Top early-season walleye fishing techniques

How about some thoughts on specific early season walleyes techniques. For starters, as I’ve suggested before, always have a game plan and pre-rig your rods!

Generally speaking, you can toss small jigs in the shallow areas you’re likely targeting for walleyes this open-water season. Say 1/16-ouncers, because we don’t want to spook fish with big hardware. Tip your jig with a minnow or (if you can find them this spring) a leech.

When casting out a jig over shallow, gravelly, or sandy bottoms, raise your rod, then raise and drop it all the way back to boat. Mix up your jigging technique, and work with different dressings. Many times in May and June, you can drag a jig on the bottom and pick up fish. It doesn’t always have to be lift-drop, lift-drop!

Use live bait, but if you have a hard time finding live bait, use some of the scented plastics. Some of them these days are almost as attractive to fish as live bait.

Slip-bobbers also could be productive this spring. Over deeper water, vertical jig or use live bait rigs.  Crankbaits are a good idea, too, casted into the shallows. Small, slow, and subtle should be your dominating presentation.

Keep your lures at the right speed and right depth. If you pick up a fish, then hover over that fish (say 10 feet of water) and then work a jig or a livebait rig. Usually you’ll coax that fish into biting.

Another top technique is using a split shot ahead of a live bait rig. Tie your line directly to the hook, then add a split shot above that hook. This is a finesse rig. A variation is to take a torpedo weight and peg it four feet ahead of your hook. That allows you to bounce over some rocks without snagging.

With live bait rigs, I’ll twitch them or move the rod tip forward three feet. Constantly move them and change things up a little bit instead of always drag. drag, drag,

As for live bait, with minnows, a  21/2-inch fathead is most effective, but mix up the size. You’ll see fatheads spawning this time of year, when the males turn almost black, and have bumps on their heads. The female fatheads are more productive because of a negative scent factor with those males.

With leeches, if it’s a tougher bite, use a medium leech. I prefer black leeches over those less active, lazy brown leeches. Whatever the color, healthy bait is best. Never use half dead bait.

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