Many anglers perceive summertime as a challenging period to catch walleye. The days are long and hot, recreational lake traffic is in full force, and fishing patterns have significantly changed. Therefore, it’s no wonder many anglers often forgo their walleye ambitions during this period. However, this is a big mistake.
This is the time of year when fish grow at the greatest rate. This means their metabolisms are running high, making them both hungry and active. It’s during this period that aggressive presentations such as trolling start working their best.
However, this period is also filled with abundance. The lake has come alive. The vegetation is fully grown. The water is filled with plenty of baitfish and the column has become stratified. So although the fish might be active, they are also dispersed. It’s because of this dispersion that they can sometimes seem more challenging.
During the summer, fish begin transitioning into different depths. Many will continue to reside in the shallow weeds they utilized all spring while others will move deep in the water column over reefs. Of course some will spend a majority of their time traveling between these depths.
That’s why as walleye transition from spring locations to summer patterns, it’s important that you learn to transition with them.
However to do this, you are going to need to keep a variety of tactics on hand. The “one size fits all” approach that may have caught fish this spring may no longer work during the summer. From speed trolling with spinners to vertical jigging in deep water, having an assortment of tools to choose from is crucial for success.
That's why it’s always a good idea to analyze a lake’s local resources, which can easily be done by using state stocking reports and surveys. This can help identify the history of the lake, it’s depth, condition, and the primary baitfish residing within it.
Understanding the diversity of the lake can go a long way in finding the fish and properly targeting them. Once you have a strong understanding of the body of water you are fishing; try targeting them with one of the five strategies below.
Perhaps the most popular strategy of walleye anglers throughout history has been jigging. It’s a cheap, versatile, and a highly effective strategy that can be adapted by any angler.
However, there are a number of different jigging strategies anglers have in their toolkit. One of the most popular of these strategies in the summer is vertical jigging. This presentation is where an angler finds and targets fish that are directly below them (and usually quite deep).
When executing vertical jigging, boat control is essential. The goal is to stay directly above the fish. Therefore, if anchoring doesn't keep you in place, be ready to work a slow troll.
This also allows it to provide a "vertical" presentation, when targeting the species straight below the boat. Not only does this help anglers work a school of fish diligently, it also provides a fluttering presentation that can make it deadly. When vertical jigging, don't be afraid to try different styles of jigging. Being successful means you have to be willing to try different actions to see what causes the fish to hit.
Our recommendation: Using sonar, find a deep school of walleye and position the boat directly over them. Then grab a 1/4 oz or 3/8 oz Google Eye jig for the presentation. This works well paired this with aKalin’s Sizmic Grub or Jerk Minnow. The Google Eye Jig takes jigging to the next level by adding sound. This unique feature helps grab attention of a distance walleye in deeper and darker water.
Although a large population of the walleye will reside deeper in the water column during summer months, there will still be remnant fish in the shallows, especially in the evening. In addition, it's important to know lakes that rely heavily on stocking for maintaining their population will have fish in the shallows not only all day long but all year long (due to the lack of natural resources in deeper water). These fish are not only targeting bait within the weeds, but also using the vegetation as cover. Don’t be afraid to target these fish.
However, vertical jigging strategies usually aren't successful in the shallows, unless it happens to be extremely dark water. Instead, try casting or pitching to the weed line. Jig or drag on the return.
Our recommendation: Take a Kalin’s Spot Stalker Jig with a soft plastic and cast into a weed line at a depth around ten to fifteen feet deep. On the return, slowly drag the jig through the weeds while keeping it barely off the bottom.
A great way to actively cover ground is with a spinner. Spinners work great by adding sound and vibration to bait and allow anglers to work different regions of the lake. They can be used in shallow or deep water and do relatively well over structure and through weeds.
There are many different spinner setups. However, for walleye, a great setup is the crawler harness with a bottom bouncer, to help get the presentation to deeper depths but still a foot or more off the bottom.
Many anglers who use spinners navigate towards live bait. However, don’t be afraid to try soft plastics. They are tougher and therefore won’t fall off as quickly. This reduces the chance of trolling around a bare spinner for hours (and therefore improving your odds of actually catching a fish).
Our recommendation: Try hooking a Sizmic Wac-O-Worm or Jerk Minnow to a classic spinner setup. When using spinner in weeds, try the Sizmic Warhead Weight to keep the spinner close to the structure without collecting a pile of vegetation in the process.
Kalin's Sizmic Wac-O-Worm
The Hyper Glide takes classic jigging to the next level. It's a more aggressive presentation that's perfect for summer walleye.
It’s comprised of a plastic minnow shaped body with retractable wings. This allows it to look like a wounded baitfish as it sinks, while causing sounds and vibration along the way. The Hyper Glide works particularly well when vertical jigging. If it’s shaken, the excess noise and movement can be deadly to any predator.
Our recommendation: Try vertical jigging with a 2” or 2.5” Hyper Glide at a suspended school of deep water walleye. Once the lure is a foot or two from the bottom; quickly snap it up a foot or two in the water column. Intermittent this movement with shaking, to cause extra sound and vibration to the presentation.
When anglers think of speed trolling they usually think of crankbaits. When they think of spoons, they tend to think of ice fishing with a minnow. Very rarely do anglers consider speed trolling with a spoon during open water. However, they should.
Speed trolling with spoons have significant benefits:
Getting spoons to deeper depths require divers, down riggers, or lead core line. However, get deep enough to pull it above a school of suspended walleye and an aggressive strike will be the result on most active fish
Our Recommendation:Use a large Kastmaster and connect it to a diver (or use lead core line depending on depth). Put a piece of a minnow or crawler on the hook for scent and troll a few feet from the above. Go at a speed of three to four miles per hour.
Acme Tackle Kastmaster
Although technique is important, so are the details. Many people will know the strategy, but not the size, color, or weight they should use. However, determining the perfect weight or perfect color is a complex matter that shouldn’t be generalized. This is due to the variability that exists between each scenario and location.
In fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is assuming the success you found with one presentation on one day will lead to continued success on the next. This couldn’t be farther from the case. There are too many variable factors including the ones mentioned below.
That's why we recommend considering the following when picking out the colors, weights, and size of the lure.
By using our suggested presentations and lures, as well as your knowledge of the lake, you will be well on your way to finding success on any body of water this summer. However, it's still important for any angler to know the the most important part of being a better angler is by spending time on the water.
Therefore, take these five strategies and practice and perfect them. Learn which techniques work, take notes, and adjust when necessary. Becoming a great summer walleye angler takes time, patience, and plenty of time on the water.
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