How to Get the Drop on Pier Walleyes

News & Tips: How to Get the Drop on Pier Walleyes

Walleye rivers of all sorts feature piers, vertical structures where walleyes collect during the summer fishing months.

Bridge piers, which often funnel the river's current, are the most common. Typically depressions are formed at the base of bridge piers during high water events; woody snags also wrap around the structures.

It's common on larger, navigable rivers for sections of riverbank — particularly near industrial sites — to be stabilized by way of corrugated steel walls. In some instances shore anglers can gain access to such spots.

Add to this the many fishing piers that exist in combination with hydro-electric stations on river dams.

In regard to settings, piers vary greatly. A common factor, though, is that they can all be fished effectively with a drop shot rig. Drop shots work in pier situations because walleyes often hover off the bottom, keying on the minnows that are eating the plankton clinging to the pier's side.

How to Work the Piers

West Alexandria, Pa., walleye pro Keith Eshbaugh was responsible for introducing me to drop-shots for river 'eyes, a summertime tactic he uses on the three major rivers of western Pennsylvania.

In situations where the shore angler can stand on the actual pier — such as a fishing pier or loading dock — the drop shot provides a great vertical presentation. Use a Palomar knot to tie in a #4 Gamakatsu Drop Shot Hook, allowing a tag of at least a foot. Clip a tungsten drop shot weight to the end. The dense metal telegraphs the bottom composition. Sinker weight varies with depths and current, but usually runs from 1/8 to 3/8 of an ounce. Likewise, it pays to play with the hook to sinker distance. Nose-hook a 3- or 4-inch Gulp! Alive! Minnow to the drop shot hook.

With a 7-foot medium-light spinning combo, pitch the rig upriver of your location. When the rig hits bottom, signified by the line slackening, reel in the slack, holding the rod at a 10 o'clock angle. Point the rod tip at the line as it drifts with the current. Expect hits to be the classic walleye thunk-n-hold.

I've watched some interesting landing jobs from piers. Experienced folks bring a basket-style net that's lowered to the water's edge with a rope or light chain.

 Wading anglers too can work shallow river bridge piers. The same principles apply. Just extend the distance from hook to sinker, as the angle of the presentation will make it more of a horizontal one.