Starting in Montana and running through North and South Dakota, the six reservoirs on the Missouri River are truly impressive. With hundreds of thousands of acres of water and thousands of miles of shoreline, there is plenty of room for the millions of walleyes in this system to roam and plenty of spots for fishermen to fish. In fact, the problem for many first time fisherman on the Missouri River isn't finding places to fish that aren't loaded with boats, but rather being intimidated with the vast amount of water available to them. Fishing these reservoirs doesn't need to be intimidating however, if one realizes that reservoirs are different than natural lakes and an angler needs to approach reservoir fishing with different tactics and equipment than a natural lake or river. Reservoir fish are far more nomadic than fish in other systems. Also, since reservoirs typically don't thermocline, fish can be found at many different depth ranges. Here is what's needed to fish on these systems.
MISSOURI RIVER RESERVOIRS LOCATIONAL PATTERNS
Where to fish on the Missouri River can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but basic walleye location can be broken down into two main areas; points and flats. These reservoirs have thousands of points but the best points will have a shallowfood shelf on top and the point will extend far out into the reservoir or creek arm towards the river channel. Because walleyes in these systems are so migratory, the most important piece of equipment in your boat is a
GOOD fish locator. The best game plan is to slowly zigzag across each point, looking for fish on your locator. This is the rule rather than the exception on
these reservoirs. You need to spot fish before you begin to fish when fishing points. Shallow flats will have large schools of wandering walleyes on them many times of the year. These fish aren't relating to anything
specific, but are following schools of baitfish. When fishing a flat it is important to cover a lot of water until fish are found.
MISSOURI RIVER WALLEYE PRESENTATION METHODS
The bread and butter presentation for Missouri River walleyes has always been the bottom bouncer and spinner rig with a nightcrawler. This rig has accounted for untold numbers walleyes and still is effective today. It is best fished with a bait casting rod and reel. Spinner rigs are very easy to fish and can be used at a faster speed than live bait rigs or jigs. Because two rods are legal to fish with in these states, a second rod is of 10 used and put in a rod holder. It is important to use a long rod with a soft tip such as the
G Loomis. This type of rod is very important for this method as the fish hook themselves and a rod that is to stiff will "bump" the fish. While spinner are
a very effective presentation, plain snell rigs or jigs with large creek chub minnows have become very popular, especially on South Dakota's Lake Oahe where a jig and chub or a bottom bouncer with a live bait snell and
chub may be the best presentation most days. While live bait fishing is very popular out here, don't overlook trolling crankbaits. When the wind blows, it forms mudlines on the shoreline, and walleyes move shallow to
feed. Trolling crankbaits through these mudlines works very well on these active fish. Whether fishing live bait or crankbaits, these reservoirs offer something for all fishermen.