For a competitive fisherman like Zak Jobes, the ability to attract walleyes, trigger strikes, and then bring every fish successfully to the net means the difference between a large prize-money check and a small one — or no check at all.
Weekend anglers might not have as much at stake as the Smithwick brand ambassador does when they head onto the water, but their goal is the same. So, it only makes sense that they be just a serious about sweating the details.
Here are 6 that are sure to make your next big-water trolling experience more productive.
1. Sharpen Hooks
It’s the most important thing an angler can do, according to Jobes. Even a slightly dull point tends to slide a little before digging in, which could be the difference between a hit and a miss. Each point on every one of a jerkbait's treble hooks should begin to penetrate the instant it touches mouth tissue. “And most often it’s not the fish that dulls the point,” he said. “It’s what happens to it in the tackle tray or when you’re removing the hook from a fish’s jaw. I use a small hand file and give each point 3 or 4 licks — until it sticks when I test it on my fingernail.”
2. Inspect Split Rings
A minnow-body crankbait like the Smithwick Perfect 10 Rouge has 4 split rings — one for each of the lure’s three treble hooks, plus one on the line-tie at the nose. And though it’s unlikely, a split ring can become bent or slightly sprung. “Again, 9 times out of 10, it happens when the walleye is in the net, or when you’re trying to remove the lure from its mouth.”
As mentioned, split ring damage is rare, but still Jobes inspects them after landing a large fish, especially if it had wrapped itself in the net. He also recommends anglers trade in their standard needle-nose pliers for a split-ring needle-nose, explaining that it makes it more likely they’ll replace a defective part then and there.
3. Watch The Lure
Before letting a lure back into the trolling spread, the angler takes a few seconds to watch it swim next to the boat. “You’re making sure that it’s running straight and true — not tracking on direction or the other, or swimming on a tilt,” he said. “It takes just a couple of seconds and beats dragging a lure that’s not likely to trigger a strike.”
4. Use A Snap And Ring
Some anglers may disagree, but Jobes always ties a plain duo-lock snap (not a snap swivel) to the terminal end of the line. Likewise, each Rogue is outfitted with a split ring on the nose. The snap allows him to change lures quickly, a must when he’s dialing in size and color preferences. “And the split ring just allows the lure to swim with a more natural action,” he added.
5. Add Attractant
Jobes always applies scent attracting to his minnow baits for one simple reason. “They just tend to attract more strikes,” he explained. Just as important, however, is that he cleans each lure with a Fish-D-Funk wipe before stowing it back in the tackle tray. “A build up of scent residue can discolor the lure,” he said, “plus, it helps keeps the tackle box clean.”
6. Ensure Repeatability
The ability to accurately repeat a productive presentation is critical to big-water trolling success. “You need to be able to quickly set a lure to run at the same depth where you just caught a fish,” explained Jobes. Using marked or metered line is one way to do it; Jobes relies on line-counter reels, however.
“I go the extra step and calibrate my reels,” he added, “because I think it’s that important.” If the spool contains too much or too little line, the counter won’t display an accurate reading, he explained. So, when filling a reel, he checks the display against a measured 100 feet of line and adds or subtracts line as needed.
Paying attention to details can make a big difference in any endeavor. And when it comes to trolling for walleyes, these details are worth sweating over.