Finding and catching walleyes when it’s tough can be a tall task. In fact the odds may be so stacked against you that hooking up with a fish or two is all that can be hoped for. Trying times call for determination and a good deal of patience. A small amount of success can be extremely rewarding but it really doesn’t add up to all that much fun.
Good times on the other hand are very much appreciated and occur when conditions set up that tilt the odds in your favor. Conditions like heavy concentrations of fish located in areas that are easily identified and with a good chance of being active is what you’re looking for, and is a formula for a lot of catching and a whole lot of fun. Fortunately for us the good times are on their way and will come to those that have waited.
By early summer such is the case in many deep, clear reservoirs, with the stage being set for some tremendous action. As summer heat starts to push water temps up into the lukewarm range walleyes begin to bail out of shallower bays and creek arms where they often stack up on main lake structure. Deeper main lake structure like underwater points and offshore humps are some of the key areas that can hold the bulk of mid summer walleyes.
Finding them begins by taking a look at an accurate contour map and searching for structure lying close to the mouths of creek arms and bays. A major creek arm can act like a reservoir all on its own (if it’s large enough), and you may have to look at it like it is a complete and separate lake. The formula is still the same though, like a point or series of points lying in close proximity to the mouth of the bay or creek.
There’s another consideration to walleye location and it’s the fact that they have a propensity to move. A rule of thumb is that they pull out of the shallower bays and arms early on, and then slide towards the lower end of the reservoir as the season progresses. While that does happen to a certain extent, they don’t all move at the same time and there are usually fishable populations of walleyes that stay behind if the right conditions exist.
Checking with the local bait shops will get you pointed in the right direction as they really do want to see you catch fish.
To find out if they’re any fish using a point or hump you can find out quickly by taking a look with a good graph. By scanning up and down the breaks and across the top you’ll be able to see if they’re any signs of life, like fish holding from belly to the bottom to a few feet off and if there are any clouds of bait fish present. Marks that show up on top are usually “hot fish” and actively feeding. If you pull into an area and see good numbers of fish on top of a point or hump you could be in luck. Those hanging off the side may or may not be active and you’ll have to drop them a line to find out for sure.
There’s more than one way to boat July reservoir ‘eyes but high on the list is a bottom bouncer and plain hook and a crawler. Depending on how deep you’re working and how rough it is, a bottom bouncer in a one to two ounce range may be in order. The idea is to stay in contact with the bottom at all times which can get a little tricky if you’re moving up and down a break line. If you lose track of the bottom you’ve lost control and will end up hanging up or out of the “zone”.
Keeping track of your rig starts with the right size bouncer combined with a well matched rod. Good bouncer rods come in the seven to eight foot range and have light enough tips to provide sensitivity and yet possess plenty of back bone to set the hook.
The seven foot Rapala Long Cast Series model LC50TR70ML1 casting rod is perfect for working bouncers and has a fast and super sensitive tip which will give you the feel needed to stay with the bottom as well as detecting the light bite of a finicky walleye.
A leader in the four to five foot range along with a gold Aberdeen hook makes up the rest of the standard rig which can be tipped with a crawler, leech, or minnow. Active reservoirs walleyes will take just about anything and the crawler gets plenty of action.
Leeches can be effective but aren’t always that easy to find, especially later in the summer period. Minnows like red tails or dace are an excellent choice and could be the key to triggering fish that aren’t all that active. They also attract larger fish and may be your one-way ticket to a real hawg.
Another highly effective option is a bouncer and spinner rig tipped with a big fat crawler. A bouncer and spinner will let you cover some ground and the extra speed and flash produced may be exactly what old marble eyes is looking for. You never know for sure what they’re going to want from day to day and you better be prepared to do it all.