How To Drift The Flats For More Spring Walleyes

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Pairing ‘old school’ bottom bouncing with smart use of the ScoutLook Fishing app, is a sweet recipe for more early season walleyes.

Walleye1 600Walleyes can be creatures of habit, and as anglers we should never forget this. Like most anglers I know, I grew up fishing for walleyes the “old traditional way”—drifting with a bottom-bouncer and spinner. When this tactic was originally formulated years ago, it soon became highly acclaimed and deadly effective. Today, many decades later, and with all the advances made in walleye fishing, this “old school” method of a simple drift, with spinner and bottom-bouncer combo, remains one of the most-popular methods for harvesting a nice bag of ‘eyes.

Still, even though you’re using a time-honored angling method you must observe some important details to taste success, and one of my favorite “weapons” for more success is planning more-effective drifts with help from my ScoutLook Fishing app.

Understanding wind direction and boat position is crucial when setting up for a good drift. I love to drift across points, as the drift presents the bait at a fairly slow and natural pace, while stealthily moving directly overhead schools of what are likely leery fish. When walleyes are in these shallow flats noise can be a huge factor, so a well-planned drift is a great way to minimize boat noise. When positioning your boat upwind from where you want to drift over or through, remember to allow yourself enough time to deploy your arsenal of rods, and get in perfect position, prior to drifting over your target.

BashoreDriftThe author, a successful guide and tournament walleye angler, considers the ScoutLook Fishing app DriftPoint feature invaluable for planning effective drifts, whether it’s back at home on his computer, or on the water, accessing the app using his handy smartphone.
I plan all of my drifts with help from the Scoutlook Fishing app “DriftPoint” feature. With a simple tap on the app, I can see the predicted wind direction, and the helpful “boat” icon will show me my predicted drift direction. Not only does this feature allow me to plan my trip well in advance—allowing me to pinpoint which specific boat ramp offers the best launch site based on my anticipated fishing plan—it will also allow me to adjust as the day progresses, and keep me “on point” when winds or conditions change. I will usually position my boat bow in the direction that holds me over the desired depth and location, so I’m not drifting into shore, or too far away from shore, depending on the current wind.

Soon after the spawn, walleyes are on the move to fill their bellies full of food. After the previous weeks of burning lots of calories from doing their annual “business,” these fish are hungry, and the warmer water that is usually found in shallow flats and coves will hold most of the insects and small baitfish that they will prey on during this time of year.

WalleyeBridge 600Even with all the advances made in walleye fishing, the “old school” method of a simple drift, with spinner and bottom-bouncer combo, remains one of the most-popular methods for harvesting a nice bag of ‘eyes.
Shallow flats near feeder creeks can be incredible hot spots for drifting, especially if the wind blows into them or across the points of the adjacent bays, where most of these areas can be located. The wind will stir up the plankton from the bottom and the surrounding structure; these organisms are certain to attract local baitfish, which in turn will activate local walleyes. The waves created by the wind will also cut down on the UV rays entering the water, enabling the walleyes to see better and become more active in this “low-light” situation; just one of the many reasons you hear so much about wind and walleyes. However, this isn’t an article about wind and walleyes, so I will save that for a later date.

When deploying my lines for drifting I always use a simple “rule of thumb” for determining my bouncer size, based on the depth I’m fishing, of one ounce per every 10 feet of water. Of course there are situations where this may need to be adjusted (due to the presence of water current, and some other factors) but one ounce per 10 feet of depth is generally a good place to start.

One thing many beginners struggle with is allowing their bottom bouncer to do just that—bounce off the bottom. Remember that these are not “bottom dragging” weights. If your bouncers are lying on the bottom, so is your spinner, and your odds of hooking up are very unlikely. Matzuo has come out with a new floating bottom-bouncer, with the weight located at the bottom of its 12-inch encased foam stick. This is a neat, and sure-fire way to ensure your bait stays in the strike zone.

BashoreWeather600Nothing gives you a more-accurate look at the day’s changing wind and weather conditions, like the ScoutLook Fishing app you can access anytime, anywhere, on your always handy smartphone.
Water clarity, temperature, and forage base will determine what type and size of spinner I will rig up for drifting. I love the Northland Tackle “Baitfish Image” spinner blades, and since I fish a lot of murky water I usually run a size #4 Colorado blade. However, if you’re in clear water, try to down-size to a #3 or even a #2 Colorado or Indiana blade. I prefer the Colorado blade in most circumstances as it provides the most vibration, making it ideal for murky-water conditions.

Leader length can be an important factor as well for drift fishing, but I have found that trial and error is your best bet for finding what works best on specific waters. I usually start with a 4-foot leader and go even longer, at times, in very clear water. And if the water is stained or dirty I’m not hesitant to shorten the leader length to just 12 to 16 inches.

Choosing a specific color of spinner blade is typically my last concern with my drift rig, but it can certainly be what makes all the difference in a day of success and failure. Typical patterns are bright colors for dirty water, and natural colors in clearer circumstances. However, once again, don’t be afraid to experiment and try to match your spinner blade color or design to what the fish are feeding on—such as a perch or shad pattern. I personally like darker colors the deeper I’m fishing, and metallic colors (such as gold or silver) when the sun is bright and overhead.

WalleyeRig 600Combining the relatively ‘old-school’ tactic of drifting with bottom bouncers and spinners, with the easy-to-use, cutting-edge ScoutLook Fishing app, is both simple and springtime-deadly.
Experimenting with spinners can be fun and it’s very easy. Here are a few things to try the next time you hit the water:

Use a Matzuo Rip-N-Roll hook paired up with a Northland Tackle Baitfish Image blade instead of the traditional single- or two-hook crawler harness. This has been very effective for me the past couple of years, and should work on most any body of water.

Add two blades when targeting large fish on big waters or in very dirty-water situations. To ensure your blades are spinning properly you can tie them on the leader several inches apart, or, use enough beads so the hook and the top blade are both clear of the bottom blade. This adds a lot of flash and vibration.

Try snapping on your spinner rigs directly to your lead core line and letting the lead core be your weight. This has worked very well for me in shallow-water situations, especially on high-wind days. It allows the bait to move at different levels in the water column (by adjusting boat speed) and will move your rig further away from the boat. However, this won’t work so well when drifting, and is best used in a trolling situation.

Sometimes keeping things simple is the best walleye tactic, and in today’s vast world of cutting-edge walleye wisdom and options, “simple” can be the last thing we think of. The relatively “old-school” tactic of drifting with bottom bouncers and spinners, paired with the easy-to-use, cutting-edge ScoutLook Fishing app, is both simple and springtime-deadly.



HuntStand is the #1 hunting and land management app in the country. It combines advanced mapping tools with powerful map layers to allow users to create and share the best hunting maps possible.