Make This your best Walleye Season Ever

Fishing can remain frustrating, humiliating and most of all, humbling, regardless of how much you get to fish or you think you have learned. There will always come a time when you feel like you just hit a wall. Anybody who has never been stumped on the water just hasn’t backed the boat down the ramp too many times or they are not being honest. Either way, we have probably all pounded a lake from before sunrise to after sunset with our pride seriously tarnished.

I can’t tell you how many lessons I have had to learn in my life for walleyes. Regardless, here are guidelines that just might help you catch a few more this season. Believe me when I tell you that some of this is hard-earned intel.

Understanding water clarity
One of the secrets to catching walleyes consistently is just avoiding bad situations. Extremely clear water and turbid water are two conditions to avoid.

You can sometimes find the right water by using wind. On really clear bodies of water, wind will give the wind-blown area of the lake just enough stain. On the flip side, what we see so often on wind-swept prairie dish bowl lakes is that wind can whip up too much turbidity in the water and we end up looking for areas out of the wind so that the sediment can settle.

Fishing is usually better in stained water, and has some color. This stained water often gets moved or pushed around the lake with wind or current. There is a difference between stain and turbidity. Fish can still see well in stained water, but can’t see well if the water is turbid.

This is why mud lines have a life cycle. Mud lines create an opportunistic window when waves crash up against a bank until a veil of turbid water protrudes from the shoreline. In the early stages of the mud line, the plume of churned up muddy water reaches out and hangs like a veil in the top of the water column. This is the stage typically when mud lines productive. As wind continues to pound and the veil becomes bigger and sinks down through the water column, the bite will dissipate.

So often when wind churns up sediment and clouds the water, the day after the big wind can sometimes be the best because as sediment sinks, the visibility increases, yet still offers some stain in the water. The water will get a green color as it warms up, so we often find stained water with the temperature gauge. Colder water is often much more clear and warmer water is typically more stained.

Focus on the process
The key to catching walleyes is finding them. At times, specific spots and locations will let you down; tried and true patterns will sometimes disappoint. What never fails is if you have enough time, is an honest and thorough process of elimination.

In order to succeed you have to almost turn off human emotion and start checking off possibilities from the list. The walleyes should be shallow, but they are not. The next step is eliminating main-lake structure in depths from 20 to 40 feet, as an example. The key is to keep checking off possibilities even if these don’t feel right at the time. There are things happening in an ecosystem that we don’t have a grasp of until after the fact. When it comes to finding fish, the least you know going into the day is sometimes better because you can adhere to the process of elimination easier. If you give something a good honest effort and it isn’t happening, turn the switch. It is always amazing how many anglers will cling to a spot or pattern for agonizing amounts of time.

A clock is an invaluable fishing tool. Use the element of time to force yourself out of ruts and to slow you down when you begin to scramble. What can also happen in “search mode” is not giving any one spot enough time. Commit yourself to one-hour increments as you begin the process of elimination and stick to the strategy.

Worry about efficiency
I believe most anglers worry about the wrong stuff; they get hung up on matching the hatch or they simply “outthink” the fish. Focus on becoming as efficient as possible because this can increase your success.

Consider this: If you can become twice as efficient, you can basically become twice as successful. Do an honest assessment of how much you actually have a lure or hook in front of a fish.

Most people want some secret formula. Some reasoning states that if there is sunshine, you need to use bright colors or if there are perch in the lake you need to worry about using a perch color. Worry about being in the right place at the right time. And when you get an inch, take a mile. You do all of these things right and you can use the wrong color to catch all kinds of fish in the right spot at the right time until the paint is all chipped off.

Chameleons catch more fish
We all have our favorite way of doing something that gives us confidence. Sooner or later however, there will come a time when you are simply an observer. Somebody else is catching all kinds of fish and all you can do is watch. A little humility can do an angler a lot of good, if you let it.

When it is your turn to watch somebody else put on a clinic, embrace the opportunity and let the experience make you a better angler. That means no excuses or over-evaluation. Adjust and match; be the chameleon.

Again, don’t get hung up on cosmetics, but monitor and break down the big picture: watch the jig stroke, the rate of retrieve, casting angle and visualize what that successful presentation is doing in relation to the structure and fish. If you are fishing below the boat, look to see what the angle is from the rod tip to the water and match that angle with the angler who is catching the fish. Test location versus presentation so that you gather better information, because locational nuances to test might be pushing the boat up or out of the break.

When somebody else is catching fish, the best thing is to figure out why. This often means you will have to swallow some pride.

Make time to learn
As a guide, it was easy to go right back to the same old well because of its familiarity. This could be as simple as going back to a good spot or sticking with a presentation that had worked well in the past. There are times though when we cling to the past as anglers, and that experience that has worked so well for catching fish before can start to work against us.

Spend parts of your day exploring and try something different, forcing you to embrace the unknown. Experiment with new lures, new tactics and most of all, new locations. Try approaching old locations with a different mindset.

What I have found is that learning new things keeps fishing exciting and fresh. I sometimes hear anglers complaining that there is nothing new in walleye fishing. It is safe to say that anglers who are learning nothing new are not making an effort.

By forcing yourself out of the rut, you not only expand your knowledge, but also increase the amount of satisfaction from fishing.

Jason Mitchell is a top walleye guide on Devils Lake, N.D. He is the host of“Jason Mitchell Outdoors.” Visit for more information.