A Great Day of Filming MidWest Outdoors

It doesn’t always happen this way, but on this fine fall day in October, the sun, moon and stars aligned, so did the walleyes. It was Greg Jones, host of  MidWest Outdoors, and myself looking to create a show about fall walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods. We had decided to fish from a charter boat and use the equipment to emulate how many visitors who fish LOW would be on the water.

Our method nothing special, in fact, it was quite rudimentary to anglers here: we anchored up and jigged over the side of the boat with a jig and frozen shiner. We also used a plain jig head and hooked the frozen shiner on the jig head by putting the hook into the mouth, out the gill and threading the minnow as far up on the jig as possible and hooking it through its midsection.

This accomplished two things: the frozen shiners get a bit mushy and stay on the jig better, and when a walleye hits they have less of a chance getting just the minnow with the hook halfway back on the minnow, meaning a higher percentage of hook-sets.

Our first spot was in the northeast portion of Big Traverse Bay, which is the big, open water of LOW. We fished on a shallow flat just off of a deep trench. Once the anchor was set and we were mic’d up with the videographer was ready to roll, we dropped down our jigs.

For the next few hours, we proceeded to catch dozens of walleyes and saugers. The fish were nice keepers, just the right size for a fish fry. The sun was shining, there was a nice little chop and we caught more than enough fish for a show.

As we often try, closing the show with a big fish is always a nice touch. To pull this off, our captain decided to move to a location where there weren’t as many fish, but larger fish. We shifted locations and anchored up on the edge of a rock bar a little farther north, adjacent to one of the many islands that begin in this part of the lake called the Northwest Angle.

Fishing was not as fast, but we did start catching larger walleyes, with eaters mixed in. We basically had the show finished up and told ourselves that if we could close on a big fish, great, but already we had a great show in the bag and walleyes this day were extraordinary.

Then it happened, lifting my jig slowly off of the bottom, I felt that “wet sock” hanging on the end of my line that walleye anglers love to feel. I set the hook and the fish stayed solid. A good fish was on the line. And after a good fight and a couple of heart-palpitating runs, the fish was in the net. It was a solid 26 1/2-inch walleye with good shoulders.

Now that was a fish to close with.

With a great show in the can and plenty of time left in the afternoon, we decided to fish a while longer and take in the fresh fall air, soak in the last powerful rays of the sun for the season and simply relax. We actually caught a few more quality fish that we certainly didn’t need, but hey, the bite was on and it’s Lake of the Woods—you never know what will bite next.

As mentioned, we were using charter rods, reels and tackle. Depending upon the guide, and being at the end of the season, this can be interesting. Most guides are good about keeping equipment quality and thankfully, this guide was no different.

What we didn’t realize was that the equipment was about to be put to the test.

As we enjoyed the rest of that day, Greg set the hook with the Cherrywood rod he was using and it literally doubled over. It was one of those instances when you hold it tight to make sure it is not a rock and hope like heck it gives you a headshake or two. It did, and it was big.

When first hooked, the thought-process goes to: How is it fighting? What kind of fish is it? Is it a muskie, big pike, sturgeon or a big walleye? Normally, the big walleyes stay down and stay solid with an occasional run. This fish held true, and we were pretty sure it was a large-headed walleye. With that being said, we had been fooled before.

As he brought the fish in, it made some instantaneous strong runs. The drag screamed. Greg, not knowing how good the reel or line were, bowed with the rod to the fish as it ran. As he gained on it, we all were hoping to see big marble eyes and LOW gold.

After a few more stressful runs, the fish appeared through the stained water—it was a monster walleye.

The fish came to the surface and inched closer to the boat

“Get her Joe!” Greg exclaimed.

I swept the net underneath this beautiful girl and we had her.

Immediately, our feelings started to shift from stress to excitement and relief and reverence. Or, it was just a deep respect for a monster walleye that has probably lived in these waters for over 20 years.

After carefully hoisting this 30 1/4-inch trophy out of the net for the camera, Greg carefully lowered this big one back into the water. With one hand under her belly and the other grabbing her huge tail, Greg slowly moved her back and forth with a side-to-side motion. Within seconds, the fish responded nicely and swum out of sight, back to the depths of her home.

It doesn’t always happen that way when filming a show, but on this October day, the walleye Gods were with us. It was a day we were fortunate to get on video, and a time none of us on that charter boat will ever forget.