Walleye trolling is an extraordinarily efficient way to find and catch fish quickly. It’s interesting that some anglers avoid trolling altogether, while others will troll almost exclusively. The bottom line: it’s an incredible effective tactic for catching fish, especially during the open water season. To help us touch on the topic of walleye trolling, we brought in Mike Hehner, who isn’t afraid to go trolling at the drop of a hat.
Troy Lindner: Mike, you fish for a lot of different fish in a lot of different situations. What are the reasons, in your opinion, that trolling is so effective?
Mike Hehner: Number one, hands down, I would say it’s covering water. When you’re trolling, you’re covering tremendous amounts of water to find fish and a lot of the species we fish for move seasonally and even daily, so you’re looking to find active fish and using your electronics. By trolling and covering water, you’re finding where the bait fish are setup in the water column and also where the predators are, so you can set your baits accordingly. Covering water is the number one reason trolling is awesome. Another good reason would be if you happen to be fishing a new body of water, a new lake or a new reservoir, where do you fish on there? How do you find the good spots? If you just put on a bait and put the motor in forward and start trolling and covering water, you’re going to find the good habitat the good structure and also target fish.
Troy Lindner: Seasonally, would you say there’s better times to troll than others?
Mike Hehner: In my mind, there’s no wrong time to troll. I troll from the minute the ice goes out to when it ices back up. From brown trout fishing and walleye fishing in early April and May, all the way to November when you’re musky trolling. There’s no bad time to troll, but right now in mid-July is a great time for walleye trolling in open water. Go out and put the leadcore on to target suspended walleyes that are hanging out by schools of tullibee. It also could be a good time to go on a river and troll for walleyes and bass. That said, right now is a prime time to be on Lake Michigan or Lake Superior trolling for trout and salmon – put the downriggers down, find the fish suspended, and getting after it with a bunch of lines down. There’s never a bad time to troll!
Troy Lindner: What would be the critical equipment that you need for trolling?
Mike Hehner: You don’t need a big boat to be a good troller. Having your boat rigged right is the biggest key to trolling success. I have a small boat here, a 1725 Lund Pro Guide, and I can troll most any water with it. I’ll take this boat out on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan and troll for trout and salmon. The way I have my boat rigged, I can troll for just about anything. The first thing you’re gonna need is a good set of rod holders and I have a couple kinds mounted in my boat.
The first is just a standard Cannon rod holder with an extension to get the rod out over the boat, and the second is an aluminum rod holder that’s a little more rigid. The sturdy, rigid rod holder is good for situations where you’re trolling for salmon with dipsy divers on big heavy rods and there’s a lot of torque pulling on the rod, or maybe you’re musky trolling with big crankbaits.
Next would be a down-rigger and there are many different types of down-riggers. I have a smaller shafted manual downrigger and again, it’s mounted on the SportTrak system and I can position this wherever I need to on the boat.
When it comes to other accoutrements for trolling, we’ve got Off Shore planer boards to get your lines away from the boat. We’ve got snap weights which you would clip onto your line to get your bait down to depth. Dipsy Divers are a planing device that go deep and off to the side to pull spoons, flashers and flies for salmon and trout fishing. Another important piece of equipment for trolling is a landing net with a long, extendable handle and a good basket. Last but not least is the rod and reel combos. The St. Croix Eyecon 8’6″ trolling rod is a great option, which is a glass rod with medium power and moderate action. It’s a little softer with a nice, easy bend to it for fighting fish. Pair it with a Daiwa Sealine reel – having that line counter is important, because when you’re trolling replication is everything and with the line counter, you’re able to replicate how far out you’re putting your lure every time you catch a fish.