|Editor's note: Bill Leonard is a professional walleye angler
from Estherville, Iowa, with 18 years of experience on the Professional
Walleye Trail, RCL, FLW and Masters Walleye Circuit. His career
includes 14 championship appearances and 31 Top 10 finishes.
Leonard is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Motors, MinnKota,
Humminbird, Berkley, Fenwick, Abu Garcia, Lindy Legendary Tackle,
Off-Shore Planer Boards and Soo Sports. His articles are printed
in a number of outdoor publications and at many web sites.
| A Midwestern summer is many things to many
people. It's picnics, family reunions and vacations. It's swimming,
sunbathing, boating and camping. It's lemonade, iced tea, watermelon,
sweet corn and popsicles. Those of us who love to fish for walleyes
know it's also a season when walleyes have places to go and
things to do. That local weed patch that produced fish from
May through early July is yielding fewer and fewer walleyes
and more and more questions for anglers.
Did we fish out the weeds? Do we need to change tactics? Did
the walleyes simply move elsewhere? If so, where did they go?
They can be attracted to anything from bug hatches and the presence
of mud worms to schools of shad, minnows, chubs and perch. When
my favorite weed beds seem to be drying up, one of the first
places I explore are the closest breaklines and the outside
edges of the weeds, which are easy to identify and locate with
my Humminbird 997cSI side-imaging sonar unit. Choose a rig and
presentation that you can fish effectively in these areas where
the vegetation is still present, but far less dense.
||Fortunately, if we know nothing else about summer walleyes
we know this: Nearly everything a walleye does is related
to its ability to feed its face efficiently and frequently.
Those old weedbeds offered a full menu of entrees earlier
in the open-water season. In fact, vegetation is where
the circle of aquatic life begins. Aquatic insects and
fry can feed on plankton. Larger baitfish can feed on
the bugs and newly hatched fish. Crawdads, salamanders,
frogs and leeches thrive, too. Meanwhile, the underwater
jungle provides a cloak of security.
Eventually, those smaller species of fish grow to a size
where they need more sustenance than the weeds can provide.
So, they become more adventuresome and seek out new food
sources. So do the walleyes. They are more willing to
travel, especially if there's a good picnic spread somewhere
along the journey. And because of the warmer water temperatures
that increase their metabolism, they must feed more frequently
than they do at most other times of the year.
The challenge isn't catching these hide and seek walleyes,
it's finding them. They can be on breaklines, mud flats
or suspended in open water.
My go-to set-up consists of a Lindy No-Snagg sinker and spinner
rigs tipped with Berkley Gulp! minnows or grubs in the 3- or
4-inch size. Run the sinker up your line, tie on a barrel swivel
to serve as a sinker stop, then use a lead for your spinner
rig that's at least six feet long. You can also rig this presentation
on a three-way. Make the Gulp! weedless by running a 1/0 hook
through the nose, then flipping the bait upside down and pushing
the barb through the body until just the tip is showing. The
advantage of using Gulp! is twofold: Not only does it attract
walleyes with its revolutionary scent dispersal, but it will
keep you fishing when pesky, live bait-thieving species like
perch and bluegills are present.
Because these breaklines and edges closest to the weeds are
typically in relatively shallow water, it pays to be stealthy.
I let my MinnKota 101 Terrova pull me along the edge, moving
as fast as 1.0-1.5 mph until I contact fish. Then I will slow
down and work the fish over at 0.8-1.0 mph. I never leave these
areas without trying a more aggressive approach, too. A Berkley
Frenzy Flicker Shad trolled at about 2.5 mph will often entice
strikes from otherwise noncommital fish. To cover a wider area,
use an Off-Shore planer board to take a second line away from
If I don't find walleyes along the breaks and weed edges, I
begin exploring the adjacent open water for suspended fish.
Again, the Humminbird's side-imaging technology gives me the
advantage of being able to spot fish in the middle of the water
column at the same time I'm watching the bottom. Many anglers
never know that suspended walleyes are present because those
fish scatter when a boat approaches and don't show up on sonar.
When I find suspended fish, I take note of the depth they are
holding so I can be sure to run at least one of my baits, if
not all of them, just a foot or two above them. Because their
eyes are positioned on the top of their heads, walleyes tend
to feed up and seldom go after baits below them.
Depending on the depth of the fish, I set up with No. 5 or No.
7 Flicker Shad baits and troll them on planer boards to get
them away from the boat. My Yamaha T-8 kicker motor works well
for me at speeds ranging from 2.0-2.5 mph in early summer to
2.5-3.5 mph later in the year, but I have friends who don't
hesitate to troll with their big Yamaha four-stroke outboards.
These fish are usually aggressive enough to chase down a fast-moving
I like a good summer picnic as much as anyone, but I prefer
mine to include a few golden brown walleye fillets. It's just
a game of hide and seek.
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