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Making ‘Eye Contact this Spring
By John Campbell

Shortly after ice-out, male walleyes in the 1 to 3 pound range will move into shallow spawning areas. The best spawning sites are large sloping shallow bars with a bottom composition of gravel. The aggressive male walleyes will hold over these areas for a month or more and feed aggressively during, before and after spawning. The larger walleyes are most always females, and although they can be taken during the pre spawn period, they are virtually impossible to take while spawning and reluctant to bite for a two-week period following the rigors of procreation. Although the male walleye is active and aggressive in early spring, being a cold-blooded creature, his metabolism is determined by water temperature. This means simply that spring walleyes cannot chase down a fast moving bait. Slow, slower and slowest are the three speeds for taking spring walleyes. The key to locating walleyes in the river in the late winter and early spring starts with locating a series of obstacles. Then, allowing your bait or lure to present itself in a natural manner so the walleye can race from behind the obstruction to acquire the offering and then race back into the slack water area to digest his meal and await another. Look for breaks in the current. They may be behind islands, points, and below bars in mid channel. In strong current, walleyes group tight to structure. In softer current or low water periods, like winter, they often scatter, and hold on edges of barriers or current breaks. Shallow water is usually defined as any water that you can't sit on top of with a boat, walleyes can and do inhabit this type of water. Tradition would say that this is the area that you will find fish in early spring, summer or fall. But, actually it is where you will find fish all year round. Some fish could be in 2 feet of water and others in 20 feet of water on the same body of water at the same time of year. All in all I have found many walleyes that are aggressive in shallow water and I'll fish it more times than deep water. After spawning, big females slowly drop downstream, and refurbish for a week to ten days. Catching them during this period is nearly impossible, but keep in mind that the fish are in the recuperation stage at the same time. When the effects of spawning finally wear off, big walleyes begin a feeding binge unrivaled at any other time. Peak fishing usually begins in early May and continues for two to three weeks. By this time, the fish have usually moved far from the tailwaters, although a few stragglers may remain. The areas where you'll find them now have one thing in common - current. Look for flowing cuts off the main channel or sandy points where current buffets the tip. Don't bother fishing deeper than 12 feet. Untipped jigs are still the best bet, but now live bait, especially nightcrawlers, comes into play. My favorite technique is anchoring and casting around the tips of sandy points. These areas often hold numbers of good-sized walleyes and drifting takes you through the fish zone too fast. Many of the big ones are taken by shore fisherman who know the right spots. Fish are wary. This helps them survive and can also make them difficult to catch. They utilize their excellent senses of vision and hearing, detect motion with unerring accuracy using their lateral line, and also use their sense of smell. Therefore, a cautious approach is required of an angler In the spring the warmest water will be close to shore. The warmest water is where the fish will be most active, so that's why we're fishing there. When fishing these shallow areas, it's important that you keep motions to a minimum. Fish in shallow water are generally spookier than they would be in deep water. Walk softly and wear light colored clothing. You want a jacket or a sweatshirt that blends in with the sky. Remember, you'll be above the fish and the sky will be the background. Dark clothing will stand out against the light background and your movements will be easily detected by the fish. When working shallow areas to shore, especially when the water is clear, keep your cast parallel to the shore. Keep the noise to a minimum by using your MinnKota trolling motor. The most active fish will be within 10 feet off shore, perhaps closer. If you cast the bait 30 feet out from the shore and retrieve it, the lure is in the most productive zone for only the last 10 feet of the cast. If you cast the bait parallel to the shore and retrieve it, it's in the fish zone all the time.

This technique is very productive even later on in the summer when fishing for largemouth bass and panfish. With either natural bait or artificial lures, the presentation must be realistic. It should appear that the offering is part of the normal food chain. Hunger is certainly a major motivating factor, but fish also respond as predators and strike something that moves. At times, they even exhibit antagonistic behavior when biting an intruder to drive it away. The fishing technique used when fishing weeds is very basic. The first basic method we all were exposed to when we were young was, slip-bobber fishing. The slip-bobber has taken more fish along a weedline than any other method. All you have to have is a bobber, split shot, and a hook. Attach a minnow or a crawler and sit back and wait for the fish to come to you. Another basic way is the use of the cast retrieve method with one of my favorite lures, the spinnerbait. I prefer to use the Big-Fin spinnerbaits from Lindy Tackle or I might flip a Techni-Glo Skeleton Shad Spadetail into the thick matte of cover.

My all time favorite way to get the big fish out of the vegetation is to use a jig, not just any jig, but a heavy-duty jig. Sometimes you might see this referred to as a pig'n jig. With the jig I can maintain a quiet presentation. A quiet presentation of the lure also increases your ability to catch fish. As soon as the lure enters the water, swim it back through the cover. Swim the lure fast enough to keep it from sinking, and pump the rod every few seconds to create lure action. Eager fish holding in the cover will run right out of the biggest clump of weeds to chase the jig.

Lindy Max Gap Jig 2 Pack Walleyes will be along the riprap banks and rocky shorelines in the spring because they slide in behind the rocks and riprap to avoid current conditions and as a staging place for ambushing their next meal. In dirty or stained water it's possible to dabble a jig tipped with a minnow or redtail chub on a long rod. Just lift and drop the Lindy Max Gap jig around rocks and anything else that breaks the current. Locating fish is easy, just look for structure such as weeds or current breaks and remember the predator prey relationship and you will catch more fish this spring. Drop me a line on the web at www.walleye.info for more information about getting a few walleyes this spring.


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