Travis Frank

Travis Frank’s motto is "Livin’ the dream." That means he’s on the water or in the field 300 days a year. He’s been a fishing guide at Trophy Encounters for the past 10 seasons chasing Minnesota’s toughest fish, the muskie. When he’s not on the water, he's in the deer stand or chasing Midwest fowl.

Posts about Walleye

Opening Day Walleyes & Wind Burn

Posted by: Travis Frank Updated: May 13, 2013 - 2:19 PM


Travis Frank with an opening day lake Minnetonka walleye

Travis Frank with an opening day lake Minnetonka walleye

Saturday at midnight the fishing season kicked open.  A few minutes later, so too did the wind.  This year's opener will forever be remembered as the year for wind and ice.  I've fished in crappy weather before, but this was brutal.  Being tough guys, we battled it all day long.  After all, walleyes are always worth it.

My fishing crew consisted of Bails, an opening day regular.  "New Chad," which as the name suggests, made his first opening day start.  And, last but not least, Eric, "the lone wolf," Wolf.  A motley crew of walleye lovers, for sure.

We opted to keep our tradition going and started at midnight.  Lake Minnetonka was our lake of choice.  Chad started off the event with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's, Fishin' in the Dark, at 11:57pm.  Then, at 12:00 on the dot, we were down to business.  Our first spot was fish less.  At about 12:15 we moved on, and as we motored to spot number 2, the lake erupted.  Gale force winds literally knocked us sideways.  It blew so hard that it would have been miserable even if the walleyes were jumping in the boat.  We opted to take a skunk to bed and get some rest before sunrise.

The morning started slow and cold, but as the sun warmed up, so did the walleyes.  Well, kinda.   While I did my best circus act to hold the boat on the prime spot, Bails landed 3 dandies.  All three were in the 24 inch range, and all three went back into the lake.  Getting rid of the skunk was all we really wanted, then we pulled the plug on our morning.

After lunch and a nap, we returned for the evening bite.  Eric instantly boated his first walleye.  The skunk remained for both Chad and I.  Soon, they placed bets on who would catch a walleye first.  Bails put his money on Chad and Eric took yours truly.  Fortunately, Eric didn't have to wait long to get paid.  My drought was over (insert a Hallelujah)!  I boated my first, followed by a second, which also happened to take big fish honors for the day.  She was a spawned out female over 27 inches in length. I thanked her for the sunset thrill, then sent her on her way.

As darkness approached, "New Chad," was the only man without a catch.  His depression was reaching new depths when suddenly he hooked up.  It was a big fish, possibly larger than mine.  Just as we were about to catch a glimpse, the line snapped.  If he hadn't fished so hard all day, it would have been hilarious.  Seeing the defeat in his eyes, we could only laugh at half throttle.  As he re-tied his line we talked about what we could have done differently.  "Nothing," he said.  A new jig and two casts later the man was hooked up again.  Thank goodness, this time, the walleye made the net.

With Chad's fish, we called it a day.  Four tired boys left the lake with a handful of walleye tales, and wind burnt faces.  In total, we managed 8 walleyes for our efforts.  Four for the pan, Four for the photo album.  A far cry from a normal year, but considering the conditions, we called it a success.  This opener proves that even on a bad day, fishin' is still good.  Until next time, keep on livin' the dream!

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Pondering the 2013 Metro Walleye Opener

Posted by: Travis Frank Updated: May 6, 2013 - 10:05 AM


Travis Frank with an opening week walleye on Lake Minnetonka.

Travis Frank with an opening week walleye on Lake Minnetonka.

Ice, cold, blah, blah, blah.  I don't think anybody wants to spend time babbling about the cold spring.  Instead, how about we take a look at what this cold weather will mean for the start of our fishing season?

In short, I believe this cool spring will bring good fishing.  Walleyes thrive in cooler water.  Opening day might be slow, but it won't take long for things to heat up.  The next month or two should be solid.  In the metro, the walleyes are spawning as we speak.  They spawn when the water is between 42 and 48 degrees.  After the fish spawn, there is a heavy "feedbag" window when walleyes seem to eat everything in sight.  The cool water keeps them active longer, and many times they remain in shallow, easy to find locations.

On a warm water year, this "feedbag" window often occurs before our season even starts.  Last year the walleyes in the metro spawned 6 weeks before the opener.  Their peak feeding period occurred 4 weeks before opening day.  This year, we should see the peak feeding window occur within the first two weeks of our season.  On a typical year the best walleye fishing generally runs through May, then slowly fades into June.  This year we could be looking at a solid bite that drags into July (if we are lucky).

Considering our conditions, you could target this peak window for over a month.  If you had nothing but free time for the next 5 weeks, you could start out in southern Minnesota on opening day, then each week trek north until you hit Lake of the Woods.  The prairie lakes of the south will be prime for opening day.  The metro waters will be at peak the week after opener.  Mille Lacs should be prime in about 2 weeks.  Leech should be on fire in 3 and Lake of the Woods will be slamming in 4. Timing this bite according to the spawn will give you the chance at an incredible year of walleye fishing, maybe the best you've ever had.

I will be starting my season in the metro.  Lake Minnetonka to be exact.  I'm an optimist, so I believe we will find active fish come opening day.  As of right now, the water temps are in the mid 40's and the walleyes are currently spawning.  Come Saturday, we will be on the early fringe of their heavy feeding window.  If it starts slow, it will only increase as we progress into the end of the first week. 

Here are some things that I will look for to help me find metro walleyes.  First and foremost, I believe the walleyes will be shallow.  I don't expect to fish any deeper than 7 feet of water.   I'm going to search for the first green weeds of the year.  Most metro walleyes are stocked fish.  They spend the first year of their life in a small weedy pond.  When transplanted, they go to what they know - weeds.  The minute the walleyes finish their spawn, they go straight to the green stuff.  Baitfish will use this area, and so will the walleyes.  To get more specific, I believe the inside weed edges will hold the greatest numbers of active walleyes.  On Minnetonka and a handful of other metro lakes, this weedline runs at about 3 to 6 feet of water.

To catch them, my first choice will be to pitch a jig and minnow, followed by casting Rapala's.  Most people think you have to fish deep water to catch walleyes during the day.  I have found the walleyes to be aggressive all day when they are in the shallow weeds.  When darkness falls, they come out of the weeds and roam on the nearest hard bottom flats.  1 to 2 feet of water is not out of the question.  Casting Rapala's on these shallow flats after dark can be lethal.  This tactic should last at least 3 weeks this year.  On a warmer year, I've seen it die in less than 1.

Lake Minnetonka is an obvious gold mine, but there are a pile of small walleye factories nearby.  Small lakes with heavy walleye stocking programs provide some incredible fishing opportunities within a 30 mile radius of the cities.  The past 5 years I've made it a point to try these smaller waters right away.  I've been blown away by the success.  The first 2 weeks being the best.  This year, I think they will all be hopping for a good month.

Thanks to this cool spring, we will be able to fish walleyes throughout their entire peak feeding period.  Ice up north might force you to stay home, but you can be thankful for the bumper crop of fish that await you.  I wish you a safe and prosperous fishing season.  If there is anything I can do to hook you up with more fish, please don't hesitate to ask.  Until next time, keep chasin' your dream!

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Travis Frank -

Why Wait For Walleye's?

Posted by: Travis Frank Updated: May 9, 2011 - 12:15 PM


The walleye chomp is going strong.  Travis Frank with a recent catch from the St. Croix River.

The walleye chomp is going strong. Travis Frank with a recent catch from the St. Croix River.

I'm convinced the season never closes in Minnesota.  There are big fish to be hooked 365 days a year.  In my opinion, the walleye opener in 5 days simply means there are more places to get it done.  If you are a fishin' fool like myself, then you've probably already caught a few marble eyes in 2011.

The Mighty Mississippi has been giving them up all winter and spring.  The only thing that slowed it down was mother nature's flood.  The Rainy River is always a good April option.  Walleyes and Sturgeon make the trip extra sweet.  The Mississippi is now back in her banks and so is the bite.  Pools 2 through 4 never close.  Adding to the list, our border waters are now fair game.  The season is open my friends, in fact it's in full swing!

This past Saturday I celebrated another 2011 fishing opener.  This time it was my St. Croix river opener.  Funny thing is, I was late to the party.  Walleye dudes had been hammering them for the past week.  This is the 3rd year that I've fished that stretch of water, and every year I walk away more impressed.  When it comes to quality sauger and eyes, it's hard to beat the Croix.  Rumors of the hot bite were true, and it didn't take us long to catch a meal.  Our method was simple.  Jigs tipped with minnows or plastics.  Honestly, they both caught 'em well.  The secret was finding the fish.  And, judging by all the boats catching 'em, it wasn't much of a secret.  Neither was the bait.

I realize the significance of the Minnesota opener in a few days.  Like you, I am growing restless.  I'm just happy that we never had to stop catching walleyes to wait for it.  If you are looking for a quick fix to your walleye blues, I strongly suggest you head to a border water this week.  The cool water has these fish on a feeding rampage.  Get out there and rub off the dust before the opener hits.  You won't be dissapointed.   Until the next season opens, keep on livin' your dream!

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The Metro Walleye Report!

Posted by: Travis Frank Updated: June 1, 2010 - 3:35 PM


George proudly holds his first walleye ever!

George proudly holds his first walleye ever!

Two weeks into the season and I'm already sick of catching walleyes.  Just kidding.  But, at the rate they have been biting I'm beginning to wonder if I have things figured out, or if they are just eating at a faster than normal pace.  With each strike of the bait I'm thinking that it's the latter.  Last night I was on the water and I almost had my arm ripped off from a hungry walleye.  It was  a strike similar to that of a musky or catfish.  It leads me to wonder if this accelerated spring and warm water temps have the fish on a binge that they cannot sustain.

The first week of the season proved to be extroardinary on big fish.  The second week continued the same trend, but finally started to yield a few for the frying pan.  The funny part is that we've been having such a fun time catching them that we haven't even taken the time to keep any.  I call it stock for future trips, and that's a good thing for us and the lake.

Home from a 5 day work trip out of state, I snuck out Sunday evening on my favorite metro water for a quick evening bite and found the fishing better than when I left.  After what I had been experiencing, I didn't think it could get any better.  On Sunday evening I hooked a fish on my first 15 casts.  Yep, 15.  They weren't all walleyes and a couple got off, but I still battled a fish on more consecutive casts than I can ever remember.  It was surreal.

Yesterday morning I celebrated Memorial Day with a few eager anglers.  George and Tom were my guests, and our mission was to get George his first walleye ever.  Being from the non-walleye rich waters of Tennessee and the fact that he hadn't fished in over 20 years, I took it as a good accomplishment when the 72 year old southerner posed for his first ever walleye picture (above).  We had a blast all morning catching walleye, bass and hungry sheephead.  It was an adventure that I was told got George back into fishing.  In fact, my email this morning read something like this..."George said he is going to the store when he gets home to buy fishing equipment and he plans to start fishing again."  That comment alone makes me smile.

Last night was more of the same since I couldn't resist the chance to get back out there.  My good fishin' buddies Sean Bailey and Mike Ernst joined me and we proceeded to catch fish hand over fist.  In our short stint on the water we landed about 35 to 40 fish.  We weren't looking for a meal, rather a tug on the line, and if you catch a fish on almost every other cast, then you don't care if they are bass, walleye or a sheephead.

The bonus to all of this recent action is that I've been able to continue finding new areas and new walleye hot spots.  My growing list of "sweet spots" gives me an extra sense of satisfaction, the option to release several limits of nice walleyes makes me feel good, and the thought that this might continue for a few days leaves me excited.  To put it in simple fishing terms.  The bite is on.  We are simply blessed to enjoy this great fishing right in our back yard.  Hurry up and get out there before this action slows, or call me if you want to join the fun.  Until next time, keep on livin' the dream!

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A Hot Metro Walleye Bite

Posted by: Travis Frank Updated: May 25, 2010 - 8:53 AM


Travis Frank proudly holds a dandy metro walleye from the first week of the 2010 season.

Travis Frank proudly holds a dandy metro walleye from the first week of the 2010 season.

Opening week of the 2010 season has officially come and gone.  As I sit down to write about it, I believe I am going to consider this the best metro start that I have ever had.  Not exactly for the numbers of fish caught, but rather the quality of fish in the net.  At times I would have thought that I was fishing a walleye factory like Mille Lacs, Leech or Lake of the Woods.  Certainly not the metro waters.  During the last 5 days out, I have not left my home territory of Lake Minnetonka or Waconia, and yet I find myself with another album full of big walleye pictures.  I think it is safe to say that I am one lucky fishin' dude.

The average walleye in the boat since the start of the season has been about 24 inches.  As I wrote about in my last journal entry, it has been far more common to see a big walleye than a small one.  The biggest of the season thus far is still just under 8 pounds.  A hefty mark that we have now tickled several times.  Last Friday morning I snuck out for a solo mission and I found a school of "hogs" that went in this order.  25, 26, 27 and 25 respectively.  What made it all the more special for me was the fact that I told myself that I was "NOT" going to fish any spot that I have fished before.  I was on a mission to find new territory, and that is just what I did.  I started out cold, but after about 2 hours I finally got dialed in.  Before the day was through I found myself with 10 fish over 22 inches.  To say that I was happy with the results would be a total understatement.  Just ask my fishing buddies.  They are still hearing about it.  I now have even more goodies in my bag of tricks, and that makes me happy.

As fast as this all started out, I am now left to wonder.  The jig and minnow in millfoil pattern that has been working for me is in jeopardy of changing, if it hasn't already.  With a water temp that started out at 53 degrees on opening day, we are now hovering over 70.  Last night we plucked 5 dandy eye's, and this morning they had all but dissappeared.  Sadly, my guests were left wondering what could have been.  I'm sure the 90 degree sunshine didn't help matters, but it's all part of the game I guess.  Will this streak of big walleyes start up again?  Will the summer of 2010 be the best walleye season yet?  I'm optimistic that it will, and likely get even better.  Only time will tell for sure.  One thing is for certain.  Musky season is only a couple short weeks away.  Then I'll have to decide if I want to catch 5 lb walleyes or 50 inch muskies?  Hmmm... I think that's an easy choice, and a good problem to have.  As always, you can see more pictures in the walleye photo album, and a few openings left for anybody that wants in on the action.  Until next time, keep on livin' the dream!

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