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Trolling Tactics for Temperamental Walleye
by Sheldon Meidinger

I have always believed that too good of fishing can make us poor fishermen.
Whenever we donít have to work hard at figuring out the fish we pursue, we
donít learn or advance as anglers. If we listen close enough, the fish are
telling us so much when time passes between fish. While catching fish obviously tells us we are on the right track, not catching fish tells us alot as we continue to narrow down presentation and location.

Constantly paying attention to how and where 
the crankbait is running behind the boat ups the 
odds in your favor when trolling for walleyes.
The trolling game is a fickle game at that. Walleyes, the temperamental beasts they are can become so finicky at times to speed, lure shape and color. When the trolling game plan comes together, wham bam. The process of getting dialed in to where you are knocking on the door, however can be a long process of elimination. 
Where does this process of elimination start? Can we eliminate location after making one pass with one spread of lures? The process of elimination begins before you ever get to the water. You have probably heard this a thousand times but getting as much information from people who have been on the water recently can greatly narrow down your search. Get a feel for what depths have been producing fish, which lures have been hot. Get a feel for the pattern that has been taking place on the lake.While there arenít any golden rules to live and die by, trolling often means eliminating water first. Unless you have a real good hunch about fish location, it usually pays to keep covering water until either fish are
revealed on the electronics or a fish is caught.
Donít just look for "fish" or notice that your depth finder isnít showing you any fish. Your depth finder is showing you so much more if you pay attention to what it is really telling you. If you are not marking any fish on the graph, that isnít to say that there are not any fish below the boat. If there are walleyes high in the water column, they wonít show up on a graph. Good idea to run a few cranks out the side up high with the use of planer boards whenever you arenít graphing fish. Can also be a good idea to dig cranks right into the bottom when nothing appears to be down below. Withan irregular contour or uneven bottom, the best depth finders can loose walleyes within the bottom as you pass overhead.When baitfish or what appears to be bigger fish are revealed on the screen, successful trollers often pull their lures just above the marks on the screen that are believed to be walleyes. Initial contact in the form of catching a fish or watching another boat land a walleye is a start to narrowing down all the elements of successful trolling. When you see a walleye, suddenly you have confidence that those marks on your screen are indeed walleyes.
In a perfect world we mark some fish and pull cranks through those fish and catch fish until the paint is gone from the crankbaits. Too bad we donít live in a perfect world. All too often we work for each fish, trying to establish some kind of a pattern while also realizing that no two fish are the same.
Changes in speed or direction are two variables we experiment with a lot while trolling. I personally believe that changes in speed or direction can bring life and action to any crank bait and trigger fish that are following the lure. People often look for a magic speed like 2.6 miles per hour but  it often seems like the "change" in speed is what can be so crucial to triggering strikes from reluctant walleyes. At times no doubt, there seems to be a preference for a certain speed 
range. AlsoÖ some crankbaits work better at different ranges of speed. There are periods where walleyes seem to prefer a crankbait slow rolled at less than two miles per hour. Other times when a crankbait getting burned by at about three or more miles an hour gets the attention of fish. One of my favorite crankbaits that I have a lot of confidence in are the Reef Runners that  have become so popular over the past few years. There is a reason why they have become so popular; when properly tuned they catch fish. These crankbaits in particular really have a way of triggering touchy fish, especially when a change of speed is initiated by stalling the boat in neutral for about ten seconds or by pumping the rod. Speed range and changes of speed is just something we experiment with simultaneously as we experiment with lures and color. When you have the right lure on, you will know it but until you have the right lure selected, keep experimenting until a preference starts to emerge.
Each fish defines the pattern even further.
Most trollers have a couple of standbys they have a lot of confidence in when the chips are down and thatís all right.  I generally start out with lures that are big enough to get down to the targeted depth by just long lining. If this doesnít work, Iíll get smaller and subtler lures down into the zone with the use of lead core. Scaling  down to less of a crankbait can be crucial at times when trying to catch pressured walleyes or when dealing with post cold front conditions. The last thing to tinker with is color. Color patterns often emerge and different color patterns seem to produce on different lakes but color is often just a confidence for us. There is a long line of variables to eliminate before color.

The author, Sheldon Meidinger, from Mitchellís Guide 
Service with proof that trolling produces beautiful walleye.
As you can see, trolling is a process of elimination. Time spent not
catching fish tells you so much if you are paying attention. Pay attention
to detail both below and behind the boat while going through the steps that
narrow down location and crankbait preference. You will be delighted with how many walleyes you can catch by trolling when you are able to identify and refine a pattern.
Sheldon Meidinger is a professional angler on the PWT and RCL circuits.  When
Sheldon isnít on the road fishing big money tournaments, he works for Mitchellís Guide Service on North Dakotaís Devils Lake. Learn some of the finer points of trolling first hand by contacting Mitchellís Guide Service at (701) 351-1890. Devils Lakeís finest fishing.
Jason Mitchells guideing service on Devils lake North Dakota

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