Walleye are among the most sought after game fish of North America. They’re great fighters, providing an outstanding angling experience, and are also excellent fish for the grill and pan.
Also, since the North American walleye is quite similar to the European zander, this article should stand for both fish.
So, here are a few recommendations regarding walleye fishing, and the tackle for walleye.
Where to Catch Walleye
Walleye prefer waters with intermediate temperatures. They can be found in large bodies of water such as lakes or artificial water reservoirs, but can also be found in moderate size rivers. They prefer waters with low current velocities and moderate turbidity, where light penetration doesn’t exceed 3 meters, with a hard, rocky bottoms, rather than muddy beds. They also like waters with abundant vegetation and structure, places where they can hide and ambush their prey.
The depths that are characteristic to walleye range between 1 to 10 meters. Since they’re nocturnal feeders, during daytime, they take refuge into the deeper waters, while at dusk or dawn, they move towards the shores to hunt. Usually, walleye feed close to the bottom, occasionally attacking prey that’s situated higher in the water. Therefore, baits and lures for walleye should be placed close to the bottom.
The temperature range for walleye fishing is between 0°C to 22°C, but in general, the warmer the water, the deeper they go.
Walleye Fishing Techniques
I’m going to be brief on this section. Walleyes are usually caught by jigging, spooning, using spinnerbaits, popping, via crankbaits, trolling, wobbling or trotting live or dead bait. Fly fishing for walleye is also possible, but it’s best done with popper flies in shallow water, or with deep, wet flies.
Lures and Bait for Walleye
Jigs. Most anglers prefer jigging, when fishing for walleye, using jigs between 1/8 – 1/2 oz. The classic walleye jig should be a chartreuse, red, yellow, orange or white twistertail or minnow. You should try Bass Assassin Curly Shads, Charlie Brewer’s Sliders, Orka Shads (or Shad-tails), or Mann’s Shads. Or, you can use a live minnow on the jig head.
Crankbaits. It’s known that walleye prefer long and thin fish, so long and thin crankbaits can bring better results if fishing for walleye. So, if you’re going with crankbaits, Rapala Husky Jerks or Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogues are great choices. However, walleye are also interested in chubbier cranks, like Rapala Risto Rap, Rebel Shad-R or Shad Rap. Colors should be the same as for twisterbaits – Chartreuse red, yellow, orange, silver or white.
For trolling, you should try Storm Wiggle Wart, Rapala Shad Raps, Hot ‘n’ Tots, or Cordell Wally Divers.
Poppers. Since poppers are surface baits and walleye prefer to stick to the bottom, you might think poppers are not the best baits for walleye. However, walleye feeding activity peaks at dusk and at night, and by this time the usually get closer to the banks or shores, in shallower water. So, especially on rivers, you can get some nice results on a medium size, long popper (silver, yellow, orange, or red).
Spinners and spoons. Mepps Spinners (no. 3-5) are very effective for walleye, and by adding worms or small fish slices on the hook you can increase their effectiveness. Also, one of the best spoons I’ve caught walleyes with is a Hopkins Shorty (again, a silver, long and simple lure).
Flies. Although not many consider fishing for walleye with flies viable, it can be done. However, the best flies to use are popper rat flies, and during dusk, close to the shores, especially on rivers.
Live and dead bait. Drift-fishing with a live-bait rig and slip-sinker is one of the best ways of all for catching walleyes. Use a size 4 – 8 hook to a 24-60″ of 4-8lb. test leader, and then attach it to a barrel swivel. Or just use a wire leader. Thread a tear sinker on the main line from the rod with a bead above and below it; then, attach it to the barrel swivel. Use a live minnow, crawfish, leech or night crawler. Small frogs are also and excellent bait for walleye.
Rods. Depending on the fishing conditions and technique that you’re applying, different rod may be required. For example, if you’re jigging, a 5’5″-7′ rod, fast action should be the most appropriate walleye rod, while for rigging, a longer rod – 7′-8′, would be more appropriate. If you’re against a strong current, a medium power, fast action stick would be better, while on a lake, you should have better results with a light or medium-light stick, but with a stronger backbone, though.
There are specially designed sticks for walleye, for example: G. Loomis Walleye, or St. Croix Eyecon Spinning Rods (cheaper than G. Loomis), Fenwick HMX rods, Shimano Convergence 7 Medium Walleye or Tica Walleye.
Reels. I prefer spinning reels, and this being said, Shimano Stradics or Symetres are great. My Shimano Clarus rod is paired with a Shimano Symetre 3000FL reel. Other nice choices for a walleye rod would be Shimano Stradic 6000 FL, Abu Garcia Orra SX30, Abu Garcia Soron SX, or Daiwa Ballistic 2500SH.
If you prefer baitcasting reels, Abu Garcia Black Max is an excellent choice, or a Shimano Tekota TEK600LC for trolling.
Line. 8lb fluorocarbon (Trilene XT or InvizX) is the ideal line for walleye, it’s what I always use. It’s invisible in the water, sinks faster and it has higher resistance to abrasion. However, if you’re on a budget you can go with monofilament, but you might want to raise the bar a tad, to 10-12lb.
Hooks. Walleye have a really big mouth so don’t be afraid to use large hooks, No. #6 or No. #4 will do. However, if you’re practicing catch and release, it’s best to go with single hooks, not treble hooks. If you’re going with treble hooks, choose the ones with a small barb. Gamakatsu are the ones to go with. They’re quite strong, don’t dull out and I’ve never seen one to break or bend. Owner or Mustad are also good.