Submerged timber key to finding walleye in reservoirs
Have you ever looked out on a reservoir that is known for harboring walleyes only to scratch your head wondering where to start fishing for them? You ask, where are all of the weedbeds and rocky shorelines? Many walleye anglers think of their favorite sport fish as a resident of either of these covers. However, while rocks and weeds hold walleyes in most bodies of water, you usually need to search out submerged timber to find them in the western reservoirs along the Missouri or Columbia River systems or any of the flowages in northern Wisconsin.
“I find that fishing along the flats that have submerged timber is always a good idea when you are fishing a reservoir for walleye,” said Lund pro Mark Martin of Twin Lake, Mich. “Many of the western reservoirs along the Missouri River, other places in Montana, along the Columbia River and other western reservoirs don’t have much in the way of weedbeds or other favorite walleye hangouts. Wood becomes a very important cover to find walleye.”
To find these walleye habitats, locate the main-lake channel and head for the areas where the channel swings close to a fairly shallow flat with plenty of submerged timber.
“You want to find the river channel where it swings fairly close to a shallow-timbered flat,” said Martin. “Look for flats in 4- to 8-foot depth range. You will want to fish where the channel is about 10- to 15-feet deep. This kind of area is real good from the spring through the fall. The walleye will move up onto the flat and down into the deeper water all season looking for food. If you find other cover like rocks or areas where the sand bottom meets a mud bottom, all the better. Walleye really relate to these areas. When they are associated with the timber flats in a reservoir, it is generally a real good spot.”
Drop a jig for wood walleye
“In the spring, a jig and minnow or other bait is a real good choice for hooking walleye near the wood,” said Martin. “It is a real basic approach, but is very effective. You can either pitch the jig toward the shallower flat and work it toward the channel or drift along the channel edge.”
Martin suggests leaving your stinger hooks at home since he believes that they will limit the number of hits you will receive. Martin also recommends using Fireline when fishing the wood.
“I am generally a big fan of monofilament line,” said Martin. “However, when I am fishing the wood, I like Fireline. I use the 6-pound line and have fewer break-offs. I use Northland jigs with a light-wire hook so when I do get snagged, I can simply pull back and straighten my hook. You will still lose a few jigs, but you will usually get your jig back.”
Pay attention to color selection
Many anglers don’t think subtle color differences are important. However, on a recent fishing excursion with Martin, we were both fishing 1/8-ounce jigs tipped with minnows. Martin was using a chartreuse and orange jig and I was fishing with a chartreuse and lime model. I started connecting with fish while the chartreuse and orange jig was not working for Martin. He switched to the chartreuse and lime model and started whacking the walleyes.
“Color is important,” said Martin. “If you are fishing with two anglers, use different jig colors to start with. If your partner starts catching fish and you are not you need to consider changing color. This is especially true if you are using the same approach, weight, bait etc. Switch to the more productive color so you can starting whacking and stacking the walleye.”
Trolling fans will also catch plenty of wood walleyes.
“You can also troll crankbaits and catch a lot of walleye from the wood,” said Martin. “You will generally want to troll over the flats searching for more active fish. Floating Rapalas are a good choice. If you are fishing a little deeper water, the Shad Rap is a good one to use.”
A variety of trolling presentations will work along the wood. When fishing the deeper edge, pull your plugs behind a three-way rig or on a flat-line. If you are targeting a shallower flat, pull your plugs behind planer boards or use the flat-line method.
“I don’t care what method you prefer to use. Fishing wood is productive,” said Martin. “Always remember that walleye will be located wherever they have food and shelter and in a reservoir where wood is the predominant cover, that is where the walleye will be found.”