There is a dynamic flow to any river. As with most river systems, there are unique characteristics and its understanding these characteristics that gives you the edge. The current and bottom of the river is your enemy but knowing what bait and tackle to use and how to use them keeps you calm. If the current is heavy, snags are your nightmare and after millions of casts on any river for Walleye, the bottom can be loaded with lead dollflys. Is the bottom of the river mostly shale with boulders or mud with rocks strewn all over. You’re going to get held up on these eventually. To avoid losing yours:
Get To Know Your River
Your best offense is understanding:
• Weather fronts • Water depth • The right equipment when wading • The right equipment when boating
You know the issues and details, so don’t take chances.
The Top Tackle For Walleye On A River
Use the lowest test line possible.
20+ lb test line is a no-no. Use 12-17 as your chances of breaking a snag are better. Don’t use braided either and the newer invisible options are of no value here either.
Never cast as far upstream as you would like.
Fisherman tend to “reach” as far as they can upstream to keep the bait in the water as long as possible. Cast straight out from your body for the sweet zone. This keeps your bait on the “downside” of the current allowing you to pull it out if snagged. Casting upstream, before your bait gets perpendicular to your body, will push your bait tighter into that snag.
Always use the smallest bait as possible.
Why throw a 1oz bait when a ¼ will do the job? It’s just easier to keep it moving and it’s easier to pull out of snags. AND, fish on is more likely.
Keep that bait moving.
Once on the bottom, bounce it often to avoid those snags and to give your bait action. Common sense says freshwater sport fish are not interested in dead meals.
Bait And Presentation For Walleye On A River
Jig & Pig works well but a drop-shot works the best but slightly modified. A drop-shot puts your weight at the bottom of your line and this is what drags the bottom of the river. From that weight, you can vary the lure type about 6” up. The line with from the drop-shot to the lure is in the 6lb range so snags break easily and you save the lure. From the lure to the reel is 12-17lb test. (preference is 12lb). For Walleye, be open to various baits for Walleye like live bait, spinners or vibrating type lures. Walleye also like leeches and worms and depending upon the depth and current, vary your choices.
When Will The Walleye Run Start
Before the invention of the internet, we had to learn on our own about water temperature, water flow and ice out and match that with our success to develop a pattern.
Jacks are usually the first to arrive and this typically starts when water temperatures reach 40 degrees. If there’s ice still flowing, don’t waste your time. If you’re close to the river, take the temperature every other day until you see it breech 38 degrees. If water levels are safe, hit your favorite hole once a day.
Females show up shortly after but that varies. However, they are not feeding when the spawn starts. In the Maumee, once they move up past the Maumee-Perrysburg bridge, they only have one goal and you’re more likely to snag one that catch one (remember, it’s illegal to snag Walleye during this period)
After the spawn it’s a different story but you really don’t know when that will occur. The first up are the first out and so on.
If you’re a jig fisherman, use the rubber curly tail at the onset of the run. About a week or so into the run, move to the drop-shot rig with live bait (minnow) anywhere from 4” to 12” above the weight. With live bait, don’t be in a hurry to “reel it in” at the end of the cast. Keep your bait in the water for as long as you can.
Stick With The Honey Holes
Stop wandering all other the river. Find that hole or channel and hit it hard during the run. There is no better spot and watching someone on the other side catch a fish doesn’t mean that’s where the Walleye have relocated. They are all over the river but congregated in channels and holes.
My long time friend and I fished the Maumee River for over 25 years from our boats and from the shore, up and down the river. We knew how to catch them but never kept the females or anything over about 3lbs.