Missouri River Walleye Fishing, Feb 9-11
By Steve Gildersleeve, Heartland Walleyes
The Best laid plans. This trip originally started off as an adventure to the Nebraska Sandhills region to film us smashing panfish with a major outdoor tv show (stay tuned, we will make this happen but likely open water). When we got to the lake we planned to film on we were distraught to see it had opened up from a combination of warm temps (stimulating groundwater to flow) and our famous Nebraska winds. This show was not happening. When I travel for a trip I come prepared. We had a variety of rods, baits, tackle, and equipment. After quickly weighing our options, we decided to point the Duramax North-East towards the Missouri River near Pickstown, SD. We had heard tell of a decent walleye bite. The First morning found us a ways up the river at first light. We set up just off some deep trees in 30-40 FOW on a sharp break. The hot bait was a pink rattle spoon tipped with a minnow head. Due to a heavy action and the unique regulations of this stretch of the river (first 4 fish must be kept, no matter the size) I had iced a limit in no time flat. Well, that was easy. Now what?
My weapon of choice: a 32” Precision made by Tuned Up Custom Rods combined with an Okuma Ceymar-10 spooled with 4-pound ice braid. This is one of the best walleye rods on the market. Wonderful feel rod with enough juice to drive a hook-set in 35-40 FOW. The rest of our guys iced their fish and we called it a day. The next 2 days we opted for a different stretch of river that didn’t have the mandatory kill restriction on fish. These fish were stingy and the spoons and other baits that worked the previous day failed to produce. We finally caught our fish 2 ways: dead sticking a live minnow and downsizing to a small tungsten jig tipped with a minnow head or tiny minnow (my favorite for negative perch). A 5-gallon bucket makes for a great rod holder for your dead stick.
A few lessons to pass on from this trip. First. Be adaptable. Our first plan failed miserably due to ice conditions. Through our network of friends, we were able to save the trip and get on some fish. Bring a variety of rods and baits. You never know what you may run into. Later ice can often lead to slower fishing. We finally made the fish go by thinking outside the box and downsizing baits…drastically. Fish slow, fish small. Any sudden movements would scare the fish off in no time. For a guy who’s go-to style for walleye is fishing a #5 Rippin’ Rap in hyperdrive, this was painstaking. But its what had to be done to have success. Finally. The TUCR Precision is my favorite walleye ice rod made. It is a perfect blend of feel and backbone. Even in that deep water I could feel my bait without any issues and missed very few hook-sets. Now. Thinking of open water. Thanks for reading.