As quickly as rivers away from ice, walleyes are able to greet the primary crop of diehard anglers. With a protracted winter to prepared gear, reels are spooled with new line and sort out containers restocked with all commonplace jig sizes and colours. Simply add a minnow and anticipation runs excessive for that first stable thump on the finish of the road.

This spring ritual repeats itself yr after yr on productive walleye rivers throughout the nation. What additionally repeats itself are the identical strategies being rehashed with various levels of success relying on water situations and energy of the walleye “run.” By studying what works elsewhere and modifying displays because the spawn progresses, anglers can enhance catch charges on their house waters.

As a child, a lot of my spring walleye fishing passed off on impoundments of the Wisconsin River. Packs of pesky, male walleyes had been stationed beneath paper-mill dams as quickly because the river opened up. The enjoyment of catching one small walleye after one other from dam websites misplaced its enchantment about the identical time we misplaced feeling in our fingers. We rapidly discovered that our time could be higher spent miles downstream, the place large prespawn females had been positioned on the mouths of creek arms that introduced barely warmed water into the impoundment. The majority of the larger fish had been awaiting water temperatures to climb to close 40°F earlier than heading upstream to spawn within the river.

This locational technique works not solely on the Wisconsin River however on impoundments from West Virginia to the state of Washington. It includes discovering the candy spot the place creek channels intersect with the principle river channel to type an underwater level. Find wooden or rock cowl on this construction and anchor to focus on torpid prespawn fish with a vigorous minnow baited on a three-way rig. It’s a sluggish presentation that requires endurance however affords a giant payday when fish refuse extra lively slipping or casting strategies.

Three-Method Secrets and techniques

Fundamental store-bought three-way rigs, generally often called Wolf River rigs in Wisconsin, usually encompass a 3/8- to three/4-ounce bell sinker connected to a brief dropper line, and an extended chief to a stout #2 Aberdeen hook, tied with 15-pound monofilament that by no means totally uncoils in near-freezing temperatures. By the years, we found a number of tips to make this commonplace rig simpler.


Straightforward fixes embody utilizing a 6-pound-test breakaway dropper line, so if the sinker will get snagged, the remainder of the rig will be saved. Swap out the inventory hook for a #6 Proprietor Mosquito Gentle hook and use 8-pound-test fluorocarbon because the chief materials. The ultra-sharp level and self-setting design of this light-wire hook permit for simpler hook penetration and extra stable hook-sets than on mono mainline. Whereas braids have overtaken monos in hottest walleye strategies, its lack of stretch and elevated sensitivity will be detrimental in early spring when fish want further time to chew on the bait previous to slowly shifting off and loading the rod.

In snaggy settings, the bell sinker will be swapped out for a slinky-style sinker extra generally used to float rigs for steelhead, or a collection of cut up shot crimped onto the dropper line. When fishing areas devoid of snags, a stand-up jig dressed with a Lindy Fuzz-E Grub physique and tipped with a minnow works as a fantastic substitute for the sinker and affords bonus catches (the place it’s authorized to fish a number of baits). The stand-up jig helps place the minnow on the ultimate angle to permit walleyes to extra simply pluck the bait off the underside.

On sunny days, shallow waters on adjoining flats warmth up by mid-afternoon. Swap out the stand-up jig for a Yakima Maxi jig with its engaging marabou and Flashabou fibers, after which slowly work the rig up the shoreline and into the creek arms. This was our precursor to a Dubuque rig that features as a search device as soon as walleyes transition upriver. Over a long time, Dubuque rigs have been modified in numerous methods to catch spring walleyes throughout the nation.

Different modifications to the Wolf River rig included including coloration and flotation. Shade was launched within the type of a bright-orange, pink, or chartreuse glow bead positioned in entrance of the hook. Flotation got here from a Worden’s Spin-N-Glow or a Lindy Snell float. When the chunk was sluggish, a Phelps Floater jig, with its comfortable texture, had fish hanging onto the bait longer. The Phelps Floater is not in manufacturing however Northland’s Gum-Drop Floater is an effective substitute.

The Spawn Kicks In

On the first sight of a “milking” male or “comfortable” feminine, shift this system upstream and deal with areas adjoining spawning flats. Scrap sedentary three-way rigs for extra lively approaches. Strive casting a B-Fish-N Sort out AuthentX Ring Worm quarter-current downstream and permit it to swing previous boulders and thru present seams, earlier than it positions straight behind the boat. With a slight sweeping motion of the rod, slowly pull the bait ahead and permit it to drop again half the space of the pull. This pulling-and-dropping-back movement permits completely different areas of water to be slowly lined all through the retrieve, with the bait offered at a number of speeds and depths.

Think about using a Clam TG tungsten jig to achieve higher really feel every time the jig makes backside contact. Since tungsten is denser than lead, its skill to raised transmit feeling is on par to switching from monofilament to braided line. Making constructive backside contact and with the ability to decipher when rock turns to sand or mud helps you anticipate bites and catch extra fish. Most bites happen on the pause or the drop again. This makes conserving a good line crucial.

In particularly snaggy rivers, such because the Peshtigo in Wisconsin or Pecatonica in Illinois, casting crosscurrent will be disastrous to your jig provide. In these settings, attempt casting straight downstream and swimming the jig again to the anchored boat. Fixed backside contact will not be the aim. As a substitute, experiment with varied sizes and types of jigs and paddletails to get a continuing thumping motion from the tail whereas the bait hovers near the underside because it will get swept facet to facet as the present pulses.

Paddletails which have confirmed particularly productive via the years embody the Mister Tornado Sassy Shad, Kalin’s Sizmic Shad, and B-Fish-N AuthentX Pulse R. Upsizing our bodies will be efficient for trophy fish. The larger the bait, the more durable the tail thumps. Take this into consideration when river situations muddy with spring rains.

One other trick includes trimming the primary inch off a 3-inch Sassy Shad after which nose-hooking the tip of the bait, as a substitute of threading all the physique onto the shaft of the jig hook. Nostril-hooking offers the bait a faster and wider side-to-side motion in present. If water situations clear, the AuthentX Moxi tail thumps much less and is a more sensible choice. Bear in mind to modify colours to match mild and river situations all through the day.

Because the spawn nears, deal with shallow-water areas that entice hotter water and focus on low-light durations which have large fish transitioning on and off these areas. On mud- and sandflats greater than 6 ft deep, snapjigging paddletails can enchantment to giant fish that ignore slower and extra refined displays. Upsize jig weights and grub sizes to get snapping motion from the bait with every rip of the rod. Enable the jig to hit backside and pause for a second previous to the following rip. The pause will be the perfect set off for early spring walleyes.

Smaller Waters

On small rivers throughout the nation that draw a run of walleyes as much as dams or spillways as spring rains fill them to capability, shore-casting with a modified three-way rig will be efficient. An particularly lethal rig is a fly and jig combo tied on a three-way swivel. To a 6- to 12-inch dropper line of 6-pound mono connect a 1/4- to three/8-ounce Walleye Nation Creation’s Marble Eye Jig and 3-inch curlytail grub combo. The slim, hydrodynamic form of the Marble Eye Jig helps it experience via rocks with much less snags and the positioning of its line-tie permits it to pivot off rocks. Listening to refined benefits in jig designs can cut back the time and expense of retying snagged jigs and rigs.


To the second swivel of this three-way rig, connect a walleye fly to the top of a 16- to 42-inch chief of 10-pound-test fluorocarbon. An extended chief delivers extra side-to-side swinging motion from the fly, whereas a shorter chief causes the fly to trace extra in-line with the jig. For mainline, use 12- to 20-pound braid, relying on how snaggy the water is. Fish the rig slowly and with out the added fuss of livebait.

Begin by casting the rig cross-river and permit it to brush within the present on a good line. Really feel for backside contact after which work the rig again slowly by sweeping the rod upward 3 to 4 ft to get the jig off the underside and accelerating the motion of the fly. Subsequent, twitch the rod tip a number of inches to get the jig rocking in place on the underside and the fly quivering. Most hits come throughout this twitching motion.

Walleyes that transfer as much as these small dams maintain near shore to get out of the principle present. A single giant boulder can function a present break and holding space for a handful of fish. Current the rig slowly all the best way to the financial institution, and concentrate every time backside contact is made so as to develop a psychological image of the river’s terrain. Strikes incessantly happen inside just a few ft of the financial institution.

Extra Mods

If situations are too snaggy to permit for a jig to function the load for the rig, crimp a collection of cut up pictures onto the dropper line. The string of cut up pictures slide extra simply via rocks and will be forged straight downstream and almost parallel to the shoreline to focus on walleyes holding on the primary depth break. With the underside jig eliminated, a second fly will be tied in collection with the primary fly or connected with a second chief of a unique size to the identical swivel as the primary fly. When flies are tied in collection with one another, the primary fly has much less motion, whereas flies tied on separate leaders have actions unbiased of one another. Experiment with these variables to enchantment to the temper of the fish.


In snag-free settings, a 3/4- to 3-ounce pencil sinker can be utilized on the dropper to permit the rig to be forged larger distances crosscurrent after which labored again aggressively with a ripping and pausing motion. Whereas this rig first gained reputation amongst white bass anglers, it proved equally efficient on each postspawn and prespawn walleyes. This similar rig can be utilized on rivers to tug flies upstream within the boat at speeds of 0.4 to 0.7 mph.

On programs such because the Columbia River the place just one line will be run per angler, backside bouncers are the supply system of alternative for pulling stickbaits close to river channels and the sting of sandbars. At places the place a number of traces can be utilized per angler, a heavy jig on the dropper line of a three-way rig will be substituted for the underside bouncer. This supplies the framework for a extra versatile rig generally often called the Dubuque rig.

Dubuque Rigging

The Dubuque rig is particularly fashionable on big-water programs such because the Mississippi, Missouri, and Menominee rivers. However it may be used on any river or lake not overly riddled with wooden. The usual rig consists of a heavy jig, akin to 3/4- to 11/2-ounce Walleye Nation Creations Loss of life Jig or Customized Jigs & Spins H2O Precision Jig dressed with an AuthentX Moxi grub, connected to a brief mono chief to 1 eye of the three-way swivel. A buoyant stickbait like a Rapala Flat Rap or Bagley Bang-O Lure is connected to the second swivel eye on a 4- to 8-foot fluorocarbon chief. The mainline is tied to the third swivel eye. The size of the chief determines how far off the underside the lure runs.

The dropper weight or jig retains the lure inside just a few ft off the underside because the boat slowly works upstream towards the present. With the rod in hand, the quantity of line deployed will be rapidly adjusted to make sure fixed backside contact. This additionally permits the rod to be swept ahead often to get the lure accelerating at random intervals after which stalling and rising up on the pause. When pulling lures, steer the boat in a barely serpentine sample to cowl a number of depths up and down channel breaks and to current lures in entrance and throughout the faces of resting fish.

This method is right for protecting water to find prespawn walleyes. It additionally appeals to fish searching for a sluggish horizontal presentation as a substitute of extra lively ones like pitching or slipping with jigs and bladebaits. Since stickbaits are being pulled at sluggish speeds upstream on Dubuque rigs and are continually inside a foot of the underside, it takes little effort for giant fish to trace and eat these baits. This similar method is equally efficient on postspawn fish shifting again downstream after the spawn. At that time, trolling speeds will be elevated to match the temper of fish and the dropper to the jig or sinker lengthened to contact walleyes suspended off the underside.

The walleye run not often progresses in a routine, systematic style. Chilly fronts, torrential rains, muddy water, and fast warm-ups all play an element within the course of. The great thing about mastering rigging and jigging choices is that walleyes will be caught with them beneath virtually any situations. By being attentive to particulars and making small changes to every element, you’ll be able to put your self on the trail for extra and greater walleyes this spring.

*In-Fisherman Discipline Editor Steve Ryan is an impressive multispecies angler, staying on the forefront of places and tactical refinements to get on the large chunk.

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