Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

May 2, 2014

Bob Gwizdz: Happy days are here again

SAGINAW — We were a little late getting started, in part because we launched at the Rust Avenue access site on the Saginaw River instead of our usual departure point, Center Road, a handful of miles upstream on the Tittabawassee.

Center Road, we were told, was “a zoo.” Isn’t it every opening day?

Greg Sochocki, with whom I’ve shared the opening day of walleye season more often than not in the last 25 years, suggested we troll our way up. Several years ago, we did the same and had five ‘eyes in the well before we started jigging — well downstream from where we’d intended because there were just so many fish. Other years, when the water lever was lower, we blanked.

So how would it be this year? Between the two extremes. By the time we got to where we wanted to fish at 10: 30 a.m. we’d boated a pair of walleyes on Rapala Husky Jerks.

The current was ripping, making Sochocki’s job on the trolling motor, difficult to say the least. On our first pass down the river, nobody had a bite. And although we were fishing relatively shallow water — say, for four to eight feet — we had to go to heavier jigs just to stay in contact with the bottom. But once we got the details worked out, well, we remembered why opening day on the Tittabawassee River is special.

Over the next couple of hours — Sochocki, who is a baker, had to leave early to deliver a wedding cake — we put a dozen fish in the boat.

“You have to get it right in their face in this strong current,” said Sochocki, who, despite being mostly a bass fisherman, knows how to catch walleyes, too. “We’re moving awfully fast and you have to have it right in front of them. If you lift it up too high when you’re jigging, you go right past them.”

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