June 15, 2018
Here are some high-percentage strategies for hot-weather walleye adventures.
Walleye anglers stuck in spring mode often struggle in summer. But it's actually prime time for these marble-eyed beauties.
The trick is being able to change — as in, leaving early hotspots and tactics behind. Here's how to find hot-weather walleyes and make them bite.
Walleyes spawn in shallow water near shore or in tributaries in spring, then gradually move deeper. Some feed along banks and over reef tops in summer, but most lie farther offshore.
In many lakes, post-spawn walleyes go from one structural sweet spot to another en route to their summer range. Early stops often include points and near-shore break lines. Some 'eyes linger here all summer, but most move on.
>> Related: North Dakota's Long-Standing Walleye Record Broken
In some lakes, the migration ends with fish wandering main-lake basins, chasing food sources over deep gravel bars, mud flats and humps. In others, suspended baitfish lure walleyes higher up over the featureless abyss.
Forage-rich weed beds adjacent to deeper water can also hold surprising numbers of walleyes. So, if you're fishing a lake with lush stands of cabbage and coontail, it's worth checking deep edges and open pockets.
FIND FISH FAST
It's smart to start scouting before you ever reach the lake. State fisheries agencies, local guides, bait shops, online forums and social media can start things off.
Once on the water, high-speed recon with sonar and GPS works wonders in most conditions. To help get a handle on what lies beneath the waves, national tournament champion and veteran guide Scott Glorvigen uses waypoints to mark key spots on classic structure, such as drop-offs, points and humps — especially when, as he's fishiing, he finds something notable that doesn't appear on his GPS base map. And he religiously punches in a waypoint every time he catches a fish.
Robert Blosser: Go-To Search Bait for Walleye
You can catch summer walleyes trolling crankbaits or spinner harnesses, dragging live-bait rigs or dangling leeches beneath slip-bobbers. All have their place, but Glorvigen says few anglers employ one of the best tactics of all — soft plastic, paddletailed swimbaits.
Glorvigen rigs a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-inch paddletail on a round-head, long-shank jig heavy enough to keep bait near bottom.
"An assortment of jigs allows you to adjust to most situations," he says. "In clear water, stick to natural colors for jigs and soft baits. In stained or other low-visibility conditions, chartreuse, pink and orange are better."
Glorvigen throws swimbaits on a 6-foot, 9-inch to 7-foot spinning rod with a medium-fast tip. The main line is a super braid like Berkley FireLine Crystal or Sufix Performance Braid, which allows him to feel bottom, his lure's tail action and, often, a walleye overtaking the bait.
Line color leans toward the brighter side. "High-vis main line helps you visualize where your bait is and detect strikes," he says. "To avoid spooking line-shy fish, I add an 18-inch fluorocarbon leader to the end of the main line."
The presentation is deadly, but also easy to execute. Glorvigen simply casts the rig out, lets it settle, then makes a steady retrieve just off bottom. "I'm not popping, hopping or snap-jigging," he says. "This is more of a straight retrieve."
Be forewarned, hungry walleyes are often so smitten by a swimbait's profile and subtle thumping action that they take the bait with a vengeance.