How to Find Walleye in Shallow Water

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Presented by Power-Pole

There comes a time in many anglers’ lives when they suddenly have an epiphany or some kind of out-of-this-world vision… something that almost takes their breath away. Usually, this happens to seasoned anglers who have lots of experience on the water, but they often fail to think out of the box.

In my case, it occurred in Walleye fishing and it reared its beautiful head while fishing with Ang in northern Ontario on a lake that was renowned as a “jig and minnow, in around 12 feet of water” lake.

Here’s my epiphany, if you will. 

Since we were pretty much done with the ol’ jig and minnow Walleye deal for the trip, we decided to fish for Pike in shallow water. I mean the stuff where 6 feet is deep. Big grassy bays with lots of rocks, shoreline points, islands etc. Perfect Pike water right???

Well, we were quickly surprised that the Walleye were in these spots as much as or even more than the Pike were. WOW… super shallow Walleye and often in the middle of the day… come on now!

Fast forward to today and I’m always keen on looking for shallow water Walleye. Simply put, they’re some of the most aggressive fish in the lake or river.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

WEEDS

When Ang and I travel north on a shoot location, we’re ALWAYS looking for something like this!

If I could only pick one type of cover or structure it would most definitely be weeds. Up in the north country it’s cabbage weed. Further south, milfoil takes the first place ranking. 

In the north country, cabbage weed often grows in clumps or patches. Yes, there are some bays that load up with cabbage but the best Walleye producers for me are clumps. These clumps can be anywhere from the size of a truck to a city block. I personally like clumps about the size of a big house. Cabbage clumps in 5 – 15 feet of water are perfect.

When I attack these beautiful fish producers, I normally try to fish from shallow to deep. That way I can Power-Pole down (Micro Pole if we travel to an outpost or fly-in, or our full Power-Poles on our Princecraft if we have it available) and make a series of casts from one position. This can be important as you don’t want your boat to drift over top of the weeds and spook the fish. I always start with some kind of moving lures like crankbaits, minnowbaits, or swimbaits and then go deep into the weeds with a jig.

Now in a perfect world, if there is a big rock or rockpile in the cabbage, that’s the juice! Hit that area thoroughly as it could pay off big time.

As I fish further south, milfoil gets the nod. Here I more or less look for big, expansive weedbeds but then try to find holes or channels in the weeds. Honestly, these are spots that most people ignore because they’re “too weedy” and anglers “can’t get their bait through”. Well, not only can you get a variety of baits through, but one of my favourite is a shallow running crankbait like Yo-Zuri’s 1.5’s. Even with two treble hooks, they come through those holes and channels very well. Here if you find a log in the weeds, don’t be surprised if a big old Largemouth comes out and cracks your crank.

SHALLOW BAYS WITH SOME ROCK (BUT NOT ALL ROCK)

Rocks and sometimes wood are two more items to look for 

My next structural element would be boulders strewn throughout a shallow bay with scattered weeds around, probably only around 6-12 feet deep. This is very prominent in the north but only in certain bays. I’m not sure why Walleye like this, I just know it produces. I assume it’s all about bait. Maybe Perch like it as well? Not exactly sure.

If the bay you are fishing has an incoming river, so much the better! This can be a goldmine for Walleye.

I attack these areas pretty with pretty much the same lures as the above weedy spots. Start with fast baits for aggressive fish and then only slow down if necessary (crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits, flukes etc.)

Here I either drift across the bays while casting, or use a motor to jog my position. If I catch a Walleye I instantly Power-Pole down and lock it into one spot. Now I can work more thoroughly in case there are more Walleye around (which is usually the case).

Be forewarned, there will be Pike present in these spots too (same with the northern cabbage above), that’s a given. With that said, it is the surprise attack from aggressive Walleye that will blow your mind.

MUDDY BOTTOMED BAYS (BONUS SPOT)

Shallow soft bottomed bays of all sizes can sometimes rock your Walleye world!

This is an odd one that can really pay off. It’s not considered structure or cover but it’s a good one to Power-Pole down into and fire away. I believe the baitfish congregate here. This brings in the Perch. This brings in the predators! These are dark-bottomed, shallow bays that look very “Pikey” when you first see them. Not all will hold Walleye but if you go into one of these on a windy day (with the wind blowing INTO and not out of the bay), you may be rewarded with a beast of a Walleye that’s in there for one thing only… to eat!

SHALLOW UNDERWATER POINTS

In clear water shallow points can be seen with the naked eye. In murky water, you’ll need a depth finder.

Here’s another shallow water situation in which you’d expect the Walleye to be deep off of the sides or end of this point but so many times, we’ve found them up on top and feeding. A classic situation was on Ang’s first trip into Maxhamish Lake in northern BC. He fished a shallow sandy point all day long and caught Walleye ALL DAY LONG in the process, even with the sun glaring down. Trolling and casting both worked well here.

PRESENTATIONS

In the above situations, there’s not much more fun or effective than either floating or suspending minnowbaits or shallow to medium running crankbaits (all depending on depth). Yo-Zuri’s 3DB Jerkbait 110, Crystal Minnow Freshwater 110, 3DB Crank 1.5 MR or the 3DR-X Crank SR (shallow runner) all in either perch or some kind of “loud” colours like clown etc. all work well.

Shallow-running crankbaits and suspending minnowbaits are effective and flat-out fun in these situations!

Start out with a slow straight retrieve with a bit of stop and go and then get erratic if nothing happens. It feels exactly like you are Pike fishing but trust me… Walleye will eat this presentation.

If you’re a “plastics” kind of Walleye angler, then a 5” swimbait on a ¼ to 5/16 oz swimbait/jig head is a great choice.

CONCLUSION

A gorgeous Walleye Ang caught “shallow” in BC while using a suspending minnowbait… don’t be fooled by the deep water myth, try the shallows too!

The above are a few shallow water situations that both Ang and I have encountered in our never-ending search for Walleye in and around Canadian waters. I personally used to be of that mind frame in which after the spawn, Walleye immediately go deep. That is definitely not the case for all fish. Yes, some do, however, lots of catchable Walleye will roam the shallows throughout the entire season. It’s a fun and effective way of catching fish!

Pete Bowman

Pete, one of the most revered and popular anglers in the nation, has a tremendous love for the game… the fishing game. Pete’s vast knowledge of angling and ability to articulate it to audiences worldwide has endeared him to his fans who still see Pete as just “ONE OF THE BOYS”. Pete is also an accomplished and published outdoor writer and photographer as well as a sought-after speaker. In 2012 another of Pete’s ultimate fishing career highlights occurred when he was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall Of Fame, something he never thought would happen. A Canadian fishing icon.

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