Shipping Details
Dog Days Walleyes at Cabela's

Dog Days Walleyes

Author: Mike Gnatkowski

Most anglers think the dog days of late summer are a poor time to catch walleyes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A walleye's metabolism is in high gear during the summer. They are aggressive and constantly on the lookout for food. Granted, you're not going to find walleyes in the same type of locations where you caught stringers full earlier in the spring. To catch late summer walleyes you need to change your approach or presentation and location.

Two of the best locations for late summer walleyes are in open water basins of the Great Lakes and its bays and over deep structure. These areas are vastly different in nature, but walleyes congregate there for the same reason- food.

In wide-open expanses of open water, like Lake Erie or Saginaw Bay, walleyes will be shadowing schools of pelagic baitfish. The baitfish schools can be widely scattered and highly concentrated. Most times the walleyes will be suspended near the baitfish schools. Occasionally, the walleyes will be found belly-tight to bottom, but more often they will be higher in the water column. With the walleye located in such a huge expanse of water, finding them requires covering water and the best way to do that is to troll.

Planer boards or in-line boards can increase you trolling area ten-fold and are a tremendous aide for covering water. Each type of board has its advantages. More lines can be run off conventional planer boards. If you have a big crew on board, you'll want to run the maximum number of lines and planer boards can facilitate running lots of lines. A better option though if you're running just a few lines are in-line planer boards. In-line boards are simple to use, are easier to use in heavy boat traffic, don't require a mast to run them, they impart a more erratic action to trailing lures and promote better, more consistent hookups. One big advantage of trolling stickbaits and crankbaits for walleyes is that you can troll them faster. Walleyes are usually very aggressive in the warm waters of summer so you can kick up the trolling speed, cover more water and still catch lots of 'eyes. Where springtime trolling speed might be 1.0 to 1.5 mph, summer- time trolling speeds with body baits and crankbaits is more likely to be 2.0 to 2.5, but you need to experiment. If normal speeds aren't producing, bump it up to 3.0 or more. Aggressive walleyes that see a fleeing bait will often jump on it. Once you hit on a combination, stick with it, but don't be afraid to kick the speed up or slow it down if things aren't happening. Changing the direction of troll is another option.

An in-line board is perfect for targeting suspended, late-summer walleyes. One of the big advantages of the in-lines boards is their simplicity, you don't need any extra equipment, other than rod holders to run them, and the erratic action imparted by the board to the lures triggers strikes and positive hookups.

Lures trailing planer boards can run the gambit from super-erratic crankbaits to more passive lures, like crawler harnesses. Which baits you choose depends on the activity level of the walleyes. Normally, summer walleyes are in high gear and they're eating machines so highly animated, speed-forgiving baits excel most of the time. Summer walleye lures can be elongated, slender stick baits, super active crank baits or mini-spoons.

Productive stickbaits can be Deep Jr. Thundersticks, Rapalas, Rattlin' Rogues or Husky Jerks. Each of these lures exhibits the side-to-side wobble that imitates a wounded baitfish and are hot when summer walleyes are keying in on alewives, shiners, shad and other baitfish. These baits are ideal whether fishing open water or when targeting deeper structure. On their own, they'll drive to 10 or 15 feet. By using super lines, like Berkley Fire Line, you can get these baits even deeper without the aid of weights.

Usually, in the relatively shallow confines of waters like Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay, deep-diving stick baits or crankbaits are enough to reach suspended walleyes, but when walleyes move to even deeper haunts anglers may need to add weight in some form to get lures even deeper or even resort to divers or downriggers. One way is to add weight ahead of the lures by using Super Clips or Snap Weights. The weights come in various sizes from 1 to 8 ounces and get lures deep. A critical ingredient of setting up a productive summer trolling pattern for walleyes is line counter reels.

Typically, the idea is to run the lure out a fixed distance behind the boat, attach the weight, let some more line out and attached it to the board, and then run it out to the side. The idea is to measure exactly how much line you let out and keep track of which combinations produce so you can duplicate that program. Line counter reels will allow you to do that.

Walleye anglers would be wise to replicate some of the techniques used by trout and salmon anglers to get lures deep. Short, two to three color lengths of lead core line are perfect for getting lures that critical five or ten feet deeper and in front of suspended walleyes. The lead core line itself sinks, taking lures with it and imparts an erratic, strike-provoking action to trailing baits. The lead core can be run off in-line boards just like a normal setup.

One big advantage of trolling stickbaits and crankbaits for walleyes is that you can troll them faster. Walleyes are usually very aggressive in the warm waters of summer so you can kick up the trolling speed, cover more water and still catch lots of 'eyes. Where springtime trolling speed might be 1.0 to 1.5 mph, summer- time trolling speeds with body baits and crankbaits is more likely to be 2.0 to 2.5, but you need to experiment. If normal speeds aren't producing, bump it up to 3.0 or more. Aggressive walleyes that see a fleeing bait will often jump on it. Once you hit on a combination, stick with it, but don't be afraid to kick the speed up or slow it down if things aren't happening. Changing the direction of troll is another option.

There are times when summer walleyes are in a lazier mood. That's one time when more animated baits produce. Super erratic, agitated baits, like Hot-N-Tots, Wiggle Warts, Wiggle O's and other crankbaits can trip a walleye's trigger then and with a bigger lip, these crankbaits can explore even deeper depths, an advantage when you're trying to target deep structure.

While crankbaits and stickbaits have been a mainstay in the arsenal of open water walleye anglers for years, a relatively new technique using diving disks and divers and mini-spoons has proved to be hot in recent years. Spoons have always been ago-to lure for trout and salmon, but anglers are learning that mini-spoons are dynamite for summer 'eyes too.

One of the keys to the small spoon revolution is the mini-diver. The new mini-divers take spoons and other lures down to the levels that summertime walleyes are feeding at without extra weight. The mini-divers can be run behind in-line boards to increase the trolling area and provide a stealthy approach.

Mini Divers are produced by several manufacturers and are typically available in 1¾" and 2" sizes. Generally, the mini-disks are set to run straight back. A leader, from approximately 4 to 8 feet, is run behind the diver trailing a mini-spoon. The diver is let back at various distances from 30 to 70 feet before the board is attached.

There was a time when walleye anglers bemoaned the dog days of summer. Try these tactics for suspended walleyes over open water basins and deep structure and you'll wish summer would never end.