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Mike Frisch: Catching walleyes over weeds

Mike Frisch explains how the use of spinners, bottom bouncers and planer boards can help anglers trying to get on walleyes over weeds.

Tanner Arndt Walleye
Fishing guide Tanner Arndt with a spinner, bouncer and board walleye he caught while trolling over weeds.
Contributed photo from Mike Frisch
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Clearing waters in many lakes across the Midwest seems to be more the norm than the exception. While the reasons for this change vary, one result is that more weed growth is present in at least some, if not many, lakes.

That also means “weed walleyes” are present in greater numbers too. That frustrates many anglers used to catching their favorite fish from traditional areas like sunken humps, islands and other areas devoid of vegetation.

Recently, we were in the boat filming a TV segment with western Minnesota fishing guide Tanner Arndt and he showed us a great way to catch walleyes from weeds. Tanner’s method involved fishing a large basin area about 12 feet deep with curly-leaf pondweed growing up around 4 feet off the lake’s bottom.

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Tanner’s method involved using a short spinner snell (around 30 inches long) baited with a portion of a nightcrawler and attached to a one ounce bottom bouncer. We then used line counter reels to peel out 14 feet of line from the rod tip, before attaching a planer board. With the board attached to the line, we let out as much as 100 more feet of line, taking the board and bait out away from the boat.

Trolling around a mile an hour, our baits would glide just above the weed tops drawing walleyes (and a variety of other fish) up from the vegetated cover to eat our baits.


In just a few hours, this method resulted in a half dozen walleye bites, several big bluegills, as well as a bonus crappie and a jumbo perch. Not only was Tanner’s method very productive, but it’s an efficient way to cover a bunch of water, particularly in a “two line” water like we fished that day. Being able to each fish two lines allowed us to use four baits behind four planer boards to really cover a wide swath on each trolling pass we made.

Tanner indicated that as summer progresses and the weeds grow higher, the 14 foot length of line between the planer boards and bottom bouncers would need to be shortened. Also, using Off Shore planer boards with Tattle Flags is advantageous. Not only do these flags “tattle” on biting fish, but they’re also useful in detecting the presence of weeds fouling baits as well. This method also works well using traditional monofilament fishing line too, with 10-pound test CONTRA proving effective during our trip.

Mike Frisch
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the ZEBCO School of Fish.

A final piece to the equipment puzzle for the pattern was the use of Speed Stick telescoping trolling rods with long handles that work perfectly in rod holders and with rod actions designed specifically for use with planer boards.

While Tanner’s method was effective on a lake basin, many Midwestern lakes have weedy flats where similar methods would work as well.

If finding a good way to pull walleyes from weeds is an angling goal of yours, consider spinners, bouncers, and boards this summer. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you catch and have a good mix for a multi-species fish dinner at trip’s end as well.

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 ZEBCO School of Fish. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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