Gearing up for opening weekend

Saturday is a big day for anglers across Sunset Country as it marks the opening weekend of a new walleye season.
It’s a busy weekend on area waters as many folks are itching to get back in the boat after a long winter. The appeal of a feed of fresh walleye always runs high this time of year, as well!
Here are a few tips to put a few whitetails in the boat this weekend.
We are fortunate that our waters finally are clear of ice after an unusually long winter. A few weeks back, I was concerned that some of our bigger lakes would not even be clear by the long weekend but it ended up melting pretty quick so we’re good there.
That being said, water temperatures are going to be cooler than they traditionally are for opening, and that will have some influence on where walleyes are in the spawning process and where you’re going to find them.
There likely is going to be a bunch of walleyes still spawning as you read this and some surely will be in the act on the weekend when the season opens.
The first thing you’re going to want to think about when you ponder fishing locations is you are going to want to fish shallow. That is where the largest population of fish is going to be.
Walleyes are attracted to moving water first when they spawn, so any in-flowing creek or river probably will have some fish around the mouth of it. If moving water is not available, my experience has taught me that sand is the next most preferred type of bottom for walleyes to spawn on.
When you look at a large lake like Lake of the Woods or Rainy Lake, just about every shallow bay on each of these lakes will have good numbers of walleyes in them right now. You just have to figure out where to find them.
If a bay does not have any in-flowing water, I like to look for beaches or little stretches of sand along the bank. Usually you’ll find some fresh weeds emerging from the bottom in front of these beaches and they can be magnets for early-season walleyes.
If you strike out on the sand, it always pays to try around points and reefs in these bays.
On most waters, I’m going to be fishing from six-12 feet for the first couple of weeks of the season.
As much bass fishing as I do, I’ve had my eyes opened a bunch of times as to how many walleyes are much shallower than many folks think in the early part of the year. You can catch plenty of fish on soft plastics early in the season, as well (in fact, sometimes they work even better than live bait).
If you can find some fresh, emerging weeds like I mentioned earlier, I like to fish around them with jigs tipped with soft plastic minnow imitators. The advantage to using plastics around the weeds is that you can rip them free of the weeds and you don’t tear your bait off.
Ripping your bait clear of the weeds actually is a trigger to make walleyes bite on many days, as well.
My set-up usually consists of a quarter-ounce jig tipped with a three-inch Impulse Smelt Minnow. I’m not usually very picky on my colour choice but orange or pink jigs often out-produce everything else in my boat.
If we are faced with extreme cold front situations and the bite is really tough, then you sometimes need to use live minnows to catch fish. But for the most part, walleyes are hungry after they finish spawning and are looking to put some food in their mouth.
Unfortunately, I’m missing the walleye opener this year because I am down in the U.S. this week competing in a bass tournament at Kentucky Lake but I will be headed out to chase some walleyes on Lake of the Woods next week when I get back, for sure.
I can’t wait to eat a few for dinner!