The Mississippi River is a favorite destination of mine. The river offers a steady flow of current, and walleyes, current and current seams go hand in hand. One of the more popular summertime live baits used here for walleyes is a small catfish known as a Willow Cat. They can be hard to find at local bait shops, and when you do find them they tend to be expensive. Plus, with the recent implementation of laws restricting live bait (particularly minnow) transport, I have found it much nicer to go with an artificial alternative on my jigs and bait rigs.
Total Solutions Technique
On big rivers like the Mississippi, summer walleye activity is often concentrated on structures known as wing-dams. Use sonar and maps to locate wing-dams and other current breaks, looking for current seams that would give walleyes places to hold up waiting for the next meal to float by. Flow is necessary to get walleyes active and feeding. Use an anchor or your bow-mount trolling motor to hold your position upstream of the current break, allowing you to work an area thoroughly.
Two good presentations are to fish your offering on wide gap jig, or Carolina-style slip-sinker rig with a short 12” leader between the 1/0 or 2/0 hook and the slip sinker. You want to use just enough weight to get your bait down just above the bottom but light enough to allow the current to carry the bait along the face of the wing-dam or current break. I recommend a high-visibility line to help you detect bites and to see if bait has settled to the bottom; when the line bows, you’re on the bottom. Cast your bait out and with short “lifts and drops” keep the bait just off the bottom allowing the current to carry it along. Any pause or movement in the line set the hook.
Total Solutions Equipment
While the Willow Cats can be a great choice for tipping your presentations this time of year, I opt to go with using a Berkley Gulp! Alive! 4” Goby. The size and shape of this artificial bait closely resembles the Willow cat, and while you can experiment with colors, the Goby Magic has been excellent color choice for me time and time again.
For gear, use a rod that allows you to feel the bite but still has some good back bone, like the new Fenwick Walleye Elite Tech 6’6” Jigging Medium/Fast Action or a 6’9” Jigging/Rigging Medium Light/Fast Action rod, matched with Abu Garcia REVO Model reel. You want a combo that has a nice light feel and is well balanced.
I spool my outfits with 10# test Berkley Trilene Sensation in Solar or the new Blaze Orange color. This allows you to better see the line to detect bites, and the lower stretch properties of Sensation will allow you to feel bites. This mono-type line also carries better in current, allowing your bait to drift tantalizingly along. When using the Carolina Rig method use Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon-Professional Grade because the abrasion resistance of this line will hold up to the snags and debris the Mississippi River and similar rivers are notorious for.
Berkley Gulp! Alive!
Berkley Trilene Sensation
Berkley Trilene 100%
Abu Garcia REVO SX Series
Fenwick Walleye Elite Tech