Last summer on a day with a good walleye chop, my clients and I caught over 50 walleyes in 4-1/2 hours, with 36 of the fish being over 27". All these fish came on a 21 ft. mid-lake hump in 25 feet of water using crankbaits.
Sometime late July and into early August the water temperatures start to reach that magic 75 degrees. For me this is the time to run crankbaits. I run these because I can cover more area more quickly. If the fish get a little finicky, I may switch to crawler harnesses. This time of year I start searching for walleyes on those deep mid lake humps and reefs. I look for humps that come up to 18ft-20ft with 30ft plus depth of water on the edges. Reefs that are 20ft to 25ft deep with deep water on the edges. My two favorite baits to run are the flicker minnow and the 800 series Reef Runner. When running crankbaits it’s important to check your baits to make sure they are “in tune”. I check them by letting out 20ft-25ft of line and reeling them in really fast. If they stay straight down they are running correctly. If they veer to either side, even slightly, the eyelet will need to be adjusted slightly to the opposite side that the bait was veering as well. This will make the difference between catching fish or not. I always start by using my Humminbird Helix 12 to find the fish before I set-up any lines. I use the Precision Trolling data app to determine how much line to let out in order to get the bait to the desired depth. Speed does not affect the depth at which a bait will run. Length of line out and diameter of line are the only two things that affect the depth. Before I get on the reef I’ll set-up with the baits at varying depths always staying above the fish by 3 or 4 feet. A lot of times the larger fish are on the edges of the reefs, so getting set-up before you get there is important. The other thing to note on your locator is the mapping transitions lines. These lines are not only depth changes, they are changes from gravel to mud or sand to mud. Many times I find fish along these transitions. If you start catching fish as you are crossing these lines, you might want to start running along them. If you find that over time the fish are disappearing from the tops of the reef, move out to deeper waters. Walleyes have been known to slide out over deep waters and suspend at the same depth as the reef. I have caught walleyes suspended in 70 feet of water only a few hundred yards from a reef that was in 20 feet of water.
In my mind July is the time of year when you start hunting for large walleyes. This will run all the way through the month of August. The bait fish are mature and plentiful. The large female walleyes start to school up and the feeding frenzy begins. This is my favorite time of year to run spinners, also known as crawler harnesses. I prefer to use a #5 Colorado blade with 5 colored beads and two #2 hooks. I tie all my own harnesses, so I try to keep it simple. Purple and pearl beads, Chartreuse with pearl or with an Orange bead, or gold beads. When running harnesses I use Team Outdoors 1oz inline weights. With these weights it allows you to adjust your length of lead to any length you prefer in just a few seconds. In the clearer waters I tend to use 6ft to 8ft leads on my harnesses before I attach my 1oz weight to my line. The next important key is knowing how far your bait is down in the water column. A 1oz weight going at 1mph will go down 50% of the length of the lead. For example: From your inline weight put out 20 feet of line, attach your planner board and at 1 mph your bait will go down 10 feet. So how far down do you run your harnesses? Let say you are marking fish 27 feet down in 30 feet of water. Walleyes like to attack their prey from underneath or from behind. It is nothing for them to swim up 6ft, 8ft or even 10 feet to feed. I think most anglers run their baits too low in the water column, which cuts down their chances of catching more fish. In this circumstance I would set-up my 6 lines like this - 2 at 14 feet down, 2 at 18 feet down and 2 at 22 feet down. The fish will tell you where in the water column they are feeding. If there is a nice little chop on the water, on one of my outside boards I’ll put a 1/8thoz split shot 6 feet from my harness and put out 50 feet of line. In this circumstance, my bait will be about 5 feet down. Sometimes the walleyes will surprise you, they are up near the surface feeding in deeper waters. These are the fish you will never see on your locator, as they shy away from your boat. Once I get a few fish I will start to make my adjustments from there. Next, my choice of blade color. Brass, copper, gold and silver, painted or unpainted? They all work on a given day just some work better than others. I have chosen to run blades that are painted on the inside of the blade instead of the outside. The reason why? Because a Colorado blade spins at approximately 60 degrees. From the side, the fish can see both the outside and the inside of the blade. Once the fish gets within the 60deg cone behind the blade, it can no longer see the outside of the blade, only the inside. By painting the inside of the blade, the fish can see the colors all the time. I also chose to increase my odds by using UV painted blades. These blades pull in up to 200 times more light, and at 20 or 25 feet down the water breaks up the light long before it reaches those depths. These blades are available at www.team-outdoors.com. This is one of the few places you can purchase Colorado blades that are painted on the inside with UV paint.
Another great technique is trolling the mud flats. When the sun shines down on these flats the water tends to warm up fairly quickly. Walleyes are attracted to the warmer areas of the dark shallow water. This isn’t necessarily where you may start off in the morning, but these areas can turn on in just a few hours after the sun starts to warm these waters. This is where you need either very small baits, or the large crank baits. When I troll upstream I usually troll at a 30 degree angle to the current. Fish face upstream so trolling at an angle will present a larger profile for the fish to see. When trolling downstream, keep the current in mind or your baits will not have any action and again, try and troll at a slight angle to the current to give your presentation a larger profile to the fish.
On the Bay of Green Bay these schools of trophy walleyes start in the lower portion of the bay in the deeper mud flats. These fish can stretch for miles on their migration to the mid to upper Bay. There are times when literally hundreds of boats are stretched out for 5 or 6 miles along the deeper flats that hold these large walleyes. Boats attract more boats, and as soon as there are a group of boats, they will attract even more boats. You can generally catch a few fish in these areas, but as the fishing pressure increases the bite generally fades to almost nothing. If you have been out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Here are a few tips that can help you increase your odds of getting more fish each time you head out. Here’s what I do. First I get away from the crowds of boats, far away, far enough so they can’t see my net come out. I use my Humminbird Helix 12 to find and mark waypoints over fish. On the Helix 12 you can mark the actual location of a fish. Just move the cursor over the fish on the screen and hit the “mark” button. When I have a series of waypoints, I set my Minn Kota Ulterra I-Pilot Link to take me over each waypoint. When I mark a fish, I work the area from multiple directions, trolling in figure 8's. I run over the area 3 to 4 times and then move on. I do this because of the underwater currents on the bay. I want to present my bait from different directions to find out what is natural to the fish. I catch most of my biggest fish by doing exactly this between 10:00 O’clock in the morning and 2:00 in the afternoon when most of the boats have left the area and I have the fish to myself. Keep this in mind, "The greatest thing about the sport of fishing is, on any given day, any one person can out fish anyone else."
Jeff Boutin is a member of the National Professional
Anglers Association, and the Sheboygan Walleye Club.
President of Tomorrows Anglers
Jeff’s Sponsors include Mercury Marine, Starcraft, Skipperbuds,
Humminbird, Minn Kota and Churches Tackle Co.
The owner and creative director of Team-Outdoors LLC
And is a USCG licensed Charter
Captain on the Bay of Green Bay.
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