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Lay it on the Line
A look back on the 2003 Tournament Season

By Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz

Every year about this time it’s nice to look back on the past season and think about all the walleyes we’ve caught. Some years the season will be remembered for the big one that made it to the net, while another year may be remembered as the year the big one got away. It may be that it was a "Jig" year, or maybe a "Spinner" year, because those tactics seemed to catch the most fish. Then there are those "Trolling" seasons. This past year on the PWT was a perfect example. In five out of six qualifying tournaments, as well as the Championship, trolling was the basis for the winning pattern. However that doesn’t mean that every tournament was won doing the same thing. A wide range of different trolling techniques were used, each one involving its own unique set of components. Some involved crankbaits, while other times spinners were the ticket. As we look back on the year, one factor seemed to be truly different in each case … the line. For every trolling scenario we faced this season, the choice of line used (or combination of lines) played a key role in ultimately making the technique successful.

Mid April … Lake Erie’s Western Basin. Over the past several years this has become the walleye trolling capital of the world, and for good reason. So much water and so many huge walleyes. This time of year meant we’d be dealing primarily with post spawn fish that were just moving off the reefs and into the basins. The set-up here was really about as basic as it gets … Down Deep Husky Jerks on 10 pound test Trilene XT trolled behind Off Shore boards. The straight mono gave the presentation just the right amount of "stretch" to take battling these big fish, while still allowing the baits to easily reach the depths needed to target the most fish. The added abrasion resistance of XT makes it a good line when utilizing planer boards, because it holds up well from any wear that it would receive from the releases.

Next stop on the trail lead us to the ever popular Lake of the Woods on the Minnesota/Canada border. While there were several patterns used to catch walleyes in this "late May" event, trolling worked well for us. This time we found walleyes on shallow main lake breaks in 7 to 12 feet. Trolling #5 Shad Raps and Tail Dancers on 10/4 FireLine, enabled us to place the small cranks near bottom to as deep as 10 feet. Once we began targeting fish in 12 feet, we added another element … lead core line. This was virtually the same set-up Keith used to win the 2002 PWT Championship … a reel spooled with lead core, and a 10 to 15 foot leader of FireLine. The rigging allows for a "no-stretch" connection from the rod tip to the lure, so feeling the bait tick along the bottom is effortless. If the lure happens to pick up a bit of debris and stop running correctly, that too is easily detected, so that the bait can be reeled in, cleaned off, and put back to work.

Week two in June found us plying the waters of the Mississippi River near Bay City, Wisconsin. Two separate patterns unfolded here … contour trolling the breaks of Lake Pepin, and "Pole-Lining" wing dams in the main current of the river. Contour trolling was done much like we did on Lake of the Woods, but "Pole-Lining" is a whole different technique. It’s actually a modification of "Hand-Lining," a technique used to fish heavy current on river systems around the country. The modification we used utilizes a short, stout pole and a reel spooled with 30 pound test SpiderWire Stealth. The terminal tackle end is made up of a 3-way swivel set-up with an 8 ounce weight on the dropper line, and a leader tipped with a #9 Floating Rapala. The rig can then be pulled up stream in heavy current, or even held in place, like at the edge of a wing dam, by hovering in the current with the kicker motor. The heavy test, small diameter SpiderWire Stealth is ideal here because it allows you to work the heavy rig effectively, while the line’s small diameter cuts water like a knife at the same time maintaining tactile feel and sensitivity.

In early July it was back to Lake Erie, but this time we were at the east end of the lake. It may have been the same Lake Erie, and still a trolling bite, but the set-ups were a lot different. Big walleyes were suspended 30 to 35 feet down over 60 to 70 feet of water. Trolling that deep takes extra weight … so we ended up running 6 colors of lead core line with a 20 foot leader of 10# XT. The mono leader gave the set-up some shock absorption for battling these big Erie bruisers.

Late July found us in South Dakota on Lake Oahe. Walleyes were relating to the trees along the old river channel and a few main lake points. A lead core set-up with a 10 foot leader of 17 lbs. test Berkley Vanish was the ticket. The strength of the 17lbs. Vanish allowed us to yank a few more crankbaits from the snaggy trees. We could use this heavy weight line with no fear of spooking fish, as this line is a fluorocarbon with nearly the same light refraction index as water. It virtually disappears from sight under water! It was obviously the right choice for this tournament, as Gary came out the winner, with Keith a close second.

The final PWT qualifying event was on Lake Michigan’s upper end, out of the Bays de Noc area. Trolling open water style spinners tied on 17# Vanish Fluorocarbon leaders was the important terminal end. Our reels were spooled with 10# XT and weighted with Off Shore Snap Weights, and spread out on Off Shore boards. With the water so clear, it was important to keep the weight well ahead of the spinner, which is why the Snap Weights were so effective.

Those six qualifying tournaments all lead up to the Big Show … the PWT Championship held in Michigan’s U.P. on the Keweenaw Waterway. This is Big Walleye territory, as these fish move in and out from Lake Superior. The set-up here was much the same as we used at Bay de Noc, with spinners, Snap Weights and boards trolled on mono playing key rolls. While neither of us won the Championship this go-around, we made a good showing.

We had a good season… finishing second and third in the overall "Angler of the Year" seasonal standings. A testament to consistent performances throughout the year, and "laying it on the line" so to speak, when it came to putting together the right patterns for each event. Choosing the right fishing line for each application was a key ingredient to our summer of success. Mono, FireLine, Vanish Fluorocarbon, SpiderWire Stealth and lead core … they all have a place in your walleye arsenal, even if all you ever do is troll!

Editors Note: If you have questions or comments on this or other articles from Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz, visit their website