Winter Walleye Tips
Fishing for walleye during the bitter cold of winter is one of the most fun things you can do with a rod and reel. Don’t get me wrong, I am a diehard bass guy, but up here where I live in Washington State, the bass fishing is very slow during December, January and February. Some of the bass lakes I fish actually freeze over for three months and I couldn’t fish them if I wanted to! With the bass fishing pretty much obsolete during this time of year, I spend my time chasing walleye!
PREPARING FOR THE TRIP
Making sure you are prepared for any fishing trip is very important. Dressing for the weather in the middle of winter is so crucial. The last thing you want is to finally get out on the lake with the anticipation of what the day will have in store only to realize that you are underdressed for the weather and have to head back in early, all because you weren’t prepared.
Every time I head out in the bitter cold I am always donned from head to toe in all of my warm AFTCO gear. I always have a set of AFTCO rain gear on as well as a set of their warm waterproof gloves and an AFTCO sun mask. The mask helps keep your face covered from the wind that can be bone chilling when you’re out on the water. Multiple layers are the key when you are fishing in winter time. If its below freezing when you head out the door (which it so often is here in Washington State this time of year) making sure you are prepared for it will enable you to stay out on the water longer, catch more fish and have more fun!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Now that you are ready to brave the bitter cold, what exactly do you look for when you are getting ready to tackle these fish? Walleye in the wintertime will still remain active, feeding sporadically.
Almost all of the fish in any given lake are in the “winter” mode.
Winter mode means they are holding on various kinds of structure in deeper water, waiting for it to warm up. Typically this time of year I don’t fish any shallower than 10-feet or deeper than 50-feet. The majority of my fishing time is spent in the 15-35-foot range. There are two kinds of structure that I will focus on, main-lake flats, humps or submerged islands. The most important thing about all of these places is having deep water close by. The fish will stage out in very deep water and then move up onto the shallower humps and flats in order to feed.
If I pull up on a hump or flat and don’t instantly get bite, it’s a pretty good bet that there aren’t any fish there.
When I do pull up on a spot that has a school of active fish I can get bit cast after cast after cast!
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TACKLE
Having the right equipment to chase after these winter walleye isn’t that complicated. I keep it very simple. After all this is walleye and not bass fishing! I throw three baits this time of year.
The first bait is a Bass Pro Shops Lazer Blade. This bait is a very fun to fish with. The technique with this lure is to let it get to the bottom and then lift it up off the bottom 5-12” (depending on how active the fish are) then let it flutter back down to the bottom. This lure vibrates when you pull it up off the bottom and the fish can’t stand it. It’s a very easy bait to fish with. Just lift it up off the bottom then let it fall back down and repeat that motion. Most of the strikes will occur when you go to lift the bait, you won’t feel anything until you go to pull the lure back off the bottom and the fish will already be on! As far as colors go I like gold and silver.
I like to throw the Lazer Blade on a 7′ Medium action bait cast rod with a 7.1:1 Lews Tournament Pro reel spooled with 10-12-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon. Having a medium action rod with the fluorocarbon is important. Having a rod that isn’t too stiff will let you work the bait better, and the fluorocarbon will help you feel the subtle bite even in deep water.
The second bait I like to fish with is the V&M Shakey Shad. This bait is great when worked on a drop-shot set-up. When the fish aren’t willing to hit an aggressive bait jigging in front of their face like the Lazer Blade, I like to fish this bait 8-12 inches off the bottom and rigged on a ¼ oz. Bass Pro Shops drop shot weight. It seems that when they are less aggressive, I can always catch some fish with this bait. I prefer natural colors when using this bait.
I rig the V&M Shakey Shad on a 7’2” Medium spinning rod with a Lews 6.2:1 High Speed Spinning reel spooled with 12-pound Sunline SX1 braid with a 8-foot leader of 8-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon.
The last bait that I use is a 5” V&M Twin Tail Trailer grub rigged on a ½ oz. football jighead. When the fish want something less aggressive and on the bottom I will use this bait. Even after I stop getting bites on the Lazer Blade and the Shakey Shad I can still get bit with the Twin Tailed grub. Any natural color like browns or greens are very productive.
I fish this bait on a 7’2” MH conventional rod with a 7.1:1 Lews Tournament Pro reel spooled with 10-12-pound Sunline fluorocarbon. The key with this bait is to maintain bottom contact with it. I always try to not lift the bait up off the bottom at all and it seems to get bit more that way.
I hope that you can take these tips and techniques and apply them the next time you go out chasing winter walleye!
“Do Whatever It Takes”