Spring is the best time to target shallow walleyes. It’s the time for flippin’ and pitchin’ jigs to fish that have moved shallow near shorelines and points, or for extracting walleyes from weeds or wood. The key is locating prime structure, precise depths, bottom with rocks or wood, and using a jig presentation that triggers strikes.
Shallow water warms the quickest, making it the most likely place to find concentrated populations of walleyes during prespawn and postspawn. Points, shallow ledge drops, rock, and weeds attract baitfish and walleyes. Points and shorelines with a darker bottom content or areas of dirty water warm earlier.
Walleyes typically start spawning once the water reaches from 40F to 45F. They expend energy spawning, and eventually a postspawn bite ensues to replenish energy. They often remain shallow to feed on forage and baitfish that also have moved shallow.
In-Fisherman’s Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) 1999 Angler of the Year Mike Gofron and PWT Top Gun Chris Gilman both pitch and flip jigs shallow in spring for walleyes.
“In spring, the key to locating walleyes is finding warmer water,” Gofron explains. “On any body of water, certain areas warm faster than others. In lakes, for example, the northeast shoreline often has the warmest water. I look for hard-bottom locations. Visible rock on the shorelines often indicates scattered rocks or shale in the water.”
“Everything starts happening shallow where the water warms first,” Gilman explains. “I’ve caught walleyes in only inches of water; I could see their dorsal fins sticking out of the water as they cruised the shallows. Shallow mud bays, where weeds start growing, bugs and tadpoles start hatching, and other fish and forage species move in to spawn often host a population of catchable walleyes.
“In rivers, anytime the flow is high, walleyes usually are tucked up shallow in flooded timber and backwater eddies to escape the main current flow. The only way to catch them is to pitch and flip right into the snags.”
PERSPECTIVES ON LOCATION
Certain shallow locations attract and hold more walleyes than others. In spring, walleyes swim upstream under bridges and through narrows in search of shallow spawning bays, using current breaks as they migrate through these areas. Riprap, rock, and rubble near bridges, causeways, and dams also can be good.
“I key on some type of shallow structural element, whether it’s a rock or weed point, shallow hump, or island.” Gilman says. “Generally, walleyes relate to similar key spots throughout a body of water. Whether it’s a 7-foot weededge, the tips of points, or a shallow bay near a patch of shoreline willows, walleyes seem to favor certain locations, sometimes daily. Once you develop a location pattern, you usually can find other similar locations that also are attracting walleyes.”
According to Gofron, “Walleyes move around a lot in spring. Many anglers start out pitching to the points. Points are good, but they’re the most obvious and hardest hit by anglers. Shorelines also attract a lot of walleyes and are overlooked by most anglers. Female walleyes, particularly, can be found near key spots like rocky shorelines adjacent to deeper water. Add a little wind to the shoreline, or across a point, and the bite often picks up. During low light conditions, however, I believe fish can be found up and down the shorelines, even if the water is gin clear.
“Anglers often shy away from fishing snaggy cover, but the sun beating down on flooded wood and roots in the shallows warms the water temperature, which attracts baitfish and creates key spots for pitching and flipping to walleyes,” Gofron says.
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