Keys to Finding Big Walleyes on Devils Lake
We have all heard the saying that goes something like, “they broke the mold when they built that one!” Devils Lake can certainly be described this way. The amount of shallow both natural and man-made structure is simply phenomenal. The fact that so often these shallows are loaded with nice walleye makes this Devil a true freak of nature.
Shallow is one of those terms that we use in fishing that sometimes gets lost in translation. So I’m going to be clear about what my idea of shallow is when I’m talking about Devils Lake walleye. If there is enough water to cover their back you’re right in the zone.
Yep! These are frog, mouse, and anything else that presents itself at the buffet table eating fish. That is what makes this place so cool!
The great expansiveness of the shallow’s can be intimidating. There are several key things to look for before just starting to randomly fish shallow. If you operate with a system like I am about to describe you can fast track yourself into the more productive or high-percentage areas to get started. Otherwise, you will have to work through a lot of water that under the right conditions could be loaded, but your percentage of landing in them will be lower.
To start we have to understand the lake. In its current state it is a massive crawling body of water that has been on the move swallowing up roads, marshes, farms, railroad grades, ditches, and utilities. While efforts have begun to take control back of this growing beast, there is still a ton of interesting fishing opportunities that have been created.
When I go on the hunt for early season walleye I start by looking for culverts or areas where ditches empty into larger bays. Typically, the combination of warmer water and flow are an automatic. Locate small neck down areas, where these smaller shallower bays outflow into bigger water. Look for rock, gravel, or wood in these areas to be loaded.
Pay close attention to your temperature gauge on your electronics at this time of year. It cannot tell you where the fish are at this time of year, but it will tell you where they aren’t. Road grades are great at holding heat; look for areas where there is water between the road grade and cattails. These areas heat up fast and can stay warm longer when the weather turns. Plus typically the ditch next to the road will have a little deeper water to hold fish during a cold front.
I think you are starting to catch my drift on the type of water that I am looking for. There is no such thing as too shallow. Make sure you have some sort of a current situation, something that concentrates the flow. Combine that with preferably some rock or vegetation and you are in business.
Now that we have found some targets it is time to talk strategy. There are all kinds of different ways to catch walleye, but not for the waters that we are talking about. We are fishing shallow and we are fishing fairly heavy cover. For situations like this I have found that several specific plastic tails are the most efficient and effective tools available.
When it comes to targeting these shallow walleye, I have three specific setups that I have had great success with. Each one is equally important and can be used in conjunction with one another.
Early on in the season, immediately following ice out basically, I fish a 5 inch Kalins Lunker Grub. What I like about this particular grub is that it has a very supple tail. With the slightest movement, the tail activates. Why is this important? During the cold water period(less than 55 degrees), walleye typically do not want a fast moving bait. The Lunker Grub allows me to fish a really light jig head and with the smallest twitch or pull the tail ignites, which triggers the lethargic cold water fish.
Once the water begins to warm up I will begin to transition to the Sizmic grub, which is kind of a hybrid paddle-tail type bait. The rigging on this tail is similar to the Lunker grub, but I fish it more aggressively. I prefer the 3.8 inch on a 1/4oz. head, but the 3 incher on a 1/8 oz. head can be killer when the fish are looking for a smaller meal.
Color is one thing we have not covered yet and I think it is very important. This is another reason why I almost exclusively prefer plastics now. Many times when the bite slows, simply by changing colors you can extend the bite. I always recommend having search baits rigged to quickly show the fish a different color option. You can never go wrong with Chartreuse, pinkish colors (because of the shrimp), and of course orange. The K-shad color is my favorite on Devil’s Lake and is exclusive to the Sizmic grub.
When I am on Devils Lake my motto always is, “go where no man has gone!” The beauty of it is the fact that there are plenty of Walleye in this lake that rarely see a human because of how shallow they choose to live. The coolest part of the whole deal is that some of the best fishing at this time of year is done off of shore. So the time is now for grubbin’ walleyes on Devils Lake.