Let’s face it, summer is by far one of the most awesome times to fish all year. There’s just something about 70 degree temps, sunny clear skies, and the smell of SPF 50 that screams “let’s go fishing!” But what about walleyes? Walleye seem to be talked about non-stop all spring, fall, and winter but hardly at all during the heat of July and August. Sure, trolling open water for suspended fish and jigging deep water structure can product nice fish, however there is a much easier way to target these finicky fish.
Although I tend to disagree with the idea that walleye feed predominantly in low light conditions, evening and early morning just before sun up can be some of the most productive times to target shallow summer walleye.
Probably the single most important factor in locating these shallow fish is actually figuring out where the fish are coming in to feed in the evenings. Here is my go to checklist of features that are conducive to finding these fish:
- Rocky/sandy flats
- Shallow broad leafed weeds
- Shallow humps and reefs
- Concentrations of baitfish
I have found that for the most part if a location has 2 or more of these things, it is worth a look.
(I should also add that you can find a lot of these spots from shore!)
Since I like to keep things as neat and clean as possible when I’m fishing, I generally only bring one or two rods with me on these evening trips. Since I limit myself in this way I have to make sure I have the right rod to accommodate all of the presentations I’ll be using. My go to setup for casting in the shallows is a 7 foot medium power, fast action Fenwick Aetos spinning rod paired with a Pflueger Patriarch reel, spooled with 10lb Berkley Fireline. The longer rod helps make further casts with small lures, and the superline helps to ensure abrasion resistance and solid hook sets.
As mentioned in the title, we are targeting shallow water which indeed means utilizing shallow running presentations. Small crankbaits with shad or minnow profiles excel at gliding over the shallows and can trigger violent strikes, even some resulting in jumping walleyes (which if you have never experienced, feels twice as aggressive as any bass surface strike). Some of my go-to shallow walleye cranks include size 8 Rapala Husky Jerks, Storm Jr Baby Thundersticks, size 5 Berkley Flicker Shads, and size 4 floating Salmo Hornets. I like to vary my retrieves from cast to cast, starting with a straight retrieve and working to a twitch-twitch-pause technique. Just remember to constantly switch it up and let the fish tell you what they want.
Another great way to put the hurt on some summertime glasseyes is throwing plastics. Even just your run of the mill twister tail and jig hopped along the bottom or ticking the top of the weeds can trigger savage bites from hunting walleyes. For fishing in these low light conditions I prefer to use plastics that have a lot of action and give off a fair amount of vibration in the water. My favorite plastics include the Berkley 4” Rib Worm, Kalen’s Siezmic Grubs, Kalen’s Lunker Grubs, and the B-Fishin’ Tackle Moxie. I generally fish plastics much the same way I fish crankbaits, starting with a straight retrieve then working into more of a twitching and pausing retrieve.
As I like to do with pretty much all of my fishing endeavors, I like to think outside the box whenever possible. One of my favorite outside the box presentations for shallow evening walleye is casting blade baits. Most anglers consider the blade bait to be strictly used for vertical jigging, but the right lure in the right hands can be absolutely deadly in shallow. For this technique I prefer to use the 1/2oz and 1/4oz Vibrations Tackle Echotail blade bait. Not only do you get the vibration of the lure itself, you also get the scent and action of whatever soft plastic tail you stick on it. Just burn it in over the weeds, hop it along on the bottom, or slow roll it in and hold on tight!
One of the most commonly asked questions I receive pertaining to night fishing for walleye is what colors to use. All I can really say is that you never really know what the fish are going to want. A good place to start is with bright colors like pinks, oranges, whites, and chartreuse. That said, I’ve done very well some nights with black, blues, purples and greens, so as always, make sure you change presentations often and let the fish tell you what they want!
Yeah the mosquitoes can suck, the werewolves can be downright vicious, but I think casting the shallows at night is by far one of the most fun ways to put the smack down on summer walleye. With a few lures, a headlamp, some water to fish, and knowing where to fish you too can take advantage of this awesome bite. Cast on my friends, cast on!