Opening day inland lake presentations
By Lance Valentine
Opening day of walleye season is met with the same anticipation by anglers as the deer opener is by hunters. Unless you take a trip to one to the Great Lakes, which have no closed season, Michigan walleye anglers have the last Saturday in April circled in red on their calendars! Weather will determine how good most opening day trips are but here are a few presentations that I count on most years for opening day inland lake walleye.
1) Jig and minnow – you can’t get any more “walleye” than a jig and minnow! Opening day walleye are typically somewhere in the “pre-spawn/spawn/early post-spawn cycle” and aren’t always aggressively chasing fast moving lures. A properly presented jig and minnow is a great way to cover key spots thoroughly and to trigger any walleye in the area. Depending on depth, jigs in the 1/8 to ½ ounce range are favorites. For casting I like jigs with the line tie on the nose and a decent length hook. One of my favorites for opening day is a Stand-Up Fireball Jig from Northland Tackle. Tip it with a lively minnow and you are ready to catch some walleye. My favorite minnows for opening day are in the 2.5-4” length. I prefer Fathead minnows, creek chubs and emerald shiners, in that order for early season jig fishing.
2) Crankbaits – most walleye are shallow on opening day in inland lakes. Crankbaits are a great option to cover a lot of water and can be fished deep or shallow, fast or slow. Casting crankbaits around cover (wood, rocks or early weeds) is a great way to target walleye in early season. Large shallow flats can be trolled looking for active fish that are spread out and feeding. Long, skinny crankbaits are one of my favorites in early season, but shad style baits should also be in your arsenal. Be sure to have both wood and plastic bodies in sizes from 3-5” for early season crankbait fishing. A couple of my favorites are J9 and J11 Rapalas, #7 shallow Shad Raps, WNC Boogie Shad, and #9 Flicker minnows. Keep speeds slower this time of year until you catch fish than speed up until the fish quit biting.
3) Slip bobbers – in spring it is not uncommon to find walleye in groups on very specific areas like isolated cover, emerging weeds, rock piles or weed edges. When this happens a leech on a slip bobber is a tough combo to beat. Slip bobbers allow you to set your bait at any depth and keep it right in front of lethargic spring walleye. I like to fish a leech on a small (1/16 oz) jig head to add a little “color” to help the fish find my bait. Remember to use a big bobber, add lots of sinkers and sink the bobber so just the top stem is above the water. This keeps the bobber in place, even in wind, and makes it easier for walleye to suck your bait in.
Opening day is a special event, regardless of the weather and the quality of fishing. It’s a signal that fishing season is here, and winter is over. Get out and try these presentations this year on opening day.