7 Essential Walleye Fishing Tips

Walleye can see, move about, and feed in extremely low light due to a reflecting layer called the tapetum lucidum on the rear of their eyes.

They are most active when the water is between 55 and 70 degrees, with 62 degrees as their optimal temperature.

Walleye often follow weedlines, breaks in flats, sandbars, and rock edges as they move along the bottom in regions with some current (but not too much).

Jigging for walleye 

Using a jig to catch walleye is possibly the most common technique among walleye anglers, and continues to be one of the best ways to get your bait close to the strike zone at the bottom.

Photo of walleye caught on jig
Nice walleye caught on jig

You should aim to use a jig that is heavy enough to keep bouncing along the bottom while keeping a presentation that is almost vertical.

Jigging spoons are another excellent presentation in deep water, which I love using in the late summer through October.

When utilizing a jigging spoon in deep water, I switch to a baitcaster with an 8 to 10 pound line, but for the most part, I favor spinning gear with 6 to 8 pound lines.

How to choose the right bait for walleye

Similar to many other walleye fishermen I’ve found that live minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches make excellent walleye baits.

Live bait added to your jig’s tip provides flavor, heft, and aroma. Be alert for light taps since walleye just slightly suck in the bait.

And add a stinger hook to the tail of your minnows or crawlers if you have trouble catching walleye since they can be finicky and sometimes just eat pieces of them.

The best way to hook a minnow is via the mouth and out the top. Leeches will stay active all day if you attach them through the sucker if you fish them for walleye.

When trolling for walleye, bottom bouncer rigs are effective for keeping bait down and away from difficulty in rocks. Simply apply weight to keep it on the ground.

Additionally, if hang-ups are an issue, use a 3-way rig and put a split shot on the weighted end so that if it hangs, you may pull free and just lose the inexpensive shot.

Spring  walleye fishing tips

Dams, spillovers, uneven riprap banks, underwater cover, weed beds, eddies, side pockets, and any other current breaks are examples of spring season hotspots for walleye fishing.

Photo of walleye caught with crankbait
Crankbaits are great walleye lures in spring

Feeder streams with water depths of 4 to 15 feet are other excellent locations to fish in the spring and autumn. Use chartreuse and silver colored crankbaits if you decide to fish them in the spring.

Summer walleye fishing tips 

During the warm season, you can expect to find walleye in deeper water between 20 and 45 feet deep, where you can find them along the edges of flats, around drop-offs, and in basins.

In the summer, feeder streams may include walleye after a rainy spell. And since walleye school, you have a high chance of capturing more if you discover one.

When walleye seem finicky, use smaller jigs or soft plastic swimbaits because they fall more slowly and give unresponsive fish more chance to react.

And when walleye are active, a great option is to troll crankbaits with nice bright colors like crawfish hues of red, orange, and gold.

Fall walleye fishing  tips

Many fishermen think of walleyes as being found in the North, yet the world record walleye is a massive 25 pounds that was caught in Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake.

The walleye record for us in Illinois is 15.08 pounds caught in the Pecatonica River, and we are fortunate to have the Illinois River, which is among the best fisheries for both walleye and sauger (a close cousin of walleye).

During the warm season walleye are constantly on the move and seem to be dispersed, which makes it difficult to keep up with them from May through September.

However, when the water cools down, they move back to shallows throughout the fall and winter, where they form tight schools and become more predictable.

This migration is caused by a combination of falling water temperatures, a shrinking food supply, and diminished light levels.

Best baits for fall walleye 

Minnow rigs are once again a preferred bait as winter approaches because of the declining food supply. This includes plastic Gulp minnows as well as live minnows, jig/minnow combinations, 3-way rigs, and floating jigs.

Depending on where you’re fishing, shallow running crankbaits can also work extremely well in fall.

Fishing techniques for fall walleye 

The fishing methods are mostly the same as in the spring, but for late fall I discovered that trolling crankbaits close to the bottom is the most successful presentation.

Trolling crankbaits for walleye is a deadly tactic in fall
Trolling crankbaits for walleye is a deadly fishing tactic in fall

Tie on a 3-way swivel, a short dropper line of approximately 18 inches to a 1 oz. weight, and a leader of 3 to 6 feet to a thin, 2-3 inch crankbait to create the near bottom presentation.

The weight will keep these sluggish side-to-side crank baits near the bottom while trolling at a slow speed of 1.5 mph and are only approximately 2 feet deep. Slow trolling slpeed is essential in the cold months, since walleye are less active.

Where to find fall walleye 

On lakes or reservoirs, I focus on main-lake points at the mouths of rivers or creeks, where walleye move as winter approaches, and breaks off large flats with inside twists.

When you locate fish, it’s important to think about how they got there. Many transition fish may still be identified and captured in most situations along a well defined breakline. Early in the autumn, I find that trolled crankbaits and crawler rigs are more effective, while jigging becomes more effective later in the fall.

Targeting walleye  and sauger at the same time

The typical locations for sauger fishing on rivers (where they are often more prevalent  than walleye) are within the bends of the river, and your prospects of catching sauger are much better if there is some sand, tiny gravel, a firmer bottom, or regions with clam shells.

We even find sauger holding in holes dug out by barges. It’s also worth targeting an eddy  located next to moving water. Early on, trolled crankbaits and 3-way rigs with floaters both produce fish, and later on, I switch to a jig baited with a minnow.

Visit our homepage at Larry’s Fishing Hole to get more up-to-date fishing reports, angling advice, as well as information on current events in the local world of sport fishing.