Last week I spoke briefly about some things to look for when targeting weed walleyes and getting to know the types of weeds to better understand the clues and tips they can give you as to what the bottom substrate would be like. This week I will talk about specific tactics to use to pull fish out of the weeds. First of all live bait rigs like lindy rigs and spinners can be fished along the edges of prominent weedlines that have distinct and defined edges. Trolling is an option with longer weedlines as is casting and slowly moving these baits to the boat from a fixed position. The main problem with working both shallow and deeper weed edges at this time of year is that the perch and panfish will absolutely drive you nuts pecking at your bait until it is gone. Gulp imitations are slightly better but again the panfish will tend to hen peck at your offering and trying to discern a subtle take from a walleye versus that of prolific panfish will begin to wear on you. I like these tactics better at dawn and dusk or just after dark to maximize my chances at eyes with less distractions from the panfish. The second drawback, is that most weedlines are not so clearly defined that you can troll long distances without contacting and fouling with spotty clumps of weeds growing out a distance from the actual weedline itself.
Jigs and minnows? Another good choice but again the panfish are apt to take a jig and minnow and in the heat of summer minnows can be tough to keep alive. Gulp again is a good option for pitching edges and pockets. What then are the best options for midday or late afternoon? I like to pitch paddle tails, pulse R's and curly tailed grubs or 4" finesse worms and ring worms on weed weasel or oddball 1/16th-1/4 oz jigs into the weeds. This technique does not call for stout bass gear and heavy line but a high vis mono or 10-15# braid works well for me. I pair this with a 6'6" or 7' rods in a medium or medium light action with a fast action tip. I position the boat over the shallow sand if I am fishing shallow or over the edge of the breakline if fishing deep and pitch the jigs from 3 to 6 feet into the weedline and let the jig fall to the bottom while counting it down and watching my line for any sharp taps or sudden stops. The reason I mentally count the lure down is that at times once the jig clears the canopy and gets into the open stalks below many times walleyes will swim up and snatch the jig before it reaches bottom. In the case of a premature stop, I give a gentle but firm wrist flick to either dislodge the jig from the weeds and let it continue its decent or set the hook on a fish and work it out of the weed edge. Once the lure hits bottom a standup head like an oddball jig will hold the offering enticingly upright. I will let the jig rest from 1-5 seconds before giving a gentle but firm wrist flick to hop the bait forward 6-12" and repeat until I am clear of the weeds and then I will use a slow retrieve straight back to the boat or I may hop it a few feet out onto the sand or down the break on the way back to the boat. I like a weed weasel jig when I have a sparse weed like cabbage where I can hop and swim the jig through the stalks. The forward facing eyelet helps the jig to slither over and around weeds rather effectively.
This is two of the tactics I like to use when looking for weedline walleyes. This is a fairly slow paced technique, much like live bait rigging but it allows you to work the edges and into the weeds where fish are waiting to ambush prey as it happens by. This technique works both deep and shallow but the key is not throwing your jig to far into the weeds that you lose all feel of your bait. Most often the walleyes will be hanging within 10' of the edge in the shade just waiting for an easy meal to happen by and often these fish will elicit savage strikes leaving no doubt if you got bit or not. Next time you find yourself on a weedline think about probing into the weeds rather then just working the edges. You may be surprised at some of the fish you end up with on the end of your line! Tightlines!