When we think of fresh water fishing in North America, many of us think of fishing for bass. I mean hey, we get to watch the bass tournaments on ESPN for big money and prestigious titles.
Is it any wonder that bass fishing has a massive following.
However as amateur fishermen, really all we want to do is catch that trophy fish right?
So how about a species of fish that has been caught at a weight of 25 pounds, an IGFA record that has stood since 1960?
Pretty attractive for all of us I reckon and that fish is known as a pike perch or walleye, one of the best sports fish found in North American and Canadian fresh waters.
It is a tough fighting fish that can be caught in a number of ways but will always leave you feeling exhausted, with aching arms and a big smile on your face and is terrific eating.
A big build up I know but fishing for walleyes can take your fishing to a new level.
Although it is a fish that can be caught various ways, we will focus on catching them by trolling whether that be by boat, kayak or canoe.
For those of us who are unfamiliar with trolling, it is a very popular method of fishing where we have one or more lines baited with lures, live or dead baits that is drawn through the water behind a moving craft.
Why is it so popular?
The big advantage here is that unlike a bait that sits on the bottom waiting for a bite, we present the bait in a lifelike way that can cover an enormous fishing area.
The benefit is huge as we can go to the fish rather than waiting for them to come to us!
So let us now look at some of the best ways that give us a chance of catching that fish of a life time.
Walleye Trolling Setup – Target The Specie
If you want to catch walleye, then you need to fish for walleye!
Sounds pretty silly I know but you really need to target the species. It is unlikely you will catch a walleye when fishing for other species. Yes you will come home more often with nothing but the anglers who catch the biggest fish are those who are patient, using the right gear at the right time at the right place!
Time of Season
It’s no secret but the first signs of spring that often coincide with the start of the walleye season are a good time to start looking for those bigger fish. Often water temperatures can dictate what kind of feeding mood they may be in.
If you fish a local spot, work out its state of play. By that I mean consider how cold the water is and when does it start to warm up?
These are the first questions that should come to mind.
Bear in mind that the preferred water temperature for walleye is in the 65-70 degree range which will be midsummer so work your fishing trips around that.
Time of Day
– Early morning or evening.
Unfortunately for many of us this will be our stumbling block.
If only we could catch great fish during the day when it suits us most (what I refer to as gentlemens hours).
Sorry guys, you need to fish when most of us are still asleep or sitting down for dinner.
They are most active before sunrise till two hours after and before dusk to complete darkness.
However don’t ignore days when there is a lot of cloud cover or looks particularly grey. Remember they grow to a good size because they are selective eaters dependent on the conditions that suit them, not us!
Without sounding like something out of goldilocks and the three bears, we are looking for water that is not too clean or clear and not too dirty.
Let me explain why; when the water is clear, two things happen. The water is generally cooler and the bait fish tend to look for cover from predators. When the water is too dirty, visibility is low so making it difficult for walleye to find food unless it’s directly in front of them.
So we need to look for water that is between the two. Look for water that is slightly tinged with green as this suggests that there is food available for baitfish, like plankton and algae.
Here the recipe is simple; when we have structure around or below us, we need to get the lures near the bottom.
If we are fishing in open water like a lake, then ensure your lures sit above the fish in the water column. It is pointless placing our lures where the fish won’t see them.
As we are trolling we need to look for something that looks life like. Unfortunately many dead baits don’t do that, so we need to look at the best range of lures available.
Lucky for us, we have a terrific range to choose from. With a lot of our fresh water fishing, we normally ensure that we have a few spinner baits and normal lures. So let’s focus on stocking up on trolling lures that can cover various depths.
So let’s look at some of the best; these include the gold bomber A long, rapala husky jerk, cordell wally diver, terminator T1 spinnerbait and the reef runner 800.
Ensure that you have a variety of different sized bibs as this means that you are able to get the lures to dive at different depths.
I will now look at each in more detail:
Gold Bomber A Long
This particular lure has been around for years and is still an angler’s favourite.
They have a rolling movement in conjunction with a tight wiggle that creates a swimming action that is extremely life like. The lure is of a high quality with extremely strong treble hooks. It is lure that floats at rest but will dive to its manufactured depth even at a slow troll.
I can vouch for this lure as I have used it in Australia to catch yellow fin tuna and spanish mackerel.
- Bomber Saltwater Grade
- Strong polycarbonate body stands up to toothy fish
- Made to withstand harsh saltwater environments
- Split rings and saltwater-grade1/0 hooks
Rapala Husky Jerk
The rapala range of lures are made in Finland and are world famous.
I would be very surprised if you don’t have a rapala lure already in your tackle box.
This particular lure is perfect for trolling for walleye as it can be done at any speed and stay true in movement. As an added bonus it has a rattle chamber that transmits sound waves through the water that attracts bigger predators.
- Suspending/Neutral Buoyancy
- Loud Rattles
- Runs Straight and True
- Cast or Troll
Cordell Wally Diver
Again this lure is well known amongst anglers who specialize in fishing for walleye.
They have been around for ages and for good reason. It has a slender profile with a tight wiggle when trolled and can dive to 20 feet which gets it down to the bigger fish that may be sitting closer to the bottom.
- Varitey of sizes styles and color patterns to match any situation
- Effective cast or trolled for big walleyes
- Proven walleye color patterns
Terminator T1 Spinnerbait
These lures are a great addition to your tackle box.
They are extremely durable because of their titanium frame. They have a very realistic metalized baitfish head design and hardy silicon skirt which are interchangeable so very versatile.
- Unique changeable silicone QuickSkirts with Power Pulse Trailer extensions
- Patented SnapBack Titanium wire frame provides the truest-running, longest-lasting spinnerbaits
- Forage based patterns and extended accent tails provide an exaggerated flowing presentation
- Traditional blade combinations enhance flash and vibration
- Exclusive beveled edge blade design
Reef Runner 800
This lure like many of the above have a reputation second to none and have been responsible for catching some of the biggest walleyes ever seen.
This is because of its terrific features. It can dive to 30 feet and be trolled at extremely slow speeds.
Its individual tail design allows the lure to behave in a random fashion which makes it extremely life like in imitating the patterns of an injured fish.
- The Deep Little Ripper has a incredible darting action as it dives deeper than the Little Ripper.
- It wobbles wider and stays deeper than any other minnow bait in it's class.
- The curved body and "V-bill" make it nearly neutral buoyant.
- The body of the Deep Diver is 4" in length, the diving bill is 1 11/16". Total overall length is 6 3/16"
Terminal Gear – Walleye Trolling Rods, Reels & Lines
Pro Berkley staffer and tournament champion Kevin McQuoid prefers bait casting reels and 10 pound mono line when trolling crank baits. However I do find that braid can give you a greater feel, especially if you decide to troll with rod in hand.
James Holst, a Rapala Pro staffer also prefers using Suffix 832 braid, when trolling quite fast.
It must be noted that rod length doesn’t have to be anything longer than 6 and a half feet as you aren’t looking to cast any distance.
Walleye Rigs For Trolling – Methods
Let me say at the outset that as good as the lure may be, if you don’t rig it properly so it looks life like, then at best it is just waste of money.
You need to pay attention to detail by ensuring that it continues to vibrate in the water column. You do this by continually watching your fishing line. If there appears to be no action, then wind it in and check for weed around the hooks.
Also do not be afraid to put bigger lures out the back. A decent sized walleye isn’t afraid to search for bigger food options.
To give yourselves the best chance of nailing a trophy fish, you need to have a good spread of lures out the back that dive at different depths. By doing this you also restrict the chances of the lures tangling when trolling.
Be flexible in your trolling speeds; experiment with a slow and faster troll.
Many consider that a faster troll will give better results.
Thinking logically, this may be true.
A bigger walleye will grab that lure more aggressively as it doesn’t want “its dinner flying past”.
Therefore what is the best trolling speed for walleye?
General consensus suggests that 1.5 to 2.5mph will give maximum results but don’t be afraid to rev it up to 3mph.
Take advantage of your sounder; mark spots where there are fish and don’t be afraid to return and troll repeatedly over those spots. This simple tip will give you the best chance of hooking up.
Also start thinking like a walleye; if I was looking for food where would I go? If you are fortunate to know someone who has caught one, ask them what they were feeding on. Good luck with getting them to tell you where they caught it however!
Ted Kakasake, an angling hall of famer, says it best; “water temperature and food dictate location. Figure out how those two factors are at work on your next trip to the water and finding walleyes will be a snap.”
So in summary, I offer some quick tips that you should remember or write down. They will help you in your quest to get that fish of a lifetime.
7 quick tips for trolling for walleye
- Do your homework first: know where the fish may be based on location, water temperature, structure and the like.
- Check your gear: are your rods up to scratch? Does the drag work properly? Are my lines free of nicks that will break under stress? Consistently redo your knots.
- Get outside your comfort zone: be prepared to be on the water before dawn and after dusk. They may not be ideal times for us but they are peak times for walleyes!
- Always have a variety of lures for each fishing trip: this allows us to experiment at different depths and actions. Even vary lure colours as this can be the difference between success and failure.
- Make sure you target the species! I cannot say it often enough. Do not be a fishing jack of all trades and a master of none. Give yourself every chance by having the correct gear set up to catch this potential trophy fish.
- Do not fish on the cheap if you can help it. If you can afford the better equipment then buy it. Using cheap fishing gear may be cost effective in the short run but long term it will end up costing you more.
- Always listen to others for advice: if you fish in a new area, check out the local tackle shop and ask questions. You will find that people that love fishing are always happy to help.
Last update on 2018-10-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API