31. Lighten Up
When walleyes move into the shallows in the evening, experts often troll with side planers deployed to avoid spooking the fish with their boat. But it’s hard to see the boards after dark, and consequently it’s difficult to detect when the lines get fouled in weed lines or other cover along the bank. Here’s a solution: Attach a pair of metal clips to the top of the planer and clip on a Cyalume light stick. The stick should be bright enough to show where the trolling planer is relative to hazards like branches or plants.
32. Think Small
A tiny weight can make a huge difference when you’re jig-fishing for walleyes. If a jig is a little too light, you’ll have trouble getting it to the bottom, especially in windy weather or a swift current. A heavy jig will sink too fast and walleyes will ignore it. Problem is, most manufacturers only produce jigs in increments of 1/8 ounce. Tailor your presentation to conditions much more precisely by molding your own jigheads. Look for a mold that lets you craft a variety of head weights, including the in-between sizes of 3/16-, 5/16- and 7/16-ounce.
33. Watch the Birds
The next time you’re seeking shallow-water walleyes, look for herons, egrets and other wading birds in the area. Such birds feed on minnows in the shallows, and where there are minnows, there are apt to be walleyes, too.
34. Avoid the Snags
A bottom-bouncer rig can be pulled over a snaggy structure with little chance of hanging up. With only the tip of the wire touching bottom it’s unlikely that the sinker will catch on rocks or logs. But if you pull the rig slowly, as is sometimes necessary to entice a strike, the hook may drag bottom and hang up. To prevent that, look for a bottom-bouncer with an extra-long wire.
35. Keep Leeches Kicking
Dick “the Griz” Grzywinski, a legend in Minnesota walleye-fishing circles, has discovered a unique way to “activate” his leeches. To keep the critters alive in hot weather, he puts them in a Styrofoam bucket filled with ice water. But when leeches are this cold, they don’t swim much if you put them on the hook immediately. Instead of dropping an ice-cold leech directly into the water, Grzywinski puts it on a sun-warmed boat seat. When the leech starts to squirm violently, it’s time to bait up. The intense wiggle will trigger far more walleye strikes than a slow-swimming action bait.
36. Check the Map
In walleye fishing, precision is the name of the game, so it’s important to have an accurate lake map. But the majority of the maps you’ll find at a local tackle shop were made without the benefit of modern mapping technology and their accuracy is questionable at best. If you can find a map of your favorite lake made within the last few years using computer-aided GPS technology, spend a few extra bucks and buy it. Consult the map for likely looking structure, write down the GPS coordinates and transfer them into a GPS unit. Then you can easily navigate to each spot.
37. Save Those Bobbers
Fishing with a slip bobber works well on rocky structure; because your bait stays off the bottom, snags aren’t much of a problem. If you do get snagged and have to break the line, however, the bobber may slide off the line and drift away. To prevent losing that expensive float, add a second bobber stop just above the sinker. Then, if your line breaks at the sinker, as it often will, the extra stop will keep the float from sliding off the line.
38. Give It to Them Tail-First
If walleyes ignore the minnow you’re using for bait, try this: Hook the minnow through the tail rather than the lips and pull it backward. The minnow will struggle violently and try to swim against the pull. This technique works best with large, hardy minnows such as redtail chubs at least 3 inches long. It’s not effeective with delicate minnows, such as shiners; the extra stress will kill them quickly.
39. Leave the Wobble Alone
A balsa minnowbait has a lifelike wobble that walleyes find hard to resist. But many anglers make the mistake of attaching the lure to their line with a heavy snap-swivel. Not only does the weight of the snap slightly mute the lure’s wobble, but the snap slides to the upper portion of the lure’s eye during the retrieve, further reducing the action. Instead of snapping on the lure, tie it directly to your line. This will greatly increase the wobble and draw more strikes.
40. Downsize Your Hook
To maximize the action of a live bait and make it more visible to walleyes, use a smaller, lighter hook. A heavy hook not only restricts a bait’s movement, but also causes it to drag on the bottom, where it will pick up debris and be difficult for the fish to see. If you’re fishing a leech on a size 4 hook with a standard-length shank, for example, try a size 6 or 8 short-shank, fine-wire hook instead.