Many early-season walleyes spend time in shallow water, even before weeds become reliable cover. They might be along windswept shorelines, over sand, gravel, even beds of bottom-hugging sandgrass. They might be in a foot of water, or into the middle depths.
“You have to cover a lot of water,” says veteran guide Tony Roach, “to find shallow walleyes. Here are a couple of my favorite ways to catch ‘em.”
• Rig up a swimming jig head with a plastic tail perfect for swimming or dragging.
“My favorite is the Slurp! Jig,” says Roach. “I use lighter jigs early in the season, before the weeds are really up, and do more pitching, popping, and dragging along bottom. As we get taller weeds, I use a heavier jig, so I can pitch into pockets and rip the bait through them. I use a braided line with fluorocarbon leader. If you snag a weed, pop it hard and it falls off most of the time.”
• The swiveling minnow trick is also deadly.
Roach has another trick that takes full advantage of a swiveling jig head and plastic minnow body, to accurately mimic a baitfish poofing along bottom and tipping down to feed.
“Walleyes love to pick things up off the bottom,” he says. “What I do is take a 3-inch Impulse Smelt Minnow or Impulse Live Paddle Minnow, and rig it to the Swivel-Head Jig. It has an articulating head, and the plastic actually sits upright.
“I pitch it out, rip it, let it momentarily hit bottom, rip it again, let it hit bottom, and just keep going like that. Every time it settles to bottom, it kicks up a cloud and the plastic minnow looks like it’s rooting around on the bottom. It’s lights out as a walleye bait.”