Rite of spring fishing: Top-tier river walleye tactics
Before inland waters opens in Minnesota, you’d better believe I’m pursuing river walleyes on border waters. Of course, the tactics I’ll outline here work wherever spring, moving-water walleye opportunities exist. My arsenal contains three primary tactics for catching riverine walleyes: jigs, three-ways rigs, and trolling crankbaits.
Whichever tactic we employ, it’s extremely important for us to stay on these fish. Finding a pod of walleyes this time of year is fun and productive, because many times these fish are seriously concentrated and snappy biters.
That said, the metabolism of walleyes typically is not necessarily in high gear depending on the stage of the spawn. Anglers often are waiting for a hard strike, but here’s where a quality graphite rod is truly important. We may encounter light biters, so if you feel anything abnormal, you’ve got to set the hook!
With jigs, everyone is constantly using a steady lift-drop jigging action. Vary it. I’ll hold it off the bottom, then keep it steady. I find that very productive. Monofilament line remains my first choice, because I like its stretch when working jigs. If you don’t have that stretch, a fish can shake off the bite thanks to that lack of give. If using Fireline or a braid, have a soft-tipped rod to offset the lack of stretch. Another option is to tie on a fluorocarbon leader.
When using three-way swivel rigs, add minnows and leeches. And don’t get hung up on jumbo leeches. I’ve had good success with small leeches, too, though admittedly, I start with medium to large ones.
Use three-way swivels with just enough weight to tick the bottom.
As for crankbaits, I either long-line or use my leadcore setup. Small, slow, and subtle is the rule on spring rivers. You can bet my tackle box contains lots of Shad Raps in size 4 for May walleyes.
The most consistent rule whatever tactic we use: If marking fish, keep your presentation in their strike window.