Skip to main content

Walleye Trolling Tactics

Walleye Trolling Tactics
Nice Walleye Caught Trolling
Nice Walleye Caught Trolling

Nice Walleye Caught Trolling

Permitted use provided by: Lake-Link.com

With temperatures steadily increasing and walleye spawning activities complete, many anglers are making the move from jigging to trolling. Although jigging spring eyes is very productive during pre-spawn and immediately after post spawn, nothing can beat pulling planner boards or long lining lures in the summer months. Many anglers simply throw on a Rapala, let some line out, and call it good. They even catch fish here and there. What better way to cover a large amount of water and pull in fish, right? While this may be true, there are many other factors that can help you become a trolling master.

Let's first discuss post-spawn walleye behavior. After spawning, many large females are exhausted and hungry. They're looking for an easy meal that doesn't require a lot of effort. In other words, even though trolling lures at a fast speed may produce some walleyes, slowing down your presentation will typically produce better. What is the best speed in this case? I've always done well pulling lures at 0.5 to 1.5 mph in the early summer months. As the water warms up and fish fully recover from the spawn, their metabolism greatly increases. This not only means fish are going to move more aggressively, it means they'll feed more frequently to keep up with their faster metabolism. Walleyes will also look to get more bang for their buck by feeding on larger food sources. This is when trolling large crank baits at a faster speed will produce well. I've found 1.5 to 2.5 mph to be the best speed in this case; however it's not uncommon to pick up very aggressive fish at 3.0 mph.


When fishing deeper water, using electronics to find suspended fish feeding on near-by bait fish is an effective way to boat more walleyes. Fish positioned on the bottom typically are not feeding as actively as suspended walleyes. Although you may get some reactionary bites from bottom dwellers, targeting suspended fish is normally more productive. Once you determine the depth most fish are suspended at, try running lures slightly above their position. Line counter reels that precisely measure how much line you are pulling, combined with knowledge of your lures intended running depth, are essential when targeting fish suspended in the depths. When fishing shallower water (less than 6 feet) running or bouncing the bottom works fine. Since the water is shallow, feeding fish won't typically suspend and simply mix in with non-feeding fish. This allows the potential to pull both aggressive fish and those docile fish that bite out of reaction.


As far as lures, it's hard to beat a Northland Tackle crawler harnesses in the early summer months. Harnesses provide a lot of action at a slow speed, which is perfect for lazy, post-spawn walleyes. When selecting a harness, there are two main types of blades to look for. One is the rounder "Colorado" blade which offers a wide and slow rotation that runs a little higher in the water. The other blade option is a "Willow" blade, which offers a narrower and faster rotation that runs a little deeper in the water. When using a "Colorado" blade, your pole tip should be held so the line is at a 45 degree angle to the water. "Willow" blade harnesses however work best when the pole tip is dropped so the line angle around 20 degrees to the water. Both blade styles can be very effective and only experimentation will determine what works best on any given day. When pulling harnesses, boat speed and bait depth are very important. In my experience, boat speeds in the range of 0.5 to 1.5 mph are most effective. The addition of bottom bouncing pencil weights, snap weights, or in-line weights will help get your harness to the proper depth.

Uncle Josh 7 inch meat nightcrawler

Uncle Josh 7" Meat Nightcrawler

For those who troll areas with heavy cover, high densities of zebra mussels, or an abundance of small non-target fish species, natural live bait night crawlers have a tendency to rip off. The new Uncle Josh "Meat" Crawler solved this problem for me. Made of all natural pork fat, these artificial crawlers look and feel like natural bait, but are stronger and less likely to come off the hooks. The 7 inch Canadian Crawler has produced the best for me, but Uncle Josh offers other colors and sizes which may work better in your favorite fishing areas.

Once the water temperature increases in the mid to late summer months, and the walleyes are very aggressive, I'll switch to crankbaits. Salmo, Reef Runner, Berkley Flicker Shad, and Rapala cranks all work great in a variety of waters. Partnered with dive charts, these cranks can be deadly on the wariest walleyes. In order to match the depths of fish marked on electronics, dive chart books offer a quick reference guide detailing the proper running depths of many lures and harnesses matched with a variety of weight sizes and styles. Increasing boat speed to a range of 1.5 to 3.0 mph works best when pulling cranks in the hot summer months. Another key tactic is to incorporate an "S" trolling pattern while changing up boat speed to fluctuate lure action and incite more bites.


Lure color choice can make or break a day on the water. Chartreuse lures are most commonly used because walleyes see this color well. Other good options include white, orange, pink and red. In semi-clear water, darker colors can also produce - particularly lures with purple and gold coloring. If fishing very clear water, try matching the color of natural bait such as shad and ciscoes. Only time on the water and experimentation will determine what colors work best for you.

Use these tips this season and I know you will put more fish in the cooler. Trolling numerous lines behind the boat can be a difficult task at times so please be courteous to those fishing around you. Cutting in front of or across others leads to tangled and/or cut lines and we all know how much lures cost! Plot your course and watch what others are doing and many of these accidents can be avoided. Lastly, let's all help protect our fishery by releasing breeders and only keeping eaters. Walleyes over 18 inches are key to successful reproduction and the sustainable quality fishing we have in our beautiful state. Good luck on the water and stay safe.

- Adam Walton


Adam Walton is 36 years old and the owner of Pikepole Fishing Guide Service and professional walleye tournament angler. He fishes the Midwest Walleye Series & Mercury Nationals. Adam is pro staff member with the following companies: Uncle Josh Bait Company, Crestliner Boats, Mercury Marine Motors, Northland Tackle, and Esox Assault Tackle. For more information on Adam you can go to www.pikepolefishing.com.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

After a fall of testing new 2021 Mathews products on the road as he filmed new episodes for Bowhunter Magazine's television program, editor Curt Wells had an exciting visit with Mark Hayes, Mathews design engineer, as the pair looked at the new V3 27 and V3 31 bows.

New for 2021: Excalibur Crossbow, BowTech Bows, TightSpot Quiver, Ripcord Rests, Black Gold Sights

New for 2021: Excalibur Crossbow, BowTech Bows, TightSpot Quiver, Ripcord Rests, Black Gold Sights

New for 2021 are several hunter-defined products, such as the Excalibur TwinStrike Crossbow, BowTech Solution and Solution SS Bows, TightSpot Pivot 2.5 Quiver, Ripcord Cage and Code Red X arrowrests, and Black Gold Pro FX and Pro Hunter HD sights.

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

We know what you're thinking: Isn't Benelli a shotgun company? Of course it is, but decades of shotgun manufacturing actually put Benelli in a unique position to redefine what a hunting rifle should be. Episode 1 reviews some company history to explain how this all came about.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

These affordable designs are big on features, short on cash outlay — ATA Show.New Crossbows Under $600 for 2021 ATA Show

New Crossbows Under $600 for 2021

Lynn Burkhead - January 14, 2021

These affordable designs are big on features, short on cash outlay — ATA Show.

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

More visible arrow flight to your intended target.New Archery Gear: Easton 6.5 Whiteout Carbon Arrows Bows

New Archery Gear: Easton 6.5 Whiteout Carbon Arrows

Game and Fish Staff - December 16, 2020

More visible arrow flight to your intended target.

Refined, durable and well-appointed to provide shooters and hunters with O/U shotguns loaded for performance at affordable prices.New for 2021: Mossberg Reserve Series Over/Under Shotguns SHOT Show

New for 2021: Mossberg Reserve Series Over/Under Shotguns

Game and Fish Staff - January 19, 2021

Refined, durable and well-appointed to provide shooters and hunters with O/U shotguns loaded...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing How-To

It just happens to be home to countless miles of rivers that fill up each autumn with turbo-charged steelhead.Empire of Steel: Winter-Run Steelhead in Upstate NY Trout & Salmon

Empire of Steel: Winter-Run Steelhead in Upstate NY

Matt Crawford - December 18, 2020

It just happens to be home to countless miles of rivers that fill up each autumn with...

Lowering water and a decreasing frequency of hatches make trout vulnerable to a variety of tactics. Here's how to capitalize during the best trout fishing month of the year.Happy Trout-Tober Fishing Trout & Salmon

Happy Trout-Tober Fishing

Gary Lewis - October 22, 2020

Lowering water and a decreasing frequency of hatches make trout vulnerable to a variety of...

It may be January, but big-bass season has already begun in the southern U.S.Your Best Chance at a Trophy Bass May Be Right Now Bass

Your Best Chance at a Trophy Bass May Be Right Now

Lynn Burkhead - January 20, 2021

It may be January, but big-bass season has already begun in the southern U.S.

A custom rod can be affordable and enjoyable to build when you use a kit that comes with everything needed for the job.DIY: Build Your Rod, Your Way in 11 Steps Rods

DIY: Build Your Rod, Your Way in 11 Steps

Bryce M. Towsley - December 25, 2020

A custom rod can be affordable and enjoyable to build when you use a kit that comes with...

See More Fishing How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now