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Trolling Those Early-Season Walleye

Springtime means blowing the dust off our gear and getting out to relieve that cabin fever from what, as of late, have become hard winters. This early-season fishing can be some of the best, but cool water also possesses some challenges.

As a full-time professional angler, I have learned that you better have these four things dialed in or you might just be in for a long day when trolling early-season walleyes on larger lakes:

Dialed In - Crankbaits dominate cool spring waters for many species other than the walleyes that I personally target. Having a crankbait out of tune will catch you as many fish as it will in the box. Additionally, they can “wander” and end up tangling the lures that are in working order. A Reef Runner tuning tool can make this task much easier and faster. 

Efficiency - Cold water means we are generally trolling very slowly and covering water to locate active fish. Going slow means fish don’t pull out from the spread and makes clearing rods an almost necessity to avoid frustrating tangles. Having extra rod holders means you can keep more lines in the water and actively fishing. Many anglers don’t realize that the type of rod holders you have can affect the way your lures run. This video explains why I prefer to run Bert’s Swivel Trees.  

Boat Control - This is the thing that separates the men from the boys. Being able to keep your boat in the place you want it and at the speed you want sounds easy until you throw in wind, current and non-courteous boaters. If you have a boat that can fit an electric trolling motor you might want to think about the advantage it offers year-round. Nearly the entire field in professional walleye tournaments have a Minn Kota Terrova on their bow for just that reason.  

Spread them Out - In the last decade, planerboards have gone from an unknown to a household name. Their ability to spread out lines allows us to run more presentations with less chance of tangles, and, at the same time, keep lures away from the boat to prevent them from spooking high-riding walleyes. A few tweaks to my Church TX-22 planerboards help me land even more spring walleyes. 

In all forms of fishing we tend to get preoccupied with fancy new lures and color patterns. When it comes down to it, we need to pay attention to the little things that really are the big things.

Capt. Ross Robertson

Selecting an Inline Planer Board

Inline planer boards were invented years ago, but their popularity has blossomed over the past decade. While most popular on “big water” they have found use nearly anywhere anglers troll. As their popularity grew, many manufacturers started producing them, and now there are plenty of models for the angler to choose from.

Inline boards are designed to take the trolled lure to the side of the boat where the lure can be presented to fish that have not been spooked by the boat. Planer boards also allow anglers to troll many more lines without tangling. While most inline planer boards are very versatile, some are particularly useful in certain situations.

For fishing inland lakes with fairly light lures for smaller fish; mini boards such as the Church TX-12 are excellent. They do not pull as hard as the larger boards and allow the angler to use lighter rods as well. Although these boards More...