Trolling is more than just putting planer boards out to the sides of a boat and dragging them helter-skelter along shoreline structure in hopes of catching walleye.
Precision in terms of location, depth and speed are keys to success, and the ability to repeat the winning combination is critical. Several tools can help. Here’s how to do it.
Find likely spots before you launch your boat using a hydro map featuring detailed contours of the bottom structure in your targeted waters. Let the local bait-shop staff mark places where walleyes have been caught recently. Ask about specifics. How deep have fish been holding? What baits have worked? If crankbaits are working, what styles and colors? If they are using bottom bouncers, ask about blade sizes and colors.
Study the map to determine the characteristics of the areas fish are using. Are there major shoreline points? Are there mid-lake structures, such as humps, or are they holding deep adjacent to flats? Look for similar spots that other anglers have overlooked.
If shorelines have been good, look for stretches that feature several points extending to deep water. Figure out which way the wind been blowing in recent days. Walleyes congregate on the windy side so focus on areas pounded by waves.
Once on the water, eliminate unproductive areas fast. Run from point-to-point or between mid-lake structures while watching your electronics. Look for schools of baitfish or the telltale marks that might signal walleyes are around. If you’re unsure if the marks are walleye? Lower an Aqua-Vu underwater fish camera to see. Don’t fish areas that show no signs of life.
Control Depth And Speed
Sonar tells what depth walleyes are holding. If they are deep and just off the bottom, try X-Change bottom bouncers and Hatchet blade spinner rigs with nightcrawlers or leeches.
If walleyes are suspended, run spinner rigs with snap weights using the 50/50 method just above them. Let out 50 feet of line, snap on a weight of one size and let out 50 more feet before attaching a planer board. Repeat the process with weights of different sizes to cover the water column from top to bottom. Troll from 1.0 mph to 2.5 mph.
With crankbaits, try different depths and colors. Change up often until you find something that works. Once a productive depth is found, adjust the line-out of the other baits to target the right depth.
Troll crankbaits from 1.5 to 3 mph. Test various speeds and depths by making slight S turns and weaving over the structure from shallow to deep water. Outside boards on turns move faster while your inside boards will move more slowly. Don’t be afraid to go faster. We’ve seen times when speeds of 4 mph will trigger strikes when walleyes are ignoring anything less. A combination of crankbait/live bait sometimes works by putting a piece of nightcrawler on the treble hook.
Use long rods of 7 feet to 10 feet and line-counter reels. The rods help absorb the shock of a strike and the reels help you return your baits to the same depth time after time.
Precision trolling — it’s easy as long as you have the tools of the trade.
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