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Early Season Walleye Tactics
Rivers can be the ticket in spring. Fish location is a real key, with walleyes concentrating close to shore, during high current conditions near swirling back eddies and slack water refuges. In years of slow or moderate current flows the fish will relate to the deeper main channel edges.
Boat control is the most critical part of a precise presentation needed
to fool these current orientated walleyes. It’s desirable to match your
boat speed to the exact speed of the current by using a bursting technique
to compensate for winds and bottom contour changes.
Vertical jigging techniques rule during this cold water time frame and arming oneself with the ideal weaponry to do battle with these lethargic post winter fish is a must. A Walleye Angler Signature Series jigging rod, a handful of Buck-Shot Rattle Jigs, some Power Jig Worms, minnows, stinger hooks and premium 6 lb. FireLine or Pro Select mono will be the right stuff to win a few walleye wars.
Another fantastic spring area is the shallows of both rivers and lakes. Spawning areas are particularly productive as both males and females relate to the gravel and stone substrate. Pitching 1/16 to 1/8 oz. FireBall Jigs along these rock studded shorelines should prove to be a satisfying fishing experience.
Walleyes won’t be the only thin water victims as many bass, sunfish, and catfish go shallow this time of year. Sometimes our favorite fish likes to spend time hanging around flooded timber and such. Use the same jig pitching technique but vary the jig style to a hook guarded Northland Weed Weasel. Throw the jig quite close to shore, and retrieve with a lift, pause, lift, pause type of stroke.
Beginners and novices who have not yet garnered the experience to positively identify a soft bite or that have a rod that is not an expensive high-tech graphite model will have much more luck with using no-stretch FireLine. For those experienced, lightning fast reflex guys and gals, Pro Select mono will be your choice so as not to repeatedly pull the hook out during your hard positive hookset.
As spring rolls to summer, walleyes normally move deeper (10-15 feet) to the breakline edges, down the slope and sometimes even to the bottom edges. Offshore humps and long shoreline finger points dumping to deep water all hold fish. One of the simplest, most deadly methods for early summer walleyes is the Rock-Runner Bottom Bouncer. Bouncers of the 1/4 to 1/2 oz range coupled with a 7 foot snell, bare hook and live bait, slow trolled with an electric motor can literally fill the boat on certain days.
Another great method for these mid-depth breakline orientated fish, especially if they seem to be scattered along the break, would be crankbaits. Using a 4-stroke outboard to troll ultra-slow, maintaining a constant depth is called contour cranking and can be devastatingly effective.
Normally this will be a numbers game, in effect, trolling crankbaits
such as ThunderStick
Jr.’s and Deep Jr. ThunderSticks past
During contour cranking you are concentrating on a fairly narrow fishing zone, “along the break”, so make the lure spread with 3 rods. Two 8 foot 6 inch trollers out the side, in the rod holders and a 7 foot 6 inch hand held version directed behind the boat (check local regulations for number of rods allowed per angler).
Trolling is an awesome early summer tactic, but let’s switch to another location. Shallow flats. By definition, these areas will be relatively structure free, but as far as overall lake depth is concerned, definitely not in the deepest part. For instance, in natural lakes a good flat might be from 8-10 feet deep while in Lake Erie we may be talking 30-40 feet.
The first overlooked trolling technique is using the same rod setup discussed earlier but adding a fourth 7 foot 6 inch troller. Lines will be spread using Planer boards and on natural lakes bottom bouncers with Northland 3-D Rainbow Spinners baited with crawlers.
When the water is clear, choose blades that are shiny like the silver plated ones found on P/K Tackle Finesse Spinners, or use P/K’s new Palladium plated blades on your favorite spinner.
Deeper Great Lakes flats will often find the walleyes suspended,
Suspended walleyes feed in an upward direction which means
If they are suspended higher in the water column, make the lead longer (50-100 feet- depending on water clarity) before attaching the Snap Weight.
Whenever the fish are setup on flats it’s very important to
Cruise the proposed fishing area with sonar, marking likely looking areas with GPS icons, but use a non fish symbol to mark the potential school. Once the area is scoped out, go back and fish in the vicinity of the icons. When you catch a walleye, drop a fish icon, and work the area thoroughly, dropping more fish icons for each walleye caught. This way a school location will become quickly apparent.
The last early summer technique is the probing of these same open water flats with planner boards and crankbaits. As the water warms to 50 degrees and above, walleyes will turn to cranks. Subtle action baits like ThunderStick Jr.’s work well in cold temps and moderate action baits like Deep ThunderStick Jr.s or the new Medium Running Lightnin’ Shads take over when water is on the warm. In clear water use chromes and natural colors. Dingy water dictates FireTiger or other bright colors.
We think that you’ll find the summary of spring and early summer techniques and locations helpful this year. Fishing season is almost upon us, so sharpen those hooks, and spool up some fresh line ... cabin fever can’t last much longer!
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