Steve Bodinger winning on the Detroit River

Winning Ways For Motor City Walleyes

Rivers large and small offer great walleye and sauger fishing across the Northland in spring, and the incredible Detroit River is one of the standouts.

Though it flows for just 32 miles from the outlet of Lake St. Clair to western Lake Erie, the storied waterway links the upper and lower Great Lakes, making it a hub of commercial navigation. For anglers, the river offers a variety of fishing options, including the spring walleye run.

Each spring, schools of sag-bellied Erie’s eyes flood into the river, offering one of the continent’s best chances at trophy fish topping 10 pounds. April is typically a great time to tap the bite, though the timing may vary a bit depending on the prevailing weather.

The Detroit River is a special place for Team Northland member Steve Bodinger. Hailing from Chilton, Wisconsin, he fishes the Master’s Walleye Circuit team tournament on the river each spring with his brother, Dan. So far, they’ve won two of the events and are gunning for more.

In 2015, the Bodingers won their second MWC tournament on the Detroit by targeting a rocky straightaway lying in 22 to 25 feet of water on the Canadian side of the river, about a mile from Lake Erie. Their winning tactics hinged on fishing Northland Fire-Ball jigs tipped with shad-tailed softbaits.

“I snap-jigged while Dan fished more slowly on the bottom, and both approaches caught fish,” says Steve. “We didn’t get a lot of walleyes, but we saw them on our sonar so we kept working the area and it paid off.”

The brothers sacked a two-day, 10-fish MWC limit weighing an incredible 90 pounds, 11 ounces. They broke the circuit’s all-time two-day basket record of 87 pounds, 3 ounces, and topped the 70-boat leaderboard just an ounce ahead of second-place finishers Curtis Olivier and Doug Galant, who weighed in 90 pounds, 10 ounces.
When the Bodingers won the tournament in April of 2010, the hottest bite was below the river, so they trolled spinner rigs in the Michigan waters of Lake Erie.

Their go-to weapons were size 6 Colorado blades on Northland’s Mr. Walleye Crawler Hauler spinner rigs, in perch-imitating patterns. “We ran our rigs 1 to 1.2 mph at 9 to 10 feet in 16 to 18 feet of water in Brest Bay,” said Steve. “Finding dingy—not dirty—water was the key.”

Being able to jig the river or troll the lake just outside the river mouth is key to consistent success on this historic and walleye-rich system. Follow Bodinger’s lead and you’re well on your way to epic catches in the shadows of the Motor City.


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