When walleyes are holding tight to cover because of a change in water temperature or barometric pressure, or if the water is extremely clear, it is essential in walleye fishing to fish them in a vertical motion. The problem may be that they are tight to cover and usually shallow, with adjacent deep pockets or holes nearby, but not enough to position a boat over the top of them. If they are in clear water a boat hovering over the top of them will spook them also. Eagle Lake in Ontario is one of those lakes that is very clear, and naturally, the walleyes are very spooky.
The specifics of fishing in clear water are that fish see well and they rely heavily on sight for feeding. Light penetration and oxygen are deeper, therefore fish are usually found deeper and fish feed more toward morning and evening or even at night. Fish are more active on cloudy or windy days because light is diffused and walleyes are less spooked by boats and surface noise. Also, in clear water walleyes school more and usually roam to find food, but if the water is slow to warm they might be a little lethargic.
Rocky reefs are natural ambush points for walleyes, especially during increased wave activity. Anchor upwind and float a minnow over the rocks with a slip bobber. Make sure you don’t fish too shallow, walleyes sulking in the crevices won’t move far for fast moving bait.
To slow the float or bobber down, select a design with a bottom-only line attachment, which will hold most of the float under water and prevent it from sailing in the wind. Before leaving the reef, cast a minnow-tipped jig along the downwind drop off, bouncing it toward fish that are holding nose to current looking for food.
Save on tackle by using eight-pound Vanish mono and a jig molded to a light wire hook, which will allow you to dislodge snags by straightening out the jig-hook with slow but steady pressure.
While staying at Andy Myers Lodge on Eagle Lake, in Ontario this past summer my wife and I experienced some unstable weather. Like most of us in the Midwest this year we really didn’t have a typical summer and our stay was a prelude to what was to come this summer. The way that I remedied this was to use a slip bobber over the rocks. This gave me depth control and allowed me to anchor in the deeper water of 35 feet and pitch my minnow and slip bobber combinations up to the schooling walleyes that were in 25 feet of water. The water was cold, but the big walleyes had to be tempted to get them to bite and the slip bobber approach was an excellent choice.
Because of the clear water and unstable weather, this was a total finesse bite. When using a jig I would use a one-eighth-ounce swimming jig and allow the wind to blow it towards the waiting fish. You really had to be on top of what your jig was doing otherwise this approach became fruitless, but some big walleyes were caught on this method as well.
Therefore, a vertical presentation with a Thill float might do the trick. It will allow the presentation of the bait over the top of the walleye (something that is important to remember is a walleye always feeds on food that is in front of them and just slightly above them). The bobber should be set so that it will present the bait in a suspended offering, and once you find the depth you can work the shoreline around structure like stumps and points.