July 24, 2012
In spring, walleyes are instinctively drawn to flowing water. Catching them in inlets--small streams or creeks that flow into a main body of water--can be easy pickings if you find the right place to wade when walleyes are cruising upstream.
Classic spots include areas with scattered rock or boulders, bridge pilings, current breaks, small points, drop-offs, or holes. Rock-rubble or riprap areas swept by current; mussel beds mixed with gravel; or small tributary creeks with gravel washout bottoms also provide additional locations that attract and hold walleyes.
During the day, walleyes typically stage along current breaks, like a deeper hole or eddy below a riffle. Bridges provide shade for walleyes and baitfish, creating a classic overlap of predator and prey. Drop-offs near the mouth of an inlet can be good spots to intercept walleyes staging or moving into the inlet.
Classic baits include crankbaits and jigs rigged with soft plastics. The large, wobbling profile of a shallow-diving crankbait provides a tempting target, especially at night. Long, thin minnow-imitators tend to work best, particularly neutrally buoyant models like Rapala Husky Jerks or Suspending Smithwick Super Rogues. At rest, the lure hangs level, neither rising nor sinking, the perfect trigger for walleyes waiting to ambush baitfish drifting downstream.
Properly balanced jig-and-plastic combos are top producers. Large profile soft-plastic shadbaits that feature a heavy boottail, or curlytail grubs like Berkley's 3-inch Power Grub, are popular boot-fishing baits for walleyes. Use a slow to steady retrieve with an occasional lift and drop. Tipping with a minnow works with some jig-and-plastic-body combinations, while other baits, like plastic shadbaits, work more effectively without tipping with bait.
Whether walleyes are moving upstream or slipping back downstream, they generally face into the current, in position to ambush baitfish that pass in front of them. Casting your bait upstream at about a 45-degree angle allows you to cover lots of water and a variety of depths. Use a slow swimming retrieve with an occasional pause to trigger strikes, quartering the lure downstream. Casting parallel to the shoreline is also an option, especially after dark when walleyes move shallow to spawn and to use the shoreline to trap baitfish. Casting downstream, meanwhile, allows you to slowly retrieve a shallow-running crankbait against the current along the shoreline, imitating a baitfish trying to make its way upstream. It therefore pays to experiment with casting direction to see what works best.
A 7-foot medium-power, fast-action spinning rod equipped with a long-cast reel featuring an oversized spool launches baits a considerable distance. Monofilament like 6-pound Berkley XT is a good line for slowly swimming jig-and-plastic combos. Superline, like 10-pound Berkley FireLine, is thin, strong, and limp enough to cast long distances. Superline is an excellent option with neutrally buoyant crankbaits, making it easy to jerk and pause the bait, even at long distances.
When instinct sends inlet walleyes swimming, wisdom should send boot anglers wading near key inlet spots. Having success wading with the inlet crowd only requires casting the right bait in the right spot when walleyes move into casting range.