Before anglers had trolling depth charts for crankbaits, we had to figure out ways to get our baits down to certain areas of the water column. The sonar would show fish suspended and on the bottom. We had to determine what fish showing on that sonar were catchable. As trolling charts developed, we were able to run baits slightly above those suspended fish and hook up. Before trolling depth charts, we never really knew exactly where they were running, so we usually targeted the fish on the bottom. Those techniques are still in use today and often will readily take nice fish. Here are a few others to consider this spring while trolling for walleye.

We are going to stay away from discussion on suspended fish for now and concentrate on those bottom dwellers, and those fish staged just off the bottom. Many times, there are a lot of walleyes hanging four feet off the bottom and seemingly tough to reach. Let’s say we are fishing 30 feet of water, and it has quite a few fish hanging near the bottom or just off the bottom. The problem is we have very few crankbaits that will run that deep. It does not work just to let more line out, as a bow will develop in the middle of the line, causing that crankbait to rise in the water column. It becomes evident quickly that if we are going to target these fish, we need to add weight. This is what we did before anyone came out with dive charts.

Bottom bouncers were the first choice when fishing live bait deep. The key for bottom bouncers was to set speed first then drop the bouncers to the bottom three times. As the angler drops the bouncer the first time it hits the bottom then the boat’s forward momentum causes the bouncer to run up off the bottom. Depending on the weight and speed of the boat, this can be as much as 10 feet off the bottom. The second drop takes the bouncer back to the bottom, but with the added length of line out, it now runs approximately 3-6 feet off the bottom. One additional drop will now take the bouncer down close to the bottom. We do not want the bouncer to drag so often it can be reeled up a few cranks to insure it doesn’t drag. This type of fishing was standard in the walleye world for fifty years. We never ran cranks on this application, usually only live bait. Now, there are ways to get cranks down to depth.

In-line weights have been used increasingly to take both live baits and crankbaits down near the bottom. Most of the time, a 2-ounce in-line weight tied 4-5 feet in front of the bait (so the fish can still be reeled up close to the boat and netted without taking the weight off) is standard. It helps when fishing with these to continue to use the bottom bouncer rule. One drop takes you 8 to 10 feet off the bottom, two drops take you 3 to 5 feet off bottom, and three drops will take you close to the bottom. It is an effortless way to fish and take that floating Rapala or P-10 down in the strike zone. It is important to remember that this is all speed dependent. If the boat speeds up, the baits come up, and if the speed drops, it can make the baits drag on the bottom; therefore, turns also affect lure speed. A slow, wide turn is more apt to keep these baits running correctly than a sharp turn that will load the inside rods up with weeds or zebra mussels.

If you may be just starting out and haven’t been able to purchase all the depth chart information on the market, these few guidelines will help you put a few fish in the box. I would still always recommend looking into purchasing the information if you are to become an angler who fishes frequently. I still utilize my Precision Trolling book on most trips. I hope you are able to get on the water this spring. The warm weather will have us all dreaming of catching that double-digit walleye this spring. I will see you on the water.