Plan for opener success this year


May 13, 2022

A couple of weeks ago I predicted the 2022 fishing opener could be fantastic. As the big day approaches and the weather forecast solidifies, I’m sticking to my guns. I believe the May 14th Minnesota opener will be one of the best opening days in recent memory.

For walleyes, the most predictable opener locations will be in and around spawning grounds. In lakes, focus on any rivers or inlets that dump into the main lake. Walleyes will congregate in the shallow bays and points around these spawning locations. In the absence of moving water, fish the windswept shorelines and points. If the waves and wind are stirring things up, position yourself tightly to structure and work the area with a jig and minnow or a live-bait rig. If the water is calm, make long casts and keep yourself well away from the shallows to keep from spooking fish.

If you are headed to a river for the opener, be prepared for high and fast water. The April rain, sleet, and snow have left rivers ripping along pretty good. The high, fast, and dirty water will force some adjustments to find success. For example, if you plan on using the tried and true jig and a minnow presentation, it might be a good idea to pick up some heavier jigs to help maintain bottom contact.

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I plan on fighting the current on the St. Louis River for the opener. On border waters, including the St. Louis River, you can use two lines. This will help me employ the best tool in my toolbox for high and fast water — the Dubuque rig. Purportedly developed by a river rat on the mighty Mississippi, the rig is centered around a simple three-way swivel. The rig can be configured in several ways … I plan to let the walleyes show me their preference.

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The blueprint of a Dubuque rig is pretty constant. You will need a three-way swivel tied to your mainline.

Continued on page 12 From the bottom of the three-way swivel, tie what’s referred to as a dropper line. This dropper length can be experimented with, but generally, a foot to 18 inches is a good starting point. To the bottom of the dropper, tie a heavy jig, typically ½ to ¾ oz. You can tip this jig with a minnow or plastic. The back of the swivel will hold another stretch of line called a leader. Once again, leader length can be adjusted, but two to four feet is a good place to start. Your leader can be tipped with a lighter jig, a floating jighead, or a myriad of other options. Once again, tipped with your choice of live bait or plastics.

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One variation I’m particularly looking forward to is running a small hair fly, non-tipped, on my leader. The heavy dropper will thump along the bottom, kicking up sediment as the fly undulates in the heavy current directly in the path of the stirred-up debris, too tempting for any reasonable walleye to resist.

Another take on this rig is to run a deep-diving crankbait off the leader. In this scenario, the dive curve of the crank is providing the depth, and the dropper bait is simply along for the ride. In this set-up, I will tie a smaller jig and plastic on the dropper and it will ride higher in the water column than the trailing crankbait.

All of these presentations should be worked slowly upstream on the troll, moving in and out of current breaks, inching upstream at .05 to .08 mph. The heavy jig and fly combo will also serve double duty if you anchor up and fan cast an area. Cast directly across the current and work the bait downstream from your boat, slightly pumping your rod tip, allowing the fly to dart and pulse in the current.

One last prediction, come midday on the opener, there will be two groups of river fishermen trailering up and heading home. One group will be flustered with the high, fast, and dirty water … and curse the poor fishing. The others will have come prepared for the conditions, and experience a banner year.

Decide now what group you want to be in.

Bret Baker is an award-winning outdoors columnist and lifetime resident of Cloquet. He is a proud husband, father, educator and outdoorsman. Email him at [email protected] with fishing questions or story ideas.


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