Different year for walleye fishing

After a few weeks of staying busy with bass tournaments and a wedding I have been back to some fun fishing and guiding over the past week around home on Lake of the Woods.
I don’t do a lot of guiding anymore but I do a few days here and there when I have a bit of free time. Most of my guests want to catch walleyes, then mix in some bass and occasionally other species.
While bass fishing is my favourite thing to do–mostly because I live for competing in tournaments–so I’m always hungry to learn new spots and techniques, I have no problem going walleye fishing.
The fishing on Lake of the Woods and on most lakes across the Sunset Country Region is easy on more days than it’s tough.
I would have no problems eating walleyes several times a week so that adds to the appeal of fishing for them.
Over the past week, I’ve had a few guide trips and have done quite a bit of walleye fishing.
After not fishing for them for a few weeks I was sure that they would be stacked on many of the main lake humps and points like they are every year by late July.
I have a lot of confidence in the Humminbird electronics on my boat and for the most part I won’t fish on these offshore, deeper spots until I see a school of fish on my sonar screen.
If the fish are under my boat, I’ll see them so there is no point dropping a line down until I find what I want to see.
I’ve spent plenty of time finding walleyes by fishing over the years but as I said, now if I don’t see them, I don’t fish.
If you don’t trust your electronics, trolling with a bottom bouncer and spinner is probably the most efficient way to find walleyes, then you can get on top of them with a jig.
When I started driving over a few of the humps where I have literally caught hundreds of walleyes in recent years I was surprised that I couldn’t find any schools of fish.
I marked the odd fish on the screen and I’m sure we could have caught a few jigging around on some of these good spots but they were definitely not loaded up.
I had guests from Alberta in the boat with me and after driving over four or five spots and not fishing I’m sure they were thinking, “Are we going to do any fishing today?”
After not seeing what I wanted to see I decided I would go try fishing a few of the shallower spots where I was catching a bunch of walleyes earlier in July.
When I was planning for this trip I did not think I would even fish any of these spots but when we did, we found there were still plenty of walleyes around. These spots were shallow reefs and sandy coves.
If there were some weeds around, even better. We ended up catching a bunch of fish and everything went great.
The interesting thing about fishing this shallower water is that soft plastics will work better than live bait.
It seems like when walleyes are shallow, in four to twelve feet of water, I feel like they are more aggressive and they are looking for food.
My bait of choice is one of my top bass baits, a Ned rig style jig and worm.
I was using a Z-Man Finesse TRD or a Hula StickZ bait rigged up on a 1/6 oz Finesse ShroomZ jig head.
Brown, crayfish colours were working the best, but I think finding fish is the most important thing.
If you find them, I’m not sure the colour makes a lot of difference. The Z-Man plastic floats so when it’s on a jig it stands up on the bottom and something about that triggers more fish bite.
The walleyes that I have been catching in the shallows are mostly chunky, healthy looking fish so I feel like the main reason why they are in these locations where I typically catch them in May and June is because there is a lot of food around.
Lake of the Woods is absolutely full of crayfish right now so that could have something to do with it and there seems to be a lot of smaller perch as well, also a prime forage of walleyes.
I have heard quite a few people mention that the walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods has been tough this year but it may just be that the majority of the fish simply aren’t on the spots that they normally are so keep hunting around until you find them and don’t be afraid to try shallower water, especially if there is some sand around and some wind blowing in.
Interestingly enough, down on Rainy Lake where we just fished the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship I spent quite a bit of time fishing main lake humps looking for bass and found there were walleyes on a lot of those spots so it goes to show that every lake is different.
Keep an open mind out there.