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Warm up to southern walleyes
By Norb Wallock

If you develop an itch to get in some early season walleye action, you can scratch it by looking for a warmer climate and taking a due south heading. There are plenty of opportunities for open water walleye angling spread throughout the south, and includes states like Arkansas, Missouri, and even Kentucky. While the South and good walleye fishing isnít exactly synonymous, it is possible, especially if you know a little about the when, where, and how.

The big, deep, southern reservoirs like Cumberland in Kentucky, Lake Norfork in Arkansas, and Lake Stockton in Missouri, are just a few of the bodies of water that have fishable numbers of walleyes. Fishable numbers means that thereís enough walleyes present to make it worth your while to pursue. Without the numbers you can feel like your looking for a needle in a haystack, which can be a little frustrating. Although the bodes of water mentioned arenít exactly brimming with huge numbers of olí marble eyes, there are enough of them that good catches can still be made. Success is accomplished by keying on peak 
conditions, which will help to get the odds in your favor. 

One of the seasonís peaks occurs around the spawning cycle, and is created when walleyes that are normally spread out, pack into small, easily identified areas. Even though the spawning season is not usually associated with good walleye fishing, itís one of your best bets for finding heavier concentrations of fish. Southern walleyes behave like they do anywhere else, and the spawning season is no different. Classic movements include upstream migrations that lead walleyes up incoming rivers, as well as to the back ends of arms with feeder creeks. Once the actual spawning has taken place, walleyes can be expected to hang around for several weeks or more, before slowly filtering back into the main lake. Theyíll hang around because thatís where most of the baitfish can be found, seeking out the warmer temps that shallow water can provide. 

Warmer water temperatures is a draw for many species of fish, including walleyes, bass, stripers and crappies. In fact, walleyes may be the minority, but donít let that bother you. Catching bass, stripers, and giant crappies can provide plenty of action, and fun, and will help keep you entertained during your search for southern gold. 

Norb Wallock shows off a nice southern Walleye
The Author Norb Wallock shows off a nice southern Walleye

Because of so many other species that might be available, solely relying on your electronics to find walleyes becomes an impossibility. While they can help determine the presence of bait and predators, they canít determine the species. The only way to know for sure is to put a fish or two in the boat, and is when 
the fun begins. Thereís more than one way to get the job done, but a spinner and crawler rates high on the list. Leeches have also proven to be extremely productive but are next to impossible to find, so early in the season. 

A spinner and live bait combination, behind a bottom bouncer, will allow you to cover some water, and give the bait a small amount of speed. Early season, post spawn walleyes can be caught; Itís simply a matter of keeping a solid presentation in the right place. The back ends of creek arms can be loaded with debris, including trees, brush, rocks and shale, all of which will give you fits, if youíre not prepared. Getting a bouncer and spinner through that kind of stuff can be tough to say the least, but is possible with a few adjustments. 

One of the first adjustments to make, is to shorten up your snell length, and keep it to a couple of feet or less. That will help to keep your spinner off the bottom, and out of the snags. Another technique is to replace the standard two or three hook spinner harness with a single hook model, like the Wired Spinner 
from Pro Tackle of Aberdeen South Dakota. The Wired Spinner utilizes a long shank worm hook, that allows you to thread a crawler on, keeping the point of the hook further back in the bait. The single hook is far less likely to hang up than multiple hook setups, and when it does, can be bent out with enough 
pressure. After you get it back, simply straighten it out and youíre back in business. Good places to drag a bouncer includes shallow flats, break lines, and near the edge of flooded brush and vegetation. The key is trying to cover everything, as location can vary from day to day, and you just donít know for sure. 

Pitching jigs to shallow brush or vegetation is another option, and may be a good choice if you feel spooking may be a factor. Spooking can become a real problem if youíre working shallow water, especially if itís relatively clear. 

Although walleyes are often thought of as being most active early in the morning and late in the day, itís not always so, especially early in the season. In fact, activity will often increase as the sun gets higher and the shallows start to warm. It can also bring walleyes into extremely shallow water, like a few feet or less. Itís a factor to be aware off, and a solid game plan will always include a good amount of shallow water. 

An early season southern run may be just the ticket to get a jump on the upcoming season. Sure, there may be open water walleyes closer to home, but the ability to shed a few layers of clothes and fish in a light jacket, or even short sleeves, can be well worth the trip. The combination of a warmer climate and 
southern hospitality may get you hooked, and keep you coming back for more, year after year. 

 Norb Wallock

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