Spring Walleyes 101
I have a lot of people ask me why I love to be on the water, why do I invest so much time in something that you can buy from a restaurant. I can never give a solid answer other than it is something of an obsession. I am obsessed with every aspect of fishing. From techniques to trophies, it’s the single most relaxing and distracting thing I do. I do work in an office setting so my time outside during the day is very limited. So, it makes my passion and desires to get outside that much greater.
I am a simple fisherman. I don’t try to be over technique fishing with artificial or hard plastics baits. My preferred fish of choice is the Walleye. Growing to weights of over 15 lbs., it doesn’t take long for someone to get addicted to this fish. At times hammering live baits to simply placing them in the mouths with the slightest tap. The fun is in tricking these fish to bite.
Walleye are some of the most sought-after fish in the Upper Midwest and Canada. From the monster 12+ pounders to the translucent green and white of Lake Winnipeg, I have chased them all. However, the most fun I have is here in my home state of Minnesota chasing down the post spawn hungry fish on Leech Lake.
In the spring on Leech Lake, around the Middle of May every year hungry Walleyes move into the shallows chasing live bait. The main source of food coming from the spot tail shiner.
These shiners flock by the millions into the shallow waters to lay eggs. Once the water reaches a suitable temp and the days become longer, the Walleyes are generally not far behind. In Minnesota this happens for the entire month of May and June. Resulting in a reactionary bit using a couple different techniques. The first being jig and minnow or a simple live bait rig.
Jig and Minnow
The jig and minnow are probably one of my favorite techniques and I use it year round. The simple way to use this is to take the jig and hook the minnow through the head, so the hock shank is sticking out on the dorsal fin side. Jigs like the one below, are the most common used on Leech Lake, but I have had success with all varieties. Once the bait is set you drift if there is enough wind or troll if there is no wind. As you are moving you make a quick swift movement with your ford and it will bounce the jig and minnow off the bottom. Most times the Walleye will hit the Jig on the fall so as you come back for your next movement the fish is on and you set the hook naturally. Now, there is some feel involved so having the right length rod is a must. I prefer 7’ med light spin cast rods with a fast tip. It gives me the sensitivity I need on tougher bite days. I also tend to use a lighter mono-filament line in the 6-8-pound range. This technique can be great with kids using a bobber on windy days, setting the bobber op to rough 2-6” of the bottom waves will naturally move the jig and minnow up and down. The bobber will sink once a fish is on allowing the kids to see that and catch fish. Sometimes this a lot more efficient than the latter.
Simple Live Bait Rig
This is a great technique as the Walleyes start to recede to deeper waters as the waters warm to above 70 degrees. This is usually best used in the beginning parts of June through the rest of the summer. In the early stages I have best luck with a simple set shown below. You tend to get more complicated as the fish go deeper having spinner and rattlers applied to the rig to get fish to find you. In shallow water they definitely like the simple rig.
In these sets I tend to stay in the same rod choice, however I tend to use braided line with a mono-filament leader and plane hook. This technique is many times based on feel. Fish tend to bite lighter and allowing them to take line is key to success. Also, being able to distinguish a bite from the bottom is also another aspect one needs to be able to do.
These techniques are great for those getting into fishing and being able to have some success either from a boat or from shore. Getting out and being part of nature is the ultimate goal. Spring is also a time of constant change, hence why I have my Minus33 clothing on all the time. It keeps me out longer and later so I can truly enjoy my passion to the fullest.
Tight lines my friends!