Night Time Strategies for Walleyes

by: Mark Martin

They're bigger, more plentiful and more active.  It's not just Walleyes either, but Largemouth, Smallmouth, Flatheads, Channel Cats and Pike.  You don't have to take my word for it, check with anyone who has both day and night expierience and they'll probably tell you the same thing.

I'm pretty well convinced that the fish we fish for at night are a completely different population of fish than those that bite during the day.  I've caught plenty of 10, 11 and 12 pound Walleyes during the day but nothing that approaches the 14lb 1 oz. fish I caught at night.  If you've checked around you'd probably find that most of the state records were caught at night.

The uninitiated tend to think of night fishing as somewhat cumbersome and difficult.  The reality of the situatioon is , that night fishing can actually be simpler and more productive than daytime forrays.  The secret to being succesfull is proper planning.  By havingthe rods ready to go, having a handfull of cranbaits, rahter than huge tackle boxes strewn around the boat and a marked Navionics Paper Charts, detailing my #1, #2 and #3, etc, spots to check, I quickly cover water and find and catch fish.

The first thing that goes into a good game plan for night fishing Walleyes is defining the areas the offer the highest potential.  Looking at your topo map , try to find the longest piece of structure, usually an underwater point, that extends from a shoreline area out to the deepest water in the lake.  Understand that the point may look the biggest of the lake above water , but is the longest breakline underwater.  The second type of area will be a weedline or gravel/rock area that drops off quickly to the deepest water of the system.  Discount the area if the fish ahve to pass over a long flat to reach the area, it must transition quickly to the deep water with no impediments.

I call these areas breakline pile up areas.  This is because we can find fish piling up that are leaving shallow water for deep, and at the same time holding fish coming from the deep to shallow.  As a back-up spot look to large islands or sunken humps.  This a game of cat and mouse though, as fish that use these areas, come up and move of in short periods of time.  You could hit every hump and miss the fish each time or hit fish every one.  Expierience in the system will tell you that there are preferred humps that the fish use more seem to use more often and stay for longer times.

Now the attack portion of our plan is two pronged.  We need to troll to find the fish, the we'll switch over to casting once we've located a health pod of fish.  The key to making the trip enjoyable is being rigged and prepared before you leave the launch ramp.  I always have my Lund 2025 Pro V clean of unnecssary fishing equipment and tackle.  Assuming I am fishing with a partner I'll have three Gary Roach signature series  6'2" medium heavy spinning rods teamed with Abu-Garcia tournament series T2000 reels spooled with Berkley XT mono for casting.  I'll also have three Gary Roach signature series Flippin sticks with Abu-Garcia  4600 reels spooled with Berkley 20# test Fireline for trolling.  I'll leave the Mr. Walleye boards at home, because this is going to be a flat liner, hand held trolling expierience.  I'll be armed with minnow imitatorslike Rapala Husky Jerks and size 13 floating Rapala's, mid to deep runners like Risto Raps and #'s 5, 7 and 9 Shad Raps.  colors can be a matter of preference for the night and body of water, so I do keep a lot of the baits on board.

Once arriving at my #1 spot, I can either troll with my Motorguide PT109 trolling motor , or if it's real choppy I will fire up my Mercury 15hp fourstroke.  Understand that there are really two parts to trolling effectively, your boat and your arm.  The boat is just going to take you from one spot to another, your are is going to be the one imparting action to the bait and catching fish.  What I will do is have one of us using a Rapala Shad Rap, and the other with a Husky Jerk or floating Rapala.  The first key is speed.

While holding the rod steady and moving along, you should'nt be able to feel or just barely feel the bait slowly moving from side to side.  Drop your arm back, pause and then sweep the bait forward, pause and then drop the rod back maintianing a tight line and repeat.  This "dying minnow flutter", is what triggers the fish to bite.  More times than not, the bite feels more like a perch nipping on the bait.  By hand holding the rod, you can set the hook and then figure out that the little perch nip you just expieierinced is really a 10# hog about to give you the battle of your life.  There is a kind of stride or rhythm that you will hit, noticing exactly how many wobbles your bait gets when you sweep it forward, that will put you in the groove to catching fish.

Once I've hit a ffish on one pass over thea rea, I turn the boat around and run the breakline again.  If I pop another , thats my indication that the area has a concentration of fish and then it's time to switch gears and go to casting mode and really get into them.

Casting to these fish is done with the same bait selelction we just trolled them with.  I keep my eyes peeled on my LCX 104c to maintain position along the breakline, and cast up towards the structure.  I try to pinpoint my casts toward the obvious fish magnets like weed points and pockets, gravel humps or any sother distinguishable structure.  Again the way you work your baits is the key to success .  Cast out, reel the bait down to it's depth, pause and begin  your "dying minnow flutter retrieve".

That is without a doubt, a recipe for success for fishing your own body of water at night.  The deal is'nt quite complete though.  These fish are on the move and feeding.  That means that we can't get on one spot and sit on it all night probably.  The bite will tail off and die, and then we need to begin our process all over again.  The fish may have moved farther down the structure, or left it completely.  By trolling the area again, we can determine the answer.  If the answer is that they left, be versatlie pull out the Fishing Hot Spots map again, move to the next spot and repeat the process.

Most nights I can on fish in a number of  different areas, and then even come back to the ones that have gone cvold and catch fish again, because a new group of fish will have moved in.  I spent a lof time, and had a lot of fun, pioneering nightime walleye techniques, and believe me when I tell you this system works great.  You'll also be suprised the number of other species of fish you catch, and at the size of those fish.  I hope you get a chance to try this stuff out this month, because it looks to be a great night season this year.  Good luck and I'll see you on the water.

Captain Mark Martin


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