Old-Timer Walleye-Catching Fish Secrets

Understand Depth and Speed, Control Bait Attraction

Big walleye in big deep waters like those found in eastern basin Lake Erie are not always easy to find, but the fish are there if you know how to approach them and how to keep your bait in the fish zone long enough for the fish to find it. After that, HANG ON!

For many traditional deep water (eastern end) Lake Erie walleye anglers, fishing methods have not changed much. Most of the old timers still prefer to troll than cast or drift, and they troll plugs using any of many longline trolling methods. It’s many of the old timers too, that catch most of the big fish. Go figure!

Their reasons are simple. They understand how to do it and they understand all the variations they think they need to make changes on the fly and be successful. Can it ever get any better than that? Do they ever get stumped and admit it? Answer: yes.

What changes? The savvy anglers who will talk details, many won’t, say it is the fish that seem to change their appetite for the lure type. They share that some old lures still work with regularity – like the floating Rapala taken to the desired depth, but many times, it is the brand new lure designs that simply slay the big numbers of fish and the biggest fish too.

Is it because the fish have not yet seen these lures? Do they have a different, more appealing wiggle? Are the lure makers doing a better job of convincing anglers to use the new lures and therefore they are in the water more and maybe even most of the time? Hard to say, maybe all of those reasons.

Some of the old timers I hang with when I can say they have not changed much except one thing. They use more simple means to get to the depth they want to fish. They use quiet speed control (electric motors) and slow down with the shortest possible line to reach the level that the fish (walleye) are suspended at.

Many still use in-line weight systems, 3-way rigs, and clip-on weights with old-fashioned 14, 17 or 20-pound monofilament line and they will not switch. Why? They are catching fish! They reason this way: they say they know the fish always on some kind of feeding timetable and that time can change from day to day. They shy away from 10-color lead core, 400 foot copper, and similar very long line systems. Why? They’re old and they won’t admit they’re lazy, but they do admit they don’t want to reel in a 10-pound fish for 35 minutes and have to go home because they’re tired. Guess that keeps their logic simple!

This modified Renosky lure is extremely effective when using simple speed and weighting system methods to get the bait to the fish.

So they troll around familiar waters with their familiar sinker-weighted, short-line, systems that harbor eddy currents that attract forage baitfish, then they try to match the shimmer and shake and size and color reflections of the type of baitfish they find there.

If they see suspended baitfish, they may be emerald shiners, smelt, shad or perhaps, there are schools of gobies if they see the bait right down near the bottom. They usually tinker with line deployment and weight-size vs. boat speed to connect with fish before very long.

Trolling lure plug types are usually 3-1/2 inches to 5-1/2 inches long, are usually wobble stickbaits and more often than not, they switch back to an old alternative all walleye anglers know, the spinner/worm. They switch between lowering speed and increasing their in-line weight to get into the fish zone, then let the fish decide on when to feed. They repeat the process with their known alternative baits every 15 minutes or so, one line at a time. They are patient anglers and that usually wins them many fish in the cooler.

Stickbait favorites in the eastern end of Lake Erie and many other larger water bodies include the new Bay Rat lures, new Rapala Shad family of lures, the new color Renosky lures, and the new line of Live Target Lures.

On many sunny days in July with a little riffle on the surface, early in the day fishing right after sunrise will find that lures that reflect shades of purple with any other color seems to be a killer. Many modify their lures and hard-lipped about sharing those secrets, but in the end, they say removing the front treble of 3-hook lures allows for a wider wobble at slower speeds and that this modified action catches more fish than other lures changes. They add a 2-3 inch piece of nightcrawler to the center hook and that allows an even wider wobble at slow speed. If the fish are near bottom, orange color lure pigmentation will often turn the fish on.

Spinner/worm style favorites depend on water temperature. There are the choices of Colorado blades, Indiana blades, turtle blades, willow leaf blades, and many other styles, including one-blade, two-blade and bead size and bead spacing variations, clevis size changes for efficiency and blade rattle (with the beads) that can really make a difference.   All have a purpose. Tight lines.

More on that next time!