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Examiner
  • Kenneth Kieser: Casting for Walleye

  • Walleye fillets are excellent table fare. Remarkably, most walleye in this region are caught by accident, especially in the summer. Veteran walleye fishermen from northern states visit Missouri and Kansas lakes and catch large numbers of walleye, including lunkers.

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  • Walleye fillets are excellent table fare. Remarkably, most walleye in this region are caught by accident, especially in the summer. Veteran walleye fishermen from northern states visit Missouri and Kansas lakes and catch large numbers of walleye, including lunkers.
    Trolling or jigging is a great way to put walleyes in the boat, but when conditions are right, casting shad-bodied crankbaits to shallow structure is a productive way to catch big numbers of walleye.
    Jason Feldner, proprietor of Perch-Eyes Guide Service, is a veteran guide on North Dakota's 160,000-acre Devils Lake. He casts crankbaits for walleye from the first warm fronts of spring throughout the month of June.
    “When the bite's on, 100-fish days are possible,” he said.
    Feldner's tactics are productive on a variety of Midwestern walleye waters. When water temperatures inch upward into the mid-50s, Feldner targets sheltered, fast-warming shallows, where walleye find a feast of baitfish and other forage.
    You can find concentrations of shallow fish feeding on most lakes. Potential hotspots include necked-down current areas, emerging weedbeds and shoreline riprap. Feldner factors the wind into his fishing locations when the water continues warming.
    “Once the water temp hits 60 degrees, I look for windswept areas where wave action stirs up the shallows, concentrating forage and reducing light penetration,” he said. Opportunistic eyes quickly move in to scarf up minnows, but a sustained wind lasting several days or more can really fire up a shoreline.”
    When planning his daily structural hit list, Feldner always remembers yesterday's weather as conditions change. He may find a strong wind one day, then dead calm the next. The downwind bank is productive when the wind is blowing, but even after it dies down, the hot shoreline from the day before still holds fish. Certain structure are walleye attractive to both temperature-related and wind-driven scenarios.
    “I prefer slow-tapering shorelines over banks with steep breaks,” Feldner said. “Not necessarily because they hold more fish, but because my bait stays in the strike zone longer on a gradual slope.”
    Soft muck bottoms absorb sunlight and help boost the water temperature during the early season. But later, shorelines exposed to the prevailing winds are typically dominated by gravel and rocks. Flooded woody cover is common on manmade reservoirs. Feldner, too, targets walleyes in and around the shallow treelines.
    “During early season, I cruise banks, targeting fallen trees,” he said. “Walleyes often tuck tight to timber, lurking in the shade as they await passing prey. You won't catch a bunch of fish in one area, but you'll get one here and one there, so it's important to cover water and keep moving.”
    Shad-bodied crankbaits are excellent for walleye this time of year. A crankbait's deep, stout profile mimics a range of prey and is easy for walleyes to home in on in low-visibility conditions, such as when wind and waves roil near-shore waters.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Lindy Shadling and Bomber Flat A are two of Feldner's go-to baits. Both the Shadling and Flat A are tight-wiggling, rattling baits capable of drawing walleye attention, even when visibility is reduced. Near-buoyancy allows them to be fished with a variety of moves, without rocketing to the surface on the pause. Such versatility is critical, because Feldner's presentations run the gamut-from a steady pull to a fast retrieve.
    Feldner likes to hold his boat in eight feet of water and then make long casts close to shore, then work his lure on the bottom and back to the boat.
    “Start with the rod tip high, then lower it during the retrieve, so the bait dives deeper and stays close to bottom,” he said.
    Walleyes' notoriously fickle nature makes experimentation key to finding the best retrieve. Every day is a little different. Sometimes they want slow and steady retrieves, other times you have to get aggressive and really pound bottom or burn it along to trigger reaction strikes.
    The shallow crank-casting pattern shines through early summer, until water temperatures reach the 70-degree mark. After that, Feldner typically focuses his efforts a bit deeper, often pulling deep-diving cranks or spinner rigs along outside weed edges and deep treelines. But even then, the shallow pattern is always an option, should the right wind come up along a slow-tapering shore.
     
     
     
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