The walleye spawn is a distant memory and the fall feeding frenzy remains weeks away. It’s now the middle of summer and the fishing has inevitably slowed. All indications are that the walleyes have descended into the shadowy depths. What previous methods had been productive in the months of May and June are now mostly ineffective. So how do you find those gold-backs who have settled into their summer patterns? Take a look at these three must-use techniques for landing those deep water walleyes.
Keep on Crank’n
During the summer, trolling remains an effective method of fishing. With this technique, you are able to cover large amounts of water with a variety of lures. However, to put walleyes in the boat, you need to adjust your target locations. As opposed to keying on points and inlets, look to cruise the hard-bottom deep basins and flats. Here is where many of the walleyes have migrated, following schools of baitfish.
This is not to say fish can’t be caught off shallower points and weed edges. If numbers are your goal, start here. However, out over the basin where you will find the larger fish. Those who have settled into their typical summer patterns. These walleyes will also relate to structure in the basin. Think humps, rock bars, and deep weed edges.
The term ‘deep’ is relative to each body of water. In general, focus on 15 to 25 feet of water or even deeper. To find these basins, use your electronics or a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources lake survey map. Once there, deploy your deep running crankbaits like a Rapala Deep Down Husky Jerk or a Berkley Flicker Minnow. 100 plus feet of line may be needed to get those lures down to your target depths. And larger profile baits attract more attention so #7’s and #9’s are in play. The more vibration, sound, and flash, the better.
Jig and Jive
Keeping with the deep water theme, jigging remains a tried and true method of catching fish. Similar to summer trolling, your target areas remain the same. Look to attack deepwater flats and basins, over top of structure. When in doubt, go for rocks. Walleye love rocks and rock bars. It is here, fish will stack vertically which plays directly into the jigging technique. Your electronics may show you images of walleyes piled one on top of another. This is what you have been looking for. Drop your lure down and have at it.
The jigging technique tends to trigger a reactionary bite, similar to that of a crankbait cruising past a fish. Lure Color is not a major factor at this depth, so try a variety of combinations. Effective baits include the Rapala Jigging Rap or the Acme Hyper Rattle. These particular jigs are designed to be fished aggressively. Be certain to marry your chosen bait to an appropriate rod to give it the needed action.
For the traditionalists, you can’t go wrong with the classic jig-and-a-minnow or leech combination. Again, the jig color is not as relevant with this form for presentation. You should, however, use a smaller hook to give the minnow an opportunity to move about. This will certainly attract the attention of the fish down below.
Bob and Weave
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed the focus on deep water for summer walleyes. Well, the slip bobber method is no exception. Perhaps you tried to jig up the walleyes with little to no success. Live bait may be the key and the slip bobber is your method. This technique is more subtle than jigging and trolling, which looks to produce a reactionary bite. Truth be told, a bobber and a little patience also allow you the opportunity to enjoy your favorite summer beverage.
Similar to jigging with live bait, a minnow or leech are magnets for walleyes. It’s important to keep your hooks on the smaller size, a number five or six. This causes less stress on the live bait however you will sacrifice some hook sets. Try tying on a swivel and an 18-inch fluorocarbon leader. This will help in keeping the bait’s movement as natural as possible and the line nearly invisible in the deep water. A slip bobber allows you fish deep water without having to adjust your bobber after each cast. Set the stop it and send it.
Once you see the bobber dip below the water surface, be sure to reel down on the slack line and set that hook with authority. This method is also good for a mixed bag of fish. Don’t be surprised if you bring in a bass, northern pike, or even the elusive muskie.
The warm weather months of July and August can be the most frustrating time for soft water anglers. The walleyes have not disappeared, but the methods used to land them have certainly changed. Compound this with frequent bug hatches and ever-changing weather patterns and it may seem the deck is stacked against you.
Try these three must-use techniques for deep water walleyes and your luck may change. Summer should be stress-free. With a little time and effort, you’ll be enjoying a lazy shore lunch with your favorite summer beverage in no time.