"Look to vegetation first," advised walleye guide Brian "Bro" Brosdahl. "Find the weedbeds in June and you'll find the walleye. As soon as all that vegetation that's been dormant under the ice starts emerging, the walleyes start using it," explained the FLW touring pro.
"After recuperating from spawning, walleye are more interested in feeding than anything else. Cabbage and other vegetation is ripe with life, concentrating baitfish and prey fish alike, providing cover and offering everything predator like a walleye would want."
Baitfish using the early season weed beds — and attracting walleye — include everything from shiners to shad, said Brosdahl, as well as yellow perch.
"The shiners move into the shallow weeds to spawn in late June in my local waters, and the walleye follow, feeding right in there among the shiners and the vegetation," he explained.
"And in waters here they are available, walleye eat more yellow perch that most anglers realize. Anyone who fishes for yellow perch knows that young perch hang out in the weeds, this time of year or any other. I'm convinced that if more walleye anglers used perch or perch-patterns, they'd be surprised at how many more — and bigger — walleyes they'd catch, starting in the spring right through the fall."
Brosdahl should know. The four-season angler may be better known for his on-ice success than his open water walleye-catching skills, which are impressive. Brosdahl is a full-time open-water walleye fishing guide and tournament pro, qualifying for two FLW championships with eight top 10 finishes under his belt.
By the time June starts busting out all over, Brosdahl is catching more than his share of open-water walleye from his home base in Max, Minn. Whether fishing familiar walleye waters close to home or lakes and rivers that are new to him, he has learned to look for the weeds to find spring walleye.
"Rocks, too," he added. "Like weeds, rock piles and drop-offs, they offer edges where baitfish congregate and walleye can hide. They provide ambush points to attack from. If you can locate a rocky hump topped by weeds this time of year, you have the best of all worlds."
1. Give 'Em A Break
Brosdahl explained that the walleyes will hang around the periphery of a rock hump during the day, and stay to the outside of the weeds up top if they are especially shallow.
"But the walleye will absolutely be on top after dark," he advised.
The walleye guide said that whether comprised of vegetation, rock or both, steep breaks are "very important, because schooling baitfish will hold off the edge, while the walleye cruise and hide in the protection of the structure. Breaks make great contact points for the walleye, which are seeking the larger, fatter baitfish they want."
"Bigger walleye don't want to feed often," continued Brosdahl. "They want to eat in one full sweep, on a big baitfish like a perch or shad or a fat shiner, when they can. If that size baitfish isn't available, they'll stick around and feed on lots of smaller shiners."
2. Give 'Em A Blow
Wind also affects where you can find active walleyes in June, says Brosdahl.
"You can start getting summer weather patterns in June, especially late in the month, but before everything really gets wild weather-wise, this time of year you can get winds that create an excellent bite. A good, steady wind will stack fish up in most lakes, and you can find walleyes feeding in the weeds or along rock edges.
"When the wind is strong and steady, fish the windward sides of everything," suggested Brosdahl. "Baitfish like shiners are weak swimmers; they'll often get forced along or blown up against a break. And walleye are opportunistic feeders that like big, sluggish baitfish and know that's where to find them."
The same opportunistic tendencies are shown by river walleye, he said. "When fishing for river walleye, keep in mind that they are more apt to move to wing dams and structure they can hide behind, out of the current and wait for baitfish to wash by," said Brosdahl. "From there, all they have to do is rise up or over and pick them off at will. It's like a current conveyor belt of bait!
3. Catching Walleye at the Bar
To catch these big walleye bellying-up to the salad bar in search of a mouthful, Brosdahl recommends offering them precisely what the hungry predators came for: big live baits.
"You can go with minnows up to 8 inches long, or big shiners, under a float or on a jig like a Fireball," he said.
Crankbaits can work on the spring fish too, but are usually most effective when the walleye are being the most aggressive, early and late in the day, he suggests, adding: "Bigger crankbaits that mimic injured baitfish can be really effective.
"Fish around the weed beds or humps deeper during the day and move shallow as light fades. Use your fish finder to learn where and at what depths and the baitfish schools are holding to know what depth you want to make your presentation. As long as you are near weeds or rocks that offer breaks, this time of year the walleye shouldn't be hard to find — 'cause if you offer them something they want to eat, and that's what they're doing big time right now, they'll find you."