Late summer can make for some tough conditions, especially if you’re a walleye anlger. So tough in fact that most anglers throw in the towel and either try pursuing another species, or simply stay home. If you’re serious about the sport that isn’t an option, and fortunately for us there are a few things you can to do help take up the slack.
One of the first things you can do is try shifting into a higher gear and picking up the pace by employing a faster presentation. Techniques that allow you to cover plenty of water are the ticket, and includes trolling spinners and crankbaits.
Spinners are designed to deliver live bait with speed, and speed is where it’s at for late summer walleyes. A typical spinner rig includes a multiple hook harness combined with a big night crawler, but typical isn’t always best. It often pays to get outside the norm and try something different, like using a single hook and a leech or even a minnow.
Minnows aren’t usually associated with late summer walleyes but the combination can be deadly, especially if you throw in a spinner. A minnow and spinner trolled at a good clip can elicit strikes from walleyes that turn their noses up at just about everything else. Effective spinner minnows include larger fatheads or smaller chubs, depending on what’s available.
Crankbaits like Shad Raps and Jointed Shad Raps buzzed through likely hangouts can be particularly effective. The extra speed can turn fish on and may be the sure ticket to a big late summer catch.
An option to using either live bait or crankbaits is a combination of both. The technique includes using a crawler, or piece of crawler, and tipping one of the treble hooks on a crankbait. The key is tipping the one hook that is in the straight down position, otherwise you’ll end up with a bait that won’t run straight.
Another consideration for dealing with late summer eye’s is location, and looking a little deeper is usually a good bet, but not always. Clear lakes provide the best opportunity for finding deeper holding walleyes, and deep can mean forty feet or more. For example; On lake Oahe in South Dakota (which is extremely clear) late summer walleyes are sometimes caught in sevnty feet of water or more! The thing is if you’re not seeing or catching fish you might try taking a look at deeper water.
By looking over deeper structure with electronics you can quickly find out if there is any potential for finding a deeper vein of fish. Take a look at deep points, offshore humps, and break lines with a fish finder and make note of any sign of life including schools of bait, as well as fish holding close to the bottom. If you’re not marking any of the above, keep moving until you do. Try moving deeper and shallower until you begin to see concentrations of bait and fish.
While there is a shallow to deep migration on most of our clearer lakes, just the opposite can be true on bodies of water that darken up as the season progresses. Many of our lakes start out relatively clear, and then darken up by mid summer due to algae blooms and turbidity. In that case you may be restricted to working shallow water, as shallow as a few feet in the most extreme cases.
An option that has been previously overlooked and has come to light only recently is the suspension factor where walleyes lift high off the bottom, out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a phenomenon that happens more often than you think and may be your best be for finding active late summer walleyes.
Try looking outside classic walleye structure with your depth finder and head out into deeper water, including the main lake basin. If you’re seeing suspended schools of bait there is an excellent chance that you’ll also find walleyes. Look for wandering ‘eyes to hold just under the bait, and even in the middle of it. They’ll hold just below their meal ticket until they decide to turn on, where they can simply move up into a school of bait and chow down.
Approaching suspended fish can be as simple as trolling a crankbait ( like a #9 Shad Rap), with a bunch of line out while looking for a few biters. Even if your marking plenty of fish chances are that most of them aren’t active and you’ll have to get your bait in front of as many fish as possible to help up your odds of making contact. If you get serious about trolling for suspended walleyes there’s plenty of good info available, including books and charts that can help you get a bait to run at a specific depth, with a certain weight line, as well as an exact speed. Fortunately you don’t have to be exact to be effective, but being exact will make you more efficient.