Snap To It
Guest Blog by: Neal Wilkinson , Colorado 4/4/2017
So the walleye spawn is almost over and now the long wait for the water temps to warm up enough to get walleye, and to a lesser extent wiper, active enough to tease into taking finesse presentations starts, right? Wrong!
While walleye are dispersing from the rocky areas that they spawned at, they are also quickly recovering and starting to feed again. These fish are moving onto flats close to shore and sometimes not far from the dam faces they spawned on. Take Aurora Reservoir as an example. For a decade, I fished the dam in the spring for fish that never left the area after the spawn. At Aurora the water does not drop off into the great abyss like say, Pueblo Reservoir, so there is no reason for them to swim upstream to distant massive flats. Generally it flattens out and acts more like an actual flat. Jackson Reservoir is a classic example of this, as are parts of Cherry Creek. Fish can be found cruising on the bottom from 5-20 feet deep in these areas. Also, other areas of the lakes that attract fish and bait with large weed beds on those flats have not yet bloomed into their late spring, summer peak. Fish may have to depend on crawfish and insects to survive this early season until the next young of the year baitfish become available. Unless, of course, they are of a size that can swallow a stocker trout? And guess where those trout will mostly be also? This pattern can be even more prevalent on small ponds and strip pits where open water forage is nonexistent!
All flats are not created equal. When I was shore bound, I would try to find flats with close proximity to the deeper channel. Walleye always like to have deeper water available to them even if they are on the bottom on a shallow flat. Massive flats are almost impossible to fish from shore because of the vast area that canít be cast into. So pick a couple of areas that fit this description and learn every inch of the bottom by fishing it.
Earlier I had referred to excluding traditional finesse presentations that have been around for decades. This is not to say that fish cannot be caught using these techniques. They can. I prefer to fish more aggressively whether on shore or in a boat! Probably everyone has some three inch Power grubs or minnows in their arsenal and yes, they catch fish. If you have some, you probably have already snap jigged. It is hardly a new technique. Snap jigging brings out the predator instinct in all game fish! Do you really think trout fisherman catch big pike on a ľ oz. Kastmaster because the pike are selectively targeting one inch baitfish? Of course not. Actually, walleye prefer baitfish at least a 1/4th their size when available. The act of snapping a jig or spoon off the bottom and letting it flutter down activates instincts that are inbred to all predator species! So why not accentuate this primal instinct?
After years of experience fishing from shore in the above situations I came up with a small but very deadly selection of baits that work very well every spring, whether from shore or a boat. All these baits work well on walleye, pike, bass and wiper.
The first category is slender spoons. I prefer longer, more slender spoons than the traditional Kastmaster. The hard part is finding spoons that are both longer, yet light enough to still flutter slowly. While there are lots of options, the one that has caught hundreds of walleye at both Aurora Reservoir and Glendo Reservoir is the ľ oz. Krocodile spoon. While it is the shortest bait I use, it has a perfectly slow flutter after being snapped that walleyes and trout have a hard time resisting!
The second category is soft plastic fluke style bait originally designed to be fished weightless for bass. The longer five inch version paired with a ľ oz. Darter head jig is deadly during the spring on both small and big walleye. While most people tend to stick to more traditional three inch versions, give the five inch a try. You will be pleasantly surprised with the both the numbers of fish and the size of fish that you catch! Also if you fish a lake that has both Fathead minnows and Wiper in it, throw this bait shallow later in the spring when the fatheads are spawning shallow. A wiper will literally swallow these five inch baits. These baits are also very quiet and subtle compared to all the loud and aggressive baits being thrown shallow. Wiper can be very skittish in shallow water!
If you find fish are in a negative or neutral state and are short striking or bumping your more aggressive bait styles, throw them a slight curve. Jig worms like they use in the Midwest to fish rivers can be fished more slowly and seductively, but still give off the illusion of larger prey. Just slow down your retrieve and do not snap the bait. Instead just give a good lift and fall cadence all the way back to shore. The thin body will undulate and the small sickle tail will vibrate no matter how slow your retrieve is.
Recently, lure companies have started making large fluke style baits but with a thin, wispy paddle tail. Bad Bite Baits Swimming Jerk Minnow is a perfect example of this!! While I havenít used them yet, I have a pretty good idea where they may produce in the future.
So, just because the spring jerkbait bite is over on the dams around the region, doesnít mean you canít catch big fish from shore. It just takes a little more tenacity and thought. Plus, you get to fish in the warmth of the sun!