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Dock Talk: Walleye angler doctors up a fail-proof way to land 'em

Bruce "Doc" Samson is well-known for his ability to catch walleye. And during fall, he chooses large minnows to catch more fish--the bigger the better. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

If anyone knows walleyes, it's Bruce "Doc" Samson of Minnetrista, MN. The four-time In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail champion and recipient of the Norb Wallock Memorial Teaching Award not only has the knack for finding walleye with his sonar, he can catch them too.

Sure we might all believe we've got a fairly firm grasp on interpreting sonar signals as they show up on the LCD display, but Doc has unparalleled confidence in his electronics. And if you've had the chance to witness the web of wires running through his boat, you might conclude that he's a bit of an electronics addict. In fact, he's the guy who teaches fishing electronics engineers about the units they've created. He's as sharp as a scalpel.

And it wasn't too many years ago that Doc was indeed a doctor that is. But after finding a seat in the upper-echelon of the angling world, the man once known as "Doc" for his proficiency in the medical community became even-better known for his prowess in the angling world.

I had the opportunity to come aboard Doc's Crestliner boat last weekend and the experience was nothing less than perfect.

On a lake neither of us had ever researched on a map or in person, Doc found the fish a mere 100 yards from the launch. And when his sonar began to etch the outlines of what we predicted to be a school of walleye, his grey hair stood on end as Doc's demeanor quickly transformed into that of a child. His eyes lit up as he clapped his chilly hands together and ecstatically proclaimed, "We found 'em!"

Now, you might think a master angler like Doc would reach into his arsenal of fishing fodder to pull out a top-secret, never-been-seen-before, catches everything in the lake bait, but instead he grabbed angling's most basic amenity, a minnow.

During fall, Doc loves minnows. In fact, he chooses the flagellating fins over artificial imitators. "It's a basic approach", he says, "but in the fall, put me in the back of the boat with someone using artificials in the front and it won't be long until they change their approach". That is, once their arms are tired from netting Doc's fish.

"If I had to rate minnows, I'd take a chub first, either creek or redtail, then a shiner and finally a sucker. I rank them in that particular order due to their hardiness and exuberance. If they're hard-working minnows, they'll catch fish."

Though Doc prefers big baits, 4-8 inches in the fall, he rigs the minnows somewhat differently than many walleye anglers, using a very short, rather than long, live bait rig. "Twenty-four inches is plenty; you can feel the bites better while fishing vertically for deep water walleye in late fall," Doc advises.

Yet Doc realizes nothing is ever definite in angling. "Sometimes a Northland Fireball jig and a small minnow works even better," he admits. But as he swung another walleye into the boat, I realized that for today, that wasn't the case.