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Spring River Patterns

 By Sam Anderson

If you’re fishing a big river such as the Mississippi, the rock or
gravel bars are the likely points to seek out.  The hole in the riverbed
below a rock pile or snag are good prespawn starting points.  In shallow
rivers the same holds true, but the holes or pockets offer less
protection, and the walleyes are likely to be easily spooked under these
River walleyes generally begin their spawning run before lake fish do.
In Minnesota, my home state, the river walleyes may get as much as a two
week jump on their lake cousins.  This is because the flowing water of
the streams warms faster than the relatively still lake water.
 In situations where a major river runs into a lake, there may be two
spawning runs, one for the river walleyes, and one for the lake
walleyes.  This does happen especially in the Lake Pepin area because it
is basically a wider spot in the river system.  The river walleyes may
move upstream to their gravel bars or sandy backwater spots several days
or a week ahead of the lake fish.  Again, the reason for this "jump" in
timing coincides with warmer water.
 The split spawning runs only add to the early anglers enjoyment because
they have twice the chance of finding the fish in receptive conditions.
 My experience has been that the males are the prime targets during the
spawning run.  The reason is that the males are more aggressive then.
They set up a territory, make a home for some lucky female fish, and set
about to protect it.  They may do battle with other males and they’re
inclined to do rough things to bait fish that swim by.  They’ll approach
a bait with a quick snatching action.  Often times capturing a bait on
the first try.
In a river, walleyes are a structure or current break oriented fish,
most of the time.  These walleyes will be tight to the bottom, lying in
the holes between rock and cuts in the bottom.  They may be feeding, or
waiting in ambush to find or an easy meal that comes their way.  When
fishing structure, you have to be able to stay tight to the structure or
your lure presentation will not be in the strike zone of the fish.  Move
just a boat length away and you will be out of the area of current
change and luck.
The principles of analyzing water and approaching fish can become
confusing and difficult with all the information available to anglers.
Try to keep a simple approach in mind.  It is important to understand
that subtle changes in water temperature, oxygen, bottom structure,
shadow lines, and similar factors make a significant difference in
locating fish.  Fish tend to locate along transitional zones.  The
bottom may change from sand to rock or from mud to weeds; a drop-off may
occur or slope into deep water; or water in one sector may be a slightly
different color.  One important overlooked transition zones is the areas
that have weeds.  The weeds or vegetation may be key to successful
Fish are wary.  This helps them survive and can also make them difficult
to catch.  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.
If you are fishing in relatively snag-free bottoms a Lindy rig is
effective.  On mud, weeds, submerged timber and rocks or boulders,
bobber rigs do just as well.  During the midday, a slower presentation
gets most of the action
Tip a Lindy Little Joe Fuzzy Grub jig with a small minnow such as you would commonly use
for crappie fishing.  The added flavor on the jig is just one more pitch
in your favor.  However, when the fish are in a frenzy, even a plain
Fuzzy Grub or a painted jig with Berkley Fish wont let go Power Grub tail will do the
Another lure that you can use is a small crankbait, use the ultralight
sizes with medium diving capability.  The baby crankbaits that Rapala
makes in fluorescent colors work especially well along wingdam facings.
Early, late and at night faster-moving lures such as a Rapala the lures of choice #5 or #7 Shad Rap really perk things up.  The baits work well over the riprap where a jig hangs up easily.
The people who stay home waiting for warmer weather or the right conditions to be out walleye fishing are missing out on river spring patterns for walleyes. I know that I am definitely hooked on these patterns, give it a try and you will be to.

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