Catch More Walleyes During the Day

February 7, 2009 by  

By Dave Genz


Dave Genz with a giant midday walleye

Dave Genz with a giant midday walleye

Walleyes, as if you didn’t already know this, possess these amazing eyes. They feature a reflective pigment that helps walleyes see well in dim light, giving them a vision advantage over most of their prey, especially in those minutes when light levels change rapidly.

So it is that walleye fishing stories are filled with times when you make the big catches right as it’s getting dark, or right when it’s getting light, or after dark. Because of this, a lot of ice anglers wrongly believe they can only have walleye success at these times of day.

When it comes to clear water lakes, that is basically the case. If you think you’re going to go to a clear lake and catch a lot of walleyes in the middle of the day, it’s isn’t going to happen. At least not on most days.

But I catch walleyes through the ice in the middle of the day regularly.

Fishing Dirty

In order to have success on walleyes in the middle of the day, you have to fish dirty, you might say. That is, you need to seek out walleye lakes with dirty water. In clear water, walleyes are very non-aggressive during the bright sunshine hours. But in dirty-water lakes, they often hunt for food right in the middle of the day.

(Actually, in clear water, or semi-clear, I’ve had some decent success on deep-water walleyes in the middle of the day, probably because light levels are lower the deeper you go.)

How do you find such a lake? It’s easy. Most lake maps have information about the water clarity. Remember, though, that most lakes are as clear as they’re going to get after the ice forms, because wind no longer riles up sediments. But realize also that some lakes go through a ‘cloudy period’ after weeds die and this can cause an otherwise clear lake to get ‘dirtier,’ so to speak.

When all else fails, you can test the current water clarity of any lake by simply drilling a few holes and looking down them.

Triggering Daytime Walleyes

Even in dirty-water lakes, midday walleyes often have to be triggered, or tricked, into biting. When they’re not aggressive, at least some individual fish can be coaxed into what I call ‘sampling’ your lure. To test anything to find out whether it’s food, walleyes have to touch your lure with their mouth. Sometimes they’ll suck a possible food item all the way into their mouth, rejecting it if it isn’t what they were looking for.

It’s in this split second that you have a chance to set the hook home.

But first you have to get them to sample.

When walleyes are non-aggressive, I usually try to trigger a strike by shaking a lure, rattling it, moving it in front of them without letting them examine it. It’s a fine line you have to walk, between moving the lure so aggressively that it turns them off, and letting it sit there so still that it’s easy for the fish to tell it’s a fake.

For daytime walleyes, I love rattling jigging spoons. The new Rattl’r from Lindy is a great choice. It really flips as you jig it and let it fall on a slack line, and it has rattles in it. Tipping it with a minnow or fish eye (where legal) can help you seal the deal when the fish sample the bait and taste the meat.

The key, again, is to work the bait fairly aggressively until a fish shows up. I use a Vexilar flasher, either an FL-8 or the new FL-18, and put the transducer down the same hole I’m fishing out of. I also use my Aqua-Vu much of the time. Using both of my sets of ‘underwater eyes,’ I can see the fish come in, and watch whether they stick around or leave, move closer or drift away, in response to my jigging movements. That way, I can experiment with how they want the bait until I get it right.

When a fish comes in the hole, the biggest mistake you can make is to stop jigging. A pause can be good, because it helps some fish decide to suck the bait in. But if you let a non-aggressive, daytime walleye get too good a look at your bait, it increases the chances he’ll turn you down. Keep it moving, and the only way the fish can sample the thing is to suck it in.

When they suck it in, you have to detect that bite, and set the hook home.

Stay in persuit of walleyes during the day for success

Stay in persuit of walleyes during the day for success

(Make sure you have a decent ice- fishing rod, that’s stiff enough in the butt to handle the fish, but light enough in the tip to be sensitive and remain bent through the fight. I’m proud to have my name on a line of ice rods from Berkley, which you can find in local stores.)

There are days when a more subtle approach is better, and you can do well fishing a minnow on a plain hook below a slip float. Or, a smallish jig that fishes heavy, tipped with a minnow, can be great. It’s important that the jig be built on a wide-gap hook that lets you tip it with a minnow and still have enough hook exposed to get it into the fish. Two new jigs that fit this mold are the Genz Worm XL and Fat Boy XL from System Tackle, which were designed for this purpose.

Keep Moving

At prime time, when walleyes actively forage, it can be important to get yourself set up on a good spot and wait them out. But in the daytime, even on dirty-water lakes, don’t expect walleyes to move far to come to your lure.

Give each hole a chance to produce, but no more than about 10 minutes or so. I hate to put time limits, because I’ll give some holes longer if I feel like the spot is right. What makes a good walleye spot is different on each body of water, and depends on the layout of that fishery. We’re catching more nice ‘eyes in shallow water than we ever have, both in the open-water season and through the ice.

Especially on shallower, ‘prairie’ style lakes, shallow rocks, shallow weeds, narrows, and other spots that at least some anglers wouldn’t consider traditional walleye hotspots, really produce. So if you feel you’re in a good spot, give it a little longer, but don’t stop moving until you see fish on the screen, or catch a walleye.

You’re more likely to catch walleyes if you keep moving. Be systematic about it. Start shallow, but work your way deeper if it doesn’t pan out. As you learn your favorite walleye lakes better, you’ll know which spots to camp on at prime time.

And, from your growing daytime walleye experiences, you’ll know which areas tend to produce, if you do everything right, right in the middle of the day.

Article provided by the Ice Team.


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