Walleye Trolling Basics

A lot of guys have never seen how most Walleye fisherman troll around with electric trolling motors, and a lot of guys who troll around dam tail waters don’t understand what’s going on so I will offer a little insight. I troll ledges and different depths to try to find a pass that works. I is like casting only you don’t reel it in, you just swim the jigs or lure around with the boat. It may look like I am moving around out of control but I am looking for passes that catch fish. I troll along ledges, I troll up and down ledges, I troll flats, I troll around wingdams, I troll shallow, I troll deep. I swim the jig, I jig the jig, I hold the jig steady, I do different things looking to see what the fish want. I try different colors, I try to match the water conditions but I let the fish let me know what they prefer.

Fishing tailwaters I see a lot of guys just watch other fisherman, and when they see a fish caught they race over and sit on top of that spot, which only stops everyone else from making passes and likely catches no fish. On windy days boats are moving more and catching more fish and they don’t even know why. It’s the moving, making passes that triggers strikes. These days guys have GPS and even have GPS trolling motors and thing the Walleye just sit in one spot and don’t move but this is false, Walleye are always on the move and sitting in one spot isn’t the answer unless your just jigging and waiting for the fish come to you, which can make a long fishless day of watching others catch all the fish.

Moving around I watch the depth finder constantly, a good part of knowing where I am is with this tool, and the rest is constantly keeping an eye on landmarks to know where you are when you get a strike. When I catch a fish I know where I am but the first thing I do is check depth and landmarks and zero in exactly where I am and I try to remember the pass I was making and from then on that pass may catch fish, year after year when the conditions are the same. This is a good way of getting a mental map of the areas and a guy can find a lot of new areas on their own and be rewarded with big fish. Finding fish is more of an accomplishment than catching a fish by doing what everyone else is doing and by following everyone else around.

In the cold months, late Fall and Winter, the water is usually clear and moving around pulling rapalas or floaters on 3-ways or bottom bouncers is affective. But since the water is cold moving slow can be the ticket on any given day, as every day if not every hour can change what works to catch fish. Their brains are thinking slow, so just holding a jig in from of their mouth may trigger a strike, or jigging a jig up and down is affective and that is why sonars/blades work so well in the winter. Now watching to see what other fisherman is doing may be a good idea but running over and sitting over where the last fish was caught is chasing fish that have already been caught and this type of parasite fishing rarely pays off.

In warmer water the water may be murky, so trolling needs to be slowed down, brighter colors and rattles in crankbaits all help to catch fish. In warmer water with decent water clarity trolling speeds can be pretty fast and using a kicker motor may be the best way to troll. When I straightline crankbaits using my kicker motor on Lake Erie and the Mississippi River I make a lot of turns because this speeds up the outside crankbaits and slows down the inner crankbaits and the fish will tell me what they prefer, faster or slower. Slower trolling also lets the crankbait run deeper and faster will raise the crankbait up so it also covers different depths.

One day up in Wisconsin there was a guy anchored on one of my favorite wingdams for three days in a row. Since he was anchored he was only fishing the best spot on the wingdam and there was plenty of fish he wasn’t even trying to cast. I usually would not fish a wingdam that someone else was fishing but since he was anchored I went ahead and fished it keeping a good distance from him. After the twentieth fish within an hour he waved me over and started to lecture me about trolling over top of fish, but he couldn’t argue with the effectiveness of moving around trolling instead of anchoring and casting. I probably caught more and bigger fish in an hour than he did in three days. So all in all moving around is the most affective way to catch Walleye, not anchoring or sitting over fish.

By Dave Tackett – (C) copyright 2010

About Dave Tackett

Dave Tackett is from Sterling Illinois. An avid fisherman since childhood, he has fished all over the Midwest, mainly the Mississippi River pools 8-19. His home waters are pools 13 & 14. After fishing Bass tournaments for many years, he gave it up to fish for Walleye year round. He now guides and fishes for fun. He likes to take photos of the scenic places he visits on the river and likes to keep a video camera running to get footage for his Walleye DVDs. Photography is now where he most of his time working, using professional DSLR cameras and lens. These photos include landscape around the Mississippi River and the Rock River, river birds like eagles heron, egrets etc.
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