There’s probably no better time to be on the water than right now, especially if you’re a walleye angler. The action can be some of the best and it can also be the worst, depending on how you react to the season’s changing conditions. To be successful, anglers will have to give up on what had been productive just a few short weeks ago and get with a program more in tune with a walleye’s present needs.
When the summer sun starts bearing down water temps can make a quick jump and is when early season patterns can completely dry up. When it happens many anglers make the mistake of believing that the walleyes are simply not feeding, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact walleyes will feed heavily at this time of the year, you just need to have a good handle on where they’re doing it.
One of the reasons anglers can find the going during the summer months a little tough is because make they haven’t made the necessary adjustments required to stay with a fish that’s on the move. Walleyes make a living by taking advantage of their opportunities and in many cases those opportunities are no where near where they where at the beginning of the season.
As spring slides into summer there is a shallow to deep migration that occurs on most bodies of water. The migration doesn’t happen overnight, and not all of the walleyes in a system make the move to deep structure. Instead, the process more likely begins with a few scattered groups of fish showing up on deeper haunts followed by a slow and steady migration that eventually results in fishable numbers of walleyes. Exceptions to the "migration rule" include bodies of water that start out clear and darken up due to excessive fertility and heavy algae blooms. In that case you might find walleyes starting out shallow, moving deeper, and then creeping back up as visibility is reduced.
One of the most appealing aspects of locating walleyes holding on deeper structure is the fact that they show up readily on good electronics. With a high quality graph like the Humminbird 987C you can quickly narrow down your search. The 987C’s high level of definition can help you locate walleyes that are holding belly bottom, which is a common occurrence. It also has a unique capability of being able to look out to the side instead of straight down, and you can cover a wide swath and either find fish or eliminate water. By cruising back and forth over likely areas you’ll get a good idea from your electronics whether or not the time is right to actually start fishing.
The key to the whole process is keeping your lines boat, and relying totally on your electronics to divulge the whereabouts of deep running walleyes. It takes a little self control, but you can save a ton of valuable time if you do the investigative work up front. The fact is you’ll never ever catch them where they’re not and if you’re not marking; you’re not on ‘em..
GPS is another terrific time saving device especially when you combine it with a chart plotter and a high definition electronic map like those available from Navionics. With a unit like the 987C combined with a Navionics chip you can see potential walleye hideouts and where you are in relationship to it all. As you cruise potential hangouts you can place icons on the screen where you’ve marked schools of fish, allowing you to return to the exact spot after your investigative work is done.
Once you’ve marked enough fish in a particular area it’s time to get down to business and try to put a couple in the boat. Good summer presentations typically involve an element of speed, like trolling crankbaits or spinners. With an increase in water temperature a walleye’s metabolism increases accordingly. A quicker moving bait appeals to that bump in metabolism and will often get snapped up while a slower offering might be completely ignored.
A top pick for working unfamiliar waters would have to be trolling a rig like a Northland Tackle Rainbow Spinner tipped with a big crawler behind a heavier bouncer like a two ounce Rock Runner.
Bottom bouncers run relatively snag-free which can be a big plus when working an uneven bottom with plenty of potential hang-ups. They also allow you to keep your bait running close to the bottom without actually dragging it, and helps to keep your offering at ‘eye level.
While walleyes can be caught consistently all summer long, the hottest action typically occurs at the front end. The best of the best is probably happening right now and if you wait too long you could miss out on a seasonal peak, and that’s the last thing you want to do.
See you on the water.