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Category Archives: Jig Fishing

Strategies for Lazy Walleye

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They’re there. You know they’re there. In deeper water, you can see them on your fish finder. Or, in shallow water too skinny to move your boat over the fish without spooking them, you simply know from past experience they’re around. Perhaps some subtle bumps or nudges — but no hook-ups — indicate walleyes are present but just not biting. Or at least just not biting anything that moves. Here’s a simple solution. Don’t move your bait. In other words, bring out your dead.

Dead sticking — which basically means tossing a jig out, letting it sink to bottom, and then not moving it for a l-o-n-g time, equates to a war of patience and nerves between your giant-size genius brain on one end of the line and a walleye’s peanut-size brain, staring at the other. Guess who has the advantage?  Definitely not you!   In such conditions, accept some simple facts.

First, walleyes react according to instinct, not thinking. If weather and water and fishing pressure combine and conspire to shut off the bite, amazingly, they’re often all that way.  There’s no way you will get all your fishing buddies to all agree on exhibiting the same mood, based of course upon their superior intellect.

Second, because walleyes are reacting (or not reactive!) in negative fashion, you not only can’t outthink them, but you likely won’t be able to razzle-dazzle them with your array of fancy tackle and gadgets. So your best bet is to stick a food item in their faces and outwait them, hoping to trigger some form of subtle response through sheer time exposure rather than clever tactics.

What comes to mind?   Well, a slip bobber suspending a lively leech just off bottom is a likely candidate, drifted slowly and subtly through prospective spots. So too would be a split shot rig, with you casting a nose-hooked night-crawler on target, letting it descend to bottom, and allowing it to sit there, wiggling enticingly, with walleyes gathered ’round, eyeballing the worm. Occasionally, you could lift the rod tip a few feet to slide the rig a bit closer to the boat, take up slack, and then set the rod down again, waiting for the rod tip to bend, indicating a strike. Pretty darn patient, especially since both tactics would require first anchoring the boat.

27 (3)Are there any slightly more mobile and fractionally more aggressive tactics that might cover a teeny bit more water, especially up in the shallows? Enter dead sticking with a lightweight 1/8-ounce jig, tipped with minnow, half-crawler or leech. Or perhaps even a scented plastic tail (ala bass tactics) although the lack of motion inherent with this system definitely favors live bait in some form, due to its natural lively appearance, scent and taste, even when fished in place.

A DEADLY APPROACH To dead stick a small jig, you needn’t do much different that your normal lift-drop jigging retrieve back to the boat. Except, of course, for the excruciatingly long pauses between lifts of the rod tip. The key is having the confidence to believe a walleye is out there looking at your bait at all times, and to let it sit and soak and tease and tempt and turn that aggravation and exasperation back against the fish, letting the extended pause work in your advantage to eventually fool the walleye into closing the gap, flaring its gills and lightly sucking in the jig. You likely won’t feel much. It might be a tap, but more likely just a sudden slight weight on the end of the line. Tighten up slack while lowering your rod tip to horizontal — if it isn’t already there — and then sweep set the hook.   Thus you should try to minimize slack at all times without tempting yourself to unnecessarily jiggle and wiggle the jig.

25.5 (2)Remember, the extended pause with the jig anchoring the wriggling live bait to the bottom is key to getting bites. The nice thing about dead sticking is that you don’t have to anchor, at least on a calm day. Rather, use your electric trolling motor to creep along, then stop or hover, and make a series of fan casts across a general area to test for the presence of fish. Hopefully, you’ve already established that they’re nearby, because this isn’t a method to be used to locate fish, due to the limited amount of water you’re able to cover. But if you can force yourself into the mode of 30-second pauses between subtle lift-drops of the rod tip, making each cast last at least two or three minutes, then you’re in the dead zone.

The perfect tactic for tempting reluctant biters spread across shallow rock or gravel flats within or adjoining spawning areas; sparse sand grass flats emerging from sandy bottoms; rocky or wood-lined reservoir shorelines where walleyes move shallow to feed aggressively in windy conditions and may linger inactive when the weather turns calm; or basically anytime walleyes are up shallow, skittish and not responding to presentations that move. Turn the tables. Fish lures so slowly that they’re virtually motionless. Bring out your dead.

OTHER DEADLY APPROACHES Think about it. Are you fishing through walleyes that aren’t biting? (It’s a terrible thought, isn’t it?) But is there a nagging feeling at the nape of your neck that your offerings are going unappreciated?

Tone things down, speed wise and action wise. Instead of buzzing along a drop-off with a bottom bouncer, spinner and crawler, switch to a bouncer and plain snell, and creep and crawl along, barely moving, even pausing occasionally. Ultraslow movement requires short lines, with the bouncer barely ticking or slightly suspended above bottom, to prevent it from toppling over at rest. Consider using an upright floating bouncer like the Today’s Tackle Foam Walker, which stands up at rest.

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Extend the principle to other presentations. Casting neutrally buoyant minnow-imitating crank baits isn’t that far unrelated from dead sticking; you pull, then p-a-u-s-e, before pulling again, letting the bait hang there before a walleye’s eyes. The suspense kills them. A three-way rig lets a floating jig head or simple live bait snell hang in place before a river ‘eye. A drop shot rig suspends a live bait or plastic tail above bottom in lakes and reservoirs. Lack of movement is often a key trigger for catching reluctant walleyes, which brings about a closing thought.  Chances are that by this stage in life, however, you’ve been shut down enough times to learn that smooth opening lines don’t guarantee a favorable response and, in fact, can be counter productive. Sometimes, you just have to sit down and do nothing but look good in order to attract attention.

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MORE BOTTOM BOUNCING TIPS

Bouncing – A Little Trick
RR-Slip-Bouncer-CardAs the water temperatures rise to (some of the highest levels of the year) the fish’s metabolism is really mounting and they will chase baits to a much greater degree than any other time. At this time you can really slam some nice fish and do it quickly. Add two 2 ounce bouncers and run a willow leaf blade. Here we are not going to worry too much about following contour but more relevantly described as being in a depth range. The reason fish are occupying more of the water column is because the temperature is more equally distributed. Some will be deep, some shallow and some in between.  Run this method in about ten feet of water. You are probably wondering about why so much weight, because you’re going to crank up the speed.   Remember that speed and weight determine line angle. We want to be able to feel the bottom and we don’t want to get hung up by having too much line angle. The fish will really hit on this type of presentation and you can nail some real beauties too.  Speed or the lack of it can provoke strikes.   In the summer, fast is better as a rule. The key here is speed, being relatively shallow (especially in stained water), and not worrying about the exact depth. You will be amazed on the amount of territory you can cover working your bouncer like this.

Bouncing – Another Trick
Target the fish that have laterally suspended off a hump. A fish has two choices when moving off a hump, move down or move out.   Most move out, rather than down. However most fisherman move down that could prove unproductive. This is regarding the deep water humps, something in the 20′ range for example. Anyway, when you are bouncing a hump or a shoreline and you come to the end or the drop off to deep water, just hold your bouncer at the same level you did when bouncing the hump and tool around out over deep water. You will be amazed at the fish you will catch suspended, they usually run fairly good size and hit like a ton of bricks. So just run right off the edge and hold the bouncer at the same level as the hump. Make a figure eight type of maneuver with your boat, and then go back on the hump and repeat. It is good to mark the edge of the drop off with a marker.


Bouncing – In the Spring
northland-fishing-a-bottom-bouncerSpringtime is a time of change from hard water to cold water to warmer water. At first when the water is very cold, just after ice out, the fish are deep because it is warmer and more consistent. However, as water warms as opener arrives, the eyes have moved shallow to eat, spawn, rest, and eat again.   Now in the early morning as the water has been cooling, they may be a little deeper, but as the sun warms it up they will be shallower.   What is shallow, this would be around ten feet to as little as six inches. Using bottom bouncers in the spring, it was the best way to find constantly moving fish.

Fish will hold to a spot as long as there is food. However, once that diminishes, they are on the move again. The best way to find them quickly is to pull a bouncer. Use Colorado’s (medium to small) for this. For weight, something in the 1 oz range works nice. Fish the flats and points and hit the bays, the shorelines between bays and key on fish holding spots. The main shorelines are the ticket as the off shore humps are not going yet. That happens a little later on. Once fish are found, you can crank them or jig them or just keep bouncing. This works so much better than randomly checking areas with a jig which is way just slow.   Use live bait the rest of the season as well. However, live bait is a personal preference and we don’t discount the successes of artificial baits. They all can work well. Leeches can be iffy in the early spring because they have a tendency to curl and a little trick is to step on them to make them run straight in the cold water. Minnows are great, use one hook snell’s with a stinger (if needed).

Late spring in Canada is June, which is summer in the lower 48 states. However, it still can be brisk up Ontario. Fish start along the shorelines and move to the center of the lake as the water warms up. So the first humps to get action are the ones closest to the main shorelines. Check these as the shoreline action begins to tail off. The water should be in the mid sixty degree range and the walleye will really be turned on.

Bouncing In the Summer
As the water warms up even more, and the water temp becomes more equal from surface down into the depths, the fish have more options for food and comfort, and safety of course. It is this time of year that the fish have moved to their summer haunts. The majority have now moved from the main lake shorelines and utilizing the off shore humps, flats and island shorelines. However, a few will still be along the main lake shorelines and bays.  Find the 20+ depths to be quite important at this time of year. Not to say that some won’t be shallower, but the bulk of the population will be deeper most of the time. However, it depends on the forage base. Walleye will be feeding on whatever is easiest, so if they are keying on shallow bait fish, then they will be 222Page2_GregHargraves_pitch-361x430shallow.  However, this is more of an exception then a rule.  Some years, a shallow bite will be stronger than other years, and some years it seems that they are all shallow. You can actually site fish them with cranks or light jigs. But once again, this is the exception. Work the main lake shorelines and off shore islands. Especially the ones with round rock about basketball size as opposed to hard granite shorelines. These round rock shorelines give the forage places to hide and the eyes are there –  looking for them. With a bouncer, you can quickly cover ground and locate the active fish. Then work that area. Speed can be increased as the fish are now willing to chase a bait, and it will trigger inactive fish in many cases. Speed will be more productive than going slow. Slow is for early season and late fall.

Flats – the Walleye Secret Structure
One of the most common areas that are almost completely overlooked by anglers are flats. One of the best spots can be a long flat surrounded by deep water. Sometimes they appear to be featureless, yet from the beginning of summer until fall, these spot hold an abundance of walleye. As an example check for islands that hold a lot of gulls.

Anyway spots like that can be very productive. There is almost always fish on them. Flats are never totally devoid of structure, they just look that way. But there are little depressions, troughs, a boulder here and there, maybe a clump of weeds. Usually soft bottom, they also hold all kinds of bugs and worms which the eyes will root out. Flats are easy to find, they are the areas on the map where the break lines are spread quite a bit a part as compared to the sharp breaks where the break lines are close together. Ideally fish flats in the 15-20 foot range. Once you find one of these flats, it is almost certain that you will have it all to yourself.

Now, how is a jig guy going to cover a flat?  He’s not. You might think that some anglers over doing the bottom bouncer presentation.   You are right, it’s the best search tool for walleye.  However, jigs, spinner rigs, and cranks all play apart in obtaining the best success. There is a time for each and fisherman who only fishes on way is only playing with half the cards and will be consistently out fished by a versatile angler who uses all methods.

 

Bouncing – When doesn’t it Work
Bottom bouncing will not work well when you are fishing very shallow or need a horizontal presentation. You are better off fishing with jigs or crank baits in those circumstances. Jigging can work better when the fish are tightly grouped on a piece of structure, like an inside turn for example. Of course, the bouncer is probably what found them for you to begin with. Bouncing is not the way to go on very small humps, however very small humps don’t hold many fish anyhow.

 
One might say that bouncing is about as exciting as watching ice melt. However, catching fish is very exciting and bouncing allows for catching.   It was very rewarding and makes a remarkable difference to any fishing trip.  Remember to be versatile, keep it simple, and have fun!

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Weight Centered Jigs – WC

These jigs are commonly referred to as swimmer heads or slow fall jigs, have come of age as the preferred jig when used for casting, drifting or long lining over bottom. We recognize this family of jigs as having its weight distributed evenly along the length of the hook. The characteristics we are looking for in W.C. jigs, is their ability to both SWIM and FALL with the hook in a horizontal position. To gain a better perspective, view the illustration of the Slo-Poke Jig shown in this article. There are several distinct advantages to be gained with the use of weight centered jigs in horizontal presentations.

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One major advantage of the W.C. jig is its inherent slow fall characteristics. Unlike W.F. jigs, like a ball head, that plunge rapidly head first, W.C. jigs fall more slowly. This phenomena occurs because the W.C. jig falls in a horizontal position, acting like a parachute, as it displaces more water on the fall. This all-important feature allows the bait to stay in the strike zone longer, making it easier for fish to target, pursue and inhale the bait. Actual tests comparing a 1/8 oz Slo-Poke Jig and a 1/8 oz ball head jig, identically rigged, showed the W.C. Slo-Poke falling 30% slower. This slow fall characteristic pays big dividends in shallow water or when working over weeds, wood or rock structure.

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Another major advantage of W.C. jigs is that they provide positive hook sets. Because W.C. jigs swim and fall with the hook in a horizontal position, hook sets are almost always found in the roof of the mouth. This sweet spot is the best possible place to hook and hold a fish. Positive hook sets are of utmost importance to tournament anglers or anyone who wants to hook and hold big fish. I prefer the Slo-Poke Jig because it excels in its hook setting ability. The Slo-Poke’s perfect balance and inline eye puts 100% of the hook setting force directly at the point of the hook where it’s most needed.

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Weight centered jigs also provide an edge over W.F. jigs when used for long lining over bottom. This deadly big fish technique, calls for swimming, or dragging a jig over bottom a good distance behind the boat. While this technique can be accomplished with W.F. jigs the price to be paid is a significant loss of hardware and valuable fishing time spent tying on replacement jigs. Weight Centered jigs, like the improved flat bottomed Slo-Pokes, glide and drag horizontally along the bottom when long lined and are relatively snag resistant in the process. Slo-Poke jigs tend to walk up over bottom as opposed to W.F. jigs that wedge themselves into structure. This is a perfect example of the importance of understanding how weight distribution affects the performance of a jig. A simple way to evaluate how jigs perform is to observe what they do when you drag a jig in shallow water.

This is the long and short of the basic knowledge required in making the right choice when it comes to jig selection. Whether you’re a Pro or an aspiring amateur, having the right tool for the right job will make you a better fisherman.

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Weight Forward Jigs: WF

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Weight Forward Jigs, most commonly referred to as lead heads or ball jigs have been with us for decades.  These classic W.F. jigs are by far the most used and abused jig in the industry. A common error that anglers make is casting ball style jigs into weed, wood and rock structure, losing one jig after the other as if there were no better alternative. REMEMBER THIS:  Ball jigs are not designed for casting.  All W.F. jigs, including ball heads, power heads and the alike were designed to do one thing well and that’s vertical jigging. Granted, you can pound a nail with a screw driver, but using a ball jig for anything other than up and down is to severely limit your effectiveness as a jigger.

A personal favorite Weight Forward Jig is the Odd’Ball Jig from Bait Rigs Tackle Co. This performance W.F. jig has a counter balanced head that produces a unique teeter totter action when vertically jigged. Additionally, this head design will standup on bottom.  Some prefer a one, two punch of vertical jigging and a standup presentation over bottom.
VertStand

Regardless of your choice of W.F. jig, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses inherent to this design. It is important to note that the major strength of W.F. jigs is that they hang in a horizontal position at rest. To gain a better picture in your mind see the illustration of the Odd’Ball Jig.  Note that the long portion of the hook shank will come to rest in a horizontal position. This places the hook point in the ideal position for bait inhalation and hook setting. Conversely the W.F. jigs biggest weakness is that it plunges head first on the fall, placing the hook point in a vertical position. This is a very poor position for hook setting. What happen here is you feel the fish, he feels you, but you don’t have a good point of contact with the hook. The end result is you roll the jig in the fishes mouth and if your lucky, rip some lips on the way out. Unfortunately, as we all know, fish love to hit jigs on the fall and this is another major reason why W.F. jigs should be avoided for cast and retrieve presentations.moddballart

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TROLLING TACTICS FOR WALLEYE FISHING

Scenario: Warm, misty overcast evening in August. Mid lake rock humps topping out in the 16 to 22 foot range.

hump1Usually, by late August many walleyes in deep clear lakes begin to leave their summer home ranges,suspended over deep open water, and migrate onto nearby rock and gravel humps. More often than not, the best humps top off at a range near the lake’s thermocline. For example, if a lake typically thermoclines at 22 feet, humps in the 18 to 22 foot range are most apt to hold fish, while shallower cropping structures will be less productive.

When these mid lake humps are small, one can usually do quite well jig fishing them, but more so these humps tend to be large. This is when board trolling a spread of crawler harnessed spinner rigs anchored to bottom bouncing weights off planer boards is the key way to catch them. This is precisely the situation Joe is faced with in this segment. The mid lake rock/gravel structure is very large with a number of smaller “spines” topping out in the 14 to 18 foot range; however, most of the rock/gravel structure is much deeper at 22 to 26 feet.

The small spines are holding the fish, but they are somewhat difficult to stay on top of and pinpoint precisely in open water. This problem is easily solved by repeated trolling passes using this board/bottom bouncer/crawler harness system. Trolling ever so slowly, once any bottom contact is made, you can literally drag an armada of tempting tidbits across these spots and find these small groups of walleyes that are utilizing these spines.

imagesCAMIT1B6The rigging trick here is to set out just enough line below the planer board so it will catch, or better termed “tick”, the top of these spines, yet not get hung up. The best way to accomplish this is by staying as vertical as possible with your set up. Using a larger weight, in the 2 ounce class, in order to stay as vertical as possible, let out just a tad more line than the spine depth tops. For example, measuring out around 20 feet of line between board and the bottom bouncer (Rock Runner) weight is nearly a perfect setting for 16 to 18 foot humps. It might require a bit more line length in strong winds and big waves, but not in soft winds and slow trolls.

ff-graph1Troll very slowly across these humps; just fast enough to activate the spinner and keep the spinner/crawler harness suspended off the bottom. Watch the board closely and you will notice when the Rock Runner weight is touching bottom. It will make the board bounce back. This is a key time to watch for a strike. Strikes, by the way, will respond on the board by the board jerking back in a tug-like fashion. Within a few seconds, the weight of the fish will then start to drag the board out of its original position destroying its side ways angle, and placing it more directly behind the boat. Then, it’s simply a matter of crankin’ the fish in and re rigging.

imagesCAV15KW1Throwing a floating marker off a reef after a fish is caught is a good idea for reference, as is punching in the coordinates on your GPS system. As soon as you get a strike, before pulling the rod from the rod holder, immediately reach for a floating marker and pitch it over the side. Also, heave the marker just past the outside of the planer board that’s showing the strike. This places you as close to the exact location of the strike as possible. All return trolling passes can then be made precisely close by the actual spot where the strike occurred.

Summer trolling reefs with bottom bouncers, spinner harnesses and a crawler rigged off planer boards is a super hot tactic. It is especially good over large mid lake reef structures that may be more difficult to fish by casting and jig fishing. At the very least, this system enables you to cover a great deal of water very efficiently, and quickly eliminates the dead sections of a large reef. You can then refish the spot more slowly with finesse jig fishing presentations if you wish. 

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Early Season Walleye Jigging Tactics

Jigging for Walleye

Using jigs can be very productive but too many anglers aren’t fishing them correctly. Just starters, understand that you won’t always feel the thump of a walleye when it strikes a jig.

TwoToneJigsGuys expect that sure bite or hit. Many times you don’t feel it. So often you  drop the jig down and it stops. Maybe you’ll just feel some extra weight.

Concentrate on your rod, and don’t wait too long to set the hook.

The right rod helps here. When jigging, use a 6-foot, 8-inch or 7-foot rod when jigging with a light-action and fast tip. This really helps increase the number of bites he detects, which translates into more fish.

Use a short shank jig for live bait and a long shank jig when combining that live bait with a dressing. The latter can be plastic, Gulp, or maribou. If you face a tougher bite, use less bulk and movement in the water. Don’t vibrate your offering as much. Listen to the fish to extrapolate their mood, then up size or downsize properly.

Under most conditions, avoid stinger hooks. If you’re missing strikes, however, and want to try a stinger, use it properly. Just let it free-fall behind the lure.4595-fireballs

You get fewer bites with a stinger, so if you’re missing fish, drop that rod tip first, and let them take it.

As for jigging actions, think beyond just lift-drop. That’s fine if it’s producing, but often just holding it at one depth, say 3 inches off bottom, is enough. Let that minnow work.

If you want to get creative, try quiver jigging (gyrating the rod ahead of the reel), snap-jigging, dragging, or just casting and retrieving jigs.

Also, use a heavy enough jig to contact bottom, but not so heavy that fish blow it out. Vertical jigging should offer just the right weight to tick the bottom.

And if you feel a bite, set the hook hard. Really swing that rod tip up.  Always tie your jigs directly to the line. Suspend it periodically out of the water and let it unravel to eliminate line twist and tangling.

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TIPS TO CATCHING SPRING WALLEYE

Rick Lahrman caught this nice 29" walleye at Wawang Lake.

Rick Lahrman caught this nice 29″ walleye at Wawang Lake.

If hooking a big walleye is the plan then Wawang Lake is where you want to go whether it’s spring, summer or fall . While walleye are rather active and generally numbers are much easier to find during the spring, but catching BIG trophy sized walleye happens all season long.  Catching these big guys still takes some tactics to reel them in. If the plan is to drop a line, hook a fish and go home happy within a few minutes, the outcome could be disappointment.

Although springtime is the favorite for walleye fishing, anglers need to keep a few things in mind. Everything from actual weather conditions to location and bait can impact the outcome of a fishing trip. The trick is really gauging the action carefully before picking a spot to stay at.    Walleyes like water between 55 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and they move to follow it. In spring you’ll find them in the shallows of lakes and fall they will move into shallower water depending on light and wave activity.

Location Matters in The Spring

coldWhen the waters are thawing, but haven’t turned warm just yet, the shallows are generally the place to go. Anglers often quickly find a few key spots that work very well in the spring months.

It’s important to keep in mind that changing weather patterns can affect where walleye happen to be on a particular day or night. Many anglers swear by very shallow, night fishing to catch walleye during the cooler spring days but this is not always true. Slightly warmer, less windy days might find them a little further out though.

Some places to seek them out include:

  • Shallow points and mid-depths. While walleye are known to move into deeper waters when the temperatures heat up, early spring won’t generally find them there yet. Look along sunken islands and in mid- to rather shallow points by boat. If electronics do not turn up fish action, move on.
  • On-shore/wading. Many anglers find they are better off leaving the boat at home for springtime fishing, especially in the early days of spring. The fish are often found in very shallow waters that can be fished from shore or from piers.
  • Picking The Right Equipment. Having the right bait and equipment cannot be stressed enough when walleye is the catch of choice. These fish have changing preferences. What they enjoy in the hotter summer months is not necessarily what they’ll bite in the spring. Some of the suggested bait and tackle recommendations for springtime angling include:
  • Tackle. Rigs with live bait and live bait with slip bobbers are generally the preferred means for catching walleye during the spring months. Keep in mind if it’s early spring, walleye are getting ready to move to their spawning grounds, so they’re ready to eat.
  • Bait. Walleye tend to gravitate well toward minnows and night crawlers during the early spring months. In some areas, they might prefer noshing on insect larvae like during a mayfly hatch. For this reason, some anglers swear by using marabou jigs and other similar lures.

Spring is typically the one of best times of year to hook a winning walleye, but that doesn’t mean the prospect will always be easy.

 

walleye_catchThe temperatures this time of year, especially in early spring, can be brutal on anglers. Exercising a bit of patience, finding the right spots and paying heed to weather patterns can make a difference.

Remember, the landscape can change from day to day. On cooler days (or nights), they are often found very close to shore, but mid-level areas might hold them when the temperatures start to turn up just a bit.

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