Lakewood Walleye Pro and current NWT Angler of the Year leader offers his tips for June eyes on big water.
By: Jace Bauserman
Max Wilson is a “Yoda” when it comes to finding and catching walleye on big water. The Wisconsin native is coming off a red-hot couple of months on the National Walleye Tour — claiming a seventh-place finish at Lake Winnebago and a third-place finish at the recent Marinette, Wisconsin, Event.
Side of his accolades on the tournament trail, Wilson struck me as a guy that just loves to be out on the water and wants to help others be successful targeting these fish that are so near-and-dear to his heart.
“This can be a difficult time on big water,” Wilson said. “It can be a very fun and frustrating time to fish. The fish are coming off the spawn and are looking to put on some weight. They want to eat but are moving out of the super-shallow areas near the tributaries where they spawned and migrating to their off-shore summertime patterns. Sometimes, it can be hard to find fish.”
Wilson notes that focusing on off-shore structures where sand flats butt-up to rock humps are great places to find hungry fish. In addition to the humps, Wilson is finding plenty of fish on rocky, shoreline points that taper into deeper water.
“Walleye are big migrators,” Wilson continued. “Right now, fish are feeding on gobies. Gobies are a bait-fish that live in the rocks. If you find sand that is adjacent to some rock humps, you should be on fish. The sand helps the water to warm, and walleye like to warm in these areas and then move into the rocks to feed. We are finding the fish are still in those first humps and points closer to shore. We have checked some of the humps in the deeper water, and the fish have yet to get to those locations.
“Points are also pretty hot right now. Look for those shoreline points that have a good amount of rock and good transition lines. The only problem with points is that they are very noticeable. If you find a good point, you’ll likely have some competition. I highly recommend getting away from the crowds and looking to find unpressured fish.”
When searching for off-shore structure, Wilson recommends really taking the time to learn your graph.
“During my last two tournaments, I’ve spent a lot of time driving and graphing. Knowing how your graph works and understanding how to read structure and transition lines is a must. When fishing big water, watching your graph and covering water can save you lots of time and put you in areas that are holding fish.”
While Wilson recommends trolling as a good tactic for covering water and locating fish, he is also a big fan of jigging.
“Having a good jigging program is a must,” Wilson says. “I really like lipless crankbaits. My rule of thumb with these baits, if I’m fishing under 20 feet of water in calm conditions, is to use ½-ounce lipless crankbait. If there is a lot of wind or if I’m fishing deeper water, I use a 1-ounce bait. My presentation will differ based on water temperature and the like, but I really like to give the bait just enough lift to feel the rattle and then let it back down. The fish will either inhale the bait or pin it to the bottom. The pinning method is how they eat live gobies. Big plastics in the 3 ½- to 4-inch range are also very effective. Use a lift-and-drop retrieve. The lift should be just enough to get that tail moving. Half-ounce trail jigs are also very effective.”
There you have it, big-water eye advice from a pro. Put his tips to practice and get out on the water and have some fun.