Larry Smith Fishes Lake of the Woods
Larry Smith has a slogan, “It’s a great day to be alive.” Smith is an accomplished angler with a strong following who has an outdoor TV show called Larry Smith Outdoors. This week he traveled to Lake of the Woods to fish and do some filming with Lake of the Woods Tourism Executive Director, Joe Henry, and the day of fishing was memorable.
Smith is a go-getter to say the least. In addition to filming a TV show 52 weeks per year, he also has a farm and makes sure he has time for his family. In discussing his work ethic, he mentions, “This is all myself and my siblings have ever known. My parents were this way and it was all I have ever known. I get antsy when I sit around too long.”
Henry and Smith got our fishing one day this week and one day is all it took. The goal was to film an entertaining TV show as well as give viewers an idea of the Lake of the Woods area.
Smith runs a Warrior boat with a 300 HP Mercury outboard motor. The morning as a bit cloudy with the forecast showing partly cloudy skies as the day progressed. The lake had some left over rollers from a couple of windy days previously so running wasn’t super fast but definitely doable. With that in mind, the pair headed north out of the Rainy River on to Lake of the Woods.
The game plan was to pull spinners and crawlers. With the water temps in the mid 60’s, this is a great way to cover water with a presentation walleyes find hard to resist.
They started out on some mud flats. There were some fish around but they weren’t overly aggressive. A few saugers were put into the livewell for that evening’s fish fry. With some fish showing up on the electronics but not an overabundance of success, the pair decided to do a milk run.
The phrase milk run comes from when back in the day they had milk men who delivered milk to houses. Each day, the milk man had a set number of scheduled stops. That same concept applies to a fishing milk run where anglers will pick a number of potentially good spots to fish. Anglers will approach and fish a spot quickly, determining whether to stay as there are good fish or move on to the next spot.
It is sometimes hard to leave fish but as the two weren’t lighting up the walleyes, and literally hundreds of spots on Lake of the Woods to fish, the two decided to go for it.
The first stop was an underwater point. Setting up the boat upwind as to go with the wind when trolling, water was quickly covered and it is always easier to troll with the wind vs against it. One nice walleye and a couple of other hits on the first pass. That was worth another pass.
Driving around the spot as not to spook the fish, the two made their way upwind with the big motor to save time and set up for a second trolling pass. This time, nothing. It was time to move on.
The second spot was also an underwater point. One charter boat was drifting it in shallower water. We decided to make a deeper pass. With the charter boat nearby, it gave us the chance to see if they were catching fish on their shallow drift. Almost another boat fishing for us. As we didn’t see a lot of action on their end, and we didn’t have any bites, we moved on.
The next spot was a small area that came out of 15′ of water and topped out at 6′. We pulled one nice walleye in 8′ of water but after a few more circles in that area and not seeing activity, decided to move on.
The next spot was deeper mud with a couple of rock humps nearby. We set up in the deep and popped a double header of nice walleyes. A good sign, an icon was added to the GPS and the trolling pass continued with shallower structure approaching. The decision had to be made, spin around and fish that spot again or spend a few more minutes and slide into the shallower water just to see. The decision to let it slide was a good one.
Once into about 8′ of water, Smith’s rod bent over hard, a nice walleye. Then Henry followed suit. The two ended up catching a handful of nice walleyes, some eaters, some slot fish between that 19.5 – 28 inch mark that must be returned.
With good success in the shallower water and knowing shallow fish are there for one reason, to eat, the two fired up the big motor, driving away from the structure to get upwind and set up again but this time, only for the shallow portion of the trolling pass. The second pass was equally successful. Many very nice walleyes were boated and the fish were aggressive.
After catching a number of walleyes, the duo made the decision to go look for a big walleye. The spot was deep mud around a small rock reef. The boat was set up again off of the structure as often times, big walleyes might be positioned in the mud adjacent to structure. Fishing in about 32′ of water, a two ounce or heavier bottom bouncer was effective to keep the presentation on the bottom yet still maintaining that ever important 45 degree angle which is effective when pulling spinners.
As they approached the structure but still over the mud, Henry set the hook on a big fish. In his words, “When you set the hook on a big walleye, it almost feels like a rock. It’s like you keep your line tight and just hope that the ‘rock’ starts coming with the boat and eventually gives you a head shake.” This is exactly what happened and Henry knew right away it was a big fish.
Smith mentioned when he heard it was a big fish, he was thinking 25 or 26 inches. After a hard fight, the fish showed itself from underneath the boat. “I couldn’t believe how big it was,” exclaimed Smith. “That fish is a giant!”
After it showed itself, it took a couple of good runs, not giving up easily. Henry coaxed the fish carefully to the boat and Smith scooped it up with the net. This was a fish of a lifetime, 31 inch walleye.
The two made a few excited comments for the show, took a quick couple of pics and got the monster walleye back into the water. After a hard battle, it took just a bit of care in the water for the big walleye to catch her breath and get her wits about her. When releasing a big fish, hold it in the water as if the fish is swimming. Don’t pull it back and forth as this can actually drown a fish. Rather, hold it upright and gently move the fish back and forth sideways until the fish tells you it is ready. In this case, the big girl gave a few good kicks and swam down into the depths.
The show will air in a week and a half .
After a good day of fishing, Smith took care of the boat while Henry took care of fileting the walleyes. A feast of fresh walleyes was enjoyed by to two along with Thomas the videographer who captured the entire day on video.
It was a day on the water to remember. Two like minded anglers sharing the boat together on a quest for walleyes on Lake of the Woods. It was about sharing ideas, sharing philosophies and never forgetting, “It’s a great day to be alive.”