Walleye fishing on a river in the spring is one thing; fishing that same river when its flowing with heavy current from massive snow melt and/or torrential spring rains is something all together different. Not only is the current speed an issue, but the water is muddied up, there’s debris floating downstream everywhere, and as the river level rises, walleyes suddenly have locational options they would not normally have.
Conditions like this are not normally very conducive to great walleye fishing! While you might think the solution would be to simply look for areas of reduced current, the problem is that’s not necessarily where the fish are. Even though the current may be ripping on the surface, walleyes are still able to find little nooks and crannies along the bottom where they can sit out of the current, darting out to grab a quick meal as the current sweeps it by. If the fish’s best chance for a meal is in the heavy current, that’s where most of the fish will be. If you want to catch them, this is where you need to fish – but it’s not easy.
So how do you tackle this scenario when walleyes are in these “not-so-easy to fish” areas of the river - not accessible by “conventional” river tactics like vertical jigging? There are a few tried-and-true techniques for fishing walleyes in heavy current, realizing that although this situation isn’t always the easiest fishing in the world ... it can be the best walleye fishing available.
The key to any tactic that is successful in heavy current is that it gives the angler control and keeps the bait near the bottom. That means the use of heavy weights … the stronger the current you’re fishing, the heavier the weight you’ll need to control the presentation. You also want a presentation that allows you to “Cover and Hover” … that is to cover water, either by moving upstream, slipping downstream and even sliding cross-stream searching for these isolated spots that are holding the walleyes.
The most popular technique for fishing heavy current is what’s known as 3-way Rigging. The rig starts with a 3-way swivel tied to a main line of 10 pound test Berkley FireLine. The FireLine is nice because it maximizes feel and its small diameter cuts the current better than monofilament. To the second leg of the swivel tie a twelve inch piece of 6 pound test mono with a bell sinker at the end. Weights will vary from about 1 to 3 ounces depending on the amount of current and weight needed to keep bottom contact. Think of this much the same as you would bottom bouncer fishing … you want to keep the rig at about a 45 degree angle from the rod tip to the bottom … this will give you the best feel and control. You might be tempted to use a bouncer to simplify rigging, but the added bulk of a bouncer tends to catch too much current and is not as effective as the 3-way rig.
At the business end of the 3-way, run a 3 foot leader of 10 pound test mono (or another good choice would be Berkley Trilene 100% Professional Grade Fluorocarbon)