19.3-pound walleye to be Washington State’s new record
The Columbia River has produced the largest walleye ever recorded in Washington state, and in fact one of the largest of all time, anywhere. Mike Hepper of Richland, Washington pulled in the huge fish on February 5, 2007. “I was fishing an area known as the Finley Area, near buoy marker number 30,” Hepper said. “The fish hit a crawler harness with chartreuse beads and a Mack’s Lure Smile Blade in silver scale pattern.” He was fishing in 32-34 feet of water with the Smile Blade rig behind a 36-inch leader on a 1-ounce bottom bouncer. This rig is a go-to bait for Hepper, who is a serious big walleye angler who puts in a lot of time chasing the Columbia’s monster walleye. “The Smile Blade allows me to move slowly, and it keeps turning even when I am only pulling the bait at 1.3 to 1.5 miles per hour.” Moving slowly around the contours of the river in the winter is important, he says, because the water temperature is in the mid-30’s and the walleye are not likely to chase a fast-moving bait.
Hepper, a retired school teacher, fishes the Columbia around 200 days a year and is no stranger to big fish. His largest last year was 17.7 pounds and he nearly missed the state record in 2005 when he caught one that weighed in at 18.57 pounds, just under the record of 18.9 pounds. He has caught dozens of fish in the teens and walleye over ten pounds, considered trophies by most walleye anglers, don’t even get a second look.
For the record, the fish was officially registered at 19.3 pounds, with a length of 35 inches and an impressive girth of 23 inches.
Hepper was right back on the water the following day. “Now through March is the best time for big fish,” he says. He doesn’t intend to quit fishing for these big fish any time soon. He believes that the record may well be broken again, possibly soon, and you can’t catch a big one if you’re not on the water.
Mack’s Lure Smile Blades have produced huge numbers of walleye on the Columbia River for many years, and are now beginning to catch on in the Midwest and other parts of the walleye belt across northern North America. They are available at most sporting goods retailers or online at www.mackslure.com.