When it comes to catching walleye, the most important variable is to find yourself firmly on fish. Second only in importance to finding fish is finding water ideal for fishing in.
Water clarity makes a huge difference in walleye fishing success. Ironically, most fishermen pay little or no attention to the “color” of the water they are fishing in. Instead anglers get caught up more worrying about the “color of the lures” they are fishing!
My experience suggests that the best fishing conditions do not occur in gin clear water or in dirty water. Instead the best fishing usually occurs when the waters are “lightly stained” a pale green color. Plankton and algae in the water tends to turn water from a blue color to a green shade. Green or stained water holds the most food for bait fish and in turn also attracts the most predator fish.
If I can look over the back of the boat and barely make out the prop, that’s what I consider stained water. Hanging out and learning from the best anglers Michigan has to offer has taught me over and over again that stained water is the “just right” water clarity for walleye fishing success.
At the extremes, anglers are often faced with clear water conditions and also very dirty water. When the water is gin clear fish have the luxury of scrutinizing lures and baits a little too closely.
Clear water is challenging because fish can literally see every detail of your presentation. When forced to fish in clear water it’s best to concentrate efforts early and late in the day when light penetration is at a minimum. A little wind that creates a surface chop is also a good thing when fishing clear water.
The most productive lures for targeting walleye in clear water are going to be ones featuring natural color patterns. It’s also important when selecting lures to choose baits that closely match the size of available forage.
In clear water lures that feature a subtle action generally out-produce high action baits and also baits that create a lot of noise in the water. In short, when the water is clear it’s important to offer walleye baits and presentations that are as realistic as possible.
Wind and run off can often turn a favorite body of water into a sea of chocolate milk. In these conditions visibility is reduced to the point fish struggle to see anything. Not surprisingly in dirty water fishing success often plummets.
When forced to fish dirty water the general opinion is to “bulk up” or use larger lures and baits. The idea is that larger baits are easier for fish to spot in dingy water conditions.
There is however other options that pays off big when fishing in dirty water. Recently while fishing the Detroit River we were faced with muddy water along the Ontario shore. This was the perfect opportunity to experiment with a new product produced by Pro-Cure called Bad Azz Color Blast. This is a liquid bait dye that comes in six UV enhanced colors. When applied to minnows or other live bait it stains the bait a bright shade of magenta, orange, line, red, blue or purple.
I used a few drops of lime which immediately turned my minnow a bright shade of chartreuse/lime. It took about five minutes to realize this stuff makes baits much more visible in dirty water. Pretty quick everyone in the boat was asking if they could treat their minnow with Bad Azz Color Blast!
Besides dying the bait a bright color it also UV enhances the bait making it even more visible to fish.
In short, this stuff is magic for
fishing in off color water.
Flash It Up
Another trick for targeting walleye in dirty water plays to flash. Last summer Jake was fishing Saginaw Bay with a buddy. The water was muddy and the boys were struggling to catch fish on the Tadpole Diver and nightcrawler rigs that normally produce well.
Jake added a 4 inch Yakima Bait Fish Flash to his Off Shore Tackle Tadpole Divers and immediately started to catch fish. What was looking like a bust day suddenly turned into a two man limit of walleye.
Fish Flash not only produces pulses of light that attract fish, these triangle shaped attractors have near zero drag in the water and they are also UV treated to increase their fish attracting powers.
In stained and dirty water conditions adding flash to trolling presentations makes a huge difference. Anglers can also increase flash by using larger sized blades on their spinners. Here in the Great Lakes the size 4, 5 and 6 are the most common blades for walleye trolling. Leaning towards the larger size blades creates more flash and vibration and simply makes it a little easier for walleye to zero in on your lures.
Another good option is to run two or more blades in tandem using a few beads to separate the blades so they spin properly. A good way to rig multiple blades on a spinner harness is to thread on a larger blade first, then a few beads and a slightly smaller blade, a few more beads and finally a smaller yet blade. Keeping the smaller blades forward in the spinner will guarantee that all the blades turn properly, giving off the maximum amount of flash in the water.
Scent Can Help
Flash and vibration are huge for attracting fish when fishing in stained to dirty water. Another trick is to use scent products to create a “scent trail” in the water when trolling. Scent products that match the smells of natural forages such as the Pro-Cure Super Gel alewife, herring, smelt, shiner and nightcrawler formulas do an excellent job of setting up a scent trail fish can zero in on.
Most anglers simply spread a little Pro-Cure on their favorite lures or baits. Another option for deploying scent is a new product called the Stink Bomb produced by GDF or Good Day Fishing. The Stink Bomb is a capsule you can fill with scent like Pro-Cure natural fish oils and run this capsule in-line a few feet in front of your favorite lures and live baits.
The scent leeches (no pun intended) out of the Stink Bomb creating an intense scent stream in the water to attract fish and get them in a biting mood. For more information on the Stink Bomb visit the site
Moral Of The Story
The moral of the story is yes it’s typically harder to catch fish in gin
clear and dirty water conditions. By adapting anglers can scratch out fish even in the worst of conditions.
It’s slightly stained waters that allow fish the ability to see a significant distance, yet the water is cloudy enough to prevent them from getting too good a look. In these conditions walleye fishing tends to be outstanding regardless of the presentation, time of day or water depth.
It would be great if every day on the water we could count on finding and fishing stained waters. Unfortunately, in the real world of freshwater fishing, less than desirable conditions are more common than we care to admit and anglers must learn to deal with these challenges on the fly.