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About Fishing: Maximizing fishing time on ice and open water

Brenton Hell poses with a walleye he caught on a blue spoon. He prefers to concentrates on aggressive walleyes. (Gary Korsgaden/For the Enterprise)

F-M Walleyes Unlimited, Inc. vice president Brenton Hell, like most anglers, has limited time on the ice or water, typically one or two days a week.

Recently, I caught up with Hell upon his return from a fishing trip to Flagg Island Resort on Lake of the Woods, an outing he shared with other Fargo-Moorhead Walleyes members. The group found weather conditions less than favorable for human or fish. Thirty-five to 40-below wind chills and gusty winds greeted the eager fisherman.

Concentrating on rock areas, Hell realized the walleyes were not very enthusiastic towards anglers' offerings. Fisherman, at times, rely on a live bait presentation in an attempt to change the procrastinating mood of bottom-hugging walleyes. Hell's adrenaline surge comes from concentrating on available aggressive walleyes, which are typically the larger ones, leaving the smaller, slow to no-biting fish for another time.

Using "trigger" baits, Hell's technique is covering a lot of area in a short amount of time, picking off any aggressive fish. He's only armed with a depth sounder, ice-fishing spinning rod and reel, and a pocketful of flashy one-sixteenth ounce spoons in a variety of colors and sizes.

Hell's choice of flashy, noisy rattle spoons include CLAM Pro Tackle Rattling' Blade Spoon, rapala's ripping Rap sizes three or four and jigging raps size seven or eight. To maximize his effectiveness on the ice or on water, he uses colors that he has the most confidence in. Red is his the number one choice, with blue being a close second. He selects trigger baits and baits that he has the most confidence in, such as those with red or blue glow base paint with black tiger stripes painted on the top. As a matter of fact, Hell sold any of his jigging rapalas that didn't have black tiger stripes on the backs.

Getting the fish to move off the bottom under the most adverse conditions is no easy task. The baits he used sometimes needed a little extra enticement, such as a small fathead minnow impaled on the hook. Lowering to a level just above the bottom with a watchful eye on the depth sounder, it was easy to see any interested walleyes move up off the bottom, responding to his to a fast up and down jigging motion. Walleyes acted curious at first, transitioning to engulfing the lures.

Hell also uses the trigger baits successfully during the open water season, but in same breath admits to using leeches in spring, changing to jigging spoons once warmer summer weather starts. The boat offers a platform in which to slowly move along, drifting or using the electric trolling motor. While slowly moving on the water's surface, Hell lowers his jigging spoons either with live bait or using plastic twister styled tails on the hook. A depth sounder is still an important tool, along with a watchful eye on the screen for depth and fish. Just knowing fish are in the area keeps the anticipation and confidence at a high level.

Anglers like Brenton Hell strive to maximize their time on the ice and water with the best techniques available to them. Confidence gained, with time on the water, contributes to the lures' effectiveness.