Mid Summer Walleyes

by: Mark Martin

For midsummer walleyes, there's nothing but possibilities‹for both you and the fish. At a time of year when they might be located anywhere from four to 40 feet of water, you had best explore every option. That means shallow, deep and even the space between. But I always have a starting point to get the day underway and go from there.

Down Deep
Come summertime, I know to expect fish in deep water, and the fastest way to find them is with the combination of maps and electronics. Wherever I'm fishing, I look to a Department of Resources, Coast Guard or, better yet, Navionics Paper Charts to narrow the search. On them, I check for the most prominent structures, including humps and points, adjacent to deep water. Those are almost always the best places to begin.

When you're on the water, motor around the structure and the nearby deep water, watching on electronics for baitfish and accompanying predators. Remember, you've spent good money on a fish locator, so it pays sense to have it locate fish before you start fishing. 

On the new units from Lowrance, including the black-and-white X-15 and the color X-16, it's possible to see the finest of detail:bugs, bait and even fish glued to the bottom. Use them to narrow your search. If you're wondering exactly what you're marking, drop down an underwater camera such as an Aqua-Vu to have a look. 

At times I've found that the fish I'm seeing on a locator are walleyes; other times, I've found less desirable species on which I'd rather not waste my time.

After you've found a level where the walleyes are holding, I know of no more effective way to trigger them than with a bottom bouncer and spinner. When I'm up in the front of my Lund, running my bowmount Motor Guide trolling motor, I drop down two bouncer rigs. I hand-hold one and put the other in a Bert's Custom Tackle rod holder. For terminal tackle, my top choices are Northland Rock-Runner bottom bouncers and Rainbow spinners, particularly those in the new holographic shades. A good guideline for bouncer weight is one ounce for every 10 feet of water‹one ounce in 10 feet, two ounces in 20 and so forth.

On the spinners, nothing beats a night crawler, except possibly when panfish are on the attack, which is when I switch to a Berkley Power Crawler to beat back the little rascals. Simply ease around with the trolling motor at speeds between 0.5 mph to 1.2 mph, and it shouldn't be long until you get the fish to go. But in case you don't...

Shallow
Well, when I don't find them deep, the next place I go is the shallows, where I look for cover in the form of weeds and brush. There I pitch jigs with a leech or half a night crawler in pockets and holes between the obstructions. One of the most important tips is to look for hard bottom within the weeds, which concentrates walleyes. I still use a Lowrance flasher, a seemingly old-fashioned locator, to find it. Then I stick with the patches of hard bottom until I find fish.

To fish through the weedy, brushy difficulties, I like a Northland Weed
Weasel jig, with its sleek shape and plastic weed guards to help slide through without snagging. You'll get more hookups if you soften the plastic by bending it back and forth. Usually, when you're pitching pockets, you don't have to fish a jig in there for long‹toss it in, twitch it a few times, reel it in and do it again. The reason is that weed fish are normally aggressive and will hit within moments of spotting the bait-often on the initial fall. So watch your line closely for a twitch or for it moving off to the side.To fish through the weedy, brushy difficulties, I like a Northland Weed Weasel jig, with its sleek shape and plastic weed guards to help slide through without snagging. You'll get more hookups if you soften the plastic by bending it back and forth. 

The reason is that weed fish are normally aggressive and will hit within moments of spotting the bait often on the initial fall. So watch your line closely for a twitch or for it moving off to the side. You can't beat highly visible flame Berkley Fireline for just such reasons, to say nothing of its strength in pulling free from weeds or wrestling out a walleye. But when the weed fish aren't going.

In Between
That's when I go to the midrange‹the space between the shallows and the deep. There, again, I look with my Lowrance X-16 for baitfish or suspended fish. The fastest way to search is with crankbaits behind planer boards. Here, the reason is that you can pull crankbaits from 2.0 mph to 3.0 mph,far faster than the low 1-mph range with spinners and night crawlers.

The best summertime lures are ones with action,ones that have a more distinct wobble than you'd use in spring. Now I turn to Rapala Shad Raps and Tail Dancers behind Planer Boards. Match the Raps to the water color,natural patterns in clear water, brighter shades and firetigers in darker. (To organize cranks, check out the new Cinch Bags from Plano, which are similar to mesh suitcases that hold four 3600 or 3700 style tackle trays.) Meanwhile, the most versatile board is the TX-12, a midsize board that will handle most water conditions, including fairly rough stuff. I'll stagger the crankbaits to reach high in the water column and at moderate depths, depending on where I'm seeing fish. But even when fish are in short supply on the electronics, I'll work the area, since walleyes often scoot out to the sides of the boat when it passes over. This is the perfect scenario for trolling with boards,the boat pushes fish out into the path of your lures.

Deep, shallow and everywhere in between Yep, you've got to do what you've got to do in summertime. Between all the options, you're bound to get bit.

 

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