Walleye caught on the Butterfly Blade rig

A veteran guide’s tricks for slow trolling over emerging vegetation

Emerging weedbeds hold walleyes in late spring and early summer. The scenario plays out in a variety of fisheries, from prairie potholes to mesotrophic Midwestern waters and rocky systems of the Canadian Shield—and wherever it develops, anglers able to capitalize on the pattern can rack up big numbers of hungry ’eyes.

Veteran guide and Team Northland Pro-Staffer Eric Brandriet of Dakota Prairie Angling has developed a surefire system for siphoning up weed walleyes. “I use it from late May into June on my home waters of Big Stone Lake, on the Minnesota-South Dakota border—but it works wonders wherever walleyes cruise emerging weeds,” he says.

“Ideally, the weeds are tall enough for the walleyes to get down in them and ambush prey passing overhead,” he says. “Say, 1- to 3-foot weeds growing in 10 feet of water.”

Brandriet’s go-to tactic for tackling weed walleyes is slow-trolling spinner rigs. His blade of choice is a #2 Northland Fishing Tackle Butterfly Blade, on either a Butterfly Blade Super Death® Rig, single-hook Butterfly Rig with a leech, or double-hook Butterfly Harness with a nightcrawler. “Butterfly Blades are also sold separately, for tying your own rigs,” he adds. “My favorite colors for early weed walleyes are Sunrise, Silver Shiner, and Cisco Purple, but it pays to experiment as conditions and mood of the fish change.”

Brandriet deploys the rig behind a ¾-ounce Northland Fishing Tackle Slick-Stick Bottom Bouncer, which he says sheds vegetation better than other bouncer designs. “I use planer boards to get the rig away from the boat and spread out multiple lines,” he continues. “Adding two feet of line between bouncer and board for every foot of desired running depth. So, if the weed tops are 5 feet down, I let out 8 feet of line to position the Butterfly Blade a foot above the weeds.”

Trolling speeds run from .5 to .7 mph. Brandriet recommends a steady pace, to prevent rigs from falling into the weed growth. “Even so, it’s smart to frequently check your lines for fouling,” he says.

One final tip: Brandriet says the weed trolling program excels with a moderate wind. “Flat calm is less than ideal, and too much wind stirs everything up so the fish can’t see your rigs,” he cautions. “But in a modest chop, the results can be phenomenal.”

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