Early season walleye tactics

Even with the late spring, it looks like we’ll have open water on most if not all of our major walleye lakes. Last year was a different story and my opener was delayed by a week because the lake we wanted to fish on (Leech) was still locked up. A person could have tried a southern venue and still have gotten out but that’s not what we wanted and delaying it a week wasn’t that much of a hardship.

Last year, Ron Anlauf went shallow for this nice early season walleye.
Last year, Ron Anlauf went shallow for this nice early season walleye.Submitted photo

When my buddy and I did get on water, we found the fishing to be quite good and the walleyes were where they had been for us in the past – with maybe a slight change: Instead of holding on 6-10 foot gravel and sand breaks, we caught them up into four feet of water or less on rocky points.

With the late ice and a good wind blowing into the rocky point we were working there was bound to be some biters up shallow. We were picking a few up out deep but the action wasn’t all that fast. A move in sure changed that and things really heated up for a while with hits on almost every pitch with fish either hooked or missed.

The hot bite didn’t last all that long but we made some hay and finished off the day moving back out on the deeper breaks. The thing is that shallow bite was happening in the middle of the afternoon when you wouldn’t really expect it and if we hadn’t moved in, our live well probably wouldn’t have been as full.

To work the deeper breaks, we used a typically early-season technique which included drifting along with the wind while dragging a jig and minnow and using the big Minn Kota Terrova electric trolling motor on the bow to help control the speed of the drift and keep the boat positioned at the proper depth.

When we moved up shallow we used the Terrova to hold the boat while we made short pitches with the jig and minnow and slowly worked the bait back to the boat. Jigging like that up shallow is a real blast and is all about feel and can mean a lot of missed fish if you’re not on your game.

If you can feel the bite, or realize that a fish has picked up the bait, you can wait a bit and reel down and get the slack out before setting the hook and end up with more fish in the boat. It’s also when a good graphite rod with superior feel (like the 6-foot, 3-inch medium light Envy spinning rod from 13 Fishing) can make a difference in the ability to detect the lightest of bites.

You might not think it’s that big of a deal but it is, and can mean a lot more hookups and ultimately a lot more fun.

See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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