10 Best Ways to Catch More and Bigger Walleyes

Though walleyes can sometimes be exasperating to catch consistently, these pro secrets can turn on the bite
Brian Bashore with a big post-spawn walleye.
Brian Bashore with a big post-spawn walleye. Brian Bashore

Brian Bashore, a professional angler and guide in South Dakota, has been educating clients for over 10 years while tuning in his knowledge of walleye all across the Midwest. As a Bass Pro/Cabela’s pro, Bashore has been seen in several retail locations sharing his vast knowledge with eager listeners.

1. When you find fish, how long do you stay with a certain presentation before you change?

“I believe in what my electronics show me. If I see fish, I will fish them for about 15 minutes showing them a variety of presentations. If I can’t get them to bite, I’ll mark the location on the graph and come back later in the day to try again.”

2. How do you set up live-bait rigs for walleyes?

“Live-bait rigging for me usually means bottom bouncers and nothing beats a Slow Death rig here in South Dakota. I prefer to run my rigs on monofilament, allowing the bait to float off the bottom a bit–2 to 4 feet— leaders are usually long enough in the dirty water I fish.”

Brian Bashore holding up two large walleye.
Trusting your electronics is the quickest way to find big fish. Brian Bashore

3. What crankbaits (color, size, rattles) do you prefer to use and how do you determine trolling speed?

“I will go through several different crankbaits a day until I dial in what is working best. On a new body of water, I always start with purple, and style depends on depth. It’s hard to beat a Salmo hornet as a search bait and it can be fished at several different depths and speeds. As the water temperatures warm up I increase my speed just as I’ll do if I’m catching fish. I’ll increase my speed until the bite stops.”

4. What spinner rig blades do you prefer and how fast do you work/troll them?

“I mainly use Northland Fishing Tackle spinner blades and butterfly blades. If trolling the Great Lakes or in dirty water I prefer a #5 or #6 Colorado blade in the Northland Fishing Tackle Real Image style. I will also use Hatchet-style blades as they deliver a great thumping noise in the water. I can work these blades behind in-line weights at speeds of .8 mph to 1.4 mph. For shallow, dirty water (3 to 6 feet), I like to use a bigger blade with no weight and pull it at speeds of 1.2 mph to 1.4 mph.”

Brian Bashore holds up a large walleye.
Big spinner blades get the nod when fishing walleyes in dirty water. Brian Bashore

5. How do you locate fish if you’re in a place that you’ve not fished previously?

“Trolling is the fastest way to cover water. If I’m fishing a new body of water, I will narrow down the targeted areas by doing my research and then begin trolling those areas. I pay close attention to my side imaging and marks on any potential structure as well as to what the fish are relating to as far as depth, structure, and water temp.”

6. What ’s the biggest mistake that most walleye anglers make each day?

“Fishing memories is a common mistake that many walleye anglers make. Walleye are apex predators and will go wherever the bait is. This creates an unpredictable pattern in many bodies of water. Keeping an open mind and trusting your electronics is the best thing you can do to find active walleyes. They are notorious for being there one day and gone the next.”

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7. What ’s your favorite live bait?

“Nightcrawlers are hard to beat and once the water temperature hits 50 degrees I’ll make the switch from minnows to crawlers. Crawlers work great in so many presentations—rigging, jigging, and slip bobbers. It’s hard to beat crawlers for most of the year. Inexpensive and fairly easy to care for.”

8. What ’s your philosophy on proper jig selection?

“Jig fishing is my favorite style of fishing so I take my jig selection seriously. With so many styles of jigs available it can be overwhelming. However, the right jig for the right situation can make a big difference.

My go-to jig is the Northland Fishing Tackle Fireball Jig in 1/4 to 3/16 ounces for any live bait jig situation. I’m a bit of a river rat so any jig with a teardrop style head is what I prefer to use when fishing in current and if using plastics, the bait keeper is extremely important.”

Brian Bashore holds up two walleye at a fishing tournament.
Brian Bashore is a fishing pro and South Dakota guide. Brian Bashore

9. What depths and presentations do you focus on in the spring and summer?

“I’m a firm believer that there are shallow water walleyes to be caught all year long. Especially spring into early summer. Post-spawn walleyes are ready to feed and you will find them in shallow water as it warms up the quickest. Insects and any bait that made it through the winter will be shallow. Pitching jigs with plastics with a paddle tail or ribbed body is great for getting these fish to bite. The key is getting the bait away from the boat and slowly increasing your cadence as the water warms up.”

Read Next: 3 Early Season Pointers for Walleye

10. How do you rig your soft-plastics?

Plastics come in so many shapes and sizes nowadays but for the most part, rigging them on a jig or hook is relatively the same. I like to run my jig along the body of the plastic just as it would look as if it was on the jig. I place my thumb on the plastic where I want my hook to come out and then run the hook through the nose of the bait. Once I think the hook is where I want it, you should be able to feel the hook with your thumb, if not, continue to position the plastic where you want it. Minimizing the number of times the hook penetrates the plastic will keep it on your jig longer.