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UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT WALLEYE PATTERNS

Walleye in Wood and Brush:

5045378679_2afff95b5dIn many lakes drowned wood and brush are the main dominate cover that walleyes rely on as a food source and shade from the sun. You will find scattered walleye around almost any type of submerged timber, stumps, logs, and trees that have eroded from shorelines. To increase your chances on finding a walleye hotspot of drowned wood and brush here’s a tip, deep water. The best wood is in or near deep water. A tree toppled off a steep river bank leading into deep water will hold more walleye than one laying in shallow water. Find a stump field flat next to an old river bed on a flowage and you’ll find a walleye magnet.

During early spring when the winter thaw occurs and high water floods rivers and flowages try shoreline brush and lay downs as this will harbor small baitfish and insects that walleyes feed on. As the water begins to drop walleye will move back to deeper water.

Drowned wood, lay downs and brush plies composed of fir, pine or maple and typically last for years. By contrast birch and poplar provide cover for two to three years before decomposing. Drowned wood is terrific cover. The more complex branches are below the surface the better fishing. More branches equal more cover for a game fish to ambush prey. Finding “good” drowned wood means finding walleye.

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Finesse fishing in wood and brush requires fine wire weed less hooks (size 6-8) on a split shot rig, brush guard jigs from 1/8 to 3/8 oz., both tipped with live bait. These presentations will increase your hooking percentage and eliminate snags. When fishing deep water try a slip bobber rig. Don’t be afraid to drop your bait into the thickest tangle of brush and logs, the larger walleyes are usually found where the cover is densest, you may lose a few rigs in the process but the rewards are well worth it.

Suspended Walleyes:

Locating and catching suspended walleye can be a difficult task. Finding suspended walleyes requires the use of a graph or LCD (liquid crystal display) depth finder. Once fish are located you must present the bait or lure precisely at that depth. For Wawang Lake one of the easiest techniques to do this is a slip bobber rig set at the depth walleyes are found. If walleyes are a few feet from the bottom rather than lowering the bait try floating the bait up off the bottom using a slip sinker rig with a floating jig head or a float attached to the leader. You can also Vertical jigging - 1

catch walleyes off the bottom by jigging vertically with jigs, blade baits and tail spin jigs, just keep the line taut to feel the strikes.

On large bodies of water such as the main, deeper sections of Wawang Lake the most effective and popular presentation for suspended walleyes is trolling with artificial lures.

  • Why Walleyes Suspend

Water Temperature: In deep clear lakes walleyes will seek deeper water after feeding to avoid sunlight. On stained lakes they often move more laterally than deeper if the water temperature stratifies into layers. By moving laterally they will maintain in the same temperature layer. Walleyes that feed on reefs will suspend off the reef to rest, not to feed.

  • Forage:

Walleyes are typically known to relate to the bottom for feeding, this is especially true when they feed on immature insects, particularly mayfly nymphs that hatch on the bottom. But other favorite forage do not necessarily relate to the bottom such as open water baitfish like shad and ciscoes that can be found almost at any depth. At times walleyes will be opportunistic feeders by ignoring their temperature and oxygen preferences for an easy meal by suspending in open water just below bait fish schools that dimple the surface.

  • Oxygen:

During the summer on lakes that stratify, the deep water may lack sufficient oxygen which forces the walleyes to suspend or use shallow water cover such as weed beds.

  • Toxic Gas:

In many cases walleyes will suspend to avoid high levels of toxic gases that accumulate near the bottom. This happens during the summer months on calm sunny days when the maximum amount of sunlight penetration promotes decomposition of organic bottom sediments releasing carbon dioxide and methane gas. This moves walleyes higher in the water column, as much as up to 10 feet. On windy days when the water is churning this prevents the gases to accumulate so the walleyes need not suspend.

  • Post Cold Front Walleye:

It’s no question that the toughest time to catch any species including the walleye is after a cold front. Blue bird skies and cool temperatures follow the front’s passage. This results in the walleye tightly hugging the lake bottom or buried into the weeds. Their feeding window is very limited if at all. When they do feed it will be short. Depending on the cold front severity it may take a number of days of stable weather to resume normal fishing activity.

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When faced in this situation here are a few tips that may improve your success.

  • There are two key points for Cold Front Walleyes Live Bait & Super Slow
  • Fish very early in the day or in the evening. Cold front walleyes are best active during low light periods or night.
  • Fish deeper during the day: (5-10 feet) than normal as increased sunlight from cold front clear skies will drive walleyes deeper
  • Downsize live bait:Walleyes are in lethargic state during a cold front, small live bait will work better than larger ones. Use 2″ fatheads than 4″ red tail chubs
  • Downsize jigs: Try a 1/16 oz rather than an 1/8oz tipped with live bait. A lighter jig will drop slower and gives the walleye extra time to strike. Retrieve very slowly. Walleyes will not hit fast moving baits during this period.Attach a stinger hook to the jig: Many times a walleye will just nip the bait and let it go, with a stinger hook you will hook a good percentage of these short striking walleyes.
  • Go light on line:

Cold front walleyes are line shy, use 8lb clear monofilament or fluorocarbon.

  • Try Weeds:

Some walleyes will bury into the weeds rather than seek deeper water. These walleyes will also resume normal activity before the walleyes in deeper water.

  • Murky Water:

On shallow water lakes than have murky water stirred by strong north winds that usually come after a cold front, try fishing mid-day and shallower. The water temperature is the warmest and the level of sunlight is not a factor due to the water clarity.

  • Clear Lakes:

If you’re fishing a clear water lake with no luck move to a river or stained lake because they are not affected as bad as clear water

Clear Water Walleye:

26" WALLEYE

26″ WALLEYE

Fishing walleyes on clear water lakes (Visibility 10 feet or Greater) is quite the challenge. Walleye in clear water are easily spooked by sound or movements (boats). On sunny days they will retreat to depths of 30 plus feet only to move up shallow to feed during early morning and evening hours. On windy chop or overcast days they follow the same dawn dusk patterns but some feeding occurs during the day.

The best suggestion we can offer you for walleye fishing clear water lakes is to keep your set-up presentation in a stealth mode and again keep noise and boat movement to a minimum. If you’re anchored keep the boat as far away as possible from the targeted structure while casting. For trolling use inline planer boards to spread the fishing lines 50 feet away from the boat.

If you’re using a live bait set-up keep the hooks as small as possible and use ultralight 10# test line on slip bobbers and slip sinker rigs. Jigs also produce well on clear water lakes but stay with natural colors black, purple and brown. The same goes for artificial lures, match the hatch that resembles the baitfish, black & silver, black & gold, and perch finishes rather than hot fluorescent colors. Long slender bodied minnow type lures will be the best performer.

Dark Water Walleye:

  • Walleye fishing on stained or dark water tends to be more consistent than on clear water lakes. This type of water is also less affected by weather changes, especially cold fronts. With the lack of sunlight walleyes will stay shallow most of time and are easier to locate and catch. If the visibility is less than one foot try bright and noisy artificial lures which are easier for the walleye to detect. If you prefer live bait add a fluorescent attractor or spinner.
  • The best fishing times on dark water is mid-day between 10:00-5:00 rather than dawn and dusk. The night bite is likely to be poor. Sunny calm days will out-perform cloudy windy days. The best lures for dark waters are crank baits that vibrate and have rattle chambers and inline spinners in fluorescent colors. Jigs will also work surprisingly well even though they do not produce any sound. Use fluorescent and glow in the dark (phosphorescent) colors tipped with live bait.
  • On stained lakes with visibility of 3 feet or greater, live bait set-ups are a better choice than artificial lures. Add a brightly colored attractor or spinner to your live bait rigs to help attract fish.
  • Locations:

With weed growth on dark water and stained lakes being very limited find the weed edges and cast perpendicular to the edge. Shallow reefs and rock humps will also hold fish regularly.

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Bucktail Jigging For Weed Walleye

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When walleye head to the shade of the salad, or cruise along the edge of vegetation, a bucktail jig can be your greatest tool for seducing them to strike. Not only is the undulating hair a visual stimulant, but also the erratic cadence of the bait as it is ripped and jigged with vigor.  Working bucktails is a different game than with regular jigs, but the technique speaks for itself with the big results you’ll be rewarded with.

A standard bucktail jig is comprised of a lead head, with layers of bucktail tied and glued to the collar of the bait. Strands of tinsel are often interwoven, adding an additional aspect in terms of visual attraction. When moving, the hair forms a streamlined body, replicating a baitfish perfectly.   At rest the hair fans out, adding a different dimension in terms of appearance.  In comparison to a jig and plastic, the bucktail is far superior in terms of weedlessness, making them an excellent choice when the cover becomes thick and the walleye go into hiding.

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The Laws of Rip Jigging

Rip jigging is a specialized technique that can produce astounding results.   The premise is simple:  flip a bucktail jig out twenty feet or so.   Let it make contact with the bottom vegetation, then give a quick and sharp snap of the rod, breaking the jig free from the snag and sending it up and above the cover. Repeat process. Depending on the mood of the fish, rips can be positively violent or more controlled.   You will find that the warmer the weather, the more aggressive you can be.

Walleye are an opportunistic feeder. They will conceal themselves in the thickest of   cover, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting baitfish as it swims by. Ripping a bucktail jig through the salad will easily get their attention (due to the   commotion it causes) and make them commit to the speedy meal before it gets away. Depending on the mood of the fish, they will either smack it as it breaks free from the green stuff, or rise to engulf it as it slowly falls back down. This is one technique that has worked well is the fall period. Fish will raise their activity level and feedbag at this time, and when the wind howls and the fish move shallow, you can definitely get into a bunch of them – BIG ones too! In terms of tipping options for rip jigging – go the route of none.   Minnows and worms won’t last long with the constant weed contact, and due to the speed of the retrieve (and split second reaction time),  it doesn’t makes much of a difference in terms of catch rates.

Dunking For Fish

Although it may seem unsuitable dunking the weed pockets for walleye is a tried and true technique. Shallow water and expansive weed flats make up the playing field for this tactic, and a stout rod and bucktail jigs round out the arsenal. Pounding depths between four and 10-feet is your best option, and clear water is always your best bet. Work weed flats and clumps with the wind or an electric motor, lowering a heavy bucktail jig into every hole and edge you drift over.  Let it sink directly to bottom, and give it a few lifts and drops before moving on. (leave the bait in each hole for at least ten seconds before trying the next.) Walleye will bucktailsituate themselves on these edges, both inside and out, pouncing on any bait that free falls into their lair. Visually, this is a fun and exciting tactic to employ, as most fish are actually observed sucking up the bait in the blink of an eye, and quickly charging back into the weeds! A lightening quick hook set and medium-heavy rod is recommended if you hope to put a net under the belly of any of them. Tipping your jig with a minnow or worm is an excellent choice for this short-line tactic, as the fish has more time to be convinced to strike, and scent can be a contributing factor for that.

Swimming Them In When walleye are scattered over weed flats, and the vegetation is low and uniform in height, swimming a bucktail jig back to the boat can be a hot ticket. The rules are simple: cast your bait out and start reeling in, keeping your jig just above the weeds, and imparting the odd lift or two into your retrieve. This will allow you to cover large areas of water, and help you pick off those fish that are actively cruising while feeding. Your presentation will resemble a minnow making its way along bottom, and an easy meal in the eyes of our yellow predator.

Top Ten Tips For Bucktail Fishing

1.  For clear water conditions, match the hatch when it comes to colour. Murky water requires brighter hues.
2.  Braided line gets the nod for working bucktails in the weeds.
3.  Check line regularly throughout the course of the day.
4.  Apply ample amounts of scent to the hair of the bait.
5.  Choose high quality jigs that sport strong and laser sharp hooks.
6.  In rough conditions, choose brighter colours that will aid in attracting fish better.
7.  Lighter jigs work better for swimming, while heavier jigs work best for ripping and dunking.
8.  Heavy equipment is key. This is no place for ultralight combos or low diameter line.
9.  Watch for line movement or “bumps.” This can often signal a fish.
10.  Take note of where fish are found. Then search for other areas on the lake that are similar in make up.

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Jigging Up Walleye

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Walleyes are much harder to pattern in fall than in summer because most lakes stratify during the summer months, forming distinct temperature layers. The shallow water is usually too warm for walleyes and the deep water often lacks sufficient oxygen, so the walleyes hang out in the middle, where optimum temperature and oxygen levels exist. But that all changes in fall, when the temperature of the shallows drops to that of the depths and the entire lake circulates, resulting in adequate oxygen from top to bottom. Now the fish can go anywhere they want to find a meal.

On lakes with low water clarity, you can find fall walleyes only a few feet deep. At the same time, walleyes in a clear lake might be 40 feet deep or more.   No matter the depth, late summer and fall jigging can produce some of the year’s best walleye fishing, especially for trophy-caliber fish. Here’s a quick rundown of the equipment and techniques needed for success in both shallow and deep water.

Shallow-Water Jigging
Fall walleyes are in the shallows for only one reason: to eat. When you find them shallow, they’re aggressive and will often respond better to an intense jigging action than to a subtle one. That’s why rip-jigging (also known as snap-jigging) works so well.

WORK IT RIGHT: When rip-jigging, you work the jig with sharp jerks and then throw slack into the line so the jig plummets. The jig never hits bottom, however, because you make another jerk just before it touches.

Most rip-jigging is done as you slowly troll at about 1 mph, but you can also do it while drifting or still-fishing.

With a little practice, you’ll discover how hard to rip and how long to pause after throwing slack, so that you

keep the jig moving erratically while almost, but not quite, touching bottom. The most difficult aspect of rip-jigging is getting used to the fact that you might not feel the usual tap or twitch that signals a bite because of the slack in the line. It doesn’t really matter, though, because you’ll set the hook with the next rip.

Like any other fishing presentation, rip-jigging doesn’t work all the time. There will be days when the fish are in a less aggressive mood and prefer a slower, more subtle jigging action. Experiment with different motions and let the fish tell you what they want.

When the walleye are fussy, slowly drop your rod tip and let the jig fall back to the bottom and rest for a second or two. To catch these picky fish, I like to tip my jig with live bait, usually a minnow when the water is cold (less than 50º F or 10ºC), a leech when it’s tepid (52ºF to 68ºF or 11ºC to 20ºC) and half a crawler when it’s hot (warmer than 68ºF or 20ºC). But that rule is meant to be broken-bring all three baits and let the fish decide what they want to eat.

trilene xtGEAR: To snap the jig with minimal effort and take up slack line when setting the hook, you’ll need a fairly long rod. A 7-foot, fast-tip spinning outfit is ideal. Spool up with an abrasion-resistant line such as 8- to 10-pound-test Trilene XT. Lighter or softer line won’t stand up to the sharp ripping action. Even tough line might fray from abrasion on the guides, so it pays to check your line often and respool when necessary. Because you’re usually fishing depths of 10 feet or less, a 1/8-ounce jig should be sufficient, but if there’s a strong wind or heavy current, you might have to step up to a 1/4-ounce jig. Tip the jig with a 3- to 4-inch minnow and hook it through the mouth and out the top of the head.


Deepwater Jigging
Once the lake de-stratifies and surface temperatures drop to around 50 degrees, baitfish will head to the warmth of deeper water, and walleyes will follow. In gin-clear lakes, you might find them as deep as 70 feet, but 30 to 45 feet is normal. Any kind of structure with a firm, rocky bottom might hold walleyes in late fall, but big, rocky main-lake humps offer your best fishing.

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WORK IT RIGHT:  Rarely are walleyes super-aggressive in cold water, so a slow jigging presentation works best. A jig-minnow combo fished with short 2- to 4-inch hops will usually do the trick, but there are times when a slow drag with no hopping action is better.

Many anglers make the mistake of using a jig that’s too heavy. They’ll tie on a 3/4- to 1-ounce jig, thinking they need that much weight to get down in the deep water. But a heavy jig sinks too fast, resulting in fewer strikes. The idea is to use the lightest jig you can, taking into consideration water depth and wind conditions.

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In calm weather, a 1/4-ounce jig will easily get down to 35 feet, but on a windy day you’ll have to add another 1/8 to 1/4 ounce to stay down. When fishing deep water, it’s important to keep your line vertical. If you’re dragging too much line, you won’t feel the strikes.

GEAR:   A sensitive rod is a must for jigging deep water walleyes. I use a G.Loomis GLX 722, which has the extra-fast action necessary to detect the slight nudge that often signals a deep water walleye bite. Mono simply has too much stretch for fishing this deep; use no-stretch line, like 6- to 10-pound-test Fire line, to help you detect light bites and get a firm hook set. Splice on 10 feet of mono or fluorocarbon leader to reduce line visibility and dampen the sharp jigging action that you get with no-stretch line. Late-fall walleyes generally hold in tight schools and don’t move much, so once you find a pod of fish, chances are they’ll hang around that area through the rest of the fall.

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Think Outside The Box For Pike

There is a corner where the big bucktailed spinnerbaits are hanging, surrounded by a mix of both deep-diving and shallow-diving crankbaits in all the popular color patterns. There are a few spoons mingling with the big wooden and plastic minnow imitators, but one-fourth of the box is laden with big jigs next to packages of big plastic bodies. There are even a number of pre-tied wire leaders sitting on top some 3/4- and 1-ounce egg sinkers. The leaders are sporting 2/0 hooks secured directly to the stranded wire, with a ball-bearing swivel secured to the other end.
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Sometimes you just need to think outside of the box when you’re chasing pike

Jigs work well for a vertical presentation as well. When pike are just off the bottom at the base of a weedy flat or point, get right over them with the boat and just drop the jig straight down – twitch the jig and keep it moving, but when you’re fishing vertically like that, you can target those deep pike you see on the sonar.
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To get right into the vegetation,  take a pre-tied leaders and rig the plastic worm up Texas style and fish it just like for bass. Use a cone sinker above the swivel for this so you can get it through the weeds easily and just move that worm through the weeds. Pike like vegetation and you can dig them out of it with this big plastic worm rigged weedless.”

Those pre-tied leaders also work well with live bait it’s no different than a live-bait rig you would use for a walleye except that you have a stranded-wire leader and a bigger — much bigger — hook.

Live-bait rig for pike works best along a sparse weedline or just out from the vegetation where there is little vegetation to get snagged on and if you’re working in heavy cover with live bait, you’re pretty much stuck using a bobber, but when you can work an edge, this live-bait rig is the best option.

Live-bait rigging for pike and jigging for them with plastics are both techniques more prone to a walleye or bass angler’s game plan. These are probably techniques that only get used under unusual circumstances, right?  Actually, the standard lures are going to catch fish, no doubt about that.  But when you’re on a body of water and the weather has created some tough fishing conditions, these non-traditional techniques should be your go-to options. It’s just that anglers are so used to the standard presentations that they don’t think about trying something different.

Like a swim bait?  Bass fishermen love swim baits, but pike fishermen still haven’t discovered how good these work. Tie a piece of colored yarn to the eye of that treble hook, and you’ve added a splash of color and made the lure a little different, maybe more attractive to a pike.

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Scenario:  It was early season, and the pike were still up in the backwater vegetation and shallows, we  had been dragging spinnerbaits and shallow-diving crankbaits through the cabbage and tree branches, and all we caught were a few small northerns. You could see these schools of minnows busting out of the water around you and we were casting to this forage because we figured something was trying to eat it, but we couldn’t get the fish to bite.

After a few frustrating hours, we started digging for something different and discovered a package of 4-inch Slurpies’ Swim Shads we had picked up at the bait shop to try. We tied one on.

Turn out that was the right move, every time some minnows would break the surface we would cast right to the boil. That lure wouldn’t sink a foot and a big pike had grabbed it. We tried crankbaits and spinnerbaits, but it was the swim bait that the pike wanted. Needless to say we used them a lot since then, and they’re something different that the pike haven’t seen a lot, and that lure triggers bites. For working over the tops of a big weedbed, you can’t beat a swim bait.”

So, are the spinnerbaits and crankbaits in the tackle box becoming obsolete? Hardly, those lures still catch plenty of pike, but we also learned a few tricks to spice them up.

Considering what we might do to a spinnerbait that has had a few pike chase it to the boat and fail to grab it.   We pulled off the plastic skirt and replace it with a scented body, like a Berkley Power Hawg or a 7-inch Gulp Turtleback Worm.  This way, not only did we get some additional squirm action, but we also got the benefit of the scent.

But you can’t doctor the crankbaits without messing up the action, right?  Sure you can.  Just take a piece of thin red yarn and tie it to the eye of the back treble hook. That little dash of color, and pike really trigger on that red, won’t affect the action of the lure at all, and it works. But don’t limit yourself to just red. Sometimes green or orange or even blue might be the color that does the trick.

Does the yarn trick also work for spoons, too?  You bet it does. Tie a piece of colored yarn to the eye of that treble hook, and you’ve added a splash of color and made the lure a little different, maybe more attractive to a pike.  Sometimes we’ll take a Johnson Silver Minnow and thread a grubtail on the hook. That adds some scent, too. It’s a little added enticement that can make a big difference to the outcome of your fishing day.

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What about the old “minnow-under-a-bobber” presentation that is a fixture in a pike angler’s repertoire? There isn’t any thinking outside the box for that technique, is there?  That’s why we carry that scissors.  Clip one of the side fins or trim off the tail on that sucker or shiner you’re dangling under the bobber, and you get a struggling minnow instead of one that is just happily sitting there. Pike can’t resist a minnow that’s struggling.

What differentiates the anglers who catch fish and the ones who don’t is the fine line between those who are using presentations that they were told to use and hope for a bite, and those who think outside the box to create a bite. Success  is always thinking outside that hefty tackle box with all those lures and gadgets — which eventually lead to catching  fish!

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Fishing Walleye When it’s Sunny


hot-thermometerWhere to Find the Walleye?

Hot, penetrating sunshine and the sensitive eyes of the walleye can make for a frustrating and energy-draining day out on the water for the enthusiastic angler. Fish become scarce during these trying times and without the proper locations or techniques needed to find and catch these fish, a fisherman can quickly get depressed.

Green, healthy weeds, a handful of jigs and a technique called “dunking” are all that are needed to find success during these “dog days” of summer.

During the days of summer when the humidity and sun become scorching hot, the intuitive walleye will begin his retreat and search for cooler climates for a more comfortable existence. Although common knowledge tells us that walleye and rocks are the perfect pair, the green vegetation that is on Wawang Lake is also a preferred habitat for a walleye seeking shelter. Shallow areas are the number one choice for patterning walleye this way, and plays host to weed-wandering walleye. Water that is relatively clear and is less than ten feet deep are the most ideal characteristics to target for certain success.

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Green weeds lure walleye in for a number of reasons. They provide a cooler environment, shade from the sun, oxygen, safety and comfort and an abundant food source with an added ambush point for attack. When you put all of these pluses together, you get a sure-fire plan for putting walleye in the boat.

weed diagramWhen the sun is beating down, there will be certain weeds and areas that will draw fish in more than others.  Look for the greenest, most lush vegetation that you can find. These weeds can take the form of coon tail, milfoil or a variety of other species, but they must have a base or openings for the walleye to lurk under and through. Also, try to pinpoint weed areas that are relatively close to deeper water. Walleye feel safer when deeper water is in the vicinity as it provides an escape route – the shallow weed flat, in turn, provides an ideal feeding shelf. One last thing to keep an eye out for is isolated weed clumps in the area you are fishing. Huge expanses of vegetation will hold good numbers of fish, but isolated weed clumps provide a hiding area in a vast space of “coverless” water that roaming fish happen to stumble upon and call home.

  
 

Dunk till you Drop
Dunking is a close-range fishing technique that involves lowering your lure vertically down from your boat into a weed pocket. The maximum amount of line you will use in most situations is ten feet, so be prepared to for some excitement when Mr. Walleye takes a fast swipe at your jig.

There are two ways to approach a weed pocket for dunking – drifting and by using your electric motor. If the winds are calm and you are fishing a large expanse of weeds, simply allow your boat to drift with the breeze and dunk all of the pockets that you can as your boat slowly drifts over them.

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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.

26.25

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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