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Open Water Summer Walleyes
by Ron Anlauf

It's time to step back and take a good look around if you want to getyour share of catching mid-summer walleyes.  If you've tried everything you know, in every possible place, you mave to dig a little deeper.   What you might not know or even expect is that many of the walleyes you've been chasing are now suspended, and is a common occurence in most bodies of water.  It happens in natural lakes across the Midwest, the Great Lakes, Canadian Shield lakes, and it happens in many reservoirs.  The thing is it's always a possibility, especially during the summer period.    

 Many anglers have a hard time accepting the fact that walleyes often suspend far off the bottom relating to nothing but their next meal.  Sure they may have heard about suspension on lakes like Erie, but they just don't consider it when it comes to their home waters.  Once you get past the skepticism and start to believe you can get down to the jobof rounding up a few and putting them in the boat. 

 From natural lakes to the Great Lakes and even reservoirs, walleyes will often suspend when the conditions are right.   On some bodies of water walleyes may be riding high one day and belly to the bottom the next.   On others like Erie, itís unusual to find them any other way than suspended, especially during the summer months. 

Suspension is triggered by a high riding food source like shiners, shad, alewives, ciscoes, and even perch.  As seasonal temperatures continue to increase and mid lake temperatures begin to pop up things start to happen that get the whole process going.

Those warmer temps can spur plankton productivity as well as trigger insect hatches all of which will attract the aforementioned baitfish, which in turn will pull in olí marble eyes.  Wherever a solid bait source is found you can bet the walleyes wonít be far behind, even it means leaving classic structure like rock humps and quick drop offs in the dust.   

Methods for rounding up suspended walleyes can vary but the most efficient presentation is trolling with either crankbaits or spinner rigs.   Some anglers have experienced success by using floating jig heads tipped with live bait and using extra long leaders, like twenty feet or more.  Itís a method that approaches walleyes from the bottom up, and can be effective when dealing with small groups of walleyes but it's not effecient when you have too many acres of water to cover before you sleep.  In that case it would make more sense to opt for a faster more efficient approach, and is where trolling crankbaits and spinners really come in.  Crankbaits in particular allow for a quick trolling pace and includes speeds up to three mph or more, which allows anglers to cover a maximum amount of water in the course of a day.  

Selecting a crankbait starts by picking one that you have faith in and feel confident that if you run it past a walleye with an appetite that it will be accepted.  Confidence baits that lend themselves to tackling suspended walleyes include Cotton Cordell Walleye Divers and Grappler Shads, as well as Smithwick Deep Rouge Jrs.  The Grappler Shads are particularly effective at warp speeds and will run true at five mph or more.  It also includes selecting a bait that will run at a particular depth, especially if youíre marking most of the fish in a narrow band.  There are several books and charts that are readily available like Precision Trolling,  that give specifics of particular baits which can help greatly with determining running depth.

Spinners can also provide for a quick trolling pace, especially if you use the proper blade. Willow leaf blades are on top of the speed blade pile, while deep cupped Coloradoís would be on the bottom.  Colorado spinner rigs canít take the pressure of a high speed run and will spin out resulting in a twisted up mess, and of course no fish. 

Another key to a successful spinner presentation is getting it to run at a particular depth.  Spinners by themselves are shallow running and will need some sort of weight to achieve any kind of depth.  There are several ways to get the job done but Team Crestliner member and professional walleye angler Rick Olson has found that the easiest method includes the use of an in-line weight and an eight or nine foot leader.   "The in-line weight keeps the whole process simple, and simple is good. 

To vary depth you can either vary the size of the weight your using, or adjust the amount of line you let out."     The ability to determine exact running depth comes with practice, but getting close can be as easy as finding out how much line it takes to get your rig to the bottom and adjusting from there.   The thing is you hardly ever have to have your bait running at an exact depth to be productive as you will probably never find all of the walleyes holding at the exact same depth at the exact same time.

Another consideration is the fact that suspended walleyes can be extremely spooky and a pair of trolling boards may be in order.  In-line boards like Cannon's Rover Board are relatively inexpensive and easy to use and will help get your baits out and away from the boat  where youíre more likely to encounter active fish.  Another advantage to using trolling boards is the ability to  increase the amount of  coverage area by spreading out your baits, and allowing you to take a wider swath.  

Itís easy to get confused with the whole suspended phenomenon but donít let it bother you.  The thing to do is relax and realize itís not and exact science, and you donít have to be perfect to be successful.  However to be successful you do have to give it some time, and it could easily turn out to be time well spent.   See you on the water.