Pelican Flyer • November 06, 2020
With a delicious fillet, walleye is one of the most sought after freshwater fish. But even for an experienced angler, walleye are challenging to catch. However, we have a feeling you’re up for the challenge, which is why we put together this beginner guide on how to fish for walleye, from choosing the best rod and filament to using live bait and more.
Walleye fishing requires a solid spinning combo rod and reel. Keep it spooled with an inexpensive 8 lb. monofilament for that forgiving stretch that allows you to fish with both live and artificial bait if you choose. Then, spool the mainline with a 10 lb. braid, finishing it off with a 12 lb. fluorocarbon leader. The braid will offer a smoother cast that helps you land where you intend. Make sure to protect your equipment with a Pelican case, too.
Unlike most freshwater fish, walleye are somewhat picky eaters. While many fish-eater walleye and trophy walleye can be drawn out using lures and jigs, your standard walleye knows better and craves the real thing – live bait! Here’s the best live bait for catching walleye:
Minnows – Great year-round bait. Look for smaller shiners to attract walleye for eating and larger ones for that elusive trophy fish.
Leeches – Found in many local lakes, ribbon leeches and tiger leeches are a second bait choice that works wonderfully in water temps that reach the 60s. Ask the bait shop what leech the locals prefer.
Nightcrawlers – These long worms are perfect for almost all conditions, but work well in warmer lakes. An affordable option, nightcrawlers make good backup bait.
Walleye are hard to track down and require an understanding of the water’s depths and bottom structure. The cover they use, water temperatures and even light conditions all play a role in a walleye’s day to day activity. Let’s explore each of these more in-depth.
Structure – Beneath the waters, walleye will seek a structure. This could be anything from beneath the water and along the floor that transitions in depth or consistency. For instance, a structure could be points on the shoreline that make up a sandy beach or rocky peninsula. Beneath the visible surface, it might transition into a ledge or drop-off where walleye love to linger during morning and evening feeding hours. Other examples of structures are flats, holes, humps, saddles and sunken islands.
Cover – As the name implies, cover is any shelter or shade over the body of water. And when you find both structure and cover, it will increase your chance of finding walleye. Look for cover like weed-covered rocks and rock piles around a point structure. Since walleye school together, also look for larger covered areas that accommodate a big group.
Depth and Temperature – Depth fluctuates based on the temperature of the season. But as a general rule of thumb, walleye enjoy a temperature somewhere around 65-75 degrees, when spring transitions into summer. During a spring fishing outing, seek walleye in the lake’s warmer pockets, such as the Northern side. During summer, walleye will go even deeper into holes and saddles.
Time of Day – Since walleye are sensitive to light, they go deeper midday. So get out on the water early morning or late evening.
Above all, remember to have patience. Being picky eaters, walleye can be frustrating to say the least, even for an experienced freshwater angler. Plus, there are simply circumstances, like the water temperature, that are beyond your control. But if you stay patient and focus on locating structures and coverage where they feed, all while offering them tempting live bait, you will definitely draw out a few walleye. After time, you might even enjoy the challenge of this tricky freshwater fish.
Make sure to come prepared to catch a walleye or two. For starters, invest in a hard cooler to keep your lunch, drinks and other items. And don’t forget a fishing cooler to keep your walleye live and preserved until you arrive home and fillet them up on the grill.
Now that you know the basics and how to fish for walleye, grab your rod and hit the lake!
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