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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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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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No matter what your preferred fishing technique is; jigging spoons or trolling baits you’re bound to find a bit of knowledge here that will help up your walleye fishing skills for the upcoming season.
Vertical jigging is probably the most productive technique for walleye fishing, but high winds or rains that dirty the water can put the fish off the jig bite. When water conditions change for the worse, try trolling near bottom. Use a three-way swivel and tie a sinker on a 6- to 12-inch dropper, or use a bottom-bouncing rig and trail a floating/diving minnow. Troll upstream and cross-current.
Three-way swivels allow you to double your trolling offerings. Attach a deep-diving crankbait to a 2-to 3-foot leader tied to the bottom of the swivel. Then add to the top of the swivel a leader twice as long as the other and a floating/diving minnow-style bait or a light, thin spoon. When putting the baits out, drop the deep-diver in the water first and let it start diving before letting go of the second leader. This will keep them from tangling and ensure a proper presentation of both baits.
Trolling spoons is an effective way to catch walleye, but getting them deep enough can be a challenge. Use the same techniques that big-water salmon anglers employ to attain appropriate depth—downriggers, snap weights, in-line sinkers, diving planers or lead-core line. Walleye are often gear shy, so increase the length of the leader off a lead-core line or the distance behind the cannonball on a downrigger. Fluorocarbon leaders will help, but be careful, as they have no stretch.
DOWNSIZE THE BAIT
One of the toughest times to catch walleye is during a significant mayfly hatch. To increase your odds, use what guides call a mayfly rig—a small spinner with a portion of a night crawler on a small hook. Cast the rig out and count it down, then retrieve it slowly, experimenting with depth until you find the strike zone; walleyes often hit mayflies as they’re on their way to the surface to emerge. Keep the rig small; mayfly larvae are rarely longer than an inch.
The rule of thumb for jigging is to use minnows in cold water and night crawlers, leeches or soft-plastics as the water warms. BUT you’re making a mistake if you don’t take all types of live bait with you. Although leeches and crawlers may be hard to find in the fall, they’ll sometimes out produce minnows in cold water, especially if it’s dirty. Other times, even in the heat of the summer, fish want minnows more than other offerings.
HIT THE WHOLE COLUMN
Walleye fishermen usually concentrate on the bottom, but often the most active fish are suspended in the water column. When trolling, vary the depth of your offerings by changing your diving bait or adding weight to your lines if trolling with spinner rigs. Sometimes the ‘eyes are out on the prowl, foraging on minnows or shad that are schooled somewhere between the top and bottom. Watch your depth finder for clues to their whereabouts and fish accordingly.
JIG A PLUG
Spice up your jigging offering by substituting a chatter bait—such as a Rat-L-Trap—for a spoon. Cast it out, let it drop to the bottom, then yo-yo it back to the boat. Don’t snap it up as high as you would a spoon, as the hooks can foul on the line. Rattling baits fall more slowly than spoons, but you can fix that by adding a slip sinker to your line before you tie on the bait. The extra weight tightens the plug’s wobble on the fall.
WORK THE SHALLOWS
Most walleye anglers concentrate on moderate to deep water, but there are fish in shallow water that are generally ignored. This is especially true during periods of high water when the predators move shallow to forage. Jigs tipped with live bait produce in the weeds, often in water not much deeper than a walleye’s back. Jig spoons near cover. Night crawlers on harnesses with spinners work when cast around the edges and in cuts, but they’re tough to fish in thick stands of vegetation.
One of the toughest bites walleye anglers face is immediately after a weather front passes. With a high, clear sky, the fish often sulk in the depths. The key is to concentrate on deep water structure and fish with live bait, either slowly trolling or drifting around humps and break lines, usually right where the bottom begins to flatten out.
Planer boards that carry lures or bait away from the boat are especially important in ultra clear water. Anglers who troll many lines usually use large boards that are tethered to the boat, and they clip their lines to the tether line. Anglers in small boats can easily fish up to three lines per side with small in-line planers. The key is to set the far-running lines first and position those rods closest to the bow; set near-running lines last and toward the stern. Allow more line out before you attach the outside boards, so the baits trail farther behind the boat. That will let you reel in fish on an outside line without getting tangled.
LOWER A LEECH
Leeches are a terrific bait for walleyes, especially when presented on slip bobbers or jigs. To make them easier to grip, carry a rag or rub them against your pant leg to remove some of the slime. When hooking them, insert the point of the hook into their suction cup—this will let them swim freely instead of balling up on the hook. Keep the leeches in some sort of container in the live well to acclimate them to the lake temperature before you bait up.
LURK, DON’T JERK
Floating/diving minnow lures are known as “jerk baits” because they’re fished with a dramatic, erratic action. A quieter retrieve is often more productive for walleye, which tend to trail baits rather than simply lunging and striking. Neutrally buoyant baits are especially suited to walleye, as they sit still or rise ever so slowly when you stop working the bait. Walleyes take these lures during a pause in the action, so stop your retrieve often.
GIVE ‘EM OPTIONS
When it comes to trolling with artificial lures, increase your odds by adding soft-plastic trailers to your crank baits. Use small twister-tail grubs or short plastic worms. Attach a 2- to 3-foot length of monofilament to the back hook of the crank baits, tie on a hook and attach the grub. Make sure the hook is exposed, and if you’re using a worm, run the hook through at least three quarters of the soft-plastic; that way you won’t miss short-striking fish. Don’t add any weight to the leader or you’ll interfere with the crank bait’s action. And use opposite colors when trailing crank baits—dark grubs with light-colored plugs and vice versa.
TRY A NO-SLIDE BAIT
When jigging with live bait, try adding a piece of plastic to the hook shank. A body from a grub or a section of plastic worm helps keep the bait on the aft end of the jig and prevents it from sliding up the hook shank. That way, when a walleye grabs the bait, it’ll also get ahold of the hook.
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1. Jig and Live Bait Combination
What can I say? More walleyes have likely been caught on a jig and live bait presentation than all other lures and baits combined. Jigs are that deadly. The reason, of course, is that a jig is unobtrusive, yet by changing its weight – from 1/16-ounce for shallow water all the way up to 3/4-ounce for deep water or heavy current – you can cover all the various options. Plus, when the walleye are color conscious, you can select a hue to turn them on. As for live bait options, the cardinal rule is to use minnows in the spring and fall when the water is cold. Leeches often become better when water temperatures warm into the 60s and 70s, while nightcrawlers reign supreme in the warmest water. Still, you carry all three bait options and let the fish decide what they want to eat on the end of a jig on any given day
2. Bottom Bouncer and Spinner Combination
Walleyes eat spinner rigs or crawler harnesses, call them what you will, with a vengeance. Single hook harnesses are ideal for leeches and minnows, while two and three hook harnesses team up best with nightcrawlers. Just be sure to experiment with blade shapes, sizes and colors. Willowleaf blades spin the fastest, emitting plenty of flash, but they are also the most silent. Colorado blades, on the other hand, spin much more slowly but they thump aggressively. Indiana blades are somewhere in between, making them ideal choice for starting the day. Large blades are ideal in dark and dingy water, when you need to call out to the walleyes to let them know that dinner is ready. Large blades are best, too, when the fish tend to be on the bigger size. Don’t discount smaller blades, however, when the water is clear and the fish are in a funk. Finally, nothing allows you to present a spinner rig better than a bottom bouncer. Just don’t drag the bouncer. Let out line until you can feel it just ticking the bottom every so often. This means you’re trolling your harness in front of the fish.
3. Slow Death
Slow Death fishing for walleyes is sweeping the country because it is so deadly. In times past, walleye anglers were fanatical about attaching their baits perfectly straight so they didn’t spin. How times have changed. Slow Death involves using a hook (Mustad makes the most popular Slow Death hook, although many anglers prefer a #2 Aberdeen Tru-Turn style) with a distinct bend to it. Then, you thread on your nightcrawler (a live crawler works well but a Gulp! or Trigger X worm is often better) so that the head covers the hook eye and the body takes on the shape of the hook. Then you snip off the crawler so that only an inch or so is hanging behind the bend of the hook. It is best to use a three to four foot long, 10-pound test leader behind a bottom bouncer and troll at about 1-mile an hour. The finger-size crawler chunk spins like a corkscrew that the walleyes can’t resist. As for depth control, the standard rule of thumb is to use a 1-ounce bottom bouncer when you’re fishing in 10-feet or less of water, a 2-ounce bouncer in 20-feet of water and a 3-ounce bouncer in 30-feet. But these are only starting points, so don’t hesitate to experiment.
Fishermen have caught more walleyes over ten pounds the last 7 or 8 years on swimbaits than all of the other walleye options combined. And you won’t believe how they’re rigging them. They’re using 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-ounce saltwater style bullet shaped jig heads. Five and six inch swimbaits (X-Zone Swammers, Berkley Hollow Belly and Split Belly Swimbaits) work best. You also need to use a 7-foot long, medium heavy action spinning rod spooled with a quality 14-pound test braided line (Sufix, Fireline or PowerPro). Then use back-to-back uni-knots to attach a two to three foot long 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader. Because of the weight of your terminal tackle you can cast this set up a mile and it sinks quickly. After it hits the bottom, lift up your rod tip and start swimming the lure back to the boat. You want to keep it within a foot of the bottom at all times, ticking it occasionally, as you drop your rod tip to pick up line. That slight pause is also when 90-percent of the walleyes will eat your bait. It is quite simply the deadliest big walleye pattern known to man
5. Casting Crankbaits onto Shallow, Windy, Rock Structures
In the summertime, when the living is easy, one of the most predictable walleye patterns – for numbers as well as trophy size fish – is to search out shallow, rocky structures like underwater points, reefs and rock piles. The best are often the “sea gull rocks” that just barely break the surface of the water. And they come into their own when the wind is blowing onto them. Under the waves, the walleyes will sneak up shallow, even in the middle of the day, and feed aggressively. So there is no need to tippy-toe around with this presentation. Select a crankbait that will run slightly deeper than the water you’re fishing. That way you will attract and trigger walleyes as you bang bottom and ricochet it off the rocks all the way back to the boat. It is that simple. Cast your crankbait up shallow and start your retrieve, stopping for a second or two, every time you feel your crankbait hit a rock. Walleyes typically devour it as it rises up and over the obstruction. The key, of course, is using a crankbait (a favorite is the time proven Rapala Shad Rap) that is buoyant enough to float up and over the rocks when you pause the retrieve
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Here is a good variety of some excellent and proven lures for catching walleye.
Rapala Flat Rap
Flat-sided hard flashing action
Triangle lip enhances action
Slow-rising response on retrieve
VMC Black Nickel Hooks
At first glance you’ll see similarities between the Flat Rap and other members of Rapalas Rap lure family, but then you’ll notice the difference in the flat sides and triangle lip. Although the Flat Rap has a few different features from other Rap lures, its strike drawing power is right on par with the rest of the family. Made from balsa with a slow-rising response on retrieve pause, the Flat Rap swims with a hard-flashing modification of the classic Rapala “wounded-minnow” action. The Flat Raps triangle lip enhances action while letting it deflect of timber, rocks and other obstacles. Each Flat Rap is hand-tuned and tank-tested to ensure it embodies the fish-catching action Rapala is known for.
UV Bright or MadFlash finish
Original ThuderStick swimming actions and rattle
External scale pattern
3-D holographic eyes
The Original ThunderStick with the added appeal of STORMs brilliant MadFlash holographic or UV Bright finish and external scale patters for maximum flash. Just like the Original ThunderSticks, the ThunderStick with MadFlash delivers the same proven fish-catching action, integrated lip and high-volume rattles. Whether you cast, troll, twitch, rip or jerk the ThunderStick,it will produce the results youre after in most fishing situations. Complete Premium VMC hooks.
UV Bright or MadFlash finish
Original ThuderStick swimming actions and rattle
External scale pattern
3-D holographic eyes
STORMs Deep Jr. ThunderStick with MadFlash offers the same proven fish-catching action, integrated lip and high-volume rattles as their classic Original Deep Jr. ThunderStick stickbait, but with the addition of a stunning holographic MadFlash finish for maximum flash. Whether you cast, troll, twitch, rip or jerk the Deep Jr. ThunderStick with MadFlash, it will produce the results youre after in most fishing situations. Complete with premium VMC Barbarian hooks.
STORM Deep Jointed MinnowStick Model DJMS Minnow Lures
STORMs Deep Jointed MinnowStick Lures suspend, rattles and entices the strike with its hypnotic swimming action and lifelike external scale pattern with holographic body and eyes. When walleye are suspended deep, the Deep Jointed MinnowSticks attract like walleye magnets when cast or trolled. Red VMC Barbarian hooks. Dives 6-10.
Attention-getting, baitfish-in-distress action
Premium balsa wood construction
Articulated broken back design
Classic minnow profile
VMCBlack Nickel Hooks
Rapalas Jointed Minnows are the answer when fish are extra wary and water conditions are difficult. The Jointed Minnows unique body works to produce a livelier, attention-getting, baitfish-in-distress action that usually fits the bill when all other lures come up short. Well suited for super slow retrieves.
STORM WildEye Live Series Lures – Walleye
Rigged with a superior VMC needle-point hook and treble belly hook
Lifelike swimming action
Holographic swimmin flash foil
Strong soft body with internal lead head
STORMs WildEye Live Walleye is pre-rigged with a premium VMC needle-point hook and treble belly hook. The realistic walleye color pattern and body shape makes this lure irresistible and perfect for clear-water presentations.
So on your next fishing trip up to Wawang Lake drop a few of these lures in the tackle box. You’re in for a BIG surprise!
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