Early-season walleye bite lingering longer

Every spring when the ice melts and open water beckons, anglers in Sunset Country look forward to the third Saturday of May because it is the opener of walleye season.
Early-season walleye fishing offers anglers some of the best opportunities of the year for catching numbers—and especially big fish.
With the fantastic weather we’ve been experiencing over the past few weeks, the early-season bite in Northwestern Ontario has lingered a lot longer than it does in most years.
This is to the benefit of anglers who are taking advantage of it.
When anglers think about walleyes early in the year, they should be thinking shallow. Walleye spawn shortly after ice-out in shallow waters, typically where current is found.
This current could be in the form of feeder creeks, rivers like the Rainy River, or neck-down areas in large lakes.
After spawning, walleyes hang around these areas for a few weeks to feed and recover before they begin to move towards main lake areas, where they will spend the summer.
Some of the best locations to find fish are small bays or coves just off the main current flow, especially if they have a sand beach on the shore. Walleyes absolutely love sand at this time of year.
Another safe bet for finding fish are shorelines that hold weeds throughout the summer. As these weeds begin to emerge from the lake bottom, they attract baitfish, which, in turn, attract walleyes.
The best stuff is leafy cabbage weed. Find some of this stuff early in the season and you will find walleyes.
Windblown shorelines also can hold feeding fish that can be extremely shallow. By shallow, I am talking four-12 feet in most situations—water that most walleye anglers ignore.
The best part of fishing early-season walleyes is that they can be caught as well, if not better, on artificial baits as they can on live bait. I have not used any live bait yet this year, instead relying on jigs tipped with a variety of plastic tails.
Three- and four-inch scented twister tail grubs, like Northland Slurpies or Gulp! varieties rigged on an 1/8-oz. jig, are fish-catching machines. They can be fished vertically over the side of the boat, but they excel when they are pitched into shallower water and retrieved slowly along the bottom.
There are benefits to using these artificial baits. They can be ripped through weeds easily and multiple fish can be caught on one bait before it is torn up.
The plastic bodies also withstand repeated casting much better than live bait.
Finally, fishing these baits likely will attract attention from bass, pike, and crappies, as well, providing plenty of action in your boat.
On your next walleye outing, bring some plastic bodies to tip your jigs with and look shallow for numbers of big fish.

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