Bill Shimota is a certified river rat who has spent a tremendous amount of time on the Mississippi River. Bill has had several top tournament finishes including winning an FLW event on the Mississippi River. According to Shimota, wing dams are a prime location to find river walleye come late summer.
“Wing dams can provide the perfect habitat for both baitfish and walleye come midsummer,” explains Shimota. As long as there is adequate current, a wind dam provides a walleye with everything needed… an ambush point for baitfish along with a slack water area to rest. Come midsummer, choosing the right wing dam is all about the flow. Late summer often sees low water and reduced flow. Shimota observes that the best wind dams are often near the deepest water. Deep water is often fast water, especially earlier in the year and the high, fast water often carve out the deepest holes. Look for wing dams next to the deepest and fastest water come late summer. If wind dams are in a series, also look for the wing dams furthest upstream. The top one or two wind dams in a series often have the fastest and deepest water. During low water periods, this current is key.
“When current hits the front of a wind dam, there is often current that changes direction and moves straight up and straight down creating two important ambush locations with slack water or reduced flow. The first ambush location is directly on top of the wind dam. The second ambush location is on the up current face of the wind dam at the bottom near the scour hole that forms in front of the wind dam. Often, the most aggressive walleye can be found on top but the bottom near the scour hole can also be important.
For these aggressive fish set up on these two key locations, Shimota likes to throw crankbaits. “I often start out by positioning my boat upstream from the wind dam and cast back so I can retrieve down the face of the wind dam. After I explore that angle, I often slide back and closer to the wing dam and cast the crank parallel to the wing dam and find that particular angle stays in front of the zone longer,” explains Shimota.
Popular crankbaits include many cranks with bass origins… big profiles with a fast-diving bill for reaching depth fast. Shimota will use number 7 Flicker Shads with moderate flow but deep diving cranks like the Berkley Dredger, Frit Side and Money Badger are popular. Productive color options include shad, white and natural tones during low water that is often clear. For stained water, fire tiger reigns king. Bottom contact with the rock is important and you will snag some crank baits. A trick that Bill has perfected is open the bait after a snag and let about twenty feet of line drift down stream. Snap the line with your fingers between the guides of the rod and this will pull on the snagged crank from the down stream angle which will often free up the lure quite often.
Besides crankbaits, anglers can also use blade baits, rattle baits like Ripping Raps or jigs and plastics but the current and changing depth can make some of these presentations difficult if there is any significant current.
While the aggressive fish often set up on top or in front of the wing dam, there are times when walleye will rest on the current break created on the back side of the wing dam. These fish are generally not as aggressive and can be more difficult to reach but this is a situation where rigging willow cats or creek chubs can work extremely well. Short snells and heavy weights area often needed to combat the current
Also remember that come late summer, current is often good. Fish will often set up near the fastest current when water temperatures climb through the summer. This might be a difficult adjustment for some anglers to make when we spend so much time trying to get away from the strongest current at different times of the year. Many of the best late summer wing dams for example can be the least productive wing dams during the spring when the water is high.