Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Late-spring ’eyes: Catch ’em as catch can

By James Lindner

Angling Buzz

Late-spring walleye fishing is exciting, because fish in a given body of water can be doing different things. Catch ’em as you can because they’re here today, gone tomorrow.

Walleyes in Midwestern lakes finished spawning anywhere from four to eight weeks ago, so there are three primary patterns to look for right now.

Shallow flats

First, large shoreline-connected flats and points in 5 to 10 feet of water are key. Walleyes at this time concentrate around new (often sparse) weed growth, and where bottom changes from rock to sand. Moderate wind and overcast can really make this shallow bite go.

Side-imaging sonar is fantastic for finding these fish. Motor over an area and drop waypoint icons on pods of fish. Once you’ve located a number of these wandering walleye packs, fish them.

Try snap-jigging a ¼-ounce VMC Moon Eye jig adorned with a 3-inch Big Bite swimbait plastic. We also do really well with a VMC Bucktail Jig. A ball-head jig and shiner minnow can be tough to beat.

Deeper on points

Another productive pattern is found deeper on large primary shoreline-connected points. Use 2D sonar to comb the 10- to 20-foot zone. This is a classic late-spring scenario, but keep in mind that walleyes move up and down a lot in response to weather, wind, and forage.

Dragging live-bait rigs or jigs works well, with leeches, minnows, and nightcrawlers all effective. (Walleyes can be partial to one bait over the others, so experiment.)

We also employ a system called power-corking where we move until we see fish on sonar then immediately slide a bait down to them under a slip-bobber rig. 

Deeper humps

Another natural progression walleyes make is out to deeper-water humps, also referred to as sunken islands. Productive depths are commonly 20 to 35 feet. In the coming weeks, more and more walleyes will gather on these structures.

Live-bait rigs with jumbo leeches or nightcrawlers are classic weapons. Our setup is simple: ½-ounce egg sinker, a 4- to 8-foot, 6-pound-test Sufix fluorocarbon leader, ending in a size 2 VMC Octopus hook.

We also do well with a Jigging Rap in size 7 or 9. Make short casts, let it sink to bottom, then retrieve using quick snaps of the rod from 10 to 2 o’clock. After each snap, let the bait fall back to bottom on a slack line.

Color can make a difference, so experiment, because visibility and light conditions change.

To sum things up, the key to your success is realizing walleyes are on the move much of the time. Fortunately, today’s sonar and mapping systems allow you to quickly find active fish that have simply relocated as the season progresses.

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