As a kid, the third Saturday in May was always an event – the annual opening day of a new walleye season. Before I talked my Dad into give bass fishing a try, he was mostly a walleye angler and we always hit Lake of the Woods on opening weekend, rain or shine. Lots of good memories on those trips. Sunset Country has some of the finest walleye fishing in the World so it’s understandable that they are easily the most popular species for most residents.
The opening of walleye season signals the start to another open water season for many anglers. I have always loved this time of year because after a long winter we have so much to look forward to, as far as a summer of fishing. Certainly, others feel the same. If you enjoy fishing and being in the outdoors, we live in an amazing place during the summer months.
One thing that can be said about opening weekend is the weather can be really hit or miss. I can remember beautiful weekends when I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and others where I was in the boat wearing the same gear that I wear when I go ice fishing. Regardless, it’s the one weekend when we go fishing or camping either way, it’s all about being out there.
The late spring and high water on area lakes is going to have some influence on where you’re going to find walleyes this weekend. You are going to want to be fishing shallow, near spawning areas. The spawning cycle should be just wrapping up by the time you get to hit the water this weekend. Fish will be near areas with current and sand where they actually do their thing.
When it comes to actually finding places to fish, have a look at the shoreline and look for sand. Walleye love sand and if you can find it near spawning areas you will likely find some fish. If there is some current around, even better. If you are fishing a waterbody without any current, I would still look for sand but the secret ingredient could be some newly emerging cabbage or coontail weeds. Small coves or secondary points in bays can be hot spots to hold schools of fish.
If it’s cold, deeper holes near the shallow spawning areas can be worth checking out as well.
When it comes to choosing a bait, the good old jig and minnow is always going to put some fish in the boat. Lighter, 1/8 ounce jigs are good because they give walleyes a better shot at grabbing the jig while it’s falling and they don’t snag as easily as a traditional ¼ ounce jig in the shallower water.
Soft plastics on a jig head work great as well. Unless I’m on a guide trip with really inexperienced anglers, I seldom bring meat in my boat anymore when I go walleye fishing. Small swimbaits or Ned rig baits like a Z-Man MinnowZ or a TRD are designed for bass but they are excellent walleye baits as well. I like to cast the swimbait in these shallow cover and slowly reel them back, bumping them along the bottom occasionally. I’ll bounce the TRD along the bottom, imitating a crayfish.
I have to wait a few weeks for my walleye opener as I am down in Texas this week to resume the Bassmaster Elite Series season on Lake Fork. It is a lake that I have fished several times in the past and have had some good success at. It’s one of the most well-known big bass lakes in the U.S. so it’s always exciting to get to fish there. It is where I caught the biggest five fish limit of my career and the big fish in all of the events that I have fished here in the past have been over ten pounds. It will be a fun event to follow.
Good luck to everybody heading out for walleye this weekend across Sunset Country.