Lodging food and more
Trolling and Drifting for
By John Campbell
While looking for walleyes in the spring especially on a river
you may want to use a two step approach. First of all, trolling will
tell you where the walleyes are located and once you have found them in
a specific spot you might want to try and finesse them by drifting or slipping
In order to enable you to find the fish you have to rely on your
depthfinder to tell you where the fish are concentrating. Remember
the water is cold and walleyes are not likely to be found roaming large
flats at this time of year. You will have to check the edges of structure,
current breaks, and depressions in the floor of the river to locate these
fish. That is why I use two depthfinders to locate the fish.
My first unit I have mounted on the dash of my Ranger boat is the Bottom
Line Tournament NCC 6300. This is an awesome unit, the NCC stands
for Navigational Command Center. It has a split screen that not only
allows me to see the bottom, but will also show me where I am at according
to GPS and on the screen digital map. The Tournament NCC 6300 has
320 vertical pixels and 480 horizontal pixels for the sharpest, clearest
images of any unit on the market. This unit I use to locate fish
and structure that I might like to troll. My second unit is on the
bow of my boat. It is a Tournament 5100 from Bottom Line. As
with the NCC 6300 it has the same vertical and horizontal pixels with 6,144
pixels per square inch. The 5100 is easy to operate with only six
buttons and has the largest display screen that has immediate updates.
Time of day can play an important part in solving the location puzzle.
Some spots turn on at different times of the day. You can fish over a huge
school of inactive walleyes and never get a hit, then come back two hours
later and find that they're going nuts. Always double check a good-looking
area. If you keep checking these locations eventually you will find active
walleyes on one of them.
A good method of find the active walleyes on a location is to troll.
Many times, when I am on a strange body of water I will set up a trolling
pattern. By selecting a artificial bait that resembles the local forage
and deciding the active depth, can provide a wealth of knowledge, not to
mention lost time.
Forward trolling was something that you did if you couldn’t find the
contour or your motor was too large to troll down in reverse. Today,
many anglers have additional kicker motors and the larger motors now runs
smoother at low rpm’s so forward trolling is a good option for spring fishing.
By using my Bottom Line NCC 6300 I can determine the exact depth walleyes
are holding on a contour. I then select a crankbait the will run
at that depth and let out about 100 to 150 feet of line. I want to
present this lure to the walleyes slightly above them and ahead of them.
Therefore, I will let out enough line so I can touch bottom and then reel
it in a couple of cranks to keep it off the bottom.
Keeping an eye on the Bottom Line unit I try and have the line
move along the contour where the fish are located. I will move out
into deeper water until my crankbait no longer ticks the bottom and then
move shallower until it starts to touch bottom again. This ticking
of the bottom sometimes gets walleyes interested in the bait and that is
enough to trigger a strike.
If the walleyes are deeper than the crankbait I have selected
will run, I then add additional weight to the line. The quickest
way to add weight is to attach a rubber core sinker to the line about 18
to 20” up the line. Another way is to add a bottom bouncer that keeps
the lure off the bottom yet also keeps the line and lure close to the bottom
without getting hung up. Or you can add an inline weight system like
lead core line spliced into the monofilament. This will enable you
to get the lure down to where the fish are, instead of trolling at a much
Forward trolling is trickier than backtrolling, because the boat’s
position and the lure’s position don’t coincide; even their paths behind
the boat are different.
Besides being able to cover a lot of water quickly, forward trolling
also lets you run a number of lines to cover a wider area and different
depths. Adding inline planer boards can spread lines even farther
The natural colors represent the food forage the walleyes are feeding on
and the forward trolling allows the speed for aggressive walleyes to catch
|I like to cover a lot of territory to find the aggressive biting fish.
The crankbait I prefer is the Rapala Shad Rap or Tail Dancer. I like
it because it has the bulk and wobble of a fat minnow. Walleyes will
want this crankbait because it gives off a vibration that calls fish from
a long way.
While trolling I want to use a Shimano V casting rod, medium heavy
with a fast tip. This rod will allow me the backbone to fight a fish
that is caught while trolling and also give me a quick reminder to set
the hook if the walleye is nipping at my crankbait. Team this up
with a Shimano Calais reel and you are ready to hit the water and rip some
Drifting a specific contour on a river is truly a way to produce some
very nice walleyes. The tackle is simple and the methods are easy
to learn. First of all, I like to use jigs tipped with a crawler,
leech or a minnow. The size of the jig should be just enough so that
you can have contact with the bottom. For example on a river like
the Mississippi, I prefer to use an 1/8 ounce or 1/4 ounce Fuzz-E-Grub
or Timb'r Rock jig.
My boat is relatively still even in moderate current with my electric motor
on about 1/2 speed faced into the current I can pitch jigs or crankbaits
to any piece of structure. With the proper head design and weight,
jigs are the most versatile of all river techniques, from the shallowest
flooded cover to the deepest, fastest current.
Timb'r Rock Jig
|The important factor here is the shape of the head. The head
of the jig should be round or have the ability to be a stand-up type of
jig. This design helps when you are in an area that has a lot of
snags, especially in timber or on rocks.
One reason that I like to use jigs while fishing for spring walleyes
in a river system is the control an angler has. It is true that you have
to contend with current and wind, but using a electric bowmount motor,
like my Minnkota Max 101 I can concentrate on the fishing, because
I am in control. Vertically jigging for walleyes gets my blood pumping
because I can be on a one to one bases with the fish.
My rod for jigging will be a Shimano V class medium weight with a fast
tip as well. I want to feel the walleye pick up the jig and the fast
tip gives me time to absorb that little extra slack in the line while hooksetting.
The reel of choice will be the Shimano Stradic spinning reel.
The majority of river fishing with jigs involves either slipping
the current or drift fishing the current breaks. The presentation
is a simple lift-drop-pause method of jigging, raising the jig some 3 to
6 “ as you slip downstream. If you are as vertical as possible a the jig
will stand up allowing the hook to be exposed away from the floor of the
river. When you tip the jig with a flathead minnow the minnow stands
up and looks like it is trying to pick up the jig. As the minnow
struggles against the weight of the jig it sends off wounded signals and
the natural scent attracts the walleyes and allows them to hang on just
that much longer.
Colors of the jigs should be bright in dingy water. Colors
such as fluorescent orange, chartreuse and my all time favorite gold, are
great for fishing those spring walleyes. Anytime that you can bring
attention to your bait it will help you up your odds for catching those
Trolling or drifting for spring time walleyes will find you exploring
the river in many ways. You will be able to move from spot to spot
and if you follow these tips you will find yourself a successful fisherman.
Trolling to find the walleyes and then jigging them will produce a limit
of fish. For more insights into fishing rivers and lakes drop me
a line at www.walleye.info and hopefully
we can connect. Who knows maybe we will see each other on the water
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