By Dan Johnson

Visions of walleye and pike hotspots often include images of far-flung destinations such as remote north-country lakes, but some of the Midwest’s best fishing actually waits much closer to home. The key is to avoid the crowds.

Veteran guide Jon Thelen, who hosts Lindy’s popular Fish Ed television and online shows, offers the following tips for success on popular lakes within metro areas across the region. On the walleye front, he advises getting on the water early.

“Fishing from 6 to 9 a.m. helps you avoid crowds when fishing classic areas such as structure or outside weed edges,” he says.

During the day, he recommends targeting thick weedbeds where water-skiers and many anglers fear to tread.

“A lot of people avoid the weeds, but walleyes and other predators hang out there as long as food is available,” he says.

To fish the salad, Thelen likes pulling a Lindy Spinner Rig, Crawler Harness or Lil’ Guy just over the weed tops to tempt hungry ’eyes lurking below.

For pike, Thelen says small, bowl-shaped lakes with plenty of weed growth can be dynamite.

“Such lakes tend to be overlooked, but given the right combination of food, habitat and lack of fishing pressure, they can produce fish up to 40 inches, plus plenty of smaller eater-size pike, right in your own backyard,” said the host.

From a tactical standpoint, he likes trolling a size 5 perch-colored Lindy River Rocker tight to the weedline. According the Thelen, River Rockers have a big, wide wobble that pike like, and you can clip right along without losing any action.

While you don’t want to plow through the canopy and foul the bait, Thelen cautions not to lose touch with the greenery, either.

“Typically, the farther you stray from the deep weed edge, the fewer fish you’ll catch.”