By Jeff "Breezer" Andersen
Spring is upon us and the once frozen lakes are now shining with soft water ready for you to hop in the boat, put a line in the water, and set the hook! In the last installment of “My Lake Guide”, I spoke on winter walleyes on Leech Lake. Winter is a great time to get out and enjoy a day on the ice but now its time to get in the boat and put some fish in the net.
Lets face it, if you are not fishing where the fish are, you can’t catch them. That is why it’s important to understand annual movements of the fish you tend to target. In this case, we are talking the old marble eye (walleye).
Although we can’t predict spring weather, we can predict that walleyes will make an attempt to spawn each and every year. For walleyes, this goes into motion when the water temps reach 42 to 50 degree Fahrenheit. Walleyes seek out warm water and current and will usually spawn over shallow rock, gravel, and sand. This is typically found in rivers but there are some instances when walleyes will spawn in the lake.
After the spawn, walleyes will filter out of these areas using shallow water flats, where warm water is located, and feed aggressively. This usually occurs just prior to the Minnesota Fishing Opener, May 14, Fishing Opener 2011, making spring one of the best times to catch large amounts of fish. This is one of the times throughout the whole season when the fish are in large schools in one common area. That’s a great combination!
My Top Picks for a Successful Spring Walleye Hunt
In the aforementioned section, I have labeled numerous spawning areas, which should be the focus of your efforts this coming spring walleye hunt. With the massive size of Leech Lake and the blustery Northwest winds, we all know how big the waves can get making it a challenge to fish specific areas at times. The marvelous thing about Leech Lake, is there is always a safe area to fish when those winds decide to blow. One of those areas that I like to target is between Big Hardwood Point, Ottertail Point and Pine Point. This area has a combination of attributes that make it a perfect walleye playground. Fish that are post spawn have filtered out of Steamboat Bay though the Walker Narrows. I usually look for the first piece of structure just outside of these filter points and in this case Pine Point and West Goose Flats are two of the best areas. This area also has fish filtering down from the North End of Sucker Bay and will set up on Big Hardwood Point, and both the Duck Points. As mentioned before, wind is a big factor on Leech and will dictate which of these locations I choose to fish. It’s a simply formula. Where the wind is blowing into, is usually where I start. If the wind is strong and the waves too large, there is always a sheltered area to fish. The common depth I’m fishing is anywhere from 6 to 8 feet, but don’t be afraid to look shallower.
Cass Lake Chain
The Cass Lake Chain is another hot bed for springtime walleyes. You have so many options but I like to focus on the smaller bodies of water for the first couple of weeks. Those lakes would include Wolf Lake, Andrusia Lake and Kitchi Lake. All three of these lakes are set up similar in regards to structure and size. I would focus on shallow weed flats close to the river channels and in many cases right in the river mouths. During low light periods, casting or trolling shallow running Rapala’s can be the ticket.
The Longville Area is also on the top of my list with an abundance of lakes to target. A few of my favorites are Women, Little Boy and Wabedo Lakes. They are chucked full of walleyes! On Woman Lake I would concentrate on the shallow water of the smaller bays and/or the shallow flats just outside of these bays. On both the Little Boy and Wabedo, there are several underwater points and sand flats with cabbage weeds to focus on. Fishing the windblown side of these points and flats will congregate the fish in tight schools.
If you can’t tell, this is one of my favorite times of year to fish as the fish are shallow, hungry and in large packs, which has the makings of an incredible fishing day. This is also the time of year when the jig and minnow gets the call for best presentation and by far one of my favorite ways to catch them.
There are two main jigs in my arsenal. My go to is the VMC “Hammer Head Jig”. It’s made with a short shank power gap hook, is precision balanced, is made with a 3d eye and premium high carbon steel which sets it apart from the rest. I will tip the jig with a spot tail shiner and I will use the optional Quik- Strike Trailer Hook when the walleyes are short biting. Without that trailer hook, there have been many days we would have had a lot less walleyes in our live-well.
The second jig, and one that is sweeping the walleye world, is the VMC “Neon Moon Eye Jig”. I tip this jig with a Trigger X Soft Plastic 3 or 4 inch walleye minnow or swimming grub. Now I have always been a live bait guy but for the past few years, I have been sold on the use of artificial bait and more specifically Trigger X soft baits. There are many advantages to this combination. One, the soft plastic is more durable so when you get on a hot bite, you don’t have to reach in the bait bucket and re-bait your jig all the time. Second, you don’t have to deal with live bait in general and these baits are sold in easy to handle packs. Three, they are made species specific with a synthetically reproduced pheromones that naturally attracts fish and triggers them to chow down! Lastly, they are Biodegradable, which is good for our resource. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for both but give this combination a try and you will know what I’m talking about.
With both of these combinations, it’s important to have the correct presentation, or if you will, jigging stroke. An important part of that is your fishing rod. I would recommend the Jason Mitchell Elite Series 6’6” which is a perfect combination of length and balance.
The beauty of a jig is that it’s the most versatile presentation out there, which gives you the ability to present the lure in an aggressive or slow manner. I let the fish dictate my presentation but, by far. the most effective jigging stroke is with a high rod tip. Whether you are drifting, casting, or trolling, bounce the jig with slack line giving it a hard pop with each stroke. Don’t forget to let that jig sit on the bottom because in numerous occasions, the walleye will pick the jig off the bottom. When you feel that hard tick, reel down and rip some lip!
The Deal is Sealed
There is not a doubt in my mind that if you put these tactics in motion this coming spring, your live well is going to be full of abundant walleyes. If you have more questions or would like to chat fishing, I can be located at www.jeffandersenfishing. com where you can also view my blog and fishing updates throughout the season.