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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

Walleye Prep Work

In a normal year I would be panicking that my new boat hasn’t arrived and in a mad rush to get it all rigged, instead I’m fishing over nearly two feet of ice. For those that don’t ice fish or need a little break from the weather, March is a perfect time to make sure you have yourself and gear ready when the weather breaks. For me this is an extremely important process, since many of these tasks can take enough time that you don’t want to undertake them all at once or when the fish are biting.

Checking planer board release pads - Pads can get worn or cut up and can do serious More...

Rattle Bait Walleyes

As a full time professional angler I am often told I think outside the box. Ironically this large amount of time that we spend fishing also makes us rely on things that we know work and often cuts down on experimentation if we let it. Rattle baits through the ice for walleyes and even pike, crappies and perch has been a very successful tactic for several years. Nearly every manufacture now has a bait that can be used for the hard water.

Last winter myself and several of the Ice Team and Clam National Pro Team huddled around a custom built tank that was designed specifically to test new lures. We looked like a bunch of kids in a candy store. We all wanted a rattle style lure because of their effectiveness at not only catching aggressive fish, but for their ability to draw fish in to your hole. Their effectiveness on large Canadian Shield lakes and lake Winnipeg in particular was known, but most felt that they would work on other bodies of water across the US. After about 20 versions were sorted through you now have what Clam calls the Psycho Shad. This lure, unlike most that were open water lipless cranks, was designed More...