Many lakes have numerous spawning grounds. This could be a rock shoal, creek mouth, or shallow bays. These are 3 areas I love to target this time of year because they are loaded with fish that are spawning or just finishing up the spawn. Typically, the walleye spawn takes place between 45-55 F, but it can vary depending on how far north or south you are. I would like to share a few basic tactics I use when fishing these three key areas. They have been very influential to my success in spring walleye tournaments. In fact, one lake the spring tournament is won in one of these three areas almost every year. The only exception is a very early spring causing the walleye to drift of into their summer time areas.
Rocky shoals can be great spawning habit for walleye. Often theses shoals or beds can be a few kilometres long, making it hard to cover unless you are trolling. This is where I love to have 3-6 people in the boat to troll planer boards with shallow diving crankbaits.
Bagley Minnow B’s and Rapala originals are great options for this shallow fishing. If you let out 100 feet of 10 pound braid, you will get each of these crankbaits down to seven feet of water. I’m typically anywhere from two to eight feet of water with my boards so I adjust the amount of line differently from the shallow rod to the deepest rod. The walleye are not always the most aggressive, going through the stress of spawning, so it’s important to go slow. I try and keep my boat speed between 1.2-1.8 mph . Start your troll with a few different colours and different style lures.
Mix in the crankbaits your trolling, with one or two with spinner rigs with bait on them. Instead of using a bottom bouncer, I use an ¼-3/8 ounce egg sinker that will be in front of the swivel on your spinner rig harness. Worms, minnows and leeches are all great options to have.
Don’t be scared to slip your planer boards into super shallow. Last year two to four feet of water was on fire for all spring. Having the planer boards also allows you to get your lines away from the boat so you’re not spooking fish with the boat.
Shallow bays can carry huge numbers of walleyes this time of year. I usually put the crankbaits away in these situations and pull some Lindy rigs with leeches to locate the fish. Generally, I always have a float on my Lindy rig to keep it off bottom and pull it around the bay 0.3-0.5 mph. It’s a super slow way of covering ground but often these areas are too small to effectively pull spinners or cranks. These areas carry lots of debris, so when running a Lindy rig it’s easy to identify if you have debris on your line or lure. Standard #8 Snell hooks and ¼ ounce Lindy weights is all you need for this set–up. Once you have located a good number of fish there’s the option of jigging or slip bobbing as well .
Creek mouths can sometimes have pencil reeds and cabbage around them. This can be frustrating to fish. Many people enter these areas and try and troll or cast big lures and ended up getting more salad then meat on their lures! This is my absolute favourite area to use a slip bobber. Running a slip bobber with a leech on it can get even the most negative walleye to bite. Those big hens are often right inside the pencil weeds on the creek mouths and having the ability to cast your bobber right in them is dynamite. I have seen many a large walleye caught in under three feet of water with this this tactic. Flipping jigs and slowly working them back to the boat is another option.
The Lindy rig set up I run is six or eight pound fluorocarbon with braid on my reel section to identify light bites and debris on my line. The float is key to keep the leech off the bottom from debris as well.
The slip bobber set up from rod out consists of the slip bobber stop first. This is followed by a bead , bobber and three 1/32 ounce split shots spread out 6-8 inches apart and a foot from the last a #8 Gamagastu, Mustad or Eagleclaw Octopus style baithook. For the slip bobbers I run either six or eight pound fluoro, that is all the same line from the reel to the hook.
The two important parts about the planer board are the Taddle Tail system, which allows the flag to drop if you get debris, small fish or light bits by the flag going down. Also, the piece I have on top of the flag is a glow stick I use at night, low light, or when I have my boards along ways from the boat. This can make the boards extremely hard to see with low visibility caused by waves or sunny conditions.
In conclusion, I know we are all ready to get the boats out and if your after walleye these are three must try areas in the early season. The best part is every lake has at least a few of these areas to try. Not every good looking spot will produce but keep trying different areas with these features and eventually you will find gold with fins!