Hit the Rainy River for Monster Walleyes

The Rainy River, which feeds Lake of the Woods bordering Minnesota and Ontario, is home to some of the best walleye fishing on the planet. From the third week in March until the end of April, the walleyes are in pre-spawn/spawn and put on the feed bag in the area between Baudette, Minn. and Emo, Ont.

This is shallow-water river action at its best. Finding current breaks in this system around the slow tapering shores is the key to bigger fish, which are spread out here. You may not catch a ton, but they will be big ones. If you are after eating-size fish as well as quantity, head to the deeper breaks and use heavier jigs.

While you don’t need a large boat to fish this river, a good GPS unit and a powerful trolling motor are key. Water level and current speed dictates whether you should pull slowly upstream or slip downstream. (This can be made easier with the introduction of Minn Kota’s Terrova i-Pilot trolling motor, and others.)

With the “constant” feature, you can adjust the proper speed and hold it constant. With the autopilot you can head in a course and stay on in, regardless of changes in wind or current. And with the anchor lock feature you can lock and hold in a spot, just like dropping the anchor. If you have the upgraded link feature, when you hit the anchor lock button it will mark a GPS point on your Humminbird unit so that you can return to that hot spot quickly and easily.

Coldwater walleyes equal coldwater plastics.

While many anglers employ the traditional jig-n minnow, trophy hunters Luke Haugland and Bob Gillispie have more faith in plastics, specifically when targeting larger fish. Big bright walleye plastics, like B-Fish-N Tackle’s 3.2-inch  Pulse-R and 4-inch Moxi Ringworms, elicit hard strikes from walleyes that would barely bite your minnow. Besides the plastic, the right jig head is key to matching the fish’s mood for the day.

A heavier 3/8-ounce B-Fish-N H20 jig will keep the jig tight on the bottom where these larger fish lay belly-to-bottom. Make a pitch toward shore and slowly drag it back to the boat. Lighter weights like 1/4 or 5/16 ounce allow the ringworm to “slide” back, which is another great retrieve method. Simply cast toward shore and allow the current to slide the jig to the back of the boat and then reel in slowly. In these shallow areas, fish can be anywhere from 6 inches right up onshore to 5 feet right under the boat—it is best to have several rods rigged with different weight and color combinations.

The difference between the Moxi and traditional ringworm is the size and action. The Moxi has a huge thumper tail that creates a lot of disturbance. The body of the Moxi is fat, giving a much larger profile. The Pulse-R on the other hand, has the same body shape and size, but has a paddle tail, which is in constant motion, even at the slowest speed.

They use 6 1/2-foot rods with quick tips and spool the reels with fluorescent Power Pro Slick 20-pound-test. This ultrathin (same as 6-pound mono) gives you excellent feel of every rock your jig touches, and cuts through the water, giving minimal drag. I like the high-visibility yellow color, which allows me to see the line jump and doesn’t scare the fish in this dingy water. Top colors are Chartreuse Orange core, Chartreuse Pepper, Goldcracker with a Chartreuse tail and Chartreuse with a Green core.

While many anglers hit the ice on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake at the end of the ice-angling season, Luke and Bob will be hitting the open-water portions of the Rainy River for the biggest walleyes of the season, and so should you.

     Editor’s note: In addition to incredible spring river-walleye fishing, the Rainy River boasts a good population of sturgeon, as well as smallmouth bass. A number of public launches provide access to the river, at points all along this border water. Check Minnesota regulations, regarding species, size restrictions and fishing on an international border water. The city of International Falls, Minn. boasts excellent services and amenities for anglers and a number of hotels geared to accommodate sportsmen and their boats/trailers.   

Walt Matan and his father Poppee are the chief lure designers for Custom Jigs & Spins. For more information and to see all of Custom Jigs & Spins tackle log on to customjigs.com or call 800-831-5535 for a free, all-new catalog.