The Masters Walleye Circuit will be making a return visit to famed Devils Lake, North Dakota, on August 2nd and 3rd. The circuit has been there several times so most anglers will be pretty familiar with the waters. But this year they will all be tossed a curve ball, a change in the rules. In a departure from walleye tournament norms, no natural, live or prepared baits—including minnows, leeches or night crawlers—will be allowed for the tournament. Only man-made baits will be fair game, including soft plastics, Berkley Gulp!-type products, crank baits, spinners and other artificial presentations. The big question is, how will anglers adapt to conquer the Devil?
“A large, lively leech dangling under a slip bobber has been the bread and butter for those tying up in the flooded timber”, says Ranger/Mercury Pro, Don Denning. The 2011 & 2012 back to back Devils Lake Regional, Angler Young Angler champion shares his thoughts on how the new “no live bait” rule will affect teams. “The artificial only rule won’t totally eliminate the bobber bite, it will make it more challenging. If we are able to get a little ripple on the lake, slip bobbers can still be a factor”. Anglers will need to look hard for those baits that are soft and supple. Tails need to be able to twitch with just a slight movement from the main line and bobber. Some of the baits we will see used include the new Berkley Power Bait Twitchtail Minnow, Gulp Leechs, Northland Tackle’s Impulse Jiggn Leech and Jig Crawler.
Other popular live bait tactics will have to be adjusted as well. Anglers in recent years have been putting more focus on the legendary Dakota tactic of bottom bouncing on Devils Lake with a spinner and crawler. Focusing on medium to deep weed edges, a favorite choice of bottom bouncer last year was the Northland Slick Stick. Made from a virtually snag free 12” stainless rod, it transmits signals from the bottom very well when rigged with a super line like 14lb Berkley Fireline or 15lb Northland Bionic Braid. Bottom bouncers allow for many different presentations such as pulling a spinner crawler harness rigged up with the new Berkley Gulp! Alive! Spinner Crawler or a Northland Impulse Night Crawler. Slow death will be another popular presentation pulled behind bouncers. Slow death hooks provide a spin that drives walleyes crazy when rigged up with shorter Berkley Gulp baits like the 2” Pinched Crawler, 3” Killer Crawler and 4” Crawler.
Casting swim baits such as the Northland Tackle Mimic Minnow are perennial shallow water producers. Denning says, “pitching a Mimic Minnow up into shallow water has to be my most favorite tactic on Devils Lake. With a single hook coming out the top of the lure, they are virtually snag free and fish caught in the shallows always provide a good fight”. The Mimic Minnow is a miniature swim bait with a hyperactive paddle tail pre-rigged on a jig. On retrieve, not only does the paddle tail thump but the body rolls from side to side. Other popular swim baits include the Berkley Ripple Shad and the new Berkley Havoc Beat Shad. I like to rig these baits on a on 1/4 oz or 3/8 oz Northland Slurp Jig depending on how fast I want to retrieve my bait. The design of the slurp jig is similar to the Mimic Minnow providing that all important side to side roll. It comes with a longer shaft, wider gap and two wire bait holders to keep the plastic attached to the jig.
To round things out, anglers will be using lots of crank baits. Trolling Berkley Flicker Shads with leadcore over sunken road beds or trolling them with Fireline over shallower drop offs using Off Shore boards to get the baits away from the boat. One thing I am looking forward to trying is casting up shallow with the new LIVETARGET Jointed Perch. These are premium lures with life like appearance and action. Anglers will be targeting shallow weed pockets and points. Cranking will not require any alterations to comply with the special no live bait rules. However, anglers have been turning to bait scents like Pro Cure Super Gel to provide added UV enhancement and scent. Denning says” It’s like attaching a lit light bulb to your lure. The visibility brings fish in to investigate, and the scent gets them to feed.” It is made from real bait and enhanced with powerful amino acids in a sticky base that sticks to lures for a long time.
No matter what artificial presentation is your favorite, you will be able to find a way to use it on Devils Lake. The fishing action is sure to be fantastic, live bait or not.
The deadline for entering the Devils lake MWC is July 28th. For more information on the circuit check out www.masterswalleyecircuit.com.
Maloy and Denning compete professionally on the Masters Walleye Circuit. The team has numerous top ten MWC finishes and competed in the 2012 World Walleye Championship last October. Their sponsors include: Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Rays Sport and Marine, Scheels, Berkley, Fenwick, Pflueger, LIVETARGET Lures, Interstate Batteries, Northland Fishing Tackle, Gate City Bank, Fargo–Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, Miller Lite, Off Shore Tackle and Pro-Cure Scents.
Image courtesy Chad Maloy