This isn't to imply that fish in the boat are more important to competitive anglers than they are to weekend warriors. For all walleye fisherman, the main goals are bent rods and livewells full of golden fish. In all cases, making the magic happen requires tackle you believe in-stuff you trust. Which is why so many anglers from all backgrounds continue to rely on those familiar, famed presentations like the Northland Fire-Ball Jig, Rapala Shad Rap, and Northland Roach Rig. These classics scream "confidence," and there's no better lure than the one in which we hold faith.
Confidence in a particular presentation, of course, occurs only after consistent and continuous positive results build upon themselves, culminating in a feeling of certain success. When walleyes show a perpetual appetite for eating a particular hot lure, there's a pretty good chance you'll have that bait rigged and ready at all times. Confidence remains the greatest asset in your mental tackle box. It's the same reason why those Fire-Balls, Shad Raps and Roach Rigs occupy so much space in our tackle boxes. These little gems flat out get eaten by more walleyes than anything else.
Over a thirty-year period, dozens of tournament successes have occurred across the MWC, FLW and PWT circuits using Northland products. Most recently, at a Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) event on the Illinois River in Spring Valley, Illinois, Northland's supremacy reasserted itself. During the two-day event (March 27-28, 2010), Wisconsin competitors Kevin Dahl and Steve Stack fed the walleyes and sauger a steady diet of 3/8-ounce Northland jigs coupled with a variety of biodegradable soft baits. Fishing in 14- to 17-feet of water, Dahl and Stack fished slow and steady, finesse-jigging their way to a two-day total of 55-pounds, capturing the win and a $20,000 payday.
Meanwhile, on the FLW Walleye Tour, anglers using Northland spinner rigs found similar success. Among those competing in the Detroit River/Lake Erie event (April 8-10, 2010) was Dean Arnoldussen, who had won two previous FLW Tour events, both on big water Great Lakes venues. Following three days of consistent catches, Arnoldussen notched a first-place victory, weighing an impressive 101-pounds, 13-ounces of walleyes on Northland spinner rigs.
Assuring Arnoldussen's victory was a "Holographic" Baitfish Image-green spinner blade made by Northland Fishing Tackle. Dressing his rigs were short, fat nightcrawlers trolled behind planer boards. Arnoldussen trolled his rigs at 1 to 1.3-mph with his engine-mounted Minn Kota electric motor. He kept his spinners tracking about halfway down over 15-feet of water, which is where the majority of his 25 final day keepers bit. He concentrated on stained "milky" water where clarity was about 2 feet. The green blades proved to be the perfect combination of flash and vibration, as well as the right match-the-hatch realism to dominate in a highly competitive tournament environment.
Merely a week later, the MWC arrived in Trenton, Michigan, on the shores of the same Lake Erie fishery as the previous FLW event. The results were strikingly similar, even down to specific lures of choice. The back-to-back winning presentation? Northland spinner rigs and nightcrawlers slow-trolled behind planer boards. The eventual victors, brothers Steve and Dan Bodinger, worked a program remarkably parallel to Arnoldussen's with special attention being paid to the spinner rig itself.
Plying the Michigan waters of Erie, the Bodingers turned to their "go-to" weapons- Northland Mr. Walleye Crawler Haulers festooned with number 5 and 6 Colorado blades in the holographic perch pattern. "We ran our rigs 1 to 1.2-mph at 9 to 10 feet over 16 to 18 feet of water in Brest Bay," said Steve. "Finding dingy-not dirty-water was the key."
Just three events into the 2010 walleye tournament season, it appears that the anglers using Northland jigs and rigs are returning home just a little richer. Going three-for-three is not a bad way to launch the competitive fishing season. After the first big walleye events of the year, three central themes persist: walleyes in dingy water, carefully managed boat control, and jigs and rigs stamped with one familiar logo.
The first theme is all about finding fish-that ever-changing puzzle we call location. Number two remains one of the most important, yet overlooked factors in successful walleye fishing that the best anglers recognize the importance of boat control, and execute to perfection, whether speed-trolling, controlled-drifting, anchoring or backtrolling. And last but far from least is presentation itself. When we find a lure or presentation that works, we stick with it, right?
It's that intangible yet recognizable factor known as confidence. Trust and dependability are born out of a continuous line of successes. When walleyes show a constant appetite for eating certain jigs, rigs or baits, wise anglers pay attention. They gain confidence, turning to the same hot presentations time after time. Soon, they find themselves in the winner's circle, returning to the center stage more often than anyone else. Which is exactly the same way a good lure becomes a legend with tournament types, as well as the weekend warrior.