November 13th, 2012
St. Croix Eyecon Series 10’6″ Trolling Model – Product Reviewby JP Bushey December 18, 2013
I’ve been having lots of fun using a range of rods in the Eyecon Series with all sorts of walleye techniques all summer. Now that my boat season is officially done, I wanted to highlight what I feel is one of their finest models. And the numbers don’t lie; I’ve used my 10’6″ Trollers to catch more and bigger walleye than all of the others combined. They’re a parabolic-action, 2-pc blank. From skimming shallow shoals on Georgian Bay in the dark all summer long, to trolling The Bay of Quinte recently; this one model has taken walleye by storm for me. It’s a treat to fish with and perfect for a couple of key trolling scenarios.
Long, slow-action (soft) rods for trolling are a staple for fishermen all over the place. I wouldn’t call this a trend. It’s much more of a ‘must have’ trollers have always relied on. Long rods give you great control, a wider swath for combing more water and tons of flex for keeping fish hooked. On the big, clear fisheries I spend my time on, long rods are central to my style of fishing.
During summer, I flat-line and planer board troll at night. From late July through late September, huge waves of walleye poke around shallow rock structures. Shoals, large points and key sections of shoreline draw predators in. Lots of line out, a slow, methodical pace and committing to lots of passes over good spots is the name of the game. I typically troll with 90 to 120 feet of mono behind the boat, and stick to a very small handful of lures. Within this handful, I do a lot of experimenting with colour. The depths I focus on basically stay constant, and so does my boat speed. Lure action and especially lure colour are usually where I see my nightly trends emerge.
On the darkest, roughest nights, dark baits are where I’ll typically start. Higher action, jointed baits like Rapala’s J-13 fit perfectly under these conditions. During summer, surface temperatures where I fish typically bounce around in the mid 70 degree range. Darker colours and high-vibration baits attract and trigger big walleye that are actively running down food. Things play out a bit differently on those flat calm, bright nights. More subtle actions, paired with flashier, metallic paint jobs can be dynamite. Reef Runner’s Ripstick is a weird, hump backed little plug. Up front, it has a unique, tapered lip and a fantastic rolling, ‘lurching’ action. It rarely hangs up (many nights I’m smashing bottom for hundreds of yards over the crests of shoals in 5 to 7 feet of water) and comes with three small, light wire trebles that are dangerously sharp. Reef Runner’s colour chart is one of the nastiest on the market. They’ve got schemes to suit any condition. Looking over my log from the summer, I caught walleye on no fewer than thirteen of their finishes, from natural to absolutely ungodly!
No matter the lure, the 10’6″ Trolling blank was critical to making the whole night program tick. For one, this is a graphite-fibreglass blend. It’s a perfect mix of feel and flex. Walking baits through the rocks, a soft tip is really important. Whenever they momentarily hang up, the rod is allowed to drop back and load. The lure isn’t driven instantly into the snag. A tiny delay occurs, and it gets a chance to pop free. Once it resumes swimming, the blank does a great job transmitting its vibration all the way back to your hand. Night fishing is all about feel, sound and even smell. You can’t see much. I saved many trolling passes simply because I could tell if my bait was running cleanly, or had dredged up a gob of algae or weed. Alewives come into spawn heavily at times, and will foul lures constantly, too. The first night I ran these rods, it became obvious that this wasn’t a long, dead blank. This is a very sensitive tool for night fishing. I get all kinds of fish in summer holding my rod as well. Flirting with danger in the shallowest rocks, I need to be able to finesse my plugs through, by hand. The 10’6 carries your line up and out of trouble. I’ll often point the tip up high, saving snagged lures and catching fish along the way. Feeling a heavy walleye whack your plug in total darkness is a real rush, especially in very shallow water. These are sensitive rods.
Set into rod holders, the 10’6 length carries baits out and away from the boat beautifully. On really calm nights, adding Off Shore inline planer boards gave me even more spread. Spread is important. Number one, flatlined lures are free to work their natural vibration out of my path of disturbance. Secondly, it gives me extra cushion for sweeping lures into really tight, shallow rocks. I’d much rather have my prop spinning in 8 feet of water than in 4 feet, and a long rod really helps with safe lure delivery. Lastly—and I’d say most importantly—a wide spread allows me to make aggressive, whipping turns with two lines out. I want to get back onto hot fish fast, with lures in tow. If you’ve ever gotten lines badly tangled or caught in the prop in rough water at 3am, you know what I’m talking about. The Trolling Model’s big length eliminates this risk. A 12’0 model is also available in the Eyecon Trolling Series. I’ve got to get a pair of these, too. They’ll be devastating for night fishing!
Fast forward to my annual, big walleye trip to Merland Park Cottages on Ontario’s legendary Bay of Quinte this month. For me, those magnum 12, 13, even 14 pound-plus specimens are more than enough motivation for hauling my boat over three hours down a wintery highway. Planer board trolling is my most productive fishing method. It’s really fun, too. Just like all summer, the 10’6″ Trolling Model proved to be key. To tell the truth, ‘board trolling was the major technique I had planned when I got my hands on these beauties.
A good ‘board rod handles the natural pull of the trolling board, keeps lines spread as always, and walleye have little chance of slipping the hooks. I could safely say that if forced to choose a single crankbait for the rest of my life on Quinte, it would be a Reef Runner Deep Runner. They’re a Quinte standard in lots of boats, and work for me everywhere I fish. Hot depths and colors change from day to day and trip to trip. I carry everything, and experiment with my sets non-stop, looking for a combo the fish like. When the chips are down in real cold water, blue/silver, Iridescent, Bare Naked, Purple Demon and a couple others are what I start any day off with.
Lots of things make these baits great, and one of them is the high-end hooks they come with. Whether fish casually nip at them or smash them outright, they’ll get stuck. Big fish behind lots of monofilament and a trolling board need to be handled gently. Slow, powerful head shakes and hard power dives can rip hooks free. Walleye have fairly small, hard mouths rimmed in rubbery, dense tissue. When the fish are running over ten pounds, I want to land everything that moves that trolling board. The 10’6″ Eyecons have an outstanding record of keeping big walleye hooked. I really like trebles made from fine, light wire. They have lots of flex, and can be bent open pretty easily. Forgiving rods help these hooks dig in and stay put.
Lots of smooth, even pressure acts basically like a giant rubber band. Add in monofilament, and you’re in great shape to convert all your trolling strikes. Friends and guests I’ve had in the boat absolutely love the fight on these long, parabolic rods, too. They’re light, sensitive and make handling big fish exciting. I’m a light tackle fisherman when it comes to my Quinte trolling. The 10’6 fits my style perfectly. Since I started using them, these rods have also been fantastic for lake trout, rainbows, pike and some huge smallmouth. I get asked about my 10’6 Eyecons a lot. People of all experience levels love the sport, the look and the feel. I’d say that’s a pretty solid endorsement.
I can already tell that when running multiple rods (which is legal on many parts of Quinte) I’ll be wanting a set of the 12’0″ Eyecons for next season. To run more than one planer out either side, you stagger your rods and lines: the longest rods with the widest spread are stacked in rod holders ahead of your shorter rods, which are running ‘boards closer to the boat. How about a 12lber on a 12’ rod? Sounds amazing to this guy! Remember not let those long lengths intimidate you, either. These are all two-piece rods that separate in half for easy storage and travel. If you do any amount of walleye trolling, take a good look at the 10’6″ Eyecon Trolling rods. They’ve been my hole card on big walleye in 2013, and accounted for a huge chunk of my biggest fish. Priced right, and family owned, St. Croix offers up yet another fantastic option for fishermen everywhere.
About AuthorMore info about author
JP Bushey is a multi-species, multi-season fisherman living in Barrie, Ontario. North-Central Ontario’s ‘big water’ is where he spends most of his time, from his home waters of Georgian Bay to The Great Lakes, Lake Nipissing and The French River. JP’s been a freelance fishing contributor for over fifteen years, and enjoys helping people to improve their fishing through his articles, speaking engagements and on-the-water instruction.More by JP Bushey