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Kavajecz jigged walleye

Casting Some Light on Shallow Walleyes

by Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz

Late spring to early summer can be one of the toughest times of year to catch walleyes. On many bodies of water the fish are in transition, on others they’re still in their annual spawning mode. What makes locating walleyes this time of year even more difficult is that many anglers are unwilling to break tradition and look in areas not normally thought of as “walleye water”. So we’d like to shed some light on one of the most overlooked early season locations for walleyes ... shallow water.

Shallow water walleyes are not that difficult to find. They will home-in on very predictable types of structure like rocky shorelines, rocky points that extend out into a lake, or, especially in natural lakes, hold in areas of shallow flooded timber.

Although these can be actively feeding fish, the fact that they are in extremely shallow depths (2 to 4 foot), and are very spooky calls for a presentation that allows the angler to put some distance between himself and his target. Casting jigs is the name of the game.

To be an effective “jig caster” takes a few key ingredients. Jigs best suited for casting to shallow walleyes are light ... 1/16th to 1/8th ounce. It’s important that the jig be compact, with a short shank and wide gap like Northland Tackle’s FireBall Jig. Remember, as you retrieve, you’re pulling the jig away from the fish, and short-shanked jigs with wide hook gaps will up the odds that the fish will keep the hook in it’s mouth when it sucks it in.

In situations where walleyes are relating to wood, a more specialized jig is called for. This is where a jig like the Northland Weed Weasel is helpful. It’s sleek wedge shaped head and plastic “Y” weed guard allow it to work through the worst tangles of timber.

The bite of an early season walleye isn’t much of a bite. You also need to be able to tell if your lure is on the bottom, as well as just what kind of bottom it’s on, whether that be rocks, sand, pea-gravel or what have you. A good quality graphite rod like the jig rods found in the Walleye Angler Signature Series from Bass Pro Shops give you the “feel” to tell what your jig is doing at all times.

Another factor that can greatly improve “feel” when casting jigs in shallow water is your choice of fishing line. Let’s look at what line might best fit your fishing for these “thin water” fish.

What kind of line to use? That question has to be one of the most asked at seminars. Great question. Normally the beginning jig fisherman is not going to have a $200 dollar, high modulus graphite rod and reel combo. Assuming that a beginner’s equipment is not going to be very sensitive, we need to do something to improve their “feel” because the starting jig fisherman really needs all of the “feel” that they can get.

Berkley FireLine is by far the best choice because it has no stretch and therefore is highly sensitive. It’s easier to detect bites, identify the feeling of a live fish versus a weed, and sense every little thing that your jig is crawling over as it bumps its way along the bottom.

Beginners often hesitate as to whether they should set the hook, or not. FireLine compensates for this hesitation, resulting in more hooked fish. Another side benefit to the no stretch characteristic is that every little bit of the battle is felt… no greater thrill for a beginner fisherman-woman-or-child.

As an angler’s proficiency improves, reflexes are faster and skills increase in the jigging game. It’s far easier to recognize the difference between bites and weeds. Only a split second is needed to decide when to set the hook and at this stage you’ll notice that you’ll actually miss fish because instantaneous, hard hooksets can tear the jig free.

Time to switch lines. Trilene SensiThin monofilament is a new mono with very low stretch making it a stellar jigging line. Most feel is retained, like with FireLine, however, there is some stretch and jigs are not pulled out as often. Most fishermen will never need another line, SensiThin will be perfect.

If you’re a walleye fisherman with tons of hours on the water, your skills are honed and reflexes peaked out. Jigs are either your specialty, you’re a guide, or a tournament pro. Armed with the best jigging rod and reel money can buy, you’re serving notice to all walleyes that they’d best find the deepest hole in the lake and cower with fear for their lives while you’re there.

Guess what? You’re too good. That rod you’re using feels everything and you sometimes set the hook too fast, before the fish even has it all! At this level, if you remain using a no or low stretch line it will cost you fish. Imagine that $30,000 dollar tournament; a six lb. money fish bites ... perfect hookset (slight mouth tear because of no stretch and overzealous attitude), the fish fights hard with big head shakes and tears the jig out the rest of the way.

A 12th place plaque later and you’re reminiscing how fabulous it would have been to throw a party for your first place win and still have thousands left for that new boat. Enter Berkley Pro Select Tournament Strength monofilament. This stuff is tough! Perfect stretch and forgiveness and guaranteed for prevention of loss of six lb. money fish. We understand that some of you might be pessimistic so we’ll restate in terms all men will understand ... Pro Select = Party + Boat. Enough said.

Don’t get caught this time of year thinking that shallow water is only for Bassheads and Pikers. With the right approach, the right gear, and a willingness to cast tradition aside, test the thin water for walleyes and you too can have a great time casting your cares away.

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