The Fox Chain O’Lakes: The Busiest Waterway in America or the Busiest ‘Walleyeway’ in America

The 10-foot noodle rod bent over double. The walleye was fighting and the drag was squealing. The 9.9 kicker kept chugging forward and Cowboy Kevin was reeling in lures and tossing poles up to the front of the boat.

“Get the net. Get the net,” he said. Kevin swooped and the fish was in. High-fives all around—a 29-inch walleye was in the boat!

No big deal, a few pictures, a quick release and back to trolling on the Fox Chain O’Lakes. It was prime time and the feeding window was about to close. Two more walleyes were caught, a 14-inch and a 17-1/2-inch, and then a decision was made.

“Let’s drop the Minn Kota and pitch jigs.”

We had caught all the fish in a small stretch trolling, and jigging made sense. But would the fish cooperate?

Kevin’s 5-foot rod bent over and I netted another 17-incher.

“Man, imagine the fight if you could have gotten that 29-incher on that teeny rod.”

The imagining was over as Kevin’s battle began. The rod bent. He was steering the fish and then we got a glimpse.

“She’s a big’n,” he said. I grabbed the net and she swam right in and the jig popped out. It was another 29-incher. It was our best 45 minutes on the water ever on the Fox Chain. It was May 5. All in all, we caught five fish including two 29-inchers with an estimated total five-fish weight of 23 pounds, not bad at all.

But don’t think that it was easy; the Fox Chain is the busiest waterway in America. There is a ton of fishermen and pleasure craft mucking things up on a daily basis. You have to not be scared of a ton of boats, know fish patterns and how to troll and jig. Other than that, it’s simple!

We choose Flicker Shads, Wally Divers and Salmo Hornet for trolling.

Fortunately, they are all numbered by size. Nines are the largest and dive the deepest, 7s are fish killers and 5s are for long lining. The key is to get these lures to tick bottom every once and a while. A line counter reel will help you identify how far back you need to go.

When you long line, let out 40 feet and a number 5 crankbait. You can drop the 7 back about 25 feet and you’re in business, or you can grind a 9 out at about 20 foot back. It all works, as long as you troll the breaks from 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 feet deep. But if you’re Cowboy Kevin, you do it all at once. Run the 9s off rod holders in the front of the boat, 7s in the middle and 5s bringing up the rear. Watch out for snags and be ready for tangles…giddy up Cowboy!

If you can find a pod of fish, you might want to slow down and jig. Right now, this month, the hot ticket is a 1/8-ounce B-Fish-N H20 jig in parrot color. You’ll want to add a half ‘crawler and pitch the jig up shallow. Three feet, two feet, one foot, six inches; don’t be scared, the fish are shallow, my friend.

Fox Lake, Pistakee and Marie are hot for walleyes. If you can’t find fish there, head to the weeds. You can find good weeds in Pistakee, Bluff, Marie, and of course, Channel and Catherine. Here you want to position the boat a cast away from the weed edge and kind of stick the jig in the weeds and pull it free. Gulp! 3-inch minnows or half ‘crawlers will do the trick on those B-Fish-N jigs!

This month is walleye month. You will have to figure out your own spots, but here are a few tips. If it rains and there is current, find current areas; bridges, channels between lakes and the river will all have current. Fish the windblown shores. Basically, the hardest place to fish is where the fish will be. And finally, troll, troll, troll. Eventually, you will pick up a walleye and you can figure out a pattern.

Walt Matan designs lures for Custom Jigs & Spins: or 800-831-5535. He is also co-owner of Water Werks marine in Naperville, Ill. To buy a boat or tackle from Walt, call 630-393-0100 or You can also visit the WaterWerks store at: 18660 S. Cicero Ave., Country Club Hills, 708-798-9700;