Catching pressured walleyes

I was in central Minnesota last week fishing with my friend Mike Frisch. Mike is an outstanding angler for a variety of fish, but on this trip we were after walleyes. So were dozens and dozens of other anglers on the lake we were on. Word was out that the walleyes on this particular lake wanted to get caught, and lots of fishermen were on the water trying to oblige them. This created an abundance of fishing pressure and made the walleyes change their ways. They quit doing what they had been doing, and that made the catching tougher for the folks who didn’t adapt. If you adapted, you caught walleyes: If you didn’t, the frying pan stayed clean. Here’s what we did to catch walleyes when the catching got tough.

For several days prior to my arrival, anglers had been catching walleyes on a wide variety of presentations. Crankbaits, spinner rigs, live-bait rigs and jigs were all fooling walleyes. There weren’t very many boats on the lake, but the anglers that were there were getting bit.

When I arrived, Mike told me that news of the walleye bite had got out. We arrived at the boat ramp fairly early and the parking lot was already full. The best spots were covered with boats. We went to Mike’s first spot, one that had been very productive previous days, and there were at least twenty boats there. We fished a little while, but realized quickly that we needed to do something differently if we wanted to get bit.

The previously productive spot was a large reef, and the walleyes had been scattered all over it. They weren’t any more. We moved out to the edge of the reef, where there were no boats. We slowly cruised around with an eye on the depth-finder looking for fish. We found that now, instead of being scattered all over the reef, they were schooled tightly in small groups.

When we found a group we fished them. And, instead of the fish eating whatever we used as they had in previous days, they were very selective. They wanted live bait rigs tipped with either a leech or a crawler. They would also hit spinner rigs, but they were very color selective: They wanted a blue blade. No other color was nearly as productive. We had to present our baits in a very certain way if we wanted to get bit.

When we caught a fish, it seemed to activate the others in the group. We would usually catch several out of each group, then they’d shut off. When that happened we went looking for another group.

We used a variety of bottom bouncers ahead of our live-bait rigs. Slick-Sticks and Rock-Runner Slip-Bouncers along with traditional Rock-Runner Bottom Bouncers enabled us to fish through the rocks much better than the walking slip-sinkers that are often used when live-bait rigging.

For the next few months we can expect fishing pressure to have an effect on the fish we’re chasing. If you keep the things we just talked about in mind, you can continue to experience success even when you’re sharing the fish with lots of other anglers.

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