W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
Walleyes Sensitive to Structure
by Colin D. Crawford
One of the most basic concepts of fishing is the fact that to catch fish, you must find them. Too many people get hung up on lure style, type, color, and an array of other factors. Sure it's important to have the right bait down there for fish to hit, but the best bait in the world will do you no good. You've got to get your lure within striking distance of a fish if you want to catch it. Finding fish in the summer can be a little more difficult than it is at other times or the year. In the spring, it's usually a pretty safe bet that fish will be in the vicinity of their spawning grounds. In the summer ol' marble eyes can be almost anywhere.
First of all, note the water clarity. If the lakes you’re on have dirty or stained water, the fish could be over shallow humps or points. If, on the other hand, the water is exceptionally clear, they could be located near deep sunken islands or deeper points. Usually though, on most lakes I'll begin my searching for walleyes on the weedline.
Walleyes use the weedline more than many anglers think. Backtroll the weedline quickly, in search for active fish. The fisherman running the motor might want to try a live bait rig, while the other angler tosses a jig with a leech up into the weeds a little ways. Using this method you can cover a pretty wide area of the weedline. Vary the depth and speed of your backtrolling approach.
If you don't find any biters on the weedline, try the points, flats, and sunken islands. Cruise over these areas, keeping an eagle eye on your depthfinder. If you notice a little irregularity on a structure, work it. For instance, if a little point comes off the side of a sunken island, concentrate on that area. Those tiny spots often hold big walleyes or schools of fish.
When you see a school of fish on your sonar unit, note their position. If they're flat to the bottom, they might be inactive and tough to catch. If they're a foot or two off the bottom though, work them hard. They'll probably bite if you put the right bait in front of them. This point became very clear to me on a large Midwestern lake last year. I could see walleyes two foot off the bottom on my depthfinder, but they wouldn't hit my jig. I must have tried six different colors trying to get those fish to bite. They wouldn't take the bait unit I switched to a live bait rig with a leech and set the snell length about 30 inches. The next time I saw the fish on my depthfinder graph, I had a strike within five seconds. They were the same fish that wouldn't touch a jig, but couldn't stay off my rig.
The best methods to catch spring walleyes also depend on the stage of the spawn period you are fishing. Walleyes are the one fish species that the right rod makes the difference. Being able to feel that subtle bite can only happen with quality rod. I prefer a 6'6" or 7' graphite rod, medium action with a fast tip. The Abu Garcia Suverän reel is my choice for the reel because I like the rear drag feature. In addition, stainless steel ball bearings provide a smooth reel and a smooth reliable drag. If the fish are between the spawn and resting period, I use 4 lb. test XL line with 1/16 oz. jig tip with a fathead minnow. If the rest period is over and the fish are back in their spawning areas feeding, I go up to six pound Berkley Trilene and 1/16 or 1/8 oz. jigs depending on the wind and water depth. I use round headed jigs and the stand-up jigs in 1/16 oz. for depths to 15' and 1/8 oz. for 15' and deeper, or on windy days in shallow water, in either case, my line choice is Berkley. I know from experience that the line has strength, low visibility, and low memory in cold weather. New emerging weeds are usually the best areas to find these fish but also rock and wood shorelines are outstanding locations. Keep in mind that wood cluttered bottoms are one of the best spring walleye producers, but you might have to carry a large supply of jigs.
The important thing is to keep moving until active fish are found. Don't waste time on walleyes that won't bite. Remember, finding structure will help you find the walleyes.
If you are interested in fishing with me give me a call at 715-545-8347
in the Phelps, Wis. area. Or look for me this summer on the water. If
you remember NPAA #94 and structure and you will be catching fish. Hope
to hear from you soon.
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Since August 1, 1998