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Trolling for Walleye – How to Guide

During the winter and early spring months most walleye fishing usually involves a jig or bait. 

However, once the spawning season ends and the temperatures begin to rise your focus should turn to trolling. The best walleye lures for trolling will be crankbaits, spinners, small flatfish lures and Rapala's. 

Walleye trolling is much like other trolling for other freshwater species like salmon or lake trout except the gear may be slightly lighter and you may use a hybrid rig like a crawler harness.

Traditional trolling rigs for walleye are just as effective as a harness. But in the early season when you need to slow things down a bit a harness allows you to troll at super slow speeds. 

Trolling for Walleye

Trolling for walleye consists of trolling one of the following setups behind a boat usually in conjunction with a fish finder to help determine the depth:

  • Crawler harness
  • Crankbaits
  • Rapala's
  • Spinners and spoons

The types of lures you choose will vary depending on the time of year and the depth at which you are trolling.

​Crawler harnesses in the late spring and early summer and then larger crankbaits and Rapala's in the summer. 

Spinners and spoons can be used at speed in the summer but they are most effective when used as part of a crawler harness at slower speeds when walleye are feeling lazy.​

Walleye tend to love structures so best to start there and if it is not producing you an head for more open water.

In deeper open water walleye can start to school in smaller groups hitting one of these schools can be a little bit hit and miss. 

Weed beds, drop offs and other sub-surface structures and features should always be your first choice.

Once you find them at these structures try to make long sweeps along the structures rather than directly over them.​

Walleye Trolling Speed

The best trolling speed for walleye will fall somewhere in the range of 0.5 to 3 mph. It will of course depend on a number of factors such as:

  • Season
  • Type of lure
  • Depth

During late spring and into the early summer your speed will need to be on the slower side. Walleye are often quite lazy following their spawning season and as a result are less inclined to chase a lure that is moving too fast.

Once the warmer summer days arrive walleye will tend to feed in a much more aggressive manner. There is also a lot more food on offer. Once they are done with spawning you can start to use lures that require a slightly faster speed to get the best action out of them.

When trolling larger crankbaits you can troll at the higher end speeds up to around 3 mph. 

However, most crankbaits for walleye will perform best at around the 2 mph mark.

Walleye Trolling Tips

Although there are a lot of fishermen who will just tie on a crankbait let out lots of line and hope for the best this really is not the best approach to catching walleye from a boat. 

You need to stop and think about some of the factors already mentioned above, some walleye trolling tips to follow:

  • Season can determine your trolling speed
  • Use a fish finder to find the walleye
  • Pay attention to the contours of the bottom
  • Cover as much ground as you can
  • Change your speed 
  • Move the boat in an 'S' pattern

Walleye Trolling Setup

If you are using more than two rods on your boat then you may need to use planer boards to get keep the out side lines as wide as possible from the inner lines.

To get to the desired depth you can control your lure by adding weight to the line. There are usually two options used when using weight whilst trolling:

  • Bottom bouncing​
  • Three way rig

Both require a little experimentation to get the desired depth just right. 

If your budget allows for it you can of course invest in a downrigger. A downrigger allows you to get a much more accurate running depth for you lures.

But a downrigger can require the use of a heavier rod as the constant strain is likely to ruin a lighter rod.

River Walleye Fishing – Tips and Techniques

Make no mistake about is the majority of fishermen will think of targeting walleye from a boat on a lake, but river walleye fishing is one of the best ways to target walleye.

Undoubtedly the best walleye river fishing is in rivers that feed into a larger body of water i.e a lake.

​Most walleyes tend to spawn along the shallower banks of a lake however if there are large enough rivers that feed into that lake a considerable amount of fish may decide to move up stream into the river and spawn there.

River Walleye Fishing

Fishing for walleye in a river can sometimes be a little trickier than fishing for them in a lake.

The main difference is that you have to learn how to fish with the rivers current and learn to understand how the bottom of the river and it's features affect where the walleye will lie throughout the day.

The current in any river will carve out small holes and pockets in the bottom over hundreds and thousands of years. It is in these small holes that you will generally find walleye.

What to Use ?

Most of the lures and baits that you are already using to catch lake walleyes are just as good to use on rivers.

  • Jigs​
  • Minnows
  • Crankbaits
  • Plastics

Depending on the river however you may need to use smaller walleye fishing lures, slightly lighter line and smaller hooks.

​In clear running waters it is best to stick to darker more natural colors. Black and silver crankbaits, darker colored jigs and worms. 

In muddier water you can use much brighter colors like orange and pinks. In fact in really colored waters you probably have no other choice but to use really bright artificial colors.​

You can also try some of the Gulp plastics as they are scented it can really help walleye to home in on your artificial crawlers or grubs.​

River Tackle for Walleyes 

Personally I would stick to a light/medium spinning setup when fishing for river walleye.

A spinning rod for walleye gives you a big advantage over a baitcasting setup as the spinning one is a lot more versatile. It can be used for jigging, bait all lures and can even be used for light trolling.

With the casting setup you are limited by just how small a lure you can use especially when jigging. 

Where to find Walleye's in rivers ?​

Walleye's are quite sensitive to light and noise. They will tend to seek out deeper water if spooked.​

The best places to fish for walleye in a river are:

  • Beside dams​
  • In deep pockets 
  • Where the river joins a deeper body of water
  • Right along the current breaks

When to fish for Walleye in a river

Without a doubt the most productive season to fish for walleye in a river is spring.

Just after the ​ice melt spring walleye will start to move into shallower water to spawn. During the spawning season walleye will also move into larger river systems especially if the river has lots of suitable spawning sites.

Gravel beds, ​deep pockets near rocks and points etc are all a favorite of spawning walleye. The places to avoid are fast open water with flat bottoms or heavy weed beds with muddy bottoms.

Trolling on a River for Walleye

Trolling for walleye along a river is one of the best ways to cover a huge amount of water in one day. 

Generally if you are trolling on a river then it would imply that is quite a larger or major river system, preferably that feeds into a large lake or reservoir.

When walleye trolling with the current be sure to reduce your speed. Remember in a large flowing river you don't need to troll too fast as the natural current in the river will help you lures to swim correctly.

Trolling with the current can mean increasing your speed so that your lure finds it's correct action.

If you are fishing with a jig or bait you can also just stop the motor and move along with the natural speed of the river. 

You can bounce the bait along the river bottom targeting walleye that tend to stay deep during the day or late in the season. 

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