It’s interesting how a fish that’s defined as structure loving, turns up so often in weed cover. The text book for walleye fishing characterizes this species as bottom loving and rarely found far from rock and gravel structure. Amazingly, in most lakes it’s weed growth that attracts the majority of the walleye population.
The reason walleye love weed cover has everything to do with their voracious appetites. Weed growth provides a better habitat for minnows and in turn walleye come to the salad bar to feast.
Not all aquatic weeds however attract walleye. This species is not an ambush hunter like the bass, but rather prefers to cruise in and among scattered patches of weed growth or along defined weed edges. A weed species that does an excellent job of attracting walleye is called common pond weed. The fisherman slang for this weed is “cabbage” because the thin stalks grow up several feet off bottom and produce an abundance of leaf growth. There are two common species of pond weed known as curled leaf and broad leaf. Both grow in water from six to 15 feet and provide walleye the ideal habitat for hunting down forage fish.
Weed types that carpet the bottom do little to offer walleye the cover they need. Instead, these dense mats of weed provide bait fish a place that they can easily hide from predators. Not surprisingly, you won’t find a lot of walleyes frequenting these weed types.
The biggest problem with mixing weeds and walleye is finding ways to fish without fouling the lures on every cast. Weeds can be difficult and down right frustrating to fish, especially when using traditional jigs, rigs and crankbaits.
One of the best ways to target weed walleye is to take a page from the book of bass fishing. Bass are commonly found in weed cover and the all time “go to” lure for targeting weed bound bass is the garden variety spinnerbait. These lures work so well at catching bass living in weed cover they have become legendary and few bassin men would dream of leaving the dock without them.
Ironically, a lure that works so well on bass is almost never used to catch walleye. Even when walleye inhabit the exact same weed haunts, spinnerbaits just don’t seem to interest the typical walleye angler.
That’s a pity because the magic of the spinnerbait works well on walleye in many situations where these fish are hold up in heavy weed cover. What makes these lures so effective is the fact they can be snaked through amazingly thick cover without snagging or the hook constantly fouling with weeds and grass.
Unfortunately, traditional spinnerbaits designed for bass fishing aren’t ideally suited for targeting walleye. The biggest problem is these lures are too large for the job.
For walleye, the best spinnerbaits are downsized models with a a more streamlined design. Ironically, a lure designed with crappie in mind is one of the best choices for targeting weed bound walleye. The truth is these downsized spinnerbaits will catch walleye, crappie, bass and a wealth of other species.
Total Solutions Technique
Casting small spinnerbaits is a job for medium or medium/light action spinning tackle. A six to seven foot rod equipped with eight pound test monofilament is an ideal choice for weed bound walleye. Somewhat longer rods do help add additional casting distance. Another advantage of using longer rods occurs on the hook set. Longer rods pick up slack line faster and enable the angler to come tight on fish quickly even when making long casts.
Extra casting distance can also be achieved by using ultra thin super lines. A typical 10 pound test super braid is only the diameter of four pound test monofilament.
Using Polaroid glasses is a critical part of casting with small spinnerbaits. Because the best weed types grow up off the bottom, the angler can often see them and literally steer his bait in and among the best cover. Watching the lure closely allows the angler to fish tight to productive looking weed growth, without fouling the bait constantly in the salad.
Calm conditions make it easier to see the weed cover and also to fish more precisely. Getting out early in the morning before the wind picks up is good advice anytime you target walleye living in weed cover.
Flats with weed patches are good places to fish and also defined weed edges that form along sharp drop offs. Casting small spinnerbaits is also a good approach for targeting walleye among submerged wood.
The best size spinnerbaits are 1/8 and 1/4 ounce models. Heavier sizes tend to sink too deeply or must be retrieved too quickly. The best retrieve is a slow and steady pace that presents and irresistible temptation to cruising walleye.
Total Solutions Equipment
Hands down the best possible spinnerbait for weed walleye fishing is the classic Johnson Beetle Spin. These lures have been catching fish for decades and continue to be the ideal choice for working walleye water littered with weed cover.
The combination of the small Colorado blade and split tail grub is deadly fished clean, or anglers can tip the hook with a small piece of nightcrawler.
A variation of this lure called the Rattlin’ Beetle Spin mixes flash with rattles to help walleye zero in on the bait. Using rattles produces best in stained or off color water.
Small spinnerbaits like the classic Beetle Spin are ideal for casting to walleye living among weed cover. Sometimes to catch more walleye anglers need to take a page from the book of bass fishing.
Johnson® Beetle Spin®
Berkley® Trilene XL®