The summertime blues can hit even the most persistent anglers on the Missouri River.  With so much bait in the system, many anglers resort to tubing and other watersports until fishing gets better.  However, walleye dinners can occur on hot summer evenings as well.  For anglers looking to try these “cool” presentations, fish can be found at the end of their line.

Anglers looking to have success in the middle of summer must first understand why fishing can become challenging in the first place.  Walleye are ectothermic, this means that they are the victim of their environment.  By contrast, humans are endothermic, we do everything we can to maintain 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is why we sweat out in the boat on those hot summer days.

Walleye do not have this luxury.  With the warm water temperatures, their metabolism is going to be cranking.  This means they will be looking for food often and they will have plenty of energy to pursue their meals.  Lucky for them, summer means there is plenty of forage to go around.  Gizzard shad are the primary prey species across Lake Francis Case and Lake Sharpe, but other age-0 fish species, shiners and even aquatic bugs like mayflies can keep the buffet table stocked for walleye in the summer.  The abundance of forage and the warm water temperatures can make fishing tough, but fish can still be caught with the right presentation.

Breakout the Bling

Early and late in the season, I generally prefer to go with a “boring” presentation.  I often bottom bounce a plain bead and hook or a plain bead with a small, .8” Mack’s Lure Smile Blade.  While this can be a top presentation, summer is when the “cool” baits shine.  My go-to bait when faced with mid-summer situations, regardless of what waterbody I’m on, is a gold or silver #3 Colorado blade.  The metallic colors in these blades have caught fish for me on every waterbody I’ve ever fished, and the Missouri River is no different.

By this time nightcrawlers have become the bait of choice and I like to keep this rig as simple as possible.  I go with three or four beads, my blade, and a #2-4 Aberdeen or Octopus hook.  I tip that with 2-3 inches of crawler and drop my bouncer down to the bottom and get to work.  I always make sure this offering is deployed on at least one of my lines every time I hit the water this time of year.

While this bait may be cool, the rationale is simple.  This presentation will appeal to all of the walleye’s senses.  The meat of the presentation provides both scent and taste.  The blade creates both flash and vibration.  This attracts fish from a distance and also both sounds and feels right when it’s going through the water.  These all appeal to the fish’s senses and helps the bait stand out amongst all the forage, but it’s not overly aggressive to intimidate those neutral fish.

Spice it Up

While those more neutral fish may prefer this simpler set up, other fish may be looking for a little more spice in their meals.  Summer presents a fantastic time to get creative with your rigging.  One of the ways to get creative is to trade out the boring ole crawler and replace it with a soft plastic.  The only limit to this presentation is your imagination!

The most popular plastics in this situation are going to be scented.  The Berkley GULP baits are perfect examples of these types of baits.  While crawler imitating baits may seem logical, do not be afraid to throw the kitchen sink at them.  Twister tails, paddle tails or any other type of bait can produce fish because the key to these baits is the attraction.  All spring long anglers are throwing these baits because they produce just enough action to attract fish.  In summer, the same concept applies.  Your favorite blade produces flash and vibration, while the plastic adds color and even more vibration and action to the presentation.

What makes this such an effective presentation?  Summer is a lot like a buffet table.  There is plenty of food, so why do we pick what we do?  Let’s say there are four sandwiches on the table.  The first three are turkey, ham and roast beef.  They all look good, but they all have plenty to go around and this is what you have been eating all week.  All the sudden you find the fourth option: it’s called the “Bacon Lover 5000”, smells great and does not look like any other sandwich you have ever seen.  The plate it is being served on is lit up with neon lights and “Eye of the Tiger” is playing in the background.  Naturally, we have to give the Bacon Lover 5000 a try!  It smells great, looks great, sounds great and it has really caught your attention.  The same concept is true for walleye and that is why this presentation is so effective.

Wiggle Walleye

The third prong of my approach is the most aggressive of all of them.  I had been skeptical of these types of baits before, but the Missouri River has really made me a believer in these types of baits.  I call these baits the crank/live bait hybrid, the main reason I call it this is that is the best way to describe it and I am not very creative!

So, what is it exactly?  These types of baits look like a crankbait, the bill included.  The body of the bait is softer than a crank, the material itself varies depending on what brand you buy.  The kicker is the back of the bait often has a one or two hook crawler harness.  The main concept of these baits is you get the action of a crankbait, but you still get the benefits of live bait as well.  My personal favorite is the Mack’s Lure Pee Wee Wiggle Hoochie.

These baits really shine in the middle of summer because they are the apex of presentations previously discussed.  They provide flash, vibration, color, scent and they taste great.   The aggressive nature of these baits also appeals to those ramped up summer walleyes looking to crush baits.  When everything comes together, this can provide a really fun day of fishing.

The hot summer days may give most anglers the blues, but good fishing can still be had.  Even on the hottest of days, cool thoughts can help put fish in the boat.  Cover water draw attention to yourself and think outside the box.  Burgers and brats are great on a hot summer night, but a freshly caught walleye dinner sure is tough to beat!  Good fishing!

About The Author

Nick Harrington

Nick is originally from Gretna, Nebraska. He attended South Dakota State University where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. Nick currently lives in Pierre, SD where he works with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Nick guides for his favorite fish, walleye, on the Missouri River reservoirs and also enjoys ice fishing in Northeast South Dakota.