The legend of Witch Bay has been around a long time. She’s a muskie of awesome proportions and classic features. Somewhere near 57″ inches and a full girth, this cunning fish has confounded anglers for years. She has dumbfounded some of the sport’s best–some more than once; some more than once on the same day.
Two years ago, while fishing out of Witch Bay Camp, I was with my fishing buddy, Gary VonBergen, casting big minnow baits in a small cove off of Witch Bay. After a dozen or so casts, up she came out of the cabbage and slowly lolly gagged behind the boat. I could tell by her lack of intensity that she was just coming to visit. She seemed to be saying, “No chance, buddy!” After lingering boatside for what seemed like an eternity, she slowly finned off back into the deep weeds.
That night, while sitting around the gazebo at Witch Bay Camp and swapping stories with some of the guests, I was amazed to learn how many of them had raised this fish–to no avail. No one from this group had ever put a hook in her. They all vowed to continue the chase, and some swore that some day, she would be there’s.
Now, Witch Bay has two legends. The second is a new legend and she’s the legend of Witch Bay Camp. Like the fish, she’s cunning as well. However, she doesn’t have a full girth. Her name is Vickie Tennant who along with her husband, Glenn, farms near Coal Valley, Illinois. Glenn and Vickie have made twenty trips to Steve and Gail Hockett’s Witch Bay Camp. Her accomplishments this summer at Witch Bay were extraordinary, if I wouldn’t have been there it would have been a stretch for me to grasp.
Glenn and Vickie arrived at Witch Bay Camp on July 27th to spend a week pursuing their passion; chasing big fish. They selected this particular week because it fell around the full moon and they feel that July weather offers more stability.
Glenn didn’t do bad for his time at Witch Bay. He caught many quality fish including a 7 pound walleye and a close to 5 pound smallmouth. He and Vickie operate as a team and get great joy in each other’s successes.
Vickie’s Witch Bay experience is the mold from which legends are built. Her week in a nutshell; a 6 1/2 pound walleye, 37 inch northern, one muskie, one 43 1/2 inches. Good start, but wait there’s more. A 9 pound walleye in the morning and a 9 1/2 in the afternoon on the fifth day. Not bad but there’s still more. The next day she followed it up with a whopping 11 pound eye.
Glenn and Vickie left Witch Bay that week reluctantly but comforted by the fact that they would return in amonth. On that trip, Glenn produced a nice 7 pound eye and Vickie scored big with two muskies; one 46 inches and the other 49 inches. All fish except the 11 pound walleye from the previous trip were released. That beauty went on the wall.
Quite a feat in my book. Oh sure, I hear allot of stories about the big stringers taken out of Erie, Saginaw Bay, and Little Bay de Noc. But for Canada with it’s slow growth rates -simply awesome.
If you look at big fish taken on the professional walleye tours, there’s a big one caught after thousands of man fishing hours and that’s on some of the best walleye waters in the world.
I spent 175 days on the water and my big walleye was 8 1/2 pounds. How’d you do? As anglers we can all appreciate and envy Vickie’s world class summer.
Being a writer, I know I’d stumbled on a scoop. I sat down with Vickie and Glenn and had a enjoyable and tremendously informative conversation. They were most open and happy to share there secrets with the angling public. So here we go.
“We look for shallow food shelves, really shallow, as little as 6 inches deep and tapering to 8 or 10 feet before the dropoff. We prefer points and humps with deep water adjacent. These fish need to have an escape route to feel comfortable. Sand and rocks all work good. A few big boulders doesn’t hurt.” Vickie shared.
I figured that meant windy overcast days were best but Glenn stated, “Dead calm and dead bright works best for us, have to be careful not to spook them, long casts are needed.” Another myth bites the dust.
Vickie added, “We spend allot of time in the winter looking for spots on our map. We have a milk run planned before we ever arrive at camp. Sometimes we don’t follow it and go right back to the spots that we know have produced in other years. But, mostly we do making sure to include some of the old haunts in the run.”Glenn said, “Studying the map in the winter is really plays a valuable role in our success.”
“We live and die with basically one method for walleyes. The Shad Rap in sizes #7 and 9.
We cast them up real shallow and work them back. We use a 123 slow and then 123 fast variable retrieve. The fast is not really fast, it’s just quicker than the slow.”
Glenn added, “If your not bumping the bottom, then you don’t get fish.”
The Tennants said that in 1983 when Shad Raps hit the market, they couldn’t find any around home. Finally found one in Sioux Narrows. “Cost ten bucks.” Glenn chuckled.
“That bait out produced everything else we tried, ten to one. We were hooked, so to speak,” said Vickie.
They tie the line directly to the lure, feeling that the action is better. Each uses a different color to start with, and then switches after a fish is caught.
Glenn added, “Remember we are after big fish here. If we were after numbers, we would be using more conventional jigs or rigs.”
Vickie and Glenn feel that the afternoons of a calm bluebird day can be very good for this method. The windy overcast days have not proven to be that productive for them. Boat control requires much more attention as well.
“We knew 20 trips ago that we had found a home, Witch Bay Camp. And, that we had found a good big fish system.” Vickie concluded.
Ultra shallow with Shad Raps. Give it a try, you might like it.