How To Catch Walleye: Beyond The Basics

Team Cast & Conquer

man holding a walleye he had just caught
man holding a walleye he had just caught

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Fishing enthusiasts like us know the thrill of pursuing the elusive walleye, a crafty and elusive predator that demands a strategic approach. In this guide, we'll go over how to catch walleye by going into the depths of walleye fishing, uncovering proven strategies that will elevate your chances of a great catch.

Brief Overview of Walleye Fishing

Walleye fishing is a popular angling pursuit, particularly in North America where these freshwater fish are abundant. Walleye, scientifically known as Sander vitreus, are a species of perch known for their distinctive appearance, featuring sharp teeth and glossy eyes that are adapted for low-light conditions.

Importance of Effective Strategies

Success in walleye fishing isn't merely about luck; it's about employing the right strategies. Whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner, unlocking the secrets of walleye behavior and habitat is key to a rewarding fishing experience.

Understanding Walleye Behavior

Nocturnal Feeding Habits

1. Importance of Low Light Conditions

Walleye are notorious for their nocturnal feeding habits, making dawn and dusk prime times for fishing. When learning how to catch walleye, never underestimate the significance of low light conditions. This is the first step towards a successful outing.

2. Impact on Bait Selection

In these low light periods, walleye tend to be more aggressive. Pick lures that mimic the fish's natural prey, such as minnows or leeches, which can trigger strikes and increase your chances of a great catch.

Seasonal Movement Patterns

1. Spring Spawning Locations

As spring ushers in warmer temperatures, walleye migrate to spawning locations. Identifying these areas, typically rocky or gravelly bottoms in shallower waters, is crucial for early-season success.

2. Summer and Fall Migration Routes

Understanding the seasonal movement patterns of walleye is a year-round endeavor. In summer and fall, these predators move to deeper waters, following baitfish and adjusting your fishing strategy accordingly becomes paramount.

Mastering Walleye Habitat

Preferred Water Temperatures

1. Thermocline Awareness

Walleye thrive in specific temperature ranges. Being aware of the thermocline, the boundary between warmer surface water and colder deep water, allows you to target the depth where walleye are most active. The optimal water temperature for walleye is 67 degrees with a low limit of 50 degrees and an upper limit of 76 degrees.

2. Impact on Depth Selection

Depending on the season, the thermocline's depth varies. Adjusting your fishing depth to align with the thermocline ensures you're presenting your bait where the walleye are most likely to strike. This is easily done by tying a string to a fishing thermometer and checking the temp at various depths.

Structure and Cover

1. Importance of Drop-offs and Points

Walleye are structure-oriented fish. Submerged drop-offs and points are natural ambush points for these predators. Identifying and targeting these structures significantly increases your chances of success.

2. Submerged Weed Beds as Hotspots

Contrary to popular belief, walleye are not solely open-water predators. Submerged weed beds, often overlooked by anglers, can be hotspots for walleye, especially during low light conditions.

Tackling the Techniques

Jigging Techniques

1. Lure Selection and Presentation

Jigging is a versatile and effective technique for targeting walleye. Pick lures that imitate the movements of injured prey, and vary your jigging cadence to entice strikes. We recommend the 4-inch Z-Man TRD along with a 1/8oz. Northland Tackle Deep-Vee Jig.

2. Jigging Depths for Different Conditions

The depth at which you jig can make or break your walleye fishing expedition. Experiment with different depths until you find the sweet spot where the walleye are actively feeding. Don't forget to keep track of the water temps at various depths.

Trolling Tactics for Covering Vast Areas

Trolling tactics have become a cornerstone of advanced walleye fishing, offering a strategic approach to covering vast expanses of water. This method involves trailing bait or lures behind a moving boat, allowing anglers to present their offerings to walleye across large areas. Let's explore the nuances of trolling tactics and understand why they are instrumental in the pursuit of walleye in open waters.

1. The Art of Controlled Movement

Trolling is more than simply dragging a lure through the water; it's a methodical approach to controlled movement. Anglers carefully dictate the speed and depth at which their lures traverse the water, creating an enticing presentation that mimics the movement of prey. This controlled approach is particularly effective when walleye are scattered or cruising at various depths.

2. Planer Boards: Widening the Playing Field

To maximize the coverage area, anglers often employ planer boards. These ingenious devices allow lures to be positioned horizontally away from the boat, covering a wider swath of water. By strategically deploying planer boards, anglers can create a trolling spread that canvases different depths and distances, increasing the chances of intercepting walleye in their feeding zones.

3. Speed and Lure Selection

Adjusting trolling speed is a critical component of this technique. Walleye can be particular about the pace at which they pursue prey, and finding the optimal speed is often a trial-and-error process. Additionally, selecting the right lures is paramount. Tailoring your choices based on factors like water clarity, light conditions, and the preferred forage of the walleye in that particular location ensures a more effective trolling presentation.

4. Adapting to Changing Conditions

One of the strengths of trolling tactics is their adaptability to dynamic conditions. When walleye are on the move or spread out across a large area, trolling allows anglers to quickly cover different depths and contours. This adaptability is especially valuable when faced with changing weather patterns, varying water temperatures, or the need to explore expansive structures.

5. Precision with Depth Control

Trolling allows for precise control over lure depth, a crucial factor when targeting walleye at different levels in the water column. Whether using diving plugs, lead core lines, or downriggers, the ability to adjust depth based on the location of walleye schools or structures significantly enhances the effectiveness of trolling tactics.

Rigging for Success

1. Leverage of Slip Bobber Rigs

Slip bobber rigs provide versatility in presenting live bait at various depths. Adjusting the depth of your presentation allows you to target suspended walleye or those hugging the bottom.

2. Effective Live Bait Choices

Walleye can be picky eaters, and the right live bait can make all the difference. Experiment with options like leeches, nightcrawlers, and minnows to discover what the walleye in your area prefer.

Walleye-Specific Lures and Baits

Crankbaits

1. Diving Depths and Speeds

Crankbaits come in various shapes and sizes, each designed to reach specific depths. Understanding the diving depths and adjusting your trolling speed accordingly ensures your crankbait is in the strike zone. We've found that the Rapala Deep Down Husky Jerk is a great crankbait for walleye fishing.

2. Color Selection Tips

Walleye can be color-sensitive, and choosing the right hues can be a game-changer. Stick to natural colors like perch or shad in clearer waters, and experiment with brighter colors in murkier conditions.

Soft Plastics

1. Versatility in Various Environments

Soft plastics offer versatility in mimicking various prey species. From paddle-tail swimbaits to finesse worms, experimenting with different soft plastic lures allows you to adapt to changing conditions.

2. Enhancing with Scent Attractants

Adding scent attractants to your soft plastics can entice cautious walleye to strike. Consider options like garlic or anise to add an extra layer of appeal to your lures.

Fine-Tuning Your Equipment

Rod and Reel Selection

1. Sensitivity and Power Considerations

Selecting the right rod and reel combo is crucial for detecting subtle bites and handling the fight once hooked. Choose a sensitive rod with enough power to handle the size of walleye in your fishing area. Our #1 walleye rod is the St. Croix Legend Walleye Casting Rodpaired with theDiawa Tatula TWS Baitcast Reel. They provide great sensitivity and ample backbone for larger walleye. If a spinning rod is preferred, we'd recommend the St. Croix Premier Spinning Rod paired with a Diawa Tatula LT Spinning Reel.

2. Line Choices for Different Techniques

Matching your fishing line to the technique is often overlooked. Use a low-visibility monofilament for slip bobber rigs and fluorocarbon for crankbaits to maximize your chances of success.

Utilizing Electronics

1. Importance of Fish Finders

Investing in a quality fish finder can be a game-changer. Understanding the underwater topography and locating schools of baitfish allows you to target active walleye with precision. The Garmin Striker Fish Finder is a great option here as it also provides GPS capabilities and it won't break the bank.

2. GPS Navigation for Precision

GPS navigation systems are invaluable for marking productive spots and navigating vast bodies of water. Utilize GPS waypoints to revisit successful locations and increase your overall efficiency.

Patience and Persistence

Adapting to Changing Conditions

1. Weather Influences on Walleye Behavior

Walleye behavior is directly influenced by weather conditions. Learn to adapt your strategies to changing weather patterns, such as increased activity during overcast days or shifts in feeding depth due to temperature changes.

2. Modifying Strategies Throughout the Day

What works in the morning may not be as effective in the afternoon. Stay observant and be willing to change your approach as the day progresses to stay ahead of the walleye's ever-changing behavior.

Learning how to catch walleye requires a multifaceted approach. By understanding walleye behavior, mastering their habitat, and employing effective techniques, you can enhance your chances of a great catch.

Remember to prioritize conservation, stay connected with the angling community, and above all, prioritize safety in your pursuit of the remarkable walleye.

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