FORGETTING THE BARRIERS
Hot! Hot! Hot! That’s the word we are all talking about this year. Water temperatures reaching the mid to upper 80’s with no rain for months. Most Walleye anglers would typically target those deep channels and structure looking for suspended walleye in these conditions including myself. Just as many other anglers I have “Barriers” that I have sub consciously created over the years of fishing. Such as fishing particular spots at certain times of the year or targeting certain depths during specific months.
Well it’s time to let your Barriers down and try something new. We have all seen and heard of some of the recent unorthodox methods for catching walleyes such as using BASS spinners. Catching Walleyes in shallow water is no secret especially during the spawn and late spring and early summer when the feeding frenzy is on. To the contrary of my “Barriers” I took a shot at fishing shallow on one of these 100+ degree day’s this summer and when I say shallow I mean less than four foot of water (4’FOW) I’m talking so shallow that you accidently beach your boat a couple times throughout the day. Not only am I fishing shallow, I’m trolling crank baits and spinners (pitching jigs & cranks occasionally) Now I know your thinking that’s too much noise and disturbance that shallow. You must be using planner boards and bow mount trolling motor. However I am running the 9.9kicker and no planer boards just 10.5ft rods. Although planer boards may work just fine it’s just a bit tricky when fishing alone. What I’m referring to by as trolling spinners/crawler harness is dropping one out the back of the boat on a 5’ lead core setup. I like to tip it with a gulp jumbo leach or crawler. By using the lead core I can let out a fair amount of line and get it further out the back of the boat, maybe 60’ to 80’ depending the depth and speed. Bottom bouncer will get my bait down quick but to close to the boat and a snap weight is just another obstacle to handle which is tricky when fishing alone. Not that these two options don’t work I have used both in the right conditions and have caught fish but the lead core set up has out produced on several occasions.
Why are the Walleye so shallow when it’s so HOT? Simple... because the bait fish are shallow. The bright sun in this shallow water is spurring weed growth which attracts the bait fish’s forage. Sure the walleyes will move up at night to feed but don’t be afraid to go shallow in the middle of or all of the day. I can say that I have caught over 90% of my walleye this year in less than 5’FOW. There are definitely walleye hanging out in deeper water as well but I know if I catch one walleye shallow I will soon catch more as those are the active fish. Now I’m no biologist but I know walleye need oxygen to live and this shallow water and lack of water this year certainly doesn’t help the survival rate for this species. However a walleye’s body temperature is as warm as the water temperature in which it lives in which means their metabolism increases as well. What does this mean? They eat more and if the bait fish are shallow so are the predators. A walleye will actually feed on these shallow bait fish and die due to lack of oxygen. Pay attention to the fish and your surroundings, if the birds are feeding shallow on shad then follow the birds. If you’re only catching White Bass then slow down and get your lure deeper. Typically the Walleye will hang out under and behind the school of whites feeding on the injured shad. A couple great lures for this are the #4  Flicker shads or #5 & #7 SSR (Shallow Shad Rap). These smaller sizes allow you to get the bait further behind the boat in this shallow water and depending on the time of year the size may be matching the hatch. The best part of fishing this shallow during these Dog day’s is very little if any boat traffic. And nothing beats being the guy at the fish cleaning station with a nice limit of Walleye and when people ask you “where did you catch those” don’t worry they won’t believe you when you say 2’FOW anyway . The best days spent on the water are the ones with the kids!
Written by: Brian Bashore,