Hook and bullet club - Fishing Big Lake

by Nick Wognum

The annual Ely-Winton Rod and Gun Club Hawg Fishing Contest puts us out on the water for a day of fishing with hopes of landing a cash prize at the end of the day.<BR><BR>We’ve fished Basswood Lake every year of the contest but this year we decided to try something different. <BR><BR>With the two oldest boys, Jacob and Mitchell, joining Mike and Bill and I, we loaded up the boats and put in at Big Lake. If we couldn’t buy a fish, our alternate plan was to drive back down the Echo Trail, hitting the smaller lakes. <BR><BR>The morning started off slow fishingwise. Big Lake does not have a lot of structure to it so we decided to play the wind. Blowing hard out of the south and southwest, we moved into the north sides of the lake, hoping to find action where the bait fish had been blown in.<BR><BR>Just before lunch we had a couple of hits in front of a small island where it came up from 22 feet to 14 feet, but nothing on the stringer. <BR><BR>A ledgerock campsite on the tip of an island was our spot for lunch. We had hoped to get out of the wind for awhile, but this spot was too good to pass up. <BR><BR>The point offered great views of the lake along with a fire grate and a picnic table that made for a good spot to cook up some lunch.<BR><BR>A pot half-filled with lake water was set on the one-burner propane stove and some wild rice venison brats went inside. We set the whole works up on the fire grate which had a nice rock windblock to keep the flames from being blown out. <BR><BR>Ten minutes later the brats were rolling in the boiling water and the guys lined up to eat. Add ketchup, some hot mustard and couple of bags of chips and we ate like kings. <BR><BR>A new plan was devised for the afternoon. We were going to stick mainly with jigs tipped with minnows or leeches, but trolling some Rapalas or spinners was added to the mix. We also decided to move to the bay farthest from the landing, an almost hidden section of the lake that had some islands and points to work. <BR><BR>Jake was the captain of our boat and after we started in the south end of the bay, he suggested working a point off an island to the north. The wind was still blowing pretty good and the front of the island was taking the brunt of the wave action in the bay.<BR><BR>We trolled with jigs into the wind and then drifted back toward the island, letting the jigs bounce off the bottom. <BR><BR>After a few passes, the strategy finally worked. We found some walleyes in the middle of the island, between 25 and 100 yards from shore in around 13 feet of water. <BR><BR>Our definition of a keeper is anything that stretches from one side of a Lund wood boat seat to the other, roughly 12 inches. By the late afternoon we put six of those on the stringer and threw back anything smaller. <BR><BR>Our senior member of the group caught the biggest fish of the day and Mitchell worked the net to land the 20-inch walleye. <BR><BR>We were keeping the fish on stringers since the water temperature was in the low 60s. At the end of the day we transferred the stringer in Bill’s boat into a cooler for the ride back to the landing. <BR><BR>This is when our good luck for the day came through. Mitchell and I had switched boats and when I lifted the stringer into the boat, the big walleye landed in the cooler, with no stringer attached. <BR><BR>The right side of the fish’s mouth had ripped, maybe from the metal stringer, but it didn’t come off until I lifted it into the boat. A lucky break for sure. <BR><BR>When the fillet work was done we had enough for two meals. Bill’s 20-inch fish wasn’t big enough to take in any prize money at the Hawg Contest, but we each won some prizes at the Conservationists with Common Sense drawing. <BR><BR>We talked to some guys who had camped on Basswood Friday night and heard that fishing was really slow up there for them. <BR><BR>I don’t know whether or not Big Lake will be our new Hawg spot for years to come, but it made for a nice day on the water and fresh fish for dinner. You can’t beat that with a stick.