W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Crankin’ Cold Water ‘Eyes
By Sam Anderson
Late season walleyes are very aggressive but unfortunately for the fisherman the lakes are so full of forage all fish have to do is inhale and they have a meal. For this reason the best action is to fish an artificial bait fast. It might seem strange, but the faster the better. In fact, when you think you are trolling too fast speed up a little more. My theory is that when an artificial bait goes whizzing by, the predator instinct takes over and the walleye lashes out. Give that same fish time to look over an offering and the chances are it will refuse it.
The walleye is cold blooded. Its metabolism is directly dependent upon water temperature. The lower the temperature, the lower it’s metabolism and the less food it’s body demands. There is no magic temperature when walleyes suddenly begin to feed. Feeding activity gradually increases as the water warms. As a general rule of thumb, feeding activity is greatest between 55 ° and 75 ° F.
Besides rattle, wobble and vibration don't overlook color. Try to match bait already found in the environment. The type of terrain that you are fishing will determine color also. If you are fishing over sand maybe crawfish color, or next to a weed bed or drop off a perch color will trigger fish. Use flash tape to highlight crankbaits to give that extra flash. Along with flash you might want to change to a dramatic color. Chartreuse and the Firetiger colors aren't part of the environment but in stained water they are a visible target for fish.
During very cold periods of time, I rely heavily on leeches fished with jigs or Thill Floats. But for the fastest action, I work the deepest weeds I can find, either by trolling or casting crankbaits. Shad Raps have been and excellent producer. The # 5 runs about 4 to 5 feet deep and the # 7 runs 8 to 10 feet deep. Perch has been my hands down favorite followed by chartreuse. Lately I have also made a switch to the Fat Rap especially in the crawdad color. It seems that even in the heat of August the walleyes sense that they should be eating bigger shad to fatten up for the winter and the color of crawdad is something that they love.
The action will remain hot in the weeds until they die off, then the fish will move into deeper water. Look for subtle changes in depth. A change of one to two feet could make all the difference. If there's any place with current, give it a try or if there is a deep weedbed mark it and pitch jigs to the outside edge.
Again, trolling or casting crankbaits will get the job done in a hurry. In stained or dirty water that has a lot of prey, zip that crankbait by them and they won't resist the active vibrations of a wounded minnow.
Here is a tip to put in your bag of tricks. When casting crankbaits in a river or lake area that has rip-rap or even sharp points with weeds and other debris, cast your bait up into the cover or rocks and crank down until you get a taught line. Then pop the crankbait off the structure into the water. Bass fisherman have been doing this for years and it does produce walleyes in stained water or low light conditions such as mornings and evenings. You might lose some lures until you get the hang of this type of fishing but it is very effective for taking some trophy fish. Don't forget to check your line periodically to see if it has wear from the structure.
Try lighter line, walleyes are often very line shy especially in clear lakes. The more the diameter the more vibration and the better for walleyes to see the line. I prefer to use Berkley 4lb. XT for early walleye fishing in cold water. Some people have trouble breaking off when they set the hook, but this can be remedied by using a rod that has a fairly soft tip to absorb some of the hookset shock.
Fish shallower than usual especially during the Indian summertime. Often walleyes in turbid waters are close to shore, some as shallow as two feet. I have had some really good success pitching light jigs and spinners next to shore and working them out to the waiting walleyes.
Try trolling a vibrating type lure or one that has sound chambers in it that makes a rattle. Something like a Rattlin’ Fat Rap, it has a great deal of wobble and rattle that attracts the attention of the walleyes. Walleyes have the ability to detect vibration using their lateral line sensory system. Sometimes they will strike a fast moving vibrating lure in turbid water when all else fails.
Try fluorescent colors. They show up better in dirty water and can often mean the difference between success and failure. Regardless if you are fishing with lead head jigs, floating jigs, spinners or vibrating lures, fluorescent colors will out produce standard colors in cold water that is muddied by spring rains.
One factor that can result in poor fishing even though the lake is teeming with walleyes is a lack of fish holding structure. Structure holds fish on barriers or gives them a resting place out of current. You need to be on a lake that has a variety of depressions, rocks, holes, weedbeds, stumps and logs. This is the type of structure that fish relate to.
Walleyes prefer hard bottom, of gravel or rubble. If you can locate a gravel or rubble area in a basin that is other wise all muck or silt, chances are you’ve located the walleye hangout. If you have a depth finder rigged up for sounding at high speeds you can check out a lot of bottom conditions. With a little practice, you will be able to differentiate the weak signal produced by soft bottom types from the stronger, sharper signal produced by hard bottoms.
To sum it up, cold water walleyes can be extremely frustrating because
of the tremendous variables that in some way affect the walleyes
behavior. Experiment with the techniques I have outlined in this
article and you too will be developing a "feel" for what it is like to
fish cold water walleyes. Now is the time to experiment - casting and
trolling. Time to make crankbaits even more important in your walleye
arsenal. Pick up the rod and reel and give into the fever of crankbait
fishing. If you would like to discuss this technique or let me know
where your catchin’ them drop me a line on the web at
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Since August 1, 1998