Is This For Real? The Walleyes Think So!
By Keith Kavajecz and Gary Parsons
Spring is in the air, which means it is time to clean out the garage. Since you are going to need space to work, the first thing you need to do is hook the boat up to your truck and pull it onto the driveway.
Once it is out of the garage, take a slow walk around your rig and wipe your finger along the hull of the boat. Now, look at your finger. Is there dust on it? If there is, you have a problem. Obviously you can’t spend the day cleaning your garage, just to park a dusty boat back inside! That's like tracking mud across a freshly mopped kitchen floor!
As luck would have it, the rivers are open, giving you the perfect place to take your boat for a bath. Being the multi-tasking person that you are, it would only make sense to bring your river fishing gear along to catch a meal at the same time!
One of the best ways to catch walleyes on rivers in the spring is by vertical jigging. Keeping the presentation vertical means you’re fishing with the least amount of line out, therefore you’ve got the most direct line to the fish. The goal is to drift the river the same speed as the current. The biggest problem to doing this is usually the wind. No matter if the wind is blowing up stream, downstream or cross-stream, point the bow into the wind, set the tolling motor speed on a higher setting, and use short, powerful bursts to quickly move the boat in order to keep the lines vertical. That way, as soon as the lines angle off to the left, a quick burst of power moving the boat to the left brings them back vertical again. By “following the lines” instead of trying to get the jigs to “follow the boat”, you’ll find it much easier to be successful at vertical jigging. Keep your eyes on the depth finder at all times to maintain proper depth, or hold on a break or channel edge.
When it comes to bait, a basic jig tipped with a minnow has been the go-to presentation for years. Now, even the most die-hard river rats are changing their ways. Over the past decade, artificial baits have been proven to be just as effective as their live bait counterparts when it comes to catching walleyes.
They can also save you a lot of time and hassle on the water. Artificials tend to be more durable on the hook than live bait, so you save time not having to re-bait as often. That “stay on the hook” characteristic can occasionally even get you a “second chance” bite that you would not get if you were using live bait.
For most early season vertical jigging scenarios, a subtle action tail will be your best choice. The Berkley Power Jig Worm is a 3-inch worm with a paddle on the back. This worm is very limber, which means that you don’t have to put a lot of effort into moving the bait to give it a lot of action. We prefer to stick with natural colors to make the worm look more like a real crawler.
Another go-to bait is the Berkley PowerBait Minnow in the 2 or 3-inch sizes, which mimic a real minnow quite well.