Detroit River Walleye Part 3 – Boat Control and Fish Locations with Capt Ross Robertson and Pro Mark Martin

by Justin Clark on April 19, 2011

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In part 2 we covered some basic jigging techniques and lure choices that Mark Martin uses. In part 3 we are going to talk about boat control. Boat control is considered the most important element in river fishing. Properly drifting with the current can allow you to fish with a much smaller jig, most days that means less snags and more fish in the net.

Choosing a Motor

Choosing the right motor is very critical. Whatever your budget is make sure you get the strongest your money can buy. Another thing to think about is how the motor’s controlled. In years past a cable driven bow mount trolling motor was a staple of many diehard river rats, but new motors like the Minn-Kota Terrova is starting to change things.

“If all you did was fish rivers, using a cable drive motor is best, as it allows for the fastest corrections. The innovations in the Terrova such as a larger foot pedal (easier to use with boots) and auto pilot feature make it a much more viable option for those that want a trolling motor to both jig with and use to open water troll. The steering speed is faster than those units in the past. “ – Captain Ross Robertson

Captain Ross Robertson with a nice Detroit River Eye

The other part of this equation is batteries, make sure you have enough juice to fish. Trolling motors come in three different volts: 12, 24, and 36. For heavy boats you need a 36 volt system. Lighter boats should have at least a 24 volt system. A good rule of thumb for deep V’s 12′ to 16′ a 12 volt system and 45″ to 54″ shaft, 16′ to 19′ a 24 Volt System and 54″ to 60″ shaft, 19′ to 22′ a 36 volt system and 60′ to 70′ shaft.If your under powered it becomes much harder on batteries and some days it just doesn’t cut it. So make sure you have the right amount and size battery for the motor you choose t o go with. There is nothing worse than to be on fish and suddenly not have the power to fish them. Captain Ross Robertson uses Optima D31M b atte ries which is a 31 series size deep cycle battery“The differenc e with Optim a is that the overall size is smaller than other 31 series batteries. This is a big a dvantage when trying to squeeze an extra battery into a compartment. They give me a lot more power and recover quickly on the charger.”

Face your adversity

Mark Martin

When you’re on the water there is many factors that will affect staying vertical while jigging. You have to stay vertical. If you can’t stay vertical you will lose jigs on snags all day. You can’t catch fish if you don’t have lines in the water.

On calm days the strongest adversity is the current. In the river, the surface current is faster then what the bottom current is at your jig. This is where you want to kick your motor on and point the bow upstream. You want to match the speed of your boats drift with that of the jig. This is know has slipping the current.

On days that the wind is blowing you have to adjust your boats position to compensate for how the wind is pushing you. You may have to point the bow into the wind no matter its direction. Always do what you have to do to follow your jig downstream.

Sometimes the wind is blowing upstream so hard that you literally have to pull yourself downstream into the wind and with the current to maintain vertical presentation.“ – Mark Martin

Chase the jig – use the bow mount to basically chase your jig. You motor in the direction of your jig, this will allow you to stay vertical. “ – Captain Ross Robertson

Importance of Electronics

Screen Shot of a Humminbird 1198

This is something fisherman forget about. Good electronics will allow you to read the bottom and pick out fish holding tight to the bottom. You may even be able to see a fish rise off the bottom and hit your jig. Units now days have larger screens and display more info than ever before. Being able to see more of what is around you will really help you find and stay on fish. “Being off 20 ft can be the difference between nirvana and an empty box…My Humminbird 1198 allows me to see more of the river and make setting up the drift much easier. “ – Captain Ross Robertson

Fish Locations

Lowrance HDS-10 Understanding how fish move and position themselves in a river is very important. Any thing that changes the flow of the current will attract fish. Also the amount of current can also affect the depth you will find them in. Understanding how current moves around objects in the water is key. Mark Martin uses his Lowrance HDS10 with bottom scan to locate fish. “Knowing the conditions will help narrow your search time, high water pushes fish closer to the banks and current breaks and sometimes into the marinas and backwater areas, normal conditions you look at the edges, front and back of holes, current breaks such as bridge abutment’s, logs, piling’s, islands, rock piles, seawalls, mud lines, small depressions or cuts with shallow water around them.”

So now that you know what rods, reels, line, and lures to use, and you understand staying vertical through proper boat control, get out there and fish, the bite is on in the Detroit River now. A recent MWC event had a team weigh in over 43 lbs of fish for only 5 fish. That is over an 8lb avg per fish! There was even a 15.9lb walleye caught just last week, full story to come on this fish soon.


Captain Robertson has been featured in magazines such as In-fisherman, Walleye In-Sider, FLW Outdoors, Outfitter Journal, as well as many newspaper and other national publications. He specializes in two person educational trips and trophy walleye.  Aside from averaging more than 100 walleyes over 10lbs per year, a 15lb walleye and 8lb smallie were caught last year.   www.bigwaterfishing,com


Part 1 – Detroit River Eyes – Part 1 Rod, Reel and Line

Part 2 – Detroit River Walleye Part 2 – Jigs and Jigging with Mark Martin

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg April 20, 2011 at 11:33 AM

good post… I run a Min-Kota motor with a remote control. The remote control allows me to sit in the back of the boat and have access to the outboard as well as the trolling motor. I’m itching to get out this weekend… hopefully this wind dies down.


Chip May 26, 2011 at 10:08 PM

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Laborin May 29, 2011 at 12:23 PM

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Justin Clark May 29, 2011 at 4:10 PM

No I do not have a newsletter but you can sign up for e-mail alerts so that you can be notified when I post up new articles, tips or news.


Jewell Kincannon June 2, 2011 at 9:23 AM

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Camille June 26, 2011 at 6:03 AM

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Jeremy October 1, 2011 at 4:45 AM

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Moe April 5, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Thank you so much for this excellent read.


Emily Black May 17, 2012 at 11:08 PM

Perfect post! I enjoyed reading it!That’s a hell of a fish you all got there! I agree that using a cable drive motor is very good.


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