By: Bruce Mosher
Walleyes and whales could never coexist. Well, first
there’s that saltwater to freshwater issue, and then the
fact that whales breathe air through a blowhole and
walleyes take oxygen aquatically, through gills. Now
both species spend time in wide open spaces – whales
sucking plankton through their baleen and walleyes
sucking flesh through their choppers – but their
timecards differ. Whales are always at sea. Walleyes are
only sometimes at sea.
Structure is equally as important to the crowned kings
of freshwater fishes. Walleyes are as committed to
formations such as reefs and timber as they are to the
basin. And in the spring, walleyes can be particularly
attached to structure.
From an angler’s viewpoint, though, the predicaments can be profound.
Many of the finest, most fishy spots are the hardest to access. They’re
saturated in snags. Walleyes adore rocks, but they’re a deathtrap for sinkers
and hooks. Emerging greens, such as cabbage and coontail, are a favorite
hangout for springtime walleyes. But unfortunately, vegetation presumably
goes out of its way to snare passing hooks. And forget about operating
amongst emergent weeds, such as maiden cane and hardstem bulrushes –
they’re completely merciless.
Professional walleye angler Johnny Candle and fishing guide Kevin Neve
understand walleyes in the willows all too well. Both anglers carve a living on
North Dakota’s Devils Lake. The lake, as you might know, is a flooded
entanglement of timber and shrubbery, not to mention accented with
submerged homes and roadways. It’s swollen with walleyes, too, but fish
that aren’t always the easiest to reach.
To counterbalance the inherent disadvantage, guys like Candle and Neve
must be deft at working amid the wood. And one of the surest techniques is
also the most rudimentary, as long as you’re rigged correctly. They bobber-
fish. Take a morsel of bait, fix it beneath a float, and place it in a pocket.
Sound easy? Ain’t so, though. Each cast must be positioned with guidance-
system accuracy, because even near-misses result in losses and mandatory
reties. And if it’s rough and the wind’s flapping into the timber, an anchor
won’t do. These boys are adept at tying up to a tree and gaining the perfect
They don’t throw conventional bobbers, either, because run-of-the-mill
floats are useless in a headwind and inaccurate with a tailwind. Rather,
Candle and Neve rely on the Wave Buster Bobber by Today’s Tackle. The
pencil-style, foam bobber features a 1/8th ounce weight on its keel, which
not only bolsters casting distance, but also reduces its drifting speed in the
Speaking of ‘eyes in more reachable venues, I have a special spot that I fish
with my family each spring. It’s a shallow sandy point with scattered weed
pockets, and walleyes cover it like a tarp. The fish don’t like being driven over,
though. That sends them fleeing, as is evidenced by the collapse in the bite if
we accidentally drift or troll “the spot.” So to eliminate the spooking-factor,
we cast Wave Buster Bobbers.
We attack in one of two ways, too. In a stiff gale, I’ll anchor upwind and
simply drift bobbers back across the hot zone. Casting isn’t requisite, either.
In fact, I blanket more water by sliding the bobber in at boatside and letting
Mother Nature slowly take it away. A typical balsa float drifts too briskly in
this scenario, but not the Wave Buster Bobber. The attached, submerged
weight combats the wind and whitecaps, slowing the washing process.
In a more manageable wind, we’ll anchor alongside the target with the bow
pointed into the breeze, cast upwind of the spot, and let the waves walk the
bobber across the target and beyond the stern. Think of the bobber’s path
like a wide pendulum swing.
Sometimes, we’ll narrow down center stage to a 6 or 8 yard area, too. A little
clump of cabbage or heap of rubble might be the glue that binds. In such
cases, I reposition the boat nearer the spot and give everyone choice access
in a downwind direction.
The Wave Buster Bobber is calculated to work with a 1/16th or 1/8th ounce
jig – or sinker and plain hook – without any modification. I’m a supporter of
jigs versus hooks on slip-bobbers, too. The jig furnishes attractiveness and
hooking power in a single tool; less margin of error and tangling potential as
Lately, glow jigs have been the hot ticket, too, like the red and green Glo-Ball
Jigs from Northland Tackle. Unless otherwise directed, I set the jig inside a
foot of the bottom; walleyes normally ride super-low in the spring.
As for bait, I’m adamant about carrying both leeches and minnows. I let the
local bait shop owner guide my choice in minnows, and have a little pointer
for you in using leeches when it’s cold: Put them in a Leech Locker or mesh
bag and stick it in the livewell or lake-temperature water for 4 to 5 hours
before fishing. That acclimates the leeches and abolishes the “balling-up”
dilemma associated with using leeches in the spring.
Effective hook-setting is another important component in slip-bobber fishing.
Pencil-style floats like the Wave Buster submerge with slight resistance, so it’
s unusual to see one do anything but vanish. When it disappears, I point the
rod tip to where the bobber used to be, take up the slack, feel for “weight”
or movement, and set with a decisive sweep. More often than not, that
walleye’s heading home, to me.
Being constructed of foam, it’s easy to modify a Wave Buster to meet special
circumstances, too. In a gentle wind to dead calm, I’ll sometimes trim an inch
or so off the bobber, especially if I’m using a 1/16th ounce jig. Even more
can be clipped if you prefer having the bobber just peeking above the
surface, further minimizing resistance to a selective walleye; or if you’re
scaling back to a 1/32nd ounce lure, possibly fishing for crappies, too.
I save those chunks of foam as well, and not because I’m a packrat. They
have legitimate utility. I use them as floats for live bait rigging, and find I
simply catch more fish by elevating my leeches and minnows.
Never consider a spot too formidable to fish. There are ways to address
those walleyes; whales if you’re whaling. And more often than not, a
surgically planted slip-bobber is the precise device for reaching walleyes in
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Walleyes in Precarious and Particular Places