King of the Beasts

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It's a jungle out there.

Coontail, milfoil, waterweed and pondweed have shaken off the decay of winter and transformed the aquatic shallows into a living, breathing comfort zone for almost everything that lives in the underwater world.

Oxygen levels are high. Water temperatures are a few degrees warmer than they are offshore. Aquatic insects are coming to life, attracting baitfish and gamefish species like perch. Critters like crawdads and salamanders crawl among the plant roots.

It's a smorgasboard for predator species like walleyes, bass and pike, which lurk in the shadows and use the cover of leafy submergent vegetation to ambush unsuspecting prey.

The draw to the weedy shallows is particularly strong for walleyes, which are eager to fatten up and heal up following the rigorous spawning ritual.

Along with the occasional northern pike or muskie, they are the kings of the beasts ... Until you come along.

Early season weed fishing is a pattern that exists on nearly every body of water from lakes of all sizes to flowages, reservoirs and rivers. No matter where you go, walleyes relate to weeds. And while walleyes are typically my main course when I belly up to a salad bar, I'll never complain about catching an occasional pike, bass or muskie in the process.

One of the things that makes weed fishing a great early season approach is accessibility. Most weeds grow close to shore, meaning that any angler can reach them.

You can cast to weeds from the bank, from a dock or from a pier. You can wade the shallows to reach many productive weed beds.

However, there are advantages to fishing weeds from a boat. With my Triton 215X, for example, I can cover far more areas than a shore angler, and I have the added dimension of being able to work the outside edges of the beds.

Of course, not all weed beds are created equal. I look for fairly dense vegetation in water 6 to 10 feet deep. I seek out weeds that have not yet reached the surface so I can work crankbaits over the tops of them. It's also important to find weeds that are actively growing, and that usually means areas exposed to plenty of sun, but protected from heavy wave action that can uproot aquatic plants.

Crankbaits are a great way to explore these areas quickly and efficiently. Walleyes are the weeds for one primary reason - to eat. That means they are usually aggressive and willing to chase down a moving lure.

My go-to crankbait is a Normark Shad Rap, and my second choice would be a Rattlin' Rap. They are baits that cast long and true even in moderate wind and imitate many of the species on which walleyes are in the weeds to eat. Long casts can be especially important because weeds tend to grow best in clear water and that usually means spooky fish.

I rely on my MinnKota 101 Maxum to quietly move my Triton around in the weeds and with battery power supplied by Optima, I can fish all day long without ever running short on power. If there's a wind, work with it rather than against it to

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