> Some of the first open-water walleye fishing opportunities occur on river systems (Wolf River, Missouri River, Mississippi River and Rainy River). Each system can be somewhat unique…but how fish relate to current seems universal.
> Incoming tributaries/culverts are prime locations…the current is often warmer and [might have] washout holes, channels and current seams where fish rest.
> If you can see your prop, the fish won’t have any problem finding your presentation. If you can only see a few inches into the water, look for cleaner water upstream from the incoming tributary.
> Soft-plastics and hair usually outfish bait — they keep you in the water longer. When you miss a fish with a jig/minnow and the fish steals the minnow, you’re done.
> Kalin’s Sizmic Grubs work well in moderate current, while the more-streamlined profiles of Kalin’s Jerk Minnow JRs work better in stronger current.> When slipping the current, the old rule of thumb was to keep the boat the same speed as the jig getting swept down river…keeping your line vertical. But there’s times when dragging jigs upstream or downstream can be downright deadly
> These dragging tactics shine in less than 10′ where there’s moderate to slow current. Lighten up the jig and give it a good cast upstream. Let the current carry your jig downstream, dragging it back to the boat.
> The other method is slowly dragging the jig upstream. Cast behind the boat and use your trolling motor to crawl upstream. Want the jig to occasionally tick bottom.
Wanna see that jig-draggin’ in action? Jason and Chris Granrud wallop the Rainy River pigs in this video. I was a few miles upstream when they were filming and can confirm it was a tough bite — was shocked to see how dang well they did. #Hammers
> When it comes to early-season river walleyes, most anglers don’t put in enough time working holes. Sure you can drift through a hole, but you’re better off taking some time and working it from different angles.
> When vertical jigging is key, use your electric motor to slip the current. The key is to adjust your [trolling] motor speed and jig weight to keep your line vertical on the downstream slip through holes. It presents the bait more naturally.
> Keeps an eye out for in-flowing water like feeder creeks and storm drainage. That current attracts food and the walleyes follow — like on the Rainy River and the creeks around Clementson during spring high water.
> A lot of times just below where the water’s dumping in there’s a wash-out hole that can produce a heck of a bite. Walleyes will lay there waiting for food.
> For 90% of early-season river situations, I fish a 1/4- to 1/2-oz VMC Neon Moon Eye Jigs with live bait, or a plastic minnow, paddletail or ringworm. The key is a long-shank jig that lets me double-hook the minnow or thread the most amount of plastic. Try to keep your jigs as light as possible, depending on the current.
> When early-season walleyes are neutral to negative, turn to a less-aggressive approach in eddies, along seams and the edges of calm water in a little shallower water. I’ll keep one rod rigged with 4- to 6-lb neutrally-buoyant Sufix Elite Mono and a light 1/32-, 1/16- or 1/8-oz jig and minnow.
> In my river experience, 90% of the big fish are caught in 10′ or less. I’ll pull Dubuque rigs in 6-15′, but I prefer to pitch plastics in shallow water.
> You’ve gotta get out of the fast current. The big fish aren’t there. Don’t be scared to cast into the wood and sticks. Walleyes feel safe there — they’ll even spawn in there. Boggles my mind that you have guys in $50K boats who cringe at losing a bait. Burn through jigs if you have to.
> Vibration is the deal during low visibility, so you have to rip aggressively to let walleyes know the bait is there.
> When water temps are 40-50 degrees I like pitching a BFishN Tackle Ringworm to find fish, then size-up to a Moxi on a 3/16-oz H20 Precision Jig. Beefier-profile plastics just do better on big fish this time of year. Stick to fluorescents and the occasional dark pattern for dirty water…natural colors like ‘oystershell’ for clear water.
> It depends on the day, but I usually cast upstream and lift the jig off bottom, reel in slack, and keep the line tight as the current sweeps the jig. Then repeat when the jig hits bottom or lightly shake the rod tip as I reel in slow.
> You might catch a fish as your jig and plastic moves right in the front of the boat, but don’t cast back to where you got bit. Pitch right back to the exact spot where the jig hit the water before you got bit. That’s where I see guys messing up.
Josh talks WAY MORE Mississippi River ‘eye goodness here.
Gas up the boats, there’s open-water walleyes to be had! A popular Midwest stretch of water is the Mississippi River’s Pool 4. How you catch ’em depends if you wanna go for quality or quantity — here’s walleye-nut Travis Sorokie’s favorite techniques
Spin jig tipped with a minnow
> You’re going to catch a lot of fish with this rig, but it’s much better for numbers than for big fish. It’s also not ideal when it’s really, really cold out: Dipping your hands in and out of the minnow bucket isn’t ideal in the dead of winter. Despite its downsides, this is probably the best way to catch a BUNCH of fish out on the river.
Travis’ favorite: Northland Fire-Ball Spin Jig.
Paddletail minnow on a 3/8-oz jig
> Great for larger walleyes and saugers. Experiment with colors and depth ranges until you’ve dialed-in the bite. If the paddletail bite is going well, consider switching to the Dubuque Rig to further refine your approach: Running two baits on one rig allows you to experiment with more shapes and colors.
> Although they aren’t talked about nearly as much, blade baits can be very effective out on Pool 4. Your best bet is going to be a 1/4-oz bait fished on a standard Rapala Jigging Rap
rod/reel setup. When the fish get going on the blade bite, hold on tight because it can be a fantastic bite.
More deets from Travis in this AnglingBuzz video: