Mike Frisch: Simple spring walleye tactics
There are lots of things to love about early-season walleye fishing. For one, spring walleye angling often signals the return of open water fishing for another year. And, walleyes in the spring are often aggressive biters and easily accessible in fairly shallow water.
Another thing that I really like about this time frame is the simplicity of equipment needed. Many spring walleyes fall for simple jigging presentations. Some of the best walleye anglers I know go fishing in the spring with their favorite light jigging rod, a handful of jigs, and some bait.
“Light jigging” rods for most anglers usually measure 6 1/2- to 7-feet, are of medium light power, and feature fast or extra fast actions. Because they fish light 1/16 to ¼ -ounce jigs well, they often get referred to as “light jigging” or simply “jigging” rods.
Regardless of the name, this rod style is a favorite when pitching jigs to shallow walleyes. Early season walleyes will often invade shallow cover like rocks and emerging weeds, and holding the boat away from that cover and then pitching a jig to them is often a great way to catch them.
Lots of times this situation calls for a small 1/16 or 1/8-ounce jig tipped with a minnow and fished slowly using a lift and fall method.
Another option is pitching a bit larger jig paired with a plastic trailer and slowly swimming it back. This swimming presentation often requires a bit heavier jig. Whether pitching “meat” or plastics to the shallows, a light jigging rod gets the call.
Walleyes holding in a bit deeper water, say along shoreline drop-offs in 6-10 feet, are also susceptible to jigs and minnows. Rather than pitching to these fish, I prefer to slowly troll or drift along these drop-offs with the same 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jig and minnow combination, but this time fished on a long line behind the boat. Again, the light jigging rod works well for this fishing style.
Pitching or slow trolling with light jigs is a “feel” game in both situations, so the jigging rod described above should also be lightweight and sensitive. Lew’s has a new series of technique-specific walleye rods in their Speed Stick series. I had a chance to sample several models late last fall and was impressed with their quality, sensitivity, and affordable price tag. In fact, the 6’7” jigging model quickly became my new favorite jigging” rod.
The right rod is important for early-season walleye fishing and so is the right reel spooled with good line. Anglers debate what line is best for jigging, with monofilament, braids, and fluorocarbon lines all having fans.
I’ve been using 6-pound Floroclear, a copolymer line with fluorocarbon coating with good success. This line behaves much like a monofilament, so it handles well on spinning gear. The fluorocarbon coating makes it nearly invisible under water.
I fish this line on a quality spinning reel that’s lightweight and has a super smooth drag that I trust will protect light line when a big shallow spring walleye inhales a jig. My reel choice is the Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin that has those qualities and is affordable too.
Light jigs fished for walleyes is a rite of spring for many anglers. Using the right rod/reel and line setup like the one detailed above can help anglers feel more spring bites and put more jig-hooked walleyes in the boat!
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s School of Fish. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.