Think green to find the gold!
By Mr. Slip Bobber Greg Bohn and Scott Richardson
(Editor's note: Mr. Slip Bobber Greg Bohn has perfected the art of slip bobbering during 30 years as a top Northwoods walleye guide. He recently teamed with outdoor writer Scott Richardson to produce the newly published, Master the Art of Slip Bobbering: The Deadliest Method for Walleye! See the advertisement in this edition of Midwest Outdoors.)
The most exciting thing about fishing for walleyes in May and June is the explosive action found in emerging weed beds.
Walleyes wait all winter for fresh green vegetation to appear. When it does, they flock to it, and so do anglers who know how to use slip bobber rigs.
The best walleye-attracting weed in spring is a species named elodia. It's an aquatic plant that grows well in cold water, so it's the first green weed to sprout at depths of 10 feet or less. Since elodia emerges first, it's the first to draw walleyes. You'll know elodia by its deep green color and groups of three or four leaves attached directly to the stem. Other plants like narrow cabbage and broadleaf cabbage, which is also called musky weed, start to emerge at the same time, but they grow much more slowly. Like elodia, they're commonly found at 4- to 12- foot depths.
The cabbage species feature thick stems, broad leaves, and seed heads that often reach above the water's surface by late in the season. They collect large schools of walleyes in open water areas and are a good early-season producer. They also seem to attract the biggest walleyes in the system, and on many lakes in the northern Midwest, they're the best place to find walleyes during cold fronts. Slightly deeper weeds like coontails will turn on later in July and August. Don't worry about them now.
Lake selection is important for timing the slip-bobber weed bite. Water temperatures of 55- to 65 degrees are best. Smaller lakes of 500- to 1,000 acres get the hot slip-bobber bite first. They ignite in early May and taper off in June. Lakes of 1,000- to 2,000-acres will have the same hot weed bite, but it occurs in June and July.
The north end of any body of water grabs the most sun and warms first, but that isn't the only factor to consider. Follow the wind because that's where the warmest water is headed. Windy areas right up to the shoreline will get pretty active.
Food is plentiful in weeds in May and June. Young perch are a major food supply, and they seem to be everywhere. Start the search by looking for large bays with fresh green weed growth where walleyes come to feed.
Northwoods guides commonly locate new weed beds by fan-casting an area with one-quarter to three-eighths-ounce jigs. They snag weeds and tear off a piece to identify the species.
But, weed beds can be massive. Narrow the search even more by looking for places that feature unusual weed growth patterns. They are the "something different" weed fishermen love. Huge schools of walleyes roaming for food collect at those non-typical weed-growth areas. They're like a magnet, a stop sign. For example, picture a smooth carpet of elodia surrounding a circle of taller cabbage. Walleyes will be in the cabbage in big numbers. Even a small area with a few taller stalks amid shorter weeds can produce limits of fish.
Other places to look are shallow weedy mid-lake sandbars that top out at 4- to 8-feet. They're especially good when wind is blowing over the top.
Water temperature supersedes the presence of weeds at times. Sometimes a mid-lake hump without weeds is loaded with walleyes due to the mere presence of warm water. With the right water temperature, even dead weeds may become active.
Once a likely location is identified, it's time to put away the jigs and break out the slip bobber rigs. In this situation, their benefit is they can cover lots of water in big bays to search for active fish. The key is to cast slip bobbers into the wind, not with the wind. When the bobbers land upwind, the breeze will drift them back to the boat and beyond. As a result, weighted slip bobbers are a good choice. They yield more distance with each cast than conventional non-weighted bobbers do. Thill Premium Weighted Floats of one-half-inch in diameter in oval and pencil styles are good choices. Another favorite is the three-and-seven-eighths-inch Lindy Gold Medal Supreme Super Shy Bite number 2 which allows the use of a weight or not.
For calm conditions, try the Thill Center Slider series.
Run multiple lines where legal, but don't exceed two lines per person even if more are allowed. Once walleyes are found, action can be swift and furious. Watching more than two lines becomes a hassle.
Always take at least two kinds of live bait along. Take fatheads and medium redtails. But, always take a non-minnow choice, too, such as nightcrawlers or leeches. Even slight changes in water temperature caused by the sun or the presence of clouds can alter the walleyes food preference over the course of a day. They may want minnows early in the morning and leeches or nightcrawlers by midday after water warms. A front that brings an overcast sky can lower the temperature again. Their menu choice could change back to minnows.
Unlike most of the fishing season, a great mid-day walleye bite may occur during this period.Work from an anchored position once walleyes are found, Richter anchors grab the soft bottom well.
If you're convinced you're in the right location, give the spot time. Walleyes on the move looking for a meal will find you. Likewise, if action stops, give them some time. Walleyes may only have buried themselves deep the weeds when a muskie passed by. The walleyes will be back. But, if they don't return soon, they didn't more far. Simply pick the anchor up off the bottom, drift 20 or 30 feet and lower it again. Repeat the process until the fish are relocated.
Water clarity is an issue early in the year. Walleyes can be easily spooked in clear shallow water. They pick up on your presence quickly. Be quiet.
Slip bobbers and weeds are a great combination for success in spring. Think green to find the gold.