot, crawling along with his trolling motor so slowly you barely know you’re moving. The one thing that has to be moving, in Burandt’s book, is the leech. “I want a leech that’s fresh,” explains Burandt, who rifles through the black bait faster than anybody I’ve ever seen. “If I catch a fish, new leech. If I miss a bite and I see a tooth mark, new leech. If I haven’t caught a fish and I think my leech is dead, new leech. I want that leech fresh and lively, and I’ll replace it all night long.”
Add this late-night live bait rigging option to your arsenal, and hopefully you’ll be catching walleyes all night long, too.
Ivan Burandt operates Ivan’s Guide Service and can be reached at 320.532.3261 or www.ivansguideservice.com.