I learned how to walleye fish at Belview Ia, at dam 12 tailwaters. My first trip I didn’t know anything, just used a 1/4 jig and minnow. I noticed about everyone else was back trolling with their motor, pulling 3-way rigs, a red bead and a minnow. In the pocket, the corner by the dam, there was about 10-15 boats anchored. Since there was so many they couldn’t hardly cast so most everyone jigs vertically jigged.
I did try the 3-way and did ok, but I’m not much for following the crowd and soon was doing my own thing and things were about to change at Belview. I liked the pocket and further down the bank. There was a rock pile that split the area into two sections, but the plowed it down in about 1985. I preferred to troll with an electric motor, much better boat control than the gas motor. Back then the trolling motors didn’t have much power, about 28# thrust, so I had one set up on the back as well and used a car dimmer switch to activate it from up front, giving me 56# thrust when needed.
I liked to follow the ledges, trying to stay at a certain depth, and find corners, drop offs, V’s or what ever and that is usually where the fish would show up, so I would just repeat the pass. Now since there was 15 boats anchored all over I had to speed up running between them and found that would catch fish, so I would race around following the ledges, dodging the boats and pulling in one fish after the other.
Well it wasn’t long and no one anchored anymore. Most still couldn’t figure out what I was doing but they tried. Everyone shared the water, made passes and let others move through. These days guys race in and lock their trolling motor gps right on the spot, and you know what that gets you, nothing. They are going backwards, back to the old days of anchoring on the fish without catching much. But hey, at least they don’t have to watch anyone else catch fish there.
I did still back troll on the flats when the pocket got slow. Trolling motors started getting bigger so everyone pretty much went electric instead of gas motors. I never did like the bead technique so came up with my own rigs. Like a heavy jig for a weight and a floater attached to the 3-way, or just stuck with the jig. Years later I liked the crankbaits better, especially when there was small fish stripping the baits. I always did ok and sometimes the tailwaters were the only place to fish. In the warmer months I always fished for bass. I remember an old timer telling me he preferred wingdams, but I just laughed to myself, I was catching 30-50 fish a day and most were averaging 3 pounds. But I was wrong, I could have been catching big walleye the whole time and not having to fight the crowds. So in about 1992 that’s what I did, stuck with wingdams pretty much all the time and only fished tailwaters when the river would freeze.
People always wondered why I always fished one wingdam. I was experimenting and learning bout where the fish can be caught and how they move through. I might spend 4 hours not catching anything, but then a school of fish would move through and I would have 10 in 30 minutes. I would say just about everyday, some time or other, fish would move through. I’m glad I did that but if only I had known what I know now. I could have been catching big walleye on wingdams all over the river and had it top myself. These days it’s hard to find fish that haven’t been jerked a hundred times because of so many tournament anglers and other fisherman.
I still have a lot to learn and I have been doing it for decades. I waste a lot of time experimenting or just messing around looking. I don’t go after the bite like everyone else, I just enjoy being out and prefer to stay away from tailwater crowds. One thing I know is that there is no guaranteed anything. The fish are either biting or their not, there either there or somewhere else. It could be the middle of the day in bright sun, early mornings, late afternoons, cold fronts, warm fronts, east or west winds, you just don’t know unless you get out there. You might have to fish all day waiting for a school to move through, and maybe they won’t. Or maybe they’re biting down river, or up river. In the fall the fish are moving, so here one day, gone the next. If you wait long enough, they will probably move through no matter where you are, just pick an area you like to fish. If you must have action, join the crowds at the tailwaters.
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