Walleyes are the most popular sport fish in Ontario and in Superior Country. What these golden fish lack in fight (although they can pull!) is made up for by its delicious flesh and willingness to strike. Walleye attract anglers young and old and can be caught throughout most of the years. Here are my top five open water lure presentations for these great fish.
Many walleye anglers like to troll to catch their fish and it can be an effective strategy. Walleye prefer structure like reefs and points, but they are also known to patrol bays and flats, where they intercept baitfish. Trolling crankbaits is a great way to put a very enticing lure in front of a fish and cover a lot of water. In less than 10 feet of water, you can run crankbaits with a smaller lip. My number one lure for this depth is the #7 and #9 Perch Rapala Shad Rap. This lure has been the undoing of many walleye and seems to work just about everywhere. A fire tiger coloured Shad Rap comes a close second as a walleye killer. Another great trolling crankbait is the Cotton Cordell Wally Diver. This tight running crank gets down 6 or 7 feet and has accounted for some nice fish over the years. In deeper water, the Rapala Tail Dancer is my favourite trolling crankbait. It has a wide wobble and excellent ability to trigger strikes. If you are fishing in pike country, you might want to add a steel leader to your presentation as those sharp teeth have a way of removing lures from braid or monofilament line.
The go-to presentation for many walleye anglers in Superior Country is the lead head jig fished vertically. The vertical jig presentation is both simple and consistently effective. The jig usually has a live bait on it, either a worm, leech or minnow. However, a jig and minnow fished over the side of the boat does not guarantee success. The walleye angler needs to consider the conditions, the aggression level of the fish and what to sweeten the jig with. In cold water, a lighter jig with a live minnow is the best choice. As the water warms, a leech or worm will sometimes be more effective. Also, don’t ignore plastics when vertical jigging. There are times when the walleye are so aggressive they will hit a twister, tube or plastic minnow with gusto. A 1/4 ounce jig works well in water ten feet and less while a 3/8th ounce jig is better in deeper stuff. If you are vertical jigging in current, you may have to go heavier yet. Most walleye are on or near bottom, so that’s where your jig needs to be. Jig colours of orange, yellow and fluorescent green are popular, but glow jigs are always worth a shake.
Spinners have the vibration, flash and profile that accounts for a lot of fish each year. The classic “Little Joe” spinner with red or silver blades or the Northland Tackle Rainbow Spinner are both great for trolling with minnows early in the season. Nothing covers water more effectively than a trolled-spinner rig. Use a rubber core sinker or a bottom bouncer to get the spinner down. Make sure you have a selection of different spinner sizes in a variety of colours.
When the water is dirty or the rivers flooding, it can be truly amazing how many strikes are elicited by a large spinner-blade. Another good trick is to run two smaller blades together, especially in warmer water. A double spinner with multi-hook night crawler rig is a great way to get fish in warmer water. There are commercial spinners that come with two blades, but it often pays to make your own. If you are fishing waters that have a lot of weed on the bottom, add a corkie or other floater to your spinner rig. This will keep your bait out of the slime and up where the walleye can smack it. Blades of bronze, silver, fire-tiger or flourescent red are all good choices.
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From the early season, through summer and into the fall, casting jerkbaits will catch both numbers of walleye, and the occasional giant. There is something about the profile, flash and vibration of a crankbait that triggers walleye to strike. This is primarily a shallow water technique, but I’m constantly amazed how many fish roll up on reefs, rocky shorelines and weed beds to feed. When walleye are in shallow water, they are there to eat. Choosing a favourite jerkbait is no easy job.
I’d say the Rapala Husky Jerk remains the best all around choice as it has the look and action walleye seem very drawn to. The silver, gold and fire-tiger Husky Jerk are all walleye killers. The Rapala X Rap is another excellent choice and has slightly different action. Both these lures are neutrally buoyant, which means they neither sink or float. So when you stop the retrieve, the jerkbait hangs in the water. This is often when a walleye hits. I like to use 20 pound braid when casting jerkbaits, but run a 12 to 15 pound fluorocarbon leader for a little less visibility. If you don’t want to lose a jerkbait to pike, use a thin wire leader.
The jig pitching technique requires a certain finesse and feel but is deadly when walleye are found in shallow water, especially when it is windy. You will need to use lighter jigs, however or there will be a frustrating number of snags. I’ll go down to a 1/16 ounce jig head if I can. You will also need to lighten up your terminal tackle when you fish light jigs. But with that jig and either a minnow or soft plastic you should be able to swim that jig over the tops of the rocks. While you can pitch a love minnow on a jig, I tend to use a plastic minnow or tube. I use a long shanked jig hook called a Smeltinator, made by Lake of the Woods Tackle. On this jig I thread a four inch Berkley Power Minnow in smelt/shad or glow pearl. This exact set up has accounted for a few giant walleye and many eaters. You can also use a white twister, tube or even a worm. Scented baits are always the preference especially in cold water.
Superior Country has some of the very best walleye fishing in Canada, as well as some of the largest. Use these techniques to hookup your dream fish this season.