Springtime is the perfect time to fish river walleyes, according to PWT pro and Championship qualifier Bob Hanson. "At this time, take all your gear, and you can probably use it," he said. "This includes everything from trolling cranks to jigging. Some areas demand a certain presentation, and some tactics require a specific area, so start exploring."
Anglers always have favorites, and that is no different for Hanson. He also experiments, and while trolling has added spinner blades ahead of cranks and trolled tandem cranks on one line, just to spice up things a bit. While jigging, plastic plays an important role.
Hanson's rules for trolling are simple, and include original floating Rapala minnows. "I used to run Countdowns, and would probably catch fish if I used them again," he said. "Select small, shiny and thin minnow-imitating cranks."
Other successful methods include:
Casting Mimic Minnows
In all cases, he prefers water less than 6 feet deep, especially when pitching jigs. The key to any of these tactics however, is fishing current breaks. He explained these spots, "Whenever slack water is next to faster water, fish that break." Dubuque rigs and three-way rigs allow an angler to slide back and forth across these breaks, moving upstream or down, while maintaining contact with the bottom.
Jigging with 1/4-ounce Rattlin' Fire-Ball jigs (firetiger color) is an early season (prespawn or postspawn) walleye standby. Tipping a jig with a 2- to 3- inch minnow or white PowerBait of the same size produces for Hanson. He pitches the jigs right on shore and twitches them down breaks. "If anything makes a difference at this time, it's water temperature. The warmer the better for baitfish, which suck in the walleyes," he said.
When fishing wingdams, Hanson fishes on top and the backside with three-way rigs. He also pitches jigs on top and lets them tumble down the edge. He hooks minnows as deep into the mouth as possible and makes sure the hook point exits exactly on the centerline.
On rivers, start any search as close to the dam as possible. Many opportunities exist for slack-fast water current breaks, and any could hold fish. These might include shorelines, the backsides of islands, concrete spillways. Bottom structure that's firm (clam beds, rocks, gravel) is better than muck.
When pitching jigs shallow, Hanson prefers 6- or 8- pound Trilene Solar XT monofilament line, but uses FireLine when fishing vertically. His only other advice for rivers is: "If all else fails, go to the deeper holes near the dam and fish sauger right in the middle of the current, and use orange Fire-Ball jigs."