July 26, 2011
In keeping with our foot patrol theme for spring shore walleyes, waders offer an easy and inexpensive alternative for fishing shallow areas near shore. Pop 'em in the trunk or back of the SUV, toss in a long spinning rod and a small component tackle box of lures, plus some warm clothes and a flashlight, and you're ready to go at a moment's notice.
Fishing in waders is a meet-and-greet scenario: you wade out to meet the fish on their way into the shallows from adjacent holding areas. The key is to pick out shoreline sections where the fish are drawn to you by distinctive shoreline features like rocks or contours, or by current flow, typically at creek or river mouths or on the downwind side of a narrows. Your mobility is limited, but the walleyes are free to roam. So, play percentages and be in position to intercept them.
Spring and fall are perhaps the best times to fish for walleyes with waders, since the fish tend to come quite shallow at night. In spring, it's a spawning thing; fish cluster in and around rocky shorelines, creek mouths, and riprap when the water temperature rises above 40F. In fall, it's a food thing, as fish move shallow to ambush a multitude of forage items ranging from frogs and salamanders entering the lake from swamps, to minnows and even bullheads roaming the shallows, to shallow fall spawners like ciscoes offering easy meals along mainlake sand-rock shorelines adjoining deep water. In most cases, wading is a night activity, since that's when the walleyes are most likely to come to you.
Tops on the list are likely neutral-buoyancy minnow imitators like Husky Jerks, retrieved slowly through the shallows, using the occasional pump-and-pause to make the lure first surge and then hang there in a following walleye's face. Next up is a jig of some sort, typically 1/4- to 3/8-ounce, dressed with a 4-inch shad body or twistertail. Jigs let you retrieve your lure nearer the bottom, just in case the water's more than 3 or 4 feet deep. Walleyes will, however, hit free-running lures at night, so you don't necessarily have to bang bottom to trigger strikes. You can try other options like rattlebaits, or even lighted slipbobbers dangling leeches a few feet below the surface. But most of the time, all you need is a couple of lures, the patience of Job, and the confidence to stand thigh-deep in cool water, waiting for that next bite.