Large walleye, like the one Joe Henry is holding here, can be caught on lures all summer long.
When anglers head out to fish many of the lakes and rivers of Missouri, most of them are targeting bass or crappie. Bluegill, catfish, and trout are also targeted often, as well. But Missouri’s good walleye fishing is often overlooked. Walleye are a lot more prevalent in Lake of the Ozarks, Truman, Stockton and others waters than most people realize.
Longtime fishing industry professional, Lawrence Taylor, loves targeting walleye in the summer. He’s fished for “marble-eyes” across most of their North American range. While Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada maybe where walleye reign supreme, they can be caught across much of the Midwest, including the Show Me State.
“Active walleyes can be approached like bass. Put the trolling motor down at the bow and move quickly to cover those shallow-water spots. Weeds are basically ambush stations for walleyes. When they set up along the deep weed edge (a strategy often employed where perch populations are dense), approach them with slightly lighter tackle and soft plastics on jigs. Soft swimbaits fished slowly near the bottom brings walleyes ripping out of pockets in the weedline,” Taylor said.
Many think of jigging minnows and leeches for walleye. Taylor doesn’t use live bait often in the summer.
“Few of the best walleye pros use bait between the beginning of July and the end of September. It’s not necessary. Walleyes in weeds rise right into the tops of cabbage, coontail, hydrilla, and milfoil, looking for small panfish, golden shiners, shad, and any other baitfish that swim by. Bait is a perpetual nuisance here, ripping free of hooks whenever a jig or lure needs to be popped off the weeds,” Taylor said.
Lures should also mimic the size you would consider using for bass. Not too big, but not too small.
“Almost any lure or package in the 3- to 5-inch range that can be worked between the weeds and the surface will take walleyes here. The crux is finding lures or speeds that touch the weeds without getting too involved. During warm, stable weather, walleyes crush rattle baits all through the day. No need to wait until evening,” Taylor said.
Even though he doesn’t use many minnows in the summer, Taylor still likes to imitate minnows. He just prefers the ease of casting lures over dealing with all that goes into using live bait.
“Minnow-shaped cranks or stick baits are deadly for walleyes. Suspending baits are especially effective, using a basic pause-and-pull retrieve, but they often dig a little too deep to work over the tops of the weeds. With the boat on the weed edge, make short pitches parallel to the weeds in the direction you’re moving and let the bait hit bottom. The right retrieve speed is critical, and tends to be easiest to achieve with a ¼-ounce jig head. Hard baits, plastics, and bass tactics score massive numbers and trophies from mid summer though early fall, especially during stable-weather periods. Unconventional behavior can be disturbing, though. If it sounds too radical to have a walleye rip the rod out of your hands, don’t try any of this,” Taylor said.
Walleye are known far and wide for their culinary appeal. Many fans of eating fresh water fish will argue the walleye is best tasting of all. The population of walleye in Missouri is healthy. Fishermen who are looking for real treat on the table would be well served by putting a few walleye in the cooler and serving some of the tastiest filets to ever grace your dinner table.