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Walleyes on shallow current breaks
By Bill Ortiz
With all of the tools available now to the modern walleye angler, one of the oldest and most effective tools for catching walleye on rivers early in the year continues to be a good anchor. What surprises me is how many fishing rigs don’t even have anchors or at least anchors that can properly hold a boat in moderate current. I spend a good amount of time each spring anchoring on the rivers I fish and to this day, I can’t find anything as effective as sitting on top of a good spot.

Generally, we are anchoring on current seams or some other break. Points in the river, rock piles, wing dams and rip rap are all potentially good breaks that will form an eddy or current break. Early in the season, the best spots are often close to the shoreline and shallow. We can usually see the actual current break which looks like a ripple on the surface unless wind is blowing hard up river. Generally, aggressive fish are on top of the point or in front of the current break where inactive fish may be behind or in the hole.

One of the most important and overlooked aspects of our presentation while anchoring is the direction or angle of our retrieve. Bass anglers are often looking for different angles or directions they can fish cover. Walleye anglers should learn a lesson. What we have found is that we can really fine tune our presentations and become much more effective at pulling fish off a spot by being conscience of the angles we are using to reach fish.

Bill Ortiz with a fine walleye caught on a shallow current break Often, we may start out by anchoring directly upstream of the current break and pitching either hair jigs or jigs tipped with Gulp! downstream, dragging the jigs against the current. Say this strategy catches a few fish off the spot. Now we can often trigger a few more fish by changing the direction or angle of our presentation. We can easily accomplish this task by tying the anchor rope off of different cleats, letting our more rope and sliding across and to the side of the current break. This position allows us to cast into and up stream with our jigs and we than let the current sweep the jigs through the spot. With an anchor, we can thoroughly dissect a spot by casting several different angles cross current and also by dragging jigs directly against the current.

Whether we are casting and dragging or casting and letting the current sweep the jig through the spot, plastics and hair are extremely effective early in the season. In fact, we use live minnows sparingly. We encourage anglers to experiment with hair jigs and plastics. Obviously, scented plastics are much more effective. By far, Gulp! has been the most effective plastic for me but we also still use some Powerbait. Generally on many of the rivers I frequent each spring, we might be anchored in ten feet of water or less and casting into much less water. Jig weights very but just make sure you are using a jig heavy enough to find bottom as you tumble downstream. Many of the really good river rats I know prefer a high-vis mono for this style of fishing; in fact most anglers are rigged with Berkley Sensation in the high visibility green in six pound test. The best rod for pitching jigs is a heated debate with many Fenwick, G Loomis and St Croix fans who all feel they have the best rod for jigging. I won’t dispute any of them as they all make great rods but for me, the best jigging rod I have ever had my hands on is a Jason Mitchell Elite Series JMS66MXF. This six and a half foot rod is so incredibly light that I fish all day hard and never want to set the rod down. This rod just feels good in my hand and I fish well with the rod.

A few final notes on anchoring and pitching jigs to walleyes relating to shallow current breaks. Big fish are almost always shallow in the spring as soon as fish leave their wintering holes. The fish are usually relating right to these current breaks, you have to be right on the spot to be successful. The fish generally want the jig moving in particular direction or angle so be patient as you work spots. Anchoring allows anglers to slow down the day, work one spot at a time and work these spots well. Set out with the mindset that you are going to work just a half dozen of your best spots in a day. This patience and strategy can often pay dividends in the form of several big fish.

Editors Note: Bill Ortiz is a past PWT Angler of the Year and PWT winner

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