There always seems to be a great night bite for walleyes during the early season. I realize anglers know about it, but it doesn’t seem like many take advantage of it. Many times I’m the only boat on the water no matter where I’m fishing. And some of my biggest walleyes of the year are caught during this bite.
I cast or troll depending upon the position of the walleyes. If the fish are spread out on a rubble shoreline or relating to deeper structure I’m going to be able to find the biters by trolling a lure through them. If the fish are up along the shoreline rubble I can keep from spooking them by casting.
My number one presentation for both styles requires a crankbait. For the shallows, fishing the original Rapala in a #7 or #11 size really works great. For trolling, a #7 or #9 Shad Rap, or the #12 Down Deep Husky Jerk are great options and I pick the size depending on the depth I need the lure to run.
Here’s Mark Martin with a walleye caught on the night bite.
My favorite shallow spots are where the waves are lapping onto slow-tapering rubble and rock shoreline. This wave action stirs up the bottom a little and brings in the minnows to feed. The walleyes follow the food and that puts them right there with the minnows. What’s interesting is that the walleyes at night don’t seem to mind being real shallow, and if the minnows are in a foot of water, those bigger predators will be, too.
Tie on a floating original Rapala and cast it right to the shoreline edge. You are probably going to overshoot on occasion, but that’s all right. Just work the lure free and keep moving. The anglers who play it safe might not be getting the lure far enough in, so it’s not in the same zone as the walleyes are.
When the Rapala hits the water just let it sit for a few seconds until the ripples are gone and then just give it a little twitch. And then give it another twitch.
If a walleye doesn’t take a crack at the lure after you’ve twitched it a few times, slowly retrieve it back to the boat. The Rapala will only run a few feet below the surface, but that’s plenty. A walleye will come up off the bottom and grab it when it sees that wobbling silhouette.
I like the Shad Raps and Husky Jerks for trolling. You will be long-lining right straight out the back of the boat. For some reason the deeper walleyes aren’t as spooky at night so you can run right over the top of them with the boat and still get the lure into them.
I start out with an S-trolling pattern, which covers different depths and moves the lure at different speeds. At some point you will see a pattern develop and you will know if the walleyes want a faster or slower presentation. Also note the depth at which you are getting your bites. After establishing this pattern you can then run in the most productive depth at the right speed and whack those walleyes all night long.
The rods I use for this night trolling bite are 6-foot, 8-inches long with a medium action. I like the longer rod because when there are two or more of us fishing, I can drop a rod in each rod holder on each side of the boat and keep the lures spread out.
The medium action works great when the walleyes take the lure and you have the forgiveness of the lighter tip. It means the hooks get buried, but the lure doesn’t get pulled out of the walleye’s mouth.
I’m using Fireline, of course, on the night trolling runs because I really like the phenomenal sensitivity. You can tell if the lure is bumping bottom, or if it gets a piece of floating debris on it. And with the low stretch quality of the line, you can really get the hooks set.
There’s nothing like a crisp, full-moon night, when the frogs are croaking and the crickets chirping and the walleyes are biting. It’s a great time to be fishing.