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Fishing Articles by Bob Riege
Spring Shallow Water ‘Eyes
By by Bob Riege
Few people look to water less than 15' deep, but this shallow water can produce some of the biggest stringers of the year in early spring. If you want to fish shallow this time of year, don't expect many bites but look for some big fish.
My Fish Stat Pro records indicate that the best shallow bite this time of year usually occurs around the full moon and is in the upper third of the reservoir. Usually when you find one up shallow, there are more nearby. They come out to feed, and that's the only reason they are up on the bank cruising around. These schools of big fish don't come up shallow every day, but if you find them, you can catch a really nice stringer.
Most of my cold-water success has come on river rock or chunk rock banks out towards the main river channel. Because they are on these rock banks, I believe they are primarily looking for crawdads. Female walleyes need to eat crawdads now as their eggs start developing for the coming spawn.
Casting works best for walleyes in several situations. When you have the fish pinpointed, a casting presentation can be the best way to keep your bait in the fish's strike zone. If the fish are on the very tip of a rock point, casting will allow you to put the bait right where the fish are on every cast. If a trolling run was made through those same fish, the lure would be pulled through the school, then you would have to turn around and go back through the fish. The turning around process takes time, and also takes the lure out of the productive fishing zone.
If the walleyes were on a deep point, you could troll until the fish were found, then hover directly overhead. This is where I like to use my Pinpoint Positioning System. This is a combination of a trolling motor that has the transducers for the depthfinders right in the head of the motor. No more need for the use of radiator clamps and hanging wires to get tangled in. The Pinpoint trolling motor will sense that the boat is getting to close to shore, or off the desired depth and correct itself with a system called bottom tracking. This is great especially if you want to stay in deep water without spooking shallow fish. With bottom track it will steer the boat to the desired depth when you program it to do so.
I throw crawdad-colored crankbaits and jigs this time of year. Concentrate working on river rock points or on the sides of the points. Deep-diving crawdad crankbaits also work great. One of my favorites is a 3/8-oz. lure in a crayfish or brown crayfish pattern. This is an awesome color in clear water.
Work the crankbait at a slow to medium retrieve on the rock banks. Crankbaits are probably your best bet for this shallow water, but keep the jig handy for thoroughly dissecting areas where you caught a couple cranking.
Another good bet is a suspending jerkbait. These baits can really be effective if the water is fairly clear (2 to 5' visibility), and the walleyes are lethargic. You can really slow these baits down, and they are usually good for milking another fish or two out of a spot where you've just caught one on a crankbait. Suspending jerkbaits in a shad or trout pattern, or just black and silver, are usually best.
A casting presentation also allows more experimentation with different styles. If three anglers are fishing from the same boat, one can throw a Fireball jig, one can try a Husky Jerk, while the remaining fisherman can use a slip-bobber. That can't be done while trolling, as it's impractical and almost impossible to effectively use all three lure types at the same time while the boat is moving.
Casting a bait is very effective when the walleyes move into the cabbage weeds. At times, walleyes will locate themselves in the middle of a bed of cabbage. A trolling run through the weeds would only result in snags. By casting a jig or split shot rig into the weeds, snags will be avoided and fish will be caught. You'll still get some hang-ups, but they will be greatly reduced when this casting method into the weeds is employed.
When you're casting crankbaits for walleyes in the shallows, begin your retrieve with several quick turns of the reel to make the lure dive. Once it strikes the shallow rocks, decrease your retrieve speed. In fact, with the Husky Jerk you might even stop for a few moments and the slowly retrieve the lure.
The lure is constantly in productive water when you cast parallel to a roadbed or riprap. But when you cast perpendicular to it, you're only in position for a few feet. So, make the majority of your casts parallel to the shoreline and be sure to keep your retrieve speed very slow.
These fish aren't living shallow; they're there to feed. It's very common this time of year to fish a spot in the morning and get nothing, then try it again midday and find fish. Walleyes move up on these banks for an hour or two each day to feed, then they quit. So, don't get discouraged if you crank for a couple hours and don't catch anything. The same banks could be good later in the day.
Give these ideas a try next time you are on the water. Hopefully, you
will discover that fishing shallow water walleyes in the spring will pay
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