W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
Current Break Walleyes
by Colin D. Crawford
I flipped my jig in a little eddy that was caused by the tip of the wingdam. As the jig carried the fathead minnow to the bottom I felt a familiar tick on the line. I set the hook immediately and the pull on the other end of the line told me that I probably had a walleye. With a little fight from the fish and some from the current I landed a nice 18" walleye.
The late fall or early winter is a great time to get to a river near you and catch some walleyes as they start to move up towards the head of the pools or start staging along the various breaks as they head towards the dams. River walleyes bite all year, if you know where to look and how to fish for them.
A river walleye unlike lake walleyes have to fight current all of their lives. Therefore, the walleyes in the rivers have adapted to be in areas that offer current breaks so they don't have to fight the current all of the time. These current breaks are anything that diverts the current and allows slack water. The slack water areas are found below the dams where an eddy is formed by the water being drawn over the dam and rushing downstream causing a slack water area on each side of the dam. Other obstructions that cause slack water might be below wingdams, behind rocks, a depression in the floor of the river, a stump or fallen tree, or man made obstacles such as bridge abutments.
The key to locating walleyes in the river in the fall and early winter starts with locating a series of obstacles and then allowing your bait or lure to present itself in a natural manner so the walleye can race from behind the obstruction to acquire the offering and then race back into the slack water area to digest his meal and await another.
In the fall or early winter of the year the turbidity of the water subsides and walleyes are more visually stimulated as they see food floating by the slack water areas. This is not to say that all walleyes see their food before they strike and in some cases they strike more out of vibration and smell than they do from visual identification.
With the proper head design and weight, jigs are the most versatile of all river techniques, from the shallowest flooded cover, to the deepest fastest current. The majority of river fishing with jigs involves either slipping the current or drift fishing the current breaks. The presentation is a simple lift-drop-pause method of jigging, raising the jig some 3 to 6 inches as you slip downstream. The jigs that I prefer to use are Fuzzy Grub jigs because of the rounded head. The rounded head allows the jig to bump along the bottom and not get hung up in snags or brush. If you are as vertical as possible the jig will stand up allowing the hook to be exposed away from the floor of the river. When you tip the jig with a fathead minnow the minnow stands up and looks like it is trying to pick up the jig. As the minnow struggles against the weight of the jig it sends out wounded signals and the natural scent attracts the walleyes and allows them to hang on just that much longer.
Colors of the jigs should be bright in dingy water. Colors such as fluorescent orange, chartreuse and my all time favorite gold are great for fishing those fall walleyes. Anytime that you can bring attention to your bait it will help you up your odds for catching those fall walleyes.
Weights may range from 1/8 to 1/2 ounces, but you should usually stay with the weight that is the lightest to have contact with the bottom. River walleyes have a tendency not to suspend as much as the walleyes in the lake and you don't have to worry about missing a strike zone that is in the fish column. I will tip my jig with some plastic if I want to slow down the rate of fall, but current usually fights gravity faster and defeats the purpose of vertical jigging.
Slack water fish can also be found by pitching Fuzzy Grub jigs of 1/16 to 1/8 ounce to the shoreline or cover like flooded wood or boulders. The angler in this situation should use a lift drop retrieve to slip or quarter the jig downstream as it is retrieved back to the boat. This is a super tactic for fishing eddies, wing dams or shallow mid river shoals.
This fall, grab some jigs, slip on the coat, and head for the nearest river. Look for slack water and you will find some good fall walleyes. It is my understanding that the Winnipeg river is a great place to look for some monster slack water walleyes right now.
If you are interested in reading more about walleye fishing and other
stories that use a variety of techniques log onto
www.walleyecentral.com. Hope to see you soon on the net. If you are
interested in a guided trip, a personal media interview, or photo shoot,
please call 715-545-8347. I am located in the Phelps, Wisconsin area.
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