They say the best time to go fishing is anytime you can, and that statement may be true. But there are peaks and valleys, peaks when the odds are tipped in your favor and valleys when they’re stacked against you. One of those peaks for reservoir walleyes includes the period following the spawn, which happens to be May and June here in the Midwest.
Shortly after the spawn walleyes go on a serious feeding binge and is when tremendous catches can be made, but only if you have a handle on the “where”. What you do is not nearly as important as where you’re doing it as a variety of methods can work. For the most part if you find them you can catch them, and location is the most important factor. Deciding on where to look will depend on the section of a reservoir you’re looking at and can vary from one end to the other.
If you’re looking at the lower end and it has deeper creek arms and bays you’ve found a good starting point. Bays and arms warm up much faster than the main lake and can load up with walleyes early in the season. That warm water can draw in schools of baitfish by the boatload, and big schools of foraging walleyes will follow it all in and take advantage of the situation. How far they move can vary and will require a little investigative work to find out.
With a good graph you can find schools of bait and fish holding close to the bottom. With a great graph like the Raymarine C120 you can see schools of bait and actually break it out into individual marks, see big fish amongst the bait, and see fish glued to the bottom. Good and even great electronics can help reveal all but the shallowest running walleyes.
As you make your move into a bay or arm keep an eye on the electronics and look for any sign of life, like fish and schools of bait. It there’s bait you can bet there’s walleyes close by, and it would be a good idea to do a thorough investigation before leaving for greener pastures. If you’re not marking fish don’t immediately give up as they may by too shallow for electronics to readily pick up and could be in water four or five feet deep and shallower. In that case you’re simply going to have to put a bait in the water to find out if there are any walleyes in the neighborhood.
The upper ends of reservoirs are typically absent the deeper creek arms and bays that you can find in the lower end and the main lake will probably have to be explored. One of the keys to finding main lake walleyes is locating shallower flats which can warm up faster than surrounding areas. A flat or shelve can attract major schools of walleyes and a good map can help you narrow things down and save some time.
Stretches of warm sunny days can spur the hottest flat action and is something to look for. Cold fronts on the other hand can push walleyes off the flats and down the breaks but they can still be caught, you just have to adjust to the present conditions. If you’re dealing with the after effects of a cold front you might want to spend a good deal of time working the areas where shallow flats break into deeper water, particularly the main channel.
Regardless of whether you’re in the upper or lower end of the reservoir the methods for putting fish in the boat remains the same, and includes just about anything you can throw at them. That doesn’t mean you can get away with being sloppy but it does mean you can use just about any method you like and still be effective.
Productive techniques include live bait rigging, jigging, trolling spinners or cranks, all of which can be the hottest thing going at any given time. Throw out a light jig tipped with a minnow and slowly drift along a flat or break (if you have the right wind) and you’re in business. If you don’t have the wind an electric trolling motor like the MinnKota Maxxum will allow you to sneak along in shallow water without spooking fish. Even if you have the wind the MinnKota will help you fine tune your trolling run and keep your bait positioned in the most productive zone.
Replace the jig with a light bouncer and plain snell tipped with a leech, crawler, or minnow and you’re still in business. A bouncer and spinner combination can also produce and will allow you to move a little faster and cover more ground.
Trolling crank baits is another excellent option and the added speed will help you maximize your ability to cover water. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the stick type minnow imitating lures like the Normark Husky Jerk are more effective in colder water while the shad style baits become more productive as things start to warm up. Shad baits like the Shad Rap or Jointed Shad Rap are confidence baits and can be counted on to deliver as long as you’re running them in the right neighborhood. That confidence gives you the luxury of knowing you will catch them if there are any there. If you’re not catching it’s time to move on.