HOW TO CATCH WALLEYE
There are a number of reasons why walleye fishing remains such a popular pastime among anglers.
For sportier anglers, this species has proven to be a fascinating game fish. This is because it has a unique appearance and its habitat is interesting enough to make it a challenge to catch.
For those who are just hobbyists, the walleye is still a great catch as it has a tantalizing taste.
Of course, catching walleye isn’t as easy as you might imagine. It takes experience and the right kind of knowledge to get an edge over this particular species.
This guide will provide you with all of the insider information that you need to help you catch walleye. So, without further ado…
- HOW TO CATCH WALLEYE
- Best Places To Fish For Walleye
- Walleye Fishing Gears
- Walleye Baits And Lures
- Walleye Fishing Techniques
- Best Time Of The Year For Walleye Fishing
- Walleye Fishing Tips
Walleye Fishing – How To Identify Walleye
Yet another reason why anglers tend to prefer walleye is that they are rather simple to identify.
There is just a single species so you can be fairly certain about the fish that you are catching.
Still, it is a good idea to understand the distinguishing features of this fish to avoid any mistakes.
The walleye has a torpedo-shaped body.
The top portion is dark olive brown though further down, it turns a golden yellow. There are often brassy spots on each side of the fish. You can notice that the dorsal fin on the walleye is clearly separated.
The anterior portion has stronger spines while the second dorsal fin tends to have softer spines. The pectoral fins on the walleye are rounded and don’t have any spines.
In certain instances, it can be easy to get the walleye and a similar species – sauger – mixed up.
Here, you should look at the base of the dorsal fin as the walleye have a dark spot here. Also, they have a white spot on the bottom of their tail.
What really sets the walleye apart from other species, though, are the eyes. They are pearlescent.
This is because it has a reflective pigment layer known as the tapetum lucidum.
Size and Weight
It is estimated that walleye can grow up to 35 inches, although anything over 25 inches is typically considered to be large.
Most walleye tend to be around 1 to 2 pounds in weight although there are instances where they have reached up to 10 pounds.
“…Walleye tend to grow more quickly in warm waters. However, the fish in these conditions often reach a shorter maximum length.
On the other hand, walleye in colder regions take longer to reach full length. However, they are also more likely to grow longer.”
Best Places To Fish For Walleye
You should be able to find most of the walleye in lakes, reservoirs, or rivers.
This is because they prefer the deeper and cooler waters afforded by such bodies of water.
This chapter introduces you to the best spot to fish for walleye..
Walleye can be fished in both shallow and deep water.
However, they are more likely to frequent deeper waters during the day. Since they are nocturnal hunters, they will head to shallower depths during the night.
It is also worth noting that walleye can survive in waters of varying temperature. That being said, they do prefer more temperate waters.
PRO TIP: Head to areas with lukewarm waters, you are more likely to see large walleye population there.
During the day, you will find walleye in areas with heavy cover.
You will notice that they lie close to the bottom of rivers or lakes where there are rocks and sand.
Walleye will also look for areas that have a thick covering of weeds to hide in. It is not unusual for them to hide in areas with logs or wooded cover too.
In short, you should look for areas that would provide the walleye with a good hiding spot.
PRO TIP: Cloudy waters are typically a good walleye fishing spot.
It is only at nighttime that you will be able to see walleye in open and clear waters.
Walleye Fishing Gears
It isn’t just enough to know where the walleye are to be successful in this kind of fishing.
You also need to have the right equipment on hand.
So, to help you figure out what kind of rods, reels, and line that you need we have compiled all of the information that you need below:
Walleye Fishing Rods
“…The trick to figuring out which fishing rod is most suitable for walleye fishing is to match it to your technique. The most common techniques utilized are jigging, rigging, and trolling.
So, depending on which one that you are most comfortable with, you will have to choose your rod.”
Walleye Jigging Rods
Let’s first start with jigging rods as you will quickly find jigging to be an invaluable part of walleye fishing.
The main features on a jigging rod should be that it is compact and lightweight. You will be served best by a fishing rod that has a sensitive blank and a sensitive handle to boot.
It is this need for sensitivity that requires you to go with a shorter rod.
Most anglers would recommend that you stick with a rod that is between 5’9 and 6 feet long. Some even use rods that are as short as 5’6.
The reason that a shorter rod is required is because it is able to transmit the movement better, allowing you to be aware of strikes that much sooner.
The sensitivity factor is why you should opt for a carbon fiber or high-modulus graphite rod.
You will, however, need to stay away from fiberglass for a jigging rod.
This material isn’t too great when it comes to transferring bites and so, will slow down your response time.
Speaking of speed, the reason that you need to react quite so quickly is because walleye tend to swim away from your bait if they don’t like what they taste.
To overcome this, you need a rod that affords you fast to extra-fast action. This makes a quick hookset that much easier.
It should also interest you to know that jigging rods make excellent walleye ice fishing rods as well.
So, if you are looking for walleye once the lakes have frozen over, this type of rod will greatly increase your odds of making a catch.
Walleye Trolling Rods
Now, when it comes to trolling rods, you need them to perform a few functions.
First, and foremost, they need to be durable so that they can withstand the force of a biting fish when you use this technique.
Your trolling rod should also be able to bend properly. This will prevent the hook from pulling out when you land a strike.
So, with these things in mind, you will need a long rod – one that is between 7 feet and 8’6.
This will make sure that there is plenty of distance between where you are casting off and where the lure lands in the water.
The rod should have a light to moderate action. This way, the rod will bend appropriately when the fish strikes, ensuring that the hook will remain snugly in its mouth. As a result, it is less likely that the fish will be able to get away.
Now, there is little use in getting a durable rod if it is not comfortable to hold as well.
In fact, it becomes all the more important as you should be at ease, holding onto the rod while it is bending.
This is why you will find a handle made from EVA foam to be an excellent choice. If you do decide to go with a cork one instead, just make sure that it is good quality material.
Last but not least, you need a blank that will be able to withstand all of that bending.
In this instance, you will be wise to get a rod that is made from graphite or fiberglass. Since sensitivity isn’t of the utmost importance, in this case, these materials will work well.
Walleye Rigging Rods
With rigging rods, sensitivity is once again quite often.
You need to be able to detect bites the instant that the walleye take a nibble.
One way to ensure this is to get a rod that has a softer tip section.
This picks up and passes on the movement to the rest of the rod. The soft tip has other uses as well. For one thing, the fish don’t feel too much pressure passing from the rod to the line. As a result, they are more likely to nibble onto the lure for longer.
Now, because you want big, swooping hooksets from your rigging rod, you should pay attention to the power that you want.
Depending on that, you will need to determine the action. With these kinds of rods, it is best to stick with a light, medium-light, or medium power.
This means that you will need a faster action for a lighter power and a moderate action for a medium power.
Since sensitivity is one of the more important factors with a rigging rod, you will need one that has an appropriate blank.
So, stick with ones that are either made from graphite or carbon fiber.
Fishing Reels For Walleye
Now, let’s discuss the types of fishing reels that you will need to effectively fish for walleye:
Walleye Spinning Reel
Spinning reels are undoubtedly one of the most common types of fishing reels around.
Still, it works incredibly well for walleye fishing and there are several perks to using this type of reel.
First, most spinning reels have an anti-reverse feature which comes in handy when you are fighting a fish. In this situation, the crank handle is prevented from rotating, thus allowing you to use the drag to your advantage.
Due to the mechanism of the reel, you can also choose to use lighter lures, if you want.
Walleye Trolling Reel
If you want to try the trolling technique when fishing for walleye, then you need a trolling reel.
There are a few features and functions associated specifically with this type of reel. These are the star drag, line out alarm, and on/off line release lever.
All of these features mean that these reels are good for two main things.
The first is that they are able to handle game fish like walleye that may put up a fight. The other benefit is that this type of reel affords you the opportunity to use a wider variety of fishing line.
Walleye Spincasting Reel
If you are only just getting started with fishing, you will find that the spincasting reel will work best for you.
This is largely because casting with this type of reel is quite so easy. It simply requires you to press a button rear part of the reel, causing the pick-up pin to disengage and for the line to come off the spool when you cast forward.
Not to mention, you are less likely to experience backlash with this reel as well.
However, you do need to be careful with the kind of spincasting reel that you opt for and should also stick with the higher quality ones.
It is best to look for a smooth drag system and an anti-reverse system.
Fishing Line For Walleye
Here are the fishing lines that you should consider for this type of fishing:
When it comes to walleye fishing, you will find that anglers are more likely to recommend fluorocarbon.
Now, there are many reasons why this line is popular so let’s narrow it down.
One of the main advantages of this type of line is that it is nearly invisible in the water. This is why it can often be useful when you are fishing in areas that are rather overpopulated.
Here, when the fish are suspicious of visible line, the fluorocarbon can go unnoticed. Therefore, you will be more likely to wrangle the fish in.
There is also the fact that this line is rather strong and abrasion resistant. So, when fishing in areas with heavy cover (where you are most likely to find walleye) you don’t have to worry about the line getting damaged.
The only real drawback with this line is that it is slightly costly.
Braided or Multifilament Line
If you are going after larger, more active walleye, then you are going to have to use either braided line or multifilament line.
The benefit with these lines is that they have very little stretch.
As you can imagine, this is a rather useful trait when you are going after larger game fish.
It is also quite strong which means that it is able to withstand wear and tear caused by the heavy cover of walleye habitat.
Monofilament line continues to be as popular as ever, particularly because it functions as a general purpose fishing line.
That being said, it also has a host of problems including high memory, which means that you are more likely to encounter tangles when using this kind of line.
However, it is quite affordable so most people tend to use it for the initial part of the line and then attach braided or fluorocarbon as the leader.
If you are intent on using monofilament line, you need to be aware of the perfect conditions.
“…Monofilament line is best when fishing in a lake and if you are only looking for smaller walleye.”
Walleye Baits And Lures
It doesn’t really matter if you have the best equipment in the world if you are unable to entice the walleye to take a nibble.
This is where the bait and lures come in.
This section deals with your best options for baits and lures…
Before going further, though, you need to realize that there is a specific time when each of these lures and baits will be most useful to you.
After all, the success of the lures depends on the growth cycle of the walleye.
This, however, will be discussed in a later section.
For now, we will talk about the lures and bait that will be most useful in catching walleye.
Walleye Live Baits
Since walleye have a tendency to be rather choosy about the kind of food that they eat, using live bait can actually come in quite handy in this instance.
The live baits that will work especially well with walleye include minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches.
Minnows: if you are fishing for walleye in shallower waters, you will find that minnows work best. The most important thing to keep in mind when using minnows is to ensure that they remain on the hook until the walleye takes a nibble.
To do this, you should place the hook through the mouth and then through the head.
Leeches: if you are using leeches, it is best to use ones that are larger in size. They are often most effective when used during the summertime.
Nightcrawlers: if you are looking to fish in deeper waters, then, you will find that nightcrawlers will come in quite handy. In this scenario, the bigger the nightcrawler, the better.
Now let’s move onto the lures that you can use to entice the walleye:
Ask any expert walleye angler and they are sure to tell you that jigs should become your go-to lure.
This is mostly because it allows you to set up a presentation close to the bottom of lakes and rivers, which is where the walleye are.
Most anglers tend towards a round, lead headed jig and it can either be paired with plastic bait or live bait.
If you find that the fish aren’t biting all that well, it is best to go with live bait.
Also, as far as ice fishing lures go, jigs are often the top choice in the colder months as well.
The most important thing to keep in mind with jigs is choosing the right weight, according to the depth that you are fishing at.
If you will be fishing at 10 feet or less, you will find that 1/8 ounce jigs are best. If this jig is unable to settle near the bottom, you can use a 1/4th ounce jig instead.
For waters between 10 and 25 feet, you should try a 1/4th ounce jig while at depths over 25 feet, stick with a ½ ounce one.
Spinners have actually been used for anglers for quite some time now but still remain popular as they are so effective.
Not only can they be used for casting and trolling, they also produce a flash and noise that is enticing to walleye.
When fishing for walleye, the best sizes are 3 and 4.
If you find that the fish aren’t biting as they should, adding some live bait to the rig can really help.
“…As far as colors go, you will find those that are slightly murky like grey and black work best.”
The reason that crankbaits continue to produce results is because they look so realistic.
This means that the walleye is more likely to move towards this type of lure. At the same time, you have to make sure that you are choosing crankbaits that are likely to garner the attention of the specific walleye that you are hunting.
Typically, it is best to choose crankbaits that mimic the natural prey of the walleye.
This means that you should choose thin and long structures – between 3 and 5 inches.
They should also be colored according to the surrounding water. If you are in clear water, look for hues that will blend in. On the other hand, if you are fishing in murky waters, consider using colors that will stand out.
“…To really get the attention of walleye, make it a point to use crankbaits that have a rattling sound.”
Walleye Fishing Techniques
Now that you know which rods, reels, lines, and lures to get, it is time to put all of this together.
One of the final pieces of this puzzle is to understand the techniques that are most useful in snagging you some walleye.
You will find the tried and true walleye fishing techniques in this chapter..
Walleye Pitching Jigs
You will soon learn that walleye have a tendency to congregate in rivers with rushing waters and sloping curves.
Unfortunately, while you are sure to get a good catch here, you will also find it more difficult to do so. This is where the pitching jigs technique comes in.
For this to work, you should settle on a 1/8th or 1/16th ounce jig.
You should use this with a line that has about a six or eight-pound test.
Now, take the jig between your thumb and index finger and lightly pull back while you simultaneously aim your rod to your preferred landing direction.
At this point, you should gently release the jig and pitch it underhand.
If you have gotten the technique right, you will notice that the jig lands in the splash with very little noise and disturbance.
Ideally, the jig should have fallen near the target, vertically.
You will then need to slowly lift the rod tip up so that the jig is floating above the bottom and moving towards you.
FISHING AROUND HEAVY COVER?
Slow Death Rigging
Once upon a time, anglers were focused on ensuring that their rig and lures were incredibly straight as they dropped them into the water.
These days, though, most seasoned experts know the truth – it is the spin that really does the trick.
This is what spawned the slow death rigging technique that works well when trolling. It has been so useful that it has even culminated in a variety of customized versions as well.
For this fishing tactic, you are going to need a fishing hook with a distinctive bend in it.
There are some manufacturers who actually produce slow death hooks so that you don’t have to go searching too far.
You will then need to thread your bait – a nightcrawler – in a very specific way.
This means that you will have to place the head over the hook eye and drape the body so that it covers the hook. You will have to clip the nightcrawler so that only a bit is hanging off the hook.
You will also need to include a bottom bouncer onto the rig and then drop it in the water.
You can try trolling about a mile an hour.
When you do this, the rig spins in a manner that entices the walleye effectively.
As it has already been discussed, walleye like heavy cover. So, to be able to contend with this, you should try casting crankbaits. It is particularly useful when you are fishing among rock structures.
Now, there are several secrets to make this technique work. The main thing here is to choose the right crankbait.
So, the first step would be to select a crankbait that is buoyant enough to float over cover like wood and rocks.
You will also need to use a crankbait that is capable of running a bit deeper than the water that you want to fish in.
After this, it is pretty straightforward.
Cast your crankbait into shallow waters and almost immediately begin your retrieve.
You should stop every few seconds, whenever you feel the rig coming into contact with the wood or rocks.
As you lift it up, the walleye are sure to take a bite.
BEST USED WHEN TROLLING
Bottom Bouncer and Spinner Combination Technique
If you have any doubts that this technique works, they might be dispelled when you learned that the rig behind this technique is actually known as the ‘money rig’.
This is a technique that you can use when trolling.
The secret to your success here is to choose the right bottom bouncer. This means selecting one that will run at a 45-degree angle from the rod tip.
You will also need to match the weight of the bouncer to the depth that you will be fishing at. Typically one that is 1/4th to 1 ounce is great for depths of around 10 to 15 feet. For depths of between 15 and 25 feet, try a 1.5 to 2-ounce bouncer.
When choosing the spinner, make sure to use blades that match the size of the walleye you are after. This means small blades for smaller walleye and bigger blades for larger walleye.
You should also match the colors to the environment. As such, brightly colored spinners will stand out in murky waters and neutral colors will work well in clear waters.
Once the rig has been set up, it is time to lower it so that it touches the bottom every so often, as the boat moves along.
Meanwhile, the spinner will be just below the bouncer so that it spins and attracts the walleye.
Best Time Of The Year For Walleye Fishing
The great thing about walleye fishing is that it can be done all year long.
That is, of course, provided you know where to look for them and what baits to use.
This section takes care of all this:
CATCH THE AGGRESSIVE WALLEYE:
Spring Walleye Fishing
In the early spring, walleye will begin spawning.
This typically happens when the temperature is between 42°F and 45°F.
As a result, they are more likely to congregate in shallow areas, close to the bottom of rivers and lakes, and where there may be cover.
The benefit for anglers during this time of year is that the walleye are rather aggressive.
This means that you won’t need to try too hard with your rigs and in many instances, may not even have to resort to live bait.
You will often find that the walleye in the shallow end during this time are males.
This is because the larger females tend to go deeper, although they are in the vicinity.
So, if you are after a larger fish, you should head to a greater depth.
MIMIC THE PREY
Summer Time Walleye Fishing
By the time that summer rolls around, the fry will have hatched and will now be between 4 and 6 inches long.
At this point, they are still feeding off of insects. So, if you want to entice them, you should use lures that resemble their favorite prey.
It is a good idea to pay attention to the insect life around the area that you are fishing in.
This should provide you with some idea of the colors and features that you should use with your lure.
During this time of the year, the fish will hide in deeper waters, especially during the day.
So, if you are looking for a good spot to fish in, you may want to go to where the water is deeper.
You may also get lucky if you go to a patch of weeds or where there is some cover for the walleye.
FOLLOW THE SHAD
Fall Walleye Fishing
While fall can land you the walleye of your dreams, it can also be a bit difficult to find these fish during this period. This is because it can be somewhat of a transitional period as the temperature of the water is changing.
The good news is that the walleye can be particularly aggressive during this period as they are trying to fatten up before winter.
So, they shouldn’t be too fussy in terms of lures and bait. However, you will find that minnows or lures that mimic them will be most successful.
Also, since most of their cover is gone, you will find that they are more easily found in open water.
It should be noted that as the temperatures drop, it is more likely for the walleye to swim to greater depths.
As far as movement goes, this will only be really clear once you have tried a few presentations.
This is because walleye will not be as quick as during the summer. At the same time, they will not be nearly as lethargic as when winter rolls around.
BE PREPARED TO GO DEEPER
Ice Fishing Walleye Tips In Winter
Now, finding walleye in the winter can be especially tricky. However, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.
So, what is that you should look for when the water has frozen over?
Well, first things first, there is a good chance that during this season, walleye have headed to much greater depths. So, you are bound to find them at around 25 to 50 feet at any given time.
Not only are they in deeper waters, they are also more likely than ever to stay close to the bottom.
If you are fishing in an area with heavy currents, it becomes all the more important that you weight your rig properly.
Since the walleye are eager for any food at this point, you are sure to get a lot of results if you use minnow as bait.
“…Use heavy rigs and lures that will quickly drop to the bottom when fishing for walleye at greater depths.”
Understanding the Importance of Time of Day
With walleye, you shouldn’t just be aware of their habits across the seasons. You should also have an idea of how they behave throughout the day.
As mentioned, walleye tend to have a reflective pigment layer on their eyes.
Due to this, they tend to have much better eyesight at night.
This is why they are more likely to be hunting at this time as it affords them an advantage over their prey such as minnows.
So, they are more likely to swim around at shallower depths.
If you want to fish for walleye during the daytime, you can.
It is just that you will have to head to deeper waters and fish around areas that have weeds, logs, or other types of cover.
Walleye Fishing Tips
Below are 4 of our most popular walleye fishing tips.
These used with the information provided above in this guide should bring you closer to landing that BIG catch!
Use Variety of Live Bait: Most anglers prefer to take just one type of live bait to cut down on hassle. However, there is no real way to know how the walleye will react to each type of bait until you try fishing. So, if you really want to come away successful, make it a point to carry minnows, leaches, and nightcrawlers with you.
Fish According to the Weather: Although you may not realize it, walleye react to the weather. So, if the water is murky after a storm, try trolling at the bottom to increase the chances of getting a bite. However, if it is clear out, look for places with lots of cover, like weeds, as the walleye have a tendency to hide out.
Work the Whole Column: Due to typical walleye behavior, most anglers tend to focus on the bottom. Nonetheless, you may find it useful to actually fish in the whole water column. This is because the more active fish tend to be suspended in the column. So, if you aren’t getting any bites, switch up the weights to suspend your rig vertically.
Use a Slow Retrieval: Some walleye can be quite lazy which is why they may not respond to fast-moving bait or lures. What you need to do instead is to retrieve the line more slowly and actually stop every so often. This increases the chances that the walleye will strike when you stop for a short time.
So, there you have it, all that you need to know about walleye fishing.
Now that you are armed with all this information, it is time to put it to the test.
Grab your gear, head outside, and go find the biggest walleye you can.
This walleye fishing tips was made possible with the help of the following resources, guides and graphics.
Featured image by: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Flickr
Walleye fish image by: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.