Fishing opener 2017 Q&A: Seven excellent open-water walleye questions

This week, allow me to answer some of the top open-water walleye angling questions I’ve received in recent weeks at seminars and through correspondences with readers. If you have any questions for me, feel free to email webeditor@outdoornews.com

And have a great 2017 fishing opener.

Q: At one of your recent seminars you explained setting up live-bait rigs for walleyes. Please outline this again.

T3: Rig a 7- to 8-foot medium-light action spinning rod coupled with a reel rated for 4- to 10-pound-test line. Rods must be sensitive to transmit soft bites. Spool smoke Fireline (tape a few turns to the arbor to prevent slipping) and attach green tint monofilament – mono stretches – in 4-, 6-, or 8-pound-test to the tag end. Usually 4- to 5-foot leaders are sufficient, but for tough biters, step up to 8- to 10-foot lengths. Bottom walking sinkers should only be heavy enough to tick bottom.

No need to leave several yards of line out unless you’re fishing clear, shallow water.

Q: Is it worth investing in more expensive hooks?

T3: Without question! Chemically-treated hooks and those made from high-quality materials maintain their cutting edges and needle-like points. They’re tough and hard to dull. It is challenging, however, to restore their sharpness, so replace these hooks once they dull. Bronze hooks lose their edge but sharpen easily via passes along each edge with a hook file starting at the bend moving toward the tip. If a burr forms on the tip, remove with a file.

Always check all hooks for sharpness. Sharp hooks stick fish!

Q: Will crankbaits catch walleyes in cold water?

T3: Heck yeah! But you need to understand their characteristics – aggressive vs. subtle. Cold and/or clear water calls for subtle baits with no rattles or minimal sound, narrow lips for tighter action, and natural/neutral colors.

In warm or dark water, consider bright colors, rattles, and wide lips for more vibration. Troll slower in cold temperatures. Wobble, noise, size, color, and shape are crankbait strike triggers. Your casting retrieve pace or trolling speed are other key ingredients to success!

Q: How do I choose walleye spinner rig blades and troll them at the right speed?

T3: For subtle presentations, use Indiana blades because they produce less flash and vibration. Colorados perform in stained waters and allow a more aggressive approach. Willow leafs are tops with a fast trolling speed.

Always match blade color with available forage. As far as speed: with Indiana go .5 miles per hour, Colorados .8 to 1.5, and willows 1.5 to 2.3. Mix up your blade styles, color, and speed until you find a fish preference. This may change frequently!

Q: Please help: How can I improve my walleye catch rate?

T3: How about by understanding conditions and reacting correctly?! Walleyes are never far from food, so learn what’s on the dinner table. What type of structure and/or cover are fish relating to, and what path will they travel to get there? Anticipate movements by understanding weather, fishing pressure, and lake composition.

Select high-percentage spots and stay mobile. Try various presentations and techniques. Don’t give up! No one lure or area will produce day in and day out.

Q: What crankbait colors do you suggest for catching walleyes?

T3: Water clarity, weather, depth, and moods play a role in color selection. Walleye waters usually are green, tinted, or darker. A general guideline is to use lures that contrast darker or brighter against backgrounds. Red and orange are bright while blues and purples are darker. Combo colors like red and blue patterns will produce under certain conditions. Darker colors attract negative moods while brighter equals more aggressive. Color selection is as important as lure vibration, size, profile and speed. The best answer to colors is to experiment!

Q: How far above bottom do you fish for spring river walleyes with jigs?

T3: Generally, no more than 3 inches, but even an inch or two can produce fish. Experiment! Occasionally, dragging jigs on bottom and slowly lifting upward to 3 inches will spark bites. One-quarter or 3/8-ounce jigs are the best size but that depends on current flow and bottom contact.

Your main objective is to present jigs within the critical strike zone of 3 inches by a slow lift-drop and hold for several seconds. Try tail-hooked minnows sometimes, too!

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