According to Ronnie Parris of Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited don't feel bad. Parris guides for walleye, smallmouth and spotted bass on Fontana, and while he didn't exactly miss it, he said it came and went so quickly during a warm spell back in March, if he had blinked, he would have missed it, too.
"Normally, we have a great day-time bite for walleye in late April and nearly the whole month of May," said Parris (828-736-9471). "The cold snap that came through the first of April shut that off like a light switch."
The good news is that although the day-time bite may have passed by, the night time bite is still red-hot. Fontana walleye go through a transitional period between spawning season, which occurs sometime between late February and early March, and their migration into a deep-water summer pattern when fish are best caught by anglers trolling Fontana's deep waters with downrigger balls.
During this transition, anglers relish the chance to cast live nightcrawlers on a light jighead and find willing walleyes hugging the shoreline early and late in the day.
"The smallmouth and spotted bass are still up there during the day," said Parris, "and it's not unusual to catch a good many bass the last hour or two of daylight, but while it's still light out, I don't expect to catch walleye with any consistency."
After lights out, Parris and his clients have done well, even better than well, with limits of eight walleye per angler pretty common.
"We're fishing the same locations, after dark, throwing right up to the bank and working the crawler back to the boat," he said. "The bite has changed a bit; instead of hitting it hard, you'll feel a tap-tap, sort of like a bream, and then you have to wait him out 'til he makes a run for it, then let the rod load up before you set the hook."
Parris said the typical daytime trolling tactics are starting to pick up, with anglers reporting average walleye catches trolling spoons on downriggers. He's going to stick with the night bite.
"We pretty much have the whole lake to ourselves," said Parris, "just us and the fish."