Illustration by Robert L. Prince
Trolling has dominated walleye tournaments for decades and put up the biggest stringers for recreational anglers, too. But lately, instead of covering miles of water with six lines in tow, savvy pros are winning major tournaments by targeting small areas and casting with spinning gear, in an approach similar to largemouth fishing. Here’s how it works, and why it’ll score more monster ’eyes.
Find the Bait
Wind and current push schools of bait into points, breaks, and shoals. It doesn’t take long for walleyes to find them. When you’re trolling, multiple rods may go down when lines cross these small areas, but it can be several miles before you hit another, and running back and resetting takes time. By casting, you can post up in the sweet spots and work them thoroughly. Use your charts to locate spots where baitfish are apt to stack up; or start off trolling, mark spots where a few lines get hit, then go back at them with casting gear.
Feel the Bottom
Usually you want lures running just off the bottom for walleyes, and it’s much easier to control the depth when casting and retrieving than when trolling. Small-diameter braid spooled on spinning gear lets you really feel any bottom contact, even on long casts, and if you can keep track of the bottom, you can keep your lure just off of it. Tie a small barrel swivel to the braid and add 2 feet of 12-pound fluorocarbon to reduce visibility in clear water and protect your line from abrasive rocks.
Cast a Trio
Three lures stand out for casting to walleyes. A jighead matched with a 4- or 5-inch plastic paddle-tail swimbait is deadly on a slow retrieve, which causes the tail to vibrate enticingly. (In snaggy areas, use jigheads with light-wire hooks that will bend out.) Lipless crankbaits work well with a long cast, and you can fish them vertically. Finally, while designed for ice fishing, Rapala’s Jigging Rap has emerged as a killer open-water bait; like a lipless crank, it can be cast out and worked back or jigged right over a pile of walleyes.