Riprap, also known as rubble, shot rock or rock armor, can be defined as rock or other materiel used to armor shorelines, streambeds, bridge abutments, pilings and other shoreline structures against scour, water or ice erosion. In short, it is often man-made and placed on erodible sites to reduce the impact of rain or surface runoff.
While riprap has essential applications along the shore, the savvy walleye angler can use its subsurface existence to their advantage. Submerged, porous rock attracts baitfish of all kinds, thus, in turn, attracting the predators. In natural lakes, rivers, channels and reservoirs, riprap is occasionally natural, but it’s more often used as explained above. For the purpose of our discussion, we will focus on the manmade version, especially in reservoirs along dams and adjacent to long straight stretches of rock.
When searching for biting fish, trolling crankbaits along the edge of riprap and over submerged rock piles can help you eliminate unproductive water quickly. If you contact fish, mark them on your graph. Watch for obvious or subtle changes in the riprap, as slight variances can be very inviting and hold large numbers of hungry walleyes. If you nail numerous fish in a small area, a return trip employing casting tactics might be in order.
“The key areas to focus on are along submerged riprap where the rocky bottom transitions into the regular bottom or sediment,” Kavajecz explains. “Under windy conditions or after dark, I would suggest pulling crankbaits as shallow as possible because the walleyes typically hug the shoreline, or they are in between the shore and the first drop off.”
“I don’t use any boards because riprap is usually a fairly snaggy situation,” he says. “I prefer to use longer rods to spread out my lures as I am trolling down these areas. For example, I might run a 12-foot rod closest to shore then perhaps an eight footer as the next one in under a two-rod set. But, if I were running more lines, I would run them flat behind the boat at varying lengths and depths. The longer rod adjacent to shore keeps the boat in safe water and prevents from spooking fish, yet keeps the bait in the shallower strike zones.”
“Lead-core might be a tactic I would choose to employ on the lines that are nearer to the boat and closer to the break line in deeper water,” Kavajecz continues. “You want to let out enough line so that your crankbait is running just above the bottom, in other words less line on the longer shore-side rod. Then I would suggest longer lines for the deeper rods. It is important to follow the contour of the shore and the initial drop offs to ensure your bait is in the strike zone.”
To prevent losing a bait that is snagged in the rocks, Kavajecz suggests turning the reel clicker on and turning the drag down so that your no-stretch line doesn’t just break with the lure impacting the rocks. This typically occurs because the lip is wedged between the rocks, thus retrieving the bait backwards will usually free it.
“The use of quality electronics is essential to being consistent when trolling, especially along riprap,” he explains. “Marking the route with your GPS will help you better position the boat during return trips or put you on the exact same fish-catching course as before, which will often lead to higher productivity. When you encounter, also mark them on your GPS and try to replicate that scenario at different locations when similar conditions exist.”
Kavajecz prefers Berkley FireLine in either 10/4 or 14/8 test (pound test/diameter). Trolling rods and reels are recommended. He also exclusively uses the Berkley Flicker Shad in assorted colors. These baits are great for assorted trolling situations as the lip gets the bait to desired depths in short order. In the event of two or more rods are being deployed, Kavajecz will keep each rig loaded with different-colored bait until either a pattern is determined or the fish “tell” him to change. Kavajecz uses a small #1 Berkley Cross-Lok Snap to attach the crankbait to the FireLine to help make changing baits easy.
Crankbait size is also very important. In systems where the overall average size of the fish is smaller, or if the fish are in a neutral to semi-active mood, Kavajecz recommends the 5-cm Flicker Shad. If larger fish exist (on average), or the fish are feeding aggressively, he suggests bumping up to the 7-cm size.
Color preferences are often determined by the water clarity or turbidity, but some of his favorite Flicker Shad colors are Blue Tiger, Black-Silver, Shad, Red Tiger, Chrome Clown, Black-Gold and Flathead Minnow, but there are so many more options. Kavajecz’s go-to color is the Pearl White.
by Keith Kavajecz