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Joe Bricko breaks down his winning tournament strategy for the 2023 Cabela’s Master Walleye Circuit on Cass Lake and how a light, sensitive rod was the key for long casts in this extremely clear body of water.

Cass Lake is known for its sharp breaks, deep water, and superb clarity. Walleye are sight-oriented predators and rely on low light or stained water to feed where they can see better than forage species. This is why clear water often presents a challenge for walleye anglers. Fishing schools at a distance helps prevent spooking fish, keeping you on them longer. Using forward-facing sonar is essential as you can watch schools move in real-time and fish them at a comfortable 50ft distance. Forward-facing sonar also lets you gauge the size of fish, which helps you pinpoint the tournament-winning fish. Having the right set-up is vital for this as you need to make precise long casts with light lures. Bricko uses a light, “whippy,” 7’6″ JTX Mag Light spinning rod and a Daiwa Tatula 2500-size spinning reel spooled with monofilament to make long, accurate casts with light 1/8oz jigs. Monofilament allows the presentation to be more buoyant, whether using crawlers, leeches, minnows, or plastics. Keeping the bait up keeps the bait in front of the fish longer without making them move too far. The soft-tipped rod helps impart action to the jig without moving the bait great distances away from fish which pairs well with the support of the buoyant monofilament line. 

Rod sensitivity is also an important component at long distances. Mono isn’t as sensitive as a braided line, so having a super sensitive rod is critical to help you detect bites with a lot of line out. Bricko explains that it’s easy to set the hook prematurely while watching your forward facing sonar screen. Having a light rod tip lets you detect the bites before the fish realize they’ve made a mistake and gives you time to make a confident hookset. That being said, with minimal rod resistance in a light rod, walleye will often attempt to take the bait deeper before attempting to let their prey slip away.

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