Fish Blades for Early Potholes Walleye

Potholes Reservoir is currently locked up with more ice than the lakes seen in quite a few years. It’s been awful chilly in Eastern Washington since early December and that bout of cold weather continues to this day. So why are we talking about walleye then?

The second the ice comes off Washington’s Potholes Reservoir and the boat launches are finally useable again you’ll find a group of hardcore anglers hitting the reservoir in search of walleye. It could be another month or so before that happens but when it does it pays to be ready.

One of those anglers is longtime walleye guide Shelby Ross of Shelby lives on Potholes Reservoir and has guided for walleye and waterfowl on the lake for years.

When the ice burns off and you’re itchin’ to hit the lake here’s a few tips from the master himself that will put some early season walleye in your frying pan this spring.

Find the Bait, Find the Walleye

There’s no shortage of drop-off’s and humps in Potholes Reservoir and Shelby will hit as many as twenty of them in a day until he finds one loaded up with bait. He targets humps and ledges in 25 to 50 feet of water until he finds one that’s holding a bunch of bait. If the sonar screen looks promising he’ll toss a marker bouy out and keep cruising to see if there’s anything else in the vicinity.

Some of the areas that he’ll scope out first are the rock shelves around Goose Island, the north shoreline just west of Linn Coulee and the deep humps near the mouth of Crab Creek. These are all staging areas for the spawn and walleye are usually feeding in these areas in the months and weeks leading up to the spawn.

Once he’s got a good handle on exactly where the bait is he’ll stop the boat and start casting blade baits into the shallow water and work them out into deeper water. He say’s he’ll know instantly how good it is if they start catching perch right away. Find the perch and you’ve found the walleye.

The technique is somewhat simple to master but of course it does have it’s nuances. Shelby uses 1/2 ounce blades eighty percent of the time and has a few 3/8 and 3/4 ounce blades on board if he needs to switch up. If the walleye are just rattling the blades and they are missing a lot of hookups he’ll switch to a lighter 3/8 ounce blade first to give the lure a little slower fall. That usually produces a more aggressive strike and if that doesn’t work he’ll try the 3/4 ounce blade.

Position the boat on the deep end of the drop off and cast the blades up onto the shallow end of the ledge or hump. The lure should fall into about 25 to 30 feet of water. Once they hit the bottom start working them down the face of the ledge. He likes to work the jig up about a foot and then let it fall back to the bottom with the strikes always occurring on the drop. If you feel anything subtle or different about the action of the blade set the hook!

Make Your Own Blade Baits

Snagging up on the bottom is inevitable with this technique, so bring plenty of blades with you. Shelby spends some time in the winter months making up his own blade baits to cut the cost down a bit. He buys 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 ounce nickel plated blades from Jann’s Netcraft and then adds the prism tape and hooks to finish them. His favorite prism tape colors are chartreuse, red, and silver and on any given day one can be hotter than the other.

He prefers to run Mustad split shank treble hooks on his blades because they greatly reduce the number of tangles. Blade baits with split rings are a tangle waiting to happen. Mustad split shank trebles are extremely sharp and they are easy to install on the blades.

Rig up for Success

Shelby likes a spinning rod in the eight foot range with a fast action. The sensitive tip allows him to feel the action of the blade and the backbone slams the hook home when a walleye picks up the blade. They can be surprisingly subtle and a sensitive rod tip definitely helps feel the bite.

He uses a Daiwa Excelor 2500 series reel spooled with 10 pound Power Pro braid. 10 pound Power Pro has the diameter of 2 pound test monofilament and it’s great for casting blade baits a country mile. The extremely small diameter line allows his guests to feel the action of the blade and contact with the bottom in water as deep as 50 to 60 feet.

He’ll attach a barrel swivel to the end of the braid and then he runs a bumper of six inches of 15 pound fluorocarbon between the swivel and the blade bait. The short section of flourocarbon is easy to cast, reduces tangles, and has some abrasion resistance against the blade bait and treble hooks.

Walleye don’t fair well when they’re caught out of deep water and it’s usually not possible to “high grade” fish when they’re caught in excess of twenty feet of water. If you land on the walleye in deep water keep your limit and head for the barn.

This has been one of the coldest winters in Eastern Washington in nearly a decade and Potholes has been locked up with ice since mid-December. When the ice finally comes off the lake though you can bet there will be walleye willing to jump all over a blade bait. Give some of Shelby’s tips a try and with any luck you’ll go home with some fresh walleye.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Customizing My Shelton Rockfish Release Device

This past summer the Alaska Department of Fish and Game required all charter fishing vessels in Southeast Alaska to carry a rockfish release mechanism on board at all times. Since I own such a vessel in Craig, Alaska it was apparent I was going to have to change how we do things on the bottomfish grounds. No problemo!

If you’re not familiar with what happens to a rockfish when it comes up from depth they usually suffer from barotrauma, also known as “The Bends”. If they aren’t descended rapidly the chances of a rockfish making it back to the bottom are slim to none.

In several conversations I had with Puget Sound Anglers president Ron Garner last winter he continued to mention the Shelton Fish Descender as a viable option to meet the new standard. They were relatively inexpensive and after checking the SFD’s out online I quickly figured out a way to customize them to make them easier to use.

The online instructions looked simple enough, but I immediately recognized how tangled up the whole mess could get in heavy seas with braided bottomfish lines sweeping under the boat. And, I wouldn’t have much time to get a rockfish hooked up and hauling ass back down to depth before I was off to tend to another rod on deck. On most days there’s little time for tinkering.

This is what I came up with. A 2 pound pipe jig with the SFD descender poured directly into the top of the jig. When Dad was building my pipe jigs last spring I had him pour me a jig with the Shelton Fish Descender poured into the jig.

Since two pounds is only sufficient to sink your average-sized rockfish I added a split ring and a three way spiral swivel to the bottom of the jig so that I could add more weight as needed. The weights that I added to the pipe jig were 2 pound square leads that don’t roll around the side trays when the boat is underway.

Smaller sized yelloweye rockfish, for instance, would usually take around 4 pounds of weight to get them to descend. Larger yelloweye in the 12 to 15 pound range would descend with two additional two pound leads spun onto the swivels making the jig a total of 6 pounds.

In speaking with Garner he told me that yelloweye rockfish larger than that would take 8 pounds or more to get them down. I had small lanyards rigged up just in case I needed more than 6 pounds of total weight, but I never needed them.

Overall the performance of this device was quite sufficient after I got the hang of using it. The key was to hook up the rockfish and send it downward and keep it going in one continuous motion, otherwise the fish would slide off the needle and I would have to retrieve the fish and start over. Having the bail open and ready to roll was crucial to making this work.

After some practice I could rapidly get a rockfish onto the needle and back down to depth in short order. I had a spare halibut rod on board with a large Penn 345 reel attached to it that could handle the heavy weight of this device.

Unless I find a better device for the summer of 2014 I plan on pouring more SFD’s into pipes that weigh 2, 4, and 6 pounds that can quickly be deployed onboard the “Polar Bear”. A small rack of these pipe jig descenders would greatly simplify this task.

If you’ve done some tweeking to your own rockfish descenders to make them more effective I’m all ears. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on the Outdoor Line forums. There’s a great learning environment on the OL forums and the only ones that get lit up are…well…us!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


How to Make a Durable Yarnie for Steelhead

There is obviously more then one way to tie a yarnie. When it comes to creating Steelhead lures I want to be certain of two things. One, what I am using needs to look and perform as I envisioned it and two, I want to make sure it’s durable.

Having confidence in what you are offering and not having to worry if it looks good or is fishing right takes some of the guess work out of it. Something as simple as a yarnie is no different.

The easiest way to create a yarnie, or as my buddies in Idaho refer to it “fishin fuzz”, is to simply put two or three colors of yarn in your egg loop. This actually works pretty good, but eventually it seems to always come out of the loop.

I like to take a few extra steps to create a yarnie that has great color and will fish well. To do this I first select three or four colors of yarn. To make it easier to work with and keep the yarn together I pull it through something. I usually use an old slinky-shot bottle cap, but an oversize straw also works well.

I hold the cap in my hand and with a couple of inches of yarn pulled out I use some of Altlas Mikes Miracle Thread and do a simple multi-wrap. I go at least 10 to 12 times around the yarn and then just simply pull it tight and break it off. Theres no need to tie or half-hitch with this stuff. This stretchy thread works great and stays in place once it’s pulled tight.

The next step is simple, just cut it off. I usually will cut it at least ½ to ¾ of an inch on each side of the thread.

By pulling the strands of yarn and flatening out the circle I basically form it into a flat disc of yarn. Next I cut and trim it to the size I want.

Once trimmed up I have a flat disc of multi-color yarn that I need to now form into a ball. By pulling on the yarn, as if to separate it, I basically turn it into a ball. Finally I place it in the palm of my hand and roll it around between my two palms as if I was making a mud-ball. You’ll be surprised at how well this works.

Depending on how large I make the yarn-ball or perhaps where I might be fishing helps me decide which size hook to select. I usually will tie on either a double hook rig with Mustad #4’s or a single or double hook rig with size #2’s. Either way it’s on Mustad hooks and between the yarn and those hooks the fish are not coming off.

The bonus you have when tying yarnies with the magic thread is the solid center. The tight center of the yarn-ball makes it so that once its on your leader its not coming off.

When tying double hook rigs I’ll tie on the bottom hook first. Then I will use a sewing needle and thread the leader through the tight center of the yarnie. Slide the yarn all the way down to the top of your first hook. Then simply tie on your second hook, much like tying a dual hook cheater rig for side drifting.

That’s it, a durable yarnie on a double hook rig, “Deeadly”. I usually leave the yarnies a little big. If I want to use them on a river that’s a little high and off color I have a larger profile. Once I trim them small, that’s it, I can’t make them bigger. I can always trim them on the river.

Don’t forget to take a little extra time and mix yourself up some NAK; Nectar, Anise, Krill. If you aren’t sure how to make it, follow this link to my NAK blog and you’ll be set. Yarnies fish good on their own, but they are deadly effective with a little scent on them.

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Droppin’ the “Hammer”!

When we're not mooching for ocean fresh salmon here in Craig, Alaska we're banging the ocean floor for halibut, ling cod, yelloweye, and whatever else happens to climb on. Jigging is by far my favorite technique for catching halibut and bottomfish because it creates a commotion down below that fish can't resist.

One of the jigs that I had Papa Endsley build for me this winter is a pipe jig we call the "Hammer" because it clangs, bangs, and rattles every time it hits the ocean floor. Pipe jigs have been around for years and after some discussion with top Washington charter captain Mike Jamboretz, owner of Jambo's Sportfishing, and several other saltwater captains we decided to proceed with construction of some new jigs in dads shop.

In addition to the noise factor pipe jigs also emit a slight positive electrical charge that has been proven to attract fish. Add a salmon belly strip, a little halibut skin soaked in Pautzke Nectar, or any other bait strip to this jig and you've got a lethal combination for hammering bottomfish and halibut.

Here's a recipe for making these jigs yourself:

Jambo's 2 Pound Pipe Jig

9 1/2" 3/4" ID Copper Pipe

Lead and melting pot

1 inch long 1/8" cotter pins

#10 split rings

250 lb swivels

10/0 to 12/0 Mustad treble hooks

Delta Tackle Giant Skirts

Building the "Hammer"

Once the pipe is cut to length press approximately 3/4 of an inch of one end closed and drill a 1/4" hole for the heavy split ring and swivel that will go on top of the jig later. Fill a bucket with sand and press the jigs into the sand so that just the end of the jig is showing above the sand with the open end up. Fill the jigs with lead from the melting pot and once they are cool remove them and add another batch if needed.  

After the jigs are cooled drill a 1/8th inch hole approximately 4 inches down from the top. This placement will allow the hook to swing both up and down on the jig without catching on the mainline or onto the bottom of the jig. Add #10 split rings to both ends of 250 pound swivel and place the hook on one split ring and add the cotter pin to the other. Next pull a hoochie skirt over the first split ring above the hook. The Delta giant hoochie skirts come as a double skirt and we pull the skirts apart to get four skirts out of each package of two. Slide the cotter pin thru the hole that was drilled in the pipe and bend the ends over to hold the pin and hook in place. Add a #10 split ring and swivel to the top of the jig and it's "Hammer" time!

To build a lighter 16 ounce jig use 8 1/2 inches of 1/2 inch ID copper pipe and use the same formula to build the jig, using 10/0 Mustad treble hooks. In Southeast, where it's common to release numerous chicken halibut in a days fishing, I've gone to a 10/0 Mustad siwash hook that makes releasing fish much easier. These lighter jigs work excellent in water as deep as 350 plus feet. Any deeper than that and a heavier jig is the way to go. 

If giant hoochies aren't available add some glow tape to the "Hammer" to give it added visibility on the ocean floor. I've experimented with jigs that have a swivel attached to the hook and ones that don't and prefer the swivel, as ling cod and sometimes halibut will twist after they are hooked. One other trick is to sand or use a wire brush on the surface of the jigs occasionally to get rid of any surface oxidation. These jigs are a killer for both bottomfish and halibut!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

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