Site Bites Q & A


Search through our Site Bite Q&A to find information from the frequent questions we get asked

To me, tip-ups and jigging go hand in hand. It all revolves around maximizing my efforts on the ice. Having as many lines in the water at one single time while chasing walleyes – I am maximized!! And, along the same notion, I maximize my efforts to use each line as beneficial as possible to a plan of attack for the piece of structure I might be fishing that particular day.

Flats fishing – here I am looking for slight variables in the flat. A depression, a slight rise or maybe a patch of sandgrass. It’s the little things, and each little thing I find I am going to set either a tip-up on or myself to jig up a fish or two.

Structure fishing – Breaks, underwater points or reefs. Now we want to strategically use all our lines to cover different depths and different parts of the structure. For myself, I am always looking for turns, cups and points with-in each of these different structures. After finding them, I set the traps and then run and gun from hole to hole searching for fish with my jig stick.
Good ICE Fishing

Night fishing for Muskie is really no different than daytime, but a few little things in preparation make for efficiency. It’s a good idea to put away all Muskie by Moonlightlures that may be laying around, since they’re hard to avoid in the dark. Have only the lures you intend to use out and I like to have these pre-rigged on separate rod and reel combos.

Make certain there is a headlamp for every angler. Hands free lighting is a must to handle simple tasks like freeing weeds, handling backlashes and landing fish. Put strips of glow tape on all hard-bodied plugs and strips on bucktail blades or around the shaft. Charge these every fifteen minutes or so-so you can see lures as they approach the boat and do good figure eights or “O’s”.

Know exactly where release tools and landing devices are. It’s a good idea to put the boat landing on your GPS too. It’s easier to get lost in the dark than you think!

In most ice fishing locales, tip-ups are normally not as popular for winter walleye fishing as jigging with rod and reel. But make no mistake about it, when rigged correctly, a well placed tip-up can be a deadly presentation for finicky walleyes.

For rigging tip-ups for walleyes we like Berkley’s Tip-Up Line (20 pound test) as the main line, and tie on a small swivel that we use to attach a leader of 8 or 10 pound test Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon Leader Material. At the business end we tie on a Mustad Double Wide Fine Wire Bait Hook (model 10548R). In the early part of the ice fishing season the walleyes tend to be a bit more aggressive eaters so we will go with a larger #1 size hook and a 4 to 5 inch minnow (like a Sucker Minnow or Chub). The minnow is hooked through the back with the hook parallel to the dorsal fin and the point of the hook facing the head of the minnow. We find this set-up really increases the hooking percentage even over using a treble hook as many anglers prefer on their tip-ups. As the season progresses and the fish get more “finicky”, we will drop down in bait and hook size accordingly.

Actually in really tough bites, a pattern might be formed by one fish, one fish bite or even just seeing fish on an underwater camera. The one thing that I have always done is try to establish where a good number of fish are holding – paying attention to the conditions when I do locate a school. What is the water temp and clarity? What is the wind – is it blowing on the structure, are the fish located on the upwind side or the lee side of the structure? Is it a sunny day or cloudy day, etc?. Especially during tough bites little changes in the environment may turn on or turn off the fish that are present.

Once I find where fish are holding, then I try to figure out the most aggressive technique possible to catch them. Ideally I’d like to pull a crank bait and catch the fish, but may have to slow down to spinners, live bait, jigging or rigging to catch them. The final step is to find more locations similar to the productive areas so that I can develop a “milk run”. Of course if conditions change (for better or worse) a good tournament angler can adapt – and at times even throw out all the information found in pre-fishing and start from scratch.

Several factors come into play when considering how to set the drag for catching bigger-than-average walleyes:

  • The type and pound test of line
  • The length and action of the rod used
  • How good (smooth) the drag is on the reel being used

For the type of jigging you are talking about I use 8lb Berkley NanoFil, a medium light action rod (6 ft Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Signature Series model (WL60MLJS) and a quality reel like the Bass Pro Shops Carbon Lite series which has a very and durable drag.

I set the drag so that I hear the drag pullout a little on a solid hook set. If it’s a big fish, I try to get to back reeling as quick as possible.

Rigging is a real finesse technique. You have to feel the bite and release the line quickly – before the fish feels you. For that reason I use a ML 7′ rod with a “medium” taper. The medium taper means that rod will have a very soft tip – thereby reducing the chance of the fish feeling me.

To make up for the softer action, I like to use a high modulus graphite rod. The one I use is the Walleye Angler Signature Series (WL70MLS). Very light weight but very strong and most importantly very sensitive.

The other reason for the 7 foot rod is that I use a “reeling” hookset. When I think it is time to set the hook, instead of sweeping the rod, I just start to reel – very fast. That way if I made a mistake and was just feeling the sinker weight (and not the fish), I will continue to put continuous pressure on the fish and loose very few.

For line – I like 6lb Berkley Trilene Sensation or Berkley Professional Grade Fluorocarbon. Both have lower stretch (giving me good feel). A no-stretch line like Berkley Fireline is nice too – you will feel the bites quickly, but I think the fish also feel you better. By the way, if you don’t have a real sensitive rod – FireLine is a great choice.

The big difference between in-line weights and Snap Weights is the action they put on your spinner. In-lines are run right ahead of your spinner with a 2 to 6 foot snell. When you get in waves, and the boat or boards are surging, the in-line weight will move up and down and the spinner will follow in its path quickly – an erratic action. With Snap Weights, you can put out any length leader you want (typically 25 to 50 feet). Now when the weight surges, the spinner follows slowly – an undulating action. Of course you can also run the Snap Weights on a short leader to get the erratic action.

Which is best? Let the walleyes tell you. I’ve seen days when one way out produces the other – but can’t say I can give exact conditions that dictate one over the other. I almost always start with 2 in-lines, 2 Snap Weights and go with the bites.

The beauty of the Off Shore Tackle OR20 Pro Weight System is that it gives you both styles of weights in one convenient package. The unique Pro Guppy Weights can be easily rigged as both in-line or snap-on style weights and come in a variety of sizes to fit any trolling scenario.

Berkley Vanish is a good choice for a mono for vertical jigging because it is fluorocarbon. One of the attributes of fluorocarbon is that it is low stretch.

That said, when I vertical jig, I use Berkley FireLine. You will find that because of the no-stretch attribute of FireLine, it will be very easy to not only feel bites – but maybe more importantly – you will be able to feel the bottom and maintain bottom contact much better.

Over the past couple years I have been vertical jigging with Crystal FireLine. This stuff is translucent in water and in many situations I have found that I get more bites using Crystal than Smoke or Flame Green.

I use 6 lb FireLine when vertical jigging – the 2 pound diameter also helps cut through the water to keep your presentation as vertical as possible. But it is strong enough to pull in any walleye (I caught my biggest walleye ever on 6 lb FireLine – it was 15.8 pounds).

Weather is absolutely one of the most influential factors in predicting a good walleye bite. Stable weather means active fish. It’s virtually the same whether you’re talking walleyes, muskies, or even pike. Stable weather is typically described as three or more days of mild conditions without any fronts moving through; however it doesn’t mean that is the only stability that will get fish biting. If you get three or four back to back days of cloudy, windy weather chances are the fish are going to go on a bite. The irony of it is that the peak period in this feeding window of opportunity usually occurs just prior to the next front moving through or a new high pressure system arriving. The short time before the weather change is when the fish often get the most active. The lesson here is to keep a close eye on the weather … not just on the day you plan to go fishing, but over the course of several days at a time. It won’t take long for you to begin seeing the patterns develop, and by paying attention, before long you’ll be able to better predict active feeding periods and prime times to be on the water.

When choosing a trolling rod, you need the following characteristics:
1) It needs a strong backbone. I would call the rod a fast taper rod – medium to medium heavy. It will have to hold the weight of not only crank baits, but Snap Weights, Off Shore planer boards, In-line weights and maybe Lead Core line.
2) It need a fighting tip. Trolling fish are often reeled in long distances. With a soft tip in the last 1/3 of the rod (again fast taper) you will land more of the fish that bite.
3) Long enough to spread lures. Spreading is done two ways, by putting the rods straight out in rod holders or by using in-line planer boards. For boards, we put our rod tips way up in the air so the line from the rod tip to the board does not hit the water. In our line of rods (Walleye Angler Signature Series) we have trolling rods ranging from 7’6″ to 8’6″ with telescopinig handles, as well as 10 & 12 footers that are 2 piece rods.

Of course add in durability, high quality components, and a reasonable price (cause eventually you will want a bunch of them) and you have a good trolling rod.

I search, search, search – then fish. Winnebago, like most open water fisheries, has a ton of water that could hold fish. With today’s electronics it is not that hard to graph until you mark something to fish. On Winnebago that might be suspended archs or it might be areas with bait fish clouds. Remember, once you do see fish – try to run your baits (cranks or spinners) at or above the level of the fish. Walleyes eat in an upward direction so fishing too low is a common mistake. By the way – my best set up for Winnebago in June/July is running a moderate action baits like a size 6 or 7 Berkley Flicker Shad behind an Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer board. Set the bait so it runs about 8 feet down (over 17 to 18 feet). For “Bago” that’s a good zone to contact fish … other lakes may vary!

For letting out trolling sets with boards where a weighting system is being used (Offshore Pro Weights, Keel Weights or Lead Core Line), normally when cranking I use my “clicker” on my line counter to keep some pressure on the board – allowing me to start working on the next setup. For spinners with weights the clicker can be too fast – especially if I am fishing close to the bottom. In this case, I still turn on my clicker, but instead of disengaging the spool, I simply turn down my drag until the line just barely starts to click/pull out. It takes quite a while to move the board out, but at this slow let-out speed it is fishing the whole time so no time is wasted.

For years, when trolling with mono, I use mostly Berkley Trilene XT in 10 pound test. It is very abrasion resistant. I stick with the clear or Green. XT is not a real expensive line, so you can afford to re-spool more often to keep fresh line in play.

There are times I use Berkley FireLine (also in 10 pound test) for trolling for a couple of reasons. For flat-lining this no stretch line will transmit the lures action to my rod tip so I can more easily monitor if the lure has got fouled (weeds, Zebra Mussels, etc). On board fishing, FireLine is useful to get crankbaits to dive deeper because it is such low diameter (10# FireLine is same diameter as 4# mono). The Precision Trolling Book charts the precise difference, but for many cranks it can mean up to 30% more depth which can be just the extra depth needed to get down to the fish.

If you do use FireLine on boards (I use Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planers), you will have to either double wrap the lines on the conventional releases or go to a release like the OR18, or “Snapper Release” (Click Here to learn More) This release has an adjusting screw on the bottom so you can tighten it so even thin/slippery FireLine will stay in place.

One thing to remember, don’t use FireLine is you are Open Water spinner fishing – stick with 10XT/Mono.

Vertical Jigging is a technique based on feel, so you’ll want to start with a very sensitive rod. I consider river walleyes as “samplers”. As things drift by they suck them in their mouths, sample them and then either eat it or spit it. A bite happens very quickly and you have to react quickly to get a hookset. That said, I would choose at least an IM-8 rod (45 million modulus), the more modulus the lighter the rod and the more sensitive the blank. Combine that with a small, lightweight reel (something rated as light or even ultra-light). Lastly I recommend no stretch FireLine in 6-2 (6 pound test, 2 lb diameter). Because it is a no stretch line, you will have much greater sensitivity, but the no stretch will also make it a little harder to fight in the fish without tearing the jig out of its mouth. For that reason I use a Medium Light action rod. If you want to use mono (say Trilene XL in 6 pound test), then I’d go with a medium action. The medium action rod will compensate for the line stretch on the hooksets.


In the Walleye Angler Signature Series of rods from Bass Pro Shops, the WA60MLJS rod is a 6 foot medium light action IM-8 model. The model WA60MS is a medium action IM-8 rod for the same price ($89.99). Add on a Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier reel (model PQ10) to either rod and you have a great river jigging combo.


Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Signature series Spinning Rods

Berkley FireLine is a great line choice for vertical jigging, but when it comes to pitching jigs, there are better choices. In the past I have mainly used 6 pound Berkley Sensation – a limber line for casting, but low stretch for better sensitivity. However, with the introduction of Berkley’s Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon XL, I must say that this is the best line for pitching jigs I have ever used. This is a fluorocarbon line that is designed to be limp enough to work well on smaller spinning reels, and still have the characteristics that makes fluorocarbon so advantageous like low visibility and high abrasion resistance. I am also impressed with the knot strength, even in the lower 6 pound test diameters.

When asked this question at seminars or on the ice, I always try to help by matching a rod type to their particular type of fishing style. I always want to know if the person likes to sit inside a shelter to fish or if they are more of a stay out on the ice and run and gun fisher, as each spot lends a different answer to what someone should look for in their ice-duty walleye stick.

For inside work, length of the rod is of most importance, as you have to deal with confinement. Here, you are looking mainly at a rod in the 26” to 30” range to avoid hitting the rod tip on the shelter wall as you are jigging and setting the hook. Outside, you do not have to worry about this dilemma, and I would suggest using a rod a bit longer as it allows you to get away with larger guides on the rod and still stay balanced. I personally like a 38” rod for outside duty, but somewhere between the 34” to 38” range is what you should look into. Now, double duty, 30” seems to be the right size in most 2 man sized portable fish houses and 28” for the smaller one man houses.

For rod action, Medium action will be your overall best bet for almost all lure weights and water depths. Now, if your lures are going to exceed a half ounce, get a medium heavy to back-up your medium action rod.

I have fished cranks all the way to ice up (in fact in skim ice). The key is to slow down as the water temps drop. By slow I mean .8 to 1 mph. So slow that stick baits hardly wiggle, so slow that lead core line goes down at about a 45 degree angle. Remember as the water gets colder the metabolism of the fish goes down. They don’t have to eat as often, they are more selective about what they are going to bite and they are not willing to expend a lot of energy and chase down a meal. Cold = Slow!

Generally muskie will spawn with surface temperatures in the low to mid fifties.

However, cases can be noted on particular bodies of water, where even though water may be cooler or warmer than normal for that particular time frame, some spawning activity will still be noted. So likely timing (I suspect length of the day) is a factor as well as water temperature.

One of the most productive types of jigging lures is what we call Glide Baits, like Moonshine Lure’s Shiver Minnow, This “minnow-like” jigging lure has a dramatic side-to-side darting movement when jigged, giving you great horizontal coverage of the area under your ice hole. The Shiver Minnow comes in a variety of sizes and in an array of awesome “glow” color patterns that last a long time and are deadly during the prime-times of dusk and dawn when walleyes tend to feed the heaviest.

Jigging spoons are another great choice for jigging up walleyes. You want to choose spoons that offer lots of flash, but also have a distinct and enticing flutter on the drop. Top choices here would include the Clam Blade Spoon, the ever-popular Swedish Pimple and Acme’s Sidewinder and Kastmaster spoons. Another lure we like to use for jigging is Clam’s new Time Bomb Spoon.

Each of these have their own distinct shape and therefore feature different flash and flutter patterns. Trying a variety of lures will help you to dial-in the right one to get the most bites.

To concentrate on larger northern pike through the ice, it takes mobility and knowledge of the water. During early ice, big pike can often be found in shallow weed bays and the edges of them, but deeper bars should be tried too–and any sharp break lines. In mid-winter, the main lake water is the best bet. Try deep hard bottom to mud transitions (with dead bait on the bottom); also check for suspended fish in open water on lakes with ciscoes or tullibees.

Late ice pike are most predictable, since pike spawn as soon as the ice goes off or even under the ice. This simply means that big females start to stage by–and get into spawning areas during the last month of ice. There is no doubt that on average, dead smelt or cisco on a quickstrike rig is the best for big pike. Please set the hook immediately to prevent swallowing.

I like using 2 setups for ice fishing walleye on most bodies of water. One for jigging action baits and one for jigging a jig.

For “action” baits (jigging spoons, gluiding baits or heavier rattle baits) I like a rod with a faster tip (so sensitive and gives you some flex for fighting fish with no stretch line) but with a strong backbone for efficiently working the bait and to securely set the hook into the boney roof of a walleyed mouth.

If in a shack I use a shorter rod so I can set the hook without banging into the roof. So look at a 24 to 28 inch model. When I go this short I like to use a Medium action rod. If outside the shack or if you have a taller shack, then go with a longer rod which will be better for taking control of the fish while fighting it. 36 or 40 inch rods should be Medium Heavy to get the right action.


For my jig rod – if I am actually jigging the jig I like a Medium action rod. Length is as long as I can comfortably fish based on whether or not I’m in a smaller shelter or not. My favorite would be a 32″ rod. If I am running the jig as a “dead rod” (one you just sit a foot or so off the bottom) then I like a lighter action rod so the softer tip allows the fish to pick up the bait without feeling the stiffness of the rod. Take a look at the Clam True Blue  26″ Light action rod/combo:

For line I really like Berkley NanoFil 8 pound. It is no stretch so has get sensitivity but it is a “unifilament” line so very slick and not braided or fused. Since it so slick it has less ice buildup – and even when it does it clears off with a simple sweep of my fingers. I have fished a lot of the Clear Mist and the Low Vis Green. For the jig rod I go with a lighter 2 foot leader of 5 lb Trilene 100% Fluoroarbon Ice, for the rod I use with the action lures I like 8lb Trilene 100% Fluoroarbon.

Longer rods are better for many reasons, but one of the biggest, in reality is due to the advancements in line. Because we mainly use superbraids these days … having virtually no stretch, the longer rods with tapering, faster tips become necessary as a shock absorber for big headshakes. They generally are much better for casting ease and distance; also for changing lure direction (triggering) as baits near boatside; and, they are much better for boatside figure 8’s or O’s at boatside … larger, wider boatside manuevers can be performed … especially important when fishing out of deep V boats.

When the weight in the boat is uneven – you can lower one to flatten the boat. When you are running in a side or front quartering wave you can lift one side for a softer ride. In following waves you can put both down to “hug” the wave and reduce hopping – just don’t overdue it and push the bow too hard into the next wave. Finally going into the waves both down will keep the nose down and let’s the Deep V cut the waves better and again prevents hopping. Great option!

Fluorocarbon definitely has reduced visibility over wire leaders that is advantageous in any clear water situations. The visibility-factor seems to be most important for trolling applications. For trolling specifically, fluoro leaders are much easier on the body of the fish if they roll in the leader. Fluoro is comparatively weightless and doesn’t kink; however the bad news is sharp teeth can still cut it, so using a minimum of 80 lb. test is recommended and 100 or more is best. Wire leaders are better for many casting applications, as they are abrasion resistant and can’t be cut.

If I had to pick one, (and that would be really tough), it would be some type of soft plastic bait, like a Red October Tube or possibly a jig with a plastic trailer. These lures can be worked a little slower and still have great action that triggers bites. Second choice would be a quality deep diving crankbait, working the base of rock points.

Lead core is not something a novice trolling should attempt. Lead core is very effective, but only if you “work” it the right way. If you just drag it around it is more of a hassle than an advantage. Learn to troll first with mono or FireLine then advance to Lead core!

The first advantage of lead core is that it is a weighted line, so it can pull crank baits down into depths that the bait itself can not dive to. Obviously you would not want to tie lead core directly to the bait as it is a very heavy and thick line and would dampen the baits action. So, a leader is tied to the end of the lead core. If fishing structure this leader would be 15 feet of 10 pound FireLine, if fishing open water the leader would be 30 to 50 feet of Berkley 10 pound XT.

The second advantage of lead core is that you can change how deep the bait swims by changing your trolling speed. This is especially useful on sharp breaks, on bottoms that are irregular or in situations (like fishing over trees) where you need to raise and lower your bait. In these situations, you can speed up your troll to lift the bait. The faster you go, the less the lead core will dive and this will pull your crank bait up to a higher depth. Conversely if you slow down, the lead core will dive more efficiently and pull the bait deeper. By speeding up and slowing down you can raise and lower the bait, keeping it close to whatever structure you are trying to fish.

First, you have to fish a lake with big muskies. If bigger fish are you’re only goal sometimes you have to change water to achieve your goals. Check for lakes with good track records and more specifically certain times of year when big fish seem to get caught. Every water has its own makeup.

On the water you describe, or on any water for that matter … in general, concentrate on deeper lake sections to find big fish. There are always exceptions, and I’m certain there are times of the year that big fish will be in the shallow section. But bigger fish tend to live in the deep stuff, and shallow structure with deep water adjacent generally has more big fish potential than spots without deep water access.

Casting works certainly, but even though I don’t prefer it, I do believe that trolling in deeper water is simply a better big fish method. You won’t necessarily catch more fish, but per hour on the water I believe more trophy class fish will be taken trolling as compared to casting methods.

Turn over definitely affects walleye – as do most changing conditions. As with all changing conditions, expect a period of tough fishing until the walleyes (and you) adjust to their new patterns. As the name implies, turn over is the warm surface water cooling to a point where it gets colder than the bottom water. The colder top water sinks and the warmer bottom water rises. This “mixes” the entire water column – often to the same temperature, effectively eliminating any thermoclines.

I have found the after turn over, the best areas to look for walleyes are sharp breaks close to deep water. Often these are fairly small areas so using a slower technique like rigging or vertical jigging are often best. You should be able to use your depth finder to find where on the break the fish are holding – or better yet an under water camera. Then present your offering at that depth or slightly shallower (walleyes often sit below the bait fish and feed in an upward direction).

One big thing we do in the fall is switch to larger minnows. Our best by far is to get creek chubs. They are very hardy, live a long time, and when a walleye is close – chubs go crazy. This aggressive response is probably what triggers walleyes more than anything.

I’ve not done a ton of it, but I’ve used either 100 lb. fluoro or the 30lb. titanium. The Fluoro I generally have fairly long as I’ll re-tie quite a bit – checking for nicks in line after each fish – and with titanium just 12 inbches or so with some fluoro (30 to 50 lb.) between it and fly line.

Pay attention to where the fish are and get your baits in a zone where they will bite it. When trolling on structure, fish use the structure to hide and ambush their food. Knowing this, it is important to keep your crankbait just off the bottom. Many times for this type of trolling I use no-stretch line (Berkley 10lb FireLine) so I can monitor the bait. I can let out enough line to just tick the bottom, reel up a little and I know my bait is in the “zone”.

For open water trolling, the right zone is often suspended. Many times the most active fish will rise up in the water column to eat and they will often feed in an upward direction. The best place to run a crank bait is at or above where the fish are marking on my depth finder. For this situation a good locator is critical because often open water areas are very expansive and you can waste a lot of time trolling in places where there are no fish.

Once you have located fish, then it is a matter of figuring out the right “system” for the day. How much line to let out, what speed to run, what type of crank bait, what color crank bait – all factors – but all secondary to finding the fish.

When it comes to “search lures”, the vast majority of folks would give the nod to an in-line spinner (bucktail) and/or a spinnerbait. And frankly they’re dead on – as these baits can be moved quickly, create flash, vibration and generally hook and hold well. The only negative is they’ve been around for years … maybe these fish haven’t seen a swimbait. In fact, it’s likely.

To be specific in this instance (as soft baits with vibrating tails are often referred to as swimbaits), I’m speaking about a Sebile Magic Swimmer hardbait, as that’s where my experience has been. These are double-jointed lures with a head design and internal weighting – that cause them to have an exaggerated, maybe snakelike, swimming action. There are several things that make these lures rate very high as a search lure. Part of being effective with today’s much more experienced (more anglers) muskies – is showing them something different – something that they haven’t already been fooled into biting. For searching, I find that by far, the fast-sinking models are most versatile.

These baits cast like a bullet, allowing for long casts to cover water, and are easy to retrieve. They offer a big (deep sides), aggressive profile and have exceptional action at all speeds (in this case – as fast as you can reel), and the way fish seem to attack them, they hook and hold well (on the largest size, 228, the bait comes standard with three hooks; better hooking for muskies is achieved by removing the middle hook and replacing front and back hooks with 5/0). More “little things” to try to trigger fish can be accomplished once a follower is detected – everything from twitches, to pulls – to a dead pause that turns into a wobbling, swimming fall. The most aggressive retrieve that can often be effective in triggering responses is a very fast retrieve with a continuous, varied twitching of the rod. While you may not think it at first glance, they go through weeds well too.

Any temp can be good for topwater. River fish are typically suckers for topwater (they like suckers too). Even though topwater baits are normally most productive in the summer and early fall, spring is the most underrated time-frame for them. You needn’t wait for the little duckies to hatch. Types vary, but in general, louder, larger presentations work better in high current, waves and roiled up water.

Actually, I don’t believe northerns push muskies off weedlines at all. In general, muskies are bigger (they eat everything they can swallow, which includes smaller pike and muskies … big pike will eat smaller muskies).

Predators often hunt together wherever there is lots of food … the only time there is likely any “pushing off” structure is a situation where several large predators hunt the same zone … any meal-size muskie or pike had better stay out of the way.

Often when fishing open water with cranks, I put a small chunk of crawler on the middle treble hook. This chunk of crawler can be live or about 1/3 of a Gulp 6 inch Night Crawler.

I typically only add crawlers to diving baits and typically only to ones that are fairly short bodies. I think the crawler not only adds scent to the presentation, but actually gives the bait a bigger profile. Because the crawler will add drag to the crank, only cranks that run very true can handle a crawler.

When putting the crawler on the treble, I look at the treble to determine which of the 3 hooks points straight forward or straight back and then just pluck the very end of the crawler on that hook – leaving the cut end of the crawler to dangle under the crank. By picking this hook, the crawler will not throw the action of the bait off to the side.

Couple of general comments:
If you are just starting out in a boat the big things to think about are
1) How the boat is positioning your lure.
2) How is the boat affecting the action of your lure.
Once you start to figure out those two things, then you can start to apply different techniques to the situation you are in.

For example, if trolling the lure will obviously be behind the boat. So as you drive the boat you have to think “behind” the boat on where the lure is. If you are in a nice flat spot, then it is easy, the lure is in the same depth that you just drove over. But if you are on a break or on an irregular bottom, then you might have to position your boat shallow or deeper to get the lure in the right depth – or you might have to control your boat to keep you in one depth. Thus the need for “control engines” (a kicker and/or a bow mount).

Next you have to think about lure action. For crankbaits, a typical speed to troll is 2mph. But in cold water situation (or in bad weather situations) you might have to slow down to 1.2 mph (or even as slow as .8 mph). In a situation where the fish are active you might be able to cover more water and provoke strikes by going faster (3 to 4 mph).

These examples are just cranking. If you are vertical jigging you might use your boat control to precisely follow the speed of the current. If you are pitching jigs your boat control might keep you just within casting distance of a prime spot on structure. For bottom bouncers you might need to speed up or slow down to get the bait behind a bottom bouncer (spinner, slow death, bare hook) to work properly.

So learn to run your boat. Rarely (if ever) should you just be drifting with the current or wind.
Next learn to read your electronics. With a boat you are mobile. Go to where the fish are, don’t wait for the fish to come to you.

As far as cranking lines – I think the most versatile system to start out with is to simply put 10 pound Trilene XT on some line counters. 10pound test is the diameter line most often used for trolling walleyes, and using the data found on the Precision Trolling App or the Precision Trolling Tackle Box Stickers will give you acurate diving depths. Then if you need to go deep, look at adding on something simple like Offshore’s Snap Weights. If you get in a situation where you are fishing on big flat areas for suspended fish – then Off Shore Tackle Side Planer Boards can be added. These same setups will also work great for Open Water spinners.

Once you get good with those, then look at using FireLine for cranking (allows you to monitor the line for debris and dives deeper because it is thinner). After that you might start experimenting with lead core.

Well, you’ve asked a question that is kinda tough to answer … can be a long story, but short version is that there are 4 basic lure types: jerks, cranks, spinners and topwater (soft plastics could be considered a separate category or part-of one of the others). Of all of these, a crankbait and a bucktail spinner are the most versatile and can be effective in a number of situations.

Overall, I’d recommend the following in each category – at least this should get you started off right:

Crankbait: Here I’d say you need 2; 1 for shallow water situations (5 feet and under) and one that will reach 12 to 15 feet on a retrieve for deeper structure.
Jerkbait: Again, 2 to start with; One with an “up-down” motion like the classic Suick, and then a glider/side-to-side style.
Spinner: Obviously there’s your classic stright-line Bucktail (start with single blade in classic color pattern like black/orange and maybe a white). Could also add in a couple single-hook spinnerbaits in this category for fishing weeds.
Topwater: Once again 2 types would be good to start with; a “crawler” type for slow presentations and a prop-style for more aggressive/faster presentations.
Soft Plastic: Here it’s tough to beat a tube like the Red October tubes. Their hollow design make them easy to rig with different weights for versatility and the hollow design also makes for good hooking percentages.

I would recommend heavily that you spend plenty of time on The Next Bite Muskie/Pike Forum. There you can learn and converse with other muskie anglers on all sorts of topics to help you be a better angler.

Also, it’s really worth hiring a good guide for a trip or two. You’ll learn a ton, but also have a “free” testing ground for lures … so you can see what works and just what baits you like.

This depends on what we find once we are on the ice for while. We don’t typically start off setting out tip-ups in an area unless it’s a spot we are real familiar with and know the general pattern for that area.

Normally we start with a more “run & gun” system using jigging tactics with maybe a “dead stick” set-up close by. If after a time we feel we have located an area we can camp out on for a while then we may post some tip-ups around to cover the area thoroughly.

like to use 6-2 Berkley FireLine – it is more than strong enough to catch huge walleyes (or the occasional big cat). In fact I caught my largest walleye ever on 6-2 – 15.8 pounds, vertical jigging.

In the past I used Smoke colored line. I have switched over in recent years to the Berkley FireLine Crystal, especially in clear water. The Crystal is an “opaque” line that is easy to see above the water but has low visibility below the surface.

As far as conditions go, there really is no definite set of weather conditions that is better for night fishing. It’s not much different than day really … same stuff you hope for daytime and I like a little chop on the water. What makes me want to night fish is heavy (daytime) angling pressure directed at muskies. This seems to turn some into night feeders.

I do believe some strains of muskie are able to see better at night. It seems the spotted strains of muskie don’t feed quite as effectively as the natural strains we have in WI, but they do. I’ve been told through the years that northern don’t feed after dark — they do. I have little experience with hybrid muskies because we have few here (they are not stocked here), but I have caught two hybrid muskies after dark so I know they will feed then.

Muskie cradles are not necessarily “unsafe” at all. (Although handling muskies is technically a little dangerous in general considering sharp teeth and hooks). Actually, what is very good about cradles is that they lend full support to a fish, horizontally (which is natural), and they can be kept in the water while hooks are cut out.

The only downside to cradles is that they are a little harder to get fish into, as compared to a big landing net or net/cradle hybrid. Also, because they require two hands to use, they’re not practical for the lone angler. So, it’s really personal preference … but for those new to muskie fishing, I suggest a large landing net with knotless, treated mesh because most anglers will be able to land the fish quicker and easier with a good net. Leave the fish in the water in the net over the side of the boat for release.

Either way can work. The only problem with thumbing, is that you may slip on the spool while setting. To me, getting the hookset is extremely important. Without that … the rest won’t matter most of the time.

I leave the reel engaged at boatside … immediately following hookset, I spin the drag back. As long as you are aware to do this immediately, there is plenty of time to get it down as muskie initially react by just shaking their heads.

There are advantages for both Offshore Snap Weights, XPS Keel Weights and I use each about 50% of the time.

For Snap Weights the big advantage is that you can let out any length leader you want before attaching the Snap Weight. If find this particularly useful in clear water. I can remember one bite up on Saginaw Bay (out beyond the Charities) where you needed to have a 150 leader to get the fish to bite – but that is what they wanted.

As mentioned above, the other thing Off Shore Tackle Snap Weights and the longer leader will do is to smooth out the action of the spinner. Sometimes I think walleyes want a nice steady moving spinner so they can locate and intercept it more easily.

A XPS Keel Weight is an in-line weight. It is attached right to your reel’s line with about a 4 foot snell back to the spinner. First of all I think it is important that if you are using an in-line weight you should make it an attractor. What we did with the XPS weights is to make them holographic. I think by having the weight and spinner in close proximity it starts to make the setup look like a school of baitfish – a good thing.

As mentioned the XPS weights are a little easier to fish. Just put them out and attach the board. When you get a fish, detach the board and fight the fish in right behind the weight.

Last, there are times – I think – when the undulating action of the weight, rising and falling from the surging of the boards in waves, actually triggers bites. With the short snell behind the weight, when the weight pulls forward, the spinner surges. When the weight pauses, the spinner pauses and flutters down (maybe looking wounded).

You mentioned lead core – and I have tried it several times with spinner with no luck. I think it might have to do with the lead core line being in the same site plane as the spinner (the spinner does not dive below the lead like a crank bait does).

So, when I spinner fish, I use 1/2 Snap Weights and 1/2 XPS Keel weights and then let the walleyes tell me which is better for the day.

That’s the million dollar question anytime you hit the water, but in the spring and early summer there always seems to be a real urgency to make the right choice. A lot has to do with the factors like; the type of lake and the weather, etc. Considering the fact that I’m usually starting off on lakes with clear water, the weather is typically a little unstable with fronts coming through regularly, I’m going to start the season off with some of the smallest lures in my box. Small bucktails, small crankbaits, small jerkbaits, can all be good choices. The slow-sinking, 6 ½ inch Sebile Magic Swimmer is a bait that is perfect for tough, early season conditions. Its small, but has a ton of triggering capability with a seductive action and great flash. Basically I’m looking for lures that I can work slowly and precisely. Chances are in order to get bit in these conditions the lure is going to have to be right in the fish’s face.

That’s not to say you want to eliminate the rest of the tackle selection. If you’re a muskie angler with any amount of experience under your belt you know, these fish are odd, and just when you think you know what they want, they’ll go just the opposite on you. So put the smaller baits at the top of the tackle list, but do not hit the water without having a few big jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwater baits and big bucktails and even spinnerbaits at your disposal. These baits could be just the ticket if the weather patterns give you gradually warming water and stable weather. Keeping observant to the conditions around you will help you determine what lures might be the best to use.

To me, tip-ups and jigging go hand in hand. It all revolves around maximizing my efforts on the ice. Having as many lines in the water at one single time while chasing walleyes – I am maximized!! And, along the same notion, I maximize my efforts to use each line as beneficial as possible to a plan of attack for the piece of structure I might be fishing that particular day.

Flats fishing – here I am looking for slight variables in the flat. A depression, a slight rise or maybe a patch of sandgrass. It’s the little things, and each little thing I find I am going to set either a tip-up on or myself to jig up a fish or two.

Structure fishing – Breaks, underwater points or reefs. Now we want to strategically use all our lines to cover different depths and different parts of the structure. For myself, I am always looking for turns, cups and points with-in each of these different structures. After finding them, I set the traps and then run and gun from hole to hole searching for fish with my jig stick.

Without knowing a lot of details, the first thing I’d do is figure out what the forage base in the lake is. That will give you a huge leg up on finding muskies. If it’s shad based, you may be looking at a lot of open water stuff over the creek channel and along the sides of the channel on points and inside turns at certain times of the year. If it’s more of a perch/minnow/sucker/panfish deal, you’ll do a lot more rooting around in the timber. Forage will also sort of give you some ideas on presentation – color patterns and lure size. A good place to start with that kind of research is calling the local DNR fisheries guys and picking their brain about the lake a little. They’re usually really helpful. Another good idea is to see if there are a lot of bass fishermen on the lake. Bass guys stumble into muskies quite a bit on some lakes, and they may be able to provide some info. Have found some awfully good muskie spots over the years by listening to bass heads whine about getting bit off all the time on certain spots.

Another thing to see if you can find out is whether or not the lake stratifies during the summer. If it does, and you can figure out what depth the thermocline develops at, you can eliminate everything deeper than the thermocline. No sense fishing the bottom of the creek channel in 20 feet if the thermocline’s at 12 feet.

You’re right on things changing from season to season. It’ll probably vary widely. But, the usual rules of thumb still apply – look for warmer water early, and follow the food. I know on some of the Illinois lakes, guys do extremely well up in the timber early, either casting spinnerbaits, or even trolling Believers through the stumps. Believers bounce off things pretty good, and with a short line (30 feet) you can control where they run pretty well. If it’s a shad based lake, walk the dog topwaters and rattle trap type baits can be very productive.

Hope this helps.

Tip-Ups are still a crucial tool for the mobile ice angler. When we rig our tip-ups we will typically spool them up with 30 to 40 pound test Berkley FireLine Braid or Berkley Gorilla Tough in 50 pound test (which makes handling the line in cold temps a breeze) tipped with ten to fifteen feet of leader material. A six to eight pound test mono like Berkley XT is popular, but under the ice, the water can become extremely clear, so a leader material like Berkley’s Vanish Fluorocarbon can be an advantage. The fluorocarbon is virtually invisible under water, making stealthy presentations possible … an important factor when dealing with finicky walleyes. On the business end, we’ll tie on a #8 light-wire treble hook like Mustad’s Ultra Point Triple Grip Treble, and weight that with a medium sized split-shot set ten to twelve inches up the line. Bait the hook with a lively medium sized minnow and you’re in business.

As with any line on crankbaits, every angler has their pet colors that they develop confidence in. The Flicker Shad line of baits offers fourteen “standard” colors, as well as some killer “store exclusive” colors through Bass Pro Shops, Scheels Sports and Mills Fleet Farm. Top producers for us this past season were the standard colors, Rainbow Trout and Racy Shad as well as our all-time favorite Pearl White (which we refer to as “Mouse” because of its gray back and white belly). The Bass Pro Shop exclusive color of Purple Pearl has also become a strong contender and one we fish quite often.

I have seen a real trend away from live minnow to using artificials over the last 3 years for jigging. In fact I would say I now try artificials first and only in super tough bites do I have to switch to live.

Jigging in particular is suited to artificial tails. Since you put all the action on a jig there really is no need for a live minnow. What you do need is an artificial tail that is flexible to give it good action when jigged, has a good scent that the fish hold on to, and has a good profile and color.

For me, the 3″ Berkley Gulp! Minnows normally fit the bill. They have great action in the water, look almost like real minnows (Black Shad, Rainbow and Smelt colors), and have a scent walleyes like (I know this because I have intentionally let walleyes swim around with the bait for long periods of time).

A big advantage of artificial tails is their longevity. Because they are more durable than real minnows you can jig them more aggressively. Sometimes a quick pop of the jig off the bottom will trigger fish, the problem with live bait is that you can pop it off – not so with Gulp!.

Secondly, artificial tails sometimes give you a second chance. A fish tries to bite the lure, you set the hook, but miss it. With live bait you would be reeling up to re-bait. With artificials, you simply drop it back down and keep jigging – often provoking the same fish to bite again.

One other example of the success of artificials is Bob Propst Jr. He won the PWT Chamberlain event last year pitching 3″ Power Bait Minnow – Realistics – up on the bluff and felt like they got more bites than real bait.

Good stuff! First stuff on my jig!

By far the best alternative is to get a GPS unit and use the Speed Over Ground. It is not affected by current or waves and is very precise. In the last couple of years the government has allowed the signals from satellites to travel to the GPS units with very little scrambling, so even at slow speeds you will get a good indication of speed. You can either use a Sonar/GPS combo unit – or even a handheld GPS will do the trick. The other advantage of a GPS is that you will have plot trails so you can reproduce productive passes.

For vertical jigging or pitching jigs I use 6-2 FireLine. You can use either Smoke or Flame Green for Vertical Jigging – use Flame Green for pitching (makes “line watching” much easier).

You will want to spool up your spinning reel about one third to half way full of mono backing (other advantage is your spool of FireLine will last for more reels). The backing “grips” the spool and it will never spin out. Then I just use a “figure 8” knot to splice them together. Take your two lines and put them end to end. Keeping both lines together, make a loop in them about 3 inches from the end. Twist the loop one time and put the tag ends through the loop. If you do it right, kind of looks like a figure 8 as you tighten it up. This knot should not be fished – if it starts appearing on the reel – time to re-spool.

When vertical jigging around rocky/snaggy bottoms there are two keys to reducing snags:
1. Stay perfectly vertical (line straight down) – that way you are setting down the jig and then lifting it straight back up so it is hard for the jig to pull into a crevice.
2. Second, only touch the bottom for a brief moment. Do not let the jig sit on the bottom as the boat will keep moving and when you lift again the jig will be pulling up at an angle and can catch onto a rock/snag.
For pitching – whether in a river or lake – throwing into rocks means you will lose some jigs. You have to maintain bottom contact, but unlike vertical jigging, when you go to sweep the jig back towards you, the jig will be pulling off the bottom at an angle making it more susceptible to coming into contact with a snag. Some things to consider.
1. Use as light a jig as possible. That way the jig won’t work its way as deep into the rock crevices.
2. Use a stand up or semi stand up jig (Fin-tech Nuckle Balls or Bass Pro Shops XPS Jigs are my favorite). These jigs do a better job of keeping the hook up off the bottom so the hook doesn’t snag. It does not prevent the head of the jig from snagging.
The other thing to consider is trying to recover the jig if it does get snagged. I would switch to a higher pound test line and something real durable. Although 6lb FireLine is my typical casting line – I have moved up to 10 or even 14 pound test FireLine in snaggy conditions. Also, if you are trying to pull jigs out of snags, use jigs with hooks that can withstand some abuse. Jigs that use hooks with Mustad’s Ultra Point Technology remain sharper. The technology leaves more metal out in the tip but still delivers a very sharp point. That extra metal prevents the tip from dulling or bending over when you pull it out of a snag.

For stained water, often the brighter colors will work better. Studies have shown that walleyes can see greens (like chartreuse) and orange the best, so that would be my first two choices. In the Gulp! Minnow Grub, there are several bright colors available including a great looking Chartreuse and Fluorescent Orange. This style bait also has a curl tail which will displace some water as it is jigged and will also attract fish in dirty water. I would stick with the 2 inch version unless you are fishing for a lot of 4 lber’s plus, then go to the 3″ size.

Another choice for stained water is to bulk up your presentation so it displaces more water. Something as simple as putting a piece of a tail on the jig before adding live bait can make a big difference. With any of the Gulp! (or Power Bait) products you also get the added attraction of scent.

I use my Structure Scan in many situations. Most notably on the edge of composition transitions – rock to mud – weed to clean bottom, etc. Using the SideScan I could keep my boat just on the outside of these transitions and then run my lures right over the transition. With the SideScan I could see the rocks or weeds coming onto the screen and know to start turning out before I got right over them.

StructureScan was also nice for just seeing rocks or wood on the bottom that was silted in and not necessarily showing up on the conventional sonar screen.

The DownScan is really nice around any type of vegatation (new or old). It was nice to split the screen and see conventional sonar on one side and DownScan on the other. The downscan did a much better job of showing me weeds, trees, brush, etc – and even fish within that vegetation.

If you don’t have any structure or vegetation you need more details on, then probably not needed for you. Enjoy the new unit!

use 15lb Vanish fluorocarbon for most of my BB fishing. Tough stuff with lower stretch. I do like some stretch for fighting the fish and getting a little shock absorption.

If I go deep (say over 30 feet) then I switch to 10lb Fireline. Once I get that deep I want to be sure to feel the bottom (Fireline has great sensitivity) so that I don’t let out too much line and start dragging the bouncer.

Fireline is also thin diameter so cuts through the water better and typically allows me to use a little lighter bouncer.

A great set of jigs for most any jigging application is the Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler XPS Jigs. They come in sizes from 1/16 to 1/2 ounce. For dragging techniques I’d use 1/16 and 1/8 ounce. The head is a “semi-stand-up” so when it hits bottom it will keep the hook up just off bottom resulting in fewer snags. If you are vertical jigging – move up to a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce. The Bass Pro Walleye Angler XPS Jigheads are holographic, so you not only get multiple colors, but also flash. The hooks are Mustad Ultra Point so you will find that they stay sharper than other hooks – even when banged around on rocks and wood.

Being able to find baitfish can be a pretty important deal, especially if you’re fishing suspended fish very much at all. So a depth finder that can pick out either suspended bait, or baitfish on the bottom closer to structure is definitely a plus.

The good news is, if you’re thinking of a new depthfinder, but haven’t shopped for them in a while, you’re going to be pretty pleasantly surprised at the quality and capability of even the more moderately priced units these days. Not sure what your budget range might be, but especially if you’re just looking for a pure sonar, without any GPS capability, you can get a very good unit for well under $300 – sometimes well under $200. A unit like the Lowrance x-125 is a very good, easy to read unit that is more than capable of marking baitfish, and it’s not too expensive. I ran an x-125 on my bowmount last year and was pretty pleased. You can also look at Eagle units, which are very solid as well.

From there, the sky’s the limit on what you want to spend, but the main thing to keep in mind is a unit’s power has a lot to do with how well it’ll mark baitfish (and how clearly it’ll show you weedgrowth, bottom content, etc.). Look for units with higher peak-to-peak power, and you’re headed in the right direction.

You caught a pretty unique fish man. It’s a genetic variation in pike that shows up from time to time. It’s sometimes called a ‘blue pike’ or ‘silver pike,’ depending on who you ask. There are some lakes where they show up fairly frequently. There are a couple lakes in Minnesota that I ice fish that have quite a few of them (biggest I’ve caught is about 12 pounds) and some areas of Canada are known for them popping up once in a while. They can show up anywhere there’s pike, but outside a small handful of systems that have numbers of them they’re pretty rare, and even in lakes known for them, they’re still a tiny percentage of the pike population.

They are definitely a cool looking critter though. They can vary from silvery to almost blue. Definitely can cause some ‘what the hell is that…’ moments when you catch one. Hope you got some photos, because you may never catch another one…

Unless I am fishing very deep (say 40 feet or more) I use mono or flurocarbon for dead sticking. Remember that one of the things you are trying to do with a dead stick is to detect a bite (by seeing the rod bend) without the fish feeling too much pressure and dropping the bait before you can set the hook. By using mono (I typically use 14 lb Vanish Flurocarbon) you get some stretch in the system and the fish is less likely to detect you. I use 14 pound Vanish because it is invisible to the fish so the extra strength means I will rarely if ever break off on a big fish.

In post spawn and early summer, the fish will typically head to where ever the food is. If there are roving schools of bait in open water, they will head there. If there are bug hatches that attract the bait – they will head to those areas. If there are minnow hatches that occur on shallow structure – that is where the walleyes will be.

So the first thing I do is to try to get an idea of what forage is available to the walleyes and then determine where that forage should be. If the walleyes should be in 10 feet or more, I use my electronics to find them – or the pods of bait fish. With a good color unit it is fairly easy to find even bottom hugging walleyes – if they are suspended out over open water it is very easy to spot them. By a “good” unit, I would look for one with 480 or more vertical pixels (for good resolution). The unit should be color to make it easy to figure out what size fish are being displayed (big ones will have more color in the arc). I would also look at some of the newer units with fast Ping and Scroll speeds so you can search more quickly.

If the walleyes are up shallow then fishing is the only way to find them. I try to stay as aggressive as possible to cover water (cranks or quickly pitching jigs) until I get a bite or catch a fish. Then I slow down and work the area over more thoroughly.

I probably use a camera as much or more than anyone on the circuit. Often I use it teamed up with my electronics. When searching, I simple let out the camera (often a long way behind the boat) and watch my Lowrance unit. When something comes on the screen I don’t recognize I simple wait a few seconds and my camera will pass over it giving me a visual. In this way I learn how to read my fish finder even better.

Second, if I am marking lots of fish, often I will drop down a camera to see what the fish are. I have been able to skip lots of schools of carp the last few years. Schools that showed up as great marks on my depth finder – fish I would have in the past fished to try to identify – I can now quickly identify with a camera.

When looking at a camera:
1) Get infra red lighting – the tips of a walleye and it’s eye’s will glow – an easy indicator. Do not pay extra for Green or Red or White lights.
2) I like units with a “Green Screen”. Basically instead of a Black and White monitor it is Green and White. It give much better contrast and you will see it better in the sunlight.
3) Buy a good case (or hopefully a good case is included). One nice thing about Atlantis cameras is that they come with a padded waterproof case. This allows me to carry the camera all the time without breakage worries. But when I want to use it, in a matter of 60 seconds I am viewing the underwater world of walleyes.

Lead core trolling – as you probably know – is very speed dependent. The faster you go, the less affectively the lead core will sink. Also, moving into current lead core will not sink as fast. So here is a rule of thumb – at 2 mph one color of 18# lead (30 feet) will take a lure about 5 feet deeper. If you want to know precisely you will have to “sand test” your set up. Go to a gradual sand taper shoreline and start dragging your baits. Slowly go shallower and shallower until the bait starts ticking – record the depth for that setup. Repeat as needed.

Spinnerbaits are a great bait for big pike. I use sizes ranging from a half ounce on up. This is mostly because I can cast them futher than lighter ones and I like to cover lots of water when possible. For the “safety pin” type, I almost always use willow leaf models as I’m of the belief that they not only have more flash, but enough vibration to do the job.Don’t overlook the Mepps type of spinners either. We’ve caught a boatload of huge pike with them. Mepps are great as are Blue Fox spinners. Somedays they will prefer spinners with a bucktail and other days a plain one will out produce. On the matter of color, it’s best to let the pike tell you which is better on a given day. I will go as far as to suggest silver blades on sunny days and either gold or copper on overcast days.

Good luck out there!

Open water fishing is something I look for on every body of water I fish – except for current conditions in a river. The tricky part about open water fish is that even though they are fairly easy to mark, several things can complicate the bite.

First, the fish may be sitting in open water, just off structure, and are not aggressively eating. They may be just hanging out, waiting for a time to move up on structure and eat. To catch these fish you may have to pull it by tens or hundreds of fish to get one to swipe at the lure.

Second, even though it is easy to spot suspended fish, they often are not eating at the same level as they are swimming. The trick is to figure out the depth where they will bite at a lure. This will normally be somewhere above where they are holding so anglers need to run cranks or spinners at several levels – hoping to get the first bite to indicate what depth is the “eating zone”. Once depth is determined then, through experimentation, figure out what lure, what speed and what colors are the best.

Third, just because fish are in open water does not mean they are eating lures. They may be out there with a ton of bait fish and have more than enough to eat. This makes it hard to figure out a consistent – tournament usable strategy. Open water fish are also very susceptible to changing water conditions. Cooling water in particular will slow the bite down – enough that it may not be viable during a tournament.

If I do figure out an open water pattern – often I will fish it the whole tournament because most of the time these will be the tournament winning fish. If the bite is a little inconsistent then yes, I will use the open water to try to produce a big kicker fish after getting my limit.

A couple tips I can give are:

1) Learn to use a bow mount. Modern day bow mounts come with long shafts and lots of power and have the advantage of 360 degree turning. This allows the angler to move the boat a foot left, a foot right, a foot forward or a foot back – whatever it takes to get precise boat control. I rarely use back trolling – a boat was built to move forward.

2) A kicker engine is important because often 18 foot (and larger) boats come with big engines. Any engine over a 50 hp will typically not troll down slow enough for walleye fishing. Often we need to troll down to .8, 1 or 1.2 mph. A 8 to 15 hp kicker can do that with ease. I would look for a 4 stroke kicker – they are smoother, quieter and don’t have any smoke fumes. Find one with a strapping system – or devise one for yourself. Often kicker brackets are not made to handle the rigorous runs in big water. Last get a kicker with shifting in the handle. Most of the new walleye boats have some type of rear deck on them – without shift in the handle it is difficult to bend over and shift the engine. By the way, these exactly the main features we helped design into the Mercury Pro Kicker.

3) In situations with strong cross winds, “dual” boat control is the ultimate in control. Even though a longer boat is great for running waves – this added length can make it hard to control the bow – especially from the back of the boat with just a kicker engine. With “dual” control we use both our kicker and bow mount to maintain a depth. On my boat I have a bow mount called a Motorguide PTSv. It actually tracks depth. So, I can set it for whatever depth I want to stay at – if the wind pushes the bow out deeper, the PTSv pulls shallower, if the bow swings in too shallow, the motor turns out deeper. This keeps the bow on course and I can concentrate on speed control with the kicker. If a tracking motor is out of your budget, then there are a lot of nice Wireless Motorguide motors available. The Wireless Series have a wireless remote control. This small key pad can be used anywhere in the boat and can turn the motor left and right, speed up and slow down and even turn the motor on and off. So, the angler can now run the kicker from the back and at the same time control the bow with the remote control – sweet!

On big waters like the Great Lakes I tie spinners to catch big walleyes. Start with 17lb Vanish (flurocarbon). Tie a #4 Mustad Triple Grip on. Snell a #1 Mustad Big Red Beak Bait Hook 4 inches above that. Add an XPS spacer body (size large), a quick change clevis (larger size), and then a #4 to #6 blade (typically colorado). I like the holographic blades (Bass Pro XPS or Northland Baitfish Image Holographic).

For the Snap Weights, the new red clips come with a built in “pin” in the pads which helps prevent them from coming off. In either case make sure to put the line at least 3/4 of the way into the release. If you are using Fireline, make sure to wrap the line once around the release.

Right now, probably the number one method of logging I use is my GPS. The Lowrance equipment I use (X19c, 104c, Global Map 3000) all take the MMC cards (Multimedia Card). What I like to do is have an MMC card for each lake (often the 8meg ones are plenty) and use it to store all my weigh points for the lake. What I do though is give my weigh points cryptic names (coded names). For example #8 150 FT means I caught a fish on a #8 Shad Rap with 150 feet back – Fire Tiger color. Another example 1+25 HJ BS means one color of segmented lead (for segmented lead I always use a 50 foot leader) with 25 feet of backing let out using a Black and Silver Husky Jerk (obviously the stick bait version because Deep Husky Jerk would be DHJ). Is it the most precise method – no, but it is something I can easily do on the water and coordinate it with the weigh points I am saving. Once I am done on that lake – I upload all the weigh points to my MMC card – ready to download the next time I come back.

ice out can be the absolute best time for big pike but conditions can be tough, especially up that far, and even wilderness fish can be off their bite. Dead bait on quick-strike rigs is the best bet day in and day out, especially in nasty weather, big pike just can’t resist all those calories with no effort. Bring frozen cisco, suckers or smelt depending on the regs there and what you can bring as a practical matter. I like to use these rigged under a float so it can drift along and cover some water, plus give a good strike indication.

In better conditions several artificials come into play, but still geared to a slower, finesse approach in the cold water. Soft plastic jerkbait deals (i.e. Fin-S Fish, Slug-O’s), rigged with an exposed large single hook plus a treble trailer further back in the bait, are good. Lightweight salmon spoons that must be pulled slow to work right are hot at times. Flies could be the best artificials of all and if you’re like me and don’t have the patience to use a fly rod, rig a spinner in front of a big fly, with maybe a little weight attached to the fly, and you can throw it on spinning gear. My most efficient ice-out option of all though, as long as the fish are hitting fairly well, is suspending jerkbaits like the Suspending Rogue. You can pause them enticingly in the pike’s face yet still cover more water than most cold water presentations, letting you expose a bait to more fish in a day. Maybe fewer will take it compared to let’s say a deadbait, but you’ll show it to more fish in a given amount of time, leading to more strikes overall, including some really big fish.

Murky waters are normally a little more productive in the early season, since they warm quicker and have have better weed growth. Fish location is a little more predictable based on standard approaches.

Clear water muskies don’t wait for summer to eat though. And, because it is often written about that murky is the place to be in the spring, clear waters have far less angling pressure directed at muskies. (A definite advantage.)

A few thoughts on clear water in general. First, sight fishing is a big advantage for shallow fish. Simply go look for them in spawning areas and on adjacent shorelines, flats and nearby reefs. Try small speed presentations, hanging twitch baits or hopping jigs right in front of them (right on the bottom with sand or rock). And on that point — check sand and rock too. Many folks have got “weeds only” on the brain. Even if you can’t catch them right away, you’ve located them — come back on a weather switch. Not a bad idea to troll long shoreline stretches adjacent to spawining areas.

Also, try casting for suspended fish. Generally, concentrate on open water areas in front of spawning areas and feeder creeks. With these fish, often the bigger lures seem to work better. Erratic action with pauses generally best. And don’t forget to try topwater, especially walk the dog types like the Doc. These fish are generally suspending real high at this time of year. All lure types apply. Doesn’t necessarily need to be deep divers.

Cold fronts or even changing weather patterns can affect walleyes. This is particularly true in the spring when the metabolism of the fish is still low so they don’t necessarily have to eat every day. When fishing does get “funky”, the first thing I do is spend more time in “key” locations. I try not to run around all over the lake, but instead focus on spots where I am marking fish or places that are traditionally good at holding fish.

Next, I slow down. If I was catching fish with cranks I might switch from a higher action crank to a subtle or moderate action crankbait. If that doesn’t work I slow down and use spinners or maybe just live bait behind a bottom bouncer. This slow down process continues through jigging, rigging and even, at times, all the way down to throwing out a slip bobber. What I am looking for is the most aggressive technique that I can get away with. This allows me to cover the spots as quickly as possible even in tough conditions.

Hand Lining is a technique that I first heard about in the Detroit River area. It is used there for several reasons: First, the Detroit River has a fast current (5 to 7 mph). Second, the river can get mudded up quickly and the most effective way to catch fish in that situation is with crank baits. Last, the river bottom fluctuates dramatically so it takes a big weight to keep bottom contact. Let’s look at a hand line set up and then describe why it works so well in these conditions.

Hand lining has no rod. There is a “self re-winding” reel that has a spool of cable on it. That cable is attached to a “shank”. The shank is a length of cable with a series of three-ways or sleeves where you can connect leads. These connection points are spaced about 6 inches apart. Typically you can attach 2 or 3 leads to one shank. There is a heavy weight connected to the bottom of the shank. By heavy I mean 1 to 2 pounds. The idea is to pull the cable out of the reel far enough to get the weight pounding on the bottom. If the river bottom drops deeper, it is very easy to drop down the weight and keep contact. You don’t drag the weight, but use more of a pumping action – thumping the bottom each time.

The leads are very important because you will use different length leads to allow you to run multiple lures (running 2 or 3 cranks is a real advantage for this system). I typically run 2 leads – the top one about 12 feet, the bottom 6 foot (I’ve heard of people running 20 top and 10 foot bottom). The cranks are stickbait style baits – HJ06 to HJ12 Husky Jerk, #9, #11 or #13 Original Rapalas, TS09 Storm ThunderSticks. With the spacing of the connection points on the shank and the different lead lengths, both (or all) of the crankbaits will be running very close to the bottom – in the feeding zone.

You can fish this system against the current (typical) or with the current (make sure you are moving faster than the current to get the cranks to wiggle) or you can even hover – hold in one place letting the cranks swim in the current. In any case, when a fish bites – it’s much like landing a fish on an ice fishing tip-up. You hand-over-fist pull the cable in (the reel will automatically wind up the cable) until you get to the shank. Then grab the leader with the fish and pull the fish into the boat – no rod required and thus the term hand lining.

Why is it banned – some people don’t consider it a form of hook and line fishing and I’ve even heard it called “meat” fishing. But if you ever get a chance to pull in an 8 pounder in heavy current, you will realize very quickly how much skill it takes to land these fish. Effective – yes. Specialized – yes. Is it a technique every angler should add to their arsenal? I don’t think so – but it is one to keep in mind if you find yourself in a high current, muddy, river with a rapidly changing bottom.

If both transducers are of the same frequency this will occur. The only thing I can suggest is to try and run a transducer off the bow mount trolling motor. This distance will often reduce the interference. You could go to a 50khz and a 200khz transducer. Then the units will run with out any interference. The problem with the 50 khz transducer is the signal length which is very long and your target separation will be reduced. The 50khz transducer is designed for very deep water (normally saltwater applications).

Yes, you would put backing on the reel before the leadcore. A couple of things to remember on lead core. First, if you are going to fish structure (cranking on the bottom), then I like to use reels full of 10 colors of leadcore. This will take a 4000 series reel. I like to put on 200 feet of 10 pound Berkley FireLine for my backing. The thin diameter allows me to put on more line but 10 pound is very strong so I don’t have to worry about it breaking.

For open water cranking, you can use lead core to get cranks down deeper than they can dive on mono or FireLine. What you have to do is figure out how much lead you need for your situation. A rule of thumb is 1 color gets you 5 feet at 2 miles per hour.

Some examples. If you are fishing a lake with a max depth of 20 feet – then 2 colors of lead is often enough because even a stick bait dives about 8 feet – add 10 more feet (for the 2 colors) and you are close to the bottom. Slow down a little (1.5 mph) and you will be banging bottom.

If you are fishing 40 feet of water in the summer, most of the higher action baits can get about 20 feet deep. So you need 20 more feet from the lead – use 4 or 5 colors.

If you are fishing 35 feet but will be slow cranking in the fall. 3 colors of lead will get a stick bait close to the bottom at 1 to 1.2 mph.

So look at your depth and the speed you will be fishing to try to determine a good number of colors to splice in.

For this open water fishing I typically use a 50 foot leader of Berkley 10 pound XT.

I do like (and use) the two reel method for determining the amount of backing. For spliced lead I typically go with 10XT so that I can easily attach to an Offshore Planer board. Remember also, that if you splice in 3 colors of lead and it isn’t quite enough to get to the depth you want, you can let out some backing and the system will keep going deeper.

Remember that Snap Weight diving depths are affected by 3 factors:

1. The weight of the Snap Weight
2. The amount of Dropper Line you let out (line length from board to weight)
3. Your trolling speed

I like to just change one variable in the equation. I pick a Snap Weight that will be big enough to get to whatever depth I want – probably the two most common are 1 ouncers in 20 feet or less, 2 ouncers in 40 feet or less.

So, once you have decided on your speed and the weight of the Snap Weights you are going to use next you have to determine your dropper lengths. Like you mentioned, you can use the Precision Trolling book if you use the 50/50 method (50 ft leader/50 ft dropper) and your speed lines up with one of their graphs.

If you want to change things up, then use the bottom to give you line lengths. I simply drop my Snap Weight down to the bottom. Let it swing up and then drop it to the bottom again. Swing up and drop back again. Now your weight should be running very close to the bottom.

Look at your line counter and you will know how much line to let out to get to a certain depth with the Snap Weight you are using and the speed you are trolling.

Now to cover other depths, do some simple math. If you were in 30 feet of water and it took a 50 foot dropper to hit bottom, then 25 feet of dropper will get you 15 feet of depth. A 10 foot dropper will get you 6 feet and so on.

This will get you in the ball park – remember to spread out your Snap Weights at or above where you are marking fish so you can figure out the Eating Zone.

almost always tie my snells about 60 inches to start with. I use the same length for Lake Erie, Saginaw, Winnebago, or the small lake my Dad lives on in northern Wisconsin. At the end of the leader without the spinner, I tie on a #2 Berkley Ball Bearing swivel.

Rigged like this, I can attach the snell to the same snap (Berkley Cross Lok size 1) that I use for crank baits, and use long leaders with Snap Weights. I can also directly attach the snell to an XPS In-line weight.

The only time I change snell lengths is when I want to run the spinner closer to the in-line XPS weight. Sometimes I run the snell as short as 18 inches.

You are going to want to experiment a little with leader lengths and speeds before trying to let more line out. Generally speaking it is best to keep the bouncer at a 45 degree angle to maximize its performance. Because you are fishing what I would consider relatively shallow water the fish should be aggressive enough to bite even if the bouncer is close to the boat.

If you find the fish a little finicky I would suggest going to a split shot rig (fairly snag free) and drag it behind the boat.

Good luck and save a few fish for me!

For open water I like to segment the leadcore because that allows me to hitch up my backing line (10 XT or 10lb FireLine) to a board. In open water using a board is critical.

The tricky part is deciding how much leadcore to splice in – which of course is based on how deep I want to run the baits. So, what I typically do when coming into a new fishing situation is have some reels set up with “full lead”. That is, I have 200 feet of FireLine backing, 10 colors of 18# Magibraid Lead Core line and then my leader (in open water 30 to 50 foot of Berkley 10 XT-the leaders will add depth to the lure. This will be in addition to the depth you get from the lead core).

Then I start experimenting with different amounts of lead to cover different water depths. At this time I actually attach the Lead Core line right to my Offshore in-line board. The Offshore board is ballasted and can handle the weight of the lead core – even right at the clip – be even so, it does not track out to the far quite as well because the heavy lead core will tip the board in a little – reducing it’s tracking ability.

Once I determine how much lead is getting the baits down to the right zone (1, 2…., 7, 8) colors, then I use a different reel to set up my “spliced”. Often here I put on half a spool (or whatever I think I can fit based on the colors I am going to use) of 10XT backing, then my colors of lead, then my leader (same leader I was using before).

Now, I can let out my bait and colors of lead and attach the 10XT backing to the board and the board tracks much better and spreads to the side more efficiently.

Remember also with spliced lead, if you do need to get a little deeper you can let out some of the backing to let the system run deeper. Of course the backing won’t bring your bait down as fast as lead, but the lead will continue to pull your baits deeper and deeper as you let out more backing.

Most of the time, there will be fish just slightly deeper that the ones that are feeding. Usually you can pick them up on the sonar and they tip you off that fish are in the area. If you see these fish, move one or two lines up high; if the boat is spooking the fish the only way to tell for sure that they are biting walleyes is to actually fish for them. Of course you need to locate the high lines out and off to the side of the boat using your planer boards.

I fish several lakes that contain tiger muskies and the following are my observations:

1) Tigers are 1/2 pike therefore:
-More aggressive than pure muskies
-Prefer cooler water than pure muskies (deeper usually, thus less contact in warmer water months)
-love live bait in the fall
-TOUGH to pattern regardless of anything

2) I usually have around 6 to 9 in the boat a year
-June and October are the months for me

3) In June I find them in weeds with other muskies and downed wood

4) In October I find them on deep humps and steep breaks…most of my fall tigers are on suckers

Slow trolling speeds and snap weights with long leaders can be tough. I like to let my rods or boards load up with the weight of the fish before I react to the hit. Then I either reel quickly instead of setting the hook or speed up the boat and use that forward movement to hang the fish. If the fish drops the spinner, I immediately drop back to him to try to tease a more solid hit. You’d be surprised how often this works!

Happiness is a big walleye! Normally I use 10 lb Vanish fluorocarbon leader material, but lately I’ve use the new Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Professional grade in the green tint shade. You can use 6 to 10 lbs test with this line. I’ve used 6 lb test to rig Red Tails and could lift 22 inchers over the side of the boat with the 6 lb line without it breaking. I’ve never been able to do that with any other 6 lb line. I’m actually the one who played with the severe bending of the Slow Death hook. It took me about 18 months to get it right. I’ve used it with Gulp Crawler, the tail end of a six inch crawler. Also the Gulp earthworms in a jar work and the 3 inch Gulp Fry

I do like to use FireLine over rocks for several reasons. First it is very durable, and can take the punishment. Second, it is so strong, that if the bottom bouncer does get hung up I can often pull hard, break the leader, but save the bottom bouncer. Third, I have more sensitivity because FireLine is no stretch and can often quickly feel the bouncer dragging too hard and lift it up some before snagging.

If you look at light penetration in deep water (or stained/dirty water) you would think that color would have very little difference. But, in my experience color still does play a role in lure selection even in deep water. I think the thing to remember is that walleyes not only see better than us but also differently. What we see is not what a walleye necessarily sees. That said, I do not think color is as important is low light conditions as say the bulkiness (which displaces water) or the sounds that emanate from a jig (rattles, grub tails, etc).

I have actually done this at Saginaw Bay in Michigan. We used to use the Magnum Hot N’ Tots, take off the back hook, tie on a spinner with a short leader (1 to 2 foot). The crank bait pulls the spinner down to the desired depth. A second method is to tie on a three way swivel with a 2 foot piece of line going to your crank bait off one swivel, and a 4 foot snell to your spinner off the other swivel. This is referred to as “stacking”. Both techniques worked to a point. The first method actually affects the action of your bait and it won’t run as consistently. The second method can tangle easily. I’ve found that the In-line weights work much better. Using a 1 to 3 ounce weight – with an attractant – in front of a spinner is deadly for open water walleyes. The attractant can be a small spoon (I use the Wolverine Silver Streaks) or the hot new thing is the XPS Keel weights. These are in-line weights (shaped like a fish) with a holographic finish. The XPS weights pull the spinner to the right depth and the holographics shine and show off color to attract the fish. For either in-line weight system, use a fairly short snell (1 to 3 foot) to the spinner to keep it close to the attractor.

One of our best set-ups out east is to run the big Deep Thunderstick on 10-4 Fireline. You have to run it back about 350 feet, but if you do that it dives to nearly 40 feet. With 6-2 Fireline we hit the 45 foot mark.

By the way, when we fished at Dunkirk New York (2001), the new Deep Thundersticks produced better than the Old Deep Thundersticks. Lots of people have been complaining about the new lures, just remember, every type and size of lure throws off a different vibration to attract the fish – for the Eastern Basin it seems like the “New” vibration is better.

As far as currents, we always troll with the wind, which is almost always with the current. Trolling with the current will also get your baits deeper.

For leadcore, 18# is what you want – for out there I would probably use 3 colors of segmented (might want to see our article on leadcore if you don’t know how to rig that up).

Ah-h-h-h, The magic question! If I could just master this one question, I could win almost every tournament! All joking aside, I’ll usually give an area an hour or so and if I don’t get bit, I start asking why. Is the water too dirty? Did something change? Another big factor is how many fish are you marking on your fish finder. If I’m marking very few I don’t stay long (except maybe to check real high fish or fish buried in the mud). Otherwise, if I am marking nice fish – especially suspended – I will stay on them and try to switch depths, lures, colors, speed…. Especially the depth, because remember, where a fish is sitting (suspended) is not necessarily where he is eating (they typically eat in an upward direction).

The reason we often use long snells (Gary and I have used up to 150ft snell – Saginaw Bay, real clear, real high fish), because at times I believe even the small snap weight may spook fish. Especially when the fish are high in clear water you may have to go to a longer snell to stop spooking. Another choice is to use something like a Bass Pro XPS Keel weight. This in-line weight is holographic, so instead of spooking the fish it is actually an attractant.

The other thing to remember especially in rough water, as your boards sweep and pause, the weight (snap weight or keel/in-line sinker) are moving up and down. With a long snell, the spinner basically has a slow undulating motion whereas with a short snell the spinner will follow the weight and have a quick up and down motion. Which is better? Let the walleyes tell you. Some days it’s one, other days they want the other action.

The answer is both. The advantage by using a flat line is in that you can keep the lure below the surface by adjusting rod holders (also hand held) to keep the rod tip subsurface. On problem you have with spinnerbaits and speed is them staying in the water. A planer board will work great to get the lure too the side, but depending on the lure, you may have to use in-line weight between board and lure to keep it down.

this is a huge question that we could likely devote a whole article to. In general though, at this time, new weeds should be the best bet–on top and their edges. And not just the outside edges, try the inside edge too if one exists. Hard to trigger followers on outside edge? Try casting from the shallow side past the break and bringing lures in. Shallow rocks or wood can be key too. In clear water, take the time to go and look for fish in the shallows on bright days … these may be caught later on a weather change.

Also try open water. Deep zones adjacent to known spawning areas are generally best. Realize that fish will suspend high because seeking warmer water. Fish the same baits as you would in shallow, as well as deeper divers like the Ernie crankbait.

For baits, as a general rule, a small twitched crank like a 6 inch Jake works good– so do small spinners. But everything is an option. Surface too. Consider trying the larger baits and possibly faster retrieves on days when water is warming … good time for topwater too.

Typically what I’m going to do is pull a bottom bouncer and spinner just fast enough to get the blade on the spinner turning. You don’t want to go so slow that all the blade does is “wobble”, nor do you want to go so fast that the blade is nothing but a blur. You want a good spin out there, giving off flash and vibration to attract the walleyes.

Be sure that once you have a speed that the spinner functions at properly, choose a bottom bouncer weight that will run at about a 45 degree angle from the rod tip. That will keep the bouncer upright and ticking along the bottom, keeping the spinner in just the right position to catch more walleyes.

When I’m tying up two hook crawler harnesses, I will often use a colored hook for the “nose” hook. It might be a red hook or one of the Mustad Neon hooks, positioned on the harness for hooking the node of the crawler. I typically stick with bronze for the back hook so that it remains camouflaged or hidden in the crawler. I feel the colored hook gives the fish a target to key in on therefore giving me a better chance of hooking the fish. It’s a great tip, and has helped me catch a lot of walleyes.

Like anything in walleye fishing, there are some “Rules-of-Thumb”, but with any Rule-of-Thumb, there are exceptions. My general Rules-of-Thumb go like this: If I’m fishing real clear water, I’ll stick with shiny blades … ones with a lot of flash, like hammered gold, hammered silver or maybe even hammered copper. Remember, in clear water, fish use their eye sight much more, looking for things like the glint coming off the scales of a baitfish. So stick with shiny blades in clear water.

When fishing dark, dingy or very deep water, I’ll often go with colored blades like chartruese, orange, or combination colors like Firetiger or Rainbow, where you have more bright colors. Even Glow-in-the-dark patterns can be real good in deep water.

Now with that being said, my favorite blades are the holographic patterns, because they combine both flash and color, so no matter what the situation, I’ve got a color of blade that is likely to attract walleyes. Probably my #1 “go-to” blade color is one called Rainbow Chub which has blue, pink and white, along with the holographics that make it really shine.

So when you’re trying to choose the right spinner blade, use those rules of thumb, but remember … you never know what a walleye’s thinking, and you never know what he’s going to bite, so experiment to find the best color for that day.

The 4-blade prop should work very well in the rough water conditions and will generally get the vessel on plane faster. Although it is very important that you select a prop which will allow the motor to run in the recommended RPM range. The stainless steel prop will normally range one size pitch higher than an aluminum prop. Your best bet would be to locate a dealer which will allow you to test various props to determine which one is absolutely the best for your rig.

You can read more about choosing the right prop for your boat’s motor in my article Choosing the Right Prop.

When it comes to reed fishing, all types of lures tend to offer poorer hookups as compared to lures used in more open water conditions. I just believe it’s as simple as the reeds being thick and they’re moving, and kicking the lure out as well. I think they may actually hinder the fish’s movement somewhat too. But it’s just harder for them to zero in. The buzzbait on top is even harder yet than something below. Also keep in mind that, in general, topwaters are poor hookers … It may be because the fish try to slash at the lure (possibly testing or trying to wound) rather than just eat it.
Anyway, it’s a presentation that by nature is not the highest hooking percentage for this specie already … start bouncing it off of reeds and it gets worse. A bigger body is a good idea. At Musky Mania Tackle, we are in the process of putting out a buzz and spinner bait. There are quite a few good spinners out there. My favorites would probably be the Rad Dog and Dick Pearson’s new “Grinders”.

For a little deeper fishing, we did a show on Lake Of the Woods in 2007 (available on DVD – has some excellent animations) with the identical situation you are talking about. Humps with lots of rocks. Our best technique was Bottom bouncer fishing with spinners (or Slow Death).

Couple of refinements for this type of fishing. First you need to keep a steady pull on the bottom bouncer. Do this in calmer weather with your trolling motor – in rougher weather you can drift but be sure to use a drift bag to give you a more consistent pull.

Next, use a heavier bottom bouncer. 2 or even 3 ounces depending on depth. The heavier bouncer will keep your line straighter up and down (instead of dragging way behind the boat). This allows you to adjust quickly to just tick the bottom instead of doing a hard drag. You might even hold the bouncer just above the bottom and just touch it down every once in a while to stay close.

Use a fairly short snell (3 foot) and a small spinner blade (#1) to keep the spinner from dragging too much. As mentioned, Slow Death is also very good for this as it has very little weight.

That depends a little on the current conditions, your skill as an angler and the type of line you want to use.

The general rule of thumb is to use as light a jig as possible (so a walleye can suck it in easily) but heavy enough to feel the bottom. So, in general I would say 1/4 and 3/8 ounce jigs are my bread and butter for those depths.

Now, if you are in very fast current than you might have to move up to 1/2 ounce – if the fish are biting real lethargically and you are in slow current, maybe a 3/16 or 1/8 can be used.

One thing that will help you to maintain bottom contact with a light jig is your line. Use a thin diameter, no stretch line like Berkley FireLine. I use 6lb test FireLine in either Flame Green or Crystal. Great stuff, you will be surprised how much more you will feel over monofilament.

I use snaps to attach all my lures as it allows me to quickly change from one lure style or color to another. It is possible that taking off the split ring and attaching directly to the lure will create a different action, but I rarely do so. For me it is a matter of efficiency. You mentioned in your question that you had difficulty getting a snap on a #8 Shad Rap and I concur. The Shad Rap eyelet is set very low in the lip — for good reason. The lures that have high eyelets tend to have wilder actions, but are also very difficult to tune, as well as, maintain tuning.

My advice would be give it a shot as an experiment and see if attaching directly increases your odds. My experience tells me the hassle of trying to fiddle with direct attachment is not worth the effort — in general.

You also asked about quick clips and again my experience is to use a standard duolock snap for crankbaits. As I mentioned above, I am never against experimenting with things that make life easier, but I have not found these clips to help me that much. I think mainly because I can tie knots quickly with my eyes closed. On the flip side, if you are like my father and it takes you 10 minutes to tie a knot (he’s blind as a bat) these clips might save you some time and could be worth a shot.

Each of the rods in the Bass pro series were designed differently – some have fast taper, some have medium. For our rigging rods we prefer a medium taper (most of the bend occurs in the last half of the rod). This makes for a “softer” tip. You want this for rigging because you are trying to feel the fish and release the line before the fish feels you. The other thing to consider on rigging rods is to get a sensitive rod – look at graphite modulus – more is better. Bass Pro Walleye rods are a good place to start.

his is a good question that really pertains to anyone going on a fishing trip to a location they have never been. There are several things that I will try to do to gather information before hitting the water in order to up my odds once I get there.

Good sources of information include local fisheries biologists, bait shop owners, the Internet, and other anglers. By making use of these sources before you even hit the road with trailer in tow you can have a good idea of what the bite might be like when you get there.

When you do arrive, stop in at the bait shop and ask some more questions. Patronize the owner as they seem to be a little more willing to help you out that way. Before you leave make a mental note of what baits were available at the bait shop. For example, if all they have for sale are minnows but no crawlers or leeches it is a pretty good indication that minnows get the nod on that system. Same thing with crankbaits or other terminal tackle. If you notice that everything in stock seems to have green in it, green might be the best color.

The last really good source of information comes at the boat ramp. Arrive with a smile and ask questions. Most anglers are willing to help a fellow angler out. Check out the boats as they come out of the water. If everyone has a purple crankbait tied on, that’s a hint.

In general gather as much info as you can before hitting the water. Try to find the hot depth, the right color, and the general location of the best bite. It will take a lot of the guess work out of the process of finding fish.

Zebra muscles are definitely tough on spinner rigs. Making sure that you have the right line for the job is very important. You asked about fluorocarbon as an alternative to XT and I would say that it could be a good choice but the important thing is to up the size of your line from 14lb to 17lb or even 20lb test. And be careful to keep the line wet as you tighten down your knots with fluorocarbon lines. If they get hot from friction in the knot tying process they can break down easily.

Another option for tying spinner rigs for the Zebra Muscle challenge is to use Berkley’s new IronSilk line. this line is extremely abrasion resistant and stands up better to the zebra muscles than most other lines. Same thing here though, go heavier with your line. 17lb test is pretty common in my boat.

Lowrance’s X-15MT is a great fish finding unit. With 350 vertical pixels it can easily pick up even bottom hugging walleyes – but at times you might have to make some manual adjustments to read in difficult situations. For the X-15 I like to run my Grayline a little higher than on the LMS-350A – usually about 50%. The nice thing about a unit with a good Grayline is that you will be able to pick out larger fish by seeing a wider arc. For chart speed, I have yet to find a unit or situation that I don’t run the chart at Max speed. Sensitivity is the tricky setting. What I like to do is adjust the sensitivity as high as it can go without blacking out the screen. Even if some of the top of the screen is blackened (surface clutter), that is sometimes necessary to pick out the “bumps” on the bottom that are often walleyes. One other setting I play with is the Ping Speed. Typically I use 75% – sometimes 50% is better, sometimes 100% is better – and there are no rules of thumb to say which is best – just have to experiment in each body of water.

I assume we are talking about tying up an open water spinner. Probably 90% of the time I tie a single hook (for the nose of the crawler) and then a treble for the stinger part of the snell. When I am fishing for big walleyes (Lake Erie, Saginaw, etc) I use a 1/0 Mustad “Big Red” beak hook and a #4 Triple Grip. Both hooks have Ultra Point technology so they don’t dull easily (which is important around rocks or zebra muscles). For smaller walleyes, use a #2 Big Red and a #6 Triple Grip. I tie my harnesses with 17lb Vanish – this fluorocarbon line is nearly invisible in the water so I can get away with the larger line diameters (and therefore don’t have to re-tie as much).

There can be many reasons that a crawler harness twists. If you are constantly having this problem, first check that you are using ball bearing swivels as your connector between the main line and the harness snell. Second use an adequate line weight for the snell itself; I usually use 14# Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon. Third, you may be trolling with too large of a spinner blade, the largest I use is a #6, usually a #5. When using blades this size go no faster than 1.8 mph. It is common to get snell twist when trolling too fast, however the most common cause is from reeling in your line too fast when the crawler is off. If you get a bite and miss it try to refrain from burning that line back in!

I put 100 feet of mono backing and then a full spool of 300 yards of FireLine on top of that. The mono backing is simply there to stop the FireLine from spinning on the reel’s spool. 300 yards of FireLine may seem like a lot, but consider that sometimes I want to put out 300 feet of line to the lure, attach a board and then let out another 150 feet. Plus since FireLine is so durable, I can leave it on my reel a long time – so with the extra line, it is still useful even if I break off quite a few times. 10-4 FireLine is perfect for walleyes – the mono backing can be anything – I do use 10XT.

The most important feature on a depth finder is the vertical pixel count. As you probably know Vertical Pixels is the number of little “dots” that make up one column of a fish finders display. The more pixels you have – the more detailed the picture will be. I always suggest that walleye anglers have at least 200 VP’s – more is better. Another important feature is grayline. Grayline helps you distinguish different sizes of fish as well as “bumps” on the bottom. “Bumps” are often walleyes and are displayed as a widening of the black line that indicates the bottom. “Bumps” are good – I often fish “bumps” and catch lots of walleye. As far as 1500 watts compared to 3000, there are two places more power seem to make a difference. Deep water (over 30 feet), especially if you are looking for thermoclines. Thermoclines on a powerful unit show up as a line of clutter – the unit is actually showing the change in water density between warm and cold water. The other place I find power important is in mucky basins where the walleyes are belly to the bottom. Both of the units you mention have great pixel count, both units have grayline. Look at your fishing conditions to determine whether or not the extra power is needed.

In response to using Leadcore on Winnebago – we use it, but not all the time. Winnebago as you know is very shallow – deepest is 18 feet. According to the Precision Trolling Data app, many lures like #9 and #11 Flicker Minnows and #9 Flicker Shads can dive to 18 feet by letting out the right amount of line. Other lures like the #7 Flicker Minnow can dive deep enough by using 10-4 Fireline. But there are a set of lures – mainly stick baits or small diving lures (e.g. #5,6,7 Flicker Shads) that need help – that’s where lead comes to play.

Leadcore is used to pull baits down to depths they can’t dive themselves. For Winnebago, since you only need to gain an extra 10 to 12 feet (even stick baits dive to 6 to 8 feet), one or 2 colors of segmented leadcore will get any lure down to the bottom (assuming you are trolling at 2mph or less). If you want to troll faster, you might need 3 colors.

For Winnebago I use segmented lead. That means there is a 50 foot leader of monofilament, usually 10# Trilene XT, tied to 1, 2, or 3 colors of lead, and then 300 foot of backing – 10# Fireline. The reason I want to use segmented lead is that I use the Offshore Inline Side Planer boards to spread lures (in Wisconsin each angler can fish 3 lines). The boards run much better if attached to the backing instead of attaching the heavy lead core line. So I let out my leader, let out the lead core, and the put out enough backing to get the lure to the depth I want, attach the board and let it out to the side.

One note. Only use the above system if the fish are deep. On Winnebago (and many other lakes) in the summer the active fish suspend. When that happens you don’t want to be on the bottom, you want to fish at the level the fish are – or slightly higher. Lots of years a Flicker Shad fished 10 to 15 feet behind the board is a great setup.

Leadcore is just one of the tools you can use to achieve good “depth control”. Learn to use it, learn when to use it and you will be a better walleye fisherman!

Pre-tournament preparation is important – but don’t get too carried away – I’ll explain. Before tournaments its always nice to have some “local” contacts – maybe a friend, bait shop, lake resident – who knows what the current status of the lake is – where the “hot bite” is going, what technique is being used, what size fish are being caught. This is great “starter” information – although rarely will it produce a high finish in tournaments.

Next, try to determine what “state” the fish are in to try to guess where the biggest concentration of fish might be. Spawn (need to find gravelly areas, incoming streams, spawning marshes…), post-spawn (feeding areas close to spawning areas – might include open water areas if on the great lakes), summertime (flats, or structure close to deep water) etc. Often a good topographical map will be helpful in this stage.

Third, try to “guess” what the best technique might be and make sure you’ve got the right tackle for those presentations.

Now, back to my first statement – don’t get too carried away. I find there is only so much you can (or want) to do before getting to the water. Often, the “hot bite” or the “easy limit” you heard about was last week’s bite and you can waste a lot of time fishing memories (or worse yet someone else’s memories). Take what you know and search for the walleyes. Use your fish finder and a good underwater camera to try to locate fish. Based on where their found experiment with a variety of techniques – hopefully wiring up a productive pattern.

Sure I keep an open ear to rumors about what’s supposedly happening on the water. But nothing beats figuring out a location and technique that works for you – one you have confidence with to compete at a high level during the tournament.

Actually the voltage you have on your trolling motor doesn’t change how long you can run – that is determined by how much “juice” you have on board. Voltage (or pounds of thrust) has to do with how much power you have (e.g. can you hold in a 20 mph wind compared to a 30 mph wind).

To answer your question, in 95% of the situations you’ll face, a 24 volt trolling motor with at least 80 pounds of thrust is plenty of power. I do recommend however running 4 batteries to that motor (if your boat has the room) so that even if you have to run at 70% or 80% you can do so for a full day (8-9 hours).

If you choose to run a 36 volt motor, it too will last longer than a 2 battery 24 volt system – mainly because with the extra power, you will be running the motor at a lower speed – and you still have 3 batteries worth of juice.

Of course the other thing to consider is your batteries. Be sure you’re using quality marine batteries, and keep them charged between fishing trips, that way they’ll last longer and perform better for you trip after trip.

Five things affect how deep a weight will take a crank bait.

1.) The amount of line you let out before attaching the weight. Remember that the crankbait will dive below the weight.

2.) The amount of weight you attach. I like to use Off Shore Tackle Snap Weights – for trolling crank baits I mainly use the 3 ounce weight. This is the biggest weight you can effectively pull below an Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer board.

3.) The speed you troll – slower the speed the deeper the weight will go – pick up the speed and the system won’t get the lure as deep.

4.) The type of line. Thin line like 10-4 Fireline (as compared to a 10 pound mono) will have less resistance in the water. The bait will dive deeper and the weight will sink lower.

5.) The amount of dropper line. This is the amount of line from the weight up to your rod tip (or board if you are using one). Obviously the more line you put out the deeper the system will carry your bait.

So use a 3 ounce weight, at 1.5 mph, with say 10XT as a line and a 50 foot leader I would guess you would have to let out a 50 foot “dropper” to hit 30 feet – probably 75 or so to hit 40.

If you want to be real precise, take the set up to a sandy shoreline. Start deep (say 40 feet) and see if it hits bottom, if not move 5 feet shallower and try again and gradually troll from deep to shallow until it starts to bump – then you know for sure.

this has been a problem for me in the past and finally we have a simple cure. Bass Pro Shop’s has a product, which is called the Adjustable Rod Sock. The sock will fit rods form 5&1/2 to 7 foot rods in casting or spinning models. My Fisher FXDV18 has a very large rod locker outfitted with a tube storage system. This setup works very well although I still use the socks on all my rods for added protection and elimination of any tangles.

Well this has been a problem in the marine industry for many years. With out a doubt the best method is to solder the wires together and apply a shrink tube over the connection. The tube can be heated with any normal household hair drier. Many companies such as 3M offer shrink tube kits, which are very well suited for the consumer.

Elmer this is something that tends to occur for many of us early and late season anglers. I am sure your dealership did a pressure test on you lower gear case. This is the reason they stated there is nothing wrong with it. The moisture you are seeing in the lube is related to the air and water temperature changes, which occur each time you launch and load your rig (condensation). Generally I like to change the gear lube 2 to 3 times through out he season for this reason. By following this procedure you will almost eliminate any gear case failure do to water intrusion as well as normal wear. Please use the proper lube for your engine. I recommend the use of Mercury Marine’s high performance blend on all horsepower ranges to insure protection of your investment.

Jigs are tremendous in the spring. It’s a very underrated presentation. Problem is they bore the heck out of most anglers, so not many guys use them as much as they should. But, they work for sure and often when nothing else will. There are many out there, but any good reaper tail is a top choice. The new Lindy Tiger Tail is another good one. A plain jig head tipped with a big chub will work too. Use a light weight steel leader and set the hook immediately. If you hesitate, the fish may swallow the hook and that could mean a dead muskie.

In both cases, you want to go to the “opposite” side that the lure is running to. With the Suick, bend the other way. But, when it comes to added weight, things may be a little off, and bending the eye likely won’t compensate. On the Burt, you can bend the eye the opposite way and shave (just a little at a time … try it … then take more if you need) the opposite side. Shave just the very front part, from the tip of the nose up a third of the way. Also, check to make certain the tail is lined-up properly. It should be inserted evenly, and the seams on the tail should line up with those on the hard body portion of the lure. If not, cut around the edge, straighten and re-glue. Or, get a new tail and glue it in straight. Any super glue will work, but Carlson Tackle’s Fishing Glue works best.

For trolling, just a handful of cranks can get you going. Make certain you use the highest quality stuff you can get – to handle bottom contact. Get a few shallower runners and a few deep divers. This way you can cover all the depth ranges. For trolling toughness, nothing can match Ben Clendening’s (lure molder for Musky Mania Tackle) crankbait lips and bodies. The Jakes are great for shallow to mid-range and Ernies in straight and jointed cover the deeper ranges. Trolling jerks can work well too and the Sledge is an effective trolling lure. Squirrely Burts work great for shallow ranges. Both are tough plastic baits. For line, I recommend Rapala Tough Line in 30# test for trolling with planer boards and 50# test Magibraid Spectra (from Bass Pro Shops) for flat lining. If you’re trolling in areas where you’ll contact lots of rock, then move up to 80# test Magibraid Spectra . Leaders for trolling are a little different than ones used for casting. Try a 4 foot long, seven strand leader like Musky Mania Tackle’s Trolling Leader. They feature an attractor blade and are great for keeping debris off the lure.

Everything! Generally, in warmer weather, topwater, spinners and hot-twitched jerks and cranks will work best. But there are no rules that muskies follow (so don’t be guilty of it yourself). Usually, there is no real explanation for preferences, just theories. Based on past experience, seasonally and on the water (if you have previous experience), you start with what you think will work best first. These thoughts should be prioritized in your mind when you hit the water … work through this until something works … then do it some more.

Oh, it will work, technically. You sure could catch a Muskie, but I don’t recommend it. You will lose a percentage of fish due to the light gear, and some of the large Muskie baits … well, you won’t even be able to throw them effectively. If you are serious about giving it a good effort, get yourself a quality Muskie sized baitcasting combo like my Signature Series combos from Bass Pro Shops. Otherwise you will really be handicapped. Stock up on some quality leaders, a couple of good bucktails, a couple of jerkbaits, and a couple of cranks. That will be a good way to get you started. Also, hire a reputable guide your first time or two out. You will learn much faster and more than pay for their fee in making the proper selections for tackle.

Pretty simple answer here: fast, slow and in-between. Covering lots of water is the advantage to trolling. Speed itself – too – often triggers strikes. Don’t be afraid to try extreme speeds (like 7 to 10 mph), but you need to vary the speed to look for the pattern fish want. If you get a strike moving fast – stick with it. If fish are reacting while going slow, or sometimes even on a pause … do that.

Colors are a very interesting part of the picture, but hard to truly call. You have the right idea by trying to match the forage, as this can often work. In gin clear water though, fish are just tougher to trigger, in general. Try gaudy colors too–even on dark days. Try different sizes. Possibly, standing out is what you want … so if you are working shad, bigger, gaudier baits could work. But, experiment with size and color. Also, one very effective way to get around the gin-clear woes is to either fish at night (especially if lake receives heavy fishing pressure) or work the wind. Fish on windy days and get right in it. Fish tend to be more “triggerable” in waves on clear lakes.

Choosing the right crankbait really has more to do with the action as it relates to water temperature. For instance, if the water temperature is below 50 degrees, that’s when I use subtle action, shallow diving minnow style lures like the Berkley Flicker Minnow. If the fish are deeper than the baits will run on their own, then I will add Snap Weights. Once the water warms to above 50 degrees, then I will switch to more moderate action baits like the Berkley Flicker Shad. Even though these lures dive deeper on their own, there are still times when it will be necessary to use Snap Weights to get them to the desired depth. The larger diving lip on these baits give them a more aggressive wobbling action that is deadly in warm water, where as, the smaller lipped minnow baits have a more seductive “top-to-bottom roll” that usually triggers more walleyes in cold water.

Feel is always a major consideration when jigging, and even more so when you’re talking about deep water jigging. That’s why using a no-stretch line like FireLine is so important for this type of a presentation. The no-stretch line coupled with a very sensitive, high-modulus graphite rod and a quality light weight spinning reel, will give an angler the ultimate jigging weapon. Keep line diameter small for the best jig control. Six pound test is typically good for most situations, and FireLine 6# has the diameter of 2# test monofilament, which helps not only to get the jig down quickly, but maintain bottom contact and feel while fishing. The small diameter is also helpful in clear water because it is tough for fish to see, especially deep.

There is no rule of thumb for line length to depth, there is however a great app called Precision Trolling Data, which has dive data giving the line length to depth values for hundreds of lures. For example, the book says to run a #4 Berkley Flicker Shad 4 feet deep, let out 26 feet of 10# Berkley Trilene XT. To get the same lure down to 6 feet, let out 94 feet of line. This app (available for IOS and Droid) is a very valuable resource for anyone that trolls.

Any time I’m dealing with stained water, I’m going to lean toward bright colors like Chartreuse, Fluorescent Red, Lime, etc. Glow-in-the-dark colors have really come on strong the past couple of years, and are tailor made for dark water situations. Those are colors that typically show up better in off-colored water. It’s also a good time to use lures with rattles. Either rattling style crankbaits or by adding rattles to a jig are the most common examples. Spinners tied with rattle beads can also be great producers in stained water. The added noise and vibration can help the fish locate your offering in dingy water. Bright colored spinnerbaits can be dynamite producers for Northern Pike in stained water.

Bottom Bouncers Yes … slip sinkers no. You also don’t want to use Bouncers and Boards in snaggy areas because it’s just too much of a hassle. In order to fish Bouncers on boards, you will to use a board that’s ballasted like Off Shore Tackle’s OR-12 Side Planer. These boards are ballasted with a lead weight attached to the bottom of the board. This will allow you to troll the slow speeds needed for effective bouncer fishing, without the board continually tipping over and not running correctly. Trolling Bottom Bouncer rigs on boards works especially well on slow tapering spots and flats where you want to spread your presentation, or are concerned about spooking shallow fish.

Medium Action is what we’d call our rods in the Bass Pro Walleye Angler Signature Series. They do however have a fairly fast taper with a soft tip for fighting fish. Rod action along with (and maybe more importantly) line type (stretchy vs non-stretch) will change the action of the bait, sometimes for the better … sometimes for the worst. We typically try both Trilene 10# XT mono and FireLine 10/4 when trolling to determine which one is going to give the lures the best action.

In order to make things consistent with the reels, they must all be the same make and model, and be spooled with exactly the same amount of line. Mechanical line counters actually count the spool revolutions, and not the actual line. What we often do is “calibrate” our reels every once in a while.

Like you did, we measure out the line and read the counters, marking each reel as being “OK”, or “+5”, “-10”, etc. depending on how far off each is. That way we can always know we are letting out the same amount of line on each reel.

the Lowrance LCX-15MT is a great unit with 350 vertical pixels and the “electronic horsepower” to run the pixels. Lowrance LCX-15MTSome of the hardest fish to “see” on any unit are the bottom hugging walleyes. On an X-15, they will show up as “bumps”, or a “widening” of the black line that indicates bottom. You will also clearly see the difference between bait (clouds), fish (black arcs), and Big fish (arcs with gray shading underneath). The X-15 also has Lowrance’s dependable GPS mapping capability, with software that will allow you to custom build maps for the specific areas you fish. The last feature of the Lowrance unit is that they are durable! That is why over 80% of the tournament anglers run Lowrance on the circuit.

You can start as soon as possible, or as soon as it’s legal (depending on your state’s regulations). Fish are often up shallow in the spring looking for warmer water. Since the water temps will most likely be below 50 degrees, slow-troll subtle action stick baits. The seductive actions of these baits really trigger walleyes in cooler water.

Another option is to cast cranks into areas buffeted by wind during the day, or if it’s calm, do it at night. Rip rap shorelines, shallow reefs, and gravel shoals can all be good areas to check out for this presentation. Cranks like Berkley Flicker Shads (size 5,6 & 7) and Berkley Flicker Minnows (size 5&7) are great choices here. These may seem like deep diving baits to be throwing, but work them slow along the bottom for best results.

Many times at night walleyes are not as easily spooked as they are at other times, but boards can be effectively run as far out as 150 ft … at night though, it’s very Off Shore Tackle Night Light helpful to equip the boards with Off Shore Tackle OR12-12NL Night Lights to make them visible in the dark.

As far as slowing down, we have used trolling plates and they do work well. We don’t really like drift socks for this application because the bag and/or the lines can get hung up in the prop.

As far as your questions about getting Husky Jerks and such lures down to those fish … you don’t need to stick with the 50/50 rule (50 feet of leader, add a Snap Weight of the desired weight to reach targeted depth, and let out 50 feet of dropper line). That was just a formula that one source recommends. We’d suggest trying a 20 foot leader (shorter leaders do better in current), attach a 3 or 4 oz. Snap Weight, and then let out line until you feel the lure tick bottom. Those river fish relate to the bottom, so it’s Snap Weight setupimportant that you get your lures down there.

It will also be a good idea to use Off Shore Tackle’s OR-16 releases that feature the small pin in the clip. That way if you do happen to snag one of those weights on the bottom, you’ll have a better chance of getting it back.

For leadcore, fill a large line capacity trolling reel, like the Bass Pro Shops Gold Cup Line Counter Trolling Reel, with leadcore line, and keep letting it out until the lure ticks bottom. Here too, in rivers we like to use a little shorter leader than usual … about 20 to 25 feet


Spinner blade color has really come a long way over the past couple of years. Spinner Walleye!I’ve had great results using both Bass Pro’s XPS Walleye Angler Spinner Blades and Northland Fishing Tackle’s Holographic Baitfish-Image spinners. They are easily my “go-to” spinners. My all-time favorite is the Rainbow color, which features blue, green, red and silver. My 2nd favorite is the FireTiger Baitfish color. The FireTiger is a great “dingy water” color, while the Rainbow works better in clear water. The typical rule-of-thumb is use naturalistic colors (those colors that closely resemble live baitfish) in clear water, and brighter colors (chartreuse, green, fluorescent red, etc.) in stained water. The great thing about Holographic colors is that combine both color and flash. Their flashy characteristics get the fish’s attention, and then the color triggers the bite. Crankbaits with Holographic finishes are also a hot ticket right now, for all the same reasons.

Bass Pro Shops has a new line counter reel called the Gold Cup. It is based on the Daiwa Sealine reel bodies/gears. It’s very durable, has a good drag, a bait clicker … basically all the features you’d need in a good trolling reel. The best thing is that you can buy them with a Walleye Angler Trolling Rod and the combo price is $79.98 (normally 119.98 if purchased separately). Any of the rods (8, 7 ½ and 8 ½ foot models) will work fine, but for salmon and walleye use I’d probably go with the 8’6″ rods. I know their tough enough because we have caught lots of steelhead while fishing for walleyes in the Great Lakes.

For big walleyes, in the fall when water temps drop just below 50 – Fall Time is Hog Time. The key to success is to use subtle presentations.

Crankbaits trolled at slow speeds can often initiate strikes. The key is to get baits that have a good action at slow speeds (less than 1.8 mph). Look at the Berkley Flicker Minnow lineup of lures – especially the #9 and #11 for big fish.

Jig trolling is also a good tactic for cool water. It’s perfect for working deeper breaks and channel edges. Use your electric motor to slowly move along the break with a 3/8 ounce jig. Move just fast enough to trail the jig at a 45 degree angle to the rod tip, while still maintaining bottom contact. Tip the jig with a larger minnow style bait like a Gulp! 4 inch Minnow or a 3.5 inch Powerbait Ripple Shad and hold on … this is a big fish killer tactic!

Summer can also be dynamite, when water temps are above 70 degrees and walleyes are very active. This is when trolling more moderate to high action crankbaits excel, like Berkley Flicker Shads (size 6,7, 9) and Berkley Flicker Minnows (Size 7,9,11). Just remember to pick up the speed – often 2.5 mph is a great summer speed and with provoke reactionary strikes as the lure flickers by hungry walleyes!

It’s interesting that you ask that, because that is the same question Reelin in the BoardBass pro Shops asked us a couple of years ago when they wanted us to design a series of walleye specific rods. The entire Walleye Angler Signature Series of course features both spinning and baitcasting models, but since you asked about baitcasters, I’ll focus on those.

One of the most common uses for baitcasting equipment is trolling. Trolling rods should be fairly stiff to handle the additional weight of in-line planer boards and weighting systems (like Snap Weights). Frequent use of in-line planer boards means that the rods should be fairly long to allow you to spread your lines out further. I prefer an 8 foot, medium to medium heavy graphite rod. Since you should have several identical trolling rigs, and because sensitivity is not important for this rod, you do not need a high modulus graphite rod for trolling – stay with a moderately priced rod like the Walleye Angler Signature Series Trolling Rod model# WX86T-T. This rod features IM-6 graphite and a telescoping handle that makes it real nice for fitting into a rod locker, and it’s also available in 7 ½ and 8 foot models.

There is only one reel for trolling in my opinion – that is a line counter reel. Bass Pro Shops has a couple of real dandies called the Gold Cup Line Counter Trolling Reels. The model GCL4000LCB is a large capacity reel perfect for tactics like lead core line trolliing while the GCL2000LC is the smaller model better suited for typical trolling applications. They have all the features you want in a trolling reel, like the dependable line counter, audible bait clicker with an on-off switch, and smooth drag.

Gary Bounced up a nice oneThe other bait casting rig I use most is the one I use for bottom bouncer fishing. Many people don’t realize how important it is to have a highly sensitive rod for bottom bouncer fishing. I won a North American Walleye Anglers tournament on Lake Sharpe in South Dakota a few years back, and mainly credit my ability to feel more bites than the other competitors, to catch my winning weight. I like a 6 foot six inch rod (so that I can get out over the side of the boat), that’s very light (since I hold the rod all day). It should have a sensitive tip, but good back bone for hooksets – I’d call it a medium action rod with a fast taper. The Walleye Angler Signature Series Bottom Bouncer Rod model# WX66BBT is perfect for bottom bouncers or any dragging technique that requires great feel.

A bottom bouncer baitcasting reel should be comfortable, reliable and have a smooth drag. I really like the feel and quality of the Pro Qualifier Baitcast Reel model PQX1000HSE. It palms easily, features instant anti-reverse and a 6.3:1 gear ratio.

Those are my two favorite baitcasting outfits for fishing walleyes, and I hope you’ll give them a try.

Stable weather is always the best for walleye fishing (steady barometer). Fish are more active under those conditions. Trolling lures like Flicker minnow or Bass Pro XPS spinners behind a bottom bouncer work great under these conditions. Unstable weather marked by changing barometric pressure typically slow fihing down, and call for more stealthy presentations like jigs and live bait rigs. The only exception would be when there is an approaching front … a fall in the barometric pressure just before a storm. This is one of those situations that you can get in on a terrific feeding frenzy if you’re in the right place at the right time.

Spinning rods are very “personal” to walleye fisherman, because you almost have to become one with the rod and reel to feel the subtle “tick” of a walleye sucking in a jig, or the “mushiness” of a walleye mouthing a leech. For this reason, I would only look at high modulus graphite rods for my spinning gear. Unlike trolling applications, you typically only need one jig rod, or one rig rod, so make it a good one.

For vertical jigging I like a 6 foot, one piece rod with a soft, ultra sensitive tip section and plenty of backbone. It would be classified as a medium to medium light action rod with a fast tapering tip. When jig fishing if I feel something that even remotely resembles a bite, I set the hook immediately. To get the ultimate sensitivity, a jig rod needs to be built from high modulus graphite so that all of the bite’s sensation is transmitted through the rod blank and to your hand. The Walleye Angler Signature Series Rod model# WL60MS rod that’s light weight, super sensitive, and a joy to fish with all day long. The soft tip acts as a shock absorber for fighting fish on low or no-stretch line.

Your reel can also absorb sensitivity – especially if the reel spins backwards when you let it go. I use reels with a feature called instant anti-reverse. It’s easy to tell if a reel has this feature, simply try to move the handle backwards. If there’s no movement you’ve got a great jigging reel. Make sure your reel for jigging is also light. You’ll be holding the rod and reel all day, so a heavy outfit will fatigue you quickly. My choice for jigging reels is the Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier PQS20. Its compact, has instant anti-reverse, and very dependable – which I rely on when fishing day after day in tournaments around the country.

Gary Parsons The second application where a spinning combination is most used is “rigging” – or slip sinker fishing. Again, here is a technique where sensitivity pays off in weighty dividends. Unlike jigging, when rigging it is important to feel the bite, and then release line. For rigging, you need to have a fairly limber rod – especially in the tip – I’ll call it a medium-light action rod with a moderate taper (starts bending about half way down the rod). “So,” you ask, “Why don’t I want the same sensitivity as in my jigging rod”? The reason is that as well as you feel a bite, the fish will also feel it as well. With a jigging rod, the fish is much more likely to drop your bait when you release the line. Because a good rigging rod gives away some sensitivity by being more limber, it is especially important to have a high modulus graphite rod because it will transmit even the most subtle bite to finger.

The Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Signature Series rods are some of the best I’ve ever used for rigging. The WL70MS is 7 feet long, has an unbelievably sensitive tip, and the perfect action to detect bites but not so stiff that it signals trouble to the fish. A small, light weight reel is best for this application. Look for one with easy access to the backreel lever. Since rigging typically dictates light line, being able to easily switch to backreel mode when fighting a fish will help you take control of the battle and land more walleyes.

With those two spinning outfits, you’ll be set to tackle most any walleye fishing situation that you’ll come across.

FireLine and Fluorocarbon can last quite a long time. Regular mono like Berkley Trilene XL or XT, has good shelf life provided it is not exposed to direct sunlight or water. Buy your line from a dealer with a high-volume turn over … meaning they don’t have stock on the shelf for very long. Stores like Bass Pro Shops, turn their stock quickly and frequently.

Wing Dams are good at times, mainly in the summer, but are also one of the most difficult structures to fish. I’ve had my best wing dam luck holding my boat up stream of the face using my electric bowmount trolling motor and presenting a 3-way rig with a 1 to 2 ounce bell sinker. I slowly drop back until I feel the soft bottom transition into the rocky, hard face of the dam. On the “business end” of the 3-way rig I typically use a bare hook, light jig. Another and often very deadly set-up on the 3-way is a “D-Rig” (or what some refer to as a Dubuque Rig) consisting of a Mustad Ultra Point #2 Gold Aberdeen hook (model 32602NPG) dressed with a chartreuse Berkley Power Grub and a red bead ahead of the hook). Tipped with half a nightcrawler or a minnow, it’s a deadly rig in the current.

More common tactics for fishing rivers would include vertical jigging channel edges or the edges of deeper holes. Pitching light jigs to shallow water is a great technique, especially in early spring. Spots like warm water discharges, shallow rock piles or even moored barges can be good targets for pitching.

Rivers are tough to figure out, but once you learn to fish one, the tactics can be used in any walleye river.

On thing that can be done is to use Lead Core line. First thing you will have to determine will be if the boat is spooking the fish, therefore requiring “long lines” to get the lure away from the boat. One of the downsides of Lead Core is that you will be running the baits a lot closer to the boat. But we have had many instances where even in 10 feet the boat does not bother the fish much and we can troll right over them.

An advantage to long rods is that they get lures away from the boat – reducing spooking. We came out with a set of 12 foot rods specifically built for walleye fishing – one of them is the 12 foot Trolling Rod which can handle the pull of Lead Core.

Now for the reasoning behind Lead Core. Many people think of using Lead Core (weighted line) to get baits deeper than they can dive themselves – which is one of the uses. But another thing lead can do is help your baits following the changing depths.

The way it works is, you will be running all Lead Core line (I use 18 pound Magibraid from Bass Pro Shops) except for the last 10 feet. The last 10 feet is a leader of 10 pound Berkley FireLine.

Start trolling at the desired speed in the target depth (in your case 10 feet) and put out enough line (leader and lead) to just be ticking bottom in 10 feet. Now, if the bottom all of a sudden gets deeper, you can slow down your motor and the leadcore will dive more effectively. With the short leader, the crankbait will follow the lead and start fishing deeper. I would guess you could get almost another 5 feet out of it.

Conversely, if you go shallower than 10 feet, speed up your motor a little. This will cause the leadcore to raise up, the bait will follow and you can fish shallower.

I know it doesn’t cure the getting out to 30 feet problem, but it can greatly increase the amount of time your bait is close to the bottom.

I like to use my kicker in combination with my bow mount. I have been lucky enough to run a MotorGuide PTSv which has depth tracking. So, I set my PTSv to the depth I want to troll in, turn it up just fast enough so that it can keep up with the wind and then use my Mercury Pro Kicker to follow the contour and set my speed.

Now, if you don’t have a PTSv there are still things you can do if you have a Motor Drive bow mount. By motor drive I mean the kind that has an electric motor in it to steer – it is not steered mechanically by cables. If you have a Motor Drive (like the Motorguide Wireless series or Digital Steer – DS engine) you can simple point the electric motor into the wind and adjust the speed to stop the bow from swinging in the wind. Even as you follow the contour, you really don’t have to re-adjust the motor as most of the time you will be heading down the break and the wind will be from the same direction. The motor drive engine is required because it will not wander like a cable drive motor.

Now, once you have a Wireless or DS engine, the next thing to get is a Wireless remote control. This is a little hand held remote that lets you adjust the speed and direction of the motor from anywhere in the boat. So, if you end up turning and going straight into the wind, you can turn up the motor and point it more forward. As you turn back down the break, you can re-adjust again. This is also nice when the wind is a little gusty – you can adjust speed up and down as needed to keep the bow on course.

When we designed the Walleye Angler Signature Series Trolling Rods for Bass Pro. We first of all wanted a stiff enough butt section to handle all the weighty things we use for trolling. Deep Diving Cranks, Big spinners, Offshore Snap Weights, In-line Weights, In-Line Planer Boards, Lead Core… But, we wanted a tip that would be fairly flexible because you often times have to fight in a fish a long way – and the biggest head shakes inevitably come at boatside.

So, I would say our rods are a Fast Taper as most of the be occurs in the last 1/3 to 1/4 of the rod (at the tip). I would call the action Med Heavy in the butt section, Medium to ML in the tip section.

For lengths we chose 7&1/2, 8 and 8&1/2 foot. All of the rods telescope down about 1’3″ shorter for easier storage. I would suggest going with the longest rod you can store in your rod holder when they are collapsed down. The longer the rod, the more fighting tip we were able to encorporate in the rod – so I think you will loose fewer fish.

Now, there are some people who just prefer shorter rods (that is what they are used to or maybe they are not real tall) which is fine – the 7’6″ are very popular in our line-up.

If you like the short ones, then you won’t like our newest rod in the line-up – it is a 12 footer. We use this more for running lines without boards (referred to as flat lines) because they give us a huge amount of spread. They do take a little getting used to – kind of a pain to string up line through the eyelets – but they do their job well – covering more water.

Reserviors like Oahe and Sakakawea have tons of places for the fish to live. The key I have always felt was to first determine the type of structure they are using. Is it shallow, is it mid depth, is it real deep. Are they on flats or relating to the numerous points in a reservior…

So first thing is to spend a lot of time graphing (and potentially using a camera). If the fish are 15 foot or deeper, you should have no problem spotting them with a good fish finder. I would suggest a color unit as many times the fish are holding right tight to the bottom and on a color unit that is much easier to interpret. I use the Lowrance LCX 112C for most of my searching. The one thing about the 112C (and several other of the high end units) is that they have fast scroll and ping speeds, so you can move along the structure pretty fast (I would say up to 10 mph) and still see fish.

If the fish are up off the bottom a little, that is great. These are normally active feeding fish – ones you should go after right away with a fairly agressive technique (cranks or spinners). If they are tight to the bottom, they are probably a little less active, I might try Slow Death or just a bare leech on a bottom bouncer.

If the fish are shallow, they will be a little harder to find because you will have to fish to find them. Concentrate on high percentage areas (rocky shoreline areas, sections of the reservior where the old channel comes close to shore, points that extend out a long way into the reservior).

Once you have located the fish, the next step is to find the winning fish. I have found over the years that different areas of a reservior will hold bigger fish. So once your find out the general depth the fish are holding in (from above), now cover water, look at a bunch of sections of the reservior and try to determine where the biggest fish are hanging out.

Lastly, once you find the fish, remember that reservior fish are known to move, so find a bunch of spots and set up a milk run – that way you have options on tournament day.

When I am using Snap weights, I would say my typical leader length (weight to the spinner) is 50 feet. One reason for using Snap Weights is to reduce the surging of the spinner – which is often needed in dingy water conditions. I think that in the situation where the fish doesn’t see the bait real well, they often track the spinner by vibration and a consistent running spinner will allow them to intercept it more easily.

A second reason for using Snap Weights is to reduce spooking. Yes, even a little weight in front of a spinner can spook walleyes. The big advantage to the Snap Weight is that you can use any length leader you want. I can remember one tournament we had in Saginaw where the water was super clear (out by the Charities), the fish were biting real high – and if you didn’t put out a 150 foot leader you got nearly no bites!

As mentioned the weight of the Snap Weight just depends on how deep you want to go. I like to use fairly light Snap Weights with spinners so that I reduce the angle created by the weight from the In-Line board to the spinner. A reduced angle means better hookups.

That said, the disadvantage to a light Snap Weight is that you often need to put out a longer “Dropper” (line from the board to the weight). So it takes longer to set lines and reel in fish. With open water spinners, I fish 1 ouncers up to 20 feet deep, 2 ouncers up to 30, and 3 ouncers deeper than that.

How fast? I troll spinner based on how good the bite is. In a tough situation (dropping water temps, cold front, low fish populations or small areas of fish) I probably troll at .8 mph. In good bites (aggressive fish, stable weather, high suspended fish) 1.5 to 1.8 isn’t uncommon.

That depends…

If you are planning on structure trolling, often we just run all lead on the reel (with a leader of course to connect to the lure). To get spread we use long rods in rod holders.

If you are going to be fishing suspended fish – and know the depth you need to get to – then we splice in the lead core (backing of mono, leadcore, leader). This allows you to let out the leader and lead then attach a board to the mono backing. The boards will run better not connecting lead right to it.

Now, the exception to this is when I go to a new area and don’t know how much lead I will need to get to the depths the fish are biting at. In this case I use all lead on the reel and actually hook up lead core line to the board to try to figure out how much is needed. You will need a good board like the Off Shore Tackle Side Planers to stay upright with leadcore directly attached. Once you figure out how much leadcore is needed – then you can rig up spliced set up

First of all, you use of Snap Weights is an excellent choice for getting baits down deeper. The nice thing about that set up is that you don’t have to dedicate reels to leadcore – and even more reels if you want to have several spliced set ups.

The big advantage of leadcore is that is gives you a more direct line to the bait. That is, there are no angles created as there is when you attach a snap weight. When the fish bites, it immediately is putting pressure on the fish to set the hook. With a Snap Weight, the angle must first be taken up (a short time when the fish could open it’s mouth) and then when full pressure is put on the bait could pull out. So, you don’t loose many fish – but you might loose some.

Another thing to consider is that in wavy conditions, the boat (and boards) surging can put action on the bait if you are using lead core. The snap weight setup puts action on the weight but there is little action imparted on the bait (again because of the angle on the line). Some days this “surging” action can be good – on other days it can be bad. So leadcore just gives a different look.

Last, and it’s not a big deal – but I can let out and pull in lead core faster. As a tournament angler – seconds turn into minutes turn into hours of extra running time by saving time here and there.

But in summary – continue to use your Snap Weight setup – it is very economical – very adaptable – and will get your baits down to where they will get bit.

Split-shot is often used for shallow water trolling. I would use them in 8 feet or less. In Green Bay it is not always necessary to fish right on the bottom – in fact rarely do we run baits on the bottom because of all the zebra muscles.

I don’t think so much about how deep the water is, but instead how deep are the fish eating. I often start of using all the same size weights whether that is all split shot or all one ounce weights or all two ounce weights, and then I vary the amount of line out to cover different zones in the water column. Once one of the set ups starts getting bites I put more spinners in that zone (replicate the amount of line out). The size of weight you use depends on the depths you want to get to. For 20 foot and under I would use 1 ounce weights. 20 to 40 2 ouncers will work. For shallow water use Split shot. For the deeper water use either Bass Pro Fish Weights (in-line weights) or Offshore Snap Weights (allow you to put out a long leader).

I would say my number one blade shape is Colorado, followed by Chopper (Pear shaped), Indiana, Hatchet (in summer) and last would be Willowleaf. I have had good luck on Willows at Green Bay – but in general they are not a top producer for walleyes. As far as when to use what – experiment. Use a quick change style clevis so you pop off and on blades quickly to change things up.

Downsizing blades can help – but I think speed changes can be more effective. Just remember, speed changes will also change the depth you spinners are running – slower will be deeper, faster will be shallower so you might have to adjust line out to stay in the right zone. I think if there is one common thing I see – cold fronts usually move the fish closer to the bottom.

Slow Death is very similar to spinner fishing. You need some type of weight to get it to the desired depth.

If the fish are on the bottom – use a bottom bouncer just heavy enough to reach the bottom where the line from your rod is going down at about a 45 degree angle.

If you are fishing suspended fish, you can use a Snap Weight (I would suggest a 20 foot leader) or a XPS Fish Weight (4 foot leader). You will have to use the right weight and dropper line length combination to get the Slow Death hooking running in the right depth in the water column. As was mentioned, run as many different setup as you legal can – trying to find the one that puts the bait in the feeding zone.

First you need to figure out what depth the fish are in. Typically in the early summer I would be looking for suspended fish.
Once you see the fish on your depth finder, figure out how to get lures running above them in their feeding zone. In clear water that may be 10 feet or more above them, in dingy water it might be pretty close to where they are laying.
If you can run cranks down to them on mono (e.g. a Reef Runner will go about 28 feet deep on 200 feet of 10 pound Berkley XT) that is the best option. I would run these behind in-line Offshore planer boards to spread out the lines. Remember if you want to fish in shallow depths, shorten up your line.
If you are running spinners or your cranks don’t go deep enough you can use weighting systems (Lead core, Snap Weights, XPS Fish Weights) to get the lures to the desired depth -or- you can use Dipsy’s.
For Dipsy’s, I use 30 pound no Stretch line – something like FireLine or the new FireLine Braid would be a good choice. Then behind the dipsy I run 15 pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon to my crank, spinner or spoon.
To get a good idea of depths for cranks, Snap Weights or Fish Weights I suggest checking out the Precision Trolling Stickers in our online store (Click Here for Store) or check out the Precision Trolling App.

Slow Death is very similar to spinner fishing. You need some type of weight to get it to the desired depth.

If the fish are on the bottom – use a bottom bouncer just heavy enough to reach the bottom where the line from your rod is going down at about a 45 degree angle.

If you are fishing suspended fish, you can use a Snap Weight (I would suggest a 20 foot leader) or a XPS Fish Weight (4 foot leader). You will have to use the right weight and dropper line length combination to get the Slow Death hooking running in the right depth in the water column. As was mentioned, run as many different setup as you legal can – trying to find the one that puts the bait in the feeding zone.

My favorite method is to take about 4 to 6 inches of the lead out of the end of the leadcore and tie in a small swivel (size #16) with a Clinch knot (4 wraps). Then tie your leader, either FireLine, Mono, or Fluorocarbon, to the other side of the swivel using an Improved Clinch or a Trilene Knot (6 to 7 wraps on this one). The #16 swivels seem to come through the rod guides of our Bass Pro Shopd Walleye Angler Signature Series rods very well – even under the load of a fish.