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Walleye are known to exhibit finicky feeding habits, but there are times when they hit artificial lures with reckless abandon, even Northern Pike sized lures. Most often they have to be tempted and teased using live bait presentations which account for the majority of walleye caught.
Walleye are a schooling fish, find one you usually find others. Most often they relate to structural elements like rock humps, inside turns, break line transitions, and man made cribs. This is why the presentations must be precise, to offer your bait in the strike zone. Other times on large bodies of water like the Great Lakes they scatter or suspend over a feature less bottom following schools of baitfish. This explains why boat control in both applications is such an important part of walleye fishing, whether it be while working a jig and minnow at a consistent depth or trolling with crank baits/spinner rigs.
The following are techniques used for catching walleye
Fishing with live bait for walleye offers the angler versatility of presentations and can be fished on a slip sinker or a slip bobber rig, pulled behind a spinner, tipped on a jig, or simply fished with a plain hook and split shot. There are three types of live bait used for walleye: Minnows-Leeches and Night Crawlers. Here is a basic seasonal guideline to follow in buying the proper live bait for walleye:
Spring: Minnows, small suckers (4″ to 5″), fathead minnows
Summer: Leeches and Night Crawlers
Fall: Minnows Large minnows, small to medium sucker minnows
Fishing with Jigs:
Jigs are the most common lure used for walleye. It allows the angler to reach the depths where walleye inhabit. Most walleye anglers tip their jigs with live bait for added attraction and scent. How to work a jig depends on the time of year. When the water is cold and the walleyes are sluggish, use a very slow presentation, short gentle taps on the retrieve works the best. For warmer water walleyes, they become more aggressive, try an intense jigging retrieve. In both cases to work the jig properly, cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, then retrieve with a series of twitches and pauses based on the time of year. After each twitch maintain a taut line while the jig sinks back to the bottom. Walleye usually hit while the jig is sinking. If your line is not taut you won’t feel a strike, sometimes you will feel a distinctive tap, other times you will feel light pressure as if the jig is hung up. Whenever you feel anything different set the hook. When fishing with jigs a must have is a fast action sensitive rod so you can feel even the lightest taps, the fast action gives the power for an immediate hook set.
Slip Sinker Rigs:
Walleye are known for picking up live bait and dropping it as soon as they feel any type of resistance. The slip-sinker rig eliminates the resistance, as a walleye strikes the bait the angler free spools the line allowing the walleye to swim away to eat the bait for a hookset. The slip sinker rig is made up of three components, a hook, sliding weight and a stop. They can be purchased pre-tied at most sport shops or you can make your own. Fishing the slip sinker rig is quite easy, after a cast allow the rig to sink. When you pull the rig the stop catches the sinker as it moves along the bottom allowing the bait to look natural for an easy meal. The sinker is the most important component, it must be heavy enough to get the rig to the bottom.
- A rule of thumb is 1/8 oz for every 10 feet of depth.
Most anglers use an egg or walking type of sinker, but in vegetation a bullet type sinker works best allowing the rig to slide through the weeds. For hooks the smaller the better, size 6-8 octopus to maintain a natural look. The stops can be a barrel swivel, to make it adjustable a bobber stop or a very small split shot can be used. Most often walleyes relate to bottom structure, leader lengths of 18 to 36 inches works the best.
Slip Bobber Rigs:
When walleye suspend at a certain depth on a piece of structure (rock pile, crib, or submerged hump) the slip bobber rig is highly effective by presenting the live bait at a pre set depth, putting the bait right in their face. You can make slip bobber rigs rather easy or buy them at sport shops. To make a slip bobber rig simply start with your stop attached to the fishing line, you can use a piece of string or a rubber band knotted on the line thread on a small bead then the bobber. Add a small spilt shot below the bobber for balance then tie on a hook size 4-6-8 and bait with a minnow leech or night crawler.
Fishing with spinner rigs for walleye is one of the oldest techniques dating back to the strip on days From the Prescott Spinner slide thru a minnow rig to the newest minnow and crawler harness made today. Spinner rigs must be weighted to get to the bottom. You can add a rubber core or split shot a few feet ahead of the spinner rig for drifting but most anglers prefer using a bottom bouncer or a three way rig to keep the spinner in contact with the bottom. For sinker weights a ½ oz will get you down to about 10 feet add another ½ oz for each additional 5 feet.
Another very popular spinner for walleye is the weight forward spinner primarily used on Lake Erie. Walleye anglers tip the spinner with a piece of night crawler leaving an inch or so trailing behind the single hook. Fishing with weight forward spinners, you simply cast it out and count down to different depths to locate walleyes, then maintain the retrieve fast enough to keep the forward blade rotating.
Trolling for walleyes has been and still is an effective way locating feeding walleyes especially on unfamiliar waters. Trolling enables you to cover a lot of water in minimal time. In the past trolling for walleye was simply done by flat lining, a technique by casting a crank bait or spinner rig off the back the moving boat. Today trolling tools offer a variety of options in presenting the baits.
Precisely places lures vertically.
Attached to the line that spreads fishing lines horizontally.
A diving device attached to the line that planes down and to the side.
Lead Core Line:
A weighted fishing line that allows walleye anglers to use shallow running lures (spoons & crank baits) to reach desired depths.
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When the stars align and the feeding window is open, a big pike will hit anything that moves. Your bait selection doesn’t matter and all you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience this feeding-frenzy action once or twice a season. The rest of your time hunting trophy pike will be spent cranking, casting, and waiting. The right presentation will make the difference between a bite and a follow-up. So, don’t waste all of your effort pitching second-rate lures. Here’s our round up of the best pike fishing baits on the market right now.
Heddon Rattlin’ SpookThe Spook’s renowned walk-the-dog style has long been a pike pleaser – especially over grass. The Rattlin’ model’s tungsten BBs emit an intense sound that mimics fleeing baitfish. These rattles also serve to enhance the bait’s walking retrieve. ($6.99, Lurenet.com)
Strong and durable, this ½-ounce double willow leaf spinnerbait boasts a tough Vibra-Flx wire frame that stands up to powerful jaws with lots of teeth. The Pikee comes with a 12-inch steel leader for added insurance against big biters. ($5.99, Lurenet.com)
The 7-inch version of this flexible stickbait does a good job of presenting a baitfish profile for pike and musky. Rig the bait Texas style over weeds or wacky style when working open water. ($5.79, Lurenet.com)
The 00 size of this classic spoon has seen plenty of teeth mark, and for good reason. The wiggling, wobbling action puts out a lot of flash and vibration to resemble a fleeing baitfish. Trolled or cast, the Daredevle tempts pike and musky in a broad range of depths. ($9.70, Eppinger.net)
Blue Fox Super Bou
Big on the visuals and big on fish-grabbing ability, the size 10 Super Bou imitates mature baitfish and sprouts double trebles to snare the toothy predators that seek them. Tandem blades, combined with Marabou, Hackle and Flashabou fibers create a lifelike undulating action, while the free-turning brass gear emits sonic vibration and rattles when it strikes the outer shell. ($21.69, Rapala.com)
There’s nothing modest about this heavyweight tandem spinner, but big muskies don’t do modest. Nine inches from eye to tail, the 3-ounce H210 emits big-time thump with its twin brass Indiana blades, while a bright 100-percent holographic tail is hand-tied to tandem 7/0 VMC cone cut hooks. ($39.80, Mepps.com)
Suick Weighted Holographic Musky Thriller Jerkbait
The weighted version of the original Musky Thriller carries its unique shape and enticing wiggle deeper. Holographic finishes shimmer like real baitfish. ($27.70, Suick.com)
A whopping 14-inches long with its tail extended, this sturdy swimbait is built around a full Body Lock coil harness that keeps the soft plastic body in place, while connecting two underside trebles to the frame linked to jig head. The 5-ounce Super D counts down at about a foot per second. Jig it, jerk it or crank it; the Super D’s rocking motion and curly tail put on a big show for big muskies. ($13.99, TackleIndustries.com)
Mepps Double Blade Aglia (Size #5)
The popular Aglia design gains enhanced visual appeal, along with maximum sound and vibration from a second blade. Whether it’s flashing metallic blades or contrasting colors, the dual spinners provide added lift for fishing over weeds or other structure. Vividly colored hand-tied bucktails help make this bait easier for fish to spot. ($6.99, Mepps.com)
Mepps Syclops (Size #3)
A real pike pleaser, this sleekly contoured spoon casts easily and trolls effectively at most any common speed. Jig it vertically over deep spots or through the ice. ($4.75, Mepps.com)
Grandma Jointed Lure
An old-school classic, the flat body and jointed design yields a wobble and shimmy that drives big muskies crazy. When cast, the bait reaches 3-6 feet; trolled, it goes to 12. Made with high-impact plastic and a tough diving lip, a Grandma will withstand the fiercest attack from a toothy giant. ($17.99, Grandmalures.com)
Northland Fishing Tackle Bionic Bucktail Jig
Hand-tied with genuine bucktail, this jig features a versatile double line tie that affords the option of vertical jigging deep water or casting and trolling shallow cover. A stinger hook secured to the jig’s Mustad Ultra-Point hook snares any short strikers. ($5.99, Northlandtackle.com)
Cisco Kid Topper
A torpedo profile body with stainless steel propeller blades on the nose and tail create a big topside disturbance that gets the fish looking in the right direction. Effective for pike and muskie, the Cisco Kid Topper works well at a variety of speeds. ($17.95, Suick.com)
Bass Pro Shops Thump N Deal Swimbait
Equipped with a pair of 4/0 short shank trebles, this big bait swims with a slight side-to-side wobble that can be altered by bending and adjusting the internal non-slip body harness. A steady retrieve works best, but an occasional pause or twitch can turn followers into biter. ($17.99, Basspro.com)
Koppers Live Target Jointed Yellow Perch
Incredibly realistic body shaping, coloration and fishy detail makes this a hard bait for big predators to ignore. Effective for casting or trolling, the jointed body creates an erratic tail kick that closely mimics the swimming motion of a real perch. ($12.99, KoppersFishing.com)
The folder in the IGFA’s Record Department designated “Mabry Harper’s World Record Walleye” is chock-full of articles and letters related to the controversy that has followed this catch over the past half century.
It has been more than 50 years since Harper pulled a 11.34-kilogram (25 pounds) walleye from Old Hickory Lake, near his home in Tennessee on the morning of August 2, 1960. Luckily, Harper’s wife (seen in the photo) realized the significance of the catch and took it to be officially weighed-in at the Second Creek Resort, before Harper cleaned the fish for dinner (which he later did).
Harper’s fish was submitted for record consideration, and was quickly approved as the new world record walleye. But as time progressed, questions began swirling about the legitimacy of this record claim – particularly the reported girth measurement of 29 inches.
In 1996, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame decided to remove Harper’s catch from the record books, due to “persistent rumors” they had received. However, the IGFA, who had inherited all original documentation and correspondence of the record in the 1970’s, still recognizes Harper’s walleye as the heaviest ever caught on a rod and reel.
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There are times when fishing for walleyes is like putting a candy bar on the coffee table in front of couch potato trying to go on a diet. He might not eat it right away, but wait an hour and that chocolate will be gone. Faster tactics like trolling or even slower approaches like rigging will not work all the time. Conditions may dictate where jigging in one spot or suspending live bait below a slip bobber is needed just to entice a bite. The longer a walleye looks, the harder it is for it to resist.
A cold front or just the cold-water periods of early spring and late fall are two examples when anchoring will work.There are times when you get on a spot, drift a rig, and won’t get any bites. But, you anchor, sit still, and bang, you get hit. The fish are there, but they’re probably in a negative or neutral mood. The bait just needs to be in their face a little longer.
There are other times when anchoring will increase your odds, such as when you’re facing a stiff breeze or current and boat control becomes an issue. But, despite an anchor’s effectiveness, it’s likely that half the anglers reading this article don’t even have an anchor in their boats. Anchoring is often overlooked and it’s time to rethink that choice.
Anchoring with Style
Anchors come in two shapes important to walleye anglers. One is a Water Spike type (lightweight with sharp points), which digs in clay, mud or sandy bottoms. The other is a Navy anchor (heavy with 2 large claws), or a variation on the Navy theme made by Richter (heavy with multiple points). Navy and Richter are both good on gravel, rocks or boulders. Have the two different styles (Water Spike and Navy) on board which work for the different type of bottom conditions you may face.
Smaller boats can get away with lighter weights, but err on the heavy side. They’re useless if they don’t keep you in place. Using 2 anchors at the same time can help. Have plenty of rope attached. If you don’t use enough, you will slip out of place and disturb the spot. About 150 feet of rope per anchor should do. Mark it every 10 feet. If you have to reset them if you slip, you’ll have an idea of how much to let out next time.
Drop anchors quietly
They can spook fish if you don’t.You can often get an idea of what type of tactic you are going to try on a given day before you even get to the water.The tip comes at the bait shop, and it’s free. Simply glance in the minnow tanks. Tightly-balled minnows are responding to the same high pressure, cold front which is impacting the fish in the lake. Anchoring might be the ticket that day. If minnows are swimming freely, then search tactics may come in play.
The effectiveness of anchoring can change over the course of a single trip to the water, too. Walleyes that are active in low light may get lockjaw mid-day. Use an anchor as a tool to switch to slower tactics.
Anchoring is a spot-on-a spot tactic. You must be close to where walleyes are concentrated for it to work. Watch for fish on your sonar or stay close to some sort of structure.
But, you can ring the dinner bell even if walleyes aren’t directly below you. For example, there are times when two anglers jigging below the boat for a while have attracted curious perch to the area. At first, there might be nothing happening. Then, 20 minutes later you catch a perch. Then shortly after that, you boat a good walleye that has followed the forage fish to the spot.
The lesson learned – if action is slow enough that you are putting the anchor out, then give a spot some time. Twenty to thirty minutes is usually enough to tell if anything is going to happen.
Anchoring is a great way to approach “edges” where the depth changes or weedlines or treelines. Anchor one up on the top and the other down the drop. Check both depths.
Or, you may want to anchor to use slip bobbers to target a deep rock hump 40 feet down or more. In that case, anchor parallel to the waves and cast up wide with the weighted Thill Pro Series bobbers from Lindy. Let the breeze work the bait over the structure for you. Set the depth so your jig/bait is a foot off the bottom. The clearer the water, the higher you can get away with setting the rig.
Many anglers probably avoid anchors because of the work it takes to move to new spots. Well, not so fast. Change position in wind or current merely by moving the rope from the front of the boat to a cleat on either side. The motion of the water or wind swings you over new water to try. Letting out more rope does the same thing.
But, don’t stay in one area too long, try other places. If you’re so sure that the fish are there, fish the spot, come back later and try again. That walleye “couch potato” just might be ready to reach for the candy bar when you return.
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Spring is a time when great chunks of the fish population are all doing the same thing: moving into shallow water to reproduce or feed. Warming, stable water and a soft bottom are two of the keys. Shallow, isolated bays are popular early in the year because this water gains and holds temperature. You will catch pike early in the year in the shallow backwaters and also along patches of protected, sandy or muddy shorelines. In all cases, the water isn’t being mixed and the bottom is right for fish to drop eggs. Thin slices of warm water are easily blown apart by weather changes. As long as fish can get over the right type of bottom and the temperature stays at a level they like, they can and will spawn in some areas you might drive right by.
The better you know the lake, the more options you’re giving yourself. And even though the general trend for pike in spring is ‘shallow to spawn,’ remember that fish move in and out in waves. You can always find pike in different areas. Some might be waiting to spawn, some might be right in the middle of spawning, some might have spawned and left, and some fish won’t spawn at all. No matter what you fish for, always remember that not all fish do the same things at the same times. There are distinct populations within the same piece of water that live different lives. Fish are like tribes in a jungle. Some raise animals to eat. Others constantly move while following food and hunting. Some might only eat plants found in a certain area.
Spring is a transition month, just as fall is. It’s a period of change that’s leading towards a period of stability. All you have to do to understand the spring weather. Trips can range from comfortable to downright uncomfortable and you’ve really got to be prepared for it all. You’re not quite out of winter and you’re not into summer yet, either. For pike, carry a wider range of gear in spring than at any other time of the year. And even though you’re focused mainly on areas that are closer to shore and less than twenty feet deep, be sure to try a range of different techniques in these areas.
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Full Moon or Dark Moon? Major and minor solunar periods? Which is best? Does any of this moon mumbo jumbo make any real sense nor does it actually work? These are legitimate questions asked by thousands of anglers each year, and they deserve concrete answers backed up by some bonafide data. Yet as much as pro anglers endorse the effectiveness of moon charts and outdoor publications of every niche’ continue to print them, rarely does either source validate these solunar claims with data.
It’s not hard to find a solunar table of some kind. Nearly every fishing publication today publishes some kind of monthly solunar table, moon chart, activity calendar, action graph, or other similar version. All of these tables, charts, and calendars claim to predict daily feeding activity of fish with accordinance to moon and solar influences. Yet, so many other anglers, rarely find any consistent correlation with most of these references.
The real secret, to solar/lunar influences on a daily basis was nothing more than knowing when the sun and moon rose and set on a 24 hour basis. That’s right, it was simply a matter of knowing, to the minute, when the sun came up and went down, and when the moon came up and went down each and every day. Our fishing log revealed without question that more fish were active during a 90 minute window surrounding each one of these four daily influences.
Most of the solar/lunar charts, tables, and graphs you see depicted in today’s publications do NOT reveal nor coincide with these four vital factors:
- sun rise
- sun set
- moon rise
- moon set.
Yet it doesn’t take an astrologist to figure out how important the rise and set of both the sun and moon has to be.
It’s certainly no secret that feeding movements of both fish and game have been traditionally accepted as key during dawn and dusk — this correlates with sun rise and sun set. Moon rise and set is a bit more tricky to key in on though since they can often occur at mid-day or midnight. Overcast weather can also make it impossible to see a moon rise or set, and of course a dark/new moon is not visible to begin with. This information is readily available in several national weather publications.
The other “super secret” is the predictable frequency of big fish catches during the peak moon phases of full and moon. Specifically, a lot more big northern pike and walleye were taken right on the actual scheduled calendar day of both the full or new (dark) moon peak, and continued for a three to five day stretch afterwards. In other words, if the full moon peak is on July 2nd, July 2nd thru 7th have great potential for trophies.
Backing up a bit, the four daily factors previously discussed
- (the rise and set of both the sun and moon) inside each one of these predictable monthly moon peaks
- (four days on the back side of the full or new moon) further nails it down.
In other words, you want to plan your fishing trips to hit the peak of the full or new moon. Then you want to be fishing on your favorite big fish spots during the daily rise and set of both the sun and moon.
Finally, a third factor that really adds impact to this entire solunar secret is that unpredictable third influence is local weather. Whenever a local weather change coincides with the daily rise or set of either the sun or moon, during a peak monthly moon period, BIG things happen in bunches. BIG things meaning BIG FISH. For example, a severe summer T-storm right at sunset, and just before moon rise during the new moon period and it’s almost a sure bet that you could land a big pike or the year’s biggest catch of a lunker walleye. Or just as good – sit by a steep rocky shoreline with some spawning ciscoes right at the start of a storm in the just after sunrise and right before moon set during a full moon period. Big pike and big walleyes, will be snappin’.
Could there be a fourth factor? Absolutely. In fact, there might even be a 5th or 6th. However, an easy-to-detect 4th factor of influence that adds even more impact to an already good situation is a change in the photo period, or laymen’s terms — a change in season. Photo periodism is actually the measured ratio of daylight to darkness. The most drastic changes in the photo period occur in the spring and fall, but mini-differences are detected inside all seasons which are quickly detected thru their eyes and transmitted to their pituitary gland. The responses to these changes in the photoperiod trigger sexual responses such as reproduction and the development of eggs. This, in turn, also triggers increased movement and feeding binges by normally less active trophy fish.
The simple rise and set of both the sun and moon has far more impact than any other daily sun or moon position. That is, bar none, the single most important daily triggering factor of both fish and game.
Monthly peaks in both the full and new moon are a second factor definitely worth considering. When fish of all sizes are feeding infrequently due to a prolonged streak of bad local weather conditions, that small “window” of three to four days right after the actual moon peaks, full or new, may be the only time that the largest fish of any species is truly catchable. Fishing during the daily rise or set of the sun and moon during these key monthly moon phases is paramount.
Weather is also a legitimate third factor, and helps to elevate the impact of the daily rise and set of the sun or moon. It further elevates the entire realm of big fish possibilities when all three factors happen at relatively the same time. A changing weather pattern combined with a good monthly moon phase and rise or set of either sun or moon can activate some major movement from big fish. If all of these things happen during a good photoperiod, LOOK OUT! This is when the biggest fish of the year are generally caught. If you’re serious about taking such a fish, start really paying attention to the real scoop on moon phases. The simple rise and set of both the sun and moon has far more impact than any other daily sun or moon position. That is the single most important daily triggering factor of both fish and game.
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