Weed Walker by Ron Anlauf
June is definitely where it’s at when it comes to good walleye fishing. It’s a time when you can catch numbers as well as numbers of big fish. The fact is there is usually a lot going on and you may have to sort through a number of different patterns to find the one that’s producing the most action.
The problem is that June is a link between spring and summer and it really isn’t one or the other. In fact it’s a little of both, and there is always the potential to have a variety of early and summer patterns all happening at the same time. To sum it up; you can find active fish shallow, deep, and maybe somewhere in between.
Hot early season patterns include light lining live bait rigs over gravel and sand flats, pitching jigs to shallow rocks, or maybe trolling crankbaits across rocky bars and reefs. It’s all good, at the right time. As we slide into summer most of the action heads deeper, and deeper, depending on what’s available. It’s also when live bait rigging mid lake structure picks up, or maybe pulling bottom bouncers and spinners over deeper humps starts producing. The thing is if you’re deep when the fish are shallow (or shallow when they’re deep) you might be missing out.
One of the steadiest patterns to set up that really doesn’t have a “wrong time” involves weed beds. Weeds attract walleyes period. And they do it because they harbor all kinds of minnows and baitfish as well as last year’s young of the year perch. In other words; good eats. Nice healthy green weeds are what we’re talking about and include cabbage, coontail, and even the dreaded Eurasian milfoil. From early on if the weeds are up they have the potential to produce and they do it whether it’s windy or calm, sunny or cloudy.
How you approach them can change though, and will depend on the conditions. If it’s windy enough and the weed line is deep enough you can try trolling along and into the deep edge with a live bait rig. Wind and wave action will help hide your presence and reduce the spooking factor. Another big help is a powerful electric motor like the MinnKota Vantage, which is absolutely amazing. With it’s 3X steering you can move your boat backwards, forwards, and even sideways with a short stroke of the control handle.
What that means is you now have complete control of your boat and can stay on a dime and if you can control your boat you can control where you put your bait. Instead of using the standard sinker you might try replacing it with the new Sling-Shot from Northland Tackle which will slide through the weeds easier. The Sling-Shot has a bullet shape and an adjustable rubber sling center which will allow you to quickly change weights or snell length with a simple twist. It’s designed for bass fishing but works great especially when walleyes forget they’re walleyes and try to hide out in the weeds.
If it’s calm you might try and stay off the edge of the weeds and cast to them with a jig head tipped with a minnow or a crawler, or maybe one of the new plastic swim baits like the Slurpies Swim Shiner. Weed walleyes can be plenty aggressive and more than willing to gobble up a sweet looking and tasting plastic bait. Pitching jigs to a weed edge is about as pure as it gets and is all about feel, which makes it so much fun. It also takes a lot of concentration and paying attention to your line, which can reveal the sometimes delicate bite of a walleye. About all you might see is a slight twitch of your line on the surface and if you’re not on your toes your bait could get rejected before you ever know what happened. If you see the twitch, or if your line starts moving off to the side, or you actually feel the hit, reel down and set the hook. If you’re missing fish try waiting just a little longer before making the set.
Another option if it’s windy or calm, is using a slip bobber and live bait approach especially if you run across a point, pocket, or anything that might help to concentrate fish. A slip bobber can suspend your bait and keep it in the perfect position which makes it an extremely efficient technique. A jig head tipped with a leech or crawler and suspended right smack in the face of a bunch of hungry ‘eyes might be more than they can take. Longer rods like the St.Croix Slip Stick model TWS80MLF make it easier to cast live bait and keep in on the hook, take up more line on the set, and provide plenty of fish fighting power. Better yet the Slip Stick is telescopic making it much easier to find places to store the eight foot rod.
If you have the time and the equipment it wouldn’t hurt to make an investigative run with an underwater camera like the VS560 from Marcum. The VS560 has a camera that rotates 360 degrees in its housing and can give you an all around look instead of just straight ahead. A camera will give you a fish eye view and you’ll see weeds, rocks, where there are rocks in the weeds, baitfish and minnows, and yes; even walleyes.
Even if there are deep fish to be had the weed bite can be the best thing going. They just need you to be there with what they want, when they want it. See you on the water.