How many different ways can you think of to hook a walleye?
Let’s start with some live bait strategies for the early season.
NIGHTCRAWLERS AND LEECHES
Leeches and nightcrawlers are popular walleye foods because they are natural offerings in most bodies of water and walleye are accustomed to feeding on them.
They are irresistible when presented properly. Even the most reluctant walleye will take a second look, turn around, and zero in on target, mouth open and taste buds tingling, when they see a stretched out, wiggling leech bouncing along just over the bottom of a gravel bar or weed bed.
Hook the leech’s sucker end to the first hook of a spinner rig and the tail section to the last hook. Place it in the water and pull it at the same speed you’ll troll or retrieve at, looking for the leech’s size, movement, and/or roll. It must be straight ( not roll up into a nondescript little ball; this does not attract walleye). When you have the leech trailing in the desired pattern, add a few light splitshot to get it down to the desired depth. By putting the splitshot about eighteen inches to two feet in front of the hook, you should be able to get the leech within six inches of the bottom as you troll or retrieve, and you won’t have to run a lot of line out behind the boat.
Nightcrawlers are similarly attached to your spinner rigs. Again, stretch them out along the rig so they trail out on the retrieve. Choose the biggest and fattest worms you can find.
The spinner rig is available in a variety of sizes and colours at your local tackle shop.
When faced with colour options, a simple rule to remember is: bright days + clear water = silver spinner.
Try a fluorescent or gold spinner in darker water or on cloudy days.
The most commonly used beads are red with white or yellow; experiment with different colour combinations until you find the pattern that works best for you.
To take advantage of more aggressive fish, try trolling or retrieving the leech at a fairly fast pace at first. A rate of about half the normal trolling speed works well most of the time. Keep track of where the fish are biting and return to the same spots, but this time go a little slower to take advantage of the less aggressive fish. Remember that it is not always the larger fish that are the most aggressive, and fishing back can significantly increase your creel.
After you’ve arrived at your destination, perhaps a shoal or weed bed where you’ve previously had success, try fan casting. Begin at a right angle to where you are standing in relation to the water. Throw the first cast to the right and continue to the left until you have completed a full arch to the other end. This will allow you to cover every inch of the water in front of you. Move down until you reach the edge of the last spot you covered and repeat the procedure. You will have covered the area correctly when you have worked your way to the end of the area where you wanted to fish.
River mouths are a great place to practise this casting pattern, especially early in the season when the walleye are looking for small, early baitfish or crustaceans. You can cover the entire area of water by fan casting.
The methods described above have consistently proven to be effective for opening season walleye. So go to your local live bait shop and have some fun.