Few walleye anglers equate super-skinny water with fishing success, but that's exactly where NAFC member and longtime walleye pro Ron Anlauf looks, especially in May and June.
"Depending on the conditions, aggressive walleyes will move into shallow water to feed, up to a month or more after the spawn," he says. "By shallow, I mean as little as a foot of water; sometimes you can see their dorsal fins."
Though Anlauf hails from Braham, Minnesota, his tournament travels have taken across much of walleye country. "I've seen this pattern on a lot of different waters—natural lakes, western impoundments and Mid-South reservoirs," he says.
"In a stained, dark-water lake, you may find walleyes shallow nearly anytime," he explains. "But, in clear-water lakes, it generally takes a day or two of wind to roil the water enough to trigger a good shoreline bite."
Key areas range from sandy shorelines to rocky points, reefs and riprap banks.
In extremely shallow water, Anlauf pitches a 1/16-ounce, ball head jig, tipped with a plastic curlytail and minnow, leech or chunk of 'crawler. "Cast toward the bank, let it touch bottom and move the jig in one-foot increments with the rodtip. Pick up slack with the reel, let the jig sit a second or two, and move it again. Maintain good contact with the jig and closely watch your line, so you can tell the difference between when you're on bottom, and when a walleye has picked up the bait and is swimming off with it. You can also slow-roll 1/4- to 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits or cast small cranks, both lipless and shallow runners."
In slightly deeper water, say, three to five feet, Anlauf favors drifting or slow trolling, especially if the walleyes are scattered over a large area. "Use an 8- or 9-foot rod to get the bait away from the boat, and run a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce slip sinker, 3-foot leader, with a brightly colored in-line float just ahead of the hook and leech, minnow or 'crawler."
The small float's main purpose is to add bulk and a little flash to the presentation, he says.
This time of year, expect numbers of males in the 1- to 2 1/2-pound range, with the occasional sag-bellied female. "One thing about shallow water walleyes, no matter their size," he says, "they're in shallow water for one reason--to eat. Find them, give 'em what they want, and they'll bite."