Top 3 Walleye Fishing Techniques

By: Sam Tyler
Fisherman holding fish with bait in its mouth. Kondratenko

The walleye is prized not only because of its tender, flavorful fil­lets, but also because of its elusive nature. The walleye presents a challenge to even the most experienced fisherman. As any angler worth his salt knows, the harder a fish is to catch, the more fun catching it becomes.

Walleye are hermit-like and prefer never to be seen. When the sun is out, they hang out around underwater structures, sunken islands or weed beds. When they are feeding, they like to do it when it's dark or when the water is cloudy or choppy.


The average walleye is ­about 14 inches (36 centimeters) long and weighs 1 pound (0.45 kg), which is the best size for eating [source: Hookup Guide Service]. They prefer to be in water that's around 73 degrees Fahrenheit (22.7 degrees Celsius). They feed on insects until they reach a size of about 8 inches (20 centimeters), when they move on to minnows or leaches [source: Vance].

­One thing that makes hunting walleye so interesting is the variety of techniques and strategies you can use. Experimentation is definitely encouraged when pursuing these wily creatures.

In this article you'll learn about using downriggers and planer boards to maximize your trolling. You'll even explore the unique experience of night fishing. Let's move ahead to learn how downriggers can give you the edge when fishing for walleye in deep water.


Technique 3: Walleye Fishing With A Downrigger

­The downrigger is a trolling devic­e that lets you set your lures at an exact dep­th. It's basically a boom arm with a spool of st­eel wire and a single or dual rod holder positioned above the arm. A heavy weight is attached to the end of the steel wire. Attached to the weight is another wire with a release and a lure that is set anywhere from 10 to 200 feet (3 to 61 meters) behind the release [source: Ross].

The length of the boom arm depends on the size of your boat. Short arms should be used on boats under 15 feet in length. Use a long arm on boats 22 feet (6.7 meters) or longer [source: Hoffman].


The distance between the weight and the lure is known as the lead. Most anglers using a downrigger to catch walleye suggest using shorter leads, which let you make quicker turns and avoid tangles. Longer leads are best for when the walleye are skittish and can't be tempted to come close to your boat.

­Many walleye fishers use multiple downriggers to maximize their strike potential. When setting your downriggers, it's important to alter the depths of your weights to give the walleye a variety of targets. Walleye feed up and from behind, so if your walleye doesn't like one lure, it may continue on to the next. Circling your boat in a figure-eight pattern will enable you to drop your bait down at different angles. Also, keep in mind that boat speed, wind speed and current speed will all affect the angle and distance of your drops.

As always, you want to fish for walleye around ledges or other structures. Most walleye fishers recommend using pancake weights because they are skinnier and produce less drag. Some downrigger users also attach a dodger or a fishing spoon between the release and the lure to further attract the walleye.

For a simpler but equally effective trolling device, read on to learn about the advantages of planer boards.


Technique 2: Walleye Fishing With a Planer Board


Planer boards are another useful trollin­g device, used mostly in shallow water. Like downriggers, planer boards let you fish multiple lines and drop your lures away from the boat.


Your average dual planer boards consist of two vertical runners placed parallel to each other, spaced apart by steel rods, with a mast that mounts near the bow of the boat. A towline and reel attaches to the mast, allowing you to adjust the distance between the planer board and the boat.

You should position your planer board somewhere between 50 and 100 feet (15.2 and 30 meters) off the side of the boat, more if you're fishing in especially calm waters. Dual boards let you use up to five lines per side, and they're especially useful if you're fishing in rough water.

Inline boards, however, are the planers of choice among walleye fishers [source: Richardson]. An inline planer is a single ballasted board that attaches directly to the fishing line, a configuration that allows the board itself to act as a strike signaler. Inline boards are also cheaper, but they need to be kept properly ballasted to keep them from dipping beneath the surface in rough water.

Whether you're using a dual or an inline planer board, you should position your weight 50 feet behind the planer, and let the lure go out 50 feet behind the weight [source: Landahl]. In spring, it's best to use shallow-running stick baits, and use crawlers and spinners in warmer weather. Always use a snap weight and a light tension release.

If you really want to get the full walleye experience, you should try fishing at night. Read on to learn how to get the big walleye to bite at night.


Technique 1: Walleye Fishing At Night

­Night fishing for walleye is one of the more unique fishing experiences you can have. It give­s you the opportunity to catch the especially elusive, larger walleye.

Walleye feed in shallow water at night, so you can fish off a bank, wade in, or cast or troll from a boat. Some walleye fishers find the best spots for night fishing are in narrow entrances to bays and harbors.


Live bait works best when fishing at night, so use shallow-dive crank bait or a thick minnow plug. If you're casting, use a slow retrieve and scope out the waters before you cast. The glow of the walleye's reflective eyes can sometimes be seen at night.

When walleye fishing at night, the most important thing to do is prepare. Find where the minnows are during the day -- that's where the walleye should be at night. Also, remember that walleye are creatures of habit, so if you can learn their feeding schedule you'll know the best time to strike.

If you're trolling at night, stay in water that's no more than 15 feet (4.5 meters) deep. Start at dusk so you can establish your trolling pattern while you're still able to see clearly. Again, remember that walleye feed up, so don't set your lures much deeper than 3 feet (1 meter) [source: Richardson].

A few more night fishing tips to keep in mind: At night, walleye are attracted to light, so use lighted or glow-in-the-dark jug heads. Be sure to match your lure size with the bait size. Always use a slip bobber, and be sure to reel in the slack before you set the hook.


Lots More Information

Related H­owStuffWorks Articles

  • Allard, Tim. "Night Trolling For Walleye." Ontariowalleyefishing.com (Accessed 11/05/08)
  • Anderson, Sam. "Light Up the Night Bite." 2000. (Accessed 11/05/08)
  • "Walleye Fishing Canada." 2008. (Accessed 11/05/08)
  • Hoffman, Justin. "Deciding On A Downrigger." Basspro.com (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • Hornbeck, Gene. "Summer Walleye Fishing Tips." 2008. (Accessed 11/05/08)
  • "Columbia River Walleye Trips." 2008. (Accessed 11/07/08)
  • "Planer Board Trolling For Walleyes." 2008. (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • Landahl, David. "Planer and Simpler." 06/06/02. Flwoutdoors.com (Accessed 11/05/08)
  • Lemieux, Steve. "Fishing With Planer Boards." Nesportsman.com (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • Richardson, Scott & Takasaki, Ted. "Night Fishing For Walleyes." Walleye.com (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • Ross, Frank. "Downrigger Buyer's Guide." 2008. Cabellas.com (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • Sewell, Kevin. "Walleye Fishing At Night." 2008. Ezinearticles.com (Accessed 11/05/08)
  • "Night Fishing Walleyes, Techniques and Tips" (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • "How To Catch Walleye. Fishing Tips And Techniques." 2008. (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • Vance, John A. "Outdoors Fishing Walleye." 2008. (Accessed 11/06/08)
  • "Walleye Fishing." (Accessed 11/07/08)
  • WormDunker. "The Lost Art Of Downrigger Fishing." 2007. (Accessed 11/06/08)