Lake of the Woods is HOT!



We started out fishing the “basin” area outside of Pine Island. Although it was still fairly fresh ice (there was still some open water only 2 days before we arrived), the ice conditions out to about 30 foot were 5 to 10 inches so we were able to get out there with sleds, ATVs and our portable Clam shelters. Many of the resorts had their first slew of permanent houses positioned from about 22 to 26 feet. We opted to get outside of them and fished 28 to 30 feet.

Note: The following is a Blog entry Keith Kavajecz did originally for NAFC. It is re-posted here with their permission.

I recently returned from a weeklong trip up at Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. I was fishing with the crew from The Next Bite (Pete Maina and Jim Hudson) for the first few days, followed up by filming an episode for the Ice Team with members Jeff Andersen, Jason Mitchell and Pete Maina.

We started out fishing the “basin” area outside of Pine Island. Although it was still fairly fresh ice (there was still some open water only 2 days before we arrived), the ice conditions out to about 30 foot were 5 to 10 inches so we were able to get out there with sleds, ATVs and our portable Clam shelters. Many of the resorts had their first slew of permanent houses positioned from about 22 to 26 feet. We opted to get outside of them and fished 28 to 30 feet.

Unlike what you often hear about ice fishing where you have to “drill, drill, drill” we realized quickly that this basin area (a gradual tapering area with no structure around) was holding a lot of roving walleyes. It seemed more productive to just set up in an area and let the fish come to us. We would experience waves of activity as a small school would pass through our area – and it wasn’t more than 15 minutes or so and another wave might swim buy. There were lots of fish from the 14 to 18 inch range including walleye and sauger. Every once in a while a big girl would come in for some action and we caught many fish each day over the 20 inch mark. Smaller fish also kept us busy – but hey – sure made the time go quick when trying to entice those marks on my fish finder (a Lowrance Elite 5) to become a fish on my hook.

My best setup was a combo that gave me a one two punch. On one rod I was using a jigging spoon called a “Stop Sign”. Basically a flat sided spoon that is wider in the middle than on the top and bottom. The best color was Fluorescent Pink with a Gold back – in the low light periods I would put it under a light to getting it really glowing. I used this setup to draw fish in and get them interested. Kind of like a jab – the lure was moving most of the time trying to call fish in.

The cadence I was using was a little off the wall – but really seemed to get the fish coming in aggressively. I would drop the spoon all the way to the bottom and let it sit there 10 seconds. I know that’s a long time of inactivity for a spoon but when I would pop it up off the bottom about 18 inches many times I would instantly see a line come up from the bottom and rise to the level of the spoon. By the way, this “line” is how a fish looks on an LCD unit like the Elite 5. Often it starts out as just a widening of the bottom, but eventually it separates from the bottom and turns different colors based on how big the fish is.

Once I lifted the Stop Sign 18 inches I worked the spoon aggressively but moving it up and down probably less than an inch. Probably 3 or 4 pops per second to get the spoon dancing, but more importantly the hook and minnow head are darting around and tempting the walleyes to bite. I was using one of the new Next Bite Walleye Weapon rods – 28” and Medium Heavy action spooled up with 8 pound Berkley Nanofil and a 2 foot 100% Fluorocarbon 5 pound test leader to impart the correct action. If the fish didn’t bite quickly at 18 inches up, I would aggressively pull the spoon away from the fish up about 2 feet and start jiggling again. If it would follow I would repeat this action, pulling it higher and higher. Many times the fish to rise half way up the water column before it would bite – really cool!

On my other rod (the knockout punch) I was setting up a dead rod. Basically just setting a 1/8 ounce pink and white jig head about 12 inches off the bottom and letting it sit. I was tipping this with 2 fat head minnows – a larger one was hooked through the mouth and out the back just behind the head and a second smaller minnow was just plucked on through the bottom of the head and out the top. This “stacking” or “twin tailing” gave me a little larger profile and gave the bait 2 tails to move and entice the fish to bite.

If I saw one of those fish finder “lines” move off the bottom and stop at the level of the jig but not immediately bite, I would grab the dead rod and instantly pull it up 2 feet – you would be amazed at how quickly the walleyes and sauger would chase up and give a nice “tick” bite. Super Fun!

The biggest thing we changed for the Ice Team shoot was that the ice thickened up enough for us to venture out a long way out into Lake of the Woods to the structure by Knights and Bridges. We used basically the same techniques, but found that early in the day (and late in the afternoon) the fish hung out more on top of the structure (25 to 28 foot) and during the day were often cruising just outside the structure in 32 to 34 feet. So up there lots of holes were important – I’m just glad Jeff Anderson and Jason Mitchell liked to drill for everyone!

Our first shoot will be airing on The Next Bite TV show which airs on NBC Sports. The schedule for airing can be found at www.thenextbite.com. The Ice Team episode will be available in a couple weeks on www.iceteam.com. For the Ice Team episode, if you are member of Ice Team ($5 annual fee with a bunch of perks) you will get first shot at seeing the episode before it become available to the general public.

So Lake of the Woods is on fire. For the last several years – winter or summer – it has been a fish factory. As my mom used to say for breakfast – Come and get it while it’s HOT.