Saugers are walleyes’ little cousins, however their perspective greater than makes up for it. These spot-finned, piscatorial variations of scrappy bantam roosters and flyweight human prizefighters assault anglers’ lures with a vengeance that places all however probably the most aggressive walleyes to disgrace.

This ready-to-rumble mindset makes saugers prime targets for fishermen, particularly when environmental circumstances equivalent to chilly fronts put walleyes in a funk. Plus, saugers style nice, giving savvy anglers looking for nice desk fare but another excuse to set their sights on these noticed fiends.

To persistently catch saugers, significantly super-size spots, anglers should first perceive a bit about their conduct. For starters, sag-bellied saugers are inherently drawn to deeper, darker, and swifter water than walleyes.

On Lake of the Woods, for instance, the early summer time chunk provides a glimpse into how these variations have an effect on fish location. I’ve seen days when intrepid anglers trolling crankbaits or ‘crawler harnesses scored large numbers of walleyes in depths of 12 to 14 ft, typically as shallow as 4 to 7 ft close to shore, whereas scads of saugers education in 25 to 30 ft eagerly snapped up customary jigs tipped with shiners.

LeadHead Lowdown 

Jig choice is crucial to sauger success. “Shiny, daring, and larger can all be vital, however I often base jig alternative on present circumstances,” Doug Stange says. “Saugers typically like a compact package deal, so brief jigs just like the Northland Fireplace-Ball are tremendous at occasions. I additionally just like the stability of the Lindy Jig, with its barely broader head. And I’ve caught a ton of fish on the traditional Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub over time. On the whole, brief jigs work effectively in diminished present, whereas longer jigs shine in stronger flows.” Klages favors the Lindy Jig as effectively, and says shades of glow blue, pink, and white are arduous to beat on the Missouri River system. 

Information Jim Klages leans on Lindy Jigs in shades of glow white, pink, and blue.

Veteran Missouri River information Jim Klages of Dakota Prairie Information Service sees the depth distinction on his house waters. “Usually, saugers are going to be in deeper water or stronger present than walleyes,” he says.

Klages targets saugers from prespawn into early summer time, and Lake Francis Case is a favourite vacation spot. “The reservoir has a great inhabitants of saugers averaging 17 to 19 inches, particularly south of Chamberlain,” he says. “The nearer you get to the White River, after which under the confluence, is the place we get into plenty of saugers. They’re catchable even after dramatic chilly fronts shut walleyes down.”

Information Jim Klages tracks Missouri River saugers from prespawn to late Might.

He tears a web page from his postspawn playbook for example depth variations. He says below the identical circumstances, it’s widespread to seek out postspawn walleyes roaming near-shore shallows, whereas saugers patrol deeper water close by. “Within the Postspawn Interval, I primarily fish main-channel ledges,” he says. “Saugers could transfer onto shallow flats, however not as a lot as walleyes. I typically find saugers in 10 to fifteen ft of water on the channel edge, then see a mixture of saugers and walleyes within the 8- to 10-foot vary, and extra walleyes as we transfer shallower.”

He targets these fish with livebait rigs towed behind 2-ounce backside bouncers. “One among my favourite setups is a fiftieth Anniversary Lindy Rig, trimmed to 42 inches, with a pink, #4 hook tipped with a minnow,” he says. “One-inch Lindy Lil’ Guys tipped with a minnow work effectively, too. I troll just a little quicker than the present is pushing me. For instance, when the boat is transferring 1.2 to 1.3 mph with the move, I troll 1.5 to 1.6 mph. Troll simply quick sufficient so the Lil’ Guys wobble and your strains don’t tangle. Don’t drag the load on backside, hold it ticking and your line at not more than a 45-degree angle to the water.”

Are You up for the Final Sauger Battle?

Arguably the longest-running sauger battle on the planet performs out each March on the legendary Illinois River—heralded by locals because the “Sauger Capital of the World.” Two-person groups from throughout the Midwest converge on Spring Valley, Illinois, to duke it out within the annual kick-off of the Masters Walleye Circuit season.

Certain, there are walleyes within the river. Some dandies, too. However the Illinois’ sauger fishery routinely raises eyebrows. Giants over 5 are attainable, and it usually takes higher than a 2-pound common to high the leaderboard. In final 12 months’s contest, for instance, Ohio’s Dan Johnson (no relation to the creator) and Larry Rhoads scored a comeback victory with a 10-fish restrict weighing 23 kilos 3 ounces, taken on a mixture of hand-lining and pole-lining ways. It was their second MWC win on the river within the final seven years. Of their first win, they hooked their greatest fish—a toad simply shy of 4 kilos—on a jig sweetened with a firetiger-pattern Berkley Gulp! Minnow.

Because of a long-running partnership between the MWC and Illinois Division of Pure Assets, tournament-caught fish are whisked away to a DNR hatchery, the place they’re used as broodstock to restock the Illinois River and different state fisheries.

Tommy Skarlis poses with a pair of Illinois River spotfins throughout a 2012 MWC Spring Valley weigh-in.

Longtime In-Fisherman buddy and event ace Tommy Skarlis, who fished his first MWC Illinois River tourney again in 1993, explains the occasion’s attract. “I really like this event for quite a few causes,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to take pleasure in one of the best sauger chunk you’ve ever skilled, and the river’s ever-changing taking part in discipline makes it thrilling for anglers and followers alike, as a result of everybody’s in it till the final minute. Plus, it’s like an enormous household reunion, reconnecting with previous associates and welcoming first-timers to the event.”

The occasion is open to all comers, for a payment, which is paid again to the sphere in prize cash. For particulars, go to ­ 

All through the seasons, gentle ranges below water play a pivotal function in sauger location, significantly the depth at which fish maintain. “Water readability is a key consideration, on condition that saugers are extra gentle delicate than walleyes,” says In-Fisherman Editor In Chief Doug Stange, who’s fished saugers for greater than 4 many years on rivers and reservoirs throughout the continent.

He explains that prime structural parts are sometimes utilized by each walleyes and saugers, however at completely different occasions relying on gentle circumstances. “Take a fish magnet like a rock-gravel ridge mendacity in 12 ft of water alongside the sting of the primary river channel, for instance,” he says. “In vivid circumstances, equivalent to clear or reasonably clear water on a pleasant sunny day, walleyes could use the hump all day lengthy, however saugers solely transfer onto it early within the morning and proper at darkish, low-light durations when the walleyes aren’t biting effectively at that depth on that exact piece of construction. Similar territory, completely different timing.”

When climate circumstances go south, such spots can produce among the largest saugers within the system. “I catch giants on prime construction close to deeper water on probably the most difficult climate days, with wind and snow,” Stange says. “Large saugers roam shallower than regular on these darkish days, that are powerful for walleyes however prime time for saugers. Be forewarned, it’s sluggish fishing, however the odds of hooking large fish are good.”

Present can be an element. “Since saugers typically tolerate extra present than walleyes, key big-sauger spots on prime construction are sometimes completely different that the candy spots for walleyes,” Stange says. “I examine every thing from the tail finish of buildings to the entrance.

Usually, although, when large fish are feeding they regularly transfer ahead into modest present till they attain the upstream aspect of the construction. Which is why ‘hold transferring ahead’ is an effective rule of thumb as you seek for fish.”

Klages nearly at all times trolls upstream when looking for prespawn saugers. “My go-to setup is a trolling rod and line-counter reel spooled with 18-pound leadcore. On the finish of the leadcore, I run 18 ft of 15-pound-test braid, adopted by 6 ft of 14-pound fluorocarbon. I like a medium-wobbling crankbait like a Lindy Wally Demon. Trolling velocity is determined by present energy. For instance, once I’m trolling under the mouth of the White River, the place the influx boosts the Missouri’s present, 1 to 1.4 mph is perhaps excellent. Above the confluence, nevertheless, the place the move is lighter, I would troll at 2 or 2.3 mph. As a result of water releases fluctuate from the upstream dam, you possibly can’t go by boat velocity as a lot as the texture of how the bait is working. Contact the rod and really feel the vibration of the plug you’re pulling. Within the case of the Wally Demon, for instance, it’s not a particular buzz, however you possibly can really feel the vibrations.”

The temper of the fish determines how tight to backside baits ought to run. “Saugers are usually extra aggressive than walleyes, so on good sauger days you will get away with operating lures 2 to 4 ft off backside and catch fish, when walleyes would need it 6 inches off backside below the identical circumstances,” he says. “Different days, even saugers need it 6 inches from the underside.”

As soon as trolling velocity and operating depth are dialed in, Klages spices up his presentation with S-turns and rod manipulations, which briefly alter the lure’s locomotion. “After I get a fish on, I hold the boat transferring and let the fish combat towards the rod,” he says. “There’s little stretch with leadcore, braid, and fluorocarbon, so in case you attempt reeling in a combating fish whereas trolling towards the present, you possibly can tear the hooks out. Give the fish 30 or 40 seconds to tire. Whereas that is taking place, I pump all the opposite rods to set off close by saugers. Typically, that produces doubles and triples, whereas maintaining the primary fish that hit connected.”

When he finds a very productive stretch of the reservoir, he drops a waypoint on his electronics and switches ways to catch probably the most fish attainable from the world earlier than transferring on. “Saugers collect for a purpose,” he says. “Issues like modifications in present, backside content material, and different components could make a 100- to 200-yard attain sizzling. To profit from it, I stow the trolling deal with and get away the jigging rods.”

From the pinnacle of the new zone, he slips downriver with the present, vertically jigging a typical 1/4-ounce leadhead jig tipped with a minnow. “My minnow-hooking methodology is determined by the day,” he says. “I begin with lip-hooking, since you get probably the most bites presenting the bait that manner. But when the fish are short-striking, I transfer the hook level again, typically by way of the physique and out the center of the again.”

He says that jig-fouling snags, moss, and cold-water algae hold him from dragging the leadhead. “I begin the method by discovering backside—only a faucet, not a drag—elevating the jig 8 to 10 inches, holding it regular, then reducing the jig again to backside and repeating,” he says. “I usually additionally deploy a useless rod. I experiment with the peak at which jigs on each useless and actively jigged strains are positioned till the fish inform me what they need. It’s also possible to dial within the period of time to carry the jig on the high of the carry. If the useless rod produces plenty of bites, I’ve my purchasers pause the carry so long as 30 seconds.”

Klages and purchasers usually savor the sauger chunk from early April into the latter half of Might. “After in regards to the third week in Might, they saugers transfer deep, particularly large fish, whereas walleyes keep in simply fishable depths,” he says. Elsewhere in sauger territory, the chunk continues nearly year-round, by way of the ice and on open water.

*Dan Johnson is a frequent contributor to In-Fisherman publications and public Relations Supervisor for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. Information contact: Jim Klages, Dakota Prairie Information Service, 650/680-1910.

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