WWYGD: Food Fight Walleyes

During the early summer flush, baitfish abound and an angler's lure or bait can get lost among the throngs of natural forage. Rather than trying to avoid a feeding frenzy, guide Jeff Sundin seeks out giant baitballs. It's what he does next that makes the difference. Get the details on his approach in this segment of "What Would Your Guide Do."

During the early summer period, walleye fishing on lakes overrun with bite-size baitfish can be an intimidating and frustrating proposition. But it doesn't have to be. In fact, such scenarios can actually work in your favor.

When swarms of forage flock to his favorite reefs, points and outside edges, veteran Northwoods guide Jeff Sundin sets his shoulders to the task at hand. "An abundant food supply can make fishing challenging," he begins. "Walleyes can feed at will, making them act lethargic and disinterested in your offerings. Plus, schools of small perch compound the problem by picking apart your live bait, stealing it piece-by-piece, and lowering your productivity."

But that doesn't mean Sundin throws in the towel. Far from it. Rather, he leans on more than 30 years of experience to connect clients with consistent catches. "By knowing that walleyes head for areas with the best feeding opportunities, anglers can use high baitfish populations to their advantage," he begins.

"Locating prime feeding spots is easy," he continues. "Gigantic schools of small perch and other baitfish frequent areas where insect hatches are in progress." On Sundin's home waters, marl-bottom, mid-depth flats host most hatches. To speed the search process, he scouts promising areas with sonar. "Clouds of insects surrounded by feeding baitfish are easy to see," he says.

Instead of dropping baits directly into the feeding frenzy, the guide slides over to nearby cover and structural sweet spots— zones that serve as staging areas for walleyes resting between raids. "Deep-water points, inside corners on main-lake breaks, and the edges of sunken islands are hot in early summer," he says. "Deep weed flats become important once vegetation fully develops."

When forage floods his favorite walleye waters, veteran guide Jeff Sundin rigs beefy baits over mid-lake staging areas.

Key depths commonly range from 16 to 22 feet, especially under calm, bright conditions. When the wind howls, however, hungry 'eyes shift shallower, often onto clam beds, mixed gravel and rock, or even hard sand adjacent to deeper, softer bottoms.

Deep or shallow, Sundin's go-to setup is a slip sinker rig sweetened with an oversize nightcrawler, leech or minnow. "Large baits get the attention of hungry walleyes, increase your chances of hooking large fish, and keep small perch at bay," he explains. 'Crawlers receive a modest injection of air behind the collar—just enough to float the bait without killing its action. Beefy minnows, such as redtail and creek chubs, are lightly hooked through the thin membrane linking nose to upper lip, for maximum lifespan and liveliness.

Sundin favors a standard 72-inch Lindy Rig Snell, with a size 6 hook for 'crawlers or leeches and a size 1/0 or larger for minnows. A banana-shaped Lindy No-Snagg is his sinker of choice. Weight averages 3/8 ounce, but is tweaked to maintain periodic bottom contact without dragging. He threads a large bead on both sides of the sinker to protect the rodtip and snell connection.

Boat speed reflects the mood of the fish, ranging from 0.5 mph for sleepy 'eyes to faster paces for more aggressive fish. When a walleye takes the bait, Sundin stifles the urge to set the hook immediately. "Often, they only grab the tail," he cautions. "Maintain subtle yet steady pressure to keep the fish interested. You'll feel light bumps as the fish works the bait into its mouth. When you feel steady weight—like the tug of a mild-mannered dog on a leash—it's time."

Contact: Jeff Sundin; jeffsundin.com, (218) 246-2375.

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