When They Just Won’t Bite
All of us have had tough days on the water – bad weather, equipment failure and fish that just refuse to bite. Walleye fishing is often a game of chance, and when these fish shut down, you’ll find yourself cursing all the way back to the lodge. There are a number of techniques and adaptations that anglers can use that can turn finicky fish into biters, and with practice and patience, you can turn that bad day into a good one, and fill that live well up to the limit in the process!
Weather plays a very important role in walleye activity, and a lack of optimum conditions will usually result in a sub-par day. Due to their light-sensitive eyes, a walleye will be most active during overcast days. They will also be more likely to roam and feed while the wind is blowing, as this causes wave action that breaks up sun penetration. Unfortunately for anglers, these variables are not always the most comfortable to fish in – they will, however, provide positive results.
If you happen to be out, and the sun is shining and the wind is still, what should you do to ensure that you get bit? If you happen to be fishing in the shallow section of the lake, then your best course of action is to search out the lushest, greenest weeds available and present a jig to the walleye that will be seeking shade and cover underneath. Slow, methodical lifts of a buck tail or twister tail will do the trick, and the addition of live bait may coax the inactive walleye to become more co-operative.
During very sunny days your best option is to fish deeper, while keying-in on productive structure areas. Searching out break lines and drop-offs and jigging the area thoroughly, or running a live-bait rig or bottom bouncer, will do the trick. A key to remember is this – the more miserable the weather, the faster the retrieve. Sunny, beautiful days call for a slower presentation and added searching to find those inactive fish.
It is common knowledge that walleye are fish that relate to the bottom structure and will be found hugging the lower part of the water column the majority of the time. This is true in most cases, but there are times when walleye will suspend mid-way through the water column.
Walleye are feeding machines, and will follow baitfish when actively feeding. If the resident baitfish are ten feet from bottom, then the opportunistic walleye will be close at hand.
Experimentation is the key, and jigging a spoon (similar to ice fishing) at different depths, or trying different models of diving crank baits will connect you to fish quicker. Many of the better-quality fish finders will display baitfish schools on their screens. Some effective technique when running the lake, is to throw out a marker buoy to mark the baitfish, then drift back over the area with the above mentioned lures. It is a different dimension to walleye angling that is worth trying when the fishing becomes fruitless.
One of the biggest mistakes a walleye angler can make is to stick to a technique when it isn’t working. Changing things up are key to putting more fish in the boat, and essential in turning “sniffers” into “biters.”
When out on the water, make sure that you carry a large assortment of crank baits. Be sure to include different color combinations and in varying weights and sizes in order to test what the walleye wants that particular day. There have been days out on the water when the only color that the walleye would show any interest in was red, and if you had the misfortune of not owning any cranks in that particular color, then your day could prove to be a disaster.
If there is more than one person in the boat while trolling, it is best to run completely opposite crank baits. Troll with different color combinations, shapes and sizes, in order to see what the fish prefer. If one angler has a run of two or more fish in a row, then you have stumbled upon a pattern, and at this point it is best to change over to match their lure.
Relying on live bait is not always the best option. Although many may believe this statement is false, there are times when live bait will hinder your fishing. An example of this occurred during one season opener on the lake was with two fishing buddies and one was slow trolling a crank bait and a worm rig. Attached to the spinner rig was a fat, juicy night crawler. Although it was hooking into numerous perch, the walleye were just not co-operating. The other person, on the other hand, had two fish in on the stringer already that was caught on the crank. So the guy fishing with live bait did the unthinkable (to him) and removed the live bait while replacing it with a plastic worm in a motor oil color. Two trolling passes later and he had two nice sized walleye on the stringer as well. They soon figured out what the walleye were looking for that day. Experiment with different lures and techniques until you find that one that works best under the conditions that you are faced with.
Walleye fishing is a tough game to play at times, yet the resourceful and smart angler will always figure the puzzle out. Pay attention to details while out on the water and don’t be afraid to try something new – the results might just surprise you!