Fisherman holding up an early season walleye

It’s been a crazy spring with a late ice out and no real warm-up which means things are a bit behind which is a real contrast to what we experienced last year. It also means that early season walleye fishing patterns should hold up a lot longer and that can be a good thing if you know how to cash in on it.

One of the hottest late spring patterns includes shallow water and lots of jigs. Shallow rocks, weeds, and sand are where it’s at where you go depending on what’s available. Drifting shallow sand and weed patches with lighter jigs tipped with shiner minnows is the standard operating procedure for most of the early season catch, especially in northern Minnesota. Light jigs like a 1/8oz Northland Vegas Jig tipped with a smaller spot-tail shiner are about all you need to put fish in the boat. The Vegas Jig has a long shank hook that you can run through the mouth of the minnow, out the gill, and back up the side exposing the point of the hook. This method allows the minnow to run upright and gets the hook back further on the minnow which means a better hook setting. With a nice light breeze, you can cast the bait out and let it drag making sure that you’re getting to the bottom. A slight snap forward and a drop back is about all the action you need and should produce if you’re on fish. If you’re not getting hit you’re probably not on ‘em and a locational change might be in order. It might be deeper, shallower, or even another part of the lake, but sticking it out where it isn’t happening won’t help you put together a decent fish dinner.

Rocks can be worked with the same light jig and minnow presentation but only if you can do it without constantly hanging up. Bigger rocks and boulders can be real jig eaters and you might have changed up tactics to be successful. Anchoring and using slip bobbers is a super effective method for working the heavy stuff and originated on Mille Lacs where there are tons of rocks and plenty of walleyes. You can use a light jig tipped with a shiner or maybe a leech (especially if you’re fishing Mille Lacs) and suspend it below a float like Northland Tackle’s Lite-Bite Slip Bobber with a brass-eye grommet that won’t cut and will allow you’re line to slide through smoothly and get your bait to the proper depth every time.

How long the shallow patterns lasts will depend on how quickly we warm up from here but we have a way to go. There’s an old adage that “there are always fish shallow” and I’d have to agree but right now is prime time when most of what you’re after is in water less than say twenty feet deep, maybe less than ten, and maybe even less than five. See you in the shallows.

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