Riege: Wadding For Walleyes

Published 5:56 pm Thursday, July 18, 2013

By Bob & Ginny Riege

Have you ever noticed that shore anglers cast their bait as far out into the lake or river as possible, while people fishing from a boat are dropping their lures right next to shore? In the late spring or early summer, much of the time, you’ll have more action if you keep your bait tight to the shore.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some instances when the best spot will be mid-river or lake, but there are plenty of times in the spring or early summer when the best action will occur close to shore.

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At this time of year the warmest water will be close to shore. The warmest water is where the fish will be most active, so that’s why you’re fishing there. When fishing these shallow areas, it’s important that you keep motions to a minimum. Fish in shallow water are generally spookier than they would be in deep water. Walk softly and wear light colored clothing. You want a jacket or a sweatshirt that blends in with the sky. Remember that you’ll be above the fish and the sky will be the background. Dark clothing will stand out against the light background and the fish will easily detect your movements.

Also, don’t forget a good pair of hip boots or waders to bring along. The air temperature might be warm and sunny, but the water is still very cold and you will have a short fishing trip if you get soaked.

The shallower the water, the more wary fish seem to be. In a deep river the anger’s approach does not have to be quite as stealthy as in a shallower one.

Fish at rest always face into the flow of water; this is the case in rivers, streams or wind blow lakes and reservoirs. They have a small blind spot behind them, making it advantageous for fisherman to work in from behind them. Also, any silt or sand dislodged while wading will be carried downstream and not over the fish. For these reasons, downstream wadding is more difficult to accomplish successfully without alerting the fish.

Clumsy and careless wading is a primary cause of not catching stream fish. Each foot must be placed down as quietly as possible since the ripples and shock waves emanate outward as the angler wades. To prevent this, movements must be extremely slow.

Fish in a stream generally stay out of the main current, but close enough to grab a passing morsel. If one fish is caught in a particular spot, there is a good chance that another will take its place. With experience, an angler can learn to read the water surface and to know what is underneath. Slick places indicate a rock below the surface: the outside bend of moving water will be deeper than the inside of the bend; and rocks, trees and other structure that break the flow should all hold fish.

When working shallow areas to shore, especially when the water is clear, keep your cast parallel to the shore. The most active fish will be within 10 feet of shore, perhaps closer. If you cast the bait 30 feet out from the shore and retrieve it, the lure is in the most productive zone for only the last 10 feet of the cast. If you cast the bait parallel to the shore and retrieve it, it’s in the fish zone all the time. This technique is very productive even later on in the summer when fishing for walleyes.

Several baits will take walleyes in the spring depending on their activity level. I like to start with a Reed-Runner or Black Flash spinnerbait. If the fish don’t go along with this presentation, try a Buckshot Rattlin’ Jig or Jungle Jig tipped with a plastic trailer. These two bait types will be most productive much of the time, but my all time favorite method for taking shallow water walleyes is twitching a Junior Thunderstick across the surface.

Walleyes will be along the riprap banks and rocky shorelines in the spring because they slide in behind the rocks and riprap to avoid current conditions and as a staging place for ambushing their next meal. In dirty or stained water it’s possible to dabble a jig tipped with a minnow or plastic grub on a long rod. Just lift and drop the jig around rocks and anything else that breaks the current. Lately the advent of plastic lizards rigged on a Hidden Head hook floated and pulsated along the shore line drives big walleyes crazy and they crush that lizard as it swims by.

Fishing close to the shore will frequently be most productive from mid-afternoon until temperatures cool down. That will be the only thing that is cool, your fishing will start to heat up as you fish the shoreline.