Part of being a good troller for walleyes is to know when to troll, where to troll, and how to troll, depending on the conditions and the water you are fishing. Here I’d like to cover some key factors that I hope will help you hone your trolling techniques to a fine edge.
There are basically two types of trolling; trolling structure and trolling open water. Structure trolling, or targeting fish that are relating tight to structure such as points, break lines or humps normally means you are going to be contacting walleyes that are on or near the bottom. As I covered in my previous blog entry, finding a crankbait that will hit the target depth on its own is preferred, but often when trolling structure the depth you fishing may vary. You may be trolling along with your bait ticking bottom at 15 feet, then come across a small point on the contour that rises 3 feet, or perhaps there’s a cut in the break line where the depth drops 5 feet. In either case, a tactic that will allow you to move your bait up and down the structure is very helpful. One method I really like using for this is to troll with lead core line. The bulk of the lead core has a good deal of resistance in the water, and while the weight of the line takes the lure to the bottom, you can vary the depth it runs by speeding up or slowing down slightly on your trolling speed. By kicking up the speed a little, you can raise the lure’s running depth. Conversely, slowing down slightly will allow the weight of the lead core to pull the bait deeper
It’s a dance of sorts and takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, trolling structure can be a deadly technique. Another tactic is to use the same tactic to allow your lure to hit the bottom then raise it off the bottom, what we like to call the “tick and lift”. This can trigger a lot of bites from fish sitting tight to the bottom.
Walleyes roaming open water basins call for a different trolling approach. Again, choosing the right crankbait is important, and targeting the right depth is crucial. But in open water you have a lot more area to cover, so spreading out lures with the use of planer boards is very important
You could use lead core line as a weighting system in open water, but a better choice would be to go with a monofilament like Berkley Trilene XT, (in 10 pound test), and use Snap Weights to take the baits to the desired depth, if the lure will not get there on its own. Mono simply works better in the releases, whether it’s those on the Snap Weights or the ones on the planer boards. I like to rig my boards so they do not detach when a fish hits. This keeps tension on the fish as it is reeled in until the board can be released in the boat. A board that releases and slides down the line toward the lure can cause slack in the line, giving the fish more of a chance to toss the crankbait. I typically clip the Snap Weight on 50 feet ahead of the lure and use the Precision Trolling App to determine the amount of line to release to target the desired depth.
Being successful at catching fish with any tactic is all about developing a pattern; that is finding where the fish are, what lures trigger the most bites, the best depth to run the baits and the proper speed to present them. Your equipment is critically important to accomplishing this Learn to read your electronics to locate fish – that will clue you in on what depths to be targeting as well as whether you should be fishing structure or open water.
Utilize trolling rods equipped with line-counter reels so you can let out the right amount of line to get lures to the proper depth. Planer boards will help you spread lures out and cover more water thus increasing your chances of contacting more fish.
These tips only scratch the surface of what it takes to be a good walleye troller, but putting these guidelines together with time on the water will give you an excellent start on trolling walleye success.