Looking For Walleye

Think Like a Walleye

People often mistakenly go on a lake and look at it as a big fish bowl, but fish only hold in certain areas. So the key is to locate areas where walleyes live on a seasonal basis. Many fishermen are tying to cover too much water too fast and arenít spending enough time in specific areas that hold fish. I always pick 3 or 4 spots that look good on a map and concentrate on them.

For example, a sunken island may have a series of spots where the bottom changes from one type to another. Transitional zones might be changes from hard to soft, or sand to rock. These zones are just subtle changes and they could be a very narrow band on a specific piece of structure. Often a point or inside bend is present, too. Most anglers tend to fish the whole structure. Concentrate your efforts on the 2 or 3 key spots rather than fishing a whole flat or a whole sunken island.


When checking a potential spot, I run at a certain depth and then look for baitfish. If I get too deep I turn in to shallower structure. When it gets too shallow I will turn out to deeper water. By following this simple piece of advice you will find points and inside bends on a specific structure. Plus, my Bottom Line electronic depth finder will find these transitional areas that are either hard or soft. This is just as magical as the points or inside turns that you discovered while making passes over them.

When looking at structure, the edge is where gravel turns to sand, mud meets rock, drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches, or bottle necks between two different land masses, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtered through a rock causeway. More subtle structure might be where there is a confluence of two rivers, a mud line (cloudy discharge from one river or stream into a lake), a current break in a river or a stream, even shadows on the water, or a fallen tree to provide an edge that fish like to relate to.

With this in mind anglers should stop and think, where are the edges on this body of water. For example, walleyes in cold water will probably be where there is a warmer temperature. That might mean the northern part of the lake or where a feed creek dumps into the river. Then, what other structures are present to make up the edge? Is there a barrier from current or wind? Has the vegetation or weed growth started yet? Is the bottom sandy, muddy, rocky etc.

A couple of other overlooked things like sun and wind are also big factors on some of these points. I fish a point or flat on the side where the wind is blowing into most of the time, unless there is a sharp drop off or some type of rock structure to hold fish on the opposite side. Usually, walleyes will be lying in an area where the wind is blowing water onto a structure. In clear water lakes under bright conditions, look for shaded area on a piece of structure.

Many times anglers get caught up in a certain type of fishing. These people might retrieve a jig the same way or troll a crankbait at one speed. Also many anglers use a pre-tied live bait rig with a standard snell when the fish are 3 feet off the bottom. The standard snell length might be placing the bait below the feeding fish. Or they may be casting a #7 Lindy Shadling that runs 7 to 8 feet deep to fish that are 10 feet down. That means that the fish have to be super active for them to come up after the bait. I always determine where the fish are positioned in relationship to the bottom and what depth my bait is running. I try to find a presentation that will put bait right in front of the fishís nose and make it easy for the fish to locate the bait or lure.

When fish are suspended 1 1/2 to 5 feet off the bottom, the length of the your snell, the position of your boat, and the presentation speed are important. Many times, you have to stop and work the bait slowly through the fish. At times, Iíve had my best luck with an almost motionless presentation. And, by changing the length of the of the snell you can get fish on the bottom or suspended. In fact, you could anchor, cast out and let the leech or crawlers do its thing. This is a great method for catching spooky or inactive walleyes.

The key to fishing walleyes is versatility in your approach. Many anglers will stick to one type of method. Some anglers believe that more walleyes are caught on jigs or spinners. While other anglers will swear by the tried and true methods of crawling crankbaits over endless structure. After watching, listening, and reading other anglers I decided that I should change my approach. There are a lot of little things in fishing that make a big difference. You might say to yourself after a day on the water: Why didnít I try spinners today? Why didnít I move shallower or deeper? Versatility is such a key. Not only knowing how to use a rig, jig, or how to use a crankbait, but also knowing all the things that makeup those families of lures. You have to know how to trigger the fish. In other words you have to be looking for walleyes in all the right places.

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