by Bob Jensen
I joined fishing guide Scott Madison on the Missouri River near Yankton South Dakota this past week. Due to flooding last year, some stretches of the Missouri have changed a bit. That is true on the river near Yankton. There are sand bars where there didn’t used to be sand bars. There are also fish where there didn’t used to be fish. The fish populations on the Missouri River in and around Yankton are absolutely amazing, and those fish like to get caught. Scott and I were trolling with four rods, and there were lots of times when we had three fish on at once, and a few times when all four rods were bucking. You can get in on this kind of action wherever you live if you keep a couple of things in mind. Following are those things.
We were fishing for walleyes and trolling with crankbaits. On the Missouri we were fishing in water five to 8 feet in-depth and using #5 Flicker Shad baits. The water in rivers and some lakes usually has some stain to it, and in stained water you want the bait near the bottom. If you’ll be fishing in deeper water, you’ll want to go to a larger bait that runs deeper, something like #7 Flicker Shad.
In bodies of water that have better visibility, sometimes the walleyes will run higher in the water column: They’ll suspend maybe 15 feet down over 30 feet of water. In this case you don’t want your bait on the bottom, you want it above the fish. Fish are much more likely to go up for a bait than down. Regardless of clear or stained water, you want the bait where the fish are or slightly above.
The productive area on the Missouri was very narrow so we pulled our baits directly behind the boat. We let the first line out about one hundred and 10 feet and the second line out about 80 feet. This reduced the amount of tangles we got in the lines. We did the same on the other side of the boat. We started with a different color bait on each line. It didn’t take long to determine that black/gold sunset and red tiger were the colors of the day.
The really appealing thing about this style of fishing, at least to me, is that crankbaits appeal to a wide variety of fish. We caught lots of walleyes, but also good numbers of channel catfish, sheepshead, smallmouth bass and white bass. This is just an outstanding way to have action. Anglers of all skill levels will enjoy having their rod bent frequently and by some big fish.
Two pieces of advice: Net the fish and take the hook out with a needle-nose. Crankbaits have lots of hooks, and you don’t want any of those hooks in your hand or any other part of your body. Netting the fish and using the needle-nose to remove the hooks reduce the chance of catching yourself. Frabill makes several nets that are resistant to hooks and are supportive of the fish: Get one.
A medium action seven foot Lightning Rod or Ugly Stik with 10 pound test Trilene XT line is perfect for pulling crankbaits, but a shorter or longer rod will also work well. Be sure to know how many rods you can have in the water per angler. This technique will catch fish all summer and into the fall, so you have plenty of time to give it a try. Your next time on the water would be the perfect time to employ this simple, multispecies catching method.