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Early Season River Walleyes

By Bob Jensen - April 1, 2009

Pretty much wherever you live in the Midwest, there are walleyes just waiting for you to catch them right now. Some states have a closed season on 'eyes, but with just a little driving, you can get to areas that have walleye fishing happening as you read this. Following are some ways to get in on the action.

Much of the walleyes that are being caught this time of year are being caught in rivers. While some lakes still have an icy cover, rivers are open. As the water warms, as the days get longer, and as the current increases, the walleyes feel the urge to start spawning. They've probably been feeling that urge for some time now, but the warmer water and other changes move them closer to the actual spawn time.

Most of your catch this time of year will be smaller males, but there is always the chance that a big one will eat your bait. If you want a meal of fresh walleye, keep the smaller ones and let the big ones drop their eggs at least one more time.

Most walleye chasers this time of year will be throwing jigs. Jigs are great walleye catchers any time of the year, but they're especially productive now.

Start with a jig/soft bait combo. In many areas the walleyes will be shallow: In fact, wading can be a great way to take them. Water less than ten feet, and often only two or three feet deep will be best. An eighth ounce jig head with a three inch tail is a favorite anywhere walleyes swim. One of the best combos is a Mimic Minnow head with a Power Grub body.

Swim the jig just above the bottom. You don't need to give the rod lots of lifts and drops. It seems like a straight, slow retrieve is most productive most of the time.

If the walleyes don't respond to this presentation, go to a jig and minnow presentation and work it slower, dragging it along the bottom. This works best on a sand bottom. Rocky bottoms will eat too many jigs that are dragged.

A slow presentation will be best when the walleyes are being picky this time of year. A stand-up head allows an angler to work the bait slowly better than a round head. The stand-up Fire-Ball jig is a great choice. When dragging the jig, you'll want to give it lots of pauses to allow an undecided walleye the chance to eat your jig. With the stand-up head, the minnow will remain very visible to the walleye when you pause it. The minnow on a round head jig will lay flat on the bottom when the jig is paused and won't be as visible. When you're using a dragging retrieve, a stand-up head will catch more fish.

If you're using the jig/minnow combo, a minnow about three inches long will be best. Smaller is better early in the spring. Winter is over, and a great rite of passage of winter is chasing walleyes. Get out right now to take advantage of the outstanding walleye fishing we have here in the Midwest.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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