Pursued for both sport and food and occupying the top spot on the food chain, walleye are aggressive feeders and have a delicate table fare. Because of their popularity in some areas, walleye are heavily stocked in many waters and walleye fishing tournaments are very popular in areas where the fish are found in abundance.
Native to freshwater lakes and larger rivers throughout of much of the Northern United States and most of Canada, walleye are named for the ability of their eyes to reflect light, much like a cat's. This ability allows the fish to live and forage in the deeper waters of lakes as well as hunt effectively at night. Because the fish hunt mostly by sight, walleye are highly susceptible to flashing lures.
Fishing Techniques for Lures
Growing to lengths of 30 inches with wide, gaping mouths, walleye tend to inhale their food. Because of their aggressive feeding behavior, walleye can be taken with most fishing techniques, but the most productive are those that get the bait down to where the fish are holding.
Like most species of fish, walleye love underwater structures, such as ledges and weed beds, where they can lay in wait to ambush their prey. Trolling with spoons and lures are highly productive, as is casting up against underwater shelves and into weed beds.
As walleyes are predominantly sight feeders, during the spring and summer months the best walleye lures are the ones that produce rapid flashing and vibrations as the lure travels through the water. As the lure vibrates in the water it attracts the fish's attention, and the fish will then hone in on the lure using its keen eyesight.
During warmer weather many types of lures, imitating small baitfish, are highly effective for walleye, with the best walleye lures being in the 1/4- to 1/2-ounce weight range. During the warmer months of late-May through August walleye prefer more naturally-colored lures, such as blacks, browns, whites and silvers, and when using jigs the rubber bait should also be one of these colors. Trolling near rocky points with deep-diving lures, such as the Rapala Thunderstick, also works well during the summer months.
During extremely hot weather, when walleyes can become somewhat finicky, a 1/8-ounce jig tipped with a white streamer or worm is often the best choice; dragged slowly across the bottom in an erratic manner a small jig will often provoke lethargic fish into striking. Jigs should be moved slowly at midday and worked with longer motions in the morning and afternoon.
Later in the year, fall walleye fishing is often one of the most productive times as the predator becomes much less selective as forage becomes less available. However, fall walleye fishing requires slightly different techniques than those used during the spring and summer months when many of the weed beds begin to die off.
As the cooling waters signals an end to the bounty of summer the best walleye lures are those that can be easily tossed into the areas around banks the mouths or rivers, where the fish tend to congregate in search of more plentiful food supplies. During this time of year walleye respond best to smaller lures, such as spinners and small floating topwater plugs in the 1/8- to 1/4-ounce range.
In open water barometric pressure usually determines at which depths the walleye will be holding, and as the pressure goes up the deeper the fish will be. Consequently, during periods of low pressure shallower diving lures will return the best results whereas during times of high pressure deep water lures will be most productive.
Lure Selection when Planning a Trip
As not all geographic areas, or all waters within an area, hold walleye, anglers may have to travel long distances to pursue the fish. As such, when planning walleye fishing trips out of their home area anglers should begin their inquires with the state or provincial fish and game departments to determine which waters hold populations of walleyes. The best approach to lure section when planning a trip to unfamiliar waters is to inquire locally, at tackle shops and with local anglers and guides, to see what is currently working on local waters.
When planning walleye fishing trips, anglers should try to time their expedition to the season when walleye feed most actively, during the spring thaw, just after ice out, and the fall months. During these times the fish feed most aggressively, to replenish themselves after a long winter and to fatten up before the water freezes over again.
Lakes in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, including the great lakes, all hold native populations of walleye, as well as stocked fish, and are all great choices when planning an extended fishing trip.
Lures for Walleye Fishing Tournaments
Walleye tournaments have become so popular in the north that numerous contests are held throughout Canada and the U.S. every year. In areas such as the great lakes, the larger walleye fishing tournaments rival the bass fishing tournaments of the southern U.S., attracting hundreds of anglers from thousands of miles away competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.
Two of the larger and more popular tournaments, the Aim Pro Series and the Master Walleye Tournament Series holds walleye tournaments from late May through mid-August and from March through September, respectively. Tournament states include Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Colorado. In addition to the tournament's own rules, all state fishing regulations must be obeyed. Most tournaments prohibit the use of live bait, leaving artificial lures as the only choice for tournament anglers.
Northland lures like the Roach Rig and the Rapala Shad Rap are some of the most time-tested lures used by successful pro anglers. However, pro anglers are quick to point out the best lures are the ones the angler has the most faith in, because those are the lures that give an angler the mental toughness to keep fishing through the slow periods.