Fine Tuning Your Boat Control

February 23, 2009 by  

By Sheldon Meidinger

PWT Pro Sheldon Meidinger with a nice spring walleye caught on the Missouri River in Bismarck

PWT Pro Sheldon Meidinger with a nice spring walleye caught on the Missouri River in Bismarck

Easily keeping the boat on a small spot for most of the day can help anglers catch just about any kind of fish from bass and sunfish to musky and walleye. The greatest evolution on boat control however, has been in walleye fishing applications. From reservoirs and natural lakes to rivers and flowages, walleyes often seem edge or structure orientated. Where fish may be scattered across flats or open water, fish relating to structure or edges are concentrated. If you want to catch walleyes that are concentrated into a tight spot, you need to keep the boat on the spot. Fortunately for walleye anglers, there are a lot of tools at their disposal. Ironically, many anglers understand some of the obvious tools but look past many simple pieces of equipment that can make this undertaking much easier.


Global Positioning Systems have revolutionized walleye fishing because anglers can log or save the exact locations of structure or other fish holding locations. Not only are these tools great for simply finding these locations again, but the GPS systems of today allow anglers to stay on the spot or mark new spots as fish are discovered. Often, we might mark the “structure” or spot we are fishing with a waypoint and mark where we actually catch fish with icons. This gives us a map of where we are catching fish. Combine GPS with some of the new lake chips and GPS becomes a crucial piece of equipment. The plotting capabilities of the new GPS systems have evolved as well. The new units are much more accurate and plot at much slower speeds than just a few years ago.

Marker Buoys

With the advent of GPS, many anglers quit using marker buoys to physically mark structure or mark where they caught fish. One obvious reason is that markers had a tendency to attract other anglers. While these markers can be obvious for other anglers to see, don’t overlook the advantages. For tiny spots where boat control is crucial, nothing works better than a marker buoy. Another situation where markers shine is when you can mark the spot and back off the spot, fishing the area by pitching or casting. Shallow reefs or rock piles are great candidates for this application. For myself, I can stay on the spot better if I have something physical in front of me to look at. Imagine a break line or rock ledge that is only fifty feet long by five feet wide or some other micro spot on the spot situation, throw out a marker.

Drift Socks and Trolling Motors

Trolling motors just keep getting bigger and stronger. Whether you use a 36 volt system on a twenty foot fiberglass boat or a 12 volt system on a fourteen foot aluminum boat, trolling motors just keep improving. With that being said, many anglers understand the obvious importance that a trolling motor can be when trying to control a boat. Over the past decade, the trend has been towards bow mount trolling motors where anglers are controlling the boat from the casting deck on the bow. We have also witnessed two other trends that have emerged. The first trend is the return of transom mounted trolling motors on larger console boats. Back trolling might seem like an outdated form of boat control but back trolling is still so effective for controlling the boat that many anglers are rediscovering. The other trend is the incorporation of drift socks in conjunction with trolling motors. Drift socks are another old tool that anglers are rediscovering. Drift socks slow down the drift of your boat and also allow the angler to control the boat in a predictable fashion.

Longer Fishing Rods

Staying on top of the spot and keeping your bait in the zone longer will produce more fish

Staying on top of the spot and keeping your bait in the zone longer will produce more fish

Roomier rod lockers might be the single biggest reason for going to a relatively longer rod. Regardless, even anglers in smaller boats without rod storage are discovering the advantages of seven to eight foot spinning rods for jigging and rigging applications. Why the longer rods and what does a longer rod have to do with boat control? First off, longer rods allow the angler to easier cushion the effects of large waves or strong wind on the boat. Often, the abruptness caused by wave action can have a negative effect on the presentation and longer rods allow you to compensate or dampen this abruptness. Regarding boat control, longer rods also allow you to fine tune boat control even further because the length of the rod allows anglers to point or hold the rod over the sweet spot for longer periods of time.

Imagine if you will, a small spot the size of two pool tables where the walleye are stacked. You have a marker buoy just off the spot that is used to give you a visual mark. The tools on your boat enable you to stay in the spot but the longer rod also allows you to compensate and keep your presentation vertical in the spot for even longer periods. The right rod can enable you to fine tune boat control even further. In the end, the goal isn’t boat control, but bait control. Remember that keeping the boat on the spot is a part of the equation; the most important aspect is keeping the bait in front of fish. If you are looking for a phenomenal rigging rod that fits this bill, hold the Jason Mitchell Elite Series JMS76MLX in your hand. You will be sold on these rods once you use them as they are lighter and more sensitive than any rod I have ever fished with. This rod company is located in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

The Mental Aspect

All of these tools fall short if we don’t understand what we are fishing. In the simplest form, we are merely attempting to put something a fish will eat in front of fish. Often, this means live bait that looks good and keeping this bait in front of many fish as possible for as long as possible. Don’t make boat control any more complicated than it already can be. Use the wind, use the current to aid you, don’t fight the elements and keep the thought process simple. Fish are often relatively easy to catch once you find them.

Editors Note: Sheldon Meidinger is a past PWT Championship qualifier with several top ten PWT finishes to his credit.


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