Casting Shorelines For The Season’s Fastest Action

May and much of June mean great shallow-water walleye action on fisheries across Canada, but the fishing is all the faster for anglers in tune with where to look and how to catch these golden beauties. On northwest Ontario’s mighty Lac Seul, veteran guide Ben Beattie of Moosehorn Lodge (canadafish.com/index.htm) has a winning presentation down pat: pitching minnow-tipped jigs to sweet spots along shore.

Given the vast amount of water to cover on many of Canada’s large lakes—including Lac Seul—having an edge in knowing where to start can make a huge difference in your success. Beattie narrows it down in a hurry. “I always follow the wind,” he says. “Windblown rock-rubble shorelines in an area of the lake that warms up fast are hard to beat, especially if there’s a slow-tapering bottom and some type of weedgrowth—either emerging plants or the remains of a bed from last season.”

Holding his boat over deeper water a long cast from shore, Beattie beats the bank with leadhead jigs tipped with either minnows or artificial softbaits. “I use minnows whenever possible,” he quips. “You can’t beat live bait.” Minnows are hooked through the mouth and out the gills, pressed tight to the jighead, then turned sideways and impaled through the midsection of the body so the bait lies on its side. “This hooking method keeps the bait on the jig with a nice straight profile,” says Beattie. It also causes the minnow to flutter tantalizingly on the lift and fall.

Given the need to quickly change jig size and color to match changing conditions, Beattie says Lindy’s X-Change Jig System is a key part of his program. “Matching the fall rate to the mood of the fish on any given day is critical,” he explains. “And X-Change jigs let me switch head weights without retying or rebaiting, so it literally takes a second or two.”

Aggressive walleyes call for heavier heads, say, ¼ to 3/8 ounces, while finicky fish dictate downsizing to 1/8. “When the walleyes are snapping you can fish faster with heavier jigs, covering more water and catching more fish,” says Beattie. “On a slow day, however, downsizing gives walleyes a smaller, slower-falling target, and forces you to slow down give finicky fish time to take the bait.”

Color is likewise key. “Here again, X-Change lets me quickly experiment with 20 different jig colors without retying,” he says. Shades of white, pink, chartreuse and orange are Beattie’s favorites, but there are always exceptions and times when other colors produce more fish. Hook colors, too, can be toggled between red, green, blue and black nickel. “I normally use the size 2/0 X-Change jig hook,” Beattie adds. “But sometimes during a tough bite I’ll use the smaller size 2.”

Beattie’s presentation is a study in simplicity and effectiveness. “Cast the jig right to the shoreline,” he says. “I’ve caught walleyes up to 29 inches long in less than a foot of water.” After splashdown, Beattie lets the jig fall to bottom, then reels down so his rodtip is pointed at the bait. “I raise the rod to the 12 o’clock position and hold it there while the jig pendulums back down, watching the line for indications of a strike.” The difference between a bite and the jig hitting bottom are small, so it pays to watch closely and use a line that’s easy to see. “If the line just goes slack, it’s bottom; but if it twitches to the side an inch or so, it’s a fish.”

For such discriminating line-watching, Beattie prefers an 8-pound, blue-tinted monofilament, downsizing to 6-pound in finesse situations. He ties the line directly to an X-Change Max Gap hook—which features a special collar that snaps securely into the X-Change jighead of his choice. “Max Gaps have a 10-degree wider gap than normal jig hooks,” he notes, “which really helps on the hookset.”

To drive the hook home when a fish nabs his jig, Beattie quickly lowers the rodtip while reeling up slack, then delivers a solid, sweeping set. “It’s fine if it takes you a few seconds to take up the slack,” he says. “This gives the fish time to get the jig in its mouth. If you try to set the hook instantly, you’re going to lose walleyes that have only grabbed the minnow by the tail.”

Beattie’s shoreline pitching pattern holds water throughout the early season, and comes into play well into summer whenever wind and waves draw baitfish and predators shallow. Later, though, his deep-jigging tactics really begin to shine, but that’s a story for another day.