Depending on where you live, the spring wall season is already underway… or you are looking forward to the opener. In Minnesota, the magic day is Saturday, May 14th. In either case, here are some great fishing tips that will help you put delicious mushrooms on the boat this spring.
1) Shallow fish water for Walleyes
This spring has been much cooler and windier than normal for most of the wall strip. In fact, many of the country’s best fisheries are still covered in ice. One of the biggest mistakes made by anglers at the start of the season is fishing too deep. You should expect to find shallow fish this year and most years.
In turbulent or polluted waters, fish at depths of only 2 to 8 feet on opening day, especially when aiming for wind-directed shoreline. Just last week in South Dakota, almost every eye of the wall we caught on the Missouri River came as they poured cranks or plastic-tipped tools on the shoreline rock.
In the clearest lakes, the weed habitats 4 to 8 feet deep are home to roaming wall schools, as are the many weed lines of many lakes. Shallow cliffs will also hold fish as well as streamed areas. Forward-looking sonar like the Garmin LiveScope and side images are great for helping you spot shallow fish.
The key when aiming for shallow water walls is to make long molds and keep noise to a minimum. This means closing your board before you reach the places where you plan to fish. The braided line makes it easier to throw farther, especially with bait and lightweight minaret tools.
2) Lures vs. Live Bait for Walleyes?
There was a time when I believed that plagues could not be caught with anything but live bait. Since then I have learned how good live bait is, there are times when artificial lures are much better, and this is especially true when looking for open walls. Artificial lures are much tougher than live bait, of course, which makes them more efficient at covering the water while looking for active fish.
Excellent items for season start walls include 1/8 to ¼ tools coated with a variety of soft plastic or Gulp! trailer. Spots of three to four inches, swimming grilles and mine simulators are all good options for opening day, as are smaller plastic worms. The strands of hair fished on the plateau are also extraordinary.
The key with plastic is fishing a little faster than with live bait as movement is what activates plastic. With hair strands, slower is often better. Also, when using paddle bait, make sure the shaft head you use is heavy enough to hold the bait down in the impact area. Rowing baits move a ton of water and this can elevate the bait too high on the fish to be effective.
Bumps and lures that mimic mine are also great options. Berkley’s new hit sticks in sizes 9 and 11 are great for throwing or trolling, and shad style lures like Shad Rap and Flicker Shad are also deadly. I like size 5 for super shallow areas and size 7 for slightly deeper water.
3) Find Walleyes away from the crowds
It’s very easy to find fish on opening day – just look for the crowds. I have found that it is better to study maps of an area that is known to have active fish — then look for other spots with the same characteristics that are usually away from crowds. Not everyone will keep fish, but many do, and I often keep them to myself because no one else thinks to look there.
When studying a country, ask yourself the following:
- Is the area connected to the coastline or to the main basin?
- What kind of ending is there? Rocky, sandy, mixed? And the end breaks quickly or slowly? (In most cases, slower breaks are better than fast breaks in early spring.)
- Finally, is there anything that makes the area unique like electricity, certain type of grass, etc.?
One last tip that has helped me quickly model the walls: When fishing with others, make sure everyone fishes a different bait or lure until you see a pattern. Years ago, I lost a hot mine bite, simply because everyone on my boat was fishing with caterpillars exclusively when the fish wanted mines. This is a lesson I have never forgotten.