In a perfect world you would have a slew of walleyes all to yourself and they would snap up any bait or lure you put in front of them. Dream on.
Real-world fishermen often compete with hordes of other anglers to coax bites from educated fish that have seen it all. Pressured walleyes can be maddening, but savvy fishermen find ways to dupe them.
Here’s how two noted walleye fishermen score big when everyone around them struggles to get bites.
Walleye champion Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, often competes for pressured walleyes in major league tournaments. The most crowded conditions happen when walleyes stack up below dams and the pros rub boat rails as they try to catch them.”
Fishing jigs vertically while slipping with the current is a popular tailwater tactic. Wherever the walleyes hold in the flow, they can’t escape the onslaught of orange and chartreuse jigs.
“I show pressured fish something different by switching to natural colors,” he continues.
Since many baitfish have blue, white or pink hues, he often goes with jigs in these colors. He’s also keen on jig heads gussied up with silver or gold glitter. In order to make on-the-water refinements, there is always a dozen or more unpainted jig heads in his boat, along with a wide assortment of powder paint.
He prefers to dress his jigs with Gulp! Minnows in natural patterns, such as Black Shad, Smelt or Emerald Shiner.
“It never ceases to amaze me how effective Gulp! Minnows are,” he explains.
When casting to walleyes in clear water, Tommy Skarlis keeps his distance and makes long casts with spinning tackle matched with Berkley NanoFil line.
Professional walleye angler, Tommy Skarlis talks about how there are times when an unpainted jig head does the trick.
When fishing a slack-water river situation, he spaces his casts 10 feet apart, and firmly believes that many fishermen waste time by trying to coverer every inch of the bottom.
“Even in dirty water, a walleye will move 5 feet or more to get a jig,” he says. “They know it’s there.”
In clear lakes, the Navionics pro stresses that you must back off and make long casts to avoid spooking the walleyes. By matching his 7-foot, medium-fast, St. Croix Legend Elite spinning rod with 8-pound Berkley NanoFil, he claims he increases his casting distance by more than 30 percent. When matched with a fluorocarbon leader, the rig really snookers line-shy walleyes.
Long casts paid off when Skarlis fished a tournament at Bull Shoals. He beguiled the lake’s skittish walleyes by casting Lucky Craft Pointer jerkbaits to distant wood and rock cover near the shoreline.
“Most of the guys were lumbering too close to the fish to catch them,” he says.
When pressure walleyes retreat into the weeds, Jason Muche trolls deep weed edges with a Lindy Shadling crankbait.
Green Bay fishing guide Jason Muche often deals with pressured walleyes. On any given weekend or holiday, Green Bay’s productive walleye reefs can draw large crowds of anglers.
Most of the anglers troll the edges of the reefs with crankbaits or spinners in 12 to 18 feet of water, while some anglers troll right over the reefs or anchor on top of them and cast.
When the water’s calm, the boat traffic kills the morning reef bite practically before it starts. Even with a good chop, the walleyes soon move as far as 100 yards away from the structure, Muche has found.
He counters by backing out to where the rocky reef transitions into a mud bottom. This is typically 20 to 21 feet deep at Green Bay. Then he pulls Lindy Little
Joe spinner rigs at 0.9 to 1.2 mph over the bottom with 2-ounce bottom bouncers.
Another pressured walleye option is trolling Lindy Shadling crankbaits along outside weed edges in 8 to 14 feet of water at 2 to 2.2 mph.
“Pressured walleyes use the weeds for cover,” Muche says. “They shoot out from the weeds and grab that Shadling.”
Pulling It Off
Walleyes can be a finicky creature as it is, but factor in summer boating and angling pressure and the bite can quickly die. This is when many anglers trade their rods-and-reels for water skis or golf clubs. But the savvy walleye guru will make some subtle tweaks to the presentation and begin hauling in limits of husky ‘eyes.