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Correct bait choice depends on the lake

Park Rapids will have anglers abound for today's 2010 walleye and northern opener.

However, with cooler temperatures over the past 10 days, it's possible the fish are slightly confused.

Yet educated guesses as to the overall success of this weekend's opener ultimately predict that fishing should go very well for participating anglers.

The night before opener, anglers often ask bait shop employees for advice on what baits to buy; leeches, nightcrawlers, minnows or artificial lures.

The correct choice will most likely be "all of the above".

Certain lakes provide better action on leeches versus crawlers, while others primarily entertain a minnow bite.

And don't forget a few crankbaits, which can work quite well for early season walleye in shallow water, especially in areas with current. Crankbaits are also quite effective for tempting northern pike too.

The other question that often arises pertains to which lakes are going to put out the most and biggest walleye. Here are five great bodies of water to explore within close proximity (listed in no particular order).

Big Sand

Once a walleye factory, Big Sand experienced a decline in walleye fishing over the past several years. Fortunately, the fishery is on the rebound and walleye are once again abundant.

In the 1990s Big Sand was well known for its potential to produce trophy walleye. Today those large fish aren't as plentiful, but quality "eater-sized" fish are. Anglers heading to Big Sand should be aware of the 20-26" release slot and may want to fish during low light hours since water clarity as of last week was 40-feet.

Crow Wing Chain

With eleven different lakes on the Crow Wing chain, one might think only a couple of the lakes would be good for fishing. Actually, you could literally pull a number out of a hat, fish that lake and have a great chance at both walleye and northern pike. Be sure to check your rules and regulations and read signage at the public accesses since some of the lakes on the chain have experimental regulations for northern pike.

Fish Hook Lake

Located in the heart of Park Rapids, Fish Hook is sure to please walleye anglers this weekend. Try a leech on a Roach Rig, but use a bullet worm sinker in place of the walking sinker to slide through the weedy bottom.

Lake Belle Taine

Because Belle Taine is a fairly shallow lake, with exception to its nearly 60-foot deep main basin, the water warms fairly quickly. To catch walleye, fish in relatively shallow water (4-10 feet) wherever you find a sandy bottom.

Leech Lake

Not a far drive to the east, Leech Lake is one of the hottest walleye lakes in Minnesota.

At 111,527 acres, Leech is the third largest inland lake in the state. Yet don't let its size intimidate you. Simply concentrate on one bay and treat it like its own smaller lake.

A jig and shiner min-now works quite well for walleye on Leech around the opener.

Good luck to all anglers!