Top 5 Early Season Shallow Water Walleye Presentations

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Presented by Princecraft Boats

Early in the Walleye fishing season, these magnificent creatures don’t always head out to the deepest of waters in your lake or river. In fact, they often stay quite shallow for a period of time. 

Here are our top 5 presentations as to how we approach this exciting time of the year.

1 – Suspending Jerkbaits:

Suspending Jerkbaits are, to us, one of those miracle lures. They both exaggerate and imitate a swimming minnow almost perfectly. The exaggeration comes from the erratic action often imposed by quick “jerks” with the rod. The imitation is when the bait pauses and sits perfectly still, enticing a fish to bite. Although designed with Bass in mind, suspending Jerkbaits are a true Walleye killer.

Use either spinning or baitcasting gear, braided or fluorocarbon line, a snap (no swivel) and pop away. You’ll be amazed at how effective this lure is for all species.

A suspending Jerkbait like the Yo-Zuri 3DB 110 in Perch pattern is pretty much a bang-on Walleye bait when they’re in the shallows (suspended too)

2 – Inline Spinners:

Long have Inline Spinners been phenomenal Walleye lures. Either coupled with live bait like a nightcrawler or even on their own, spinners rock for Walleye. The most popular presentation for spinners is to troll. This is a great method as long as the spinner stays up off of the bottom (not snagging) or stays out of weeds etc.

Another Spinner tactic you may want to try is casting them. In this situation, you can often go to a larger size in order to control the depth of the lure (as to not snag bottom like in the trolling scenario). A #3 or 4 inline is a fantastic lure to cast and reel.

Spinning gear is the easiest to use here as these spinners are small and somewhat light. Any line type is fine but be sure you connect the lure with a snap swivel or ball bearing swivel as line twist will otherwise ruin your day… guaranteed!

The Mepps Black Fury may just be the most popular Canadian Walleye spinner ever. We recommend #2-#4 as a good starting point

3 – Light Jig & Plastic Combo:

When you mention Walleye you have to mention Jigs as well. These beauties have probably accounted for more Walleye in the net than any other bait.

Fishing jigs in shallow water can have its problems. Normally it comes down to too heavy a jighead. When fishing the shallows for Walleye, try casting a 1/16 – ⅛ jig around. You will be amazed at how well this lightweight comes in. 

Tag on a 3” swimbait, fluke, or curly-tailed grub, and you have one of the best ever shallow water Walleye presentations.

Spinning gear is the way to go here as these baits are incredibly light. Any side or head wind and you’ll be cursing even the most advanced baitcasting reel. We love the main line braid 8-10lb test, tied to an 8lb fluorocarbon leader. 

You can either “jig” these in or simply cast, pause and start reeling.

A lightweight jig and plastic combo can be absolutely deadly in shallow water.

4 – Topwater:

Believe it or not, Walleye can be caught on topwater baits. Be it a Bass style bait, a waking bait, or a floating artificial minnowbait – they may not be common, but they all have their time to shine.

Granted they are not our go-to baits when after Walleye but we have seen them produce, especially in the north country. Low light is key for these baits, so try to stick with the mornings and evenings. The fall frog migration can also see the topwater shine.

We like working our “Walleye” topwater presentations much slower than the traditional bass retrieves. A slow and methodical pace is the key for us. Try not to go too big with your bait, smaller seems better.

Baitcasting or spinning is fine but Monofilament line is a must since it floats.

This Yo Zuri 3DB Prop bait sets up perfect for a lot of fish… Walleye included!

5 – Bucktail Jig:

The Bucktail jig has been around for what seems ever. When we were kids, anglers were throwing bucktails for Walleye. Since the popularity of plastics has taken over, bucktails have taken a back seat. For those anglers who are in the know, however, the bucktail still remains in their Walleye arsenal.

We would put this bait into a mid-depth range instead of shallow, however, we use it in the “shallow portion” of those mid-depths. 4-8 feet of water is not too shallow for light bucktail jigs. As a matter of fact, 6-7 feet deep is often ideal for these simple lures. The shallower you fish, the lighter the jig. A 3/8oz is a nice starting weight.

There’s a Walleye fishing technique out there called “Rip Jigging” in which the angler casts a bucktail jig into the weeds, rips it up, and lets it settle back to the bottom. This is repeated again and again. Every now and then though, your rod will buckle with the weight of a Walleye on it. The fish always seem to bite as the lure is falling or has fallen to the bottom.

Spinning gear with braided line is the absolute best way for the average angler to rip a jig.

We’ll bet your father’s father’s father had a few of these puppies in his tackle box! The Bucktail Jig is without a doubt, one of the oldest and most effective Walleye baits ever created.


There you have 5 extremely effective shallow water Walleye presentations. Some work shortly after the spawn, some all summer long and some even reach into parts of the fall. Give them a shot and hopefully, you’ll have the great success that we have.

Fish'n Canada

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