When it comes to fishing near wood or heavy weeds, most walleye anglers head the other way. "Nope, don't wanna hear about no snags, no clumps, no boulders that'll eat our jigs and rigs. Gimme a nice clean breakline with the occasional smooth, round rock to bounce my sinker off, and I'll be just fine. That's where the walleyes live, anyway."
Despite popular opinion, there are plenty of locales where walleyes inhabit weeds, wood and rocky crags, and these do seem to reach out to quickly engulf traditional walleye systems; but don't be intimidated. You can fish there successfully, too, but you must have the proper equipment. If you don't, you'll donate a load o' lead to the tackle graveyard in no time at all.
Fortunately, certain jig and sinker shapes, especially weedless or snagless riggings, provide effective solutions to this problem. While a number of companies offer snag-resistant versions of some popular products, I keep using and recommending the same three: Northland Fishing Tackle, Lindy-Little Joe, and Bait Rigs, because these are walleye- or multi-species- oriented companies offering widespread distribution of what folks need.
When I think about a weedless version of a walleye or smallmouth-bass jig, I don't want a big honkin' bass jig with a huge hook designed to hold a pork frog, or a brushy weedguard it would take both hands to bend and collapse. I want a lightweight jighead with a hook small enough to efficiently hold livebait the size of a minnow, a leech or half-crawler. I also need only a slight weedguard, just enough light wire, or a few strands of vinyl, to deflect typical snags.
Pointed jigheads slip best through weeds. Round-headed or football-shaped jigs work better around boulders, because they won't slip down between the cracks. With wood, well, you sometimes have to test both styles to see which works best, matching the jighead to either large logs or multi-fingered brush. The end result should be something you can fish snags with, tipped with livebait, a small plastic tail, or both. Using 6- or 8-pound-test line, you can pitch or flip this rig an adequate distance, or vertically fish it in deep water, and still be able to set the hook properly with spinning gear. The joy of being able to fish such areas without breaking off and retying every few minutes is sure to give you a whole new outlook on fishing cover for walleyes.
Near brush or weeds, there are times livebait rigging is absolutely necessary. Trade in your traditional walking sinkers for pointed bullet sinkers, ones that will slither between weeds and wood. Egg sinkers do a pretty good job of not falling between boulders, too. If you like, substitute one of the snagless wunderkind sinkers like Lindy's No-Snagg, or -- in slow bottom bouncer conditions -- a Today's Tackle's Foam Walker. Both combine weight and flotation to help them crawl up and over snags, instead of digging in for the duration.
Also, keep your snells short -- 12 or 15 inches -- so they won't wrap around snags.Incorporate tiny, weedless hooks with only slight weedguards, just enough to do the job without being so stiff that they deflect fish, too. Lindy's No-Snagg hooks, to my mind, should be in everybody's tackle box, even if you don't fish for walleyes. When fishing, you never know when you're going to run into the snaggy underworld, and you want to be prepared. Walleyes are in there, too.
Company Contacts: www.northlandtackle.com; www.lindylittlejoe.com; www.walleyecentral.com/baitrig.htm; www.todaystackle.com.