Finicky Walleyes? Speeding up might Trigger Bites


It was a hard thing to understand. According to my electronics, the large, rocky reef we were targeting was littered with scattered pods of fish. From previous experiences at this location, we were certain the arcs on the screen were walleyes. We just couldn’t make them bite. We had run the course with the bait options. ‘Crawlers, leeches and shiners had all been ignored. Now we had to make a decision. Do we leave a concentration of fish to look elsewhere, or do we keep on trying to see if we can figure out a solution to a fishing dilemma?

After a brief discussion, my fishing partner, Charlie Simkins, and I opted to try one more strategy. We put our finesse rods away and pulled out a couple of long rods rigged with bottom bouncers and slow-death rigs. After we each threaded on half of a ‘crawler, we lined up to make a speed trolling run.

I hadn’t gone 30 yards before Simkins was fighting a fish. The vicious strike nearly jerked the rod out of his hands. A short distance later, it was my turn to feel the walleye thump that had been created by speed.

In our first pass over these very negative fish, we boated more than a dozen walleyes. These were the same ones we had worked for an hour with standard presentations and could not scare up one single tap. The difference was incredible, and something many anglers scoff at when I share the story.

This is not the first time I have utilized speed to trigger negative walleyes. Over the years, I have had many situations where I replaced the finesse presentation with speed to get a reaction bite.

There are several combinations I use for this faster approach to walleye angling. They all incorporate the use of a longer rod (7 to 9 feet), baitcasting reel and bottom bouncers.

The longer rod is important. First of all, it keeps the lines away from the boat and allows for more flexibility to keep out of the path of the motor. I usually troll forward for this style of fishing.

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The longer rod is also great for lifting up over shallow areas. It is harder to control the depth when speed trolling and changes happen quickly. The long rod works well for absorbing hard hits from the fish.

I spool 14-pound-test FireLine on the reel. FireLine has great feel and is tough enough to handle the occasional snags without losing equipment.

Bottom bouncers are essential. I will utilize weights in the 1- to 3-ounce range depending on the depth and the specific rig I am trolling.

As for the business end of things, I really like the slow death hook and spinner option. I use both smile blades and standard spinners. I tip this set-up with ‘crawlers, threaded on minnows, or PowerBait plastic. When the walleyes are in a nippy mood, the plastic catches the most fish. Homemade leaders are all tied with 10-pound Vanish.

A two-hook ‘crawler harness and spinner is another excellent option that is a consistent producer. At times, I have even used shallow-running crankbaits with impressive success.

Adding speed to your presentation doesn’t always turn the fish on, but at times it does. Going from a finesse approach to a reaction-bite strategy can make a difference.

If you are not feeling the walleye bump on the end of your line, going faster may be better than slowing down.