A lot of walleye fishermen are conditioned to thinking of walleyes as a structural species that maybe only hangs out on rock piles, mud breaks, inside turns, those kinds of things. But what happens when walleyes move out to open basins?

A lot of folks have a difficult time finding and catching basin walleyes, although it’s a very common situation, especially in some of the most popular fisheries in the region, ie. Upper Red Lake, Lake of the Woods, and many of the lakes throughout the Dakotas.

In these situations, Joel Nelson relies on a simple formula for success. To sum it up, he’s drilling a lot of holes and using search baits to cover water and find fish fast.

Baits like the Rippin’ Rap, Slab Rap and the Jigging Rap are all great at causing a ruckus down under the ice, drawing fish in from a distance. It’s important when you’re covering water like this to fish baits that can attract fish from around your hole so you’re not Swiss cheesing around walleyes. What you’re doing right now is fishing aggressively and looking for any signs of life.

If you’re fishing an expansive basin, bring a good auger, because you’re probably going to be drilling a lot of holes. The key to finding fish in basins is move, move, move until you find them. Don’t be afraid to pick up and make big, dramatic moves to sample different parts of the basin — mobility is of the utmost importance.

Once you contact fish with your search baits, you might need to switch tactics if the walleyes aren’t overly eager to commit to the bigger, faster presentations. A tried and true way to catch ‘em in these situations is with jigging spoons. They don’t have near the “drawing power” as your search baits, but they can be great for getting bites from neutral or negative fish.

1. Drill holes
2. Drill more holes
3. Cover water with aggressive presentation until you contact fish
4. Use spoons if the ‘eyes are tentative

It’s a simple formula, but it will help you catch more basin walleyes this winter.