July 24, 2012
In spring, walleyes typically start spawning once the water reaches 40F to 45F. Fact is, warmer water is a primary attraction for prespawn fish, and water generally warms the fastest in the shallows near shore. It's the best opportunity of the year for boot anglers to target shore walleyes that have moved near key locations.
Prespawn walleyes are drawn to current. In lakes, top spots include the mouths of feeder creeks and lake outlets, including culvert areas that connect marshes or shallow lakes to the main lake. Most current areas have at least a few distinct spots that break the current and provide a resting place. For instance, walleyes often hold along the edge of current seams--where moving water meets calm water--waiting to ambush a passing meal. In Canadian shield lake-river systems, large eddies below prominent barriers like waterfalls or rapids can hold hordes of walleyes in spring.
In rivers, walleyes often stage near dams until after they spawn. Structure along the main current flow creates current breaks and eddies, providing a place to rest and ambush prey. Riprap along causeways, roads, and railroad crossings provide current breaks and often can be reached from shore. Tributary rivers and streams can be good, too. The tributary water likely is warmer, which attracts baitfish and walleyes.
Walleyes may also pass through current into back-bay or marsh areas more commonly thought of as good carp spots. When you're not catching much in traditional current spots, back bays are worth a look. Start by investigating the mouths of bays or culverts that connect the slough area to the main lake. Any deeper water in these back bays, like a creek channel or deeper hole, may concentrate and hold fish.
Narrows, which are bottlenecked waterways connecting two larger bodies of water, often have some current that attracts baitfish and walleyes. The best spots vary depending on the size of the narrows, both length and width, and the size of the two connected bodies of water. Where current is swift, downcurrent areas attract baitfish and walleyes. Deeper holes near or in the narrows may also hold walleyes, though the more active fish tend to be shallow.
On windy days, look for walleyes along windswept shorelines. Long stretches of shoreline or points covered with rocks or pebbles can be good. A spot where one to three feet of water meets the shore is an ideal spot for walleyes to trap and catch baitfish. Main-lake points are good locations on windy days, too.
Baitfish and young-of-the-year fish like crappies, perch, and bullheads use shoreline weeds or other cover, like flooded timber, to live in and hide from predators. But that doesn't stop walleyes from using and searching shoreline cover for food. A weedless jig, like Lindy's Veg-E-jig, is ideal for working livebait or a plastic tail through weeds and wood. The key is to hop and weave your bait through the cover slowly enough to give walleyes time to react to and ambush your bait.
Prime tackle choices for most shoreline locations include shallow-running cranks, such as a Rapala Floating Minnow, or neutrally-buoyant minnowbaits, such as Smithwick's Suspending Super Rogue. My top producers are long, thin minnow-imitators, particularly neutrally buoyant models. At rest, the lure hangs level, neither rising nor sinking--a proven trigger for a trailing walleye.
Jigs rigged with soft plastic, like a Berkley PowerBait curlytail grub, or soft-plastic shad bodies featuring a heavy bootlike tail, like the Mister Twister Sassy Shad, also are top producers. Large-profile soft-plastic shad bodies, like a Walleye Assassin 4-inch Turbo Shad, rigged on a jighead, are good baits at night. A Curlytail rigged on an 1/8-ounce jig's a good combo for most shallow situations. Use a slow to steady retrieve with an occasional lift and drop to trigger strikes.
The best time to fish walleyes along shorelines is during twilight and at night. During the spawning period, walleyes may be preoccupied with spawning--particularly at night and in the morning. But for the most part, anglers can catch walleyes during the Prespawn, Spawn, and Postspawn periods, by targeting key shallow spots.