We’re Going Vertical
Going Vertical sounds cool, doesn’t it? It kind of sounds like something you would hear on a ski slope or on the X-games. Just think how cool your kids will think you are when they hear you say, “We’re hitting the water and going vertical.” Just hearing that makes me want to fire up my 225 Merc. and start jumping barge waves. My mind says yes, but my body says no more doctor bills. Webster defines vertical as, “directly overhead, or in the zenith; upright or perpendicular.” That sounds a lot safer than when I hear the athletes talk about it during the Winter X Games!
Getting vertical is, by far, the best way to get on a school of fish that have been pushed deep with the arrival of winter, or during the early spring spawn, or following a cold front. Schools of Walleye, Sauger and other game fish tend to seek out the deepest holes in any lake or river when the water temperatures fall quickly or during the winter or early spring. Along with the fish seeking out deeper water, their metabolism starts slowing, often causing them to become lethargic and almost to the point of not feeding at all. When this happens, your presentations must follow suit. Get deep and get slow. The best way to accomplish this is to stay right on top of them until you find out what they want. Think of it like ice fishing without ice. You locate fish, drill a hole, and present small jigs and spoons very slowly to entice a hit. Although it sounds simple, mother nature will make sure you are fighting a 20 mile per hour wind and a 7 mile per hour current, thus, making it next to impossible to put a 1/4-ounce jig down in 25 feet of water. Now I said next to impossible, not impossible! Boat control is the key to making a good vertical presentation a great fish catching tool. The key word here is control. Let’s see what Webster has to say on that word. “To have under command; to regulate to check.” Unlike the ice, the boat is always moving. Whether from the current or wind gusts, you are not going to stay vertical unless you keep the boat in check. To do this, you must first have the proper equipment. You will need a good set of electronics. Most units, when equipped with a trolling motor transducer, work quickly to update you on depth and where the school is holding.
The second piece of equipment you will need is a good electric trolling motor. I see hundreds of boats on the water each year, and for some reason, they have the biggest power plant they can get on back, but an undersized electric on the bow. Now I cannot figure that one out since 95% of their time spent out fishing is in the bow on the electric motor. I guess what I am trying to say is get the biggest electric trolling motor you can afford, even if it means you have to drop a couple of horses off the back to do it. I run a 36-volt Minn Kota on the bow of my Targa. I have a good trolling motor and good electronics. Now I know I am forgetting something. Oh well, let’s get on the water. “The wind is picking up, as is the current, and I am having a hard time keeping vertical. Turn up the speed on the trolling motor,” my fishing companion says from the back of the boat. “It is up,” I said. I know what I forgot, a good set of batteries and charger. Don’t laugh. I have seen even the most seasoned veterans go dead in the water. All of the best electric powered equipment in the world is not worth a hoot without the juice to keep it running. Be sure to have your batteries checked before every season and, by heaven’s sake, invest in a good charger. The nice thing about a high-end charger is that they have LED read outs on the charger that enables you to monitor the batteries’ status throughout its charging phase. Most also come with a feature which enables me to keep it plugged in all winter without fear of burning up my batteries, so I don’t have to worry about them over the hard water times. The last necessary piece of equipment is the jigging rod. If you spend money on one rod in your boat, it should be the jigging rod, not a limber rod and not a soft rod, but an 85 million modular rod. I have access to all name brands of rods, but to this day, I swear by my Bass Pro Shops Signature Rods. I use the 7-foot model with a fast tip, sometimes I swear I can feel a walleye just swimming past my jig! The spinning reels are small and light weight filled with 6 lb. mono; I do not use stretch braids. They are more sensitive when working vertical, I tend to pull the baits from their mouths with the hook sets. Mono has a little stretch that seems to help when fish are hitting light or on the stinger hook when using the high modular stiff jigging rods.
Vertical jigging is done by using your trolling motor to offset the wind and current. In a lake, it is fairly simple since wind is the major element to contend with. Here is a little tip to remember. ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR LINE. The direction the line is pointing is the way the current and wind affects the boat movement. Match trolling motor speed to catch up with the line, thus matching the boat drift speed which enables you to stay vertical. Another good tip to remember is when you are running and spot fish on your electronics, they are behind you in your path of travel unless you are using electronics such as live scope type instant response units, but most electronics can only process information sent from the transducer so fast. So, slow down and back track your trail until you see them again before throwing your marker or hitting a way point on your GPS. The first marker or way point works as a reference. Be prepared to set another way point or toss a marker when the first fish is boated. Now, let’s go one step tougher and throw in a nice cross current to an already windy day similar to that found on a river. River fishermen call vertical presentations, slipping the current. Slipping is a technique in which you run upstream of the school and position your boat in the path as to pass over the top of the stationary school. This is done by pointing the bow of your boat into the wind and matching the current speed. I mark a school of fish using a visual reference point on the shore, such as a bridge, water tower, or maybe a fallen tree, along with the specific depth the fish were holding on my electronics. This sounds quite primitive with the electronics available to today’s fishermen, but I guarantee it is quite effective. Think of your presentation this way. Say I strip you down to your underwear and send you outside in the frigid cold. Now, I let you get good and cold……..then run past you holding a cheeseburger. Chances are pretty good you are not going to move, but say I walk by you very slowly with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee holding it so still the steam fills your nostrils. Nine times out of ten you will grab the cup of hot chocolate……Make sense? With a little practice, you too can fish one of the deadliest presentations known to the early spring or late winter Sauger and Walleye world. So, hold on were GOING VERTICAL!
I have already started filling the book for ice out muskies. With 12 inches of ice on the lakes, the book will have to be reworked as soon as I see an end to the ice in sight. So, if you want on board, you better call. I have filled all my dates for the last 3 years for some of the hottest muskie action the year has to offer. You can get ahold of me by calling 309-267-8309 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
SEE ‘YA ON THE WATER!