Drew Reese's Midwest finesse walleye tactics

This is Drew Reese's first Finesse News Network report from Canada.This one focuses on how, when, and where he catches walleye during the late spring and throughout the summer by employing Midwest finesse tactics.

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Part of my motivation for filing Finesse News Network reports from Canada is that several FNN members travel to Canada for its fine smallmouth fishing.

But recently a member  asked if Z-Man's finesse baits work here for walleye.

The answer is yes.

There are three distinct groups of walleye in Canada. There are walleye that relate to current, and I cannot provide any information about these walleyes because we have no current in the lakes that I fish. The second group is the main-basin walleyes. These walleye inhabit the humps and flats anywhere from 15 to 45 feet deep.  The third group are found in relatively  shallow water, where smallmouth bass can also be caught.

For the last three years, Z-Man's pearl Finesse ShadZ has been an amazingly effective bait for catching deep-water and shallow-water walleye.

Some of my Canadian friends are guides, and for more than 40 years they have used jig-and-minnow combos to catch walleye, contending that minnows were superior to any artificial lure. In fact, minnows are such a popular walleye bait that it is not unusual for one of the most popular  fishing resorts around here to spend  $8,000 to $9,000 a year for minnows.

But since Z-Man Fishing Products introduced the Finesse ShadZ in 2011, I have out fished all of my Canadian friends when they used a jig-and-minnow rig, and  I used a pearl Finesse ShadZ affixed to a jig.

Nowadays, my Canadian friends use nothing but a pearl Finesse ShadZ or a Z-Man's pearl 3.75-inch StreakZ, and they affix these soft-plastic baits to a jig.

There are two ways to present these artificial baits to the walleye.

For the  walleye that are inhabiting the shallow-water locations, we cast and retrieve the Finesse ShadZ.  After your cast is executed, you allow the Finesse ShadZ to plummet to the bottom. Once it reaches  the bottom, you let it set for a few seconds. Then you lift it about a foot or two off of the bottom, and commence to swim it one or two feet off of the bottom. As you retrieve it, do not impart any action. Many times a walleye will be hooked when the Finesse ShadZ  is lifted off the bottom before the swimming retrieve is employed.

The other is a vertical presentation when the boat is situated on top of the walleye that are  inhabiting the humps and flats in 15 to 45 feet of water. For this presentation, you merely you drop Finesse ShadZ or StreakZ over the gunnels of the boat and allow it fall straight down. Once it is on the bottom, lift it a foot off of the bottom, and hold it there as the boat drifts. As you drift, occasionally allow the bait to drop to the bottom, and then repeat the one-foot-lift-and-drift routine. This has been a deadly tactic during the past three summers in Canada.

Moreover, I have started catching so many walleye while smallmouth fishing during the past few years that I haven't needed to go walleye fishing anymore.  You could correctly contend that these walleye were caught accidentally.  But they were caught in certain areas, which an angler can focus on if he wants to intentionally catch walleye by casting a Finesse ShadZ in relatively shallow water.

Here is how, where, and when I do it. Smallmouth bass fishing is much slower on cloudy days than it is on sunny ones. For instance, June 14 was a cloudy day, and it rained lightly and occasionally for four hours, and then it rained hard. The wind blew 10 to 20 mph out of the southeast. The surface temperature ranged from 61 to 63 degrees. I fished from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., focusing on walleye in shallow-water areas that smallmouth bass also inhabit.  I caught 27 walleye from five spots, and the common denominator was that all five spots had a terrain that consisted of sand that was mixed with rock. The water was two to eight feet deep.

On this June 14 outing, my mission was to see if I could catch walleye at all five spots, and I did.

The wind made detecting strikes difficult. Therefore, I missed several fish.

When I began this outing, I used a pearl Finesse ShadZ on a 1/10-ounce jig. Then I switched to the Morningwood hue Finesse ShadZ on a 1/7-ounce jig, and I fished it through the same area that I caught walleye on with the pearl Finesse ShadZ, and the heavier jig and Morningwood hue Finesse ShadZ caught several more nice-sized walleye. I stayed with the heavier jig and Morningwood Finesse ShadZ until the wind just got so bad that I decided to switch to Z-Man's new 3 1/2-inch grub in a green-pumpkin hue on a 1/7-ounce jig. I had noticed that some of the walleye had regurgitated a few crayfish, and traditionally a grub is an effective option when the walleye and smallmouth bass are simultaneously foraging on baitfish and crayfish, and that combo yielded some nice dividends on my June 14 endeavors.

One of the great assets about  fishing for shallow-water walleye is they are much larger on average and fight much harder than deep-water walleye.  Another advantage is that even though conditions are not favorable for catching smallmouth bass, I can occasionally tangle with a few of them while I am catching walleye. And on June 14, I enjoyed the delightful bonus of catching eight smallmouth bass.


The photograph at the head of this report shows the three walleye lures I used on June 14. It also includes the four different sizes of jigs that I use for walleye. The biggest is a 1/5-ouncer, which I use most of the time in deep-water and with the vertical presentation. The weights of the other three jigs are 1/15-ounce, 1/10-ounce, and 1/7-ounce. Each jig has a bait keeper attached to the shank of the hook. The green-pumpkin Z-Man's  grub is on the right and at the top of the photograph. The Morningwood Finesse ShadZ in is the middle, and the pearl Finesse ShadZ is on the bottom.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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