Summer can be the best time to target big Lake Erie walleyes! Not only is it nice to crack a cold beverage in the warm summer sun on a flat lake, but summer walleye are hungry! These fish are on the hunt! So I’m going to give up some early and mid summer walleye tactics as well as some late-summer walleye fishing tips so you can stay on ‘em all summer long! What moves a lot of these fish is the progression of baitfish from the western basin into the deeper water of the central, and eastern basins. Starting about May, the walleyes start to leave their springtime haunches in search of high-protein baitfish after a tiresome spawning season. As the water progressively gets warmer, baitfish like emerald shiners and rainbow smelt start to migrate into deeper water. Find the bait, find the predators. The walleyes are not far behind.
A “jet diver” program is one of the most effective summer walleye fishing methods. Jet divers are a pretty general term for a number of different companies products. Luhr Jensen Jet Divers, Dreamweaver TripZ, and Tru-Trips are all “non-directional diving devices”. Jet divers only dive straight down, not off to the side like a Dipsy Diver. Tru Trips and Tripz are releasable divers to help get unweighted lures like spoons, shallow crankbaits and worm harnesses to a desired depth. The 30 and 40-sized divers are most popular for anglers on Lake Erie.
Braided line is a very key component of a jet diver setup. This line has zero stretch and allows you to “pop” a jet whether it's to change a lure or when a fish is on. Braid is also important to help determine when a small fish is on your lure which would otherwise be almost undetectable with mono. Off the backside of the diving device is where it gets fun! Attach a piece of Fluorocarbon in a 6-8 foot section, add a swivel or clip and attach your bait and your leader!
If I had one bait to run behind my jet diver it would be a small spoon like a Michigan Stinger Scorpion spoon or a Dreamweaver WD, especially when I’m early summer walleye fishing and there’s a lot of small bait around. One of the best bait for walleye in the summer! Copper-backed spoons like a “Chicken Wing” or “Mass Confusion” are always in the water for me! Worm harnesses are always a standard and color can change day by day. As long as you have that big chunk of steak behind that spinner, they're going to gulp it! Shallow cranks like Renoskys and Bay Rat Long Shallows are great options also.
You can apply the same mindset to running a traditional directional diver like a Luhr Jensen Dipsy Diver or a Dreamweaver Deeper Diver. The same baits apply as well as leader lengths. There are just a couple small walleye fishing secrets that I’d like to add to help you put a few more fish in the boat. In my opinion, using a small to medium-sized snubber behind your diver can help save the day when bringing in a big walleye! Walleyes have hard mouths but soft, thin skin between the hard parts. That snubber adds just a little more stretch to your leader and helps keep the treble hook in the fish's mouth, especially when they get to shaking their head. I also tend to run a little bit bigger spoons off my dipsys also, Dreamweaver Super Slims and Michigan Stinger Standard Spoons are a stand-by and great size!
Diving devices are great for unweighted lures but what about diving plugs? Let's talk snap weights and Lead Core! Diving plugs on your Planer Boards are undoubtedly the best way to target summer walleye. Not only do they have loud rattles and more flashy colors than the rainbow, but their ability to dive down to where the fish live quickly is also why they are so popular. With the hundreds of different diving plugs and thousands of colors to choose from, choosing the right bait can get overwhelming. Here is an easy way to put it. Stick to the 3 B’s; Bombers, Bandits, Bay Rats and you can be sure you’re using some of the best summer walleye fishing lures. They are all amazing deep-diving plugs and catch fish all summer long. Deep diving plugs can work well just running on straight monofilament or braid but most baits can only dive to a maximum of 25 feet. An effective way to get lures to deeper depths is using snap weights! Snap weights are just trolling weights that clip onto your mainline to get your bait deeper. 2, 3, and 4oz are the most popular sizes. Each ounce of weight equals 5 feet. 1oz=5foot of extra depth 2oz=10 feet of extra depth etc. So let’s say your bait is running 20 feet down and you're not getting bit, but you’re marking lots of walleyes at 35 feet down. Add a 2 oz snap weight to achieve 10 extra feet and your bait is 30 feet down. A good rule of thumb is to let your bait out 50 feet, add your weight, then add 100 more feet back! Just above the walleye's heads, right in the strike zone! Full cooler, full bellies, happy fisherman!
I mentioned lead core also! You may have heard people talk about lead core and refer to “colors”. These colors refer to the amount of weighted line the fisherman is using to get their bait to its desired depth. Leadcore is typically multicolored and as a standard 1 color equals 5 feet of depth. (5 colors=25 feet of depth) Sounds familiar? The dive curve is very similar to using snap weights. So what's the advantage? Lead core has an action like no other at trolling speeds. It ungulates and bounces with the waves, giving your plug a more erratic and irresistible presentation. Your leader off the front of your lead core should be 20# test fluorocarbon and anywhere from 30-50 feet long. Lead core is what we call “segment lines” which means just the segment of the weighted line sinks and requires backing. Use high visibility monofilament backing so you can slide it out to a board.
All of these products that I mentioned can be found at FishUSA. Hopefully, a brief overview of strategies can spark some new ideas! Fill those coolers and turn on the deep fryers, it’s walleye season!