BY MARK CAHLIK
The Lake Erie Walleye Trail’s unique Cast & Jig Open held on Saturday, Saturday, April 15 at Bay’s Edge Bait & Tackle in Port Clinton challenged walleye fishermen to rely on old-time tactics to hook up with today’s trophy fish.
The modern trolling techniques typical in the LEWT tournaments were banned for this tournament, and the results don’t count in the season LEWT standings. But 63 teams took the challenge and were limited to the old-fashioned drift and cast techniques that were developed decades ago to catch fish during the heart of the walleye spawning season.
What the Cast & Jig Open did prove is that walleye experts still fondly remember targeting the shallow Lake Erie spawning reefs and that they still know how to catch those walleye, especially the big female walleye.
The teams of walleye anglers also proved that the schools of spawning walleye are far more spread out than in the good, old days. Tournament anglers raced from Port Clinton to tackle spawning walleye from the Detroit River all of the way east to Lorain, where a team led by Jimmy Bowman of Wooster relied on Jiggin’ Raps to hook the winning limit of five walleye weighing 36.23 pounds, winning $15,080.
Completing the squad of five anglers were Nate Bowman, John Yoder, Jason Kurtz and Mike Kiem. Their limit of five walleye didn’t win by much, nipping Joseph Gibson’s team weight of 36.10 pounds and John Hershberger’s team total of 34 pounds.
When the windy weather straightened out going into the tournament weekend, the good fishing started with a bang and some impressive catches of walleye. The jig bite has been going strong around the Western Lake Erie reefs and around Gull Shoal, with anglers targeting 15 to 18 feet of water with 3/4- to 1-ounce hair jigs tipped with minnows.
The party fishing boats that dock in Port Clinton have been bringing limits of walleye back to the docks by casting jigs.
Trolling has been working quite well northwest of Kelleys Island and D Can. Trolling speeds have been 1.2 to 1.8 miles per hour with lures running 40 to 80 feet behind the boat. The Dead-Eye diving plug has been hot, and so have the Bandit and Smithwick crankbaits. The Dead-Eye Crank Bait is going to be the Official Lure for The Fall Brawl this year.