W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Working Subtleties for Super Catches
By Sam Anderson
Boom! Hardly had my jig touched the water before it was attacked ferociously. "Can't be a walleye," I hollered as I strained against the fish, "he hit too hard." Ross let his jig sink while he reached for the net. Unexpectedly, his line also tightened and we had a double, our fist of many that day.
A very interesting pattern develops on stained water lakes. It revolves around sunlight. It's difficult to say exactly why, but on cloudy days, you'll catch most of your fish in the weeds; on sunny days, most will come off the rocks. It's not a hard and fast rule, but it holds remarkably true. There will usually be a number of patterns that might work during the summer period, some at the same time. However, you might find only one, maybe two, big-fish patterns.
On cloudy days walleyes rise up near the tops and out to the edge of weeds. They're active and easy to get at, and you can usually catch a bunch. If you fish the rocks on a cloudy day, though it's usually tough.
On the other hand, when the sun shines, the walleyes tend to bury down into the weeds during the day. They're no longer active on the edges. You'll have to pick and scrounge to get a few.
But when the sun shines on the rocks, it's like magic. The walleyes are active. We believe it's a matter of better vision coupled with increased bait fish activity. First, there's increased light penetration through the water and more light reflection off the rocks. The rock fish can see better than usual. Second, increased light penetration spurs more algae and plankton growth, and, therefore more walleye movement. Rocks may even warm up a bit. There may be more to it than that, but whatever the reason, when it's sunny, the rocks are the place to be.
The rocks, if they are close enough to the surface, absorb heat from the sun like a solar panel. The warmth attracts minnows and you know the rest. A few scattered weeds growing up between the rocks can be a real bonus.
A wind coming into the rock pile can be advantageous, although I have enjoyed some nice catches on hot, calm days. Remember that the angle of the sun's rays is not as direct at this time of year so the fish can be quite shallow. The direction of the wind will have a lot to do with how the fish locate. Usually they will be working the windy side of the rock pile.
It's not a matter of the fish moving from the rocks to the weeds, or vice versa, depending on the sun. It's simply the localized population of fish responding to changing conditions. One bunch is active; the other isn't. Tomorrow things may change. Be aware of the triggering effect of sunlight and concentrate you efforts accordingly.
The stained water demands lure choices that trigger by both sight and sound. Since you should work over, through and along the edges of weeds and down among the rocks, you should select a limited number of lures that will do all of the above. All you need is a very simple tackle assortment to catch these fish.
The three basic types of lures that I use to fish rocks and weeds are Lindy Rigs, Fuzzy Grub jigs and crankbaits. These simple to use lures allow an angler to rip and rustle through weeds, or do a job on the rocks. And, both give you sight and sound that is so critical in stained water.
Stick with jigs in the 1/16, 1/8, and 1/4 ounce ranges, in two basic styles. One type is the standard round jig. This style jig can be use dressed with plastic or used plain with a stinger hook. The second type of jig that I prefer is a wedge shaped head. A Fuzzy Grub jig has a tapered head is relatively weed free.
Add the dressing of your choice to any of these jigs. A 3 inch fathead minnow hooked through the bottom jaw and out the top of the skull is remarkably tough and can be worked with ease through rocks and weeds.
When walleyes are active, simply cast out and swim the jig across the tops of the weeds. When you get to the weedline, let it fall down the edge and rest on the bottom. Pay close attention to the slightest twitch because it may be a walleye sucking in the jig.
For less active fish, you will have to go into the weeds. Use a slightly heavier jig and let it fall into the weeds. Let it sit. Jiggle it. Rip it a few feet and let it sit again. You have to make some noise.
Rock walleyes are easier to get at. If possible, stick to the 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jigs. They are far more snag resistant than heavier 1/4 ounce jigs and work better in rocks. Swim, slide , or crawl your jig across the rocks or give it a few quick hops. Try letting it sit if the snags aren't too bad. It always pays to experiment with retrieves.
The flash and vibration of crankbaits makes them natural for these conditions. The fish can sense them a long way off and be ready to strike as they approach. All in all, they are far more effective on walleyes than most people realize. You might think that the best way to approach these spots would be with a jig or a Lindy Rig. I have taken numbers of fish with rigs off the bottom. But, often times the bigger fish are taken by fan casting a crankbait. Crankbaits like Storm's Baby ThunderStick and Junior ThunderStick or a #5 or #7 Shad Rap are good choices. Towards evening you might want to move to a shallow running Shad Rap or a Rattlin' Fat Rap to produce even more excitement.
The crankbait that I prefer to use on weeds and walleyes is the #10 Husky Jerk. It is long and has a slow wobble. The color is flashy and catches the eye of the walleyes and if you let it sit over the top of the weeds and twitch it ever so slowly it will drive those walleyes crazy.
The casting approach, using jigs or crankbaits should do the trick.
Whichever tactic you use, a medium Quantum spinning rod and reel
spooled up with some 8 lb. test XL line should give you a winning
combination for walleyes that are in the weeds or on the rocks.
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Since August 1, 1998