Slipping Spring Walleyes
July 23, 2011
The ice has finally dissipated, bringing the lake back to a liquid form. The river is open once again. The boat and jigs wait eagerly for the weekend to fish first spring walleyes. Saturday rolls around, the sun is high, the winds calm, and the current is nonexistent, beautiful, if you are looking to take a walk. Nothing could be worse if you are an avid walleye fisherman. Thinking outside of the box here can make this a situation where the walleyes can still be caught readily and in good numbers.
The outside of the box thinking here is one of the oldest in the book with a new twist. Enter the bobber, or the new version, the slip bobber. Slip bobbers have many applications in the walleye world. It is just the slip bobber is overlooked when it comes to river applications. Slip bobbers under certain conditions in rivers can be the most productive method you use.
The conditions that call for slip bobbers are low current days and high sky sunny days. Remember we are talking spring here. This is a shallow water technique that rarely gets used. When the conditions listed above arise, most people believe that the walleyes drop back into the deeper river channels. Not true by any fashion. The feeders are still up in the eddies and shallow feeding shelves, they are just not as aggressive as with strong currents, winds, and cloud cover. A jig and minnow presentation will be too aggressive for these fish. The water is to clear to run rigs through the area. That leaves you with the slip bobber.
Slip bobbers are an extremely neutral presentation that is the king of the river in these situations. The technique is pretty simple. The slip bobber needs to be fished in eddies (even with low currents, eddies still exist) and along day old mud lines. The key to this technique is that you need to have your depth set on your slip bobber so that it can easily float through the desired area.
I always start with a deep setting, fishing the deeper areas of the shallow water areas or mud lines. Most of the time this is in 4 to 6 foot of water. Set the slip float so the bait stays at least six inches off of the bottom throughout the drift.
Once you have covered that depth zone, move up shallower in the structure. Keep this process going until you reach the super shallow zones. This can be as shallow a one-foot of water. I have caught many walleyes on slip bobbers in one to two feet of water on calm clear sunny days in the spring. This is especially true when it comes to mud lines. Left over mud lines (from the big blow the day before) can be key areas in these conditions. The water stays murky and helps in keeping the active walleyes shallow.
You have two options with bait at this time of year. Minnows of course are the obvious one. You can use fatheads, shiners, chubs, etc. I would suggest though staying with the smaller size minnows. This is a situation where bigger may not be better. I have had great luck with the average size fathead. Too big of minnow may be way to aggressive of a swimmer under a slip floater and may change your presentation to too aggressive.
The other option is a leech. Leeches can be deadly early in the season. They are not used enough this time of year. When a cold front has just gone through leaving the high blue skies, calm winds, and chilly temperature behind, leeches will produce under a slip bobber.
The hardest part about this technique is actually trying it. I can be so difficult to leave the norm of a minnow and jig this time of year. I know I have struggled through it myself. But the next time the day draws clear and calm on the spring day, step out of box, and get the slip bobber out and start fishing. It might be the most enjoyable step you have taken in quite some time.