How to Fish for Walleye: Like a Pro

how to fish for walleye
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It is sometimes challenging to catch a walleye while fishing; not only are they hard to get hold of, but they are also one of the tastiest fish species in freshwater.

This article will guide you through steps on more accessible methods to catch Walleye.

Learning how to catch Walleye is a long-time pursuit; it is indeed hard to locate and even challenging to catch.

But the Walleye can be easy to detect using simple, easy-to-follow methods, which, with the right equipment and a little know-how, keeps them within reach of anyone who desires to catch them.

In this article, I will guide you through what kind of bait and tackle to use when fishing for Walleye and tips and techniques to incorporate in other to catch them.

Understanding Walleye

The Walleye, also known as the yellow pike or the yellow pickerel, is a native freshwater fish species to most of Canada and the Northern United States.

It is considered a North American close relative of the European zander and is also known as the pikeperch.

It is a popular and commonly stocked game fish. Walleyes are long and thin, primarily gold and olive in color, with a white belly.

They have a crossed back with five or more black bands.

They have two abaxial fins, one spiny and one soft-rayed. Walleyes are also a source of healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids.

They are also rich in vitamin D, which works with calcium to keep bones healthy and strong.

Therefore, it is vital to understand what walleyes are and when to fish for them.

Spring is one of the best times of the year to catch walleyes.

The reason is that, like many other fish, spring is the time of the year when walleyes begin their spawning ritual.

Fishing for Walleye Tips to Follow

Fishing Baits for Walleye

 fwalleye baits

Once you understand walleye fish and know where to attempt to find them, you should know your tackle options.

For example, some walleye anglers choose between natural live baits, artificial baits, or even a combination.

Live baits for Walleye fishing trip

Live Bait is essential when it comes to walleye fishing.

To get the best out of walleye fishing, using live baits as default bait for Walleye would be the best choice.

You know, Walleye are generally daintier and more complicated to catch, unlike other typical Freshwater fish.

If you want to get it all in your favor when fishing for Walleye, then live bait is the best option.

Minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers are commonly used live baits for Walleye.

Minnows work best during spring and fall; these seasons are the most active season for Walleye.

1) Minnows  

Minnows between 3-5 inches range produce the expected result when walleye fishing.

These include shiners, fathead minnows, and chubs.

When targeting bigger walleyes, Shiners between the 4 to 6 inches range are the best aid; these shiners will weed through some smaller fish and get you on 24 inches+ Walleyes.

Minnow is a prevalent bait option for Walleye Anglers.

Rigging and techniques

When fishing in less than eight feet of deep water, you can present the lively minnow on its own under a large Snap Bobber of two inches or a large Slip Float threaded near the back tail on an undefined Circle or Octopus Hook.

When fishing in water greater than eight feet in depth, it is common to thread them through the lips of a Jig Head.

If fishing with a float, you should position it near the cover and let the bait travel.

It is crucial to note that with a smaller minnow, it is best when threaded through the lip or tail of a jig head will work well if weeds are not plentiful.

2) Leaches

Leeches are another popular bait prevalent among walleye anglers.

Most anglers attach them to a worm-tackled rig and retrieve them slowly, either on or above the bottom.

This bait is very effective in Walleye dominant bodies of water because if used in water dominated by Perch, Panfish, and Bass, your Leach may vanish.

But when rigged to worm harness spinners, this lengthens their profile to sort through the pests.

Rigging and techniques

Using a slip bobber rig when using leeches is advised for flexibility, but they are also great with Jigs.

With a Slip Bobber, set the depth to one foot from the bottom when fishing rock-like or sand-like bottoms.

Do this also when fishing near weed bottoms.

Then, allow the wind or current to travel your bait covering water across prime targets.

3) Nightcrawlers

The Nightcrawlers are a type of worm popularly used as bait for Walleye because of their constant twisting movement.

This attribute makes them very appealing to all kinds of fish.

However, when it comes to rigging with nightcrawlers, it is best you worm harness it, and this typically has one or two hooks, together with a series of plastic beads and one or two spinning blades for flash and vibration.

You can buy them online from a local bait or worm farm store.

Rigging and techniques

A threaded nightcrawler gives a rig a distinct rolling action.

To thread your crawler onto the leader, you can make one or use any commercial threader.

Then, glide the threader line into the crawler just ahead of its collar and run it through to the tail in straight movement.

Now place the threader somewhere to hold it steady and insert the hook into the threader while keeping pressure on the line.

Next, slide the entire crawler, attaching the tail with the lead hook.

It leaves the chubbiest part of the crawler, above the collar, to curl freely behind the hook.

Leave the hook gap ultimately revealed for the right action and effortless hook settings.

Walleye Jigs Jigging

Fishing with walleye specialized jig heads gives you the capacity to fish fast and cover larger areas of water.

Using jigs is also an exciting way to fish. But, most importantly, it is a prevalent technique for targeting those Walleye, and most anglers would agree that they are the most effective.

To jig, you need jig heads. (A jig is simply a hook with a weighted fish-like head molded onto it).

Many different jig body styles may be attached to it.

This mold condenses the exposure of the jig + hook, giving your Live Bait a hidden exhibition.

You tilt your jig by the lips of the minnow or your leach head so they can re-drift while fishing.

Hair-like jigs have been in use for Walleye, but some anglers also regarded them as a little old-fashioned.

Modern soft plastic jigs and jigging spoons, are widely used; many would name them the leading bait for Walleye.

A one-quarter-ounce jig head with a four-inches curly-tail jig can catch Walleye in about any condition.

However, it’s a good idea to have several sizes and styles of jigs on the boat so you can maneuver depending on what the fish appear to desire.

Jigs that are Bright in color, such as yellow-green, white, or pinkish, tend to be considerably effectual, but darker-colored jigs such as black, brown, and the likes can work agreeably in dimmer conditions.

You can entice more walleyes by tipping your fish jigs with a piece of nightcrawler or worm on your hook.

You can toss and retrieve jigs slowly and steadily or add some yanks and snaps.

Walleye Lures

lures

Fish Lures are very popular and influential during times when Walleye are most actively feeding.

Lures such as Crankbaits, jerk baits, and blade baits are the most used lures among the Walleye anglers.

Before diving into lures, it is best to know that starting with Live Bait is the best option to get your hands on more Walleye.

But in situations where Live Baits are not easily obtainable, the lure is another best option.

Let us talk about some of the most prevalent lure options for Walleye.

a) Crankbaits

Crankbaits are like minnow-imitating lures with thick bodies, generally made of plastic or wood. Crankbaits are also known for their trolling applications.

They have a snout that helps the lure achieve a certain deepness and are excellent for walleye fishing.

Some deep-diving crankbait can run at a typical walleye depth range of 10 to 12 Feet.

Deep-diving crankbaits lures are great for digging out Walleyes.

b) Blade baits 

The Blade baits are great for Walleye fishing. A blade bait is a flat metal spoon with a weighted nose that sinks quickly.

The blade baits jolts on the retrieve and jolts on the lift.

Because they are relatively heavy in size, they cast like bullets and drop down to the fish zone faster.

As a result, they tend to release like bullets and sink like bricks.

Blade baits are occasionally tipped with a minnow head or a bit of nightcrawler to lure walleyes quicker.

The truth is, walleye verbatim knock themselves out by hitting these vibrating metal.

c) Ringworms 

Ringworms have been revitalized in the past few years, and if you want to catch the big walleyes, give them ringworm. It is one of the best walleye lure.

There is a combination of ways to work a jig and Ringworm, and you can do a trial-and-error style to determine the proper presentation that best attracts walleyes.

There are days when walleyes are glued to the bottom, and a heavy jig is needed to keep in steady touch with the bottom.

This dragging method works well, except when the snare is present; in this case, you spend more time snaring than catching.

A lightweight jig allows the Ringworm to hit bottom often; therefore, the lightweight jig is usually a better presentation and will not snag as much.

When fishing in a dam, anchor down from it and release up to it; try fitting the jig’s weight to the current speed.

Cast out a jig to see if it jumps downstream with a bit of help from your retrieve and if you notice that it doesn’t move with a bit of help from your retrieve, re-set on a lighter jig.

The sure thing is that when fishing a dam, walleyes will surely hit the Ringworm.

When fishing in deep waters, anchor your vessel upstream, cast a little off to the side, and let the current sweep the Ringworm downstream.

Use a jig heavy enough so it can help it hit the water floor once and a while.

On the retrieve, tug the line with your walleye rod tip and give it a few short pumps while reeling it in.

d) Jerk baits 

Different names are sometimes given to jerk baits. Some call it Twitch, Stick, or Minnow baits.

Jerk baits work great for most walleye anglers in many walleye fishing situations, and many of them find the most remarkable success by retrieving them at a slow and steady pace.

Jerk baits between four to six inches are excellent for Walleye.

Trolling jerk baits over shallow sand and rocky silhouettes are proven excellent for walleye fishing each year.

Another method that is gaining popularity is using these lures over bottoms and shoreline tapers that have dawning weed growth in less than ten feet of water.

Casting is very efficient when fish are clicking to a spot in a bottom area; that is, it is more efficient to cast jerk baits when fish are clinging to rock naps or weed clumps.

When casting, switch up your retrieve speed and cadence so you meticulously fish every cast differently to find a specific channel style that walleye fish will react to.

Periods when fish are relatively calm, long casting usually catches more walleyes because walleyes are known for following and nibbling at the back of the bait from a considerable distance.

However, when the fish in the water is somewhat aggressive, short casts will let you make more casts precisely in the zone, giving you room to catch more walleyes.

e) Curly Tail Grubs 

Many Walleye anglers have been using curly tail grubs for many years.

The curly tail grubs are soft plastic baits that work great on jig heads.

Whatever still you use when with them while fishing (vertically jigging with them, bouncing them along the bottom, gradually swimming them along the bottom, or trolling with them), you have a great chance of catching some walleye with a tail grub.

Most anglers prefer keeping it simple and utilizing a jighead, but a drop shot rig and spinner rig are also effective.

Tail grubs are excellent options off the dock or while on the boat because they let you cover more water than Live Baits, such as minnow, since you will be able to cast and retrieve it more frequently without endangering the liveliness of your used minnow.

Using natural colors like Black, White and Brown are very effective; you know it is best to keep it realistic to attract the walleyes.

f) Paddle Tail Shads 

Paddle tails are one of the best quest baits that can help you catch those walleyes and cover a lot of ground with them.

You can achieve this by mixing in a few pauses and twitches.

Doing this can get you a lot of reaction strikes out of walleyes.

A screw-locked weighted hook will be effective in rigging a paddle tail lure.

Trolling to Catch Walleye

trolling for walleye

Trolling is the act of slowly moving the boat while pulling lures behind, varying in speeds and depths according to the nature and size of the fish. (To reach typical walleye depths).

However, there is more to trolling than just pulling lures behind. Specific tools and techniques are required depending on your fishing water depth.

How you apply speed, styles, and presentation is also an important aspect.

Having the finest lures is the first step to successful trolling.

Working with a bottom walker rig with a weighted wire arm that bounces on the water floor, holds your bait a little heightened to avoid snags while maintaining the lure close to the Walleye.

Another key to successful trolling is to add the right weight to your line to keep your lure at a depth near the water bottom.

Trolling live bait on a worm harnessed rig is a proven method that works great for Walleye anywhere.

The best speed for Walleye trolling is somewhere between 1.8 – 3.5 miles in an hour.

Although trolling speed varies differently based on the type of lure used and the water condition.

How you place your rod is another essential factor of trolling that many anglers overlook.

The primary advantage of trolling is its ability to cover so much more water than casting or drifting.

Also, when trolling, you can present numerous lures simultaneously in different colors and sizes.

This feature makes trolling a very effective and practical method for roving bottom feeders like Walleye.

Finally, get the best out of trolling when you fish for walleye by sticking to the water bottom or staying close to it.

Fishing Rigs to Catch Walleye

walleye rigs

Walleye Rigs are another vital step in your lineup to catching walleyes.

There are popular rigs you should consider when targeting Walleye; let’s discuss some.

1) Spinner Worm/Crawler HARNESS 

A spinner worm/crawler harnessed rig is one effective presentation to catch walleyes.

The combination is very reliable because a spinner provides color, flash, and vibration together with a live bait offering catching on the eyes of walleyes, and that is hard for a walleye to resist.

To get the best from technique, trolling must come to play. Set your rig approximately 50-100 yards behind your boat, with a pace of about 1-2 MPH.

It’s best to set a two-ounce bottom bouncer with a harness around 4 to 6 inches long.

The spinner’s vibration is sensed by the walleyes’ lateral line, just like the prey they feed on.

The combination of different colors of the beads and blades makes a spinner very effective.

To observe what works best, you can put minnows, crawlers, leeches, and plastics on a harness.

If you choose to use a crawler, I suggest a two-hook harness and pinching off the crawler once hooked on the harness, so only about three to four inches of tail dangles off the hook back.

This method will target walleyes that grab the back of the rig. Spinners are a great way to cover a lot of water bodies and are very effective during the warm summer months.

2) Slip Bobber for Walleye 

The slip bobber rig is considered one of the most popular rigs for anglers to catch walleye.

This rig allows you to set your bait at any depth, delivering a natural presentation while covering water.

To set this rig, you do this: thread your slip tie onto the fishing line, tugging it into place.

Next, thread your bead, then the float, and tie it to your hook.

Now, you should grab a size #7 split shot and tweak it around a foot above your hook.

Lastly, let the line out and keep adjusting the depth of the tie until your bait is a foot beyond the bottom.

Do well to ensure that your slip bobber is upright. After all steps, you should allow the wind/current to take your float. It will make room for your bait to cover more water area.

From time to time, try adjusting the depth as needed.

Always keep in mind the regulations governing the area where you are fishing.

Taking these factors into consideration will help you determine what kind of bait to use.

3) Live bait rig for Walleye

The Live bait rig consists of a slip sinker sliding on the main line and a Snell, including a swivel, length of line, and hook.

These rigs should gradually drift along the bottom, especially along sand and gravel drop-offs at the deep-water edge.

Most snells used range from about 3 – 5 ft.

The truth is when you drag this bait around gradually along the bottom with your trolling motor, a lot of magic can happen.

There is never a doubt that live baits are candies for walleyes.

4) Drop-shot Rig for Walleye

The drop-shot rig is a reliable finesse presentation for walleyes.

The drop shot is a deadly technique for Walleye fishing, whether using live or artificial baits (leeches, worms, and minnows).

A big bait on a drop shot appeals to aggressive fish. Indeed, many anglers are yet to try it, but the drop shot is simple and versatile, and it is easy to fish with and will hook Walleye relating to the bottom of lakes or rivers.

From spring to fall, Walleye can not resist the appealing sight of a drop shot, whether cast, floated, or fished vertically.

To set a drop shot rid, this is how you do it. Using a hook, tie a knot in the Palomar style to connect it to your main braided line. It would be best if you made the hook face upward.

Next, make your tag end less than one foot and no longer than three feet, then take your tag end and run it through the eye of the hook, gliding it downward.

Now attach a drop shot sinker or something of weight by tying it to the tag end. Hurray, you got your drop shot all set!

5) Three-Way Swivel Rig for Walleyes

The three-way rig is excellent for getting the weight and bait farther apart.

In addition, the three-way rig helps keep your bait off the bottom.

You set this rig by attaching your main line to one eye of a three-way swivel.

One of the swivels attaches to your reel; the second swivel attaches to your sinker and the third swivels to your hook.

The rig requires a sinker on the bottom leader and two hooks, preferably for presenting different kinds of bait-and-lure combinations.

When setting this rig up, you must use a dropper line of about eight inches long.

Most anglers love using this rig when fishing with live bait/minnow because it works great when fishing near the bottom for walleyes.

This rig setup was meant to fish just a single bait, but many anglers prefer fishing several baits to learn what walleyes prefer more; some anglers incorporate two hooks to present these different kinds of bait and lure combinations.

Set this rig using this simple method: Cut your leader line that will run from the bottom of the swivel to the sinker. The line should be 18 inches long.

Attach the sinker line to the bottom of the three-way swivel and on the other end, attach the sinker.

Cut your line for the hook; this should be shorter than the sinker line (12-14 inches).

Fix the (12-14 inches) leader line to the other side of the three-way swivel, and then fix the hook to the other end of the line.

Now, tie your main line to one of the swivel loops.

You can connect a second three-way swivel to the lower leader, attaching another leader with a hook and minnow/bait it for multiple bait presentations.

Ice Fishing Walleyes – Tips and techniques

walleye ice fishing

Suppose you live in colder parts of the country where walleyes are common.

Then fishing through the ice during winter is a goal. There are various methods and tactics used in finding Walleye when fishing.

Here are some of the techniques to apply when ice fishing for crappie.

a) Finding winter walleye

finding walleyes in ice

During this period, walleyes are constantly in motion looking for their next prey.

Therefore, you need to prepare beforehand and be ready to move with them so you can keep your lure within their feeding coverage.

To find out where and when to strike, it is essential you use depth charts to plan out your areas preceding your fishing trip.

Beforehand Choose at least three to four locations showing in-depth structural shifts, such as near coast points and mid-lake humps.

Typically, the habit depths of Walleyes are between Fifteen to twenty-five feet.

Another method of finding Walleye when fishing on ice is to pierce multiple holes at each location. We recommend piercing about 11-16 holes spaced in a grid style.

Using the point structure as an example, drill four holes along the shallow area, four along the transformation area, and four along the more depth section.

Jig your fishing rod for about ten minutes to catch that Walleye, and if fish seem to be more active, you should lift and drop your jig more aggressively.

It is important to note that fishing Walleye during dark hours gives you a greater chance of catching more.

Why so? Walleyes are said to be actively feeding, especially during the few hours of darkness and daybreak.

So, targeting them during these hours keeps you in a position to fill your icebox with more walleyes. Considering all the above details will help you make your finding walleyes a success

b) Ice fishing Lures 

Using silver and bright-colored lures in stained water is good when in winter.

Because they reflect light to call in fish and thus lure Walleye into biting, on the other hand, if you use natural-colored bait, they tend to be difficult for the fish to locate.

Hooks to catch walleye

The hook is one of the essential components of the walleye fishing rig.

Although most anglers rarely give it the attention that it deserves.

Also, a fishhook needs to be as sharp as possible to ensure that the fish that bite are stuck and hooked solidly.

Since you will need good hooks for your rig, let’s talk about some of the most commonly used hook types effective for walleye fishing and how incorporating them with live baits is a good presentation. Here you go.

1) Octopus hook

Octopus Hooks are the standard hooks to fish for walleyes using Leeches and Minnows.

When using leeches, it’s best to use a size 4 – 6 octopus hook and pass your hook through the end of the leech, allowing it to wriggle freely in the water.

If you use lively minnows, you can hook them through the upper lip or slightly behind the dorsal.

The octopus hook is most used on a spinner and other live bait rigs.

2) Slow-death hooks for Walleye

The slow-death hook is a dead-end trap for walleyes, so using it when fishing for walleye is very effective.

This presentation has the name slow-death because naturally, the hooked bait moves very slowly, and anything that gets close to it ends up dead.

To attach your nightcrawler or worm to this hook, get a 1 or 1 halve-inch piece of worm and thread it to the bent hook, tie it to a leader of about 40 inches, and attach it to a bottom bouncer.

The method works great because of the specialty in the hook’s bend. The curve compels the worm/nightcrawler to entwine through the water, which is what walleyes find irresistible.

4) Stinger Hooks for Walleye

Walleye can be infamous for lightly biting jigs that some days if you’re not using a stinger hook, you might have a bad day on the water.

So, getting a stinger hook involved is vital, and this should be approximately three to four inches long.

One way to clamp short-striking fish like Walleye is by adding a size 8 or 10 stinger hook so you can extend the hook-point range of your presentation.

The methods to which it is attached vary. Stingers that have a rubber loop go over the main hook point.

At the same time, stingers with a clip can be attached to the jig’s line or a separate eye precisely for attaching the stinger hook.

One beautiful thing about a stinger hook is that with an extra hook, it is pretty handy to catch just about everything in or around your fishing boat.

 Choosing the right Sinkers to Catch Walleye

Choosing a suitable sinker is a significant factor in having a successful day of chasing and catching Walleye.

Your sinker preference is a little more crucial than just selecting a weight to get that bait to the bottom.

Fishing in rocky areas most often might make your sinker choice an important aspect, and if you can’t get a walleye to bite with your sinker, you might have a tough fishing day.

Where to Find Walleyes

a) Factors to consider

Finding Walleye is the most important part of walleye fishing because if you can’t find them, how will you fish them.

Walleye are known as the water bottom fish and can get as deep as 10-15 Feet.

So finding walleyes has a lot to do with understanding what is happening in the water bed.

To master Walleye behavior, you must know their relation to the structure of the lake and how the water conditions affect their feeding habits.

Also, where to Walleyes depends on the season. Walleye want to be where they can be the predator, where the water temperature, oxygen levels, and other factors are favorable for them, and these factors change with the season.

b) Areas to consider

Walleye are popular in lakes like Devils Lake in North Dakota, Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, Lake of the Woods in Minnesota, and the Detroit River in Michigan.

You can also find walleyes in south Texas, western Washington, and Oregon.

When it comes to water areas, rocky points and sand bars are often areas to find Walleye.

They act as highways for Walleye moving from deep resting areas to shallow feeding spots.

Shore fishing might limit your options to fish for walleye

c) Timing

The best feeding times for Walleye are Dawn and sunset because they see better in low light, otherwise known as the walleye chop period.

When the sun heightens at midday, Walleye tend to move to the deeper bottom area and hold tightly to shadow, providing cover for them.

Walleyes have this specially designed eyes that function well in low-light states.

Unlike some other fish, Walleye are capable of seeing in the dark periods.

The possibility of catching walleyes when night fishing is very high because they move in the shallow water to feed on baitfish holding close to shore.

Conclusion 

Fishing for walleye requires patients and is a consistent learning process.

Knowing this will motivate you to keep learning and updating your fishing mastery.

This article, explains why live bait is paramount in fishing for walleye, setting up suitable rigs, and getting the right hook since it is an essential component of your fishing rig.

Finally, remember that finding Walleye is the most important part of walleye fishing because if you can’t find them, how will you fish them.

Know the best season, time, and areas to target them. Consider all these facets and find yourself catching those big wall eyes on your next walleye fishing trip.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of fish is Walleye?

The walleye, also known as the yellow pike or the yellow pickerel, is a native freshwater fish to most of Canada and the Northern United States. It is considered a North American close relative of the European zander and is also known as the pikeperch. It is a popular and commonly stocked game fish. Walleyes are long and thin, primarily gold and olive in color, with a white belly. They have a crossed back with five or more black bands. They also have two abaxial fins, one spiny and one soft-rayed.

Should I use live baits when fishing for Walleyes? 

Live Bait is essential when it comes to walleye fishing. To get the best out of fall walleye fishing, using live baits as default bait for Walleye would be the best choice. Although Walleye are generally daintier and more complicated to catch, unlike other Freshwater fish, you can get it all in your favor and catch Walleye by using live bait jigging.

What lures are best for catching walleye?

Some of the most prevalent lure options for Walleye are Crankbaits, Jerk baits, Ringworms, Blade baits, Paddle tail swimbait, and Curly Tail Grubs. Choose any and start fishing walleye.

Where can I find walleyes?

Walleyes are popular in lakes like Devils Lake in North Dakota, Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, Lake of the Woods in Minnesota, and the Detroit River in Michigan. You can also find walleyes in south Texas, western Washington, and Oregon. When it comes to water areas, rocky points and sand bars are often areas to find Walleye. They act as highways for Walleye moving from deep resting areas to shallow feeding spots.