The Walleye is one of the most coveted species of game fish in North America as well as around the globe. These toothy fish have a nasty bite, great fighting abilities, and arguably one of the best tasting meats of all freshwater fish species. They are highly regarded as a sport fish for their tendency to fight all the way to the boat.
They are also targeted for recreational purposes by weekend anglers who enjoy a good fish fry or a great looking mount for their bedroom wall. These fish can get enormous and can be very hard to catch unless you know how to do it correctly. They are also very finicky.
Learning how to catch a Walleye is much easier once you know how to do it. All it takes to be successful is knowledge. That’s it. Couple the knowledge with a few basic rigs, some patience and you have the perfect formula to catch all of these fish that you could ever want or need.
How To Catch Walleye With Live Bait
The absolute best way to target these predators, in general, is to utilize live bait and utilize it often. Over half of the fish caught on a rod and reel are landed on live bait. These fish also have a reputation for being delicate biters and extremely hook shy so using the right hook is a must. A very sharp one is ideal. If anything will consistently catch them all year round, it will be live bait and a lot of it.
As for what baits you should hook up to tempt these savage monsters, it boils down to a few very basic options. These choices of baits include leeches, nightcrawlers, the baitfish they naturally eat, and leopard frogs. It really is that simple. In terms of effectiveness, the leech would have to be the best of these simply because this bait can be used effectively in pretty much all weather except freezing cold.
Leeches are generally available pretty much of the year too. You can often catch them in traps or purchase them from a local bait store. You need to know your local laws before using any traps.
The preferences of the fish to certain food will change based on the season of the year. A certain bait may work better in Summer than in Winter for example. During the Summer months when the water is warm, the enticing movement of a fresh nightcrawler is often all it takes to trigger the strike of aggressively feeding fish. Nightcrawlers are very effective, especially on a bait rig.
During Spring, the best bait tends to be minnows or whatever fish they primarily eat. For the Fall of the year, they lean more towards all of the choices. It is at this time that you can fish on every option at the same time. For Winter, leeches do not tend to produce well because they ball up and refuse to wiggle. Try using baitfish again during this time or throw on a Nightcrawler during this time for effective results.
Regardless of the one you decide to use, one thing is essential to catching them no matter what part of the world you live in. That is the liveliness of your bait. Make sure that the bait is extremely lively. Don’t skimp on the liveliness of your bait at any time. If it doesn’t appear to be moving enough to you, the fish certainly won’t think so either.
The fish we are after don’t really prefer tired bait at all. You have to remember that this species of fish is a bloodthirsty predator keen on chasing their meals. Don’t deprive them of that natural instinct. Let them do that. Don’t give them a half-dead bait. When they are really biting, it is very possible to get by with bait that doesn’t move much but replacing the same half-dead minnow with a lively one will get hit much more often.
Extremely Effective Bait Rigs
Considering good rigs, there are some tried-and-true techniques and methods that have proven themselves over and over again to catch fish and catch them very consistently. You can fish pretty much any live baits on these rigs and still be successful.
The rig being utilized is always very important because it plays the main role in how your bait is presented to the hungry predator fish. Using the right rig for any given situation will let you fish effectively, efficiently, and quite possibly increase your number of fish as well as the size of those catches when you catch them.
The Carolina Rig
The very first rig that we want to mention is the Carolina rig. One of the best ways to fish this rig is while very slowly trolling your boat. This rig allows the fish to pick up the bait without feeling any tension or resistance. It is very stealthy and very effective. You can set up a very basic Carolina or slip sinker rig by threading a sinker and a bead onto your fishing line and then tying on a barrel or ball bearing swivel.
Run some leader material off the end of the swivel and then tie your hook to the end. What you are left with is a rig with a weight on one end of the swivel that slides back and forth stopping at the swivel, a length of leader and a hook to attach your live bait to. When the fish pulls, it will not feel any resistance from the sinker and the fish won’t likely drop it. The Carolina rig is also helpful because you can pin your bait near the bottom and keep it in the strike zone for as long as you want.
As for how to fish it, you’re going to be doing that while trolling your boat very slowly. Lower the slip sinker rig into the water just enough so the sinker touches the bottom. Be careful that you do not let out to much fishing line because you will have trouble feeling bites. You want to keep the bail of your spinning reel open as you fish it. Use your index finger to grab hold of the line. Eventually, you should feel some resistance. If you feel anything tap your line, let go if it and close the bail on your spinning rod before you set the hook and stick the fish.
Spinning Live Bait Rig
Another extremely effective way of taking fish on live bait is to run a spinning live bait rig. All that consists of is a live bait paired with one or more rotating blades. The rotating blades displace water of their own and they do a great job of letting the fish find your bait. Spinning blades can even be used to add flash and more bite appeal.
Because of the extra water displacement, these rigs usually perform best when the water is stained. This, however, doesn’t mean that it won’t work for clear water. It will still catch them consistently in water with high visibility too. The recommended blade choice varies with the water’s clarity. In clear water, you want to use a willow blade.
You want an Indiana blade for slightly stained water and a Colorado blade for fishing at night or in water that is extremely dirty. Considering the color of the blade, it is very easy to choose. Silver, gold, and natural patterns for clearer and slightly stained water. Reds, yellows, neon greens, oranges, and bright fluorescent colored blades should be used in dirty water.
All you need to tie them is a blade, a spinner clevis, some beads, and a hook. Thread the clevis onto the line making sure that the flat side of the blade is facing backward. That means you want the rounded end of the blade to face your line so it spins when you retrieve it. To fish one properly, try trolling it or casting it out and retrieving the lure back to the boat or shore. That really is all. When you get hit, set that hook hard and fight the fish all the way to the boat or shore.
Slip Bobber Rig
Don’t let the juvenile appearance of a bobber and baited hook prevent you from using a slip bobber rig. They almost never snag up and you can successfully use them when the fish are holding over snaggy bottoms. It excels in the coldest of waters because the fish do not have enough energy to give chase even if they want to. It is a very effective method and it couldn’t be simpler to put together.
All you need to set up the tried and true slip bobber rig is a hook, a stop of some kind and of course, a slip bobber. There are quite a few different stops you can use. You can buy ones commercially made for this purpose or you can make your own. A great stop that is also adjustable is a piece of braid tied onto the line with a uni knot and a bead.
The uni knot goes up and down the line with a little bit of pressure. You make this knot on the line and the bead will float up to the knot stopping at it. The bobber will float up to the bead and stop. That means if you put the knot at 10 feet, cast the rig out, the bead and bobber will float up to 10 feet and stop at the uni knot. This leaves you with a bait that is suspended 10 feet down. This makes an excellent rig for targeting this species and it can sometimes outproduce everything else in your tackle box.
Fishing a good slip bobber rig is fairly straightforward. Many of us are familiar with the methodology it takes to catch fish on a hook and bobber. When we were kids, our parents likely got us into fishing this way. With the slip bobber rig, it is no different. All you have to do is cast the rig out to a spot where you know fish inhabit and wait. Wait for the bobber to start moving to one side for at least three seconds before setting the hook. Some fish may even dunk the float. That is ok too. Just set the hook like normal and continue fighting the fish.
Use An Artificial Lure
If you prefer not to keep bait alive or if live bait just isn’t your thing, try not to panic. Artificial lures also have their place in this sport and you can still be successful despite. Artificial lures make great search baits and they allow you to cover water more quickly. The absolute best time to choose a lure such as a plug instead of living bait like minnows or leeches is when the water is very turbulent and aggressive.
Lures just tend to work better when the fish wouldn’t be able to see your live bait. We need to start discussing the power of the jig, the crankbait, and the swimbait because these three lures are the epitome of success for the entire species.
Jigs are some of the best Walleye lures right before crankbaits and swimbaits. Out of every lure on the market, they just catch more of our targeted species than every other lure put together. Whenever you don’t need to cover water quickly or whenever the water is calmer, you need to be throwing a jig or swimbait of some sort. Not a popper, not a spoon, not a jerkbait, not something else. A jig or swimbait. When the water current is a little rougher, throw crankbaits or troll them. Again, don’t mess around with other lures.
Chances are likely that if you can’t catch them with a jig, crankbait, or swimbait of some sort, they won’t bite any of your other lures either. At that point, I would consider moving to another fishing spot or going home completely. There certainly are a ton of lures created specifically for this fish but when you’re a fisherman you can learn to consolidate a lot.
Most professional guides and anglers in the world that catch this fish have their tackle bags stuffed with crankbaits, jigs, and soft plastic swimbaits leaving very little room for other miscellaneous fishing lures. On occasion, you will meet the professional angler that loves fishing jerkbaits, soft plastic worms, or jigging spoons to catch all his fish. That does happen, but it is rare.
This should tell you something about the majority of those people who catch this fish for a living. It isn’t a bad idea of taking their advice. That isn’t to say however that you cannot catch fish utilizing baits like soft plastic Nightcrawlers and soft plastic leeches. You certainly can. They will work too if used correctly, but you will have to experiment to find the magic formula for the day. If you must use nightcrawler or leech shaped artificial lures, consider mounting them on a jighead or shaky head first to make it more effective.
Catching Walleye Is Easy Once You Know How
Believe it or not, fishing for them doesn’t have to be difficult. Many anglers catch them by utilizing certain rigs, baits, and artificial lures, coupled with patience, confidence, and perseverance. In this post, we have gone over some of the most effective tried and true methods in Walleye fishing. Learning how to catch a Walleye may be the hardest part of the angling journey. Once you have the tactics dialed in though, and you have mastered them, it isn’t hard to go out every day and catch at least one fish. You can catch them. You just need to be in their location, use the right baits and rigs that are used by many other fishermen, and believe in yourself. You can do it. Give it a try.
What is your favorite method of catching the fish in your area? You can always leave a reply below this post to tell us.