Riege: Shallow Water Walleyes

Published 7:55 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I tipped my MotorGuide trolling motor over the side and turned on the Lowrance depthfinder at my feet and picked up my rod that had a Husky Jerk tied on the line.I tossed out the Husky Jerk into a pocket of open water adjacent to some flooded timber. After the wake settled I dipped my rod tip into the water and made a couple of quick rotations on my reel to get the lure down a couple of feet. Then I stopped and allowed the lure to sit there motionless and start to slowly rise. I twitched the bait and POW; I had a fish on that was about four pounds. Moving down the shoreline a little further I did the same thing and again I contacted another fish. The key to this presentation was that I was casting the crankbait instead of trolling the crankbait. The other thing is that I was fishing the skinniest water that I could find where pressurized spring walleyes moved up into water that barely covers their backs. The other part of this presentation is the use of a neutrally buoyant crankbait that will go down to a desired depth and wait there. It acts like a minnow, and the walleyes can’t resist it.

Many anglers consider walleye fishing to be a game of trolling. When the concept of backtrolling was perfected, expert and novice fisherman alike felt that this method was the ideal technique for presenting bait to walleyes. As effective as backtrolling is though, there are still times when casting a bait is the best way to trick a limit of “marble eyes.”

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When I am fishing for shallow water walleyes I will look at three types of structure to help me locate fish. First of all I look for the “typical walleye structure”, this is comprised of drop-offs, rock formations, points, or inside turns that could hold walleyes. The second type of structure is the shallow structure that is usually found out in the middle of the lake. These types of structures might be classified as mid-lake humps, rock piles, reefs, sunken islands, etc. These areas are dynamite during the mid summer months and often times over looked by most weekend anglers. The third type of structure that I love to fish is weeds and wood. Again this type of structure might be classified as more bass or northern pike structure, but a lot of walleyes hang out in heavy weeds and wood throughout the year. If you understand the “predator prey relationship” weeds become an automatic structure that I key in on. Simply put if the walleye is put in the lake as a fry it becomes a prey and naturally will find a place to hide. When the walleye grows up it becomes a predator and instinctively knows that the weeds are a place to look for prey. I try weeds in the summer time, because I am almost assured of catching some really active fish.

Casting works best for walleyes in several situations. When you have the fish pinpointed, a casting presentation can be the best way to keep your bait in the fish’s strike zone. If the fish are on the very tip of a rock point, casting will allow you to put the bait right where the fish are on every cast. If a trolling run was made through those same fish, the lure would be pulled through the school, then you would have to turn around and go back through the fish. The turning around process takes time, and also takes the lure out of the productive fishing zone.

In shallow water though, a boat hovering directly over the fish will quickly spook them, whereas an anchored boat thirty feet away will create no problem. When casting a shallow area, anchor upwind of the area to be fished. Don’t get too close to the area to be worked to prevent spooking the walleyes. After thoroughly casting the spot, let out more anchor rope and drift farther onto the suspected fish holding area, and again tie the anchor rope off. Work this area, let out more anchor rope, and slide farther onto the structure. By moving in this manner, you don’t need to start the motor every time a move is necessary. You get to the new anchoring position quickly and quietly.

A casting presentation also allows more experimentation with different styles. If three anglers are fishing from the same boat, one can throw a Northland Fireball jig tipped with a minnow; one can try a Husky Jerk, while the remaining fisherman can use a slip-bobber. That can’t be done while trolling, as it’s impractical and almost impossible to effectively use all three lure types at the same time while the boat is moving.

Casting a bait is very effective when the walleyes move into the cabbage weeds. At times, walleyes will locate themselves in the middle of a bed of cabbage. A trolling run through the weeds would only result in snags. By casting a jig or split shot rig into the weeds, snags will be avoided and fish will be caught. You’ll still get some hang-ups, but they will be greatly reduced when this casting method into the weeds is employed.

When you’re casting crankbaits for walleyes in the shallows, begin your retrieve with several quick turns of the reel to make the lure dive. Once it strikes the shallow rocks, decrease your retrieve speed. In fact, with the Husky Jerk you might even stop for a few moments and the slowly retrieve the lure.

The lure is constantly in productive water when you cast parallel to a roadbed or riprap. But when you cast perpendicular to it, you’re only in position for a few feet. So, make the majority of your casts parallel to the shoreline and be sure to keep your retrieve speed very slow. This will help you to produce a husky stringer of fish this early summer.

This year we have ventured to Grand Rapids, MN for the Governor’s Fishing Opener. Fishing will be based at Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge, with fishing on Pokegama and other area lakes. With the cold spring we will be looking for some shallow water walleyes. We have been going out on these openers for more than twenty years now and I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Be safe this opener and I’ll see you on the water.