Spring Is Here That Means Crappie and Walleye

By Steve Welch


Every year I dread April, tons of rain and cold fronts and the Corp fluctuates the water up and down and all over the place. The best thing about April is that May is soon to follow.


Lake Shelbyville is an Army Corp of Engineer flood control lake and that means every year in December they drop the lake from 599.9 to 594 or some six-feet. Once we get to April they allow it to come back up two of those feet then once we get to May we get back the other four-feet.


With rising water levels and water temps the crappie will really hit the banks to spawn. So we fish for them hard and we use a slip bobber and a lively minnow for the most part. This allows me to keep the boat back and not spook the fish. I also use a twelve-foot rod and one of my Deep Ledge Jigs 3/32oz. and a Midsouth tube to pendulum up onto spawning beds. Both of these work well since the fish are so shallow and hungry.


The spawn starts at about 55 and continues until we get to about 68 so this can go on for five or six weeks. This is a huge reservoir so having a ton of knowledge about how to fish a lake with fluctuating water levels and it doesnít hurt that I have over 2600 waypoints of hidden spots. This is why getting a guide isnít a bad idea. I have been guiding for this my 19th year and along the way I have picked up many tricks.


I love to crappie fish and fish for them about ten months out of the calendar year but once those water temps get to about 68 my thoughts are drifting towards our short walleye window. This usually happens about mid May so beginning of the month I am focused on crappie and the lake rising water levels. The many feeder creeks also start to fill and this will get the fry moving up the creeks and the crappie will follow. We need water to get on the smartweeds that line the shorelines of this massive reservoir.


I have traveled way up the feeder creeks in May and early June and caught crappie very shallow hiding in the weeds and stumps and you will find yourself alone and transfixed into an area you swear is in the swamps of Louisiana or Florida. Water temps and the spawn means nothing up in the creeks. Water clarity is the key. Too clear and the shad will leave and so will the crappie.


Once the water temps hit 68 you will turn around and on the main lake the crappie spawn will just be over and then they will be hard to catch for a month or more until they get themselves into deep water. This is when I switch over to walleye for the short window we have.


We are not Canada is what I tell my clients. We need two things to happen for a good walleye bite. We need 70-degree water temps and this triggers the first of several shad hatches that we will have over the next four to six weeks. We also need the lake to come up to summer pool or slightly above it doesnít hurt.


The white bass, sauger and walleye are all leaving the creeks where they have spawned and the white bass will attack the shad and push them up on the surface. Walleye are lazy and will follow whites taking the shad they miss. I also target the points and gravel areas we have with both chunk rock and stumps.


I tell folks to just go bass fishing if we have normal water levels. I target the lakes many stumps with my Deep Ledge Jig Spinners and a small twister tail tipped with an inch of night crawler. I also use a Big Dude blade bait, my Candystriper tail spinner or my new in-line spinner. Each bait is good for different depths. The Deep Ledge Jig is versatile as it the Big Dude but the Candystriper I use in mid depth ranges and the in-line spinner in very shallow situations or any time I am fishing white bass up on top. This bait is by far the best bait for busting whites.


The areas I have been talking about are for the most part up on the north end where fishing shallow is the norm. Now letís talk about walleye fishing if the lake is high or if you are walleye fishing on the deep southern end of this massive reservoir.

I use a two-ounce and a one and a half-ounce bottom bouncer with a thirty-inch two-hook spinner rig. Up on the nose I run two rigs with the two-ounce so I donít have to far behind the boat and get into my clients rods with the one and half ounce rigs. With these heavy rigs we can troll at about .75 to 1 mile per hour and cover water and turn quickly. Also the best part of using the heavy bottom bouncer is that I have 2600 waypoints on my Lowrance system and a bunch of them are isolated stumps on points. I simply run my spinner rigs right by these stumps and by not being way behind the boat I know that I am running my baits right by these stumps.


I use a quick-change clevise so I can quickly change blades for water color changes and over cast situations. Anyone can catch fish doing this, which is another big plus for a guide. I just tell folks to let out line until you hit bottom and then let out another six-feet to make sure you are on bottom while we are trolling.


This system catches just about everything because what fish doesnít like a night crawler. I have had seven-pound bass on the line and even a sixty plus flathead catfish so always have a big net in the bottom of the boat with a long handle.


I can catch fish all summer doing this and it is easy. But I also have a ton of other fish catching tricks that really work so go to my website at www.LakeShelbyvilleGuide.Com and look at my availability list and while you are there feel free to join our fishing forum called Illinois Fish Talk.