Springtime, is surely one of the favorite times of the year for Midwesterners who suffered through months of bitter cold and snow. Its arrival brings sunshine, green grass, migratory birds, but more importantly, pre & post spawn walleyes who are chomping up anything that looks like a delicacy!
Reading the Lake
The first thing to consider when trying to locate a group of white tip tails, is whether the particular body of water you are fishing is capable of natural reproduction or purely a stocked lake.
A natural spawning lake will tend to be several thousand acres in size with large amounts of shallow spawning structure (i.e. sand/rock bars). While it’s not entirely out of the question for walleyes to spawn in sparse cabbage beds, they prefer flat sand areas with boulders or gravel bottoms.
With the wind and waves they will deposit eggs in their beds (holes) that offer protection. Water depths will typically range anywhere from 4 feet out to roughly 10 feet, with the spawned out males hanging just on the edge of the break line from that 10 foot range.
Of course this is a generalization regarding most large bodies of water. There are always outlier lakes where fish can be found slightly deeper depending on water clarity.
Tracking Them Down
With colder water temps and spawning conditions, walleyes will be grouped up within a short range of the structures mentioned above. Having a quality graph will allow you to cruise through potential fish holding areas swiftly while using down and side imaging capabilities that can be the telltale difference between a full livewell or just having a deep fried hors d’oeuvres.
There are many brands of graphs on the market today that offer these features and finding one that you feel comfortable using, tends to be more important than the price tag. From the basic sonar with DI & SI (down & side imaging) to a several thousand dollar flat screen, that can just about do everything but make you a cup of coffee.
They all can aide you in finding fish outside of what’s directly below your boat and show you structure you may not have known was even there.
Doing a Little Jig
Staying on the move, with active baits, can increase your catch rates. While the old method of trolling spinner rigs with live bait can be productive, utilizing jigs such as a Northland Fireball tipped with live bait or plastics will provide the active profile these hungry walleyes are looking for.
In the spring-time, there are many different species of fish that use warm shallow water for spawning and feeding purposes. What this means is, you will need to do a little research on what types of baitfish reside in the body of water you are fishing.
Medium to large profiles will produce bigger fish, but could also result in many missed strikes (and frustration) caused by smalls. This is where plastics such as the new Northland Impulse Core baits can be a great happy medium.
Not only do you have a variety of colors and sizes, but they will also withstand repeated fish. What does this mean to you? Less time digging around in your minnow bucket and more time pitching for fish.
Now everyone will have their own preference on what rods work best to rig up for various fishing styles, but the consensus is that a spinning rod set up is the most versatile. Using the information given above regarding jigging, which is personally my favorite spring walleye technique, selecting a rod and reel combo built specifically for the task is imperative.
After many years of trial and error with rod companies, I settled in nicely with a Limit Creek “The Smoothie” 6’9” medium light, fast action rod. The rod is extremely lightweight, cost efficient and carries a warranty that makes other companies blush.
Using a rod near 7 feet in length not only helps you to cast further, but also creates a desirable action whether you’re bouncing live bait or twitching plastics. Not to mention the sensitivity of the medium light tip which lends itself perfectly to a 1/4 oz or lighter jig head.
Pair all this awesomeness up to a smooth running reel such as a Pflueger President or Diawa Revros and you have yourself an affordable, jig skipping, walleye lip ripping machine.
Making the Connection
Spooling up for the fight is also just as important as the rod and reel you are using. For the main line, a braid such as P-Line XTCB is crucial to get a deep hookset. Using a 10 lb test braid gives you superior strength compared to non-braided lines and has the same diameter as 4 lb test monofilament.
More strength with smaller profile is a win-win, especially when fishing clear waters. Moving towards the business end of the line, having a 3 foot leader of fluorocarbon attached to the braid using a small swivel will make your connection to the jig undetectable by fish.
In addition, the swivel will allow the jig to work properly without twisting up the line and creating an unwanted disaster when reeling up any slack.
Taking a little time to do some research on the body of water you are planning to fish and getting yourself the proper set up in accordance with what baitfish those hungry predators will be searching for, will increase your dinner rations significantly.
Good luck with your hunt for spring walleyes and always keep thinking outside of the box. Be a leader on the water, not a follower.